From the moment I saw her years and years ago, I knew Millie was the cat for me. She was very small, and the tag on her cage at the Humane Society said that she liked to chase moths, and I thought that made her a knitter’s cat for sure. Turns out she didn’t give a crap about moths, but she was a hell of a mouser, and regularly attempted to make short work of every animal in the neighbourhood.
It wasn’t at all unusual to have to unhook her from the front windowscreens where she hung, hurling invective at some enormous dog she felt sure she could end if she could just get through the damn window. She slept on my head every night and went on hungerstrikes when I left town. She liked to put her tail in my bath. Her favourite food was pizza, she was tidier than we were, and she taught all the girls to hang up their coats through the magic of urine… and I didn’t know just how much I loved her until today. She drove me crazy.
Millie was an old lady by now – in human years she’d be in her nineties, and up until the last few days she’d been having a pretty good run. She still made her rounds every morning to make sure that there were no squirrels that needed threatening, and she continued to raid the compost bin if the lid was left open, fulfilling a deep passion for any food that was not intended for cats. In the last little bit she’d become very skinny, and seemed to have less energy, and today a visit to the vet for what we thought was something minor became very major indeed, and we said by to our little cat just an hour after a diagnosis so devastating that there was nothing else to do. She was a very, very good cat, and we wouldn’t have wanted to see her suffer for a minute longer.
I’ll get back to knitting and fundraising tomorrow, goodness knows both need doing, but tonight I think I’ll just have a really good cry for my 3.77lbs of wee beast.
The original authors wrote this application in Java. I've never worked on a Java application before, so the last few weeks have been quite an education in the Java ecosystem, in its tools and frameworks and libraries. We're improving the installation and deployment process, so now I'm more familiar with Ant, Gradle, Maven, OpenJDK, JDBC, Hibernate, and WildFly. I've gotten some API documentation in place, so now I know more about Spring and Javadoc.
As I was explaining to a friend this weekend, the overwhelming thing isn't Java as a language. It is a programming language and you can program in it, fine. The overwhelmption is the seemingly endless chain of plugins, platforms, and frameworks, and the mental work to understand what competes with, supersedes, integrates with, or depends on what.
Imagine you come to visit New York City for the first time, and wish to visit a specific address. First you need to work out where it is. But you do not have a map; there is no unified map of the whole place. Surely you can figure this out. Watch out: if someone doesn't tell you what borough an address is in, it's probably in Manhattan, but then again maybe not. There are multiple streets with the same name, and "31st Street and Broadway" in Queens is quite far from "31st Street and Broadway" in Manhattan. The avenue numbers go up westwards in Manhattan, eastwards in Brooklyn, and northwards in Queens. And so on.
You ask around, you see sketches of maps other people have made on their journeys, and eventually you feel pretty confident that you know the rough distance and direction to your destination. Now, how do you get there from your hotel room?
You probably don't want to walk all the way; for one thing, it's illegal and dangerous to walk on the freeways. This is why we have the subway (express and local), and buses (express and local, both privately and publicly run), and government-regulated taxis (street-hailable cabs and private car services), and bike rental, and commuter rail, a funicular/tram, car rental, ferries, and so on. Also there are illegal rideshare/taxi services that lots of people use. You try to learn some nouns and figure out what sort of thing each is, and what's a subset of what.
A MetroCard works on some of these modes and not others, and some transfers from one ride to another cost you nothing, and you can't use an unlimited-ride card twice at the same station or on the same bus within 18 minutes.* You can bring a bike on some MTA-run services but not all, not all the time. There are whole neighborhoods with no subway service, and whole neighborhoods with approximately no street parking. At rush hour the trains get super full. Service changes at night, on the weekend, and on holidays. Cars and buses get stuck behind accidents and parades. People and signs in Manhattan refer to "uptown" and "downtown" as though they are cardinal directions; they often correlate to "north" and "south" but not always. Metro North trains terminate at Grand Central, but Long Island Railroad trains terminate at New York Penn Station, which is named after Pennsylvania because it's where you can catch a train to Pennsylvania,** and there's a Newark Penn Station too but over a crackling loudspeaker those two station names sound very similar so watch out. And so on.
You're lucky; you find a set of cryptic directions, from your hotel to the destination address, based on a five-year-old transit schedule. It suggests you take a bus that does not exist anymore. Sometimes you see descriptions of travel that you think could be feasible as a leg of your journey, and you read what other people have done. They talk about "Penn Station" and "the train" without disambiguating, refer to the subway as "the MTA" even though the MTA also runs other transit, talk about "the 7" without distinguishing local from express, and use "blocks" as a measure of distance even though some blocks are ten times as long as others.
Aaaaagh. And yet: you will make it. You will figure it out. New Yorkers will help you along the way.
The decades-old Java ecosystem feels overwhelming but this application overhaul is like any other task. Things are made of stuff. Human programmers made this thing and human programmers can understand and manipulate it. I'm a human programmer. I made Javadoc do what I wanted it to do, and now the product is better and our users will have more information. And every triumph earns me a skill I can deploy for other customers and groups I care about.
* Just long enough for you to enjoy a little break from the podcast you're making with President Nixon!
