the aging of Alanna

by dichroic in daily updates

Tamora Pierce’s first book, Alanna, was published in 1983 – the year before I started college at Pierce’s own alma mater. This explains why I never read her books at the proper age, why they’re not part of my formative canon as they are for so many younger fantasy readers, and why I’m just getting around to them now.

I wonder whether they will fill that role for budding fantasy readers today, because this, Pierce’s first series, hasn’t aged that well. I read her Circle series a few years back and don’t remember the same issues, so probably these are mostly first-book (or at least first-series) writer issues. First, I recognize this as the source of some of those tropes Diana Wynne Jones’ Tough Guide to Fantasyland land and similar writings are making fun of – the violet eyes, for instance. Alanna is a bit of a Mary Sue, too, in the way everyone loves her – in some cases, instantly. Sir Myles affection for Alanna feels a little creepy to me and I was honestly relieved when the Mother Goddess herself told Alanna “He only wants to be your father”.

There’s the gender thing. Even though the whole premise of the book is about Alanna being a girl set on becoming a knight, the gender stereotypes are reinforced heavily and often. “Alanna realized that boys didn’t understand girls any better than girls understood boys” – well, it’s understandable if her fellow squires and pages, having lived in an almost exclusively male world for years, don’t understand girls and view them as a thing apart, but I would hope Alanna is comfortable with boys by that point! The rigid gender roles seem a little odd in a country that has had warrior maidens in the past but gender perceptions have varied enough through Earth’s history, and have varied rapidly enough, that I think that bit is realistic.

And then there’s the way a couple of male characters, sympathetic ones, forcibly kiss Alanna after she’s told them no, and this is presented as just peachy fine – in fact, she learns to like it. And she’s told, again by the Goddess, that wanting to avoid entangling relationships due to her career goals means she’s afraid of love and she needs to get over it.

The important determination for if the book is dated, of couse, isn’t whether those things bug me but if they’d bug a 12-year-old. I think some of them might, though not as much as they bother me. In reverse order: the forcible kissing would not have bothered me at all when I was 12 back in 1979 – I know, because sex enforced through the the dragon or fire lizard links in the Pern books didn’t phase me. I think awareness has risen enough that it might be a problem for a kid now. Same for the suspicions of Sir Myles, and probably for the gender-difference reinforcement – then again, the last time someone told me men and women are inherently different was about half an hour ago, literally.

As for the other items… common tropes are not a problem to anyone who is coming to them freshly, and I think the way everyone loves Alanna would have felt like wish-fulfillment to be as a reader. (Wish fulfillment is what you call a Mary Sue when you aren’t being critical! After all, there’s a reason there are so many of them. Overall, I think I’d have loved the series, even if I had a couple nits to pick.

to drive or to Pride?

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For some reason my computer doesn’t want to access this site right now. Phone typing is slow. Oh well.

Ted heads off to the Netherlands today so I’m on my own for the weekend. I’m dithering over whether to go to the lake house or stay home and attend Portland Pride on Sunday. Either way I’d be doing something – either the long solo drive or dealing with the heat and crowds at Pride.

Consideration for the house: if I can leave work at noon, I’d need to go home change, pack clothes and food and put out extra food and water, for the cats, (say, half an hour), get gas, and drive down. It would be 2.5 or maybe even over 3 hours with Friday afternoon traffic. It would be exciting to go – they’ve gotten the siding on, exterior painting started, insulation being put in. If all goes well, they will be dry-walling next week. It might be useful if I can take photos of the wiring before they cover it, though it all the insulation is in it might be too late already. I’ve been more comfortable driving on local highways lately and it would be good for me to do a bit more distance driving, even if it still makes me uncomfortable. And I can row, or kayak or both. Also, we forgot to put up the barriers against geese last time we left!

Arguing against the solo road trip, we’ll be there next weekend anyway, and the weekend after (and all July 4 week) so I would just be seeing this all a week later (except the wiring won’t be visible). Also, getting my boat out is not that easy, since it’s sitting in front of the house and I’d have to take it all the way around, without hitting a tree on the way. And I’d be the one stuck washing goose poop off the dock, all on my own. The other big thing is that I haven’t planned meals, though I do have enough food, and most of all, it would mean I’d be pretty much all alone all weekend. If the drive down sucks and is anxiety making, I’d still have to drive back, with no other options.

