Archive | May 2013

Defending your right…

Gay rights equal gun rights poster

Personal dislikes.

Some odd posters have been popping up around Seattle.

I first read about them in a local alt-weekly’s news blog. The story has slowly been picking up steam. The QR code on the posters lead to a gun-rights web site, but the owner of the web site denies any knowledge of the posters. Reporters tracked down the photographer who took the picture for a gun rights campaign, and he says no one asked his permission to re-use the work, but as a pro-gun person, he is delighted that the image is being used. Those reports describe the photo poster as a picture of one woman holding another, but the shorter girl looks youthful enough that I think a better description of the photo might be “young woman embracing a teenage girl.”

No one has been able to locate the artist of the cartoony image on the second poster. The image is credited to a “Dale Nixon,” but that’s a pseudonym that many artists have used over the years when they don’t want their name attached to a piece of work they did for hire. It is even more clear that the cartoon was drawn for a father-son campaign, originally.

That’s one of the things that annoys me about the posters, and which makes me think these are not created by someone who is terribly sympathetic to the gay rights cause.

Annoyed isn’t the right word. First I was disturbed, and as I thought about it a little longer, deeply creeped out that someone would think that a good way to pitch a political message at gay couples would be to include images that hint at pedophilia. Really? I’ve spent decades having to explain that gay people are no more likely to be pedophiles than straight people, decades explaining that I was not sexually abused as a child and why it’s offensive the people assume that, and so on, and you think a good way to make me sympathetic to your cause is to imply that all middle-aged gay men are dating teen-agers? Look at that male couple in the poster! Tell me in all seriousness that the guy on the right isn’t a “kid.”

Marriage rights equal gun rights poster

Arm yourself, especially if your partner is 20 years younger than you!

It could be simply a case of cluelessness, of course. Someone wanted some images to go on the poster, and was just trying to find something that might pass as a same-sex couple with a gun or three. It would certainly not be the first time someone armed with some page layout software did something incredibly dumb unintentionally.

And I’ve gotten into enough discussions with certain kinds of conservative-minded (though they always describe themselves as “libertarian”) gay men who can’t understand why so many out gay people are much more sympathetic to liberal causes. No matter how many examples you give them of how anti-gay most conservative organizations, policies, and politicians are (and how steeped in unconscious bigotry and entitlement most libertarian messages and casual conversations are), they don’t get it. And they’ve been in enough of these debates that they are paranoically defensive about any of their statements. Putting up anonymous posters would not be unexpected from them.

The neighborhood where these have popped up isn’t just well-known as the “gayborhood,” it is so incredibly deep blue politically, and known to be a hot bed of liberal activism, that it’s hard to believe anyone thinks there’s a significantly number of people who haven’t already thought about the issue of the right to bear arms. These posters use very tired, old arguments that everyone who has thought about either the issue of guns or hate crimes has processed and come to an conclusion on long, long ago. Neither the posters or the web site they lead to have anything there that is going to change anyone’s mind.

Anyone at all. The only people who buy the arguments on the linked web site are people who already agree with them.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve pointed out many times that I sometimes confound my fellow liberals because I think gun control means hitting what you aim at, even though I’m in favor of universal background checks, holding gun owners responsible for what happens when they don’t secure a gun or “forget” to report a stolen gun. It’s not their opinion on the right to keep and bear arms I’m concerned with in these posters. I’m disturbed and creeped out by the use of father/son and mother/daughter images to represent gay couples. I’m annoyed at the implication that violence is an expected outcome of gaining equality. I’m annoyed and disappointed at the second poster’s implication that brandishing guns is the proper response to verbal harassment (“not going to take sh*t from the homophobes”). I’m irritated that the person drawing these false equivalencies hasn’t thought through to the obvious conclusion: marriage rights are like gun rights, and if marriage requires a license, why doesn’t gun ownership require one?

Some people think the posters are meant to scare people, to imply that hate crimes are rampant in the city. Instead of putting up anti-gay posters, such as the “no homo zone” posters in the news elsewhere last year, put up these things that on the surface seem to be pro-gay, but actually are meant to make gay couples feel less safe—a reverse-psychology form of intimidation. I don’t think that’s the most likely explanation.