** Also see St. Petersburg's Finland Station.
We left Vancouver well over an hour late because the plane had a slight mechanical problem which needed fixing before take off. So it was dark when we landed, Joe needed to wait for a shuttle to take him to the car, the shuttle wasn't accessible so I had to wait in a different spot not knowing when he'd be arriving. I wasn't in a bad mood, but I was tired. My face, at rest, looks angry. My face when I'm tired makes me look very severe. I know that. People leave me alone as a result. I'm got with that.
So, I was surprised to be spoken to.
A girl of maybe 12 or 13 was standing beside me looking at me intently. She was with her mother, who like me, was watching an unending flow of cars for one she recognized. I looked over to her, not quite hearing what she said, "Pardon me?" I asked.
"It's not OK you know," she said.
I didn't know what she was talking about. "I'm sorry, what's not OK?" She paused, took a breath and said, "The way people stare at you, it's not OK." I was flabbergasted. Partly because I hadn't been noticing others noticing me, I was just looking for our car in the long line up of cars coming to the pick up area of the airport. I looked around and did notice the occasional stare or two. I didn't know what to say to her.
"People sometimes stare and me and my mom, and it's not OK." She was quietly adamant. She and her mother were both people of colour and I could imagine exactly what she was talking about. I was sorry that she had had the experience of 'othering' that comes with being stared at.
I measured my words. My first response had been, "I'm used to it," but that had been when she first spoke. I was not going to say to a child that hurtful behaviour becomes the norm and that one grows accustomed to it. I simply wasn't going to say it. I couldn't.
So, I just said, "Yes, it's wrong. People know better." She nodded her head, "Good, so you know," she said.
I nodded my head and we both fell back into waiting.
I'm pleased to announce the release of Sleeping with Monsters: Readings and Reactions in Science Fiction and Fantasy by Liz Bourke, in both print and e-book editions, from Aqueduct Press. It's available now from Aqueduct Press.
Anyone familiar with Liz Bourke's work knows she isn't shy about sharing her opinion. In columns and reviews for science fiction and fantasy website Tor.com and elsewhere, she's taken a critical eye to fantasy and SF, from books to movies, television to videogames, old to new. This volume presents a selection of the best of her articles. Bourke's subjects range from the nature of epic fantasy— is it a naturally conservative sort of literature?—to the effect of Mass Effect's decision to allow players to play as a female hero, and from discussions of little-known writers to some of the most popular works in the field. A provocative, immensely readable collection of essays about the science fiction and fantasy field, from the perspective of a feminist and a historian, Sleeping With Monsters is an entertaining addition to any reader's shelves.
"A majority of the pieces in this collection come from Sleeps With Monsters, and ultimately, its purpose is more similar to Sleeps With Monsters than not: to be a little loud and angry. To celebrate the work of women in the science fiction and fantasy (SFF) field. To offer a snapshot, a limited glimpse, of what I think is best, most fun, most interesting."—from the author's Foreword
"[Bourke] consistently raises questions about the sort of content in books that for a long time was invisible to many reviewers or considered not worth examining. Uncovering the complex morass of sexism, racism, classism, ableism, religious bigotry, and homo- and transphobia that often underlies many of our received assumptions about narrative is right in her wheelhouse. ...[She] talks to us as if we're in conversation. What a pleasure it is to read pithy reviews of often-overlooked work I already admire, as well as to discover books I need to read."—from the Introduction by Kate Elliott
This strong collection is culled from Bourke's similarly titled Tor.com blog as well as other online sources, and features eight original selections. Bourke's critiques of fantasy and science fiction—most running fewer than 1,000 words—demonstrate both her critical acumen and her appreciation of the genre. Nearly all of the works she discusses are by present-day female writers, and though she purports to bring "an explicitly feminist perspective" to her reviews, she mostly applies the classic critical yardsticks of plot, character development, and authorial voice. Bourke has read widely, especially among multi-book sagas, and her familiarity with so many modern writers' oeuvres gives gravity to her appraisals of the limitations of a literary canon for science fiction and fantasy. She observes that depictions of queer womanhood in contemporary fantasy and science fiction are often disappointingly "titillating or tragic." Her critical standards are high—she doesn't flinch at pointing out weaknesses in favorite books by popular writers—but not inflexible, as is implicit in her observation that "an interesting failure can prove far more entertaining than a novel that's technically successful but has no heart." This collection is sure to provoke debate among genre fans, and also to drive them to the books under Bourke's scrutiny. —Publishers Weekly, June 2017
|Image description: a graphic design of a fist with the fingers being different colours of the rainbow. (I don't know who owns this art, if it's use here is unacceptable, please let me know and I will take it down.)|
I met a man
At a dinner party.
Who got very quiet
When I answered his question.
What do you do for a living? he asked.
I told him, with pride, what I did
"I am a behaviour therapist," I said.
"Oh," was all he said
before he left the table.
The host got up
and followed his friend
out of the room.
He came back and asked
"What did you say to him?"
I told him about
our brief conversation.
"Oh, no!" he said,
if his body
He was left
people who do
what I do.
That I wouldn't
All that mattered
unit it was time
he told me,
I wouldn't ever
But it's been
A Publishers Weekly review is, or was (probably still is), considered rather a coup for an aspiring writer. I remember how excited my agent was for my first one; she mailed me a clipping, which should give you an idea how many years ago.
posted by Lois McMaster Bujold on June, 24
Joe and I were lucky because we were flying home and Toronto was where we got off. Many, many, other people on the plane weren't so lucky, they were flying through Toronto and needed to make connections. The length of delay meant that there would be tight connections at best and missed at worst.
