Gayle Madwin's Journal
                              25 MOST RECENT ENTRIES
Wednesday, 23 November 2016
Wednesday, 23 November 2016 11:46am
Yuba City Sikh Parade, Star Trek, Election, Swanwatching, Foster Cat, Etc.

I keep meaning to post some garden pictures, but I'm having trouble getting around to it, first because I have this wonderfully exciting boyfriend to write about instead, second because I now have over six months' worth of garden pictures to post and therefore it'll be time-consuming to catch up, third because I've been having to work ridiculously long hours all this year that have left me with extremely little free time to split between this and everything else I want to do, and fourth because things keep happening in the world that require attention . . . such as that terrible little election we just had. But I still intend to get around to posting some garden pictures soon. And in the meantime, I'm going to write about the four days Barry and I spent at my house up to and through Election Day: the evening of November 4 through the morning of November 9. And a little postscript about the two more recent weekends, too.

When Barry arrived on Friday evening, I had a pork roast in the slow cooker, and some red and yellow potatoes as a side dish. We were talking about the Star Trek: Voyager DVDs we've been watching at Barry's house, and Barry mentioned that he discovered recently that the Amazon Prime subscription he has for his lasersmith business gives him access to all the episodes of Enterprise, so we decided to start watching our way through the first season of Enterprise. I think we started right away, that evening, with the first episode. By the end of the day Tuesday, we had watched the first 22 episodes.

The next day, Saturday, Barry and I went for a walk to the Feather River. We had previously (on our first date) walked to the Yuba River from my house. I don't walk to the Feather River as often, because the walk in that direction leads past larger homeless encampments, with off-leash dogs that I can't take Boston past, and because it's a less scenic walk, to a riverfront that itself is less scenic (by which I mean that there's not much wilderness left along that riverfront - there are a bunch of soccer fields along it). But I wanted to show Barry both the rivers I live within walking distance of, so we set out toward the Feather River.

It took a while to find a way past the chain-link fence surrounding the soccer fields and make our way past the soccer games to the riverbank, but we made it eventually. There is a small strip of wilderness I've been to before that we could have gotten to if we'd walked far enough along the bank, but it wasn't readily accessible. We walked out on some broken asphalt under a bridge and explored the place a little, then headed back away from the riverbank. Barry saw what looked like a water fountain and decided he needed a drink. But the water fountain was full of trash and did not have any water. We kept walking and saw another one, this one very near to a well. We tried that one too, hoping that it might be supplied by the well, but there was no water there either. Finally we decided to climb across the levee and buy water from the grocery store on the other side. As we walked, we were talking about the graffiti we saw all over the bridge - various people professing eternal love for each other (I wondered whether any of them were still together, if in fact the love had ever even been reciprocated in the first place) and occasional other statements. We passed some graffiti that said "Fuck bitches get money," and I asked Barry whether he thought it meant "If you fuck bitches, you can get money" or "Fuck bitches; focus instead on getting money." Barry said he thought it was neither, but rather the graffiti artist's do-do list: "First, fuck bitches; second, get money" . . . there was no third thing to get around to doing, apparently. Graffiti artists should learn to punctuate if they want to make themselves understood.

Anyway, we made it to the grocery store. I hadn't brought my purse, but Barry had brought his wallet, so he bought us water and trail mix. Then I said I wanted to walk across the bridge to the other side of the river for a few minutes before we went back to my house. So we walked across. We saw more graffiti on the walk over, mostly more people professing eternal love, and Barry said something about people having such an instinct to proclaim their love by writing it on their surroundings. He asked whether I wished he had spray paint with him and would vandalize the bridge in my honor. I said no, I much preferred for him to have water and trail mix.

On the other side of the bridge - the Yuba City side, as opposed to the Marysville side - we tried to climb down to the water as I remembered having done two years ago, but it wasn't as easy as I had remembered it being to get down to the water. I suggested that we walk a little further upstream until we found a spot where we could reach the water. We walked to the recently developed Willow Island Park and followed its pedestrian path down to a small strip of beach, where signs informed us about salmon in the river. With my finger in the sand at the very edge of the water, I wrote "I love Barry." Then we turned back and headed for my house. We took a somewhat different route on the way back - more through the center of town rather than around the edge of it. We walked to Ellis Lake and were accosted by a very friendly loose dog whose owners were outside with it - they and the dog were on their own property, overlooking the lake - and the owners were embarrassed because the dog took an instant liking to us and tried to follow us home. Eventually they got their dog under control, but we had to stop walking for a minute or two so they could catch up with it. Then we continued walking again. A goose on the shore a little ahead of us dove into the water as we approached. Then we were past the lake, and then a bit later, we were home. And we watched more Enterprise, of course.

On Sunday we went to the Yuba City Sikh Parade. I was pretty certain this would be a big hit with Barry, and I was right. It is always a big hit with me too, but it's even better suited for Barry, because Barry likes Indian food far more consistently than I do, and this event is all about free Indian food. It is a religious holiday in which Sikhs give out free food to everyone in sight, as a matter of religious duty, an obligation to take care of one's fellow people. I like it because there's something about walking down a street crowded with people offering all the free food you can eat to everyone in sight that never fails to inspire a renewed faith that random human strangers can be very nice people and there's hope for humanity yet. And besides that, in an age in which Trump has sowed all manner of racist hostility, this is an event in which the streets of a very Republican and very pro-Trump neighborhood are flooded with brown-skinned people wearing turbans and salwar kameez, and there is no evident hostility toward them from any of the white people present, because come on, it's pretty hard for even a Trump voter to react with hostility when being offered tons of free food.

There is a custom of politeness, however, for when the first parade float passes by. The first parade float carries the Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh holy text, and when it passes, it is considered polite for everyone, even the nonbelievers in the crowd, to cover their heads. Before leaving the house, I searched for some Indian scarves I had previously used for this purpose, but I seem to have gotten rid of them. I didn't especially like them; I just didn't have much else I could use for this purpose. I settled on a shawl, a silk-and-velvet shawl with a beaded picture of a peacock on it that I bought some years back while going through an intense craving to own all the peacock-blue clothing I could find, whether or not it had actual pictures of peacocks on it. This shawl doesn't go well with most of my clothes, though, so to find some clothes that it did go with, I pulled out a dress I generally reserve for rare special occasions. And then, because the dress is not much below knee-length and bare ankles are disapproved of in Sikh culture, I added a pair of black tights. Basically I ended up dressed to the nines. Barry was very impressed and very delighted. Two Sikh women at the parade also complimented me on my peacock shawl.

After struggling a bit to figure out where to park, I parked at the Home Depot, and we set out from there, walking a few blocks to the parade area. Then we spent a good hour or so sampling all the Indian food. In one of the lines, I declined a lot of what was being offered, because it was too vegetabley or too spicy-hot for my tastes, and was then given twice as much bread as other people at the end of the line, because apparently my plate looked too empty. We both ate until we were completely stuffed. And then the parade showed up, and I started taking pictures.

Parade pictures!Collapse ). . . And then it was over. Barry has been suggesting ever since that we should go back to the Sikh Parade again, as if it were held every day or every week rather than just once a year.

Since we had parked at the Home Depot, we went shopping there upon our return to the car. Barry was working on fixing several things for me - a dripping showerhead, a chainsaw with a loose chain, a fluorescent light that was being very slow to turn on, and a cat fountain Barry gave me that was leaking water because it was missing an O-ring. He looked for parts at Home Depot, but he didn't know exactly what he needed, so we went home first, and then Barry went back out again to buy what he needed. He ended up giving up on the dripping showerhead - he told me it needed a new cartridge, but he encountered some brass parts and didn't know whether they were soldered and was afraid of wrecking them if he tried to continue, so he advised me to call a plumber. I did, and the plumber confirmed that it needed a new cartridge, and the plumber fixed it. Barry is still working on the chainsaw; he thinks it might need a new tension pin, and I asked him to help me figure out how to buy a new tension pin for it. He's also still working on the cat fountain. But he fixed my fluorescent light for me! I had replaced the tubes in it a couple of years ago, but Barry replaced the ballast in it and also repaired the acrylic light covers I had cracked.

When Barry wasn't working on fixing things, we went back to watching Enterprise for most of the rest of the Sunday and Monday. At some point during this, Barry mentioned that he has trouble telling the difference between two of the characters on Enterprise: security officer Malcolm Reed and chief engineer Charles "Trip" Tucker III. I think Barry had previously mentioned to me that he has trouble recognizing faces, but I had just thought, well, I don't think I'm all that great at recognizing faces either; I didn't give any further thought to it. But now it suddenly made a big impression on me because Barry had cited an actual example of two faces he has trouble telling apart, and those two characters do not look at all like to me. I mean, they're both white men probably in their thirties (late thirties for Malcolm Reed, early thirties for Trip Tucker - okay, I just looked up the actors' ages, and during the first season of Enterprise they would have been 39 and 32, respectively), but beyond that, I don't see a resemblance. One has dark blond/light brown hair and the other has dark brown hair; one is plainly older than the other; their faces do not look similar to me. They also have completely different accents (English versus Southern), but Barry has no trouble recognizing them once they start speaking; he just has to wait until after they start speaking before he can tell which is which. Barry is faceblind! Upon realizing this, I spent much of the rest of our extended weekend together periodically asking him follow-up questions about it, trying to get a better idea of how it affects his perceptions and how it has changed his life experience. It seems to be a major factor in kind of a lot of the things we have in common, which is kind of weird since I'm not faceblind (just maybe very slightly below average at face recognition). Though it turns out that maybe my mother is, and my mother also influenced me in a lot of the ways that I have in common with Barry. My mother had very bad vision for much of her childhood and did not get glasses until she was a teenager, so she thinks the face-recognition part of her brain didn't develop well because her vision was so bad during much of the time when it would normally have been developing.

