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I am writing this month, but I can't do Nanowrimo for reasons. One: I don't seem able to focus on very large projects at this time. I'm just grateful I can write at all! Anything longer than a short tends to get lost in the underbrush of a no-longer-chemo-brain. So I'm writing shorts, cleaning up old stuff, submitting a bit. I decided that since it's really unlikely for me to make enough money to be thrown off of Medi-Cal in the near future, it's dumb not to submit. Actually--did I explain this?--being thrown off Medi-Cal is not the thing I fear. What I'm afraid of is getting put into the grey category where they don't throw you off Medi-Cal but they require you to pay several hundred dollars (for some people, thousands!) before they will pay for anything. It would be better to get thrown all the way off and pay the (newly) normal subsidized premiums and copays, but that doesn't happen immediately. Worse, I have no idea what would trigger which alternative. So, just as in the case of facing up to cancer, etc., I just have to live my life.

I already submitted two things--one at the end of last month, but I'm counting it in this month. That was a near-future sort-of fantasy about a woman who is being moved out of her inundated neighborhood to find that her new neighborhood is pretty watery itself. And also pretty strange. The other is "John Brown's Body," which is ten years old and looks it, but it's going to a reprint market and its datedness might be interesting in the light of how things are working out, politically, these days. I mean it's sort of the opposite to everything!

I wrote a flash piece but my first reader (you know who you are) said what I was feeling--that the story felt like the unshot gun on the mantle. So now it's turning into a novella. I think it's kind of a time paradox story, but maybe not: some mysteries are not to be understood by the author. An old lady returns to the mysterious coastal village she spent a summer in during her childhood, and finds things to be somewhat different from how she remembered them, but some things are entirely too similar. The best part is the setting, of course. I think, despite what I said about my brain not being able to handle longer projects, that this is not too much for me to handle. Again, there are parts of the story that can't decide whether they are near-future sf or fantasy.

During the summer I was working on two short novels, but due to chemotherapy I could only move them forward a bit. One was about girls who save the world by means of their special relationship with crows and pigeons respectively. Honestly, the hardest part of that one is working out a believable mechanism for them to save even a shred of the world. And yet, parts of the world do get saved on a regular basis.

The other is low-fantasy in that it is set in the same fantasy world--but a different corner of it--and it is unlikely that much of the fantasy elements will come to bear on the story. It's an enemies-to-lovers story happening in the interstices of a larger drama of bandit freedom fighters and also referencing the earliest days of the motion picture industry as experienced by eager innovators in other corners of the world. But not our world. Informed by the last years of the Ottoman empire but in no way an analog for it.

On other fronts: I am a third of the way through radiation therapy. The only bothersome effect is my own body's ridiculous response to any postural demand, which is to spasm painfully somewhere. I have to lie in a comfortable position on a well-constructed individualized support for less than half an hour a day, and my body's response to this is to develop stiff painful areas in my neck, back, and arm. Not the side being radiated. The other side. My radiated breast is a little red, and maybe a bit sensitive, but not so as I'd care, especially with this other crap going on.

Continuing with the health care theme, I've restarted physical therapy. I'd gotten de-conditioned and I'd gained weight during chemo, because I spent a lot of the day sleeping or lying in bed reading. Now my energy level is back to its normal (kind of low) levels, and I'm getting more exercise, but there's some damage to undo. Also, I've been using the BiPAP machine for two months and it is not creating as dramatic a difference as one might expect. However, the doctor has some suspicions about my oxygen uptake which we're going to measure next week & discuss next month.

AND last but not least in this theme, today I got cortisone shots in both thumbs to fight severe trigger finger. It's the second round. The first wore off two months ago but the PA's not willing to give me shots more often than every six months. So if this happens again we're looking at surgery. I'm not afraid of surgery. I'm afraid of being the little old lady who collects all the surgeries, and also the fact that I've been enjoying my surgical experiences feels a little perverse to me, so I drag my feet for that reason too.

It's time to go to radiation or I'd expound about Zluta and the state of my house, but that will have to wait for another day, because after radiation Zluta and I will take a walk and after that I will want to clean house a bit before time for dancing.

Firetruck

Mar. 26th, 2016 12:26 pm
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This is something that happens to me sometimes. It didn't happen to me today but I read a story that made me cry and so I was thinking about things while I was at the pond with Zluta. And I thought about this thing that happens to me sometimes. Well, it's kind of a thing that happens, but it's also mostly a thing that doesn't happen, not really.

