2.05.2014

Math Ghosts

"My name is Mr. Buckle." I watch him, he's moving quickly, taking things out of his bag and shuffling around. I suppress a chuckle, I can't remember the last time I called someone mister or missus for anything.

I'm in Math 60 and it's the first night of class. I survey the room, the class is full and consists mainly of people 10-15 years younger than me. I'm glad for someone I knew before from one of my French classes who is around my husband's age, I don't feel so old. See, what I did was go to PCC, get a ton of credits, apply to PSU, get accepted then get married and move to England for 7 years. Who needs college when Wigan calls?

The first day I'm anxious, "math anxiety" someone coined it. I wasn't great at this in high school, hence my dreadful test score. I already dropped this class once without a refund due to insane time demands and an absence of desire to be tortured for 8 weeks. So far this seems to meet my needs, we do our homework but don't turn it in and are scored purely on tests. That's fine, treat us like adults. I'm sure we can manage ourselves. It's a pleasant change from being told to raise my hand to leave class early.

I'm struck with regret that I took "History of Furniture" instead of Math 60 when it was on someone else's dime. Now the cost of the book and course is around $550. Plus there are fees just for the building I'm sitting in.

The first lesson progresses and my panic gives way to excitement. I've always felt a little stunted by my lack of ability to do algebra. When you get into a rhythm it's elegant and simple, it either is or isn't correct, no nuance. I might be able to get a handle on this after all.

But soon I'm bored and remember that it wasn't so much I was bad at math, it was I spent more time gazing out my classroom window at a sunny field than paying attention, so I never really learned how to do it. Like never learning to ride a bike because you're waiting for someone to push you. Got the bike, got the time, got the motivation.... just push damn it! Oh never mind, off to read.

There's massive confusion the first three classes regarding the way Mr. Buckle explained  how to work out word problems, in between one of his digressions. And there are a lot of digressions. I start doodling math ghosts as a way to waste time while he explains to us we really need to be informed voters and how property taxes impact your rent. "Tell me about it," I think to myself, "my rent just went up 3%. While we're on the subject, let's discuss water rates...." But I stick to talking to my ghost who is pretty upset about a bad pun I made.


A couple sessions in I wonder if part of my excitement was that it was taught in English. I'm doing my homework in class and looking up answers to things I don't understand on the Internet instead of paying attention to the lectures. I do well on my first test but only 89% because I forgot -22 is going to be positive and a couple other basic things. I make a note to make a mental note, possibly find some apps to help really drill it in like I do with French conjugations and vocabulary.

Then one day there's a change in the direction our class is headed, the way our instructor's teaching style is going to go. Mr. Buckle doesn't want to share the practice test online because the people who were absent "won't get the benefit." I'm struck by this. I don't really understand why should it matter to him if absentees are absent. "We're the ones paying, let us shoot ourselves in the foot if we need to. Lord knows I have," I think.

This train does not head back to the station we left at in January, soon after we receive an actual assignment, one that's literally just transcribing something from book to paper. Literally. Not Chris Traeger literally.

Literally.

Then we have a roll sheet at the end of class, a worksheet to prove we were there. Roll call will now be randomly at the beginning or the end of the session.



If I felt old at the beginning? I feel 15 now.

Name changed to protect the guilty.






4.18.2013

Goodbye Joe's Cellar

Philip and I walked into Joe's Cellar last Friday night as we almost always did. I almost didn't go. I had the beginnings of an awful cold that made me want to curl up on the couch and sleep. But it was our tradition and I promised a friend we'd show up. So we rallied and readied ourselves to hash out the week and put it behind us.

We'd had kind of a traumatic Thursday night. I unknowingly got a homeless girl's sleeping bag stolen and we were up past our bed time making amends.

We walked in and sat down at our regular booth. We waved to the bartender and sat down, slumping into the cushions. It was slow and kind of quiet for a Friday night. While Joe's was never as rowdy as the bars up 21st, it did get a little noisy, especially since some of the regulars took a liking to video game bowling. After some thought I noticed the wave from the bartender seemed off. Not with us in particular, just in general. I made a mental note to talk to her about it later.

