Saturday, March 31, 2018

Personal Digest Saturday: March 24 – March 30 [GIF Warning]

Life news this week:
  • Saturday I procrastinated on doing my blogging, chatted to my sister on the phone for a few hours, and ate "macaroni and nothing." (It's something that happens in Steven Universe when someone eats all his macaroni cheese.) Did a little cleaning also.
  • Sunday I caught up on messages online and later Kari came over for the first time in like years, and I got to catch up with her. I drew some writing webcomic stuff while talking to her. After she left I had to start avoiding the Internet because new Steven Universe episodes were about to come out on the network's app and I knew it'd be loaded with spoilers. But I still accidentally saw one exceptionally cute spoiler and got all weepy about it because I AM VERY INVESTED OKAY. Also spilled black marker ink all over my hands while trying to refill a marker so that was fun.
  • Monday was hard and it kicked my ass. We had to finish FOUR letters to various districts of the DOT and my boss was in Miami. I had to proofread them all and prepare associated documents--it was pretty stressful. Then Jeaux picked me up and I GOT TO GO WATCH FOUR NEW EPISODES OF STEVEN UNIVERSE while eating pizza. It was nice to have after a rough day. We enjoyed the episodes and two of them dealt directly with my favorite character. YESSS. I didn't do anything for the rest of the night except look at cartoon stuff and fill up Facebook chatting about it with my friends who also watch the show. My thread got 161 comments. (Granted, most of it was me.)
  • Tuesday I avoided important things I should have done, and sent information to a teaming partner at work. At home I updated a quiz database I maintain with quiz questions about the new SU episodes. Chatted with my friends and worked on my webcomic.
  • Wednesday was database stuff at work. Wrote a blog and hung out with Jeaux. We bought comics, ate dinner at Ichiban Sushi, went grocery shopping, and hung out chatting. I read my comic and posted blog things about it like usual.
  • Thursday I got up early to listen to a SU podcast about Garnet, made my post on Tumblr, and went back to sleep for a while. I went to work wearing a shirt with her on it and someone on the bus said they liked it. :D GARNET FANS!! I wrote my webcomic script, worked on a database, and got a ride home. I tried to make a grilled cheese sandwich with a blowtorch. I drew a picture of Garnet with a kitty cat while on the phone with Victor, and then finally I started working on my webcomic but I didn't get much done.
  • Friday I helped with business development and finished a vote-counting task I promised one of the Leaders I would complete for them on SU Amino. Then at home I worked on my webcomic and got it up on time, and also finished my other webcomic and still had time to draw another Garnet picture that expressed some of the crap I've been dealing with lately.
New Reviews of My Book:

Articles, Interviews, Mentions:

Reading progress:
  • Finished this week: I'm getting rides home more often because I'm staying later, so I'm still not done with the book I'm reading, but I did get a four-star review written for the latest Steven Universe comic book (#14).
  • Currently readingThe Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin.
    New singing performances:

    This week's song was "Change of Heart" by Cyndi Lauper.

    Stuff Drawn:

    A Steven Face: Drawn to accompany my Facebook
    post about the show where people could chat about the new episodes.

    Garnet sees eye to eye with her new kitten, Cat Steven.
    That's right kitty, boop the visor and you get an eyeball. (Or two, or three.)
    Garnet and the weight of leadership, surrounded by her words. Sigh.

    Webcomic So You Write Issue 82: "New Edition."

    Webcomic Negative One Issue 0672: "Something in His Blood."

    New videos:


    New photos:

    Eating macaroni cheese.

    Forlornly eating macaroni and nothing.
    Saw a cute spoiler, got weepy.
    Getting ready to safely cook sandwiches with fire
    This isn't a good way to cook grilled cheese, trust me.

    Social Media Counts:

    YouTube subscribers: 5,276 for swankivy (1 new), 664 for JulieSondra (2 new). Twitter followers: 912 for swankivy (2 new), 1,317 for JulieSondra (2 new). Facebook: 294 friends (no change) and 203 followers (no change) for swankivy, 658 likes for JulieSondra (1 new), 55 likes for Negative One (no change), 126 likes for So You Write (no change). Tumblr followers: 2,501 (2 new). Instagram followers: 139 (2 new).

    Thursday, March 29, 2018

    Telling the Future [GIF warning]

    My blog lately has mostly been personal stuff or philosophical rambles, but when I first started it, it was mostly because I wanted a semi-personal blog that focused on my own writing career and also writing-related advice. With a side of book reviews thrown in.

    As I've been spending less time with my writing and have no projects in the publishing pipe right now, it's drifted into more everyday topics, and mixed in with the personal stuff and cartoon nerd stuff. But now I have something writing-related to talk about that's also both personal AND about cartoon stuff!

    This week my favorite show Steven Universe released four new episodes, and two of them focused on my favorite character Garnet. It was the second one that really got my attention, and caused me to write an essay the next morning that I threw onto Tumblr and one of the first people to reblog it tagged it "#GO F#&*%ING READ THIS PLEASE." People seemed excited about what I wrote, but these observations and clarifications came out very quickly and easily for me because they drew on writing experience I've had for over a decade. Okay, wait, I'll explain a little bit better.

