Posts Tagged ‘wikis’

Ruth Fielding of the Red Mill, 1913

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

Ruth Fielding book cover

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

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

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

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

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

(more…)

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Books on Piracy

Last night I read most of Dangerous Waters – it has an interesting setup, a dude sailing his ship who gets boarded by pirates in the South China Sea on his way to Singapore. He lives through this ocean mugging, and then writes a book about shipping and piracy, hitching a ride on a VLCC – I have forgotten what it stands for, but a freaking huge oil tanker. Freaking Huge Oil Tankers (or VLCCs, or FHOTs) have crews of about 17 guys and they don’t have enough people to mount effective night watches against pirates who speed-canoe up, “swarm” up the sides with bamboo poles, and attack with giant knives sharpened out of bits of old cars.

Sounds like a good book? Well up to a point, but the dude is so super racist and incoherent that I lost patience. No story is developed – it’s like reading a mishmash of magazine articles and bits of wikipedia thrown together with SENSATIONALIST STORY, then some hanging out while the author dude drools all over the sexy, lone germanic or british man in charge captain enjoying his total captain fetish (that part was amusing) and having neurotic fantasies about being raided by pirates. The whole thing would have made a fine pirate romance novel if he would have stopped trying to write it as non-fiction. In his mind, brown, barefoot men jabbering, or babbling, or prattling, in their own brown language, may be pirates or mayn’t be, but what they do is swarm up your ship like sperm looking to plonk themselves into a giant oiltanker of an egg, crack you over the head with a machete and torture you till you open the safe. Okay. His main point seems to be that there aren’t enough guards on the ships. So then he goes (mixed in and mashed up with his other Adventures in the Captain’s Mess) and drools over some soldiers of fortune and how tough they are and how scary it is when they shoot people and the bodies wash ashore and no one cares. Our author loves a badass with an AK-47 who shoots some dudes in canoes.

Homosocial bonding should bring us some prime sexism. An unpleasant book! It does not disappoint on this front. “To those who cross the seas, the ship is more than a mere universe, it becomes part of the essential core of our being, and we imbue our vessel with our own unique spiritual traits that we pray are strong enough to carry us through the worst conditions. It is why men have always called a ship “she”.

Oh is it why! Who is this we!

Grrrrrr!!!

What drivel! You really start wanting to be with the pirates, i swear!

The other book on Piracy is on Zond-7′s ipod. I will read it tomorrow – it is called The Outlaw Sea. The first chapter was FANTASTIC – serious, scholarly, sourced, actually has some arguments to develop and stories to tell along with them.

The point to take from both books is that piracy and hijacking have been on the rise since the early 90s. In the hot spots, people are horribly poor and have turned bandit. At worst, they join up with organized crime and smugging and human trafficing.

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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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Reading 50 books by people of color: a blog challenge

Earlier this year I signed up to do the 50books_poc challenge, to read 50 books by people of color.

Part of the fun of this has been noting other people’s books and reviews, getting leads on good books to read that I’ve never heard of, and participating in discussions. Today I saw a question about history books by POC especially focusing on history of Asian countries or regions. So I contributed a bit by looking at my own bookshelves. While I have mostly fiction – and an entire bookcase full of mostly-fiction from China, Korea, Japan, and India – I picked out some histories, historical fiction, and stories that are kind of political or that I learned history from – especially socialist realist fiction, which I love.

Here is my list of recommendations for history,

Korea Unmasked, a comic book history of Korea, very odd and interesting, by Won-bok Rhie. I particularly recommend this as a view of Korean history and China and Japan that you will not get from a Western source.

A New History of Korea – Ki-baik Lee This is the most tolerable in style and authoritative feeling history I have found in English. I would love to see comparably well-sourced and annotated Korean history books but written for a mass audience or maybe sort of more pop/journalist storytelling style of history.


Feminist Cultural Politics in Korea
– ed. Jung-Hwa Oh. A collection of academic essays. Very interesting!

Korea Forty Three Centuries by Tae Hung Ha. (A bit dull and textbooky like so many English translations of Korean history, but full of interesting details.)

A Handbook of Korea Extremely boring AND YET STILL INTERESTING. It is a very “official publication”.

And here’s a few interesting novels which sort of, well, have a lot of history in them:

The Sun Shines over the Sanggan River by Ding Ling (really, anything by her that you can find in translation to English is pretty awesome.

My Innocent Uncle – Ch’ae Man-Shik (short stories)

A Ready-Made Life: Early Masters of Modern Korean Fiction (more short stories, again heavy on the politics)

But I have more to say as I gaze fondly over my bookcases, with a full heart!

So, a few years ago I went on a reading spree and sought out books from China. I read some of the major classics like The Scholars, Outlaws of the Marsh (or The Water Margin, or The Marshes of Mount Liang), Journey to the West, and Story of the Stone (Dream of Red Mansions or Dream of the Red Chamber). They are very huge long complicated epic novels. I read them in multiple translations. As well as all the “classic” scandalous books I could find like Golden Lotus and The Peony Pavilion and The Carnal Prayer Mat. Ranging backwards in time, I read some translations of Sima Qian (or Ssuma Chien), The Three Kingdoms, The Pearl Blossom Fan, and whatever stuff Arthur Waley translated, some buddhist scriptures, and translations of Mencius and Confucius. And the Columbia Anthology of Traditional Chinese Literature. And a lot of other random stuff that was quite old, that gave me more background to understand stuff going on in the epic novels. Moving into the 20th century, I read translations of both versions of Rickshaw Boy. They are quite different – one with a happy ending kind of tacked on. Then, a completely wonderful anthology which I highly recommend, called Literature of the People’s Republic of China. It is crucial if you want to get a flavor of literature in 20th century China! I read other authors like Ding Ling and Gu Hua and I’m sure I’ve mentioned him before, you should read Wang Shuo’s Playing for Thrills if you are going to Beijing to get a good unhealthy dose of modern cynical street thug postmodernism. (This balances out the socialist realist novels about love and wheelbarrows.)

That isn’t even counting the poetry and I have read rather a lot of Chinese poetry as well. Maybe best for another post.

Basically, I have this secret self-taught degree in Chinese literature which I never particularly get to talk about or share. It was a reading kick that lasted many years. I still re-read the long epics, which I love the best because they suck me into a completely different world full of hundreds of characters and they last a good long time. (I read fast, so a regular paperback novel is over in a couple of hours.) I have a lesser knowledge of classics from India but have read multiple versions of the Mahabharata and Ramayana, Pancatantra (one of my favorite books ever) and I read every single Penguin classic from India as well like the Rg Veda, Upanishads, Kathasartsagara, and so on. And I have a similar middling depth in Norse sagas which have a similiar feeling of epic scope and a huge cast of characters.

The Korean history books I list at the top of this post are from Rook’s completely separate reading kick over the last 2 or 3 years – I have read some of them but not all.

My goal in doing all that focused reading was to get some real depth in something that was not my background and not what I was being taught or that everyone around me assumed was true, so I could have a better picture of reality, history, truth, human nature, and the nature of stories. That has been a driving force for me since I was a teenager and began to read as widely as possible. The beautiful thing for me is that there is always so much more out there – infinitely more amazing literature than I could ever manage to read in a lifetime.

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The elusive kilogram

Last night I had this conversation with Moomin. “I just want to make sure you actually understand this metric system stuff rather than doing the problems blindly. So let’s draw a little chart. How many grams in a kilogram?” “Um… ummm… ummmmmm…. Oh yeah! 1000!” “Okay, how many centigrams in a kilogram?” “There’s no such thing as a centigram.” “There is!” “No there’s not! They didn’t tell us that! Look, I wrote it down… Can you just let me finish this page? It’s my bedtime!” Bedtime is not a good time to explain the entire concept of the metric system so I gave in.
Later a certain person assured me that Moomin was right! Well, they are wrong! 8-P
And then led me into a delightfully pointless reading: Wikipedia: Kilogram.
The kilogram is the only unit not defined off a physical constant – it’s defined from this particular object, the 130-year-old International Prototype Kilogram or IPK. And a whole bunch of other metric units are defined using mass, like newtons, pascals, joules, amperes, couloumbs, volts, teslas, webers, candelas, lumens, and lux. (The plural is not “luxes”. I looked it up.) It was created and then defined as the standard. But some replicas of it were created, like the Kilogram of the Archives, and over time they have diverged from each other. The story of what they’re all made of, and how they’re periodically compared and verified, is pretty cool. And sort of insane. Is that a whole bunch of people’s life work? Making sure that we know how wrong our kilograms might be? Eeeeeee! That’s so hot!!!!!!
And so are multiple bell jars over a brass-looking pedestal thingie! It’s like The International Geek Thingamajig on a Steampunk Cake Stand of Awesome!

Burrow deeply into the kilogram article and you will get to the proposed alternatives that would tie the kilogram to a constant. Atom-counting approaches (I liked the Avogadro project, which would use a silicon sphere); Ion accumulation; and the rather sexy sounding watt balance method: the electronic kilogram!

I am tempted to show all this to Moomin but not until he finishes today’s tedious homework, which is three pages of textbook problems of temperature conversion. No one needs that many examples – it is very pointless. At the least I will wow him with the revelation that there are exagrams, zettagrams, yoctograms, and zeptagrams which I will prove through the irrefutability of Wikipedia because we all know the important thing to teach 4th graders is that Wikipedia is totally true.

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Vacation with Saturn and proplyds

I'm in the parking lot of a motel staring at spectacular red and buff cliffs! It's the Kaibab Limestone and the Coconino sandstone and that other red rock formation I forget the name of. Spiky little lizards are playing on the fence next to me.

After a great but exhausting week at ETech and SXSWi, I'm on vacation in Arizona with a rental car and no particular plan. Last night in Sedona we picked up a flyer in the Super8 lobby, for Evening Sky Tours which I pictured as a couple of old retired guys out in a parking lot picking up some spare cash for new lenses by showing off their amateur astronomy knowledge. While this was close to the truth the Adventure was run in a scarily businesslike and professional manner and rather than being a once a week or sporadic deal it was clearly a real job. Three guys pulled up with a trailer or two full of telescopes with a D**'s mount sort of a huge wooden box like a box kite with mirrors stuck in and lenses and spotting scopes stuck on! They had a row of folding chairs with wooly blankets laid out. Reclining lawn chairs would have been more the thing.
The main dude went around in a bossy way reminding his employees the telescope flunkies to "tell 'em what they're lookin' at". It was excellent. They did an especially good job of saying "In Africa" or "In the MIddle East" when talking about the names of stars and the history of astronomical discoveries.

As the Milky Way began to slide into our consciousness we saw a few satellites and every time I wanted to scream "Satellite!!!" Might have done just that. We had out our G1 Skymaps at first but put them away so as not to be assholes. I knew Orion, Taurus, Cassiopeia, the Pleiades, the Big Dipper and North Star, and that is about it. With luck I can spot Cygnus and the Corona Borealis. Zond-7 knew where Sirius was, which impressed me. I guessed where Gemini was, but got it wrong. Then I did what one of the astronomy dudes suggested and learned "Arc to Arcturus" and "Spike to Spica". Now I know a new thing!

The Night Sky Adventure dudes explained what we were looking at very well and were patient and sweet about all the questions. It was a little hard to get them to go into any depth. But it was light years better than going to a planetarium!
Stuff we saw: M51 which is sort of colliding or interacting galaxies, M3 (a globular cluster), M81 and M82 together (they affect each other with tides!), the Beehive Cluster, the Pleiades, a red dwarf star among the Double Cluster,  Mizar A and B and Alcor, (The horse and rider!), Saturn and 5 moons, and a bit of the Orion Nebula where the Trapezium is. We looked at Sirius through a polarized filter to see its spectral lines.

Later, the Wikipedia entry on the Orion Nebula turned out to be incredibly great; hello, iron tipped glowing blue "bullets" of supersonic incandescent gas. It just got more and more extreme and crazy in the descriptions. Keep reading. It gets better and better. Like this:

The green hue was a puzzle for astronomers in the early part of the 20th century because none of the known spectral lines
at that time could explain it. There was some speculation that the
lines were caused by a new element, and the name "nebulium" was coined
for this mysterious material. With better understanding of atomic
physics, however, it was later determined that the green spectra was
caused by a low-probability electron transition in doubly ionized oxygen, a so-called "forbidden transition".

In between lurching up from my wheelchair to peer through telescopes, I kept saying over the things we'd seen, so that I could look them up later. "You must have studied this!" one woman said in amazement. "No…. I'm just repeating to myself what the guy just told us…"

I don't mean this meanly, but I have forgotten how dumb most people are. Or maybe not dumb but just, without the most basic snippets of information about things like what a moon or a constellation or a galaxy is. Compared to our amateur astronomer hosts Zond-7 and I were just a couple of people who grew up liking science magazines and who might read the Planetary Society blog once in a while. But the people around us, holy crap. One lady was asking what it meant for something to be a moon. As we explained (super nicely) she *got it* that moons go around a planet, and planets go around the Sun, and so the moons are also going around the Sun at the same time, but with extra wiggling. I could see her getting it, even in the dark! Zond-7 explained very clearly to someone else what it meant for Saturn to be in Leo (which it was). Earlier, someone else went "Is there a thing called a .. a 'quark'?" and boy howdy did I feel like Mr. Peabody just able to say "It's a tiny elementary particle" Zond-7 asked if she meant quasar, but she meant quarks which were mentioned in a movie she saw. When I hung out with large feral packs of theoretical physicists I noticed how they would speak with disdain of washed-up media whores meaning anyone who ever talked to the press or wrote a popular science article. Meanwhile I wish popular science was more popular and more people would learn how to explain (with strangeness and charm) what a quark is to a regular person.

Anyway, I was struck by how much people don't know. We don't need to know it, people go around and function and are smart as anything, but I forget that most people don't care for some of the things I like to know. And I was struck by the thought that I am used to being around people who do know and who have a fairly huge internal database of random knowledge not applicable to their daily life. The people who came to the astronomy event were self selected to be people who were interested and curious and willing to learn stuff, unlike the general population. I am not trying to be judgmental on people by saying this, it is just that I felt a gulf suddenly between my assumptions about what's in people's heads all around me, and what actually is. Heather Gold at SXSWi in her talk show at Plutopia touched on this rather sweetly when she mentioned the movie Powers of Ten and said "You know, like that thing you do in bed when you're a little kid, where you imagine you're in your address, St. Louis, Missouri, United States, North America, Northern Hemisphere, Earth, The Solar System, Milky Way, like that? … and the crowd just kind of stared at her…. As Heather did, I assumed everyone did that! Did you? But no – not everyone spends hours poring over photographs of galaxies and nebulae and reading encyclopedia articles. I have not felt like a freak for having a lot of book learning for a long time, not for years. As a kid that was a hard lesson – I thought all reasonable people would automatically know what mitochondria were, and so on.
This crowd, the idea of spectral lines was going to be so completely over their heads that it was impossible for the guys to explain anything. I was glad they showed it anyway.

Meanwhile, I don't know the parts of an engine or how to fix a toilet or knit a sweater or take someone's blood pressure as probably the people on our Star Tour do know.

Saturn's moons freaked me out the most. They just hang there. The light reflected from Saturn shades them like our Moon is shaped and shaded by Earthlight. They were more surreal to me than Saturn itself, because they looked so three dimensional.

There is a flythrough of a 3-D model of the Orion Nebula! Can't wait to try it!

When we get home I have a book called Agnotology waiting for me which promises to be about theories of Not Knowing. What don't we know? And why don't we? And how does that affect us?

One last note, Zond-7 asked one of the astronomy dudes how many stars
were in a galaxy and was told a trillion.  He gently drew out the guy a
little more and then shut up. Later in the car he told me that the
trillion stars theory was in the process of being debunked, as it is
based on "a trillion solar masses" but like 99.999 % of that is dark
matter so there are likely not a trillion stars in the galaxy at ALL.
Speaking of Agnotology!

If you are wondering about a proplyd you may go read the article on the Orion Nebula! Happy pointless knowledge voyage!

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Get me off this ice floe!

The rain and cold are kicking my ass. Likely I am a bit physically weak from not doing much while I was sick. At least I can breathe really really well. (Yay steroids) But damn, I’m really worn down by pain, the last few days.

I can walk but it’s slow and creaky. This morning I woke up aching so hard. I moved around in all directions in bed, progressed to PT exercises, then got up and forced myself to walk around and pick things up off the floor. Unstiffening is good. Oh, for last week when the sun was out and I was full of strange vigor and I felt like being alive.

Distraction is the most helpful thing & also it passes the time so I can endure this grinding annoyance until I can legitimately be unconscious again. In short – I am cranky.

Before I got up and while doing slow leg lifts and stretches I read “Ice Drift”, a very dull book about two Inuit boys adrift on an ice floe. It’s hard to convey how dull it was for something that should be good. Plodding! Untrustworthy-feeling! Stilted As-You-Know-Bob dialogue on every single page! And pointlessness. It was like two pieces of cardboard, spouting bits of children’s encyclopedia entries to each other!

