Posts Tagged ‘rally’

Help Gwendomama recover from domestic violence

This last month I’ve watched, from a distance, a little bit of what happens when women face domestic violence. Julie from Tangobaby has been blogging about her friendship with K. and her family, a friendship which started back in April. As an individual blogger talking to one other woman she met on the street, she has made a huge difference in K.’s life. WE ARE THE MEDIA, people.
Meanwhile, my friend from WoolfCamp, Gwendomama, was also attacked by her (then) partner. He was arrested and then took all the money which he said he’d used to paid rent and utilities and used it to pay his bail. Her commitment to truth is stunning and beautiful.

But for now, I cannot allow him to take away or hurt this one thing I have left.
Our children are ours. They will always be ours.
But this blog, these words?
They are mine.
This poetic license to be cryptic and have a quirky sense of humor?
All mine.
This is my blog. This is where I can tell my truth, where I can record the awesomeness that is my children, and even record my parenting triumphs and fails.
This is where I have been able to share the ‘unspeakable’; the coping with parenting loss…this blog has been what even helped to keep me sane those years of cyclical arguing.
Sometimes people even pay me astonishingly low amounts of money to write things.
I write only the truth (which, perhaps upon reflection, is why the amounts are so astonishingly low).

I’m going to repeat what Squid said:

Gwendomama is one of my favorite people and bloggers. She is a loud-mouthed, small-business-owning, straight-shooting, food-loving, empathetic woman and dedicated mom. She is a wonderful friend to folks both inside and outside of the computer, to parents who advocate for special needs kids, and especially to parents who — like her — have faced the unimaginable in losing a child.
The unimaginable happened to her again. Last month, she became a victim, and to literally add insult to injury, she has found herself in a financial hole. Please, please help us help our hardworking friend gather funds for her and her children’s immediate needs: food, rent, utility bills.
We are bloggers. Our superpower is connectivity, and when we use that power for good, we can save and change the world. Please forward, blog, connect, and — especially — donate. The campaign will end next Friday, 5/22. No amount is too small, and the sky’s the limit. Thank you.

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New improved! books in the bathtub

I’m reading a bunch of books at once. I finished up The Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole, an autobiography by Mary Seacole which is mostly about her travels to Panama and the Crimea. In the 1850s during the Crimean War she was a nurse and kept a field hospital. She tried to join up with Florence Nightingale’s effort but was rejected for what sound like racist reasons. I enjoyed her memoirs, especially her entrepreneurial spirit. She’d go pretty much anywhere, and with a little capital would set up a boarding house or hotel and store, and would naturally turn into the community’s medical care. It is a bit awful to imagine what cholera must have been like, especially under the doctoring philosophy of being given violent emetics. Ew. I looked up cholera on Wikipedia and elsewhere to find that you can pretty much survive cholera if you just stay as hydrated as you can.

Meanwhile I read a bunch of Robin Hobb “Assassin” series books on Zond-7′s iPod Touch with the Kindle reader app. Another fantasy series about an assassin! And a bastard! I thought of the “Lens of the World” series and also of Curse of Chalion. Actually, I expected not to like the first book from its first chapter, which piled fake-medievally world stereotype upon stereotype, with characters named Verity and Chivalry and Shrewd. Then the decent writing and fast moving plot completely sucked me in. The guy who takes care of the young assassin bastard, the stable master, was just a great character, a flawed unhappy guy doing his duty… And then the assassin guy himself, who doesn’t know his own name till halfway through the book and nearly an adult, grows and changes over the course of the stories and isn’t really that much of a hero either. I have criticisms and complaints about the Plot Device magic powers but mostly I could let that go and enjoy the story. Any deeper criticism I would need to do with the book in hand & a lot of quoting from it.

Somehow, I ended up reading a book called Mulengro by Charles De Lint. How did it even get into my house? Was it a present? Did someone recommend it? It’s awfully boring. The characters bore the daylights out of me. They appear in vignettes and I utterly don’t care about them and then they get disembowelled by the Bad Super Magic Romany Dude/Spirit Who Was Traumatized By Nazis. Now it is not like I know jack about anything Romani. Other than, that I spent half a year tutoring an 8 year old kid to read somewhat against the wishes of his family – I was working as a tutor, and from what I could tell he didn’t go to school but there was some legal trouble *and* someone in the family *did* want him to learn to read and so, twice a week tutoring. We would have long discussions over why it might be pointless to learn to read (his view, reinforced by his uncles) and why it might be okay and in fact useful (my view, and his grandmother’s; but it was interesting to hear his reasons.) I’m slogging through the book to see if there is any point. So, my question is for you all, is there any point? Am I just reading the wrong De Lint novel? Should I try another one?

I really liked reading on the iPod, way more than I thought I would. Flipping pages was effortless. The reading experience was so seamless that I kept putting it down, then looking around for the physical book to pick it up again, then remembering there WAS NO BOOK.

