Em oi! #442: La luce fantastica

Hal (pointing at spray paint on a sidewalk): Mama! Draw!
Em (crouching next to Hal): What color is it?
Hal: Um, purple.
Em: I think it's blue, friend. 
Hal: Why?
Em in center of panel with different images indicating her thoughts surrounding: above, light leaves the sun and bounces off blue paint into the eye. An image of an eye with the words "rods" and "cones". The term "Rayleigh scattering." A color spectrum with 470 lambda (nanometers) pointed out. On her right shoulder, Derrida says "Maybe there is no objective reality." On her left shoulder, Kant says, "Remember the noumenon!"

I started this one long enough ago that, among other things, Hal still apparently was speaking in one-word sentences and didn’t get colors right all the time. But when I finally finished it, I updated the drawing to look like he looks now, because small children are super hard to draw (the proportions are very different from adults).

The other thing that happened was I inked this comic with a fountain pen (my fine-tipped markers are in need of replacement) and it turns out the ink it was filled with (Pilot Iroshizuku Yama-guri, which I think means “wild chestnut”) is not waterproof. I figured this out when I was halfway through the process of watercoloring the comic. So if you noticed the bleeding in some panels, that’s why.

I decided to try and draw my hair the way I often wear it, which is halfway between Gibson girl and bitchy librarian. The Gibson girl hairstyle (as far as I can tell, anyway) works really well with my normal curly mess, but it’s worn much higher/farther forward on the head than I’m used to, so I often wind up with it a bit low, forming what is closer to a typical librarian bun. I think I could have made a pretty good Edwardian though, had I been afforded the opportunity. Sigh. Born too late to be an Edwardian, too early to explore the stars, as the saying goes.

Okay, so there was an XKCD about this (actually he’s done quite a few about color), but just saying “how can you really know what someone else is seeing” doesn’t really touch on how weird color actually is. See, there are a couple of factors that influence what you see. First is the actual wavelength of the light that reaches your eye. Then there’s the way your rods and cones function. Finally, there’s the visual cortex, where everything gets interpreted (Oliver Sacks wrote a lot about how that piece can go wrong). But what this can all add up to is non-spectral colors–basically, when you see wavelengths of light that trigger both the red and blue cones in your eye, your brain knows the color you’re seeing is between those colors, but that it’s not green, because the light would trigger the green cones. So your brain kind of makes up purple. Super weird.

Anyway, let’s do some 2019 numbers to round out last year:

Books read: 18 (about 6,000 pages)

  1. All Systems Red, by Martha Wells. Delightful.
  2. Redshirts, by John Scalzi. Amusing without really being great. I…don’t get why so many people lost their shit over this.
  3. The Valedictorian of Being Dead: The True Story of Dying Ten Times to Live, by Heather Armstrong. Oh Heatherrrrrr….A little bit more science and a little bit less “just caring for my children makes me so anxious that I have to spend my time crawling into my closet and crying and also I cannot hold down a normal job because I am a bloggerrrrr” would have been nice. Since reading this I have learned that electroconvulsive therapy (which is not like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest) actually has relatively good results for long-term depression that is not responsive to drugs, and while Heather sort of implies that the experiment she was a part of is better or potentially the only available treatment, that’s really not the case. So I don’t know how to feel about this book. On the one hand she super went through something. On the other hand, her understanding of what she went through is different from mine. Also, I have a really hard time when people are like “I have a life that you would have killed for but I gave it up/walked away/whatever.” I’m glad it helped, at least.
  4. Artificial Condition, by Martha Wells. Still fun, although not quite as awesome as the first.
  5. Good Bones, by Maggie Smith. Claire said “she writes about motherhood without being…you know.” And she’s right.
  6. Dawn, by Octavia Butler. Soooooooo…. This was creepy.
  7. Oh Crap! Potty Training: Everything Modern Parents Need to Know to Do It Once and Do It Right, by Jamie Glowacki. (Me now in 2020 writing this list) did I really read this back in (checks) March? Arg.
  8. Anathem, by Neal Stephenson. This was awesome and I loved 90% of it so much that I can forgive the 10% that comprises the facts that this has almost no women and a sort of dubious love story. I don’t think I will ever say this about a 900-page book again but I wish it had been longer.
  9. Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed, by Lori Gottlieb. Gosh, this book has a terrible title but it was a really engrossing read and it got me back to therapy, which really helped, so.
  10. Cribsheet: A Data-Driven Guide to Better, More Relaxed Parenting, from Birth to Preschool, by Emily Oster. There’s not a ton of data but what there is is reassuring for the choices I have made. 
  11. Under the Banner of Heaven, by Jon Krakauer. I don’t know if I 100% buy the thesis that Mormonism is a violent religion but I definitely see them in a new and less fluffy light.
  12. ROAR: How to Match Your Food and Fitness to Your Unique Female Physiology for Optimum Performance, Great Health, and a Strong, Lean Body, by Stacy Sims. This book was so awful that I’ve been thinking about getting it from the library again to make sure it was as bad as I thought it was.
  13. Reaper Man, by Terry Pratchett (reread). Masterful.
  14. Babel-17, by Samuel R. Delaney. Fantastic. Delaney is a master. The pervasive sense of dread was difficult to deal with though.
  15. Rogue Protocol, by Martha Wells. Still charming.
  16. Starless, by Jacqueline Carey. The first 2/3rds were amazing and the last third should probably have been a second book in the same series. 
  17. Nine Princes in Amber, by Roger Zelazny (and about half of the second in the series, The Guns of Avalon). Manly men doing manly things with swords. 
  18. Exhalation: Stories, by Ted Chiang. What technology does to us. What we do to ourselves. 

