Posts Tagged ‘computers’

Beautiful computers: The Difference Engine

This weekend we all went to the Computer History Museum in Mountainview. Take a look at my photos of some of the computers if you want a little history and nostalgia! They have a working Difference Engine, one of only two in the world.

Difference Engine

I have added to my vague fantasy of my future bookstore/cafe/laundromat/junk shop. Now it contains a Cray:

Cray!!!!!

Stylish!

I remember reading about these and drooling over them when I was a kid – reading Omni or Discover or Scientific American.

Check out the gorgeous design of the KL10. There’s something about the cool colors and the way they continue from button to casing – and the very clean font:
KL10 buttons

My imaginary bookstore cafe will also need a SAGE Weapons Director 2 (as directed by my friend Yatima’s daughter:

Julia with Weapons Director 2

Secretly … I want to be a set builder for some show like Dr. Who or Blake’s 7 and make amazing fake computers with blinky lights and complicated “futuristic” control panels!

This stuff is so much better — being real.

It was disappointing that the Difference Engine exhibit didn’t have any mention of Ada Lovelace. What’s the point of leaving her out? How annoying. We brought her up, and the astronomer Caroline Herschel, during the demonstration (which mentioned her brother). Then the speaker talked enthusiastically about Lovelace. So why not put some information and a photo of her? And Herschel too. Instead, we got a dumb wisecrack/excuse about how women didn’t do much math back then. (Hummm. What is the point of that? Why not mention the ones who did? Mary Somerville for example, who taught Lovelace.)

I wish there were more working models of older computers we could actually use. I can see that it would be way too much work to maintain that, though. Inspiration for me to fire up my Mac Plus or an old Commodore 64 maybe!

It was so glorious… I also felt like anyone else who had bothered to go to this museum was probably very cool and a kindred spirit… people were walking around grinning hugely or gawping in awe like a cathedral. (Which it is.) All those PDPs and VAXes and the IMP, and amazing calculators from 1899 or 1920 like the Millionaire and the Comptometer. The chess exhibit was good too. All the excitement of REAL AUTOMATED COMPUTERS that play chess, all the excitement and conviction that the future would be AMAZING — all came flooding back to me. I wanted to hug the IMP and just sort of commune with it and say a little prayer or something, like I felt when I saw very new lava, or the tallest tree in the world, or something else I have loved abstractly, imagined, and then seen for real.

Please put this label in prominent place on IMP

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Books, work, rock band, music stolen

Every time I get my computer on my lap and kick back to blog all I can do is start to slog through the endless help desk emails for work. The harder problems build up and build up. I get obsessed with fixing them though I have to learn how to say “No, sorry, can’t help you here.” They never stop! It’s not just too much work, it’s also killing my blogging because if I’m on the computer I feel like I should be “catching up”. I can’t let that happen. Not sure what to do about it. We could outsource. “Sorry, beyond the scope we can do for you, but you could pay so-and-so 30 bucks an hour to do it.” That would be a relief and would get people’s problems solved. These are people who need web design support and whose work is *great* – I want to support it. That’s where it gets me!

So in an effort not to work ALL THE TIME I have been reading a bit more. I caught up with some of my blogfriends on LJ (after weeks… months?). I read the last Hostile Takeover book – more about that in a minute. I did some cleaning and gardening (and when Moomin gets back will read more out loud to him.)

Tonight was fun – Zond-7 and I went to a game night – Played Settlers – and a bit of Rock Band. I liked playing bass. What a party – with a wii, some other game console thing, rock band, several board games, a lot of beer & wine, and a crowd of raucous geeks.

My morning was stressful – I was hauling ass to get to work – and my car window was broken. All the cars on the block had windows smashed – My giant book of favorite CDs was stolen – knew I shouldn’t keep it in there – I will try not to miss it but got a little upset over the hard to find venezuelan and cuban stuff. I had resolved to only keep cds I ahd burned in the car – but didn’t stick to it – to the tune of probably 50 cds which built up to be all my favorites. Plus, mix cds other people made for me. I am trying to be detached about it. It’s just stuff. But, music is stuff I hate to lose because it’s memory, it’s the keys to the database of emotions across many years. Sometimes I get deeply melancholy for no reason but in a way that can only be fixed by driving while listening to that one gospel song and crying as I think of the weeks that that song was my only outlet & solace for my horrible feelings on my last breakup – Or joyous in a way that goes with a particular ska CD – Oh – well – I will make new CDs – and at some point will benefit from figuring out which cases are empty and either replacing with digital music or new import cds or THROWING THE CASES AWAY. (I have just remembered the name of that gospel song – “Unconditional” – from a compilation.)

I then hauled ass to tape up my window with a trash bag to try to make it to a meeting, but realized as I got into the car that it would be a bad idea to drive down 101 without being able to see out my side window. It was a sort of survival reflex – like if I were going to lose my job for being late to work, that’s what i would have done – but as I started to do it I realized I’m not in that position, it was not a situation of extreme crisis, and it would be smarter to fix the window!

