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... But not in a good way.

So. I'm very conscious of the fact that the political climate in the US is going to hell in a handbasket made of highly flammable materials and that many people are already suffering, or afraid that they will be next. And that the world we live in is taking a decided turn to the nasty, with fascists and racists and all sorts of other truly scary types crawling out of the woodwork, empowered by the fact that something just as nasty as they are can be elected president of the United States. I post stuff about that on Facebook a fair bit, so if you're interested about my various concerns and responses to to world out there, you are most welcome, if you happen to do FB yourself, to connect with me there. I can be found under the name Morgan Dhu.

But here I'm sort of more into talking about myself, I guess. I might get back into political rants someday, but right now, I have no energy for that.

About a month ago, I was admitted to the hospital in kidney failure. Turns out I have kidney stones the size of small mountains partially blocking both kidneys, and they had gotten very sick as a result. The kidneys, in fact, are so badly off that doing anything right now to remove them - it has to be an operation, you see, not ultrasound, because the stones are too big to break up that way - because an operation might put too much stress on my kidneys, and in my condition that could kill me. (Also, the specialist who does the operation is booked months ahead anyway, because so few people need it these days that there;s only one guy in town who's really good at doing it.)I also have gallstones, in fact, I had a very unpleasant attack while in hospital, and it seems that my gall bladder will have to come out - but they can't operate on it either because my kidneys are so screwed up that doing it might kill me. There also seems to be a small mass on one of my kidneys that they can't examine closely because all the techniques available might hurt my kidneys and, well, kill me. And there's another mass that looks like an ovarian cyst, but they can't do the investigation necessary to be sure because (you guessed it) the investigation techniques available might hurt my kidneys and kill me.

So... After three weeks in the hospital, during which tubes were inserted into my gallbladder and kidneys to drain off the bile and urine, which supposedly will give my organs a chance to rest and hopefully heal up a bit, I am at home, peeing through tubes in my back and waiting to see if my kidneys are going to get sufficiently better that all these issues can be dealt with without killing me.

There is some good news. When I went into the hospital, the definitive blood test for identifying kidney damage, creatinine level, was 370 (in the units Canadian labs use, which are not the same inits American labs use) - the normal range is under 100 - and that was apparently a very scary number. My last blood test (last week) showed that creatinine was down to 170, which is not great, but is at least a largish step in the right direction.

I am almost completely without energy - I'm even finding reading hard. I watch movies and play mindless games and hope that somewhere inside my kidneys are healing.

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My medical issues over the past year (yeah, i'll soon be a year since I was diagnosed with hypercalcemia and my life turned into one medical nightmare after another) have severely interfered with my new identity as a Hugo voter. Over the course of last year, I didn't read nearly as many well-recommended works as I'd wanted to. So when January rolled around and nomination season was gearing up, I made lists of the books and short fiction I hadn't read but that sounded really interesting, and tried to push my way through those lists. A few years ago I could have done it easily. This year, I barely read a handful of what I wanted to, though I did read enough, I felt, to make some good nominations in most categories.

And now the finalists have been released and there are many I haven't read yet. I'm working on them, of course, but it's so hard to just focus and read these days.

It's disorienting, like losing one of the core parts of my identity - which I suppose it is, I have no memory of a tine when I did not read, and read extensively and quickly at that. I'm told that no one knows when I learned to read. Like many kids, I would often look at my books even when I wasn't being read to from a very early age, but it was assumed that I was looking at the pictures or making up stories, as kids do. It wasn't until my mother started listening to me muttering things when we were out driving that she realised that - at not yet three years of age - I was reading billboards and window signs. And that at some point, I had actually begun reading for myself, not just following along as she read to me.

So it feels very strange not to be reading very much. As though I'm not myself. I keep expecting the real me, who focuses easily on her chosen reading material and moves through it like a fish in water, to resurface. Maybe she's just taking a time-out, getting used to operating while in constant pain and without much sleep. But I fear more and more that she's gone, and won't be coming back.

I miss her very much.
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I've mostly been reporting on the state of my health on Facebook, but seeing that I haven't posted here for a while, I figured I ought to try to bring the saga of my deteriorating state of health up to date.

So... Back in late May I was diagnosed with primary hypercalcemia, which means that something had gone haywire with my parathyroid glands and they were producing too much of a hormone that leaches calcium out of the bones at a rate that is not only very bad for your bones, but cannot be properly excreted. As calcium builds up in the blood, you get increasingly sick, and can end up having seizures and nasty life-threatening shit like that.

They did various kinds of imaging on my throat and while the pictures were a bit inconclusive, they figured it was provably due to one or more adenomas, non-malignant growths on the parathyroid. So they put me on the list for a surgery slot to have the adenomas excused from my parathyroids, and monitored my blood calcium closely.

While waiting for surgery, I fell and broke my foot. Back to the hospital. My foot was placed in this rigid boot that has a heel and unbalanced me to the point that even after I was ok'd for weight-bearing exercise, I couldn't balance on my uneven feet well enough to stand.

After about three weeks in the hospital, during which I developed a nasty UTI that would ultimately stay with me for the next four months, still unable to stand, I was transferred to a rehab hospital where I would receive regular physiotherapy. which would be of very little use because I'm still wearing this big-ass boot that destroys my balance. In the meantime, i get shuttled back to the hospital a few times, to have my calcium levels lowered (intravenous drugs plus massive IV fluids to make me pee out the calcium) and to have my foot monitored.

Once the boot finally comes off in late September, I start to make real progress with the physio - I'm shaky, but walking. Then.... Remember that UTI? They've been giving me courses of various antibiotics to try to kill the bugs in my bladder, and it's been coming back every time. They try a new drug, to which I have a seriously bad reaction. For about a week, I'm so weak I can hardly move, plus nausea and a bunch of nasty stuff. Can't manage the physio - haven't enough strength to stand.

It's now mid-October. They decide to send me home from the rehab hospital because I'm no longer benefitting from treatment. Once I get home, and get over the drug reaction, we find a private physiotherapist and start working on walking again. i just start to get my strength back and I'm walking a bit, when I get the call that I have a surgery date. November 17. Back to the hospital. UTI is back, too.

