On the occasion of giving thanks

Our table
Our table. From front: Cornbread & Sausage stuffing, Kale & Chard salads, roasted root veg, and roast beef.

 
Dear Internet,
Thanksgiving, as a holiday, has always been a source of conflict in our house. There is, of course, the idea of thanking the fates for all the bounties the year has given us and then there is the history of the day, which is steeped in blood, violence, and deceit. We’ve started approaching it more as a “Let’s make a fabulous feast and have people over for cards!” as our tradition rather than dwell on the historical origins.
Here is this years menu, along with recipes:
Beef roast marinating in Guinness.
Beef roast marinating in Guinness.

After slow cooking for 8 hours.
After slow cooking for 8 hours.

Meat: Guinness marinated, slow cooked roast beef
Instead of turkey (which both of us are eh on) or ham (which TheHusband is not a fan of), we opted to make a slow cooked Guinness marinated roast beef just like the meat pies of the same name I usually make, except minus the crust. We marinated the beef for nearly 48 hours before slow cooking it for about 8.
This year, the beef was good but on the dry side. We decided it was because we used a janky slow cooker which we’re now discovering has terrible heat element and thermostat control. We’ve decided next time, whether as a stand alone dish or for the meat pie itself, to use Mark Bittman’s techniques for making pot roast from his How To Cook Everything
I should also add that in the three years since I first published the recipe, much has changed with how we prep and cook the beef. Namely, there is no dried onion soup mix or cornstarch involved. TheHusband, when we make this meat pie, now makes the gravy via a roux from the beef drippings and caramelizes the onions instead of relying on dehydrated spices.
Cornbread and Sausage stuffing.
Cornbread and Sausage stuffing.

SidesCornbread & Sausage Stuffing
It’s a well known fact nothing can come in between me and my carbs. This is TheHusband’s take on a Whole Foods recipe of the same name, except we take the corn bread recipe found on the container of corn meal, double it, and use the same pan the corn bread cooked in as the baking dish for the stuffing. He also doubles the meat, and adds carrots for color and flavor. By far our favorite part of the meal it has now become the default staple when we do big meals like this.
Kale_and_chard_salad_with_almonds_and_lemon_garlic_dressing.
Kale and Chard salad with almonds and lemon/garlic dressing.

Sides: Lemon Garlic Kale Salad
This recipe was pulled from the New York Times’ essentials for a 2013 Thanksgiving and came out a dud. It looks super pretty, but tasted of oil slicks. The dressing, which I prepared as directed, was the culprit. Given I had double the greens requested, and made the dressing to a T, we ended up having more than double of the dressing left over after giving the greens a good toss. The olive oil and lemon juice looked emulsified but tasted strictly of oil even though garlic cloves steeped in the concoction for roughly an hour. The recipe doesn’t give precise directions on what you should be looking for or how long the garlic was to steep, so I worked with what I had.
Next time we make this salad, we’ll use the same greens/almonds mixture, but with a different vinaigrette.
Sides: Mashed potatoes
TheHusband used russets which he smashed using goats milk and vegan butter. They came out delicious and ultra creamy.
Sides: Roasted root vegetables
Sweet potatoes, carrots, and kohlrabi were slow cooked in the oven for about an hour under a brown sugar glaze TheHusband whipped up for the cooking process. TheHusband was meh on most of the veg, only liking the glaze and the sweet potatoes, while I adored the whole concoction. Next time we make this dish, we’re going to change out the kohlrabi and add in turnips and another veg for color and flavor and keep the glaze.
Chocolate pecan pie (before baking).
Chocolate pecan pie (before baking).

Deserts: Chocolate Pecan Pie
The pie crust held up remarkably well using vegan butter (Earth Balance) and but the caveat is I should add is I should have rolled the crust thicker to the size as it shrank when it was pre-cooked before I added the filling.
Per the instructions listed, the pie was to bake 30-40 minutes until it jiggles and then pull out to cool completely. After 35 minutes, the pie was a’jiggling and was set aside to cool for an hour before being placed in the fridge to chill for about five hours before it was cut.
Turns out the pie had not finished cooking and the middle, even after chilled completely in the fridge to hasten the thickening process, was like runny black blood. TheHusband didn’t care for the pie, declaring it too chocolatey and sweet, which is odd since I used bittersweet chocolate not only for the chips but also for the cocoa powder. But I do have to agree the chocolate, even with the pecans, is overpowering. May make this again in the future, but modified to taste. The crust recipe, however, is a definite keeper.
We love trifle so much, we even have its own designated bowl.
We love trifle so much, we even have its own designated bowl.

Deserts: Trifle
The tradition to eat trifle for major dinners and feasts is a long standing one in TheHusband’s family, one of which he introduced me to when we got back together and one he has been in charge of making.  Upon finding out my allergy to dairy a few years ago, the entire concoction is now artisanal with nothing coming pre-packaged except the cake mix, which we found saves a lot of time when we have so much else to prep for other courses, and of course the fruit, none of which is locally instead at the moment.
Trifles are layers consisting of cake, custard/pudding, whipped creams, and fruit of some sort. We usually do a yellow cake mix, vanilla pudding/custard, fruits striking the fancy, and of course the whipped cream. As nearly each component is lengthy for prep, we usually start assembling the ingredients a few days before the event it is to be eaten. (And if TheHusband had his way, all he’d eat is trifle for every meal.)
For the pudding/custard layer, TheHusband makes it from scratch using the following technique:
Throbbing Manor custard 
8 egg yolks, whisked together
4 cups of goats milk
3-4 Tbls Tapioca (optional, for texture)
2/3 cup of sugar
3-4 Tbls of cornstarch to thicken
Guts of a vanilla bean

  1. Using a whisk, combine milk, tapioca sugar and cornstarch in a medium saucepan over medium heat on stove top. Allow milk to scald (heat to the point when tiny bubbles form around edges of pan). Whisk occasionally to prevent cornstarch from clumping on bottom edges of pan.
  2. Remove milk mixture from heat,
  3. Mix a few tablespoons of scalded milk mixture into eggs using whisk, then introduce eggs/milk mixture into remaining milk in a slow stream, whisking constantly.
  4. Immediately return pan to heat and whisk gently until custard thickens, another two or three minutes. Do not allow to boil.
  5. Remove pan from heat and stir in vanilla.
  6. Cool completely before eating. Should be refrigerated at least 12 hours before assembling in trifle.

