Cat: #MeToo

After the baby shower, I seemed to need to pass out and shamble around lethargically for a couple of days. Also I wrote a thing yesterday, but it was meandery and, I thought, unpublishable — possibly because I’m feeling extra self conscious about things.

The #MeToo thing seems to be trending, in which survivors of sexual coercion and assault are telling their stories. As I noted before, my own behavior was not ideal. I was an asshole (a depressed, crazy asshole at that) from fifteen to twenty-five, and my behavior only improved in steady increments with lessons learned, and a devotion to being an optimal boyfriend (and a good ex). The boyfriend experience I provide remains something of a work-in-progress.

It’d be cool if we could get a similar trend of expressed heartfelt self awareness, say, #IWasAnAssholeToo or something (there are a couple of such posts on #MyBad), just to show that some of us actually recognize that we were part of that repugnant dynamic and want a world where that is not a common norm. That we do want a better, egalitarian world where women can interact with men without fear of sexual attack, and lovers and partners are intimate enough to actually relate and trust each other.

I’m cynical. I don’t think that much is going to change at all. Active forces are moving to push society in directions in which only force is respected, and thus civil intercourse is not. But I don’t think it’s because we all want that kind of society.

Tomorrow, I’m going to San Francisco again. The air quality is super crappy there (AQI 154 in a city without air conditioning). That’s not going to be fun.


Cat: Pink Flamingos In The Pool

Clean air yesterday and today. The Atlas fire is 56% contained.

The baby shower proceeded without a hitch. I went through the day with only a McDonalds blended coffee thing for caffeine. And after the shower, My sweetheart and I went to a gathering of buddies from prior work. Once I got home, I passed out hard. Today, thankfully, I stay home in blissful solitude and play with 😻. I also serve as a lap all day for Stimpy.

Speaking of which, I haven’t had much Ren & Stimpy news since June. A regimen of attention and hot dog slices (more to assure him that he’s regarded) has chilled him out quite a bit. He did revert a bit this week what with people all around, guarding once (a lip balm container) and at another point snapping at me when I was absent-mindedly petting him on the floor. I wasn’t there for the former incident and only heard about it later. But the latter one is curious because it feels like a triggered event, especially since, after I reassured him and treated him with a hot dog slice, he seemed to snap back to his happy, friendly self.

Also, an absurd amount of cake.

Cat: Sexual Frustration

Moderate air today. Yesterday, the air was fresh here at home, but at the nearby Costco it was hazy and stinky. But both places were served by the same weather station, reporting clean air. I pined for the moment of San Francisco, where whether stations are placed in high density (On the other hand, San Francisco alternates between sea air, harbor air and smog).

I wrote a piece yesterday that I’m not ready to publish. My intent was to add to the dialogue regarding the recent explosion of outrage regarding the Harvey Weinstein affair. Between Weinstein and Trump and Cosby (and O’Reilly and Bolling and…) we’ve had a lot of powerful famous men get outed in succession for sexual coercion and assault. It’s a trend that I hope evolves into a permanent culture change towards a more egalitarian, power-balanced future.

But I have cause to be pessimistic.

The piece, as I wrote it left me raw. Outraged. Venomous. Bitter. This summary of it leaves out both specifics and asperity, but some of it’s still in there. Read at your own risk.

Part of the problem, I’ve observed, comes when teenagers — teenage boys at least — become sex maniacs shortly after puberty. This is to say, they transition from being entirely uninterested in sexual matters (except maybe as a point of curiosity and novelty) to being entirely uninterested in anything else. It’s a wonder we bother trying to teach them academics at that point.

The thing is, the rest of the society fails to address this at all. Rather our schools, teachers, parents and ministers strongly imply they should keep it in their pants and not talk about it to anyone. (…and straighten up and fly right, and get a haircut!)

This is American culture all across the United States. It’s how we treat our kids.

Adolescents are stuck figuring out on their own how to survive under these circumstances. Those who have power (in some cases physical or social power) learn quickly to utilize that power in order to attain sexual gratification. That thing where the boy drives the girl out to make-out point, and she realizes that she’s going to have a hard time getting home without his cooperation, so she better play ball? Yeah, that’s been a thing since we invented cars. And serves to exemplify how teenage boys get laid in 20th century United States. Only in the 21st century (if even now!) is this kind of manipulation acknowledged, though it’s still commonly done.

I think when it comes to the Weinsteins and Trumps and O’Reillys of this world, our society does its part to construct them that way. We tell them to conceal and ignore their sexuality, Meanwhile they’re concupiscent enough to fuck a confection. We force them to figure it out for themselves.

And they do.

Sexual harassment and assault run rampant throughout our high schools and societies. For those not fabulously rich, small amounts of power can serve to coerce or assault as well, so long as it is sufficient to overcome the victim. The same way that bullies are pervasive throughout the States, so are sexual bullies.

