Tuesday, June 28, 2011

SmartAss Recommended Reading (Part Two)

Hello, again, Gentle Reader. When writing Recommended Reading, I realized that the post had become far too long and unwieldy for one entry. So I broke it off midstream and decided to make it a series of posts – which will also allow me to share sites as I find them.

All previous caveats about linkage stated in Part One still apply.

Ill Doctrine (hip hop only occasionally touches me, but) Jay Smooth is wonderful: candid, smart, and painfully genuine at times.

Tricycle – I am leaning towards Buddhism right now, but there is a large amount of work that is good general advice for living on Tricycle, no matter what your calling. And please, do not worry - while I may talk about my own learning or development, I would never push any religion on you, Dear Reader - just as I would not want one pushed on me.

While FWD/Feminists with Disabilities is no longer posting new content, there is a lot of good stuff to be found there, and I cannot recommend their archives highly enough.

The Border House and The Hathor Legacy make great geek reading, and there is always Geek Feminism. These are some of the smartest sites out there.

G4 has a lot of great stuff, particularly Sessler’s Soapbox and the MMO Report (although I do not play MMOs at the moment). I also enjoy their round-table show, Feedback. I will not recommend many truly commercial web sites, but these efforts are worth spending time on, in my opinion.

On the news front, here are the web pages for my favorite commentary shows: The Maddow Blog, and The Last Word. Of course, I occasionally check in at Mediaite for news gossip. And now we catch Countdown on CurrentTV. 

Leave your own great reads, or your own great writings in the comments section!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Quantum Sorcery: A little magic with your science?

"I realized that most of my posts have been little more than science news links thus far, so I shall now remedy this imbalance. Here is a m..."

This is a friends blog, but I love it none-the-less. If you are interested in quantum science, or quantum sorcery, go here. And buy his book. I helped with the early editing, so there is a little bit of me in there somewhere! Grin.

You know, I an going to build a post of friends that write great things, although few will be related to my topics of disability, health, attitudes, able-ism, and social justice. You have been warned!

Lupus Gimp, How Does Your Garden Grow

With gardening ProTips!

Whether it is in a small pot on a table, or in the section of yard I have claimed for my garden, the smell of freshly turned earth turns me on – not in a horny way, but in a “this is really real life” special kind of way. It helps me feel productive and connected.

I call it my garden because it is my idea, and I am the one that insists on having it. Everyone in the household sees the benefit of it. Everyone in the house contributes effort to it, either because they want to, because I ask them to, or because it increases their allowance. It really is our family garden.

I am not able to do a lot of the physical work of maintaining the garden. My men folk did most of the tilling (I could barely start the damn thing, let alone hold it while running). I did the actual planting, since I knew how to do it – and I would not be mad at anyone else if the planting went bad. The girls prepped the ground for and planted the marigolds around the outside of the garden fence.

Getting out in the garden is trouble to begin with, precautions have to be taken. Bug bites hang out for months on me, so bug spray. The sun is trying to kill me; so long sleeves, pants, gloves, and a hat are mandatory. Sunscreen is just as necessary. I have one of those fatigue-fighting floor mats to use to get down on the ground so I do not waste energy bending or squatting. I can cut this mat to fit rather than trying to squeeze myself onto one of those narrow knee pad panels. I try to do most of the work early in the morning or in the last light of the day to cut down on heat and humidity exposure.

The work has to be broken up into small, 15- 20 minute blocks, or I run myself into the ground far too early. I can only do a few of these before I either need a large break of a few hours, or I may just be done for the day, anyway. I can go for a bit longer if I know that no demands will be made on me later –either physical or mental, because the fatigue shuts down all systems.

Even when I remember to do all of the above – take these precautions and more, there is still a price to pay. For even two to three hours working, I will pay for it by being near useless for up to a week. It is unpredictable. I can influence the odds, but not the roll (I hope that analogy makes sense). I know I will be down a day or two, minimum. Down meaning down to minimum activity: hygiene, dressing, feeding myself, maybe some mindless web browsing. Trashed is also always a possibility: easy clothes if not sleeping clothes, easy food, moving only when I have to do so, asking other people to get things for me, doing nothing I may need to remember later or have any competency during. My right hand will always be near useless for 3-7 days.

Over the years, we have acquired, piece by piece, good tools. Good tools cut down on body wear and tear. Believe it or not, I used to break the garden ground with a shovel – I had the strength and enthusiasm, and we did not have a tiller. Now we have a tiller. Good gloves keep my hands from getting beat up too much too fast. Decent hand tools with soft grips have done wonders.

D has laid ground cloth this year, which is awesome. It removes about 80 % of the weeding I would otherwise need to figure out. Anyone can weed around the larger plants, but until they get big and obvious, I will need to weed around the romaine and spinach. I will also have to do the thinning. Both my guys are happy to water the garden for me.

We are growing tomatoes, squash (straight, crook-neck, and one spaghetti squash) and zucchini (same type of plant), one green pepper plant, spinach, a romaine lettuce blend, cucumbers, and some small onions. Marigolds are planted around the garden fence in order to improve the view and discourage pests. In pots we have strawberry plants, chives, mint (may have drown in the last rain), and oregano. I planted rhubarb and asparagus in the garden but I do not think they will make it (I should have researched first, instead of going on the package!). If they sprout I will need to transplant them to large pots until I find a good, permanent home.

In short:
  • I love gardening.
  • Fair division of labor according to knowledge and ability is essential.
  • Taking care of myself means I get more done.
  • Trust that once you delegate, problems will come to you – do not hover!
  • Working smarter is so much better than working harder.
  • Good tools mean less work, less wear and tear on the people doing the work.
  • Yum!
Do you have any gardening tips? Leave them below!

Wheelchair Innovation by Teens in Plainfield

Every once in a while, I get to write about something cool and fun and human. This is one of those times. 

According to the articles listed below, Stephen Scholl is a senior at a local Plainfield, Indiana high school. He participates in a recycling program that has been wildly successful at his school. In an article about his Life Skills class and classmates – a fellow student saw a picture of Stephen and a need he could fill. Tim Balz and companions got together to build Stephen a powered chair to replace his manual one. This would make many aspects of Stephen’s life easier, including collecting recycling.

This effort has grown well beyond both teens and their friends and family. I found this story through a link sent to me by D, here at the IndyStar.The comments are surprisingly civil for the Indy Star (as of my reading of them), but one should probably exercise caution anyway. Besides the local paper of record, this also received coverage from at least one local news station, WTHR.
This is also a good article, although the comments are a little more problematic as some of the commenters are unfamiliar with “people first language” and poorly defend the author’s use of the phrase “wheelchair bound.”

This has grown into Wheelchairs for Special Needs. If you go to the linked Facebook page you can get caught up on their current and past efforts, and find out where you can help. From the comments at the IndyStar article: “I received an e-mail back from Josh Duke, the author of this story. He said that if anyone is interested in donating to Freedom Chairs, they can contact Tim Balz directly at wheelchairsforspecialneeds@gmail.com

From the Facebook page: “Great News! It turns out that we are [allowed] to accept donations. The only issue is that we cannot give tax deductions at this point in time. We will soon set up a method for you to be able to donate!”

Enjoy your day!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

MSNBC and NAFC: Ed Picks Up the MSNBC/Free Clinic Mantle

Connecting people with life saving health care should not be a political issue.

Ed Shultz made me very happy last night. Although he did not mention Keith Olbermann’s early involvement with MSNBC and FreeClinics.US, he did pick up the mantle last night. He announced a new fund raising drive for a free health clinic in New Orleans, organized by NAFC (the National Organization of Free Clinics). To be fair, Ed was actively involved while Olbermann was at the helm of the effort – I had simply feared it would be either forgotten, or deemed to inconveniently reference the ex-MSNBC host.

If you are not familiar with the work of National Association of Free Clinics, you should definitely check them out – if you can donate, have access to a venue, can volunteer or if you need services. They have added a new way to donate $10, just text HEALTH to 50555.

The announcement is a must watch, and the interview that follows both stresses the importance of the work of the National Association of Free Clinics and lets you know what you can do to help, or to get help. I was only a little surprised to hear talk about the suicides they prevented. Besides helping people with neurological and biochemical issues;  just getting someone the help they have lacked for a chronic condition, or putting them on the path to a diagnosis which can make a huge emotional and mental difference in a person’s life. Life is pretty bleak when you know something is wrong with you but you have nothing but your word to back that up. Things can spiral wildly, until the only power you may feel you have is to decide when and how to end it all.

NAFC does great work, and deserves support. People depend on their clinics. It is sometimes a literal life and death issue. Help them out if you can. Go to them for help if you need.

Ally Anxiety

So, Tuesday, I am did my usual thing… I listened to the Blacking It Up pod cast (and you should, too – it is amazing!). Apparently, bridges had been built over the weekend by Jack and Jill’s Cheryl Contee and Elon James White at RightOnline, because we had one of our first trolls. Ms. Contee’s and Mr. White’s adventure is documented here: “INCOGNEGRO:  UNDERCOVER AS A BLACK CONSERVATIVE AT RIGHT ONLINE DURING NETROOTS NATION PART 1." It is a must read! While I already read Jack and Jill Politics, I keep checking the site for the next part…

The pod cast was full of the anticipated and appreciated awesome. Then the troll showed up. What followed caused, for me, a severe case of ally anxiety.

During the pod cast, there is a chat window underneath where the listeners can chat amongst ourselves, respond to the show, ask questions, snark – whatever happens to be going on. Sometimes we wander way off topic, sometimes the show and the chat room work in beautiful harmony. When I started listening to @BlackingItUp and BCCO’s other shows, I just listened for a week or two, because I am a visitor, an ally – and I did not want to come on too strong, too fast, too pushy, too “white liberal on the internet.”

This day, a new person came into the chat. New people are fun and enthusiastically welcomed. This person was not fun. One by one, this person (I presumed he, there was the tell tale reek of mansplaining) started raising racial flags. Whites are racially oppressed, standardized testing is not racially biased, I am colorblind – why aren’t you, I should not get searched at the airport, racial minorities are racists because they complain about race relations, but everyone is racist like me. You know ‘em and hate ‘em: they are the classic tropes of the racist. He would raise one flag, wade into his rightly earned flak, wait for a few moments, and then raise another one. I would not be surprised to find that “oneshotoneki11” (my approximation) is at least a semi-pro troll.

Here is where the ally anxiety comes in: what do you do? I wanted to be out in front, and stomp this asshole into the ground; to stop the badness, to vent the frustration of not being able to confront so many people’s racism, and personally to show that I am not with him or his ilk. But I am working on being an ally; one of the first rules is DO NOT MAKE IT ABOUT YOU IF IT IS NOT ABOUT YOU. So I reeled myself in, spoke my peace once in a while but mostly either stayed out of the way while others let him have it, supported the excellent arguments being made against him and his toxic memetic stew, and expressed dismay that he would violate the hospitality offered him as a new guest.

I know that my case of ally anxiety was nothing, nothing compared to what the black listeners were going through while this was happening. I know that what was going on in my heart, my head, and my gut is miniscule in the grand scope of things. My feelings, my reactions – those are not a big deal to anyone but me. I write this to air it out, to solicit the opinions and experience of others, and to give anyone that wants it an insight into what went on in my head (or heads like mine?) during this. I was angry, I was sad, I was sick. We discovered that four (if I remember correctly) white members of the audience had stayed on this guy, which was also cool. I think that we, the audience, feel a little closer to one another, because of what this asshole brought out a united sense of solidarity in us.

Plucked popinjays like this troll make me ashamed of my skin. I wanted to apologize for his inanity, and I did – but that does not make any sense. No more sense than the bizarre “blaming” that minority groups sometimes face over one individual behaving badly. 

I found out that I was not obviously white, which is kind of neat.Often white racial justice allies are problematic in and of themselves. They refuse to recognize their own internal racism, how all the little assumptions, good, bad, and "neutral" add up to a racism that is insidious, because it can hide.

Racists often do not even know that they are racists, let alone doing evil. You cannot convince someone (though any means) to stop doing something they believe they are not doing in the first place. 

The top of the kyriarchy knows that their days are numbered and that their power is slipping – which, I think, is why they are always scrambling, always grabbing, and always further consolidating their power. With the election of a President that neither looks like them nor shares their history or values, they are now in a full on panic. “Take their country back,” indeed – just as the rest of us may start to think it may actually be our country, too.

Blog note: The various Pod Casts are archived and available on the Brooklyn Comedy Company’s web page. You can also find the shows on ITunes and YouTube – remember to take a moment to rate and comment, they deserve the love.

Shout out to the chat room – sorry about the trash.

Friday, June 17, 2011

SmartAss Recommended Reading (Part One)

When I was writing this post, I talked about some of the web sites I visit. I thought it would be good to share with you some more of the folks that I let into my brain pan whenever I have adequate ability to absorb information (sometimes solid, sometimes that ability can elude me). Here, in no particular order, are more works I enjoy, find edifying, or within find fellowship – you may want to seek them out too!

Warning: the below links contain rational thought and a penchant for social justice. You will be exposed to people of all genders, many races, and many schools of thought if you click on the below links.

Gratuitous warning for all SmartAss Recommended Reading: including a link below does not mean I endorse every piece on each web site. You know that, but I wanted to spell it out. I know that some blogs have done some questionable things – some have risen above, learned and grown; some, maybe not so much. That is what it means to be a whole person – to learn and grow and be better. But even then, I read the things that strike me as right-minded and take the few mistakes as object lessons.

Womanist Musings
Tiger Beatdown
This Ain’t Living
Red Vinyl Shoes
Yes Means Yes
Wheelchair Dancer
Flip Flopping Joy
Geek Feminism
The Angry Black Woman
Disability Voices

And of course, SexGenderBody, with a fantastic blogroll I am happy to join.

I enjoy a lot of reading, when my brain will let me.

Leave your own great reads or your own great writings in the comments section!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Dear Weiner

Dear Representative Weiner:

Hello. I am sorry for the rough time you are going through right now. I imagine you are in a personal hell at the moment (unless you and your spouse have an arrangement – even then life outside of the home must be deucedly uncomfortable).

I want to make one thing clear up front: I do not care about your penis, or your peccadilloes. I have both (although the penis sits bag in a closet when not in use). I am with Lawrence O’Donnell on this one – what you do in your own life is the business of you and the people in your life.

I only care that you lied for over a week. I care that you lied to the press, lied to your colleges, and lied to us, the people. Even so, my ability to care about the lying is tempered by the fact that your sex life is none of our business, and that people lie about their sexual preferences, practices, habits, and wishes all the time because we live in a culture that denigrates sexual honest. I am slightly comforted by the fact that your lied very badly and transparently – meaning that you are not practiced at lying, and are so easy to spot when you do.

[Edit, this paragraph added.] I also care that some of your photos may have been sent unsolicited and may be sexual harassment. That is the worst part of this, in my mind. 

I still wish that more Democrats and/or liberals were more like you. I still want fighters on our side. I still want you to have a clone and to send that clone to Indiana, one place of many that could probably use a man like you.

All My Best*, 


Post Script: There is word this morning that you will step down. I really do hope that, if this is true, it is not the last time we see you in politics.

* [Edit] I removed "Namaste," as I was very kindly informed I was not using it correctly. Many thanks to the person that contacted me, and well wishes to you!

ProTips: Skimping Without Going Without

Times are hard all over (mostly, and if you are part of the USian 1% that is getting richer, you probably are not reading here). Everyone tries to save money. Here is some (sometimes hard earned) advice for skimping without going without. Feel free to add your tips in the comments!

If your income is desperately low, look for help. There are programs out there specifically designed to help you, including help with heat, electricity, prescription meds and health insurance. Do not be ashamed to make use of the tools available to you. This is their purpose! If you are doing okay, donate some money, resources, or effort to the same.

Now on to the tips. Your mileage may vary. Pick what works for you and disregard what does not – that is what this is for!

Never go cheap on feminine hygiene products. Never go cheap on diapers. Exception: advice from a trusted source. Not only do you spend more money when you have to go out and get the good stuff due to product failure, but you usually find out via embarrassment and ruined clothes and more expense.

Some generic products are differently packaged products from brand name production lines. Do your research and find where you are spending more for nothing.

Consider growing your own food when and where you can. Even though my garden cost a couple of hundred dollars to put together initially (including fencing – ouch!), we still saved almost $400 dollars in grocery bills that year. With the initial set-up out of the way, we save much more. Try to grow from seeds or the smaller starter plants – these get more expensive the more developed they are when sold. Consider potted plants or Topsy Turvy tomato planters for apartments.

Look into local garden/DIY collectives. Not only can you save time, money, and effort collaborating with nearby folks, but it is good to have connections with people that have the same concerns as you.

Make your own sex toys! Use your common sense, research and think - particularly with insertable toys. Floggers, clamps, paddles, a lot of these can be made on the cheap side, and you can make them exactly the way you want them. DO NOT MAKE YOUR OWN BIRTH CONTROL OR SKIMP ON BC. Read review sites like BDSMLab to make sure you are getting what you want for your dollar.

Trade favors with your family and neighbors. Some folks in our neighborhood trade garden goods. Others trade babysitting for lawn care. Find out what other folks need and if they can help with your needs. Make sure everyone feels treated fairly. It is better to agree that a deal cannot be made than to make a bad connection.

Become familiar with Lifehacker, WikiHow, and other DIY (Do It Yourself) sites. Also look into home-brewed shampoos, beauty products, cleaning products. Green environment sites often have cost saving benefits too.

Weigh what you are spending and where you can cut. For example, we thought we could save money by taking our recycling to a drop off point verses paying to have it picked up. This was true until gas prices started to rise. Now the cost of curb pick up seems blissfully cheap compared to taking it ourselves. Plus we no longer have to store it longer than two weeks at a time.

Save up your errands to run all together. Or, alternatively, run them on the way to or from work or school. For one item stops, pass your cash to someone else that is going if they will pick up that one thing for you.

Be careful buying in bulk. Many manufacturers have caught on to the bulk craze and you may not be saving as much as you think. The same is true for some thrift stores. Tip: thrift stores in upscale strip malls are often more expensive than the same store and item in a more economically stressed neighborhood.

Sign up for e-mail lists from your favorite retailers. Decide if handfuls of useless e-mails are worth the occasional one with that can’t-pass-it-up bargain. Your time is valuable; you could be doing something else with it – so choose wisely.

Check out consumer web sites, particularly big ticket items like appliances, vehicles, etc… In a pinch, look at Amazon.com for the product and read the reviews.  Consumer Reports is the gold standard, but is subscription based, with annual and monthly options. There are plenty of free review sites out there. Read the threads, if there is a Stan or sock puppet in there, usually they will get found out.

Look for alternatives that generate equal results. For some pants, blouses and sweaters I will use Dryel, but winter coats and such need to be dry cleaned to keep them in good shape and decrease the chance that they will need to be replaced.

Learn how to mend! Basic sewing kids cost very little, and being able to replace a button, darn a small hole, or repair a loose hem can save you a lot of money, particularly if you are part of a family. (Kids clothes are particularly prone to mending needs.)

Invest in a good stain remover – it is much less expensive than replacing clothes.

Do not throw away the circulars you get in the mail. Sometimes you can find good bargains on big ticket items like HVAC maintenance and roof repair. On the other end of the budget, $1 off of brand name cereal may not seem like a lot, but if you use one every week, that can add up quick. I also advise planning grocery shopping around store sales.

Put some of your saved money away for something fun, even if you feel like you cannot afford it. Even if it is a DVD for the family to enjoy, or dinner out, find something that pays you back in enjoyment for your time and effort. Being “poor” does not equal not having modern human needs. Recreation is a part of sanity maintenance!

Now you can share your favorite tips below!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

SmartAss Commentary: On Tracy Morgan

Two big posts in one day!

If you do not know the story of Tracy Morgan performing at a show and telling an audience that should his hypothetical gay son approached him in an effete manner that he would stab him to death in the neck, you can find out more here and here and here, along with your usual sources.

I have read and heard some unbelievable arguments in favor of Morgan’s tirade, and while [spelling edit] they (and some of their sources) have stunned me, I remain in #TeamThatWasStupidHatefulandWrong. One included that the Facebook author of the expose was not adhering to some standard of “objectivity.” Why should this author, upon hearing Morgan’s hate, have any obligation to be objective regarding what he heard? Why is the burden always on those knocked about to give others the benefit of the doubt? What does the injured party owe to the oppressing party?

Oh, and a flying fuck you to people that say we should be objective about things like this. Frankly, if you can remain coolly aloof and objective about issues of social justice, then you can very well fuck off. If the oppression and degradation of others does not pitch you into a seething caldron of sadness, anger, and righteous rage – then you simply do not care enough to matter to me.

The most interesting part to me is that the argument for Morgan’s free speech is to restrict the free speech of people that found his bit to be offensive. That people are infringing his right to be offensive by speaking up about being offended. Tracy Morgan has freedom of speech, but no one else can have freedom of speech regarding how he uses his? Morgan saying he'd stab his gay son - that is fine, but speaking up about the propagation of anti-LGBTQIA violence, particularly against children, well - that is just out of line and unfair?!?

Remember, constitutionally protected speech means protection from government censorship – not protection from being less marketable. Morgan the man can think and say as he likes, but Morgan, the company, which is that man on a stage making money - he is in the marketplace of ideas and his ideas were loudly rejected. You can't ride that pony to fame and fortune, and then kick it when it bucks you for being an ass.

To argue that one is “allowing” themselves to be bothered by Morgan’s stance that LGBT people should man up and quit being pussies regarding bullying and such is to argue from a position of privilege and to negate the experiences of LGBT people. It also negates the experiences of children and teenagers. One of my most proud parenting moments was when my eldest daughter came to me out of the blue and said, “Thank you for not forgetting what it is like to be a teenage girl.” You forget that young people do not have the social calluses that we develop with age and experience. You blow off the things that cause them genuine distress, because to connect with that feeling is to remember all the slights and wrongs from when you were that age and admit to being that vulnerable, that tender – all over again.

But, but, but – we are taking money out of Morgan’s pocket when we do not like what he said! YES, WE ARE AND THAT IS THE POINT. Morgan’s pockets are lined with our money – he got it by saying things we (the general public) like in the first damn place. He decided to make his living via pleasing the public. Again, this is the free market at work, the free market that has been so very, very good to Morgan. Some say that people can express their opinion, but it shameful when they do to the detriment of someone that makes their living by interacting with the self-same public - that is twisted logic. What does that even mean? We are allowed to like an entertainer’s work, but not allowed to dislike it? There is nothing coherent in that stance.

To those that say “Oh, we don’t know he said that! All we know is what one offended guy wrote!” In all of my reading about this issue, and I have done a lot – there is one thing I have not seen and that is Tracy Morgan issuing any kind of denial. No one that attended the show has claimed that the bit description was untrue. He is headed to Nashville to apologize personally.

I have seen and heard some arguments that depend on the “Equal Opportunity Offender” line of reasoning. You know, when the discrimination, hate speech, abuse, and murder of LGBTQIA and queer youth are distant, horrific memory - then it can be a joke. I am of the opinion that one can, indeed, make a joke about anything. Murder, rape, racism, anything can be a target of humor. But that humor speaks to who you are and what you believe. If your joke about rape makes rapists or would be rapists laugh – then you are being oppressive. If your joke tickles the people that work against the rape culture, then your joke is not oppressive. Joke about what you want, I am fine with that. I am also fine with learning about what you believe by the jokes you make and the people you find deserving of that laugh.

I would much rather ignorant bigots speak their mind long and loud so I am never worried that my viewing time, or my money, goes to supporting their hatred in any way. Let them shout all day, so that the rest of us may know them, make up our own minds about them, and be free to speak and act as WE choose, exercising that same freedom.

Note: Tracy Morgan’s wallet contains not one cent of mine. I am not, and have never been, a fan of his.

SmartAss Commentary: Cripple Queers Stay Home

Note: I never thought that I would write a somewhat positive take on a gun show and a very negative experience at a Pride event, well, ever. But here I am.

So, IndyPride was the weekend of June 11th, 2011. My family and I were excited to attend. We have friends all over the LGBT, Intersex and Queer spectrum. I am bisexual, and my girls – much to my own parental pride – feel free to decide who and what they are in their own time. So my husband, my boyfriend, my girls, and I loaded up to head downtown for the Indianapolis Pride festival.

Saturday was beautiful, but hot. There was no natural protection from the sun, but we were prepared.

Parking was a nightmare – many of the downtown spots were blocked off for the event, so we found zero available handicapped parking anywhere near the festival. So D dropped us off a couple of blocks away from the singular entrance. A grassy field needed to be crossed to reach the gate – there was no smoothed path, let alone paved walkway – to use to get in. Fortunately, the folks canvassing for a fund for college to help LGBT youth were at the gate, and I donated, still fairly optimistic about the upcoming experience.

The southern end of the park has a lot of paved walk ways, but few booths. Being near the fountain provided a cool breeze for the few moments it took to pass it. Our first nightmare began as we tried to cross the dividing street (blocked from auto traffic for the event). The people running Circle City Pride apparently decided that giving the bar tents 3 extra, mostly unused feet of space was more important than allowing people to use the city’s curb cuts. They blocked off all of them on all four corners at the ends of the street. One was left on the middle of the north side. I had a complete sense-of-humor failure as I rolled between blocked off curb cuts and eventually had enough, hit my hand breaks, and had a good cry behind my sunglasses (noticed only, I think, by my family).

The north end of the park is completely inaccessible. This made me angry not only for me and the other people at the event, but in general. This is the damn Veteran’s Memorial Plaza, dammit – how on earth are disabled veterans going to navigate this hill and stair infested park?

The festival did block off the far northern paved cross-over, making those of us trying to navigate the tents and booths travel over 4-6 times more ground to get around than the TAB attendees. I spent some time parked at the north east corner, and watched other people using wheelchairs along with parents with children in wagons or strollers curse their luck as they realized they were stuck.

Many of the displays were up small curbs and arranged on dirt paths. Again, this was almost entirely inaccessible unless you have an ATV chair. We eventually were able to find our way to the one booth run by a friend where we knew we could park and rest. Without that, we would have left almost immediately.

While I sat parked, mulling over the supposed message of inclusion of Pride Day and the associated events, my husband and youngest daughter were directed by the one friendly staff member we saw to talk to an organizer. The organizer had no care at all about the issue they brought to her and directed them to speak to a nearby city cop. This… officer, and yes, I have his name, found it appropriate to tell them to suck it up or talk to the military officer in charge of the park. The fucking hell?!?  He was rude, discriminatory, and dismissive. Thanks, Officer Friendly, for destroying my children’s first impression of dealing directly with a law enforcement representative. You are now their idea of what cops are like, in general. Ass.

Navigating in general was difficult, as most staff and patrons never bothered to look lower than eye level while traveling from place to place. Eventually I had no issue poking people with my cane while yelling “EXCUSE ME!” and running over the occasional toe. Maybe you will look for people shorter than your eye level next time, jerk.

So Indy Pride or Circle City Pride was a damn nightmare. Indy Pride was not inclusive. If you are a queer cripple, apparently you should stay in your closet. High on the Hill rocks, though, and was accommodating both at the booth and in their store. So, there was a positive note. That was,well, the only positive note.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

SmartAss Commentary: Liberal Crip Goes to the Gun Show

The Indy 1500 has a terrible web page – there is very little you can do there but find out the dates of upcoming shows, sign up for a mailing list and $1 off $10 admission, and see some photos of previous shows. However, it is a decent show as far as I can tell. I had a decent time there. I want to talk about my own gun history, some of the social issues at the gun show, and the accessibility for people with disabilities.

I should probably spell a few things out here before we get started. I am a Second Amendment liberal. I believe in both state protection via police and sheriff departments and self defense. I find the arguments about the intent of the Second Amendment to be more semantic than practical. When the Bill of Rights was created, the gun was simply a tool of survival in early American culture, as in many others. Small, unfunded local defense militias depended on each member to have their own arms. They did, both for hunting and defense. So I find that if a person has a solid answer to the separation of militia and culture – that answer may well be their opinion on the matter rather than a historical fact.

I grew up around gun folks. My mom’s first husband (my adoptive dad or ADad*), her father and several of her brothers all served in the military. The first gun stories I heard were from ADad as he explained the AK scar he acquired in Vietnam. He was shot in the shoulder by a [enemy combatant – I will not use the word he used] and he returned fire, killing the man. My mother was very anti-gun. My grandfather and multiple uncles were enlisted military men. My husband was a military kid, and very comfortable with guns. My boyfriend grew up in a rural social network that was also very easy with firearms – his father was a police officer and is now a correctional officer.

I am intimidated by guns. I am also proficient in their use. I am not a pleasure shooter – you know, the folks that can relax by going to the range for an hour. I cannot get away from their purpose. When aiming at a target, all that is on my mind is why I would be doing this for real – to end the life of another living being. The moral weight and sadness of that is always on my mind if a gun is around. There is no pleasure for me in being able to put six forty-four caliber bullets in a three inch diameter circle.  I can, and do, shoot very well. I hope to never actually need to do so. I do have fun with AirSoft weapons, though – they shoot soft BB-type ammunition powered by gas or springs or batteries.

Now that you know some of my gun history, time for the gun show! (Do I kiss my wimpy biceps here? Probably not…)

Admission was $10, you received a $1 off coupon if you were on their mailing list. Security appeared heavy, but was actually very light. Police were all over the place, as security and patrons. Loaded weapons were not permitted, although we were simply asked if we had any. D had a pistol that needed the sights repaired, and he was directed by the ticket takers to a booth where his pistol was strategically fitted with plastic zip strips to prevent it from being useable. If a patron was found to be carrying a firearm without this treatment, the penalty was immediate ejection from the premises.

Recording devices were not allowed. Although that made writing this piece much more difficult, I followed the rule. Honestly, other than catching someone in the act and ejecting them, there seemed to be no other way of enforcing that rule in this day and age of cell phone cameras, PDAs, and micro cameras.

The building itself (a part of the Indiana State Fairgrounds) was perfectly accessible. Accessibility issues included florescent lights, no scent policy, lots of random noise (no, no gunfire, except on the soundtracks of some videos being shown), and no quiet areas. While some of the table-made aisles are more narrow than others they are still passable in my manual wheelchair… except when some jerk vendor decided they need to set out yet more product, and pushed out over the ends of their tables, or shoved their long gun cases 6-12 inches out into the walk way, or put up spinning displays that eat half of the available aisle space. Arg! 

TL;DR: the building and the planning covered some accessibility basics, but some of the vendors were terrible about it!

There were several areas where one could buy snacks and drinks. Two were permanent booths, and one was more of an open café - larger with displays and seating.

Not every person at the gun show is straight off of People of WalMart. Most folks are dressed in casual middle class or rural attire. The clear majority of attendants were white males. Attendants that appeared to be African American or women were not the majority, but were numerous enough to not be surprising - which may surprise some of you. Obviously disabled folks like me were numerous in chairs or scooters, and there were a comforting amount of cane-users.  A lot of families were in attendance. The vendors were overwhelmingly male, around middle-aged and white.

I have never been to a gun show that did not have some vendors peddling hate. I have spent entire gun shows feeling like I would get shot if I talked about my politics. I was really surprised at the small amount of hate on sale at this gun show. While one pro Nazi booth is too many, there was only one at the show. I saw maybe three booths with small collections of Nazi memorabilia. I sat and stared at the Nazi booth for a while, dumbfounded. This booth was shoved into a corner where it was easily avoided, we almost missed it. They had mouse pads, t-shirts, bumper stickers, jewelry and accessories.

There was a lot less First Nations appropriation than I expected from my previous experience. The generalized, white washed “Native American Aesthetic” is very popular among the survivalist, hunter, preparedness, and gun cultures. There was one booth that was using a dream catcher motif to raise money for disabled children to enjoy outdoor sports and experiences, I think.

Of course, there was a Tea Party presence, but far less than I had feared. One vendor had walls of vitriolic bumper stickers accusing President Obama of just about every thing you can imagine. Someone had passed around flyers I saw at several booths with showed a picture of the President and the First Lady saying “I’m with stupid.” There was one booth selling anti-UN pins, copies of the national and state constitutions with wild interpretations of them. I have copies of them, and may write about those booklets specifically at some point.


You have not really thought this stance through, have you?

(Picture description:  a small, round lapel pin or button showing the blue UN emblem, surrounded with a red circle and divided by a red line from upper right to lower left. The intended message is clearly "NO UN.")

As a liberal, all the hate, appropriation and ignorance made me feel threatened, angry, sad, and deeply uncomfortable. Parts of it were like walking back into the Bush administration, were disagreement was equated with treason and only violent, blind patriotism was an acceptable response to any slight at all. But it was much, much better than my previous experiences at gun shows. I do not think that some improvement is enough, to be sure. It does make me happy to see improvement though, and I want to encourage that improvement.

I did not patronize the hate-booths, and still felt fairly free to shop. I picked some targets for AirSoft practice, some great medical stuff (a brass mortar and pestle, glass bottles and tubes, and first aid supplies), two really well priced pieces of luggage, and some camping supplies. I did pick up some of the materials, including the more fantastic stuff to share with you. This included a flyer for an organization that is fighting for you to keep your right to .50 cartridges, an application for the Sons of Confederate Veterans (yes that is exactly what you think it is), the Indiana Citizens Volunteer Militia, advertisements for NRA courses and retreats, flyers for militaria shows, Indiana Gun Owners pamphlets, and material on the Oath Keepers…

*I have a total of three dads: my biological father, or BDad; my mother’s first husband who adopted me when I was five, ADad, and my mother’s second husband (now divorced), ExSDad (ex-step-dad). Also, my mother’s first husband remarried, so I also have a step-mom out there, SMom. Of the five, ExSDad and I have the best relationship, and he is the one I would call in an emergency.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Racist Billboads Are Coming for You | RH Reality Check

This is amazingly terrible. The Racist Billboads Are Coming for You | RH Reality Check. The end goal is obviously no abortions for anyone. First they slandered the wombs of African American women, now Latinas; so I expect you will see uteri of other ethnic origins slandered, and then maybe next wombs with small or no checking accounts, agnostic and atheist and well, any non-Christian uteri. This is not about protecting life, this is about dictating life. I refuse to call folks like this anything other than forced birth advocates. That is what they do, through terrible or no sex ed, no access to cheap or free contraceptives, no emergency contraceptives, and no abortions. They want every woman to be forced to pay for her "sin," I believe.

Blog note: this is my first time using a "Share This on Blogger" button, so I am not sure how it will turn out. I may need to go back and edit it. On the up side, I have about four articles going at once, so I feel pretty pumped. The down side is that they are all seperately pulling at my meager attention and none of them are finished yet.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Things that Make My Life Easier: Pill Card

I bought the Pill Card on Amazon, but it was sold and fulfilled by SplaceCo. I paid a total of $2.99 ($1.99 + very reasonable shipping).

The Pill Card is exactly what it says on the tin. Actually, it didn’t come in a box, but you know what I mean (or at least TV Tropes does!). Delivery was timely. While it seems that the Pill Card comes in several colors, there is no option to choose color when ordering. Mine is brown.

Sticker says:
Re-Pillable Card
A Wallet Pill Card
Place over the top
Credit Card, it fits!
Pills are a wallet reach away.
Read and remove.

Note: I can’t see a reason to remove the sticker, which is a good thing, since it is a really stuck on there sort of arrangement.

At 2.25 inches tall, 2.25 inches wide, the card is flat, and the compartment sticks out about .25 inch. Most OTC NSAIDs I tried worked fine. An 800mg ibuprophen is a tight squeeze, and a CitriCal Petite (which must be named ironically, I think) does not fit. There is a divider inside the compartment, so you could store, say, aspirin on one side and your Rx med on the other.

This product is useful, but I use a bifold, zippered wallet rather than a male marketed bi- or tri-fold – and the Pill Card works much better in a tri-fold wallet. So I gave it to my step-dad to use.

This is a solid product. My only concern is whether the plastic would grow brittle over time, or the compartment hinges might give, but at the price you can probably keep a spare handy if either of those items becomes an issue.

More information can be found at Repillable.com.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Now Playing at SexGenderBody!

Great news, I have been invited to blog at SexGenderBody.com. You can see my introductory post there, and I invite all of you to take a good gander at the content over there. I am greatly pleased to be among the number of amazing bloggers under the name SexGenderBody.

Most often, I will post here and reblog there, but when I write things more explicitly about sexuality, it may get posted there with an announcement here.

As I see it, you own me no favors – you do me a great service just by reading me, an even further one when you respond via comments or whatnot. It is with this in mind that I ask you to take some of your valuable time to check out SexGenderBody.com – it is well worth it.

Edit: feel free to see my intro here!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Not a Junkie

Thank you to Blurbette and #TeamAfterParty for bringing this simmering topic back to a brain boil.

Days like today find me feeling like a junkie. At least, I think that other people may see it that way. See, the doctor that signs my pain prescription took a long vacation around the holiday, a vaction which happened to include the day my Rx needed to be filled. So, I was, of course, left waiting. I have only rarely experienced any sense of urgency from medical professionals regarding pain treatment.

After years of fighting and enduring, I did finally get my health pros to take my pain seriously. My GP/gateway provider was particularly hesitant. He did decide (eventually!) that my pain is indeed real, and I am not seeking to sell my pills on the street. Even so, my ability to live my day to day life with at least some freedom of pain is not, and has never been, a priority for anyone with a sheepskin.

The difference between opiate dependence and opiate addiction is not obvious to the casual observer. One of the reasons I hate being called an addict is that addiction is a whole different experience, and I do not want to appropriate that experience set as my own when my addictions are mild: caffeine and nicotine.

I am dependent. This means that I require opiates to modulate my pain (it is long past being negated through most anything) and get through even a vaguely normal day. I acquire them through completely legal means, and there has never been any solid inquiry regarding my integrity. By “no solid inquiry” I, of course, mean other than the default suspicion that accompanies using opiates in the first place!

I take a very strong opiate, and still I do not have pain free days.

People dependant on opiates go through withdraw just like addicts do. The difference between dependent and addicted is not a physical one, in my experience, but a moral one. Unless you are willing to break the law and either buy off the street, or doctor shop, or whatever – there is nothing you can do but wait for the duly appointed authority figure in the matter to get off their DAMN ASS and take care of business.

It is not as if I am the one that insists that I need opiates to control my pain. I tried, both through my own suggestion, the suggestions of friends and strangers, and my DEA worried docs’ suggestions just about every non-opiate pain killer out there. I have also, a very few times, drunk myself into a stupor as a last resort escape from consciousness, if not pain. My liver is still not happy about any of that. To be honest, if killing a chicken in the light of the full moon could relieve my pain, I would probably do it. Nothing works but opiates, and I had a truckload of Nancy Reagan to get out of my damn head before I could even begin to be okay with that.

Extreme, unrelenting pain is insane making. No, I am not taking a poke at folks that qualify as insane – I mean that extreme pain can cause symptoms similar to several diagnosable mental illnesses. Pain can lead to shortness of temper, irritability, paranoia, loss of cognitive function, loss of memory, compulsive behavior, self-harm (in my opinion, this is an attempt to set off the CNS’s pain gate function), loss of physical ability, and unpredictable bouts of extreme anger, frustration, guilt, morose, ennui, and pissed-off-ness. Yeah, ahh, those would be, you know, industry terms…

As I write this, I am coming up on missing my first dose. Within a day after that, if it goes that far, I will have extra super flu-like symptoms (lupus is kind of like having the flu all the time anyway), I will hate the whole damn world, and my vocabulary with mainly consist of the kind of language people use when they tell the Aristocrats joke. It is all I can do right now to try to accomplish all the things that will need to be done for a little while in case I need to retreat to my bed, curl up under a blanket I will then play Too Hot Too Cold with, and spit random curses at the world.

There are a lot of side effects I experience that I am not, and will probably not go into here or with much of anyone that does not need to know. And my experience with this may not the same as anyone else’s, let alone everyone else’s.

Oh, and every six months I have to go though a “Do you still really need these pills?” appointment. Look, if I was all better one of the first things I would do is call all the docs that have been humane, recognized my humanity and sing their praises; then call the other docs and describe, in loud detail, what anatomically impossible feats I would like them to perform for me.


As of today, the day I post this, everything is fine. If you were kind enough to have a thought about my well being… well, first, bless you heart! Caring about people on the internet! You are an exemplary human being, Gentle Reader. Second, I am okay. This article was written early, in order to make sure I had something to post even if my doc did not get back to me in time to take away my short term ticket to hell. My doc was still gone, but my old doc is in the same office, was in attendance, and she did come through. So I am okay, and no more likely to explode at anyone than I am on any other regular.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

To Violently Induce Empathy

I originally wrote this in May, 2010, when I felt particularly injured by people in my life that just were not getting it. I think that acknowledging when I feel like a bitter, embattled bad crip is important. While I was busy drawing analogies, I lost site of how violent this post really is, so you have been warned.

Originally posted elsewhere on May 7, 2010

I needed to get this out of my head.

Some days I am almost fine. I get up early, I get stuff done, maybe I go out, and maybe I fuck. These days are rare.

Some days I am incapable of almost anything. I stay in bed, or turn the couch into my bed, and veg out to news so I do not feel totally disconnected from everything. I do not fuck with anything on these days, nor do I appreciate getting fucked with by anyone. I can barely move, I can barely read, I have almost no recall and can barely follow a conversation. If I am actually trying to do something while like this, then I place a great amount of importance on whatever that may be, and even then I will probably screw it up.

Most days I am somewhere in-between and either blow all my spoons far too early, or end up doing very little "in case" I need my spoons later that day.

Only if I place a great deal of trust in you will I tell you what kind of day today is when you ask "How are you?” I am so tired of being shut down by people that ask how I am but do not really give a damn.

I "pass" most of the time. People do not know I am disabled unless I tell them. Yes, even with the cane -- this is weird to me. So when I go out with the wheelchair it is almost always a gimp circus. People think that since I do not look disabled (whatever the hell that is supposed to mean!), that I must be faking or something. Fates forbid I actually stand up out of my chair for any reason.

I am tired of being a "good cripple."

Don't touch my wheelchair without gaining my permission first. Do not imply it must be nice to "sit around" everywhere. Yes, I can make those jokes, and you can laugh when I do if you want to laugh. Do not explain to me how good I have it, or how bad you feel for me. Just like I do not get to appropriate the experiences of a person with Autism, you do not get to appropriate mine with lupus/SLE and chronic pain (and SI joint dysfunction, and compressed disks, and non-specific brain damage, and...). Do not lecture me about my behavior, my drugs, or my coping mechanisms. Do not excuse places that are not accessible to me, or accessible to the people that society has labeled the same as me.

Do not "congratulate" me when I am not in the chair. I know you mean well, but just stop it. I may be having a good day, or I may be someplace that simply would not accommodate what I actually need that day.

Do not tell me you know "how I feel" unless you really want to. While there would be no complete equivalent, I could give it my best effort...

I cannot fuck with your genes to make your body attack itself, but I can take a baseball bat to your chest, your lower spine, your SI joint. If it is a rainy day or the weather fronts are changing, I will just wail on every joint you have from your knuckles to your toes to your spine. I will wrap your head in batting so tight that the very thought of light in your eyes will make you cry. I will stuff your ears so that you can barely hear, and cannot make sense of the things you do hear -- only later to remove it all and subject you to such noise that you long for the stuffing. I will knock your legs out from under you when you try to walk, move everything so that it is just out of reach, and recite long numbers as you try to remember your address or someone's birthday or phone number.

I will alienate your friends and family, canceling important events without notice or apparent cause. If they will not come see you, then fuck them because that is the only way you will socialize most of the time. I will make you doubt yourself, the people around you, your ability to do or think a damn thing, and then make you feel bad for being angry about your situation. I may let you go out every once in a while, but I will fill that time with so much fear, doubt, and shame that you will wish you stayed home. Your doctors will become your only major contacts outside of your home, and even then I will not always let you go -- and only the really good ones will even listen to you, let alone believe you.

Whatever heaven you believe in help you if you dare shut me down and try to pretend everything is okay. I do not get to do that, so neither do you.

Most folks that will actually read this never have to worry about any of it. You are kind folks that express sympathy without pity, and accommodate without fanfare -- and as you can probably see, that means a lot to me. This just would not leave my head and I needed to rant.