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Hello, and welcome, whoever you are.

If you would like to read this blog, please do so, and I'd appreciate a comment so I know you're here. I use it for musings of sporadic sorts, and for keeping in touch with friends, though right now most of them are reading and commenting on the carbon-copied version of my entries over at Livejournal (may they move soon!). Many of my entries are locked, so if you want access and have an (old kind of) OpenID, ask me for access. I also have an opt-in "cat" filter that I don't use much, and a "rants" filter for when I'm just full of rage (though I have rarely needed that either, recently).

Bye LJ

Apr. 9th, 2017 08:16 pm
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If you haven't read about the new User Agreement: I wasn't sure at first if it might be an overreaction, now I'm taking it seriously. I had to "agree" to the terms to import my whole journal over to Dreamwidth. Also, in order to delete my account. I haven't entirely decided about deleting my account either, but I'll definitely delete my entries.

Obviously, I don't really use LJ anymore, nor do I use Dreamwidth much, although perhaps I will start to, who knows. But I want the records, in any case.

Edit: I think I'll delete entries as soon as they're imported, and delete my journal sometime in the next few days.
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Ursula K. Le Guin has a blog, on which she invokes her freedom not to interact with readers. I think that's wonderful, but then I love so many things about her writing, I'm content to admire her from afar.

She did reply to a struggling grad student though, saying "grad school is a very dangerous place", even comparing its stress levels and mental health risk to Afghanistan. I think that's not an appropriate comparison to toss off without an argument, but I would say that grad school is dangerous. Not less so for me than that student, having constantly delegitimized my own depression and isolation, because after all it's a huge privilege to be in a PhD program with funding.

I would tell people I care about: don't do it because you're ambitious, or not do it because you feel inadequate. Don't even do it because you might regret missing the opportunity. Maybe do it if you love the subject itself so much, that you want to take a chance to be trained in it more deeply, that you'd want the learning even if there were no degree at the end. If you love the craft so much that you are willing to put up with a dysfunctional apprentice system. If you go down this road, make sure you have the strength it takes, or the support it takes, not to lose track of yourself, your priorities, and your mental health, in case things get hard. Make sure you are dreaming of multiple futures.

I don't think I regret doing grad school; I've always loved math, and I have learned so much, and have enjoyed being so sharp and curious. I really am excited to see where else my analytical skills take me. And when I talk about the things I really want to do, rather than dismiss them as too hard to bring about, it makes me energetic and creative rather than depressed and overwhelmed.

Nevertheless, I might wish to go back and tell myself to quit after my third year, that once that loss happens that makes me know my personal life is more important than anything else to me, I won't get over it. That is, I won't go on just as before. I won't be able to have as many joyful moments of immersion in math, although I will be able to make something I am proud of. I will meet the love of my life as I know it, and that will give me this strange feeling that now there is no ideal time in my life to look back to, that choosing one would always mean giving up some joy and light.

I'm defending my thesis on Wednesday. I have the summer to add more to the draft I sent to my committee last week. Last Tuesday evening, I finally filled in the last link in the chain for my main theorem, and stopped being afraid that it would all fall apart. At long last the prospect of writing more is not panic-inducing or overwhelming, and is a project I can handle. And the idea of co-writing a paper even after (or while) graduating, is also exciting.

There is a professor coming to speak tomorrow, whom I haven't seen since he visited Harvard in 2007, because he's been in England. He taught me freshman math major stuff including differential forms, and then taught me basic topology. Six years later, having finally figured out what subfield of math I wanted to do, I looked up what he does now, and it turns out he's in the same field! (Actually it seems he has one foot in symplectic and the other in algebraic geometry, but many symplectic people have another foot in something.) I can't help wondering if his way of approaching things was really so influential and appealing to me, that I kept looking until I found something like it. It is that specific part of the world of ideas, that I will miss.

I'm looking forward to seeing Tom tomorrow. He and his wife did advise me to make my decisions based on how much I loved math or didn't, not on how good or not I thought I was. So it will be strange to tell him I'm done with academia, and that I don't quite know what happens next. Strange, but all right, I think.
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I'm often not sure what to say about marriage equality. How do you explain "the HRC is a terrible organization, privileges white cis gay people, especially men" and "marriage equality is a conservative cause" and at the same time, mention that many working-class LGBT families of color would do a lot better given marriage rights? How do you talk about the problem of marriage being assimilation and making it harder for other families (especially where kids are involved), without making your friends who are married or want to get married think you may be belittling their lifestyle choices or ignoring their economic needs? How do I say one thing in less than a paragraph this length?

But this post is a must-read. Calling in a Queer Debt.
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My friend Tiara posted this status today. It seems all my friends in Boston are physically okay, but this made me think and be scared about friends who might indeed suffer from social backlash. I consider it part of supporting this friend to share the status and ask that others do so, or find other ways to convey similar ideas to anyone you think you can reach.

