Posts Tagged ‘accessibility’

Ruth Fielding of the Red Mill, 1913

I remember Ruth Fielding as being bold, thoughtful, creative, brave, and somewhat of a no-nonsense personality, who works hard on achieving financial independence. She was an orphaned teenager who comes to a small town to live with her mean, crusty old uncle Jabez Potter who runs the local mill on the banks of the Lumano River. His arthritic, hunchbacked, ancient, warm-hearted housekeeper “Aunt Alviry” is not actually Ruth’s aunt but is a servant and for a long time is the only person who loves Ruth. Uncle Jabez doesn’t believe in educating girls. But Ruth manages to win him over somehow. Anyway, Ruth goes off to boarding school at Briarwood Hall with her rich, beautiful motor-car-driving friend Helen Cameron, makes friends with everyone, and ends a terrible schoolgirl rivalry by creating just one big sorority, the Sweetbriars. I seem to recall their moonlight and candlelight ceremony where they’re hanging out in togas by a graceful statue, with a harp. Ruth goes on to have a lot of adventures that center around her solving mysteries, helping poor girls get an education. Her companions include the jolly and popular plump girl, Jennie; and the slightly bitter lame girl, Mercy, as well as a rich friend with a cute brother and a motorcar. Nothing new there, right? But…

Ruth Fielding book cover

The cool thing about Ruth Fielding is that she’s a scriptwriter for moving pictures! She saves her school when a building burns down by writing a moving picture scenario for Mr. Hamilton from the Aelectron Corporation! And goes on to become a successful writer, even transitioning from silent film to the talkies.

Note the fashion in the cover picture. It reminds me of the book from the Betsy-Tacy series where Betsy and the other girls try to look like Gibson Girls, with their dresses gracefully draped instead of being tightly fitted, and a “droop” to their figure, slouching rather than standing up straight.

I believe this might be the series where all the girls make graduation dresses from simple white cheesecloth so that the poor girls won’t feel outshone by rich girl satin and lace. Or is that Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm? There was an amazingly cunning plan for their class valedictorian, Mercy the lame girl, to be able to graduate on stage by the clever and unprecedented use of a podium or a sort of Grecian drapery on a dais. Because it would be impossible for her to graduate on crutches despite her being the damn valedictorian on crutches! Mercy had a sharp temper because of her pain and illness and difference, and all the other girls take that into stride. She wasn’t cured magically like Katy and Pollyanna and she didn’t develop perfect patience; she stays crippled and a little bit bitchy. She’s my hero!

Alice B. Emerson was a pseudonym used by the Stratemeyer Syndicate. Known authors who wrote Ruth Fielding books include Mildred Wirt Benson, W. Bert Foster, and Elizabeth M. Duffield Ward. Thanks to Jennifer at Series Books for Girls blog, which I’ve only just now found while searching for anyone… anyone… on the net who is also obsessed with this stuff!

Click through for my re-read and chapter by chapter summary of Ruth Fielding of the Red Mill in all its glorious faily goodness. Or, you can read the full text here from Project Gutenberg. Summary: The miser has a heart of gold; the crippled girl walks again; Ruth wins the spelling bee and gets a new dress; there is a lone page where a Mammy and a young black girl make cameo appearances. The young black girl does not get to go to school or make any friends or get any dresses…

(more…)

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Parties, and Eddie Izzard show

I showed up at the hotel early this afternoon and then realized there wasn’t a central place (yet) for me to camp and work. I had been somewhat frustrated at driving in traffic downtown, got lost & overtired. So I fled the hotel with cramps & no lunch; nearly got run over by a cab driver at the parking garage, screamed fuck you at the cab driver and then felt super embarrassed (Lindsay was in the cab and claimed she had feared for her life on the ride from the airport) and went to Zond-7′s where I laid down to work and was able to complain neurotically, ate a tuna sandwich with the new super nice organic produce delivery, chocolate, pecked at more work, nursed my cramps, and calmed the hell down. Back to the hotel this time in a cab (since it is a 10 dollar cab ride but like 50 bucks a microsecond to park in the hotel garage.) Hotel = superswank.

The parties rocked – I saw SJ – Squid – Skud – Jenijen – Jenny – Maria – Beth Kanter – omg everyone – there was a lot of hugging – we had our photos taken for new hi res pix on the site – I committed “bloggerface” – I felt mildly bewildered that everyone else was going off to special invite-only parties and I had not been asked to any – And yet not really that jealous at all – Just in the minor way that I would like to say no instead of feeling left out. Got over it. Felt a little like Nathan Barley myself for a few minutes there… I imagined myself shoving my computer into someone’s face and going look – “TRASHBAT.COCK”. this image kept me giggling – and kept me going. Hugged 20 million more people… met lovebabz and Lauren and Adrienne from Black Woman in Europe – gossiped some more with Beth – talked with Claudia who writes for El Tiempo – had a rum and coke – videoed erin and laurie and some others on the wii boxing. I picked up some emily’s list swag and also those free wine charms (oops! ones). I then hauled ass out of there to get another cab to just a few blocks away to see Eddie Izzard. I started out mildly hostile from the somewhat clumsy attempts at “local san francisco ” humor and because the callbacks (bits where he’d go back and reference an earlier bit) were also sort of klutzy and I felt un-trusting that they would not be dumb. But, then they weren’t, and they all built up and became really good. My other main criticism is that slapping creationism is kind of a cheap shot. It worked and it was funny but a combination of things meant that I could see the show as being a reach for a particular profundity by Izzard and it didn’t quite get there. But, close. If he had said the word “stromatolite” i might have forgiven a bit more. Go a little deeper please, on all of it… it would be funnier… even if not everyone gets it… I wondered if it was dumbed down on purpose to be accessible. I did like the sparta bits and hannibal bits… Did his god moments get near cosby’s god and noah? Or are my memories of cosby’s god and noah a bit rusty – because I thought they got near to it. So on the great side, Izzard swayed me around to his side and I was laughing my ass off by the last half of the show. He was doing like 5 levels of the “callbacks” at once until they were layered up very ridiculously and the traumatized squirrel survivor of the ark was helping feed skittles to the plague frogs and half the 10 commandments ended up from the squirrel. (10. when someone comes, run up a tree ) and giraffes were playing charades and then a velociraptor in a derby hat (who was really god) has a conversation with jesus about spiders having sex, and bjorn borg/boromir does a whole tennis match with new coached inter-thwock grunting sound effects and you can see all of it perfectly well though it’s imaginary, that’s really impressive!

