Monday, December 30, 2002

Looks like I didn't post a single entry in December. I managed to, while writing a full 50,000 word novel in November.

December is different. It's like one month that lives in a different space than all the others. Christmas looms, foreshadowing and shaping the entire month, providing it with drive, build-up, climax, and those strange days where Christmas is over, but a new year hasn't yet begun.

And, of course, December is high season for professional home makers. All the family support activities that belong in our job descriptions move into high gear. Laundry and dusting take on new urgency, knowing you may need to travel or accept guests at any moment. Shopping reaches Olympic levels, avoiding or fighting crowds. We make extra efforts to think of our families, writing to them, buying gifts for them, making extra calls and planning visits. We prepare special, higher labor foods. We get out the good clothes, give them the extra attention they need, and wear them to parties. We may even host parties.

So January comes as a lull. The very first edge of it may hold a party. Then we coccoon, as the bad weather we ignored in pursuit of Christmas continues, without any such lively reason to forge out into it.

I look forward to doing some writing in January. 'Til then, may the new year bring all the wishes of your heart.

Friday, November 29, 2002

I won! I won! I won! I won!

Wednesday, November 27, 2002

Taking a break from the Nanowrimo novel. It has been absorbing most of my writing impulses this month. It's coming along well at the moment, only a few days left.

Last weekend, I went to Orycon, an annual science fiction convention in the Portland area. I've been attending it fairly regularly for more than 10 years. I know a lot of people there to talk to, and recognize more faces. It makes me very happy to be there, among the writers and costumes and filk musicians.

I took advantage of the internet lounge this year. A hard working fan named Christopher was running it, long hours for three days. He immediately recognized what I was talking about when I asked if he could set a computer to Dvorak for me. And he did it, no fuss. Then I discovered he had a Japanese language Tomoko Fuse origami box book with him, for folding purposes. He taught me his original stand for the Kawasaki Rose, too.

That's three hits on three of my personal quirks -- Dvorak keyboard layout, favorite origami author, and science fiction fan. What are the odds?

The community is one of the pleasures of Orycon. It's a real pleasure to be in the company of people who share my interests -- the only tribe I'd want would be organized by such interests -- and I'd scarcely expect children born there to grow up to share them. Some, perhaps, but not all.

Away from fandom, we build community out of courtesy and shared experiences as we go along. The bonds of family, with shared history and helping each other out, are often made in spite of differences of opinion rather than because of shared interests. Family is important and real. It's also often more work than fandom.

So, when recently I ran into these lyrics:

I love those dear hearts and gentle people
Who live in my home town
Because those dear hearts and gentle people
Will never, ever let you down
I feel so welcome, each time that I return
That my happy heart keeps laughing like a clown

(recorded by Dinah Shore)

They fit oddly on my memories of the town I grew up in.
It's true, we had a real community. People helped each other out, and they still do. With a population floating around 300, they find volunteers for fire and EMT work, and put on an annual festival. They build community buildings. And I find more people to talk about my interests with in a single weekend of Orycon than I did in an entire childhood there.

It's fandom that makes me feel welcome, and where my heart laughs just to be there. So, when Dinah sings,

I have a dream house I'll build there one day

I'm not dreaming of her "picket fence and rambling rose". I'm thinking of an apartment in a city with a good population of science fiction fans.

Sunday, November 17, 2002

Just returned from a week's vacation. Spent several peaceful days in Arnold, in the mountains above Angel's Camp, California. Spent an evening and two exciting days in Las Vegas. Doug's parents were with us, their first exposure to megacasinos. We had a great time showing them around.

Spent more time than in either place on the road. There was ten hours driving from here to Angel's Camp and ten hours from there to Las Vegas, more or less.

Made some experiments with writing while someone else drove the car. It's workable when my health is otherwise good. Too little sleep, or poor quality food, and writing in a moving car threatens me with motion sickness.

And Las Vegas is very distracting. So I find myself several days behind on my Nanowrimo goals. For the first time, I need to better the 1750 words per day I set as my original goal in order to finish on time. I feel able to do it.

And that, in itself, is a huge benefit to this project.

Something else worth noting -- the two days I didn't write in Las Vegas, I developed story arcs for my characters Mary and Richard. They now have problems and resolutions within the overall problem of loss of human fertility. Even if none of the other characters develop arcs, this may be enough to give the book a novel like shape. And it means I now know what follows the scenes I had so far. At one point, I had written all the scenes I had ideas for, and had to push to the edge of my hazy preplanning. It's nice to have more vision ahead again, and this may be enough to carry me to 50,000 words.

I don't want to draw the conclusion that days of not-writing are good for story generation. I think that would be simplistic. I think I will instead draw the conclusions that:
A. Days of intensive writing prime my Muse
B. I can have faith that I will continue to come up with story.

I wish you all creativity.

Friday, November 08, 2002

Most of my writing energy is going into my NaNoWriMo novel. I'm over a quarter to the 50,000 word goal, and less than a quarter through the month.

It's working pretty well. Yesterday, I had two one hour appointments, lunch with Doug, and a three hour meeting. It was the first day I didn't meet my self-imposed goal of 1750 words per day. (All right, I also had one 1749 word day. Is it worth the quibble?)

I found myself rather frustrated, but when the evening meeting was over, I just couldn't push out another page. Nonetheless, I managed 1520 words, and though I went to bed tired and grumpy, I'm fairly happy about it now.

I may very well pass all other writers whose city includes "Bend" today.

So, time to stop blogging and get on with it!

Monday, October 28, 2002

Spent much of the day adding to my website. New areas of possible interest include an origami gallery and a quick page with a little info on National Novel Writing Month.

I enjoyed that work. It seems a bit of a push to go back to housework after all that brain sweat. May very likely put off vacuuming, dishes, and making cat food another day.

