Monday, May 04, 2015

Maryland Sheep and Wool 2015

A group of us headed up to Maryland Sheep and Wool on Saturday. I have thoughts about Saturday visits to the Festival. (The crazy people go on Saturday.  Sunday is so much more calm.  But one of our group had to head out of town Sunday, so Saturday it was.)  We arrived about lunchish and did not go straight for food, figuring everyone else would do that and, well, I can't imagine ever going Saturday again but I need to eat sooner or pack more snacks if I'm going to do that. Everything took longer on Saturday (seriously, in the same amount of time were were there Saturday I can usually, hit all my favorite booths, and check in on some others we wander past, get food, and find a nice spot on the grass to enjoy the weather and knit.)  It was mostly just the numbers game, because more people come on Saturday, you have to park in the overflow (If you are not there as it opens, which no) and so it took longer to get to the festival, and then there are more people milling about and while we missed most of the really crazy lines there were simply more people to navigate past and around everywhere we went.
Now don't get me wrong, it was still totally worth it and a lovely visit, and since we got there in the pm side, none of the lines were outrageous.  I came home with a wee bit more than I had planned, but I regret nothing.  It is all squishy and lovely and I want to knit it all now.  Also, saw quite a few new vendors this year, including Buffalo Wool (who I am used to visiting at the Holiday Market, so seeing them here in May was fun). 
And it was a day spent with people who understood the squishing and the petting of things sheepy (or buffalo, or cotton, or yak). 

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Three Interesting Things: The Baltimore Uprising Edition

1. If you are looking for places to support Baltimoreans, here are some book/food/water type places:  Maryland Food Bank, Pratt Library, Village Learning Place, and Baltimore Water Project.
2. A really good rundown of the conditions in Baltimore that have been leading to this quite desperate need for change was in the WaPo here. (I find that the description of the what triggered the looting differs from other accounts, but as a rundown of Baltimore, it is a very useful source.)
3. This article about the strange experience of playing a game for no live fans is, certainly not fluffy, but an examination of a less serious aspect of things Baltimore.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Let's Talk About Privilege

There's been a lot of discussion recently about privilege and structural isms and so on.  And it's really a tough thing if you've never quite seen where in some cases you get certain advantages (or even experience less barriers) to open up and try to examine that.  And also part of it, is that embedded approaches seem so huge to fix, that it's very, very tempting to ignore them and hope they go away. 
Not picking on anyone I'm just going to share some examples that I've seen and talk a little about them.  These examples are paraphrased and the identity of each I don't think is important, but I will state that there are people of multiple races represented here, and while these examples focus on socio-economics, I could easily have plucked some that looked at gender bias, or rape culture, or any other myriad of things.
"These people are in Seattle, so there is no excuse for bad behavior while protesting."  (The bad behavior was not illegal behavior, it was simply a protesting statement that some people find offensive.)
So..first, assuming that people who don't live within spitting distance of the latest situation of a police-related killing, kind of works on the assumption that you think this problem (if, admittedly you agree that this is a problem) is based on specific police officers, the bad apple theory. So if it is just specific police officers who aren't fully trained, or have bad days, or overreact, then, sure, no one anywhere else ever has to worry that they or someone they love will be a target of this.  Except, there are examples nationwide. And look, I am pro-police officers, not just because I am related to some, but I am also aware that there is clearly a systemic problem. I suspect that there aren't simple answers, it won't just be training, it won't just be more safeguards, it won't just be legal adjustments, but that doesn't mean I don't understand why people who don't live in spitting distance of this year's police involved killings are worried that people they love might end up the next statistic.
"Why do protesters interfere with traffic.  People here hate that.  Traffic is bad enough."
Now, I hate anyone interfering with my commute too.  (Okay, sure, as a telecommuter, that's hard to do these days.) But, let's face it, traffic interruptions make news.  Just like athletes wearing t-shirts or making gestures, so these things are not solving any immediate issues, but they certainly work as far as keeping people aware that the protest continues.  During the Occupy protests, it was often easy to forget they were still there.  Every day.  So, if these protestors are making use of traffic interruptions, I'm not surprised.  People commonly come down to DC and refuse to move in front of the White House in the hopes that their eventual arrest will make news.  Sometimes it does.  It's a tactic. 
"Well, that's not enough of a number to really draw any conclusions." (This was in response to the statistic that people of color are about four times more likely to die while being arrested or detained by police.)
I applaud questioning the source of statistics.  However, if you look at the self-reported numbers - here is one article -  it looks bad.  And given that this is the self-reported data, and there are probably many more that aren't reported, well, I suppose it's theoretically possible that any missing numbers are all white people and would skew the statistics.  But here's the thing, the data we have is imperfect at best, but nothing about that data suggests to me that we should wait on a larger sample size.  And, forgive me for making assumptions, but I think the only reason you might think we need more time is if you are again, pretty sure that you don't have to worry about anyone you love.  And if you don't, lucky for you.  But I would hope that would then spur you to say we need better data, not, nothing to worry about here.
"Area unemployment is so low, obviously anyone out of work doesn't want to work."
I'm not saying that there aren't people who aren't motivated to work.  But low unemployment means the job market is good, but doesn't speak to the jobs that are available.  There might be very few open jobs available to people without a certain education level, without an address, or in the DC area, possibly without security clearance.  Also, I may be able to get a job flipping burgers tomorrow, but that job would likely not support my current rent, so even people who have jobs, may be struggling to find sufficient employment to live.  Areas with hot job markets also seem to have high rental and property rates. Again, if you don't want to worry about unemployed folks, you don't have to.  But don't decide that the numbers let you off the hook.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Three Interesting Things