At the auto glass place (very close! lucky!) my credit cards didn’t go through and there was a bad feeling in the air suddenly as they got suspicious of me. DRAMA… I called my cards (both from one bank, a card and my atm/credit card) & no problem there. The guy didn’t believe me though I offered the phone to him and pointed out the little credit card box-thing said “connection failed” not “card declined” and it was not that I had no money. We went round for a bit because I could not walk as far as the nearest atm that he described – and I did not want to wheel there (somewhat up hill, not sure how far it was really, sounded exhausting). Finally he agreed I would leave one card with him and drive away to the ATM. Just as I was driving off he realized the credit card thing was plugged into the same thing as his phone, which was accidentally left off the hook… HA.

I felt like getting back into bed!

Instead I went to get a sandwich – and after I came out realized I’d left my car running and the door unlocked! OMG!

At that point (now hours later) I decided not to go to the office – and worked from here instead – it was all just too much – plus a 40 minute commute would have just taken away good working time.

Ended up at lunch with a bunch of people from Zond-7′s work and hearing a lot of interesting stuff about Deadweight loss (which was fucking fascinating), monopolies, anti-trust stuff, DRM, talked about all that and about spam, email costs, music industry, and I talked some with the visiting economist dude about the internet ad market. ie. how any blog ad company competes with Google Ads. Good question! Lots of people do, though. It is like the contrast between … well if you had *very small billboards* stuck everywhere kind of randomly but in relation to each thing it was stuck on, like if every parking meter displayed postage-stamp sized ads for parking garages, or every tree by the sidewalk had an index card explaining where to buy trees, vs. there being a public park set up specially with all kinds of ever-changing information about trees and fun things to do in the park. What is more satisfying – making a park and maintaining it and visiting parks & gardens – or wandering around staring at parking meters and smog-ravaged acacias. It is my day of Homely Metaphors as I also had a giant funny picture in my head about the proprietary Egg that you were only legally allowed to cook in special Sony Egg Cookers, it being illegal to invent or sell frying pans even for your own use at home, and the deadweight loss being all the people who might have cooked and ate a fucking egg if not for the $200 Sony Egg Cooker being too expensive, and the Eggs all sprayed with protective anti-frying-pan anti-cracking spray, and no regular eggs in stores since the big chain stores had a special deal with Sony to sell only Eggs not eggs, and the egg industry suffering horribly as a result. (BUT WHAT ABOUT THE CHICKENS, for god’s sake? Pay the chickens with special internet micropellets… okay I’ll stop now…) Then was further picturing the proprietary House, in which you were only allowed to put Furniture specially built by Company X (this, while we were talking about tie-ins) which further locks you in to buy only Houses built by company X in future because you’ve invested so much in Company X Furniture. A bad idea for eggs, furniture, houses, real estate agents, department stores, and right-thinking people everywhere.

Then I laid on the couch and worked for many hours!

It was nice to be around people and have a beer tonight after all that!

So back to Revolutionary, the last book in the Hostile Takeover trilogy. I liked it – although one female character DID go into a coma it was not for the whole book, she was doing stuff and having conversations in imaginary nano-telepathy-hacker-head world while she was out cold.

SPOILERS!!!!!! WARNING!!!

She doesn’t die and the end isn’t all about her incredibly bad-idea romance. Throughout the bad-idea romance she keeps asking Dom and herself, “Why do I even like you? Why am I so obsessed with you? You’re kind of a jerk!” It doesn’t get glossed over! It’s a really good point! Others explain to her that it’s wartime and that can happen easily – there are some other reasons – some explored and some perhaps not (ie her ambivalent feelings about being genetically engineered to bond with computers and machines, and his being like 90% cybernetic complete with extra computer in his brain.) Then instead of swooping in and rescuing her and knocking her up or something… he DIES. TWICE. That was so satisfying! OMG! Actually it might have been more than twice – he kept getting eaten by nanobots, and shot in the face, and then coming back from it somehow, until you were ready to strangle the fucker with your bare hands. DIE DIE DIE! and then… score… he totally died AND his time-travel extra self also died. Awesome!

So, even better than that — it was like candy — The butch as hell ex-Marine traitor Kathy Shane, who got her legs blown off and who is NOT plucky or spunky at all, has lots more angsty and in fact, PTSD-ish moments contemplating (and glorifying) the grave of Mary Houghton (who was her captive and who escaped super cleverly – the art history major and painter and tough Marine who goes spelunking for alien artifacts – and instead of DYING as one somewhat expected her to from the very first – as so many good female characters do – instead she thinks about another (female) character and acts on her thoughts in a consistent interesting way. sorry to gush, it’s just rare to see male sf writers get anything like this right, so I was excited and so pleased not to have to hate the book sighing in disgust even as I enjoyed the space opera bits. More spoilers – so, then Shane ends up finding new purpose in life. Notably she keeps her religion, abandons her military loyalties (though is still devastated by exile and by her continuing guilt over betraying her people – her military subordinates) and completely abandons her political loyalties to a particular planet or state. AND… goes off WITH THE HACKER SPY CHICK into space with the alien star map and a giant colony ship. How can I even talk about this without spoilers? I’ll give it a shot and put it up on the feministsf blog!

