Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Wednesday Factoid: Time Management

Today's Wednesday Factoid is: How good are you at time management?

I'd say pretty good! Better than most people, I guess. I'm relatively good at figuring out how long something will take and giving myself a generous amount of time to complete it, and I also tend to be the type of person who does NOT procrastinate; if I know I have to do something, I feel better if I do it ASAP and not have to worry about whether it's done. I was always that kid doing homework on the way home on the bus, wanting to get it finished so I could rest easily and breathe.

I tend to have a pretty good amount of motivation, too, and to be honest I wouldn't have thought it was unusual if people didn't comment on it all the time. Because I have SO many things I want to do and I almost always feel like I'm falling short, even though other people keep telling me I get a lot done. Objectively, I can see that I do a ton of stuff and that most people don't do what I do. But since I am only accomplishing a fraction of what I wish I were, I don't feel like I'm doing anything out of the ordinary. And it's kind of a motivation killer if you keep comparing yourself to other people, so maybe that's why I tend not to look and end up with an unrealistic assessment of how much I SHOULD be able to do.

Lately I have fallen short of many things I want to do, most notably writing new fiction, and secondarily keeping up with communication online and maintaining/updating some of my websites, but I've gotten MORE done in areas like teaching myself a new instrument, drawing a lot, and getting more reading done. It seems like I'm always unhappy with some aspect of my productivity, and trying to do it all just makes me exhausted, so I guess this is how it's going to be.

But all things considered, if there is something I MUST do, I tend to have it very well planned out and executed in plenty of time. The times I end up leaving stuff until the last minute almost always shakes out to my having had to depend on someone else to do their part. I try not to be a jerk about it because I've come to realize almost everyone procrastinates as a way of life, and I don't want to be That Jerk, but yeah, sometimes it irks me if I'm in a situation where I have to wait for someone to do their thing before I can do my thing and there's nothing I can do about it.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

He's more than just a troll

Here's a thing I find frustrating.

"Just ignore him! He's trolling."


"They're trolls, just trying to get a rise out of you. It's just an annoying hobby. They wouldn't behave like that in real life." 

Real life.

So there's this tendency to suggest things that happen on the Internet aren't "real" things, and that therefore crime, harassment, deliberate lying, and invasion of privacy cannot possibly have any real-life consequences. Oh, and also, that if they do have real-life consequences, it's because the victims "let them." 

First of all, "it's because you let them get to you" is only remotely true in the cases where the harassment or other horrible behaviors are happening entirely online. If the only harassment someone is getting are gross Twitter messages and they delete their Twitter account, in a way I guess that's problem solved. People keep saying these eleven-year-olds who are experiencing online bullying should just have their parents take their phones away and then maybe they won't be suicidal. But considering online harassment is rarely contained entirely online, that doesn't help much (especially since if you're being bullied and you stop responding, people out to hurt you often look for other ways to hurt you). And beyond that, writing lies or starting smear campaigns or inciting harassment online can still cause direct consequences even if you don't know about it--it can be attached to your name or online handle and used against you, sometimes to result in sustained harassment campaigns from people associated with whoever initially targeted you.

On top of that, "it's because you let them get to you" is a victim-blaming perspective. Victims of bullying and harassment do not "let" someone have an effect on them. Certainly there are available coping strategies and some people are more resilient than others, but that doesn't mean we should focus on the people being targeted and send them the message that they are responsible for "handling" their harassment a particular way instead of holding the harassers responsible. 

And finally . . . 

Stop absolving "trolls" of responsibility because they think it's fun to harass people without risking their personal embarrassment or bodily harm.

When you're a jerk in person you may find that people avoid you or want to hurt you. There is nothing less serious or less harmful about causing harm to others from a place where they can't connect your behavior to you. It isn't less of a jerky thing to do if you single someone out online and target them with hate for some "crime" (like being awkward on a video, or singing poorly, or being a social minority or part of a marginalized population, or having a different opinion from you about a video game). 

He's just a troll, though!

What's a troll, in the opinion of these people? Is it different because supposedly the troll doesn't actually espouse the beliefs they're spouting? (And that's arguable, too, because many, many, MANY people who pretend to be "devil's advocates" are saying what they actually believe under cover of a thought experiment because they want to test the waters or not be connected to their actual opinion if it turns out to be unpopular.) And even if the person is saying something because they know it's controversial or designed specifically to upset someone/push their buttons . . . how is that less of an assholish thing to do just because the person doing it might not actually believe it? Isn't it potentially worse to do something just because you want to hurt someone, not because you're legitimately arguing your side?

Trolls are not lesser jerks because they're "just trolling."

They are hiding behind online anonymity and they are deliberately hurting, sometimes terrorizing people.

And let's not ignore that the victims of such hate campaigns are usually vulnerable people. People from marginalized groups who are already bullied and less accepted in society, who have had to go against the grain to a sometimes great extent to even live their lives in truth, and then they're put in the crosshairs and held under a microscope, harassed for whatever the main "complaint" is as well as having whatever other public behavior they've recorded put on blast by trolls.

Trolls are honestly pretty poorly understood, and the effect they have on people they hurt is so, so minimized. It shouldn't be socially acceptable to be a troll or defend one. And yet time after time after time I hear people doing it, again blaming the recipients of their hatred for reacting to it incorrectly. 

And if you've heard they "go away" if you ignore them, you are wrong.

Yes, it is true that they're encouraged when they succeed in causing or contributing to a messy public breakdown. But that isn't the only thing that keeps trolls going. You can block comments, limit your online engagement, refuse to engage anytime someone is out to target you. But not only does that make said trolls step up their game because they perceive that you're not open to criticism or feedback--it also leads to them finding other ways to harass you in person (if they're determined) and going after anyone who supports you. For minor incidents, it usually doesn't go this far, true. But if you're talking about trolling that is a consistent problem, even one or two determined trolls can take their toll, and when it's bigger than one or two, it takes far more than a toll. It can limit your opportunities, scare you and your family, lead to problems with productivity because of having to restrict how and whether you release online content or allow feedback, and increase stress and anxiety. (All this is assuming the trolls are not violent, which has also happened.)

