a garden in riotous bloom
Beautiful. Damn hard. Increasingly useful.
fresh cuttings 
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.
28 September 2014 22:53 - "Tell me a story"
rosefox: Me looking out a window, pensive. (thoughtful)
Dear LJ/DW, some random deep questions for you on a thinky sort of Sunday:

* If you've ever gone from "my friends tell me this situation I'm in is toxic but it seems bearable/fixable to me" to "whoa, this is totally toxic and I need to get out" to getting out, how did you do it? What made your mind shift?

* If you do a job or hobby that someone you love also does, and you're better at it than they are, and they feel insecure about that, how do you deal with it?

* Have you ever gone from being one sort of happy to being a completely different sort of happy? Not "I thought I was happy but I was really fooling myself", but something like "I used to love staying home all the time and now I love going out all the time", or "I used to love pushing myself to pursue my goals and now I love being contented with what I have".

And on the lighter side:

* What do you do to remind yourself to be good to yourself, and to show yourself some love?

* What adorable things have your pets done lately? Feel free to post photos/videos (as long as they're under 400 pixels wide).

* I just got a 7" Android tablet. What games should I play on it? Nothing speed-based or battle-focused, please; puzzles are fun, empire-building is fun, Diner Dash will wreck my arms, and killing little digital critters makes me sad. Recently I've been into Transport Empire, Another Case Solved, Dream of Pixels (which gradually gets speed-based but is pretty tolerable), Spaceward Ho!, and Juice Cubes. Free-to-play with in-game purchases is fine as long as the game can be beaten without spending money. I happily give money to game devs whose games hold my interest, but I don't like being blackmailed.
28 September 2014 00:28 - "We came, we saw, we kicked its ass!"
rosefox: "Joy through making things happen" (accomplishment)
Tonight we hosted a Rosh Hashanah dinner for my mother, her inamorato, and my brother (who ended up working late and didn't arrive until dessert--his loss). It was the first my-family holiday dinner hosted by someone of my generation, so we wanted to make it extra special.

The menu:

Pomegranate sangrias. Alcoholic: Sauvignon Blanc + pomegranate juice + honey. Non-alcoholic: white grape juice + pomegranate juice. I just happened to have frozen pomegranate arils*, so I put them in an ice cube tray, filled it with pomegranate juice, and made ice cubes that wouldn't dilute the sangria as they melted. These were a big hit.

* Having written this, I think I am no longer allowed to tease my mother about the time she said, "Of course you can come over for dinner, I just happen to have roasted a turkey."

Apples and honeys. This was set out for people to nosh on while we finished cooking. The Ginger Gold apples, from our local greenmarket, were peeled and cut into thick circular slices, and the core sections removed with a heart-shaped cookie cutter. We had dishes of pohutukawa and blue borage honey from New Zealand (brought to us by [livejournal.com profile] auntyglory), buckwheat honey from New England, and Brooklyn wildflower honey from [personal profile] regyt, whose hive has supplied our Rosh Hashanah honey for years now. We served the apple slices and honey on small dishes laid out on a carved wooden tray, all filched from J's stepfather's apartment in Osaka.

Dinner was served with dishes passed at the table, very comfortable and cozy and informal.

Chicken stewed with apricots and autumn spices. We based this on the Moroccan chicken stew that was such a hit at Arisia. Six pounds of chicken thigh filets from the neighborhood butcher, one yellow onion, a great many quartered apricots, homemade chicken stock flavored with Balinese long pepper and dosed with honey and lemon juice, and a spice mix of sweet paprika, za'atar, cumin, ginger, urfa-biber, ground coriander seed, and cinnamon. We cooked it all together until the chicken was falling apart, and then I shredded the meat by hand and returned it to the pot, where it happily soaked up all the broth. The texture was very similar to pulled pork. We served it garnished with toasted silvered almonds and chopped parsley, with lemon wedges for those who felt like lemoning it a bit more. It was incredibly rich and delicious.

Sweet noodle kugel. A very basic recipe, with cashew ricotta and almond cream + cider vinegar and coconut oil substituting for cottage cheese and sour cream and butter, and Jovial gluten-free egg noodles. It was mostly custard and raisins, with noodles more for the sake of tradition than for flavor or texture. My mother arrived while it was baking and said the house smelled like Cinnabon; I'm pretty sure this was a compliment.

Maple-glazed carrots. Carrot coins with a glaze of maple syrup, Earth Balance, cinnamon (this was a very cinnamon-heavy meal), and fresh thyme (though not NEARLY enough of it; I blame myself). I love this recipe, but it was completely drowned out by the considerably more complex flavors of the chicken. Oh well. It'll be great to snack on.

