2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,200 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 20 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Meanwhile, I was reading the intro to Sweater Quest this weekend, and the author could remember nothing that year she would put on her obituary. Well, I thought, there’s nothing in particular I can think of that would make my obituary interesting, but at least I’ve done stuff this year.

1: I finally got a job—Hooray for passive networking! Because that is one thing not on my skill list.

2: I wrote approximately 1.3 novels. Even if, for November’s National Novel Writing Month, finishing the 50,000 word goal meant typing about a third of that in six hours just before the deadline. Which is an accomplishment alone.

3: I read 132 books, seven more than my goal. Mostly they were not of the enlightening type of books and more entertainment, but that’s what I needed this year. Unfortunately, reviewing fell by the wayside.

4: I completed some knitting?

5: I at least didn’t gain any weight.

Eh, enough about the little things I’ve managed. I wasn’t completely oblivious to the outside world. Then again I’m still only going to talk about what interests me.

For example, while I linked to GoodReads before, I haven’t been using the site since it was purchased by Amazon in…March, I believe it was, and when the first major policy change lead to many user reviews being deleted, I’ve hardly visited. Even so, it is already clear that the site is transitioning from reader oriented to an author/sales focus. And a lot of the active users I followed really did leave, either deleting accounts or only posting links to reviews on other sites.

I made an accounts on BookLikes, and if I ever manage to get it up and running, I will link here.

Haven’t been to the movies much this year, but mid-summer realized that only two of ten trailers had speaking female characters, and of those one says evil and the other was eaten. When I watched Catching Fire, practically the same thing happened, only there was one more trailer with lots of women! And that, Divergence, sounded absurd. Apparently girls only get to watch other girls act out nonsensical plots. Once you’ve noticed, you’ll never be able to ignore it.

What else…the library’s book group is still hanging on, if only just. A few of the remaining members started a writing group as well. Speaking of, if I don’t bring a story to Thursday’s meeting, I’ll have to read my high school fan fiction. I have four stories in-progress because that will. Not. Happen.

And there will never be links to that.

Other book-related news, not too long ago, all the major online ebook retailers removed all “explicit” content books from their stores. Because no one wants to read erotica. All this in response to a vocal group in the UK. That’s not insane or anything. Look, I don’t read it (mostly because it’s not a genre known for high quality literature) but I refuse to accept censorship as the answer.

When you go from that to the NSA*, well. What else can I say? Isn’t that a note on which to end the year.

Let’s declare 2014 the year of intellectual freedom! Positive energy can’t hurt.

*My tablet tried to force me to blame the NBA which I know nothing about. Creepy.

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Honor Thy Inspiration

So I meant to write, when I went to my room, but instead turned a book. This time to a book of arts in northern California. The danger in art books is the inspiration. Now I want to make teapots or bureaus or glassware. Someday I will fill my home with such items, handcrafted and individual. (Who needs unique?) That will take awhile though. After all, mass production was invented to make things cheap, and I’ll have a hard time giving up my parsimony.

Digression: One of the examples Miriam Webster gave for ‘parsimony’ was “She walked five miles to the store just to save a few cents on gas.” My first thought was that Americans are fast because unlike the rest of the world we won’t walk. Perhaps she enjoys the route and can take shortcuts impossible for cars. Or she just loves to walk and watch the seasons change, which you just can’t see from the roads. Or she’s older and retired and this is her day to get out of the house. But given the costs of gas anymore, and depending on where else she has to go, it might not be a few cents (apologies to international readers who may find their way here where Americans complaining about the cost of gas must seem unbearably decadent).

At any rate, if you’ve ever ranted over the epidemic of obesity in this country, you can’t make fun of someone walking too much.

Despite the inspiration that started this post, the middle has been endangered by my current exhausted lassitude. My thoughts move like molasses. A somewhat outdated metaphor, I suppose, because molasses no longer has much of a place outside the cliché. Which is unfortunate because molasses had much more flavor and even more nutrition than our beloved refined sugar. Back to the point, if you’ve ever poured molasses — a misnomer if I’ve ever heard one — you know it’s not merely slow but exceedingly sticky.

Given the associative state of the post, a more apt comparison might be to nearly empty bottle of honey turned upside down… slow and sticky, somewhat crystallized, and dripping from every side of the container. A messy subject.

I keep thinking to bring this to an end that will tie it all together in a nice complete package. But I can hardly remember the idea that started this post in the first place. More than just the emotion of arty and inspiration because I’ve been fortunate to experience it often… Though I’m rarely disciplined enough to do anything more than plan what I want to do with it.

There’s some advice for you. Don’t worry about being worthy of your inspiration, giving it the skill you might think it deserves. After all, no one will ever have your idea. Even a failed effort may inspire someone else at least. Why be disappointed in that?

I’ve just started on a topic I could easily turn into an entire series of posts on its own so it’d better stop myself. Except not to tell myself I can’t write it until I really know what I want to say, because that’s what I did last time when I betrayed my information, and then I didn’t post for more than four months.