Our waitress came by and we told her the story of the street kids we'd met and our eternal frustration with Matthew Breen. (Or Matt the Drunk) Part of me was still thinking about how much I have and their stories about what they lost. I kept thinking "I have all these things I don't need. They need some of these things. I should give it to them." But I didn't know how to give them the things I have without making it embarrassing.

Unusually downbeat, our waitress crouched, eyes cast down and traced the table with her hands. "So guys, sad story. Joe's is closing." She told us the city had condemned the building and the last night was Sunday. I asked so many questions but it came out there was nothing anyone could do.

"So if you know someone with a job, let me know..."

Philip and I were in shock. I spent a lot of time staring sadly at the newly revamped menu.

My first thought was a Randy Leonard-esque shutdown so the land could be developed. At this moment the area near 21st and Pettygrove looks like an industrial wasteland. Scattered around Conway are several large empty lots with remnants of a business that underwent a massive change. There's a garage with a ramp to nowhere, slowly decaying and vast empty parking lots with chain link fences. East of 23rd avenue, Pettygrove is the border to the Northwest Industrial District.

All of that will change over the next few years. The city gave the go ahead for a massive project that will totally reinvent all that unused land. Soon it will be more apartments, a grocery store (my money is on Whole Foods or New Seasons) and open space with ornamental trees. Joe's Cellar would be its neighbor. A traditional neighborhood bar doesn't exactly fit in to the pretty green drawings on the Oregonian's website. Not to mention a traditional neighborhood bar on a very, very expensive piece of land.

I sputtered my conspiracy theory about the convenient timing and was corrected by a regular that usually propped up the bar. "The building is pulling away from the roof. He (Jim, the owner) can't fix it." According to him, the city inspectors came out on Thursday and notified the business on Friday it must close that day. With some pleading, the owner managed to keep it open until Sunday. The reason the city inspector came out? According to them Jim was trying to fix it. The contractor discovered the defect, reported it to the city and that was it.

Throughout the night I e-mailed every media outlet I could think of. I wanted Joe's to go out with a bang. I wanted the bartenders and cocktail waitresses to make as much money as they could. Joe's deserved more than to fizzle out over a couple days. That night the Mercury called to confirm and ran a story on their blog. The ball started rolling on the Joe's Facebook page.

Over the weekend I tried to pin down why I was so upset about Joe's closing. Some of my friends said "it's just a bar." But it wasn't. When we moved into the neighborhood four years ago we had very little to do. Most of my old friends moved out of the city or had more stable lives. We'd just left our other friends in England and we missed them so much. We also missed our beloved Retro Bar in Manchester where we spent many nights laughing and singing badly. I started looking around for somewhere else just to be that wasn't home.

Over my life I've had a number of places I felt comfortable. When I was a teenager I liked to buy books at Powell's and go to the Roxy to eat cheese fries and read. Before I left for England it was Embers on a Wednesday night to drink and dance to goth music. (That's where I met my husband.)When we got to England it was ArA and the Retro Bar.

These places were all special in their own ways. But I chose them mostly because I could be alone but around people at the same time. There was a respect for privacy but if I wanted to engage I could.

The biggest thing they all have in common? Music.

The Roxy had The Clash on the jukebox. Very impressive to a teenage malcontent. Embers was goth night and played The Smiths and Depeche Mode. ArA, well, I DJ'd there for a time and always loved to play Planet Earth by Duran Duran. If I didn't like the music there I probably wasn't ever going to. Our wasted time at the Retro Bar was all about the Scissor Sisters and Rick Astley. (Don't judge, he's a local boy made good.)

