Monday, December 29, 2003

Here's the snow we didn't get for Christmas. Several inches, so Pike looked like he was wading chest high, and still coming down thick. I can see 4 inches on parts of the tree branches. I'm going to skip going out to measure.

We had a great Christmas. Family around, nice lodgings at Eagle Crest, where someone else fights dwelling entropy, good food, good times. Our one-gift-from-each-to-each limit keeps the gifts manageable to transport. I know, I know, that's one of the most luxurious problems anyone could have.

Our stockings of anonymous gifts get more overflown each year. Each one has not just what will fit inside it, but also a pile below and around it, probably more than doubling the volume. This year, for example, I had three trade paperbacks and a package of windowpane textured towels "in my stocking". Loot! Definitely made out like a bandit.

Scored some successes with our gift giving. Those I've heard from appreciated their art books -- especially Dad, whose taste for Hispanic glamour was well met by a book on the tourist art from the days when Havana was a kind of more exotic Hawaii, and a calendar of Mexican art. A good score in matching gift to recipient really satisfies me.

I hope you all enjoyed your holidays. One more to come! Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

I expect it's been a while since I wrote here. Things have been busy. Failed at Nanowrimo. Had a good family Thanksgiving here. Failed my poker goal, but still made $300. I don't think I get along well with goals. Might have written all this already, failing my goal of writing interesting blogs.

Went to Doug's parents's house for three days shopping in the big city. That was cool. I'm pretty sure Portland gets all their produce, meats, and fish a day fresher than we do. It's quite noticeable if you have sushi or go to the supermarket. I enjoy shopping. The crowds were at the pleasant, friendly stage, instead of the jostling so tight I can barely breathe stage. A few of the lines ran 6 people long or so -- not bad when they move quickly. All in all, a good shopping experience.

Class has improved. The sniping has dropped to negligable levels, and recent artistic exercises have been fun. Still feel out of synch with Julia Cameron, though.

That's about it. Happy holidays, all.

Thursday, November 27, 2003

First day in a while I haven't had to go out and sweep snow. We've had steady dustings. Everyone travelled well.

We did our family Thanksgiving Saturday, so today is a day of rest for me. Doug is at work. I played a couple 7 card stud tourneys, one a freeroll, one with a five dollar buy in. Didn't cash in either one, but I did finish 4th of 650 in the freeroll and 13th of 28 in the other. Can't complain about that.

I'm not getting as much out of the Creative Process class as I hoped to. It's free, a work in progress, I expect, for the facilitator. So perhaps my expectations were too high. Another part is that I don't think I'm terribly compatible with Julia Cameron, the author of our text, The Artist's Way. It's a program that has done well for lots of people. It keeps feeling like a bit of a mismatch for me, though.

So I could probably get as much out of working through the book on my own as I am from this class. Since I might not discipline myself to actually do the work without the class, I'm getting that much benefit from it. But not much more. It seems that for every good insight some other class member comes up with, someone makes a catty remark I could just as well do without. Amazing amount of competitiveness, careless or unaware unkindness. Since I work under the principle that the more creativity there is in the world, the better it is for everyone, I'm a little surprised to find that some of my classmates seem to resent other people's success.

Well, so it goes. It's neither horrible nor great, and I get out of it what I put into it. So, what's new?

Meanwhile, having failed both my poker goal and the Nanowrimo challenge, I'm reminded that goals are not my strong point. A game plan suits me better.

And so it goes. Happy Thanksgiving, all. I'll be back in touch.

Friday, November 14, 2003

I give up. I'm just not going to manage NaNoWriMo this year. I went into it with too many simultaneous calls on my time and too little prep work.

It has been an amazing relief to stop. I suddenly had all this energy. I cooked and cleaned and made cat food. I felt much more enthusiastic about my other goals. I told Doug maybe I should over-schedule myself more often, just for the freedom I feel when I reduce my schedule. He said that was like the cowboy who wore too tight boots just so he could enjoy taking them off. It's a good point -- better not to get into the overscheduled situation in the first place. Still, I am really appreciating having breathing room again. So, I won't try to get myself into this situation again.

Hope I can remember the lesson, and continue to appreciate the space in my schedule. It's all too easy to start taking those moments of ease for granted, and stop appreciating them. I'll do what I can to enjoy the freedom to rest between tasks.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Monday and Tuesday Doug took the car to work. It's seldom enough he has it one day, much less two. Today I found myself very eager to be out and about. Ran some needed errands, played poker, wrote a bit, and then ran some quite unneeded errands. So, it wasn't critical that we have new soap dispensers. I wanted two, though -- one to replace the one Doug took to his new office, to sit by the sink there, and one to free the glass one by the kitchen sink, so I could put an experiment in it and watch the results. I found a couple I liked at the outlet mall.

Actually was hoping one would look good in the new office. It's bleak there -- but I'm going to need a deeper groking of the existing colors before I can perk them up. Neither of the two I picked up worked there.

Hmmm... likely more details about soap dispensers than anyone will care for. So it goes.

So then I emptied the dish soap out of the glass soap dispenser into the new yellow pottery one. Then I rinsed the glass one well. I recently received a number of body care ingredients from Cedarvale Natural Health". One of them was basic Liquid Castille Soap. My somewhat cursory reading on the subject lead me to believe I could add an oil to that to make a moisturizing hand wash. Another item I picked up from them was hemp oil. Since I didn't know the right proportions to mix, I wanted to use the glass soap dispenser so I could observe whether the combination separated. I put about two tablespoons of the oil in the bottom of the eight ounce soap dispenser, then topped it up with the liquid Castille soap. Hemp oil is a surprisingly forest-y green. The Castille soap, originally a pale translucent tanish white, took on a noticeable green cast. However, there is still a small puddle of green remaining on top of the solution. I couldn't shake the container too vigorously, since the pump did not make a completely reliable seal. It appears, though, that I overestimated the amount of hemp oil the Castille soap could take up. I'll enjoy watching over time to see if the green puddle on top grows larger or smaller.

I never got to take Chemistry. My very small high school only offered it on rotating years. The only year when it was offered _and_ I had completed its prerequisites, I was in another country as an exchange student. Didn't seem a priority in college. Oa knows I spread myself thin enough there without it.

