Things Both New and Useful

Things Both New and Useful

First thing’s first, here is a cool new thing in my life: I have been recruited as a submissions editor for Apex Magazine! Which sounds quite fancy and exciting, but all it actually means is that I’m a slush reader. Which, for friends and family who don’t know publishing terms, means that I’m one of the first readers whenever someone submits a story for the magazine. (I screen to see if submitted stories meet the quality and content needs of the magazine, send a no-thanks letter for anything that doesn’t fit, and pass up the chain anything that does.) The current editor-in-chief Sigrid is actually a former slush reader, and a couple of years ago she wrote about reading submissions, if you’re curious about what it’s like.

This is very cool. I’ve just begun in the last week, so I don’t have much to say about it yet, but I’m really excited to get started. I love Apex’s mission, and I’m super psyched to get more involved with the SFF community.

And with the fun news out of the way, a housekeeping thing: I installed a new theme, so the blog has a new layout. I really liked the old one, but this one is a little bit cleaner and looks a lot nicer on mobile browsers.1 And of course, I’ve done my usual nerdy tweaking of the CSS to make the place look exactly how I want.

Moving right along, as I was cleaning up the template this morning and updating the about/contact pages, I started thinking about blogrolls. I don’t have one anymore and haven’t in years — I don’t really keep a list of links anywhere anymore. The list I used to have was of websites I visited the most often, but after years of reading on RSS, I don’t really actually go to individual sites very often at this point. So this is in no way an actual blog roll, but I was thinking about the websites I still visit frequently, and figured I’d list ‘em. I find them useful, so who knows? You might, too. Here are my top three:

Captain Awkward
This is an advice column for awkward people, so, you know… perfect for me. If I had to sum the site up, I’d say it specializes in boundaries: figuring out what yours are, how to set and enforce them, how to respect other people’s. Plus how to take care of yourself and ask for what you need. (Oh, and online dating.) I don’t agree with the advice given 100% of the time, but overall it’s extremely useful, interesting stuff, that has helped shape how I try to interact with the world over the last year or so.

Ask A Manager
Speaking of advice blogs, this one is not to be missed. Its focus is on work: how to be a better manager, how to be a better employee, how to communicate. Plus, for those you who are looking for it, there’s a ton on how to write resumes and cover letters and prepare for job interviews. I’m not at all exaggerating when I say this site has made me a more productive, awesome employee.

The Billfold
I stumbled across The Billfold near its debut and have been a loyal reader since. It isn’t really a money advice site, though there are a few how-tos; mostly it’s just people talking about their money — how they make it, how they spend it, how they save it. Or why they don’t save it. Or how they’re trying to get out of debt, and how much debt that is. Thanks to reading it, I have started thinking a lot more actively about my finances and where my money goes.2 It’s also the site that’s responsible for me paying my student loans down almost twice as fast as I would otherwise, for knowing how much I’m contributing to my 401(k), and for opening a Roth IRA.3 So basically: very useful!

Bonus: I mentioned it in my year-end wrap up last week but Unfuck Your Habitat is great for getting on top of housekeeping if you’re busy and not sure where to begin.

So now you tell me: what are your go-to sites that I should check out?

  1. A side effect of having a web-centric job is that I spend a lot of time thinking about things like how websites work on mobile browsers. For example, the NYTimes.com redesign a few days ago. It’s possible that I cared about that more than anyone else who doesn’t actually have an NYTimes online subscription.
  2. Rent. It goes to rent. I love New York but man rent is expensive.
  3. Or… you know, deciding to open a Roth IRA. I’m gonna actually do it any day now. Just you wait.

Looking Like Mom

It’s Thanksgiving weekend, and it’s Chanukah, and I’m writing this from my uncle’s house and thinking about family, which is difficult. My mother died a couple of months ago. She’d been sick for the better part of a year. Thanksgiving last year was the last time I saw her when she was healthy.

Mom, one year ago.

Mom, one year ago.

I resemble both of my parents quite a bit, but how I look like Mom is more obvious at first glance: pale, dark curly hair, smiling at strangers.

