Disability Intersectionality Summit 2018 (Bay Area)

This week I’ve left the house every day. Something to celebrate as I’ve spent a couple of months at home. Saturday, I was SO excited to go to the DIS2018 Bay Area event.

Danny and I took the bus and BART over to the Ed Roberts Center. This was nice in itself for me because I like taking trains – and at the BART station plaza we caught a few songs from the Cuban music group Orquestra de 24. It was hard to tear away from that, but they are there every Saturday. The crowd there was having a lot of fun.

On to describe the event and then some of my thoughts about it!

The Disability & Intersectionality Summit (DIS) is a biennial one-day conference that centers the experiences and knowledge of multiply marginalized disabled people such as, queer disabled people of color, undocumented transgender disabled people, or formerly incarcerated disabled people among others. This conference serves as a platform to highlight the multiple oppressions that shape the lived experiences of disabled individuals, as told by disabled people, in a setting organized by disabled activists. DIS aims to create dialogue on how our society must address systemic oppressions using an intersectional approach.

I missed the morning keynote by Mia Mingus but will watch it later on video. (her talk starts about 21:45)

Makers Faire: I only had a few minutes for this, but I bought stickers and zines from Danchan – beautiful, cute, healing. The messages conveyed by her art are in a way something I have been feeling the lack of, so I was instantly just so happy – this is hard to express. Some of the Stay Home Club things give me a similar feeling but these hit the spot more exactly – to encourage & celebrate love and care from this particular perspective. That it is a radical act to care for ourselves and each other. “Vulnerability” – a person in a hoodie holding their arms in the air with a rainbow above; “Hold Each Other Gently” – hands cupped underneath a box wrapped with caution tape; “Stay Loving Stay Angry” with a dagger through a heart. I also liked (and bought) a flag with a blockprint of a powerchair and “SMASH THE FASH” from FatLibInk folks, and some small prints from Mchhim (I can’t find their info but a sticker that says Your Luxury Is Our Displacement and a flower with the roots exposed).

stickers

At another table I picked up a flyer of Sins Invalid’s Access Suggestions for Mobilizations. Sins Invalid also has a very good Access Suggestions for Public Events. I recommend them both. Maybe your organization or event can’t manage all of these things, but the ones you can, you can explicitly SAY that you are planning to provide, in your event information, invites, announcements, and so on. Making that information easy to find, ahead of time, is an important part of access and inclusivity. At least, by providing the info, you’re signaling very clearly, Less Bullshit Than Usual maybe and that you have thought about & worked towards access. The detailed, granular information you provide is part of the accessibility! Basically when I see simply “Wheelchair accessible venue” on an event description, that’s nice, but one, I can never believe it, and two, it doesn’t describe what I need to know.

I also picked up a beautiful postcard with the cover art for Alice Wong’s upcoming anthology, Resistance and Hope: Essays by Disabled People. “Crip wisdom for the people.

The first afternoon talk was Resistance & Hope: a dialogue Alice Wong & Stacey Milbern – moderated by Robin (@sexabled). While I was kinda hoping for one sort of discussion, we got another, just as good or better.

Alice opened by describing her fear, pain, and anger from the 2016 elections, and how she reacted by wondering what she could do best to foster resistance and hope. Her work for the Disability Visibility Project & for this anthology to be a source of hope in creativity.

Stacey then talked about finding hope in the midst of despair; part of that is in the imagination, imagining and creating ways for us as disabled people to lead resistance. Specifically, for queer/trans/POC disabled folks to lead. For example, within disability activism and communities, we can imagine, what if this movement was led by people with intellectual disabilities, people with mental illness? Once we imagine that, we expand the boundaries of what is possible.

Alice mentioned something I deeply believe, that the people at the margins know the systems they’re in the best. (An idea I first began to understand from Gloria Anzaldua, in the 80s.) In daily lives, we have to fight and resist for so many things, so that something like having plastic straws or riding public transport is part of our resistance. We are struggling to be in public space, as part of our survival.

