lydy: (Default)
If you know me in person, I apologize.  I'm going to tell a story that I'm sure you've heard from me before.  I think I heard the original on NPR some time ago.  

It was a profile on Christiania, the weird city-state-anarchy in Denmark.  It started in 1971 as an occupation of an abandoned military property.  It has been a functioning, reasonably stable anarchy for more than 40 years.  It is neither the paradise anarchists hoped for, nor the hell-hole that everyone else assumed it would become.  It exists in strange symbiosis with Denmark.  Here is my favorite story about Christiania.

A couple of dude-bros (or, as we called them back in the day, skinheads) went to Christiania to buy drugs.  Christiania, being an anarchy, is a pretty good place to buy illegal pharmaceuticals.  The dude-bros went decked out in the regalia of their people which included jackets with large Confederate flags on the back.  I am unpersuaded by Americans who argue that flying the Stars and Bars is a matter of heritage, rather than racism, but in Europe, there is absolutely no ambiguity or plausible deniability.  The Confederate flag is frequently deployed as a stand-in for Nazi symbols in places where those icons are outlawed.  

Some of the residents of Christiania took it upon themselves to beat the ever-living snot out of the skinheads, and toss them over the city line.  The dude-bros said, roughly, "Why the hell did you do that?  I thought you guys were anarchists."  To which the anarchists said, approximately, "That's why, you idiots."

I am afraid of violence.  I am not physically fit, and have a low tolerance for pain.  I am fond of my reasonably comfortable life.  In a reasonable world, I would pay my taxes, and my taxes would pay for cops to protect me, and everyone else, from violence.  As we can see in Charlotteseville (and especially when contrasting it to Durham), this is not the case.  Which leaves...the Antifa.  Who stood up, and put their bodies physically in the way of the actual, real-live, terrifying Nazis.  And so here we are.  Is this dangerous?  Oh my god, yes.  Civil violence is terrifying, and it can spin out of control.  But the institutions, with their checks and balances and accountability...are not accountable.  Not functioning.  They murder with impunity, assault without accountability, and any discussion of "both sides" has to start with the fact that the state is on the same side as the Nazis.  And so, Antifa.  

lydy: (Default)
Well, at least, probably not.  

The doctor confirmed that PVCs are a benign arrhythmia.  I didn't happen to be having any when I saw him.  Blood pressure just fine, heart rate just fine.  12- lead EKG pretty fine.  There's a non-specific abnormality of the T-wave.  These things happen.  He agreed that the tightness in my chest and my shortness of breath were probably respectively muscular and asthma.  On the other hand, he also agreed that 6 to 12 PVCs a minute was a lot, and that maybe we should do some tests.

As expected, they want to do a Holter monitor (only 24 hours), and a stress test.  I am grateful he decided on the Dobutamine stress test, rather than the treadmill one.  He says that it will give a better picture of my heart.  It is also unlikely to give me an asthma attack, unlike the treadmill one.  Both are scheduled for a week from today.   

He also referred me to a tool to help monitor and adjust my drinking.  I know I drink more than I should.  I am also uninterested in becoming a teetotaler.  He said that AA has one model of dealing with problem drinking, but it doesn't really apply to everyone.  We bonded over the issue.  The site he recommends is Drinkaware, which is based in the UK.  They evidently have a nifty app for your phone...which is not available in the US.  WTF?  There's a website, and I'm exploring it now.  I've been bitching for years that I wanted some tools to help me moderate my drinking, but the only things I ever found were total abstinence sites.  So, here's a tool.  I hope it will help.  

Follow-up in two weeks to make sure that I'm really not dying.

All in all, a short, cheerful, useful encounter, with expected outcomes and an actually helpful conversation about one area of my life that I do need to do some work on.  

Oh, and he also doesn't think that Allegra is likely to be causing my PVCs, nor does he think I drink too much coffee.  I suggested, and he concurs, that the reason I'm seeing more PVCs between four and six in the morning is because that's my down time, and I'm just more aware of them.  

So, yay for good stuff.  Yay for being unlikely to drop dead.  
lydy: (Default)
I have a known history of PVCs.  PVCs are "premature ventricular contractions" which basically means that the ventricles of my heart get a little over-excited and jump the gun.  Hence the "premature."  It is usually a benign heart arrhythmia.  They were noted on my sleep study, which was done three to five years ago.  Known history.

For Reasons, I got rather drunk Saturday night at Fourth Street.  While I was trying to fall asleep, I felt just plain weird, and I thought to feel my pulse.  I was missing every eighth beat.  That's...a lot of PVCs.  Since then, I've been noticing occasional tightness in my chest, a very slight something that one might call shortness of breath, and a lot of missed beats.  Now, at least some of the weird feeling in my chest is almost certainly muscular.  I don't wear a bra, I am old, and the muscles attaching to my rib cage are a bit stressed.  And some of the shortness of breath may or may not be related to asthma.

One night at work, with entirely too much time on my hands, as my patient was coming in late, I hooked myself up to the amplifier, just running the EKG.  (This cost my work exactly two disposable snap electrodes, one alcohol wipe, and one sani-wipe.)  Yep, my heart was throwing PVCs.  One morning, I was throwing between six and twelve a minute. 