    On the show, Garnet is the leader character--for a couple good reasons. First, she's the calm/cool/collected one--just a good match personality-wise if you want someone who can lead a team in high-stress, dangerous situations. But the second reason is a pretty big deal: Garnet has a limited ability to foresee possible futures. 

    Garnet uses that ability to guide the team toward mission objectives and keep them safe. I've written a couple of characters with similar abilities--one in my webcomic Negative One, one in my novel Bad Fairy--and I see a LOT of similarities between how Garnet is written and how I've written Adele and Delia.

    And maybe it's arrogant of me, but I feel like my experience with this has helped me understand aspects of this show's writing that others seem to miss--especially since the more we learn about how Garnet uses future vision and what limitations it has, the more it seems to dovetail with the experiences of the characters I write. Here's the problem I've been seeing: If you have a character in your story who can tell the future, you have to be very careful about how you use her. After all, if your character can foresee disasters and then your story includes a disaster, why didn't she report it? Prevent it? Did she not see it? If not, what's the sad excuse why not?

    That's what I see a lot of in criticism of this character, and of precognitive characters in general. Viewers seem to think it's "cheap" when these characters conveniently see some things and not others. Some critics think it's bad writing if sometimes their abilities just aren't working or they decide to let bad things happen so other characters can learn from it. And let's be honest, it's true that if you have characters who can see the future around, the opportunity for any character allied with them to be surprised by unexpected crises goes down, limiting some realism for your storytelling.

    There have been some huge developments in the show over the past couple seasons which, yeah, wouldn't have happened if Garnet had predicted the future correctly. She at least tried to stop the first one--Steven's dad got kidnapped by aliens--but in her defense, in that case it made sense that she had no solution for the problem because the kidnapping involved her oldest enemy, a Diamond, and she was scared to death of her, to the point that she just kept saying she couldn't even put it into words. She told Steven not to go to Korea and he went to Korea anyway. So what happened wasn't really her fault. 

    But after that? 

    A series of catastrophes occurred in a row and she had nothing to say. A Ruby came to Earth and tricked their team, and their only spaceship got stolen. Steven got involved with another kidnapping plot and sacrificed himself to the enemy, ending up stranded on the Gem homeworld with one of his friends who ended up DYING in a battle. (Don't worry, he's okay now.) And then after he miraculously got himself back to Earth, he ended up stranded, AGAIN, on a distant moon with his best friend. There was not a whisper from Garnet about worrying about these events or preventing them. She has said very little for the entire previous season. Some critics of the show are saying the writers seem to have forgotten she's part of the cast, and they make wisecracks about her voice actress being too expensive.

    This week, the new episode "Pool Hopping" revealed that the recent events have not been showing up on Garnet's radar and the whole experience has been baffling to her, and she's actually really upset about it. 

    She is not an emotionally expressive character, so you never know what she's thinking behind that stoic mask (or those epic shades) until or unless she gives you a rare glimpse or has a breakdown or something. This episode had one of those breakdowns. Ordinarily, Garnet does not behave as if she's struggling at all--she believes that the others need a strong, confident leader who never falters and is entirely sure of everything she does, so she doesn't like to admit when she's feeling weak. But in this episode, she deliberately behaved in ways that were very strange for her, believing that it would help her access these "improbable" futures she's been missing. It was funny at first, because watching this typically stoic character doing silly things like getting a job at the donut shop, posing as a model for a local artist, and running around throwing pizza at people seemed like wacky fun until you realize it was desperation. 

    In this episode, she admits to Steven that she has felt utterly lost lately because things keep happening that she never saw coming, and she doesn't know why. Through some investigation, they realize she's been considering certain futures unlikely because she's failed to acknowledge how mature Steven has gotten lately, and that's affected how likely she judges certain futures to be and how she interprets her results. Paths she didn't see as probable or possible just blindsided her because she didn't follow them where they would naturally lead, and she's been really upset about it because she knows it's her job to lead everyone--that they look to her for what to do, and she's supposed to have the answers.

    Some of the folks who watch this show are treating this like new information--the idea that a character like Garnet interprets and guides her ability has apparently never occurred to some of them. I'd already picked up on this from a much earlier Season 2 episode (context: we're in the middle of Season 5), where Garnet didn't see a really intense internal betrayal happening right in front of her because she believed a villain was responsible, and she grumped about how annoying it was that she just couldn't see any futures with them catching the bad guy. She doesn't just see an objective series of futures and possibilities. This ability, like anyone else's typical senses, is guided by what she expects to see.

    When you write characters with poorly understood powers, tying them into familiar methods of judgment and other senses makes them more relatable--and also adds the necessary flaws so they don't become overpowered or create plot holes. One of my webcomic characters frequently encounters murky spots in her otherwise clear visions because of emotion; if she WANTS something to be true or has a lot of investment in its outcome, that colors whether she's seeing it properly, so she's trained a lot of her life to downplay her feelings when she shifts her consciousness. It's just not always possible, because searching the future is not an emotionless task in itself. And present knowledge limits what questions my fantasy novel character knows to ask; she has a lot of reach with her "knowing magick," but she still has to know where to point it, and sometimes her usefulness is undermined by her own understanding of what's possible.