Poems published: 7 (plus one more accepted, thought it will be out by the time I finish this blog post)

Rejections: 35 (includes poetry and fiction)

Miles run: 2,323 (goal: 2,300; biggest month: May, with 215; smallest month: February, with 15); this breaks down into 79.92 mi on the elliptical, 165.92 on the dreadmill, 96.07 miles raced, 296.27 miles run as long runs, 832.63 stroller miles, and 820.61 “normal” (not otherwise categorized) miles

Fastest race: Labor Day Dash stroller 5k (25:38)–1st place

Slowest race: New Glarus Woods 10 miler (1:46:43)–11th in age group, 56th overall

Comics posted: 4 (yikes)

That’s all the numbers I have.

We’ll file the comic under B105.C455 L86 2020, for Philosophy (General)–Special topics, A-Z–Color. Special thanks to B for the title.

Hal sitting in a box, watched by a large orange cat.

Em oi! #438: Snow Kidding

Long time no talk! Astute readers will note that I’ve skipped a number… I actually got involved with another (six-panel comic) that was very funny, but it got a bit overwhelming with the amount of edits it needed and I don’t know. It has been a few years since I had really bad seasonal depression, and–I wouldn’t exactly call this depression, but while I’m normally at the best of times something of a suitcase full of anxiety and neuroses held together by coffee and running, the winter has reduced me to a quivering ball of anxiety with a constant disaster film playing in my head reminding me that all my choices are meaningless because we’re all going to die in twenty years, and ultimately I guess I’m a terrible person for having made said choices (instead of other, different choices? I don’t know).

Talking about it out loud has actually been really helpful in reminding me of the absurdity and irrationality of my thoughts. I guess that’s called reality testing. I’m also trying to sleep more,* taking vitamin D, and sitting in front of my happy light more regularly.

During my off-time, I’ve been doing a figure drawing class, where I’ve learned a lot, like that the way I’ve done shading in this comic is not correct (too many gaps between the strokes). Also, I’ve learned that being in a room with a naked person is awkward. Like–I feel very Midwestern saying this, but it’s weird.

