a garden in riotous bloom
Beautiful. Damn hard. Increasingly useful.
fresh cuttings 
rosefox: "Joy through making things happen" (accomplishment)
Yesterday I told my therapist that I was feeling overwhelmed and anxious, with a physical sensation in my shoulders and back of carrying a lot of heavy things around. We talked through the various obligations in my life and figured out what I could cut back.

Today I put theory into practice )

I'm really glad I used today's energy to make tomorrow easier on myself. You're welcome, FutureRose!
rosefox: Chocolate ice cream covered in snowflakes, with snow in the background (winter)

Of course, then we get February. But thanks to global warming, February is the new March, right? Let's all pretend it is.

I can tell I'm struggling emotionally because I've barely touched WaniKani in the last few days. I just hit level 14, so I have 80 new items to learn, and nearly 200 quiz items have piled up. (I'm not touching the new items until I clear the quiz backlog, of course.) I've been trying to tackle at least a few every day, which is why it's 200 and not 300, but that's still at least a couple of hours' worth.

I'm sleeping badly, and not enough. Worse than usual.

I haven't gone to the gym in a month. Most days I do at least get out for a walk, though this week has been very bad for walking during daylight hours. (On the bright side, the main reason I've been stuck at home a lot is because the plumber was here for three days, and now we have our very own washer/dryer. I love it love it love it and would happily do laundry all day. The clothes come out smelling like nothing at all.)

I'm at inbox 24. For me this is a lot. The oldest message is from January 6; before that I was at inbox zero pretty consistently. And it's not difficult stuff--a new S.J. Tucker album to download (not a thing I would usually put off!), a couple of LJ comments to reply to, an appointment to put on my calendar. Just now I got it down to 17 in a minute or two. But finding minutes or twos to put toward inbox-clearing feels very hard.

I'm behind on work. I'm behind on research. For a while I was behind on washing dishes, though I caught up tonight. I'm behind on cuddling, though that's mostly because X and J have both been unwell. But tonight X was well enough to snuggle and I felt like the proverbial starving man at a feast. More affectionate physical contact, please. Please a lot please.

(Sam has been the most cuddly cat ever, which helps. But I need people too.)

Usually when I'm in this sort of frantic overwhelmed state I cope by organizing a thing. I've been meaning to rejigger my schedule to make room for the gym, which would be a perfect sort of organizational coping mechanism. But I have somehow gone right through that stage and out the other side, where I feel too overwhelmed to organize anything. Right now, loading the dishwasher hits my organizational limit. I didn't know that was possible.

I'd say that at least 80% of this is being the person in the household who's closest to being completely healthy and capable, and once J's lingering cough finally fully goes away and he's able to sleep again, things will improve. I'd say "once X feels better", but I don't want to make any assumptions about their level of ability during either IVF or pregnancy, since the IVF has been kicking their ass pretty hard so far. :( But having two and occasionally three fully functional adults in the house will be much better than having one fully functional adult and two others valiantly doing as much as they can before they collapse.

Obligatory "it's not all bad" section of the post:

We're remembering to get out and be social, even when it's hard. Last week [personal profile] regyt came over for coworking, and I went to Daniel's book launch party. Tonight J and I went to KGB to hear Greg Frost and the incomparable Andy Duncan. (If you ever have the opportunity to hear Andy read his work, TAKE IT. Here's a video to whet your appetite. And another. And buy his books, since reading him is the next best thing to hearing him.) Tomorrow is my mother's birthday. This weekend J and I are going to TMBG's first concert of the year (they're doing monthly shows in Brooklyn through 2015), and I've got tickets for the next three. It helps to leave the house and see people and have new things to think about.

Lots of good things are happening in my industry, and/or to people I know. Daniel's book is great, and doing really well from all reports. Mark and I interviewed him for PW Radio and had a terrific time. I'm thrilled about Charles Finlay taking over F&SF and Charlie Jane Anders taking over io9. There are lots of super exciting books coming out this year, and I'm actually doing some reading for pleasure in between bouts of research-reading. I got to read an advance copy of Courtney Milan's first contemporary romance and it's pretty terrific. (And the trans Latina supporting character will star in the next book in the series! Hooray for self-publishing, where such things can happen!)

And the washer/dryer is glorious. And when I work from my bed I get to watch the alley cats chase one another over the garages and trees out back. And even when X and J don't feel well, they still joke around and kiss me and are their lovely selves. And when I do get a chance to do research I learn totally fascinating things and have a legitimate reason to look at pornographic cartoons of the Devil being scared off by a woman's hairy crotch. And Sam and Alex and Sophie are generally adorable and about as well-behaved as it's possible for cats to be.

So it's not all bad. I just wish it were better.
rosefox: A painting of a sidewalk cafe at night. (night owl)
Random ragey day today, probably due to very interrupted sleep at entirely the wrong time of day. Going for a walk tends to help moods like this, but first there was torrential rain (with one long glorious roll of thunder, a brief moment of summer in January) and then the temperature dropped and everything iced over. I was ragey all afternoon and ragey all evening and briefly weepy and then ragey again. Finally I gave up and went out for a walk anyway.

The street was only slightly icy. I walked as quickly as I dared, trying to burn off the anger, and it did help a little. I was glad of the leggings under my jeans, but I didn't need to bother with earmuffs, and I left my coat open. A drunk weaving past me said "Hi gorgeous" and I shot back "Hello handsome" in my best low androgynous voice. I kept having the urge to stop at a deli and get a bagel-with-bacon, because I felt so much like I did when I was in high school and horrendously underslept and desperately needing meat and grease to fuel me through the morning. But it was 2 a.m., not 6 a.m., and now I'm on my way to bed, not grimly facing down another exhausted day.

I still want bacon, though.
18 January 2015 03:29 - "I live in expectation"
rosefox: A spark crossing a spark gap with the word "aha!". (aha!)
My head is cluttered with my work; it tosses about in my head; I can no more read than write; it always gets between the book and my eyes. This is an intolerable mental restlessness. At times I am seized by a mad desire to drop everything, at once, to cancel my lessons, to send everyone packing and ignore the necessity of paying visits, to take refuge in myself "as in a tower" and to develop my vision.... But I can do this only in a new, unknown environment. Unless my senses are disoriented I shall fall back into the familiar ruts, into day-dreams built on recollections. Life must be utterly new, and nothing in the surroundings must remind me that, outside, there are other things. The illusion of working in the absolute.
--André Gide, Journals: 1939-1949
I don't remember the last time I was so consumed by a project. It feels like NRE. It's exhilarating and a little unnerving. I fear that I'm becoming a bore--if someone asks me about the book, I'll talk nonstop for twenty minutes, wind down reluctantly, and entirely forget to say "And what's new with you?". So let this be a warning to all of you not to ask me about the book, for your own sakes. :)

The research is unwieldy and I need to find some way to curtail it. But everything I find is so useful, genuinely useful, not just nifty (though there's some nifty stuff too). I spent a couple of hours tonight wandering through books and pamphlets from the 1790s and 1800s. A satirical poem that claimed to be "Saphic" was nothing of the sort, but it was a lovely bit of scathing feminism and I may put some of its ideas into the head of one of my characters. A book by Aristotle was not translated but rather "made English". I got more of a sense of how these publications were put together, catching little things like repeating the first word of a page at the bottom corner of the previous page--I'm guessing that was to help ensure that the pages were assembled in order, though it might also have been a cue to the reader in some way. I also started building a timeline of relevant events in and around 1810: Napoléon curtailing publishing in Antwerp, the death of the Chevalière d'Eon, the raid on the White Swan and arrest of the Vere Street Coterie. All these little details are delicious, all useful. But if I'm going to start writing in six weeks, I'm also going to need to... well, not stop researching, but cut back. Right now the list of topics looks like this:

Queer and crossdressing women
Queer and crossdressing men
Printing, publishing, bookselling
London geography and daily life

Hopefully I can get enough of a sense of all of those by the end of February to start putting words together.

I last posted that opening Gide quote in 2008, when my work life looked very different. I never did sign up for membership in a coworking space. But now I'm two weeks away from having a spot at Wertheim Study, which has become very symbolic. Not quite a tower, but a place where I can take refuge in myself nonetheless.

"One thing is certain," Gide wrote at the end of that journal entry, "and that is that I drop all lessons, all shackles, in twelve days, or fourteen." And then, hesitantly: "My mind is so taut now that I am afraid it may relapse, may relax at the moment when..."

I know how NRE goes and I know that at some point the buzz will wear off. I hope to be well into the writing by that point. But even when I'm feeling muddled about the book itself (as I am right now, quite frustrated with the current state of the outline), every new research discovery fills me with pure delight. So perhaps I'll allow myself to keep doing a little reading as I write, to prolong the buzz a bit. I don't know whether I'm disciplined enough to make wordcount when research is calling me, but I guess I'll find out.
13 January 2015 04:07 - "Small and superb"
rosefox: "Joy through making things happen" (accomplishment)
Recent accomplishments:

* Orchestrated a lovely little birthday party for J, breaking the long trend of him having terrible birthdays.

* Buckled down and got my damn work done.

* Burned radicals in WaniKani--I will never be tested on them ever again!

* Made a whole lot of phone calls, ordered groceries, answered emails, paid bills, and otherwise took care of minor things that I have been putting off because there's been so much else to do.

* Put my laptop away and went to bed immediately after making this post.
11 January 2015 18:37 - "Sluggish and slow"
rosefox: A dark elf saying "Do I even need to be here for this? Can I go now?". (weary)
Ugh, I am totally slumped over and fleh today. But I went for a walk and had lunch and showered and dressed, and I got J to take over dinner planning, and I asked X to help me figure out how to be more work-productive, and I have been slowly and painfully getting work done. (This particular task is boring, is the problem. Usually my work is really interesting, so my get-boring-work-done skills have totally atrophied.)

As part of my time management for the day, I decided that I would just have to give up on finishing my interlibrary loan book tonight even though it's due back tomorrow and can't be renewed and the fine is $1/day. Yes, that's a lot compared to regular library late fees, and yes, I was raised to be scrupulous about returning library books on time, but I'm trying to look at it as paying $2 to hang on to it for a couple extra days at the beginning of the semester when it's unlikely that any student will be desperately waiting for it to come back to the university library it calls home. This is so hard! I actually took two dollar bills out of my wallet and stuck them into the book to use as bookmarks, hoping that would help me stop thinking about it, but I still feel terribly guilty. Childhood programming is serious stuff. Anyway, even though it's really amazingly psychologically difficult, I am determined to prioritize my commitments to my job and my clients over avoiding $2 of library fines and feeling singlehandedly responsible for the tragedy of the commons. And I am bemusedly shaking my head at myself. My brain is a really odd place.

I think it might be time to do another couple shots of caffeinated soda and see if that helps me stay focused.
rosefox: Green books on library shelves. (books)
Recent books read for research:

The Beacon at Alexandria by Gillian Bradshaw. WHAT A BOOK. I love this book on so many levels. It feels so good to read a novel I unstintingly adore! Been ages since I got to do that. The day I returned it to the library, I ordered a copy. I'm going to want to reread it, plus it's useful to me in several ways (how self-image is affected by longstanding stealth; honesty and dissembling with close friends; portrayals of Jews who aren't present-day New York Jews or grotesque caricatures). And oh, what an ending. I am inspired to be more audacious in ending my own book--that ending took my breath away.

Duchess by Night by Eloisa James. James is very like Heyer in that she's quite willing to disregard basically anything that doesn't suit her about her chosen time and place, but she makes up for it (sometimes successfully, sometimes not) with humor and wit. Her treatment of the crossdressed heroine is quite novel in several respects. Harriet is remarkably bad at pretending to be a man, and it's interesting to see who twigs and why; her inability to mount a horse is a dead giveaway, but her rounded bottom is not. I was amused by her womanly mannerisms being explained as "he was raised by a single mother, no men around to teach him how to be a man". The "terrible accident" justification for smooth face, high voice, etc. is a guess from another character, though Harriet's happy to run with it. As Harry, Harriet is besieged by interest from women and has to awkwardly fend them off without giving the impression that she's gay. And the hero outright admits that he found her attractive when he thought she was a man, and says that if she had in fact been a man he'd still have fallen in love with her. That's pretty remarkable even for a libertine who hangs around with actors!

The book concludes with the most utterly ridiculous and unbelievable final argument that I have ever seen in a romance novel, and even though the hero does a very good grovel once he comes to his senses, that does not begin to redeem it. Also, all the heroine's concerns about "won't it look odd when your Very Close Friend Harry vanishes and three weeks later you marry some woman named Harriet" are swept away and never resolved. A profoundly annoying ending on the whole.

I Know My Own Heart: The Diaries of Anne Lister, 1791–1840, edited by Helena Whitbread. I skimmed these a lot because they're really gloomy. Lister was an id-driven snob and I didn't want to spend a lot of time in her company. Her first and most significant love and lover, M-, marries a man, gets a venereal disease from him, and gives it to Anne during a clandestine encounter. Upon meeting another queer woman, Anne claims very staunchly that she only feels love for other women and never acts on it, mostly to protect M-'s reputation and scotch the persistent rumors about their relationship; the need for stealth makes it impossible for her to form connections even with those she could otherwise safely reveal herself to. Anne lusts after women other than M- but mostly feels they're too déclassé for her. Even the most exciting journals can be tedious, and Anne's unhappiness makes them even harder to go through. There's also not much of use to me, mostly because Anne's more upper-class than any of the women in my book, and she spends most of her time living in a small town. That said, now I'm aware of how much I need to specifically hunt down some primary sources written by tradesmen and -women in London.

One thing that caught my attention is how clearly Anne's desires are delineated. She has no interest in men, but women inspire desperate longing. And specifically, she wants a very feminine wife. When she meets the other queer woman, Miss Pickford, she finds her of little interest; occasionally she wonders whether she might "soften" the other woman, but mostly she resolves to treat her "like a gentleman". And she is extremely envious of Miss Pickford's longtime relationship with a "particular friend". While Anne may not have an identity-concept like "lesbian" to attach herself to, she is quite capable of developing and defining her own sense of who she is, in extremely specific terms, with little apparent agonizing. Pretty impressive for someone in her late 20s.

Also of note is that she's religious enough to feel bad about skipping church or leaving before the sacrament, and she sometimes prays to God for help or forgiveness, but there's no mention anywhere in her journal about religious guilt over same-sex inclinations.

On Twitter, I referred to the journals as "dispiriting", and the editor replied to me telling me I was wrong. Editors and authors: don't do this.

