Afternoon in Golden Gate Park

I zoomed all over a small section of Golden Gate Park today, the gardens near the De Young and Cal Academy, through some tunnels, down into a ravine full of redwoods near the Rose Garden, and on many winding unpaved paths in the Botanical Gardens. What a blast! I felt so free! Hills, deep gravel, deep wood chips, mud, wet soggy grass…. my giant tires got me through all of that.

Little winding paths are my favorite, where you have lots of choices and can’t tell where you’re going to end up!

I haven’t been in trees in a park for way too long, and have been imagining it for months – ever since the summer and my last trip to Golden Gate Park. So, this was very satisfying. A gorgeous winter afternoon, no fog, warm enough for no jacket when I was in the sun.

liz in bamboo grove

The Red Pearl

I continue to read the Morland Dynasty series by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles and if I don’t get to the end and they’re on Mars or in some other galaxy I’m going to have to write some serious fanfic. Imagine the Mars sheep farms, cyber-horse breeding programs, their genetic engineering and cloning dramas as they sleep with the wrong people hundreds of years in the future. Sleek spaceships! Courtly Martian life! Oh the tragic accidents they could have in the dome in York colony!

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.

A Catte

I spent the day puttering around the house and reading. I’m on book 3 of an endless series of historical fiction by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles, who has an amazing-sounding name and a love of describing angst and drama that spans many generations. Book 1 started out in the 14th century during the Wars of the Roses. Book 2 was mostly Henry VIII. And Book 3 is mostly Queen Elizabeth, well, not mostly about her but the family the books are about, the fictional Morlands from … somewhere near York, I think, are sometimes at court. So it’s against a backdrop of Queen Elizabeth and Mary Queen of Scots and so on.

This has led me to lots of Wikipedia reading – like I wanted to know all about the guy who married Mary Queen of Scots and his unhappy ending (syphillis maybe but also murdered and THEN blown up as well by some barrels of gunpowder) and then the unhappy ending of the other guy who married her (maybe abducted and raped her, then married her?) (thrown in prison but I’ve forgotten the exact events – but he was chained to a column in a Dutch prison for 10 years and died there.)

These gruesome deaths led me, though, to strike gold:
Mary Queen of Scots’ embroidered badge of a ginger cat wearing a crown playing with a mouse, embellished with her initials MA intertwined to look like a rune. Maybe the cat was her cousin Elizabeth and she was the mouse!

a-catte

Whatever it may have meant, it’s delightful!!! I think it would make a really neat replica embroidered badge! Someone should get it manufactured and sell them on Etsy!

The books can be a little traumatic (I was squicked by the amount of 14 year olds who marry old guys) and there is like, constant weird incest and trauma, and children who are super charming and beloved and then DIE DIE DIE or maybe everyone dies, and I got really sad about Anne Boleyn, but they aren’t like “The Kingdom of Little Wounds” level of trauma and that has got to be the #1 gross book ever for its multiple times we get a syphilitic Queen’s very public ob/gyn exams described; keep in mind I absolutely love that book but I have to warn people when I recommend it that it goes deep.) I continue reading them since I am very curious how Harrod-Eagles is going to sustain this strange family all the way into World War II. I’m also admiring the volume of her output, I mean, from her Wikipedia page it sounds like she works full time and writes these doorstop epic novels on the weekend and there are like, 30 of them. So impressive. Anyway, I am getting just slightly INTO the vibe of these books. Is there someone sympathetic? Is there someone they absolutely shouldn’t shack up with, like, their secret half brother or their actual uncle or their husband’s brother or a hoydenish Scottish girl who rides into battle and hates men, or, their paralyzed and sickly first cousin, or like, a travelling homosexual actor or a bloodthirsty Earl who may have murdered his first and second wives? In Morland logic this is like catnip to a catte. The more inappropriate the match the faster they freaking leap into bed, get INSTA-PREGNANT and then their children and grandchildren accidentally do it all over again.

Meanwhile, a list of things I have glued today: my thumb to danny’s glasses frame; the glasses frame to itself; a large flowerpot in 6 pieces; a small bone china horse. I had to soak my thumb and the glasses in nail polish remover for several minutes before I was able to scrape my thumb free of the glasses with a knife.

Visit to the SF Lighthouse

As part of the CripTech symposium I went along on a tour of the Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired a couple of weeks ago. Chris Downey, an architect who is on their Board of Directors, kindly gave us the tour and the benefit of his insight into the architectural design of the space.

The lobby was designed to feel welcoming to people who might be coming to the Lighthouse for the first time, or really for anyone. It’s a spacious central space in the complex, connecting through a large, open, glass walled stairwell to the floors above and below. It’s possible to hear people talking or laughing from other areas so you are aware of social activity nearby in the space. I was really impressed with the auditory environment, as I really could feel the warmth of “other people are here” without it being distracting or echoing in any way. The walls were lined in some kind of sound baffle type of felt (I think) with a design of wooden slats overlaid that affect the acoustics of the space and are also quite beautiful.