(Considers daily goals from list.) Hmm... I could still quite easily slip in some reading and yoga. That sounds like a plan. Yesterday, I took Grandma for a long drive to have lunch with Dad, so I'm good on that. Laundry, yes, I could do laundry, too. Aha, a plan!

All right, off to work then!

Sunday, October 27, 2002

Still thinking about I. Asimov.

Asimov was my hero. My first favorite author, until I discovered Zelazny. I found many particles of my philosophy in him. I may very well owe him my concern about overpopulation, my reticence with swear words, and my feeling that humans of different nations have more in common than separates them. He was a great proponent of rational thought, and of equality for all. He was an optimist. And he was a very engaging writer.

I've had other heroes -- many of them writers. I admired Leslie Fish's strength and Heather Alexander's passion. I envied Kristi Yamaguchi's good-humored grace. I was floored by Tomoko Fuse's spatial brilliance, and Neil Gaiman seems superhumanly generous to his fans. To create, to create, to create -- and to have a virtue informing that creation -- that draws me.

I suspect these heroes all hold mirrors to parts of myself I feel lacking. I hope, looking back on my life, I will wish, as Asimov did, not to be someone else, but to be myself.

And to that end, I must continue creating myself as I would wish to be.

Thursday, October 24, 2002

Is the novel dead?

Walking into any bookstore makes the question seem absurd. I was incredulous when Harold Bloom asserted it -- but then, I couldn't agree with much of his book The Western Canon. But now I've run into a very curious fact, and I'll have to give the whole question a rethinking.

I just finished I. Asimov. The man who produced over 450 books had trouble with novels! Towards the end of his life, he dreaded them. He wrote long history books in preference.

I have also had trouble with novels, but I thought it was personal. Someday, I hope, people will all treat each other with respect. I want humans to work together on wonderful projects like feeding everyone and building amazing bridges and exploring space and creating art and music. Oh, the things we could do if we weren't wasting our time fighting each other!

Ok, when someone is stealing others' abilities to live and create, stopping that someone is necessary. But I hope for a future when the human predators will be contained with only a small portion of human activity.

So, I dream of peace. A balance of tolerance and freedom that will allow each person the most choices and creativity consistent with allowing every other person the most choices and creativity as well.

Peace. But every novel has to have a conflict. How do you reconcile creating conflict, out of your pure imagination, and living with it for the year or more it takes to finish a novel, with working toward peace?

My other, lesser problem with novels is that they must end satisfyingly. Life doesn't do that. In some ways, it's part of the same problem. A novel's pattern includes conflict and resolution. Filling that pattern with a story, setting, and characters is artificial. And that shouldn't surprise me. The enterprise is fiction, after all -- art, creation, lies. No more ridiculous than crosswords requiring small numbered boxes or office buildings needing spaces people can walk through, really. It's what a novel is.

(Some have tried fiction without this structure. I haven't seen any yet that I like. So I wouldn't try to write that kind, and its existence has no relevance to my own concern about novels.)

The most useful perspective on the problem of writing about conflict while hoping for peace came from a study on how much stimulation people were comfortable with. It's a spectrum -- as I would have realized if I'd ever thought about whether people needed or wanted excitement. Some people need lots, some prefer very little.

So while we need excitement, let us work towards having novels, instead of wars.

Wednesday, October 23, 2002

I have signed up with National Novel Writing Month. It looks like fun. I'll keep you posted on my progress. I also added a page to my website for it. See that . I'm getting some practice on my weblink spelling, too.

Life is good today. I think I have avoided a cold that was slowing me down the last few days. I've completed a few tasks that had been hanging too long. And I have the prospect of adventures next month.

I like looking forward. In fact, my second likeliest personal motto (after In Paradox Truth) is The Future is My Country.

Have you tried the timeline exercises in Change Your Mind and Keep the Change by Steve Andreas and Connirae Andreas? I recommend them. If you have tried them, you'll understand that my time line usually makes an extended s-curve with the future leading out to the right, the present running right to left back from it, and the past running back and left over my shoulder. Having gleaming pictures out there in the future cue really brightens my day. It takes eyes in the back of my head to see the gleaming pictures in the past. Of course, imaginatively I do have eyes in the back of my head.

So, the cheery and humorous web site of National Novel Writing Month put some attractive visions in my future cue. They make writing at least seven pages a day (based on my usual format of 250 words a page) for thirty days sound like fun. It would also jumpstart me back into fiction -- something that has lapsed since the car accident -- and many other valuable effects. So, I sent them the requested donation, and I've started considering possible scenarios for the novel. Wish me luck!

Thursday, October 17, 2002

Just looking through my archives. Several of the links have gone bad. I was fairly happy with the remaining entries. Guess I'll have to start keeping copies.

I'm not devastated by the loss of my words. I kept a copy of my A Disciplined Life list, telling what I'd do daily and weekly if I did all the things I think I should and how long it would probably take me. I'm glad to have it. But there are words a plenty in the world, and the loss of a few of mine will likely make no difference to any significant number of people.

I ran into a woman who was my neighbor when I was growing up last night. It's a little strange to feel perspectives on me telescoping across the years. I was an extremely promising child, especially for the very small pond in which I grew up. I think I was the only National Merit Scholar ever from our high school. I won the county spelling contest several years running. At one point, I was the only student in the Talented and Gifted program.

Now, there's not much to make me stand out. People ask about my work. I don't, I say. Kids? No. I may go on to say I finished writing a novel last year. But it's not published. Largely, I'm an ordinary homemaker, (and not an excellent one at that).

Maybe my 15 minutes of fame are already over. Maybe I chose the quiet rewards of home rather than the public rewards of work. Maybe I'm still rebelling against the dozens of people who came up to me in that high potential childhood and suggested some job they thought I should do. Maybe my intellect just couldn't overcome the flaw of my lack of ambition. Maybe I'm still in the cocoon waiting to emerge as some glorious creature whose work will be known far and wide. Maybe it takes time to be something new or think new thoughts

Maybe I'm just too comfortable being ordinary.

