June, 2005

Inspired by NPR‘s “This I Believe” series, a resurrection of an older series from the 50’s, here’s a list of things I do not believe (just in case you thought I was ceasing to be contrarian):

  • I do not believe in Renaissance Men (or Women). One can achieve a wide range of core competencies, and one or two excellencies, but no one can master a dozen fields.
  • I do not believe that there’s any correlation between wealth and happiness, wealth and intelligence, or intelligence and happiness.
  • I do not believe animals have souls. I do not believe, either, that this lack makes them lesser beings. In the same fashion, I do not believe the animal is greater than the plant because it has its own locomotion, nor that the plant is greater than the rock because it lives. I understand that this is probably a weird way to look at things. I do believe that hierarchies and taxonomies, while useful for categorizing and numbering what we see, are inherently flawed ways of looking at the natural world.
  • I do not believe anyone gets through life unscathed.
  • I do not believe in literal interpretations of anything, most especially seminal works such as the Bible and the Constitution of the United States. I think naming your interpretation as the literal one is an act of hubris destined to earn you torment, and an acceptable notion to hold only once in your life – probably when you’re about sixteen.
  • I have not decided whether I believe we, as the human race, are morally worse than our ancestors or ethically better than they. There is plenty of evidence for both sides. I’m not sure what this suggests. I strive each day to put a few notches in the “getting better” column, but I am grateful it is not really my job to judge these things and decide, or there’d have been twenty floods and thousands of Sodom’s and Gomorrah’s by now.
  • I do not believe that science will ever explain to any of us the why of things, but that it does a decent job at explaining the how of them. The why of things has always been the more interesting question to me.
  • I do not believe world peace is achievable, but I continue to be a staunch and determined pacifist.
  • I do not believe there is a point to suffering. I do not believe it makes people better artists, better human beings, or better people of faith. I don’t think it strengthens you. I don’t get Job. I’m also aware that I may be a counterexample to what I claim not to believe. This contradiction doesn’t keep me up nights. I understand that suffering happens to everyone and that it’s unavoidable, but I still see it as unnecessary. Maybe that’s what getting thrown out of Eden was all about.
  • I do not believe that hell is other people, though I will concede that they can get pretty annoying sometimes.
  • I do not believe that being young is better than being old. Each has its rewards. “To every thing there is a season” and all that.
  • I do not believe that just because my child is a gift to me that she is “gifted“. It troubles me that so many people seem to want to correlate these, as though some external label or statistical validation of the value of your child is necessary to make them wonderful to you.
  • I do not believe there is something I want to declare to everyone within range every time I step into my car, and for this reason bumper stickers (and vanity plates) boggle me. When I want to say something to people, I’d rather wear it on a shirt, which allows me to face people when they read it, and which I can take off and wash when the sentiment I’m expressing has passed. One like this would be nice, or perhaps this.

Lastly, I do not believe one’s beliefs are fixed. I believe that they evolve over a lifetime, and they change in some great ways and many small, and this is a consequence of being a human and not a symptom of hypocrisy. Sometimes it’s worthwhile to evaluate your own beliefs, because it may tell you how you’re changing.

And speaking of NPR, here’s the game of “good news, bad news“.

By the way, this exercise has surprised me in at least two ways: I did not expect it to be so biblical, and I did not expect myself to take the crass commercial detour on the t-shirts I want since I usually pride myself on my lack of materialism. If you are so inclined, please feel free to contribute your own disbeliefs, either in the comments here or in your own playground, if you’ve got one. And that’s about as meme inviting as you’re ever going to see me get.

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Dear Simone –

I had thought to be writing you this letter on your birthday. To write on your birthday would have made it more celebratory. Happier. It was a fine plan, but as it turns out, the major portion of my feelings about you remains sad.