Barry has no comparable explanation for why he might be faceblind, but he has explanations of how it affects him. He said he was always hopeless at team sports when in school because he couldn't recognize who was on his team and who wasn't. This was kind of similar in effect to my own experience; I was always hopeless at team sports when in school not because I couldn't recognize people but because I inevitably tuned out when the teacher started explaining the rules, so I inevitably ended up unsure which goal my soccer team was supposed to be aiming for or which direction was first base in softball. In second grade I voluntarily signed up to play in a soccer league but then tuned out when told which goal to aim for, so I spent the entire season deliberately slowing down whenever I got anywhere near the ball, because I didn't know which direction I was supposed to be kicking it. And in softball I intentionally struck out every single time I ever batted, all the way through all my years of school, because I wasn't sure which way was first base and didn't want to risk humiliating myself by guessing wrong. And because after a certain point, asking someone to tell me which way was first base or which goal my soccer team was supposed to be aiming for would in itself have been humiliating. (I also tuned out when other class activities such as spelling bees and that kind of thing were explained aloud, but with most things other than sports, the class would take turns, and I generally had time to figure out the rules from watching what other kids did before my own turn came up. There was less taking turns in sports, and also I was so uninterested in sports that when someone else did occasionally get a hit and run to first base, I would promptly forget again which way they had run.) Anyway, although the causes were a bit different - perhaps I had an auditory processing disorder? - it seems like Barry and I had a similar experience of school sports.

I said I often have trouble following the plot of old black-and-white TV shows, because too many of the characters in the era when they were made tended to be white men, usually all dressed virtually identically and with virtually identical haircuts, and when you additionally take out all the color so I can't even distinguish between things like blue suits and brown suits, I usually can't tell all the white men apart from each other. Barry said he has the same problem even with more contemporary, color TV shows, and it's why he doesn't watch much TV - and also why he does watch Star Trek, because the different colors on the Starfleet uniforms and the different alien species' markings usually make it easier for him to tell the characters apart on Star Trek than on most other TV shows. This is another thing we have in common, not watching much TV other than Star Trek. In my case, my not watching much TV other than Star Trek was strongly influenced by my mother's not watching much TV other than Star Trek.

I asked Barry whether his trouble recognizing people made it hard for him to make friends, and he said yes. I asked whether he thinks he has more trouble than most people do in distinguishing which race people belong to, or in "reading" people who are in drag or transitioning between genders. It was difficult to pin down in anywhere near precise terms how much trouble "most people" have in distinguishing people's races or birth-assigned genders might be, but the impression I ended up with was that Barry "probably" has slightly more trouble with this. Then I asked whether he thinks he has more trouble than most people do in reading people's facial expressions, and he said yes, he mostly reads people's body language. This led into another thing we have in common - that both of us were cheated on in our last relationships, and both of us felt similar shock and betrayal, and both of us reacted in similar ways. Both of us could hardly comprehend the idea that anyone, much less someone we'd loved and lived with and trusted for so many years, could behave in such an untrustworthy manner, and both of us feel that we have below-average abilities to see through liars and recognize when they are lying to us. Both of us have learned the hard way to be a bit distrustful of our own tendency to be trustful.

For some reason I asked Barry whether he ever has the experience, as I sometimes do, of suddenly feeling a very strong sense that the person he's talking to is feeling a certain way in response to something he's just said, but of being completely unable to explain to himself what it is about that person's behavior that is conveying that. He said no, he tends to analyze and dissect people's body language very consciously and can't recall ever sensing an emotion from someone else without being conscious of what it was about this person's behavior that was conveying this. I would like to always be conscious of what it is that gives me the impression people are feeling a certain way, because not being sure why I have that impression leaves me not quite sure whether I'm just being paranoid or just engaging in wishful thinking. But sometimes things are just not that clear.

Anyway, it seemed as if he discovery that Barry has trouble recognizing faces helped explain a whole lot about him. But then, a week or so later, I found an online test for faceblindness - the "Famous Faces Test." (You can Google for various versions of it.) Barry scored 85% on a version of it that said an average, non-faceblind score is 85%. I took the same version of the test and scored 81%. So now I don't know what to make of that. Websites about faceblindness do note that some self-identified faceblind people may get high scores on the test. In fact, there doesn't seem to be any test that diagnoses faceblindness with much reliability at all, in terms of correlating with people's self-diagnoses. Faceblindness seems to be almost always self-diagnosed, to the point that now I'm not sure to what extent it's even a real diagnosis at all. That is, there have been a few people who abruptly lost their previous ability to recognize faces as a result of a brain injury, so it seems to be a real thing for those people; and any ability that can be lost in midlife can presumably also be never developed, in some rare few people; but it is not clear whether it's really at all common for people's facial recognition to vary all that much from normal levels. Presumably some people are some degree better at facial recognition than others, but we might all get the impression that our abilities in this area differ more dramatically than they really do, simply because different people focus on different details when recognizing people - so, for example, the difference between Malcolm Reed and Trip Tucker might be completely obvious to me and incredibly subtle to Barry, but there might be some other pair of people who would look incredibly similar to me and incredibly obviously different to Barry.

I don't know. Anyway, that was a big topic of discussion between us for a while.

I was a bit sunburned after the Sikh Parade, due I think to the combination of being outside a couple of hours for the parade and also being outside a couple of hours on the previous day when we were walking to the Feather River. So on the day after the Sikh Parade, when Barry suggested going for another walk, I put on sunscreen first. We just walked to the dollar store and looked around in it, then left without buying anything. Along the way, I tried to give Barry a botany lesson, because I'd been weeding my front yard immediately before our walk, and I wanted to share that experience with him. I told him about seed leaves (the first leaves that sprout from a newly germinated seed, which look different from the leaves that will grow later), and how most plant species are dicots, meaning that they have two seed leaves, but some are monocots, meaning that they have one seed leaf. The information didn't really stick with him. At some point I will do some careful weeding while he has time to sit and watch and listen to me, and I will manage to convey to him at least the general sense of how I think when I'm weeding, and some sort of vague overview of botany. In the meantime, I explained to him that the seedlings coming up in the planter boxes at his house from the seeds I planted there are very likely seedlings from the seeds I planted - I mean, they're sprouting from newly purchased, storebought dirt and compost that shouldn't have any weed seeds left alive in it - and he expressed that lovely sense of wonderment that every new gardener feels upon realizing that the seeds planted last week have magically turned into tiny baby plants.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Two days after the Sikh Parade was Election Day. Barry had already voted by mail, but I voted at my local precinct on Election Day. I had taken that Monday and Tuesday off work, because Barry was staying at my house, and the reason he was staying at my house was that he wanted to go with me to the Election Day party that my friends Alyson and Jackie had organized. It was an all-Clinton party in an almost-all-Trump part of the almost-all Clinton state of California. It was also a very lesbian party. Barry was one of only two men there; the other man was a neighbor of one of the lesbians, and had put up a Clinton yard sign, which had been stolen, and his yard sign had gotten him invited to the party.

There were lines at my precinct when I voted, even though I voted at an uncommon time of day, in the middle of what would ordinarily have been my workday, because I had the day off work. I wondered then whether it was a bad sign about the election's outcome, that turnout was high in my very pro-Trump neighborhood.

Barry and I had a 45-minute drive to the party that evening, and there weren't any election returns coming in yet when we left my house. But 45 minutes later, the very first thing we were greeted with upon walking in the door at the party was the news that the election was a nailbiter and things were not going well. It only got worse from there, of course. By the time we went back to my house, we had a very bad feeling that we were very likely to end up with Trump as president. There was some degree of room for doubt until we woke up the next morning, but it wasn't all that much.

On the drive home, I drove through some drifts of tule fog and suggested that Barry might want to stay overnight with me so as to avoid driving home in tule fog. He had planned to go home late Tuesday night, but he ended up going home first thing Wednesday morning instead. The morning was a bit of a daze. I found that I had to consciously remind myself that not everything in my life depended on who was president - that I had not, for example, entered into a romantic relationship with Barry contingent upon the president being a Democrat, and therefore I could continue to date Barry even with Trump in office. It simply was not the way I had been expecting the future to go. I had known, of course, that having Trump elected president was a real possibility, but since worrying about it wasn't likely to help anything, I had mostly been choosing not to worry about it.

The following weekend, Barry and I didn't see each other at all. I had bought tickets for a swanwatching tour as part of the California Swan Festival, but Barry came down with a cold that made him too sick to drive here that Friday night and too sick to go swanwatching that Saturday night, and I had a ton of work to catch up on anyway, so I advised Barry to just stay where he was, at his own house, and focus on getting well, rather than coming to my house just to be sick and maybe get me sick when we wouldn't be able to do much together. I did go on the swanwatching tour myself. I carpooled with a family from the nearby town of Lincoln - Rick and Mayumi and their two very well-behaved small children (ages maybe 4 and 6). I liked them. They were plainly introverts, so we were all happy to be silent together. And I figure they were probably not Trump supporters, because neither of them was white (Mayumi was presumably from Japan, given her name, and Rick appeared to be of Middle Eastern descent). And we all cared about looking at tundra swans, so we had that in common. I took swan pictures, and maybe I'll post those later, but I didn't really get anywhere near as good a view of the birds, or as good of photos of the birds, on this tour as I did on a similar tour two years ago. Mostly I just got pretty sunset pictures, which are nice, but not entirely the point of the tour. I told Barry I want to take him on the tour route in January, just the two of us, with me acting as tour guide. We may get a better view of the birds when there aren't so many other people around to scare them off.

And the next weekend after that, I went to Barry's house. He has a new foster cat named Lois - an adult cat this time, maybe two years old, being fostered for six to eight weeks while she recovers from surgery after being found injured, probably bitten by a dog. Lois is extremely cuddly. I haven't gotten around to taking any pictures of her yet. On Saturday we bought a truckload of dirt to finish filling up the second planter box he built, and then Barry had friends over to play board games while I worked. Although it rained all weekend, on Sunday I weeded his front yard anyway and planted seeds in it. We also found time to continue watching Star Trek: Voyager and one episode of Enterprise (which we switched over to because we were being sat on by cats and therefore couldn't get up to put in the next Voyager DVD).

This coming Sunday is Barry's birthday! He will be 35. We have much to celebrate.