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On Sunday Dinners, Cities, Pubs, Middle and Old Age

I have various observations from my trip, written on the plane from Heathrow to LAX in a 5am delirium.

Out of London
We packed, cleaned, and got on a train to Ch3lmsford to visit Z.’s family, for Sunday dinner. Everything still seemed new to my eyes as we left London and forayed out into fields and suburbs. J. picked us up at the station to drive us the long way round through a Sc4recrow Fete (the first time I’ve heard anyone say that word aloud, I think) which I didn’t care about though the drive was nice. What I was really looking at was how people set up their houses and gardens, at shop fronts and billboards; they all reminded me of the rural bits of R.I. in New England near where I grew up in the summers. The architecture (maybe the time period) of the buildings was the same in some subtle way I couldn’t pin down that wasn’t just about snow and being built of bricks.

The Rules of (not) Saying Hello
I had another observation of going through streets and train stations. I had read in Watching the English that people don’t say hello to strangers and in fact they don’t even look at you in the face or nod – it feels wrong and rude to do that, but it is my instinct because in the U.S. if you are walking past someone in a long corridor or on the street you would at least meet eyes and give a little nod as you pass and you might say “how’re you” or “good morning” in a perfunctory way to someone in an elevator. Certainly in Latino neighborhoods, “how are you/como está” or you are eye-rollingly rude. Here in London I think that would be a sign of madness, over-familiarity that might be a dangerous challenge or open hostility, as if by boldly meeting someone’s eyes, you might be about to steal someone’s wallet — like gorillas smiling to bare their teeth. This puts people in a bind, as they become disconcerted around me and want to leap to open a door or see if I need help but they are prevented from speaking to me by the Rules of Not Saying Hello. It’s extremely amusing!

the pleasures of essex
So, back to the pleasures of Essex, which the saying of the name to anyone carries a load of irony and meaning which I don’t understand but which is equivalent of bemoaning the fact of having come from Modesto, or Nebraska, a flat boring place full of sameness, hay, and hicks. To my eyes it was perfectly new, picturesque, with tall grass or wheat in the fields, little fields charmingly separated by lines of trees or hedges rather than the very ugly barbed wire or chain link I would expect, roads that had character and curve from organic and long development rather than being laid out by a surveyor’s line in an “empty” land seized all at once, parceled out and fenced. The suburbanness I found oddly reassuring as after all I am mostly a suburban creature. So the malls and the equivalent of big-box stories and in fact the very boringness of things were all interesting especially as I considered the things alike in Z. and I and in how deeply he must have chafed at growing up there with his dreamy nervous energy and free roaming thoughts and desire for companionship, for social quickness of mind, and whatever else drives him or drove him then — as I did in the distant outskirts of Houston with its miles and miles of cowfields, metal-buildinged strip malls, and housing developments. (At least he had buses and trains! My god!) The narrow scope of the world and yet thick material comforts, mixed, bourgeois paradise, with definite allure.

Parsnips are the bomb
Immune to family weights and subtleties or nearly so (and securely knowing I could not possibly come off worse than particular others even if I was gauche and also, scandalously married; plus i hosted his family at my house; plus, they are just nice) I had a really lovely time, one of the best dinners ever with actual roast beef carved in slices along with at least 6 kinds of boiled vegetables (which seemed nearly unbearably exotically English like what people eat IN BOOKS) and including PARSNIPS which I don’t think I’ve ever seen and which I could not stop devouring – they were so delicate and faintly caramelized – better than yams and almost as good as plantains. AND apple crumble with … custard sauce? and TRIFLE. I tried to act casual but I know Z. knew how funny and exciting it was. Again, please imagine if you can possibly how strange this was. So aside from my marvelling at how stereotypes and things in books really are true, and my absolute & embarrassing uncontrollable greed for parsnips and custard (separately), one of the more pleasant things was how alike his family’s Sunday dinner was to my mom’s families’ sunday dinners (though we had our own Exotic Stereotype of incredibly great Italian food) at the leaf in the table, the lace tablecloth on top, and how the extended family would stay and play cards far into the night. (Though his did not, it had that feeling like they might have 30 years ago.) I missed his nephew (the MindWind Monkey) and worried over him in the hospital. His other (charming) nephew had a fine time with me and my amazing TWO COMPUTERS and my willingness to learn from him how to play Runescape at least long enough to get his other character online to pass some coveted black armor and a Staff of Air back and forth. (I killed some giant spiders and goblins.) I nearly fell asleep on the couch (and Z. fell asleep upstairs) which shows you how nice they all are (that no one really minded and that one feels comfy and at home enough to do so.) His mum gave us about 40 cadbury bars (I will grow out of this set of pants, dammit.) I liked his sisters especially the one I talked with more, and his teenage niece. Then we had a brief foray off to his dad’s house…