Possible triggers:  alcohol, caffeine, and Allegra.  So, I've stopped taking Allegra, stopped having a nightcap after work, and reduced the caffeine.  I tried eliminating the caffeine, but that caused me to become depressed, and there's literally no future in that.  I switched to Claritin, which doesn't work as well, but man I need to not claw my eyes out.

I repeat: PVCs are almost always a benign arrhythmia.  There are tests.  I should probably have them done.  Possibly a Holter monitor, probably a (shudder) stress test.  Ick.  Probably expensive.  Sigh.  After a month of monitoring my pulse for missed beats, messing about with my chemical profile, and whinging and moaning about not liking doctors, I sent an email to my doctor through the automated system, describing my symptoms, providing the above information, and asking for an appointment.

And now we get to how health care is really not a consumer good.

I get back an email stating that they cannot schedule me an appointment based on my reported symptoms, and I need to talk to a nurse, first.  I roll my eyes.  I call the clinic's Nurseline, and go through all the above information.  I assume she can also see my email to my doc, but who knows.  She asks me a series of questions, the answer to most of them is "no."  Am I in pain?  Does the pain radiate? Am I dizzy?  Do I feel nauseous?  No, no, no, no.  She then says, "You should go to the Emergency Room."  I explain that I will not do so.  I point out that PVCs are almost always benign.  (When they aren't benign, they still aren't a terminal rhythm.  They're a symptom of cardiomyopathy or some other serious damn thing, but not instantly fatal.)  I am still paying off my last visit to the ER, eight months ago.  The nurse tries to insist.  I tell her that I will, under no circumstances, do any such thing.  We get rather cross with each other.  She states that their guidelines do not permit them to schedule an appointment for these symptoms, the guidelines require that I be seen on an emergent basis.  I point out that this is health care, and I can refuse any damn thing I want. 

Eventually, she says that she will have to talk to my provider, and will call me back.  I point out that I evidently have a condition so dire that I must be seen on an emergent basis, but if I refuse, they will not permit me to see my own damn doctor, and how does that even make sense.  We became even crosser with one another. 

I wake up to a voice mail stating that I can call my clinic and schedule an appointment.  By this time, of course, the clinic is closed, and after hours people cannot schedule. 

So, this morning, I call the clinic.  And am offered an appointment at 9:40 a.m.  I explain that this simply doesn't work, as I have to go to work tonight, which means I need to be in bed by 11:00 a.m.  The nurse asks why that doesn't work.  I point out that even if I get in and out in an hour, I'm still not home before 11:00 a.m., and that means probably not in bed until 11:30 or noon, and that assumes that they don't decide to do a bunch of stuff, and what's the chance of that?   She allows as to the justice of my remarks, and offers me...Urgent Care.  Yeah, no.  While not as expensive as the ER, it a) doesn't solve my problem with needing to be in bed, and b) IT'S NOT AN EMERGENCY, FFS.  She says that the guidelines are that I be seen same day.

Quick note:  You know how I know that this isn't an emergency?  Because every time the nurse attempts to make me go to the emergency room, they say, "guidelines."  If it really were an emergency, they'd be talking about, you know, death.  (I did have a nurse say that to me once, in reference to a possible case of tetanus.)  The fact that the nurses sound vaguely unhappy about the guidelines is also a tell.

We go a couple more rounds.  My normal provider doesn't work on Thursdays, is full on Wednesday, and is also completely booked on Friday.  It is suggested that perhaps I call back on Wednesday morning and see if anything has opened up.  I point out that the system is completely broken.  The nurse agrees.  Eventually, she asks, "Do you have to see your usual provider?"  No, I don't.  I mean, I like my doctor, but I'm willing to go to someone else.  So she schedules me for 7:40 (oh god) a.m. on Thursday with some guy I've never seen.

I am a price sensitive and informed consumer of health care.  And at every turn, the system is trying, desperately, to shunt me into a high cost alternative, for no good reason.  Additionally, I already know that there is no point in asking what any of this will cost.  The provider has no idea what my insurance will cover.  The insurance company typically will not answer these questions.  Moreover, once I surrender myself to the professionals, they will run whatever tests they think wise, and I will have almost no say over them.  I will certainly not be given enough information about the test, the cost, the possible results, and the potential treatment to make an informed decision about whether or not the test is a cost-effective choice.  I have less control over my own health care, and less information, than I have about my cat's health, where they will cheerfully lay out exactly what the tests cost, what they might reveal, what the treatment path would be based on various scenarios, etc.  The other thing I have very little control over is my insurance.  I get insurance through work, and it is both expensive and not very good.  I have a $3500 deductible, and the things it covers at only 80% (after deductible) is long and irritating.  Nor can I, as an individual, shop around for a better deal. 

Health Care is not a consumer good.  A consumer good responds to market forces if the consumer is informed, if there is information available, if there are alternatives, and if the primary driving force behind the consumption is rational rather than emotional.  Most importantly, the consumer needs to have some control.  None of this is true about health care. 


lydy: (Default)
Slightly edited from comments I posted on File 770:


The biggest objection to Steven's statement at Opening Ceremonies was not about content, but about context. Context controls meaning. "How are you?" can be a polite place holder, the opening to a bit of small talk, or an invitation to talk about something serious going on in your life. Opening Ceremonies is a time for the staff of the convention to welcome people, thank people, provide some administrivia, and set the tone. It is not a time for conversations. Those happen later in the convention. It is supposed to be a feel-good half hour to ease people into the space that Fourth Street wants to create. What Steven did was an abuse of power in several different ways. In the first place, possibly inadvertently, he made it sound like his particular issue was, in fact, Fourth Street policy. I'm not sure what it says about Steven that he didn't understand before it was pointed out to him. I can think of both charitable and uncharitable explanations, but it really doesn't matter. What matters is what he did.

