Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Tiny: A Story About Living Small on Netflix

This is my favorite random thing I've watched on Netflix in ages.

Tiny Houses are in right now, and I love them. They're so well-designed, so soulful, so quirky, and they're a direct response to the bigger-is-better craziness that makes the average American house, according to Tiny House Nation 2300 square feet*, and makes the Americans looking for homes overseas on Househunters International** look like spoiled idiots.

This documentary is about a guy who decides to get rid of all that BS and build himself a tiny home to live in on the land he's bought out in the country. And, guys, it's so sweet. Not, like, cloying or tooth-aching, but actual sweetness that comes from dedication to a small, quiet cause, and earnestness that isn't naivete. He knows what he's trying to do, even though he doesn't know how to do it or how much trouble it'll be, and he does it, and that's that. It's inspiring to see him go through the process and overcome the bumps along the way--but it's also super-informative.

Because the documentary is also about talking to other people who have built tiny houses, and the rules and skills you need to understand to do it. And there's no real judgement in it, despite it being his story, from his point of view-- he's just showing how it goes, and talking to others who have done the same thing for different reasons. It talks about how lots of tiny houses are on wheels so they count as vehicles and have less zoning issues. It talks about sustainability, and shows him setting up solar power and taking on chickens. It talks about relationships and design and independence. And it does it all with a gentleness that is totally charming to me.

I don't know if I could live in less than 125 square feet. Probably not, since my books and all the paperwork generated by being a writer alone could fill that space. But I can understand why someone would, and I can wish for a house as beautifully and meaningfully designed as these. And I can see what lessons are given that I can apply to my own life.

But what I like best about this whole movement is how gentle and kind it is. It's quiet--just some people doing something they feel is right, for not too much money, and without too much fighting to trauma. It's earnest. It's hopeful, and it's forward-looking to a future where we're not telling each other that we're not going to get out of the mess we've gotten into. It's an alternative that might actually work.

And I like that.

*My current appt is less than half that, but so poorly designed it could be that big and would still feel hard to live in.
**I watch a lot of shows about homes. Also about semi-homes; I love Treehouse Masters, too! If I could get those guys to build me a tiny house, I'd be in heaven.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Words to live by #2

Music Library Meme

This is meant to be for iTunes, but all my music is in Google Music because of that string of computer meltdowns I had. Safety in the Cloud and all that. So here's my answers!

How many songs:  7610

Sort by song title: 
First Song: #1 Fan - Garbage
Last Song: Zombie (Rave Mix) - Cranberries

Sort by time:
Shortest Song: Reject - Green Day - 2sec (not sure if it's usually that long or if it only uploaded two seconds; there's a few of those from the scramble to backup everything before my old comp died a terrible firey death)
Longest Song: TGS Podcast #27 ft Felicia Day, Geek&Sundry - 2hr 46m

Sort by artist:
First Artist: ? And the Mysterians
Last Artist: ZZ Ward (not counting the Japanese and Chinese stuff that I have no way of knowing how to read or to put into alphabetical order)

Sort by album:
First Album: 1. Outside - David Bowie (or, if that's tagged wrong, which I think it is (it's usually just Outside, I think), then) 18 - Moby
Last Album: Zen Breakfast - Karunesh

Top Three Most Played Songs: 

  1.  What the Water Gave Me - Florence + The Machine
  2. Heavy In Your Arms - Florence + The Machine 
  3. Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up) - Florence + The Machine

Death:  Death Letter - (un-tagged - I have no idea. Where did I even get this song?)
Life: My Life - Dido
Love: Vampire Love - (again untagged - I need to do something about this)
Hate: Hate Breeders - The Misfits
You: You Are Most Yourself - (untagged, but I know this one came from either Emmy or Chelle when I graduated undergrad and they both gave me a whole bunch of music because I had none!)
Sex: Casual Sex - The Faint

Now you! Shuffle up your music and let's see what you get!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Memery questions #1

1) Sexuality?
Basically Het with a few exceptions over the years. Sapio-sexual. Vaguely polyamorous, though I haven't actually tried to make that work yet.

2) If you could meet anyone on this earth, who would it be?
This very moment? Tom Hiddleston or Benedict Cumberbatch. Most days? David Tennant. All time? Carl Sagan.

