scarlettina: (I've been reading)
I had all these ambitions, after WorldCon, to write a complete trip report, to write about the possible crime I was a witness to (about which I may still write) and to write here more frequently in general. Instead, what's happened is that I haven't finished my trip report and I haven't written anything since then, even though I continue to read LJ every day faithfully. :: sigh :: Best intentions and all that. So, in lieu of all the stuff I haven't written about, I want to make some brief observations, and then I need to get started with my day.

1) The Congressional vote to defund Planned Parenthood, while unlikely to get past the Senate, is one more demonstration that the Republican party isn't about conservatism. It's about control--controlling anyone and anything they feel is a threat. In this case, it's women and lower-income people. The insecurity it betrays would be laughable if it weren't so sinister and driven by so much money.

2) My desk is clean and usable for the first time in a couple of years. I'm using it at we speak. Keep an eye out for winged pigs flinging themselves skyward.

3) The new season of Doctor Who has begun on BBCA. I watched the premier and, though I liked Peter Capaldi's portrayal, I was less than impressed with the episode as a whole. The channel ran a Doctor Who marathon yesterday including a couple of episodes that are particular favorites of mine. I miss Tennant as the Doctor, and I adore the episode "Vincent and the Doctor."

4) I have read a number of books since the last time I wrote about reading at all, including
--"The Philosopher Kings" by Jo Walton ([livejournal.com profile] papersky, which I enjoyed more than "The Just City," the first book in what is apparently a duology. "Philosopher Kings" moved at a quicker pace than its prequel, exploring the wider world in which her characters live, but it had its difficult-to-read moments. I had less of a sense of the project being a thought experiment than I did the first. I was more involved overall. Walton's asked some interesting questions in these books and they bear thought. They are not my favorite of her work, but they were worth reading and considering
--"The Goblin Emperor" by Katherine Addison (Sarah Monette) which, while I enjoyed it, I was kind of baffled by in that while it's certainly set in a fantasy world with fantasy races at its center, it's really just an engaging court intrigue novel. The plot did not turn on any of the fantastic elements. It might have easily been told about a human court and nothing would have been lost. Rather disappointed by that. It did not get my first vote in the Best Hugo category this year.
--"The Ghost Brigades" and "The Last Colony" by John Scalzi, both set in his "Old Man's War" universe, both excellent fun and enjoyable space opera. I've said it before and I'll say it again: if the Sad Puppies didn't dislike him so much, they'd enjoy the hell out of his work.

5) Autumn is a beautiful season, but it is proving a tough one this year. And I'm so not ready for winter.

6) I'm currently reading "The Bone Clocks" by David Mitchell (author of "Cloud Atlas"). It's delicious reading, brilliantly literary and yet clearly in-genre fantasy. I was about to write a whole separate post ranting about why no one is paying attention to David Mitchell as a writer of fantastic fiction and what an injustice it is. Before I got halfway through my screed, I went to check this year's World Fantasy Award nominees. And there's Mitchell, nominated for "The Bone Clocks" for best novel. OK, then.
scarlettina: (Blood love and rhetoric)
Wanted to note some things from this week, for the record.

SCOTUS rulings
The Supreme Court of the United States upheld the Affordable Care Act as written, striking down a challenge to the law that would have deprived millions of Americans their health care coverage. The law isn't perfect, but it's still better than what we had before the ACA was enacted. Right on, SCOTUS!

The Supreme Court also held that same-sex marriage is legal in all 50 states, a huge move forward for the civil rights of all Americans. The news came on Friday and I was so jubilant that I actually found it hard to focus on work. I know that for my LGTB friends the fight isn't over--for rights to equal housing, equal recognition at work, and even for this law to stand in especially conservative states. But the SCOTUS ruling makes it harder for conservatives to deny LGTB citizens a fundamental right, and that's something to truly celebrate.

Awards
This weekend, as happens annually, was the Locus Awards event. I hadn't been planning to go this year. But a couple of weeks back, I got a call from [livejournal.com profile] the_child. Her mother got on the phone to tell me that [livejournal.com profile] jaylake had been nominated for an award for his final collection of short stories, [livejournal.com profile] the_child had been specifically invited to attend the awards ceremony in his place, and asked if [livejournal.com profile] the_child could stay with me. The implication was a request for me to be her chaperone for the weekend. It wasn't a request I could deny. [livejournal.com profile] the_child stayed with me, we attended the awards banquet together and [livejournal.com profile] jaylake did, in fact, win the award posthumously. I videoed [livejournal.com profile] the_child's acceptance; she did beautifully. There were some sniffles in the room. It was a great, if exhausting, visit.

At the day job, I have been nominated for an award for my work on creating a health literacy initiative intended to help make communications with our members easier to understand, and to make health care in general more accessible. I doubt I will win; the award is for work accomplished, not work merely planned. We haven't actually done anything that benefits our members yet; it's all been planning. But I'm delighted to be nominated.
scarlettina: (Truth shall make you fret)
I've been reading the web site Religion Dispatches (RD) for years. It describes itself as an "independent, non-profit, Webby-nominated source for the best writing on critical and timely issues at the intersection of religion, politics and culture." What I know is that their material--ecumenical (they cover everyone: Jews, Catholics, Mormons, Muslims, Buddhists, feminists, LGBT people--everyone), insightful, and never dull--always intrigues me. I visit the site a couple of of times a week, piqued by their daily dispatch, and I enjoy the thoughtful, provocative content.

