Monday, September 30, 2013

Another okay Monday

Having kicked the bum of my writing goals today, I would like to have an itsy bitsy little celebration:

Fun! :)

Monday, September 23, 2013

Mondays Can be Okay, too

Hey everyone! How are you this fine Monday morning sliding into afternoon? I'm actually doing really great.

Today I am thinking about Mondays. I have always been one to hate Mondays. When I had an office job back in the day, I used to get that awful Sunday-evening feeling in the pit of my stomach. The weekend was ending. It was time to re-chain myself to my work desk for another five days. It was a draining feeling.

Nowadays, Mondays aren't exactly better. Sundays my love goes back to the flight school, which means yet another in a long, long line of goodbyes. And it means going back to the day job, which isn't exactly enjoyable.

But it's not all bad anymore. This morning I had this strange feeling about Mondays. I got up and did some morning wake-up yoga, and then while I was preparing breakfast I realized that every Monday is a chance at newness. Every Monday, a new habit can be formed. A new routine can be established. A new outlook on life can be adopted.

What is it that makes Monday so special? It feels like a mini New Year every week. Sometimes, however, I get the corresponding Sunday evening blahs: what not do something that's bad for me, body or soul? Why not just waste time in front of the TV eating crap?

Here's the thing: Mondays are completely arbitrary. A new outlook on one's life can be adopted any day of the week. A Wednesday morning can be a chance to start afresh. And while we're at it, why stop there: in each hour there is newness; any moment can be a moment to start again. I guess that's the thing about life, right? There's always time, right now, to do what feels right; to do whatever is best for you.

Gleaming optimism on a Monday morning! What a rare occasion. I guess it doesn`t hurt that I have a Monday-morning breakfast playlist like this one.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Thing that Winter is Missing

New Boots

After the epicness of cleaning out my closet, I discovered that a small number of articles needed replacing. Chief among them are my winter boots.

Let me be clear. I am not talking about 'fashion boots.' Those vile, ridiculous, usually fake leather or real leather knee or thigh-high contraptions. No, I gave up on those last year when I realized that the space between summer and winter in this city and thus the time during which I can wear 'fashion boots' is approximately one week. Okay, maybe that's a bit of an over-exaggeration. Two weeks.

That's riiiiiiight....the temperature goes from about 30 degrees Celsius to about -15 in that short span. The leaves don't really change colors slowly so much as they all drop off the trees at once. In a single day.

So, with that in mind, I figured the task would be simple. A wedged-heeled boot so that I don't look like I'm standing in a hole. With trends on the rubber sole so I don't slip on the inevitable ice. And a cozy lining (like shearling or something similarly thick and warm) that extends all of the way down to the footbed and wraps around the top of my toes. Fashionable, knee-high, waterproofed leather or suede on the outside. And, of course, affordable. If I'm feeling greedy maybe a little arch support thrown in for my flat feet. What could be easier?

Apparently sending humans to Mars and back. The massive problems:

Inexpensive boots are crap

They are paper thin, they are completely unlined, they hurt my feet. :(
"Fashion" boots! Insane inventions of people who live in cities where winter means a little rain. I shake my fist at you.

Serious winter boots are butt-ugly

Okay, listen. I'm not going on an Arctic trek. I'm not using these particular boots for snow sports. I just want my toes to not freeze when I go out on the town in the middle of February (seriously, it could happen here). But I also want to still looking cute. Is that so hard? Does comfort really have to mean wearing the cobbled equivalent of grannies panties? To illustrate:

Hey, good-looking! Not. Or, you know, there's always Uggs. I mean, forget not only trying to look elegant but even respectable with all those damn salt stains. I guess they don't have to use salt on their roads in Australia. But at least they have a complete liner. Too bad that won't help me out when the snow has soaked through to my toes and they've turned black from frostbite.

Even "serious" winter boots have crap liners

I mean, really, this is a problem. You research the boots above and find out that they have a 9 mm removable liner made from some space aged material. Good to minus one million degree temperatures. Great! Give me some of those liners. But as soon as you move to look at cute winter boots made by the same company, you have to buy the liners separately. What a load. Seriously. Frustrated. Why is this such a problem?