Cruciferous vegetables. Broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts, tossed with olive oil and salt and pepper, roasted for half an hour, and garnished with fresh pomegranate seeds. Simple and perfect.

Greenmarket salad. My mother contributed this: long beans, watermelon, pears, micro greens, picked watermelon rind, some other delicious things. It was a lovely refreshing finish to the meal.

Dessert was delayed while we waited for my brother to arrive, and it's just as well because we all ate a whole lot of dinner and needed some time to digest it.

Apple crumble with vanilla ice cream. More Ginger Golds, tossed with cornstarch and sugar and (all together now) cinnamon, topped with chopped oats and gluten-free flour and almond meal and brown sugar and a bit more cinnamon because why not. The directions say "Mix topping with coconut oil until it resembles wet sand" and that's basically what it was still like when it came out of the oven with syrup bubbling up all around it: delicious, delicious sand. Of course we do make twice as much topping as the original recipe called for. Anyway, it was phenomenal, and we had Häagen-Dazs Vanilla Bean for the dairy-eaters and Soy Delicious Purely Vanilla for me and X, and I had a second helping even though I was super intensely full.

Our agenda looked basically like this:

08:00: X and J get up.
09:00: J goes to the farmer's market. X lets in Angela, our superb house cleaner.
11:00: R gets up.
12:00: EVERYONE EATS LUNCH. NO EXCEPTIONS. (Cooking while hungry is a bad, bad idea.)
13:00: R and J start cooking. X naps.
14:00: Angela leaves.
15:00: R and J take a break. X cleans up.
16:00: R and J go back to cooking. X sets the table.
18:00: R and J take turns showering and getting dressed while cooking continues.
19:00: Guests arrive.
20:00: Dinner is served.
21:00: Dessert.
22:00: Everyone go hoooome.

We didn't stick to it precisely--we started cooking at 12:30 because we were all energized, and for a while we were way ahead of schedule so we took more breaks--but dinner was on the table at 20:02. I am very, very proud of that.

My mother and D left at about 22:30; my brother stayed and chatted with me for another hour or so.

I think X ran the dishwasher four or five times. Maybe six, counting the current load. J and I cooked together splendidly, as we always do, and whenever we sat down for a bit, X whisked in, tidied up, and whisked away again. The three of us are such a phenomenal team. We were relaxed and happy the whole time, joking and smooching and smoothly navigating around one another. I don't think a single cross word was spoken all day.

My mother was thrilled and impressed, and she stayed at the table the whole time--no bustling in the kitchen!

My feet hurt and my back hurts and I ate too much and I'm basking in the glow of getting exactly the holiday dinner I wanted.
27 September 2014 01:59 - "Happiness and harmony"
rosefox: Two cupped hands holding the Earth. (healing)
As we leave the old year behind and begin a new one, I am grateful for any and all opportunities to make amends for my transgressions. If I have harmed or hurt you, deliberately or through carelessness, I would be glad to know what I can do to right that wrong.

If you have harmed or hurt me this year, it is already forgotten--and I mean that literally. I'm sitting here trying to think of anything that might be called a grudge in my heart, and coming up empty. So if you are carrying around the weight of having done me wrong in some way, consider that burden lifted.

I wish you all a bountiful year of peace, joy, and love.
20 September 2014 01:11 - "CHEESE OF THE DEVIL!"
rosefox: A cheerful chef made out of ginger. (cooking)
The subject line is what [twitter.com profile] jamessacorey said when I claimed that J and I had made almond mozzarella. But we did! Here's photographic proof:

a small wheel of white cheese

And here's what it looked like on pizza:

a small pizza covered with tomato sauce, melted cheese, and pieces of sopressata

Yes, it shreds and melts, thanks to the magic of kappa carrageenan, though it doesn't get stretchy (I'd have to add xanthan gum for that) and it doesn't love direct heat. I made that pizza with 10 minutes in the toaster oven preheated to 450F followed by 4 minutes under the broiler, and it came out fine. But when I put slices of the cheese (not shreds) on top of bread and toasted it, with the toaster oven starting out cold and heating the toast from both above and below, the cheese got an odd sort of thin crinkly skin on top, though it was lovely and melty underneath. It had only started to brown slightly when I took the toast out, but I'm sure it would brown well if given the chance.

It is far FAR better than any storebought vegan mozzarella I've ever had. The flavor is perfect, milky and mild. The texture is a little solid, almost rubbery; it would be perfect for something like deep-fried cheese sticks but it's not quite right for eating on crackers. There's a "buffalo mozzarella" recipe that cuts the carrageenan from 4 tsp to 3 with all other proportions the same, and I might try that next, since I still have some almond milk in the fridge.