The first night we walked into Joe's Leonard Cohen was on the jukebox. I think it was Democracy, though it could have been Closing Time. It made me smile. So perfect. A dimly lit smokey bar with wood paneling, my husband, a Sapphire and tonic, and Leonard Cohen. I'm not entirely sure when I joined in pumping money into the jukebox. But I do know the regular Friday night bartender, the amazing Sara, noticed. I think I must have been putting things on like The Jam, Erasure, New Order, Elvis Costello.... and the Scissor Sisters because I missed England.

In the end Joe's was our anchor. I celebrated my last birthday there. The beginning of March I grieved for my grandmother after a particularly horrible night at the nursing home. I did an awful rendition of "Bizarre Love Triangle" at karaoke. We were surrounded by people in front of and in back of the bar who worked hard. They policed themselves. If you wanted to be left alone, you were left alone. If you wanted to talk, they would talk.

While I appreciate Willamette Week, Mercury and KGW covering the loss, I feel like they all missed the most important thing to me. Joe's was a place of community, friendship and hard work. To us it wasn't an ironic dive, somewhere to go to say you have a favorite while sneering at the people around you. It was a place to have fun, to laugh and to live. 

For the people that worked there it was a job. To paraphrase Sara people supported their families working there. Joe's employed 24 amazing people and those jobs are gone. Chances are you've seen them around too. Cathie is a fantastic artist. Sara has a great band. Leisa's so compassionate. The kitchen manager used to work at the Green Dragon. One of the old cooks used to work at the New Old Lompoc.

So when I think of Joe's closing, I don't say "Portland lost another great dive." I say "24 wonderful people lost their jobs and we lost an amazing place in the community."


As far as the music goes my last song at Joe's Cellar was Age of Consent by New Order. It only cost 1 credit on the jukebox.











5.23.2012

OSPIRG and money wrenching

I worked for OSPIRG in the summer of 1997. I wrote a little bit about it before, suffice to say I was lured in by the promise of something approaching an hourly wage and a job where I could walk around in the sun. It was swing type shift, started at 12:00pm and ended around 8:00, which always suited my natural rhythm.

It also appealed to my more idealistic sensibilities. I wanted to support the Clean Air Act.

I got the job easily and started soon after my interview. My first day we were sectioned off into canvassing groups and sent out into the wild. They gave us our scripts, pepped us up and we were knocking on doors.

I was still full of ambition, wanting to make the top tier and do the best I could for OSPIRG and the environment. But as the months passed and I received $95 dollars every two weeks, I grew more disheartened. We were sent out to neighborhoods where we were certain not to get any donations, angry dogs behind fences and endless cards saying these people were always not home or didn't donate. In Hillsboro one of my high school teachers refused to come to the door even though I was one of his former students. I could hear his footsteps and his car was in the drive. In Lake Oswego a kind man took pity on me and gave me $52 but wanted me to read more about what I was selling. (52 is a psychological thing, $1 for every week in the year.)

On one trip, I blew out one of my already bad knees and hitchhiked to Portland from the West Hills so I didn't have to wait for the truck to take me home.

The strangest thing that happened that summer had nothing to do with rude people or 40 hours of walking in a week.

One evening our landline rang. (Landline! Imagine!) When I answered, it was a voice I didn't know but knew me.

 "Is this Tiffany?"
 "Yes?"
 "This is Adam."
 "Ok"
"You work for OSPIRG?"

I was relieved, our phone numbers were on a list so the canvass director could call us if something happened. I'd only been home for a little while, so it's possible something got left. But as the conversation progressed I realized this wasn't your typical sort of "oh you forgot your wallet in the van" call.

 "I hear you're good with computers."
 "Ok I guess?"
 In 1997, that meant having your own, with a printer. Which I did. Internet forever.

 "Adam" started talking, likely too much and almost too fast. I didn't get a chance to ask a lot of questions but he had a lot of information. He told me about an oil refinery in northern California. They needed someone who could use a computer, for reasons I still don't understand. I needed black clothes and a flashlight. I needed to be able to leave the state on short notice. He'd call me again. He did.

