A warm woolly bed

Dashboard the Cat likes her new warm, woolly, felted bed that looks like a rock. She hasn’t much taken to cat beds in the past but she seems to like this one! It’s so cute!

Cat in a felted bed

I’m tired from a very long work day, so that’s all! I didn’t even leave the house today, omg. At beta 7 of…. 13 I think, plus another release candidate or two in the last week. The pace is starting to feel hectic.

Starting to think about WisCon43!

I just booked our tickets to WisCon and am feeling excited about going! I haven’t been since 2014.

Next Monday is the deadline to suggest panel or talk ideas. If you think of a panel you’d like me to be on, feel free to suggest me (or talk with me about it).

It’s going to be fun to get to explore Madison a little bit in my powerchair – I’m hoping it will really free me up to roam around!

Not that it is easy to leave the hotel. It’s weirdly utopian. I’ll see so many people I absolutely adore!!!

The Emperor and The Victory

Still plowing relentlessly through the Morland Dynasty books. I am up to a quite exciting bit of the Napoleonic wars. The books have unexpectedly morphed from mostly Yorkshire drama to naval life and battles, including the Glorious First of June, the Battle of the Nile, and Trafalgar. Including something of the lives of women on board the ships.

I think that will continue for another couple of books, so if you like this sort of book (Master and Commander, Hornblower, etc) and the Regency and so on, you might want to start at book 10 and go till book 14! You won’t get some of the references to earlier family history but that doesn’t matter much – the books stand on their own.

They’ve well written & with tons of solid historical background – I recommend them!

Going off sleeping pills

I’ve dealt with insomnia ever since I can remember and it changed my life for the better to go on sleeping pills, helping me feel secure that I would sleep and helping me have structure in my life, be healthier, get to work on time, and so on. It’s hard to describe the desperation of not being able to sleep and the way the night goes and how I’d then sometimes fall asleep just as the sky turned grey and the birds started up.

Given the current research into the down sides of hypnotics I’m going off them as best I can. It sounds like your risks go down substantially when you stop. I went to a 3/4 dose, then a half, then a quarter and now had 2 nights of ok sleep with zero and with no rebound effect. I have been scared of the rebound thing (where you just can’t sleep for a couple of nights at all) because it would be physically painful and put me at some risk for a general flare up of problems. But, all was well, tapering worked, and I’m feeling positive. I’m hoping that my life is stable and settled enough that maybe I won’t have this problem so much, also, since I have slowed down my pace of life a lot maybe I won’t end up in such pain at the end of the day that it keeps me awake.

Some science fiction/fantasy with disabled characters

Or with an interesting take on variations of ability or human/machine integration/enhancement.

I might mention some or all of these in the panel today at CripTech. And, I’ll come back later today and add links to this list and some notes on the panel.

“Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction” – magazine issue/anthology
On the Edge of Gone – Corinne Duyvis
Murderbot by Martha Wells
Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
Various books by Becky Chambers
The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
Brain Plague and The Highest Frontier by Joan Slonczewski
Autonomous by Annalee Newitz
“We Who Are About To…” Joanna Russ
A Study in Honor, Claire O’Dell
Borderline – Mishell Baker
Of course, the Vorkosigan series by Lois McMaster Bujold

Milton Mayer book

In between much lighter reading I’ve been plowing through “They Thought They Were Free: The Germans 1933-45” by Milton Mayer, published in 1955. OK, first off I wish it didn’t have a giant swastika on the cover since I can’t even leave it lying around the house without feeling embarrassed. Thanks, book designer?

The book feels like one of those mish-mash books created from already published magazine articles. Mayer is trying to complicate various explanations of “why the ordinary (non jewish) German in the 30s and 40s were in the Nazi Party or just went along with things and what that meant for them. He works in details about ten “friends” he made in Kronnenberg, along with a bunch of German history and some psychological/sociological speculation. Also trying to tell the narrative non linearly, but not very well. I didn’t think the book was very good, but stuck with it till the end.

There was a middle section that was pages and pages of him quoting another extra 11th “friend” or colleague who was a professor (maybe in Germany, then in the U.S. or England) basically outlining some thought on frog-boiling and considering the beginnings and endings of one’s actions.

