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Fireworks

If you ever want to relive the days of dial-up modems, I suggest driving to the northern edge of the U.P., then piggybacking your laptop onto your phone’s data signal.

But with today being the 4th of July, I figured I should share a few of the fireworks from last night’s display. I’m particularly fond of the way #1 and #4 turned out, like giant flaming dandelions.

Firework1 Firework2 Firework3 Firework4 Firework5

Hope you’re having a great weekend!

Depression Update

It’s been a bit over three years since I was officially diagnosed with depression and started with therapy and medication. I can say without hesitation that overall, my life is much improved over 3+ years ago.

Lucy and Charlie Brown: Psychiatric Help Five CentsI can say with equal certainty that I haven’t been “cured” of depression, any more than insulin and regular visits to the endocrinologist cured my diabetes.

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I mentioned Christine Miserandino’s spoon theory over on Twitter earlier today. Spoon theory is an analogy about living with chronic sickness or disability. I know the analogy doesn’t work for everyone, but I’ve found it helpful in understanding and talking about and explaining some things.

“I explained that when you are healthy you expect to have a never-ending supply of ‘spoons’. But when you have to now plan your day, you need to know exactly how many ‘spoons’ you are starting with. It doesn’t guarantee that you might not lose some along the way, but at least it helps to know where you are starting.”

What I’ve been finding in recent months is that I don’t actually know how many spoons I’ve got when I wake up in the morning. On any given day, I might be able to deal with the pressure of a looming book deadline, a crisis at work, a puppy destroying something important, an unexpected bill, a family argument, and whatever else comes my way. On another day with similar troubles, I could end up burning out like Biggs Darklighter over the Death Star.

I’ve gotten a bit better at recognizing when it’s happening. Just like I can generally feel when my blood sugar starts to drop too low, I can feel when I’m all out of cope.

It’s not a pleasant feeling, mind you. It’s a cold, congealed soup of anger and despair and exhaustion and shame. And recognizing it doesn’t necessarily mean I can do anything to fix it.

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My wife took me out for dinner and Jurassic World on Sunday. This was a good thing. I needed to get away, to relax and recharge and just enjoy myself for a few hours. It’s self-care, and as such, it’s something I wouldn’t necessarily have done on my own.

Medication is one thing. I’m pretty good at remembering to pop a pill every night, checking my blood sugar regularly and doing the math to match insulin to carb counts. But self-care is a murkier kind of medicine, one that takes more time and effort than programming an insulin pump. It’s also one I’m more likely to assume I can blow off.

Oh sure, I haven’t been getting enough sleep, but I’ll catch up on the weekend. I’ve missed some exercise, but I had other important things to do. I haven’t socialized much, but I’ll get to that as soon as the book is turned in.

How do you quantify self-care? How do you prescribe a given dose to be taken daily? (Those questions are rhetorical, by the way — I’m not asking for advice right now.)

And of course, there’s that other voice arguing that your self-care isn’t as important as those other people’s needs. It’s not as important as Doing All the Things.

I know self-care is important. As Morpheus said, there’s a difference between knowing the path and walking the path. But here comes Red Riding Hood to remind you that walking the path is all well and good, but it’s even harder to stay on that path once you’ve started.

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I remember growing up without email. I think email is an amazing tool, one that’s made my life so much better and simpler in so many ways. I remember getting my first email account as a college student, and how amazing it was to reconnect with a friend who’d moved to MIT.

I also hate email. I hate the neverending inbox, and that nibbling sense of failure that comes with every message that sits there waiting too long for a response. I hate that it takes spoons to answer some fucking emails, and knowing if I don’t, people will feel disappointed or hurt, or will wonder why I answered one email but not the next, and will start to second-guess whether they did something wrong when it’s just me trying to juggle a bunch of damn spoons without dropping any.

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We’re going on vacation soon. That will be a good thing. It won’t be 100% stress-free, but the stresses will be different, and hopefully fewer.

I’m also looking at some potentially big changes later this year. Stressful and anxiety-making, but potentially very good in the long term.

In the meantime, I was Guest of Honor at a convention last weekend, did a radio interview last night, was part of a Baen podcast recording today, and am getting ready for my 11th novel to come out in just over a month. All wonderful, amazing things I only dreamed about when I was younger.

Good things can use up spoons too.

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It’s easy to take progress for granted.

I’m not fine. I am, however, doing a hell of a lot better than I was three years ago.

I just need to remember that it took a lot of work to get here, and that if I want to stay here — which I do — I need to keep doing the work.

