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Lydy's Anarchist Revival Meeting

16th February, 2017. 3:49 pm. Three Is the New Five

So, the 5 calls thing is pretty brill, actually. You go to 5calls.org, check off the thing you're concerned about, and they pop up the people to call, their phone numbers, and a script. So I called my senators and asked for an independent investigation into the ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, and then I called my governor in support of the immigrants, documented and not, in our state. I didn't follow the script precisely, but I found it pretty useful for organizing my thoughts. And now I'm done for the day. My god, I hate doing this stuff. It thought the entire point of electing representatives was that they did this shit for me. Sigh. Will do more next week. And the week after. Keep on a keeping' on.

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11th February, 2017. 1:23 am. Locally Indivisible

Look, I hate political action with a white hot passion. I also think maybe I should do some. There are a bunch of Indivisible groups listed, locally, but I have no experience and no talent in this area, and I was wondering if anyone knew enough to recommend a group to get involved with. I would prefer some smart, politically savvy, practical people who have clear ideas of useful, bite-sized actions that I could get involved in. I am especially interested in groups that work to make sure that it's not just us white, middle-class people who are doing all the talking. I am not interested in long meetings that wrangle or rage, although I realize that I may not be able to avoid them.

Any suggestions?

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5th February, 2017. 6:37 am. Return of the Rants of Monte Cristo, aka This Book, This Fucking Book

Just to remind you: I love this book. I love it with a deep passion, and have for 40 years. So when I'm critical, it comes from a place of deep, abiding -- something. Not sure what. I couldn't even call it carefully considered. This book engages all my passions, and none of my objectivity.

Also, I am assuming you have read the book, and there are spoilers. If you haven't read the book, only seen one of the dramatic presentations, a) you should read the book, and b) there are spoilers.

Rant the Next: The Plot

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Self-Indulgence as a Virtue

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Punishment, Proportionality, and Honor

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Ok, end of today's rants. I probably have more, but you have not been subjected to the most important ones. I have a minor rant about how filial love is the primary theme in the book, and how this is often over looked, but possibly it's not actually interesting enough to warrant a rant. There's another rant about the casual cruelty of various characters, but again, I'm not sure how interesting that would be.

Thank you for bearing with me, those of you who have. And for those of you who have wisely avoided my rants, well, it's still a great work of literature. Honestly.

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2nd February, 2017. 3:33 pm. The Count of Monte Cristo: A Series of Rants

I just finished The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas, for the umpteenth time, for versions of finished that include listening to an unabridged, LibreVox recording by someone who does truly terrible French and Italian accents and pronounces "azure" as "Asia." I have loved this book with an unironic passion for forty years, and I feel the need to rant. More than once.

tl;dr: This book, my god this fucking book!

These rants will contain spoilers.

Rant the First: Personal History

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Rant the Second: Enter the Suck Fairy

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Rant the Third: Women, aka the Return of the Very Problematic Fairy

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I have more rants about plot and structure and stuff, but Imma gonna post this, now.

There are things I love about this book, and I'll write about them later.

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30th January, 2017. 10:24 am. Fuck this noise!

So, I believe I have now called every representative I own, from city councilperson to my senators. I got a fuck-ton of points for it in Habitica, so yay Habitica. Mostly, I was calling to say that you must stand with the immigrants, and not with Trump.

For my senators, I told them I had a bright line: Jeff Sessions. If they vote for Sessions, I will never vote for them again, I would rather vote for the Natural Law party than someone who supported that racist bigot. Actually, for Franken, I had to send email, because his phones were completely tied up. Most other reps, I had to leave messages for, because they are not answering their phones. I hope it's because they're overwhelmed, and not because they're hiding.

Seriously, fuck this noise. Trump is a scary, weak motherfucker. Bannon is a terrifying wife-beater bigot. The administration is a comedy of incompetence. None of which means that they can't win.

Children, I am frightened. It's early days. Remember we are in this for the long haul.