Basic premise of the book of his “friends” was a bit gross since he was lying to them, was not their friend, they weren’t or wouldn’t have been his friends, and so on. Also they all sound super racist and anti-Semitic to the core so it was deeply unpleasant to hear their mild doubts of their actions leading up to and during the war.

Mayer makes some brief comparisons of race politics in the U.S. with the situation in Germany including mentioning racism against black people and the internment of Japanese Americans.

Better off to go read Hannah Arendt rather than this stuff. The last chapter had some interesting stuff about the CIA in the 50s training assassin squads of former SS officers – in Germany – to go after people they thought were dangerous communists – despite this being totally illegal in every way.

Link: http://press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/511928.html

Solidarity picnic

This summer I went to a picnic in support of Bassel Khartabil, an open source software developer and volunteer who was detained in 2012 in Syria. Over the past years people have done all sorts of activism to keep his case public, holding Wikipedia editing parties, tweeting with #FreeBassel hashtag, writing letters, publishing books, and doing slightly weirder things like passing out masks of his face and bringing life size cardboard cutouts of him to tech conferences.

No one knows if he’s alive or dead and of course many other people are not only in prison in Syria but are surviving or dying in a horrifying war. I felt a bit odd about going to a picnic in Bassel’s honor. It comes down on some level to wanting to assert that we are part of the same cultural and political movement; Free/Libre Open Source Software, open culture, hackerspaces, access to technology and the means to speak and publish and share information.

I read Bassel: Behind the Screens of the Syrian Resistance and Waiting by Noura Ghazi Safadi. You can see early on when Bassel was detained, the EFF and the Mozilla Foundation, Creative Commons, and other organizations spoke up strongly calling for his release. Those efforts continued – Read the story of Bassel Khartabil, Syrian prisoner who lives and risks dying for a free Internet but last year in 2015 was the last anyone heard of him as he was transferred from one prison to possibly a military field camp.

Free bassel picnic2

So there we are in Dolores Park, feeling surreal, next to a big cardboard cutout of Bassel. We’re lying in the sun on a picnic blanket and lawn chairs watching people play frisbee and catching Pokémon, sharing delicious fruit and cookies, passing around a copy of The Cost of Freedom, an anthology by people working to help free Bassel. We ended up talking about our own work and our beliefs. I took notes as we all had neat ideas, but can’t find them now as I’m several notebooks past the summer by now. I do remember really enjoying talking with Mahmoud about his HatNote projects, like Weeklypedia and the strangely hypnotic Listen to Wikipedia.

Afterwards Niki sent round a play: A Picnic for Bassel in Three Acts. It gets a little bit of the flavor of that day, the intensity of our conversations, and the cognitive dissonance of being at a lovely picnic with friends while thinking to the horrors of repression, imprisonment, and war. It is really lovely to read and heartens me today.

DAKE: I see what you’re saying, but there is a human side to it too that you seem to be forgetting. Cause besides tweets that are headlines for articles that one might not read, there is also the tweet by itself as a piece of evidence, a storytelling tool, in journalism itself. And of course the author of the tweet, a person, with a life. And when someone becomes the person who is relied on for tweets about a certain topic, or about a current event, it can take quite a toll on them. Sometimes these people are located outside the geographic space in which a story, usually a conflict, is occurring, yet they become central information conduits regarding it. But they are less “on the ground” in it than they are adept in collecting, aggregating, and sharing information that is found online about it. Not only does erode the quality of stories, as journalists look to tweets about something rather than directly investigating the story by talking to the people involved in it, but it can also cause some trauma to the person who is “the conduit,” as people come to rely on them to provide information which they are themselves quite removed from.

ENBE: And then there are the “conduits” like Bassel who were actually on the ground and sharing information about what was actually happening, and who put themselves at great risk to share it. How can we better protect these people, both now and going forward, to help people not be arrested, and help those who, like Bassel, unfortunately have been?