I never watch television or movies on the plane, I have a book and that's movie enough for me. What I watch is the map that's provided as one of the video options. All it does is show the progress of the flight and give information as to arrival time and altitude and temperature outside but the best thing is watching the little plane slowly make it's way across the screen following a flight path marked out by a green line.
As the plane got closer, the atmosphere on the plane grew tense. Around me people who had been watching movies flipped over to the map as well. We all watched the approach to Toronto and the time passing. Whispered conversations were being held by couples and by parents and children. There was a sigh of relief when the plane touched down.
About five minutes before landing, there was a passenger announcement. We were told the gate we were arriving at and the gates of soon to be departing flights to varying places, all of which were destinations for those who had connecting flights. Pens quickly wrote down the gate numbers and a diversity of Gods began to hear fervent prayers.
As we pulled to the gate, there came another announcement. this one was quite solemn in tone. Everyone picked up on the seriousness in the tone of voice. It asked for those passengers for whom Toronto was their final destination to please stay on the plane for a few minutes and leave the aisles free for those who had connections. It was explained to us that the pilot had made up some of the lost time in flight and that if we gave people the opportunity almost all of the passengers with connections would make their flights.
I could hear in the voice a tiredness. I understood this. I've been on planes before when this request was made and virtually no one complied. People got off in the same way that they always do, as soon as they could. I am used to waiting to get off a plane and I'm always surprised at how quickly it empties. It's not a long wait. It's a small thing to do.
Some passengers were so anxious to get off that they were getting up and getting luggage as we were pulling into the gate. They were told firmly to sit down until the plane stopped moving. Their anxiety was understandable. Seconds before the door opened the appeal was made again, if we were getting off in Toronto, wait just a few minutes for those travelling on.
And people did. I turned to see the aisle full of people running, actually running, down it towards the door and people standing, waiting, some calling out "Good Luck!" to their fellow passengers who zipped past them. I'd never seen this before. I'd never seen a whole plane, filled to the brim, let those who needed fast exit have fast exit.
Just a moment of time.
Just an exercise of patience.
And a touch of restraint.
Can communicate who we are in powerful ways.
We, collectively, had the opportunity to allow people to move on in their journeys, to make it home to spouses and kids, to make up lost time. We, collectively, could demonstrate the power of valuing another's time and another's needs.And, we did.
It's a small moment but it will be a big memory.
As we always get off last, I saw the Toronto bound passengers faces as they disembarked. Everyone was surprised by everyone else, everyone seemed surprised that this had happened and that they were part of it. We are all now going to be part of everyone else's story.
And it's a good story.
Via Tom Coates, who writes:
I went to Moss Landing, as I often do when I'm down that part of the coast, because you can see Sea Otters from the beach park. Unusually this time though, one of the otters was on the beach and I managed to take this photo from a little cliff above them. I needed a decent size zoom and I cropped the picture quite a lot to get it. I made sure not to disturb the otter.
This has been my first Ramadan without hijab since 1997. After wearing hijab for close to twenty years, last year, sometime in August, I finally started leaving the house every day without covering my hair. I say “sometime” because removing it was a gradual process. At some point that summer, when the last distant cousin found out, I realized I had done what I had been thinking about for so long. And at some point this Ramadan, this time of family-gathering and mosque-going and Quran-reading, I realized that I haven’t stopped thinking about what this decision means.
I chose to remove the hijab. Did I choose to wear it? That is not as clear-cut as some make it out to be. The hijab just was: it was a phase in my development; it was assumed this was what I would do when the time came. I was ten years old when it happened, it being my first period. The next morning, my mother taught me how to wrap the hand-me down scarf that my sister did not want anymore. I remember feeling uneasy, and that uneasiness worsened when I got to school and confused students (and teachers) asked if I had been to Mecca. I was the only one in that school to wear a headscarf.
For years, I accepted the hijab. It became part of me, the thing that made me most different. Even when I started going to another school where there were other girls in hijab, I was different. Hijab, according to my family, meant jilbabs, never jeans, and no colors except brown, black, and grey. I wore large headscarves that were pinned under the chin rather than stylishly wrapped shaylas and dupattas. Unsurprisingly, I was bullied. The thing is, back then I can’t remember thinking about taking it off. The bullying made the hijab even more a part of who I was. Why should I try to please “them”, after all? It was probably during this time that I owned being a hijabi most.
And then something changed. I started to doubt the idea that wearing hijab was a religious duty, and that Muslim women who did not wear it were superficial and sinful. It was the focus on the hijab, as though piety was all about the external, which seemed to me the epitome of superficial. I started to resent the double standards of the Muslim community around me at the time, where men freely spoke with women (under justifications of dawah and thinking-of-polygamy) but would be outraged if their wives exchanged a word with a non-mahram man. Growing up in this environment, I had taken it for granted that men went to mixed-gender gyms and swimming pools and forbade these spaces to women, and that men dressed for comfort in the summer while women covered up in stifling layers (and wore men’s socks because women’s socks were too transparent!). But somewhere along the line all of this started to enrage me. And enrage is not too strong a word.
I became aware that I was not happy wearing the hijab, that I maybe had never been happy wearing it, and that I had kept wearing it simply because it was the path of least resistance. And maybe I wouldn’t be any happier not wearing it…but didn’t I owe it to myself to find out?
