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January 2017



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Jan. 14th, 2017

Collie muse

Mansplaining nonviolence, part 2

I found myself somewhat disturbed when the older white male speaker confidently asserted that Gandhi was the first person to really codify nonviolence. Had the speaker never heard of the extensive uses of nonviolence, both interpersonal and inter-clan, by many of the indigenous peoples of North America? The Haudenosaunee (or Iroquois) in particular leap to mind; as far as I know the whole point of their Confederation was to end the inter-clan violence and codify peaceful discussion as a better means of resolving conflict. This occurred well before the arrival of the colonizing whites, and the Haudenosaunee were wildly successful at it… to the point that historically much of our democratic processes are based on learnings from them. You'd think a history (I think?) teacher might want to know about the oldest, still-extant, true democracy in the world today, you know?

Puzzlingly, the speaker had previously mentioned Standing Rock as an example of the success of strategic nonviolence, noting with admiration several cases where the protestors even went to the lengths of aiding the very police and militia who were frequently violently oppressing them. Did the speaker think this was due only to the teachings of Gandhi? If so, with all due respect, he's not a very good teacher of history!

Further, I found myself disagreeing with his referring to the Standing Rock movement as concluded or "finished" – simply because the veterans had arrived. Let me be clear: I understand what he was trying to say, and I agree that once you have the culture's enforcers on your side, your cause is going to win in the long term. I also agree that it's quite likely the cops and militia at Standing Rock were and are reluctant to treat veterans the way they treated the protestors. Quite frankly the cops have clearly dehumanized the protestors to the extent that they – the people in power — were willing to lie about having used mace, tear gas, and fire hoses on the protestors… even when shown film of them doing so!

But I think the speaker (deliberately? I did point it out) missed a critical and extremely important element of this reluctance: the protestors were considered 'nonhuman' because they were predominantly women and people of color. The veterans, though… were predominantly white men. White men and their allies may be willing to viciously 'punish' those who do not conform and bow to their superiority… but equally they usually emphatically do not wish to do damage to those that look like them. The white male face is the face of power and authority to them – not the face of the criminal, the terrorist, the rebel-rouser. Frankly I think the speaker missed the forest for the trees when he tried to present this only as the cops "respecting" the veterans for their courage and service. On the other hand, it doesn't surprise me at all; I doubt the white male cops and their allies have ever really thought about their disdain and cruelty toward those who look different than they. Privilege is ordinarily invisible to the privileged.

Let's unpack one last assumption made by the speaker's conclusion that once the veterans arrived, the Standing Rock protest was finished and won. The folks who started the protest were, as I think I've stated previously, mostly people of color and women. The veterans were predominantly white men. So what does this tell us, as women gathered to learn about nonviolence for the Women's March — which is being held to protest the stated goals of the incoming president, senate, and house majority – which goals are to effectively oppress women and minorities and force them back into silence and submission? What this older white male speaker was (perhaps unwittingly) telling us was that we can protest all we'd like but it won't make a whit of difference… until the white men arrive to rescue us once more! – from yet more white men.

Fuck no. I flatly refuse that conclusion; I will not allow myself to hold such a deceitful and disempowering belief, and I will do my utmost to fight it. I've done the research! The only time women have successfully fought off male oppression and violence against women and children is when they – the women – band together in mutually supportive groups that refuse to allow the violence to occur. This is not simply one study I'm referring to, either – in case after case studies have shown that women cannot consistently depend on their relatives, or other men, or law enforcement, or even the justice system – none of that works dependably because our culture is all about white men's desires. It was, in fact, predominantly created by white men for white men. Whether it means to or not, our culture consistently ensures and enshrines the flourishing and continuance of toxic masculinity. Thus the only dependable means of stopping male violence, time after time, is women working together to make it stop.

That, however, was not the worst case of this male teacher's mansplaining. The one I remember with the most exasperation was painfully classic: towards the end of the presentation one of the many women in support roles was taking questions. One of the questions was: why does this group of supporters of nonviolence wish those who walk with them at the Women's March to all walk in silence? She was starting to answer the questioning woman… and the older white man actually walked up and cleared his throat to interrupt! When they both looked inquiringly at them, he told a story about a kid who discovered how powerful being silent in the face of aggression could be.