DAKE: That is a tricky question because at least as far as the traditional ethics in journalism go, you only need to protect your sources if they ask you to, if they only agree to disclose what they do on condition of anonymity. But if the source is public there is no need to protect them.

LIRA: But that is based on older systems of sharing information, where the idea of a source being public, the very idea of a public, was very different. Fewer people could be public, in the sense of having access to an audience of strangers.

. . .

SAKI: Not so fast, buddy! A platform like this cannot be too easy to use so that people don’t consider the risks they are taking by using it. Think about situations like Bassel’s, before he was arrested, and in many ways why he was arrested. People who appoint themselves to a story that their country does not want to be told. And not just the story, but the tools to follow and tell a story, any story, and participate in the global, storytelling knowledge machine that shapes much of the Internet.

And that made him a threat to and target for his government. Because it is one thing to have a lot of followers, and be threatening because of your access to an eager audience, in a large scale, whose collective actions could be too easily choreographed in way that the ruling powers do not like. But it is another to also be an advocate for learning and open discussion, and well respected within international organizations dedicated to the same. Cause it is not just about stopping the flow of information that is transmitted through a person, it is about stopping the machinery that they are helping to build, the influence a person has on the way that people think, the infectious freedom of curiosity, debate, and optimistic discussion.

I recommend the entire strategy for activists. Have a picnic, have tea, invite people to discussions on a small scale and then go deep. Please, also enjoy yourselves and celebrate life while doing so. It is important to appreciate these moments of peace and happiness without closing our eyes to harsher realities.

Free bassel picnicsf

From my nephew's school in Oakland

Here’s a letter my sister got today from my 9 year old nephew’s school. It is very sweet and I’m glad the school is taking this role and giving the kids a safe space to discuss the election results and take some action.

Dear Families,

I wanted to write and let you know how things are going for your children here on campus today. As you might imagine, they have spent some time in their classrooms sharing feelings, writing in journals and discussing what they know about the election and the results. Teachers are acknowledging feelings and discussions are age appropriate. In some classes, children are learning more about the electoral process, about how laws are made and changed, and talking again about issues related to the presidential election and how local issues get on our ballot. Our voices matter, and their voices matter. Children take their cues from us adults, and so our focus is on our shared values in our classrooms and our school, our mission, and on standing up for what we believe in.

Toward that end, students and teachers have decided to organize on the sidewalk in front of the gates on XX street at 1:00. We’ll be away from the street and students will be well supervised in their class groups with their teachers. The idea came from students and teachers alike. We will stand with signs made by students, in their own words about our values as a school and wider Oakland community. A few samples are friendship, love, kindness, staying positive, equality, respect, education, heath care, marriage equality and the MOSAIC values of open-mindedness, community, mutual respect. Kelly will also lead us in a little singing. We expect to be outside for about 15-20 minutes if you want to join us. Students are also having a regular school day, playing outside together, and working on all of their usual projects.

The middle school students organized a march in the community and around campus with their teachers, which was well received and very energizing. Our kids are feeling more empowered, and ready to work even harder for understanding and justice.

Here are my nephew’s signs, reading “Community”, “Love others”, and “Make peace around the U.S.A.”. I’m very proud of him.

handmade signs community love others make peace

Looking backwards from the Wave Organ

Today (ACTUALLY A MONTH AGO… I thought I already posted this) I had a specially fabulous time as I realized I was up at 8 or so while everyone else would sleep till at least noon. My sister was up for adventure and came over to take me driving around. We went to the Wave Organ. I thought I knew what it was and that it was some sort of art and sound thing by the historic ships. No!!! Totally different thing. We fooled around taking pictures and game-playing by the sea wall and then got to the end of a long long jetty.