Today's thoughtful, provocative content involves the Vatican's Council on Women--an event discussing women and women's issues without a single woman present or in active discussion or debate, and the central document around which their debate is being built. RD has run two pieces on this event, one that took a preliminary look at that central report, with its astonishingly tone-deaf cover image, and one that did a deeper analysis of the document, its authors, its content, and its underlying philosophy and implications. And then there's the Vatican's awkward effort at appealing to women to participate in their conversation via YouTube ("Hello privileged women of the world, we want to hear ::deep, breathy sigh:: from you"--see the video at that second link.)

There's fascinating and, truth to tell, disheartening stuff here. For all of the respect that Pope Francis has earned from me with his positions on the environment, poverty and--superficially, at least--LGTB issues (where the message is muddied up and tromped upon by the rest of the church and even, occasionally, the Pope himself--talk about conflicted!), these articles reveal a myopia that has not been mitigated in the least despite social evolution, progress on issues around social justice, the women's movement, nothing.

If you have any interest in religion, social issues and social justice, the church specifically, and culture in general, these articles (and the site as a whole) is excellent reading.
scarlettina: (Angel)
Every Thursday, the Women in Black stand in silent vigil on the edge of Westlake Park handing out flyers. Each week the flyer is always the same on the back, providing information about what they do--silently protest violence and injustice in the world. The front of the flyer usually addresses the issue about which they are protesting.

This week, predictably, it's the war between Gaza and Israel.

Usually there are three or four women out there in their black coats with their banners. This week there were nine, most holding up their banner and all holding out their flyers.

I have made a point not to get into discussions about Israel. My ambivalence about its actions is enormous; on the one hand, I deplore the situation the Palestinians are in and on the other, I understand why the Israelis have taken their stand. I have no solutions and no illusions that I could discuss the subject with any kind of dispassion. It leaves me at a disadvantage with anyone who feels passionately one positive way or the other.

Now understand: the Women in Black give more column inches to the Palestinian side of the equation but they do give consideration to the Israeli side as well. Still, the disproportion of their coverage--and of the whole situation--bothers me. I was glad to see them mention Israel at all.

I don't know what else to say, really. I just wanted to note the difference in this week's vigil because I see these women every week out there, making a statement, and the difference this week was marked.

"To be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others."--Nelson Mandela
scarlettina: (Furious)
[ rant mode ]

Over the last three days, three people--two on Facebook and one in email--have insisted on posting graphic, horrifying images of war dead. I understand these people have points to make. I am aware that there's a nightmare's nightmare going on in Israel and Gaza. I know how privileged I am not to live in a war zone. And perhaps I'm a princess for asking this--so be it if I am--but, people, PLEASE! Stop flinging corpses in my face! Good freaking G-d!

I'm angry about what's happening over there. I don't need the random baby-with-its-brains-blown-out image to stoke my fury. I stopped being supportive of Israel a long time ago. The dream of the original settlers has been lost in what Israel has become--perhaps what it's been forced to become. I can't support the Palestinians, either. They've lived for the destruction of Israel since the very beginning. At this point, my feeling is "a plague on both their houses."

Anyone who posts an image like that in a public forum, though, is there to generate heat, not light. And as soon as you start to do that, you lose me. You lose me completely. Because it demonstrates that you're not interested in dialogue or enlightenment. You're interested in controversy, argument and ill-feeling, not the building of bridges and the binding of wounds. A plague on your house, too.

[/rant mode]
scarlettina: (Angel)
It pleases me that the articles I started on Wikipedia about elongated coins and exonumia have thrived and grown as they have. From such tiny seeds are fully developed Wikipedia entries made. I'm also pleased that the awards section I added to the entry on Slings & Arrows has remained largely untouched. Guess I did good work there, too. One must find validation where one can.

It pleases me to see that attitudes toward animals and animal rights are slowly shifting. When New York Times Magazine covered the work of a lawyer trying to gain personhood for primates under US law, I found myself in complete agreement with his arguments. No, I'm not a vegetarian and I am unlikely to become one. Does that make me hypocritical? Well, OK, then, I can live with that. Still, given all the things we've learned about animal cognition, self awareness, and social structures, a little bit of thought about those with whom we share the planet is long past due.

And speaking of those with whom we share the planet, this story about a bull elephant poached from Tsavo East National Park (close to where I spent my time in Kenya) makes me unspeakably sad. We've got to stop this sort of thing. (Warning: This article includes a couple of graphic pictures of what was left of the elephant when the poachers were done with him. Horrifying.)

Tonight while trying to tidy the house ("trying" being the operative word), I discovered my Rolodex from, oh, at least 15 years ago. Yes, an honest-to-goodness Rolodex-brand phone directory (this style specifically), with little plastic protectors for the business cards I stored on it. It's an interesting walk through the past, with business cards from defunct companies, a couple of cards from people who have passed away, contact information for people I know have moved from the listed addresses or people I haven't spoken to in a decade or more. There are at least a couple of hand-typed contact cards in this thing. I don't know why, but when I tried to throw it away, I couldn't make myself do it. It's not like I need to have it in the house. It's . . . a souvenir from a different life, my full-time publishing life. Kind of amazing to me.

