Archive | February 2019

Friday Five (failure to assimilate edition)

©2019 Jen Sorensen http://jensorensen.com (click to embiggen)

It’s finally Friday. It’s the third Friday in February in a very cold and slushy February for Seattle.

We’ve been snowed in most of the week. We’re on track to have the one of the coldest Februaries on record. Our street is full of ice and slush that keeps refreezing every night.

Anyway, welcome to the Friday Five. This week I bring you: a special story of the week, the top five (IMHO) stories of the week, five stories about writing and reading, five stories about deplorable people, and five videos (plus a notable obituary and the things I’ve written).

Some stories are so awesome they deserve a heading to themselves:

My Wife and I Didn’t Tell Our Children About Her Cancer . Have some kleenex handy…

Stories of the Week:

Unclaimed Bodies From the Opioid Epidemic Are Crowding Morgues – No One Really Knows What to Do With All of America’s Unclaimed Corpses.

The Opportunity Rover and the Pain of Giving Up .

Plummeting insect numbers ‘threaten collapse of nature’ .

One Year After Parkland: First the Murder, Then the Robbery.

The Broken Hearts Club: Inside the making of the 2000 gay rom-com.

This week in Writing and Reading:

Charlie Jane Anders’ Ideas for Complex Characters of All Genders.

Oh No, She Didn’t: The Strong Female Character, Deconstructed.

‘Retcon’: How To Rewrite Details In An Ongoing Series.

An Easy Tip for Getting Unstuck in a Scene.

The Most Powerful Force – how John W. Campbell Jr. influenced and formed science fiction in the 1930s to 1950s and how the genre eventually grew beyond him.

Awful, Deplorable People:

The Wall Is in Their Hearts – “The wall is being built. It’ll continue. It’s going at a rapid pace.”.

20 years, 700 victims: Southern Baptist sexual abuse spreads as leaders resist reforms .

The most powerful moment of the Whitaker hearing had nothing to do with Mueller – Rep. Pramila Jayapal grilled the acting attorney general about family separation — and he had no answers.

Rep. Ilhan Omar Would Just Like To Know Which Massacre Elliott Abrams Is Proudest Of.

Texas Sec. Of State Apologizes For Bogus Voter List Upon Confirmation Vote Delay.

In Memoriam:

John Dingell Jr.: A Wonkpreciation!.

You’re Living in the America John Dingell Made. “There’s really nobody in America who isn’t impacted—often in ways they don’t understand—by his work in Washington.”

Patricia Nell Warren, The Front Runner Author, Dies at 82.

Patricia Nell Warren, Author of the Groundbreaking Gay Novel ‘The Front Runner’, Has Died at 82.

Author & all around wonderful woman Patricia Nell Warren finishes her race.

Paperback Pioneer Betty Ballantine Dead at 99.

Legendary editor and publisher Betty Ballantine (1919-2019).

RIP, Oppy the Mars Rover – After 15 years, the adventurous spacecraft has finally bit the dust..

Things I wrote:

Weekend Update 2/10/2019: Gruesome Killers and Unrepentant Ex-ex-gay Charlatans.

The unending struggle against thermal equilibrium, or, trying to get my coffee just right.

Definitely did not dodge the snow and ice.

Hate isn’t just a feeling: Attitudes and silence can cause as much harm as actions.

Videos!

Good Omens: Opening Title Sequence :

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

The Real Black Panther – Black Leopard Spotted in Kenya:

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

The Impossible Hugeness of Deep Time:

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

Kacey Musgraves – Rainbow (Official Music Video):

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

Ben Platt – “Ease My Mind” [Official Video]:

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

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Hate isn’t just a feeling: Attitudes and silence can cause as much harm as actions

Source: thedesmondproject.com/Homelessness-Info.html (Click to embiggen)

It’s estimated that about 1.7 million teen-agers are homeless in America at any time. Of those, about 40% identify as queer (that’s 680,000 kids). According to research by the True Colors Fund and similar groups, the single biggest cause of those queer teens being homeless is family rejection because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The next most common reasons are abusive homophobia or transphobia in their school, church, or community, even when their parents don’t go to the extreme of kicking them out. That bullying and rejection is why queer teens and children are five times as likely to attempt suicide than their cis and heterosexual peers. Note that the first study which concluded that the high queer teen suicide numbers is due to discrimination was concluded and published by the George H.W. Bush administration. Though numerous studies since have reached the same conclusion.

Similarly, when marriage equality began being enacted, the Centers for Disease Control and other agencies found that queer teen suicides and suicide attempts decreased by 14%. Which would confirm that perceptions of societal acceptance his a significant driver of the problem.