Consideration for going to Pride: it should be fun. I can offer support for people I want to support. I can even be part of it instead of just a spectator: I can march in the parade with my company’s contingent. The weather is supposed to be perfect – sunny and 81F. I’ve never been to Pride, or much of any activist parade, and I feel like kind of a slacker.

Against it: not going to the house. Dealing with what might be overwhelming crowds and the inevitable lack of enough toilets. It might still be uncomfortably hot if the forecast isn’t right – it hit the high 90s a few days ago. Also, as a cishet ally, is it better to go and show support, or to stay away and leave the LGBTQ+ community to celebrate on its own? (And yes, I totally am making this decision all about me, but in my head and in my blog I think that’s reasonable. If I go to the parade, I will not expect cookies, I promise – or rather, I kind of will, at least in my own head, for stepping out of my own comfort zone re crowds etc, but not because it’s Pride specifically.)

I don’t know, but I have about 2 hours to decide.

Remodeling progress

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We we’re at the lake house this weekend but not last, so it’s been two weeks since we’ve seen the place. We have been talking to the contractors, though. The bad news is, there was a miscommunication with the garage door people, and their wood-fronted door is a normal overhead one after all, not a roll-up. (From what I;ve seen, this was entirely poor communication on the side of the garage door company, not our contractors. So we’re back to having a plain white metal door. It was important to us not to have the rails of an overhead door – it cuts into the boat rack storage area.

But they’re made a ton of progress; the ground floor has walls now, and the second floor is framed in, with the ceiling trusses up. The windows have arrived, and the old roof has been removed, over the whole house (the need to replace the roof and fix some trim was one of the concerns driving the timing of this whole effort).

The thing that amazes me most is, pretty much all of this has been done by two guys. I suspect progress will actually slow down when the get to the painting (indoor and outdoor), cabinetry and countertops, and they have to bring in specialty crews.

Notes on attempting to KonMari my clothing

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1. When I can’t figure out if something “sparks joy”, it can be more helpful to ask myself if I enjoy wearing it – or even, in some cases, if I enjoy owning it (e.g. my 15-million-meter t-shirt from Concept 2.) And then there’s my Intel volunteer shirt, where I don’t like wearing the shirt at all, but I like the things I get to do while wearing it, like singing in a choir performance.
2. My dresser drawers are quite long; shirts folded and stored vertically work much better in shorter rows from front to back thanlonger rows from side to side – easier to fill one whole row and leave another open for all the shirts I’m putting in the wash.
3. Speaking of which, wow it’s hard to get antiperspirant out of clothing (which is why I have so many otherwise clean shirts that need to be washed again). It’s hard to get off skin too; maybe I should just give up and switch to deodorant. They really need to invent a formula that doesn’t dissolve in sweat but dissolves instantly in soapy water.
4. Kondo’s method of thanking things for their service is surprisingly helpful when trying to get rid of, say, the alpaca cape I bought in Ecuador but never wore, or stuff that reminds me of living abroad when I bought it but that I don’t wear anymore due to change in style, size or lifestyle. I’m even giving up the purple skirt I knitted that’s a bit tight – though not the first cadre I ever knitted. I can’t give that away because I’d want to scavenge the buttons. Seems wrong to donate it without those and I’m too lazy to sew on less nice buttons. On the other hand, I don’t want to frog it and save the yarn, because if I liked how that yarn knitted up I would wear the sweater more 8n the first place!
5. This may be sacrilege, but I threw out a sweater made of Wollemeise. It had a hole, so possibly moths. Also, that yarn has beautiful colors, but it feels like string both while knitting and while wearing. I like the lines of the sweater but the neck never draped right and I didn’t like the fabric – I’m not a fan of reverse stockinette.
6. I do love sweaters, though. According to Kondo you are not supposed to have to rotate clothing seasonally, but I still have too many sweaters to keep both winter and summer ones accessible. What can I say, they do spark joy! But now I have one vacuum bag instead of 4.
7. My closet still doesn’t look minimal at all – but I’m giving away 8 bags of stuff! (One is still waiting for stuff I’m laundering.)
8. I will never ever ever do this with my books.

old stuff, new eyes

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It is boggling my mind to realize I was blogging and uploading poems online nearly 20 years ago now. I’ve just figured out how to log into my old old Moveable Type blog (unfortunately it was long ago hacked and I can’t figure out how to get rid of the ad page that shows up on its main page, but the individual entries show up OK).

