Words, words, words, art.

The Blatherings Of A Blitherer

Women Gatekeepers of Nerdery


I don’t remember a time when I hadn’t seen “Star Wars.” I grew up with it. The original trilogy is one of my mom’s favorite films, and she took Baby Me into the theater to see “The Empire Strikes Back,” nursing me to keep me quiet. We used to check out the television magazine in the Sunday Tribune and highlight the showings of “Star Wars” movies, and she’d let me stay up late to watch them. She started reading me “The Hobbit” and “Lord of the Rings” as a bedtime story when I was so young that it just sank into my conscious. I don’t remember hearing it for the first time, I don’t remember a time without those stories in my blood, although I do remember lying on an inflatable pool float on the floor one hot and sticky summer listening to her reading to me and my brothers. Something was going on with our bedrooms, I don’t remember what, and we weren’t able to sleep in them. So we camped out on the floor upstairs and she read to us by candle light.

My mom introduced me to a lot of science fiction and fantasy, and encouraged me to read and enjoy the genre. She scoured used book stores for out of print books back in the day when out of print books could be very hard to find (no internet!). She took it as given that I could and should love these books, these movies, these tv shows. She shared them with me, shared her love and adoration, her visions of the future and endless possibilities.

I know a huge amount of women who are really deeply invested in science fiction and fantasy books, movies, and tv shows. Most of them were introduced to it by other women, by their moms and aunts and older sisters and cousins and best friends. Paperbacks are circulated, pages worn fabric-smooth, binding creased and bent and chipping away, covers held on with yellowing tape. Read this. Try this. What do you think of this? Have you read this one yet? We induct each other into little worlds, usher each other in, introduce each other to our favorite books and characters and authors and worlds.

More and more the recommendations involve “there’s a female central character!” or “nobody gets raped in this one!”

Science Fiction and Fantasy, like Gaming, has a reputation as being male-dominated, a genre ruled by men: written by men, about men, for men. Women interested in these areas are treated as trespassers, foreigners, creatures suspect and false. This despite the fact that there’s a very long history of women writing Science Fiction and Fantasy… that one could easily argue that the novel in general and Science Fiction specifically were founded/originated by women authors. Women have always been involved with Science Fiction, with Fantasy, with Gaming, with Horror, with Pulp, with all the little islands men set themselves up as absolute rulers of despite all evidence to the contrary.

So let’s have a toast to the women in our lives who introduce us to our favorite nerd things, our geeky tv shows and movies and books and games. Let’s think of our lady friends and their recommendations and our history. Let’s remember each other with fondness and kindness and keep sharing our passion and love.

Women have been a part of every aspect of nerd culture since the very beginning. We aren’t going anywhere. But we’re bringing others with us.

posted under gaming, NerdLife, stuff | Comments Off on Women Gatekeepers of Nerdery

That Time My Mom Forgot Me At School


When I was in 1st grade my mom realized from something I said that I’d been stuck in Special Ed classes. They hadn’t discussed it with my parents or anything, as far as I can tell they didn’t actually test me other than the Kindergarten teacher gave me some smudgy photocopies of what I think was the Porteus Maze Test. I’d actually been doing mazes for a year or so and didn’t like them. They didn’t make SENSE to me. If I could see the entire picture, why did I need to stumble through the pathways? If I were IN a maze, I could just climb up onto the wall and walk along it, skipping the blundering about portion. So I used to “solve” mazes by just drawing a straight line from the start to the end, a sort of “fuck you” to mazes in general. When I entered Kindergarten, I was reading at a 3rd grade level, writing, and doing addition and subtraction. Class time was taken up with identifying the Alphabet… a letter a day. I was bored out of my mind, and over thought things. FOR INSTANCE, we covered what patterns were. So XCXCXC is a pattern. MVDMVDMVD is a pattern. They’re things that repeat. I claimed that ICLGTWVD was a potential pattern… all you had to do was repeat, just because you didn’t SEE something didn’t mean it didn’t EXIST, all things have the POTENTIAL to be patterns. Soon after that I started my Special Ed career.

My mom found out and raised hell.