I don’t want to downplay how difficult it was to decide to take it off. I’ve read too many “dejabbing” stories that focus only on the personal and spiritual aspects, and I would think: Their circumstances are different. Their families are different, less conservative, less strict, than my family. At least half of what held me back was fear of what people would say and do. That, in itself, told me what I needed to know. What was the point of this if I was doing it only for others rather than for God?
I looked for practical advice. How do you actually take this step? How do you say the words? I found very little. There was some material by an ex-Muslim woman that was helpful, but it only seemed to confirm what my family would say: if you take it off, you are not Muslim.
I wavered, wrestled with doubts, read arguments for and against, and watched endless videos of Muslimahs talking about why they could never take off their hijab. Many of these accounts are unfortunately given the click-bait title “Taking off the hijab,” so those who are seeking advice find themselves shamed for even thinking of taking this step. And watching these self-assured hijabi women did feed the shame that I already felt. I would think: Look at this woman with her successful life proudly wearing her hijab. Am I ashamed of my religion? Why am I giving up this part of me? Why am I weak? Looking back on it now, I think this was my attempt to go back to being the good hijabi. I ignored the other voice that reminded me there would be nothing weak about taking this step, that I’d worn the hijab from the age of ten to the age of thirty simply because it was what was expected of me, because it was easy to be obedient, to do the expected.
In the end, I decided I might regret the decision to stop wearing the hijab, but I would regret it more if I never decided, finally, to choose for myself. Once I made the decision, taking it off was easy, even though the aftermath was anything but. To make a long story short, it was more or less what I expected: I was lectured, shouted at, told I was weak and cowardly and ungrateful, and had someone who was once close to me express their disgust by spitting at me. But I burned some bridges, and survived.
This Ramadan, a year later, I’ve been trying to balance the choice against the lingering regret. Because sometimes I do regret removing the hijab. I miss being the good obedient hijabi daughter, I miss being the visibly identifiable Muslimah, the sister greeted with salaam on the streets. And all of that regret was intensified this Ramadan, when community and family matter more than ever, and when not wearing hijab means being barred from the religious spaces around me. For many, I have become that superficial, sinful woman they warn their daughters about, the one who cares more about this world than the next. I haven’t been to the mosque this Ramadan, because I don’t know how to negotiate wearing hijab to avoid confrontation.
A year on, it is still strange, feeling the wind in my hair and the sun on my neck. A year on, there are still days when I wish I could undo what I have done, just to be more accepted, just to fit into my community more easily. Part of me even misses being the outsider, the non-conforming religious woman in a secular society. Hijab defined me for twenty years. But one year on from removing it, I am more myself now than I was then. I don’t struggle to convince others to believe in something I don’t myself believe in, and I don’t instinctively lie about my life in the hope that others will have a better image of my religion. Back then, I was at once bristlingly defensive and doubtful. Now, I no longer feel like a hypocrite, like one thing on the outside and another on the inside. I am more honest with myself, and more true to what I believe.
Making your own choices in life, it turns out, is worth something. Regret may be part of choice, but so is self-respect.
Stiff competition for entrance to private preschools and kindergartens in Manhattan has created a test prep market for children under 5. The New York Times profiled Bright Kids NYC. The owner confesses that “the parents of the 120 children her staff tutored [in 2010] spent an average of $1,000 on test prep for their 4-year-olds.” This, of course, makes admission to schools for the gifted a matter of class privilege as well as intelligence.
The article also tells the story of a woman without the resources to get her child, Chase, professional tutoring:
Ms. Stewart, a single mom working two jobs, didn’t think the process was fair. She had heard widespread reports of wealthy families preparing their children for the kindergarten gifted test with $90 workbooks, $145-an-hour tutoring and weekend “boot camps.”
Ms. Stewart used a booklet the city provided and reviewed the 16 sample questions with Chase. “I was online trying to find sample tests,” she said. “But everything was $50 or more. I couldn’t afford that.”
Ms. Stewart can’t afford tutoring for Chase; other parents can. It’s unfair that entrance into kindergarten level programs is being gamed by people with resources, disadvantaging the most disadvantaged kids from the get go. I think many people will agree.
But the more insidious value, the one that almost no one would identify as problematic, is the idea that all parents should do everything they can to give their child advantages. Even Ms. Stewart thinks so. “They want to help their kids,” she said. “If I could buy it, I would, too.”
Somehow, in the attachment to the idea that we should all help our kids get every advantage, the fact that advantaging your child disadvantages other people’s children gets lost. If it advantages your child, it must be advantaging him over someone else; otherwise it’s not an advantage, you see?
I felt like this belief (that you should give your child every advantage) and it’s invisible partner (that doing so is hurting other people’s children) was rife in the FAQs on the Bright Kids NYC website.
Isn’t my child too young to be tutored?
These programs are very competitive, the answers say, and you need to make sure your kid does better than other children. It’s never too soon to gain an advantage.
My child is already bright, why does he or she need to be prepared?
Because being bright isn’t enough. If you get your kid tutoring, she’ll be able to show she’s bright in exactly the right way. All those other bright kids that can’t get tutoring won’t get in because, after all, being bright isn’t enough.
Is it fair to “prep” for the standardized testing?
Of course it’s fair, the website claims! It’s not only fair, it’s “rational”! What parent wouldn’t give their child an advantage!? They avoid actually answering the question. Instead, they make kids who don’t get tutoring invisible and then suggest that you’d be crazy not to enroll your child in the program.
