Lydy's Anarchist Revival Meeting
24th November, 2016. 3:26 pm. Thoughts on Reconciliation
I have some complicatedly connected but nevertheless disjointed thoughts on the various calls I have seen for people on the left to empathize and sympathize with Trump voters.
There's a weird pairing of false equivalencies which I want to talk about, and tease apart. The story seems to be that the so-called white working class feels resentful because East Coast liberal elites condescend to them. Before I get to how this is a weird set of false equivalencies, though, I want to challenge a couple of the terms and assumptions, here.
First, let's start with "condescension." In 1979, at the age of seventeen, I moved from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Washington, Iowa. It was my senior year of high school. I was frightened, and I was desperately lonely. I was in an alien environment. Many people complained that I was rude, condescending, and hoity-toity. They were incensed that I knew nothing of them or their ways, that I found small town life and farming to be an alien landscape. Their proof that I was condescending was primarily my accent. They were also insulted that I talked too fast, and wouldn't meet their eyes. My accent was, you know, a pretty standard Pittsburgher accent, with bits of Upstate New York and Boston. It was a product of where I had lived, and not the least bit artificial. I was also extremely deferential, and that was manifested by talking very quickly, so as to not presume upon other people's time, and not making as much eye contact as I would with an intimate. I was sending out every signal I knew to say, "I am a stranger here, and would like you to like me" and the Iowans were hearing "I am so much better than you." It was years before I understood what had happened. I think it also notable that Iowans were infuriated that I knew so little about their state, and yet could not be bothered to get my home town right, and constantly referred to me as being from Philadelphia. They were, to my ears, deeply condescending when I tried to correct them, as if there was no actual difference between the two cities. I was mockingly known as Pennsylvania Polly.
This experience makes me very dubious of the claims that East Coast Liberal Elites are condescending towards the white working class. I suspect that a lot of the things that are being interpreted as condescension fall into two categories. One is the thing I just described, a failure to correctly read the social signals of people from a different sub-culture. The other is a failure to understand the frustration and anger that the left feels with people who voted for the fucking fascist, and their attempt to not say "fucking fascist" but instead, something less incendiary. I honestly think that they vastly underestimate the amount of anger we feel towards them.
The second term I really want to challenge here is "white working class." I am not sure that "working class" actually means anything useful, anymore. It was originally coined for a very different economy than the one we have, now. However, even if you let that go, your average Trump voter isn't working class. Your average Trump voter is middle class, and rural. Lots and lots of them are retirees. White, though, yeah, mostly white. But the things that seem to bind this voting bloc together aren't economics. Otherwise, you'd have seen more city-dwellers voting for Trump, and more minorities. This was a tribal identity, not an economic one. I think that one of the reasons the "economic insecurity" thing gets traction is because that's something you can think about, and work on. It's a problem that the left is actually interested in dealing with, and thinks is soluble. On the other hand, tribal identity is all about the feels, and incredibly difficult to address. (Are there tribal identities on the left? Yes, yes there are. But that's for another essay, I think.)
Now let's get back to the accepted narrative that the white working class voted for Trump because they are resentful towards the East Coast Liberal Elite condescension. If one ignores my terminological quibbles, and accepts this narrative on its fact, it still creates a moral equivalency between condescension and resentment. Condescension is based, yes, on a feeling that one is better than someone else. But the corollary is not that the person being condescended to should be hurt or damaged. Usually, it is coupled with a desire to help or uplift the benighted. And while that can be problematic in so many different ways, it is very different than resentment, which assumes that the other guy has something they shouldn't or something that you are entitled to and don't have. Resentment is also usually coupled with a desire to hurt the other person, or at very least to take something away from them. By trying to create a moral equivalence between condescension and resentment, it suggests that contempt is actually an attempt to do harm. This, then, justifies the attempt to harm the so-called liberal elites. It also artfully sweeps under the rug the attempt to dominate and harm vulnerable populations.
Let me state this very clearly: condescension may not be the best behavior in the world, but it cannot possibly excuse the wreck-it-all resentment that the Trump voters have shown.
Another strand here is the anti-intellectual bent of swaths of white voters. It is common for people to experience an attempt to explain something as an act of condescension. I have had this problem at various jobs, where any attempt to explain why a thing needed to be done a certain way was greeted with a huge amount of hostility. The types of resentment alleged by rural whites have to do with the cities getting too many tax dollars, their own concerns not being properly addressed, etc. However, any attempt to actually discuss this, to parse out where tax dollars actually go, what things are and are not being done to address their concerns, what things are and aren't feasible, all these conversations are impossible, because as soon as you do anything other than validate their emotional responses, you are "condescending." It's not possible to constructively engage with someone who believes that the use of facts is an act of aggression.
I keep on wondering about a way forward. What do we do, next. I don't know. I don't want to hurt the average Trump voter. I am furious with them as a group, and with several individual that I know personally. I am uninterested in sparing their feelings; they sure don't care about mine. Looking back at the two huge changes in my lifetime, civil rights for black people and civil rights for LGBT, I think it is clear that worrying about the tender feelings of bigots doesn't get you anywhere. Trying to gentle them along is not the way forward. Those attitudes, those laws, those behaviors are anathema and have to be treated as such. Are Trump voters redeemable? Who knows. This is not my problem. If they are, they must redeem themselves. People change, and that can be a wonderful thing. But I reject the idea of catering to their gross prejudices. Just because your feelings are hurt doesn't mean you get to try and kill me and mine.
