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Tuesday, September 9th, 2014
2:24 pm - Daily music post: Bullet with Butterfly Wings by The Smashing Pumpkins


I would still maintain that one of my favourite Simpsons moments of all times is the introduction of Homer to the lead singer of the Smashing Pumpkins. "Homer Simpson, smiling politely." This line has the power to make me smile, if not laugh, every single time.

As someone points out in comments on the video, the title of the song is not used even one time in the song. You'd think they could have fit it in there somewhere, considering how many times the line "despite all my rage I am still just a rat in a cage" was used.

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Monday, September 8th, 2014
2:46 pm - Daily music post: Permanent Revolution by World Order


As usual, the dance moves are a lot of fun. But also, we are all one.

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Friday, September 5th, 2014
11:16 am - Daily music post: Leaving on a Jet Plane by Peter, Paul & Mary


An oldie but a goodie. I do love listening to Mary Travers sing. She throws her whole self into it.

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Friday, August 22nd, 2014
11:45 am - Daily music post: Waltz Opus 69, No. 2 by Chopin


As performed by Vladimir Ashkenazy in 1981.

I think Chopin's music sounds best when, as in this performance, it is not played metronomically. I don't know what the style of playing is officially called (if it's called anything, maybe "expressively"?), but I think of it as a narrative style of playing. Playing the notes and the dynamics as written, but letting the timing of the notes have an elastic quality, letting them take the time they need to take in order to tell the story properly.

Also, I think that maybe with a lot of practice I could play this piece, and that always excites me with Chopin (so much of whose work I couldn't hope to play without years of lessons).

It hardly seems fair to call these posts "daily", but I don't want to give up on the construct or the expectation, so I'm keeping it. What can I say, I'm an optimist (with impossibly high expectations for myself).

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Monday, August 11th, 2014
5:17 pm - Daily music post: Love Thing by Cymbals


Smoooooooooooth, baby.

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Saturday, August 2nd, 2014
10:55 pm - Kinder
I don't think I would want an uninterrogated life. My ability to observe myself and my actions, thoughts, and motivations is, I think, a strength. I just wish my interrogator wasn't quite so harsh and judgmental. I wish laudable success wasn't always a moving goalpost. I wish I were kinder to myself.

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Tuesday, July 29th, 2014
10:27 am
"I've kept you up too late."
"You're a night owl. A shiny shiny night owl. And I'm a magpie, attracted to shiny things."

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Monday, July 28th, 2014
5:17 pm - Update
Hospitals! Okay, one hospital. She had surgery on Friday night. I stayed at the hospital Friday night while Star stayed with Uncle P unexpectedly (he helpfully woke up at 5 am and told Uncle P that that's when he usually gets up - no, it isn't).

As is common in hospitals, they kept changing when they were going to do the surgery all day, in response to other cases as they came in and how they were triaged. At 9:30 when the nurse came to take her vitals she was number six on the list and probably wouldn't have surgery till the next day. But her temperature, until then normal throughout, was starting to go up and her blood pressure was getting higher and I think that changed her placement in the list because suddenly at 10 o'clock they were wanting to wheel her down for surgery.

The fancy apparently world famous ENT surgeon got called in at 10 at night to do the surgery. You'd think draining an abscess would be a pretty simple procedure, and not something that you call in the world famous dude to do, but the specific area is one where there is a chance for permanent damage to the facial nerve, so they called him in. I'm glad of that. I spoke to him and his resident after the surgery and they both said, independently of each other, and with a lot of enthusiasm, "there was a LOOOOT of pus!" That's a direct quote. Apparently, there was a lot of pus? Also, it takes a certain kind of person to be a surgeon.

They installed a temporary drain. The wound won't be closed because that could seal the infection inside and it would just reinflate with pus again. It will need to heal from the inside out over the next weeks to months, with daily dressing changes done at home once she's released. There will definitely be a scar, but hopefully not a bad one. It's far enough back that I don't think it'll be that noticeable once it's closed and has faded a little.

Saturday she was feeling wildly better (relief from constant agonizing pain can do that for you), but of course there's still a lot of healing and recovery time remaining; she'll be in hospital probably till at least Wednesday or Thursday. They'll take the drain out in a day or two and then they want to observe the wound without the drain for a day or two after that before sending her home. Then they're recommending a couple of weeks off work before going back. My contention that she was very ill (expressed throughout last week to great argument, because hey, she was ambulatory) is being given a bit more credence these days, at least in part because she lost a day in her memories - Thursday and Friday are just this melange of pain and confusion and she remembers almost none of what happened from probably Wednesday night onwards. I'm glad I took her to the . I'm glad her mom could be with her during the day on Friday and I'm glad I could stay the night on Friday and be there for her surgery.

