Thursday, December 1, 2016

Post NaNo Update

So, a lot happened in November. A lot.

Henry started daycare, but we call it "school" for him. I needed my sanity back. Plus, if I am to start school in January he needs to get used to going to daycare. That way he doesn’t freak out when everything happens at once. He went once just before Thanksgiving and brought home the cold and the flu in one fell swoop. He passed them both around the house. It meant Thanksgiving was miserable, and Granny and Gwen ended up doing most of the work. I also ended up in the ER because of it.

However, he went back to daycare after Thanksgiving and seemed to love it. He waves goodbye to us. He doesn’t appear to care when we leave. It’s wonderful. I get some time to clean and write; he gets more stimulation and socialization. It’s a win-win for everyone.

Robert standing vigil on Veteran's Day
Robert had his first debate competition and came home fired up about it. He seems to enjoy debate more than he enjoys some of his other activities. He has another contest on Saturday, and that one is far enough away that they are doing an overnight of it. Unfortunately, I am unable to share pictures of the debates. This is because family doesn’t get to attend. It’s just the debate teams and the judges. Or so Robert says. He was the last one to get sick but seems to be the first one to recover.

Thanksgiving happened, of course, and as I stated before Gwen came up. She brought cleaning supplies with her because she was determined not to get sick. She’s got too active a life to get sick. We also had the cousins over. They seemed to come over in shifts. Everyone had something else going, either other dinners or more work to do that day. We did miss one face at the dinner table, but I’m hoping that she makes it for Christmas.

55949 / 120000 (46.62%)
November is also NaNoWriMo, and this year I did get to participate. (Last year Henry was just born so participating was out of the question.) I even won this year. I am about halfway through my novel and will be continuing to work on it throughout December. You can look forward to a word count update in next month’s update. I did manage to get out of the house to attend one NaNo event, but that was well before NaNoWriMo even started. So, I am hoping that next year I can get out and attend more events with NaNo. If not, then perhaps I can host a write-in at the library at school.

Throughout November I kept my blog updated. I posted several responses to an article that got me fired up. I started with an essay titled “Why is it All Wrong?” and went from there. Other events occurred. These included Henry’s birthday and Well Baby appointment, the election, and Veteran’s Day. I posted two sonnets. Together celebrates my anniversary and there is also a Thanksgiving sonnet. I also posted a fictional piece about Veteran's Day.

In December I already have several blogs ready to go. There is one sonnet and some essays. One of the essays deals with my view of parenting. Another couple deal with politics and society. I hope to blog about Christmas and preparing to return to school as well.

Is there anything that you would like to see on my blog?

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

"Just Like Us!"

David Wong included a line in his article that I wanted to address. "Looking back, I think the idea was that the local minorities were fine ... as long as they acted exactly like us." I feel that this is true everywhere, and with all sorts of minorities, not just race. Gender, age, hair color, eye color, anything that is visible can be a minority. Things that aren't visible are harder to discriminate against on sight. These include things like religion, transgender, and sexuality. However, once it gets out, these are usually more divisive than many mere appearances. Based on that quote, though, it is not just the discrimination that is the issue. The larger issue is our communities.

Communities are built out of people that share something in common. Historically, this started as a physical location. "We are from here; we know this area and each other. Those people over there are strange and different." For some reason, that difference made them scary, and they started wars over it. Over time, "here," sometimes began to include "look like us." During World War II, this helped lead to the fact that Americans were more afraid of Japanese immigrants than German ones. After the 1960's, most northern American communities were ok with African Americans, "as long as they acted exactly like us."

In a small town community means the people who live there. Even if a larger community is available online, you still have to get along with the people around you. However, big cities are much more segregated than you think. They are even more separated than small backwater towns. In a large city, there are three types of areas: "completely public spaces," "public community areas," and "private areas." The private area is easily defined. It is usually one's apartment. The other two are a little more fluid and changeable. They partially depend on the community that is using the space. In a "completely public area," you talk about only the weather if you speak at all. Most people just choose not to talk. They find it is easier to avoid trouble that way. Subways, most roadways, and some restaurants fit into this category. Even tourist traps sometimes fit the bill. Although there it is acceptable to rave about the view as you take pictures. In completely public areas one never knows who is listening or watching. You cannot know what you might do that could be offensive to them. Today even an accidental offense, followed by a quick, sincere apology is often cause for a media fireball. Or at least a social media fireball.

