Charlottesville: two points

by dichroic in daily updates, politics

I have a question. Is there *any* accurate (non-alt-right) evidence that the “antifa” engaged in unprovoked violence in Charlottesville? I am seeing a few well-intentioned people saying that they deplore racism yada yada but that they deprecate violence on *both* sides.

I went combing through the news and the only evidence I could find of violence from people on the left was that the protests and counterprotests devolved into ‘taunting, shoving, and brawling’. Of course I’d like to believe that the Nazis started it, and others were only defending themselves – but either way, in my opinion, brawling with people who are brawling with you is waaaay different than

1) Arranging a riot and showing up armed and ready to fight
2) Trapping activists inside a church where they’re holding a prayer vigil
3) Surrounding and roughing up a small group of UVA students trying to defend their campus from interlopers
4) running your car into counterprotestors and then reportedly backing up over them to cause maximum damage

So, OK, I’m against initiating violence, but even violence has degrees – and defending yourself and others is not only OK but required. It’s not a binary “did it happen or didn’t it” thing, and while I’m perfectly prepared to call out my own fellow travelers for conduct unbecoming when required, I don’t think there was any here that needs to be called out.

While I’m at it, another quick question: I first saw that term “antifa” or “anti fa” used by the alt-right. Now I’m seeing it everywhere. Are we reclaiming it? Is “anti fa”, with the space, meant to mean “anti fascist”?

II.
I just heard a fascinating and somewhat depressing discussion on Federal prosecution of the man who killed Heather Heyer. Apparently this may be tricky for them (this applies only to the Federal case; VA laws may differ).

  • They may not be able to make a hate crime charge stick because, no matter who he was aiming at, the victim in this case was white. (Maybe they can still get that to stick because others were injured? I don’t know.)
  • The Federal KKK law will only apply if he turns to to have been conspiring with others, not if it was a lone-wolf attack
  • If they call it terrorism, that gives the investigation more power but they can’t prosecute it as terrorism because the Federal law only covers the international variety, not domestic terrorism.

Sounds like we need to rethink some laws. At least murder is still illegal.

the second stage

by dichroic in books

I have been reading Victor Kloss’s Royal Institute of Magic series – a somewhat depressing endeavor, since I just finished book 5 and he died (tragically, of lymphoma at age 35) while writing book 6. They are fun, though there are klunky bits the size of speed bumps throughout. One question I’m left with is, why does everyone in the vignettes from Queen Elizabeth’s time speak and write in a completely modern style? Even a house furnished in the late 1600s and deserted since then has “all the modern conveniences”. Also, since most of the book is set in modern England, why is everyone white, cis and able bodied?

A thing I’m liking about some children’s books today is that more and more are second-stage diverse. What I mean by that, is that it always seems like when authors are trying to introduce more diverse characters, the first stage is always “I’m ____ and that’s the central issue of my story,” where the fill-in characteristic could be poor, Black, geeky, fat, gay, Jewish, unathletic…. whatever. Those books are important and I’m not putting them down; they serve a needed purpose for broadening the world of literature, for providing representation to readers in those groups and for letting other readers step in the shoes of people not quite like themselves – or maybe surprisingly like themselves. But they’re not what I want to read, at least not as a steady thing. And they have a danger: read too many and you might start thinking that being (poor, Black, geeky, fat, gay, Jewish, unathletic, trans…. whatever) is in itself a problem.

What I want are the second-stage books, and I’d like to see even more of them. If I’ve got an old book that starts with a few (probably white, cis, reasonably prosperous) children in 1903 or 1955 or 1978 finding a magic amulet or garden or creature and having Adventures, and a somewhat newer book that starts with “It’s Mississippi in the summer of 1955, and Rose Lee Carter can’t wait to move north. But for now, she’s living with her sharecropper grandparents on a white man’s cotton plantation. ” (like one Amazon just recommended to me) then what I want to read is where young Rose Lee in 1955 gets that magic and those adventures. I don’t want her to become a Nesbit character with brownwashed skin, either; she’s got real problems in her life, and no Psammead or half-magic coin is going to change the entire Civil Rights movement. But she’s still a kid, and still deserves Adventures. Maybe along the way they change a few minds in her town, or fortify her to face what’s coming in the next few years. Or maybe it’s a different kid in a fictional setting with fictional challenges, but whose ethnicity or gender identity influences who they are and how they defeat their particular bad guys. I’m flexible that way. 🙂

