Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Summer Bonus Package! One long post about assorted stuff, divided up for you to read comfortably and easily over several days.

On Saturday (the 9th) I am going going back back to Cali Cali, this time to the north instead of the south. The trip to the south (Palm Springs, Lake Arrowhead, and some other places), was fantastic. I stayed in some incredible houses (courtesy of friends of friends), met a lot of great people (said friends of friends) ate a ton of fattening food (re: friends of friends and the occasional Mexican person), drank the best margaritas I've ever tasted (again, the Mexicans), cruised around in a convertible (owned by friend #1), got monkey tackled by a three(?)-year-old (while swimming in friends of friends' pool [I don't know if I'm punctuating this at all correctly]), and a ton of stuff I'm forgetting right now. All-in-all, it was a great week.

For this upcoming trip, I'll be road-tripping with my dad, cruising in a rented convertible from San Francisco up to Oregon (if my aunt is around). We'll visit with family, see whatever sights pop up along the way, and eat and eat and eat (my dad is an even bigger fan of eating than I am, and without the opportunity for exercise, this is bound to be bad for my waist line [about which I obsess, obviously], but whatever, it's California, and I'm on vacation). So, except for the plane ride, which still terrifies me in spite of anti-terrified-of-plane-ride pills, I'm totally psyched to go back.


Today I was just out on the motorcycle for only the second time since my second wipe out last August. The motorcycle has been haunting me. I want to ride it. I want to be good at riding it and feel comfortable and confident on it. But I'm worried I'm too slow a learner, that my skills and reflexes won't learn fast enough, and I'm just going to get myself killed. But I'm sick of quitting at things, so the motorcycle stays.

I'm hoping to find the courage to get myself on a program of baby steps, not going anywhere but local roads, and only going out when the traffic is light, so I can really focus on developing the skills and habits that will keep me alive. I also have to be very mindful of my concentration, since the medication I'm on can cause me to space out, which is death on a motorcycle. My last accident was definitely caused by a combination of my riding beyond my abilities, and spacing out at a really bad time (will going around a long, sweeping, turn).

It might take a while, but if I can overcome all of this, I should be riding for a long time.


I recently finished reading Dragon Flight (or whatever), which is the first book in the Dragonriders of Pern series. Tons of people love these books (including my parents), but I had a really hard time with this one. It's not really a bad book, though, and I have no major criticisms of it, other than that maybe it tries to introduce too much too fast: An alien world with a complex history; a whole culture built around dragons, the people who are psychically linked to their dragons, and the strange alien threat the dragons are supposed to fight; time travel; and political intrigue. Phew! But it handles all of that okay enough. Instead, it's what I think of as "the telling" of the story that didn't work for me. I guess this is best defined as a combination of the author's voice and style -- how she structures sentences, how the story is narrated, how she speaks of and through her characters, stuff like that.

This is obviously a very personal sort of objection, not a very objective or empirical one -- one that's hard to quantify and qualify. But it's something I find that repeatedly gets in the way of me enjoying fantasy books in particular. Fantasy authors tend towards long, awkward sentences; they over rely on thesauruses; they focus on details that bog the story down instead of enriching it. And then there's all the weird grammatical choices, like capitalizing words seemingly at random. (What's up with that?)

It seems contemporary fantasy authors learned all the wrong lessons from Homer and Tolkien. They've adopted Tolkien's often long-winded style, but mixed it with a poor parody of Homer's poetry, and have taken both Homer's and Tolkien's obsessive attention to detail but failed to realize how both authors made very careful decisions about which details they'd include and why, and instead today's writers fill their scenes with unnecessary description.

Again, this is more a personal objection than an objective, critical one. I realize there are people who love the way this stuff is written. I guess I'm just sad that I'm not one of them, because I love fantasy but have a hard time finding books I enjoy.


For the past few weeks I have been dating a Muslim. Actually, she's a white girl who converted to Islam (for reason not be detailed here) just under a year ago. And the thing I'm learning about dating a Muslim is that dating one isn't any different from not dating one. See, Islam has lots of rules about dating. There's no premarital sex, no kissing, no hugging, no touching of any sort. There's also no being alone together unless we're in a public place (which sounds oxymoronic, but you get my meaning), so we can't even go places in the same car (which officially makes Islam bad for the environment). Also, Muslim women can only marry Muslim men (though Muslim men can marry women of any religion). So, even if we were to overcome all the obstacles between us and what I consider a normal relationship (how can no kissing be normal?), there's no future for us unless I convert, which is not going to happen.

By any measure that makes sense to me, we're not dating, except that we're calling it dating, and unfortunately I'm at the point where I'm going to have to tell her we can't be dating anymore because in my head we're really just hanging out. It's too bad, too, because she's very cool and lots of fun to talk to and spend time with.