Looking for book…

Looking for book recommendations? While visiting, Jason asked for recommendations for good sf/f. He mentioned that he liked Dan Simmons' Hyperion and Guy Gavriel Kay. I immediately dragged a whole bunch of books off my shelf for him to look at -- I thought some of you might be interested too. These are all really worth a read, in my opinion:

  • Peter S. Beagle, The Rhinoceros Who Quoted Nietzsche (short stories)
  • Francesca Lia Block, Weetzie Bat
  • Octavia E. Butler, Dawn (start of trilogy)
  • Jonathan Carroll, The Marriage of Sticks
  • Pamela Dean, Tam Lin
  • Carol Emshwiller, The Start of the End of It All (short stories)
  • Molly Gloss, The Dazzle of Day
  • Lisa Goldstein, The Red Magician
  • Barbara Hambly, Dragonsbane
  • Nina Kiriki Hoffman, A Red Heart of Memories
  • Nalo Hopkinson, Midnight Robber
  • Barry Hughart, Bridge of Birds
  • Kij Johnson, The Fox Woman
  • Ellen Kushner, Swordspoint
  • Kelly Link, Stranger Things Happen (short stories)
  • Patricia A. McKillip, The Riddle-Master of Hed (start of trilogy)
  • Patricia A. McKillip, The Tower at Stony Wood (stand-alone)
  • Joanna Russ, The Female Man
  • Mary Doria Russell, The Sparrow
  • Connie Willis, Doomsday Book

I just disappeared on…

I just disappeared on you, didn't I? House guests are absorbing. :-)

It's been a very nice couple of days. Jason arrived on Friday around noon. We ducked over to Cucina for a quick lunch, and then walked to campus. Crocuses blooming! I had a budget meeting with Paul and a dean, so I just dumped Jason in the lobby; he was very patient. After the meeting, Paul and Jason and I walked up to the ASUU offices, and then swung by the department so I could show Jason where I (occasionally) worked. It's kind of a cool building, but my cubical is not so exciting. Ah well. We walked home, getting slightly lost on the way -- I don't walk to school in winter, so it's been some months, and there's a particularly confusing bit with lots of curving streets. I felt like a bit of a doofus, though -- getting lost on a twenty minute walk that I *have* done many times before.

We just hung out for a while, chatting, getting to know each other better. Jason's someone who I knew casually when we lived in Philly -- the boyfriend of Heather J., Kevin's ex-girlfriend. All mathematicians. He had a motorcycle, which I thought was amazingly cool. (He doesn't have it anymore; got in an accident, decided it was too dangerous. This appears to be the fate of people who own motorcycles...) I only saw him a few times there, but we had some good conversations. Then, when I lived in California, he came out to a math conference at Berkeley, and we ended up spending some time together then. It was oddly reassuring talking to him, in some ways -- he and Heather J. were about to get married, and somehow it alleviated a fluttering little anxiety that had somehow stuck around -- for the first year or so that Kevin and I were dating, he was still very much in love with his ex-girlfriend. She was slender and smart and beautiful *and* a mathematician; she understood what Kev was talking about when he talked about work, which I never would. I was fiercely insecure about her for a while -- even though I knew and liked her. Odd situation. That all resolved itself in time; Kevin and I grew a lot closer, and he and Heather J. became much more clearly just friends.

The last few years have been so odd. Y'all have heard what's been happening with me and Kev. On Jason's end, he and Heather J. recently divorced. Very sad. It drives me crazy sometimes -- that people can clearly love each other very much, and yet not be able to work things out. I hope they both end up okay and happy in the long run.

So, as you can imagine, we did a fair bit of comparing notes on what it's like when your serious relationship ends. It was a little comforting, I suppose. A little saddening too. I was glad when it was time to start dinner; Jason was a great sous-chef. He stirs like a fiend. :-) Paul and Marcia joined us, and we had a really nice time; one of those dinners with good wine and great conversation. Marcia was especially sparkling.

On Saturday, we decided to go out for brunch. We walked to Oasis, where I had cranberry-walnut french toast, and Jason had a massive burrito, with potatoes -- and then ate half of my french toast. He was hungry! I did steal some potatoes. We walked for a while afterwards -- stopped in the new age bookstore next door, then walked downtown. It had started to snow, and I wasn't wearing a heavy coat, but somehow it wasn't all that cold. I guess it often isn't when it's snowing. Still, we were happy to reach downtown and take refuge in the Beehive House. Jason has a close friend who's LDS, and he was pretty curious about Mormon stuff. I just think the Beehive House is cool, with beautiful architecture and furnishings; I'm always happy to do one of their free tours. Though it's a little disconcerting how they go through the entire tour referring to Brigham Young and 'his wife, Abigail' and 'their children' and somehow never mention that next door, in the Lion House, lived all his other wives and their children...

