The Littlest Meap

I sent this email out to several family members tonight and I thought I’d share it here. It’s most topical for those currently in the northern hemisphere, particularly in the US, but it’s a good reminder in general about charitable donations.

—-

Hi beloved family!

I hope you’re having a good winter! Especially as the weather gets colder, I think all our thoughts turns towards those who don’t have food or shelter. The Salvation Army is very good at using that awareness to raise money, but before you give it to them, please pause to consider what they’re doing with your donations.

The Salvation Army is an evangelical Christian church that sets up shop in poor neighborhoods (there is actually an Ejercito de Salvacion Church just down the street from where I live) and gives support to the poor and hungry as long as they are willing to listen to a sermon. They do not help lesbian, gay or bisexual people unless they repent and give up homosexuality, and their behavior towards transgender people is even worse. More than that, they pay for lobbyists to push for anti-gay legislation all around the world–that’s at least part of what you’re paying for when you give money to the Salvation Army.

I just read a really good article that lays out the specifics of a lot of the anti-gay work they do: Why you shouldn’t donate to the Salvation Army

That article lays out a lot of really good national and international alternatives to donating to the Salvation Army — the Red Cross, Goodwill, etc. All of those groups do important work and use donations well. But I often find myself thinking a bit more local and specific around this time of year, so I prefer to donate to smaller local charities: the San Francisco Foodbank, Second Harvest Foodbank, which serves San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties, and Larkin Street Youth Services, which provides food, housing, and support to runaways and homeless youth in San Francisco.

If you’re not in the Bay Area and you’re looking for a cause that’s more local to you, Feeding America has a nationwide directory of foodbanks.

Happy holidays!

Molly

Long-abandoned, not forgotton

Posted by: meaplet on: June 12, 2011

Goodness, it’s been a long time since I updated this blog. But having spent some time this afternoon migrating it from wordpress.com to a hosted wordpress blog, and even more time jumping through my posts and reading about a year and a half of my life, I’m trying to figure out what I actually want from this particular space.

A lot of my internet life has moved into walled gardens, lately. As much as I rail against Facebook, the twin homes of Ravelry and Dreamwidth aren’t exactly welcoming to the world outside. They’re niche, they’re focused, I dive in and feel like I am safe and protected, with only like-minded people around me.

This space has always felt a little bit more exposed, for some reason, tripping around on the internet with the hubris of a domain that is my own. In other spaces–Twitter, DW, etc, my posts are about taking part in a conversation that ripples back and forth across a community. Here I’m just standing on my own platform, shouting about my thoughts and opinions, and while people are nice enough to leave comments, I am the principal, in a way I don’t really feel the need to be.

But it was fun, being out here on the Wide Open Internet. I’m glad this is here, and I’m glad it’s as open as it was. Maybe I’ll try to work some of that back into my internet life.

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From Ireland

Posted by: meaplet on: November 11, 2009

Hey guys,

I’m like, in Ireland and stuff this week. We’re pushing out a big stage of my big project this week, and so the two members of our team who are in the States came over to Dublin for a weeklong intensive with the guy on our team who is here (he got to come to Mountain View the last 4 times we worked together in person).

Having the entire team in the same time zone is pretty awesome for getting stuff done.

Also, it turns out that Ireland in the winter is the prettiest thing that ever happened. The sunlight shifts down in horizontal shafts from the clouds, illuminating the hills that you can see just over the city skyline and lighting up patches of grass and heather.

We got in Sunday morning, and rented a car to do a wee bit of tourism before settling in to Dublin for the week. We drove down to Wicklow and wandered around in Glendalough, which I think might have a direct connection to Avalon.

Lest they be remembered

My breathing hasn’t quite returned to normal. If I stayed in this country for too long, I’d probably have no choice but to become a poet. Or worse, spend all my time going tira-lira like Lancelot.

I’m celebrating the completion of the project by taking next week off and being an itinerant in Europe. Trains and ferries are going to be my friend, and I’m hopefully going to see some theatre, punt on the Thames, bike around Amsterdam, and the like (most of next week I’ll be in the Netherlands, but my flight back to the States leaves from London.) Life is hard.

I’m going to be continually updating the photoset I’ve temporarily called Eurotrip, if you want to follow along. I’ll probably rename it as soon as I come up with a more obscure reference to that excellent film (and no, “Scotty Doesn’t Know” doesn’t count, I’ve decided.)

My kind of teachable moment

Posted by: meaplet on: September 21, 2009

In the alternate universe where I have a dorky logic blog (which is, I must confess, a very close universe to this one), this post lives on it.

The “pornography causes homosexuality” news story that has been making the rounds today is the most delightful example of a classical logical fallacy that I’ve seen in some time, and I expect to call upon it for all discussions of said logical fallacy going forward.

If you haven’t seen the story yet, Senator Tom Colburn’s chief of staff has been claiming that watching any pornography at all, including straight pornography, causes homosexuality:

“Pornography is a blight,” Schwartz told an audience in a crowded room of the Omni Shoreham hotel. “It is a disaster. It is one of those silent diseases in our society that we haven’t been able to overcome very well. Now, I may be getting politically incorrect here. And it’s been a few years, but not that many, since I was closely associated with pre-adolescent boys, boys around 10 years of age. But it is my observation that boys of that age have less tolerance for homosexuality than just about any other class of people. They speak badly about homosexuality. And that’s because they don’t want to be that way. They don’t want to fall into it.”

The argument, as I understand it, is as follows: 10-year-old boys abhor homosexuality, and they do not watch porn. When they grow up and watch porn, they have laxer morals and are thus more open to homosexuality.

This, as any first-year logic student can tell you, is an example of false cause, or cum hoc, ergo propter hoc (the tasteless cross-language puns write themselves, don’t they? (1)), the mistaken notion that because two things are correlated, there is necessarily a causal relationship between them. There is of course an excellent XKCD on this particular fallacy(2).

Generally speaking, there is a third, unmentioned factor that is responsible for both things, in this case puberty.

But wow did this story give me a little bit of logical fallacy glee today. Oh, my tendency to pay more attention to the form of arguments than the content. Someday it will do me in.

1. Purile jokes aside, cum hoc ergo propter hoc means “with this, therefor because of this” and is closely related to the fallacy post hoc ergo propter hoc, or “after this, therefor because of this.”
2. There is a also a correlation between posts where I use the “snide logician” tag and posts where I reference XKCD. Make of that what you will, as long as you don’t assume a causal relationship.

Television

Posted by: meaplet on: September 5, 2009

Last week, I acquired two things of note (for certain definitions of “of note”). They are, in chronological order, an antenna so that I can watch broadcast tv, and the worst head cold I’ve head since 2003, which trapped me in my apartment for two days with nothing to do but knit and watch tv.

In fact, I acquired them in such short succession that back somewhere in the animal parts of my brain, I half suspect the tv of making me sick. I hooked up the antenna Tuesday night, watched a documentary on Andy Warhol, and went to sleep, only to wake up at two am with a killer sore throat and the realization that I’d been having a feverish nightmare about Warhol.

Having not lived with broadcast, cable, or the like since I graduated from high school, and having experienced only the rural version of broadcast tv (three stations if you’re lucky and point your antenna in the right direction), I was highly startled by the number of broadcast channels that are available in the middle of a city. I feel like I have 90 channels, although that is probably an exaggeration. Certainly I have four or five variations of PBS, three Korean stations, one in Japanese, four in Chinese, six in Spanish.

And I have the Nasa channel. It’s somewhat hypnotic in the level of boredom it provides. With the Space Shuttle Discovery currently docked at the International Space Station, it offers twenty-minute interludes of the projector screens at Mission Control, interspersed with low-resolution images of Earth from space and indoor shots in which a pair of legs occasionally float up from the bottom of the screen. I can’t even imagine what this station descends to when there is not thrilling space construction underway.

On the other hand, I am frustrated to find that I can’t find any outside confirmation of the news I learned in tonight’s mission briefing, that today during a space walk one of the astronaut’s helmets came loose and began to spin around his head. I was washing dishes when they played a video of this, and I cannot imagine how it is that he survived, so that they’re talking about it as an annoyance and not a tragic death. Did I mishear? Is there a second, inner helmet? I demand answers to these questions!

And I promise, if I do not get them, I will go back to watching Korean soap operas instead.

Cell phone blues

Posted by: meaplet on: August 29, 2009

I lost my cellphone yesterday.

Panicking experience–I was on my way to visit my grandparents, and I was running an hour early. I only had a couple of minutes to catch the next train north though, and I dashed from the shuttle to the train, only to have the doors close while I was buying my ticket. Now I was only running half an hour early, and somehow between being on the shuttle and being on the CalTrain platform my cellphone had disappeared. No way to call them and let them know I was early. No way to distract myself staring at an elegantly-animated CalTrain schedule. Or respond to the email I’d just gotten about the draft of the press release I’d been working on.

I’m pretty sure that I just failed at putting the phone into my pocket while I hopped off the train and that I’ll be able to get it from Caltrain next week when the administrative office is open again.

But still, in the last twenty-four hours I’ve really had it driven home exactly what a security risk I’ve been running by having my G1 not password-protected. I act like my email is sacrosanct and safe, but anyone who picked up my phone would have immediate access to it, my bank statement emails (I got two emails from mint.com in the 12 hours after losing my phone, each with detailed information about my checking, savings and credit card balances). All that information was available for the taking and I have done NOTHING to keep it secure.

On the other hand, living with my data in the cloud as much as I do means that I’m freed from most of the hassles that regularly attend losing a phone. My phone contacts and GMail contacts are one, so I do not have to be one of those losers with an “I lost my cellphone. Please list your number here” Facebook groups. My phone body was free, so I’m not actually stressed about losing it, and I know enough people who aren’t using their G1s that I’m optimistic about being able to barter a phone for something (hand-knitted gloves or something? I make great gloves.)

One thing I have to say, though, TMobile was fabulous about it. The last time I lost a cellphone (in spring of 2004) I remember AT&T being sort of mean and condescending about it. But Michael at TMobile was great. He deactivated my SIM and gave me a free accessory along with the new one I bought. I use TMobile primarily because they’re across the street, so I was just able to walk across the street and talk to a rep in person. Michael’s also the one who sold me my phone, so he has an investment in my being happy. But the service I’ve gotten from him, both now and when I bought my phone (I got TMobile a week before my AT&T contract ended, and he called AT&T on the day it ended to transfer my number over. I had to do no work) have made me thrilled to be a TMobile customer.

Review: Rent Boy Ave.

Posted by: meaplet on: August 3, 2009

A few minutes before Rent Boy Ave. started, a disheveled, obviously drunk woman stumbled in though a side door with two plastic cups of liquid slopping out of her hands. “That’s called sauvignon blanc,” she slurred and handed them to a man sitting in the front row. She then worked her way around the audience, asking for money and promising to bring us something from the concession stand if we just gave her a dollar. She was joined by another panhandler, and the two of them proceeded to harass the audience until suddenly the lights went dark, and they (joined by others) began to sing.

Rent Boy Ave. is a lot of things. It’s a musical, for one. It’s a meditation on cliches and fairy tales and how they play out in everyday life. It’s a story about homeless teens. It’s a love story. It’s the most intensely uncomfortable experience I’ve had in a theatre in a long time. And it was also really good.

Rent Boy Ave. follows several homeless teens as they find ways to feed themselves. They visit soup kitchens, they panhandle, they sell drugs and their bodies. Mark is a veteran of the streets, a seventeen-year-old rent boy who’s convinced he only sleeps with men because they pay more than women, and is concerned that he’s losing his business to “ten to twelve year olds who will give it up for a candy bar.” Jackie, also a veteran hooker, was a high-school valedictorian and homecoming queen before she ran away from home in the wake of a back-alley abortion, and spends the play struggling with her pimp over money and drugs. David is the new boy on the street, who goes from wide-eyed innocent to self-satisfied drug dealer over the course of the show. Paying close attention are three adults: a compassionate nun who was once an addict herself, a collected, rhyming pimp, and an abusive john who would love to get his hands on David.

And the audience too is a character, pulled into the drama whether they like it or not. Early in the second act, Trashcan Sally, the woman who panhandled the audience before the show started, confronted an audience member. “Hey, I know you. You’re the guy who payed $25 to come in here and see what you could watch right outside for free.” And it’s true–the Boxcar Stage is at 6th St. and Howard, in the sketchier part of Soma. (However, she had to say it to him in the third row, where all the audience members who started out in the front row had escaped to over intermission.) The black box space had seating on three sides, including “scaffolding seating,” cushions set on top of scaffolds that the actors frequently climbed and lept over (this is were my friends and I sat. It was billed as putting us into the action, but ironically it kept us safer from being confronted by the cast than the people in the standard seating.

We had a few technical complaints about the show. Although we loved the singing, staging, choreography and acting, the lighting design was pretty terrible, and the singers had to be miked too high to compete with the volume of the band, especially in a concrete space. But I strongly recommend it to anyone in the Bay Area at the moment, and may wind up seeing it again.

Rent Boy Ave. is showing at the Boxcar Stage, 505 Natoma St, San Francisco. It runs through August 22.

Pageant and Pomp and Parade

Posted by: meaplet on: July 2, 2009

Today marks the 233rd anniversary of the day the US Continental Congress voted unanimously for Independence from Great Britain. John Adams wrote to Abigail,

The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade with shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.

You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these states. Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will triumph in that Days Transaction, even although We should rue it, with I trust in God We shall not. [transcription from Pastor and People]

Two days later the actual document of their declaration went to the printer, and we wound up celebrating that day thanks to a lifetime of campaigning by one T. Jefferson (up to and including his and Adams’s well-coordinated deaths on July 4, 1826).

But I always like to give a little pump of the fist for this, the day the Founders thought would go down in history. Because while life may be nasty, brutish, and short, and while “mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed,” government can and does sometimes do wonderful, astonishing things.

I’m a lot more attached to the Constitution [Madison and Hamilton party!] than I am to the Declaration of Independence, but you can trust me when I say that this weekend there will be a little bit of 1776, a little bit of John Adams, and a whole lot of revolutionary geekery.

Letters

Posted by: meaplet on: June 17, 2009

Dear California,

I really need to stop reading Calitics, because the more I read about your politics, the less I understand. No wonder Prop 8 was upheld; we have an absolutely insane system of government in this state. Apparently the State Parks aren’t going to be closed after all; that is, it seems, a measure that Governors threaten to undertake whenever the Legislature isn’t working fast enough on the budgeting process.

But Schwarzenegger has threatened to ::shut down the entire state government:: if the legislature doesn’t put together a budget this week; they were also threatening to do that if the ridiculous measures in the special election last month didn’t pass.

This is my shout of frustration into the universe at the entire situation. I really love you, dear home state, and it would be nice if we didn’t have a “Constitution” that can be amended randomly by popular vote (my personal favorite part is the bit where it’s unconstitutional to eat horse meat because there were like 50 people riled up about it in the 80s and nobody wanted to be pro-horse-eating in the general election), a set of judges elected by popular vote, a legislature too tied up in special interest money to get anything done, and, well, ::Arnold Schwarzenegger:: as the governor.

With friendly irritation,
Molly

—–

Dear Equality California,

I was really impressed with your letter of several weeks ago that included as a call to action not just a request for funds but a sign-up for volunteering. However, I wish I had heard something from you on that topic since the confirmation email. Since I’m canvassing on Saturday, I’d really like to know where to meet the rest of the group, if you don’t mind.

Hoping to hear from you,
Molly

—–

Dear Pride,

Wow you are approaching fast. 40th Anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, is it? I am not marching this year (going to the Opera with my grandparents instead, which kind of cracks me up) but I sure am looking forward to this year’s annual Pride Concert at First Unitarian Universalist Church in San Francisco.

As you may know, Bob, the concert is the Thursday and Friday before Pride, June 25 and 26, at 8pm. It’s going to feature the Lesbian/Gay Chorus of San Francisco and the San Francisco Lesbian Gay Freedom Band, and have special guests the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus.

And there is still room in the program for anyone who wants to advertise.

Love,
Molly

—–

Dear Iran,

Um, please get that recount/revote underway as soon as possible. I’m worried about you, dear.

Solicitously,
Molly

—–

Dear President Obama,

You want me to have the energy to be angry at you now too? Over the not-so-gray-areas of DATD and DOMA? Really?

With resignation,
Molly

—–

Dear Self,

You were a much more scintillating conversationalist before you replaced your nightly watching of the news with nightly watching of Star Trek.

Love,
You

As May ends…

Posted by: meaplet on: May 30, 2009

May has been an interesting month. I’ve had a lot of projects wrapping up, which has meant a lot of stress. But I’ve also done some really fun stuff. You’ve already heard a bit about London, but here are some other things that happened in May, illustrated.

From May fun, 2009

The weekend after I got back from London, I went to Six Flags Discovery Kingdom with some friends. It’s now a totally different place than it was as Marine World Africa USA when I was a kid. This is actually nice, as when it was Six Flags Marine World it was kind of depressing. They had the rides in front and all the animals in back, and they clearly cared a whole lot less about the animals. They’ve now got the whole park much more integrated, and they’re taking much better care of the animals.

From May fun, 2009

Last weekend, Naomi graduated from UC Berkeley, and we had a lot of great family visiting. I hosted my parents and had a great time with them Saturday morning before they went back up to Willits. We also got to meet Naomi’s boyfriend David’s family. We had dinner together at an Italian restaurant in Berkeley, which had an incredible broken typewriter in the parking lot…

From May fun, 2009

This weekend, on the advice of my dear friend Erin, I took an introductory letterpress class at the San Francisco Center for the Book. I’m so excited about learning more! I made rather a lot of these post cards, so if you want mail from me, please send me an email (meaplet[at]gmail[dot]com) with your postal address and you will get your very own bleak Stoppardian card!