I don't want to say I have a post-traumatic stress disorder. I feel that it would be presumptous: that it would dilute the label, contribute towards making people distrust it when it is used for people with more disabling issues. But this thing that happens to me: it's kind of like that. But not really, because it almost sort of doesn't happen at all.

It could happen on any kind of day. A bright summer day, like that day--with the light fog in the morning and the insistent breeze off the bay in the evening, but wait? Do I remember what kind of day it was? I can remember the way the day was on one of the days after, when it happened to me, when it was even a Tuesday morning just like that day, and it happened: that was a high-up grey kind of day, the air still and gentle, warm enough for the children to play with water but not warm enough to strip them down to their diapers and underwear and give them juice pops in the play yard. Was that day like that too? It was August, so it could even have been hot, though I don't remember that.

But it doesn't have to be that kind of day, or even daytime at all. It could be a rainy winter day with the rain drops picked out of the air like tiny glass crystals, the doggy smell of wet asphalt everywhere, happy little floods dancing in the gutters. It could be late at night, the house silent but for ghosts and rodents and the proprietary dog pursuing her claims against them. ANy kind of time at all. I could be anywhere.

When it happens to me, I could be anywhere. I could be in my house, chopping kale and parsley on my daughter's cutting board. I could be walking my dog in the neighborhood, past the firehouse, or beyond the soccer field with girls in ponytails and boys in pink shoes, all leaping after brightly colored balls. Or in the grocery store parking lot, or driving to the piond, or like that time I remember, in the play yard at my old job.

What happens to me is almost nothing. It always seems like it will be nothing this time. That's how it starts: with me noticing that it is not happening.

That's not true. It starts with a firetruck, or an ambulance, or a siren, or a person in a uniform. Not juist any uniform: a firefighter's uniform, or an emergency medical technician's uniform. Anything from the first responder's kit, really. They don't have to be responding to anything. The firetruck or ambulance can be tooling around town or parked in a parking lot. The siren can be blocks away. The person in a uniform can be standing around, or buying groceries.

The first thing that happens, as I said, is I notice the presence of the firetruck, or ambulance, or siren, or firefighter or ambulance driver. I notice they are there and I notice that nothing is happening to me. And then I notice that nothing is still happening to me.And I think about how grateful I am to the firefighters who came on that day even though they couldn't save him and neither could my son though he was almost a doctor when his father died in his arms. And then I think some more about how this used to make something happen to me but it doesn't any more. And then I think about the thing that used to happen to me when I noticed the presence of one of these things. And then I remember what it felt like when that thing happened to me, and I congratulate myself for not feeling that thing, for not hjaving that thing happen to me an hymore. And then I rell myself that I must have gotten much better because I am not feeling that thing that I can so vividly remember feeling. And then I remember several occasions when I felt that way, and I vividly recall the sensation of feeling that way.

And then I'm not really crying because there's hardly any moisture coming out of my eyes, and I'm not sobbing because my body isn't really shaking and there's no sound coming out of my mouth, and I'm not really grimacing but there's a kind of little frown if you look closely and my eyes do close tight but they open right away so you can't really say anything is quite happening to me, but it feels like something is happening to me and I really, really, really wish that day had not happened.

But it's not really quite a thing that happens, still: it's more of an echo of a thing that used to happen, over a thing that happened, years ago now.
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Every bit of information I have gotten since that first partial pathology report has been boring. That's good. I do have a fairly rare and aggressive type of cancer, but it's not more aggressive than other more common cancers, it doesn't appear to be growing fast, it has given no evidence of having spread anywhere, and it has helpful receptors and it  doesn't have unhelpful ones. So therefore my treatment plan is really routine. I will have a wee bit of a lumpectomy and the lymph nodes connected to that part of the breast will be removed too. If all goes well, and there's no cancer in the lymph nodes and the piece of flesh that's removed looks like it has a good margin around the tumor, I'll get a course of radiation and five to ten years of a hormone-locking medication. If there's doubt about the margins, they might go in again and remove more tissue. If there's cancer in the lymph nodes, or if no cancer in the lymph nodes but there's dangerous looking genetics in the removed tissue, I will also get a course of chemotherapy.

