Technology and Creativity

I’m back to talking about the book Pep Talks for Writers (Germane Amazon Link!). I bet you though I’d forgotten. Well, actually, I kind of had.

Anyway, in this pep talk, well, Faulkner has some very good ideas with a side order of Kids These Days and Their Damn Tablets.

The focus is ostensibly on the power of boredom and how your mind trying to entertain itself will lead to creativity. And, yes, I agree that it can work that way. I did a lot of writing while riding the school bus or while standing at the photocopier or the fax machine.*

However, then we get an earful of how no one allows themselves to be bored anymore because we’re always tap-tap-tapping on our apps. Granted, Faulkner starts out admitting that he has a problem, but then he turns it back on the reader with:

When was the last time you experienced a moment of emptiness and allowed your mind to luxuriate in it without twitching to grab your smart phone or a remote control?**

This reads, to me, less like a confession and more like an accusation.

And, well, I’ve always been the type to keep a book on me. I specifically selected my current purse, which I’ve been using since before I got my first cell phone, because it’s exactly the right size for my wallet and a paperback book. I even took a pair of knitting needles and a ball of yarn and knitted while standing in line at the tax assessor’s office.

Actually, knitting is a great thing to keep my hands busy because I can do it without really paying that much attention to it. I have mulled over other creative endeavors while knitting because of this. I enjoy crocheting, but crocheting takes more attention, since I can’t always find the next stitch by feel, like I can with knitting.

But I digress. The fact is that technology has always caused shifts in thinking. I seem to remember a friend quoting some ancient Greek guy complaining about writing things down. He said that not having to memorize everything was going to make people’s brains soft and flabby or something of that nature.*** And, in fact, writing was the beginning of entirely new fields of thought and technology.

During my childhood, my teachers, who were my parents’ age and had grown up with radio, despaired because television was going to be the end of human imagination because we can *see* the action, rather than having to *imagine* it.

One thing about technology that is not germane to Faulkner’s point, but that I’ve seen over and over and am trying to kind of get in on it myself, is the lower barrier to entry in the arts thanks to technology. I have a friend who makes a pretty good living writing erotica. Her books have even been translated into other languages. And, so far as I am aware, she is still solely self-publishing.

Back when I was hoping to start a career as a writer, my mom would ask writers she met (she was a youth services librarian) how they broke into the field and the general consensus was that you first had to write short stories and get into respected publications enough times to attract the attention of an agent and then that agent would find someone to publish your book.

If you wanted to bypass that process, you’d have to go to a “vanity press” and pay them gobs of money so that they’d publish your book for you.

Nowadays it is a perfectly valid path to write a book, get a friend you trust to beta read it, and then to typeset it yourself and put it on Amazon. You can publish not just ebooks but actual physical books this way. If someone had told me that this would be possible 40 years ago, I don’t know if I’d’ve believed it.

Also, I could make a good argument that access to books, movies, television shows, etc., on our phones increases creativity. You read a book or see a movie or watch a show that you enjoy the premise of, but that you think the writer went the wrong direction with. So you sit down and write a similar story that goes the way you think it should have gone.

Just kind of spitballing here, looking for an example that is in the public domain, Romeo and Juliet, where Juliet runs away with Romeo when he gets exiled. Setting up a life in Mantua together (Friar Lawrence had, after all, married them at this point). Does Romeo need a job? Who do they meet? Do they grow together? Do they grow apart? I think one could do some interesting things with this.

*At an old job, our fax machine would do . . . something with the papers and if you didn’t keep an eye on it, the papers coming out of the document feeder would push out the ones that had come out earlier and you’d end up with a pile of disorganized pages on the floor. This did not take any actual brainpower, just moving the pages off of the feeder a few at a time so that there were never that many pages in there.

For a while we had an attorney who would sit in one of the secretaries’ offices chewing the fat all day. And that attorney had the gall to accuse me of goldbricking when I was watching the fax machine. She demanded that I go back to my desk and work while the fax fed into the machine. So after explaining why I was standing there, she basically accused me of lying and demanded that I go back to my desk. So I did. Once I heard the machine stop dumping the pages on the floor, I got up, picked up the pages from the floor, and sat at my desk putting them back in order. This attorney was not happy that I once again didn’t have my nose to the grindstone, and asked me how I was shirking now. I just told her that since the papers had dumped on the floor, now I had to put them back into order.

You could have knocked her over with a feather. She was really stunned that the fax machine actually did dump the papers on the floor and that I had actually been doing my job when I was standing at the fax machine. That woman was a total pain in my neck for the months she was there.

**Grant Faulkner. Pep Talks for Writers (Kindle Locations 535-536). Chronicle Books LLC.

***Socrates, apparently.

In Which I Find the Shortcomings of My Nightly Blog Post Dictation

Okay I’m walking later than usual tonight. It was really hot out today, and well, with Mila living in my bedroom now, I was using my phone as a computer and my battery ran really far down. Then I had to wait for my battery to recharge. So now it is 930 in the evening and I’m just getting around to doing some writing now. I may not have much to say because, well, it’s late and I’ve been writing pretty steadily lately, so my topics are kind of running thin.

