winterkoninkje: Shadowcrane (Default)

A lot of ink has been spilt over trigger warnings lately. And I don't want to write about it because I feel like I don't have much to add to the conversation. But when I stop, that feeling nags at me. You can't think with your mouth open; and as someone who always had issues keeping her damn mouth shut, it took me a long time to learn that to listen you must be silent. ... And yet. ... And yet, when someone experiences strong emotions about her own marginalization, but feels compelled to self-silence: that's when you need to listen harder.

Because there are a lot of voices I know full well, and I don't hear them talking.

I know them because they're the voices of my friends, and among friends we talk about things we don't talk about. In the workaday world we put on our faces and never hint at the behemoths raging through our china cabinets. And when we let down our hair, those faces stay on, because you always know who might be listening. And behind closed doors, still, we keep them on because elsewise love would be too tragic. But in secret spaces, we talk. We are, every one of us, damaged. I may not know who hurt you yet, I may not know your story of pain, but I never assume there isn't one; because every single person I've known, when we get close enough, they tell me things we don't talk about. Sometimes it takes years before they feel safe enough, sometimes they never feel safe enough, but if they've ever lowered their guard to me, they've told me. Every. single. person.

We are born and raised and live in a world drenched in abuse. And that abuse doesn't leave scars, it leaves open wounds waiting to have dirt rubbed in them. The first rule of what doesn't happen is that it cannot be spoken of. So healing only happens in those secret spaces, one-on-one, in the dark of night, far far from friends and strangers alike. This privatization of healing only compounds the problem of abuse. When we cannot see past others' faces, when we cannot see the living wounds they bear, when we do not hear their daily resistance against reiterations of violence, we come to think that somehow maybe they haven't been hurt as badly as we. When we see our own people succeed, or see leaders of resistance and "survivors" and "healed" voices speaking up against the injustice of the world, we think that somehow maybe they must be stronger than us, more resilient than us, more determined than us. When we cannot witness their struggle, we think that somehow maybe when they go to bed at nights they need not take the time to scrub out that daily dirt from their wounds. And when we cannot bear that witness, we see ourselves as lesser, broken, impostors.

These are the voices I do not hear speaking out, or hear speaking in only roundabout whispers. These are the voices for whom trigger warnings are writ. As so precisely put by Aoife,

Here's something I need you to understand: the vast majority of students when 'triggered' don't write howlers to department heads or flip laptops over in crowded classrooms for YouTube counts.

On the contrary, they most often shut down and collapse into numbness.

That numbness, that collapse, is the last tool our minds have to keep our faces in place when some sudden shock reopens sore wounds. The second rule of what we do not talk about is that wounds never heal, not entirely. We —some of us— can manage not flinching when someone raises their hand. We —some of us— learn to laugh along when someone touches our back. We —some of us— learn to feel safe in a room alone with a man. We —some of us— learn to turn blind to the "tranny" jokes, to the blackface, to the jibes about trailer parks and country living, to the "sex" scene where she lay sleeping, the scene where he takes the other man 'round back, the man who slaps his wife, the mother who cuffs her child, being told to go pick a switch, to the child starving on the street, to the college kids playing "tricks" on the homeless. We —some of us— learn to live as stone. But stone don't heal, and we all have our rituals of self-care we won't talk about. But when everywhere all you ever see is stone, you know your flesh will never make it if the light still shines in your eyes.

And I too am guilty of this silence culture. Because the fact of the matter is, in this day and age, to speak is to jeopardize my career. I can talk about being trans or being a dyke, and I can at least pretend that the laws on the books will mean a damn. But if I talk about my childhood, I won't be seen as an adult. If I talk about my abuse, I won't be seen as stable. If I bring up my mental life, I won't be seen as professional. If I talk about spoons, I won't be seen as reliable. And so I stuff it down and self-silence and hide what it's like, that daily living with depression and PTSD, til some trigger sets it off and out comes that rage which grows on silence. Some full-force punch to the gut, some words like "I'm not sure suicide is ever the answer" and my eyes go black, and words come out, and they sound nice enough, but every one means "I hate you".

Not to be rude, but sometimes suicide is the answer. It may not be the best answer, but it is an answer. And, unfortunately, sometimes that is all that's required. Sometimes a terrible fucking answer is the only answer to be found.

I say this as someone who's spent more of her life being suicidal than not, as someone who's survived multiple attempts, as someone whose friends have almost invariably spent years being suicidal. Yes, it sucks. And no, it doesn't "solve" anything. But think of the suffering of the victim. It is incredibly difficult to overcome the self-preservation instinct. Profoundly difficult. Imagine the volume of suffering it takes, the depths and duration of misery required to actively overcome the single most powerful compulsion any living creature can experience. There comes a point, long after endurance has already given out, when the full weight of that volume cannot be borne.