A recounting of Saturday night, if you leave off some details, sounds quite lovely: we were downtown to see the fireworks. We didn't want to be out in the crowds. We had a room, with an almost totally unimpeded view of the fireworks and we sat and held hands and watched the fireworks, which were actually quite beautiful and amazing. I've never seen them before. Then we stayed the night.

But you know, in a hospital room. And I slept on a stretcher. And she woke up once at around 2:30 because the exciting all over rash she's acquired in response to one antibiotic or another was making her itchy and she was hypothermic because the room was too cold, and that took two hours to get settled down to sleep again, and then once because at 5:30 when the nurse came to sneakily start the morning antibiotics in the IV she declared the currently installed IVs, both of them, to be "no good" and so the IV tech came to install the new IV but of course that's all a bit distressing to someone who has a needle phobia, so that again took some time to get settled again, and then the nurse was going to come in to take her vitals at 7, but she had just fallen asleep 20 minutes before so I asked the nurse if she could do it just a little bit later because she had just fallen asleep and it was a rough night and the nurse agreed and went away and then ten minutes later the blood test tech came to take her daily samples and when I asked if she could come back just a little bit later and let her sleep just a little longer, her uncomprehending response was pitched at the right volume to wake CorgiGirl up and why why why are hospitals run on the principle that patients' sleep can be interrupted willy nilly? And then she was confused and so exhausted and kept asking me why it was so hard for her to wake up. Perhaps because you had, all told, perhaps five hours of decent sleep? And they keep waking you up to stick needles in you?

Small triumph: I managed to convince the IV tech to install the new IV in her right arm. I tried to get the original IV tech to put it there - she's left handed but that person said something like, "oh, it doesn't matter" and installed it in the back of her left hand, leaving her unable to use her dominant hand for anything for the next three days. I was probably more peeved about this than anyone else was, and I get that it's a minor issue with everything else going on, but the details matter.

Also: I think it's fair to say that I'm making a better than average first impression on her Dad and Stepmom, who didn't know I existed until Thursday? My internal experience of things in this arena is one of awkwardness and overthinkingness, but I think my outward stuffs is okay.

Also: I was so tired yesterday that I came home at 10 at night and walked to my roommate's room and when she asked how I was I lay down on the floor in the entrance way of her room, incidentally blocking both her ability to get out or to do more than pet my head and quietly sobbed for about five minutes. But I actually think that this is totally okay. It's okay to be experiencing stress and worry and relief and stress and worry in this situation, and it's okay to let it out, and it's all just okay. I'm fine and I'm coping and part of how I'm doing that is a moment of floor sobbing, but nobody was harmed by it, so it's all good. I felt better afterwards, and then I went to bed and slept 10 hours. It's a better day today.

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Friday, July 25th, 2014
5:00 pm - So it's been a difficult two weeks
So it all started when CorgiGirl's left parotid gland started to swell. At dinner there was nothing, but by the time I was doing my weekly post-band visit at 10 or so it was a perceivable lump. This gland had been mildly swollen and painful off and on for months, but this time it was a solid lump the size of a walnut. My alarm and concern might have been enough to convince her to go to the doctor the following day, but the extreme pain and much larger swelling that woke her up in agony at 4 was probably a more compelling argument. That was two weeks ago.

A week of one kind of antibiotic, then an appointment with an ENT, who prescribed a different kind, with the swelling and pain only getting worse every day, resulted in last Friday's day-long visit to the emergency room. When I called her in the morning to see how she was doing she was clearly not doing well. My repeated questions about whether she wanted me to come and take her to the hospital were mainly answered by high pitched sounds, so I asked <lj user=zargon> to take Star to daycare and went.

I had her over at my house on Friday and Saturday nights so that I could help with the pain management part - getting the tylenol, advil and dilaudid all spaced out so there weren't significant troughs of pain when they all wore off at the same time, which meant waking up several times a night to make sure she took the right pill in advance of the next wave of pain. Sunday included another ER visit to get more pain medication and a referral for an ultrasound study on Monday to see if there was anything by then that could be drained.

Sunday, after two relatively decent nights of sleep and better pain management she seemed to be doing better than on Friday (much more cheerful, more together and organized in her actions) so I dropped her off at home, once we'd arranged for her mom to come out and take care of her during the day on Monday. Monday night when I called after her mom had left she was sobbing with pain but insisted there was no point in my coming out because the drugs would be kicking in soon. The ultrasound study had still not seen any drainable abscess (rarely in life do you actually hope for a drainable abscess, but we all were by this point). Tuesday morning she was also not doing very well, so I went out and picked her up after work and brought her home with me again for the night on Tuesday. Keeping on top of the drugs so she could get more and better sleep and use my bath tub to submerge her face seemed to be helping, so I dropped her off at home again on Wednesday (a friend was going to come over and be with her for the day). I picked her up again after work for another night. Less good sleep over all, but there was one glorious three-hour stretch towards morning. We were aiming for her next ENT appointment on Thursday, yesterday. Surely by then somebody would be able to do something for her.

