robertsloan2: Ari sweet (Default)
Yay! The fund raiser Nonny started to replace my dead laptop is up to $480 now. Also my old art teacher, Johannes Vloothuis, will post the link on his next webinar! I have high hopes we will get enough for Nonny to order a good newish refurb with extended warranty, one to last a long time!

One donor also sent me a six year old MacBook that still works. It's here! It arrived today! I love it. Some things about it are wonderful.

Very easy switch to Dvorak keyboard layout. Dvorak is its own nationality in International. With a black flag and white DV on it.

Very easy setting up Internet. Found it, click, put in password, yay. Points to Apple for a toggle to hide or show password.

I live alone. No one uses my computer. I want to see what I'm typing, especially numbers. Or I stress out on mistakes.

Bad, bad, bad MacBook in one headachy regard, it makes this otherwise beautiful machine the Backup. Not the main one.

Mouse Jitter. Cursor bounces around, clicks, selects text, deletes by typing over.

A short post took 20 minutes on Facebook. A line or two took half an hour. Headache time and fibro flare. Lost post to navigating away from page. Lost paragraph in this post 14 min. recreating.

OWW impossible to write on.

Mouse-cursor jitter happens even with the touchpad. That's not mouse incompatibility. HELP! Anyone know what makes Macs do this?
robertsloan2: Ari sweet (Default)
My backup laptop just died a couple of days ago. This is the first time I've ever tried posting from my iPhone, so please bear with me. It's very difficult, small screen, poor eyesight and new software are tough instead of just typing like normal on a screen I can see.

My writing buddy Nonny, also on dreamwidth and livejournal, is doing a fundraiser online to get me a good used laptop. These are the urls to copy and paste: http://nonnycat.dreamwidth.com or http://nonnycat.livejournal.com - sorry these aren't links but I am fogged and can't remember how to do links.

Yes, I am that helpless without the third lobe of my brain. I'm used to being able to open another window and look things up, like how to code links or my offline list of passwords.

Please do not send money to me by PayPal, as SSI will see it and take it out of my check. You'd wind up just helping the government. Nonny is the organizer and treasurer. She will collect funds, buy the machine and send it to me. Anything over goal will go to other related things I can't afford, like a bigger USB drive or an external hard drive so I can consolidate all my backups, or a printer cartridge, that sort of thing. The stuff I would just do if I was paying a reasonable rent.

Right now I am in a bad situation. I pay about 80% of my income in rent and SSI cut my check about $100 to pay back money I got in 2011. This may lighten up again in 2014 but I am not sure of that. I need to talk to them about a work plan in order to try to become self supporting again. I also need to go back to a more primitive technology for business records. I thought $50 for a blank ledger book was too much when I moved in - but I might not have lost as much if I'd bought it and used it.

I am going to buy one as soon as I am ready to put a book out.

I'm going off topic, another symptom.

So far in one day Nonny raised $100 and it's going really well! I have great hopes. Someone offered a desktop, but that's sort of a last resort. I use a folding TV table as a desk, it's tiny and I don't have space in my room to get a bigger table even if I could pester the manager for one. I also had some wrist and hand trouble using a full size keyboard. I found out on my first laptop that I type better, faster and with less problems on a laptop keyboard and even adapted to a little net book keyboard easier.

I live on my laptop. That's where and how I write. I think and type about 100 words a minute and on days when the fog or pain is so thick I'm unintelligible, I can still type and make sense about a couple of pain levels better than if I tried to talk in person or on phone. I feel like I am suddenly both stupid and helpless, things I could do are out of reach and so are most of the ways I distract myself from pain. I hate the way that fibro makes me less capable as soon as there is an emergency. The shock knocked me over with a flare so big that I lost a day before I realized I could text Nonny.

Huge thanks to everyone who helps! Would someone who knows or remembers the code please put Nonny's links in a comment? Please pass this along too. If you are a Facebook friend who wondered if Nonny's post on my wall was real, it is. We've known each other offline for over a decade and she is my editor, the person who's getting my rough drafts into readable condition comparable to pro published. This is real, just as I got unlimited Internet I wound up with dead laptop.

Purr and thank you. Ari purrs at you too, he did lap leap while I typed this and helped in his own special feline way. He purred and head banged the phone.
robertsloan2: Ari sweet (Default)
It worked! It is great! It is awesome!! I didn't have Netflix here in San Francisco because even with the expanded Verizon plan, I had to limit my bandwidth. Cable TV came with the building but a few months ago I had it taken out because I didn't watch it.

I could not re-adapt back to commercials every five minutes or less, no choice of content or time. Regular basic cable was depressing and stressful. I'm listening to commercials on alternative radio and they startle me. Most aren't as bad as the TV ones are. Like many people, I just don't bother because it isn't fun. It's more fun playing a game or watching a download or something.

i haven't had movies much since I moved here. With losing my Verizon bill and getting the meals that heal plan - five hot meals a week Monday through Friday to help my budget - I might be able to afford Netflix again. I missed it ever since I moved, especially on bad days when I wasn't up to actually doing anything more active.

Just got my reminder call for my doctor's appointment tomorrow. Big exhausting day. Leave at 9:30am to get my shot from the nurse at 10:30am, then wait down there till 1pm for doctor appointment and seek out the hospital social worker in between since I'm down there anyway. Hope to feel good enough to be coherent with teh social worker. Getting help with transportation to my medical appointments would be another big budget move. Every trip for anything is $2 each way, $4 for the appointment or event.

I will have a $70 termination fee on Verizon but the lady there counseled me to just wait 30 days and ask for a payment plan on it, since I dont' think I could come up with all of it at once. I'll send partial payments to carve it down but I'm not going to rush on it, not when I do have another service and I'm not cut off from the world if I'm late. I can be realistic now about that. LOVE the new broadband!
robertsloan2: Ari sweet (Default)
Got my AT&T Broadband installed! First post on broadband.
robertsloan2: Ari sweet (Default)
Went off the wagon on the "edit an hour a day" because my days don't match Earth's days and if anything else takes concentration or too much time, I don't have the energy for it. Editing does take more work than rough drafting.

But I can average it because the days I did were 3 or 4 hour stints. If I go for 7 hours a week minimum that I can keep up.

Today's happy distraction, an intake appointment for Salvation Army's "Meals that Heal" program. I'm getting hot meals five days a week. Out of an entire month's menu there are only three or four that might be too spicy for me to eat, most of it I can eat. They lean toward things I not only can eat but actively enjoy, tomorrow it stars with Swedish meatballs and beef-barley soup. MMMM two favorites.

That will help cut the impossible food budget and add in things I can't afford, like, meat and veggies. I've been living mostly on rice, ramen, potatoes, onions, oatmeal, corn meal, pasta and hominy grits, all things I can buy in bulk and eat simple, with butter or olive oil. The one big expense is the olive oil healthier than margarine and used whenever it'd taste as good or better in order to cut back the butter. I'm not trying to lose weight. I don't eat enough to maintain my weight and have been losing weight rather dramatically since the last time I tightened my belt.

Instead I sort of count calories to try to get in enough in a day. I dropped about 15 pounds due to eating less by skipping meals and some foodless days when I first lost the money and wasn't prepared to, have been having bad days toward the end of the month. Beverages other than coffee went by the wayside a long time ago. I don't afford soda when I could get a can of Vienna sausages to have some meat in my diet or a pack of hot dogs or a canned stew dinner once a week. no fridge so everything's nonperishable.

I'm good at living on th echeap but there are a lot of cool things on these meals that I don't bother buying because they're sides. Beef barley soup - it's not enough calories to be a meal for the day beacuse soups are too light. Soup is not cost effective when I'm trying to get in enough calories to live.

They put salads in about half the meals. I can't eat raw veggies and salad dressings make me sick, but I'm going to deconstruct the salads, cook anything that can be cooked in the microwave and put it into ramen for a second meal of the day when it has salads. No sense throwing away fresh produce just because I have to rinse salad dressing off it, especially if someone else cut it up and it's just putting it in the sink with the water running for a bit. Anything unpalatable that can be reworked, I'm going to eat it. Any veggies I don't like by themselves, like peas, can go in ramen where it's tolerable but adds nutrition.

Though I must really crave them bceasue the last time I got a TV dinner, I ate the green beans and they tasted good. This is like "gatorade tastes good" feeling, I hate green beans so if they taste good my body's craving it.

I am so relieved I finally got into a program. Whatever these meals are, it's food I didn't have before and I'm able to afford it.
robertsloan2: Ari sweet (Default)
I've been sitting on an ever-growing stack of science fiction and fantasy novels since I published Raven Dance in 2000. Every year I participate in NaNoWriMo and usually the 3 Day Novel contest too, either officially or just by spending Labor Day Weekend writing a new short novel.

I just keep writing them and stacking them up in my hard drive. Editing is a daunting task especially when all of them have the same problems that I need to overcome in order to produce good professional quality work. I decided to go indie some time back after watching the way the publishing industry changed and keeps changing.

90% of the delays are due to physical or financial hardship. I'm a disabled 58 year old transman who only worked full time for about a decade and never did get ahead enough to get past basic survival, let alone pay for needed medical care. I never got insurance because I was trans and I wasn't going to take that money out of necessities like rent and bills and food for self and significant other if it didn't cover my gender reassignment treatment. Disability, trans and aging all combined to a perfect storm and I was homeless for a long time, sub-marginal long before I was homeless, sub-marginal all through the 90s even if some of that was actually one of my most prosperous times in terms of physical comforts.

The other 10% is something uglier. Self acceptance, choice of living stealth or being out of the closet and wimping out on my GBLT themes and social science fiction themes. I've sweated over that all along.

If the right thing to do is stand up for my rights and link arms with anyone else who's gotten oppressed for any reason (which does make for a pretty HUGE majority), then I should write my brooks true to my view of life and just find my readership. Trust that it's out there. Trust that some people will read a blog entry about transgender issues and find out I do SFF and check it out because they are sick of wimpy princesses who don't act like real ones, sick of main characters always being straight-white-cisgender-male, sick of science fiction that doesn't question society and make you think. I definitely fall closer to Ursula K. LeGuin and Ray Bradbury and all than I do to the current crop of rocket men.

