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It's spring! And I'm a little late for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, because I had more pictures to sort through than usual, because I have more flowers to photograph than usual, because it's spring.

My garden usually peaks in the second half of April. Occasionally the precise middle of April. Either way, we're not there yet, but we're getting there. In a lot of ways I like the month leading up to the peak better than the actual peak, because at the actual peak, everything starts going downhill.

This is my front yard this week. The whole area to the right of the path used to be lawn until last August. Also I chopped down a tree there in October. So everything here is new, but it's filling in nicely. In the past month I wrestled that big blue pot onto the tree stump where the tree used to be, and also wrestled a smalled blue pot onto a smaller tree stump (well, shrub stump) up against the house, near the left edge of the picture. I also sawed both stumps a bit to get them more level than they were. And filled both pots with soil. And then the fun part: planting them! They're now home to a combination of non-native strawberries and native ornamental shrubs.

The small, pale flowers you can hardly see in the foreground here are two California native annuals, baby blue eyes (Nemophila menziesii) and five spot (Nemophila maculata). The big orange flowers are California golden poppies (Eschscholzia californica), and the spikes of bluish flowers a little behind them are foothill beardtongue (Penstemon heterophyllus 'Blue Springs').

Eschscholzia californica (California poppy), Penstemon heterophyllus 'Blue Springs' (foothill beardtongue), Nemophila maculata (five spot)

Click for more pictures! )
queerbychoice: (marble)
I went to Barry's house today! We arranged that it would be while he was away at a music class. I was there for exactly two hours. In that time, I managed to plant all 29 plants I'd brought with me, and also labeled them, and left 18 oranges and a thank-you note on Barry's front porch, and took home in return a potted ponytail palm houseplant, a note from Barry, one of Barry's business cards (carved out of wood: a laser-cut piece of wood, laser-etched with his contact information, to advertise his lasersmith services) and a bag of homemade taiyaki pancakes, shaped like fish and filled inside with red bean paste.

I had already eaten most of the taiyaki pancakes before it occurred to me to photograph them, but here are the last three. They are good! Barry is good at making food!

His note says, "I made taiyaki pancakes! It went okay. If the taste isn't right, take them home to try with peanut butter or chocolate sauce. The filling is red bean paste."


I was systematic about the planting. There was not a second to waste! He had left the gate to his back yard open for me, so I carried all my plants and my trowel back there and assessed the space, then started pacing off measurements with my feet and placing the potted plants where I wanted them to go. I first placed all the ones that will become large plants: incense cedar, Western redbud, toyon, mock orange. Once I'd decided where all of those should go and placed the pots accordingly, I took my trowel and planted them. Then I moved on to choosing spots for the smaller plants, starting with the ones I had just one of, and progressing to the ones I'd transplanted from volunteers in my garden, of which I had many individual plants per species. The large plants all went in the back yard, but for the small plants I put plenty in the front yard also. It seems like I must have looked odd to the neighbors - a stranger planting plants in a garden that wasn't mine - but I guess burglars are not known for planting plants in people's gardens, because there were plenty of neighbors around and none of them paid the slightest attention to me.

I basically landscaped his entire property today: front yard, back yard, side yards, everything. Only thinly - I'd definitely want to put in additional plants over time - but once these plants grow a bit larger, there shouldn't be any area in his yard that looks too obviously empty.

When everything was planted, I went around putting little index-card labels next to each plant and weighing them down with pebbles. I'd written the index-card labels in advance, so I only had to write a few extras for instances where I'd separated the transplants from my own garden into more separate plants than I'd expected when writing the labels at home. I'd also brought the pebbles from home, to spare myself time looking for them.

And then I sat on the bench on his front porch for a minute to write a final note, thanking him for the taiyaki pancakes.

When I got home, there was an email waiting for me that began this way:
Hooray! You're real! Our relationship was not just a long con so you could rob the house while I wasn't home!

You scored a lot of big points tonight, Cynthia! Not only doing very efficient work and getting lots of plants in the ground, but also for respecting my schedule and my property, for being reliable, all that jazz.

I'm over-analyzing your note :) Purple ink on lilac paper, you really do have a favorite color!
Soon thereafter, before I even had a chance to reply, I received a follow-up that began this way:
I just looked around and found all the plants, which was a lot of fun. Remember how I said that I hadn't really had an emotional impact from our conversations yet? Well, there we go. Seeing some physical connection to your presence is making me all kinds of happy.
So that's very good. April 5 is the earliest his divorce might be final. So I'm just counting down the days until April 5 for a first date.
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Spring may be more than a month away by our human calendars, but my plants have already begun their celebration of its arrival. Daffodils everywhere! Even several of my shrubs are blooming. And the first of my California native annuals! I have far more to show you for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day this month than last month.

This is in my front yard. The blue flowers are a non-native hybrid larkspur (Delphinium belladonna 'Bellamosum') that I'm trying out this year for the first time, and the yellow daffodils in the background came with the house.

Delphinium belladonna 'Bellamosum' (hybrid larkspur) with Narcissus sp. (daffodil)

Click for more pictures! )
queerbychoice: (marble)
I finally have adult silverware! When I first moved out on my own, I got to take with me some mismatched pieces of my parents' old silverware sets, and then when I moved in with Susan I combined those with some mismatched pieces of hers, which she left behind when she moved in with Rebecca because Rebecca already had her own. I decided then that I wanted to acquire a proper set of fully matching silverware and a proper set of fully matching china for the first time in my life. I succeeded right away with finding a set of china that I liked, but my search for silverware didn't go so well. I gave most of the mismatched silverware pieces to former neighbor/former housekeeper Jessica and mail-ordered a set of silverware that I liked the look of, but when they arrived, I found that the metal bent extremely easily, and I wasn't happy with them. So in the two years since then I've shopped around carefully for other options, and for the past year I've had my eye on a particular set, but I was waiting for a good sale so I could get them cheap. I finally nabbed them in an after-Christmas sale a few weeks ago, and now they've arrived in the mail. I'm very happy with them! They're incredibly strong and don't feel like they'll ever bend out of shape. They're also rather huge - they appear to be made for giant people with giant hands and giant mouths. The salad forks and teaspoons are the size that regular forks and tablespoons normally are. But I don't mind the hugeness. I like them a lot.

Acquiring them inspired me to further reorganize my kitchen. When Susan lived here, it was her kitchen and she got to organize it however she liked. Two years ago when it became my kitchen, I moved some of the most obviously illogically placed items around, but this weekend I confronted some remaining illogical item placements in the kitchen and fixed them. So now the silverware are in the drawer that has built-in silverware compartments, whereas before there were pens and pencils in the built-in silverware compartments. And the cupboard that has built-in dishtowel racks now has dishtowels on the racks rather than being stuffed with paper bags. I fixed the dishtowel cupboard a while back already, but I fixed the silverware drawer just this weekend. Everything looks better and works better when used in the way it was intended. Though there's still no clear use for the cupboard containing the severed base of a formerly built-in ironing board. My kitchen is full of odd built-in features.

I also mopped my floors. I meant to steam-clean the carpets as well, but I didn't quite get around to that. But I mopped the floors. That was good. And I attempted to cook something I hadn't tried before, although it came out rather disastrous in terms of visual appeal. I attempted to cook pecan meringue cookies, but the meringue melted together (despite having held its shape very well before I put it in the oven) and produced something more like pecan meringue brownies. I realized later that I forgot to add the teaspoon of vanilla extract that the recipe called for, so maybe that caused the problem? It tasted all right, though, so it wasn't a complete failure.