I personally found the above a little on the thin side after it was assembled in the trifle, and TheHusband agreed. He said he’d probably up the cornstarch to get it to thicken more.
Throbbing Manor coconut milk whipped cream
1-2 can of full fat coconut milk
Sugar/Vanilla to taste (optional)

  1. Refrigerate the can of coconut milk for at least 10-12 hours (we like it after at least 24). Several hours before you need to whip the cream, place metal bowl in freezer to chill.
  2. When you’re ready to whip the cream, open the can of coconut milk and scoop out the firm layer coconut cream that has risen to the top of the can and put it in the chilled metal bowl. Do NOT scoop out any of the water left in the can, you want just the solids. You can use the leftover water for drinking/smoothies/whatever.
  3. Mix on high speed for 3-5 minutes using a hand mixer or mixing stand. You want soft peaks to form as you whip.
  4. Add in optional sugar/vanilla during the end stages of the whipping
  5. Keep unused mixture in the metal bowl and keep in fridge to re-whip before using again.
  6. For the trifle, we used two cans of coconut milk

 
And there you go. Now you know why we are so fat. Happy holidays!
x0x0,
Lisa

This day in Lisa-Universe: 2011, 1998

Rex Totius Britanniae

Lisa, 1975
Me, 1974-75. And pretty accurate view of how i see the world today.

Dear Internet,
It was pretty easy.
I grabbed some hair, measured what I wanted to cut and using the scissors bought specifically for events like these, cut my hair.
I ran my hands around my head, measuring and eyeballing what needed to get cut and what was going to stay. I kept this up until my hair, combed wet, was nearly dry and then stopped. Once satisfied with my work, I jumped in the shower and shaved the rest of my body. A hairy body is the sign of not being in control, and we can’t have that, now can we?
I could make the argument the impromptu cut I got at a chain salon a month ago, now having grown out resemble a mess, was to blame — and that would, at some level, be true. But cutting my hair is just one of the many fail overs I use to soothe whatever fire is in my head.
I can’t control what is going on in my brain, so cutting my hair is one of the myriad of ways I assert my own control over my person.
I will take control. I have control. I am in control.
Since I had disclosed the sads had returned two weeks ago, their manic cyclic behavior has been taking a huge toll on my mental health in addition to my personal and professional lives. It is taking every bit of my energy to not fuck shit up, to not let important things lapse, to not let this thing, whatever name I want to call it, rule over me so completely.
The cycles in the past have been pretty prolonged but this time is different. They have returned with fierceness that is humbling and often catching me unawares. I can be high for hours and then down shift into depression within a blink of an eye –  it hit so hard while grocery shopping last week, I felt like I was going to faint from its sudden impact. It lifts for a few hours and then BOOM, we down shift again into another bout that can be and will be as dark as its brethren.
Drugs would have smoothed this out, sure. But the drugs don’t work when you can’t tolerate them and they, in my case, make things worse. At least here — in this space — I know that it will lift at some point. It will, as Stephen Fry says, get sunny one day.

Here are some obvious things about the weather:
It’s real.
You can’t change it by wishing it away.
If it’s dark and rainy it really is dark and rainy and you can’t alter it.
It might be dark and rainy for two weeks in a row.
BUT
It will be sunny one day.
It isn’t under one’s control as to when the sun comes out, but come out it will.
Stephen Fry

Even though the world looks dark, and I would do anything in this moment to rip my skin from my body in order to not be me anymore, I know this will pass. It will get better.
It has to.
x0x0,
Lisa

This day in Lisa-Universe: 2010

Oseberg ship’s head

storyquote
Dear Internet,
The dubious quote above apparently comes from the Ethan Hawk movie classic, Great Expectations, so we’re just going to roll with it.
Tuesday I spent time wandering in 1999 and it’s been a painful walk down memory lane as I revisited, in explicit and intense detail, TheHusband and I’s first breakup, my intent to free myself of the tyranny I felt living in San Francisco, falling for Elvis, and my never ending obsession with one of my exes, Jeff (whom as I knew so many damn people or were related to those named Jeff, was referred to as “lucid” through most of my writing).
[Interlude —  Of course as I started writing this, I had to google stalk him. Well, let’s not be surprised he has a Twitter account and I made frowny faces as I read back his timeline because – this is not someone I would have ever dated in a million years.  But it should be noted his first wife had emailed me oh five or six years ago because apparently he spent most of his first marriage comparing her to me and wife #2 looks suspiciously like me circa when we were dating.]
Months up to June have been added for that year, but I stopped because I didn’t think I could handle reading any more in one sitting. There is only so much self-effacing and baring of the soul I can stomach before shutting emotionally down, even if it is about me. I will, however leave you with two foto posts of my exploits that year: One of 26 year old me via a B/W cam in April, 1999 and another one, written a month later, showing off my nipple and tongue piercings.
Which is a good segue towards this weekend, as I have a long standing appointment this Saturday to start work on tattoo #14. The inspiration is a Nordic dragon that will start at my shoulder joint and wrap its way around my arm. I’ve thrown the inspiration up on the Pinterest board I’ve started curating for ideas for the half-sleeve which will take over my right arm. It works that two existing pieces on my right arm right now are celtic in design, so adding a fiery dragon’s body will look fabulous.
My time off of work this week has resulted in more time spent in pants that I wanted to spend, but those are the sacrifices one makes. Lindsay came over to spend the day on Monday, which was good for our souls and Tuesday was spent running errands and seeing my therapist. As TheHusband and I had no intention of leaving the house this weekend, or at the very least, leaving the house and heading anywhere there might be flock of murderous shoppers, I decided to pick up some much needed items before locking ourselves in for the week. I shocked not just by the number of stores already doing pre-pre Black Friday sales but the number of shoppers who were jockeying for spots in parking.
The next couple of days are going to be very heavy food based entries as we prep for Thanksgiving dinner. Our menu is as follows:

Guinness marinated roast beef
Mashed potatoes
Cornbread and sausage stuffing
Roasted root veg
Greens cooked in bacon
Trifle
Chocolate pecan pie

Ya’ll are invited. Dinner is at 4PM.

x0x0,
Lisa

This day in Lisa-Universe:

The Bell Jar, the book cover, and mental illness

Dear Internet,
Earlier this year, there was a brouhaha all over Facebook and Twitter about how “disgusting” and “sexist” the new UK version of the 50th anniversary cover for Sylvia Plath’s seminal work, The Bell Jar. Here is the offending cover:

slyviaplath

There are obviously several “chick-lit” cover tropes in play:

  1. Stock image of a woman applying make-up
  2. Vintage coloring scheme
  3. “Girly” cursive font

Given this context and novel’s content, everyone and their sixteen cousins are in a tizzy about the nature of this cover:

If Sylvia Plath hadn’t already killed herself, she probably would’ve if she saw the new cover of her only novel The Bell Jar. via Jezebel

How is this cover anything but a ‘fuck you’ to women everywhere? via Dustin Kurtz, marketing manager at Melville House

Awesomelycomicallyhistorically inapprop’ via Andy Pressman, graphic designer (in response to Kutz)

“The anniversary edition fits into the depressing trend for treating fiction by women as a genre, which no man could be expected to read and which women will only know is meant for them if they can see a woman on the cover.” via Fatema Ahmed, London Review of Books

“Insult to women everywhere” The Independent

Ms. Magazine, Salon, and The Guardian also weighed in, but kept their content more neutral, while Chicago Tribune and Huffington Post UK wrote the usual knee jerk reactions you would expect for the sole purpose of link baiting.
Interestingly, the controversy was never addressed in publications with consistently reputable book coverage, such as the New York TimesUSA TodayWashington Post or SlateWhat’s even more interesting is the cover was released in October of 2012 and only in the UK. A few souls bemoaned the inappropriate nature of the cover at the time, but it did not become WW III until someone at Jezebel decided to get their tits up about the topic. At which time, it became a feeding frenzy of OH EM GEE, WE MUST AVENGE SLYVIA PLATH.
So there is that.
Here is something to think about. No professional writer, blogger, or Internet commentator of note, made ANY kind of comment in the defense of the cover as a representation of the mentally ill, or fuck, did not make a single noise that it was recursive against the mentally ill. No, no, no – it was all about feminism, how Plath got jacked out of literary respectability because of the lurid colored cover and the overly female image, and her work has now, so say them all, been degraded to some emo representative chick lit that completely belays her importance.
So isn’t it funny that when it comes to someones idea of what a graphic designed cover of mental illness could look like, we decide to reject that notion on the basis it is disrespecting our vaginas? I mean really?
And listen — can someone put Jezebel out of their misery because they have become a hyperbole unto themselves? I do not get how it is seemingly appropriate for them to rail against the man in regards to feminism while seemingly having zero problems making insulting and stereotypical commentary about mental illness in the same breath. So sayeth my comments to the article:

“I’m varying degrees disgusted/ashamed only a small number of people called out the fact Tracie is an insensitive and obnoxious asshole for making disparaging commentary about mental illness and suicide. I tried to commit suicide when I was 17, my mother attempted twice in her 50s. Maybe next time we’ll just come to you for suggestions next time we want to off ourselves since you seem to have all the answers.”
What’s next, Tracie? Commentary likening Sylvia’s use of gas to kill herself to that of the Holocaust? Maybe somehow tie it in into ” exacerbated by the suffocating gender stereotypes”?
As a woman, who is bipolar, I don’t see the cover as “adjusting her make-up” or as some tricked pony of a color scheme to get more readers, or some flippant visual remark that the story is “chick-lit”, or being oppressed by the man for my gender (as you stated so eloquently).
What *I* see is what I see everyday in my OWN mirror: A woman with two faces. The public one I have to keep adjusted lest my illness be known, and the private one that is wholly different. The cover actually says A LOT about how much women need to carry more than one persona just to survive on a daily basis, even before the mental illness is added in.
It seems to me, that most people crying out “This is sexist bullshit!” or “That it’s an insult to women!” have never dealt with or experienced mental illness, which is far more stigmatizing for a woman.
And that fact has not changed in 50 years. Me, in response to the Jezebel article

So we come now, nearly a year later. We continually don’t want to talk about or disregard any representation of mental health in the media, even if that representation is wrong or misguided, if it goes against something else we place a higher value on, such as women’s rights.
But you can’t sacrifice one for the other. In an attempt to do so only reinforces whatever tropes and misguided notions exist whether the outlier is mental illness or something else entirely. And to reject a book cover under misconstrued ideals of what feminism looks like or that it is a rejection of contemporary ideologies — and remember, the baseline of what feminism is is the right to choose and portray our own lives — is just as hurtful and hateful as the projections everyone is attempting to claim the book is representing.
You cant’t have it both ways.
xoxo,
Lisa

This day in Lisa-Universe:

Reader::Writer

Dear Internet,
When I started this entry originally — ooh, must have been sometime in the summer, I was responding to an article I read in The Guardian about the role of the reader versus that of the writer. Umberto Eco’s response surprised me as he struck me as someone who spent long hours with his nose in comics and books as he does writing them, but the positing of, “We are thus deeply influenced by books we haven’t read, that we haven’t had the time to read.” is deeply revealing not only of Eco, but also the world at large which I think was his point. I know I’m not the only person who when meeting another, especially once I’m invited into their home, immediately look for their bookshelves to see what their reading. But the advent of the Kindle and other ebook devices have now circumvented my nosiness. THANKS, AMAZON.
Which brings us to me and my reading and writing habits.

The ever growing To Be Read pile.
The ever growing To Be Read pile.

The image above is our TBR pile that is organized by owner as of mid-2012. What you’re not seeing is the nearly falling stacks in our bedroom on one of our dressers, our stacks of books on our ereaders OR taking into account the piles you see to your left have doubled since this picture was taken.
The topics on the shelves are diverse from ancient history to contemporary art criticism, with YA fiction thrown in for good measure and everything inbetween. Despite the breadth of content available, my secret shame is not what I have purchased and not read, but my reading lists on Amazon which number titles in the hundreds, organized neatly by topic. I want to read all the words in the world.
In the beginning of this year, I made the commitment to not purchase another book until my stacks were cleared. Which I mostly kept to – but I also snuck around this rule simply by ordering books via interlibrary loan and then reading them in bits and pieces before they were sent back. Two titles I’ve requested and received enough times that I really should just buy the damn books. I also circumvented this by supporting things via Kickstarter – because it’s for a good cause! And then later, you get presents you totally forgot about in the mail.
The problem I had been struggling with is my lack of reading books, but in my head I took it to mean I was not reading anything at all. When I did the update earlier in November on the goals laid out in Kalendae Januariae, I reconciled the fact my book reading was down because I was reading so much more in other media (magazines, newspapers, etc). But I feel a sickening shame and my heart drops, no matter how I try to spin it in my head, I’m just not reading enough and by that I mean books.  As of today, I have read NINE books in 2013, my goal for 2013 was to read 50. I am also influenced by people I follow across the social spheres who are reading books voraciously and widely, something I admire, which is helping giving me a kick in the arse to get going on my own book reading again.
To accommodate more book reading time, I’ve started with small changes such as taking an actual lunch break during the day and reading in the staff lounge instead of the usual eating at my desk while staring mindlessly at a monitor. TheHusband and I have also set aside, several nights a week, time after dinner to read which has been helping. I’ve also swapped my morning ritual around to include a breakfast that requires me to sit and eat, rather than eat on the go and it is during this time I catch up on newspapers, magazines, and of course books.
This upcoming week I am off for the holiday and I’ve resolved to read 3 books before I go back to work on December 2. When I go on holiday shutdown in mid-December, and I’m off for nearly a month, I initially resolved to finish a book a day. The more realistic approach to this since we’re having family in town and other plans is probably a book every two days.  If I can make those two challenges work, plus whatever other book reading I get in between then, should start making a dent in my back piles.
This also applies to my comics, which with gifts, Kickstarter, and my own personal spending habits have gotten widely out of control.
Now that I’ve been writing daily for almost a month, and even wrote a poem or two in the process as well as some notes for some shorts, I now know that setting the task of a small goal and achieving that goal can be done! It’s astonishing how such a small change can make a huge difference even in how you approach things in life, because knowing I set myself up for this, I find how as I write more, I want to read more, and as I read more, I want to write more. It’s a very pleasurable circle jerk that allows me to expand my world, one page at a time.