3) Grab the book nearest to you, turn to page 23, give me line 17.
The idea is to reduce the skin's temperature; otherwise it will continue to burn, and the damage can continue for several minutes.
-- Consuming Passions: A Food-Obsessed Life - Michael Lee West

4) What do you think about most?

  • Not freaking out. 
  • Whatever is the current book or story I'm working on - that takes a lot of brain space. 
  • How my favorite characters on TV might wind up kissing. 
  • Tea. 
  • Chocolate. 
  • My cat, and what she thinks of whatever is going on, and how pretty she is.
  • What I would put in my own house, if I had one. 
  • Art I could make. 
  • What nail polish I'll do next and how I'll get what's in my head to match what's in the bottle.
  • Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hiddleston and whether or not they're actually real people.
  • Which book I'll read next.

5) What does your latest text message from someone else say?
My sister replied to my complaining that she needs me earlier and earlier, that she's "just trying to make you into a morning person!"

Fat chance!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Words to live by #1

Why I don't want to live in a pre-apocalyptic world


We're in one of those times again.

The news is full of bad things happening to normal people just because they happen to be poor, or because they live in disputed lands, or because they want to change something and someone more powerful says no. I don't even watch the news because it's an endless stream of "this horrible thing happened justnow", and still all my info-feeds are flooded with Bad News.


I've been looking up more and more information on taking care of myself and raising my own food, and more and more often, the only resources I can find come from prepper sites. I have nothing against preppers--we have a lot of interests in common--but why is it only preppers who are gathering the info on how to live Knowing How To Do Stuff? And why are there so many preppers lately?

It means that on all sides, I'm being hit in the face by actual facts of what's starting to look like the unraveling of society, and the highly slanted interpretations of people who think it's already collapsed and They just haven't told us yet, and the end result is this super-unhappy world view that isn't mine, but seems intent on either worrying about the end of the world or actively creating it.

And I have some problems with that.

Believing that the end of the world is super-close tends to inflict a sort of fight-or-flight response. It makes you shore up your defenses, worry about your safety more than is warranted, focus on the continuing stream of further bad news, and that means you aren't focusing on what you can actually do to stop it, reverse it, change the future. You've decided on one, and it's a bad one, and you're afraid of it. And fear is contagious.

Assuming that the future is bad is basically the same as assuming there's no future at all, and that's the same mindset that set up a lot of the problems we're now facing--the idea that what happens right now is more important than the fallout, and that our kids and grandkids can just suck it up and live in our waste. Which is often toxic, but that doesn't matter because the old guys who put it there are all going to be dead and still rich by then.

Which is suicidal, on a planetary scale.

How can we possibly do anything about it if we're all stuck on the fear that this is all we have because we're all going to die soon anyway?

It's a really destructive view of the world, and it's mostly ours--other countries are thinking of optimistic futures where they get to the Moon and build colonies, where they catch up with Western industrialization and pull themselves out of poverty and have some say in the working of the world as a whole. One of the reasons we've been losing thinkers to overseas is that we're so focused, as a society, on this idea that everything is falling apart, we're not looking at the places where maybe it's not. And it's those places where the answers that keep it from falling apart will come from.

The pre-apocalypse is the stages right before everything falls apart, where you can see it falling and you can defend yourself against it--but also where the idea that it's falling is making the falling worse. I choose to not live in that mindset.

At least, not entirely.

I want to grow my own food and have more control over my own life, yes, but I also want to make a better future that I'd he happy to hand to my kids and grandkids**, and world where they feel like they can do anything and solve problems in ways that don't make further problems. A world that feels like it has open borders, not heavy bunker walls.

We're in one of those times right now. But how often, through the history of mankind, have we been in one of those times? How often just since I've been alive? We made it through the Cold War; I watched the Berlin Wall come down on live television when I was ten. We can do that again. We can always make it through.

If everyone agrees that there is a through and a way to get there.

*A pic of my jewelry-stand, uber-filtered on random in Vignette (the one thing I like more than iOS, since it doesn't seem to be available anywhere but Android).
**Or my sister and brother's kids and grandkids, if I never get around to having my own.

Why you shouldn't be ashamed of your tattoos

A 2006 survey revealed that 36% of those ages 18-25 and 40% of those ages 26-40 have at least one tattoo.
That means nearly half of all people in my specific age group--the one where most people are of working age, and therefore are out in the world, working--have a tattoo.