And this is now much I was able to comprehend on this blog post. And thus, we learn that there is a time limit to how long I can let a blog post sit between dictating it and editing it for publication.

I guess it’s kind of like Gregg shorthand in that way. I took two classes in it and never *was* able to make sense out of it. I spent too much time thinking of what I was writing, and didn’t just let it flow, but even for people who could successfully Gregg, I was told that only the person who did the Gregging could read it and after a short time it would often become meaningless even to the person who Gregged it.

Gratuitous Amazon Link time! Today we’re back to an old favorite author, Jenny Lawson. I think I’ve already posted this, but I don’t think I can post it too often. Today’s book is Broken (In the Best Possible Way). Just an amazing book about mental illness and thriving despite it.

Content Creators: Jonathan Decker

I don’t have anything really booky or travely to say today, so I will cover a content creator. This time time it is Jonathan Decker. I feel bad for not mentioning Alicia Decker (cohost of Mended Light) or Alan Seawright (cohost of Cinema Therapy) in the title, but Jonathan is the common thread between the two channels I’m going to talk about. Alicia and Alan are extremely important on each of their channels, however.

I mentioned the Mended Light channel an earlier post, and Alicia is the CEO of the company. She is also Jonathan’s cohost in a lot of their videos. They’re adorable together.

On Mended Light, they talk about all sorts of mental health topics. Mended Light also has a staff of therapists that one can hire to work with.

Along with Alan, he does the Cinema Therapy channel. Alan is, as they say in their intros, a professional filmmaker. Alan had a job in Los Angeles lined up, but then Covid interfered and he had to move back to Utah. He and Jonathan were college roommates, and together they came up with the Cinema Therapy YouTube channel.

Like Mended Light, Cinema Therapy has a theme of psychology and therapy. This time, Jonathan and Alan talk about the psychological and filmmaking points of the movies they cover.

Unfortunately I don’t watch as many movies as I kind of probably should to really devote myself to the channel. I’ve watched a lot of movies, don’t get me wrong, but not recent movies. A lot of the movies they talk about are things like the Marvel Cinematic Universe (“MCU”) and things. I had other things going on when the MCU started. The first movie, from what I can tell, was Iron Man, which was released in May 2008. I don’t know exactly what was going on in my life that month, but my marriage started really cracking and was causing me to slide into a depression that I would stay in until late 2009. Oh! I just found that the spoon analogy applies to people in depressions. Basically, at that point in my life, I couldn’t remember the last time I smiled for no reason. I used to smile just because. That was long gone and by the time I realized that Iron Man wasn’t just a one-shot action film thing and that there’d be a whole mythology, the opportunity to get into the series was basically gone.

Spoon Theory is an analogy comparing the energy those with chronic conditions have for daily activities to spoons. Every time you do an activity you lose a spoon. Eventually you’re out of spoons and have to give up and recover.

Anyway, I’ve always been a DC Comics girl rather than a Marvel Comics girl, and action movies really aren’t my thing. I like a good romcom. Animated features, mystery/thrillers, sure. Action movies? Not so much. So there really wasn’t much to tempt me into watching an Iron Man movie. And what little I knew about Thor and the different worlds: Jotunheim, Midgard, whatever, was just confusing to me. So I wasn’t really enthusiastic about that movie, either.

So now there’s like 12 million movies and television shows in the MCU and I just can’t. I don’t have the time to get caught up. I also don’t have Disney Plus.

Sorry. Got carried away. Just. I don’t watch many current movies.

But the channel has lots of great psychology stuff. In the most recent one, they talk about the appearances of Harley Quinn in the Suicide Squad and Birds of Prey movies. I know some of the comics canon for Harley, so I felt at least a little tuned in there. Jonathan talks about how Harley has histrionic personality disorder, which leads her to want to be/think she is the center of attention.

I find both channels really enlightening though Mended Light tends to be actually easier to keep up on because again I don’t necessarily know the back story stuff of the episodes of Cinema Therapy.

I feel I did most of my movie watching in the 80s and 90s when these two men were like tiny. They’re, like 15 years younger than I am. When I entered my real movie-watching phase, around 1986 or so, these men were in elementary school.

Alan and Jonathan are Mormons. Have I mentioned my interest in the Latter-Day Saints? I have a family history of alcoholism, and so I believed that all gatherings of adults included imbibing. When I discovered that there was an entire subculture in the United States in which (theoretically at least) no one drinks, I was thrilled. I learned a bit about the theology, and I was young enough that Christianity was Christianity to me, so I figured I could work with that.

Is there such a thing as a whining font? I feel like I need a whining font here. The main sponsor for Cinema Therapy is Lisa’s Popcorn (nothing like an affiliate link; I just am linking the site because of what follows). I can’t eat popcorn. It just tears up my digestion and is not worth the trouble. I can eat puffcorn products, like the Beaver Nuggets at Buc-Ees, but not whole popcorn.

