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Media Consumption Writing Life

And then this happened

That could be a title for every blog post, eh?

Sipping tea and sitting in sunshine with the cat on my office couch was a fabulous way to spend a Sunday morning. I spent a lot more time there than I originally intended.

My one brief peek at the internet was a mistake because along with the wildly irresponsible fear-mongering, scientifically-dubious, hand-wringing over the Omicron surge, I learned there are folks claiming that vaccinated people who minimize human contact and wear masks are doing it because we’re scared of getting sick. That we’re pathologically anxious. That we’re frightened out of our wits and suffering from a mass delusion, even.

OH FFS. That’ll teach me to open up my browser on the weekend. I MEAN. Beyond the WTAF aspect, there’s the projection part (accusing someone of having a trait you actually have.) It really torques me off that the assholes who spread disinformation to undermine public confidence in all information sources do so much better a job than the have reached a new record in Awfulness.

Keeping other people’s germs out of my face when infection rates of anything are skyrocketing is a sensible way to avoid getting sick. Always has been. I hope wearing masks during seasonal virus peaks becomes normalized tbh. And with a novel disease the reality is that eventually I will get sick, but the longer I stay uninfected and the more I can train my immune system beforehand, the better.

That isn’t delusional. That’s common sense — unless you also believe the disease itself is essentially harmless. And to believe that, you have to dismiss hundreds of sources in dozens of countries who have nothing invested in lying about its badness.

Liars who spread disinformation to erode public trust in all existing sources of information? REALLY TORQUE ME OFF. HARUMPH.

ANYway. End mini rant. That’s a big grump, but it’s my only one from today, so…yay? And it ties into the books I’m starting the new year with. One’s on reserve at the library and I’ve recommended purchase of the other. Cultish by Amanda Montell, about the language of extremism, and Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention by Johann Hari, an examination of the many ways the modern environment demolishes our ability to concentrate and learn.

In other cheerful moments today, there was snow-shoveling in the sunshine. Spouseman and I even made a tiny little maze in the snow on the patio because, hey, we have a patio! We also took Pippin out for his first walk in snow. I wasn’t sure how he would react to the cold and wet.

He loved it. I shoud’ve known.

That adventure was followed by returning some movies to the library, then coming home for a victorious supper of soup, crusty garlic bread and baked apples.

Tonight’s viewing of Howl’s Moving Castle went very well. I’d seen it before and love it. Spouseman loved it. He also looked at me afterwards and said, “I am proud of myself for being very good about not asking questions.” It isn’t typical Chekov’s gun plotting with every surprise foreshadowed and every character perfectly pigeonholed in a type. It skips merrily along and

Which is a thing I love about Mizaki storytelling.

Then I made more cookies and watched Hawkeye. Good fun. The banter, the complications, THE BROADWAY SONGS AND POSTERS ZOMG. And the scenes with Yelena Belova/Black Widow were extra super fun.

Now I am caught up on the MCU except for the new Spiderman, which I will eventually see. And The Eternals. Is that MCU? I’m not sure. But I have its release noted so I can watch when it hits streaming.

We have one more day of “winter break.” On tap: more Studio Ghibli and a movie called Encanto, which is a Disney thing. And Boba Fett. That should be interesting.

And that is that. Have a sleepy cat photo. Until later.

PS: Pssssst. I almost forgot. Books! I write ’em. You can read em. There are links. I’m not putting one in here because no one ever clicks them anyway.

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Media Consumption Writing Life

Today in random ranty observations

1. Overheard: “That isn’t an isolation bubble. That is foam. Foam is full of holes.” Evocative. Except for the part where it’s true for most people and thus an underestimated source of risk.

2. There is a difference between rationalizing denial and accepting mitigated risks. I’m having a hard time articulating that difference, but I’m certain it exists.

3. OMFG enough of accusing people who get covid of “letting down their guard.” Stop with the judgy moral superiority nonsense. JUST STOP. Look. Precautions are not magic. Exposure happens. All of us will eventually face down this virus armed only with our immune systems. It’s inevitable. No one likes to think about that, but it’s been true since the moment this virus escaped Wuhan. You can be careful and cautious and still catch Covid. Illness isn’t a mark of moral deficiency or personal failure. It can’t be overcome by having a pure heart or warded off by Doing All The Right Things. Sitting up on a high horse and sneering at the sick is pride headed for a fall.