I appreciated the fun moment where Stacey described Alice as “futuristic”. She said that you can see organizations, non profits, and so on, scrambling to figure out how to use social media. Alice creating the Disability Visibility Project is a good example of using technology effectively – that’s the futuristicness. (Or, think of her with the telepresence robot at the White House!) Consider, from the constraints under which you operate (this is me not Stacey) what you then make happen. To me, that’s part of what it can mean to lead from the margins and why it can be effective. As an important part of that concept, we must challenge the presumed whiteness of disability be centering people of color in the disability justice movement.

Alice responded to Stacey’s talk of being futuristic by saying she likes to think of herself as an alien cyborg. (Darth Vader is a much misunderstood disabled character.)

I hooted appreciatively. Ah, I love them both! And us all! Me too! Cyborg & proud! Alien love! Science fiction is a revolutionary force! Queer feminist cyborg power!! *Explodes from enthusiasm*

Stacey and Alice then turned the discussion to ask the rest of us in the room, What do you resist here in the SF Bay Area? What gives you hope and strength?

I did not always catch who was speaking but did hear, among other things,

* Lily talked about doing the work to create a beloved community
* Brotherhood with neurodivergent men of color who are living on the street, as good resistance work
* Monique talking about struggling with inaccessible bathrooms in the Bay Area and also, that people underestimate the intelligence of others in centers ie, in institutions
* rent
* inaccessible parking
* white supremacy and patriarchy
* categories and labels that block connection to humanity
* ableist public schools
* Sanjay says he resists people who grab him and pray on him in the street and, when ppl say they’re ignorant about disability but they all know someone disabled, they just aren’t listening to or paying attention to their own friends and family
* Reactivity, anger and argumentativeness from someone who says she is trying to educate more patiently on a daily basis
* Academic elitism and snobbery
* Gigi talks about pee in the broken BART elevators and her desire to travel the world. Airlines break our chairs so it’s too risky. Technology and social media give her hope, keep taking pics, report, fight, share.
* Lateef (https://twitter.com/kut2smooth) spoke briefly and passionately about the damage done to us. While I didn’t capture it precisely I had the impression that he had plenty to say that I want to hear. So asked him afterwards for his info – I now see from Lateef’s site that he is a poet too. Poets know! You can buy his book, A Declaration of A Body of Love Poetry – I just did.

I liked how Stacey, Alice, and Robin, Allie taking the mic around, and others, made that space for many people to speak and be heard by everyone in the room. All too brief. Claire made the point at the conference’s closing that this is just a glimpse of each other and we can work over the times to come to make sure we keep in touch and nurture the new connections we’ve made.

Along with others at the DIS2018 Bay Area gathering at the Ed Roberts Center I then watched the closing keynote by Anita Cameron via video streaming from the national event. Anita gave a broad overview of her 33 years working with ADAPT. Kinda 33 years winding up to “How do I bring my full self to this fight?” including blackness, being a woman, a lesbian, all my experiences and identities and anger, to the disability justice movement? The “how” is a long answer too long for a talk. It’s ongoing work, it’s more than having a couple of meetings. It was Mike Brown’s horrible murder in Ferguson that sparked Anita’s re-evaluation of her engagement in ADAPT.

I was thinking from that and previous discussion how hard it is to capture the complexities of these answers. Past the basics, what do we actually do? It is a process of gaining wisdom and experience. We can indicate some ways and truths. We can say things that might sound simple, but hold a world of meaning for your thoughts and actions to explore. Expecting a full explanation in this context is like wanting the content of a person’s life to be poured into your brain. (If only!) This is why we have conversations over time, and novels, and movies, it’s why we have stories, because stories are one of the tools, the main tool, we have for this purpose.

Supporting POC-led events and organizations is super important. For me, it is the logical thing to do. It is often impossible to move an existing organization, or, not impossible, but it is definitely never INSTANT, it’s a long term process. There are many inherent pitfalls in that process (like for example tokenizing people). Personally I will never (again – I did at least once) start an organization run by only or even mostly white people, it just does not work for me, it is too flawed, and I don’t like how that unfolds. At best I think once that happens you can partner with other orgs, in a support role.