It is easier to wash your hair while reading on an iPod than to do it while holding a regular book; just riskier. True!
I re-did my purple hair dye tonight half while not looking and reading Mulengro, which is now more like Purplengro. Then I realized that I was wearing a white shirt which I had to take off over my head. FAIL! Good thing I don’t mind.

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Lovely lovely databases

SF Chronicle and LA Times have made available a searchable database of donors supporting and opposing Proposition 8. I just searched on donors from Utah. Fascinating stuff. You can sort each column, so I tried sorting on amount donated to find the big spenders. Bruce Bastian donated a million dollars opposing it, i.e. in support of people’s right to marry. I looked up his name figuring anyone who could afford to donate a million bucks must be googleable. Sure enough, he is one of the founders of WordPerfect.

Here’s the weird thing. I did the same search to see who supports Prop 8 and there is another million dollar donor named Alan Ashton. I looked him up and for god’s sake he’s another founder of WordPerfect.

What the heck? Did one donate first, and the other one get so mad and embarrassed he had to match it, but on the other side? I’ll go out on a limb here and guess that Ashton was first. I’m trying to imagine their fiery history together writing that code that gave us the chalky blue screen with the chunky letters… Maybe they were college roommates… Friendship and shared hackerdom, undermined by years of software company tomfoolery and financial competition, then… by homophobia?

Someone needs to write the slash fic for this, clearly.

It’s nice to see that my own neighborhood is about 95% “oppose” with their donations. Then… where did all those Mormon “Yes on 8″ rally people come from, who have been out on the corner near my house? Utah?

*** Update*** have now actually read their bios in Wikipedia. Bastian was Ashton’s student as well as his fellow programmer and business partner and WordPerfect tycoon! The RPF writes itself.

*** More updating *** I was wrong! Bastian donated a few times first, and donated his million back in July! Ashton only donated once, 1 million on October 28! The drama of it! And Bastian came out as a gay Mormon and is way involved with the HRC. So what happened that Ashton felt like he had to jump in and donate his own million?

******** STILL LATER ************
So, I realize people are likely pulling all this data to do creepy stuff with it. But I still love it. I love the transparency. Just put it out there! Fine, say we’re all gay! We’ll point and say, y’all are homophobes and bigots!

Imagine if we had this level of transparency into who donated what in the 60s towards (and against) the civil rights movement? Wouldn’t that be fascinating? Maybe we’ll have this data 30 years from now when today’s level of homophobia seems unthinkable to a new generation.

Creepy, right? But when there’s data to be had, I’d rather we all have it than only giant corporations and the government have it.

The message is this: You do not have to change your beliefs. You do not have to budge an inch on your views. You are still free to hate black people, still free to fear gay people (or demean women) all you like. It’s simply that we as an Obama-led, gender-inclusive nation no longer have any real use for your brand of poison. We are done with you. (from Mark Morford’s latest editorial)

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Here is a picture of me, right this minute

take a photo right now meme

I was thinking today of this time when a friend of mine said at a poetry reading, a big group one that I’d been going to for at least a couple of years, “I’m so grateful your husband lets you come out to these things” and I nearly keeled over from shock and laughter. Seriously I started laughing my ass off. “Let me”? Now that is something I have never in my relationship with Rook felt for a single second controlled either one of us. We don’t “let” each other do stuff. I really think we are just ourselves.

Somehow this got me thinking of my relationship in college with my old boyfriend Dr. Dick. I dated him from when I was 18 to when I was 20 or so and we lived together for most of that time in a big co-op. I thought how maddening it was that he would never talk about anything. But he would listen to all my crazy ideas and shit. Basically, it was like this blog, all 5 million words of it, but coming out of my mouth every night. But then as things started to go weird, I had less to say. He would go, *long silence*… “What are you thinking.” And I would, basically to avoid saying what I was actually thinking which was OMG FUCK YOU WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON HERE WHY DON’T YOU EVER TALK, I would start babbling distractedly about whatever came into my head. If I said “What are YOU thinking” or more neutrally, “I dunno what about you?” He would just handwave and turn it back on me. Somehow, this combined with a strange life where he knew when I had class, and my work schedule, and my co-op work things, and if I went out the door of our (shared with many people) living room to the outside, he’d always ask me where I had been, which got to feeling like he was suspicious and weird, because I’d go, “Laundry room” and he’d go, “But you were gone an hour” and I’d feel a giant SURGE OF RAGE at having just washed his fucking clothes along with mine, but would tamp it down and go, “Yeah I stopped by the TV room and hung out watching star trek with some people” and he’d go, “Oh? Who?” and I’d then use the Distracting Babble technique to get us out of that kind of conversation. So, this rarely got direct, but you can see it was nasty. Ever been in a relationship like that? If you just pretend it’s not there, you can act freely. Have you ever done that?