The Wave Organ was very cool looking, not making any noise at low tide, but super beautiful, made of big slabs of granite and marble which I guessed might be from buildings from the 1915 Exposition but which turned out to be from an old cemetery. After we were there for a little while and I was considering walking around I realized there was a ramp down to lower levels. That was an amazing feeling. I felt really open and free and peaceful and safe. I was not going to annoyingly hurt myself attempting to clamber down there, or feel sad and pissed that I was wisely NOT hauling myself or limping or crawling to the fun bits of the park. Unexpected extra awesomeness.

wave_organ

My sister sketched in the sun while I sat in the little cave-like seat working on a poem about spaceport hookers. (Not even making that up.) We drove off, pausing to look at the Palace of Fine Arts, had lunch, drove through the Presidio to a scenic overlook, saw the “Spires” giant sculpture (neat but kind of underwhelming) and came back the long but nice way along the beach highway. I have been prudent in not doing too many things most of the time so it felt like a huge treat to go all over town and see things on a sunny day.

To get to the Wave Organ I could take the 49 and then 30 buses, or the 49 to the 101 bus and get off at the Palace of Fine Arts on Baker and Broderick. From there it’s a couple of blocks to cross to the marina and a sort of donut shack. There’s a pretty accessible bathroom there too. Then if you go far to the right down the jetty, past the St. Francis and Golden Gate yacht clubs, the wave organ is at the very tip of the jetty.

Thoughts on the past year. Lots of stuff happened! I changed jobs, went to Mexico twice on vacation with Danny and the kids, and went to Paris (with my sister), Orlando, and Whistler for work. I changed teams at work, and was release manager for two Firefox versions, 39 and 43. Mobility and health were about the same as usual, holding steady with small ups and downs. I had a few weeks on medical leave as I suddenly came down with shingles and there were definitely some low points with weeks in the ankle cast boots, but otherwise ok! I hung out with my fabulous family. I read a lot of books. Played a bunch of Ingress, did some swimming in the warm pool, scootered around in my TravelScoot, bought a new bed.

I wrote an article for The Recompiler and I feel sure wrote and published some other things (???) Maybe not though, maybe just a lot of interviews (“feminist hacking”, Double Union). I gave some talks but no really big ones. I performed some long poems at a show in Berkeley, “Iapetus”. I didn’t write any code or do any translation, sticking to more long weird experimental poems. Felt burned out on activism. But I do what I can and rallying round to support people in my usual way. I’m very lucky to know so many talented and amazing and loving people.

Our sweet cat Dyson died from ongoing kidney issues. After some months of cat-lessness we ended up adopting the first cat we got as a foster from the SPCA; Dashboard who is lively a young Siamese.

We had Thanksgiving & Christmas at my sister’s house in Oakland which as usual was super relaxing as they cook a ton of nice things and there are board games, cats, chickens, videos on a huge screen, general cosiness.

Last night we had a small party at a scale we could handle at our house. People dropped by all evening. We all worse sprouts on our heads. Some of us drank a non-alcoholic drink called a “Brain Fuzz” (lemon soda and ice cubes, with whipped cream on top). In general we made a mess with the blender, fruit, ice, chocolate, and some very gross “food” spray paint that you spray cake frosting with. Pro tip: it is really disgusting if you spray it on crushed ice.

One of my issues for the year has been slowing down a little. I worked on saying no a bit more, taking on fewer projects, going out less, trying to scale my life better to my physical ability and pain levels so I don’t burn out. Working less in the evening, writing less in the evening too, and instead, reading a lot in bed with periodic bustling around. I have gone out of the house every day for the last month (this is REALLY great).

Resolution type of things for 2016: Keep on with my attempt at balance of realistic activity, work, and rest and creativity. Swim and do pilates. Keep practicing languages in Duolingo steadily. Do some writing about work stuff. Write physical cards and letters to friends. Write with Milo and support the kids and Danny in their goals and generally make our lives nice. Work on my poems. Do a few new translations. Usual trickle of publishing things. Finish a new zine (the wheels one, or the Ida B Wells one, both in progress.) Edit Wikipedia occasionally as is my wont. Move along with project for producing that song by friends (more on that later). Support some more small artistic projects if I can. And, I will travel at least twice for work (London and Hawaii). Small steady progress seems like the key. Maybe a few more days off here and there when NOT sick and in pain would be helpful. While I am built more for emergencies and heroic bursts (creatively, in how I like to work) my body and mind can’t take it so I have to be really careful to be satisfied with smaller bites of … whatever it is… life… things… action… doing stuff… and not go with wild energy and enthusiasm until I drop. What if I didn’t do new stuff and projects all the time? Well, I’ll worry about that when I have to. I’ve been at that point and had to accept it many times. Right now I’m in between, holding steady!