While I mention POC led organizations let’s name one, I recall someone referring to it and to Talila Lewis on stage yesterday but not exactly what they said. You might have a look at HEARD. A good organization to support. As you may know, when police in this country kill people, over half of their victims are disabled and they are disproportionately disabled people of color. The violence of the prison system is a perpetual horror and we have to fight it on every level.

Helping Educate to Advance the Rights of the Deaf (HEARD), is an all-volunteer nonprofit organization that promotes equal access to legal system for individuals who are deaf and for people with disabilities. HEARD primarily focuses on correcting and preventing deaf wrongful convictions, ending deaf prisoner abuse, decreasing recidivism rates for deaf returned citizens, and on increasing representation of the deaf in the justice, legal and corrections professions. HEARD created and maintains the only national database of deaf, hard of hearing and deaf-blind detainees & prisoners.

On holding space open. While I appreciated aspects of everything people said in the “discussion” part of the afternoon, I also think white folks might stand to listen more, and help to hold space more, rather than taking that space. We all need space to speak. Do I have plenty to say on these subjects? Yes obviously, LOL. Did I need to speak in that process, no I did not. I have massive privilege and opportunity to say what I have to say. That time is better spent literally listening to whatever the people have to say who have the most difficulty. Even that one weird motherfucker who went on about his spiritual wife. OK man we’re holding space for you to be your own glorious weird-ass self. That is also what it is for. Now, I’m sure everyone has their struggles and maybe it is particularly important to hear from Brother Berkeley McWhiterpants about his allyship in the very middle of an event centered on and run by people of color but…. Come ON. (end mild rant)

So I am left with the thoughts of the concrete actions I am taking (and that I support others in doing) For me a part of that is to look around me for people to connect with in my neighborhood. I talk about mobility issues and other struggles with people I just run into. And, I try to balance my financial support between organizations and individuals, who I know and who are strangers to me (which I think is important, as if you only share resources with the people you are already friends with, that just keeps whatever systemic patterns exist in their same patterns.

The structure of the event at the Ed Roberts Center was interesting in itself.

The stage too was a nice thing, though I would have liked it to be a bit higher, it had a broad ramp integrated with it so that it wasn’t a tedious process for folks to get on and off the stage.

stage with a broad ramp

I liked the MC-ing by Gigi and Claire Light. Claire led some moments of pausing and breathing, something I’m not great at doing, especially in public (because it means listening to my pain instead of blocking it out, and I don’t want to cry or whatever), but I think it was a good thing for many people in the event and a good idea to make space to ground ourselves. There was also a quiet room available. Towards the end of the afternoon I just got on the floor against a wall and laid down to listen and felt zero worry about other people’s opinions of that. (Something I’ve often done when I’m just that much in pain and tired, but don’t want to go home, I’d rather be able to participate, but others are uncomfortable or it breaks various social rules, and yes that’s why some folks have reclining wheelchairs or maybe I’d be better off staying home but, I can get up and down off the floor and it’s RIGHT THERE.)

I immediately had a wild surge of happiness at being in a crowd, without being crowded and trapped. The space itself was arranged in an open way, with tables spaced widely, and plenty of flexible area for use. Within that space and on the nice smooth floors, others were zipping about, I could hear their motors or appreciate the visual nearly silent, quick motion as they (we) rolled around the room. It was like the pleasure of watching swallows in flight. I thought of specific moments like being at Hamilton Pool near Austin, a limestone sinkhole over a large pool of water, with hollowed out, round cliffs, the mud swallow nests clinging to the cliffs 70 feet overhead and the birds darting in complimentary shapes to the arc of the inverted bowl, not acting together as a flock or a swarm, but each in pursuit of their own invisible goals. (Bugs.) Often, in a crowd, like at a conference hall or hotel, I zip around and, especially if the floor is smooth, I feel something of that pleasure of motion. It means having to be mindful of others in a particular way, that ideally includes my modeling of their ability to predict my motion and trust that I am competent. So, it is rare for me to be in a space like that and feel real joy in motion – It has to be open enough and non chaotic enough to allow for our normal motion not to scare people (whether they have good reason or not to startle and freeze or even leap away, as they do). Maybe the Dyke March and its attempts to hold space open between the main banner and the trolley and sound truck for wheelchair users. What I’m winding up to is that I’m often the only wheelybot in group spaces, so it was a specifically embodied pleasure to be not the only one but more than that, to feel so beautifully comfortable in my own erratic orbits alongside others zooming around. It filled me with joy.