    Those are both aspects of Garnet's character that the show's been presenting all along, and aspects of her that have recently been explicitly discussed in the episode "Pool Hopping." And from this, I can extrapolate that her future vision is identical in some ways to my character Adele's prophesying and my character Delia's knowing magick. Most notably, it's very human, though that's an inappropriate word to apply to three characters who aren't human. It's relatable to human audience members because of how it incorporates ordinary perception in its handling of characters with an extra sense or two. As I mentioned in the analysis post I shared on Tumblr earlier this week, it might make more sense if you compare it to typical senses whose limitations and function you understand. Let's say we're talking about sight: just because you can see does NOT mean you know exactly where to look (or even CAN look) to acquire information that can be obtained visually, and it also doesn't mean you'll understand what you saw or be able to describe it accurately.

    Same with hearing: maybe you hear a car alarm but you thought it was a fire alarm, and then if people who can't hear are confused as to why you acted like there was a fire, it's really hard to explain to them how EXACTLY two types of alarms can be mistaken for each other. Why would a warning for fire sound so similar to a warning for a car being broken into? Those problems are not similar at all, so why does your hearing insist they might be the same thing? You can't really explain that to people who don't hear. And if you're the only person who hears in your group, it might be hard for the others to understand that you're not really qualified as an expert in types of alarms. Just because you can hear them doesn't mean you understand what they're telling you. That's the role Garnet is stuck in sometimes: she has to interpret these visions of possible futures because she is the only one on her team who can even gather the input, but it's still subject to her interpretation--subject to her judgment, which despite experience can be ordinary.

    If a character's "extrasensory" abilities are treated like any other sense in a story, they fall into line very well with good storytelling. Imperfect judgment in both the gathering and the interpretation of that input can control a super-powered character's abilities so they don't make everything so easy for the protagonists that the story becomes boring. It's such a delightful thing to see characters assigned the duty of being sure are just doing their best to be sure; they're people, not impartial oracles with no will, and it's even more "humanizing" to see them just wanting to do a good job. As much as I love Garnet and therefore hate seeing her upset, it was inspiring to see her expressing disappointment with herself balanced against desperate measures to make it right, and seeing her quiet version of panic when it didn't work. 

    "Anything could happen to these cats!"
    When you write a character whose abilities make them powerful, especially if you write them as uniquely responsible for using that power well, you must understand and express how that ability affects them emotionally and mentally, and also how their emotions and mental state affect the ability. They should always be a person with every talent they have woven into who they are, and if you're a writer struggling with how this works, you can try compare the extraordinary to the ordinary. 

    The intent shouldn't be "how can I make the character more flawed?" or "how can I limit their power so the story doesn't get boring?" Flaws and limits are usually natural side effects to exploring all the aspects of a character; if they follow naturally, they'll fill themselves in, so there's no need to deliberately build failsafes and hurdles into a talent. If you think about it and really imagine how experiencing these things would affect a character, especially if they've always had those abilities and fully built their own minds around using them, you will easily find drawbacks--along with various nuances that will help you make a more authentic character.

    Wednesday, March 28, 2018

    Wednesday Factoid: Too Much Time

    Today's Wednesday Factoid is: What takes up too much of your time?

    I guess I could answer this two ways. 

    I definitely feel like traveling to and from work takes up too much of my time. It's more than an hour there and more than an hour back, plus it's a twenty-minute walk from and to the bus stop. When you already work eight hours a day (which I can't really say takes up "too much" of my time since that's what enables me to support myself), adding another three hours in TRAVEL feels like a lot. 

    However, it is nice to have that time because it's not really time I can use for anything incredibly intense or productive, so I use it to read! That's when I get almost all of my reading done. So in a way, even though I don't like HAVING to do it, it's providing a window for me to do something I know I otherwise wouldn't make time for.

    That said, the travel is necessary, and I could also make other choices about my time which would give more of it back to me for creative pursuits.

    I think arguing with online bozos takes up too much of my time.

    I do way way way way less of it than I used to. But because I do value interactions that turn out positively, I have to engage in interactions that turn out negatively. You really never know sometimes. I've learned to understand earlier in the process when a conversation is likely to be productive, but I still sometimes have those conversations if I think I can turn them into learning tools (i.e., I can use them for an essay or a Letters to an Asexual video). But sometimes? It's honestly just completely petty.

    This week I had someone leave a nice comment on one of my old song recordings. It seemed complimentary but they also left a puzzling sentence: "Alas, I found YOU." The song I had recorded was a man's song, and the rest of the comment discussed how they'd been looking for someone who actually sang the man's part right, so I was a little confused by the "alas"--thinking maybe they were happy to find someone to sing it right but disappointed that I was not a man. Then I realized it was probably just someone who doesn't know what "alas" means, or someone who thinks the phrase "at last" is "alas."

    When I replied to the commenter I thanked them for what they said but also mentioned the misunderstanding I'd gone through with alas. Instead of being understanding about it, they chose to message me privately about how I'm a huge awful disgusting person for "correcting" what I SHOULD have understood was just a typo, how shameful it is that I'm such a pedant (they pasted the definition for "pedant" into the message for me), and blocked me on the website. 

    This was someone who was initially very nice to me. There was no warning that they would react so inappropriately. Similarly, sometimes someone comes out of the gate snarling and acting like a jerk, and then they respond with surprising civility if I just patiently entertain their questions.

