Tag Archives: books

Renegade History

I’m reading A Renegade History of the United States by Thaddeus Russell.  I have very mixed feelings about it.  There is some legitimately good stuff in there, and many of his arguments are fairly nuanced.  The beginning of the part on slavery is fucking shocking, about how slaves had some freedoms that whites didn’t have, but as he explains it and goes through the evidence it’s easy to start making connections with how African Americans are treated today.

What it boils down to is this, which will undoubtedly be familiar with anyone who knows a little bit about black history.  White America was formed around the idea that men should be responsible, frugal, morally sound creatures who deny their own desires in order to make a better society.  Throughout the early years of the nation, there was an awful Protestant work ethic that had whites putting in 14 hour factory days before the development of unions, or toiling their waking hours away on farms.  Idle hands were considered the devil’s workshop.  Children were regularly beaten.  Nonmartial sex was forbidden and even illegal.  Dancing was bad.  Music was bad.  Fitting into white society really sucked for everyone but the rich.  Nothing new there.

Black slaves weren’t raised to in that culture.  A person worked as hard as they needed to to avoid punishment, but they had no incentive to work harder than that.  Why should they, when they were forced into it?  And they weren’t bound by white sexual mores, and they weren’t raised under the Puritanical restrictions of whites.

Slave culture was completely different in its values and priorities.  Russell points out that a lot of repressed white people saw those differences and were jealous.  Not of being owned, but of not being judged as the whites were.  He writes that minstrel shows were actually born of a romanticized look at slave life, and whites wishing they could have the freedoms they saw slaves as having.

Which, of course, is racist as fuck.  How many white people romanticize Native American cultures, yet how many of them care about the poverty and misery prevalent on so many reservations?  Same thing: caring about a false ideal with no concern whatsoever for what the minority is going through.

This is what got me thinking, although I’m only halfway through the book.  There are modern black stereotypes that are the exact same ones leveled at slaves.  According to many whites, black people are lazy, “shiftless,” uninterested in working or being responsible citizens.  Black people are also (according to this view) morally loose and allow themselves baser pleasures than (“good”) whites do.  The stereotypes haven’t changed in 150 years.  There are white boys who romanticize gangsta culture.  Nothing fucking changes.

When you look at the white culture that propagates these stereotypes, how fucked up is that culture?  “Good” Americans are supposed to work as many hours as they can because it’s shameful to not want to move into management or whatever.  Look at how many insults middle-class (and higher) people heap on retail and service workers, despite those people being necessary to our way of life?  Many corporate cultures are competitive for who can work the hardest, put in the most overtime.  There’s the belief that if you work hard enough, you can be rich and never work again.  Some countries in Europe are establishing national minimum incomes.  Some cities are providing homes to the homeless, no strings attached, because it’s cheaper than providing other services to the same population if they’re left on the street.  Right-wing Americans are horrified by these ideas.  Again, skewed Protestant work ethic.  Wealth indicates godliness, and poor people are lazy.  So to become a better person, you have to work harder.  Being a productive member of society is awesome, but there are so many ways to do it that don’t require selling your soul to a corporation…  Ugh.

So there you go.  I’m learning more about the history of issues I already knew existed, but without knowing exactly where they came from.  The book also talks about voluntary immigrants to this country, and the “whitening” of the Irish, Jewish, and Italian peoples (all of whom were called by the n-word when first arriving in America).  I’m only halfway through, and very interested to see where the author goes next.

Life update, Halloween edition

Lots of stuff has been going on, mostly good things!

Social: I’ve been leaving the house and hanging out with people!  Which means I need to give a few people some nicknames. (Pause…)  Done.  I even made a page for my cast of characters.  Yesterday I hung out with Zelda for like 6 hours.  Her friend Domino joined us for lunch, and we hit it off too, and then the three of us spent like an hour in Joanns gleefully shopping for 70% off Halloween decorations.  Last Sunday I had coffee in the morning with Rose for two hours, and then spend the afternoon with Zelda.  I am such a social butterfly.

Hellooooooo nurse: I’ve been contemplating having a sex life again.  I don’t want love, but friendship with benefits would be awesome.  I’ve even been flirting with people.  Shocking.