4. BUT WAIT. I’m equally annoyed with the other type of magical thinking, the kind that makes people think they somehow earn a free pass from environmental dangers as a reward for good behavior. I’m really tired of actively risky behavior being excused because people are “tired of taking precautions.”

FFS, does no one ever engage in analysis by analogy anymore? Every winter I get hella tired of putting on a heavy fucking coat and other extra layers of outer protection to keep from freezing. But I rarely say, “I am so tired of wearing a coat, I’ll go without.” Rarely, but not never. I weigh the risk of freezing against the potential for frostbite or death and act accordingly. Short trip to the trashcan when the temp’s in the teens? I might run barefoot w/o a jacket. Hour walk outside when it’s -10 degrees? NOPE.

This is called risk evaluation and mitigation.

Here’s another one. Every time I drive a car and come to a red light, it’s an annoyance and an aggravation and I get VERY tired of the delays to my travel. BUT I NEVER GET TO SAY, “I’M TIRED OF STOPPING AT RED LIGHTS, I’LL JUST BUZZ THROUGH THIS ONE INTERSECTION.”

Four years spent in science labs working with various poisons and caustics left its mark on me. I cannot imagine saying, “I’ve worn goggles, aprons, and gloves every time all semester and it’s a hassle, so Imma go without today.” And despite diligently taking precautions every time I was in the lab, I went home more than once with acid-eaten holes in my sleeves or a yellow dot of nitric acid on my skin. And others had worse accidents. BECAUSE SHIT HAPPENS.

So I can have both annoyances at once without cognitive dissonance. If someone’s doing all they can, weighing risks, taking the ones they deem worthwhile, being responsible about accepting and mitigating the consequences of mistakes? I’m all over empathy and ready to support in any possible way.

5. Um. But my opinion of people who thoughtfully, deliberately refuse to take precautions against infection because they are misguided, distrust all expertise except their own, and are breathtakingly selfish? Yeah, don’t come at me with the sympathy pleas. I’ll save my energy for others.

6. Didn’t get much done today because I was here ranting (and elsewhere researching) but hey. At least I’m wordsing, not mutely doom-scrolling through Facebook & Twitter, right?

7. We’re watching Shang Chi at home tonight instead of Spiderman in a reserved theater because multiple people got exposed to Covid over the holiday weekend and that news boosted the risk of 3 hours in a public place w/people outside my bubble over my comfort threshold. I mean. I could’ve stayed double-masked through the movie and felt comfortable, but that would’ve diminished the experience below my enjoyment threshold. Risk evaluation. Risk mitigation. Choices.

So. It’s Christmas cookies and comfy jammy pants ftw tonight. And this second viewing of Shang Chi affirms my memory that I LOVED this movie bunches. Top 5 in the whole MCU for me.

ANYway. That’s all for now. Until later.

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Writing Life

A Wish For More Listening & Less Lecturing

This isn’t the post I planned to write this week, but it’s On My Mind, so it’s the post that happened.

I could also title it, “An Open Letter to the nice veterinarian I won’t ever visit again.” But it’s mostly a rant dressed up in extra-ness, so if that’s not your thing, best skip to the cat pics at the end.

Hello, there! You seem like a good veterinarian. You have good credentials, you have years of experience, and you appear to be a knowledgeable, personable, and perfectly nice human being who loves animals. This is a great vet practice. I’ve worked with another vet & several techs here and had a phenomenally good experiences with all of them. That’s why I came back.

And yet after the one visit with you, I’ve asked the wonderful front desk staff to put a note in my cat’s file: make sure I am never scheduled with you again. Never. Ever.

Why not? (I imagine you wondering) Why would a brand new patient–patient’s owner, to be precise–so intensely reject you after so little time? Welp, a lot of reasons.