Rook liked it but I think was reserved about the cheap shots. Zond-7 had the comedian’s critique which I will not attempt to explain. I liked it very much though I wanted more or better, somehow. More depth to outweigh the jokes.

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The mildest of adventures in London

Already I’ve lost track of the days but I didn’t want to forget lying on the leather couch in the trendy-empty bar looking out the window at some blue sky and the brick building across the narrow lane. The bricks were sooty gold with red-brick stripes and the outline of what seemed to be a ghost building underneath. The window and door frames, dark green, strangely the same color paint as the bar’s interior metal beams. I thought about the history of the building, and what it would be like to maintain it now as a facilities person or trying to run cable through it. I wondered why there were doors in a row on every story leading out into the street. Did there used to be a hallway? Zond-7 came back from ordering at the bar and said no – it was a factory and look up higher, there’s a winch. For winching out the finished websites perhaps since that’s what they make now, in the factories. We made up silly things, like the ftp man doing his rounds. “Bring out your files! Bring out your files! Uploads for downloads!” The telnetster in traditional garb, mostly superseded by the ssh man in his dapper uniform and neat-brimmed hat. Sad, really.

Later we figured out why that bar (so nice – called Cantaloupe) was empty – there are like 50 other trendy-ass bars but with patios and on hoxton square just a couple of blocks away. Not that that should matter since every ratty bar and pub is crowded here even on a Tuesday night.

street angel

We spent a whole extra day recovering and working from bed, only venturing a few blocks from the flat to grab some food. I have the very-local geography down, now, and know where to buy food and how to go find a taxi and the tube station and what other directions might be good to explore.

I am really enjoying c. and a.’s flat in every way. It’s so cute and perfect and cosy! I did my conference call from the hammock. The next door kids are cute as hell and it cheers me to hear them playing. I enjoy their art and funny kitschy stuff… and how cleverly they store all their crap… their million-page FAQ about their house and office and neighborhood, and their lovely gleaming red espresso machine (kitchenaid) and let’s not even go into how nice I think the damned washlet is. hahahah! Washlet!! I’m not super in love with having a million stairs, but on the other hand I can take my time, treat it as physical therapy, and it’s probably good for me. I’m trying to think what I can do in return or what would be nice to leave them… stock them up with nice groceries… nice coffee etc. And in general I have good “letting people crash at my place” karma so really the thing to do is to keep passing that on.

Observation, people in Britain do not say Hello or anything at all to strangers on the street. They take this so far that they don’t even look at you in the face, which makes it damned hard to tell which way to barrel forward in your speedy wheelchair.

fruit at night

Today I left Zond-7 sweating over his deadline while I ran off to the British Library for a couple of hours. I felt like I had to break a little barrier of going places by myself. Thought about taking the Old St. tube to St. Pancras or King’s Cross or whatever but then realized it was a bit late, I was tired, screw it, it would then become all about sweatily going through miles of tunnels and ramps and being ill natured at railway employees’ passive aggressive “help”. So, a taxi.

London taxis are AWESOME! I said this before, but here it is again. If you are in a wheelchair and have money to spend like water then just take taxis everywhere. All the black cabs are mega-accessible. The back doors slide open like a van, a ramp comes out, there are hand rails, seats swivel and fold down if you need that, and the back seat is huge with a big empty wheelchair-holding space.The taxis stop for me! They don’t fuss or freak out too much. A little bit, but not bad at all. I don’t need the ramp and I can pull my chair up into the taxi, without having to take it apart or fold it up.

London taxi access

You see what I mean about mild adventures. Hey you’re on your own in a strange city! What will you do! OH I KNOW I’LL TAKE A TAXI TO THE LIBRARY. Okay! Yes! In fact, that is what I always do!

Then I wander around and take photos of graffiti and street art and bricks and manhole covers.

The British Library (the giant new brick building) has very good wheelchair access. I especially appreciated the signs, big, high up, frequent, and very clear, pointing me to ramps and elevators.