Whenever this happens, my thoughts are always with the victim. I cannot help but empathize with that terrible terrible suffering

Because the fact of the matter is, I'm too scared to talk. We live in a culture where suicide is "the easy way" and you're supposed to "take it like a man", but the fact of the matter is noone can take it. We are, every one of us, damaged. We privatize our healing because the first rule of abuse is that it must never be mentioned, must never never be discussed. The learning of silence is the first abuse: it is how we are taught to abuse ourselves, to never never hear that we're not alone.

This isn't about suicide and depression. Isn't about rape and racism. Isn't about violence and neglect. This is about silence. About the words we don't use to not say what you can't talk about. This is about learning to speak using words. About how we must open our mouths in order to listen.

#done

Jul. 11th, 2014 09:42 pm
winterkoninkje: Shadowcrane (Default)

Holy hell, things are bad for everyone.

I've started having PTSD issues again. One of my wife's coworkers got thrown in jail for 24hrs due to a domestic violence accusation (as required by Indiana state law for every accusation with any shred of evidence). Once he got out he filed for divorce because of it, to which his wife shot their son and herself and lit the house on fire— timed at 17 minutes before he was scheduled to (and did) arrive to pick up their son. An online friend of mine was dealing with a family crisis, got dumped by her fiancée, and has been on suicide watch. And now another friend is dealing with a suicide close to her

WTF world? W. T. F?

winterkoninkje: Shadowcrane (Default)

I've forgotten how to write. Somewhere along the way I've forgotten how to say, what I mean. Little sticks and thistles, they burrow under your skin like dry wind and the leaves you brush from your faces. And you find yourself there, looking over, looking out, and turn to tell another how you came to this place, this pretty place, and all you find are tangled weeds and hills and where was the path where you left that friend you thought had come with you

I have half a dozen half written posts, if half written means written and my mind keeps telling me to edit to edit to go over once more, unable to let go, unable to let slip a word lest it falls all out and i somehow say what i somehow mean and someone takes offense. Offence. That word of our times, that police baton with which we beat the helpless, refuse to listen to the stories, those stories once heard we proclaim have "set us free" but we leave the authors beaten, unwilling to look at their lives lest we feel too closely the grip of that truncheon in our fist.

Half a dozen half written posts, weeks of thoughts writ out, on programs and mathematics and words and history. Thoughts I cannot set free. They haunt me, they call me beckoning to spill once again that mental blood to pore and pore over them and wring them dry of every drip of humanity so I can hang out the scraps and let others see how terribly clever i am. I never wanted to be clever, never wanted to be seen like that. I only wanted, once, to be free. From the heartache of a harrowing life, from the illusions and false idols, from my own ignorance. And now these thoughts tie me up in clever little knots, and have me writing bad poetry

winterkoninkje: Shadowcrane (Default)

I woke up feeling terrible last monday, and by midnight I was on a bed in the ER. Spent the next few days in the hospital: had surgery on wednesday, got released on thursday. Since then I've been resting about the house, and have been recovering quickly. It was my first "real" surgery. (I've had other surgical procedures, but they aren't the sort that doctors mean when they ask if you've "had any surgeries".) Before saying what I had done, I'd like to make a point about social awareness.

Do you recognize these symptoms?

  • sharp shooting pain in the chest, possibly extending to shoulders and neck/throat, lightheadedness/dizziness, shortness of breath.
  • dark urine, yellowing skin/eyes, nausea/vomiting, difficulty concentrating, sleepiness.
  • urinating often, increased thirst/hunger, blurry vision, abrasions heal slowly, tingling/pain/numbness in hands/feet.
  • dull pain in the pit of your stomach, possibly extending to back or right shoulder, possibly increasing after eating fatty foots, doesn't abate in different positions, fever and chills.

This day and age I'd expect any moderately educated person to recognize the first three immediately: heart disease, liver disease, and diabetes (type 2). Both heart disease and diabetes have had powerful ad campaigns to increase awareness. Liver disease hasn't had that advantage, but the symptoms of jaundice are mentioned in the side-effect reports of most medications, and they're pretty memorable to boot. The last one I never would have recognized until it happened to me. And, frankly, the ER doctors had a hell of a time figuring out what it might be based only on my symptoms. I felt feverish at the time, though my temperature was normal. This was the first out-and-out attack, so I couldn't talk about how often it happened nor say whether it got worse after eating fatty foods. Knowing all the symptoms now, I can look back and see that this has been a long time coming; but at the moment all I could tell the docs was: intense dull pain in the pit of my stomach, doesn't get better or worse when changing position.