I do remember your birth. I had stored up stories to relay to you about how the doctor turned over and went back to sleep for ten more minutes after I called her and missed it. About the capable, assured hands of the large nurse who delivered you. About how she called you, with a smile, “the bullet baby”. About how I gave birth to you without the epidural, with the anesthesiologist standing right there but unable to do anything because you were coming out already, barging into our lives without waiting for medical procedures. I never thought I would be able to withstand labor without drugs, knowing my low threshold for pain. And yet, you made me do that. The first thing you taught me, dear one, was “you are stronger than you know, mother”. It was a lesson I have more call to remember than I would like.

More vivid, however, is my memory of you – one year ago today – laid out on that adult-sized table in the emergency room. You were dwarfed by the sheet they’d used to cover you. Your lips looked bruised, and there was a small amount of dried blood at the corner of your mouth, where they’d been too rough in their attempts to revive you. When I touched you, you were as cold as you were colorless. I remember how strange it was holding your body, how limp it was. There was math there that didn’t compute. I knew that on a scale you would weigh no differently dead than alive, but it didn’t seem so because you didn’t wriggle or exude warmth or breathe. Can a soul have mass?

Afterwards, outside, the sun blazed down on me like I was in a desert. My head ached, and I was numb all over, and there was a brilliant glare wherever I tried to turn my eyes. It’s too easy to be there again, lost outside a suffocating parking lot, walking away from you and what had been your brief life. I’m still walking, along time, further and further away from you. Sometimes though, like today, the road doubles back again, and I’m feeling the heat like a hand pushing me to the ground and I’m disoriented and I wonder if I ever really get away from that harsh, unflinching light. I just want to make it to the end of today, and maybe tomorrow, it will rain.

In the afternoons, during the days in which I was home with you, it often rained. I would sit in the kitchen and eat some lunch, looking out at the slicked crepe myrtle. Sometimes you would sleep in the infant car seat, but other times I would have to hold you, or balance you along one leg, ankle over knee and you tucked into the crook and supported by the chair. It was kind of hard to eat that way, but I don’t remember minding much. The days would unfold themselves lazy and cool and grey. We had all the time in the world to watch them. I remember wrapping you into the sling, and taking you and Sergei for walks. We often met a woman with a stroller, walking her child or possibly her grandchild around the block. Many were the days after your death that seeing her with her stroller and its growing baby squeezed my insides until I cried.

One day I had miscalculated the darkness of the clouds and the density of the humidity, and it started to rain on us as we walked. You slept through the drops that pattered down on your head, like a baptismal sprinkling. I tried to shield you with my arms but it was kind of a hopeless effort, and I didn’t want to jostle you awake by running. All three of us got pretty damp. It was grey much like that at your funeral, which is mostly a blur, though I remember the rain. Then I went back to work, and the sun came out and shone for so many days in a row that I forgot about rain. About six weeks after you died it rained again. I thought I had mastered my endless bouts of weeping only to find that the weather had brought them back to me. It is so hard to face your absence every day. I do it, because I must, but it is a herculean task and I am not any kind of hero. The pain doesn’t lessen, I don’t think, but it doesn’t control me as much as it used to. I can walk down the baby aisle in the grocery store now. When I see other people’s infants I can make the approved social noises instead of fighting back tears. There are all sorts of people I know and talk to almost daily who have no idea that you ever were. I don’t see it as concealing you so much as protecting you, and me, from the voyeuristic impulses of others. I discovered, at your funeral, that there are a great many things people can say that aren’t terribly helpful while very few things people can say are really meaningful. I told you that the funeral was largely a blur, and I wasn’t lying, but I remember with sharp clarity a co-worker of mine whom I hadn’t even expected to come looking at your photographs and then saying, simply “She was a beautiful baby.” She expressed it so honestly and I am sure for those five words at that moment she gets laurels in heaven, or good karma, or a multitude of blessings, or whatever it is that people get for doing exactly the right thing at exactly the right time for their fellow man. Most people are not like she is, and most people can’t help but say things that approximate large doses of salt into my wounds. It is not their fault. Very few are the people who can understand. This is one of the reasons I’m not all that interested in talking about you. Maybe one day it will get easier. When I’m ready to write you a letter on your birthday instead of your deathday, perhaps.