Everybody seems to think this is walk-in-the-park level of treatment, by which I mean, i'm not expecting tremendous amounts of side effects--some, of the type we associate with these things, but not a lot. And no disability to speak of. Which is frustrating the hell out of friends and family who want to do things for me. All I need is three rides the day of the surgery and someone to walk the dog that day and the next. After that--I'm a boring normal person.

It's all a bit anticlimactic, but I'm not complaining.

On another front, doves sat on my skylight for half an hour yesterday, giving me a lovely view of their red red feet and their fuzzy feathery butts, but it sure drove Zluta nuts.
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Seriously I am eating a reasonable amount of food but I feel like nobody lets me near the victuals. What the hell? I'm having to do reality checks on my consumption instead of just following my appetite because it's never satisfied. Maybe I'm missing some important nutrient? "Satiatine!" the vitamin that makes you feel satiated.

I have a new keyboard for my laptop but I can't figure out how to get the thing in. I mean, I understand that all the components of the laptop have to come out but I can't see how that is done--there are a lot and and a lot of screws in there and many odd plastic structures. So I decided I needed a new computer guy because the guy I was using spaces me out all the time and can't be in my presence for more than a few minutes before he tells me what an asshole my son is and how much he disliked my dog (he's in the category of "old friends" but I'm thinking this category might be too broadly defined). I called the one down the street I can walk to and it was a weird conversation in which the guy seemed to be trying to convince me not to bring the laptop and keyboard in. So I guess I'll call the other one a few blocks farther away.

I drafted a new sleeve for that top but I have my doubts I did it right, so I haven't cut  new ones out yet. It's no use saying "use a well-fitting sleeve for a guide" because I don't own any. I have some t shirts that work right, but the woven shirts I own all have oversized sleeves and giant armscyes, whereas here I'm trying to make a just-normal sleeve with a tailored armscye. I believe the reason I own all these giant shirts is that normal shirts in my size are never made so that they actually fit. Usually they are too tight in the bicep and weirdly both too broad and too narrow in the shoulder--to narrow across the back and too broad across the front, even if they are too tight in the bust. That, and for a long time the dropped shoulder "big shirt" was all the rage. I think that the endurance of this style is because it doesn't matter if it doesn't fit.

What else can I complain about? I know! I can't find any more non-Company Kage Baker books! Maybe I'll give up and try the Company books again. What I want more of is stuff like The Bird of the River and the Pismo Beach sort of stories.
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I'm sitting here singing "All God's critters got a place in the choir" and suddenly I can't because I'm crying and I don't know why. I don't know what this song ever did to me.

My only association with it is that it was a favorite song of my kids and every institution they were connected with, despite their rather militant atheism. So am I having a bout of nostalgia? Could be, though this is the only symptom.

Sure is an optimistic little song, though. And also cute.
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Last night and the night before I had almost a normal amount of sleep. I read somewhere that an important part of falling asleep is the body temperature dropping, and I had a moment of clarity. Post-surgical insomnia is quite possibly probably maybe at least partly a bit due to the body's temperature being a bit elevated for healing purposes! So I have added "sleep under only a single sheet" to my insomnia-fighting weapons. I can't swear that it is working, as the difference is really only about an hour more of sleep-- so like 5-6 hours at night instead of 4-5. But it's huge! I've gone from needing to lie down and doze a half hour out of every two hours to maybe sleeping ten to twenty minutes once or twice in a day. Normal range! (My normal normal is like seven hours of sleep)

I've also begun to be somewhat prouctive on the writing font. I forget whether I revealed here that I had recently figured out how to resolve one of the final confrontations in the not-Poland story. It does require a small but pervasive amount of revision in the earlier parts of the book so as to support and kind of foreshadow the events, but I needed to do some revision anyway. To that end I'm taking notes and also advancing the narrative. I need the notes. I have a cast of thousands to not make stupid errors about and I also have decided to change the fates of some soldiers, so that means I have to know where they met their current fates.  I'm also updating the appendices.

Yes, well. Appendices in a work of fiction. Well.