These are the symptoms of gallbladder disease. Women are more than twice as likely as men to get it. Women on hormone replacement therapy are more likely to get it. Many women are hit with it during the end of pregnancy— so many so that nurses remark on the number of cholecystectomy patients with one-week old babies. There's something about estrogen (or fluctuations thereof) that doesn't play nicely with the gallbladder. So I mention this for all the women, especially trans women, in the audience. Of course, none of this is to say that there aren't plenty of men who suffer from the same. Prior to going to the ER I'd heard almost nothing about gallbladder disease, other than knowing that gallstones were a thing. But in the scarce week since then I've lost track of how many women have told me about their cholecystectomies. With how common it is, I think this is one of those diseases that we as a society should be able to recognize— like diabetes, heart attacks, and jaundice.

So yeah, I'm down an organ now. There aren't too many side effects of having your gallbladder removed (compared to removing other organs), though it does mean I'll have to watch my diet. I've been doing that anyways, now it's just different things to look for. I'll have to put the high-protein low-carb diet on hold for a couple months, since I need to reduce fat intake until my body gets used to the new me. Also worth noting: apparently losing weight quickly (as with the 30-pounds I dropped last fall) can increase the risk of gallstones. So if you're dropping weight, you should be sure to monitor things and try to flush/cleanse your gallbladder.

That's it for now. Goodnight and good health.

winterkoninkje: Shadowcrane (Default)

Saturday night I had a fainting spell. Sunday my eyes were burning, I was feverish, weak, and had the beginnings of a migraine. Monday was completely lost in the blaze of a migraine. Tuesday I was starting to feel better— and then, nope; threw up that night. Wednesday I awoke with what felt like a raging sinus infection; spent the whole day in a haze of sudafed and ibuprofen, and went through literally an entire box of tissues.

Starting to feel a little better this morning, so I figure this is the end. It was a nice life. Y'might want to bar your doors today, just in case it's locusts.

winterkoninkje: Shadowcrane (Default)

Last friday I passed my qualifying examinations! So now, all I have left is a bunch of paperwork about that and then proposing, writing, and defending the dissertation itself. So, in about a year or so I'll be on the job market. And, much as I despise job hunting, I can't wait!

Since defending the quals I've been spending far too much time playing Persona 3 Portable. I've played P3FES, but P3P adds a female protagonist option which changes a bunch of the social interactions, so I've been playing through that side of things. Other than the heterosexual assumptions about the relationships, I've been loving it. More rpgs should have female protagonists. That's one of the reasons I've always loved FF6. Also a big part of why I found FF13 compelling. (Though, tbh: while Lightning is awesome as a protagonist, Vanille is definitely my favorite character :) And a big part of the powerfulness of Kreia as a character in KotOR2 stems from her interactions with the canonically-female protagonist.

Speaking of women. I've been presenting as female for a couple months now, and since I have no intention of stopping nor hiding that fact, I've decided to move T-Day forward. Basically, for those who haven't already switched over to the right pronouns etc: T-Day is today. I've sent emails to the department heads in order to get them to send out the "official" memo; so if you haven't gotten it yet, that should show up on monday or tuesday.

The next couple months are going to be hectic with paper writing. I'm hoping to get a paper on syntax-based sentiment-analysis using matrix-space semantics into one of the CL conferences with deadlines this March. No Haskell involved in that one, though I'll probably spend a few posts discussing the semantic model, which may be of interest to y'all. I'm also planning on getting the work from my first qual paper published; that paper was about Posta, a functional library for interactive/online/incremental tagging with HMMs. Here I'm planning to target journals rather than conferences, and it'll spread out over a few papers: one on the overall system (which I need to actually push up to Hackage), one on the higher-order anytime n-best extraction algorithm, and one on reformulating HMM algorithms in terms of foldl and scanl (this may be combined with the HO-AnB paper, length permitting). All of these would be targeting the linguistics audience. Using folds and scans is old-hat in functional programming; my particular goal with that paper is exposing linguists to the tools of FP and how they can be used to greatly simplify how we describe our algorithms. Once those are out of the way I might also see about writing up a functional pearl on the smoothing library I presented at AMMCS a few years back.

winterkoninkje: Shadowcrane (Default)

Heads up y'all. My email at Free Geek will be going away in about a month. The following addresses are all still valid and point to the right place:

  • cpan.org — for Perl folks
  • community.haskell.org — for Haskell folks
  • alumni.reed.edu — for Reedies
  • indiana.edu — for business
  • gmail.com — for friends
If you don't have one of those, email me (at freegeek.org) and I'll hook you up.

winterkoninkje: Shadowcrane (Default)

There are three parts to this post. Everyone should read the first two sections, especially the second section. Haskellers should also be sure to read the third section.

The Announcement

If you don't yet know: I'm transgender. My sense of gender and self have never aligned with my physical appearance, and I’ve spent most of my life dealing with this fact. This is not an acquired condition nor a recent change; it is an intrinsic and life-long part of who I am. I began the process of transitioning half a year ago and, over the next six months or so, I will complete the transition to living as a woman full-time.

