Archive | November 2013

War on Thanksgiving?

As ridiculous as I think all the stories about a war on Christmas always are, I have to admit that I like Buzzfeed’s use of the “War on Thanksgiving” label in this and related stories: Your Shopping Guide To Stores That Won’t Ruin Their Workers’ Thanksgivings.

They’ve compiled two lists:

  • Big national chains that are opening on Thanksgiving and making their employees come in on the holiday,
  • And the chains that are remaining closed the entire holiday.

I wound up in a chat online this week about the phenomenon. I have always felt a little guilty because my entire adult life I’ve had jobs where we get both Thanksgiving and the day after off as paid holidays. Meanwhile, my mom worked retail and always had to work either Thanksgiving Day or Christmas (a few years both). And each serious relationship I’ve been in, my partner has either had to work the holiday or at least both the day before and the day after.

And for the last many years, visiting my mom for the holidays has required us to rent a hotel room. Mom’s previous two living places where so small, the entire place would have fit inside our living room. When she was still living in Vancouver, that also meant that if my sister and her kids were there, they were all sleeping at Mom’s place, where there was no guest room.

Anyway, that means I also feel guilty about the people at the hotel who have to work that day, in part, because of me.

I still feel bad about the times I’ve had to run to a store on a major holiday. Though I must admit, the year that all of the sinks clogged up while I was in the middle of cooking (first Thanksgiving after Ray & I moved into the place, first time his mom had come to have a holiday dinner with us, and all of my sinks clogged!), that when I showed up in the checkout line with multiple bottles of drain opener and a plunger as my only items, the cashier laughed, and then said, “Thank you for making me feel like working this shift was worth it.”

Anyway, there are the lists, if you want to boycott or just send a letter to the folks in charge. I’m really hoping that they have so few people show up to shop that they don’t do it next year.

I am a crazy optimist, after all!

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What’s for dinner?

I used to always run a survey on my old LiveJournal for what people are having or did have for their Thanksgiving Dinner:

And:

Don’t forget:

Some heretics don’t have a relish tray (and even worse, don’t know what that is), but everyone has sauces or relish of some kind, right?

Sing w/e/ me joyous

Kitten listening to ipod.

I can quit any time I want.

It is very nearly that time of year. It is nearly the time when I can start listening to Christmas music. I have been enforcing my rule for many years: I can’t start listening to Christmas music until after Thanksgiving.

Because of a comment by a friend on Twitter, I wound up in a discussion about my Christmas music, and because the person I was talking with is also a friend of my husband, he had to chime in with some comments about the size of my Christmas music collection. Which got more friends involved as we debated the timeless question: is there such a thing as too much Christmas music?

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In the hole, still digging

Tom Tomorrow sums up the anti-marriage arguments.

Tom Tomorrow sums up the anti-marriage arguments.

So, one of the leading groups fighting to stop marriage equality, the so-called National Organization for Marriage, finally filed their taxes for last year (but only after being sued and publicly shamed). They seriously didn’t want to. They filed two extensions, missed the deadline of the second extension, and even then, the filing has all donors redacted.

Now that they have filed it, we know why. They ended the year in the red. Most people are reporting that they are a million dollars in the hole, but it’s worse than that. Their actual form shows them $2,731,302 dollars in the negative. Some news sites are using the $1,000,000 figure because the organization took a loan of about 1.6-million dollars from its so-called “education” arm. Which may prompt more legal action, since that might not be legal. Because the educational arm raises money as a tax-deductible religious organization, and those funds can’t legally be spent on political activities. NOM spent a rather huge amount of money failing to stop Marriage Equality referendums in Maine, Maryland, and Washington state last year. Not to mention paying its leaders generous salaries. Its president, Brian Brown, was paid his full $230,000 salary, while supposedly-retired president, Maggie Gallagher, was paid $160,000.

The money, and specifically how almost no one is donating to them any longer, is only half the the mystery here. The other half is, what do they think they can accomplish now?

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Dumb arguments against legal protections for transgender people, part 2

http://images.mikhaela.net/cgi-bin/showpic.cgi?picdir=toons&picname=stop.gif

Make it stop (mikhaela.net)

Continuing from earlier this week, the people who argue against anti-discrimination laws for transgender people make some incredibly nonsensical arguments. And the worst of these come up around the issue of transgender protection policies or laws in schools which include allowing transgender students at schools to use the restrooms and similar facilities according to their gender identity:

You’re worrying about the .00001 percent while forgetting about other students! Transphobic bully is not a big problem!

