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Happy 20th of NaNoWriMo! The baby is taking a nap and I should be making my daily word count. Instead, I am procrastinating with Facebook and Livejournal and anything else I can find to distract me. So far I've made my daily word count all but one day. That one day I made it about halfway, and the next day I finished that half and wrote the whole daily count. So I'm on track. The daily deadlines are a wonderful thing. And the stats page where I can actually see what I've done and how much more I have to do, in a bar graph no less, that's wonderful.

My novel is very silly. It's about a world like ours except that magic is real and it's a commercial good. Cats have gained some magical powers and are plotting to take over the world by mind-controlling humans in order to use our opposable thumbs.

I've been switching back and forth between various viewpoint characters. At first I liked that, and now that I'm well into it I'm not sure I really do. But that's all fodder for rewriting, and right now is rough draft writing time.

Rick has been very supportive. He is not shy about giving me an extra dose of external will power when I need it (aka nagging me to quit goofing off and just write.) And he's a marvelous sounding board for plot problems. My plot problems are vast. Mainly that I have trouble coming up with both the what happens next and the what happens over all. Somehow when I talk it through with him things get much clearer, and he often has very useful suggestions.

Ok, enough LJ procrastination. Back to the word count.

Halloween, ladies

Halloween is almost here. It's a holiday I didn't get to celebrate as a child, due to the strict religious beliefs of my parents. Halloween was the devil's holiday. We did get to celebrate All Saints Day on November 1st with the other ultra-religious kids. Sometimes there would be an All Saints Day costume party, and you'd come dressed as a saint or as someone from the Bible. I was Queen Esther one year. All I really remember about that costume was the crown made from cardboard covered with tin foil and with some jewels made of glitter and Elmers glue.

I always envied the kids who got to do Halloween. They got to get all that candy, and have costumes based on non-religious themes. I don't know which one was more exciting, really, the candy or the costumes. Probably the costumes, since I already had a candy holiday: Easter.

Now that I'm an adult, I've had many years where I'm able to do Halloween. But I think that missing it as a kid somehow stunted my costume ability. I never can figure out a good costume. I think my most successful Halloween look was last year when I got a pair of light-up horns attached to barrettes. Normal clothes plus flashing devil horns was kind of fun, and seemed to really amuse some of the kids who came to the door.

But what I really want to know is this: what is up with the selection of commercially available Halloween costumes for women? By selection I mean select which variety of streetwalker you'd like to be. I mean, I may have left my religious upbringing behind, but that doesn't mean I've abandoned all sense of modesty. Maybe I don't want to wear lingerie in public.

Why can't we have women's costumes that are not sexy? Can't a woman be a pirate instead of a sexy pirate? A nurse, not a sexy nurse? It's just ridiculous.

Guess I'll have to see if I can find those horns from last year.

Spirit Day

Originally posted by neo_prodigy at Spirit Day

It’s been decided. On October 20th, 2010, we will wear purple in honor of the 6 gay boys who committed suicide in recent weeks/months due to homophobic abuse in their homes at at their schools. Purple represents Spirit on the LGBTQ flag and that’s exactly what we’d like all of you to have with you: spirit. Please know that times will get better and that you will meet people who will love you and respect you for who you are, no matter your sexuality. Please wear purple on October 20th. Tell your friends, family, co-workers, neighbors and schools.

RIP Tyler Clementi, Seth Walsh (top)
RIP Justin Aaberg, Raymond Chase (middle)
RIP Asher Brown and Billy Lucas. (bottom)

REBLOG to spread a message of love, unity and peace.

My trouble with evangelism

I was thinking this afternoon about religious evangelism, and why I have such a problem with it. I came up with what I think is a pretty good metaphor.

(There are a few different types of religions out there. Some of them are a lot more eager for converts than others. The eager ones are the ones I'm addressing here.)