The thing is that the kind of person who likes to read the kind of book that The Drummer Boy is, also like to know how to pronounce the names, and they like to have a handle on the grography--maps and all that. So I thought I'd give them those things in appendices, so they don't have to read that matter unless they want to but they definitely can if they want to. Also, the kind of people who read this kind of book are definitely the kind of person  who will notice that there are a lot of name forms that look inconsistent, and they might be unhappy if I didn't give them a nice context in which to understand what I'm doing with that (the short answer is that Marezhkia is a polyglot country and the people use the forms they like--thus there is a Giurgu and a Yuri and a Yiri, and a Yanek and an Ivek, and so on and so on: and this fact is important to the actual plot, thank you).

I finally found the kind of real-Polish (that is to say, Polish in this world, not not-Polish which isn't Polish at all but I find it a convenient handle) folk music I could not find before. What I had found before was chorales that sounded like Midwestern a capella choirs singing church music, which I am going to just say I respect in the abstract but I would rather not listen to. I was sure that Poles had some music I would like, and given their position on the continent I had an idea what it would sound like.  But then I found a very large corpus of Polish groups who sing English sea shanties, which is charming, and I listened to that with some burbling enthusiasm. Then yesterday--on a whim I threw in Polish folkmusic to the search bar at youtube and found...Lipka Zielona (that's right, it even has a linden tree in it! and birds who are not birds). This is right up my alley-- that's one of the kinds of sounds I like the most, and when I translated the lyrics (using g. translate, my limited Czech vocabulary, and a common-sense feel for how song lyrics go) they were pleasing. Also I like contemplating the resonances the different aspects of the song and performance have with other European folk music. The instrumental elements I tend to call Hungarian though the Hungarians have no monoploy on them, and the vocal style which sounds a little more Russian to me though as soon as I say that I start arguing with myself about it, like that. That's fun.

There's another video of the same song on youtube which has an unbearable costume skit of peasantry whatever nationalist whatwhat, but whatever. If this song has nationalist implications I don't know about, well, I guess if you know it, tell me, and break my heart.

I started this to write about fooooooood. I can't get enough. I thought maybe I was going to get relief from endlessss huger today but it came back. I can't appease it. I thoguht at one point it was because I wasn't eating enough but now I'm eating more: three eggs cooked with potatoies, onion, salami and chard for breakfast, a chicken salad sandwich and a beet and a tomato for lunch, a goddamned bowl of sunflower seeds for a snack, and I'm sure other things, already today. Maybe I'm missing some nutrient and my body's protesting this?
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So I bought peaches at Costco. K likes great big juicy peaches and is not impressed with the wonderful little ones from the farmer's market. So I thought, these are big and beautiful, and surely if you're selling produce to restaurants, you'll have good produce, right?

The peaches were "organic." But I believe they have been bred to have that sweetcorn sugar in them, because they are sweet and grassy flavored when they are crisp, but once they get tender they are neither sweet nor flavorful. At no time--with an exception I'll explain in a moment--do they taste much like a peach.

So I was desperate. And I experimented, as I always do when my food is problematic. Well, a lot of the time, anyway. First I microwave the peaches in batches of four for nine minutes (I had eight). Then I poured the beautiful but not very intensely flavored pink juice into a pot, and peeled the roasty peaches and cut them up into the juice and cooked them until everything was much darker and thicker and tasted more like peaches. Also I added lemon rind and lemon juice because that's what you always do with everything, and also a tiny drop of vanilla and almond extract and a sprinkle of cinnamon and there you have it the four spices of my baking most of the time. Then I made a regular sugar cookie dough which I flavored similarly and I lined the bottom of a glass baking dish with that and set it and the leftover crumbly bits (maybe a third to a half of the dough, actually) aside till I was ready to bake and while I was waiting I mixed a pint of ricotta with an egg and the usual suspects only a grated orange this time. Did I forget to mention I used sugar in these various parts? A wee bit more than I might have if K did not live here, actually. Then when I had the chicken and potatoes I was going to roast and the beets ready to go I turned on the oven to 380, don't ask why that number, and put the dough and the chicken adn the beets into the oven in their separate dishes and let them cook until the dough had integrity but was not brown. And then I put the ricotta in a layer over the dough and then the  cooked-down peaches (leaving most of the juice behind in the pot--there wasn't a huge amount anymore, but more than I wanted in this dish) and last the crumbly stuff and finally a sprinkle of more sugar because K. And then I baked it until it looked right. The cookie dough had turned brown top and bottom but had not burned, and the ricotta had cooked into a thing and the whole thing was pretty successful.