I don't even have anything against the quest of the rocket men.

I don't think it's pointless to reach for the stars. I think that's a lot better thing to do as a human endeavor than 'try to kill off lots of other people for their customs/religion/want their stuff' and it can solve other problems on Earth because good science is not a waste of effort.

It's just that's not my story. No matter how much some of it looks like fantasy fiction, it's actually social SF about culture and adapting to technology and interacting with people who aren't like you. It's what it is and I'm who I am. So maybe this post is like those moments heroes decide to do the dang fated thing anyway. It beats not doing it by a lot, because not doing it is stupid and doesn't solve anything.

I never could run. I had to learn to fight.
robertsloan2: Ari sweet (Default)
A couple of days ago, a good friend of mine from online texted me and we talked about why I have not been online for months - pretty much all of 2013 and for some time before that my participation dropped in all the areas where I'm active. The problem is financial. I had to cut back my Internet service from the $80 a month I spent to have enough bandwidth for my real usage to the shorter time on the $50 a month two year contract I had with Verizon. I told my friend I'd be back in August when that contract's over, since I intended to get a cheaper service with unlimited usage even if it was slower.

She totally blew me away. She bought me AT&T U-verse and Thursday is the start date for my new service. Wednesday is when UPS delivers my hardware to self-install. This is going to be fantastic. I can end my isolation and go back to living online.

I'm mostly shut-in. I go out to the hospital every two weeks to get my shot from a nurse and I go out every Monday afternoon to see my therapist, that's about it. Three days a week, home care workers come in to clean my room, help me bathe and cook some food for me. Without hanging out online I was way too isolated and when SSI started taking more out of my check for money I'd earned before, I went below a level where I could cover necessities like the Internet. I tightened my belt and I stopped entire online activities like Facebook or forums or blogging cold turkey. It was the only way I could cut back that actually worked. It would cost more if I went over my usage than if I'd paid that $30 more than my contract to get 10 gig rather than 5 gig. I limited it to personal chats with a very short list of close intimates and even stopped doing email for months because it was too depressing (and used up too much bandwidth with all the things I read in email.)

Next step - when the new service is installed I'll contact Verizon and see if there's a fee for early termination. Hopefully it's cheaper than just paying the bill for the last couple of months would be. I could be eating better in June. Yes, it's gotten that tight to where I had days of not eating - but my cat still has food and good food. My priorities are solid and his hairball formula comes in big bags for economy. I'm so glad he prefers dry food.
robertsloan2: Ari sweet (Default)
In my last article there's a major tip I forgot to put in or emphasize. Really, really important one, something that saved my life hundreds of times.

If you are LBGTQ - QUILTBAG - youth at risk, The Trevor Project has an incredible hotline. 866 488 7386 is the number.

There's also a National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 - this one is good too and I haven't had any discrimination from them when I bring up transgender issues. Only support and understanding. Once in a blue moon I'm educating someone on the line but they're open to it and listen supportively. It's rare because I'm probably not the first one who called, discrimination kills.

Suicide hotlines are a tremendously good idea. They are free. The hotliner is trained not to be judgmental. There is nothing more effective in releasing and bringing down the level of any emotional or physical trauma than being able to talk about it with someone who's attentively listening, cares, and doesn't try to give a lot of pointless advice.

I am alive today because I call those hotlines if I even start to think about it. I have never been involuntarily hospitalized or locked up because I used a hotline. It is safe to tell a hotliner anything. I came out transgender to hotliners when I was living stealth and couldn't stand it in Chicago. I did this even as a teenager when I was dead scared that my grandparents would find out and throw me into an institution - and was listened to and accepted.

It makes a huge difference. Use that resource. If you volunteer on one, thank you. Also please, take care of yourself afterward. Secondhand stress can become a cumulative burden. So taking care of your own feelings and feeling better afterward can save you a lot of heartache. Think of me and all the folks you do save when you're out there doing that. You're brave and good and doing something as needed as fire fighting.

I am starting to pull out of the flare and PTSD reactions from Monday morning's trauma. It was a particularly extreme incident of disconfirmation, something that was more like a New York homeless shelter experience than anything that I'd ever experienced or heard of in San Francisco. But this is still San Francisco.

When I went in to see my doctor on Wednesday morning, I had panic attacks and triggered just on going downstairs, so that was no good. I bulled through it and went to my appointment, explained that my PTSD was going off and so my blood pressure wasn't going to be normal and I was already doing what I could to calm down from the panic attack. They were understanding about it. Most of all my doctor asked what happened and when I explained it, she came up with a San Francisco solution.

I need to get the contact number for the group and give it to her, so she can arrange a training for the people involved. Wow. They do that here. It makes a difference. It's not "whistle blowers get stomped on." They solve the problem - I have done what I could to educate the people involved and they didn't get it. But cisgender experts are sometimes listened to over people who actually have the situation.

This is true of medical chronic stuff too, it helps to bring a healthy person to the doctor's office on initial visits to explain what your problem is because the doctor's looking at your body and listening to your voice tone as a diagnostician, ignoring what you say in favor of how you say it and guessing the most common reasons for your symptoms.

It also takes about three days for someone who's having trouble accepting or understanding transgender to wrap their heads around it and get over the initial shock. There is one. For many people it shatters their world view and even though they do come to understand, they're not going to understand on the spot. It's more important to put in the time and effort to calm down and think about it and accept it, take care of your feelings instead of taking them out on the transgender person. Just saying "I need time to deal with this" when someone comes out is a lot politer than telling them they're not who they say they are because they don't look like what you expect.
robertsloan2: Ari sweet (Default)
Pain level ten always brings thoughts of suicide. That's my definition of pain level ten - it's when death starts looking better than going on putting up with the pain, when it's gotten so bad there is nothing but the pain. So I've had well over fifty years of finding ways to fight the temptation to kill myself. Demonstrably, I succeeded.

I will add that at no time has anyone else intervened in my life to stop me. I can think of a few times when those around me were tacitly making it easy, like leaving a clinically depressed child diagnosed with suicidal tendencies alone for hours in a basement room right next to an unlocked gun room with over 50 firearms and enough ammunition to hold off the Russian army. I would've had time to melt down the slugs and craft a reload to shoot myself with if I'd actually gotten down to doing it. I didn't tell the shrinks at the time because I didn't want that door locked. I wanted my options open.

There are different things people do to deal with the pain. Whatever the pain is, when it gets to the point of suicide, I treat that as pain level ten and respect it. I respect their reasons for being that hurt even if they may seem trivial to me. Most of all I'm aware that sometimes something trivial can make the difference between life and death.

I've also known someone I loved at the time who decided not to kill himself because he hadn't seen the next episode of a science fiction show PBS was airing in a couple of days. He chose to live because of that show. We were big fans. Fortunately, it turned out to be one of the best episodes of the entire series when we sat down together to watch it.

Anything that makes a person want to live at that point is worth it. That's not for someone outside to judge, especially if they're trying to help that person come back to the world of the living. I don't actually know what it's like for people who find relief with drugs or alcohol, when that temporarily blots out the pain. Only that for many addicts it does and they have a big physical problem with their brain chemistry being unable to function without that chemical unless they go through a lengthy difficult recovery process.

Drug/alcohol addiction is its own big topic anyway. It's an entire social process and maybe that's where some of the "ease the pain" goes away. Both drunks and recovering drunks have massive social support for their new, simpler identities as drunks or drunks in recovery. It's common for them to have been abused in childhood. Social wounds may actually get relief from social support, who'd a thought that? To me, that's a huge part of why AA works - what people take to drinking for gets provided without the booze and in a way that encourages personal growth.

But let's look at some other things. Junk food. Reading all the time, burying yourself in a book. Distraction. Burying yourself on the computer in game after game. Withdrawing from mainstream life into a narrow subculture.

When I was younger it used to be Dungeons and Dragons, table top role playing games. I threw over D&D for the Gurps system as soon as I found it, since the rules system was better for my style of storytelling and the setting was much more flexible, easier to adapt to give my games either an original backstory or base them on my current fandom. I wound up putting together not the giant support groups of AA and Al-Anon and their like, but a small six to twelve person intimate group of people all of whom knew me, liked me, had a reason to come over to my room and stay up all night.

That was a very big part of how I survived my pre-op years. Gaming. RPGs. Fictive universes. When I was with my long term ex, we gamed together, just a universe of two with a cast of thousands. Most of the games naturally had erotic subplots and assorted erotic or romantic plots. We met for the first time ten thousand times in a thousand different worlds and venues, which was as fun as it was the first time we actually did.

The biggest real reason we stopped having good sex was that my body energy ran out as I ground myself down on the treadmill of my 1980s Work Robot years. It takes a toll sleeping only on weekends and working 20 hour days and then madly spending it all as fast as it comes in so as to keep from jumping off a high building.

There is another one. Sex. This includes masturbation. If someone's thinking of dying, one-handed pleasure is a much better alternative to death. Orgasm can be an analgesic if you can get up to it with enough fantasy to let go of the reasons for the pain and fear. It's a particularly healthy one, it resets your nervous system for a little while and does wonders for brain chemistry.

I got disappointed with a lot of erotic fantasy for lacking fantasy elements though. I expected dragons, elves, magic, flying, your basic fifteen impossible mythic things to go on in the story. The normal stuff was dull, I didn't fancy myself a construction worker or rich guy in suit type to dom someone, I was more into the settings of my RPGs. Vampires, elves, dragons, aliens, the cool stuff. The window dressing of the other way I escaped from reality that was at many times in my life for real unendurable.

Many people escape how unendurable life is at its worst times by pretending that nothing bad ever happens to people who don't deserve it. This is one of the worst ways to face it. That idea sets you up for suicide at the first real injustice, with added self blaming and shame. It's surrendering to your worst enemies and validating their sadistic attacks. If you internalize the viewpoint of the oppressor, you collaborate in your own oppression.