"Any sort of speculation is just going to be playing into the dangerous hands of bigotry - even when it's "this has the hallmarks of Group XYZ" (which sounds scientific but is just as baseless as anything else). Whether you think it's Al-Qaeda or the Tea Party or North Korea or anarchists or pranksters or whoever, we don't have the information any which way, and we're not in a position to really ever know.

Far more important than wondering who did it is to protect those that are going to be negatively impacted by the speculation - for example, people of color in the US who already are in danger from being assumed to be terrorists even when there isn't a related incident - as well as supporting those who were directly affected however we can (sometimes this does mean staying put). Protecting civil liberties is especially important now because incidents like these end up being excuses for the stifling thereof - look at how the Patriot Act came out of 9/11.

Look out for each other; let's not find ways to make anyone else the Other even if out of "safety".

(I'm making this public; please feel free to share.)"
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Unlike many Christians, my family and, I imagine, a lot of Irish have no problem saying that Christian traditions come from pagan ones. We tend to be happy that rich Celtic traditions have survived. But check this out, it's pretty great.

Edit: I enjoyed reading that but it's not really careful at all about distinct cultures, and it has the false etymology of "estrogen". Too bad.
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Who is harmed by a real names policy: I found this article excellently comprehensive.

A photo from 1965 alongside a photo from last night's Brooklyn protests. Showing how little has changed.

Speaking of visceral demonstrations of bad history and the present that sometimes re-enacts it, this blackface montage (blackface, cartoons and other portrayals of black people) from Spike Lee's Bamboozled. I don't know about the film in general, people seem to think it's supposed to be satirical, but the music suggests deep sadness. I wonder who to even show this clip to. I am glad I watched it, it was an injection of so much context that makes blackface never okay. But it would also be needlessly horrifying and upsetting to anyone who already understood this intuitively.
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This short post about recognizing his legacy is on point.


Jan. 18th, 2013 09:16 pm
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I accomplished a life goal on Tuesday that I didn't know I had until recently: got Julia Serano to come speak at Stanford.

Her talk was deliberately accessible, a version of "putting the femme back in feminism", but the event was called "what we think of blue and pink" due to the freshman (Zoey) I was planning with. Serano seemed to like that theme, she played it up a bit, so Zoey was happy.

There's really been a lot of stress leading up to this, wanting to get good funding, and good publicity. I did most of the work, though supported by two others; but then at the end, several people pitched in, gave opinions, added things, did publicity, and so the event just went *way* better than it should have. I was also glad at the number of people who came, demonstrating that (gasp) you don't need to be trans or interested in trans feminism to get that Serano's work is important! Though, some of the trans students who did come were pleasantly surprised to see each other, and to see the size of the audience.

Maybe I'll write something more concrete about what I got out of the talk. It solidified things I already knew, and made them much easier to understand. It was funny, especially the part about frivolous masculine clothing, "baseball caps and jerseys with things on them that don't do anything!". It...I dunno, during the talk itself I was disappointed that there weren't big new lightbulbs, but I haven't got over how well it was presented. And I realized there were ideas that slid so neatly into my brain I thought I had always known them. I also had forgotten that it was Whipping Girl that taught me about traits being "marked" vs the default, and the effects of that--a big reason why I started using "cis". I had forgotten what it felt like to have confusing seemingly contradictory chunks of information, awareness, and stories, all tied together with their differences used to more clearly illustrate a picture.

We also got to have dinner with her. I did not act all fangirlish. A couple others did, not that I blame them. For me, doing that makes it harder to have a real interaction with someone, and I'm interested in hearing bits of the real person if they're willing to share, or I guess, making them comfortable.
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I'm not going to Vericon this year. Nevertheless, I want to encourage anyone who is to read N.K. Jemisin's work beforehand, or anyone to read her books in general.

I wouldn't say this review of Killing Moon is really spoiler-y, but maybe it is a bit when it comes to the characters' relationships, but check it out.

Also, Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is an earlier book and maybe that shows up, in how its characters fit fantasy personality tropes better; still it is a glorious weaving of fantasy into new mythology.

And I love N.K. Jemisin's treatment of culture. I am excited to see what she comes up with next.
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Was talking to a friend this morning about the two-sided tactic of humanizing oppressors, and trying to see oneself as "a good person" while ignoring how one participates in oppression. It was more specific than that, but.

It shouldn't work. "They are oppressing people" shouldn't mean "I don't recognize their humanity". "I am a participant in oppression" doesn't mean "I don't deserve to live" and shouldn't invite useless self-hatred. Similarly, "they are nice people" should not be taken to mean "they are not hurting anybody", and "I am a nice person" does not mean "I am not hurting anybody". (I remember gaudior writing about this too.)