Next on my reading list is Lesbian Dames: Sapphism in the Long Eighteenth Century, edited by Beynon and Gonda. Of course it opens with a list of other books I should read. *takes notes*

Shelf full of books

That's the shelf of library books left for me to work through. My spot at the Wertheim Study room at NYPL is booked for February through July (!), so once that goes into effect I'll be able to cut back on ILL (which I've been using as an end run around lots of NYPL books being "onsite use only"). That will ease the deadline pressure.


Scenes from the book continue to write themselves in my head. It's interesting to see what iterations they go through as I think about different ways that a particular interaction could go. At the moment I'm doing a lot of thinking about how Nathaniel would come out to Algernon, and that requires thinking about how Nathaniel understands himself as well as how Algernon understands gender. I let it all percolate in my head, and when a question comes up like "How much does Nathaniel generally value honesty?" it helps me do some character development, which then feeds back into the interaction. Or I read a Twitter conversation about having multiple trans people in a story, and I wonder whether Algernon's encountered anyone trans before and how that would affect his ability to understand what Nathaniel is telling him and to accept Nathaniel for who he is, and that feeds back into the interaction. I imagine this with sound effects not unlike water churning around in the dishwasher, every repetition making things a little bit clearer.

I frequently worry that if I don't write things down I'll forget them, but to my surprise I'm not especially concerned about that happening with the pieces of book that are in my head. As I observe the iterative process, I'm reminded that any draft is going to go through a lot of changes, and in the end it doesn't matter whether I write down version #27 or #37 of a particular scene. Also, writing things down would provide too much concreteness to a process that needs to be very free-form right now so that it can absorb all the information I'm getting from my research and flex along with character developments and so on. I'm keeping an eye on myself to make sure I do start writing at some point, but I think that as various interactions start to feel "cooked" I'll start to feel more of an urge to put them into text.

I'm still planning to research through February and start writing in earnest in March. I continue to be really excited about this project. :)
6 January 2015 03:08 - "Positive stress is still stress"
rosefox: Me pulling hair away from my face, trying to see. (confused)
I'm caught up. I don't know how to be caught up.

I don't... I don't understand why my brain can sometimes do things and other times can't. I don't understand why today I could say "We don't have a radio guest lined up for this week, let me find one" and then "I have a bit of work to finish, so I'll finish it" and then "It's 00:50, if I'm going to read half of The Beacon at Alexandria tonight I had better put Twitter away" and then "I've reached the halfway point that I marked earlier, time to put the book down"--and do those things as soon as I said them. I don't understand why in December it would all have been impossible, both the putting down and the picking up. I don't understand why less than a week ago I stayed up until dawn, for the first time since the end of summer, and tonight it's a mere hour past my nominal bedtime and I'm entirely ready to sleep. Teeth brushed and cat fed and lights out and everything. For weeks I've been setting my alarm later and then snoozing it, struggling to catch some light in the scant time between leaving bed and the sun setting, and then yesterday I got up at 11:30 and today I got up at 11 and if I go to bed now I'll be able to comfortably get up at 10:30.

I was sick for about a day with a cold, and I made myself sleep nine and a half hours to shake it. They were the wrong nine and a half hours, from 4 to 13:30, but it worked well enough. Since then I've had this strange sense of clarity, of ability, and I've been able to just do things. I wonder whether the illness or the sleep rewired something in my brain, disconnecting or routing around the angst-about-it center. J still has the cold, with a nasty cough on top of it, and X's wrist is hurting, and there was the ceiling leak to deal with--turns out it was a pipe, not the roof, but we didn't find that out until the roofers came over, so then the plumber had to come over and so forth--and I've been keeping everyone fed and hydrated and dealing with the landlord and perhaps that's put me in a just-do-things mode. But if this has all happened last week I think work would have fallen entirely by the wayside. Last week work fell by the wayside even when all those things weren't happening. Today when J asked me "How's work going?" I was able to tell him because I'd actually been doing it.

I keep reaching for the tools of procrastination, Twitter and games and dopamine-loop fidgets. I keep thinking that I must not want to sleep, I must want to play a game, I must feel beset and overwhelmed and desperately in need of these self-soothing things that help me cope with the crushing weight of the obligations that I keep avoiding. But actually the obligations don't feel crushing, not least because I haven't been avoiding them. I have a major Wednesday deadline but I feel confident about making it. I think I really will finish reading this book tomorrow night so I can return it on time. (Fortunately it's a smooth, quick read. I almost skipped it because it's entirely the wrong time period, but it's wonderful and I'm so glad I picked it up, plus it's being useful in a completely unexpected direction.) As of this week Fridays are work days, and that's going to take some getting used to, but if I still feel this way on Friday I'm pretty sure I will actually get work done in between a couple of Manhattan appointments.

I don't have habits for this. All my habits are about avoiding obligations and then avoiding feeling guilty about avoiding obligations. Right now the only thing I'd like to do that I'm not really managing to do is going to the gym, and I don't even feel bad about that because January's a terrible time of year to go to the gym. I'll wait a couple of weeks for the resolutioners to trickle away and then see if I can fit it back into my schedule somehow.

So I guess I just... go to bed now, without feeling bad and without doing things intended to make me feel less bad or at least escape from feeling bad. Is that right? Is that how it works?

This is all very new and I'm kind of confused and nervous. My heart is beating pretty hard, actually, but that might be from the chocolate I had a couple of hours ago, not just anxiety over being faced with this unfamiliar situation. I'll take taurine anyway, just in case.

(As soon as I wrote that, I got up and took the taurine. How am I doing this?!)

(And I am confounded to realize how quick I usually am to turn even a small sensible notion into an obligation and then to squirt ink at it and swim hastily away. I don't even see that pattern when I'm engaged in it; it's just that right now I'm suddenly aware of its absence.)

I literally have nothing better to do than go to bed. So... I'll go do that then. Right. Okay. This is super weird. I think I could get to like it, if it lasts, but it's going to take some getting used to.
5 January 2015 01:03 - "No time for tea!"
rosefox: A woman saying "Sorry... I don't see 'spontaneous fun' scheduled anywhere in here." (busy-bad)
Juggling two sets of deadlines is getting a little tricky. My week looks something like this:

Monday 1/5: PW Monday deadlines, read non-renewable book due 1/7
Tuesday: PW Wednesday deadlines, read book
Wednesday: PW Wednesday deadlines, return book, read first non-renewable book due 1/12
Thursday: pick up new book at NYPL on my way to work at the PW office, read book
Friday: PW Friday deadlines, meeting at NYPL to arrange a six-month shelf reservation at Wertheim Study, read book
Saturday and Sunday: read second non-renewable book due 1/12

And sometime in there more ILL books might come in for me, and I have more books due 1/20, 1/21, 1/21, and 1/26.

*pant pant*

Back in 2005, I would review three books a week for PW while working a full-time job. Time to dust off those skills!
4 January 2015 17:50 - "Water water everywhere"
rosefox: A giant X and the word "IRRITANT". (annoyed)
Via [personal profile] metaphortunate, an old-fashioned LJ/DW meme!

When you see this, make a post in your journal or in a community. It can be anything: a crosspost, something you've posted on Tumblr, a few words about the last thing you read/watched, or just a "Hi, how is everyone?" Then go read your f-list and leave at least one comment.

I woke up today to learn that our roof had leaked into the attic, which was leaking into the guest room. Presumably the leak started last night, when it was raining buckets. No one discovered this until 1:30 p.m. today because we keep the door to that room shut, to keep the cats out (we sometimes have guests with cat allergies, and also we don't want the cats to scratch or pee on the couch). Usually J hangs out in there in the mornings, but he's got a cold, so he huddled in bed instead. So fate was against us in that regard.

Fortunately the leak missed the books entirely, and we didn't have anything in the attic, but it soaked the sofabed. We're hoping we can disassemble it (yay IKEA furniture) and dry it out without it getting moldy, since the baseboard heaters keep our house very warm and dry in the winter. It'll probably be stained, but it was ugly to start with, so that's not so much of an issue. (If we really care we can pay $380+ for a slipcover. O.O I do not think we care that much. We bought it for comfort, not style.)

The rain stopped hours ago but the ceiling is still dripping. We've got three buckets set up to catch the drips. The landlord came over, looked appalled, took a lot of photos, and left to call some workers; but it may be a couple of days before anything gets fixed because he'll be asking the roofers to make a repair under warranty (since the roof was just redone before we moved in, nine months ago) and they are likely to be rather slow about doing that. Hopefully they'll fix it before it starts snowing on Tuesday.

On the principle of "better late than never", I finally harangued Travelers into giving us renters' insurance. We've tried to get it before but they always balk about insuring three unrelated people. By listing X as my fiancé, which is technically accurate as we will probably get legally married at some point to give me more parental rights for FutureKid, we were able to cover the entire contents of the apartment except for what's in J's room, which is good enough for our purposes.

This makes the fourth residence in a row where we've had to deal with a ceiling leak. I am not enthused.
2 January 2015 14:23 - "Strike that. Reverse it."
rosefox: A man's head with a panel open to show gears, and another man looking inside. (examined head)
I keep wondering, why have I been sleeping so poorly and biting my nails? I don't feel more stressed than usual. I've actually been feeling pretty good.

Today it occurred to me to flip that around. Oh. Ohhh. These aren't just symptoms of stress--they're my coping mechanisms. And they are helping me cope.

They're just also kind of destructive in the slightly longer term. *sigh* I need to figure out ways to give myself the immediate boost that I get from biting my nails or staying up super-late, without sacrificing the following day's awakeness or damaging my body. But it helps in some ways to acknowledge that I do get value from these things; they aren't purely destructive.

My therp gave me homework this week: 1) look at how things I'm looking forward to become to-do list items that feel oppressive and 2) look at the nail-biting and sleep issues as they pertain to concepts of control. So... I'll add that to my to-do list, I guess.

For now, going for a walk while there's still sun.
1 January 2015 23:18 - "Begin as you mean to go on"
rosefox: A cheerful fellow with a giant chaotic jumble on a leash. (busy-good)
Today I had no plans or obligations whatsoever. In the afternoon J was gaming and X was napping, and then they had a date in the evening. I was entirely self-directed.

0) I woke up around noon and got up maybe half an hour later.

1) I caught up on WaniKani quizzes. I introduce new vocabulary when I'm alert, to give myself a fighting chance of remembering it, but I take quizzes first thing when I get up and right before I go to bed, because I won't really have learned the kanji until I can remember them while groggy.

2) I went for a walk while it was still light out, got plenty of sun, and listened to my latest Headspace meditation. (Replace "attention on the rhythm and sensation of the breath" with "attention on the rhythm and sensation of walking" and nearly any meditation can become a walking meditation.)

3) I ate a good lunch: a boring but hot and filling carrot cashew ginger soup from a box, bolstered with shredded leftover cumin lemon chicken.

4) I finished reading Robin McKinley's The Outlaws of Sherwood. I quite enjoyed it, though it's not very useful for the novel; there is some cross-dressing and romance, but not in a way that's related to the tropes I'm working with.

5) I took a bath, intending to read more, but instead J came in and hung out and chatted with me, which was lovely.

6) I snuggled and smooched X and J before their date.

7) I went out to dinner on my own, since I had a pasta craving.

8) I came home and finished reading the book I'd been reading over dinner, Jo Beverley's My Lady Notorious. The hero AND the heroine crossdress, and he's prettier than she is! While in disguise as a whore, the heroine is open-mouth kissed by a) the hero's brother and b) her own brother! There's an extremely authentic Georgian nobility orgy! There's even more authentic misogynistic violence! There's a fun new entry for my "teh gay" files! (Even after Chastity is back in women's clothes--which she has greatly missed and really prefers--Cynric affectionately calls her "Charles" as a sort of pet name. I think he even says "Lady Charles" at one point. Which is particularly odd given that after they marry she's properly addressed as Lady Cynric.) The ending is a complete rip-off of Georgette Heyer! It is a really weird book. But at least the violence is never titillating and the women display a believable range of reactions to being raised in a culture predicated on male abuse of women and casual violence in general (there are frequent references to corporal punishment of schoolboys, for example).

Modern writers tend to gloss over the nasty parts of historical eras so as to write cheerful books with happy endings. I admire Beverley's commitment to making it really clear just how shitty things frequently were for women in the Georgian era, and not flinching away from making even the "good guys" manipulative at best and brutal at worst. No ahistorical feminist men here. Unfortunately that means the happy ending has to come from the hero and his family repeatedly exercising their considerable privilege and wealth and physical prowess, but that usually happens in historicals anyway, just not so overtly. The book really could be read as a very sharp critique of all the fluffy historicals out there. There must have been quite a stir when it came out.

9) Did another round of WaniKani. I'm at a fairly intense part of this level, with about 120 quiz items a day.

Now it's midnight, so I'm going to play a bit of Picma (WARNING: TIMESINK) and then try to actually go to bed around 2 for a change. Last night I went to bed at 6. *wince* But ideally a good day of doing exactly what I wanted will have helped me shake the feeling of "can't sleep, too much that still needs doing". Everything that needs to be done can be done tomorrow. Today, I chill.

This was a very nice start to the year. More days like this, please.
31 December 2014 01:55 - "Word salad"
rosefox: A game of Boggle and my mother's hand writing down words. (words)
I haven't mentioned kanji study here in a while, but I'm steadily continuing with it, doing my best to take quizzes at least once and ideally twice a day. I'm most of the way through WaniKani level 12 of 50, going up one level every two weeks or so. I recently went to look at the "easy" version of an online Japanese newspaper and could read... almost none of it. :( But I persevere. WaniKani continues to be basically a fun game that happens to be teaching me how to read Japanese.

Tonight J and I went out for dinner in Chinatown with [twitter.com profile] sarahfrantz, and I was astonished to realize that I could mostly read a lot of the restaurant names and other signs! Conveniently, many of them had English translations, so I could doublecheck myself and fill in blanks. For example, the Chase Bank sign says 大通銀行. " 'Big, through*, something to do with money**, go.' And I see East West Bank across the street (華美銀行) also ends with the money-related symbol and 'go', so now I know that combination means 'bank', though those first two symbols don't look like 'east' and 'west' to me***..."

* I looked up 大通 in Japanese; colloquially it's "main street". There doesn't appear to be an equivalent phrase translation in Chinese, though. For 大通銀行, I'm guessing 通 is used in its sense of "connect" and "communicate" rather than "way through" or "avenue". Extensive Connection Bank. Sure, why not.
** 銀 turned out to be "silver". I'll officially learn it in level 13. I am very pleased that I recognized the radicals for "money" and "good" despite not knowing the word itself. :)
*** 華美 means "magnificent" or "ornate" in Chinese. (I should have recognized the individual characters, "flower" and "beauty", both of which I learned a while back, but unfamiliar fonts still confuse me.) So East West Bank is Magnificent Bank! Hilariously, in Japanese 華美 is "gaudy", which tells you something about what the Japanese think of Chinese decor.