I also made cream of fennel and pear soup recently and decided I want to make a really huge batch of it sometime soon and see whether I can freeze it and use it as a sauce or gravy in the future. I always forget how good it is when I don't make it for a while, and I generally only make it once or twice a year because it's rather a lot of trouble. But it's really good.

This is the time of year when I always start trying new recipes in an effort to use up the oranges on my orange tree. So far this year, though, the recipes I've been trying haven't used any oranges yet. I should probably start using my oranges. They don't keep for as long as my pecans do.

I also managed this weekend to get my blood drawn and escaped from the office after only a single needle-stick! First time in quite possibly a decade that I've escaped without multiple puncture wounds. It was a different phlebotomist than in the past. She must be very talented.

And this evening I spent hours heavily editing an 11-page article for a friend. Or maybe more of a friendly acquaintance. A guy I went on one date with once, ages ago, after which we both had no interest in any further dates but did not hate each other. Anyway, he wanted and needed editing help, so I helped, and I think I did quite a good job with it. The thing I really like about providing free editing help to friends and acquaintances is that it reminds me of how much I actually do enjoy editing - because when people pay me to do it, it feels like something I'm only willing to do for the money, but when I do it for free, I remember that actually it's something I do like enough to be willing to spend an evening of my free time doing just for the fun of it. I wouldn't do it 40 hours per week just for the fun of it, but I can happily do a few hours here and there for the fun of it.

Some part of me is still totally despondent about David Bowie's death, but at least I'm doing a reasonably good job of submerging the despondency under a burst of productivity and functionality.
queerbychoice: (marble)
It's January, and not a whole lot is blooming, but it's Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, so I photographed what there is. This rose isn't even actually mine, but it was hanging over the fence from my next-door neighbors' yard, so I figured it was fair game. Maybe this particular flower of it is mine.

Rosa sp. (rose)

Click for more! )

Loose Dogs

Jan. 14th, 2016 12:45 am
queerbychoice: (marble)
I went running tonight. I had just come back from running on Sunday night when I found out about David Bowie's death. I took Monday and Tuesday off from it because I didn't get any sleep those nights (and also I always take at least one night off after a run anyway). I got a bit more sleep last night (maybe six hours). Not enough to make me feel particularly well - in fact, I had a terrible headache all day long, and took ibuprofen for it repeatedly - the full dose, whereas usually I just take half a dose and find that to be sufficient - but didn't manage to get rid of it until I finally resorted to taking migraine medication (acetaminophen + caffeine) in the evening. I'm not sure it was actually a migraine - it felt more like a tension headache - and taking caffeine in the evening may not be great for my prospects of sleep tonight, but, well, the headache wouldn't have been good for my prospects of sleep tonight either.

Anyway, once I finally managed to get rid of the headache, I went running. And I tried a different route than usual. I've been trying slightly different routes almost every time I run lately, but there are still a few streets in the neighborhood that I've never tried running on before. Tonight's route took me through a few blocks of one of those. While on one of those unfamiliar streets, I saw some people outside talking. As I ran past them - not directly past them, but around a corner that was diagonally across the street from where they were standing - their dogs, which I hadn't previously noticed, came running at me. Three dogs, all off-leash, all rather large, mixed-breeds with slightly varying heritage, but at least two of the three had significant amounts of pitbull blood in them (which means that they had very powerful jaws). They surrounded me, and I felt one of them press its teeth against my arm. Only the front faces of its teeth - my arm was not actually in its mouth - but it was a definite, urgent, immediate warning sign of the sort that directly precedes biting. I yelled "Hey!" and raised my arms to try to keep them out of the dogs' reach and stopped moving so as to avoid triggering any further the dogs' predatory instinct to chase a creature that was running away. The owners called out for the dogs to come back to them. All three of the dogs ignored them and stayed focused on me. It took at least 60 seconds for the owners to actually come over close enough to get the dogs to obey them.

I did not have my own dog, Boston, with me. When I bring her, I always try to remember to bring pepper spray in case I need to defend her from other dogs. I've never actually managed to use pepper spray to defend her with any kind of success at all, and it's not necessarily a great idea for me to try to, because when I have tried to in the past I managed to get at least as much pepper spray on myself as I got on the dog I was trying to ward off . . . but it is at least theoretically a line of defense in case of emergencies. I sometimes also bring pepper spray when I'm by myself, but not so often, because it's kind of a pain to carry it (perhaps this can be fixed, if I can figure out a good system for carrying it - I need either some running clothes with a convenient pocket for it or some sort of clip-on attachment device so I don't have to hold it in my hands) and because I figure that with any kind of luck, the number of loose dogs or humans that are liable to launch violent, unprovoked attacks on me is significantly smaller than the number of loose dogs that are liable to launch violent, unprovoked attacks on Boston. Tonight I didn't have it with me. But more importantly, even if I had had it with me, I don't think I would have dared to use it, because the owners of the dogs were there watching, and I would be afraid that pepper-spraying their dogs in front of them might provoke the owners to violently attack me.

I mean, I've heard from a woman who lives in Marysville - a small, frail, elderly woman - that when a loose dog lunged at her here in town, she did pepper-spray it in self-defense right in front of its owner, and its owner did become extremely threatening toward her, following her around for the next several minutes while screaming obscenities and threats of violence at her. And then one of the woman's acquaintances who turned out to also be acquainted with the dog's owner (this is a small town) saw her and told her, after the dog's owner finally went away, that the dog's owner was indeed a very dangerous man and was extremely likely to actually commit the sorts of violence he'd been threatening to commit.

And, well, the very fact that the owners of the three dogs that came after me were letting them run loose inclines me to think not very highly of them. So . . . this whole situation is very bad all around. And one of the reasons I've been varying my running routes so much is that I keep hoping to find a route that doesn't contain any creepy spots that frighten me. But wherever I go, there are houses with loose dogs, or houses with dogs in the front yard fenced in by ridiculously low fences that I'm virtually certain the dogs are big enough to jump over if sufficiently motivated, or houses with humans who catcall me or leer at me or just give off a creepy vibe. There are certain blocks that are fairly reliably not creepy, but the only way to string together 5K worth of fairly reliably not creepy blocks seems to be to run repeated laps around a smaller loop. Which I do resort to doing sometimes. But even then, I never know for sure how far the loose dogs may wander on any given night.

I'm very tired of being made to feel unsafe. I don't know anyone who lets their dog(s) run loose, do I? If you let your dog(s) run loose, I do not like you. Even if I'm under the illusion that I like you because I don't know any better, I don't actually like you. Please properly restrain your dog(s) so I can like you. Your dog's teeth do not belong in contact with my arm.

I think there should be an extremely huge fine very consistently levied against anyone whose dog is found running loose. I would be willing to risk being fined myself in the unexpected event of Boston escaping, just to have a safe city to run through for a change.
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David Bowie is dead.

It was on the day of his death, just a few hours before they announced it, presumably as he was dying, that I was listening to his brand-new album Blackstar, released just two days ago on his 69th birthday - I was listening to it on YouTube because my copy of the CD hasn't even arrived in the mail yet - and I was thinking then, for I guess the last of many, many times over the years, how terrible it would be when someday David Bowie died and I outlived him and I would never get to look forward to any more new music from him ever again.