Now for a real affiliate link. Today’s Gratuitous Amazon Link is The Throne of Fire, the second book in Rick Riordan’s Kane Chronicles series. It will be a while until I can plug the third book, The Serpent’s Shadow, because I’ve lost my copy.

A Really Short Blog Post

You know how I’m always saying “this will be a short post” and then it never is? Well, I dictated this while being dragged at a run around the block by an anxious dog. So it probably is very short.

Not much new going on my life just dog. Oh, and reading my traditional three books. My current audiobook is A Crown of Swords by Robert Jordan. My ebook is The Murmur of Bees by Sophia Segovia and my physical book is Florida Woman by Deb Rogers.

I’m really enjoying all three of these books. Well, of course I’m enjoying A Crown of Swords (Germane Amazon Link #1). If I didn’t enjoy the Wheel of Time, I wouldn’t’ve read it so many times. I mean, I know what all of the surprises are and everything.

The Murmur of Bees (Germane Amazon Link #2) is from Amazon’s annual World Book Day giveaway in . . . 2019? It’s a book about the Morales family and their foundling child Simonopio, who was found as an infant abandoned, covered in a blanket of bees. Simonopio has a cleft palate and a purpose in life that he knows but that he has to wait and prepare for, all while basically incapable of communicating with the family thanks to the cleft palate.

Florida Woman (Germane Amazon Link #3) is about a woman who committed a very fantastical crime. Rather than going to prison, she is sent to a sanctuary where they are rehabilitating rhesus macaques. Strange things are going on there. She hears the monkeys screaming at night, even though the three ladies who run the sanctuary say that no such thing is happening. I hope we figure out what’s going on. This was the July selection for the Fantastic Strangelings Book Club and a lot of Jenny Lawson’s choices leave you with a lot to think about. I’m heading towards the halfway mark and I really enjoy it so far.

Oh, and I was just called for jury duty. Thanks to Covid, they’re doing jury duty remotely over Zoom, and the only Zoom-compatible computer I have is my phone. I don’t think I should be doing jury duty on my phone, so I’ll have to see if Alex has a laptop with a camera and microphone that I can borrow for that day/trial.

I Have a Dog

Okay I will try to keep this short but these never end up being short.

I have a dog, at least for now. And probably for quite a while in the future for reasons I will get into later.

I think I’ve mentioned Mila, the dog I couldn’t have and who had a fear aggression thing regarding my friend’s boyfriend, so she had to rehome her. I ended up in mourning for the dog.

Well she’s back. You see we don’t know what happened to the home that she was sent to, but on Friday I got a phone call from the Humane Society and the lady asked if this was “Olivia,” and when I said that was me, she said that they had my dog.

Well, I don’t have a dog. I paid to have Mila chipped and they put my name on the chip. Her new person never took my name off of the chip. So, I called my friend and asked her to call the Humane Society, but my friend no longer had the phone number for the new owner.

So, not wanting her to end up stuck at the Humane Society, I claimed her on Saturday. My friend’s boyfriend is still around, and Mila still doesn’t like him, so I told my dad that for the foreseeable future I’ve got a dog. I’m honestly kind of hoping that for the foreseeable future will become permanently.

And even if I were going to rehome her, I wouldn’t do it now. For one, she just changed hands twice in the last two months. She needs to stay in one place for a while.

The second is that she does not have a lot of training. I daresay she’s pretty much untrained. She doesn’t have any respect for personal space, she isn’t house trained, he has a fairly bad fear aggression problem, she’s afraid of men, she doesn’t know her basic commands. I need to meet with her vet to see if we can put her on a little fluoxetine to help with the anxiety (and possibly the fear of men?) I know that with medication, you want the lowest effective dose, and I’m hoping that the fluoxetine will just be a little help to get her to calm down and see that the things that scare her aren’t really scary.

Three, you can’t find home for a dog right now. All of the local shelters are full to bursting with dogs. Additionally, if I were to rehome her, I’d want references and things. I’d also want updates and visitation. Maybe one weekend with her a month, just to reassure myself that she’s doing okay.

We need to work on all of her issues, but for right now, I think that the house training may be the most important part. She seems not to have any concept of going out to a yard or of signaling that she needs to go for a walk, so I’m attempting to litter box train her. She’s only been here for, what? 31 hours as I write this? So this will take a while, but I’m hopeful that she’ll get it eventually.

I am putting paper towels with her urine on them in the box, then I place her in the box so she can smell her urine there. Then I attempt to clean the urine smell from the floor.

We’re going to introduce her to a safe guy tomorrow. Alex will come by in the afternoon and give her some Easy Cheese on one of those licky mats. The licky mats are supposed to be good for anxious dogs, and I figure that if a young man who smells a lot like me gives her cheese, well, that’s got to help with that form of anxiety. I would hope. Then in the evening, Mila and I will meet him for dinner somewhere outdoors. If we can get her to like Alex, then that’s one guy down, 3,970,238,389 (as of 2021) to go.