The truly embarrassing thing was: the story had literally almost nothing to do with anyone there! It was about one of the white male teacher's teen students – the quarterback on the school's football team – who was at a bar where someone got drunkenly aggressive with him. He remained silent throughout and, according to the teacher, found the next day that his social status had "shot through the roof – through the roof!" due to his restrained behavior.

So… the older white male demanded attention for his story and interrupted the explanation being made by a woman to another woman… so he could tell about a privileged boy athlete – to a mixed crowd of predominantly middle-aged and older women and (some) men of color. It was, frankly, embarrassing to watch.

Further, women are classically the silenced and ignored social class within patriarchal cultures. For men to tell women they must march silently is, to me, not empowering at all – it is simply re-inscribing patriarchal attitudes about the "proper" behavior of women. It felt somewhat like: "we men have decided silence is powerful – therefore you women must not speak because we cannot be upstaged whatsoever!"

So that's my impression of the talk. I was disappointed in it, but at least I got a few books and names to research later. Also, for completeness, here are the quotes I liked. The second one is an old favorite, while the third really spoke to me. As the speaker noted, the fourth is also quite applicable to today's situation as well:

"If a law in unjust a man is not only right to disobey it, he is obligated to do so."
~ Thomas Jefferson

"Be the change you wish to see in the world."
~ Mohandas Gandhi

"The War on Terror is the terror."
~ James W. Douglass, Resistance & Contemplation: The Way of Liberation.

"The secret of freedom lies in educating people, whereas the secret of tyranny is in keeping them ignorant."
~ Maximilien Robespierre

Originally published at Collie's Bestiary. You can comment here or there.

Jan. 13th, 2017

Collie muse

Mansplaining nonviolence, part 1

I will be marching in the San Jose Women's March on the 21st of January, mostly because traveling to Washington to march is financially currently beyond me. Consequently when I heard there was free nonviolence training being offered in association with the march, I eagerly signed up. Not only do I want to be prepared ahead of time for the march itself (though the police are not at all concerned that there may be violence), but also I believe learning more about nonviolence as a form of protest is an extremely valuable idea.

I went to the training yesterday. It was… interesting. Mostly. I'm glad it was free, though; had I paid for it I would have been mightily annoyed. In retrospect, I think the nonviolence training group is not actually closely associated with the march, but rather is a group which intends to participate in the march, and thus offered this free training to everyone planning on attending… in order to gain access to that extensive group of people. Apparently if they can produce 100 people wearing their characteristic scarves (which they had for sale at the talk for $10) then they'll be allowed to lead the march.

To be fair, there was a handout which gave me something new: I did not previously know about the ACLU of California phone app at www.mobilejusticeca.org which "allows users to record law enforcement in real-time, alert other users to nearby law enforcement encounters, and to submit videos and incidents to the ACLU." I particularly like that it lets you set an automatic 'turn off' on your phone after recording something — so if a belligerent person demands your phone it shuts down and they cannot simply delete the recording.

The presentation itself started with a large, nervously smiling, white man welcoming us all and making a joke: he'd told his teenaged son last night that he was going to be at the presentation on nonviolence for women attending the upcoming Women's March. His son apparently gave him a skeptical look and said, "OK, Dad… so you're going to get up and mansplain to a whole bunch of women?"

Those wacky teens, amirite? Cue laugh track.

To this man's credit, he did not actually mansplain anything – he simply introduced the older white man who was the one who mansplained to us all. This new guy was a teacher at some local school, and had his credentials read before he started the presentation. He was the only one to be so introduced, and I guess the credentials were nice enough, but honestly? I didn't care. I wasn't there to admire him – I was there to learn about nonviolence. Unfortunately even that was going to disappoint me, though I did not know it at the time.

The PowerPoint presentation started out interestingly enough. A slide pointed out how ineffective either violence, vandalism, or vulgarity is in effecting social or personal change, and there were some other slides which delineated the various types of nonviolent protest and persuasion: diplomacy, petitions, etc. The various forms of noncooperation were also noted: consumer boycotts, strikes, embargoes, social & civil disobedience, etc. There were some quotes I liked (they're at the end of this blog), and I am familiar with a book they highlighted: Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict by Erica Chenoweth & Maria J. Stephan. I'm glad they mentioned it, as the research is both fascinating and excellent – mostly due to Chenoweth apparently being a former "hawk" who was converted slowly and reluctantly via the empirical evidence to the cause of civil resistance rather than violent revolution. As the speaker noted of the book's message, the media generally never inform us of how nonviolent revolutions are twice as successful as violent ones in achieving their stated goals – and how this dramatic difference extends across both interpersonal and international situations. I guess violence is simpler and more exciting for the media to cover?