At the ENT appointment, with a rather irascible older man, we were berated for not going to the correct hospital on Friday (I wasn't at the previous appointment and so didn't hear his recommendation to go to Vancouver General Hospital where they'd have a resident ENT; we'd gone to Mt. St. Joseph's instead because it's closer to her house. He felt sure, upon palpation that it must have formed an abscess and told us to go to either VGH or St. Paul's to have it drained. He also said several times that they would most likely admit her for 48 hours to do IV antibiotics and observe it. We decided to go to St. Paul's. Ultrasound in the ER showed a drainable fluid pocket, so we went up to the ENT clinic where I got to watch while they shoved a series of three needles into her face (one for doing the local anaesthetic and two different needles to evacuate pus). Then I got to drop a vial of bloody pus off at the laboratory where the tech looked at it and said, enthusiastically, "Thanks, that's perfect!" So you know, life first.

They admitted her for an estimated 48 hours of new IV antibiotics around 4 yesterday, with a plan to do another CT and, if necessary, open an incision in her face to drain the pus more directly. Which is horrifying, but hey, when it comes to horrifying pus collections, if they have to exist at all, outside of your face is clearly better than inside of it.

Those are the sketched out details. There's more of course.

Like: the pain was extreme and combined with the dilaudid and lack of sleep and the general stress of the situation meant that she was having a lot of trouble with remembering and processing new information. As I said, the ENT yesterday said several times that they would be admitting her. He said it over and over, yet when we were in the car she was completely surprised and shocked that he had said that. Then when we were in the ER, she was shocked again, not remembering the car conversation or the appointment. Then after the ENT appointment she was surprised by it again, not remembering any of the previous conversations.

Like: Yesterday's memory problems were extreme, but I think they started much earlier (in that she hadn't remembered what hospital the ENT wanted her to go to a week ago). The hospital visit a week ago was also marked by her inability to remember things that the doctors and nurses said to her, especially about drugs and the ways use them. It's actually been intermittently true all week.

Like: If I'm honest, I was not 100% comfortable leaving her at home on Sunday night, because I was concerned about whether she might end up taking drugs at the wrong times or in the wrong combinations because of her poor memory, but we set up a notebook where she could record both when she took each drug and when she could take the next dose, and she did seem much improved by the better pain management and two nights of improved sleep, and I knew she felt bad about having me or anyone take care of her so I did it.

Like: She's very independent and doesn't usually want to ask for or accept help, and I have been struggling to balance my desire for her to be cared for (not necessarily by me) with a respect for her autonomy. At what point are you right to override a person's insistence that they don't need help and can do just fine on their own? It seems to me that somewhere around the point where they can't remember what the doctor said five minutes ago and are moaning in pain but insisting that you should go back to work and they can take a cab to the hospital is probably that point? I want to be very careful not to make a habit of it though. I don't want to forget that she definitely needs to be the one to make decisions, whether good or bad, about her own health.

Like: I know what I know about how to be a kindly helpful caregiver person to a person who is sick and receiving medical care because of growing up with my Dad and his many illness and brushes with death, and then also from my years of birth work, and this gives me both a lot of knowledge and experience on the topic, but also a lot of baggage and that can be tricky.

Like: In my brain there is a big filing cabinet of "Protocols to Deal with Your Life" and at some point in the past (perhaps adolescence) someone took the Protocol for "Living Every Day With Shameful Undiagnosed Depression/Anxiety" and photocopied it many times and placed the copies in the folders for "Stress" and "Grief" and "Coping with a Family Illness" and "Getting Through a Day With Not Enough Sleep" and "People Compliment You and Think You're Great", among others, replacing whatever contents might have been in there before.

This is unhelpful.

So when those things happen my brain says, "Ah, so your girlfriend is very ill and in hospital, let's implement the protocol for that. These terrible but undoubtedly authoritative instructions say to, among other things, hunker down, believe that everything you're feeling is the wrong thing, ask no one for help, and constantly berate and judge yourself because you're terrible and unlovable." I have to keep noticing that I'm following the wrong protocol and recreate a better one, in the moment when I am also experiencing stress, grief, family illness, etc., and that's exhausting. But better than the alternative.