The TL;DR edition: Hi there! Maybe ask a few important questions BEFORE launching into the Clueless Pet Owner” lectures and making one-size-fits-none recommendations? Oh, and while you’re at it, save the nutritional guilt-tripping for someone it won’t emotionally demolish. KTHXBAI 4EVAH

Long-form version follows. (btw, I’m not going to name anyone. It’s an excellent vet practice, and like I said, you seem like good people who love animals, & I don’t want anger directed at ANYone.)

It starts the moment I walk into the practice. Your tech “greets” me with a folder full of vendor promotional materials touting products All Good Pet Parents Must Have, along with a vaccinations & wellness schedule for treatments your records should have shown you were already done.

Flustered & bewildered, I anxiously point out that Pips had already had everything on the vaccinations list, that he’s only there for a wellness check so we can schedule his neutering. The tech’s pivot is NOT to ask any clarifying questions like, “Oh, has he been here, we thought he was a new patient?” or “Were you taking him to a different vet?” Nope. They immediately take out the vaccination schedule and begins going through it as if I hadn’t spoken. When I repeat myself, they move on to asking whether I have any specific concerns about Pip’s health.

Beginning with a simple “Hi, is this your first visit here?” before handing over a mass of “buy this stuff or you’re a Bad Pet Parent” propaganda might have cleared up a lot of confusion. A few active listening questions about my pet’s life so far and/or my history of pet ownership seem like obvious basics to get a conversation going. But no. I was handed a folder, and the tech began explaining the schedule at me.

(Pro tip digression: if you must give out pamphlets, let the reciptient read the material in peace for a few moments in silence. Otherwise it sparks information overwhelm/brain shutdown for many of us.)

At this point in the visit, less than five minutes, the tech taking Pip’s history is neither taking me seriously nor listening carefully. This establishes that my pet is being stuffed into the category of A Case, aka A Bundle Of Symptoms. Mistakes are more likely to happen when that’s true. This is scary.

(Spoiler alert: my fears prove real; either the tech doesn’t accurately repeat what I say about Pips, or you, the vet receiving the report, don’t accurately interpret it. Either way, it’s another red flag. More on that later.)

ANYway. Your associate has eroded my trust before we can begin to build a relationship. I’m now feeling increasingly nervous about how Pips will be handled in the Mysterious Back Room where pets are taken for the real exams these days. But you don’t know any of this because you don’t meet me yourself before examining my pet.

Now, Pandemic times means you need to limit your contact. I get that, and I respect it.

But if you are NOT going to meet your patients’ owners even once before handling their animals behind closed door, you need to recognize that pet lovers will be sick with worry and defensive about the wellbeing of their animals by the time you do meet them. Also, a presentation of “brisk professionalism” will only feed the fear that my animal was getting “Interesting Medical Specimen” treatment rather than empathetic, caring, careful treatment.

The way you went from the barest of hellos into “everything looks good, he’s healthy” (‘m paraphrasing) and then straight into an explanation of how you listened for heart issues since he’s a Maine Coon and might have Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy–well. That really grated on me, especially when you added the trivia nugget that most cases of HCM are silent so there’s no way of ruling out later development.

I mean, congratulations, you’ve shown me how knowledgeable you are about the breed. Great job. Pat on the back. But SHEESH. If I wasn’t already knowledgeable about HCM, that would’ve been terrifying.

As it happens, I know Pip’s lineage is clear of HCM, so he’s got as good a chance as possible of avoiding it, AND I’m not breeding him, so there’s no “be responsible about genetics” aspect–but it still jangled my already hyperactive nerves to have it be your main, obvious focus.

It was one more indication that you see him as An Interesting Case more than a furchild.

Next up, you demonstrated you and your tech aren’t communicating by telling me the tech told you I was concerned about my cat’s meow being strange. WTAF. What I said was, Pips makes a weird noise inside his nose when he sniffs at things, something I’ve never had any other cat do, and I was worried it might be a sinus issue.

(I’m still wondering, since you did not address it. Did you even examine his nose or mouth? Are his teeth healthy? He’s teething. It wasn’t on my concern list, but given all the other trust issues, WHO KNOWS IF YOU EVEN LOOKED? I DON’T.)