Farewell to author Daniel Keyes, whose "Flowers for Algernon" left an indelible impression on a young science fiction reader 35 years ago. She still hasn't forgotten that work.
scarlettina: (Angel)
Yesterday while I was at work, I took a break and turned to the SeattleTimes.com website to discover the news about the shootings at Seattle Pacific University. (TheStranger.com has the story without requiring sign-in or subscription. More at The New York Times.) SPU, a lovely, quiet campus, a Christian university, is a one-block walk from my house and, generally speaking, the students are good neighbors. Campus security sometimes drives down the alley behind my building. My bus stop is right there, so I'm on campus every morning.

The news shook me up. My first thought, oddly, was for the safety of my cats, an irrational thing, I know, but they were home and I was at the office, and home was very close to where the incident occurred. At the same time, I was reading that one suspect had been apprehended and another was still at large; going home seemed dicey. (We now know there was only one suspect and he was caught right away by a student monitor, assisted by others.)

As it turned out, on the way to the bus stop, I ran into [livejournal.com profile] lindad whom I hadn't seen in a while, and we ended up having dinner together. This had the dual benefit of our catching up with each other and me staying out of the neighborhood while things sorted themselves out. I got home about 7:30 PM (my homecoming bus stop is two long blocks from campus on the opposite side of the street) to a neighborhood that seemed undisturbed, though I could see, in the distance, a lot of cars near my morning stop. But into the evening, the area was so quiet it seemed as though nothing untoward had happened. It was eerie.

I'm horrified by what's happened. I've stayed away since yesterday afternoon; I don't want to get in anyone's way. But my heart goes out to everyone connected to the school, especially those families affected. What a horror. And yes, the students who apprehended the suspect? Heroes indeed. But I hate the necessity of their heroism.

It's been one helluva week.
scarlettina: (Angel)
1) I've recently seen ads for concerts by Yes and by Alan Parsons Project and I couldn't get excited about the prospect of attending either. This is A Change; I adored these bands for years. I saw Parsons once: they stood, they played, they left. Awesome music, exactly zero stage presence. I can listen to my discs and MP3s if I want a stay-at-home experience. I've seen Yes at least four times, maybe five. The last time, Anderson used a teleprompter and still forgot words, and Squire somehow lost the rhythm in one song and took a verse to find it again. At the prices this band commands, I think I've seen my last Yes show, much as I'd like to go. I'm not spending much money on concerts these days--hardly any at all. It has to be something special--and, frankly, something reasonably priced--for me to attend a show anymore. The confluence of the two is so rare that I suspect my concert days are dwindling to nothingness.

2) Proposition 1, a special ballot connected to transit in King County where I live, has failed. That means, most significantly, major cuts to bus service and other transit-related things. How shortsighted are we as a city that we'll undermine a service that's being used more than ever? Pretty damn shortsighted. Friends of Transit is pulling together a proposed measure to save those bus lines. I guess we'll see what happens. [livejournal.com profile] mcjulie has some things to say on the subject that are worth reading. Mainly, she's interpreting the results, and I don't think she's wrong.

3) Things at work are very, very busy. I'm on two teams, both of which are hitting crunch time, and I'm getting squeezed all around. I don't respond well to the kind of pressure I'm getting: Are you done yet? How much longer? Is your reporting up to date? Please update your reporting. What's taking you so long? Why are you working on that project for the other team? Are you done yet? ::sigh:: I promised myself I'd go to the office early today to try to get a leg up. I don't actually see that happening.

4) I harvested the first salad from this year's balcony garden and had said salad for lunch yesterday. It was gratifying and delicious.

5) I have a Thing happening with my left eye. I think it may be work-stress related. It feels like there's something in my eye--the left corner of my left eye specifically--but when I examine it in a mirror, I can't see anything wrong there except a little bit of blood in the corner there. I need to make an appointment with my eye doctor. I don't like this. I don't like this at all. I don't know when I can go, though. See number 3 above. I'm . . . irritated.
scarlettina: (Angel)
Here's a link to my Flickr set for my trip to New York City.

It seems that I can't leave Washington state alone for a moment. The day after we departed Seattle, there was a terrible helicopter crash downtown. And then, upon our return home, there was a terrible mudslide in Oso, near Darrington. Good thing I won't be traveling for a while.

Bringing extinct animals back to life is really happening — and it’s going to be very, very cool. Unless it ends up being very, very bad. This New York Times article on raising the mammoth, the passenger pigeon, and other extinct animals is fascinating.

Another New York Times Magazine article examines research on bisexuality.
scarlettina: (Airplane)
Everyone is talking about the mysterious disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight 370. I was reading a newspaper in a deli yesterday, and a complete stranger walked up to me and asked if there was any news of the flight's discovery. We're all chatting about it on Facebook. Every news show is covering it. Even The Onion has a theory, one that actually appeals to me quite a bit.