The afterword was the best bit, where the author explains that the real story that inspired him was the story of some of the crew of the ship Polaris in 1871, 19 people including 2 Inuit men 2 Inuit women, and 5 of their children, stranded on an ice floe for six months. The author read the manuscripts from the Captain and two crew members. “In the end, rather than attempt to boil down the mass of information about Tyson’s ordeal — the many characters, the murder of the Polaris master, the near mutiny, the shameful treatment of the Inuit — I decided to write a novel about two young boys who were forced to go on a similar journey.” A novel in which white people show up in their ship only to nicely give the boys a ride home and cheer for them.

There is also a bit from 3rd person omniscient focused on the kids’ mom who bravely sets out against her husband’s wishes, risking death and divorce to rescue them, but is warned by two big burly men to turn back, and then turns back. That’s after she and her husband go out to find them the first time and turn back after 1 day when they realize they were too stupid to bring any food with them. Why was that scene even necessary!

Why not write the story of the Polaris in all its complexity, from the point of view of one of the kids? I just re-read Treasure Island and was impressed with its moral complexity… and thought of how I loved it when I was little. The book I read this morning had none — zero, zilch, nada.

Also, I couldn’t get past the younger boy being named “Sulu”. Elementary school kids might not have this problem but for me it was a hurdle!

IN the book instead of being people who kill, kidnap you, and take you to be exhibited in museums, as well as setting off on polar expeditions that are complete clusterfucks because they all have their heads up their asses; instead of that, the white people on the ships are competent and benevolent – everything they do benefits the Inuit. Even the wrecked ship the Reliance is dismantled and its wood used by the Inuit to make their only “real village” of Nunatak with “even a proud community hall building, courtesy of the Reliance wood” as opposed to what they were before which was a “collection of temporary makeshift huts and iglu“. With this totally non subtle subtext like, “even the accidental garbage left over from our total failures helped immeasurably to civilize the childlike natives.”

It is a good book for this blog, American Indians in Children’s Literature, to take apart. I’m going to write to Debbie Reese and suggest it.

The best account of the actual ice floe journey that I could find:
http://www.oldnewspublishing.com/story1.htm

Doesn’t it sound like everyone on the Polaris was going mad from slow arsenic poisoning? and the Captain just got the most lethal dose?

Here’s some details about the Inuit who were on the ice floe. Unlike the Inuit in the “Ice Drift” book, these people were well acquainted with white folks. Hell, they had met Queen Victoria.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tookoolito
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ebierbing
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hans_Hendrik – innnnnnteresting, Hans Hendrik wrote a book: “Memoirs of Hans Hendrik, the Arctic traveller, serving under Kane, Hayes, Hall and Nares, 1853–1876, by himself ”

Well, that’s how I spent my morning, obsessing over the ways that this type of “historical” fiction actually erases history in a way that is stupid, dull, inaccurate, simplistic, and racist, all in the guise of educating young people.

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Smoking dope with the poets

I started reading Black Beauty to Moomin tonight. I remebered it as a sweet, intense horse book with a few sad parts. My grandma read it to me when I was about 4 years old and I certainly re-read it many times – though not as an adult. I was a little bit in love with Ginger.

Well, wow. So far, it’s kind of scary. Beauty, or “Darkie” as he is called in youth,
given lessons by his mother in how to obey and please a master, and how to be a good horse.

My master often drove me in double harness with my mother, because she was steady and could teach me how to go better than a strange horse. She told me the better I behaved the better I should be treated, and that it was wisest always to do my best to please my master; “but,” said she, “there are a great many kinds of men; there are good thoughtful men like our master, that any horse may be proud to serve; and there are bad, cruel men, who never ought to have a horse or dog to call their own. Besides, there are a great many foolish men, vain, ignorant, and careless, who never trouble themselves to think; these spoil more horses than all, just for want of sense; they don’t mean it, but they do it for all that. I hope you will fall into good hands; but a horse never knows who may buy him, or who may drive him; it is all a chance for us; but still I say, do your best wherever it is, and keep up your good name.

!!!

Darkie describes in detail (and with acceptance) the process of being broken in. It’s absolutely chilling.

Do you suppose Anna Sewell was just talking about animal rights, or is she commenting here on women’s status, on slavery, on the status of workers? I was overcome with suspicion. It seems an intensely radical book.

I’m sure she was completely sincere about animal rights but no one could write this book and not be also thinking about people!