At the restaurant J and Sarah practically had to make me stop trying to read the menu so the waiter could take my order. "魚 means 'fish'!" "Yes, we know, it says 'fish' right there in English and also there is a picture of a fish. WHAT DO YOU WANT TO EAT."

I was confused a while back to encounter the phrase "public corporation" (公社) in WaniKani, at a fairly low level. Why would beginning readers need to specifically learn that term? It's almost never used in everyday English and I couldn't imagine what use it would have in Japanese. But legal business descriptors are all over those Chinatown signs in English--wandering around Baxter Street on Google Maps street view, I spotted Han May Meat Co., Manhattan Florist Inc., and New Beef King Corp. all within a couple of blocks--and I see 公 on a lot of them followed by 司. I don't recognize the second symbol, but some Googling confirms my guess that it means "company". So apparently it is just a cultural thing to have that word on one's business sign, and that means it's a useful thing for a person walking down the street to be able to read.

The wonderful tearjerker Bell's whisky ad about adult literacy condenses the journey from zero comprehension to self-sufficiency into two minutes. I feel like I just made the jump from 0:29 ("K-A-T") to 0:38 ("Ca-la-ma-ri!"). I think about that ad a lot when I'm struggling with kanji. It gives me hope.

I have a very, very vague early childhood memory of seeing a sign (one of those vertical signs that says "RESTAURANT" or "PHARMACY" in big neon letters) and knowing it had a word on it, but not being able to read that word. Whenever I recall that memory, I carefully do not look at the sign, because if I read it now then I'll lose the relived feeling of mystification, of knowing that comprehension lies just beyond my grasp. What I felt tonight was the counterpart, the demystification, the moment when I became able to absorb the meaning that was encoded there the whole time. It's an extraordinary feeling. I don't begin to have good metaphors for it--it's not like anything else I've ever experienced. Suddenly meaning was just there. Occluded, fragmented, but there.

If you have spare money, your local library's adult literacy program is a good place to send it.
28 December 2014 03:53 - "Hours of fascinated clicking"
rosefox: A half-completed game where one organizes jumbled dots. (connections)
Today in research rabbit holes:

1) I settle down to read the extravagant memoir of the actor Charlotte Charke/Charles Brown, who played many men's roles, mostly lived as a man, and married two men and a woman in succession. She uses female pronouns for herself in the memoir, so I will do the same, but it seems likely that she was "he" in daily life. The memoir very deliberately portrays Charke as an ultra-masculine person, emphasizing an early predilection for menswear and a lifelong fondness for guns, horses, fistfights, and business ownership, while omitting all but the faintest traces of characteristics that might be seen as feminine or effeminate. It's hard to know how accurately this maps to Charke's actual everyday life and inner identity, so I defer to the text for lack of a better option.

2) Charke describes being dressed "en cavalier" as code for "in men's clothes" (with, apparently, an extremely fabulous hat). I look up the phrase to see whether it was in common use.

3) In the process I find two essays about Charke and start to read those.

4) One makes reference to her playing the part of Sir Fopling Flutter--made famous by her father, Colley Cibber, who was a well-known actor and theater manager--in a play of the same name. Of course I have to look this up. Unfortunately all the digital versions appear to be thoroughly firewalled; NYPL gives me access to a lot of downloadable epubs through Gale's 18th century collection, but this one can only be accessed from an NYPL research library. That is absurd.

5) The other essay makes reference to Charke playing the part of Fopling Fribble, a satire of her father, in The Battle of the Poets, written by an unknown author and inserted into Henry Fielding's famous Tom Thumb. Fielding and Cibber were fierce rivals, and when Charke went to work for Fielding's company, Cibber disowned her.

6) I look up Fopling Fribble and end up reading Cibber's Wikipedia page. It includes this magnificent engraving of him playing Lord Foppington, yet a third character, in a play called The Relapse, or, Virtue in Danger that was a sequel to Cibber's own play Love's Last Shift, or, Virtue Rewarded.

Not pictured: the two footmen needed to hold up the ends of his glorious wig.

Cibber reprised the character (originally named Sir Novelty Fashion!) in The Relapse to great acclaim. He was renowned for portraying ridiculous foppish characters, perhaps because they somewhat resembled him.

7) I follow that to the impressively thorough Wikipedia entry on The Relapse, which gives a fascinating account of conflicts among London's few licensed theater groups and their relation to the religious and secular politics of the day. Cibber was a vehement Whig and anti-Catholic, and was named poet laureate in 1730 despite his indifferent poetic skills. This was seen as a slap against Tories like Alexander Pope. Pope promptly made Cibber the lead dunce in Dunciad. Never offend a bard, etc.

8) Somewhere in there I bookmark Charke's novel The History of Henry Dumont, Esq; and Miss Charlotte Evelyn, which includes a gay male transvestite character.

9) I realize it's 4:30 a.m.

But the time was hardly wasted. Charke's memoir may not get very deeply into her head, but it's an invaluable demonstration of ways that transmasculinity could be spun and presented to the critical but leering public. The battles among the patent theatres reminds me how much narrative and dramatic potential there is in relatively small-scale conflicts, which is crucial to keep in mind as I structure my own story. Memoirs and biographies generally emphasize the importance of family and community to a person's life, and are having me rethink my original plan to have Nathaniel estranged from his family. I'm learning what the politics of the time looked like to everyday individuals, rather than from large-scale overviews written from the vantage point of the present day. The essays offer a bit of useful analysis, and more importantly, both text and endnotes provide pointers to works and concepts that Nathaniel and his contemporaries might have encountered and drawn on to form their understandings of gender, sexuality, and identity. I'm also immersing myself in the language of the period as much as I can, to get a sense of the rhythm and find useful phrases to slip into dialogue. (Today I learned "take French leave" and, of course, "en cavalier".)

I'm mostly managing to notice when I reach points of diminished utility. I could have kept reading about the theatre world of early 18th-century London, for example, but it's unlikely to be very relevant to the book project. So eventually I emerge from the rabbit hole. :) Also I do occasionally need to sleep.
rosefox: Green books on library shelves. (books)
I decided to livetweet a couple of chapters of In the Company of Men: Cross-dressed Women Around 1800 with the hashtag #cdw1800. Judging by the number of faves, apparently it was entertaining. :) The Storify is here if anyone's curious.

I'm rather astonished that I spent two and a half hours on those two chapters. It would have been much faster to just read it! But livetweeting is more fun. :) And it helps me organize my thoughts and take notes, which is very useful.

I am taking a moment to be so appreciative of how much easier it is for me to do this kind of research in the age of the internet. I request interlibrary loans online. I just Googled up someone who translated an obscure German poem for her master's thesis and emailed her to ask whether I could buy a copy from her. My phone is full of romance novels downloaded from the library. I can watch relevant movies online. I just downloaded a 1799 novel from Gutenberg. The only thing slowing my research is how quickly I can read and how much time I have for reading. That's amazing.
rosefox: Me looking out a window, pensive. (thoughtful)
1. What did you do in 2014 that you'd never done before?

Marked my 12th anniversary with Josh and my 10th with X. Watched my spouses fall in love. Moved to a gorgeous apartment that the three of us intend to stay in and build a family in for a very long time. Grieved deeply over the death of a pet. Passed 7 years at a company and 12 in an industry. Closed my freelance business. Had a salaried job where I primarily worked from home. Saw my name on the cover of a book. Hosted a family holiday dinner. Supported a partner in actively trying to get pregnant. Got rid of most of my female-coded clothing, and wore male-coded shorts all summer. Started seriously studying kanji with WaniKani. Committed to writing a romance novel, or at least making a good-faith effort to do so, and began to do research for it. Used interlibrary loan for non-academic purposes. Suffered from near-constant, debilitating vertigo for months. Had goop injected into my ear. Participated in a double-blind medical trial. Developed patellofemoral pain syndrome. Took up lifting free weights. Wore male-coded workout gear. Created a Twitter bot. Tweeted something that was RT'd over 1500 times. Bought a tablet. Bought a television. Set up regular Skype dates with friends. Realized I have OCD in the non-colloquial sense, and sought treatment. Hired a lawyer to assist us in making out our wills and other important paperwork. Took up meditation with Headspace and more or less kept it up, though it's not anything like a daily practice. Had a cat who slept in my room every night. Invented a knitting technique. Other things I'm forgetting.

End-of-year memeage )

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2014:

First-line treatment for depression, especially seasonal depression: more sun, more fresh air, more moving around. When working from home, I need to take a walk every day before 2:30 p.m., no matter what the weather is. If it's truly awful out, go to the gym and walk on the treadmill. In the winter, do that and lightbox for at least half an hour, and work in one of the south-facing rooms.

40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:

Welcome to the moment.
This is it. This is all you get.
So just receive the info and then flow
But be prepared to hear "no".
--Shamen, "Moment"

Mr. Jones, you look tired.
I believe you'll be all right.
--Talking Heads, "Mr. Jones"
rosefox: A necklace that looks like a piece of rainbow layer cake (me and xtina)
R: I love you even though you're not a very good Klingon.
X: I love you even though you're not a very good cyborg.
R: Goodnight, spousebot.
X: Goodnight, squishlord.
rosefox: Me on a beach, holding a red pencil and looking at a notebook. (writing)
Research for An Unlikely Hero (I really must find a better title) continues apace. Interlibrary loan is my BEST friend. I am super excited by all the books I get to read! And also I have deadlines by which time I am absolutely required to return them! This encourages me to actually read them, especially since some librarians went to a fair amount of trouble to get them into my hands.

Current read: Elisabeth Krimmer's In the Company of Men: Cross-dressed Women Around 1800. This focuses on the literature and history of Germany, which isn't all that useful for my purposes, but there are plenty of useful asides about France and England, and it cites lots of primary sources that I'm looking forward to investigating. I skipped the introduction, which was too lugubriously academic for my tastes, and am skimming more than reading, taking lots and lots and lots of notes. For example, she lists well-known cross-dressing female soldiers of the French Revolution; it's possible that my character (who spends a few years in Paris before returning to London for the events of the book) met one of them and had some enlightening conversations, or even just heard of them and was intrigued.

After that: I Know My Own Heart: The Diaries of Anne Lister, 1791–1840. I don't want to rely too much on Lister's diaries when constructing my character's life, since there are significant class and identity differences, but they offer a stunning about of information on transmasculinity (for lack of a more period-appropriate word) and lesbianism in the landowning classes of Georgian and Regency England. The dates in the title are Lister's birth and death dates; this volume covers her diaries from 1817–1824. I have the second volume on order, along with a selection of Lister's letters, and will be watching both The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister and the BBC documentary about her. Yay for visual aids.

And then: Caroline Gonda and John C. Beynon's Lesbian Dames: Sapphism in the Long Eighteenth Century. This is a collection of articles by various writers, and the range is broad. I don't know yet how much use it will be, because my character is a gay trans man, not a lesbian. But there's a lot of overlap between lesbianism and transmasculinity, and my present concept of the plot revolves around lesbian communities in various classes, so it is useful to have some sense of the culture there.

I am particularly delighted by a note in Beynon's biography saying that he's working on a project that "examines masculinity, desire, and the culture of tea drinking in 18th-century Britain"! His online CV says it's still in progress, but he's got some other works listed there that sound interesting, so I've written to ask him whether he can share any of the in-progress bits and perhaps provide other pointers. After some thought, I explained my interest as "I'm writing a novel" rather than "I'm writing a romance novel". I dislike dissembling, but it's amazing how much more seriously the former phrasing is generally taken.

In addition to the nonfiction, I've been plowing through romance novels with elements of crossdressing, and will probably be watching some films and TV as well (avoiding the many, many films in which a crossdressed woman comes to a sad end--so grateful for Wikipedia's spoilery plot summaries!). I'm keeping my notes and to-read/to-watch lists here. As you can see by the notes, I'm mostly looking for tropes to invert.

Anytime you want to see how far feminism has come, read a romance novel written in the 1980s. I did barely manage to finish Playing the Jack (discussed previously) but could not get through Shield of Three Lions. The heroine is 11 when the book opens and her eventual love interest is introduced as a nasty, conniving fellow who makes her swear a blood oath to be "brothers" and give him half her land--at which point he decides that as the older "brother" he has claim to the whole thing. SHE IS 11 DID I MENTION. And he's 21. I assume she's at least in her teens by the end of the book but I didn't get nearly that far; I have no sympathy for characters who treat desperate, sheltered children in such a fashion, no matter how historically accurate it's supposed to be. When I returned the book to the library--tossing it rather vehemently through the return slot--I picked up Shannon Drake's The Pirate Bride (2008), which was shallow and ridiculous but not nausea-inducing; in other words, a considerable improvement.

My plan is to stick with the nonfiction as much as possible; I have three novels out from BPL, all due early January and all quite hefty, but they can be renewed, and the nonfiction can't unless I make some sort of special appeal to the ILL staff. Whenever I need a brain-break I'll read something fluffy or watch a movie.

I'm getting a good sense of what I need to research before I start writing. On the history front, a few errors in the sociocultural aspects could undermine the entire plot, and I want to make sure I'm on firm ground there before I start building lives. On the romance tropes front, I am getting some delightful ideas for ways to mess with readerly expectations, and that's helping a lot with my general difficulty around plot structure. But at some point the research has to give way to the actual writing, no matter how much fun the research is. Ideally, if I set the story up correctly, the writing will be differently fun. :) And I will very firmly employ Joanna Bourne's bracket method for any historical factual stuff that I can look up during revisions, so I don't get distracted. (Example: "He hastily tugged on his [trousers? breeches?], cursing the [buttons? buckles? ties?].")

I had hoped to start writing in January but at this point it's pretty clear that January will also be a research month. We'll see how I'm doing in February, both research-wise and mood-wise. So far my excitement about this project is overcoming my SAD-induced inertia, but February's always really bad on that front and I don't want to hamstring myself by trying something new and difficult and self-judgment-invoking when my brain is swimming in misery chemicals. March for sure, though. March for sure.
21 December 2014 00:20 - "Day is done, gone the sun"
rosefox: A cartoon figure slipping toward a gaping hole in the paper. (slipping)

That's about all I've got in me for solstice vigil and ceremony. Are the dark days always so very very dark? It seems really awful this year. (Emotionally and psychologically, I mean. The weather's actually not been too bad.)

