Thursday, March 22, 2018

Two Genders

Recently I saw images of that one annoying dude who sets up a trollish table outside with a sign on it inviting people to change his mind on things, and this time it was "There are only two genders. Change my mind."

I don't engage with people like that. He's not really asking people to change his mind, and he's "covered" all kinds of topics this way, including such classics as "male privilege is a myth, change my mind" and "hate speech isn't real, change my mind." Mmkay. Wow, what an edgelord, upholding attitudes that are already established throughout most of society. Folks like this aren't worth talking to because they think they're brave to defend these notions now that they've actually been asked to question them.

I AM happy to discuss these things with people who want to understand. I have become better and better over the years at identifying people who want to understand, say, asexuality--and those who pretend they want to have the conversation but actually just kind of want to make a spectacle of people and love to gloat if they can upset someone until they feel degraded and hopeless.

So ya know. I recognize the type easily. What surprises me sometimes is that some people who ARE that type of person don't know it. 

They're adamant that they're picking fights with others because of some perverse desire to uphold Truth or maintain Science or put these Triggered Snowflake SJW Liberals in their place. And if asked why they are initiating these conversations and creating adversarial (not invitational) spaces in which to have them, they never admit that it's based on bigotry, ignorance, or hate. It's always some amorphous thing about how Reality and Objectivity and Science needs to be defended or else the politically correct terrorists will win.

And they have all these stories of being "attacked" over it. That they're not allowed to just live their lives for a quiet peaceful moment without someone ATTACKING them, forcing beliefs on them, hijacking good decent environments and forcing politics into them. The stories they describe, though, frequently paint a picture of an unreasonable population that's fiercely intolerant, when in actuality the people who espouse these beliefs are usually voicing them in *response* to not being respected.

The "attacks" over respecting other people's gender? Tend to involve being asked to use the right pronouns for people and avoid misgendering them. That's an attack--making them feel bad for getting it wrong, and so it's important to make the person seem ridiculous for expecting respect to look a certain way. The conversations that ensue often involve the corrected person sputtering about how unreasonable it is to call a trans person by their correct pronouns because THEY personally want to think of them as a gender they don't identify as. But the trans people and their allies are the bullies here, apparently.

The "attacks" over respecting sexual orientation diversity? Tend to involve someone complaining loudly about gay media or objecting to someone shamelessly identifying as gay, claiming it's being shoved in their face or is indecent. You know, that person who's squawking about how disgusting it is for gay people to "flaunt" their gayness in public (by being as casually affectionate in public as is generally accepted for straight people, but it's usually exaggerated as to what they were doing). That person claims it's being pushed on them and their opinions and rights are being taken away because they're being asked to extend basic respect to someone else. But the gay people who have the audacity to act like people in public are the instigators here, right?

I see this a lot. An intolerant person objects to someone else's lifestyle, cries crocodile tears over their poor children and their offended morals, and demands that they be allowed to limit others' behavior or else that's bigotry against THEM. The reason they feel attacked, though, is that they're used to being preferred and privileged and not even having to think about it, so even the very act of asking them to question it (and asking them to accept that they receive undeserved, unearned advantages) sounds like ripping away their RIGHTS. 

And then I see these jackasses bleating that there are only two genders. Saying that to people who identify as something other than male or female. Saying that in direct denial of the FACT that physical sex is something of a continuum even in sexually reproducing species. Saying that in direct ignorance of gender as an experience that is necessarily subjective. Saying that with absolutely nothing to lose by being kind and respectful.

That's what really kills me about it. Who benefits if you "win" the conversation about how many genders there can be? What have you proved when you insist that it shouldn't or can't exist because you can't imagine it? What is it about someone saying "I think of myself this way" that makes you want to intensely invalidate that person because you like your gender categories in nature-denying, experience-denying dichotomies that feel right to you? It costs you nothing to say "I hear you and I'll try to understand you and make you more comfortable in this world." Your choice not to do so--and your choice to instead deliberately provoke people--is unimaginably cruel.

You don't have to personally get it, or understand what it's like, or know a lot about gender theory. All it takes is to listen to someone and take what they say about their identity to you at face value. Default to respect. 