Who knows? This morning I'm glad to exist in the eyes of a few friends and family, and not too concerned about possible disappearance in the view of the world.

But I will start keeping copies of this blog.

Friday, October 11, 2002

Now that was a bit of an adventure!

Heard a strange hissing and went to investigate. Not coming from the garage. Not coming from outside. Great Oa! It's the fridge!

Took a cautious sniff. No unpleasant smell. Then I stepped further into the kitchen. There was water streaming out from under the fridge! It was already a quarter inch deep on the kitchen floor, and starting to leak beneath the threshhold strip.

At the back left between the fridge and a cupboard, the line that feeds the icemaker was spraying out a snarling cone. I pulled the excess hose out -- no luck, the leak was only a few inches from the valve. I can't reach it. I know there's a shut off behind the fridge. I try to pull the fridge out. Shoes slipping in water, I can't budge the fridge. I grab both the kitchen towels and throw them to try and block the flood leaving the kitchen. They're barely a sop to it, so I run to the bathroom, and return with three full size towels, and manage to build a dam in a crescent extending into the dining room.

Now I have a moment's spare time. I call Doug. Voice mail. I call my mom's cell phone. Voice mail. I call her husband's office. Pleasant exchange with Julia, but he's not in. I call his cell phone. Larry answers on the fourth ring. I say I have a small emergency, the ice cube feeder line is leaking, and I can't move the fridge to stop it. He says he'll be right over. Good man.

I still have a bit before the towels overflow. I run to the garage -- no obvious turn off for the water there. Looks like all those valves feed the watering system.

I run to the curb, and lift the metal cover to look at the water meter. Meter, spiderwebs, live spider -- no visible valve. I run back to the kitchen.

The water has made it past my dam. I get another kitchen towel from the drawer, toss it on the floor, lift it to the sink, and squeeze it out. Again. Too slow, I'm losing ground. I take my largest bowl out of the cupboard, and start squeezing the towel into the bowl. It holds about two gallons. I fill it once, run to the sink, and empty it.

As I squat and sop and squeeze to fill the second bowl, I think about Loki and his wife and his snake from Sandman, and then I think about the little dutch boy and the dike. Empty that one. I think I'm gaining on the water a little.

Near the end of the fourth bowl, Larry arrives. I left the door ajar after running to the curb. He rings the bell, and I shout for him to come in. We pull out the fridge. A simple twist of the wrist, and the water stops.

We laugh.

He can't stay. I lean on the porch railing, a little breathless, and watch him go.

Then I go back upstairs and mop two more bowls of water off the floor. I wring out all the towels. The floor is pretty clean now.

Then I go blog.
I love paper.

I buy notebooks on impulse more often than candy bars. I've been known to spend hours swooning over online washi catalogs. I have a supply of greeting cards and stationery to cover all occasions. I keep two dozen different rolls of wrapping paper.

I have paper accessories, too. I have a guillotine cutter and a rolling cutter, and exacto knives, and scissors of course. I have two sizes of self-healing mat. I have templates and I know how to sew a simple book. I have two dozen pens on my desk alone, four dozen in the supplies cabinet, and another three dozen in useful locations around the house.

I even do things with paper. I have three dozen origami books, and I fold boxes and flowers and animals. I write on it. I divided my underwear drawer with paper. I occasionally paint or draw on it, and many of my favorite games have paper cards. I covered cans with it to make pen holders, and lined shelves with it. No wall paper though -- my husband used to live in Belgium, and he developed an allergy.

Really, I have a deep and satisfying relationship with paper. So beautiful, so versatile, so abundant.

You can look for me at the stationer's. I'll be wearing my papercuts as badges of honor.

Wednesday, October 09, 2002

What do you want the future to look like?

Not too long ago, I heard a radio interviewer ask a medical guest if science was developing a lot of devices that look like the ones we have seen in the movies and on television. The guest replied that many scientists follow science fiction, so even if the new devices don't do what the fictional ones do, they like to make them look like them.

I think it goes farther than that.

Einstein said, "Imagination is more important than knowlege." Certainly there are accidental discoveries. But most often, first a researcher or inventor imagines something they would like to do, and then works to find a way to do it. So, if there are already images of future devices in the scientist's head, he or she is that much more likely to try to make devices that look and act like them. So we find current developments reflecting the art design and imagination of the past. Thus, artists have a strong effect on the future.

Gene Roddenberry made a conscious effort to imagine and show the kind of future he would like to have. It is a future I would be glad to live in. I want to see humanity grow up, and I want life to be exciting without us fighting one another.

So if you haven't thought about what you want the future to be, you might consider Star Trek. And if you don't want that future, you'd better develop your own vision of the future!

Because our best chance for a good future, is to have images of good futures before us.

Tuesday, October 08, 2002

Listened for a while today to the OPB coverage of the US Senate debate about authorizing military force against Iraq. I found them more eloquent and polite than I expected. And both sides presented arguments that showed they held a perspective that made their choice the right one within their world view.

Strangely, I was reassured. The thought of people killing each other always makes me a little queasy. No matter if it's a national and declared war or a little street shooting or capital punishment, I'd like to think we could come up with better ways to resolve our differences.

But at least our representatives are debating. They are offering both sides of the issue, and trying to decide in a reasonably rational manner.

And, humanly, we haven't yet come up with a better way to run a nation.

Tuesday, October 01, 2002

At last I have repaired my template. Definitely slowed my interest in writing when I couldn't publish. Shouldn't have put it off so long.