Meanwhile, a quick google says somewhere around a fifth* of all Americans have tattoos, and more than half of these people polled said tattooing lowers your chance of getting hired. To this I say:

  1. I have four tattoos, one of which is a count of publications I've gotten and so is slowly but consistently growing.
  2. I fully intend to get more.
  3. I also realize that I don't have any intention of working in an office or other cube-minded workplace anytime soon.**
But here's the thing:
Even if you're in the most standard of standard jobs, you have no reason to be ashamed of your tattoos.
You got them for a reason--and most of the time, those reasons still matter years later. If your reason is something like "I'm a Skinhead now", maybe it'll be a problem later--and I hope it is, because that means you've overcome a lot of hatred and fear and anger to be where you are now--and then you cover it up with something that means something more kind and happy and positive. Mine? I have one for surviving a really hard last year in undergrad, I have one on my bum ankle because, as I say, "if it's not going to work right, it should at least be pretty", I have one for all my publications, as I said above, and I have one that's the same flowers on my mom and on my sister. I don't regret a single one. If anything, sometimes I regret being so poor I can't get as many as I'd like, or I regret being too symmetrical with the one on my back, or I regret not getting the wings at the same time as I got the swirl-thing I did get.

I see it like this:

  1. Your skin is a map of your life--all your scars and winkles are there because of the life you lived, so why not also have some say in the marks left by life?
  2. If you're like me, and you've always been sort of uncomfortable in your skin, it's an amazing way to take ownership of your own body, to replace the blank white sheet that bothers you with beautiful art you love.
  3. Fading and stretching mean you haven't been sitting around inside, afraid of the world--you've been out in the world, living and experiencing and focusing not on preserving your skin, but on actually having a life.
  4. Being old and covered in tattoos is an awesome thing; you're automatically more interesting than every other old person.
And I think it's a lesson I'm always teaching myself: how to be a better story. You don't just tell stories, you are a story, every line and scar and piece of art and piercing and burn and wrinkle and injury. It's all stuff you've overcome, experiences you've had, lives you've lived, things you've seen and done and lived through. Why would you want to live a whole life protecting the blank page when you could be a full, brilliant story? Why would you spend too much money to maintain a fake youth when you wasted your actual youth being afraid to be different?

You have tattoos. Or you're going to get them. Or you know people who already did. A lot of Americans have them, they aren't going out of style anytime soon. So next time you're looking at a tattoo and thinking it's something to be ashamed of, think instead about where that shame comes from? Is it a shameful reason you got the tattoo? Cover it with something better. Were you raised thinking only perfect untouched things go into heaven? How much actual life has that thought lost you, and which sort of heaven would you want to go to--one where good, happy people are, or one full of prudes? Are you afraid? Fear is just a symptom of not knowing, of not having control. But in this, you have control.

So don't be afraid of your own skin. And don't worry so much about what your tatts will look like when you're old. You'll look badass and you'll feel fine.

*Ugh, I hate linking to Fox News; but because it's FN, I think we can assume they're understating or otherwise misreporting.
**Which is also why my hair is often weird colors.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

On makeup, depression, and feeling fragile

I used to wear a lot of makeup.

Today, I was rearranging my room, and I needed the space where the boxes of makeup have been sitting since I moved in here, and as I was shifting it all from the boxes to one of those plastic drawer-things, I sort of paused, and looked at it all, and marveled.

This is a lot of makeup.
I hardly wear it at all anymore.
How did I get so much and when did I stop using it?

Several years ago, I worked at a hip jewelry store at the same time as I worked as an Avon Rep. I had to look nice every day, so I wore makeup, and I really liked it--I usually "put on my face" after I opened the shop, since we were in a secluded corner and no one ever came in the first hour or so, and I'm so not a morning person. It was a way to face the world, since I'm also very introverted and working a sales position was sometimes hard; the girl who wore all that makeup was braver than the girl there before the makeup went on, and I was working on being braver in general.

Then, we moved to a different city. I can't say I was happy, really, in the first city--I lost that job and started one with half the hours and less than half the pay, all my savings were eaten up by a roomie that ditched us and didn't pay her third of the bills, and there was no non-tourism jobs to be had. But I loved our house, and I loved all the little shops, and I really loved being known. I wasn't a townie, but I'd been there long enough that I may as well have been one; I had friends, I knew almost everyone who worked downtown with me, I didn't have to act like I was more normal or more cheerful than I actually was, because we all knew what it was like.

