Posts Tagged ‘muds’

Road trip north!

Mountains that look like volcanoes, covered in snow! Lots of tantalizing roadcuts that we have whooshed past! We got on 101 at Cesar Chavez at 10am. It’s 7:30 now, coming up on Eugene, Oregon. All three of us have to stop about once an hour to pee, which has been extremely pleasant; no one is impatient with anyone else’s bladder. We have healthy food and chocolate from Sarah’s shopping trip and yet chips, sodas, ice cream, beef jerky, ends up in our pockets.

We had lunch at Big D’s BBQ/ Silva’s Restaurant in South Weed, right under Mt. Shasta – sat on a deck outside in the sun & gawked at mountains & devoured the best bbq sandwiches. I highly recommend their coleslaw and potato salad. The sandwiches were on perfectly soft giant buns slathered with garlic butter, toasted, then mayo & lettuce and tomato… *drools in memory*

Everything has gone green! After the pass coming down into Oregon, no more sagebrush and scrub.

I saw some columnar basalt, a lot of mudstone and sandstone layers, something I think was a giant roadcut of ash (as it looked a lot like the painted desert and it was right before we got to Ashland), some stuff to the west that looked granitic (in how it was weathering). Maybe on the way back I’ll stop and look a few times. When we pass a roadcut or some bare rock I get so excited like my cats get when they see a toy mouse.

We are pushing on to Portland tonight so that tomorrow there is only a little to do – that way we can rest.

I need that rest as I started out loping along with only a tiny bit of help from crutches. By now though I am in some pain and limping a lot. Next stop I might need the chair.

I talked with my mom and my grandma rallied a bit & is back in rehab. She was in the hospital with a possible TIA and pneumonia, then out again to rehab sort of place, then last night they couldn’t wake her up and brought her back to the hospital and my mom was very upset & thought she was dying. She might be. She sounds really confused. They have had trouble feeding her. It sounds really tough. My mom is being really brave and a good advocate.

My throat is still horrible. Not scratchy but it seems very swollen. Zond-7 has a cold too and also had a root canal yesterday and was jet lagged and just ill in every way. We ordered pho and went to bed at about 9:30, whimpering with the unfairness of it all but very comforted by the soup and cosy bed. Though, a horrible awakening at 6am as his roommate’s dog got into the house and for some reason shit all over the carpet by the bed so his roommate helped us take up the giant carpet (which was half-pinned underneath the bed) It turned out the dog had kind of lost control various other places so she is probably sick… From there everything went uphill as Zond-7′s fever had broken and I felt perky and good. Coffee, some cheery early-morning reading of Ubik, email check & I was off to get Sarah and cindymonkey. We are enjoying each others’ stories & music.

This is all a bit flat as I’m so tired now!

Earlier I was very excited because of the gorgeous mountains!

At various points in rural highway California we were all eyed in a friendly way at gas stations by cute women, definitely checked out by the check-out girls. OH HAI we are the city freaks! But in Oregon as we neared Grants Pass cindymonkey told us about this one time she was near there at a gas station bathroom and there was a giant obvious group marriage of women in old fashioned dresses giving her dirty looks. She was waiting in line for the bathroom. & one of them came out and gave her an evil-sweet smile and when cindy went in she realized the woman had covered the bathroom in poo like all over everything. (How, in one of those long dresses!?)

My plan tonight is a motel somehwere or Sarah’s friend might find us a hotel. I think they all will go out drinking if we can find a motel at a truck stop with food and a Trucker Saloon, while I gracefully fall onto a motel fainting couch with Vicodin by my side.

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Cactus club


cactus club
Originally uploaded by Liz.

If you want to read this story, scroll down to Moody retrospective, start there, and read upwards. In these entries I am talking in some detail about disability and pain in my life.
Here I am with a saguaro and a cane in 1996. I was still using cane and wheelchair depending on how i felt. Mostly the cane. Tuscon was great and my pain was a lot less there. I worked some of the time doing crappy temp jobs when I felt up to it. But I still spent many long intense days on the porch and in bed, hurting a lot. I can think of every detail of the apartment courtyards and i got to know what times specific birds were active and where they lived. i could only check my email by dialup. I had seen mosaic and gotten very excited and predicted all about ads. No one believed me…. this was pre “green card” incident I think. Before that I pretty much lived online reading newsgroups and mudding and messing with gopher.

In 1998 I gave away the wheelchair. I found some chick on a disability newsgroup, someone with MS in Brooklyn, and mailed her the chair. It was one of the scariest things I have ever done. But I had not sat in the chair for one year. Well, maybe a bit in museums. But not to speak of.

I still had the cane on and off till 2000. Every time i had a new job it was very tense. I would try to go to the interview without the cane. But sometimes I could not. My job at UC Irvine in 98 I interviewed with no cane. I cried and agonized a lot the night before my first day on the job. And decided to go without the cane. Unfortunately the first thing my boss had us do was walk across campus and i just pushed myself like crazy because i didn’t want to say anything. This screwed up my leg and knee and I had to come to work the next day with cane, o well!

People say “Oh, it’s close, it just acros the way” a lot and they don’t know that I need more information. I am (re)learning how to ask specifics. How many blocks. What is the address. Is it up a hill or down a hill. Are there stairs. Once I get in, are there stairs between me and the bathroom. I also need to either go to a place under my own steam, or else have taxi money and determination that I can take a taxi if I need to get out of there.

Transition is hard. I had to relearn a normal gait with physical therapy. It was easiest to do that in the hospital hydrotherapy pool.

I always travel with my folding cane and I also keep one in the trunk of my car or the cab of my truck all these years out of paranoia.

Right now I am scared of the length this phase will be. Will it be intermittent wheelchair use. It is not like there is some neat demarcating line where one day you have a cast and the next day you don’t. The transition is messier than that. There is progress and backsliding. I hoped the steroid injection into my spine 3 weeks ago was going to avoid that and just catapult me back to not being disabled at all. But now my hope for that is low.

Back to my story. In 2000 at my next job I passed totally until winter hit and then was on crutches for a couple of months all of a sudden and found myself explaining all this backstory. But then from 2001 till this year I was almost totally passing and didn’t need cane or crutches or anything. It is funny when i look back and think that either I was in high “disabiilty rights/pride’ mode OR I was “not disabled”. But as soon as i could pass i hung onto that for dear life. That is partly also because I became so able that it would be silly to say I was disabled… and yet the identity still stuck in my mind and the issues remained (of having to think about it, and not knowing my physical limits.) As I look back at this I think of all the times i tried to hide that I was limping or in pain and I feel like that was wrong. But if you don’t , then other people act unbearably weird. It is so much easier to avoid all that.

I could say more about this and would like to clean up this entry. But I should be grading papers and working or sleeping right now. Instead I wrote this photo essay. I felt like I needed to put that information together and do some thought and processing. Also, public explanation. Also it started to bother me as I looked through photos that I had obviously at some cost stood up from the chair and tried not to look crippled for the photo. So here are photos where it is obvious and where I did not try… for some weird reason… to “pass” in a photo… so pointlessly!

As you may notice from knowing me or from the photos I am a happy and optimistic person. I like to enjoy myself and I will figure how to do so in nearly any situation. This is partly an effort of will and a philosophy of life but it is surely more than half the luck of the draw in some kind of chemical balance or basic temperament. So while I have very broody moods and intense grief and fear over these issues, which i record here and elsewhere, I mostly have a great life and do not need any weird pity from anyone.
Thanks for reading. I just wanted to get all this out there. I feel like I’ve said it, here and there, over years of blogging, but here it is all together.