Was that James Baldwin? It was one of the great black philosophers and poets. The ones who kept me alive and sane as a child, right along with the science fiction and fantasy writers. They talked about a reality that didn't deny injustice, a way of health that involved staring it down and not giving in - not down deep, not behind your eyes, never telling them that they're right to treat you like that.

There's more than enough real oppression in this world and this country for anyone to get depressed. There's more than enough real risk for anyone to get a bit paranoid. Staying on balance well enough to make it to work and live month to month on the edge of survival, whatever the actual income level of edge of survival is, that stresses people. A quarter of all Americans will be clinically depressed at some point in their lives.

Most of them have good reasons for it. So when you're trying to say something to help, the thing to say is to listen, let them tell the story. Take it seriously. Reflect what you heard well enough so that they know you actually did understand and care. The hardest thing anyone can do is listen to a gut-wrenching story and not be able to do anything to change what happened - but by listening, that is the one gift that makes a difference and can help.

Never, ever laugh at what they do to get through the night. It may sound silly to you but sometimes what matters is any reminder that anything in life is worth experiencing again, whether that is butter on mashed potatoes or next week's television program or that I hadn't been published yet and my book wasn't finished.

Why that's a rant.

I can't count the number of mental health professionals who disconfirmed my novels and my writing. Treated them as sick, treated it as a symptom, not an ambition or an avocation or a profession. Treated it as an unrealistic "grandiose delusion."

Yes. Something bad happened on Monday morning and I'm not ready to write about it. I'm not sure if I'll ever be ready. But I'm coming down from the flare and the PTSD reactions. I've turned to all my solitary comforts, mostly Diablo III, some junk food and a couple of new Terry Pratchett novels. "The Long Earth" by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter is excellent - not a screamingly funny book like Diskworld, good serious SF with incredibly grabby characters and fascinating premise.

I'm going to just take care of myself till my therapist comes back from her vacation next Monday, process everything as well as I can till then and not try to rush the process. I know that I will come through it and feel like myself again eventually, because I have been through worse. I'm still not going to let them win.

Last tip: pet the cat. That always helps. Purring and shedding on you will release endorphins, knock down the pain. A cat is incredibly supportive at times and majorly understanding. The cat does not agree with anyone who ever put you down. The cat's needs are simple and the cats' hearts are big. Substitute critter of choice if you're not a cat person. I am. Ari is my front line defense, he is right there whenever I feel down and will literally wash it away. When he does that, I feel better.

Amazing, how cat spit can change the way the world looks. But he means it with love and he makes me laugh and he's very sensitive to what's going on. He's also particularly happy because his big bag of good cat food arrived yesterday. 15 pound bag of super quality high protein food that is his top favorite brand, his own weight in cat food. Properly served one small handful at a time on demand, so it keeps its strong scent and freshness in the big sealed cat food tub.
robertsloan2: Ari sweet (Default)
I had a hard childhood. Numerous reasons for it, some of them political and some of them not. Physical disability would've made it hard even if I'd been raised by physically healthy and wealthy Unitarians who were completely accepting of everything about me that wasn't Normal.

I wasn't a normal child either. This week my therapist, the good one who comprehends fibromyalgia and physical disability as well as trans issues and emotional stuff, blew my mind again. She popped out with another zinger.

If I had been a normal child I wouldn't have survived my childhood.

That's a little freaky to contemplate. I don't have any memory of ever being like children are supposed to be. The biggest thing about me that everyone kept trying to pound out of me was lack of "innocence" i.e. gullibility.

I blew it off to having a high IQ at the time. That meant a lot to my parents. They crowed over it but also freaked out over it being "too high to be stable." I wasn't normal but that was a thing like having super powers, not entirely undesirable.

I didn't believe it was all my fault. Most abused children do. It gets beaten into them that they deserved it. I wound up getting punished so much that punishment lost all its meaning.

I've heard grown men raised by alcoholics tell me seriously "I'm a loser. I'm a total failure, no good at anything and never will be. My dad said that and it's true. It's just what I am, a loser."

I got told those same things. Exactly those words. I didn't believe it. Now I'm thinking back and feeling differently about what I was like as a kid. In some ways I've always just been myself. Not all the things that weren't normal about me were bad things.

My therapist was right. A normal child would have died. I didn't hate myself. I hated my situation, that isn't the same thing at all. I don't feel bad about it either. I still don't think Ignorance is a virtue.

Buzzwords

Jun. 30th, 2012 01:08 am
robertsloan2: Ari sweet (Default)
I'm slowing down on my grand vacation, no longer playing Diablo III to the exclusion of everything else in my life. I even spent a day without playing it at all, though I have to admit most of that day I was sleeping and the rest was family time in chat. It's been great, it'll still be fun but it's no longer as completely immersive.

There are some ideas that slip into popular language and culture out of the business world. In the business world, these terms get crafted by clever people who want to control their work force. Maintaining an impersonal corporate policy lets any number of managers get away with major or minor abuses. Those are perks of the job and range from economic blackmail and bullying on up into flat out ripoffs.

Some companies, restaurant chains, routinely underpay workers. They trim some off the paycheck across the board with this or that excuse especially when the workers are tipped and they can pay less than minimum wage to begin with. They can bargain hard when people are desperate for work. Half a paycheck is better than none when survival's at risk.

What set me off thinking about this tonight is a sentence from a how to article about something that's essentially a toy. It was about organizing an iPod. The author said that having a disorganized iPod was "messy and unprofessional."

Excuse me?

Isn't an iPod your personal toy? Your music machine? Are you a professional music listener? Okay, there are a few people who are. A music critic probably does organize his or her iPod because it's important to keep new music separate from what's already been reviewed, that's part of the job. I organize my art supplies the same way, prioritizing review products I haven't tried yet so that I'll get around to reviewing them sooner.

But since when do you need to seem professional after work when goofing off? When you're on the bus listening to music? What if a disorganized iPod lets you keep your music collection fresh and interesting, as you stumble on favorites you forgot while trying to find the song you're looking for?

There are times and places for being professional. Showing up to a job interview is one of them. Heck, showing up on time to work is one of them, keeping up your tasks, going along with the dress code that you may well agree with because it helps define your status. Some of the guys in suits definitely wanted the suits and ties lifestyle and take pride in it.

There are times and places when it's not. Even at the office there are some people who can't work with a clean desk. Their style of thinking and analyzing takes an intuitive approach and their books and papers are strewn all over the place in apparently random piles. They're not random to that messy-desk thinker.

Body memory tells them that stack over on the chair by the door is what they were doing six weeks ago when they found the article on pterosaurs. So they go through that stack first and find it tucked into a book on mammals because they needed to mark something else. Replace the bookmark, retrieve article, cite it, seamlessly return to the project.

Where organization comes in is when collaborators need to find that article. You can't use a personal organization scheme if someone you don't know needs to find what you researched fast. That means you have to stop what you're doing to give directions anytime anyone else on the project needs something.

So the impersonal culture of business does work for some situations and doesn't in others, it emerges from the needs of some jobs. Not all those needs are ethical, the need for middle management to avoid responsibility is well served by "it's just policy, nothing personal."

It gets mindlessly carried over into the rest of life. People with messy-desk organization for things they do at home, like hobbies, wind up feeling ashamed of it and beat themselves up for being unprofessional when they are off duty and don't have to be professional.

When the point of a hobby or avocation is being able to just relax and do things your way, not have to answer to a group or a supervisor, why would it matter if your miniatures paints are lined up by color or by when you purchased them? When you're reading magazines for fun, sorting by "the ones with articles you want to reread" across a dozen different topics makes more sense than by title and year. When you're using your iPad, it makes more sense to organize or not by what makes you happy.

Professionalism can be taken way too far. One of the biggest problems people face today is endemic overwork without enough time to have a personal life. The work-life balance is skewed all the way towards work and people who are nowhere near "desperation" economically still live as if they are. Others don't seem desperate but the amount of debt they carry means they can never slow down. Then some moralist comes along blatting about divorce rates and tries to make them feel bad about the real consequences of hard choices too many people are stuck with.

It's not something easy to do, sorting your life out to have room for both work and play. It's one of the hardest situations when work is as enjoyable as play. I've had to fight myself to let myself relax and just enjoy this new game at the pace that I can and do enjoy new games, because I only succeeded at anything in life by single minded stubborn concentration to the exclusion of anything else.

But that just makes me a canary in a coal mine. People with more physical resources can lose that great health over the long run by neglecting themselves. I know now that I need to keep a good balance even if I have to do odd runarounds to make it happen. That I need to live by the calendar, not the clock, that's my body's pace. The only job I ever wanted is the only one I'm physically capable of doing in a sustainable long term way.

It gets a little scary to look at it that way. But also encouraging, especially when I look at all the effort I put into all the other things I tried to make a living at. Doing that much writing is going to make it work. Practice improves skill and demonstrably did. Fortunately most of the work isn't social enough to require much professionalism. For me it just means making deadlines or recognizing that I won't soon enough to deal with the situation and warn those who are waiting.
robertsloan2: Ari sweet (Default)
I don't do chain letters. When I got one from a good friend who thought it might move me, I did not pass it on. It had the usual chain letter thing at the end, send it to five of their friends to make their day. The story didn't move me to tears and make me want to join a church. It scared me.

There's this person probably living in a middle class house, probably never been financially strapped beyond running out of pocket money and outgrew that. The one and only time in her life that she helped out homeless men with their breakfast floored her. She'd never actually done anything like that before. Then when she does, she gives them a sermon. If they were Christian, that's great, it takes the edge off it being patronizing when she credits God for it.

But if they're not, it's something they smile and put up with and lie through their teeth to get a meal. And she thinks it's so wonderful and rare that she's got to turn it into a chain letter. Is she actually going to start making a habit of it?

Is she making such an enormous sacrifice by smiling at people who smell bad because they don't have access to a shower? She could have invited them over to let them shower, put their clothes through the washing machine, hired them for work around the house.

Real generosity would've been "I've got a basement that really needs sorting and cleaning out. I'll give you $10 an hour and you can get first pick on the yard sale items if you take the job. It's sweaty work, so if you want, you can use the shower and washing machine while you're over here."

