Tag Archive | personal

More likely to replace than upgrade — confessions of a penny-pinching gadget lover

About to unbox the new and retire the old...

About to unbox the new and retire the old…

On Christmas morning 2009, before my husband and I left the hotel near my Mom’s place to celebrate with the family, each of us had picked out one present for the other to open just us. I don’t recall what I got Michael, but he gave me a new shiny Apple Magic Mouse. Apple had just introduced the new wireless mouse with gesture support two months earlier. And I had played with one at the Apple store. But, I was really happy with my two wired Apple Mice that I used with my desktop and my laptop at the time (and I had a tiny purple wireless mouse that I used with the laptop when I wasn’t somewhere that the wired one would work), so despite the fact that I love cool gadgets, and contrary to the popular myth about Apple fanboys, I didn’t think it was worth spending money on a new mouse when the ones I had all worked just fine.

Once I had the Magic Mouse and had been using if for a while with one computer (getting used to the greater number of options the gesture support provided), by the end of the year next year I had purchased another Magic Mouse so that both of my computers had one.

When the Magic Mouse 2 came out almost three years ago, the most significant change was an entirely internal battery. They also updated the bluetooth chip and processor, and managed to make it slightly lighter. Otherwise it was virtually identical, and I didn’t see a reason to update. Part of the reason for that at the time was my Macbook Pro was over 4 years old, and my Mac Pro was over six years old, and it seemed a little silly to get super shiny new mice for older machines.

When I got my shiny new Macbook Pro with Touchbar in late 2016, I considered buying a new mouse along with it, but then I was dropping a lot of money on the laptop, so my inner cheapskate was opposed to additional unnecessary expenses. And, the old Magic Mouse worked just fine with it.

I admit that last year, when they introduced the new iMac Pro which was available in Space Grey which could come with a Space Grey Magic Mouse (among other accessories), my inner gadget lover went “oooooooo! Shiny! Want!” However, Apple was only selling the Space Grey Mouse (and Space Grey Keyboard and Space Grey Magic Touch Pad) with the matching iMac. So despite that fact that I had a cool Space Grey Macbook Pro, I couldn’t get the Space Grey Mouse.

And besides, as the inner cheapskate kept pointing out, the old Magic Mouse worked just fine.

And it did.

Until about a month and a half ago, when it started loosing connection with the Macbook a lot more often, but more annoyingly, instead of taking just a few seconds to reconnect when I moved or clicked it, I would have to fiddle with the mouse for at least a minute before it connected again. Two weeks ago, it got a little worse. The mouse would eventually reconnect, but it would immediately disconnect and I would have to fiddle for another minute before it connected and would remain connected for… a while.

I did notice that it was more likely to do this when the batteries were reporting less than 70%. Now I’ve had this bad habit of ignoring all the warnings from my laptop that the batteries are low. Dismissing the alert again and again for days until the batteries completely die. Then I go swap them out (we keep several sets in chargers all the time, because between the two of us we use the rechargables in a couple of wireless keyboards, at least four wireless mice, one wireless Magic Track Pad, and several small motion-activated LED lights around the house). Funny thing is, that when I get the exact same low battery alert on my Mac Pro Tower, and I almost always stop when I’m doing and go swap the batteries.

Anyway, the upshot is that I know the mouse has in the past worked perfectly fine when the batteries are at 1%. Also, because I’m a weird nerd whose past career titles have included quality assurance and hardware qualification engineer, I did some experiments, and confirmed that even when the batteries are low and the mouse is in another room, it remains connected to the laptop and can control the cursor…

It was getting really annoying by now.

Aren’t they pretty together?

And recently Apple has started selling the Space Grey Magic Mouse 2 as a stand alone accessory… so I could get a new mouse to replace the flaky almost nine-years-old one and it would match my laptop. So I did.

Now, a lot of people who have looked at the mouse (but haven’t used it) complain that the lightning recharge port is on the bottom of the mouse. “So if it dies, I have the wait around for it to charge back up! I can’t use it while it’s plugged in.” Bull. Seriously, it’s a purely B.S. objection because here’s the thing: if you connect it for two minutes, that charges the battery enough for nine hours of use. In And remember what I said about about alerts from the computer that the battery is low? I am being serious when I said that I would ignore it and keep using the mouse for days. So, when you see the alert, make a mental note, and the next time you go to refresh your beverage, or run to the bathroom, or get up to walk around (which my Apple Watch reminds me to do once an hour), plug the mouse in for a few moments and you will be good to go.

I know, my use case doesn’t match everyone elses, but I am quite certain that if Apple had put the port where all the complainers want it, that those some complainers would be bitching about how awkward the device which is designed to be wireless and that you use wirelessly all the time is when the attach a wire to it.

Anyway. I am sad that my first Magic Mouse is flaking out. But I’m also very happy with my shiny new one!

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Pride means love and survival—confessions of a joyful fairy

“Queer as hell and felling swell”

(click to embiggen)

I’ve been to a lot of Pride parades and festivals since attending my first in 1990. One year I participated in the San Francisco Pride Parade one weekend, flew back home to Seattle where I marched in our parade the following week, and then in August I found myself in Vancouver, British Columbia where I hadn’t realized it was going to be their Pride Parade. San Francisco’s was like so gigantically larger and brasher than any other I had ever seen, while Vancouver’s was small but very enthusiastic.

“Pride equals power”The reason for the parade, ultimately, is to declare our existence–our survival in a society that is less than welcoming. We’re here. We’re your daughters, your neighbors, your sons, your co-workers, your friends, your siblings, or your parents. We’re not mysterious creatures lurking in seedy clubs–we’re the guy sitting across from you on the bus reading a book, or the two gals sitting in that next pew at church, or the pair of guys in the grocery store discussing how many hot dogs to buy for the cookout, or the grey-haired guy trying to read a label on a bottle of cold tablets in the pharmacy, or that kid on the skateboard going past your bus stop, or that guy sipping a coffee at Starbucks, or that gal a couple table over at the same coffee shop laughing at something on her computer.

We’re real, we’re everywhere, and we have hopes and dreams and worries just like you. We’re not asking for special rights, we’re asking for the same rights you take for granted. We’re asking to live our lives as openly as you live yours.

I enjoy watching the parade to acknowledge that survival. I cheer while watching the parade to express my admiration, support, and love for all of these survivors.