Meanwhile there was a scraping of ricotta stuff in the bowl yet, and the rest of the peach juice and a few pieces of peach, and I put the peach juice and pieces into the ricotta bowl with a handful of walnuts and that was my snack--"peach and walnut soup"--sounds very old country, doesn't it? Not telling whose old country it sounds like.

This, and watering the back yard, and the laundry, took me I swear to all that listens all dogdamned day. And I still haven't brought in all the laundry or cleaned the kitchen (tomorrow is another day). I did put all the finished food away in their separate containers. Tomorrow's lunch will be a soup made of the stuff from under the chicken (potatoes and onions) and some elderly broccoli and some of the chicken. Yesterday's lunch was semolina cooked like polenta with asiago cheese and then topped with sauteed yellow beans,parsley, and red bunching onions from the yard.

I did some snooping around online and it is apparently normal to be insomniac and exhausted for some weeks after knee surgery. The frustrating thing is that I am doing really well and I'm mentally ready to forge ahead into my new life with a long straight left leg but my tether is too short to have much in the way of adventures. And I thought I was low-energy before! Also, my readings indicate that the reason I am desperately hungry all the time is that I need a tremendous amount of food during this period. Well, all right. I'll eat piles of food if I have to, I guess.
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Yesterday I got the staples out. That stung but it is vey nice not to feel them in there. The PA predicted I'd feel a lot better right away but my silly leg decided to freak out and swell up a little so I've been feeling a little stiffer.
However! My actual range of motion continues to slowly increase. I am nothing like near my goals (120 degrees flexion, 0 degrees straighten) but the process is expected to take months. I actually expect to be still working on the left when I get the right knee done (estimate September-November, depending on how many others have already signed up next month when I am allowed to schedule). Something I have noticed is that my left leg, which is normally the shorter one, is now significantly longer than my right. This can be accounted for almost entirely by the introduction of a pad to take the place of the missing cartilage.
Today on a whim I tried out my cane. The last time I tried that I noticed that my gait was more natural with the walker so I put it aside. Today it was fine. So now I am switching between the two depending on what I'm doing. The huge thing is I am no longer dependent on somebody to take the walker downstairs when I go outside, I can use the cane on the stairs, so I can bring it with me, Another pleasant surprise is that the stairs are not significantly more difficult post operation than they were before. SInce this is only going to get better, I have a lot to look forward to.
The only downside to all this progress is that my weird crisis adaptation of having the world's highest pain threshold is fading away. This means that the better I get the more pain I feel...and as everybody knows, pain management is one of the most frustrating tasks a person ever has to do. Of course  I have  eccentric   responses to the meds, too.
Also I am very excited about several Supreme Court decisions this week.
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It's hard to believe it has been six days, but if you include the day of surgery, it has been! That must be why I'm getting restless.

So my first full day home from the hospital was a wee bit dire.too much too soon but not that gross )
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Tomorrow is the day I get a new left knee made of shiny smooth titanium! I have spent all day cleaning and organizing because the room I will be sleeping in until I can climb stairs again (at least as well as I can now, which is not well) was flithy filthy. No excuses, but some reasons: KI had let the whole house go for some years of grieving, and then I was just beginning to clean up after myself when I had Shakuntula move in, and she promptly filled every space woith boxes so I couldn't turn around let alone clean. But now it is clean (the toip bookshelves could use some serious dusting but I dusted the ones within reach and my friend who gardens for me came over and vaccuumed and mopped while I organized a bunch of stuff). Also in the process I had Zack move my desk upstairs. It consists of two small horizontal filing cabinets in black and an eight-foot hardwood plywood slab. I've arranged it so the files face to the sides with an overhang at each end. When I am back upstairs my sewing machine will live at one end (the end where the drawers of fabric are) and my computer will live part-time at the other end and the four or five feet in the middle I will endeavor to keep clear so I can cut things out on it or lay out maps or writing notes on it. I have it set up by the humungous window assemblage, but I may bring it farther into the room later if I decide I want to be able to walk all the way around it.

Zack had found a futon frame on the street some time back, just in time to put up a number of capoeiristas from Norway on it. For this purpose he moved it upstairs. The mattress is my old mattress from when I was living downstairs. It's really a cozy little room.  Speaking of piled boxes, I still have three or four boxes of papers to go through, but I have them tidied away oin my closet and I will go after them when I am upstairs again. And I've managed to get all but a few albums and  one shoebox-sized container of photos into the old Army footlocker, so that's fewer boxes. That's another project. My family is not so huge that we should have that many photos.