Brain Fun: doing fairly well on most days. There was a four-day depressive streak last week during which I only left the house once.  And the week before that I struggled with occasional bursts of impulsive recklessness.  Like, “if I ride my bike down this 65mph highway, it’s not like I’m actually attempting suicide, right?  I mean, it has a bike lane…”  But mostly I’m okay.

Thursday I started decreasing my Lamictal dosage.  I’ve been on 200mg twice a day for years, and I’m fed up with the severe memory loss it causes.  I’ve forgotten almost everything I learned in college.  I don’t remember most of my childhood.  The memories are still there, I just can’t access them.  (Thanks to my psych degree and a stint volunteering in a neuropsych lab, I know a bit about memory testing and have done some.  I store memories just fine; it’s retrieval that’s the problem.)  I consider this to be the best way to lose memories, as it means I have a chance of regaining access.  If I wasn’t storing them when they happened, I’d be completely SOL.

Lamictal is what prevents my mania.  If I start getting manic I’ll just sedate myself and then resume my former dose.  Easy.  I hope this works.

Therapy: haven’t had an appointment since my last update.  I’ll have one tomorrow, though.

Cycling: still doing it, although not as much as I’d like.  That whole reckless thing has made me a little scared to ride much.  I’ll talk to my therapist about it.

I’ve resumed my daily walks, though.  Because outdoor exercise of any kind helps my mental health.

Crafting: two inches left of Nephew’s pillow.  I’ve been spinning a lot.  Nothing else, though.  I’ve been too busy reading.

Reading: alllll the books.  So many books.  Mostly paper ones.  All non-fiction.  Which reminds me, I should update my Goodreads account.

Cello: I’ve stopped lessons until January, so that I can afford school and Christmas presents.  I’m sad, but I’ll be back to it in the new year.

Follow-up from last update: I had to reschedule the dentist, because I’ve been having some trouble with nausea.  The craft fair this last Saturday was fun, although it was just me and Mom.  I got a new journal.  Now I just need to keep up with it.

Upcoming plans: Hiking November 11th!  So excite!

Mid-month update

I seem to be stuck updating biweekly…

Therapy: not as intense as last time, but stressful nonetheless.  Talked about how I dissociate so much, both deliberately and involuntarily.  How it makes me feel safer.  How when I cried happy tears the other day, I had no idea why my eyes were watery and it confused me, and how once I realized I was happy-crying I was even more confused because how could I not know that’s what I was doing?  I have serious mind/body disconnect issues, and I want to fix it.

Reading: Saturday I started reading a book that wasn’t fanfic.  Since then I’ve read four more books and am almost done with a fifth.  The last one I finished was a novel, which delighted me.  I want to read more fiction.  I hope this lasts for a while.  Oh, yeah, and three were paper books.  Maybe I need to switch back to physical books.  Yay for good libraries!

Biking: still at it.  I’m having to take shorter rides now, though, because long ones hurt my bad knee.  I have dual rear baskets now so I can run more nearby errands on my bike.  In a little bit I’ll be riding to my sister’s to babysit…

Crafting: My ex-MIL loved the washcloths I made for her birthday.  I finished the pillow for my nephew, only for him to tell me one of the colors was wrong.  (Never mind that he had picked it out.)  So I’m waiting on new yarn to come in.  I warped for my tunic but haven’t started weaving yet.  I haven’t finished the dishcloth I started a few days ago, because I’ve been reading so much.  I got the yarn for Mom’s birthday present (washcloths that match her bathroom decor) but haven’t started those.  (Gotta finish the dishcloth first, as it uses the same needles I need for the washcloths.)  Oh, and Friday I cut out all the pieces for the change purses I’m making.  Now I just need to figure out how to sew on the zippers.  Haven’t done any spinning in a couple of months.

Mental stuff: much less depressed.  Not napping often.  Not eating junk food.  Still dissociating but not as much.  So, better overall.  I’ve been having more good days than bad.  Never did hear back from Hillary’s campaign.  I should call again.