Uh, so also it has snowed a lot. When we were flying back from Alaska a week ago, I mentioned to the Alaska Airlines personnel who were checking us in at the airport that it had just snowed another four inches back home. They said, “Wow, four inches,” and exchanged a look reserved for people who live in a place where they average 75″ of snow per year–about twice what Madison gets (43″). But what I meant was–four inches on top of already “so much snow that our smaller dog can’t make her way around the yard and has resorted to following in the big dog’s wake. And also four inches when my in-laws were watching the kid, and lovely people though they are, we don’t have a snowblower and they’re not prepared to shovel the driveway… (spoiler: it was fine). Right now, looking out the window, there’s about a foot of snow on top of the bird bath to my left, and we’re forecast to get more later this week! Our driveway has turned into basically a trench. We could probably survive an attack from the Hun by sheltering there. We will see the lights along the edges when it all melts. And the snow we couldn’t manage to get up on the top of the piles is forming peninsulae that are making it harder and harder to get either car out, but especially mine because it doesn’t have a backing cam.

Also my garage door froze shut twice (at least; it might be frozen shut now) and my car battery died. I wasn’t going to finish/post this comic because we had a day last week (Friday?) when it was 36 degrees out and I thought that maybe it would all melt, but instead only a little of it did, and then it re-froze, and then Saturday we had freezing rain all day. So in summary, I’m done with this shit. So. Done. So this is maybe catharsis, a little.

Wishing you all an early spring.

File this under BT135 L86 2019 for Doctrinal theology–God–Divine attributes–Individual attributes–Providence. Divine intervention.

* I sleep like…6.5 to 7 hours per night. Having had a child has 100% fucked up my sleeping. It’s not that he’s waking up; it’s that my sleeping is just not great. I don’t know.

Em oi! #435: The Consolations of Philosophers

It turns out that there are now Em oi-canonical ways to draw some philosophers, since they have appeared a few times in the comic:

Also it turns out I have drawn a lot of comics about anxiety. Hmm. This one will be filed under B808.63 L86 2018, for Philosophy  (General)–Modern (1450/1600-)–Special topics and schools of philosophy–Anxiety.  (If you’re just here for the philosophy, feel free to peace out here.)

As I was scanning this comic, I was wondering what I was going to write for my little essay here. The time between initially writing this and finishing it was so long that if I initially had any additional thoughts, they have now gone away. But in the meantime, it is young Hal’s birthday!

Isn’t he adorable?

Anyway, I have been trying to think of some things about having a kid that I wish I had known before he was born. Honestly, most of the things that are coming to mind are not necessarily things you can know beforehand. Like no matter how good you are at putting your baby to bed, you’ve only learned how to put your baby to bed–you can’t know ahead of time how to do it, because your baby has his own personality and likes and dislikes, and you can’t help anyone else, because all babies are pretty different. But here we go.

1. Be careful when sneezing after a c-section. I don’t know why, but although I started back to running about five weeks post-op and was fine, I pulled a muscle or something sneezing just before six weeks. That was weird. And uncomfortable. I also managed to pull a muscle in my trapezius muscle while lifting the baby, and that hurt on and off for weeks. And occasionally my wrist and thumb have been angry. So maybe I should say just be careful generally–lifting a tiny cannonball four hundred times a day turns out to do a number on you. It wasn’t until I stopped pumping that my body actually started to feel like it was totally normal again (and that lasted for a few days before I started training for a marathon, so, uh).

2. Convert distances from kilometers to miles before you sign up for a race and don’t sign up for a 10 miler eight weeks after your c-section. This goes without saying, I think. I think I did the actual signing up in early September (so two or three weeks post-op), meaning I was off any drugs…so we’ll blame this on sleep deprivation.

3. Emotional labor is for suckers. Emotional labor is the process of using your emotions in order to provoke or prevent a particular emotional response from people. And it’s just not worth it–you can’t tell someone news that will upset them in some perfect way so as not to upset them. You cannot hint at things you’d like people to do. Don’t say, “Um, do you think it’s time for the baby to take a nap?” Say, “I need to put him down for a nap now.” Don’t say, “Well, it was nice of you to come.” Say, “Get the fuck out of my house now, I’m tired.” (J/k, maybe don’t say that.)

4. You will become the expert on your baby. This is the best advice I got before Hal was born (it came from my sister-in-law and friend Claire Wahmanholm, doctor of poetry). So when you figure it out, feel free to (assertively, if need be) show the various grandparents/sitters how to put your baby down for a nap, feed him the way he likes, whatever. Do remember that over time, they will develop their own relationships with him and figure out what works for them in that context, but at the beginning they may need to be told.