I still have a wee mess to put away before I sleep, and the bed to make (I mean my actual bed upstairs: for the futon, I just piled a bunch of bedding next to it). Also some clothes to take downstairs so I can get dressed over the next few weeks. Some are already down there. Also taking the library books down and the water bottles.

I also watered thje garden pretty well because it won't get otherwise watered until Saturday.

When I get better I'm going to go to work with Emma a few times to help catalog plants at the zoo. She's making a huge map to show where the browse materials are, and also the toxic plants that animals shouldn't have.  Another project is to expose me to the capybaras because they are rodents and I am curious as to whether I am allergic to them! So far I know: rats=sever allergy, mice=significant allergy, guinea pigs=mild allergy. I don't know about voles or gophers.

She brought her best zookeeper friend over soi she could pick up her mail (19th century science books), and we pulled out atlases to show off that our family had a hand in making them. That's what we brag about.
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I'm feeling a bit more cheerful today because I have apparently found my brain again. I spent a bit of time discouraged, and then a bit of time on a deliberate writing vacation, and then I had no thoughts whatever in my brain and that was frightening: I was actually empty. It was so weird. Anyway, I just chose a project at random and now I'm back to producing, slower, but a few hundred words a day is okay. The project I ended up working on is the amorous haunted nightstand one. I'm feeling tentatively optimistic on it.

more about the last couple weeks than you want to know, probably )

Oh! It's Wednesday. I should talk about what I'm reading. Um, Growing Gournet and Medical Mushrooms by crazy man Paul Stamets. Today I'm picking up another of his books at the library. There's a lot of information in this tome, and it's superficially laid out in a sensible and accessible way, but in reality when you go to read it, the information is scattered around in all of the places you don't expect it and also there are a lot of frankly odd bits of hyperbole and strange claims. But I am figuring out some stuff from reading it, and the occasional blurry black and white photo of his cute kids holding mushrooms as big as themselves is amusing too.

All of my friends who never had dogs are getting them.
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Of course I didn't notice this before now. But apparently my mind's process goes like this:

(Some kind of substantive thought having to do with the task on hand)
Is the back door open for the dog?
(Something about food)
There is a dog.
(Where was I? Oh, task on hand. Repeat substantive thought and add something to it)
Dog exists.
Is the dog outside?
(Something about the state of my ailments)
Dog exists.
(something about food)
Should take the dog for a walk.
(something about the substantive thought. Oh, right, it is the task on hand)
Dog exists.
(something about music, or a book I read when I was nine)
Dog exists.
(what was the task on hand? oh, right MAJOR REVELATION ABOUT THE TASK ON HAND)
Dog has a need.
(what was that last thought? Oh, right, something about food MAJOR REVELATION REPEATED)
Dog

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Except that today, of course, every Dog thought is followed by "Dog does not exist."
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Background #1: One of my favorite songs is "Dedo mili, zlatni" (Dear precious grandpa--or, in literal Macedonian word order, Grandpa dear, golden) Here's a version of it. The words are better than the visuals: it's just a bunch of things Grandpa and Grandma do around the place, like fishing and cooking peppers, and the chorus asserts that Grandpa is Grandma's first boyfriend and her sweetypie. I think the tune is catchy and infectious. Also sometimes it makes me mad because where's my old man? Of course he wasn't my first boyfriend, but I was still pretty damned young when I threw my lot in with him. Not the point.

EDIT: Here is a much cuter version!

Background #2: on the way to a family thing yesterday, the fellows were making a long string of jokes about robots.

The thing that I take away from this is the desire to have a song "Dedo mili, robotni" but I am afraid it wouldn't  mean "Dear grandpa who is like a robot" but "Dear slavish grandpa."

Oh well. But cyborg grandpa has a bit of appeal. Maybe if we'd been a generation later, I'd have got that deal for him.

This was not supposed to be maudlin, damn it.
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I have four stories out right now.

I looked back through my submissions tags and I see that I was about this active seven and eight years ago. I don't want to speculate on what this means because it makes me kind of sad.
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I am reading Longbourn, Jo Baker's of what the servants are doing while Pride and Prejudice is going on. It's a wee bit purple in the prose but the people are interesting and the material culture stuff is interesting too.

