Friday, April 5, 2019

7 quick takes


Writing fiction is taking up more and more of my life these days.  I've just started another novel which is basically the Mayflower in space.  (With a sublight, constant-acceleration drive--which perhaps is only of interest if you are a COLOSSAL NERD but then, that's my target audience.)  My goal is to write 30,000 words in April, which isn't a whole lot, but it should be a manageable pace this time.  This is part of my effort to write more apart from NaNoWriMo so I'm taking a little more time to get it right than I have for the past two novels.

I love writing, and dreaming of stories.  But you know what I'd really love?  Doing it without Barbie's Dreamhouse or Cocomelon going on in the background.  Still, I am grateful to the purveyors of those terrible shows for making it possible to write, even on evenings when Jackie hates sleep.


Speaking of, here's a random review for you: Cocomelon is a children's show which is free on YouTube and not awful!  You do have to stay in the room when kids are watching YouTube to ensure it doesn't autoplay its way into violent porn or something, but Cocomelon is a trustworthy channel.

It's baby songs.  So I mean, it's a little bit dreadful.  It has this creepy-looking monkey and a truly obnoxious song about what to do when you really, really, really want to sneeze.  But on the other hand, it has its moments!  A lot of the songs are really popular fables, like the ant and the cricket or the three little pigs, set to folk songs.  And all of them have little animated stories that go with them, like "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" has a baseball game with the little family.  I like that there is one family it focuses on, though there are occasionally other people and animals who I think are the baby's stuffed animals.

And this little video is just adorable and I kind of love it:

Anyway, Jackie is completely mesmerized by it and has learned many of the songs.  Sometimes she swaps in new words, like this morning she repurposed the eating-vegetables song into a song about going to school.  It's so cute, I can hardly stand it.


I had a whole post planned on this topic, but I think it's better to accept that I'm not going to write a long post on it anytime soon.  It's just this simple thing: I strongly disagree with the idea that any ethnic group has a "right to a homeland" or that there exists a "right to the self-determination of peoples."

This came up in The Better Angels of Our Nature, but I keep seeing it around so I thought I'd address it directly.

Do I mean that people don't have a right to stay in their homeland, or that people don't have the right of self-determination?  Of course not!  Every individual has rights.  But ethnic groups, like all groups, don't have rights.

And the thing is, in a republic, we should assume that all people, of every ethnicity or religion, have rights.  These rights ought to be enshrined in the constitution of every nation.  If a certain ethnic group has no rights, the solution shouldn't be to transport them to the "homeland" of that group, or to carve up the nation with a separatist movement, but to change the nation until it grants rights to everyone.

Because if you do allow that ethnicity is a meaningful way to separate people, and that everyone has to live in the country assigned to their ethnicity, which is the only place they have any right to live . . . well, first off, you're an ethnonationalist which really should be enough.  But if not, there's also the argument that it results in absurdity.  Where would I live? With the Brits, the Irish, the Germans, the Swedish, the French...?  There are a lot of people who aren't all one thing.  And some countries are composed of very different ethnic groups.  How tiny do we have to dice them up?  Take a page out of Switzerland's book, and learn how to make a country out of diverse backgrounds.

This of course applies to Israel, but is also an argument against ethnonationalism anywhere.


Let's see, on a cheerier note: books I've read lately!  You can read all my reviews on Goodreads--I'm trying to write at least a brief review of everything I read.

During March I tried to read as much as I possibly could, so I could finish stuff before April.  I started the Expanse series, which so far I liked.  (Only finished book one, Leviathan Wakes.  Book 2 is staring at me trying to tempt me away from my writing.)  I love the world in that, and got a lot of inspiration.  Science fiction is so rarely atmospheric in the way fantasy almost always is.  Star Trek makes you feel like you're in a nineteen-eighties living room.  This book really made you feel like you were in space.

I also read up to book three in the His Majesty's Dragon series, by Naomi Novik.  It's such a clever idea, and carried out so carefully and accurately, but at the same time, it hasn't measured up to the other books of hers I've read.  It just doesn't have a very . . . arcky plot.  As I get better at plot, I realize that a lot of otherwise good books don't have that feel that you are on a single adventure.  Instead, it's just stuff happening, with no clear beginning or ending point.

I finished Ann Leckie's Imperial Radch series, thanks to driving to the faraway library and placing a hold and coming back to get that hold.  That's how bad I wanted that last book, and not in audio format, which was the only way my own library had it.  It was good.  I still think the first book was by far the best.  In the first book, you're dropped in the middle and have to slowly figure things out.  In the other two, there's a lot of explaining and I don't love that.  But all three were still very good and I would recommend them.  The whole ship-AI-with-human-bodies-linked-up thing is . . . weird.  And cool.  I also liked that their language only has a female pronoun because it just gave a very different feel and set of assumptions to gender-neutral than you get when authors use he.  (Like, for instance, The Left Hand of Darkness.)