Strange Things WP Wants Me To Do

Tag everything with gaming, climate, nature, vacation, travel, politics.

Now, I* know I’ve mentioned politics, though I generally try to avoid it: I’d hate to lose a job because we can’t have reasonable discussions anymore. Though I the candidates impressed me during last night’s debate, as they each seem to have more of a sense of humor than all of their proponents combined. So it’s probably just that they’re better actors than all of their proponents combined; though I think civility is a good thing to act at, even if you can’t be sincere.

I may have mentioned that I play the Sims games, occasionally—that is, I may have occasionally mentioned that I occasionally play the Sims. But I think most gamers don’t call that gaming.

As for nature, I like it well enough. Sometimes enough to go out in it. Hiking is nice, except for the bugs and the fact I’m entirely out of shape. And I’m not much of a traveler because I’m neurotically impecunious and traveling alone makes me sad. Up here in the high desert, there isn’t much to say about the climate, except it’s been hotter longer this year and we’re still in a drought. Even for a desert.

Still I don’t think I’ve ever managed a post that could be tagged with all of those words at once. Until now anyway.

A neighborhood in The Sims consists of a singl...

A neighborhood in The Sims consists of a single screen displaying all playable houses. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Other things WP tries to get me to do: put an umlaut on create (crëate) and vacuum (vacuüm). As we appropriated those words from the German roots quite a long time ago now, I’m resistant to spearhead the efforts to bring them back, much as I like the word umlaut.

WP also thinks I should be erotically impecunious, instead of neurotically so. I’m not that exciting, though. FYI.

*Also, all of me, or at least my brain thinks this, and not just my eye. Thank’s for trying to help me out there, WP. I had to check that one.

So here’s my gaming, climate, nature, vacation, travel, politics. Maybe now the next few suggestions will be appropriate for the post.

Oh, and I’m not trying to pick on WordPress, really. But every time these things shows up, it amuses me. And it demonstrates why you should never, ever, rely on a spelling or grammar check.

We Hear So Many Words And None Make Any Sense

RiteAid Parking

I visited RiteAid today. If I haven’t mentioned it before, RiteAid is the largest chain store for 100 miles, so it’s kind of a thing, locally.

I’m more than willing to get lost in the rows and rows of soaps and creams. They’re just so pretty and clean and bright. Just imagine how much these companies spend on graphic artists for these products. They’re so tempting with their promises of soften skin, smooth wrinkles, even tone.

But.

And there’s always the “but”. But—then they always seem to promise to bring back your skin’s “radiance.”

I don’t know about you, but my skin has never been radiant as:

  1. radiant  brightness or light: the radiance of the tropical sun.
  2. warm, cheerful brightness: the radiance of her expression.
  3. Rare . radiation. [dictionary.reference.com]

I’ve never glowed, my skin isn’t particularly cheerful (unless it’s getting up to more than I do), and I’m pretty sure I’m not significantly radioactive.

It bugs me. Why are we so complacent about such empty words? My parents taught me to be skeptical of advertising, and now making fun of commercials comes like a reflex. Still, radiance has always slipped under my radar. Not that I believed any of these promises, but not the ubiquitousness of that word.

Like Garnier’s new BB Cream. Have you seen the commercial, all the models yelling “BB” like it brings to mind anything other to mind than pellet guns? And I couldn’t find what “BB” was supposed to mean anywhere. Until my mom saw a Fred Meyer ad insert. BB, that magical serum, stands for—get this—Beauty Balm.

Wow.

Bottom line? Question everything. When you see an ad promising an end to that one problem you simply must solve, really ask what they offer. I promise you, it has little to do with what you actually need.

Warning—Digression Ahead

I should write a real post.

It’s not as though I lack material. Aside from all my saved drafts, all ready for whenever I actually feel like giving them proper attention, I also have a bookmark folder titled “Blog Topics” where I save every site I feel like I could talk about, and I don’t even want to think about how many are there—I don’t know that I’ve ever reviewed it.

But despite coming up with at least three possible posts today, I just distracted myself and can’t do more than an aside.

I've also been known to paint...

I’ve also been known to paint… (Photo credit: Debbie Ramone)

Because I fired up my old computer: the laptop my parents gave me for high school graduation. And while I’m not ashamed of giving away my real age in general, thinking about how long ago that was is just too depressing to think about.

Anyway, the old brick still works. It still works nicely after about five or ten minutes of loading, and it does get hot, and the pointer keys are ridiculously loud and loose.

Also? All the keys are worn smooth. It feels so strange, so warm and soft like a living thing.

Kinda creepy. I’m emotionally attached to it, so I’m not giving it up (even though my brother just informed my there’s enough dust in the average keyboard* to grow marigolds) and therefore I hope it won’t eat me with technology goes sentient.

*no citation given

An FYI on Audience Participation

 

Please don’t.

 

Okay, so I’m admittedly a traditionalist on this issue: 8 years of concert band will do that to a kid. But there is a time and a place for everything, and often the time and place doesn’t include the audience.

 

Hence the word “audience” instead of “participant”.