More seriously, though, I think the story is compelling because it's a mystery, but also because it cracks open our fears and our hopes about how safe and protected we may or may not be when we climb into an aircraft. We want to believe that all flights are carefully tracked and protected somehow, electronically monitored every moment they're in the air, but I suspect that like the sailing ships of old, once they're out there, they're on their own until they're near to their destination. The story of this flight highlights the limitations of our capabilities, our dependence upon technology, and our faith in human competence. It's a scary world out there.

ETA:
With regard to competence, this story about Malaysian officials' lack of same is remarkable.

Jim Wright, retired US Navy Chief Warrant Officer and former intelligence officer, talks about it a bit in cold, realistic terms at Stonekettle Station. I find myself gratified that he presents some of the same thoughts as I do above, only he does it much, much better.
scarlettina: (Good God)
Maureen Dowd's got a piece in the NY Times this morning about New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio eating pizza with a knife and fork. (If this puzzles you--the idea that a columnist for one of the nation's papers of record is writing about eating pizza--you obviously do not understand one of the central tenets of being a New Yorker: Thou shalt not eat pizza with a knife and fork. Seriously.) What it's really about is personal image and politicians, how one slip up can bring into question whether or not a pol's carefully crafted public persona is as genuine as they want you to believe it is, and how delicate walking such a tightrope can be. The headline is "Tines that Try Men's Souls." It's an excellent piece, wry and carefully observed. At the same time, the headline showed me what geek I am. Why?

Last year, I read "A Fire Upon the Deep" by Vernor Vinge, a sprawling first-contact novel with brilliantly conceived alien races, one of which the human protagonist refers to as the Tines because of their long, razor-sharp claws.

So when I saw the headline, "Tines that Try Men's Souls," my first, confused thought was "Dowd's writing about science fiction?" and then "What? Aliens in Gracie Mansion?"

Yes, I'm peculiar that way.

ETA: My favorite comment on the Dowd piece: "God gave us fingers and hands to eat pizza. It is written in Genesis. Eating pizza with a knife and fork is clearly forbidden in Leviticus and warned as a sign of the Apocalypse in Revelations."
scarlettina: (Angel)
It's happened. It's done. The government is shut down. USAToday offers an excellent Q&A on the whens, whys and wherefores of the situation.

It has been proposed to me that I should think of the federal government shutdown as a little belt-tightening; after all, if we can live without these services for a few days, were they really essential? Here's what's shutting down, in case you're curious:

  • Federal occupational safety and health inspectors will stop workplace inspections except in cases of imminent danger.

  • No new applications for Social Security will be processed.

  • Research by Health and Human services stops.

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will be severely limited in spotting or investigating disease outbreaks, from flu to more serious incidents.

  • Food assistance for needy women, children and infants could shut down.

  • Veterans appealing the denial of disability benefits to the Board of Veterans Appeals will have to wait longer for a decision because the board will not issue any decisions during the shutdown.

  • Head Start programs across the country will close or shut down, stopping educational support for needy kids.
  • All federal government websites will stop being maintained.

  • All National Parks and federally-funded museums, including Smithsonian and the National Zoo--national treasures all--are closed.

And that's not all. There's plenty more. This isn't about belt-tightening. This is about control. It looks more than a little like hostage-taking at the federal level, but who or what is the hostage here? Employee safety, women and children, veterans and seniors. And possibly the good faith and credit of the United States of America at the international level.

Sources:
scarlettina: (Truth shall make you fret)
I was going to make a "Five Things..." post this morning. But one of those five things was provoked by Trish Sullivan's post about sexism in SF and the Rod Rees debacle, which I still haven't been able to find anything about online; my Google-fu has failed me. But the Google brought up the Resnick/Malzberg genderfail, and it quickly overcame the other four things I was going to post about. So here's a post about the Resnick/Malzberg thing along with related ideas, and I'll post about the other stuff a little later.

I haven't weighed in on the whole Resnick/Malzberg SFWA genderfail mainly because so many others have been so much more eloquent about it than I think I can be (with thanks to [livejournal.com profile] jimhines for the awesome round-up). What I see as I read through the original Resnick/Malzberg dialogues and all the response they've provoked is a couple of men clearly out of touch with the social dialog on sexism and completely unaware that, generationally speaking, they're oblivious, outgunned, uninformed, and were completely unprepared for what hit them. No argument they've marshalled in their own defense addresses the complaints lodged against them because they don't understand the complaints or the history and perspective behind them. They don't get it.

And that obliviousness is something I've had to wrestle with myself a bit as I get older. Case in point: Several months ago, a writer of whom I'm enormously fond both personally and as an author posted a portrait of herself online. She's lost weight and has been working out like a queen bitch; she looks awesome. But I found myself channeling my mother when I said, "Great pic--look at those cheekbones--but smile!" and found myself scolded for telling a woman to smile. I was a little blindsided by the scolding. I had missed an entire social dialog that centered around the idea that it's not OK to tell a woman to smile because it communicates that we are worth nothing unless we are, first and foremost, decorative. The picture reflected the success of her efforts whether or not she smiled. I Got Skooled. And the people who schooled me were right to do so. And I understood why. The incident created an important awareness for me and provoked a lot of thought.

I understood why because the discussion has been taking place since my formative years and I've been a part of it. The fact that I've missed more recent discussion alarmed me enough to go and get myself more grounding. It's something of a generational discussion and the fact that I missed it freaked me out more than a little.

