duskpeterson: (winter sled)
[personal profile] duskpeterson
"BLACKSBURG, VA—Scholars and critics across the country expressed outrage this week following the release of Chomper & Clomper, a children's book that some have called an irresponsible and exploitative portrayal of the celebrated friendship between Clomper, a Brandenburger gelding, and Chomper, a caterpillar of the Junonia genus. . . .

"'If we're to believe Mr. Radler, Chomper spent every day in an old oak tree by a sunny meadow without a care in the world, the ever-faithful Clomper neighing contentedly at his side,' said historian Donald McFarlane, who has written extensively about the duo's relationship in the context of post-Vietnam-era ethical discourse. "Certainly the two frequented this spot; but what of their sometimes bitter intellectual rivalry, or their wildly disparate notions concerning things as fundamental as how life ought to be lived?'

"'The author takes their friendship for granted and entirely misses the greater point: that Clomper, in many ways puritanical and dogmatic, and Chomper, the moral hedonist, were able to forge such a tender, lasting bond at all,' McFarlane continued. 'To reduce their hard-won mutual respect to something as simple as "Chomper and Clomper both loved to eat juicy green leaves" is certainly reckless, and possibly criminal.'"

--Friendship Between Caterpillar, Horse Exploited For Cheap Children's Book, an apt commentary from The Onion on the social value of friendship fiction, *ahem*.

(Honestly, why aren't there really these sorts of commentaries on friendship fiction? I'd die with happiness if I could read a periodical entitled Reviews of Friendship Fiction.)

For newcomers: Background to my writing entries | Background to my mentoring entries | Background to my simplicity entries | Background to my home entries.

How I reply to comments at this blog.


*** 27 February 2010. Writing: I have seen the future of research, and it is Google Street View (Life Prison research).

Walked up to the library today and took out some books on the C&O Canal. Browsed through them at home (my eyes have been doing really well this winter) and concluded that the canal was simply too crowded at the turn of the century for me to set the scene I wanted there.

On the other hand, Fort Frederick still looked like a good spot for Compassion Prison. So I went online (yeah, I know - bad me) and began trying to get a sense of what the surrounding area was like in 1895, so that I could figure out where to set my outside scene.

I found practically zilch. Nobody seems to have been interesting in photographing that area back then.

Finally I stumbled across a Website with historical photographs of Western Maryland. My keyword searches didn't turn up anything useful, so I began going systematically through all the photographs of Washington County.

Did you know that the first American bookmobile was in Washington County? Neither did I. There was a series of photos of it in operation in Indian Springs in the early part of the twentieth century.

Indian Springs? I checked the map. Yes, Indian Springs was the closest town (actually, just a cluster of houses) to Fort Frederick.

One of the photos had a note - it wasn't clear how old this note was - that the store in the photo was still in existence. Was it still in existence? I decided to see whether I could hunt down more information on Indian Springs.

Indian Springs, alas, is as obscure today as it was back then; I turned up nothing but a brief Wikipedia article. In desperation, I went to Google Maps. It told me that the road between Fort Frederick and Indian Springs (Big Pool Road) was farmland at first, then became forest.

I looked at the 1900 map of Big Pool Road, but I couldn't get a sense from the darned topographical map of what the landscape had been like back then. Google Maps wasn't helping me either.

As I was trying to figure out whether throttling my computer monitor would help, my gaze fell upon an icon of a little man (well, maybe it was a little woman, but I was gender-biased and assumed it was a man) on top of the zooming control for Google Maps.

"Hmm," I said. "I wonder what this does?"

Oh. My.

Now, mind you, I'd heard of Google Street View. But I thought it only showed urban areas. It never occurred to me that I could use it to get a ground-level, 360-degree view of a frickin' rural intersection.

But when I clicked on an intersection in Indian Springs, it popped up: a photo of a store. A store that looked awfully like the store in the historical photo.

It's probably a coincidence. But it's worth checking out, because I clicked my way down Big Pool Road (yes, you can actually take a virtual tour of an obscure country road), and the landscape looks lovely. And the more that I look at the 1900 map, the more I'm convinced that the landscape along that road hasn't changed dramatically. I was even able to find on Google Street View a few of the Victorian houses that are marked on the 1900 map.

Man, does this change how I'll do Turn-of-the-Century Toughs research in the future. Instead of hammering my head on the wall, trying to visualize a location I'm thinking of setting a scene in, I'll simply check Google Street View.

(On the other hand, privacy nut that I am, I'm happy to report that my house doesn't appear in Google Street View.)

*** 28 February 2010. Writing: The National Pike (Life Prison research) and Greenbelt wetlands (Prison City research).

Overnight, my Muse noticed something important: that a turnpike went through Indian Springs in 1900. I checked, and it turns out that this turnpike would eventually become part of the National Turnpike, the first federally funded highway.

