Whine Me

(Written in 2004)

I think a lot of us have at one time or another asked, “Why me????” I have an answer of sorts. Well, a reply, in any case. You might not like it. But that’s okay with me, as long as *I* don’t have to hear you whine.

First of all, just don’t. And not just because nobody wants to hear it. Don’t do it because it is incredibly useless. You’re wasting your time and the time of anyone within earshot. You’re wasting oxygen for cripes sakes. It is about a million times more useful to find out what can be done about your problem than to ask why it happened to you. While you’re at it, don’t even bother trying to assign blame. Maybe it is someone else’s fault. It doesn’t matter. No matter whose fault it is, at the end of the day you still have a problem that needs your attention. Assigning blame is another tremendous waste of time and energy.

Secondly, no matter what it might look like, you wouldn’t want to trade your problems for anyone else’s. Just remember that everything is relative. What is a light burden to you might be the final straw for someone else and vice versa.

My third point reflects my spiritual beliefs and as such you may disregard it. In fact, go ahead and disregard anything you like. Anyway, this belief is that we are made up of the sum of our experiences. Our selves are recreated every moment. Take away any day, any moment and we are somebody else. I don’t know about you, but contemplating such a change sends me into fits of existential angst. I just don’t go there.

My final point is perhaps the hardest hitting. If not you, then who? Your worst enemy? Your best friend? Your parent? Your child?

So buck up. Worry about causes only to the extent that it might help you avoid the situation in the future. Face the facts and find a way to deal with them. Maybe you need help with that: then get it! Be grateful your problems are yours rather being inflicted on someone you love and be grateful that you only have to play the cards you are dealt rather than somebody else’s cards.

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apostrophes

Originally written in 2003

Let’s face it: I know very little about grammar. Oh, I have a good grasp on the order in which words should go, but I don’t know much else. Year after year in school they taught me. And year after year I managed to pound it into my head just long enough to pass a test regarding it. Then I forgot it. I wouldn’t know a gerund* from a gerbil. But if there is one thing I know, it is how to use an apostrophe.

You’d think with that degree of ignorance, I would take a more relaxed attitude where the apostrophe is concerned. But no. It absolutely drives me nuts when people don’t use the apostrophe correctly. My high horse may be a shetland pony, but boy am I on it.

Here’s my wee apostrophe lesson.

Apostrophes are used in two contexts: possessives and contractions.

A possessive is when you are saying that a noun belongs to a pronoun. In other words, if the balloon belongs to Suzy, it is Suzy’s balloon. If the pronoun is plural (ends in “s”) the rule is not to put another “s” after the apostrophe. In other words, if the room belongs to the Senators, it is the Senators’ room, not the Senators’s room. And if you write “the Senator’s room” you are saying it belongs to only one Senator.

A contraction is when you are smooshing two words together to form one word:

  • you+are=you’re (NOT your, that is a possessive and yes that is a little confusing, but just learn it okay?)
  • are+not = Aren’t
  • they+are=they’re (not their, not there)

Probably the most confusing situation is the possessive of “it” and the contraction “it+is” I don’t know if the decision to differentiate or the decision of which word would get the apostrophe was arbitrary but differentiated they are. But here it is:

  • *it+is=it’s
  • the possessive of it is its.
    Just learn it

Okay, rant over. If you ever have an apostrophe question, feel free to ask.

*I have actually finally learned this: a gerund is a verb ending in “ing”. So now you know too.

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reasonable and proportionate

Originally written in 2003

The phrase “reasonable and proportionate” has been on my mind a lot lately. Both in terms of mood and reaction. I think it is very important for me as a bipolar person. In a nutshell this is because everyone can be moody, everyone is exuberantly happy sometimes, everyone is blue sometimes; but when you are bipolar these states may have no relation to external events or may be drastically out of proportion to them.

If a normal person is “moody”, that usually means they tend towards gloom, or perhaps hold on to a mood longer than what is considered average. When a bipolar person is moody this can mean something else entirely. I can go from bouncing off the walls to incapacitating sadness several times a day.