This is why I get so angry when politicians, such as our current Vice President, scream bloody murder when anyone criticizes the anti-gay policies and teachings of any of their favorite institutions. Adult religious freedom shouldn’t be an excuse to bully children to death. Period.

The rate at which LGBT teens are thrown out of their homes, bullied, and driven to suicide is exactly why queer adults and our allies get upset when, say, the wife of the Vice President of the United States goes to work at a Christian school which rejects queer students. It isn’t about her religious freedom, it’s about the health and welfare of children. And if you don’t believe me, you can listen to a queer person who attended and that very school:

Alumnus of Karen Pence’s anti-LGBTQ school speaks out

When we talk about this sort of thing in relation to private schools, a lot of people who think of themselves as open-minded respond by pointing out that attending a private school isn’t mandatory. As if a five-year-old kid is the one deciding which school their parents are going to enroll them into. Part of the problem with these institutions is that they are part of an entire ecosystem—an anti-gay (and usually also anti-science) bubble in which kids are brought up surrounded by misinformation. More than a little bit of that misinformation being quite harmful to one’s health.

Let’s get a few things out of the way. The overwhelming scientific and medical consensus is that sexual orientation is not a choice, it can’t be changed, and whatever the cause seems to be set sometime before the age of two. It is also the overwhelming scientific and medical consensus that the differences in health outcomes and such that are sometimes cherry-picked from studies to prove that being queer is harmful are actually evidence that anti-gay discrimination is harmful.

Queer kids are born in all types of families. And even when the adults around us don’t notice or suspect us from an early age, we all notice that something is different pretty early. And the older we get in an environment where our feelings and interests don’t match what is expected by the adults around us, the more we try to hide our true selves and contort ourselves into something that will please our elders and peers.

“When you’re young and consistently told that who you are is incorrect and needs to be eradicated, you listen and start to eradicate yourself.”
—Luke Hartman, Immanuel Christian alumnus

As Luke points out, being raised in a church that taught that gays are abominations, and going to a elementary school and then middle school where everyone believed that and the curriculum assumed that non-straight people don’t even exist, stunts a queer kids emotional growth. When none of the role models match their feelings, they just go through motions without many important social developments happening. It was only when he transitioned to a public high school (because the private school didn’t cover the upper grades) that he began to get a hint that people like him even existed.

“I believe the most hurtful messages are the ones that are expressed silently. It was an unspoken truth that being gay, or deviating from a narrow definition of sexual orientation or gender identity, was a no-fly zone.”
—Luke Hartman

They don’t learn how to form healthy romantic relationships in a context that matches their orientation. They also internalize all the absence as much as the outright bigotry. If the only possible acceptable visions of your future are things that you can feel in your bones aren’t who you are, well, that must mean that something is profoundly wrong with you. It’s like one queer author once observed: in myth monsters don’t have reflections and don’t cast shadows. If people like us don’t exist in any books, movies, stories, et cetera that we see growing up—if people like us aren’t reflected in the culture, and if our accomplishments aren’t acknowledged—then the only conclusion is that we are monsters.

That leaves scars and deep trauma—trauma that studies show makes physical changes to the brain just like that seen in war zone survivors!

And that’s why it’s important to call out the people who claim they are just exercising their religious beliefs. They aren’t “merely” doing anything. They are imposing those beliefs on children. And before you let them claim that they have a right to raise their children as they like, let me remind you that children aren’t property. They are a responsibility. We impose severe penalties when parents physically brutalize and even kill their children. We need to realize that abuse and trauma isn’t limited to broken bones, contusions, and concussions.

Definitely did not dodge the snow and ice

It may not look like a lot, but…

New residents to the Seattle area always get amused when snow is in the forecast. Native Seattlites and long-term residents leave work early, make grocery store runs, and prepare for the worst at any forecast of more than a dusting of snow. “It’s only 2/4/6 inches!” these recent arrivals shout. “You guys are really overreacting.” If those people still live here the following winter, they do not repeat that folly. I grew up in the central Rocky Mountain region, where temperatures of -25ºF were common, where snow was deep enough most Octobers that you had to wear snow boots and a heavy coat to go trick-or-treating as a child, and so forth. So I thought I knew all about snow and cold weather. As a teen-ager when we first moved to western Washington I didn’t get it either.

There are several reasons it is different. First, we just don’t get that much snow here, at all. Maintaining large fleets of snowploughs that only get used about once every three years just doesn’t make sense for most city and county governments. We have plows, but most are the kind that can be attached to generic utility trucks. So they aren’t quick to deploy, and the drivers don’t get much practice most years.