As the adage says, never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

Memorial

Grandma often called it by the older name, “Decoration Day.” Each spring, as May approached, Grandma would start making phone calls to distant friends and relatives, making sure that flowers would be placed on the graves of relatives in that area. She would also make plans for the graves of relatives that were within a reasonable drive of her home. During the days in the week before Memorial Day she would visit each of those graves and place flowers. If the particular relative in question had also been a war veteran, she would place a small U.S. flag along with the flowers.

The pastors in the Southern Baptist churches we attended might give a sermon on the last Sunday in May about the importance of turning grief into rejoicing because someone has been “taken home to be with the Lord.” There would be some mention of people who died in military service (often as part of one of the prayers, asking god to comfort the families of the fallen soldiers, airman, marines, and sailors), but it was seldom the primary focus of the sermon.

For most of my childhood, I understood that Memorial Day was a time for families to visit the graves of loved ones. It was about remembering anyone who had died. The fact that many people used the day to specifically remember and honor those who had died in battle seemed to be a subset of the larger goal of celebrating the lives of all your loved ones who had died.

Most of my grade school career occurred before the passage of the federal Uniform Monday Holiday Act, so Memorial Day landed on whatever day of the week May 30 was, and I don’t think we were usually let out of school to observe it. When the Monday Holiday Act went into effect, I remember a lot of grumbling from various adults in my life. One particular rant stood out: an older man at the church potluck in May started complaining about “Yankees taking a good, pro-family holiday and turning it into a pro-federalist celebration of war!” He was shushed by his wife before he got too far along.

I didn’t meet my first Radical Memorialist until High School. Someone made a comment about the big barbecue their parents were planning for the weekend, and another of my classmates went ballistic. Memorial Day was not supposed to be about parties and celebrations! It was a serious day to remember people “who gave the ultimate sacrifice to keep this country free!” Anyone who didn’t do that was ignorant and shallow at best, selfish and unpatriotic at worst.

I genuinely was stunned. This being in the Stone Age (before the advent of the internet), I had to look up Memorial Day in an Encyclopedia. And that’s when I first learned how the original Memorial Day had been observed in 1866 intended to honor “those fallen in battle defending their nation during the recent rebellion.” A decidedly northern perspective.

Before that time, many southern states had a tradition of a Decoration Sunday that sometimes happened in April, in other places in May, where the aim had been to put flowers on the graves of family members. Families would frequently have a picnic lunch in the graveyard or cemetery, telling stories and celebrating the lives of their dearly departed. These often turned into family reunions, because family members living far away would try to get home for Decoration Sunday.

Which is why for many years a few southern states didn’t recognize a state holiday of Memorial Day. Several of those that did recognize Memorial Day still also had a separate Confederate Memorial Day or Confederate Decoration Day, because even today in those places Memorial Day is seen by many as “pro-Union.”

Of course, the historical reality is more complicated than that original encyclopedia article I read. While the Civil War was still raging, groups of people, mostly women, in both the north and the south organized days to decorate graves of soldiers from both sides. There was a recognition of the common humanity of all the soldiers. Some people coordinated it with the existing Decoration Days, others did not.

When I saw certain people going off on rants this weekend, angry that there are people who don’t spend the entire three day weekend on the sober, solemn, and somber business of mourning fallen veterans, I felt conflicting emotions. Of course we should be grateful to the memories of the men and women who have died in battle, fighting in our name in various wars and conflicts around the world. Of course we should comfort grieving widows and widowers. We, as a nation, should take care of children bereft of a parent because of a war fought in our name. Of course we should do all of those things.

But being a jerk to people who don’t choose to do it precisely the same way and at precisely the same time as you? That isn’t something I can support.

Memorial Day in my family was always a day to honor the memories of people such as my great-grandparents: people I knew and loved and who are no longer with us. It was a time to call my maternal grandmother to hear about everyone she had contacted while arranging the flowers, to get news from distant relatives (many of whom I barely remembered). For the last several years I haven’t been able to do that part. Grandma died on the Friday before Memorial Day, 2007. She was putting flowers on the grave of one of my great-aunts. My step-grandfather was getting ready to take a picture, when Grandma looked up, said she didn’t feel good, and then she fell over, suffering a massive aneurism.