The greatest gift you can give a homeless man is work. They are driven by the same work ethic as most Americans and the custom of "blame the victim" runs so deep that they get shamed all the time. The reactions of everyone in McDonalds in the story was typical, they stared at the letter writer in shock and the homeless men in disgust.

The letter writer, having given them one meal rambles off into telling the world about how very very Christian she is and show off. She got her money's worth for those breakfasts. For the price of holding her nose and remembering a religious custom she can now establish herself as a Good Person to thousands of people she doesn't know, friends of friends of friends.

There isn't even a call to action to do the same thing. The call to action is to pass on the chain letter, read about it and turn Christian. This is the flavor that makes Christian Brand Charity such a humiliating process. Oh, and they were obviously white homeless men. She didn't react that way to the scary black homeless men, if they even dared to come into that McDonalds.

For me it's every day. If I'm not broke, whenever I see a homeless person in my neighborhood I share a buck or so, sometimes more if I'm flush. I've skipped my snack because an old black man in a wheelchair asked if I had any change. "No, but I've got a dollar." I get out my wallet and give him a dollar. I don't stop at the Paradise because it was budgeted for my snack. I know that this is my turn, I'm paying it forward. I grin at him and say "I been there, I've only been on Social Security the past five years."

Sometimes they thank God. I smile like a Unitarian and don't preach at them that I'm doing it for Goddess or as a secular humanist. They've got enough troubles without a lecture about religion. I don't lecture anyone on that because it's their lives and their soul. I don't know what religion means to them, I could be spitting on their lifeline if I do. I only know what it means to me and what it feels like to endure religious spam when I'm starving.

Instead I just ask how they're doing, wish them luck, if I've got time (and I usually do) open up a conversation. Give them a break and some real social contact. Some of the people panhandling in my city aren't even homeless. They live on benefits, can't quite make ends meet and pick up that little extra that lets them eat all month instead of just when the check comes in. Others are so isolated living in SRO housing that panhandling becomes a way to meet people and a reason to get out of their rooms.

Sometimes they talk to me about life, about benefits or about how San Francisco was so awesome in the sixties and the seventies. They've been here all along and they fall through the cracks. There's nowhere to go if they're on general assistance or if they're waiting for Social Security or waiting for a pension.

They see where I live and tell me where the food banks are. We're all the same community. The generosity of the blue eyed man in the story toward his mentally impaired companion is common. That's like me and my neighbors in the SRO. Occasionally someone knocks on my door and asks if I have any food. I'll share, because I've gotten good enough at shopping and budgeting to have enough bulk stuff around I could spare something for them.

Then sometimes I'll meet someone in the hall asking "Do you want a loaf of bread?" Or "I've got some chicken in my room, got it from Meals on Wheels, you want it?" My neighbors feed me too. It's reciprocal. I've been deeply grateful since there do come times when the check is a bit too far away and I don't have anything in my room that doesn't need cooking.

I don't think the story means nice guys don't win or that empathy keeps you out of the upper crust. I think it's that people with empathy handle homelessness better and find it easier to survive the streets. The mean ones get in fights and get themselves in jail. Loners crawl off and have a much harder time of it because they aren't getting help from the street.

Or they drink and keep using the alcohol-addiction resources to get along.

In shelters the mean ones turn up but the guys with signs asking for work or food are usually the more sociable and friendly people who had hard luck. That letter writer was so shocked at the blue eyed man's generosity. It doesn't fit the profile. It's not what she expected for someone who doesn't have money to have e heart. Bad things do happen to good people.

I guess maybe that's why the story makes an impact on the socially sheltered. Maybe that was its point. "OMG someone who doesn't bathe or work actually cares about someone else. Maybe that's why he's not working, he looks after the mentally impaired guy."

What he needs is a place to crash that doesn't treat him like a juvenile delinquent. Work that he can do in emergencies and get paid for so that he's still got his self respect and doesn't get looked down on by insulated middle class people. Open markets where he can sell stuff he scrounges or gets given. Co-ops where he can own his work.

My city is of two minds about homeless people. We have the same divide on that as the rest of the country. Wealthy community developers gentrify old quaint low income neighborhoods and introduce Sit-Lie laws - you can't sit down on Market Street. Oh but I'll bet that some exhausted tourist who has money and sits down on the street because she's got a disability gets a different explanation than a confused local senior who can't stay on his feet long enough.

SF does a lot of things right. The Sit-Lie law is a blotch on our civic honor. It runs against everything we stand for.

Currently a new program is being started, where panhandlers are offered the chance to participate with animal shelters in a dog training program. They get $50-$75 a week, the supplemental money they need to survive on benefits. The dogs are company and they're allowed to adopt the animal if they don't want to give it up. Walking the dogs serves the same purpose of getting out onto the street and meeting people, socializing and having something to do.

So the dog program is a good thing, but Sit-Lie has got to go. Other city programs need to come in to really get the homeless off the streets and create livable, low-income housing and emergency housing for no-income people. I've been no-income people more years than I had SSI, so I know that's its own terrible gap. It's too easy to die waiting for SSI if you don't have supportive family who can afford to take you in or friends willing to let you crash.
robertsloan2: Ari sweet (Default)
I reviewed Diablo III last time. It's still that immersive. I've got my barbarian character up to 20th level roaming the desert. He's stalled at a boss I haven't figured out how to kill, so I'm bouncing around bringing the other nine characters up to the same level and getting very familiar with Act I.

The only down side is that with the game hosted on their server, when they do maintenance I can't play. I won't get the game back till 1pm today. Also, because they're hosting it on their server, I can't do what I still do with Diablo 2 and start new characters any time I feel like playing the really easy bits at the beginning. I'd have to delete characters to make room for the goof-off ones.

Also, back in the day when I played on BattleNet and started characters to play in shared games, they get deleted if I don't play for six months. That could get seriously annoying over time. I go for months without playing and then skim through all the old character list basically deciding if I'm going to play in Nightmare with a past winner, or which of the acts I want to poke into with which character type.

I come back to "abandoned" characters sometimes after years. So there's good reason to keep Diablo 2 loaded on the machine as well.

I guess nothing's perfect. It's just frustrating the servers are down, that's all. I'm sure I'll get creative again in a few days, don't know how long it'll take but there will come a point it's not all fresh and exciting.

The book is actually ready for Nonny. It just needs one more read-through to filter one more time for name changes and goofs and prose polishing. I finished the major changes before even installing the game so I don't feel bad about the time I'm putting into it now. This is very much an earned vacation!

I've also been doing a lot of deep thinking, getting myself sorted out finally. Now that I'm here in San Francisco it became safer to get a therapist to work through my PTSD issues. I have quite a few of them. Call it 50 years of continuous trauma before I got surgery including half the surgery and its recovery.

Julie is fantastic. She's a strong, butch woman with short iron-gray hair and a big wide smile. She understands about the physical issues. I've got three major filters for therapists, if they don't Get It about any of the three I have serious problems.

1) Yes, I am physically disabled. All of my body language is distorted by my crooked spine and mismatched different sized on left and right skeleton. I can read body language well enough but I've been told by some knowledgeable people that my physical symptoms can look like the side effects of long term dependency on antipsychotic medication. Using the power chair to get to appointments helped with communicating this.

2) I'm transgendered. Therapists not familiar and comfortable with transgender don't understand that I'm male. They project a ton of reactions and feelings and thoughts on me that have never been there. They assume these things and ignore, discount or discourage anything real in my reactions. This kind of therapist is the worst, because they're treating my better qualities as flaws and ignoring my problems in favor of made-up ones. At best I wind up having to spend the entire course of therapy educating the therapist instead of working on my problems.

3) Religious outlook and moral values. I'm pagan. I do not have Christian values or even many relict Christian values. I've drawn my worldview from a wide variety of different cultures and thrown out most of Christianity's ideas of right and wrong. There are a few areas of overlap. Real basic ones - murder and theft are wrong in that order, rather than the other order as some conservatives seem to expect.

There's huge cultural barriers with a therapist who doesn't understand my coherent, solid world view. I don't feel shame or guilt about things that I don't think of as wrong, like having had a wild youth. I'm rather proud of the fact that my broad, varied, experimental sexual youth was also sensibly mostly safe-sex and I have lived by my sexual ethics. They bear no relation to the Christian ideal of monogamy marriage-and-kids.

I don't have a lot of shame over a lot of things and don't have the Original Sin viewpoint that people are inherently evil unless some church whips them into being moral. For a long time I didn't even call it morals, I drew a semantic line between Ethics and Morals because my ethics personal. I decided them and I stick to them and adapt them as necessary when those sticky decisions of right and wrong come up in the world or my consciousness gets raised. Morality I thought of as the hypocritical consensus of society, a corrupt thing that could not be trusted to guide decisions of right and wrong in a shattered, dysfunctional culture.

Now that I'm in San Francisco, I'll go ahead and call it morality. My ideas of right and wrong are pretty close to those of my city. I'm part of the community here in ways I never was back in other cities and places I lived in. One of the sad things about having had so many bad therapists, many of them causing immense damage, is that none of them - not even the two previous good ones, ever said what Kitten did.

"Why don't you go ahead and move back to San Francisco even if it costs more to live there?"

Oh, that is a fourth filter I ran into with therapists.

4) Poverty. There are a lot of therapists who may even get past the first three filters and cannot grasp how far down the economic spectrum a white person can slide between physical health issues and discrimination. They don't get it. They assume I could just go out and get a job, that I should want to go out and get a job, that I've got middle class lifestyle assumptions the same as theirs. They have a good job so they don't understand what happens when other necessities are balanced against rent.

They suggest things I can't afford and think that it's a psychological problem if I have financial limits. They can't imagine how I could live in the ways that I do and survive the things I've survived and don't always respect that.

There are so many critical areas of miscommunication that go on with therapists that it's vital to find one that understands your context. A bad therapist does much more harm than good.