The speaker had a few slides regarding Gene Sharp's work – apparently he's considered to be sort of the father of civil disobedience — and I learned there were two types of nonviolence: strategic and principled. Both are excellent and useful tools, but apply in different situations. For example, Sharp is apparently the main proponent of strategic nonviolence, which tends to be based on "people power" and is a temporary commitment where the people withdraw their consent to be governed, in order to ensure a change in leadership. Strategic nonviolence is of value because it requires less training and discipline and leads to quicker, albeit also culturally 'shallower,' results; the 1980s Philippines is a good example of this. Gandhi, on the other hand, is most commonly associated with principled nonviolence, which aspires to more slowly change hearts and minds via deep cultural change accomplished through the Law of Redemptive Suffering and a life-long commitment to the disciplines of Satyagraha (or "truth power") and Ahimsa, or a lack of desire to harm others. A good example of its use in the US is the Civil Rights Movement.

Also, all of the above is of necessity just a quick & dirty version of complex subjects, as I was scribbling notes madly during the talk.

So pretty clearly from the above what we, the women planning on attending the Women's March, would most need to learn about would be Sharp's strategic nonviolence, right? We were, after all, a group of predominantly women – classically the social group required to manage both a job and the home, which means being always short on time — so quicker training would usually be better for us, I would think. Further, we weren't looking to change the entire democratic process here, or force sweeping cultural change. We were, as far as I could tell, just looking for a means of ensuring no violence occurs while we march to state our belief that (despite the religious convictions of all those rich arrogant old white men currently holding power) women are human too — with all the rights, privileges, and dignity which accrue to that state. Further, learning about strategic nonviolence was fine with me; I like learning new things.

Except… we then spent the next hour and a half of the two-hour presentation… being told about Mohandas Gandhi.

I will not deny the speaker's commitment to the cause; he was clearly moved several times as he watched clips from the movie Gandhi with us. However, I'm deeply unconvinced this was really the best way to teach strategic nonviolence for an upcoming, peaceful march. For example, how does watching movie examples of extreme violence perpetrated against the determinedly nonviolent help us learn about strategic nonviolence? Further, the movie was made by Western white men. Were any of Gandhi's family, close friends, or followers consulted on this (rather sanctifying) version of the man?

Originally published at Collie's Bestiary. You can comment here or there.

Nov. 18th, 2016

Collie muse

Book Review: "A Circle of Quiet" by Madeleine L'Engle (pt. 3)

(originally published 15 November 2004)
 Still, like L'Engle, I hope we all continue learning throughout our journey of life… and I hope I have a long journey yet to go. I too want to constantly and happily relearn the importance and wonder of touch, of exploration and closeness with those you love.

I love her occasional turn of phrase, as well, as she describes wonderful creative concepts. Read this one, for example — her imagery is as lovely as her acceptance of the beauty of myth-making:

If we are not going to deny our children the darker side of life, we owe it to them to show them that there is also this wild brilliance, this light of the sun: although we cannot look at it directly, it is nevertheless by the light of the sun that we see.

If we are to turn towards the sunlight, we must also turn away from the cult of the common man and return to the uncommon man, to the hero. We all need heroes, and here again we can learn from the child's acceptance of the fact that he needs someone beyond himself to look up to.

Yes, exactly. I tend to rather agree with her belief that children's books should be good enough for adults too — censorship, no matter what the reason, is bad. As an example, I resent it when I hear a bunch of undersocialized male computer game designers consider games for women to be 'dumbed down' regular games. If it's not interesting enough for them, why would they think it would be interesting enough for anyone else? If there is no joy in the creation of an object, why would there be any joy in its consumption?

I also love her version of 'write what you know': "Our projecting from the tangible present into the 'what if' of the imagination must be within the boundaries of our own journeying." That's been my experience also, and paradoxically is one of the reasons I've stuck to intellectual speculation. Still, despite my fear that I've not had enough journeying to write believable fiction, I too believe mystery can be beautiful in and of itself.