I did eventually ask how he got my number. He said from the canvass director, Katie. He also named other people in my group that were allegedly involved in the plot. Someone with a truck. We were going to leave soon and be gone for 3 days. Enough time to drive to northern California, do the "job" (whatever that was) and get home, hopefully without being caught.

We had a cordless phone at our house and Adam heard the crackling. He asked if he was on a cordless, I said yes. He said he'd call back. He never did.

I told the canvass director and she looked at me like I was insane but I could see the orange sheet with the numbers clear as day in front of me on her desk. But I may have been crazy anyway. When I worked for OSPIRG I made around $200-250 per month in addition to $350 I had as regular income from elsewhere. I was renting a room in a pretty cheap house, so I had a little bit left over for food and utilities.

I didn't eat a lot.

I finished the summer at OSPIRG and didn't give the calls much thought, thinking they were a prank of some kind. Only much later did I realize it might have been the real deal and it would be a pretty bizarre joke or trick. But I was still confused as to who would recommend me (I was recommended) and why give someone new to this little group so much information. I still don't really know.

Much later on one of my employers called OSPIRG for employment verification.

They had no record of me working there.

12.14.2011

IIS 7, php and fastcgi

It all started with this:
HTTP Error 500.0 - Internal Server Error
C:\Program Files (x86)\PHP\v5.3\php-cgi.exe - The FastCGI process exited unexpectedly

And Faulting application name: php-cgi.exe, version: 5.3.8.0, time stamp: 0x4e537f4b
Faulting module name: MSVCR90.dll, version: 9.0.30729.4940, time stamp: 0x4ca2ef57
Exception code: 0xc0000005
Fault offset: 0x0003aefe
Faulting process id: 0xcbc
Faulting application start time: 0x01ccba9ed76d7828
Faulting application path: C:\Program Files (x86)\PHP\v5.3\php-cgi.exe
Faulting module path: C:\Windows\WinSxS\x86_microsoft.vc90.crt_1fc8b3b9a1e18e3b_9.0.30729.4940_none_50916076bcb9a742\MSVCR90.dll
Report Id: 158dd077-2692-11e1-9344-000c29f76d8e

1. Opened up permissions for the iusr account on web.config as recommended by MS

2. Checked Event Viewer and saw this:
http://forums.iis.net/p/1181446/1995260.aspx

3. Googled and found this:
http://forums.iis.net/p/1181446/1995260.aspx

4. Which led me to this
http://drupal.org/node/1300312

5. Which then got me thinking about how the hell you apply a patch:
http://bri-space.com/content/how-patch-drupal-module-windows

6. And I downloaded this:
http://sourceforge.net/projects/gnuwin32/files/patch/2.5.9-7/patch-2.5.9-7-setup.exe/download

7. Except it didn't work with the --binary switch, I got "**** cannot read binary data from tty on this platform'

8. So I opened the patch file and added this code to database.inc, replacing

'/^RELEASE SAVEPOINT (.*)$/' => 'SELECT 1 /* $0 */',

9. Which led to an error in menu.inc
SELECT TOP(1) * FROM {menu_router} WHERE path IN () ORDER BY fit DESC; Array ( ) in menu_get_item() (line 445 of

10. So I went through and did it all again after deleting the db tables (the install configuration will error out if it finds the tables have already been created.)

11. And I got this message:
SQLSTATE[23000]: [Microsoft][SQL Server Native Client 10.0][SQL Server]Violation of PRIMARY KEY constraint 'registry_pkey'. Cannot insert duplicate key in object 'dbo.registry'.
http://drupal.org/node/1210862

12. Googled it, found people with the same problem but no fix.

13. Threw my hands up and said fuck it.

14. Looking for new Open Source CMS platform that works and allows me to skip steps during the install process :D.


Moral of the story: Jesus Christ Drupal is a pain in the ass and I'm ditching it for another CMS platform. Way too buggy and the install file is crap and won't let you skip steps (yes the db is already created.)