    Sometimes a conversation is worthwhile and sometimes it isn't. While I am frustrated that pointless conversations take up too much of my time, I think it's very difficult to pinpoint which conversations are worth having until you're having them, and the only answer is to be very conservative about having any conversations at all. (Obviously, that's not my style. Heh.) 

    Saturday, March 24, 2018

    Personal Digest Saturday: March 17 – March 23

    Life news this week:
    • Saturday I went with Jeaux to go see what will be his new apartment. He took me to lunch for helping him and I had a pretty good veggie burger that was made of quinoa and beets?? We went shopping at Target and then later I did my blogging and talked to a friend on Steven Universe Amino.
    • Sunday I did my karaoke and made an asexuality video. Then I made recipes for Fantastic Fries and Pizza Bagels, which are inspired by cartoons. The pepper flakes I put on the bagels made them too hot for me so I made Jeaux come over and eat them. I practiced ukulele but I had a headache and went to bed.
    • Monday I spent the whole workday preparing forms for Letters of Response we're going to do. Also argued with someone on Amino about their quiz having wrong information. A co-worker drove me home and I practiced uke and subtitled my video.
    • Tuesday I had to work on PowerPoint presentation but my input wasn't really helpful I don't think. And the copy machine broke. My co-worker drove me home again. I practiced uke and did more work on the doodles page, which is almost done.
    • Wednesday I did more PowerPoint stuff and saw a new Steven Universe trailer which is WAY EXCITING. The network published this explanation of the show which is a really neat peek at what the show's dealing with right now and I'm. Really. Excited. Because I get to watch the episodes on the network's app next week. !!!! I showed the trailer to Jeaux when I got off work, and we ate at Applebee's. Then at my house I drew comics and we listened to Night Vale.
    • Thursday I got up early to listen to a SU podcast about Fusions, made my post on Tumblr, and went back to sleep for a while. Then at work I did more work on our letters and PowerPoint, and had to call to pull design tickets which is hard for me because I'm bad at maps. Next week will be really big for this marketing stuff. A co-worker drove me home again (a different one this time) and I talked to Victor on the phone while drawing.
    • Friday I spent the whole work day on letters and did more design ticket stuff, and it was a really long day. I went home and posted a retrospective about hitting ONE YEAR OF MEMBERSHIP ON STEVEN UNIVERSE AMINO, and then I finished my comic and went to bed. Really tired.
    Reading progress:
    • Finished this week: I kept getting rides home and didn't read much! Again!
    • Currently readingThe Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin.
      New singing performances:

      This week's song was "Wow" by Kate Bush. If you're not familiar with her style, you might find this singing kind of weird, but I'm trying to emulate her tone quality and stuff. You can see her original music video on this YouTube video if you want to see how it compares.

      Stuff Drawn:

      I drew a very silly comic about Steven and Peridot discussing his bathroom habits. (She thinks he should just stop drinking so he won't waste time using the bathroom.) For context, she lives in his bathroom. Click Steven's weird face to read it.

      Webcomic Negative One Issue 0671: "Original Crew."

      New videos:

      Letters to an Asexual #56 is about the difference between sexual and romantic attraction. Explained by an expert who doesn't experience either. *shrug*

      New photos:

      Fantastic Fries: They have ketchup INSIDE!
      Also, Pizza Bagel.
      Pizza Bagel and Fantastic Fries. Our signature dishes. Our only dishes.
      I laughed too hard about something (while at work!) and ended up crying.
      I'm still eating this bag of jellybeans I got for my birthday.

      Social Media Counts:

      YouTube subscribers: 5,275 for swankivy (lost 13), 662 for JulieSondra (2 new). Twitter followers: 910 for swankivy (lost 2), 1,315 for JulieSondra (3 new). Facebook: 294 friends (no change) and 203 followers (1 new) for swankivy, 657 likes for JulieSondra (1 new), 55 likes for Negative One (no change), 126 likes for So You Write (no change). Tumblr followers: 2,499 (2 new). Instagram followers: 137 (1 new).

      Thursday, March 22, 2018

      Two Genders

      Recently I saw images of that one annoying dude who sets up a trollish table outside with a sign on it inviting people to change his mind on things, and this time it was "There are only two genders. Change my mind."

      I don't engage with people like that. He's not really asking people to change his mind, and he's "covered" all kinds of topics this way, including such classics as "male privilege is a myth, change my mind" and "hate speech isn't real, change my mind." Mmkay. Wow, what an edgelord, upholding attitudes that are already established throughout most of society. Folks like this aren't worth talking to because they think they're brave to defend these notions now that they've actually been asked to question them.

      I AM happy to discuss these things with people who want to understand. I have become better and better over the years at identifying people who want to understand, say, asexuality--and those who pretend they want to have the conversation but actually just kind of want to make a spectacle of people and love to gloat if they can upset someone until they feel degraded and hopeless.

      So ya know. I recognize the type easily. What surprises me sometimes is that some people who ARE that type of person don't know it. 

