Lois McMaster Bujold’s Brothers in Arms

Following the Dragoola IV break-out of “Borders of Infinity”, the Dendarii Mercs are fleeing the Cetagandans, and limp their way to Earth. Miles and his cousin Ivan become involved in stopping a Komarran scheme invented by a loyal officer’s father and executed in part by Miles’ clone, Mark Pierre. The shaky status of Komarrans (as a conquered people) in the Barrayaran military leads to doubts of loyalty abound. On top of that, the Dendarii need money–badly, and Miles is stuck as Lord Vorkosigan, while his chores as Admiral Naismith pile up and his clone runs around his ships as him.

This is a startlingly action-packed book. The chaos is characteristic of Miles, however, and is handled well, Bujold-style. All of the plot lines are woven together and knot to an excellent finish. As always, there are features of this book that move along character and series development, such as Kung’s retiring and his parting remarks, and Miles’ marriage proposal to Quinn.

There is a lot going on in this book, emotionally and physically, with Miles. Many of his major problems with his identities reveal themselves in the form of his marriage proposal and his hesitation in stating which of his personalities is the creation of the other. He’s having to invent lies in lies to maintain his ImpSec “cover” as Naismith. The duality of his situation is spiralling, down a drain it seems. For now there’s a way to keep it all from going down, but there’s the sense that it won’t last, and that he’ll have to choose.

This a superb book, with the only possible down-side being it’s chaotic nature (in which case you probably don’t (or won’t) enjoy many of the Vorkosigan stories…). This book takes off practically in mid-sentence from “Borders of Infinity”, so it probably isn’t very good as a first Vorkosigan story to read (or as a standalone), but it’s great in context.

Whew.

I just read my post from this morning in the light of a new day and a few hours sleep and work. I think it may seem a little more bitter to the innocent bystander than I intended it to be. I was in a weird mood last night, and was listening to odd music that got my blood flowing (“Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin'” by Michael Jackson). Even so, I don’t feel sorry for some of the potentially offensive things I wrote. If my viewpoints bother you, tough cookies, and if my own viewpoints bother me, I have some major issues to work out. Neither of which involves dimming down or editing my posts here. But they don’t bother me, really, it just surprises me a little that I wrote it for the “world” to see.

But I’m rambling now a little, procrastinating on working on those much loved college apps. Schools: Worcester Polytech, Rensselaer Polytech, Carleton College, Univ. of Rochester (not a public school), and NC State (safety, safety!). I have not been able to visit any of these colleges, nor will I, until I move into one of them in July/August. Doesn’t that kinda suck, to be willing to fork out $30+ grand for a school I’ve never seen? But I don’t travel, so I rely on the opinions of students there and counselors and people I know that have been in Massachusetts, Minnesota, and New York. I can only hope it turns out well.

I made the mistake of downloading some Kylie Minogue songs this morning before going to work. “Can’t Get You Out of My Head” is friggin’ right. While slinging popcorn, this little voice in my ear rang “La la la, la la la la-la…” Good grief. She has a very sweet voice, if that makes sense, much like the lead singer from Six Pence None the Richer. Very pop-ish, and kind of honeyed. It’s something I have to be in the mood for (as I have an aversion to all things remotely squeaky, like many girls’ voices).

Speaking of potentially annoying-ass girls, I worked with Elizabeth and Jennifer today. Elizabeth is a very smart, very cool chicka that takes little or no crap from anyone. Jennifer is the whiner that I wrote about this morning. She’s got a stutter that can be unbearable; if she’s going to bitch and complain about something, you don’t want her to take 10 minutes to do so. These girls strongly dislike each other. Strongly. For the first two hours of our shift, all I heard was bitching, bitching, bitching from both sides. After our breaks, I finally got sick of it. “Hey! I’m not your goddamn mother. I don’t want to hear you bitch about her, and her bitch about you. I don’t give a fuck.” We had a great stony silence for the next two hours. It was bliss; I hardly even looked at the clock. About four o’clock, Jennifer broke the ice with Elizabeth (Jennifer gets over anger quickly and was trying so hard to be nice to everyone all day, it almost hurt). For the remaining two hours, they giggled and chatted like the best of friends, completely silent and withdrawn around me. It wasn’t my goal to get them to be bosom buddies, or team them up against me, I just wanted that stony silence to last until six o’clock. No such luck. I counted down the seconds from four to six o’clock in my head, adding formulas for calculating the amount of seconds and milliseconds left and determining the derivatives of those, trying to make meaning of it all. My only consolation was that I knew I was going to eat at Macado’s tonight. Which I did. I sit before you now, satiated on black bean quesadillas (good vegetarian food). Au revoir.