I cheer for people who are being brave and marching in their first parade; we see you and welcome you to the tribe.

I cheer and applaud so that those whose families rejected them and told them never to come back will know they have another family, and we’re clapping for them right now.

I cheer so that group of teen-agers (half of them straight and there to support their bi, gay, lesbian, and trans friends) will get the recognition they deserve.

“Why do some people feel more comfortable seeing two men holding hands than holding guns?”I cheer so the couple in their matching sequined costumes will know someone appreciates the work they spent (perhaps being up all night gluing those sequins on).

I cheer the older couples walking together holding hands; we see your love and we celebrate how long you and your love had endured.

I cheer the younger couples walking hand in hand; I wish I had felt free to do that at their age, but I hope they have a bright future.

(click to embiggen)

I applaud and cheer so that the trans* gals and trans* men know they are seen for who they are and we think they’re beautiful, wonderful, and I am proud to call them brothers and sisters.

I cry when I see those who are carrying a photo or wearing the name of a deceased loved one; we see your loved one and share your grief.

I cheer for PFLAG so that straight parents who have spent countless hours explaining to friends and relatives that their queer kids have nothing to be ashamed of, and yes they are very happy, and no those things you’ve heard or read about their health and lifespan are all myths will know their efforts are appreciated by the whole community.

I clap and cheer and laugh and cry as the parade goes on and on showing how big and wonderful and diverse and amazing our community is.

(click to embiggen)

The very first Liberation Day Parade in New York City, was a protest march on the first anniversary of the Stonewall Riots (the first Pride was a riot). People were afraid of what would happen at the first march. Only a couple dozen people showed up at the starting point, with their protest signs. But they marched. And all along the announced route of the march, the sidewalks were lined with people. Street queens, and trans people, and gay men and lesbians and queers of many other stripes.

(click to embiggen)

And then completely unplanned thing happened. As the small group of marchers went be, queer people and supporters started stepping off the curb and joining. By the time the marchers reached the Sheep’s Meadow in Central Park, the crowd numbered in the thousands.

It has been a tradition of Pride Parades ever since, that spectators step off the curb and join the march.

So when I march, there comes a point where I do that. I have cheered and applauded and made sure that others were seen. I have witnessed their love and courage and unique style. Until it is my turn to join the march. To be visible. To declare by my presence in that throng that I am queer. I’m here. And I will never go back into the closet.
Me with my rainbow parasol

Anger is better than fear — confessions of a militant fairy

“I am NOT afraid!!! Queer Nation”

(click to embiggen)

I was astonished, after I had been out of the closet for a bit, to look back on my previous life and realize how much of time and energy had been spent living in fear. Fear of being found out. Fear of being rejected by family and friends. Fear of being physically assaulted. Fear of living a life without love. Fear of dying alone. Fear of what would happen if the preachers were correct and a lake of eternal fire awaited me.

“You only gave us rights because we gave you riots. Queer Power”

“You only gave us rights because we gave you riots. Queer Power” (Click to embiggen)

All of those fears were based on real experiences. My dad’s most angry beatings were all accompanied with him calling me worthless, a faggot, and a cocksucker. And for several years I didn’t know what those last two words meant. The kids at school who bullied me (which often involved physical attacks) always called me a sissy or pussy while doing it. The teachers who verbally bullied me called me a sissy or faggot while doing so. In high school, a classmate I knew well was jumped by a group of jocks who were convinced he was gay (he wasn’t—years later he’s married to a great woman and they have two wonderful kids and we still chat online) and was in the process of being beaten up until a group of us found them and broke it up. Another classmate who I didn’t know very well was beaten so badly he was kept in the hospital for a few days. Again, it was because a group of guys at school thought he was gay (he was—last I heard, he and his partner of several years were living in Boston). A couple of other classmates who were outed in embarrassing ways were kicked out of their homes by their parents, and wound up living with relatives far away. One of my uncles (the same one who insisted that I was such a sissy because my parents let me own an action figure) said he would kill any of his sons if they turned gay.

So it wasn’t just anxiety. It wasn’t all in my head. The danger was real.

“Being gay is not a sin. Neither is being lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. The Bible never claims that it is. Christians should stop saying it—because it's killing people.” Johnpavlovitz.com

(click to embiggen)

And because I’d been raised Southern Baptist, and I was the kind of nerdy kid who read the Bible all the way through on my own at least twice, I spent many, many hours begging god to take these feelings away from me. I spent a lot of time studying the guys that never got called out like I did, trying to figure out how to act more like them.

And while for many queer kids the world is a more tolerant place than it was for me in the 60s and 70s, thousands of teens in the U.S. are still thrown out on the streets every year by parents whose religion teaches it is better to drive the kid out than to “encourage their lifestyle.” Hundreds of children and teens still commit suicide every year because of bullying by people who suspect they are queer.

All the bullying, anxiety about being rejected, and so forth affects us. Studies show that most adult queers bear at least some of the neurological markers of PTSD—just like domestic abuse survivors. Coming out and finding communities that accept us doesn’t make that go away. We are always on the lookout for the next potential threat.

This is another variant rainbow flag that's been around longer than the More Colors Flag.

This is another variant rainbow flag that’s been around longer than the More Colors Flag.

There were always moments when I would get angry because of the way I was treated. But particularly when I was a young kid, anger was never useful. I was physically unable to stand up to the bullies (for instance, the middle school bully who was enough bigger than me that he held me upside down for many minutes while his buddies kicked and spit on me).

Over the course of several years anger began replacing fear. There are many moments I can point to, but one that sticks out came in my early 20s. I was sitting in a church pew in a church where the musical ensemble I was directed had performed several songs for to support a revival meeting. The visiting preacher had delivered an unusual message for a revival: he had talked about unity and finding common ground among fellow Christians who didn’t always agree with us on every detail. It was conciliatory, rather than a fiery call to fight evil, which was a much more typical revival tone.

“Gay pride was not born out of a need to celebrate being gay, but our right to exist without persecution. So instead of wondering why there isn't a straight pride movement, be thankful you don't need one.”

“Gay pride was not born out of a need to celebrate being gay, but our right to exist without persecution. So instead of wondering why there isn’t a straight pride movement, be thankful you don’t need one.”