My friend says that her child got a very high ERB [score] without prepping. My kid should be able to do the same.
Don’t be foolish, the website responds. This isn’t about being bright, remember. Besides, your friend is lying. They’re spending $700,000 dollars on their kid’s schooling (aren’t we all!?) and we can’t disclose our clients but, trust us, they either forked over a grand to Bright Kids NYC or test administrators.
Test prep for kindergartners seems like a pretty blatant example of class privilege. But, of course, the argument that advantaging your own kid necessarily involves disadvantaging someone else’s applies to all sorts of things, from tutoring, to a leisurely summer with which to study for the SAT, to financial support during their unpaid internships, to helping them buy a house and, thus, keeping home prices high.
I think it’s worth re-evaluating. Is giving your kid every advantage the moral thing to do?Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
1) Ignorance is not bliss
2) Ignorance is never an excuse.
3) Ignorance is almost never the problem.
Recently there was an incident in Canada, that I will not link to, where a woman went on a racist rant at a walk in clinic wanting a white doctor who spoke English. Thankfully there were people there that stood up to her, which always gives me hope, but the video of the event and her outburst was everywhere for a while. I was appalled at the time but became even more so when I heard the discussion about her behaviour.
The general consensus was that she was "ignorant." People talked about her as if she was in desperate need of some kind of sensitivity training or diversity training or anger management training.
Because, of course, white people aren't ever racist, or sexist, or homophobic, or ableist, or disphobic, or prejudiced in any way. We are just a little misguided. We just need a glass of juice, a cookie, and a 20 minute class and we're back to being good, well behaved white folk. "Poor dear," we seem to say as we acknowledge that what she did was racist and then we explain that while her behaviour might be considered racist, she certainly isn't, "she's just ignorant and needs some in class time with a teacher and a power point presentation."
I'm tired of ignorance getting the blame for blatant prejudice and bigotry.
Call a bigot a bigot.
Call our prejudice where prejudice exists.
Explaining way someone's behaviour brings into question your own behaviour. Why do you have a need for this to be 'ignorance' and 'poor dear' behaviour?
Remember when teens were coming to the gay area of Toronto and throwing slushies into the faces of people they tagged as members of the lgbtq+ community? The result of all the television discussion was that these teens need training.
No one needs training to know that you don't throw slushies into the face of strangers.
It was blatant prejudice and those teens were wilfully and purposely homophobic.
That woman was wilfully and purposely racist.
Accountability begins with naming the problem. It is entirely possible that a woman who yells and complains in a racist manner is simply and maybe even irredeemably racist. It is entirely possible that she believed that everyone else felt like her but was afraid to say it. It is entirely possible that she meant ever racist thing that she said. And if it's possible then that possibility needs to be discussed. We need to own racism and sexism and homophobia and transphobia and ableism and disphobia and all the other forms of prejudice, we need to recognize that these exist independently from ignorance or a need for training. That these things are even resistant to cookies and classes.
She was racist therefore she is racist. Isn't that an easy step.
Isn't then the question how do we deal with racism or how do we prevent racism or how do we support her victims? Yes, she had victims. Not one word has been said about the impact of her words on the doctors and nurses who were there, on the people of colour all over the country who watched that video, the kids of the people of colour who asked their parents questions about what happened.
That racist woman hurt people and that's not okay and what needs to happen next? For her, for her victims, what needs to happen next?
1) racism is a deeply embedded attitude it is not ignorance
2) bigotry needs to be called out for what it is
3) giving excuses to prejudice reveals even deeper prejudice
|Image description: A coffee hut, made of barn board and a bit of paint sits on the beach in Campbell River with a mixed bunch of tables and chairs.|
I spotted Fog Rukkers coffee shop on our first drive through Campbell River on the way to see my father in the hospital. I made a mental note of it wanting to go in for a cup of tea and hopefully to sit at the ocean side of the hut and wonder at the view. But then, we got busy. With family visits and gallons of tea consumed all over town with various branches of the Hingsburger or Jobes families (Joe and I met in high school here so both families are here) we just never got there.
On our last full day in CR I told Joe that I really wanted to make it there if we could. We got in touch with Shannon, our niece and she was more than game to go with us. Was it wheelchair accessible? Didn't know. Were we going to make it wheelchair accessible if it wasn't? If we could, we would. We pulled up and took a good look. With some manoeuvring we got me out and on the bicycle path. The as they parked, I rolled up and onto the front patio. Was there a patio at the back? Yes. There was no way I could go around the hut because it was too rocky. So it had to be through.
The door was too narrow when one was opened, we then unlocked it's partner and swung both open and I was through. The concrete was uneven, it was difficult to push and go in the direction I wanted to go, the wheels and the tilt kept suggesting a different course, but we made it through to the back patio and took a table.
I haven't sat on a beach, anywhere, since becoming a wheelchair user. I gloried in it. We chatted and we laughed and we marvelled at the beauty of the world. It was beyond nice. I felt myself relax. It had been a race out here to see Dad while he was in the hospital, and he was doing so much better and we had had a really good visit and now was time to just let go of the tension.
Driving away I thought to myself that this place and this moment was now going to be my new 'happy place' when I need to take a breath.
Sometimes that's all we need.
Of fresh ocean air.