My most insincere apologies…

I just got home from work (a seven hour shift, which is long for the theater at which I work), and I’m blasting Michael Jackson’s Greatest Hits, Vol. 1 on headphones (“Wanna be startin’ somethin’ / You gotta be startin’ somethin’…”) and feeling like I want to write. So here I am. Waxing poetic.

I want to rant about people a little. As anyone who works in a service or retail job knows, people suck. This is augmented for me by the fact that I don’t like people, my smile always feels fake, and I loathe ghetto trash and trailer trash. (And who comes to a discount theater?) Although I will take trailer trash over ghetto hoochies any day. So call me a black redneck, hell, I’m from Texas and fancy myself on the way to a good edjumakashon. What the hell do you expect.

Le premier problème (issue): Obvious racism. I’m working next to hunky-boy yesterday, and not only does every single black youth in the friggin’ place come up to me, but this one guy, a white guy sporting a North Face jacket and Rockports is walking towards my register (there are no lines at all), looks at me, squints a little (giving my frumpy self a waist-up once over), looks at the clean-cut, Boy Scout, Mormon hunky-boy, and swerves right over to him. He bangs his fist on the counter jokingly and says, “What’s up, my dawg?” in that “wow I sound white” voice. Hunky boy chuckles and mutters to me, “See, it’s because I’m white. It’s that race thing.” The dude orders a popcorn and a drink, and hunky-boy asks me to get the popcorn (as is customary for the person with no customers). I look directly at the customer until he looks at me (I can have a very direct and attention-getting stare, I am told). I lift an eyebrow and he turns a delightful shade of red and glances away from me. I turn and fix his popcorn, with him watching me carefully the whole time. I got the distinct impression that he didn’t really want me fixing his popcorn… I’m not the sort that sees racism everywhere, because I have noticed that if you look for it, you find it. In spades. And I would rather spend my time angry over smaller, more personal events than a society-wide issue that I can’t change right now, myself. That may sound petty or delusional, but I don’t deny the existence of racism in America (remember, I am from Texas), but neither do I choose to go around looking for reasons to be pissed at the world and pick fights. It’s all in the choices. And I am honest enough to know that I am racist myself, and believe that everyone is. My reasoning? People want to be around what is familar and clump that way socially at work, school, in habitat, and at parties. In the absence of other information about a person, what is there? Physical appearance. Note that thin people tend to hang together. Also note that in groups (at Harding at least), while there are, of course many mixed groups, among freshmen (who often know very few people at a high school), race is a major factor, seconded by clothing/evidence of socioeconomic status. In the absence of other information about me (I wear the same dorky uniform as others at work, and slouch on the register just as much as they do), black people, even middle-aged and especially older people, will gravitate towards my register. Out of uniform, wearing my tattered jeans, my Kik Wear jeans, my chains, or my Tool shirts, I find myself not so approached. I still slouch as much as I did behind the counter, and I am dressed no differently than the folks by which I am surrounded. My sadistic spirit loves to shock the younger blacks with their “Hook a sister up” attitudes by being cold, frosty in fact. They expect favors and receive none. This isn’t a fucking affirmative-action business. Go get some goddamn money. You pay $4.50 for a bag of popcorn like everyone else. My father was friendly with the ladies, but I know I’m not your sister.