Remember the car accident back in May? Yesterday I spent my first day without back pain since then. I felt like bouncing around like a Brownian molecule. It's great to be feeling better and getting more done.

It's so amazing that you can reach out your hand and change the world. I reorganized the fridge and freezer with plastic trays. It's pleasing to look inside and see order, and reach anything at the back easily. I'm enjoying the more intense color an extra two coats of paint created on our front door.

When you look around, most of what you see was shaped by humans. Plants grow, but people place them and tend them. Buildings rise in the thrilling slow dance of construction. Roads stretch, and packages travel along them.

Much as I love wild places, and know we will always need them, I love excellently furnished architecture more.

Wednesday, September 25, 2002

Gibbous is the most Lovecraftian phase of moon. It reminds one of gibbering gibbons and babboons, and other inhuman parodies of mankind. Unlike new, and crescent, and quarter, and half, and full, it seems incomplete and sinister, more defined by what it lacks than what it has.

And there is the gibbous moon in the morning sky, pale and corpse-like, brooding over the hazy in town in which I awoke from a nightmare.

Friday, September 20, 2002

Every so often, I consider getting myself A Disciplined Life.

These are the things I'd do every day, and some estimates of how long they'd take:

*Brush teeth twice, floss once (10 minutes, total, OK, I already do this.)
*Exercise -- yoga or walking or t'ai chi (30 minutes to an hour)
*Shower, dress, and other hygiene (40 minutes)
*Cook two meals (45 minutes to 2 hours)
*Eat (45 minutes to one and a half hours)
*Blog (20 minutes)
*Sleep (8 hours)
*Read (1 hour)
*Hobby or craft of the moment (30 minutes to an hour)
*Write fiction (1 to 2 hours)
*Wash dishes (30 minutes)
*Straighten the house (20 minutes)
*Deal with physical mail (20 minutes)
*Deal with email (15 minutes)
*Feed cats twice daily and clean litter once (15 minutes)

These are things that need to be done weekly:

*Laundry (two hours hands on work spread across 5 hours)
*Mow lawn and weed (one and a half hours)
*Visit Grandma (one and a half hours)
*Visit or write to other friends and family (one to two hours)
*Spend quality time with Doug (eight hours)
*Put out trash and recycling (half hour)
*Make cat food (forty-five minutes)
*Shop (three to four hours)
*Pay bills (four to six hours twice monthly, call it two hours weekly)

Possibly I'm forgetting things. On the short end, I add that up to 15 hours and 20 minutes daily, or 7 hours 20 minutes plus sleep. Another 20 hours and 15 minutes of weekly activities, divided by seven days, adds almost three hours per day, nearly 10 hours 15 minutes outside of sleep that I'd need to spend to get all these things done. And those were the short estimates!

I think I see why I'm not doing this.

Saturday, September 07, 2002

Why do we follow celebrity romances?

The pictures and articles papering the checkout stands wouldn't be there if they didn't entice buyers. What makes the pairings and severings of people we've never met so interesting to so many?

Strangely enough, this is another question I've been considering for a while.

My earliest theory was that famous faces replaced the community gossip we would have known if we spent our lives in small stable communities. If the human mind is adapted to knowing a tribe well, following the relationships of neighbors throughout their lives, and using them as guides to forming their own relationships, perhaps as we began to live in large, frequently remixing communities, we sought other models to follow. Celebrities provided lives visible from wherever we might be living. The intensity of their images, shown larger than life and in the situations of heightened meaning and drama of their performances, replaced the more frequent but less interesting spectacle of having life long neighbors. Because they were in stories that compress time and images composed to have a greater impact, we gained the illusion of knowing them better than we do. And thus they felt like our neighbors. And thus they offered the relationship models we no longer had neighbors close enough and long enough to observe.

As evidence, I can only offer the dream I once had of being invited to a backyard barbecue with Tom and Nicole. I let myself in the garden gate. Nicole dished out the potato salad, and Tom tended the grill, while the kids dashed about within the picket fence. My mind had encoded Tom and Nicole as my neighbors.

My more recent theory is that we hunger for passion. The movies feed this hunger, with images of overwhelming, life transforming love. If we took a census of movie characters and compared it with a census of the United States, we would find that people in the movies are in vast disproportion more often young and in love -- especially the characters that matter, as evidenced by being more often onscreen and central to the stories. Our own lives feature youth and new love much less often. Our friends and acquaintances lead lives generally more calm than passionate. So we look to actors, these known faces who express emotion for a living, to see that someone, somewhere, is living the passion the movies have led us to expect.

Does the work of acting, inhabiting and letting show characters' thoughts and feelings, make one's own emotions more volatile and likely to be expressed? Or does the way we learn about celebrities' lives exaggerate their intensity? Or are our acquaintances veiling their passions?

I expect I'll have another theory another day. I feel one struggling to coalesce.

And both these theories are true. For some part of me, some part of the time, and so, I hope, for some of you.

My best wishes to all,
Anna Paradox

Friday, September 06, 2002

I've been reading other blogs today. Here is the Emerald City WorldCon Report. Also quite impressed with Wil Wheaton Dot Net. And of course, Neil Gaiman's journal at was my entry into the whole web journal world.

It's remarkable that people are pouring their vision onto the web. The easy words of the current moment have an authenticity even memory reshaped autobiography cannot have. Word by word, reality delivered from behind someone else's eyes. Other viewpoint's voices offering the experience of another world. The distinct islands that are individual personalities framing and overlaying my own universe. Generous, these pourings of self in words onto the web, making bridges in language.

My thanks to the other bloggers. Your truths are gifts.

Thursday, September 05, 2002

The other day, just kidding around, someone asked me, "What is the meaning of life?"

Didn't get a chance to answer.

Surprisingly enough, I know.

