Vacation (Finally!)

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Provincetown isn’t for everybody. It’s a great place, and I spent my summers growing up up there. There are lots of things to do, lots to see, and lots of ways to relax. But it isn’t for everybody.

It can be challenging if you’re at all uncomfortable around the LGBT(add letters as appropriate) community. If you’re homophobic to any degree, you will most likely be miserable. I say this, not to extoll the virtues of tolerance, but because it is difficult to discuss Provincetown without the topic coming up. I will not even attempt to avoid it. In fact, one of the more amusing things we encountered requires a certain knowledge of the gay community.

Bear Flag

It was the first day of Bear Week. My girlfriend and I were waiting at the Aquarium Food Court for our name to be called, indicating our order was ready for pickup. The deck was crowded, and we’d found an empty table in the courtyard just before the deck. We’d just sat down when one of the vendors called out “Bear!” Apparently someone had given “Bear” as their name.

On that day, calling out “Bear!” was somewhat akin to calling out “Dad!” in a crowded playground. For a week, bears from all over come to Ptown to enjoy the freedom of being openly bears. Some explanation of the term may be required for those unfamiliar with it: A bear is a slang term used to refer to describe gay men who are hairy, heavyset and/or muscular, and who project an image of rugged masculinity.

What does this anecdote have to do with our vacation? Plenty, though it’s not all encompassing. Provincetown is a place where self expression is widespread. As such, the level of tolerance is generally very high. There is often an atmosphere of genuine joy and lightheartedness that is not only refreshing, but revitalizing. People watching there is fascinating. It is even more so if you’re familiar with the various subcultures you see up there. If you understand the signals, keys, and symbols displayed, the depth of understanding what you’re seeing is greatly increased.

Yes, it’s crowded, which can be irritating at times…especially if you’re hungry and have a long wait at one of the many restaurants. But if you don’t take yourself too seriously, you can usually find something entertaining in just about every situation.

So what does the anecdote not encompass? The individual activities: from watching fireworks to watching whales, from exploring the National Seashore Visitor Center to some of the most–interesting–shops around, from fine dining to eating at a food court, and above all, the people watching. We did a lot over the course of the week. There were still plenty of things left to do when we left.

One thing, though, sticks out in my mind. I got a chance to visit with my martial arts instructor and his wife. It’s been many years since I had any kind of meaningful interaction with them. I’m really glad I got to speak with them. They’ve played an important, if usually distant, part in my life.

Returning to Provincetown revitalized me in ways I hadn’t expected. My coworkers noticed the changes immediately. I’m not going to try to describe them, except to say that I’m more grounded than I have been in a long time.

Relationship Representation

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With all my girlfriend and I have been through, it is amusing, appropriate, and somehow very representative of our relationship that our first culinary disagreement was over how to cook a hot dog. Those who know us are probably now laughing themselves silly.

As mentioned in earlier posts, my personality is more of a protector and teacher than caretaker. Despite my profession as a personal trainer and extensive background in martial arts, the protection I tend to provide is more emotional than physical. I try to provide a space where fear is acknowledged but pushed past, where anxiety is welcomed and soothed. When it comes to teaching, I try to teach by example. When I try to teach through words, I tend to revert to an academic style of “imparting knowledge”, which usually comes off as more than a little pedantic. So, teach by example and protect by providing emotional shelter. Though both can have lighthearted elements, they do have a certain gravitas that can come across as dominating, intimidating, or creepy.

My girlfriend, however, is a Brat. It is a title she embraces and thoroughly enjoys. She can be endearing or aggravating, impish or pestiferous. She’ll wiggle like an excited teenager, or pout like a preteen. True, she can be bull-headed, and will jump to conclusions based on emotion and insufficient evidence; but, she is also very intelligent and can present her side of an issue with much more cogency than I can. More importantly, she is very caring. She seeks to make her friends’ lives happier and/or easier. Sometimes it’s through making or hosting a dinner, sometimes it’s volunteering at an event they’re setting up, sometimes it’s as simple as making sure there’s a cold glass of water waiting for those she knows will like it.

Despite the differences in our natures, we are very well matched in the areas that tend to matter the most: ideas, values, and desires. We make a very good team. When aggression, argument, or detail is needed, she usually takes the lead. When diplomacy, multiple viewpoints, or calm certainty is called for, I tend to lead. Not that she can’t be diplomatic, or I can’t be aggressive, at need; but, those modes aren’t our primary modes of thought and action.

We do lots of things together, from grocery shopping to parallel play. With my background in personal training and hers in massage therapy, we occasionally geek out with anatomy and physiology, both the straight up as well as with suggestion and innuendo. When both people understand that the “sodium gradient” can be a reference to cellular respiration AND a reference to a sweaty body, much fun can be had. It is especially gratifying that we can discuss loudly and publicly about the strength and endurance of my pollicis longus, and snicker at the horrified looks we receive. (This post is PG. The full name is abductor pollicis longus, and is one of the muscles that pull the thumb away from the index finger.)