Also… this is going to sound weird and sad.  For the last couple of years I’ve only had a libido when really depressed.  Like, I only get myself off when I’m miserable, because when I feel better I’m not interested.  What does it say about me, that arousal is a sign of depression for me?  I get anhedonic except for lust, and even then I frequently feel desire without being able to do anything about it.  But today I got turned on while in a good mood.  It felt weird, but I’m happy about it.

Also, watching cisgender porn as a trans person is hard.  Because my private fantasies are always with me in a male body, and so sometimes gay porn is awesome, but then like today I wanted to see my own physiology reflected so I was watching straight porn.  Neither feels quite right, but there’s a lack of good trans BDSM porn featuring submissives whom I can identify with even a little.  Stupid transgender problem #873987984789375…

Upcoming plans: Thursday I finally see the dentist.  (My appointment was rescheduled because of the last hurricane.)  Pride festival is Saturday, and I’m going to go for at least a little while.  Next weekend I’m going to a craft fair with Mom and ex-MIL.  In November there will be hiking in Georgia.  And cello lessons!  I resume those on Nov. 3rd.

Fan fiction through the lens of schizoaffective disorder

Until my breakdown at age 23, I read a shitload of fiction.  I’ve always been a big reader, but back then it was mostly novels.  After I started recovering enough to read again, I found I could only read non-fiction.  And I’ve figured out over the years why I can read some things but not others.

I don’t trust my brain.  I can’t.  For too many years it lied to me about what was and was not reality.  Novels require too much imagination.  I get lost.  It makes me deeply uncomfortable.  So instead I took up weird history books, because history is (more or less) true stories.  I still get to enjoy a good tale, but it’s a tale based in reality.

But about a year ago, I discovered I can read fan fiction.  It was a huge breakthrough for me.  It doesn’t require as much imagination, you see.  I already know what the characters look and sound like, because I’ve seen them in comics or films or television shows.  I know how the rules of their universe work.  I know they are played by real people.  So I can lose myself in fanfic, because I don’t completely lose myself.  Fanfic leaves me an anchor to the real world.  And I adore it for that.

I can also read comics for the same reason — I can see the characters and their world, so I don’t get lost.  I don’t have to trust my brain to fill in the imagery, because it’s right there on the page.  I read a fair amount of comics these days, but most of them are short reads.  For long reads I like novel-length fanfic works, if they’re written well.  And many are.  Ao3 has been a lifesaver, in terms of new reading material.

Sometimes I try to read regular novels.  I do.  But it’s incredibly difficult for me.  I’m so lucky I have other options.  Because stories are wonderful things, and I’d hate to not be able to read any at all.

I’m not dead, I promise!

But I am just coming out of an extended, serious depression.  It started in April.  I didn’t get online for three months except to read fanfic.  (BBC Sherlock is my imaginary boyfriend.)  Hell, I didn’t even talk to my mother for two months, and she’s one of my two favorite people in the whole world (the other being the Valkyrie).  I was a wreck.  I started feeling a bit better a couple of weeks ago, but yesterday my doctor had me add Ritalin to my daily medication cocktail and I’ve actually gotten out of bed.  Better living through modern medicine!

So this post is going to be a rather long life update…

Continue reading

Prioritizing my time

I have come to the realization that I spend too much time on social media. I don’t need to spend an hour a day on Tumblr, for example, or two hours on my favorite knitting forum. Facebook is okay, as its the only way to keep up with old friends, and I don’t play games or anything there. And Twitter occasionally, because that’s where the Valkyrie and the Naiad do their activism. But no more getting sucked into hours of wasted time.

Yesterday I finished reading a book while spinning, and I worked on my mathematical self-education. Today I started a new book — Sutherland’s Irrationality. It was a Giftmas present from the Naiad; while I know a lot of the science in it already, it’s still enjoyable so far because the author is snarky. It’s so nice to read instead of wasting the day online.

This resolution has good timing, actually. I made it last night, and this morning the left-click button on my laptop’s trackpad died. So it’s currently limited in functionality because I can’t scroll or drag items. Lucky for me I have my iPad mini! Hopefully I can get a new inexpensive laptop next month. I do need one before school starts in March. I don’t game on PCs, so I don’t need anything fancy. Just something for Chrome and OpenOffice and a few other things.