I mean, or you can sit in public with a sign that says "I'm setting a tone of disbelief and disrespect. I am entering this interaction believing you are invalid by default. I don't understand you, and until or unless you sacrifice your time, safety, and emotional energy approaching ME to change my mind, I will go out of my way to make the world more dangerous for you. I will reinforce people's bigoted beliefs by displaying my own, and I will make people think your gender identity is hilarious and silly. I will portray my actions as provocative in a good way instead of in a hateful way, and I will praise myself for my bravery in repeating sentiments that have always endangered your life and threatened your mental health. I will imagine myself as a hero fighting an overly PC future that's out to control our minds for the worse, refusing to acknowledge that I am paving the way for violence, anti-diversity initiatives, and conformity through shame. I think this is a good thing, and I challenge you to change my mind because then it seems like I listened to you and proved my position. I am a cruel person who wants you to be cruel too."

Great message there, buddy. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Wednesday Factoid: Getting Older

Today's Wednesday Factoid is: What's the best and the worst thing about getting older?

Let's start with the worst. Well, there are certain things that will happen to you if you live long enough. Most notably, death. If you're still alive yourself, you are outliving people you love, and the road toward people succumbing to death is often not super sudden, so you have to watch the generations before yours, full of people you love, declining and passing away. Sometimes it's just depressing to see celebrities and entertainers you grew up with passing away, but other times it's more personal and it's a friend or a family member. Obviously since I recently lost my grandfather, that's been on my mind. 

And I'm not gonna get too personal with it, but supporting my mom has been taking a lot out of me for years, just worrying about her and trying to help because she doesn't have any other local support. Providing company and moral support and technological advice is easy, but she also has to turn to me when she can't pay the hospital or taxes or whatever, and the likelihood that that will get better as we both get older is very, very low. Not knowing how to help her and not having the resources to help some other people in my life is certainly the biggest bummer of my current stage in life.

The best thing is definitely being able to call the shots on more aspects of my daily existence. I decide what I want to handle that day, what I eat, what the plans are, when I'm going to bed. This has really been in my face a lot lately because I interact with a ton of young people and so many of them are controlled by other people (mostly parents, but some are in school and there's a lot of structure there too). Of course, for most people the disadvantage of this freedom is that they're tempted to just never do the un-fun stuff, like cleaning and paying for boring-but-necessary stuff, but I've never had that problem of procrastinating until it's critical (or just waiting for someone else to rescue me from it). 

I love having options and deciding what my priorities are, and not having to justify them to anyone. I make the money, so I decide how to spend it. This week I decided it's time to buy marker ink refills because I like to draw frickin' cartoon characters and that uses up my ink. I can buy toys or clothes or whatever, or decide yep, we're going to the movies or we're buying expensive supplies for a silly baking project. It's up to me, and I don't have to ask or explain. My life is MINE. And yeah, I mean, this is all considering I have to work 40 hours a week (and spend some extra hours commuting). But there are 168 hours in a week. If I include 2 hours a day for commuting and 8 hours a day for sleeping (which I really never do), I would still have 58 hours a week to do whatever I want. That's significantly more hours than I spend at the day job that keeps the roof over my head and my Copic markers box stocked. 

I have evolved a sense of confidence that also encourages me to claim that time without any shame. I haven't been talked into routines or projects or commitments that I generally hate doing. I can (and do) say no. And even though it's sort of a bummer to be 40 and have people judging me for not having what you're "supposed to" by 40 (you know, I'm supposed to drive a car, be married, be in the process of raising my children), maturity has brought me the self-assurance to just shrug about it. Who cares? Nothing's going to happen if I don't do what other people expect 40-year-olds should do. I want what I want and my life is mine. I want to enjoy it and at my current age I have the means and the opportunity to do so. 