Although Steven claimed to be trying to start a conversation, everything about his action was designed to shut down conversation, rather than open it up. He spoke from the dias, at an event which is designed as a presentation, from a written speech. It should also be noted that Fourth Street has a single track of programming, most of the convention was at Opening Ceremonies, and probably 20% of the attendees were new to the convention. The fact that several people questioned Steven and pushed back at his behavior is not to his credit. Instead, it underscores how completely outside accepted norms his behavior was. It was sufficiently upsetting that numerous people broke the semiotic frame to challenge him. Alex, also sitting on the dias, could see people being visibly upset, some in tears. Her decision to shut Steven down was probably based, in part, on watching the damage he was doing happen in front of her eyes. If she did it less than gracefully, again, think about the frame. And think about the fact that this was completely unexpected. It is rare for the Safety Coordinator to have to operate in crisis mode. Usually, we are notified of harassment well after the fact, well after the actual crisis is past. This, this was happening right in front of her eyes.

The specific language that Steven chose, most especially "safe space", appeared to be carefully designed to undermine an entire department of the convention. Fourth Street uses the safety model, they have a Safety Coordinator, and they are doing a pretty good job of addressing issues of harassment and bias in the convention. To have someone, from the dias, in a presentation, essentially say, "These are not really Fourth Street's values," was shocking and unacceptable. If, as I gather elsewhere, this was the result of Steven losing an internal political battle, my god was this not the appropriate response.

I prefer to use consent as a model for dealing with crappy behavior in conventions. Using this model, what Steven did was completely beyond the pale. He foisted on an unsuspecting and unconsenting audience and incredibly complicated and uncomfortable topic, and did it in such a way that objecting was very hard, and conversation nearly impossible. Let's say you want to, for example, have a conversation about whether old white guys should be allowed to bang on about cultural appropriation. If it is on the schedule, clearly marked, and the panelists identified, a body could make an intelligent choice about whether or not one wanted to have that conversation. Or a body could decide that they don't have enough spoons for that particular conversation, and not go. It is not ok to try to force other people to talk about the things you want to talk about.

It should also be noted that there are conversations that are not valuable. No one needs to have another conversation about whether or not the Nazis were right about the danger of Jewry destroying Western Europe. No one needs to have another conversation about whether Jim Crow was maybe a good thing for colored people. These conversations give oxygen to toxic concepts, and yield no light. Fourth Street may well decide that some conversations are not likely to yield much enlightenment, but likely to cause actual hurt to attendees. This is not avoiding difficult concepts, this is properly budgeting time. There's a limited amount of Fourth street, an infinity of really cool things to talk about, and I get down on my knees in gratitude to editors who are good at their jobs.

Terms of Art:

I would like to point out that “safe space” is neither a literal nor a metaphorical phrase. It is a term of art, coming out of various complex discussions about how to deal with racism, sexism, and kierarchy. Like the term “positive reinforcement” which, in operant conditioning, doesn’t mean what you think it means, “safe space” has a specific, technical meaning. And the attempt to treat it as either literal or metaphorical completely misses the point. Deliberately so, in most cases.

I have problems with using the term safety to discuss harassment and its attendant issues. However, I am really, really annoyed at the people who use the term “safe space” as a stick to beat people doing real work. And seriously, pretending I don’t know what metaphor is is just not on.

In its most basic sense, “safe space” just means a place where we don’t have to have 101 conversations. A safe space for women means not having to constantly explain why we are fully human, not having to do the work of explaining why harassment is bad. A safe space for people of color means much the same, a space where people of color don’t have to explain their life and experiences and reassure the anxious white people around them. Fourth Street Fantasy Convention is, in point of fact, a “safe space” for fantasists, a place where writers and readers don’t have to explain why this stuff is important, don’t have to justify their passion for fantasy. That conversation is very much off the table.

Term of art, for fuck’s sake. It really chaps my ass to watch people attempt to abuse language in this fashion, especially people who claim to be professional writers. Sententiously insisting that they are speaking metaphorically, while simultaneously insisting that other people are speaking literally.

Language does weird shit, especially when you try to create precise terms. Writers do weird shit to language; it is their stock in trade. Pay some fucking attention. The language is going at right angles again. Like it does. All the fucking time.

lydy: (Default)
At Fourth Street Fantasy Convention, this year, Steven Brust, from the dias, delivered a speech about safety and free speech that made me so angry I had to leave the room. Since then, various people have talked about the issues of safety, harassment, and free speech, often as a response to that situation, but sometimes as a continuation of other conversations. I have some very specific issues with the things Steven said, but I don't want to write about them at this moment. Instead, I want to address something that comes up over and over in these conversations, and always from men. "What are the rules?" "How can I know how to behave if you won't clarify what you want?"