Saw so many friends, met new people, haven’t been so excited about being at a conference in a while.

And, final plug for the Disability Visibility Project. Podcasts, a stream of excellent Facebook posts, Twitter chats on #CripTheVote, #CripLit and other topics. Add them right now to your social media of choice and follow along – you will be sure to learn something & have your world expanded.

liz holding smash the fash flag

Some recent Internet reading

An interview with Jaron Lanier, https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/delete-your-account-a-conversation-with-jaron-lanier/#!

So the problem is that when people say, “Oh, we use social media for social justice,” they’re typically correct. And yet in the longer story they’re really vulnerable to a far greater backlash than they would have gotten if they used another technique. At the end of the day, it’s hard to say whether they really benefited or not.

I disagree with what Lanier seems to be trying to say here. Of course if your activism reaches more people you are going to get more backlash. Are the specific people advocating for change ever going to be the ones to personally benefit for that change? Rare!

What they want to do is take whatever input people put into the system and find a way to turn it into the most engagement possible. And the most engagement comes from the startle emotions, like fear and anger and jealousy, because they tend to rise the fastest and then subside the slowest in people, and the algorithms are measuring people very rapidly, so they tend to pick up and amplify startle emotions over slower emotions like the building of trust or affection.

Interesting, and makes me think of Stardew Valley and its slow building of relationships between the player-character and the NPCs, relationships that have to be maintained. I also thought of the first example I was aware of, of the seemingly pointless exchange of tokens of approval in a social network, which I think was my friend Yoz creating something called “Sweeties” in Ning. And tangentially, of all the feminist sf utopias where there are barter based economies. Build in and opting into “slower” economies of attention could be possible – Excuse me while I go invent actual real life friendship, and the postal system – But seriously, I like this point and the only real answer to it may be to point this out to folks and for us all to seriously think about how we want to spend our time.

I am also thinking of my essay on culture clashes and the underlying assumptions of the trolls of the 00s with particular feminist communities. One assumes that showing that you are harmed is evidence you need to be harmed more in order to do you the favor of toughening you up. The other values its “hugbox” (a term used as a pejorative by the trolls) ie, its social contract to be supportive, kind, and to value the courage of vulnerability.

There is something to thinking “well, we SHOULD be alarmed and upset” about how things are – I think that is mistaking the early or middle phases of consciousness raising for a desirable steady state of being. It is normal in my view to have something of a breakdown as we try to integrate awareness of our participation in harmful, terrible or evil events and systems. As we see these truths we have to form some kind of narrative about what is happening and what we’re doing. That is where we’re at right now in public discourse – we are in a phase of rolling chaos and dis-integration.

Another article: This particle physics news was neat to see, as my ex partner used to work on these sorts of experiments (including AMANDA, the precursor to Ice Cube).

There is an open call for submissions to Cripple Punk Zine:

Our goal is to continue spreading radical disability acceptance to as many people as we can. We want to help raise disabled people’s self worth and self esteem, support disabled content creators, and create more spaces for disabled people to unapologetically be themselves. Every single disabled person deserves to feel empowered!

We are currently accepting submissions for the first issue, which will answer the question, “What is Cripple Punk?” and what cripple punk means to different people. The first issue should cover topics central to the cripple punk movement, like fighting ableism, embracing diversity, becoming empowered, and rejecting the roles mainstream society expects you to fit into.

I may write something and send it on.

I enjoyed this essay by Harry Giles (a rec from Sumana) on nurturing vs. shock in performance art.

