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Charlottesville: two points

I have a question. Is there *any* accurate (non-alt-right) evidence that the “antifa” engaged in unprovoked violence in Charlottesville? I am seeing a few well-intentioned people saying that they deplore racism yada yada but that they deprecate violence on *both* sides.

I went combing through the news and the only evidence I could find of violence from people on the left was that the protests and counterprotests devolved into ‘taunting, shoving, and brawling’. Of course I’d like to believe that the Nazis started it, and others were only defending themselves – but either way, in my opinion, brawling with people who are brawling with you is waaaay different than

1) Arranging a riot and showing up armed and ready to fight
2) Trapping activists inside a church where they’re holding a prayer vigil
3) Surrounding and roughing up a small group of UVA students trying to defend their campus from interlopers
4) running your car into counterprotestors and then reportedly backing up over them to cause maximum damage

So, OK, I’m against initiating violence, but even violence has degrees – and defending yourself and others is not only OK but required. It’s not a binary “did it happen or didn’t it” thing, and while I’m perfectly prepared to call out my own fellow travelers for conduct unbecoming when required, I don’t think there was any here that needs to be called out.

While I’m at it, another quick question: I first saw that term “antifa” or “anti fa” used by the alt-right. Now I’m seeing it everywhere. Are we reclaiming it? Is “anti fa”, with the space, meant to mean “anti fascist”?

II.
I just heard a fascinating and somewhat depressing discussion on Federal prosecution of the man who killed Heather Heyer. Apparently this may be tricky for them (this applies only to the Federal case; VA laws may differ).

  • They may not be able to make a hate crime charge stick because, no matter who he was aiming at, the victim in this case was white. (Maybe they can still get that to stick because others were injured? I don’t know.)
  • The Federal KKK law will only apply if he turns to to have been conspiring with others, not if it was a lone-wolf attack
  • If they call it terrorism, that gives the investigation more power but they can’t prosecute it as terrorism because the Federal law only covers the international variety, not domestic terrorism.

Sounds like we need to rethink some laws. At least murder is still illegal.

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

the second stage

I have been reading Victor Kloss’s Royal Institute of Magic series – a somewhat depressing endeavor, since I just finished book 5 and he died (tragically, of lymphoma at age 35) while writing book 6. They are fun, though there are klunky bits the size of speed bumps throughout. One question I’m left with is, why does everyone in the vignettes from Queen Elizabeth’s time speak and write in a completely modern style? Even a house furnished in the late 1600s and deserted since then has “all the modern conveniences”. Also, since most of the book is set in modern England, why is everyone white, cis and able bodied?

A thing I’m liking about some children’s books today is that more and more are second-stage diverse. What I mean by that, is that it always seems like when authors are trying to introduce more diverse characters, the first stage is always “I’m ____ and that’s the central issue of my story,” where the fill-in characteristic could be poor, Black, geeky, fat, gay, Jewish, unathletic…. whatever. Those books are important and I’m not putting them down; they serve a needed purpose for broadening the world of literature, for providing representation to readers in those groups and for letting other readers step in the shoes of people not quite like themselves – or maybe surprisingly like themselves. But they’re not what I want to read, at least not as a steady thing. And they have a danger: read too many and you might start thinking that being (poor, Black, geeky, fat, gay, Jewish, unathletic, trans…. whatever) is in itself a problem.

What I want are the second-stage books, and I’d like to see even more of them. If I’ve got an old book that starts with a few (probably white, cis, reasonably prosperous) children in 1903 or 1955 or 1978 finding a magic amulet or garden or creature and having Adventures, and a somewhat newer book that starts with “It’s Mississippi in the summer of 1955, and Rose Lee Carter can’t wait to move north. But for now, she’s living with her sharecropper grandparents on a white man’s cotton plantation. ” (like one Amazon just recommended to me) then what I want to read is where young Rose Lee in 1955 gets that magic and those adventures. I don’t want her to become a Nesbit character with brownwashed skin, either; she’s got real problems in her life, and no Psammead or half-magic coin is going to change the entire Civil Rights movement. But she’s still a kid, and still deserves Adventures. Maybe along the way they change a few minds in her town, or fortify her to face what’s coming in the next few years. Or maybe it’s a different kid in a fictional setting with fictional challenges, but whose ethnicity or gender identity influences who they are and how they defeat their particular bad guys. I’m flexible that way. 🙂