On the other hand, I don't resent attempts to comprehend mystery — intellectual challenges are beautiful and wondrous too, after all. So I agree with her that disagreement does not necessarily equate to misunderstanding — more than once I found myself empathizing with her lovely conceptual descriptions (as with the beauty of mystery), then wincing at the examples she gave.


On the whole the book was interesting, if somewhat self-indulgently rambling. Unfortunately what I most got from it was mildly interested disagreement. I happen to agree "an acceptance of contradiction is no excuse for fuzzy thinking. We do have to use our minds as far as they will take us, yet acknowledging that they cannot take us all the way." Nevertheless, I think she gave up on her mind far too early.

In the end I couldn't agree with her assessment of philosophy, even as I empathized with her delight in learning. I respected her dedication to her craft, but I felt King's On Writing was a better writing tutorial. I think she'd do much better to stick to fiction, rather than books of this sort — although upon reflection, I can't really say this isn't fiction also.

Still, it is my hope she would understand I disagree without desiring to threaten, as she herself notes in a listing of elements of maturity. It's a challenge to retain the "ability to judge and dare creatively," and for that I value the book — it made me think, even if my thoughts were mainly disagreement or puzzlement.

Originally published at Collie's Bestiary. You can comment here or there.

Nov. 17th, 2016

Collie muse

Book Review: "A Circle of Quiet" by Madeleine L'Engle (pt. 2)

(originally published 15 November 2004)
 The nature of creation & Self

On the other hand, I did admire the courage of someone willing to continue doggedly to write, even when she sold nothing whatsoever for an entire decade. I don't know if I'd have that kind of determination.

Also, some of her speculations on the nature of concentration rang true to me. I've often felt the focus of a child at play closely approximated the focus of an artist (or other unselfconscious adult) at work. Perhaps that's why it's so easy to lose yourself in activities you love — you're actually playing, not really working per se. As she notes:

The concentration of a small child at play is analogous to the concentration of the artist of any discipline. In real play, which is real concentration, the child is not only outside time, he is outside himself. He has thrown himself completely into whatever it is that he is doing. A child playing a game, … is completely in what he is doing. His self-consciousness is gone; his consciousness is wholly focused outside himself.

When we are self-conscious, we cannot be wholly aware; we must throw ourselves out first. This throwing ourselves away is the act of creativity. So, when we wholly concentrate, like a child in play, or an artist at work, then we share in the act of creating. We not only escape time, we also escape our self-conscious selves. [italics hers]

As someone who throws herself whole-heartedly into play and projects I really enjoy, I could certainly empathize with this. It would be interesting to see if any brain studies had been done on the centers of self-awareness for children and adults at play or at work they love. I've often felt really good computer programmers have this sort of fugue, or unselfconscious focus, for example.

I'm not sure, however, I entirely agree with her even here. She mentions when receiving "an overdose of praise, my conscious mind is at first startled, jolted, and then it simply swats the words away, like a fly, a biting fly: it knows such words are dangerous."

Up to here I'm with her, even though I know this self-effacement is a cultural construct taught to women in general and some artists in particular. As she herself states, it's who you are which truly makes an impression, far more than simply what you or someone else says of you.

However, when she asserts a complete lack of self is absolutely necessary to creation… she loses me. How can she say this, yet state later a lack of positive self-image is detrimental to a child? Her example is particularly sad to me, having been there myself — a teacher who simply assumes you're not bright enough to produce the work you've produced.

And yet even here she half jars you out of sympathy, and half resonates. Like her, it has been my experience also that the most compassionate, most real people are those who can transcend hubris, who understand individuality doesn't equate to self-absorption.

Yet still: if there truly is no Self whatsoever in creation, then wouldn't it logically follow the greatest works of creativity should be formed by the most selfless — for example, children at play? -and in fact, all works should be of equal value as long as they were created without Self being involved?

Further, I'm shocked at her dismissal of intellect as completely disassociated with love and art. I couldn't create without thought, even if I usually let my Self go while creating. I'm not sure she really does either, to be honest, especially after her little fictional story based on her reality.