And then I thought a slight variation of it that I don't remember ever thinking before today: I thought how much even more terrible it would be if I didn't outlive him. I thought, if I died of cancer and David Bowie were still alive at the time, I think quite one of the very most terrible things about dying for me would be the thought that there would be David Bowie albums that I would never get to hear.

Well, now there won't be. But I wasn't planning to die anytime soon! I do not want him to be gone.

I was watching his music video for his new single, "Lazarus," while I was having those thoughts. He spends most of the video lying in what appears to be a hospital bed. While singing about being already dead. I guess that was a fairly unsubtle hint. I'm glad he lived long enough for his album to be released. I'm glad he lived long enough for all his previous albums to be released. I'm glad he seemed, by all accounts, quite happy in his final years, in his 23-year marriage to Iman, with their 15-year-old daughter Alexandria (named after the famous library) and his 44-year-old son Duncan from his first marriage. I'm glad he followed his conscience and his heart in choosing to take ten years off from his career so as not to miss out on his daughter's childhood the way he missed out on his son's. I mean, I would have liked to have more albums during those years, but not at the cost of sabotaging his family life. I'm glad he seemed to have found his way to the calm and happy family life he always wanted, that he did not have in his younger years.

I learned of his death on Facebook, from a grieving post by [livejournal.com profile] jess_s. A few seconds later I got messaged about it by my high school friend Christine, who knew me when I first discovered him and became instantly obsessed. Christine promised to listen to the entire Blackstar album tomorrow in his memory. I didn't ask for that - she volunteered it. She wasn't even a particular fan of his. It was a kind gesture.

The word is that he died at home, surrounded by family, after an 18-month battle with cancer. I would like to know what kind of cancer it was so I can harbor an especially ferocious hatred for that particular kind of cancer forever and ever.

[Edit: They're saying now that it was liver cancer. Same thing his guitarist Mick Ronson died of, and his close friend Lou Reed. Though there are different types of liver cancer, starting in different types of tissue within the liver.]

I looked at his son's Twitter feed and saw that Duncan had written on New Year's Day that he had really hated 2015. I guess he had reason. Eighteen months ago, though, the date of initial diagnosis, would have been June 2014. And I did not need any more reasons to hate 2014. 2014 was when I got diagnosed with cancer too. In June I had just finished my radiation treatments, and David Bowie was just getting diagnosed.

I feel orphaned. Both my biological parents are still alive - and I know how tremendously lucky I am in that - but I feel orphaned by my celebrity idol pseudo-deity pseudo-parental figure. I don't have any other word for it. He was younger than my father and only a few months older than my mother, but I always suspected he'd die before either of them because he didn't exactly treat his body well for much of his life. Well, I was right. Stay away from cigarettes, alcohol, and cocaine, people I care about. [Also, stay away from hepatitis viruses, which apparently cause a substantial percentage of liver cancers.]

I've had to forcefully remind myself that even if it were possible, I don't actually wish for him to be forcefully resuscitated just to suffer miserably for longer. I don't want to torture him. I love him.

. . . It took me a couple of hours after hearing of his death before I could cry. I guess I wrote this post to bring that on. It's gotten me there now. It looks like this is what I may be doing at the top of my lungs for the next several hours.


Dec. 25th, 2015 11:50 pm
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It's present-giving day! The pagan one that most people I know celebrate four days after the solstice and pretend has something to do with Christianity even though rather few of the people I know who celebrate it are actually Christian. Not much about this holiday makes a lot of sense to me, but anyway, it involves giving people presents, and I did that, and I got a bunch of presents in return!

I also saw snow! Not very much of it, but a little. I thought I might see snow in Grass Valley, because I know it snowed there yesterday, and because it was where I saw snow on Thanksgiving. But all I saw when driving through there today were wet spots along the sides of the road where snow had recently melted. I saw actual snow farther along, though, in Garden Valley, where my parents live. My parents did not have any snow themselves; they said they had only gotten some hail, and the hail had melted already. But elsewhere in their town I saw snow. There was snow near them, and I saw it, even though they didn't.

I am very pleased with this year's present-giving day. I don't generally do Christmas cards, but occasionally when people post notices to say things like, "I don't generally do Christmas cards, but this year I'm doing them, so if you want a card, send me your address," I respond to those people and exchange Christmas cards only with them, only that year. So this year I exchanged cards with [livejournal.com profile] frankepi, an Internet friend of seventeen years now, and that made me happy. And I also started preparing to mail a housewarming gift to [livejournal.com profile] woo2step and [livejournal.com profile] recycledsilence - it may go out in the mail tomorrow - and that made me happy too. And then I found out that I'm going to get to see my high school friend Christine on New Year's Eve, and that she wants to go on a hike with me before we go eat somewhere, and I get to help pick out a place for us to go hiking, and that made me even happier. Also I have a week and a half off work (I last worked December 23 and won't go back until January 4) so I can probably find time to do some other fun things as well.

So it is a very good present-giving day! And also I received a very good collection of presents:

Peter Alden and Fred Heath: National Audubon Society Field Guide to California
Mariama Bâ: So Long a Letter
James Baldwin: No Name in the Street
Cao Xueqin: The Story of the Stone (or The Dream of the Red Chamber), Volume I
Cervantes: Don Quixote
Louis Chu: Eat a Bowl of Tea
Fyodor Dostoyevsky: The Possessed
Brian Evenson: Windeye
Sue Monk Kidd: The Invention of Wings
Jhumpa Lahiri: Interpreter of Maladies
Haruki Murakami: Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage
Haruki Murakami: What I Talk About When I Talk About Running: A Memoir
Pu Songling: Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio
Tayeb Salih: Season of Migration to the North
Sylvia Townsend Warner: Mr. Fortune's Maggot
Lidia Yuknavitch: Real to Reel

New Order: Music Complete
Echo & the Bunnymen: Meteorites

yellow lupine (Lupinus densiflorus)
arroyo lupine (Lupinus succulentus)
tidy-tips (Layia platyglossa)

a pitchfork for turning my compost pile
a portable sitting/kneeling platform for weeding my garden when the ground is muddy
a cast-iron coat-hanger forged by a friend of my aunt
popsicle molds

The books are quite an odd mixture. Pleasingly odd. It was really a very good present-giving day for me. How was your present-giving day?
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Around here, as in many places, December is the most difficult month of the year in which to get plants to bloom. August is not much fun for plants here either, but December manages to be even worse. Nonetheless, yesterday I ventured outside to find out what was blooming and photograph it for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day.

I'll start, though, with what isn't blooming: The pecan harvest is officially over, because the pecan tree (Carya illinoinensis) is now totally bare.

Carya illinoinensis (pecan)

Click for pictures of actual flowers! )
queerbychoice: (Default)
I really hate the advice dispensed in this advice column by "The Ethicist."

The letter-writer says he is friends with "Jane" and also, secondarily, with Jane's husband "Peter." He writes,
Jane is having an affair with ‘‘Martin,’’ whom Jane has known most of her adult life. I know about the affair because Jane confided in me years ago. In fact, this affair was also a part of Jane’s previous marriage, and Jane confided this to me as part of her divorce from her first husband, whom I did not know. Jane thinks Martin is her true life’s ‘‘soul mate,’’ and I think she may be right. Peter does not know about the affair. If he knew about it, I think he would divorce Jane in a minute.
The letter-writer feels vaguely uncomfortable about actively helping Jane deceive Peter, but he's mostly inclined to justify and continue it. The so-called ethicist advises him to go ahead and continue helping Jane deceive Peter, but commends him for bothering to feel guilty about it. Really, how does the mere act of feeling guilty about it help anything if he goes on doing it?