The surgery ends up being much more complicated than expected, because once they have my throat slit and they can see the parathyroids, they discover there are no adenomas. While adenoma is by far the most common cause of primary hypercalcemia, if it's not adenomas, it's probably hyperplasia of the parathyroids, for which the surgical solution is to remove 3.5 of the four parathyroid glands, a sonewhat longer and more difficult operation.

I come out of surgery with unbearable pain in my abdomen and groin, for which they plug me full of fentanyl, which does nothing. Eventually, they try something in the same family as ibuprofen, but stronger, which works some. Recovery is slow and problematic. The fentanyl gives me very bad constipation for three days, the abdominal and groin pain lessens but does not go away, I'm weak as a kitten and.... My calcium levels are not falling as they should. They do the IV drip to lower my levels again and after a few days, they send me home to recuperate, ordering continued monitoring of my calcium.

Meanwhile, I'm developing painful bedsores on my butt - a new thing, even though I have been pretty much confined to bed fir years. And the UTI is still bothering me. And I'm having fevers and chills snd on-going abdominal pains and all sorts of stuff, and I just can't seem to get any strength back. My doctor prescribes a long course of yet another antibiotic, which seems to finally mostly clear the UTI. All the other symptoms continue, and despite doing all the right things, my bedsore do not heal.

Regular blood tests show my blood calcium is still rising - and now there's a new twist. I'm suddenly seriously anemic, my hemoglobin is way lower than it should be, which is probably the reason for my extreme weakness and the impairment in normal healing.

Which brings us to now. The last blood test showed a very small drop in calcium levrls, I'm on iron supplements which should bring up my hemoglobin over the course of 4-6 weeks and hopefully help me regain my strength snd heal the sores, and my doctor is working on getting me a consult for the hemoglobin issue.

Oh yes, during all of this I've lost about 20 kilos, which when added to the 50-odd kilos I've lost over the past few years has resulted in a lot of loose skin that tends to crease and fold in an extremely painful way. Add to that the pain from the bedsores and I'm having extreme trouble sleeping. I'm lucky if I get four or five hours of sleep in 24. So I'm now exhausted and almost braindead. I'm in great pain all the time, from half a dozen different things that are going wrong. I'm depressed and just plain tired of trying to keep going, to the point of wondering how I might go about persuading someone that I really am a good candidate for assisted suicide, which is now legal, though under very limited circumstances, in Canada.

As the title says, life is hell.

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So, my health is kind of falling apart, even more than before. My trip to the hospital revealed that I have developed parathyroidism, caused by tumours on my parathyroid glands. Surgery is the only treatment.

Problem is transport. While provincial healthcare will cover an emergency ambulance transport, it won't cover something scheduled, like surgery. And because I am heavy and of very limited mobility, I need an ambulance and four people (two crews) to get to the hospital, and private ambulance services are expensive.

And I don't have any extra funds for something like this, and I've researched every personal and organisational angle I can think of. It's a hole in the system - my care is covered if I can get to the hospital, but getting to the hospital isn't covered by anyone.

So, I've started a crowdfunding effort to try and defray the transportation costs. I don't know if anyone out there is able and willing to toss a few pennies in the pot, but if anyone is.... You will have my eternal gratitude.

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Recently I've been going through a rather deep and dark existential depression that results from my response to being pretty much completely lacking in mobility. As this plaint that I posted on Facebook a few days back during an acute attack indicates, I feel pretty damned useless in all things.

Losing my identities
I used to be a lot of things.
I used to be a person who sang, who danced, who played guitar, who drew and painted stuff. I used to be someone who acted in plays, who stage-managed and even did some directing.
I used to be a person who marched in protest and in celebration, who spoke at public meetings and presented briefs. I used to be a person who was active in political movements. I used to be a person who could do things to help make the world a little bit better.
I used to be a person who could work, whether it was with my hands or with my mind. Who could be productive, support myself and the people I loved.
I used to be a person who could be of use to my friends and loved ones, who could actually be a friend to them, a person to turn to, to rely on. I used to have something to give.
I used to make a difference in the world.
There are so many things I used to be, and am not not now, and likely will never be again.
Take all my identities away from me, and what is left? Nothing.

Well, in an attempt to try to change at least one of these "I used to be"s, I have been playing with a program that is supposed to be a way to make pixel art rather than hand-shaped art. Here are a few of my investigative forays into the world of electronic art.



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wordweaverlynn on Dreamwidth asked for my top five favourite foods.

I'm going to answer this in two ways - as top five individual foods or ingredients, and as top five prepared foods.

First, the individual food items.

Cheese (Just about any kind), mushrooms, chocolate, strawberries, freshly baked bread

Now, the prepared foods.

1. Chocolate peanut butter ice cream

2. Thai basil fried rice (with chilis, tofu, mushrooms, zucchini, carrots, onions, bok choi, etc.)

3. Lasagne with three cheeses (mozzarella, parmesan, ricotta), spicy tomato and mushroom sauce, spinach and lots of pasta. And herbed garlic bread on the side

4. Curried chicken - I'll take various styles of curry as long as it's nice and hot, with rice, yogourt and a sweet chutney on the side.

5. Any kind of heavy, sweet chocolate torte-like dessert, with a rich buttery cream filling, if it has almonds and strawberries so much the better.

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This is a meme going around on Tumblr, where I have a few friends. If it hasn't made it to Dreamwidth yet, it's here now. :)

Ask me for my top five of anything, and I will try to answer. Those who know me well will expect that you might get more than five. Or an essay rather than a list, but that's how I sometimes roll.

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In the past year or two, I've become accustomed to posting on Facebook rather than here. It's easier - or at least, I perceive it as easier. On Facebook, all I need do is post a few lines, or a link to an article or picture I want to share. But there's something about a blog that seems to demand a greater degree of involvement with the text, and I often lack the energy for that. Maintaining my book journal seems to take everything I have.

And then there's the fact that really, not much happens to me except that things get more painful and more difficult to achieve. On Facebook, I mostly post articles dealing with current affairs - issues I feel strongly about. But I'm usually too tired to write extensively and coherently about those issues.