It is no wonder, then, that an argument about cooking hot dogs is weirdly representative of our relationship. If you take the tension between the literal and innuendo, mix it with our mutual desire to make the “best product” possible, garnish it with the acknowledged absurdity of the topic, and serve it with love, you end up with a pretty decent description of our relationship.

Irrationality: a double bladed trick of the mind

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Next week is Spring Break and all campuses are closed.  I’m posting next week’s blog early since I won’t have access to a computer until the following week.

I made the first step in restoring communications with some people I wish I’d never lost touch with. It’s a rare day these past few years that I didn’t think about them and the impact they had on my life. At first it was a case of not noticing how communication was slipping. Then I realized that at some point, I had not written or called for nearly a year. At that point, my irrational side made itself known. The internal conversation went something like this:

“I haven’t written in a while. I should probably do that.”

“It has been a long time. They’re probably angry. You don’t want to make them angrier, do you?”

“Are you saying that getting in touch with them will make them angrier than they were when I stopped communicating?”

“Yes.”

“………”

At this point paralysis and inertia kick in and communication continued to lapse. Ladies and gentlemen, my irrational side. (no applause necessary)

As time went on, I felt worse about it. Then I started building walls around that part and tried to ignore it. As it happened, my irrational side got me into this, an irrational event broke the barrier. I got a piece of spam from one of the people I’d lost contact with. Spam is everywhere, so why was this an irrational event? First, he never initiates contact. Getting email from him before I sent one first is an unimaginable event. Second, it was spam. More specifically, someone had hacked into his system and started using his email list to send links to spoofed websites. Despite the email being spam, my irrational side’s little brother started jumping up and down with joy. “He emailed me first!”

I didn’t know if anyone else had let him know, so I emailed him back to tell him his account had been hacked. Then, I added a brief here’s-what-I’m-currently-up-to message and sent it off. The next day, I get a response with no text in the body, but the subject read: thanks for keeping in touch. Irony or sincerity? With him it could be either. Time will tell.

Blogging Will Recommence!

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Now that school has started, I have consistent access to a computer and the internet. Blogging will recommence.

This semester looks a bit tough: lots of labs, research, etc. In an attempt to consolidate time and effort, I will probably use my “Maunderings” blog as a study session. Looking ahead at possible topic categories in physiology, exercise program design, exercise prescription, and fitness in general, plus my usual potpourri of topics.

Despite the challenging course I’ve plotted, I’m looking forward to the semester. My high school self would be shocked to hear me say this, but I really enjoy school. I love learning. I love making connections. It’s a wonderful world of mental Legos. I can build random constructs that look beautiful but fall apart at a tap. I can build strong frameworks on which I can base entire libraries of ideas. I can build modules that themselves become building blocks for other structures. It’s an infinite Louvre of possibilities, of art, of design, of growth, of hope.

Word Counts: The Ultimate Procrastination Tool

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Setting a word count goal is a massively useful tool for chronic procrastinators. I set a word count goal and immediately accomplished several chores I’ve been putting off. There’s just something about having a concrete measure that encourages me to say “I can make it up after I (fill in the blank) .”

The writing program “Scrivener” has a couple of ways of tracking your word count. So if the session goal isn’t enough for you to finish your chores, you can go back and check your entire manuscript word count for that extra boost you need to clean the cat box.

Not only do you gain the benefit of having an extra-clean house, by setting a word count goal, you finally have proof that your inner negativity can point to to justify all your “I suck at the writing” urges. Why is this good? I’ll tell you. It allows you to later rebel against THE MAN by spending time creating bad writing.

Imagine! Just one tool can give you an extra-clean house, a way to satisfy those masochistic “I suck” urges, AND stick it to THE MAN. How cool is that?

All joking aside, though. Having a word count goal is an excellent way to concretely measure your productivity. It’s a great way to counter the “you can’t measure creativity” arguments. Aside from that, there’s always something satisfying about crossing a finish line. The Tour-de-France is not raced all at once, it’s a series of successive races. Writing a book, whether fiction or non-fiction, is much the same. It’s not written all at one sitting; it is written in a series of sessions.

Even if you consistently fail to meet your word count goal, just having it means you have something to reach for. Just as with weight lifting, you keep trying, building strength in increasing weights until you can lift your goal consistently. Consistently is the key, not ease of doing it. Once you have consistent success, then you increase your word count goal per session.

I have my word count goal as 2,000 words per day. Lately, I’ve barely been able to get 1,000. But I know there are times when those 1,000 words are all that’s necessary to say what needs to be said.

(BTW: The word count for this blog, including this message is: 385)

Vahlencei Origins Pt. 1

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I’m really excited about this new book I’m working on. I already have a decent beginning and a really poignant ending. I definitely think this book is better than my first…and I haven’t even finished it. Since I can’t put anything on the blog that’s actually part of the book, here’s some background stuff I wrote to justify what I’ve done to vampire mythology (i.e. completely re-wrote it).

—-

God, Allah, Chronos, Vishnu—whatever the name used, it always refers to The Origin. That is what we, the Valencei, know Him as. At the risk of sounding elitist, it must be realized that we were created directly by The Origin. Life on Earth propagates itself, and everything living today is hundreds, thousands, millions, billions of generations descended from those initially created, depending on the species. Through the generations, life on Earth became more abundant.