And then one of the pastors from the local church gave the closing prayer. That how I found myself with head bowed and eyes closed and suddenly shaking in fear as the pastor thank god for sending the scourge of AIDS to wipe out the evil homosexuals from the face of the earth. Oh, he went on and on about it. And because as far as I knew I was the only homo (very closeted) in that room, I half expected people to pull me aside for an intervention afterward. Or maybe that I would be jumped and beaten to within an inch of my life somewhere.

I realized some time later that the pastor wasn’t targeting he was arguing with the visiting pastor, using the passive-aggressive platform of a public prayer. But over the following days and weeks, as I realized that no one was targetting me, I began to get angry. And the more I thought about how that pastor had used a prayer to spew such hate, the more angry I became at the entire system.

That may have been the final nail in the coffin of my membership in the Baptist denomination—if not all of Christianity together.

“The only choice I made was to be myself.”

“The only choice I made was to be myself.”

There are many people who will tell you not to become an angry, militant advocate for anything. They will urge you to try to find middle ground, to compromise, to make peace with those you disagree with you. The problem is that there isn’t an acceptable middle ground between the propositions: “I want to live” and “you deserve death.” And the people who thank god for AIDS, who tell parents to kick their queer children out on the street, who argue that transitioning treatments are not medically necessary, and who argue we shouldn’t have marriage rights (which legally include the right to make medical decisions for one another and so forth)—they are all implying, if not outright saying, that queers deserve death.

Seriously, the only middle ground is that some queers deserve death. How is that a morally acceptable position for anyone?

“Love is a terrible thing to hate.”

“Love is a terrible thing to hate.”

So, yes, I am frequently an angry, militant queer. But all of the people on the other side are arguing in favor of murdering at least some queer people (or, I suppose you could argue that they are simply willing to allow some or most of us to die). That means that what I feel is righteous indignation. And if you don’t feel it at least a little bit on behalf of those kids bullied to death, the murdered trans people, and so on, well, I’m sorry to say, that means you’re on the side of the hateful murderers. I’m sure you have some rationalizations for why your position isn’t that, but you’re wrong. If you don’t believe our outrage is justified, then you’re not one of the good guys.

If that realization makes you unhappy, well, you have the power to fix it. Come over to the Light Side. Join the fight for justice, love, and life.

Confessions of a bad son, part 2

“Just because you deny the abuse doesn't mean that I will forget it.”

“Just because you deny the abuse doesn’t mean that I will forget it.”


It’s impossible at this time of year to avoid all the spam, emotionally manipulative articles, targeting advertising, saccharine memes, and heartfelt testimonials about fathers. This is fine (maybe even great) for people who have admirable dads and are happy to be reminded about how marvelous a good father can be. It is not so good for people whose fathers have died (especially recently), making all this hype a reminder of their grief for the father they loved. It’s not a delight for those of us who had terrible fathers.

I was lucky enough to have two incredible, wonderful, and loving grandfathers as well as an incorrigible (but still loving) great-grandfather who were all three very involved in my life throughout my formative years. I’ve written about my two grandpas on this blog: Rinse, don’t wash and What do you mean, real father?. I’ve mentioned my great-grandpa many times, but haven’t written about him. I need to do something about that.

“If you need violence to enforce your ideas, your ideas are worthless.”

“If you need violence to enforce your ideas, your ideas are worthless.”

But not today. This blog post is for all the people who, like me, had a terrible father. Please note my use of the past tense. One of the few bright spots to this holiday is that since he has died, I don’t have relatives (sometimes those who almost never contact me otherwise) trying to guilt me into calling him, or sigh disapprovingly when I tell them I haven’t talked to him in a long while. Two Father’s Days ago I did get a lot of cringeworthy messages from well-meaning relatives trying to offer me comfort in the grief that they assumed I must be experiencing. I was spared that last year, and so far I have been spared it this year.

It’s one thing when people who don’t know me very well express condolences when they learn he is dead. I can accept those sorts of things fine—especially after one friend made me practice saying “We weren’t that close; we’d hardly spoken in forty years.” But it is another thing altogether when it comes from the people who knew he was a physically and emotionally abusive man, who terrorized his wives and children, who regularly spouted racist and misogynist beliefs often phrased with the foulest slurs, who sneered at religious or liberal expressions of compassion for the downtrodden, and who never apologized to any of those he hurt.

I mentioned in an earlier post the mind-boggling series of messages I got from some relatives that all followed the same pattern right after his death:

  • Recitation of two or more anecdotes of what a sweet, loving young man he was when he first started dating my mom,
  • Reference to how excited he had been to learn he was going to be a father when mom became pregnant,
  • Skip to urging me to try to remember the good times “before the troubles began” because of reasons.

Not a single one of the extended family members who sent me messages and cards like that included any memories or examples of him being that wonderful person that occurred after I was born. And that’s the thing, I don’t remember a time in my childhood when I wasn’t deeply afraid of being alone with him. The first time he beat me severely enough that I had to be taken to an emergency room I was only four years old. I and all my younger siblings experienced at least one beating that required emergency medical care. So I have trouble believing the claims that before he became a father he was a paragon of kindness and love.

Even if they are right, most of the people on that side of the family have previously expressed a narrative of how he became the angry, manipulative, bitter man I knew. Most of them say it stemmed from a single betrayal that happened to him which involved the pastor of the church he had grown up attending. This betrayal happened when my mom was about seven months pregnant with me. The fact that she was pregnant and that this betrayal cost my father a job that he had been looking forward to as a way to properly provide for his wife and soon-to-be-born child is one of the central details in the story as they always retold it.

They claim this one single event transformed him from an angel to a monster, they know it happened before I was born, and yet, they expect me to have memories of the alleged angel.

I get it. Denial isn’t a rational process. If they consciously admit that they knew he was violently abusive for my entire childhood, they have to also admit that they stood by in silence as I, my sister, my mom, and later his second wife and my three half-siblings, were subjected to his abuse. And that is a very scary thing to face.

If they only way they can look themselves in the mirror each day is to be in denial, I guess that’s their business. But trying to erase my past in order to assuage their conscience isn’t something I am willing to enable.