My Self may be elsewhere during the joy of creation, but I fall back on both emotion and intellect — feeling and training — in order to create. Further, she herself states the artist must have detachment and involvement, both linked by compassion. I've always found compassion to be an intellectual exercise best expressed through emotion. To favor one over the other is to cripple the whole individual — hysterical over-emotionality is as warped and dangerous as a logic stifled of all humanity.

To state intellect is useless to creation is an assertion I find unconscionable — I've no desire to trade the beauty of truth (whether intellectually or emotionally understood) for a comforting lie, no matter how cold the truth may initially seem. Is it not, for example, simply emotional hubris to assume the universe is all about God, and God is all about me? And how is it she can deny Self in creation on the one hand, then insist creators are responsible for the effects their creations have on others?

Life, the universe, and everything

Still, it feels like her heart is in the right place. As she herself notes, "an eagerness to believe ill of others in order to feel virtuous oneself is to some extent in all of us." I may disagree with her on some subjects, but that doesn't make me (or her) right. I'd love to have a long discussion with her, to find out if I'm misinterpreting her writings.

Furthermore, I think she puts her finger right on the essence of starting a good story or myth: "In a good story we find out very quickly about the hero the things we want to know about ourselves." Admittedly, she doesn't really do that in this book, but there are indeed gems there to find.

For example, I agree parenthood is a responsibility which cannot be abdicated simply due to fear of being disliked by one's offspring, or the desire for simple, 'feel-good' solutions to complex issues. I have emphatic agreement also regarding abandonment of the dying lessening the still-living, and how death is as much a fearful terror as a wondrous, great adventure.

Like her, I also try to live my life embodying the belief in the small, unremembered acts of kindness being more important than impersonal, generalized, public charities. Harder still is the attempt she mentions to not exclude those who've hurt me. To be honest, I don't think I'm as loving about that as she seems to be.

Originally published at Collie's Bestiary. You can comment here or there.

Nov. 16th, 2016

Collie muse

Book Review: "A Circle of Quiet" by Madeleine L'Engle (pt. 1)

(originally published 15 November 2004)
I came to this book with great expectations. Perhaps if I'd not loved A Wrinkle in Time so much, or hadn't been informed this book was a fabulous exploration of the wisdom of the maturing woman, I wouldn't have felt quite so much vague disappointment later.

Unfortunately, I did; I don't feel the book lived up to that glowing assessment, especially since I know mature women who truly are wise.

Beauty is truth, not terror

There were a couple of things L'Engle wrote of which I simply couldn't fathom. For example, her stated initial atheism fades over time into a sort of uncritical, dewy-eyed worshipfulness of "god," and I couldn't figure out why. Was this part of her life journey? If so, I must respectfully put forth that mature wisdom does not automatically equate to uncritical acceptance of comforting myth.

As she notes in the book, she apparently defines the possibility of life as "cosmic accident" as being untenable, since that'd mean it was nothing more than "everything's a bad joke." I'm not sure why our being a cosmic accident is necessarily a bad joke, though. Doesn't that make it all the more wonderful, all the more precious, that due to — perhaps in spite of — the "wild unpredictability of the universe" we are indeed here? Shouldn't it nudge us more closely to a true reverence of the beauty and mystery of life?

Another expression of L'Engle's puzzling conversion to uncritical acceptance of the existence of "god" is her mentioning Sartre as being depressed by the "'is'ness of an oak" — that he somehow feels it diminishes him to realize the oak will exist and continue to be, even should he not be.

I admit, I find his attitude as puzzling as hers, which is stated as: "the perfect 'is'ness would be frightening without the hope of God." Why? 'Is'ness just is. It is beautiful in and of itself. Why must she lessen or cheapen this extraordinary miracle of chance and being, by ascribing it to a human deity? She goes on to say:

Man is; it matters to him; this is terrifying unless it matters to God, too, because this is the only possible reason we can matter to ourselves: not because we are sufficient unto ourselves — I am not: my husband, my family, my friends give me my meaning and, in a sense, my being, so that I know that I, like the burning bush, or the oak tree, am ontological: essential: real.

Again, why? She almost seems on the right track (at least as I see it) with the necessity of human interaction and caring — and then suddenly, there's that need for a watchful father again. Why can't the caring, the mattering of those dear to us suffice? What's wrong with a simple joy in existence, within the ontological beauty of here and now?