I grew up in a small town. Smaller than you’re thinking. No, still smaller than you’re thinking now. That small. I have a complicated relationship with my hometown, but as a kid, all I wanted was to leave, to go somewhere no one knew me. Because it was a tiny community, and everyone knew me. Every teacher I had had already taught my sister, four years earlier, and everywhere I went, people knew my mother. Strangers would stop me to ask if I was Ruthie’s daughter at the post office, the library, the pharmacy.1 So, as you can probably imagine, looking like Mom was not my favorite thing the world while I was still desperate to forge my own identity.

When Mom went to the hospital for the last time, right before entering hospice services, I was overwhelmed by the weirdest feeling. The hospital staff was doing a great job taking care of her, but they didn’t understand. The woman in that bed wasn’t Mom. They didn’t know Mom. Mom was vivacious and kind and energetic. She was a caretaker, not someone who needed to be taken care of. And it was the weirdest thing, thinking, These people don’t know how much I look like Mom.

Haircut selfie.

Me, haircut selfie style.

There was a snag with the paperwork we needed to get Mom into hospice services — we were missing a referral from her oncologist. I’d been losing my mind, sitting in her hospital room and trying not to cry, so I jumped at the chance to run over to another hospital wing and do something. I got to the right desk to ask, and all I’d managed to say was, “My mother needs –” before the woman behind the desk interrupted me. “Are you Ruthie’s daughter? Your mother is such a sweetheart. How can we help?”

It was such a relief to be recognized by a stranger.

Last night, my uncle commented, “From this angle, you look just like Ruthie.”

That’s a relief, too.

I miss you, Mom.

  1. And, on one occasion that is only hilarious in retrospect, I was pinned as Mom’s daughter by the cop who knocked on the car window while I was in the backseat with a dude. Just imagine the mortification of pulling on a hoodie and squirming in place while the officer squints at you through a flashlight beam and then asks: “Is your mom Ruth who used to work at the hospital? How’s she doing?”

Autumn Cleaning

Or something like that, anyway.

I’m on a kick where I want to start blogging somewhat more regularly again! However, I know myself well enough to know that I probably, uh, won’t. But I did do some general upkeep around here, by which I mean, I went through and made about half of the posts private. I’d already done a few on my last kick (last year? lol), but the more I thought about these archives, the more I itched to nuke the whole thing. That’s the thing about having had this blog, in one location or another, since 2006: so much of the well meaning stuff I wrote in those first years makes me cringe now. But I don’t want to lose all of those earnest, well meaning, poorly written posts, so instead of deleting, I set them to private. (Um. Also some more recent posts, because I don’t like them anymore.) I also redid all of the categories and tags around here, since most of them were no longer needed.

So: will I update at all after having said this? Probably not! But maybe! The future is mysterious, so who can say?

Things That I Wrote, Uh, Elsewhere

Things That I Wrote, Uh, Elsewhere

Hmm, so, this place still exists, does it? That’s nice. It turns out, I much prefer running websites to actually updating them. Good thing that’s what I do for a living. And speaking of the website I work for, (didja see how I transitioned there? I’ve still got it!), I actually wrote a piece there recently:

On Grief, and Connecting to a Community
I was raised by parents who didn’t just tell me that it was important to do good things and help my community, they demonstrated it in the way they lived their lives. Dad was a volunteer firefighter. Mom was a nurse. Together, they helped cofound our tiny town’s emergency rescue squad in upstate New York. They were often first responders — the kind of people who don’t rubberneck at accidents, they pull over and help.

The above comes with a big ol’ content warning for cancer and parental illness. Also, it’s pretty incredibly depressing. Uh, enjoy?

But I also wrote a thing, for a different website, that is much less depressing! (See, again, transitioning between subjects with ease!)

Do You Have a Minute for the Children?
“Hey, do you have a minute for the children?”
Wince. Apologetic smile and shrug. Slink away. That’s pretty standard. Canvassers are really common in New York, so I’ve been asked endlessly if I have a moment for the children, or gay marriage, or the environment. (Or where I get my hair cut, and if I’m interested in a spa treatment at a fancy salon. Yes, I am, but I’m not giving you $200 in cash.) So the answer is usually that awkward shrug and me moving on without taking off my headphones, but two weeks ago I was in a weird mood.