A related issue is that usually we just don’t get that cold. The ground (and especially the asphalt on roads) stays much warmer throughout the winter than at other places. That means that if we get more than a dusting, the first bunch of snowfall immediately melts when it hits the roadway, but then as more snow falls, the asphalt gets cold enough that that melted snow turns into a sheet of ice. Which more snow is falling onto. Anyone who has lived in places that get lots of snow and has driven on it should know that there is a big difference between driving on snow and driving on ice hiding under snow.

Then there is geography. It’s very hilly here. Really hilly. And again because we don’t get freezing weather and snow often, people build houses on hills that in other parts of the country no sane person would. Several of the small towns I lived in back in Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, and Nebraska had one or two stretches of road on steep hills. Those roads never had houses or businesses along them, and every winter the city would put up big roadblocks to completely block that section of road until spring. It was a convenient short route during the summer, but the rest of the time it was closed because it is too steep to drive on safely with snow. About 80% of the roads in Seattle are as steep as the hills that used to get blocked off every winter in those small towns.

All of those hills and the many bodies of water mean that we have microclimates. My favorite example was back when I lived near the ship canal. One day I needed to walk up to a friend’s house that was a mere six blocks from my place. Six blocks up a steep hill. It was very cold and raining hard at my place, down at the bottom of the hill, and it looked like a fog bank was engulfing the hill. I started walking. About half way up, I hit the “fog bank” which was actually snow. There was almost an inch of snow at my friend’s place, and it had been snowing for a couple of hours (so she was surprised I had shown up). I picked up the stuff I was supposed to collect and walked back down the hill. It was still raining hard with no sign of snow there, just six blocks away. So you may leave your house one morning thinking you only have rain to deal with on a short drive, and suddenly find yourself slipping and sliding on ice and slush. Probably sliding backward, because you were going uphill…

Because of the microclimates and how easy a very slight shift in the upper atmosphere can flip us between snow, rain, sleet, or freezing rain, we occasionally get situations where the ground and sidewalks are covered in deep mixtures of snow, ice and slush. That is extremely hard to walk on, and your clothes get soaked with barely-not-freezing water. So even if you try to avoid driving, it can be an ordeal just to walk to a nearby store or to get to the nearest bus stop or light rail station.

The sidewalks are particularly bad because while it is the responsibility of property owners to shovel the walks, most people don’t own snow shovels (cf. above mention that we only get significant snow about once every three years)—one of the local news blogs shared a video earlier this week someone posted online of a neighbor shoveling snow using a Swiffer (indoor mopping gadget). When you combine that with how many stretches of sidewalk go past large apartment buildings (whose owners are just as unlikely as individual home owners to own a snow shovel) and how many stretches of road go past green strips and other public property which doesn’t get shoveled (or in my end of the region, how many neighborhoods don’t have sidewalks at all), well, it’s just a mess.

This year’s event has been a combination of several of our worst problems. The first big snowfall a bit over a week ago turned into sheets of ice with snow on top. Arterials were plowed and de-iced, but more snow kept coming, and sides streets all over the region remained icy slip-and-slides of doom. And more snow keeps coming. We get a break and people go out and try to shovel their drives and sidewalks…. and then it snows again. Then we got the rain/snow mix that put heavy ice on power lines and tree branches resulting in 90,000 households (including us) being without most of the night.

For some perspective: in the last 10 days we’ve had 8 times more snow than Boston has all winter. We are already the snowiest February recorded in the area in 35 years. Seatac Airport has broken a record for most snow in a single day set in 1949.

And we don’t know if it is over. Things are melting a bit today. It’s supposed to be much warmer tomorrow, which will cause more melting (at which point more trees will fall as the ground on all those hills I mentioned above turns to mud) and we may get a bit of flooding some places. Then another cold air mass looks to be moving in late Wednesday night, meaning all those wet street will turn to ice again just in time for the Thursday commute… and another wet air mass is coming toward us from the south hitting either late Thursday or early Friday. That might mean more snow. It might mean rain. It might mean freezing rain. It is likely going to mean all three just depending on where you are.

So, fun?

The unending struggle against thermal equilibrium, or, trying to get my coffee just right

© 2014 Gene Breshears

Coffee always helps.