Monday was a stinking slag heap of a day. Monday’s scene was scrambled, it couldn’t get itself together, and despite noble, persistent and good-natured attempts by yours truly to bring it around and call it to its higher self, Monday didn’t even try to work things out with me. I tried with Monday, I really did. I tried going for a training ride – it’s been so hard to find the time and energy, only to get a stinking flat tire. (Which I changed, with no amount of struggling for good humour.) I trudged through it, attempting to charm it into submission, but Monday proved too much for me, and after spending the evening’s knitting time trying to untangle a ball of yarn that had contorted itself into something that looked like it had been in a toddler’s toy chest for a week, I fell into bed that night thinking the best thing an optimistic person can after a day that’s clearly out to get them, which was “well, at least it’s over.”
Tuesday? Tuesday wasn’t as bad as Monday, but let’s be clear, it lacked the joie de vivre and decent good sense that any day attempting to follow a train-wreck of a Monday should have had. Tuesday didn’t even try. I gave up on Tuesday last night when it rained on me last night and the porch roof leaked.
Today? Today is, rather literally, sunshine and roses. I went for a training ride by myself, and it was nothing short of lovely. Not too hot, not too cold, very sunny but I didn’t get a sunburn, my inbox is almost sorta kinda under control, and I am finally ready to start the edging on this baby blanket.
The chart I devised even works, and I have a clever idea for the corners that I think will work, though I’m not far enough off from Monday and Tuesday’s pale curse to go so far as to say I’m confident. My jeans fit just right, and tonight I’m having dinner (it’s Joe’s turn to arrange it) and a cuddle with Elliot Tupper, and he has learned to smile and has the beginnings of a clumsy laugh, and does his best to pretend he likes me best. (Joe will argue and say it’s him that’s the favourite, and even that charms me.)
Happy Summer Solstice, my friends (except for Cameron and other knitters in the Southern hemisphere – for them it’s one of my favourite days, the Winter Solstice. Light a candle. As of today, the light is on it’s way back to you.) Tonight we’ll sit in the garden, ignore the weeds, and marvel at how long it stays light.
How’s your day?
“Love is ever changing. It goes from high romance to loyalty and devotion, and every emotion in between depending on what’s happening at the moment. I think what’s kept Frank’s and my twenty six year old relationship going over the years has been humor, and a great deal of flexibility. ( and each of us maintaining our separate homes!!!!)”- Sandi
“Sandi and I are spiritually bound, but love can be a pain in the a– …with benefits!!!!!!!” -Frank
Originally posted at Montclair Socioblog.
“Freedom of opinion does not exist in America,” said DeTocqueville 250 years ago. He might have held the same view today.
But how could a society that so values freedom and individualism be so demanding of conformity? I had blogged about this in 2010 with references to old sitcoms, but for my class this semester I needed something more recent. Besides, Cosby now carries too much other baggage. ABC’s “black-ish”* came to the rescue.
The idea I was offering in class was, first, that our most cherished American values can conflict with one another. For example, our desire for family-like community can clash with our value on independence and freedom. Second, the American solution to this conflict between individual and group is often what Claude Fischer calls “voluntarism.” We have freedom – you can voluntarily choose which groups to belong to. But once you choose to be a member, you have to conform. The book I had assigned my class (My Freshman Year by Rebekah Nathan*) uses the phrase “voluntary conformism.”
In a recent episode of “black-ish,” the oldest daughter, Zoey, must choose which college to go to. She has been accepted at NYU, Miami, Vanderbilt, and Southern Cal. She leans heavily towards NYU, but her family, especially her father Dre, want her to stay close to home. The conflict is between Family – family togetherness, community – and Independence. If Zoey goes to NYU, she’ll be off on her own; if she stays in LA, she’ll be just a short drive from her family. New York also suggests values on Achievement, Success, even Risk-taking (“If I can make it there” etc.)
Zoey decides on NYU, and her father immediately tries to undermine that choice, reminding her of how cold and dangerous it will be. It’s typical sitcom-dad buffonery, and his childishness tips us off that this position, imposing his will, is the wrong one. Zoey, acting more mature, simply goes out and buys a bright red winter coat.
The argument for Independence, Individual Choice, and Success is most clearly expressed by Pops (Dre’s father, who lives with them), and it’s the turning point in the show. Dre and his wife are complaining about the kids growing up too fast. Pops says, “Isn’t this what you wanted? Isn’t this why you both worked so hard — movin’ to this White-ass neighborhood, sendin’ her to that White-ass school so she could have all these White-ass opportunities? Let. Her. Go.”
That should be the end of it. The final scene should be the family bidding a tearful goodbye to Zoey at LAX. But a few moments later, we see Zoey talking to her two younger siblings (8-year old twins – Jack and Diane). They remind her of how much family fun they have at holidays. Zoey has to tell them that New York is far, so she won’t be coming back till Christmas – no Thanksgiving, no Halloween.
Jack reminds her about the baby that will arrive soon. “He won’t even know you.”
In the next scene, Zoey walks into her parents room carrying the red winter coat. “I need to return this.”
“Wrong size?” asks her father.
She’s going to stay in LA and go to USC.
Over a half-century ago, David McClelland wrote that a basic but unstated tenet of American culture is: “I want to freely choose to do what others expect me to do.” Zoey has chosen to do what others want her to do – but she has made that individual choice independently. It’s “voluntary conformism,” and it’s the perfect American solution (or at least the perfect American sitcom solution).