(the cute boots in question. They might as well cost $500,000 for how much I can afford them. Then add to that another $10,000 for the liners. And -- oh wait! Those liners aren`t even for the wedge version! Whhheeeeeeeeee!)
Other boots that were considered and rejected because of no liner, not enough liner, or ugly:
1. Sorel, as above.
2. Uggs, as above.
3. Emu. Same problem as Ugg. As in, you're really going to charge me that much money for shearling that stops just when I need it most? (at the footbed) Or for - gasp - non-waterproof boots?
4. La Canadienne. For pete's sake, you'd think a company out of Montreal would be able to get it right. But no, not a decent liner in sight. Waterproof, sure, but winterproof? And what's with the millions of models with no wedge or heel higher than a half inch? Just smack some treds on that sucker and we're good to go.
(I suppose this is close to what I mean. But, again, might as well be $500,000. Plus there's no way to know from the website whether the lining extends all the way to the toes)

5. Manitobah Mukluks. All right. So, being pretty local, these boots might be as good as it gets. They cost slightly less millions than Sorel or La Canadienne both do. But I'm still not sure whether they'd stand up to melting snow and salt stains (yes, I know we used sand on the roads here, but I am eventually going to head back east. Plus, which is worse: salt stains or snow + sand = mud stains?).
The big advantages are the shearling footbed (where it is actually needed) and the rubber sole. The other disadvantage is that pesky no-heel business. But for some reason I am willing to make an exception for mukluks. Probably because to put a heel on a Mukluk would be an abomination.
Well, that's all I can really find at the moment. Does anyone else know of amazing winter boots that don't cost an arm and a leg? Maybe I'll just have to save my pennies for the next...month and a half before the snow comes and get myself a super expensive pair. Although seriously, for that amount of money, I think I deserve a more substantial but attractive winter boot than the available options.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Artificial Intelligence and Artificial Consciousness

So I'm sitting here today working on the next section of my manuscript: pounding out new scenes that need to be inserted so that the draft actually makes sense. Writing about robots, automation, and artificial intelligence. And it's got me thinking about artificial consciousness.

It seems to me that each and every piece of robotic sci fi of this century and the last (at least any that I've been exposed to, I've recently found out that Douglas Adams did a little robot something that was not The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy! and featured a humanoid robot) presupposes that artificial intelligence -- in particular, The Singularity, encompasses by necessity artificial consciousness. This is a very self-serving presupposition for authors and movie makers, since it allows for the exploration of that scary concept named after the Frankenstein monster. But I think it's been done to death. Fear of our own creation? Haven't we had that before? Frankenstein has been beaten to death -- so many, many times.

No, my manuscript does not make such a presupposition. Instead, I begin with the more realistic stance that artificial intelligence, and by extension computers and robotics equipped with A.I., can become 'more intelligent' than humans without the need for sentience. In fact, in the real world, they kinda already have. Think about it: why would something that we created be endowed with consciousness when we, as yet, don't even understand how our own conscious awareness comes about? Fearing SkyNet is all well and good for sci fi action flicks but there's only one real monster in the universe capable of eradicating the human species. What's that, you ask? Look in the mirror. A.I. is a tool of humans. And like all tools, from ploughs to knives, is completely morally neutral when out of human hands.

The point of all this is that I don't want to explore the threadbare idea that artificial intelligence will one day 'wake up' to the world and immediately concluded that humans are reckless and all need to be destroyed. Yawn. What I want to explore is what happens when reckless humans wield powerful intellectual tools. Much more interesting I think.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Saying Goodbye to the Past

Change of the Season

Harhar. That title sounds so much more deep than the topic of this blog post will turn out to be. I have plenty of stuff rolling around in my head about my trip home, but maybe I'll work backwards through it. In the meantime, I give you: my closet.

With the change in the weather from sweltering to early-autumn-ish, I figured it was time again for that most annoying, time consuming and frustrating activity: the bi-yearly closet turnover.

It's not all bad. I get to peel back the layers of the stuff that I own and unearth little gems that I haven't worn for many a year.

Or is that bad?

I was kinda inspired by the spring challenges to purge one's closet taken on by Uncommon Wealth (+Anna Wilson)  and Sarcastic Bystander (+Michelle Brynkus). But I was also driven to get off my butt my InStyle Magazine.

Whipping that Closet into Shape

So, I know I stated in a previous blog post that I wanted to stay away from glossy women's magazines and all the brain rot that they encompass. Hey, a memory just rolled out of my head. Once, as a teenager, I filled a notebook page or two with the idea for a 'smart' women's (or girls') magazine that was filled with like, I dunno, philosophical essays and literary criticism. Stuff that actually matters. I wanted to call it 'Elizabeth'. (Can you guess why a 15-year-old bookish girl would want to call an intelligent magazine Elizabeth? Bonus Points!)

Anyways, despite my vow to end all association with women's general interest or fashion magazines, I still have three issues coming to me of a year's subscription to InStyle. So I was flipping through the pages of the September issue, loathing the shear amount of ads and pictures of fashion "It Girls" who I've never heard of, have absolutely no bearing on my life and who all look like skeletons (or apples on a toothpick -- just because you starve yourself into a size zero doesn't mean your head shrinks) when I came across a recurring article about organizing one's closet. Fall 2013 edition.

This is one of the few articles that I like in InStyle. It actually lays out step-by-step instructions for how to transition the closet from season to season. And while some points are misguided (like how to 'archive' designer pieces -- as if we all have those), there is lots to follow and appreciate.

Like this little flow chart: should a piece of clothing stay, or should it go? It was ruthless. I have never, ever been so ruthless with my collection of clothes. Because it is a collection. I am a clothes horse.

In the Past

This is how my usual closet organization session goes: I haul out plastic buckets from the basement that hold all my off-season clothing. I lay it all out in sorted piles. I put a few items aside for donation, usually those that I don't like anymore. Then I try to make outfits out of the rest. I don't try anything on. I just take it for granted that everything still fits. And up until recently, I could take that for granted. And then I end by trying desperately to fit every last item of clothing that I've owned since I was probably around 20 years old back into my closet. Never works.

But this past spring I was a little more honest with myself. I actually tried on clothes -- those I wasn't sure about: clothes on the size borderline. And then I took the massive amount of stuff that didn't fit me and packed it away in the basement for some mythical time when it will fit me again. So while I had a neat and trim closet for once in my adult life, I still was holding onto all that past.

That's where the ruthless flow chart came in.

Time to be Ruthless

According to said flow chart, I am to donate a piece of clothing if it doesn't fit. If it isn't flattering. If I don't love it. There are other criteria but those three, right there, eliminated about 90% -- maybe more like 95% -- of the 'skinny one day' clothes that I have been hoarding. Hoarding and moving around with me.

At first, this made me sad. Won't I one day fit into those clothes again? Won't I someday stop shaking my head around, find a physical activity I enjoy and be a size 4 again? But the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. When I looked at some of those 'skinny' clothes, I realized that many of them are faded. And the rest -- well, even if I dropped the weight tomorrow they'd not only be hopelessly out of style but would no longer suit me.

Because I'm a 32 woman. I am no longer a 25 year old girl. And as much as I'd like to picture myself with washboard abs peaking through I don't know -- a crop top, it's just not elegant. It's just not me. Not anymore.

You remember how in this blog I mentioned that the time in my adult life when I was my smallest was also the worse era of adulthood to date? So a lot of my 'skinny' clothes were worn at bad times in my life and are associated with bad memories. Why am I holding on to this crap? Mentally and physically! Ruthlessly I decided to shed all those old memories along with the clothes. Haha. New Age. Anyways the memories persist but at least now if my size changes in a downward motion, I won't have to wear living reminders of crappy times.

So now I have a tidy little closet and a half box of summer clothes for the basement. It actually feels really great! Weeeeee! :)

Thursday, September 5, 2013