Here is what the letter-writer ought to have done from the beginning: When Jane went through her divorce from her first husband and confessed to the letter-writer that she was having an affair with Martin - who is married - the letter-writer should have realized that it does not make sense to want to count among one's friends a person who cheats on their spouse (with another married person, at that). Why would you want to be friends with a liar who damages multiple people's marriages and puts multiple people at risk of STDs without their knowledge or consent? If you have a spouse or partner yourself - or if you ever might in the future - why would you expect Jane to have any more respect for your marriage than she has for Martin's or her own? Why would you expect Jane to have any more respect for anything about your life than she has for Peter's life or Martin's wife's life?

At this point it's going to be a bit more complicated for the letter-writer to extract himself from the situation ethically than it would have been back then. Still, though, an important part of the solution has to be "Stop being friends with known cheaters!" Being friends with them morally compromises you and gives them the idea that cheating isn't that bad - since, by remaining friends with them, you are indeed conveying the sense that you don't think their behavior is bad enough to make you want to dissociate yourself from them. Have higher standards than that!

Will it be sad to lose a longstanding friendship if your friend starts cheating on their spouse? Sure. But if your friend is not the quality of person who deserves to have you as a friend, you're better off facing that fact rather than continuing to trust a person who has shown themself to be untrustworthy.

And what if your friends go ahead and cheat on their spouses but simply don't tell you about it because they know you won't accept them as friends anymore under those conditions? Well, that means (a) your friends won't morally compromise you by enlisting you as co-conspirators in deceiving their spouses, and (b) your friends won't be able to take comfort in the sense that cheating must not be that bad because they can tell all their friends about it and their friends all go on being friends with them anyway. So . . . that's good.

Also: What right does the letter-writer (or Jane either, for that matter) have to decide for Peter that Peter is supposedly better off remaining in this marriage in which he's being lied to and cheated on, when Peter himself is likely to think otherwise and has not been given the opportunity to decide for himself? This amounts to the letter-writer having a low opinion of Peter, believing that Peter couldn't do any better for himself in the marriage market than to remain married to someone who's cheating on him.

The letter-writer could ask Peter for advice here: Make up a friend, mention him to Peter on a few separate occasions, make him seem believable, then tell Peter you found out that this friend's wife is cheating on him. What does Peter think you should do? If Peter thinks your friend should be told, then I think Peter should be told. Ideally not by the letter-writer, though . . . I would very much prefer that Jane be the one to tell Peter. I would tell Jane, "You need to tell Peter or else I will tell Peter." Jane would not be my friend anymore after this. But that's just fine, because I would have no interest in being friends with Jane anyway.

The ways we react to other people cheating matter. People whose parents cheat are more likely to cheat, because seeing that one's parents cheated tends to create the impression that cheating is relatively more normal, less shocking, less scandalous than one would tend to believe if cheating is something one only reads about in newspaper articles about political scandals. But we form our impressions of what's considered socially acceptable based not only on our parents but also on our friends. This means that friends also have the power to alter our understanding of the degree to which cheating is acceptable or unacceptable. So you're responsible for the impressions you create. And don't you want them to be anti-cheating impressions?

A relationship should stand or fall on its own merits. If it isn't working, leave! But leave when you decide it's not working - don't string someone along for years while looking for someone better. Anyone who's truly better is going to think less of you if you start romancing them while you're in a relationship with someone else. And the person you're in a relationship with deserves to know that it's time to consider themself single at the same moment that you start behaving as if you're single yourself.

And what if you haven't thought your relationship was in bad enough condition to justify breaking up, but you suddenly find yourself attracted to someone else? Three things. First, have enough respect for your existing partner to recognize that you don't know the someone else well enough to be able to fairly compare them, and that the excitement of meeting a new person is likely to create an inaccurate and short-lived impression that the someone else is better than they actually are. Second, have enough respect for the someone else to realize they deserve better than the kind of person who would destroy an existing relationship to be with them. And third, start working on fixing your relationship with your existing partner . . . starting by telling your existing partner what you're feeling for this other person. The way to restore a sense of trust and emotional intimacy is to actually trust your partner and actually allow your partner emotional intimacy. That means you tell your partner whatever you've been hiding. That's the only way to fix things. Candlelight dinners and fancy jewelry and exciting vacations do not create trust and emotional intimacy. Honesty does.
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[livejournal.com profile] seifaiden recently pointed out to me 30 Journaling Prompts for Self-Reflection and Self-Discovery. I don't think they all merit separate entries, but I decided to throw together a few of the ones I have short answers for.

My favorite way to spend the day is . . .
Sleep late, read in bed, pet my cat in bed, get up, harvest pecans with my dog, plant some plants, discover new flowers in my yard, take pictures of the yard, go for a hike, take pictures of the hike, write about it on LiveJournal.

If I could talk to my teenage self, the one thing I would say is . . .
You will manage to handle so much more than you think you're capable of handling. (Also so much more than you have the slightest idea you'll ever need to handle. But I won't tell you that part, because the optimistic belief that virtually everything will go right all your life is a valuable survival mechanism that I do not wish to rob you of.)

The words I’d like to live by are . . .
No one can love you completely unless they know completely who you are, so you must never, never, never do anything so terrible that you can't bring yourself to confess to it later, because if you can't bring yourself to confess to it later then you can't ever be known completely and loved completely.

I couldn’t imagine living without . . .
People I trust who know me completely. Or as close to completely as is achievable between human beings with fallible memories and finite amounts of time for communication.

When I’m in pain — physical or emotional — the kindest thing I can do for myself is . . .
Recognize it, acknowledge it, examine it, describe it in writing and in conversation.

What does unconditional love look like for you?
Unconditional love does not seem particularly sane to me. If someone you love murders everyone else you love, will you still love them afterward? Should you still love them afterward? Maybe if they're your child and you feel responsible for making them into the horrible person they became, you'd have to. Other than that, though, I think you should switch to hating them instead. That's putting a condition on your love for them, and I think you should go right ahead and make your love conditional upon that.

What would you do if you loved yourself unconditionally? How can you act on these things whether you do or don’t?
I think my love for myself is also conditional upon my not murdering people, and I'm okay with that too. I do not desire to love myself unconditionally.

I really wish others knew this about me . . .
1. I'm queer by choice.
2. I'm quite open about who I am and what I want. Our interactions will go more smoothly if you don't spend your time constantly worrying that I might secretly be wildly different than I claim to be.

Name what is enough for you.
1. A stable supply of enough money that I don't feel a need to worry about money. I can comfortably do without things like cellphones, cable TV, restaurants, and hotels, but I need to be able to decide on a whim to buy several dozen plants or half a dozen new skirts and not have to worry about whether I can really afford that or not.
2. Access to a wide range of books.
3. Access to the Internet.
4. Access to people who understand me extremely well.
5. Access to nature in reasonably wild form.

Using 10 words, describe yourself.
Independent, unusual, creative, literate, rational, stable, reliable, determined, committed, whole-hearted.

(Not sure whether that counts as 10 words or 11 words, but I think it's close enough. Several of the words are near-synonyms of one another, but some concepts about me apparently require emphasis.)

What can you learn from your biggest mistakes?
Mostly, to be more suspicious of people. Also (variations on the same theme, but with different nuances) to ask more questions, and to recognize that sometimes I ought in fact to start an argument, because some arguments need to be had.