So there's a piece of me that understands the Resnick/Malzberg dismay and umbrage at the response to their dialogs. There's a cultural futureshock going on for these guys. Part of the trouble is that they've never been part of this particular social dialog--or at least they haven't been recently. Their injured dignity arises from this idea that they were (See how progressive we were? See how the ladies around us never objected to us?)--and even if they were, they're not now and haven't been for so long that their defenses, though apparently relevant to themselves, aren't relevant or effectively presented to those they're arguing with. Moreover, the arguments they've marshaled in their defense reflect a generational and social divide so profound that I'm not sure it will ever be effectively bridged; I'm not sure it can be. There's an element of "you young whippersnappers" about their response that undermines a lot of what they're trying to say (separate from the fact that what they're saying doesn't address the legitimate complaints lodged against them). They present a lot of their defense in the frame of, "Why, in my day..." as if their forward-thinking behavior 35 years ago makes them social paragons to be respected today.

Except it jest ain't so. Perspective that doesn't remain informed and evolve as the dialog develops is perspective that has ossified. And the fact that these gentlemen can't see that is another symptom of that ossification. Plus, the fact that they appear to have responded in a knee-jerk fashion rather than in a thoughtful way with a little reflection and research about why people objected to their perspective just made it worse.

Look: we all believe in ourselves and the righteousness of our positions. But without stretching those positions, testing them, we become stiff and movement becomes difficult. I think that one of the lessons to come out of the Resnick/Malzberg genderfail is that we must remain aware and elastic in our learning and our perspective. We must question our assumptions. We must learn from our mistakes, yea, even into our 70s and 80s. Otherwise we might end up telling the wrong person to smile. ;-)
scarlettina: (Book love)
io9.com has reviewed The Kobold Guide to Worldbuilding. The review includes a legitimate criticism on the lack of women in the table of contents. As [livejournal.com profile] the_monkey_king says, "Only one female author, though we did try to get more women to discuss their take on worldbuilding." It is otherwise an excellent review. Delighted to see it get the coverage.

Via Twitter, we have learned that Night Shade Books is on the verge of selling its assets "to a larger publisher." Since the announcement, I have learned one more detail from Jeremy Lassen himself, but it is not my news to share so I won't. In fact, I have a lot of thoughts about this news that I'm not going to share. This is me being discreet. Over on Facebook, Jeff VanderMeer has lots more to say about it if you're interested and you're friends with him over there. All I will say is that I wish Jeremy and the team well.

We also learn this morning that author Ian M Banks has terminal cancer and that film critic Roger Ebert's cancer has returned. Fuck cancer. Fuck it.
scarlettina: (Independence Day)
Made a last-minute decision to have people over last night to watch the election returns. It ended up being a small group, but was enough of a distraction to keep me from being too anxious about the results. I was happy to have good company, of course.

I'm pleased that President Obama has been reelected. (If you want to know why, see my last post. If you know me at all, this shouldn't come as a surprise.) I'm hoping that the final vote count will confirm that Democrat Jay Inslee is Washington's new governor; at this writing, the Seattle Times is reporting that Rob McKenna, his Republican opponent, hasn't yet conceded--and I understand that. With Washington's postmarked-by deadline for voting, we won't have all the votes counted for a few days. I've already groused about voting deadlines (again, see my last post), so I'm not going to say more about that. I'm gratified that Washington state took a progressive route by reaffirming the right to gay marriage and by legalizing marijuana in small amounts. I'm not so pleased about the charter schools thing (passed by less than 50,000 votes at this writing)--that's my tax dollars there not being spent responsibly--but the will of the people must be done.

I'm irritated as hell that Initiative 1185, requiring that "legislative actions raising taxes must be approved by two-thirds legislative majorities or receive voter approval, and that new or increased fees require majority legislative approval." Thanks for nothing, Tim Eyman. For those of you who aren't familiar with this name, Eyman has continuously pushed some of the most egregious, financially conservative initiatives to vote in this state over the last ten years or so, getting things passed that have tied the state's finances up in knots. Citizens vote in favor of these things, not understanding that the services and facilities they lose are the direct result of this kind of legislation. It makes me crazy that the electorate makes such short-sighted choices. But, again, the will of the people must be done (and clearly I'm in the minority on this one)--even if it's ill-informed and ultimately self-defeating will.

Speaking of which, America still has a Democratic Senate and a Republican House. I can try to be optimistic and hope for a better performance from these two bodies than we've had the last two years, but it's a hard-fought optimism. This country has business that must be attended to--the economy, infrastructure, the environment--and I fear that we're going to have more stonewalling of all these issues given how things have turned out. While I don't want to believe that such is the will of the people, the vote bears it out. I'll keep doing what I do: writing letters and expressing my opinion. I don't know if it will make a difference, but a girl can hope.

While all this was going on, did anyone notice that Puerto Rico voted for statehood? Assuming the conservative portion of Congress approves, we could see a 51st state in our lifetimes! That's an exciting prospect. The debate about the issue should be interesting. I'm hoping it won't be disheartening but will, instead, confirm the values that we, as country, claim to espouse: equality, justice, and liberty. Here's hoping.