It makes me hate activist communities sometimes, because I see the same self-righteousness cfishy warned me about, and they think of themselves as "better" morally. But that's actually a gross caricature, I just hate it a lot when the grain of truth shows. I think that I too often come across as extremely self-righteous, which I am not trying to be most of the time: I get angry sometimes, but often I just want to talk reasonably about how things could be better, and expect thoughts in return, but find people won't listen or don't have thoughts. Or are tired, that too.

You can understand someone's situation, and limited choices, and maybe their thinking, while also understanding where the wrong is and thinking about how you push them to do better, how can do better yourself and make harder choices. Why is this hard: why is it hard to simultaneously relate to someone's humanity, and criticize their actions? I feel like it isn't, but it has been for me sometimes.

Do we just have that strong an instinct to try to divide things into "good" and "evil"? Is it exacerbated by cultures of individualism that translate to drawing lines between categories, between people? Is that connected to an emphasis on security and safety and sameness and building and 'progress', that translate to violent forms of control? How much is it about the settler colonial legacy of the US, how much does everyone do it through their own frameworks, how much can it be changed?

(In other news, no matter how my thoughts develop, I guess life will always be something of a logic puzzle to me.)
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I am really enthusiastic about this article. Not only is it clever and light-hearted, it really speaks to the damage done by the Golden Rule: when we act based on pre-conceived notions of how others should feel, rather than how they actually do.

It could potentially reduce the need for frustrating conversations such as:

--I didn't mean to make you feel X, why do you feel X? (in the article itself)
--Intent isn't magic, or: consider the intent but acknowledge the impact
--If I don't treat everyone exactly the same, isn't that bad?
--If I see people as different, doesn't that mean I won't respect them all the same?
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I'm not super friendly to the idea that people can give any single evolutionary theory for how gender and sexuality work. Many people have demonstrated how culture factors in, and many have also ignored this. Many* have also pointed out that sexual behaviors in humans have multiple purposes, not only mating. The best hypotheses for the biological component of sexuality and gender I've seen involve natural variation in hormones at different stages of development. Those have some evidence under tests, I think, but they don't usually claim to explain all of it.

There are also many supposed evolutionary reasons for our variations in sexuality and gender, though one of them is that "evolution is messy". Selection may work differently for those who are XX vs XY and who reproduce. But for example, a tendency toward "more testosterone at life** stage Z than usual" in an XY parent can be passed down to an XX child, and behavioral tendencies can also be passed by meme or by gene to children not of the same karyotype; and then the selection on the same trait works differently for parent and child. And that has to incorporate how selection works on people according to the way they negotiate gender with their societies (some of which, it bears repeating at the risk of a total derail, have codified roles for more than 2 genders, and some of which like ours try to enforce binary gender but give flexible roles). It's complicated.

But too often people's thoughts on the subject divide us into Normals and Queers: the former have passed examination already and the latter are curious zoo creatures. Tell me why I exist, again? Tell me why you think your nature-interacting-with-nurture is independent of mine?

*most recently, the post that inspired this. Not attacking that if you've seen it, there was a lot of useful thought in that about various behaviors, and I know its author has reason to think in a way counter to usual social bias. But pointing out issues that can come up with a larger discourse. I do feel prompted to share words on a subject I've put a lot of reading/thought into but am usually not happy to talk about.

**I mean that life begins at conception. Independent life (i.e. not symbiotic with other humans) usually begins at birth. Personhood is full of questionmarks.
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Today (Nov. 23) is Native American Heritage Day. Here are the things I looked up yesterday, a collection of Native or Native-centric perspectives on Thanksgiving.

The Wampanoag story of Thanksgiving, which I believe I linked last year.

The one that most tried to answer my questions, but at a 101 level (not that I'm much beyond 101), is called Should you Celebrate Thanksgiving?

A fairly simple thing about how Native Americans, such as the author, might want to celebrate the holiday

A completely non-analytical thing but an example of celebration: Navajo chef Freddie Bitsoie recommends goose for Thanksgiving.

On the more critical side:

I messaged a former classmate from "Native America: the West" (probably the class I am most glad I took in college), who answered me saying in part: "in both Boston and San Francisco the Native communities put on events (Un-Thanksgiving and Sunrise Ceremony, respectively) to celebrate Indian people rather than pilgrims".

She also had on her wall some pictures expressing her anger about the day, such as "celebrate Native resistance", and this well-written article about problems with Thanksgiving.

One that made me snort with laughter, and its mostly on point critique, as well as frank talk of how the interviewees do celebrate Thanksgiving: "You're Welcome Day". Why some Native Americans can laugh about Thanksgiving

Some commemorate a Day of Mourning on Thanksgiving in New England every year.