I once had a so-called troll try to attach my legal name to accusations of pedophilia, because he figured someone who was asexual was actually probably just a sexual deviant and needed to be shamed for it. I mean, either that or he did it for the lulz. Calculate, if you desire, the difference my troll's intention makes in what happens to me if someone believes the accusations and finds them while googling my name for a job interview. 

I am very sick of the idea that a troll's "real" personality is not reflected in what they choose to do with their time. It makes zero difference to me if they're doing it because they hate what I stand for or because they think my suffering might be amusing. Someone who takes pleasure in hurting others is not a good person, nor are they just engaging in a harmless hobby. They are intentionally seeking to harm. The whole POINT is to harm. They're not doing it to joke around with someone who's in on the joke or ribbing them back. They're not teaching their victims a lesson. They're not sending a message or convincing a person to change their message. They're creating a violent, antagonistic environment where people who create content are expected to endure dedicated personal harassment as a natural consequence of creating that content.

Being harassed isn't a "natural" consequence of being a content creator. Stop saying haters gonna hate as if that excuses what trolls are choosing to do. They're not weather or disease or earthquakes that "happen." They are individuals, deciding to make life worse for someone else, and if it happens in "real life" we tend to avoid those people. Though of course some types of bullies succeed in offline life too. We need to stop enabling them through excuses--especially since it sends the message to victims that it is their responsibility to react properly (or to stop being so bullyable). I'm sick of being told that standing up for my causes comes paired with inevitable trolls who should not be blamed for THEIR behavior. Stop supporting the message that being an online harasser is something fun that everyone's done once in a while. (And I'd also appreciate it if you'd stop pretending it only becomes serious when and if a kid commits suicide over it, at which point some people still say the real problem was that their parents didn't teach them not to take online life so seriously.)

He's a troll, but he's not just a troll. He's also a bully, a harasser, a nasty person, and possibly a criminal. Doing it online, facelessly, or in the name of squeezing some suffering out of a victim for his own amusement does not make his actions less awful. And if you're a good person yourself who would not engage in this crappy behavior, please stop protecting people like him under the excuse of free speech or the minimization of their victims' suffering.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Personal Digest Saturday: August 19 – August 25

Life news this week: 
  • Saturday morning my mom texted and said she decided she should go to the hospital, so I went with her and stayed with her in the emergency room until she got admitted, and then I stayed with her the whole day pretty much. I brought some stuff to do but didn't do any of it. It seemed like she was in good hands though and I went home to do some blog stuff and get some rest.
  • Sunday I found out my mom was doing pretty well but she would still have to stay in the hospital so I went to her house for her and got some of the stuff she wanted, and then went to the hospital again and spent the day there with her. I got some digital drawing done and had lots of good chats with her. I was mostly just happy to see her eat stuff. Besides that, I just did a few music things and tuckered out. The duet I recorded got another feature on the front page of that site I like.
  • Monday I had to go to work but my mom got released from the hospital and was well enough to drive herself home. I missed the bus because I was tired but it all worked out. The eclipse was mostly uneventful for where I was, but we tried to look at it. I did a transcript at the office and dealt with some stuff regarding a new employee. Jeaux invited me out for Moe's food so we got together and then I went home and did some drawing.
  • Tuesday it was more transcripts for me. I went home after work, talked to my dad on the phone, did some planning for upcoming comics, and played with some new toys: Steven Universe building sets from McFarlane. I built 4 out of the 6 sets I got.
  • Wednesday I hired movers and did some housekeeping. I met up with Jeaux after work and we ate at Vallarta's, listened to Night Vale, watched People of Earth and Wrecked, and played with my toys. I stayed up all night building the remaining two sets! It was fun.
  • Thursday I worked on a proposal all day at work, took a nap after work, and talked to Victor while drawing my comic.
  • Friday was eventful! I had to work and stayed late working on a proposal, and then my friend Eric picked me up and we went to Drink and Draw straight from the office. I drew a comic and some fanart, hung out with my friends, and ate the vegetarian sandwich I love so much. :)
Reading progress:
    New singing performances:

    This week I performed "Nothing Compares 2 U" by Sinéad O'Connor.


    New drawings: 

    First: a series of three drawings I did for a collaboration I'm doing with a writer on Amino. (I'm illustrating the story.) These are all hand-drawn and hand-inked, then digitally colored. It's a weird combination.

    And here's a digital doodle I did of a very early version of Garnet that people tend to call "Cotton Candy Garnet" for obvious reasons. (I doodled this while I was hanging out in the hospital.) This is entirely digital--there were no physical drawings for this one.

    And then there was a very silly thingie I did where I drew Garnet marrying herself. And her family is so proud.

    Webcomic Negative One Issue 0641: "Fast Song."

    New videos:

    My latest unlisted ukulele video is a duet from Steven Universe: "What Can I Do (For You)," which is sung by Rose Quartz and Greg Universe--Steven's parents. The Greg part is supposed to have a rockin' guitar solo at the end while Rose goes off to dance with someone else, which is why I go "bye" at the end.

    It got featured on the front page of Steven Universe Amino! (And if you want to see how the original sounds, here is a good link to "What Can I Do (For You)" from the show.)

    New photos:

    Let's just say my photos of the eclipse were not great.
    My completed McFarlane Toy sets.
    Joy drew Ducky at Drink and Draw.
    My sleepy squint at Drink and Draw.

    Social Media Counts:

    YouTube subscribers: 5,288 for swankivy (lost 2), 650 for JulieSondra (1 new). Twitter followers: 877 for swankivy (3 new), 1,338 for JulieSondra (no change). Facebook: 293 friends (lost 1--I unfriended someone) and 203 followers (no change) for swankivy, 657 likes for JulieSondra (no change), 54 likes for Negative One (lost 1), 126 likes for So You Write (no change). Tumblr followers: 2,505 (3 new). Instagram followers: 121 (no change).

    Thursday, August 24, 2017

    Staring at Screens

    I've got a bone to pick with the people who keep making disparaging comments about "this younger generation that's always staring at screens."

    I stare at screens a lot. I stare at screens at work, and then I come home and stare at my computer, and in between I'm staring at my phone a lot. I am indeed probably more tied in with Internet-based interaction than most people, especially most people my age. I'm aware of that.