A few years ago there was a fad for Magic Eye pictures. They looked like they were just a bunch of dots, but if you stared at them and were able to un-focus your eyes just so, you'd see a 3-D image. Not everyone could see them, some people because they were colorblind, some because their eyes didn't focus together, some just because.

My metaphor for evangelism is this:

You're walking through the mall, minding your own business, and you pass someone with a big Magic Eye picture on an easel. He stops you and tells you that you have one hour to see the 3-D image in the picture. If you see it, you win a million dollars.

But if you don't see it, you're going to get your ass kicked. In fact, you'll get your ass kicked multiple times, and worse than you've ever had it kicked before. In fact, the ass-kickers will put you in the hospital with your injuries, and as soon as you're recovered enough to leave the hospital, they'll immediately jump you again, and this cycle will continue for longer than you can possibly imagine.

"You want a million dollars, right?"


"You don't want to get your ass kicked, right?"


"Even though you'd deserve it for not seeing the 3-D image."

"What? Wait a minute, who set this whole thing up, anyway?"

"The Artist."


"Because He loves you and wants you to see the image. In fact, once you see the image, you'll probably forget all about the million bucks, because this image is the most beautiful, most amazing thing ever."

Meanwhile, a few feet away is another guy with another big Magic Eye picture on an easel, and he calls you over there and tells you not to listen to that first guy. That first guy is a fraud. This is the real thing, and if you see this 3-D image, you'll win a million dollars. But if you don't, you'll get your ass kicked.

And a few feet away from that guy is yet another guy with yet another Magic Eye picture, saying that the first two guys are both frauds, and his picture is the one true picture.

So now you're worried about having your ass kicked, but at the same time enticed by the idea of seeing the most beautiful amazing picture ever, plus winning that million bucks. But the problem is, all of the pictures look the same to you. They're just dots. You stare and stare, willing yourself to see what they say is there, but it's still just dots.

You start to get a little frantic, wondering what's wrong with you that you can't see any of these images. But then you get a little suspicious and ask to meet someone who won the million dollars, or even to go visit one of those poor suckers who got beat up and put in the hospital.

"You can't."

"Why not?"

"They're not here any more."

"Wait a minute, how do I know any of this is true then?"

"You just have to believe. I mean, look at this amazing picture. Doesn't that tell you something?"

"It just looks like dots to me."

"Well I see it. And this guy sees it. And this lady here. And your mom and dad. And this whole group of people over here. If you would just see the 3-D image, you'd understand."

"But I can't see it."

"Yes you can. Of course you can. The Artist wants you to see it."

And so on.

Zombie dreams

Last night I had zombie dreams, two of them. The first one was a standard type of scary zombie dream: running away from rage zombies, collapsing society, startles and scares galore. Woke up from that one terrified but desperately needing to pee. Finally convinced myself that the likelihood of meeting a zombie on the way to the bathroom was considerably less than the likelihood of wetting the bed if I stayed huddled under the covers any longer.

Second dream picked up a few months after the first one left off. We'd found a man whose blood was zombie-resistant, and provided a partial cure and partial vaccine against zombie-ism. He'd draw some of his blood and you had to inject a vial of it into your own veins, and then you were zombie-resistant too, at least for a while. But even better than that, the injection gave you the ability to make other people temporarily zombie-resistant or to partially cure / temporarily pacify zombies. To use either of those abilities, you just had to bite the person or zombie in question.