Something on the conservative side that made me hate everything. saying activism for Native Americans is 'anti-American' and shit

A short but on point comment about immigration that made me go "!!!" (like in Tintin comics)

I should also have included background on oppression. I learned a lot of recent historical factors that are contributing, and current ongoing difficulties with how tribal sovereignty works, how directly predatory actions by companies are ongoing, and the different struggles for tribes who want to be recognized. (For an example of how such things can come together digest this. Note the usual violent state police reactions to peaceful protests.)

Finally, rather horribly: I've heard that anti-Native racism is a big problem in Canada. Here's what the current right-wing government is planning to do there. I only skimmed that, but it looks really, really bad.
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for Americans, whatever that means, Native and not: How do we put the giving back in Thanksgiving?

What is a good way for non-natives to honor Native Americans without adding insult to injury? Should we take the day as a reminder that systems of inequality are still robbing many Natives of their health and well being, depending on their situation? Should we also give money to Native organizations working to improve that problem (or in my case ask well off family members to do so)? I do not find "leave the country I was raised in to live in one I wasn't" to be a fair answer though I would be interested to hear discussion about that too.

(on a totally different subject for those of you who have opted into the "rants" filter I will put something up later that may be interesting ideas on why some of us have different perspectives.)
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Here is a page of live updates for the attacks on Gaza and Israel, with three relevant links on the side. The mainstream media is pretty unreliable right now, though it is hard for them. There is some live tweeting on both sides, but it looks like the Israel Defense Forces have been taking down Internet use in parts of Gaza, and a friend in Israel says citizens are being discouraged from live-reporting the rocket strikes.

Edited to add: I was wrong about the media, sort of. The mainstream media in the US is ignoring both sides, or ignoring casualties in Gaza and reporting only on Israel; media in several other countries are reporting both sides.
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Something I think I should say, that has been prompted by recent conversations: I'm not a liberal, and neither do I particularly like liberalism. When I've said I was a "social liberal", it was either because that was a phase, or because I didn't have the vocabulary to say otherwise. I have recently come to understand what "liberalism" really looks like most of the time, and to realize that my current way of thinking is only superficially, or one-dimensionally, compatible with it. (My current way of acting? I just hope to work on it.)

this is not actually that long )
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Some people have been sending emails about what presents they want for Christmas or other holidays. I do not usually give gifts on holidays anymore, more like at random times and when I see people and when I see things they perhaps it would be good to tell me if you want to exchange presents! Is that too direct?

My usual, best, default answer is "interesting socks". I love colorful socks, mismatched socks, long socks, interesting-looking socks, but ones that are practical to wear, you know, with shoes. Not so much with the toe socks, it turns out. It's pretty hard to go wrong giving me interesting socks though, and I really will appreciate them. I tend to wear them out pretty fast, unfortunately.

But other things I would appreciate, where small donations make a big difference:
A couple queer writers and activists of color with health issues and not enough insurance, in need.
donate to help writer Aurora Levins Morales (read about her)
donate to Yasmin Nair
I would also love donations to Natalie Reed, because at the moment I'm quite worried about her. She's not the only person whom I care about who needs money, not by a long shot, but it's hard to negotiate these things...
though more directly, I go to events where great poetic artists who have healthcare and other needs are featured, and if I had some kind of "fund to donate at those events", that would be awesome. I can often spare some myself, but not always.

Local programs that I'm pretty sure are very effective:
The Larkin Street Youth Center for homeless youth
The Lyon-Martin Health Services which are so desperately needed by many people here in the Bay Area. San Francisco has reasonable health plans but a lot of people rely on Lyon-Martin not only for basic healthcare, but because they're queer, possibly transgender, and want to be treated with respect. Which isn't to say that doctors outside of Lyon-Martin could not provide such care, but it's harder to know beforehand.

I know that there are many good people outside of the US who need support. I know that neil_werewolf has pointed out that Giving what we Can has pointed out very effective charities overall, so rationally, I could recommend those. There are other causes I like, too, ones that I think have a better donor base already. But these people, and possibly others you could draw to my attention who give a lot of emotional healing to others through their art, are people to whom donations would gladden my heart.
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or suburban neighborhoods thereof. In the autumn:

2004 Boston
2005 Boston
2006 Boston
2007 Boston
2008 Philly
2010 SF
2011 SF
2012 SF

Of these 8 autumns, FIVE OF THEM have featured the local baseball team winning the World Series.

And no, I can't name a single player on any of those 3 teams. I like baseball more than football, but not much.

(Other autumns I spent in Princeton or Palo Alto. Not close enough to cities, or perhaps to be safe, since Palo Alto styles itself a city, I should say "not within a few miles of a baseball stadium for an important team").
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Too many feelings right now. But can I just draw your attention to this, because it is cool?

African-American Speculative Fiction Before WWII
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