Writing this part of this post, for example, prompted the thought of how awful I am for making any part of this post about me, because she's the one who's sick, and isn't that just like me, to make everything about me, truly, I am a terrible and selfish person, oh god.

I keep telling you brain, this is not helpful. Things can be about me sometimes. I'm a real person who exists in the world. I'm allowed to take up space and have feelings and thoughts.

Like: I'm tired, and also sad and worried about her, and determined to do my best to be a good friend/romantic partner for her right now and a decent parent to Star and a good friend to the rest of you and I think it would help me with rewriting the depression thing if you, my friends, reached out to tell me you like me, if you can/want to?

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Thursday, July 10th, 2014
2:21 pm - Hi. My house is messy, but probably I'm still loveable anyway?
My house is messy right now. Much messier than usual. There are lots of completely understandable reasons why. Life has been extremely busy. We went camping the weekend before we left for VidCon, so there are camping supplies out. We're not unpacked from VidCon. There's laundry, clean and dirty, everywhere. The kitchen has dishes unwashed from the weekend to now. I'm still struggling with my ADD, so getting down to actually fixing any of this in a way that actually finishes any task feels almost totally impossible. And sometimes I've been prioritizing doing things that don't actually lead to a cleaner house because they're necessary, productive in another area of my life, or just plain fun. Like yesterday, I sewed Star a Darth Vader cloak he had requested and a summer tunic for me, even though sewing didn't make the house tidier (if anything it made it slightly untidier, but fuller - not a word - of Darth Vader cloaks and that's important too).

But I also feel terrible about the state of the house. I feel like I'm letting my roommate down. She hasn't said anything about it one way or another, but still, I feel like a terrible roommate. And it's not a simple "in this moment" kind of feeling, because it has an special adapter attached that let's it plug into and feed my "you're a fuck-up, you'll always be a fuck-up, you're going to have to try really hard all your life to make it up to people for how much of an inconvenience you are" messaging. The house isn't just messy now, it is teetering on the edge of too messy for people to love or even like me, forever. That's a lot of unnecessary weight to put on the task of washing a sink full of dishes.

On Monday CorgiGirl, Star, and I were playing Super Mario Wii. Star wasn't doing as well as he wanted and lost his shit about it in a very five-year-old-with-high-expectations-of-self way. I comforted him and held him and talked to him about how games are designed to be challenging, they're designed specifically to make it so that you fail and fail until you practice enough to gain the skills you need to move forward, and got him a snack and we moved on to other things, tears and yelling over. And CorgiGirl said, as she often does, "You're amazing." Later on, Star was having a particularly fractious time getting ready for bed, and I was applying my not particularly original technique of calm patience + inexorable movement towards bedtime and she said it again. And all I could think both times was, "Look around this house. How could you say I'm amazing when the house looks like this?"

There's something messed up about the idea that nothing I do is worthwhile or important unless the house is also tidy at the same time.

And I feel like I've been a cringing idiot to the roommate too. It was utterly clear to her that I was a messy person before we moved in together. She's messy too. She lives with me because she likes me, and because I'm interesting to be around. But I doubt I'm very interesting when all I can say every time I see her in the house is how sorry I am about the mess plus fill in empty promise about getting it all fixed up as soon as possible, oh god I'm such an inconvenience, you would be right to hate me forever. But somehow if I can't be tidy then I guess I think I owe everyone my constant pathetic obsequious apologies.

I thought I was somewhat past this. I distinctly remember writing a blog post about how people loved me even though my house was messy.

The house has actually been tidier lately. Perhaps the sudden return to stage 2/3 squalor combined with time spent with my Mom (pro tip: for resurgences of childhood internalized messaging, spend time with a parent!) combined to bring it all back to the fore, as intense as ever. Still realizing it here is probably a step in the right direction. Maybe I can get back to the calmer neutrality again.

Something to think about.

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Wednesday, July 9th, 2014
3:16 pm - Daily music post: YMCA by the Village People


The YMCA wikipedia entry is kind of amazing by the way. You should read it.

We used to skate to this, doing all the YMCA actions as we went around and around the arena.

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12:56 am - Letter from my great uncle Owen to my paternal grandmother Gwyneth, May 15, 1929
First, a bit of context and explanation. Owen was Gwyneth's brother. Gwyneth had gone to Japan in 1924 as a governess for a younger cousin. When her Uncle, Aunt, and cousin had returned home to England in 1926 or 1927 she had decided to stay on in Japan, staying with my grandfather's sisters in my great-grandparents' home. While living there she met my grandfather and they fell in love and decided to marry and emigrate to Canada. In 1929 he left Japan and went across the Pacific to Canada and she went back to England to see her family one more time before crossing the Atlantic to meet her husband to be in Canada. This letter would have been written during that visit in 1929. She thought she likely wouldn't get another chance to go to England and see her family and she was right. Though she lived until 1981 in Canada, she never returned to England after her 1929 visit.