The life of the sunday dinner
Despite loving the visit I have to say that at my (finally true) nearing 40 and feeling like an actual grown-up, I have grown into a person who is relieved not to have a lot of burden of family no matter how nice. I felt no impulse to fulfill any role in their family really or to be specially dutiful (or in anyone’s) and felt satisfied we had not been lured into staying with family (and that I avoid staying with my own though I know that sounds a bit sad) I like to see them and to be friends with them but I really fiercely like to have my own life and complete independence of movement including not being pressured. I thought of course of Moomin and my own life and what my future might be like and how odd it would be for him to be grown, maybe seeing me once a year for a day or two, and I hope we will be closer than that. But, I do see the way people aren’t, and how many of my peers have parents who had such different expectations — they wanted the life with the Sunday Dinner, with extended family across generations getting together regularly, to cook and preside over the table benevolently — to shop and to help — to know the intimate concerns of their adult childrens’ lives. And, that has never been what I chose as an adult. The times I’ve tried it have been a strain. You know the feeling when you are just uncomfortable in your own skin – it is something like that. I feel for the frustrated dreams of the parents who saw themselves as beautiful and benevolent, generous and beloved patriarchs and matriarchs, but it doesn’t work out that way very often, maybe. As I mulled this over on the train on the way back I thought that my picture of myself as an older woman say 30 years from now does include (as I have remarked to my friend wild_irises) that I’d like to have cross generational friendships, to know and listen to people younger than me; and to be useful to them; I hope that will include my child and nephews and nieces and godchildren but it kind of doesn’t have to be them, or me for them, if that makes any sense. And also thinking of wild_irises’s way of having once a month sunday-at-home; very nice; I am not all that good at sustaining structured things; but I do host role-playing game groups which is incredibly nice, and, especially dear to me, having small swarms of kids have the free run of the house and yard (though again, it is also nice when they go…)

Where to be when older
I also continue to think that I will be happiest as I get older in cities, close to the center of things, public transport, good services, and (possibly most importantly) able to just see the daily life of many different people around me. I love to see people on the street, to look out the window and watch them going about their business. How stifling it is in the deep suburbs (not where I live now, but in Houston or Chelmsford’s semi-rural edges), with tiny glimpses of a neighbor perhaps once a week but no real bustle, no feeling part of a mysterious hive of life and purpose.

Rich neighborhoods can suck
Back in London, we switched sadly from A. and C.’s marvellous cosy be-Washleted rooftop-garden flat in Hoxton to the sterile absurd confines of the conference hotel, a scungy Holiday Inn in South Kensington which appeared to me as a hell of tourist-fouled bland international-mall-block overpriced theater-going pretentiousness. (Admittedly the Nathan Barley (or earlier incarnation, Cunt) population of Hoxton was high but still, it was nice and it felt *normal and human* like actual people actually live there.) Anyway, South Kensington. I’m sure I would like going to all the museums but, stay away from the embarrassing awful hotels. How nasty the Holiday Inn was, a little bit of importation of the worst of “America” with its ugly veneers and shoddy conveniences that utterly weren’t.

The conference itself fascinated me and I took extensive notes. (Z. wrote it up for the Ir1sh T1mes so you may go read his summary if you like. He was up all night in a fervor and is asleep on my shoulder in the plane; I had coffee and can’t sleep on planes anyway; thus this blog post.) I went to a half day each day and worked the rest of the time. I have massive notes from conference. Not written up yet. Notable was the home office guy, and the BP1 somewhat shark-like dude and his flunky who quizzed me on whether I download music illegally.

Monday night we went to dinner with S. who was nice, funny, and a bit pleasantly sleazy (like I can talk – I am notorious – and had a hard time not escalating to out do his stories – but could easily, without breaking a sweat). We talked about Internetty things, speculating, analyzing, predicting, trying to be wild-eyed but not quite hyped up or comfortable enough to get to that golden land of prophecy & inspiration. (Dinner was fantastic; can’t believe we lived a few blocks from Cay Tre all week and didn’t know to go there! Will amend C and A.’s house-sitting FAQ! Catfish in a clay pot, slightly caramelized, perfectly cooked with spicey sauce, and the (tender to die for) beef fried at table in rice wrappers. OMG.)

Squirrel with a hoard of small memories
Ultimate pleasure also at Z’s reading aloud of the Fish chapter of my Sumerian book, how happy it makes me to think of it, how absurd, but who else would share my pleasure at it (maybe Minnie) but, no one else could read it so well aloud with such understanding of the particular enjoyment.

You know particular moments stick with you and you know while they are happening that they will and that you are at a pinnacle of happiness? I have so many moments with Rook that are like that, sometimes very little things like watching the coyote pounce on a mouse at Fermilab from the roadside and feeling wordless about it, or when we watch Moomin and just about die of happiness, or watching him do his tap dance as King Herod in the musical. Anyway it is a little silly to say so on my blog since it is a private and unexplainable moment but that is also how I feel about the Sumerian fish.