We realized the next Memorial Day that none of us knew how to contact everyone that Grandma always got hold of to make sure flowers were placed on the graves of my great-grandparents, or Great-great-Aunt Pearl, or several others of the more distant relatives. My aunt located a few. One of my cousins tracked down a few others. and all of us spend some time on this weekend thinking about Grandma, and all the ways she kept everyone connected.

I’ve spent other time this weekend thus far thinking of many people I have had the privilege of knowing and loving who are no longer with us. My two grandfathers and eight great-uncles who served in WWII among them. Rather than lament their loss, I think about the good things they did, and about the fun times we had together. Memorializing someone should be about celebrating their life. Not just weeping.

And it certainly shouldn’t be about scolding people who have the temerity to wish you a happy holiday weekend.

Why Seattleites don’t use umbrellas

I’ve been asked the question many times: as rainy as Seattle is, why don’t any of you have umbrellas? The answer is surprisingly logical, but it takes awhile to explain.

First, despite the reputation, Seattle isn’t as rainy as you think. Manhattan gets more precipitation per year than Seattle, for example. Now, it’s true that within an hour’s drive of Seattle are rain forests that get far more rain than that, but because of mountain ranges to the east and west, plus the the enormous heat sink that is the Puget Sound (an arm of the Pacific Ocean) on one side, and the slightly less enormous heat sink of Lake Washington on the other side, we have weird weather patterns that pushes a lot of the moisture into a convergence zone north of us.

One reason the people who visit or move here from other places think it rains more than it does is because we have many, many, many days of overcast with cool temps and a damp feeling in the air—but not rain. It feels like rain, or at least as if it must have just been raining minutes ago and you just missed it. So they think of some days as rainy when there wasn’t any actual rain.

When we do have rain, all that geography I mentioned means it might be drizzling in one neighborhood, but dry as a bone only a few blocks away.

The rain itself often comes as such a light drizzle that it feels more like a heavy fog or mist than rain. On days like that, it doesn’t matter whether you have an umbrella. If you’re walking, you get damper and damper and damper just from colliding with those micro droplets that seem to hang suspended, rather than fall.

We have a variant of that, where the rain is coming down as perceptible drops, but each seems to be accompanied by a host of the micro droplets. So it feels like you’re immersed. One of my friends describes it as, “It’s like there’s no difference between the air and the river or lake or whichever body of water is nearest.”

On those very rare occasions where the rain is very heavy, it’s almost always horizontal, because it is almost always accompanied by a strong wind. Again, a regular umbrella is useless against that (and is likely to be more of a bother, as the wind keeps trying to yank it away).

While we’re on the subject of wind, we have lots of places where the wind is constant. My office is a few hundred feet from the water front, and the first two miles of my walk home from work is similarly very close to the water. There is a constant airflow either toward the water or away from it in that zone. Because it is constant, it often doesn’t feel like a breeze. It seems to be almost nothing. You notice it most on either very warm days or cold ones. Because if the breeze is coming off the water, it’s always cold. So when the weather is uncomfortably warm, the side of you body facing the water feels noticeably cooler than the other side. If the overall weather is cold, that same breeze makes one side of your body feel as if it has already frozen, and the other side is significantly less frigid.

I’ve watched people try to walk with umbrellas in that part of town a lot. I assume most of them are tourists, as there are a lot of tourist places in the neighborhood. Even though it doesn’t feel like much of a breeze, people are fighting with the umbrellas at every corner. That airflow is sneaky that way. While you’re walking along beside a building, you feel a slight tug on the umbrella, but it’s easy to hang onto. Suddenly, as you get to the intersection, the pressure starts ramping up. Again, it doesn’t feel like an actual wind in your face, yet the umbrella is suddenly yanking and swooping and surging like a living thing trying to escape you.

In between the extremes I described above, we have rain that is a bit more like what people from other parts of the world think of as rain, and on those rare days an umbrella can be helpful—for the three to five minutes it actually is raining at the spot you happen to be at. So, for three to five minutes, ten or eleven days out of the entire year, an umbrella can be useful.