But I was definitely not happy in the new city. I didn't know anyone. The job I had was harrowing and annoying and, ultimately, very unstable, and evaporated only a few weeks after we got up there. I never did find another job. School was getting harder and harder, funds were getting tighter and tighter, and my roommate, who I'd thought I'd just live with forever, didn't need me anymore. I got low. Then I got fully depressed, like I hadn't been since I was fourteen and it was sort of expected of me.

And then I had to move back home, because that unstable and unhappy life was not feasible anymore.

I stopped wearing makeup in that unhappy new city.

It was too much trouble.

But as I was moving all the stuff over today, I looked at all those lipglosses, and all those piles of eyeshadow, and for the first time, almost three years since I felt normal, I thought, "it's not really that much trouble, is it?" And then I thought, "it wasn't really trouble before, either." And it wasn't. I was the trouble. I felt raw and useless and unwanted, and who wants to put makeup on a raw nerve?

Lately, I've been feeling fragile. Like I'm just keeping my head above water, like the ground is just starting to go under my feet, and I've spent three years getting to understand that feeling: it's the feeling of just realizing you're depressed.

It's also the feeling of just realizing you're not as depressed as you were.

I know some ways to deal with it now, instead of drowning. I draw pictures, or paint, or write. I should always be writing more, anyway. I blog it out. I focus on eating better and moving more. I take supplements that help with mood and balance and counteracting nerve-problems, which also counteract the panic attacks and migraines, which, really, are just nerve problems at their base.

I'm not lost like I was.

And maybe I'll start wearing eyeliner and sparkly lipgloss again.

Maybe I'll be okay, after all.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Hey, look, I've got a publication!

Back before I was making this blog a thing, I wrote an article about being a good citizen--something that would be here, now-a-days, and it's been reprinted in the first issue of Community Orange Magazine! It's a great first issue and I'm super-glad to be part of it, so go see!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

How to not be suckered by internet fear mongering

I love the internet. I practically live here, and I'd like to think that everyone is jive and helpful and trying to add to the whole of human goodness.

That ain't the way, tho.

Because the internet is also how the majority of people get their information, and because the average person was never taught how to to think critically, the internet is also a big old fear machine. And people gobble up this fear and repeat it. But you font have to.

So whenever you home across some article that strikes fear into your heart, especially if the message of said article boils down to everything you love will make you die or this person you already don't like is about to take away this thing you love, step back, and think about it.

1. Fact check the crap out of that shit
Go to your fav search engine, and type in "what is the truth about____?", and then, and this is critical, look at all the answers. Not just the ones that agree, but all of them. Some things to keep in mind:
- the first two out three pages should be actual news sources
- are the dates on the articles current?*
- who has a vested interest in keeping you scared, and are the scary articles only coming from them?

Because here's the thing: the news is wildly biased, and there are always leaders who want you scared--so you won't ask questions, so you will vote one way and not another, so you won't ask for change because you won't know it's needed.

Ask who is trying who to get you to do what, and if the who is a very powerful political entity, our a very large corporation known to be shifty, or a community leader who doesn't like people to ask questions about what he's doing, maybe think again before freaking out.

Be especially wary of people who ask you to be angry without also giving you an actual action other than being argumentative, because anger is inherently irrational. Who wants you irrational? Why?

2. Consider your sources
Not all news is equal. Look at where your info is coming from:
- is it first hand from people who are actually educated to talk about these things, or is it second, third, fourth hand word of mouth?
- if it's from an actual news source, do they link to actual educated people, or to actual scientific studies, or to places that have standards of review?
- is it verified by someone other than affiliates of the original fear mongering?
- is the news from a source paid for by the people who would lose money when you bother to know the truth?

Any hint of dishonesty in any of those things should cause you to pause.

3. Remember what you learn and apply it next time
There is literally no point in doing any of this if you're going to just jump right up and freak out about the next thing without verifying the information first.

Thinking takes effort, and there will always be someone who wants you lazy and controllable. And that's usually the person upholding the thing that's bad for you. What's the point of these big human brains if we aren't using them?

* We recently got a call from a family member freaking out about something that was misreported, discredited, and corrected two years ago. It could have saved them a lot of fear just by literally five minutes of fact checking.


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