But we made it through to the turning of the year. January will be no worse than December, and then February will be terrible but short, with improbable frost-defying buds on the trees--I always fear for the magnolias, and they always come through just fine--and then spring spring spring.
9 December 2014 22:51 - "Top of the charts"
rosefox: A series of weather icons showing rain, sun, snow, fog, etc. (variable)
Good news x2!

1) Slate included Long Hidden on a list of SF books "that can change our future"! Especially nice to have that sort of thing come up during gift-buying season. Also Lee Harris (former editor at Angry Robot, now senior editor for the Tor.com novella imprint) called Long Hidden the best anthology of the year. So that's pretty excellent. :D

2) I'm closing down my freelance editing practice! Yes, this is good news--the last couple of projects were really hard to get through, and it was clearly time to move on to something else. Part of the "something else" will be making a real attempt to write a book; another part will be something I can't talk about yet but am very excited about. :) If you were hoping to retain my services at some point, my website has a list of editors I trust and respect, along with other resources for indie authors. It's been a great run and I'm looking forward to what comes next.

The news from the wider world continues to be shitty, so I'm glad for any bright moments that I can cling to.
rosefox: A giant X and the word "IRRITANT". (annoyed)
Content note: this post contains quoted material that describes and excuses partner abuse.

The problem with reading romance novels for research, especially older ones, is that some of them depict and excuse really astonishing abusive behavior in their ostensible heroes. The following quote is from Mary Brown's Playing the Jack (1984), after anti-hero Jack has bribed Zoe's ostensible fiancé, John, to leave her alone, and explained to Zoe (using affectionate terms like "you gullible little idiot" and "my stupid little dear") that John really just wanted to get in her pants and never planned to marry her at all.
Seriously, brace yourself )
Emphasis mine, indicating the points at which my jaw dropped. Ellipses are in the original. Brown is very fond of her ellipses.

That half-paragraph is a really impressive example of Campbell's Condensed Cream of Misogyny Soup, with a bonus! dose of "the man who gives me tingly pantsfeelings is the man I'm destined to love and share my life with, regardless of his incredibly shitty behavior" (one of my least favorite romance tropes of all time).

If I weren't reading this for research I would return it to the library tomorrow and then go wash my hands a lot.

The quote is from pp. 270–1. I've read along to 297 and it hasn't gotten any better. (Zoe and Jack talk each other into having sex, and then are incredibly awkward: her yearning and him avoiding and then her saying it was no big deal just as he's about to say that it meant a lot to him and then more awkwardness and UGH.) The book is nearly 600 pages long. I am dreading the second half, which promises to be a whole lot more of the same.

The book was so much better when Zoe was Sprat and everyone--including the author--treated her like a boy. As soon as her gender is revealed, she becomes all emotional and irrational and prone to tears and otherwise a ridiculous caricature of bone-brained womanhood. She's also completely ignorant about human relationships in a way that I find really difficult to believe in given that she's spent a year cooped up in a wagon with a small group of traveling performers. Jack may have been appallingly rude to her, but I can't disagree with his assessment of her gullibility and foolishness--which of course enable her acceptance of Jack even though he repeatedly assaults her and is otherwise a dick. Later on, Brown has her experience a revelation about Jack's (once again despicable) actions as a literal voice whispering in her head, because it's so implausible that Zoe would figure out any such thing in her conscious mind. And yet she's such a good judge of character that she can make money as a fortuneteller? Puhleez.

I will keep going for a bit, but if it doesn't get better, I think I will have to set it aside and move on to something else.
6 December 2014 14:08 - "Swashbuckling and derring-do"
rosefox: Green books on library shelves. (books)
My current crossdressing historical romance research reading list (not all romances and not all historical, but all recommended by romance readers):

long list is long )

Strikethrough = I've read it.

Books with asterisks are not available from NYPL or BPL, so I probably won't get around to reading them, but I include them in case a) someone else wants to read their way through every single crossdressing romance novel ever or b) I decide that the 40 books I can get from the library are somehow not sufficient. That said, if you see something on that list that you think I really MUST read in order to get a complete overview of the subgenre, let me know and I'll hunt down a copy.

Any recommendations for a good production of Twelfth Night that I can get through Netflix? I've never read it or seen it performed, so I'd like to start with the best.

It's a good thing I read quickly and romance novels are usually quick reads, since I had originally planned to do most of my research in December and start writing in January. I might have to extend that a bit. Playing the Jack is pretty great (though as soon as the romantic element showed up it became instantly tiresome) and also pretty dense; I'm not yet halfway through it and suspect I'll need another couple of days to finish it.
rosefox: A necklace that looks like a piece of rainbow layer cake (me and xtina)
X and I are home from three days in Montauk celebrating our elopeaversary. For various reasons we couldn't go on our actual anniversary (11/12), and by the time we were able to head east, the place we stayed last year in Hampton Bays was closed for the season, as was most of Long Island. Apparently December 1 is the cut-off. But we found a very similar setup in Montauk--a motel with efficiency apartments that included full kitchens--and ended up being upgraded to a 2BR by the very friendly manager, Jamie. The second bedroom was wasted on us, but we appreciated the thought, especially when the enormous king-size bed in the main bedroom turned out to be hard as a board. We slept in the smaller bedroom, where the queen-size bed was decently comfortable, and used the larger one as something like a dressing room.

The kitchen was pretty great, though the stove had some issues, and the dishwasher wasn't bolted into the counter and tended to lean forward in an alarming fashion whenever someone pulled out the top rack. We mentioned these issues to Jamie, and a charming handyman named Leroy soon came by to fuss with the stove (he didn't really fix it, but at least he didn't make it worse) and make note of the dishwasher problem and change a burned-out light bulb and WD-40 the squeaky front door. He modestly took credit for the improvements in the motel that have led to considerably more positive online reviews in the past year, and I believe him; he was clearly one of those people who doesn't rest until every last fixable thing is fixed.

We had assembled a meal plan and a shopping list in advance, so one grocery run in Southampton (where we acquired our rental car, the Montauk branch of Enterprise being [all together now] closed for the season) on Tuesday was almost entirely sufficient, though we did stop at the general store in Montauk on Wednesday to pick up a few extra things. I made eggs and sausages for breakfasts and chicken soup and pesto pasta for dinners, and convinced the very skeptical waitress at the restaurant next door that I really did want to buy an entire baguette and take it home with me; I dipped pieces of it in olive oil for an excellent midnight snack. Some more of the olive oil went to fixing another squeaky hinge on the door to the bedroom we were sleeping in, since by the time we realized how bad it was, it was late and we had no desire to ring up Leroy for more WD-40.

We also had no way to ring him up, since there was no landline and our phones couldn't get any signal. Jamie was reachable by going over to the office and hoping he would be there, which he usually wasn't. But during the day the office was unlocked, so I could use his desk phone to call his cellphone and leave a message, and a few hours later he'd hit a pocket of signal and get the message and then swing by. It was a very informal sort of place, which suited us fine.

The motel mascot was a delightful fluffy dog (a labradoodle, maybe? or maybe just a mutt) named Alyssa; I don't usually describe dogs as "delightful" but she was just super sweet, friendly and polite and eager to bounce around and chase tennis balls. We hugged her and patted her and missed our cats a lot.

The weather was mostly nasty and wet and cold. We got in a little beach-walking time near the motel, but when I drove around on Wednesday afternoon scouting out hiking spots, I had to contend with drenching rain. Fortunately, Thursday dawned shiny and bright (and cold). After breakfast we bundled up, drove out to the point, avoided hitting any of the several deer that were strolling across the road, and walked down to the stony beach, where we found a great many shells and pretty rocks and fragments of crabs that had been gobbled up by gulls. ("Want to bring home a crab skull?" "NO.")

We came back to the motel, had lunch, and went out to watch the sun set over Fort Pond Bay. I tiptoed out onto the beach for a bit and found a shell that echoed a few of the purple-pink shades of the sky. I also managed to get a slightly blurry panorama photo, though it doesn't do the colors justice or convey the pure loveliness of sitting in a warm car, squeezing X's hand, and watching the afternoon gently settle into evening as a gibbous moon rose into the clouds behind us.

Click through for a larger version.

We drove down to town for a few things and by the time we headed back to the motel it was almost full dark. This did not discourage the deer from wandering around the road, so I drove very slowly and carefully, and got us safely back.

(I was very pleased with my driving on this trip. I parked perfectly every single time--albeit without having to parallel park at any point--and felt really at home behind the wheel. And my knees didn't twinge a bit, even in the molasses traffic along Route 27 on our way back to Southampton.)

Late that night I went out to get something from the car and was delighted to see that the clouds had cleared enough for me to see some gorgeous bright stars. The moon was much too bright for me to see the Milky Way, but Orion and the Big Dipper stood out clear and proud. I didn't think to look for Cassiopeia, and anyway it was too cold to stand out there for long. I made a mental note that next time we should try to time our trip to the new moon and hope for clear night skies.

As is traditional, we spent a lot of time snuggling and watching movies. This year it was The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra, which X first showed me a couple of years ago, and Desk Set, which I love and X had never seen. Both good choices, with plenty of humor and warmth. Both very cis and het, of course, but not aggressively so; the Desk Set script explicitly establishes that Bunny is interested in men (Peg saying "I don't like cats. I like men, and so do you!") and Richard is interested in women ("Why have you never married? Don't you like women?" "Oh, yeah. Sure, sure. I like women, specifically as a sex and specifically.") in a way that almost feels like hetereosexuality isn't the default, the primary romantic triangle in Desk Set is a man and a woman and a computer (with a happy poly ending!), and of course Lost Skeleton is skewering the hell out of gender roles along with everything else. So until Hollywood makes us some genuinely queer movies that aren't tragedies, these will do very nicely for elopeaversary watching.

It was very peculiar being out in the middle of nowhere, with almost no phone reception and very shaky intermittent internet, and catching glimpses of the protests and other happenings in New York. Sometimes we were glued to Twitter. Other times we just had to turn it off and lose ourselves in doing anything else.

There was plenty of "anything else" to do, even when it was too rainy to go out and about. I fussed a bit over X, who felt unwell on and off. J Skyped with us a bit, which was lovely. X got a lot of knitting done. I got X hooked on Transport Empire. I read a good chunk of Mary Brown's Playing the Jack (December is "research cross-dressing romance" month for me) and some SF/F stories with non-binary characters. I got to WaniKani level 11. I even did a bit of work so I won't be entirely and completely overwhelmed on Monday. We also picked up a 750-piece jigsaw puzzle at the general store; it was the perfect size for the big coffee table in the apartment's surprisingly spacious living room, and we got it assembled in two leisurely sessions while listening to Great Big Sea and Flogging Molly, which felt very appropriate for our coastal location.

The trip back was long and dull, something like six hours door to door, but we are home at last. We managed to get something like sufficient food into ourselves, though travel really makes that very difficult. J gave us delicious welcome-home smooches. I snuggled Sam and played with Alex and was magnificently ignored by Sophie, all par for the course. I also unpacked my suitcase because I always unpack right away, and took out the trash because recycling night comes but once a week. The dishes can wait for tomorrow.

It was a really good vacation, and a most appropriate celebration of a really good year of spousality.
2 December 2014 01:25 - "All the time, all the time"
rosefox: Me looking out a window, pensive. (thoughtful)
Happy birthday, Liam. I miss you.
1 December 2014 02:29 - "Noise inside my head"
rosefox: A mopy cartoon man saying "Weh". (depressed)
The voice of authorial self-doubt at 2:30 a.m.:

Who am I, a non-binary trans person, to take on writing about a binary trans person? I don't want to get into who's more privileged in the present day; there are good arguments in both directions, and none of them are really relevant to what I'm looking at here. What I'm looking at is this: the gap between binary and non-binary is at least as big as the gap between cis and trans. Right now, late at night after a day spent almost entirely in a really vile miserable mood, that gap looks uncrossable.

Every time I think of writing a book about someone non-binary, I turn away from it. Because if this is going to be That One Trans Historical Romance Novel, which it is because trans people don't get to be in historical romance novels, then it feels more correct, more authentic, to have that book be about a binary trans person. Because cis people might get confused about transness and think it's all about transgressing gender and messing with gender when for so many people it isn't. Because no matter how I have struggled to uproot the idea that binary trans people are really trans in some way that non-binary people aren't, it still grows in my brain when I'm not looking. Because binary trans people get to represent transness, and non-binary people don't.

Because who am I, to write a story that might have been my story?

If I were torn the same way between writing a gay romance hero and a bi romance hero... well, I wouldn't be, I'd totally write the bi romance hero, without a qualm. And if a straight person somehow got the impression that all queer people were "fence-sitters" from reading That One Bisexual Historical Romance Novel*, or if someone told me that we had to hit some sort of critical mass of monosexual romance novels before bisexual romance novels were permitted**, I'd laugh and move on. I don't know why I can't do that here. Maybe because I've had 20+ years to get comfortable with not being monosexual. Maybe because I originally said that I wanted to see a historical romance with a heroine who discovers a trans male identity--and I do!--and something something other people's expectations something wimping out something.

* There are actually several of them. My favorite is Love Continuance and Increasing by [personal profile] rikibeth.

** Which does appear to be the policy of some queer romance publishers. Unless hardly anyone is writing bisexual romance novels, and given the amount of bisexual fanfic out there I think that's really unlikely.

But tonight all the demons of doubt are gnawing my bones, and all the longing in my heart is to see someone like me on the page, and all my political sensibilities are clamoring that non-binary people can too be representative of transness. And all I can think about is how much I'd rather write what I know.
rosefox: The words "Je ne veux pas! Je ne peux pas!! Je ne dois pas! NON NON et NON!" in a comic book speech bubble (no no and no)
Tonight Ta-Nehisi Coates tweeted about trying to get other people to use Union generals as their Twitter avatars (as he's been doing for a while), and a bunch of folks chimed in, and it was rapidly expanded to include soldiers and spies to provide more diverse options. And I'd just been researching trans and crossdressing folks in the 1800s, so I put on the face of Albert D.J. Cashier, a transgender Union soldier.

Less than half an hour later I put my own photo on my tweets again and then went off to go shake in the corner. I could not deal with having a man's face on my words, even the random cat-tweets and jokes. Instant revulsion. I felt a very brief temptation to go say the sorts of things that only white men can get away with and then I stamped it out like a dropped match in a dry forest. I don't want that. I want my words to be read in the context of who I genuinely am: queer, trans, ambiguous. (Plus I'm already enough of a smug egotistical know-it-all. How much worse would I be if I had all of society's permission to get away with acting like a minor god?)