What’s surprised you the most about your life or life in general?
It's far more difficult and painful than I had expected.

I feel most energized when . . .
I'm with people I can relate to well.
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Today I answered a random, unexpected robocall that linked me to a telephone town hall conference with my U.S. Representative, Congressman John Garamendi (California's 3rd Congressional District). He introduced the call by talking about the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and then spent the next hour accepting questions, most of which ended up also being focused on ISIS, although all topics were welcome. The questions that were focused on ISIS were the ones that scared me, though. Here are some of the questions he received (questions and answers both imperfectly paraphrased from my memory).

1. Have you seen the pictures of the Syrian refugees? They're nearly all very healthy-looking young or middle-aged men! They're obviously much too healthy-looking to need our help! Theyre obviously terrorists! We need to keep them out of our country!
(Answer: Actually, most of the Syrian refugees who are accepted into the United States - and there've only been 2,000 so far, all of whom have been relatives of Americans - are women and children.)

2. The people being slaughtered by ISIS are Christians, not Muslims. Are you willing to support a policy that would ban Muslim refugees from entering the United States and allow only Christian refugees to enter?
(Answer: Actually, ISIS is slaughtering people of all ethnicities and religious groups, wo we will admit refugees based on need, including Muslim refugees who can demonstrate need.)

3. How can we encourage the French government to arm all its citizens so that terrorist attacks can't happen there in the future? And also, why aren't we bombing ISIS, and in particular, why aren't we bombing them with nuclear bombs?
(Answer: Uh, we definitely do not want to use nuclear weapons! We already are bombing ISIS, but we need to be carefully targeting it to minimize harm to innocent civilians so as not to make it any easier for ISIS to recruit new terrorists. [failing to address the first part of the question, which the next caller then brought up again])

4. The French people don't have enough guns, and that's why they couldn't defend themselves from the terrorists. If Hillary becomes president she'll ban all Americans from having any guns, and then we won't be able to protect ourselves from terrorists either!
(Answer: Hillary Clinton isn't trying to ban all Americans from having any guns. She just wants to have strong background checks. Absolutely none of the presidential candidates are trying to ban all Americans from having any guns. Also, having guns isn't really all that helpful in preventing terrorist attacks, and even after these terrorist attacks, gun violence in the U.S. still far exceeds gun violence in France where gun-control laws are stricter.)

Congressman Garamendi is a Democrat. California's 3rd congressional district does include some heavily Republican areas (such as the one where I live: Yuba County). Per the Wikipedia page linked above, it "generally encompasses areas north and west of Sacramento. It consists of Colusa, Sutter, and Yuba counties plus portions of Glenn, Lake, Sacramento, Solano, and Yolo counties." Colusa, Sutter, Yuba, and Glenn are heavily Republican, but Lake, Sacramento, Solano, and Yolo are at least somewhat less so. And we have enough Democratic voters in Lake, Sacramento, Solano, and Yolo Counties to outnumber the hicks of Colusa, Sutter, Yuba, and Glenn Counties in electing a Democratic congressman! So why were there so many scary people asking scary questions in the town hall?

Throughout the call, a poll question was frequently repeated: "Do you think Syrian refugees who go through an 18-month vetting process should be allowed to seek refuge in the United States? Press 1 for yes, 2 for no, or 3 for not sure." At the end of the call, the poll results were announced: 43% said yes, 40% said no, and 17% were not sure. I said yes. Why did 40% say no? Do these people want to close the U.S. borders to white people too, or only to brown people?

The call was at lunchtime, when a lot of people are at work and wouldn't receive it or be able to attend, so most of the people on the call seemed to be old, retired people. This may have been part of the problem.

At the end of the call, I signed up to make sure to receive more of these calls in the future, so I can continue to be frightened by the people I live near. Because apparently I'm really into being frightened by the people I live near.
queerbychoice: (marble)
It's pecan season! And also November Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day. My pecans are definitely piling up.

Carya illinoiensis (pecan)

And the Western leaf-footed bugs (Leptoglossus zonatus) are also out in force. These are a native insect that feeds on nuts and fruits of many sorts. They seem to be more interested in the unripe pecans than in the ripe ones, though; they congregate in large clusters as you see below, always on the unripe nuts (hulls that haven't yet split open to reveal the nuts inside). They also occasionally congregate on the oranges on my orange tree. In either case, they stick a long, tube-shaped mouthpart (much like what mosquitoes use for sucking blood) into the pecan hull or the orange rind and suck out some juices. They don't usually do much noticeable damage; they can cause small black spots on a few of the nuts, but I just chop off the parts that are spotted. If you Google for advice about how to control these bugs, the advice generally consists of, "Just stop worrying about them; they don't actually do much damage." So I let them be. By the time the nuts are ready for picking, they've moved on to some that are less ripe. There also aren't really all that many of them; there are about 20 in the photo below, but only a very small fraction of the pecan clusters on my tress have these bugs on them at all. It's just that where you find one, you generally find a lot more than one. They prefer to stick together.

Leptoglossus zonatus (Western leaf-footed bug)

I also have some flowers in bloom. Click for flowers! )
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This evening I took all the implicit association tests in Project Implicit: Social Attitudes. Here is what the tests informed me about my biases:

First, my test results suggest little to no automatic preference between Thin People and Fat People. This is the only category in which I had no evident bias in either direction. Yay for not being sizeist!

On the topic of gender, my test results suggest that I slightly associate Male with Science and Female with Liberal Arts but also slightly associate Female with Career and Male with Family. So apparently I both do and do not buy into gender stereotypes. I guess these associations do at least reflect my personal path in life: I have a career, and it's in a liberal arts field. And I don't so much have a family, other than the one I was born into.

On the topic of sexual orientation, my test results suggest a moderate automatic preference for Gay People compared to Straight People. I'm sure you are all shocked to learn this about me.

On the topic of age, my test results suggest a moderate automatic preference for Young People over Old People. Sorry, old people.

On the topic of presidents, my test results suggest a moderate automatic preference for Barack Obama compared to Ronald Reagan. Really, only moderate??? I confess that I did in fact strongly support Ronald Reagan in the 1984 election. In my defense, I was only eight years old at the time. I feel that this is a reasonable excuse for my not having known any better. By 1988 I had turned into a Democrat and was supporting Michael Dukakis.

On the topic of disability, my test results suggest a slight automatic preference for Abled Persons compared to Disabled Persons. Bad me! Bad me!

On the topic of religion, my test results suggest a strong preference for Buddhism over Judaism, a slight preference for Judaism over Christianity, and a slight preference for Christianity over Islam. Really I'm not a huge fan of any of them, but I do prefer non-Abrahamic religions to Abrahamic ones.

On the topic of skin tone (without specifying individual races), my test results suggest a slight automatic preference for Light Skin compared to Dark Skin. Bad me again!

On the topic of Black Americans, my test results suggest that I slightly associate White Americans with Weapons compared to Black Americans but also slightly prefer White People compared to Black People. Apparently identifying white people as being more dangerous does not prevent me from preferring them? It seems that I am not very smart about this.

On the topic of Arab Muslims, my test results suggest a slight automatic preference for Other People compared to Arab Muslims. Bad me yet again!

On the topic of Native Americans, my test results suggest a strong association of White Americans with Foreign and Native Americans with American. I have to say, I think people should be strongly biased in this direction; it seems like a pretty objective statement of fact to me that if any one race is more American and less foreign than another, the Native Americans are clearly the most American and the least foreign.