We’ve ignored the problem entirely throughout the twentieth century, and seduction culture, hypermasculinity, the androsphere and the alt-right have shown us the end result. And we may be disgusted at this, but we may not be willing to do what is necessary to actually create change.

We may not be able to fix this any more than we can fix racism. It may just be too instinctive for us to resent our kids once they become sexually inclined.

This is where I keep stopping (and may stop again before I publish this): I was one of the other teenage boys, the ones stay miserable in silence, the ones who don’t coerce, either because they are bad at it or because they can’t stomach it. (For me it was a bit of both.) The ones we, society, parents, teachers, ministers have never been bothered to care about. We accept our boys so long as they pretend they’re not sexual, but once they express even a bit of rand, the wimpier ones are even more disgusting than their gropier, more predatory peers.

That is to say we Americans, possibly we humans may find Trumpy, Weinsteiny teens appalling to our sensibilities, but we find meek, milquetoast yet sexually-frustrated teens, as I was, even less tolerable. And occasional peers and adults alike will occasionally single one out and mob him like crows pecking apart one of their own flock.

Our society, which is to say our policies, our accepted ethics within communities and the opinions of individuals as expressed by their behaviors give zero fucks about these poor sods who are left to suffer in their misery. And by admitting I was one, I feel like I’m risking incurring that degree of apathy and resentment again from community and country.

I struggled with major depression even in my teenage years. Thus I was not just a wimp but a suicidal wimp. Kids like me these days are commonly barraged with pressure from social media to #KYS. It’s now common parlance.

We seem naturally inclined to cull the meek, leaving the aggressive teens to survive. We care about suicides about as far as we don’t like the messes they leave. Otherwise, we accept that they were delicate snowflakes to the last, and are glad for the elbow room.

I’d hoped that by the 2010s we’d have made progress in how we raise our kids. Frustratingly, no. We still regard our sexually overwhelmed adolescents as pariahs, and they quickly learn to stuff or hide their libidinous interests in order to stay accepted. (The primary message of the US-endorsed Abstinence-only programs is no-one must ever know you are a pervert.)

I’m outraged and frustrated and cynical, and expect our easiest, best solution in the United States is simply to castrate our boys as children.

The alternative would be to acknowledge and regard the sexualities of our adolescents. That is, to say more than it sucks to be you. I doubt we’ll do even that. I’ve been pondering this problem for years, from digital-assistent like AI trainer-girlfriends to teach them to relate to adding courses in mindfulness and self-awareness to our public school curricula.

But considering how well we defy our propensities towards racist or religious bigotry, frankly, I think we have a higher chance of implementing mass castration policy.

What you can do is look at your boy while he’s still five and think about how he’s going to survive turning fifteen without turning into someone that doesn’t routinely coerce sex from women when he’s twenty-five.

Yes, I’m bitter about it.

Yes, I think things aren’t going to change much.

Feel free to argue otherwise.

Cat: This Is News.

Today, the Air Quality Index was above 400 (particle masks outdoors). 500 is time to leave town. Now it’s dropped to 150 80. My sweetheart found this map, which provides the most detail about the fire and it’s continuing march on Vacaville. The winds blow eastward at night, which propels the fire in our direction. Also CAL FIRE has been updating a Google map with the fire perimeters.

We’re still a ways from an evacuation notice, but we’re augmenting our bug-out bags anyhow.

Amusingly, life goes on. My sweetheart’s daughter (not Miss Taz) is flying in today for a baby shower in her honor. A grandson (to whom I’ve referred to here before as the toddler) is here already, and as he approaches four-years-old, he looks less toddlish with each passing day. As for the approaching festivities, we are presuming the best, that the fire will not force us to evacuate, and this weekend’s celebrations will proceed on schedule in relatively clear air.

President Trump’s words continue to catch up with him. He’s seeking to take NBC’s news license away. This is not the first time that angry officials have wanted to challenge the position of press correspondents and take back licenses. Except there are no licenses to take.

This is news. Right here. I, with zero credentials, am journalizing. I’m the press. You can too. All you need to do is start a blog.

It doesn’t matter if I’m an amateur or a (redundantly) paid professional, I’m doing exactly the same thing that journalists do. Albeit, I have opinions. I editorialize. I don’t go out and witness events to report on them, rather I take news reported by others (often official sources) and analyze it. Or I juxtapose that news with other relevant data. Or I simply rant about how crappy it is that things have gone this way, and why that’s crappy.

That’s editorializing. It’s journalism. And online-published opinions of dissent and malcontent is just the sort of thing that gets people jailed in authoritarian regimes. So it’s a big deal when a journalist, even a small-fry like me, goes to jail for what they said.

(Also, there’s no-one to check me. I can totally post outright lies, and it’s up to you to determine the veracity of it. I can help by linking to sources, to ease the process of confirming my opinions are grounded in fact. But ultimately each of us has to determine who to believe. And yes it’s a lot of work. The good news is, it’s much easier to poke around and find out who’s saying the same thing than it was thirty years ago. The bad news is, there are so many other sources, and a lot of them have cause to report alternative facts. We have to be cautious who to trust. Incidentally, usually I don’t post links for verification, rather to clarify concepts I’m talking about.)