To be honest, I saw that face and I didn't trust it or anything it said. A lot of that is learned--specifically, I have learned not to trust people on Twitter whose avatars are somber-looking white men in uniform, because chances are very good that they're going to be assholes. But gender happens in context. (A lot of me not wanting to be a woman is undoubtely learned too.) My reaction was still immediate and viceral and completely real.

I queer everything I touch. It's extremely important to me that I do that. And for half an hour I de-queered myself and it was intolerable.

Today I learned that whatever else may be uncertain or flexible about my gender, I very definitely am not a man, and I very definitely do not want to be perceived as either cisgender or binary-trans.

This is going to make writing a binary trans romance hero a little more challenging, isn't it. I may have to rethink that plan.
30 November 2014 02:40 - "FLAWLESS VICTORY"
rosefox: "Joy through making things happen" (accomplishment)
I did almost everything on my to-do list! My shoulder tendons have been unhappy lately--probably because I've been spending a lot of time laptopping in bed, with awful posture--and I think I managed to work out in a way that will strengthen the muscles supporting them without overly annoying the tendons in the process. X and I got great haircuts and I braved Trader Joe's for more gluten-free flour. I ate the last piece of coffee cake last night, and X and J really liked it, so I made a new one with some improvements to the recipe and it's AMAZING. Still the slightest hint of the inescapable grittiness of GF flour, but the crumb is really impressively moist and tender. I am very pleased indeed. I hope the crustless pumpkin pie I made came out equally well; we won't find out until tomorrow's not-really-Thanksgiving thing with my mother and brother. There were no oven mishaps this time, at least, and the batter tasted good, and we have lots of DF whipped cream and ice cream to cover it with if necessary.

The one thing I didn't do was work. And now it's 3 a.m. and I need to sleep, now that the cake has cooled enough to be covered. But the family thing is in the afternoon, so presumably we'll be home in time for me to get work done tomorrow evening.

Or maybe I'll work on my vacation. It wouldn't be the first time!
29 November 2014 02:10 - "Current mood:"
rosefox: Me looking straight at the camera, calm and self-possessed. (calm)
Every once in a while I use an old userpic and think I should replace it with a picture of how I look now. But I don't want to stop using the photos Liam took of me, partly because they keep me connected to him and partly because he had such a gift for capturing expressions on my face that perfectly match certain moods of mine. My hair and clothes may have changed, but my face hasn't. So I think I'll keep using these photos for a while.

This picture is tagged "calm". It's a very specific sort of calm, not just a pose but not going all the way down deep either. Deliberate and purposeful calm. Calm readiness. A tool in my emotional toolbox, necessary for fixing particular situations or at least getting myself and everyone else through them. When I have felt calm, lately, this is the sort that I've felt.

Today I achieved something more like real deep-down serenity. I slept enough; I ate enough; I picked up books at the library and stopped at the store for groceries; I took a meditation walk and caught the last of the sun; I snuggled with X and dined with J and Skyped with Miriam and IM'd with Graham; I hung out on Twitter and then turned it off; I played a game and read a book; I drank hot chocolate and ate the last of the homemade coffee cake. I didn't get any work done, and I probably should have, because I really really want to get everything wrapped up by Sunday night so I can enjoy being on vacation all next week. But I think I needed a day like this, with enough activity and enough rest and no work whatsoever. I think I needed that a lot.

Weekend plans look something like this:

Conference call about engaging more white people in racial justice activism
Maybe go into Manhattan for haircuts with X? If so, stop at Trader Joe's for more GF AP flour
Bake a crustless pumpkin pie (I have learned my lesson) and possibly also another coffee cake if I get flour and feel like exerting myself
Family evening

Afternoon get-together with my mother and brother
Introvert evening

And then: vacation! I've been saying "I need a vacation" for months. Now that I finally get to have one, I intend to enjoy it to the fullest. I hope every day feels like today did.
rosefox: Me staring off into the sunset. (wistful)
In lieu of watching a parade that is literally an homage to colonialist capitalism, I suggest exploring the video collections of Native Faces of Beauty and Lizard Light Productions. Lizard Light's videos of hoop dancers are particularly superb.

Recommended reading: the suppressed 1970 Thanksgiving speech of Wamsutta.

And for Giving Tuesday on December 2, here are some charities worth donating to:

The American Indian College Fund
The Association on American Indian Affairs
The Indian Law Resource Center
The Native American Rights Fund


"About #BlackoutBlackFriday: We ask those who stand with Ferguson, victims of police brutality and us to refrain from shopping on Black Friday and participate in a nationwide day of action and activism." There are special events in NYC and Los Angeles.

For those who do embark on holiday shopping this time of year, please consider supporting Black shop owners on Etsy:



Today I'm reminding myself that in three and a half weeks, the days start getting longer again.
25 November 2014 04:41 - "With a bunch of lace at his throat"
rosefox: A cartoon figure slipping toward a gaping hole in the paper. (slipping)
No indictment in Ferguson. A speech from the prosecutor that was pretty plainly incitement to riot. A barely comprehensible statement from the president, who looked like he was in shock. Not shocked in the sense of surprise, but in shock in the medical sense: the thousand-yard stare, the bone-deep exhaustion of the body, the mind trying desperately to grapple with trauma.

Or maybe I'm projecting.

The thought of going to a protest is nearly enough to send me into a panic attack. I think I'm carrying a lot of fear around right now, somewhere very deep where I mostly don't see it until I contemplate anything that's even slightly scary and find myself overreacting by orders of magnitude.

(If you feel differently, here's a list of protest events.)

My biggest fear is that nothing will change. There will be no revolution, no sea change, no way to close or cross the chasms in American culture. We will just keep on like this, murders and protests and murders and protests, on forever.

I don't know how to deal with any of this. I've been listening to Brian Eno's remarkably soothing Kite Stories on endless loop because I don't know what else to do for my brain. It kept me from completely flipping out tonight, so that's good.

Beyond figuring out what the hell self-care looks like right now, my plan is to love people who are hurting, to clear space for people who are angry, and to think about how to raise a kid who won't kill anyone else's kids. That seems like the very fucking least I can do.

Dear white friends: if you can, please put some money or time toward actively making any community or space safer for people of color, and for black people in particular. This is on us.

Dear non-white friends: if there's anything I can do to help or support you, please let me know.

Comments off.
22 November 2014 23:42 - "Bigger on the inside"
rosefox: Green books on library shelves. (books)
Things that happen on Twitter:

[twitter.com profile] readandbreathe: Idea of the day: A Doctor Who/Proust mash-up.
[twitter.com profile] rosefox: Remembrance of Timey-Wimey Past, or Was It Future, I Forget
[twitter.com profile] ronhogan: I bit into a jelly baby and a flood of future memories overwhelmed my mind.
[twitter.com profile] readandbreathe: "For a long time I used to go to bed early. I'd dream of a box that is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside."
[twitter.com profile] ronhogan: OMG, that pretty much IS Amy Pond fic, right there.
[twitter.com profile] rosefox: "We are all of us obliged, if we are to make reality endurable, to nurse a few... follies in ourselves." (unchanged)
[twitter.com profile] a9ri: "the real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having a TARDIS"
[twitter.com profile] rosefox: "Every person is destroyed when we cease to see him; after which his next appearance is a new creation, different from that which immediately preceded it." Also unchanged. Maybe Proust WAS a Time Lord.
[twitter.com profile] readandbreathe: WHOA.
[twitter.com profile] ronhogan: WHOAx2.
[twitter.com profile] rosefox: "altogether he looked... as though he were the lifeless and wire-pulled puppet of his own happiness." < Matt Smith
[twitter.com profile] rosefox: (I am not a Matt Smith fan.)
[twitter.com profile] rosefox: "Often she had seen [servants] born. That's the only way to get really good ones." Yep, Amy Pond fic all the way.
[twitter.com profile] rosefox: This is making me want to read Proust, which I have never actually done. I'm just pulling quotes off Goodreads.
[twitter.com profile] readandbreathe: Ooo, you must. I just started the fifth volume.
[twitter.com profile] rosefox: Do let me know if it's better when read with the assumption that Proust was a Time Lord.
20 November 2014 01:28 - "Sucker!"
rosefox: Me on a beach, holding a red pencil and looking at a notebook. (writing)
So, uh. This happened.

If you can't see or read the image, click through for the original tweets.

Do I know how to motivate myself or what?

So here is the thing. I am super conflicted about writing fiction.

Conflict, in excruciating detail )

Fast forward to today, when I was thinking about undermining the cisnormative heteronormative tropes of romance novels, as I often do, and tweeted, "Someone please write a historical where the crossdressing 'heroine' realizes he's actually a trans guy, and the hero loves him just as much." I know a lot of romance readers and a lot of trans folks, so that got picked up pretty quickly; soon it was up to 19 retweets. I encouraged people to keep it going, and encouraged writers to write those stories. All par for the course when I say something like that. But to my surprise, the retweets kept coming. Soon it was up to nearly 50.

Meanwhile, on my private account, I made a promise to myself that I will do my own personal NaNo-ish thing in January.

So I looked at those things together, and I thought about it. For maybe two seconds. And before I could lose my nerve, I posted, "Okay, here's a brash promise: if I get 100 RTs on the trans historical romance tweet, I'll try to write it. No guarantee of success!"

It took 12 more minutes to hit 100 retweets. You should have seen my face as I watched the counter go up: excitement, terror, pure disbelief.

Having just watched three people I know do 500 push-ups, sit-ups, and squats thanks to "we'll do two for each RT this gets, ha ha, surely it won't be that many", I really should have expected that it would go far. But I didn't. And I was really touched to see so many people I know gleefully boosting the signal to support me in my self-motivation efforts, and also to see so many organic RTs and faves for the concept. Right now the original tweet is up to 196 204 206 208 RTs. Sure, the first 100 spread it to where the next 100 could see it... but there's a whole lot of love for the idea of a trans historical romance character. It doesn't have quite the same vibe of "The world needs this book" that Long Hidden had, but given that #WeNeedDiverseRomance was a trending hashtag for days, I think it's safe to say that the world needs books like this. And there's safety in numbers, even imagined numbers. If I imagine myself writing just one of the hundr--well, okay, maybe doz--okay, like five romance novels inspired by the idea of a crossdressing heroine who turns out to be trans, suddenly there's a lot less pressure than if I'm going to be writing a wholly idiosyncratic fantasy novel.

There's probably some internalized stuff about how romance doesn't count and whatever. That's fine! This once I won't question it. Whatever makes this easier, I'll take it.

So now I need a plan. First I want to take a month or so to do research and outline. I've already downloaded a bunch of romances that handle crossdressing in various ways, for genre research. I need to pick a time and place; I'm very familiar with how Regency England is used as a romance novel backdrop, and if I were going for a straightfoward deconstruction that would be the best way to do it, but I'm also tempted by Victorian England, and early 1900s New York would be fun and interesting to play with.

--my brain has helpfully informed me that as long as I'm there I could make it about immigrant Jews in 1909 Brooklyn, and research my own family history at the same time! Thanks, brain. Maybe for the next book.

Anyway. Research and outline in December, and then I start writing in January. Today while I was still on the giddy high of "WHAT HAVE I DONE" I considered a serial with weekly installments, to keep myself motivated and give myself explicit permission for it to be about as polished as you'd expect from something written in a week. I'm pretty sure that's a bad idea. But I might do it anyway, or do a NaNo-like thing, or go some other route entirely.

One way or another, though, I am going to at least try writing this thing. That's what I promised to do: try. And now the hundr--well, dozens of you who still read LJ and DW know it too, so I really can't chicken out. :) Working title because it amuses me: An Unlikely Hero. (This will almost certainly change.) By the end of December I will have an outline, even if it's literally "boy meets girl, girl is a boy, boy is cool with that, HEA", and by the end of January I will have spent at least one hour putting words in a document that might or might not be chapter 1.

And maybe after that I'll go back to being not-a-writer for a while. Or maybe I'll write the book and then another and then another--I hear it's addictive, like getting tattoos. Who knows? At this point I sure don't. As with all other aspects of my identity, I'm about ready to give up labels and just do what feels good. Next up: figuring out what feels good.

The subject line of this post is a tiny little joke I have with myself. I'm continuing my kanji studies with WaniKani, and my mnemonic for 作家, which means "author" and is pronounced "sakka", is that authors are suckers. Guess I suckered myself in this time. :)
16 November 2014 14:13 - "This beautiful lounge suite!"
rosefox: An adult and a child lead a group of people fleeing from disaster (long hidden)
It's Nebula nomination season! Soon it will be nomination season for other awards! Hooray!

I get to make an award eligibility post! Yeep!

1) Long Hidden, in its entirety, is eligible for:

* Hugo Award, Related Work
* World Fantasy Award, Anthology
* Stoker Award, Anthology
* Locus Award, Anthology
* Rose & Bay Award, Fiction
* Goodreads Choice Award, Fantasy
* Tiptree Award

We could qualify for a couple of other Goodreads Choice Awards categories, but I think Fantasy is the best fit.

2) The individual stories in Long Hidden are eligible for:

* Hugo Award, Short Story/Novelette
* Nebula Award, Short Story/Novelette
* Locus Award, Short Story/Novelette
* World Fantasy Award, Short Fiction
* Stoker Award, Short Fiction
* British Fantasy Award, Short Fiction
* Tiptree Award

The stories in Long Hidden that are over the 7500-word "novelette" threshold are "Each Part Without Mercy" by Meg Jayanth, "Knotting Grass, Holding Ring" by Ken Liu, and "Lone Women" by Victor LaValle. All the other stories are under 7500 words and eligible in the "short story" category.

3) Julie Dillon and her magnificent cover art for Long Hidden, and the individual illustrators and illustrations for the stories, are eligible for:

* Hugo Award, Best Professional Artist/Fan Artist
* World Fantasy Award, Artist
* Chesley Award, Best Cover Illustration, Paperback Book
* Chesley Award, Best Interior Illustration

I don't know which of the artists are eligible in the two Hugo artist categories; if you liked a particular illustration, please contact the artist to find out which category to nominate them in.

4) Some of the authors in Long Hidden are eligible for:

* Campbell Award, Best New Writer

When Hugo and Campbell nominations open, check the Campbell Awards eligibility page for the names of anyone you might want to nominate. (Right now it's still got last year's data.)

5) Daniel and I are personally eligible for:

* Locus Award, Editor?
* World Fantasy Award, Special Award, Non-professional? Professional?