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28th January, 2017. 11:09 pm. Motivations and Perverse Incentives

People are weird. Brains are weird. It is known, Khaleesi. I am perpetually fascinated by the weirdnesses of my own brain. Part of that is basic self-defense. I have an assortment of brain dysfunctions, and one of the ways I manage them is to monitor myself constantly. Knowing I am depressed doesn't make the depression go away (oh, how I wish!) but it does help keep me from making permanent decision when I know I'm in an altered state.

I am really, really terrible at doing things on a daily basis. I am also really terrible at maintenance chores, like pretty much all basic housekeeping. I keep on looking for ways to motivate myself. I kind of like checking things off lists. At various points in life, I have kept small notebooks with lists of chores, which I drew lines through when I completed them. This was intermittently successful, but the lovely little notebooks with the pretty diffraction grating covers have vanished, and evidently the form factor and the pretty cover were important parts of my motivation.

Motivations are really weird. And people are frequently deceived about what actually motivates them. So it helps to pay attention not only to the things you think motivate you, but how you actually respond to things. When I started playing Pokemon GO, I discovered that I was highly motivated by virtual, magical pets. Who knew? Ok, then. Useful thing to know about myself.

Something I purely hate doing is flossing my teeth. I don't do it often enough, so my gums always bleed. It also doesn't help that I keep on running into articles talking about how most people don't really know how to floss their teeth, and they do as much harm as good by doing it poorly. This has led me, of course, to feeling inadequate even when I do floss. And since I feel demotivated about flossing, I am also demotivated about brushing, because brushing without flossing really feels like an additional failure. Added to all of this is the weird way in which brains work. So, I know that if I floss regularly, the gums will stop bleeding. Which has sometimes motivated me to keep it up until that happens. But then weird-brain kicks in, and I decide that I have won this round, and don't have to floss anymore. Oddly, the bleeding gums have become the motivator, rather than the not-bleeding gums. Oops.

I ran across someone saying that water flossers work really well, even for people who don't use them expertly. I do not know if this is true, but I hope so. I bought portable water flosser, which seems to work very well. For a while, the joy of playing with new technology kicked in, and I was using it really regularly. But then the shiny wore off, and the gums weren't bleeding, and...enter magical virtual pets!

I joined Habitica. You assign yourself tasks, and the difficulty level. And you gets points when you complete them, go up in levels, get eggs that can hatch into pets, which you can feed up to trusty steeds, and stuff. You can also set up negative reinforcements. (Negative reinforcement, here, used in the colloquial rather than technical sense.) If you assign a task as a daily, and fail to do it, you lose points. I am aware that I am easily demotivated by negative reinforcement, so I have set up my dailies very sparingly. Things I really, really want to make sure I do, like scraping cat boxes, go on the Dailies. I'm listing almost all my chores as To Dos. Things like, emptying the dishwasher, washing bathroom fixtures, and laundry. To Dos don't cause damage if you don't get them done, but do advance you if you do them. One weirdly perverse thing is that the longer you leave a task on, the more it's worth when you finish it. That seems like rewarding procrastination... But so far it hasn't seemed to influence my choices.

I've been doing this for about two months, and it really does seem to be helping. I am getting many, many more of my chores done. I am also entering good intentions, like calling politicians and the like, into my To Do list, and many of them get done, too. So this is a huge win, for me. I don't know if it will continue, long term. Brains, as I've said, are weird. And so I may burn out on it. But so far, so good.

I also like the feature where you can "quest" with a fellow Habitican. Basically, you agree to work together, and you not only accrue points, but you do damage to a monster or find quest tokens or some damn thing, and when you defeat your monster or find your quest tokens or however the quest is structured, you get extra goodies. I've been playing with boxofdelights and that's been delightful. The idea is that you are supposed to cheer each other on. However, neither of us seems to be a rah-rah sort of person, and that is very nice for me. I would really hate it is I had a questing partner who was really enthusiastic. It's not that she's not supportive and stuff, 'cause she totally is. But I don't like cheerleadering. I hope she's ok with the fact that I'm not much of a cheerleader, either.