We walked through Temple Square too, ducking into the Tabernacle briefly. Lovely building. Then to Borders for some chai and resting. I'm enough out of shape that an hour of walking makes me a bit tired. We were considering a movie, but the times weren't so good, and as we were talking, Jason suddenly announced that what he really wanted to do was go to Deseret Industries! Which is a thrift store, much like Goodwill. Umm...okay. So we got on the light rail and went. He got a cool shirt; I ended up buying two. At $4 each -- how can you resist? I have a real weakness for men's white button-down shirts. Jason also ended up getting a small powder-blue suitcase, and a bunch of drinking glasses. Not items I would choose to buy while out of town, but what the heck...

Leftovers for dinner, and early bed. Neither of us had been sleeping well the previous two nights, and we were both kind of groggy by nine-ish on Saturday.

Yesterday was just lovely. Woke up to a heavy snowstorm, blanketing the street with at least a foot of snow. Cleaned up and cooked for potluck brunch. I made some potato sambar and idli -- sadly, the idli didn't quite work. Too much water somehow, I think. Luckily, the sambar was thick enough to eat by itself. I also made a onion and bell pepper frittata; that came out pretty well -- plenty of salt, pepper, and dill in the eggs. Various and sundry people came: Paul and Marcia and Lisa and Eric and Sarah and Peter and Brian K. More would have come, but were prevented by the snow. Ah well. They stayed and chatted until 3-ish, I think. I'm glad Jason likes my friends here, and vice versa.

Somehow in conversation it came up that Jason had no good recent photos of himself. I am always happy for an excuse to use my digital camera, so after people left we put on big boots and tromped through the snow. We went up to the cemetery (only a block away), and spent an hour walking around, taking photos madly. We took about a hundred photos, mostly of Jason, and I think got about thirty decent ones, and about five stellar ones. He's very photogenic, and it's still amazing how many bad photos it takes to get a good one. Hooray for digital cameras. :-) It was very peaceful walking through the mostly-untrodden snow, pausing to consider tombstones. Odd items would catch our eyes, here and there. A pinwheel in the snow. Silk flowers. A massive Japanese tombstone. A sheltered copse fairly high up, where stone benches lay with only the lightest drifting of snow. Afterwards, we came home and watched tv for the rest of the evening. Simpsons, Star Trek. Really nice day.

Photos on the next page.

Having gotten calls from…

Having gotten calls from both David and Jed, I should perhaps clarify that I'm fine this morning -- in a good mood, even. Kev and I did eventually get to a reasonable place on all this. It's something of a tempest in a teapot, in any case -- it wasn't about anything actually important. I'm just a little tired, a little emotionally drained. There'll be more of that next week, I suspect.

Finishing the Due now, drinking tea. Laundry's mostly done, just a few dishes left; otherwise, my place is very clean. It's quite pleasant. :-)

Last night, I fell…

Last night, I fell asleep with the cordless phone on the bed. I'd been talking. Which meant that when Kevin called, maybe ten minutes after I fell asleep, I heard and answered the phone. I have no idea what the first few minutes of that conversation were like.

Eventually, I started conversing like an awake human being. Eventually, it got to be 4 a.m. Eventually, it became clear that at the very least I'd really misread something he'd said recently, and that at the most, I'd sort of deliberately avoided dealing with it. Which is funny, sort of, because I'd just been thinking yesterday about how that's one of my worst character flaws, that if there's an unpleasant truth I don't want to deal with, I sometimes don't -- I just hide. Put my head in the sand and go do something else fun. Usually something I really want to do. This is sort of linked to the stuff the other day, about looking at the pleasant things, but it's worse than that, because I usually know deep down that the thing I'm avoiding dealing with is hurting someone else. I'm not generally a malicious person; this is the way I've most often hurt people in the past. By trying not to think about how my doing what I want to do will upset them. I've gotten better, but clearly not entirely.

If I were a Catholic again, I'd be asking God why the heck we needed free will anyway. Every once in a while, it feels really hard to be good -- a matter not just of making good choices when faced with crises, but really changing the way you think and act on a fundamental level. Ben Franklin thought he could do it by inculcating good habits; I guess I agree with him, but it's not as easy as it looks.