Lastly, I want to make a quick note about some of the language I'm seeing with regard to governance. I've seen any number of columnists talk about how under this one's "rule," X, Y, and Z will happen. In these United States, my friends, we don't have "rulers." Our leaders govern. That was the whole point of the American experiment in the first place: to oust rule and replace it with governance. These words have specific meanings. Use them thoughtfully please. Our founding fathers certainly did.

Have you voted?

Tue, Nov. 6th, 2012 07:59 am
scarlettina: (Independence Day)
First thing on your to-do list today: VOTE. Not voting means abrogating your civic responsibility, your hard-won right to express your feelings about the direction of this country, about how decisions are made, about the rights and responsibilities of the people and the government. One vote may not seem important, but in the aggregate, every vote matters, and that's how you make a contribution in this country. Even if it means voting for the lesser of two evils from your perspective, it still makes a difference; don't think for a moment that it doesn't. Vote.

I voted a couple of weeks back. Here in Washington state everyone votes by mail, which means we can vote in the privacy of our own homes, without the threat of "poll watchers," without voter ID laws--just us and our ballots. With only one or two exceptions down-ticket, I voted straight Democratic: Obama/Biden, Inslee, Cantwell, McDermott. I voted for gay marriage (because marriage is a civil right, not a religious issue or a "special" circumstance as its proponents would have you believe) and marijuana legalization (because once it's legal, it's less attractive to criminals and, oh, by the way, helps people with medical issues). I voted against charter schools (because they take money from public schools, they're not accountable for said money once it's in their hands, they're still unproven as a decidedly superior alternative, and they're too easily exploited by private and religious interests).

In case you're wondering why I voted for Obama )

Sophie inspected my ballot before it went into the mail to be sure that feline interests were covered. She was satisfied.

I still don't understand, however, why Washington state has a postmarked-by deadline rather than an 8PM-Election-Day deadline. With ballots by mail and a postmarked-by deadline, we're still counting votes days after the rest of the country has made its decision, at least in the presidential race. It ends up meaning that our votes don't really mean that much in said race, and that bothers me quite a bit. Last night, a friend of mine suggested that, given the amount of military and naval personnel in the state, the postmarked-by deadline may ensure that everyone can get their ballots in and have them counted. But other states have huge military presences, too, and it doesn't seem to be an issue for them. This thing, I don't get.

So my most important duty for the day has been done--was done a while ago. Now the counting and the watching begins.
scarlettina: (Default)
After yesterday's grand disappointments and frustrations, we decided to take it easy today. We woke a little later, ate a nice egg and cheese breakfast, and followed a Rick Steves walking tour from the Place de la Bastille through the Marais to the Pompidou Center. We had perfect, clear weather (which we've had since Friday morning--Wednesday and Thursday it rained hard at one point or another) and felt refreshed and ready for the day.

Of course, the Bastille is no more. In its place is a tall column with golden, winged Mercury at the top, heralding freedom for the French people. It stands in the center of an enormous traffic circle and near the rounded glass facade of an opera house, shining in the morning sun, a nice marker for the start of our walk. And this walk was full of small pleasures, like the tiny gas station we passed--simply a pump at the curb near a parking garage--a random merry-go-round filled not with animals but rocket ships, flying saucers, airplanes and helicopters, and architectural details on buildings ranging from cherubs straining under the weight of columns to griffins fiercely protecting doorways.

We strolled down Rue d'Antoine and followed the guidebook toward the Place des Vosges. On our way, we stopped into a jewelry shop filled with beautiful stuff where I purchased a pendant with a tiny lion's head that, oddly, sported a lightning bolt across its face a la David Bowie's Alladin Sane; I couldn't resist it. It was wee and fierce, like me. :-)

The Place des Vosges is a lovely square, partly for its surrounding architecture and partly for its well-manicured lawns. The gallery shopping around it is quite nice with shops and artists showing their wares. Elizabeth found a great handbag/overnight bag: a sort of dark gray and green with black straps that's just sharp as hell. We engaged in a chat with an artist named Didier Lespagnol who was selling lovely watercolors of Place Des Vosges and the Pont Neuf, which we've already crossed a number of times. He showed us the magazine in which he'd been featured. We each purchased a print from him, discussed American politics a bit, and were completely charmed.

We left the square and continued to stroll down Rue des Francs Bourgeois, poking in and out of shops and past the Carnavalet museum. We considered going in, but were enjoying the walking so much that we decided to continue, and had lunch at a place called Camille. Our waitress was a young blond girl who wanted to practice her English and who was polite and accommodating. At the table next to us, a senior woman sat by herself impeccably dressed in a yellow cardigan and yellow slacks daintily eating a creme brulee. We watched her surreptitiously as she finished her dessert and ordered a glass of champagne, quietly watching the crowd as she sipped. I had a moment of wanting to engage her, but she clearly didn't wish to be engaged, so we kept to ourselves and enjoyed our lunch.

One of the things no one tells you about Paris, not friends, not guidebooks, is that every meal in France is at least a two-hour affair. In the states we seem to spend about an hour at lunch and maybe 90 minutes at dinner when we go out. In France, every meal out is an extended engagement, aided and abetted by wait staff very politely leaving you in peace. It's not neglect; it seems to be a respect for the patrons' leisurely repast. On the one hand it's a rather lovely thing. On the other hand, there are times when one just wants to eat and be done. I've felt impatient to move on only once or twice this trip when it's felt a little like an inconvenience--but not often.