I have a favorite coffee mug. It’s purple and holds a large amount of coffee. It’s a nice, solid mug that isn’t top heavy (a feature that a previous favorite mug did not share, which resulted in a lot of spilled coffee and swearing). You know those markings on the side of most automatic drip coffee carafes that tell you how many cups are in the pot? If my favorite mug is completely empty and I fill it from such a pot, the numbers on the side indicate that I’ve poured out a bit more than four cups from the pot. A standard-ish modern coffee mug usually holds about two cups. So when I said this one is large I meant it.

I like the mug a lot.

There really is only one problem, which I have been dealing with for several years, ever since we bought our current microwave.

This mug (my favorite) and this microwave do not quite get along... © 2019 Gene Breshears

This mug (my favorite) and this microwave do not quite get along…

For various reasons, most mornings when I go to get myself my first cup of coffee at home, there is usually enough cold coffee leftover from the previous day to fill my favorite mug. So I fill the mug and stick it in the microwave and immediately face a dilemma. If I press the 1 minute button on the microwave, by the time it is done, the coffee in the mug will be only barely warmer than tepid. If I select, say, 1 minute and 30 seconds, when I reach for the mug I will find that handle is scalding hot, while the body of the mug is only slightly warm, and the coffee is also only slightly warm. If I select a full two minutes, the coffee itself will be a very nice temperature, but not only with the handle of the mug be too hot to hold, but the body of the mug will also be a warmer than is pleasant to hold.

Exactly why the mug itself heats up more than the coffee in this microwave doesn’t really matter. The thing is, according to the Laws of Thermodynamics, once the mug has reached a point where it is warmer than the coffee, one should need only to wait for a bit, and the mug will cool down while the coffee absorbs some of that heat the mug is losing and warm up. So you would think that the ideal option would be to select the one and a half minute cycle, carefully carry the mug grasping the body and not the too-hot-to-touch handle over to my desk or whatever, and in let’s say five minutes time everything would be perfect.

But it doesn’t work. Most of the mug handle’s heat, instead of going into the rest of the mug and eventually the coffee, seems to mostly go into the air around it. The upshot is that by the time the mug’s handle is cool enough to comfortably grip it, the coffee has cooled down closer to room temperature than the warmth it had before.

Once a fresh pot is made, I have an easier time managing the temperature. Usually the coffee is cold by the time I’ve drank half the mug, so I can top it off from the bot and it reaches a nice warm—not too hot, not tepid. And if can do a little 30 second zap if the coffee is a bit cooler than I like. So long as I don’t let it get back down to room temperature, anyway.

I’m sure there’s some sort of life lesson I should be able to derive from this. It’s like the tiniest annoyance in my life. It’s been on my mind more lately because between one or the other of us being sick and all the weird weather, I’m been working from home a lot more often. And this will surprise some people since I seem to by such a coffee addict, but I almost never make coffee at home on days I go into the office. My first caffeine of the day on those days happens is the free stuff they have in the kitchenette down the hall from my desk.

Ah, well, I’ll just have to soldier on!

Weekend Update 2/10/2019: Gruesome Killers and Unrepentant Ex-ex-gay Charlatans

I started this post Saturday, but there were several competing things in the news that I wanted to talk about, and so many of them are depressing, that I decided to put on cold weather gear to go out and free up the snow-covered bird feeder to give myself a mental break. Then I realized that I needed to make coffee. And that made me decide to clean the kitchen counters, unload the dishwasher, and go talk to my husband about dinner plans (since whatever we made would likely require defrosting something from the freezer)… and by the time I had done all that and got back to my computer, I decided to work on my novel instead of doing a Weekend Update post.

Having slept on it, I figured out which news items I definitely wanted to focus on. To follow up on topics that I’ve included in previous Friday Five or Weekend Update posts. And since one of these involves the sentencing of a serial killer, I’m going to put it behind a cut tag. If you aren’t in the mood for discussion of gruesome murders, please don’t click. Otherwise… Read More…

Friday Five (enemy of the vote edition)

It’s finally Friday. It’s the second Friday in February in a very weird February for Seattle.

After two months of warmer than normal weather, we’re suddenly having much colder than normal plus a lot more snow than usual. It’s just weird.

Anyway, welcome to the Friday Five. This week I bring you: the top five (IMHO) stories of the week, five stories of interest to queers and our allies, five stories about deplorable people, and five videos (plus a notable obituary and the things I’ve written).

Stories of the Week:

This Holocaust Survivor Had No Family. So 150 Strangers Attended His Funeral.

Hiding Homosexuality on the Cover of America’s Magazines a Century Ago. I will never pass up an opportunity to link to Joe Christian Leyendecker’s artwork.

Democrats Have Had It With Allegations Of Voter Fraud .

How growing up on the road expanded my definition of travel.