The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid. Jane Austen

Thanks Jane, I couldn’t have said it better myself.
x0x0,
Lisa

This day in Lisa-Universe: 2008, 1998

somewhere in her mind it’s always raining a slow and endless drizzle

Primeval rain, via Popular Science Monthly Volume 4, circa 1873 - 1874. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.
Primeval rain, via Popular Science Monthly Volume 4, circa 1873 – 1874. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Dear Internet,
Friday afternoon, I had a Google Hangout meeting with various and sundry about a project we’re all jointly working on when it came to light one of the members of the group, whom I had been pretty friendly with up until that point, revealed the reason for her sudden turn of taste in me. What that revelation boiled down to was I am not letting others shine in the project. But she couldn’t really clarify what that meant but that her only recourse was to remove herself from within my company. In addition, friends of hers were apparently upset her name wasn’t credited on my professional website where I gave a brief summary on said project, as in my list of names, I list those I recalled at the time of the writing as a beginning contributor and as there were so many, threw the rest under “all the other awesome people who were there” list because I honestly could not remember everyone who was involved.
At least, I think that’s why she was upset because I never really got the gist for her sudden cold shoulder to me. She even acknowledge she couldn’t really articulate it, so I’m piecing together what I pulled from that conversation. When I finished the call, TheHusband, who heard the entire exchange from his office, restated my summary in much the same language. He said if he were me that he would have told her to grow a pair and if she wanted to get credit to actually start becoming the face herself of the work we’re doing if she’s so damned concerned with recognition. I just shrugged, rewrote the pages in more neutral language, and emailed her the updates.
When TheHusband and I were out running errands later that night, I was gripped with a wave of depression so heavy I stumbled in my tracks when I realised what was happening. A fairly painless event of grocery shopping took on the guise of fight or flight, of which I desperately trying not to abandon our cart in the middle of the aisle and get the fuck home so I could surround myself with things that could not hurt me. We had to do this thing, it had to be done this night, and if I could make it through the rest of the trip, I had an entire week where I had almost no responsibility with anything and I could start to protect what was becoming a very vulnerable self.
Sleep did not come easy Friday night as my mind running in a million paces.
Saturday morning woke up very cold and very bright. TheHusband and I had plans to finish some of the major house cleaning that was still hanging around our necks that morning and relaxing before the Doctor Who 50th anniversary party I was planning for a group of local friends. When 2PM came and went, three of the twelve invited showed up, two had declined and the rest never bothered to tell me either way. And if there is anything that can make one feel incredibly unloved and alone is when hardly anyone shows up to your party or even bothered to let you know they were not coming.
So you can imagine, coupled with the events from previous day which I had not quite shaken off, where this is going.
After the guests had left several hours later, and I did have fun with the people who were here, I made the mistake of checking various social networks and seeing huge Doctor Who themed parties being thrown over the world. At that point, as I flipped through the images of happy faces across the globe, I felt the loneliest I’ve felt in a very long time.
I spend a lot of time, too much probably, thinking about my relationships with people. To some, like TheHusband who constantly marvels I know people around the globe, when I say that save for him, how lonely I am at times, he doesn’t quite get the grasp of the depth of that loneliness. When we moved back to Grand Rapids, I told him that those who were my very best of friends when I moved away several years prior were no longer, he thought I was being some kind of cynical fool. But many of those friendships were formed in specific cultures and when the structure of that culture is taken away, the relationships often do not stand. I’m not saying all of those people I’ve met have disappeared, but a good many have gone on with their lives such as I’ve gone on with mine. Cycles happen and I’ve long accepted with the exception of very few, no matter how hard I try to make some of these relationships work, they are all really transitory.
The story that opened this piece was told not to shame the person whose concerns to her were very real, but because I needed a concrete example of something that happens on a fairly regularly basis with me. Much as I said to the male friend who was standing next to me while I was being sexually harassed, “Now you know.” I said the exact same thing to TheHusband when the meeting ended on Friday to illustrate the kind of behaviour I often deal with from others. It was not that he never believed me, he knows who he is married to, but again just as with my loneliness, he hadn’t grasped the extent of what people expect from me versus what they want from me.
Let’s be clear on something here: I do not think I’m some kind of special snowflake deserving of special treatment. What I do think is that I’m a pretty self-actualized human being who happens to be bold. Boldness comes in a  variety of flavors and my particular strength is that I have zero problems being upfront with you, shooting directly from the hip, making a lot of noise when I need to, or calling you out on your foolishness. It is surprising the number of people who would rather have you tell petty lies to make them feel good then tell them the truth. It is also a flabbergast of moments to realise the level of superficiality of many in the human race and their entire existence is based upon the one they have concocted to make themselves feel good. Additionally, I have zero political prowess and that fact alone has hurt me many, many times as I refuse to play reindeer games to soothe various beasts.
I often tell people I am not everyone’s cup of tea, and I’ve long came to that realization in my early 20s and for my entire adult life, that’s the code I’ve lived by. I’m not here to please you and I am also not here to be your personal bitch, to be called upon when you need that bold voice only to be thrown back into the dark when you’re done with them. As this has become a reoccurring event as of late, of that too, I am done.
People who are like me – there is a high price to pay for our boldness and while we are often publicly lauded for being the face of the cause, we’re privately punished for being ourselves. I cannot tell you how many times I have been told to change or tweak my personality because I did not “fit in” with a culture or a group, that it would better serve those around me if I toned it down a bit, or if I was not so blunt or some other attempt to turn me something I am not under the auspice of fake helpfulness. I’m not saying I’m above change or that I am perfect, I am saying I am done with society’s expectation that as I walk to the beat of my own drummer, I need to move my round peg ass into the square hole.
Here’s the thing most do not understand – bold people are often the most fragile and their boldness is a protective measure. Many bold people I have met, in addition to myself, find it natural to be the bull in the china shop as it is who they are, but that energy required to be who they are drains them. Not only do we tend to be more fragile, but we’re almost the most in the need of support. Being bold can quickly weaken you if you’re not careful, and drain you if you are careless.
If we’re friends on Facebook, as of this writing, I’ve deactivated my account. I have a private account I’m using to manage pages since several projects require it, and if we were friends on that particular account, I’ve unfriended you and made it as private as Facebook possible. This has not been something done in haste, but the events from the last couple of days finalized the long thought reasons for me to finally acknowledge the account needed to go. Frankly I’m tired of putting myself out there only to be rejected by the same people who expect me to continually support them or be the face of a particular cause because no one else wants to do it. I’m also very angry that a group of people whom were to be my allies, in the month since my I was publicly sexually harassed, 90% of them didn’t bother asking me if I was okay. And when you know at least half of them read your site, to me that’s telling of who you really are. Whether that’s your intention or not, your actions speak much louder than any words you could possibly have to say to me. I did not want to do a flounce, but I do think a brief reason was necessary if you went looking for me and saw I was no longer there on why I left.
If you want to stalk something on Facebook, this site has its own page.
For most of you, much this won’t affect how you read or see me on site. I’m still going to be on Twitter, but perhaps just not as much. I’m still going to be writing here just as often. But there is an intimacy associated with Facebook that isn’t even available anywhere else, regardless of how many layers I peel back as I write on this site. I need to reign in the control of what the world can see and Facebook was the first to go. At least here, in my sandbox, I’m forcing you to come to me and not the other way around.
I’ve also decided I’m shutting down publicly and openly discussing my projects, librarianship or otherwise, until they are finalized or complete. There have been too many recorded instances of my work being lifted and passed off as someone elses or lifted and touted that it’s open source therefore a free for all or lifted and not even giving me AND the people who worked with me credit.
I’m done being bullied by you Internet, go pick on someone your own size.
x0x0,
Lisa

Collectioun of Cunnynge Curioustes for November 23, 2013

Johann Georg Hainz's Cabinet of Curiosities, circa 1666. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Johann Georg Hainz’s Cabinet of Curiosities, circa 1666. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

During the Renaissance, cabinet of curiosities came into fashion as a collection of objects that would often defy classification. As a precursor to the modern museum, the cabinet referred to room(s), not actual furniture, of things that piqued the owners interest and would be collected and displayed in an aesthetically pleasing manner. Collectioun of Cunnynge Curioustes is my 21st century interpretation of that idea.
 