5 rooms clean, 1 to go. …

5 rooms clean, 1 to go. The combination of Jason visiting (who's never been here before), Kevin visiting, and people coming for brunch Sunday gave me good motivation to do a really thorough cleaning job today. Actually did a three-step mop in the kitchen (a) hit worst areas with full-strength cleaner, b) do entire floor with diluted cleaner, c) rinse with hot water and dry (trust me, it needed it)). It's amusing, since none of the people coming by actually care whether my house is clean or not -- in fact, I'll be surprised if Jason or Kevin even notice. But a) I know that having house guests tends to mess things up, so that it's easier to recover if the place is clean to begin with, and b) it's just a good excuse to get me up off my ass and clean. I was cleaning with the tv turned up loud, so I was reasonably entertained throughout.

After all that, I took a hot bath with satsuma bubble bath, which felt great, and am soon going to go finish that slice of key lime pie I picked up earlier. Mmm...

I'm a little keyed up. Seeing Jason is...complicated. In ways that I don't really feel I can talk about here, since they involve several other people I don't know that well. But overall, I expect it'll be good. Pleasant, fun, maybe a little exciting. He's someone who I've had these odd, intense conversations with -- and then gone years without talking at all. It'll be nice to have some longer conversations, maybe turn into actual friends instead of just very friendly acquaintances. He's another mathematician, did I mention? Mathematicians are marvelous...when they're not maddening and/or muddled. :-)

I have a math geek fetish. What can I say? It's not just to date, either, though I've dated plenty of them. I used to love just sitting in the big room on the second floor of Eckhart Hall (the math building), having tea and cookies with all the math guys, letting the incomprehensible conversation just wash over me. Or hanging out with the grad students in the basement, picking up their little phrases, though I'm not sure I ever had the nerve to use them in conversation they way they did, casually. After a few years, I got at least a few of the jokes, though. "Non-trivial." Heh. That phrase crept in everywhere, along with "non-obvious". I know how to pronounce all sorts of things that I don't understand too. Like co-homologous. Hmm...not sure I actually spelled that right, after all this time. But I know how to pronounce it. No idea what it means. (Don't tell me -- I *like* not knowing.)

I feel like I should have a button: I Was a Teenage Math Groupie. Though actually, I was about twenty when that started, and sadly, it doesn't seem to have ended yet.

I suspect it would extend to physics geeks too, at the very least. But I meet far fewer of those. In fact, I wonder if part of it is simply that the math guys were my first exposure to graduate students. I wanted to be one of them, y'know? Not in math, but a grad student, a scholar, following that slightly incomprehensible path. It took me a while, didn't it? But I'm here now.

Maybe it was that, the grad school thing. Or maybe it was just that they were very smart, and very cute.

Yay, math geeks. :-)

Yeesh, I think…

Yeesh, I think yesterday's a record -- six entries in one day. I'll try to restrain myself a bit today. I did manage to get a few of you to write to me, which is something. I feel a bit hypocritical asking you to write, given that I often write back fairly briefly, but I'm asking anyway. What the heck. :-)

I did end up vacuuming the living room at some point in my procrastination yesterday (between stories 2 & 3, I think). Two rooms clean, four to go. I've been working on the sunroom this morning; watering plants, trimming away dead matter, wiping down the shelf that they rest on (which inevitably gets covered in bits of water and soil and dust and just odd crud). It's nice working in the sunroom in the morning, when it's sunny among the plants. The streets are covered with snow and I really don't want to go outside (have to later, sadly), but it's warm and cozy in here, and the sun is falling invitingly across the soft Celtic throw on my papasan chair. Going to sweep, and then I'll be relatively done here...though the office side of the room could really use some more organization. The art supplies are a little tricky to store; some things can be put away in ArtBin-type containers, but I have all these dried flowers. They're fragile, and I really can't think of anything to do with them except put them in a big vase and try not to jostle it.

Okie, you probably don't want to hear about the details of my organizational and cleaning dilemmas. :-)

Mack asked me in e-mail, to talk about what I liked about Laurell K. Hamilton's novels. I'm not sure I have anything very profound to say -- vampires are sexy, werewolves are sexy, kick-ass yet highly attractive women are sexy (Buffy, Xena, etc.). When you make the woman very small, I'm going to immediately identify and bond with her. (Did y'all know that I'm 5'0"? Well, now you know.) And when you make her a devout Christian at the start of the series, *and* practically a virgin, with all sorts of sexual hang-ups, that's going to create a lot of dramatic tension. And when you keep throwing her into non-monogamous situations, of various flavors -- well, that's pretty much precisely my cup of tea. Great books. Go read them. And be sure to start at the beginning, which I think is Guilty Pleasures.