Mood: busy
1 Mind Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Sunday, 18 September 2016
Sunday, 18 September 2016 11:49am
Camping at Silver Lake

Barry and I went camping! At Silver Lake Campground (near the town of Quincy), which I also camped at last year. Last year I was camping alone except for Boston. This year I brought Barry and also Boston. I think, though, that this was Boston's last camping trip. She seems to be getting too old to handle camping anymore. After our six-mile hike on our second day there, Boston was hobbling and limping so that I was afraid to attempt any further hiking, and on our third day there, Barry noticed she had peed in the back seat of my car, and during our third night there, she peed all over the foot of the sleeping bags, while we were sleeping in them. It's common for older female dogs to lose bladder control, so I'm assuming that's what's going on. Her legs seemed to be fine when I got her back home, so I'm assuming that was just temporary sore muscles or sore foot pads or some such thing. The discomfort while walking might have contributed to her failure to ask to be let out of the car or the tent to go pee somewhere else, but I had also noticed a suspicious stain in the back seat of my car when I was packing for the camping trip, so I think she also peed in my car when I took her to and from the vet's office a couple of weeks ago.

Anyway, we had originally planned to stay four nights and five days, but we decided to go home one day early because Boston had peed on the sleeping bags and we didn't want to sleep in dog-pee-soaked sleeping bags. And I would like to avoid encountering that problem on any future camping trips.

We encountered several other problems as well, including running out of drinking water and getting stuck on a dirt road with speed bumps on it that were so high that they were completely impassable at any speed in my Nissan Sentra. But solving problems together is an important relationship-building experience, right? So, we solved our problems and emerged just fine, and also had a wonderful time. We hiked to Rock Lake and Gold Lake, went swimming in Gold Lake, drove to Snake Lake, and drove to the town of Quincy to buy more drinking water. And we took lots and lots and lots of pictures.

Running out of drinking water was actually semi-planned. It isn't easy to pack two adult humans, one medium-sized dog, and five days' worth of camping gear into a Nissan Sentra, and my Nissan Sentra doesn't even have a roof rack for extra space. Barry has a pickup truck that might have fit our stuff much better, but it has no back seat for Boston, so we squeezed everything into my Sentra instead. But we scrimped a bit on drinking-water space because the campground is not far at all from the town of Quincy, so I knew we could easily buy more water there if we ran out.

Anyway, we packed everything into my car and set out early Wednesday, September 7, with a bunch of Barry's and my CDs to listen to along the way, and we arrived at the campground in early afternoon. We parked in campsite 1 and got out and walked through the rest of the campground on foot to decide which campsite we wanted. There are 8 campsites in the campground, with sites 6 to 8 closest to the lake shore, and a large gap between sites 5 and 6. Last year I stayed in campsite 2 because sites 1 to 5 were all empty, and I wanted to be far away from the numerous people who were at the other end of the campground. This year there was only one other person there when we arrived, and that person was in campsite 7. We selected campsite 6 for ourselves, because there was an adequate distance between campsites 6 and 7 for us to still feel isolated, and there was no other campsite any nearer that anyone could move into later.

This is Silver Lake. We camped alongside it - across a dirt road from the shore at the far right.

Silver Lake

Click for much more!Collapse )

Mood: pleased
2 Minds Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Sunday, 31 July 2016
Sunday, 31 July 2016 5:03pm
Presidential Election

I have some things to say about the presidential election. Specifically, from my perspective as a registered third-party voter (Peace and Freedom Party!), as a woman, as someone who cast her first-ever vote in a presidential election for a third-party female presidential candidate (Marsha Feinland) running against Bill Clinton in 1996. And as a lifelong Californian voter, a voter in the most populous of states and one of the most decidedly non-swingy of states.

If you live in a swing state, what I'm about to say may not apply as much to your situation. But for me personally . . . I have never seen any sense in pretending that the votes I cast in presidential elections are going to make any difference in terms of who becomes president that year. The number of people I would have to persuade to change their votes to hand over California's 55 electoral college votes to anyone other than the Democrats is ridiculous. Don't get me wrong, though - I believe it's very important to vote. Voting makes a real difference in people's lives. If more good people in California had bothered to show up to cast votes against Prop 8 in 2008, thousands of couples would have been married years earlier. They couldn't be, just because too many voters failed to go fill in one little bubble on their behalf. But the votes you cast that are most likely to make a real difference are the local ones - for mayor, for city council, for or against local ballot measures, that kind of thing. State-level elections are harder to swing, and in national-level elections, Californians have hardly any voice at all. We only get two senators to represent our 38 million people, just like Wyoming gets to represent its fewer than 600,000 people, and our lack of senators results in a lack of electoral votes as well, and since our electoral votes are awarded in winner-takes-all manner, it's been 28 years since our electoral votes last failed to go to the Democrats. (George H. W. Bush won California in 1988. California had been solidly Republican for a while before that, but demographics and political parties have changed, and we're not at all likely to go Republican again anytime soon.)

So the most important thing I wish left-wing activists would focus on during election years is trying to persuade people to vote, rather than trying to persuade them to vote for any specific candidate. Feeling browbeaten and pressured to vote for a particular candidate can sometimes actively turn people against that candidate, but the message "We desperately need you to bother to vote!" tends to be received much more welcomingly than the message "We desperately need you to vote for this specific candidate!" And persuading more people to vote tends to strongly favor left-wing candidates and left-wing causes all up and down the ballot.

And this is a big part of the value in having third-party candidates on the ballot. Many people, unfortunately, will not bother showing up to vote if there's no one on the ballot that they're comfortable voting for in a prominent race such as the presidential one. Many people pay very little attention to the races further down the ballot, and simply say to themselves that if the choice is between two presidential candidates they hate, then they'll stay home. Giving these people additional choices, even if those choices have no real chance of winning, can help persuade them to bother going to the polls - simply to "send a message," because having a candidate in the race whom they can express agreement with lets them feel able to send the message they want to send. So having third parties on the ballot, especially left-wing third parties, tends to benefit Democrats in down-ballot races by helping bring more left-wing voters to the polls. And down-ballot races are the ones most easily swung.

This is why I'm a registered third-party voter. I was a registered Democrat when I cast my vote for Marsha Feinland of the Peace and Freedom Party against Bill Clinton in 1996. In 1998, the Peace and Freedom Party was removed from the California ballot - the only state whose ballot it had been on to begin with - because its gubernatorial candidate that year didn't receive the number of votes that the Democratic-controlled California state legislature had decided to require third-party candidates to receive for their parties to remain on the ballot. For the party to get back on the ballot, it needed to obtain a minimum number of voters registered as being affiliated with it. I changed my party registration to Peace and Freedom to help the party get back on the ballot, and the party was restored to the California ballot in 2003.

I have never been a fan of the Clintons. I didn't like Bill Clinton in 1992 because he was a philanderer and a centrist, but I was too young to be eligible to vote against him then. In 1996 I was struggling with the question of whether or not I could stand to vote for him when he signed the Defense of Marriage Act, thereby ensuring that I will hate his guts for the rest of my life. (Hillary Clinton could have dissociated herself better in my mind from her husband's actions on this issue if she had "evolved" more quickly on marriage equality, but instead she was among the slowest prominent Democratic national politicians to "evolve," and Bill Clinton has been quoted as saying, when he was president, that he thought she was homophobic, which certainly did her no favors in my book.) In his second term, Bill Clinton continued making me angrier and angrier at him; the "welfare reform" he was proud of achieving was pure Republicanism with a sticker labeled "Democrat" stuck unconvincingly on top. As for Hillary Clinton, I never had anything against her personally when she was first lady. But when she became a senator, she was one of the very large number of Democrats in Congress who voted in 2002 to authorize George W. Bush to invade Iraq. On the day of that vote, I immediately vowed never again to vote for any of those Democrats for any office ever again, because the vote to authorize the invasion of Iraq was the most transparently stupid and evil and utterly unjustifiable Congressional vote I'd ever seen. And in the 14 years since then, I've stood by that vow. I had always voted for Senator Dianne Feinstein until she voted to authorize the invasion of Iraq, but I never voted for again after that. I voted third party against John Kerry (for Leonard Peltier of the Peace and Freedom Party) in 2004 because John Kerry had voted to authorize the invasion of Iraq.

So if this were even remotely close to a normal election year, I would be perfectly primed for voting third-party against Hillary Clinton. And I don't feel there's any especially compelling reason not to do so - I have no illusion that my vote as a Californian is going to make any difference in who becomes president. I will cast my vote in the presidential election purely to send a message. Yet I'm feeling that I'm more and more likely to break that vow I made in 2002 and actually vote for Hillary Clinton this year, simply because there are so many competing messages associated with the candidates this year that I think voting third party this year would tend to lend itself to drastic misinterpretation of my intended message.

Frankly, I'm not sure what a lot of this year's "Bernie or Bust" contingent really stands for. I'm sure there's some legitimate feeling of wariness of Hillary Clinton because of her vote to authorize the invasion of Iraq, and I share that sentiment. I'm sure there's also some debatably somewhat legitimate wariness of Hillary Clinton because of her husband's Republican-like policies as president; I rate this as "debatably somewhat legitimate" because, although I do think it says something that she's married to the guy, I'm not at all sure - being the daughter, myself, of a Democrat happily married to a Republican - that it says all that much. People can be married to one another, even quite happily married to one another, and still each have their own quite distinct individual views on political issues; I think there's a sexist tendency to assume women's political views must be identical to their husbands', and I think Hillary suffers somewhat in the esteem of many left-wing voters due to this sexist assumption. I also think there's some completely illegitimate and blatantly sexist panic going on in which Hillary Clinton is being falsely painted as having emotional problems simply because the sexist stereotype of women in our culture is that women are somehow emotionally out of control.

On Facebook this year I've seen numerous people accusing Hillary Clinton of being a sociopath, a narcissist, an egomaniac, a pathological liar . . . I don't understand this. She is a politician, so naturally she seeks political office, promotes her qualifications for that office, and engages in some degree of political machinations and manipulations. But I don't see how she's in any way more extreme about this than any other national-level politician. I have some very strong disagreements with her about policy, but as for her sanity and emotional stability, I think I've never seen any comparably prominent politician whose sanity or emotional stability could ever exceed hers. If you want to accuse a Clinton of being a narcissist, you should be accusing Bill. Narcissism is strongly correlated with cheating on one's partner; it is not at all correlated with putting up with being cheated on by one's partner. The same goes for sociopathy. That right there is pretty strong evidence that whatever else Hillary Clinton may be, she is not a narcissist or a sociopath. And I simply don't see any evidence for egomania in her. She wants the job of president and promotes herself accordingly, but the same has been true of every presidential candidate ever. This isn't egomania; it's the same thing you do when you want a job and you have relevant qualifications and so you list those qualifications and try to explain to the job interviewer why you're the best candidate for the job.