Revolution Revolution

So at the library I got my reading pass. They get you to line up and ask if you have ID and details of what you want to see. They don’t really care what you want to see and you don’t have to prove anything to them about your research project; they just want to know that you know that there’s a specific thing in the library that they own, that you want to look at! So they ask “Do you have something written down or printed out” … but mostly to rule out the people who should go to the public library to check out a mystery novel or look something up in the encyclopedia or whatever. I had jotted down the names of a couple of poets and began to open my notebook and they waved me through. If you don’t have “details written down” then they shunt you over to some computers where you can look in the catalogue and come up with a list of books. After this queue I filled out a web form (nicely accessible computer with huge monitor and huge font) and then waited till my number was called. A few questions later and a photo… now I have a nifty 1- month card! So I will be looking at a bunch of books by (and about) Emilia Bernal, and some suffragist newspapers and I might also look for women’s newspapers from 1830s France as I suspect they might be in there and it will give me a thrill.

I figured out by scouting it out physically that it will be easy to take the tube there and then harder to get back (because of having to come up the Old Street ramp) so it’ll be better to take a taxi back.

After a bit more work at “home” we went out to an indian restaurant on brick lane. I took a lot of photos of great street art.

It’s exhausting to wheel up and down all those curbs. they are oftn very low but even an inch up and down is tiring. My hands hurt like hell. Also… holy hell… bricks and cobblestones are hell on my back, it’s like the vibrations from “Wages of Fear“.

In the library as there wasn’t enough time left to order any books, I went to exhibits. There was a great exhibit of chinese, korean, & japanese color wood block printing on the 2nd floor. I wrote down a bunch of them to look up later. A lot of the bird ones I wished I could show Minnie. Here are my notes

- Ten Bamboo Studio 1634
- Soken Sekisatsu 1768 Hojakuchu “Dazzling simplicity in … prints”
- a literary and artistic gathering 1839 chikutenzan
400 artists and writers with names. i sat there a while and counted the women. there were 22. many facing each other or sitting in groups, not isolated from each other
- shin kawazu (..awase) 1820 New Poetry Competition of Frogs nifty anthology/collaboration
- kawa… bumpo = awesome
- The gifts of the seas umi no sachi 1762 mica used in ink for prints for fishy sheen!
- kimpaen’s picture album 1820 (bumpo, same guy) Kimpaen gafu. Birds birds birds!!!
- Wang Cheo pictures of foreign things 1998 made me think of “woolgathering”

chocolate for women, right?

Then saw huge Ramayana exhibit which made me think of talking with Neha (nehavish) about Surpanakha (who i did not find in the exhibit though i didn’t see all of it and she is perhaps not in every version) but mostly in this exhibit I was excited to see books written on palm leaves. One of those things I’ve often read about and wondered what it is really like… it is like thin flat fan blades about the size of an 8 inch ruler, with 2 holes drilled in rolodex style, polished smooth maybe with some varnish or sizing, and very small delicate writing.

Swooned at lovely book binding, maps, illuminated manuscripts exhibit. I thought of how lucky i felt when i worked at the geology library and dennis let me look at the super rare illustrated books he kept back in his office. amazing french books with taxonomy & botanical illustrations & fossils… The book that blew me away today and got me to tears was a persian one from 1610 ad , Anvar-i Suhayli which is a version of Kalila & Dimna / Pancatantra. written by Husayn … v…. Kashifi (can’t read my own handwriting!) for Prince Salim who became the emperor Jahangir. Now anyone who has bothered to read this for the last N years knows I’m obsessed with the Pancatantra and all its derivatives!

This might sound very exciting but consider that most of my time in London so far has been spent within a 3-block radius of this bed where I am lying 90% of the time peacefully Computing the same as I would anywhere else in the world, in the midst of a small mountain of used kleenexes and allergy meds, reporting intermittently that my legs and knees and back and hands hurt like hell and that I need more chocolate.

flyers

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Thoughts on Budapest

Not like I’ve seen any of it but the airport and the hotel!

Hungarian food is goddamned delicious! It’s the best ever! The little pastries even beat the Belgium pastries!

There are billboards like crazy. It could have been Houston, getting off the plane. I noticed advertisements in London were oddly restrained and dorky. Brussels… what advertisements? Other than Antiquities and snooty-looking fashion and billboards for the opera I did not see any evidence of popular culture or the hopes and dreams and chains of regular people. But, the billboards in Budapest were all full of people bursting out of reality, leaping in the air in gravity-defying ways, living it up at water parks or wild with laughter and romance. The billboards were all along the highway next to row after row of identical enormous concrete block apartments stretching as far as I could see. The billboards seemed perhaps related to the feeling of wanting to escape, wanting some wildness, having the ability to get out of the concrete block. There was plenty of graffiti. It’s scruffy like Beijing but not so full of earnest and callous Industriousness. A lot of women on the street have dyed bright red and purple hair.

I am happily ensconced in my swank hotel (Novotel Centrum) which is lovely & perfectly accessible.

I might go venture out by myself if I can’t wake up Zond-7.

I blogged a bit of the conference and have notes on later panels but then I conked out completely, took a nap, had a bath, read Iain Banks, worked, slept again. I am walking okay, in fact I feel like I could walk a few blocks as I did yesterday with no problem, but my legs hurt a lot and I have the burning and buzzing down into both feet. So, I want to go out to see the city, and yet lying down for a while longer would help my legs feel a little more normal.