Dear Internet,

Reading

throneofthecrescentmoonThrone of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed
(Amazon | WorldCat | GoodReads | LibraryThing)
Status: Finished
At first glance, it’s easy to dismiss THRONE OF THE CRESCENT MOON as a typical sword and sorcery novel with not one, but many reluctant heroes in the guise of being presented by multiple points of view. But from the very first chapter, you realise you’re in the presence of something much larger, grander, and more indepth than previous versions of this motif. You could read the story for what it is, a tale of an old man and his young charges righting the wrongs of the world, but you’d be missing out on much of what Saladin has to say.
And boy does he have a lot say – THRONE OF THE CRESCENT MOON is an allegorical tale using Saladin’s world as the mirror to our own and through his work, he is critiquing the problems that exist in our world. He underscores some of the larger and complex concepts with a very subtle humour that at first read through you miss until you realise what he’s getting at — very Dickensian. His voice is very passionate, very authentic, and very real.
And there was something else in this tale that I couldn’t put my finger on until I read it on another review: Saladin’s work has soul and a heart. A lot of fantasy I’ve read, and in the larger scope of my canon is actually much less than most, tends to have a hollowness to the world and characters – they seem to be missing their “humanness” about them we often need to make that connection within ourselves. There is certainly nothing wrong with that, not every novel needs to be a treatise on the human condition. But you don’t realise how much you miss having a full bodied story until you get your hands on one again.

Watching

  • Downton Abbey
    The fourth season, which is set to air on PBS in January 2014, has just finished in the UK and my overall response is – meh. There is your usual backstabbing, mischief has been managed, and illicit love affairs but the overall intensity of the show that I once loved has seemingly lost its oomph. It has been renewed for a fifth season and while I’m sure I’ll still be watching it, probably not with the zest I once did. The show has jumped the shark and while formulas can be good, Julian Fellowes just needs to let this one go.
  • Reign
    I was introduced to this show by several friends who thought it would be a good fit for my interests, but what they failed to tell me (or better yet, what I should have known) that as a show on The CW, it would be less than historically accurate. The best summary I can give for this show is that it’s The Tudors in clothing from Forever 21. But you don’t watch CW shows for their historical accuracy and commentary on historical figures. There is definitely some eye rolling going on, lots of gratuitous sex, more anachronistic details you can shake a stick at but you know what? Who cares! It’s a train wreck of a show with a very pretty cast and even prettier set dressing.

Weekly watching: DraculaProject Runway All-Stars, Breathless, AtlantisMasters of SexElementaryMarvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.Sleepy HollowSurvivor,  Boardwalk Empire, Doc Martin, QIPeaky Blinders,  Sons of Anarchy,  The Vampire Diaries

Links

What have you read/watched/listened to this week?
x0x0,
lisa

This day in Lisa-Universe in:

On the Occasion of Doctor Who’s 50th Birthday

CMMRB Doctor Who

doctorwhologo-cropped

Dear Internet,
I’ve long acknowledge I’m a late bloomer since I’ve never done anything in the usual linear pace of time for anything. In the realm of life events, I didn’t graduate high school on time, I got my GED when I was 19; I finished my undergrad when I was 32, and I got married when I was almost 40. Hell, the first time I ever saw Star Wars was on laserdisc in 1994! But it goes much farther back than that – I was even born late by nearly a month.
My introduction to a lot of things I’m into now were also not via the usual methods of self-discovery or influence. My interests in the last decade have begun to deepen to reveal what my true self is: A very nerdy girl. So much so, TheHusband is often found mumbling that he married a 12 year old boy when a new toy arrives at the house, the DVR is stocked with cartoons, or my wish list contains mainly video games and comics.
My interest in Doctor Who came about on a very haphazard road that did not fully take shape until 2005. Though my family were PBS aficionados while I was growing up, where the original Doctor Who series was shown on late at night, my introduction to science fiction or fantasy was hazy at best. I remember watching the original Star Trek and Lost in Space on Saturday afternoons as they were in syndication when I was a young lass, but I grew up in a house mainly of women, with nearly zero male presence, who were into the stereotypical womanly things and whose interests were definitely not into the galaxy shoot outs, alien races, and interplanet travel variety.
[iframe class=”alignleft” src=”//www.youtube.com/embed/h5YA0Uq2wXM?rel=0″ height=”263″ width=”350″ allowfullscreen=”” frameborder=”0″] Fast forward a decade plus and my first introduction to Doctor Who was not through the show itself, but through the song Doctorin’ The TARDIS by The TimeLords (aka The KLF) that was released in the late ’80s and was a mainstay on college radio and in clubs. I remember dancing in my bedroom to this tune a lot in high school, but the references were falling on deaf ears. There is a hazy memory of someone explaining to me it was a tribute to a beloved sci-fi show from the ’60s and ’70s, but during the mid to late ’80s, I was going through a horror film / metal music phase so I just filed it away for future reference.
By the time I was in my 20s, I thought I had some very definite tastes figured out. I was very much keen on telling people that I had no interest in science fiction OR fantasy OR mythology until someone finally said look, a lot of those movies/show you watch you like or books you read ARE tinged with fantastical or science fiction elements. Just because you’re not buying them in the SFF aisles doesn’t mean they are any less of that genre then the ones that are stocked on those shelves. I’m not terribly sure who said this to me, and I’m also fairly certain it was more than one person, but whatever stigma I thought was attached to liking SFF crashed and I started gorging on as much as humanly possible. It was around this same time I finally gave in and became a Terry Pratchett fan, which anyone who was an existing fan at the time and met me was convinced I would flail for PTerry to the end of my days, turned out to be absolutely right.
As the Internet became more prevalent, and information widely spread, Doctor Who and its related fandoms were one of those cultures that still eluded me. There was Just. So. Much. And it was not just with the main show, but the spinoffs, the books, the games, the fanfiction, and everything else related. I had no idea on where to begin and it was especially hard when much of the original shows were haphazardly around the web or a library may have some on VHS/DVD, but nothing close to completion.
When Sci Fi (now SyFy) channel announced that in 2005 it was going to start showing the newly rebooted Doctor Who, I was ecstatic. FINALLY, I can see what the fuss is all about. While there were missed chances to get into the series before, now with the reboot and its full intent on introducing a whole new generation to become Whovians, I could. In the spring of 2006, I set my TiVo to record and waited.
The entire first season of the reboot, in which we’re introduced to the Ninth Doctor, sat on my DVR for weeks after the season ended. At some point I got a mutant version of the plague and was on the couch for days, in which I mainlined the entire first season in one go.
I fell in love. Hard. Almost painfully so.