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Fooling with the computer

I’m fooling around with my computer and marvelling at my good fortune and the magic of credit cards. My old hard drive stayed alive long enough to transfer all my files and settings.

Moomin is sick so I had to stay home instead of going out to the Double Dutch night at the Transfer as planned… I was going to drop him off at Rook’s rpg game but then… well, he might just be having super bad allergies but I had the horrible mental image of dropping him off all sniffly and coughing and then breezing out in a slutty leather-pants outfit and could not quite bring myself to do that. So I stayed home with him, gave him cough syrup and extra decongestant/antihistamine, and played “Talisman” for many many hours.

I read about half of “Black Powder War” & slowed down on purpose. This series could be stretched out pretty much forever. I mean you could just go all over the world and history adding dragons in, and it would be fucking perfect. No, you know what would be fucking perfect… this series with a group of teenage mystery-solving boarding school girls with dragons.

part of why I slowed down was that I suddenly realized that it was setting up for Young Roland and perhaps the tibetan guy and his girlfriend to get the firebreathing dragons. yes i realized it in a blinding flash during the dinner scene at the girlfriend’s house.

Meanwhile, Twitter is fucking fascinating, more than you’d think… chat room with built in stalking, straight to your cell phone… I can’t wait till it senses where I am on GPS, sends me localized coupons, and fits into my underwear. No but seriously. I can see a lot of functions. One you just want to sort of feel popular in a shallow way, part of the fabulous gratifying thing about all the social software. (Or, twitter seems to provide for feeling unpopular and enjoying it as well… Like how I kind of enjoy seeing little messages pop up about what bar or cool restaurant Min Jung is going to every night even though I am totally way more enjoying being in my pajamas and don’t even know her that well, I get to vicariously enjoy her life. Perhaps in the bar, she would like to know about how I’m reading in the bathtub… So, a pleasant social herd feeling of being aware of your neighbors; I enjoyed the mutual knowing of everyone’s business we had in my old housing co-op. Not for the un-gregarious. What else? Groups of private friends… sure. General chat room… okay. Do I really want my cell buzzing 100 messages about what people are randomly thinking? Sometimes yes. What is it about, the impulse to announce what we’re doing? A narcissist frenzy. Being stuck on broadcast. Generations above us accused us of having short attention spans ruined by television and other bits of pop culture and this is what happens. We produce a collective literature, a collective 5 seconds each memoir, and pay attention to it at other random moments in selective streams, in customized chopped up bricolage… So that 30 years from now someone could construct their slice of “what x group of people were doing”… We are making ourselves into data. I like “gabology” for a term. If you see this sort of mass conversation as a literary medium then what? I need to go read “The Masses are Asses” again… it fits right in.

There could be whole channels… the poet-line channel, the angst channel, the emotey flirty channel that treats it like “socials” in a mud. it looks so amorphous to me but i feel like i could shape it to be whatever… a conversation of ideas or a “my cool life” report…

Really I’ll just fool with it for a bit and then flit off to be fascinated wiht something else. Perhaps if it were integrated with flickr. but people’s information streams are so wide that it coudl be difficult. none of us can really pay enough attention in the moment. and yet afterwards it is often good to be able to look. you meet someone and talk and then go home and look up all their shit. and they’re just fascinating. And I may never really get to know them in real life even though they also seem to find me super interesting. And for me the net result is this amazing feeling like I love people more or have a bit more trust that there are a lot of friends or simpatico people out there than I thought; it’s a feeling of abundance… I felt that with usenet and bbses and muds, and way more with the web and blogging, and this social stuff and especially Flickr give me that feeling even more. It’s actually not all about the “yay, pay attention to me!” though I make fun of myself for that as a motivating force. It’s also about gratifying the part of myself that is like 11 years old and flipping off the school bus yelling “Fuuuuck yooou!” & was so alienated. Assuaging that alienation does seem valuable & has a point. & it’s a push, a motivating force, that drives our culture forward in unpredictable directions. The privileged few people who are dabbling right now, well, you can make fun of us, but it’s spreading & twitterish things will be in more use (as they already are) than computers or the web.. and I believe in it for direct use for activism as well as a connection machine that will bring social change. i see that social change most in places on LJ which is a giant fucking hotpot of consciousness-raising groups, where people are talking feminism and anti-racism and all sorts of stuff like mad, and I really feel it when I read the blogs of trans teenagers who are having their coming out moments so young, like me coming out as queer…but with SO much backup. It means something when you know people have got your back.

I’m off to the bathtub to finish reading Naomi Novik’s Black Powder War and I seriously hope there are like 20 sequels to it. It is like “in bed” on fortune cookies. Take any period in history and add “with dragons” to it and it becomes way better.

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public/private discourse panel, sxswi

Lisa Stone introduces the panel.   Invites people to come up and use the mic when participating in discussion. and to introduce themselves and their blog before they talk.

Tiffany Brown    blackfeminism.org,  wine blog,   
Melinda Casino    Sour Duck, anger and feminism.  blogher.org
Barb Dybwad  blogging since 2001.  weblogs inc.  assoc editor
Lisa Stone  founder of blogher.org

Why affinity groups. Kind of the question "Why do all the black kids eat at the same table at lunch every day. "

Barb:  We seek affinity groups. We don’t want to feel alone, we want to share goals, solve problems.    People with interests like scuba diving, cycling, etc.  share interests.  What is so peculiar about it?  Yet it ticks people off.

Melinda agrees.   It’s not like it’s new.   What is new is that it’s online, geographically dispersed.  Net allows connection.   Validation.    The feminist rage page produces the most excellent feminist writing around.  In the blogging context – people can produce longer essays.   More ownership.   Usenet… blogging gives more communal space.     (I think she means authors have more space to stake out their own identity.)   It’s revitalizing, leads to action.     For example, the book "Our Bodies, Ourselves".   Started from consciousness raising, anger at medical establishment, led to channeling to constructive action.    It impacted the medical industry.

Tiffany – the "why" comes in because your race, your gender, sexual orientation are not things you choose, they’re things you’re born with.

[well, not always. I can choose my sexual orientation and gender...]

Tiffany – sense of cameraderie – starting movements.   

Al Cheng. no blog .   Race, gender…. pushing that out of public life.   Part of ourselves in the public sphere that people have been avoiding. Maybe that’s why people feel weird about it… it’s out of the workplace…. etc.   Where else to talk about it?

Barb – Because those conversations aren’t happening in public discourse.

Melinda – Once you’re out of college there is no path to have those conversations other than online.

Lisa -  The Indigo Girls… started their own scene, moved into the mainstream. Spike Lee… mule film… then was able to move into the mainstream.    [like a greenhouse, a protected environment.]

Lisa – question she gets is "forming private club" – is it a negative thing, exclusionary

Melinda -  Self-segregation is incredibly useful. Different strands of feminism -all forming a community that’s supportive and educational.  The risk is that things get stale, become uninteresting if group is too insulated, too much of a closed circle .  We all need ideas from outside.    More importanly it’s bad when groups don’t introduce their ideas to the outside.     frex, radical feminism, hitched its star to separatism.  which killed it.   

Lisa – I get the same question, whether it’s BlogHer or women’s colleges.