I’m not a native Seattleite. So when I first moved here, I owned an umbrella—for a while I owned a few of those compact collapsing umbrellas, plus one traditional big umbrella. I tried different strategies, such as keeping one at the office, one at home, and one in the car, so I would always have one handy. Or I carried a compact one around in my backpack. The problem remained that either I didn’t happen to have it near me when it would have been useful, or I’d have problems because of the wind, or by the time I dug it out and deployed it, the rain had either stopped, or shifted to the misty drizzle.

Most of the year one needs to have at least a light jacket handy, because it can go from sunny and pleasant to overcast and cold multiple times a day. Similarly, you need to have some sunglasses nearby, because those sun breaks can be quite blinding. You will use sunglasses hundreds, maybe thousands of times a year. But an umbrella will only be useful, at the very most, a dozen times a year.

And that’s why most Seattleites don’t use umbrellas—but almost all of us have spare pairs of sunglasses stashed around.

Pure, and clean-minded, and manly

Riddle me this: when is inclusion really exclusion?

So, a bit over a month after announcing they would take an internal vote on whether to modify their ban on gay members, the Boy Scouts of America decided to remove “the restriction denying membership to youth on the basis of sexual orientation alone” (emphasis mine). Which a lot of people are praising as a great step forward, while others are predicting the destruction of scouting (and the continued collapse of society and eventual destruction of the entire universe).

The anti-gay folks shouldn’t be upset. The way the BSA has worded this policy isn’t a loss for them in the least. It is, in fact, an insidious trap perfectly designed to increase the amount of self-loathing and self-delusion that can be instilled in young gay men.

A lot of people have pointed out that the ban allows gay boys into scouting until they turn 18, keeping the ban on gay scout leaders and lesbian den mothers firmly in place. They have paraphrased that policy as, “you’re welcome… for a while.” And most everyone can see that that is a half-measure, at best.

But it’s sneakier than that. A more accurate paraphrase would be, “you’re welcome now, and you can participate, make friends, learn things, and have great fun… but we’ll kick you out when you’re 18 unless, by some miracle, you cease to be gay by then.”

There is already incredible emotional and social pressure for young non-heterosexual boys to hide, obfuscate, and deny their orientation. The internal mantra of the closeted gay teen used to be “no one must know!” and if you broke that rule, your life would be ruined. This policy creates an atmosphere where you can let the secret out without facing at least one type of immediate rejection, but opens up new doors for indoctrination and oppression.

And it’s not just that “change before you’re 18” club that they have to metaphorically beat the gay boys with. The other one is that little, sneaky word in the new policy, “alone.” You can’t be kicked out for your sexual orientation alone. It’s the central tenet of the religiously-motivated rabidly anti-gay crowd: “I don’t hate gay people, I morally disapprove of their lifestyle.”

So, you won’t be kicked out for admitting you’re gay, but you might be kicked out for not acting manly enough. Or you might be kicked out for spending too much time with other openly gay teens. Or you might be kicked out for having a boyfriend.

Now, they will defend that last one by pointing out that scout law demands that all scouts be “clean in thought, word, and deed” and therefore straight scouts who engage in premarital sex would be disciplined, too. The sad thing is, a lot of otherwise gay-friendly people will nod their heads to that and say, “well, yes, that makes sense.”

But I didn’t say they would be kicked out for having sex with another guy. I said “kicked out for having a boyfriend.” Straight scouts don’t get kicked out for having a girlfriend. But I know gay scouts will face an extremely heightened scrutiny of any of their relationships. And activities that straight scouts will do with impunity will be punished, at least by some troops, when a gay scout does it.

Just go google “facebook gay kissing controversy” to see an example. Facebook is littered with pictures of straight couples kissing, of half-naked people of either gender in all sorts of compromising positions without anyone batting an eye. But if someone posts a picture of two fully clothed men kissing, some people will flag it as “graphic or sexually suggestive,” and sometimes it gets banned. It doesn’t get unbanned until other people kick up a fuss.

It’s a common double standard. Prime time TV is full of all kinds of sexually suggestive situations between opposite-gendered couples that no one reacts to, but if they show a gay couple having a fairly innocent kiss, anti-gay activists start screaming “graphic gay sex!”

