Cat: Another Stress Inventory

It’s been another day that I haven’t been able to focus. I’m less depressed than I was yesterday, but I’m not out of that proverbial woods yet. Also while my worries are mostly non-local (news, government, not looming fires and smoke), there’s a lot of specific horrible things which look like they’re not going to get better.

Though I’ve been surprised before. Please. Surprise me.

My sweetheart’s been having an atypically long run of bad migraine days. Work multitasking and job insecurity are part of it, though field trips, baby showers displaced needed R&R and family drama (see below) all compound the problem.

Some of Miss Taz peers are exhibiting sexually aggressive behavior. There have been incidents of stalking. Police reports have been filed. It’s a problem.

Other friends with other troubles. (Roommate difficulties, dying parents, lack of professional caretakers, etc.)

A relative of mine whom I respect, religiously believes the President is doing right by the nation, which is disconcerting considering I expect him to be an irreligious, rational man.

The Trump Era itself. More specifically:

The looming North Korea crisis in which Trump seems to be rejecting non-military options.

White Supremacists which Trump condones and encourages, and in some cases, pardons. Trump has also clearly shown disregard for grievances by non-whites

Related to above, Trump has limited aid to Puerto Rico, devastated after Hurricane Maria. Curiously he doesn’t seem to understand Puerto Rico is a part the United States, and is entirely entitled to federal aid and protection.

Less specific to the Trump era, The Las Vegas Strip shooting, yet no one seems to be willing to look at mental health in the US. Instead, we’re restricting a gun part.

Harvey Weinstein was the latest rich, powerful guy to be massively accused for sexual harassment (coercion and assault). (Since followed by more Bill O’Reilly revelations) The thing is, we make our men that way based on how we treat them as teens. And again, no-one wants to look at this.

On a much closer-to-home note, the most recent Subnautica build is frustratingly buggy, and I’ve decided, unplayable. So I need to reconsider what I’m going to use as a distress-tolerance game. I’ve been back to Saints Row titles with 😻, which helps. Still, looking for something solitary to fill the gap.

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Cat: Apple Hill

My sweetheart and I had long been planning a trip to Apple Hill at some point. This weekend all the necessary stars aligned, and we had the grandson for an overnight stay. We kitted the car up with a two-hour playlist of kids’ songs and off we went. Apple Hill is an association of farms in El Dorado county, almost due east of Sacramento in the foothills of the Sierras.

The plan was to 1) Get apples and apple-related food products (e.g. cider and pastries). 2) Find fun things for the boy to do while up there. Also get him a pumpkin. And 3) shop around at the craft pavilions. Also 4) Eat lunch. We accomplished them all. More or less.

Of particular interest to me was the contrast in the farms we visited.

The first was Bluestone Meadow, what felt like a family farm and was exactly what I expected and hoped for. There were a few craft pavilions, a lavender store in the barn and a pumpkin patch (The cashier was nice enough to arbitrarily decide ours was too big for a $4 pumpkin, but not big enough to be a $6 pumpkin and charged me $5.) I was delighted most by the kids’ activities, which had the flavor of hobbyist farmhands getting creative and turning surplus materials into a playground. A do-it-yourself puppet show provided a selection of available puppets and a small stage with benches for an audience. The bee train featured a small tractor (driven by one of the Bluestone family) pulling a string of yellow-and-black striped single-seat trailers. It took passengers on a short tour of the farm by the llamas and the dinosaurs. (There were dinosaurs.) And there were the duck races (which I’ll get to below). I wanted all my Apple Hill stops to be like Bluestone.

The duck races kiosk was, I think, the keystone activity of the day. Plastic guttering (of different bright colors) were set to run the length platform and back, connected by a drainage elbow. A participant would set a rubber duck at the top of the run and then pump water down the gutter (using a lever-action hand-pump). This would carry a duck forward down the track. This was the most thrilling event of the day for the boy, who seemed to like stacking many ducks in a row before sending them down the run. It was even more interesting then the big-feature pay-to-play events we’d encounter later.

Sadly, our first stop didn’t exemplify the rest of our Apple Hill experience. Abel’s Apple Acres is what happens when your farm becomes too much of a tourism establishment. At Abel’s there was a craft pavilion section teeming with tourism kitsch that was disconcertingly similar to the fare of contemporary Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. Abel’s featured a hay maze (which was disappointingly made with fencing, not hay bales), a pony ride and a bouncy house. Our grandson considered the bouncy house, but the crowds were overwhelming for all of us, and we quickly decided the only thing we wanted to see of Abel’s Apple Acres was the egress.

Abel’s tired us old folk out, so we skipped directly to our one planned stop, the market at Boa Vista Orchard. This is where we got all our food stuff, including a gallon of raw (unpasteurized) cider. (Not the hard stuff, though we did get a bottle for a friend for whom hard cider is a libation of preference.) The line wasn’t too long for lunch (tri-tip sandwiches). Alas, it was too long for pastries. We came home with three boxes of apples (Granny Smiths, Winesap and Arkansas Black).

The boy passed out minutes after he was strapped in for the journey home. We stopped in Davis en route to share our spoils with fellow apple-appreciating relatives. By the time we got home everyone was ready for a long nap.

Cat: Triggered Again

I wrote a thing about my sweetheart’s and my trip to Apple Hill which I hope to post soon. But today I’m depressed. The trigger in this case was my Trump-supporting relative who feels President Donald Trump is a patriot and means well for the United States. My relative has acknowledged that he sometimes doesn’t like Trump’s style, even though he seldom disagrees with the man’s policies. I find it horrific that someone I love and respect — who is (or was) a man of science and evidence-based truth — can put such faith into such a monster. (In this case, neither faith nor monster are used lightly.)

At some point he and I will have to compare notes, and we may do so soon starting with North Korea. We hope to find common ground by choosing specific issues and scrutinizing them from a philosophical position (e.g. supposing x, y and z are true and we seek to achieve outcome o then I can concur policy p would be a valid approach.)

But for right now I have to manage my depression, about which my relative’s olive branch is a trigger. He’s dedicated his life to a career in science, and has worked with NASA on projects tracking meteorological data, so he’s been intimate with the profusion of evidence we have for anthropogenic climate change. And yet, he’s able to vote for someone who is not just a climate-change denialist, but believes climate change was created by and for the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive.

It’s kinda like discovering my favorite college math professor is a dyed-in-the-wool member of The People’s Temple and is going on a one-way trip to an agricultural project in Guyana next week. Dude, I think you’re following a compulsive delusional liar and a nuclear madman, but I do hope your adventure into the jungle works out for you.

For now, though, I have to grieve the guy I thought I knew, and also feel a ton of shame for being such a deviant of what he expects. (It’s an intrinsic part of the paradigm of my mental illness. I feel cruddy when my elders disapprove of me. Even when they don’t really. It doesn’t even try to be rational.)

Cat: Sam’s Penis PSA

Samantha Bee posted a penis PSA (as part of her excellent show Full Frontal) targeting men who are afraid of being accused of masturbating in front of their employees. (Don’t.).

But then she goes on: Your dick is ugly. No one wants to see your dick in any context. And while I appreciate her interest in confronting the curiously compulsive need by some guys to send dick-pics to people who are not their sexual intimates (I’ve received a few, myself, without once ever suggesting to any such penis-owners that I was interested in them or their members), I’m concerned about such absolutist language, and not just because I’ve known counter-examples in my life, men and women who find the penis beautiful and likeable, even sublime, and not particularly in that entomologist-studying-a-healthy-specimen-of-Sphodromantis-viridis kind of way.

The thing is, your dick is ugly feeds directly into that sex-as-a-commodity paradigm that burns through men’s society and the internet like genocidal religion. It’s a sentiment that ultimately leads to a society like ours, where harassment (or coercion) is commonplace and accepted as the norm of how adult males achieve sexual gratification: If male ugliness is the default, if women are repulsed by men, then of of course men are supposed to attain sexual gratification by compelling women to surrender it, much the way we’d compel an elk to surrender its flesh to feed our tables. (Sorry, Elk. My family’s gotta eat.)

Adolescent and young adult men across the nation (and across the internet) already believe that women aren’t into sex the way that men are, and that if all men died out, they’d be satisfied with knitting, or munching on each other. Our young people already believe women have to be coerced, by hire, by physical force, by bribery or blackmail or extortion to lend their bodies to starved men. It’s an exchange. The only proper recourse of men is to provide a commodity themselves, money or drugs or a sweet house in which to raise a brood, or in extreme cases, creating circumstances in which the man is the only means for a safe trip back home.

I understand that large portions of our society really would rather not look at our unclean, uncouth, lecherous young people who sometimes will turn to each other or farm animals in order to gratify themselves for a moment. It is curious how our teenage boys are so commonly regarded as repugnant, either too brutish or too milquetoast to tolerate. Our ultimate solution seems to be to just lock our pubescent boys into prisons, that they could fuck and pugilize each other out of our sight until they’re older and their libidos have calmed down.

But that won’t stop the problem. If anything it’ll make their attitudes worse, and it’ll just give them a decade to plan meticulously how they’re going to take vengeance on a heartless, cruel world.

I’ve suggested before, we could castrate our boys when they’re still children (say at five) so that they never develop an interest in sex. Much the way that tonsils or the appendix seem to cause only troubles (or more troubles than they have benefits) so it seems with testicles. This provides a perfect solution to male sexual harassment.

The other option, of course, is to change our society, and stop abandoning our kids once they are pubescent and either aggressive monsters or puny wimps, and too disgusting to be regarded. It is this time that every boy to the last has your dick is ugly driven into their innocent heads. US public school systems across the nation hire abstinence-only presenters for a pretty penny to tell boys their cods are hideous and they will have to pay in gold and diamonds for every coition in their lives. And to girls they’ll emphasize how valuable and precious they are, until they have sex even once (even if by rape) at which point they are entirely useless to society, so their entire life depends on staying a virgin until their prince comes and buys them a house and a trust fund in advance.

This is what the United States believes about sex and sexuality. Boys and girls are fed this, and all other voices remain silent on the matter. (Until they specifically seek those voices out in the public library, or find a proper feminist firebrand in their college Women’s Health professor.)

That is to say, this society of sexual coercion and assault wasn’t born this way. It was made.

So, Samantha Bee, I get you mean well, but when you advise the men of the US Your dick is ugly. don’t worry. They know it. That’s all they’ve known since they were twelve.

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.