Summer scheming

My summer break has officially started today!

These are my plans:

  • Go to Sweden, and hope it works out better than last time.
    I said yes pretty much exclusively because D asked on a bad day, with lots of barking from my roommate’s dog, and I desperately wanted to escape the noise. This was probably not the best motivation, and together with my usual aversion against going pretty much anywhere (all the organizing and packing and paying hefty sums for train tickets and having to get there on time is very much not among my favorite things) I’ve been doubting and regretting it almost ever since. I don’t know if getting away from my living situation here for a while will do me enough good to outweigh the possible negative effects of, well, everything. (Okay, I’ll admit I’m mostly scared of the touching and consent thing.)
    But at least I’ll definitely get to dodge the heat here for a while – I can handle 40°C just fine in a dry climate, but the humidity here kicks my ass. Sweat is supposed to evaporate quickly and help to cool you down, dammit, not drench everything and run everywhere and turn everything any part of you touches into a sticky, wet, smelly, disgusting mess. And I’ll probably get to practice driving, and maybe even go swimming – which, incidentally, is the next point on this list.

  • Go swimming.
    I haven’t been at all yet, and it’s new and scary, and there’s organization involved, but it would make the heat much more bearable and help me to get in some exercise during the sports course-free summer, and I used to love swimming when I was little. I want to love it again. I think I will, if I can just get myself to do it. (I hope that going swimming in Sweden first will motivate me to figure out how to do it at home afterwards as well, but that’s probably only going to happen if it’s really better than last year. And a bit warmer.)

  • Turn 25. Barring serious accidents or crimes, this one is guaranteed to happen and will take the least work.
    I have mixed feelings about it, but since I can’t exactly stop it from happening unless I kill myself first (which I do not want to do, thank you very much) I’ll do my best to maximize the good ones and minimize the bad ones. And I’ll probably even celebrate the whole thing (in a me-typical small, comfortable, cake-inclusive way), which should help.

  • Jump off this bridge. (The most difficult part about that is to find a good way to get there, but I’m pretty confident I will.)

  • Hopefully have my roommate and the dogs move into an apartment of their own. Pleasepleasepleasepleaseplease. I don’t know what to do if this doesn’t work out. The situation feels so unbearable sometimes, but if the flat doesn’t work out and I force them to move out anyway (provided I succeed), they’ll be homeless. (Or rather, homeless six months sooner than they would be with the end of our lease this winter. Which makes it sound less bad, but the thought of forcing them out still makes me want to vomit.)
    On a more positive note, if everything works out, things will get so much better! The flat will be a gigantic amount cleaner and more quiet, and my girlfriend M will move in instead, and I will take the opportunity to unfuck my habitat by a ton. I recently opened a kitchen cupboard that was full of cobwebs, and there are moths, and the windows are grimy, and everything is gross and really in need of a good cleaning and my fingers start itching just thinking about it because damn I love putting things in order and making them all clean and shiny and hygienic. And with them gone, there’ll be an actual chance they stay that way!

  • Go hiking and climbing (and try not to get too sunburnt even though I still detest any kind of sunblock).

  • Definitely not blog more, because we all know how such promises end. In fact, I think I will plan to be blatantly unproductive and lazy for as long as I can possibly get away with it, and not even the tiniest little bit ashamed of that, because I’ve spent the past few years feeling guilty and horrible for being a burden on society and a waste of resources, and that sucked and was not even helpful in the least, and I’m thoroughly sick of it. So, this year, I refuse. Suck it.

  • ….but also squeeze in some work on a project for next year. It wouldn’t be fair to my partner to leave them hanging.

That’s all I can think of for now, except for a few smaller plans – for example, I’ll get vaccinated against a bunch of stuff tomorrow, because I let my immunity lapse and definitely do not want to get tetanus and die in Sweden because I cut myself on a rusty nail. And I’ll participate in a role-playing adventure on Saturday. And before all that, I will go eat cake and watch Breaking Bad with my roommate and friend S, and hope the dogs don’t bother us to much while we’re at it. See you!


A brief life update

Good news, everybody: I’m still alive!

And I can barely remember where the past few weeks went, despite my time-tracking app: I was dimly aware I hadn’t logged in here, let alone written anything, for quite a while, but discovering I haven’t posted anything in almost three weeks was still a small shock.

I blame real life for much of it: there were roommate issues to deal with, a statistics program to wrestle, a paper to write, stuff to apply to, and some semblance of a social life to maintain.