So me and my posse got injected with our vials of blood and then went roaming around the countryside biting people. It was really fun, and we were doing good by helping shore up our shaky society. But mostly, it was really really fun.
Rick is sitting next to me playing Heroes of Might and Magic V. He says to me, "I want to ask your advice."
"Ok," I say.
"I'm playing a race that doesn't normally learn dark magic, but I had the chance to learn dark magic so I picked it up. Now I'm trying to decide if I should keep dark magic or drop it and pick up enlightenment instead."
"Mmm-hmm," I say, stalling for time, as I have never played Heroes of Might and Magic and don't know anything about it, "Well, what do you get from dark magic and what would you get from enlightenment?"
"With dark magic, I can cast slow and mind control and things like that, but with enlightenment I gain levels faster."
"Ok, what else?" I say.
"In smaller battles, dark magic is stronger, but in larger battles I'd gain more from enlightenment because while killing 50 guys is a big deal when you're fighting an enemy army of 60, it doesn't make as much difference when you're fighting against 600."
"So it sounds like you have to choose between the short term advantage and the long term advantage," I say, "Do you keep the dark magic for its current benefits, or do you go for the long term strat. I guess it depends on whether it's an opportune moment. And if you'll be crippled in the short term, making the longer term benefits moot."
"Thank you," he says.
"You're welcome. I'm always glad to give advice about things I know nothing about. It's like I'm practicing for being a mom." I pause. "That was funny," I say.
"It was. And it is like being a mom, giving common sense advice and letting me make my own decision. And believe it or not, it helps to hear it out loud."
"Oh, well good."
A few minutes later I ask him which one he chose.
"I dropped dark magic and went with enlightenment. After all, dark magic is evil, right? Don't do it."

Sentimentality and cleaning

The past couple days I've been cleaning the house, getting ready both to have some of Rick's friends from work over to dinner tonight and to have the house ready for the landlord to show to potential new tenants. There was still a lot of wedding stuff strewn about, in addition to the usual amount of creeping entropy.

I unpacked all the wedding gifts from their copious amounts of bubble wrap. Rick helped by popping every bubble in the house, seeming to prefer to do so behind me when I didn't know he was there. The china cabinet had to be totally rearranged in order to fit all the new china in, but it's now not only all in there but also rather nicely organized.

All the wedding cards got put into the wedding card box I made for the reception. I don't know how well the box will hold up over the long term, since I attached the white satin to the flimsy cardboard using nothing more than a whole lot of scotch tape. Still, I think it's pretty, and they all fit in there, and the box will fit under the bed.

Among the wedding things lying around was the box of rsvp's. Rick was going to toss the whole thing, but I said Wait! Some of them had little notes written in them, and I wanted to save those. I went through the whole stack, separating out the ones with notes and tossing the others. But then when I looked in the trash can and saw them in there I felt sad, so I dug them out again and saved all of them, managing only to throw out the envelopes they'd come in. I rubber banded the whole stack together and put it in the card box.

Also in the pile of wedding stuff was the guest book. I hadn't actually read all of the notes in it yet, so of course I had to read through the whole thing before I put it away. I'm glad I went with a simple blank book rather than a massively overpriced Wedding Guest Book. The blank pages encouraged people to write what they wished, whether that was a more traditional signature or a longer note. Reading all the nice things people had to say made me smile a whole lot. There was one rather interesting note, which read as follows: "We had our (unfounded) doubts I'm glad we were wrong" Bit of a change from the congratulations and best wishes that many people stuck with. Still, it's better than "We have our doubts and you'd better not prove us right"

Writers group meeting

Today I went to my first meeting with the Sunday Writers Group, which I found on meetup.org. Actually, it was my first time going to a writers group meeting ever. I loved it. 

There were five of us there. The group was structured so each person had a set time to read a piece they had brought with them, and then everyone offered comments (very positive and constructive only). After that we had a set time to do some writing from a prompt, and then we each read out loud what we'd just written. 

When I got home, I typed up what I'd written, which I will share after the cut. 

Writing prompt: Everyone was afraid of the big brown house. Collapse )

Grad school

This is why I didn't go to grad school. I had the test scores, sure, but even back in 1998 it was fairly clear that getting a job as a humanities professor would be a total nightmare. Maybe I would've done it anyway, if I'd had an overwhelming passion for a particular area of study, but I didn't. I'd drifted along through undergrad, just learning stuff that was interesting to me. Over the years my dad has suggested to me many many times that I should go to grad school and be a professor. Just never seemed right. Anyway, what follows is an interesting article from the NY Times.