For the last two years I've been scanning old family photos and letters and after attending VidCon in Anaheim, California two weeks ago, we headed up the coast to Scotts Valley and visited my father's brother and his wife. I took a laptop and scanner and spent three days scanning whatever letters and pictures I could find and this letter, which I had never seen before, was among them.

I love this letter so much! It feels incredibly precious to me. In reading it, you get the feeling that Owen was a person born in the wrong time. He was uncomfortable among his contemporaries, a difficult person. He may have struggled with mental illness (certainly it seems so from his letter, though I had never heard a hint of it from my father). At the least the tone of his letter suggests to me that he struggled with some amount of depression.

I'm fascinated by his anger and his hopeless idealism and his depressive's ability to turn every possible opportunity into a failure. I'm fascinated by his apparent atheism in a very christian family. Gwyneth herself was on her way to marry a man who had worked as a missionary in Japan, and who constantly exhorted her in letters to put all her trust in God, and others in her family seemed to have been as christian as anyone else was.

And I love his self-deprecating humour and the love he has for his own writing, even as he seems to mock it self-consciously. I love that he wrote this letter to his sister and the things it gently speaks about their relationship with each other. I love the description of 1920s cycling culture and especially the dig at the sneer of the Motorists.

There's a lot going on and I've transcribed the whole letter below.

It was 8 pages long, so be warnedCollapse )

Edited to change "maternal" to "paternal" in the post title. I know I meant to say "paternal" in the first place, but somehow it didn't get from brain to internet that way.

current mood: pleased

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Tuesday, July 8th, 2014
4:34 pm - Daily music post: Sorry I'm not Sorry by Tessa Violet


I saw Tessa Violet perform this piece on the mainstage in the first evening's concert at VidCon a couple of weeks ago and understandably there was quite a lot of singing along.

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Friday, June 13th, 2014
1:25 pm - Daily music post: Top Secret Man by The Plastics


Yes, once again it's time for everybody's favourite japanese kitsch-pop deconstructionists, The Plastics.

"Everybody's talking, everybody's walking. Fun for everyone."

This music video is a sweet piece of history y'all. Let's never, as a society, lose this. Everything is so lovely and absurd and earnest. The keyboardist at around 1:13 is my absolute favourite part. Absolutely every other part of this video ties for a close second place though.

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Tuesday, June 10th, 2014
2:34 pm - What ADD can be like on the inside
I've been struggling with a flare-up of my ADD symptoms for the last month or so. It's hard to describe what this feels like, because once I'm having a harder time keeping my focus and concentration I get increasingly more anxious about how I'm functioning and that doesn't really make things easier to describe because all of the internal pieces are tied up together.

But the simplest description is this: imagine if every single thing you thought of doing you immediately started doing.

You do it thoughtlessly, you don't even notice that you're switching from one task to another, and when 15 minutes later you do notice and try to backtrack to your original task you get distracted again on the way. Any interruption from outside will result in yet another task being begun. By the end of a day spent trying to accomplish a list of tasks you are surrounded be partially begun, half finished tasks. Nothing has been completed, nothing has been usefully recorded about the status of things, and you have no clear picture in your head of what your logistical plate even looks like. There are 16 half-written emails, none of them sent. There are dozens of unread emails in the inbox, but all below the fold, because you got distracted before finishing.

For me, this is what impulsivity means. Not necessarily that I blurt out inappropriate things in social situations (though I've said a gauche thing or two in my life) or that I make bizarre poorly thought-out life decisions (I feel that I am decisive, but not impulsive, as regards important life decisions). But that I cannot necessarily keep a handle on doing a task from the beginning to the end in one attempt. That the moment I think of turning, I do so; I frequently bump into doorframes and corners.

And of course, it's accompanied but growing frustration and self-critical anger. I want to be productive. I want to do the things I need to do in my job. I really want to do them, and I'm stymied by distractions every way I turn. I want a life full of accomplishment and a comfortable sense of my own competence, but instead everything just gets messier and more complicated, and the task list grows ever larger, until it becomes something anyone would struggle with. I, in the midst of my crisis of focus, cannot even begin to tackle it.

Then there's the inevitable paranoia: did I cut my finger with the rotary cutter because of my ADD or is it the kind of accident that could happen to anyone?