I found the whole process pleasing and creative. Choosing colors, shopping for ingredients, mixing potions -- small acts of choice to improve one's home -- that's the fun part of homemaking. The dreary part is doing the same cleaning tasks, day after day after day after day.

The hemp oil smelled good. (Their website promises it's not psychoactive!!!) So I oiled my hair. The ends have really been suffering lately, and conditioning them doesn't seem to be enough. That was fun, too. Felt like I was participating in a beauty rite, a little gone out of fashion since ancient Egypt. Almost like a bit of time travel.

Well, well. Any readers still conscious are to be congratulated. By all means treat yourself to a little pampering, too.

Best wishes,

Monday, November 03, 2003

3516 words as of 11:10 today. Yesterday, I only managed around a thousand. So at this point, I've just completed yesterday's word count. Still, it's going well, and I'm fairly happy with my progress so far.

Also had breakfast, did Creative Process class homework, and shoveled snow off the walks.

Really need to find someone to do that for me. Outdoor work is just not what I want to spend my time on. Last year, we only had three snow shovelling occasions all winter. I've shovelled twice this year, and winter hasn't even officially started.

Time to update my word count at Nanowrimo. Haven't yet found a piece that looks like a good exerpt.

Take care, all.

Saturday, November 01, 2003

Hurray! I'm started on my NaNoWriMo novel, and it doesn't seem too bad. After a few hours of occasionally painful writing, I have slightly passed my daily word goal of 1750 words, with 1779. Good for me -- I'm off to a good start.

At any time, you can check my profile here. I should be updating my word count daily, and will eventually add an excerpt -- once I write one that seems, you know, exceptable.

Ok, better post this and see if the link works right.

Good luck all. Take care.

Friday, October 31, 2003

Ah, Halloween. The great American holiday, a chance to try on another identity, the perfect celebration for a culture whose biggest celebrities are actors. One day a year, we can all try our hand at the nation's highest profile job. It's a totally brilliant idea.

That may be why we have Halloween instead of the Day of the Dead. Maybe we more need to come to terms with changing identity than with dying. After all, we generally only die once. We may change identity -- geographically and socially mobile as we are -- dozens of times. Practice and enjoy. Get a little sugar high to dissipate the fear of change. Glorious.

Meanwhile, I pulled out Nancy Kress's excellent book _Dynamic Characters_ to begin preparing for NaNoWriMo. I now have more understanding of the woman who will tell my tale. Our story opens with her working as a legal assistant, falling far below the expectations her family had of her and expressed in the name Elja Boadiccea Johanssen. She's listening to a woman foisted on her by the partners, who thinks her husband's death by avatar should be actionable.

I'm looking forward to jumping into this story's roller coaster. Tomorrow the fun begins!

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

All right, I have a few goals to meet.

First off, $1000 in net poker winnings between October 25th and November 25th. At the moment, I'm $160 toward that goal. Of course, in poker you can go backwards.

Next, 50,000 words for NaNoWriMo in November. I managed this last year. This year I'm raising the bar by selecting a first person narrative. I won't be able to use the strategy of switching characters when I can't think of anything more to say about the current one. That strategy helped me greatly last year.

Next, there are the inevitable Amaranth commitments I intend to fulfill. We're having an initiation, and I have a lot of lines to learn for it, plus a doughnut sale in Portland later.

Then, I'm joining a Creative Process group. It will be meeting every Monday from Nov. 10th through the end of January. Don't really know what that will entail in work outside of class. Maybe we will make it up as we go along.

And, I'm hosting the family Thanksgiving the Saturday before Thanksgiving.

That, and my usual life is enough to pile in one month, don't you think?

By all that's merciful, may I escape November without any further crises.

Friday, October 24, 2003

Spent much too long sorting beads yesterday. I bought two assortment packs to cover the colors I needed to make a twisted gold wire crown I'll be needing for Amaranth. Lesson to remember -- sorted beads are worth much more than mixed beads. Next time -- if ever -- I do something like this, add two hours of my labor to the cost of each assortment and see if they are still a better value than buying individual bead packs.

Still, I also finished the crown. Total cost, under $20. Not counting labor.

Sorting beads reminded me of playing No Mess. Sometimes the easiest way to get the items you want together is to remove the ones you don't want. Also gained sudden insight into the use of a Mancala board -- a long stick with indentations would work very well for sorting grain sized beads.

Now I have a lot of remaining beads. Nothing comes to mind to do with them. Maybe later.

Friday, October 17, 2003

Took our cat Pike in for an overdue dental cleaning Tuesday, and he gave us quite a scare. He has picked up a heart murmur since his annual exam this summer. Took x-rays, and everything looked ok, so they proceeded. He was extremely frightened to go to the vet this time. We're going to try to arrange home care for him in the future.

He seemed fine once I brought him home. A little hoarse from all the high pitched sounds of distress he had been making.

Pike seems to live to love me. I've never known a cat to follow me around, complaining until I sit down, so that he can lay on my lap, until Pike. I find I'm not ready to give him up. Not that you ever are, I suppose.

But all's well for now.

"Isn't it true, you never know what you've got 'til it's gone
They paved over paradise and put up a parking lot"

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

This morning I grabbed a few minutes to memorize the words to Lovers in a Dangerous, as performed by Bare Naked Ladies. This is something I haven't had a chance to do in a while. It felt good.

A couple times in the past I've gathered a list of all the songs I have memorized at the moment. Both times, it was in the vicinity of 120 complete songs. That's right, I could sing nonstop for about three hours with no lost verses and no repeats. Not that you would necessarily want me to. The consensus seems to be that my voice is mediocre at best. But I enjoy it.

My life seems more gracious when I have time to indulge in music. It has been a very hectic couple of months -- one urgent task following another piled on top of my usual schedule. Coming home from helping a friend move Sunday evening, I found myself wishing I could stay home for the next two years.

Definitely time to indulge in some simple pleasures.

So if you find me singing on your street corner, please look on me kindly. I promise not to tarry. It's just an amateur indulging in breath, note, beauty and lyrics, it's not toxic waste.

Take care, all.