There's some political activist challenges, similar to quests, that I'm contemplating joining. But I am hesitant to let other people decide what should be on my To Do list. But, it might be motivating. And people, we need to be motivated right now. Even if it's only for virtual magical pets.

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22nd January, 2017. 6:53 am. Peaceful Protests and Clocking Richard Spencer

Let's start with a basic that is often forgotten: peaceful protests are a tactic, not a virtue. They have been, in several very notable cases, an effective method to change deep injustice. Non-violence is a tactic used by numerous but out-gunned people against an opponent who can feel shame. Non-violence has a lot of really good follow-ons. It tends not to escalate out of control, it tends to have very little in the way of collateral damage (unless, of course, you are counting the protesters, which you probably should), and it's easy to explain. It's damn hard to do. It is a tactic which supports its goal.

It is a terrible mistake to judge a movement only by its tactics. I have had more than one argument with someone who insisted I had to support the abortion clinic sit-ins because I honor the lunch counter sit-ins from the Sixties, for instance. That I should honor the Promise Keepers because they had a large, peaceful march and I approved of large, peaceful marches to protest George W. That because I believe in freedom of speech, I should approve of hatred being spewed onto the airwaves by Rush Limbaugh. And this is what I have to say about that: fuck that noise. If the ends do not justify the means, then surely the means do not justify the ends. Also, seriously, there's no particularly useful bright line between means and ends, so stop being a sophomoric idiot and think.

It is also impossible to ignore the fact that policing priorities in this country are property, particularly corporate property, first and foremost. Compare the response time and manpower assigned to a silent alarm from an empty jewelry store compared to a call from someone with an on-going home invasion. Please notice that the cops thought defense for murdering Michael Brown in Ferguson was that he might have shoplifted some tobacco products. It is instructive that they thought that this was a reasonable defense. Even if you try to look away, you can't fail to know that the police in this country care a whole hell of a lot more for property than they do for people.

Why, then, is it a surprise that people pushed beyond all reason, strike at the only thing that the police and society apparently care about? (Also, the sound of smashing glass is pretty rad.) If you have reached the point where peaceful protests have not worked, and I think it is possible to argue that we have, then breaking a few windows and trashing a few cars does not seem unreasonable. At least it will be heard. Over the last fifty years, the "establishment" (I don't have a better term right to hand) has developed some very effective ways of dealing with non-violent protests. I don't think that the use of peaceful protest has entirely run its course, but I think that we may need other things as well.

Here is where I say I really, really don't know. I don't know what happens next. I don't know what we need to do. I am scared by violence. I hate entropy, and I despise breaking things. I think that the breaking of things can escalate to the breaking of people. But I also think that we are too quick to equate property damage with actual violence against people, and we need to cut that shit out. That's how we get shoplifting being a capital offense. Breaking stuff is scary and dangerous. It is not the same thing as hitting people. Please notice how often the cops use property damage as an excuse to hurt people. Not just arrest them, but pepper spray them, shoot rubber bullets at them, beat them with sticks, and taser them. These are not morally equivalent actions, and we must begin to understand that.

The massive, peaceful, creative protests yesterday are inspiring, and definitely suggest that peaceful protests have not run their course. They still have power. They still matter. But, dear ones, we're in for the long haul, here. And it is possible that not every protester will choose that path. What I'd like to ask is that you consider the possibility that they are right to choose other methods.

I also want to talk about people's reaction to the Clocking of Richard Spencer. A lot of my friends love watching it, but feel a little guilty about it. Here are some things to consider before you get your guilt on. First, no one has ever said, "Gosh, I wish we'd given the Nazis the benefit of the doubt. They might have turned things around." Universally, what people say is, "We should have fought back sooner and harder." So there's that.