I started the Tananarive Due last night, My Soul to Keep. So far, it doesn't seem as interesting as The Between, possibly because there's less mystery to it. It also feels less literary, more like popular horror. But there's still some good stuff, and I think I'll enjoy finishing it.

There's some chance that a friend may unexpectedly come to visit me this weekend. He e-mailed last night about the possibility. Which may play merry hell with my proposed work schedule. But really, what's more important -- a friend you haven't seen in years, or a pile of silly work? But maybe I'd best try to be productive today, just in case. If I can get *ahead* of schedule, that'd be a fine thing.

So, Todd says various…

So, Todd says various nice things about me. Which I'm going to quote here, not just because I'm fond of praise, but because I want to talk about them, and I know that some of you don't follow links very well:

Mary Anne's journal makes me jealous in a number of ways because she is able to take simple pleasures in a way that seems to elude me. I'm not saying I don't have any - I mean, I take joy in a good meal and so forth - but Mary Anne can sit in a room and just feel sensory currents wash over her, just take joy in being in that particular place in that particular way at that particular time. She can find more solace in a single cup of tea than I can find in a month of fine dining. Reading her prose about New Orleans made me wonder if she was actually visiting the same place I grew up around. I'm not saying I don't see good things in New Orleans - viz my first novel, which you will never read - but they are not the same things she sees. Amazing!

I was at first tempted to dismiss this with a simple -- well, I'm a hedonist. Or, well, I'm an optimist. But then I started thinking about what that means, exactly, and whether it's a trait that can be shared, or learned. It'd be nice if it could, because honestly, I really am one of the happiest people I know. And in part, that's because I've tailored my life pretty well to let me do the kind of things I like to do. But it's not just that -- even when I hated my job, I still had this kind of personality. The kind that can be made really happy by a cup of tea -- and in fact, is made really happy by a cup of tea every morning. Or by sunlight on the water. Or the way the air feels right after it rains.

Am I so unusual in this? I was startled by Todd's post; I guess I assumed that everyone basically felt this way, and that maybe I just talked about it more. But maybe not; maybe some other people really have a less pleasurable experience of the world. And if so, why would that be? We all have basically the same senses, right?

The only thing I can think of is that on some level, I *choose* to dwell on the pleasurable sensations. And concurrently, that I really avoid dwelling on the unpleasant ones. Which is perhaps not an entirely healthy thing -- if your hand hurts, you want to check to see if you've cut or burned it. You don't want to concentrate on how pretty the roses outside your window look. Or, more plausibly, you don't want to get back into an old relationship because you've managed to erase all the stressful, difficult times out of your memory and just focused on the good stuff...which you've made even better simply by being enthusiastic about it, dwelling on it, intensifying the experience. Right?

I'm really not very introspective -- or at least, I haven't been, compared to a lot of people I know. I've gotten more so, in the last few years of living alone. And this journal has helped immensely in making me more aware of what's going on with me. I know there have been umpteen entries in the last few days -- it's in part a way of processing everything that's gone on in the last chaotic few weeks. Recording and interpreting and exerting some measure of control, all at once. If I don't train myself to do this kind of thing, I tend to just exist in my body, at the mercy of whatever emotional whims come along, both highs and lows.

You tend to hear more about the highs because I was trained not to whine in public. Or at least to be funny about it if you're going to do it. It doesn't mean I don't get sad, sometimes very sad. For example, I mentioned that I was only awake for about ten hours on Sunday? What I didn't mention is that I spent most of those hours weeping, hopelessly, helplessly, off and on. That I called Kevin up and made him buy a ticket to come visit me and talk this stuff out more and try to come to a resolution. (He's arriving next Tuesday, staying through Sunday morning). I'm honestly not sure why I was in such an emotional state -- I felt fine when I got up on Monday. Happy. Content.

I asked Kevin once if I was low-maintenance or high-maintenance. He said that I was generally very low-maintenance with occasional periods of very high-maintenance. Sounds about right.

I'm rambling. My point is, I guess, that I'm an emotional person who (subconsciously, but very effectively) tries to dwell on the positive side of life. And that I've had to train myself to do a little more introspection and analysis, which has given me more overall perspective (and in some ways, more happiness, though it's of a more placid nature). I suspect people like Todd (and possibly Kevin) fall on the other side of the fence -- that the introspection and analysis come naturally to them, and that perhaps they need to train themselves (I'm not sure how) to experience the emotional and sensory pleasures (and sorrows) fully. 'Need to' is probably too strong a statement. But it might at least be worth a try. If they can figure out how. I suspect they'd find it intensely uncomfortable for a while, though.