So perhaps I'll just blather on about my odd thoughts, as I'm doing now, and perhaps that will justify my keeping this journal active.
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So, the last time I posted, I told y'all about how much my life sucked.

It still sucks. Only much more so.

My general state of health continued to deteriorate during the summer and fall, and between all the things that are wrong with me, like the joint pain and the increasingly intolerable edema and other stuff (which I will address in another post, because it's too complicated to put here), it was kind of getting obvious to both me and my employers that I really just was no longer able to perform my work in a satisfactory fashion. Not so much a quality dip, as not being able to spend enough time sitting up at a computer to actually do my work on time.

So we started taking about the company's Long-term disability plan (LTD) and how because my health conditions are not exactly the normal kind of stuff it's not certain I would qualify but my employers assured me they would to be as supportive as they could be once I reached the point where I simply could not longer work at all.

So that day has finally come. Friday was my last day of work. Now I'm on medical leave for four months until I've waited out the qualifying period for LTD, and then I get to apply and wait and see if they will pay me benefits. But of course, benefits don't come anywhere near covering household expenses. I can also apply for Canada Pension Plan Disability benefits (CPP-D) - which, again, I may not qualify for because my medical situation is so weird - but not before six months have passed.

Even if I do manage to qualify for both, I will still be almost $1,000 a month short of what's needed to pay all the bills (mortgage, taxes, utilities, insurance, food) each month. But... I can't give up the house, because no rental situation is going to give me an environment that is free of toxic stuff and thus safe for me to live in. Any apartment we rent would share walls with other people and their perfumes and stuff would seep in and leave me in a situation that I'm not sure I could tolerate for the full length of time it would take for all that crap to kill me. I mean, we bought this house in the first place because I was getting so very sick from breathing other people's laundry exhaust, soap, perfume, air-fresheners, and so on.

So that sucks. Assuming all goes well and I do qualify for the LTD and the CPP-D, where do I get another grand a month? We have no debt except for the mortgage, so I can't reduce expenses by consolidating debt. We may be able to switch to a variable mortgage, which might lower the interest a bit. Not only am I pretty much not able to work, but the few things I could do - if I tried to do any of them, I would immediately become ineligible for both the LTD and the CPP-D. My partner is my full-time caregiver, he can't work either because he can't leave me alone.

So I really don't know at all how we're going to survive this. There are no relatives who would be realistically able to help (I have no relatives, period, and my partner's relatives are few and in difficult circumstances themselves, for the most part).

So... We're basically fucked. There's enough in savings and inheritance to carry us through the qualifying period (when I am not getting any money from anywhere), and what's left over will carry us through several more years (four or five, depending on various possibilities) IF I qualify for both LTD and CPP-D, and maybe one year if I don't. After that... things look bleak. Really, really bleak.

If anyone has some bright and original ideas, they would be welcome. Just...

Budgeting is not a solution. All we spend money on now, aside from the aforesaid mortgage, taxes, utilities and insurance, is food (which, because one of us has major food sensitivities and neither of us can tolerate chemicals, dyes, preservatives, etc, in our food, pretty much has to be what it is), household necessities (toilet paper, washing soda...) and books. Clothes when the old ones wear out. Replacing things that are broken or dead (we just bought a new TV because the old one is losing its ability to show images that are decipherable in any way whatsoever). We never go out, not even to see a movie. So please don't talk about cutting out non-essentials. We are by nature non-consumers. We don't buy shit we can do without anyway.

But anything else? I would love to hear any creative ideas or sources of funding that might apply to someone living in Toronto, Canada. Because any thought you have might just save my life.
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For those interested in the short version of what's been happening for the past couple of years, it find of goes like this:

I got sick, which involved a bed-rest of several months, during which I discovered an addictive MMO called Travian, which I played intensively, being sick and bored and in great need of diversion. I got better but my mobility didn't, so I kept playing, when I wasn't working. I started running out of spoons for anything except basic living and holding onto my job. This lasted a year or so.

Fast forward to the beginning of this year. My father-in-law was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. Then I developed a very bad case of shingles which still has not wholly cleared up. Then my niece developed a severe form of auto-immune anemia which did not respond to standard treatment and she almost died, but managed to pull through but only with chemotherapy and immunosuppressants, which have kind of put a wrench in her ability to conduct a normal life. Then my father-in-law died. Then my mother died - intestate, and in another province. I, as sole heir, have a whole lot of bureaucracy to deal with which is made ten times more difficult by the fact that my mobility issues are now such that I cannot travel to where she was living to handle any of the estate settlement issues in person.

I am not really bothering to comment on my emotional response to any of this, nor on my current emotional state. Y'all can probably make accurate guesses anyway.

So that's where things are right now.

Having broken the ice, I will probably continue posting now and again. But don't expect too much. It's hard to find free spoons around here these days.

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There's a couple concerts I've been to that stand out in my memory, decades afterwards.

Isaac Stern at the Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto, Ontario - it was the 1983-84 concert season, and I was broke so I got half-price seats, which in that venue were at the back of the hall behind the stage. At the end of the concert, Mr. Stern took his bows, and then announced that since he had been playing all evening with his back to the people seated behind the stage, he thought it was only fair to perform his encores to us, with his back to the main audience. So for the encore, it was like having front-row seats to see one of the world's greatest violinists perform. That was actually a great year for violin concerts in Toronto: Yehudi Menuhin and Itzhak Perlman also performed at Roy Thomson, and so I saw all three of them in the same year.

And going back almost two more decades, to my very first live concert - Simon and Garfunkel around 1966, in Winnipeg - in a school gymnasium. They had three albums out by then - Wednesday Morning 3 A.M., Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme, and Sounds of Silence - and I knew every word to every song. Not a bad concert experience to begin with. ;-)

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I have a very long and often conflicted relationship with the process of producing visual "art."

Like a lot of people, I started drawing and painting at an early age, but before I had much of a chance to figure out my own relationship to what I was making, other people began characterising what I produced as different from what other kids my age were producing. People started to consider me to be talented or gifted in the area of visual art - a label I was already carrying with respect to scholastic achievement.