      They're adamant that they're picking fights with others because of some perverse desire to uphold Truth or maintain Science or put these Triggered Snowflake SJW Liberals in their place. And if asked why they are initiating these conversations and creating adversarial (not invitational) spaces in which to have them, they never admit that it's based on bigotry, ignorance, or hate. It's always some amorphous thing about how Reality and Objectivity and Science needs to be defended or else the politically correct terrorists will win.

      And they have all these stories of being "attacked" over it. That they're not allowed to just live their lives for a quiet peaceful moment without someone ATTACKING them, forcing beliefs on them, hijacking good decent environments and forcing politics into them. The stories they describe, though, frequently paint a picture of an unreasonable population that's fiercely intolerant, when in actuality the people who espouse these beliefs are usually voicing them in *response* to not being respected.

      The "attacks" over respecting other people's gender? Tend to involve being asked to use the right pronouns for people and avoid misgendering them. That's an attack--making them feel bad for getting it wrong, and so it's important to make the person seem ridiculous for expecting respect to look a certain way. The conversations that ensue often involve the corrected person sputtering about how unreasonable it is to call a trans person by their correct pronouns because THEY personally want to think of them as a gender they don't identify as. But the trans people and their allies are the bullies here, apparently.

      The "attacks" over respecting sexual orientation diversity? Tend to involve someone complaining loudly about gay media or objecting to someone shamelessly identifying as gay, claiming it's being shoved in their face or is indecent. You know, that person who's squawking about how disgusting it is for gay people to "flaunt" their gayness in public (by being as casually affectionate in public as is generally accepted for straight people, but it's usually exaggerated as to what they were doing). That person claims it's being pushed on them and their opinions and rights are being taken away because they're being asked to extend basic respect to someone else. But the gay people who have the audacity to act like people in public are the instigators here, right?

      I see this a lot. An intolerant person objects to someone else's lifestyle, cries crocodile tears over their poor children and their offended morals, and demands that they be allowed to limit others' behavior or else that's bigotry against THEM. The reason they feel attacked, though, is that they're used to being preferred and privileged and not even having to think about it, so even the very act of asking them to question it (and asking them to accept that they receive undeserved, unearned advantages) sounds like ripping away their RIGHTS. 

      And then I see these jackasses bleating that there are only two genders. Saying that to people who identify as something other than male or female. Saying that in direct denial of the FACT that physical sex is something of a continuum even in sexually reproducing species. Saying that in direct ignorance of gender as an experience that is necessarily subjective. Saying that with absolutely nothing to lose by being kind and respectful.

      That's what really kills me about it. Who benefits if you "win" the conversation about how many genders there can be? What have you proved when you insist that it shouldn't or can't exist because you can't imagine it? What is it about someone saying "I think of myself this way" that makes you want to intensely invalidate that person because you like your gender categories in nature-denying, experience-denying dichotomies that feel right to you? It costs you nothing to say "I hear you and I'll try to understand you and make you more comfortable in this world." Your choice not to do so--and your choice to instead deliberately provoke people--is unimaginably cruel.

      You don't have to personally get it, or understand what it's like, or know a lot about gender theory. All it takes is to listen to someone and take what they say about their identity to you at face value. Default to respect. 

      I mean, or you can sit in public with a sign that says "I'm setting a tone of disbelief and disrespect. I am entering this interaction believing you are invalid by default. I don't understand you, and until or unless you sacrifice your time, safety, and emotional energy approaching ME to change my mind, I will go out of my way to make the world more dangerous for you. I will reinforce people's bigoted beliefs by displaying my own, and I will make people think your gender identity is hilarious and silly. I will portray my actions as provocative in a good way instead of in a hateful way, and I will praise myself for my bravery in repeating sentiments that have always endangered your life and threatened your mental health. I will imagine myself as a hero fighting an overly PC future that's out to control our minds for the worse, refusing to acknowledge that I am paving the way for violence, anti-diversity initiatives, and conformity through shame. I think this is a good thing, and I challenge you to change my mind because then it seems like I listened to you and proved my position. I am a cruel person who wants you to be cruel too."

      Great message there, buddy. 

      Wednesday, March 21, 2018

      Wednesday Factoid: Getting Older

      Today's Wednesday Factoid is: What's the best and the worst thing about getting older?

      Let's start with the worst. Well, there are certain things that will happen to you if you live long enough. Most notably, death. If you're still alive yourself, you are outliving people you love, and the road toward people succumbing to death is often not super sudden, so you have to watch the generations before yours, full of people you love, declining and passing away. Sometimes it's just depressing to see celebrities and entertainers you grew up with passing away, but other times it's more personal and it's a friend or a family member. Obviously since I recently lost my grandfather, that's been on my mind. 

      And I'm not gonna get too personal with it, but supporting my mom has been taking a lot out of me for years, just worrying about her and trying to help because she doesn't have any other local support. Providing company and moral support and technological advice is easy, but she also has to turn to me when she can't pay the hospital or taxes or whatever, and the likelihood that that will get better as we both get older is very, very low. Not knowing how to help her and not having the resources to help some other people in my life is certainly the biggest bummer of my current stage in life.