    What I think most people don't acknowledge is I'm creating various forms of media online, and some of the time I spend staring at screens is associated with creating and sharing those creations, as well as following up on the feedback and interaction I get as a result. It's not like I'm killing time or playing games.

    And if I was, that's not really your business to judge either.

    That said, "she's on the computer" or "she's on her phone again" is an oversimplified assessment of what's going on. I might look to you like I'm "on my phone" or "playing on the computer," but I could be composing something, talking to a friend, replying to a blog comment, giving someone advice, adjusting a website, uploading a comic or blog, working on an art project, writing a new piece, responding to an e-mail, doing research, reading for pleasure, checking the news, or seeing what's going on with my friends. People who do not use these tools for some or most of these activities tend to oversimplify so they can package it up and judge it.

    And here's another thing. People who do not communicate or create using these tools tend to devalue them. They sneer at digital art saying it's not a real form of art, or that it isn't as authentic because there's nothing you can hold, or suggest it's cheating because there's this perception that you're relying on a utility to provide shortcuts instead of requiring you to learn actual art techniques. I would like to see someone who is not artistic use a digital art program to make something, that's for sure. It isn't a shortcut. And at least for me, it's not easier at first. What about the benefits? Once you have the tools (the program and the drawing apparatus), it costs nothing. I can make as many comics as I want and never have to buy paper or refill my expensive markers. It's also very portable. I took my small, old drawing tablet to the hospital over the weekend to sit with my mom, and I didn't have to have with me all my different inking pens and markers or paper. I can't run out. All I needed was my computer and the tablet.

    I can read books on my computer. I was reading a book on my phone yesterday. If I go on a trip I can bring multiple books with me and take up no space in my suitcase, and I don't have to buy a newspaper to find out what's going on in the world. No one is suggesting that digital media must entirely replace print media, and many people still buy physical copies of their favorite media.

    But you Millennials don't even go outside anymore, I keep hearing Baby Boomers say, despite that a) their generation certainly still watches television and b) I keep getting mistaken for a Millennial despite being Generation X because of what I believe and how I use the Internet.

    Yes, Boomers, I do go outside. I also use the technology you were too busy hating to learn to use it for my creative passions. 

    But you Internet-addicted kids are ruining your eyes and your posture and getting Carpal Tunnel Syndrome because you can't tear yourselves away from your screens for a second.

    Actually healthy habits minimize risk. I cannot pretend to know for sure whether I'm overdoing it on screen time and setting myself up for eye strain and other problems, but so far as a very active computer user since 1996, I have no known eye problems and have never experienced any health problems that I can trace to computer use. I learned good typing posture in my high school typing class and have consistently used it, believe it or not--if you ever watch me when I type, I do so sitting straight up with my wrists lifted like a pianist. It's just a habit.

    The same as you shouldn't hand down doom and gloom to an athlete just because it's possible they will get injured due to accident, poor habits, or bad luck, you shouldn't barge in with unresearched opinions about how risky their computer habits are. Especially since you are probably assuming they have unhealthy habits without even asking them. These folks would be super unlikely to say to a sports enthusiast "well people get hurt doing sports all the time, so you're going to be sorry."

    But nobody talks to anybody anymore. You're just absorbed in your own little world because you're attached to your phone.

    Yes, look on the bus and you'll see most of the passengers absorbed in something on their phone.

    Same in an airport. Same in a waiting room. Same at a gathering during a lull.

    This is not a new thing, though. The phones themselves are relatively new. But people have always been in search of non-disruptive, private entertainment in public places. Some of these people who criticize the phone behavior of Millennials act like before phones arrived and Destroyed Everything, people all Knew Their Neighbors and Made Friends on Public Transportation.

    Go back twenty years. A lot of newspapers and Walkman players in those airports and waiting rooms. A lot of people absorbed in private universes.

    I'm sure the generation before them had something judgmental to say about it, too.

    But believe me, the kind of person who talks to strangers on a bus, in a waiting room, in an airport . . . they're still doing it. Most of us don't. Most of us never did.

    It's similar with this fictional complaint about selfie culture. That Millennials must be obsessed with themselves and think they're very important because they're always showing the Internet pictures of themselves and their food, like anyone cares.

    But humans have always been obsessed with themselves. We took family pictures and school portraits. Before photography, people only had the option to fix their images in artists' renditions, and they sure as hell did it. We do this to mark who we are and where we are and what we are doing so we can share it to others in different places and times. We have ALWAYS done this, though the medium is different and there may be more of it now because it is so easy. And in a culture that increasingly incorporates members of one's social circle who may live far away, physical reminders of our existence make the distance more tolerable. Not just so we can see each other, but so we can insert everyday existence into long-distance life. 

    There's nothing momentous or documentation-worthy about meeting you for coffee and seeing your face, but I do get to see your face. When you're far away, I can't. If you send me a picture where you're having coffee somewhere and somewhen else, I feel more like I'm in your life. People who sneer at technology and "selfie culture" tend to claim these everyday portraits of our lives are based on obsession or need for attention, and that they're cluttering up the information stream with banal details, apparently do not understand that human existence tends to be interactive and personalized. Of course I don't need to see what my sister made for dinner. But if I see that tofu dish on her Instagram, I feel I've shared a bit of her everyday existence that I would have shared if I was near her, but don't get to because she is not nearby.

    We reassure each other through these unimportant actions that we are casually, comfortably in each other's lives. That we haven't vanished--that we're alive and well--that we still like the same things or are evolving toward different things. Maybe details we wouldn't have thought to mention in a letter or telephone conversation will come up in an everyday view of someone's social media. Oh, you got a haircut! Wow, your baby is smiling now. Did you get a new doggie? I like those shoes, where did you get them? You went to a knitting event--how interesting, do you have any thoughts on where I can learn?

    No, these items are not world-shaking news.

    Why should they have to be?

    Why is regular communication with people far away from me, or people I've never met in person, automatically assumed by so many to be inauthentic or superficial?

    You don't do it, and you don't understand it, so you have to pass judgment, concluding that Everything Was Better In Your Day. Didn't you hate it when people said that to you when you were younger? Do you find yourself thinking that in your case it objectively IS true that things were better in your day? Do you understand that every generation is different and you're allowed to not like or not participate in some aspect of it--but that this does not require you to shame them or judge them?