I was forced to read out loud to several different teachers to prove my skills, and I was given some placement exams or something and they talked about skipping me a few grades which was ridiculous… I was in no way emotionally ready to skip a few grades. I wound up visiting the Principal regularly (weekly? daily?) to read to him privately which filled me with terror although I can’t say why. Nor can I say why he wanted to meet with me privately.

Anyway, I wound up starting 2nd grade at a different school, making the jump from public school to private… to a small Catholic school.

Kindergarten and First Grade I took the bus to and from school. It was free, part of having a public education. But private school? You have to pay extra for the bus. So my mom dutifully dropped me off on the first day of school.

It was a really weird experience, starting school in a uniform, a tiny class full of people who’d known each other since they were born, whose parents had all gone to school together and attended Mass together. They sang hymns in class that I was unfamiliar with despite attending CCD regularly and Mass every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation… hymns I never encountered anywhere else… and I never learned the lyrics to them. I was really far behind the rest of the class thanks to spending a full school year doing nothing but glue cotton balls to construction paper and sort tiles by color and pet fluffy bunnies. I was overwhelmed and awkward and the nun who taught religion class (and English also? She taught us a lot but I don’t remember exactly what) was very physical and would snatch people by the hair, would lock them in the dark cloak room.

And at the end of the day I stood in the parking lot and waited for my mom to come get me.

She didn’t.

Our school calendar was way off when compared with public school. We started school earlier in the year, earlier in the day, and ended earlier in the day. I think we ended later in the year though… we had more holidays than public school did or something. But we got out about half an hour or 45 minutes or something before public school. I waited and waited and waited and finally, at home, my mom looked up and saw the bright yellow buses dropping off the neighborhood kids and didn’t see me and remembered that she was supposed to pick me up from school.

So she piled my brothers in the car or dropped them off with a baby sitter or whatever, I don’t remember, and went to get me.

At that point I was pretty convinced nobody would ever come get me and I would die there alone. I was kind of a morbid kid.

But looking back on it, it’s really weird that no teachers or staff or anybody noticed me.

As it turned out at that school, the staff managed to not see a lot of stuff where I was concerned.

(this post brought to you by the fact that my kid is starting school at the end of the month.)

posted under life, stuff | Comments Off on That Time My Mom Forgot Me At School

Books, a Love Affair


There’s lots of ways to divide people into groups. There’s people who love the country and those who love the city; there’s people who love poetry and those who don’t; there’s people who love George R R Martin and those who don’t; there’s people who understand binary and those who don’t; there’s people who think Carrot Top is funny and everyone else; and there’s people who buy and own books– lots of books!– and those who don’t.

My friends are pretty evenly split between book owners and book renters (library users). Both groups love books and love reading, but one group invests money, time, and physical space on acquiring and housing books and one group invests their money, time, and physical space on other things. One group has stacked bookshelves, stacks of books, piles of books, mounds of books, and one group doesn’t. One group has to schlepp tens of (heavy) boxes of (heavy) books up and down stairs when they move, and one group doesn’t.

I’m in the first group, and I’m kind of getting tired of it.

When Nesko and I had a kid, and that kid started becoming mobile, we had to move all of our books to much higher shelves. We got rid of all our tall free-standing bookcases so Niko wouldn’t pull them down on himself. Then, about a year ago, it looked very seriously like we would be moving very soon, and to much smaller quarters. I proceeded by acquiring large numbers of boxes and putting things into those boxes, preparing to move. I packed up 14 large boxes of books (as well as three really big boxes of board games and 3 huge boxes of kitchen stuff). Then all those things stayed boxed up for months and months and we didn’t miss most of it. I did miss some things. I wanted to play a few of the board games we had packed away, I missed my extra mixing bowls and glass pyrex measuring cups, for instance. As part of spring cleaning we opened up our boxed up kitchen things and got rid of most of them. We unpacked our games and weeded through them, stripping some down for parts (tokens, money, dice, etc) and setting a few aside to give away. Those we’re keeping are on shelves in two categories: 1) Keep 2) play and see if we enjoy them, if not get rid of them.