Yesterday someone asked me that question, about having other kids. I think of your dark hair and sweet-smelling skin whenever someone asks me about a bigger family. I did alright, I suppose, and answered, “No, I don’t think so.” It’s hard not to say I’ve already had another and she was taken. Can you imagine the utter standstill that would bring to the conversation? This is another thing you have taught me, Simone. Everyone has a past with hurts in it, so anything you say could be twisting a knife into someone’s pain, no matter how inconsequential what you’re saying seems. I can’t say that knowing this has changed my impulsive and direct manner of speaking, but I understand the lesson, if not how to act on it.

I was so fooled by you, my little bunny. I thought you were strong, much stronger than your elder sister, in fact. So much more active in the womb than she, so much quicker to master holding your head up, such a fierce reflex grip in your tiny hand. I didn’t think there was anything that could take you down, much less out. I could not have been more wrong. Something learned about the damage of expectations, there. I had visualized so many happy moments in our life together as a family. There’d be first words and sibling squabbles and mastering walking and Montessori school and all sorts of wonderful things to come. There’d be life, with its glittering necklace of strung together moments. But there wasn’t, see, at least not for you. And all these things I had not only imagined but pretty much banked on: whoof. Gone. Up in smoke. They’ll never happen now. I suppose this is the sort of life experience that creates people who shelter themselves from investment in others and in themselves. Maybe that’s the lesson I’m supposed to learn here, but it hasn’t worked out that way. I continue to invest and dream and hope, as fully as ever, aware now that this is an extremely dangerous thing to be doing, instead of thinking my faith actually has the power to bring my future to fruition. I know exactly how far it is to fall, and I fear it, but I carry on. Do you think that’s foolish? I do too.

I miss you. The you that was and the you that will never get to be. I still find it hard and hurtful that I have never heard your laughter. Smiles you had started to give, but not laughter. It was something I was anticipating so eagerly. I was ready to relish your joy. I have all this love for you, stored up in my heart, that I cannot deliver to you. It sears me. There is no safe place to leave it. I must carry it until the day I, too, can die.

Have I told you that our new house and our new neighborhood is brimming with rabbits? I think you would enjoy watching them darting across the yard or the street, or sometimes frozen in place and staring intently to divine whether they have been noticed. They remind me of you, with their quick motions and their little white tails that vanish too quickly into the bushes.

Goodbye for now, Simone. Thank you for letting me write to you,

Your Mother


If you are a relative newcomer to my blog and would like to read more about Simone, here is her birth announcement and here is something I wrote when she died. My co-worker was right, she was a beautiful baby.

Thanks to all of you, friends and relations, who have me in their thoughts and prayers today. My need for your support is very great.

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25 Jun 2005, by

My apologies.

I sometimes get overzealous with the banning of spam comments. I accidentally banned all comments ever yesterday, when I was really trying to ban matches on a certain url, and I can tell from the log that at least some of you have tried post a comment. Sorry! It’s fixed now. I love comments. Especially if they’re not from spammers. Feel free to comment away.

iTunes says I was listening to Sleeping in the Flowers from the album John Henry by They Might Be Giants when I posted this. I have it rated 4 stars.

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New version of ecto. Let’s see if it’s figured out how to do extended text for nucleus with a dream entry.

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22 Jun 2005, by

Summer Solstice.

You would not believe all the stuff I have to tell you. And I’m just going to have to sort of coredump it, too, because otherwise it will never get out of my head and out of the way enough that I can compose a normal coherent blog entry.

