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April 2015



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Apr. 22nd, 2015

Collie muse

My esprit de l'escalier, part 1

There is a French term I love: esprit de l'escalier. It translates literally as "wit of the stairs," and means roughly "the concise and clever retort that occurs to you too late, as you are on the stairs and leaving the scene." I was sad to hear it is rarely used any more in French, as I think it's a perfect turn of phrase for what often happens to me when I'm having difficulty focusing, or am participating in a particularly contentious discussion where everyone is both struggling hard to remain civil, but also exploring issues which are often hard to conceptualize or verbalize.

I've noticed I often come up with the perfect answer for a question only some time after I've had time to muse quietly and in peace. So that's what this blog is: an answer — maybe two — to questions which were important to me, but difficult to answer well at that particular, often heated moment. I suspect questions like these will come up more than once in my life, and I want to remember the good answers I was able to come up with. If this helps anyone else with similar issues, all the better.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Many years ago I worked for a short time in a mall that had a Chick-fil-A in it. I often ate there because I liked their chicken sandwiches. The mall was slowly failing, though, so eventually the Chick-fil-A closed. I was mildly bummed, but thought no more of it.

Fast forward to today, where there's still controversy over what precisely Chick-fil-A supports. For myself, I've read over what I could find on the subject, and as a consequence I've come to the conclusion that I cannot in good conscience spend my money there any more. Again, after making that decision I thought no more of it, past keeping an eye out for any sign that the company has had a public change of decision… but the issue came to the fore for me recently when an acquaintance of mine and I were trying to figure out where to go for lunch. He suggested Chick-fil-A, I declined, I explained why when he asked — and he grinned incredulously and said he thought that was silly! If I liked the sandwiches then I should eat there! Did I really think one single person depriving themselves of something they liked would make a difference to the company?

…wow. Where to start.

Well, first the easy one: do I think my actions alone will change some arrogant corporation's attitude? No, of course not. But there is nothing quite so powerful in a democracy as a large and determined mass of people. We may not be able to vote with Chick-fil-A's board on their corporate policies, but we sure as hell can vote with our dollars. That's the best way I know of for us to let them know when we disapprove of their actions, and feel they should change their behavior if they want our continued patronage.

Next: should I eat there if I liked the sandwiches, regardless of Chick-fil-A's policies? I don't believe so — firstly because my hard-earned dollars are effectively my consumerist stamp of approval. Secondly, I doubt my companion really wants me to do what pleases me regardless of the associated ethical issues. If I'm going to eat what I please simply because it pleases me, at what point do I start applying ethics once more to my life choices? Why shouldn't I, for example, simply steal the sandwich — it pleases me not to have to pay, after all. When the clerks try to stop me, maybe I'll punch them too — I might enjoy that, after all, since I don't like the company they're working for. Heck, why not engage in a gunfight with the police as well? That'd be exciting, and I do love excitement in my life.

Yes, I know that particular argument is a form of reductio ad absurdum — but I happen to believe the old saying that says if a person cannot be trusted with little things then they cannot be trusted with big things either.* So yes, I intend to live as ethically as I can, despite the immediate physical pleasure I may forego. In the long run I've found it's a greater pleasure to feel I've done the right thing rather than simply grabbing always for instant gratification.

Finally there is what I consider the greater philosophical issue involved. It is true that I, as a white middle-class female, will not be immediately much affected by hateful or fearful actions taken against gays or lesbians. Upping the ante dramatically, I'm also not personally physically harmed by a bad neighbor kicking his dog, his wife, or his kids; or corrupt police brutalizing or murdering either peaceful protesters or people of color; or even appalled soldiers of the US army obeying direct orders to torture prisoners. None of these actions physically damage me right here and now.

But I strongly feel that if I know of these things — and I stand by and do nothing — then I am as complicit as the perpetrators. Worse, by my lack of action I am directly working towards making my society an ethically poorer, more undemocratic, more totalitarian place. True, I probably cannot stop any of these bigoted actions on my own. But I will do what I can… and in a strong, healthy democratic society the best thing I can do is to vote, with either the ballot or my dollars… and to try to convince as many as I can to vote with me.

My lunch companion was a white, hetero, middle-class male; I would venture that he is, in fact, a good example of this society's epitome of self-centered privilege. I have my own forms of privilege as well; I won't deny that for a moment. But I don't want to maintain that privilege at the expense of others — I want us all to be able to live lives of dignity and self-respect.

So no… I will not be eating at Chick-fil-A any time soon. Feel free to give me a call, though, if they finally issue a clear, unambiguous retraction of their support of anti-gay-marriage groups.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

 * How interesting — when looking up the source of this saying, I've discovered it's actually from a bible verse — Luke 16:10 (NIRV) — "Suppose you can be trusted with something very little. Then you can also be trusted with something very large. But suppose you are not honest with something very little. Then you will also not be honest with something very large."