The question is a little misleading. There is no one meaning of life for everyone. Making meaning is one of the things people do, and people make meaning out of different things: raising a family, loving and being loved, teaching children, singing songs, getting revenge, gaining freedom or equality or a decent standard of living, building bridges, serving your God, easing pain, winning races, buying a yacht, ending hunger, exploring space, healing minds, killing enemies, outdoing the Joneses, saving the redwoods, saving the whales, studying DNA, policing the streets, being famous, doing a good day's work, helping others, finally getting that promotion, reaching the top of the charts, getting high, making sexual conquests, dying bravely. People have made meaning out of all this and more.

Not that all these goals are equal.

Whatever other differences there may be, notice this. Some of these goals, if one person achieves them, no one else can. Some of these goals improve the lives of many, some only for a few, some for only the one who holds them and perhaps not even that one. Some can be achieved once and for all (and then what?), some always lead you farther on. Some leave a legacy, and some are evanescent.

So, if you find your life meaningless, find a goal and give it meaning. (I won't say choose a goal -- the heart has inclinations about what it can give meaning, and your effort will be much harder if you go against them.) Better it be one that is non-exclusive, improves more lives than your own, and leaves a legacy.

After all, isn't that the meaning of good works?

Wednesday, September 04, 2002

I'm beginning to think that there have been more fictional cases of amnesia than real ones.

Not that I blame the writers. Amnesia is a brilliant device. What is identity? How do you know who you are if you can't remember?

Americans move frequently. Our identity is not tracked by our neighbors, as it would be in small and more stable towns. These days, electronic reports follow us. Credit records, lists of traffic infractions -- somehow these seem to leave out the essentials of a person. Even if you have one of those supermarket club cards, tracking your grocery buys, your personality -- what is essentially you -- may not be contained in analysis of your purchases. There has to be more.

In many amnesia stories, the protagonist loses his or her memory and becomes a better person. This has to be reassuring -- we don't want to think that when the skill that makes someone a doctor or the shared past that held a relationship has gone there is nothing to replace it.

And, your identity makes a compelling MacGuffin. If it's lost, what is more urgent than to regain it? What would you risk or sacrifice to know who you are?

By its suddenness, amnesia makes a more dramatic story than the slow reforming, day by day, and choice by choice, that is the way we make our own identities.

Tuesday, September 03, 2002

It's an old joke: there are two types of people in the world -- those who divide everyone into two types, and those who don't.

There are many different choices as to what axis to divide the two types along. The one that has held the most meaning for me is the xenophile/xenophobe division, played with at length in Robert Anton Wilson's original Illuminati trilogy. While strict usage might keep these words to their root meanings of love of foreigners and fear of foreigners, he spread them to a wider sense.

In that usage, xenophiles enjoy the new and strange, and like change; while xenophobes fear change, and want the known and stable. Because it defines attitudes towards change rather than positions on particular, ever-shifting issues of the moment, this division seems more precise to me than one along the conservative/liberal line.

I'm largely in the xenophile camp. I have the work and hobby history of a dilettante, the kind of list of previous activities you used to see in the author notes on the back covers of book jackets. My favorite part of any project is the beginning, where there is plenty to learn. Endings -- well -- there is reward in seeing something completed.
It can be a challenge to work for that reward instead of the glitter of something new.

We live in a time of very rapid change, and in a time when few can avoid encounters with others who are different. A little xenophilia eases greeting the new.

Meanwhile, the xenophobes put on the brakes, and give us a chance to catch up. This, too, is useful.

So the best outcome requires a balance between fearing and encouraging change.

But xenophiles are more willing to appreciate those creating the other end of the balance.

Wednesday, August 21, 2002

True character flaw -- the "Weird" Al Yankovic song that continues to delight me the most is "Calling in Sick Today". And I found myself humming "Woke Up This Morning with My Mind Stayed on Freedom" all day the last day of the last time I was an employee.

Emode tells me I'm not really a slacker -- I'm only fronting. Probably so. I've been known to simplify my upkeep and household routines, but I have my standards. I have a few things I want to get done in the world. I'm just not overly blessed with ambition.

It's a theme that keeps coming up in my life. I still remember discussing whether ambition or contentment was better with my French host sister. She was of the ambition position, and now has two boys in a two income home, with a responsible career using her love of languages to arrange international orders for a French manufacturing concern. I figured contentment -- what's the use of all that ambition if you don't have time to enjoy the results? I have no kids, work as a homemaker (and hyphenate writer if I'm feeling like a little more respect), our house suits me better than hers would, and I'm having a good life.

Perhaps this is because I am very lucky. I met and married a man who fell into a career that he enjoys and that pays well. He has an easy temperament, and doesn't push me to earn more money for us. On a higher level, I was born in a rich country, where living is easy, and in a time where more people have more leisure than ever before -- consider that in earlier centuries, only 2-4 % of the population could be spared from raising food if everyone was to eat. Now, it only takes 2-4 % to raise our food, and everyone else can create other kinds of wealth. I love the complexity of available activities in our civilization. These are sweet times.

Still, I like to think I had a little to do with arranging my life so pleasantly. Subtle habits of thrift that gave us the credit rating to buy the lovely house. Sufficient household industry to keep it attractively orderly to the eye. Skills in relationship maintenance so that my marriage is even more fun than it was sixteen years ago.

After all, it is my life. If I don't own it, who does?

Friday, August 16, 2002

Words are cheap. I've been browsing other blogs recently, and there is a huge volume of interesting verbiage out there. I even found myself blasé about books, browsing last night at Portland's reader's mecca, Powell's. I think I have developed an allergy to blurbs -- if I find it described in two excitable sentences, it doesn't sound worth reading.

Of course, my time is expensive. I have unfinished projects and unread books to keep me busy for weeks if not years. I have friends to write and family to visit, cats to feed and entertain, and all the daily business of maintaining health, home, and my primary relationship: with my husband, Doug.

