Wednesday Words of Wisdom #9 —Reality

No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream.

Shirley Jackson

I keep meaning to read The Haunting of Hill House… That’ll happen eventually.

In the meantime, I just finished re-listening to the audiobook of Going Bovine, by Libba Bray. It’s one of those books where (no spoilers, kinda) you get to the end and wonder how much of it was real and how much was the unreliable narrator imagining things. It’s hard to tell what even he thought was real or not, in the end. But it’s a beautiful book that at its heart has to do with the stories we tell ourselves to make reality bearable, or worthwhile, or at least make some sort of sense.

The vocabulary I use for this idea comes from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, particularly Hogfather which I recommend highly for its own merits and for being kind of a Christmas story.

YOU THINK SO? THEN TAKE THE UNIVERSE AND GRIND IT DOWN TO THE FINEST POWDER AND SIEVE IT THROUGH THE FINEST SIEVE AND THEN SHOW ME ONE ATOM OF JUSTICE, ONE MOLECULE OF MERCY. AND YET—Death waved a hand. AND YET YOU ACT AS IF THERE IS SOME IDEAL ORDER IN THE WORLD, AS IF THERE IS SOME… SOME RIGHTNESS IN THE UNIVERSE BY WHICH IT MAY BE JUDGED.

“Yes, but people have got to believe that, or what’s the point—”

MY POINT EXACTLY.

Hogfather

Another source is the incomparable Douglas Adams.

Trin Tragula, for that was his name, was a dreamer, a speculative thinker, or, as his wife would have it, an idiot. And she would nag him incessantly about the utterly inordinate amount of time he would spend staring out into space, or mulling over the mechanics of safety pins, or doing spectrographic analyses of pieces of fairy cake. “Have some sense of proportion,” she would say, thirty-eight times a day. And so he built the Total Perspective Vortex – just to show her. And in one end he plugged the whole of reality, as extrapolated from a fairy cake, and in the other end he plugged his wife – so that when he turned it on she saw in one instant the whole infinity of creation and herself in relation to it. To Trin Tragula’s horror, the shock annihilated her brain. But to his satisfaction, he realised he had conclusively proved that if life is going to exist in a universe this size, the one thing it cannot afford to have, is a sense of proportion.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (radio series), Fit the 8th

ZAPHOD:
The universe does that to a guy?

GARGRAVARR:
The whole infinite Universe. The Infinite sums. The Infinite distances between them, and yourself. An invisible dot on an invisible dot. Infinitely small.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (radio series), Fit the 8th

Absolute reality lacks meaning. Absolute reality is the universe before it’s been run through the filter of our perception. From the day we’re born we start hearing and telling stories, starting with nursery rhymes and “when you were a tiny baby” anecdotes and going from there. To be human is to be a storyteller.

I feel like I have written posts about this idea before. It’s something I keep circling back to, like an itch I keep trying to scratch, because it keeps coming up in my writing.

In the second draft of my NaNo novel I’m still thinking through the stories my main character tells himself about who he is, what he wants, whether or not he’s okay with how repetitive his life has become and why, and so on and so forth. People have been telling him stories his whole life about what is and isn’t okay, especially his father, and over the course of the story he needs to question and confront things that have seemed like solid reality but are in truth a lot more subjective. And that’s just the main character! I’m relatively certain of his character growth throughout the novel, but not so much with the love interest. I haven’t even tackled any of his stories yet.

The idea also creeps into a short (ish) story that I’m currently working on, involving dreams. I’m not going to say much more than that because I’m going to be posting it in April.

How do you think ideas about reality and the stories we tell ourselves about the rightness in the universe show up in your writing?

Sunday Gratitudes #46: The Little Red Number

You know that little red number. It signifies unread texts, unread emails, missed calls, voicemails waiting for you to listen to, and other notifications. There are so many demands on our time and attention these days that it’s like omg overload all the time — depending, of course, on how many apps you have, how much friends and family members text, and whether or not you have your work email synched to your phone.

I really do not recommend that last one. I synced my work inbox to my phone once in 2013 and that only lasted a couple days before I undid it because that little red number was staring at me like a little red eyeball from hell.