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

Apr. 21st, 2015

Collie muse

JCP's Dance of the Hours

Consumerism often confuses me.

Statistically speaking, I am apparently taller than average for US women and (depending on what charts you use) either average or above average height for US men. I also mass more than the average woman, though I've not checked my weight in comparison to US men -- that has the potential to be way too annoying! This means buying clothes is occasionally quite irritating, as "one size fits most" for women is invariably defined as about 2" to 3" and anywhere from 15 to 30 pounds less than I.

Further, as a student, I dislike spending money I don't have (to), so I believe the statement "Must-have seasonal fashion!" is an oxymoron designed to separate gullible suckers from their money. I am not a clotheshorse by any stretch of the imagination, so I really don't understand why some women get frenetic over purses and/or shoes. I tend to live in sturdy, simple, colorful shirts and blue jeans that are comfortable, which means they last a long time.

That being said, on rare occasion a colorful, pretty shirt -- or something -- will catch my eye as we walk through a store on the way to the mall. This happened to me the other day in JCPenneys, and my sweetie was so delighted to see me (vaguely) interested in shopping -- something he enjoys far more than I -- that we stopped and browsed around through the clothing to see what we might find.

It was… an enlightening experience. Because it was the end of the season, a great many clothes were on sale. Further, we soon discovered that most of the clothing set out on sale were a few Larges and a whole lot of the X sizes -- from 1X to 3X. All sorts of bright, fun, pretty shirts… all for less than $10 -- and in some cases for less than $5!

At one point I looked bemusedly at my companions and asked them: why don't the stores put these sizes out all the time? Ordinarily, the rare times I'm forced to go shopping by necessity, finding the X sizes is all but impossible. I usually wear a Large, but I've been told when clothing is made for the Asian market they're sized a little smaller -- and in that case I have to buy a 1X. Finding comfortable, sturdy, colorful clothing that fits is therefore (as I've mentioned above) often an exercise in frustration and annoyance. Yet here they were: a plethora of larger sized shirts; a bouquet of colors -- all at incredibly slashed prices! Why weren't these out all the time? Didn't Penney's want to make any money on all these shirts?

My companions had no answers for me, though one doubtfully wondered if maybe Penney's didn't want larger sized people wandering in their store? That made no sense to me, really -- after all, their money's just as good as anyone else's. I really hoped that wasn't the reason, too -- prejudice against large people is just as ugly, cruel, and pointless as prejudice against any other social minority.

Whatever the reason, it worked out well for me that day. I ended up purchasing about ten pretty, comfortable, colorful shirts and several other odds and ends, all for well under $50. Woo!

Apr. 15th, 2015

Collie muse

The signs & results of property ownership

Our old apple tree has a few blossoms on it! They look like lovely pinkish froth, almost, despite there being only a handful of them. I hope next year the tree has more blossoms — I remember the apple trees we had in Texas nearly exploded with blossoms each year. To my knowledge we've also got two hummingbird nests on the property, which I love. There's one in the front and one in the back, and the backyard one is right outside the window where I sit to work. I was so pleased to see the backyard hummingbird feeding babies in the nest yesterday — incredibly cool! I've purchased a new hummingbird feeder and a metal stand to make sure it stays up high; that's getting installed this weekend. I'd like to plant a bunch of flowers that attract hummers, butterflies, and bees, but that's going to have to wait probably until next year — when I have more time and money to devote to planning and performing that.

On the other hand, in order to finish the bat houses all I have to do is find all the pieces, finish putting them together, and mount them. I think we're going to have to put them back-to-back on a pole, though. While the south side of a house is considered the best location, our south side is all first floor… and they need to be at least 15' up in the air. Maybe the west side of the house would work too? There's a nice, big wall on that side that gets all the setting sun, after all… and that's when the bats should be waking up, if my understanding is correct.

Electrical madness! ;)

Electrical madness! ;)

Speaking of houses… it's funny what the maintenance of a house can tell you about its inhabitants. There's an old saying about if the only tool you have is a hammer, then everything starts looking like a nail that needs hammering down. Well, the husband of the previous inhabitants of this house apparently had the impression he was a handyman, because there are all sorts of "repairs" and "upgrades" throughout the house that show a distinctly, umm… heavy hand! In the photo you can see his additions of cable cord and a light dimmer — where the plates are crooked both horizontally and vertically, and the dimmer-roller is nearly falling off its stem. Had the man never heard of a level?

Who needs molding anyway?

Who needs molding anyway?

There are entire rooms where the baseboard molding was applied not with the slim little molding nails you're supposed to use… but with big honkin' woodscrews! Those woodscrews are visible all over the house, rammed in so deeply on occasion that I bet the man had a screw-gun he enjoyed using. More visibly, the molding is occasionally either unfinished… or there's more than one kind in the room! It made us wonder if maybe he set in the sliding glass door as new or something, and had to pull out the original molding… maybe? I mean, why else would you leave cracked tile and open dirt around the door? It's all very strange looking in places, but we figure we'll fix things little by little.