The oak doesn't need some deity's "mattering" any more than it needs ours. Might we learn something from this? Isn't it rather shortsighted to assume the oak needs our benevolent over-lordship? -as shortsighted as assuming we ourselves need a big daddy beaming paternally over us too? Is this nothing more than a childlike need to be important and cared for by something bigger than ourselves — to self-justify our own delusional importance in the universe?

Furthermore, why be terrified of the wonder of the universe? Why not marvel incredulously at it? Why this peculiar need to assume someone who manages it is also managing us? As a simple example, I find it hard to believe a deity which created wonders as vast as the wide-flung galaxies, and as mind-bogglingly complex and tiny as the unfathomable energy powerhouses we find in mitochondria — is carefully glaring at us, to be sure we don't have sex until the appropriately dressed priest-guy waves the starter flag of marriage over us! Why can't we and the universe just "be," the same way the old oak just "is"?

Fiction or fib?

I also found some of her writing quite disconcerting. At one point she writes for several pages of an incident in the tiny, insular New England town she lives in. It's heart-wrenching — the sneering between the newer "touristy" arrivals and the "old guard" may be bad, but when the house of one of the newcomers burns, one of the old guard harms himself in a heroic rescue of the children.

And then, just as you're feeling warm and touched by how human kindness triumphs… she tells you the whole story is a fake. She goes on to describe how less dramatic incidents from her actual life informed the story, but assures her readers the heroic rescue, while indeed fictional, would surely have occurred given a chance to do so.

I admit, there was a strong feeling almost of betrayal at finding the whole thing was made up. I would not have minded half so much had she not said from the very beginning she was going to conduct a writing exercise — but unfortunately she did not do so. If she was trying to show up her readers as being as uncritically accepting of her writing as she appeared to be of god, then she certainly succeeded with this reader… but I didn't believe her again past that point.

The whole thing had an extremely unfortunate dampening effect on my enjoyment of the rest of the book. I found myself mentally reviewing what I'd read so far, wondering where else she'd been deceptive as well; and repeatedly reminding myself she was probably not being entirely truthful in her (theoretically) autobiographical writing.

This had the additional effect of making me no longer believe her assertions. For example, she refers repeatedly to writing in her journals (both incidents in her life and fictional snippets), and of going back to them to support assertions she made to her family or friends about this or that. Also, and perhaps unsurprisingly, no one else was ever, ever allowed to touch the journals. Consequently, I found myself feeling sorry for those people fooled by her, due to her insisting what she'd written was truthful.

I wonder if she even realized what she was doing. Did it make her feel more special somehow? She does mention that as desperately necessary for individuals. Still, I feel memory is fallible enough as it is, without her baseless assertion that writers easily have total recall, followed by her writing down fiction and passing it off as fact.

Does she not realize this cheapens truly valuable statements such as, "We must make it evident that maturity is the fulfillment of childhood and adolescence, not a diminishing; that it is an affirmation of life, not a denial; that it is entering fully into our essential selves"? I find that a laudable goal, but when it's mixed in with existential nonsense and deliberate story-telling (I'm not sure it can really be labeled lying) then it's hard to find the jewels for the dross.

Originally published at Collie's Bestiary. You can comment here or there.

Nov. 9th, 2016

Collie muse

Election Day

I truly believed we as a nation were better than this.

…I am beyond appalled. I have no words.

Originally published at Collie's Bestiary. You can comment here or there.


Oct. 26th, 2016

Collie muse

Wonderful Wednesday

I have had such an excellent day today! Got to sleep a few hours later than usual, then took Goldie to her new agility class. She's doing an amazing job! It's a real pleasure to work with such a happy, eager dog, and I'm overjoyed that she came into my life. Now all I have to do is integrate her training into my daily schedule so she gets to play and train a lot — and I think she'll be awesome! Well, okay — I have to get myself whipped into shape too. I have as much to learn as she, after all, in this sport which is new to the both of us.

After agility class I went to an informal ATS (American Tribal Style) bellydance practice at a friend's house, and that went extremely well too. There were just three of us today, and it was my first time, so I got to ask lots of questions on two steps in particular that I'd been having trouble with. Not being in a paid-for class means that I didn't feel guilty about taking up too much time with my requests. That meant our hostess (who has been dancing for almost two decades now) was able to show me slowly and repeatedly what I should be doing, and where I was going wrong. It was so nice to finally figure out where my feet should be going, then get the steps right, and then feel the flow again as we danced!