Meanwhile our books are still packed up and I haven’t NEEDED to get into any of those books and we’ve permanently acquired very few new books. I’ve checked out and read almost 70 new-to-me books from the library this year, and after reading them I’ve returned them. There’s a very small handful of those books that I would have liked to keep forever. And more and more I like an apartment that isn’t cluttered with STUFF, especially as we have an apartment that’s crammed full of toys and kid books and games.

When I packed up the books, I noted what books where in what boxes. I have an entire inventory. (I did the same for the games and kitchen stuff.) I’d been meaning to type that list up and I finished doing so the other day. Every book that was packed away for storage is now entered in a spreadsheet. It was emotional. I thought of all those books and how much I love books, and how hard it was to find some of those books, and how other books were gifts from people who know me really well and love me. I have a bunch of books on Celtic history that Nesko brought back from a layover in England, from when his trip to Montenegro was cut short because of the bombing. I have a bunch of books I spent a long period of time tracking down and spent serious money on purchasing and shipping. I have books I’ve read and re-read time and time again, and I have books I’ve read once or twice only. And I started thinking of winnowing down our book holdings.

And I had a mini panic attack.

Seriously, I felt anxiety! There were surges of emotions! I felt like I was betraying my books! Isn’t that weird? I have synesthesia and apparently part of that is sometimes people who are synesthetes anthropomorphize inanimate objects and ascribe emotions to that. Books are inanimate! They don’t care what happens to them! But I felt like I was abandoning them, like they wouldn’t be loved if I got rid of them.

I also panicked because OMG what if I NEEEEEEEEED THESE BOOKS down the line? OMG what if all libraries and the internet cease to exist and I no longer have access to this information? Panic panic panic panic. But that’s silly, too.

I went through and I highlighted about half the books, marking them to be gotten rid of. I calmed down a bit. I might go through and mark more to get rid of. Of the books I’m keeping, a bunch are books I think Niko will like to read when he’s in middle school which isn’t that far off any more. I don’t want to get rid of books just to re-purchase them or whatever.

I remember, as a kid, always having something to read at home. My dad’s a book collector, not in a serious OMG HUNTING DOWN FIRST EDITIONS kind of way (although I think he would be if he had more disposable income) but in a bibliophile way. I grew up with shelves and stacks and mounds of books: books in the living room and in the bedroom and in the kitchen and on the couch and in the bathroom and on top of the tv. There were so many books there was always something new. History books, poetry, literature, fiction, memoir, science. That feels so normal to me. It’s honestly weird to have, right now, a single shelf only for our owned books. I feel almost naked!

And, weirdly, I feel defensive. Like I can’t prove I read books. No, really, I read a lot! I’ve read hundreds of books! Don’t judge me by the scanty offerings on my shelf! I’ve read everything Roger Zelazny has published, you just can’t tell because his books aren’t on display! I’m a Tolkein fan, an Ellen Kushner fan, A Cherie Priest fan, a Lois McMaster Bujold fan! I have a first edition hard cover of Scott Lynch’s “Lies Of Locke Lamora”! I LIKED HIM BEFORE HE WAS COOL OK. I have most of the run of “Blade Of The Immortal,” I have the Johannes Cabal books published in the USA! I’m cool! I’m a legit nerd/geek! REALLY I AM. I’M SO COOL YOU GUYS. LOOK AT THIS SNAPSHOT OF HOW COOL I AM, HOW WORTHY, HOW GREAT AND QUIRKY MY TASTE IS. JUDGE ME. JUDGE MEEEEEEEEE.

We will be moving again at some point.

I’m tired of hauling books around.

I’m tired of not having enough space, not having enough shelves, not having enough flat surfaces.

I’m becoming one of THOSE people, a book renter instead of a book owner.

From now on, I’m only going to keep books that are really and honestly meaningful, books that I love, books that resonate, books that I return to again and again.

Eventually, I think, I’m going to get a Reader or Tablet and start buying electronic versions of books I enjoy. But that’s out of my price range at the moment, and I do resent the DRM included on most traditionally published books.