Aww, molding is overrated

Aww, molding is overrated

Of course, there was also an open 1/2" metal tube sticking up about an inch or so from floor level by the wall on the other side of the room. We were told the tube went down both floors, and they didn't know what it did — it was there when they arrived. That one they covered with duct tape — apparently so the young grandson would stop dropping things down it! :) Oh, there's also a closet where the man didn't bother finishing the molding — and he drilled a hole (thoughtfully left open for us) in the wood floor! We're not sure, but we think maybe that's where he pulled the cable wires up into the room? That, or they had a tiny pet snake that lived under the house most of the year… :) You can just see the hole as a black dot on the left hand side of the photo.

Who"s gonna see, amirite?

Who's gonna see, amirite?

That was in the daughter's bedroom — a room that contains an astonishing number of peculiarities. For example, in that room alone we find all the following along with the odd closet: there's a little set of three shelves set into the wall… at knee height. I'm guessing it was a bedside table sort of arrangement? There was a 1" diameter hole drilled through the inside wall of the shelving that came out on the other side of the wall into a sort of, um… room alcove? It was about 1 & 1/2' deep and about 5' wide… but whatever the hole was drilled for was apparently yanked free of the wall so violently that it left an irregular 3" or 4" rip out of the wall's plaster! I suspect impatience was a big part of this man's emotional repertoire whilst engaging in house repairs… which means I'm becoming a dab hand with the spackle. :)

We don"t need no steenkin" faceplates!

We don't need no steenkin' faceplates!

Oh, there was one other oddity within the closet: there was no pole for hangers! There was a shelf with hooks to hang the pole on — but no pole! Don't ask me why; they didn't say. Also, the sliding glass doors to the outside had wiring strung for at least three layers of curtains — but one of the wires apparently snapped. So… they curled it up, tied it off, and left it hanging there! Further, the plugs had no faceplate on them, and you can feel cold air blowing through them. There's also what I think was a phone jack, but its plate was applied so badly that they used big blotches of glue to hold it in place. That's it on the left in the photo; my apologies for how blurry the photo is. I was holding an excited dog on leash at the same time as I snapped the photo on my cell — a technique I often recommend for "action" photography! :)

Loose wiring -- to what?

Loose wiring — to what?

There's also a wiring technique I cannot recommend, which the man was apparently fond of: running miles of wiring along the floorboards and over the door frames, rather than inside the walls or within some sort of protective piping. Sometimes he left us two or three different types of wiring, either still woodscrewed to the ceiling or trailing loose on the floor! He didn't confine himself to the inside of the house, either — there are long loops of it still remaining that festoon the outside of at least one second floor window, and decoratively frame the garage door. We've got enough cable cord by now to start our own business, I think. In at least two cases he drilled right through an outside wall — to feed the cable cord into the house. Hello, spackle, my old friend; I've come to need you here again… :)

Well, at least the buffalo still roam

Well, at least the buffalo still roam

I also suspect the man sometimes went to the hardware store and bought whatever was on sale. For example, there were numerous rooms where the light switch plates and plug plates were all different, and in most of the rooms with more than one light there are usually two or three different types of bulbs. The room I'm sitting in now had, for example, two sort of antique-looking decorative metal foil plug faceplates, three molded plastic ones that looked like wood, and one ordinary white plastic one. Oh! Also, there's one room that was apparently supposed to have a Western motif or vibe… so two of the five lightswitch plates had that Western theme: the classic "sad Indian" on a horse, and a buffalo. Hilariously, the buffalo light plate is for two switches — but there's only one in the wall! So of course he applied it anyway. Yes, those have been removed from that room… sorry, but I find them incredibly irritating to look at. :)

Floating light switches

Floating light switches

I'm guessing the wife liked dimmers, because there are a lot of them in the house. For example, walking in towards the kitchen you have two entire sets of light switches! Some are rockers like in the photo, some are little horizontal rockers below two buttons — one for light, one for the fan — and some are pressure panels. Delightfully, it's often unclear which switch goes with precisely which light — because there's a plethora of them all in that spot, for something like four different rooms that kind of "meet" at that point. Often the light switches and the plates framing them are at different levels, or the plugs will be tilted slightly, such that you can tell the man installed them hastily and at an angle, rather than flush with the wall. We've also noticed that there are several electrical outlets where pieces were hammered in so violently that part of the wall's plaster broke off, like in the photo below… but again, the electrical faceplate was just applied over it, ignoring the damage done!

What damage? It"s covered! ...mostly!

What damage? It's covered! …mostly!