Le deuxième problème: Body Images, and problems therein. I went shopping with my buddy (called “La Chicka” here) recently, and we started talking about a friend of hers, with whom I am acquainted. La Chicka is a average-sized girl (or should I say a healthy sized girl), is about 5′ 8″, and wears about a 12/14. I am considerably larger (ha, no size info here, my own mother doesn’t know what size I wear). Her friend is also considerably larger (although not as large as myself), and I would place her at at least a 16. She would be comfy in a 18. La Chicka and her friend go shopping and this friend, whose family is small (her mother wears a 4, I think, but she’s much shorter than her daughter), tries on clothing the same size La Chicka does. I am told that La Chicka couldn’t even fasten some of these pants, yet her friend bought them. This friend is also the type to wear shorty-shorts, and spends her entire day pulling them down (because shorts crawl on larger women) and shirts that are border-line belly shirts (like, “Now just breathe deeply and reach for the sky…. no, wait, please don’t…”). Her pants are always skin-tight. Question: is she just comfortable with her weight, as my mother suggests? I’m not so sure, as she seems to have a very strong desire to conform physically, like she reads too many Teen magazines. Very strong. All of the people she calls friends are healthily sized or thin, and these are the people with whom she shops. I am very modest (physically) myself, and dislike shopping with thinner people, not because I fear their ridicule or scorn, but because I know it takes me a while to find comfortable clothes, and because I loathe shopping, I wouldn’t want to prolong anyone else’s shopping experience. But I also know how uncomfortable clothing that doesn’t fit right can be. So why is she torturing herself? To be able to say, “yeah, I wear a 14, just like La Chicka”? And she’s definitely not the only one. At the theater I see groups of the preppy or prostitot persuasion, all thin but one girl. And often, unless the group is of older folks, like seniors or collegians (that’s a word) she has poured herself into these miniature-sized costumes they wear, because she is “just like them”. I can’t feel pity for them, as that’s an emotion that is almost foreign to me, but I do feel something for them, because they don’t choose to be comfortable, they choose to be accepted. I don’t fancy myself any type of rebel, but at least I can be comfortable in my conformity.

Le troisième problème: Apologies, Excuse-me’s, and Polite Sympathy. All of them are fake. All of them. I bump into Brandy, I say “Hey, I’m sorry”. Do I really mean it? Am I really sorry I nudged her? Did I disturb her? Do I care that she might have been disturbed, or might have to top off the bag of popcorn she was fixing? Can’t say I do. Do I care that I might hurt her feelings if I don’t say sorry? Apparently I do, because I say it. Process of elimination. Every morning I shove through crowds of folks clogging the hallway like hostile, malignant, bad-ass cholesterol, and never say excuse me. I go to work, where everyone is running in circles fixing popcorn and drinks and find myself saying “excuse me” to everyone, everytime I need to squeeze past them. Hell, I know that we are in each others’ ways; they know that we are in each others’ ways. But we always say “excuse me”. We aren’t asking for excuse, though. We’re telling them to get the fuck out of our way. Then we huff and puff if we aren’t “excused” fast enough. I think a little silence might be in order, although shoving or rudeness isn’t necessary. Today, near the end of the first shift, when everyone is a little loopy, Jennifer is complaining of a headache. Constantly, as she is wont to do. Everyone just rolled their eyes after she passed by. She tried her woe is me attitude on one of our managers (the tall lanky one), and got a response of “I don’t think your sympathy ploys are going to work on us, today.” My response was, “I don’t think it ever works. We’re all used up”. Needless to say, I got evil looks and I’m sure trash will be talked. But it’s true. We are all used up. Shift after shift she has major drama, to which we umm’d and aww’d, but all of us are sick of it. So were we really sympathetic? I know I never was, because sympathy for love-life or social problems is often as foreign to me as pity. I think some of the more emotionally inclined were sympathetic, but the rest of us have always wanted her to just shut the hell up. Her drama struck me as contrived the same day I met her. But I hear the umm’s and aww’s all the time at school. My ear feels trained to pick up that too-drawled aww that signals a deathly bored listener or the too-large-hesitation before an ohh that means the listener had to consciously pick which sound to make aloud to cover the ticking of the clock they hear too loudly, telling them just how much of their life they are wasting listening to this jerk. We don’t say reasonable things when people tell us about their problems. I’m all for being a good listener, but sometimes people actually have the stupidity to ask me “what should I do?” or “what do you think?”. They don’t expect a real answer. And often they know they don’t expect a real answer. If I’m feeling a little sadistic (which is much of the time), I give them a real answer. “Well, you should just suck it up. You gambled and lost, and now he probably wants nothing to do with you.” “You know, if you sleep with a different guy every weekend while you’re wasted as hell, you’re liable to get knocked-up. I would think that condoms would seem a very small part of the whole exercise when you’re wasted and horny.” My only consession to these people are prefixing my replies with “well…” or “you know…” giving them warning that the fecal matter always hits the fan with me. Tonight, while we were cleaning at work, Brandy is cleaning out a popper (I had already finished mine), and she’s complaining of a headache, how it’s too hot in the popper, and how she thinks she may faint. I’m standing right next to her cleaning a counter, tired as hell, having worked two more hours than her with the same break, and I say nothing. I don’t even look at her. It’s obvious she wants me to say “aww, Brandy, let me finish the popper and you can clean the counters”. But I cleaned a damn popper, with a huge light bulb right in my face too. Instead, I look at her, lift an eyebrow and say “It’s not so bad if you turn off the light or work faster, then you can be out of the heat”. Not at all sympathetic. Am I a bitch? Yes, in the traditional sense of the word, I think, as I don’t try to soothe feelings as a nice polite girl should. Do I try to hurt people? Less often than you would think. I feel little in terms of sympathy or pity, and I have a small resevoir of fake sympathy. When it’s used up, there is no more until I recharge. Sometimes I feel bad that I can’t perform up to the standards of society, and ohh and aww properly, but often I either feel nothing, or await the reactions of the people with whom I am talking. It’s like being a third person in the dialogue, to see the flickers of their eyes when you don’t give them the feedback they want. They look around, like looking for someone else to notice my lack of response and come to their rescue. Often their pupils dilate, as pupils do when emotion is evoked. Sometimes they flush a little, in the neck or ears. From there it becomes more noticable and designed to get more sympathy, with a hurt sigh or sometimes a scoff at your condescension, hoping to evoke shame at your own (lack of) response and trigger that sympathy reflex. Sorry, suckers. You caught me on an off day and I’m all used up.