I’m sad that I won’t see more – it is beautiful and interesting and jumbledy here

I have been feeling really grateful for my in-between-ness and ability to get around and yet also frustrated & impatient at not just being all the way better. It’s hard because, what would you rather do, walk 5 blocks painfully and not be sure you could continue on with people going somewhere, or just give up and wheel… thus being set apart and judged and also an annoyance and yet freed to go as far as you want to go…

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Pastries and sidewalks in Belgium

New blog tagline, “History of Europe through sidewalk curb cuts and things available in cafes” since that is clearly what I’ll be writing about.

I expected the tunnel under the British Channel to be different somehow and momentous rather than just a tunnel you barely notice even if you’re looking. It should have some flashing orange lights and enormous stripey caution signs that go “WARNING! WARNING! YOU ARE UNDER THE MOTHERFUCKING OCEAN”. Instead I thought vague thoughts about roadsides, railway right of way and land ownership, property rights, the San Mateo flock of fire prevention goats, eminent domain, ideas of waste and use and exploitation, geology, glaciers, farming, compost, and forestry. I expected somehow that Britain even by the railway would look more cultivated than the U.S. in the sense that the land has been intensively in use for farming and permanent buildings for so long. In other words that there would be not so many vacant lots and fields that don’t seem to be growing anything or providing pasture or otherwise being used by humans to produce stuff. Once we got through the tunnel, France from the train looked a bit more like that and Belgium even more so.

I liked the train station at King’s Cross/ St. Pancras. Giant Quentin Blake cartoon on building as you pull out of the station… (or really as you pull in as it is a “welcome” message). Odd moment when train station guy came up and accosted me and began to order me around. “No… really… we’re just wandering around this mall for a couple of hours and getting lunch… if I need help I’ll find someone and ask” “NO BUT OMG YOU HAVE TO… AND… ” No actually I don’t THANKS. The hostility that comes through is amazing.

We were in first class in the train because you’re automatically put there if you are traveling in your own wheelchair. The expectation though seemed to be for me to be fairly completely unable to do anything. (Stories later.) The train was lovely and comfortable and the food was fabulous. I did feel strongly that the model of disability and being disabled is utterly broken as there were many frail older people or people traveling with small children who could have benefitted from being in first class and having help with bags, etc. when I just would like a bit more ramps and can walk up the train steps myself and even haul my wheelchair after me if need be. So again as with the broken model of AIDS education that most people got (if you are in a “high risk” category of person etc. etc rather than “if you do X then Y”) it is about identification, instead of behavior, action, immediate situational needs. So the identity politics model works for some things and situations, but for this situation, it doesn’t. The Eurostar staff was clearly trained to see “disabled person: this is what you do” but without any thought of “ask the person what they need” or “be flexible for anyone who needs it”. It is wrong and vile to be treated as a sort of pitiable sub-elite. I notice it everywhere but more here than in the U.S.

Hotel – steps, ugh – amusing punch-card plastic door key that I swear I saw described in some ancient back issue of 2600 magazine – room nice – so happy to nap – no wireless in room, extreme hardship – dinner with Zond-7′s Work People, at The Staff restobar (food fabulous, atmosphere perfect) talked of science fiction with G. who recommended the book “Godfather of the Kremlin”.

Morning, Zond-7 went off to the meeting and I tried to work from the lobby (no wireless in room) but the wireless was far too slow for me to even download my 500 emails much less do web page testing or fixing and to deal with Drupal on any level at all. I set off down Avenue (?) Louise recalling various cafes. Everywhere had a lot of stairs and I can of course do stairs but it seemed daunting to do with all my paraphrenalia and then be trapped in the gravity well and I realized that while I can get into a cafe and its stairs I cannot hang out in it all day long when bathroom is even more inaccessible and just the navigation around the cafes I looked into was multi-level as well. I went a few blocks past Zond-7′s meeting building and then realized everything was uphill; tried the cafe right next to it, which was nice but impossible to deal with; gave up and went to the office and just camped out trying to be oblivious that I was weirdly crashing this meeting that had nothing to do with me. (I did not go into the actual giant meeting but I did sit on the floor in the offices outside, ate their food and used their wireless and bathroom.) Oh well! Embarrassing! But I had to! I worked all day. Went back to hotel around 4 when I was starting to fall asleep sitting up. Oh,,, uphill up the horrible curbs and sidewalks of boring diplomaticky financial districty overpriced fashion-y clothes Brussels, it was really hell! I’m sure it’s a nice city… somewhere that I wasn’t! Napped. Read and got dressed again & Zond-7 came back & we went out to dinner at Brasserie Poelaert which was a lovely spot but not really great food. Worth it for the nice spot on the patio.

Our taxi got lost on the way there & we ended up in streets and streets of endless Antiquities and Tribal Arts and Anthropological Antiquities until I felt kind of sick to my stomach. Not like I come from anywhere that can hold its head up but, man, could you put some of Africa back where it came from maybe? OMG. Everything so reeking of wealth. The buildings I had been admiring with their amazing stone work seemed less beautiful and more signposts to colonial and capitalist horrors.