I have no idea whether we're eligible for the Locus Award because I can't find the Locus Award rules anywhere. I also have yet to find any information on what "non-professional" and "professional" mean for the WFA. I'm guessing that since we did Long Hidden as a one-off project, that would make us eligible in the non-professional category? But I edit SF/F reviews for a living, and Daniel writes SF/F for a living, so maybe we're in the professional category? But do they cancel each other out I DON'T KNOW ANYTHING ANYMORE. The WFC website is useless in this regard. Links to definitive information would be greatly appreciated.

If you decide you liked Long Hidden enough to nominate its editors for an award, I think it makes the most practical sense to nominate me and Daniel as a team, not individually. We did an equal amount of work on the book and share credit equally; it certainly wouldn't make sense for us to compete for an award; and I believe there's precedent for e.g. the VanderMeers being nominated together.

6) Daniel and I are not eligible for:

* Hugo Award, Editor, Short Form

That award is for "the editor of at least four anthologies, collections or magazine issues primarily devoted to science fiction and/or fantasy, at least one of which was published in the previous calendar year." (Emphasis mine.) We have edited one (1) anthology, and zero (0) collections and magazine issues. If I really really wanted to make a case for this I could claim that several years of SF feature issues of PW would qualify me, but seriously that's like 5 pages out of a 50-plus-page magazine issue, so I'm quite sure it doesn't count as "primarily devoted to science fiction and/or fantasy". Please save your Editor, Short Form nomination slots for people who've done a lot more work in the field and deserve the recognition.

7) Crossed Genres, and Kay Holt and Bart Leib (not Lieb! when writing in nominations, spelling counts!) as the owners and publishers of Crossed Genres, are eligible for:

* World Fantasy Award, Special Award, Non-professional? Professional?
* Chesley Award, Best Art Direction
* Locus Award, Publisher
* British Fantasy Award, Independent Press

See above re WFA professionalism confusion.

Whew, I think that's everything! If I missed anything, please let me know. I'm new to being on this end of things. :) I intentionally omitted juried awards, but we'll be submitting the book to those too.


Following [livejournal.com profile] tithenai's lead, I invite recommendations for other award-deserving SF/F from 2014 in the comments. LJ users, please also consider posting in the [livejournal.com profile] hugo_recommend community. Definitely share your recommendations elsewhere on social media, and rate your favorite books on Goodreads (they need a rating of at least 3.50 to be eligible for the Goodreads Choice Awards). The more people talking about the year's great work, the better!

I know Kai Ashante Wilson's "The Devil in America" is at the top of my list this year for short fiction. For novel-length work, probably James Cambias's A Darkling Sea and Tim Lebbon's Coldbrook. Delia Sherman's collection, Young Woman in a Garden, was my favorite of all the great collections that came out this year; Chaz Brenchley's Bitter Waters is also well worth reading. And all of Julie Dillon's art always blows me away.

What SF/F have you loved this year?
rosefox: My hands. (hands)
I fell off the nail-biting wagon pretty hard this summer--so hard I nearly got run over by the wagon behind it--and my nails have been in a kind of awful state ever since. Today I had a long and really interesting talk with my therapist about it. I'll put the recap under a cut tag to protect fellow nail-biters who might have urges triggered by descriptions/analysis of the habit.

The psychology of nail-biting )

We'll talk more about it next week, I imagine.

In the meantime--and I'd planned this well before the therapy session--I'm wearing press-on nails for the first time in my life. I cut them nearly in half to get the butch shortness I wanted; they still feel a little weird when I type, but not weird enough to impair me. Unfortunately, these particular cheap nails are very gnaw-able, because they come pre-supplied with a layer of glue that's sort of like rubber cement, and it wrinkles and balls up and gathers dust at the edges of the nail. I'm trying to make myself either leave it alone or attack it with a file. Honestly, though, if I nibble a bit at the fake nails, it's not the end of the world, and it'll still give my real nails a week of not being bitten. Unfortunately all the more serious glue-on nails appear to do awful things to one's actual nails, and that's kind of the opposite of what I want.

Time to go take out my contacts, which I hope I can manage without stabbing myself in the eye.
12 November 2014 01:27 - "It's not me, it's you"
rosefox: Me looking out a window, pensive. (thoughtful)
The always awesome [twitter.com profile] krasnostein made a very good point today:
How would you feel if someone came up to you and very tactfully told you you were one of those missing stairs we warn others about? permalink

I should clarify, earlier when I was asking about missing stair, I think we find it icky to tell people so we use avoidance instead permalink

I think most people would rather avoid than have to tell someone to their face people find them creepy or that boob grabbing is uncool permalink
(Here's the original "missing stair" piece for those not familiar with the metaphor.)

I agree--saying these things is hard! And it's hard even when you are personally very certain that e.g. boob-grabbing is uncool and wouldn't hesitate to make a general statement to that effect.

So I'd like this post to be a practical resource for people who want to be able to tell their friends "Hey, your behavior is a problem" but aren't sure how to go about it. All suggestions are welcome. I'd especially love to see success stories--if you had that kind of conversation with someone and it went well and led to real, lasting improvements, please do share your strategy (insofar as you can without breaking confidence). Links to other resources on this topic would be great too.

Some things to keep in mind:

1) By "intervention" I mean conversations outside of and away from situations where the person behaves badly. "We need to talk" kinds of conversations. Bystander intervention in the moment is a whole 'nother thing (and there are lots of good resources for it, so I don't feel any need to reinvent that wheel).

2) No one is obligated to undertake this kind of intervention. Is it awesome to do it when you can? Yes! Is it worth the risk of damaging your friendship to try to protect your community by encouraging your friend to change their bad behavior? Sometimes it is. But if you're scared that your friend will turn on you in some way, take care of yourself first (and maybe consider extricating yourself from your ostensible friendship with that person). Assume that anyone reading this post is at least thinking about trying to make an intervention, and encourage them without shaming people who choose not to do so.

3) I'm open to comments from people who used to behave badly and no longer do, but only if the primary purpose of the comment is to talk very pragmatically about how your friends got through to you and showed you the error of your ways. Comments that mostly focus on how great it is that you got your act together will be deleted.

4) General advice is great. I'd also be interested in nuanced strategies for interventions with creepy and/or gropey men, racist white people, transphobic cis people, etc. Just specify what sort of situation your advice is meant to cover.

For advice aggregation purposes, commenting is restricted to Dreamwidth. Anonymous comments are allowed; if you comment anonymously, please sign the comment with a pseudonym or identifier (even if it's just "anon #4") to keep conversation threads clear. Feel free to share either the DW or the LJ link.

Okay, advice columnist hats on!

Dear Frabby,

My friend Pat is a "missing stair"--the kind of person people get warned to stay away from. Pat's behavior isn't totally egregious in a way that would lead to getting kicked out of places, but it often makes people uncomfortable. I know Pat has a good side and isn't just a totally horrible person. I'd like to try to encourage Pat to stop behaving badly, but I'm not sure how to go about it without Pat getting all defensive. What should I do?

Baffled Bannister
10 November 2014 02:23 - "In conclusion"
rosefox: A person in a gas mask. (illness)
Things that broke this weekend:

* My phone
* My water bottle
* The pumpkin pie

Plus I had wrenching awful nightmares this morning about loved ones dying. And I have a sore throat and have been sneezing all day--not sneezing so very frequently that I'd notice if I didn't have a sore throat, since I'm generally prone to sneezery, but enough that in the context of the sore throat I am somewhat concerned.

Of course the sore throat might just be from breathing in the smoke from the pie mishap. And broken water bottle means less hydration, though I downed two large mugs of ginger honey tea as soon as my throat started bothering me.

Oh, and my hands are covered with seasonal eczema--it flared while I was in Boston, I got it under control with steroid goop, and then two pies' worth of handwashing (which is a lot, since I was working with very oily dough) turned my entire right hand bright red, and the left isn't much better.

Otherwise it was a lovely weekend; X and I got some nice time together yesterday, J and I got some nice time together today, I slept well other than the nightmare, and we made an absolutely killer quiche and had a great family dinner last night. But I could have done without all of the things that went awry.
9 November 2014 23:42 - "Quivering malevolently"
rosefox: H.G. Wells's airship blowing up Jules Verne's dirigible. Verne: "My dirigible!" Wells: "Oh no! I'm sorry!" (disaster)
I was going to call this "how not to make a pumpkin pie" but that title is taken, so I stole a phrase from that story--which is wonderful, and you should all go read it--for my subject line instead.

Tonight's gluten-free dairy-free pumpkin pie recipe:

0) Assemble all ingredients. Preheat oven.

1) Put dough ingredients in freezer to chill.

2) Make filling. Taste filling. Make a face like this:

Sylvester the Cat with a scrunched-up face from eating alum

Determine that the store-brand tinned pumpkin had soaked up too much metal flavor from the tin. Regretfully throw out the filling. Turn off the oven.

3) Go out to dinner. While out, buy organic pumpkin in a box (not a tin).

4) Assemble all ingredients. Preheat oven to 450F.

5) Make filling. Taste filling. Approve.

6) Attempt to make dough even though the coconut oil has now frozen entirely solid. Manage it with the help of the trusty Cuisinart food processor.

7) Grease the pie plate with a bit more coconut oil, since yesterday's quiche (made with the same dough recipe) stuck to it a little. Roll out the dough. Attempt to neatly transfer the dough to the plate. Mostly succeed. Patch up the holes.

8) Pour the filling into the plate. Put it in the oven. Set timer for 15 minutes, after which you intend to reduce the heat.

9) Notice that smoke is filling the kitchen. Quickly determine that the coconut oil used to grease the pie plate bubbled over the edge and is now burning on the floor of the oven.

10) Shake baking soda over the oil and see whether that does any good. Learn what burning baking soda smells like. (Spoiler: terrible.)

11) Remove pie from oven. Turn oven off. Start toaster oven heating at 350F, since it was more or less 15 minutes. Give up all hope of the custard setting properly. When the toaster oven has heated, put the pie in the toaster oven--on top of a foil-lined baking sheet, since you are capable of learning.

12) Clean the oven floor.

13) Timer goes off. Pie is not remotely done. Heat the oven to 350F and confirm that there is no more smoke. Put the pie in the oven. Belatedly remember to turn the toaster oven off.

14) Ten minutes later: pie not done, according to a toothpick, although the top is dark brown. Also bubbly, in a fizzy-tiny-bubbles sort of way. You have no idea why.

15) Ten minutes after that: declare the pie as done as it's going to get. Put it on the windowsill to cool. The filling almost immediately breaks away from the crust. Of course.

16) Chase the cat off the windowsill. "Trust me, kitty," you say, "you don't want this pie. Probably no one wants this pie."

17) After a suitable amount of time, cut into the pie. The filling resembles Indian pudding autumn pudding in taste, texture, and color; it has the classic curdled consistency of a broken custard. The crust is soggy and mealy on the bottom and overcooked around the edge. A puddle of coconut oil rapidly fills the gap left by the "slice" of pie.

18) Decide to put the pie in the fridge, mostly for a sense of closure. Lift it up and discover that the cork trivet is glued to the bottom of the pie by coconut oil. Reach for paper towels and realize you never replaced them after using up the roll cleaning the oven. Get more paper towels. Wipe off the bottom of the pie plate, put a sheet of paper towel in the fridge, and put the pie in the fridge.

19) Write up a version of the recipe that you think will actually work. Vow to try it... tomorrow.

20) Go to bed.
9 November 2014 02:18 - "You are so dead"
rosefox: A giant X and the word "IRRITANT". (annoyed)
My phone is rather abruptly very very dead. I'm hoping the problem is with the battery ($10) rather than something that requires replacing the phone (either $100 for a new, lower-end phone right away or $150 plus a fight with the insurers and a long wait for a replacement). Until I get a new battery, I have my awful old phone--the one that I replaced after J and X invoked the household rule of "don't make yourself sad" because attempting to use it was making me very sad indeed--but it's really seriously awful and I can't guarantee that calls or texts will reach me. Email is your best bet, or IM if I'm online.
4 November 2014 15:21 - "Feed the pig"
rosefox: A cartoon cockroach in a bow tie counting gold coins. (money)
According to Mint, our peak debt was in February 2013. Since then we've cut it in half, from $46k to $23k. If we can keep paying it off at our current rate, it'll be gone entirely in another four years.

That's a big "if", of course, with FutureKid planning and all. Fertility treatments are expensive, and so are kids. I've thought "we can pay off our debt in a few years" before, and been wrong. But J keeps bringing home big bonuses, and X keeps getting promotions, and I keep landing freelance clients, and our jobs and housing situation are steady and secure... so maybe we can really do it this time.

In the meantime, I'm savoring this:

American Express Blue, with a balance of $0.00

As always, I'm profoundly grateful to X and J for being willing to share the burden of paying off my debt. I'd be having a much rougher time if I had to do this on my own. Yay family. <3
3 November 2014 04:59 - "Dreamtime"
rosefox: A painting of a peaceful garden. (peace)
Friday night dream:

I was not much older than I am now--maybe in my 40s--but I was alone in the world. A friend approached me and invited me to move on to the afterlife. "You're done learning," he said. "Now you can teach." I thought about it and decided I was ready to move on. I went down a flight of pale wooden stairs into another realm that seemed to be mostly made of corridors (very Doctor Who). I wasn't sure what would happen next, but I was calm and comfortable and felt ready for whatever came my way. Then a little black cat ran up to me--it was Sam! I was overwhelmed with joy, and I picked her up and cuddled her for a while. She followed me wherever I went after that, and I was suffused with happiness, in an almost ecstatic way, at getting to have her with me. I woke up feeling that same glow of happiness and peace and calm readiness.

Saturday night dream:

I was in an Avengers-like action movie sort of scenario, except we were fighting actual present-day Nazis. There was a lot of mistaken-identity stuff, people using digital personas to pose as one another, that sort of thing. I think we were chasing through a giant corporate hotel for a lot of it. We ended up in the main ballroom, where a huge Nazi conference was taking place, and I got into a shouting match with the head bad guy. I made a devastatingly cogent point about why it was actually perfectly fine to be Jewish. Then I woke up, feeling totally exhausted from all the running around I'd done in my dream.

Gotta say, I liked the first dream better.
rosefox: A woman with words running through her head nonstop. (agitated)
X linked me to a list of suggestions for getting enough sleep. One was "go camping to figure out what your natural sleep cycle is".

I immediately thought of my trip to Arizona last year, when I settled almost magically into going to bed at 1 and waking up at 9 every day, without effort. It felt so good. I went outdoors a lot and moved around a lot and socialized a lot every day, and then at night I just went to bed.