    You didn't ask me what I'm staring at on the screen. You leaped right to the part where you get to assume it is unimportant or banal, and you judged me for it. Furthermore, every time someone offers a justification you actually accept for staring at a screen, you simply excuse it That One Time instead of modifying your overall understanding of how people engage with the world nowadays, because I guess it's more comfortable to believe nothing of importance or interest is happening in places you can't or don't access.

    There are certainly Internet-based behaviors younger people engage in that are irresponsible or not particularly productive. Let's face it, you had your own version of these. It's not all pure and good, because nothing is. And I'm sure some of them unfairly and ignorantly judge your life, interests, and preferences--this is not just a clear-cut case of the older generations being snotty to the younger ones. But I'm not here to defend or explain any of that. I am writing about this phenomenon because I'm consistently getting judged by people older than me (sometimes through abstractions about Internet Users and People Who Use Hashtags, but sometimes explicitly by someone I know). It isn't necessary to share your opinion about what I must be doing and how low its value probably is, because I know way more than you do about what I was doing and why it's important. You're clearly not sharing a message I'm going to be receptive to or one that will provide a needed wake-up call or a life-improving piece of advice. You're just . . . judging. Sneering. Concluding we must be egocentric youths who are incapable of having a worthwhile conversation, wrapped up in our tiny worlds of Snapchat and photo filters.

    The world is much, much bigger than you probably ever knew. Most members of a younger generation will be quite willing to shed some light on their behaviors if you are authentically interested and can ask your questions without condescension.We're impressed and interested when you didn't grow up with this technology but want to know how it can help you. Talk to a person, I say, as you complain that no one talks to each other anymore without trying to talk to anyone. Ask a Millennial.

    And no, you do not have to learn to use Twitter before they'll talk to you.


    Wednesday, August 23, 2017

    Wednesday Factoid: Pampering

    Today's Wednesday Factoid is: How do you pamper yourself?

    When the time comes to "pamper yourself," I guess the usual things that come to mind are going to a spa and getting some kind of "indulgent" service like a massage or a beauty treatment, or maybe taking a luxurious bath, but I don't actually like any of those things. (I'd consider getting a professional massage someday, though, maybe.)

    I think the best most pampering thing I can think of that I would like is being able to stay in bed in comfortable clothes drinking coffee and eating a certain kind of homemade cookies with the coffee, watching cartoons or reading while I relax. Honestly I just LOVE Sunday mornings where I get to just laze around with nowhere to be and nothing to rush into. I might also draw something that's not "due" anywhere or spend some time fiddling with goofy things on my website.

    Another thing I really love is breakfast. I love breakfast food and I consider the rare treat of getting to have a leisurely breakfast of several yummy foods to be a nice pampering opportunity.

    And a nice pampery treat is also going out for sushi with Meghan or boba tea with Victor! I feel so content when I do those things.

    OOH! And when it's cold? I LOVE burrowing under a nice fuzzy blanket. It can be a big heavy one like the one I have that's purple and so warm, or it can be an electric blanket. 

    Saturday, August 19, 2017

    Personal Digest Saturday: August 12 – August 18

    Life news this week: 
    • Saturday I was supposed to see a house but the people canceled, so I stayed in all day and worked on some digital art. It looks cool but I don't know what I'm doing yet. I texted with my sister P a lot and did some organizing, and made a Letters to an Asexual video.
    • Sunday I did chores and made some digital art for a collaboration I'm doing, but I'm not done yet. I played my new ukulele in a video for the first time and I love the sound! I talked to my dad on the phone and . . . STARTED PACKING MY FIRST BOXES. It's emotional.
    • Monday I had a bunch of proposal and letter stuff to do at work. I posted an analysis of my favorite character's speech patterns and it got featured on the Amino app's front page. This is the 26th time I've been featured there. It's kind of unreal. I left work early so I could go see a house. It was beautiful! I really fell in love with it, especially its trees. I was enthusiastic about it and you can see what I thought in a blog post I wrote. Then I took a bus home but there was a glitch on the bus app that led to me giving up and deliberately taking the bus going the wrong way, assuming it would eventually start going the right way. (Too bad that took literally hours.) So yeah I rode a bus kind of all afternoon and into the evening and walked home in the dark. I was pretty beat and I just had time to fill out an application for the house I'd seen before I slept early.
    • Tuesday I worked from home. I had some transcripts to do and an inconveniently scheduled makeup appointment for the house I was supposed to see Saturday. I knocked out the work and made it to my appointment, and the house was also beautiful but had a little less character and also was disappointingly far from transit, and living there would have me spending over 4 hours on a bus every day to get to work, so I decided I would go with the other house if they would accept me. And then they did! I got paperwork that afternoon and decided to sign it! I got approved for renting a house! (Barely. I just barely make enough money to hit three times the rent if I include my book earnings! Isn't that wild?) I also talked to my mommy who's still sick and did some drawing.
    • Wednesday at work I did another transcript and not much else happened except Jeaux got the news he got a new job! The job he's been waiting for finally hired him. After work we went out to Macaroni Grill to celebrate and had a great time. Then we biked to the grocery store and home. Watched our showsPeople of Earth and Wrecked and after he left I checked with my mom again and she was still doing crappy but didn't want me to come over.
    • Thursday I worked on a proposal at the office, and after work I went to the grocery store for my mom and sort of forced myself on her, haha. She was glad to have me though. She was very sick and I stayed with her, and we had some really nice chats. I decided to stay with her overnight, so I slept in her guestroom.
    • Friday I woke up at my mom's and stayed with her most of the day, working from home. I did a transcript and some proposal preparation for my boss. Mom was still not doing well but I went home to do some things and told her to call me if she needed me, but we just texted off and on into the night. I got my webcomic done and that was the end of the night for me.
    New Reviews of my book:
    Reading progress:
    • Finished this week: I was really busy with house-hunting and helping my mom this week so I didn't quite finish the book I was reading.
    • Currently reading: This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp.
      New singing performances:

      This week I performed "What About Love?" by Heart.


      New drawings: 

      I tried digital coloring--the drawings were done on paper, but I colored them on my computer. This is a series of drawings with Garnet and Greg's relationship evolution.