For some concrete examples, Rick Riordan does a nice job – more so with each new series – of having kids with a variety of backgrounds fighting fictional guys. I can’t think of a good example of a “Rose Lee Carter the sharecropper’s granddaughter gets magic” sort of thing, though I’d love to hear of one. The closest things I can think of are Adam Gidwitz’s The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog or maybe Chris Moriarty’s Inquisitor’s Apprentice – don’t ask me what it is about inquisitors! Jane Yolen’s Devil’s Arithmetic and Delia Sherman’s Freedom Maze do the opposite, sort of, using magic to send a modern girl into the rougher parts of her family’s history. Kate Saunder’s Five Children on the Western Front turns my question around, showing what happens when Nesbit’s privileged children face some real adversity. (Also, though I wouldn’t credit the series with very diverse characters, I was amused by a moment in one of Victor Kloss’s Royal Institute of Magic books where a character wonders if he’d have issues dating a half-elven girl.)

For adults, diversity might be a step ahead. I can think of a number of examples of characters who have some trait lower on the privilege scale being involved in fantasy adventures that happen more or less in our everyday world – the Twenty-Sided Sorceress series has a bunch. Patricia Brigg’s Mercy Thompson is a native American MC, Ben Aaronovitch’s Peter Grant is biracial, and I know there are a couple different lesbian superheroine stories in my Kindle’s to-be-read folder. Kate Daniels doesn’t live in our current Atlanta but hers is a direct descendent of ours and the population is realistic. It took me a few minutes, but I thought of a few historical (or alternate history) fantasies involving characters who are unprivileged in the worlds they live in- Gail Carriger has a trans character who shows up in a couple of her series (and Lord Akeldama, who might be gay, but doesn’t really count – he’s rich and powerful enough to never have to deal with prejudice). And there’s Sherwood Smith’s Coronets and Steel trilogy, especially the third book with its biracial heroine (and her Jewish friends) in Napoleonic Europe).

It has occurred to me more than once, though, that the above paragraphs can be summarized as “Sure, I’ll read books about diverse characters … as long as they’re exactly the sort of thing I already like.” I have no defense, except that they’re not the *only* kinds of books I like. But I do like them when I find them!

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

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McCain (warning for spitting)

One problem with not blogging often enough is that you can get overtaken by events. I’d been meaning to write a post about John McCain. When he was diagnosed with the brain cancer, I saw a lot of posts on social media lauding him for being independent, with a history of putting country over party.

Pfui.

My awareness of McCain goes back well before his Presidential campaign, because I was his constituent during the decade we lived in Arizona (not that long after the Keating 5 scandal, in fact. I have a special feeling for him; I’m not sure how to describe it, but it’s strong and it’s negative. It’s not the same feeling of utter disdain I have for someone like Ted Cruz, who has never been anything but vile, or even the feeling I have for Lindsay Graham, a man whose politics I’ve generally disliked but who has been known to surprise me with the occasional principled stand.

My dislike for McCain is based on disappointment; he’s had so many chances to be a hero and he’s failed at all of them. (In his Senate years I mean – did he use up his lifetime supply of cojones in his POW years? That would be understandable and even pardonable – but in that case, don’t run for the Senate!) So many times he’s stood up to his party to defend the country and constituents … and then they turned up the pressure and he crumbled. (Also, there was the Palin thing.)

Well, now everyone knows it. He flew back from cancer treatment for the healthcare vote, made an inspiring speech, voted for open debate (I can even understand that one – I do believe in open debate, even of reprehensible bills, so we can see who is reprehensible enough to stand behind them) and then promptly voted to take away access to healthcare from millions Americans.

Pfui again.

I don’t wish harm on McCain, because I hate cancer even more than I hate politicians who put power and party ahead of compassion or Constitution. I just despise him for not having the decency and fairness to want others to have the same level of care he himself is getting.

ETA: McCain’s people have rebutted the criticism that he gave a fiery speech, then promptly voted to kill the ACA, saying it was just a procedural motion to advance the bill to a vote, and that he would not vote for it in its current form. We’ll see.

Given that he has nothing to lose now, and unlike, say, Ryan or McConnell seems to have some idea of ethics even if he doesn’t always act according to it, this really would be the time to step up!

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

wellness and cooking

Update: Whatever I did to my chest muscles this time, it either wasn’t the same thing as last time or was a lot less of a strain. That one lasted for weeks. This one just hurt Sunday and Monday, and was better yesterday. So I did a light erg piece – still seemed to be coughing a bit and it’s always hard to get onto the erg after a couple of days off, but I finished 5K, anyway. My plan is to erg either harder (interval pieces) or longer today – I haven’t decided which. Then I’ll try to do a strength and conditioning class tomorrow, work demands permitting.

