Thursday, July 7, 2016

Zootopia: see, think, and discuss

I'm glad I saw Zootopia.  I liked that it was visually imaginative and beautiful.  I enjoyed some of the characters and humor.  I liked that the crime was solved and there was a happy ending.  Sure, the police bits of it were just full of holes for an adult viewer, it was definitely a PG movie (not a G movie), and sometimes its messages were heavy-handed.  It may not have been the best Disney movie ever, but I think it's an important one to see and discuss.

That heavy-handed message?  It was about stereotyping.  Sometimes it seemed confusing because it seemed to be warning about the dangers while indulging in the humor at the same time.  I read some reviews about it that criticized the way it made stereotype jokes and how they got boring.  Sure, stereotype jokes get boring in real life.  Perhaps that was the point?  I actually thought they were pretty even-handed about it, really.  They even explained why it's okay if you're part of a group for you to make jokes about that group that are inappropriate for those outside the group to make.  And it didn't try to say, "There shouldn't be any groups!"  It just said, "Hey, um, speak in love and be CAREFUL about how you think about and what you say to and how you treat folks in a specific group."

I liked what it had to say about expectations based on stereotypes: that seemed important.  If people are just going to treat members of a group a certain way without even bothering to get to know them individually, what encouragement do they have to behave differently from expectations?  If you treat whole groups as monolithic Others without getting to know any of them, you're missing out on some of what is best about humanity. 

Again, some of this seemed a tad heavy-handed and repetitive at times, but then again, we live in a world where, even in the developed countries, there are people who hate anyone who isn't "like" them.  The hatred (and even persecution) against the "Other" is on the rise.  This is in the countries that are supposed to be in the intelligent, educated, enlightened, progressive ones, mind you, but our leaders and those who want to be our leaders are saying things about whole classes of people being evil or dangerous or threatening to our livelihoods  (immigrants, religious groups, more pigment in their skin, etc.).  Maybe a heavy-handed message is kind of necessary.  Maybe it's the only kind of message that will get through.

And I hope it does because we really need it right now.

Some of the subtler messages were solid, too.  Getting to know people is really the only way to prevent ourselves from behaving poorly based on stereotypes.  First-hand knowledge can prevent us from mistakes of ignorance.  Even if we are trying to treat people well, sometimes we fail, and we need to forgive each other for our inconsistencies, or we'll build up more walls of hurt between us.

(Biblical thoughts: Every person is special and different and made in the image of God and deserving consideration and not simply ignorant dismissal.  Jesus was not a huge fan of the Pharisees and Sadducees, but he still treated them differently based on their interactions with him.  He didn't dismiss them ALL and call them names, just the ones who were behaving without compassion.)

Anyway, important movie to see and discuss.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Miles wins

I've been in a bad mood for a while now. I'm crabby enough from pain-related clumsiness, sleeplessness, and frustration that I can't even like books I don't want to read because they are by authors I like but not in the series I want a new book in. (I promise that totally makes sense.) I was afraid my discontent would stretch even to books I love, but I am happy to say Miles is still Miles. 

My genuine enjoyment of Vor Game actually puzzles me because, when I'm like this, I hate reading nonfiction books about people who have it worse than me and succeed and are truly inspiring because they make me feel like an even bigger failure. But Miles? Crippled worse than me and a huge success? Love it.

Science Fiction is transformative in a less threatening way? Sure. Anyway, I'm glad. Now I'm going back to Kyril Island while I exercise. Forensic plumming. Snort.

Monday, January 18, 2016

An Introduction to (my) Chronic Pain

Imagine, if you will, that everyone is given a certain amount of energy and dexterity per day in tangible form, say a gallon jug full of water.  Each task for the day requires, say, a half a teaspoon of water.  That gallon of water is sufficient for them to comfortably complete all their daily tasks and still have plenty left over.

There are outliers, of course: people who brim over with energy, like their gallon jug is secretly hooked up to a faucet (or a fire hose).  On the other end are people whose gallon jugs are only filled half full or those whose jugs are broken and have been replaced with a tiny cup.  With a crack in the bottom.



People like that don't have enough energy to complete their daily tasks.  Each task that's half a teaspoon for the average person is a tablespoon or more for these people.  For instance, say you're cooking a stir fry full of healthy vegetables.  If you're the average person, this task requires maybe a teaspoon of water at most.  For me, each stir of the ingredients around the pan is a teaspoon.  Just cooking a stir fry, say 50 stirs, is more water than my whole cup contains and takes up all the next day's share.

The thing about cracks in crockery cups is that stress widens them.  If you just display a cracked and mended cup, it's fine, but if you try to use it (and the glue doesn't poison you), the crack will reassert itself and widen with every clumsy, rough handling.  As the cracks widen and split, more and more water leaks out before it can be used, and most of daily life is lived by trying to collect the dampness left on the bottom of the cup after the water has been used or leaked away.