At this point, I now doubt you’re hearing anything I say, and my anxiety level? Reaching low Earth orbit, propelled there by the way you indulgently brushed off my actual concern as ‘cats make funny noises, it’s pollen & dust season. It sure looks from where I’m standing like you’ve categorized me as Clueless New Cat Mom worrying over nothing. You don’t know me, do you? This is an ASSUMPTION.

Your body language indicates you consider our interaction is wrapping up satisfactorily, with all my concerns allayed by your confidence. Not that you ASKED me if there was anything I might have forgotten earlier. Not that I was in any fit state to remember anything by then.

So to finish up, you ask what I’m feeding him, like it’s a social question rather than the interrogation trap it turned out to be. Once you hear I’m feeding him KITTEN KIBBLE (O, the HORROR) you damn the brand with faint praise and deliver a trainload of unsolicited feeding advice in an “I know better than you because I’m an Expert” tone.

That’s where our possible relationship went full crash-and-burn. When you told me (again, paraphrasing) “You need to be putting him on part or all canned food as soon as possible, and here’s why, according to All The latest Recommendations,” I snapped.

Was it diplomatic of me to flatly turn you down by saying, “that’s not going to happen?” No. Was it confrontational? Sure. Put someone on the defensive for several straight interactions and then gut-punch them with a massive guilt trip, they’re likely to lash out in desperation.

It hasn’t even been 2 months since my beloved Pip’s littermate had to be euthanized due to an incurable, degenerative, congenital condition. I do not have the emotional endurance to deal with owner-shaming.

Did you query why I was so adamant in my disagreement? NOPE. You trotted out All The Usual Phrases in your attempts to bludgeon me into compliance. “Cats are obligate carnivores, dry food has too many carbs,” “cats evolved from desert animals and have a low thirst drive, they need moisture from their food,” and “cats don’t like change, gotta start changes early,” blah, blah, fuckity-blah.

Here’s the thing. You might as well have told me, “I will now use all my Expert Words to overcome your ignorant, I do My oWn rESaRch objections.”

And I understand that impulse. IDMOR objectors are legion. But challenging you doesn’t make me wrong. It means I disagree. You could have asked why. We could have had a discussion. But no. You simply kept listing dire health consequences until I insist I understand and I’ll see how things go, and you begin to realize Things Aren’t Going To End Well.

Maybe free-feeding my kitten dry kibble is sentencing Him To disastrous UTIs, Diabetes, Obesity and Early Death, but was it a necessary part of the evaluation for a 6-month-old kitten who has a great body condition score? I don’t know. I do know it left me reeling from emotional overload.

Look. I am not a veterinarian. That’s why I GO to a veterinarian. But I am neither stupid nor ignorant. I have a degree in biology & 30+ years experience working with kittens & cats in a variety of settings. I research scientific topics as a professional necessity and also for FUNSIES. Yes, I track down primary, peer-reviewed material, check methodology, and investigate citations & related works (among other things) on numerous topics of interest. It’s what I DO.

You bet I’ve done a damned lot of primary journal dives on cat biology and behavior in general, Maine Coons in specific, and medical issues in particular. Expert catchphrases don’t soothe me. They’re like fresh wallpaper. The walls beneath might be great or moldy. It looks the same, and that makes me instantly wary.

I need a professional partner in my cat’s care. Someone who will treat me like the well-read, intelligent, committed caregiver that I am. Part of that is recognizing that questions about diagnostic conclusions and objections to recommendations are learning gaps to be filled or legitimate differences of informed opinion to be discussed, not ego challenges.

Treating disagreement as an obstacle to be bludgeoned down is not a partnership behavior. It’s bullying.

FFS, I just wanted to confirm Pippin was healthy before getting him snipped & chipped. I was not expecting to get run over by the “You Bad Pet Parent, iF yOu dO NoT Do AS I SAY, YOUR PET IS DOOOOOOOOMED” freight train.

But that’s what happened.

It isn’t my job to teach you how to not accidentally humiliate and emotionally bruise your patients’ owners. It isn’t my job to convince you I’m justified in making educated, needs-based choices that don’t mesh with your “latest research indicates” talking points. I am too old and cranky to deal with this shit, and I will not subject myself or my pet to it again.