We plan to head out to the lake house again this weekend since we can’t go next week, so hopefully I can get in some real rowing time. (Last week I only kayaked on Saturday – they were having dragboat races so I needed to go to the upper lake and I don’t like rowing there. Too many snags and shallow places.)

Also a cooking note: last night’s dinner was stuffed mushrooms, salad and sourdough bread – I stuffed cremini mushrooms with breadcrumbs, mushroom stems, garlic, leeks, parmegiano, and seasoning. I liked them, Ted said they were OK but wasn’t wildly enthusiastic. Next time I’d use less of the breadcrumbs and more of everything else. Last week’s new-recipe experiments succeeded better: We had Welsh rabbit one day and a wine/mushroom sauce over flatiron steak another day. The sauce was easy and very tasty – basically just saute mushrooms and scallions in about a half stick of melted butter, add a cup of wine, simmer until it reduces, then add another pat of butter and parsley at the end. The Welsh rabbit might be a better dinner for winter than summer, but it was taty and filling. We had lots of the sauce left over, so Ted used it to make homemade mac & cheese later in the week. That was OK, but needed more stuff in it than just sauce and noodles – even when we have the Kraft version, we add hotdogs!

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

if you give a kid a sandwich

There’s a Facebook meme going around lately that’s bugging me. It says “I don’t want to feed hungry children so they’ll do better in school. I just want to feed them because they’re hungry.” I think it’s supposed to show the compassion of the poster, because they’re all about feeding the hungry instead of worrying about outcomes, or something. Like so many FB memes, it’s ridiculously oversimplified – as if you could only have one reason for feeding a hungry child.

The thing is, if you feed a child today, she’ll be hungry again tomorrow. It’s a bandage, not a long-term healing. I don’t say that to deride bandages – without them you can bleed to death before any healing occurs. Acute problems need immediate actions to give you time to ceate a systemic fix. But if you only apply that bandage, then you’ve still got the main problem – a child who isn’t getting fed at home.

On the other hand, if you feed that child today, and again tomorrow, and the next day, and the rest of the term, he’s got a reason to keep coming to school and the resources to pay attention once he’s there. If you keep feeding her as long as she needs it, she’s got more reason to stay in school.

Maybe that kid will grow up to be Ray Fields. Ray was probably the most financially successful person I knew growing up – he started a grocery store, built it into a small chain, and eventually sold the chain to Safeway. he still lived on our block because he liked it, but drove a nice car and wintered in Florida. He was a happy man, I think, with a stable marriage, a son he got along with and eventually two beautiful granddaughters. He was also a good man and a wise one; everybody on the block liked hanging out and talking to him, because he was always interesting and interested in you. He told me once that school lunch was sometimes the only good meal he got in a day, growing up during the Depression, and that it was the main reason he and his brother went to school.

Or maybe that kid won’t be Ray Fields. Maybe he’ll just be a kid who doesn’t drop out of high school, and who doesn’t have all the later health issues that childhood malnutrition can lead to. That’s still a pretty good outcome – and one that will help the kid earn enough of a living that she and her own kids won’t go hungry in the future.

So one school meal feeds a hungry kid so he isn’t hungry anymore, and a whole program of them can change lives and improve society. It’s both a bandage and a long-term solution. Pretty good for an intervention that isn’t even all that expensive (compared to, say, sending 100 Secret Service agents to Aspen and getting them skis). I agree that helping a hungry kid to not be hungry anymore is a worthy goal; I just don’t think it’s any reason to scoff at the long-term benefits of that school lunch.

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

My birthday Friday was good but unremarkable. At work, I started doing some actual useful things and joined a small weightlifting class in the gym that was actually pretty good. In the evening there was the monthly Chardon-knitting (which is where you drink wine and try not to screw up your knitting) at my LYS. I brought Prosecco and Tina, the LYSO, provided a delicious marionberry pie. The Prosecco itself has a story; because I had the gym class at 11 in building 2 and another meeting at 1 in building 3 and there’s a cafeteria in building 3, I brought my laptop and wallet with me to the gym so I could get lunch in between and didn’t have to go all the way back to my desk in building 4 (they’re all connected, but the distances are much farther than those sequential numbers make them sound). Unfortunately I forgot to take my wallet out of my gym bag and put it back in my purse afterward, a fact I realized just when I went to pay for the Prosecco. And the woman in front of me in line insisted on paying for it – she didn’t even ask first how much it was. Luckily I had a $14 bottle, not a $40 one! Of course she had no way of knowing it was my birthday and a milestone one at that, but I promptly told her so she’d feel even better about her kind gesture. And I guess I have a favor to pay forward now.

I didn’t have any presents to open – maybe that’s just a fact of adulthood, because it wasn’t that people didn’t care. A couple of people made donations in my name to organizations I care about (which has the major advantage of not having to find house room for more stuff!); my mom is trying to get something online but seems to be having technical difficulties; and Ted’s gift will be a wine-tasting trip to McMinnville next weekend.

Yesterday I did get a good gift – I got Ted back home! (He was only gone a week, but he had business travel on three out of the previous four weeks.) And yesterday afternoon I did something I hadn’t done in a while and got out my beading supplies. So here are a selection of recent objects, finished and otherwise. All photos taken with my iPhone, a few with a macro lens from Photojojo added.

Earrings – only the spotted ones are new; the rest are pairs I’d made a while ago, where I’d lost one and have just made a replacement. (A major advantage to making your own jewelry!)

I made this treasure necklace a long time ago, but it had broken – I restrung it and added a few new items:

Then there’s the knitting. First, socks: there are the self-patterning socks, of which I knit most of the first one while helping out at the LYS during the recent yarn crawl and am still early on the second one; plus the purple two-at-a-time pair I started months ago, that keep getting pushed aside for other projects:

There’s also the Rogue sweater, which has the body and most of one sleeve done; a linen-stitch Moebius cowl made from various leftover sock yarn; and a hat I finished back in January. Not shown are two pink pussy hats I made for friends and a baby hat for a pregnant former coworker.

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

upcoming

Gonna be a hell of a week.

This morning Ted left for Taiwan.

Tomorrow I’ll be volunteering at my local yarn shop all day – last day of the Rose City Yarn Crawl.

Monday I start the new job.

Friday I turn 50.

And Saturday Ted returns.

I’m lucky the Yarn Crawl is this weekend – I volunteered yesterday too, and though it was a bit claustrophobic spending all day in the back room, I enjoyed being social for a change. I spent today at the Portland Art Museum. Years ago I went to the Portland Craft Museum, and spent the day in great company but hated the actual museum, which is probably why never got to this one before, but I liked the Art Museum as much as I despised the Craft Museum. It didn’t hurt that they were having a Rodin exhibit. And the birthday alone won’t be as bad as it sounds, because Friday night is Chardon-knitting back at the LYS, and Ted and I will celebrate the weekend after.

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

Aaronovitch and Anglophilia

After reading the latest of Ben Aaronovitch’s Peter Grant books, The Hanging, Tree, I started over from the beginning of the series to refresh my memory of the details, and also because it got me thinking. In this series, which is written in the first person, Aaronovitch does a thing that’s rare in US and UK fiction: every time Peter Grant meets someone new, he mentions their race or ethnicity in his description – including if they’re white. This makes sense: Grant himself is not white and neither is his London. It’s a diverse place and assuming any sort of ‘default’ human would just be silly. Another thing Aaronovitch does well: Grant is mixed race, and his mom is not generic African; she is Fulani, from Sierra Leone, and this shapes who she is and thus who her son is. (His dad’s most salient defining feature is not his ethnicity, but his musical genre: jazz.)

But because of all that, and because of the way Aaronovitch reflects England’s current population into its traditional mythology, he solves a wider problem for me. A lot of American Anglophiles have sort of a cognitive disconnect: this might not be a problem for those whose thing is Swinging London and Mod fashion, but if what you get off on is Sherlock Holmes and his gasogene, or Lord Peter and his brother planting oaks; or if you’re a mad partison of York vs Lancaster; if you find the Cavaliers Wrong but Wromantic; if you’re still rooting for Hereward and his Saxons against the Normans; or wondering what it would take to wake Arthus if WWII didn’t do it; then you’ve got a bit of a problem. Because however much you think there’ll always be an England, it’s plain that the England you see today is a different place – and not in a bad way. So there’s a cognitive dissonance, because on the one hand you can applaud the NHS and the vibrance of today’s England, you can be wondering if the heart of Logres still beats, if Kipling’s Puck is still there and feeling nostalgia for a magic that is so pervasive in fiction that it must have existed, at least a little.

(Maybe I should be saying “London”, more specifically, since that’s specifically where the Peter Grant series centers, and because all that diversity still centers in the cities, though it’s changing some.)