On the topic of Asian Americans, my test results suggest a strong association of Asian American with American and European American with Foreign. Um . . . really though, I don't actually go through life thinking, every time I meet a white person, "You're not as genuinely American as Asian Americans are!" Have I mentioned that I'm white and I'm generally fairly convinced that I qualify as American? Just saying . . .

So, that was interesting. I suppose the good news is that my biases that are in the most disturbing directions seem to be pretty consistently slight. I'm a bit confused by the idea that my strongest biases apparently involve regarding white people as not being very American, but perhaps this just reflects the fact that it's easy for me to associate white people with "otherness" in whatever form because I grew up feeling alienated and "other" from them from age six onward. There's nothing like witnessing, as a white six-year-old, a constant, daily onslaught of racist harassment directed at your Asian best friend by your white classmates and sometimes by white adults, to make you emotionally dissociate yourself from the entire category of "white people." Alas, that dissociation does not seem to have cured me of biases against some other races. It would be nice if it did.


Oct. 31st, 2015 09:58 pm
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A tiny child came to my door this evening in a Spider-Man costume - maybe four years old at the most, but his parents were waiting on the sidewalk rather than accompanying him to the door. He said he could only have candy that didn't contain peanuts. I helped him pick out some that didn't contain peanuts. He turned away. His parents called out, "Say thank you!" He failed to process this instruction. I was very slowly closing the door - being slow about it in case he might eventually catch on to the instructions to thank me - when he suddenly turned around and came back to the door and looked up at me again. "I need a drink!" he exclaimed. I was . . . rather at a loss for how to respond to this. His parents managed to call him away.

I gave away vast quantities of candy tonight. Kids exclaimed that I was giving away better candy than any other house they'd been to. There's probably some sort of benefit to having a good reputation with the neighborhood children, isn't there? Maybe if they turn into juvenile delinquents when they get older and vandalize or burglarize neighboring houses, they'll leave mine alone. Or something. Anyway, I made children happy. And possibly gave them diabetes. I will count it as a good deed.

The Halloween party I went to last night turned out to be substantially larger than I had expected. My friends Alyson and Jackie had told me it was a party for a few kids in their neighborhood - they live on a twenty-acre ranch, and the other homes in their neighborhood are similarly large ranches, so kids can't really go trick-or-treating in their neighborhood because the houses are set too far apart and also set back behind livestock gates so no one can get in. So they and some of their neighbors organize an annual hayride on the night before Halloween, where various costumed adults hide behind various trees along the road and jump out at the kids to scare them and then give them candy. They needed more adults this year, so they called on me. But there were more than a few kids at this party - there were 33 kids! And at least that many adults.

When I arrived, Alyson had a bunch of kids working on assembling spiders out of Oreo cookies with licorice sticks for legs and M&Ms for eyes. She had also created witches' hats by sticking Hershey's kisses to chocolate cookies with frosting, and she was working on creating a mummy from cream cheese, and she had enlisted the help of another adult to create ladybugs from tomatoes and olives. I helped out with arranging some food on plates, but I only arranged food to look like food, not to look like other things. Meanwhile, Jackie, who is theoretically still in the process of recovering from her last round of chemotherapy for metastatic uterine cancer, had strung orange and black lights everywhere and created about a half-mile-long path lined on both sides with lanterns dangling from trees every yard or two. And one or both of them had also found time to help their eight-year-old twin daughters assemble elaborate costumes: one of the daughters had on a long red velvet dress in a Renaissance style, and the other had on a 1950s-style outfit with a poodle skirt.

I have no idea how my friends find the energy to host elaborate parties for more than sixty people while also dealing with things like life-threatening cancer, forced early retirement due to life-threatening cancer, forced early returning-from-homemaking-to-regular-work to compensate for a wife's forced early retirement, the ongoing job of raising twin daughters, and also the ongoing job of managing a ranch full of goats, donkeys, sheep, chickens, guineafowl, ducks, and so on (not to mention that I think they're up to four dogs and four cats now, plus two guinea pigs and some fish). It is remarkable. And then, at the end of the evening, they were already talking about organizing additional large parties in November and December.

I don't exactly know any of their other friends, but I'm reaching a point where I've vaguely met many of their other friends before. There was a great deal of, "Where have I met you before? Was it at the British panto? No, was it at last year's Christmas party? No, I've got it: it was at the Girl Scout cookie sale last spring!" Or, "It was when Alyson and Jackie were away and you were housesitting and I came over to milk the goats!" And so on.

Alyson gave me a Dracula costume to wear. There was a grey-brown vest, a red cummerbund, a black bow tie, white gloves, a blood-red amulet on a ribbon around my neck, and of course, a cape. She also gave me makeup, but she said it was up to me whether I wanted to bother with the makeup. I looked in the mirror and contemplated the possibility of vampire makeup for a while, but I concluded that I was plenty white enough naturally and did not really need any artificial help to make my face even whiter. There did not seem to be any sense in bothering with makeup, so I didn't.

The hayride consisted of four large vehicles each dragging hay wagons full of kids behind them. They drove in a loop around the cul-de-sac, stopping at various places when costumed adults jumped out from behind trees to shower them with candy, and also stopping at a few houses where the kids all got out and went trick-or-treating. To give the kids more of an experience of trick-or-treating, several of the ranches gave out candy not only at the front doors but also at the back doors or from the hay barns or other outbuildings on the property. Kids went trick-or-treating at one of Alyson and Jackie's hay barns in addition to at their front door.

I was initially paired off with a woman in a devil costume to hide behind a tree and give out candy, but that woman's older daughter couldn't handle being unaccompanied and started crying (even though her younger daughter was fine), so she had to go stay with her daughter. I then got paired off with a woman dressed as the evil queen from Snow White. We jumped out at vehicles and shrieked, "Stop! You shall not pass!" and then gave them candy. A little girl called out from one of the vehicles, "You didn't scare me!"

Mostly I was impressed at how well everyone pitched in to help set things up beforehand and clean things up when it was over. It was a very well-coordinated group. My friends have good friends.
queerbychoice: (marble)
I don't understand why I have to wash the spiderwebs off my front porch at a time of year when other people are buying fake spiderwebs to decorate their porches with. I have a real spiderweb blocking the way to my doorbell; if I didn't wash it off, kids would have to reach through a real spiderweb to trick-or-treat at my house. What could possibly be more seasonally appropriate?

Tomorrow I'm going to the house of my friends Alyson and Jackie to dress up in a Dracula costume they're going to provide me with, hide behind a tree on their property, and lurk there until their kids show up, along with some neighbor kids who are joining them in a pre-Halloween practice run, at which point I've been instructed to jump out from behind the tree and terrify the children. Because when my friends are looking for someone to frighten their children, apparently I come to mind as a good candidate. However, I haven't the slightest idea how one goes about acting like Dracula. I feel that I should probably attempt to research this beforehand by looking up Dracula videos on YouTube or something.

Today I went out in my back yard and found that the neighbors' portable patio (a ceiling-high tarp attached to a giant metal frame about 25 feet square) had blown over the fence into my yard, where it had lodged itself upside-down on my side of the fence. I tried to figure out how I might get it back into their yard, but I was at a loss. It was far too big for me to heave it back over the fence as it was, and I couldn't figure out how to collapse it into a more portable shape. Then the neighbors came outside into their backyard . . . and proceeded to completely ignore my plight. I had to yell over the fence to get their attention, and they seemed at first quite confused about what I wanted. "Our canopy blew over your fence in the wind? Really?" Yes, how is this not obvious? Did you think I'd climbed over the fence, stolen it from you, and set it up upside-down on my side of the fence? Apparently they simply hadn't noticed it was missing at all. This despite the fact that they were standing about three feet from where it had previously been. I don't understand how it's possible to fail to notice the absence of an object the size of a bedroom when you're standing three feet from where it used to be. They told me they had failed to notice. People confuse me.