In my regular life I use a complex system of coping mechanisms to keep myself on track, to make sure that tasks get finished and that I stay on top of things:
  • I meal plan every week and shop every Sunday, and then I hold myself to the meals I planned for.

  • I track my daily habits in a spreadsheet: 20 minutes of cleaning, doing the dishwasher, eating meals on time, getting to bed early enough to get enough sleep, exercising, spending enough time with my kid and friends and family, etc.

  • Everything in my personal life is scheduled in Google Calendar, which texts me reminders.

  • I use an online kanban to do list system to track the extra project things I need to work on around the house.

  • For work, I schedule absolutely everything in my Outlook calendar, including meetings, but also the time I schedule for myself to work on various tasks.

  • I use both manual time tracking (for reporting my work) and automatic tracking of how I'm using my computer so I can see how I'm actually using my time and when I'm getting distracted more easily.
And this is enough, when my ADD symptoms are less intense, to keep life running relatively smoothly. Things still get forgotten or half finished occasionally, but much less often than they would otherwise, and perfection isn't the goal: people who don't have ADD also forget things, make mistakes, bump into things. With the spreadsheet I can see at a glance when I'm getting off track with sleeping and eating and focus on that for a few days so that my life doesn't get away from me.

But despite all of this, sometimes my ADD just suddenly looms incredibly large in my life for no reason I can discern or control and I can't shake it.

It's been a decade since I last tried medication. My rather complicated history with that is definitely a longer story for another time. But I decided that maybe it was time to try again with that. After a couple of weeks of stressing about whether or not taking medication for something that I can mostly kinda manage is "cheating" at life (clearly it's not, I expect far too much of myself) and then stressing about whether a doctor would even want to give me a prescription given my complicated history (I should remember, doctors generally have no problem prescribing drugs; it's getting any other sort of help that's generally hard) I made an appointment and went to see the doctor.

Today's day five on a new drug. I'm not impressed so far; although I'm not experiencing any of the uncomfortable sounding side effects, I don't feel like it's doing much to help. The only difference I'm really noticing is the way my energy level drops off quite precipitously at the end of the day, just at the time when it would ordinarily be picking up (I'm such a night owl normally). But otherwise everything feels about the same.

Perhaps the dosage (deliberately low) is insufficient. Perhaps it's not the right drug. I don't know. I have another appointment at the end of next week. I resent this process, but I guess it's necessary.

There's a small tender part of me that wonders what it would be like if I wasn't working so hard just to stay on top of things. Who knows whether it would be better. I am confident of my ability to find something else to make my life complicated (I'm skilled that way), but who knows. I guess we'll see.

current mood: hopeful

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11:56 am - Daily music post: Changes by Tupac


I quite like this reimagining of "The Way It Is". It samples the lovely piano riffs from the original by Bruce Hornsby, updates the chorus cadence a bit with harmonies from a group of singers, and the rap is so smooth, yet always interesting, mixing up line lengths and internal rhyme. I also like the layering, rapping over singing over quieter rapping. Nice.

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Friday, May 30th, 2014
10:40 am - Daily music post: Business Casual by Monarchs


Okay. I love this song. I love it so much! It speaks to me! It's delicious and makes me happy!

But! My roommate despises this song and got incredibly short with me the second time I tried to share it with her, "Could we listen to something *other* than the depressing funeral song?"

It didn't occur to me that it was depressing. I mean, yes, it's obviously about a funeral, there's obviously a dead person in it. Sure. But is that necessarily depressing?

I can so clearly visualize the person in the center of this song. Hopelessly optimistic in almost every situation, a bit Pollyanna, sure. But also the kind of person who'd greet the end with a really solid plan, everything sorted, as little trouble as possible. The details that they would care about are taken care of in this song: they're dressed the way they'd want to be dressed, made up as they'd like to be made up, cushioned with a satin pillowcase, displayed in an open casket (else why bother with the clothes, makeup, or pillowcase), and visited by their friends and relatives for that proper last event. It's an interesting combination of pragmatism and superficiality and I find it very relateable for some reason.

Plus, I like the boppiness. Good work music.

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Wednesday, May 28th, 2014
11:57 am - Daily music post: Consumerism by Ms. Lauryn Hill


There's a lot of isms in there, and they're packed in pretty tightly. This is not a piece that tries particularly hard to make you like it. It just is, and if you like it you do so at least in part because of it's not trying to make you like it. I like the interweaving parts back and forth, the heavy and not 100% predictable drum beat. I particularly like the repetition of "Egotism" over and over at one point. It catches you when you might have stopped paying attention and brings you back in.

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Friday, May 23rd, 2014
11:16 am - Daily music post: Rapper's Delight by Sugar Hill Gang


An undoubted classic, much quoted, much referenced, undeniably pivotal.