* For those totally unfamiliar with the show, the premise is this: Dre Johnson, a Black man who grew up in a working-class Black neighborhood of LA, has become a well-off advertising man, married a doctor (her name is Rainbow, or usually Bow), and moved to a big house in an upscale neighborhood. They have four children, and the wife is pregnant with a fifth.Jay Livingston is the chair of the Sociology Department at Montclair State University. You can follow him at Montclair SocioBlog or on Twitter.
A half an hour or so later she comes out with a piece of crumpled yellow paper, all she could find, and on it she had drawn a picture of our new home with Joe and I, her mom, her sister and herself out front. She wrote a note to Jerry. This 10 year old was writing a 93 year old and addressing the note as if he's her best friend. She said in the note that Joe and I had just moved and she wanted him to see our new house so that he, Jerry, would know we are all okay. She thought he might be worried.
We carefully packed the paper away to bring to dad in the hospital here in town where we are now. Dad had heard about Ruby and Sadie of course because they are a big part of our lives and we talk about them. Dad has never questioned the fact that the girls are like family to us and has treated them in our lives with the interest that they deserve. So when I told him about Ruby scolding me about not telling her about him being in the hospital and about not having the stuff she needed to make a drawing, then I handed over her drawing.
Ruby's writing at 10, she prefers cursive to printing, is better than mine. He lay in his bed while reading the note, his face brightening at the boldness of her determination that she could call him Jerry as if they were friends. It was a nice moment, he loved the picture and he asked for it to be put up where he could see it. It's there now, a note from a child who never met the man who is my father, a note telling him that he didn't have to worry that we were all okay. A note that said, "though we haven't met, I love you because you are Dave's dad."
Before he asked for it to be put up he said, "She's quite the little girl isn't she?"
And she is.
It only take a moment of thoughtfulness to make someone feel cared for and loved.
Ruby took that moment.
I need to do that more often, I've got papers, I've got pencil crayons, I've got time, though I pretend I don't. I just need a little more of what Ruby's got ... the will to do something for someone else even if it seems there's nothing I can do.
The first few years I fasted, I used to get a little irritated with friends who lamented the sometimes anti-climactic Canadian Ramadans that paled in comparison to Ramadan “back home” in Pakistan, Egypt, or Indonesia. I mean, I could understand what they meant, and I knew it wasn’t a comment on my experience. Fasting as a minority when the people around you might not know or care that it’s Ramadan, and breaking fast alone or with a couple roommates, definitely sounded less exciting than being somewhere that the streets come alive at sunset and the festive atmosphere lasts long into the evening. At the same time, I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of bitterness at the complaint that Ramadan in Canada didn’t “feel like Ramadan.”
For me, Ramadan in Canada was Ramadan, the only kind of Ramadan I’d known. And yet, it seemed at times like I was being told that there was something less real or authentic about my experience of what Ramadan “felt like,” as if Ramadan as I experienced it was only a substitute for something more real that remained out of my reach. I had come to enjoy and appreciate the serenity of solo suhoors and iftars, and I resented the suggestion that this quiet and introspective approach to the month was only a mediocre replacement for the “real” Ramadan.
I’ve been thinking of that over the last few years of not being able to fast because of some health issues (all is good alhamdulillah; fasting just isn’t something I can do right now). When someone asks me how Ramadan is going, I tend to feel a need to clarify that I’m not fasting, and often add that it doesn’t really feel like Ramadan. But that framing makes me uncomfortable. I don’t want to feel like I’m getting a next-best-thing Ramadan, a consolation prize Ramadan, just because I’m not fasting. This is my Ramadan this year, the only kind of Ramadan I can have at the moment. For many people, Ramadan has never meant fasting, because chronic health conditions mean that they have never fasted, and never will. This is entirely in keeping with religious rulings around Ramadan, many of which make it very clear that, for those for whom fasting would be unhealthy, not fasting is not only an option but is in in fact the best option. In other words, this isn’t about opting out of Ramadan; it’s about observing Ramadan in the ways best aligned with one’s body and individual needs.
Even so, when Ramadan is almost always defined primarily as a month of fasting, it’s hard not to feel like anything else is at best an inferior substitute. So I’ve been wondering: how do we define Ramadan in a way that encompasses fasting but does not depend on it?
I know the usual answers here. Fasting during Ramadan doesn’t only mean fasting from food, for instance; it also means fasting from anger and backbiting and anything else that harms our relationship with the Divine. And Ramadan is supposed to be primarily a month of taqwa, or God-consciousness; fasting is just a means to an end. These reminders help, but they don’t really solve the issue. Even if Ramadan is, in theory, about more than abstaining from food and drink during daylight hours, it is generally defined as a month of fasting, as a time when Muslims around the world are fasting and breaking fast together, and so on. The idea of fasting from other things still starts with the metaphor of fasting from food, assuming the fast from food to be an embodied reminder of the other things from which we should be abstaining, which isn’t true for all of us. It’s hard to focus on the metaphorical dimensions of fasting when discussions about Ramadan and religious events throughout the month are so centred on the literal physical fast.