It is almost preposterous to compare euphoric mania to a good mood. Though I’ve never tried cocaine, I’ve had its effects described to me and I think that high might well be compared to mania. I will make an attempt to describe it from my own experience. When I am manic, I am practically a goddess. I am tremendously wise; I can pass out advice and judgement and it is all obvious to me and unquestionably correct. I am also irresistibly attractive: cute, sexy, gorgeous. And of course, I must dress accordingly. And oh boy am I funny! I’m witty, clever. I can’t shut up, but I’m so entertaining that who could mind? I have enough energy for two normal people, and while I get sleepy, actually getting sleep isn’t all that important. I have plans galore! I will write a book! I will find a bluegrass band that needs a singer! I will shame Martha Stewart with my homemaking prowess! And that part of me that keeps my natural impulse towards mischief in check is on a lunch break. It’s a great deal of fun while it’s happening, but can be embarrassing in hindsight.

Mania has another face. Its nearest equivalent for normal people is irritability. It certainly includes being irritable, but alas there is more. Too much energy for comfort and not enough focus to use the energy effectively. There is sensory overload – maybe I sense more of things, or maybe that part of my brain that knows how to sort, process and prioritize the information has gone on vacation like my self-restraint does in the happy mania. I have absolutely no patience. Oh, it’s maddening. I just feel like I’m going to jump out of my skin, and I even want to do that because it seems like it would be a relief. My very soul itches in that state.

Everyone gets “the blues” sometimes, even bipolar people. And even depression is so common that it is mistakenly diagnosed as the problem for many people who are bipolar, and it is sometimes years before the mistake is caught. I
think depression is better understood than mania, so I won’t described it in detail here. Please, my readers, if you feel like you don’t understand depression, I’ll change this paragraph and describe it a little. For now let it suffice to say that “the blues” don’t make people think “I want to die” all day long every day.

Above I have been defining terms, so that I can discuss what is reasonable and proportionate and what is not.

It is reasonable and proportionate to find yourself temporarily incapacitated with sadness at the death of a friend. Not so much if the friend didn’t call you back promptly. If you decide to go out on the town to celebrate getting a great promotion and maybe go a bit nutty with the drinking, that is reasonable and proportionate. Not so much if you decide to go out on the town to celebrate it being Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, etc … especially if “out” includes out of the state (of course, this could also mean you’re an alcoholic) (note, I’m making these examples up for the most part).

This concept is a reality check for me. If my moods are fluctuating, I ask myself, if they are or are not fluctuating in
proportion to the events taking place in my life. Today, as I write this, they are not. However, the moods are not intense so the situation is not something I am worried about. I have also taken to using this as a yardstick for the behavior of others when they ask “is this normal?” I am hoping to teach myself this check mechanism so well that it becomes automatic – that if I find myself behaving in an unreasonable and disproportionate manner I can at least try to reign in and seek help… and in other situations I can reassure myself that what I am feeling is “normal”.

[editorial note: I can NOT figure out why I have unnecessary paragraph breaks, I apologize!]

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Sentient Omnivores

Originally written in 2003

Human beings are sentient omnivores. This gives us certain rights and obligations with regard to other creatures.

We eat just about anything. Our bodies are designed to have a certain balance of these things. Certain cultures have ‘evolved’ to have more tolerance for a diet weighted more towards meat and probably others toward a diet weighted more towards vegetables. Most of us require a good balance of the two, though vegetarians/vegans can, with effort, get the proteins their bodies require through a delicate combination of different types of vegetable life. But whatever we eat, we do, in fact, eat. As creatures of this planet we have a right to try to get what foods we need and want, and a right to do our best to protect our food sources.

Many creatures are omnivores like ourselves and we don’t expect them to become vegetarians. Many creatures are carnivores and though their table manners may seem somewhat repugnant to us, I’ve never heard it suggested that they become vegetarians either. There is no nutritional reason why human beings should feel any pressure to change our natural eating proclivities. From our digestive system to our teeth we are designed to eat both plants and animals. On behalf of the majority of humanity I’d like to tell proselytizing vegetarians to eff off.

We have the right to try to protect our food sources. If that means keeping cattle in corrals and chickens in chicken houses, that is perfectly all right. If it means putting poison out to kill snails in our gardens, that is perfectly all right. If that means setting dogs on ground squirrels in our fields that is perfectly all right. If that means putting up electrified fences to keep deer out of our gardens, that is perfectly all right. If that means putting traps out for cockroaches in our kitchens, flypaper hanging from our ceilings, and mousetraps in our cupboards, that is perfectly all right. I’m sure my point is clear.

But we are not simply omnivorous creatures. We think, we reason. It is my contention that this places a burden of responsibility and obligation upon us.