Dear men, please do not ask me to provide to you something that I have never had. I cannot provide you the rules. I do not know what they are, and I never have.

I have spent my entire life, my personal, professional, educational, social, and romantic life, navigating the complexities of human interaction without rules. There has never been a point at which my exact decibel level was approved, the exact number of square inches of skin I can expose has been acceptable, a precise hairstyle I could wear that would clearly communicate who and what I was. I have spent my entire life being judged by a set of shifting rules. I have spent my entire life being lied to about what those rules were. If I talk too softly, no one listens, but if I speak more loudly, I am bitchy and dismissed. If I am clear and logical, I am mocked for inadequately mimicking maleness, but if I am emotional, I am mocked for being too feminine and not worth paying attention to. There is no level of dress that does not open me up to either being a prude or a slut.

The penalties for transgressing these ever-shifting "rules" vary. Sometimes, it's just being unpersoned. Sometimes it is getting a bad job-performance review. Sometimes, it's unwanted and uncomfortable conversations. Always, at the back of my mind, has been the knowledge that if I girl wrong at the wrong guy, I might be physically assaulted. And if that were to happen, my entire girl-ness would then be on trial. What was I wearing? What did I say? How did I say it? Was it my fault? Oh, yes, some percentage of the population will assert, it was totally my fault. Because I didn't follow a rule that, you know, doesn't actually apply all the time, isn't written down, is entirely contextual, and nobody every told me in the first place.

Rules are a luxury that I have never had. The only way rules have ever applied to me is as a stick to beat me with. They are a shifting landscape of horror. I don't know if all-male spaces have clear, comfortable rules that everybody knows and the penalties are clear. I rather doubt it, but I don't know. What I do know is that to be a woman in this culture is to be constantly moving through a space where expectations are variable, and are rigidly enforced on a whim, and can dramatically affect my life.

When we talk about harassment, safety, and safe spaces, stop asking me for rules. You never gave me any, and so I have none to give you. All I can offer you is this shifting, difficult, dangerous, ambiguous space that I live in. If you want to be an ally, if, indeed, you want to be my friend, you must learn to inhabit this uncomfortable space with me. You must accept that there aren't clear rules where you can know that you are right.

You get upset that I am enraged over how you say something rather than engaging with what you "actually" said. You are ignoring the fact that I have spent my entire fucking life trying to divine what is really meant by so-called innocent words. I have never been able to take at face value a compliment, an invite to drinks after work, a comment about my clothing, an inquiry into my health. I have spent my entire life carefully navigating the unspoken, because the penalty for getting it wrong was my reputation, or worse. Again, always, I worry about violence. Because that is life, for me, as a woman. And you? You reveal much more than you know with your word choice, and your demand to be taken literally is a cowardly retreat from what we both know you said.

If you truly want challenging conversations where people tell you things that you have never heard, before, the very first thing you must do is shut the fuck up. You cannot hear me when you are talking. And if you truly want to have your mind blown by concepts and ideas that are new to you, you must at least make sure that the conversational space is comfortable enough for other people to tell you the truth. If the only reason you are talking is so that you can argue, you aren't listening. If you aren't listening, why should I talk? There is an issue of volume. If you and people like you are shouting the same thing over and over, then people like me, with a smaller platform and a softer voice, are drowned out. If you care about free speech, then you should care about the voices you are overwhelming. If all you care about is talking, you can do that without me.

I invite you to be with me in my discomfort, my uncertainty, my highly contingent and contextual life. I invite you to talk with me, and help me navigate these shifting sands of changing expectations. But I also suggest that you pay attention, because I have lived here my entire life, and near as I can tell, this is a landscape entirely new to you.
lydy: (Default)
I think I will probably not write a lot about the big deal stuff we saw. I mean, there's a metric ton of words about, say Westminster Abbey, and either you've been there or you haven't, and if you haven't, pretty much everything there is to say about it has been said. We did a bunch of the Big Deal stuff, because, you know, they really are a Big Deal. It's just that in terms of adding to the conversation, mostly what I have to say is, "Wow, man. Just wow."

Kinesthetically, I found London very comfortable. People move at speeds that seem reasonable and useful, and their concept of personal space in public is very similar to mine. It took a couple of days to get used to the idea that one should use the left-hand stairs or escalators or turnstiles, and not the right-hand ones. I mostly got that right, although not always. I never did quite learn which way to dodge when on a busy sidewalk. I tried to pay attention, but there didn't seem to be a consensus of whether one walked on the right or the left. This may have had partly to do with the fact that I was in heavily tourist areas, so there were lots of people from parts of the world where right-hand is the default. But maybe I just didn't understand. I never did get vehicular traffic quite right. I was very grateful for the "Look Left" and "Look Right" signs painted on the street at intersections. DDB dislikes them. He says that one should always look both ways, and it discourages people from doing so. I think he's wrong. I did look both ways, but the information about where I should be expecting to see traffic come from was helpful in parsing the information. I never did get used to cars coming around corners the wrong way.

Quick Digression:

When I put in my request for PTO, my day manager, Lev, asked what it was for. I told him I was going to London, and he asked me what I wanted to see. I mentioned several things, and he said, "Ah, the historical London." I agreed. Then he said, "Well, I hope you are not too disappointed."