So hang on, here we go:

  • I never need to hear anything referred to as the “perfect storm” again. I’m serious. Fastest. Cliche. Ever.
  • When I got my first crit from Critters earlier this week, I was so excited that I didn’t even really care what it said. The idea of someone else reading my story was such a happy thought that the concern that they might bash it couldn’t surpass the joy. I can only hope that I have a similar buoyancy of spirit on my first rejection. I have learned tons from what the Critters have written me, and very little of it relates to things that can improve my story (although some does, and that’s a relief since that was the point). In fact, I could write a whole entry about critting, but I doubt I’ll get to it, since this a board-clearing here. I have a whole list of things to write about already without even starting on this.
  • This torture business is daily making me sickened and sad. I have thought about writing my very long and determined ideas on the subject here, but many others have done so, and all I really want to say is: I’m agin it. Nothing anyone can say to me will make me for torture. I want my country to stop doing it. Now. The fact that I have zero control over how many people are mistreated and dehumanized and for how long in the name of my safety distresses me. The fact that many of these people are not now nor have ever been any threat to me or my country disturbs me. The fact that people who have gone on record against torture (saying torture is bad and regimes that engage in torture, historically, have been viewed as evil and if we walk like a duck and quack like a duck then we’re pretty much a duck) have subsequently had to turn around and apologize for stating the obvious and the true both boggles and infuriates me. The fact that torturing these people is not a good way to get information but is a good way to foment hostility against us as a nation and as individuals angers me.
  • Revisions on Cualcotel are going fairly well, though I’ve only gotten about 15 pages of second draft text so far. The new story is tighter, sparklier, and all the sentences are drastically shorter. You get to find out all the plot hooks much sooner. More people die. The main character is named in the first paragraph. I was brutal and merciless with the compound sentences (of which there were many). Reams of description went away. Punyami gets all the good lines, and he’s got more of them than ever before. The jury is still out on what I should capitalize, according to the critique from my writer’s group. Some people claim that I’ve lost some of the flavor in my wholesale lowercasing (they want sun virgins capitalized, but are ok with living library, kennel master and kennelmates lowercase). Seems like an odd complaint, doesn’t it? I’ll look at it again, of course, and try to figure out what will work best for the most people most of the time.
  • I own fewer pairs of shoes than any other woman (whose closet I’ve seen) that I know. I consider this a feature, but I’m sure plenty of people would name it a bug. Yesterday, when my husband complained that I would not allow him to put some of his things in one of my drawers, I asserted that he was probably the only man in the world with a wife who shared the closet and the chest of drawers with him 50/50 and that he’d better stop while he was ahead.
  • I love Poe’s song “Control” and could say a whole lot about it, were I so inclined.
  • I wanted to say a whole lot more about reviewing and why, although I’ll grant benpeek‘s point that it’s hard to handle material that comes from people you know personally in a fair way, there’s no group of people I think have more of a vested interest in saying something about what I write than the people who write the same (or similar) stuff. Those would be the people I’d want to hear from. Someone who writes or reads or favors westerns is going to get less out of what I write and probably reflect that in their review. Which isn’t wrong, it just seems a deprivation to tell a whole class of people who are knowledgeable on a subject “No. You cannot speak on this, though you are well-informed and may enlighten us, because you’ll hurt someone’s feelings/make someone mad/upset the established community of friends/burn your bridges/whatever.” I’ll also take what he said as he appears to have meant it, which was as advice rather than dictum. The momentum on posting a thorough and incisive post on that is fading fast, so this snippet is what you get.