Today's blog is under siege from the kitten in my lap. I'm visiting Doug's parents, and they have a 12 week kitten named Dandy Lion. She crawled in my arms and purred, effectively interrupting my typing. Now she's on my lap. I've just made my fourth grab to keep her from rolling off. She plays and cleans herself all oblivious to rolling her center of gravity over the edge. Couldn't let her fall -- that just wouldn't be right.

Well, it's always about choices, isn't it? We live in times rich in possible words, rich in activities. I'm glad you're reading me. And I hope you are awake as you make the choice to do so.

Tuesday, August 13, 2002

I've been engaged in the entertainment today of making my living room astonishingly clean. I picked up the pieces of the stereo and dusted underneath them. I rubbed the spots on the dining chairs with White Wizard until they disappeared. I removed all the clutter, and sprayed and wiped away the black line where the cats scratch their cheeks against the corner of the wall. I ventured into the fridge and cleaned the door, but I only noted that a more thorough cleaning later might be a good idea.

There are, in the world, truly excellent housekeepers. They clean up messes as soon as they occur, and dust and wipe and vacuum on a schedule to catch anything that slips past their eagle eyes for immaculacy. They wash pots and knives as they go when cooking, hand rinse their underwear daily, and twice a year switch out their seasonal wardrobes. I am not one of these people.

I am more apt to clean when something gets dirty enough to bother me and I have the time. Excellent housekeepers reap the reward of a continously lovely and clean home -- I settle in with a house that slowly declines to fall below my comfort threshhold, and then leaps for a few glorious hours into radiant, company-worthy shine before beginning another decline. Perhaps someday the pleasure of bright surfaces and visual simplicity will convince me to move more into the immediate action style of housekeeping. Meanwhile, I am comfortable. I seldom feel encroached by object chaos and never at risk from illness via squalor. The house remains good enough to suit me.

In fact, I may not be comfortable in conditions of excessive neatness. I have been in a few homes where I felt that to sit down was an imposition, to pose a book, a transgression. I had a feeling of restriction more severe than entering other homes where dirt crusted the sinks and dog hair coated the couch. In the latter homes I certainly did not want to eat or drink -- but I still felt good about myself. An untouchable home leaves me feeling an unwanted intruder, small, and inadequate.

Monday, August 05, 2002

Feeling better. Awake at odd hour.

Just searched Google for my homepage. No connection. At the moment, I do not impinge on net consciousness.

I appear to be central in Pike consciousness. One of the benefits of having a cat. This one alternates periods of feline independence with fits of neurotic fear and blissful periods stretched out sleeping on my lap. I have another cat, Pumpkin, more self-assured. She is neither so frightened of strangers nor so adoring of me. She cleared our first home of mice in two weeks when first she adopted us, and still collects residuals.

A glass of water, affection from a cat, a bit of web browsing, and a few paragraphs writing -- all is well with the world, I think I can get back to sleep.

Friday, August 02, 2002

Neil Gaiman, an author of such grace and generosity that he has signed for hours beyond his schedule, and posts courteous replies to people who ask strange, repetitive or irrelevant questions, is mad. And this is why. A clerk in Texas has been sentenced to six months jail for selling an adult manga to an undercover adult -- a comic marked over 18 only -- because the prosecutor convinced the jury that comics are for kids. Only and always. And, therefore, art expressed in panels of pictures and words does not gain the first amendment protection of text or images alone.

The Comic Book Defense Fund will appeal this ruling. Offer them your support at Or see Neil Gaiman's web journal Neil Gaiman for his own explanation.

Thursday, August 01, 2002

Haven't been feeling well this week -- dreary, draggy, achy, angsty, bleary, blechy, twitchy, teary. You know. Generally not well.

I hope it's a healing crisis for this recovery from the car accident process. I'm entirely ready to be done with that.

Most things are going well. My husband is playing Final Fantasy X in his off hours, and I'm enjoying watching him. My nephew visited last week, and we repainted the balcony and played a lot of games, and generally had a good time. I'm satisfied looking out at the fresh color and even coat of the new paint job. My house is still beautiful and airy, my cats are still graceful and affectionate, my car remains reliable and comfortable.

I do hate summer, though. Too much heat, too much yardwork. As soon as I can -- which looks like about three years from now if I do without travelling vacations -- I need to arrange for someone else to take care of the yard.

A wait of three years is not much comfort today. Nothing for it. Today I suffer, either prickling skin and aching muscles if I do the work or oppressive weediness and the censure of my neighbors if I don't.

Wednesday, July 17, 2002

I know several definitions of wealth. The simplest is having a lot of money -- say, one million dollars in liquid assets. (See here.) Throwing some figures around, if you work for 40 years, say from 25 to 65 at $25,000 per year, a million dollars will pass through your hands. Of course, you won't be able to keep it. If you could earn 50,000 instead, and save half of it, then you'd end with a cool million at retirement -- more, if you earned interest on it instead of pushing it under the mattress.

So much for that. Economists like to think of wealth differently. Wealth is capital -- resources that can produce other income without becoming exhausted -- such as land, factories, or cash. Or a wealthy nation is one that has a high production per person. Or, wealth is the result of work beyond what subsistence requires -- art, luxury cars, computers -- anything unnecessary to survival, especially if durable -- so quilts increase wealth and musical performances do not -- unless they are recorded and turned into a tangible artifact, like an eight track cassette, or something.

So much for that. My favorite definition I have paraphrased from Peter Carroll -- wealth is being able to spend your time enjoyably. I think most people want money so that they can improve the way they spend their time. They'd like to buy a more indulgent car, or shop in more beautiful stores while dressed in more beautiful clothing, have someone else do the tasks they hate, and not spend time worrying how to meet their bills. They'd like to buy excitement by travelling or privacy with more space. Or freedom by not having to give someone else control of eight or more hours a day to earn the money to eat and pay the rent.