"Disappointed? By London? It seems unlikely"

"Well, you know, it has changed. Most of the faces, these days. Most of the faces"

I blinked. "Well, London has had a stable African population for, um, 400 years? No, longer. Since the 1200s, I think."

"That cannot be true."

"No, really, it is. Also, London is a World City, so I wouldn't really expect it to be mostly white. And the really large influx of immigrants in the last twenty years, if I understand correctly, have been Southeast Asians, such as Pakistanis and Afghanis, and, of course, the Polish."

"Polish? Why would they immigrate?"

And since I am not a nice person, and because Lev is Russian, I said, "Too close to Russia, maybe?" Then I went on a very brief rant about how I was not going to the United Kingdom because I was looking to see a lot of people like me who had conquered the world, in part because that was kinda dumb, but also because it was completely a-historical.

End digression.

Jokingly, at one point during our stay, I said to Patrick, "I was lied to. London is mostly white." Which caused Patrick to blink. Then he said, thoughtfully, "Are you coding all those dark haired, pale-skinned men as white?"; My turn to blink. "Look again. Most of them are Asian, which by most accounts is not white."

So, huh. I started looking. And, yep. I was definitely seeing a lot of Asians as white. At one point, we walked by a table with about eight or ten computer geeks. Obviously geeks, talking in High Unix, and wearing the traditional clothes of their people. After we'd passed, Patrick pointed out that only one of them could reasonably be described as "white", the rest were clearly sub-continental Indian, Asian, or Middle Eastern. Yep, yep. I'd noticed that they were geeks, so one point to me.

I've watched enough British television to be completely unsurprised at a Cockney accent from a young black woman, or a clearly Scottish accent from a girl in a hjibab. What I did notice, though, is that people of color in London move through the city as if they belong there, in a way that I do not see in American cities. They neither try to take up more space, nor do they move in effacing ways. They move through their space as if they belong there. Which, of course, they do. But it is not so common to see that in the US.

Another very brief digression: There is this great Etsyshop which sells really nice tie-dye t-shirts for $10. I bought a lot of them. I like tie-dye. I also found, about a year ago, this marvelous thing called a "scrub skirt." I may have raved about how much I like wearing scrubs? Well, they make long skirts. Ankle-length skirts, with huge pockets. Which is what I wear instead of jeans. Without thinking about it, what I packed for my trip were tie-dyed t-shirts and long skirts, and a couple of jackets.

One of the things that I was a little surprised by was how very kind and welcoming random British strangers were. I didn't expect them to be rude, but I didn't expect them to be overtly friendly. They were. When I commented on that to Patrick, he pointed out that my style of dress had me coded as a known type, "American Female, benign." Which amused me, as that is pretty much what I am.
lydy: (Default)
Tat, in this context, to mean cheap souvenirs. The portions of London that we spent the most time in were, unsurprisingly, full of tat shops. And I discovered a weird passion for tat shops. I do not wish to own most of the tat being sold. It is generally cheaply made, and of limited utility. But I truly love tat shops.

Here's the thing about tat shops. They are unapologetic, exuberant, and emotionally accessible. They are also cheap, cynical, and emotionally manipulative, but in such a brazen, cheerful way that I didn't mind the manipulation. I almost bought a Bobby Bear, because seriously, a teddy bear in a uniform? So fucking cute. I wish I had thought to take a picture of one tat shop window near the Houses of Parliament. The entire window was full of shiny gold and silver replicas of Big Ben, in descending sizes, from about a foot high, down to about two inches high. Each had a working clock face. And the sheer glory of a Big Ben of any size to meet your space and budget was dizzying. And funny. And just fucking weird.

The least successful tat shop, for me, was the one in the British Museum. Something about just having seen the Elgin Marbles and the actual fucking Rosetta Stone made me less charitable towards cheap knock-offs. I think it was just me, they were doing a really brisk business. I regret, a little, the lovely cards with William Morris prints on them, but I don't send cards, so well, then.

While we were in York (we did a day trip to York) we were wandering around the Shambles. There was a store there called The Cat Gallery. "Look," I cried with glee, "it is a cat tat shop!" And so it was. Cat mugs, cat tea cozies, cat posters, cat cards, cat stickers, cat rugs. In the end, I came away with a very fine cat apron, and a reusable shopping bag with cats. While nothing about my cat tat says "York" I will always remember where I got it, and will always be pleased with it. So, Cat Tat for the win.

The Tower of London also, of course, has a tat shop. Much of it is the standard stuff you can get anywhere. Snow globes with the Houses of Parliament, or the Tower, other random items. The very weird plastic dome, about one and a half inches high, with a crown inside it. I mean, what? Why? It's a really generic crown, too, bearing no particular resemblance to the crown jewels, or anything else. It is not large enough nor heavy enough to use as a paper weight, it does not fit on a key chain, has no function that I could discern, and cost a couple of pounds. Ok. There were lots of toy swords, and pencils with odd things on the end, like Big Ben, toy crowns, and so on. But this was also my weirdest experience in a tat shop.