Learning how to care for your audience is actually far more aesthetically interesting and politically disruptive than working out how to shock them.

This fits well with reading Lanier’s interview.

On shock and harm in art:

In each of these works, it is clear the people are actively harmed by the art, and this raises vital artistic and political questions. Who is it that is harmed, and why? Is it worth it? In Pussy Riot’s case, the punk gig offends worshippers and people who believe in a certain sanctity of the church space, who feel violated, but I would argue that in this case the violence is justified in the cause of attacking a patriarchy whose foundations rest in part on that very sanctity. But these are not easy arguments to make, and they are not artworks that I think can be taken or performed lightly.

I thought of myself and some of the activism I have done, for example, times I have been naked for a cause. Was my going shirtless at riot grrrl concerts or stripping down for a picture for body positivity with Nakedjen in various places a positive, transgressive act, or a rude, offensive, illegal, non consensual violation of other people’s space that possibly harmed someone? Is it different from Kavanaugh flashing Ramirez at a frat party and if so, how? My view here is that the potential harm is important to acknowledge, and that the expression, intention, exuberant joy, humor, etc. was worth the risk, and the context has to be considered.

thumbnail of two women

Random encounter on the bus

Random encounter on the bus yesterday on the way home. The bus was a little crowded, enough that I thought the bus driver might not let us on, but he started to lower the lift for me and to ask some folks to move back. As he did, an older woman with a walker came up and I fell back a bit to let her get on first (on the theory that I am sitting down, she is standing up, let her get settled). She nodded at me in a very definitive way as if to say, “CORRECT”.

But the bus driver even more correctly said, No, wheelchair first, and I realized that if the lady with the walker got on first I would not be able to go past her easily to get into the wheely spot because of the particular configuration of the bus, so I got on first (with some attempt at conciliating explanation ) As I settled into a seat and pulled my scooter into the little open slot next to it I realized I should save the empty seat next to me for her because she was very short and the other open seat near the front was the kind over the wheel well that is a few inches higher (too high for my feet to reach the ground if I sat there) So I stopped a middle school kid from sitting next to me. Walker lady saw this with a keen eye and sat with me triumphantly. Ada came to stand behind my scooter with her back against the upturned seats, messing with her phone.

We smiled at each other a lot. She then pointed out that my red flowers on my scooter matched her red walker and jacket. I agreed and said I like bright things. “This is from Guatemala (her bag), This is from Mexico (her brightly flowered huipil) This is from Peru (her woollen striped headband) And me, from Mexico” I admired her colorful ornamentation and said where I was intending to get off. She was going to play bingo at the church on Cortland. I told her about the free tai chi classes at the neighborhood center across the street.

During the bus ride every time someone new got on she quickly assessed the seating situation and decided where the new people should go. And she made it happen with very little English – and perfect confidence – in fact we both conspired (in a way hard to describe but which meant we had to both indicate with body language that people were welcome to go past us or that we could slightly move our machinery around and back again). Her bus-packing logic was impeccable, factoring in frailty, youth, and encumberment.

On this bus, I generally get off at 30th Street because it’s a more major stop than the one a bit closer to my house, and more people get on and off there. If I wait for the closer stop, then the bus fills up and I have to make my wheely way past many people’s toes, so it’s better to leave during the period of greater churn. I would have liked to explain my reasoning to the maestra of bus loading but instead wished her luck at bingo.

“Do you see that lady a lot?” Ada asked me once we were on the sidewalk. No — I just somehow loved her instantly because she was so cheery, and also because she was super into figuring out bus seating optimization. 😀 That’s my story…. It is uneventful – but I enjoyed the entire thing.

Also! That was a particularly decent bus driver to let us both on without fuss and I intend to compliment him through the 311 system.

Cat dreams

Last night I dreamed that I compiled the cat. There were quite a few error messages. As they scrolled past I was trying to remember important ones and note them, sometimes highlighting them in Terminal to stop the scrolling for a few seconds so I could read the errors more closely, then letting go again to watch the messages fly past. The only one I remember now said OUCH!!!! in a strange, different font, much bigger than the rest of the stream of output.