5. As my mom put it, women don’t largely get to debrief after giving birth. I’m not a trauma theorist, but it doesn’t take a ton of psych to realize that when you go around talking to people about their kids and birth stories, you’ll sometimes get this sense that they are retelling their story in a way that is mean to make them feel better about whatever happened to them. Similarly, people get very insistent on the things they can control, like what they feed their infant or what kind of diapers they use, because it makes them feel better about all the millions of things they can’t control. This can lead to people saying things that sometimes come off as quite shirty about how their “thing” (exclusive breastfeeding for two years, cloth diapering, attachment parenting, whatever; not vaccinating is one of the more extreme and harmful examples of this) is so much better than whatever else. The best thing to do is not get involved.

6. The reason people fall into more sexist roles after having a baby is that the only people anyone has watched parent up close is their own parents, and thirty years ago it was a lot less typical for men to take on 50% of the parenting. If this works for you, fine. (It doesn’t work for me.) But at least be conscious about what you’re agreeing to.

7. Like most experiences, it’s hard to appreciate how amazing having a baby is until you’re not inside the experience anymore. Just smile as best you can at the old lady who corners you at the cafe. And when you see other people who are earlier in the process than you are, just reassure them that it gets better.

8. It is okay to buy some earplugs and wear them while you’re doing time holding a fussy/colicky infant. You’ll be more relaxed, and everyone will be happier because of that.

9. When in doubt, make art. Any type, doesn’t matter. It’ll make things better.

Em oi! #410: Ça suffit


Click to embiggen. I had already written this script before the attack on Paris last Friday, so I decided to just go with it.

I actually have been reading Being and Nothingness[1], and contrary to my expectations (and it’s reputation, I guess), it’s not a depressing book. At least in the part I’ve read so far, Sartre is mostly concerned with setting out his view of ontology, refuting most of the philosophers who preceded him (everyone from Descartes to Kant, anyway). I’ve done this drawing illustrating the history of philosophy to show you what I mean:
history of philosophy

I hope that clarifies things.

What I really love is the feeling that all the stuff I was dragged through as an undergrad–Descartes, Locke, Berkeley, Spinoza, Kant, probably a few others I’m leaving out–seems to be summarized quite elegantly here and then rejected in favor of a philosophy that seems to better describe my intuitions about how my mind/reality work than, you know, Berkeley or anything. I am surprised courses on existentialism were not offered at my university. Or perhaps they were and I didn’t take any–in those days, my focus was more on epistemology (somewhat) and logic, so I read Frege, Russell, and Wittgenstein, among others. The Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus remains one of my favorite books I read during this period.[2] And of course, this was the time during which I discovered Foucault, but I came to him (and Derrida) through the English department rather than the philosophy department.

Here are a few other appearances of these philosophers:

  • Descartes
  • Derrida
  • All other philosophers (inclusive)
  • Bonus other comic with Camus:


    We can file this comic under B2430.S34L86 2015, for Philosophy (General)–Modern (1450/1600-)–By region or country–France–By period–20th century–Individual philosophers, A-Z–Sartre, Jean-Paul, 1905-1980–Biography, autobiography, criticism, etc.–General works.

    In other announcements, if you’re out and about, please consider buying a copy of The Joy of Fishes at A Room of One’s Own (not signed, but we can arrange it) or Mystery to Me (pre-signed). They have been very nice to take a few copies on consignment, so perhaps we can help them move them–you’d be helping not just an indie author, but a local indie bookstore as well. Huzzah.

    [1] It’s not really a dreadmill book, so I’ve been reading Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle on the elliptical. I’m currently on book three. Each book is about 800 pages, and unfortunately they often seem to take about the first 100 to 150 to really get rolling. But if you’ve ever been interested in the enlightenment, it’s worth it. I don’t actually think he’s mis-characterizing enlightenment ideals or anything, for the most part. Maybe I’ll talk more about that when I do a review (in a million years when I actually finish it).

    [1] I also did a lot of ancient philosophers, especially Plato. Modern philosophers included Philippa Foot, Robert Nozick, and Peter Singer.