Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Out in the open

Building on yesterday's post, there are trends in society that bother me, and that we should reverse.

is possible that if I am worried about abusive TSA agents or trouble in customs that it was stupid of me to post about it. The probability of drawing attention is low, but it does still exist. It might make sense to hold my breath and wait, but I am not that kind of smart. If I am thinking something, it's not really that I blurt it (usually), but I will keep thinking it and churning it over until it comes out.

I am sick of separate groups. I have been added to so many lately.

It's not that I don't see the point. I have made a few connections that I really like through some of them, and I have learned some interesting stories. There can be value in connecting. After I left the one Mormon liberal group because they were racist, I was still getting frustrated with the other one because they were so Sanders-blind. That made the pro-Hillary group for Mormons a breath of fresh air.

(I do worry a little about mentioning them at all, but there are so many others that I don't think I am actually revealing anything.)

That is one of the problems. The points of agreement may not be unifying enough. Like with one group just focused on good government (also Mormon), one admin admonished someone for commenting "spoiled jerks" on an article about Trump, because we are not partisan so there shouldn't be any name-calling. While that particular epithet was pretty mild, if it had been directed at a poster I would have agreed. If we can't admit that Trump is spoiled and a jerk at the very least, I'm not sure how effectively you are going to be able to advocate for good government.

They aren't all related to my religion. Some are local, and because of people I know. In all cases I get why they do it. They post the things they feel and they get rain of abuse and stupidity that makes them want to curl up in a ball or delete the internet (or both). The group serves a purpose for them.

But for me, I get online and I see 9 notifications, which I check carefully because I don't want to miss an interaction. I check, and none of them are interactions; just people posting. Then I turn off notifications, and then I might as well not be in the group because I see nothing.

If I needed the outlet, it would matter more to me, but I do say what I want. Granted, that has meant standing up to a lot of insults and researching and digging my teeth and feet in like the most tenacious bulldog ever. That was not fun. It seemed to work, because most people seem to have given up arguing with me, but then perhaps I have created an even more isolating echo chamber than those in the secret groups.

(And so many of the group members are related to their persecutors that they may not find it practical to go into bulldog mode with them.)

I don't worry about that as much as I could, because the truth is I use Twitter a lot more, which I find much better for information and even for connecting in some ways.

Twitter works for me, but a lot of people aren't on it. For them to arrange Facebook in a way that is somewhat gratifying and comforting makes sense, except this shouldn't be necessary.

They should be able to say the things they feel without other people rushing in to tell them how stupid and wrong and un-American they are. Why do we think it's okay to stamp out any dissenting opinions? Why do we think it's okay to make others afraid to speak? Doesn't that sound un-American?

It's just one more thing we get wrong.

Related posts:

Monday, May 22, 2017

Worried about this trip, part 2

The first part of my worries were specific to our family and health situation, but it is worse because of the world.

I am not thrilled that pat-downs are getting more invasive or that it seems like TSA agents might be getting more abusive:



Questions about passwords don't seem great either:


Of course the laptop ban does look at what country you are coming from (which doesn't make it better), so would be unlikely to affect us, but you know, airlines tell you not to check small electronics and that they won't replace them if they are lost or damaged. It's a horrible policy.


However, it may be easier to get to the root of my concerns by looking at the things that have been happening on the planes, after the TSA.


The most interesting discussions were about the United incident, so let's go there.

First of all, overbooked is the wrong word for that. They needed space for employees that needed to get to another city, but that is not the same as having sold too many tickets. One interesting discussion point was that there is a good chance that the airline does not have enough employees to cover a few call ins. That's certainly possible, knowing how everyone is trying to cut costs.

That leads to the other thing. Rather than random selections, they were picking the passengers who'd paid the least. When they selected Dr. Dao, they already had three people, but they chose someone traveling with his wife, bumping two people. They went with someone who had considered volunteering, but because it would delay him overnight (keeping him from scheduled appointments with his patients), chose not to. Those both seem like good reasons to leave him alone, but he had paid less for his ticket.

I always search for lower fares. I have to. We can't afford to travel if I don't do that. Is it weird that I think if they are willing to sell me the ticket at that price that I should be able to go? It no longer gets me a meal or a free checked bag, but still, it should give me that trip. I guess in a world where the rich have a private lounge and cameras for gloating at the less fortunate, there is no more logical line of division:


There are two other interesting things about that. One is that the airline should have been able to arrange ground transportation for the crew, or offered limos to the bumped passengers. That wouldn't be a possibility with all routes, but in this case it was doable.

The other things is that even though the airline was clearly out of line - probably due to poor planning - it is the doctor who had his past dragged over. None of that affected his actions or the airline's actions, but there always has to be a reason why the abuser is allowed to abuse. Too many of our patterns involve upholding the already powerful.