I was worried in the dream about having to debug the cat’s code in front of all the people who were watching.

The last time something like this happened was many years ago and very silly – I had been trying out emacs (for work, after many years of vi) and I configured the cats with something like this: set-cats:no-meow.

It is commonly said that you can’t read and write in dreams, but I’ve always been able to, sometimes reading whole stories or books, or writing poetry or stories that I remember parts of when I wake up. I used to write down the bits of text I composed or read in dreams. At times I get the “scrambled text” effect (like the numbers on the digital clock in the movie Waking Life) and then realize I’m in a dream. Maybe writing and reading in dreams is part of being able to lucid-dream, or just part of being a person who is very focused on textualities.

Unfortunately, the cats did not successfully set to no-meow years ago, and my current cat still woke me up with its real life error messages such as MEOW MEOW MEOW IT’S 6AM AND MY BREAKFAST IS MISSING MEOW I AM STARVING.

cat with flowers

Playing catch-up and tweaking small habits

Coming back to work after 6 weeks leave – Here is my plan.

* Bugzilla needinfo: A few people were still trying to talk to me while I was out so, doing that first.
* Deal with email: inbox ~2000, anything older than a week, I will archive it in large batches by filtering and then read whatever is leftover and seems important.
* Study the calendar and absorb where we are in the current release cycle
* Read meeting notes: my team meetings, product cross-functional, recent channel meetings
* Read the post-mortem notes for the 62 release, and the subsequent dot releases, though that may depress me (I got sick in the last stages of this (“my”) release)
* Figure out what I should be doing next, probably that means prep for Firefox 65 if I’ll be the release owner for that, and I believe for ESR 60.4.0 (that goes along with the 64 release)
* I can always peck away at some new regression triage

That’s plenty for the next day or so.

Meanwhile during my recovery from surgery I have been trying to change or add small daily habits. Another list!

* I have integrated doing 3-5 minutes of gentle tai chi a few times a day (first thing in the morning, mid-morning, and before lunch are the most important).
* Writing and drawing around 15 minutes each, even if not particularly inspired, I have to stop whatever else I’m doing and give it a try. Sometimes I end up going further or having good ideas!
* Making sure to go outside and lie in the sun, while we still have sunny patches on the front porch and on our back patio. Sun hour is currently around 9:45 to 11 in the front. By late October we won’t have any more direct sun, not until March. So I had better take advantage while it’s still here (And also, it structures my day nicely — important, as Coleridge says, to organize the hours and give them a soul.)
* Posting more here, in my more private journal, or writing in my notebook rather than just on Facebook, which has become an ingrained bad habit.
* I moved Twitter off the front page of my phone and replaced it with Duolingo and Feedly, so now when I have the impulse to zone out reading Twitter (and rage-tweeting about politics) I instead either read some actual blogs that I like, or do some poking away at Duolingo. (Spanish and French). I also still look over Hacker News which usually has something worth reading, if only so that I can laugh at n-gate afterwards
* Sending snail mail. When I realized I’d be in bed for weeks, I asked for postcards from people, and got around 100 cards! It was very cheering. I’m still answering that batch of cards.

Here’s a little sharpie marker illustration of a black cat from one of my drawing sessions!
drawing of a black cat

Slow absorption of history with digressions

I’m still slowly reading In These Times: Living in Britain Through Napoleon’s Wars with forays into Wikipedia or pauses to read a book or two or six by people mentioned in the history. Last night I ended up trying to explain Lord Uxbridge’s leg to Danny who got interested and then read out loud to me from Mr. Dallas’s speech in court to defend Henry Paget (the Noble Lord). (Result: Paget paid 20,000 pounds to Wellesley for eloping with his wife Charlotte.) Readers of Regency romances take note, Paget was married at the time to one of Lady Jersey’s daughters.

Onward to some more Luddite riots centered in Bolton and Preston (land of my ancestors! at least one branch of them! Weavers and miners all, emigrating around 1900 to work in more mills but escaping the mines!) and a long chapter about Shelley and co.