Many of my followers are already familiar with transgender issues, but since this is a public announcement I assume many of you are not. There are numerous resources online for learning more, but I find the PFLAG pamphlet to be a particularly good place to start. If you still have any questions after reading that, I can provide additional resources and am willing to answer questions.

How to respond

This is going to depend on how you know me.

If we interact predominantly online
This includes everyone in the Haskell community (both online and academically), as well as everyone from Reddit, Twitter, etc. Henceforth, please use feminine pronouns (she/her/hers) exclusively when referring to me. I understand this will take some getting used to, but it will soon become second nature.
If we interact predominantly in person
I'd prefer you use feminine pronouns (she/her/hers) when referring to me, especially when online and when mentioning me anonymously. But, for the time being, masculine pronouns (he/him/his) are still acceptable. Sometime in the spring I will send another announcement around letting you know when "T-day" is. After that date, I will be presenting as female full-time and will no longer tolerate masculine pronouns.

PSA for Haskellers

I shouldn't have to say this, but since there were some complaints about the "homosexual propaganda" in my recent posts, may I remind my readers of The Planet Haskell policies regarding political and religious content. I rarely post political content, but am well within the guidelines in doing so. The stated mission of Planet Haskell is to "show what is happening in the community, what people are thinking about or doing". I am an active and well-known member of the Haskell community, and the violence endured by trans people is something I've been thinking a lot about lately. When Chung-chieh Shan gave the 2013 Haskell Symposium program chair report, he made a specific point of highlighting the effects of sexism, racism, homophobia, and transphobia in driving people out of the Haskell community. Therefore, I think it is fair to say that these issues are pertinent, above and beyond my personal involvement with them.

That said, I do not intend to discuss trans issues at length on this blog. Nevertheless, on occasion, these issues will come up because I refuse to live in silence and shame for who I am.

winterkoninkje: Shadowcrane (Default)

It's been a few months since my last dieting update, and things've been going great.

Weight
In the first month I lost 13 pounds, but over the second month I didn't lose any. Apparently this sort of plateauing happens; so I've tweaked things a bit, hoping to get back on track. Last week I finally got a scale, so I can keep track of things more often than once a month. And if it's to be believed, I've lost an additional 5 pounds over the last couple weeks.
Cholesterol
Had another round of bloodwork done a fortnight ago. My cholesterol numbers are down by 90 points. I didn't get a copy of the results, so I can't remember which of the numbers that is exactly; but either way, it's a huge step from extremely high to borderline high.
Blood Sugar
My FDA is down from 6.2 (borderline pre-diabetic) to 5.3 (normal), which is awesome. Don't recall what the fasting random numbers were, but those are less reliable anyways.

And here's the graphic for my macronutrients over the last four weeks and the last three months. Looks like I've been averaging around 5::6, protein to carbs; which ain't bad, but it'd be nice if I can figure out a way to get it closer to 6::5 or 3::2.

wtf.

Oct. 1st, 2013 03:21 pm
winterkoninkje: Shadowcrane (Default)

So, I just found out that an old friend of mine:

I'm totally torn up about this; both about whatever happened, and about the ongoing reaction. Meanwhile, I can't help but recall the all too timely post of a different friend of mine about what it means to say "innocent until proven guilty".

winterkoninkje: Shadowcrane (Default)

It's been three weeks since I got the bad news about cholesterol and blood-sugar levels. Three weeks since I've started this crazy diet. So, I figure it's time for an update on how things are going.

First off: I feel amazing! After just one day I felt more energetic than I have in a long time: I had a lot more pep like I'd upgraded to a more-powerful or smoother-running engine, but it felt like the gas tank was on empty. Makes sense, of course. The former feeling has continued, whereas the latter has gone away as I've gotten used to not relying on the quick boost that sugars give. Also, that feeling of getting winded after climbing a steep hill or those slight stomach cramps after a long hike? I haven't had the slightest glimmer of either since starting. Even after I'm done with the dieting per se, this is definitely going to change the way I eat from now on. The difference is just obscene.

One thing I learned, which apparently everyone else already knows, is that it's the protein what makes you feel full. For the first week, I was so full/unhungry that I had to be careful to keep my calories up. For someone of my stature, it's dangerous when you don't feel like eating more than 1000-or-so calories a day. Protein shakes helped a lot here. By the second week it was easier to get enough calories "naturally", and still easier during the third week. However, I'm still averaging 444 below my stated goal of 2247 (which would amount to losing around 2 pounds/week); which is better than the 514 below of the second week, but not so good as the 266 below of the first week. Even though 2247 is the stated goal according to my phone app, this last week I've been aiming more for 2000. Still, now that I've run the numbers, it looks like I should add the shakes back in. Lo-cal is good and all, but I don't want my body to trigger starvation mode. That'd suck.