Good night, and I hope my two-hour post was entertaining.

More than an Eternity…

That’s how long it feels like it’s been. I self-banned myself form my computer this past week, due to my exams. Damn those exams. The only good things about them were that I got an A (94) on my English IB-style essay (my highest essay grade this year in that class) and that my Computer Science exam was even easier than I thought it would be. All in all, the week was simply boring and draining.

I did come back to the land of technology today to find things a little changed. Okay, greatly changed. I got an e-mail from my old buddy Ayana (despite my avoidance of her for a while (did we ever actually argue? I’m not sure.), she’s a great chica (pronounced with a Spanish accent), and I’ve enjoyed reading about her in Micah and Sonny’s blogs and her own blog. Another major change is that Sonny is reading (or has read) my blog at some point this week. Now that I have a visitor or two, I feel kinda exposed, but not enough to take my blog down. It’s an interesting feeling. I don’t expose myself often.

I’m not much of a gossip generally, and I don’t really want to be one here, but there is something I simple must share for those who attended Harding (Micah, Ayana…). There is a very nasty (and I do mean nasty) rumor that M.K. and the Titty-Mongeror (check my spelling on that) are dating. I about had a seizure when I heard (for multiple reasons, unfortunately, although that’s a later discussion). I would rather clean up vomit on the floor of a clothing store than think of those two together. 🙂 Just for a little perspective.