The problem for me was that it was fairly easy fulfilling the role of an academically gifted child. There were some very clear guidelines and benchmarks to follow: do a lot of reading, make good marks on tests and essays, things like that.

It was a lot less easy to figure out how to meet people's expectations of being artistically gifted. All I knew was that I liked playing with form and colour - I couldn't figure out what it was that differentiated what I was doing from what other children my age were doing, and so I was never secure in my ability to repeat my previous "successes."

You must understand that it matters very much in all of this that I was an abused child, and that the trigger for the abuse I received was almost always stated by my abuser as my failure to be what I was supposed to be. So as a child, I wasn't all that scared of "earning" punishment for not being as academically successful as I was supposed to be, because I understood how to be that way, and I rarely failed to produce the expected results. But I never understood how to ensure that any visual art I produced would meet the expectations of previous efforts, and so each time I did something in that area, I was terrified that I would fail to meet other people's expectations and would be punished. Yet at the same time, I loved making visual art.

So I began making art secretly. I'd paint or draw and then destroy what I had done. Paradoxically, I would also take art classes in school, and the art I did in public was often displayed as a good example of some class exercise or other. By the time I reached university, I was carrying around a small notebook in which I frequently "doodled" - this being the term I've always preferred to use in relation to what I do, and what I make, as calling it art seems to be tempting people to judge me and my visual productions, and find them lacking. I did everything I could to downplay the importance to me of "doodling," and although by now I wasn't destroying everything I did as I completed it - although I'd often throw drawings out after they'd been around for a while - I did develop the habit of giving almost everything I made away to the first person who saw it and said something nice about it. Slowly I started doodling less and less often, until I'd only make something a couple of times a year, when I felt compelled to make something.

So, after a lifetime of sporadically producing art, never being sure whether it really was art, and always afraid that even if I did manage to make art occasionally, it might not ever be able to duplicate the accomplishment, I have very little record of what I've done. Over the past decade, I've been keeping what I make, largely due to the encouragement of my partner, though I still haven't been making doodles - or art, or whatever it is - very often.

Part of that is because of my disabilities. I can no longer paint with oils because they have become toxic to me, and using waterpaints or doing work with pen and ink requires certain physical flexibility and strength (in terms of the positions I have to hold in order to do that kind of work) that I can no longer achieve without pain. But recently, I've rediscovered coloured pencils, and I'm starting to doodle with them.

Which finally brings me around to the point of this post. Over on, Pablo Defendini posted a brief note about an analogue to NaNoWriMo, in which people are doing at least one drawing every day during the month of November. I don't have the courage (or maybe it would be hubris, who knows) to formally get involved with the group doing this, but I have decided to commit myself to making one drawing/doodle every day this month, and posting the results in this blog.

Sometimes, when I sit down to make my daily doodle, I'll just do what I usually do, which is make a line on paper and see where it goes. But I do intend to try out some things that are new or different for me, to make myself doodle outside my box, as it were. And yes, one of the reasons I'm doing this in public is because comments are welcome.

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Yes, I did this meme, but in the comments to a friends-locked journal entry.

Here are my answers, if anyone is interested. )

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I am aware that this was developed for use in a university setting, but it seems to me that the list is very questionable as more than a very blunt instriment indeed, and does not do very well at anything other than, perhaps, differentiating the traditional American middle class nuclear family from anything that is not that.

I illustrate by doing... there's hardly a single question I can respond to without questions and qualifications. The instructions are to bold that which is true, but it doesn't tell me which part of my childhood or youth I'm to consider. Since I went through several changes of class before hitting 18 and/or finishing college, both of which events are mentioned in this list, I'm going to have to discuss what was true for me when.

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: From What Privileges Do You Have?, based on an exercise about class and privilege developed by Will Barratt, Meagan Cahill, Angie Carlen, Minnette Huck, Drew Lurker, Stacy Ploskonka at Illinois State University. (If you participate in this blog game, they ask that you PLEASE acknowledge their copyright.)

1. Father went to college. (That is, my most likely biological father, whom I have never met and who hasn't had any effect on my life experience, and who did not at any time, to my knowledge, contribute to my financial support. My mother's husband, who had a profound effect on my class status for the first few years of my life, did not attend university, but did, I think, attend some community or vocational college. In Canada, in the 1950s, this is a huge difference in class.)

2. Father finished college. (See above. My putative biological father not only finished university, he taught university, which is what he was doing when he got his student, my mother, pregnant. She had to leave school, of course. This was the 50s.)

3. Mother went to college. (See above.)

4. Mother finished college. (Much later, when I was around nine or ten, she completed her BA and her MA. She got her PhD when I was about 16, and got her law degree when I was in my early 20s.)

5. Have any relative who is an attorney, physician, or professor. (See above. On the part of my biological father, this would have had zero effect on my own class or access to professional class privileges or values while growing up. My mother taught constitutional law later in life after retiring from a long career in the civil service which started when I was 10, after she finished her MA - but that had no effect on my class or access to professional class privileges either, as it happened after we'd pretty much stopped speaking altogether. I have other relatives, but I had little to no contact with most of them, ever, and most of them, I have no idea what their profession or occupation might have been. I was raised for a time by my maternal grandmother, who was completely estranged from her own family. My biological maternal grandfather was an engineer - definitely professional class in the 1920s and 30s, but since my grandparents divorced when my mother was two, he's not a class influence. My grandmother ran a whorehouse during the war - what class would that make her - do you know? I certainly don't. The only one of her husbands I even knew was her last, a farmer who did not complete grade 6. He helped raise me at some points in my life.)

All of these questions assume a stable nuclear family, or at least a family in which one's relatives are ongoing influences. It assumes that you know who your parents are and stayed with them throughout your childhood, that changes in family structure such as divorce or death of a parent did not affect your family's circumstances.

6. Were the same or higher class than your high school teachers. (By the time I was 11 or 12 and my mother was fully established in the professional class and out from under the debts her husband had dumped on her, yes, I was the same economic class as my teachers.)

7. Had more than 50 books in your childhood home. (Yes, even if many of them were second-hand or my mother's textbooks when I was very young. Having a very strong aspiration to complete her own education and move up in class, my mother went to some lengths to provide me with access to the cultural advantages of the class she wanted us to become accustomed to. She did without so that I could have books, when we were poor. She gave me as much money as I wanted to acquire books once we were middle class.)