Dinner, I mostly listened and made occasional polite conversation because it was a very Worky Dinner involving what I think of as Global Foods (which I will explain again or link back to my explanation of but it is from Doris Lessing and I use it as my marker of U.N. cosmopolitan elite) and for me not being part of that world (though in my own technocrat one in parallel, in intersection, and perhaps in competition ultimately) to be there was a perturbation. So if you think of the job of that Global Foods job as being, absorption of tremendous amounts of detailed information and synthesis of it correctly and then telling people how to act, or trying to act collectively or in coalition — it is a hard job and very thinky and talky and yet it is difficult for other people to see what the hell you are actually doing. And moments like this dinner are the moments which I see as people being like conduits for information, they are points or nodes which need to intersect and people have to talk with each other. It would be lovely to quantify and analyze and people of course do. But, I feel in those situations that it is best for me to shut up as much as possible so people can get on with talking with each other. I am also vastly entertained by cosmopolitan informational tidbit exchange ie chatter about one’s favorite restaurants in various cities and tips on jet lag and how wearying Travel is but acceptable if the hotels are of the best. (All true. But nevertheless hilarious from outside of the upper class perspective.) I did explain myself and my presence a few times and had some nice conversational moments with GH and S. and the guy from Italy who explained to me about Article somethingorother which means the govt. has to consider open source software before it buys anything and how he is helping linux groups to band together formally in a way that the government can talk with. Interesting! I told R. from Germany about the way campaign contributions are public and were mashed up so you can see who on your street gave what, with google map info. (Shock and dismay!)

Tried to pack. Must get up and go to Budapest at 4am.

I forgot to say about the pastries. They were astonishingly great. Those little fruit sponge cake things soaked in liqueur, wrapped around custard, with a glazed egg yolk thing on top – was it actually a whole egg yolk? It stunned me. Well, Belgium does not know how to build a ramp, or a sidewalk, or have free wireless anyfreakingwhere, but its inner city roadways are very sensible and its food utterly rocks. (Also apparently it still knows how to loot the hell out of Africa and get rich off it, as i think of not just Antiquities but of Chocolate.)

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London rocks for wheelchair access at least for me

So far things are totally rocking. I have taken three cabs and they’ve all been nearly instant to stop for us, and all been accessible for me as they’re roomy, i can get in with the hand rail inside the back seat, then pull my (very light) wheelchair in after me, fitting it into the back seat without even taking the wheels off or folding the back down. There’s been a few curbs and stairs but even with jet lag I can manage. So if you are in a powerchair you’d have to scout or plan but if you can pop a small wheelie or go up a curb backwards you will be just fine in London in a manual chair.

Down sides are cabs cost buckets of money. I was on one train so far – the Heathrow Express – and had to get someone to let me through a hidden gate – and then holy crap when they say Mind the Gap they sure mean it. I see you are supposed to get someone to stick a ramp across the gap for your chair. I made one “gap” ie ABYSS FROM HELL but the other at Paddington was ridiculous – I got up and walked out which fortunately I am able to do and dragged the chair after me.

Visited C and A to pick up keys. Held their soothing and sweet baby who is in the kicky using-muscles stage and also cutting first teeth. Bonded telepathically with Washlet. There are stairs. I will Deal. Most of the time we will be in Foxy Hotel (for the days it was cheap) but the 3 days at c’s will save us like 1000 bucks (covering perfectly the days Foxy Hotel was insane like $350 a night rather than 80-ish).

Ate at Cantaloupe which seems like a vaguely latin american hipstery bar/burger/steak place. It was nice to lie back on soothing leather couches and contemplate the terracotta-red walls and green ceiling, and the hanging plants coming down. I had a mojito. There was free wireless.

Shoreditch/Hoxton seems the exactly right and fun neighborhood for me… We have space to work in next week out of c’s office

Our hotel near Waterloo sort of blows. it’s swanky and interesting but has only just begun to live. The supposed-to-be-fancy bathrobes actually suck, and mine has a funny tag on the lapel, a sticker that says “Rental…” with a price tag and bar code. The bathrobes are rented! Hahahah! And no one took off the price tag! I immediately broke an espresso cup, used all the bath towels (purpling one) and bled all over the sheets by accident when I fell asleep on first arrival. We have packed in a miracle of compact light carry-on-bag packing yet that means we have to unpack everything to find anything, so underwear and electronic gadgets are strewn all over the room. Later I will list our gadgets and cords for your amusement.

Passing out now. Wish me luck tomorrow on the Eurostar… I look forward to all this but very much to coming back to hang out in Shoreditch.

Weather is not too hot at ALL – it is springlike and mild – jackety in evening – I erred in unpacking my pajama pants and adding a skirt to sleep in – hotel has a/c

I am overlooking all the huge trains at Waterloo and can see st. pauls from bed

Taxi drove us past the Albert Memorial. I screamed uncontrollably with laughter for about half an hour – it was the Best Thing Ever.

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My new job at you-know-freaking-where

We last left our blog at Maker Faire and just afterwards. The weekend was so lovely I wish I had written about it in the moment. Time is slipping by me like gliding through water.

I thought over my trip to Seattle some more and the travel coming up and I’ll write more about that soon!