As some of you imaginary long-term readers may recall, the creepy punchline is that all along, Dr. Dick was secretly engaged to this woman who had moved out to Austin with him as his fiancee but agreed to live separately so as not to be distracted from their PhDs. WHO FUCKING KNEW. So he would go off and have sex with her at lunch. And she never, ever, came to his place – how is that? How? At least she was like 1 million times dumber than me… Man! I felt really bad for her too and the nice bit of the story is she went off, married someone else, had 2 kids as fast as possible, and I hope lived happily ever after. Anyway, while she was off in a women’s dorm, I lived with her fiancee (!!!) basically like we were married. The truth all came out in a giant wave of drama when the fiancee approached me at random as her boyfriend’s cute next door neighbor who she propositioned — she thought she was snagging an HBB for her man. It went so, so, wrong.

In contrast to that tangle of lies and paranoia and silence, and in contrast to the expectations of my poetry-writing friend as to the conditions of interpersonal relationships, in 10 years with Rook I don’t think either one of us has done anything more than say “I’d like to go to Finland” or “I’m in love with this other person too” or “What if I change careers”. The other person has always kind of gone, “Huh.” and then we talk about it. But there is no LETTING… or permission-giving.

How otherwise could any sane person tolerate life? I’d like to know?

The other thing that popped into my head tonight was a series of photos one of my friends did. Sabina took a ton of photos of all of us, people she was close to, and said it was for a project. She let us look at all the proofs and pick out the one we liked best of ourselves as a portrait. At the end of the project she showed us sort of an exhibit, and she explained. Every person had 2 photos mounted on the wall. The first was the one that they picked, the way they see themselves or want to be seen. The second was *how she saw them, their essential self or personality*. The whole thing was horrifying. Barb had picked something where she was dressed up, girly, uncomfortable and tight looking. Sabina had picked one of her that was just… the same way I saw Barb… smiling, full of hilarity to the point of painfulness, intense as hell. (But, if you knew her, you would know that she would see only that it made her nose look too big, or something that her friends would never think of.) Paul I think had picked a very Arty looking photo of himself with one of his sculptures looking very Brooding Young Man About Town but Sabina had put next to it one where he was looking right at the camera very sweetly – a person essentially sweet and a little confused…. Oh, the horrid truth! In the photo of me that I’d picked out, I was sitting – maybe on his lap but maybe just next to – with Dr. Dick and all my body language self-effaced and went “I am a couple” and “My attention is all on this man”. I swear to god… I was *simpering*. It was not till I saw the rest of the exhibit, and the two photos together, that I realized: I’d picked it because it looked like what I thought “happy couple” should be and because startlingly Dr. Dick did not look like an alcoholic zombie in that photo (as he usually did) and I wanted a nice picture of us together. In the photo of me that Sabina picked out, I was pensive and a little out of focus, surrounded by books. I think Dr. Dick was very blurry in the background, far away. It contained all her love and pity, I think, for where I was and couldn’t quite be as a person, as a feminist. You’ve had fantastic friends with shitty partners, and wished you could jolt them out of it, but knew you couldn’t and they’d take their own sweet time and you just hope they become *more themselves*? Yeah me too. Yet: I could swear even now that most people thought I was free, was myself, was perhaps remarkably so to the point of being “inspiring”: Sabina saw I wasn’t. I was that person who was not quite being herself; limiting myself and “letting” myself be limited. Staring at Sabina’s portrait of me as her beloved friend, I realized right down to my core that she had taken a photo of Actual Me. It was like a photo of the Me of my journals, a self that didn’t have a public home and that I didn’t know how to live as. Thanks Sabina!

I thought tonight of the person I was in 1989 who would babble to avoid the questions about where I was and who I talked to and wondered, which bits of that self are still in there? How am I behaving? How am I sort of messed up? I appreciate the ways I have grown bigger – and more free. It feels like I stretched and stretched and kept going and never stopped or was satisfied, always wanting to be new. But I am also still that person from 1989 – and also the 16 year old girl cowering on the kitchen floor screaming about Constitutional Rights and free love as her dad spit in her face. And who will I be 10 years from now? How do we contain all these selves? I feel like a whole person, a free person. What is the lesson of Sabina’s photographs, besides that you are not entirely who you think you are?

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Thoughts at the beginning of The Hostile Takeover trilogy

A hundred pages in to The Hostile Takeover trilogy I have the basic idea of what’s going on. Cast of characters:

* Dmitri who is super super old and lives on Mars and has lots of replacement organs.
* Ambrose is his cyberslave Jeeves. If you get robot body parts you are no longer human. Oh no!
* Klaus Dacham who is EEEEEVIL and whose mom Helen died. Head of TEC which stands for uhhhh The Evil CIA, or something. Sucks the blood of kittens.
* Captain Kathy Shane, interstellar marine in the Confederacy. She’s tuff and has a cool punk haircut.
* Dominic Magnus which is a pseudonym and who killed Helen and who is on Bakunin the anarchist planet. Used to be in TEC. Started GA&A megacorp. OMG has robot parts. Stares at self in mirror a lot. Gothy.
* Tetsami who is an industrial espionage superhacker and rides a flying motorbike on the anarchist planet. She has a cool sexy haircut.
* The mystery assassin on Mars. (There are hints in a couple of chapters to who it is and how/why.)
* The AI (s) who have their own mysterious motivations.
* We will not “spoil” things for you by pointing out that of these characters some of them might be BROTHERS OMG MAYBE EVEN TWINSIES!! Angstorama!