The last several weeks of working overtime have been great for my sleep schedule. I'm doing two extra hours of work a day, and I usually do those between 1 and 3... or later. By the time I'm done, I'm exhausted. And because I do the work late and it often technically keeps me up past my bedtime, when I finish it it's easy to say "Finally I can go to bed!". So I've been sleeping pretty steadily, though never going to bed quite as early or sleeping quite as long as I want to. Going to the gym three times a week (more or less) is probably helping too.

Today was all energy intake and no outgo. Intake: I slept in rather than setting an alarm; I lightboxed for half an hour; I ate a lot of protein and then a substantial portion of brownie à la mode; X and I watched an exciting movie for our date night. Outgo: I not only skipped the gym (mostly because my knees were aching--I really overdid it on Wednesday) but did not leave the house at all today; I barely got any work done because I was too distracted by every tiny thing; I ignored Wanikani. Now it's nearly 4 a.m. and I'm twitching like I'm going through detox. Sam got a case of the pixies and went tearing through the house, and all I could think was how much I wished I could run around the house a few times too.

Once the overtime is done--and next week should be the last of it--I'm going to need more mental stimulation, I think, especially at night after J and X go to bed. I look to social media for it, but I rarely get into real conversations online anymore. And it's not like #callahans or alt.poly was all deep discussion all the time, but I'm also not doing any online role-playing or pun-warring or chatting. It's all shallow stuff, an exchange or two and done. It doesn't use my brain the same way. I miss those conversations. :( And the games I play aren't intensely thinky games; they're about dexterity and speed, or long-term planning, or esthetics. And I don't read much (though I've read two books this week! But neither was particularly challenging). And it's been ages since I started a new knitting pattern and had to do all the associated math and such. Basically all my non-work brain workouts come from Wanikani. That cannot possibly be enough.

The snag is that I don't feel like I need more stimulation at night. By then I want to relax and do easy, uncomplicated things. But when my brain is underused, I feel twitchy and agitated. And I guess it's just not getting enough use during the day.

Feh. I can tell that this is like "I don't like eating but if I don't eat I get dizzy" or "I don't like sleeping but if I don't sleep I'm a wreck" or "I don't like exercising but if I don't exercise my knees hurt". And if the lesser evil is reading or playing challenging games or starting intricate crafting projects, that is really not so evil! It just sounds tiring at a time when I'm already tired. It sounds hard. It sounds like work.

...but the goal is to be able to sleep, so "that sounds tiring" is really not a reason to avoid doing a thing. Yes, tire me out, that is the whole point.

Not sure how to ramp up and gradually get my brain used to not being completely shut off in the evenings. Maybe I could start by reading shorter books that are uncomplicated or familiar. Or folding some origami--I haven't done it in a while, so that will be a nice way to clear off some overgrown mental pathways, and I can make a few complete pieces in an evening even if I start with mid-level stuff. (No Montroll, Brill, or Lang designs until I'm back in shape.)

For now, though, bed. It's getting on toward 5. I'm still not sleepy, but I'm exhausted.

Tomorrow I go to the gym, for very sure.
28 October 2014 22:43 - "A well-oiled machine"
rosefox: A man's head with a panel open to show gears, and another man looking inside. (examined head)
I got plenty of sleep and felt just as wretched when I woke up as I had when I went to bed. Usually taurine is a bedtime thing; today I took it within an hour of waking up.

Once it had kicked in a bit, I took public Twitter off my Tweetdeck screen, reconsidered and closed Tweetdeck altogether, opened up [twitter.com profile] tiny_oasis* in its own window, and threw myself into getting work done. I blasted through my to-do list and thoroughly cleaned out my inbox. I got up and showered and dressed, and realized I hadn't eaten, and ate in front of the big window in X's room so I'd get a bit of sun, and went out to the store because five minutes outside is better than no time outside.

* [twitter.com profile] tiny_oasis is a Twitter account run with a little script I stole put together over the weekend. It tweets periodic reminders to breathe, drink water, stretch, think about pleasant things, etc. It makes me happy.

When X got home, they congratulated me on engaging my coping mechanisms. I blinked a bit. I hadn't even realized that was what I was doing. I didn't want to be anywhere near my emotions, which were a roiling sinkhole of awfulness, so I shut them away and did my best to live on a purely intellectual plane. That's not really sustainable long-term, but it got me through the day. That said, I was rather surprised that I got a lot done rather than just huddling under the blankets and playing Transport Empire until my arm fell off.

When I fell into misery at the end of 2012/beginning of 2013, there was a terrible tipping point night where I said, "Okay, this isn't just something I can bootstrap through. I need help." And as soon as I made that leap, I was researching therapists and going to my doctor and getting on Zoloft and self-caring to the max. I just had to recognize that it was time to run the mental health care programs. Today wasn't anything like on that scale, but more importantly, today I didn't need to consciously make the leap. I just started doing all the right things.

In mid-2013 I wrote up a depression symptom checklist (thanks again to X being perceptive and connecting a whole bunch of different things that I was, once again, thinking of as one-off things I could handle as they come up) and a list of self-care protocols. I'm doing just about everything on that self-care list already; things like working out and only working when it's work time have become daily habits. That's pretty awesome.

I'm feeling a lot better than I was this morning, and last night. I hope it lasts. If it doesn't, at least I have a good idea of what to do.
28 October 2014 03:36 - "Fleeeee"
rosefox: Two cartoon characters banging on the paper trying to get out. (desperate)
I went on vacation, ostensibly. It was a very low-key trip. I took the train to Boston on Friday. I spent all day Saturday with four people (plus a brief cameo by a fifth), and then spent all day Sunday with two of the same people and two other people. I like all those people a great deal and we had a lot of fun together. There was strolling, and buying used books, and cooking and eating tasty foods, and soaking up October sunshine, and snuggling on a comfy couch. I took the train home today. All very relaxing.

I am so tightly wound you could run a watch off me at triple speed.

All I can think about is getting out of town again somehow. The three of us were planning to go upstate this coming weekend, but the person who was going to catsit needs to rescue other cats from an unhappy situation (which is totally understandable—cats in need of rescue always come first) and no one else we know can do it, and J and X weren't nearly as enthusiastic about the going-upstate idea as I was. So we're going to take a day trip back to our old stomping grounds in Inwood and walk in Inwood Hill Park. And that will be lovely, absolutely. And I'll still get a quiet weekend with my spouses. And Sam-the-cat won't hate me for abandoning her two weekends in a row. And maybe it's for the best if I don't drive while my shoulder tendons feel like steel cables. But I want to be somewhere that isn't here in a really fundamental way and I suspect a day trip to Inwood isn't going to do much for that.

Everything this weekend reminded me of another place. The train came out of a tunnel and I simultaneously expected to see the suburbs outside of Melbourne and the countryside between Tokyo and Osaka. The golden autumn light felt like our last trip to London. I wanted to be anywhere, anywhere, anywhere else. I'm homesick in reverse.

I suspect this is one part tiredness (it was not the sort of vacation where I got to sleep in, though at least I mostly got to bed at reasonable-for-me hours) and one part community/social media stress (Tweetdeck with retweets turned off has made public Twitter usable for me again, which is wonderful, but the anxiety has not entirely gone away) and one part still working overtime and one additional part tiredness because I really am very tired.

Also I got allergy-triggered by fucking incompetent restaurateurs on Sunday, and I sailed through it with the sort of carefully constructed serenity that means I'm just putting off the panic attack until later when it's more convenient. So perhaps that would explain the pounding heart and wobbly feeling I'm having right now. It's not vertigo. I checked by looking at a fixed point, and there was no spinning or other visual disturbance. But I feel like I'm on a moored boat that's bobbing up and down on the tide.

X and I are going to Long Island for our elopeaversary in a few weeks. Maybe that will help. No socializing, no couch-surfing. Just us and a motel suite with a kitchenette. And a car, if we want, but we could get by without one if driving feels like more than I can handle.

Maybe I should have gone to London this summer. But when the might-have-been-in-London weeks happened I was so happy to be here! Also London doesn't feel far away enough at the moment. Japan and Australia hold more appeal. Especially Japan, because I wouldn't have to try to pay attention to what anyone is saying. It would be nearly as good as being somewhere entirely remote and disconnected from everything with no people around at all. Except X and J. I'm safe with them.

I do not like this feeling.

Well, taurine and sleep can only help, right? So I'll go do that, I guess, and see whether I feel any better tomorrow.
rosefox: A cheerful chef made out of ginger. (cooking)
I actually don't remember how long it's been since the last time I had dairy products. As a long-established dairy-defier, I frequently give advice to people who are reducing or eliminating dairy, and I figure it makes sense to have that info all in one place.

Allergen note
Almost all of my preferred creamy/buttery dairy substitutes are nut-based. I've done my best to make non-nut suggestions for those with nut allergies, but I'm not really an expert on that front.

Equipment note
If you're going to go fully dairy-free, I highly recommend investing in two kitchen tools: a high-speed blender and a food processor. Mine are made by Vitamix and Cuisinart respectively, and I don't know what I'd do without them. These tools will let you easily make dairy substitutes that are tastier and usually cheaper than the storebought ones. A less essential but still useful third tool is an ice cream maker, which will let you experiment with sorbets and non-dairy ice creams.

Shopping note
When buying packaged prepared foods, look for the word "parve" or "pareve" under a kosher symbol. Keeping kosher requires separating milk from meat; "parve" means that something contains neither milk nor meat and can therefore be eaten with either. This will save you a lot of time checking ingredient labels for sneaky things like whey in sandwich bread, casein in shredded fake cheese, etc. Note that parve things may still contain eggs, honey, and other non-vegan ingredients.

Essential reading
The Non-Dairy Evolution Cookbook has amazing recipes for butter, cheese, whipped cream, and other dairy substitutes. Throughout this piece, I'll be referring to NDEC recipes. I've read and used a lot of non-dairy cookbooks, and NDEC is by far the best. That said, note that almost all their recipes call for either nuts or soy as a base.

Now, on to the substitutions!

Milk (for drinking, cereal, smoothies, etc.)
This is totally a matter of taste. Try a bunch of different store-bought milks and see what you like. I prefer almond milk for cereal and soy or hazelnut milk for drinking. Hazelnut milk can be used to make amazing Nutella-like hot chocolate! You can also make your own nut milks in a high-speed blender. I use the NDEC recipe for almond milk, which is just almond meal (aka almond flour) and water, and it's intensely almondy and delicious. Coconut milk (the sort intended for drinking, not the sort that comes in a can) is the best non-nut non-soy option, in my opinion, but some people prefer rice milk. I do like making my own horchata, and should really try it again now that I have a Vitamix.

Proportions for almond milk: 3.75 c water to 1 packed cup almond meal/flour or 5 oz. blanched almonds

Proportions for almond cream: 4.5 c water to 1 POUND (one full bag) almond meal or blanched almonds

Butter (spread)
Earth Balance is the standout spreadable butter substitute. There are many varieties, including soy-free. NDEC has a butter recipe but I haven't tried it yet.

Butter (baking)
Melted butter can be replaced 1:1 with canola oil or melted REFINED coconut oil. (Unrefined coconut oil tastes like coconut. Refined tastes like nothing.) For butter sticks, try Earth Balance sticks, but be warned that they are pre-salted; if you use them, you'll probably want to reduce or omit any salt you usually put in your recipes. Fleischmann's unsalted margarine, which is kosher parve, is reportedly very good for baking, but I'm allergic to another ingredient in it so I can't personally vouch for it.

NDEC has an excellent almond cream recipe that substitutes well for heavy cream, including whipping up into schlag. Coconut cream—the thick stuff at the top of a can of coconut milk, not to be confused with pre-sweetened cream of coconut for cocktails—can also be put in coffee or whipped. There does exist canned non-dairy whipped cream, but it's quite hard to find outside of hippie specialty groceries.

Sour cream and buttermilk
The easy way for making ingredients to use in recipes: add 1 Tbsp cider vinegar per cup of cream to make sour cream; add 1 tsp cider vinegar per cup of milk and let stand 5 minutes to make buttermilk. NDEC also has recipes for sour cream and buttermilk that stand well on their own.

Cream cheese
I never liked it, so I couldn't tell you which substitute is best, but NDEC has a recipe and there are a few packaged vegan cream cheese varieties available.

There are many, many soy and coconut yogurts out there. WholeSoy unflavored unsweetened yogurt is the best for cooking, and can be used as a starter if you want to make your own yogurt. I've never been a fan of eating yogurt qua yogurt, but I expect brands etc. are mostly a matter of taste anyway, so try some and see what you like.

Cashew ricotta was one of the first substitute dairy products I ever made, and it was life-changing. Soak raw, unsalted cashews for four hours, pour out the water, put the cashews in your food processor, and drizzle in fresh cold water as you process them until the texture becomes creamy and ricotta-like. Add salt to taste. When I use it for lasagna, I process in fresh basil and nutmeg.

Regal Vegan makes a basil cashew ricotta called Basilicotta that's out of this world. Unfortunately, it goes off very quickly. If you buy it, make sure there's still plenty of time before the expiration date, and use it up as soon as you can.

NDEC has superb recipes for a wide variety of cheeses: some for slicing, some for shredding, some for eating by the fistful. I made NDEC's mozzarella with homemade almond milk and it was incredible; the texture wasn't quite perfect, but it was splendid on pasta and pizza, and yes, it melts! It doesn't get gooey, but next time I might add a bit of xanthan gum to help with that. The cheese melts best in steamy/liquid environments, such as when stirred into a pasta sauce. Under direct heat, it will brown but hold its shape. To get an effect like near-liquid melted mozzarella on pizza or lasagna, I recommend shredding the cheese, melting it in the microwave, and pouring it onto the dish. Then bake until browned and bubbly.

Miyoko Schinner's Artisan Vegan Cheese isn't quite as good a cookbook as NDEC, but I do really like her gruyère recipe; it makes killer fondue and croque monsieur. Schinner's recipes frequently call for rejuvelac, which is made by soaking and fermenting grains. It's very easy to mess up rejuvelac and get a jar full of mold. My usual substitute for 1 cup of rejuvelac is 1 capsule (1/8 tsp.) of vegan probiotic powder in 1 cup filtered water. It's not quite as live-culture-y as rejuvelac but it works well enough.

Cheesemaking does take a bit of time and effort; if you're not up for that, try the many packaged shredded cheese substitutes. Lots of people like tapioca-based Daiya cheeses. My personal favorite packaged vegan mozzarella is Follow Your Heart (the shreds, not the block cheese). But homemade cheese is always the best.

As far as I can tell, there is no such thing as non-nut non-soy vegan cheese. If I were to try to make some, I'd probably make my own rice milk and then try it in a cheese recipe, but I don't know how well it would work without the soy/nut protein.