Oh yes, this is made from homemade almond milk: almond meal + water + Vitamix + 2 minutes. (I love the Vitamix so so so much; very grateful to [livejournal.com profile] auntyglory for that housewarming present.) So the complete and total ingredient list for the cheese:

Almond meal
Tapioca starch (aka tapioca flour)
Refined coconut oil
Kappa carrageenan
Lactic acid powder (lemon juice can be substituted)

That's it. And making it was pretty simple, though it required some elbow grease (provided by the mighty [personal profile] sinboy): blend the non-acid ingredients*, heat in a nonstick pot over medium-low, stir frequently until it goes through the curdled stage and becomes glossy and goopy and thick (and reaches 175F internal temperature), remove from heat, rapidly mix in acids, pour into a mold and let cool, put in the fridge to set. I keep it wrapped in paper towels to absorb excess moisture that gradually rises to the surface, so the cheese gets firmer over time.

* The recipe recommends blending everything except the acid and the oil and adding in the oil in the pan. This doesn't make sense to me, since the Vitamix can emulsify the mixture far better than a person could manage by hand. Maybe the oil becoming fully incorporated into the mixture would be a sign of cooking progress? Still, I should probably try it the way the recipe recommends, to see whether that affects the cheese's texture in some way.

In short: chemistry is pretty incredible. And delicious.

The recipe is from The Non-Dairy Evolution Cookbook, which is nonstop amazingness from cover to cover. The book is inexplicably self-published; I don't know why it isn't being brought out by a trad publisher and marketed the way Miyoko Schinner's Artisan Vegan Cheese was, but the only place to buy it is from the author's website. So if you're interested in making your own vegan cheese (and butter and whipped cream and sour cream and all sorts of other fake dairy products), please support awesome queer vegan self-publishing chefs and buy a copy. I recommend the PDF edition, which is full of seriously impressive photos.

Now to decide what to make next: mild cheddar or Swiss. The Swiss calls for extra-dry vermouth, and I'm not sure we have any... must check with J, who's in charge of the liquor cabinet.
19 September 2014 02:22 - "Burning the candle at both ends"
rosefox: A cheerful fellow with a giant chaotic jumble on a leash. (busy-good)
PW is lacking a copy editor at the moment (do you want to be our next full-time copy editor? Apply here!), so I offered to help out. They took me up on it to the tune of eight extra work hours a week. On top of my current freelance projects. Of which I have a copy edit due tomorrow, a crit due 10/7, and another copy edit due 10/28--all of full-length novels.

It's been a while since my workload was this intense. I'm enjoying it, but it's taken me a little while to get up to speed. I think I've more or less remembered how to balance work and sleep, and sometimes I see my family for a minute or two, and I'm pretty good at remembering to eat at least twice a day. Those being my priorities, expect to see a lot less of me around LJ/DW and Twitter for a while. I'll try to keep up, but no guarantees.
rosefox: A spark crossing a spark gap with the word "aha!". (aha!)
"It's 4 a.m. Do I want to make the spice mix for next Saturday's chicken stew?" I thought about it. "Nah, I'm too tired. I can do it tomorrow."

This felt somehow luxurious, and I was reminded that for a long time I couldn't count on being able to do something the next day. If I had the energy to do it right away, I did it right away.

When I was a kid and a teenager, I'd stay up late, the way my body clock wanted, and then I'd get up early, the way society wanted. I was pretty useless during the day. The only time my brain really worked was at night. So if I wanted to get something done, I'd better do it at nighttime while I was functional. Plus I was always running late with things, pushing deadlines or blowing past them, pulling all-nighters to make up for days of slacking or struggling.

Depression and anxiety exacerbated this. For years I had daily mood swings, from crushed and miserable in the morning to ebullient at night. Nighttime was the time for doing things. I felt alert and creative and smart. Morning was... impossible.

My intermittent physical disabilities (tendinitis, vertigo) aren't tied to circadian cycles, but they certainly amplify the calculation of "Am I functional? Then GO GO GO because who knows when I'll be functional again". And freelancing full-time made it easy to alternate between long intense work days and long exhausted crashing days, which I did on an approximately biweekly cycle. I still book my freelance contracts on that principle: "This will take me three days to do, so I'll quote nine on the theory that I should be capable of working on at least three of those nine days." I push deadlines occasionally but not nearly as much as I used to.

I've always relied on being fast and efficient enough when I can work to make up for there being a lot of time when I can't. (I refuse to bill hourly for freelance gigs, because I put in half as many hours as anyone else and do just as good a job. Flat fee or nothing.) I've put a lot of effort into training myself to work faster and faster. I use countless organizational tools to make myself more efficient. And my anxiety wires me up and drives me hard.