Time and again I wound up seeing therapists with the intent of dealing with old issues, only to start going into a slow decline because that therapist's blind spots sap my morale. When a therapist is steering you in the wrong direction for your life, it can take weeks or even months to figure out that's what's going wrong. When it's going right, it's sometimes painful as I dig into areas I'd rather not deal with and face sides of myself that I don't like. It's easy to mistake the friction of cultural conflicts for that kind of pain and keep going way farther into bad therapy than I should.

As a child it wasn't voluntary. There was literally nothing I could do but resist and keep holding my identity boundaries against the assault of trained adults with an agenda that went against my health and my real needs. Later on, I tried repeatedly to find good ones on my own because my life's been that hard all along - and so few of them got it, got any of it.

Betsy was a gay-friendly marriage counselor in Chicago, not a psychologist or psychiatrist. She was good at it and helped prepare me for breaking up with my ex - she saw the relationship was over years before I let go. I was afraid to lose him because he was the only human being in my intimate circle at the time. I had friends and acquaintances but no family or people as close as family except him.

Roland was a therapist I saw in New York throughout the years I was homeless. He was black. It made all the difference to his perceptions of poverty and discrimination that he experienced it himself. He did more than anyone else to help my transition. He helped me sort out how much of my problems were internal, PTSD issues, scars from previous traumas and how much were just current existing traumas in an unlivably rough situation. One of the things he was researching was the specific pressures and adaptations of artistic work.

His view included the idea that introspection tends to turn over and rip apart a lot of the everyday dysfunctions and bad attitudes that most people don't even pay attention to or get hurt by. It makes sense to this day. I can't count the number of people who told me "You think too much" about almost anything. Yet I have to in order to paint or write well. I have to look at what's really there, from many points of view to show them from different characters instead of narrowly from one point of view.

Julie's as good as those two were. I've got high hopes for this. On the list, she's a strong adherent of Integrative Medicine and we will be directly tackling my fibromyalgia symptoms, trying to reduce them and maybe even retrain my autoimmune system to Non-Emergency Health. She shares my idea that one of its causes is just the unreal levels of stress I put up with through the first fifty years of my life.

With her, my goal is to get used to living well in a happy place where I fit in and I'm pretty much in step with the community. I like it here. The things I gave up to be here are mostly things I don't care about in teh first place. Like having a car. I didn't want a car so much as I wanted independence. I didn't want a house so much as I wanted a clean room and a happy cat.

Now she's done the paperwork and my happy cat is a prescription strength, official Emotional Support animal, not a pet but the necessity he is in my life. I rate him on that priority, he eats before I do. Now the city does too and I won't be as limited in my housing choices. She thinks practical like that - she even suggested it before I brought it up as soon as I described my relationship with him. Yes, my cat's in my intimate circle.

So far it's going well. Monday we got into some deep emotional territory, we're starting to get past logistic stuff into the things that need to be dug up and aired out. Most people try to get rid of their dirty laundry. I'm a writer. That means beyond just dealing with it by getting rid of it, I need to get it cleaned up, washed and folded and packed up neatly into the bins of Cool Things To Write About. Not one of the troubles I've faced in life is unique to me, all of them make good story. So I can't forget. Just get grounded into here and now to understand my life is different, those conflicts have diminished to a human scale.

Aw bugger. I just came out to LiveJournal again. I had years ago when I got my surgery but I'd let it lapse as I picked up more readers from my art groups, where I'm not really out.

Oh well.

If you didn't know, now you do. Add that to the list of assorted physical defects I had to struggle with. I was always the guy you know me as, but there were some nightmare years especially in childhood when that looked like a monster because I got stuffed in a dress and people expected me to think and act and feel like a girl. It was as ludicrous as you're imagining.

It was more painful than I can describe. The closest thing that comes to it is that Twilight Zone episode about the man who got shunned and people literally acted like he didn't exist. That's essentially what it was - whatever I said or felt or thought, people ignored that and answered the lines that they thought I'd said. Sometimes helpfully cuing me to what I was supposed to think or feel.

Lot of long stories there, but I had surgery in 2005 and am now legally male and look decent if I was to go swimming or whatever. Still no life partner but I didn't exactly have much opportunity in the past decade and right now I want to get my head together before I look. That way I won't wind up with another dysfunctional relationship. Being single is far better than a bad relationship.
robertsloan2: Ari sweet (Default)
Okay, this is not a complete review because I haven't finished and won the game yet. That's not my style of play. I tend to noodle around each act for a long time playing it through in all the character types slowly. I move across the landscape slowly picking up everything including the junk. This drives other players crazy in multi-player games, but my relaxed pace is what I get into with it.

Diablo III is a masterwork.

There is a reason why it took ten years to write the sequel to Diablo II. I was still playing and enjoying Diablo II up to the minute I first loaded Diablo III and it's still my choice for what to relax with when I go offline due to power outage or loss of Internet connection. The only flaw in Diablo III is that you have to go online to play it.

I had to ignore a tiny chat screen down at the bottom left corner where other players are selling artifacts or trying to invite me to help with quests. I don't play socially, so it'd be nice to filter that to in-game characters only. For one thing, I am an old fashioned RPG player who likes to get into character and stay in character. That does not fit the mood of the chats.

However, if I wanted to play with friends who game the way I do, it's easy to set up an invite based social game provided everyone has good high speed access. I have Verizon Wireless 4G - it runs very well when the 4G service is up, when they switch to the 3G servers or get a bit overloaded there's lag. This can get frustrating but my access is good enough it hasn't happened much. Be sure you have good fast Internet service and enough bandwidth to play it for hours on end.

It won't cost as much bandwidth as streaming video but it's probably more than just reading articles and posting. I haven't been able to check those stats yet. Verizon's usage analysis service hasn't been working when I logged in. On the side where it's closer to "read and surf" usage though, I've been online with it for 48 hours and have not gotten the "Important Message from Verizon" yet telling me I used half my usage. Since I did watch a six hour painting class in streaming video, if it was running high I'd have got that message already.

There is a reason this game is a massive enduring hit in all three iterations. Three good reasons.

1) Good game design: the pace your character levels and gets new powers, the balance of effort and reward is optimum. It's perfectly balanced for endless play. There's enough new challenges, different side quests and dialogue to make it immersive for every repeat. They did this as far back as Diablo I, so at every stage they've kept this flagship game's playability and replayability maximized.

2) Good Story with an Immersive Setting, Sympathetic Characters, Good Dialogue and Masterful Twists. It's got all the literary hallmarks of a brilliant graphic novel series. If you have not played Diablo I and Diablo II, the story will stand alone and enough gets revealed about what happened to keep this one absorbing. It's richer if you have played the sequels, so I'd recommend buying the Diablo II Battle Chest that includes Diablo I as a free extra.

The first game is a bit crude because game technology has evolved since then, but it's still fun in its own way. The second is still playable to this day and will probably sit in my library something like the books I keep replacing till I get fed up and get the hardcover version. The third is just as good.

I'm only part of the way through it as I said, but the quality is so consistent I know it'll be maintained right through to a twist ending.

3) Incredible fine art. For the past few years I've been taking a lot of upper level art classes, since December 2010 I've been taking a master level landscape course given by Johannes Vloothuis, who was once named Mexico's best watercolor artist. So I understand a lot more of the underpinnings of great art than I did before when I just got absorbed in it and loved the art. Everyone loves the art.

Now I understand why the art grabs everyone that much. It's just that good on every principle of design and color and composition. You can use all the CGI and fancy tricks in the world to create illusion but if it has poor design it will be awkward, look unreal and drive you nuts without being able to put your finger on why.

The scenes are lighter and easier to navigate than Diablo II. Mist is used a lot to give distance and keep the screen a little lighter. Rather than hard-edged detailed realism, the scenery has a painterly loose depth to it that's completely immersive. Every artist's trick I just learned to make a flat piece of paper open up into an immense vista is applied all at once. Character design is good too. Styles are classic for the archetypes the characters represent.

I'm of two minds about the Witch Doctor though. He's cool, he's very African themed, he's clearly a jungle shaman. What I don't like is that his combat pose, crouched to fire poison darts in the jungle, makes the male Witch Doctor look like he's cringing and servile in any conversation. The other heroes stand tall and act with a balance of wisdom and youthful male arrogance. Witch Doctor has that too but his wisdom is a little different, he's had a harder life. I'd like to have seen them give him better posture and save the crouching for a combat pose, or even eliminate the crouch because it's just not there if you're shooting behind a tall bush. It's only there if the bush you use for cover is shorter than you are.

On the up side, all the white characters in the game treat him exactly like the other heroes. There's no sense of racism in their reactions and no one notices his bad posture or acts patronizing toward him. I'd just like to see him move and act more hunky because when I imagine myself as a black guy hero, I want to look like Wil Smith and really take charge of the combat. Maybe darker than Wil Smith and tribal dressed, yay and cool for that, but I keep feeling he should've had good posture and excellent dreadlocks. His dialogue and attitude are perfect for exactly what he is - a shaman, he's used to giving people advice, he's humble with the spirits and respectful of the spirit world but ferocious when it comes to evil spirits.

There's a reason the series endures and that we all had to wait so long for the third volume in the trilogy. Diablo III is the third in a series of classic interactive graphic novels. If you enjoy graphic novels you'll enjoy this game, even if you're not usually into computer games.

Oh, that's the other thing.

4) The mechanics are still brute easy. I don't have to memorize a lot of keyboard commands or get a game controller and train my hands to its buttons and commands. The learning curve to play the game at full speed is stupid easy. This is important. Ease of play gets you into the real pleasure of gaming a lot faster without the distraction of having to learn a lot of real-world skills at a real-world pace.

Playing well does not demand the fast reflexes of a physically healthy 12 year old either. My snail's pace is partly determined by my physiology. I don't react fast. I don't move quickly enough for half the games out there because I didn't train them into automatic reflexes. The dabbler gamer can get as much enjoyment out of Diablo III as the experienced gamer with a whole big bookshelf of colorful fantasy roleplaying games.

It's best of breed. It was worth the wait. There's even a convenience benefit to the new "must play online" system - the install CD is only one install CD instead of the five in the Diablo II Battle Chest, four of which needed to be loaded and swapped repeatedly to install before you get into just using the Expansion Play Disc. That's great now and it'll be great when I upgrade my laptop next year too.