Astronomers Accidentally Discover a Hidden Galaxy Right Next Door

Queer stories of the Week:

To Christian Parents of Gay Children.

Kirsten Gillibrand Introduces Bill to Allow Transgender Military Service.

Mike Pence will never allow Trump’s HIV pledge to become reality .

The lesbian ‘blood sisters’ who cared for gay men when doctors were too scared to.

Children of Gay Couples Do Better In School: New Study

Awful, Deplorable People:

‘Gamergate’ Advocate Arrested on Allegations of Molesting Child.

‘They basically have nothing to do’: Trio of Republicans face life in exile – Duncan Hunter, Chris Collins and Steve King are on the sidelines after being stripped of their committee assignments.

Founder of Proud Boys sues over being labeled hate group.

Things go from bad to worse with new revelations in Virginia.

Mitch McConnell, Enemy of the Vote .

In Memoriam:

Carol Emshwiller (1921-2019) .

Julie Adams Dead: ‘Creature From the Black Lagoon’ Actress Was 92.

James Ingram, Grammy-winning R&B singer, dead at 66.

Kaye Ballard, boisterous singer and actress, dies at 93

Kaye Ballard, Star of ‘The Mothers-in-Law,’ Dies at 93.

R.I.P. Dick Miller, character actor legend from Gremlins, The Terminator, nearly 200 other movies.

Dick Miller, ‘Gremlins’ and ‘Terminator’ Actor, Dies at 90.

RIP Rocket Raccoon’s Life Model, Mr. Oreo!

Things I wrote:

Weekend Update 2/2/2019: Self-loathing always spills out as harm to others.

We couldn’t dodge the snow and ice forever, I guess.

The viaduct is being demolished at last — good riddance.

Rabbit Holes, Wardrobes, and Magical Doors—escaping into better worlds with sf/f.

Videos!

Trump’s 2019 State of the Union Address: A Closer Look:

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

Gay Asian Country Love Song:

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

Sam Smith, Normani – Dancing With A Stranger:

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

Ariana Grande “7 rings” | ASL VERSION with Nyle DiMarco:

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

Pet Shop Boys – Give stupidity a chance (lyric video):

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

Rabbit Holes, Wardrobes, and Magical Doors—escaping into better worlds with sf/f

“A book, too, can be a star. A living fire to lighten the darkness, leading out into the expanding universe.” —Madeleine L'Engle

(click to embiggen)

Among the albums my parents owned when I was a kid were a number by comedians who were popular back in the 50s and 60s—and there was one where the guy told a long, hilarious tale which ended with the words, “I told you that story so I could tell you this one.” Which led into another that was quite entertaining, but even moreso because you had heard the previous one. Which is a long way for me to say, I’ve been wanting to write this post for a long time, but first I really needed to write about Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children series. Which I did last week.

When I heard McGuire say that as a child she loved stories where the child protagonists went to a magical world where they became heroes and warrior-princesses and the like, but was always so angry that they then had to go back home, I was nodding emphatically in agreement. I wanted to get lost in the misty woods and find myself caught in a war between goblins and elves. Or go around a bend on a lake shore and find myself face to face with a giant beetle who greeted me and told me we had to run because danger was coming and so forth.

Except I didn’t want to have to come home again after the first adventure was over. The other world was so much better than the real world. I recall one time when I asked a teacher I trusted why the stories always ended there, she wasn’t very understanding. “Wouldn’t you rather be home with your mom and dad and all your friends?”

She didn’t know what to say when I asked, “What friends?” I didn’t add that if I could run away and never see my father again I would be the happiest boy in the world. This isn’t to say that I never had friends as a child. But being the kind of kid who was always quickly labeled a sissy (or worse words) and a weirdo whenever new kids met me, combined with the number of times we moved because of my dad’s work in the petroleum industry (ten elementary schools across four states), I never had a lot of friends. This particular conversation happened less than two months after we had moved yet again, and I hadn’t yet really found a friend at the new place.

Another time that I told someone how much I wished I could live in one of those magical worlds, the person tried to convince me that the things which seemed like an adventure would not be fun. “Real monsters aren’t just scary, they actually hurt you.”

I had learned through multiple experiences that if I told such adults that I already lived with exactly the kind of monster who actually hurt you that I would be disbelieved at best. Because the kinds of adults who will see a ten-year-old with stitches and multiple contusions on his face and one arm in a sling, look that kid in the eyes, then lecture him that if he was just more well-behaved his father wouldn’t do these things to him not only don’t know what monsters are—they enable monsters.