      And then I tried a couple drawings that were entirely digital! These are test drawings of Garnet using digital sketches, digital coloring, and one alternate shading technique--don't know what I like better.

      And here's an entirely digital, sketchy-only doodle of Amethyst and Steven that will eventually be part of a comic.

      Webcomic Negative One Issue 0640: "Hard to Live With."

      New videos:

      My latest asexuality video is Letters to an Asexual #49It's about people who claim they want to be educated, but are insulting and condescending from the getgo, and really think we can't tell that they aren't actually curious so much as want to argue with simplistic, incorrect "scientific" ideas they don't fully understand.

      My latest unlisted ukulele video is "There's a Fine, Fine Line" from the musical Avenue Q. This is my new ukulele's video debut!

      New photos:

      Me with my Ivysaur plush 'cause I'm a nerd.

      Social Media Counts:

      YouTube subscribers: 5,290 for swankivy (lost 1), 649 for JulieSondra (1 new). Twitter followers: 874 for swankivy (lost 3), 1,338 for JulieSondra (lost 1). Facebook: 294 friends (lost 1--don't know who) and 203 followers (no change) for swankivy, 657 likes for JulieSondra (lost 1), 55 likes for Negative One (no change), 126 likes for So You Write (lost 1). Tumblr followers: 2,502 (3 new). Instagram followers: 121 (1 new).

      Thursday, August 17, 2017

      A house, and expectations

      So I'm pretty sure I found a house to move into!

      I had quite a bit more time to make a decision if I wanted to, but I really don't like uncertainty and it was important to me to find where I was moving to so I could do stuff like set up the moving truck and make arrangements to get carpets or additional furniture and stuff. (I want to get another bed so I can have a guest bedroom, and probably a few more bookshelves and knickknack shelves.) So after looking at a few places, I found a house I liked and I applied to rent it.

      I saw the house on Monday. While waiting for the real estate agent to show me the inside, I walked around to the side and peeked in the backyard. Immediately I met these two trees.

      I wasn't expecting two! I saw just one in the listing's photo. So these trees will be my new neighbors. (I'm sure they're quieter than the ones I have upstairs now. Ugh.)

      There was a kind of weird situation where when I showed up two other people (who were together) were also waiting for the same agent for the same time slot. Neither of us were told we'd be seeing the house together, and the agent herself seemed surprised because she thought we were all part of the same group, even though she had texted me before showing up because she was running late and they also knew her name and were waiting for her. Still don't know how that happened, but it was fine. 

      The house is pretty cute. It has a weird layout, kinda non-traditional with two bathrooms, three bedrooms, and an extra room with no clear purpose. 

      Long, slim main room (it's bigger than it looks)
      A bedroom

      It also has a two-car garage with washer-dryer hookups out there, and there's recycling pickup which is something I really wanted since my apartment doesn't have it and I have to sneak my recycling into neighborhood people's bins on pickup nights, and it's got a kitchen that is really awesome compared to what I'm used to. (They're redoing the cabinets before someone moves in, but it's nice, and it has a little side place for if you want a table.)

      The house had really good energy and so much storage space, and looked well taken care of. The front lawn is smallish with little patio stones you can walk on up to the front door. I love it, basically.

      The only down sides I was worried about:

      • It's a little closer to my old neighborhood than I would have liked. When I first moved to Tampa I lived in a not-so-good neighborhood and there were multiple break-ins in the parking lot and homes while I lived there, and almost every day walking from the bus stop men would scream at me from cars, try to get my number, or follow me home. Scary.
      • The house is on a well and septic system, which I've never dealt with as an adult before.
      • The rent is at the tippy top of my rent range and I wasn't 100% sure I'd even qualify, since you have to make 3 times the rent.
      • I would be responsible for the lawn, unlike some options I've considered like townhomes in communities.
      But these answers to those worries have made me decide to go for it:

      • My friend looked up the area and said it's a low crime area; it's across the street from a golf course; I walked around the neighborhood and it was quiet and nothing alarming happened; and I stood on a street corner for at least 20 minutes waiting for the bus and not a single person screamed at me.
      • The homeowner is responsible for maintenance of the well and septic system. The only down side is that the water might taste a little different.
      • I just barely qualified on income because . . . I included my book earnings! I guess that combined with having really good credit and an incredibly stable rental history adds up to a good tenant.
      • I can look into what it takes to hire helpers to maintain the lawn.

      After looking into my background and whatnot, I seem to have been selected to move in and September 1 is the day I have to start paying rent and get my keys. I won't be actually moving on September 1, because I have until September 30 to get out of my current place, but that will give me time to make some decisions about how to use the space before I have to lumber into it with all my crap. I've submitted everything I'm supposed to and am waiting for a lease to sign.

      But here's the funny thing.

      I knew it would be possibly looked at as a little weird that I'm one adult looking for a house that size, so I was very specific where I was able to be that this is the case, so they wouldn't think I had undisclosed residents or was avoiding disclosing another adult so I wouldn't have to pay application fees on them or something. After my initial application, I received an e-mail containing follow-up questions, and they wanted photos of my pets. I just said I didn't have any pets, even though that had already been a question on the application. I figured it was just a form letter anyway.

      And then the next mail came advising me that my first month's rent had been accepted and they're drawing up a lease, and I need to send them my children's full names. (Plural.) So they can be listed as occupants.

      As this mail was in response to a message where I'd specifically said I was a single adult with no other adults or dependents or pets, I thought it was a little peculiar. I was kinda worried at that point that they had me confused with someone else. But the representative just said okay and that's been it so far.

      I saw another house after I was pretty sure I was going to get this one but before I signed for it. It was a lovely house too but I think transportation would be a problem--getting to the buses isn't easy from this place, and it would take me more than TWO HOURS to get to work. I just . . . I can't spend four and a half hours on a bus every day just to go to work. I decided it was probably better for me to go to where I can get the bus more easily and I liked the first house better anyway. (From there it's a shorter bus ride than I have now!) I took a paid ride from Uber to get there and back. On the way back, my Uber driver chatted about what I was doing (as you do), and when she found out I was a single person trying for a three-bedroom house, she was like "you don't have no kids?" I said no, and she said "then you've GOT to be a dog or cat mama, right?" I said no and she made a weird sound and said "Awww, but you NEEEEEEEEED a best FRIEND!"