It’s not just the obvious bigots who think that way. I’ve seen dozens of stories from teen-agers who were surprised when they came out to their liberal, gay-rights supporting parents, because the parents freaked out. “You’re too young! You can’t know whether you’re gay, or not!” The reason the parents have the freak-out is because while they think they’re open-minded, they actually have fully bought into the myth that being gay is about sex, only sex, and nothing but sex. Their support for gay-rights is about letting adults decide how to conduct their sex lives. So while they wouldn’t freak out if their 14-year-old daughter had a crush on a boy, or their 15-year-old son had a crush on a girl, because having crushes is a natural and innocent part of growing up and learning about love. But they go ballistic when their teen talks about being gay, because being gay must mean sex. It can’t possibly be an innocent crush.

My old scout manual explained that “Clean in thought, word, and deed” meant that a scout strove to be “pure, clean-minded, and manly.” That sounds great, until you think about all impure, dirty-minded, and unmanly stereotypes people have about gays. And how impure, dirty, and unmanly some people construe anything that a known gay guy says or does.

No policy is going to prevent bigoted parents from looking for (and trumping up, if necessary) reasons to kick the gay kid out of their son’s troop. No policy is going to prevent kids under the influence of such parents from misconstruing actions from the known gay troop member as some sort of sexual advance, and try to get the kid kicked out.

But this particular policy is quite clearly designed to encourage those behaviors. So, I’m one former scout who is not ready to celebrate, yet.

Who’s not paying?

Even NPR can’t get it right.

This morning I heard the NPR reporter say, “But when Apple pays no taxes, Congress can’t ignore it.”

Apple paid 7 billion in U.S. federal taxes last year. Yes, they are holding more than $70 billion in foreign earnings outside the U.S., and aren’t currently paying federal taxes on that. However…

General Electric is currently holding more the $100 billion in foreign earnings outside the U.S. The last year that G.E.’s taxes were reported to the public, 2010, they paid just under 1 billion in U.S. taxes. Which is a lot more than they paid in 2009, because in 2009 they exploited U.S. tax law to get the government to refund more money than they put in. (Apple paid about 5 billion in U.S. taxes that year that G.E. paid less than zero).

Exxon paid about 3 billion last year, and according to the Wall Street Journal is holding more of its foreign earnings off shore than Apple (though less than G.E.).

I haven’t been able to find all the numbers for Google, but Bloomberg reports that Googles holds most of its billions in foreign profits in an Irish subsidiary, just like Apple.

So who’s not paying?

Tiny living…

For several years my late husband, Ray, and I lived in studio apartment that was just a bit larger than 200 square feet. It had a real, if teeny, bathroom, and there was a kitchenette in one corner. Things were tightly crammed in, but we managed. For a couple years after that, we lived in a place a bit more than twice as big, which was a less cramped—but still tiny enough that it was an uncomfortable chore to have more than one or two friends visit.

Truth be told, we weren’t really living in such a tiny place. We only got by thanks to a rented storage unit down the road where most of my gigantic collection of books sat in boxes. We also kept seasonal clothes there, swapping out part of our wardrobe a couple times a year.

When we moved to a larger, two-bedroom apartment, it was like moving into a castle. There was so much room! Even after we bought a dozen big bookcases and unpacked all my books. Now, 17 years later, I’m in the same place and I suspect some folks who have visited our place would refer to it as a small apartment.

Shortly after we moved into this place, another couple moved into a small studio in the same complex. It’s a little bit bigger than the studio (in another neighborhood) we had lived in. Whereas we had had a storage place down the road, their spill over was vehicles. When they first moved in they had three vehicles: a classic Volkswagon Beetle, a big panel van with a rack of conduit and stuff on top, and a small pickup (a beat-up red Toyota, as I recall). And they parked all three on the street because their unit didn’t have an off-street parking space.

This was a problem for us as our unit also didn’t have an off-street parking space, and we owned one car. Not one car each, one between us. Which I sometimes feel guilty about as I don’t drive very often. But it’s still fewer cars than people. Not to mention the difficulty friends had finding parking when they come to visit.