      The best thing is definitely being able to call the shots on more aspects of my daily existence. I decide what I want to handle that day, what I eat, what the plans are, when I'm going to bed. This has really been in my face a lot lately because I interact with a ton of young people and so many of them are controlled by other people (mostly parents, but some are in school and there's a lot of structure there too). Of course, for most people the disadvantage of this freedom is that they're tempted to just never do the un-fun stuff, like cleaning and paying for boring-but-necessary stuff, but I've never had that problem of procrastinating until it's critical (or just waiting for someone else to rescue me from it). 

      I love having options and deciding what my priorities are, and not having to justify them to anyone. I make the money, so I decide how to spend it. This week I decided it's time to buy marker ink refills because I like to draw frickin' cartoon characters and that uses up my ink. I can buy toys or clothes or whatever, or decide yep, we're going to the movies or we're buying expensive supplies for a silly baking project. It's up to me, and I don't have to ask or explain. My life is MINE. And yeah, I mean, this is all considering I have to work 40 hours a week (and spend some extra hours commuting). But there are 168 hours in a week. If I include 2 hours a day for commuting and 8 hours a day for sleeping (which I really never do), I would still have 58 hours a week to do whatever I want. That's significantly more hours than I spend at the day job that keeps the roof over my head and my Copic markers box stocked. 

      I have evolved a sense of confidence that also encourages me to claim that time without any shame. I haven't been talked into routines or projects or commitments that I generally hate doing. I can (and do) say no. And even though it's sort of a bummer to be 40 and have people judging me for not having what you're "supposed to" by 40 (you know, I'm supposed to drive a car, be married, be in the process of raising my children), maturity has brought me the self-assurance to just shrug about it. Who cares? Nothing's going to happen if I don't do what other people expect 40-year-olds should do. I want what I want and my life is mine. I want to enjoy it and at my current age I have the means and the opportunity to do so. 

      Yeah, that rocks.

      Saturday, March 17, 2018

      Personal Digest Saturday: March 10 – March 16

      Life news this week:
      • Saturday Victor was still at my house in the morning and we hung out and chatted a while, and then he went home. I made a fire in the fireplace so I could flame-cook a fake fish kebab, just for kicks. After that I worked on my blog, played a little ukulele, and wasted time on cartoons.
      • Sunday was the Day of Being a Responsible Adult. I got up and drank coffee, called my mother, did laundry, did dishes, and filed my taxes. Also, I drew two Steven Universe drawings. Can't be mature all the time. :)
      • Monday my eyes were annoying me so I wore my glasses to work for the first time. I did some database stuff. Then after work I walked to a nearby Publix and bought donuts and fixins, walked the wrong way down the road for a long time because I forgot the bus stopped coming down that street (in my defense, all the shelters and benches are still there!), and had to walk all the way back to catch the bus. When I got home I just went to bed early because I was being sent to a design class in Orlando and had to get picked up super early.
      • Tuesday my co-worker Suma picked me up while it was still dark out and we drove to Orlando. We ate some donuts and took this "Fundamentals of Roadway Design" class. It wasn't appropriate for me at all and my boss probably shouldn't have wasted money to send me, but hey, I got exposed to some terminology even if I understood very little. I mostly just watched my co-worker do math. And we got to eat at Five Guys so that was fun. Also, I got word that Victor had to leave work and go to the hospital. He got admitted. Ugh. When I got home I made fancy icing for my donuts and ate them.
      • Wednesday I did more of my Access database tasks and after work Jeaux took me to Perkins and our cashier was a Steven Universe fan. Then at my house we watched The Tick. After he left I ate donuts and took a nap.
      • Thursday I got up early to listen to a SU podcast about Homeworld Gems, made my post on Tumblr, and went back to sleep for a while. Then at work I did more Access tasks. I went home and Mom picked me up so we could go visit Victor who was still in the hospital. We did that and then I went home and went to bed.
      • Friday I went to work and Victor got out of the hospital halfway through the day. All I had to do was more Access databases. After work I finished my webcomic, practiced ukulele, and went to sleep.
      Interviews, Articles, Mentions:

      Reading progress:
      • Finished this week: I didn't do much bus riding this week, so I also didn't do much reading this week. Didn't finish any books.
      • Currently readingThe Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin.
        New singing performances:

        This week's song was "Spaceman" by 4 Non Blondes.

        Stuff Drawn:

        First drawing of Aquamarine, that li'l jerk
        Garnet hanging with old friends

        Webcomic Negative One Issue 0670: "Too Scary."

        New videos:


        New photos:

        Cooking fake fish in my fireplace for kicks
        Glasses at work, still cute
        Got sent to design class, wore my Gem scarf
        Obviously I am not cut out for being an engineer
        Beautiful Fire Salt Donut closeup
        Gonna eat these and burn my face off

        Social Media Counts:

        YouTube subscribers: 5,288 for swankivy (2 new), 660 for JulieSondra (lost 2). Twitter followers: 912 for swankivy (lost 2), 1,312 for JulieSondra (lost 4). Facebook: 294 friends (no change) and 202 followers (no change) for swankivy, 656 likes for JulieSondra (lost 3), 55 likes for Negative One (no change), 126 likes for So You Write (no change). Tumblr followers: 2,497 (4 new). Instagram followers: 136 (1 new).

        Thursday, March 15, 2018

        Making it special

        My favorite show Steven Universe is coming back with new episodes on April 9th!

