Gayle Madwin's Journal
                              25 MOST RECENT ENTRIES
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

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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!


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

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.


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

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

More pictures to illustrate the greatness of my boyfriend.Collapse )

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

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:

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

New Order: Music Complete
Echo & the Bunnymen: Meteorites

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

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

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
2 Minds Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Thursday, 29 October 2015
Thursday, 29 October 2015 11:18pm
Almost Halloween

I don't understand why I have to wash the spiderwebs off my front porch at a time of year when other people are buying fake spiderwebs to decorate their porches with. I have a real spiderweb blocking the way to my doorbell; if I didn't wash it off, kids would have to reach through a real spiderweb to trick-or-treat at my house. What could possibly be more seasonally appropriate?

Tomorrow I'm going to the house of my friends Alyson and Jackie to dress up in a Dracula costume they're going to provide me with, hide behind a tree on their property, and lurk there until their kids show up, along with some neighbor kids who are joining them in a pre-Halloween practice run, at which point I've been instructed to jump out from behind the tree and terrify the children. Because when my friends are looking for someone to frighten their children, apparently I come to mind as a good candidate. However, I haven't the slightest idea how one goes about acting like Dracula. I feel that I should probably attempt to research this beforehand by looking up Dracula videos on YouTube or something.

Today I went out in my back yard and found that the neighbors' portable patio (a ceiling-high tarp attached to a giant metal frame about 25 feet square) had blown over the fence into my yard, where it had lodged itself upside-down on my side of the fence. I tried to figure out how I might get it back into their yard, but I was at a loss. It was far too big for me to heave it back over the fence as it was, and I couldn't figure out how to collapse it into a more portable shape. Then the neighbors came outside into their backyard . . . and proceeded to completely ignore my plight. I had to yell over the fence to get their attention, and they seemed at first quite confused about what I wanted. "Our canopy blew over your fence in the wind? Really?" Yes, how is this not obvious? Did you think I'd climbed over the fence, stolen it from you, and set it up upside-down on my side of the fence? Apparently they simply hadn't noticed it was missing at all. This despite the fact that they were standing about three feet from where it had previously been. I don't understand how it's possible to fail to notice the absence of an object the size of a bedroom when you're standing three feet from where it used to be. They told me they had failed to notice. People confuse me.

Mood: good
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