Dinner was particularly nice too: orange-cranberry pot roast! Very tasty; one of my "dump meals." A dump meal is basically a crockpot meal placed in a reusable Ziploc plastic bag and frozen, and I can make ten to twelve of them all at once in a few hours on a weekend. The freezer the guys got for me has been a real bonus for this! Once I've made a bunch of the dump meals I'm good for a lot of dinners with very little effort on my part — which is a huge win for me. All I have to do is take a dump meal out and stick it in the fridge to thaw overnight, then empty it the next day into the crockpot. Add in some veggies and/or rolls and dessert at the right time, and presto: instant dinners! Also, pot roasts always come out of the crockpot juicy and delicious, which makes me feel gleefully accomplished. :)

Finally, I had my last dissertation interview tonight — woohooo! I am so happy about this. Not only have I had the privilege of speaking with some truly brilliant and fascinating women, but also the pressure of getting all my interviews done is finally off me! I want my dissertation to be useful to women in general, but I also intend to try my best to make the relevant chapters a hopefully worthwhile and truthful portrait of all the wonderful women who shared with me — I am so grateful to them. Fortunately they've all agreed to review my writings to be sure I'm accurately representing them, as well.

So yeah… today has been awesome! I'm very happy with how things are going right now. Life is good! :)


Originally published at Collie's Bestiary. You can comment here or there.

Sep. 12th, 2016

Collie muse

My first rally: recalling Judge Persky

I went to the "Rally to Recall Judge Persky" at the San Jose Hall of Justice on September 2nd. It was the first rally I'd ever been to and, as a friend put it, since it was a rally rather than a protest it was a pretty safe 'first' to try. It was… weirdly fascinating.

Before one of the signs at the Persky recall rally

Before one of the signs at the Persky recall rally

I took Goldie with me. I figured not only would it be good practice for her in maneuvering through crowds, but also she's a really mellow pup… maybe she could help folks stay relaxed a bit. As we left the house I was amused to hear Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyrie" on the radio — it seemed a good omen! We arrived at 11:00 am, an hour after the scheduled start. There were some tall banners set up as a backdrop to the speakers' podium, and a nice, large crowd with many signs. I was pleased and surprised to see how many male speakers there were — I think it's an excellent idea for male allies to start speaking up against rape, since I suspect rapists and rape apologists aren't going to listen to women. There were also many intelligent, articulate, and fascinating women who spoke, including Stanford law professor Michele Landis Dauber, who is leading the recall campaign on Judge Aaron Persky.

Interestingly, though the rally was set to run from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm, the speakers were all finished by 11:30 am. Folks wandered around a bit, chatting with each other and getting last-minute interviews. I watched Prof. Dauber make an effort to speak with every person there who wished to speak with her. That impressed me; she seemed to be a genuinely kind and caring person despite starting to droop a bit by the end of all that talking. I went up to her after everyone had had a chance to speak with her and thanked her for making the effort and leading the charge, so to speak. That kind of thing is hard work, and opens you up to all kinds of flack and other abuse. I figured she'd heard enough of that sort of crap, so perhaps a genuine thank you out of appreciation for her effort would help some. She looked first surprised, then pleased at my thanks… so I think it was the right thing to do.

Goldie was a real champ! It was a nice day, but if you weren't in the shade it got quite hot. Initially Goldie wanted to sniff around rather than sit and watch in the shade with me, so she ended up tired and thirsty. Unfortunately I also realized I'd left her little collapsible water bowl at home. Fortunately I'd brought a water bottle for myself, so I just had a long slurp of it and then slowly poured water out into my hand for Goldie to lap up. She seemed relieved at that, and I did it more than once to make sure she stayed comfortable and hydrated. I was also a bit surprised at how many folks came up and asked if they could pet her, and how many were really happy to see her there. I think she really helped a lot — far more than I'd expected. That was nice.

I saw quite a few labeled media crews there — at least BBC, NBC, and CBS off the top of my head. Talking with a woman who identified herself as a freelance Associated Press reporter, I discovered Brock Turner had been released at like 6 or 7 am so as to avoid the crowd. She was grimly pleased to report that there were in fact protesters and press there waiting for him, though. He slunk off quite unlamented, from her words.