So far my main thoughts are,

The anarchist planet horrible paladin church with TV game show killings and ransoms are AWESOME and funny. There is a good bit of Tetsami and Dom discussing how the socialist anarchist atheists who founded Bakunin’s colony would be rolling in their graves at the Techno Paladins. The paladins run around in shiny cyber armor rescuing people and slaying criminals. Or they stun everyone and take them hostage to be on their holo tv game show where the audience phones in money to kill, ransom, or perhaps maim the rescued or the criminals. This is great – you can totally picture it happening on the anarchist planet.

I want to write funny bits where Dom is staring at himself in the mirror thinking of suicide because he’s half robot and stuff (as has done already several times in 100 pages and will clearly do again) and then some horribly funny over-gothy sex happens. Or his thoughts as he broodily contemplates his robot dick in the mirror in all its throbbing cyber glory. Slash with the *cough*brother*cough*! Or a scene where he shows his partner in crime his “hardware specifications”! Maybe it’s just me. I’m waiting to see if the author will actually go there himself to write a tacky robot sex scene. Why waste ink if it’s already in the book?

About the scene where Dom is being attacked by a gang of thugs. The writer takes the time to set up all the thugs as separate people with different haircuts and outfits and little personalities like roleplaying game NPCs and then they all get SHOT DEAD in half a page. It has a timeless trashy-beautiful quality about it like the scene in a war movie where the guys in the submarine or the trenches all have cardboard personalities set up so that you can appreciate the pathos of their deaths. But here, more so that you can feel you are in Pit Fighter kicking the ass of Slightly Futuristic Stereotype #5 with an eyepatch, and remember him as a different death than Slightly Futuristic Stereotype #6 with the mohawk. In Hostile Takeover so far, this happens a lot, part of what makes it satisifyingly trashy.

One more thing. Like most science fiction books that think out a politically and culturally different far distant future there is not a very good gender analysis. On the anarchist planet in theory everyone has these giant fucking laser cannons and motorbikes, or whatever, and so why do we still have some kind of fundamental patriarchy such that Tetsami thinks instantly of her main value as sex work? What the hell? Gender essentialism I guess. If you have a society where an industrial espionage black ops hacking expert who has survived against all odds by being incredibly tough and having a giant motorbike and blaster bazooka things or whatever she has in her arsenal, why would your main selling point to ransom yourself be to fuck the guy who ransoms you? (Minor spoiler: She doesn’t – it is just her big plan. Don’t worry.) Why wouldn’t you be like OH HAI I HAZ MAD SKILLZ AND CAN FIX YOUR COMPUTERZ. Why assume it would be a man who ransoms her and that anyone (male or female) would care to pay that much to fuck her? If that’s what instantly springs to her mind it has all sorts of weird implications that don’t seem to really hold water – it would mean women are terrifically oppressed and disempowered in Bakunin’s anarchist system (for some strange reason) and that also somehow, there aren’t enough prostitutes (which there would be if women were that disempowered) so men are so desperate to fuck this one hacker chick with a hot haircut that they would pay a king’s ransom to do so. Also, it’s idiotic that she is made to say it sort of bravely like it would be difficult and the other dude was shocked and impressed that she might just square her jaw and go “Because I’d promise to fuck him” like she should squeal at the thought with maiden delicacy and horror and he admired her pragmatism. Dude…. just NOT. All you have to do is regender the scene in your mind, and the politics and culture don’t make any sense.

Zond-7 has reassured me that no one gets raped and the situation of women in the book is balanced and not what one might expect though there is some denial of agency which is then later rectified. We’ll see! I noticed in the Paladin game show the audience votes to fry a captive who was caught “raping a teenage girl” so I suspect rape culture will pervade this sf novel – so disappointing – you can imagine interstellar travel, yet you think that patriarchy is permanent?

I give a huge amount of credit for the entertaining setup. I love the horrible yet still attractive anarchist planet! The anarchists are sort of the good guys! That part’s great so far.

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Satisfying geometric construction toy


construction thingie!
Originally uploaded by Liz.

I got completely obsessed with this construction set at a party tonight. Since I love this sort of thing very much I thought it would be fun to write it down.

There are triangles, rectangles, and octagons in the round things which I’m sure have some head-cracking official blatherweirdozoid name. They were like, an octagon, surrounded by the triangles and rectangles, oh, argh, I studied it but cannot think now how to describe it properly.

The blue sticks are rectangles, the yellow are triangles, and the red are the octagons. Each stick comes in 3 different sizes. I didn’t think about the relative size ratios or anything.