I only have some inklings of what made my father tick. Maybe he was a sweet kid. But all the evidence and research out there about abusers is that they don’t just one day go from being a kind empathetic puppy to an angry beast. It’s something that happens over a long time. My maternal grandmother was an emotionally abusive and manipulative person, which I assume was a major contributing factor to Dad’s abusive personality. I also know that as an adult, Dad could be charming and friendly toward people whose approval he sought. So I suspect the sweet, kind young man my various older relatives remember was simply him being on his best behavior toward people who he had no other power over.

I try not to dwell too much on all this. As I said shortly after his death, I thought I was mostly over it. Until the moment I was told he had died, and I felt not just an incredible sense of relief and peace, but also a bit of gratitude.

I am truly happy for all the people out there who have good, loving fathers and wish them joy in celebrating their love for those fathers today. And Just as I wish comfort for those others who have lost their wonderful fathers and find today a reminder of their loss.

But don’t ask me to pretend my father was a good man. Don’t ask me to pretend to be grieving. Don’t expect me to smile and agree with any sentiments of admiration for him you may feel compelled to express. The only thing I have ever mourned with regard to my father, is that I didn’t have the good father that they want to imagine he was.

Too much coffee, you say? Here, have some nice black tea…

“I like to have a cup of coffee to relax after a long cup of coffee.”

(Click to embiggen)

This week is not going at all as expected. Midday Monday I noticed that my throat felt a little scratchy and I seemed to be more distractible than usual. I coughed a bit later in the day, but it didn’t feel like anything serious. When I clocked out and left the office I did my usual thing, which is to launch an open-ended walk on my workout app then walk semi-randomly until I’d logged a mile. Because of the geography of the part of town my office is in, it isn’t that random. First I go uphill three blocks (because it is a very steep hill between the office’s street and the street where the nearest bus stops are), then I start the semi-random bit. At most corners I choose which way to go based on which crosswalk shows “Walk” then continue down that block until the next corner. If I get too many blocks away from the bus stop, rather than cross the street, I turn the corner and walk 3/4s of the way around the block to get me headed back, then start crossing streets based on the cross-walk sign. Then, when my watch taps my wrist and dings to tell me I’ve gone a mile, I take the quickest route from that point to the bus stop.

I do this because for years one important source of exercise was that I would walk all the way home from downtown on most workdays. When I lived in Ballard, that meant walking for a bit over an hour four or five times a week, right. Now that I’m in Shoreline the walk is closer to 10 miles and much of it would not be along pedestrian-friendly routes. So I do this walking thing that usually gets me a bit over 25 minutes of walking each day.

Anyway, on Monday the first problem was that I was wheezing more than a bit on the steep uphill part and coughed for a while. Later, when my watch binged to indicate a mile I continued to the corner, stopped, looked around, and literally muttered, “Where the heck am I?”

Instead of looping back when I reached certain streets as I usually do, I had just let the random crosswalk signs guide me. And I wasn’t really anywhere that I didn’t know—it was just that I was at a part of downtown that I haven’t walked through in many years, back when I worked at a different workplace. And businesses have been replaced and some buildings have been torn down and I had to look at the street signs to figure out where I was, instead of recognizing my surroundings. So then I turned around and made as short a walk back to the bus stop as I could.

That should have been a sign. But even when I got home and my husband told me he was afraid he was coming down with something, and I confessed to being a bit worried about the scratchy throat and cough, I still clung to the notion that it was just worse than usual hay fever because we’d gotten a shift in the weather on Sunday.

A couple hours before my alarm went off Tuesday morning, I woke myself up having a coughing fit. There were other symptoms the made it clear I had caught something. Once my alarm did go off, I did my usual morning meds, then logged in to the work system to send my boss a message that I was sick and wasn’t sure I’d be up to working from home. There were already messages from co-workers who were sick and not coming in. I crawled back into bed and for all intents and purposes slept through the rest of the day. Yeah, I woke up a few times to eat, run to the bathroom, chat with my husband when he got home, and even make dinner (if heating two frozen prepared things from counts as making), but mostly I just slept.

I had hoped to wake up feeling better and only having to decide whether to try to go into the office or work from home (so as to decrease the chances of infecting other people). But I felt much worse when I woke up than I had yesterday.

Napping, cold tablets, and coffee seem to have alleviated the symptoms a bit. Since I’ve woken up enough to bang out a silly blog post, I think I might be able to be productive this afternoon, so guess it’s time to give that a go.

Formerly known as Decoration Day, or Memorial for Grandma

My aunt sent me this picture of the flowers she put on Grandma's grave this year.

My aunt sent me this picture of the flowers she put on Grandma’s grave this year.

I’ve written many times before about why Memorial Day shouldn’t be confused or conflated with Veteran’s Day — and I am hardly the only person to draw attention to that distinction (Washington Post: Why Memorial Day is different from Veterans Day, CNN: Get it straight: The difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day, Washington Examiner: Why you shouldn’t confuse Memorial Day and Veterans Day NPR: Memorial Day Dos and Don’ts.

Long before the Uniform Monday Holiday Act of 1968 made Memorial Day an official federal holiday, and even before the first federal observation of a day to decorate Union Soldier’s grave at Arlington National Cemetery back in 1868, and even before the Ladies’ Memorial Association of Columbus, Georgia suggested a day to honor those who died in the civil war there was another holiday observed in many parts of the country—long before the Civil War—called Decoration Day, which was a day to have family reunions and celebrate the lives of all of our deceased family members. It was usually observed on a Sunday in the spring, and frequently involved picnics in the cemeteries or potlucks at church. And my Grandmother was someone who observed that version faithfully her whole life, long before the official creation of the modern Memorial Day.

Eleven years ago this week my nice Grandma died literally while in the middle of putting silk flowers on the grave of one of my great aunts—which has contributed to my determination that the original holiday not be forgotten. In memory of Grandma, I’m reposting this (originally posted on Memorial Day 2014):

Memorial, part 2

copyright 2014 Gene Breshears

Flowers for Grandma’s grave.

Grandma always called it by the older name, Decoration Day. As I’ve written before, the original holiday was celebrated in many states as a day to gather at the grave sites of your parents, grandparents, et cetera, to honor the memory of their lives. It was often a time of picnics and family reunions. At least as much a celebration of their lives as a time of mourning. The connection to military deaths didn’t happen until 1868, and particularly in the south, was often seen as a pro-Union, pro-war, anti-southern celebration.