Although admittedly, it single-handedly probably did more than most to suggest to people outside of the rap/hip-hop community that rap is done by first introducing yourself and then making a declaration of some kind. ("My name is Bob, and I'm here to say...").

That understanding of rap can be seen in this clip from an episode of Alf which my sister and I recorded on our Betamax VCR on the same tape as we recorded an episode of The Raccoons and Bedknobs and Broomsticks. We then watched all of them over and over again, undoubtedly absorbing all kinds of important societal messaging:



I had remembered absolutely everything from this clip almost verbatim (my brain is an amazing computer, but rather oddly utilized), but it was only when watching it again just now that I realized they had slipped in a rather unsubtle rape joke. Family entertainment!

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Saturday, May 10th, 2014
6:59 am - The problem with me is,
I can far too easily get stuck in my head on things. Though I speak a lot and seemingly very freely, I am actually incredibly guarded about the things that come out of my mouth that are important to me.

And after a while of not saying something I pretty totally lose perspective on it. Is it, in reality shit? Was it perhaps shit the whole time? Is it an important feeling or need that I should be expressing? Does it merely require refinement before it can be brought out into the world? Or is it intrinsically broken and problematic no matter where or when it gets expressed? But shouldn't I be courageous and say difficult things even if they might change the world for the worse? But what if my motives for saying this thing are in some way not pure? What are my motives? What are all the possible outcomes?

After a few iterations of this process I have lost my connection with whatever pure thing it started out as and the thing becomes a poison inside of me, tinged with my own cringing dread. It is hateful, and it by association makes me hateful.

Which is, I guess, to say that I fear that I can turn any beautiful and any terrible thing into the same messy soup and I also fear that I wouldn't be able to tell the difference, and also, that I guess I am somehow under the impression that literally everything in my life is so fragile that it can be unrecoverably destroyed with only a few words.

I hope it is merely the up-before-7 or maybe the understandable-letdown-after-an-amazing-week talking, because honestly things feel a bit grim.

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Friday, May 9th, 2014
4:59 pm - Daily music post: Hard Sun by Eddie Vedder


Man, this is song such a lovely discovery. It's so warm and soft and enveloping. It makes me feel like I'm a part of something bigger than myself.

Maybe it's the bass? Maybe it's the extra voices behind Eddie Vedder's scraping but beautifully unself-conscious voice? Maybe it's the way the voices slowly fade or withdraw behind the guitars and drums at the end?

I know not, but I'm happy I stumbled across it.

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Thursday, May 1st, 2014
12:06 pm - Daily music post: Ready or Not by the Fugees


I like the use of the main foundation sample, so different in this context than in its original one. I also like, predictably, how the sound shifts left and right continually throughout. Leaves me weaving in my seat.

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Sunday, April 13th, 2014
11:16 pm - Recommended reading
Mommies are People, People with Feelings

"Anger, and the ability to squawk about stuff can be powerful tools for self-protection. If I yell at LB, it's usually because she has been screaming for an extended period about something I can't fix, or she has (usually inadvertently) kicked, punched, pinched, or headbutted me. I don't like that, and I say so-loudly. And, even if it scares LB, I would rather model a world in which women yell: "NO! NO HITTING THAT HURTS ME!" than a world in which women accept that pain is the price of love. "


I think this is also how I have approached parenting and anger. Imperfectly, in that we are all imperfect and doing our best at a relentless task, but also thoughtfully, pragmatically.

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Friday, April 11th, 2014
1:52 pm - Daily music post: Mind Shift by World Order


I haven't posted a World Order piece since June last year, but don't worry (I wouldn't want you to worry) they've been a constant in my playlist throughout.

I like the violins and the harmonies and the driving beat. It's all uplifting and work-inspiring.

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1:47 pm - Ten movies I've seen ten (or more) times
The original "10 movies" post over at Alas, a Blog

As he points out, most of the movies he watched more than ten times he hasn't watched at all in the last ten years because of a number of factors, and I suspect the same is probably mostly true for me. I just don't have as much time to rewatch things as I did when I was younger.

Here's my list:

  1. Young Catherine - Starring a young Julia Ormond, this beautiful film about the early days of Catherine the Great is enthralling and lush and manages to get across the perilous nature of russian court. Though the movie plays a bit fast and loose with the facts (there is little evidence to suggest that her son Paul is the son of Count Orlov, for example - the timing is off for that one), it's still quite a lovely and accessible film/miniseries.