But I do wish you well in your work with your other clients now and into the future.

–Sincerely no love, KM

Hello, reader friends! Still with me? Wow, you are dedicated. <blows kisses>. As a reward, have some new pictures of cutie-pie Mister Pippin. Now that I have this vet issue off my chest, maybe I can focus on the WIP or at least a decent post-con roundup. (Gen Con was phenomenal. It deserves a post.)

But for now: KITTEH:

Sleepy kitty weirdly loves his carrier.

That’s all for now. Until later!

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3. Other Things Writing Life

Making Big Small Plans, also grumping

I spent a pleasant while this morning pondering how to celebrate the impending completion of my Covid Armor Build. Whatever shall I do first? Grocery shopping? A trip to Ikea? The GARDEN CENTER? So many indoor possibilities! Maybe I’ll do multiple indoor outings on a single trip!

I won’t be eating out, though. No. Look. I didn’t enjoy eating in restaurants Before Pandemic. Some things haven’t changed. Okay, maybe I’ll hit our local pizza joint (outdoor seating) and/or my favorite breakfast place. (no bar) On occasion. But that’s it.

Anybody else got big plans?

I’ll be masking up when I go into buildings, obvs, because there’s still a mandate but also because *other people* can’t tell I’m vaccinated. It would be unkind to upset & frighten strangers for my own convenience or worse, to “prove a point,” and I dislike deliberate unkindness. Maybe that’s because I’ve been providing customer service to the public for most of the last year. The only hostile, nasty people? The ones who believed with the fervor of religious converts that no one should be wearing masks.

Here’s a funny thing. Not funny-ha-ha, but funny strange. I have known people who physically couldn’t wear masks. Guess who never made a peep about not being able to go places during the pandemic because they would have to wear a mask? Yeah. Them. They also have health issues that made curbside service & delivery big things in their lives already.

I admit I’m not looking forward to the awkward social phase between mandatory mask wearing and the eventual new cultural set point. My hope is that people accept the supreme healthful usefulness of masking up in public during any pandemic, like our annual flu seasons or when rhinoviruses and tamer coronaviruses make the rounds of the workplace. Or outdoors during freaking pollen hell season. If wearing a damned mask in shared indoor spaces while not eating, drinking or having a direct conversation w/someone hard of hearing means I don’t have to deal with sinus infections eight months of the year? Watch how fast I mask up.

Look. No one has said people have to wear a mask on their own property or outdoors where they can keep to a safe distance. If you’re determined to Own The Libs, if you like to watch people scatter before you & get flustered because you’re Free and they’re sheeple? Fuck yourself AND don’t go into shared indoor spaces to hassle strangers.

Oops. I digressed into a rant. Hm. Quelle suprise.

Anyway. Knowing that being exposed will no longer put me one bad dice roll away from death or permanent incapacitation is already making a major improvement in my life. Lightening the stress load creates some serious giddiness, oh, yes.

There are always dangers in the world. There aren’t many I can mitigate by something as simple as getting a shot. (Once, or once a year, whatever. Vaccines work. Even ones that require boosters.) Yah, variants, yah, still risks, but going into buildings is now no MORE riskier than it ever was. That’s hallelujah time.

Anyone wants to talk about why these new vaccines are safe, effective and also why the mRNA ones are a freaking aMAYzing, exciting world-changing scientific advancement? I’m here for you. You have questions? You have worries? I can answer questions without mockery and I respect worry over new things. NEW SHIT IS SCARY. I’d be happy to chat. I don’t expect to convince you. But I can listen. And share what I have spent a LOT of time learning.

But if you want to insist that these new vaccines are Bad By Nature Because <insert reasons you read or heard from someone?> and you won’t answer my questions about the provenance of their expertise? No, thanks, then. That isn’t conversation. That’s attempted prosyletization, and I’m not into that.

“You have your opinion, I have mine,” and “I guess we listen to different experts,” are the defensive shields of bullshit collectors. If you raise a bullshit shield at me, I will walk away from you. Admitting you would rather defend your position than meet in the open marketplace of ideas is admitting you have no interest in learning.