So, I've been doing good on calories (as in the graphic above). However, getting the 1::1 balance between protein and carbs has been a lot harder (as in the graphic below). The upswing in carbs and downswing in fat on the right should be taken with a grain of salt. The graphics include today, but I've only entered my breakfast so far. Still, I have been allowing myself some more carbs the last two days, so I should be sure to keep that in check. I've got a solid breakfast recipe which isn't quite 1::1 but it's close, and a few nights back Licia made an amazing lasagne which was exactly 1::1, so I'll try to post those in a couple-few days.

Bitties

Jul. 2nd, 2013 11:18 pm
winterkoninkje: Shadowcrane (Default)

Just got back from MFPS-LICS-CSF saturday night. T'was the first LICS I've been to, and my first time in the deep south. I had fun overall. Definitely enjoyed the French Quarter with its narrower streets, delightful architecture, and other non-American features. And I ran into the Pride parade the day after arriving; I seem to have a knack for that ;) The humidity was killer though.

The slides from my NLCS talk are available here. I've been having some issues with my bibtex2html script, so they're not linked to on the publications page yet; but they will be once I get that issue fixed.

In less happy news, I got some bloodwork back today. Cholesterol is far far too high, and I'm getting into the pre-diabetic range for bloodsugar levels. So, I'm starting a major diet change in hopes of getting those under control. Apparently lack of protein is a big part of the problem (for me), which is ironic since most americans get far too much. Damn midwestern genes. Went grocery shopping today; it's profoundly difficult to get a 1::1 carbs-to-protein ratio as a vegetarian.

To Canada!

Jun. 3rd, 2011 08:04 am
winterkoninkje: Shadowcrane (Default)

Hello all. This summer (that is, next week) I'm heading up to Canada to teach a DSL bootcamp at McMaster along with Edward Kmett, and staying afterwards for a couple months. Rather than dealing with the TSA's bullshit I've decided to take the train up, which is cheaper and only slightly slower once you account for all the nonsense. But, this means I'll be spending a good deal of time laying over in Chicago and Buffalo. I know a bunch of you have traveled around, and some of you may happen to be there when I am, so: anyone want to meet up while I'm there? or knows of some good places to eat and spend time when visiting?

I'll be in Chicago around 4pm–9:30pm on June 10, and 9:45am–3:20pm on July 29. And in Buffalo around 9am–3pm on June 11, and 1:30pm–midnight on July 28. So that's about five hours each stop, ten hours coming back through Buffalo. Amtrak being what it is, some of this time might get eaten up by poor track scheduling, but I figure I'll still have a good deal of time regardless.

Also, anyone have recommendations for places to eat in downtown Indianapolis? I have an hour to kill around noon when heading up.

Tori

Jan. 28th, 2011 02:03 am
winterkoninkje: Shadowcrane (Default)

It's funny how things can come back out at you after so long. I was just sitting there, wrapping things up to go play some games, when my randomizer throws over a decade away. Tori Amos, Indigo Girls, all these beautiful haunting women who filled those early years at college. The stupid years. Finally done with highschool, finally done with the drama (before realizing it isn't done with you), fleeing three thousand miles from an abusive family to find finally that life may be worth the living of it, and those three thousand miles sundering that first longest term relationship, the one when you somehow suddenly silently move from the weeks and months of teenage romance to years, but when years seem still unthinkable, before they've become the expected of adult romance.

"Gods, how did we survive being so young?" I want to ask, an incantation to break the spell, to separate again those memories from the living now and drive them back into "so long ago". I drown myself in reading up on Tori's latest work, a return to the personal, a return to the California of Little Earthquakes and to those two-decade old memories of earlier joys mixed with pains at CTY. As I listen to Plath, Tori intimates, insinuates, her recent moments of brushing up against that all-too-appropriate theme. And something about sitting at home now, alone but not lonely, comfortable against the winter's cold, reminds me of other dark moments, of christmas alone in a cheerful shared home. Our lives are bounded by the great movements, the segues from one phase of being into another, and that odd christmas happened to fall on just such a movement.