One pause was for Life in the Sickroom by Harriet Martineau, which is AWESOME and which I’ll summarize soon. I liked it so much I found a (cheap!) first edition online – leather binding, marbled papers – Lovely.

I am probably going to pause to read the novel Patronage by Mrs. Edgeworth, but first, a complete departure since I need to recharge my Kindle, this morning in the sun on the porch with coffee, with a real life paper book in hand: From the Legend of Biel by Mary Staton, which I had never heard of till James Nicoll‘s mention of it in a review. So far it’s glorious, weird, trippy, one of those Freak Out in Space books a little like Solaris, as the head of the 4-person expedition to planet MC6 enters the pearl-like featureless dome trying to map the maze within and finally, the center, and some glass holograph floppies which, slotted in, OVERWHELM HIS MIND with story.

book cover with geometric buildings

Why, why, why, would you want to wear a jumpsuit uniform in space and as you explore another planet? They’re always unzipping their jumpsuits (but never to pee) What is wrong with just … what about pants and shirt, space explorer uniform designers? I guess the idea is that in zero-gee you don’t want your shirt floating up but that is why we have tailoring, knits, even perhaps Space Suspenders.

Other moments where someone enters the dome, or the ruins, of the past or the aliens or one’s ancestors: Pern on the Southern Continent (with bonus rocketships), I think one at least of the books by H.M. Hoover, an Andre Norton or two or five (especially the one where they jump around on the colored squares to get in, like Dance Dance Revolution). And so many more. I have to think it is from Lord Howard and the pyramid (The protagonist of Biel is even named Howard – subtle. )

Long reading journeys since I am still in enforced idleness of convalescence from surgery and can’t sit upright for very long and leaving the house (while possible) is unwise and painful. It’s amazing how beautiful the world is though when I do — the bus ride to the doctor yesterday & back again was as wild and ecstatic as the journey into the dome of MC6 — I was early, bought an It’s-It at a cart at the cable turnaround at Powell and sat in the sun in a clean bit of pavement (recently washed perhaps by the new mayor’s power-washing crew) providing entertainment to all as part of the San Francisco landscape. Purple haired woman with a leather jacket sits on the pavement next to her motorized tricycle (decorated with artificial flowers and a unicorn horn), eating ice cream and beaming — small children tagging along after their parents with rolly suitcases drop their jaws and their heads swivel as they walk past or sometimes stop dead in their tracks to stare. I wave like the Queen of Tricycles and try to convey my harmlessness to the parents. Sometimes I’ve been stopped in that area or by the Mint by tourists who want a photo with me. Colored hair is not that strange anymore so I have to lay blame on the unicorn horn. The people waiting in a long line for the cable car ride (where I always think of young Maya Angelou), the guy sleeping next to the railing, the band playing not-great but adequate steel drum, a sunny day…. Endless parade of people going places purposefully. I loved everyone.

Bad Inventions: Scratching Post Pants and Cat Tree Suit

In the fine tradition of terrible cat-related inventions, I present: the Cat Tree Suit! Cover some knee-high leather boots with sisal rope, or just staple the rope all over a pair of jeans. Scratching Post Pants!

Optional hip belt with built-in ledge for the cat to rest at the halfway mark as it climbs.

The jacket can be either sisal-covered or carpet based, with a huge upturned collar excellent for keeping a cat in place around your neck. It should have a lot of useful tassels hanging from collar, cuffs, and anywhere else.

Onward and upward to the fabulously oversized top hat with a little hole in the front for the cat to peek out of! The hat should also have a dangling wire with a fluffy cat toy to motivate your hat-sitting cat for optimal display.

I thought surely someone would have made one of these, but searching hasn’t turned up anything. It’s up to you, dear reader, to construct Scratching Post Pants (or the entire suit) and send me photos. Or just send the entire suit to Moshow.

