Monday, January 31, 2011

Housekeeping: New Blog!

For those who missed it on Facebook and Twitter, I've created a new blog.  I wanted to separate out my endo and fertility-related posts to their own place, because I understand some people might not want to read them for whatever reason.  I also want to try to connect a bit more with the endo community.  My new blog is quite personal and talks about periods and fertility and surgery and that kind of thing, so don't head over there if you don't want, I understand.  It's more therapy for me than anything else.

Hereafter, I won't be discussing my medical condition on this blog.  So, if you do want to read about it, you'll have to head over to the new one!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Farmboy Heroes; or, Why we need more Bruce Waynes and less Peter Parkers

Even though I read a lot, and have mentioned before that enjoying reading is one of my defining characteristics, I don't actually discuss it that much here.  I'm not sure why.  Partly it's because I don't want to commit to telling you what I'm reading all the time because then if I have a slump it gets boring (this is also why I don't have a separate reading blog).  Partly it's because I find reading quite personal and figure y'all (I've been reading too many USian blogs!) just wouldn't be that interested.  But I did want to discuss something that's been on my mind a lot recently, thanks to what I'm reading at the moment.

I read a lot of fantasy: it's the main genre I read.  I started reading fantasy when I was about 18, with David Eddings.  Shortly after I started getting into the genre, I was flicking through a magazine when I saw an ad for A Clash of Kings, by George R. R. Martin.  It was billed as the second book in a trilogy to rival The Lord of the Rings (yes, I know it's just one book and not a trilogy), and I thought it sounded good.  So I went out and bought the first book, A Game of Thrones.  I looked forward to what I thought was the concluding book in the "trilogy", A Storm of Swords, and devoured it when it came out.  When I got to the end, I thought, "Hang on a minute!  This can't possibly be the end of the trilogy!" (long-term fantasy readers are probably laughing at me about now).  I got online and discovered the series, A Song of Ice and Fire, had been expanded to four books.  The books started coming more slowly.  The series got expanded again.  As it stands now, there are four books out, with seven planned.

Please understand that I'm not criticising Mr Martin.  I love his work and his characters and am happy to wait as long as it takes to get the complete series.  This is all a round-about lead-up to why it took me so long to read The Sword of Truth series, by Terry Goodkind, and The Wheel of Time series, by Robert Jordan.  Here's the thing: many people think that you can't call yourself a fantasy fan if you haven't read these two series.  But I was so heartbroken after discovering a series I loved and then finding it wasn't finished that I didn't want to start two other series that were still in production.  So I delayed reading The Sword of Truth until the publication date for the final book was announced.  With The Wheel of Time...

I first tried reading this series in between A Song of Ice and Fire novels.  I didn't even finish the first chapter of The Eye of the World.  I found it so very boring.  After that, I kept using the excuse that I would wait until Jordan had finished the whole thing.  Unfortunately, Robert Jordan died in 2007 with the series still incomplete.  At that point, I thought I may as well read it, seeing as the series was surely done for.  I got halfway through book nine, Winter's Heart, before I got bored again, got distracted by something else, and gave up.  However, another author (Brandon Sanderson) has taken up the series from Jordan and has written two more books.  With one more to come in the next year, I figured it was time to start the series again.

(My memory for books is annoying: I can remember just enough that as I re-read, I remember things just before they happen...but not enough to just pick up the next book in the series if it's been a couple of years since the last one (this is why I have re-read the Harry Potter series so many times - the only reason, really!).  So I really did have to go back to the start of the series and start all over again.)

Lots of things annoy me about the Wheel of Time series - unnecessary detail, too much repetition, poor character development, lack of strong female characters, clichéd dialogue...But I do enjoy the story.  One of my biggest problems is that I simply don't care about the characters.  They're not developed, they're not sympathetic, they're just caricatures.  I can't love a series that doesn't make me cry - this is why I love Harry Potter and A Song of Ice and Fire and struggle with The Sword of Truth and The Wheel of Time

Anyway, the biggest issue I have with The Wheel of Time is that I'm simply sick of farmboy heroes.  They're a fantasy staple, and crop up everywhere.  Let me define what I mean: a farmboy hero is of the unlikely hero variety.  He (heroes are almost invariably "he", but that's a whole other blog post) is usually from a small, sleepy village.  He grew up on a farm.  He never thought he was anyone special, or did anything remarkable, or had outlandish hopes and dreams.  He probably never travelled far from his village, or met anyone who had (except for one strange old man who everyone thinks is "crazy" - again, a whole other blog post...).  And then the story begins.  There's plenty of examples: Bilbo and Frodo from The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings; Garion from The Belgariad and The Malloreon; Richard from The Sword of Truth...And Rand, from The Wheel of Time.

NOTE: Spoilers to follow...

Rand meets all of the above farmboy hero criteria.  When we first meet him, he's trudging through the forest with his father from his isolated farmstead home to the closest little sleepy village.  By the end of just the second book in the series, he's become an amazing swordsman (he was already an amazing archer), and been declared the Dragon Reborn, the prophesied hero who is going to fight the big evil guy and save the world.  Part of the explanation for this amazing transformation is that, as the Dragon Reborn, he has magically inherited some of the skills of the first Dragon (who lived a long time ago).  I can kind of buy that, I suppose.  But all his childhood friends also magically become super-skilled in various fields - two other boys, and two girls, from the same sleepy village.  This is where the explanation, to me, breaks down - without going into too much detail, basically, Rand is so strong and so important that people around him become strong and important also (well, the boys do - the girls less so, and only through their relation to the boys (I just realised this, and this is tied into the "lack of strong female characters" mentioned above)).