I didn’t understand most of those nuances when I was a kid. The modern version of the holiday, celebrated on the last Monday in May, didn’t even exist until I was a fifth-grader, when the Uniform Monday Holiday Act went into effect.

Grandma observed it faithfully. Every year, as May rolled around, she would begin calling distant relatives and old family friends. Grandma knew where just about every person descended from her own grandparents was buried, and she made certain that someone who lived nearby was putting flowers on the graves of those relatives by Memorial Day. She took care of all the family members buried within a couple hours drive of her home in southwest Washington.

She was putting flowers on the grave of my Great-aunt Maud (Grandma’s sister-in-law) seven years ago on the Friday before Memorial Day when she died. My step-grandfather said he was getting in position to take a picture of her beside the grave and the flowers (there are hundreds and hundreds of photos of Grandma beside graves with flowers on them in her photo albums) when she suddenly looked up, said, “I don’t feel good!” and pitched over.

One weekend she had blown out the candles on the cake celebrating her 84th birthday. The following Friday, while putting flowers on Great-aunt Maud’s grave, she died. And one week after that a bunch of us were standing at her graveside. It was just down to a few family members, and we were at that stage where you’re commenting on how pretty the flowers that so-and-so that no one had heard from in years were, when someone asked, “Isn’t grandpa’s grave nearby?”

Grandpa had died 23 years earlier, and was buried in one of a pair of plots he and Grandma had bought many years before. And after Grandma re-married, she and our step-grandfather had bought two more plots close by.

Anyway, as soon as someone asked that, my step-grandfather’s eyes bugged out, he went white as a sheet, and said, “Oh, no!” He was obviously very distressed as he hurried toward his car. Several of us followed, worried that he was having some sort of medical issue.

Nope. He and Grandma had been driving to various cemeteries all week long before her death, putting silk-bouquets that Grandma had made on each relative’s grave. Aunt Maud’s was meant to be the next-to-the-last stop on their journey. Grandpa’s silk flower bouquet was still in the trunk of the car. My step-grandfather was beside himself. He’d cried so much that week, you wouldn’t have thought he could cry any more, but there he was, apologizing to Grandma’s spirit for forgetting about the last batch of flowers, and not finishing her chore—for not getting flowers on Grandpa George’s grave by Memorial Day.

The next year, several of us had the realization that without Grandma around, none of us knew who to call to get flowers put on Great-grandma and Great-grandpa’s graves back in Colorado. None of us were sure in which Missouri town Great-great-aunt Pearl was buried, let alone who Grandma called every year to arrange for the flowers. Just as we weren’t certain whether Great-great-aunt Lou was buried in Kansas or was it Missouri? And so on, and so on. One of my cousins had to track down the incident report filed by the paramedics who responded to our step-grandfather’s 9-1-1 call just to find out which cemetery Great-aunt Maud was in.

copyright 2014 Gene Breshears

Flowers from us, Mom, and my Aunt Silly on Grandpa’s grave.

Mom and her sister have been putting flowers on Grandma’s and Grandpa’s graves since. Our step-grandfather passed away three years after Grandma, and he was buried beside her.

Some years before her death, Grandma had transferred the ownership of the plot next to Grandpa to Mom. So Mom’s going to be buried beside her dad. Mom mentions it whenever we visit the graves, and I don’t know if she realizes how much it chokes me up to think about it.

We had put the flowers in place. We had both taken pictures. Mom always worries that she won’t remember where Grandpa’s grave is (it’s seared in my head: two rows down from Grandma, four stones to the south). Michael helped Mom take a wide shot picture that has both Grandma’s and Grandpa’s spots in it.

I thought we were going to get away with both of us only getting a little teary-eyeed a few times, but as we were getting back into the car, Mom started crying. Which meant that I lost it.

Grandma’s been gone for seven years, now. But every time we drive down to visit Mom, there is a moment on the drive when my mind is wandering, and I’ll wonder what Grandma will be doing when we get there. And then I remember I won’t be seeing her. It took me about a dozen years to stop having those lapses about Grandpa. I suspect it will be longer for Grandma. After all, she’s the one who taught me the importance of Those Who Matter


And if you are one of those people offended if I don’t mention people who served our country in the armed forces on this day, please note that my Grandpa mentioned above served in WWII in Italy. Grandpa drove the vehicle that towed tanks that couldn’t be repaired in the field, and one of the two medals he was awarded in the war was for doing a repair of a tank while under fire. After the war, he came back to the U.S., met Grandma (who was at that point working as a nurse and trying to support her two daughters), and eventually married Grandma and adopted my mom and my aunt. Many years later, he was the person who taught me how to rebuild a carburetor (among other things). He was a hero many times over. And this post is also dedicated to his memory.

Believability isn’t just about fiction, or Let me tell you about my Evil Grandmother

Sometimes the difference isn’t this obvious. (click to embiggen)

This post meanders a bit before I get to the point. Sorry.

Over the years people have reacted with everything from amusement to confusion to disbelief to my references to my Evil Grandmother. I had two grandmothers, a Nice Grandma and an Evil Grandma. Sometimes when I would comment about something going on with one of my grandmothers, a friend who had heard me use the phrase “Evil Grandma” would ask if this grandmother who had done this annoying thing was her, and I would say, “Oh, no! This is my Nice Grandma!” And they would freak out, “What do you mean, this is the Nice Grandma? That doesn’t sound nice at all!” To which I would reply, “Let me tell you about my Evil Grandmother…”

Here is a mild example. My Evil Grandmother (who was my paternal grandma, i.e., my dad’s mother) believed that all mental illness was just the person selfishly vying for attention. There are a surprising number of people out there with a belief very close to this. Any person who responds to someone else struggling with depression or recovering from trauma by telling them to get over it, for instance. They don’t see it as a real illness that requires treatment or recovery, right? But my Evil Grandmother was even worse than that. My Evil Grandmother believed that epilepsy was the same. So when one of my sisters started having seizures, my Evil Grandmother was constantly undermining the doctors. She would scold my sister for having a seizure after the fact, for example.

Oddly enough, she also believed that mental illness was hereditary and a sign of poor moral character. Which she also believed was hereditary. When my parents finally were getting a divorce, after my Evil Grandmother found out I had told the judge that I definitely did not want my (alcoholic, physically abusive) father to have custody, she sat me down and gave me a long litany of all of the mental health issues that plagued many of my mom’s distant relatives. One example was a great-uncle who we would now say was suffering from severe PTSD because of his experiences during World War II.