Frozen pizza
My preferred brands are Daiya and Amy's, not least because their pizzas are gluten-free. Udi's pizza crusts are also GF and DF.

Pre-sliced sandwich bread
Stroehmann Dutch Country whole wheat bread is my preferred brand, but any brand that's kosher parve will do.

Milk powder
If a recipe calls for both milk powder and water, replace the water with your preferred non-dairy milk. I haven't tried powdered non-dairy milk but apparently it exists.

Frozen desserts
I recommend exploring homemade sorbets and granitas before you try tackling homemade non-dairy ice cream. Williams-Sonoma has some good recipes. A Vitamix blender can also be used to turn frozen fruit into frozen desserts; there are instructions for this in the manual.

Once you're ready to make your own ice cream, check out the recipes in Mark Foy's Desserts of Vitality. Almost all of them call for lecithin, an emulsifier that's extremely useful for making smooth, creamy ice cream; you can get liquid or granulated lecithin (and many other useful ingredients, especially for cheesemaking) at Modernist Pantry. Those with soy allergies can look for sunflower lecithin.

For store-bought ice cream, Turtle Mountain brands—Soy Delicious, So Delicious, Purely Delicious, etc.—are consistently excellent. In my experience, all coconut-based vegan ice cream tastes basically like coconut, no matter what else it's supposed to taste like. As a rule I prefer nut-based ice creams over soy-based ice creams, but tastes vary a lot. Try things and see what you like.

What did I miss? Is anything unclear? Ask all the questions you like!
19 October 2014 00:01 - "Three phrases that always crop up"
rosefox: Me pulling hair away from my face, trying to see. (trying to understand)
I've been slowly going through the Headspace meditation pack on anxiety, and one of the things it emphasizes is not trying to get rid of anxiety but trying to change one's relationship with it.

Similarly, I think I need to change my relationship with social media. And that requires me to think about what that relationship has looked like and currently looks like, and what I would want it to look like in an ideal world.


Needs that social media currently meets really well:

1. Fun. I read a handful of comics through DW; I follow a number of really wonderful weird, funny, cute, and random Twitter accounts that brighten my day. Even if I stopped using social media for actual socializing, I'd still employ it as an aggregator of niftiness.

2. Chronicling my life. Most of this has been happening on Twitter of late, but I'm finding that increasingly unsatisfying, and drifting back toward more long-form (searchable, taggable) journaling. Either way, though, public online autobiographical narration works far far better for me than any private diary ever has.

Hilariously, neither of these things is actually social. One is almost pure input, and the other is almost pure output (with occasional replies/comments on both sides). But social media coincidentally does them really well!

Needs that social media meets but with some problems:

3. Keeping up with news and gossip. The news is almost always bad news, and there's a lot of it, and I'm finding bad news especially taxing right now--but I also don't want to be totally out of the loop, and if a close friend is personally having a hard time I want to know about it and be able to support them. I think I want a weekly newsletter/digest version of my social media feeds, where I can mostly not think about it and just check in occasionally to find out what's going on. Alas, no such thing exists.

Needs that social media no longer meets well:

4. Building and maintaining connections with people I know. A lot of people have abandoned LJ/DW, despite periodic attempts to revive them. Twitter's signal-to-noise ratio is increasingly poor. And I've already, with no particular agenda in mind, started finding other ways to stay in touch with people. I have biweekly Skype dates with Miriam and [livejournal.com profile] karenbynight. [livejournal.com profile] mrissa sent me a random email a few weeks ago that's turned into a lovely leisurely back-and-forth chat about whatever's on our minds. [livejournal.com profile] grahamsleight often IMs me. I hang out on IRC with J and X. Perhaps it's time to actively seek similar alternative routes of direct connection with the people I would miss most if I were to step away from social media altogether (which I don't plan to do, but it's a useful way of prioritizing).

Needs I used to meet with social media but don't currently have:

5. Getting to know people I don't already know. I have very little room in my life for new people, and I'm okay with that.

6. Social activism, i.e., advocating for change within my communities (as opposed to local/regional/national/global politics). It frankly feels too scary to be a loudmouth right now. I know that drinking from the firehose of bad news is influencing that feeling, so once I'm no longer swimming in other people's misery I might be able to regroup and figure out new ways to be an activist, but at the moment I'm not inclined to try.


Looking at that list, I think the major clash is between items 3 and 4. Twitter's biggest problem by far is that news and personal chatter all happen in the same place, almost inextricably. And if I can't handle the news, I don't get the personal chatter. (LJ/DW doesn't have this problem because I don't hang out on it the way I do on Twitter. I used to, but no one updates that much anymore. Plus the balance on LJ/DW is tilted much more toward the personal than toward the news, and I find it much easier to scroll past things I don't want to read.)

Fortunately, there are some technological solutions to some of these problems. Here's my plan for getting social Twitter without newsy Twitter:

* Switching from Hootsuite to Tweetdeck so that I can mute keywords, combine columns, and mute RTs on entire columns.
* Creating a "people I read regularly" list on @rosefox. Right now I use my @rjfprivate follow list for this, but I think I want the option of expanding my reading without giving more people access to my locked account.
* Only following people who mostly tweet about their personal lives and chat with other people I follow.

I've made the switch to Tweetdeck, and turned off RTs and image previews on my @rjfprivate home feed. The rest I can do when looking at unfiltered Twitter (so as to pick out the people I want to move to the daily-read list) doesn't make my heart pound.

As for getting the news and gossip I'm now going to be missing out on... honestly, I think I'll be okay. Anything huge and can't-miss will be discussed by and among the people I follow, and I'll see it there. I have some friends who occasionally email or IM me with "Have you heard?", and I can encourage those friends to do so more often if there's something they think I'll really want to know. And otherwise I'll just be somewhat less wired in than I have been, and that's okay.

I have hit the stage of dizzy exhaustion where I have to keep telling myself that it's tiredness and anxiety, not vertigo, so I'm going to wrap this up, take taurine, and go to bed while it's still dark out for a change.
18 October 2014 02:42 - "Cours, petit lapin, cours"
rosefox: A cartoon figure slipping toward a gaping hole in the paper. (slipping)
In the past two weeks:

* Still working overtime. Expect that to continue for at least a couple more weeks.
* Did a big, difficult, emotionally draining freelance project. Have another one due late November.
* Am in the process of making my picks for the Best Books issue, which is always agonizing.
* [livejournal.com profile] grahamsleight visited.
* [personal profile] karnythia and P. visited.
* SFWA Mill & Swill.
* Two publisher events.
* Had a cold for about 12 hours. I think I scared it off.
* As X's ragweed allergies wind down, my leaf mold allergies wind up.
* The days are getting shorter. I'm lightboxing and going outside as much as I can but it's still tough.
* Started going to the gym three times a week, to keep building strength now that I'm done with PT.
* Still trying to keep up with Wanikani, though it's been a struggle.
* Got aggressively hooked on Spacechem and stayed up until 6:30 a.m. playing it. More than once. That shit is dangerous. I'm glad I finally beat it and got through the two full days of twitchy withdrawal.
* Never enough sleep, in general. Fridays are supposed to be freelance days but they keep turning into "catch up on sleep" days. Today I slept until nearly 2 p.m., and by the time I ate and went to the gym and came home and showered, my workday was done. That's a problem.
* Still wrangling a Readercon safety committee thing that's been in process for months.
* Massive PMS that's amplifying all my emotions.
* Had a big scary talk with J and X about a money thing (everything's fine, I just got myself worked up over it).
* And the big one: my community is eating itself in horrible ways, with a lot of people I know feeling extremely distressed. I'm personally feeling pretty anxious and frightened even though I think the risk of anything actually doing something awful to me is very low. But when three people in three days tell me they're being stalked, and doxxing and threats are everywhere, it's very hard to stop myself from constantly looking over my shoulder. Plus I know lots of women in tech and gaming and comics and right now that feels like saying "I know lots of people who live in a war zone". It's just really scary out there right now. Even on my super-filtered private Twitter feed, it's constant.

So I'm going to hide with the family for the weekend--no public Twitter, turning off RTs for a lot of people on private Twitter, no LJ/DW/blogs, no IM, no guests or socializing--and try to recuperate a bit. I keep forgetting that I'm not a journalist anymore (in the sense of being a reporter of news) and I can do that. It's okay if I miss something. I'm not on call.

(I have spent zero days, zero minutes, and zero seconds missing being a journalist. Chronicling my own life is difficult enough.)

Expect my presence here to be pretty minimal through at least the end of October while I recover from the beginning of October.

EDIT: I cried on J a bit before I went to bed--at 8:30 in the morning because I was too anxious to sleep--and said I felt like if I don't go out there and Activist It Up because I'm scared of being targeted, then I'm a coward and the terrorists have won. He said that regardless of whether it was safe to be an activist right now, I'm exhausted and burnt out and he'd be telling me to focus on self-care. With 8-a.m.-haven't-slept logic, I said, "Oh, I see. I have activist laryngitis. Until I rest up and get my voice back, I don't need to worry about what other people would want or not want me to do with that voice." So I am clinging to this order of operations: rest and recuperate first, then decide what to do once I am capable of doing anything at all.
8 October 2014 02:52 - "So there, chicken bear!"
rosefox: "My body is sick JUST because my brain is upset! This is SO STUPID." (anxiety)
Smart-brain: If I sleep now I'll feel fine tomorrow.
Anx-brain: YOU CAN'T BE SURE!

I can't count how many times I've had that argument with myself. I always end up doing the work and then being exhausted the next day. And then the anx-brain says "SEE, I WAS RIGHT, TODAY YOU'RE A WRECK AND INCAPABLE OF GETTING THINGS DONE, AREN'T YOU GLAD YOU DID YOUR WORK LAST NIGHT" and ignores the fact that I'm a wreck due to listening to the anx-brain.

Besides, I barely slept last night due to cat shenanigans, so I'm already a wreck today and really not very capable of getting work done right now, no matter what my anx-brain says. If I get enough sleep for a change, the work that would take me two or three hours tonight will take an hour at most tomorrow.

If doom strikes, I'll deal with it, but I need to remember that at the moment all my various chronic things are in remission and the odds of doom are very low. I really can plan ahead. I really can offload things onto future-Rose and be reasonably certain that future-Rose will do them.

My room is set up with plenty of food and water and a litter box for Sam--and I made sure she saw the litter box and used it--so I can safely shut her in and Alex out. No more nighttime kitty bickering. The fan is on to help combat my tinnitus (which has gotten louder since the steroid injection wore off) and cover any litter-scratching noises Sam might make. Since I moved all my gaming from my phone to my new tablet, I'm trying to get in the habit of taking the tablet out to the dining room at night when I'm doing all my other bedtime things, so there's much less temptation to stay up until dawn. I have taken taurine. I'm so tired that I will probably pass out as soon as I turn off the light and lie down. Actually sleeping will not be a problem. I just have to make myself go to bed.

Dear anx-brain: Everything will be fine. I promise. Future-Rose is healthy and happy and responsible and entirely capable of getting everything done. You are even more anxious than usual because of total exhaustion, and I know it's hard to believe that things will be okay, but I promise they will. I would pet you soothingly but you're a brain and that sounds sticky, so have some Jedi pettins instead. (And taurine. Yes. Lots of taurine.) Poor sad anx-brain. Get some sleep. Tomorrow there will be workout-endorphins and sunshine and accomplishments and all those good things. Tomorrow you will be rested and feel great. Remember Monday? Monday was like that. Wednesday can be too. Everything will be fine. Sleep. Sleeeeeep.
3 October 2014 05:04 - "Back on your heads"
rosefox: A woman saying "Sorry... I don't see 'spontaneous fun' scheduled anywhere in here." (busy-bad)
Working overtime is good for me in one respect: by the time I'm done with my work for the day, I'm utterly exhausted, and I don't keep myself up until 5 a.m. playing games or fidgeting online.

Unfortunately, sometimes the work itself keeps me up until 5 a.m. Oh well. At least Friday is my sleeping-in day.

I think I'm also finally done with the summertime urge to stay up until dawn, which means it's time to brace for the wintertime urge to sleep well past noon. Fellow SAD sufferers, I suggest you dig that light box out of the closet and start getting in the habit of using it now. Start taking more vitamin D while you're at it. I'm already at "lick the last drops of sunlight off the windows" levels of seasonal gloom in the mornings and it's only October; this winter is going to be challenging.

In health news, I'm done with PT--my knees feel great, yay!--and considering signing up with the Blink Fitness gym a few blocks away to maintain the strength I've gained. I'd have to figure out when to go, but I really miss working out and want to get back to it, and it's hard to motivate myself at home. I'm already slacking on the post-PT exercises (again, I blame the extra work, which is happening during what used to be my nighttime exercise hour). And the gym is only $15 a month, which is perfectly reasonable if I actually use it. Maybe I'll check it out tomorrow afternoon.
29 September 2014 00:53 - "Don't sit under the apple tree"
rosefox: A cheerful chef made out of ginger. (cooking)
For [twitter.com profile] glossaria, who accused me of cruelty after tweeting about eating apple crumble at 12:45 a.m., an untested but theoretically workable mug-size version that's vegan and GF-able:

0.5 c apple pieces (half-inch cubes work well)

1.25 tsp sugar
0.25 tsp cornstarch
1 pinch ground cinnamon
barest sprinkling of salt

2 tsp flour (any gluten-free flour blend will do fine if you're GF)
2 tsp almond meal
2.75 tsp (1 scant Tbsp) packed light or dark brown sugar
1 pinch ground cinnamon
1 pinch ground ginger
1 Tbsp melted refined coconut oil or canola oil

Put a bit of oil on a paper towel and use it to grease the inside of a microwave-safe mug or ramekin. Mix the coating ingredients, thoroughly coat the apples, and pour them into the mug. Mix the dry topping ingredients VERY WELL, making sure to break up all the lumps of brown sugar or they will burn in the microwave. Add the oil, mix the topping until it resembles wet sand, and spoon it over the apples. Drape a piece of paper towel loosely over the mug to catch any spatters and microwave on Medium power in 30-second increments, checking for scorching, until the coating is molten and the apples are tender with just a bit of crunch. (This should take 1 to 2 minutes depending on your microwave.) Drop in a scoop of vanilla ice cream and eat immediately.

You can mix all the dry topping ingredients together in advance and add the oil at the last minute. If you do this, I recommend using the amounts from the original recipe, minus the oats. Then take 7 tsp of the topping mix (that's 2 Tbsp + 1 tsp), mix with oil, put on top of the coated apples, and you're good to go.
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