Torture by Cat

I can’t figure out why, but the Cat of Despair has suddenly decided that he would like to sleep on my bed. With me in it. For… well, probably about fifteen minute intervals (each beginning with a pounce) all night long.

That’s new, and I’m exhausted.

I don’t know why he’s decided to be affectionate right now. Thoughts of that nursing home cat who could predict peoples’ death—but that’s silly.

I couldn’t possibly have a death cat.

Could I?

Podcasting Equipment to Grow On

I went ahead and took a minor plunge into purchasing audio equipment for the podcast of my future. Well, one of my co-workers was grousing about her cable bill for the month, and I don’t have a television, and I spent less than one cable-bill on the equipment, and therefore, the purchase was entirely justified.

I also don’t smoke or drink while I don’t watch television, so… I do need some kind of vice.

I’m not looking to record the New York Philharmonic. Just a few stories to send out over the internet. And while I might–at some point–expand to have a co-host, I don’t have anyone in particular in mind. If I did, we’d probably be editing files together long-distance, anyway.

No, really, we’re best friends, and we’re in the same room sharing a sandwich.

So, this is about what I need right now, and what has enough quality and growth potential that I won’t have to immediately replace it when I move to the next step. (Admit it. You knew your kid wasn’t taking that sparkly pink bike to college when you bought it.)

In terms of microphones, what I need right now is something that will plug directly into my computer. (USB connection.)

And what I’m likely to need in the future is something that will plug into other audio equipment. (Specifically a mobile recorder. Which is on my wish list. Or the PR system at dance studio or bookstore. Or…well, whatever) And that would be an XLR connection.

There are not a whole lot of microphones that have both a USB and an XLR connection, but the price range on them is jaw-dropping. (the Blue Yeti Pro is $250 dollars, the Audiotechnica ATR2100 is right at $70. No, they’re not the same, but the Yeti has functions.) Welcome to YouTube, where you can get anything compared to anything else by an attractive member of your preferred demographic.

You can pick your own videos, but essentially, the video gives you the opportunity for a side-by-side comparison of whatever mics you’re considering without actually dragging them home. And you get to see the functions functioning.

Since I couldn’t hear a difference between the ATR2100 and the Yeti recording on the cardioid function(Which is apparently your story-readin’ and pod-cast yappin’ function), I went with that.

And truth be told, right out of the box (which includes cables and a cute desktop stand) the ATR2100 is probably enough to start a podcast all by itself. Just plug it into your computer, set it as the default recording device, and go.

I happened to get mine bundled with some other stuff (for about $10 more, and there were bundle choices.) Mine came with a microphone boom arm, and a pop filter (It’s supposed to make you sound smoother when you’re saying Ps and Bs.) Well, let’s say the boom arm is probably worth it because it will lift the microphone out of the general area I’ll probably be spilling coffee on,(insurance!) and the pop filter? Well… it looks good, but you could pretty much make your own with a couple of layers of nylons and an old embroidery hoop.

Separately, I also bought a shock-mount, which is basically a microphone holder held up by elastics, so that vibrations don’t transfer (Again, I’m a klutz. I’ll be knocking into the table, and my recordings would wind up sounding like a knight in shining armor being kicked down the staircase.) It screws onto the end of the boom arm. You could do this as a crafts project, and there are plenty of build your own shock-mount tutorials on the internet.

And a pair of studio headphones (Audiotechnica, again. ATH-M2X) which are on the budget end of the line, but still better than I’ve had before. They plug directly into the microphone, so–in theory–I can–horror of horrors–listen to my voice without delay. Pretty sure whatever you have lying around would work just as well, or no earphones at all. This one’s something I’ll wind up using to listen to music, regardless.

And I’m still under the price of a month’s worth of cable television. (Admittedly, co-worker probably gets sports/premium channels.) And about half of the Blue Yeti Pro.

So tell me what you use, and what you’d like to hear about when I get the podcast up and running. What are your favorite podcasts?

Tripping Over Gender in Ancillary Justice

I’m just starting in on Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie. And, for those of you who don’t know… the main character used to be a troop carrier. (Not exactly a spoiler. That’s the beginning of Chapter 2.) And as a troop carrier, she refers to everybody as “she.” Everybody. Male and female alike. Which does kinda make sense… after all, ships are pretty much referred to as she. (Although I’m not sure how that works with a ship with a male name. You know… the Jeremiah O’Brien… she…)

A fairly good chunk of the first chapter is her–the troop carrier–debating whether people are male or female, and considering the implications of guessing wrong. (Her first language does not mark gender.) And how, exactly does a troop carrier figure out if humans are male or female? Yeah. Not easy.

And she spends a lot of time referring to the wounded (male) soldier she finds as “she.”

Let’s be quite honest, and say that I like her “remembering life as a troop carrier” voice a lot better at this point. It’s easier.

But that’s not really the point.

I could play with pronouns a long time before I got bored, but in some weird way–maybe because you’re just dropped into the middle of it–it’s a little confusing at this point in this book.

The change to pronouns that I’d make? Well, shoot. There are just so many options.

I could actually see one set of pronouns for people the speaker is sexually interested in, or whose gender makes a difference in some way. (Your surrogate is she, for instance.)

And a different set–or for that matter a different pronoun, singular–for people where gender does not matter to the speaker.

A lot of clarity in relationships, if your boyfriend is he, but your English teacher (technically male) or your gymnastics coach (technically female) are both just “os”–people whose gender is none of your business. And that guy you’re just not interested in? Os, os, os…

Clearly, there’d be a level of formality involved… That “os” is vous, and “he” is tu.

But I could see teenagers stressing out over whether their love interest would freak out over gendered address, or parents figuring out something was wrong, when they switch back to non-gendered.

Obviously, these are not real-world examples, or at least, they are not the current issue with real world pronoun issues. They both have more to do with the way the speaker perceives the other person’s gender (and its impact on their life) than with how the person they’re talking about wants to be perceived.

Which is, of course, also a marker of the society’s values. Who gets to choose? Who decides whether that guy is tu or vous? (I believe the story I heard in high school was that the girl is the person who can informalize the relationship, and as a lazy person, I always choose formal, because I can keep the verbs the same. Also, you get a higher quality of trouble by choosing a greater social distance.)

I might play with that in a short story, sometime.

Gifted Children, Education, and Abuse

I spent a lot of time locked in the library, when I was a kid.

Just to be clear, I don’t mean visiting the library, or absorbed in reading at the library, or gee, I was one of those kids who always begged their parents to take them to the library.

I mean locked in.

As in, dumping me in the school library was my teachers’ solution, when I didn’t fit their curriculum, or was inconvenient.

As in, I still remember a couple of days when I was allowed to come downstairs and watch Letter People with the other kids.

As in, I was six years old and checking for fire escapes, because I knew I wouldn’t be able to get back out the way I got in, and I wasn’t sure anyone would remember I was there. A lot of times, they didn’t.

I was locked in.

Because I was smart.

And in a weird way, this was presented as a privilege. No one was telling me what to do. And I was the only child in the school who had free access to a computer… books… their time.

I certainly learned more than I would have, if I’d spent the time watching Letterpeople and handing out papers because I was the only one who could read.

And it didn’t occur to me to tell anyone, because it didn’t occur to me that what was happening wasn’t normal.

Of course, I didn’t belong with those other kids.

I wasn’t really a child, after all.

I just finished watching the movie “Gifted,” and I have now been crying on and off for an hour.

I think it was supposed to be a happy ending.

The kid goes home (following a brief stint in you’re smart foster care), and gets to attend university classes AND regular school. And… uhm… the father-figure winds up in a relationship with what I would describe as a semi-abusive grade-school teacher.

Seriously? You’re making that woman a permanent fixture in your kid’s life, and it’s supposed to be a happy ending?

She was vile.

You know the teacher who tries to humiliate a kid in front of the whole class just to make them shut up? Yeah. That’s the one.

And somehow, the fact that the kid is smart, and the abusive teacher failed to humiliate her somehow turns that teacher into a shining exemplar of the educational system, and a suitable romantic interest.

She was so awful, in fact, that later on, when she’s having a conversation with a minor, minor, minor character in the hallway (do NOT blink while the pretty black teacher is on screen) my response was hallelujah, Miss Honey has arrived. She will fix this.

Nope. Thirty seconds, and she’s gone for good.

The film was all full of such snazzy tropes as the kid’s aptitude and interests **just happen** to be exactly the same as mom’s, grandma’s, and even the (blue-collar by choice, but wow, he’s smart) uncle’s, and gee, it’s in the kid’s “Best Interest” to develop whatever they’re talented at, because after all, don’t exceptional intellects really belong to everyone?

Spoiler alert: No, my brain does not belong to everyone.

I don’t really care that what I’m capable of could bring the world more happiness, more money, more understanding of the universe as a whole.

What makes me happy is farting the alphabet while eating breakfast cereal.

There is no noblesse oblige.

Society is not entitled to the fruits of my misery.

It’s not even entitled to the things I enjoy.

Think about it. Somewhere out there–somewhere in a quiet town of a thousand–there’s a mechanic who locks the windows and pulls down the blinds, and works on a Millennium Problem.

For himself.

Because he wants to.

And someday, when he finishes, he’ll throw the papers on the fire, and go to sleep, content in the knowledge that he solved it.

 

Eclipses, Bowel Resections, and Priorities

I am not going in to work on the day of the eclipse.

I really can’t see giving up a once-in-a-lifetime experience for a job I think about quitting on a daily basis. It’s not a great job, and it’s not an important job. I’m not walking out of an emergency room mid-bowel resection, or anything. Not parachuting out of a fighter jet, or taking my finger out of the dyke. My being there or not… well, it just doesn’t matter.

And let’s be honest, I have enough time accrued.

We can just call that a “mental health day.” It would be incredibly bad for my mental health to work through an eclipse. Almost a concession that I don’t matter as a person.

I’m still keeping my mouth shut about this, because not everyone feels that way. Maybe it’s financial, and maybe it’s a matter of priorities, or maybe some people are teetering on the brink of being fired, anyway, but there are plenty of people who–apparently–fully intend to miss out. It’s big enough to complain over, but not big enough to do anything about. (I was just told by one of these that anyone who calls in should get suspended. For a week. DONE! )

Yes, I’m at a point where suspension sounds like free time with my manuscript. Okay. I might be the only one there.

In all honesty, it reminds me of a movie I watched a million years ago–I’ve forgotten the name–where the main character misses the only day of sunlight her planet is expecting for her lifetime.

I think she died.

The idea of missing something that big–of anyone missing it–makes me sick.

The idea of missing it for nothing… well, that’s worse. Because it is nothing. There is nothing I do that you can’t plan ahead for, and let me and my co-workers go out to see the eclipse.

So, right this second? What I want to say is plan ahead. Boycott anything that’s unnecessarily open, because those are human beings being asked to give up their chance of seeing the same thing thing you‘ve traveled around the world to see.

If you value science and education…. If it’s open, and you’re not bleeding or in labor, don’t spend money there.

Maybe It Really Is News

Marshawn Lynch–who is a man I don’t know, who plays a sport I don’t watch for a team I didn’t bother to look up–did not stand for the national anthem.

And that’s news.

Apparently, of a magnitude that even though I don’t know him or his team, and I don’t watch his sport I still have to hear about it on Twitter the next day. And that…

Well, it puts Marshawn Lynch sitting on a par with the death of David Bowie, or the election of a United States president… or you know… a major development on Game of Thrones.

Twitter assumes that it’s a protest–specifically of white supremacists marching, or of the response to that–but I haven’t actually seen anything where he said that.

And it’s turning out to be an effective form of protest. All that attention, and he’s just sitting. Well, he’s doing an excellent job of sitting, and he’s wearing a jaunty grey cap. (Intentionally or unintentionally reminiscent of the pileus.)

But he’s just sitting.

The thing is… he’s doing it in a crowd of thousands of people who are on their feet because a particular song played. People who are doing that–celebrating a single, national identity–for no reason other than that they always have. People who are horrified that someone–anyone–might do something else.

I’m uneasy about a stadium full of people acting in unison. And I always have been. There’s something about the… demand that you go along with the crowd that seems dangerous, somehow.

Image result for man refusing to give nazi salute

Not Marshawn Lynch (but it’s hard to tell.)

When the mob is all doing something… when there is no dissent… well, maybe you should think about doing something else. Anything else.

And with American flags flying everywhere… at stadiums (because someone might mistake that middle American football field for a North Korean military base) and at my favorite Mexican restaurant… And American crowds saluting en masse…

Maybe it’s time to think.

And maybe this is news.

 

Because, Yes… Quite Frankly… Too Lazy to Eat

I’m always on the lookout for the most convenient, least time consuming breakfast on the planet. Well… at least, I have lofty dreams of finding something I 1.) Want to eat and 2.) Have plenty of time to work on real projects during/after eating. I’m pretty sure the ideal would probably be a gastric tube of some kind. I could type, and nutri-ate at the same time.

I’ve converted my lunch hour into useable time by shoving a bar or two into my purse instead of getting actual food, and now, I’m moving on.

I ordered a case of Soylent off the internet.

Coffiest flavor, for those who are curious.

This is a meal-replacement of a non-weightloss variety. It’s 400 calories a bottle, with nifty vitamins, and well… in this particular version… coffee.

Of a cold and bitter variety.

It’s basically… well… edible.

And caffeinated.

The world around me appreciates me drinking caffeine in all its glorious forms. It’s amazing how much less bitchy my coffee makes them.