I wasn't sure if it'd run on my current best laptop, an HP with 4 gigs of RAM and a dual core AMD processor. Sorry, don't have the specs at hand, but look close at the system requirements. Mine had enough RAM and processing speed and space on the hard drive, but I got a warning it might not play well on my video card - and this is a three year old "gaming machine desktop replacement" laptop with a 17" wide-screen monitor. Turns out speed of play depends a bit more on how smooth and fast your Internet access is, but don't spend the $60 if you don't meet the tech specs. Or get a friend to give you a free pass client to try it so you can find out if your system runs it.

I set it to the lowest resolution on this machine just to conserve bandwidth, but I'll turn it up to high once I get cable Internet and a newer laptop. I might follow up then just to see the art at its finest intensity. The box includes four free guest pass codes so you can let friends or family members enjoy the game, plus one free guest pass for World of Warcraft.

I've heard good things about that too and may give it a try. Blizzard games are definitely my flavor.

5) Did I mention the sound track is as good as the best movie soundtracks I've ever enjoyed? This is awesome. Sometimes I listen to the music just for writing music.
robertsloan2: Ari sweet (Default)
At 91, Ray Bradbury left this planet with the Venus Transit, which only comes once in a century. I didn't manage to get out sky watching to see it and I never got to shake Ray Bradbury's Hand. I wrote to him more than once in my life, my letters always returned without being delivered because I never managed to find the right publisher that had his address to pass it on. He had fan mail filters up, I'm sure. Otherwise he would not have had time to breathe, let alone write any more stories. I was not the only one.

While Ray was leaving Earth, that same night I sat down to edit The Sword of Arkatyr.

He's gone now. There will be no more ever. He's become eternal. He's joined the ranks of my ancestors, with Poe and Lovecraft and Shakespeare, he's immortal now. He's gone but he'll never be gone from my life. What he did to me, he did to so many others.

He's gone but the seeds he planted blew on midnight winds. Ten million dandelions spring up on the Internet, pouring rich golden wine into the world.

He taught me how to write. Literally. Vomit in your typewriter every morning. Clean it up at noon. That's from Death is a Lonely Business, the novel that helped me survive my Pain Robot Decade in the 1980s. I reread it every time I wanted to kill himself.

I dreaded that Transit for so many years. I wanted to thank him in person. I wanted to send him a copy of my first pro-published book signed with a thank you note and an acknowledgement. He's loved by so many millions of people that if I'd had the $25 to buy him a copy of Raven Dance, he wouldn't have time to read it. I met one of his closest friends though, Ray Harryhausen, we talked about Ray and maybe he told Ray Bradbury how many times he'd saved my life.

He saved me when I was ten living in a dank basement with an unlocked gun room with fifty rifles, hand guns and other ordnance plus enough ammunition to hold off a Russian army right next to my room. So far from the rest of the house that if I had decided to die when I recited Hamlet's Soliloguy and meant it, no one could have stopped me. Funny how at the time I was seeing a psychiatrist with a diagnosis of clinical depression with suicidal tendencies... but the gun room was left unlocked right next to my bedroom.

Something Wicked This Way Comes told me I didn't have to die. I didn't have to be what I was told to be and expected to be. The dark boy, Jim Nightshade, was worth saving and worth being the friend of the sunshine boy, Will, who was loved from the moment he breathed. It was all right to be brainy and dark and weird, live in a bug-raddled filthy hole, get beaten up every time I went to school and torn apart by teachers, priests, psychiatrists, doctors and all the good people.

I belonged with the midnight candles and I could grow up like the man with green wings. It didn't matter that I had gifts that scared people and was crippled and disbelieved.

He didn't quite understand about Kafka. I think that was because he was the sunshine boy. He didn't know there are some holes so deep that Kafka looks like light instead of shadow, hope instead of poison, that just knowing someone else has been through that much and felt that bad is a relief. I was not quite as wretched as Gregor Samsa, that's what I got from Kafka. The calming, validating truth those levels of human cruelty weren't something reserved only for me in all of human history and life.

That didn't matter though. I got the point. If I didn't fit in where I was born and Earthlings hated me, I could still grow up to be a fine Martian just like him.

Dark my neighbors are, and golden eyed. The city where I live has shining towers and glistening mosaics that dance in the sun, sea-mists that roll between gingerbread six-flats and the comforting susurrus of so many voices, so many languages, so many customs and ways and peoples all right next door, all my neighbors. Ray taught me to love them before I ever met a black person, to see them as people, to listen to their words and songs and thoughts.

When I did, I found fiery defenders and inspiring poets. I found words that gave me a reason to fight within myself and in the word. Would I have read James Baldwin if I hadn't read The Martian Chronicles? Would I have known that if I internalize the viewpoint of the oppressor, I assist in my own oppression? Would I have said that to myself when psychiatrists put me through conditioning techniques used in Cambodian re-education camps - and thought that institution was better than being 'home' when 'home' meant prison but everyone pretends that it's all just fine and perfect if I wasn't so ungrateful. I had everything a child could want, why was I so lazy and ungrateful?

I had Ray Bradbury when the psychiatrists said "Face Reality" and meant "Conform to social reality, it's what people believe in. You're who we say you are, ignore reality." I took the words for what they were. Reality held Ray Bradbury.

From the time he was twenty he was exuberantly happy. He enjoyed all his life right down to the last and slid out laughing with the Venus Transit, absolutely as cool as Samuel Clemens arriving and leaving with an awesome comet. He coudln't have written a better end to the Life of Ray Bradbury. His life and his works said the same thing.

Ray Bradbury was real. It was provably true, no matter what anyone said, that someone made a living writing Science Fiction and beyond that, had a wonderful life. I don't know if he ever got hideously rich. He's famous, he might have. I suspect he'd have lived the same if he was living on $5,000 a year in Venice Beach like another grand old SF master who passed away some years before. The money got him a cool power chair and a house with a nice den in it, a happy black cat in his lap and good health care. I don't think it mattered to him beyond the real things he enjoyed in his life.

I think it mattered more that he had to set up fan mail filters to slow the flood of gratitude, accept it en masse rather than individually because he didn't have a thousand years to write thank you notes for the thank you notes and gifts. I think it mattered more that he met enough of them to know how many lives he changed. That those letters were singing the same song. Thanks to you, I'm a writer. Or an artist, or a dancer, or a movie set construction guy, or any creative work. Thanks to you, I'm alive to do this thing.

I know how strong the medicine is. He heard those words enough times that mine would've been just one more iteration. The world is full of suicidal children who grew up to be adults with good lives because the Illustrated Man or the Martian Chronicles or Death is a Lonely Business or that wonderful series of stories about gay blokes in Ireland, something he wrote was there for them on a long night when death looked good and life looked pointless.

He knew what he did. He didn't need my validation. I needed his. I still have it in every one of his cherished works.

What I owe him for that is to pass it on. What I owe him for that is to do what I would have done long ago if I hadn't had quite a lot more Adventures along the way. When they're over, that's what they are. He had a few too. Mexico, the catacombs, the Day of the Dead. Some of the poet's grand stories were Plein Air renderings, drawn from the world as well as the world of dreams. The young men who shared the Ice Cream Suit didn't let poverty break them. They sang, their rich voices rising into the night to win dark girls who laughed and flirted.

He showed me what I had when I had nothing.

He taught me the crummy little black notebook that was so disorganized, the same one that every page got held against me in a psychiatrist's evaluation, was worth living for.

It was not as simple or as trite as the Power of Positive Thinking. It was not Horatio Alger's materialism. His dandelion wine tastes far more like empowerment. His characters struggled and sometimes they lost. Ray Bradbury taught me how to fight the most important battle I've ever had in my life. The one that happens every time Pain Level Nine skids up to Pain Level Ten and the animal body wants to crawl under a bush and die.

He taught me survival wasn't enough.

Death is a Lonely Business again. The mad young writer, the I-guy of that detective story, meets the hard-boiled detective character who's secretly got a half finished manuscript in his bottom drawer. The cliche turns into a real man who does one thing well and gets plenty of success at it, but buries a heart-dream in the bottom of his desk and craves it worse than most of his breed crave a bottle of booze.

That's when who's tough changes around. "The Martian," what the I-guy character got nicknamed by his neighbors, shakes up the hard-boiled detective and roars some hope down his throat. Makes him see the wonders of the world within himself again, do the legwork of typing out page after page, correcting mistakes and polishing it within an inch of its life, get the story told. That entire book is about suicide, about the choice to live or die, it's got the same theme as It's A Wonderful Life with one powerful truth pushing it farther and higher.

The bloke in It's A Wonderful Life gave up his dream for other people and decided to accept that and the gratitude of those who benefited from his sacrifice. He still never got to travel.

The detective in Death is a Lonely Business finished his novel. The writer sold his story. Together they solved the crime. Together they fought the killer within themselves and within the world and rather than give up their dreams, they claimed them. They made them real.

That's what dreams are for. Don't cut your wrists on broken dreams in a bathtub of tears. Mend them and make them real. When it's over, all the hard parts are just a cool Adventure.

I sit here in the city of my dreams, a middle aged adolescent with a happy colorpoint cat on my bed, saluting a friend who's become eternal. All I can do to thank him now is pick up and carry on. I love you, Ray. Thank you. Thank you for all of it. I'm here to write this because you did.

Progress

Jun. 7th, 2012 08:16 am
robertsloan2: Ari sweet (Default)
Last night, after a grand total of 26 hours so far, I finished the second draft of The Sword of Arkatyr.

Replacing the lousy intro with a real first chapter doubled its length. The book now has one more chapter and runs to 78,897 words. So it's a little longer but it's got a real intro now.

I'm also in a lot of pain because I went out Wednesday and voted, then went out yesterday to get my shot. My back and bad leg have given out but I did something good. I'll sleep when the pain lightens enough that I can.
robertsloan2: Ari sweet (Default)
I've spent most of my life fighting through layer after layer of Writer's Block. I push these blocks back with grim determination, over and over forcing myself to do it. Eventually part of the process gets easy enough and comes out well enough that I don't hesitate or have to fight myself to get started. I trust myself to get it done, to do it right anytime I sit down to do it.

