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Last month, my neighborhood was digging out after a snowstorm. Sometimes it takes me a while to think things through. It might have been the last snowstorm, or the one before that--I lose track. I don't have a car, so I have the privilege of not digging out. On the other hand, I need to spend a lot of time standing around in the snow waiting for buses.

The bus stop nearest my apartment is on a medium-sized street that had been fairly well plowed. The tiny residential street directly across that street was less well plowed, and the car parked nearest the corner was having trouble getting out. One person was struggling through the snow to put a little more kitty litter behind a wheel, then motioning to the driver (a child?), who rocked the car forwards a bit before it slipped back.

The guy next to me at the bus stop pointed and laughed. "She's doing everything wrong. Some people have no clue how to deal with snow." He had his phone out, and I couldn't reach mine without unzipping my coat and taking off my mittens, so I asked him when the next bus would be. 4 minutes. He had been waiting more than 40 minutes, with two buses simply not showing up. He told me about "watching that idiot across the street all that time," spinning the wheels and digging the car deeper, making the problem worse by trying to drive before clearing enough snow from the appropriate places, putting dirt under the wrong wheel.

As I said above, sometimes it takes me a while to think things through. I can't shovel or push without doing myself an injury. I didn't know what I could yell (over the wind, across the street, over the engine noise) that would be heard as useful information rather than hostile or mocking. With 10 minutes, I could go over and explain...but 2 minutes wasn't enough time to cross the road and get back. I was still trying to figure out what to do when I saw the bus coming over the hill, and thus failed to do anything.

There are clues to dealing with winter storms. The most important is that we help each other. (Even more important than things like "wear a hat and good boots" and "stay hydrated.")
Knowing which corner of the car to push on is secondary. Tertiary.
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I was at Readercon for something less than 3 hours. I contributed essentially nothing--no sparkling conversation or deep insight, no organizational help, no money. I talked with a handful of friends, greeted a larger handful of people, and went home Thursday night to sleep for a day and a half.

This morning, a stranger in Somerville asked if I'd been at that book convention in Burlington last weekend? Yes, but only for a little while... And he lit up like people do when talking about a new love. Wasn't it amazing? Yes. Yes it was. No qualifier at all. This afternoon, a different stranger came up to me in Cambridge, and said, "Weren't you at Readercon? Wasn't it great?"

I don't know if everything connected with Readercon, even a tiny bit, is still glowing a little because this year's con was so amazing. Or if people are just overflowing with good will towards the con, and they remember seeing my hat Thursday night. But I want to spread the word that there ARE people so overflowing with good will toward Readercon that they go up to strangers on the street and tell them it was wonderful.
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Elise had a stroke a few days ago.* She managed to communicate enough of the problem that the person with her (sensitized by having one dear friend recovering from a stroke, and another working in emergency medicine) recognized the emergency and called 911. This was all despite Elise's initial desire to lie down and hope the symptoms went away. Thanks to prompt treatment, the stroke did not do permanent damage.

Elise, and the many people who care about her, bounced from profound terror to profound relief. In the first day or so after the stroke, I saw several people posting the news that she was in the hospital, and there was a tremendous outpouring of sympathy and offers to help. From over here, it looked like caring for Elise, caring for the community she helps build, and an attempt to fight back against disease and feeling helpless. Now that Elise is back from the hospital, and her stroke is no longer a medical problem, the community is redirecting the desire to help. I understand why so many people are talking about the importance of calling emergency medical services at the first sign of stroke symptoms. I even understand why the conversation has such emotional intensity--all that energy from fear and relief and the sudden transition has to go somewhere.

It's still making me uncomfortable. Read more... )
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I understand having police cars and fire trucks in a parade. The police and fire departments do good work. For a town this size, the police and fire departments do a substantial fraction of the town's organized and official good work. And it's more impressive, as well as being easier on the firefighters, to have a fire truck driving slowly down the street than to have a bunch of marching firefighters in their fireproof gear (even in this weather.) But, for crying out loud, do all those town vehicles need to have their sirens and strobe lights going as they roll down Mass Ave at walking pace?

Parades are always noisy, and they always block bus traffic on the main routes. But I don't remember previous parades being quite so aggressively nasty about migraine triggers. I had been thinking of going to the gym, or to Trader Joe's, but I think I'm staying inside this afternoon. *sigh* Though I can hope a small town means a short parade.
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I went to services Friday evening, as I occasionally do. The community is very welcoming in a lot of ways, so I've been going off and on for 11 years now. They try hard not to trigger scent allergies, which makes them more physically comfortable than any other synagogue I've attended--more comfortable than most gatherings of any kind. And they're feminist, and concerned about poverty and fairness. So I go there when I want to go to services, even though I usually feel stupid, between how much of the service is in Hebrew, how much the grammar changes to reflect feminism, and how much language-learning ability I've lost. (I never had much. But it bothers me to confront the loss of pattern recognition that doesn't usually matter that much to me.) I go, even though the singing doesn't sound familiar, and the group is so small there's not a reliable minyan. A welcoming community that shares my values is IMPORTANT.