But this Earth is not the first created by The Origin—only the most recent. At first, The Origin put limits on life. Earth was simply a project The Origin worked on as he took time off from more cosmic duties. As time went by, however, it became apparent that life had stagnated. With the limits in place, The Origin realized an artificial environment had been created. An entire world had become, in essence, a zoo. Its inhabitants were safe. No disease thinned the populations; no mating increased the populations. Nothing died to violence or age. What had started as a project to amuse and be enjoyed had become static and dull.

The Origin could not simply remove the limits. Nothing had been created with the ability to cope with life in its raw form. Reluctantly, The Origin decided the world had to be abandoned. Yet annihilation was not truly in The Origin’s nature, so the world was renamed Oedain, and left in place as a lesson in the dangers of a world whose only flaw was perfection.

The new Earth was created using the framework of Oedain; however, when it came to the creation of life, The Origin paused. Oedain had failed due to the simplicity of its inhabitants, and the system in which they lived. Yet introducing randomness would cause increasing complexity, and that complexity would inevitably lead to self-destruction.

All-knowing though The Origin might be, yet His view is too large. The big picture and the entire sweep of time was available to Him. Yet the fine details of maintaining a balanced system of extreme complexity eluded Him. He realized his view was too large, so he created beings of thought and energy. These, He called ‘angels’, and into each angel He put a piece of himself, duplicated from the original. In the spiritual plane of existence, and only on the spiritual plane, these angels had corporeal bodies.

Once the Host of angels had been completed, The Origin instructed them to discuss and investigate all the details He could not see. In the course of their discussion, the Host split. In one faction, the angels believed that all living beings should have absolute free will. The angels in the other faction believed all living beings should be guided individually.

The first faction, the Angels of Free Will, proposed that only creatures with the freedom to make mistakes and learn from them could create and maintain a system as complicated as Earth. Only the adaptability learned from generations of mistakes and corrections, they believed, would allow the creatures to overcome the inevitable complications that would arise as time progressed.

The Angels of Guidance, as the members of the second faction were called, suggested divine guidance was necessary to overcome difficulties. Such guidance was required because onlyThe Origin could see the vast sweep of time and progress. As such, only The Origin could choose the correct path.

(to be continued…)

Cat Wars: The Beast Pt. 2

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The Mighty Huntress sprawled in the center of her Home Territory. The enemy hadn’t come sniffing at the crack under the Great Barrier in a while. All was well with the world. If she was lucky, Two-Legged Alpha would bring a sample of the extra-tasty treats he occasionally found–or caught, she could never figure out which.

In the midst of this very pleasing contemplation, the Great Barrier opened–and stayed open! It wasn’t yet prowl time, and this development confused and worried her. She jumped to the top of Soft Plateau and asked for reassurance. Two-Legged Alpha rubbed his fore-paw over her, but the distracted feel to his touch failed to entirely comfort.

After only a couple of strokes, Two-Legged Alpha rummaged around on the floor, clearing out a lot of clear space. The Mighty Huntress was slightly reassured. He’d done this periodically. It wouldn’t take long, and peace was quickly restored. But not this time.

Two-Legged Alpha rummaged around on the Tiny Plain outside the Great Barrier. Taht was odd. The only times he’d done that, he’d awakend….

VROOOM!

The Beast was invading!

As the Beast crossed into her territory, the Mighty Huntress vanished and reappeared in the caves under Soft Plateau. Onward came the Beast! But Two-Legged Alpha was stalking it. He’d managed to grab it!

It was a mighty struggle. Back and forth they surged, covering the entire cleared space. Finally Two-Legged Alpha managed to rake it with a hind claw and the Beast went silent. Two-Legged Alpha dragged the corpse back onto the Tiny Plain.

A significant clearing of space had occurred, and not just in the center of the room. Two-Legged Alpha paused to look at the hard outcropping next to one end of Soft Plateau. To her shock, Two-Legged Alpha picked up the outcropping! He not only picked it up, he moved it to the other end of Soft Plateau and placed in line with Soft Plateau’s length. Then he left, leaving the Great Barrier open.

The Mighty Huntress followed him out the door, but stopped at the top of the stairs and watched him turn the corner at the bottom. Then she went back to her Home Territory to investigate the changes in landscape. She sniffed the hole where the outcropping used to be, but could discover nothing.

Moments later she heard something outside the opened Great Barrier. A quick look over her shoulder showed the Mighty Huntress that Two-Legged Alpha was struggling with another outcropping! She returned to the caves under Soft Plateau. Two-Legged Alpha placed the new outcropping where the previous one used to be.

This new one was bigger, sturdier. It had more space and two levels of caves: one on the floor, one just under the top. Though the second level smelled strongly of The Mastermind. It definitely belonged to Two-Legged Alpha first and The Mastermind second. The Mighty Huntress would have to make do with the floor level. Nothing new with that. She settled in to make it her own.

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