My new job is lovely but more intense than I thought it would be. CAN I STILL WRITE ABOUT THIS? Well, I will anyway! I like all the people (obviously) and it is nice to work for someone who communicates a lot and doesn’t blow me off. Time will tell…. It is also scarily like, well, this is hard to describe in a way that is tactful toward everyone including myself, but I was going for this job because I thought it would be not super intense, I could keep my head down and chug away in the corner at something not too hard, but I’d do it super well, and not be too stressed. i.e. a good job for a smart person in uncertain health. And if I happened to do anything marvellous it would be just cake and appreciated extra, but i would not have to make a Cake every day. Well instead it was like, POUNCE! We are now going to extricate every last drop of your leadership-like smarty-pants glow-in-the-dark BLOOD! Holy crap! Okay then! I shall certainly try to do that for the next few weeks. But, in working, I find I am a bit more like a horse than a mule. i.e. a mule will stop and balk. A horse will sort of keep going till it breaks and collapses! A horse doesn’t want to disappoint anyone! So I will adopt a sort of mule’s warning, and do a ton now, but will need to do something less demanding for a bit, and will be clear on my limits. What I mean is maybe the stress of power as well as mental synthesis. I have to switch back and forth between hard thinky-things and doing something more menial, or I just burn out! And can’t balance my life! This, partly because I approach with intensity, but partly, it is all much more so because of how intensely I have been processing and dealing with disability stuff.

So, on the up side, I am pleased and flattered to be seen through, and I really enjoy getting to slurp in as much information as possible very quickly and re-evaluate several times daily as info intake continues, and keep changing plans and making stuff. What I am doing is being a systems analyst for the entire organization, but not just for systems, but for people. I’m not sure what you call that. (A “consultant” who pisses everyone off, but who doesn’t get to LEAVE.) That has always been my secret superpower! When I realized that was what I was gonna do for the next few weeks I kind of laughed with glee, because it’s fun, but also felt rueful, like “Oh shit… BUSTED” because it’s also really hard.

Wednesday I did the walkthrough/rollthrough for the upcoming conference, and a writeup, and stil did other worky things, then finally realized I ahd not eaten, drove to Atlas Cafe for a sandwich and worked on the writeup, then to Zond-7′s where i collapsed into bed, then at maybe 8 or 9 we went to R.’s party where I got to talk with her about icelandic sagas and lots of other people about science fiction and politics.

I thought more about hte hack ability blog, but did not work on it too much. Maybe a couple of hours.

I wrote up a long reading-guide to Timmi’s work, for Wiscon, which you should Digg and then read, here: http://digg.com/general_sciences/Plugged_In_Dystopian_Feminist_Futures_Prep_for_WisCon

Whirlwind guide to the mindblowing work of L. Timmel Duchamp, Guest of Honor for upcoming feminist science fiction convention WisCon 32. Cyborgs, women’s relationships, surveillance, torture, interrogation, dystopia, weird aliens, critical thought, time travel, art, alternate histories; but above all, revolutionaries, resistance, and hope.

I have another blog/web site to set up, just volunteering… first before Hack Ability.

And, I put some finishing touches on the blog that Minnie and I are doing, Whores of Bath. It is a humorous blog about bath products and we are doing it to make money. It will soon have even more ads plastered all over it. I am particularly proud of our obnoxious, link-whoring, search-engine-honeypot, yet still freaking funny, posts on imaginary baths with nude celebrities:

* Oh, honey! My fantasy bath with Lindsey Lohan!
* My fantasy celebrity bath with Robert Downey Jr

Well, gotta go, I had a half hour nap, a bloggy interlude (this one) which soothes my soul, a role playing game for the next several hours, Zond-7 is coming over, tomorrow is Recent Changes Camp (wiki unconference! come to it! in Palo Alto!) and then will drive about like a mad thing, and end up at a BBQ, so it will be another too-long day. Sunday I will need to decompress, but also, I probably need to work! ack!

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DIY: Access Hacks project

For the second year in a row, I thought of the wheelchair modification and disability access projects that could and should be at Maker Faire. I’d like to make that happen next year.

At Maker Faire this year, I talked with Miguel Valenzuela, who was showing Lift Assist, a toilet lift device that can be built for $150 out of bits of PVC and junk from a hardware store, powered hydraulically from your own water system. That kind of thing costs thousands of dollars if you buy it as a medical device. If it were a DIY kit, and if it had open source plans and instructions up on the web, it could be useful to thousands of people all over the world.

So I got to thinking. Who would I even hook Miguel up with, to get his plans used? What other projects are spreading disability access devices, open source? Could things like this just be given over to an organization like Engineers Without Borders? How can they be open sourced or copylefted?

There are specific projects like Whirlwind Wheelchair International and its design for the Rough Rider chair, developed by Ralf Hotchkiss and students over many years and meant to be distributed to shops or factories or organizations in developing nations. In other words, partnership with actual manufacturers. There’s the Free Wheelchair Mission which has a kit to build wheelchairs for under $50. They seem to take donations and then ship a giant crate of wheelchair kits to somewhere in the world. Those both look great. But neither of them were for a disabled person who might want to build their own stuff.

Then I found some nifty sites like Marty’s Gearability blog, which has a DIY category for “Life with limitations and the gear that makes things work”. She has made dozens of posts on modifications she’s made for her dad, who uses a wheelchair. I especially enjoyed the how-to for a wheelchair cup holder.

I’m also somewhat familiar with Adafruit Industries and its projects like SpokePOV. What if assistive devices used something closer to this model? Rather than people patenting, and trying to sell their designs to a medical supply company, which marks it up a million times until disabled people in the U.S. can’t afford them unless they have insurance or can wait 5 years and fight a legal battle with Medicare.

