Archive for the ‘Other’ Category

My goal for today was to write an inspiring piece about the democratic process and the powerful privilege U.S. citizens have to, in the face of most of human history, be governed by the people, for the people.

No, it’s not perfect (“more perfect union” remember?:). And I’m so ready for this election to be over. I spend a significant amount of my day-job online, and the onslaught of election-related crazy takes a toll. It’s also cutting into my writing time (and I’m not the only one).

So, no deep-think piece about the historical moment in which we find ourselves, or my hope that we the people will remember that the tides of change can move backward as well as forward.

Just freaking vote.

We don’t have to agree on specific candidates or issues to share the belief that democracy is a good and precious thing. Voting is always, always, always important, and not just at the executive level.

Want a place to start to learn more about specific issues? Need help voting? Need information on where to vote?

Or perhaps you need more inspiration, possibly in the form of humor and high-profile actors? (In the midst of this nutzo election? Yes, please!)

Check out this new video by Joss Whedon’s Save the Day get-out-the-vote campaign. Their latest short stars Chris Pine as Congress, you know, If Congress Was Your Co-Worker.


Enjoy, and for the next week remember the best advice ever given to any hitchhiker from Planet Earth:
Don’t Panic!

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Every so often I am struck with the realization that I live in what is, to me, a foreign country. How cool is that?

There I was, about to start up the old treadmill desk and get to work when I looked out the window and had one of those moments. You may know the kind I mean (at least I hope you do), where suddenly everything you see shines with crystal clarity.

Oh, you may think, I hadn’t realized that the neighbor’s maple was quite so magnificent this Fall, and every leaf stands out. I think of it as seeing with a child’s eyes, before “this thing” and “that thing” become a group of “the usual things” that can be ignored without conscious attention.

Do we see each blade of grass when we walk past the lawn? I don’t. In fact, it would be an almost impossible way to live, I think, and I say that with the full knowledge that I am the sort of person who pays attention to the curbs when in Athens. (What? They’re made of marble. And oh yes, The Parthenon;)

I like the everyday, appreciate the curbs and libraries and sidewalk trees that we interact with on a daily basis. The common shapes our daily experience, even as it remains largely invisible. Even so…

I live in a foreign country! Part of my realization was the sudden understanding that I’ve accomplished one of the goals I set when I was a child.

I might have been twelve years old, the details are a bit fuzzy now. There was a group of friends in the room, all of us paging through an atlas (oversized, hardcover, with glossy paper). We argued over where to go, calculated the costs, plotted impossible strategies to get there.

Living in another country seemed the height of adventure. And now here I am.

Canada is lovely and wild, with an often thin edge of civilization anchoring this vast swath of often frigid territory. Approximately 75% of the population lives within 100 miles of the U.S. border, and the continent looks very different up here at night.

North America at night

That mostly dark bit mostly north of the U.S.? Yeah, not water. I’m waving!

Canadian history is much different than the version I grew up with. It captures an ongoing friction between very different cultures and the relatively peaceable integration of those worlds into a single entity. No flashy Revolution here. There are reasons for signs that list both French and English versions of the word “street.” There are reasons for the populations’ deep-seated love of Tim Horton’s coffee, and gravy-drenched poutine. This country has its own twists, its own heroes, its own storied and shadowed chapters.

It’s true that I can shop for groceries in my native language, read most of the signage and do not need a plane ticket to visit my parents, but I no longer live in the place I was born. It’s also true that even Canadians can be crotchety, the bread often has too much flour in it, and there really is only one road connecting the East and West halves of the country. (And they still won’t shut up about that time they burned down The White House…;) But for me, here and now, it’s all a bit magical.

Pay attention, I remind myself. You just might find that the world is a far more beautiful and astonishing place than you remember. You might also realize that in spite of the knowledge that there is always more to do, if you work hard* and you keep moving even when it feels as though you’re going in circles, dreams can come true.

How cool is that?

. . . . . . . . . . .

* Need some motivation? I recommend the PBS Great Performances documentary Hamilton’s America. Both Alexander Hamilton and Lin-Manuel Miranda are inspirational as heck. It’s available online for U.S. viewers. The rest of us may be lucky enough to catch it on our PBS stations. (See? Not the 51st state after all;)

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Damn Lucky

Right now I’m experiencing one of those moments where something goes wrong and I realize how incredibly fortunate I am in general.

The power went out about an hour ago. I’m writing this on my laptop, wishing its battery lasted longer than two hours on a full charge. I won’t have enough juice to get any real work done even if my connection to the internet weren’t down and most of my files on my desktop computer. A hassle, to be sure, and a real problem from a work perspective, but you know what?

