copyright 2001, D. Glenn Arthur Jr.
[What's new at this site] Last updated 2000-05-xx.

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Thoughts and Musings

This page is a collection of observations, mini-essays, thoughts on various topics, and musings that don't seem to fit anyplace else.

3 August 2000: A Moment of Insight

(posted May 2001, written August 2000)

You know how there are some people who seem to feed on other people's pain? There are times I feed on other people's feelings of wonder. I find it very enjoyable and satisfying to be there at that moment when someone first catches sight of Pennsic at dusk from the top of Runestone Hill or Brewer's Road. I feel all bubbly inside watching someone new to performing as they suddenly realize that they are part of the magic now. All tingly watching someone being utterly fascinated by some ultra-nifty natural phenomenon. Gushy inside sharing with someone their moment of, "I never imagined it would be like this!", or even better, when it's, "Oh my God, I've dreamed of this but never knew I'd experience it!".

It's nice to share neat experiences with people and to introduce them to things that will thrill them, but I'm not just doing it to be nice. I'm doing it because it feels SO DAMNED GOOD to be there when they experience it. I get to feel that "first time" thrill all over again through them. I get to watch their body language and listen to their breathing as they're filled with the passion of the moment. I love it. (Have you ever noticed how sexy women can be when they're filled with a joyous passion, even if what they're feeling at the moment isn't sexual at all?)

And if I'm the one who's brought them there, well I guess I feel the thrill I get from playing top in BDSM as well.

(I sometimes feel "top thrill" when I'm performing, too. I've said before that a performer almost has to be a switch -- you get up there and exhibitionistically make yourself extremely vulnerable, but then you take control of the audience's experience and steer their evening.)

There are other feelings that feed me ... that "aha!" moment in a teacher/student relationship, for example; or someone's utter glee when I finally manage to find them the perfect gift (defined as the one that elicits that reaction); their enthusiasm for a new project or something new they've learned; their extreme reaction to a perfectly timed joke or pun.

(And yes, sexual arousal feeds me, as do the orgasms of my partners. But that particular bit isn't a new insight -- I've been admitting that to myself and others for years. In fact, it has a lot to do with my realizing I was a switch. I used to think I was a sub who sometimes "played top" just because my partners requested it -- often to "teach them how it's done". Once I realized I was seriously getting off on it, I realized I was a switch.)

(And, of course, introducing a partner to something new sexually and getting to feed on her arousal and her sense of wonder and amazement at the same time, oh that is priceless!)

Even serenity and tranquility are good to be around -- there's a different kind of satisfaction in sharing such moments with someone.

So yeah, I guess I'm someone who feeds on the emotions of others. Just not their pain. Pain tastes bad and makes me want to find a way to make it better. And wonder ... I think wonder and awe are the ones that taste the best.

23 September 1998: How It Got So Big

Every so often I get mail from someone wondering how I've managed to put together such an extensive web site despite the physical limitations on me from my fibromyalgia. Either they wonder, "Are you sure you're disabled?" or they tell me I must be pretty impressive to manage this despite my disability. The answer, however, is pretty simple: I've been working on my web site since early 1996 (and the largest single piece, the bio I posted to alt.transgendered, was written in 1993). Looked at as the product of a couple years of intermittent work, I'm not sure the size of my site is all that amazing. (Though if you feel like telling me it's amazingly well-done, I won't mind.)

Of course when a new reader surfs to one of my pages and then explores the links to the rest of my site, all they see is what is, instantly. There's no real clue to how long it took me to do it unless you keep note of all the copyright notices. And if it really looks that much like a cohesive whole rather than a slowly accreted conglomeration, then I guess I can feel good about the design and style. :-) I have put a lot of effort into this; I've just done so in small pieces.

It also helps that I work relatively quickly. Not as quickly as I did before the fibromyalgia made its impact on my life, but enough to compensate a little for how briefly I can work. I can't type very long, for example, but the keystrokes come out at a pretty good clip while I can. (This entry, just to give you an idea, took me 40 minutes to write, look things up for (including summing up the sizes of all my .html and .txt files), revise, change my mind about, and rewrite. It's 56 lines of HTML source. Tack on a couple more minutes to edit whatsnew.html and run my "upload changes" script, which I'll do later.) I often have difficulty staying focussed (which is one of the reasons I work more slowly than I used to, alas), but I can edit pages offline, leave off in the middle of writing something, and come back to it when I'm a little more together. You, the reader, don't see that a page -- or a paragraph -- was edited in three sessions over the course of a week. It helps a lot that working on my own pages I have no deadlines. Sometimes I'll throw several changes on in a week, and other times I'll go a couple months without adding anything.

So yes, there's a lot here -- about a megabyte of HTML and text, probably a few 40-hour weeks of work -- but it's taken me nearly two years to do it.