Joy and the Legalization of Same-Sex Marriage

FYI, I’ll be on Lansing Online News tonight at 7, talking about Fable: Blood of Heroes, writing, and whatever else comes up. You can check the Ustream broadcast, or if you’re local, you can listen on 89.7 FM.

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I’m 41 years old. When I was in elementary school, we played a game called Smear the Queer. I had no idea what “queer” actually meant. I just thought of it as another fun roughhousing game, basically like tag with the added bonus of getting to tackle someone at the end.

The movie Teen Wolf came out in 1985, when I was eleven. It included Michael J. Fox having the following exchange with a friend:

“You aren’t gonna tell me you’re a fag are you? Because I don’t think I can handle that.”
No, no…I’m not a fag. I’m a werewolf.”

As recently as 2003, laws against sodomy were still on the books in fourteen states (including my own state of Michigan).

In 2005, my home state of Michigan passed a Constitutional Amendment stating:

To secure and preserve the benefits of marriage for our society and for future generations of children, the union of one man and one woman in marriage shall be the only agreement recognized as a marriage or similar union for any purpose.

On Friday June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned that Constitutional Amendment and others, ruling that same-sex marriage was legal throughout the United States.

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This feels monumental.

I know the U.S. and humanity as a whole still has a great deal of work to do when it comes to addressing social inequities and discrimination, but this was huge. I think about the treatment and awareness of LGBT people during my childhood and look at how much that’s changed over the course of a generation…the fact that the White House was lit up in rainbow colors to celebrate the legalization of same-sex marriage… It’s joyful.

White House - Rainbow

I’ve seen people say that, because they’re straight, this ruling doesn’t directly affect them. And I think I understand what they mean. Friday doesn’t affect my 12-year marriage to a woman in any way. It doesn’t change my family or financial situation or legal security in all the ways it can for people in same-sex relationships.

The impact isn’t the same, but it does affect me. It fills me with joy and pride. It brings a sense of relief for friends and loved ones. It rekindles hope that my country can become better, and that we can overcome discrimination.

(It also screwed up my productivity on Friday, because instead of working on my book, I was scrolling through social media to see all of the celebration and happiness. I’ve decided that I’m okay with that.)

I recognize that this was a long, hard-fought battle, and this victory doesn’t end people’s struggles. The United States is one country, not the world. Friday didn’t magically erase hate and bigotry. And it will likely lead to more of the pushback we’ve been seeing against inclusiveness, diversity, and acceptance.

But it’s still a joyful thing, one I choose to celebrate. When I listened to a friend and coworker fighting back tears as she talks to Human Resources about adding her wife to her benefits…when I think of friends who left Michigan after we passed that amendment in 2005, whose legal status will now be recognized if they choose to return…when I see my friends online celebrating their relationships, and I can’t even tell who’s updating and commenting on Facebook because so many people have rainbowized their icons…I can’t understand how anyone could fail to be moved by such an outpouring of shared joy and love.

Arnold Schwarzenegger's Rainbow Facebook picture

I look at the hate crimes and racially motivated terrorism we’ve seen in recent weeks, the bile and bigotry coming out in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling, the narrow-mindedness and the utter lack of empathy, the blinding fanaticism and extremism and hate. The victory of June 26, 2015 reminds me why we fight against these things: because change for the better is possible.

I am so happy for everyone whose lives will be better as a result of this ruling, and I’m happy for my country for taking a step toward fairness and equality.

Cool Stuff Friday

Friday is writing a song about Rebecca Black.

NASA!

A couple of weeks before ApolloCon, I got an email asking if I wanted to have lunch with one of the guests, NASA astronaut Stanley Love. To which I naturally said, “YES PLEASE!” I also got to eat and chat with author Amy Sisson and her husband, NASA scientist Paul Abell. All three are great fun, and Love has me half-convinced to take a vacation to Antarctica one of these days.

At some point during the meal, it came up that the Johnson Space Center was only about a half-hour from the convention. I’m pretty sure I made the world’s best puppy-dog eyes upon hearing this fact…

…which led to Sunday afternoon after the convention, when Paul and Amy were kind enough to pick me up and drive me out to see NASA stuff!

I said it was like being ten years old again, but that’s not quite true. It was more like being seven. I was in first grade, almost seven years old, when the Space Shuttle Columbia completed its first mission in space. I remember all of us sitting in class, watching the launch on television. We were mesmerized. We drew pictures of the shuttle, and later that year I put together a model of Columbia.

Driving up to the space center and seeing the replica shuttle outside brought all of that awe and wonder rushing back. Getting Paul’s insight and stories over the next 3-4 hours was an amazing bonus. I’m already wondering when I can get back to Houston to see the stuff I missed this time.