We're going room by room, replacing and updating, but it still occasionally makes us burst out laughing at some of the shortcuts the man took. Weirdly, I'm finding this rather fun to fix up, too. It's like his mistakes are our opportunity to make the house both nicer and more ours, you know? Currently I'm kind of head-down in proposal writing — blogging is a mental break and relief for me — but I'm looking forward to getting back to work with the housemates on making the place look nicer and be more energy effective.

Eeeeee! We got a beautiful new house! :)

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

Mar. 29th, 2015

Collie muse

Bon courage, Women's Spirituality of ITP

I am very sad to report that the Women's Spirituality program at the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology is being closed down. Apparently shortly after I graduated, the much-beloved president died, though this was not a surprise. A new president was selected, apparently without enough searching into his background… because — and here I condense and simplify considerably — he proceeded to spend the school's comfortable chunk of extra budget in expensive junkets to supposedly bring in more students, changed the school's very clear and descriptive name and logo to things which were (respectively) less clear and very ugly, convinced over three quarters of the Board of Directors to quit, declared a financial emergency, fired almost half the faculty and staff when they objected and asked where the hell the money had gone, and then sold the school to a Chinese conglomerate which was interested in creating an engineering school which also taught some Eastern philosophy.

Needless to say, the school that emerged from this is very different from the ITP where I studied. As a single example, they're not interested at all in Women's Spirituality, and so are not supporting it whatsoever. Further, the three women who started this marvelous program have been running it for about 15 years now. Two of them are either retired or retiring, and the third is getting closer to that point. Moving the program to another school would not be easy — tragically, there are very few schools which would be interested in such a program. One of the few that would be already has a Women's Spirituality PhD program — it's CIIS, where I'm going to school now — but even they have effectively changed the MA program into something else. It used to be Women's Spirituality; now it's something like Women, Gender, Activism, & Spirituality… or something similar; I don't recall precisely. Basically, in an effort by the school to be inclusive of other genders, one of the last places where women can learn about themselves and their history has been lost. The only other program I know of that skates anywhere close to the subject is in Germany: Dr. Heide Goettner-Abendroth's International Academy for Modern Matriarchal Studies and Matriarchal Spirituality (HAGIA).

I find the closing of the ITP Women's Spirituality MA program to be a tremendous loss which makes me very sad. The program was quite literally life-changing for me — and I do not use that phrase lightly. Further, for seeking women there is now no other truly comparable program anywhere in the entire world. As friends have told me in an effort to be encouraging, the individual classes and teachers are still scattered around the Bay Area, so someone could still theoretically get all the teaching. However, there are two issues with this: first, the purported student would not end up with the MA — which can make a difference in one's CV. Second, part of the reason the program was so dramatic for me was because it included required classes which (were I picking and choosing classes from professors and teachers all around the Bay) I would have skipped as not really important or relevant — and yet they were — incredibly important and an extremely relevant part of the process of life change and growth which the program encouraged.

So this is my goodbye to the Women's Spirituality program, with my deepest thanks to all its wise and compassionate professors, and all my wonderful sister scholars. I offer the program my regrets for its loss, my fondest memories of growing and laughing and tears and courage, and my deepest wishes that someday it will be reborn, to burn brightly once more for women and men of great heart everywhere.

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

Mar. 25th, 2015

Collie muse

Miscellaneous nice things

It is astonishingly easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of stuff that constantly needs doing in a new house! That list is never-ending, dammit. So I'm working just as hard to make sure I take time out for me as well… though I think I need to make sure I'm taking more time for my poor dissertation too. So today's a cheering-up day, I think. So first: I saw a deer!

squeee! A deer!

squeee! A deer!

Admittedly one of the housemates has seen deer here already — one afternoon he looked in the right direction when both cats suddenly stared intently that way. He's also had to stop the car to let one cross the road — in broad daylight in the middle of the afternoon! I thought they'd be shyer than that.

I think mine was a doe, and she was grazing in the lot next door — the one that we can peek down into from the second-story windows of our office, which we call the Bridge… mostly because it's got three desks and something like seven computers in it! I snapped a few shots, then watched her with fascination for a while as she grazed leisurely up and down the hillside. Here's a cropped shot of just her:

doe closeup

doe closeup

I got lucky — there's a road where sometimes horses are ridden, and when I heard the telltale clop of hooves I jumped up and yanked open the window, so the kitties could scent the air as well. When I did so the doe shied out of the underbrush, then froze and stared back over her shoulder at me… so I got a real good look at her rump. From her tail patterns I think she's a Columbian black-tailed deer — the most common subspecies of mule deer in California.

Let's see, what else… oh! Got a really cute photo of Goldie sitting gleefully in the car, after a lovely run at the park. Unfortunately this shot is, of course, after she sat up a bit. When I first glanced back she was literally sitting on her butt with the toes of both hind paws pointed up in the air — hilariously undignified! I was laughing so hard that she had time to resettle before I got out the camera. :)

happy Goldie!

happy Goldie!