Yeah, that rocks.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Personal Digest Saturday: March 10 – March 16

Life news this week:
  • Saturday Victor was still at my house in the morning and we hung out and chatted a while, and then he went home. I made a fire in the fireplace so I could flame-cook a fake fish kebab, just for kicks. After that I worked on my blog, played a little ukulele, and wasted time on cartoons.
  • Sunday was the Day of Being a Responsible Adult. I got up and drank coffee, called my mother, did laundry, did dishes, and filed my taxes. Also, I drew two Steven Universe drawings. Can't be mature all the time. :)
  • Monday my eyes were annoying me so I wore my glasses to work for the first time. I did some database stuff. Then after work I walked to a nearby Publix and bought donuts and fixins, walked the wrong way down the road for a long time because I forgot the bus stopped coming down that street (in my defense, all the shelters and benches are still there!), and had to walk all the way back to catch the bus. When I got home I just went to bed early because I was being sent to a design class in Orlando and had to get picked up super early.
  • Tuesday my co-worker Suma picked me up while it was still dark out and we drove to Orlando. We ate some donuts and took this "Fundamentals of Roadway Design" class. It wasn't appropriate for me at all and my boss probably shouldn't have wasted money to send me, but hey, I got exposed to some terminology even if I understood very little. I mostly just watched my co-worker do math. And we got to eat at Five Guys so that was fun. Also, I got word that Victor had to leave work and go to the hospital. He got admitted. Ugh. When I got home I made fancy icing for my donuts and ate them.
  • Wednesday I did more of my Access database tasks and after work Jeaux took me to Perkins and our cashier was a Steven Universe fan. Then at my house we watched The Tick. After he left I ate donuts and took a nap.
  • Thursday I got up early to listen to a SU podcast about Homeworld Gems, made my post on Tumblr, and went back to sleep for a while. Then at work I did more Access tasks. I went home and Mom picked me up so we could go visit Victor who was still in the hospital. We did that and then I went home and went to bed.
  • Friday I went to work and Victor got out of the hospital halfway through the day. All I had to do was more Access databases. After work I finished my webcomic, practiced ukulele, and went to sleep.
Interviews, Articles, Mentions:

Reading progress:
  • Finished this week: I didn't do much bus riding this week, so I also didn't do much reading this week. Didn't finish any books.
  • Currently readingThe Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin.
    New singing performances:

    This week's song was "Spaceman" by 4 Non Blondes.

    Stuff Drawn:

    First drawing of Aquamarine, that li'l jerk
    Garnet hanging with old friends

    Webcomic Negative One Issue 0670: "Too Scary."

    New videos:


    New photos:

    Cooking fake fish in my fireplace for kicks
    Glasses at work, still cute
    Got sent to design class, wore my Gem scarf
    Obviously I am not cut out for being an engineer
    Beautiful Fire Salt Donut closeup
    Gonna eat these and burn my face off

    Social Media Counts:

    YouTube subscribers: 5,288 for swankivy (2 new), 660 for JulieSondra (lost 2). Twitter followers: 912 for swankivy (lost 2), 1,312 for JulieSondra (lost 4). Facebook: 294 friends (no change) and 202 followers (no change) for swankivy, 656 likes for JulieSondra (lost 3), 55 likes for Negative One (no change), 126 likes for So You Write (no change). Tumblr followers: 2,497 (4 new). Instagram followers: 136 (1 new).

    Thursday, March 15, 2018

    Making it special

    My favorite show Steven Universe is coming back with new episodes on April 9th!

    Someone I met at Queer Brunch
    invited me to a viewing party. (I guess I will only know the host; I don't think I know any of their guests.) But even though the focal event is a single eleven-minute cartoon, we're going to make an evening of it with music, themed food, and reviewing favorite episodes.

    This kind of party can't happen often because the show doesn't air regularly. We only got a handful of new episodes all throughout 2017. Lately they tend to air in weird little clumps with no apparent rhyme or reason. So of course, the tiny blobs of content are momentous for us superfans, and celebrating it with a gathering of nerds seems like a really fun idea.

    It inspired me to think about the importance of rarity with regard to entertainment.

    A particular sentiment comes up frequently when I discuss this with my mom: she says in some ways having access to recorded media Ruined Everything. It's not special anymore, she says, now that you don't have to wait for the yearly airing of The Wizard of Oz when you have the dang thing on VHS. Instead of being a special thing that you gather to watch as a family and can't get sick of because it's aired rarely, it gets overplayed and taken for granted, and NOTHING can be special anymore when access is expanded in this way.