1. This TED talk with the Story Corp founder is just as amazing as you might expect. 
2. Michelle at Fluttering Butterflies talks about growing up mixed race and wishing she could find mirrors in fiction.
3. And Lifehacker has an interesting post on signs the debate you are engaging in will not end fruitfully.

Monday, April 20, 2015

In the Company of Writers 2015

This past weekend was the Washington Romance Writers retreat, aka, In the Company of Writers in Westminster. Friday we gathered up and Bella Andre kicked us off with a great speech at dinner about doing your research and not being afraid to ask. The next morning I was up very early, so I could go into a critique workshop with a group of my fellow WRWers. It was a great session, led by Kerri Buckley and everyone had really great feedback. At lunch, Rita Clay Estrada, who founded RWA (and whom the Rita award is named after) talked about the founding of RWA and how it had been started in part after nasty comments from an attendee at a writer's conference who wanted the romance writers to take their silly books somewhere else. (Be careful what you wish for.) And then of course, the journey led to RWA which was able to provide numbers and information specific to romance writers. At one point, RWA was offered a million dollars for their published author list. (They turned it down.) Chapter awards were given to those that had been of particular help to the chapter. The Marlene winners were also announced and quite a number of winners and finalists were there, which was great. Gwen and Sara Reyes from Fresh Fiction talked a lot about website content and newsletters. American Author gave us another wonderful snapshot into writers brains. I had read a few more of the entries than usual (thanks to contests and such) and so it was particularly interesting to hear the reaction. Mary Kay Andrews gave a wonderful speech about her journey from unpublished to mystery writer and then the agent who said to her, I know what you've been doing, tell me what you to do now? And so she transitioned to be a women's fiction writer. Romance Jeopardy had an Elvis theme, leading to a lot of blue suede shoes. I am kicking myself for not picking up on the opportunity to go Hawaiian themed. The game was as usual, not fair. Some of the questions were really hard this year. I am going to blame Elvis for that. It was still a great time. And then, there was much general writer chill time. I confess, I made a decision that I could not go to bed before Rita Clay Estrada, who was great fun to talk to. Outlasting her did mean I had a bit of a slower start the next morning, but I did make it to Cathy Maxwell's farewell, which this year was introduced by the wonderful and funny Mary Strand who promised she would reveal the real truth about Max. (Um, I could tell you what she told us, but I hear that Max is mean.) Cathy Maxwell talked about the writer tribe we had bonded with and how to remember that storytelling is something that's in your soul, and that's why you do it. It was, as always, so much fun, and the weekend I leave sadder that I only got to chat with half the people there and not everyone.