I am bummed the automated thumbnail cuts off the top of her head, darnit! She looks happy in the full-sized shot, really! :) Now if only I could get her to bring the ball back when I throw it for her at the dog park, things would be fantastic!

Got one last "feel-good" shot for me. It's one that one of my housemates took and just recently got to me. This was taken the very day we moved in, when I was staying at the house for several house-repair appointments during the day while the guys had to work. When they finished work and came out to the house they brought me some Baskin-Robbins… and found me, Goldie, and both kitties all quite happily curled up together in the conversation pit! I still like cuddling there with them all while I work on my laptop — very cozy feeling. :)

new house happy us

new house happy us

So! That's all for tonight. Be well, all.

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

Collie muse

Needin' some good vibrations

I think today I'm going to do a bit more venting on my dissertation blues… and then tomorrow talk about what I think might fix things a little. We'll see how it goes.

So at CIIS there's something called the "Principles of Community." They're basically a list of suggestions to keep in mind when talking with others or attending classes -- especially when contentious or highly emotional subjects come up. They're supposed to be explained to all new students when they first arrive, they're supposedly available on the CIIS website, and often professors will print out copies to hand out to their students on the first day of class if the class is going to be about something where emotions may run high.

Frankly I think all the principles are good ideas, and I try (and sometimes even succeed!) to apply them to my daily life as well as my scholastic efforts. Here's the list, just so we all know what I'm talking about:

CIIS Principles of Community

(adapted from Featherston & Associates Visions, Inc.)

  • Step out of your comfort zone. Try on new ideas, concepts, processes, behaviors before automatically rejecting them because they are different from your experience.

  • Participate fully. Let go of all the other things you need to be doing and be present in the moment. Participation looks different for everyone.

  • Use "I" statements. Practice self-focus: pay attention to what you are feeling and thinking.

  • OK to disagree. It's a necessary part of accepting differences.

  • Not OK to blame, shame, attack, or discount self or others. Remember that this can happen on a verbal or non-verbal level.

  • Intent and Impact. Be aware that it is possible to have a negative impact on an individual despite best intentions.

  • Check out your assumptions. Ask questions of yourself and others instead of jumping to conclusions.

  • Anything said of a personal nature should not be shared outside of the room without the person's permission. They can say yes, no, or maybe later.

That's it. They're pretty simple, even though they can be difficult to implement if your emotions are rising. I mention them because there's one last professor I want to grump about.

Why this professor in particular? Ugh, where to start. My issues with the guy began before class started, when he informed us via email that he'd be bringing readers to class for us each to buy. He gave plenty of warning, fortunately -- it was the price that caused me to metaphorically clutch my pearls: $70! That's more than most textbooks! I tried, via email, to suggest either that the readers be shared, or that less financially gifted students be allowed to follow along with the readings on-line. Both suggestions were completely ignored, and the professor flatly informed me that if I couldn't afford the reader then I should just drop the class.

Wow, I thought… that was rude! Still, perhaps the reader was chock-full of really amazing articles we couldn't get elsewhere. With some effort I ponied up the cash, purchased the reader on the first day of class, opened it with excitement… and discovered all the articles were nothing more than printouts of website pages.

WTF?! I paid $70 I could ill afford… for something I could have easily pulled up in class on my laptop?!

Unfortunately it got worse. The first thing the professor did on the first day of class was to hand out the Principles of Community -- remember them? -and then, less than three hours later… break them by shouting me down in discussion when I disagreed with him about something. About the only good thing I can say is that when I growled that it was clear that my voice was not wanted in this class and I was therefore going to shut up now… he belatedly realized maybe he hadn't been the most, umm… principled of professors up to that point.

The really sad part is that there are folks that very much enjoy this professor -- he came highly recommended by some of the other women in the program -- so I guess I just caught him at a bad time. In fact, that class was a huge disappointment all around to me. For example, in a two-weekend class the instructor didn't actually cover the designated subject matter at all for the first weekend, and it was other students giving presentations that finally brought us around to the designated subject.

Worse, the instructor appeared to played favorites -- both in class and in his grading, as I found out later. This issue slapped me in the face when I sent a short, polite email at the end of the semester asking if perhaps the grade I'd received (a B) had been incorrectly entered into the school's computer system. I asked for two reasons, which I explained in the email as well: first, I felt I'd done A level work. Second, this had happened previously to me.

The email I got back… whew. All I'll say is that he was furious and rudely vituperative that I'd even ask such a question, and engaged in extensive name-calling at my expense -- and then he cc'd the entire exchange to every core professor in the department.

I found myself asking: aren't our professors supposed to be our mentors and role-models? I was deeply disappointed -- this was such a complete and utter waste of time and money! Further, it's emphatically not what I'd expect from people supposedly teaching a kinder, more matricentric, more generous, and more gift-oriented spirituality.