Tiffany -   we saw this last year at blogher. When you have woman-centric space, black-centric… queer-centric – you lose the chatter.   You don’t have to spend all your energy educating people. You can focus on what you can do as a group. The energy is different.  You don’t have to defend, compete, you can invent an agenda, figure things out, get more done. 

Ruby: The assumption of the question is that we have to get power from hanging onto white men….   I hang out with them, in fact am in a committed heterosexual relationship… it’s not like I never talk to men…

Marshall – also in a committed heterosexual relationship.    He disagrees.  Imagine he works for a national magazine. Readership is about 95% white upper class.   We want it branded as a site for well educated wealthy people.  Even gating the site.    How this plays out?   

Liza Sabater  —    Culturekitchen  – the assumption being that only white people are rich.  Not.

Marshall – I’m not making that assumption at all.

Liza – Did you hear what you said?  The assumption is that whoever buys your magazine is exactly this demographic…  this is something that happens over and over with product launches, with Web 2.0 products – everyone speaks English, everyone upper class, etc.   When actually the huge online communities right now are in Brazil, Latin America, etc.     Well duh, of course, it’s on the web, people are going to come from everywhere.    From tech perspective, American companies are shooting themselves in the foot, they don’t look at diversity, there are rich people all over the world.

Marshall… blah blah blah.   Gated. We know our demographic.

Barb – the issue of power.    Those rich white people, they can make those spaces already.   We have them already.  Like, Congress.   (general laughter)   Whereas if i’m making a space for dykes on the web…it’s much harder…

Joe… with the army.   Soldiers… they’re out blogging.  the dynamic they’re bringing… to their letters home in email or blogs, has caused a lot of stir at the level he’s working at.   Do you close that off? And put it on an in-place system for soldiers to talk amongst themsleves w/out it being a public discussion.  What do you take away from that online conversastion?  What are you doing to that population by doing that?

Tiffany – you get an echo chamber.  That’s what happens. When you close it off, when you only read liberal blogs, or feminist blogs, a lot of agreement going on. You never see other perspectives. That’s the danger of having a private space. It may not matter for a magazine, but for political movements you need to step outside. Understand your enemies… hate to put it like that but…

Joe – In your organizations, have you set it up for actual private sites? Or private in that only people going there can post? 

Tiffany – Mo, not for my site. But when you come to my site, blackfeminism.org you know the focus will be on race and gender.   

Lisa Stone – You need to be a registered member on blogher to comment or post.  We have a policy of civil disagreement, all public, all readable.    But with regard to our own brand, transparency has been a real value for blogher.    segue… We’ve  been talking about a continuum.   At some point I needed to incubate (as a single mother) and talk only to other people in my position.  Then increasingly concerned about ways single parents are stereotyped and typecast. Then began to talk more widely…   For soldiers, you’re just putting it off. They’re going to do it anyway. You’re just deciding whether you want to deal with the soliders and their families now, or later.

Joe – [I missed what he said.  Damn!]

Grace Davis – On blogher advisory board, mommyblogger, etc.    for Blogher space, having rules of engagement is important. ways of moderating.   Grace talks about woolfcamp.

JW Richard -  digitaldrums.net   african american-, african- influenced podcasters.    Leave it open to interpretation.  African-influenced. Open on purpose, in and out of the united states, and I never said it had to be all black.   

Elisa Camahort – blogher —   to your point about influence.  We are focused on a certain area.  Come hang out if you want to look at that. You don’t have to be exactly like me.   Self-selecting, and people self-select themselves right out when they could perfectly well be involved in something.

Tiffany – on blackfeminism.org it’s about topics.   "Blackness" to distinguish between inside and outside. If you’ve experienced being the other.  That’s what blackness is about.   Everybody can relate to that on some level.

Paul Cheney – radiant marketing group. I was around when blogher got going. I am typical white male guy and I think this rocks.

Lisa – We want people to feel welcome etc.   But what happens when angry things happen…

Dybwad – We need balance in these approaches.  Just because we want to have an exclusive space doesn’t mean we aren’t open to other communities.  We all have to live in the world, interact with people.    With people who are not like us.  Goals to accomplish is a good time to open it up.   "We’ve identified these problems, these are the goals" then, "can you help us with that?"   

Andrew – How many of you have been on a private mailing list in a space/topic that you also cover in a more public space. How does that work?

lisa – i don’t.

[I do - in poetry and also in SF, two feminist lists.  And what happens is that people who see both see a depth of information... layers of information. And anyone who thinks about that should try to give other people's groups a bit of the assumption they have the same depth of information without it being hypocrisy.]


Tiffany – Not necessarily on same issues, but the more closed off, the discussions are deeper, more heated.  You don’t want to risk being flamed, set off a blogger fight.  level of politeness. civil discourse.

Lisa – Is anger to be avoided then?

Tiffany – I try to… sort of?   I try to be careful… I really have to be careful, because if you are a woman and a black person your anger tends to be dismissed as hysteria, separatist, etc… so, I try to avoid those kind of battles…  ranting… makes you look foolish.

Me (interrupting )   Makes you look foolish to who?

Tiffany: It hurts your credibility.

Jory – to Marshall… affluent  white didn’t bother me at all, but gated did.

Ron Crose – works with professional athletes – anger, diff levels of exclusivity with athlete – access to content.  What are your suggestions… when someone like that becomes irate.  Or influences others against your web site.

Lisa: Do you mean  you had someone who was angry….

[Sounds like Ron had someone who was a member of a group, who then attacked it... I lost the thread. But this was interesting!]

( I think anger and ranting can be useful and productive and in fact is necessary.)

Lisa -  Question to panelists:  how to tell someone i think this is sexism, etc.? What role should anger play or not play?

Tiffany – Don’t respond to anger with anger.  The internet makes people brave. 

Melinda – Rage can be constructive.   feministrage page, feminist action sister page.   

[ What if the problem is being framed by those in power in such a way that politeness and civility is not the appropriate response.  That is a trap especially for women.   In fact it breaks the frame to respond in a way that is irrational or angry.  We need it. And, anger is not the end of the world, and is not the point that should stop a conversation.  Physical violence or its threat is the end of conversation.  ]

Guy up front :     Control, does there need to be policies, guidelines?

Barb – [missed it... dammit]

Guy up front:  Is it more likely to be flame wars when talking about race, gender, etc

Barb – are you kidding, have you seen the mac vs pc wars…

Lisa – [I missed this]

Paige – blogher CE – on livejournal, feminist rage page – when they first began it you would  not want to mention it to anyone.   They had to put controls on it. LJ rep taken into consideration, moderators delete comemnts.   Paige thinks it’s destructive to have the  moderation.   Melinda – disagrees.    [I note that this is the same fundamental political disagreement I have with Ide Cyan]

Me-  What I said above in brackets…  and good thing Lisa called on me because i was about to burst.

Nancy White of Full Circle — Having a safe space to work through anger makes it possible to have better conversations.    It’s easy to run away.  We have to invest in working through anger. Online is real life.  Offline it’s not a set rule of anger/no anger.  Negotiating within the group of what will happen.   Site for babies in the nicu.  Their babies override other political issues.  They are fighting hard for the nicu care.    In another context they would be fighting over abortion or religion.

Liza – thinkking of mike karpanski – (??) Little green footballs – conservative women bloggers with open comments? Are there any?    Michele Malkin doesn’t have open comments. Is it this deal of dealing with anger? Is it a progressive/liberal thing?  What?   More so than in the more conservative right wing communities?