For some concrete examples, Rick Riordan does a nice job – more so with each new series – of having kids with a variety of backgrounds fighting fictional guys. I can’t think of a good example of a “Rose Lee Carter the sharecropper’s granddaughter gets magic” sort of thing, though I’d love to hear of one. The closest things I can think of are Adam Gidwitz’s The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog or maybe Chris Moriarty’s Inquisitor’s Apprentice – don’t ask me what it is about inquisitors! Jane Yolen’s Devil’s Arithmetic and Delia Sherman’s Freedom Maze do the opposite, sort of, using magic to send a modern girl into the rougher parts of her family’s history. Kate Saunder’s Five Children on the Western Front turns my question around, showing what happens when Nesbit’s privileged children face some real adversity. (Also, though I wouldn’t credit the series with very diverse characters, I was amused by a moment in one of Victor Kloss’s Royal Institute of Magic books where a character wonders if he’d have issues dating a half-elven girl.)

For adults, diversity might be a step ahead. I can think of a number of examples of characters who have some trait lower on the privilege scale being involved in fantasy adventures that happen more or less in our everyday world – the Twenty-Sided Sorceress series has a bunch. Patricia Brigg’s Mercy Thompson is a native American MC, Ben Aaronovitch’s Peter Grant is biracial, and I know there are a couple different lesbian superheroine stories in my Kindle’s to-be-read folder. Kate Daniels doesn’t live in our current Atlanta but hers is a direct descendent of ours and the population is realistic. It took me a few minutes, but I thought of a few historical (or alternate history) fantasies involving characters who are unprivileged in the worlds they live in- Gail Carriger has a trans character who shows up in a couple of her series (and Lord Akeldama, who might be gay, but doesn’t really count – he’s rich and powerful enough to never have to deal with prejudice). And there’s Sherwood Smith’s Coronets and Steel trilogy, especially the third book with its biracial heroine (and her Jewish friends) in Napoleonic Europe).

It has occurred to me more than once, though, that the above paragraphs can be summarized as “Sure, I’ll read books about diverse characters … as long as they’re exactly the sort of thing I already like.” I have no defense, except that they’re not the *only* kinds of books I like. But I do like them when I find them!

McCain (warning for spitting)

by dichroic in daily updates

One problem with not blogging often enough is that you can get overtaken by events. I’d been meaning to write a post about John McCain. When he was diagnosed with the brain cancer, I saw a lot of posts on social media lauding him for being independent, with a history of putting country over party.

Pfui.

My awareness of McCain goes back well before his Presidential campaign, because I was his constituent during the decade we lived in Arizona (not that long after the Keating 5 scandal, in fact. I have a special feeling for him; I’m not sure how to describe it, but it’s strong and it’s negative. It’s not the same feeling of utter disdain I have for someone like Ted Cruz, who has never been anything but vile, or even the feeling I have for Lindsay Graham, a man whose politics I’ve generally disliked but who has been known to surprise me with the occasional principled stand.

My dislike for McCain is based on disappointment; he’s had so many chances to be a hero and he’s failed at all of them. (In his Senate years I mean – did he use up his lifetime supply of cojones in his POW years? That would be understandable and even pardonable – but in that case, don’t run for the Senate!) So many times he’s stood up to his party to defend the country and constituents … and then they turned up the pressure and he crumbled. (Also, there was the Palin thing.)

Well, now everyone knows it. He flew back from cancer treatment for the healthcare vote, made an inspiring speech, voted for open debate (I can even understand that one – I do believe in open debate, even of reprehensible bills, so we can see who is reprehensible enough to stand behind them) and then promptly voted to take away access to healthcare from millions Americans.

Pfui again.

I don’t wish harm on McCain, because I hate cancer even more than I hate politicians who put power and party ahead of compassion or Constitution. I just despise him for not having the decency and fairness to want others to have the same level of care he himself is getting.

ETA: McCain’s people have rebutted the criticism that he gave a fiery speech, then promptly voted to kill the ACA, saying it was just a procedural motion to advance the bill to a vote, and that he would not vote for it in its current form. We’ll see.