If you live in Chicago, let me know if you’d be interested in a big book swap party at my place. We can all bring the books we don’t want/need any more and trade for other books, and anything left over I’ll donate to our community center to sell at a book fair fundraiser (or use in their classroom).

Having made the decision to get rid of books, to literally cut my book collection in half, I’m already feeling lighter. It was a struggle to get to this place, but it feels good. I still experience moments of BUT WAIT–! freakout but they’re coming less and less. Letting go is hard, but it’s something I can do.



The first time I had Nutella was in 1993. My mom’s best friend had moved to Australia a few years earlier and super expensive trans-atlantic phone calls once a year and letters written in cramped writing on both sides of onion skin paper and sent airmail just weren’t enough. So she used my graduating from 8th grade as an excuse to fly the both of us out to visit them. Happy graduation, let’s go to Oz! I’m not complaining, mind. It was an incredible trip. I fell in love hard with Melbourne, and it’s the one place in my life I’ve ever felt homesick for, which is weird considering I was only there for about 3 weeks. But man, I loved it so much. We stayed with our family friends and I tried Nutella for the first time. We’d been sending them care packages for years of stuff like graham crackers and Oreos and Captain Crunch and some other stuff they couldn’t get over there (coffee that wasn’t instant? lasagne noodles that you had to boil first? I forget what else.) and they’d send us Vegemite. After our return they sent Nutella as well, something you couldn’t get (or couldn’t get easily?) in the States.

OF COURSE I shared this with my friends.

They thought I was crazy.

Putting CHOCOLATE on BREAD? How ridiculous is that! No wonder you’re such a fat fatty! These FOOLS who enjoyed chocolate chip cookies, chocolate chip muffins, chocolate croissants, white and yellow cake with chocolate frosting, pound cake with chocolate ganache, chocolate bread pudding, etc could not FATHOM putting CHOCOLATE (and hazelnut) on BREAD. Ewwww, gross! I made them eat it, because that’s the kind of friend I am, and they all saw how amazing it was and liked it. And for years, Nutella was a staple in my cupboard.

Now it’s super popular and you can pick it up in almost every grocery store and there’s weird ads for it on television and in magazines where it sounds like it’s health food (it’s chocolate, people. chocolate. tasty, not healthy.) and there’s a million recipes and memes about Nutella online. You can find it pretty much everywhere… except my kitchen.


Because of Nesko.

I married a man who’s allergic to hazelnut. He’s also allergic to chestnuts and brazil nuts.

How allergic is he? I’ll tell you. Years ago, I worked at Fannie May and part of the job requirement was to be familiar with the product. I was sampling the new deluxe truffles (which were INCREDIBLE) and one of them was a hazelnut mousse filling (AMAZING). HOURS after I tried one single truffle with hazelnut Nesko came in to buy some Advent calendars for his cousin’s kids and I gave him a little kiss and his lips started tingling and got a little swollen.

Despite his allergic reactions (swelling, vomiting when he eats chestnuts) he continues to eat stuff with hazelnuts in it unless I remind him not to. His reasoning is that the allergic reaction isn’t THAT bad and hazelnuts taste good. My reasoning is that each exposure ups the chance his allergy will get worse, so stop making bad decisions you fool. So we don’t keep Nutella in the house.

Recently, some peanut butter companies have tried to jump on the Nutella bandwagon and put out their own chocolate spreads. Every time I see them I scrutinize them for hazelnut. Peanuts, after all, are tasty and they are peanut butter companies. Wouldn’t it make sense for them to use peanuts instead of hazelnuts in their java chocolate caramel whatever spreads? But no, they all cram hazelnuts in there.

Then I found these little single-serve packs by Jif. They’re one of the Jif To Go products and they are chocolate and peanut butter and hazelnut free and I ate some with pretzels and I almost died because it tasted so good. I wish they came in a full sized jar, but apparently they don’t. If you want to try out a great tasting nut and chocolate spread but can’t do hazelnut, give this a try because it’s really REALLY good.