8. Had more than 500 books in your childhood home. (See above. By the time I left home, the walls were covered with books, hers and mine.)

9. Were read children’s books by a parent. (My mother read a lot to me when I was very young, but as I began reading spontaneously when I was about three, she didn't continue this once I could read on my own. She did, however, encourage me to write.)

10. Had lessons of any kind before you turned 18. (Yes. But (there's always a but)... I had free gym lessons for a while when my mother worked for the YMHC in Montreal. Later, I had more free sports and gym lessons for a while when my mother's husband worked for the YMCA in Saskatoon. I had some free piano lessons courtesy of a friend of mt mother's who was paying for a Conservatory student to come and teach her two daughters - she let me sit in and use their piano for practice. I had some free art lessons when I was young becasue many of my mother's friends were struggling artists and she'd let them come to dinner sometimes. I had free swimming lessons through a community pool. And later, in high school, I had a whole year's worth of private art lessons that I arranged for myself by doing housework and shopping for an artist I'd met through some school program.)

11. Had more than two kinds of lessons before you turned 18. (See above.)

12. The people in the media who dress and talk like you are portrayed positively. Often people who talk like me are (but more often than not their voices are baritone or tenor or even bass rather than contralto or soprano), but never people who dress and look like me.

13. Had a credit card with your name on it before you turned 18. (This really didn't happen in the 60s, unless you were really upper class.)

14. Your parents (or a trust) paid for the majority of your college costs.([Edit] I neglected to discuss the whole issue of paying for university. I first went to university when I was 16. When I started university, I was still living with my mother, who paid my tuition. The universtiy I attended was located in the city I lived in, so I lived at home and my mother continued to pay all my living costs. However, I dropped out at mid-term, left home and hitchhiked around the continent for a while, having many adventures on little to no money at all before deciding to go live with my grandmother and go back to school. Still estranged from my mother, with my grandmother unable to help me financially, I managed to win a scholarship that covered tuition and room and board (in residence). I got a job working nights in a pizza joint to cover all my other expenses.)

15. Your parents (or a trust) paid for all of your college costs. (See above)

16. Went to a private high school. (For one year. On partial scholarship. My mother's husband lost the money that was supposed to cover the rest of it gambling, so I wasn't welcome back the next year, and they withheld my prize for best student in Form I becasue the bill wasn't paid. I should be glad that they didn't kick me out at half-term.)

17. Went to summer camp. (For one summer. When my mother's husband had a job with a summer camp and staff kids were allowed to attend free.)

18. Had a private tutor before you turned 18. (When I was going to high school, Greek was still taught in some schools. I loved Greek. But after my first year, it was phased out at my school. The Greek teacher, out of the goodness of his heart and for no pay, allowed those of us who wanted to continue to drop in on him to ask questions, run drills with him, do assignments and have them marked, on our own schedules. Does that count?)

19. Family vacations involved staying at hotels. (After my mother joined the professional class, all the time. Before then, in summer, we camped. In winter, we stayed in cheap motels.)

20. Your clothing was all bought new before you turned 18. (The older I was, the more likely this was to be true, but as an only child without any relatives living nearby, during the entire childhood, most of my clothes were either bought new or, more likely, made by my mother.)

21. Your parents bought you a car that was not a hand-me-down from them. (When I was around 25, my mother gave me her older car when she got a new one. I've never owned a new car in my life. Note how this assumes that one's parents were able to maintain a car.)

22. There was original art in your house when you were a child. (As I mmentioned, many of my mother's friends were struggling artists. Plus, both my mother and I painted. After mother pulled us up into the middle class, she sometimes bought original art from unknown artists whose work she liked.)

23. You and your family lived in a single family house. (Once, for a couple of years, we rented a small house in Saskatoon. Also, my grandmother and her husband lived in a farmhouse in rural Nova Scotia during the times I lived with them. The rest was apartments and flats.)

24. Your parent(s) owned their own house or apartment before you left home. (My grandmother's husband owned that farmhouse. My mother has never owned any houses to the best of my knowledge, except for the farmhouse which she inherited and sold when my grandmother died. At 52, I've just bought my first house.)

25. You had your own room as a child. (I was an only child, so this was mostly true. But even so, for a while, I shared a bedroom with my mother, after she divorced but before she paid off the debts. And for a time, when I was quite young, we all lived in a bedsit, my mother, her husband, and me.)

26. You had a phone in your room before you turned 18. (Once my mother was well estabvlished as a professional, yes.)

27. Participated in an SAT/ACT prep course. (This was, again, something only for the very upper crust when I was young.)

28. Had your own TV in your room in High School (Yes. A very small, portable, black and white TV.)

29. Owned a mutual fund or IRA in High School or College. (Hah! I have only just this year, at the age of 52, been able to begin an RRSP, which is the Canadian version of an IRA.)

30. Flew anywhere on a commercial airline before you turned 16. (My mother used to fly me home to my grandmother's whenever, for whatever reason, it wasn't possible for her to have me with her. Once I was into my teens and we were middle class, we flew often when vacationing.)

31. Went on a cruise with your family.

32. Went on more than one cruise with your family.

33. Your parents took you to museums and art galleries as you grew up. (When I was young, yes, on free admittance days. When I was older, often, particularly when we travelled.)

34. You were unaware of how much heating bills were for your family. (Since we usually rented, there were for the most part no heating bills, it was included in the rent. I did have a basic idea of how much rent my mother paid and how it compared to rents in other kinds of housing. And of course I knew how much it took to buy a cord of wood for the wood stove at my grandmother's farmhouse.)

One of the assumptions in this list that hits me the hardest when I try to answer, aside from the whole issue of assumptions about family structures, is the assumption that one either gets access to intellectual experience (books, classes, private schools, art, museums, etc.) as a privilege or not at all. What about all the people who managed access, but it wasn't through privilege but through a combination of luck and planning and getting in through the side or even the back door, or even just looking very intently through a window, for some. I wasn't privileged to have access to cultural knowlege, my mother, during my childhood, fought hard and found unconventional ways to get me access. But I always knew I didn't always arrive through the front door, and so, while I have the knowledge, and I now have many of the privileges that knowlege has enabled me to access, I feel differently about it than someone who got those initial experiences as entitlements. I imagine there are a lot of people that got their intellectual privilege the same way.