Configuration:
Windows 2008 server R2 SP1
SQL Server 2008
Commerce Guys Drupal
IIS 7

(Also if you plan on coming here going "HERP STOP USING IIS/MSSQL" I don't want to hear it. I'm not building another damned server because the Commerce Guys Drupal install doesn't work with a pretty typical config, thanks. I'm also starting to think Drupal is just buggy. I spent most of the day dealing with the regular Drupal package yesterday and couldn't get it to work then either. But I'll take any help. For now I'm scrapping the whole thing. At least I learned how to set up the php handlers in IIS :))

Edit: After my ranting I thought I'd give the Acquia install a go. Perfect, took 5 minutes.

11.06.2011

English expats versus American expats

When American ex-pats meet the conversation goes something like this.
American1: "OH MY GOD HI WHERE ARE YOU FROM CAN YOU BELIEVE THE TRAINS AND WHAT IS UP WITH THAT WHOLE 'TRA LOVE' THING."
American2: "I AM FROM X CITY IT IS SO NICE TO MEET SOMEONE WHO KNOWS WHERE THAT IS AND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN WASHINGTON STATE AND WASHINGTON DC ALSO I DON'T HAVE TO DEMONSTRATE THE LOCATION OF OREGON WITH MY HANDS.:
American1: "I KNOW LET'S BE FRIENDS."

When the English meet it goes something like this:
Me (notes accent:) "Where are you from?"
English1: "England"
Me: "Yeah, where."
English1: "Manchester."
Me: "He (gestures towards husband) is from Wigan."
Husband: "Alright mate?"
English1: "They really cleaned up the Arndale."

The vet noticed my Wigan Warriors sweatshirt yesterday that I was wearing in honor of Four Nations. I don't care if it makes me look like a poser. Rugby League is the best sport ever.

10.12.2011

This matter has been settled

Where else to say it but here? I have more in my Dr. Darm diary that I'll post at a later date but I had to say it.

It's finally over.

This matter has been settled.

Simple but beautiful words.

10.04.2011

Finding an attorney

(This is a part in a series about my experiences with being sued and what the process is like. I hope it helps someone else who may or may not be in the same position. It’s helping me to write about it because it is terrifying and I’m pretty scared. Being sued is truly an existential kind of a thing (as my attorney put it.))

How the hell do I find a lawyer?

The next day I tapped my social network with a big stiff your-friend-is-being-sued-for-a-million-dollars index finger. I received some great referrals and found Linda, who I had a very good feeling about. What I didn't necessarily have a good feeling about was exactly how many attorneys my friends know. What are you up to guys?

But beyond the help I received, the stress was still awful. I couldn’t sleep, eat, concentrate and was walking around listless and on the verge of tears when I wasn’t working or on the phone. Besides work, it was a part time job contacting lawyers and so very tiring.

Unlike many of my friends I never had to find an attorney before. I didn't know what to look for or how to shop for one. It's not like buying a laptop or finding a new bike. It was more like interviewing for a job. You find out if you like them, if they like you. If they like what you have to offer and you approve.

The resource that was enormously helpful was the Electronic Frontier Foundation. They gave me advice and told me about a statute I'd never heard of before. The anti-SLAPP.

But no matter how exhausted I was, I was still taking Benadryl to get some rest. I wasn’t going to be any good at my job, to my husband to my friends, unless I rested. When his commercials came on it was a slap to the face. That’s the man that's suing me. I flipped over to Netflix.

If they wanted to chill my speech, they did. I was afraid to post anything in public, or say anything at all about the biggest event in my life.

That weekend I hid in the house and recharged. I was exhausted and stressed with having to choose an attorney, and still worried about losing what little I have. Every morning I woke up and every morning I had the crushing realization I was being sued for a million dollars.

I finally talked to Linda. And things got started.

There really wasn’t a lot for me to do at that point and that really bothered me. I felt like my fate was out of my hands and really, it was.