When we did the Tower, we walked along the wall, mostly, which took us into various towers. The towers had their interesting displays, and so on. And, of course, a lot of centuries old graffiti from people who were probably going to die, soon. At one point, Patrick walked out of one of the rooms muttering, "I'm just enough of a partisan to be uncomfortable with the amount of Catholic blood in that room." I walked into Beauchamp Tower, and turned right around and walked out again to regain my composure. It was the tower where Elizabeth the First was held, and for atmospherics they had echoing footsteps on the sound system, and some other things. I didn't consciously process this, I just suddenly felt completely overwhelmed. We'd just walked by the green upon which many people had been beheaded, and the close grim tower was too much. I did go back in, and was glad to have done so. The next place on the path was the Bloody Tower. Patrick walked in, saw an instrument of torture, and turned right around and walked out. I didn't even venture in. It had been, by then, a long day. We were both tired and very overwhelmed emotionally by the vast history literally surrounding us. Neither of us felt like torture-porn was going to be a good experience.

So, the tat shop. I think it was called the Raven Shop. As I said, most of it was pretty normal, standard tat. There were some very pretty chess sets (extremely expensive) and some interesting books, but mostly, it was very standard. There was, however, in a glass box, some paper figures, one kneeling, and one with an ax held high. I barely glanced at it, not quite long enough to register exactly what it was, just long enough to know I didn't wish to look further. When you remember that one of my passions is pop-up books, my sudden aversion without processing strikes me as interesting. A shop girl said, "Oh, you have to see this. It's so neat!" I turned around. She pushed a button on the box containing the paper figures, and the paper figure with the ax lowered his arms, the ax landed on the paper figure kneeling, and the head fell off. I said, very loudly, "EEEK!" and started to walk quickly away. "That's horrible," I added, feeling badly about being mean to the shop girl, but at the same time really weirded out. She called after me, "It's not horrible, it's cute!"

I dunno. If this was my history, if I got taught it repeatedly in school, if it was part of my heritage, maybe my emotional responses to it would be a lot more like the shop girl than the ones I had. But honestly, how is a beheading cute? Ok, then. Tat shop 1, Lydy 0.

The last full day in London, I went into several tat shops, looking for a thing to take home that wasn't embarrassingly daft. I finally settled on a black t-shirt with the Tube map on it. It was only twelve pounds, and I am inordinately pleased with it. I vaguely regret the Bobby Bear, but well. I would have been embarrassed later.
lydy: (Default)
To be clear, "World Traveler" is British Airways polite term for coach.

Last Worldcon, for reasons that totes made sense (you'll have to trust me on this), Ctein persuaded Patrick to take me to London. I have wanted to go to London for longer than I can remember. If I had a bucket list, which I don't, London would be at the top. (And suddenly, it seems odd to me that a bucket would have a top, but well, I do not understand the ways of buckets.)

We went for eight days, leaving Friday 5 May at 10:00 p.m. from New York, arriving 10:00 a.m. at Gatwick, and left again at 4:30 p.m. on 14 May, arriving at 8:00 p.m., which totally felt like 1:00 a.m. And then there were customs...I am getting ahead of myself.

I am going to do a series of posts about the trip, mostly so that I will remember it in years to come. If you find other people's travels boring, do please skip. I will not be including many pictures. Patrick was totally in charge of pictures because I don't particularly do visual stuff, and trying to fuss with a camera or cell phone camera would have significantly interfered with my enjoyment. Nor do my memories tie to visual media all that well.

London. There is...a lot of London. Lots and lots of London. Way more than we could have seen in 8 days. We had an A, B, and C list, and got to most of the things on the A list, a couple of things on the B list, and nothing on the C list. Which is as it should be. It was amazing and wonderful and I regret nothing. Ok, I regret that Hyde Park tried to kill me. Other than that, I regret nothing. I would love to go back again, and try to get to the other bits. And then again, and again. Did I mention that there is a lot of London?

London is exciting, beautiful, engaging, fascinating, old, and odd. I did not find it overwhelming, frightening, or strange. It was not familiar, either. It was like...ok, really bad analogy. It was like putting on a brand new pair of shoes that fit perfectly. They aren't familiar, but they do feel utterly right, and they tempt you to walk way more than you really should. (According to the world's worst pedometer, Pokemon Go, we were clocking about 10 kilometers a day. Oh, my poor feet.)

So, London. It's lovely.
lydy: (Default)
So, I've stopped checking LJ, and have started just reading at Dreamwidth. I believe this still cross-posts. So, if you are on LJ, but not on DW, I am not seeing you. If you are on DW, and I have somehow failed to encircle you at DW, please mention it so that I can do so. (LJ still sends me email notifications if you comment at my LJ, so if you comment on LJ, I will see it.) If you are only on LJ, again, tell me, and I'll try to check in on a regular basis.

Dear LJ, thanks for all the fish.
lydy: (Default)
So, I think I've turned on cross-posting, so that when I post on Dreamwidth, it also posts to LJ. This is to test that.

I am lydy over on Dreamwidth, and I am trying to friend (encircle?) everyone who is over there that I normally follow at LJ. If I haven't encircled (friended?) you yet, please comment with your DW handle, so that I can do so. If I don't, it's probably incompetence on my part, not animus.

Have I mentioned that I hate learning a new interface?

I am not planning on deleting my LJ. I'm just planning on primarily using DW.
lydy: (Default)
Am postin this on Dreamwidth to see what happens. I have no idea how to cross-post to LJ. Figure that out at some time in the future, I expect.
lydy: (me by ddb)
I am working on porting over my LJ to Dreamwidth, since it seem to be where all my friends are going, and LJ without yunz guys is kinda pointless. I'm using the importer tool provided by Dreamwidth. Any tips as to how this goes, what I should look for, what I will need to do manually?