    And I do understand that point, to some extent. Severely limiting access to something does make it seem more special when it's finally time to enjoy it. It's like a yearly holiday, or a food you can only have at the annual fair, or visits with faraway loved ones with whom you're compelled to squeeze in every drop of focused interaction possible. It just wouldn't feel as exciting or as special if it was something you got to do every day.

    But beyond agreeing that rarity does increase the feeling of specialness, I disagree with deliberate scarcity on pretty much every other level.

    Yes, because of having entertainment available on recorded media or through streaming/on-demand access, we are no longer forced by circumstance to drop what we're doing and gather as a family (or a group of loved ones) to enjoy something together. But being able to control when, where, and how much we see something is good because then:

    • We don't have to sometimes make our lives and schedules revolve around what's on TV.
    • We can more easily accommodate emergencies or inconvenient schedules, like not having to leave out Janice because she had tennis practice, or have Jamal miss the family event because they were in the hospital, or have Ramon be forced to choose between staying up too late to watch with his family or going to bed when he should for the big meeting the next day.
    • We don't have to lose out for an entire year if we just forgot it was tonight.
    • If there's a weather event or technology problem that knocks out power or makes it impossible to access the media while it's being broadcast, this doesn't postpone enjoyment of the media for an entire extra year.
    • We can make our special events coincide with the visiting of loved ones who live far away, without the TV programming schedule controlling those dates.
    • If someone we know has never seen the piece of media, we can easily introduce them to it.
    • If someone we know has certain triggers or is very young, having a copy can allow someone else to first screen it for them watching for content that could cause a problem instead of just taking a chance that the content wouldn't be appropriate for a sensitive viewer.


    The problem with recognizing that scarcity helps make something special is that scarcity is usually regulated by someone else. YOU can create scarcity yourself on your own terms if you find that it makes experiences more meaningful to you; just like the shirt you only wear for special occasions or the food you only eat as a rare treat, you can avoid overexposure to this media that you want to preserve and just set the exposure to your own liking.

    I remember growing up in a time when Internet did not exist, reruns were not very predictable, on-demand cable TV wasn't a thing, and you might have to jump through some pretty weird hoops to program your VCR if you wanted to avoid missing a show you wanted to see. I learned to program a VCR as a teenager because I wanted to see Animaniacs and it invariably started before I got home on the school bus. You had to leave the cable box on the correct channel. You had to make sure a tape was in the VCR and that it was left on. And you had to trust that nobody would mess with it while you weren't home and hope that the power didn't go out or the VCR didn't get unplugged because that would reboot the machine and erase your instructions. Inevitably, once in a while something would mess up and I'd come home expecting and hoping to watch my favorite show and then I couldn't. And there was no way to find out when that episode I missed was going to air again. I spent close to two years trying to capture the last three episodes of that show that I'd never seen.

    Oh no, First World Problems, right?

    Yeah, I know it's not the end of the world. But neither is the reverse, right? If someone's going to roll their eyes at the difficulties I had trying to watch my favorite TV show when I was a teenager, I can say the same about "so what if your favorite movie no longer seems as sacred to you because access to it was expanded?"

    This April 9th, I'm going to watch a new episode of my favorite show right when it releases, and it'll be a big deal, and we're organizing an event around it because that's special. But say I was out of town with a family emergency? Say I was doing a talk in Canada? Say I got sick and couldn't see it? Say I had to work or a person I wanted to watch it with had to work? Say I forgot? Say I sat down to see it and my TV exploded or a storm knocked the power out?

    In today's world, if any of those things were the case? I could buy the episode on Amazon or pull it up on Hulu, and GET TO ENJOY IT. If for some reason real-life circumstances prevented me from dropping everything for those specific, particular eleven minutes, I could choose a different eleven minutes that worked better for me.

    I appreciate that far more than I would appreciate restrictive, highly regulated access to it that would answer a variety of circumstances with "too bad; you missed it; you won't have another chance for a long time." And you know, for a show like this that's serialized, until you see the episode, you can't watch the next one. If you don't have any other options to watch it unless you caught the premiere, your enjoyment of this thing is interrupted for a long time. That's also not something I think is better than the benefits of making it far more rare, scarce, and inaccessible.