8.19.2011

Being served and sued

(This is a part in a series about my experiences being sued and what the process, legalese, emotions and fear are like. Honestly, even posting this is equally as scary. But I hope it helps someone else who may or may not be in the same position. Finding a lawyer is tough, the emotions are tough, it's all pretty damned hard to deal with. It’s helping me to write about it, as the hearing on the 15th gets closer, it's becoming even realer (is that a word?) than it was when I was initially served. Being sued is truly an existential kind of a thing (as my attorney put it.))

On July 11th, I was scrambling to get my house in order for a small gathering of friends. Move the shoes, get the chairs, put the chips out in my record player bowl and put together a Philip Glass play list.

The knock came at 7:45, 15 minutes early and we were still tidying up. Though my friends know I’m a little disorganized and busy, I’d like to have them believe otherwise in some house-proud kind of a way. “They’re early! Damn them!” I shouted from the computer. Philip stopped, “there’s someone here for you?” Thinking I’d go to the door and find a 5-foot chicken or something equally bizarre, I was surprised to find a sunny blond woman holding a plain brown envelope.

I knew what it was. I’ve served people before. When I was about 18 I guess I didn’t look like a court employee, so I handed over documents at a construction site. She didn’t really look like a server either, or certainly not as you’d picture one. I usually see Ice-T or Christopher Meloni in my head whenever I think of courts (too much Law and Order I guess.)

I knew I could probably just look at her, shake my head no and not touch the envelope. But the court has a way of tracking people down and servers get creative. It would just delay the inevitable and I’d still be served. Besides, my curiosity got the better of me. What the hell could this possibly be about? Mystified, I reached out and touched it with my thumb and index finger “you’ve been served.” “For what?!” I exclaimed, more out of shock than an actual question.

“I don’t know, I’m just the server!” she called, rushing out of the courtyard. A speedy exit, I remembered, is important just after you've served someone.

As I closed the door I racked my brain for options. Maybe an old debt when I was young and stupid? Is there something I forgot to pay? Maybe some other court kind of a thing?

I looked at the envelope for a minute and opened it. I read through the discovery and the lawsuit. “Dr. Darm is suing me! Oh my god!” And then I saw the amount.

“For a million dollars.”

My brain raced 5000 miles a minute. Stress about house cleaning and my previous good mood evaporated. I was in shock. I was terrified. A million dollars is a frightening and extraordinary amount of money to someone like me.

Weird and not so weird thoughts passed through my head. Could they take my bike? (Worth nothing except it’s blue and covered in stars, it’s still one of my prized possessions.) How could I possibly pay anyone that much money without winning the lottery? Could they take my meagre 401k? How could I find someone to help me? I read and re-read the papers, shaking. What could I do? What were my options? How could I get help?

I knew one thing, I had to find an attorney.

But I had no idea how.

8.11.2011

Manchester aftermath

The media in the UK are flopping around like dying fish looking for reasons the riots happened. There are the usual theories; greed, poverty, lack of opportunity, education and whatever else furthers the agenda of the reader demographic. They throw out tired tirades against the government; Cameron, Blair, Brown, Thatcher and try and pin the blame down on anyone.

What they never do, because it would mean getting too close to what they consider to be an "underclass" is never actually talk to them.

I can't speculate on the rioters' reasons, though what does seem obvious is it was scattered and unfocused rage at something. What that something is, I can't relate to. I'm not a rioter. I'm not looting. And if I was still working in Manchester I'd be calling my husband to take me home and get me the hell out of Salford. If not just barricading myself in the office.

The MEN published a list of the first charged with the riots. Much of it consists of people stealing what would be considered luxury goods; tobacco, clothes, electronics. The things people want.

But a few of the others really stand out for me:

Jason Ulett, 38, of Woodward Court, Ancoats, swore at and struggled with officers who suspected him of being a looter because he was wearing dark hooded clothing and riding a bicycle outside Sainsburys at Whitworth Street, which had been vandalised by a mob.

Mr Ulett was jailed for 10 weeks and told that he should have cycled away from the violence instead of making trouble for officers facing ‘incredible odds’.