Pubs and liminial spaces and the nature of time
Tuesday night (after particularly exhausting work, and then more conference where I paid close attention and became more burned out than i thought possible) we went out with S. again and more of Z’s friends and conspirators. I liked seeing him happy amidst his old friends (and as at the Opent. conference his friends’ pleasure in seeing him Cured As If By Miracle Back From Insanity or Nervous Breakdown or Misery or Whatever) Though I was too exhausted again to really be social and connected I had several drinks and talked with L. and S. a bit, but mostly listened to other people. (And I know that one is not Magically Cured from life, middle age, or particular traumas and does not return to an Old Self (as people kept saying “he’s BACK” which is both true and not) but people have continuity of identity throughout whatever scars they have. It is maybe more, ah, you have connected visibly with that old self we knew and that you were and that we thought you were or wanted you to be — when as we get older (speaking again from my getting to be middle aged with my bitter yet spoiled generation’s astonishment that that can HAPPEN) and watch people we know change beyond recognition, go down paths we never thought possible, cut off and disown or forget their former selves we used to love, or simply die. So I enjoyed their pleasure in the moment but found it a little bit sad and ephemeral. (Is it very American of me to be so earnest and analytical rather than sum things up with a little ironic remark – if so then pretend we are in the pub past closing time in the liminal space of drunkenness where such thoughts are permitted.)

Additional thoughts to my post on Cities, suburbs, middle and old age on the other computer when the battery on the first one ran out

At Z’s dad’s house I noticed his frailty and old age and his air of real philosophical detachment which I have noticed in my own father (who is much younger in mind and body, but perhaps on the same path) and wondered at the life path that would take him to this place when nearby was the little bustle of the Sunday dinner which perhaps he might have come to. And that is clearly not part of the way he lives and I think we’ve all seen men who go that path and yet stay in a family, lurking in workshops or basements while the life of the kitchen and its gossip goes on around them. I wonder at it. I have definitely had my moments of desire (and fulfilment) of that matronly vision of the table of lovely food and everyone gathered round (and will have many more such moments) but there is a strand in me that leans another way (or that sees how I could become very different and yet be happy in it though I would not be happy in it now.) I also see another strand in future ways of living, of public involvement or public works or civic works, service rather than of private cultivation of my own garden.

Back to the moments in the monastic living room of Z.’s dad. I got to see Z. become younger suddenly in an indefinable invisible way. (And it was the house where he grew up, which I didn’t realize till later.) Other than looking at a few photos on the wall there was no reminiscing or dwelling on that aspect of the past. His dad had a million mannerisms I recognized as Z’s or really it is opposite and some of them also in other people though in fledgling form. Also, their hands are the same, so it was odd to see basically Z’s future hands and to imagine him old (while right then seeing him as much younger than he is now because of the indefinable slightly melancholy younger-infusion effect of being around one’s parent.) His dad interacted with us by firing a gentle barrage of diffident questions mostly at Z (a relief that there were not many questions for me!) but I felt a little melancholy myself wondering about the relationship. I thought of the time that we were soldering our LED kits together and both feeling a weird bond and memory of bonding with our dads — as if our dads would be pleased with us and pleased at having transmitted something to us that they had liked (even if they don’t like it or do it now.) Or would be proud of us in a minor quiet way. My own dad seems to have forgotten the pleasures of doing things like that (soldering and little projects) and does not really get it that it was important to me or the scale of that importance in a kid’s life (and the life of the future person – as we age and return to earlier memories; he is probably lost in his own bonding moments with his dad when he was young, over baseball; thus, disconnect as our significant memories that formed us are of different times.)

I thought of a blog entry I read recently from someone in the blogher network of being in the snow with her dad and how grateful that she was that he insisted she wake up and ski with him even though she hated it. It was not about the activity really but about giving her some way to remember him and herself, so that now whenever she skis or goes in the snow or whatever they were doing, she thinks of that time and of him. (He is not dead. But he’s different, and it’s harder for them to be close.) Her post was about her consideration of what she is giving to her children.

I think of both Rook and Zond-7 and what they give to their kids as fathers. They are both so good at it, I suspect light-years better than their own fathers were. I wonder if because my own dad was so nice and so good at it, I like them for some of those same qualities. For myself, I have an ideal of being a parent that I don’t at all live up to and never quite have even at my best moments. I am so sporadic in my abilities to do it at all. I’m not running myself down here – it is true – and not an awful thing – just how it is.

Partly this is because my particular skills – that I thought would be so useful in parenting – are not in my case becasue they are not what Moomin responds to and maybe I have not known how to learn and shift fast enough. Partly I might just suck wih little kids (beyond an ability to entertain and bond with any little kid for about an hour) and will come into my own & into usefulness when he is in middle and high school. But so farmy main strengths or things he will remember fondly might be much like my memories of my grandma Hemulen and the absent-minded way she would put hot dogs into the toaster oven for me and my uncle Redolb with a beautiful absence of fuss and we would run around doign whatever we liked, watching junky tv shows, playing with legos or making elaborate stuffed animal battles without interference.

While I do have a very solid comforting motherly reality-bending home-making ability I also think it is a bit unstable and (especially in the last year with health problems) I have pulled back from it. I like that quality in myself and value it and see how other people like it in me, but it’s like it breaks down daily – this might be part of my own damage or frailty that I don’t have clear grasp of yet – the damage that being in fairly high levels of physical pain has done – and the effect of my own fears.

