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The Hanging Gardens

home to boggles and beasties and all things that go bump in the night

Consent and Mind Control
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settecorvi
I’ve started listening to podcasts while I run, since I discovered the delicious number of free fantasy and scifi stories on iTunes. One of the first I stumbled upon was Metamor City, a scifi/ fantasy fusion, and it kept me entertained on the elliptical until episode seven. Then I flew into a teeth-gnashing rage and promptly lost all sympathy for the protagonists.

Warning for discussion of rapeCollapse )

Consent is one of my sticking points. Respecting others’ boundaries is another. You cannot have your character destroy another person’s bodily and mental autonomy without so much as a warning and still expect me to view them as an unadulterated good guy, not unless one hell of a lot of soul searching and genuine remorse follows.

* Which could be an interesting viewpoint to take, since the next story in the series makes it clear that most psychics don’t view non-telepaths as their equals. Except in this case, we’re explicitly meant to view Abby as a sympathetic protagonist putting together a brilliant and morally acceptable plan, not as a twisted anti-hero manipulating humans she sees as one step up from animals for what she considers their own good.

Originally posted at http://settecorvi.dreamwidth.org/10024.html.

Insight isn't always fun
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settecorvi
I had my first face-to-face conversation with someone who's anti-choice yesterday. That is, I'm sure I've had plenty of conversations with anti-choice people, since we typically don't walk around with labels on our foreheads, but this was the first time I ended up arguing about the right to abortion with someone I know, respected as a peer, and need to interact with on a regular basis.

I am not a good debater unless I am emotionally disengaged. When I get nervous I get flustered, I talk too fast, my palms start sweating, I start second-guessing myself and playing out threads of possible arguments and counter-arguments like a crazy unraveling tapestry of potential futures until I lose track of the points I need to be making in the moment. What I need to do is slow down, listen to my partner's arguments as they're articulated, and respond to them one by one. Once the adrenaline shock of having something I care about deeply under attack hits, that logic invariably fails.

When a man looks at me and calmly says that he would have no problem letting me die, or my mother die, or any of my friends with uteri die, my immediate reaction is an overwhelming mixture of fury and fear that makes it very hard to disengage. Of course, it's never couched in those terms. It's always "the woman," a comforting abstract. He wouldn't have any problem letting a faceless, nameless woman die even if the pregnancy would kill her, or maim her, because there might be a chance that the fetus could survive, even if it were only for a few weeks past birth. I let myself be drawn into a confused argument about how we judge the percentage of risks to the mother and fetus, which in retrospect was an incredibly bad choice. I tried to explain that bodily autonomy shouldn't be eliminated in this case and only in this case; we wouldn't let an adult human use another person as life support without that person's consent, so why should it be different for a fetus? I brought up the classic comparison with forced organ donations - he has two healthy kidneys, shouldn't he give one up, since the health risks to him are so minimal and somebody else needs one to survive? "Why would I do that?" he asked, and that was all he would say when I tried to make the parallel more explicit. I have rarely wanted to seize and shake somebody so badly in my life.

That was when he quite literally told me that being forced to carry a pregnancy to term and face all of the health risks associated with it was just the consequence of being born with a uterus. It wasn't his fault, it was just nature. You could probably hear the gears in my brain grinding against each other while I stared at him in sheer, abject horror. I pointed out that he was currently wearing glasses, which was going against nature, and that if he developed cancer as a result of a genetic predisposition he wouldn't decide not to treat it just because nature had given him that vulnerability. He didn't care. Those arguments were simply not applicable in his frame of reference. He blatantly did not care about any of the points that I made, and I probably wasn't making them as effectively as I could have.

Fortunately, he has no intention of going into ob-gyn. Even more importantly, he's willing to refer to another physician so long as there are doctors willing and able to prescribe or perform the appropriate services. I'll never be able to look at him the same way, though. No matter how reasonable and kind he seems when interacting with our classmates, there'll always be the little internal voice reminding me that he thinks a woman should be forced to carry to term even if it kills her.

I wonder if he'll have the opposite reservations about me, or if it just doesn't matter enough to him.

Emotions aren't a weakness. Studies have shown that without emotions we make decisions that produce more harm than good, often to ourselves; it's one of the major reasons that bad sociopaths are caught so easily. (Good sociopaths learn how to mimic emotions well enough to fool most everyone.) When somebody tells you that they don't believe you have the right control your own body, it's irrational not to react strongly. What I need to do is learn how to take a mental step back and channel the initial emotional gutpunch into a galvanizing force rather than let it throw my thoughts into disarray.