What I want to know is why there was no loud, angry, "Howard Dean or Bust" contingent in 2004 comparable to the loud, angry "Bernie or Bust" contingent this year. And why there was no loud, angry, "Jerry Brown or Bust" contingent in 1992, and no halfway meaningful primary challenger at all to Bill Clinton in 1996. How were John Kerry or Bill Clinton any less disappointingly right-wing than Hillary Clinton is? I completely acknowledge that Hillary Clinton is disappointingly right-wing, but John Kerry and Bill Clinton were even worse! And though so many people seem loath to admit it, there is some value in the fact that at least we got a woman as our disappointingly right-wing candidate this time around. I'd definitely have vastly preferred a different woman (you know, the one with the initials E. W.), but the fact that Hillary Clinton is a woman does in fact count for something. Her being female will have an impact on the culture. For the better. It's not everything, but it's something.

I definitely feel that a substantial portion of the resistance to Hillary Clinton is motivated by sexism, even though, simultaneously, I also definitely feel that there are some very good reasons to feel resistance to Hillary Clinton.

When I've voted third party in the past, it's been with the hope that some Democratic strategist somewhere would look at the election results and see that the Democratic Party lost some voters to a further-left candidate and recognize that they might regain those voters by moving further left themselves. This year, though, I'm not feeling confident that the Democratic Party's strategists will necessarily infer that from votes cast for left-wing third parties. I think they might at least as accurately infer that the fact that Hillary Clinton is a woman is what's scaring most of the third-party voters away from her. And the other thing is that the Democratic Party isn't the only party that can be sent a message here, and they're not necessarily the party most severely in need of a message this year. The Republican Party has this year nominated a significantly more blatantly racist and misogynist and all-around despicable candidate than they've ever managed to before - a con man and promulgator of racist "birther" conspiracy theories who is slow to disavow endorsements from the Ku Klux Klan and regularly retweets posts by members of known hate groups. There are two different messages the Republican Party could potentially learn from this year's presidential election results: that choosing such a person will cost them the election in a landslide or that choosing such a person is a viable option that might be worth trying again in future years. They might choose to learn the latter lesson even if Trump loses, as long as the race is close enough. And by "close enough," I mean the number of votes for Trump versus the number of votes for Clinton - because those are the numbers the Republican Party is likely to look longest and hardest at. So, in full recognition that my vote in the presidential election will serve simply to send a message, and despite the fact that I'm not thrilled at the idea of having to let either one of the Clintons anywhere near the White House again, I'm feeling like, this year, the message I want to send is likely to be best sent via a vote for Hillary Clinton.

And if, unlike me, you live in a swing state, and your vote might have some potential to do more than just send a message, don't forget that the balance of the U.S. Supreme Court depends on this election. This is the first time in my lifetime that we've had a chance to reverse the conservative tilt of the U.S. Supreme Court, and I'm 40 years old. Whatever happens this time around, there might not be another such chance in our lifetimes.

Mostly, though, just please bother to vote. For whoever. Going to the polls is an improvement over not going to the polls.

Mood: not fully decided yet, but getting there
12 Minds Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Friday, 8 July 2016
Friday, 8 July 2016 4:49pm
Bike Parade and More Kitten Pictures

I was in a bike parade for the Fourth of July! And I can't even ride a bike!

me4th.jpg

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Mood: cheerful
2 Minds Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Wednesday, 29 June 2016
Wednesday, 29 June 2016 12:01am
Kittens!

So, when I went over to Barry's house on Friday, he surprised me by revealing that he'd picked up foster kittens earlier that day. Four tiny adorable foster kittens. And now I'm going to show you the pictures we took of them while I was there.

kittens!

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Mood: kittens!!!!
1 Mind Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Friday, 24 June 2016
Friday, 24 June 2016 9:13pm
Kittens!!!!

My adorable boyfriend who has an affinity for his fellow adorable creatures brought home today four itty bitty teeny tiny five-week-old kittens to foster for two weeks until they reach adoptable age. This means there are currently seven cats in his house. The adorableness level had exceeded all tolerable limits. And I don't even have my camera with me! I will have to borrow his. I will do that later. For now, it is simply necessary to exclaim, KITTENS!!!!

Mood: KITTENS!!!!
3 Minds Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Wednesday, 11 May 2016
Wednesday, 11 May 2016 10:35pm
Lake Berryessa

On Sunday my wonderful boyfriend and I went to Lake Berryessa. I don't remember ever having been to Lake Berryessa before, and it seems ridiculous for me not to have been there before, because I've always lived within a 1.5-hour drive of it, all my life, and for much of my life I lived within a 1-hour drive of it, and it's a pretty big and readily accessible lake to just randomly never go to. But now I've been to it. It was Barry's first visit there also, but his previous neglect of the place was more excusable than mine since he grew up in Arizona and only gradually worked his way north from there toward this end of the state.

I researched the trail options the night before the hike and quickly settled on two: the Smittle Creek trail, which is a fairly flat, 5-mile round-trip, out-and-back trail between Oak Shores Day Use Area and Smittle Creek Day Use Area, and the Stebbins Cold Canyon trail, which is a rather steep, 4-mile loop trail at the far southeast end of the lake (the nearest end to us). I decided on the Stebbins Cold Canyon trail, because it was nearer to us. However, when we arrived, we found that the trail was closed , shut off behind a chain-link fence for repairs.

So we decided to look for the Smittle Creek trail instead. However, we were already out of range of cellphone signals, and we remained out of range for the rest of the drive, so Barry's cellphone would not give us directions. What it did do was show where we were going (using GPS) and where our intended destination was. It just didn't tells us where any of the streets were between us and our intended destination. But we set out to find our own way, using tried-and-true methods such as "Look for a right turn somewhere. If you see a right turn, take it." Barry was driving, and I was watching our GPS dot move around on his cellphone. Eventually we found the correct turnoff - actually, we found our way all the way from Stebbins Cold Canyon trail to Smittle Creek trail without taking a single wrong turn at any point, and with no particular stress at all over getting lost. Barry even said he likes getting a little lost now and then. This is a very desirable attitude to have when lost. I feel that I have now confirmed that Barry is a good person to get lost with.

This is a basic view of the lake from along the trail, before I get into the chronology of the pictures I took.

Lake Berryessa from the Smittle Creek trail

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Mood: contemplative
1 Mind Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Thursday, 5 May 2016
Thursday, 5 May 2016 11:47pm
Table Mountain

So, last Sunday my lovely and adorable boyfriend and I celebrated our then-impending one-month mark by wandering Table Mountain in search of waterfalls. Okay, it wasn't specifically planned as a celebration of the one-month mark, but it served the purpose anyway. One of the many great things about this new boyfriend of mine is that he takes excellent photographs of me, such as this one he took on Table Mountain. It probably helps that he's just very good at giving me reason to smile.

me on Table Mountain, May 2016


But I took a lot of pictures there too, and mostly I'm going to be showing you the ones I took.

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Mood: happy
1 Mind Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Tuesday, 26 April 2016
Tuesday, 26 April 2016 5:53pm
More Boyfriend Pictures!

My boyfriend is ready to be publicly introduced in his LiveJournal identity! He is berialpha. His journal and his profile are both quite blank at the moment though, so you're just going to have to take my word for it that he is great. He is the greatest BeriAlpha in all of human history. There may not have been any other BeriAlphas in human history, but if there had been, they couldn't possibly have compared to him.

I now have pictures of Barry and me together! His mother took them with my camera, at my request, in his parents' back yard. Despite a slightly unfortunate glare from my glasses, I think I like this one best.

April 23, 2016

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Mood: pleased
6 Minds Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Sunday, 17 April 2016
Sunday, 17 April 2016 2:43am
April Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day

I'm just slightly late for April Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day. Considering that April and May are the biggest months for flowers, I'm going to count being just slightly late as doing pretty well. After all, I have a whole lot of photos to write about this month! This is what my front yard looks like right now. The orange flowers are of course California poppies (Eschscholzia californica). The ones that look plain white at this distance are a variety of different things: white meadowfoam (Limnanthes alba), five spot (Nemophila maculata), and bird's eyes (Gilia tricolor). The ones that look plain blue at this distance are baby blue eyes (Nemophila menziesii), Chinese pagodas (Collinsia heterophylla), and foothill beardtongue (Penstemon heterophyllus 'Blue Springs'). You can also see a few yellowray goldfields (Lasthenia glabrata), in yellow of course, and if you look hard enough, some mountain garland (Clarkia unguiculata) in pink.

April 2016

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Mood: accomplished
4 Minds Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Tuesday, 12 April 2016
Tuesday, 12 April 2016 12:16am
Boyfriend Pictures!

I have a boyfriend! I have a hot young 34-year-old boyfriend who has all sorts of impressive talents and charms in addition to being gorgeous. His name is Barry! In this post I'm going to show you pictures to illustrate how delightful and talented and beautiful he is.

We will start here, with the very first picture I took of him. He was cooking corned beef for me in his kitchen, with eggs on top. I think it is entirely fair for me to claim credit for putting that smile on his face. Is there anyone in the world who has any kind of appreciation for the concept of boyfriends who doesn't want a boyfriend who cooks for them while smiling like that? No, I thought not. This is the ultimate in boyfriend perfection, right here. This is what every boyfriend-wanting person wants from a boyfriend.

Barry cooking

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Mood: boyfriend!
7 Minds Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Thursday, 17 March 2016
Thursday, 17 March 2016 11:02pm
March Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day

It's spring! And I'm a little late for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, because I had more pictures to sort through than usual, because I have more flowers to photograph than usual, because it's spring.

My garden usually peaks in the second half of April. Occasionally the precise middle of April. Either way, we're not there yet, but we're getting there. In a lot of ways I like the month leading up to the peak better than the actual peak, because at the actual peak, everything starts going downhill.