        Someone I met at Queer Brunch
        invited me to a viewing party. (I guess I will only know the host; I don't think I know any of their guests.) But even though the focal event is a single eleven-minute cartoon, we're going to make an evening of it with music, themed food, and reviewing favorite episodes.

        This kind of party can't happen often because the show doesn't air regularly. We only got a handful of new episodes all throughout 2017. Lately they tend to air in weird little clumps with no apparent rhyme or reason. So of course, the tiny blobs of content are momentous for us superfans, and celebrating it with a gathering of nerds seems like a really fun idea.

        It inspired me to think about the importance of rarity with regard to entertainment.

        A particular sentiment comes up frequently when I discuss this with my mom: she says in some ways having access to recorded media Ruined Everything. It's not special anymore, she says, now that you don't have to wait for the yearly airing of The Wizard of Oz when you have the dang thing on VHS. Instead of being a special thing that you gather to watch as a family and can't get sick of because it's aired rarely, it gets overplayed and taken for granted, and NOTHING can be special anymore when access is expanded in this way.

        And I do understand that point, to some extent. Severely limiting access to something does make it seem more special when it's finally time to enjoy it. It's like a yearly holiday, or a food you can only have at the annual fair, or visits with faraway loved ones with whom you're compelled to squeeze in every drop of focused interaction possible. It just wouldn't feel as exciting or as special if it was something you got to do every day.

        But beyond agreeing that rarity does increase the feeling of specialness, I disagree with deliberate scarcity on pretty much every other level.

        Yes, because of having entertainment available on recorded media or through streaming/on-demand access, we are no longer forced by circumstance to drop what we're doing and gather as a family (or a group of loved ones) to enjoy something together. But being able to control when, where, and how much we see something is good because then:

        • We don't have to sometimes make our lives and schedules revolve around what's on TV.
        • We can more easily accommodate emergencies or inconvenient schedules, like not having to leave out Janice because she had tennis practice, or have Jamal miss the family event because they were in the hospital, or have Ramon be forced to choose between staying up too late to watch with his family or going to bed when he should for the big meeting the next day.
        • We don't have to lose out for an entire year if we just forgot it was tonight.
        • If there's a weather event or technology problem that knocks out power or makes it impossible to access the media while it's being broadcast, this doesn't postpone enjoyment of the media for an entire extra year.
        • We can make our special events coincide with the visiting of loved ones who live far away, without the TV programming schedule controlling those dates.
        • If someone we know has never seen the piece of media, we can easily introduce them to it.
        • If someone we know has certain triggers or is very young, having a copy can allow someone else to first screen it for them watching for content that could cause a problem instead of just taking a chance that the content wouldn't be appropriate for a sensitive viewer.


        The problem with recognizing that scarcity helps make something special is that scarcity is usually regulated by someone else. YOU can create scarcity yourself on your own terms if you find that it makes experiences more meaningful to you; just like the shirt you only wear for special occasions or the food you only eat as a rare treat, you can avoid overexposure to this media that you want to preserve and just set the exposure to your own liking.

        I remember growing up in a time when Internet did not exist, reruns were not very predictable, on-demand cable TV wasn't a thing, and you might have to jump through some pretty weird hoops to program your VCR if you wanted to avoid missing a show you wanted to see. I learned to program a VCR as a teenager because I wanted to see Animaniacs and it invariably started before I got home on the school bus. You had to leave the cable box on the correct channel. You had to make sure a tape was in the VCR and that it was left on. And you had to trust that nobody would mess with it while you weren't home and hope that the power didn't go out or the VCR didn't get unplugged because that would reboot the machine and erase your instructions. Inevitably, once in a while something would mess up and I'd come home expecting and hoping to watch my favorite show and then I couldn't. And there was no way to find out when that episode I missed was going to air again. I spent close to two years trying to capture the last three episodes of that show that I'd never seen.

        Oh no, First World Problems, right?

        Yeah, I know it's not the end of the world. But neither is the reverse, right? If someone's going to roll their eyes at the difficulties I had trying to watch my favorite TV show when I was a teenager, I can say the same about "so what if your favorite movie no longer seems as sacred to you because access to it was expanded?"

        This April 9th, I'm going to watch a new episode of my favorite show right when it releases, and it'll be a big deal, and we're organizing an event around it because that's special. But say I was out of town with a family emergency? Say I was doing a talk in Canada? Say I got sick and couldn't see it? Say I had to work or a person I wanted to watch it with had to work? Say I forgot? Say I sat down to see it and my TV exploded or a storm knocked the power out?

        In today's world, if any of those things were the case? I could buy the episode on Amazon or pull it up on Hulu, and GET TO ENJOY IT. If for some reason real-life circumstances prevented me from dropping everything for those specific, particular eleven minutes, I could choose a different eleven minutes that worked better for me.

        I appreciate that far more than I would appreciate restrictive, highly regulated access to it that would answer a variety of circumstances with "too bad; you missed it; you won't have another chance for a long time." And you know, for a show like this that's serialized, until you see the episode, you can't watch the next one. If you don't have any other options to watch it unless you caught the premiere, your enjoyment of this thing is interrupted for a long time. That's also not something I think is better than the benefits of making it far more rare, scarce, and inaccessible.

        I promise. It's still special. Even though I can see it whenever I want.