      I'm no stranger to people offering me pity because they think my life must be lonely or pathetic, but you know, this irked me. Even the person who's driving me home from a house visit is dismayed over my supposedly unenviable life, and it seemed like everything I did in the pursuit of my next home was set up to remind me that this isn't how you're supposed to do it. If you want a three-bedroom house, surely you have two incomes to help qualify you and you have people coming with you to occupy those rooms. You probably have animals. You probably have kids. What is a person doing with their life if they're trying to establish semi-permanent residence in such a place despite their expectation of living alone?

      I'm not actively prevented from pursuing my desired lifestyle, but I did wonder whether I would be thought dishonest or suspected of being a dangerous person because my living situation is atypical. It's no secret that people immediately default to assuming the worst about people like me--we're cold, we're inhuman, we're hard to relate to, we might snap one day and become the next violent news story. For people who actually know me, that would be laughable, and many of my friends have suggested I'm one of the most warm and honest and personable and and giving people they've ever met. But on paper, if you don't have "normal relationships," people wonder about you, and assume you don't have them because you can't because something is probably off about you, and who wants to take a chance renting to someone with these warning signs if you can just as easily take the next qualified applicant, with their kids and their puppies?

      Anyway, assuming everything goes forward as it's supposed to, I'm looking forward to making a home here. The kind of home I want. 

      Not looking forward to packing and moving, though. Not at all.

      Wednesday, August 16, 2017

      Wednesday Factoid: Abandoned Hobbies

      Today's Wednesday Factoid is: Did you ever have a hobby that you never do anymore?

      Hmmm. I guess there have been a few. Most things I like doing I keep doing, but it's true that like most people I can move on from things I don't do anymore. Hobby-wise, maybe one of them is macramé.

      My mom had a macramé business in the 1970s when I was little-little.

      Sometime during middle school, something jogged my mom to teach my sister and me some macramé knots and I made a bunch of small projects. Nothing really super huge, but I believe I made at least one plant holder and a bunch of jewelry. I would get very ambitious with the design of the jewelry and make pieces too elaborate and heavy to wear.

      Later I incorporated my macramé knot knowledge into making the ever-popular friendship bracelets. I made a ton of bracelets in colors requested by other people using half knots and square knots. I would tape the top of my four strands to my dresser and make a bracelet in minutes. I wasn't very good at figuring out the best ways to attach them, though. 

      To this day I retain my knowledge of how to tie half knots, square knots, and crown knots, but I guess the interest in friendship bracelets ran its course and I didn't really care to make anything else. I still have my thread in a craft drawer. :)

      Saturday, August 12, 2017

      Personal Digest Saturday: August 5 – August 11

      Life news this week: 
      • Saturday was day 2 of Metrocon for me. I wore my Stevonnie costume and took an Uber to the convention with Jeaux riding with me because one of his props was at my house. I had an excellent time even though by the end of the day my wig was giving me a headache. We enjoyed a few panels, a music video contest, some food, and a whole bunch of fantastic costumes. I also got to accidentally help run a panel because the hosts didn't come, and I won some prizes for being a cartoon trivia nerd. Also saw my friend Joy there.
      • Sunday was day 3 of Metrocon for me. I went to an early panel with Victor so he could play with silicon molds, and we looked at costumes and checked out merchandise. When I went home I processed photos and was sleepy.
      • Monday I was pretty tired at work. I got some preliminary work done on a proposal that we were going to have to crunch into shape for Thursday. When I got home I fell asleep early.
      • Tuesday I stayed late at the office but didn't get much done. I found out I messed something up with a meeting for my boss but we resolved it. I got a ride home, hung out with my mom, and did some doodles for a collaboration I'm doing with someone online.
      • Wednesday I got stuck at work for 11 hours working on the proposal! I had to skip Jeaux Day because it was too late, but the good news was that the other person stuck working on the proposal drove me home. At like 8:30. I looked at some houses and got a book review written, and fell asleep shortly after eating a veggie burger.
      • Thursday woke up really early, did some work, took a nap, and got up to go to the office early. We got everything done on the proposal but it was really tight; we delivered it with 15 minutes to spare. One of my co-workers bought me sushi! Then I met Jeaux for a smoothie at Freshii and we also watched our shows Wrecked and People of Earth and got to listen to a new Night Vale too. After he left I talked to Victor and drew my comic.
      • Friday I worked a short day to make up for the long days I'd been putting in. Then I met up with Mom to look at a house but I didn't like it so I won't apply. We ate together at GrillSmith and she took a nap while I doodled, and after she left I posted my comic and did more sketches.
      New Reviews of my book:

      Articles, Interviews, Mentions:
        • An article that's hard to read for a couple reasons on entitled "All About Asexuality: An Interview With Asexy" includes some info from my book and a mention of it. I couldn't finish reading it because the website was so packed with disruptive ads that popped on top of the content and made noise, and what I did read had convoluted language, but . . . there you go.
        Reading progress:
          New singing performances:

          This week I performed "Hanky Panky" by Madonna.


          New drawings: 

          I drew Garnet during a panel at the convention!

          Webcomic Negative One Issue 0639: "Relative Maturity."

          New videos:

          No videos this week! I didn't even have time to do a ukulele video.

          New photos:
          Home from the convention, still mostly in costume, hanging out with my gem bud
          My new shield prop came in!

          And if you haven't gone to see my Metrocon photos from the convention, with all the costumes and goodness, you should read that blog entry!

          Social Media Counts:

          YouTube subscribers: 5,291 for swankivy (lost 5), 648 for JulieSondra (2 new). Twitter followers: 877 for swankivy (lost 2), 1,339 for JulieSondra (lost 1). Facebook: 295 friends (lost 1--I quietly unfriended someone because almost everything they said was an excruciatingly picky callout post) and 203 followers (lost 3) for swankivy, 658 likes for JulieSondra (1 new), 55 likes for Negative One (no change), 127 likes for So You Write (no change). Tumblr followers: 2,497 (lost 2). Instagram followers: 120 (1 new).

          Wednesday, August 9, 2017

          Wednesday Factoid: Go-To Person

          Today's Wednesday Factoid is: Are you the go-to person for anyone you know on a particular skill or field of knowledge?

