Off to a Start

I’ve survived the first month of January, and I’ve made some progress. That whole “health” thing is progressing will (runkeeper and sparkpeople.com make the cell phone actually worth carrying).

But at the same time… I’ve finished one book this month. I mean, I started at least five others, but my usual reading rate is something like 8 to 10 books a month, so that’s not good.  Especially since I haven’t been writing either.

And that probably explains why my mood has been so dramatically up and down this month, because there hasn’t really been a chance to keep up with myself.

I’m trying to figure out where that time went.

I completed a few pattern repeats of a “dickie” I started three months ago! But I still haven’t finished. And my mom took me fabric shopping to make my own dress—which can’t be started until at least tomorrow. I’m not keeping up with any television shows.

I haven’t even been playing with my new phone. I know, because I apparently get insanely long battery life.

Whatever, I’m weigh less than I have in at least two years. Balance will come with practice and attention.

And I’ve been noticing a lot of misogyny/bigotry in the world. So there’s that.

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The Dreaded Friendzone

So my brother was going to write this as a guest post on my blog, but we couldn’t figure it out.

I’d heard of “Nice Guy Syndrome,” where jerks pretend to be nice temporarily to get sex. My brother writes from the perspective of a guy who is nice, but bears the fallout.

PhluphfieBeard

Oh my goodness.

Have you ever been lead on? Lead on for months? Or years? And then suddenly, when you have an opportunity to take the lady out, she responds with; a) “you are just a friend,” b) “hey, can I invite (insert dude’s name here)?” or c) “actually, there’s this girl I wanted you to meet, I’ll invite her too!” ?

Everyone who has, say it with me. GAH!

Welcome to the Friendzone

Let me be specific. I’m an actual nice guy. I’m not a guy who has spent months pretending to be nice, just to sleep with a woman. I actually want a meaningful relationship with a gal who has similar interests. I even want to remain celibate until marriage (gasp).

There are reasons to friendzone someone, and I understand them (and even used those reasons).

My biggest complaint with the friendzone is when I approach someone as…

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An Unexpected Day Off

I called into work this morning to find out if I’d be coming in at noon again, and found out I could stay home. Well, the extra money might be missed, but at least I enjoyed the first snow day of the season.

In fact, by the time I woke up, the overnight snow still dusted the foothills, and it continued to snow off an on. Late morning, the wind came up, making me very glad for  insulation and double-paned windows. Hearing trees whip and the occasional apple blown into the siding was fun, but I can’t imagine the days when the cold would have slipped right through the window frame and eaves.

And there’s something about the weight of a snowstorm, with the wind and the mist, that not only makes me happy to stay inside, but have a productive inside day. Well, after I finished dawdling online—though I did get the three books I finished this weekend, unless you count Thursday, which would make it four.

reading mitt

If I hadn’t had to update the program, you could have seen the bread too! I ate it instead.

So I put on my finished reading mitts, and got into The Man from Beijing, which is…interesting, in a word: the prose is spare, and I imagine in Swedish, probably artless; but the social issues behind the plot are so simplistic, it’s making it hard to read. And yay! after clearing out the freezer, we found the yeast, and I made bread. Yes, homemade bread.

Well—strictly speaking, bread made from scratch, because I did use the bread machine. I have made homemade bread from scratch without that device, all the way from hand-kneading to oven. But with it’s “super rapid” setting, it finished in just two hours. I want.

Fresh bread, lemon-ginger tea with honey, internet, and a book, all while watching the snow fall from in front of the fire?  Best October-weather-change day ever!

It Turned Into a Meditation

 

Didn’t mention, but probably should have, mentioned I’m going to a cousin’s wedding this weekend. After all, it’s eating up two of my usual blogging days.

Despite all previous evidence to the contrary, I though on this trip, I would have been able to keep up with all my self-appointed tasks. That is in part, after all, why a laptop with extended battery power was so desirable. When you grow up in the middle of nowhere, you’re always anticipating long trips.

It may have happened. But just as I’d decided to pull out my computer and write about something—I’m not sure I remember anymore—we heard some terrible news from home.

Not personal news, as though that means much. It’s a small community. Small enough that “things like this don’t happen here” to apply, simply because people are too scattered to be prone to the kind of random violence cities suffer from.

This wasn’t random violence in any way, except that it happened victims just as innocent.

It’s the story you hear all the time in the papers and on the scroll bar of television news: nothing that makes the front page except locally, and nothing to develop an entire segment of precious TV space . Trust me, you’ve heard it before. I know it bothers me to see so little attention to such stories, since it’s often overshadowed by any celebrity doing anything.