A few months later, the couple with three vehicles already acquired a new truck. Not just any truck, this was on of those pickups with four doors, so it’s much longer than the van. They didn’t trade-in any of the vehicles they already had on the new truck. So they were two people, living in the city, with four vehicles.

The one time I engaged in conversation about the vehicles, I tried to ease into it by talking about the classic VW, since I knew a few people who drove hybrids that had been built in old VW chassis. I didn’t say what I had been thinking: why are you guys taking up all the parking space on the street? I just asked whether the VW was all original equipment, or if it was some kine of re-furb.

In answer, I got a bit of a lecture about how environmentally friendly driving a small car like the VW to work every day was, and how keeping the old van running for the contracting business the hubby did was more responsible than buying a new van every few years, and while the VW was perfect for her to get back and forth to work and such, her husband was just too big to fit comfortably in it, so they of course had to have a vehicle they could both fit in for running errands and such. (I learned later than another neighbor had recently bluntly confronted them about the number of vehicles they owned.)

I understood all of that. But first, that had nothing to do with them deciding to buy a gas-guzzling behemoth in addition to the others, especially when they were parking all of their vehicles on public property. I would probably have still been annoyed at the giant truck often being in my way, even if they had gotten rid of the older pickup, but this was a big step beyond.

She also talked about how cheaper it was for them to rent an apartment in the city close to where she worked than where they had lived before, where there had been more parking. I stopped myself from suggesting that the point of living close to work is usually to eliminate the need for a dedicated commuting vehicle (I live much further from my work than she did at the time, and I take the bus and walk, for instance).

The kicker was they had stopped driving the smaller truck. When someone reported it abandoned and it was ticketed, they moved it to a different spot on the street and put a For Sale sign in the window. And then, they bought a motor cycle. Not a little, economical scooter, a ginormous, rattle windows in houses a mile away motorcycle.

By that point, a bunch of neighbors were tired of the whole mess. Multiple people started calling to report the pickup that never moved. Since the newer truck tended to get left in the same spot for many days at a time, a few people called that in, too. After getting several abandoned vehicle tickets, they finally took the small truck somewhere to sell it, and began making plans to move to “a friendlier neighborhood.”

They had it backwards. The rest of us weren’t the unfriendly neighbors.

Yes, parking on the street in our neighborhood is open to the public. And our particular block has a number of small apartment buildings with inadequate off-street parking. If the households living in every individual “living unit” on the street had only one car each, there would have to be some cars parked on the street all the time. This was a decision made by builders, and sanctioned by the city when it granted building permits. There was an assumption that either some people wouldn’t have cars, or that some of us would park on the street.

It is getting easier and easier to get by without a car in the city. And I know, being a car owner myself, I am living somewhat in a glass house if I complain about this couple.

But the point I’m meandering to is that a lot of choices that we make about how we live have consequences on other people’s lives. Yes, they had a legal right to buy what cars they wanted. But parking that many on the public right of way isn’t really fair use. Parking isn’t the only impact that people have an a neighborhood, by any means.

So I have misgivings about some of the practices some owners in several neighborhoods are undertaking, finding loopholes in the current regulations to subdivide existing apartments into smaller and smaller units in the name of “affordable housing.” Yes, if someone wants to live in a place that size, they may do so, but the mere presence of many more people in a given neighborhood is going to infringe on the lives of other people in that same neighborhood.

Asking to have my misgivings addressed isn’t being a bad neighbor. It isn’t being classist. It isn’t being a “not in my backyard.” It’s one citizen saying, “You haven’t answered all my questions, yet.”

Mundanity and a slice of key lime pie

The pollen count as been up, and up, and up, and down, then up, then, not-quite-so up (but not enough of a drop to count as down), and so on for the last few weeks. So most days I have fairly bad hay fever. Couple that with some big deadlines at work, and my productivity on home projects, including my own writing, has not been great.

It doesn’t help that we’re getting into heavy movie season, with Iron Man 3 and Star Trek Into Darkness taking up a bit of my time and a lot of my mental space.