Originally posted at http://settecorvi.dreamwidth.org/9750.html.
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(no subject)
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settecorvi
Cat Valente is an author who cannot be described by mere adjectives, no matter how fulsome. She makes prose that is the literary equivalent of a multi-course, sumptuous meal, full of an interplay of flavors and narrative threads that need to be savored slowly. So while I haven't had the chance to read her latest book, Habitations of the Blessed, I feel quite confident in declaring it preemptively awesome.

What is it about? I'm so glad you asked, because Ms. Valente has made a video to tell you.

Using her action figures. Naturally.



In conclusion, if that video didn't convince you, you should buy this book so that she can write more of them and we can buy more of them in a happy, reciprocal cycle.

Originally posted at http://settecorvi.dreamwidth.org/9508.html.

Fireworks before the Fourth. And below it.
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settecorvi
Somebody is setting off fireworks on the street level just a few blocks from my apartment. I thought the sound was thunder at first, until I looked out the window and saw the sparks and trails of light flashing through the narrow streets. It's beautiful, but almost vertiginous. The ground is not the place for fireworks - it's like glancing out an airplane window to see a pig trotting merrily along through the clouds. Not to mention the deep-seated knowledge of just how dangerous this must be. Most of the surrounding buildings are taller than the fountains of light exploding around them, and I don't envy the residents.

Well. Not much.

On the subject of Persian cats
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settecorvi
My general stance on Persian cats is that they're abominations, but in a bizarrely adorable way. They're so far on the ugly spectrum that they come back around to cute, like those weird, perpetually wheezy little dogs with the goggly goldfish eyes. I look at their squashy flat faces and their permanently concussed expressions and they're so hapless, so obviously unfit for survival, that a primal "Awww" of pity and amusement rises up in my breast. Also, I kind of want to shear them like tiny meowing sheep.

The best thing is, the more deformed a Persian gets, the more it's seen as an exemplary member of the breed. For example, the Cat Fancier's Association named this Best Cat (of all possible cat breeds in the entire show) for the 2008-2009 show season:
Bestest Cat EVAR

Yes, I know, it doesn't even look like a cat, it may not even have legs under that fur, but who cares? I cannot be in a bad mood when I look at that picture. Even thinking about it can be enough reduce me to hysterical giggles. It's like a mop with teensy little ears and big, big orange eyes staring out at you with all the confused woe in the world. No matter how bad you have it, at least you are not that cat.

All of that is a very long introduction to a revelation I received courtesy of ginmar: Persian kittens are cute. Not so-ugly-it's-cute, just plain adorable. Mind-bogglingly so. Moreso that other cat breeds. All of the features that make them such hilarious monstrosities as adults - their big round eyes, their squished faces, their overabundance of fur - makes them weapons grade cute kittens.


(no subject)
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settecorvi
My relationship with the cardigan currently on the needles is getting hot and heavy, if only because I just attached the sleeves to the body and so have a giant lump of wool on my lap in the middle of summer. Said cardigan is decisively into the ugly stage, where it’s vaguely misshapen and the stitches are uneven and there are gaping holes in the armpits and loose ends everywhere and oh god why did I ever think I could knit? But a good blocking will straighten all that out.*

I’m also in the process of moving out of the dorm, which means that right now my room bears a striking resemblance to the cardigan, loose ends and all. There’s a whole lot of barely controlled chaos with a vague hint of underlying order spied among the piles of books and bed linens, and within the next couple of days I’ll pummel it into submission.

A good blocking will probably not do the trick on the room, however.

On a more introspective note, I have lots of thinky thoughts - the alchemy of knitting, noticing personal warning signs, being an introvert vs. being antisocial vs. being a hermit, interstitiality as a scientist-artist type person - but have been generally too low-energy and scatterbrained to sit down and write. Not necessarily in a negative space, just...listless and without any desire to make myself focus more than I need to knit. Possibly medical school applications on top of senior thesis on top of senior recital on top of finals left me more burned out than I thought. Which is slightly exasperating, since I don't remember ever really feeling like I was nearing my limits, but that's the best explanation I have for my current state of mostly-content immobility.