Racism in the (white supremacist) women's suffrage movement (and some history)

A couple of years ago I wrote a little zine called Heterodoxy to Marie. Not even sure how I got onto the subject, but in looking up Marie Jenney Howe I got pissed off that she didn’t even rate a Wikipedia article but had a paragraph in her husband’s article. She was part of a group of radical women in New York City who called themselves Heterodoxy. I want to touch on that but in order to lead to the Alpha Suffrage Club in Chicago, and another group, the Delta Sigma Theta sorority from Howard, along with Ida B. Wells.

You can download Heterodoxy to Marie here, it’s a fairly small PDF. Print it double sided, & cut and fold, for a tiny 8 page book.

In one sprawling tentacle of my reading I ended up with descriptions of the 1913 Suffrage Parade (or Procession, or March) in Washington, D.C. with Inez Mulholland at the head on a white horse and hundreds of women marching behind in fancy sashes and amazing hats. There were contingents of representatives from many U.S. states. The atmosphere in DC at their near daily protests was brutal. People would crowd around and assault the picketers and marchers. My impression is that there was an attempt to create a spectacle of dignity and legitimacy in this march.

Anyway, part of the story of the march is that Ida B. Wells was there from Chicago, and was told not to march with the delegates from Illinois, but to go to the back of the march. Wells then sprung out from the crowd and joined the Illinois delegation anyway, flanked by two of her (white) comrades. This is the photo that shows up to illustrate the story, showing Wells with a starry sash, turban-like starry hat, and flag and one that says “Illinois” in front of a banner that reads Women’s Party, Cook County.

Ida Wells at 1913 march in sash

That story varies from source to source, and even varies when told by the same people at different times. I found it a worthy subject of investigation. One telling is that Alice Paul (or “her organization”) found out about Wells’ participation at the last minute, and that some of the southern state delegates objected, saying they’d pull out from the march if Wells was allowed to appear with the Illinois women. Other stories spin it differently, naming various other women in NAWSA who put the black women at the back of the march flanked by white Quaker men for their protection. There are a lot of small variants, and it would take serious work to straighten them out. That’s why I haven’t written about this yet: I was making a small zine about Wells to follow up on the one about Marie Jenney.

It is in some ways lovely to picture Wells bursting into the Illinois delegates and in other ways so perturbing. She would have had to struggle through an extremely hostile crowd just to get to the edge of the march. At least a hundred women were hospitalized after the DC march. How did she fight her way through that crowd? How would it feel, I have some inklings of how it would feel, to proudly march with her sash on, in her elegant hat, amidst the banners, knowing the extra armor you would have to wear inside your soul. She is a compelling hero.

I think of how bad ass Wells-Barnett was in general. If you have not read her 1895 book The Red Record: Tabulated Statistics and Alleged Causes of Lynching in the United States, you should really give it a try. It’s very grim and horrifying. She also tears into Frances Willard’s racist poisonous remarks on lynching and “dark-faced mobs”… So you can see right in Wells’ work that it’s not like feminist activists in Britain weren’t aware of what was up. You can be all like “oh they were just ‘of their time’…” since we know there were awesome anti racist activists among the super gross white supremacist feminist ones like Willard.

One had better die fighting against injustice than die like a dog or a rat in a trap.” — Ida B. Wells-Barnett