A couple of new people showed up in the middle of services on Friday. It shouldn't surprise anybody when people turn up half an hour late this time of year, considering that services started at 7 in the summer (and early fall) and start at 6:30 in the winter. It still makes me smile when the front door opens in the middle of L'cha Dodi so the congregation is getting up to welcome Shabbat just as strangers are coming in to be welcomed.

After the service, we all introduced ourselves, and stood around making friendly conversation. Some people are better at making friendly conversation than others, as I )

Before the difficulty had been completely sorted out, I lost patience, thanked heaven she wasn't MY kid, and went home. What a tangle. As I said, I don't know the parents at all well, but I know them well enough to be reasonably confident they didn't teach her the appalling stuff above on purpose. It just didn't occur to them to teach her it was wrong until she put it together in that cringeworthy form.


Aug. 1st, 2009 03:24 pm
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I went to the zoo yesterday, with Julian Singer. Various logistical problems had kept us from going earlier, so we planned to go yesterday in spite of the rain. It was raining quite heavily at times, but I had my good waterproof hat with the wide brim*, and Julian didn't seem to mind getting wet, and we had a good time.

In a little building near the Zebra Entrance, zookeepers were raising young birds. (Not the main bird house.) The little owl seemed fascinated by us, and vice versa. We also saw a great sign on the door between the rooms: "KEEP OWL OUT OF DUCK ROOM."

We also went to see the giraffes, as one does. There was a sign beside the enclosure, about giraffes having the highest blood pressure of any mammal, because they need to pump blood all the way up there. Some of the Zoo Teens elaborated on this, explaining that if a giraffe kept its head down too long when drinking, its head would explode. (Or maybe their heads would explode if they held them up too long. No wonder the poor things are so skittish.)

I am no sort of expert on zoo design, so I put the question to my friends. How many different Madagascar Hissing Cockroach Exhibits do you think are really called for in a small-to-medium-sized zoo? Aren't charismatic megafauna the point of a zoo? Julian and I thought they were seriously oversupplied with cockroaches and deficient in otters, but they may think it's better to have the otters at the aquarium.

*When we went into the barn to look at some of the tamer animals, a child asked if I was a farmer. (Or possibly asked if we were farmers. I don't remember. Julian?) "No. We're just visiting the zoo, like you are." I thought she might have regarded my dripping hat as a farmer cue, despite my thoroughly un-farmer-like short purple skirt and flimsy shoes. In retrospect, we might have looked like people who worked there just because we were grownups not attached to a child.
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In all this time I've been living alone and out of work, I haven't gone to the zoo. When somebody visits from out of town, it doesn't seem like a good use of our limited time together. And I've just never thought of the zoo as a solo expedition. But the news that budget problems may cause Zoo New England to shut down altogether is sharpening my vague fondness for the Franklin Park Zoo, making me want to go back sooner than "maybe someday."

Looking over my LJ-list, I realize that quite a few of you live fairly nearby, and are unemployed or working irregular schedules. Would any of you like to get together and go to the zoo sometime? Maybe next Monday, if the weather cooperates? (I'd been thinking of it as difficult to get there, because previous trips seemed to take forever, with getting lost and traffic jams and carsickness, but now I see it's only 45 minutes on the T from Harvard Square. It might even be possible to arrange driving better, with more schedule flexibility and a GPS.) I'd also like to mention that my idea of "getting my money's worth" for something like zoo admission does not mean trying to look at every animal in the park, nor does it mean staying for the full 7 hours the zoo is open. I have a better time if I rest when I'm tired and leave when I've had enough, though I'm comfortable with, "Have a good time with the kangaroos, and I'll meet you back here."
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My Summer Vacation, by Adrian Turtle, age 40.

Saturday: slept almost all day.

Sunday: I tried to scoot to Arlington Heights. This was not a good idea at all. People on the bikeway laughed at me for wearing my helmet, denim jacket, and wrist guard to go along at 6 or 7mph. Furthermore, it was much too hot for my denim jacket. And the helmet was too old to be useful (I never fell on this one, but the foam degrades over time.) I was on the bikeway most of the time, but went through the business district in Arlington Heights proper. The business district with brick pavement. Bricks may be easy to repair, but they make a rough surface for steering a scooter over.

The main reason I was in Arlington Heights was that I thought there would be a community bulletin board in the Trader Joe's. Or the convenience store by the Penzeys. Or the hardware store. Or the Panera. Nope. There's one at the Foodmaster, but when I didn't see anybody advertising carpentry/handyman/furniture-repair services there, I thought it would be a good idea to check other likely locations. When I'm not in the market for the kinds of things that get advertised, I walk right by such bulletin boards without even looking. ("Everybody's looking for the same thing/Same thing it's plain to see/It's an old chevy, a bass player/A country house on 3 acres, 3 bedrooms/Absolutely free.")