29 March 1998: A Prayer

My Lord, many years ago I used to pray to You to make the world into the kind of place where I could wear the clothes I so longed to be able to wear, to dress as I see myself, not as society expected me to dress. Instead of changing the world for me, Lord, You changed me. You helped me to find the courage to be myself despite the expectations of the people around me, and despite my fears of their reactions, their mocking. You helped me to realize that I could dress the way I now do, that I did not need "permission" from the rest of the world. And, Lord, by doing so You enabled me to start changing the world myself, a few people at a time, a neighbourhood at a time, simply by being "out", and visible, and visibly unafraid and unashamed.

Father, since that time I have been patient -- even pleased -- seeing the slow, slow change in the attitudes around me, how gradually fewer people seem to need to shout hateful things and more people smile and encourage me. There are still people who react with shock when they see me, and some who laugh or feel the need to make loud comments, especially when school's out, but each year they seem just a tiny bit fewer, and I have grown a thick skin, learning to ignore most of the jerks without feeling any sting from their words. And each year those who simply smile, or who give me compliments or encouragement, seem to number a few more. I have watched the changes and thought to myself, "If enough other people like me are doing what I am doing as well, in their own corners of the world, then perhaps my great-great grandchildren, if any of them turn out to be transgendered like me, they won't have to deal with what I did growing up, or even what I have to deal with now. We are making progress."

Lord, for these many years I have been, and remain, grateful for that gift -- that courage -- that You gave me, and I have been content with it. My prayers lately have been about other things. But now I ask Your help again. While I am able to deal with the world as it is, over and over again Jane is upset and hurt by the the comments some people still feel they need to make. She's upset whenever anybody says something insulting or disrespectful to me, or when they act as though I'm some sort of terrifying apparition. Lord, when I was afraid to show myself in public, I asked You to change the world and You changed me instead, and I started changing the world slowly. Now I'm wishing that the world were changing more quickly, for Jane's sake, and for my sake because I like being with her and don't want every outing to be so trying for her. I'm tempted to ask You again to change the world for me, but instead I simply ask for Your help, in whatever form will work, be it changing the world or teaching Jane and me how to deal with it. Lord, I wish people didn't feel the need to make rude and hurtful comments and upset my darling so.

I seek Your help, Lord. Amen.

13 October 1997: Picking Up Accents

I'm not the first to comment about this, nor shall I be the last, but have ye noticed, mon, how turribly easy 'tis to pick oop some accents quite by accident? It's not as though I'm especially talented at mimicing accents, either. Oh, I've got some skill at it, but not enough to brag about. So when I'm talking to a Scotsman, it's difficult not to start copying his accent ... but I don't copy it well, alas. It's quite unintentional, but I always fear the person to whom I'm speaking will think I'm mocking him or her.

11 September 1997: Death Of A Kitten

This isn't news; it's something that happened about seventeen years ago. But it's an image that has stayed with me since then, and a recent discussion of haiku on a mailing list inspired me to actually write about it.

It happened at a party, and quite by accident. While folks were twirling around and around under a strobelight to music, someone lost her balance and fell. Unfortunately, there were kittens in the room who hadn't learned yet to hide under things when humans start acting rowdy ... and she landed on top of one of the kittens. At first the kitten looked unharmed, merely stunned. Then he started acting funny as we watched, fascinated and amused, with the strobelights still flashing.

Unfortunately it soon became clear that the poor creature was not unharmed, and a moment later it was obvious it was dying. Killed the festive mood of the party right quick. First time I'd ever really watched something die. It's funny how intriguing and engrossing a well-written piece of horror fiction can be, when a real-life horror as small as the accidental death of a kitten can be so unpleasant.

Anyhow, here's my first attempt at writing haiku:

Kitten lies dying
On its side under strobelight
Running while we watch

31 December 1996: On The Eve Of The New (Gregorian) Year

As I was on my way home from a doctor's appointment and some errands today, I thought about stopping into a liquor store for some mead or hard cider. I decided against it because I figured there'd be long lines (I made the mistake of visiting the grocery store) and I was already carrying more than enough (walking/bus). So I got to thinking about the idea of a celebratory drink (small) to celebrate the new year.

It's funny, how much of a fuss we make about such an arbitrary day. Actually, I celebrate the year's-start of more than one calendar. I celebrate the older holiday Samhain (the ancient Celtic new year) when most folks are celebrating Hallowe'en. And I try (and usually miss it, alas) to wish my Jewish friends well on their new year.

Anyhow, I decided that I didn't really need alcohol to celebrate tonight (yeah yeah, so that decision's not a big surprise to folks who know me). But when I got home, I thought about what I'd bought earlier. Some Lindt chocolate (I eat a steady maintenance dose of Hersheys -- Lindt and other nicer brands are for pleasure), and some halloumi.