  • The herb garden experiment is very mystifying. A lot of things failed to grow but that’s not the mystifying part. Some seeds sprouted but died before getting potted. Other things died shortly after being potted. There were some accidents with squirrels or birds or rabbits devouring some of the plants that went onto the deck. The only thing that can be named as thriving is the catnip, which I read was really hard to grow, and which the cats are completely uninterested in. They only like it dried, I guess? The catgrass grew reasonably well but the cats ate it all up and there’s none left. I got the catgrass because it claims to be easier to grow than the catnip, but here I am with zero catgrass and more catnip than I know what to do with. Puzzling. The second best grower after the catnip was the sage, but it was attacked when I put it on the deck. It had one strong healthy plant and two little spindly things that I was sure were going to die in a pot, and then one morning I discovered that only the spindly ones were left, and that the well-established plant now consisted of bits strewn about the deck. I’ve sheltered the spindlies and they seem to be coming along (putting out new leaves every other day, more or less), but they’re not terribly impressive. They smell good, though. The cilantro was tipped off the deck by some animal. I’m not kidding. It wasn’t all that, but now there’s none. The basil had a dozen false starts, and now I have three tiny plants and I don’t know if they’ll really grow enough to give me leaves or not. Nor do I know which variety of basil it is (I picked three. I love basil). I thought the parsley would really take off too, and I am astonished that I have not a single plant of it. I tried and tried on the chamomile and I have one barely there plant from all those carefully coddled seeds I tried to make sprout. Weirdest of all is the mint, though, because I have always found mint so easy to grow. I have next to no gardening experience, but I can do jade and mint. Here’s the thing, though, I’ve always grown mint from cuttings, not from seed. I just couldn’t make the seeds work. The spearmint is not doing horribly, though there’s just two plants and they aren’t much to look at. No go with the chives, though, which I’m told are really easy as well. In short, everything I thought would be easy and do well didn’t. Possibly because I’ve no idea what I’m doing. It seems all the plants that would have been extremely useful failed, while the ones that were of peripheral interest are surviving. In cool news, though, today I pulled three spade’s worth of dark, damp, rich compost out of my composter. Also, a friend has given me some tomato and pepper plants. I have no idea what I’m doing with them and doubt they won’t be eaten by rabbits, but I’m giving it a go (as she’d say, since she’s British).
  • I got the Firefly DVDs for Mother’s Day and have been watching them and watching them and watching them. One day, I’m going to write a character as cool as Zoe, though probably not anytime soon, since I’m not so deft with characters that have high cool values. I also got other cool stuff for Mother’s Day. My family went all out, and it was nice.
  • Viable Paradise 9, here I come! I think they were desperate to fill their slots but I don’t care. I’m in! Woo hoo! Yay me! And now that the house has been sold, I think we can even come up with the money for me to go without straining anything. I’m going to try for a revision on the first 10k words of YWGYSL by August 15, which is the last point at which I can resubmit the stuff. Now I have to book travel. Find roommates. Figure out if I can see my friends in MA before the workshop. Happy logistic planning stuff will ensue.
  • I do plan to do a monthly report for both April and May (probably together). I know I’m two months behind. Briefly: word count was terrible in those two months (and not so great in this one), as was blogging and book reading/reviewing, but some of the other things on the list of resolutions will shine.
  • Welcome to summer. Yesterday was the longest day of the year. I love the lingering light, but already I know there will be less and less from here on out. Oddly, I would have thought I’d be more productive, writing-wise, at this time of year, but at least this year it doesn’t seem to be working out that way.