Expertise isn’t “elitism.” It’s a skillset. Being a doctor doesn’t give it to someone. Being a scientist doesn’t give it to someone. Getting older doesn’t give it to anyone. No professional title or amount of time reading about a thing GIVES expertise. You getexpertise from doing the work of critical analysis and crunchy data research. By questioning and then accepting new information. Collecting arguments that back your existing suspicions is the opposite of science and the enemy of personal growth.

Argh. Here we are again. I started off this post just wanting to share a bright thing in my day and detoured into harumphing. Twice.

On balance, I’m still happy & hopeful. But the cranky is clearly still there, simmering underneath.

Probably best I sign off for now. Until later!

Here’s a grumpy penguin picture as a reward for getting this far.

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Authoring Writing Life

Random Thoughts Roundup

Winter is coming.

Autumn is already here, seasonally speaking. The calendar will catch up soon. And I fear winter’s going to cut down on opportunities to safely spend time with other people, what with the pandemic & all. I wish that wasn’t true.

Some of my favorite memories are cold weather ones: campfire parties with bunches of Girl Scouts, all sitting on logs bundled up, hot drinks in mittened hands and marshmallows blazing over the fire; comet watching with Spouseman, lying on the warm hood of the car, staring up at stars on a back road in a forest preserve; all alone on a sunset walk through the neighborhood, ice crunching under my boots, ice forming on my eyelashes, ice making the bare tree branches creak in the -40 degree wind chill.

Gonna pause here to note that I was rarely cold out on any of those occasions. Did I did mention I hate feeling cold? Yeah. No cold toesies for me once I was old enough to buy my own boots.

I hate being cold, but I’m willing to keep having outdoor hangouts all winter long, if I can find other people to hang with me. It’s partly about having the right gear, and all about the good company.

MURICA AMIRITE?

I am a citizen of a country whose federal government throws people into concentration camps, keeps them in wire cages, starves them, experiments on them, & sterilizes them. I’m a citizen of a country where local and state police forces promote violence and consort with thugs, neither serving nor protect the communities that provide them with budgets dwarfing the ones funds given to public aid and education. I live in a country where the haves are unforgivably selfish and dangerously blind, and the have-nots are willfully ignorant. Where far too many people have no idea how their own government works, and are so secure in their willful ignorance that no narrative truth can reach them.

It’s painful, that’s what it is. I’m not helpless, and I am not a bystander, but it’s hard, not being able to do more without breaking myself. I don’t do as much as others, but I give, and I speak up, and I support where and when I can. Not everyone is built for battle. Not everyone is strong enough to hold up themselves, much less others. It ain’t fun being fragile, is what I’m saying.

FFS All opinions were NOT created equal.

When did the absurdity of “We can agree to disagree, but it’s my opinion and I’m entitled to it,” become an acceptable conversation topper? It isn’t true, it isn’t right, and it’s responsible for a lot of evil in the world. That’s my opinion. And if you disagree with me, you’re wrong. Period. So there.

Vote Dammit.

I have voted in nearly every election since I turned 18. That’s a lot of elections, and a LOT of disappointments. I have known all my life the system was rigged and broken and the only chance we had to fix it was to vote in people who were willing to change it.

I’ve preached about the importance of voting so often my friends who think it doesn’t matter get annoyed and edge away from me every time it comes up. (YOU WERE FOOLS AND NOW LOOK WHAT IT’S COME TO) Ahem. Sorry. Not helpful, but GD*#$#)$&^#@ it’s frustrating.

And this year…oof. This year I am feeling very gloomy about the outcome but still hoping I am wrong. We’ve got this one last chance to steer away from the precipice. Maybe. But by golly, whatever happens after the election, I’m gonna go down knowing I did everything I could to make a better future out of this mess I grew up in.

HAHAHA-OOOPS.

Last week started off more cheerful than it wrapped up, can you tell by the way the entries deteriorated into rants? SORRY. In writing news, things are going okay. I’m grinding through the end of the 3rd of 6 sections in Sharp Edge. I’ve hit a plot point that doesn’t want to polish up, but things will work out.

ANYway. It’s Monday night, so this is going out now. Until later!