  2. Aliens

  3. Willow

  4. The Princess Bride - Though I loved this film in my youth, I do not feel like it can properly be said to have a female protagonist in the proper sense of the word. Buttercup's existence is... necessary?... to the plot, but as a character does very little to actually move the action along. She's annoyingly passive, a cipher for the male characters, except for brief moments. I wish it weren't true, but it is.

  5. A League of Their Own - Love love love love. Perfect in every way. The film-makers made so many excellent decisions when making this movie, discarding several storylines that would have damaged this movie, for which I am eternally grateful.

  6. Fried Green Tomatoes - I love the book even better than the movie, but the movie was important enough to me as a teenager.

  7. The Joy Luck Club - As an aside, what does it say about our society that they decided to turn the abortion story in the book into an infanticide story in the movie? I've never been able to to quite decide whether this was done because abortion was more unspeakable than infanticide or less shocking than infanticide or simply less visual/movie-ish than infanticide or what. I'd love to hear your thoughts (though if you don't know what scene I'm talking about, that makes this conversation more complicated).

  8. Sister Act - One of my sister's favourites, though I can't quite claim she was always the one hitting "Play" on the VCR. Though I'm not super big on the christian/catholic angle in this film and its sequel, they're guilty pleasure movies for me with the music and multiple optimistic character arcs.

  9. Anne of Green Gables (and its sequel)

  10. Start Trek IV: The Voyage Home

  11. Bonus: The Sound of Music

  12. Not actually a bonus: Ben Hur - My dad was really into this movie. Just... really into it. I'm just really not.

What are yours?

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Wednesday, April 9th, 2014
5:02 pm - Daily music post: Inspector of Inspectors by Driftless Pony Club


I like this song well enough, perhaps because it's one of the band's more complex and also more polished efforts, and if I'm honest, I prefer a little polish in music. This is probably why improvisational jazz can grate on me. Look, I paid to get in here, couldn't you have noodled around in private and come up with something awesome which you then polished before I got here? This is probably also why I don't much go to concerts, because some artists seem to like to use their concerts to workshop their music. You perfected this piece. You recorded it the way you wanted it to sound. Just play that. But no.

Lordy, I sound awfully rigid. What on earth personality trait is this? Whatever personality trait it is it's perfectly suited to playing in a concert band or maybe an orchestra. You work on things until they're the best you can do, then you try to repeat that performance over and over again. Because it's the best that you can do?

Driftless Pony Club is a band I started listening to because I was enjoying watching Craig Benzine, otherwise known as WheezyWaiter, on YouTube. Although I enjoy a couple of their songs, especially those with a little more inbuilt complexity, I think it's just not quite the sound that is going to appeal to me with my strangely rigid nature. If you're a little more relaxed and like humanizing imperfections in your popular music (and probably if you do you are a more resilient and flexible human than me, and that's almost certainly good), you might quite like them. Give them a try.

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Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014
3:07 pm - Daily music post: Cold War by Janelle Monae


"This is a cold war, you better know what you're fighting for"
"I'm trying to find my peace, I was made to believe there's something wrong with me"

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Tuesday, April 1st, 2014
12:29 pm - Daily music post: Northshore by Tegan and Sara


What is up with the time signature in this song?

The chorus starts with a straight-up 4/4, but the verses are something else entirely. In the rhythm section the drummer keeps a constant beats per minute going with the snare. It feels like the rhythm section, including guitars is doing a triplet or something like a triplet, with the emphasis on the 8th before the beat (there's probably a term for this) under the aggressive faster duplet being sung. I can't quite tell and it frustrates me. There's something mechanical happening in the music, those two times fighting and pulling against each other (but expertly, solidly) that gives it this incredible movement and tension. I wish I was better at figuring this stuff out.

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Friday, March 28th, 2014
1:59 pm - Something I need to think about more: Anger
I grew up in a family where anger was considered dangerous and maybe shameful or weak.

My mother's approach to anger was to suppress it until finally you couldn't and it burst out of you as a tremendous cry of rage.

My father's approach to anger was to just not allow it to exist. Talk yourself out of it. Suppress it until it goes away. Letting anger out was losing. It meant you weren't together enough to hold it in.

Which means, when you think about it, that in the world created by the rules of our family, my mother always lost. And my sister.

We need new rules.

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Monday, March 24th, 2014
3:42 pm - Youtube, I'm watching you *does that "pointing fingers at own eyes then at youtube's eyes" motion*
What is up with the Watch Later list? On Thursday or maybe the day before you could suddenly have more than 200 videos in a Watch Later list, which is huge. Then today you can no longer easily add videos to a Watch Later list from the related videos section, but only by clicking through the video in question and clicking the button there. What on earth? That's not a good change. Give the little green plus sign back.

Edited to add: Okay, it's back. Good. Glad we had this chat.

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