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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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Somewhere in the air over Greenland in the middle of the night

As we took off and flew over San Francisco Bay, Oakland, the sharp line of yellow hills and maze of rivers, I felt a sort of agony that we can’t just leap up in the air and fly around. From above the world seems quick & beautiful and it’s simple to be first in one place, then in another. We’d remember all the possibilities around us. Why don’t we have anti-gravity! It’s so sad.

Somewhere over Colorado I was in agony again that we don’t have cities in the clouds and in space. Cathedral anvils! We should be zipping around them! Floating cities in layers, all over the place, with hanging gardens and impossible crystal palaces!

I had secret chocolate stashed away as a surprise and Zond-7 had downloaded the latest Dr. Who episode and brought a y-connector for our headphones so we could both hear it!

I messed around with eeebuntu some more on my eeepc. It’s been a while that I’ve been itching to play around with Hardy Heron. I like it and am looking forward to customizing it and really merging with my little machine so that I work smoothly on it.

I’m listening to “Disco” by The Butchies, a little delirious!

Now going back in time to this morning, I was too scattered still to be that ideal mom and partner I had thought I would have time to be but have not been for a while. I miss Rook and Moomin already. Moomin was so awesome with his friend Dragonboy . They both had really big stuffed animal snakes and were running around with them, and were playing Godzillas.

A new song… “Rocketship” by Shiny Toy Guns fits my mood, with its countdowns, gay dance club energy, and cheesy sentimental lyrics.

I came back from the bathroom at the airport gate to find Zond-7 lying on his back with his head on a heap of bags, laptop propped up on his chest, industrious and casual looking, surrounded by stuff like a funny little pack rat, in torn jeans and a tshirt and a suit jacket. It was so exactly what I do in an airport that I burst out laughing. As I joined him he remarked that we would look as if we both fell out of the wheelchair. It was very cosy there in the middle of all the airport people in our little world on the floor with computers and conversation. I told him about the totally insane blogs that I had seen all about packing one’s suitcase and travel, and the woman who declared exactly what one should and should not wear on an airplane with amazing snootiness as if there were some reason to all dress like bank tellers while riding in a damned airborne cattle car. As far as I could tell it boiled down to a whole lot of outrage over flip-flops. Who knew? I have never in my life thought of flip-flops as actively OFFENSIVE. We looked around at a crowd getting off a plane from Dallas. About 2/3 of those people were wearing flip flops. Horrors? Ahahahah! We tried to spot someone, anyone, dressed with the philosophy of this one blogger (who I’ll link to when I have net again, but she’s linked off Rose’s comment in an entry on Badgermama), and saw maybe one woman but then realized she worked at the airport, and then a bit later one guy who was so overdressed in casually draped scarf and white sunglasses that he was clearly a gay supermodel. Everyone else was in sweatpants, and jeans and regular-person clothes.

Our flight was delayed, we missed the connection, but lucked out and got onto the next flight to Heathrow which was boarding immediately. I had been rebooked magically I guess from special cripple-fu. They put Zond-7 first on standby when it got to our turn in line I think also from travelling-with-a-cripple-fu. The flight attendants got us seats together with a bit of embarrassing fuss… It wasn’t even really that stressful. I was in pain by that time but popped a vicodin as soon as I was sure we were staying on the plane.

The book I have to read, “Out” by Natsuo Kirino, is so annoying I’m not going to finish it! It seemed gruesome yet promising but I really don’t like where it’s going with the positioning of the rapist-murderer guy as the detective hero. I realize none of the characters are supposed to be likeable or ethical, and was able to read about the group of women chopping up the one dude’s body which was quite perturbing but, I could deal. But the internal monologue of the rapist & torturer was too much for me to handle. I also was very annoyed at the normalization of rape — the rapist at the factory is described by the women as a “pervert” and the narrator shows us that they are sort of turned on by the whole idea and were flattered or felt lucky to be harassed or in fear. So, that was beyond annoying to me. I could see it was heading towards a climactic rape-torture scene of the main female character. It is just the sort of incredibly annoying book they would make a big action movie out of.

I enjoyed the Dr. Who episode, “Turn Left”…

Minor SPOILERS AHEAD!!!

I have not seen all that many episodes of Dr. Who so I don’t have a lot of context or background. I enjoy nearly every episode I’ve seen, old or new!

In this one my criticism is that Donna is set up to be all Special but her agency is undermined. (Denial of Agency!) She does something, but doesn’t know what she’s doing or why, and then doesn’t remember it. She remembers little pieces, but doesn’t know what they mean!

I liked Donna though and her bravery and attitude.

Did you notice how the monster is mostly unseen, but that makes it all the more creepy?

So, nearly passes Bechdel test, but didn’t, because if you think about it Donna talks to the fortune teller (but about the Doctor, or because of him) and then with her mother (about Donna’s hypothetical desire to meet a man) and then with Rose (about the Doctor, again).

While I noticed those things I still liked the story and it made me want to go back to see all the episodes I’d missed that it was referencing.

