I got some disappointing news this morning. I will talk about it, but I’m not ready for that yet.
But maybe you could leave me writing prompts or distractions in the comments?
This was a pretty simple episode that consisted nearly entirely of Island Flashback, which is good because it’s about time the filled us in on some island stuff, while a couple of significant changes to the status quo happen in Now Time.
Things I have done this year:
- graduated from both a masters in education and a PhD in paleontology.
- been a lead classroom teacher for week-long summer camps, and at afterschool.
- taught classes on paleontology, structures, biodiversity, bioluminescence and butterflies.
- found myself jobs, albeit not full time permanent things.
- started dating again, quit dating again, and slowly started thinking about dating again.
- wrote long form fanfiction, and actually started work on the structure of a novel.
- more physical fitness than I’ve ever managed before. Been enthusiastic about a sport!
Things I hope to do next year:
- find a full time job in education.
- attend a historical ball.
- deal with my social anxiety enough to make a real go of the dating thing.
- make a start in actually writing that novel.
- moar skating!
I’m definitely definitely not where I ever intended to be on my 32nd birthday. On the other hand, I’m more or less stable, emotionally. I know who I am, and I know what I love and what I’m good at, and I think I like myself today. I have friends, online and off, I have jobs that I adore, and an amazing living situation with the best roommates I could ask for.
TODAY I am teaching, then going out for an English, then going iceskating. But right now I’m listening to Rock of Ages and dancing in my apartment, because I can.
Today is a day of baking smells (cinnamon rolls for breakfast, fresh baked rosemary bread for lunch, cupcakes in a pile waiting for afterwards,) TV catching up, and cursing comic book artists for making outfits that are hard to copy.
It is also a day for looking out of the window at the eiderdown of snow that fell on the city overnight.
We walked through the snow, Ana and I, last night on returning from gaming night in Manhattan. It was early for a gaming night – midnight rather than two – because of the incoming storm that we didn’t want to be stranding by. And as he went into MacDonalds to get himself a snack, vegetarian little me stood outside, snug as an aphid in an afghan, in my Hunter wellingtons, winter coat, and big fluffy wolf hat. I buried my feet into the fluffy virgin blanket and looked up, squinting into the swirl of snowflakes that was making the night that special kind of grey you only get from snow and streetlights.
Up to 85% of all snowflakes have grown around a bacteria at their center, and as I watched them swirl around me, I reflected on what it meant to be surrounded by uncountable things that were once living. Of course, bacteria and other microbes float around unseen and unperceived all the time, but when they’re surrounded by delicate fluffy crystals, it’s hard to ignore it.
I’ve been thinking a bit about life recently, and my definition of it, and I don’t know when it happened, but I no longer think of ‘life’ as a discrete quantity. Not for me the concept of “a life,” separate from the others, and by extension, not ‘my life’ or ‘your life’ or ‘his life,” but a continuum, magical in my inability to sufficiently explain life to start with.
It’s easy to count the life withing this sack of skin as one, but even my body is a complex machine of symbiotics, not just the bacteria I play host to, but trillions of identical mitochondria, genetically distinct from he nucleus that dictates most of my proteins, but as vital to the functioning of this body as anything else.
I’ve been accidentally poking my head into that corner of the internet that deals with the politics surrounding the ‘beginning’ of life, and it doesn’t fit with me. Of course a human cell that divides is alive. Of course we can’t count each cell and call them distinct. Of course genetic distinction doesn’t make distinct lives any more than identical twins are one person. The life in this body isn’t a thing my parents created, it’s part of a thing that they shared with me. And while this body is temporary, and I may or may not share with the next generation in quite the same way, when I stand in the snow, enjoying the moment when trillions of living things are for once visible to my eye, I’m happy to share it with all of them.
Half way between where I sit and the advance guard of Winter Storm Nemo, sits a bucket that contains a lot of formalin and two large freshwater mussels. Also on that table is two bivalve pairs, cleaned out yesterday after we hacked up the mussels inside them.
It was a messy, disorganized process that hit a snag very early on when I handed the kids (aged on a continuous spectrum between 5 and 10) their mussels and told them to prise them open. In the 10 years since I last carried out a mussel vivisection during my undergraduate degree, muggins here forgot about the ridiculously strong adductor muscles that keep the shell firmly closed even in death. What resulted was five straight minutes of me hacking between the shells with a scalpel while fending off such “helpful” instructions as “SMASH IT WITH A HAMMER!”
(Meanwhile, one of our high school interns sliced the second open with no problems.)
Teaching with an age group as diverse as this one isn’t easy. Especially when there are scalpels involved: when the enthusiastic explorers are hacking flesh apart, I find my attention ripped away by younger children who, at the end of a long school day and nearing the end of an even longer school week, are losing their grip on their ‘indoor voice’ button. At the end of the class, one mussel was ripped asunder, and the other neglected and under appreciated.
It certainly wasn’t a textbook example of how a dissection class should go. And even though I’m still improving as a teacher, there are ways in which this class if never going to look like the focused, guided classes I remember from high school and college. And if it ever does, I’ll be doing my kids a disservice.
So why am I ripping animals apart with the help of children as young as five? What could they be getting out of it?
This should have been a really great episode! And in some ways the show’s definitely coming into its own. Tr0uble is, now they’re bringing all the plot threads together it’s becoming obvious which are really thin indeed. So much for Oliver’s character development from a random murderer to someone who feels bad about murder. So much, also, for Quentin being an actual interesting character?
OTOH, the show’s starting to build up towards some things, the Island plot is becoming something approaching mildly interesting, and the grown ups’ plot if becoming the plot of the show.
Sadly, a ridiculously small amount of Thea, and no Mckenna, or Carly, who I always like to see more of.
Theme of the episode: family and friends going behind each other’s backs. Hence: BETRAYAL.
There is a belief knocking around somewhere in our cultural rhetoric, that “children have favorites,” and by the time we’re adults we have to have grown out of that silliness and show no ridiculous, unfounded partiality. Bollocks to that. My favorite color is purple, my favorite dinosaur is Euoplocephalus and my favorite butterfly is, without a doubt, the Blue Morpho.
And why? Well the short answer is BECAUSE PHYSICS.
There’s a long answer too.
Blue Morpho is a common name that covers a number of butterflies in the Morpho genus. I’m not specific in my favoritism, although I will admit some aesthetic preferences. Morpho are predominately forest dwellers from South America, and are particularly well known for the iridescent colors of their wings. These colors may be for defense against predators (aposematism and Müllerian mimicry) – but as it’s a male feature, it’s probably for sexual selection, despite the similarity in human perception between the different species. The very best thing about Blue Morphos is – they’re not actually pigmented.
January has traditionally been a dreadful month for me; don’t particularly know why, except a generic “winter is depressing” truism. But it’s never surprising when I get into a slump and do nothing productive for the entire month – or longer, usually until March.
This year was no different: in fact, if you’d asked me how I was doing over the last few weeks, I would probably have answered with “I have a case of the Januaries,” which is the only way I can think of to say “I don’t want to do anything except sit on the couch and play Heroes of Might and Magic but I have nothing specific to complain about” – you know, except for the general ambiguous employment situation.
I distracted myself with knitting, and costume-making, and TV, and sat it out. And taught, of course, at the museum and StoSci. But I couldn’t get productivity going; I hid from AIM, I let correspondence fall into the dirt, I sustained a roleplay silence for weeks, which is kind of unlike me.
Then today, I got up, and I didn’t turn on the games and let my morning fall away. I walked out to the post office to mail a parcel I’d been sitting on for a couple days. And I picked up the stuff for the next parcels I need to send out, instead of getting it all at the post office day of. And then I paid in many paychecks. And then I bought a battery to replace the dead one in my watch.
And then I rocked into work, prepared the crap out of class, and taught an excellent class to a group of enthusiastic first graders about butterfly (and moth! I was picked up on my neglect of the greater part of lepidoptera) adaptations.
Basically, my day rocked. And the reason I haven’t been on AIM/tagging this evening? I’ve been too tired, not too depressed.
Bring it, February.
Two things that influence my ability to give Alpha a perfectly unbiased review:
1) Greg Rucka is a favorite writer of mine, and has created and written some of my all time favorite characters, such as Tara Chace, Renee Montoya and Kate Kane.
2) I really really irrationally dislike reading books in the present tense. It disorients me and takes adjusting to, and because more often than not a story contains scenes or elements that take place before the ‘now’ of the book, sometimes necessitates a tense switch that just annoys me more.
So there are two conflicting elements here. Eventually Rucka’s ability to tell a gripping complex story won me over, even though I still found myself thrown out of the story by, not just the tense but rather a lot of unnecessary sentence fragments. Yes, it did lend the book a suitable feeling of raised pace and urgency, but none of the Atticus Kodiak or Queen and Country books needed this.
I’m being harsh. I liked the book!
The plot, as intricate and well supported as any Rucka thriller, deals a terror attack on a fictitious version of Disneyland, told through the major viewpoints of the man hired to carry out the attack, and Jad Bell, the Navy SEAL placed in the park to deter it. Oh, and also Athena, Bell’s Deaf teenage daughter.
I can’t talk about the plot without spoilers – and you don’t want to be spoiled for this – but I will say that it is a terrific thrill ride. The characters were fine, but took a back seat to the structure of the plot, and didn’t come off as especially interesting. The handling of that dialogue that was signed was fantastic, but Athena didn’t seem particularly strongly developed beyond her language. She’s a teenage girl who is interested in a boy and who is sad her parents are divorced. Her father is the Navy SEAL version of John McClane: he’s going through a divorce and he’s sad about it, but distracted by action.
It’s an action book, not a character book. Read it for the action and you won’t be disappointed. But if you really want a top-notch Rucka thriller, go pick up Queen and Country. Trust me.
This is late this week because I’ve been having a less than optimal few days with a cold and a general feeling of ‘meh,’ so I didn’t write this yesterday, deciding to watch Gaksital and Parks and Rec instead.
But this isn’t a bad episode! It’s not an amazing episode either: I found it kind of boring for the drama it was supposed to bring to the series, and goodness did they ever ruin an opportunity for an interesting villain. However, it is actually cohesive to the extent that I realize I cannot keep to my organization by subplots anymore. Back to chronological recapping!