This week, I’ve gone back to a CD I haven’t listened to in about two months, a CD of Syrian music (yes, the Middle-Eastern country) given to me by my physics teacher. I don’t speak Arabic at all, and have no idea what they are saying, but the music is kind of pop-ish, although the instruments are different. Lots of violin (which I love), acoustic Spanish-sounding geetar, and another instrument I can’t identify (some sort of woodwind-type instrument). My physics teacher tells me these are the kind of music middle-age people would listen to, like mellow jazz here (which I also love), but the music is very… “jaunty” isn’t the right word, but it’s the first that comes to mind (everyone should read Choke by Chuck Palahniuk). Most are obviously love songs (more in the style of Pink’s first CD than any slow R&B music). There are no songs on this CD I dislike. I am currently listening to two songs on repeat, and have been, 9 hours a day, for the past 7 days. I’m that type. Since I abstained from my computer this week, I fell even harder on my other addiction of music. I wonder if there is a Musiker’s Anonymous group. “Hi, my name is Melissa, and I’m an addict”?? It’s kinda sad. The only reason I hate work is that I can’t have music while I’m there. Songs play in my head all the time, including these Syrian songs that I can sing the words to. For how many other people is this a problem? Our music becomes harder, faster, more intense, more obscene, louder, more explicit about everything from sex to political protests, and it’s still not enough to satiate us. In Lullaby by Palahniuk (which I never got to finish), Palahniuk was dissecting Americans’ addiction to noise, how people listen to the TV louder than ever, or simply always have it on, or how people blast music just driving down the street, or simply always have the radio/CD player on. This struck a chord with me. I haven’t watched TV in about two months, but I am always listening to music. I like to think silence doesn’t bother me, and silence from talk never does, but silence from music does. I was reading this book around the time I went to stay the night over at my friend Eddie’s house (in order to watch movies, thank you very much), and found a similar trend with television in his house. He plays the TV loud (something which always bothers me anyway, whether my family does it or my friends) and somewhere in his house, a TV is on. In my own house, my father will be working at his desk and will have the TV on, although he isn’t watching it. For background noise, to help him think, he says. And when he settles down to watch movies at night with my mother, they play the TV so loud, I have to put on headphones with music to go to sleep. Friends whose cars I ride in always have music playing, and in the case of my buddy Michael, loud to the point where conversation is hardly possible for someone (such as myself) who tunes out voices automatically to hear music. And he still tries to have a conversation, and everyone is saying “huh?” every 5 secs. While I think that it’s also rude to play music that loud and try to have a conversation, that’s beside the point. Palahniuk knows of what he speaks, too well.

In case you haven’t been able to tell, I’m in need of a major catharsis right now, before I go in to work, so this is going to get longer.

I realized something about myself about a year ago, and that is that become easily saturated with people. I will be around someone (I like serially monogamous friendships) for a while, then I start to notice things about them that bug the hell out of me. And I find myself snappish and bitchy towards these unsuspecting people. Nothing about them changed, I just allowed myself to let their flaws (which I noticed from the beginning) annoy me. For instance, the guy that drives me to school is a very nice guy. He’s completely un-ambitious (his life goal is to go to UNCC and become a librarian), and is often labelled as gay (whether he is or not, I dunno, as I don’t know him that well). But he also tries to act with Michael’s assertiveness and outright arrogance at times. It’s a bad fit in such a guy. I know all this. I have known all this since he first offered to take me to school (“Hi, Melissa? Yeah, I’m coming by at 6:00 to pick you up for school, so be ready. … Uh, is that okay?”). Yet lately, his attitude and actions have made everything he says seem like a whiny, complaining little bitch. Once again, on one level I know things are no different, yet on another, it’s like, “Just shut the fuck up, you snivelling little fruity cowardly bastard….”. Yeah. But I do this with all my friends. With Michael, he called me everyday (make note that I said everyday) just to say hi. My parents thought it was odd, given that he is engaged, but I don’t automatically attribute that motive to males (for obvious reasons if you have ever seen me). But the thing is, he saw me everyday at school, and called me every night, usually a minumum of twice and up to ten times for help with schoolwork, his website, comp. sci. homework, computer problems of everyone he knows in the United States, or just to say good night. “Good night”?? WTF? I don’t even say good night to my parents! And while it’s very touching and everything, I found it rude and counterproductive to getting any work done in any subject or area, in fact. How can you read a good book if your phone is ringing off it’s goddamn hook eery fifteen minutes? Finally, over Thanksgiving break, I refused to answer my phone until the night before we went back to school. He didn’t understand that my vacations from school are vacations from school, friends, social life of any kind, everything. So I explained it to him. It was some day in December before he finally stopped calling me. I wrote in down on a calendar. It was the first day since August (maybe before) that Michael hadn’t called me. I wanted to cry in relief. But I digress. Around October, I became sick of Michael. I became sick of his arrogance in assuming that I was always available and wanted to talk and help him with his every little problem (although he always complained about how little time he had) and his rudeness in talking about my friends and former-friends-turned-mere-acquaintances to name a few reasons. He refused to search the Internet for help in building his website, refused to read the math book for help with his homework, etc. The climax occured at my birthday get-together in late October, in which several people, Dulin, Michael, Jenny, and a couple other people, were invited to my house for movies and McAlisters (and some computer oogling). My living room isn’t large, and has a couch (three cushions), a love-seat (two cushions) and a large not-a-recliner-but-it-looks-like-one chair. I had about 8 people over, not including myself. That’s not enough funiture, although there’s enough room for the extras to sit comfortably on the floor. Michael and Jenny took it upon themselves to stretch-out on the longer couch, reserving it for themselves. I still see red when I think about this. They walked into my fucking house, with their rude-ass PDA (public displays of affection), and lay down all over my couch, while three people sat on the floor. There are no words. Then, Michael took over my TV. I hate loud TV and love close-captioning so that I don’t have to turn it up loud, but since he’s deaf and hates closed-captioning, we all must accomodate ourselves to his desires, right? Remember this is my fucking house. And then I couldn’t get the remote back without causing a major scene, and looking like the complete bitch I am and wanted to be, because he wouldn’t just hand it over. I try to pass it off as a cultural difference, because when I go into someone’s house, I try to be as unobtrusive as possible and cause little disturbance, while Michael will go in and make himself quite at home. Different upbringings, you know? R. i. g. h. t. Fuck that. I sputtered in anger everytime he talked to me for while after that.