After I recovered from an awful bout of depression a few years ago, I took such joy in having extra energy to burn off every night. I'd bustle around the apartment, tidy, do dishes, take late walks. It was an amazing feeling. "Leftover spoons! Who knew that was possible? Is this what normal people feel like all the time?" But soon that was coopted by the certainty that the next spoon deficit was just around the corner. You can't really bank energy or awakeness or clarity of thought. You use it or lose it. And I couldn't risk losing it and then finding myself unable to replenish it later.

I'm no longer paralyzed by depression or anxiety. My body's in pretty good shape, and I haven't taken a sick day in months. My personal and professional schedules accommodate my body clock. I'm not overloaded with work. Every night I struggle to make myself turn out the light, always certain that there's one more thing I could (should) be doing, always anxious that if I don't do it now I'll have missed my chance--and then I wonder why I feel that way when my odds of being functional tomorrow are pretty high. The "now or never" voice is obviously wrong.

But it's been right most of my life. And I'm not getting any younger, so presumably something will shortly go haywire in my body or brain (or we'll have a baby) and I'll need to go back to ruthlessly using up every scrap of energy as soon as possible before it fades and can't be replenished.

This starvation mentality is awful. I recognize it--I've seen it in people who grew up without much money and in people who grew up without much love, so it's pretty easy to see that I grew up without much time--but I don't know how to get out of it.
14 September 2014 22:00 - "Fine and dandy"
rosefox: Me in men's evening dress. (boy)
"I'd love a watch fob," I told [livejournal.com profile] kythryne, "but my 'pocket watch' is my phone."

Charcoal-grey waistcoat with silver watch fob on a chain that leads to a mobile phone in the breast pocket

This is a lousy photo because of course I couldn't take it with my phone--I ended up holding my laptop over the table and using Photo Booth, ugh--so here's a much better picture that Kyth took of the fob itself:

Watch fob of an antique pen nib with silver wire wound around it in fantastical swirls

She made the fob from an antique pen nib and silver wire and chain, with a hand-hammered bar. I recently killed a cheap micro USB cable, so I snipped off the end and wound more wire around it (an entirely amateurish job that I hope Kyth will redo the next time she visits) and clipped it onto the end of the chain. Voilà: a phone chain and fob. It's the perfect combination of techno and retro and swirly silver elegance and it makes me very very very happy.

This was a proof of concept for Kyth, so she doesn't have any ready-made watch fobs in stock, but she'd probably be willing to adapt any of her amazing pendants for a small fee. Or you could just buy them and wear them as pendants, of course.
rosefox: Me hugging a giant teddy bear, very sad. (sad)
Some years I have a lot of thoughts about the 9/11 anniversary, or a lot of feelings, or both.

This year I am utterly exhausted, far more than usual--basically no sleep last night, not much the night before--so I have no thoughts or feelings beyond a particularly deep sad weary anger over our grief being appropriated to justify military invasion, jingoism, and racism. And I've felt that way for 13 years, so at least it's familiar and not precisely wrenching.

I ended up walking past the memorial tonight, entirely by accident. I was picking something up from X's office and foolishly went to the nearest subway stop, which is right up against the WTC site. The sidewalk was crammed full of gawking tourists taking photos of themselves and each other and everything. It was all I could do not to shout at them all to fuck off. I saw a couple of firefighters in dress uniforms and gave them The Nod. They looked sad and uncomfortable. I probably did too.

I want another memorial somewhere else, somewhere small and quiet, a memorial that only the grieving go to. In a hundred years it can just be another peaceful little sculpture park with a somber plaque that most people don't bother to read, a place where office workers eat lunch and kids play and life goes on. I would like that a lot.
9 September 2014 01:10 - "Cigarette butts in gutters"
rosefox: Autumn leaves on a wet sidewalk. (autumn)
After taking a break from Headspace to think about whether I wanted to keep using it, I decided to give the anxiety series a shot. So far it's pretty good. I haven't been able to do it every day, because doing it at bedtime wasn't really working for me, but I'm doing my best to keep up with it. I'm still annoyed about the enforced altruism, but it helps to have deliberately decided to keep going with full knowledge that that's part of this particular system. Tonight the meditation really emphasized taking a long moment to think about the other people who will benefit from my "improved relationship to anxiety" and I found it very comfortable and emotionally engaging instead of enraging. So buy-in was clearly key, and I'm glad I obtained my own buy-in even if the narration didn't bother to.

The main exercise I'm doing in this series is observing what distracts me and labeling it: thinking, feeling, remembering, sensation. Mostly I'm thinking. I take a lot of notes in my head. I narrate everything I do, as though I'm blogging or tweeting about it or telling my therapist or telling X and J... really, constant narration. Underneath it all is anxiety that if I don't explicitly take note of something I'll forget about it. (This is the same anxiety that propels me to take an empty glass into the kitchen as soon as I spot it, or to put something on my calendar as soon as it's booked. I think of these as good habits, but their roots in anxiety are problematic.) I might try deliberately preparing for meditation by telling myself that whatever happens in those 15 minutes happens outside of time, essentially, and that I don't have to remember any of it. I wonder how that would change things.


