Miracles of Modern Science

I know for a moment I’ll come off as one of those people who says things like “kids today!” but just stick with me here, because I’m not stomping over other people’s perceived shortcomings. Two days ago, I got to sit at my computer and watch a computer simulation (via NASA’s Eyes, an app built and freely offered) of New Horizons making its closest pass to Pluto on its way to the Kuiper Belt. I just want to unpack that, okay? I sat at my computer, which happens to be a very very very long way from California and from the places where I grew up and from the people I grew up with. But I had the simulation running in real time, and on a browser tab I had a NASA TV stream running. Back when I was in high school, we lived near Charleston, which is much nearer to … Read on!

A sense of place

I have always been absorbed by context, whether it’s historical or political or environmental. Really, these things are inseparable, and they weave into my own history an out of it like tendrils on creeper vines. Of the world, and in it. I had asked whether the brutal monolith apartment blocks that lined the avenue between the airport and the heart of the old city were attributable to him. I moved around a lot as a kid, every two or three years or so. Place became something meaningful, not just a location but a collection of sensations and impressions and people and their lives in that place, too. The texture of the earth underfoot or the smell of exhaust over petrichor is enough to take me back to places I haven’t been in years. The sound of crickets, the fall of light on a late winter day, a spark of unexpected … Read on!

Seeing what we sometimes can’t

There’s tons of bad news out in the ether. I can’t deal with it now, I don’t have the wherewithal, but I wanted to do something constructive. So I wanetd to talk about looking at the things you do and letting yourself see the good in it. Western society — or at least this corner of Western society that I live in — thrives on hypercriticality. Things aren’t quite good enough. Maybe it’s because I’m a woman and I will never be attractive enough or thin enough or charming enough on my own, so I really really need to buy a panoply of things to cover my hopeless flaws. Maybe it’s not. Anyway. I was sitting around with friends yesterday and recounted a summary of a story I’d submitted in the hopes of getting it published and I thought at first I wouldn’t remember it properly. (Memory and I don’t … Read on!

I should be asleep right now.

I should, I really should. I started a new job at the beginning of the month, a full time one — no more 4-day weekends for me — as a full editor. Bilingual, no less. I am astonished, saddened, and shocked at how out of practice I am with it. I mean, a lot of it’s muscle memory, neural pathways burned like screens left on too long. You put words in front of me, I fix them! Or I try. Usually I’m pretty good. But it’s been a while since I’ve done this for pay, for several hours straight, in a facility dedicated to this purpose with equipment that is not mine to do it on. I love it. But my brain isn’t used to this kind of thing. Again, like a muscle, it’s out of practice, it’s gone soft from under-use (even with working on the doctoral research). And … Read on!

Ambient noise generator

This is the most fantastic thing I’ve seen in a while: A Soft Murmur, which lets you mix your own background ambient noise loop.

Mix your own background ambient loop. BRILLIANT.

Mix your own background ambient loop. BRILLIANT.

I don’t know how long it’s been out, but it’s fantastic. There’s no hiccup where a track loops back on itself, and you can have all of the sliders up and running if you like and it doesn’t slow anything down, nor does the sound stutter. And you can set it up with timers — a timer to start, a timer to end, and a timer to just gently fade out. They’ve got an Android app, but no iPhone yet.

You can even share your own mix. Mine is rain, thunder, and waves, with a little wind and a hint of singing bowl thrown in. I’m absolutely in love.

 

Pushing pieces of metal around

There is a fierce joy in being sore. I’m one of those people who doesn’t really respond to cardio; I’d rather chew glass than walk thirty minutes on a treadmill. But I love pushing pieces of metal around. The idea of bulking up never bothered me. I want to look badass! I want to be badass! My life has been, more or less, an extended attempt to attain and maintain some kind of dignity, which I never think I have. Stupidly Sisyphean. But we all have our quirks, I suppose. So anyway, I love pushing weights around. I love feeling the steering in my car get softer — it’s an old car, with a carburetor and “assisted” steering, a term describing something that is almost, but not entirely unlike, power steering; I love feeling how stable I am getting up the stairs after apparently years of screwed up posture leg … Read on!

Today is a hollow day.

There are days I feel like I’m striving toward something, striding. Something purposeful, something meaningful. Today is not one of those days. I suppose it’s all right; I suppose you can’t always be on the march, you can’t always double-time through the shadows with a burning brand smoking up the corridors. But it leaves me hollow and empty and with no motion at all. I don’t like being motionless. Well, that’s not entirely correct; I like being motionless when it’s a thing I’ve chosen, and serves a purpose. Or even if I didn’t choose it, but I know it leads to something else later on. An enforced sabbatical. That’s not what this is, though. It’s a permeating fog of dissatisfaction, and I think that’s what I hate most. If something’s not quite right, I like to be able to try to fix it, or think about why leaving it alone … Read on!

Get to the point

You know the person who, when telling you about some achingly mundane event in their lives, turns it into a sort of narrative epic of questionable insight and imagined valor? That’s me. And I know it’s me, when I’m in the middle of explaining the emotional context of a 3 AM subway ride and I can hear the rusty creaking strain of patience from my friends, and I can’t stop myself. I just can’t. So thank you, friends, and family, for your patience. It’s times like those that make me wonder if my lack of self-esteem isn’t some foreign overlay, because when I’m telling you about the joyous schadenfreude of watching the jerk who cut me off halfway to my destination get pulled over by the cops for speeding, I am certain that you are feeling the righteousness just as much as I am, even though I’m only a third of the way through … Read on!

Back to square one is not back to square one

The focus of my research has changed again — or more accurately, has refined itself even further, or become more fundamental. The upshot and downside is that the creative output for the research is now completely different (again). No game now, which is all right because I can put that together on my own once I’m finished with this research. Now I’m helping on a larger project. And I couldn’t be happier, to be honest. For someone who spends a lot of time writing, I spend a lot of that time in the company of others. Yeah, sure, I’ve got short stories that have been accepted, and I’ve got a couple of ideas for novels that are quietly keeping warm on the backburners of an extraordinarily large oven, but a lot of the making stuff I that I do is in the company of others. I spend at least one … Read on!

Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is fraught with all kinds of baggage. I used to be one of the people who vehemently hated it. I mean, I spent — spend? — most of my life feeling like I’m on the periphery of acceptable society (fat woman who likes to play and make games and enjoys learning how to use swords and can accurately diagnose and sometimes fix serious car problems), and VD (heh) was one of those things that just made that feeling worse. This was the case even when I was already married. Human connections are complex and nuanced and commercial pressure is about as antithetical to that sort of thing as you can get. But this year has been wonderfully low-key, completely by accident, and it’s been much easier to appreciate the non-commercial side of Valentine’s Day which is in reality non-existent and requires personal construction by those involved. The reason … Read on!