Friday before last started like a typical work-from-home day. I got up, took some sinus medication because of the hay fever, logged into the work network, dealt with some emails, then downloaded some files to work, before taking a break to drive my husband to work. I do that on work-from-home days so that I can pick him up at the end of the day and we can go directly out to dinner afterward, rather than waiting for him to ride his bike home and so on.

By mid-afternoon I was feeling really tired and my throat was starting to hurt. Throat symptoms are not typical for my hay fever, so I was beginning to worry. Then my hubby walked in the door, saying he’d left work because he was sick–sinus headache, sore throat, itchy eyes, and a fever. He went straight to bed.

I kept working until the end of my work day, but I was getting a bit groggy. Some point in there I took my temperature and confirmed I was running a low-grade fever. Finally, I logged out, went upstairs, and collapsed into bed. I woke up an hour or so later and asked Michael what he wanted for dinner. Neither of us felt like cooking. What I was craving was burgers and pie. As soon as I mentioned pie, Michael admitted that sounded good. But neither of us knew anywhere that delivered pie. So I drove to the store, picked up juice and things for easy meals for the next couple of days, and a banana cream pie. Then I got drive-through burgers.

I had to take another nap after dinner. Then we slept in both Saturday & Sunday, both of us taking frequent naps. Originally we had been planning to go out to see Iron Man 3 on Friday night, so when on Sunday afternoon we realized we both felt a bit better, were both feeling a little stir crazy, and there was a showing at the theatre within walking distance in about 35 minutes, we went. We stopped at one of our favorite restaurants on the walk back afterwards for dinner, then came home. I took another nap before waking up to serve us each a slice of pie.

So we had pie several nights in a row. It made being sick seem a little less icky.

For various reasons I needed to go into work earlier than usual three days the following week. One of those days I wound up driving in, which I almost never do, because it was the only way to make sure I arrived when I needed to. The drive in took less time walking to the bus, riding the bus, then walking to the office. But the drive home, as it has every time I’ve driven to this office, took more than three times as long as the drive in.

Friday night we saw the new Star Trek movie. I want to see it on the big screen again. Probably several more times. Yes, I liked it that much.

When I was picking up groceries Saturday in preparation for friends coming over for the monthly writer’s meeting, when I went looking for desserts I found myself picking both a coconut cream pie and a key lime pie. Just because pie sounded good, and one friend who usually attends really like coconut cream, while another friend who attends less frequently really like key lime. I like both (even though all this pie isn’t really on my diet). So while I was a bit disappointed that the key lime-liking friend didn’t attend this month, it was kinda nice to have all that leftover pie in the fridge Sunday.

Because it’s always nice to have pie.

Write it or lose it

My writing goal for this last weekend was to complete the cleanup on a novel so I can send it to some people who have volunteered to copy edit it. This goal was set before the really bad hay fever I’d had all week turned into a cold Friday. By the end of my work day Friday the sore throat, low grade fever, and rundown feeling required a short nap before I could even discuss dinner with my hubby.

And since he had come home early from work sick, he was in the same boat.

I napped a lot Saturday. And slept in both days. Technically We could have opted out of going to the movie Sunday, but I’m not sure I would have gotten much more writing done if we had.

So of the 21 chapters, I got through three over the weekend. And a fourth Monday night. Not all of that was because of being braindead or asleep so much of the time. The other part was that my muse really didn’t want to work on the chore of consistency checking.

So at one point two of the characters started talking very animatedly in my head. And it was a conversation that is important to the plot… But it’s the plot of book four. I was supposed to be working on book one (yes, I’m writing a series; no, I didn’t plan to). The problem is, the conversation they were having concerned a part of the story of that book that I haven’t figured out yet, so I needed to write it down. Because if I don’t, some time later when I’m actually working on that book I’ll get to a tangled part of the plot and know that my subconscious has figured out how to solve that little thing in a clever way, but I won’t remember it.

That’s what it’s like in my head a lot. Ideas come out of the mysterious darkness and say, “Write about me! Write about me! Write about me or I’ll friggin’ go away!!!”

At another point, I read a single line of dialog in which the shrine guardian says, in answer to why he’s a kitsune trapped in an otter’s body, “It’s a long story…” And suddenly, in the back of my head, he and another character popped up and told me the fable-like tale of how it happened.