Goldie and I both got a few moments in the background on a CNN live report. Notes on how to get interviewed, if there's a next time & I want to try getting interviewed: stand in the front! Look neat and tidy, maybe smile at the interviewer. Have your message ready ahead of time — and practice speaking clearly and confidently! The reporter will ask you questions, and having facts to hand makes you sound much more articulate — which means she'll be more interested in continuing to talk with you. Curiously, a sign does not appear to be a requisite… though I think it helps. If you're carrying one, make sure the writing is clear at about 15 feet, though — and keep the message short and to the point. A graphic or some use of color seems to help too.

Unfortunately there was — of course — a troll there that day… and he was — of course — an older white male. He was astonishingly insistent that the victim, Emily Doe, had to be lying about being unconscious and had somehow persuaded the witnesses to lie for her too… and consequently it was clear that Brock and Persky had done nothing wrong. Sadly — but also predictably — the press lapped it up, which seemed to please the troll. It was tremendously frustrating for the women there, since the troll was very calm and sincere sounding, yet also quite impervious to reason. Guess it was all about him, for him. I was impressed with one woman who stepped forward, identified herself as being from the Palo Alto non-profit Deborah's Palm, and gave a handful of statistics which quite definitively refuted the troll's rape apologetics. I made sure to thank her later for that — having the actual facts to hand is very powerful for women, I think, when men are insisting on the old nonsense like rape not being that under-reported, or demanding proof of everything women tell them. Funnily enough at one point I ended up standing next to the troll… so I said to the reporters, "I don't know why you're encouraging a troll!" He was affronted by that — he wasn't a troll! He was sincere about his convictions! I amusedly noted that most trolls are quite sincere in their mistaken beliefs — at which point he was abruptly not interested in talking to me anymore. Thinking about it later, I find it amusing that he was happy to shrug off protests from the many women attempting to reason with him — but as soon as someone shrugged him off he was unhappy and upset. Poetic justice?

Originally published at Collie's Bestiary. You can comment here or there.

Aug. 7th, 2016

Collie muse

Ridiculous conversations with housemates

I have tons of things I should be writing and reading and painting and training and cleaning and organizing and researching and blah blah blah… but I'm out of givashits right now. This also means it's sometimes hard to come up with something clever and intelligent-sounding for here. The following will have to do instead — because these are just things that made me laugh, and when my brain is all out of brain juice due to scholastic work, having some brain candy that makes me happy is a good thing! :-)

~ * ~ * ~ * ~* ~ *~

C, staring perplexedly at the floor, "Why is there glitter all over the mat here?"

B: "Because we live in a fabulous house!"

C pausing for a moment, then: "…can't argue with that…"

~ * ~ * ~ * ~* ~ *~

C, driving the car & continuing the on-going conversation: "Oh, I saw a great bumper sticker the other day! It was one of those silly 'God Bless America' stickers with an American flag on it, but it was old so all the red had faded off. All that was left was God, America, and the little blue square with stars in it. It was almost intriguing! Was it supposed to be 'God Stars America' or 'God Square America' or 'God Blue America' — or what?"

L raises an eyebrow: "'God Blew America'? Shouldn't we all be happier if that was the case?"

C: "Argh! Man, the second that came out of my mouth I knew I was in trouble!"

~ * ~ * ~ * ~* ~ *~

B, idly studying a bottle of wood polish: "'If swallowed, call physician immediately.' Well, that's not going to work — I'd have terrible cell reception!"

C: "What do you mean? We have great cell reception!"

B: "Well, think about it. First, before swallowing, it'd have to catch me and hold me down long enough to swallow-"

C: "Argh! I can't believe I fell for that — and encouraged you!"

Originally published at Collie's Bestiary. You can comment here or there.


Jul. 31st, 2016

Collie muse

Goldie does it again! :)

Squeeee time! I'm so proud of my clever girl! :)

Here's a photo of Goldie looking unimpressed at me gleeing so much at her that the cell wasn't steady enough:

Goldie & Agility 1 cert

Goldie & her first Agility cert — one of many, we hope!

…and here's the actual certification scanned in. Amazing what you can do with Photoshop to pretty things up when you want! :)

Agility 1 -- aced! :)

Agility 1 — aced! Onwards to Agility 2! :)

Originally published at Collie's Bestiary. You can comment here or there.

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