Another dimension to the miniscule zine on Jenney is that I read some of her propaganda, including a play called Telling the Truth at the White House (1917) in which two white suffragists go to jail and then to court. Their adventure with the law is framed by two drunk black women providing comic relief, and then having the vote consdescendingly explained to them. They are presented as incapable of understanding anything about suffrage movement, but agreeing that surely they would trust these nice white ladies to go ahead and vote. This little play is truly, truly vile. And it isn’t alone, if you poke around in the propaganda fiction, plays, and speeches of white suffragists there are many examples where white women point out, mock, and revile the ignorance of black men and women, as a deliberate counterpoint to white women being denied the vote. It was part of many white suffragists’ strategy to appeal to racism. This filled me with cold fury as I thought of the many African American women who were their contemporaries who were fighting for their rights. It is such a blatant disrepect, that they rhetorically make the black women and men disappear from the public debate except as unworthy of participating in political life. If you think to Frederick Douglass’s deep involvement and the entire abolition movement’s years of being intertwined with suffrage movement across the U.S. and England (look it up… I can’t write a dissertation here… ) it is such a cruel and repeated slap in the face by the white women, I can’t even. It’s not even just stupid and ignorant like those tshirts; it looks very deliberate. They are trading on the currency of white supremacy to scrabble for a scrap of power. Like I said, vile.

Have a look at the books “Treasonous Texts” and “On to Victory: Propaganda Plays of the Women Suffrage Movement” for some interesting food for thought.

Back to Wells and the 1913 March and the complicated story. Some stories say Wells fundraised with her black women’s club in Chicago, the Alpha Suffrage Club. Some say that 35 or so members of the Alpha Suffrage Club went to DC and marched. (But where? At the back?) I’ve seen descriptions that say Wells was the only black woman at the march, a lone hero bursting in…. Refusing to stay (or go at all) to the back of the march, supported and protected by white women friends from her home town. Then, I read that the National Association of Colored Women sent several delegations to the march, joining the Delta Sigma Theta sorority. I’ve also seen claims that the Delta Sigma Thetans were the only black women at the march, or that Wells was part of their sorority group. IN short, history is confusing, and people write terrible little summaries of “what happened”. Another tantalizing detail: the staging area for the black women was separate from the main march’s staging area. I can find no description of them marching or their position, and no photos.

If you think of demonstrations or marches you have been part of, try to imagine reconstructing how it was planned, what actually happened, and so on! Very difficult! A big event happens in many dimensions. Alice Paul didn’t “plan” the 1913 march, it was organized by

There is very good stuff in the book “African American Women in the Struggle for the Vote, 1850–1920”. You can get it used online very cheap.

Both the ASC and Delta Sigma Theta are said to be formed just before the march, in order to support sending its members as a group.

I feel sure that there is more info out there about the Alpha Suffrage Club and its members, and their participation in the 1913 march. The ASC held regular meetings in Bridewell Prison and I believe it included some white women, or at least had some local white suffrage activists as allies.

There is more readily available information on the sorority from Howard though. They formed in January 1913, with 22 founding members; going to the march together was their first public act. I enjoyed looking at the photos of the founders. Their names are listed here and there is an awesome photo of them at http://www.sopalmbeachdst.com/spbcac/national-history/

Founderscrisp1

Here are their names: (First Row): Winona Cargile Alexander, Madree Penn White, Wertie Blackwell Weaver, 
Vashti Turley Murphy, Ethel Cuff Black, Frederica Chase Dodd; 
(Second Row): Osceola Macarthy Adams, Pauline Oberdorfer Minor, Edna Brown Coleman, 
Edith Mott Young, Marguerite Young Alexander, Naomi Sewell Richardson, Eliza P. Shippen;
(Third Row): Zephyr Chisom Carter, Myra Davis Hemmings, Mamie Reddy Rose, Bertha Pitts Campbell, 
Florence Letcher Toms, Olive Jones, Jessie McGuire Dent, Jimmie Bugg Middleton, Ethel Carr Watson.

Anyway, I have a point besides throwing a little perspective on some small specific ways the U.S. white women’s suffrage movement expressed white supremacy and racism. That point is that white women suffragists’ oppression by the police and state didn’t stop quite a few of them from being horrible racists. So let’s not forget that.

But my other point is that in the story telling and history making about Wells as hero we should not lose sight of the 22 young women from Howard who also marched, and Mary Church Terrell along with all the women from the National Association of Colored Women and their different delegations, who also marched.

People came from many countries to march in DC for women’s suffrage, and I don’t know the details there but it would be neat to find out more. I don’t like when a complicated story, even of one incident in one day a hundred years ago, is simplified beyond all possibility.