Lisa – has covered politics on both sides,  must disagree… women on both sides have open or closed comments.  mrs. greyhawk,     lisa metnions other bloggers, get them later….

Belinda:  These comments on anger have got my brain reeling.   One of the simple things – tone thing.  I am a writer and get a lot of hate mail and email.   When I gets hate mail I respond in a civil manner.  And they usually appologize… like "Well I’m sorry I called you a spic."   (general laughter)  Like, if they’re reading me, that’s kind of a cool thing, even though you’re an asshole.  One time I let myself lose control and responded very sarcastically and he missed the tone.    (something about the idea of exclusivity. )

[I'm thinking that... in a closed group, there is more room for disagreement, because people aren't going to attack you from outside on that disagreement and exploit it.]

Belinda – Being insular, isn’t that a problem, but… no that problem isn’t on the blogosphere [it's in the real world]. We need to teach our children about it.  I’ll watch Fox news for 15 minutes… and go, "well shit. now i know what those people are thinking."

Simon – tech industry.   Several people said this space is a projection of human society. You can’t solve any problem there you can’t solve elsewhere. You can’t fix trolls any more than you can stop public speaking on corners.   10,000 person community, 650,000 person community, full time community manager, hired to go and be a human being to go and mediate when a problem breaks out.   That’s the only thing you can do.   The way I run my tech site, people may regard me as excluding different languages or whatever… seems to me that transparency and dialogue are the ways to help situations.

Lisa – are there policies laid out…

Simon – No we don’t have them laid out. But we’ve never needed to kick someone out of a community. each time a bad situation arises… we talk…   [I missed some stuff, was thinking intensely about my mudding experiences]

Lisa – Interesting you decided that … a lot of us feel that community guidelines are useful and helpful…

Lisa – bonus question… for panel.   Turning the tables on ourselves. We do consistently work to evangelize ourselves.  Name a person or group you think you should work to get to know and understand.

barb dywad – Scoble.  I think he means well, somewhere in there. (laughter)

Melinda – my first reaction was "screw this."    For example,  the panel tomorrow, "whose butt should be we kicking? "  This slides too well into  whose butt should be be kissing?     Anyway, read blackademic.

[I'm on that panel and I hope Melinda can come!  Because that isn't what we will be saying.]

Tiffany — blackademic, courtney is so great.   Everyone should read it.     for me, i have two people, La Shawn Barber – black xtian conservative blogger.  And i’d like to have a chat with her, to understand where she is coming from.   Also Dave Winer.  (laughter)   Blogging from the outside… someone how she [i missed who this was about]  changed the power dynamics… and dave winer was super angry… i think he missed the point

Lisa Stone – I should have a little sit down with tony perkins.  (laughter)

Lisa – there are discussions like this…. with so many people in the room… please everyone in this room, all go one place and list your blogs.   Tiffany, can we all go to one of your posts and leave our urls in the comments?

Tiffany – Sure, i’ll create a post and you can do that.  give me a few minutes…*applause*

Afterwards a bunch of people talked with Marshall about the "upper class gated site" and got what he was trying to say.  Because (to me, certainly) during the panel he came off as… it was like he was saying "but we elitist people get to have our own groups too".  But actually… he is a very liberal/progressive guy, and was trying to say, what happens that’s not good when, say, wealthy super-educated people have their own private groups? How to do that for what they need it for, that’s good, and have it not be "bad"?   What to look out for? How to have that privacy they need to talk about their own issues w/out having to defend themselves (like any affinity group) without being jerks?  I understood then he was saying that it is hard work to cross class boundaries. For example they want to talk amongst themselves about philanthropy.  I can see that…   Anyway!   

Then for quite a while a group of us talked with Lt. Col. Joe … oh hell I forgot his last name. But he was a very well-spoken guy.  Nancy White says she thinks used to be part of his company command online group… a community of practice group of company commanders.  Anyway. Joe talked about it and also talked about general policies and politics and ethics of the army, of blogging from the army, of what you agree to when you sign up to be in the army, and why, and how it’s enforced. It was extremely interesting. I got into it a little bit with him that no matter what you sign and no matter the usefulness and goodness (sometimes) of nationalism or patriotism, there is still a basic point of humanity where individuals must make moral decisions to obey an order, or keep a secret, or not.   He had a very good answer for that which was that … keeping a lid on 20 people like me in the army would be more trouble than it was worth, which is why we don’t have conscription anymore.  (I countered with economic arguments… which he countered again.)  We had a lot more discussion, that was very good… and I really liked Joe.   I noticed he did  not deny what I said about individual ethical responsibility. A very cool dude and I had a lot of respect for him!

 

 

 

 

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mud

speaking of neobarroso…

I really miss my old MUD, Arcane Nites.  That place was great. And I made it even greater. I miss walking around in my beautiful texts, swirling from room to room… I espeically miss Dream of Red Mansions, my most elaborate and careful effort, extremely accurate to the book, with careful writing and a wealth of characters and objects.   I miss the city I  made up, Panthea, which was full of jokes for anyone who had played merc/diku/envy muds from the late 80s onward, because I put in so many Midgaard references. 

I miss the silly all-races strip club.  Life is just no good on a MUD without a male and a female and a neuter half-dragon stripper, and then there were the gnome strippers… it rocked.  They all had mobprogs so that you could give them gold pieces and they’d do a subversive, hilarious lap dance for you.

I miss the kind of cheesy area I made that was based on The Golden Compass… and the tiny Battlefield of Kurukshetra,  based on the climactic scenes of the Mahabharata, with all the characters and the gods above in the clouds.  For that one i had to go through the book very carefully and figure out what items the different warriors and gods had, what weapons and flags and emblems…  I did Dante’s Inferno, with a helpful mobprog-powered Virgil, so you could go slay all the different sinners and loot their stuff, which was mostly weird auras or cursed items with complex effects.  

I added dozens and dozens of extra socials and emotes …  

I miss the funny meetings with the other IMMs or immortals.  Often stressful… subject to the whim of the main dude in charge, a very interesting guy, but he had some issues with power.  I miss being nice to newbies, and settling conflicts, and getting to know the lonely teenage players on there and wondering about their lives; their imaginary lives were interesting, there on the MUD where they were powerful, confident, knowledgeable.

I miss the whole immersive experience of it, creative, social, and escapist…   But blogging is better.

I used to MUD with Moomin in the baby bjorn, asleep…

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and so to Monday

So you can see my weekend and Rook’s and Moomin’s was way too active. Too much running around, not enough slacking. Too much schedule!

Monday morning I worked like a dog on Tiptree stuff and got out all the books and looked through all the posts, as I said… really trying to distill my own judgements as well as compile everyone else’s. I kept saying "Oh I’m almost done" to Rook but then realizing an hour later I was still almost done!  In the middle, an awesome chat w/ Debbie, very helpful…

Then Moomin’s new friend, Hamster, came over. His dad dropped him off.  Within 5 minutes they had dumped out the hampers full of stuffed animals – they wore the hampers over their heads like giant beekeeper suits – as forcefields of invisibility – there was TOO much cuteness. There’s a lot of feeling around here of being inside a calvin-and-hobbes cartoon, right down to the transmogrifiers.  We picked lemons from the tree.  Rook dug up the 2 rosebushes for me – I worked hard on the planting and dirt-moving and wood chip shovelling, so hard I’m sore today, but I figure it is healthy exercise. Possibly I strained my knee overmuch. But as I said already, I’m being careful of it today and it should be fine.

