Hey- I've been sitting on some really cool news for the last ten days.

Law firm Kramer Levin has just filed a pair of amicus briefs on behalf of religious organizations.

The US Supreme Court will be hearing challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8 on March 26th (Prop 8) and March 28th (DOMA). The DOMA case being appealed is United States v. Windsor, in which a lesbian couple who married in Toronto, lived in New York (which recognized their marriage), and then had to pay $363,000+ in federal estate taxes when one spouse died in 2009. If they had been a heterosexual couple, they would have paid no estate taxes.

At the gathering of Friends for LGBTQ Concerns this month, in Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business, our group was asked if we might be added as friends of the court. We had received a letter from the law office just weeks earlier. A small group studied the draft filing (so amazingly well-written!) and recommended that we do add our name to the brief. Our Business Meeting then discerned this was part of our witness, and so we sent back our "yes" along with a few minor corrections- and additional URLs. ...And they cited our webpages! Our collection of Marriage Minutes are cited in a Supreme Court filing! The webpages which were put together by [livejournal.com profile] fyddlestyx and myself!
(Though I want to make clear that other Quaker bodies wrote these Minutes on the subject of same-sex marriage. We just collected and shared them.)



Any information about the brief was to remain private until after it was filed; it's been tough to sit on this without telling anyone. The anti-DOMA brief is so very well written! How great is this...

"It appears that what those other amici want is not protection for their own free speech and free exercise rights, but rather immunity from disapproval they may face by those who affirm the rights and relationships of lesbian and gay people."

"[The preceding] belies the claim of certain amici favoring reversal that American religions speak uniformly or overwhelmingly in opposition to marriage equality for same-sex couples. To the contrary, American religious thought and practice embrace a rich diversity. No one view speaks for “religion” – even if, contrary to the Establishment Clause, it were appropriate to give weight to religious views in evaluating and applying the Constitution’s secular promise of equal protection."

"Were the federal government to start recognizing the lawful civil marriages of same-sex couples– as it does interfaith marriages, interracial marriages, and re-marriages after divorce – religions that disapprove of such unions would remain free to define religious marriage however they wish. They could withhold spiritual blessing of such marriages and
indeed bar those entering into them from being congregants at all, just as they are now free to do so on grounds of faith, race, prior marital status, or any other characteristic deemed religiously significant. Amici urging reversal fail to explain how their religious practice would be burdened by the fact that
other people are afforded equal marriage rights by the state. For example, the brief of amici Liberty, Life
and Law Foundation and North Carolina Values Coalition scarcely even touches on the actual legal
consequences of recognizing the marriages of same-sex couples. Instead, it focuses on fears of having to
“endorse or facilitate” marriages of same-sex couples [...]"

And it keeps going.


It was a minor miracle of timing that the law office asked us to sign on just a few weeks before our gathering; and the deadline for our decision was three days after the gathering ended. A few weeks in either direction and we would have not been able to sign on as a friend of the court, since our group only meets twice a year.

And a final note: This law firm, Kramer Levin, has been a strong supporter of LGBT rights and cases for almost 20 years. [livejournal.com profile] melted_snowball pointed out to me that one of the three founders, Arthur Kramer, was a character in his brother Larry's autobiographical play, The Normal Heart. The two brothers had an enormous falling out in the mid 80s when Arthur Kramer would not lend his name to Larry's anti-AIDS activist group, Gay Men's Health Crisis, only offering personal support of his gay brother. Larry saw this as a cop-out; in the play, they remain estranged until Larry's death (though it seems that in real life they had some limited rapprochement).

And so this is a small part in a long story. And it keeps going.

Controlled chaos

Wednesday, 29 August 2012 10:01 pm
My world seems to ebb and flow with varying amounts of chaos. Sometimes, it's a bit much.

I wish I'd taken a photo; my study was a disaster area. Last night I was due to be on a conference-call on queer Quaker outreach. So I started prepping 10 minutes before the call was to start- lots of time to re-read the agenda, call up my notes, find my headphones... We'd used the same conference calling number a bunch of times, but somehow I mis-remembered it was a toll-free number. Nope, it's a regular US number. Oh right, I had bought a calling card to deal with that, last fall when I was last on these conference calls. ...Oops, this was going to be a problem.

1) My cellphone's long distance to the US is something like $0.45/min, so that was a non-starter. 2) I tried both of my cheap calling cards, and they had expired or ran out of money, probably in May. 3) I tried skype; but my account had JUST been marked 'inactive' due to no calls in 180 days. It took me a few minutes to figure that out, but they sent me an email last week telling me to log in before yesterday. Oops. Now it was time for the conference call to start. 4) Could I find the parts for my VoIP system, which is only 1 cent a minute? Yes, I can! I plugged in my VoIP box, stringing wires in a mess, dragged out the speaker phone from the closet (which was nicely put away under a pile of other stuff, a pile which became strewn all over the floor), found a phone cord (another mess in the closet), got everything hooked up, and dialed in, only a couple minutes late. ...The call was useful and good, but I was sort of distracted by the bomb that had gone off in my study! So I'm not sure what I learned from this experience. I really like the look of my desk without a phone on it, and I'm glad we got rid of the land-line. I did reactivate my skype account, which would have worked without any wires. And I'm glad I have a backup backup backup plan.


We have met all of the conditions for the house sale! The inspection found a leak in the main-floor bathroom, so we knocked $500 off the price rather than needing to deal with plumber / re-inspection / etc. possibilities. They are doing a title search and the house is to close September 19th! (Or earlier, if they decide they want to). I'm still sort of numb that it's finally wrapping up. Yay! But now our line of credit (on the house) goes away, and we immediately had to figure out where we were going to stash the large pile of money until the condo registers in December. (The answer? Canadian Tire Bank. Yes really. 1.8% interest savings account, and the interest is not paid in Canadian Tire Money.)


My parents are coming in 4 days. We discussed this option last weekend, decided it wasn't practical for them to rush to get here on the September long weekend, that we'd find another time we're all free... and then yesterday they decided hey, why not do it while they know we're all free, especially if they offset their visit a day to give us a bit of breathing room after our stressful weeks. So they're arriving Sunday and leaving Tuesday! I'm excited to show them the new place, and I'm glad this is working out, since I think we all had a premonition they wouldn't otherwise make it here until 2013.