I think it is also important to notice the way in which the media has failed us. Look the media always makes choices about what positions are too far out there to report on. I mean, they don't do the "both sides" nonsense with the flat-earthers every time they talk about space exploration. More noticeably, when was the last time that they quoted a Trotskyist when covering a labor dispute? You may not know it, but the United States is blessed with a great many smart, educated, articulate Trotskyists. The reason you don't know this is because the mainstream media thinks they are too far out to talk to or about. So we know they do this. We can see it. So why did Richard Fucking Spencer and his trough of evil, vile shit become something that they report upon. Not just once, but multiple times. And in ways that make it seem like it is a set of beliefs that we should consider, the same way we might consider whether or not Obamacare makes long-term financial sense for the United States.

At the point that Spencer was clocked, he was being asked about his Pepe lapel pin by a reporter. That is to say, he was being given yet another platform from which to promulgate his sly, slick, racist evil shit. And the fact that he got clocked means that instead of talking about that vileness, we're talking about whether or not somebody should have hit him. Which is a much better conversation. It's a damn shame that the Fourth Estate can't be trusted with a damn microphone. Thank god for the Nazi punchers.

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23rd December, 2016. 6:35 am. Be Careful What You Ask For

Sunday night was the coldest night of the year. Seventeen degrees below zero, Fahrenheit. As I was driving to work, I saw a guy panhandling on the corner. I fumbled for my wallet, and pulled out a twenty and gave it to him with the earnest extortion, "Get inside. This is killing cold." I had just bought a new wallet, of a considerably different form factor than the old one, and don't have the new carrying protocols down, yet. I didn't notice that it was missing until around seven the next morning. I checked all my pockets multiple times, emptied my purse and knit bag repeatedly. When I got to my car, I checked everywhere. I checked under the car. Nope, nope, nope. Most likely outcome was that I had not quite gotten it into my pocket, and it had fallen onto the floor of the parking garage when I got out of the car.

When I got home, I called Abbott Northwestern's lost and found line. Which cheerfully informed me that this function was now being handled by Security, and transferred me to Security, which apparently never answers their phone. Instead, there is a recording. I left an urgent message, asking for a call back either way. An hour later, I did this again. (I still have not received a response from the bastards.)

Eventually, I called my bank, and asked if I could temporarily suspend my card, until I could ascertain whether or not it was, in fact, missing. I was told that I could, and I did that thing. There was no suspicious activity on the card. I was incredibly stressed, since I was leaving for New York City Thursday morning. I called Delta Airlines, and established that I could, in fact, fly without ID, although it would be difficult and irritating, requiring the filling out of forms and other indignities. There was also $147 in cash, and I couldn't easily replace it. I made arrangements to have Patrick PayPal me some money so that I would have cab fare from JFK.

I took a sleeping pill to get to sleep. Around one-thirty in the afternoon, my phone rang, and a woman named LaDonna said that she had found my wallet on the floor of the parking garage. I was overjoyed, and we arranged for me to pick it up after work on Tuesday morning. When I retrieved my wallet, I tried to give her twenty in thanks, but she wouldn't take it. I probably didn't do it right, I never know how to do these things gracefully. I really was grateful. She allowed as how she'd take $2 for a cup of coffee, I gave her a five, and told her to buy coffee for a friend. All the money was in the wallet, as well as the cards and ID.

When I got home, I called my bank, TCF Bank, to ask them to turn the card back on. It's a Visa/debit card, and I use it instead of cash most of the time. It's incredibly convenient, the more so in a strange city. The woman on the other end of the line, named Theresa, said, "Oh, I'm so glad you found it. Where was it?" I did not understand that this question was anything other than polite conversation while she was doing things on the computer, so I answered honestly. And she said:

"The card was out of your possession. I can't reactivate it. You will need to get a new card."