In sum: his behavior caused me to lose all respect for him... which is a damn shame, since I'd been really looking forward to both that class and that professor.

So, to properly cap off all this whinging: KITTIEEEEEZZ!!

cute kittehs are feel-better

sleepy-cute kittehs are sleepin'!

Mar. 23rd, 2015

Collie muse

Shut up and blog with me! ;)

This is just going to be various fun/silly things in my life currently — sometimes I need to simply not think about dissertation stuff. So! For a celebratory late Valentine's with friends, I decided we should have the traditional Valentine's Day pizza — because Hawaiian pizza is totes what St. Valentine celebrated with, amiright?

valentine"s pizzas!

valentine's pizzas!

Also, I got a cute new magnetic sticker for my car! Well, it's actually my housemate's car, but he lets me drive it. How could it not be appropriately decorated while I do so?

I heart big mutts

I heart big mutts! (and I cannot lie)

In other news, the "decorating the new house" proceeds apace — though not without the occasional double-take from us all. For example, the guest bathroom is tiled in a very nice, deep indigo which I really like. We found a lovely shower curtain that looks somewhat like an embroidered antique gold tapestry, and then we went and bought matching antique gold towels. The final touch, of course, was making sure all the lightbulbs worked — especially the one on the switch that both heated the room and activated the fan.

Unfortunately the heater bulb, being red, really changes the look of the room! So first we have the nice new bathroom, though unfortunately my cell doesn't really do justice to the beautiful blue tiles… and next we have it with the red lightbulb 0n — transformed instantly into a portal to hell! I guess that's one way to get rid of unwanted guests… :)

guest bath - normal

guest bath – normal & unassuming. Who'd suspect?

guest bath portal to hell!

guest bath – our personal portal to hell!

On the positive side, though, we now have a lovely new gazebo on the back deck! I am, of course, ABSOLUTELY getting a +1 arrow to fix into one side — we're gamer geeks, so it's practically a requirement! I do wonder, though: what does a +1 arrow look like? Is it sparkly or golden or what… got any suggestions?

Speaking of golden, here are my required "adoring owner gushing disgustingly over her doggie" photos of Goldie!

first kitty-cuddle with Goldie!

Goldie & Mandelbrot curled up together

first kitty-cuddle with Goldie!

Manders – the first kitty-cuddle with Goldie!

Here's the first kitty-Goldie cuddle — yay! They're getting along so great now… in fact, Manders has on more than one occasion sort of stretchingly shoved poor Goldie right off her own doggie bed!

Next is Goldie trying to convince me that cuddling and scritching her is ever so much more fun than working on my dissertation on my laptop in the conversation pit:

Goldie cuddles

Wouldn't petting me be more fun?

Amazing how hard it is to type with a happy dog flopped across your thighs. :) Finally we've got a shot of cute li'l Red Riding Goldie, where she ducked her head under the red tablecloth to rest her chin on my thigh and give me the soulful-eyed look in the hopes of scritchies — and maybe some of my food. Alas, she did not realize I'd been hardened and inured to that particular look — I've worked with basset hounds! :)

li"l red riding goldie

What a big sammich that is! The better to share with me, right?

In closing, here's one of my fave current songs for an instant pick-me-up — Walk the Moon's wonderfully energetic "Shut Up & Dance with Me" — coupled with a really great selection of dance sequences from a ton of movies. I don't know who did it, but awesome job! :)

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

Mar. 20th, 2015

Collie muse

Rambling around the hood

We live in an interesting area of the city. Taking the main road to the highway, we pass through an economically depressed area. There are some… curious differences there from what I've lived in previously. For example, there are an astonishing number of churches! Just glancing at google maps, within 10 miles of me I see Jehovah's Witnesses, Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist, Southern Baptist, Episcopal, Presbyterian, Seventh Day Adventist, Evangelical -- several of which are named in Spanish as well -- Roman Catholic, Polish Catholic, Greek Catholic, Romanian Orthodox, several more where I can't tell their "flavor" by just their names… I had to laugh, in fact, when I realized there's a Westboro St. near where I live -- and there's a Baptist church on it! I think we'll avoid that one… ;-)

My guess is that most small religious groups tend to not have a lot of money, so they gravitate to areas where land is cheap, and build their houses of worship there. In fact, in some cases that appears to be literal: there are a surprising number of these churches located in what appear to be just refurbished houses! They're not all Christian churches, either. There's a Jewish synagogue, a Hindu temple, and a big, lovely Buddhist temple nearby, as well as several smaller Buddhist temples that appear to be a mix of Vietnamese, Chinese, and… Thai? I'm not sure on that one. But watching the fireworks blooming into the night sky from all the Asian religious centers for Chinese New Year's was very pretty from our hillside. We have a truly fabulous view of the city for both night and day, I think.