So I worry about navigating this. Worrying about making connections in an unfamiliar airport with my mother's bad knees is not new. Worrying about her getting a little disoriented because of the dementia is newer, but still something that I have dealt with and can. Worrying that someone will judge her for her accent, or that someone in a low level authority position will be abusive because they are underpaid and overworked and the only thing that satisfies them is making someone else suffer, that is new.

So I have added the phone numbers for both senators, our representative, and the ACLU into my phone. I probably won't have to use them, but I wish I didn't have to worry about it.

Don't we all have enough worries already?

Friday, May 19, 2017

Band Review: The Slants

As I wrap up my first attempt at commemorating Asian Pacific American Heritage month, I realize that I have been doing it wrong, locating musicians from Asia but not Asian-American musicians. (Except for Lampano Alley, they have all been Japanese.)

That is something to think about for next year. One difficulty is that there aren't a lot of Asian-American bands. In fact, today's band, The Slants, are commonly considered to be the first and only all-Asian American dance-rock band. At least I am getting them in today.

It was always going to happen, sooner or later. They are a Portland band, and have been on my radar since the Oregonian ran an article about their difficulties in trademarking their name. The case was resolved in early 2015, and I think the article I read happened just prior to final arguments. I can't find it now, but here is an interesting short video on the topic:

Of course I would want to check them out. Subverting the language of the oppressor is a thing that I often see the value of, and would like to defend, but I don't have good words for expressing it because I have never had to do it. They put it in a song! They have a song about their court case and it is fantastic!

I admit I was expecting them to be more punk, based on the case alone. They are more dance-rock. There are times when they remind me of Depeche Mode, but there are also echoes of that time when Interpol was big and The Killers put out Hot Fuss. You may especially notice this on the enticing "Love Within My Sins".

A great introduction to the band would be their 2017 EP, The Band Who Must Not Be Named.

It starts out with "From the Heart". That's the song about the court case and I love it - not just for the message but also musically. The third track is my second favorite, "Endlessly Falling".

"Level Up" is a nice tribute to their fandom. The Slants are popular with cosplayers and convention goers and geeks. (This also comes up in some videos.) "Fight Back" could be an anthem for any of the put upon, including geeks, but the keyboards kind of give some video game shout-outs as well.

Finally, "Sutures" is deeply personal and thoughtful. The acoustic version here (it has been performed with Dez Cadena of Black Flag, so that's another way of doing it) shows another side of the band.

I think after going through the EP, there is good reason to continue checking out other music, and find additional treats there. They are very much worth checking out.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Band Review: Yellow Magic Orchestra

One of the unintended themes of this month has been finding musicians of amazing longevity. Yellow Magic Orchestra is no exception, having begun recording in 1977. They have had off periods and performed under different names, but even in the band's down times the individual members have been very productive.

I do not remember anything about them from their first time around. Their song "Firecracker" was mentioned in Mad World (Mad World: An Oral History of New Wave Artists and Songs That Defined the 1980s by Jonathan Bernstein and Lori Majewski). "Firecracker" became a song of the day when I was going over music from there, but I also made a note to check out the band later.

I'm glad I did. If "Firecracker" was all I knew, YMO could fit into the field of random synth pop instrumentals, like "Music Box Dancer" or "Popcorn"; they are so much more.

"Computer Game" goes in the realm of chiptunes, which I can't listen to for very long. That was the first other song I heard, which was discouraging. There was still more.

That may be one of the most impressive things - how much YMO did and did early. They sampled and reconstructed and were cutting edge for a few different genres, some more trippy and some more poppy. They can be suggestive like on "See-Through" (I guess the name kind of sets you up for that).

"Thousand Knives" and "Rydeen" are good listening. I especially liked "Kai-Koh" and "Expecting Rivers". Still, I don't think anything matches the joyousness of "You've Got to Help Yourself". And it's odd, because there is a subdued delivery to the song, that seems incongruous with the joy, but that's still how I end up feeling.

One of the most frustrating parts of listening is that there were skits on Service, and I have no idea what they were about. I suspect they were smart, and had points that mattered.

At least music is universal.


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Worrying about this trip, part 1

It feels a little cruel that I have so much anxiety about this trip when travel is one of my favorite things. Here I am going somewhere I love, and I am in knots about it.

I mentioned something superstitious yesterday: my mother's siblings have died in pairs. One uncle and one aunt died three months apart, and another two died a week apart. (Technically there were also two who died in childhood, but separated by a few years.) They didn't necessarily go in the pairs that you would expect, like older ones going together, or ones who were especially close going together, but you notice. When grief comes that close together, you notice.

(Debbie Reynolds dying so soon after Carrie Fisher may have messed me up in this regard.)