This argument is a favorite of bigots of all kinds: the group in question is such a small fraction of the population, that this isn’t really a problem. That isn’t how society makes a decision about whether or not the legal protections of society extend to them. For instance, no one is arguing that Jewish people don’t deserve the full protection of the law merely because they make up only 1.4% of the population. Similarly, the murder rate in the U.S. is only about 15 per 100,000, which translates to 0.015%. No one is arguing that we don’t need laws against murder anymore.

Before arguing that transgender protection is hardly the same thing as murder, you might want to google Transgender Day of Remembrance and read some stories of things that have happened to real trans people. Furthermore, things like the “safe schools for trans kids” policies mention restrooms and locker rooms precisely because it is around this issue more than anything else that harassment, bullying, and assault take place in schools. The policy is about allowing these kids to use the appropriate facilities without facing all of that. Yes, that means educating some kids that it isn’t acceptable to harass, tease, bully, or assault their trans classmates, but why would a just society allow one group of kids to harass, tease, bully, or assault another, period?

Which leads us to the other big flaw in this argument. This argument is a variant of the moldy old “more important things” argument. They are claiming that it isn’t possible to pursue the goal of allowing trans kids to be safe in schools without diverting valuable resources from other things. As if we won’t have the money to buy text books because allowing these kids to use the bathroom costs so much. But, allowing kids to go to one bathroom as opposed to the other doesn’t cost the school district extra. Dealing with kids bullying other kids is something we already expect schools to do, so again, this isn’t a new expense.

And contrary to what the organizations currently trying to repeal California’s law on this has been saying: there have been zero cases of transgender kids harassing the other kids in the bathroom. Furthermore, the physical genitalia of one kid in a bathroom stall has no effect, one way or the other, on any other kids in the same bathroom. Preventing a kid who claims to have a deep religious belief about another kid’s gender or sexuality from bullying that kid is not itself bullying.

It would make students uncomfortable by forcing them to be naked in front of someone that they might want to ask out!

In both the “news” videos where I saw a person make this argument, he said this about restrooms. And my first thought was, “who is forced to be naked in a restroom, and when is it in front of everyone?” I don’t know of anyone who has to get completely naked to use a restroom (although if you’re in a particularly complicated Halloween costume or similar, taking it completely off might be required, I don’t see that as a daily occurrence).

And if your sensibilities are so delicate that you don’t want anyone you don’t approve of possibly catching a glimpse at the urinal, you probably have a lot more to worry about from the closeted gay and bi guys around you (and there are a whole lot more than you think), than any transgender people.

I suspect that even though the spokesman used this example twice in referring to restrooms, that he actually was thinking of locker rooms. Using a locker room usually involves being seen naked by other people using the locker room. It’s quite difficult to change from street clothes to a basketball uniform, for instance, and then afterward change out of the uniform, take a shower, and then put your street clothes on without getting naked and being seen naked.

And since gym class is often mandatory, an argument can be made that one is forced to be naked in front of people in that circumstance.

But here’s the thing. The people most likely to be upset about this are religious conservatives. And the thing I’ve always wondered about particularly the ones who claim to take the bible literally is: why are you willing to be naked at all? Think about it, in the story of Adam and Eve, after they eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge, what does it say? It says that they realized that they were naked, and that it was wrong to be naked, so they fashioned clothing from fig leaves to cover themselves. That is how god knows they’ve eaten the fruit, according to the story. Not because he was omniscient, but rather because they were hiding from him and had covered their nakedness.

Now think about that for a minute. The Bible doesn’t say, “they suddenly realized that they could see each other naked.” It says they realized they were naked. And not only did the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil tell them that being naked is a sin, but it revealed to them that allowing god to see you naked is a sin! The people up in arms about restroom and locker room policies should not be worrying about one transgender classmate seeing them naked, they should be upset about the fact that anyone at all can see them naked, and especially that god is seeing them naked!