This dilemma was hammered home to me last year when I spoke to the elderly father of a friend, a man who has been incredibly active in his local religious community over the last several decades. He was unable to fast because of a number of health problems, which he told me so much sadness in his voice, adding that he hoped that Allah would forgive him. This from someone who could have been the poster child for exemptions from fasting because of age and health, who had fasted almost every Ramadan of his life, and who was still spending much of his Ramadan in prayer and other forms of worship. His concern about being forgiven, as if he was doing something wrong, stuck with me. Yes, we can say that Ramadan is about taqwa and not only about fasting, but that only really works if we can find ways to highlight other paths to taqwa, not only that of fasting.
Since joining the non-fasting Ramadan club, I’ve been struck by the number of people I’m encountering who are also not able to fast. In the past few years, I have spoken to so many people who can’t fast, whether because of pregnancy or nursing, or because of mental or physical health issues. In some cases, these are people I know well, but who didn’t mention they weren’t fasting until I or someone else had also stated that we weren’t fasting. I’m talking from small sample sizes without any actual statistical significance, but it seems like in any group I’ve been in, at least 20% of people there aren’t fasting, sometimes more. In other words, not fasting may be a minority experience, but we’re actually a pretty large minority. It just doesn’t always feel like there’s room to talk about our Ramadan experiences on their own terms, rather than as deviations from the “real” Ramadan experience.
When Ramadan is talked about mainly as a month of fasting, the number of people left out of that is actually fairly substantial, even if we don’t count the very large percentage of the population who miss about a week of fasting while on their periods. And this feeling of being left out matters. The reasons that many of us have for not fasting are often very personal and painful in themselves, even before the feeling of disconnection from what can be such a powerful month. When Ramadan is about community for so many people, being excluded from that sense of communal practice can really sting, a feeling I have heard echoed over and over from friends and acquaintances who have talked about dreading Ramadan for this reason.
This idea of dreading Ramadan might highlight some of the stakes involved. If this sense of grief and alienation from the supposed “real” experience of Ramadan is so great that people actually come to dread the month, then maybe there needs to be another way to talk about it. Rather than saying Ramadan is a month of fasting, with only a footnote that not everybody fasts or is expected to, I would love to see shifts within the Muslim community as a whole talking about what Ramadan means. Of course this can include fasting for many, but without excluding the fact that for many others, it might never be a month of fasting, and yet it’s still a holy month, even for us.
One year when I was able to fast, I met up with a non-Muslim friend of mine who I’d known for many years. She was asking about Ramadan and its importance to me, and I found myself comparing it to a kind of retreat, without having to go anywhere. Instead, the act of fasting brought me so far outside of my usual routine that I was able to look at my life from a bit of a distance, examine my habits and the people I spent time with, and think about the choices I made in terms of how I spent my time and energy. It was also a time to push myself towards the personal qualities I hope to deepen in myself and to make a point of spending time on the spiritual practices that hold meaning for me.
It’s much harder to find that sense of critical distance from my normal habits and that constant reminder of the sacredness of this month when I’m not fasting. It’s painful when speakers at religious events (or on social media) talk about the blessings of this month when we are “all” fasting, language that suggests that maybe this month’s blessings are less accessible to me and to so many others.
I’m still working on finding new paths through this month. I haven’t yet found a way of changing up my routine or engaging in other kinds of rituals that works in the way fasting does. Intellectually, I know it’s not true that Ramadan’s blessings are reserved only for those fasting. I know, even, that there is blessing in eating during Ramadan days for those who need to. I hope that all of us, whether fasting or not, can find ways to talk about this time of year that encompass more experiences so that no one feels that their Ramadan is only a poor substitute for the real thing.
It’s 6.30am and I’m woken by turbulence and shrill peeping. Should this maid really still be in domestic service?
Swan Vintage Teasmade (£49.99, Argos). Alarm-rigged, immersion-heated tank plumbed into adjoining chamber. When activated, steam pressure forces boiling liquid via duct into a positioned jug.
A few weeks ago I spent an afternoon in Ravenna, Italy. I’ve wanted to see the Byzantine mosaics ever since I graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in Art History. As I made my way through the city I noticed this colorful gentleman, standing near the city center, greeting everyone who passed by. His warm welcome along with delicious handmade pasta, and stunning mosaics made for a very special day.
I'm doing a webinar.
Guess why I'm excited about it?
Glad you asked.
Today I'm part of a webinar about an article which was published in the International Journal for Direct Support Professionals, it was about pride, and about the LGBTQ+ community and about how that intersects with the community of people with intellectual disabilities. I am one of the co-authors of this article. The article itself felt good to write, it's been a long time since I published on the issue, and we live, here, in very different times. When I published the first time, I believe it was the first journal article suggesting that people who were LGBT+ and who had a disability had a right to receive service that was respectful of their sexuality. I lost a lot of work because of that article.
This time we are talking about PRIDE and sexual diversity and, again, the need for people who provide service to be aware of their actions and their attitudes. And because of a partnership with the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals and Handsthefamilyhelpnetwork.ca we do monthly webinars on the topics raised in the newsletter.
I am thrilled to be speaking to people who, most probably, have a lot of influence and power in the lives of the people we serve. I hope that what we do today will further the rights of people with intellectual disabilities to be fully human and for their hearts to be fully free. How great is that?
If you want to sign up, it's easy ...
Let's Talk: Speaking OUT: Understanding Sexuality and Diversity in LGBTQ+ Individuals with Developmental Disabilities on Jun 20, 2017 2:00 PM EDT at:
Hope some of you drop by.