I hate to say it, but it’s not much more or less shocking to hear than any of those other stories. I’ll think about it longer, it will be impossible not to, in such a small town. I don’t regret that. Often you never hear the follow-up as though it’s not important. But it’s harder to hear this story with names I know, people I’ve met. Not that I could change anything, have made any difference.

What is there to say? I don’t want to name anyone, focus the story. Give the family what privacy they can have. I don’t know details, and I almost wish I wouldn’t ever have to know more. That’s easier, of course, and why no one wants to talk about it.

Not long ago, my brother sent me a link to a list of stories to “restore your faith in humanity.” I love those stories. Just not so soon after something like this.

 

I Like What I Like

Some people think that your given name influences your personality. If you think changing your name will give you better fortune, these people are willing to take your money to give you the best name possible!

Or, you know, just get them free.

Anyway, if Marie is a traditional name, maybe that’s where I got all my hobbies. Or maybe I just read too much as a kid. But uncool as reading is, I managed to get even more uncool as I got older and then went to college. I love picking up the unpopular hobbies.

Not like the hipsters people always make fun of but that I’ve never actually met outside of high school (isn’t everyone in high school a hipster?). But just the quiet stuff other people are tempted to make fun of especially on the internet. and not usually to my face. Another thing about the internet though is that it’s hard to tell, because lots of people have those hobbies, even there aren’t all that many in a given area and anyway you’re aren’t allowed to talk about such things with strangers because then you’ll be really weird.

So knitting, uncommon, much like the other crafts. Reading (obsessively) more common than tv-watchers think it is. Fan fiction reading a big, big thing, and also probably one of the biggest no-nos, aside from maybe playing the Sims games (which sadly, I hardly have time for, spending so much time online—and work of course. Work takes time away from everything interesting!

At any rate I’m not skilled enough with computers or math and not into enough manga and science to be a geek. As far as playground insults go I think that leaves me with dork.

Anyway,  I’ve always been vaguely embarrassed by the fact I read fan fiction. Because it has such an awful reputation—deservedly so, in the broadest strokes. As in any other subject, 90% is crap, but there are some real gems in there. Like the rest of web 2.0 (or wherever we’re at now), you have to do your own gatekeeping. You have to find your own meaning of culture and your own framework. <- Look, another, reference to Powys! And people aren’t ashamed of reading the Star Wars continuations when they come out in hard cover. Star Trek has the same, and having read those, they can be as bad as some fan fiction (if with slightly better grammar).

So there’s my justification for fan fic.

I think the only other one I don’t tend to bring up with people is the Sims and I haven’t been playing that often lately. And I can’t really justify it.

Because I really only play to take advantage of my control-freak tendencies.

The Whiteness Mystique

Last week I went to a lecture called “White Privilege and the Politics of Identity” as part of the Conversations on Diversity, given by Dr. Jill Swiencicki. It was an overview of the study of Whiteness scholarship today, mostly an introduction designed for people who hadn’t heard of the topic before.

Whiteness studies focus on how white people benefit from racism, and the inherent privileges that come from being classified as white in our societies (and possibly others). Basically it “pays to be a member of a dominant racial group.” When part of a dominant racial group, it’s difficult to acknowledge. It emerged with slavery, and has become ingrained in society. Whiteness means that white people get more trust, money, and jobs than people who belong to other races.

It was actually less a lecture than a conversation series, more than usual, perhaps. Dr. Swiencicki gave us several topics and a little history and then prompted conversations with our neighbors. I went with a friend, and since I’m not very outgoing I ended up talking with her for all of the conversations. This wasn’t really a bad thing, I knew I could be more honest with her than I would dare with a stranger. And after each small conversation, then there would be a group discussion.

We heard some interesting thing. One man said that he didn’t realize until he went to New Zealand that he wasn’t being watched in stores all the time. Instead, he was The American. Another guy, I think a business major, said that he had to dress better for interviews than others. A woman mentioned that she got fewer call-backs for jobs. Several people mentioned their school experiences, where people would claim the cafeteria lunch tables based on race. And while one person said that when they came to CSU, Chico from a primarily white suburb they found the campus to be very diverse–another said they were surprised by how homogeneously white it was.

I confess I had that same impression when I first came to Chico. I remember coming on campus my first semester and thinking “it’s so white!” I don’t know if that would have been my though right out of high school, though perhaps it would have been. I’m about as white as one could be although there may be some fraction of Native American on my dad’s side. And both sides of my family have been in the US for generations, which means there may well be lots of different contributions from unknown donors. That sounds odd, but really, there’s no such thing as race under the best of circumstances, and things only get murky once people actually begin interacting. Anyway, I spent two years in Santa Clarita, CA going to community college. One person here in Chico called it the place with “all the pretty girls”–the model types. But apparently it counted as less white than Chico.