We took Sam back to the vet on Saturday when she started displaying UTI symptoms again. They gave her a shot of antibiotics that's supposed to work for two weeks. She was fine Sunday and most of today, and then tonight she started running to the box every five minutes again. :( Poor kitten. I'll call the vet tomorrow and see whether we just need to wait it out while the drugs do their work.

While I'm there, I'll get Alex a Prozac refill; we tried taking him off of it for a couple of weeks and he was just too agitated about being cooped up in an apartment. Poor kitty. He should really be a barn cat with a belly full of mice, a territory measured in acres, and a life expectancy of about five years. But he's a city cat and we would like to keep him around for rather longer than that, so Prozac it is.


Last week I got some erroneous information about a deadline and fell way behind. I did a lot of work last night and today and am now caught up. I'm very pleased with myself for buckling down and getting it done. That's not something I've traditionally been too good at.


My physio pointed out that my right quad muscle is now visibly larger and stronger than the left. Apparently I respond extremely well to electrotherapy; all my workouts at home are bilateral, but at PT we've only been doing electro on the right leg. I've been taking lots of long walks and my legs are very happy about it. My knees still twinge occasionally, but it's all muscle and tendon aches now from the walking and exercising. The joints feel much more protected. I am very relieved to have had a more rapid recovery with my legs than I did with my arms (undoubtedly aided by catching it early and not shrugging it off).


I've been working on a private project that I haven't shown to anyone. I told X and J that it exists, and occasionally I talk with them about it a little bit, but mostly it's for me. It's as much a way of exploring the inside of my own head as it is about the project itself. It's remarkably liberating, having something just for me.


We've had five fans running in the main room all summer: two venting, three circulating air. Sometimes it's six when we turn on the range hood. Tonight I turned them all off, even the little vent fan in the ceiling. The quiet was amazing. I wonder how much of a burden it's been on us, just being surrounded by all that noise. It presses in on you.

Last night I slept with my window open, and my air conditioner off. It was almost too cool to wear shorts today. I'll probably wear jeans tomorrow.

Hello, fall. I missed you a lot. I'm so glad you're here. It's been a tough summer and I could use some gentle breezes.
4 September 2014 00:25 - "I'm not a rabbit!"
rosefox: "That dumb ass analogy just cost me a few million brain cells." (metaphor queen)
R: I am very tired.
X: Yes.
R: I am... non-Euclideanly tired.
X: Um...
R: Layers of tired cake held together with tired and frosted with tired frosting. Sculpted into tired.
X: Promise me you'll stay off Twitter.

(Edited to add my metaphor userpic.)
3 September 2014 01:58 - "Your cat though"
rosefox: A crossdressing man in bed with two women asks "Do I come across as too analytical? I could see that". (threesome)
Random assortment of stuff.

1. It hit 92 today, and felt hotter than that. There was an air quality advisory until 10 p.m. Even my aggressively air-conditioned room felt warm and humid. I didn't go out for my midday walk, and missed it. My knees are doing better and I am desperate to be outside and moving around except for the part where the actual air is made up of equal parts murder and hate. Usually I get this kind of cabin fever in the winter; I'm not used to it in summer.

2. A work deadline that I thought I had missed by several days turns out to be tomorrow. That was a very nice email to get.

3. Sam peed on the old suitcase she likes to sit on, and then on the one Alex likes to sit on, and also on the top of my dresser where Alex's suitcase was. So the suitcases are out by the trash bins, and Sam is confused and sad because her usual sitting places are gone. I think it's stress, not another UTI, but I have no idea what to do about it. If I shut her in my room at night she gets upset because she can't get to her litter box (of course I moved it into my room but she doesn't care because it's in the wrong place). If I leave my door open at night Alex chases her around and sometimes chases her out of the litter box while she's using it because he is a jerk. So... I have no idea. I should probably just keep shutting her in my room until she gets used to it, and put up with the inappropriate peeing in the meantime.

Alex is resolutely napping on top of the dresser as though his suitcase was still there. I'm torn between "poor kitty" and "that's what you get for being a jerk and stressing Sam out so much that she peed on your favorite spot".

(The suitcases themselves are no big loss; they were coated in a thick layer of shed fur and I had no plans to ever use them again for travel. I knew this was how they would eventually die. Still, it's sad.)

My room smells of pee despite aggressive cleaning and spraying Anti-Icky-Poo on every surface that might possibly have been contaminated. I am really not happy about this.