This is a totally uncompensated post. Nobody asked me to write it, nobody’s paying me for it, I just wanted to share something super tasty with you because I love you.

posted under CONSUME, eating, life, marriage, Nesko, stuff | Comments Off on Nutella

Hoarding and Purging


For those of you who don’t know me very well, I have some Hoarding tendencies.

I put “hoarding” with a capital H because it’s not just that I like getting stuff and keeping it near me. I feel safer and more complete when I’m surrounded by crap. This is an issue, I know. It’s especially an issue because we don’t have a huge amount of space, and all this crap collects dust and takes up real estate both physical and mental. Over the past few years, I’ve been paring down on a lot of our crap, which is often a challenge, because Nesko and I are both collectors and are both also completionists.

We also have smart phones that we can read electronic versions of books on, and a hard drive that can hold a lot of electronic books.

So I’ve been purging lately. I currently have 5 cloth grocery sacks full of books that I’m taking to the community center to donate for their next book drive. I sorted through my unmentionables and tossed out a bag full of underpants and pyjamas and socks that are unpleasant. I’m going to rifle through our closet again and toss things. I’m ordering CD/DVD wallets into which all of our CDs, DVDs, and game discs and booklets will be inserted, and all our jewel cases are going OUT THE DOOR.

And then there’s the garbage. Do I really need a giant teetering stack of small cardboard boxes? No. A garbage fall full of plastic grocery sacks? No. Stacks of grocery receipts from ten years ago? No. Homework from when I was in high school? No. So that’s going out the door, too. I managed to harvest a big bag of paper recycling just from my desk top. There are only so many used envelopes I need for note taking, you know?

It’s hard, physically and emotionally, but it’s also liberating.


posted under books, crazybrain, home, life, moving, packing, stuff | Comments Off on Hoarding and Purging

I took a step back, and wound up in 1996.


My headphones have been slowly dying, a wire lose from being bent too often. I was listening to my mp3 player today while walking to tutoring, and the sound quality was terrible. I could get the lead guitar and drums of “Me First and the Gimme Gimmes” really well, but everything else? Almost inaudible. The singer was distant, faint, sometimes sounding underwater.

And for a brief moment, I was back in high school, listening to bootleg cassette tapes, or listening to a live band with poorly mixed sound, the vocalist drowned out. Do you remember cassette tapes? How if you listened to them enough the tape would start wearing thin, and you’d sometimes hear a bit of music from the other side? The tinny chipmunk skirl as you fast forwarded? The heavy click and pop as you ejected the tape? Did you ever tape things from the radio, finger poised over the “play” and “record” buttons, trying to get the timing just right? Mix CDs just never felt the same as mix tapes.

Walking back home, I passed a clutch of kids skateboarding on their high school’s cement steps. I remember when nobody in the midwest skated, when skate shops were far and few between, skate magazines a window to some exotic wonderful culture… to freedom.

Sometimes I feel old; other times I feel caught in time. I don’t want to go back to my youth, but it’s nice to reach out sometimes and brush my fingers gently against it.

posted under Chicago, life, midwest, stuff | Comments Off on I took a step back, and wound up in 1996.

If I had a million dollars…


Let’s play a hypothetical game.

You find a bag on your lawn or in your hallway or something. Inside is bundles of cash totaling about a million dollars. They don’t seem to be marked.

What do you do?

Do you call the police or take out an ad asking for someone to claim the money?

Do you contact the IRS to claim/pay taxes on your windfall?

Do you keep it secret?

If you keep it secret, what do you do? How do you spend it without attracting attention to yourself? How do you keep your money safe? How do you keep YOURSELF safe?

posted under blogging, stuff | Comments Off on If I had a million dollars…

Yet Another Post About Shoes


I dropped about $30 at Payless on a pair of Safe-T Step black laceup shoes that are aimed, I think, at people who work in kitchens and warehouses and will in general be on their feet all day. I’m wearing them around the house right now to break them in, and tonight I’ll wear them on the half-mile walk to tutoring. I was riding around in the car today in my canvas shoes, unable to feel my toes because it was so cold, so we’ll see how these shoes hold up. the 8.5W were much too tight and the 9W are a little loose, but hopefully that means I can wear these shoes with 1) an insole and 2) thicker socks and not have any problems.