Also, are there any mobile apps for Dreamwidth, like there are for LJ? I like to be able to check on my phone from time to time, and when I searched the Google Play Store, all it provided me was the ElJay app. Does this work for DW?

I really hate this. I hate learning new interfaces. But I hate losing track of my friends, more. So.
lydy: (me by ddb)
Nobody ever reads their EULA. It is known, Khaleesi. I have probably signed hundreds of them, and I have read exactly none of them. I am by no means unique. I am, also, living in the United States (it could happen to anyone!) and so subject to the laws of this benighted republic.

Why are so many of my friends, most of whom also don't read their EULAs, and none of whom live in Russia, all freaked out about LJ's latest idiocy? What am I missing? In what qualitative way is this crazy-assed EULA different from all other EULAs?
lydy: (me by ddb)
So, I've lived through Viet Nam (well, the ending thereof), Gulf I, Gulf II, Iraq, Afghanistan, and now dear sweet Jesus fuck me, Syria?

Theme for my Five Calls of the week, "Syria needs many things, but I do not believe that more bombs are among them." Asked my senators and congress critter to require that Trump get Congressional approval for any additional military adventuring, and to say no if they can actually get him to ask.

So many other things are going on, going wrong. Too much, too much.

And really, again? We are not prepared to go in, depose Asad, and spend 20 years rebuilding the country. I'm not sure that we should, but that at least is something that would make sense. We have done this before. Japan and Germany come to mind. We also had international support, and we spent a fuck-ton of money. In general, I think it was money well-spent, and while I'm absolutely sure the Japanese and Germans would have some harsh things to say about some of our choices, it was not the worst possible thing to have done. We have no such commitment to Syria, nor will we acquire one. This, too, we have done before. Somalia ring any bells?

This is not a careful, well-thought out, precise and sourced post. This is a crie de couer. I'm sure there are many thoughtful things to be said. But at the moment all I want to do is hide under the covers, and say, "No, not again."
lydy: (me by ddb)
So, David and I have been living together for more than 20 years. While we lack the blessing of the state, I think it is reasonable to describe us as "old marrieds." One of the things we like to do is just, you know, hang out. It's not that we have nothing to say to each other, of course, we talk a lot. But sometimes, there's a nice animal comfort in being in the same room, doing different things. No need to interact, really, but the physical presence is companionable.

I've gotten obsessed with The Rachel Maddow Show. David... really not. So, he wants to hang out in the media room with me, and read a book or work on his laptop, and I want to watch TRMS, or other news shows. This doesn't really work, for him, and so either I don't get to do the thing I want, or he doesn't get to do the thing he wants, or we have to be in separate rooms. We kind of assumed that there was a headphone jack on the television, and we could just set me up with a long cable and headphones. Yeah, no. The television is too modern, or something, and doesn't have a headphone jack.

David did a little research, and there's this combination of things that you can use. David can explain it, I can't. Any gate, there's a thing that you plug into the television that gets the audio from...something optical? Not sure. Then there's a bluetooth repeater. David spent some time looking for something that has a very low latency. Latency? Any gate, so the sound and the picture would be in synch. (I can't watch dubbed movies, because the sound and the lips being out of synch makes me crazy.) Then there's a little bluetooth receiver with a headphone jack.

Due to various things, like the fact I spent Christmas out of town, David hadn't bought me a Christmas present. So he asked me if I would like this set up, where I could watch my news shows without driving him out of the room. And if I preferred earbuds versus headphones. And if this would qualify as a good present. I was delighted, said yes, he got the things, and they work exactly as we had hoped, and I'm delighted.

And it's such an old married sort of situation. First, no stress on just asking me if I wanted such a thing. And also, if it would constitute a present. It was a sensible question. There are ways to look at it that would suggest that rather than a present for me, it was a present for him. And, you know, I think that if we weren't old married, a "Hey, how about I buy you a thing that lets us ignore each other while being in the same room, wouldn't that be cool?" might come across as...not so romantic.

There are many charms to the early bits of a relationship. The falling in love, the newness, the excitement of it all. But I also love the calm, slow bits, the comfort and the ease of having someone where most of the communication bugs have been worked out, and where most of the fraught bits have been dealt with. Not all, of course. We still have our moments. But this really was just such a good Christmas present.
lydy: (me by ddb)
Called Al, Amy, and Keith about the disasterous Republican "replacement" of Obamacare. As always, I flubbed the first call, did better on the second and third. I kind of think the staff are tired of hearing from me...this may be projection on my part. In all three cases, they didn't ask for my zip code, and in two cases they declined to take it. One of them said, "I have your phone number" which is totes adorbz, since one's area code is the area code that one had when one first got a cell phone, not necessarily where one lives at the moment. Which actually highlights some of the ways in which the geographic representation is an antique thing. On the other hand, most of the suggestions for replacing it with something else seem to have even greater problems. I don't know... It's complicated. If representation were by affinity group rather than geography, it removes the problems of gerrymandering, but introduces greater balkanization, just for starters.