So here is what I did to figure out how to build things. I took the smallest triangle sticks and some round things, and tried to make the smallest possible closed shape. I could not make a triangle with them but could make either a diamond, or a diamond that was bent in half, with 4 sticks and 4 balls. Then I thought about ways to put the resulting simple shapes together. They didn’t do anything super logical. You could also make pentagons but I did not go there, thinking that sticking with the simplest basic shape would be interesting.

I made a few different little 3-D shapes based off the two diamond structures, flat and bent. At some point I noticed that the blue sticks went inside the diamond.

Then I figured, what if I take the blue ones and make their simplest shape. (Which was a square.) Then, overlay or connect those two. Since the blue stick fit with the yellow in this particular way, I could build two things – one a blue and one a yellow – and they’d interlock. (It is harder than it sounds because the symmetry is not easy.) Since the blue sticks easily made a cube, I now had a good 3D structure to build on. So once I connected a yellow diamond to a blue cube, it was clear that intersecting diamond made a sort of house shape! So, on top of every blue square, build a yellow pyramid.

Right about then I changed tracks to building in the medium stick size as it seemed to have more scope for connections, so that whatever I ended up seeing as a pattern, I could expand it inward with the small sticks, or outward with the big ones.

I built the cube-and-pyramid structure in the medium stick size first, and then built the same thing in the smaller stick size, but put the smaller one into the big one during assembly, like a ship in a bottle.

Once they were both done, I planned to interconnect them. From that, surely some new internal shape would arise. So I held it in different ways and squinted and thought about distances and angles but not in any specific mathematical way.

At that point Neilfred came and said that he could tell me some really handy tips for making them interconnect but I snapped that he could not do that until after I had figured it out myself because I wanted to see what I came up with and it was really fun for me, and him telling me his way would detract from my glory. I am not sure if that came off as a joke or not… but of course it was not… and that crowd of robo-rally-taking-seriously-equinox party nerds is certainly the best around for understanding that rather than finding it repulsive.

So at that point I figured oh hell let’s use the red ones. I held the inner structure at places that maximized the distance between the inner nexuses and the outer, so, offset in a particular way. That magically made it clear that there were spots – difficult to tell by what pattern – where a red one would connect. It was intensely pleasurable when I hooked up the first red stick thus suspending the inner structure inside the outer. WHAT WOULD HAPPEN – OMG.

It was completely unclear what to do next. A pattern did not leap out (as it did for building a cube or even the diamonds). I looked at where the red stick was on the outer nexus. It was at a nexus of a yellow and blue stick, very close between them – not spaced far apart. The outer shape’s perimeter has some nexi that are just yellows, and some that are yellows and blues. I then looked at the other yellow-blue nexuses. (Sorry, nexi just sounds odd, I can’t keep it up.) And, here is the killing part, it was incredibly hard to see which ones would *work*. The distances to the inner nexuses were not the same. I messed with it until I had put as many red bits in as I could easily see.

Oh yay, because, then when I turned it a certain way, I could see a pattern of a red star in the middle — I did not think then to count the sides of it, but it was the staggered & directional shape of a circular saw blade. I was thinking what i would do next if I had these thingies, would be to try to build just that shape out of the red things alone, without the rest of it. And then see what if I had several of those things, or that saw-blade star shape in each of the 3 stick sizes… Oooo…

It turned out afterwards that Neilfred’s handy secret tip was just to hold the pieces in different positions and squint along them and try to line up a triangle hole to a triangle hole or rectangle to rectangle… it was not a great mathematical calculation of angles or anything! That was kind of funny! Of course that was what I was doing… hahahah…

Well, it was so satisfying and relaxing that I think I should get some toys like this and keep them around for when I can’t bear to be verbal anymore and need to do something different.

I enjoy the feeling of picking up an unfamiliar thing and figuring out just a part of how to master it. It is the same with board game strategies.

The one un-fun bit was that I could feel my eyesight was all funny in the way of Impending Bifocals!
Moomin looked up at one point from his own construction of flowers and his name, and was impressed. I knew he would like it! And that he would enjoy the persistence of doing it. I told him to make a square, then a cube, then the house shape and repeat it. He caught on like lightning. If I could figure out the name of the toy from googling I would totally buy some!
— found it! Zome – kind of expensive though.
— What I built was a rhombic dodecahedron with another one inside it. I’m not sure what to call the spikey red shape.

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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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Another weird feminist dystopia

I’m reading an odd and charming feminist post-apocalypse novel, “Cry Wolf” by Aileen La Tourette. The world has ended (maybe) and climate changed. A village or maybe city-sized group of young people is headed by a lone oldster, Curie, from the time before the disaster. The book opens with a classroom scene, Curie thinking bitterly that the youngsters are half witted ignorant monkeys, all too obedient and peaceful, unable to share any of her memories or cultural experience, since she (or she and her former collaborators, or some other governing body I haven’t yet figured out) decided to teach only conformity and non-aggression, & no “cultural baggage”, nothing about the world before. She set it all up that way with her fellow activists, but she despises the results. Curie is a lonely, lying cult leader, not a Repository of Knowledge apocalypse survivor.