I'm taking Sam to the vet tomorrow just to make sure it's not another UTI. At least they'll be happy about her weight gain.

4. J and I had a very nice date tonight: endless punning, dinner out, a lovely lazy stroll around the fountain at Grand Army Plaza (the mist made the warm evening quite bearable), buying ice cream, tasty makeouts. Sex TMI ) It was one of our best dates in recent memory.

R: I missed you.
J: I missed you too.
R: I missed me. I thought you were the one who was gone, but really it was me all along.
J: Yeah.
R: I'm really really glad I got off the Zoloft.

Punning and joking! I'd just plain forgotten how to do that--I'd forgotten to do it. It's good to be back.

5. X had a panic attack tonight because it's been a shitty stressful couple of weeks. J and I wrapped them in hugs until they felt a little better. I prescribed a low-stress diet, by which I mean farming out or postponing anything that can be farmed out or postponed. Hopefully that will help.

6. I reached level 5 on WaniKani! This whole kanji study thing is pretty cool. I am purely astonished that a language can simultaneously have so many pronunciations per word and so many words per pronunciation. (Does "sen sei" mean "thousand correct" or "previous life"? I would have thought the former was a more likely term for "teacher" but it turns out to be the latter.) A lot of any language is figuring things out from context, but the number of meanings for e.g. こう is making me really impressed that anyone can comprehend spoken Japanese at all. Understanding the kanji is actually easier in some ways, and when I mess up on the quizzes it's almost always because I've mixed up on'yomi and kun'yomi or otherwise forgotten how to say the word, not because I've forgotten what the character means.

7. Biweekly Skype dates with [livejournal.com profile] karenbynight are one of the best ideas I've had in years. It's just so lovely to hang out and talk with a friend.

I'm tired and I have work and chores to do and I need to do my knee exercises, so I should probably go do the dishes, eat ice cream while exercising (the joy of low-impact exercises one does sitting down), do my work while post-exercise ice is on my knee, and go to bed, in that order.
2 September 2014 04:43 - "I wish it would go back"
rosefox: Spock's pointy ear. (ear)
It's been 16 weeks since the injection.

Saturday and Sunday I had a weird sort of sensation that felt like static in my head, which may or may not be related to the ear stuff. I was also massively underslept and think that's more likely to be the culprit. But I note it here just in case.

Yesterday and today, my right ear hearing has been occluded slightly; I blamed the storm system that's been squatting over the region giving us all pressure headaches. Today I had a three-hour bout of vertigo, from about 18:45 to about 21:30, mild enough that I had to keep checking to make sure it was still going on but definitely vertigo. Symptoms )

I took two taurine and had substantial food, and it cleared up pretty quickly after that, but I'm quite certain it was neither anxiety nor hunger-dizziness; it was vertigo, and I didn't miss it at all.

I really hope it's just the atmospheric pressure and will go away when the weather breaks. If I need to get an injection in my ear every four months I will be Very Put Out.
2 September 2014 00:03 - "Bait and switch"
rosefox: A sci-fi landscape and the words "DISSENT IS PATRIOTIC". (uppity)
Three comics crossed my browser in sufficiently short order that I sat up and took notice. (In all cases, click the image to view the original.)

Transcript )

"You think I'm transphobic... but all I really care about is accurate costuming!"

Transcript )

"You think I'm transphobic... but all I really care about is fashion!"

Transcript )

"You think I'm transphobic... but I'm just mad about you lying to me!"

The punchline in all three cases is that the cisgender authority figure could be an asshole, but is choosing not to be... and they want to make sure the person with no power--the child or employee, the trans* or GNC person--is aware that it's a choice. It's a statement of power. I could make your life miserable, but I won't! Ha ha!

And I want to focus especially on the reaction shots, first distress:

And then elation:

These people are so upset at what sounds like scorn, and then so grateful for what turns out to be (or look like) respect and acceptance, that they don't even notice the way "respect and acceptance" have been recast as gifts rather than as simply what they deserve for being human. The children are particularly vulnerable to this, because few things are more devastating to a child than the threat of a parent's love being withheld. The relief on Sarah's face is heartbreaking.

If respect and acceptance are gifts, rather than a person's birthright, they can be taken back, or bargained for. That makes for a very unpleasant dynamic when it's combined with the dependence of a parent/child or employer/employee relationship. And the emotional weight of that combination is what the creators of these comics are drawing on when they write these jokes.

When the power differential is removed, friends can come out to friends and have it be no big deal:

Transcript )

Transcript )

No tears or glowing relief there--just a brief awkward moment of "So what do we talk about now?".

Or they can talk and argue and say foolish things and learn from each other as equals, as in the Irma/Irving arc from The Princess, which is too long to quote here but is really excellent.