This is my front yard this week. The whole area to the right of the path used to be lawn until last August. Also I chopped down a tree there in October. So everything here is new, but it's filling in nicely. In the past month I wrestled that big blue pot onto the tree stump where the tree used to be, and also wrestled a smalled blue pot onto a smaller tree stump (well, shrub stump) up against the house, near the left edge of the picture. I also sawed both stumps a bit to get them more level than they were. And filled both pots with soil. And then the fun part: planting them! They're now home to a combination of non-native strawberries and native ornamental shrubs.

The small, pale flowers you can hardly see in the foreground here are two California native annuals, baby blue eyes (Nemophila menziesii) and five spot (Nemophila maculata). The big orange flowers are California golden poppies (Eschscholzia californica), and the spikes of bluish flowers a little behind them are foothill beardtongue (Penstemon heterophyllus 'Blue Springs').

Eschscholzia californica (California poppy), Penstemon heterophyllus "Blue Springs" (foothill beardtongue), Nemophila maculata (five spot)

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Mood: accomplished
2 Minds Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Sunday, 14 February 2016
Sunday, 14 February 2016 8:06pm
Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, Valentine's Edition: It's Spring!

Spring may be more than a month away by our human calendars, but my plants have already begun their celebration of its arrival. Daffodils everywhere! Even several of my shrubs are blooming. And the first of my California native annuals! I have far more to show you for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day this month than last month.

This is in my front yard. The blue flowers are a non-native hybrid larkspur (Delphinium belladonna 'Bellamosum') that I'm trying out this year for the first time, and the yellow daffodils in the background came with the house.

Delphinium belladonna "Bellamosum" (hybrid larkspur) with Narcissus sp. (daffodil)

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Mood: pleased
6 Minds Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Tuesday, 19 January 2016
Tuesday, 19 January 2016 1:00am
Three-Day Weekend

I finally have adult silverware! When I first moved out on my own, I got to take with me some mismatched pieces of my parents' old silverware sets, and then when I moved in with Susan I combined those with some mismatched pieces of hers, which she left behind when she moved in with Rebecca because Rebecca already had her own. I decided then that I wanted to acquire a proper set of fully matching silverware and a proper set of fully matching china for the first time in my life. I succeeded right away with finding a set of china that I liked, but my search for silverware didn't go so well. I gave most of the mismatched silverware pieces to former neighbor/former housekeeper Jessica and mail-ordered a set of silverware that I liked the look of, but when they arrived, I found that the metal bent extremely easily, and I wasn't happy with them. So in the two years since then I've shopped around carefully for other options, and for the past year I've had my eye on a particular set, but I was waiting for a good sale so I could get them cheap. I finally nabbed them in an after-Christmas sale a few weeks ago, and now they've arrived in the mail. I'm very happy with them! They're incredibly strong and don't feel like they'll ever bend out of shape. They're also rather huge - they appear to be made for giant people with giant hands and giant mouths. The salad forks and teaspoons are the size that regular forks and tablespoons normally are. But I don't mind the hugeness. I like them a lot.

Acquiring them inspired me to further reorganize my kitchen. When Susan lived here, it was her kitchen and she got to organize it however she liked. Two years ago when it became my kitchen, I moved some of the most obviously illogically placed items around, but this weekend I confronted some remaining illogical item placements in the kitchen and fixed them. So now the silverware are in the drawer that has built-in silverware compartments, whereas before there were pens and pencils in the built-in silverware compartments. And the cupboard that has built-in dishtowel racks now has dishtowels on the racks rather than being stuffed with paper bags. I fixed the dishtowel cupboard a while back already, but I fixed the silverware drawer just this weekend. Everything looks better and works better when used in the way it was intended. Though there's still no clear use for the cupboard containing the severed base of a formerly built-in ironing board. My kitchen is full of odd built-in features.

I also mopped my floors. I meant to steam-clean the carpets as well, but I didn't quite get around to that. But I mopped the floors. That was good. And I attempted to cook something I hadn't tried before, although it came out rather disastrous in terms of visual appeal. I attempted to cook pecan meringue cookies, but the meringue melted together (despite having held its shape very well before I put it in the oven) and produced something more like pecan meringue brownies. I realized later that I forgot to add the teaspoon of vanilla extract that the recipe called for, so maybe that caused the problem? It tasted all right, though, so it wasn't a complete failure.

I also made cream of fennel and pear soup recently and decided I want to make a really huge batch of it sometime soon and see whether I can freeze it and use it as a sauce or gravy in the future. I always forget how good it is when I don't make it for a while, and I generally only make it once or twice a year because it's rather a lot of trouble. But it's really good.

This is the time of year when I always start trying new recipes in an effort to use up the oranges on my orange tree. So far this year, though, the recipes I've been trying haven't used any oranges yet. I should probably start using my oranges. They don't keep for as long as my pecans do.

I also managed this weekend to get my blood drawn and escaped from the office after only a single needle-stick! First time in quite possibly a decade that I've escaped without multiple puncture wounds. It was a different phlebotomist than in the past. She must be very talented.

And this evening I spent hours heavily editing an 11-page article for a friend. Or maybe more of a friendly acquaintance. A guy I went on one date with once, ages ago, after which we both had no interest in any further dates but did not hate each other. Anyway, he wanted and needed editing help, so I helped, and I think I did quite a good job with it. The thing I really like about providing free editing help to friends and acquaintances is that it reminds me of how much I actually do enjoy editing - because when people pay me to do it, it feels like something I'm only willing to do for the money, but when I do it for free, I remember that actually it's something I do like enough to be willing to spend an evening of my free time doing just for the fun of it. I wouldn't do it 40 hours per week just for the fun of it, but I can happily do a few hours here and there for the fun of it.

Some part of me is still totally despondent about David Bowie's death, but at least I'm doing a reasonably good job of submerging the despondency under a burst of productivity and functionality.

Mood: busy
Speak Your Mind
Friday, 15 January 2016
Friday, 15 January 2016 8:45pm
January Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day

It's January, and not a whole lot is blooming, but it's Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, so I photographed what there is. This rose isn't even actually mine, but it was hanging over the fence from my next-door neighbors' yard, so I figured it was fair game. Maybe this particular flower of it is mine.

Rosa sp. (rose)

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Mood: indescribable
Speak Your Mind
Thursday, 14 January 2016
Thursday, 14 January 2016 12:45am
Loose Dogs

I went running tonight. I had just come back from running on Sunday night when I found out about David Bowie's death. I took Monday and Tuesday off from it because I didn't get any sleep those nights (and also I always take at least one night off after a run anyway). I got a bit more sleep last night (maybe six hours). Not enough to make me feel particularly well - in fact, I had a terrible headache all day long, and took ibuprofen for it repeatedly - the full dose, whereas usually I just take half a dose and find that to be sufficient - but didn't manage to get rid of it until I finally resorted to taking migraine medication (acetaminophen + caffeine) in the evening. I'm not sure it was actually a migraine - it felt more like a tension headache - and taking caffeine in the evening may not be great for my prospects of sleep tonight, but, well, the headache wouldn't have been good for my prospects of sleep tonight either.

Anyway, once I finally managed to get rid of the headache, I went running. And I tried a different route than usual. I've been trying slightly different routes almost every time I run lately, but there are still a few streets in the neighborhood that I've never tried running on before. Tonight's route took me through a few blocks of one of those. While on one of those unfamiliar streets, I saw some people outside talking. As I ran past them - not directly past them, but around a corner that was diagonally across the street from where they were standing - their dogs, which I hadn't previously noticed, came running at me. Three dogs, all off-leash, all rather large, mixed-breeds with slightly varying heritage, but at least two of the three had significant amounts of pitbull blood in them (which means that they had very powerful jaws). They surrounded me, and I felt one of them press its teeth against my arm. Only the front faces of its teeth - my arm was not actually in its mouth - but it was a definite, urgent, immediate warning sign of the sort that directly precedes biting. I yelled "Hey!" and raised my arms to try to keep them out of the dogs' reach and stopped moving so as to avoid triggering any further the dogs' predatory instinct to chase a creature that was running away. The owners called out for the dogs to come back to them. All three of the dogs ignored them and stayed focused on me. It took at least 60 seconds for the owners to actually come over close enough to get the dogs to obey them.

I did not have my own dog, Boston, with me. When I bring her, I always try to remember to bring pepper spray in case I need to defend her from other dogs. I've never actually managed to use pepper spray to defend her with any kind of success at all, and it's not necessarily a great idea for me to try to, because when I have tried to in the past I managed to get at least as much pepper spray on myself as I got on the dog I was trying to ward off . . . but it is at least theoretically a line of defense in case of emergencies. I sometimes also bring pepper spray when I'm by myself, but not so often, because it's kind of a pain to carry it (perhaps this can be fixed, if I can figure out a good system for carrying it - I need either some running clothes with a convenient pocket for it or some sort of clip-on attachment device so I don't have to hold it in my hands) and because I figure that with any kind of luck, the number of loose dogs or humans that are liable to launch violent, unprovoked attacks on me is significantly smaller than the number of loose dogs that are liable to launch violent, unprovoked attacks on Boston. Tonight I didn't have it with me. But more importantly, even if I had had it with me, I don't think I would have dared to use it, because the owners of the dogs were there watching, and I would be afraid that pepper-spraying their dogs in front of them might provoke the owners to violently attack me.

I mean, I've heard from a woman who lives in Marysville - a small, frail, elderly woman - that when a loose dog lunged at her here in town, she did pepper-spray it in self-defense right in front of its owner, and its owner did become extremely threatening toward her, following her around for the next several minutes while screaming obscenities and threats of violence at her. And then one of the woman's acquaintances who turned out to also be acquainted with the dog's owner (this is a small town) saw her and told her, after the dog's owner finally went away, that the dog's owner was indeed a very dangerous man and was extremely likely to actually commit the sorts of violence he'd been threatening to commit.

And, well, the very fact that the owners of the three dogs that came after me were letting them run loose inclines me to think not very highly of them. So . . . this whole situation is very bad all around. And one of the reasons I've been varying my running routes so much is that I keep hoping to find a route that doesn't contain any creepy spots that frighten me. But wherever I go, there are houses with loose dogs, or houses with dogs in the front yard fenced in by ridiculously low fences that I'm virtually certain the dogs are big enough to jump over if sufficiently motivated, or houses with humans who catcall me or leer at me or just give off a creepy vibe. There are certain blocks that are fairly reliably not creepy, but the only way to string together 5K worth of fairly reliably not creepy blocks seems to be to run repeated laps around a smaller loop. Which I do resort to doing sometimes. But even then, I never know for sure how far the loose dogs may wander on any given night.