This would be a good time for a Germane Amazon Link of a dog training book, if I’d ever read a dog training book. Instead, here’s a Gratuitous Amazon Link of a people-training book: Professional Troublemaker: The Fear-Fighter Manual, by Luvvie Ajayi Jones. This is a funny, insightful book about getting over the fears that are stopping you from having what you want in life. I actually have read it a couple of times. Whenever I’m contemplating a big change, I’ll dig it out and read it again. I’m probably due for a reread sometime soon.

The Great Gatsby

Next up chronologically in terms of books I read in the past looks like The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald. Now as I mentioned before my mom was a misandrist and she blamed the men in women’s lives for all the troubles. One of her favorites was how F. Scott Fitzgerald drove Zelda crazy.

This next paragraph is the result of hours of research. I recently had someone say something about how bloggers just bullshit and I literally was “They don’t research everything obsessively?”

From what I’ve read, Scott may have taken advantage of any mental instability that Zelda had. It is possible that her behavior was the result of manipulation and gaslighting on the part of her husband, but it is also equally possible that she had what is now known as bipolar disorder. I have two very good friends who have both been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and they do, in fact, act a lot like Zelda is reputed to have acted. And, of course, it’s possible that both are true. That Zelda was unstable and that Scott knew which buttons to push to bring out those behaviors.

I read The Great Gatsby because it’s a classic of American literature and everybody should read it and it’s a fast read and blah blah but also I love Baz Luhrmann’s movies. I wanted to see the Luhrmann version of The Great Gatsby, but I figured I should read the book first. As it turns out I haven’t seen the movie yet I. I should do that sometime.

I went on Amazon Prime last night to see if they have it, and ended up watching Marry Me instead. Oops.

Turn out that I’d have to pay to rent it. I did that once and never did rent the movie, so never mind.

One of the funniest things was a review of the movie where the reviewer said that Luhrmann totally misunderstood the message of The Great Gatsby because the movie is this big party and when the party’s over all that’s left is to pick the champagne bottles and cigarette butts out of the pool. Like, everything I had at that point read about The Great Gatsby made it sound to me like that was exactly the point.

Here’s the quote, from Connie Ogle at the Miami Herald: [T]he movie leaves you cold and weary and vaguely disgusted, like you’ve just spent a night of debauchery at Gatsby’s mansion, and now the sun is up, and it’s time to fish the cigarette butts and champagne bottles out of the pool.”

And, yeah, that is how reading the book made me feel. So Baz Luhrmann: 1, Connie Ogle: 0.

I also have a large problem with the show vs. tell of this book. Tell is winning by a lot, particularly when Nick follows up the story of Gatsby’s life with “Moreover he told it to me at a time of confusion, when I had reached the point of believing everything and nothing about him.” When does the conversation happen? We don’t know. At least if we had this conversation, I missed it. There was just the infodump and a sentence telling us when they had had this conversation.

The actual activity of the plot is so fast that you blink and you miss it. Skip the next couple of paragraphs if you don’t want to be spoiled for a hundred-year-old novel.

Nick moves to New York for a job. He ends up living near his cousin Daisy, who has married a gauche nouveau-riche guy, Tom. One of their neighbors is an enigmatic millionaire, Jay Gatsby, who had a romance with Daisy in their younger years and is basically stalking her.

They attend some parties. We find that Tom has a girlfriend, the married Myrtle. They attend more parties. We get long lists of the names of attendees. Gatsby finally tries to get Daisy to run away with him. Daisy hits Myrtle with a car, killing her. Gatsby takes the fall for it. Myrtle’s husband, George, shoots Gatsby in his pool. Nick decides that everyone in New York is a dishonest, greedy, asshole and leaves.

The end.

It’s all very heavy with symbolism, like the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock, the giant eyes on the billboard, and Nick’s “you can never go home again” philosophy. Which is amusing when you consider that Nick is about to go home.

One of my friends was talking about which circle of Dante’s hell people who preferred Hemingway to Fitzgerald would end up in and I asked for permission to be put in the circle with the virtuous unbelievers because I don’t like either. My friend, amused, obliged. Needless to say there will be no Germane Amazon Link and, rather, we will have the Gratuitous Amazon Link of The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan, the first book in the Kane Chronicles trilogy.

What’s With This Damn Heat Wave?

The heat is getting to me. I am not a heat person. I never have been. When I was a kid my mom made me take tennis classes. I mean, it kind of made sense. My physical coordination as a kid was terrible. Small motor, large motor, hand-eye, you name it, it sucked.

We lived in the south suburbs of Chicago, and not one of the pricey ones. We had a district psychologist and a school speech pathologist, but there was not a whole lot of other support for individual differences. The treatment for dyspraxia is occupational therapy. Since no one had this knowledge and this was the days before the Web and Google, my teachers and mom figured that it was just a matter of forcing me to work on these skills. Generally in front of an audience, like with tennis lessons.

Also my mom fantasized about us getting out of the south suburbs and moving someplace else in the suburbs, where I’d be more in touch with people who play tennis as a hobby. She envisioned me in my tennis whites with my friends Miffy and Muffy or whatever playing tennis and sipping on lemonade at the tennis club after after the match. That is totally not me, but you know we have our dreams.

One of my dreams is of being a professional writer someday. I hope I will be more lucky with my dreams for me than she was with her dreams for me.