It’s also mind-boggling how much the world has changed in those almost-20 years. I linked to a poem from 2002 on a Ravelry post today and promptly had someone point out (kindly and gently) that while she loved aspects of said poem, my line “Like her female chromosomes, so surgery can remove the essence” could be hurtful to those whose female-gender identity has nothing to do with chromosomes. I have changed the line to refer to eye color instead, and to masks instead of surgery.

(And I know I said the world has changed, but I’m pretty sure it hasn’t – I do think there are more trans people than there once were only because it’s easier to recognize who you are when there’s already a vocabulary and concepts there, but clearly some people have alwyas been trans, and it’s more climate and perceptions that have changed rather than facts.)

On the plus side, now I’ve reacquainted myself with how to log in and edit my oldest entries, and reacquainted myself with another favorite from all those years ago.

House update: Things were going very fast, then not much happened last week – the contractors move their crews around to balance different projects’ needs. But the first floor is framed in, and the project manager told Ted they expect to have the second floor done this week.

people, sigh

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Good thing I have a blog. And a husband. I am very happy to listen to other people talk about their houses, or kids or whatever, but it would sure be nice if sometimes I got to talk about my life!

Relatives, coworkers…. honestly I think in my teen years when I didn’t want to tell my mom anything I was doing, I trained her out of listening. So at least she’s got that excuse (though I left my teens over 30 years ago!) but other people I talk to (or try to!) are just as bad. Conversation is supposed to include give and take!

At least there are two of us involved in this house remodel, so we always have each other to discuss fine details with.

un homage au Notre Dame

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Do you know the story about the man who wandered around a cathedral being built, asking each person what they were doing? The stone masons told him about cutting rocks to fit togehter so perfectly that they formed arches and flying buttresses; the scultors told about modeling allegories and saints; glassworkers spoke of telling stories in beautiful images that would teach churchgoers the stories they didn’t know how to read, and the woodworkers spoke of walls and screens, roofs and spires. Lastly he put the same question to an old woman sweeping away the dust and shavings of the day. “What am I doing?” she replied, leaning on her broom. “I’m building a cathedral to the glory of God”

That’s the faith it needs to build a cathedral that takes hundreds of years, but I don’t think it even matters whether you believe in God, only whether you are a good, decent and sane person. (You see, I am completely biasing my argument by ignoring those whose God is in their own cruel image, no better than a demon to punish those of whom they disapprove.) If you believe, then a God formed the universe whose workings and laws resulted in humanity, and it’s fitting to express our gratitude by creating whatever beauty we can muster in Their honor. If you don’t believe, then humans striving for goodness created the image of a God to reflect the best that they could find or imagine within themselves, and a cathedral is the physical expression of that striving.

(Again, I am simply omitting the Puritans and those who want a God only to be someone stronger and meaner than themselves who can punish their enemies. I don’t believe that kind of thinking can build a cathedral.)

There was and is beauty and truth in Notre Dame, even if the truth you find depends on which side you examine it from. It’s pure horror to see the spire fall, even if the bell towers were saved. I trust it will be rebuilt once again.


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This weekend we:

  • erged 12 km (each)
  • Did not race, though we were at the lake on regatta weekend
  • Walked over to the park and checked out the regatta vendors
  • Did row for the first time in months (Ted only)
  • Put in a full workday (Paula only)
  • Watched contractors remove forms from our concrete foundation
  • Met with the cabinet designers
  • Were told by our general contractor that we should buy our appliances now (so cabinet people know what to design around)
  • Bought all the appliances (36” 6-burner range, wall oven, fridge, microwave, wine fridge, downdraft fan, garbage disposal, plus a few miscellaneous trim pieces and water/gas lines, not to mention a free(!) dishwasher that we don’t need and will sell
  • Cleared out furniture and contents that will be in the way when they refinish the floors (might be a couple months away, but they seem to be moving surprisingly fast)
  • Made the obligatory Jerry’s trip (local chain similar to Loew’s or Home Deport, but better)

    Decided what we want to do about sinks and faucets

We decided on the exact green shade for the house exterior last week, and still need to decide on roof, countertops and lighting.

“Progress” photos

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This early in, it’s all about demolishing and excavating – building up might be some time away.

Other stuff we’ve done this weekend

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Here’s how much brush we’ve cleared:

Grill building (we bought this last week, before we knew our kitchen was going away- good thing it has a side burner!)

Sweater finishing and blocking – it’s still damp in these photos: