This isn’t over. Not yet. Maybe never.

Look. I’ve spent years into studying societies, how people fuck them up, and how they unfuck themselves. Politics is history happening, science fiction is the history of the future, and I write hopeful dystopian fantasy & science fiction. So of course I’ve been glued to the news for, um, ever, but especially the last few months. It’s mesmerizing.

This post contains meandering musings about this & that, life the universe, and so on. No particular idea where it’s going, so bail now if you’re looking for a Dramatic Point or a Conclusive Proclamation.

I wish I was surprised by the direction politics have been heading in the US since, oh, since we hit the twenty-first century, but I’m not. I’ve been doing deep research on the history of religious cults, separatist groups, American fascism, racist organizations, Confederate true-believers, insurrectionist movements FOR 35 YEARS.

All this time, I’ve been disappointed and fearful about national politics more often than not, but I cling to hope that my country’s leaders would avoid total collapse. I am too optimistic, perhaps. Still, I remain confident the world won’t end, no matter what.

That’s because I’m a biology major who studied ecology. I have immense respect for matters straightening themselves out on a planetary scale. Global warming may wipe out all life down to bacteria, but life will go on. It’ll be different, it won’t be a place anyone human can live, but…okay, maybe I have a weird perspective.

AND I DIGRESS. Ha. Big surprise. Moving on…

Here’s one thing that sank in early in my fascination with studying ways the future might careen towards hell in a handbasket: wars don’t happen the way I learned about them in history classes. They only look obvious in hindsight or from a distance.

The questions history likes to answer are ones like, “what caused the war?” “how bad did it get?” and “how long did it last?” No one can answer those from the happening side of a conflict. Worse, war in the modern world is messy. To borrow from Dr. Seuss, war can happen without uniforms, it can happen without guns, it can happen without declarations, legislation, or sides.

“War: a state of armed conflict between different nations or states or different groups within a nation or state” (italics mine, definition courtesy of Oxford Languages)

By that definition, the United States has been in a state of war for months now, and I don’t think it’s anywhere near over.

Skirmishes have been happening for years (Occupy movement. Bundys. Border detentions, Charlottesville…the list goes on and on.) Since June 2020 fighting has broken into the open and gone through multiple cycles of violence, truce, and renewed conflict. BLM protests. Pandemic protests. Pre- and post-election Trump rallies. The mob assault on the Capitol.

Yeah. That last one. That’s the one that seems to have finally tipped the scales into “HEY WTF IS GOING ON” for a lot of people.

Looking back, it’s always much easier to connect the dots.

I’m gobsmacked by how stunned people were that the “pro-Trump” rallies “turned violent.” It takes a whopping big dose of denial to ignore the open calls for sedition from a movement so obviously, violently fascist that it embraces the use of the Nazi swastika, one whose followers put bullseye targets on pictures of their enemies, and who call for lynchings and firing squads against their own elected officials.

But hey, denial and lies have served conservative political representatives so well for so long that maybe they forgot that the people they were lying to believe the lies. There’s a dangerous false security in downplaying calls to violence that don’t meet the historical standard of “warfare.” (They aren’t fascists, pfft. That was 1930’s Germany. This is now. They aren’t racist, they’re making jokes. They aren’t proposing the overthrow of the elected government, they’re merely objecting to results they don’t like, and, uh, talking about holding the people who disagree hostage until they change the result…or lynching them…or…yeah…hm.)

I’m glad the Capitol incident made an impression. It barely escaped being a bloody, gruesome wake-up call. Call it a rally gone wrong, call it a riot, call it an organized insurrection–those labels can be discussed. But it escaped being a mass murder only by a chance combination of heroic actions coupled with good luck. It was almost an undeniable act of insurrection. It was almost the first battle in an undeclared war. (have you noticed how Americans only tend to call things wars if they happen somewhere else?)

I wish the immediate aftermath gave me more hope. Sadly, there was also an immediate return to the same old playbook of minimizing, and that doesn’t stun me in the least. The whataboutisms, misdirection, false equivalencies, ad hominem dismissals, and wholesale denial of reality–those tactics have served certain government representatives for so long they can’t seem to accept that they’re not riding the tiger any more, that they’re being batted back and forth by it.

It’s been a quiet fortnight since January 6, in the news at least. It hasn’t been peaceful, and too many people are suffering under the awful laws of the current regime, but the insurrection threats are being taken more seriously by the institutions that are still functioning. So there’s that.

And tomorrow, if all goes well, there’ll be a new president, one who has plans ready to go, a commitment to make the job more than a 4-year series of election rallies, and a team of idealists who want to make systems work better, not just make life better for some people under the current systems.

But those insurrectionists? They’re not going anywhere. Most of them are home, and they live all over the nation. They live in my town and your town. In our neighborhoods. In our families. They work where I work. They shop where I shop.

That isn’t going to end when control of the executive branch of the government changes hands.

But that’s a good stopping point for my post. Time to go do some dreaming, hoping that the world will get better tomorrow and the next day, and maybe for a few thousand tomorrows after that.

Until later.

The latest in thinks

I hear an author blog is s’posed to be an Authentic but Also Curated Internet Presence, topical, focused, even in tone and always showcasing the author’s brand.

I…uh…problem is, authentic me is a bit flaky on the outside, thick and juicy once I get going, sometimes salty, sometimes sweet, relentless and omnivorous in my research & reading interests but unfocused in same, opinionated and cranky. It’s impossible to tell whether I’ll feel like writing a until I dig into it. And some posts are both. Hm. I think my brand is “pie.”

2. True story: my brain is weird,

The weirdnesses run in my family, so because of that, I didn’t know I wasn’t “normal” until I went out & about in the world in my teens and later. Some examples:

From the time I could tell time & read, I was given a reading light, lots of books, and tacit permission to do whatever I wanted all night long as I stayed in my room and was quiet enough not to get caught. Quelle surprise to me that other people slept all night EVERY night, not just some nights.

It turns out most people’s parents did not read bedtime stories backwards as well as forwards. Or make games out of recognizing full words and phrase rather than alphabet letters. Or encourage little kids to memorize long passages of text. My dyslexic dad did all those things.

Things I learned from classmates: other people did not go outside and play (read: burn off energy running around) BEFORE doing homework. or again afterwards, after dinner, as a reward for sitting still. The concept of napping after a meal remains alien to me to this day.

I was taught from forever how to set up my personal spaces and daily routines to counteract an innate inability to find anything stored inside another thing. Dressers and desks are like magic disappearing devices. I have solid “put it where it goes” habits, EVERYTHING I OWN has a specific home, and all important items are stored in full view. Wall hooks, open shelves, and nothing layered inside shelves.

3. this week’s grouchy voting rant.

I do not care if you hate the system or hate Joe Biden because he’s a rapist or too moderate or too progressive OR you feel your vote doesn’t matter OR you want things to change some other way. I don’t care.

Look. I don’t do hyperbole here. I wrote a whole scifi series set in a United States that collapsed like a socio-political soufflé, deflating into death one crisis after another, and I did a LOT of research into trends and danger signs and what makes good countries go bad…

and I gotta say I am pretty pissed off to be watching it happen in real time. I keep hoping we will step back from the precipice, but we are already witnessing–and too many of us are enduring–civil warfare at the local & state level while our national leaders publicly flout the rule of law, gloat about it, and bring down the full force of those same laws on everyone they dislike, guilty or no. Oh, and then there’s the climate collapse & the virus disaster and-and-and UGH.

If you think not voting means you don’t have skin in the game, you are so, so very wrong. That isn’t how civics works. SOMEONE gets into every office. Not voting only guarantees that you’re stuck with someone else’s choice. And the fewer people who vote, the more likely an extremist will get in and do things you don’t like. At. Every. Level. This is how Home Owners Associations go bad. This is how bad people become mayors who give their buddies big pensions. This is how creeps voted up through the ranks into the Senate.

“IT DOESN’T MATTER/IT DOESN’T AFFECT ME” IS HOW WE GOT HERE, careening through history into a future I have really, really fought hard to prevent.

4. Once more thing.

Not to end on a brooding grouch, here’s a recipe for fresh pickling solution that works with a wide variety of veggies. I went to a lot of trouble to make sure if was reproducible using measuring tools I’ve been winging it for literal decades without any, basically doing it to taste to fit whatever size receptacle I had. The below proportions work.

  • 1 c vinegar
  • 1 c hot water
  • 1/2 c sugar or sweetener
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • dealers choice of aromatics. I like to slice in a yellow onion, maybe some fresh seeded jalapenos, a few peppercorns. Garlic clove & dill leaf or seed are a popular choices, but I don’t like it. YMMV, whatevs.

That’s it. Mix up until everything dissolvable has dissolved, then pour over sliced or small veggies in a container you can refrigerate. If you use plastic, be warned it will take on the scent of the vinegar & veggies inside.

And that is that all there is to read from me until later. Unless you want to go out & buy my books, insist all your friends buy them too so you can enthuse about them together, and then write reviews all over the internet. In which case, you have lots more fun ahead of you.

No? Okay, then. Until next blog!

Masks. Is yours comfy?

Early in the Age of Mask Mandates I noticed a puzzling thing: I had adapted MUCH more easily to wearing masks than others I knew.

Masks leaves a large percentage of my friends feeling breathless or dizzy, they give people headaches or leave them exhausted after a short time. They hurt. My friends are NOT using these problems as excuses to endanger themselves or others by going mask-free, mind you, but they do suffer major discomfort to be safe and save others.

But me? I’m not suffering. I find masks relatively comfy. This surprised and puzzled me, because as a rule, I have major problems adjusting to new physical demands. (Just ask my very, VERY patient optician.)

So why has mask-wearing been such a breeze? The answer came to me, after much pondering, while washing my face after a 3-hour mask-wearing shift at work.

I don’t mind masks because I was a competitive swimmer for six years, and I’ve spent countless hours swimming laps for exercise in the years since.

No, seriously. Here’s what I’ve learned from playing in the pool:

  1. Swim caps & goggle taught me how to endure the literal pain of straps and seals diging into my head. Anything that presses near the ears or nose, covers the sides of the head, or ties above the neck in back can lead to mysterious, horrendous headaches. You learn which precises spots on your head will tolerate intrusions by trial and error, and even then, tiny adjustments make a huge difference. I do all that without thinking.
  2. Wearing goggles also taught me how to tune out the sensation of things grinding against my cheeks and sinuses. Yes, that matters. We all have lots of nerves there. New experiences and sensations are exhausting even when they’re nice ones. Masks aren’t nice.
  3. Lap swimming taught me how to override my body’s interpretation of pressure. There’s nothing natural about putting your face into water and convincing your lungs it’s FINE, GO AHEAD AND WORK. Inhaling deeply when your senses tell you there’s resistance goes against instinct and sets off an unconscious stress response. Cloth doesn’t create that much resistance to inhaling, but it doesn’t take much to make the experience stressful. And stress = headaches, weariness, and anxiety. Me? I just…tune it out.
  4. Swimming taught me breathing discipline. Exertion in water ups the volume on that constant “not enough air getting through!” message the brain is sending. There is no way to compete without passing out from O2 deprivation unless you re-learn how to breathe in specific resistance-avoidance ways.
    Now that I’m looking for it, I catch myself breathing in through my mouth and giveing the breath a little deeper oomph than I “normally” would whenever my mask rides up against my nose. And then I exhale just that tiny bit more forcefully through the nose than I would without the mask on. Exactly as when I’m swimming.
  5. Competition taught me the importance of evaluating equipment. Comfort, looks, and performance all matter, but comfort has to be priority 1. If my cap gave me headaches, my goggles fogged, or my suit dragged, they weren’t right for ME, even if the whole Olympic swim team swore by them. Whichever one fits me best, meets the monimum specs and won’t get me disqualified.
    Same for masks. I don’t understand anyone who accepts the first mask type as the Only Type. I went through 5 styles and 3 different material combinations to find ones that I can wear all day.
    I am aware not everyone can afford that, but I think everyone should learn that they CAN find a different mask if the one they’re wearing is uncomfortable.
  6. Swimming also taught me how to accurately gauge a 6′ distance, to avoid touching my face, and to read people’s emotional state when half their features are obscured, but those skills aren’t quite as critical as the other ones.

Are masks the best thing ever? Ugh, no. I hear people better when I can see their lips move. I have a better chance of interpreting non-verbal cues correctly if I can see mouths as well as eyes and bodies. They fog my glasses. They make my face sweat. I constantly want to fidget with them.

But the kind of serious issues that make healthy people understandably unhappy about wearing them at all? Nope.

Last little point of interest: people masking up hasn’t significantly affected my ability to identify them. That isn’t a trick from swimming, though. That’s an unexpected silver lining to my faulty facial recognition software. I didn’t recognize people by faces before they wore masks!

So for me, a mask is just another head accessory, and I am thankful for that. I suspect I’ll be wearing one in public spaces for a quite some time yet. So it’s a good thing I love having the right accessories.

I am curious how all y’all are dealing with Mask Life. If you want to share which of your life experiences have helped you make your peace with wearing them, I’d love to read about it.

That’s all I’ve got for now. Until later!

gold carnival mask with red feathered headdress
This is not a protective mask, but it is pretty.