And don’t tell me that what the story really means is that boys are allowed to see boys naked and girls are allowed to see girls naked and that hiding from god was an overreaction and that god not knowing until they came out of hiding was just a metaphor. If you’ve ever claimed to take the bible literally, then you need to take all of it literally and are not allowed to say the things you don’t want to worry about are metaphors, while the things I don’t want to worry about are horrible abominations that will spell the destruction of this country.

But I digress. Again, if the issue is worrying about people lusting after your naked body in the locker room, there’s a few things you really need to know. Regardless of which estimate of the percentage of the population which you believe to be gay is (and it’s definitely not zero), there are going to be at least a few gay people in that locker room. And a lot more bisexual people. And I mean a whole lot more.

In the 1990s the CDC did a bunch of studies about sexual activity to try to better predict how new sexually transmitted diseases would spread. In addition to concluding that “Americans would rather admit to being heroin addicts than bisexual” the study found that about 45% of the population engaged in bisexual activities for a significant number of years during their adult life. Please look at that number again: 45%.

Now, add whichever of the statistics you believe represent the percentage of gay people (I happen to think, for complicated mathematical reasons I won’t bore you with now, that the actual number is between 5% and 6%, less than the oft-quoted 10%, but significantly more than the low ball numbers it has become fashionable to toss around), and you’re in the neighborhood of half. So, any time you’re naked in front of a crowd that consists only of people of your gender, close to half of them are in the pool of people who might be attracted to you.

But the stated argument isn’t about the desires of the people looking at you. That’s part of what makes this argument so very intriguing: “naked in front of someone they might want to ask out on a date.”

Seriously?

Now, seriously, I want you to picture the kind of teenager who is most likely to be uncomfortable sharing a locker room with a transgender student. Is that kid really interested in dating a transgender classmate? Maybe my sample size is skewed, but all of the trans people that I have known before and after transitioning were gender non-conforming to an extent long before they started talking publicly of transitioning. I don’t mean that they were dressing like members of the other gender, I mean they had certain personality characteristics and mannerisms. People often assumed they were gay or lesbian.

So I just don’t see it. It doesn’t seem as if it ought to be a common occurrence. Is the guy projecting, here? Is perhaps this spokesman himself attract only to women who are masculine? Is he hot for a transman? Or is he just completely clueless.

Given all the research that shows that the most phobic acting people are also the ones who are most strongly aroused by the very thing they’re always hating on… maybe a bit of all three, you think?

(To be continued…)

Dumb arguments against legal protections for transgender people

Woman looking into another stall in a bathroom, just in case.

Keeping one’s priorities “straight.”

A couple weeks ago I started writing about the Dumbest Arguments Against Anti-Disrimination Laws. It took me no time to reel off a longer blog post than usual, and I hadn’t covered everything, so I ended that one with a “To be continued…” then wrote part 2 to post the next day. Even then I wasn’t quite finished, because there is an even more dreadful level of stupidity achieved by people arguing against transgender anti-discrimination laws.

So, let’s dive in…

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Progress Report: NaNoWriMo

Image of typewriter keys and the words The Alternate NaNoWriMo.

The Alternate NaNoWriMo, as proposed by Cafe Aphra (http://cafeaphrapilot.blogspot.com/2013/10/the-alternative-nanowrimo.html)

We’re a bit past halfway through National Novel Writing Month and my word count is 28,550. Since I’m participating in Cafe Aphra’s Alternate NaNoWriMo (or just being a NaNo Rebel, depending on how you look at it), I did not start with a blank page and begin writing a new novel at 12:01 am on November 1. Instead, my goal is to finish my novel, The Trickster Entanglement (which is a sequel to my novel The Trickster Apocalypse) by the end of the month.

Because of my past experiences of trying to tie a personal story-finishing goal into the creative energy of the NaNoWriMo experience, I also set myself a goal of writing t least 1000 words a day, updating my word count regularly on the NaNoWriMo website (where I am Fontfolly—if you’re participating in and have an account, feel free to add me as a Writing Buddy). I have also tried to be racing with a few of my friends as an additional incentive.

This weekend was not very productive. I knew it would be a challenge, because we were hosting the monthly Writers’ Night at our house and I was scheduled to gamemaster a SteamPunk game on Sunday. Hosting Writers’ Night meant cleaning the house and cooking for a bunch of people, in addition to the time of the actual event. Running the game meant doing some research and cooking food to bring to the potluck in addition to the time of the actual event.