CMMRB Doctor Who
L-R: 11, 4, 10, Donna Noble, Rose, Captain Jack, 9
Cosplaying at C2E2, 2013

They say your first Doctor is your favorite Doctor and that is most definitely true of me. Christopher Eccleston, as the brusque northerner (all planets have a north!), regenerated as the Ninth doctor stole Rose’s heart and my own. From that point on, I became a fan for life.
You can unpack Doctor Who, regardless of where you come into the series, in a whole manner of different ways and dissertations have been written on the subject doing just that. To me, the Ninth Doctor and following, are all represented pieces of myself that were either hidden or realised by being unveiled for the first time as each episode. I saw in each episode something I could relate to on a very deeply personal level, whether it was the hard choices I had to make in my own life or how the show somehow explained a complex thought or action into something much more simple.
The show is not marketed as a philosophical treatise on the human condition, it was and still is marketed as a kid’s show. But if you strip away all the fun and fluff bits, but it is at its core that very ideologie of presenting complex and very human situations in a manner that makes easily accessible and understandable. And at least in the reboot, the show is also very much a feminist show where all characters are given equal footing AND tasks.
I may not be able to tell you which episode Cyberman appeared or the catchphrase of the Third Doctor, but I don’t think that makes me any less of a fan of the show or series. And after all, as the madman in the blue box will tell you, I have all of time and space to find out.
x0x0,
Lisa

This day in Lisa-Universe: 2010, 1998

Code of Conduct, Code4Lib, Lib Tech Gender, and My Vagina – Oh my!

Judith Beheading Holofrenes by Caravaggio
Judith Beheading Holofrenes by Caravaggio

 
Dear Internet,
Before I go forward, I must warn you the bloodwolves have arrived at House Rabey yesterday and I’m feeling a leetle like the above image.
This week has been insane as I prep for an author’s lecture and Q & A at the college that I organized, getting started on one of my departments accreditation process (well there went holiday break!) and a whole other load of work and personal stuff. I haven’t had time to do much of anything and I’m thankful I took Friday off or else I would die from exhaustion. Good job, me!
Before ALA’s annual conference happened this summer, several people linked me to a conversation at a public librarian Facebook group that started out with asking about hooking up at the conference and the conversation, of course, degraded from there.  I made my views  fairly well known on the topic.

Screen Shot 2013-11-20 at 11.13.01 PM

It took nearly 5 months after I started making the noise, and in ALA parlance that is ultra fast, but ALA FINALLY has a Code of Conduct in place. Huz-fucking-zah! Andromeda Yelton wrote up a really great piece on the whole process.
Since talking about my vag has become one of my favorite topics, here are other things going on this week in that area:

  • I massively updated the landing page for #libtechwomen/#libtechgender that I’ve mentioned in previous posts. I’ve pulled everything I’ve written into one tidy location. If you have any links or suggestions you think I should add, let me know.
  • I’ve just put together the proposal for a Librarianship, Technology, Gender pre-conference at Code4Lib. If you’re planning on attending this year, might I suggest you sign up?
  • I’ve been approached by a in-profession magazine and a book publisher to start putting my words to print. This is SEEKRIT for the moment, but I will reveal when I can on both topics.

Now I slumber.
x0x0,
Lisa

This day in Lisa-Universe:

anatomy of a website: part ii

Lisa, circa 1973 or 1974.
Lisa phone hacking, circa 1973 or 1974.

Dear Internet,
Yesterday I started out putting together an entry on the process and design of the site, only it turned into nearly 3100 wordy behemoth. I’ve split the entries into half, the first half concentrating on the backend, landing page and design thought, with the second half below getting more into the nitty gritty, process, and promotions.
Individual Entry Pages
For the individual entry pages, all of the previous design for the landing page is true plus with the added following:

  • Breadcrumbs – Located above the title and are crucial! I will not design a site without them and it is also good SEO and information architecture practices. I use Breadcrumb NavXT.
  • “Estimated reading time” in the byline metadata. General consensus of the internets said they liked this feature because it gives them time to pause to continue reading now or come back later. Plus I can be wooordy and days like today, you need to know how much time to invest. The plugin I use is Post Reading Time, which is customizable.
  • Share the love – I use unobtrusive small icons, no text, of print, email, and top social sharing sites via the Jetpack plugin. I also turned on the “follow me via Google+” option available in the same plugin. I also only selected social sites I personally use, hence why there is no LinkedIn.
  • Below the footer metadata are named links to previous post and after post
  • Next is the comments section, which I use Disqus plugin to handle that feature. Additionally, in the landing page version, comments are located at the top by the byline entry so readers can comment on the landing page instead of clicking to the full entry itself to do so.
    • I currently do not turn off comments on any of the content, so if you wanted to comment on an entry from 10 years ago, you could.