I found organizations like Remap in the UK, that takes applications from individual disabled people, and hooks them up with an engineer who will build them a custom device. This I think exemplifies the well meaning but ill advised attempts to help disabled people through a “charity” model rather than through widespread empowerment. If an engineer is donating time and an invention, why not have them write up and donate the plans for whatever they are building, and post the DIY instructions for free? Then, thousands of people all over the world could build that invention for themselves.

OneSwitch, on the other hand, has the right idea. It’s a compendium of DIY electronics projects to build assistive devices. Perfect!

Meanwhile, I went looking for the latest news in open source hardware. What’s up with the Open Source Hardware License?

My own inventions for assistive devices have tended towards the creative yet slapdash use of duct tape. For example, my Duct Tape Crutch Pockets, an idea easily adaptable to small pouches for forearm crutches and canes, or to get more storage space onto your wheelchair.

My own canes and crutches that fold (with internal bungee cords) could use simple velcro closure straps to keep them folded up while they’re in my backpack or in the car. There are some ingenious ways, also, to attach canes or crutches to a wheelchair.

I have thought of, but not made, ways to extend storage space further. For example, I think that the lack of pockets in women’s clothing is a political issue. Women’s clothes are mostly designed without pockets, because of cultural pressure to look skinny, so women end up encumbered by bags and purses. If you think about how wheelchairs are made, it is interesting that they are assumed not to need storage space, cup holders, things like that. People hang little backpacks off their chairs. And there are a few custom made pouches for walkers, crutches, and wheelchairs, like this thin armrest pouch. You won’t find them in an actual wheelchair store – and rarely in a drugstore or medical supply house. Why not?

As wheelchair designs continue to evolve, I hope that manufacturers will create customizable backs and sides and seats. Nylon webbing with d-rings, sewn into the backs and under the seats of wheelchairs, would mean that custom pouches and packs could clip onto a chair. Then it would be easy to set up your chair with interchangeable bits. My laptop could go in a pouch under the seat, for example, so that it wouldn’t affect my center of gravity so drastically as it hangs off the seat back in a backpack.

I’d like to see more and more mods for chairs and canes and crutches that are just for fun. The little holes in adjustable-height, hollow metal walking canes — don’t they seem like the perfect size to stick an LED light in there?

Also, meanwhile, I had posted briefly the other day for Blogging Against Disablism Day 2008 with a list of ideas for Practical actions that will help, like smoothing out steps into a small business (ie just freaking pour some asphalt in there or build a wooden wedge even if it is not exactly to code; people do nothing, for fear of being sued, rather than spend thousands to do a to-code ramp, and I’d rather they just stuff in a slope and bolt a rail to the wall than do nothing!). After I made the list, I went looking for online instructions on how to do the things I was suggesting. What did I come up with ? Jack shit! Nothing! Nada!

So, here’s what I propose we do:

- Compile free and open source how-tos, plans, designs, etc. on Disapedia. I have made a page for DIY equipment.

- I will go and interview Hotchkiss and his class, and write up more detail on how their open source project works.

- A meeting to share access hacks and start to add to that wiki page on Disapedia.

- I’ll head up an effort to organize a really good disability/accessibility hacking booth for Maker Faire next year.

For the Access Hacks booth, I’d like to pull in:
- craft/sewing people for stuff like mobility device storage and mods with velcro and fabric
- metal working people
- electronics people (like the OneSwitch folks)
- Maybe invite Tech Shop and the Bay Area wheelchair stores to participate
- obviously, disabled crafty/makery people. I thought I could try to pull in GimpGirl and put the word out in other communities
- Flyers on how to open source your hack and make it free – license info, where to post, hook up with places like WikiHow.

This could make a super fantastic real life application for hardware/craft hacks. I would love to just hang out all weekend with a bunch of other people with disabilities and share whatever hacks we’ve already come up with. That in itself would be productive without even doing it at Maker Faire. I’d like an Access Hacks meeting around here and I wonder if people would host them elsewhere and then post tips on Disapedia. (I would like to use them rather than host a new wiki, but I’m willing to make an access hacks wiki if that’s what people would like.)

Please, leave feedback in the comments.

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Blog against Disablism: Practical actions that will help

It’s Blogging Against Disablism Day 2008!

I’ll try to say something on this later tonight, but here’s the placeholder with a link so you can go read all the great stuff people are writing now. I gotta do some work.

blogging against disablism day

***

Okay, it’s later and I’m way too tired to blog. What to say? How about some advice!

Don’t be assholes and make a million assumptions! Try to contain the details of your curiosity! Be polite! Think once in a while about how an experience might be if you had different abilities!

Be a little gentle with those of us who have varying ability. Sometimes I can walk better or worse than other times. Sometimes that’s my fault that I’m worse, sometimes it’s not; sometimes I’m better because I did something right, and other times it seems so random. So, keep your advice to yourself unless I’m asking.

Aside from thinking, and empathy, and politeness, ACT.

Is somewhere you go pointlessly inaccessible? Suggest to that business owner that they make a small improvement.

Here are some small things you could do to make a space more accessible to people with mobility issues.

* install a handrail next to steps (and ramps)
* handrail in bathroom
* smooth out that one little step at the door. don’t be telling me about building it to code. just get in there with some asphalt or cement or something and make it work.
* keep narrow hallways clear of junk and boxes (I am thinking of restaurant bathrooms)
* fix bathroom locks so people with limited dexterity or in wheelchairs can close the door
* my current pet peeve: stages. rrrrrgh. steps and a rail? portable metal ramp?
* provide seating, benches, for people who have trouble standing up in lines or waiting areas
* build accessible paths through gravelly areas
* Signs, high up, with indications of where the ramps, elevators, bathrooms, exits are.