Sunday, July 27, 2003

I've just been out tweaking the front sprinkler system. We have a few bare patches beginning in the front lawn. So I went out to observe the water patterns and see if I could improve the coverage.

My skirt is wet from mid-thigh down. Fortunately, linen doesn't become too transparent, and the neighbors aren't too active at 6 am. It has been warm enough that I enjoy the cooling as the water evaporates around my legs.

One of the sprinkler heads was covered by foliage. I cleared the leaves away and gathered a good deal of skirt water on that one. Another has a leak, and that I can't repair while the water is running. There seems to be one area that the sprinklers don't quite reach. With luck, when the leak is repaired, there will be just enough additional pressure to send the water farther from the heads and cover that patch as well.

I have been savoring my domestic pleasures recently. Since we added the evaporative cooler, (affectionately called Joey,) our house has become an even more pleasant refuge from the heat and expectations of small town desert life. Doug and I have begun playing Final Fantasy, the original, out of the Origins package, and hope to play FF2, FF4, FF5, FF6, FF7, FF8, and FF9 in order over the next year or two, returning to our beloved FFX with new appreciation of the development of its play, in plenty of time to play FFX2 when it comes out. We may slip in Final Fantasy Tactics and Chrono Trigger somewhere. Outside entertainment doesn't draw us as strongly. Especially since only The Matrix reloaded, of four films we've seen in the last month, provided a truly outstanding experience. That film well exceeded our expectations. Bruce Almighty was competent fluff, The Hulk interesting visually and psychologically, but somehow slight, and Legally Blonde II really dropped the ball, with dead dialogue from scene 1. The talent of Reese Witherspoon, Sally Field, and especially Bob Newhart salvaged some interest from their scenes, but I still have a bad taste left from that film. A true waste of good characters and good talent. How could the charm of the first one go so wrong, wrong, wrong?

Today, we plan to hit the local tour of homes. Every year, I see the signs, and think "I'd like to do that!" and by the time I free a weekend day to tour, it's over. This year, we are catching the last day of the last weekend. It's progress. Maybe next year, I'll be organized sooner.

And despite my cri de coeur over the dishes a few blogs back, the state of the house is improving. I'm keeping up pretty well on the necessities, and catching some of the occasionally needed tasks up to date -- like vetting the sprinkler system.

So, life is good.

And I hope yours is, too.

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

All right, what's boring about peace? How much adrenaline do people need, anyway?

Now, I admit to being easily bored. I hate waiting, and spending forty hours a week doing some repetitive, detail-oriented task -- features largely in my vision of hell. I like a challenge, and I don't want to outlive my ability to learn.

AND all the things I like to do can more easily happen in peace. There's more time for art, and good food, and good conversation. There's easier travel to exotic places, and better chances to get to know people from other cultures. Without a large share of our economy draining into a destructive hole, we can build more interesting architecture, and film grander spectacles, and educate more people. Everyone has a better chance to realize their dreams, and make this a richer and more fascinating world, when the economy is good.

Only the unimaginative find war the most exciting possibility. Ask any soldier -- war means long stretches of boredom. Peace, on the other hand -- peace means freedom and choice and art and business. Peace lets us work on justice and freedom, and war distracts from it. In peace, freedom expands, and in war, it contracts.

Oh, war has its moments. Peace is infinitely more interesting.

Monday, July 21, 2003

I'm noticing a much longer lag between the time I give a copy of Embers of Humanity to a reader for commentary and the time I get it back. The Cracked Bell came back more quickly. I hope this is a good sign.

Meanwhile, strange scenes and phrases have been drifting into my mind for the current effort, A Game of Christmas. I find myself wanting to open it up, really create an exciting vision of peace... well, you see my problem. A novel calls for a problem for the protagonist to grapple with. Peace is a resolution, not a problem. Hence, no novel. But here I still am, feeling like there's some story just out of reach....

I suffer occasional losses of faith in fiction. Endings -- a piece of fiction has to end, and life does not come in neat delineated packages. Not even birth and death are final bounds, if the community is your focus. And problems -- I manage my own life to avoid drama. To the greatest degree possible, I plan ahead and gather resources and skills, and associate with the kind of people, that will help my life run smoothly, productively, pleasantly -- anything but dramatically. So I have no patience for characters who create problems for themselves. And no will to pile problem upon problem upon my characters, just to make things more dramatic.

So maybe I'm not cut out to write fiction.

But then I have these ideas...

Well, my faith will probably return. When the weather cools, and I feel more energetic, when next I read a stunningly good novel, and see that with all the form's contradictions, there is still beautiful and true work to be done in it, or when my own words start to come easily, and I feel that they are good -- then I'll be drawn in again.

And why should I expect the good stuff to be easy?

Thursday, July 17, 2003

It has been a while. A bad cat month, and the dreary, mind-deadening heat of summer. Irony and lack of sleep.

A couple of days ago the words started bubbling up again. I regained the desire to blog, and stray, coupling sentences wound through my mind, seeking to realize themselves as blogs while my fingers twitched far from the keyboard. Stillborn word children, now lost.

Or perhaps not, merely to be rewound and transformed, rising from the archetypical muck where the first ancestors of story combined into self-replicating strands after the momentary illumination of serendipity's lightning.

Remind me, oh muse, of dignity and celebrity, of pet responsibility, headstands, and the way of accepting no, and I shall write again.

Sunday, June 01, 2003

Good systems and bad systems.

Our recycling system is working well. When we use a can, we set in near the sink, wash it when doing dishes, then drop it in a box under the sink. Bottles that need washing get the same treatment -- water bottles, for example, don't need washed and go directly into the box.

When the box fills, I take it to the garage, sort the recyclables in it into the appropriate recycling containers -- I have a handled bag hanging from a nail to collect those with deposits, two bins for materials collected at the curb, and another box for aluminum, which I donate to a charity that redeems it and gives the money to diabetes research. These final recycling receptacles are all easy to carry to where their contents leave my control. So all this recycling moves at a steady and easy pace, and is pleasantly out of sight at every step of the way. It's a good system because it lets me recycle easily, gaining some efficiency from batching the materials while keeping them from reaching daunting mountain of labor status.