Whew. How did I get on that tangent? “Lower the blood pressure, now. It’s okay, now Lissa, it’s over…” I never learned to forgive or forget. I can shelve issues until I need then later, but I can’t forgive or forget. I would make a sucky Christian. Turn the other cheek, ha. More like open up a can…

Anyway, on the subject of saturation. I’ve noticed that I become saturated with anyone that hang around long enough, whether I know them well at all or not (for instance, I don’t know the guy that drives me to school well). It never fails. Even people like Eddie and Ayana, and especially people like Micah or Michael, who tend to be a little more… clingy. Yet it’s that clinginess that attracts me to them in many ways. Everyone wants to feel needed, and this is enhanced by the fact that I like to have only one good friend at a time, in a serially monogamous style, as I said before.

Subject change: the Military Ball. I was asked to go by Dulin, who must go, because he’s the Colonel, and thus the CO of the JROTC at Harding. He asked me two Thursdays ago. “Hey, Melissa. Will you go to the military ball with me on the eighth? I’m getting really desperate, and if I don’t find a date, I’ll be assigned to go with Sheniqua or Laqueequee. …. [my frowning, stunned silence] … See the thing is, I went with a whore and then with Shelly, so I was thinking I could go with someone, you know, cooler.” While that isn’t exactly a raving review (“I’m getting desparate”???), I went ahead and said yes. How does my decision fit into my existentialist views? In other words, how is this self-serving? I know, and Dulin knows, that he owes me now. Big. I loathe dressing up; I didn’t go to prom last year and am considering not going this year (a post for another day). I hate dresses, make-up, manicures, all that girly-stuff, and the military ball is a formal occasion, which means a prom dress. So when I found a dress, I gave him my official “yes” status and reminded him yet again of how much he owes me. I don’t when I’ll use my get-out-of-jail-free card, but I have it now.

I think I may be done catharsizing now (that’s not a word, I know). I’m off to read some blogs, and maybe, maybe figure out what this thing is between Micah and this Dustin guy… What ever happened to David, the guy from the New Year’s party?!

Greymatter ASP Conversion

I’m still on page 2 of 124 of the conversion of gm.cgi, after about 2 hours of work, primarily due to my having to reference Perl syntax and ASP FileSystemObject and VBScript syntax. It doesn’t seem impossible yet.

Also, I think one of my laptop batteries is deceased. It doesn’t seem to be holding a charge anymore. That doesn’t bode well financially speaking….

I’m tired and sick. I’m going to take a nap before I go to work… Must. Have. More. Sleep.

taking joy in human unreason