There are only two left now: my mother and her oldest sister, who will turn 95 this summer. They are especially close; my aunt was like a second mother to my mother. I don't know how well my mother would do without her. And, my aunt kind of feels like she has lived too long.

She hasn't just taken special care of my mother, but she has been the one who was there for everyone, not having children of her own. She has been without her husband for a long time, and she has seen beloved brothers and sisters who were younger leave her behind. She recently fell and broke her femur. Falls are not good for the elderly.

The trip had been scheduled before that happened, because I felt like they really needed to see each other again, and I was already starting to worry about time. One thing I had done differently is booked a hotel, because - after checking with a cousin - it felt like we would be too much work for her. (You can intend to not be work, and tell her not to worry about things, but she will still worry.)

Still, I thought that would be okay. We could stay at the hotel at night, but then visit her each day. There had been talk (and some pressure from her in-laws) of her moving into a home for seniors. Maybe we could help her with some sorting and packing. Or, if their visiting was going well, maybe I could sometimes leave them and go do a little sightseeing of places I was rushed through before.

Now my aunt is in a rehabilitation facility. We can still visit her, but I suspect we won't be able to do very long visits. Being there is still really important, but it will be different. I don't think there will be much me time, but the odds of that were always pretty good.

Also, I keep remembering things from our last trip. Although that was long before she started forgetting old things, there was a moment of disorientation on the plane. She asked something about where she lived, and I told her Aloha and she told me I was joking - she didn't live in Aloha. Then a few minutes later she realized I was right.

I attributed it to being confusion between her old home and her current one, and that didn't repeat. Instead the memory problems while there were more not being able to keep straight how long we had been gone, or how much time we still had left. Also she kept forgetting that the airline had lost her bag, which came up every time she wanted to change clothes or moisturize. (We can each bring one bag with no additional fees, but I am still toying with the idea of carry-on only.)

This time, she is someone who gets confused about where she lives and how many kids she has while looking at them, and I don't know if the disorientation will get worse. Maybe touching base with her past will help, but it might not and I don't know.

Those are just concerns about being there, and not about getting through connections and security, where her knee replacements always set off metal detectors and the beeping and the instructions just confuse her.

That gets to another area of concern. If all goes well, I will write that in advance, and post it Monday before we leave for the airport. I do not feel capable of predicting whether all will go well right now, at least in terms of maintaining daily blog and song posts.

What I do know is that it has felt good to express these dark feelings. I have written them in my journal, but it also helps to be public. These are my fears, and like most fears they have varying degrees of probability, but I own them.

The other thing that I have to reaffirm is that I still believe this trip is the right thing. I can imagine hastily booking after the fall - the urgency I felt before being replaced with desperation - and spending at least another $700 on plane tickets, plus who knows how much on the hotel. If I am going down scary roads, I am still being led.

That is an encouraging thought.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Stalked by sadness

I have worked hard to be more in touch with my body. The good news there is that like some of these other endeavors, it becomes more natural. Once you make the initial effort, staying connected becomes fairly natural.

Don't be too impressed; I am sure that with a little effort in the opposite direction I could undo it. I was nonetheless pleased to see that it hasn't been something that required constant vigilance and repeated backsliding. It's nice that some things have been easier.

What has been harder lately is staying in touch with my mind. I guess there had to be something.

One of the frustrating things about listening to my body is how often the message was pain. Hey, this finger has a twinge. Oh, it's a bad twinge? Did I break it? Or is that just a sign of pending full-blown arthritis as I age? What do I do now? Doctor, heat, ice, or ibuprofen? It is better to be aware of it and especially to do something now rather than three weeks from now. It is also an inconvenience, but it's one that you accept is better than letting a little problem get neglected into a big one.

(And yes, it has not yet been a full year since I left a piece of glass in my foot for three weeks and let myself in for a big and expensive infection. I guess it ended up being a lesson.)

I also know pretty well how the emotional wound you try to ignore only digs deeper and does worse things to your life. Therefore I have no excuse for trying to put this one off; I keep hinting at it. I just need to face it.

I am stressed about this trip. I am already stressed about running out of money and my mother's health prospects, but the upcoming trip makes it worse. I have been so exhausted with no identifiable cause, except that I am about to leave on a trip and I have grave concerns.

I think I am going to save my specific travel concerns for a different post, because at least with those there is a framework with a lot of known factors. There are dates and times and no matter what I worry about that might go wrong, we will probably arrive home at the currently scheduled time without being too much the worse for wear.

There are also things where I know there is no point in trying to deal with them until after I get back. I will be unavailable for a little over a week; how much sense does it make to send out certain inquiries and start various processes now?

So that leaves the big issue of my mother's health, where I know there is pain coming, but not the details on when and how it will come.

Mom could go on for years like this, which is not horrible but is a source of worry, and puts some limitations on what I can do. She could become much more absent, but still be here. That would hurt a lot, and again, it is not easy to predict the time.