Last, I read Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen, the next Bujold book.  That honestly disappointed me a lot.  I am not sure if I judged it more harshly because I expect better of her, or if I would have even gone past chapter three if it had been written by anyone else.  It was just kind of boring.  No suspense.  No peril.  I think Bujold decided she had darn well earned the chance to let her characters hang out and have a good time.  So they do.  For a whole book.  It did give me a warm feeling to leave all the characters doing well, and with none of the sobbing I did over, say, Memory.  (Still haven't forgiven her for what she did to Admiral Naismith in that book.)


Marko got on the honor roll this quarter--straight A's.  I am so proud, because this has been his goal all year.

Michael's school pictures turned out really well.

I'm signing up Miriam for kindergarten tomorrow.  She and I both have all kinds of feelings about that.  Mostly I'm excited.  She talks. so. much.  She's so bored.  She needs this.

Jackie is much less fussy now that her two-year molars are just about through.  I thought this would make her easier.  Well, I mean, she is, because anything would be easier than her screaming all day.  But she is now SO energetic and happy I'm utterly exhausted keeping up with her.  She wants to do all the stuff and she wants me involved.  She changes clothes about four times a day, which means we all have to go upstairs and she has to reject half a dozen options first.  She loves to be silly.  She talks so much and so much more clearly.

But she naps, like, every other day.  It's the worst.  If she doesn't nap, odds are good she'll get overtired by bedtime and stay up an extra two hours.  But if she does nap, she's not tired enough and will stay up an extra three hours.  Either way, she'll be exhausted the next day and nap, unless I get her out of the house at the crucial time, but without so much time in the car that she falls asleep.  It's this constant struggle, long past when my other kids gave up naps.  I think the trouble is that she's a night owl, the only one of the family that is, so she stays up late even when she is tired.  But she can't sleep in, because we have to go to school, so a nap is her only option.


I have had just the most excruciating sore throat all week.  And tired, so very tired, though what else is new.  I finally dragged myself to the doctor, which I hate to do.  I worried that I'd be told it was viral and I was wasting my money and also malingering.  It's a whole thing.

Anyway, turns out I have strep.  It's ridiculous how happy I was to hear that.  First, because it means it will quickly clear up with antibiotics.  Second, because it means I'm not a big baby, it really was that bad.

Even better, the doctor said "that looks like it really hurts!" and "you must have been feeling awful all week!" and it just made me feel so believed.


Remember our dog, Gilbert?  He's been peeing on the floor a lot lately.  I didn't love that, so I've been taking special care to take him out more often.  I figured, well, he's about eight years old, his bladder might not be what it used to be, he needs to go out more often.  That worked for maybe a week, and then he started having accidents even then.

Then yesterday I found some blood drips next to a pee puddle.  Uh-oh.  John took him to the vet today, assuming he had a UTI.  Unfortunately, while he does have a UTI, he also has failing kidneys.  So either he's had that UTI for months without anybody noticing, or he's had something else wrong with him (any number of a long list of things).   The vet gave us everything he could -- special diet, medicine, other medicine -- and we're to take him back next week.  It's possible he might still get better.  But odds are not good and most likely he will die within a few months.

I'm shocked and upset.  I don't like Gilbert very much, but he is a member of the family and the kids love him.  So does John.  I want him to get better so the others won't be sad.  We've told the kids he's sick; I figure we can mention the dying thing if he doesn't get better.  But it's so tough.  They've never lost a pet before.  And given how Marko reacts to losing a balloon or an action figure, I shudder to think.

Wish him luck. I don't feel optimistic; he is suddenly acting very ill. He was leaping around like crazy two days ago and now he just sits there wagging.


Anonymous said...

Sorry to hear about your dog Gilbert - hope he pulls through! And the strep infection.

On ethno-nationalism, I get your point about individual people having rights, not groups, but... why shouldn't a people have the right to exist as a people? Ok, given your views on Christianity may mean you disregard this, but God created people as ethnicities with different languages etc, right? (after Tower of Babel; Genesis).

And it is scientific reality that ethnicities and language groups exist, and social studies seem to clearly show people have higher social cohesion and happiness and trust when living in similar or ethnic groups. Which is how nation states emerged from clans.

Now, that does not have to mean a ban on minorities in any nation, nor dividing multi-ethnic people like yourself (and we all are multi-ethnic to a certain extent) and dispatching to disparate nations. But recessive gene global minorities like Europeans or Jews may want to protect their existence by not allowing open borders to swamp them with people who through straight colonisation or by intermarriage breed them out (no more blond or red hair, green eyes etc).