        Wednesday, March 14, 2018

        Wednesday Factoid: To Try

        Today's Wednesday Factoid is: What's something you've been meaning to try but just haven't gotten around to it?

        I want to try baking with edible flowers.

        Obviously this is not a huge thing and I could easily just, you know, DO IT, but there are complications.

        I've initiated the process of trying this a few times, actually. See, it's dangerous to just buy flowers and use them in baking, because nearly every place you buy flowers from will have used toxic pesticides or at least substances that aren't meant to be eaten in their quest to create healthy, pretty flowers. Therefore, if you want to be sure your flowers are not going to poison you or make you sick, you have to either get them from a place that sells them for eating purposes or grow them yourself.

        I have on several occasions planted flowers that were supposed to yield edible blooms, but some never grew and some never bloomed.  I tried bachelor's buttons, nasturtiums, and snapdragons. Somehow never got something I could use.

        If I could get petals I can use, the next step would be to just coat the petals in egg whites and dip them in sugar, then let them dry on wax paper. I don't like the idea of using raw egg whites to eat without cooking, so I would likely just get a substitute egg product and use that. 

        These are the types of flowers that have blossoms you can use safely:

        Allium, angelica, apricot blossom, apple blossom, bachelor button, bean blossom, begonia, calendula, carnation, chrysanthemum, clover, crab apple, dandelion, day lily, dianthus, gardenia, geranium, ginger, gladiola, hibiscus, hollyhock, honeysuckle, hyacinth, jasmine, johnny jump-up, lavender, lilac, lily, marigold (the calendula type only), monarda, nasturtium, orange blossom, pansy, peach blossom, pear blossom, peony, plum blossom, primrose, rose, snapdragon, squash blossom, strawberry blossom, tulip, viola, violet, and yucca. 

        Ideally, I'd like to get some petals from one of these, make candied flower petals from them, and use them on cupcakes. :) We'll see if I ever do it.

        Note: I DID once make fritters with elder flowers baked in! (I ordered them from a site that provides dried herbs that are packaged to be eaten.) But the recipe I used was really supposed to have FRESH flowers, not dried ones, so the texture was kinda not what I wanted.

        One day maybe I'll make my sugar-n-spice cakes with flower petals instead of jellybeans!

        Saturday, March 10, 2018

        Personal Digest Saturday: March 3 – March 9

        Life news this week:
        • Saturday I just kinda played catch-up with my online affairs, and I made some vegan cupcakes for the Queer Brunch event the next day.
        • Sunday I went to Queer Brunch with Arthur and Yasmin. Had a nice chat with some folks about inclusion in communities and supporting each other instead of attacking. Came home and did my karaoke, took a nap, downloaded some old pictures and talked to Victor, and did laundry.
        • Monday I cut a path through the built-up work at the office. At home I made a bagel sandwich inspired by a cartoon and I ate it. Also worked on the new website versions I'm building.
        • Tuesday I spent the whole day on a database. Then I worked on my doodles website some more but a bunch of my work was erased because it was taking my input without actually saving it, because I'd been kicked out of the website management while idle and no error messages popped up. Welp. So I took a break and then had to do it all over again.
        • Wednesday involved a bunch of work errands. Had to make some new business cards and stuff. Then I got picked up by Jeaux and we ate at McAlister's and did a bunch of errands--Target, Five Below, the Post Office, Michaels. Then we listened to Night Vale and watched a couple episodes of The Tick.
        • Thursday I got up early to listen to a SU podcast about Bismuth, Jasper, and Rose Quartz. Yikes. Well, I wrote up a summary and went back to bed, then got up for work. Worked on the Access database. Then went to the health food store and home. Finished my webcomic.
        • Friday I went to work and did database stuff and then after work I took a bus to University Mall. I met Victor there and we saw Black Panther and ordered food using the in-theater restaurant options. (Expensive but fun!) Then we went home in a paid ride and hung out for a while. Victor did an experiment with an alcoholic beverage (he's never been drunk and wanted to find out if it was possible), and I recorded it on video. He didn't seem to have any mental shift but he did lose his equilibrium and had a hard time with his balance for the next few hours. Also ordered food at 1:30 AM. Welp. He slept over.
        Interviews, Articles, Mentions:

        Reading progress:
        • Finished this week: I didn't do much bus riding this week, so I also didn't do much reading this week. Didn't finish any books.
        • Currently readingThe Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin.
          New singing performances:

          This week's song was "You'll See" by Madonna.

          Stuff Drawn:

          Webcomic Negative One Issue 0669: "What We're Thinking."

          New videos:


          New photos:

          My afternoon sandwich
          Trying to look cool on my way to the mall
          Victor and me about to see Black Panther
          Time for Victor to try alcoholic beverages

          Social Media Counts:

          YouTube subscribers: 5,286 for swankivy (7 new), 662 for JulieSondra (no change). Twitter followers: 914 for swankivy (2 new), 1,316 for JulieSondra (lost 6). Facebook: 294 friends (no change) and 202 followers (1 new) for swankivy, 659 likes for JulieSondra (lost 1), 55 likes for Negative One (no change), 126 likes for So You Write (no change). Tumblr followers: 2,493 (lost 4). Instagram followers: 135 (no change).