Tom Skinkis, 22, of Bold Street, Hulme, was jailed for four months after he abused passers-by and called them ‘scum’ and headbutted a shop door after his arrest. He admitted a public order offence.

Thomas Downey, 48, of no fixed address, helped himself to food at the Krispy Kreme store at Mosley Street. Downey, who admitted burglary, was remanded in custody and will be sentenced next week.

And while the MEN paints all of them as out of control yobs, they glean over the men jailed for shouting, struggling with police after being falsely accused and the one that was homeless and stealing food.

There are some disturbing and reactionary results to the riots as well. Councils are threatening to make people homeless. A knee jerk move that would likely spark more riots and further fuel whatever the hell this rage is about.

The chances that some of the arrests won't spark more riots? I don't know. I've been obsessively watching the Manchester webcams, somewhat because of a bizarre homesickness I've been feeling and to see what's being done. There are police on the streets and the city council are responding with confidence. But when this fades, and it will, I fear for the city and the people in it.

Not just the ones that are victims of looting but the ones caught up in the middle trying to escape false arrest and feed themselves.


8.09.2011

Manchester

Riots erupted in Manchester today. Copycat destruction that spawned from the larger ones in London. Crowds, mostly kids, took to the streets and trashed everything they could. I wish I could say that deep down I didn't know it was going to happen. But after they spread to Toxteth and Birmingham, I knew that at some point it would spread to other cities.

I lived in Manchester during the UEFA cup final between the Ranges and Man United. Blessedly I was picked up from work so I missed the whole thing and got home safely. But the aftermath and the riots themselves were different. Rangers fans were drunk and angry at the city, they were fighting and throwing beer bottles but not trashing shop windows or setting fires. It was entirely unreasonable but the anger was focused. You knew why they were angry and you knew that anger would subside when they left the city.



I also saw the aftermath of the 1996 IRA bombing. I watched the transformation from a dingy little part of town that people didn't want to visit to a lovely and clean place everyone felt comfortable. The city worked so hard to modernize a portion of Manchester that had been obliterated by terrorism.

That very same part of town is where tonight's riots in the city center started. The shiny Arndale center, a safe and comfortable place to shop and hang out, was the first one that was attacked. Shops were looted, windows smashed and cries of rage throughout the city. This kind of anger scares me more than the Rangers or the IRA. It's unfocused, confused, frustrated. They're rioting and they don't really seem to know why. Unlike the Rangers fans, they won't leave the city. Manchester is their home.

It's easy to dismiss them as greedy or opportunist. But I know plenty of greedy people who aren't out on the streets. Is it any wonder that this chaotic anger is starting in places that are impoverished? See, while the riots in Manchester itself began at the Arndale, they actually started in nearby Salford. Somewhere not so different from Toxteth in Liverpool. No jobs, cut programs, cut benefits, terrible access to services, underfunded schools. It doesn't justify what they do but we can't ignore their anger.

Right now I'm heartbroken and scared. I complain a lot about Manchester and the trouble I had there. But it was my home for 7 years. It hurts me as much as it would if it happened here in Portland. And so many people I love are still in the UK. Friends all over the country from Glasgow to London to Wales. I worry for them, not just for their safety but for their future and communities.


8.08.2011

Mark O Hatfield

There are so many stories on how Senator Hatfield impacted people across the United States. He funneled his Christian beliefs into supporting Civil Rights and arguing agains the Vietnam War. He believed in separation of church and state. And no doubt every decision he made politically impacts my life on a meta level.

But what's extraordinary about him is how he also impacts people's lives in very personal ways. Several of my friends and debate foes studied in his library at Willamette. People with cancer are treated from the fruits of determined doctors at the Mark O Hatfield clinical research center. And every fall when the Mark O Hatfield history lecture series begins, I download and listen to every podcast from the Oregon Historical Society website. I get to learn, for free, thanks to him.

That he touches lives in educational, informative and scientific ways as well as in policy is evidence of a great man.



6.19.2011

Guardian Games

After I wrote this post about sexism in gaming and other male dominated things I was a little anxious about going to buy a copy of Call of Cthulhu See, I want to a game again. Like I said before, I know the chauvinism exists and I'm tired of fighting the fights but I won't prevent me from doing the things I love.

I ran a game in Manchester for the vampire LARP we used to play and god I loved it so much. It was one of those times where you really love your hobbies and remember why you do them, instead of a lingering sense of obligation. My game was atmosphere and puzzle heavy, my players had a direct influence on their environment and a world to interact with that had it's own personality. I was inspired by the Buffy Joss Whedon style of world building. Manchester was how it is, just a little bit worse.

That policeman over there? He's part of an anti-terrorism task force and is trying to root out extremists, if you cross him he will kill you under lenient UK directives. The canals harbor an angry spirit of a woman who committed suicide and was frozen in ice in the 19th century.* And inspired by my amazing friend Matt's ideas about a spirit embodying the city, I had two. Both were on opposite sides of Manchester's Peterloo Massacre. The darker, draconian and vicious spirit was one of the Calvary that slayed the demonstrators. The other was a woman that was killed when they charged.

Depending on how the players interacted with the environment, one or the other would appear and talk to them. If they showed malice, they represented the Calvary. If what they did was pushing the city to greater things, it was the old woman slain. My favorite part of running games was seeing how people could impact that environment and how they dealt with the world. Did they accept they were authoritarian monsters destroying everything around them? Were the comfortable with being activist innocents?

We had two friends come to visit us in May for my husband and I's vow renewal. They're still very much involved in that LARP. It made me want to run a game again, to see people get enjoyment from something I created and they interacted with and changed. I prefer horror to sci-fi and fantasy genres and Call of Cthulhu seemed a logical step.

So the contest between how satisfying storytelling was and my trepidation about what I'd have to deal with weighed on my mind. I walked down to Guardian Games to get my books, determined to let it slide off. You know what? As much as my women in gaming post is true, it's also a little bit false. The response I got when I was browsing was a customer service-y "can I help you find anything?" Not a note of condescension. When I went to the counter the guy helping me was talking to me about the game, supplements and how much he liked it.

As much as there are still things to rail against, there are also little pockets of acceptance. Women cam game! Women do run games! And sometimes we have a place to go.

* I wish I could remember the source for this. It's a true story I pulled when I was researching the history of the city.

1.12.2011

The atmosphere of nakedness



Our hot water boiler is out for the entire building. This means 13 units are spending their evenings trying to find friends with showers, gyms, work or running up and down the stairs with pots of water pioneer style. I told my coworkers this and they tell me to use the shower here.

This sounds reasonable enough right? It's a nice shower they put in over the summer in the hopes we might do some damned exercise during the day. (I think) Or possibly to accomodate all the cyclists. But I fear the work showers.

They aren't used very much. Most of the cyclists here change their clothes, or don't get sweaty enough to want to bathe during the day. And there's a healthy bias against nakedness at work. Do you want to think about your coworkers in the all together? I think not. And do most coworkers go in the nude at all at work? Unlikely unless you have a profession that demands it. The additional problem is location, the showers are directly above our production floor. A part of me will think "there's a fixture that someone is building down there and I am naked."

The other and most important thing is what I've dubbed as the atmosphere of nakedness. Gyms have it, yoga studios have it, school locker rooms have it, pools have it but the work showers do not have it. There simply have not been enough naked people at work to create the expectation someone would be in their birthday suit hovering precariously above manufacturing. There just isn't.

So instead of using the work showers, I will instead go down to 24 Hour fitness, which has a finely tuned and adjusted atmosphere of nakedness.

11.14.2010

Left wing propoganda - Hulu

I was watching Hulu today (mainly to see if the Bad Girls Club reunion show was up yet!) And I ran my cursor over Meet the Press.

whatthehell

I'm wondering who the hell does the tagging at Hulu now. I'd hardly call Meet the Press left wing propoganda.

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