Exhale. Alright. That should be enough to tide you over until I can collect my thoughts.

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15 Jun 2005, by


Holy cow, did an entire week go by without me posting? I’m living the life of the perpetually behind, I guess. Have some links! Pass them around, enjoy them.

The new Mirrormask trailer is out. According to Neil Gaiman’s blog, Sony is going to judge how widely to release the film at least in part by the number of hits on the trailer. So please, as a personal favor to me, go view the trailer. Often. Thanks!

An interview with Jon Scieszka (of The Stinky Cheeseman and Other Fairly Stupid Tales fame) is available at Bookslut. It’s about his new book aimed at boys, and his effort to promote reading to boys. Also there, you can find an interesting gender in spec fic conversation with Lois McMaster Bujold (one of my writing heroes, as I’ve perhaps mentioned once or twice before).

As you know, I spend a lot of my time listening to public radio. There are a number of reasons why I love it, but one of the most basic is that it’s one of the few remaining media news outlets where I can get foreign news. Sure, I can go to foreign papers online and get news that way, but (at the risk of sounding nationalistic and self-centered) I like my foreign news with an American slant, focusing on how it affects my nation. I know I’m in the minority among my countrymen, holding an interest in global news, because public radio is one of the last places I can still get any kind of foreign coverage. Everywhere else the market rules, the mass appeal to the lowest common denominator has taken over, and the people have steadfastly voted against knowing about what goes on outside our borders. In that vein, I also appreciate that NPR rarely covers celebrity events, which I don’t consider news at all, and usually avoids obsessive focus on stories of the week like the Petersen case or that woman who ran away from her own wedding. I relish public radio because it almost never tells me things I didn’t need to know. Many people say NPR is liberal, and many think it is conservative and almost everyone thinks it has biases in reporting. All of this may be true. However, even though the news may slant towards one end or another of the political spectrum, it’s honestly largely non-partisan. It can’t truthfully be said to be a mouthpiece for either of the two major parties. As an outcast of the major parties, I like that about it. However, this may soon change, and I think that would be terrible, and if you do too, I urge you to take action.

Now that I’m reading several blogs from people publishing in the genre of speculative fiction, I’m slowly growing aware of certain tiffs and to-dos, of the type that all smallish communities have. The latest knockdown appears to be that a few renegade authors started an anonymous blog to review other authors because – unless I misunderstand the intent – they don’t like the sorts of things being nominated for the major awards. Lots and lots of differing reactions to that. I’m not really a member of the community, so it feels really weird to be witnessing the accusations and counter-accusations in the blogosphere. It has nothing at all to do with me. However, I am a little intimidated about being embroiled in any of this sort of thing down the road (although thinking about it all seems stupidly premature), and hope that I can keep my head well enough to remain aloof. Not that I ever do, which is why I’m starting on my hope early. I must say I was – slightly – stung by the guy that said writers have no business reviewing things. Is that true? Do I need to stop reviewing things I read by live authors as soon as I get my first submission accepted? I guess we’ll see. Meanwhile, that’s just anxiety I’m displacing from the real worry which is the soon to be shredding of my story “Hindsight” which goes up at Critters this week. It needs shredding. I’ll be glad of it. The part of me that’s not screaming in pain from the paper cuts will be glad of it anyways.

Last two : some of the most beautiful kinetic art I’ve seen. Astonishingly, it’s created by a robot sculptor. I promised someone (perhaps tux?) the link to a page of starmaps for science fiction movies and books.

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You’re still here?

Right. I did leave the door open, the porchlight on, all that. Sure you’d assume something was going on here, who wouldn’t? Sorry about that. I didn’t mean to leave you unattended. I’ve been a bit busy. Thanks for keeping the place looked after in my absence. Nice to have people drop in, pick up the mail and leave it on the table, feed the animals, water the plants. Thanks.

I see we’re out of updates. I’ll run down to the draft folder and get some and post them up soonish. Yes, there’s lots and lots and lots to report. If I manage to get through it all, you’ll be overwhelmed, I tell you. I’ll have to abbreviate some of it.

There were birthdays : two, done with unusual levels of fanfare. There were houseguests (several sets). A house was sold. Caches were geo’d. A story of mine was poorly received at my writer’s group. We went to the super cool City Museum. Tiger has landed on Tuzanor. Not much was written. A school year was concluded. And much more in similar vein.

I notice I don’t post if I don’t have ecto open. I closed it for a reboot about 12 days ago and then didn’t open it, and was never reminded by the minimized ecto screen on my toolbar that I hadn’t posted. Weird, that. Was surprised when a week went by in which I hadn’t posted. Not that I wasn’t also extraordinarily busy and all that, just that it’s strange how a lack of reminders can’t ease things on out of my mind and make them not get done.

iTunes says I was listening to The Count Of Five by Zombina & the Skeletones when I posted this. I have it rated 3 stars.

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