Now, if I wrote a novel in which a woman who had a college degree and worked as the City Treasurer for many years and was a respected member of her community, who punished her nine-year-old grandchild for having a seizure on a day where said grandmother had prevented the grandchild from taking her prescribed medication, I would get irrate messages from people telling me that this was completely unbelievable.

But I would also get comments from people who would tell even more horrific stories from their own childhood.

This is just one example of why having a bunch of editors tell you a story is too far-fetched is not indicative that the story is, in fact, too far fetched.

The editors or critics may have a valid point that you, as an author, hadn’t done a proper job of laying the groundwork to help the reader suspend their disbelief, but it doesn’t mean the notion is objectively and universally unbelievable. Even if they focus on the groundwork aspect, they still may be letting their personal perspective override things.

For example, there’s the tale of the male writing professor who once gave a woman in his class the advice that merely showing that one character had raped a young woman was not enough to justify the young woman killing him later in the story. “You haven’t convinced me he’s truly evil. Show him being cruel to a dog or something to make this evil real.”

Being cruel to a dog is worse than raping a woman? Irrational disconnect much?

Preception isn’t just a matter of taking in the information offered. It is heavily influenced by our prejudices, past experiences, expectations, fears, and hope. This doesn’t mean that there is no such thing as objective reality, it just means that it takes a lot of work to sort through all that subjectivity…

And it means that there will always be some things no one will agree on. Likewise, there will always be some people who will refuse to see something, no matter how much evidence we provide.

This doesn’t mean they are hopeless, it just may mean that we have to walk away and expend our energy elsewhere.

I have two codas to the saga of my Evil Grandmother. First, 20 years after my parents’ divorce and the subseqeunt exodus of myself, Mom, and one sister to the west coast, Mom, Nice Grandma, and my step-grandpa took a road trip back to the town where my parents met to attend the christening of my oldest sister’s first child. At one point in the visit, Mom found herself alone with my paternal grandparents, her ex-in-laws. Mom told them that she was sorry that my parents’ marriage had ended the way it had. Grandpa admitted that saying goodbye to Mom, myself, and my sister when we left was the hardest and most painful thing he had ever done.

Evil Grandmother muttered something, and she had tears in her eyes. She cleared her throat a couple of times and eventually said something about the time for blame being past. Now, I should mention that long before my parents divorced, Evil Grandma, on two occassions, set up appointments for Dad with a divorce attorney without consulting him first, and tricked Dad into meeting her at the law office on pretexts to do with her business. When I say that Evil Grandma had wanted my parents to split, that’s an understatement. So, Mom took this “time for blame” as a way to change the topic and avoid taking any blame.

But then some more extended family members arrived, and as people were picking places to sit and talk, my Evil Grandma moved from the seat next to Grandpa, to sit next to Mom. And she grabbed Mom’s hand and in Mom’s words, “squeezed it like she was afraid to let go.” She didn’t say anything, and didn’t really join in with the rest of the conversation for the next couple of hours, but she refused to let go of Mom’s hand. And later, when Mom needed to leave, Evil Grandma gave her a hug. Her eyes were full of tears again, and she murmured, “I’ve missed you all.”

Mom said that she decided that that was the closest Evil Grandma could come to saying she was sorry.

Second coda: About ten years after that I was out with friends at a bowling party when my phone rang. It was a call from one of my aunts. She was at a hospital with Evil Grandma. Evil Grandma had had both a stroke and some sort of heart issue. She’d been revived and was on a resporator, but she was alert and had demanded the my aunt call me. I need to add here that when I came out of the closet in 1991, other than one handwritten note that said, “I hope you’re happy now,” Evil Grandmother had stopped talking to me (and I would later learn she had forbidden other family members from mentioning my name in her presence). My aunt handed the phone over Evil Grandma. Because of the resporator, she had to speak in short bursts. She could speak on the exhale then wait for the machine to push in the next breath. She said my name. I replied, “Yes, Grandma it’s me.” She repeated my name on the next two exhales, and each time I told her it was me and I could hear her.

I, meanwhile, was moving to try to find a quiet place thinking the noise of the bowling alley was confusing her.

Finally she said, “I love you.” And I replied that I loved her. She repeated it a couple more times, and each time I replied. I was sobbing at this point. How could I not be? No matter what had happened between us, here she was, possibly on her death bed, using perhaps her dying breaths to reach out?

After about the fourth ‘I love you’ exchange, she said. “I know you…. I know you do… but do you know…. do you know… I love you?”

I said, “Yes.” She repeated my name and said “I love you” again, and then my aunt was back on the phone.

That turned out not to be her deathbed, but she had at least one more stroke before being released from the hospital, and her ability to talk was severely impaired for her remaining years.

But, Christmas cards started arriving every year. The outside of the envelopes were clearly addressed by the aunt who was caring for Grandma by then, but the inside always had very jittery writing that was clearly Grandma’s. Some years Christmas presents (usually ornaments) would also arrive, sometimes with Grandma’s writing on the tag. There was sometimes be a note from my aunt saying that Grandma had seen it in the store and wanted to get it for me because it reminded her of something I had once talked to her about as a child.

One is left wondering, which her was the real her? Is it simply that years of regret and an acute awareness of her mortality caused a change of heart? Is such a deathbed conversion, as it were, believable? Or as much a product of our hopes and wishes?

I know she had always been extremely concerned with keeping up appearances and not doing things that would make the right sort of people look down on you. So had she been suppressing inconvenient feelings for years–feelings that went counter to her hopes and aspirations–and only later in life as neurological changes occurred she started letting them out?

Wrestling with these questions have not led me to stop referring to her as my Evil Grandmother. She just did too much too many times to hurt people–often people she should have been protecting. But I am reminded of an observation which I once put into the mouth of one of the characters in one of my fantasy novels: “Evil isn’t something you are, it’s something you do.”

Weekend Update 5/12/2018: At least some good news

(click to embiggen)


Yep, it’s a weekend.