For more discussion of the unexamined assumptions in this list, check out Elizabeth Bear's journal ([personal profile] matociquala)

morgan_dhu: (Default)

Almost everyone I know online is doing it, but for some reason, I had never really even thought of doing it myself until a few weeks ago. And now, I wish I'd started doing it years ago. It gives me such a feeling of freedom and control. And it's so much more convenient, and, frankly, more enjoyable than what I'd always done instead. Although it is true that at first I thought I'd only do it every once in a while, when I really needed it, and now I'm doing it almost every day.

You've probably figured it out by now. I've started watching downloaded TV shows.

I started when I turned, in my usual state of heightened anticipation, to the channel that's been carrying Painkiller Jane, only to find that there was no Painkiller Jane, not that night, nor the next, nor, according to the schedules, the week after or even the week after that. Painkiller Jane had been dumped. Yet it was apparently still being aired in the US. So I did what any addict will do when there is no legitimate source for her drug of choice. I went blackmarket.

Not only did I get to see episodes of Painkiller Jane that no one in Canada was going to show me, but I rediscovered how much better a narrative works when there are no commercials. (I'd learned this about movies back when I got my first VCR, but hadn't applied it to other forms of commercial entertainment before now.)

And, like the proverbial gateway drug, the experience of watching a show I could not get in Canada made it so much easier to move to watching shows that had already aired in other countries, and were supposed to air sometime in Canada, but no one had gotten around to airing them yet, and I was dying to see them.

Yes, my next step was watching all the first half-season of Blood Ties, which had already aired in the US, and the full season of Torchwood, which had already aired in the UK.

Edit: I forgot! I also decided that it wasn't fair to have to wait over a year for the third season of ReGenesis, which has already aired on pay-TV but won't be on Showcase, the other cable channel that's a production partner, for goddess knows how long.

Ah, what a slippery slope this is. I next decided to watch all of The Dresden Files episodes, which had already aired in Canada but I'd missed them because I never watch Space (the Canadian sci-fi channel) unless I know there's something I want to watch, and they never do any publicity for their new shows anywhere else, so I didn't know it was on until after it was in media res, and I hate coming in on a series like that half-way.

Then I really hit the hard stuff. Yes, Doctor Who season three has finally started airing in Canada, but I know because I read spoilers that there are two three-part stories in the second half of the season, and I've always hated waiting for resolution, so... you guessed it, I've got the second half of the season now and I'm going to have a Doctor Who marathon.

And of course, there's all sorts of older series I'd never had the chance to see, or never get rerun and I'd love to see again. I've just discovered Sapphire & Steel, a 70s British SF series I'd heard a lot about but had never seen. And someone out there must have put VR.5 online (yes, I think David McCallum is a sex god, if you must know), although I haven't found it yet. And then there's all the still-existing early Doctor Who episodes that I haven't seen in 40-odd years (I still mourn over the fact that one of my favourite First Doctor series, Marco Polo, is among the missing). In fact, that's what's happening right now - An Unearthly Child is on its way as I type this.

Frankly, I'm tired of having to wait months, even years, for TV shows that are airing elsewhere first - especially series like Blood Ties, which is made in Canada, or Doctor Who and Torchwood, which are partly financed with Canadian money. And I'm tired of waiting forever for the quirky niche-market shows I like to get re-run or put out on DVD.

So I guess I've joined the Torrent revolution. Instant gratification R Us. I can has what I want. Naow.

And yes, I do feel uneasy about the fact that if everyone watches current or currently syndicated old TV shows this way, then stations and networks lose viewers and thus lose advertisers and then they don't buy the shows and it gets less likely that production companies will make shows that people who download shows will like, and the creative people who think up and write these shows won't work, and on it goes. I know some shows and some episodes are made available online after they've been aired by the networks that air them, but I certainly don't know the provenance of what I've been watching. I'm still working out the ethics of it for myself. But the old system isn't working any more, not for people who really want to see what's happening in to their favourite shows but can't because their shows aren't given priority by the networks where they live, and who would really like to be able to talk to their fellow fans in Australia or the US or the UK or wherever about shows that aren't airing on the same schedules.

morgan_dhu: (Default)

Every once in a while, someone I know on the Netz finds a website that does work with Implicit Association testing, and I go and test myself again. I've been doing this for a long time, longer than most, because I used to know via a particular fandom one of the students of the original researchers on this particular methodology and I took a test she had developed for her own research project.

So I have a fairly long history of taking them. I may be testwise by now, but I try to measure that by, whenever I find a new site that tests some new set of implicit associations, finding one of the first tests I ever took and retaking it to see if there's been a change in my results. There hasn't been yet. And I try to approach each new test I take with a clear mind, focused on the task and not on what the results will be.

So today I wandered through my flist and followed some links to the Harvard IAT test site. There were some new tests that I hadn't taken before, and a few that I had, so I took some new ones and retook a couple of them.

As usual, I am bothered by some of my responses.

My responses to one of the new ones I took was perfectly understandable. It turns out that I have a strong automatic preference for fat people over thin people. Seeing as I am fat, and that society is obsessed with thinness to the point of unhealthiness, especially for women, that's likely a good thing. It probably means that while I'm concerned about health issues, at least I think fat people can be good.

I also have always demonstrated a moderate to strong automatic preference for gay people over straight people. Again, being bisexual, I tend to identify with gay people more than I do with straight people, in general terms, so that one makes sense, too.

It also turns out that I do not have an automatic association between men and science, as opposed to women and science, which makes sense because I'm a woman who has always been interested in the sciences and has spend a lot of time thinking about anti-woman stereotypes and assumptions and I think in my time I've managed to get over a lot of them at a pretty deep level.

Here's the stuff that I don't get.