"Community public areas" are spaces where one can be mostly sure that the people around you have something in common with you. Topics that circle the area of interest are acceptable, but don't stray too far from that area of interest. These places include "hangouts," and any shops that specialize. After all, if I go into a bar decorated with cowboy décor and start talking about Warhammer 40k, I'm probably going to get funny looks. No more so than the person that walks into an embroidery store and starts asking about camping equipment. To some extent, these places have a clientele that looks a certain way. That embroidery store probably doesn't see too many teenagers for instance. However, while the better places might look slightly askance at someone who doesn't fit the physical type of someone who usually comes, they'll give the person the benefit of the doubt until they open their mouth. If the individual is either knowledgeable on the topic of community interest, or genuinely interested in it, they will welcome the person with open arms.

With the three types of space, one never has to communicate with people that don't fit one's ideas. Mouth shut, head down, and a mumbled "pardon me," get you from place to place, where you can be yourself. Meanwhile, because we are human, we see people and make snap judgments about them. No matter how untrue they are. Imagine two restaurants side by side. One is doing a brisk business, smiling people emerge, it looks clean and smells delicious. The other only has a trickle of business, people inevitably come out angry, the building looks dirty, and the smells are atrocious. Which one are you going to eat it when you've just realized you're hungry?

It's not a bad thing. It stems from years of survival instinct; it's just mutated. However, the snap judgments become dangerous under two conditions. The first is the worst, and that is that you act on them without giving the person a chance to correct your first impression. How many companies would be in more dire straits if the straight-laced human resources people turned away the geniuses that walked in looking a little too casual without actually interviewing them? The second can slowly morph into something worse than the first. That is that you never give anyone who doesn't "fit the bill," a chance to change your mind. Better yet, give them a chance to challenge your ideas. At first, you say well I'm having a bad day; I don't want a conversation that might turn into an argument, so you choose not to talk to the person next to you. Then you keep finding excuses to not talk to the person in the next seat, behind you in line, or other similar places. Soon, every time you see someone whom you find offensive, you assume that they are offensive to you. You just continue to have that belief, and that belief pops out in little ways. Your children see it and imitate it. Thy may not know why or what started the concept in the first place, people that look like X are wrong in their minds. Also, because you don't challenge your way of thinking you, stagnate. New thoughts become harder. Eventually, you find a problem that you can't overcome with your abilities, and no one in your circle of friends can solve it either. You have to go to someone outside of your circle of friends. The less you challenge yourself, the faster this happens.

People should not allow first impressions to carry through once people open their mouths. However, to do so you have to give the person a chance to open their mouth, and you have to be willing to open yours. You have to go out of your way to build inclusive communities, and eliminate discrimination. No matter whether you grew up in a small town or a big city.

If you'd like to start at the beginning of my essays regarding Wong's article, I started by asking Why is it All Wrong?

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Gwen's Thanksgiving Visit

We had an eventful Thanksgiving week. We started the week off typically enough, everyone in the house was catching a cold that baby had brought home from his first day at school (pre-school, day care, take your pick of wordings). However, Monday night it turned much more eventful. I started throwing up before dinner. I couldn't stop. I ended up in the Emergency Room.

Severe flu they called it. The ER gave me lots of saline, two different anti-nausea medicines, and a dose of Benadryl through IV before they let me go at three in the morning. I got a little bit of sleep, but still felt very sick. Part of the sick was still happening, but at least I wasn't throwing up anymore. I made it through Tuesday with a lot of help from my family. That night was hard, Henry and I were both up every couple of hours.

Wednesday morning I felt like the sick part was gone, but I still had not had enough sleep. Just exhausted and tired, I got through the day. Still with help from my family.

Thursday I woke up feeling like I had gotten just not quite enough sleep. Because I was sick, and my sister did not want me near the food, I spent the day with Henry, and doing a few stints of dishes when he was sleeping.

The family got together early. Turkey time was set for noon because Mom had to work that evening. So most of the family was there by noon. One cousin, his daughter, and her boyfriend were the first to show up. Then another cousin, his wife, and her mother turned up. So we had two new people for dinner. We all sat around eating. Henry decided to get up before I was done eating, and when he had barely been asleep for an hour. After lunch, the first bunch of people ran away, but then the second group of people began to show up. Another cousin and his wife came for food, and then a little later his father came to the party. By that time, my mom was off to work.

After everyone had finished with the food and pie, we played some games. We started with Fluxx; my cousin arranged for me to win that one after we had played through the whole deck. After that, we played Ticket to Ride, to which my sister introduced me. Throughout that game, I was watching Henry play through the living room, dining room, and kitchen. I was playing to play the game, and somehow I ended up winning. My cousins that played with me enjoyed both games. So hopefully, we will find some more time to play with them.