          Oh, I guess so. Mostly it's computer stuff--my mom calls me or texts me immediately anytime something on her phone or computer is messed up. I usually know how to fix it or can find an answer.

          I'm also the go-to person in my family for stuff like contact information, photographs and documents, and crap no one else remembers. If it's ever happened to someone we know and someone wants to know when or get details about it, I probably know. When did we move? What was our phone number? When were they married? When's her kid's birthday? Do you have a picture of that guy so-and-so used to date? Yep.

          And there are some people in my life who consult me first on writing-related stuff, mostly publishing (like if they want to know stuff about agents or book proposals or something) or occasionally if they want me to proofread or give advice.

          And of course if someone wants obscure knowledge about Steven Universe I know that too. :P 

          Tuesday, August 8, 2017

          Metrocon 2017

          Everyone who's been paying attention to the stuff I'm doing lately probably knows I was at Metrocon this weekend. :)

          Metrocon is a Tampa convention that was founded as an anime convention but, like many cons of its ilk, has branched off into other interests that the core audience tends to share. My friend Victor bought me a ticket for the entire weekend, and Jeaux joined us for two of those days.

          On Friday I went to the convention wearing some nerdy clothes but didn't dress up. 

          My bag, packed and ready

          The first night was fun. We went to a Steven Universe panel called "Don't Forget the Lyrics." It was run by convention attendees dressed up like Lapis Lazuli and Garnet. (For those who haven't been paying attention, Garnet is my favorite character, haha.)

          Participants had to pick between two songs on a theme, let the presenters play the song, and then they have to identify the next line when the presenters stop the song. If they win, they get a Pearl Point. But the hosts forgot their Pearl Points, and I happened to have some, so I let them give mine out! (My friends were joking that I "saved" the panel.)

          And of course I won a Pearl Point during my turn. There wasn't a song I didn't know every lyric to, but um, no one is surprised by that.

          The hosts of the lyrics panel.
          The ribbons in Garnet's hair almost made me die.

          After the lyrics panel, we mostly just wandered around looking at costumes, checked out an anime viewing room showing a cartoon we hadn't seen before called Haven't You Heard? I'm Sakamoto, and did a scavenger hunt. 

          Marge from The Simpsons!

          Greg and Lapis from Steven Universe

          Korra from Legend of Korra

          Lum from Urusei Yatsura

          Rainbow Dash from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic
          (At least, I'm thinking it's a humanized version of a pony
          rather than being an Equestria Girls version, but I don't
          watch either one so I dunno)

          Rose and Greg from Steven Universe
          (Steven's parents!)

          This Steven cosplayer had all kinds of props in that backpack.

          Steven Universe cosplayers without wigs. :)
          There's Pearl on the right, and I think the one on the left is a Stevonnie.
          (Someone else said maybe Steven, but I don't think so with the crop top and shorts.)

          Great Tinker Bell costume!

          Peridot and "Bad" Pearl, the Wonder Nerds of Steven Universe

          Here they are again. :D

          The scavenger hunt was unexpectedly fun--I usually don't like stuff like that, but it was one of the most fun things we did all night. We had to gather or photograph things like a cup, a costume prop, and a photo of someone hugging a Metrocon volunteer. (My friend Michael was volunteering at the con so I found and hugged him for the photo.) We were also instructed to bring a photo of "something yaoi," which if you don't know is the term for guy-on-guy erotic material, so Jeaux and Victor posed suggestively like they were about to make out and I took a photo of that. I will not share it. And someone had to do 10 pushups for the completion of the hunt, so I did that. I didn't know I could do 10 pushups. ^___^ I got to pick the prize, which was a cool piece of art.

          Hugging Michael, our Metrocon volunteer

          Jeaux wore an easy costume to the convention Friday night: His Dipper costume from last year's Halloween, a character from Gravity Falls. It's basically a shirt, a vest, a pair of shorts, and a hat, so if you didn't know who he was then you might think he's not even in costume. But he was. And we saw some others from his show too. 

          Dippy Fresh and his Grunkle.

          Jeaux has opinions about Dippy Fresh.
          Double Dipper.

          He found a Mabel--his sister in the show--who reminded us
          she's the Alpha Twin because she's taller. Mmkay.
          Then we come to Saturday, which was my first day in costume. I went to the convention as Stevonnie from Steven Universe, who is not supposed to be short and pale like me, but whatever. ;) I even modified my ukulele to look like Steven's.

          Jeaux came as Tiger Millionaire from Steven Universe, a costume he's done before, but his wig didn't work out. Still looked cute. His giant cell phone is from, like, a seven-second clip of the show, but everyone who knew Tiger seemed to get it. Tiger Millionaire is Steven Universe's wrestling alter ego, so it's sort of a costume of a costume.

          And Victor had a really impressive costume. He came as Batman of the Opera. His mask was homemade and he used gory makeup to give himself a disfigured face.

          Man, he looked amazing. I'm sad that he was so hot and sort of uncomfortable with the makeup coming off and bugging him. It was such a cool costume!

          We came to the convention pretty early because there was a panel I wanted to go to called Steven Universe PJ Party. I am not sure what it was supposed to be initially because the hosts didn't show up to run it.

          If something like that happens, the con volunteers either cancel the panel or let the attendees decide what to do with it. Our group did the latter. The audience decided that people in Steven Universe cosplay (like me!) should go up on the stage and, uh, do something to run the panel. So we did. I played some songs from the cartoon on my ukulele and someone else played some songs out of a speaker, and we did a little singalong, and then I ran a little quiz session and Jeaux gave people Jungle Bucks as a reward. (Jungle Bucks are a Tiger Millionaire thing.) My questions were really hard but they were multiple choice. Still faked some people out with them, though. ;) And at the end they played an improv game. All in all, it was a pretty excellent panel for something that was abandoned by its hosts. 

          Another Stevonnie! Who requested the theme song.

          Rose, Steven, and Lion.
          After that event, we chilled looking at art and dealer room stuff, checking out costumes, and having a bite to eat. I think the costumes are my favorite thing at conventions like these. They made me so happy.