* Blocking is the magical, wonderful process whereby you gently – or in my case, overenthusiastically – encourage the fabric to take on the dimensions you want. I will never stop being delighted by the difference blocking can make for a garment. It's like watching a hat come out of a rabbit. Admittedly, I started knitting with lace, where the finished object doesn’t look like anything but a snarl of yarn until you block it, so I may be treating the process with a bit too much reverence.

This is relevant to my interests!
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settecorvi
The brains of shy or introverted individuals might actually process the world differently than their more extroverted counterparts, a new study suggests.

"Individuals with this highly sensitive trait prefer to take longer to make decisions, are more conscientious, need more time to themselves in order to reflect, and are more easily bored with small talk, research suggests.

Previous work has also shown that compared with others those with a highly sensitive temperament are more bothered by noise and crowds, more affected by caffeine, and more easily startled. That is, the trait seems to confer sensitivity all around."

Well. Not to make this all about me, but that sounds familiar. It might be a bit early to go straight to "obviously an inborn trait," seeing as they didn't do any control for the environment people were raised in (or at least so far as I can tell from the blurb without access to the actual article), and I am automatically leery of fMRI data unless analyses of it were rigorously controlled*, but still!

* And I have been ever since I read this one study where they put a dead fish in the fMRI and showed it pictures with different emotional salience. If they didn't use this incredibly stringent control for the statistical analysis - a control that not everybody submitting papers uses - then they found, or "found", that areas in the fish's decomposing brain activated in response to emotionally fraught images. And then there was that other study showing that science students were more likely to trust a paper's findings and overlook glaring methodological flaws if the paper included brain imaging data.
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Breaking news: Sleep is good!
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settecorvi
Some of my classmates can function on no sleep. They brag about all-nighters, or ruefully admit that they only got nine or so hours for the past three days total. I cannot do that. At all. I need seven to eight hours minimum to function normally. Deprive me of sleep and I end up wandering around in a daze all day feeling like I'm half-anesthetized, and it's just more efficient to lose two hours of work to get the sleep I need than to lose an entire workday because I can't string a coherent thought together above the "Fire bad. Tree pretty" level.

So for the past week Unavoidable Circumstances have made me break one of my cardinal rules and I've only been snagging half of what I need. The results have been...well. I ended dozing off repeatedly during an orchestra rehearsal while the brass were thundering Mahler loudly enough to shake the floor. This was not voluntary, this was literally being unable to keep my eyes open. Pinching myself didn't work. Trying to keep moving a bit didn't work. I kept on counting measures while sinking in and out of sleep and somehow managed to always jerk myself awake just in time to make my entrances. It ended up being a surreal sort of push-and-pull between states of consciousness. That was fun! I never want to do it again.

And after nearly a week of only getting three to five hours of sleep a night, six hours feels fantastic. I'm not staggering around all zombified! Complex concepts like "putting on pants" and "brushing teeth" no longer require extensive consideration before being enacted! A girl could get used to this.
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The Oracle gets literal
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settecorvi
So as I've mentioned, occasionally I go and plug questions into a couple different Tarot-things on the Interwebs. I don't exactly take the readings I get as serious answers, but it sure can be interesting. Since I am currently obsessing over a Certain Thing at the moment, I asked...Collapse )

Well, at least that doesn't require much interpretation.

Recording for posterity
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settecorvi
Today? Today was awesome, for a whole passel of reasons. Today was filled with productivity and mint chocolate and orange chocolate and lace and dragons* and finally making progress on a number of stalled projects.

Now I go to sleep the sleep of the righteous who have crossed items off of their To Do list.

* Well, a dragon. I have made admiring noises at Creatures from El for years now. And due to medical school shenanigans, I (quite happily) forwent presents for the year. Only I got into the Wonderful School of Wonderfulness in Wonderville and was able to cancel around half my interviews. Each interview is easily $300 of travel, so that's a whole bunch of money saved, which is yay-worthy enough on the face of it. And then what should arrive in the mail today but a mysteeerious package all the way from Canada and it contained a dragon, my very own sparkly, twisty dragon. I may have actually flailed like a muppet, before calling my parents and doing the verbal equivalent. (At least I didn't swear.) And lookit his ears! His big bunny ears! Ladies and gentlemen, I am the proud owner of a lop dragon. I shall call him Mr. Flopsy. He should probably have a more dignified name, but it's the sort of name that once thought cannot be unthought and now he's stuck as a Mr. Flopsy.
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