Given that he has nothing to lose now, and unlike, say, Ryan or McConnell seems to have some idea of ethics even if he doesn’t always act according to it, this really would be the time to step up!

wellness and cooking

by dichroic in daily updates

Update: Whatever I did to my chest muscles this time, it either wasn’t the same thing as last time or was a lot less of a strain. That one lasted for weeks. This one just hurt Sunday and Monday, and was better yesterday. So I did a light erg piece – still seemed to be coughing a bit and it’s always hard to get onto the erg after a couple of days off, but I finished 5K, anyway. My plan is to erg either harder (interval pieces) or longer today – I haven’t decided which. Then I’ll try to do a strength and conditioning class tomorrow, work demands permitting.

We plan to head out to the lake house again this weekend since we can’t go next week, so hopefully I can get in some real rowing time. (Last week I only kayaked on Saturday – they were having dragboat races so I needed to go to the upper lake and I don’t like rowing there. Too many snags and shallow places.)

Also a cooking note: last night’s dinner was stuffed mushrooms, salad and sourdough bread – I stuffed cremini mushrooms with breadcrumbs, mushroom stems, garlic, leeks, parmegiano, and seasoning. I liked them, Ted said they were OK but wasn’t wildly enthusiastic. Next time I’d use less of the breadcrumbs and more of everything else. Last week’s new-recipe experiments succeeded better: We had Welsh rabbit one day and a wine/mushroom sauce over flatiron steak another day. The sauce was easy and very tasty – basically just saute mushrooms and scallions in about a half stick of melted butter, add a cup of wine, simmer until it reduces, then add another pat of butter and parsley at the end. The Welsh rabbit might be a better dinner for winter than summer, but it was taty and filling. We had lots of the sauce left over, so Ted used it to make homemade mac & cheese later in the week. That was OK, but needed more stuff in it than just sauce and noodles – even when we have the Kraft version, we add hotdogs!

just not quite right

by dichroic in daily updates

I’m really missing the days when I blogged near-daily, and thus could go back and look up when everything happened in my life. (Also, I just learned that apparently my LJ hasn’t mirrored updates here since March due to plugin issues. Oops. Might need to handle that manually, if anybody is still there.)

This is mostly because it seems like I’ve been sick, or at least not-quite-well, all damn year. Some time in January I came down with a cold that lingered for about two weeks, then turned into bronchitis on the very day I was interviewing for my current job (you can imagine how much fun the interview was). The bronchitis was taken care of with antibiotics, but as it was ebbing I got a pain in my chest. No, not that kind of chest pain; it was right around where the left-tit underwire in a bra would be, and it hurt whenever I coughed or twisted. I was wondering about pleurisy, but the doctor concluded it was probably just a strained muscle, nothing to be done but rest it (not really possible, for a rib muscle, especially while coughing) and wait for it to heal.

Sometime in April or May I came down with another cold, but that one was mild and only lasted a few days. At a different time, I came up with a stiff neck – the kind where you can’t turn your head in one direction. That mostly resolved after a few days, but there’s still one particular spot on the right side of my neck that hurts it I stretch it at a certain angle.

Then in early June I cam up with yet another cold. This one was also mild, but it lasted for-bloody-ever, and the cough is aaaaalmost completely gone.

So here I am in mid-July, with a sore muscle in my neck, still coughing up stuff now and then. And yesterday (after yielding to Ted’s persuasion to try sleeping without a pillow, to see if it would hurt my neck) I woke up with another chest-muscle pain, this time on the right side. It’s not as bad as the left-side one was at its worst, but still hurts when I cough.

This is all tiny minor stuff, but it’s wreaked hell with my workout consistency for this year and it’s starting to just piss me off to feel that I haven’t been at 100% for months now. I’d see a doctor, but in my experience they’re not much good for small vague stuff.

a few drive-by comments

by dichroic in daily updates

The Pioneer Woman’s wine/mushroom sauce: A++++, will make (and eat) again. As Ted pointed out, he rarely uses words like “Great” (he’s an Oregon native, but his mom grew up in the Midwest and it colors his speech) but he did this time. I used a red wine blend that was only OK at first and is left over from a week or so ago, but it was fine in the sauce. We had it over flatiron steak, which for some odd reason is much cheaper than flank steak in these parts (not true where my mom lives!).