The dishes system is not working as well. We have all the right tools -- a nice double sink with disposal, a dishwasher, plastic and steel wool scrub pads, plenty of washcloths and dish towels, so we can change them as soon as they are soiled, effective dish soap. The problem is me. I don't like doing dishes. I don't like the feeling of having my hands dirty, and I don't like being exiled to the kitchen in the social hour after dinner, and I swore when I left my last place of employment that I'd never work on my feet again.

Well. I've done some mental diffusion techniques, and the best I've managed to do is soften my reaction to doing dishes from: this is horrible, unfair, nasty, blecherous, disgusting and hateful
to: this is one of those necessary and useful tasks that, while unpleasant, has to be done.

And that's a fair amount of improvement, really. But I still don't want to do them. Especially not right after dinner, when I want to visit, and my feet often already hurt, and I'm tired and don't have the will to push myself to do unpleasant tasks, and I'll have to go to bed feeling dirty.

So, though I know that the best housekeepers keep the dishes done immediately after meals, and the dishes are actually easier to clean when they're fresh, and it's nice to come into a clean kitchen in the morning, I don't do dishes after dinner very often. Clearing off and washing the table and counters and gathering all the dishes by the sink is fine -- that doesn't bother me.

It's better to do the dishes after breakfast. Then I can go take my shower afterwards. My feet don't hurt, my mood is better and everything seems easier. In fact, anything I do in the morning seems easier.

So, I often discover there is some other important task that needs my highest attention and energy level, and so takes the morning work slot away from doing dishes.

So an entire day may pass without doing dishes.

Then, maybe another one.

Then the kitchen gets smelly and cluttered and congested, and I can't do any cooking without washing dishes first. If I'm working on some project, I find myself at the end of the day, needing to wash dishes just so we can have dinner -- that means the time to make dinner is doubled, and the unpleasantness is at least tripled. And so, instead of me making us excellent and healthy food inexpensively, we end up eating less tasty, less healthy, and more expensive convenience foods, or going out at even greater expense.

And so my dislike for doing dishes has reduced our wealth, our health, and forced us to live with ugly clutter in the kitchen.

Really, the dishes system is in total breakdown.

And all because I don't like doing dishes.

And you thought that was just a minor character flaw! Why, it's practically the downfall of domestic civilization!

Until we have better systems, may you all enjoy the tasks you have to do.

Best wishes, Anna Paradox

Tuesday, May 27, 2003

This blog from May 23rd appears not to have posted then.

I'm really glad I'm making copies before uploading. A funny thing happened after I disciplined myself to start that process. The lost blog -- the one whose disappearance made me swear I'd never again upload without saving -- suddenly reappeared. Ok, it said, you learned your lesson. Here's a little positive reinforcement. Good girl.

Now, since I am a good girl, I can post the following, written May 23.

Dearie, dearie me. Now the May 23rd blog has reappeared as well. I've deleted the duplication.

What message lurks in the intestines of blogspot? What deep meaning seeks to be known through these technological quirks?

Beats me, I'll just keep saving before upload.

Friday, May 23, 2003

Decadent -- my literal minded old dictionary says this means in a state of decay or decline.

Is that all? Heck, I thought it was something bad. I guess my compost pile is always decadent, and for that matter, so is my driveway. It declines very noticeably -- or, wait, is that inclines?

Seems to me "decadent" comes with a lot more freight than that. When someone declaims that our civilization is decadent, it resonates with impending doom. It conjures pictures of opium addicts languishing and famished on tattered fainting couches. I expect buildings falling into disrepair on every hand and giant cockroaches feeding on the rubble.

No, that's not what's going on. Our cities still grow, our technology continues to rise (have you noticed all the advances in mops recently?), and recent economic wobbles are not long enough to be statistically significant. So what, if anything, is in decay or decline in these our United States?

I suspect most of the people who get excited about our decadence have in mind a decline in morals. And reading yesterday about porn revenues did cause a moment's wonder. But I find any moral decline there vastly outweighed by our great improvements in treating all citizens equally. Tolerance trumps sexual repression in my book.

But here is a decline I worry about. I don't like to see fewer and fewer people voting. And the other day in the coffeeshop, I overheard a discussion about the impossibility of trusting any news source. Since you don't know what's going on, the argument ran, there's no point in voting. You can't know if you're doing any good.

So there we are -- a decline in desire to participate in our government.

Wouldn't it be a shame to let this experiment in democracy decay?

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Ah, Las Vegas. A week there goes a long ways towards feeding a hunger for diversity and action, and restores the appeal of a quiet life at home.

It was our longest stay yet. We split a timeshare unit with Doug's parents. We find them very easy to travel with. We had two bedrooms and two bathrooms, conveniently separated by a full kitchen with dining area and living room. We didn't cook, but the fridge was handy for collecting leftovers and holding snacks. That moderated our indulgence in food a little.

We also indulged in alcohol, in gambling, in entertainment, in sightseeing, and oh my yes in shopping.

It's not the price that creates an indulgence -- it's the stepping beyond your normal bounds.

I was thinking out loud about how many cultures have had a time when normal rules are set aside -- a feast or carnival, a fair, a holiday -- we seem to have places to go instead. Lois -- Doug's Mom -- very astutely pointed out that those work best when you have a cohesive community. With Americans moving frequently, and many diverse cultures mingled, it's challenging to agree on a period when the rules change. So instead we go somewhere.

To Las Vegas. For example.

Boldly displayed in a hotel gift shop were t-shirts reading "What happens in Las Vegas, stays in Las Vegas" -- the logic of carnival captured in a sound bite.

One of the concepts of everyday life that Las Vegas stretches the most is that money is important. When you're there, some things become free and some become more expensive. Money turns into tokens, fast moving and of elastic value. You're enticed to play with money, spend it, tip it, risk it, maybe win it. It's very hard to keep taking it so seriously.

And that's a good thing. Because most of the time, grave stock commentators and stiff business advisors lead us to take money very seriously indeed. But there are things that are more important, aren't there?

Then, when the party begins to tire instead of free, it's time to go home. Back to a steady and moderate life, which sounds better and better -- comforting and nourishing and worthwhile.

And that is my favorite benefit of a vacation in Las Vegas -- that home gains so much glamor when it's time to return.