Over the years I've been trying these tests out, I have consistently been told that my responses demonstrate a strong automatic preference for black or dark-skinned people over white or light-skinned people. My responses also apparently indicate that I automatically associate North American Aboriginal people with being American to a much greater extent than I associate whites with being American and that I don't appear to think Asian people are "foreign" compared to white people. I'm apparently neutral in terms of religions - I have pretty much the same pattern of associations with Judaism as I do with other religions. I apparently also have a moderate automatic preference for Arab Muslims over other people. All of these responses are apparently anywhere from somewhat to very uncommon - for instance, my response to the preference test for black people vs. white people is found in about three percent of the American test population.

Here's what bothers me. I am white, raised in a predominantly white environment. While it is true that over the years I have had colleagues, friends and lovers of other races and religious groups, I was, like every other white person in North America (at least) raised in relative privilege and raised to be racist.

So when I look at these results, I wonder, and I worry. Am I unconsciously faking out the tests to reassure myself that I'm "not really" a racist? Have I fetishised people of colour? Or am I just so disgusted by the history of white people’s behaviour in general and American/North Americans in particular that I automatically favour any other group of people in a context where I am thinking about prejudice and race? I'm not sure I understand or trust what may or may not be going on in my head, especially with respect to the responses to race-based tests.

And the literature I’ve found online isn’t much help. Most of it seems to be focused on either reassuring me that I’m not a bad person because my results show bias against minority groups, or arguing that the tests are invalid because they make almost everyone appear biased against minority groups. There’s nothing that I can find about people who appear to be consistently biased against majority groups, even the ones that they are members of.

But there have to be other people like me that have a consistent anti-privilege bias, because that’s what seems to be the connecting thread in all of my responses over the years. This would even explain my response to the religions test – if I was unconsciously faking it, you’d think I would have come out strongly pro-Judaism, but if I’m being anti-privilege, then I’d be expected to get confused with this test, because it’s not comparing responses between two religious groups with unequal privilege in North American, but rather comparing Judaism on one hand and a collection of several other religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism and North American Aboriginal spiritual traditions as well as Christianity, on the other hand. And while I’m well-known to be severely critical of Christianity as the privileged religion in North America, I would expect that I’d tend to favour the other religions included as much as I’d favour Judaism.

But I wish I could find more information on how to interpret consistent responses like mine on race-based tests coming from white people. Does it make sense to think what’s going on in my head is an anti-privilege bias? Or am I just trying to justify some unusual manifestation of inherent racist thinking? Or am I overthinking the whole damn thing?

morgan_dhu: (Default)

For some strange reason, I have decided to go back to the beginning in both of my journals and insert tags.

I'm sure that once I finish this onerous task, I'll remember why I thought it would be worthwhile.

In the mean time... it's incredibly tedious, but lacks the sheer repetitiveness that permits one to go into autopilot and achieve a zen state.

morgan_dhu: (Default)

So there’s this meme going around, in which someone posts a list like the one I’m posting here, of 10 things you love that all begin with a specific letter, and if you want to play, you comment on their post and they give you a letter that you’re supposed to use to make your own list of 10 things you love that start with that one specific letter. I read a list created by [ profile] chlaal, and asked her for a letter, and she gave me the letter V.

So here are 10 things I love that begin with the letter V.

Vampires. I have a great fetishy love for vampires. The myth fascinates me, the idea of the undead who needs the living to survive. It’s all about lusts and dark desires and bitter bargains. I’m particularly attracted to the current cultural project to redeem the vampire – which to my mind heightens the struggle. It’s one thing to have this wonderful villain (at least from the perspective of a human being) that walks the night killing people for their blood in order to survive, this unrepentant clot of cold and dark and hunger and need that stalks the living, but… placing the struggle between need and empathy, light and darkness, living and dying within the mind (and maybe the soul) of one creature makes for fascinating reading.

Vulvas. And what lovely, rich, warm, soft, beautiful, delicious, earthy, lusty, playful, expressive things they are, too.

Vulcans. Well, one Vulcan in particular (yes, I was a Trekkie and I was a Mr. Spock fangirl from day one, and by day one, I mean September of 1966). And all the imagined versions of an alien culture based on logic and reason, which (in these days of scorn toward the “reality-based community” from worshipers of the Thing from the Outer Darkness that Sits in the House and his Canadian acolyte, the Thing that Rules on the Hill) somehow seems ever more attractive, at least in public life.

Vacations. I love vacations. They are times when I can sleep all I want and read books all day and night if it pleases me with no thought to mundane demands.

Vonarburg, Elisabeth. Amazing writer of stunningly thoughtful and lyrical science fiction. If you don’t know who she is, go read something by her today, in French or English. May I recommend Chroniques du pays des mères, published in English as In the Mothers' Land (and in English in Canada as The Maerlande Chronicles.

Violins. There is something about the sound that a violin makes – whether it’s being handled by Isaac Stern or Ashley MacIsaac or anyone in between) that strikes right into my soul and moves it to sing, to pray, to dance, to cry…

Volcanos. One of the great and dramatic reminders we have that no matter how powerful we think ourselves to be, the Earth can destroy us. As perhaps she should, considering what we’ve been doing to her and her other children.

Viridian. There are many shades of the colour green that I like, but viridian is one of my favourites. I love it because it’s the colour of the dark forest, with hints of earth and dark blue waters and all sorts of wonderful things. It has weight and depth and the kind of abiding strength to it that you find in the earth itself.

Vanagas. As in Povilas Vanagas and his spouse and skating partner Margarita Drobiazko. One of the best, most graceful, most expressive, most powerful ice dancing teams I’ve ever seen. Perhaps they weren’t always technically perfect – although at times in their amateur career they came very close – but there was always a sense of both thought and passion in their skating, and they could be wild and blazing, or soft and gentle, and always straight from the soul.

Vangelis. Specifically his score for the movie Chariots of Fire. I could listen to that music all day. In fact, sometimes I have.

Ok. Your turn. If you want one. Ask me for a letter.
Or just comment on the things I listed, if that's more your style.

morgan_dhu: (Default)

Ah, Christmas. The day that my partner and I replenish each other’s libraries for the coming year, and we get some other stuff from here and there, too. And now, while he starts making Christmas dinner (bird and fancy dressing and mince-meat pie, oh yum!) I'm going to be shamelessly materialistic about all the lovely books I am the proud new custodian of.

