Another pleasant day

No earthshattering thoughts here. I’m up to 1917 in the Morland Dynasty books, I did a ridiculous amount of bug triage, then took a friend to late lunch and got my toenails painted (copper colored with black and gold flowers on the big toes). Also worked on the sidewalk tree garden but not too hard – I did half of it and left the other half for tomorrow.

Early to bed with my book – that’s the plan – I feel a little boring today! But nice!

A warm woolly bed

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

Cat in a felted bed

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

Starting to think about WisCon43!

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

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

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

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

The Emperor and The Victory

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

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

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

Going off sleeping pills

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

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

Some science fiction/fantasy with disabled characters

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

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

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

Milton Mayer book

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Solidarity picnic

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

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

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

Free bassel picnic2

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

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

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

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

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

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

. . .

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

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

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

Free bassel picnicsf

From my nephew's school in Oakland

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

Dear Families,

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

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

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

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

handmade signs community love others make peace