The rest of it is mostly on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, which I’ve been watching an unreasonable amount of, various other TV series that started again, internet happenings to keep up with, and the usual pure laziness and perfectionist inhibitions.

I fell out of the somewhat established writing habits I built up over the twenty days of challenge, partly due to a vacation right at the end and partly due to the aforementioned real life stuff and laziness, so that’s gone now. I want to fall back in, though, and even pretty badly – writing was and is fun. It’s just hard to start, as always.

Music Tuesday

I spent a lot of today organizing the sprawling mess my music library has become over the years, copying it to my new PC, importing it into Rhythmbox (iTunes, but for Linux) and trying to find my way around Rhythmbox (because it’s really not iTunes, even if it looks very similar, and completely different in how to handle it). My brain still feels clogged and numb with renaming and moving files.

But it was worth it – I have music now. Music is important to me. That feels slightly weird to say, considering I’m not even horribly musical and don’t play any instrument, but it’s true.

When I was ten or so, I had a few books with collections of Christian short stories, and one of them was about someone finding a huge archive of everything they had done in their life so far: files documenting all the books they’d read, all the people they’d talked to, all the sexual thoughts they’d ever had, and so on. The point of the story was the almost empty drawer containing a list of the (very few) people they had told about Jesus, but some time before that, they found a drawer of all the music they had ever listened to – I remember how excited I was about that drawer, and how much I wished I had such a drawer so I could look up all the titles of the music I’d ever heard without knowing their titles. The story’s protagonist then went on to say how ashamed they were of wasting so much time on music they could have used to get closer to God (or something like that). I remember well how utterly indignant I was – time spent listening to music was not wasted!

I pretty much still feel that way. Music is easy to combine with other activities (organizing music, for example, or transit, or brushing my teeth, or doing housework, and of course going for walks and working out), and it’s so versatile! Depending on the tracks I choose (or let shuffle choose for me), I can put myself into almost any emotional state: screaming defiance, mindfulness and wonder at the world, deep grief, steely determination, relaxation so complete all my muscles feel like liquid, comfort and solace, awe, energized defiance and rebellion, bubbling joy, and others I’ve forgotten to mention. It’s certainly a greater range of emotions, and more depth of each of them, than I usually experience in my non-musical day-to-day life.

And being able to have music for all those emotions of course also means I can manage them, or at least manage them better than without music: I can find an angry, fast song to cope with my anger, indulge in it for the five minutes or so it lasts, and then feel cleansed and more grounded than before, without blowing up at anyone or anything or bottling it up inside me. I can feel desperate and alone and find a song expressing either the same emotion or a complementary one (comfort, kindness, warmth), and either will make me feel calmer, supported, understood and validated.

In sum, music is good.

And it seems fitting to end this post with some music, but choosing a single song seems impossible, so I’ll leave you with five choices:

The right direction

[I wrote this yesterday, but had connection troubles and therefore couldn’t post it. Technology seems to have conspired against me lately.]

I have trouble with left and right.

Actually, that’s not quite accurate: I am fine with left and right. I just have trouble with “left” and “right”.

Ask me which hand I write with, and my right hand will shoot up without hesitation. Ask me which of my feet points downhill when I’m strapped to my snowboard, and I’ll indicate my left as soon as you’ve finished the question. Ask me which side a horse is supposed to walk on when you’re leading it, or which hands of two riders are supposed to meet when they’re passing one another, and I’ll point to my right or raise my left hand with perfect confidence.
But tell me to turn right at the next traffic light, and suddenly my brain will stutter and stumble into darkness and have to feel for stepping stones to use: okay, they said right, I am right-handed, that means I write with my right hand, that’s this hand, okay, so this is right, I need to turn into this direction!
Ask me to answer any of the above questions in words rather than gestures and I’ll have to follow the same steps back, with my reaction time suffering accordingly. When I was a child, I used a small red spot on my left thumb to help me, and when I got older I moved on to slightly more abstract (and less visible) stepping stones like the ones above, but it never became easier or more automatic. I still use the same strategy to match simple, one-syllable words I’ve known all my life (or at least most of it) to the corresponding directions.

I’ve never really thought about it until a few months when a blogger described how a friend of hers could not tell left from right, and so when they were driving, she’d say “my window” and “your window” instead of “left” and “right”.
Since then, my mind has been blown. Both because that’s a really brilliant strategy that I really really need to adopt (and tell all my potential passengers to adopt, because it might greatly enhance our chances of reaching our destination), and because the whole issue seemed so weird once I thought about it in more detail. “My window” and “right” mean the exact same thing in this case (so much so that I knew which direction was which without further explanation), and yet one delivers a result quickly and without conscious thought, and the other one makes me seek out my mental stepping stones.