Oct. 19th, 2015 11:55 pm
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I saw a raccoon! While out running after dark, I saw a racoon in someone's front yard! This is totally the best thing that running has ever yet done for me.

The racoon saw me too. It climbed a tree to get away from me.

Also I beat my non-race 5K record time for the second outing in a row tonight. I think I'm finally getting back into a pattern of regularly improving again.

In other wildlife-related news, my yard is full of squirrels. Even my roof is full of squirrels: I keep hearing them running across it. And Boston keeps barking at the squirrels and chasing them. But when she's asleep or indoors, the squirrels notice and take over the entire yard for hours.

The presence of the squirrels means that pecan harvesting season is beginning. The squirrels spend their time in my neighbors' yards during other seasons, but they move into my yard as the pecans on my tree ripen.

Pecan harvesting season also means that my hands are going to be stained brown until February. They're only extremely faintly stained at the moment, but as more pecans ripen, no matter how hard I try to make myself put on waterproof gloves every time I ever touch the pecan hulls, I'm going to end up staining my hands darker and darker until they're nearly black, and then I'll feel weird about ever leaving my house and seeing people in person because it isn't normal for a person with otherwise pale skin to have black hands. But pecan juice doesn't wash off.

Or perhaps I just won't care. This will be my first pecan harvesting season since taking up running, and running seems to have the effect of making me entirely stop caring what anyone thinks of what I look like. I still care what I think of what I look like, and I never cared all that much to begin with about what anyone else thought of what I looked like, but to the extent that I did care . . . well, running tends to force me to seek out somewhat different clothes than I normally would, for the sake of running-related functionality. And so I get used to going out in public dressed in a variety of even odder outfits than I normally would. Perhaps I can also get used to going out in public with dark brown stains on my hands.

Maybe to some extent I already have, in past years. Stained hands or not, one has to leave the house occasionally.

I'm still not done planting all my new plants. Getting close, though. I'm just being indecisive about where to put the last few of them.
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I ran 5K without walking any of it!

I still haven't managed to beat my best practice time from before the race last month - let alone my actual race time - but this is the first time I've ever run 5K without walking any of it. I've never really even come close to that before; I've never gotten beyond the halfway point without slowing to a walk, and on the very few occasions when I've run all the way to the halfway point, I always did a considerable amount of walking during the second half of the route. I'm not sure what was different today. I didn't actually feel very good at all when I first started out. I just kept going, and found that I'd gotten into a groove where my feet just kept moving forward and for some reason, I wasn't running out of oxygen or developing a terrible, burning exhaustion in my calf muscles, and somehow I managed to just stay in that groove the whole way through. My only (partial) explanation for any of this is that I went out significantly later than usual, so there were very few people outside, and when I see people I often feel a need to push myself to run faster - usually not so much to show off as because they're scary people and I want to avoid remaining in their vicinity any longer than absolutely necessary! - so this time, for once, I was able to maintain a perfectly steady pace the whole way.

It's nice not to be leered at or catcalled. My main interaction with a human being on my run tonight was with an old lady who was outside reading in a rocking chair on her porch and smiled at me as I went by. I'm okay with being smiled at. I'm pretty sure I very much deserved to be smiled at, considering that I was clad from head to toe tonight in fluorescent yellow, including of course a fluorescent yellow skirt. I had serious visual impact tonight, and not of the invitation-to-leer-at-me variety but rather of the you-might-want-to-shield-your-eyes-from-my-blindingness variety. I was pleased with myself for this. Color coordination always makes me happy, and particularly eccentric color-coordinated outfits make me even happier.

Edit, two days later: . . . And now I finally beat my best practice time!

(Also, I received an ad recently for high-visibility running clothes, with the title "Be seen . . . but not in fluorescent green!" The clothes they were selling were reflective, but they were nearly all black or grey. These colors do not work for me. I'm one of the rare few people who look good in fluorescent green and fluorescent yellow, but the price I pay for this is that black and grey - colors that apparently nearly everyone else looks good in, since the "little black dress" is so nearly universally regarded as a wardrobe staple - make me look so pale and colorless as to appear undead. If someone could please declare the "little fluorescent yellow dress" to be the new essential wardrobe staple, I would really appreciate it.)
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It's time for October Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day! I skipped the September Bloom Day and didn't even take any pictures of plants during September. It's all right though, because my garden hasn't really changed much since August. Last spring my garden was continually looking a few months ahead of schedule due to drought; this fall it's looking a few months behind schedule due to drought. It hasn't really rained properly yet this fall, so the garden still looks pretty much like August. Or maybe early September now? But certainly not mid-October.

The California fuchsias are putting on a good show, though. The red flowers here are 'Carman's Gray' California fuchsia (Epilobium canum 'Carman's Gray'), and the white and rust-brown flowers are Eastern Mojave buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum).

Click for more pictures! )
queerbychoice: (marble)
The way this meme works is as follows: I commented on [livejournal.com profile] legolastn's post, and he gave me the age 18. If you request in the comments, I'll assign you an age, and so the chain of memes can continue.

At 18 (in 1994-95) . . .

I lived in:
My parents' house. It was a not-quite-1,500-square-foot house on a not-quite-quarter-acre lot on a dead-end street in Carmichael, California - a suburb of Sacramento. We had a swimming pool and a lot of redwood trees. I had recently (the previous year) repainted my bedroom from the yellow color it had been for all my previous life to a grand new color scheme in which the ceiling was magenta, the lower half of the walls were blue, and the upper half of the walls were a gradation of purple, gradually blending from magenta-ish at the top to bluish at the bottom. The carpet was olive green shag, left over from 1973 when my parents bought the house. It was new when they bought it, and had no landscaping whatsoever back then. They spent three years adding landscaping and pets to it before I was born.

I drove:
Nothing, because I didn't have a driver's license yet. California requires people under 18 to have at least 6 hours of behind-the-wheel driver's training from a professional driving instructor to get a license, and my school didn't provide behind-the-wheel driver's training, and my parents refused to pay for it (and didn't quite seem to believe me when I explained that I couldn't get a license without it). Now that I was 18, I was finally able to get a license, but since I wasn't going to be able to get my own car (nor any particularly regular use of my parents' cars) anyway, it wasn't a high priority. I didn't get my driver's license until I was 20.

I worked at:
Nothing yet. For my subsequent three years of college I had a work-study job in the English Department, mainly copying and collating papers, but sometimes also answering phones, sorting mail, or supervising the computer lab or the writing center. But during my freshman year I didn't have any job yet.

I wanted to be:
A Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist. And I was completely convinced that the novel I was already working on writing would be both finished and published by the time I graduated from college, and would be enough of a success that I would never need a day job.