I'm very tired of being made to feel unsafe. I don't know anyone who lets their dog(s) run loose, do I? If you let your dog(s) run loose, I do not like you. Even if I'm under the illusion that I like you because I don't know any better, I don't actually like you. Please properly restrain your dog(s) so I can like you. Your dog's teeth do not belong in contact with my arm.

I think there should be an extremely huge fine very consistently levied against anyone whose dog is found running loose. I would be willing to risk being fined myself in the unexpected event of Boston escaping, just to have a safe city to run through for a change.

Mood: scared
4 Minds Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Sunday, 10 January 2016
Sunday, 10 January 2016 11:43pm
R.I.P., David Bowie

David Bowie is dead.

It was on the day of his death, just a few hours before they announced it, presumably as he was dying, that I was listening to his brand-new album Blackstar, released just two days ago on his 69th birthday - I was listening to it on YouTube because my copy of the CD hasn't even arrived in the mail yet - and I was thinking then, for I guess the last of many, many times over the years, how terrible it would be when someday David Bowie died and I outlived him and I would never get to look forward to any more new music from him ever again.

And then I thought a slight variation of it that I don't remember ever thinking before today: I thought how much even more terrible it would be if I didn't outlive him. I thought, if I died of cancer and David Bowie were still alive at the time, I think quite one of the very most terrible things about dying for me would be the thought that there would be David Bowie albums that I would never get to hear.

Well, now there won't be. But I wasn't planning to die anytime soon! I do not want him to be gone.

I was watching his music video for his new single, "Lazarus," while I was having those thoughts. He spends most of the video lying in what appears to be a hospital bed. While singing about being already dead. I guess that was a fairly unsubtle hint. I'm glad he lived long enough for his album to be released. I'm glad he lived long enough for all his previous albums to be released. I'm glad he seemed, by all accounts, quite happy in his final years, in his 23-year marriage to Iman, with their 15-year-old daughter Alexandria (named after the famous library) and his 44-year-old son Duncan from his first marriage. I'm glad he followed his conscience and his heart in choosing to take ten years off from his career so as not to miss out on his daughter's childhood the way he missed out on his son's. I mean, I would have liked to have more albums during those years, but not at the cost of sabotaging his family life. I'm glad he seemed to have found his way to the calm and happy family life he always wanted, that he did not have in his younger years.

I learned of his death on Facebook, from a grieving post by jess_s. A few seconds later I got messaged about it by my high school friend Christine, who knew me when I first discovered him and became instantly obsessed. Christine promised to listen to the entire Blackstar album tomorrow in his memory. I didn't ask for that - she volunteered it. She wasn't even a particular fan of his. It was a kind gesture.

The word is that he died at home, surrounded by family, after an 18-month battle with cancer. I would like to know what kind of cancer it was so I can harbor an especially ferocious hatred for that particular kind of cancer forever and ever.

[Edit: They're saying now that it was liver cancer. Same thing his guitarist Mick Ronson died of, and his close friend Lou Reed. Though there are different types of liver cancer, starting in different types of tissue within the liver.]

I looked at his son's Twitter feed and saw that Duncan had written on New Year's Day that he had really hated 2015. I guess he had reason. Eighteen months ago, though, the date of initial diagnosis, would have been June 2014. And I did not need any more reasons to hate 2014. 2014 was when I got diagnosed with cancer too. In June I had just finished my radiation treatments, and David Bowie was just getting diagnosed.

I feel orphaned. Both my biological parents are still alive - and I know how tremendously lucky I am in that - but I feel orphaned by my celebrity idol pseudo-deity pseudo-parental figure. I don't have any other word for it. He was younger than my father and only a few months older than my mother, but I always suspected he'd die before either of them because he didn't exactly treat his body well for much of his life. Well, I was right. Stay away from cigarettes, alcohol, and cocaine, people I care about. [Also, stay away from hepatitis viruses, which apparently cause a substantial percentage of liver cancers.]

I've had to forcefully remind myself that even if it were possible, I don't actually wish for him to be forcefully resuscitated just to suffer miserably for longer. I don't want to torture him. I love him.

. . . It took me a couple of hours after hearing of his death before I could cry. I guess I wrote this post to bring that on. It's gotten me there now. It looks like this is what I may be doing at the top of my lungs for the next several hours.

Mood: heartbroken
12 Minds Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Friday, 25 December 2015
Friday, 25 December 2015 11:50pm
Presents!

It's present-giving day! The pagan one that most people I know celebrate four days after the solstice and pretend has something to do with Christianity even though rather few of the people I know who celebrate it are actually Christian. Not much about this holiday makes a lot of sense to me, but anyway, it involves giving people presents, and I did that, and I got a bunch of presents in return!

I also saw snow! Not very much of it, but a little. I thought I might see snow in Grass Valley, because I know it snowed there yesterday, and because it was where I saw snow on Thanksgiving. But all I saw when driving through there today were wet spots along the sides of the road where snow had recently melted. I saw actual snow farther along, though, in Garden Valley, where my parents live. My parents did not have any snow themselves; they said they had only gotten some hail, and the hail had melted already. But elsewhere in their town I saw snow. There was snow near them, and I saw it, even though they didn't.

I am very pleased with this year's present-giving day. I don't generally do Christmas cards, but occasionally when people post notices to say things like, "I don't generally do Christmas cards, but this year I'm doing them, so if you want a card, send me your address," I respond to those people and exchange Christmas cards only with them, only that year. So this year I exchanged cards with frankepi, an Internet friend of seventeen years now, and that made me happy. And I also started preparing to mail a housewarming gift to woo2step and recycledsilence - it may go out in the mail tomorrow - and that made me happy too. And then I found out that I'm going to get to see my high school friend Christine on New Year's Eve, and that she wants to go on a hike with me before we go eat somewhere, and I get to help pick out a place for us to go hiking, and that made me even happier. Also I have a week and a half off work (I last worked December 23 and won't go back until January 4) so I can probably find time to do some other fun things as well.

So it is a very good present-giving day! And also I received a very good collection of presents:

Books:
Peter Alden and Fred Heath: National Audubon Society Field Guide to California
Mariama Bâ: So Long a Letter
James Baldwin: No Name in the Street
Cao Xueqin: The Story of the Stone (or The Dream of the Red Chamber), Volume I
Cervantes: Don Quixote
Louis Chu: Eat a Bowl of Tea
Fyodor Dostoyevsky: The Possessed
Brian Evenson: Windeye
Sue Monk Kidd: The Invention of Wings
Jhumpa Lahiri: Interpreter of Maladies
Haruki Murakami: Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage
Haruki Murakami: What I Talk About When I Talk About Running: A Memoir
Pu Songling: Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio
Tayeb Salih: Season of Migration to the North
Sylvia Townsend Warner: Mr. Fortune's Maggot
Lidia Yuknavitch: Real to Reel

CDs:
New Order: Music Complete
Echo & the Bunnymen: Meteorites

Seeds:
yellow lupine (Lupinus densiflorus)
arroyo lupine (Lupinus succulentus)
tidy-tips (Layia platyglossa)

Other:
a pitchfork for turning my compost pile
a portable sitting/kneeling platform for weeding my garden when the ground is muddy
a cast-iron coat-hanger forged by a friend of my aunt
popsicle molds

The books are quite an odd mixture. Pleasingly odd. It was really a very good present-giving day for me. How was your present-giving day?

Mood: happy
4 Minds Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Wednesday, 16 December 2015
Wednesday, 16 December 2015 7:46am
December Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day

Around here, as in many places, December is the most difficult month of the year in which to get plants to bloom. August is not much fun for plants here either, but December manages to be even worse. Nonetheless, yesterday I ventured outside to find out what was blooming and photograph it for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day.

I'll start, though, with what isn't blooming: The pecan harvest is officially over, because the pecan tree (Carya illinoinensis) is now totally bare.

Carya illinoinensis (pecan)

Click for pictures of actual flowers!Collapse )
2 Minds Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Tuesday, 15 December 2015
Tuesday, 15 December 2015 6:21am
The Unethical Ethicist

I really hate the advice dispensed in this advice column by "The Ethicist."

The letter-writer says he is friends with "Jane" and also, secondarily, with Jane's husband "Peter." He writes,
Jane is having an affair with ‘‘Martin,’’ whom Jane has known most of her adult life. I know about the affair because Jane confided in me years ago. In fact, this affair was also a part of Jane’s previous marriage, and Jane confided this to me as part of her divorce from her first husband, whom I did not know. Jane thinks Martin is her true life’s ‘‘soul mate,’’ and I think she may be right. Peter does not know about the affair. If he knew about it, I think he would divorce Jane in a minute.
The letter-writer feels vaguely uncomfortable about actively helping Jane deceive Peter, but he's mostly inclined to justify and continue it. The so-called ethicist advises him to go ahead and continue helping Jane deceive Peter, but commends him for bothering to feel guilty about it. Really, how does the mere act of feeling guilty about it help anything if he goes on doing it?

Here is what the letter-writer ought to have done from the beginning: When Jane went through her divorce from her first husband and confessed to the letter-writer that she was having an affair with Martin - who is married - the letter-writer should have realized that it does not make sense to want to count among one's friends a person who cheats on their spouse (with another married person, at that). Why would you want to be friends with a liar who damages multiple people's marriages and puts multiple people at risk of STDs without their knowledge or consent? If you have a spouse or partner yourself - or if you ever might in the future - why would you expect Jane to have any more respect for your marriage than she has for Martin's or her own? Why would you expect Jane to have any more respect for anything about your life than she has for Peter's life or Martin's wife's life?

At this point it's going to be a bit more complicated for the letter-writer to extract himself from the situation ethically than it would have been back then. Still, though, an important part of the solution has to be "Stop being friends with known cheaters!" Being friends with them morally compromises you and gives them the idea that cheating isn't that bad - since, by remaining friends with them, you are indeed conveying the sense that you don't think their behavior is bad enough to make you want to dissociate yourself from them. Have higher standards than that!