We’ll see how my bottled breakfast makes me feel in a couple of weeks. I expect the low sugar (did I mention bitter) and the absence of other sweeteners (bitter!) might make it a good choice.

Marching Down the List

I finished American Gods, and that brings my total count of Hugo and Nebula winning books to four(17% of the list!). I also managed to do it before any spoilers from the TV show found me. This one gets added bonus points for mentioning places that I have actually been. I’m not going to go all out and say I worship roadside attractions, but you can stretch your legs, and many of them have clean restrooms.

Yup. Been There.

So, this is one of those incredibly rare, wildly-popular, made into a television series books that is actually as good as 40 million screaming fans think it is.

And I’m kinda fascinated by the structure, which is sorta… well, novel that starts and stops for a few short stories along the way. Similar to Sandman. No pictures.

No, I have no idea why I didn’t read it when it first came out.

And if you haven’t already, you should read it, now.

If you have read it, and if you have seen the television show… what do you think of both or either?

 

A (Very) Brief Biography

Somehow, the idea of writing an author bio is getting to me, right now.

Could be the fact that I’m a little up in the air on it myself. I mean… I’m not where I want to be with life, and I’m not really getting the short-story credits to stack up. And just thinking about it bores the shit out of me.

Karen lives in a completely forgettable place, works a meaningless job, and plays beautician to a depraved cat. She doesn’t have the faintest idea who she is, either.

**Ahem**

In addition to having a well-developed cover, including both a day job and house plants, Karen is an astronaut in the CIA’s ambitious program to place covert operatives on Jupiter.

Well, no. Actually, the CIA will not confirm that. But they probably won’t deny it, either. And that makes it true.

There’s the lifetime activity bio: Karen used to do interesting things, and has recently won her penguin march badge on fitbit.

And the immediate bio: Karen is making a turkey sandwich and trying not to drip mayo on this very important query letter.

I’m a little afraid I’ll have agents asking me to send the sandwich.

I’m not sharing my sandwich.

Okay. All things book-related. I could do that. Unfortunately, Karen was crushed to death in a tragic TBR collapse. Now, she haunts libraries, reading over peoples’ shoulders, and laying cold, icy fingers on the necks of studying freshmen.

Oh. You Thought You Were Wearing That?

One of the trends that’s really caught my eye lately is children (usually little girls) who are wildly out of sync with their families. You know the ones. Mom’s wearing jeans and a t-shirt. Dad is wearing jeans and a t-shirt. Three brothers… jeans… t-shirts. Five year old girl? Tea length chiffon cocktail dress with tulle overlay, a clutch of pearls, generally in pink, and patent leather shoes.

Now, I suppose it’s possible that some of these families are just getting a little grocery shopping in, before dropping their five year old off at an evening soiree, and heading for a family picnic in the park… uhm… well… some of them could be.

In my own hazy and fading memory of childhood… dresses like that are actually, literally what hell looks like. If you are bad… if you sass your teacher and throw rocks at the neighbor’s car… you will wear dresses like that while you burn in hell for eternity. They’re uncomfortable. And the tights? Uch. I still itch just looking at them.

Let’s see… An outfit that actually matches. Zipper up the back. Tights. Hideous little buckle shoes… do I believe this child dressed herself? Of course! Every bit as much as I believe unicorns fart rainbows and leprechauns.

Does it make sense that I believe in creative expression (the kid’s, not the mom using the kid as a prop) but I also believe in objectively appropriate clothing?

If it’s 94 degrees and sunny, appropriate clothing means that you are not wearing an arctic snow suit. (or a velvet dress with full, knit tights, btw.) And that Nixon mask? Probably not appropriate for a quick stop at the bank.

There’s safety appropriate–you will wear a helmet while riding a horse or a motorcycle. And social appropriate. You will not wear a party hat to your Great Aunt Thelma’s funeral. (And no, it doesn’t matter if that happens to be the creative expression that occurs to you in the moment.) And–**ahem**–financial circumstance appropriate. If you’re the Queen of the Nile and a bevy of attendants waiting on you, well, fine. Let those clothes get as complicated and time consuming as you want. Otherwise, you’d better be able to dress yourself. (Exceptions being your wedding, stage performances, and living in a care home.)

And–in a horrifying turn of events–I have to mention respect for other peoples’ property appropriate. It is never appropriate to leave a six-inch gash in someone else’s upholstery because you felt the need to wear rhinestones on your ass. You do not get to wear five foot spreading fairy wings into the china shop, either.

Right now–and this terrifies me–the prevailing attitude toward girls seems to be: Have all the creative expression you want, as long as you want to be a princess.