Thursday, May 01, 2003

Well, my life doesn't seem to be completely eaten. I've found time for a few other activities. Made some more bookmarks, cleaned a little, cooked a little. Caught a cold. Stuff like that.

The cold isn't too bad. I'm just going to confine myself, rest and drink fluids in hope of being over it in time for us to leave on vacation Sunday.

I also made a retail display for the bookmarks. Thinking about it, I decided it wasn't impossibly daunting to ask around and see if any local bookstores would be interested in offering them for sale. I may just give it a try. Though at current expenses and time to make them, if they do sell, I'll only make the equivalent of about $3 an hour for them. Well, it would keep me in paper and stickers.

Long time readers will be aware that I have a serious yen for paper. As collecting manias go, it's mild and inexpensive. At least until I decide to go to Japan and buy direct from the source.

It's nice that I will have time for things other than buying online music. It turns out that 200,000 songs, as currently offered by the Apple Music store, still leaves out a lot of music I would be interested in owning. I expect the inventory will continue to grow. And I'm very interested to see if they begin offering more independent musicians. I'd appreciate more local and unusual choices.

I can only think of two problems with adding more music. One is that it may be harder to search and find what you're looking for. But if Google can search the entire web, searching a music database is certainly a solvable problem. The other is having to write more small checks to send royalties to more small record companies. This looks solvable, too. With electronic payments, the added effort of more and smaller payments should not unduly increase costs.

So, online music still has a good chance of eating my life. It's just not there yet.

Monday, April 28, 2003

Well, that's it for my life. The rest of it will be devoted to listening to samples and buying music from the Apple Music Store.

This is almost like first surfing the web. I've listened to online samples before, but it was always a chore. Now I'm learning odd facts like that I like almost all songs with the word Creek in the title. Hmmm...

I am trying to fill my Hoedown playlist. If you have any suggestions for uptempo acoustic dance music such as Cajun, bluegrass, early acoustic rock, traditional Celtic, etc., by all means email me a pointer so I can listen to a sample of it. The usual address,, applies.

Good luck and good listening, Anna

Friday, April 25, 2003

So, it seems being a soldier is glamourous again.

I shouldn't be surprised. It is a generous and noble thing to risk your life for your country. And historically, soldiers have been admired nearly all the time.

It is only recently, when war became capable of destroying all life on the planet, that we have had mixed feelings about our own soldiers.

And I think it was a mistake to vilify the veterans of the Korean and Vietnam wars. In case of real danger to our country, they were demonstrating the virtues we would need. Better to honor the men and women we need.

But it does seem a little odd, coming off several decades of bad press, to see the military canonized again.

And do we need to proceed to glorifying war? Is it fun and exciting to kill people and destroy property? Are we ready to start counting our enemies as less human than ourselves? Were our efforts towards human rights and tolerance all an illusion?

So, yes, honor the men and women who serve. But war -- war is at best a regrettable necessity.

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

So... somewhere I had a list of things to blog about. Funny how there are days when I run over with too many ideas to capture, and others when I only run over with silence.

We went into Portland to visit Doug's parents. Two and a half years later, it still feels like going home. I don't have a history of frequent moves and adapting to them.

Always enjoy seeing them. Enjoyed dim sum and Vietnamese beef noodle soup, two cuisines unavailable here, and shopped an Asian market, also unavailable here. I can't remember not being drawn to Asian (or as we said then, Oriental) culture. I once calculated that if reincarnation happened, a significant fraction of everyone must have been Chinese. Of course, maybe those reincarnating souls prefer to stay Chinese.

That's classic me -- calculating the probabilities of a hypothetical premise. Good training for science fiction.

One day, I discovered that someone I thought was intelligent couldn't hear hypotheticals. If I said, "if that money comes in, I'll buy that hardcover", he heard "I will buy that hardcover." And similar misunderstandings. That situation would be bound to cause trouble, wouldn't you say?

Meanwhile, running into the news just makes me feel I've wandered into an absurd theater production. There's nothing useful for me to say about it.

So, I'm back to the small tasks of maintaining a life. Had a tire repaired, took Grandma lunch, checked bank balances online, answered mail. Just treading water until everything makes sense again, or until I have the house and all so under control that -- well, that doesn't happen, does it? No, so I'm treading water, maintaining myself, so that when meaning returns, I can act on it.

And that's what's going on when I don't seem to have anything to say.

Monday, April 07, 2003

Here is a historical public service announcement: To do lists are a new development.

There, don't you feel better?

It's true. Universal literacy only has a couple centuries history. Widespread timepieces are no older than the 19th century. Time management only developed in the last half of the last century, and only in the last quarter of it did anyone start thinking everyone should do it. That's what managers were for -- to figure out what the workers should do when.

Before that, humans basicly responded to external signals when deciding what to do. It's warming up? Time to plant. Might check where the shadow of that big rock is hitting for confirmation, or the phase of the moon. Things are ripe? Harvest them. Roof leaks? Fix it. Planning meant doing things in their own time.

Even agriculture is only a few tens of thousands of years old. Before that, it was: hungry? go find food.

Now, millions of people schedule by the hour. They make to do lists and schedule meetings and arrive to the minute. This is what they mean by the accelerating pace of modern life. It's happened over decades, which is slowly enough that it seldom draws our attention. But over decades, in the history of humanity, is astonishly fast. And it's amazing how many people have moved along with it.

Now every man and every woman is an autonomous planning unit. Any single person can look ahead, choose a goal, and begin the step by step process that leads to a new community center, a novel, a new business, a piece of legislation. Smaller goals like creating a garden or redecorating a room or saving for a vacation are almost routine.

Some of us do, some of us don't. And that's fine.

But think how much stronger an economy is when every person can create -- when each point can begin an expansion, and not only the the top.

That is why power to the people, and not only the leaders, is good business. And that is why, over time, the apparent chaos of a democracy outproduces the apparent efficiency of a dictatorship.

And that is why my patriotism applauds diversity.

Wednesday, April 02, 2003

Today I caught some of my hair in the top of the car door. They lay in a long collection of strands draping from the top of the window. Already separated from my head, they seemed -- useful. I gathered them up, twined them around my finger to make a neat loop, tucked them in my purse. What I'll do with them, I don't know.