But add the element of power and you get gripping emotional tension. And comics creators are choosing over and over to use that tension to fuel a joke, without really thinking about what it feels like when someone who has a lot of power over you, someone you respect very much and possibly even love, has just said something that sounds a lot like a condemnation of your identity and/or self-expression. That moment is devastating, and no table-turning additional context can redeem the thoughtless cruelty of an authority figure saying something like "Take that off immediately before the neighbors see you!" or "No one will take you seriously" to a person who is in a tremendously vulnerable place.

I will give some leeway to the creator of The Princess, because so much of the comic is about Wendy and Sarah's relationship, and Wendy slowly coming to terms with Sarah being trans. The very first strip was Wendy yelling at Sarah to stop wearing a dress. The comic up there, where she says she's going to donate Sarah's boy clothes, is strip #500. So their relationship is a lot more than a one-off joke, and full credit for that! That said, the ellipsis between panels 3 and 4 is massively unfair to both Sarah and the reader, and so is Wendy's angry tone. Sarah has no happier expectations of "Go straight up to your room and open your closet--" than James/Batgirl has of "Take that off immediately before the neighbors see you!". Her face in panel 3 makes that clear.

As a bonus, in the first two comics we get cis people being experts on how to be trans*/GNC correctly. "You don't want to be wearing the clothes you're wearing! You want to be wearing these other clothes that follow the rules. Poor clueless person who doesn't know how to gender. Since I am fortunate enough to have a lifetime's experience in being exactly one gender, I will help you to learn gendering, for you are like a newborn lamb tottering about on wobbly gender-legs." I'm the first to acknowledge that cis men have provided me with a tremendous amount of useful advice on menswear and I'm very grateful for it, but you know, if someone's first reaction to seeing me in a men's suit was to tell me that it was out of date and also my haircut sucked, I would find that really goddamn rude. So even the "respect and acceptance" isn't, really. What if the employee's tie was his grandfather's and it means a lot to him to wear it? What if Batgirl hates wearing yellow and enjoys walking around in impractical shoes? Why does being accepted mean being pressed to conform to particular dictates of fashion?

Well, because this culture sucks and its notions of gender are inescapably about conforming to gender norms. But perpetuation of that is not acceptance. Especially when it comes to GNC folks, and to people who are just starting down a new path of gender expression and have to maintain two separate wardrobes and are low-level employees who can't afford a lot of new clothes, and to people who have their own fashion sense, and to people--both children and adults, but especially children--who need room to play around and experiment and explore and figure out what they like. That newborn lamb needs to totter about on its own for its legs to get stronger so that it can leap off to wherever it pleases.

Accepting someone as e.g. male doesn't mean crushing them into a tidy little packet of 100% Grade A Extruded Maleness. It means saying "Oh hey, nice haircut, and I like that tie" the way you'd say it to anyone else who cut their hair and wore a tie. It means treating them like an individual person who gets to make individual choices.

I'm not criticizing people for laughing at these strips. I laughed at the Batgirl one, which was the first of the three that I saw. It's very easy to fall into the cultural pattern of thinking this sort of thing is funny, of sharing the trans*/GNC character's relief at not being stepped on like a bug and turning that relief into laughter even as the "respect" comes in the form of a backhanded insult compounded by social pressure that makes it nearly impossible to decline what crumbs are offered. (If the employee really liked his tie and didn't want to change it, do you think he felt free to say so to his very vehement boss? I don't.) But in actual real life, it's not funny. In actual real life, it hurts a lot. In actual real life, it's incredibly unpleasant to have people act like the only two ways to treat you are to either reject you or force you to conform. And the repetition of it really got to me.

I know pain is the root of a lot of comedy. But when this particular pain is made into a punchline over and over again, I have to ask why, and to challenge creators to do better.
1 September 2014 03:43 - "A little butterball"
rosefox: A severed head saying "Thanks.. I needed that". (relief)
I just weighed Sam and she's up to 11.2 pounds! Hooray! That's actually slightly more than she weighed at her last annual checkup (10.9 pounds). I'm so relieved that the weight loss was caused by an environmental/social thing that we could correct, and wasn't a sign of a dire health issue. When we feed her high-protein kibble in a place where she doesn't feel she has to compete with the other cats, she happily chows down. It's splendid to see her in such good appetite and back to her normal healthy size.

For weight maintenance, the kibble bag suggests feeding her 1/4 cup twice a day. I might give just a little more than that, since Alex sometimes sneaks in and gets a bit of it, but that should be enough to keep her happy.

Weighing her means weighing myself--she doesn't stay on the scale when I put her there, of course, so I weigh myself alone and then holding her and do the appropriate subtraction--but so far that hasn't bothered me. I just have to be careful to only do it once a month. Otherwise I start thinking about my body shape in numerical terms, which I really don't like doing.