One of my housemates pointed out another difference this area has from higher income areas: a lot more car parts stores. His guess was that people try to get the cars fixed themselves, since that's cheaper than taking it to the dealer. I wouldn't have noticed that, but then you can write what I know about car repair on a matchbook… and still have most of the paper left over. Hmm… now that I'm thinking about it, there's also a lot of home repair business here -- there's a Home Depot and an OSH just down the road, if I'm remembering correctly. My guess, though, is that that one's a mix of both folks trying to build and repair on their own… and the fact that land was likely a bit cheaper out here, when these two big stores first moved in.

There's an awful lot of fast food around here too, but a dearth of the "middle-class" types of restaurants. I like exploring the little taquerias, but sometimes I just want to be able to easily find a Chili's or a Panera's. I know -- I'm a boring white-bread girl. ;-) There's also very few national-chain grocery stores nearby, though there are some nice looking smaller, Hispanic grocery stores that I'm looking forward to exploring. I think for the first time, though, I can really understand what is meant by a food desert -- and how they're linked to issues with obesity. It's just easier to swing by the Burger King or MickeyD's on the way home, rather than to walk or drive out of your way to find a TJ's or a Safeway, for example.

I've also noticed a surprising number of small businesses in the area which are located in houses. Frequently these houses look like they're still being lived in, too -- that the garage (or some other room) has been converted over for the business, and the family continues to live in the rest of the house. My thought was that this was likely a great savings for the business owners, most of which appear to be female: no business rental fees, no commute costs! The other housemate, however, believes this is more broadly due to a lack of viable commercial real estate. He thinks because of the area looking so low rent, most construction tends to avoid the area as a bad investment. However, if enough small businesses thrive, eventually the families move out of the house, convert it entirely over to business (either their own, or renting to others), and live somewhere else. If that happens enough then the area will become economically stronger, and construction will start moving in.

I don't know. I've not seen a lot of these houses as being entirely business, rather than mixed business and living. On the other hand, I'm not surprised that it's women running businesses out of their own homes that seem to be making the area economically healthier. It's always been the small businesses -- rather than the large corporations -- that did the hiring and job creation which really helped the economy. Sounds counter-intuitive, I know, but that's what the statistics in the reports I've read state. That's not to say that there aren't any larger businesses here -- there are -- it's just that the small ones are more numerous and easier to see sometimes.

One of the most popular categories for small businesses is the beauty industry. There are an awful lot of tiny beauty salons, nail shops, hair places, and dress stores. I'm talking the flouncy prom- or quinceañera-style dress: tons of flashy cloth and glittery tulle and sparkly tiaras and that sort of thing. I have very mixed feelings about these -- just as I have for most of my culture's standard life rituals for women. I think it's absolutely wonderful that girls have a day that's given over to them as they cross over from girlhood to womanhood… but from what I can understand of how these are currently portrayed, the rituals seem to be angled more for the young woman now being dressed up and prettied to show she's newly available for men -- rather than celebrating, say, her new maturity and self-agency. In the huge, colorful window advertising, for example, all the carefully coiffed and brilliantly dressed young women are shown either in docile submission to the cross held by a (male) priest, or as if they're a heavily-made-up little princess waiting to be married off to the prince who chooses them. I'll freely admit I didn't attend my prom and a quinceanera isn't part of my cultural background… but wouldn't it be awesome to see just one of the ads presenting a young woman in one of those dresses -- with her graduation gown and mortarboard as well?

Mar. 19th, 2015

Collie muse

How about a little respect, please?

Okay, time for more venting and dissertation blues. Haul out the tiny violins, please, and also everyone get ready to sing along with Arethra Franklin singing her wonderful "Respect"…

Whew! Always love good, passionate music. So, now that we all feel better for that, let me get into my grumpy pants again. This log is about — you guessed it — respect… and associatedly, professionalism. Again, I'm not going to go into tons of detail because I don't want to cause problems for anyone; this is just me venting.

There are two issues that stand out for me regarding professionalism and respect. The first is a professor who informed us that we had to have read the required texts over the summer before class started. This is common practice for short classes with complex subjects, and I have no trouble with it. What I have trouble with is when the professor doesn't post the syllabus for the class — which has the list of required texts in it — until less than two weeks before the class is to start!

That's absurd. It can take over a week for all the books to arrive, regardless of whether they're being purchased or requested from the library.

Secondly, the professor sent out an email telling us there was an addition to the required books list. Two problems with this: (a) she  didn't bother checking to be sure the email reached all her students, and (b) technically this meant the new book also had to be read before class started. No problem, right? Except… guess when the email got sent out?

The day before class.

I wish I was joking. Unfortunately… it gets better — for certain values of the word. This professor walked into class with two boxes of printed readers — which we were required to purchase. This was an unpleasant and unexpected financial shock for me, as the reader was as expensive as some of the texts — and I always get my textbooks from the library whenever possible, to save money. However, when I startledly mentioned my financial issue, the professor airily said that we, as students, were just expected to have enough money to handle that kind of off-the-cuff expense. So what is she saying here — that poor women should just slink off and not bother her any more, because they aren't rich enough to deserve to learn?!