Even though I love the show and have watched it faithfully for five years, I wasn’t very surprised when Brooklyn 99 was canceled by Fox. One of the things the show excelled at (besides doing diversity right) was tackling important issues in a thoughtful way that was still funny hell. And let’s face it, diversity, thoughtfulness, and nuance are not exactly in Fox’s wheelhouse. Which isn’t to say the Fox’s entertainment network doesn’t carry diverse show. What I mean is that the people who make the business decisions are less likely to feel sympathy for such shows. No matter how much executives (at any network) may insist that it’s just about numbers and the bottom line, you can point to many examples of shows with worse numbers being kept around. Bias and sympathy do figure into how they see the numbers.

Goodbye, ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine.’ And thank you. It is a great show it is funny, and I agree with Mark Hamill who said on twitter that it was one of the great workplace comedies of all time, up there with shows such as The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Taxi.

Fortunately, the twitter storm and fan petitions and praise from famous actors and comedians seems to have paid off: ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’ saved by NBC and Brooklyn Nine-Nine Cast Praises Fans After NBC Saves Canceled Fox Show: ‘You Did This!’.

It is worth noting that among the NBC executive comments quoted in the various articles about the show is a reference to the fact the Brooklyn 99 was a show created and produced by a division of NBC-Universal, and sold to Fox originally. Not being a show that Fox made internally means that profits from syndication deals for reruns are not as high as they would be for a show of similar popularity that had been wholly owned by Fox. This also probably figured into NBC’s decision to give the show a 13 episode sixth season. They get a lot of good PR out of the move, will presumably get acceptable ratings for those 13 episodes, and will get just a little bit more out of syndication having these additional episodes int he can.

I fully expect this to be the final season of the show. I suspect the writers and show runners will think of it that way: write a good send-off that leaves a possibility for continuing, but don’t count on it.

Related: I think it was not good that a number of fans who were screaming, before the NBC announcement, about their fave show being removed were doing so by denigrating other shows. First of all, come on, don’t attack things other people like merely because you don’t. It doesn’t matter how much you may dislike another series (whether it be movies, TV shows, books, whatever), that doesn’t mean that there are not people who genuinely like it. It’s okay to critique, especially if a show is overtly racist (I’m looking at you, Roseanne reboot) or gratuitously misogynist (and now looking at you, Supernatural), but dismissal is not the same as critique.

There other thing, it isn’t really relevant. The shows most people were mentioning were not Fox shows. At least if you’re going to make an observation about, “How dare they cancel my fave while keeping X on the air” choose something that involves the same they. Pick something that Fox is keeping on the air to make your comparison to, like the very derivative 9-1-1, for instance.

Anyway, at least those of us who love the show will get some more Brooklyn 99. I can just quietly sob in the corner over hear that we can’t say the same for another of my favorites: Fox Cancels Fan Favorite Lucifer After Three Seasons.


Now let’s have a couple things that are more typical for a weekend update: Anti-Gay Former Michigan Assistant AG Loses Appeal To Keep His Law License. I’ve written before about this self-loathing closet case who target, stalked, harassed, and encouraged others to harass and send death threats to a young gay man who had been elected student body president of the same university the assistant attorney general had graduated from years earlier. Note that the guy used state equipment to do the stalking and to post the online harassment, as well as doing a lot of it when he was supposed to be working. In one incident, when neighbors had called in the suspicious car that had been circling the block where the student lived, the guy lied to police saying that he was staking out someone for a legitimate investigation.

Originally the Michigan Attorney General claimed to have investigated the instances and said the guy was merely expressing opinions. Then, after the parents of the harassed gay student were interviewed on TV about the incident, a prosecutor announced he would run against the AG to clean up the department (and polls showed he might win), then suddenly the AG asked an semi-retired judge to perform an outside investigation. While that judge couldn’t reveal the specifics of the original internal investigation, his own report indicated that all the evidence necessary to justify firing the assistant AG had been contained in the first investigation. Anyway, the anti-gay assistant AG was fired, then disbarred, and now he’s lost his last appeal of the disbarment.

Couldn’t happen to a more deserving guy.

Now, let’s hope that something similar happens to some school officials: Oregon school allegedly forced LGBTQ student to read Bible as punishment. Before anyone points out that there is a hearing coming up, please note that in the initial official report, the administrator who is disputing that these incidents constitute discrimination has admitted that the student was forced to read the Bible as punishment. So there isn’t really an “allegedly” there. The administrator and supervisor are only disputing that this and other incidents don’t count as discrimination. They aren’t denying that the things happened.

This is a public school, therefore a government-run institution, and the Constitution conservatives claim to love prohibits the establishment of religion, which means while acting in your official capacity you can’t use your religion to justify actions, and you sure as hell can’t force people to read your holy book to try to convince them to agree with you. Which, when you make a queer kid read the parts of the Bible you think condemn homosexuality as “punishment” of the crime of complaining about being called a faggot on school grounds, is clearly what the school official was doing.

The Oregon Department of Education has already made the finding that these incidents probably (duh) violate the state’s anti-discrimination law and the Constitution. I sure hope the ACLU is involved and these administrators get sued into oblivion.

One year of being an ex-Seattleite

During the weeks we were shuttling car loads of stuff from the old place to the new, I poured the last bits of a couple of bottles of bourbon into jars with a sliced orange, lemon, a couple of vanilla beans, and various spices to infuse for a few weeks to make a batch of Rock n Rye. After filtering and decanting, I made this label when we set out the libations at the Christmas party.

During the weeks we were shuttling car loads of stuff from the old place to the new, I poured the last bits of a couple of bottles of bourbon into jars with a sliced orange, lemon, a couple of vanilla beans, and various spices to infuse for a few weeks to make a batch of Rock n Rye. After filtering and decanting, I made this label when we set out the libations at the Christmas party.

One year ago we made the official move from the place I had lived at since 1996. We had been packing for months, and then after signing the lease for the new place, started bringing car loads of boxes and small things for three weeks. We had a bunch of friends help us move many boxes on two Saturdays, but hired professional movers to move all the heavy furniture and similar big awkward things on May 4. Since that’s when the bed moved, that was the first night we slept at the new place, and officially that was the first day that I no longer lived within the Seattle city limits. For thirty-two years I lived in Seattle—a few different places in the Queen Anne neighborhood, a couple in Fremont, and then 21 years in Ballard. I wasn’t happy about the move (no one likes to move, right?) but I wasn’t exactly happy about how much stuff I found squirreled away in the back of closets and such that we never used and I’d forgotten we ever owned.