I also need to start exercising. Even just a walk around the block every other day. I’m worried about my heart not getting what it needs because I sit around the house all the time.

My pdoc is trying me on Sephris. I’d never heard of it before today, but it looks like it might be okay. It has very low incidence of weight gain and other side effects. I might have to take Ritalin with it if it makes me too sleepy. That’s its worst side effect, according to the literature. Sephris doesn’t work as well as some of the heavy hitters like Seroquel, but Seroquel didn’t help much either. So we’ll see what happens.

Medication fun, version 100035736262

In the days since Christmas, I’ve switched out Invega for Risperdal.  I’d been on Risperdal before, and it did fairly well at managing hallucinations, but I’d forgotten about the side effects.  I’m sleepy too much, and… I hate admitting this part, but it makes me slack-jawed.  And… I drool a little if I’m not careful.  It’s gross and awful.  So I left my pdoc a message this morning about switching to something else.  I don’t know what, though.  I’ve been on so many atypical antipsychotics.  Risperdal, Geodon, Seroquel, Latuda, Invega… I’m sure I’m missing one or two.  I’m running out of things to try.  I may have to just accept the drooling.  God, it’s disgusting even to talk about.

It’s not even helping much on the hallucination/delusion front.  This morning I spent three hours with the awful feeling of wearing tall socks, like my lower legs had tight fabric on them.  I wasn’t wearing any socks, and my jeans are straight leg and are barely touching there most of the time.  I hate wearing socks because of that very sensation, so it was rather unpleasant.  Not as bad as many of the ones I’ve had, but still uncomfortable.  Other recent mental stuff includes thinking every single thing the Naiad said was a lie, even statements like “I have to go to the bathroom” (paranoia that she was leaving the room to contact Them because she was spying on us); and thinking that my first name is not actually my name and I have a secret name, that even I don’t know, that’s my true name.  And that’s just been in the last 24 hours.  Yeah, the Risperdal’s not doing much at all.

Emotionally I’ve been rather fragile, but not moreso than what’s become usual lately.  I’m not getting angry so much, but when I get anxious it escalates quickly.  And I’ve been depressed, but that’s not new.  (17 days until my HRT appointment!)

Recent events: the Naiad was here this weekend and it was lovely.  She and I watched the Valkyrie play Infamous: Second Son a whole bunch, and we beat the game twice — once as a hero and once as a villain.  The bad ending was absolutely heartbreaking.  It made me want to go back and do the good ending again just to make me less sad about the bad one.  That game is one of the best I’ve ever seen.  The writing was fantastic, the characterization was amazing, the main character wasn’t white (which I only mention because of how fucking rare that is in Western games), the villains had depth and were interesting (frequently misguided but with good intentions instead of being cartoonishly evil)… Just fantastic all around in terms of story.  The Valkyrie enjoyed the gameplay a bunch, too.

I also got some knitting and spinning done.  I wanted to do some reading, but it’s hard to do when in the same room as the Valkyrie.  She gets frustrated if I’m sitting six feet away from her and she can’t talk to me, but I am incapable of switching my concentration between reading and talking so I usually have to take my book elsewhere.  And then she misses me.  It’s nice to be so loved, and I love her equally much, but sometimes I just want to spend a few hours undisturbed with a book.  I’m reading The Lady Tasting Tea, a history of statistics (as a field of research).  It’s fascinating and well-written, and I’ve been trying to finish it for a couple of weeks now.  Argh.  Normally I can finish books in a day or two, provided I have a few stretches of uninterrupted reading time.  And the Naiad gave me three books for Christmas that I’m looking forward to.  And then there’s all my personally-chosen unread books.  Maybe I can carve out some reading time today.  It’s supposed to be 68 outside today, maybe I’ll sit on the patio and read for a while…

Busy fucking day!