One reason I like the pictures I took - with her exasperated faces - is that she looks like she is there. A lot of photos have her unfocused, where she doesn't really seem present. She is not usually like that now, but it was something that I saw with my aunt on our last visit; as she kept mentally slipping away. It will be hard to deal with that.

Mom could also die. No, there is nothing that makes it seem likely that it would happen soon (one bit of superstition based on her siblings, but it is just superstition), but that's something I think about too. And that will really hurt. It would also solve some issues, but there would be so much guilt in any feelings of relief that it would not be much relief.

So there is always something there, but I don't know what it will ultimately be. It could end up being all of the above over a protracted time period. I believe this is why I sometimes get teary for no apparent reason, or sometimes there is a sigh that is kind of gasping - there is always this shadowy form around the corner of something that is going to hurt.

When I am giving advice to my siblings, I remind them to dwell in the moment. If she is happy now, enjoy it. This isn't the time for corrections. For the love of all that is good and pure why would you bring this topic up now in this relatively serene moment?

That may make me kind of a hypocrite. I am good at staying in the moment with her, but for myself my mind looks ahead and it has a hard time.

Where it becomes so hard is that I can't resolve it. I think things out and write them out so that I can know how I feel and what I need to do. Okay, I know how I feel. I know what I need to do today. That future, though... I can't get any answers there.

Perhaps then the most important thing about all of this was to get better enough to be able to take it. Figure out what was false and what was true, find the strength that I need, and be able to get through this, whatever this ends up being.

Related posts:

Monday, May 15, 2017

Salad days

One of the more unexpected outcomes in this part of my life is that my sisters look forward to my salads.

They are picky eaters. I am too, but our pickiness doesn't have a lot of overlap. I am carnivorous; they don't really care for meat. I am okay with some melted cheese toppings, or some accents, but they like chunks of Gouda and cheese in a can, and cheese in all of these ways that gross me out. I am more adventurous with different cuisines and spices, but I can't stand hummus, which they love.

Maybe it makes sense in a different way. They do like a lot of salad bars (which I generally find disgusting (except for Sweet Tomatoes). That makes it necessary for me to be able to make my own salads, but also perhaps they were predisposed to being okay with salads.

The first sign was the blueberry carrot salad, which they loved. They would even eat it as leftovers, which is big. That could have been a fluke, and them eating different kit salads doesn't prove anything, but the Brussels sprouts salads might.

We have heard good things about Brussels sprouts for a while. "Oh, they are sweet like candy!" That was obviously not true, but if someone could say it then maybe they were at least not as gross as I have always thought. "Just roast them with olive oil!"

I could not swallow even one that way. I think any cooking at all brings the sulfur. I know it doesn't work that way for everyone, but this was not going to be an option. I didn't want to give up though; they are supposed to be really good for you. With a little more research it appeared that they could be shredded raw and used as a salad base.

I tried it first as a sweet salad (raspberry vinaigrette, dried cranberries, pecorino cheese), and everyone liked it. I tried it as a savory salad (olive oil, feta, bacon crumbles) and that was well-received. I like the sweet better, but it's nice to have options. I believe it could also work with a sesame dressing and won ton slices, or something like that.

I hope that there are a few lessons in here. One should be that it's okay for different people to have different tastes. There are so many different fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, dressings, meats, grains, and cheeses that not only should there be something for everyone, and but also no one needs to like everything.

What may not be obvious is how you need to keep trying. Disliking three vegetables doesn't mean you hate vegetables; it means that you need to try different ones, at least or cooking them in different ways.

I have been frustrated with my own aversion to "healthy foods". I can't stand fish or walnuts and until this latest development I wasn't very good with cruciferous vegetables. There are enough other things that I do like, and I continue to try out new things. It's fine. It may take some creativity and persistence. It definitely takes some availability and knowledge, but I am not going to take on food deserts and lack of cooking knowledge at this time.

Right now I just want to take on that despair or sense of hopelessness about eating well. The diet mindset - where the only thing important to health is body size - makes that worse because it is often based on deprivation.

When I wrote up Moderate Changes, the best thing about it may be that its focus is adding good things rather than removing "bad" things. Give to yourself.

I am not perfect at it. I have gotten so sick of eating oatmeal lately. I have gotten better about getting whole grains in at other meals, but at one point the bowl of oatmeal made starting the day right easy, and there has been a change. I can adapt to that.

A lot of trying to get my head right comes back to believing that I am worth something. No matter my size, or my quirks, or my weaknesses, I deserve good care, which I am also responsible for providing. Deciding that I am dirt doesn't help anyone.

So tonight I am working with asparagus and yellow bell peppers. I may use some brown rice or barley. But also, I'm making chocolate chip cookies, which are better for the soul than the body, but are nonetheless fine.