There is no reason to kill things that we have no intention of eating and that are not threatening us or our food supply. In fact, it is wrong to do so. It is wasteful, cruel and/or vain. Hunt the deer if you are going to eat it. Don’t hunt it for its head. If you’ve eaten the deer and want to put its head on your wall… well it’s a bit crass, but it can’t be said to be wasteful, other than in the sense that it deprives those useful creatures that dispose of organic waste for us of a meal. Wear the rabbit fur if someone, at least, has eaten the rabbit. Would you like to eat a mink? I didn’t think so. Cowhides are empty before they become leather. I don’t know for certain that we eat those cows, but I’m guessing that if we don’t, our domesticated animal friends do.

Don’t step on ants outside. What have they done to you or yours? And what about spiders in your house? Black widows and certainly some other kinds of spiders are genuine threats to your life or health. Most spiders are not. And have you thought about what spiders eat? Bugs. Would you rather have bugs eating your food, or spiders eating the bugs? I’m not saying you have to live with them, but I am trying to suggest that killing them just because they are there is not only cruel and wasteful but is ungrateful as well. If you don’t want them in your house, transport them outside where they can continue their good work (even if it no longer benefits you). If you encounter a rattlesnake beyond the bounds of your own land, shooting it is mere cowardice. It is just going about it’s business, which primarily consists of eating rodents. Somebody’s got to do that, and it probably isn’t going to be you. If you respect the nature of the snake, it will go on its way and you can go on yours. If you find a snake on your property, the proper thing is to remove it or have it removed for you. If you have a nest of snakes, the only practical thing to do to protect yourself may be to exterminate it.

I don’t fail to recognize that along with sentience comes imagination. We can be afraid when we’re not being threatened because we can imagine danger. We can “what if” like nobody’s business. We don’t corner the market on making mistakes, of course. We also can be lazy. As with any fault, beating ourselves up about it is not productive. It is much more useful to forgive ourselves and try to do better in the future. I’m not asking anyone to feel guilty because they have killed spiders in their houses. I certainly have. Sometimes it is easier than carrying them outside. Sometimes they are simply too scary looking to approach close enough to trap and transport. I can only do two things at this point: focus my energies on behaving in a more humane fashion and educate my children to have respect for all living things.

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Stop Signs

The thing is… You don’t really need to stop for a full three seconds.

It takes no more than a second to verify that nobody is coming and it’s safe to proceed, and that’s if you weren’t looking around as you approached the sign, or you couldn’t see oncoming traffic until you were at the line. I once read a very frightening comment that said it takes four seconds to check in your mirror to change lanes. I’d rather not be on the road with someone who needs four seconds to answer a binary question eg, is someone there or not.

And I’d go so far as to say that one can sometimes safely do a slow roll through a stop sign. When it’s a four-way stop, all directions are easily visible, and nobody is within a hundred yards, no harm no foul, I always say. I’ll go even further and say that if you stop a full three seconds at an intersection with good visibility and a four way stop, I will think poorly of you.

But as with all rules of the road, the thing to think about is: why is this rule in place. With stop signs there are a few possibilities.

When a street is at all busy, you want to allow people on cross-streets to safely navigate the intersections. This is the main reason you’ll see them. I got a stop sign put up in San Francisco for safety purposes. If there are a lot of accidents at an intersection, they’ll probably want to put a stop sign up; or if there is a two-way stop they might change it to a four way.

Another possible reason is traffic calming. If a street is nice and long, connects one neighborhood to another, that sort of thing, people will be tempted to speed. Planners will usually try adding a stop sign before putting in speed bumps.

Now the key safety thing to consider is whether it’s a four-way (sometimes “all-way”) or a two-way sign. You need to be more cautious with the two-way signs. If you come to a sign and it is not a four-way, you are in danger of being nailed if you don’t stop to look out.

It is especially important to keep in mind that people run stop signs sometimes. It’s not a wall that goes up to keep them from proceeding (though that’s an interesting idea!). You should always maintain awareness of your surroundings while driving (and probably while not driving).

And the final thing to be aware of with stop signs is that you’ll find them almost exclusively in residential areas (sometimes when exiting them). There are some odd exceptions, but mainly it’s residential. This means that you should be driving at a top speed of 25MPH and be prepared to stop at any time. Any place you see a stop sign, you have the risk of pedestrians in the road.

Stop signs are like a lot of the rules of the road: obvious and intended for safety. If you can’t stop at stop signs, I do not want to share the road with you. Can I interest you in public transportation?