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Book reviews from the past, old computer hardware

Funny but I just got mail from someone who remembered one of my first web sites from 1996 and was looking for it. I went back to check it out and it’s pretty amusing. I stuck to a list of all the books I read with short descriptions. 12 years ago, and I still sound like myself. Bookmaniac does show me that I read quite a bit more in the past and how far my habits have changed.

I started reading Starfish by Peter Watts last night, realized it was brilliant but insanely disturbing, and put it down in favor of the blah-blah exposition of CJ Cherryh’s Downbelow Station. That got me to sleep!

Yesterday in the middle of the day my leg completely conked out. I have no explanation for this, as usual. It was achey in the small of my back, but it wasn’t till I stood up that the intense hot stabby shooting pains and buzzing down the leg fired up. After I’d been walking really well all week! No fair! Then I tried to crutch into the fabric store to get “solar system project” supplies for Moomin. Aaaa! Oh well.

Then, I voted, this time not being too brave with the crutches. On Measure O, increase sales tax for supporting parks and open space, I was torn but finally voted for it because the people arguing against it included our local utter lunatic libertarian, Jerk Hickey. Every time that man opens his mouth I marvel that he ever got onto the hospital board or anything else.

Obama’s speech, y’all! How fantastic was that! The shots of the crowd & him walking through, touching everyone’s hands. Just for laughs I read freerepublic for a bit and then watched McCain’s really horrible speech where he was just phoning it in. I was reminded of the terrible moments of the roboticness of Bob Dole and I have to say, Al Gore’s total incompetence in his presidential race, slathered with makeup, smirking, and irksomely smartypantsy even to me. (Voted for him anyway.) How nice it is to have a competent demogogue on our side for once. More to the point I actually believe Obama will push like hell to shake things up in DC, and make things better for people. Please, a populist leftist…. for real…

Mostly I could not get around last night without both crutches, even across the room or to the bathroom. That really sucked! I think today is the same.

Zond-7 and I laid around and in fact worked fairly intensely. I helped out with some work stuff, php stuff, learned some vim tricks, and then we ended up talking about sf and about computers and went on a long riff of computer hardware we have known and loved and “how i got a particular computer or shell account 15 years ago and how I felt about it”. I particularly liked his description of his first hackery conference (Dutch one) where you had ethernet cables to your tent, his description of setting up the tent for practice in soho square, then the flickering tents all around, the sounds of the river nearby mixed with rumble and explosions of people playing Quake. I described the premises of Cyteen; we talked about Blindsight and Starfish some more; we commiserated over our physical ailments.

(more…)

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We interrupt this getting-better interlude to bring you pain


disabled parking spot painted over
Originally uploaded by Liz.

I grieve all over again every time I get 3 steps better and get 2 steps worse. It is a struggle to adjust to the situation.

Saturday night something just went all wrong again. I walked so much last week and pushed myself through some increasing pain, the nerve-pain feeling, figuring that I was walking so well and felt so much stronger, it was the right thing to do. I have been doing all sorts of leg and foot exercises while sitting, and leg lifts twice a day. I was even doing a few steps of staircases without cane or crutches, just hanging on to the handrail. It was a free light splendid feeling, getting up from bed whenever I liked, bustling around, being at that party *standing up talking with people*. Now I am back to struggling to deal with daily life and back on crutches to do any little thing. My right leg can’t support my weight without too much pain for me to take. Lying here in bed, I am feeling so crazed with pain. So the last 2 nights and now tonight, Vicodin. (Last night around 9? Tonight, too – I try to hold out until Moomin’s bed time for some reason.) My leg – doing that thing it does. It is like spikey things are inside the small of my back gnawing their way out and also it feels like rubber bands gone too tight and strained. It is like needle stabs and itching deep in there in my haunches, and like fire in my hip and the stripe down my thigh, my calf and ankle, and also crawling ants in my foot. Any breath of air or breeze is like being tortured with fiery ice cubes. I swear. You see how around 6pm I kind of start looking forward to that painkiller. The tylenol and advil are not cutting it.

I cried last night when i realized i could not put on my sock and had to ask for help. I know, I know, it is okay to ask for help, no one minds, and once I’m there, that’s where I am and I do adjust. The transition is very hard. A little bit of privacy and self determination about the tiny things, it is hard to put aside.

Did I fuck up? Did I go too fast? And walk too much? When I start to feel like I can do more, I feel like a fraud, and lazy, if I don’t keep trying. I can’t even know what I did, or if it was something I did or a random fluctuation. The hard part is not knowing what is going to happen. Is this going to be a minor blip I will laugh at in a couple of days? Or am I heading for a longer time of feeling like hell? If so then I will just have to manage it better than last year.

I feel ashamed, and then ashamed of feeling ashamed. You wouldn’t think any of that would go on in my head, but it does, and I can’t help writing about it.

I just slipped from a range of maybe 4.2 – 6.7, to a range of maybe 6.5 to 7.2. I can handle being worse of course but I would so rather not. Right now I shoudl have my wheelchair in the house but I am stubbornly not. BAH.

