Raising Tech pt 1

Now that TechRaising is over, I’ve been asked about four million times just what happened and what I was doing. It seems like every time I try to explain exactly what happened this weekend, I end up telling a slightly different version of the story. The weekend was so full of action and emotion that it would be hard to tell the whole thing, and I’m always focusing on different parts of it and re-thinking them.

The Back Story

Back in December when I did my first grad school residency, I came up with the idea of writing a non-linear novel. In the strictest sense, any literature that involves more than one character is non-linear because every author talks about what this group of characters is doing, and then backs up in time to fill in what other characters were doing at the same time. As readers, we understand how this works and are able to follow along. We live our own lives that way, doing our own thing all day, then getting together with our friends or family and getting filled in on what they were doing when we weren’t around.

When I talked to my husband about it, he offered to figure out the programming necessary to make it happen, but I turned him down. My husband is a genius of a software engineer, but IOS programming (I had my heart set on an iPad app) isn’t his power alley, and it would take him a while to get up to speed. In the meantime, he just started a new job and he’s still working hard at being a competitive bagpiper. Those were some of the reasons I gave him for letting him off the hook, but the real reason is that I’ve been a project manager for a long time, and my way of getting things done is to be demanding and unreasonable (although in the nicest possible way). These are great when you’re cracking the whip over guys who would otherwise spend all day sending each other links to xkcd cartoons, but less great when you’re working with someone that you have to sit across the dinner table from.


When Worlds Collide

I’ve spent the past two days at TechRaising in downtown Santa Cruz. The Pirate crystallized the mood here as a lot of really smart people committed to sharing their expertise in the interest of creating a new and exciting future. Folks came here with great ideas, including an application to use a smartphone in order to determine the cost effectiveness of installing solar on your house, a micro-gifting website and a smartphone interface to control a quadcopter with speakers and lasers. There are all kinds of folks here, and the mood is universally can-do, hopeful and upbeat. These folks recognize that they’re making a difference in the world by being creators rather than consumers.

Last night, I went from TechRaising to Opera San Jose – opening night of Gounod’s Faust. The Pirate and I always attend the opening night dinner, an event held at a restaurant within walking distance of the California Theater in San Jose, where the wine flows freely, everyone is rich and white, and the food nearly always sounds better than it tastes.

Before dinner started, the Pirate and I were lurking near our table, surveying the crowd. I had been social all day, which is tiring for me, so I was contenting myself with watching the crowd rather than wading into it. A woman approached us and asked us if we were sitting at her table, and even though we weren’t, we all introduced ourselves and started talking. Everyone starts out the conversation with the same question – How long have you been a fan of opera? From there we talk about other operas we’ve seen, other places we’ve seen opera, etc. This woman asked us where we were from, and then launched into a tirade about how Arizona and southern California were becoming overrun with immigrants, stealing all the jobs.

The woman making this observation wore a silk tunic over silk pants. She wore gold and diamond jewelry, her hair was nicely styled and her shoes were new and expensive. She looked and sounded like a person living a comfortable, upper-middle-class life in America, but she sounded angry and frightened by this brown wave crashing over the border.

I don’t know which jobs she thinks they’re stealing. They’re certainly not stealing the “standing in the median holding ‘will work for food‘ sign” jobs, which I’ve only ever seen from white folks and black folks. Never brown folks. Maybe all those people who’ll work for food are on the median because when they were standing outside Home Depot, people actually expected them to work. She did opine that “they” let the immigrants in because the immigrants vote Democrat. I’m not sure who “they” are, but it’s their fault and she’s not happy.

That this woman is a bigot is beyond question. I can’t count the number of times that people have disparaged Mexicans to me because I am rich, educated and look white, and they therefore believe that I must hate foreigners who are threatening our way of life. My way of life is entirely made possible by foreigners. The products I buy were largely made in China. If I have problems with those products, I call India or Canada for support. My food comes from South America, Europe or Mexico and is made according to recipes from everywhere in the world.

What I heard from this woman wasn’t intolerance so much as it was fear. The world is changing, and she is becoming unsure of her place in it and her value to it. The paradigm she grew up with is changing, and she doesn’t understand those changes. That’s so different than the attitude of the folks here at TechRaising, where there is very much a feeling of competence, confidence and capability. Whatever the future will bring, the people at events like this will be the ones who bring it to you.