Halloumi is a Greek cheese (though you can find brands of it made other places) that was an important part of my childhood. My mother is Greek Cypriot (that is to say, she's from the island of Cyprus), and relatives used to bring halloumi with them when they visited. It was (and is) my favourite cheese and a real treat. One of my ex-girlfriends used to refer to it as "squeaky cheese" because it does squeak a bit when you bite or chew it. Anyhow, not only did I find proper Greek halloumi, I found Cypriot halloumi. It's made of sheep's milk, is very salty, and has mint in it. Yum!

So my lunch was spanakopita (a Greek spinach pastry), and my late-afternoon snack today was halloumi and decaf Earl Grey tea followed by some Lindt chocolate.

Much as I like mead, or pleasant as a tall glass of hard cider sipped slowly would have been, I think I managed to remember traditions (or at least fond bits of childhood) and pamper myself a bit for the Gregorian new year's eve pretty well without either of those.

So to all of you reading this anywhere near the time I'm writing it, Happy New Year, and may the year of Our Lord one thousand, nine hundred and ninety seven (if you're Christian and don't care that our calendar is probably wrong by four to six years if you want to count from the birth of the Christ) or the year 1,997 of the "Common Era" (if you're just stuck going along with this calendar because we Christians have managed to inflict it upon so much of the rest of the world) bring you health, happiness, and good fortune.

23 December 1996: Cognitive Dissonance

The next time someone asks me to explain what cognitive dissonance is, I shall have the perfect example: popcorn-flavoured jelly beans. (They exist. Jelly Belly brand.) Yummy, but very disturbing. After several, each one still struck me as being utterly bizarre. I'll have to get more.

22 December 1996: Fantasy General

One of my housemates brought home a computer game that I've been playing much more than I should, given the pain in my wrists. It's called Fantasy General, and it's a wargame in the Avalon Hill tradition brought to new life and suitably streamlined as a computer game on CD-ROM. Instead of jeeps and tanks, your pieces are legionaires, catapults, dragons, centaurs, elves riding wolves, and the like. It's a very good game, alas, and would be even without the delightful icons, artistic full-screen sketches that can be called up on demand, and cute animations. If it weren't so good a game, then I wouldn't be wasting so much time (and wrist pain) on it.

Combat results are reported in deaths and wounds received by each unit. There's a screen you can call up that shows how many of each type of unit (infantry, cavalry, "sky warriors", etc.) has been lost (killed or surrendered) on each side during the current battle and during the whole campaign so far, but there's something missing from that running score screen. It shows how many units have been lost, but not how many individual soldiers (or monsters, or magical beasts) have been killed.

I want to know the virtual body count. I want to know how many glorious volunteers to the cause of freedom I have sent to their graves as their commander. I want to know how many widows and orphans are being left behind to savour the bittersweet results of my liberation of the five continents of Aer from the iron grip of the evil Shadowlord. I wouldn't mind knowing how much of the Council Of Five's gold I've spent along the way, as well.

I'm starting my push across the fourth continent now. Maybe I should try to save up some gold by the end of the campaign so my character (I'm playing a warlord named Cais right now) can give pensions to the widows and orphans who'll be strugling to get by somewhere in the bowels of my housemate's computer. Assuming I win, of course.

10 December 1996: "Wish Lists"

Wouldn't it be awfully convenient if your friends and family put Birthday/Kwanzaa/Christmas/Yule/Chanukah/etc. gift ideas on their web pages or .plan files, so that if you were having trouble thinking of what to get someone, you could just finger them or look at their web page? The thing is, the first few people who do this run the risk of looking like it's a greedy "gimme-list". Once it catches on, however, it could be a real boon to would-be gift *givers*. I thought about putting up such a list for myself, but for the past few years my finances have precluded my getting gifts for most of the people I'd like to -- I've pared the list down to housemates, immediate family and in-laws, and my SO -- so I've felt funny about throwing out suggestions to the rest of my friends. Receiving a gift shouldn't make me feel obligated to give the giver a gift, or guilty that I didn't -- it's a gift, not a trade, after all -- but nonetheless I feel just a bit uncomfortable. Not that I don't appreciate surprises; just that I don't want to appear stingy or ungrateful. So I haven't tried to set a trend here, but every so often I think about the fact that more than a third of the folks on my Christmas list are on the net and wish that more clues were left around. Oh, ideally I'd be in such constant contact with my family that I'd know enough about what's going on in their lives, what hobbies they're exploring, etc., that I'd just *know* what to get them. Unfortunately I'm reduced to either guessing, begging my mother to let me know what my siblings and their partners want, or dealing with the uncomfortable direct question (and leaving them to try to guess what's reasonable to mention to me cost-wise, and not having much chance to surprise them -- and I really like surprising people). Even with a posted wishlist, the recipient won't know who's getting them what from the list, and there'll be enough clues in there for me to come up with a surprise as well.

Okay, almost a year after I wrote that, I've gone ahead and added a link to my wishlist.

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