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General Writing Update (10/21/2021)

It takes only the briefest of scrolling to see that I haven’t made much use of this blog over the last……. six years. But my writing career – and I use that term very loosely – has chugged along without it.

The fourth Daganu book, The Long Dark, is out via Smashwords, but is not yet published on Amazon. I’ll be getting to that within the next few months. The fifth Daganu book, The Spell Builders is ready to format for publishing, and on tap for this year’s National Novel Writing Month (known affectionately as NaNoWriMo, or more informally, Nano) is a sixth. The Spell Builders is narrated by Ko and is primarily set in pre-history. The sixth book – working title The Unicorn Portal – goes back to Joe as narrator and picks up some few weeks after the end of The Long Dark. I’ve tried a sixth book more than once, but I do think it will stick this time, and I’m really looking forward to writing it!

I have two other fantasy novels in editing that are not Daganu books:

Unbreaking will probably come out next year. The book starts in 2018, but immediately leaves this universe, so the date becomes irrelevant. Unbreaking is my longest  novel, and there are other things about it that make it unique to me, but either are spoilers or would be boring shop-talk to most.

The Beeherders was last year’s Nano project, and I only finished the draft a few months ago. That one is set in 2020 in the San Francisco Bay Area – specifically the East Bay. There was a major technical challenge in the way that story is constructed, and it felt good to see it come together and work. It was kind of a trip to write a book set during the pandemic… And we didn’t even have a vaccine when I started that draft! On the other hand, we also hadn’t been through that absolute hell of a winter surge.

So that’s where we are today. One book in formatting, two books in editing, and one in the planning stage. I have a number of non-fiction blog pieces I want to write, but I won’t tackle them until after Nano. Submissions for Fastlane will not be emphasized during Nano, but will be written as the muse moves me. (The muse also drives a Jeep.)

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The Speed Limit

My mom always liked to say the speed limit is a limit not a goal.

I disagree.

Or, I should say, it’s more nuanced than that. By a lot. A lot a lot. But the basics don’t take long, so let’s dive in.

The thing about speed limits is that they are supposed to reflect the conditions, circumstances, and safety requirements of the road in question. You wouldn’t expect a long straight highway to have a 30MPH speed limit, because it’s obviously safe to go faster there. And I don’t think anyone would support a 100MPH speed limit in a school zone.

So: conditions, circumstances, and safety. These are all intertwined. The key is to know why they decided to put that speed limit on that street. Now I’ll run through the standard limits and what we should expect based on those numbers.

But before we start that, I want to mention special conditions. Bad weather absolutely has an impact on how safe roads are, and they largely negate those little white signs. If the rain or fog — or smoke in California — is so thick you can’t see 50 yards down the road, you should not be driving 65MPH no matter what the posted limit is. I’ll go into this in more depth when I write about driving in weather. For now, suffice to say that there can be really good reasons to drive below the limit as well. There are few hard and fast rules for driving that apply every single time (they exist! always wear your self-belt!); you need to be able to judge conditions for yourself.

Below 25MPH signs are uncommon, but they do exist. Usually these are special circumstances and you should at least start with the assumption that it might be 100% necessary to go exactly that slow! There’s a sign up at the dump, for instance, that says 7MPH. And, in that case, that’s pretty much the fastest you’d want to go in there.

25MPH is the standard speed limit for residential streets. This is the one standard limit I always keep to. You see, 25MPH is about the fastest you can go and still stop if a kid runs out in front of your car. Read that again. This is the fastest you can go on a residential street, period. It’s not only children! Grown adults will just wander into the street in a residential neighborhood. To say nothing of dogs off-leash! Keep it under the speed limit and keep a sharp eye out for animals and people to step in front of your car. This is also the speed at which you are most likely to encounter stop signs.

30MPH is largely a bullshit speed limit. It’s for 35MPH roads when the city needs that sweet, sweet traffic ticket revenue. Almost any street with this limit can be safely taken at 50 in terms of paving, turns, traffic lights, but not in terms of tickets you might get for going 20MPH over the speed limit!

35MPH is your standard business district road. There aren’t many houses on these streets, though there are often apartment buildings. You have to watch out for drivers entering or exiting large parking lots (such as those at grocery stores or Target), and you might have to slow down in a hurry. It can be safe to go quite a bit faster, but you still need to be on the lookout for parking lots and such.