There then followed a long conversation, where I got angrier and angrier, with the word fuck becoming a larger and larger percentage of the words I actually uttered, and Theresa saying, repeatedly, "I understand," and "It was out of your possession, I cannot reactivate it." At one point I yelled, "Stop saying you understand. It is not a good sentence for you. I don't need you to understand, I need you to reactivate the card." At another point, "The card is out of my possession all the fucking time! I leave it in my office for hours at a time at work, and you don't deactivate it then!" At another point, "What part of 'I work nights' are you not understanding? It is already well past my bedtime, and I have no time to replace this card!" At another point, "Oh, for fuck's sake, woman, would you please just start acting like a human being, and admit that the rules are really stupid? I get that you have to follow them, but stop acting like they make fucking sense!" Her response was, "I understand." Seriously, customer service people should stop saying that.

Why, yes, I did lose it all over the poor woman on the other end of the line who had no real choices in the matter. But I was so very angry that she had asked me a gotcha question masquerading as polite chit-chat. And I was infuriated that she kept on trying to position the rule as something of benefit to me. The wallet was returned to me by a woman who had spent several hours trying to contact my boss (he wasn't in the office that day), was unable to find me in the hospital directory (I work for a company contracted to the hospital, not the hospital itself), who eventually called 411 directory assistance to find my land-line number, returned the wallet to me with all $147 in cash, and refused to take any money for this kindness. How was this a security risk? How is this, in any way, a greater security risk than every single time I give my card to a waiter in a restaurant, and they take it OUT OF MY POSSESSION, into a back room, and do god know what with it?

One of the things that Theresa consistently assured me was that getting my card replaced would take fifteen minutes at any branch, and that I would get a new chip card, wouldn't that be nice? So, Wednesday, after work, I went to the closest branch. I was very tired, and since they don't open until nine, I had to dick around for a bit at Target waiting for them to open, but there I was and there they were, and the nice teller said, "No problem, here's a form...wait, you have a Gopher card. We can't do that, here." To which I did not say, "Are you fucking kidding me?" but she heard me, anyway.

So there ensued another uncomfortable conversation with the nice teller, who was a trainee and whose name I've lost, and the woman working with her, whose name is Mindy. Mindy was human and understanding, although she overused the sentence "I understand." It is possible I have become overly sensitive to the phrase. My account was opened when I was working at the University. It has no monthly fee, and a couple of other perks I don't remember, and possibly don't care about. However, it also has (oh joy!) a fucking Minnesota Goldie the Fucking Gopher on the card, for reasons, they can't just give me a normal debit/Visa card. In order to keep my current account, I must have a fucking gopher on my card. Which they can expedite, and will take one to two days, and come in the mail... Yeah, that's not working for me. I fly out the next day. So not working.

As I said, Mindy was actually very good. Eventually, she suggested that they generate an ATM card for me. I can't use it like a Visa card, but I can access my funds while in NYC at any ATM. And Mindy said that if was charged fees, I should come back to her and she will have them reversed, because this would not happen if they hadn't turned off the card in the first place.

So, I'm in NYC. I have an ATM card. And I am still really, really angry with Theresa from TCF. But I liked Mindy a lot. And I will be much more careful what questions I answer whenever I talk to customer service.

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15th December, 2016. 12:22 pm. Something is More Than Nothing

I called my two senators, Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar, and my representative, Keith Ellison this morning. (And got points for it in Habitica.) Here is my script:

My name is Lydia Nickerson, and I voted for you. I wanted to let you know that I support your efforts to have the Russian hacking investigated. I also want to tell you that I have grave concerns about the incoming Trump administration. I believe that his business entanglements constitute, not merely conflicts of interest, but also very probably violate the constitution.

I want to strongly encourage you to fight for the preservation of the ACA, Medicare, and Medicaid. I also want you to continue to fight for LGBT rights. I believe you stand against hate, and I stand with you.

It wasn't fun, but it is done. Amy Klobuchar had the nicest and most encouraging staffer, Keith Ellison the least happy-sounding. All three staffers were polite, of course, but only Amy's sounded enthusiastic. So, there you go. Did a thing.

Need to call state people, probably tomorrow.

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11th December, 2016. 2:59 am. Habitica?

Anyone else using Habitica? I've just started, and there are community aspects that might be fun (or not, I don't know) and also I know pretty much nothing about it and hate reading documentation.

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