Doctoral Candidates Anticipate Hard Times
Published: March 6, 2009
Chris Pieper began looking for an academic job in sociology about six months ago, sending off about two dozen application packets. The results so far? Two telephone interviews, and no employment offers.
Benjamin Sklar for The New York Times

After two dozen applications, Chris Pieper, a sociology graduate student at the University of Texas, Austin, still has no job offer.

Benjamin Sklar for The New York Times

Margaret Peacock, shown with her daughters, said, “I got in under the wire,” after securing a tenure-track post in Alabama.

“About half of all the rejection letters I’ve received mentioned the poor economy as contributing to their decision,” said Mr. Pieper, 34, who is getting his doctorate from theUniversity of Texas, Austin. “Some simply canceled the search because they found the funding for the position didn’t come through. Others changed their tenure-track jobs to adjunct or instructor positions.”
“Many of the universities I applied to received more than 300 applications,” he added.
Mr. Pieper is not alone. Fulltime faculty jobs have not been easy to come by in recent decades, but this year the new crop of Ph.D. candidates is finding the prospects worse than ever. Public universities are bracing for severe cuts as state legislatures grapple with yawning deficits. At the same time, even the wealthiest private colleges have seen their endowments sink and donations slacken since the financial crisis. So a chill has set in at many higher education institutions, where partial or full-fledge hiring freezes have been imposed.
A survey by the American Historical Association, for example, found that the number of history departments recruiting new professors this year is down 15 percent, while the American Mathematical Association’s largest list of job postings has dropped more than 25 percent from last year.
“This is a year of no jobs,” said Catherine Stimpson, the dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at New York University. Ph.D.s are stacked up, she said, “like planes hovering over La Guardia.”
The anticipated wave of retirements by faculty members who are 60-something is likely to slow as retirement savings accounts and pensions wither, administrators and professors say. That means that some students who have finished postdoctoral fellowships and who expected to leave for faculty positions are staying put for another year, which in turn closes off an option for other graduate students coming up the ladder.
“I was encouraged to aim very high initially, but as I have watched more and more jobs pulled, I am worried about whether I can even get a postdoc,” said Vanessa Svihla, 33, a graduate student in science education at the University of Texas, Austin. She is defending her dissertation next month. “Amidst all the normal stress of finishing a dissertation and trying to get publications out, hiring freezes are a bit overwhelming,” she said.
Although some people think that graduate school is a good place to wait out a crash, some undergraduates said they had either canceled or postponed plans to enter graduate school this fall because of the bad economy or their inability to get student loans.
Aisha Hadlock, 21, a senior at Oberlin College who majored in Islamic studies, decided to delay graduate school for at least a year. “I don’t have the financial means to support myself through grad school in this economy, and grants and loans are so hard to get right now,” Ms. Hadlock said. The types of programs that offer generous financial aid “will be overrun with applicants,” she added.
Andrew Delbanco, the chairman of the American studies program at Columbia University, said that the system producing graduate students was increasingly out of sync with the system hiring them.
Read more...Collapse )


Super Bowl Sunday

Yesterday Rick and I went to the grocery store in the morning. It was, as you might imagine, very busy. Everyone was there stocking up the last minute beer and snacks and ice for their Super Bowl parties. Every single cash register was open, and every register had a line. You can't really get to upset about standing in line when they've staffed appropriately, though. We get to the cashier and she makes a funny comment. She refers to it as a feasting holiday, like Thanksgiving.

I think she had a good point. Super Bowl Sunday is a day when people get together with friends or family or extended circles of acquaintences. There is ritual (the game itself) and feasting, and it includes a hopeful celebration of next year's desired prosperity. By that last bit I mean that there are so many people who watch for the commercials. It's the big day in the world of advertising, all the new ad campaigns premiere, and people watch them and discuss them, and it shows what we'll be wanting in the next year and also speaks to the state of the economy and the mood of the nation.

It's the perfect holiday for a secular, materialistic society. And I mean that in a good way.