In 1993, I had short hair. Somewhere in the following years, I decided to let it grow out. Once in a while, someone asks me how long I plan to let it get. I usually answer "The full Princess Leia" or "Well, I'll see how it goes."

Do you think long, long ago, in a galaxy far, far away, they had good hair care products? Or did Leia oil her hair like the dynastic Egyptians? Perhaps (since they really must not have been human) they had hair that was livelier and simpler to care for.

There are various landmarks in length of hair. Short seems to mean less than chin length, medium, down to collar, long, shoulder length or below. Then there's waist length and long enough to sit on. The full Princess Leia is ankle length. Long enough to step on could be a problem. Perhaps even those with heroicly well-behaved hair and daily assistance in dressing it draw the line at hair they could step on.

One useful landmark -- not immediately visible -- is hair that is long enough to put up easily. When you have enough hair to twist it around itself and loop it through, you can put it up even in the absence of tools. If it's also short enough, that when you have done this the ends don't stick up, you have reached a length of grace. For a while, your hair will make updoes easy.

A later landmark, of less utility, is when your hair gets long enough to get stuck under your arms. I'm wondering if it outgrows that stage now.

So that's all the hair landmarks I know.

I don't really expect to embroider with my hair. It was done on occasion in the medieval period. It is long enough to usefully thread a needle, but it's been a long time since embroidery held my attention. I like to think that if birds pick it up it will make superior nests. There's enough length to weave around and around, and, as hair diameters go, it's thick and should have the strength to hold well.

So I like to shed outdoors when I can. But the freed hairs largely fall indoors, where, when my housekeeping falls behind, they make superior dust bunnies.

That will have to do, I guess. That will have to do.

Thursday, March 27, 2003

I am feeling much better. Several days of paying attention to the basics have done the trick. As usual. When all else fails -- when no activity brings pleasure -- try scut work. You'll appreciate it later.

I've been considering the pleasures of cosmetics. I don't wear any. I watched Legally Blonde again yesterday. It's an excellent text against discrimination against the blonde and fashion conscious. There are a few subcultures where there is discrimination against the beautiful, after all. And all those blonde jokes show it might have been spreading to the wider culture. Good thing Legally Blonde came along to nip it in the bud.

It's the kind of film I like. Unexpected, funny, well-crafted, smart. I enjoyed spending a couple hours watching it with Grandma yesterday, and she laughed too.

So let's consider the message that fashion and intelligence can coexist in a single woman.

First response -- of course they can. Second response -- where did the idea that this is unlikely come from?

It seems many people have run into women who have beautiful surfaces and not much else going on. We've seen plenty of them in the movies too -- it's a well-worn video fiction type. And in the seventies -- my own formative years, the decade of truth -- a nation suffering from Vietnam and Watergate rejected appearances, in search of something more substantive. Perhaps it was television as well that brought the realization of how easily appearance could differ from reality. And so an aesthetic of natural, untampered faces accompanied much of the women's movement.

There are real advantages to not using make-up. You save time in the morning and money at the market. Your face advertises your attachment to the contingent that avoids false appearances. Quite important in my case, you are much less likely to have skin reactions to allergens. And I like the feel of uncoated skin better too.

Subtly and crucially, leaving my face as it is affirms that I am good enough as is. I do not require outside aid to be acceptable -- and it's rare enough that I run into a circumstance where I feel pressured for that choice now. (Not shaving my legs is a different story. For another blog.)

On the other hand, where would the world be if no one tried to create beauty? And that is what wearing make-up is for many women -- creating beauty. I cannot fault that.

For others, it is a way of caring for themselves -- a pleasant luxury that leaves them feeling better about themselves. And I cannot fault that either.

So once again, diversity and tolerance are the best policies. Anyone surprised?

Monday, March 24, 2003

All right. When things aren't working, go back to the basics.

Hygiene -- check. I haven't fallen far enough to stop washing, dressing, and brushing my teeth.

Sobriety -- check. I am not regularly ingesting any mood altering substances, and by grace, I've never failed this checkpoint. Unless you count chocolate.

Home care -- check. The house is a little less clean and orderly than I prefer, but there are no leaks or holes. We have clean clothes and clean dishes. All within the normal range.

Diet -- hmmm. Getting a bit too many prepared foods and too much dairy, too few vegetables. Slight loss of balance here. I'll see what I can do about that.

Exercise -- better than usual. We joined a health club, and have actually improved the frequency and quality of our exercise. This should help in the long run, though it may be a stress in the short term.

Sleep -- getting enough hours, but not waking as rested and energetic as I'd like. Hmmm.

That seems to cover the physical needs. A couple things to work on, no huge red flags.

So, where's Maslow when you need him? What's next?

Ah, Google. Thanks.

The next level is security needs.

Safety -- check. I do not feel threatened in health, life, or ability to meet my physical needs. Although there is a war on, I'm reasonably certain that I will not be attacked. And although the economy is poor, I'm reasonably certain I will still be able to afford food and shelter.

Ah, the next level is the emotional/social level. Now here is where it all breaks down. I have my husband, who is unbelievably great, my best friend, my daily support, my fellow adventurer. I have my family, and we enjoy seeing each other now and then and would absolutely come to each other's aid in times of trouble. But I haven't got a single person I can call to go out for lunch. I know no one that I feel would actually care to listen to my problems. I don't belong to a group that shares my interests and appreciates me for who I am. And this is a sore point. (poke, poke, ouch.) I have joined a couple groups since moving here -- I just haven't felt as included as I did in the ones I left behind.

The next level is esteem. I've already written about my difficulties telling whether my creations are any good. I very often have no confidence in the quality of my writing, my singing, my homemaking and all the other things I do. Sometimes I think I've done something good, and the next day, it looks like trash. Some days I think I'm fairly competent, and others I wonder why no one has shot me yet for being such a burden on the planet.

I hear a lot of writers suffer those ups and downs.

Strangely, some days, I feel I've made it to the top level. I've had hours of clarity, when I feel I am becoming the best person I can be and improving the world with the gifts that were mine alone to offer. I remember a few of those moments.

Meanwhile, I'm not sure what to do about not having a local friend or group. I've tried several avenues, so far without success, and at the moment, I can't think of any more to try.