‘The sea. A long letter. A love letter,’ she said softly, thinking of the morgue-world all the while, with its sheets of dry-ice smoke rising from the naked blue forms. There were no clothes to spare for the dead. ‘The sky, the sea’s mirror — or is it the other way round? Who can say? Or is the sea the sky’s own unsigned letter?
… But they didn’t notice the limitations. Nature’s blunt and abbreviated needs were all they knew; and their own.
‘Rain, with its blue shine,’ she instructed them. ‘Rain, with its blue tune,’ she dared. Would such a metaphor mean anything to them?

There are M-others, and Potters (who are, I think, hermaphrodites) – a reference to the culturally important graveyard or Potter’s Field.

And behind all these spinning thoughts and images, she had the dolorous notion that had begun the process of repression and masking: that the skip or space in their title, M-other, was precisely the space of a strangled sob, a catch in the throat.

So far, the best scene has been the Festival and its description of the religious groups. The religion is based on the Body. There are cults of every body part – Toenails, Hands, Feet, Brains, Hearts, Fallopians – all with their ritual garb and dances.

With them, running behind, came the Feet, the babies of the body. If the hands were its prodigies, the feet were its clowns, its holy fools, wriggly and silly and utterly serious. They were universal pets. They had poignancy, orphaned at the extremity of the body, far from the brain, often out in the cold. But they were cheerful and fertile, with their two sets of quintuplet toes, the plump, cherubic babies’ hands.

Like I said, odd and charming.

I’m enjoying the setup and the weird structure of the book, which so far goes like this:

- classroom scene, with Curie’s speech about Blue
- Mutants!
- Global climate change
- the bitter, lonely inner thoughts of Curie
- Sexual tension of Curie (and everyone, but especially and her best pupil Sophie)
- The festival with the cult dancers and the orgy in the river. Don’t miss the sexy hermaphrodite sex scenes. Here there be “fringe”. Tentacles?
- Telepathy!
- Curie begins to tell a mythical version of the past to Sophie.
- Curie’s mother was one of the women of Greenham Common

(Zond-7 explained to me about Greenham Common and told me that I would enjoy reading about it; it was a feminist or women’s anti-war anti-nuclear-missile camp or commune that lasted for many years, and here is a link so I can go read about it later: Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp.)

- That sort of lesbian feminist novel Thing where it is all about The Personal and about a clearly real group of activist women Processing their Shit, so you are dying to know what the real story is, and you think of your own little incestuous groups & their complicated interpersonal dynamics so difficult to explain

- Curie explains about Scheherazade, and a new section of the book begins, which looks like it will be told from the points of view of the other 4 women of Curie’s activist group who maybe survived the apocalypse and who helped her set up this utopian society

That’s where I stopped.

I really like to write a reaction in mid-book.

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A brief mention of The Orphan’s Tales

The Orphan’s Tales: In the Night Garden was one of the best books I’ve read in a while. Now that I’ve read book 2, Cities of Coin and Spice I feel comfortable elevating it to my golden bookshelf of great books of all time. It is a classic “Mirror for Princes” or book of moral instruction robed in the most entertaining sugary stories. Beasts and monsters, fantastic quests, myths, and the subtle moving of relationships over time, mix with global politics and the pleasure of creation of worlds, & with a healthy dose of messing gender politics and narrative. It makes everything else look clumsy. I’ve read the Pancatantra, different versions of Kalila and Dimna, the Mahabharata, various translations of 1001 Nights and the Ramayana, all the Icelandic and Norwegian sagas you can think of and more, and a wad of the longer Chinese novels as well. Long, complicated novels with vast arcs of interrelated stories! My obsession! It’s like savoring the endless complexities of a drink of water when you’re dying of thirst. This is a deeply satisfying book. Sugar and good medicine, as a mirror for princesses should be.

I am annoyed at the misunderstanding of it as a collection of fairy tales. You could read it that way… and it could be lovely and satisfying and entertaining that way too.

But damn, the beautiful writing! The sentences that make me swoon, one after the other! The complicated structure! The way so many characters have tendrils into other stories 5 layers deep and 500 pages away! The way that you see the same story from multiple tellings and points of view, not in a bludgeon-you-over-the-head way but sideways so you have to think and remember and look back to figure it out, because an echo has caught your ear or eye.

I’m rereading it for the third time and figuring things out while taking notes. I had to, to figure out whether it was always the Wizard Omir or not in some of the stories, and who everyone was, and when (I am not quite clear on the when of things as the Caliphates are confusing, and Ragnhild and the wars.)

The sources are pleasantly diverse to anyone who loves things to be non-eurocentric. Yes it has central european fairy tale roots, and arab and persian, and norse, and a bit of chineseness and lots of hindu mythological/philosophical/literary sources. WITHOUT BEING STUPID about it. So rare!

You will notice that barely anyone is white and if they are it is a matter of remark that they have sun-colored hair or milk-skin; it is good too to read something where the baseline isn’t white white white.