I’m damn lucky.

Outages like this are rare here. When I wake up in the morning I do so to an (annoying) alarm clock, flip on the lights, and go about my day. I power up my computer, defrost frozen fruit in the microwave, blend up a smoothie, hit a button to close the garage door. If I need to go to the basement I don’t have to find a flashlight. My telephone, wireless router, clocks and refrigerator, all reliable contributors and as such, usually taken for granted.

Not so today.

I’d include a number of telling statistics on the number of people living without reliable (or any) electricity today but I can’t, because right now there is no Google for me.

I’ll take a pause, give myself a moment to let that sink in: there is no Google. No immediate access to facts and figures, and also no access to files or appointments or phone numbers or email. More critically, no refrigeration for medications or perishables, no air conditioning for the elderly, and for some, no way to call for help if they need it.

As usually happens when the power goes out I am making a list of things to do for next time. I have an analog phone that works without electricity, the number for the utility company written down on an actual piece of paper, and a battery-powered lamp, but as soon as the power comes back on I will also print out more phone numbers, save my files to yet another location, and charge up my devices.

Ah, the room I’m in is suddenly filled with a cacophony of sound, appliances beeping, water pump bubbling, compressors humming. I’ll reset the clocks, boot up the computer, post this missive. And then, when that is done and power is once again unremarkable, I will go back to what I was doing before. Working, warming up lunch in the microwave, checking Google.

And being damn lucky.

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Hey, folks, it’s a crappy day here, rain and wind and grey skies. What’s that? It’s crappy inside too? It’s hard to get your work done and you can’t seem to focus? That’s ok, it’s just…

A Crappy Day.

Don’t fret if you can’t stand the thought of another to-do list, if every single thing you should be doing is annoying the crap out of you. Because it’s (say it with me) a crappy day!

So, what to do? I say go with it! Revel in the mediocrity of the day. Remember that today is Monday and it is a scientifically proven fact that 96% of all Mondays have a better-than-average likelihood of being crappy.* And then break out the big guns.

That’s right, take yourself over to KittenTown and remember, tomorrow will probably be better:)

* Not really, but tell me it doesn’t feel true.

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Author Anne Lamott is turning 61 and took the opportunity to write down “every single thing I know, as of today.”

It’s a lovely list, full of the poignant and practical advice for which she’s known. It can be moving and a little sad, as when she touches on the challenges of family and death, but she also brings out useful truths on such topics as the necessity of exercise and writing shitty first drafts, the beauty of life and persistence and the fact that any of us are even here at all.

I especially like #2:
“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.”

You can find the rest of her list and more on her thoughts in her Facebook post.

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The Gender Politics of Pockets by Tanya Basu.

Conditions are ripe for a revolution in pockets for women…

Go ahead and laugh if you like, but if you do I will argue that (imho) you are probably male. In my experience men often don’t realize that women’s pockets can be a total sham. This is why I liberated my father’s 1960s suit from the back of his closet in my teenage years (well, that and my flings with Vespas and British ska). This is why I adore the idea of Saint Harridan‘s suits for women (inside pockets ftw, people!). This is why I spent a not-insignificant amount at my local tailor to have the front pockets in my new jeans boosted to adult size. Yes, I do want to carry more than a tube of lip gloss in there. Crazy talk, I know!

I don’t use a purse.* You wouldn’t either if you spent as much time as I do thinking about disasters and alien invasions and the zombie apocalypse. When that sort of thing happens you just have to run, you know? Can’t be stopping to find your designer bag. And then what? You’re out in the forest with no phone or money or credit cards or keys or hair band (don’t even get me started on women and hair in action movies**). If I must carry larger items I go for the backpack. (And yes, I two-strap it:)

Addendum: For those of you who want more on the long history (and sad demise) of women’s pockets, check out this useful Marketplace article on the subject: Why women’s pockets are useless: A history. Thanks to my mother, who remembers having similar thoughts 40 years ago, for the link.

* I find them a hassle, easy to forget in inconvenient places, tough on the shoulders, and prone to removal by passing ne’er-do-wells. Although I do like saying “ne’er-do-wells.”
** I’ll just mention that when Sarah Connor tied back her hair in Terminator 2, I cheered. Honestly, have these people never tried to fire a rifle on a windy day with long hair? Not recommended.

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Something Nice

I did a good deed today. No need to get into specifics, but let’s just say that it involved a banking error of no inconsiderable size. I expect it will make several people’s lives easier and that felt good. And hey, doing for others is one key to happiness. I recommend it:)

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