If you think of wealth in this way, there's a limit to how much you need. After all, you can only spend each moment once -- after a certain point, more money won't improve those moments.

And -- if you have work you enjoy -- you are already wealthy enough all the hours you spend at it.

May you all live well. Anna

Saturday, July 13, 2002

Extreme heat calls for extreme measures. It's been around 100 here the last several days. The first night, the house cooled well, as night time temperatures outside fell substantially. However, the last two evenings, it has clouded up, allowing much less night time cooling. We have no air conditioning -- my husband is even now searching the web for solutions. I'm not sure adding a machine to the house is the answer. If global warming continues, we may yet wish to. Neither of us sleeps well in the heat.

So what can we do without an air conditioner? If night time temperatures fall sufficiently, opening windows at night, and closing them during the day works quite well. For best results, set a box fan in a window blowing out -- air is more like a rope than a wheelbarrow, it's easier to pull than push. We've tried blowing air in across our steaming bodies -- the movement feels good, but the house does not cool effectively. It's a clear case of trading momentary relief for long term discomfort. Far better to aim the fan out.

Two days ago, we scheduled a massage at a local spa so they would let us use the pool.

This morning, I rose at dawn and started the sprinklers. I also sprayed water into the air near our bedroom windows. It helped.

Later, I plan to hang wet laundry all around the patio. Our patio is underneath a balcony, so with a sufficient quantity of laundry adding evaporative cooling to the shade, I expect the patio to be quite comfortable.

And finally, both the local library and my husband's work place do have air conditioning. Worst comes to worst, seek a public place with cooling.

Wednesday, July 10, 2002

Ah, dawn -- the only time of the day that really belongs to me. Quiet, free, cool -- it's enough to make me glad I can't get back to sleep.

Very busy recently. Last week I worked at the Amaranth fireworks stand. Then we had guests, and I barely brought the house within standards before they arrived. And Mom left at the last minute, and wanted me to check on Grandma. And Doug had his worst migraine in years. Too much going on. Yet, now that it's over I feel a little aimless. It's hard to move back from responding to external demands to following one's own star. My body was complaining that I had pushed it too hard for this point in my recovery from whiplash even while I felt empty from lack of activity. Logically, I should have been glad for the rest.

I'm often unsure of where to balance rest and activity. The recovery process makes the comfort zone smaller. My muscles stiffen more easily when they don't get enough movement, and complain more quickly when I overdo it. So this period would educate me on the right balance if that balance weren't a moving target. It changes as I regain the reserves lost to the shock.

No point in stressing myself to reach for perfect balance. Just dance it daily, moving in awareness, and it will take care of itself.

Monday, July 01, 2002

"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects." Robert A. Heinlein, Time Enough for Love

I read Heinlein before I became a critical reader. Much of his philosophy seems self evident truth to me. If you consider that quote as a quick quiz on your competence as a well-rounded human being, how did you do? Do you think these standards are too high?

Doug and I talk about "Heinlein heroes". They are remarkably competent -- whatever it comes their way to do, they manage. He had none of this fashion for flawed heroes! His books contain plenty of conflict without any arising from the heroes' incompetency -- a plot style I'd like to see more often filmed.

Now that I am a more critical reader, I notice that Heinlein spanned several axes of accomplishment in that quote. "Change a diaper, plan an invasion" suggests infancy to war, birth to death. "Pitch manure, program a computer" spans rural, biological, low tech to urban, electronic, high tech. Note also that the list that begins with "change a diaper" ends with "die gallantly", while "write a sonnet, balance accounts" covers what we call right and left brain activities. If you look for more, you'll find it. All from a man writing in 1973 before computers were widespread and right brain/left brain had become a popular concept.

So, returning to the discussion of adulthood in my previous post -- do you have to be a full-spectrum Heinlein hero to be an adult? No, though it's nice to have models to aspire to. But you won't trip my adult meter unless you have a competency in at least one work skill, one relationship skill, and something outside yourself that is important to you.

Tuesday, June 25, 2002

I recently finished Final Fantasy X. This game is a creation of such art, truth and beauty that it would be a crime not to play it. I'll post a more complete review to Paradox World Reviews.

Doug had played ChronoCross, and I had played Final Fantasy IX. A little ways into FFX, I realized with a start that there were adults in it. Auron and Lulu pegged my adult meter, and none of the characters in previous Square Soft offerings had done so.

And then I had to ask, what makes them adults? There is more to it than fully developed physiques and deep voices. More to it than backstories reaching further into the past than the other characters' and having continued past losses.

I spent a while with the question, and I think the essential aspects of Auron and Lulu's adulthood are these: they are competent and knowlegeable, and they lend themselves to a cause more important than themselves -- that is, they have chosen a responsibility and they carry it out.

I can imagine you with your eyebrows raised asking "she's looking for adulthood in a video game?!!"

If our art doesn't show us adulthood, how will we learn to value it in our lives?

Thursday, June 20, 2002

Summer's here. Leaving Costco with an oversized receipt, I suddenly remembered how much I used to enjoy fluttering paper in the wind. I would tie strands of crepe to my bike, or pull a length of printer tape behind me on a string. I remember a kite contest. We climbed near the cemetery on the west hill overlooking town, where the wind blew strongly, a little dusty, with the sagebrush clumping beside the road. Was it one of those competitions where everyone ends with a prize? I only remember the judge's skeptical look as my very small diamond twisted its string following my fingers in circles, the wind on my skin, and long streamers fluttering.

Sunday, June 16, 2002

June 14, 2002. Can you believe it? I’m staying at a friend’s house, and he doesn’t have internet access at home. So, I’m typing to a document for later cut and paste.