That reality is precisely why portal fantasies appealed so strongly to me as a kid. And why the endings were always so frustrating.

Let’s pause a moment to go over some terminology. A portal fantasy is a story in which people from our mundane world enter into a different, fantastical world, through a portal of some kind. Classic examples are falling down a rabbit hole in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, or through the enchanted wardrobe in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, or carried off by a tornado in The Wizard of Oz, or being injured and losing consciousness to wake up elsewhere as in the Thomas Covenant books.

A portal fantasy is different than an immersive fantasy, where all of the action occurs within the fantastical world and there are no characters who come from the mundane world. Think of Lord of the Rings or The Last Unicorn or any of the Conan the Barbarian stories. It is also different from an intrusive fantasy, where magical/fantastic creatures somehow come into what otherwise appears to be our mundane world—sometimes the narrative assumption is that the magic has been there all along, but for whatever reason most of us are unaware of it and thus don’t believe in it. Think of Dracula or Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone or A Wrinkle In Time.

The particular appeal of the portal fantasy for a kid like me is that in the fantastic world, I would have options that aren’t available to me in the real world. I didn’t see how any of the monsters and evil overlords in the fantasy books were worse than things my father (and the whole structure of society that enabled child abuse) did to me. As a kid, I may not have really understand the concept which is summed up by the old adage, “Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t,” but there was one thing that the protagonists of the portal fantasies had that I didn’t have in the real world: agency. The kids transported to the magical kingdom may have been put in perilous situations, but they weren’t powerless.

It wasn’t just when I was a young child that other people critiqued my enjoyment (and enthusiastic recommendations) of portal fantasies. In my teens and later, an additional critique was added: “You just want a happy ending.” This was usually served with a heaping helping of cynicism about how happy endings don’t exist in the real world, and people who don’t understand that are defective in some way. All of that judgmental cynicism is also the foundation of critiques (that often comes from certain people who call themselves fans of sf/f) which dismiss many works of speculative and fantastic fiction as merely fan service.

I have two responses to this line of argument.

First, go back up and re-read the bit about having to survive beatings from my dad that led to hospital trips. I suspect I know far better than the people who make the happy ending argument just how bad the real world can be. And I survived that. And you better believe that part of the reason I survived it is because fantasy books helped me to imagine a life where the monsters could be conquered. That alone should justify the existence of so-called escapist literature.

For the second and more important response, let’s go back to the Wayward Children books and the author thereof. There are two things I’ve come to expect from a Seanan McGuire book:

  1. At some point in the story she will break my heart,
  2. By the time I get to the end, I will be holding my hands out (metaphorically) toward the author like a Dickensian urchin and will plead, “Please, may I have some more?”

And to be clear, I mean there are things that happen in the stories (not just this series) to the main characters that make me physically shed tears as I’m reading. Sometimes McGuire has left me sobbing uncontrollably with some developments that happen. Characters in her stories do not always get a happy ending. Many very unhappy things happen to them. So if all I wanted was happy stories where nothing bad ever happens, why do I keep reading her stuff (excitedly pre-ordering things when I can; and recommending the stories to others)?

Because I never get the feeling that she is doing it just to shock me. She never allows harm to happen lightly—even to the bad guys. Death never happens senselessly. By which I mean both that the bad things always makes sense within the world, but also because the bad things are integral to the plot. It always feels genuinely that she knows this pain and she understands it. These stories don’t sensationalize or revel in pain and suffering, they show pain because real people suffer things that hurt this much. In the real world, far too often the pain of many types of people is ignored, rationalized, and even celebrated.

I don’t want to celebrate pain. Celebrate the moments of happiness and love that characters seize despite misfortune? Yes, please!

The viaduct is being demolished at last — good riddance

This is not how a tunnel boring machine works…

I’ve written a time or two before about the extremely aging elevated highway in Seattle that was severely damaged 18 years ago in a severe earthquake. For the next several years after the quake, state and local governments fought over how to replace the cracked and sinking structure. A deal was reached, laws passed, and the then governor signed it. At the signing ceremony, she said that at the advice of the engineers, no matter how long the replacement tunnel took to build, the highway was definitely coming down no later than 2012…

…and here we are, seven years later, and three weeks ago said highway was finally closed. This week, the tunnel finally opened for traffic. Coincidentally on the first day of real winter weather we got this year. And then the process of taking down the unsafe structure—packing most of the rubble into a much older tunnel that, it turns out, is just as rickety as the old elevated highway and needs to just be filled and sealed—has finally begun.