Plus, as if that wasn’t enough, on Friday afternoon, while I was working from home, and specifically when I was getting ready to run out for a doctor’s appointment, the toilet decided to overflow! That created an unexpected amount of work that day, as you can imagine.

I had about 75,000 words of the novel written before I started. Those words were arranged into 14 and a couple half-chapters, the chapters consisting generally of 3 to 5 scenes each. One of the reasons for the two half-chapters has been that for some months I’ve been mucking about trying to re-organize what was there. The reasons for the re-org were two-fold. About half the attendees of the monthly writer’s meeting had raised the issue a few times that the story either had two many characters for people to keep track of, or too many sub-plots to follow. The other half of the group seemed to think that the characters and subplots were okay (and they could see how subplots were converging), but admitted it was difficult for them to say how it held together with so much going on, and gaps of a month in-between reading what came next.

Thus, I’d been spinning my wheels engaged in a lot of re-considering and re-arranging as I tried to figure out which parts were truly vital to the main plot.

Since starting NaNoWriMo, I’ve written 37 complete new scenes. I have advanced several of the subplots fairly well. I’m more or less organizing the scenes into chapters, though at the moment some of those chapters are a lot longer than I had previously been letting them go. At the moment I have 21 chapters, I think (it’s a little weird because I have three chapter 13s and three chapter 17s for reasons that are a bit long to explain at this juncture; but cleaning all of that up is something to do after NaNoWriMo, right?).

As a consequence of taking the NaNoWriMo philosophy to heart—keep writing, just keep writing, don’t stop to edit and revise—one thing that has been different about the new chapters is that I’m sticking with one set of characters for several scenes in a row. Based on comments at the Writers’ meeting this last weekend, I think one of the main problems in the earlier chapters was that I was grouping scenes into chapters such that the reader was constantly jumping from one set of characters to another. There are some points in the plot where that really is necessary, but I think with the complicated plot I have (the word “entanglement” is in the title for more than one reason!), that allowing the reader to focus on few characters at a time will work out better in the end.

My lynx plushy seated at my laptop.

One wonders how I hit 105 wpm with those paws.

So, while this last weekend wasn’t productive, I have made a lot of good progress. Even with a workday that had a doctor appointment and a plumbing accident, I still managed to write 1574 words on Friday. Saturday was quite a bit less at about 512, and Sunday with 849. I suspect I’ll be able to go back to regularly beating my 1000 word minimum. I also feel quite strongly that I am going to finish the first draft by the end of November.

Wish me luck!

Not all anniversaries are good

Sixteen years ago this week, several bad things happened.

It began in the wee small hours of the morning of the 12th. I was awakened by the sound of a crash. I stumbled into the computer room to see one bookcase knocked over, and my husband, Ray, on the floor having some kind of seizure.

He had been sick for a few years. There had been surgery and rounds of chemotherapy. Just two weeks before, the specialist overseeing his treatment had cautiously told us that instead of only having two years or less to live, Ray might be looking at five to ten years.

They had been telling us the “two years or less” line for more than three years, and I had kept refusing to believe it, so I’m not sure why I took the new prognosis as such good news. Other than the usual human tendency to reject news we don’t like, and accept news we do.

I remained surprisingly calm as I tried to hold him so he wouldn’t hurt himself further and call 9-1-1.

Until something happened. I still can’t describe it very well. He was still seizing, but something changed. The light in his eyes was different, or something. Until that moment, I believed this was something treatable. Something we could fix. But when that change happened, I suddenly stopped believing… So by the time the paramedics got there I was in more than a bit of a panic.

I could go on to list the other things that happened, the many stages of denial (for other people, denial was a single stage, for me it went through an incredible number of nuanced phases over the next couple of days). Then, while hugging and crying on my friend, Kristin’s, shoulder, I jumped over the other phases. I’d been crying off and on for hours—days, technically (though I’d only slept a couple hours out of the previous 48+, so it seemed like one really long, horrible day).

So on the 14th I signed some papers. Then a couple of nurses turned off the monitors, removed the respirator tubes, and turned off the rest of the machines.

I held Ray’s hand. I said “Good-bye.”

I don’t remember if I cried again. My last chronologically-in-order memory is taking hold of his hand that one last time. My memories for the next few months are like a collection of shattered glass pictures.

He promised me he would stay with me for the rest of his life. And he did.

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