In most cases, whether one uses “left” or some other term/phrase doesn’t matter much: as long as there is some shared representation of the corresponding direction (whether it’s a car surrounding us both, shared knowledge of horse-riding etiquette, or something else), we can communicate effectively and efficiently without “left” and “right”. In some cases, it might even be more effective overall: if we’re standing in my room facing each other, “turn to the window” is a far more efficient way to communicate than a term for relative directions, since we don’t share the relative directions in this case.
In any case, using alternative terms definitely benefits those of us for whom “left” and “right” are slippery.  Insisting that they are the correct ways to describe directions and therefore no others should ever be used seems nonsensical and needlessly antagonistic to me: language exists to put names to concepts (objects, experiences,…) and communicate with others regarding said concepts (objects, experiences,…), and when it doesn’t fulfill one of these purposes (and/or fulfills the other one only inadequately) in a given situation, there is no good reason to cling to it rather than discard it in favor of better alternatives.

A brief update and links to book reviews

I don’t have the necessary time and peace to write a longer post today, so have another short one for a change!

Writing yesterday’s post made me think about what influenced my childhood views on abortion, in particular, books I’ve read that were connected to the topic in some way. One of them was Francine Rivers’  “The Atonement Child”, a work of fiction in which a young woman is raped, becomes pregnant, must decide whether to have an abortion, and ultimately (“correctly”, that is, in accordance with God’s will) decides against it.

We had a few more books of hers lying around at home (most in English, although “The Atonement Child” was available in German too). The one I remember best is “Redeeming Love” – I think it was actually one of the very first “real” books I’ve read in English, that is, books not specifically written or edited for people still learning English (and/or children).

I wondered what it would be like to re-read some of them now, and as fortune has it, I can read “Redeeming Love” vicariously through a review by blogger Samantha Field (which I found out today through Libby Anne, who just started reviewing “A Voice in the Wind”, a Rivers book I haven’t read personally).

So, as soon as my real life is a bit quieter again, I’ll have a bunch of blog posts to read and a few past memories to relive. (I might comment on some of them here, I might not.)

The Abortion Binary (and me)

Regarding abortion, there are exactly three terms to describe two different views: pro-choice and pro-life/anti-choice (pro-life being the term chosen by people holding said view, and anti-choice the one used by people holding the opposite view).

And, as with any social binary I’ve ever known, a lot of the area is blurry and grey. (Regarding how to categorize/name it, that is. Not necessarily regarding whether it’s a good area to be in.)

When I was a child, I believed that abortion was wrong. I thought it was against God’s will, I thought it was killing someone, I thought it was bad for people (well, women; trans people were not exactly on my radar at the time) who had abortions, and I thought that alternative decisions – primarily, adoption – was always better, unless there was a medical emergency that required abortion to save the pregnant person’s life. (I don’t think I was aware of other medical issues with pregnancy at the time and am not sure where I would have drawn the line.)

But I never (as far as I can remember) wanted abortions to be illegal*. I had watched Dirty Dancing with my mother once, in which a woman has an unsafe abortion prior to its legalization and suffers complications, and I was aware that people attempting DIY abortions or going to hacks with a knife were an issue, and that sometimes pregnant people even attempted or committed suicide because they saw no other way out.

What I wanted, even back then, was support for pregnant people in difficult situations, good counselling to help them make the “right” choice, destigmatization of unplanned pregnancies in unmarried people (because I fully understood that fear of negative social consequences would cause them to want to hide the evidence of sex out of wedlock), and better access to birth control. (Or at least some forms of birth control – I did believe that life started with zygotes back then, and that birth control pills and IUDs caused early abortions.)

Does that mean I was pro-choice? Well, I wouldn’t go that far. But wanting safe abortions to be available to everyone is quite far from what’s typically considered pro-life as well.

The pro-choice/pro-life dichotomy doesn’t seem to hinge on any single factor.