This doesn’t bother everyone. My officemate has over 1000 unread emails and I just can’t even comprehend that. When I pointed it out, she said she hadn’t even noticed! Now, I’m a millennial and most of my coworkers are… well, if I had to guess, I’d guess they’re Baby Boomers. They are badass women who know what they’re doing and give very few fucks, and I like them all a lot, but there is an undeniable difference in the way we think and the way we approach certain tasks.

Some days I wish I was the kind of person who had one email addresses and didn’t care if it had hundreds of unread emails in it. Instead, I have upwards of ten, including six different work inboxes, and I start to get a little antsy if a double digit number is staring me down anywhere for more than a couple days.

So this Sunday, I am grateful that my personal inboxes (the most relentless red eye on my smartphone) are now down to just one unread email. That means I’ve paid my bills for the month. I’ve caught up on all the blogs I want to read. I’ve even finally remembered to update my FasTrack mailing address and dig through the stack of unopened mail to find three our of four of the W4s or whatever that I’m supposed to have. Despite being so sick yesterday that I threw up and slept nearly all day, since Friday afternoon I’ve also scooped the litter boxes/swept up the litter on the floor twice, neatened up the dining room table, washed some dishes, and voluntarily initiated a phone call with my parents.

And I’d like to thank a friend of mine for emailing me the link to this TED Talk video about stress, which I finally watched today. Did you know that stress isn’t as bad for you as simply believing that stress is bad for you? I knew it was a motivator, but I didn’t know that oxytocin, a stress hormone, helps strengthen your heart. If you stop to think about it, it makes a lot of evolutionary sense. I’ll leave you with the video — please feel free to comment on it and/or about how you feel about the little red numbers.

IWSG Post #07

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March IWSG Day Question: Have you ever pulled out a really old story and reworked it? Did it work out?

Recently, actually. It didn’t work out, but I did end up rereading some short pieces I wrote in 2010 and probably haven’t revisited since. It’s fascinating to read stuff you no longer have any idea where you were going with.

The reason it didn’t work out is because the new idea that had inspired me to look through my old writing didn’t quite fit with the characters I’d been thinking of. Which is kind of irritating, because I miss them and had gotten all excited over the idea that I might be able to get down a new piece of their story… but when I read back over what I had so far, I realized it wasn’t something that would happen to them.

But that’s okay, because I still wrote the new idea. Part one, anyway. The rest is still in progress and was partly spurred on by wanting to find something new to ground the initial concept in.

Maybe I’ll pull the old story out and fiddle with it next, after I’m done with this new project. It’s nice to be reminded of a story that I know I’ll put down on paper some day but don’t feel pressured or rushed to do so. Over the past two years that’s basically what my NaNoWriMo novels have been — big fancy excuses . I haven’t finished them either yet, but that’s okay too. They’ll come together when they’re ready.

(I’m still coasting on the gleeful fact that in the past two years and even just the past few months I’ve done a lot more original creative writing than I have in years. This should last for a while and I’m content with that.)

Short Story #04, February — Well (pt i)

The challenge prompt that inspired this story was, “Write a paragraph or two with vivid descriptions and leave me hanging and dying to find out what happens next. Maximum 250 words.”

If you like what you read, like it on TheProse.com as well! 😊

Continue reading “Short Story #04, February — Well (pt i)”

Recipe: Nectarine & Blackberry Mini Pies

I love to bake, but it’s been a while since I truly experimented. On a whim I bought some blackberries at the store, and by the time I got home I’d decided I wanted to bake something. It didn’t happen that particular night, but there was a display of delicious looking nectarines at another grocery store a day or two later… And this was born.

2017-02-17-23-06-23Because there was always an apple tree in our back yard growing up, I started out by making apple pies. Then my parents planted sweet cherry trees in the front yard and I was faced with a new challenge. You need tart cherries for a pie, like the kind grown in states like Michigan, New York, and Utah where the air has a cold snap to it during the winter  — otherwise the pie will end up sickly sweet and weird. But tart cherries don’t grow so well in California, so we make due with cheats like adding pureed plum to the sweet cherry filling to give it that tartness.