My current bottleneck for many years has been getting around to editing my novels. I'm okay with editing short stories. I write them and often edit them the same day. It's no big deal on a short story. It feels like part of the process. I usually write them because something in a submissions call or a set of guidelines intrigued me and I think "Hey, they might give me some money." That worked twice for pro publications, so it's not a bad place to look for starting points!

I've got way over 50 trunk novels. I've got maybe five million words of fiction behind me at a conservative estimate. That is some serious practice. It's also a major backlog. Out of all that fiction, only one of those novels made it to print. Raven Dance is still available at Amazon and iUniverse.com still sends me a royalty check every now and then. I expect more copies will sell when my next book hits publication, especially since there's a nice cheap e-book version now besides the $25 print book. That's a bit much to expect an acquaintance to drop on a new author they just heard of because they met him in a chat or something. Though maybe not. I may have overestimated how big $25 is in the budget of someone with a good job.

I think of it as a quarter of my food budget for the month, so it's a pretty big deal.

The e-book is in a price range for unemployed friends who just met me in a chat.

So I want some more e-books out there. The only job I ever wanted is the only job I'm physically capable of doing on anything like a regular schedule, year in and year out. It doesn't take going out or standing in front of an easel or dressing in something more presentable than sweat pants and a t-shirt. It can be done in the middle of the night when I'm at my most productive instead of demanding that I get up in the morning and pretend to function.

Two nights ago I was hanging out with Nonny and Nico in two different chat windows. Nico was working on editing her kick ass kinky vampire erotica novel. Nonny and I were shooting the breeze about publishing. She gave me a link for some numbers - the 100 top self published e-book authors among them. Copies sold, over a hundred thousand in one month for the lady at the top of the list. I looked at that and thought, wow even at a buck a book that is massive, in one month, that is somebody rich. She's probably getting more like five or six or seven bucks per book. High end e-books run up to ten or twelve bucks and have a nice high royalty percentage too. I'm sure she's a millionaire. I'm sure she pays a professional accountant to make sense of her taxes. It can be done.

The ones on the bottom of the list were moving a thousand copies a month. That's still a lot of money. Five or six thousand dollars a month is enough to be paying market rate for a nice apartment in San Francisco with plenty left over for good causes, season tickets at the San Francisco opera, tailored hand made suits from Chinatown that fit my asymmetrical crooked body.

While I was drooling at the successes, we started talking about the costs of production. E-book production is within my current, diminished finances. I have enough money right now that I could do it by end of June or July, if I'm only a little bit tight on food and incidentals. I can handle the formatting fee just for not getting as many Kindle books the month I do that.

This month I spent $60 to get Diablo 3 because I've been waiting for that for too many years and need something to goof off with on sick days. It'll be good for years of goofing off. But while I'm waiting for it, I'll earn it.

I've busted the block. I just put in 15 hours of editing The Sword of Arkatyr, which is going to be my first e-book publication. Tentative launch date is this fall. It might be sooner if my Beloved Editor works on her part of the process faster. It might take longer if Life Happens. But I am very close to being ready to send it to her.

What's left now is a chapter project. 2,500 words or so of introducing the characters and hooking the readers. My protagonist is a royal bastard. Literally, his dad's a King and his mom was a village girl who was very pretty and wound up as a different rich man's mistress later on resulting in my hero's beloved baby sister.

How does it feel when somebody calls you a name that's literally true, and the name is something that gets blanked out by censors because the word itself is too obscene for children's ears? What does it take for the school bully to find out that word stings? When it's something the child can't control, because he didn't exist when his mom conceived him without doing the proper ceremonies first?

That's what it boils down to. The term "bastard" is synonymous with "jerk" or "asshole." Yet it has a literal meaning that's just wrong, that is in itself immoral. People should not be punished for things their parents did or didn't do. Not in my view.

It's a cool dragons and elves traditional fantasy novel. It'll introduce my take on dragons and elves and dark elves (what Dwarves in Tolkein's universe were based on), with plenty of magic and a mage-assassin who becomes a hero because it needs to be done. At the end of it, a couple of hard men cry, which is another very cool thing about writing in 2012. Heck, I cried when I wrote that last chapter and my eyes were moist on the rewrite.

It's a good book. It's a good little book. It's the best of my current skill and I've been underpublished for way too long.

My old therapist Roland gave me some good advice back in 2000. He said "Go ahead and prostitute your art. You're not prostituting yourself. You've got to remember you're the pimp. Your books look good. Dress them up and send them out. Tell them to bring you home some money."

As we get closer to the big debut, I'll do more updates. Sword of Arkatyr will be in your hands in 2012, unless Life Happens. Which is a whole lot of why it hasn't happened sooner.
robertsloan2: Ari sweet (Default)
Last night I sketched the first of three cats I'm painting this month, trying for a March 13th deadline. This is ludicrous speed compared to previous cat commissions but that's also a matter of budgeting time. I felt confident enough to start it and seriously hope to finish all three by the March 13th Reveal Date. Not have them shipped yet, but posted so the recipient gets to see them and anticipate their happy arrival.

They're beautiful cats and I'm inspired again after some time off painting waterfalls. Also if I keep that schedule, I'll have my commissions done before the Rocks course starts and be able to devote my Saturdays to painting rocks. Which is always fun too. Rocks are easy but I may learn some fine points about them. So it's likely to help improve my art in general.

Beyond art, there's writing. My good writing buddy Nonny, who has been my muse and writing buddy before, during and after our brief relationship, is back to late night chats that stimulate both of us to work on our fiction. She's got a fantastic novel in progress that I enjoyed in its first iteration, the changes she's made since then are spectacular.

Tonight she was unusually quiet about her work and kept drawing me out about mine. She's providing a level of support that's priceless - letting me open up about my backstory and plot and plans, the details of the yet-to-be-written Garden of Earthly Delights and the future history that connects with it.

I wound up ruminating on the ways all of my backstories connect between novels - the Crosstime novels and their species and worlds connect through various races that discovered parallel worlds. Nomad universe never discovered that but they got faster than light travel. They colonized in a way that avoided contacting any aliens because worlds couldn't be terraformed if there was so much as a microbe on them.

Eventually they'll connect but I'm not ready for that book for a long time. Other than Nomads having some urban legends about lost ships and mystery sightings (many of which were just hallucinations or urban legends.)

Tonight I discovered the little short brilliant Hindu doctor is a widow and last time I talked to Nonny before this, I discovered she invented the rejuvenation process the Nomads have. That erased the last barrier between humans and vampires - they're different and equal if you don't need to have a liquid diet and different instincts in order to live for centuries. That affected society too - older people living longer would slow the rate of cultural change.

Demeter's got the hyper-complex ecology to keep on making medical and scientific advances and the brain power for it. Demeter's a very influential planet in the Nomad history. They were a breadbasket too for a long time before the Nomads really got a handle on that closed fishbowl sustainable lifestyle and they always provided more variety in food and plenty of arts too.

What I realized tonight is tremendous. I know why I lost the first version. It wasn't an accident. It was my unconscious telling me I was not ready to write this book. I didn't have the experience. I was living in New Orleans and until I got sick with a prescription side effect and went wandering stoned through the city, getting tireder and sicker and needing help, I didn't connect with black people the way I did afterward.

Almost everyone that helped me during that walkabout was black. I was welcomed and taken care of and treated well in poor black neighborhoods by kind people everywhere I went. I started smiling and feeling more trusting whenever I saw a black face. One old white hippie helped me out and some paramedics checked on me when I was trying to sleep in a park and asked if I wanted to go to the hospital, but I didn't. I'd just come from there and did not want to go back.

Eventually I got arrested and spent 21 days time served for the misdemeanor of trying to sleep on a streetcar without paying the fare. By then I was giggling drunk on sleep deprivation and Prednisone, hallucinating so tangibly I could only distinguish it from reality by logic - I did not turn into a white whale beached and unable to breathe, I just had an asthma attack and was too weak to stand up. Stephen King was not my cell mate, but the long conversation I had with him was a good representation of his views on writing as expressed in many of his novels and interviews. He didn't need to be there to be there in spirit. The jail was real. The shackles were real. Getting thrown down by guards because I threw a tantrum like a three year old about getting in the shower was real, that was why I got the shackles and wound up laying naked in my own excrement in a cell in the psych ward end of the jail.

When I asked for a shower coherently and agreed not to make a fuss about it they unlocked the shackles and let me shower, hosed the cell clean, gave me clean clothes. Stephen King told me to remember every bit of it because I'd probably never be in a jail again and it would be worth describing from life. He was right. He was my conscience telling me to take it like a writer, accept the adventure, hallucinations and all, as an experience that would enrich my writing.

I made a number of black friends in that jail. We got along well. Not everyone, some people didn't like me, but I pretty much stuck with those who did and some of them were among the guards. None of the guards really picked on me - or the others. It was the city jail, not the state prison or federal prison. Just the city lockup with a lot of misdemeanors and a significant number of innocents, many of them black.

That's where I met the fiftyish mother of a cocaine addict who was up on felony charges of possession with intent to sell cocaine because her son who was living with her and supposedly in rehab, slipped and was dealing dope out of her house behind her back. Caught between a rock and a hard place, she didn't have the kind of names and contacts to get off by turning over drug dealers. She was pretty sure she'd be convicted and she explained to me why she was up on those charges even though she'd never used drugs and she didn't tolerate it in her son and he'd successfully hidden it from her. She couldn't resist taking her son back when he showed up sober and in rehab and wanted help staying sober. She got lied to. She was more grieved that her son had backslid than about what happened to her.

I heard stories that broke my heart in that jail.

I let go of that novel after the three day walkabout. I gave it to a young black woman who'd helped me carry it home when I wasn't strong enough to carry the bag. I'd promised her money and I didn't realize I didn't have it till I got in the door and couldn't breathe, had an asthma attack, knew I had nothing to give her for all her trouble. So I gave her the laptop instead. I let go of it and the backup was in the pocket of the case.