So there you have it! Things that I wrote! I would say there will be more soon, but we all know that would be a big ol’ lie.

New Year Nailpolish

New Year Nailpolish

Just to forewarn anyone who might think this leadup is going to something inspiring or moving or dramatic: this blog entry is going to be about nailpolish.

Here’s a thing about how I handle New Years: I don’t really make resolutions. My basic theory is that if there’s something I want to change, I probably just… will, when I’m ready to, and if I’m not ready to yet, all resolving to do it will do is make me feel like a failure when I don’t do it. But my general goal is to feel like I’ve made some sort of forward motion throughout the year, so that when it comes to late December, I don’t feel like I’ve been stagnant in the last 12 months. Forward motion doesn’t need to mean huge changes, just that I don’t feel like I’ve basically wasted my time. Here are some things I did last year that I think are worth noting, life-wise:

+ Attended to a writing workshop and shared my novel with other people. This was intimidating, but awesome!

+ Spoke on two panels at WisCon – one on love triangles in young adult novels and the other about magical girlhood, ie, fantasy aimed at little girls. These were both awesome. Too bad I never got around to blogging about them. Whoopsie.

+ Was significantly more social than I’ve been since… ever. I am a huge introvert who lives largely inside my own head, and I’m generally comfortable with that; however, I often forget that I actually do like being social as long as I have plenty of time alone to recharge after. Figuring out my limits and boundaries with social interaction: a pretty cool thing.

+ Took a significant and awesome promotion at work.

+ Learned to paint my nails.

Yes, that last one is worth noting, on several levels.

One: I have been a nail-biter for years, and painting them has helped me break that habit. My nails now regularly get long enough that I have to file them.

Two: Nearly all of my hobbies involve being on the computer in some way — writing, blogging, staring mindlessly at my tumblr dash. Plus I work online all day. I wanted to find something to do to occupy my time away from my monitor and the internet. Not that I don’t love the internet. I LOVE THE INTERNET. But I also have wrist pain and my eyes sometimes need a rest. Nail painting takes concentration. Especially because…

Three: I graduated to nail art. Mostly simple nail art, but still! And this is the real reason I’m writing about it, because, as silly as it is, it’s a very big deal for me. I am a perfectionist with zero artistic talent, which means every time I artify my nails I have to take deep breaths and overcome the instinct that tells me THIS IS TERRIBLE, EVERYONE WILL SEE YOUR MEDIOCRE NAILS AND LAUGH AT YOU, TAKE IT ALL OFF NOW BEFORE YOU EMBARRASS YOURSELF.

But it turns out people don’t actually do that. Not even so much because most people are not enormous jerks (though mostly they are not), but because I am my own worst critic and most people’s reactions are closer to hey, cool! than anything else.

Also it turns out that even if you are, like me, not at all artistic, you can get better with practice if you don’t give up just because you started out mediocre. My nursery school class put on a play to that effect, back in 1987. I wasa frog that didn’t know how to ribbit yet. Apparently it just took a really long time for that lesson to start sinking in.

Anyway. Under the cut are some pictures of nail polish. (more…)

Because Good Books Mean So Much

Because Good Books Mean So Much

Why hello, there. So there was a storm in the city this week. I don’t think I can say much about it that hasn’t been said.1 So instead, here’s what I was doing in the hours before Sandy hit: I was at Books of Wonder, getting a chance to tell Bruce Coville that his books shaped my childhood, changed my life, and meant the world to me.

Many years ago I wrote an overview review of some of his books that meant the most to me as a kid. Shortly after I wrote that blog entry, I went about tracking down some of the ones that I’d lost over the years — specifically the AI Gang trilogy, and upon rereading them, I remembered exactly how much I loved them and how viscerally I identified with Wendy as a kid. (Short! Smart! Loud! Messy! Oversized sweatshirts! Not a morning person!), which was why, out of the 32 Coville novels still on my shelf, I brought those to the signing.

The AI Gang

Anyway. There are two points to this blog entry:

1) The AI Gang trilogy has been out of print for decades, but Mr. Coville let me know he’s just released them as ebooks. They’re pretty cheap and definitely worth a read, if you enjoy stories about how a gang of smart kids saves the world. If you read this blog, that’s very likely up your alley. JUST SAYIN’.