After being there all morning, the street and then the food court we had lunch in were noticeably inhospitable in their acoustics. I realized I felt more relaxed and able to focus while we were on the tour of the building.

There is plenty of natural light, and also bright but not overwhelming overhead lights in long strips going north to south for extra orientation cues for partially sighted people. There were also interesting “light walls” with big glowing panels, and sliding controls which anyone can adjust to play with the color of the light.

stairwell with wall of windows

The flooring is set up so that there are navigable edges for shorelining through the hallways. Travel paths are polished concrete, and seating or other areas are carpeted with metal edges to give more information to cane users about navigating the space. The stairs have distinctive kinds of wood (I think different at the landings so that there is a different sound from a cane tap) and bright but not overly reflective metal edges for high contrast (again, good for people with partial vision).

One especially beautiful touch – the handrails around the stairwell were the softest, silkiest wood with an unusual and nice-feeling shape, slightly concave on the side facing the travel path, and then curved in a slightly irregular way – not a half-circle or half-oval but a more organic feeling shape to fit a hand. If you visit, don’t miss feeling the handrails.

Here’s a picture of Chris demonstrating another thoughtful and elegant touch: the reception area countertops have subtle niches in the edge of the counter to allow a white cane to rest there without slipping to the floor. The photo also shows the wooden acoustic slats that line the wall and the thin metal boundary between concrete travel pathway and carpeted reception area.

Chris Downey

We saw the event rooms, training kitchen, science lab which I think is for making things and doing electronics or computer workshops, and a little maker space with large braille embossing printers and 3-D printers. The art all around the space was really neat, a lot of it from the collection of Donald Sirkin, the guy who left over 100 million dollars to the Lighthouse in his will. There was also a memorial wall talking about Sirkin and his life. (On my to-do list: write a Wikipedia page for Sirkin.)

As a wheelchair user I also noticed the spacious design, since there were several wheelchair users along on the tour we would get into a few narrow hallways, but each time that happened and there was a sort of bottleneck, I was able to go around the circumference of that section of the building and circle back to the “front” of the tour. There were points at each end and at the middle of the building on each floor where the hallways opened up to wider spaces so there were opportunities to regroup and the space didn’t feel claustrophobic. I appreciate not feeling trapped and being able to move freely around a space!

A few years ago I wrote a short text adventure for an unconference space, along with obtaining a tactile map of the interior of the building. It was a simple hack job to give the layout of the rooms. I started thinking through ways to make a much better one for the Lighthouse. So, a textual game where you can walk through a space and develop a feel for its geography and layout. To be done well, this should integrate a holistic impression of the different spaces and how they can be traversed or explored, rather than some straight “visual description” information it would need to include the ways that a space can be experienced by someone blind or with partial vision.

Playing with similar ideas a bit in Inform7, in writing “room” descriptions from the point of view of a wheelchair user, which for me, includes not just an awareness of slopes but of the feel of surfaces and whether they are pleasant (marble is amazing) or jarring (literally). One or two words can indicate that “you” the reader are wheeled. I think that can have an interesting effect on game play. For the Lighthouse, I might try just describing the lobby and a couple of connected rooms as an experiment. Since I am not blind or vision impaired I would need to pair up with someone or do lots of interviewing folks to do this project well if I did it for real! My 4-room experiment of being in a sort of fantasy world game setting, on wheels, gave me a little shiver of recognition to play through, even though I had just written it myself and it was not a surprise be in a garden and then to see the words “You roll into the gazebo.” Yet it was still a surprise, a pleasantly non-alienating one. Is there a word for de-alienating in a healing way, that makes you realize the ways you are alienated (from yourself or from participation or acknowledgement) in default representations? It made me think that representing “you” the player of interactive fiction as disabled along different axes (as living and experiencing reality in particular ways) could be a really powerful game.

Thanks again to Chris and to the Lighthouse and to Karen Nakamura who invited me to CripTech! I particularly enjoyed the tour and am still thinking hard about aesthetics and universal design & how our concept of whose experiences are important affect design & engineering decisions. A beautiful example of technology in action to make a pleasant and functional environment. If we do get a San Francisco Disability Cultural Center someday, I hope it will take the example of the Lighthouse and follow their lead!

In which I rant about a minorly negative random encounter

Don’t be this weird hostile bus stop lady….

I was going to the bus stop yesterday, on a wide sidewalk on Mission, and I passed a couple who were standing by the bus stop bench about to sit down. I was hugging the wall by the pizza place and nail shop and about to turn to wait for the bus just a little ways down from the bus bench. So, I was something like 8-10 feet away from the couple.

