There is a Doctor in the House

Dr. Jill Biden

Doctor Jill Biden

Yes, she needs to use her earned title. Because representation matters. Because the archaic views of misogynistic fossils need to be slain & buried. As do their paternalistic, denigrating, condescending tones and language (particularly when directed at women who are better educated & more accomplished than they are).


My apologies for seemingly abandoning this blog. It has not been intentional. It’s been a time and, in some ways, interest thing.

Between online teaching (which isn’t too bad, except for the number of students whom I really feel I could have helped pass the class if we’d been f-2-f) and tutoring (which is much more difficult online), my desire to be online and do serious, productive things has diminished. Add in book edits and that’s more screen time sucked away.

My creativity has been shifted to worldbuilding for fun, as a priority. Blogging hit the bottom of the heap, after work, family, book, kittens, and mindless writing.

On the fun side, we’ve been streaming Star Trek: Discovery and enjoying it as well as The Mandalorian. I’ve caught and enjoyed Umbrella Academy (Netflix) and The Order (Netflix). Wife’s been glued to The Crown (Netflix).

Checking In From . . .

. . . well, not the best place in the world.

Numbers of infections & deaths continue to rise here as so much of the world gets things under control. The one ray of light is that the current regime seems to be getting hit hard by their absolute failure to respond adequately to the pandemic. 45* has falling approval numbers, increasing disapproval, dismal turn out at events, and is getting beaten in campaign fund raising. So, we have hopeful signs he’ll be out in November, in a fair election (assuming little to no voter suppression, etc.).

In the meantime, my college is continuing online only or 90% online for the foreseeable future. But, of course, aikido is shut down indefinitely beyond what little home practice can be done (weapons kata and basic movements).

Writing continues. Putting the finishing touches on the magic book. That’s currently sitting at over 56,000 words and 191 pages. Probably start looking at publishers soon.

Also working on a multiverse world build for fun. About 14-15k into that so far. Mostly working on iPhone Notes app then transferring to Word, converting notes to paragraphs, then editing & expanding a hard copy.

Watching ST: Discovery season 2. We’re down to the last couple episodes. I think the plan is to subscribe to Disney+ at that point. Continuing Mythbusters with the kid and introduced him to ST:ToS.

Also added some Discworld art from the Discworld Emporium in the UK.

Wearing Many Hats

In A Slip of the Keyboard, Terry Pratchett discusses his hats in one short piece. He talks about his, almost, trademark Louisiana hat and its many cousins that were part of his collection.

This got me thinking about my own hats, both literal and figurative, those I’ve owned/worn and those I’ve considered and rejected.

On the literal level, unlike Pratchett, I have been partial to ball caps for most of my life. My current rotation are a comfortable Hogwarts cap with the school crest on the front and a worn and faded Origins Game Fair cap that’s more than a few years old. The last one is a bit sentimental in that I got it in the last year that Origins sold them.

Before those two was the worn, khaki International Snow Leopard Trust hat that I once wore daily and now keep for sweaty yard work. And the, now battered, Trinity College hat from our last trip to Ireland, years ago. Before that, the black COW hat, which I hold for sentimental reasons, as it came from my undergrad alma mater (the College of Wooster, or COW). The maroon Union Street hat is still around to remind me of our year in Pennsylvania, and the time I worked food service at Penn State University. It’s a good reminder never to go back.

In various boxes or closets, I find others. The decrepit Cubs hat with the broken strap that went canoeing in Canada and hiking in Virginia with me, over 50 miles each on three trips, back in my Scouting days. The red beret from high school marching band, and all the memories of friends, teenage crushes, and halftime shows it brings to mind. The black Ren faire beret that I wore at our wedding, which calls to mind my best man’s hat that was passed around the dance floor during the wedding party & families dance. And the big feather hat that replaced the beret for faire trips.

Then there are the figurative hats. At work, the teacher, tutor, and mentor hats come out. Difficult hats, those. They need a balance of approachability and professionalism, openness and distance. Most of all, they require adaptability.

I find those three more interesting in comparison to my “play” hats: as a student and mentor in aikido. I hope that my role as student in that venue influences my work hats at least to some degree. Under those, adaptability is still an important key.

That adaptability rears its head under the parent and spouse hats, even if there is a lot of similarity to the days in both cases. Still, things happen, as the unexpected always does and personalities do their thing.

Then there are the hats that I often feel are imaginary, or pretend: writer and author. It’s always strange to realize that people read things I write, whether here on this blog or in published articles and book. It’s even stranger when they quote things I wrote. Somehow it doesn’t entirely feel right, no, wrong word. It feels odd.

The hat that I’ve had the least experience with is brother. I’ve had that one for 31 years now. But, due to age gaps, I moved out of the house when my siblings were 7 and 8. And we’ve lived in different cities for 30 of the intervening years. So, it’s a figurative hat that doesn’t quite fit right, always feels a little off.

Anyway, if anyone read through all of thus, I’m sorry but you brought that on yourself. You had the chance to stop a couple hundred words back. Please try not to make any other bad decisions today. 😁

Best Laid Plans and All That

I intended to get a post together for Thursday, then the week decided to kick my rear.

An unexpected winter weather day off for the kid threw off the week’s plans. As did some minor setbacks on a home repair project (ceiling light replacement).

Pro Tip: Don’t paint a section of textured ceiling two days before a martial arts rank test. (Biceps are still recovering)

On the upside, 2nd kyu rank test went as well as can be expected, passed with flying colors. Not bad, as it had been nearly eight years since my last test. Just another 90 hours of training (and at least 6 months, probably more like 12) until the next one.