My watch the skies policy paid off handsomely last night. Driving west across the cascades, we saw the crescent moon with the limned disc in her arms, turning her back to petitioning Jupiter, all perfectly framed between two peaks. A little later, an opening between trees framed it again. At one point, heavy raindrops fell thick and hard enough to bounce on the asphalt, while the moon and planet still shone clearly ahead. Later, haze and city glow abbreviated the crescent to a short vertical segment. Fewer clouds and fewer trees leave more sky to be seen east of the Cascades.

Bend has also adopted measures to reduce light pollution. Outdoor lighting must shine down and only onto one’s own property. It gives Bend archetecture a subtle, modest and enticing look by night, and helps protect the nearby observatory’s seeing. I enjoy the more velvety and restful nights, and would like to see more cities adopt similar measures.

Wednesday, June 12, 2002

I think it's from spending my formative years in the decade of Truth -- I'm an inconsistent mailer of Christmas cards. How does this follow, you ask?

We wanted to avoid hypocrisy. Is there sincerity in sending a barely personalized, mass produced greeting card to dozens I've had no other contact with all year? What meaning and worth attach to that?

So, we limited our card mailings to those we could supplement with an actual note, at least, too. The result is that we send few and receive few.

I've since thought of a few uses for impersonal Christmas cards. They serve as a yes, this address is still live handshake when they don't return. And even the very small remembrance of an unsigned card can be better than no remembrance at all.

And so it goes for many of the polite formalities called empty in that decade. Perhaps they proceeded from the lips rather than the heart, but they served their purpose in connecting people, smoothing relations, and allowing business, when the frank truth would have alienated, irritated, and generally degenerated into a focus on itself rather than some other matter at hand.

Or elevated into a focus on itself -- for the living exchange of heart truth is the most thrilling intimacy of all.

Tuesday, June 11, 2002

June 11th, 2002

Dreck. I missed a partial eclipse yesterday.

The problem of getting the right information is quite a complex one. For a while, Doug and I woke to the radio. Our local radio hosts were entertaining, and I enjoy discovering the occasional song worth adding to my collection. They gave us a small selection of news in the hour or so we left the radio on -- enough for me to feel confident that I would learn of anything really critical.

However, I tire of radio. And giving my first thoughts of the morning to someone else seems a sheepish way to start the day. And waking without an alarm leaves me feeling more rested. So, we stopped.

After a couple weeks, I began to feel too disconnected from the wider world. Doug recommended Yahoo news, and it offers at least as much information as an hour of variety radio, fewer and less insistent commercials, and links to anything I want to know more about. And I can hit the headlines, and follow a few links for only a few minutes investment.

Now I have time to think, and fewer pushes to think of buying whatever may be touted today. So I can consider:

What is the right amount of information? Who should choose what I should hear and therefore spend my mindshare on? Are there community disadvantages to personalized news that outweigh the personal advantages? Can Web providers, who offer me the greatest control yet of my information intake, gain the resources they need to keep doing so? Does this web log offer value to anyone but me?

And then, I can stop considering it, and go make Grandma and Doug breakfast.

Monday, June 10, 2002

June 10th, 2002

Have you looked at the evening sky recently?

Tonight I emerged from a meeting at that luscious hour when the sky glows the deepest blue. Two planets near the western horizon have been dancing the path of a very slow bolo for the last several weeks. And by day we've had Maxfield Parrish clouds.

The moon can still take me by surprise. The last time it rose full and large, I didn't see a face. Half of the Atomium, perhaps.

I'm not that fond of the smell of roses. Perhaps I will stop and watch the sky instead.

Sunday, June 09, 2002

June 11th, 2002. Age and youth.

Grandma Gilson is staying with us while Mom is on vacation. So this is what it's like to be old. At 88, her hair retains a few strands of black among the beautiful thick white strands, her skin is loose and spotted, energy and ambition low. She can walk, and she's pleasant company, likes to tell jokes. I could live with this. Only let me keep my mind so long as I live!

I spread my energy as a net rather than an arrow. I'm not driving towards a single goal, as an Olympic athlete or Dr. Frankenstein might -- I support a family member here, learn something new there, build friendships, maintain and enjoy my marriage, my house, and multiply my hobbies. Wouldn't you want to be connected and have pleasant surroundings?

Took a look through the self help and business success areas of the local B&N recently, wanting to find an appropriate gift for my sister-in-law's graduating son, whom I know only slightly. I wish him success in his own terms and wanted to offer what support a book gift could. It seems you can choose a book to further whatever ideas of success you already have -- from living the simple life to becoming a millionaire, from verbal self-defense to winning through intimidation. I choose the pocket version of Success for Dummies, for ease of fitting in a card and attention to choosing what type of success you want. Good luck, Chris.

Saturday, June 08, 2002

June 8, 2002. Thursday, driving in the red rental Grand Am, I tried the radio and found it set to the loud rock station, but anemicly quiet. Turned it up. Better. Opened a window. Better yet. Tabbed the electronic control for the passenger side window. That's right.

Wind twirling tendrils of my hair, my noise pressing the world outside my car, dust of summer in through the windows -- each sensation bringing me closer to starring in my own road movie. Something elementally American about cars and noise and summer, built of tales and images repeated in variation. Enhanced by my neighbor's questioning whether I had a sporty sister visiting and the dangerous thrill of refusing the Collision Damage Waiver. Deepened perhaps by the recent accident, mild and yet opening the abyss of might-have-been-worse.

The real reason I had a sports car in my driveway: my car was in the shop.

In March, I took a seven thousand mile road trip. Earlier in May, Doug and I drove fifteen hundred miles to Networld/Interop and back. May 15th, on a routine grocery run, my little white Subaru Impreza Outback, sitting innocently at a four way stop, is buggered by a black Chevy Suburban.

Opposites attract, I guess.