I also called the Dept. of Homeland Security to ask for the release of Daniel Ramirez, who is a Dreamer who didn't do anything at all, other than just, be, you know, brown.

So, that's my little bit for the week.
lydy: (me by ddb)
So, let's talk about adults, for a moment. You know the ones, the ones whose lives are perpetually in a tangle, and in the end, you shake your head and say, "Well, he's an adult."

That guy, that guy who cannot manage his financial situation. He's basically a good person, someone whose company you enjoy and who you would like to see happy. You've done what you can to help. Maybe you lent him money, maybe you sat down with him and developed a realistic budget. Maybe you listened to him describe exactly why it is that he can't seem to keep the whole financial thing together. Maybe you understand why he's making the choices he's making, and maybe you don't. Either way, at some point, you shake your head and say, "Well, he's an adult." You keep an eye out, though. When it's clear he's having trouble getting food on the table, you invite him over for dinner a couple times. Maybe you pay his heating bill, or fix his car. You do little things to make sure that he doesn't end up dead or in jail. But you also protect yourself. You don't lend him money, you don't get involved in any financial schemes he has, and you quietly warn mutual friends. If he's homeless, you put him up for a while, but you set limits and boundaries.

This is not a bad person, per se, but he's definitely making some pretty terrible choices when he could have made better ones. So you stop trying to protect him from all the consequences, just make sure there's enough of a safety net that the possibility exists that things can get better for him. You don't pay attention to his self-serving explanations, and you are really clear that you don't support those choices. Understanding why he's doing this to himself doesn't really change things. You protect yourself, and do what you can for him, but you don't enable his world-view. You probably can't stop him from believing what he believes, but you don't have to buy into it, either. And if you have any hope of him changing, it is in part by refusing to endorse his bizarre justifications for his actions.

Now, let's talk about Trump voters. I am enormously tired of the call to "understand" the Trump voter. They're adults. They made some pretty bad choices. I am going to continue to fight for various safety-nets which will benefit them, because even though they did something incredibly stupid, they shouldn't die of unaddressed medical needs, nor should they starve. But I really don't need to understand why they did what they did. Nor would it help in the least. I am not their therapist. I am just their co-citizen, living in the same world. And I don't think that "understanding" them will make a wet slap of difference. Assuming I did understand the exact emotional structures that led them to want to burn it all down. Then what? I should...let them burn it down? No, that's stupid. So, I continue to fight for a more peaceful and prosperous world, and I stop accepting their juvenile excuses for why they did what they did. They're adults. I think we should treat them like it.

As for winning their votes next cycle... If it is possible, and it may not be, it's going to be by being really clear what the consequences of their last set of votes was. I say, ignore all the think pieces about the resentment and feelings of abandonment that the Trump voters have. Don't care, am not their therapist or their mommy. If they're going to vote for racist policies against their own self-interests, there is literally nothing I am willing to do to fix that.
lydy: (me by ddb)
Called my Senators and Congresscritter about Sessions, today. Said that although what I wanted was him impeached and sent to jail, I was willing to settle for his resignation. Also tried, repeatedly, to call the House Judiciary committee, but was unable to get through. Once again, I used, which makes this as easy as it can be. The staffers seem overwhelmed, and did not remember to ask for my zip code. I found during previous calls that if I give it at the beginning, they have usually forgotten it by the time I'm done. The fact that they weren't asking suggests that they are way overwhelmed, and possibly don't care any more. Me, I still care, a lot.

Josh Marshall argues that the pattern of lies and cover-ups that we're seeing suggests that there's something actually serious at the center. You don't make this many unforced errors about minor stuff unless you're really worried about something much bigger at the center. I suspect that's true. At any rate, the only way to find out is to keep pushing.

On the other hand, while the Russia stuff is marvelously byzantine and distracting, and very possibly treasonous, we must not forget the huge push against women, transgender people, and immigrants. And, of course, their vigorous attempt to destroy the entire planet. All of this matters. I know that they say that you should pick your battles. I am unsure which battles are the most important. I am hoping that the Russia stuff will be a useful lever for the rest of it, but we must not ignore the rest of it. It's all scary, folks.
lydy: (me by ddb)
Today's issue was the transgender bathroom executive order. I said, each time, that transgender students were not dangerous, they were in danger. I was unable to reach the Department of Justice. The nice lady at the Department of Education said that they were getting a lot of calls, and she was very nice. I said that I bet her job wasn't much fun just now, and she laughed just a little and allowed as how it was very busy.

I'd do more calling, but it just feels weird to call my senators more than once a day, you know? I mean, I might never stop calling. And they do suggest that you stick to one issue per phone call.

So now I get to mark this off on my Habitica checklist, and get points. Yay, points! Someday, you will be another virtual, magical pet!
lydy: (me by ddb)
So, the 5 calls thing is pretty brill, actually. You go to, check off the thing you're concerned about, and they pop up the people to call, their phone numbers, and a script. So I called my senators and asked for an independent investigation into the ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, and then I called my governor in support of the immigrants, documented and not, in our state. I didn't follow the script precisely, but I found it pretty useful for organizing my thoughts. And now I'm done for the day. My god, I hate doing this stuff. It thought the entire point of electing representatives was that they did this shit for me. Sigh. Will do more next week. And the week after. Keep on a keeping' on.
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