Knowing that and adding orange juice for the tartness is what made this “cup-pie” experiment so successful, although I might do some tweaking in the future. If you try this recipe at home, let me know what you think! Continue reading “Recipe: Nectarine & Blackberry Mini Pies”

Sunday Gratitudes #45

What are you grateful for this week? I’m grateful for…

🌹- Valentine’s Day!

🌹- Remembering to get a card well in advance AND remembering I had it and where.

🌹- Getting a reservation at our favorite restaurant at the last minute.

🌹- Posting about it on Instagram and the restaurant commented and was super happy, heh.

🌹- How nice the cop that pulled us over was. He even made suggestions about the best way to approach the DMV about fixing the problem. (Which is basically that they never sent me new registration tags after I renewed.)

🌹- Sitting next to a table of guys talking about cider, and I was brave enough turn around and give them a card from the cidery I work for. (They were talking about cider and Amsterdam, we were seated with our people.)

🌹- Reaching a compromise with my boss about which half of Friday I could take off to go to the DMV. Even though she got the better end of the deal.

🌹- Finally getting all that DMV crap taken care of, including updating my address. It only took a couple hours and $20.

🌹- Experimental baking. I took lots of pictures and wrote down the recipe as I made it up, but I made the cutest little mini pies on Friday after the DMV. The crust is my go-to recipe, which is always the best, but the filling was an experiment with two nectarines, 6oz of blackberries, freshly squeezed orange juice, and whatever else I had in the kitchen. It turned out well, though it still needs some perfecting.

🌹- My new purse. I wasn’t planning on getting one so soon, but my partner saw it, ran it by me to see if I liked it, and bought it for me as a three-months-early birthday present. I love it. And it was only $45!

🌹- Meeting more of my partners family. An aunt and uncle were visiting, and we joined everyone in the city for dinner with a view of the ocean.

🌹- The opportunity to give each couple at the dinner a mini pie to take home. It made me feel like a good lil baker. ‍

🌹- Waking up covered in cats.

🌹- Tampons. Also, Tampax has changed the color design on the Supers from light green to vivid real and blue swirls. Very fetching.

🌹- Lazy sunday mornings spent reading and commenting on WordPress posts.

🌹- Rain. I mean, I hope we don’t get too flooded, but the sound is nice to wake up to.

Short Story #03, February — Driving

The prompt for this was, “Lets shed some reality on mental illness. It’s not cute, it’s not a joke and it’s not an excuse: Write about a panic or anxiety attack.”

I just want to add the disclaimer that it’s not a good idea to drive while having an anxiety attack. If you’re prone to them (mine don’t strike all that often) it might be best to have a built-in plan for what to do if you need to get off the road, even if it’s just to pretend you have a sudden burning desire to stop for Starbucks or something.

If you like what you read, feel free to like it on TheProse as well!

Continue reading “Short Story #03, February — Driving”

Recipe: Orange Glazed Acorn Squash

This was a few weeks ago, but I am still deeply proud of myself. I remember my mom, in one of her few acts of cooking that doesn’t involve the microwave, making acorn squash with a brown sugar glaze when I was a kid.

I adapted this from a Bobby Flay recipe that I found on the Food Network website. Again, half the point was to make something delicious and the other half was to use up the box of oranges my parents have given me. Technically I was supposed to grill the squash but I don’t own a grill.

2017-01-31-20-56-11
The “before” shot.

Instead, I used a cast iron grill pan that will probably never forgive me, although by now I’ve cleaned it as best I can.

Anyway, this recipe wasn’t difficult and the results were very tasty. Acorn squash prepared this way tends to be a cross between side dish and dessert, but with the orange it was nicely tart as well as sweet.