So back I go to the basics. Home, food, sleep. And maybe tomorrow I'll wake up with a solution, or I'll learn of another group to try, or I'll connect suddenly with someone who shares my interests.

And I do feel better, just for taking the inventory.

Best wishes to all. Anna Paradox.

Sunday, March 23, 2003

I've just watched the Oscars. There, the glitter of America dresses up and shows its human side.

The Oscars make me feel better. They're a beautiful celebration of art. And beauty and art are tonics. They strengthen the spirit.

And more than that, they celebrate the diversity and vision of our country. Discrete pins and word choices map out political divisions. Disagreements may bring boos -- but boo is a word, and words are the forum I like to see our differences worked out in.

We have learned compassion. Even those protesting the war speak appreciation for our soldiers. It is brave and noble to put your life on the line for your country. And where did we learn to honor the service, even when we cannot honor the cause? From movies. And where did we learn that the other side is people too? From movies.

So I salute Nicole Kidman, for saying the movies matter. I salute the wearers of the dove pin, and Michael Moore, who can be counted on to stir things up. I salute freedom of speech.

And I salute our soldiers. May they come home soon.

Saturday, March 22, 2003

Thoreau wrote that most people lead lives of quiet desperation.

I seldom do. I have a life. In fact, most of the people I know, to all appearances, lead good enough lives and spend relatively little time in the self-torture of quiet desperation. They do their work and have their relationships and worry more about meeting the deadline, having their calls returned, and getting dinner on the table than reaching grand goals. Like Voltaire's Candide, who finally decided the sum of wisdom was to cultivate one's own garden, we largely pick a little corner of the world and do what we can there.


For about three weeks, I have not been well. A little cold put me out of the game I had been playing, and it seems that without it, I am uncomfortable in my life. I have not yet found friendships to replace those I left in Portland. I still feel out of step with the smaller town we've been living in for the last two and a half years. I've made some efforts to become connected. I joined a service organization and a writer's group and a health club. I took a class. None of it has brought me again to a place where I feel again that I belong.

I'm tired. I'm tired of pouring myself out, offering the hand of friendship and receiving no return. I'm tired of receiving the critical glances that my mild eccentricities elicit where everyone is so alike. I'm tired of being in the far fringe of the local bell curve, when I was well within tolerance in the larger city. I am homesick, and I thought I was more adaptable than this.

Well, maybe that's quiet desperation. And maybe most people are suffering it.

But I have literature more useful than that.

In issue 8 of Sandman, Neil Gaiman has the very wise Death cuss out her brother Dream for "Feeling all sorry for yourself because your little game is over, and you haven't got the -- the balls to go and find a new one!"

I belong to the most adaptable species on a hugely diverse planet. There are choices available to me that generation after generation succeeded without -- a galaxy, an infinity of new games.

And tomorrow, or even this afternoon, I will find one.

If you haven't already, do check out Neil Gaiman's journal.

Thursday, March 20, 2003

I am in pain today.

It hurts me to know, my country, which I love, is causing death and destruction today. My stomach clenches thinking of our troops and their troops and their people suffering and dieing.

I have not seen sufficient evidence to believe this war is necessary. I do not believe diplomacy had been exhausted. I do not believe that removing Saddam Hussein will make our country more secure.

In fact, I believe this show of American aggression will lead to more hatred of us world wide and more terrorists who will be willing to give their lives to do us damage. To defend against terrorism, we should be improving world harmony -- helping others to feel secure. If they did not fear us, why would they want to harm us?

I looked up the quote "America is great because she is good. If ever she ceases to be good, she will cease to be great." Although attributed to Alexis de Toqueville, this statement belongs to the folk process -- first documented in an Eisenhower speech. Its widespread adoption shows that we recognize an essential truth in it. It is our acceptance of diversity that has driven our creativity. It was the moral high ground we held in WWII that rallied the strongest society-wide war effort ever seen and united our country behind our government.

We hold no high ground here. We are punishing our own diversity with the Patriot Act.

And President Bush, elected by the narrowest of margins under questionable circumstances, can not expect to gain the whole-hearted support of Americans in such a dubious war.

Monday, March 17, 2003

"For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction."

I don't even know who to attribute this to. Maybe one of Newton's laws of motion? I was wondering this morning how people got along without the concept "fractal". "Reaction" is even more basic. Try thinking without it for a while.

Today I had the snow tires changed off the car. They are showing only light wear after three season's use. I'm hoping, by the law of action and reaction, that this also means they have inflicted light wear upon the local roads. The evenness of our Subaru's all wheel drive seems to reduce the wear on them.

I always feel vaguely guilty using the studded tires when there is no snow. We had only light coats on three occasions this winter -- uncommonly mild for the region. So I'm reassured to see their light wear. Maybe I haven't done more harm than I received value. Good.

I also remembered to put on gloves to unload them from the car today. The last two years, I have given myself a bleeding gouge when the tire slipped and pulled a stud across some tender portion of my hand. So I'm learning, bit by bit.

It does appear I over-reacted to Google finding me. Just because people can find me with it, doesn't mean they will. I've noticed no particular increase in traffic here. So I can write on in comfortable obscurity.

(Suddenly glances around uneasily. However, no reaction from cosmic forces to the words "comfortable obscurity" bolts from the sky.)

All right, everything's in order. Back to household tasks -- because "entropy" is a concept I have to deal with everyday.

Wednesday, February 26, 2003

I have 503 reasons poker is more rewarding than writing.

The first reason is immediate feedback. I've had success as a writer to the limit of getting personalized instead of form rejections on occasion. I seldom hear back in less than six weeks. Plus, of course, there's the time it takes to write.

In poker, on the other hand, one hand takes a few minutes. You win or you lose. No waiting. Or play a session of a few hours, and then count your chips. You'll be up or down a numerical amount. Right away, you have your score, in nice numerical form. And you can spend your winnings if you want. Immediate gratification -- or mortification, but at least you don't have to wait for it.

I hate waiting.