Grant reconciles those two worlds; in fact, he does what England has always done with its waves of invaders, settlers or refugees. The land absorbs the newcomers and doesn’t close over them, but adds their weave into its tapestry. Maybe that should have been completely obvious, but since the last major one wave of incomers was a thousand years ago, it wasn’t clear if that would still work, but in Aaronovitch’s England it does – fortunately involving a lot less sheer misery than the Norman conquest. The clearest example is the parallel river spirits, though to avoid spoilers I can’t go into more detail.

And clearly I am a hopeless Anglogeekiphile because that disconnect was something that always troubled me in the back of my mind, so this all actually makes me feel a bit better.

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

leaving and being replaced

This is my last week at this job. I’m taking bets on whether there will be a going-away lunch or drink – I’d give about 70% odds against. I’m not taking it personally; when our well-liked previous admin left, there wouldn’t have been one if I hadn’t pushed her boss into it. Since my own boss is halfway across the country (and didn’t say much of a goodbye when she left at the end of her visit last week) I doubt it will happen. That feeling of isolation is one of my least favorite things about working here. On the other hand, a few people including one of the senior managers have gone out of their way to tell me I’ll be missed, and I’d probably prefer that to any other kind of farewell.

I have clearly been thoroughly replaced on the family front, anyway. When my mom gave my SIL tulips for Valentines’ Day and not even a card for me, she probably wasn’t thinking about the fact that my SIL lives her life on Facebook and I’d see it. (More probably she was thinking that Ted and I never do much for V-Day and I always forget to send her – my mom- a card though she often sends me one, while my brother and SIL do make a big deal of it.) Anyway, because I am not a saint, I had to give Mom a little bit of a hard time the next time I spoke to her, and she said something about “Well, I just decided to because Vicki hasn’t been feeling well.” It wasn’t until well after we’d hung up that I realized the irony – given that Mom was calling to see how I was, since I’d had some lingering symptoms after being sick for a solid month! (In fact, I had a doctor’s appt the next day – she thinks my soreness in the rib area when I cough is a sprain rather than pleurisy, and said I should probably rest it as far as possible and not row for a while.)

You’d have to know my mother to understand why “being replaced” is actually a joke, not an awful hurtful thing. She operates very much on a principle of out of sight, out of mind – for instance, wanting to know I’ve arrived safely if I’m coming home from visiting her, but not for any other travels. Remembering to call because I’ve been sick is a statement of love because it’s going outside the boundaries of how she normally thinks

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

There are some goals you get to by leaps and bounds (for instance, if you’d always wanted to travel abroad and then you did). There are some goals you work at for a while and then finish, like getting a driving or pilot’s license or writing a book – those are harder. And then there are the ones you work on forever, being excited to reach new levels. Maybe that’s the number of books you’ve read in your lifetime, or growing your hair out to knee-length. Some of those get less exciting as you get further along – reaching 50 professional publications is probably not more exciting than reaching 30. Some get more so – it’s probably more exciting to see your net worth hit $100,000 than $100. (Or maybe not, if it was negative for a long time and this is your first $100 in the black.)

With those accretive goals, I think they are even more satisfying when they’re ones you’ve reached entirely on your own efforts. Or maybe not entirely – if you bike a million lifetime miles, clearly you’re helped out by the people who made the bike, the people who built the road, and especially the person who watched the kids while you were putting in some of those miles. Still, every one of those miles went by through your peddling alone. It’s an entirely subjective thing in which others will disagree with me, but I think the achievement of that solo goal is more satisfying than covering those same miles on a tandem bike. (Teamwork has pleasures too, just slightly different ones.)

I’ve got a couple goals of that kind in which I should be able to reach milestone levels within a few months for one, years for the other. One is financial and I hope to get there within a couple years: this is a milestone Ted and I reached together a while back, but getting to that same point entirely on my own is going to be a pure and peculiar satisfaction. (I’m sure some other people feel the same, but and equally sure others don’t – for instance, couples who pool all of their money don’t reach solo financial goals, and presumably decide it’s not something they care much about – or that they care less about than other goals that are better served by completely merged finances.)

The other one is about erging; I’m up to 14,916,498 kilometers on the erg, lifetime. I’m up to a lot more than that in all forms of rowing, including erging, rowing a single, rowing in bigger boats, etc. but the erging is all me, every single meter cranked out by my body. I would have already hit 15 million by now, if not for illness – and now it’s been postponed further, because the doctor says that pain when I cough is a sprained rib and I should avoid rowing or other upper-body exercise. (Unfortunate, since my main alternate would be walking / hiking and it’s too wet to make that pleasant.) But I will get there sometime in the next few months, and when I do, the prizes Concept 2 sends out for milestone distances will be nothing compared to the satisfaction of getting there.

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.