Right now, even as these old thoughts come back to me across the years, I am not at all depressed. Usually these scenes only return to me when that whirling deepness settles in again. We spend so much time trying to forget the bad parts of living, it's hard to express exactly what that feeling is when you can look on them clearly and yet not have them drag you down. It's been far less than that decade since I've been gripped in depression, but I do think that was the last time suicide crossed my path. It seems so strange, from here, from now, to think of all that's happened since then. As I get older I keep fearing that the time will slip away, that I'll wake up one day and wonder where it all went. And yet, when I break free from the illusion of the present, this last decade held so much more than the decade that came before. But I also know it's funny the way things can come back out at you after so long. When the boogey man comes he doesn't care about all the things you've learned, all the secrets of the universe unlocked, the identity unearthed from the ashes of childhood, the sexuality wrested from bigotry and hatred, the degrees earned or papers published, the friendships known, the people helped, or the stable happy home with that goddess who makes you smile every day.

winterkoninkje: Shadowcrane (Default)

1. The illnesses I live with are:
Chronic major depression
Migraines
OCD
PTSD, Dissociative-NOS ("recovered")

2. I was diagnosed with it in the year:
According to my records, 1998 for the mental stuff. Not sure about the migraines.

3. But I had symptoms since:
Before 1994, which is when my coherent memories begin. Most probably before 1991 when things get really hazy.

There's some 27-odd other questions on the version from [livejournal.com profile] cheshire_bitten, but I can't really get myself to bother answering them. Most of them target people who've acquired disabilities late in life, late enough to remember the "good old days". My father can tell you when he got diabetes, the pictures can show how his diet changed, his children can tell how his temper waned. My mother could tell you when she was diagnosed with bipolar, but she wouldn't because secrets stay in the family. My girlfriend will tell you when she acquired her wrist problems, how that changed the way she lives her life, how she gets around it at work. But when it comes to her anxiety issues or to my depression, what is there to say?

The most invisible of invisible disabilities are the ones we're born with. Because these are the ones we don't know how to live without. I can tell you how I live my life differently than how you live yours. And you may ask whether that's because of who I am or because of the depression, but that question is without meaning. Who I am is someone who lives with depression. To try to separate it out is like trying to separate out that I'm intelligent or that I was born in the States. The person without those traits would be so different that I cannot fathom where my life would take them.

The disabilities we're born with are the most invisible because all too often they are invisible to ourselves. Countless people cope with issues like depression and anxiety for years before realizing that perhaps it's different for other people. Even those who know it must be different often can't imagine what different would feel like. When I started on anti-depressants a whole new world opened up before me, a startling realization that happiness can be a way of life rather than a rare brief moment. When my girlfriend started on anti-anxiety meds she was dumbstruck to find the metaphorical pain of a panic attack was real physiological pain, and that suddenly a wrong turn or change in plans no longer evoked it despite the instinct to brace for the blow. She'd been telling people the pain was real for years, and yet on some level even she didn't believe it.

Too many of us are quiet, not because society frowns on admitting illness, but simply because in our suffering we do not know that it can be any other way. It is important to gain recognition from our peers that, yes, life is in fact harder for us. But for me, the bigger issue is to help our peers recognize that, yes, what they feel is real and they are not alone in what they know not how to name.

Update (Sunday, 21 September 2009): I think I'll tackle this one though,

17. The commercials about my illness
The iconic silhouette of a marine with the inscription "it takes a warrior to ask for help". ... Chesh's bobblely headed blonde twentysomething running through untrammeled plains in a floral sundress. ... An asian woman declaring "I'm glad I failed (to kill myself)". ... A teenage girl in a darkened room staring out a rain-soaked window. ...

Now, I know people who fit these descriptions and have the associated illness (except the blonde), but I know also a lot of people with the illnesses who don't match these images. Yes, soldiers are one of the main demographics for PTSD (aka "shell shock", aka "battle fatigue") but do you know who the other main demographic is? Rape victims and children who've grown up in sexually abusive households. Yes, teenage women are one of the main demographics for depression, but men with depression are more likely to commit suicide.

These commercials are a disservice in many ways. By presenting the soldier and teenage girl they only reaffirm these stereotypes, continuing to marginalize and deny the experiences of victims of sexual assault/abuse and depressed men. And woah, talk about mixed messages! "Not only can't you deal with the stress, but you're a failure as a soldier 'cuz you can't even ask for help." "Yeah, look at you: the failure. You can't even off yourself properly." While I understand the marketing engine behind these punchy lines, for all that they grab the attention they undermine the message they're trying to send. Patronizing, mocking, and teasing are not ways to earn the trust of someone who is suffering. These slogans only serve to reenforce the silence and isolation of those they're trying to reach.

winterkoninkje: Shadowcrane (Default)

I'm sitting here, the last night before, and cooking dinner. It's funny how the before always comes a few days ahead of the end itself. Tonight is Lici's last night of work. It's about a week until the drive to Indiana.

I had some music on as I was finishing up some prepacking —books and such— and unintentionally, unexpectedly, came some songs with old memories. Old memories from other befores: CTY and Reed and the Plumtree. Isn't it strange how the memory of old nostalgia can lend a spirit of nostalgia to the present? It's no secret that I was never a fan of Bal'mer, but I did do a lot of growing here. Maybe I won't miss the place, but I will miss some of the folks and the simplicity of being tied to neither past nor future.