This is not the ultimate solution to my shoe needs. These are vinyl shoes and they WILL wear out soon. But they are something that can bide me over until I can get “real” shoes and they will work both as an office shoe and as a walking shoe, if I ever manage to get a job.

When it gets warmer, I’m going to try and get a pair of New Balance shoes. A lot of people have recommended them, but I’ve had bad experience with them wearing down and rubbing my feet in weird ways (like, blister-to-open-sore-in-minutes rubbing, and my feet/heels are INCREDIBLY calloused so blisters AT ALL are rare). I’ll see if I can’t find a different style or something. But this spring and summer I’m going to be doing a LOT of walking, since the closest parks are a mile away, the library is over half a mile away, the zoo is free, and I don’t have a driver’s license.

posted under health, life, stuff | 4 Comments »

Anxiety and the way it toys with one.


The weather’s dropping and it’s getting cooler and even cold outside, which means that once again we have mice in the apartment. Which means once again we have mouse shit everywhere, especially on our counters and, you know, the places where we prepare food. Also, for some reason, on the part of the floor near our bed where pillows slip off the bed and land. Which is totally awesome. Lose a pillow at night and it’s gone forever, tainted by mouse poop. Yes, we sweep the mouse poop up. The mice keep shitting. We’ve put out poison, but there’s a limit to where we can put it and any traps because we have a verrrry inquisitive toddler who picks up everything, examines it, and puts it in his mouth. Can you see why we want to limit the use of poison and snap traps both? I’m pretty pissed at mice right now, and can’t even comprehend people keeping rodents as pets. Seriously. Shit. Everywhere. Every place. We’ve been working for months on accumulating vermin proof containers and putting our dry goods in them, but we still have some stuff that the mice can get into and ruin and let me just say that we really can’t afford to lose food to rodent damage.

I was helping Niko draw with crayons and paper, in his highchair, when I looked out the window. I thought I saw a very fat and mottled squirrel, but it turned out to be a calico cat who was chasing squirrels around. As I watched, it pounced on something small and dark. I squinted a bit and saw that it was a mouse, and instantly I was cheering the cat on. Because seriously. There is shit everywhere. All over the counters. All over the stove top. We clean it up and the next morning it’s back. And now it’s weird green shit because they’re eating the poison and shitting it out before going off someplace to, hopefully, die. Green poison shit all over my cook top. Disgusting.

This cat was apparently not very hungry because it played with the mouse for a really, really long time. It’d pounce on the mouse, carry it around in its mouth, drop it, sit back, watch it, turn its back on the mouse, the mouse would run, and the cat would flip around and go after it again… or would watch it run off and then, at the last minute, right before the mouse reached a chink in the fence that wouldn’t admit the cat, pounce on it and drag it back. And then drop it. And the mouse would fall on the ground and go limp and pretend to be dead and the cat would watch it and then feign disinterest and the mouse would think it was safe and go scampering off only to find the cat hot on its ass again.

Which is pretty much what living with Anxiety is like. I go about my daily routine, my life, trying to escape this massive THING, this fate or hand of god or bad luck or whatever, and if I relax it comes bashing down and Gets Me. And I’m aware of it, constantly, that there’s something hanging over my head Out To Get Me. So I try to hide, try to go limp, try to play dead, and sometimes I can fool it but I’m constantly tensed and waiting for something bad to happen, something to go wrong, something to strike me down. Every good thing is spent in tense Anxiety waiting for the bad, waiting for the other shoe to drop.

I started really identifying with that mouse.

But I still wish they’d all get the hell out of my house and stop shitting everywhere.

(Yes, we’re in the process of caulking and great-stuffing and putting steel wool around places. It’s an old building and we’re finding new mouse holes that weren’t there last autumn when we did the last caulking go-round.)

posted under home, life, midwest, stuff | Comments Off on Anxiety and the way it toys with one.



I’ve recently joined pinterest. Does anybody else use this? Hook me up with your boards! Drop some links! Let me see what you’re doing with this!

posted under blogging, social networking, stuff | Comments Off on Pinterest
« Older Entries