Warning: a post full of shameless materialism follows.

There was much squeeing and whooping as we opened our presents this afternoon. The full tale of books my true love gave to me is as follows (although I am told that there are some books which will be arriving later, when SJ brings them up from the States – buying used books online in the US from Canada works better if you have them sent to a US address):

New books by authors I’ve read before
Bloodchild, Octavia Butler
Stealing Magic, Tanya Huff
The Fall of the Kings, Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman
Thomas the Rhymer, Ellen Kushner
The Outstretched Shadow, Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory
To Light a Candle, Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory
The Kingdom of the Grail, Judith Tarr
Reluctant Voyagers, Elisabeth Vonarburg
The King’s Name, Jo Walton
The Prize in the Game, Jo Walton
Tooth and Claw, Jo Walton

Books by new authors
Kushiel’s Dart, Jacqueline Carey
Touched by Venom, Janine Cross
Black Sun Rising, C.S. Friedman
Bold as Love, Gweneth Jones
The Aware, Glenda Larke
Warchild, Karin Lowachee
Guardian of the Balance, Irene Radford
In Legend Born, Laura Resnick
Califia’s Daughters, Leigh Richards
City of Pearl, Karen Traviss

Books I’ve read before and wanted to own and read again
Alanna: The First Adventure, Tamora Pierce
In the Hand of the Goddess, Tamora Pierce
The Woman Who Rides Like a Man, Tamora Pierce
Lioness Rampant, Tamora Pierce
Sunrunner's Fire, Melanie Rawn
Stronghold, Melanie Rawn
The Crystal Cave, Mary Stewart
The Hollow Hills, Mary Stewart
The Midwich Cuckoos, John Wyndham

Women of War, (ed. Tanya Huff and Alexander Potter)

The Clash of Fundamentalisms: Crusades, Jihad and Modernity, Tariq Ali
1491: New Revelations of the Americas before Columbus, Charles C. Mann

I did receive some wonderful non-book items as well:
[personal profile] glaurung_quena also got me some CDs I’ve been after having: The Division Bell and Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd (I once owned these but lost custody during an amicable divorce); Birds of a Feather by Rough Trade; Mermaid Avenue, which is a disc of Woody Guthrie songs performed by Billy Bragg; and Storyville by Robbie Robertson.
[personal profile] glaurung_quena’s sister* sent me the third season of Forever Knight on DVD, which completes my collection and delights me to no end. I’m sure most of you can guess what I’m going to be watching for the next several days.
My good friend Cathy gave me Loreena McKennitt’s new CD, An Ancient Muse, which is just wonderful to listen to.

It’s true that I mostly received fantasy and science fiction books this year, but I also plan to read most of the books I gave to [personal profile] glaurung_quena, which include such anticipated volumes as:

Bait and Switch, Barbara Ehrenreich
Virginity or Death, Katha Pollitt
Reel Bad Arabs Jack G. Shaheen
Demand my Writing: Joanna Russ, Feminism, Science Fiction, Jean Cortiel
The New Utopian Politics of Ursula K. Le Guin's "The Dispossessed", ed. Davis and Stillman
Drag King Dreams, Leslie Feinberg
Muhammad, Karen Armstrong
Boy in the Middle, Patrick Califia
James Tiptree Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon, Julie Phillips
Mommy’s Little Girl: On Sex, Motherhood, Porn and Cherry Pie, Susie Bright

Yes, the days are finally getting longer again, which means more hours of daylight in which to read – which is admittedly irrelevant in this age of electric lighting, but still… there is much dancing and delight in this household, for the books are unwrapped and piled on coffee tables and the special “to be read” shelves and all is right with our little corner of the world.

Tomorrow I’ll be back to my misanthropic self, no doubt, but tonight, there are new books.

*I hate the term “in-law.” Sometimes I use terminology based on idioms I first encountered in Zenna Henderson’s books about the people: sister in love, sister of the heart, etc. Sometimes I just describe the relationship. When necessary, I use the standard terminology. But I really don’t like it much.

morgan_dhu: (Default)

So several people on my flist have posted about their dreams today. I rarely talk about about my dreams, because they are either very surreal in a way that's only going to be meaningful to me (and these kinds of dreams usually are very meaningful, and I know exactly what they're saying to me) or I dream extended fantasy/sf/adventure novels with no meaning whatsoever except that my subconscious is getting bored with hanging around doing nothing while it waits for me to wake up and feed it more data.

Also, I tend to have very full recall of most of my dreams.

Last night, for instance, I had a dream in which I was two people observing that same sequence of events from two different but crucial perspectives. One of me was the commander of a Roman legion that had gotten lost in the mists somewhere in the countryside of Brittania while out looking for Caledonian incursions past Hadrian's Wall. When the mists clear, they are somewhere that they don't recognize - though the lay of the land seems somewhat familiar, and they hastily make camp. Scouting parties reveal that they have camped near a cluster of strange metal and wooden buildings inhabited by large herds of animals and a small number of strangely attired people. They are confused, frightened, and in full-out Roman legion defense mode, and the commander is deeply concerned that his men are about to be ambushed and slaughtered in some strange Caledonian mind-trick.

My other consciousness in the dream is that of a rather mousy British civil servant whose primary responsibility is to take care of increasing numbers of bewildered and displaced people who have been appearing all over Great Britain from a variety of past eras. His current task - dredge up a small "first contact" party of people who are reasonably fluent in 2nd century Latin to go explain what's going on to the Romans before they get too antsy and conquer the nearby dairy farm. He really, really dislikes all of these people, becasue his former job, before all of this started happening, was much more predictable, and now he never knows what he'll have to deal with, and when.

Misunderstandings, near-fatal decisions, and other foolishness ensues, and unfortunately, I woke up before I learned anything about why all of these time travellers were littering up the British countryside. Maybe that will come tonight - sometimes dreams that I don't finish one night pick up where they left off on the following night.

This is why I have never been inclined to keep a dream journal. I'd never have time to do anything else if I actually wrote down everything that happens in all of my dreams.

September 2017

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