    I promise. It's still special. Even though I can see it whenever I want.

    Wednesday, March 14, 2018

    Wednesday Factoid: To Try

    Today's Wednesday Factoid is: What's something you've been meaning to try but just haven't gotten around to it?

    I want to try baking with edible flowers.

    Obviously this is not a huge thing and I could easily just, you know, DO IT, but there are complications.

    I've initiated the process of trying this a few times, actually. See, it's dangerous to just buy flowers and use them in baking, because nearly every place you buy flowers from will have used toxic pesticides or at least substances that aren't meant to be eaten in their quest to create healthy, pretty flowers. Therefore, if you want to be sure your flowers are not going to poison you or make you sick, you have to either get them from a place that sells them for eating purposes or grow them yourself.

    I have on several occasions planted flowers that were supposed to yield edible blooms, but some never grew and some never bloomed.  I tried bachelor's buttons, nasturtiums, and snapdragons. Somehow never got something I could use.

    If I could get petals I can use, the next step would be to just coat the petals in egg whites and dip them in sugar, then let them dry on wax paper. I don't like the idea of using raw egg whites to eat without cooking, so I would likely just get a substitute egg product and use that. 

    These are the types of flowers that have blossoms you can use safely:

    Allium, angelica, apricot blossom, apple blossom, bachelor button, bean blossom, begonia, calendula, carnation, chrysanthemum, clover, crab apple, dandelion, day lily, dianthus, gardenia, geranium, ginger, gladiola, hibiscus, hollyhock, honeysuckle, hyacinth, jasmine, johnny jump-up, lavender, lilac, lily, marigold (the calendula type only), monarda, nasturtium, orange blossom, pansy, peach blossom, pear blossom, peony, plum blossom, primrose, rose, snapdragon, squash blossom, strawberry blossom, tulip, viola, violet, and yucca. 

    Ideally, I'd like to get some petals from one of these, make candied flower petals from them, and use them on cupcakes. :) We'll see if I ever do it.

    Note: I DID once make fritters with elder flowers baked in! (I ordered them from a site that provides dried herbs that are packaged to be eaten.) But the recipe I used was really supposed to have FRESH flowers, not dried ones, so the texture was kinda not what I wanted.

    One day maybe I'll make my sugar-n-spice cakes with flower petals instead of jellybeans!

    Saturday, March 10, 2018

    Personal Digest Saturday: March 3 – March 9

    Life news this week:
    • Saturday I just kinda played catch-up with my online affairs, and I made some vegan cupcakes for the Queer Brunch event the next day.
    • Sunday I went to Queer Brunch with Arthur and Yasmin. Had a nice chat with some folks about inclusion in communities and supporting each other instead of attacking. Came home and did my karaoke, took a nap, downloaded some old pictures and talked to Victor, and did laundry.
    • Monday I cut a path through the built-up work at the office. At home I made a bagel sandwich inspired by a cartoon and I ate it. Also worked on the new website versions I'm building.
    • Tuesday I spent the whole day on a database. Then I worked on my doodles website some more but a bunch of my work was erased because it was taking my input without actually saving it, because I'd been kicked out of the website management while idle and no error messages popped up. Welp. So I took a break and then had to do it all over again.
    • Wednesday involved a bunch of work errands. Had to make some new business cards and stuff. Then I got picked up by Jeaux and we ate at McAlister's and did a bunch of errands--Target, Five Below, the Post Office, Michaels. Then we listened to Night Vale and watched a couple episodes of The Tick.
    • Thursday I got up early to listen to a SU podcast about Bismuth, Jasper, and Rose Quartz. Yikes. Well, I wrote up a summary and went back to bed, then got up for work. Worked on the Access database. Then went to the health food store and home. Finished my webcomic.
    • Friday I went to work and did database stuff and then after work I took a bus to University Mall. I met Victor there and we saw Black Panther and ordered food using the in-theater restaurant options. (Expensive but fun!) Then we went home in a paid ride and hung out for a while. Victor did an experiment with an alcoholic beverage (he's never been drunk and wanted to find out if it was possible), and I recorded it on video. He didn't seem to have any mental shift but he did lose his equilibrium and had a hard time with his balance for the next few hours. Also ordered food at 1:30 AM. Welp. He slept over.
    Interviews, Articles, Mentions:

    Reading progress:
    • Finished this week: I didn't do much bus riding this week, so I also didn't do much reading this week. Didn't finish any books.
    • Currently readingThe Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin.
      New singing performances:

      This week's song was "You'll See" by Madonna.

      Stuff Drawn:

      Webcomic Negative One Issue 0669: "What We're Thinking."

      New videos:


      New photos:

      My afternoon sandwich
      Trying to look cool on my way to the mall
      Victor and me about to see Black Panther
      Time for Victor to try alcoholic beverages

      Social Media Counts:

      YouTube subscribers: 5,286 for swankivy (7 new), 662 for JulieSondra (no change). Twitter followers: 914 for swankivy (2 new), 1,316 for JulieSondra (lost 6). Facebook: 294 friends (no change) and 202 followers (1 new) for swankivy, 659 likes for JulieSondra (lost 1), 55 likes for Negative One (no change), 126 likes for So You Write (no change). Tumblr followers: 2,493 (lost 4). Instagram followers: 135 (no change).

      Wednesday, March 7, 2018

      Wednesday Factoid: Dieting

      Today's Wednesday Factoid is: Have you ever chosen to go on a diet or regimented eating program?

      Some would say being a vegetarian is automatically "being on a diet," though that's largely based on the (incorrect) assumption that people who are vegetarian or vegan are necessarily doing it for health reasons. I've been vegetarian for more than half my life and I don't really think of it as  "diet."

      I have on occasion done small things to lose small amounts of weight, though I've never had a real problem with my weight and have never had any medical professionals recommend that I do so. Sometimes I want to fit in clothes that I can't fit in and might decide to drop a few pounds. It's never anything drastic and usually the lifestyle changes I've made to achieve it aren't drastic either. 

      For a long time, I think 2006 to the end of 2014, I used to use a fitness website to record my food intake. I initially joined it after I got sick for a long time because I wanted to use the charts and info associated with it to figure out what nutrients I needed to focus on getting. Monitoring my eating necessarily leads to eating less food, for me, I found out. Even if I was not actively attempting to eat less, recording it subconsciously made me think about whether I wanted to really eat that because then I'd have to write it down. Sometimes I'd also arbitrarily decide not to eat more than X calories a day, even though if you'd asked me at the time I would deny that I was "counting calories." (I guess a machine was counting them, and then if I looked at them, it would affect my behavior.)

      I stopped recording my intake at the end of 2014 for no particular reason except that I just was sick of it. It's not too much of a pain to record such things if you're eating foods you eat often (so they're in the drop-down of recent foods) or foods that are easy to record, but it's very difficult to get accurate records for restaurant foods, and even harder to get accurate records for homemade concoctions (of which I made a lot!). So I figured eh, I'll just stop, and probably it's just not necessary, even though the nutrition reads did help me figure out that I wasn't getting enough Vitamin C, Calcium, Potassium, and Magnesium.

      Turns out recording my food actually did a lot. Surprise.

      Me at the beginning of 2015
      Me nowadays

      It's no big deal but I've definitely gained at least 20 pounds and can't fit in a lot of my clothes anymore. :P

      I have mixed feelings about "dieting" because you can be healthy at any size and I'm not a fan at all of the messages we send people about the consequences of being fat and the awful attitudes people have toward fat people (especially fat women)--so even though I'm not really in an area of body weight where most people would start calling me fat, I'm worried about whether I'd be interested in weight loss just because of negative messages and expected social consequences. But of course, there's also the straight-up practical aspect of it: If I don't lose some weight or at least avoid gaining any more, yeah, I'm going to have to get a lot of new clothes, and that's not cheap.

      So yeah. I should probably lose about 15 pounds.

      Maybe I should start plugging stuff into that site again. :P