 

Audience

Audience (Photo credit: thinkmedialabs)

 

Sighing over the in-girl -guy in movie theaters? I’d prefer you keep your preference to yourselves, but sure, so long as you’re not too obnoxious. A thirty decibel difference in the clapping vs screaming at a high school graduation? The poor kids have suffered enough through high school that those who’ve pulled together an entourage are the ones who don’t need it.

 

All those shrieking people outside Good Morning America (and similarly, anything televised)—do you ever feel the least bit silly?

 

These, though, I can grudgingly accept as a consequence of the total lack of subtly in our culture. Or our total lack of culture, which ever way you want to look at it.

 

After the Aurora, Colorado shootings, President Obama used the platform of one of his intended campaign speeches to address the nation. That’s fine. Just as well he suspend campaigning on a day like that and it’s standard practice that the president make a speech after such tragedies. It’s sad that we have such a precedent.

 

But that’s absolutely no excuse for all those audience members, especially those standing behind him, to start squealing and hollering in today’s Hollywood ‘applause’ I get to see the president! That should have been a time of horror—respect and honor for the victims. Contain your fan excitement and understand there’s a world outside of you.

 

Sometimes silence says most of all. OK?

 

Don’t Even Ask Me to Play Nice

 

I’m not sure there’s anything that frustrates me more than people using ‘niceness’ as an excuse to silence others. If there’s an illegitimate argument, fine, point it out.

But to say that someone shouldn’t speak out—whatever the issue, be it racism or the color of a website—because they didn’t make their point ‘nicely’ enough…

…it pisses me off.

Notice how ‘nice’ always has quotations around it? Because it’s effectively meaningless. Unless it’s used in the sense of ‘precision, which is never the case in these arguments. Furthermore, ‘nice’ came through from Middle English as foolish all the way back to its Latin root for “to be ignorant”. Good reason to never be nice.

People just can’t stand any challenge to their internal belief system, or anything that they feel defines them: which is to say, anything they like, because no one examines who they are beyond these things anymore. Have they ever? It’s certainly not taught in schools. Test scores and rote memorization are the key words of the day, and thought doesn’t come anywhere into it.

“Thought” is the only thing, in my opinion that everyone needs to know.

They push college educations on everyone as the answer to societies ills. But college is just continues the high school philosophy—another four or more years of refined job training. Teaching something as abstract as ‘how to think’ simply isn’t a factor.

Beware of the anti-anti-intellectualist (tdotc.wordpress.com)

So people define themselves by their shoes, and you get Sex in the City. They define themselves by their money and cars, and you John Goodman, the millionaire who killed a kid and abandoned the scene of the crime and who also ‘adopted’ his girlfriend. Then there are the people who wish they could define themselves by all of these things and you get Twilight and its offshoots, all emblematic of the exceedingly problematic way we treat young people, and especially women, and the glorification of rape culture.

Bestselling books (in the example I know most about) appeal most to the common denominator. I’m the last person to think this is necessarily a bad thing. But without readers who are capable of self-examination, who understand they can like something without thinking it’s the best thing ever, all these problems just get worse.

For example, back to GR. Many of the highly intelligent (intellectual) reviews bring in their life experiences, other books they’ve read, and if necessary to their response to the book, maybe author behavior. Often, when they’re responding to a book they don’t like, they respond to real-world events, real-life problems that are left unexamined by the text. Intellectuals don’t read in a vacuum.

“The unexamined life is not worth living.”
― Socrates

Fans of the criticized work, however, often come again and again to such negative reviews just to post that the reviewer is wrong. A rare few will be willing to understand the reviewer’s point, whether they agree with the conclusion or not. Most seem to take it as a personal attack. If the reviewer dislikes the book, they dislike the reader.

Frankly this is insane.

Sometimes these reviews are hidden because they’re flagged by fans as ‘inappropriate’. Back to what this does to conversations in our culture, you end up with sites like STGRB (which I will neither link nor specify further) which has stalked and harassed reviewers and even authors who object. All you need to know is that the site believes if someone goes on the record as not liking a book, it is bullying, and therefore should be attacked.

Few forums (in the larger sense of the word) are this actively anti-intellectual or anti-intelligence, and it’s an especially rare example for the book world. Even in the larger cultural discussion, it’s skeevy behavior— and yet is still something that people seem to enjoy talking about in a ‘titillating’ kind of way: like Huffington Post space given to STGRB apparently without apparently ever realizing thoughtful people found that behavior horrifically offense.

Thoughtful people enjoy conversations, playing with words, real discussions. Many others don’t realize what they love isn’t what they are, and can’t justify it to themselves any other way. Any difference is an attack on who they are, and they fear not having an answer to that challenge. And they do everything they can to silence it.

So if you come across someone just ripping apart something you love…Well, I hate to say it, but the best response is silence—at first. I hope you can think about their opinion, and their reasons. If they don’t have any? It’s not worth your time. If they’re all invalid? Same thing. But maybe, much as you hate to admit it, maybe they have a point. Start there, and you can have a real conversation.

Even on the internet.