Consider some dimensions of people’s views on abortion:

  • The origin of the pregnancy
    Many people considered to be pro-life do support exceptions in the case of pregnancies caused by rape, while most don’t support pregnancies caused by contraceptive failure, let alone failure to use contraception. (Which begs the question of how exactly to determine which pregnancies have been caused by rape, but that’s a whole different matter.)
  • Gestational age
    Some people oppose even forms of contraception they believe to prevent the implantation of a zygote (fertilized egg), such as IUDs and birth control pills, while others draw lines at fetal heartbeat, fetal pain perception, or possibly other developmental criteria.
  • The reason for the abortion
    This one is a big one – from medical risks for the pregnant person to disability to the embryo’s sex, there are many different factors to consider and weigh.
  • Abortion regulations
    Mandatory counselling, waiting times, who may offer and perform which types of abortion to whom – the possible regulations are numerous, and so are the possible motivations behind them (preventing regret, minimizing health risks, ensuring informed consent, and sadly less noble ones such as lowering the number of abortions without addressing any underlying problems or having to fight against too powerful laws and past court decisions).
  • Legality vs. morality
    Whether someone considers abortion morally wrong or thinks it should be illegal are two different questions, and the answers to both can be split again by the factors already mentioned. In the case of legality, outlawing abortions also leads to questions about who should be punished how, what exactly counts as abortion, and how to prevent the persecution of people having miscarriages (and to get an idea of what is already happening out there, I highly recommend Libby Anne’s post on women persecuted under restrictive abortion laws).
  • Financial considerations
    Who should pay for abortions, and how much? How much should society support childrearing (through financial aid, subsidized childcare, paid parental leave, subsidized housing, subsidized nutrition, and other social safety measures)?

It’s hard to decide which exact views on all these dimensions count as pro-choice and which count as pro-life, and there certainly doesn’t seem to be a a consensus. The labels are part of a mental map describing clusters of answers to the many questions surrounding abortion, and while many people will fall down pretty clearly on one or the other side of the dichotomy, many will not.

I’m in favor of legal and accessible abortions for everyone, and within that frame, I want there to be as few abortions as possible. I don’t think that anyone should be forced or pressured into giving birth to a child they cannot care for, even if their inability to do so is due to their child needing accommodations for a disability, but I do think that legal exceptions for such abortions are troubling, especially in light of often subpar legal support for actual people with disabilities/disabled people. I think that the decision not to give birth to a child with a vulva in a misogynist society which will treat it like shit is probably a good decision, but that certainly doesn’t prevent me from thinking it’s an outrageous fucking tragedy that this is even a consideration, let alone that it actually might be better for a child with a vulva not to be born.

Social issues don’t ever seem to be simple or binary.

* Abortions are actually illegal in Austria, but not subject to prosecution if:

  • done within the first three months of pregnancy after medical counselling (not further specified), or
  • necessary to avert serious danger to the life, physical or mental health of the pregnant person (not further specified), or
  • there is serious danger of the child being mentally or physically disabled, or
  • the pregnant person was a minor at the time of conception.

Technology solutions

I’m very, very glad that I wrote yesterday’s post (well, the post I wrote yesterday and posted today shortly before this one), because today I finally got the call from the repair shop guy: the problem with the cooling fan could indeed be solved with a good cleaning, but the hard drive was defective. They could replace it with a new one, and possibly turn it into an external hard drive (saving still works fine, but booting does not) with all my data saved, for about € 130-170 depending on what size I wanted the new hard drive to be.

If I hadn’t spent as much time navel-gazing about my feelings regarding my laptop and their causes as I did while writing the blog post, I would have said yes. As it was, I told them I wasn’t sure it was worth it, and that I’d think about it and either call them back or come get my laptop as it was.

I texted my father asking for his opinion, and my girlfriend M to give her the update. My father wrote back that my laptop might have reached the end of its natural life span and offered to pay for a replacement, and M offered me to simply keep hers, since she didn’t need it and I obviously needed a laptop.

So I ended up spending most of my day getting my old laptop back from the repair shop and customizing the new one, or rather watching M do it – she came by after work (with vegetable sushi!) specifically to see me and help my wobbly first steps into the Linux world.

Oh yeah, that is also a thing that happened. I’m on Linux now. It’s a weird feeling – on the one hand, I feel pretty helpless, because all of the settings and tools and possible tweaks are foreign territory, on the other it doesn’t feel all that much different: I still use many of the same programs, and the replacements for the Windows-specific ones don’t seem all that different.

And WordPress notifications actually work now! Until now, clicking the bell just ended in an eternal loading wheel, but now I can actually see people’s reactions and respond to them inline. Suddenly this whole platform has become a lot more usable!

Still need to import all my data, though, and make some further tweaks, and import all my data (which might be a good opportunity to sort through at least some of it and throw out some old stuff I really don’t need anymore) so this post is going to stay short.