And of course, there were pictures. Many pictures. The full album is on Flickr, including larger versions of the following pics. These are just some of my favorites.

Standing beneath the NASA sign

I’m at NASA!!!

Longhorn cattle

Yes, NASA has longhorn cattle on site. Because Texas!

Rockets

SPACESHIPS, SPACESHIPS, SPACESHIPS!!!

Shuttlecraft Galileo

The restored shuttlecraft Galileo from the original Star Trek. I want it!!!

Saturn V rocket

Saturn V rocket

Space shuttle

Space shuttle

Space shuttle

Another shuttle pic

ApolloCon Pics

I got back from ApolloCon yesterday evening, after a fun weekend. I was braced for the heat, but hadn’t mentally prepared for the Houston humidity that went with it. Fortunately, I spent 99% of my time inside air conditioned buildings and vehicles.

One of the things I love about Guest of Honor gigs is that they usually get me to new regions, meaning I get to meet both new readers/fans/writers/etc. and also meet in person folks I’ve known online for a while. It wasn’t a huge convention, but it kept me busy. I was surprised at how much fun we had on the panel to fancast a movie version of Libriomancer (Jeff Goldblum for Gutenberg? Robert Pattinson with a cameo as a sparkling vampire Isaac kills in chapter one?) I also got to run the “I Suck” panel I did at ConFusion, though ApolloCon renamed it to “The Struggle.”

I was about halfway through the con when I got to talking with the folks at the desk and they told me about the fire ants. But hey, I’ve done a convention in Australia. I can handle Texas and their snakes and scorpions and fire ants. (Fortunately, I saw none of these beasties.)

I also got lunch with a NASA scientist and astronaut, helped judge the costume contest, ate way too much food, signed lots of books, met some great people, and came home exhausted.

There was even a bonus trip to the Johnson Space Center, but I haven’t processed those pics yet, so that’s gonna wait for another blog post. In the meantime, here are a few photos from the convention. The full ApolloCon album is over at Flickr.

NASA Rock Star Dr. Paul Abell, me, and Astronaut Dr. Stanley Love

NASA Rock Star Dr. Paul Abell, me, and Astronaut Dr. Stanley Love

Ninja turtle cosplay

Ninja skills!

Rhonda Eudaly, John DeNardo, and Marshall Ryan Maresca

Rhonda Eudaly, John DeNardo, and Marshall Ryan Maresca

Artist Guest of Honor Maria William

Artist Guest of Honor Maria William

Steampunk Deadpool

Steampunk Deadpool won Best in Show in the costume contest.

State of the Jim, and Pics

I finished the second draft of Revisionary on June 7. It’s due to my publisher on August 1. As a result, much of my time and brain has been going into the third draft of said book. (Currently at 20,000 words and counting.)

That hasn’t left much for blogging this week…or much of anything else, really. However, I have managed to sneak away with the camera a few times for fun and mental recharging, and while I’ve shared some of the pics on Twitter and Facebook, I haven’t done the same here at the blog. UNTIL NOW!

Sandhill Crane

Out of the way! This Sandhill Crane has important crane stuff to do!

Goose butts!

Goose butts!

Gosling

IT’S SO FLUFFY!!!

Dogs playing

Our new puppy Zoey is not graceful.

Dogs playing

However, she does appear to be part demon…

Cardinal

Ever wonder what happens when the wind catches a cardinal’s toupee?

Baby birds

Baby Eastern Phoebes, just chillin’ in the nest.

ApolloCon Schedule

I’m the author guest of honor at ApolloCon in Houston this weekend. (Which could be interesting, judging from the Houston weather forecasts.) Here’s the schedule, for anyone who might be in the area wanting to say hi. Or wanting to know how best to avoid me…

Friday

  • 3 p.m., Cottonwood: Meet & Greet Jim Hines
  • 7 p.m., Azalea 5: Opening Ceremonies

Saturday

  • Noon, Azalea 4: Reading
  • 2 p.m., Azalea 5: The Struggle
  • 3 p.m., Pecan: Libriomancer: The Movie (This is a fancasting panel; I wasn’t just burying the lede on a big movie deal or anything.)

Sunday

  • 11 a.m., Cypress: Blogging — Why and How

It sounds like I’ll also be one of the “celebrity” costume judges on Saturday night, and I’ll be doing two 1-hour sessions at the autographing table, but I haven’t seen the final schedule for autographing yet.

This will be my first time to ApolloCon — heck, this will be my first time in Texas — and I’m very much looking forward to it!

So, who else will I be seeing at the con this weekend? :-)