Apart from desiring to see any recessive physical characteristics preserved, those physical traits are also markers for cultural traits. Bagels likely won't exist if Jews don't have a homeland (yes, you could counter with NYC, but even there, bagels and other aspects of Judaism are niche).

Ok, maybe the bagel argument is a stretch, But in my lifetime, my home town has changed, and Europeans are now a minority, and it is not ok to be openly European culturally. Nobody will beat you up (unless at night on bad streets), but you are expected to be self-flagellating for real and perceived crimes of our ancestors (colonisation, slavery, etc). That is not a healthy way for any people to live, which is why Brits voted for Brexit (largely, to regulate their 'diversity' immigration), and why French Jews are fleeing for Quebec and Israel.

I suspect your liberalism promotes the 'individual rights' idea, but even then, your residual Christianity slips through - you say "we should assume that all people, of every ethnicity or religion, have rights" in a republic. Why? Christians assume such rights to respect the inherent human dignity and right to free choice God gave us, but nations (eg China, North Korea, Cuba, Albania, South Africa) operate successfully for lifetimes without such rights. Ask the muslim Uighurs, or Falun Gong, or Christian Chinese. I happen to agree with you on this, but it is not automatic to non-Christians.

That is all before you look at the appalling treatment of the only nations on Earth to effectively allow no ethnic rights to locals - the western European states. They are blatantly being colonised, and the impact is traumatic. Their Swedish police chief says it is unsafe for Swedish woman to run alone , while ethnic Austrian girls don hijabs to ward off rape. And it is the migrants doing the bulk of this persecution, mostly muslim. And Jews are disproportionate victims.

Take ethnic and religious states away, and the mega-majority ethnicities (India, China) or religion (Islam, 23% or world) can flood any state and colonise and brutalise. That is why the Burmese reacted so brutally to ethnic Bengali muslim Rohingya slowly taking over their western Rakhine state (their Rohingya massacre is of course, wrong).

So hopefully, you can rethink your opposition to ethnic nationalism. It needs to be clarified (I don't fully know how it would or could work for minorities), but name a successful (over lifetimes) state with disparate religions or ethnicities...

Anyway, hope you & yr dog get better soon.


Sheila said...

Anon, are you a regular reader, or did this post attract you? If so, I'm curious how you found me.

I've heard these talking points before and don't find them convincing. Some of the facts aren't even true (I am pretty sure a lot of the OOOOH SCARY MUSLIM RAPISTS stuff is a bit overblown but I'm not even going to get into it because this comment is already cutting into my writing time).

1. Name an ethnically homogeneous country that's been successful for generations? Um, Switzerland ring any bells? The US, Canada, Australia?
The next response is usually "well those are all MOSTLY white and Christian" but when those people got together, they didn't consider white and Christian to be important identities. They saw their British/Irish/German/Italian or Catholic/Protestant identities to be extremely different. Why don't they think so anymore? Because being together in a nation has given them a new sort of cohesion. You certainly need some kind of national identity, but national identities shift. Even the "ethnic" British did not originally see themselves as one things. It was the Welsh vs. the Saxons for awhile, and then the Danes and the Normans.

2. Recessive traits don't vanish when people mix. They show up generations later as a total surprise. For instance, red hair isn't a majority color in the US, but it appears all the time. I was surprised, marrying my dark husband, to have all blond kids but . . . well, genetics is cool!

I don't actually believe in breeding ourselves like cats for attractive traits, but if I did, I'd definitely be aiming for gorgeous dark-skinned people with green eyes, or blond kids with Asian-shaped eyes, or whatever. Those are all beautiful combinations and I love them. But that's aesthetics and I'd never sacrifice individual freedom for my tastes in genetics.

3. Between globalization and time, stuff is dying all the time. Traditional garments, weird foods. The best of the best tends to catch on and spread, like for instance the bagel, while less popular stuff gets lost, like silkworm larvae as a food. If you love one of these things, you are entirely free to adopt and promote them. You don't have to be Jewish to eat a bagel.

4. I believe in individual rights mostly because I believe in Enlightenment values. I desire certain rights for myself, and therefore I must protect them for everyone. There are also a lot of pragmatic reasons, such as the much better results in pluralistic democracies compared to nations that don't espouse Enlightenment values.

But on a deeper level, I also strongly believe that individual rights trump group rights because, AS YOU WOULD KNOW IF YOU WERE A REGULAR READER, I was a member of a cult and I have SEEN what happens when you let individuals be ground up to serve the whole. It gets dystopian.

Thanks for the good wishes for my throat and the dog. I recovered almost immediately. Sadly the vet says Gilbert's kidneys are continuing to fail and he has weeks at best. The kids are heartbroken.

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