Sewell’s Wikipedia entry contained this totally fascinating sentence, about the middle of her life,

While seeking to improve her health at European spas, Sewell encountered various writers, artists, and philosophers, to which her previous background had not exposed her.

That could mean ANYTHING.

I’m going to have to read Dark Horse, a recent biography of Sewell, to find out a little more about her life!

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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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Pins and needles in my head, too

I can do anything. That’s why I try to do everything, no matter what. Pushing myself physically backfired this last week. When I got home from my trip I didn’t try to walk around the house – I came out of the taxi and just wheeled myself into bed with a side order of Vicodin because my leg wasn’t working and the pain was nasty. All week I struggled trying to keep out of the chair. I did it, by cutting and cutting things I wanted to do, errands to run, stuff to do around the house, going-out-at-night plans. Order stuff off the net, rather than go to a store. Then on Friday ended up walking 2 blocks down Haight street (allowing myself 1 of the 3 errands I had meant to do) and was stuck. I didn’t feel like I could make it back to my car. I sat in the shoe place and felt extremely upset at the situation, at my body, and with myself for having poor judgment.

I am back in the place I was some months ago of doing something brief like laundry or getting myself food, then lying down to rest for a good while before attempting anything else. I have to scale back and be careful.

So, I can’t sit up and walk around and be active right now for a whole day. Yesterday and today I was super conservative, and I’m still getting worse. I’m not stressed, or upset, other than my basic fear of what is happening and my frustration at being in pain. The constant pins and needles in my legs, feet, and hands is maddening and my right leg’s pain and collapsing hit me worse today. My calf – the horrible nerve going down the outside! I sat on the floor this evening for a second to open my sewing box, and went OMG what was I thinking… I’m fucked.. that was the worst idea ever. But I was able to do it last week!!!! Over the course of the day I lost the ability to bend over and pick stuff up off the floor. When I whimpered with pain by accident while trying to get up from a chair that was the last straw, I said to hell with it and brought the wheelchair in the house again.

Suddenly the geography of my house is different. I need help keeping all the floors clear.

I don’t know or care if “It” is a mechanical/orthopedic issue which I aggravated by too much activity and sitting up 12 hours in a row and the long plane rides, or if it’s MS or what the fuck ever aggravated by too much activity and stress and no rest. Whatever it is, it’s flaring up big time.

Everything non essential will be put off.

Since I am now making dr. appointments again I will take time off to do that instead of just doing it and making the work up at night. That is part of my regime of less stress and more rest.

I wish to god i had some prednisone right now – I would take it in a flash. I know it’s bad shit but I would get it for a week for bronchitis or sinuses and then would end up feeling fan-fucking-tastic top of the world healthy and able for the next 3 months.

My plan is good – I just need to stick to it – I had such nice plans to go to the beach or the science museum with Moomin this weekend – and I scrapped them completely knowing it would be insane when I can barely contemplate going out to buy cat litter.

Nice things today – Moomin getting completely better after a sudden morning of barfing – helping Moomin with his homework – having pictures drawn for me – lying in bed reading umpteen Antonia Forest “Trennels” books since they’re very comforting and complicated (Oh the perfidy of Lois Sanger! She’s worse, and better drawn, than Widmerpool, don’t you think? ) and making spiders out of black yarn (body and legs), red glitter paint (eyes), and safety pins (to attach them on things). Rook’s LOTR alternate history game and finding dwarven words for it – Colin Powell’s declaration of support for Obama, which was lovely – Shaving Zond-7′s head – and having bits read to me last night out of the history book about Santa Anna’s leg and its burial – and how it was dug up and burned (which I am not seeing anywhere on the net – instead a lot about its burial with full military honors, and how his prosthetic leg, captured & stolen, is still in a museum in Illinois).

That’s where I’m at – I don’t need a lot of sympathy, it’s only been 20 years or so this has been happening – just want to talk about it, complain a little, figure out what I’m going to do about it, and declare it, hoping other people will hold me to my resolutions of intelligent behavior.

I’m sorry I fucked up. It’s hard to know where the line is. Sometimes I don’t do anything wrong, and things still go wrong and I end up getting worse. This time I feel like it is kind of my fault. Fingers crossed a few days or a week of resting and I’ll rocket right back up onto my feet.

I think the social worker’s call came at a time when I really am ready to hear it and am panicking anyway so willing to jump back into the Wheel of Diagnosis.

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