Another thing about cracks it hat they compromise the structural integrity of the whole.  When I hurt my left arm all those years ago and then had to work at a crappy retail job to get through my master's degree to become employable despite my crippledness, I had to overuse my right arm to compensate, and other things got damaged due to compensation, as well.  My immune and nervous systems eventually got overwhelmed and the cracks spidered everywhere until sometimes I felt more like a sieve than a cup.  Now if you put pressure on a crack, you have no idea what will happen to the others.  Now, when simple tasks like cutting or chopping food take inordinate amounts of dexterity and energy away.  The average person sees an easy 30 minutes of work.  Sleep deprived, foggy-brained, and in pain, I see 452 mouse clicks, each more difficult and slower than the last, each growing less precise and requiring additional, corrective clicks.  Depending on how bad things are that day, I'm looking at 3-4 hours of work.  

As more pressure is applied, other cracks start to shift, and, out of nowhere, it feels like someone is stabbing me in the left foot I smashed years ago with a cart because I couldn't pull it with both hands, and I can't even remain upright in my chair for the agony.  Or suddenly, it feels like someone is tightening a vise around my left upper arm and the bruising pain takes my breath away.

Needless to say, I've had to develop a lot of shortcuts and efficiencies to cope with my deficiencies and still get something done despite my reduced capacity to function.  One of the ways I compensate is by trying to plan, organize, and prototype things in ways that require less use of my hands.  Any time that process bogs down, especially on a tight deadline, I'm in trouble because, the truth is, I can't guarantee that I will have enough use of my hands to get things done without causing my health to spiral out of control for weeks or months, and I CAN guarantee that it will not be done to my satisfaction / liking /standards.

Nobody likes to have their face rubbed in their insufficiencies all the time, but that's what happens when planning breaks down and iterations are needed to correct and rework while a too-late-chosen, artificial deadline looms, causing more stress, widening the old cracks and creating new ones, leeching away more of the limited energy and dexterity I have and making life outside of work a constant brain fogged exhaustion of mornings of days I can't even hold silverware  and an agony of pain-filled nights with less and less sleep , resulting in less and less time for the tiny, cracked cup to refill, less energy for the next day and less resilience to deal diplomatically or graciously with all the needless changes and decisions and rework.

If I occasionally come across as a little unhinged, become even more incoherent, seem to be falling apart at all the cracks, I hope you have  a better understanding of why and maybe will work with me more in the early planning phases next time because you don't want to be the one tapping at the cracks with a hammer until I am useless to you.

Sorry if the cracks in their jagged visibility scare you.  Believe me: they scare me.  My cup may be small and cracked beyond repair, but it's mine, and I like to use it for things I enjoy sometimes, and it's the only one I have, so I have to try to protect it in my clumsy, sometimes incoherent way, and I am not good at protecting it because I remember when I had that gallon jug and it ran over, and I could do so many things I can't do now.  I rage at being so fragile, but I hate trying to run entirely on empty, too, and being desert-day parched all the time, gritty with sand, burned away by wind, and barely hanging on while I wait for it all to shatter completely.  I hate doing poor work, but I have all these limits now, and I can't do any excellent work when everyone is tugging at the cracks without knowing they are.

Now you know.  They say knowing is half the battle.  I hope you understand a little better what kind of a toll certain collaborative behaviors take on me and why I seem unable to cope with them sometimes.  I'm sorry you have to deal with it  (I'm sorry I have to deal with it, believe me), but we're all in this team / community thing together, and the more we know about our teammates, the better our outcomes can be.

Thanks for reading.  Let me know if you have any questions.  

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Home 18: Library (last but certainly not least)

At least I don't have to sleep in the closet to have room for the library.  (I actually wouldn't have minded doing that, and it could still be a possibility if I try to adopt and end up with siblings.)  Anyway, the library has a terrible fake-wood floors that have seen many, many better days, walls of a bold (ugly) shade of yellow, and random kanji characters stenciled about in red and black.  The curtains are brown, and I moved a set of shades in to cut out light.  Speaking of light, there is some haphazard track lighting on one side of the room, so one blank wall is hazily illuminated. Since I had no money left over for paint, I'm glad that the general  hideousity of the room is mostly hidden because the library has, unsurprisingly, an embarrassing  number of bookshelves packed nearly to the ceiling with books and some DVDs.  The maximum number of containers is already here, so this is the size my library cannot outgrow from this time forth.  Seriously.  Really, really.

This is where the anime and manga live, along with a few American comics.  There is a file cabinet and a glider rocking chair I bought from a man at a retirement home after his wife died and he couldn't bear to see it anymore.  (Don't ask me to tell my stupid story about washing the cushions when I got it.  I have learned and moved on.)  I've covered the rocking chair in a pretty sheet with pointless but pretty scrolling embroidery.  (It came that way; I didn't put it there.)

There is also a small closet.  I call it my Poetry Closet.  It is where my writing from my undergraduate and MFA program lives (including the two massive binders of my finished thesis, annotated with all the grammar and spelling corrections I've found throughout the years since I turned it in and my committee complimented me for it being 450 pages and still being so carefully proofread as to contain no errors, hahahahaha), along with most of my reference and class books from that time period.  It's also where the CDs live right now until they get a shelf of their own that is glassed in, so I can put it in the allergy-free zone of my bedroom.  The closet door is currently prevented from closing by all my journals from the time I started classes in 2003.  (I am currently on approximately #53.)