Next, poker is a fun process. I have yet to stare at a poker table like a blank white page and dread getting near it. Sometimes writing is fun. Sometimes it's something I push through for the distant reward of having something completed. I look at a poker table and gather clues as to whether I have a good chance there. If not, I don't play. No anguish because I'm blocked at poker. Instead, there's jokes around the table, or intense silence. It's friendly or competitive, always social. It's intriguing to see what cards will come and what the other players will do with them. Notice how people don't play writing?

Third, I have better odds at poker. With thousands of manuscripts coming in for every one my markets are publishing, I have better odds of holding a pair of aces than of selling a story. In fact, I even have a better chance of winning a pot with 7-2 unsuited as my pocket cards in Hold'Em. (For the unfamiliar, that's Hold'Em's worst starting hand.)

I'll limit my other reasons to the 500 dollars I have won in the last month. More are coming to mind. They could get as tiresome as bad beat stories, so I'll skip them.

I'm not giving up writing -- though my poker time is eating into my writing time. Unlike poker, writing creates something new -- and possibly lasting. And I suspect my characters would rise up with knives in their hands if I ignored their stories too long.

But there is a certain attraction to spending my time in a way that has actually been profitable.

Wednesday, February 19, 2003

Just been over to More evidence for my suspicions that all good things come to his readers -- see the Cthulhu Springtime lyrics portion in February 18th's journal entry.

Meanwhile, Google has purchased Blogger. Both Google and Blogger offer services that made little sense before the internet, and work fabulously with it. Consider how they are both reshaping my experience. I now almost take it for granted that if I want to know something, there's a very good chance that I can use Google to search the Internet for it. And I spend a significant portion of my reading time on public journals, a previously non-existent form of literature.

Here is the illusion of intimacy -- the kind of daily details I seldom hear from my friends. I know more about the lives of certain web diarists than of the lives of any of my family who don't live with me.

There are two critical differences. First, the information exchange is one way. They are not learning equal amounts about me -- and they wouldn't have time to keep up with all their readers. And there is a certain randomness of information in what I know about my family. I might, for example, learn about the embarrassing incident with the lipstick tube and the Pinto at a family wedding. Or the escaped mule and the patch of not-entirely-corn.

But a blogger need never tell if such an event happened to her or him. Everything published in a web journal is there by the author's choice. They have a certain control over the view they offer the world of themselves.

That view might actually be larger than the one offered by knowing someone in the flesh. Especially if you are more interested in others' thoughts than their actions. Nor is it necessarily less true. The bloggers I follow strike me as truthful, or they'd stop interesting me.

I wonder how web journalling will develop. Will we have new celebrities? Some have followings in the tens or hundreds of thousands already. As far as I know, some other sort of celebrity attracted the initial interest in these cases, so far. Will we have new words for the relationship between journaller and reader?

The whole area of a single person being known to very many is relatively modern. The printing press made it possible, but broadcast images seem to have strengthened the effect many times over. And now we have nearly democratic access to a world-wide medium, so that much of the world's population could potentially send messages to the rest.

A web journal conveniently presents more personal information to a wider audience than has ever been practical before.

Yes, I really want to see where this leads.

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

Two nights of poor sleep leave me feeling brittle and strange. Unusually vulnerable to communication -- and to stomach upset. I went into the world today with strange hair, drank mocha slowly, browsed Barnes and Noble.

The books I touched on today were Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics and Food and Loathing by Betsy Lerner. They strike me with equal force -- both pressing truth into the world, projecting personal story. No matter that one is an argument for the value of comics as a medium, and the other the story of overcoming depression and compulsive eating. Both personal, both true.

My hair doesn't look that bad to me, coming home and looking in the mirror. This morning, I twisted it into three locks -- faster and more chaotic than braiding, each lock two strands twisted then countertwisted against each other. I don't have enough practice to make them even and regular as I imagine them ideally. But if I saw them on someone else, I'd probably think "Cool." Asymmetry, order, chaos.

Still, wearing them outside, I felt exposed, too strange, an outsider. I went to a coffee shop I never frequent for the steamed soy that seemed like it would settle my stomach, not wanting to encounter people I knew. Fortified by the impulse additions of chocolate and coffee, I braved my frequented bookstore. The pointing and laughing I half-expected never materialized. I guess I managed to pass.

Then I encountered Scott McCloud and Betsy Lerner -- both in their way outsiders -- from the marginalized art of comics and the sensation of self as unaccepted when overweight. How many of us feel normal and popular, anyway?

Never mind. My empathy to Scott, to Betsy, and to me -- three outsiders trying, at least, to say something true and personal.
Lost another post. Hit the wrong button this time. Well, I do keep learning. I hope.

Monday, January 27, 2003

We are making progress on exercising more often. It has even been somewhat pleasant.

We've made the tour of local health clubs, more or less proceeding from least expensive to most. Tonight we used the first of three passes to try the most expensive.

This is what more than doubling the monthly fee and more than quadrupling the initiation fee gets you in our area:

Showers with both soap and shampoo dispensers. Racquetball courts. Impeccable cleanliness and complimentary use of towels. Higher ceilings and reduced noise. An indoor pool and jacuzzi. Seasonal outdoor pool and jacuzzi. Outdoor track. Three aerobics rooms, and water fitness classes as well. An attached restaurant and snack bar. And all the prestige of knowing you belong to a club so exclusive it has a two month waiting list.

There are actually fewer weight machines, and no more cardio machines than at the next most expensive place. All in all, we need the extra cash more than the extra amenities.

But we're savoring our passes while we have them. Hmmm... so this is what it's like to be rich.

Yes, it's indulgent. And it's more than we need.

Thursday, January 23, 2003

Google has found me.

Suddenly, I may not be writing into a void any more. Suddenly, I may have listeners.

It's a strange feeling. I felt almost protected, if a little lonely, writing my thoughts onto the web. Someone could see them, but -- it seemed a bit unlikely. Now, I will turn up when someone searches for Anna Paradox. Whether anyone will search for that phrase is another question, still a bit unlikely. But I have moved several levels of likelihood farther into the public view.

My strongest reaction, however, is that I had better give you guys something. I haven't been updating very frequently. If you find this, why bother to come back? Nothing's happening.

So, I am resolving again to write more often. I want to put some time into the Nanowrimo area, and complete the logs. I'm considering posting the whole novel, suitably tagged as adult material.

And if you have any feedback, by all means write me at: