Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Swizzle Stick Inheritance

So, I've created a new website to share photos of my swizzle stick collection. Except that it's not my collection; it's my late parents' collection. Yes, the swizzle sticks were my inheritance. That was my choice.

After my parents had each passed, it was time to start cleaning out the house. My brothers and our wives gathered to start dividing things up, and one of the first things I said was, "I need the swizzle sticks."

I remember, as a small child, being fascinated by the designs and colors and shapes, and how these little pieces of plastic were somehow representative of memories of places and activities of past years. And they were just fun to play with.

Now, looking through them, it brings back those memories, but also keeps alive the memories of where my parents traveled, where they ate (and drank), and the lives they lived. It keeps their memories fresh and alive. And they're good for stirring my drinks.

Enough already with the introduction. Here's the links you need:

Friday, July 10, 2020

Why I Unfriended You on Facebook

This afternoon I was called out for un-friending somebody over a Facebook post I found to be racist in a gas lighting, passive-aggressive sort of way.

Just to be clear: I do not un-friend for differences of opinion. I value hearing different points of view. I enjoy a debate. Racism is not debatable. Both sides do not have equally valid points to consider. There’s good and there’s evil, and this is one place I draw the line. If you support racism I will assume you are a racist and out you go.

Here’s the response I sent to the person in question:

If your post were simply to honor Officer Anthony Dia, who was killed in Toledo on July 4, I would have wept with you. But your post didn’t even mention his name. Did you even bother to find out his name?

A meme honoring Officer Dia would tell his name and his story without the passive aggressive references to street memorials, protests, NBA/NFL stars, etc. Honoring Officer Dia was clearly not the point here.

The point of the meme (whether your intended point or not) is to make a comparison between this awful murder and the Black Lives Matter movement, and shame anybody who doesn’t share this meme as a means of defending and/or denying the systemic racist violence that makes BLM necessary.

But the worst part: your chosen words in sharing this meme were, “All lives matter.” At one time, this phrase could have been taken as a positive one, and your meaning would have been appreciated. But it’s popularity these last few years has been in response to BLM, as a means of silencing protesters, and demeaning their message.

You’ve not been living under a rock. You surely know this. You’re a smart person. You surely know that “Black lives matter” doesn’t mean “only Black lives.” It means that a large portion of our citizenry has been told over and over that their lives don’t matter, and they’re standing up to that (and many of us are standing with them).

Responding to cries of Black Lives Matter with “all lives matter” or “blue lives matter” is a repudiation. It’s saying Black lives really don’t matter. It’s simply telling Black people, “Shut up and get back in your place.” It's saying that those murdered by official police violence deserved what they got.

Denying racism in the face of overwhelming evidence and testimony is itself racism.

Responding to racism with “we’ve all got problems” is to support a racist system, and is also racism.

I didn’t “condemn every cop” as you claim. I said nothing about Officer Dia (frankly, you didn’t say anything about him either).

I unfriended you because I’m tired and depressed and I thought it would be easier to say “goodbye” than to have to explain your racist post to you. I guess I was wrong.

 - - - - - - - - - -

For the record, here's Officer Dia’s story: Fallen officer's letter: 'I hope I died with bravery' - Please read it and take a moment to honor him properly. May his memory be a blessing.

Saturday, June 06, 2020

Reflections on a Week of Action in a Life of Action

I've never been one to shy away from a good protest. I've been going to protests and rallies and marches and sit-ins and vigils and celebrations for a very long time. I've walked, I've shouted, I've sat silently holding a candle, I've signed petitions, I've passed petitions, I've written letters, I've written blogs, I've made phone calls, I've knocked on doors.

In High School, in the late '70s, it was mostly anti-Nuke and No War in Central America. Then No War for Oil, No More Wars for Oil, Not Yet Another War for Oil... Clean Air & Water, Gay Pride, No On 8, Occupy, Overturn Citizens United, Women's Rights, Memorial for the Pulse, Memorial for the Tree of Life, No Kids in Cages. I'm sure I've missed a few here, even from just the last few years.

This last week has felt a bit different. How do you protest in a pandemic? How do you go out when you're supposed to stay in? How do you shout when you're winded from the non-stop horrors? But then again, how do you not? How do you remain silent following the murders of George Floyd, Brionna Taylor, and Auhmaud Arbery (and so many more), and just say, "I'm doing the pandemic now. I'll get with you later"?

I took my cues this week from the Movement for Black Lives "Week of Action" website. Each day had a demand, and suggested actions for each day broken down by Safe (yes, you can do it from home, during a pandemic), Medium, or High Risk. I've taken actions each day - some private (such as donations, petitions), some public (social media), and some truly public: yesterday, I did join a rally and march with hundreds of my neighbors.

Today (Saturday)'s theme is Making Meaning from Crisis. This reflections blog is part of my action for the day.

Now I've written this part before, but let me say it again: My life has been probably 98% privilege. I've had my share of incidents with anti-Semites - a lost job (or maybe two), a bloody nose (or maybe three) - but these are rare. In school days, long ago, my preference for longer hair and lack of skill or interest in sports led to a certain amount of anti-gay bullying (despite my not being gay).

But overall, my life has been one of middle-class, white privilege. I've driven away from traffic stops with only a warning and never thought "this is how I die" when I was being pulled over. When shop owners have kept an extra close eye on me I've had the luxury of thinking "what a paranoid ass" instead of "what a racist."

But I also know that justice cannot exist, that all lives will not matter, until we all stand shoulder to shoulder with our neighbors - even in a damned pandemic - and say loudly Black Lives Matter! And say their names: George Floyd, Brionna Taylor, Auhmaud Arbery...

Monday, May 25, 2020

Memorial Day 2020

Here we are, once again, at our annual day of memory for America's fallen soldiers, the men and women who never made it home, having given the last full measure of devotion for our country.

Memorial Day honors the dead, but its placement in mid-spring, and as a symbolic signal of the coming summer, is also about life. Most any veteran will tell you that we remember those who passed to be grateful for what they have given us: for the freedom to live our lives as we see fit.

Which brings us to 2020, and the uncertainty and despair that so many are feeling now, as our country, and the world, are in the grips of the Coronavirus pandemic.

What has a pandemic to do with a war memorial? It was the President himself who called the fight against Coronavirus "Our big war" back in March. And now, the American death toll from that war is likely to pass 100,000 by the end of this sacred day.

So, this Memorial Day, these 100,000, who perished due to COVID-19, are the "soldiers" I want to honor, and keep in my heart and mind.

Like the dead from any war, we can -- and will -- argue now and into the future whether they died for a noble cause or were the victims of the hubris and folly of inept leadership. But not for today.

For today, I ask that we just remember these 100,000, remain hopeful for the coming summer, and pray that we don't soon lose 100,000 more.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Schadenfreude is Dead

Yet another casualty of the Trump administration, schadenfreude has died in its sleep. There will be no pleasure taken from its passing. Schadenfreude will be buried next to irony in a private ceremony.

Since the start of the Coronavirus pandemic, I've struggled to not be political in my postings and sharings on Facebook and elsewhere.

Partly because I'm trying to survive and remain positive.

Partly because I'm tired. I've been blogging and shouting and warning here since 2001, including a multi-year "Carnival of the Decline of American Democracy." I've also been ranting on Facebook and Twitter and YouTube off-and-on since before any of them became popular. In 1996 I ran as a protest candidate for Mayor of Sacramento. I've attended hundreds - maybe thousands - of marches, sit-ins, rallies, and whatever else you've got since the 1970s. Making noise about politics is what I do. Or did. I'm tired.

Partly because of the noise. Once everybody else started blogging and vlogging and tweeting and sharing every meme they could get their cursor on, it was no longer necessary. I didn't have to nudge people to be active, the "Like" system did it for me. At least, it did for a while, except:

Partly because of the gaslighting. I'm tired of fighting against an algorithm that says one person's off-the-cuff, illogical opinion is equal to another person's well-reasoned, factually proven information. (Or greater than it, if it gets enough Likes.)

And, to a large part, as much as I loathe Donald Trump, I actually wanted, and hoped for, the moment to make the man, and to witness some actual leadership from the White House. I so wanted, and as an American citizen, needed to be proven wrong about Trump.

But these last few days made me give up on that as well.

A couple of days ago, the "good" Trump dutifully read off the notes that he supported the individual state Governors in their decision of when to remove restrictions and shelter-in-place orders, and gave a set of criteria to help them in their decisions (an abridged version of the guidelines issued by California Governor Gavin Newsom days earlier).

Then, hours later, the real Trump got on Twitter and told his followers to LIBERATE Michigan, Minnesota, and Virginia. And the LIBERATE! message spread, and armed protestors violated the social distancing protocols and have taken to the streets in cities nationwide, in close proximity to each other, to demand an end to the state trying to save their lives. Because: fuck science. Because their president told them to.

Yes, there are some on "my side" who are posting things like, "Good, it'll kill off the morons, and leave the smart folks alone." But they're missing a bit of the science as well. COVID-19 just looks for a host to travel with. It doesn't care where it lands or who they voted for.

These LIBERATORS will bring it to the market. They'll bring it to their families. They'll bring it to their neighbors. And they'll bring it to our over-crowded hospitals. And people will die who did not go to LIBERATE their state capital.

So, no. I cannot take pleasure in their risking their health or their life. And not just because it risks my own. But because I don't want any unneccessary deaths. Even these stupid, ridiculous assholes.

I don't need them to die just to prove me right.

Logic is dead. Irony is dead. And now schadenfreude is dead. All casualties of Trump's assault on science, facts, and the American people. Isn't that enough?

Anyway, I made a little meme of my own:

Thursday, April 16, 2020

30 Days In

One month ago, on Monday, March 16, 2020, six counties in the Bay Area, covering 6.7 million people in the cities of San Jose, San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, San Mateo, etc., jointly issued the nation's first official "Shelter-in-Place" order dealing with the Coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic, to be effective through April 7 (unless "extended, rescinded, superseded, or amended in writing by the Health Officer").

A few hours later Santa Cruz county joined the Bay Area group, and by mid-week Governor Newsom laid down the law for all of California. Within two weeks from that, nearly every state was under some sort of official restrictions. Currently, the order is through May 3, but likely to be extended at least a few more weeks before restrictions start easing up.

Frankly, we knew this was coming, and we (my wife and I) were pretty well prepared to shelter in place starting with the weekend. Still, we went out Saturday night to see my wife's cousin who was passing through town. We were the only customers in the restaurant for much of the meal, but got great service and lots of attention from the staff. A "good" but eerie experience.

Then on Sunday we considered cancelling our plans, but went out because how often does a friend have a 90th birthday party? Hard to imagine at the time that it would be our last "social event" for (perhaps) several months. That was in San Francisco, and coming back down an empty Van Ness Avenue felt like a scene from the Omega Man.

On that Monday, one month ago, we were already hiding out when the official order came. Since then we've only been out for occasional trips to a market, and for near daily walks. We have bandanas we wear around our faces as masks on walks, and a limited supply of disposable medical masks for the market.

By the third day, I'd started doing a daily "Quarantine Hootenanny," quickly recording and posting to Facebook a song on guitar or ukulele. A couple of days into that, I started posting the daily songs to YouTube, and cleaned up my channel that I'd been neglecting for several year. In these thirty days I've already posted 28 Quarantunes and four old-stlye vlogs.

Other original vloggers from way back in 2006 also came back and started posting at about the same time, and for the same sheltering-in-place reasons, and it's been something of a fun reunion.

Other activities: board games (Scrabble, Monopoly), puzzles, cooking, eating, washing dishes...

Work-wise, there's not much. A board I'm on, to start up a new nonprofit in Santa Cruz, has moved our meetings online, and changed from weekly to semi-weekly, as things have slowed to an uncertain crawl in our launch plans. But enrollments in my on-line course have surged, as people with time on their hands are looking for something to do.

Perhaps I'll do a separate blog about the political aspects of this, and how perilously close this country is to completely abandoning any pretense of democracy and accepting a Trump dictatorship, but my point here is just to document my personal journey of trying to remain sane and keep our spirits up.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

The Lily Pond - A parable within a riddle?

For those of you who still think this coronavirus stuff "is just media madness" (or liberal hoax), here's an old riddle for you:

In a lake, there is a patch of lily pads. This patch doubles in size every day. It completely covers the pond in 48 days. On what day will it cover half the pond?

Many people will guess that it's day 24, and they'd be wrong.

Half the pond will be covered on day 47.

And on day 40? You'd still barely notice that the lily pads might be a problem, unless you'd been counting them every day (or listening to the folks who count them).

Right now, the rate of coronavirus infection in the US is doubling every few days. Those numbers are "small enough" - a few here, a couple hundred there - that it's easy to think it has nothing to do with you.

But at this rate of growth (doubling every few days), it will reach all 320 million of us in the USA by mid-May. With a death rate of (at least) 1.5-2%, that's five or six million deaths by summer.

You don't think this is serious problem now because the lily pads are over on the other side of the pond. If nobody was raising the alarm, you'd hardly notice the difference between this year and previous springs in the pond. Please listen to the people counting the lily pads.

Wrong guesses on riddles are no big deal. Wrong guesses on pandemics kill millions.

(NOTE: I first posted this on Facebook a few days ago, but thought I'd re-post here for wider sharing. Also, in this time of social distancing and sheltering-in-place, I'm looking at re-starting some of my broader social media venues.)

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