I have found myself not just biting my tongue a lot reading commentary by some acquaintances about why, oh why, the ugly structure that hasn’t adequately served the region’s transportation needs for the last, oh, 50 years of its existence isn’t being replaced by something even bigger and uglier.

Fortunately, a friend has posted a much more reasoned and comprehensive explanation (and linked to an impressive number of pictures she took at the day this weekend the public was allowed to walk on the old elevated structure and through the new tunnel). So go read Dara’s take on this, including a really nice explanation of the why the highway became obsolete only a few years after being built: So long to the viaduct!

We couldn’t dodge the snow and ice forever, I guess

The snow started coming down earlier than forecast.

While a whole lot of the continent was experiencing freakishly cold tempts thanks to the polar vortex, Seattle had the warmest January on record (after a warmer-than-average but not record-breaking December_. It was freaky. Three of my fuchsias on the veranda was still putting out new blooms in late December, and one of there was still doing so in late January. We had high pollen counts at the end of January that forced me to take the maximum dose of my prescription allergy medicine. It was looking like this was going to be one of those mild Seattle winters where I never got to take a break from the prescription medication at all. I mean, most years I have to take the meds for about 10 months out of the year (and I get so tired of explaining to people that yes, you can have hay fever in November—that’s peak mushroom and toadstool season!).

Then last week the local meteorology professor whose blog I read all the time explained how we might be seeing snow by Sunday, and why even though normally you can’t trust forecasts more than four days out, it was a near certainty that all this week we would have freezing weather.

The last in depth forecast I read on Saturday said that we would get snow, but likely no more than an inch of accumulation. And, because of that warmer than usual December and January, the ground was warmer than usual, so the roads and highways would almost certainly be fine Monday.

Whoops!

The forecast had also said that the snow wouldn’t hit our section of the state until nearly sundown on Sunday. So when I looked out the window Sunday afternoon as I was checking on my Superbowl Chili before 1pm and saw that snow was coming down, I was a bit freaked out.

By sundown Sunday there was more than two inches accumulated outside our place, and the snow was still coming down. Overnight lows were “only” in the low 20s Farenheit, but our power went out at about 5:30 in the morning, and by the time the sun was up enough for me to see outside, it was clear we had more than 5 inches of accumulation. All of the schools in the county closed for the day. The highway patrol as well as the state and city departments of transportation was urging everyone that could avoid driving at all to stay off the roads. It was quite icy.

Our power was restored before noon, which was nice. Because it was getting very windy in the early evening Sunday, I made an extra pot of coffee, because I figured a power outage was more than just possible. So one of the upsides to my morning was that I had coffee to drink while I was getting ready for work. It was cold coffee, but it was coffee. As I checked in at work (thank goodness for full charges on the phone and iPad) pretty much all of my co-workers were staying home either because of the roads or because their kids were home from school.

Another upside to all of this were birds at the bird feeder!

I have written before about how, when an immature Cooper’s Hawk started hanging out on my veranda we went from frequently having crowds of one to two dozen sparrows, chickadees, and juncos at our bird feeder, pecking at seeds that get scattered on the deck by the birds pecking at the feeder, or just hanging out in lines waiting for spots to open up on the feeder to me only very occasionally seeing pairs of birds arrive together, most of the time only willing to peck for seeds on the deck down where they could easily hide behind/between my planters and such.

Well, Sunday afternoon as the snow filled the sky, suddenly I had between four and eight little bird out there at a time. That day they were still doing the buddy system I had noticed before: one will peck for seeds either on the deck or the feeder, while the other perches on a tree branch or in one of my larger lavenders and keep an eye peeled; then they trade places after a couple of minutes. So it was all pairs coming to the veranda, and half of each pair would eat while the other kept watch.

I haven’t seen any sign of the hawk since about a week after Thanksgiving. Since about half of all Cooper’s Hawks migrate, it is possible that she was only in our region for about a month while slowly moving south. It’s also possible that the area (since we are in a city, despite the huge numbers of trees all around) simply didn’t have enough prey to support her long term and she moved elsewhere once our neighborhood was hunted out.

Anyway, since I was home today, and in was a day with lots of conference calls (again, thank goodness for phones with good battery life!) I got to watch the feeder. There is a lot of snow on the deck. So even though I spread a lot of extra seed Sunday afternoon once I realized the cold was driving the birds to be less cautious (I also re-filled the feeder), their only real source of food at there was the feeder itself. And the buddy system doesn’t seem to be quite as much an imperative for them.

Standing very still for many minutes back away from the window, using the zoom, I eventually managed to get a picture with more than one bird in it.