I'm listening to hurdy-gurdy and bagpipes kind of randomly. There's a reason for this, if I can remember: oh yes, I was listening to all the Frankie Armstrong and after I had done that for two days I wandered off in the direction of Blowzabella, the group she recorded her Tam Lin album with. And the rest is just surfing. And there's a reason I jumped on that juncture: that album was my soundtrack for the last part of my pregnancy with Emma, that and the song "Paul and Silas," because of the verse that goes ":ain't but the one train on this track," which you know when you are pregnant is an accurate description of your condition.

Also "You can't always get what you want," the Rolling Stones song, because I was aiming for a "normal" birth after a cesarian and but the line that tells you that if you try sometimes, you just might find, you might get what you need, was exactly what I needed for consolation in case I ended up under the knife again. I had latched on to a doctor I trusted to make the surgery call exactly if the situation required it and not otherwise, and I knew I had to simultaneously hold on to the vision of this birth I thought was best for us and also let go of it (and all preconceptions), which is hard to do. So the dialectics of that song matched my condition quite well as well.

Of course the reason for Tam Lin was that song, no matter how much it is about romance and faery, is also, deeply, about the magic and terror of pregnancy and birth. I think it was when I was pregnant with Emma and thinking about all these songs and stories where the protagonist must go through intense suffering, degradation, and labors to achieve a lover, that I decided that the lover was a metaphorical device for a child.  It makes a lot of stories more interesting to think about them that way -- The Goose Girl and its variations, for example, or The White Bear. At least it makes it more understandable that a person  would go through all that. (Of course this is not always true in all tellings)

Monday Emma and I did our Bean Hollow Beach trip early because she will be tending to animals tomorrow on the First when we used to do that. Eventually I will get back in the habit of posting pictures. I certainly took enough of them. Afterwards we had lunch at the brew pub that's where the Pescadero gas station used to be.

Other than that, writing, deciding whether I want to drag my carcass to the nice folk dance party tonight. Really quite ready to go under the knife and get a new knee, though I am worried about the cost since nobody seems to think it's important to tell me how much that is.
ritaxis: (hat)
Of course it's a mixed bag.

Starting with the personal, I rode up PetÅ™in Hill on the funicular railroad in late August and walked down, and in the process came to the revelation that I had only one life to live and it was stupid to live it unable to walk down a hill in a normal fashion. So I concluded that it was time to get a knee replacement or two.So I have been working on that ever since and I have the surgery scheduled for February which is not all that long from now.

I got titanium teeth last spring, so hopefully no more broken ones. I cannot tell you how much better life is with chewing surfaces on my molars instead of ragged holes.

My dog got surgery and now she is a much happier dog. She is thirteen now, which surprises people. They think she looks and acts like a dog who is just beginning to be old, like eight or nine years, but that's because they didn't see her when she was a young, obnoxious, energetic dog.

I did go to Prague for what may be but I hope is not the last time, and I got to listen to an opera while perched on the steep side of a valley in the forest, and to watch a parade of bagpipe players from all over the world many countries in Europe and Asia. It was the wrong time for linden blossoms but it was the right time for new wine, which can only be enjoyed in a small radius of its manufacture because long travel induces explosions.

Next, family: both of my children have acquired the exactly correct jobs. In these times this is a huge, huge thing. Emma had suffered as a theater costume shop seamstress for six years (she had advanced to "first hand," but that made her work even more frustrating), and now she is a full-time, permanent, career zookeeper. She's even getting to design a training program to help the birds keep from going crazy. Frank was in the UK for only a month when he landed a "Senior House Officer" job at Royal Leicester Infirmary, working in the emergency room. I mention the job title because it is silly. It is actually a junior doctor job: it's equivalent to a residency in US hospitals. It is exactly what he needs at this point in his career, and he thought he was going to have to work as a substitute doctor for a year or so to get NHS-specific experience before he could get it. And the setting is what he hoped for (though he would have taken anything)-- a large, urban hospital serving a diverse community.