Will it be sad to lose a longstanding friendship if your friend starts cheating on their spouse? Sure. But if your friend is not the quality of person who deserves to have you as a friend, you're better off facing that fact rather than continuing to trust a person who has shown themself to be untrustworthy.

And what if your friends go ahead and cheat on their spouses but simply don't tell you about it because they know you won't accept them as friends anymore under those conditions? Well, that means (a) your friends won't morally compromise you by enlisting you as co-conspirators in deceiving their spouses, and (b) your friends won't be able to take comfort in the sense that cheating must not be that bad because they can tell all their friends about it and their friends all go on being friends with them anyway. So . . . that's good.

Also: What right does the letter-writer (or Jane either, for that matter) have to decide for Peter that Peter is supposedly better off remaining in this marriage in which he's being lied to and cheated on, when Peter himself is likely to think otherwise and has not been given the opportunity to decide for himself? This amounts to the letter-writer having a low opinion of Peter, believing that Peter couldn't do any better for himself in the marriage market than to remain married to someone who's cheating on him.

The letter-writer could ask Peter for advice here: Make up a friend, mention him to Peter on a few separate occasions, make him seem believable, then tell Peter you found out that this friend's wife is cheating on him. What does Peter think you should do? If Peter thinks your friend should be told, then I think Peter should be told. Ideally not by the letter-writer, though . . . I would very much prefer that Jane be the one to tell Peter. I would tell Jane, "You need to tell Peter or else I will tell Peter." Jane would not be my friend anymore after this. But that's just fine, because I would have no interest in being friends with Jane anyway.

The ways we react to other people cheating matter. People whose parents cheat are more likely to cheat, because seeing that one's parents cheated tends to create the impression that cheating is relatively more normal, less shocking, less scandalous than one would tend to believe if cheating is something one only reads about in newspaper articles about political scandals. But we form our impressions of what's considered socially acceptable based not only on our parents but also on our friends. This means that friends also have the power to alter our understanding of the degree to which cheating is acceptable or unacceptable. So you're responsible for the impressions you create. And don't you want them to be anti-cheating impressions?

A relationship should stand or fall on its own merits. If it isn't working, leave! But leave when you decide it's not working - don't string someone along for years while looking for someone better. Anyone who's truly better is going to think less of you if you start romancing them while you're in a relationship with someone else. And the person you're in a relationship with deserves to know that it's time to consider themself single at the same moment that you start behaving as if you're single yourself.

And what if you haven't thought your relationship was in bad enough condition to justify breaking up, but you suddenly find yourself attracted to someone else? Three things. First, have enough respect for your existing partner to recognize that you don't know the someone else well enough to be able to fairly compare them, and that the excitement of meeting a new person is likely to create an inaccurate and short-lived impression that the someone else is better than they actually are. Second, have enough respect for the someone else to realize they deserve better than the kind of person who would destroy an existing relationship to be with them. And third, start working on fixing your relationship with your existing partner . . . starting by telling your existing partner what you're feeling for this other person. The way to restore a sense of trust and emotional intimacy is to actually trust your partner and actually allow your partner emotional intimacy. That means you tell your partner whatever you've been hiding. That's the only way to fix things. Candlelight dinners and fancy jewelry and exciting vacations do not create trust and emotional intimacy. Honesty does.

Mood: irritated
1 Mind Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Sunday, 22 November 2015
Sunday, 22 November 2015 10:09pm
Survey of Sorts

seifaiden recently pointed out to me 30 Journaling Prompts for Self-Reflection and Self-Discovery. I don't think they all merit separate entries, but I decided to throw together a few of the ones I have short answers for.

My favorite way to spend the day is . . .
Sleep late, read in bed, pet my cat in bed, get up, harvest pecans with my dog, plant some plants, discover new flowers in my yard, take pictures of the yard, go for a hike, take pictures of the hike, write about it on LiveJournal.

If I could talk to my teenage self, the one thing I would say is . . .
You will manage to handle so much more than you think you're capable of handling. (Also so much more than you have the slightest idea you'll ever need to handle. But I won't tell you that part, because the optimistic belief that virtually everything will go right all your life is a valuable survival mechanism that I do not wish to rob you of.)

The words I’d like to live by are . . .
No one can love you completely unless they know completely who you are, so you must never, never, never do anything so terrible that you can't bring yourself to confess to it later, because if you can't bring yourself to confess to it later then you can't ever be known completely and loved completely.

I couldn’t imagine living without . . .
People I trust who know me completely. Or as close to completely as is achievable between human beings with fallible memories and finite amounts of time for communication.

When I’m in pain — physical or emotional — the kindest thing I can do for myself is . . .
Recognize it, acknowledge it, examine it, describe it in writing and in conversation.

What does unconditional love look like for you?
Unconditional love does not seem particularly sane to me. If someone you love murders everyone else you love, will you still love them afterward? Should you still love them afterward? Maybe if they're your child and you feel responsible for making them into the horrible person they became, you'd have to. Other than that, though, I think you should switch to hating them instead. That's putting a condition on your love for them, and I think you should go right ahead and make your love conditional upon that.

What would you do if you loved yourself unconditionally? How can you act on these things whether you do or don’t?
I think my love for myself is also conditional upon my not murdering people, and I'm okay with that too. I do not desire to love myself unconditionally.

I really wish others knew this about me . . .
1. I'm queer by choice.
2. I'm quite open about who I am and what I want. Our interactions will go more smoothly if you don't spend your time constantly worrying that I might secretly be wildly different than I claim to be.

Name what is enough for you.
1. A stable supply of enough money that I don't feel a need to worry about money. I can comfortably do without things like cellphones, cable TV, restaurants, and hotels, but I need to be able to decide on a whim to buy several dozen plants or half a dozen new skirts and not have to worry about whether I can really afford that or not.
2. Access to a wide range of books.
3. Access to the Internet.
4. Access to people who understand me extremely well.
5. Access to nature in reasonably wild form.

Using 10 words, describe yourself.
Independent, unusual, creative, literate, rational, stable, reliable, determined, committed, whole-hearted.

(Not sure whether that counts as 10 words or 11 words, but I think it's close enough. Several of the words are near-synonyms of one another, but some concepts about me apparently require emphasis.)

What can you learn from your biggest mistakes?
Mostly, to be more suspicious of people. Also (variations on the same theme, but with different nuances) to ask more questions, and to recognize that sometimes I ought in fact to start an argument, because some arguments need to be had.

What’s surprised you the most about your life or life in general?
It's far more difficult and painful than I had expected.

I feel most energized when . . .
I'm with people I can relate to well.

Mood: okay
1 Mind Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Tuesday, 17 November 2015
Tuesday, 17 November 2015 12:33pm
Congressman John Garamendi Town Hall

Today I answered a random, unexpected robocall that linked me to a telephone town hall conference with my U.S. Representative, Congressman John Garamendi (California's 3rd Congressional District). He introduced the call by talking about the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and then spent the next hour accepting questions, most of which ended up also being focused on ISIS, although all topics were welcome. The questions that were focused on ISIS were the ones that scared me, though. Here are some of the questions he received (questions and answers both imperfectly paraphrased from my memory).

1. Have you seen the pictures of the Syrian refugees? They're nearly all very healthy-looking young or middle-aged men! They're obviously much too healthy-looking to need our help! Theyre obviously terrorists! We need to keep them out of our country!
(Answer: Actually, most of the Syrian refugees who are accepted into the United States - and there've only been 2,000 so far, all of whom have been relatives of Americans - are women and children.)

2. The people being slaughtered by ISIS are Christians, not Muslims. Are you willing to support a policy that would ban Muslim refugees from entering the United States and allow only Christian refugees to enter?
(Answer: Actually, ISIS is slaughtering people of all ethnicities and religious groups, wo we will admit refugees based on need, including Muslim refugees who can demonstrate need.)

3. How can we encourage the French government to arm all its citizens so that terrorist attacks can't happen there in the future? And also, why aren't we bombing ISIS, and in particular, why aren't we bombing them with nuclear bombs?
(Answer: Uh, we definitely do not want to use nuclear weapons! We already are bombing ISIS, but we need to be carefully targeting it to minimize harm to innocent civilians so as not to make it any easier for ISIS to recruit new terrorists. [failing to address the first part of the question, which the next caller then brought up again])

4. The French people don't have enough guns, and that's why they couldn't defend themselves from the terrorists. If Hillary becomes president she'll ban all Americans from having any guns, and then we won't be able to protect ourselves from terrorists either!
(Answer: Hillary Clinton isn't trying to ban all Americans from having any guns. She just wants to have strong background checks. Absolutely none of the presidential candidates are trying to ban all Americans from having any guns. Also, having guns isn't really all that helpful in preventing terrorist attacks, and even after these terrorist attacks, gun violence in the U.S. still far exceeds gun violence in France where gun-control laws are stricter.)

Congressman Garamendi is a Democrat. California's 3rd congressional district does include some heavily Republican areas (such as the one where I live: Yuba County). Per the Wikipedia page linked above, it "generally encompasses areas north and west of Sacramento. It consists of Colusa, Sutter, and Yuba counties plus portions of Glenn, Lake, Sacramento, Solano, and Yolo counties." Colusa, Sutter, Yuba, and Glenn are heavily Republican, but Lake, Sacramento, Solano, and Yolo are at least somewhat less so. And we have enough Democratic voters in Lake, Sacramento, Solano, and Yolo Counties to outnumber the hicks of Colusa, Sutter, Yuba, and Glenn Counties in electing a Democratic congressman! So why were there so many scary people asking scary questions in the town hall?

Throughout the call, a poll question was frequently repeated: "Do you think Syrian refugees who go through an 18-month vetting process should be allowed to seek refuge in the United States? Press 1 for yes, 2 for no, or 3 for not sure." At the end of the call, the poll results were announced: 43% said yes, 40% said no, and 17% were not sure. I said yes. Why did 40% say no? Do these people want to close the U.S. borders to white people too, or only to brown people?

The call was at lunchtime, when a lot of people are at work and wouldn't receive it or be able to attend, so most of the people on the call seemed to be old, retired people. This may have been part of the problem.