The woman looked up as I passed and said “OH!!! Sorry!!!! I didn’t see you!” and kind of mimed as if she were getting out of my way. This was weird, since she wasn’t in my way, I wasn’t in her way, and there was nothing indicating that I was about to be anywhere near them.

“Uh…” I said, super coherently. “Well, I saw you, so, ok.”

Then I waited for the bus without anything further happening but I could see her weird discomfort. She was still bothered. She kept looking at me and kind of acting agitated. Her “Sorry!” was actually not a sorry but was more like a hostile accusation as if I had done something wrong and actually I was supposed to apologize.

This happens all the time (basically a microaggression). Like what happens when someone exaggeratedly holds a door open for me, and I don’t want them to, and I have to ask them to move out of the way because they think they’re holding the door open but they are literally blocking my path through the doorway and I don’t want to run them over. Or even if i can get by, I don’t want to put my face in their armpit.

People doing this kind of thing aren’t helping — they get angry if you don’t respond “correctly”, and then it becomes clear that they started out angry with their bogus offer of help. They are full of resentment and are uncomfortable with my presence and they want me to behave in a way that is apologizing for my presence.

Once you’ve experienced this multiple times a day every day, as you are just minding your own business, you will know what I mean.

And, actually, I’m not always so proud, I often act in a placating manner to make other people comfortable, especially in a crowd, while waiting in line, on the bus, and so on, because honestly it just makes thing easier. For example I normally feel like I am “supposed to” thank the bus driver at least 6 times while getting on and off the damn bus, once at every stage of the interaction like, they see me and start to lower the ramp or lift, they then offer help of various kinds or do stuff, or they give me unneeded (bad) advice or warnings, and I have to acknowledge it and I try to be polite. Probably, y’all get on and off a bus with maybe one “thanks” if you exit at the front but that is not my experience.

So, back to our story.

Time passes. I sit at the front of the bus playing Pok√©mon, and everything is remarkably peaceful for a middle of the day ride on the 49 bus. The driver remembers I’m there and also, I remembered to push the “ramp please” button well ahead of time and there is only one guy in front of me who is kind of trapped and has to get off the bus to let me off by the ramp, but the driver still yelled at the top of her lungs, “WHEELCHAIR COMING OFF WATCH YOUR FEET I SAID WHEEEEEEEEELCHAIR COMING OFF” I thanked the driver and said have a nice day. While the yelling is often unnecessary and unpleasant it does get the job done. The thing is I can say “excuse me” or “con permiso” myself to the people who I need to get by who are usually looking right at me anyway and can tell I am intending to get off the bus and can see perfectly well what needs to happen.

OK so, now I’m off the bus and it’s an even wider sidewalk than on Mission where I started. The sidewalk is at least 15 feet across. I suddenly realize that same couple who were at the bus stop with me had gotten off at the back of the bus and were on the sidewalk, again near the curb while I was on the far right side of the sidewalk by the buildings. The woman fidgeted around (not sure how to describe this – but it’s like someone doing a lot of “pay attention to me!” body language like they are about to speak to you – as if awkwardly trying to get the attention of a waiter including being frustrated at not already having that attention). And she did a little laugh and said “Oh!!!! I’ll TRY not to get in your WAY this time!!” and mimed “getting out of my way” again even though I was nowhere near her and not aimed anywhere near her.

It was so irritating!

I said “You weren’t in my way before and you’re not in my way now” and stared at her with what was probably the rudest face possible of incredulousness as if a cartoon though balloon that said “You’re an idiot” was floating over my head.

“Gaaaaah! I was JUST JOKING!” she said huffily…. making a little scoffing noise. Her husband stood there looking awkward and probably wishing he could sink into the ground with embarrassment.

I did not behave with the proper level of humility for this beeyatch to accept my presence on the public sidewalk!

I beetled uphill at a goodly clip, my maximum 5 miles per hour, wishing I were a goddamn rocketship to get away from this rude person even faster!

Lady… Let me just be clear…. Madam Fussypants, stick-up-your-butt, REI-clothing-wearing-probably-a-unitarian-white-lady-who-loves-calling-the-cops lady from my neighborhood…..I can snap judge you too! (Thusly.) I dunno what your deal is but you want me to perform some sort of role here for you that I am unwilling to perform!

I am notorious for chatting in a friendly way with total strangers on the street but she was such a jerkface that instead she got my “fuck off” attitude and nearly got me to stop dead in my tracks and pop off in an enormous harangue that would not have helped her obvious feeling of discomfort with my MERE PRESENCE IN THE PUBLIC WORLD.

Whatever demon she is wrestling with, whatever fear of disability…. I wish she would go deal with it in therapy and stop letting it hang out all over the sidewalk. I can’t be the only wheelchair user she ever sees in this town especially if she takes the goddamn 49 bus! What is her problem!