Ingredients

  • 1 acorn squash, halved lengthwise, seeds and membranes removed
  • 1/16 cup melted butter
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

    2017-01-31-20-51-32
    Slightly burnt but still yummy. Also, I’m not sure I reduced the glaze down quite enough, but oh well.
  • 1 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1/8 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 whole allspice berries
  • 1 stick cinnamon

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350.
  2. Brush or spray the cut side of the squash with the butter and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  3. Place squash, cut-side down, on a baking sheet and bake until almost tender, about 30 minutes.
  4. While the squash is baking, combine the orange juice, brown sugar, allspice, and cinnamon in a medium saucepan. Cook over high heat until reduced to 1/4 cup, stirring often. 
  5. When the squash is done, place cut side up on a cast iron grill pan and brush with the orange glaze.
  6. Cook for 5 minutes, then turn over with tongs and cook for 5 more minutes, or until tender and glaze is caramelized.
  7. Remove from heat and pour the rest of the glaze into the “bowl” of each squash half. Serve warm.

Tell Me All About You

Inkbiotic recently invited readers to answer some personal questions. Feel free to answer them too if you want. 😊


If you are a blogger, how would you describe what you write about? Are there specific themes you stick to or a style you use? (feel free to add a link)

Mostly I write about writing, but one of my New Years Resolutions was to post more of my creative writing.

Do you write driven by inspiration or do you struggle to find things to say?

A little of both. When I started out, I tried to hold myself to weekly posts — Monday Musings, Words of Wisdom Wednesdays, etc. It didn’t work very well. Now I just sort of ramble for a bit, then go back through and make sure it related to writing in some way.

I struggle more with getting stories written. The challenge prompts from TheProse and prompts from Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie have been very helpful though.

Which kinds of posts do you most like writing? Do other people like reading them?

I don’t really have a favorite kind of post, I just really like the ones where I had an idea of what I wanted to write and got all of it down before it went poof. As for whether people like reading them, I’m quite pleased with every like and comment I get.

What wouldn’t you ever write about? Why?

There are details about my personal life that I wouldn’t write about. For one thing I like the relative anonymity of the internet, and for another I know that once you put it online it never really goes away. And besides, not all details that are part of my daily life are really mine to talk about.

What’s your favourite post that you’ve written? (again, add a link if you like) What did you like about it? Did other people ‘get’ it?

Right now I’m most pleased with Gender & Writing because people definitely got it, I can tell from the comments. And that makes me happy.

What’s your favourite post that someone else has written? What about it caught your attention?

It’s hard to pick a favorite, but the most strikingly memorable one I can think of at the moment is “The logic of emotion” by Nimue Brown. The title alone caught my eye because in college I wrote a 42-page psychology/biology paper on emotions in Vulcans, which included watching Star Trek: The Original Series for credit. Writing that paper was so much fun, and I learned so much while doing it. This blog post was a really good read because it put something in a way that I’ve never thought about it before: “Emotions are like weather systems – not always good, or useful, but a physical reality caused by complex influences. There is a logic to them.”

Do you keep a blog because you want it to lead somewhere? Or do you just like writing?

I like the writing and I like the practice I get at putting myself out there, including reading and commenting on other blog posts. When I started this blog I wanted to write more, even if it wasn’t necessarily fiction. It’s been over a year now and I’m finally starting to ease naturally into writing stories.

What sort of blogs do you most like to read? Personal? Stories? Factual? Pictures?

Mostly I like reading writers writing about writing. I also like reading other people’s personal experiences and what they take from it. Plus, it’s fun to read book reviews and add new things to my “Want to Read” shelf on Goodreads.

What kind of posts put you off reading? Is there anything else about a blog that puts you off (eg fonts, popups)?

Not going to lie, I am put off by reading along and suddenly it gets religious. Everyone is free to believe what they want, but I have a lot of pent up exasperation towards evangelism and… my parents for calling in the smarmy, condescending pastor to talk to me about how, when he was my age, he went through an atheist phase as a teenager too. It’s just a thing, no offense meant by it.

Also put off by homophobia, transphobia, pro-life at the expense of everyone else’s choice, pro-Trump, and racist sentiments.

When do you write and read blogs? From work? On the toilet? Inside a volcano?

Yes, all of those.

… Fine, not the volcano. Don’t judge me.