40MPH is usually posted on a (business district) non-residential street with fewer large parking lots to go in and out of. However, it can have small businesses, ironically. These little parking lots aren’t as easy to see as you drive by, which has two ramifications. First, as you drive you may not be aware of someone wants to exit the lot and suddenly be in your way. And secondly, other drivers may not be sure where they are trying to go, so they may stop or slow unexpectedly.

45MPH You’ll see fewer buildings altogether at this level, and fewer cross streets. This is not a common speed limit for city streets. You can probably get up to 60 on these roads.

50MPH You very rarely see this in town, though I have. When it’s in town, the rules for 45 suit pretty well. If you are on a highway, it’s different; this is similar to 30MPH in that there is rarely a safety concern that justifies a speed limit lower than 60, or maybe even 70! Sometimes it is in place to gradually slow you down. 70 to 60 to 55 to 45 to 35 and there you are in town.

60MPH is honestly like 50, but from someone who cared more about your desire to drive fast.

65MPH Now we’re cooking! Any 65MPH highway in this country (assuming it’s in reasonably good repair) can be taken at 85, assuming good weather, etc.

70MPH is unfortunately the highest speed limit in this country. Same rules as 65MPH.

There are other speed-related signs and considerations.

Those yellow signs you usually see before a curve often have a number on it, but it is not a speed limit in the sense of white signs — or traffic tickets. It is the advised speed. I highly recommend against disregarding these signs altogether. You’d drive into a ditch at best the next time you went out. The key to those signs is, again, knowing why they are there.

In the mountains you might have a road with a 60MPH limit and then come across a yellow sign recommending 45MPH for an upcoming curve. Do you need to slow down to 45? Probably not. Should you slow down at least some? Probably. Another common place is on a freeway offramp, where you are often required to drive in a tight circle.

And the last common place you’ll see such a sign is before a speed bump. Speed bumps are a special case. Personally I don’t think they should be allowed to put a speed bump to slow you down below the speed limit, but they do. I’m sure you’ve noticed that they come in many shapes and sizes. If a bump says 5MPH you’d probably better slow all the way down to 5! But with the gentler 20MPH variety there is yet another consideration: The ground clearance on your car.  I drive a Jeep Renegade and it’s got good clearance. I can take a 20MPH bump at 25 without any worries about the bottom of my car. Your average sedan can not. I’ll be going over Know Your Car in a later piece.

Allllllll this was a really long way to say that you should drive according to conditions, not numbers on a sign, always keeping in mind that your evaluation won’t impress a cop. And my mom? She likes to drive 40MPH regardless of what sign is posted. This, my friends, is not an improvement.

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Fast Lane: Slower Traffic Keep Right

I used to have a driving blog called Fast Lane, but I had a database disaster and lost it all. It is being reborn here as a page within my writing blog. I originally got my immediate inspiration from the 140 mile trip (counting both directions) I did twice a month between Sacramento and the Bay Area. I don’t do that drive regularly anymore, but there’s plenty of inspiration (ie. bad drivers) on the road closer to home.

But now I can start my rants all over! And rest assured that, as in its past life, this blog will primarily be ranting. I’m a good driver and I have opinions.

I’m a damn good driver, in fact, and I have little tolerance for bad drivers… which are most of the drivers on the road. At various times I’ll share the crazy shit that didn’t end up crumpling my car. Exciting stuff! At least to live through. (Disclosure: I am not a professional driver! Nor am I a driving instructor. Consume at your own risk.)

Another thing I’ll share here is My Dad’s Advice ™(not really). There’s rarely a day behind the wheel when I don’t think of my dad’s advice as he taught me to drive.

People liked my old blog, and I’m hoping people will like its resurrection. It might take me a few posts to get back in the groove, but I hope to be able to keep at this. There won’t be a set time, not even a promise to post once a week. My old fans – if there are any still around – will notice that I will be reusing some titles (eg. there will be one called Know Your Car is probably coming soon).

So sit back, I’m driving!

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Evolution

This blog was born as a writing blog, but going forward I am going to broaden the concept to include whatever the heck I feel like writing about. After all… 280 Characters? I made a post at Bobspora that had more than 5K characters! 🙂 So yeah. I’ve had a few ideas bopping around in my head for a while, and they can come out here.

Please note: My topics will include politics. Don’t be a dick in the comments. 😛

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Progress

Or perhaps it’s not much more than attention. Which, to be fair, is probably a big deal at this point, from the blog’s perspective. Although I doubt my blog has thoughts of its own. =P

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