Once I finish with all the other unpacking and sorting and get things moved around (and find a cheap glider ottoman), this will be a favorite room, especially in the winter when the window seat will not be fit for occupation.  Until then, I'm so glad it's finally here!!!!

Home 17: The Study

It's taking shape slowly.  It's a dining room by design with an obnoxious  and somewhat ugly chandelier that a kind friend clamped out of the way so that nobody had to lose an eye.  This is where the oversized fiction (alpha by author) and much of the remaining nonfiction (sorted by topic / subject matter) live.  It's where my functional, cobbled-together standing desk is.  It is the future home of a window seat, if I can make that happen.  (Step 1: get gutter put on above window to prevent more window frame leprosy; Step 2: get leprous window and frame replaced; Step 3: figure out how to cobble together the perfect window seat on the cheap.)

There are some files in cabinets and boxes, which I shall eventually neatly conceal under the desk.   The window is covered with a large, double-folded sheet of white, tulle-like polyester (abandoned to me by a former roommate) that lets in a lovely diffuse light while giving privacy at night with no need to open or close anything, including the window, which is missing the screen due to the window leprosy mentioned above.

I am trying to make it its own separate and calm-feeling space (for me and to make friends who don't feel comfortable with clutter more comfortable).  There is a shoji screen blocking the backside of my MacGyver desk from the larger space and some little cubbies with doors hiding their contents.  There will be more screens that I will prop in front of the bookshelves to hide them from view when not needed.  The remaining floor space is big enough for an air mattress (or a pullout cough component to my magical imaginary window seat).  When it's done, it will be black and white and full of diffuse light supplemented by the high-chandelier light.

There is a cutout from the kitchen.  I'm not sure if I will set up some see-through curtains or a half-height shoji screen in front of the kitchen opening to block out the pink and preserve the simple effect I'm going for.

I've kept the long diagonal lines of sight through the dining / living room open, so it makes the while place feel a bit bigger than it is.  It's functional but cluttered at the moment.  We'll call it good.

Home 16: Kitchen

It's pink.  Sigh.  I think it's slightly darker red pink than the intestinal brownish-pink of the bathroom.  The cabinets are a distressing shade of sort of creamy off-white.  My sister found it all rather ugly.  I cannot deny this, but I reveled in having more space then the 3x5 area in my old place.  There's a bit more counter and cabinet space and a lot more light.  There is a cutout facing the window in the study, so it gets some light from there during the day.  It has a backsplash that was the only DIY non-disaster, as far as I can tell.  I will one day (hopefully soon) paint the pink some sort of lovely blue that will somehow match the backsplash.

For now, I enjoy having a dishwasher, a non-leaking faucet, a fridge with a real freezer (even though I can't seem to get the fridge above 20 degrees), and a stove that still technically works despite missing the handle to open and close it and being a bit off in terms of temperature.  The toaster oven is my new best friend and covers a multitude of oven sins.

Overall, I might wish it had a fan that actually vented outside instead of into my face and more space or just not the fake dropped ceiling, so I could store some stuff up there above the cabinets instead and leave more space open on the counters.  If I get that whacked out, I'll have less to paint, too, but I'm sure that's costly and dusty, so I don't know if I should plan on it ever happening.  It's good to be able to use a kitchen again, and I'm already eating healthier as a result.

Home 15: Living Room

It has an oddly shaped, sloped ceiling that gives it a feeling of being bigger than it is but slightly crooked.  It is painted a bright and glorious white to try to boost the indirect light coming only from the north.  There are tall, white curtains covering the doors to the deck.  There is a dark blue yukata from my sister on the wall that leads to the hallway.  My painting (given to be by a former roommate) is in the random nook.  Around the nook are Christmas pictures from friends and family.  (The nook will be even nicer when I am able to clean off the clutter.)

There's a sofa cast off from a retirement home, a discarded Best Buy break room couch, my lovely rocking recliner (given to me by friends), an ancient television on a cheap, rickety stand, and the mass market paperback fiction.  Furniture is covered in black, blue, or green covers and blankets and pillows in blacks, blues, and greens (and a bit of white).  There's a matching rummage sale coffee table and end table with an ancient rummage sale lamp.  There are two Borders CafĂ© rescue chairs  beneath a small pull-out table attached to the wall nearest the kitchen with a beautiful deep geen haori (traditional Japanese kimono jacket) displayed high above it (also a gift).  There is also a huge, ugly Schwinn Airdyne (see part 5), a cheap, foldable stair climber, and a balance ball, but pretend those are invisible.

And there is the accent wall.  Oh, the accent wall.  I knew I would be painting the dark walls (russet red, mustard, and dark gray when I moved in) white to amplify the limited and indirect light, so I wanted one wall that was a color that I found lovely.  I looked at a lot of paint chips, laughed at a lot of paint color names, and eventually chose a beautiful rich green with some blue in it.  My sister painted it when she came to help prep for moving in.  Her text to me after a long day explains why my text message box is always nearly full (I keep the funny ones): "long story short I might burn down your condo to hide my paint job accent wall disaster. redid many times. 1/2 still looks odd but not enough energy to care."