The coming week looks good for normalcy, though we’re expected to get wind chills down to -30F by Wednesday or Thursday. Which means more “winter weather” days off for the kid.

Still writing, doing about five pages of worldbuild notes for every one page of story writing, as usual. And copy-editing an anthology on circus cinema for a friend. Occasionally finding time to prep two classes, too. 😁

And Now For Something Completely Different

A couple weeks ago, just before my anniversary, a younger co-worker asked a few relationship related questions.  In effect, she was asking for relationship advice, in a broad, non-specific context.  The incident got me thinking about relationships and relationship advice in general.  Thus, this post.

I don’t like giving relationship advice.  I’m not comfortable being asked for relationship advice.  And I’m not going to give any here.

I’ll explain why.

Ultimately, almost all relationship advice—particularly that found in magazines, advice columns, and relationship sites—is generally useless.

I say this with some caveats, notably the “If you see these signs, then you’re probably in an abusive relationship and should run very fast” advice.

But, I think most relationship advice is useless because all romantic relationships are different.  Regardless of the issue, we like to believe there is one “fix-it” solution, whether we’re talking about romantic relationships, writing papers, or economics.  But, there is no single, perfect solution to any issue, just like there is no one perfect formula for writing an A paper in university.  Every romantic relationship is different, what works for me and my spouse probably won’t work for another couple, or the third couple across the way.  There are so many variables in play in any couple—from personal history to philosophies, education levels to family relations—that affect a romantic relationship that it’s impossible to generalize with any given couple.

In the end, though, I think romantic relationships are built on three things: friendship, attraction, and shared interests.  And the first two of those are great examples of the differences that mark romantic relationships.

Most of us have a variety of friends.  And we don’t interact the same way with all of them.  For instance, I have a couple friends with whom I went to primary school (and later secondary school), who know me in different ways than the friends I first met in secondary school or university (ex. they’ve known me since I was 6 or 7 years old).  I also have friends whom I first met in graduate school (at 24 years old), and we have a different relationship than I do with my friends from secondary school.  Then there are the friends I’ve made in the last ten years, mostly through aikido training.  Because we know each other from a martial arts practice, and generally see each other a couple times a week, often less depending on schedules, we have a rather different relationship.  There are things that we talk about that we wouldn’t, necessarily, with friends we’ve known through other venues, or people who are mutual friends with our spouses.

In the case of attraction, we all find ourselves attracted to a variety of individuals.  And the reasons for attraction are often not the same.  For instance, a person may find Chris Evans, Hugh Grant, and Alan Rickman attractive, or Julia Roberts, Alyssa Milano, and Jennifer Lawrence.  Different things draw the person to each of those individuals (and, yes, I know I’ve “dated” myself a bit with my choices there, I’m cool with that).  What attracts the individual is not the same in each case, just like no two romantic relationships are the same.

For me, this sense of differences, uniqueness even, is why being asked for relationship advice is a tricky situation.  I find myself thinking: what kind of personality types are involved, what shared interests are there, what attracts these two to each other . . . there are too many factors that differentiate the questioner’s experience and relationship from my own.

In a way,  I suppose this is something for writers and readers to consider as well, for character development, as every character is going to be, or has been, involved in family, friendship, professional, and romantic relationships.

Letting Go of the Stick: Ego and Attachment

In aikido, we have a practice called jodori, or staff taking. Similar principles appear in sword taking (tachidori) and knife taking (tantodori). In these practices, it is very easy for the two training partners to turn the exercise, the technique, into a wrestling match over the stick. Neither is willing to relenquish their hold on the staff, bokken, or tanto as they struggle to retain control.

On the surface this becomes a battle of muscle or leverage.

Beneath the surface, though, it is a battle of ego. The mind, ego, says, “It is my stick. As long as I am holding it, I win.”

That is not, necessarily, true.

Rather, it is better to release the stick, to let it go. At some time, this may be physically letting go of the staff, but more often it is a matter of removing the ego’s attachment to the stick. Releasing the ego’s hold on the stick keeps the body from clamping down, from becoming static, a fixed point. Releasing the ego’s hold on the stick allows the body to move, to flow, to reposition, to act . . . and that way lies “victory” and “winning” . . . that way allows the aikidoka to reposition and execute a throw (which may strip the staff, sword, or knife from the opponent’s hands, or may send the opponent across the mat or to the floor still clutching the stick).

In training, I find that I am at least moderately good at this, probably because I cannot out-muscle most of my training partners.

Off the mat, out of the dojo, I need to work on applying this to life in general.

For instance, for a long time I held that the one who had the last word in a debate or argument was the winner. That was ego talking, being attached to control, to “winning”. This is not true though. Sometimes, the “winner” is the one who is willing to let go of the debate, to release attachment, to walk away, to move on with life.

Social media, despite its benefits, I think, makes ego attachment much easier. Not necessarily for the reasons commonly cited (tweets or such about where someone is or what they’re eating), rather for likes, reblogs, retweets, and all the other little numeric metrics social media is rife with. They create something measurable that ego can attach itself to, a stick by which ego can measure itself against others, if one becomes attached to the numbers.

A Zen koan comes to mind as well:

Two traveling monks reached a river where they met a young woman. Wary of the current, she asked if they could carry her across. One of the monks hesitated, but the other quickly picked her up onto his shoulders, transported her across the water, and put her down on the other bank. She thanked him and departed.
As the monks continued on their way, the one was brooding and preoccupied. Unable to hold his silence, he spoke out.
“Brother, our spiritual training teaches us to avoid any contact with women, but you picked that one up on your shoulders and carried her!”
“Brother,” the second monk replied,
”I set her down on the other side, while you are still carrying her.”

(Swiped from