And I had to go write enough of it down so I could flesh out the tale, or I’ll forget some crucial bit. (I think it’s going to be called, “The Engraver, the Pearl, and the Impossible Customer,” but don’t hold me to it.)

I wrote down the outline and a few lines of dialog, but refused to let my muse distract me further to actually finish the story. Because if I follow all these distractions, I’ll never finish the previous tales.

Because my muse has super-hyper-ultra ADHD, and a tendency to hold some ideas hostage until I pay attention to its new shiny.

But every now and then we wrestle out a tale that makes me go, “Wow. Did I write that?”

Which is worth all the hassle.

(At least, That’s what I tell myself.)

Douche-dar

You know how sometimes the moment you meet some one you just know, before they say a single word, that you’re just not going to get along? Usually you can’t put your finger on it. It’s just a gut feeling. Something about the other person just puts you off right away.

The term “gaydar” has been around for a long time, referring originally to the ability of some gay men to identify closeted gay men through casual interaction. It’s been broadened over the years to refer more generically to the ability (or inability) of people to intuitively guess another person’s sexual orientation through a variety of non-verbal cues. A humorous discussion of occurs in the lyrics of the Ari Gold & Kendra Ross duet, “He’s on My Team”:

For a long time people explained the phenomenon away as being about looking for stereotypical behaviors, hair styles, and so on. But there have been numerous studies that show that people can guess a person’s sexual orientation correctly at a rate significantly above pure chance from very incomplete information. My personal favorite was the one that showed test subjects photos cropped down to a rectangle that showed only the person’s eyes, not even the entire eyebrow, so just the bridge of the nose and two eyes, nothing else.

On the other hand, some studies have shown that things people assume would be a giveaway aren’t. A study of whether the way a person walked could identify orientation showed that people did only slightly better than a coin toss at guessing correctly. Others have shown that even though watching extremely brief, silent video of a person’s mouth (other parts of the face not shown) while talking was enough to let people guess the sexual orientation of a person correctly, listening to recordings of a person talking is not.

My personal gaydar’s accuracy is spotty. I have a few amusing stories of not only not realizing another guy was gay, but completely misinterpreting his attempts to flirt. On the other hand, there have been a few guys I was certain were gay or bi, who friends insisted couldn’t possibly be, that I eventually learned were.

But while my gaydar can’t be relied upon, my douche-dar is a finely honed instrument. I can spot that arrogant jerk who blends an inflated sense of self-worth with a complete ignorance of how unpleasant others find him, compounded by a lack of manners. He’s the sort of person who uses “I’m just being honest” as an excuse to be rude, cruel, and nasty. He thinks he’s the life of the party because people are frequently laughing around him, because he doesn’t realize that sometimes they are laughing at him instead of with, but even more importantly, he doesn’t understand that laughing is often a self-defense mechanism. People laugh when someone is being mean to them as a way to communicate that they aren’t a threat. It’s a nonverbal way of saying, “Please, don’t hurt me!”

They aren’t completely lacking in social skills, they just lean very heavily on the manipulation and coercion end of the scale. So they have “friends” but this crowd generally falls into three categories:

  • Other douchebags—though usually minor or wannabe douchebags. Like scavengers following a big predator to live off the scraps.
  • Codependent victims. These people have very low self-esteem or suffer from some other emotional baggage that makes being a punching bag or the butt of the douche’s jokes seem like better than being lonely. The group includes the douche’s boyfriend/girlfriend.
  • People who have some social obligation to spend time and be civil to this person, as much as they’d rather not. Includes relatives of people in the first two categories.

I don’t know what cues I pick up on with these guys. I have correctly assessed the personality traits from a single photograph seen before meeting the person. I’ve even correctly guessed it from watching them play a completely different character in a dramatic production. And so far as I know, I’ve never been wrong.

Seriously. So I wasn’t surprised when the star of a long running TV show which has a very active fan following that writes lots of slash-fic lashed out at a question about gay subtext at a recent convention, ending his spiel by yelling that, “Normal people aren’t gay!”

Guess I’m glad I disliked the show when I watched the pilot eight years ago, huh?

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