Individual Page pages
Since these are rarely updated and are static, the styling is a bit less structured:

  • I’ve turned off commenting and direct people to my contact page
  • Each page is either a top level page as a landing page for a project or a child page
  • SEO is also applied to all pages as I now create them
  • Breadcrumbs are also used on pages
  • The sidebar remains the same

Process and Promotion

  • Currently I write the day before it’s due and I almost never know ahead of time what I’m going to write. It literally is, some days, begins with a sentence and I’ll end up with 900 words an hour later.
  • I can write a 750 word entry, complete with formatting and editing, in about an hour.
  • I schedule the entries to post mid-morning ET the following day. I will also set up a tweet mid-afternoon with the same information
    • The initial posting format is: [blog] TITLE OF ENTRY short link EXPLANATION
    • Further promotion on Twitter will contain a slightly reworded version of the original to prevent going to Twitter jail
  • Promotion of the entry is done in the following
  • On the rare occasion, I’ll post a link to the entry more than twice in the same day
  • It is utterly important to me that I am available, findable, and read in a variety of mediums, hence the cross-promotion to major sites as well as some not so major ones in addition to the RSS and email feeds.
  • SEO is applied to all entries with descriptions and proper keywords to enhance findability

Plugins
What’s currently powering my site:

  • Akismet – Spam blocker. Between this and Disqus, there has been almost no comment spam on this site.
  • All in One SEO – One of the definitive SEO plugins, easy to use and pretty customizable.
  • Breadcrumb NavXT – One of the better breadcrumb plugins, also easy to use and customize.
  • Broken Link Checker – The best client I found to scan the entire site, check links and report back errors. Especially useful as I add in the old content.
  • Disqus – I’ve been a long user of this commenting system for a number of reasons: It allows people to comment by logging in via any number of existing OAuth systems such as Facebook and Twitter without having to create an account at EPbaB. I also liked that you can consolidate all of your sites into one admin account.
  • Google Analytics for WordPress One of the three analytics software I use, highly robust and full of rich features
  • Google XML Sitemaps If you are not practicing SEO, you should have a site map of your site for search engines to index. I really like this one.
  • iframe Plugin to allow the use of iframe HTML because sometimes old tags don’t go away, they just continue to be used.
  • Jetpack This plugin is produced by the makers of WordPress and contains some of the top features they implement on the wordpress.com site and made them available for self-hosted users. Frankly, this is by far the best plugin I use and while I know some despise it for a variety of reasons, as someone who just wants shit to work, it’s brilliant. Here are the features I use (and be mindful this is not ALL the features available):
    • Notifications – notifies of activity from wordpress.com users and sites on your site
    • Stats – One of the three analytics plugins I use
    • Publicize – The social arm of the plugin, it auto publishes to selected sites when you publish your entry as well as is the configuration for the Share the Love social sharing
    • Subscriptions – Subscribe by email
    • Sharing – See Publicize
    • Spelling and Grammar – Yes to the first, meh to the second. The grammar function is often wrong
    • Omnisearch – Search Every. Single. Page on your site, deeply, from within the dashboard
    • Contact form – So you say you have a message from your people to my people? This is where you go
    • Widget visibility – Control what pages / posts your widgets are on
    • Wp.me short links – Yep
    • Google+ Profile – See Publicize
    • Tiled galleries – If I ever feel the need, it is here
    • Shortcode embeds – Always important
    • Custom CSS – Sometimes designers do NOT know best. Also a lot of theme designers sell their “premium” themes based on the fact you can customize the CSS. Why bother to pay for something you can do for free?
    • Mobile theme – I know a lot of people don’t like this version, but I don’t see a problem with how it renders or allows navigation on my site. Works great!
    • Extra sidebar widgets – Always a necessity
    • WordPress.com Connect – Allows you to login to your sites using your WordPress.com login – which is more secure than just a username/password!
    • Enhanced distribution – There is no clear description to what this does exactly, but what the hell. It’s turned on.
    • Jason API – Also needed
  • List category posts – Another favorite! Allows you to post links to entries on any page/widget from specific categories or tags – automatically! Example of it being used, multiple times, on the To:Be Project page. Each section is its own tag getting updated automatically when I post with that tag appended.
  • LiveJournal Crossposter – Some sites do not die, they just become LiveJournal.
  • Organize Series – A neat plugin that allows you to easily set up posts of the same subject to be easily read together without searching through the archives.
  • Post Reading Time – Displays the amount of time to read the entry, at 200 words a minute average.
  • Redirection – I currently have two or three domains, in addition to exitpursuedbyabear.net, that point to the this domain. In order to clean up old links from journals gone by, Redirection will take a link from biblyotheke.net/nameofentry and point it to the correct entry here without the use knowing!
  • Simple Social Plugins – Sidebar widget using pure CSS to display stylized social media links
  • Smart Archives Reloaded – Plugin behind my archives page, was the easiest way to generate the page in a simple to read format without getting overly complicated.
  • TablePress – Plugin to generate complicated tables, but I’m finding it easier to create them via pure HTML and CSS so I might ditch this at some point.
  • Word Stats – Secretly I’m a stats nerd and things like this get me wet. I disagree with some of its assessment on reading levels but I do like some of the other features like breaking down words per entry, or per month, or entire lifetime.

Other design tweaks, such as color schemes and CSS options tend to be in the muted areas, with a shocking color for contrast. I like my fonts to be readable, and I can spend hours on the right font combination, and easy to print. I haven’t yet found the perfect font yet, but I’m always looking.
This holiday season, since I have nearly a month off, I’m going to be setting up a home server version of the site and start building, I hope, a new and improved site layout and design to correct the little things I cannot get sorted in using child themes. Ideally, I’d like to build off an existing theme, but I’m thinking at this rate I’ll probably end up starting from the ground up and building my own.
If you have any plugin or theme suggestions, let me know! I’m always up for getting my website dirty!
x0x0,
Lisa

This day in Lisa-Universe: 2009