Then eliz. and sophie came over and Hamster’s dad came back to hang out. We played liar’s dice, and king of the beasts, and the Pilot and baby Peanut came over, and then Hamster’s dad and I talked like fury about collaborative narrative, unicursal/multicursal labyrinths, impact geology, and new theories of the precambrian extinctions.  If you do this while 5 children are jumping on the couch next to you, screaming, clad only in scarves and cheetah outfits, you’re really tough. I tried to pretend I was in a loud, glittering, bohemian nightclub, yelling over the music and ignoring the exotic dancers.  Hamster’s dad comes from a v. different view of multiplayer games and gaming in general, and he talked interestingly about how you have to give narrative cues in realtime, to direct people away from the inevitable edges of the world.  I talked about how you have to let people break the world, but make the consequences of it logical, because people are GOING to break the world. Like, let them drive off the road but it trashes your vehicle, or has some other consequence, or let them shoot through the wall if they have huge guns or grenades because otherwise, how disappointing, because part of the pleasure of a game is testing its limits…and the limits should make SENSE instead of being lazy "you can’t do that"  or "an inexplicable force prevents you from going past the Wall." 

Off somewhat guiltily to SXSW meetup in San Francisco, guiltily b/c of leaving Rook with Moomin, Sophie, and Eliz, all a bit exhausted and chaotic…  and because also I knew I had already gone past my own physical limits … But off to the thing anyway.  I got to town early – someties it takes an hour, sometimes 35 minutes, so unpredictable – and ended up walking into the comic book /toy store on Market and 3rd-ish.  I noticed the Daughters of Dragon reprint right away and sat there reading it and getting steamed up about how stupid it was…  I know it’s reprinted in irony quotes, but REALLY.  it’s not like comics are all that different now. oh the annoying panty shots.  fucking jerks!  you know, i enjoy flashing my underwear, but I do it on purpose. or if they did it with a sense of humor and anyone ever commented on it, or it was on purpose to distract the enemy, or was crucial to their character development or the plot, or they had a tampon string or some razor burn hanging out, that would be acceptable and funny… Also, male superheros should wax their leg hair to fit into the tight suits more neatly without snagging, and there should be a lot of jokes about how they can’t pee very conveniently in their superhero unitards and have to wriggle out of them, pee, and then talc themselves up in order to wriggle back in. with many expanded panels of the contortions of wriggling back into the suit.

The meetup was at the Minna gallery on 2nd st.   I made 3 name stickers for myself, and K. suggested that I put my super-secret identity (not this one) on my butt. I showed her my underwear, of course.  Because it is crucial to my character development, and one of my superpowers.   Elisa and Jory and Lisa were there and, awesome, I had asked them if even at this late date I could be on a panel somewhere b/c I suddenly am going to the conf. and I love, love, love, to be on panels and talk in public.

If I could just confess for a moment that I had to nerve myself to write to them and I felt like a total fool doing it. I am superconfident that I have plenty to say, and am always entertaining and give people ideas and something to think about when I do talk on panels or speak up in that kind of context, but I also felt that it was vile and would make me look bad, pushy, etc. to step up and say "how about me?"  And that even if they said yes I would be somehow undeserving, or a scammer, or unqualified or not geeky enough despite my fairly solid geek credentials, I worked in tech for years, wired whole buildings and planned their wiring, grubbed in server closets, made kick-ass databases, wrote and coded and imped on huge MUDs, was a programmer etc though I’m not working in tech NOW and was never (and never will be) an actual superstar hacker or anything. Still, I think I make a reasonably good technopundit and kicker-around-of-stimulating-ideas. To some degree I feel like a geek groupie, a hanger-on, not a genuine player in the game, and I see how there is this geek/hipster thing happening and i look like the annoying hipster end of it, the soft fluffy bloggity diary-keeping flirty underwear-showing candy of it, the housewife dilettante mommyblogger.  And I just want to point out how much that feeling is bogus, and I know it, despite all that being actually kind of true; and actually I fucking kick ass, and am Well-Rounded.  Anyway I’ll have a fun time being the radical feminist on the panel.

Speaking of which Elisa and I were talking about ( I talked her ear off…) how it is the norm for women to reveal self doubt or vulnerability to each other and that it is a sign of strength and we actually pity the men who are always carefully posturing to each other and the world.  There is a way in which revealing doubts and vulnerabilites can be the social mechanism of the Pack, where everyone exposes their throat and says "I’m not putting myself in front – don’t attack me and I won’t attack you" which can be negative at times (and you better believe I’ve felt the negativity) because then when you boast on yourself it is perceived as hostile and attracts aggression from other women. But the positive side of it is that you establish trust, and you make other people feel comfortable and more confident. This dynamic played out for me ALL the time when I was working in tech.  For example my tech support male colleagues nicely tried to explain to me never to let the User see me not knowing something — so their "helping" would go like this:

User: I’m having this problem with my computer that Blah blah blah.
Guy tech: Hmmm. <i>strokes beard</i> I’ll take a look at that later when I have time.   
(Then he goes and looks it up.)
(Time passes. User can’t do any work. Hours later…)
Guy tech: Fix fix fix.  There, all fixed!

or better yet:

User: My Internet is broken. And when I move the mouse, THIS happens. But not every time. Could it be because I’m wearing a metal bracelet and magnetism is affecting my own brain? Also, how do I do a mail merge in Word?
Guy tech:  I’ll have to take your computer and give it a good overhaul.
*days pass*
Guy tech: Here ya go, all fixed!  Here, move over and I’ll do your mail merge. *fiddle fiddle* Ta da!

So here’s me in that situation:

User:  I want to do this thing, but the feebleblitzer keeps freezing.
Me: Okay, I’m not sure why it’s doing that.  Let’s go look that up on alta vista and here is how you might look up a tech problem. And here is the help screen. Oh look, we figured it out. 
User: Oh, so you didn’t just automatically know?
Me: Yup. I have to look things up and figure it out and try different stuff. You’re not dumb for not knowing right away.
User: OMG OMG and how do I do XYZ?
Me: You drive the mouse and we’ll figure that out and I’ll walk you through it, and I’ll leave you with this piece of paper with step by step instructions of how to do it so you won’t forget.
User: I am SO glad they hired a woman. No offense, I mean… but you don’t… you know…
Me:  I know.

Or I’d say, "I don”t know how to fix that, but I could either sit here and figure it out in front of you, or you could go away and come back, or I can come back when you’re at lunch, or I can take your computer away for 2 days…"  giving them the choice.

Now of course if you are a tech support person you know I was all wrong and the techie has to be God Himself and infallible or people lose their trust in your ability and skill.  And that did happen to me among the (male and powerful) users and among my fellow geeks. but over time my strategy was better for everyone. And I got plenty of respect, except when I had bosses who were complete bogus assholes, like in Irvine.   However, my girly-ass feministitude did NOT carry over into programmer-land however much it worked eventually in tech-supportia. Oh how I longed to work with extreme programming and anarchists etc. who understood honesty! Instead i had NO mentoring or support that wasn’t from my partner and it took me an entire year to figure out the depth of ignorance, fear, fakery and posturing that was my co-worker "programmers"… Oh man… it was bad!  They were wrongheaded and scared, and would do anything to hide what they didn’t know. And yet for a long time I doubted myself on those projects and finally I just did the whole project myself after demanding my own server farm and copy of the search engine spider and  index-building thingie to work with. No more saying plaintively in  meetings about "architecting"  … "But if we just added a crapload of sensible die statements and unravelled some of the spaghetti…"   hahahaah.. because doing that would have coded people out of a job, that’s why.  It took me so long to figure out the politics and the guy-dynamics!