Wake up early.  Shower.  Breakfast with a friend (local donut place; butterscotch donuts are amazing). Home for a few minutes.  Post office.  2 hours at the doctor’s office (just to get a new thyroid script, FFS).  Vet (for kitty meds as the babbies had tapeworms).  Pick up lunch.  Home for a quick bite.  Craft store.  Pet store.  Grocery store.  Home.  Put away groceries.  Take care of Valkyrie.  Make soup in crock pot.  Spend 45 minutes attempting tech support for BFF (I failed, sadly).

So tired…  I’m going to watch a video on how colors work in weaving and then sleep for a year.

Couple of random things I wanted to mention:

Superpretzel frozen pretzels, when warmed, taste fucking awesome when dipped in salsa con queso.  I did not eat healthy today.  Do not care.

I would not ride a motorcycle, because I would kill myself.  I would totally ride a trike, though.  Don’t care if they’re silly.  They look fun.  And less deadly.

Blurry, grainy photos terrify me.  Like this one:

I don’t know why.  I am also terrified by faceless people.  This explains why grainy Photoshopped pictures of Slender Man make me outright panic.  I hate Slender Man.  Even when the Valkyrie jokes about Mark Slenderman, Tax Attorney.  Because faceless lawyers are even worse.  Fitting, but worse.

I’m going to download some historical banned books from Project Gutenberg, inspired by this article from the Stuff You Missed in History Class podcast.  (I love that show.)  I’ve read a few of them, but not most.  I think I’ll start with The Well of Loneliness, because yay queer literature.

Okay, video then bed.  Or maybe just bed.

How I’m doing

I haven’t been blogging much, because things have been fairly calm lately.  I’ve been in pretty good shape, mentally.  Occasional blips of weird feelings and minor hallucinations, but for the most part I’ve been happy and productive and enjoying myself.  I’m working on getting stuff straightened out to resume my education when the new semester starts in two weeks, too.

Crafting stuff:

— I finished the houndstooth scarf I was making.  Just needs the fringe tied and a wet-finishing.  I’m hoping to mail it to Sam Luke (Hatchworth in Steam-Powered Giraffe) on Friday.  It was somewhat difficult to make.  The houndstooth pattern itself isn’t hard, but beating each pick evenly so all the checks are the same size is difficult.  I had to reweave some sections because of that.  But it turned out great.  Hope Sam likes it.  I realized as I was on the last pick of the scarf that oh yeah, it’s wool and he’s vegan, but I asked him about it on Twitter and he said it’s fine.  Awesome.

— Made slippers for myself.  They were too small, so I gave them to BFF and knit myself a larger pair.

— I finished Awesome Niece’s pride shawl.  she adored it.

— Knit a cowl and two scarves from handspun.  They’re quite nice.  I’m doing another scarf from handspun right now.

I haven’t been spinning, because the babbies (who are doing wonderfully, even though I was mean and had them neutered last week) knocked over my wheel a couple of weeks ago and it bent my Woolee Winder shaft.  I didn’t have the money to send it off for repairs until last week, so all my spinning has been on spindles.  I’m enjoying it, but I miss my wheel.

Books:

— I’m reading Alden Amos’ Big Book of Handspinning.  It’s a very dense, technical book about the entire spinning process, but the author has a wonderful sense of humor.  He wore these great, hilarious footnotes, and sometimes makes snarky comments in the text itself.  It makes the book that much better.

— Speaking of hilarious, Cory O’Brien’s Zeus Grants Stupid Wishes is the best retelling of myths that I’ve ever seen.  I’ve been crying with laughter at several points in the book, and I only just finished chapter two.  O’Brien is the genius behind Myths Retold, and…  Seriously.  Go look.  Right now.

— I’ve finished book three of Charles Stross’ Laundry Files series.  Great fun.

I think that’s everything for now.  I’ll try to post more often…

Kismet love

I saw a reference to a book by Hill Country Weavers called Kismet: weaving was bound to meet knit & crochet. Holy crap, y’all. I’m in love with these patterns. I want to make this:

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And I want to use this fringing technique on the shawl in progress.

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It’s going to look stunning, methinks. In addition to beautiful patterns, I learned a lot about putting edging on weaving and how to treat hems and such. I highly, highly recommend this!