Things accomplished

All in all, November has been a highly productive month.

Yesterday, I hit the 50,000 word mark in my NaNoWriMo project, marking the first time I have ever done so.  Usually I give up after a week or so.  This year, I stuck with it, wrote it in bits and jolts, kept writing even when I had no idea where that writing was leading, and at around 49,500 words, it came to me.  I have a rather magnificent ending.  Now I just need to make sure the beginning and middle build toward it properly.

I did this in the midst of having to finish two final projects and take a final exam for a statistics course, and battling some sort of illness that was causing my face to swell and the rest of my body to break out in hives.  I got an A in the class, and the doctors have discovered that my immune system is attacking my thyroid gland, and have gotten me on the proper medication.  The swelling is gone, and while the hives still appear every morning, meaning that I still need to be on Prednisone for a while, I feel like the end is in sight.  I just need to give this new thyroid medication time to do its thing, and possibly have the dosage adjusted.

There are still some tests outstanding, but I’m less concerned now.  I feel like I have an answer, and there may be more news coming, but now that the unknown-ness is over, I feel more at ease.  What I have now has a name, and like a demon, now that I know it’s name, I feel confident that I can cast it out, though it may take a few tries.  Demons are stubborn creatures.

Today, I’m headed off to a local museum to see, among other things, an exhibit about poison.  It’s timely, because poison plays into the story I was writing for NaNoWriMo.

All of this confirms once again a simple fact about myself that I know to be true – I work better under pressure, or when I’m busy, or when life conspires to force me to have to manage my time.

I think it all comes down to not having kids.  A lot of my friends and coworkers and regular acquaintances are parents, and I see how time consuming small humans are.  Especially, I think, for women, because even among my more feminist friends, I still observe the woman people doing more of the child-involved work than the man-people.  And lacking that distraction, I have oodles of potential creative time.  Knowing that, it’s sometimes hard for me to settle into work, because I know that I always have later.

This month, I really didn’t have that.  There were other things happening, and the great unknown of the illness, meaning I was extra-motivated to stay on top of all my work, both school and otherwise, because I wasn’t sure what might happen.

Going into December, I’m hopeful I can keep up this momentum.

But come January, I’ll be in classes again.  More statistics classes, for those wondering.  And that will, I believe, keep the creativity going – not just because I’ll have to balance my time, but because I found November to be a nice balance between my work/school life, and the creative side to me.  I rather enjoyed the balance I achieved in November.  I haven’t felt this accomplished in a long time.

The beauty of not caring about beauty

As I’ve been spending inordinate amounts of time lately compulsively checking the mirror and hoping my face doesn’t swell up too much, and talking openly about gaining weight and being okay with that, it’s led me in a big circle back around to the idea of beauty, and how I’ve let go of it.

At least, I’ve let go of the idea that a woman is required to adhere to a certain aesthetic standard in order to be appealing to men.  I haven’t let go of the idea of beauty, I’ve just learned to not care about the sort of beauty valued by the male gaze.

Continue reading “The beauty of not caring about beauty”

I’m essentially allergic to myself.

So for the past 5 weeks, my face has been swelling up for no reason that we can figure out.  It could be an allergy…but my doctor has noted that it’s not acting like an allergy, and all common allergens have been removed, so it’s likely an autoimmune issue of some sort.  I’ve been on and off Prednisone, because every time I come off, this happens:

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Continue reading “I’m essentially allergic to myself.”

Dear Jared Fogle,

Enjoy jail, you abominable piece of shit.

The part in his “apology” when he says there’s not a day that will go by that he won’t think about what he did to his victims…did anyone else take that to mean he’ll be wanking off in solitary?  Because he seems like the type who will just sit back and enjoy the memories.

I just threw up a little thinking about it.

Continue reading “Dear Jared Fogle,”

Advice to job seekers: Don’t sound like a serial killer in your cover letter

I’ve had the (mis)fortune of being part of hiring teams twice this year, and I keep seeing things that bug me.  So here are some things that will land you squarely in my NOPE! pile:

Continue reading “Advice to job seekers: Don’t sound like a serial killer in your cover letter”

I’m gaining weight like crazy, and that’s just fine with me.

So I’ve been on prednisone for a while, and am doing a slow taper off now, as the last attempt to taper me off more assertively ended fairly disastrously with pretty nasty facial angioedema and full-body hives.  My doctor’s exact words to me yesterday were, “Whatever you have, it’s angry.”