The last couple weeks have been nice. In addition to the Buffy/Angel, B5, and PS2 overload, [livejournal.com profile] misshepeshu and [livejournal.com profile] leensterama came out to visit so I took a couple trips to DC. I was reminded how not all the East Coast is like Baltimore, but I was also reminded how long it's been since I've lived in the District. DC was never really quite a home, but it was my escape-home for years before it grew into a home-in-transition for the couple years before moving to p-town and the Plumtree. It's not that things have changed so much as the friends I had then moved on to other cities and other lives. But Baltimore never was even a home-in-transition, it was only an in-transition. I came for a year, stayed for two, but never could settle into the rhythms and flows of the place.

I think "home" is never so much a place as it is a time, a moment, a feeling. We belie this with aphorisms on our inability to return there. We try to make the home into a place, but we can never return in time and so returning to the place once left can bring only sorrow. So too can we not hold time still, whence the solastalgia of remaining too long after the party has gone. We have words like mamihlapinatapai for the yearning and never taking, but what words are there for the never having and finally letting go?

winterkoninkje: Shadowcrane (Default)

Here's a quick update on my life as it stands. I seem to be building up a directory of abortive notes like this, so I'm typing this one in directly in hopes of actually posting it. Apologies for the lack of editing or, y'know, cohesion.

For those I haven't told yet, I got accepted to Indiana for a PhD in cognitive science (to be amended into a dual PhD in cogsci and computational linguistics), working with Mike Gasser and Sandra Kübler (along with Matthias Scheutz, most likely). The current plan is to move to Bloomington circa July 1st, with a previsit around June 17th to finalize leases and the like. That way I have some time to get settled and take a break before classes start. Now I need to find a place...

Employment-wise, the week before the previsit is the NIST eval for MT09. Which will be the last huzzah before signing off on my Joshua and GALE Rosetta work. Which means I have about a month to finish that, in tandem with the house hunting. One of the deliverables should be pretty easy to finish off, though it remains to explain to everyone how it works (yay monads!). Another I've done some mindcoding on, but don't have any actual code to show for; I have the unsettling prediction that Java isn't going to let me do things in as clean of a way as I'd like.

Research-wise, I've finished off my post-graduation Dyna involvement to buy time for other things. Jason still wants a meeting to discuss my involvement in the future, which is sensible. The research topics are interesting and'll probably influence my PL research for the next while, though I don't know how much of that will carry over to Dyna in the end. (And there's non-PL research I should be devoting more time to, methinks.) I'll miss working with [livejournal.com profile] qedragon, though we're planning to keep in touch.

Otherwise-wise, things are going a bit better now than they were. Tis still hard getting motivated, but the early summer days and the slow unwinding of obligations are doing some good. Lici says I tap the energy of my surroundings and that that's why I was in such higher spirits after my last visit to Bloomington. Considering how I go on about the dying of Baltimore et al, I can't help but think she's right. To that end, I've only a couple busy months left before I can bask in that relaxation once more.

Enough for now, work beckons once more. (And many thanks to [livejournal.com profile] altrus for Schinji Mix 2008.)

winterkoninkje: Shadowcrane (Default)

What ever happened to happiness, unblemished, unqualified? When did skepticism become the norm? Or is age the fading of our old questions, the forgetting of old uncertainties, and mitigation of our concerns. Has it always been this way, or is it our stories to ourselves which become faerie tales as we grow apart from them? Or is it merely once more the chill portent of that childhood legacy. Everyone says the wings are black, but they never remember how fuzzy the feathers, how cruelty can be soft. Cool means refreshing, and yet cold is just another word for numb.

The worst part of chronic depression is how it's always changing. If it were a static thing we could grow accustomed to it; acclimation is the natural course of the body and the mind. We heal what we can, and null the rest hoping that distance and decay will cure what fever and fortitude cannot. For a splinter, a severed limb, a love lost, this works as well as anything. But scorched earth tactics cannot defeat a parasite. Like any virus it evolves to survive.

Our bodies autonomically quarantine the infected loci, a basal response beneath conscious appreciation. In the early development of the disease, it eventually bursts through these walls in crippling waves. But such catastrophes can be damaging to the host, and in time it learns subtler methods of control. Even in its maturer forms, symptomatic threads are eventually uncovered by the mind's eye. Once higher consciousness notices, however, it soon finds that the majority of its support has been damaged or sacrificed to the cause. The synthetic forms of thought are the most wrecked, for they are the most powerful adversary to depression, and also the most alike with the disease and so its best fuel. What remains is but an analytic shell, powerful struts to keep higher consciousness suspended above the battlefield, but the weakest weapon to turn against the now rampant foe.