After they all had left, we watched some Wheel of Fortune and an episode of Death in Paradise. It's a show that Granny likes, but Mom does not, so it's a great one to watch while she is at work. We watched Henry's shows and tried to settle him into bed, but he struggled to go because we did not have his regular night-time binkie. I know he needs to be broken of binkies soon, but I didn't want to tackle it while he was sick. So I am trying to settle him into sleep with a "big boy" or a "waking time" binkie. Those he only uses while he's very fussy.

Then the three of us watched an episode of Game of Thrones. After which the day was over, and we went to bed. Thankfully, it passed without a whole lot of incident.

Now we are almost all on the mend, except Robert. The sixteen year old started coming down with it today. He will probably end up staying home from school tomorrow, especially if he keeps throwing up.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Wishlist 2016

There are several books on my list this year, but I'm getting pickier and pickier about them. The first book on my list is Crimson Death by Laurell K. Hamilton. I wish there was a new Patricia Briggs book out, but I won't be able to ask for the next one of those until my birthday next year.

I have also started branching out into nonfiction. So one of those is on my list as well. Tribe by Sebastian Junger looks like it will go well with Home From Nowhere and When Generations Collide, two of the recent nonfiction books that I have read.  

History being a favorite pastime of mine, I am also asking for books written during history. I'm asking particularly for The Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser. I am also asking for 1001 Nights. I particularly want the translation by Richard Burton or Ursula Lyons. As I showed, there are available digital editions of both on Project Gutenberg, but I like having the book in my hand.

Games are also a big thing on my wish list. I like being able to share my presents with family and friends. What better way to do that than with games? Firefly expansions are high on the list. In particular I want the Kalidasa expansion and the Pirates and Bounty Hunters expansion sets. That's the Sci-Fi end of the spectrum, but there's also a historical end of the spectrum. For those games I want expansions for Settlers of Catan, in particular I want Seafarers and Cities & Knights expansion sets. We only have the three to four player sets, so I would only want the expansions that far.

There are a few things that would be just for me. Those would be chocolate covered peanuts from Palmer candy shop. Some fuzzy sock-slippers with non-slip pads on the bottom. Finally, the Microsoft Wireless Display adapter that would allow me to share my screen with a larger screen, and share pictures with the family.

Even though we haven't be able to attend SCA things lately, there are a few things on my list for that. For example, I want some Turtle Brooches to wear with my currently non-existant Viking dress. Maybe getting them would push me to make my dress. The other thing that I really want is a Kumihimo Stand, the braiding would be easier to do with Henry around than the embroidery is. I would love it even more if it was made for me, even if it wasn't quite as polished as a "professionally" produced one would be.

However, there is a long list of things that are more experiences than material things. A day without baby chores, only playing with Henry is at the top of my list. Three days without regular chores (no cooking, no dishes, and no cleaning) is the next thing. A walk through a local state park at the peak of each season's colors, or even more. Tickets to a movie for Will and I, and the babysitting for us to go. It's a longer time of babysitting than my family usually does. Dinner out for the whole family when I am supposed to cook. A date-night dinner would be nice, either out or have Will cook it at the house. I would love it if my boys would paint some mini's for our games, either Firefly minis for that game, or regular minis for D&D games. A Viking weave chain necklace or a chatelaine's cord would be awesome, and another poke to work on my Viking dress. An SCA leather belt would help me feel more comfortable too. Also, depending on how I'm dressed it can go with modern wear too. Finally, I want to a nice outfit to wear to interviews and things.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Quality vs. Quantity of Jobs

David Wong said something in his essay, how Half of America Lost it's F---ing Mind, with which I disagree. He stated that cities could make up the loss of production jobs. Big cities would do this with service jobs. However, smaller, more rural towns couldn't. They failed, because the population density wasn't high. Not enough people live there to support that many service jobs.

I do not contest the number of jobs that entrepreneurs have created. I'm sure that the number of service jobs have grown. I'm also sure that the manufacturing jobs have moved overseas.

There is a problem with this. The service jobs do not provide the same type of living that the manufacturing jobs did. During the era of the manufacturing jobs, many families could afford to have someone stay at home. The other individual went out and worked. Historically, the woman stayed at home, and the man went to work. Whether they liked it or not, that's how it was. I'm not saying that it was a good thing, some women felt "trapped" at home. The revolution of women in the workplace is a good thing. I like getting out of the house to work. What I'm saying is a good thing was the fact that a parent could stay home to take care of kids, clean up, and more. Yes, this was more than a full-time job, but at least there was someone to be there and try. Plus, having someone at home to care for sick kids means that the family does not lose any money. without losing money because of missed time at work was helpful. I know, I was a stay at home mom for a little while.