Okay anyway back to sxsw meetup, it was fun as hell, I got a warm, chaste, sparkling kiss from the incomparable Min Jung, I hung out with blogher chicas, talked with Metagrrrl and saw her pictures of last year’s sxsw and of lions in Kenya, then had really great thai food across the street at OSHA, and got into an intense conversation with danah about diaries, pepys, william byrd, our own teenage diaries and early blogs, queer activism, how to flirt, the meaning of life, what it’s like to give birth, how we did too many drugs as teenagers, and how we like to make trouble, and how trouble is valuable, and how we’re old and wise and calm now in our lives which is much better than constantly being in trouble, and it was sort of a scary intense exercise in mutual narcissism, and then I gave her a ride home. 

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fightin’ words

I’m going to lay the smackdown on critics who wet themselves over the “interactivity” of Rayuela (aka Hopscotch) (glorified choose your own adventure book, a litttle dumb to get so excited about) (not to mention the abomination of that one michael what’s his name hypertext book) and say a few more words about muds and IF. Yes, I’ll connect it somehow to the cub4n n3obaroque and j0yce. Um, somehow. because that’s just what I want to talk about. Hrmph. Now, how to say “critics who wet themselves” in polite academicspeak?

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part of the wackiness

I don’t think I want to delve super deep into the wackiness of my talk as I’m really exhausted from this yucky bladder infection and must go to bed very early.

But here was one of the fun parts – i was talking about this guy and his book “Routes” — just chapters 1 and 3 which we had xeroxed. (Now i want to read the whole book though.)

Um, blah blah blah “travel/tourism” blah blah blah “anthropologist/field”. I’ll be coherent later.

The following is not Clifford but is my interpretation of everything including Clifford.

Structuralist/colonialist view of travel: a box, cut in half by a line. Half is Here, the land of Objectivia, which is “the real” and the other half is There, Authenticia, which is “the imagined”. The line is “the border”. Person A, the traveller, moves from Objectivia across the border into Authenticia, staying in a sort of salient of Objectivia that bulges into Authenticia that is the “hotel” and “the tent” — a little piece of Here-in-There, in order to observe person B. A gets to establish what B’s land is, because A does the imagining and A doesn’t imagine their own land.

Okay so the happy blurry post-structuralist Cliffordy model that started to evolve is a sort of Venn diagram with A and B as intersecting blurry circles. A’s land has a center and a border and B’s land has a center and a border. They both have authenticities and A is at least in theory aware that B sees A and A’s land as reflected in the marginal spaces and borderlands. The intersection hold the hotel, the tent, and any contact at all between the two cultures; outside of their intersection is their “authenticity” or center. I don’t think this model works all that well, at least not for very long. Maybe it works as a transitional mental model.

Then I got a little weird (later) with fuzzy clouds that are networks of many points in brownian motion, and lots of As and Bs that were the same people, all travelling and actually existant in multiple “imaginary places” at once. (my same way of seeing everything as information systems.)

Clifford quoted someone saying “If everything is field, there is no field.” And I disagree as I think everything IS the primodial chaos that the conservative “anti-cultural studies” people fear — they fear the erasing of boundaries creates meaninglessness. But I think that meaninglessness is a good opportunity and that any “field” must have its own “instance of fieldness” meaning defined for each instance. There can be a general, fuzzy consensus on standards of fieldness, but each field must be created and then perhaps wiped out afterwards. In other words anthropologists ahve to explain what they’re studying and who they are and what is the “field” of their fieldwork rather than “going to live in a yanomamo village” being “fieldwork” and “spending 2 years MUDding” not being fieldwork as it’s not a proper field. Got that?
And that can be applied for other meanings of “field” too such as a disciplinary field! Oh yeah! We’re smokin’! *Vrrrrrrrooooom*

AND. Clifford kept saying what he was NOT trying to say and in the rare moments when he did say “this is what I’m trying to say” he talked about dynamic systems and complexity and “habitus” which I looked up instantly and which turned out to be interesting and the key to the whole thing. I realized that the spaceship is a metonymic habitus. If that makes you nervous you can leave out the metonymy. “The spaceship is a habitus”. That works fine.

So, Startrek has nothing to do with the class, which is about P4tagonia, but what the hey:

The original startrek’s Enterprise is a habitus – it carries around the Federation and its culture in a demonstration of unabashed colonialism.

DS9 is post-structuralism rather well done and Clifford would applaud heartily. The station is the placeless place and travel washes through it; the series showed various cultures and people from them having dynamic relationships.

Voyag3r is a sad example of imperialist nostalgia (whoo, i had no idea that R.R. who i know from poet-world was so famous that he invented all these cool ideas and I have to read people who quote him! I’m kind of glad I didn’t know before.) Voyag3r’s story is one of hideous anxiety as they desperately try to preserve the borders of their habitus intact, and despite utter impossibility they keep traveling and traveling trying to reach the colonial past.

I just said to Rook that I had no idea how to work NextGen into this and that I felt NextGen had a sinister dishonesty to it that I couldn’t put my finger on. “That’s because it’s the same colonialism as original ST but evilly and ineffectively masked,” says Rook. Thanks honey! I knew I could count on your trekkitude. You know that’s the sort of thing that makes my pants come off!

I also worked E@leanor Arnason into this, and other fabulous sf novels, but only in passing though I could talk about it for HOURS.

One thing though: I was doing okay for a pure-lecture format but had not practiced and wasn’t aware of time. And had again the huge realization that were I really teaching the class I woudl have to think very hard about pedagogy and how to present everything and how to get people to participate rather than just being the Wacky Badger’s Brain Show.

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a postcard from Olive

I got a cool postcard of Laos from Olive, who used to work with me at the Lob School in Ch1cago. I was just thinking wistfully of the fun of that job. It was the rare combination of mellow yet interesting work and a (seemingly) sane boss (1). General Black hired me to work part time on the scammy university plan of “19.5 hours” which means no benefits. I already had benefits from my other job as webmaster for a dept. in the hospital – my big break out of the horrible world of secretarial work, but an incredibly bogus and annoying job (2).

The day before the interview I spastically questioned Rook. “Black jeans are formal enough, right? I mean it would look retarded to go to a techie interview in office lady clothes, even my lame imitation of them. Black jeans, shirt with a collar, that is how men dress “casual formal”? What did you wear at prep school?” To which I got a big shrug and complete incomprehension. I agonized over whether to wear my leatherman. (I decided For. Lo and behold, my interviewers were also wearing them and we whipped them all out to compare varieties. Later, General Black and his BOFH told me they were so happy I had one on (3)).

Up the narrow squeaky winding stairs to the tiny, sweltering attic office in some sort of former bell tower of the old building. It was full of wires and bits of computers and I knew instantly I wanted to work there.

I got to wear a walkie talkie – surely the height of pleasure in any job (4). We had 2 channels and many codes for different occasions. Including busting kids who were surfing porn or mudding in the library (5).