Worse, I discovered later that day that all the texts in the reader were also already on-line! When I carefully and politely (as in I waited until after lunch so I had time to calm down and craft a courteous query) asked why we hadn't just had the texts' on-line locations emailed to us, the professor laughed and admitted that she'd had the readers printed out because she liked marking up her copy — and printing just one was prohibitively expensive.

So wait, wait! Let me be sure I've got this right: the professor made all the students purchase unnecessary and pricy readers, without any advance warning… for her comfort? Yeah, fuck you very much, prof. Since you've made it crystal clear just how little you care for anyone but yourself, I can't say as I feel any need to respect you either.

At least the co-professor was considerate and listened. She was the only reason we weren't required to have already read the books for class, in fact — she listened to our worries about the syllabus and emails, and agreed that it was unrealistic for us to have already done the readings under those circumstances. That class turned out well for me only because of her and my wonderful sister scholars. So… let's close on an upbeat note! Here's the indomitable and ever-fabulous Tina: nice… and… rough! You're welcome. :)

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

Mar. 18th, 2015

Collie muse

Setting goals

Time for another 15 minutes (minimum) of writing, so I start getting back into the habit of doing so…

The 2015 Parliament of the World's Religions is meeting in Salt Lake City, UT this upcoming October 15th through 19th. One of my sister scholars suggested several of us get together to present a panel there, tentatively titled "What is Women's Spirituality?" After all, we may be small, but we're just as valid as any other spirituality. Just for fun the four of us who were interested in going shared our definitions of women's spirituality, and we were delighted and amused to realize we all had a slightly different angle on it. We thought about it, then decided a better title will be "Diverse Voices of Women's Spirituality," and we sent in our proposal. We're crossing our fingers that they like it, especially since it naturally hits a lot of the target subjects they purport to have for this year's Parliament, such as support for youth and women, global environmental change, and indigenous peoples.

Also, the conference occurs only about two weeks after my birthday, which will hopefully make it a lovely present to myself! Admittedly, this is going to be a financial squeeze for me, but I figure if I start saving now, and ask the school and my friends if they'd like to help sponsor my trip there, I should be able to swing it all right. Also, please let me know if you'd like me to light a candle or say a prayer for you or something you believe in — I'm happy to share well-wishes and blessings with everyone! If you'd like to sponsor me, I'm also delighted to bring you any memorabilia from the conference that you might be interested in as well. Email me and let me know, okay?

So, back to our panel planning. As I registered for the event — while also thinking positive about our panel acceptance! ;-) — it occurred to me: a lot of these attendees are likely to have never heard of women's spirituality, and may have questions. Indeed, we are probably unwittingly going to be the "face" of women's spirituality for most of them. That being the case, two things occurred to me: first, that it would be smart of us to make up a list of questions we are likely to be asked so we can prepare answers ahead of time. After all, if we want to have empirical or statistical data at our fingertips to use in our replies, we have to either bring it with us or memorize it, right? It doesn't just magically appear — much though I would love that to be the case. ;-)

Secondly… if I'm going to potentially be the "face" of women's spirituality at this conference, I think I want to lose some weight so I feel like I'm physically in better shape and emotionally more confident. I know I look good as I am now, but I also know my "ideal" healthy weight is supposed to be 166 lbs. Right now I'm at 198, but I should be able to lose at least 10 lbs by October, right? Losing 30 lbs would really be viable too, I know, but I've got enough on my metaphorical plate currently that I'd like to set a low, easy-to-reach goal so I feel good about it… and so anything more is just icing on the cake, so to speak.

Also, two of my three sister panelists are tiny, delicate, almost elfin-looking women! I don't want to feel like a cheerful lumbering zeppelin coming in for a landing next to them. ;-) So I'm going to weigh myself and post each Monday (which is when I originally weighed myself and discovered my current weight), and hopefully that will help me stay encouraged and motivated.

This means I have a few favors to ask of you all. First, have you ever had any questions about women's spirituality? Please feel free to email them to me, or to post them in comments, if so. I'm interested not only in polite "softball" sorts of questions like: "What is a women's spirituality degree good for?" I also want to hear the harder and more aggressive questions which may get thrown at us (like, umm… oh, perhaps like: "Who are you to say women should lead, and thereby fly so flagrantly against God's revealed will?!" Joking there — mostly…) — considering that we're basically pointing a politely accusing finger at the patriarchal organized religions for causing, supporting, and/or maintaining quite a few of the modern world's more difficult and worrisome issues.

Second, feel free to cheer me on in my weight loss efforts, if you'd like! Even if our proposal is denied I think I'm going to go ahead and keep doing this. Namaste!

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

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