Come to think of it, she wanted me to be professional writer, too. But I digress.

One day my mom decided to come with me for my tennis lesson. I don’t know if she was showing an interest in the tennis lessons, or if she was going to prove to me that it wasn’t too hot to do something that frustrating in front of an audience. Not only was this the days before Google. This was the days before people brought water bottles with them everywhere. So I got dehydrated and hot and miserable and I started to show signs of heat-related illness, so my mom realized that I wasn’t just being a whiny little kid. So she took me home from tennis lessons and put me in a cool bath three my body temperature down and after that she never maybe go to tennis lessons if the temperature was over 90 (which wasn’t that often. I mean, the temperature around there peaked at 76 today. .

Anyway so I’ve never been one for heat, and boy is it hot!

The atmosphere of the planet used to have more carbon dioxide than it does now. Like, a lot more. We’re talking close to 10 times as much. There are so few large dinosaur fossils at the equator because it was an inhospitable climate for for large lizards. It was so hot that vegetation would basically just burst into flame. So things have been worse than they are now. I have a friend with an anxiety problem who is all, “we’ve destroyed the planet; everything’s going to hell in a hand basket” and while I agree that things are going to hell in a handbasket from late-stage capitalism, we aren’t irretrievably bad in terms of climate yet.

The current theory is that the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was sequestered by a fern called azolla. The mechanism by which it worked, from what I’ve read, was that the Arctic Ocean was closed off like the Black Sea is today. Azolla got established there and covered the surface. The azolla would die and sink to the bottom and new azolla would form at the top. This tiny fern gobbles up carbon dioxide and also is in a symbiotic relationship with a bacteria that makes it fix nitrogen in addition to sequestering the carbon dioxide. Anyway as the plants died they sink to the bottom of this isolated stagnant basically pond and more would form on the top and it would die and sink more before eventually it ended up with all this like built-up azolla, which then compressed and eventually turned into oil. This, by the way, is why I have problems with people saying that oil is dinosaurs. Oil is not dinosaurs. Oil is ferns.

At some point, either the azolla must have spread, because we have oil here in Texas (which used to be covered by ocean) and there is oil in Venezuela, and of course, there’s the Persian Gulf. It must have done the same thing there — died and sank and died and sank.

During what is now called the Azolla Event, it cut the levels of carbon dioxide way down. And now we’re burning the azolla that sequestered that carbon dioxide and putting it back in the atmosphere, where it came from originally. This will return the Earth to the state it was originally. Unfortunately, current forms of life evolved during an ice age, so we’re headed to a place that’s natural, but incompatible with many current lifeforms. I guess there may be some people out there who are, like, it’s natural, so let’s just let it go back to the way it was originally. But most of us like our ice age. We like a world with caribou and penguins, and people not dying from heat-related illness.

So for those of us who like glaciers and polar bears and not reviving microorganisms that have been frozen in ice for millions of years, resequestering that carbon dioxide is a priority.

I’ve traditionally donated to a Nature Conservancy project called Plant a Billion Trees. The original plan was to plant a billion trees, just like it says on the tin. Their original deadline was 2015, but they didn’t make it. I usually give to planting trees in Brazil, where the Nature Conservancy is trying to restore the Atlantic Rainforest. In fact, since I dictated this, I gave another $25. Each dollar plants a tree (and, of course, helps buy land and things).

Each tree will sequester about a ton of carbon dioxide, which is no slouch, but for a long time, I’ve been wondering about trying to intentionally replicate the Azolla Event. With its nitrogen-fixing qualities, azolla makes a good fertilizer. Some people are also cooking with it, though I’m not so sure about that. One big warning, though. Azolla spreads. Quickly. So if I (or someone else) were to try to grow azolla for this purpose, it needs to be kept in something enclosed. I have a one-cubic-foot fish tank hanging around, which I’m thinking about using for this purpose. My father will be horrified because it will be unsightly. But no one but us will see it. I figure that once the tank is full, I can pull the azolla out, dry it off, and compost it. Then, once I’m sure it’s really dead, I can spread it around in my yard as a fertilizer. By my calculations, it should fill up every month or two. I mean, sequestering carbon dioxide one cubic foot at a time won’t help much, but it’s better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.

I don’t think I’ve read any books on global warming, so next up on my list of Gratuitous Amazon Links is The Battle of the Labyrinth, by Rick Riordan. We’re heading in to the home stretch of Percy Jackson and the Olympians. Of course, the Riordanverse is just getting started.

Covid, Part . . . I Don’t Even Know Anymore

It’s back again and better than ever. Well, okay. It’s back again.

I have a coworker who texted us on Sunday saying, “Guess what guys? I’m Covid-positive.” So, since we’re all close together in our pharmacy, I decided to test.

Also, on Sunday, my dad said that he felt lousy and he thought it might be heat exhaustion. Well, the heat has been inhumane and heat exhaustion is cumulative, so I was willing to buy that. When I left for work on Monday, I reminded him that if the electricity goes out, the local library is a cooling center, since he thought it was the heat.