The wine we drank with it was much better – a Syrah from Cana’s Feast. Most of the wineries around here focus on Pinot Noir, but Cana’s Feast also has a bunch of big reds. After three or four different chance-met strangers recommended the winery to us, we finally got around to it. We’ll definitely be buying more from them.

I’ve been rereading the Harry Potter series again, in honor of its 20th anniversary. This worked out very well for me when my Kindle’s touchscreen spontaneously died – because not only do I have the whole series in e-book (bought on sale cheap) but I have the UK editions at the Hillsboro house and the US hardbacks at the lake house. The Kindle was out of warranty but Amazon gave me a deep discount on a new one; however, it was very nice not to have to interrupt my reading until it got here.

I will have to decide, after Deathly Hallows, whether Cursed Child belongs in a reread of the series. I probably will, because I’ve only read it once, and it will be interesting to read it in proximity to the rest of the books instead of years apart. Might read Fantastic Beasts, too (I’ve only seen the movie, but a screenplay was published).

Work is still going well, though a bit quiet lately. It was too quiet for a week or so, but lately I’ve had interesting stuff to do but still enough time to hit the (on-site) gym. Nice. I would really like it if I can stay with this company until retirement.

Otherwise, not much going on.

Not one day

by dichroic in politics

For the past year, on places like Facebook or Ravelry, I’ve been using an icon with a quote from Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony Award sonnet – the words “love is love is love is love is love” on a rainbow background.

In the years I’ve been on social media, whether LJ or FB or Ravelry, I’ve generally preferred to use icons that are photos or drawings of myself or personal symbols (like my oars-on-propeller asterisk – to underscore that I am the one speaking here.

I heard this morning that today is the one-year anniversary of the Pulse nightclub bombing. That means that sometime this week, it’s been one year since I started using this “love is love is love is love” icon. In that year, the state of the world has been such that there has not been one day that I could bear to put anything else in its place – that I felt I could stop chanting this message and go back to an innocuous photo of myself, or a silly picture or some other quote.

Not one fucking day.

Not that I think my icon makes any real difference, just that it’s been a year of constant vigilance, with no channel of resistance against the Dementors allowed to be safely ignored. I hope some day the world will at least slow down its descent into hell to the point that I can just be plain or silly or ironic again.

a gesaelig life

by dichroic in words

I figured it out – I think the reason I have so much trouble keeping an updated blog these days is because it’s not a conversation, the way it was when Diaryland and then LiveJournal were real communities. I’m not a diarist – I’ve never managed to keep a private journal going for more than a few days. But give me a chance to say “Hey, I found / learned / thought of this cool thing,” and a chance for others to respond – or for me to respond to their cool things – and apparently I can go on for years.

The thing I’ve been meaning to write here is that I am still liking the new job – but then it’s three months in and I always like new jobs at this early stage – and that I am enjoying the flexibility. Lately I’ve been working my ass off, on a project that involves talking to people in several other countries. Due to time differences, I’ve had telecons at 8 or 9 at night, and a few as early as 5AM, though I’m trying to avoid any more of those. The flip side is that my boss doesn’t care where I work, so I can do early calls at home then wander into the office, or go do an errand then finish working at home. For instance, this morning, ‘d set the alarm 15 minutes early so I rolled out of bed, made a cuppa, had a 6AM call with Poland, and then showered and came into the office.) I know there are people who prefer to keep work and home very separate, but for me, I think having my life be one continuous entity feels a lot more freeing – I can do what I need to do when I need to do it, and I feel like I’m regarded as a professional rather than a prisoner.

Ther thing that prompter this entry was coming across an Old English Christmas greeting in one of the Chronicles of St. Mary’s short stories: Glaed Geol and Gesaelig Niw Gear!
So OK, the Christmas part of that isn’t far off the Swedish “Glad Jul” – not surprising since as I understand it, Old English and Old Norse were mutually intelligible to a large degree. But check out the new year part: while in modern Dutch you’d say “gelukkig nieuwjaar”, I don’t think you’d be completely out of line in wishing someone a cozy New Year’s Day with “gezellig nieuwjaar”. See the resemblance? “Gezellig” is one of those words that often gets mentioned when people talk about words in other languages (like hygge or wabi-sabi) that have no exact English equivalent – but it looks like we did have it, we just lost it!