2) Getting to meet a writer whose books I have been reading and loving literally since I learned to read was an amazing, overwhelming experience (he was super, super nice, btw, of course), and one I probably would not have had if not for Books of Wonder, an awesome store that is currently seeking some financial help. For more on how great the store is, here’s Jess’s blog entry. I hope you’ll consider donating.

  1. And if you believe a picture is worth a thousand words, might I suggest this gallery and this gallery?

Oh, we’re still talking about this?

Oh, we're still talking about this?

So looking through the archives of this blog, I’ve been part of the “are women really geeks? is there sexism in geek culture?” discussion since at least 2006. (The answers, by the way, are “some of them,” and “yes,” respectively.) And it’s come up again of late, with regards to the Fake Geek Girl meme and subsequent smackdown by awesome ladies, and then the collegehumor.com Imposter Nerd Girl ads. And sometimes when I’m sitting around eating lunch at work thinking about these things, I get inspired to write long, eloquent, impassioned blog entries about it all that will never happen because lol, worst blogger ever, and because frankly, many other awesomely geeky women I know are already on it, tweeting grumpily, blogging up a storm, and sharing links.1

But I also just haven’t had much to say in this go-round, and the full why of it didn’t occur to me until relatively recently, when I remembered this awesome gifset of Amy Poehler responding to the seemingly-eternal women-in-comedy question: “Ugh, this question is boring.”

I just…. you guys. It’s boring. Are nerdy women really nerds? Yes. Is sexism a thing? Yes. I don’t get what we’re still discussing here.

In your subculture, reappropriating your icons“But the fake geek girl meme isn’t sexist because there are also fake geek guys –” Then why is the image of a girl? In both of these recent cases, no less? Why isn’t it a fake geek (period) meme?

“You can tell she’s a fake geek because she looks like she’s trying too hard –” Yep, because there’s no cultural pressure for women to try to look a certain way AND you can clearly tell people’s intentions by their looks AND lololol yes judging people on looks, that is always an awesome thing to do.

“But it really does only target fake geek girls so it helps the real geek girls –” Right, because deciding one group of women is okay to target is going to reduce sexism, yes, that is a good plan. (Now where’s that sarcasm font I keep hearing about?)

“But there really are fake geeks –” Nope, geek culture is just a lot more mainstream now so yeah, some people are interested in it, but only interested in it a little bit. Deal with it.

“But I don’t know any women who are really geeks — ” Then that’s on you to figure out why you don’t know any and how to change that yourself (hint: maybe the fact that you insist that they don’t exist actually makes them not want to be friends with you?).

“But you should be worrying about things that are more important –” Who says I’m not? Maybe I’m just also over being expected to prove myself when I want to discuss something that interests me. Also, hey, this whole dealing with sexism in my life thing? Pretty important to me.

And why do I have stock answers for all of these objections? Because I have seen these comments a million goddamn times and I am so bored of them.

Look. I get it. People identify as nerds and are very protective of that identity. It makes people feel special (I am guilty of this as well) and there’s still enough nerd mockery around that it also makes people feel defensive. But this whole debate is tired. Yes, we’re going to have to keep being angry and keep pushing back until women are no longer depicted as cartoonish villains trying to get cooties all all the best toys, but ultimately? The people who keep insisting that women aren’t real geeks and/or that there’s no sexism in geek culture are so incredibly, obviously wrong that I’m sad we still have to justify their ideas by replying at all. Anyone with half a brain has realized that welcoming new people into a subculture is about a million times more fun and satisfying than alienating people from it. And that the defensive, frightened dudes who don’t want to share their toys aren’t just jerks. They’re also incredibly boring.

  1. For example: here, here, here, and here.

Overheard

The scene: as I’m leaving my BFF’s apartment, I see a just-barely-toddler aged kid playing on the railing of the ramp next to the entrance stairs. Two 20-something dudes were exiting behind me.

Dude #1: Whoa, bro. Look at that little guy.

Dude #2: You go, baby. The whole world’s your junglegym.

Dude #1: That kid’s like a baby parkour champion.

Dude #2: Baby Parkour should be our new tumblr.

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