On Monday, I tested for Covid, since it’s loose at work. I asked my dad how he was doing. He said, “well I took nourishment today I didn’t eat all yesterday” and I, like…

So. I suggested the possibility that he could have Covid. He pooh-poohed it, because I was testing negative and where would he have gotten it from? He said it had to be something else. I left him the second test in that box, just in case he wanted to test. When I got up Tuesday, my dad asked how long it takes between exposure to Covid and the start of symptoms. I didn’t know off the top of my head, so he looked at his calendar and said that when he was at the doctor on Thursday, there was a woman in the waiting room who was coughing. He decided that testing might be a good idea.

I pulled out my handy dandy BinaxNow(tm) testing kit and set it up. I timed my dad while he swizzled the swab in his nose, and then we waited. Sure enough. He was positive.

There’s a combination urgent care and emergency room that we use for a lot of our Covid needs at work (Alex also went there for his diagnosis when he got Covid). I set up a profile for him (attaching the pictures of his ID and insurance card took **forever**) and gave him the address of the clinic in case he felt up to going on Tuesday. Needless to say, he did *not* feel like going in.

So I drove him up there on Wednesday and, due to his age, and him being short of breath, they put him in the emergency room half of the building. I’d never been over there, and if I hadn’t been terrified for my dad, I probably would’ve been fascinated. My dad’s hearing isn’t all it used to be, so I helped translate. The workers couldn’t take their masks off so he can read their lips, so I repeated the questions with my mask off just long enough to ask the question. They got symptoms and lists of medications. My dad doesn’t take anything systemic, just eye drops.

Public Service Announcement Time: if you ever deal with bungee cords, **Please** wear eye protection. That’s why my dad uses eye drops. He smacked himself in the eye with a bungee cord back in . . . 2010? 2011? His ophthalmologist says that she gets more patients that way.

The doctor came in soon after that and my dad could understand what the doctor was saying. So when the doctor said that my dad would be there for a couple of hours while they did bloodwork and took xrays, since my dad could hear him, I came home. I swear I stopped somewhere on my way home, but I cannot remember where it was. I read for a while, and two hours after I left the ER, I headed back, and got there just as they were getting his paperwork together to release him.

We stopped for Popeye’s Chicken and his prescriptions on the way home and he’s been taking Paxlovid(tm) and an inhaler.

Now the thing is I spent basically 45 minutes in a midsize sedan with a person who has Covid. I put the air conditioner on vent rather than recirculate so that we were getting fresh air in there, but still, the close quarters greatly increases the chance that I’m going to get it, too. I’m basically planning for it.

This is particularly important considering that another coworker called today and said that she has it. There were four of us scheduled, but we ended up with only three. Ick.

I tested again today and it was negative, so I can go to work tomorrow. Saturday will be 72 hours after I was in the car with my dad, so I will test again on Saturday. I’m stocking up on food I can eat in my bedroom, because when I’m not doing something that requires this computer, I hide in my bedroom now.

I have nuts, and pudding, and vegetables. . . . Cranberries! I bet dried cranberries would be good. Since I’m likely to get this *from* my dad, I can also emerge to cook. I’ve ordered some chicken and things that I can cook and then take to my bedroom to eat.

The thing is, that two more of my coworkers had Covid at the same time I did, so I suspect that they will get caught in this current round of Covid, as well. This looks like it’s going to be fun.

Today’s Gratuitous Amazon Link is for the final book in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series: The Last Olympian. I was worried about this book, largely because as far as I’m concerned, the Harry Potter series sort of fell apart at the end, and so I was worried that Riordan would also bobble on the dismount. I needn’t’ve worried. He nailed it.

Warning: Whining and Navel Gazing Ahead

I missed a few days. I mean, if you follow my blog you’ll notice that there’s a few days missing.

I don’t know what happened. I just . . . I’m getting the hang of doing this writing will walking, and I just . . . . It’s been too hot to walk? I worked the early shift on Wednesday and had an appointment with my oral surgeon on Thursday morning. But, with time I’m hoping that this will get easier to do.

I have a theme song for my writing. I’ve sort of ritualized the Daft Punk song Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger. I play it when I’m walking just before I start writing. Then I open my copy of Dragon Anywhere software and begin to dictate.

I feel a little short of breath today. I don’t know why. My breathing has mostly been good but today and yesterday I’ve been coughing more than usual, and right now I’m walking uphill. Most of my walks have been pretty level — in my store, at the Riverwalk, so I’m out of practice in walking uphill.

I watched a video about codependent relationships yesterday new channel I discovered called Mended Light which is a therapy channel. I mean, this channel is not a therapeutic relationship, but it’s information on therapy and what kinds of things you might need therapy for. It ends with an invitation to have a consultation with one of their therapists and, of course, if you need therapy they encourage to get it, even if it’s not with one of their therapists. Most of the videos end with Jonathan, the lead therapist saying, “We need your light,” and that’s really uplifting.