          Genderflipped Adventure Time characters

          Loyal Homeworld Gems Holly Blue Agate and Navy Ruby.
          (They weren't together, but were together in my picture!)

          Lapis and partially corrupted Jasper,
          plus a person in Steveny clothes who might be Stevonnie
          or might just be in Steveny clothes?

          Donut Kids Sadie and Lars, Steven Universe

          Lion eating a Lion Licker.
          I've never seen someone make a Lion Licker prop before.

          Very pretty Jasper from Steven Universe!

          Stevonnie's eating fries. Hey, these aren't the bits!
          (Dr. Maheswaran would not approve.)

          Promcoming Lumpy Space Princess and Lady Rainicorn.
          Adventure Time characters.

          Jeaux almost got tackled by this Purple Puma cosplayer!
          In the show, Steven and Amethyst wrestle as their alter
          egos Tiger Millionaire and the Purple Puma.
          They found each other!

          Rose Quartz wearing a Mr. Universe shirt.

          Sophie from Howl's Moving Castle. She even has a Calcifer!

          My starry toes.

          Stevonnie and Blue Pearl.

          A Stevonnie with a hat!

          Uncle Andy! (Steven Universe)

          Amethyst's latest outfit! So cute.

          Two Bad Pearls, one Mystery Girl, WHAT!!
          (Steven Universe cosplay)

          Me with a super-tall Doctor! He said he was 6'7".

          After we messed around a while, we went to another Steven Universe panel called "A Crystal Trivia." Unfortunately it was two hours long and ran into the anime music video contest, which I also wanted to see, but I stayed for the whole thing and Victor left to go see the videos. (We'd discussed this possibility previously, but I actually didn't notice when he got up and left because we weren't sitting together.) Crystal Trivia was run by some other SU cosplayers, most notably Tuxedo Pearl. 

          We were asked to answer complicated questions in exchange for a hand-made rose. I know a ridiculous amount of stuff about this show so I felt like it would be rude to bogart the panel and raise my hand for everything. I ended up raising my hand and volunteering answers only when it seemed like people were just guessing or didn't know the answer. (I also answered the first question because it was an obscure question about the comic books, which apparently not too many people have read.) Correct answer providers got to pick a song to listen to. I played along on my ukulele sometimes if I knew the song.

          I liked the idea of the panel and had fun, but to be 100% honest, I felt like some of the questions were more about "figure out what the question-writer meant" instead of "test your knowledge of the show." Questions like "how many songs are in Season 2?" aren't very fair if you're not defining what you count as a song and some of the decisions seemed relatively arbitrary, so I didn't answer questions like that. There were a couple where they accepted wrong answers or didn't accept right answers, or did something pretty weird like asking for a count for how many characters fit in a certain group and then randomly disincluding one because she "doesn't count" even though she indisputably counts. It's relatively petty but I get kind of irritated and less inclined to participate in stuff if it seems like there's no objective order to things that do have objective answers. I didn't answer any questions wrong myself but I was disappointed when there were discrepancies like that.

          We went to the anime music video contest after that and couldn't find where Victor was sitting so we just met him after. Jeaux left to go home and sleep before work and Victor and I got ice cream. Then we checked out some anime that we didn't really care for and went back to looking at costumes. We ran into our friend Joy, who was also in a Steven Universe–related costume!

          Joy as a Zooman (Zoo Human from Pink Diamond's zoo)
          We stood around for quite a long time just enjoying the costumes and sometimes watching people play silly games or do dances. I was disappointed to hear that Joy had been to a panel I decided not to go to (the SU singalong panel) because some cute things happened there, including someone proposing to someone else with a promise ring, in character.

          A cute Stevonnie

          Mysterious Blue Diamond, bored Bob Lapis

          BMO dress! (Adventure Time cosplay)

          A Night Vale eternal scout

          Garnet, Amethyst (Fun Mom!), and Peridot

          Grunkle Stan, Gravity Falls

          Lapis Lazuli, looking about to fly away

          A really sweet Pearl

          Pink Lars! Bingo Bongo, y'all. (Steven Universe cosplay)

          This Rose Quartz yelled "HEY BABY, I see you!" at me.

          Steven and Connie. I said, "I really like your costumes for some reason."
          (Heh. I am dressed as their relationship. Of course I would like them.)

          Toph Beifong and Zuko, Avatar cosplay

          A very in-character Yellow Pearl with Stevonnie

          Joy, posing in response to a prompt from Victor about her potential Choosening

          We left after that and I finally got to take my dang wig off. Yowch.

          Wig head
          Sunday I decided to come in costume as well. When I got out of the car in the morning, someone yelled HEY STEVONNIEEEEE! and when I looked the person was wearing a Stevonnie t-shirt. :D :D :D

          Me at the con in the morning, pic taken by c00lpatrol on Instagram

          I didn't really have anything big on my agenda to do at the convention besides looking at more costumes, but Victor wanted to go to a silicon mold making class, and I told him I'd be glad to go with him even though I didn't want to pay the materials fee or make a mold. It had been a pretty long day the day before though, so both of us were pretty sleepy, and I was cold.

          Victor being productive

          Me being cold
          Me being a nerd with my uke
          I drew a picture of Garnet instead of making a mold

          Marceline the Vampire Queen (from Adventure Time) was in the workshop!

          After the workshop we got some food, looked at the dealer room items, and basically just played around looking at costumes for the rest of the afternoon. One guy asked me to play the Steven Universe theme song on ukulele while he recorded it with his phone and jumped in to sing with me. I dunno if he posted it online--I didn't find it.

          Porco Rosso in the cafeteria

          Me talking to Porco Rosso
          Rose Quartz by the dealer room

          Sardonyx in the dealer room!!!
          Steven Universe Fusions with extra arms are HARD!

          Cardcaptor Sakura!

          Greg Universe & me!

          Rose Quartz & me!
          Some chatting Pearls
          Dancing nerds!

          A room full of people doing dances I don't know

          Enthusiastic Greg Universe happy to see me
          An amazing group of Disney fairies
          Victor has a cool hat!

          After all that, I was pretty tired and ready to get that darn wig off, so I left in the mid-afternoon on Sunday.

          Happy to get home to my bed and my gem bud. :)

          We had a good time. I'd do this convention and this costume again. :D