The main point of the job besides tech support was that we were wiring every classroom with 100 base T cable. Woo! 9 buildings. It was a blast! We got to wear headlamps and go in all the tunnels. The BOFH, who was way younger than me, taught me much about mac tech and insane sarcasm. He was cool (6).

Later the General got us a fancy new office. He was doing big power moves. Getting me full time work with benefits was part of his master plan. Then we began hiring college students – Jessamine, who had worked for me in the terrible previous office (who I’d hired there too based on her hilarious resume that listed all her women’s issue activism and had basically no work experience); Muscle, who was dour and depressed and a heavy drinker, but always ready to crack a bitter joke; then Olive, whose head was shaved and who was constantly in the paper for protesting something or other or saying something super lesbotronic at a rally. Jessamine had a wonderfully witty advice column and later created a great blog-like weekly email all about her different lipsticks and drinking fancy drinks in every restaurant in Ch1cago, living a life I would never know directly as I couldn’t tolerate it in real life. I love her to death! I so regretted being her boss-lady and not being able to really be friends. Olive was clearly smart as cake, I mean, super de duper smart and fascinating. Again… I was not really her boss but also not really able to friend-up, somehow, and they all saw me as impossibly old and wouldn’t have like, invited me to their parties or anything. Though maybe if I had asked? I suffered greatly in that town not having any friends (but finally finding the Sk1ffy nerds who were perfectly satisfactory friends). I think I was also suffering from this condition where I was trying not to not be my slutty self, but also not to automatically sleep with everyone, and up to that point I had barely ever (if ever) had a friend that I hadn’t slept with. So I had no clue how to make friends without being a sleazebag.

I spent many, many hours in wiring closets with Muscle, peacefully making patch cables and doing crazy things with our Fluke, and learned his whole life history and all about his kind of music. There were fascinating details like how his parents had an entire basement rec room decorated with c0ca-cola memorabilia (7). At some point I began fantasizing about kissing him, because it would have been less boring than hearing him talk about how much he hated his parents and how much his small town in Minnetonka sucked (8).

The whole point of this story was that Olive was so cute and funny in her 20 year old lesbitude. She reminded me of me! And I was only like 6 years older. But I was in stealth mode, as I had very long hair, dressed in my techie boy clothes, and had an obvious divorce and boyfriend. But every once in a while I would say something obnoxious and I went to the high school GLBT meetings once in a while (9). But maybe that just never happened while she was around. So little did she know I had done all that same activism and that my pervy riot-grrl boobies had been all over the newspapers a million times and that I exuded radical feminism through every fucking pore of my body. Didn’t it shine out of me? Apparently not.

And so we had this funny encounter where after school I was showing her how to refurbish and brainwash an LC-II for 10 baseT. (slow as fuck, but useable for a 1st grade class) (10). And to the best of my memory, she tried to give me a very gentle and dumbed-down lecture about feminism and how it was a good thing and I should look into it. I think she suspected that I had left my first marriage because of some kind of physical abuse – or she sort of hoped it and thought she would get to educate and rescue me. Whoa! It was so funny! I don’t even remember what I said but I laughed a whole lot. I also realized that I was being way too conservative-seeming because of worrying about working in a school. I mean, just vaguely outing myself as bi got me the weird little lectures and some direct homophobia from that psycho closet case English teacher. I don’t remember what I did to change things exactly, and I must have been a little more verbally aggressive about labelling myself as bi, but after I had the 1st miscarriage and chopped my hair off, I got treated like a dyke again – it was that simple.

Later I kept in touch with Olive but we never became close at all. I read her email update newsletter pre-blog. I bet she blogs now but I’m not sure where (11).

In all that job, the General never, ever acted like I was a moron for not already knowing something. When I said, “I have tried X and Y and Z and it didn’t work, what now?” he would not go and do X and Y and Z again – he would believe me, and would drop everything and come help me figure it out. The usual boss-pattern being to deride and then secretly go look it up and act like they knew it all along. The General was always patient and kind and teachy.

I learned a lot about politics and power by watching him, and thought of the ways that great generals paid attention to their supply lines and flattered people with petty power. I liked how he then used his power, mostly. He would see that things were heading towards “parents and admins panicking about the Internet” and maybe going to cut off all student access to email, web, etc. and he headed it off at the pass with a committee and endless meetings and then an impossibly meaningless set of rules. So that it came down to students getting a very innocuous form signed and then they could have their own web pages and whatever else. To the students, he acted like an evil authority figure, but he was like the philosopher king tyrant with the best interests of his subjects at heart – because I saw him behind the scenes always working against the people who were clearly stupid and evil. I liked his intelligence and efficiency – his ability to cut through to the heart of a problem.

I was perfectly aware that he was lonely and miserable, and only 5 years older than me, and that he had some sort of private struggle with his C@tholicism, and so I respected it that he never brought any of that up (I just grokked it over time) and never tried to cross the boss-friend boundary at all. AT LEAST NOT WITH ME. Why he had to crack by messing with our employee Essie, I have no fucking idea. What a totally bad and wrong idea – she was chronically depressed – so young – had worked for him since age 14 or so – And I think it all happened after I left, but I’m not sure of that, or what-all happened. Enough to freak her out and lose him his job in a giant hushed-up scandal. Picturing how she was affected was horrible enough, but losing my image of the General as a great man quietly doing the best he could in a small sphere of action sucked too. I have thought it over many times and wish that I could hear the entire story from him someday.

I could tell so many more stories about this job and the people I met. For one thing, our department secretary was Jim Anchower. I am not kidding. Whoever writes that column must have known Luke intimately because everything about him was Jim-Anchower-like. He is another example of the greatness of the General, as he pulled Luke up from the lowest possible crap facilities job to a full time with benefits learning-about-computers job. (As for all of us.) Then there were the retired firemen in the basement steam tunnel room doing whatever mysterious things they did and drinking lots of coffee. He took all the bad boys and bad girls under his wing, and encouraged me to encourage the amazing punky genius girl (f0rk-bomb) in her unixy endeavors, and the 11 year old wannabe nerd boy who had a bad rep as a hardened criminal from some dumb thing he’d done in 4th grade and because his mom was a deep-cover narcotics cop (supposedly a big secret but obviously not, since I knew it and like 10 people told me in confidence). I was not great as a mentor, but I was at least nice, and respectful.

Though in retrospect I shouldn’t have shown that first southpark xmas card animation thing to those high school boys. It freaked them out that “a teacher” had been giggling with them about cartoon characters saying fuck and making fun of jesus, even if it was like the best thing ever. I also once accidentally told some 15 year old to stop being such a dick. OOPS. I actually took him to the principal’s office and fessed up and apologized to him in front of her (while simultaneously getting him in trouble for his having been a dick).

Okay – that’s all for now.

Footnotes

1. Only seemingly. I think his marriage was very unhappy or stressed. And at some point near the end of when I worked there, and I didn’t find this out till afterwards, he got “involved romantically” with a 17 year old high school employee. Which feelings (I only know tiny details) apparently developed on the occasion of me and Rook’s wedding. Ugh!

2. I’m happy to see my humor page still lingers deep in the bowels of their googleable server. The rotating animated gif was NOT mine. Nor was the sideways smiley in the title bar. Fuckers have to mess up perfectly good anagrams.