I’ve wondered if Thomas and my relationship was codependent, but based on what they say, I think it probably wasn’t, at least on my end. I actually came into this relationship from a very strong place in my life. At the time, my theme song was “The Future’s So Bright,” by Timbuk3. I’ve recently discovered that apparently the song is about nuclear annihilation, but, one in three songs in the 80s was about nuclear annihilation. For me, though, it represented my future as a foreign language translator, living in the city, maybe with a small dog and some adopted kids.

I’d dated a lot, and nearly all the guys I dated were bad news. Liars, cheats, abusers. One was really sweet and looked like a young John Travolta, but he . . . how do I put this? I had to explain a lot to him. He would be, “I’ve heard of this guy who . . .” and then describe someone legit famous like the existence of this guy was news to him. Another guy, every time I said I liked something, he’d tell me how it was bad or wrong. Eventually I gave up and broke up with him. He is apparently now a registered sex offender.

So I’d basically given up on dating. I figured that my best bet was to make my life the best it can be as a single person and if I find someone someday, then I find someone someday, but not to count on it.

So I was in this really strong place. I ended up in a long-distance relationship with Thomas, so I didn’t want to go out of the country for a semester because I barely saw him during the school year as it was. Nearly all of the people in my family who got degrees became teachers, so I figured that would be a good fit. It wasn’t, but I still got fantastic grades, got into the honor society, and would’ve graduated with honors if I’d stayed in school another semester.

I graduated, started on a career track that would’ve led me to becoming a paralegal with a large law firm in Chicago, and married Thomas. Everything was fantastic. Then we moved to Texas.

When we got to Texas, I went into the deepest depression I’d had since middle school. I’d always had a bit of acne, but the climate here made my skin just blossom with cystic acne, which led to massive acne scars.

Thomas had worked with people who’d lived here and they’d led us to believe that San Antonio was a party city. That there were street festivals and things all year. We got down here and there were, like, two festivals — Fiesta and the “Mud Festival,” when they drain and clean out the San Antonio River. I mean, there were more, but no one we had contact with ever told us about them. This was 1993, when you couldn’t just boot up your computer, connect to the Web, hit Google and type in “San Antonio Festivals.”

So my mental image of me getting a job as a paralegal and attending festivals in bodycon dresses was *poof* gone. I did get the paralegal job eventually, though it was in corporate rather than litigation practice, but the festivals didn’t really materialize. And the ones that did, it seemed that it was just “get liquored up.” Woo.

Remember that my experience of drinking is that we don’t do it to have a good time, we do it to mask our misery. Yay.

I’m having trouble remembering what we did on the weekends back then. There weren’t even any parks to speak of. Men’s Fitness magazine, I think, actually ranked San Antonio really low for existence of parks. We visited Friedrich Wilderness Park a lot, but not much else. Well, we joined the zoo and the botanical garden, but didn’t spend a tremendous amount of time there, that I recall.

Even the environment I lived in was depressing. I went from our apartment to a parking lot, to a street, to a different parking lot, to a street, to a parking lot and back to our apartment. What’s not depressing about that?

Where am I? Geographically speaking?

As I’m talking, I’m walking up and down the streets of my neighborhood. I need more steps than usual today, so I’m literally walking up and down the same street, rather than up one and down the other. This is including around the cul-de-sacs and things, so I’ll get more steps that way. I can’t remember if I’m going down or coming back up this street right now. I guess when I get to the end of the street, I’ll know.*

Back to my subject. I was feeling really good about myself and my future and things when I got into the relationship with Thomas. I was in a strong place, feeling pretty self-sufficient, and it wasn’t until the downward slide in Texas, that well, things went downhill.

Well this is a long way of saying that if I had that confidence and feeling that I could be self-sufficient from 1987 to 1992, then that ability is in there somewhere. It’s time to try to get it back. I’m planning to stay in San Antonio another 10 years. Once I’m 65, I can research which schools in which states have which discounts for students over 65 and make decisions then about where I’m going to move to for school.

Again, my plan is to work on my language skills to the point where I don’t actually need the schooling, I just need to get the grades and the piece of paper. Maybe the translation skills training, too, unless I can find it somewhere else by then.

For example, on the beginning of my walk tonight I spent 22 minutes listening to El Ladón del Rayo, the Spanish translation of Rick Riordan’s The Lightning Thief (Germane Amazon Link!). I had to slow it down a bit because the translation is in Castilian, and I speak Mexican Spanish. But that’s a good thing. Getting that degree, if I choose Spanish as my specialization, will probably require me to know Castilian, at least to have a passing familiarity with it, and that’s what I’m getting here.

*I was going back up the street.

Little Women

As I said yesterday, I’m going to try for writing about books in the order they were written. Let’s see how how this works out. I’m reading one of Victoria Holt’s old novels (from 1968) and a book from 2015 and it’s been a long time since I’ve read any of the older novels from my younger days . No Hawthorne or Dickens or Twain or anything like that. So I’m going to do Little Women today and then, you know, in a couple of months or years or whenever, I’ll reread a 19th century novel and I’ll have to go backwards to catch that one.