More to my purposes, that road led to the City of Frederick, which I've designated as the capital of Mip. So I woke up with a scene in my head where I made use of this, then spent the early afternoon comparing the 1900 map of the road between Indian Springs and Frederick with the current map.

Man, things have hardly changed. Indeed, the little town of Funkstown (halfway to Frederick) has almost exactly the same boundaries as it did back then (and half its buildings from that time). And then there's the wonderfully named Zittlestown, where the local Catholic woman decided to build her own chapel (as big as a church). Or the turn-of-the-century book I turned up, with the innocuous title of The Old Pike, in which the author carefully, lovingly describes every place where you could buy alcohol along the National Pike.

Oh, by the way, I'm reasonably sure that I'm going to place Life Prison - the prison, not the series - on the grounds of the Maryland School for the Deaf (founded 1867). It's the only largish piece of open land in Frederick in 1895.

Meanwhile, Doug and I went to the part of Greenbelt Lake today where the wetlands had been restored. Half the accompanying plaques had fallen victim to vandals, but I expect I can find them online somewhere. The other two were wonderful, telling all about the wetlands wildlife at Greenbelt Lake. I'll be able to make good use of that in my Prison City series.

*** 28 February 2010. Simplicity and Writing: How I've doing, wordagewise and Internetwise.

The stats tell the depressing story.

o--o--o


October 2009: 25,610 words written. 10 hours online.
2561 words written per hour online.

November 2009: 38,350 words written. 12 hours online. 3196 words written per hour online.

December 2009: 30,160 words written. 34 hours online. 887 words written per hour online.

January 2010: 24,960 words written. 97 hours online. 257 words written per hour online.

February 2010: 17,010 words written. 68 hours online. 250 words written per hour online.

o--o--o


I've decided that my battle plan this month will be to stay offline till I've reached my monthly goal (fourteen days of writing or 30,000 words, whichever is greater), to allow myself one fifteen-minute session per day after that, to place a morotorium on surfing for research except if I need something checked while I'm at the editing stage of a story, and to occupy myself with heavy editing on the days when my Muse isn't round.

I hope this helps. I'm getting really weary of dealing with this addiction.

*** 1 March 2010. Home: Health problems again.

I've been having swelling in my legs whenever I sit down, to the point of pain if I sit down for too long. At first I thought it was connected with my hip joint disorder, but it's in both legs. Then I connected it with swelling I've had in the past when I sat for too long. I dealt with it in the past by propping up my legs as I sat. I tried doing that again, but it only helped in a minimal way.

It was my apprentice who alerted me to the fact that I might be having blood circulation problems. I checked my medical self-care books, and sure enough, that's what it might be. So I'm off to the doctor again.

I really, really wish I had medical insurance, so that every trip to the doctor didn't turn into a domestic crisis.

I'm equally frustrated by the fact that my various ailments can't come to any agreement as to my activities. The self-care books suggested that walking might help, but walking aggravates my hip joint disorder. The self-care books suggested that lying down might help, but lying down also aggravates my hip joint disorder. In addition, lying down aggravates my TMJ and - if I try to read - my dry eye. Standing is no good either; apparently, that is as bad as sitting. So is bending over, because of my back problems. As far as I can tell, the only thing safe for me to do is to float weightless.

*** 3 March 2010. Home: Health update.

I saw the doctor today, and he shot my hip with cortisone, which may help my hip problems, but the swelling and pain in my calves has worsened - I can't sit down now without experiencing sharp pain in one of my calves, almost immediately. Since one of the possible causes that keeps turning up when I check my symptoms in medical books and Websites (a blood clot) is potentially life-threatening, I'm going to try to see my doctor again tomorrow. In the meantime, I'm typing this standing up.

*** 5 March 2010. Home: Lifestyle changes.

Good news on the blood clot front: an ultrasound found no evidence of deep-vein thrombosis or superficial phlebitis (i.e. no bloodclots).

Doug is saying that the ultrasound was a waste of good money, but I consider the $200 I spent (they gave me a discount because I had no insurance, bless them) to be well worth the peace of mind.

But of course, that leaves me with a mystery illness or illnesses. My symptoms, which have been gradually accumulating, are as follows:

o--o--o


1) Pain in the lower left back.

2) Pain in the left hip, especially when walking or dancing.

3) Pain in a line down the left buttock and left thigh.

4) Swelling in the legs and feet, especially the left leg and left foot. The swelling begins the moment I sit down; I inflate like a balloon. The swelling goes down when I prop my feet up, but starts up immediately when I sit down again.

5) Same problem when standing still, though to a lesser extent.

5) Accompanying sharp, localized pain in the left leg, which goes away when the swelling does. This pain was what led me to fear that I had at least one blood clot, but the location of the pain has been shifting around, so it may be that this is simply a result of the swelling, not the cause of it.

6) Sores on my feet, especially in my left big toe, which has been semi-numb ever since I pinched a nerve there in college. The sores correspond to where the pressure is when I sleep, either from the blanket or from one foot resting on another.