3. Bastard Operator From Hell. I think I told him once that I was totally proud to be his PFY, and that I was a mere Chekov to his Spock in all matters techie, and he nearly died with pleased laughter. I wonder what happened to him and why I can’t find him on the web? And was he “really gay”, as all the high school students always said? I think he might have once referred to an ex-boyfriend, but I never asked.

4. Though a later job as the DB admin for the Parking office at UC-Whorevine that I didn’t get – I would have gotten not only a walkie talkie but would have had the right to drive one of those little university golf carts all over campus. That would have been even better. With how I love that sort of thing, why am I not an electrician or something?

5. When we caught them, we would punish them by making them work for us, and the more intelligent ones we would keep on as paid workers or sort of nerdy pets.

6. Though he was notoriously smelly. I mean people would stop me in the hallway and whisper, “How can you STAND to share an office with the BOFH?” because you could smell his weird stench from very far away. It was like smelling durian fruit. Later I figured out that it was not that he didn’t wash – it was that he kept his clothes all in a big pile and they had some strain of super-mildew in them that didn’t come out in the laundry, which was done with terrifying infrequency. My boss even made sure to check with me that it was okay that we shared an office. Actually, I didn’t mind the awful smell all that much and got used to it.

7. This, to me, explained his entire combat-boot-wearing, hard-drinking, sarcastic music critic thing.

8. Emo boys, pay attention. This is how you get laid in college. Bring it on.

9. Earning me a little lecture from General Black (he should talk – see note 1) about making sure I knew that I should be very careful not to be alone in the office with our high school employee Essie with the door closed because people would Talk and I would be in trouble, and also I should not take her off-campus to lunch or give her rides to the train at night even if it was dark and stuff and she needed a ride. Apparently 2 or 3 people in the school had mentioned this possible problem to him! Clearly he didn’t take his own advice, though he was completely sincere. I still think of him a basically ethical man who cracked hugely under pressure. But he should have totally lost his job and been fucked over for it, because that was a huge crack. And he did lose his job but then got the identical job at the parallel universe Greek School, uptown.

10. And if anyone ever feels like giving me crap over the lameness of the school web page, recall that it had to be fully visible without scrolling at crap resolution on a crap LC-II.

11. I’ll come back and add the link if I find out with a little research. You’d think she would have put her email addy on the postcard, but no.

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musings on Halloween and nostalgia

2 halloween parties later…. 1 mac n cheese filled crock pot … 1 parade of a roiling chaos of 40 pre-schoolers across a 6 lane road… 7 princesses, 3 spidermans, 1 panda, 1 zebra, 1 white lion, 1 robin hood, 1 hawaiian cat princess, 2 dinosaurs, 3 army outfits (scary). 2 blocks up and down in the rain… the sadness of lone old ladies answering the door with badly suppressed excitement and near tears for the one minute of kids jostling and screeching at the door, kids who forget to say thank you… Kids suddenly catching on to the magic of the whole thing – you get to run up to strange people’s houses… you get to see inside… they are all kind and give you presents. Kids out at night! Everyone indulgent! Moomin flashed into a wide-eyed understanding and began waving his candy bucket, waving his sword, leaping like a gazelle after the throng of slightly older kids. “Let’s go to the next house! Come on!”

Jo’s daughter Elizabeth was very funny, getting into the proper post-trick-or-treat gloating spirit with me. We dumped out her candy and sorted it by type, taking turns to write down the inventory. I realized she did not know all the types of candy – how strange! Rook and I knew them all quite intimately. I think I gave her an incredulous look when she did not know what a Krackle was, or a Now n Later. She went around charging people and the funniest bit was when she instructed 4 year old Iz in how to make a credit card. “You put your first name and the last name and the year…” As if Iz didn’t have a vat of her own candy! I had it in mind to make her do a statistical analysis of her loot, but the party got chaotic. I had some wine and mooned around wishing dimly that I had a piano.

Moomin came in the room horrified as I picked out the first few chords of that chopin prelude. “STOP, mama, that is too scary.”

In class today the myths prof was giving possibly his most boring lecture ever, but there was a good bit about how rituals and holidays always refer back to a golden age. I think he said something about how people always think that the holiday or the ritual USED TO BE BETTER.

This made me drift off into thinking about memoirs where people wax poetic about their glorious childhood memories of spending a nickel in the candy store – of reading the sunday funnies on the floor in 1932 – of spending all Saturday in the movie theater watching cartoons and newsreels. Meanwhile their elders freaking about their trashy activities.

My generation now has the chance to wax poetic about the glory of Saturday morning cartoons. This glory no longer exists, as kids have videos and access to all-day cartoon channels. I have certainly heard my generation go on about how great Halloween used to be and now it can’t be that way because people are paranoid and don’t let their kids out. (Remember the whole weirdness in the 80s about taking your candy to be x-rayed?! Check urban legends snopes page for a fascinating monograph on the subject…) This is why I like Redwood City – people DO let their kids out. There seems to be a truly unholy trend in many places – taking your kids to the mall and let them trick or treat there. As if some random mall store employee is more trustworthy or accountable than your own neighbors…

I feel a little false nostalgia for a generation or so back… for some TrixieBelden-ish old neighbor lady inviting the gang inside for hot chocolate and freshly baked cookies… bobbing for apples? playing blind mans bluff? (buff?) This sort of waffly false nostalgia quickly leads me to the land of the 5 little peppers, the little brown house, and Laura Ingalls’ first party as a teenager where she freaks out about how to eat an orange. “Oh, Ma, we each had a whole orange!” I have never tried bobbing for apples, but it seems quite disgusting and unpleasant. cold water on the face, and other people’s spitty, half-bitten apples. Ew.

I also thought (not for the first or last time) of my current nostalgia for the happy modem handshake noise. (I just looked for an online sound file of this noise, and did not find it. I will hook up old computer and record the noise, which is curiously lovely. Could compose a song with it perhaps…) Oh the tense and exciting anticipation of the connection, the BBS or later the gophering and mudding pleasures that awaited! The thrilling net news and magic email! I am all powerful, I am magic, I will hack into the Pentagon! (Screw the web. Text, text, text. That is all I need.) When the modem finally did its successful handshake… joy. Like being at the symphony and hearing the orchestra tuning up, the chaotic notes resolving into a triumphant A.

And when it didn’t… that dull repetitive beepy noise interspersed with static, as if the modem was dissolving into disappointed, confused sobs. Busy signals were particularly poignant, evoking moments of frustrated long distance love in the days before call waiting was common. Anyway, my point is, suddenly in class I began to imagine myself at 80 years old, hearing the happy modem handshake noise for the first time in decades, and weeping with joyous nostalgia.

I’m sure somebody is laughing at me by now. Nevertheless I am moved to tears by this thought.

Back to Halloween and rituals – I was made very, very happy by seeing all the kids dressed up. Their excitement was renewing to the spirit in a way I didn’t expect. They were excited without knowing what it was all about. I also don’t know what it is all about, but it seems to partly be about (if you are not just completely cynical about rampant consumerism) participating in a weird event where you aren’t sure what is going on, but older people do seem sure of the ways things are supposed to be done: there are supposed to be pumpkins, jack o lanterns, witches, ghosts and skeletons; any other costumes are also acceptable; all sorts of strange songs and customs and foods. So the magic is actually that something particularly meaningless is being transmitted AS IF IT WERE MEANINGFUL – a shared moment of cultural insanity.

Plus, they were just really cute in their costumes so that all the grownups were tiptoeing around grinning and saying “Awwwww”.

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