But there I met my favorite professor, and probably the smartest person I’ve ever actually met. Professor Varga had some sort of descendant tie to Alexander Hamilton and was mostly Hispanic–but he had blue eyes and light skin. I had him for the Modern History of Latin America class. Apparently, at one school, they didn’t want him teaching Chicano studies because he looked too white.

So I guess that brings me to the one thing I didn’t like about the lecture. It wasn’t anything in the real lecture itself, mostly the subject itself. Not even that, really. My point is that I don’t like separating racism, which is basically just prejudice with an obvious visual element. Makes it harder to avoid, yes, but it just seems divisive to start a subject called “Whiteness studies” when it’s just an aspect of racism. Of course, to me it seems obvious that the impetus behind racism [prejudice] is for a privilege. People spend a lot of time–no matter how educated or enlightened–looking for ways in which they are better than others.

So as far as I’m concerned the way to stop, at the very least, racism, would be to simply not divide people into races anymore. See–there you go.

No, it isn’t that simple. But honestly, I can be really naive, and I don’t see why not. People, just be smart already.

True Evil

Oops. Been awhile.  Before I get to new content, may as well at least cross-post the last 6 or so articles from the class…

Is evil really a simple concept? We like to think it is, we like to think we can recognize evil as something evil, and something other. But most people don’t actually have any real experience with evil, no direct experience.

Craig Williamson was an operative for the South American apartheid government. He was granted amnesty from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. He now works in a market, selling produce, but despite the official amnesty he says that he does not feel that he is forgiven. In his defense, he claims a sort of “just following orders” defense. If he’d been told it was evil to do the things he was ordered, he would have thought about it more. Apparently because it was presented to him as the “greater good” he just didn’t question anything. As weaselly as this sounds, and, really, is, the fact is that once people get into the mindset of distinguishing “us” from “them” this kind of thought process can be used to follow through with all sorts of terrible actions: it’s probably very similar to what urban gangs to do each other.

However, though at times during the documentary “The Ones That Got Away” Williamson does seem to have accepted his actions, and is genuinely trying to make some restitution and, in a way, make up for his evil, he also resents what he sees as an over-positive fairy dust solution. Part of his reasoning behind this resentfulness is that “there will be people…who hate what I did.”  This is problematic, because he should also hate what he did. Everyone should hate what he did. Forgiveness means that we shouldn’t hate him, as an individual, but apparently, somewhere in his mind, he may still believe that he wasn’t entirely wrong.

In A Human Being Died that Night by Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, who was a part of the TRC and is a clinical psychologist, believes that “even atrocities call for an apology that is sincere, unencumbered by explanation or justification.” I believe that is true. It’s very hard to make a sincere apology. No one likes to admit being wrong, and to make a sincere apology they have to be able to face what they did. They have to strip away their mental defenses against whatever wrong they committed…and even minor every-day infractions, like forgetting to take out the trash, can be very difficult to admit to, especially when the person apologizing feels they are in the weaker position: also a hard place to be.

As Gobodo-Madikizela says, an apology “clears…the air in order to begin reconstructing the broken connections between human beings.” An apology doesn’t come from weakness, but it does require the speaker to completely acknowledge their own faults—and that admits weakness. Actually truly apologizing is strength. But an apology enacted to put the apologizer in a position of moral power is even less likely to be sincere. Gobodo-Madikizela uses the example of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, and her official apology in front of the commission for the death of Stompie Seipei. The young man’s body was discovered just outside of Soweto, and linked to the activities of the Mandela Football Club. A court hearing found that there was evidence that Seipei’s death was related to events that had taken place in Madikizela-Mandela’s home.

During the TRC public hearing, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela refused to admit she knew anything about anything, whether or not it had happened in her home. Gobodo-Madikizela does not give details as to what specifically she said, her focus was on how Madikizela-Mandela used that opportunity as a way to offer an “apology” and keep a position of moral strength: “She approached Stompie Seipei’s mother while the TV cameras rolled. With a triumphant smile and open arms, she embraced her.” Unlike Gobodo-Madikizela, I don’t know that I believe Seipei’s mother was stripped of dignity in this interaction, if only because she seemed to be behaving far better than Madikizela-Mandela, but I wasn’t there, and I don’t know the details of the interaction. Unfortuantely, Madikizela-Mandela was unwilling to face what she’d done, or even what she hadn’t done, much less try to heal the wounds she left behind.

Both of these people did very wrong, and hurt people. But where do they fall on the scale of evil? Is there a scale? I would judge that, at least to a certain extent, Williamson is willing to face what he did during the apartheid—even if rather obliquely. But Madikizela-Mandela does not face any possible damage she may have done, what part she played. And Williamson undoubtedly killed more people, and was far more directly involved. So should we not forgive them, because they aren’t doing enough? Perhaps so. After all, we know what’s Right.