I expected that moving from a residential neighborhood in the city to a suburb to be a bit of an adjustment. I wasn’t quite prepared for how quickly the new neighborhood became familiar.

There are lots of things that I love about the new place, and I’ve babbled about those things probably too much on this blog. For instance, the new place is bigger. We got rid of a lot of stuff before, during, and after the move, which helps make most of the rooms feel even larger than they were.

A few of the surprises are how quickly some of my driving habits changed. One of the major thoroughfares in the region is state highway 99, which is known as Aurora Avenue in Seattle, Shoreline, and Edmonds. Several of the other suburbs of Seattle label it Pacific Highway (which is nearly the same as old federal name for the highway as it existed before the founding of the Interstate System). Within the Seattle city limits, no U-turns are permitted on Highway 99. During the 32 years that I lived in Seattle, I always thought it was weird when I drove into suburbs either north or south of the city, to suddenly see “U-turn Permitted” signs at every intersection. It seemed like a quaint throwback to a bygone era. I’m not sure why. Maybe because so many places I’ve lived (not just Seattle) banned U-turns.

But in the city I now live in, most of the highway has a median with trees running down the middle of the road, rather than a turn lane that can be used to get to a business on the other side of the road. The u-turn becomes a necessity in that case, and since almost all the intersections where u-turns are permitted have stop lights, it isn’t a particularly risky maneuver. Now I find myself deeply affronted when I cross the city limit and start seeing the “No U-turn” signs.

I keep being a bit amazed at just how much I love the veranda. We had a small yard and were allowed to plant whatever we wanted in two flower beds, but the lawn was so small and right next to the sidewalk in a neighborhood that had a lot of foot traffic, I just always felt a little weird if I set up a chair and tried to read or something. Also, having no patio limited furniture options. Our veranda, a 38-foot long deck, is completely different. I have a lot more flowerpots and planters than I had before, and I’m growing a lot of flowers. We have more comfortable lawn chairs and a really cool folding wood table my hubby found at Ikea. So I can do things such as sit out on the veranda, enjoy the cool breeze, and watch the trees and squirrels while I type up this blog post on my laptop.

Then there’s cooking summer dinners on the stand-up George Foreman electric grill. A lot easier to deal with than digging out a grill from the basement, trying to set it up so it was level on the lawn, and having to clean it and pack away at the end. I can clean the smaller electric grill quickly and leave it out on the veranda each night. And yeah, in the summer grilling outside is very preferable to heating up the house further by cooking inside.

We have a lot more windows. And when I open a couple we get an immediate and very pleasant breeze running through the house. That’s not just about the number of windows, but also the open floor plan of the apartment and the fact that every window has mini blinds rather than very heavy curtains.

I was disappointed during the move when I found we would have to give up the sweet deal we had on internet and TV service with the CenturyLink fibre-optic service and Prism TV and have to switch back to Comcast. Funny thing, though, two years of having actual competition in many markets once it was ruled that the streaming services over internet, including Prism, didn’t violate the monopoly deals that the traditional cable companies have with many cities brought Comcast prices way down. I’m paying even less for internet and the parts of cable TV that I kept after the move that I was with Century Link/Prism — and Century Link/Prism had been literally half of what I had had to pay Comcast four years ago for comparable service. So that was a win!

Yeah, the package I have now has fewer channels… but I’m using Netflix and Hulu for a lot more shows, and their subscription rates added to the cable bill adds up to less than the previous price.

Another surprise was the refrigerator situation. I won’t bore you (further) with the story of how Ray and I wound up with our own fridge plus the one provided by the landlord at the old place (which Michael and I upgraded a few years after Ray died), but since there wasn’t really a good place for the second fridge in the new apartment (and it was getting old enough that it was going to need replacing soon) we were going to have to get by with just the one. I’d had two fridges for 22 years, and wasn’t sure how I’d adjust. Turns out the problem wasn’t fridge space, but freezer space. It was easy to adopt habits about the sorts of things kept in the non-freezer compartment, but we were constantly chafing at the lack of adequate space to hold the stuff I wanted to freeze.

There was an obvious solution, but we had to wait. When we were securing the new place, the property manager emphasized that the first lease period was considered probationary. So we decided that certain purchases would have to wait until we were offered a second lease. Those were: extra large planters suitable for planting my grandma’s irises in, a storage cabinet for the veranda, and a small chest freezer for that one spot in the kitchen.

Just how much relatively each of those things felt like a burden to both Michael and me? Well, while we were walking back from the property manager’s office a few months ago with a copy of our just sighed new lease, we said almost simultaneously to each other, “So, which freezer do we want to buy and when?” Less than 5 days later we had the 5.5 cubic foot freezer in the kitchen, and less than a week after that between us running on separate shopping trips we had filled it up. Now I have to check the freezer each time I leave the house to go to the grocery store to get a good picture in my head of what we could fit in there if I happen to find something on sale at a really good price.

I should also mention how much I loved, loved, loved being able to host the Christmas party at our place this year. There were a lot of things I liked about renting the suite at the hotel the last three years, but dang, I so love having my best friends under my roof at that time of year.

I can’t believe I’ve gone nearly 1500 words on this and not mentioned our library. Having a space to set aside and call The Library (though it is only most of the non-fiction books) and having enough room to re-arrange all the books and get them sorted in a way that we can find books without digging through piles of books in front of some of the cases is just wonderful. It doesn’t hurt that being able to geek out about book sorting with my husband fills me with a warm fuzzy feeling.

There are things I miss about the old neighborhood, to be sure. We haven’t found replacements for all of our old fave restaurants, for instance. And I’m still a little miffed at just how far apart the various grocery stores I shop at are now, compared to the old place. But, moving was good for many reasons. And I feel very lucky we found a place that we both like so much.

A sneaky oral surgeon – or, adventures with the dentally anxious

I’m hardly the only person who dislikes going to the dentist. I usually spend the entire time I’m in the chair gripping the arms tight, my eyes closed, and fighting with all my might not to run away. Couple that with the fact that I almost never feel pain in my teeth, no matter how badly they are abcessed, has usually meant that when I would see a dentist, there were always a lot of teeth that needed some work. So there rest of this post is going to be about the procedure I had this week, along with a lead-up to how I got there. If reading about dental stuff isn’t your thing, don’t click through… Read More…

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