I made a Flickr group called Inaccessible! meant for people to post photos of inaccessible places that bug them. Now, ideally, we could provide location details and contact info, and resolve to email or call around to try to get that space fixed. And for events, I think it might be helpful to document inaccessible ways of organizing space, and send the photos to the event organizers.

You don’t need to be disabled to join that group and post to the group. You don’t need to be disabled to mention a step, or a lack of handrail, to a business owner. Or even to put a rail or two in your own house or in the house of a relative who is having trouble.

Remember, you will get old someday, and you might be needing those ramps and rails and smooth paths. By the time you need them, you might have less energy to fight for them. So ask, and build, and fight, now rather than later.

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Fixing sidewalks, and a day of poetry


pleo nuzzling olpc
Originally uploaded by Liz.

Moomin and I woke up late but I am superefficient in the morning and I got him to choir on time, laying out his clothes for him to get dressed before he got out of bed into the cold to eat his cereal. I drove him the 2 blocks to school, not able to deal with the thought of my cold fingers on the wheelchair rims at 7:30 in the morning.

Then I worked for a bit just to fix a few little problems. I will do Real Job ™ work more seriously tomorrow. Today was for me.

I got all fired up over Caltrans and the ADA and started this Flickr group, “Inaccessible!”.

A blog for photos of inaccessible places and spaces. Ever been frustrated at lack of wheelchair access, insane potholes in the sidewalk, stairs, badly configured bathrooms too small for wheelchairs, badly placed handrails, elevator buttons too high for you to reach? Snap a photo, label the place as clearly as possible, and explain why it is a barrier.

My hope is that this group will be useful to building owners and people who want to make their environment more accessible. It also helps those of us with disabilities to express our frustration and to record daily encounters with barriers to access. Documenting the problems may also help us to follow through and try to get those problems fixed by the people responsible for them.

and wrote this: Caltrans evades responsibility for sidewalk ramps.

And then olivia_circe came over and we worked for NINE AND A HALF HOURS on organizing and submitting my poetry and translations to journals. I am so grateful. It is a huge weight off my mind to know that I’m plowing through all that built up work of 10 years or so. (The years before that, I mostly don’t like the poems enough any more to send them out.)

I’m learning from this that it is hard work to send out stuff. It is not just some mental block I have or some self destructive, self sabotaging impulse. It’s a lot of work! Two fairly smart efficient people spent almost 20 person-hours just now to get that shit together! And it is only the very tip of the iceberg.

We are putting all the information into my private wiki. First there is finding places that I want to send stuff to. Then figuring out what to send. Then looking up guidelines and reformatting and putting together the work according to those guidelines. Then often a bio for me and if it’s a translation, for the original author. Then on top of that they often want an introduction written, or something about the translation process. THEN… a cover letter. (Which I keep as short and to the point as I can with no sucking-up or bullshit in it.) Then email in whatever file format they want or print and snail mail. So, a lot of work. We sent 6 submissions out, queried 5 other places, and set up framework for a lot of other stuff. I have been dumping originals and translations into an author page, and then olivia_circe has been going in and gardening out the individual poems into their own pages. Then, lists of journals and guidelines and deadlines, interlinks, a master list of submissions (or as I now like to call them after one feminist journal’s explanations of the evils of submission, “offerings”), pages on individual authors, sample query and cover letters, ALL THAT.

So, if it took us 20 hours to do 6 submissions it is no wonder I have barely done 4 or 5 submissions a year.

It feels so good and right to be doing this!

I am astonished as I see the enormous pile of work that I have done, and that I get no real-world respect or credit for having done and that almost no one sees. Holy crap. I need to get it out there. Seriously, people.

Plus, olivia_circe is fun to hang out with.

I picked up Moomin and looked at his schoolwork, got him a snack, etc. We talked about his Math-athon and about Abraham Lincoln, he read some Spiderman DVD comics, and went outside for a while. I fed him and Nukie pizza while they did whatever it is they do in his back yard in the half-torn-down and gutted garage building and their piles of rocks and treasure.

Then I went off into mad poety talk over here for National Poetry Month’s beginning and wrote a bit about one of my favorite poets that I’ve been translating for a while. I wrote about why I like him and his work and why I feel a certain kinship and understanding.

Moomin and I wrote some emails together to family and then I read him more of Farmer Boy, we looked at the globe and talked about geography and history and politics and travel, railroads, race, Native Americans, the early U.S., and so on. I will say more about that tomorrow but for now I need to STOP TYPING.

I walked well most of the day, but towards the end began to squeak and freeze up every time I had to go from sitting to standing or vice versa. By 8pm I could not walk much any more and I am back in the wheelchair in the house. But, am doing just fine. I will go to work in the morning tomorrow and then come home to rest. Zond-7′s nephew who has moved here without a lot of support or backup or anything, needs a place to stay for a bit and he called me today to ask if he can stay here. It would work out well for me not to be alone all week and he is a lovely house guest and does not make work for me and sweetly offers to do errands.

Okay, bath and and a book and bed. I don’t have any April Fool things planned. My head is just in another sort of space at the moment.

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