Other than that, and my underlying emotional reaction, I had a really lovely weekend. Hung out in bed with computers. Vaguely herded the local flock of children. Mostly I wrote, and read and re-read and took notes on the Marq’ssan Cycle.

And, I had an okay day at work, fooling around and setting things up for testing and pestering people. Pain was not bad till around 3pm. Tomorrow, meetings and then linux server install. I will need to lie down a good bit of time whenever I can. Must remember to bring a decent pillow. Can I do this? Am I being dumb?

I wish this had happened after my trip and not before because I really wanted to be on, and sparkly, and have fun, and talk to everyone, after last year when I just remember being a giant bitch all the time. Also, I act like I am brave about traveling, but actually, the more I do it the more I know how hard it is. But I am determined on it. I resolve to rest sometimes, and ask for help whenever I do need it instead of trying to tough it out.

Oh and this all makes me really glad that I pushed forward on my situation at my work building with parking. Somehow. Anyway, I just had to.

I got to the part in Stretto where Alexandra is broken and in bed and tormented by feeling greasy and trapped and oh, I know the feeling as do many of you. Some of the stuff about rehab seemed pretty good but other bits like how she just keeps working and doing the things the PT tells her to and it’s painful but she gets better, well, I have my doubts there! Still I did oddly feel comforted by Alexandra wheelchairing around and struggling with stairs on her island. There I was, a little, with my damage.

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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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Beds in the temple, sounds so godly

I continue to follow the investigation on the Mormon sect FLDS and their Texas compound. Sounds like the “desecration of their temple” was in order since its godly holiness has a bunch of beds specially set up for old men to rape children.

Here is a copy of the search warrant. It also sounds like the cops had an informant in the compound. And here is the first affadavit filed a few days ago. I hope we keep getting copies of the legal documents on Smoking Gun or elsewhere on the web.

According to court papers released on Wednesday, the temple in the compound “contains an area where there is a bed where males over the age of 17 engage in sexual activity with female children under the age of 17″.

The bed had disturbed linen and what appeared to be a female hair, according to an affidavit signed by a Texas Ranger.

Investigators also found “multiple locked safes, locked desk drawers, locked vaults, as well as multiple computers and beds”, the court papers said.

They are saying now that the 16 year old girl who called the family shelter reported being beaten so badly she had multiple broken ribs. Also, they have another 16 year old in custody who has 4 children. You do the math. Over a dozen of the kids have chicken pox… way to go, FLDS jerks…

It is so horrifying to think of almost 100 years, of generations of people raised this way. And of what has been happening since 2002 when sociopath rapist slaveowner Warren Jeffs took over leadership of this sect. It is people raised in ignorance, oppressed systematically in a way that is completely fucking obvious to the rest of us, enslaved and their access to information severely limited. (Now, I realize that we have other systematic oppressions in operation here… like poverty and racism… I hate them too and it is interesting to think about parallels and differences in how they are perpetuated and enforced. )

This is not just a few hundred people, either. The FLDS has somewhere between 10,000 and 40,000 members.

I have to say, this religious cult thing is exactly why I am against home schooling. I am against home school across the board, because I think it is a crucial check against this sort of mass or nuclear-family-based insanity. It is not a perfect check, but it should help.

Meanwhile, check out the situation CPS finds itself in:

Many of the women have been giving different names every time they are asked. Some caseworkers are finding it tough to interview the children when the women — some of whom are not the child’s birth mothers — are never far from the child. There is a sense among some caseworkers that the children are being told to be quiet and that in a few days everyone will be back home at the ranch.

“They eat together, they sleep together and they even go to the bathroom … as a group,” said one agency official, who asked not to be identified.

Also, there are no birth certificates to help identify so many children, and the women are seen often on cell phones, talking to the men still at the ranch and letting them know the state’s every move.

I don’t think they’re going to get at the truth unless someone brave enough in that group will step up. I hope that will happen.

In more cheerful news, it sounds like (of course) the local community of Eldorado, Texas is rallying round to help the victims.

As it has in the past, life is returning to normal and the people can reflect on a whirlwind weekend that saw some of them work around the clock to feed and clothe more than 200 of their neighbors whom they had never met.

“What this city did — plain, ordinary folk — was overwhelming,” Nikolauk said. “You can’t believe the compassion and the willingness to jump out and help.”

In a crisis, people can be so lovely, so decent. But, with no crisis visible, and, often, with no institutional support or legitimization – no social structures in place to help- they just go around their business while their neighbors are beaten and raped, their minds starved and their freedom taken away. And that is the fog that most of us walk around in, every day.

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Installfest for Schools, tomorrow!

For anyone local to the Bay Area, there’s an InstallFest tomorrow in 4 locations – San Francisco, Berkeley, San Mateo, and Marin. They donate open source computers to Northern California schools, on recycled hardware from the Alameda County Computer Resource Center.

If you show up, you can help disassemble computers for recycling, or install Ubuntu (it is not hard!) and prepare the computers for donation to schools.

With a little more advance notice we could pull together some Woolfcampers or Blogheristas in force for one of these things!

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