After lunch we continued our stroll through the Marais. I found a great pair of earrings at a remarkably reasonable price (oval hoops that stand out well from my hair). We passed a Camp shoe store, where Elizabeth found a pair of adorable flats. I saw a pair of shoes I fell in love with, but which they didn't have in my size. Just as well.

And then we were in the heart of the Jewish quarter, where men and boys wearing kippot stood behind long tables selling etrogs and lulavs in preparation for Sukkot. The crowd picked its way around these tables, where people haggled for the prettiest fruit. We poked into a couple of great Judaica shops. I was interested in finding myself a chai, but though we saw a couple of great chais in the windows, we couldn't actually find them in stock, which was a disappointment. We also saw a beautiful synagogue whose Art Nouveau facade desperately needed power-washing.

We made a last stop in a shop selling beautiful ethnic scarves and each bought one. Mine is black, white, and gray with shirred effects and swaths of paisley patterns, made of 100% wool. It's warm and pretty.

The closer we got to the Pompidou Center, the more the crowd intensified. Soon enough we were practically cheek-by-jowl, jostling our way toward Notre Dame. It seemed to be a parade, a march, a party; we weren't sure, but the atmosphere was convivial, almost celebratory. The crowd was mostly young people, many sharing bottles of wine or smoking, some with painted faces. It was an incredible scene. It turned out to be a protest against the austerity measures that President Francois Hollande wants to institute in response to the financial crisis. It was a peaceful march, and we survived chagrinned and entertained.

We came back to the apartment, dropped off our things, had a little wine and chocolate (one must enjoy bonbons regularly in Paris!), and then grabbed a quick dinner at what amounts to a local dinner just down the street--nothing to write home about.

A couple of other quick notes:
--There's a movie theater on our street that, among other things, shows Rocky Horror regularly. I was tickled to see the posters for the showings upon our arrival here.
--I took a little time yesterday to plan our trip back to the airport, only to discover that the cab company billed me three times for the service; I must call them today to straighten it out. ::grumble::

Chocolates: chocolate-covered almonds and a dark-chocolate covered creme with Madagascar vanilla
Steps for the day: 12,746
scarlettina: (Fountain of smart)
This morning in his excellent Link Salad, [livejournal.com profile] jaylake pointed to a New York Times article about the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago completing their dictionary of Demotic, the language of the common people of ancient Egypt. It was an excellent piece. But about three-quarters of the way through, the author talks about how Demotic reveals more personal and more human details of Egyptian life. Here's the passage that pissed me off in full:

The translation effort can have its rewards, including a new understanding of what Dr. Allen called an X-rated Demotic story well known to scholars. The hero in the story goes into a cave to steal a magic book. A mummy there warns it will bring him disaster. Soon he is entranced by a woman who invites him to her house for sex, but she keeps putting off the consummation with endless demands and frustrating conditions.

On the subject of sex, Demotic scholars said the lusty Cleopatra, the last of the pharaohs and presumably the only one fluent in the common speech, probably spoke only Greek in her boudoir. That was the language of the ruling class for several centuries.

Dr. Johnson, who specializes in research on the somewhat more equal role of women in Egyptian society, said Demotic contracts on papyrus scrolls detailed a husband’s acknowledgment of the money his wife brought into the marriage and the promise to provide her with a set amount of food and money for clothing each year of their marriage. Other documents showed that women could own property and had the right to divorce their husbands.


Can you figure out what pissed me off so thoroughly? There, that middle paragraph. This is how those three paragraphs sum up to me: Demotic lets us read sexy stuff about Egyptians that we never could before. Remember Cleopatra? She spoke Greek while she had sex. Women all over her country were treated more like people than this journalist will treat the empire's last queen.

What the f*cking hell? I haven't been so thoroughly irritated by a science journalist in a long time. Since I couldn't find a comment button on the article, here's what I wrote to the author directly:

"I was fascinated to read your article about the new Demotic dictionary. Your article is packed with interesting information, and as an Egyptophile, I was excited to understand how much more we'll learn about ancient Egyptian life as a result of this work. I was dismayed and disappointed, however, by the unnecessary sexualization of Cleopatra in what should and could have been simply a factual assertion. Why make a point of characterizing her as lusty and speculating on the language she spoke in the bedroom? Why not just mention that in private life she spoke Greek? Clearly a number of her predecessors spoke the same language, all of whom were men, and you chose not to characterize any of them in the same way. Every time a journalist reduces Cleopatra to the caricature of a scheming sexual vixen, they obscure the fact that in a world where men ruled, she was highly educated and politically canny, charismatic and enormously powerful. It's past time that Cleopatra was given her due as the political powerhouse she was without having to put up with the unnecessary speculations of the male gaze and the prurient peek-a-boo attitudes about her personal life. This one paragraph distracted me unpleasantly and unnecessarily from what was otherwise excellent journalism. As a regular Times reader, I'm very disappointed."

Disappointed doesn't nearly cover it. F*ck.
scarlettina: (Independence Day)
I watched the final night of the Republican National Convention on TV last night, and I have to say: I'm baffled and I'm scared.