They are very skittish, and every time I tried to ease myself slowly to the window to get pictures, they scattered. I eventually managed to get a picture with two birds at the feeder and one visible on the deck below them. The little birds are so light, they don’t sink into the 4+ inches of snow on the deck!

My boss had been trying to get everyone in the department, even folks that usually work from home full time, to come in for a long whiteboarding/planning session for Tuesday. But when the places she tried to order lunch from all pointed out their delivery was iffy, given how icy the roads are expected to be (and the possibility that many schools would still be closed), she started messaging all of us about rescheduling. Her Wednesday, unfortunately, is completely booked with back-to-back management and cross-department status meetings (and since I’m one of the few other members of our group who also works on every single project {being the only technical writer}, I’m in half of those, too), so the earliest we could reschedule is Thursday. Except all the forecasts are saying (beside the temperatures not getting above freezing the rest of the week) that there will be more snow, and possible worse snow, come Thursday… well, it became obvious we need to do the meeting Tuesday, we’re just going to all be doing it remotely.

Which I’m quite happy about, because the only time I’ve been able to make my feet feel anything other than frozen since this thing started is when I’m under the electric blanket. So I really do not want to spend any time standing on frozen sidewalks waiting for a bus!

Weekend Update 2/2/2019: Self-loathing always spills out as harm to others

Time for some more news that either didn’t make the cut for yesterday’s Friday Five, or I didn’t hear about them in time to include, or have new development since I linked to them. I’m running late today, so, let’s see if I can be quick!

First up, a follow-up to a story I shared quite a while ago. Background, about two years ago Oklahoma state legislator, Ralph Shortey, was caught in a motel room with a teen-age boy he had hired for sex. There were also illegal drugs in the room. Shortey had been a typical Republican politician pushing the typical family values lines, and yes, was even more vociferiously anti-gay than the typical Republicans (who are typically anti-LGBT, but don’t bring it up as often as Shortey did). Oh, and Shortey was wearing a t-shirt with a misogynist “make me a sandwich” joke when he was arrested. Anyway, of course he resigned in disgrace and has since been making the evangelical hate-radio circuit talking about how the devil made him do it and claiming he has begged god for forgiveness and that god has supposedly taken his gay cooties away. Anyway, Former GOP State Senator Ordered to Pay $125,000 to Male Teen He Was Caught with in Motel Room.

Shortey was convicted on federal sex trafficing charges and already been sentenced to 15 years in prison. Now prosecutors have requested restitution from Shortey to cover psychiatric treatment and such for the teen-ager. And the court has ordered Shortey to pay.

Sometimes there are consequences.

Previously when I’ve posted stories about self-loathing closet cases (particularly those in politics or otherwise having positions of authority and influence), I have sometimes received messages asking why I don’t feel sorry for these guys. The closet is a horrible place, and yeah, all of us who have been closeted said stupid and sometimes shitty things in order to deflect harassment from people around us. So to pre-emptively answer that: I’ll start considering feeling sorry for Shortey if and when he admits that he’s queer (whether gay or bi or pan or whatever), apologizes for his years of promoting hate, voting against gay rights and the like, apologizes for the harm his anti-gay rhetoric and laws caused to queer people, and takes real responsibility for the harm he caused his ex-wife and children.

I do feel sorry for the former Mrs Shortey (interesting note: when she divorced him last year, she asked the court to legally change her last name and those of her children, so that they would no longer have the same name as their disgraced father). I hope that she and the children are in a better situation.

I also feel bad about the young man who was selling his body and hiding who he was.

But the self-loathing closet case politician who is still hewing to the line that his own same-sex feelings are an abomination, and therefore all of of other queer people are abominations? Nope, not one iota of sympathy for him.

Also, let me repeat my call for journalists everywhere to investigate thoroughly the personal lives of vehemently anti-gay politicians, because they always seem to have this kind of secret in their life.

In other news: Arkansas Supreme Court Strikes Down Fayetteville’s LGBTQ Nondiscrimination Ordinance. The Republicans of Arkansas hate queers so much, that they passed a law banning cities and counties from granting equal rights to LGBT people. The city of Fayetteville had such an ordinance and for the last few years has been fighting in court to keep the law. They have now lost at the state supreme court.

How much must you hate queer people that you insist other people have to hate them too? That’s what this comes down to, after all.

There is also the incredible level of hypocrisy that the same party that screams about local control and how bad big impersonal government is for everyone, turns around and uses their control of higher levels of government to strip away local control.

But then, hypocrisy isn’t a bug in the hearts of so-called pro-family Republicans/fundamentalists, it’s a feature!

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