Regarding President Trump, he is unlikely to get his wish and take away someone’s press pass. Though it’d probably be pretty funny if he did. Press passes are not ratified or notarized. They have no legal standing. The news agency could just print another one for their de-passed correspondent.

Cat: Purging Deep Geek

At noon today the AQI (Air quality index) is 239. For context 301+ is gas mask time. Less than 50 is normal. A typical smoggy day in Los Angeles is around 80, though that’s less particulate smoke and more ozone.

As of yesterday, a district of Solano county (down by Fairfield) was evacuated already. Vacaville may be evacuated too. It’s the odds are low, but nonzero. We’re packing light bug-out bags in case of this contingency.

Looking at my Sweetheart gathering her family photo journals, this is an advantage of stowing data in the cloud. It eases losses by disaster when all of our important stuff is already safe elsewhere.

Obviously cloud storage is not perfect. The Megaupload seizure revealed to us that disasters can happen at the hosting site as well (in that case, the disaster was quite anthropogenic: law enforcement shut down Megaupload’s hosting in the US, causing clients to lose private and business data.) Nowadays, cloud-locker services keep backups at a tertiary site, reducing that risk. Cloud data is still prone to police searches. And our law enforcement agencies do get over-eager and disregard privacy concerns. Remember to encrypt anything you don’t want to be seen by feds, spies and hackers.

Disasters have been giving me some perspective on how much I want to save. While cleaning the San Francisco residence, I recently came across old binders of deep geek (ancient tabletop RPG characters, world-building notes, old game designs, et. al.) This year’s onslaught of hurricanes inspired my realization that I could probably let a lot of that go.

Most of it, anyway.

PS: I’ve been relaxing about my 200-word cap while we’re on disaster watch. I can’t spare the time and energy for editing I normally would.

Cat: Don’t Panic

Last night, the smoke from the Napa Valley fires spread out to Solano county, and we got to enjoy a particle heavy humidity of zero. My sweetheart had added a spruce scented air freshener thingy (to combat the stinky odors of the catbox) so I spent the late night absolutely sure our building was burning down.

Today, the air quality here was refreshingly clear, but the Bay Area was alerted to close their windows and not go outside. A 4.1 earthquake also hit the area for that full apocalyptic experience.

Trump’s new throw-the-immigrants-out agenda came out leveraged against the DACA recipients. Pence made a big show of walking out of a football game. Trump is looking to pick a fight (maybe a nuclear one) with North Korea. Another batch of onlookers are experiencing the horrific realization that we cannot unelect the President.

I’ve been getting into Kurzgesagt. (The Wikipedia article is curiously in German). I should explain:

Smartphones have become the hallmark of the early 21st century. They’re something between a communicator, a tricorder and the Hitchiker’s Guide To The Galaxy (the eponymous guidebook-device in Douglas Adams’ story).

And yet, for now, Wikipedia continues to serve as the standard repository of all knowledge and wisdom, becoming something of an Encyclopedia Galactica. This is well and good for most matters academic. But Wikipedia is regarded as a bit stiff within many of the more relaxed civilizations on the Outer Eastern Rim of the Galaxy, who’d prefer cheeky videos that explain concepts in a Peter-Jones- / Stephen-Fry-esque male received dialect and illustrated in friendly, colorful animations. That’s Kurzgesagt. I found The video series on YouTube. It nicely scratches that H2G2 guidebook itch. Also its library features a handsome selection of space-related topics. The series also covers other fields of science, as well as serious subjects topical in 2017.

I’m not connected to Kurzgesagt in any way. I just think its videos are hoopy.

Cat: The Evils of Gun Enthusiasm

There’s this thing that happens. I can’t put my finger on it. But I can sense it happening.

A pundit addresses gay matters. She’s certain they’re all rapists of little boys.

A representative sees all women as simultaneously childish and promiscuous.

An official speaking of Muslims is certain they are all extremist and supportive of terrorists.

The Press Secretary talks about Latin-Americans. To her they’re illegal citizens. Even the ones born here. Even the naturalized ones.

I’m reminded of Jon Stewart talking about the way we imagine identity groups as monolithic, a single culture, a single entity. The President believes every black American is in the same streetgang.

This time, it was from folks on the left, talking about gun regulations, and there’s clear inference that every gun enthusiast is a rampage killer waiting to pop off.

I haven’t figured out the specifics, but it’s there. Inferences become so natural and automatic and it’s the same on both sides.

It’s the way they presume a sound suppressor enables James-Bond-style assassins (fwipp! fwipp!), rather than allowing hunters and range shooters to keep their hearing for a bit longer.

Let’s not play the poison skittles game, folks, with any demographic.