I was in a relationship with:
A fellow student at my college whose name was Flame. My first relationship ever! I had an anthropology class with him in my first semester of college. In the elevator on the way to class one day, he noticed the rainbow-striped triangle pin on my backpack (which I put on every morning during the bus ride to school and took off again every morning on the bus ride home, because I wasn't out to my parents) and complimented me on it, and made reference to a queer event he'd attended. I inferred that he was queer, and was delighted; I took to regularly walking with him from that class toward my next class after that. He would also greet me warmly when he occasionally saw me around campus at other times of day - most often at the bus stop, because we both took the bus (though we took different buses). At the end of the semester he asked for my phone number, and I gave it to him, because by then I was very interested in him. Why wouldn't I be? He seemed to be queer, he seemed to enthusiastically support my queer by choice ideas, he seemed to be about my age (well, he looked it and didn't say anything to indicate otherwise, and I knew he was a sophomore), he seemed to be very smart and knowledgeable, and he was basically the first person to ever show romantic interest in me at a time and in such a way that I was both able to figure out that he was interested and not struck dumb with terror by the prospect of even having a conversation. Besides, I was kind of grieving the loss of my pseudo-Asian identity (having firmly established myself in high school as a member of the Asian crowd but finding that the college I ended up with was rather lacking in . . . well, it wasn't actually lacking in Asians, but it was lacking in my sort of Asians: it had street-smart Asians rather than nerdy Asians, and I didn't know how to befriend this new, unfamiliar brand of Asians), and he was . . . not actually Asian, but he had similar coloring, anyway, and that was better than nothing; it bothered me to feel myself perceived as just another white person, and talking to anyone at all who wasn't white helped to somewhat alleviate the uncomfortable sense of having been unwillingly subsumed into the general mass of white people around me. Anyway, when I eventually got around to asking him what his ethnicity was, because it was quite unclear, he said he was Native American. He was oddly lacking in details about what sort of Native American he was, but he didn't seem to want to answer any questions about it, and it wasn't as if I particularly cared what the details were anyway, so I didn't push.

When I talked to him on the phone between semesters, I asked him his age and he told me he was 35. This was a distinctly unwelcome piece of news, but I was sufficiently interested in him by then to not be very easily scared off. Besides, he added fascinating new information, such as that he'd previously been married and had taken his wife's last name when he married her, and kept her last name after the divorce. He did not offer any information about what his original last name had been, but I was quickly learning that it was best never to ask him any questions: anytime I asked him a question, he would decide that it was great fun to frustrate me by deliberately withholding the information that he now knew I wanted. I stood a much better chance of getting the information I wanted if I didn't ask, if I carefully made sure not to let on that I cared about knowing a particular thing, and I just got him started talking about a related subject and hoped he might randomly wander over to the topic I wanted to know about and happen to mention the thing I wanted to know. Anyway, I was impressed that he had taken his ex-wife's name. I asked why they'd gotten divorced. He said his ex-wife had started having recurring dreams in which he was a mad scientist conducting experiments on people in a basement and she started to look askance at him in her waking life because of this; she stopped being quite sure where the boundary was between real life and her dreams. I concluded that his ex-wife must have had mental health problems.

He asked for my address, and I gave it to him, and we started exchanging long snail-mail letters every couple of days. His letters were always typed, and really could not remotely have been called love letters: they were unemotional ramblings on intellectual topics, sprinkled liberally with arcane trivia and puns. But I was always interested to learn new things, so I didn't particularly mind. When the spring semester started, he asked me on a date, and I got my first kiss ever! Also I found out that he'd dropped out of college for the semester, though he assured me he would return to school the following semester. He just needed to take a semester off to save up some money. He was working at a minimum-wage food-service job and sharing a tiny, run-down house with five other people. (I would meet them later: they all had a slightly haunted, totally-flat-broke look about them.) He introduced me to the Internet, though: he was a computer science major and knew about these things before I did. He showed me the computer lab in the computer science building and taught me how to sign in and start using the Internet. The Internet was exclusively text-based: we were using the Lynx text browser.

We were in a relationship for the entire spring semester. Every Saturday we would take the buses together and he would show me some new and hitherto-unknown-to-me corner of Sacramento County. He would also meet me on campus from time to time, at the end of my schoolday. He continued to resist answering questions of any sort, and to shamelessly manipulate me in various ways to get me to do whatever he wanted me to do - or he would just do things to me against my will. Gradually I lost more and more sense of having any control over the relationship, over my life, over my body, over anything. I could not imagine leaving him, though. I was going to be a person who married the first person I ever kissed. This was important to me. It was necessary not to get married until after graduating from college, but it was also very important that when I did get married, it must be to the first person I ever kissed. So after three and a half years I was going to marry him. I talked to him about this, and he was fine with it. A hypothetical marriage three and a half years in the future did not bother him. I was happy about this. I tried to resign myself to the alarming lack of control over my life and inability to get him to answer questions. If I were just clever enough about it, I was sure I could eventually get all my questions answered: I just needed to be very careful never to let him know that I cared about knowing any of the answers.

One day near the end of the semester, he showed me his driver's license. He pointed out his birthdate on it, which revealed that he was actually 32 years old, not 35 years old as he had claimed. I had made the mistake of asking him a direct question about his age, so it figured that he had only answered by giving me false information. He seemed to expect me to be bowled over with joy at finding out he was three years younger than I had thought. He was still 14 years older than I was, though, and I didn't understand what was supposed to be thrilling about finding out he'd been lying to me for our entire relationship. At around this time he also clarified that he didn't actually regard himself as queer: "Well, I've only been attracted to two men, and they were both named Steve, and you know, I don't think men named Steve are really men exactly." This distressed me greatly; I had not intended to date a heterosexual, not even a rather heteroflexible one. Also at around this time he legally changed his first name from Flame. I didn't like his new first name as much as his old one and didn't take to using it. (He didn't seem to care whether I used it or not.) Also at around this time he mentioned in passing that his mother had been schizophrenic. It vaguely occurred to me that his own mental health might not be great. I may have let slip slightly more information about him than usual to my parents, because my mother started asking a few questions. She asked me how old he was. I told her he was 32. I did not mention that I'd only recently learned this and had previously been led to believe he was 35. Despite my omissions, I was informed that my parents now needed to meet him to determine whether he was an acceptable boyfriend for me or not. So I arranged for him to come to dinner at our house.

When he came to dinner, he talked nonstop and made no sense and was wildly socially inappropriate. Behaviors that had not seemed that weird when he was alone with me seemed suddenly much weirder when he demonstrated zero ability to adjust them and present himself differently for my parents' benefit. He made dirty jokes about me to my parents. He rambled bizarrely. He dodged questions. They were better at pinning him down and forcing him to answer questions than I was, though, and also better at reading between the lines and picking up on things that I didn't, so I got some answers. I learned that his family was from Mexico: he was "Native American" simply by virtue of being Latino. I learned what his birth name had been. (It turned out he'd legally changed his entire name when he got married, not just his last name, and in so doing, he transformed himself from an identifiably Latino person with a standard Hispanic name to an ethnically unidentifiable person with a vaguely plausibly Native American name. I didn't understand what he had against his Mexican heritage, but I suppose he didn't understand what I had against my white heritage.) I also learned that he'd been homeless in the past. After he left, my parents said they thought he was schizophrenic. Since I knew (and they didn't know) that his mother had been schizophrenic - and also since they had substantial professional experience working with schizophrenics, because they were both social workers - I realized that they probably had pretty good reason for thinking so. They forbade me to see him anymore. I realized they were right, and telephoned him and broke up with him.

I feared:
I'm not sure I can put into words quite what I feared, but most of it involved Flame. Well, and my parents: I feared coming out to them.
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