However, service jobs often do not have the same types of benefits or rate of pay for the person working. These discrepancies mean that one individual has to work two jobs to make the same pay. In addition, most households have to have at least two people bringing in money. All this to hold onto the idea of a middle-class lifestyle. So the service jobs replacing the manufacturing jobs only works when comparing the number of employed. It falls apart when comparing the quality of the jobs they perform.

This isn't a new statement. In fact, several people and groups have come up with solutions to this. There are three that I want to mention.

First, the liberals want to raise the minimum wage. That doesn't work. Forcing an increase in minimum wage just makes companies come up with ways to get that money back. Some companies cut jobs or cut the number of hours per person. Others raise the prices on the goods and services they provide. Those are just some of the answers that corporations attempt. This causes the liberals interfere more. It goes back and forth, and the government just gets more bloated. At the same time, companies get more convoluted to avoid spending more money.

Second, cut the tax rates at the top, and let the money trickle down. If there's more money to invest, it will be invested. The investment will creat more jobs, which will continue the cycle. That's the conservative viewpoint. That, by itself, doesn't work either. Most of the rich people at the top got that way by hoarding their money. If they receive a windfall, especially from a government that is as changeable as the wind, then they hold onto it. saving it for a rainy day, when the government might demand more money.

Third, and the thing that works the best is a complete change in how we look at our culture. This examination needs to include jobs, money, government, and community. However, the biggest piece of our culture that we need to examine is the American Dream. The generic American dream should be to work for oneself and run a company. This American Dream would fix the urban sprawl (see Home from Nowhere). It would shift our focus to building economically "up" rather than physically out. A job, or a career, should be one stop on the way to owning and running your company. Due to the life-extending health discoveries, one can expect to have a couple of lengthy careers. Putting in the time to earn a retirement and gain experience at a big corporation. As a second career they can go to work for oneself. This would achieve the proposed American Dream.

Money is something to be gained for a purpose. I'm not saying don't have a rainy day fund, by all means, they are necessary. On the other hand, if money stops moving then money stops growing. Those at the bottom need to save enough for an emergency, but then put further savings to work for them. In addition, they need to plan to stay in a single job long enough to get the retirement. As an alternative, they can put money into their personal retirement account. Don't look at it as a "retirement" account, look at it as a "dream fund." An account that will allow you to create the perfect job for you.

We need to reevaluate the government, especially when it comes to economics. That's a whole essay or five right there, so that's all I'll say on the subject for now. I only have two questions to pose. First, how many of those in government understand the real value of money? I mean, understand it in their bodies because they went without? Or at the least had to juggle the bills trying to pay them all? Second, how many of them have studied money, and the movement of money, also known as economics?

Finally, the community is something that should be a resource, a safety net, and a source of comfort. Having a small business in a thriving community means that your business thrives. Having a small business in a derelict community means that your business goes down hill too. We need to look at ways to grow communities in the real world, not just the digital one. We need to look at the means to build the communities right outside our door, not half a world away.

What ways to do you see to fix the problem?

The first piece I wrote in response to this essay was "Why is it All Wrong?", I will also be posting another essay about discrimination based on culture rather than anything else.  

Monday, November 21, 2016

Thanksgiving Sonnet

A feast of turkey, cooked for all, this day.
The table fills with dishes mixed or baked
So sweet or savory they taste, we may just
Take a bit too much. Our hunger slaked.

The smells, they waft through rooms of family.
Our love and laughter fills those halls, as leaves
Of yellow, red, and orange shake the tree.
The cold wind makes branches brush the eaves.

Just once a year we eat together here.
Before we feast, a great parade we watch.
And after - football, watching, playing. We're
Relaxed and happy. Yay! We did not botch.

Then sleep, she slips now over all. We steer
Ourselves to beds so warm. See you next year.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Crazy Creating

Say "Crazy me," for trying this so odd
A challenge: writing fifty thousand words
In thirty days. I will attempt a flawed
And tattered story, won't be fit for nerds.

But just the writing, it accomplishes
A step so scary. It creates a thing
That can be found or shared against one's wishes.
So cares must go. They on the wind must fling.

If fears do grab, then you grip friends' bold hands
As they now rush so headlong into books
Of their own writing with you. Genre bands
Which stand with artists and those poet kooks.

Oh! All are now creating worlds that na'er
Before has any seen, and from thin air.

This was written because I'm participating in NaNoWriMo this year. It really is a crazy challenge, please come check it out.