So even though 2014 had some trying times for both of them, and for their spouses, they're fine now. Well, not just trying: Emma's husband Jason was very nearly killed by a confused action on the part of his sweet but clearly deranged rescue dog. Jason has a pretty remarkable scar but he is otherwise okay. Frank's wife Hana got hit by a virus as soon as they landed in the UK, and hasn't found a job, but I feel that after she worked so hard while Frank was finishing med school and getting his papers together for the UK, she can take her time and find a job she likes. She doesn't quite agree, but I find that the younger generation is understandably anxious about work and money and home.

Speaking of work: I have had two books published this year, a shortish novel and a novella, and a romantic (do you call them novellettes when they are  just shy of novella length?) story in an anthology. I also wrote another novella that was rejected, a short story that was rejected twice and is now in the limbo of long, long, long response times at that publisher that need not be named, a story that's in submission at another place, several stories that didn't go anywhere, and two stories that are almost finished and will be submitted before the first of the year. And another novelette that was accepted and paid for, for another anthology. And another one that was for a just for fun anthology.

The things that were published this year I wrote last year but I spent an inordinate amount of time editing them. There has to be a more efficient way, and I suspect if the publisher was paying a living wage to the editors they'd find it.

Notice what is missing from the work list: not-Poland. I felt it was a year to focus on getting a bunch of easy things published for immediate small payments, and that next year will be the year to finish and submit not-Poland. Among other things. I do need to work faster and harder.
ritaxis: (hat)
I had a lovely brwakfast in mind. I had some leftover homemade pasta with candycap mushrooms, shaved parmesan, and carmelized shallots and I mixed that with an equal amount of peas and put them into an empty pot I found on the stove to heat and I didn't burn them even though I got a phone call.

The problem is: the pot wasn't empty. My roommate had used it to make chai and somehow I missed all the woody little bits of barky spices...

The flavor is not too bad, though it is not what I was expecting, but all the little wooden bits are making it pretty much inedible. I haven't quite given up yet.

edit: yeah, it's inedible.

also, I wish the livejournal spellcheck wasn't unusable. Honestly, I don't make this many typoes because I don't care and don't try. It's because I can't type and I can't see. My manuscripts are pretty clean because I do use spellcheck and I don't make many homophone and wrong word errors. But my online writing is atrocious.
ritaxis: (hat)
Follows on from my previous post.

Does the world want to know that this particular head cold has caused my nose to produce little porcupine noises on each exhalation? I thought not.
ritaxis: (hat)
So that thing where I spent the day after Thanksgiving in bed (actually I worked in bed, too, so it wasn't as bad as I made it sound)-- well, it wasn't introversion. I was getting a bad cold.

Saturday I had a bit of a rough throat and my brother told me on the phone I sounded bad but I breezily said "Oh, I'm not sick--" yesterday the unstoppable sneezes began.

...I had kind of forgotten what this was like, honestly...
ritaxis: (hat)
Tonight I discovered, thanks to Languagehat, Franz Kafka's wee fiction "Odradek." I also discovered the amazingly over-labored interpretations that exist -- many times more words than the story itself.

The story is a tiny vignette, a meditation on an ungainly object called "Odradek," which looks like an elaborated but delapidated spool, and is apparently capable of speech but has no discernible purpose or desires of its own.  Apparently "Odradek" bothers Kafka scholars a lot: they are sure it must mean something very deep, and they are willing to go to any ends to discover and defend its meaning. I don't think so. The word odradek itself is a word made up for the story, with a West Slavic feel but no real meaning. I think the story is the same kind of thing. It is a writing exercise: the reason it was ever published was that Kafka came to like it andf it helped to fill out a collection.

One a related front, I'm studying Czech again. I'm using Byki espress as a study tool, but I have no patience for the proprietary word lists which are too basic and don't advance me at all. There are quite a few relevant user-made lists, though at least half of the users who make lists seem to have missed the point, because they've made lists that are a hundred or more words long. This is not a useful study set. The lists I like the best right now are connecting phrases, and there are five or so of them, each with seven to twelve or so phrases. Things like "and besides that," or "oh, I almost forgot," or "now it occurs to me that."

I'm having to use the thing very loosely because I can't figure out how it decides that I have learned a phrase. Eventually I may use the phrasebook inside my dictionary to make some phraselists of my own. It's a wee bit strange, that phrasebook, as it seems to be aimed at Czech IT guys who are preparing to go to the US or the UK.

On another front -- a head thing front, I guess -- it is within the normal range of human behavior to spend almost an entire day in bed after every day socializing, right?

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