We are starting to have neighbours on our floor. Last night dan brought by a couple, half of whom is living down the hall. They felt a bit like they were out of a soap-opera, and not in a bad way really, just a bit much. Don't get me wrong; I am very happy at the mix of people we've met in the building- young, old, gay couples, straight couples, singles, dog-owners... I agree with dan. This was the right choice.

Just so long as we don't end up as extras in someone else's soap opera.
I just learned the Yiddish word beschert- "meant to be for some purpose."

It's used for happy occasions like finding the love of one's life, or chance encounters that change your life; and also for twists of fate.

It seems a useful concept in the way the article spelled it out. I was describing it to somebody recently but I got the definition incomplete in way that seems instructive to me. I said it was "meant to be," which the author somehow gave different nuance than "preordained or destined" but I couldn't remember how he made that argument.

The closing paragraph from the article by Rabbi Staub (in Friends Journal) made it clear for me again: "Meant to be for some purpose"— "the meaning isn't in the event itself, but in what we do when the event occurs. There are always opportunities— invitations— to react one way or another.

The meaning that I attribute to any circumstance, when I am able to do so at all, is not in the event itself, but how I respond when it ricochets out of my control."

I like that.

The shorter form "Meant to be" sounds like the heights of hubris; close to claiming to understand a Divine plan for the universe. It also sounds like predestination, which I find fatalistic and not useful.

In contrast, if I say it was "meant to be for some purpose" I am first not claiming to know what that purpose is; though I may spend a lot of time trying to figure it out. I am opening myself to additional clarification, changing it from something the Divine has done, into something the Divine might be asking me to do in response.

Online dictionaries say "beschert is beschert" is the analog to que sera sera— especially the connotations of finding one's soulmate. One's beschert is the one God intended for you to fall in love with.

Thing is, you also have some say in the matter; you can NOT fall in love and not spend your life with them, or maybe it takes some time for things to fall into place.

...Yiddish being Yiddish, there's a fair bit of contradiction built into the word, and perhaps most people just use it to mean "predestined" without the personal implications of responsibility. And maybe that argument is beschert!
Pretend I did finish this on Sunday, OK?...


It's good to be home.

I just returned from my first visit to Canadian Yearly Meeting, with approximately 150 Quakers from all over our country plus a handful visiting from the US. My week in Windsor Nova Scotia was awesome. I expected to eventually get bored with Business Meetings every day; I expected people to be less engaged in meeting newcomers (versus reconnecting with friends they hadn't seen in a year); I expected the food to be mediocre. Surprise!

I didn't skip a single Business Meeting, nor did I want to. Quaker process is so cool to see in action, even if the action is sometimes slow. I sung (in a chanting workshop) every day (except Wednesday, when I played hookey to go find lobster). The cafeteria was surprisingly good, with plenty of variety and lots of fresh veggies. The worst thing I can say about the place is that they completely failed at mobility accessibility- nearly everything required at least one stair, or flights of stairs; and there were quite a few people using canes. My new friend Claire, who gets around in a wheelchair, was philosophical, in addition to being patient with being wheeled up single steps all over the place. She said given that the school is 220 years old, they were excusable in her book. I can't say I agree. Anyhow, that's not the main purpose of this post.

Which is telling a few stories about just one of the characters I met.

"So, Tom, how are you getting home?" We were in the cafeteria, both eating fried fish, which was quite good. [1]

"Well, circuitously." Tom spoke slowly. He's 90 or 91, a skinny stick of a man with a bushy beard, round glasses, and a baseball cap. He lives by himself somewhere north of Lake Superior in a solar-powered house. "I'm going from here to Maine, for the 40th reunion of some students of mine at Friends World College on Long Island. We built canoes from scratch and paddled them around New York City into the Hudson and tried to see how far we could get over water."

"How far did you get?"

"The Bering Strait," he said, with a twinkle in his eye. I cracked up. He said his boat was well-built, and he brought lots of maps. He went up the St. Lawrence, across the Great Lakes, and at Lake Winnipeg he took a detour, spending a few years in Manitoba doing research on water testing and safety.

When he finally got to the Bearing Strait, he spent a while trying to figure out how to cross it, having mapped how he could get to Western Europe through Russia. But this was the middle of the Cold War, and it didn't seem safe, so he stopped at the Bering Strait.

But they got a lot of water-testing research done over the journey. [2]


Tom grew up in Princeton, through the Depression. It turns out he lived in the same block as Albert Einstein and Paul Robeson. Einstein was friendly; he always waved from the street as he went by with his huge hair. Robeson came back to give a concert at Princeton University, but the hall master refused to let him sing. So he gave the concert in a church instead, which Tom was fortunate enough to go to. He says he's had a very lucky life.

And here's a photo of Tom, from five years ago.


I have more stories that aren't about Tom, but they will wait, as I want to get myself to work!

[1] haddock from Truro, caught 2 hours away.

[2] Google tells me he gave an invited talk to CYM in some previous year.
Friday evening, I popped down to Toronto for a cabaret/theatre/concert production of Spin by Evalyn Perry. I wasn't sure what to expect; I knew it involved spoken word, singing, and music played upon a bicycle. I was nudged into going by my friend John, who came all the way from Minneapolis for this show. I know Evalyn from Quaker circles; last summer, she was one of the evening plenary presenters at the 1,000-person FGC Gathering. She does a political/musical show that's bitingly clever and often requires more than one listen to pick up all the threads...

In retrospect, I wish this production was extended for another week, so I could nudged more people into going- this afternoon was the last performance (a matinee added at the last minute because it was selling out).

The themes were, broadly, the story of Annie Londonderry, the first woman to bicycle around the world at the very end of the 19th century; the joined history of bicycling and feminism; Evalyn's personal story of being a cyclist and artist; and notes on the City of Toronto's mixed appreciation for bicycles.

I *had* thought that the music-played-upon-a-physical-bicycle would be less effective than it was. Her co-performer, Brad Hart, used drum sticks, his hands, and parts of the bicycle, which was wired for amplification, and attached to a looping device. I spent maybe 5 minutes distractedly studying how it worked- they even tuned different spokes to different pitches- but then I could just let go and listen to the music he was making with Evalyn (and Anna Friz, who did on-stage mixing and singing).

Evalyn produced a CD of the songs in the concert; this morning I drove to Guelph, and I appreciated the irony of driving while listening to a CD all about bicycling.

The Globe and Mail gave it 3 out of 4 stars. And she has a cover article in the weekly Xtra paper, which is a good recap of the show, actually.

So- Thanks Evalyn! And thanks, John, for nudging me to come!
Icky story: Near the beginning of February, some automated system broke into my gmail account and sent spam to a small set of people in my address-book. Which it could do, because my stoopid password was only seven characters and contained a dictionary word. Not good! Fortunately, one of the recipients was my other email account, so I saw it almost immediately, and I was able to log in and immediately change my password. Unfortunately, two recipients were mailing-lists, which was fairly embarrassing. The email was your standard spam, links to some russian pill site.

Story over? I had a new password (MUCH stronger- a full sentence, with punctuation...) and more info about how gmail protects account-owners. NOT QUITE STORY OVER. This Saturday, I got more spam "From" my gmail account. As did some select members of my address book, including the same two mailing lists. A quick check of gmail proved to me that it wasn't actually coming from me; they were merely spoofing it, using an open relay (via a German ISP, sending to hotmail, which accepted the sender).

So, by this point, I set my own email to "moderated" on one mailing list, as did the manager of the other list, and I sent around apologies, and damned if the jokers didn't try to resend more spam to the mailing lists.

And (after submitting the spammer info to spamcop.net), now I wait; either they will keep trying, or try with different parts of my mailing list, or I'll decide to bite the bullet and tell everyone to block mail from 'dada.da at gmail', or I'll just sit here and be embarrassed about getting my account cracked because I wanted a convenient password instead of a nice long password. (Yes, sometimes my purpose in life is to be an object-lesson for others. That's mostly OK, even though I was pretty grumpy about this on the weekend.)


Tasty story: My Saturday breakfast was leftover pancakes that [livejournal.com profile] melted_snowball made a friend for lunch the day before. Lunch was amazing brioche french-toast made by [livejournal.com profile] thefateyouare. Dinner was chili with ground turkey, made by my sweetie. Sunday breakfast was a bagel made by d. the day before (he's getting quite good at bagels! I will pay close attention with the next batch, because I want to learn these! (Requires being comfortable with using lye! DANGER! But MMMM that crust.)) Sunday afternoon snack was a cannoli from a batch made by [livejournal.com profile] melted_snowball and [livejournal.com profile] the_infamous_j. Aaaand dinner was pad thai, also made by d., with a leftover cannoli for desert. All of this made me less grumpy! (thanks guys!)


Good things come by courier: My macbook pro has gotten progressively creakier over the last few years. There is a problem with its graphics; this particular graphics card is apparently prone to a data-corruption that somehow corrupts the graphics memory, so I get weird visual artifacts on the screen: horizontal bands of background showing through windows; occasional triangles of warped screen... Weird stuff. I've gotten accustomed to it, though lately it's been getting worse- I can barely open iPhoto without it crashing. At one point I tried resetting everything and reloading my configs, but that didn't help; apparently a complete reinitialization may fix it, but I decided last summer when Apple redid their Macbook Pro that I'd wait until this year to replace it, since the hardware is now 5 years old. And lo, they released their update last week, instead of the anticipated April or May. So, for the first time, I ordered a computer on its first day of sale, and I have a fancy new machine winging its way to me. 5 , no 10 models newer than my early-2006 laptop, according to wikipedia. Same weight, slightly wider screen, 130% pixel-density, a gazillion times faster, and hopefully equipped to last another five years.


And some things go by Air Canada: Last weekend (Family Day weekend, here in Canada) was amazing. I was in North Carolina, for the mid-winter Gathering of Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Concerns. I don't feel equipped to describe it, other than being happy that I got to hang out with so many awesome people. It was one intensely packed four-day weekend.

I'm a lucky guy, ya know?
I just got a package in the mail, from Cat and Girl. I am now the owner of the original sketch/ink artwork for Birds of America and this makes me really happy.

Meet the Robinsons is a really charming science-fiction movie, sort of a cross between "Up," "Back to the Future," and "The Addams Family." I now have the DVD, and it stands up to a 2nd viewing, which I wasn't sure of since I first saw it on a tiny airplane seat-back screen with crappy headphones. But yeah. Recommended.

I'm busy, and that feels good, and not like burnout.

Yesterday I co-led a visioning session in the Quaker Meeting, and we accomplished a lot in 90 minutes. The theme was the needs of each of us and all of us together; what should we focus our attentions on in the Meeting. The conversation included a number of areas we've needed to talk about more, if we're going to be a strong community. I see this as a very good step. It was draining but also energizing. Ya know?

Today at work, I had three items on my plate I really wanted to get done, and I did. And then I went to the gym, which was a much better use of that 45 minutes than staying at work.

And then dan and I went home for dinner, and dan dropped me off on his way to chorus rehearsal, and I did an evening of Quaker work with 6 people I like a lot. 90 minutes later, I was very much ready to come home again, but not feeling burned out or stressed. Even though I have 9 new things on my to-do list.

(no subject)

Friday, 2 July 2010 11:22 pm
Dan, rover and I are at an inn a town over from home; we're spending the night, and tomorrow I'm going home, repacking, and heading off to a week with 1,000 or so Quakers.

The experience here has been delightful. They fed us well. We shared a table with three other couples, each with good stories. There were fireworks. Our room smells of wood fires. Tomorrow breakfast will be tasty.

The irony of going off to a Quaker gathering afterward is not lost on me.'that will also be good, but differently so. There probably won't be buttery croissants at Bowling Green State University.
This morning I took my usual route to Quaker Meeting, the rail-to-trail from my house to downtown. It was looking like kids were playing with some heavy machinery on it- there are gashes in the pavement, sometimes the width of the trail, all perhaps an inch deep and wide. They were wavy, occasionally straight, sometimes parallel. Many going dozens of feet down the path. By the time I'd run over the 20th one I was fairly miffed. Who did they think they were, ruining the path?...

They certainly didn't get tired of doing it, since the gouges ran at random intervals all the way to the park. Augh!

...And then I realized who they thought they were. (Did you figure it out already?)

City pavement repairers. Who stopped part-way through repairing cracks. Cracks which I surmise require widening before they can be filled. I guess I'll find out in a few weeks, since I'll be gone the next two weekends.


I just received my birthday present from [livejournal.com profile] melted_snowball. It is a beautiful stained-glass panel, mostly in shades of white and clear, with a tree-branch motif. The artist came to install it yesterday. While we were admiring it, I realized... it has holes! There are three-dimensional aspects, which include some pointy bits of glass, and some shapes that are the absence of glass. I like it a lot. :)


So I was thinking about these both: holes that had to be made worse before they could be fixed, and holes that make something beautiful ("that's how the light gets in", thank you Mr. Cohen) and about a phrase I've been wrestling with, "standing in the tragic gap." I first heard the phrase in a book by Parker Palmer, A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life. He is talking about living a nonviolent life, a life of integrity, when he defines the term:

a gap between the way things are and the way we know they might be. It is a gap that never has been and never will be closed. If we want to live nonviolent lives, we must learn to stand in the tragic gap, faithfully holding the tension between reality and possibility.

I harbor no illusions about how hard it is to live that way. Though I aspire to be one of those life-giving people who keeps a grip on both reality and hope, I often find that tension too hard to hold--so I let go of one pole and collapse into the other. Sometimes I resign myself to things as they are, sinking into a life of cynical disengagement. Sometimes I embrace a dreamy idealism, living a life of cheerful irresponsibility that floats above the fray.

He talks about how examples of standing in this gap can be seen in the lives famous peacemakers like Gandhi and MLK Jr. And also in the everyday, the lives of any parent of a teenager; the parent sees their hopes for the child, as well as what is happening in the child's life. And if the parent fails to stand in the tragic gap, they can cling to an idealistic fantasy or fall to cynicism.

He continues:

Deep within me there is an instinct even more primitive than "fight or flight," and I do not think it is mine alone. As a species, we are profoundly impatient with tensions of any sort, and we want to resolve every one of them as quickly as we can. [...] Ultimately, what drives us to resolve tension as quickly as we can is the fear that if we hold it too long, it will break our hearts. [...]

The heart can be broken into a thousand shards, sharp-edged fragments that sometimes become shrapnel aimed at the source of our pain. Every day, untold numbers of people try without success to “pick up the pieces,” some of them taking grim satisfaction in the way the heart’s explosion has injured their enemies. Here the broken heart is an unresolved wound that we carry with us for a long time, sometimes tucking it away and feeding it as a hidden wound, sometimes trying to “resolve it” by inflicting the same wound on others.

But there is another way to visualize what a broken heart might mean. Imagine that small, clenched fist of a heart “broken open” into largeness of life, into greater capacity to hold one’s own and the world’s pain and joy. This, too, happens every day. We know that heartbreak can become a source of compassion and grace because we have seen it happen with our own eyes as people enlarge their capacity for empathy and their ability to attend to the suffering of others.

That sounds incredibly terrifying. And none of his examples are ones I can relate to. Being like Gandhi?

OK, some readers of this are parents, and some are (or have been) parents of teenagers, so maybe you've got a handle on this...

But while I was sitting in Quaker Meeting this morning, I had the realization that I have certainly been there. I started coming out, half my lifetime ago. Anyone who's done so will recognize the risk of a broken heart there. The closer the person to us, the greater the risk when coming out to them. While it was half my lifetime ago, I remember how terrifying it was. And yet how necessary. And coming out never ends- though, I am so thankful that at this point in my life, I have little risk to coming out to anyone at all, which is partly by my choices and partly circumstance. I know this is not the case for some reading this- either people in their lives who will not accept what they are told; or living in a much more conservative environment. I'm so grateful.

And I know that I have privilege that many do not- I can duck out of standing in the gap in a number of arenas. I'm relatively wealthy, I'm male, I am not visibly gender-variant, I'm not a visible minority.

I'm not sure where this goes. I am still working on it, just having made one connection. I wonder what you think?

Two Parker Palmer links:

[1] Hidden Wholeness on Google Books

[2] An essay by Palmer on living in the Tragic Gap
Bless me LJ, for I have been quiet. It has been two weeks since my last post.

Hey, I'm 36! My birthday was low-key; bookended by food: takeout BBQ one night and yummy home-cooked shrimp scampi. And ice-cream on my birthday. 36 so far feels like 35 with more things falling apart.

I've lost track of how many times I've had bike flats in the last month. It's at least five.
Tomorrow morning might be exciting; I'm biking to work by way of the bike shop, to replace the rear tube (again) and tire (overdue). The tube/tire on the bike might hold long enough for me to get there.

On Saturday morning, I went to reinflate my bike tire to the recommended pressure... and didn't notice a hole worn in the tire sidewall. "Hey, that side's bulging. Hey, maybe I should let the air out before it - " BAM! My ears were ringing for a while. I had to laugh out loud at the absurdity. I immediately pictured birds flying in circles around my head.

In the last week, I've had high hopes for a long bike-ride after work, or on the weekend, but with the different flats, it just didn't seem like a good idea. Hindsight, at least two of the flats were caused by wearing through the tire sidewalls. One was glass, one was a bad patch (over a seam) and I don't remember what the rest were. At least I can still say Rapid Flat-Fixes Я Us.

The odometer did roll over another 200 km, Friday evening just after I replaced the n-1th flat on my way home from work; exactly 30 days after the last 200km.

Other stuff falling apart? Goodness. My laptop has been crashing (though I now have Time Machine running backups, so at least that's automated), my phone/camera has been acting finicky, my iPod has been refusing to update again, our front stoop has lost a chunk of stone and now looks a bit gap-toothed, and I think the front doorknob is possibly loose. Whee! Oh, and we're probably going to replace the car reasonably soon, as upkeep costs begin to approach trade-in value. I feel super-lucky, though, that none of these are dire situations, as long as everything doesn't fail simultaneously. (*glares menacingly at laptop, phone, iPod*)

Anyhow, this weekend included a batch of errands, a wonderful walk with [livejournal.com profile] roverthedog and [livejournal.com profile] melted_snowball in a leash-free dog-park along a river, and a fairly recuperative Pilates session that made me feel all stretchy.

Work recently has included a foray into writing some C code, which is quite challenging for me. So many ways to screw up! But I've hopes that I (and colleagues I can rope into helping) will end up with a minor contribution to OpenSSH. Srs!

Since I last posted, I also went to Philadelphia for a Quaker thang, which was useful at unsticking some "how should I do this" sort of questions I'd been stuck on (and perhaps will post on eventually) and also for some good news about the Quaker Quest program- there will soon be funding to hire some number of additional staff. And then I spent a wonderful afternoon with friends in the Philly area, and we romped in the park with their dog and their 5-year-old, AND had a visit from NJ friends who came into town for the afternoon; and then they fed me soup and brownies and sent me on my flight back home with a big smile on my face.


Sunday, 2 May 2010 01:10 am
What with current weather (mid 80s) and the wonderful lilac smell in the air, Ithaca is reminding me of Key West. All it needs is fewer Volvos and more chickens. Any chickens, come to think of it.

I saw the brand new Quaker meeting house-to-be. It's an abandoned restaurant in the middle of a downtown residential neighborhood. It looks great from the outside. It will need many hundreds of thousand dollars of work inside. The Meeting had a work party as soon as they got possession. 50 adults and 20 kids. The general contractor says they did approximately five thousand dollars of cleanout work. In a day.

Ithaca's traffic is just as much a mess as ever. Wegmans is just as awesome a food store as ever.

There was a May Day concert on the Commons, with pretty good music, but which looked almost unmoored enough to become a protest march led by the socialists, judging by the signs against the racist immigration stupidity in Arizona and a few other worthy causes around the country. (which as always, have zero connection to things that a local protest could expect to affect). Am I cynical? Maybe a bit. I lived here eight years.

The conversation in the coffee shop at the old used bookstore today was about how in the old days, we didn't call them glass shops, they were head shops. And did the town need quite so many, after all? I did not weigh in.

Spent a lot of time catching up with my hosts. We went to Viva Taqueria for lunch (super basic burrito with black beans and mole sauce), which gave us the strength to start an evening Settlers of Catan game, and nearly finish before we were hungry for dinner. Plus I was teaching them the game at the same time.

This won't mean anything to anyone but [livejournal.com profile] melted_snowball , but I walked right by Unemployed Community Activist Fay Gaugacis at Wegmans.

Tomorrow: Quaker meeting, followed by goodbyes as I head home with Rover, while one of my hosts heads north... To my parents' house. Yeah. Weird. :) But very much good weird.

... On the drive down I listened to the TAL episode about Michael Poyzner, who made fairly exaggerated reporting errors writing a book which became the basis for his California governor's election platform. About the grim urban schools. Which were possibly much less exciting in real life than his story. With an eye to that, I consider and conclude that everything I wrote here was at least as exciting before the retelling.
After Manhattan, I met up with F/friends [1] and we set off for Peekskill on the train. By that point, my back was still in quite a lot of pain; I took some pain drugs, but not enough. I spent nearly all of the trip lying down, but there were lots of amazing views of the Hudson when I did sit up a bit.

Thence to car, thence to the Catholic retreat center for our Queer Quaker gathering. Oh, the iconography at the Catholic retreat center. It was something. I took photos, but I haven't had time to do anything with them. Other people during the weekend were talking about their various relationships with Catholicism; I can say my reaction was mostly puzzlement. Whatever.

The retreat center was a seven story building on the top of a large hill, so there were great views of the Hudson and surrounding hills. The Appalachian Trail ran nearby, and there was apparently very good sledding. Not that I went outside.

The gathering went well; there were about 100 of us, including a huge number of newcomers who seemed excited about coming to next year's (in North Carolina).

I spent most of the first few days on my back. On the day we arrived, I got acupressure then acupuncture from my friend Amy, who had taught me the very effective headache acupressure points this last June. She has been practicing for 17 years; "by now, I sometimes even feel like I know what I'm doing." I will say it made a fairly big difference, and dramatically. Some of it was sort of like an ice pack, without the cold.

In the first day I also gained +1 in Pain Management skills from other friends [2]. I can be fairly stubborn about asking people for help, but this was a substantial lesson in asking. And feeling so restricted in what I could do for myself. And feeling so frustrated at not knowing how I'd be doing in an hour, or the next morning.

Very early on, lying on a couch, my eyes fell on a wall containing the Serenity Prayer ("Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; The courage to change the things that I can; And the wisdom to know the difference.") I had to chuckle, because that was indeed one thing I needed.

With all the lying-on-hard-floors and moving-mattress-off-squishy-frame and pill-popping as necessary, I did start feeling better, very gradually. I could go on for a while about how great people were; apart from when I've been home sick in bed, I had never needed that much help before. I got all the help I asked for and lots I hadn't specifically asked for.

I had a group activity each day in the center's Chapel, which had amazing stained glass (and a comfortable carpet).

The gathering itself was a combination of work and a joy and occasionally frustrating but felt overall, graceful. I think I learned more about working with people and asking them for their best and trusting in that. I helped where I could.

I missed friends who couldn't make it this time. I missed catching up with people because they were across the room or across the building and I couldn't get up to talk to them.

I didn't sing enough. I didn't play nearly enough. I'll go back.

The train back to Manhattan was wonderful- watching the Hudson and getting to know a long-time attender and talking about life experiences. He is 60; he used to travel the world, and felt at home everywhere. Now, he doesn't feel at home anywhere, and wonders what he should do about that. But he's lived in the same Midwest US town for the last six years, and may move soon for work, which hopefully will help. ...I have felt the opposite experience. I don't think I've ever felt at home "everywhere" when I'm traveling, though really I haven't ever traveled for extended periods of time. And right now I certainly feel settled.

But when we arrived in Grand Central again, I had tremendous wistfulness for not being able to spend any more time there on this trip. Oh well, it will still be there too.

The flight and drive home were uneventful, and much less painful than the other direction. I had drugs, and I had a gel ice pack, which actually was as good as advertised on the box ("stays cold eight hours": I froze it overnight and put it in my luggage, which I checked, and it was still cold at the end of the car trip, eight hours later)

And seeing [livejournal.com profile] melted_snowball and [livejournal.com profile] roverthedog was about as great as you might guess. :)

[1] that is, friends who are Friends.

[2] The details are probably boring to everyone but me, but: Alternating Ibuprofen and Acetaminophen at two hour intervals; Taking 3 or 4 Ibuprofen at the outset, with food (always with food; it's supposed to do bad stuff to the stomach without food at the same time); how effective an ice-pack can be; and laying on the floor with lower legs on a shelf/chair, parallel to the floor, to remove all leg weight from the spine. These are all probably basic things that I had been told before, but this time, it's internalized, y'know?

Oh! And I learned another acupressure point from Amy! I couldn't turn my head to the right because my neck was sore. She put my thumb against the muscle on the top of my lower right arm, and had me push hard ("as if the thumb was a coathanger hanging off the back of your arm"). To find the point: put your thumb in the crook of your elbow, fingers wrapped around the top of the arm. Note the crook of your thumb and second finger, on the arm. That's more or less the pressure-point; it should be the middle of a muscle. Move the hand so the thumb pushes into that point. She had me turn my head a bit to the right, and if the neck still hurt, move the thumb around a bit and try again. I was dumbfounded that I was able to find it, and find the same point in my left arm, and they both worked! This might have made the difference between being able to safely drive home, and not.

a ramble

Monday, 16 November 2009 12:35 am
I've been listening to Lady Gaga / Bad Romance on loop for the last few hours. It's a catchy song. Video's sort of weird. OK, really weird. [1]

This morning I dropped off [livejournal.com profile] melted_snowball at Toronto City Airport, for his flight to Chicago. He's gone for a month- but I'll see him in three weeks on a visit. I'm... not sure how this will go, keeping myself on a sane eating/sleeping schedule; at least the dog will remind me to go to bed on time.

Since I was in downtown Toronto on a Sunday morning, I went to Quaker Meeting. I can't claim to be a stranger there, despite only having visited for a wedding once many years back- I was surprised to discover I knew half a dozen people. I was introduced to a friend's house-guest, visiting from Holland, who was surprised I had visited his hometown in the north of the country. (him: "But nobody visits Groningen!" me: "Ah, but we did." him: *shrug* "...OK." [2] I also met Steven, whose partner is a Master's student the department where I work. (They moved to Canada for his school, and they're from Rochester NY. It's a crazy small world.)

And then I excused myself for the second part of my plans, to see the Dead Sea Scrolls at the Royal Ontario Museum. Even though it was just three blocks away, I wasn't sure how I would get to the ROM, given that until I got there I had overlooked the Santa Claus Parade between me and the museum. (The Dutch guy said, "How long is the parade? Maybe you can just wait." I told him it's over two hours. Deadpan: "Two hours? It's just one guy!")

So I dashed across Bloor Street, narrowly missing being trampled by Elves. [4]

And can I just say, November 15 is too early for a Christmas parade. (December 15 might be too early for a Christmas parade, if you were asking me- but nobody did.)

Right. No trampling, though the clowns were scary, and there were too many people in general, but at least the crowds outside the ROM meant the museum was comparatively empty for a Sunday afternoon.

The Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit was neat (if pricey- $28 for my ticket). The ten fragments of the scroll were text from various books of the Bible, apocrypha, and non-Biblical texts, from 2000-2500 years ago. The fragments are quite fragmented- on the one hand it's amazing that paper scrolls have lasted this long; on the other, you were often looking down at a smudge on a dark frame and only really seeing the text in a reproduction. The light was quite low, in order to preserve the fragments. There was a fascinating video of how badly the fragments had been treated over the last 60 years. Early after discovery, they were taped together, which just makes my jaw drop. They were pieced together in a brightly lit room, people ate while handling them, and so on.

The uncertainty behind how the scrolls got stashed in the caves where they were found is also neat. One theory was the nearby hilltop town was a religious community of Essenes. Another justifiable theory was that the town was a commercial center occupied by stone-masons and potters- which doesn't explain the cache of 600 scrolls hidden in jars in the caves under the town. The exhibit did an OK job putting out the evidence, showing videos of archaeologists arguing about it, and leaving the mystery for the visitor to consider.

I mostly liked the rooms of context they provided before the actual scroll-bits- how the civilizations in the area had been living for the prior hundreds of years, and how they lived in the subsequent centuries.

I was having a bit of a grin at the context, as well, because I'm in the middle of reading Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal. Right. Fiction, history. Fiction, history. But "Lamb" mentions many of the same pieces of daily life. Such as the Mikvah ritual baths, which involved a joke I won't try to explain but involves the frustrations of being a teenager and needing to take lots of ritual baths.

The ROM certainly could have done better with sound-insulation. The space is tall and echo-y, and a few videos have loud sound, meaning that visitors will be talking fairly loudly throughout the exhibit, making it a bit hard to concentrate.

And the gift shop had some truly special items, like Aveta (sp? can't be bothered to google) brand Dead Sea Mud in 4 different varieties. Also some odd book choices, including "God's Little Princess Devotional Bible" and "God's Mighty Warrior Devotional Bible." [5]

I also saw some modern art on the theme of the Dead Sea Scrolls, which partly worked for me- it had text sliding off glass plates onto the floor, written in rainbow glitter; the text might as well have been "Lorum Ipsum" for its lack of meaning, though the visual effect was interesting.

The ROM also had an exhibit on the 10 Commandments, but I wasn't particularly impressed- the historical info didn't seem well explained and the modern art part of that exhibit wasn't very interesting.

Oh- and food- I went to both restaurants, just for kicks. The 5th floor was too pricey for me, with $5 coffees , $9 fries, and $50 lunches. But the basement restaurant was surprisingly good- I got poutine, made with "hand-cut fries", with real cheese curd, and with chicken gravy. In the past I have mostly avoided poutine for two reasons: fake cheese curd, and beef gravy. This poutine was awesome. Oh, and their meats are from Cumbrae farms, so they're local and free-range and very tasty. $5 for a lunch-size portion. The other dishes there looked quite good as well, and they had tasty looking deserts too.

And that was my day, more or less.

[1] this version has a cute guy in it though. Not that Lady Gaga isn't attractive too- but flaming breasts don't really do much for me.

[2] in case it's interesting to anybody else, the reason I went to northern Holland was to visit Barbara Katz Rothman (who has come up in various friends' discussions on inter-racial adoptions and childcare)- her son was a friend in college. [3]

[3] which is why I know the Dutch proverb De een zijn dood is een ander zijn brood,
One man's death is another man's bread, a grim saying, but what the guy I met on the train to Groningen wanted to share with us.

[4] at the beginning of the day, while dan was driving us downtown, I saw a partially lit sign, and I joked on facebook about renting "Elf Storage." Which was all fine, and I joked with [livejournal.com profile] araleith [livejournal.com profile] insaint [oops!] about stashing my elves there, but I think the elves were unimpressed with the joke.

[5] Don't follow this link to God's Little Princess Devotional Bible unless you are less annoyed by gender-typing nonsense than I am. *shudder*

On ending migraines

Wednesday, 8 July 2009 08:49 pm
[I've not posted this partly because I don't want to jinx it, but at the same time- good news!]

Excellent news even- I have a non-drug remedy for my headaches.

It may have had something to do with:

- a bunch of physio appointments to un-stick a few vertebrae in my neck;
- a few (possibly ineffectual) acupuncture visits with same physiotherapist;

And it definitely had to do with:

- 9 days away at the Quaker confab, including some sort of "stress reset button" when I got handed an entirely different things to fixate on for the time there;
- five minutes with my friend Amy, who is an acupuncturist/acupressure practitioner.
- other factors, such as the very mellow massage I got from [livejournal.com profile] peaceofpie.

But the real biggie was Amy's accupressure points- on Tuesday morning I mentioned to her I was disappointed that the acupuncture back home hadn't had any positive effect, and she said, why don't you try pressing your thumb fingernail on your other hand right [here] in the web next to your thumb? On the right hand if the pain's behind your left eye, and vice-versa? So I did, and blam, the headache went away in under 5 minutes of pressing on my hand! Woah.

I got goosebumps. And the headache came back, and I did it again, and it went away again.

I had read about those pressure-points before, and tried them, to no effect, but I wasn't pressing hard enough, and I didn't have the right part of my hand.

All week I expected the migraines to come back just as bad. Instead they came milder and easier to get rid of. Like magic. And maybe there was magic involved; I don't know what all my friends were doing for me there... :)

All the old triggers are still triggers: not enough sleep, stress... But the pressure-points win over both of them. Wow.

Wednesday as an experiment I spent the afternoon in sun without sunglasses, and I got a dull headache. Yes, a boring dull headache- the kind I remember getting before the migraines took over a few years ago.

The other big factor is stress- on Saturday morning I was feeling quite stressed about travel and having to re-enter normal life again- and the migraine went away with the pressure points, but I found I could affect how it came back, by doing bits of meditation and by telling myself sensible things like "I don't need to do everything on my todo list on the day I get back." "I won't forget my passport again, I've already checked it's in my pocket." And so on.

This has felt like a successful science experiment- at this point I'm dealing with figuring out what I should do with the stress-factors so that they don't even get me to the headaches.

And also, it still feels like magic. And I have yet another thing to be grateful for.


Thursday, 25 June 2009 09:31 am
My bike odometer just rolled past 215 miles, which means it's gone a total of 6,215 since I put the odometer on the bike nearly exactly 9 years ago. As [livejournal.com profile] melted_snowball pointed out, that's 10,000 kilometers, so I'm going to reset to kilometers.

I wonder where the next 10k will take us.

Tomorrow, I'm off to IAD (Dulles) and ROA (Roanoke) thence to Virginia Tech for Friends Gathering. This year, as last year, I'm not taking a workshop, as I'm helping out the community instead. The week promises to be very full, very warm (Virginia! Summer! Oy.) and hopefully with surprises of the good kind.

Days and weeks

Saturday, 16 May 2009 10:15 pm
It's been a while since I've made a proper update.

Last weekend's trip to Philadelphia was fairly intense. I have a lot of respect for the organizers of the workshop; they packed a lot into our 44 hours on-site at Pendle Hill, yet it didn't feel rushed or overloaded. We learned more about the nuts and bolts of leading Quaker Quest training workshops, worked in small groups on articulating our own paths with regard to Quaker outreach, and talked about how the group of 30 of us can make the overall project work more smoothly. In the balance, I feel just as strongly that this is a worthwhile project and a good place for me right now.

The only parts of the weekend which were bad-intense were entirely my doing, because sometimes I'm a space-cadet who loses things wot aren't clamped down. *sigh*

One high-point to the trip was meeting some really neat people, some even roughly my age, from all over North America; and reconnecting with other 'Quakes who I've gotten to know and respect more over the last few years.

Another high-point was being picked up at the airport by Carrie G., who introduced me to Alma, who's now 4 5 months old. We went downtown and met up with her partner, Kathleen, and we had some wonderful time together (with ice-cream, plus also really cute sleeping infant) It was great to catch up for an hour; an hour which I thought I'd lost when I missed my first flight- making the meeting even more sweet.

But that was my 48 hours in the Philly area.

And when I got back, dan made us a lobster dinner, because he has an inside scoop with our favourite fish place, and heard they had excellent cheap lobsters. Yummy surprise, that. Go, dan!

Work has been rewarding, for the most part- I'm dividing my time between three software-design projects, and right now the balance is good. One project involves integrating our department's inventory system with the campus DNS, to simplify provisioning new equipment and make less work on updates. Another involves properly synching SSH keys so (among other benefits) instructors can more easily access their course-accounts from off-campus. The third is an Engineering Computing project of doom, which may be able to massage data from across campus into one place, in the formats needed by faculty to apply for grants, prepare their annual activity reports, and a few other creeping features. It may succeed, or it may collapse into a pile of brittle sticks; given the non-standardized data provided (and required) by the different faculties. We'll see.

I've just passed the one-year mark from coming back to CS, and I still like my work, I still like my work environment. Quite a bit, actually. The end of this calendar year will be five years I'm on campus, or more than half my time since moving here. Wow. I hope I can keep being as valuable to the U as I feel like it's been to me.

What else?

I'm going to be trying acupuncture. I met with my physiotherapist last week over coffee, and she pointed me in the right direction. I'll schedule it just as finish as I finish with the next bit of travel in May. I will be sure to report back, since I know some of you are practitioners. (or practitionees?)

For my birthday (which is next Wednesday), [livejournal.com profile] melted_snowball and I are going to Nova Scotia. We're leaving on Tuesday, back the following Wednesday. I'm very much looking forward. The plans are: two nights in Halifax, one night in Baddeck, three nights on the north side of Cape Breton in Pleasant Bay, one night in Truro. d's been patient with my impulse to arrange EVERY LITTLE BIT TO SEE IN THE ENTIRE PROVINCE in just a week. And I'm... actually quite OK with dan's desired agenda of seeing a few sights, doing some road-tripping, eating some excellent food, taking some hikes, and mostly relaxing. (Relax? How's that work?... Heh. Anybody have any tips here? Is there a class I can take on it?... Um. Joking, I think.)

I won't have my laptop, so don't expect much from me next week, even if 3G from my phone happens to work. I'll be too busy eating seafood to post, anyway. :)

The following weekend we're off to Denver to see The Three Bears, and also Other People. Long-planned trip, finally happening. I've never been to Colorado!

And a week after, with a weekend at home again, I'm taking a 3-day Project Management course, way far away at the University's extension office just a few blocks from my house. It should be useful, and there will be two colleagues in the course to trade ideas with also.

I have been keeping up with my friends-list, even if I'm not posting or commenting much. I do appreciate hearing what's up with you all; you inspire me and also give me great stuff to think about; as well as grounding me a bit. So, thanks.


Wednesday, 25 March 2009 08:07 pm
So I'm preparing for my portion of a presentation on Quakers and Equality tomorrow. I did a text search on my computer for something, and it found me this quote.

Bill Hicks:
""I asked this guy, I said, 'Come on man, Dinosaur fossils. What's the deal?' 'Dinosaur fossils? God put those there to test our faith.' 'I think God put you here to test my faith, dude. You believe that?' 'Uh huh.' Does that trouble anyone here? The idea that God might be fuckin' with our heads? Anyone have trouble sleeping restfully with that thought in their heads? God's running around, burrying fossils: 'Hu hu ho. We will see who believes in me now, ha HA. Im a prankster god. I am killing me. Ho ho ho ho.' You know, you die, you go to St. Peter, 'Did you you believe in dinosaurs?" "Well, you know, there was fossils everywhere.' [Bill makes sound effects with his mic] KOOM Aaaahhhh. 'What are you, an idiot? God was FUCKING with you! Giant flying lizards, you moron! That's one of God's easiest jokes!' 'It seemed so plausibleeeee! Ahhhhhhhh!' Bound for the lake of fire. . . .

While I appreciate your quiant traditions, supersitions, and, you know, I on the other hand am an evolved being who deals soley with the source of light which exists in all of us, in our own minds, no middle man required. [laughs] But anyway, I appreciate your little games and shit, you putting on the tie and going to church, a de da de da. But you know there's a LIVING GOD WHO WILL TALK DIRECTLY FUCKING TO YOU-- sorry --not through the pages of the Bible that FORGOT TO MENTION DINOSAURS!" - Revelations (1990's comedy routine)

Maybe I should just play that.

Spinning Wheels...

Monday, 23 March 2009 11:39 pm
Not figuratively, literally. My bike has developed a (dangerous) tendency to lose its gear, often when I'm starting up from still, and also when I'm coasting. Not the chain, but likely the freewheel, according to [livejournal.com profile] elbie_at_trig, who was conveniently going home at the same time as me, just as I was thinking, "if only I could ask someone to jog along next to my bike..."

So, yeah. Tomorrow morning, cycle shop is my first stop on the way to work.

Otherwise, I feel like I'm not spinning wheels, quite the opposite.

Work is going, and the three active projects are interesting, if potentially long. But the structure of things allows me to interleaving the work, and I can't imagine getting bored with it. Really, this still feels like perfect job for me. And hey, I missed my boss, who was gone a week on vacation, but I can hardly fault her for that.

Life feels adequately social, these last weeks. Care and feeding of my introverted self- it sometimes feels like I need a push, but I'm getting most of what I need.

This Thursday evening is the third and final Quaker Seekers at Laurier session we have planned; we're speaking on Equality. I think there's an LJ post sitting in my brain, to help me organize what I'm saying in my two 6-minute pieces.

Last week I had a conference-call with co-organizers for the Quaker Quest Traveling Team. A month from now I'll be one of two presenters to a regional Quaker gathering, and in early May they're sending me to Pendle Hill for a weekend conference with other trainers. This work feels both like something I'm pulled to do, and a big side-order of "what the hell was I thinking when I said yes?" Where it goes nobody knows, but I am loving the finding out.

In late May [livejournal.com profile] melted_snowball and I are taking a vacation to Nova Scotia for my birthday; it's our first time to Atlantic Canada and I am already having dreams about rocky shorelines and whale-watching.

This week has featured two meals with duck (breast; and burgers), and two meals with pesto. It is a good life, my friends.

I'm midway through installing linux on a mac mini. I'm in love with this hardware; it's so quiet, runs cool, and is barely bigger than my hand. I'm putting Xen-enabled debian onto it, so alongside the web and email services it can run virtual servers such as Asterisk, or possibly freePBX. Anyhow, my coder.com server will move over some time in April, I hope.

Also in April, my geek crew of Perl Mongers are doing a hardware hacking workshop with Arduino microcontroller boards. So far, I've tested sample programs that play a simple tune; flash LEDs; and (sort of) replicate a Clapper but send a signal over USB to computer. My goals are to control a 600x200 pixel LCD display, and to precisely control a stepper-motor to... well, it'll be cool if it works, that's all I will say for now.

So, all you folks who haven't posted about yourselves recently- what's up with you?


Monday, 16 February 2009 11:31 pm
Yay! I'm home! 'Cept it's messing with my brain that there is still snow. Ah well, it's February in Ontario.

I intended to do this trip on six airplanes (YKF->DTW->MSP->PDX, PDX->SEA->DTW->YKF) not eight (Thursday being YKF->DTW->DTW->DTW->MSP->PDX). But a million times better that they fail two maintenance checks and send us back, than the same plane not fail the maintenance checks. I am getting quite familiar with DTW, since we're going back on Friday (visiting dan's parents and my grandma on Long Island). Oy. Can I not fly for a bit?

But I will definitely go back to Portland some time when I have more than 3 hours to be a tourist. As it was, I stayed at a funky hotel, talked with a couple locals, shopped at Powell's Books, had the best hot chocolate I've ever tried, and swung off with some Quaker friends to our Gathering.

There are photos, un-uploaded. There are notes, un-typed.

And mercifully, I'm starting to get sleepy now, even though my body sort of thinks it's 8:30.

I wonder what time I'll wake up tomorrow. :-P
Don't ask yourself what the world needs.
Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that.
Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.

- Howard Thurman

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