I saw three speakers: Marco Rubio, Clint Eastwood, and Mitt Romney. I thought that Rubio was terrific. I agree with him about nothing, but he spoke well and passionately and I have no doubt we'll see more of him; his future as a star of the party is assured. (Interestingly, I found no one fact checking him. Does that mean he didn't need it, his speech didn't warrant it, or that he dazzled journalists so thoroughly that they didn't bother?) Eastwood was baffling and a bit pathetic (video), rambling on to an empty chair and not really making much sense. Who thought this was a good idea?

As for Romney, I'm not sure what the point of his speech was. He spent the first full 25 minutes reintroducing himself to the country. He bashed the President (expected), he praised women (apparently he thinks we can run businesses and govern, but can't make decisions about our own bodies), talked about his own life (most of which we'd heard before), and lauded the American Family (one man and one woman, of course). All I could think was, after 6 years of campaigning for this role, the country knows who he is; we couldn't escape him. Surely he didn't think any of this was new, did he?

But then he began to talk about his policies and his perspective. What I took away from this segment of his speech is that, as [livejournal.com profile] jaylake put it so eloquently, he has an elastic relationship with the truth. President Obama started his first term with an apology tour? Russia is our biggest enemy? We should intervene in Syria? President Obama raised taxes on the middle class? Business is more important than the environment? Corporate regulations kill business? (Well, that canard, at least, is a familiar one.) (The Washington Post fact-checked the speech and found some pretty egregious stuff.)

But most astonishingly, Mitt Romney said that President Obama promised to stop the rising of the oceans--and the audience laughter swelled like the tides in Louisiana. There, as thousands fled the floodwaters of Hurricane Isaac, the Republican candidate made a climate change joke and the party laughed. If I needed any more evidence that this party lacks compassion, that was the defining proof for me. Beyond the fact that it's also evidence of a lack of connection with scientific reality, the fact that a candidate for leadership of our nation could mock the phenomenon that is drowning our coasts and our citizens tells me that this man isn't fit to serve. Well, that and the war mongering, the peculiar provocation of aggrieved resentment, and the mishmashed presentation of disconnected, weirdly disparate ideas.*

I don't understand this man. I don't understand this manifestation of the Republican party. I just . . . don't get it. But it scares the hell out of me.


* On the subject of aggrieved resentment, I think this quote says it all: “The demographics race we’re losing badly,” said Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.). “We’re not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term.” (Washington Post, 8/29/12)
scarlettina: (Independence Day)
It's been fascinating to watch the RNC broadcasts the last couple of nights. The calculus of national appeal has been obvious. The party that's trying to legislate away the rights of women to have sovereignty over their bodies has been pushing women to the fore. The party that constantly tries to cut unemployment, attacks welfare, and wants to dismantle Social Security tries to appeal to the unemployed, lower-wage workers, and seniors. I am gratified to see the press fact checking each major speech. Some outlets are reviewing each speech in one article. Some are doing it one talking point per article. It's all fascinating.

Here's a rundown of what I've seen on vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan's speech so far:

One Point Per Article
From CNN:
Paul Ryan misleads on debt panel's spending cut plan
Did Ryan get Obama's GM speech right?
From BusinessInsider.com:
The Biggest Mistake In Paul Ryan's Factually Shaky Republican Convention Speech

One Article Per Speech:
From The New York Times:
In Ryan Critique of Obama, Omissions Help Make the Case
From Washington Post:
Fact checking the GOP convention’s second night
From Bostom Herald:
Fact Check: Paul Ryan Takes Factual Shortcuts in Speech
From FactCheck.org:
FactCheck.Org: Ryan's VP Spin

Of all the speakers I've seen so far, the most impressive has been Condoleeza Rice. Regardless of whether or not I agree with her politically, her speech (full transcript and video) reflected a larger overall perspective and a more thoughtful approach than anyone else who has spoken so far, and an awareness of the weight and implications of the business of presidential nomination. Of course, that's her role here: to bring that intellectual heft and broader point of view. What impresses me (and not in a good way) is that, besides Ann Romney, she's the only speaker thus far who isn't in or running for political office. All the other speakers have presented pretty narrow perspectives focusing on domestic issues, some of which a president has at most limited control over, and all of which may be overshadowed by foreign policy the moment the president--whoever is elected--takes office.

Tonight, the nominee himself takes center stage. I haven't talked much about Mitt Romney here--well, I haven't talked much about the election or politics here. But my impression of Romney is that he's a cipher: he is whatever his party wants him to be. In Massachusetts, he was a political moderate; now, he's an opportunist and a right-wing mouthpiece. He'll say whatever the party wants him to say, just so he'll have a shot at being called "President Romney." I find him paternalistic and condescending, and his performance overseas was a woeful series of provincial, tone deaf missteps that left me terrified of the possibility of his leadership. I can't imagine he could be worse than G.W. Bush in that regard, but there's really no telling. The most frightening thing about him is that, given his willingness to slip into whatever role the party requires of him, we have absolutely no way of knowing what kind of president he'd actually be, though one thing is certain: we'll never get the genuine Mitt; we'll always get a party puppet. That, to me, is his greatest liability--and the greatest threat our country has to face from him.

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