If I could just point out… what Valente has done is pretty fucking amazing. The Pancatantra for example does nested stories with dazzling splendor and with the beautiful layering of meaning & message that builds up so that by the end you are likely taught some part of the complicated lessons of how it might be wise to treat other people well and behave morally or whatever. But the characters from the Friends book don’t resurface transformed by time and adventures and new relationships in later tales – as they do in The Orphan’s Tales. In My Name is Red, another very lovely but also very maddening-because-so-sexist book of complex nested stories that pack a political punch, the stories are interrelated and from different points of view, unlike the 1001 Nights or older tales, but Valente’s book is actually larger in scope and twice as complicated. She kicks Orhan Pamuk’s ass around the block and back. May I live to see her Nobel Prize… surely she will give a better speech than Lessing’s vague Luddite rant which I can’t snarl about enough…

(What I mean about Pamuk and sexism is just utter awkward blindness, like you’re reading some fabulous lovely book and then realize in midstream or right away if you’re tuned in, that there’s one female character out of a cast of hundreds and she’s THE LAND or THE NATION or something, totally smurfette syndrome, with added annoying nationalism that is also romantic love. Pamuk suffers from it, badly. Valente is the antidote to it – I’ve been waiting all my life to read this.)

Valente deserves world level recognition of these books. I have a lot more to say about this and will be posting something more coherent on the feministsf blog and wiki. My notes while reading developed into a sort of glossary of the characters and some different outlines of events. They’ll have massive spoilers, and are meant for the pleasure of re-reading with increased understanding – not for use while reading the first time unless you want to be a dirty rotten cheater.

And all written with the most beautiful exquisite sense of humor!

All this is mostly about book 1. But my god, in book 2, The book of the storm! The coins! Valente is not fucking around or pulling any punches here.

Could someone please do me a favor and get Peter Beagle to read it just to make him faint with envy and pleasure? Twist his arm, please. I only know him a little and not well enough to persuade him. But well enough to want to give him a present.

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Diagnosis takes forEVER

My mood is fluctuating a lot as I deal with pain and weirdly variable ability levels. Sometimes I get up from bed and go “Ooo, I can walk to the other room and can do the laundry and stuff!” and then I wonder if other times I have just mis-read everything, or made it all up, or am completely bonkers. But no, pretty rapidly my leg starts to hurt like fuck again and I have to lie down. I’m still at about a 6.0 – 7.0 on the Kurtzke Scale.

Both legs are giving me trouble but the right leg is so much worse that I mostly focus on that.

Realizing that a large part of the pain is spasticity continues to be very helpful. Warmth helps a lot. If I keep my feet and legs very warm – under electric blanket, or in 2 pairs of long underwear and in my furry mukluks, then a giant chain of painful spasms is less likely to happen.

furry mukluks

This also explains some things from Physical Therapies Past. When the therapist would do passive stretching and traction and it felt great, we both interpreted it as taking pressure off the spine. But the machine to do spine traction alone didn’t help and in fact drove me nuts because i had to lie still and sort of strapped down and my legs hurt. I have been getting people to do more passive stretching along with a little massage. That helps. I find that after a bit of stretching if I just lie there without moving my leg at all, it stays quiet. If I stay in bed especially on my left side, then I can get up and walk around and the spasms aren’t so bad. (Until they just are again, and I don’t know why.)

So my PT was mostly about trying to make my muscles stronger, but they are already hellishly strong and also they aren’t paralyzed. Instead they spasm so hard that they hurt, and then I have trouble moving because they’re stiff and spasming and they resist. And moving in one direction to stretch one set hurts the other side that’s contracting. Something like that, I guess. And the PT I need to be having would be about trying to reduce muscle tone – not to improve it.

In short my usual feeling that I could do ANYTHING is probably true. I could run from a bear… or kick your ass… but then I’d fall over afterwards and pay some hideous consequences.

I had another MRI today, this time of my thoracic spine. I think the point of this one is to double triple check that I don’t have some kind of giant spine problem or tumor in there. My neck had some problems at C4-5, C5-6, and C6-7 (herniated discs and other stuff, but relatively minor). Especially at C4-5 where there is a bulge and some degeneration and moderate foraminal stenosis. That is the sort of stuff they expected to see in my lumbar spine, but didn’t. So, that stuff could explain the problems in my arms and hands and neck, I guess. But again those problems are like nothing compared to my leg, obviously…

It is the difference between “ow, my neck is bothering me a little” and “holy fuck I can’t walk and want to cry and am sort of thrashing around constantly from pain”.

Anyway, just now I took 2.5 mg of baclofen. I am very happy the 10mg tablets come in bitable form, so I can try a very low dose.

I found a usefully metaphor-laden description of spasticity though it is mostly for CP patients, it seems quite useful and helps me understand a bit. I figure I’ll research nerves, muscles, and this GABA stuff and write up whatever I figure out in a little report so I can be sure that I understand it clearly.