I look back at the original and it was racist. Not totally, but I learned so much just in the three sick days of stumbling around on Prednisone side effects that I'd completely blown my previous characterizations. Everyone in the rough draft was white and Euro-pagan except the Hindu doctor - that may be why she and the painter are the only characters that survived the changes.

Maybe I could not do justice to this book until I came home to San Francisco and live in a building where nobody's the same, where the people across the hall are an interracial marriage and there's Filipino and Hispanic and gay and straight and black and Samoan and Asian - where the diversity is world diversity. Where my being me is one thin stripe in a very big rich rainbow instead of that rainbow-tints rough draft where I found the general story.

The events, the main plot of the book is sound. The big problem was the characters and the minor conflicts told from too narrow a perspective. The book was racist by what I've learned today - liberal, but not really progressive. It had serious flaws and now I know I can do better. In all ways, I can do better with the cast. It's no longer color blind casting of essentially white characters, like an opera cast for the Ring cycle with a black Brunnhilde - who in character is still a Norse Valkyrie even if her face is dark and the actress-singer is black. Now the characters will be truer to who they are and the book richer for it.
robertsloan2: Ari sweet (Default)
Readers who follow my LiveJournal (where I am also robertsloan2) know that I've lived all over the country in every major region, moving out of state every two or three years due to circumstances beyond my control. Until now. I spent five years living with my adopted daughter "Kitten" and her family - two cool grandkids, world's best son in law big Norse guy carpenter/anthropologist, their dogs(!) who are very well trained and their cat Gemini, a tiny tortie.

I moved to San Francisco on August 1st. I've been settling in ever since. I did it on a shoestring. I had been saving up to come home to my beloved city but my savings got shot down by a couple of other emergencies and having to move sooner was very rough. I did it. That was an enormous effort. I wound up collapsing in December after running on empty from the middle of May when I started packing. But I got it done.

Not fast and not well, it cost a lot of money making up for not being able to do all the running around and dealing with services and banks and things in the first month the way I would have if I was abled. It all got done though. When I finally got around to starting an account at a local credit union I was so happy.

Credit unions are always better than banks.

I support the Occupy movement. "Move your Money" is a great protest. Do not shaft yourself using the big giant banks that got bailed out. They're for-profit. They are there to shaft you and unless you're past your first million, they'll scrape you off their shoe. I've used several of those big banks back when I did work and always had trouble with them. Any problem would take forever to solve if they even solved it. Any problem on my part was penalized rather than sorted out. Just getting to talk to a human being at one of their branches was a nightmare and they'd patronize me as if I was some kind of lesser being. I also paid a ton more for services than I would've if I was wealthy.

Credit unions are the opposite. You own the place. You are an investor. They mean it when your account is a Member Account. Your savings gets invested in other members' homes and cars. It's like that little savings and loan in "It's a Wonderful Life" - it's all human scale and flows into your local economy. It helps keep that cool deli or bakery you like to eat at going too.

I pay less fees than I ever did at a real bank. There's always help on the phone or online. Even the website for my credit union is easier to log into and use than the one for my previous bank - which I do have to say was a good bank. It was a little local one, not as nasty as the big ones but it got merged with another bank before I left. Actual banks are always at risk of that.

So if you're using one of the big banks, think about finding a local credit union. You'll pay less, get treated better, get better services and do good for your neighborhood while helping to reduce the giant monopoly banks by one less customer.

Why I'm writing about it today... I got in a Google check and had an old DeviantART prints check that I couldn't cash at the check cashing place. It wasn't not valid, it was good for a year, but it was too old for the check cashing place. I didn't have deposit slips on me so didn't mail them in to deposit them. Been worried a bit over how to take care of it and finally decided to go in person and pick up some deposit slips when I do.

Turns out I don't need them. Today I called them and asked. I was able to send my home care worker on the deposit errand by writing my member number on the back with my signature so it goes into the right account - and specifying "savings" so they know whether it goes in checking or savings. That was it. No trouble. She went, my checks are deposited, my finances are solid and I actually have a bit of savings again.

I let my Street Artist Program license lapse without using it because winter weather knocked me over. I didn't have the body energy to go out and get started even once, though one good day would have paid to renew it. My good days were taken up with necessity trips like medical appointments and grocery shopping and so on. Now that "depositing checks" is something I can have IHSS home care workers do, it's not a problem. I'll renew in the summer when the weather's better and I can get something out of it beyond just paying for itself.

I still have a lot of other things to do before I'm completely moved in. Half my stuff is still in Arkansas, most of the boxes are books or art supplies that have to do with the business. The personal stuff, I decided to let Kitten go through it and reduce the quantity. I'll tell her what few things are important and let her get rid of most of the rest. Books and art supplies have priority along with a few religious objects and crafts items for personal hobbies.

So I feel good about it. Once again my credit union makes life easier and treated me so well in person that I feel great. I don't need to be nervous about financial stuff any more with them on my side - it makes a huge difference. With the big banks I was always justifiably nervous of any transaction because they'd be patronizing, insulting and sock me with unexpected fees for anything and everything. Credit union is the opposite. Its motto ought to be "We don't charge that fee." lol

There's a cat foot on my shoulder. Ari is sleeping on the back of the chair. He just stretched out to lean his hind foot on my shoulder. That's a beautiful feeling - soft little cat foot, gentle pressure, silent reminder "I'm here and I love you." I enjoy being cat furniture but that's normal for any cat lover. If you don't find the sight of a sleeping cat endearing, you're probably more of a dog person.
robertsloan2: Ari sweet (Default)
Way back in 1995, I had a novel in progress titled "Garden of Earthly Delights." I was in love with it. I wrote the opener in a passionate frenzy describing the launch of a colony ship full of religious colonists. Pagan religious colonists, progressive people with plenty of diversity. I had a grand idea that burned bright and fierce.

I loved Edgar Rice Burroughs. I enjoyed Pellucidar and The Land That Time Forgot and every Dinosaur Novel that I came across. Except that when I was a little kid, I hadn't noticed the stories were extremely sexist, racist and right-wing capitalist. It was a shock when I got hold of them again as an adult and realized that I stood against so many childhood heroes.

So I set out to write my own Dinosaur Planet with all the grand wildlife and glorious adventure of the old pulps - and a modern progressive viewpoint. Boys' adventure for boys with two mommies. Or for adults who used to be those boys, girls who wished they could have adventures instead of just being rescued, people who weren't straight or white, well, you know! Everybody Else! If you add up all the minorities, we're the majority, the number of right wing straight white evangelical Christian males is not that high.

Not to mention that in the decades since ERB did the first round of grand Prehistoric Places where everything survives and extinctions get rolled back, new discoveries in paleontology have made all the ancient critters even more exciting. Dinosaurs are fast-moving warm-blooded ground-running eagles with teeth. Sauropods got bigger and better. Smaller theropods got feathers. Ceratopsians lived in herds, so they could stampede!

The story possibilities are endless.

There is a big fat novel in that premise. Unfortunately in 1995 when the first iteration was half finished along with the funniest chapter I ever wrote, I lost the laptop I was writing it on. Worse, the backup disks were in the laptop case. I lost the novel.

Recently, I remembered something about Raven Dance. I remembered how many versions of it I abandoned or threw out because I thought the idea was stupid and then started over from memory. I missed my greatest Lost Novel periodically, like thinking of a beloved cat that died. Then it finally hit me.

I wouldn't miss it if it was dead.

There's a better version of Garden of Earthly Delights that has been banging on my head several times a year since 1995. It's screaming for attention. It's got a big diverse cast that I haven't met yet and the characters I remember are strong enough to keep their parts. It doesn't matter if they change their names because I forgot their original names. One of the clearest is the middle aged Indian woman who's the doctor in the group. An empty-nest high achiever with long black hair to the back of her knees, barely five feet tall and a genius. Stunningly beautiful if you like middle aged women with gray streaks in miraculously long black hair. I'll have to rename her, but I can hear her voice as if I worked on it last week.

So I'll start over from premise. It's set in the same universe as Raven Dance, so the stuff about the colony ships is already worked out. The backstory of the planet is solid. I had that worked out so well because I told the story a few thousand times at parties bragging on the book in progress.

So every now and then I'll blog my progress on Garden of Earthly Delights.

I'm not going to wait till November. I'll start hitting keys and go back there, because I miss that planet and I miss those people and the critters are even cooler in 2012 than they were in 1995. They can even tell what color Confuciusornis was and some of the smaller feathered theropods - I didn't have feathered theropods in the previous version.

Hee hee! Nope, that is Not A Prairie Chicken! Watch out! It bites! With Teeth!

This is going to be fun.

Additional tidbit. I decided to keep the Nature Painter character from the old version. Nonny and I discussed the cast and she noticed a gap - no disabled character - so now instead of being a wish fulfillment that I had perfect physical health and could hike around Dinosaur Planet having adventures, the Nature Painter character just got my skeletal deformities and mobility limits. He also gets power mobility, a sort of spider-legged robot walker rather than anything urban with wheels - and that of course will give him plenty of heroic opportunities when the power runs down while everyone's running away from Big Beasties.

He'll have to be tough. But I get sick of the wheelchair guy always dying in those movies. He makes a great rolling mini-tank carrying all the extra firepower till one of the critters bites him off the Big Strong Black Guy's back. One or two monsters later the Brother Gets It and the white guy and the pretty white girl are the only survivors.

I have been working on characters today and that ain't how it works on my Dinosaur Planet. I had the Nature Painter as one of the narrators and he lived through to the end of the book. I also didn't have a cat in the first version, so I'm giving him a faithful Siamese companion who sneaks out of the compound when they go romping off on their expedition.

Nothing like having a sympathetic cat running for its life dodging giant dinosaurs. Besides, it can face off against those smaller theropods pound for pound, it's a cat. It can make all kinds of discoveries in the wild and almost get itself killed, then wind up shoving a cold nose into Nature Painter's armpit to shiver and meow right in the middle of scenes that need breaking up with a moment of humor.

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