This may take more editing than usual. I’m dictating this while I’m on the Riverwalk, so this is kind of fun. When I dictate a post at home, I’m walking around my neighborhood at night and there’s usually no one around, so I’m more comfortable speaking out loud. I’ve already passed two groups of people now and as a result, I’m speaking really quietly. I’m talking into my phone, so I’m pretty sure they won’t think I’m carrying on a monologue like the street preacher I passed about 15 minutes ago, but still.

Okay now if you live in United States you probably have some familiarity with Little Women. I mean, you might as well if you’re in a different country, but I have to admit that when I was in Italy, I never asked anyone “Hai mai letto Picolle Donne?”

So a little overview of the book may well be in order here. Little Women is the semi-fictionalized autobiographical story of Louisa May Alcott’s family. Alcott had three sisters, Anna Bronson Alcott Pratt (Meg), Elizabeth Sewall Alcott (Beth), and Abigail May Alcott Neiriker (Amy). The girls of the book have similarities with the sisters in real life such as the second sister (Jo/Louisa) being a writer and the youngest (May/Amy) being an artiest.

In Little Women, we start out Christmas of 1863, which is during the United States’s Civil War. The Marches live in Connecticut so they’re on the side of the North, the Union, the Yankees, whichever you prefer. And their father was off being a chaplain during the war. The family had had money at one point but Mr. March had lost their money in a bad business deal and so now they’re living in genteel poverty. They only have one servant left! The horror!

Anyway, the girls have no fashionable clothing and they have to make repairs on the clothing they do have. This doesn’t set well with Meg, who is very envious of the members of her peer group who can buy nice things. The girls become friends with Theodore Laurence, the grandson of the older man next door and we watch their families, one with love but no money, and one with money but no knowledge of how to express their love for one another, interact. We watch Jo attempting to make money from writing, and Amy become the favorite of their rich Aunt March, who helps her get training in her art. Meanwhile, Beth becomes friends with Mr. Laurence, and Mr. Laurence supports her love of music.

The book that we know of as Little Women is actually two books – Little Women and its sequel Good Wives. Little Women ends with the wedding of Meg and John Brook. Good Wives follows the young Brook couple and we also watch Jo and Amy find love. As for Beth? I don’t know if I need a spoiler alert for a book 150 years old, but Beth is too good for this world and dies young.

My mom was in English education major and she had Opinions about this book.

She hated the pairing of Jo and Friedrich Bhaer. She was totally a Jo/Laurie shipper. I can see that, but I can also see the Jo/Friedrich pairing. I ended up buying Jo & Laurie in part of the Germane Amazon Link and also so that I can see the ending my mom wanted.

On the downside, as much as I love my mother, I’m not blind to her misandry. Men scared her and confused her. So anytime something went bad in the life of one of the wives of a writer or a female writer or whatever, it was always a man’s fault. Like with Zelda Fitzgerald. My mom always said that F. Scott Fitzgerald drove her crazy.

She was very angry with Bronson Alcott for failing to support his family and leaving it to one of his children. She may have been onto something.

Bronson Alcott was a dreamer. He wanted abolition and to reform American education and convert people to vegetarianism and a pure way of living in harmony with the land. I mean, these were all good things, but the way he went about them was. . . suboptimal. For example, he tried to found a school without corporal punishment (hitting the students), which is a good thing. However, current sentiment hadn’t yet turned against corporal punishment, and that, combined with an unorthodox teaching style, based more on the Socratic method, where students and teacher converse in hopes of finding truth, which was also not the preferred method. Oh, and before I forget, he didn’t hit his students, but he encouraged his students to hit him, telling them that their failure was because he had failed them. He openly admitted that he was playing on their guilt and shame in doing this. Wow. I’m 110% against corporal punishment, but at least corporal punishment is honest.

Well, Bronson attempted to keep this school going for 10 years and ended up penniless. Then a friend gave Bronson the money to start Fruitlands, a farm dedicated to clean living and rejecting the use of farm animals. You know, like to run plows and things. So the people living there had to push the plow themselves,which is hard work. They also started this farm too late in the year to get a full harvest in by winter, so they almost starved. Fruitlands lasted seven months.

As a result of this lack of practicality on the part of her father, Alcott ended up writing children’s books for the rest of her life because they sold well and she could use the money to support her entire family.

Things I’ve been reading since I started my reread of Little Women indicate that Alcott may have been a transman. Now, I’m reluctant to decorate this post with pink-white-and-blue flags because, well, there was no real term such as transgender back during her lifetime and I really hesitate to sit here in the 21st century and label people based on what they might have defined themselves as today. One of the quotes that supposedly prove their status as a transman was one where they say “I am more than half-persuaded, that I am, by some freak of nature, a man’s soul put into a woman’s body. . . . because I have been in love in my life with ever so many pretty girls, and never once the least little bit with any man.”

Generations of lesbians have seen themselves in this quotation. So was Alcott a straight transman? Were they a lesbian? Were they nonbinary?

I can hear some of you now, ‘does it matter’? And as a straight-passing ciswoman, I say it does. Representation matters. Being able to see yourself in fictional characters and historical figures matters. And seeing yourself in somebody who may very well have been one of the heroes of your childhood really matters.