As my mom would say… Some people just need a good slap!

OK, so, all of y’all, don’t do this shit, it’s ridiculous!

Thanks for coming to my TED talk.

Celebrating The Winter Sewerstice

Yes! It’s that time of year, the rainy season in San Francisco, when you should run out and Adopt a Drain! Pick a convenient drain near your home from the map, and commit to clear the leaves from it every once in a while so that no one will get flooded on that corner or have to wade through a gross, trashy, leafy pond at the curb during a rainstorm.

I had no real reason to do this but went downtown anyway out of curiosity to the parking garage of the SF Public Utilities Commission where I was given nice leather work gloves, a sturdy dustpan, my choice of brooms (I took the small one which I could strap onto the back of my wheelchair), and a yellow utility vest.

Inspired by the cameraman asking me questions about the Mighty Civic Feelings that led me to adopt a drain, I decided to name my drain at Mission and Cortland “Drainy McDrainface”. I also mentioned liking open data projects and reporting problems with sidewalks, streets, and intersections through 311.

Every time it’s about to rain significantly, the city sends me an email reminding me to check my adopted corner! I go out and give it a poke! From my friends’ feedback on Facebook it sounds like Oakland, Belmont, and Redwood City, and likely other towns in the Bay Area have similar programs.

I was sort of hoping they would let me drive a street sweeper, or give us all an informative tour of the SFPUC building and a certificate of Drain Adoption with a gold seal on it but…. alas, no. Maybe next time!

So what should the holiday name be for this event? Drainukkah? Sewermas? Winter Sewerstice?

Funked up with the mothership

I had a fabulous time at the George Clinton/ Parliament Funkadelic show last night! The club had a wheelchair seating area right up at the front which made it easier for me to be there (and I could also get to the bathroom, which I really appreciated). FABULOUS show, as you would expect!
george clinton on stage
It was great hearing classics, where everyone would get very excited screaming Shit, Goddamn, get off your ass and jam, or One nation under a groove, but also was in the perfect frame of mind for Maggotbrain (a religious experience for your ears) and then lots of stuff from their most recent album. It is just great to see how they all jam together so well & in so many different styles highlighting the skills of different people. I wish I knew all their names but I don’t… the amazing singer and dancer who kept changing outfits (it was the pink fuzzy pajamas with silver stars, and a hood, and silver platform shoes that killed me finally, and then she took off the PJs and was dancing in striped knee high socks and sexy underwear.)

singer for p-funk

The incredible saxophone solos (he also did a scat performance that got more and more complicated and went on forever till he just sort of BECAME an instrument ! Trumpet player also great! At least two guitarists of truly amazing caliber, the shorter guy who was an absolute badass, and the tall guy with the long braids wearing a long silver coat which he finally removed to show his fishnets and thong and tshirt that said “God’s Weapon”. Both were fucking great! And, George Clinton himself who I was happy to see had the good sense to sit down now and then. The young (?) guy in the hat who was an excellent rapper! So many talented musicians. And when they would really go off it wasn’t for like 20 seconds, they weren’t fucking around, they were playing giant long extended riffs for like 10 minutes. Serious jazz! Also some extremely metal moments! Also psychedelic geologic eras laid down for future generations and time travelers!

Crowd fairly nice! We ran into Brian Zisk and I remember being high as hell while trying to explain to him (why? just enthusiasm i guess) that Venezuelan joropo is the best kind of music (because, counterpoint, great structure, complex & awesome) & he should give it a listen. He was telling me about the sort of cultural shift of deadheads to follow George Clinton & the P-funk collective in general, which maybe he had something to do with. That was very interesting and I’m still thinking about that.

Anyway, I loved the show so much!

Thank you intergalactic brothers and sisters!

A nice streak of activity and social stuff

Continuing my trend of feeling frisky and getting out of the house – in the last few days I went to a party with friends I haven’t seen in a long time (a white elephant xmas party), another fairly mellow get together in some guy’s warehouse with people I don’t really know at all, which was interesting, and another (birthday) party right down the street where I got everyone to try my new powerchair in the bar.

And went to Ada’s choir concert on top of that. They sang a song by Pentatonix, and something Beatles-ish, and then a jazzed up Little Drummer Boy, which I correctly flagged as resulting from Ada’s evil influence, deliberately pranking us all to make us lose the Little Drummer Boy challenge. The high school mariachi bands (year one and year 2) were also excellent!

It’s so nice to have both kids here at once for a few days with Milo back from university – they are so lively – Our tiny house is just packed full right now – I’m enjoying this time with them. Today I’m hoping to geek out on Inform7 with Milo.

My knees and ankles are a little trashed probably from the party going (stairs!) But I am icing them and resting up today.

And then I have tickets to go see George Clinton & Parliament!!!!!! OMG!!!!!!