I took the bus home. I had thrown away the helmet in Arlington Heights, after the guy at the bike shop convinced me it was useless and I should buy a new one. And my jacket was in my backpack after the first couple of blocks. But it was still pretty awful. I put the scooter away and went out on foot to use the nearest available ATM. To my surprise, THERE was a community bulletin board. Right in the entryway of the bank, behind where people stand to use the ATM. Dozens of people put up cards and flyers advertising different things, including one advertising exactly what I was looking for. I can't quite name what this says about public space, but I feel like it says *something*. That space in the bank is only accessible to people with bankcards. You don't have to pay to use it, but it's not exactly public, either.

Monday: The repair guy came over to look at my couch this morning. He suggested a fix that would make it even sturdier than it was when it was new, and offered me a choice between that and the fix I had in mind. I am tentatively pleased, pending the actual repair work (to be done Wednesday.) He had put his card up in the bank more than a year ago, and forgotten about it, so he was surprised I'd seen it.
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Last night, I was talking with [ profile] ron_newman about, among other things, the problem of building community. He's trying to moderate the LJ "community" for Davis Square (it's a neighborhood about 3 miles from here). It's complicated by the fact that so many participants are just interested in straightforward information on the order of "What vegetarian restaurants are near Davis Square?" and don't want to get involved in discussion. A fair number of the others are easily sidetracked by distractions on the order of "Why would anyone in their right mind be a vegetarian?" which makes for lively discussion, but not what I think of as community.

I'm sure there are technical tools to help build useful online communities elsewhere, but this thing is on LJ. Are any of you involved in similar communities enough to know how they are moderated or otherwise managed? I'm aware of one for Montreal and one for Inwood, but there might be others.
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Last night, I went to Rosh Hashanah services at the Hav. When I lived in Troy, I was so uncomfortable at High Holiday services it was kind of embarrassing. I went to Friday night services a lot, so/because I knew and liked the service and that set of people. The Friday Night Regulars mostly showed up because they liked it and felt comfortable there...that kind of mood is contagious. (I suspect the people who came Saturday morning felt similarly, only being morning people.) But for High Holidays, more than half the overcrowded room was full of people who were dressed up and going someplace uncomfortable and unfamiliar, because they thought it was important to be seen there. That kind of mood is contagious, too.

When I was working, I usually felt conflicted about whether to take time off for the holiday. If I went to work, I could save the vacation time for a vacation I would actually enjoy, or for the luxury of staying home when I was sick. But working on the holiday set a precedent, made a statement of my priorities, I really did not want to make. I don't have the actual conflict this year, but I can still fret about it. Fretting is what I do.

Anyhow, the Hav service started out by being so deliberately welcoming, so thoroughly warm and inclusive that I actually felt welcome despite the context of it being Rosh Hashanah. I felt like a community I wanted to be part of. (I mean something much more local than feeling part of "the Jewish people" which is a scale that's hard for me to connect to emotionally.) Not all the attempts to make people feel welcome and included worked for everyone, but I thought there was a lot of value in just having so many of them. It felt like a recognition of how difficult it can be to "warm up" to pray, or to do anything emotionally substantial in a roomful of uncomfortable strangers.

Afterwards, I went to dinner at the home of someone I had met at a Hav event last month. She found a wonderful solution to the problem of being alone for holiday meals--she invites strangers, or people she's just met, over until her little apartment is full. Unlike all the people whose lives seem to connect with mine in lots of venues, I doubt I would ever meet her without the Hav, but I like her. A few years ago, I invited a handful of people over for lunch after Rosh Hashanah services (this was back when [ profile] shirad lived in Somerville) and it was a lot of fun...but when people cancelled at the last minute, we just had lots of leftovers. I didn't go looking for more people who wanted a holiday dinner, as happened last night. I'll know for next time; this way of being more open and generous is also more fun, and not really any more trouble if a person starts by saying, "there's room for 2 more, who wants to come?" rather than opening the party to an unknown group of unknown size.

As we were walking between the Havurah and the apartment, I saw [ profile] ron_newman, walking home from services on Winter Hill. I'm sure it looked like I was hailing any random stranger in a yarmulke to wish him l'shana tova and invite him to dinner, but I've known Ron since the net was flat. (And he does sometimes go to services at the Hav.) We all had a good time, and it turned out that Ron had just read _Farthing_, which skewed the dinner conversation. But in a good way. Jo, I'd like you to meet Ron. He cares about public transit and walkable neighborhoods, and is generally a decent human being.


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March 2016



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