My point ("finally," I hear you all breathe, with a sigh of relief) is that this happens all the time.  The hero can't be a hero if he's just a farmboy!  So he has to get super-powers somehow, and the explanation is often flimsy.  Bilbo and Frodo not so much, but the others mentioned above all certainly do.  Even Harry Potter does!  This supposedly makes the hero more of a relatable everyman, but really all it does is make him less believable, I think.  Sometimes, this can be pulled off, but usually, it creates plot-holes and makes it hard for the reader to keep up their suspension of disbelief.  A hero that starts out a hero, or already has hero training, like Sparhawk (another David Eddings character) or Jaime (from A Song of Ice and Fire), is more realistic to me.  Most heroes of this variety also have a bit of a badboy streak, which certainly helps with their appeal.

To relate this to characters that more of my readers might understand...This is why we need more Bruce Waynes and less Peter Parkers.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Disaster Preparation

Considering that I live in a pretty disastrous country and tend to freak out whenever I'm not in control, the fact that I don't have any kind of disaster kit seems pretty out of character.  I guess I was always in denial about the dangers.

The thing is, Southeast Queensland is a fairly high-risk area: storms, floods, bushfires, and tsunamis are all a very real risk of living here.  I'm far enough inland that a tsunami shouldn't be a problem for my home, but everything else is certainly a possibility.

Some of you are probably aware that there is severe flooding in several parts of Australia at the moment, particularly in Southeast Queensland.  The ABC site has an emergency page up now.  The Gold Coast is still considered fairly safe, but, well, Toowoomba didn't get any warning at all.  If the Hinze Dam overflows or breaks or something, we're close enough to the Nerang River that we would almost definitely be flooded.  As it is, we have a stormwater drain that runs through the park directly behind our house.  We're up on a rise, but we've seen it fairly far up the rise before, and it's certainly possible (however unlikely) that it could reach our house.

Here is a photo of the park this morning:

This is looking directly over our back fence (just visible across the bottom of the picture). The slope down to the stormwater is actually quite a bit steeper than it appears in this pic.  I would say we're a good 2 metres above the water level in this picture.

More photos and discussion after the jump!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

OOTD: Sunshine Safari

The weather here on the Gold Coast has cleared up enough that we're getting entire days with no rain!  Unfortunately that means it's also quite hot and humid.  But at least I can wear cute shoes and shorts without worrying about the rain!

I'd been looking for some more shorts that are nice enough for me to wear to work for a while, because it really is too hot to wear jeans, but I can't wear skirts every day because it's too uncomfortable.  My friend, the always-fabulous Fat Heffalump, directed me to the Autograph sale, so I dropped in there when I was in Robina on Monday.  I snaffled 2 pairs of shorts for work, 1 pair of more casual shorts, 1 pair of board shorts, and a long crinkle skirt for $50 total!  I was very happy.

Today I decided to go for an all neutral colour palette which reminded me a bit of safari colours:

Cami: Torrid
Shorts: Autograph
Clogs: Wittner

Oh, would you look at that?  It seems I bought another pair of clogs from Wittner!  I saw these on the lovely Fashion Hayley and wanted them so bad.  But I restrained myself until I could get them super-cheap, then snapped them up!

Pretty cute, huh?

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Year's ReVolution

So last night I was going to post a 2010 wrap-up like plenty of other bloggers.  But I decided not to, for two reasons: 1) I didn't want to participate in the cliché; and 2) I want to focus on the future, not dwell on the past.  So, no 2010 wrap-up for me.

I'm also not making a New Year's Resolution, exactly.  This time of year, so many people talk about how "bad" they were over Christmas, how they "overindulged", and thus, there is a proliferation of New Year's Resolutions to lose weight.  This is, to me, harmful and wrong, and reinforces the weight-loss culture we are all exposed to every day.  There is not a single study that proves that long-term weightloss is possible and sustainable in ANY form for a significant number of people.  The majority of people who do lose weight gain it all back and more, and this weight-cycling is harmful in many ways.

So, instead of a New Year's Resolution that's impossible to keep, I'm participating in the New Year's ReVolution.  You can see the resource page here, and the Facebook Event page here.  As usual, Fat Heffalump also has a fabulous post about this topic.  Even if you don't buy in to the whole Health at Every Size (HAES) philosophy, the message I hope everyone takes away from this is to love yourselves and your bodies, because you are deserving of that love.

Each day in January, I will be trying to do something from each of these categories:

  1. Joyful movement: moving my body for the joy, the pleasure of it, instead of treating it as a chore
  2. Intuitive eating: listening to what my body wants and eating accordingly - taking note of my hunger and satiety signals
  3. Self-care: taking a few moments to do something for myself each day
  4. Self-esteem: boosting my self-esteem through my thoughts and actions
  5. Connecting with others: taking time to interact with and really connect with other people, through a smile or a conversation
I'm hoping that if I can do these things each day through January, they will become habits and second nature.  Some of these things I do already, on most days, others need a lot more work.

I want to stress that the point of this exercise is health - physical, mental, spiritual - and not weightloss.  I don't weigh myself any more and really don't care what my weight is and whether it goes up or down.  I know that is a radical concept to many people, but it's true - I have no idea how much I weigh right now and don't care.

Have you set yourself a weightloss-related New Year's Resolution? Imagine letting go of all that stress, and just loving yourself.  What have you got to lose?