A bit of googling tells me we didn’t completely lose it; the meaning morphed from happy to pious to innocent to foolish and ended up as our modern word “silly” – and of course the Dutch words is likely to have changed over time too and at least one view says they’re not related. (In general, it’s much harder to Google etymology in other languages, because the references tend to be *in* those languages – or in another one altogether.)

Jackson and the inevitability of war

by dichroic in politics

President Trump said something very silly about Andrew Jackson. This is no surprise, because I don’t expect him to have any knowledge of history (or morals, which are reqruird to realize that maybe the guy who kicked native Americans off their land or kept slaces didn’t have such a “big heart”). What’s a bit annoying are all the comments along the lines of, “Ha, ha, how can he be so stupid? Jackson died 16 years before the Civil War!”, as if the war’s roots weren’t in place unil just before the shooting started. There was always going to be conflict between the states on the slave issue; it was revealed in the argument on the wording of the Declaration of Independence (1776), codified in the Constitution (1789), and cemented into place with the invention of the cotton gin (1793). Slavery died a comparatively easy death in places like England or New York, that weren’t suited to growing cotton, but the cotton gin made large-scale cotton agriculture profitable, and it required a large low-salaried workforce.

By the time of Jackson, who was in office 1829-1837, it didn’t take a crystal ball to see the conflict coming, only to tell whether it would end up in a shooting war or if there could be a less violent solution. I’m certain Jackson would indeed have preferred the latter – as long as that solution allowed him and other slaveholders to retain their human “property”. Jackson was known as a populist, but only certain voices mattered in that particular vox populi – white ones, to be specific.

One thing that scares me at present is whether Trump will be impeached. I can see one scenario where the Republicans in Congress turn on him, declare his incompetence to serve, present themselves as the champions of the American people, ride a tidal wave into office in 2018 …. and work closely with President Pence (shudder) to kill national health insurance, restrict women’s and LGBTQ civil rights, and set up an oligarchy that only has a somewhat larger group in power than Trump intended. I don’t really want to see Tump impeached unless Pence goes with him and Ryan is either kicked out, running scared, or overpowered by a strong Democratice / Independent majority.

A more hopeful view is that the just-voted budget is a sign of a new maturity and bipartisan mood in Congress, leading to cooperation and good-faith negotiation on what’s best for the United States. Not sure that’s really the way to bet, but it could happen.

by dichroic in cooking

You know what’s really frustrating, in that “good problem to have” kind of way? When you’ve made a really amazing dinner, and have no idea why. Herewith, an analysis of the components.

  • Flatiron steak: we have these all the time – for some reason, they’re a lot cheaper than flank steaks where we live, though when visiting family in Philadelphia I’ve found flank sakes as reasonably priced there as they were when Mom served them to us. This one might have been a little thicker than usual, because it was a perfect mix of charred on the outside with (pink on the end parts I eat, red in the middle for Ted who likes his steaks medium rare). I usually cook this for 8 minutes on one side, 5 on the other, but gave this one a little extra time until the thermometer said it was done. We let it ‘rest’ 5:00 or so
  • Grilled endive: I had this once on ausiness trip to Toledo – not my favorite city, but I did like this restaurant, which I think was the Registry Bistro. I’ve made this at home once before, but this time was much better – I just cut the endive in halves, made a cut in the base as most recipes instruct, drizzled them with oive oil and salt, and put them on the grill for a few minutes less than the meat – maybe 5′ and 3′.
  • When I had bruschetta for yesterday’s dinner there was some tomato mixture left over, so I topped the endive with it.
  • Then we had bread, from the easiest recipe ever (recipe makes dough for four or so loaves, you pull off a chunk and bake it when you want some) and some olive oil with herbs, pepper and salt to dip it into.
  • And finally, some not too fancy wine we picked up during my birthday weekend in McMinnville: Three Wines Remy’s Red, which was redolent of cherries and balsamic, is reasonably priced, and went so well with this meal that we’re wondering if we should head back to McMinnville and buy a case of it. Tasty stuff, and might be very interesting to age a few years.

So, no idea why this dinner combined so well, but yum. Timely, too: today I took Ted in for his first colonoscopy (just because we’ve hit the age where theey start perpetuating such indignities on us) so after a day on a liquid diet and various other unpleasantries, he needed a good dinner. Tomorrow: shrimp etouffee.