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Month: July 2008



The world is awash in scent.

I couldn’t smell anything for a while, so now I’m hyper-attuned to it. I’ve got a running catalogue of the smells that populate my day; the faint smell of french fries in the front foyer at the library, the smell of green, growing things along the road on the way to the bus stop, diesel fuel and the whiff of old cigarette smoke by the bus depot. The closed-in, grassy smell around the doors in and out of the hallways, the rich, beautiful smell of coffee in the Starbucks across from the library main entrance (I don’t like the taste of coffee–too bitter for me– but the smell of it is fantastic). The smell of rain on the grass, the earth, the streamlet that turns into a roaring river during these repeated summer rainstorms we’ve been having; it smells alive, thick, mossy, on the edge of turning into something new. My hands smell like a camping trip (roasted vegetable sandwich for lunch, the smell of which just doesn’t seem to want to come off). My cat, with his saliva-tinged coat, smells clean. His fresh litter (untouched, fresh out of the container) is pure clay, unscented, and smells like the old concrete walls at the skating rink where I used to practice twice a week; like old stone, crushed and pushed into submission, crumbled by sheer force of will into something practical, like walls to protect us from the cold, a pool of sand for my cat to dip his feet into. The smell of my husband, always tinged with mint and water, which is starkly missing from my home now that he’s gone back to Virginia.

I went to the drugstore yesterday to buy shampoo. I spent 20 minutes popping them open and smelling their insides.

Goals in Second Life

Goals in Second Life

From Harry E. Pence, “The homeless professor in Second Life,” Journal of Educational Technology Systems, Vol. 26, 2 (2007): 171-177.

Some people try to classify Second Life as a game. If Second life is a game, it is a most unusual game, since it does not define goals for winning nor is there any method for keeping score. Each resident is responsible for defining his or her personal goals. Setting goals is just as important in Second life as it is in real life. The failure to regonize this fact may explain why many people drop out in frustration after only a short time in Second life. The confusion about goals has probably also contributed to the various articles in the popular press that focus on the sexual aspects of SL; pornographers have established a robust business model by preying upon those who are confused about what to do.

I love this idea of thinking about goals. Reading this paragraph gave me a mini-ephiphany. Unlike traditional game spaces, the system doesn’t give you goals; you need to come in with them, or develop them as you go. If you’re not prepared to provide your own internal motivation and structure, Second Life will indeed seem pointless.

The Witching Hour

The Witching Hour

What I’ve learned lately is that there are many kinds of tired. More than people generally accept. Perhaps the language around tired in English is simply not rich enough; perhaps the creation of language and vocabulary is a young, healthy person’s game.

First, there is physical tiredness. This is the best kind by a long shot. After a long day of physical labour, sleep comes like a sweet breeze and is an uninterrupted rest. After that, there’s the tired you get when you’ve gone too long without sleeping; that dizzy kind of tired, the kind that sometimes doesn’t lead to sleep as fast as you’d think it would. Then there’s the kind of tired you feel when you’ve got a bad cold or flu or a fever; that bodily exhaustion, the stuffiness in the head, the grogginess. All generally relate to sleep very directly. You get tired, you struggle (or not) to fall asleep, you wake up and feel better.

That’s not what it’s like when you’ve got thyroid issues.

Walking through a world where air is thick like molasses; sleeping and not feeling rested; too tired to think, to parse words, to imagine things. To tired to remember; being startled by the same coat hanging by the door more than once (forgetting the simple explanation: you’re just keeping it for someone else, it’s not a dark shadow peering in at you).

Why is it that sleepiness seems to stem from the eyes? I’ve seen it in both of my nephews, who rub their eyes when they’re tired. I feel it myself when I feel groggy and slow; as if my sleepiness is stemming directly from my eyes.

This is what I have learned: being tired and sleeping are not necessarily connected. If your sleep is thrown off hormonally, you can get plenty of sleep and still feel tired, both mentally and bodily. What do you call it when you’re not so much tired (though it feels very close), but you feel as if your body missed a step along the way between sleep and wakefulness? There’s that witching hour in the middle of the night when you wake up for some reason (a voice in the hall, a car back-firing, an anxious dream), and the world seems different, dream-like, unreal. Your thought-process is on some other level where the rules of the world are different; walls move, the dean rides up to your office on a horse, you chew through your own broken teeth. And while you’re in that dream-space, the real world is confusing. A dripping tap is an enigma; the feel of a cat’s tail against your shin can make you jump three feet into the air in fear. Sometimes (not all the time, mind you, just once in a while) I don’t think my switch between that world and the normal one entirely materializes. So I can go for hours feeling like I’m about to fall back to sleep at any moment, where things will make more sense again. Phrases contain words but don’t make sense; there’s text on the screen in front of me but I can’t read it. Being unable to keep up with a conversation; asking people to repeat themselves more than once, even though a question was already answered moments before.

Somehow the word “groggy” just doesn’t quite cover it.

Though these days are few and far between. I’m doing pretty well, but I have my occasional rough days (like yesterday and today).

I got my test results back. No more cancer, by the looks of things. I’m in the clear for a while.