I wrote a bit about how, after having lost weight due to digestive issues, I’m now gaining it back due to the steroid.  I actually have no idea how much I weigh, because I decided I don’t care and shouldn’t care.  It doesn’t matter.  I need to take this drug right now.  It’s going to cause weight gain.  It’s okay to gain weight.  It’s okay to be chubby or fat.  I’m allowed to eat more food than normal if I want to (and believe me, they’re not kidding when they say pred increases your appetite.)  And on the back end, whenever that comes, I have absolutely no obligation to lose whatever weight is gained due to this drug.

I read a piece about how weight gain is the most dreaded side effect of drugs like prednisone.  That makes me sad, because I think it’s horribly misguided.

Continue reading “I’m gaining weight like crazy, and that’s just fine with me.”

NaNoWriMo Day 10

This is my “it’s 10 days into NaNoWriMo and this shit is hard” face.

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I also looked in my pics folder and realized that I seem to wear gray tank tops a lot.  What’s that about?  I have two years worth of pics of me in gray tank tops.

Music playing as I write:  London Grammar.  Holy shit I love this band.

Anyone else have any music they like to write to?  I’m always looking for recommendations.  C’mon, lurkers, help me out here.  I’ve still got a lot of November ahead of me.

Science explains why white people deny white privilege

In the November issue of the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, there’s a study about why white people claim hardships in response to discussions about white privilege (Vol. 61, pgs 12-18).

Here’s the abstract, bolding mine:

Racial inequity continues to plague America, yet many Whites still doubt the existence of racial advantages, limiting progress and cooperation. What happens when people are faced with evidence that their group benefits from privilege? We suggest such evidence will be threatening and that people will claim hardships to manage this threat. These claims of hardship allow individuals to deny that they personally benefit from privilege, while still accepting that group-level inequity exists. Experiments 1a and 1b show that Whites exposed to evidence of racial privilege claim to have suffered more personal life hardships than those not exposed to evidence of privilege. Experiment 2 shows that self-affirmation reverses the effect of exposure to evidence of privilege on hardship claims, implicating the motivated nature of hardship claims. Further, affirmed participants acknowledge more personal privilege, which is associated with increased support for inequity-reducing policies.

The most important piece of this is the idea that white people will claim personal hardship so that they can escape being personally aligned with the idea of having white privilege, while still being able to admit that it does exist.  This is also called cognitive dissonance – that I can be part of a group that has a thing, but *I* don’t personally have it because reasons.

This study is important for a multitude of reasons, but partially because it doesn’t just happen between racial groups.  Men do this to women.  Able-bodied people do this to disabled people.  Thin people do this to fat people.  Any marginalized group is going to have some members of non-marginalized groups trying to distance themselves with any notion of privilege.

Continue reading “Science explains why white people deny white privilege”

NaNoWriMo vs. 3-Day Novel

I’ve crapped out on NaNoWriMo a few times, yet I always do pretty well in the 3-Day Novel contest.  And I think that’s because 3DN gives you no time to think.  You have to write, or you get behind.  There’s really no time to second guess, you just have to go.  If your outline changes or the story takes a turn, you just chase after it.

NaNoWriMo gives me too much time to think.  And I find that when formulating a first draft, too much thinking is bad.  At least for me.  Because I do that thing a lot of writers do – I see lots and lots of possibilities, and I sometimes get overwhelmed, and then I get a bit lost.

Having strong characters helps.  Characters who tell you where they need to go.  Thing is, as the writer, you’re still the one making the ultimate decisions.  You’re still the one who has to string the scenes together and make sure the plot is moving and that things don’t get too soggy in the middle or fall apart at the end.

I’m doing an okay job of not thinking too much?  Maybe?  I mean, I’m still going, and I’m a little over 8K words.  But it’s only day 3.

And I’m a little scared, because one of my plot lines fell apart, so I’m starting by writing the scenes I know need to be in the book, and will fill in around them.  I’ve had good luck writing drafts like that before, so I know it can work for me, but again…gotta shut off the self-doubt and control the what-ifs.

I mean, what-ifs are essential to a writer up to a certain point, but then it’s like, shut up you little motherfuckers you’re messing with my head!

Or maybe it’s just me.

One thing I’m noticing about NaNoWriMo is that for the past few days, I’ve been much more productive, because I have to organize my time more carefully.  I used my lunch hour yesterday and today to do homework, and it’ll be done tomorrow.  I’m trying to stay ahead on where I need to be on word count in case something comes up later in the month.  I laid down an important scene tonight, and later this evening I plan to work on my outline a bit.

Feels good to be productive, even if I’ve got some worries about this story.  I’m hoping it comes together; sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t.  I’m of the opinion that no time spent writing is ever wasted, because you’re constantly sharpening your skills, so if it doesn’t, I’ll still be glad I did this.  But I want this one to come together.  It all seemed so clear a few weeks ago.

I think I just have some brain demons.  First drafts and too much time to think are a combo they can’t resist.  3DN eliminates the possibility of overthinking, which is why I like it.  I mean, it’s hard, and some years what I end up with is just not that good, but at least I’m getting words down on paper.

I’m 8K into NaNoWriMo, and still manged to make a pumpkin pie because dammit, I wanted pumpkin pie*, so I just hope I can keep up this momentum and level of productivity.


*The trick to making a seriously excellent pumpkin pie is to use goat’s milk, but don’t add quite as much as the recipe calls for because it can be very rich.  Learned that from a friend when I became lactose intolerant.  Also, I add more cinnamon than the recipe calls for.  Like, a lot more.   Like, fuck off out of here with your two teaspoons bullshit.  

NaNoWriMo Day 1 (recap)

Day 1 of NaNoWriMo, which was yesterday, was a success.  I’m sitting at around 5,000 words – on average, you need to write 1,666 a day to finish on time, and knowing I have a large project due and a final to study for this month means I’m motivated to get ahead early.  Plus I need start purging this story or I’ll never sleep again.

The problem I’m having is that I had a very organized plot that completely fell apart.  Not because there was anything wrong with it, per se, but because I listen to my characters, and they had other ideas.  So now I’m doing what many writers call pantsing, which is fine, but that is more likely to result in me hitting a point where I no longer know what to do.

To try to prevent that, I’ve been carefully crafting character bibles, which all writers really should be.  But in the case where you have only a vague idea of what your plot is, I think it’s pretty damn important to understand all of your  characters’ motivations and nuances and history.  I find that if the character development is good, and you have an idea of where they’re starting and where they need to end up, you can get there.

The problem is, as it always is, the middle.  Luckily I have a number of ideas for things that need to happen in the middle to get my characters from one end of the story to the next, so hopefully that works out.

This first draft is gonna be a huge damn mess, though.  Luckily restructuring messes is a bit of a specialty of mine.  ;->

The time someone told me not to have surgery because men might be turned off by my scars

It’s nearing the 15 year anniversary of my breast reduction, and having realized that, it’s been on my mind.  In a good way, because it was one of the best decisions I ever made.  I have exactly 0 regrets about having it done, despite the fact that I have scarring and loss of sensation.  I am totally happy with the results, and totally okay with the scars, and since I never had much sensation in my gigantic pre-surgery boobs, I don’t miss what I never really had.

Besides that, I’ve always been able to use an incident during a pre-surgery appointment as an example of my feminist impulses from an early age.  I was 20 at the time, and while the doctor explained that the surgery could result in scarring, loss of feeling, etc., I was like…*shrugs.*  And the nurse who was present felt the need to tell me that I should think twice before getting surgery that could cause scars, because some men might not like it.

To which I responded that if a man didn’t want to date me because I had scars, then he wasn’t worth dating.  Yay 20 year old me!  That was a great moment!  But…

Continue reading “The time someone told me not to have surgery because men might be turned off by my scars”

Prednisone & weight gain

Once again…I swear I haven’t abandoned this blog, and there are a ton of things I want to write about – and will!  But in the past two weeks, I’ve been in the emergency room 4 times due to a mysterious allergic reaction.

For now, I’m on my second course of prednisone and a lot of antihistamines, though the latter don’t seem to do anything.  Only the prednisone does (it’s a steroid, for those unfamiliar.)

I could be on prednisone for a while.  Probably not forever, but it could be a while, because every subsequent reaction has been slighly worse, and we have no idea what’s causing this reaction.  Until I know, steroids are going to be part of my life.

I’ve been on prednisone before and it tends to make you gain weight.  Partially because you’re always fucking hungry…AND OMG I CAN’T STOP EATING!  And I won’t even try to stop, because fuck it, I don’t care if I gain weight.

Having been thin for a while, and benefited from thin privilege, I always had that nagging thought in the back of my mind that if I ever did gain weight again, I might freak out.  Because I was once a very strange sort of fat admirer – while I love fat on others, I used to hate it on me.  Makes no sense, really, except that even someone who is turned on by fat people still had issues being fat herself.  Like, that’s how powerful the anti-fat messages in our culture are.  Talk about cognitive dissonance.  I once hid that secret with quite a lot of shame.  Body positivity is what rescued me…but I got sick very shortly after discovering fat acceptance and lost quite a lot of weight.  That’s why I’ve always had this nagging feeling that maybe I’m able to embrace fat acceptance because I’m no longer fat, so it’s easier for me to reconcile with my past than to deal with being fat right now.

Now I have my answer – now that I see the scale going up, I’m like, eh, whatever.  When the realization that I’m going to do exactly nothing to stop this weight gain, or lose it later on, I was like…wow.  That’s awesome.  I have arrived to exactly where I want to be.  I am no longer the person who focuses on weight loss.  Body positivity and fat acceptance have done their job – I can say with honesty that I no longer give a shit if I’m thin or fat, as long as I’m as healthy as I can possibly be.

So I told my husband, as long as I’m on prednisone, if I’m hungry, I’m eating, and I don’t give a shit.  My only annoyance about gaining more weight is that I’ll end up needing to buy some new clothes.  It’s purely an expense thing, especially since my job requires business formal dress on a pretty regular basis, and that shit ain’t cheap.

But I’ve actually found myself feeling…a little excited, actually, about the idea that I could be fat again.  For two reasons:  One, if my digestive issues get out of control and I start dropping weight again, I’d have weight to drop.  If you’re too thin, and you flare and end up dropping a lot of weight, you end up hospitalized, and again…dollar signs.  (Don’t get me started on the absolute flaming pile of bullshit healthcare costs are in this country.  No one should have to go broke or bankrupt just to get medical treatment.)

The second and to me, way more awesome reason, is that I could engage with body positivity in a different and more impactful way.  Not that I’m downplaying the role of allies, not at all.  But I’m still thinner end of the spectrum, and I benefit from the privilege that goes along with that.  I used to be fat, so I can relate to the experiences of being a fat person, but when I interact with others, I interact as an ally.  I’m very conscious of that, because I don’t want to undermine or silence the voices of those who are fat right now and who are speaking up about their current lived experiences.  Their voices should take precedence, and I’m happy to signal boost and/or step aside.

Being fat again would change how I would interact with fat acceptance and body posi and the world in general.  I also really want to be able to say, “I got fat again and I’m not going to try to lose weight because there’s nothing wrong with being fat.”  Because I feel like the world needs to keep hearing from fat people who are okay with being fat, who don’t actively engage in weight loss efforts, and who refuse to allow others to dictate how they should feel about themselves.  If I can be one of those people, great!

I’m a firm believer in Health At Every Size, and the idea that health and weight are independent of each other.  Thin does not equal good health.  Fat does not equal bad health.  Health is health and weight is weight.  I’m not trying to gain or lose, I’m just living.  I’m health-conscious but not weight-conscious.

I’m also lucky to have a supportive husband – I have already gained a bit of weight recently for other reasons, and when I told him that the prednisone appears to be causing even more but that I don’t give a fuck, he was like…yeah, me neither.  I was fat when he met me, and he never once belittled me or told me I needed to lose weight.  I belittled myself, but he never did.  So he was like…if you get fat, then just be fat, it doesn’t matter.  It’s nice to have a spouse who doesn’t give a shit what you weigh.  Because honestly, if he was  body shamer, I’d be filing for divorce.  That’s definitely a deal-breaker in my world.

I hope it is in yours, too.  And I hope that if you’re gaining weight, that you are at or can get to a place where you’re like…you know what?  I honestly don’t give a shit.  Whatever happens, happens.

My priority is ONLY figuring out what’s causing these reactions, and how to stop them.  I am not for one second going to worry about how my weight may be impacted by this new medical issue.  Because it doesn’t matter.

This is why your data analysts don’t like you

Listen, y’all.  I’ve been doing this data science thing for a while now.  It stretches your critical thinking skills to the max.  You have to be able to understand really complex issues, and then figure out how to get what you need.  Nuance is your best friend and your worst enemy.  You also have to have an incredible tolerance for tedium, as you have to be able to spend extended periods of time mired in minute details.  I’ve been in meetings where we’ve spent an hour arguing about the definition of a single word, or heatedly debating what to do with one outlier, or torturing ourselves over systems limitations that means that sometimes, our numbers aren’t 100% accurate.

And let me tell you something – we live for this shit.  Any data analyst or data scientist worth their salt will live and breathe data science.  We tend to be an obsessive bunch.  That little detail that 99% of end users will never notice will distract us for days.

We also like to be right.  Some of that comes from having an obsessive personality.  Some of it comes from the fact that in general…I hate to tell you this, MBAs…but your analysts typically know more about your systems and data than you do, and have a better grasp on data narratives.

Think of your organization’s data like an iceberg.  Most administrators and top-level executives only ever see what’s above water.  But there’s so, so much going on below – and that’s why you have analysts.  Someone has to dig into the murky depths and figure out what’s down there, and we are tenacious as fuck.

We can also be cranky.  If you work with an analyst who is cranky, moody, or perhaps even unapproachable, here are some reasons why they might be behaving that way…

Continue reading “This is why your data analysts don’t like you”