Long-time veteran of these wars it's hard to remain objective. Each time we hope, naïvely —knowingly naïvely—, that this time will be the last. Or that the next time we'll get to wage our skill against new recruits, inexperienced youths, on the other side. We pray to only have to kill children, but we inevitably murder men. And the next time is more of the same: always different, always subtler. Against such an opponent the only alternative to naïveté is paranoia. But what they don't tell in the textbooks and health classes is that these two are of the same coin, two names for the same denial, the same inability to let go of the fingers at your throat.

winterkoninkje: Shadowcrane (Default)

At our weekendly breakfast outing I was telling Lici how I'm not so fond of christmas music, or at least not anything written in the last century. Too many of the tunes and carols are tastelessly saccharine. (Abney Park's Dark Christmas album is more to my tastes: Carol of the Bells, etc. (Yes yes, the carol is just under a century old. Thbbt.))

The Wild Colonials have a song which does hold a special place in my heart though. This time of year many folks go about their capitalist extravaganza and familial gatherings with great enthusiasm, but there are many people for whom it is a trying season. Contrary to popular belief suicide is not much more common than at other times of the year. But suicide is not the only metric of well-being. Many people do not have the finances to support Giftmas, especially with the economy as it is. Many cannot afford heat for their homes. Many suffer from seasonal affective disorder. Many do not have families to turn to because they were kicked out for being queer. Many people have lost loved ones and will find empty chairs at their tables this year. Too often the season of charity is victim to the most mindless acts of brutality.

Yesterday I learned that my grandmother had passed away sunday evening. She was 73. At the end of June my younger-elder sister died at 30 years, leaving my 8 year old niece. Last August my cousin died just as young. His fiancee, a nurse, was with him. All of them sudden, all of them unexpected. In a year and a half I've earned the right to say that I have a strong family history of heart attacks.

Try to remember that the season is not about gifts. And it's not about religion either. Things and obligations only feed the void within. The season is about people, about humanity and empathy. It is a reminder to live mindfully, to cherish, to forgive, to remember.

winterkoninkje: Shadowcrane (Default)

Last night I went to a farewell dinner for Micha, who is heading back to Germany after a couple months at CLSP. About a dozen of us had delicious Ethiopian, and half hung around for drinks afterwards. Both establishments were quite nice, reminding me I should hang out in Mt Vernon more often. Micha's specialty is in "Deep MT", a variety of machine translation which makes use of linguistic factors rather than being purely statistical. Or to wit: MT done right. So there was some self-selection involved but the company was, as always, what made the night.

Three of the folks who stuck around for drinks were the first years at CLSP: two from CS who share my MT seminar, and one from ECE who seemed more grounded than most ;) Add to that Micha, myself, and one of the old-timers. It's amazing what people'll say once you get them off campus, or once you get a few drinks in 'em. On campus it's all business all the time. Which is fitting, it's a job afterall; but it does leave things rather dreary. And somehow it seems to lead to never really knowing what other folks are working on, or what they're interested in. It's nice to see the human side of people. It's also nice to see the business side of the business. But no, I need more humans in my life.

At Brewers Art I spent most of my time talking with A. She was sitting next to me and I could hear her, two excellent points in her favor. At some point we got onto that topic: what we're really interested in. I said I just finished my degree and was sticking around for a year working on GALE, "so that's why you're always so together at MT seminar," and I'm working on PhD apps for next year. The follow on question: the wheres and whys. I began to give the other face of my last rant, a presentation I've been polishing for those selfsame apps. I'm interested in morphology and its interfaces with syntax, semantics, and phonology; and I think we need to be working on linguistically-aware tools, since SMT's ignorance of morphosyntax is one of its principal failures (a point Micha demonstrated fabulously in his seminar last friday); and I think we need to be working on languages with few resources, for political reasons and also because tying ourselves to megacorpora means we will never break away from the need to invest millions to get enough training data to simulate knowledge, badly.

Shortly into my rant she said, "that's my soapbox!" For her undergrad thesis she worked on computational typology: measuring the distances between languages in typological space. The sort of work that would be essential for L3 to use a known system for translating between two languages to bootstrap translations between similar languages. When I told her the places I was thinking of heading she was surprised there were people working on our domain; she'd spent so long justifying this empirical-yet-linguistic approach, and I too know how hard it can be to convince the devout statisticians or the non-computationalists. Typology, more even than morphology, is a domain that gets a passing mention in undergrad years and yet never sees the light of day in modern research.

For her part she tried convincing me I should stick around CLSP, to join her in the battle. A tempting thought, though I worry it may be more uphill a battle than at the schools I've been thinking of. Though maybe it's worth another thought. All in all great food, great beer, great discussions, and intellectual vindication. What more could you ask for in a night?

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