Where are you? Are you crouching in the dark, worrying about what the future may hold? Or are you out in front of things, creating innovative ways to solve your problems, connect with other people or make folks happy?

What Dreams May Come

“You’ve certainly been scarce lately,” you say.

“Sorry. I plead a medical exemption.”

“You’ve been sick?”

That’s a good question. I’ve been on SSRI inhibitors for a few months now, and it’s been a bit of a struggle. The first ones made me both groggy and bitchy (exactly the opposite of how they affect most people). The second ones made me so sleepy I couldn’t tell whether my mood had improved or not. We’ve been fiddling with the dosage, and I’m now at a dosage where my symptoms are manageable, but the side effects are apparent.

I’m always thirsty. I get headaches often. I procrastinate more than I used to, because I just don’t worry about the consequences of not getting things done. None of those things is great, but they’re not fatal.

The worst is that I just don’t have the urge to create anymore. I don’t care so much about writing. I haven’t written anything new in quite a while, and I can’t seem to motivate myself to get started. It doesn’t help that my most potent source of story material seems to have dried up.

I’m not dreaming anymore.

If you don’t know me, you don’t know that my dream life is almost as important to me as my waking life. Google “virtual bank line” (with the quotes), and the first few results will be me talking about my dreams which are action-packed, specific, and detailed. It would be easy for me to believe that this life where I’m sitting in a coffee shop and typing at a computer is my dream life, and that the other one is my real life, it’s that detailed.

Without dreams, it feels like my days are incomplete. Like I’m missing half of my life. All those things I do in my dreams feel like they’re going undone. Like somewhere, there’s a world where I have a job to do and I’m not doing it.

I discussed this with my therapist, and his response was “There’s no free fucking lunch.” (He’s that kind of therapist.) He’s not kidding – not only are my dreams gone, but I’m paying for the privilege of having them taken away.

I feel now that if I’m going to keep taking these meds, I have to figure out how to rebuild my life, including the dream life. I’m not sure it’s worth it to let that go.

Sex in Translation

Once again, sorry for being away. Okay, I’m not that sorry. Like a lot of people, I have a life that doesn’t always allow for sitting around and thinking up things I want to shout into the void. I started typing out a little of what I’ve been up to, but even I dozed off in the middle of the process, so I won’t bore you with the mundane details.

One of the things I’ve been doing is listening to the audio version of Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84. Haruki Murakami has never shied away from sex in his stories, and this one is no exception. There are all kinds of sex scenes between all kinds of people – willing and unwilling sex, drunken orgies, masturbatory thoughts. Sex is one of the many themes of the book, so there’s a lot of it.

I don’t speak Japanese, but I do know this about it: it’s a language spoken by human beings. And one thing I know about human beings is that they have lots of words to describe their genitals, and different words have different connotations. Prick, dick, cock, dong, shlong, manhood, sex, pussy, snatch, cunt, ladyparts, and that’s just the ones I could type without stopping to think. People like to talk about their privates without sounding like a doctor, so they come up with all manner of colloquialisms.

On the other hand, none of those fun words made it into 1Q84. In that story, no matter the circumstances of the sexual encounter, no matter how sensual or violent, no matter how happy or unhappy or confused it made the people involved, a penis is always a penis, a scrotum is always a scrotum, a vagina is always a vagina and breasts are always breasts. At one point, one of the characters says that “every couple of weeks, he visits a prostitute he knows and has sex. Like getting a haircut.” It’s a great description of every single sexual encounter in the book.

It’s one thing to know a language well enough to have a perfunctory conversation about bus schedules or restaurant orders. It’s another level to be able to listen to a news broadcast and understand it all. Yet another level is knowing the language enough to be able to tell jokes and understand wordplay. And then there’s pillow talk. It makes me wish that one of my friends who speaks Japanese and who may have read the book in its original language would tell me how the words translate in English.

My greatest fear is that Murakami didn’t use any slang at all, and that he wrote all his sex scenes using the most clinical, dry language possible, stripping them of all subtlety and sensuality, stripping the mood of the sex scenes away and leaving nothing but the physicality. In a way, it’s like inside-out Hemingway. With Hemingway, there is no interior life in his characters and the reader has to guess at what might be going on in his characters’ minds. With Murakami, his characters most intimate moments are so stripped of any nuance of language that the reader has to fill in any accompanying emotions. Actions devoid of thoughts can be hard to understand, but thoughts devoid of feeling are no clearer.