At the end of the call, I signed up to make sure to receive more of these calls in the future, so I can continue to be frightened by the people I live near. Because apparently I'm really into being frightened by the people I live near.

Mood: scared
1 Mind Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Monday, 16 November 2015
Monday, 16 November 2015 12:20am
Pecan Season! (November Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day)

It's pecan season! And also November Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day. My pecans are definitely piling up.

Carya illinoiensis (pecan)


And the Western leaf-footed bugs (Leptoglossus zonatus) are also out in force. These are a native insect that feeds on nuts and fruits of many sorts. They seem to be more interested in the unripe pecans than in the ripe ones, though; they congregate in large clusters as you see below, always on the unripe nuts (hulls that haven't yet split open to reveal the nuts inside). They also occasionally congregate on the oranges on my orange tree. In either case, they stick a long, tube-shaped mouthpart (much like what mosquitoes use for sucking blood) into the pecan hull or the orange rind and suck out some juices. They don't usually do much noticeable damage; they can cause small black spots on a few of the nuts, but I just chop off the parts that are spotted. If you Google for advice about how to control these bugs, the advice generally consists of, "Just stop worrying about them; they don't actually do much damage." So I let them be. By the time the nuts are ready for picking, they've moved on to some that are less ripe. There also aren't really all that many of them; there are about 20 in the photo below, but only a very small fraction of the pecan clusters on my tress have these bugs on them at all. It's just that where you find one, you generally find a lot more than one. They prefer to stick together.

Leptoglossus zonatus (Western leaf-footed bug)


I also have some flowers in bloom. Click for flowers!Collapse )

Mood: satisfied
1 Mind Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Thursday, 12 November 2015
Thursday, 12 November 2015 10:49pm
My Biases (According to Harvard's Implicit Association Tests)

This evening I took all the implicit association tests in Project Implicit: Social Attitudes. Here is what the tests informed me about my biases:

First, my test results suggest little to no automatic preference between Thin People and Fat People. This is the only category in which I had no evident bias in either direction. Yay for not being sizeist!

On the topic of gender, my test results suggest that I slightly associate Male with Science and Female with Liberal Arts but also slightly associate Female with Career and Male with Family. So apparently I both do and do not buy into gender stereotypes. I guess these associations do at least reflect my personal path in life: I have a career, and it's in a liberal arts field. And I don't so much have a family, other than the one I was born into.

On the topic of sexual orientation, my test results suggest a moderate automatic preference for Gay People compared to Straight People. I'm sure you are all shocked to learn this about me.

On the topic of age, my test results suggest a moderate automatic preference for Young People over Old People. Sorry, old people.

On the topic of presidents, my test results suggest a moderate automatic preference for Barack Obama compared to Ronald Reagan. Really, only moderate??? I confess that I did in fact strongly support Ronald Reagan in the 1984 election. In my defense, I was only eight years old at the time. I feel that this is a reasonable excuse for my not having known any better. By 1988 I had turned into a Democrat and was supporting Michael Dukakis.

On the topic of disability, my test results suggest a slight automatic preference for Abled Persons compared to Disabled Persons. Bad me! Bad me!

On the topic of religion, my test results suggest a strong preference for Buddhism over Judaism, a slight preference for Judaism over Christianity, and a slight preference for Christianity over Islam. Really I'm not a huge fan of any of them, but I do prefer non-Abrahamic religions to Abrahamic ones.

On the topic of skin tone (without specifying individual races), my test results suggest a slight automatic preference for Light Skin compared to Dark Skin. Bad me again!

On the topic of Black Americans, my test results suggest that I slightly associate White Americans with Weapons compared to Black Americans but also slightly prefer White People compared to Black People. Apparently identifying white people as being more dangerous does not prevent me from preferring them? It seems that I am not very smart about this.

On the topic of Arab Muslims, my test results suggest a slight automatic preference for Other People compared to Arab Muslims. Bad me yet again!

On the topic of Native Americans, my test results suggest a strong association of White Americans with Foreign and Native Americans with American. I have to say, I think people should be strongly biased in this direction; it seems like a pretty objective statement of fact to me that if any one race is more American and less foreign than another, the Native Americans are clearly the most American and the least foreign.

On the topic of Asian Americans, my test results suggest a strong association of Asian American with American and European American with Foreign. Um . . . really though, I don't actually go through life thinking, every time I meet a white person, "You're not as genuinely American as Asian Americans are!" Have I mentioned that I'm white and I'm generally fairly convinced that I qualify as American? Just saying . . .

So, that was interesting. I suppose the good news is that my biases that are in the most disturbing directions seem to be pretty consistently slight. I'm a bit confused by the idea that my strongest biases apparently involve regarding white people as not being very American, but perhaps this just reflects the fact that it's easy for me to associate white people with "otherness" in whatever form because I grew up feeling alienated and "other" from them from age six onward. There's nothing like witnessing, as a white six-year-old, a constant, daily onslaught of racist harassment directed at your Asian best friend by your white classmates and sometimes by white adults, to make you emotionally dissociate yourself from the entire category of "white people." Alas, that dissociation does not seem to have cured me of biases against some other races. It would be nice if it did.

Mood: biased
1 Mind Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Saturday, 31 October 2015
Saturday, 31 October 2015 9:58pm
Halloween

A tiny child came to my door this evening in a Spider-Man costume - maybe four years old at the most, but his parents were waiting on the sidewalk rather than accompanying him to the door. He said he could only have candy that didn't contain peanuts. I helped him pick out some that didn't contain peanuts. He turned away. His parents called out, "Say thank you!" He failed to process this instruction. I was very slowly closing the door - being slow about it in case he might eventually catch on to the instructions to thank me - when he suddenly turned around and came back to the door and looked up at me again. "I need a drink!" he exclaimed. I was . . . rather at a loss for how to respond to this. His parents managed to call him away.

I gave away vast quantities of candy tonight. Kids exclaimed that I was giving away better candy than any other house they'd been to. There's probably some sort of benefit to having a good reputation with the neighborhood children, isn't there? Maybe if they turn into juvenile delinquents when they get older and vandalize or burglarize neighboring houses, they'll leave mine alone. Or something. Anyway, I made children happy. And possibly gave them diabetes. I will count it as a good deed.

The Halloween party I went to last night turned out to be substantially larger than I had expected. My friends Alyson and Jackie had told me it was a party for a few kids in their neighborhood - they live on a twenty-acre ranch, and the other homes in their neighborhood are similarly large ranches, so kids can't really go trick-or-treating in their neighborhood because the houses are set too far apart and also set back behind livestock gates so no one can get in. So they and some of their neighbors organize an annual hayride on the night before Halloween, where various costumed adults hide behind various trees along the road and jump out at the kids to scare them and then give them candy. They needed more adults this year, so they called on me. But there were more than a few kids at this party - there were 33 kids! And at least that many adults.

When I arrived, Alyson had a bunch of kids working on assembling spiders out of Oreo cookies with licorice sticks for legs and M&Ms for eyes. She had also created witches' hats by sticking Hershey's kisses to chocolate cookies with frosting, and she was working on creating a mummy from cream cheese, and she had enlisted the help of another adult to create ladybugs from tomatoes and olives. I helped out with arranging some food on plates, but I only arranged food to look like food, not to look like other things. Meanwhile, Jackie, who is theoretically still in the process of recovering from her last round of chemotherapy for metastatic uterine cancer, had strung orange and black lights everywhere and created about a half-mile-long path lined on both sides with lanterns dangling from trees every yard or two. And one or both of them had also found time to help their eight-year-old twin daughters assemble elaborate costumes: one of the daughters had on a long red velvet dress in a Renaissance style, and the other had on a 1950s-style outfit with a poodle skirt.

I have no idea how my friends find the energy to host elaborate parties for more than sixty people while also dealing with things like life-threatening cancer, forced early retirement due to life-threatening cancer, forced early returning-from-homemaking-to-regular-work to compensate for a wife's forced early retirement, the ongoing job of raising twin daughters, and also the ongoing job of managing a ranch full of goats, donkeys, sheep, chickens, guineafowl, ducks, and so on (not to mention that I think they're up to four dogs and four cats now, plus two guinea pigs and some fish). It is remarkable. And then, at the end of the evening, they were already talking about organizing additional large parties in November and December.

I don't exactly know any of their other friends, but I'm reaching a point where I've vaguely met many of their other friends before. There was a great deal of, "Where have I met you before? Was it at the British panto? No, was it at last year's Christmas party? No, I've got it: it was at the Girl Scout cookie sale last spring!" Or, "It was when Alyson and Jackie were away and you were housesitting and I came over to milk the goats!" And so on.

Alyson gave me a Dracula costume to wear. There was a grey-brown vest, a red cummerbund, a black bow tie, white gloves, a blood-red amulet on a ribbon around my neck, and of course, a cape. She also gave me makeup, but she said it was up to me whether I wanted to bother with the makeup. I looked in the mirror and contemplated the possibility of vampire makeup for a while, but I concluded that I was plenty white enough naturally and did not really need any artificial help to make my face even whiter. There did not seem to be any sense in bothering with makeup, so I didn't.

The hayride consisted of four large vehicles each dragging hay wagons full of kids behind them. They drove in a loop around the cul-de-sac, stopping at various places when costumed adults jumped out from behind trees to shower them with candy, and also stopping at a few houses where the kids all got out and went trick-or-treating. To give the kids more of an experience of trick-or-treating, several of the ranches gave out candy not only at the front doors but also at the back doors or from the hay barns or other outbuildings on the property. Kids went trick-or-treating at one of Alyson and Jackie's hay barns in addition to at their front door.

I was initially paired off with a woman in a devil costume to hide behind a tree and give out candy, but that woman's older daughter couldn't handle being unaccompanied and started crying (even though her younger daughter was fine), so she had to go stay with her daughter. I then got paired off with a woman dressed as the evil queen from Snow White. We jumped out at vehicles and shrieked, "Stop! You shall not pass!" and then gave them candy. A little girl called out from one of the vehicles, "You didn't scare me!"

Mostly I was impressed at how well everyone pitched in to help set things up beforehand and clean things up when it was over. It was a very well-coordinated group. My friends have good friends.

Mood: good
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