In cat drama news, Alex has taken to chasing Sam out of her litter box when he sees her using it. This is Very Not Okay. He also chases her around at night if they end up in the living room at the same time. If I leave my door open at night he sings the "I killed it! Look, look!" song just outside until I wake up and stagger out to see whether he's killed a bug or a cat toy, and sometimes he skitters in and paws under my closet door at imaginary critters. We took him off the Prozac because he seemed to be doing well and getting along fairly well with the other cats, and I'd rather not put him back on it just because he's a rambunctious young cat full of energy, but Sam is nearly ten years old and was never really interested in playing the way Alex wants to play, and I need to be able to sleep through the night.

I tried keeping her in my room last night, and shutting Alex out. That worked okay, since she has food and water here and would be happy to snuggle me until the end of days, but she woke me after about seven hours to ask to be let out to use the box. Tonight I moved her box into my room (to the spot where she peed when she had the UTI) and hopefully she'll make use of it in a fairly quiet way that doesn't require waking me.

Poor Alex. When he saw me today after being shut out all night, he was SO loving and purring and nuzzling and love-biting. I hate locking him out. :( But he can handle it better than Sam can, by which I mean he doesn't howl at my door when he's separated from me for a few minutes, and I'll make sure to give him lots of love and access to my windowsill during the day.
29 August 2014 19:57 - "The world could end today"
rosefox: Me hugging a giant teddy bear, very sad. (sad)
With shock and great sorrow, [twitter.com profile] ladyjax reports that [livejournal.com profile] deluxvivens/[twitter.com profile] deluxtoo has died.

I think she'd be astonished that I wept for her the way I did. We weren't close friends. But I admired her tremendously, and learned a great deal from her, and was always glad when I got the chance to chat with her or read her words. She was the embodiment of defiance, full of warmth for those who earned her friendship, often surprisingly patient with the clumsy but well-intentioned, and unstintingly scornful of fools. She loved Black American culture and history and shared her knowledge widely, along with her extensive collection of photos and videos of sexy men of color--and she may have played up her thirst for manflesh, but she was very serious about celebrating those men as a way of fighting back against stereotypes that demonized them. It was one of the most splendid marriages of the personal and political that I've ever seen. She was a Black NDN, fiercely proud of her Native heritage, and powerfully outspoken in support of indigenous peoples everywhere. She was a Brooklynite with roots all the way down to bedrock.

I always thought we'd find a way to get together someday for a stroll and a drink in Brooklyn, or a movie full of hot shirtless guys. I was looking forward to teasing her about being seen in the company of a white gentrifier and what that would do to her street cred. I'm really sad that that won't ever happen now.

The world is a better place for having had her in it.
rosefox: Me staring off into the sunset. (wistful)
I was feeling sad today. I tried listening to Information Society's Don't Be Afraid*, which used to be my go-to for "having a bad day and want to wallow", and I realized I am just not depressed enough to ride that ride.

* Well, technically it's Kurt Harland's solo album, but he released it under the band name for reasons I will never entirely understand.

If you're not familiar with the album, it is a nonstop parade of horrible lunatic depressive misery. Do not click here if you're susceptible to graphic depictions of mental illness. ) It doesn't need a PARENTAL ADVISORY sticker so much as a TRIGGER WARNING sticker, for the album as a whole and for each individual song.

I used to play it on constant repeat. It was the narration of everything in my head. It made perfect sense. It was so comforting to know that someone else felt the way I felt. I wasn't experiencing actual visual hallucinations, but the rest was true, bone-deep true.

Upon reflection, I suspect I was rather more messed up than I realized at the time--and I knew I was fairly messed up.

Just a little bit, I miss how wonderful it felt to get that soothing reassurance that I wasn't alone, to know that someone really got it at a time when everyone else just sort of looked confused or worried whenever I tried to explain what was going on in my brain. That was a good feeling, and obviously I really needed some good feelings at the time. But on the whole, I'd rather be too sane to listen to it, and getting my good feelings from actually feeling good rather than from knowing I wasn't alone in feeling indescribably awful.

So yay for not being that messed up anymore, I guess. It's just weird to have healed too much to listen to music that used to speak to me so deeply. I listen to it now and even as I can recite the lyrics from memory, it's like... overhearing two people having a conversation that has nothing to do with me.
27 August 2014 03:58 - "Fuzz. Brrr."
rosefox: "It's a bug! It's a bug!" "It's a piece of fuzz!" (panic)
Two big bugs managed to get in from the front garden today. I got one and Alex got the other. He may be a brat sometimes but it sure is useful having a trained killer in the house. I gave him a treat and then emailed the landlord about having an exterminator come poison the garden again.

This post is basically just an excuse to use this userpic.
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