7) Surges in my chest, as though I have an irregular heartbeat. (I had an irregular heartbeat back in 2001, so I know what it feels like.)

o--o--o


Best-case scenario? I've been sitting too much.

Seriously. Till I began looking at medical sites, I never realized that too much sitting could have as disastrous a consequence on my health as too much use of my eyes while surfing has had. And since 2001, when I became partially sighted, I've been spending ninety percent of my waking hours in front of a computer. One hundred percent, when my Internet addiction has been at its worst, because I eat in front of my computer.

If my body has finally rebelled against this regime, I wouldn't be at all surprised.

I call this the best-case scenario because I'm hoping that, if this is the problem, it's not irreversible - that simply getting myself out of the chair and changing the amount of time I spend exercising will cure the problem.

Next-best scenario: There's some other problem as well which can also be cured by exercise.

Evidence that one of the above scenarios is right? I've been exercising for the past two days, and my body is responding well.

(Pauses to take a break, because I've been sitting for fifteen minutes.)

Later:

So what I've been doing, in an attempt to get better, is sitting as little as possible, standing still as little as possible, and spending as much time as possible on exercise and energetic housework.

Here's how today went:

o--o--o


Had breakfast and read while sitting.

Read on the bed while reclined, elevating my feet and legs to reduce the swelling.

Talked to my friend Katharine and my apprentice while scrubbing the kitchen counters.

Read on the bed while doing stretching exercises. (More about that later.)

Talked to my apprentice while making lunch.

Had lunch while reading and sitting.

Read on the bed while reclined, elevating my feet and legs to reduce the swelling.

Walked up to the town center and went to the library.

Read on a bench at the community center while reclined, elevating my feet and legs to reduce the swelling.

Went to the grocery store.

Read on a bench at the community center while reclined, elevating my feet and legs to reduce the swelling.

Walked home.

Read on the bed while doing stretching exercises.

Talked to my apprentice while making supper.

Had supper while reading and sitting.

Talked to my apprentice on the bed while reclined, elevating my feet and legs to reduce the swelling.

Wrote the first part of this journal entry.

Read on the bed while doing stretching exercises.

Tidied my study.

Had dessert while reading and sitting.

Read on the bed while reclined, elevating my feet and legs to reduce the swelling.

Talked to Doug on the bed while doing stretching exercises.

Wrote the second half of this journal entry.

What I'll do next:

Read on the bed while reclined, elevating my feet and legs to reduce the swelling.

Dance.

Read on the bed while reclined, elevating my feet and legs to reduce the swelling.

o--o--o


I suppose this must all sound tediously repetitious. But you see, this is all my way of tricking my mind into thinking that I spent the day doing the following:

Read, read, talked, read, talked, read, read, walked, browsed through books, read, shopped, read, walked, read, talked, read, talked, wrote, read, did housework, read, read, talked, wrote, read, danced, read . . .

. . . which, to my mind, is an awfully nice way to spend the day.

(Tomorrow, more thoughts on the above method of fooling my mind into ignoring the fact that I spent nearly the entire day doing physical therapy.)

*** 6 March 2010. Home: Exercise.

"Are you getting better, Sir?" asked my apprentice tonight.

"It's hard to say," I replied. "I'm minimizing all of the activities that cause my legs and feet to swell, so I can't tell whether they're swelling less."

What I can say is that if I drop dead tomorrow of some aspect of this mysterious illness (say, the weirdness in my chest, which is continuing), I'll be a healthier corpse than I would have been three days ago. Just two days of exercise and stretching has made a remarkable difference: my body is more flexible than it's been in months, and I'm sleeping like a rock at night, which isn't usual for me.

I'm becoming more than a little annoyed by the scope of this illness, which prevents me from doing anything except exercise (or do vigorous housework) and lie with my feet up. It's difficult to read in that position; if I prop my head up, my TMJ flares up. And if I prop my back up so that my head is level with my back, that doesn't do my legs and feet any good, because my heart needs to be below the level as them.

And of course I can't write, except for brief periods.

The silver lining to this is that I think my days of twelve-hour Web-surfing sessions are over. Even if it turns out that this ailment hasn't been caused by my excessive sitting, I've read so much by now about the dangers of remaining seated too long that I'm going to make my life much more active than I have in the past.

At the moment, with my chest doing its weirdness, I'm reluctant to do any energetic activity that's outside the scope of my usual activities (i.e., housework, dancing, gardening, and a forty-five-minute walk to and from the town center) - aside from stretching, which doesn't take much heart power. Plus, at the moment, I need to put my feet up after a half hour of any activity, including walking. But if I'm able to get rid of this mysterious swelling and mysterious chest palpitations, I'm thinking that I might take up swimming again. I'd been avoiding it because of the time and expense, but I'm much more keenly aware now than I was before of how much my future as a writer depends on my ability to keep my body in shape. Swimming is fun, and it gives me a good upper-body workout to complement the walking I intend to continue doing.

(More later.)
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