A month after surgery

This was a fabulous day. I had more energy, I cooked some things, folded a lot of laundry, and did my project to paint a small shelving unit in the bathroom. With interludes of lying down but this is the most active I’ve been since June and it was so nice.

liz smiling with a paintbrush

I feel more certain that I’m healing up from surgery now. Danny did all the shopping and laundry and Ada helped out with some things and cleaned her room after getting back from a gaming sleepover. Dinner was 2 kinds of congee (chicken broth in one pot and vegetarian in the other) with poached eggs. I also used up Ada’s solstice harvest pears and apples and a lemon making a pear-apple crumble. It is strangely satisfying to just make up whatever I’m cooking as I go (occasionally leading to something inedible) My chicken congee had tomato, bok choy, fresh ginger, cumin, and a lot of pepper. Ada’s vegetarian kind had tofu, soy sauce, some frozen mixed vegetables, shredded carrots from a bag, bok choy, tomatoes… lord knows what else I threw in there but it came out nice. I have not cooked anything other than toast or a microwave dinner for a long time….

I am missing Milo who is back at school (moving back just this Wednesday).

I also left the house Thurs. night for an hour of the EFF Pioneer Awards (nice to see people! and to be out!), Friday (on the bus) for a dr. appointment, and Saturday afternoon to go to the retirement party of one of my comp lit professors, again, amazing to see her and my super wonderful thesis advisor and friends from the program from 15 years ago (!). Lessons learned from going out: I am not yet ready to scooter around town or take the bus. It hurts too much and I need to seriously limit going out, and stick to cabs. (I have to lean heavily to one side when sitting up, including on the scooter, and it hurts my back and also, bumpy sidewalks omg.)

I’m in bed for the evening now reading about the 19th century novelist Mrs. Sherwood aka Mary Martha Butt. From ages 6 to 13 while learning her 40 lines of Virgil per day she was locked into some sort of “stocks” and also an iron collar around her neck with wooden boards to keep her posture correct. Her novels are a bit horrible (fascinating though – and she has a sense of humor – and you can see the seeds of later childrens literature in there). I would like to read a modern biography about her.

Meanwhile, I read just the Wikipedia entry for social theorist and writer Harriet Martineau: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harriet_Martineau and am VERY KEEN to read her book “Life in the Sickroom” from 1844 which she wrote while she was confined to bed for a couple of years. What horrors will it contain!! But what possible insights that I might actually agree with!!!

These digressions in reading are all from interesting bits of my main book right now, “In These Times: Living in Britain Through Napoleon’s Wars” which seems endless by Kindle-percentage standards, but I am sure the last half of it is footnotes. It jumps between focal points (like Banking, or Weaving).

While recovering from surgery I read nearly everything possible (in e-book form) by Charlotte M. Yonge (who I like better as a writer than Mrs. Sherwood) well worth reading – like Margaret Oliphant. She is especially interesting in writing around the 1830 riots.

I had to just accept that I needed the surgery since I wasn’t getting better without it and wasn’t really able to function well in any way…. Tied to a strange cycle of this abscess unpredictably starting to swell, then a hellish time of waiting for it to burst, then like, feeling horrible but marginally more capable but it started to happen more than once per day. That really sucked. So, I went on medical leave and they de-roofed it (ugh) leaving a giant open wound. Once I made the decision it was a little easier to just switch gears to Very Low Gear, or maybe Neutral, and idle. I prepared pretty well for this arranging everything for my bedside life, cleaning off a shelf that I look at from bed to put some plant pots and extra vases there and a giant rack of in-out boxes for my drawing supplies. And, I slowly drew (mostly while lying sideways) some of my planned scenes of the neighborhood. It is so helpful to have some sort of plan like this. I also laid on the front porch (once capable) in the sunny hour in the morning and on the back porch in the afternoon to catch the last sun before winter. I find it hard to lie still not doing anything – I look around and enjoy seeing stuff but start to want to change stuff, plan things to do, and it is very annoying not to be able to get up. But, this time, I think it’s the best I’ve planned (and had infinite resources…) And best I’ve coped.

Leaving out the days of being glued to news, twitter, Senate hearings, rage-tweeting about Kavanaugh and rape culture, crying, and freaking out and also the 2 weeks of heavy drugs just after the surgery.