What these dudes say about low dose oral baclofen sounds sensible and non-scary to me. So that’s what I’m going to try. I’ll start with 2.5mg of baclofen once a day in the evening. Well, today at 5:30 because I was a bit desperate. I’ll try it for as long as I can deal with it, and see if that has any effect.

Right now I just feel a tiny bit more cheery and relaxed. My leg does feel less tight. As I try to move around it feels odd. That’s all I can say. Maybe a bath will help…

Here’s another random link to a description of PLS.

The disorder usually begins in the legs but can begin in the upper body or bulbar (speech and swallowing) muscles. The age of onset is generally between 35 and 66 years of age, with a median age of 50.

The incidence rate for PLS is difficult to determine. One study puts it at 500 individuals in the United States. However, many researchers feel this is an underestimate and the actual incident rate is closer to 2,000. The issue is further complicated by the fact that a good portion of people initially diagnosed with PLS actually have HSP or ALS. Most researchers indicate waiting about five years to observe symptom development before being confident of the diagnosis.

Note that bit about the five years to really know what you’re talking about with the diagnosis. Grrrrrreat. I know I have to get used to being vaguely diagnosed. I ride with it okay sometimes, and then have moments where it’s very hard. I just want to know… WHAT IS IT!

This part kind of made me laugh. Emotional lability, much?

Other symptoms that commonly occur include hyperactive reflexes, muscle spasms, presence of Babinkski’s signs, muscles spasms and pain. Some individuals report having emotional lability.

Dammit, don’t tell me I’m a neurotic poet because of this weird neurological condition! I’m just a neurotic poet! And I just laugh all the time when I’m mad or frustrated because, uh…

Oh well.

Emotional incontinence! Really… it’s funny…

How handy for explaining why I’m cracking up at bad poetry readings or meetings at work. No, really, officer! It’s my rare neurological disorder!

It could just be spastic paraplegia of some kind, maybe the wonderfully-named “Apparently Sporadic Spastic Paraplegia”. I could be a mutant!

This part is also quite true for me:

Many people find the tightness in their muscles worsens when they are angry, stressed, or upset. This may make it more difficult to walk and speak. It is unknown exactly how emotions affect muscle tone, but it may involve adrenalin levels. Most people also report increased stiffness in cold weather.

And about the uncertainty of diagnosis, this bit sums it all up very well:

Muscle spasticity and weakness can also be caused by other conditions including (but not limited to) Primary Lateral Sclerosis, spinal cord injury or tumors, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, vitamin absorption, and thoracic spine herniated disks.

Thus the MRI of my thoracic spine, where you’d think that any of my doctors would have started. My neuromancer thinks MS is unlikely & same with ALS because I would probably have more muscle atrophy or wasting. But neither of those are for sure ruled out.

Since it’s the same thing (from the feel of it) as it was from approx. 92-99, it seems doubtful that it’s ALS… since I’m not dead of pneumonia:

Upper motor neuron degeneration causes muscle spasticity and weakness in the voluntary muscles. It is disabling, but not terminal. Lower motor neuron degeneration causes muscle wasting, which eventually affects the respiratory system and leads to death.

That’s a comfort.

Meanwhile, life is pretty sweet. I get frustrated, especially with pain and times when mobility is hard, as well as with my usual state of fury with myself that I’m not productive enough. I’m driving (we’ll see, on the baclofen) and am spending most of my time in Deadwood City, but about 1-2 nights a week in SF with Zond-7. I spend most of the day in bed, getting up for small forays about the house. On a good day I do some light housework. (I can assess how mobile I am based on laundry: am I doing laundry at all? from the wheelchair? can I stand up to get stuff out of the dryer or do I have to ask for help for that part?) Other people are often in bed with me with computers or books, which is cosy. (Rook just brought me potstickers with sauce and some cranberry-grape juice laced with pomegranate! thanks Rook!) Periodically I beg for stretching or massages or I burst into tears and begin whining, but I am just as likely to be giggling, flirting, all on fire with ideas or cussing at some feminist controversy on the net or writing like a maniac or devouring a fabulous science fiction novel. This last week I’ve been able to drive, and if i can park *right* outside of a place then I can crutch in, say, to a restaurant, though I have to be sure I don’t have to stand up waiting or ordering and also that I won’t be wandering around looking for the bathroom. So mostly I stick to the wheelchair. Wheeling in the house is easier, but I’m doing some walking on crutches, cane, or just plain legs on the theory that it might help and if I can, I should, even if it hurts.

I need support from somewhere other than all you fuckin’ walkies, nice as you are. So I’m going to go lurk on PLS-Friends and the PLS corner on ALS Forums.

Mostly I’m clinging to the thought that I’m a mutant and have mere spastic paraplegia (SP) or Apparent Sporadic Spasticity (ASS) (no, not really; they made it ASSP, but I’m not fooled by that lame acronym-fu). That would explain where I’m at now, while warding off the scary future-swallowing-speaking-and-arm involvement. Maybe I’ll just make up my mind to believe that I’ve got ASS.

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