I do think we need to work harder to get people who do not currently have power into power. Just as poor people need money, and homeless need homes, the powerless need access to the levers of power. I really hope that the DNC chooses Keith Ellison. He will bring a different voice, and a different set of experiences. Look, I don't expect to agree with every minority on the issues just because they're a minority. But multiple view points in the halls of power will help create new perspectives and new solutions. Diversity brings with it both strife and resilience. We need that.
And for those of you who think that the Trump voter is not trying to kill me and mine...one of the people I love most in the world gets their health insurance through the ACA. And has diabetes. That's just one example.
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17th November, 2016. 2:20 pm. It Hurts When I do That
(Content note: Needles. Lots and lots of needles. The sharp kind, not the knitting kind.)
Yesterday, I stopped off at the clinic to get my flu shot. No biggie. I've been doing needles since I was two, and while I have never learned to like them, I'm not afraid of them. My girlfriend was out of town, still, so I headed for her house to feed the cat.
Look, I had a plan, ok? It was my last day of work this week, so I was going to go to Beth's house, feed the cat, drive to the grocery store, buy orange juice and a rotisserie chicken, come home, make pasta, eat pasta with parmesan and chicken, make mimosas, and start on a batch of broth for my cat Naomi. I would just like to point out that this was a perfectly good plan. David was planning on getting up a little early, and sharing the mimosas with me. The champagne was chilling in the fridge, everything was perfect.
About fifteen minutes after my flu shot, while I was driving, about six blocks from Beth's house, I had a sudden pain between my shoulder blades. It then migrated to my chest, an horizontal pain just under my breasts, slowly getting worse on the right side. I remember saying, out loud, "This is bad, this is very bad." It wasn't enormously painful, probably about a 4 on a scale of 1 to 10, but it came with a sense of impending doom. Also, I felt a trifle dizzy and short of breath. It hurt to inhale. The fact that I was driving at the time made everything that much more frightening.
Things I know about how heart attacks present in women: back pain rather than chest pain is not unusual. While denial is a very common symptom in men, some reasonable percentage of women have a sense of impending doom, instead. The classic "radiating down the left arm, elephant on chest" set of symptoms is less common in women, and women tend to have just plain idiosyncratic pain responses when it comes to heart attacks. Heart attacks are about as common in women as men, but not diagnosed as often.
So, I get to Beth's, park in the drive way, go in, feed the cat, take out my phone, and call the nurse line. The nice lady asks me a series of questions. The pain is nearly gone, now. She says that since I am alone, I should call 911, and have them take me to the emergency room. I should not drive. She was very emphatic about that. I also should not eat or drink anything. I ask her what emergency room I should go to. She says, rather earnestly, "The closest one." Ok, then.
Do I call 911? Oh, you sweet summer child, of course not. What I do do, though, is call David. He's a little bleary when he answers the phone. I say, "I need you to put on your clothes, come to Beth's house, and drive me to the emergency room." "Ok," he says, and hangs up the phone. At this point, I am feeling fine, but terrified. In retrospect, I'm not sure why I felt it necessary to tell David to get dressed.
The closest ER is Fairview Southdale. There was a brief period of entertainment when the GPS signal was lost and the Google would not tell us how to get there. We muddled through. I was in a room at approximately 9:30, just about an hour after first symptoms. They wheeled me into a room, and did an ECG. The technology was really cool. The electrodes have little tabs which the leads clip to. It took the tech less than five minutes to put the electrodes on, attach the leads, and do a full 12-lead ECG. Once she had a nice picture of my heart, she took off the leads and electrodes, and wheeled me into a private room. By this point, David was back from parking the car, and sat in the room with me for the rest of the time.
A very nice nurse named Michele came in, and the fun began.
They wanted to draw blood, and they wanted to place an IV. Like you do. As I've said, I don't particularly like needles, but I've endured an enormous number of them, so you know, here we go. Except, we don't go. Two or three tries in my right elbow. A couple in my left elbow. Several tries on both hands. It was...it really was. I gave up early on, and started saying fuck a lot. A whole lot. I apologized to the nurse, who apologized to me. I went back to saying fuck a lot, and she said that her 19 year old daughter would like me, that her daughter apparently can't complete a sentence without using the word fuck at least once.
At some point, she came in with this really cool machine that shone a different type of light on my arm, infrared, maybe? Maybe David knows. Any gate, it makes the veins show up vividly. The IV was only necessary if they needed to give me contrast to do a CT of my chest. Even with the fancy machine, she couldn't get the IV placed. Eventually, we agreed that she'd just draw bloods, and if the clotting factor test came in high enough that they needed to place the IV, they'd do that then. Meanwhile, we'd just do the clever little butterfly needle. That, too, did not go well. I think it took three sticks before she managed to fill all her lovely little vials.
So, the two primary things that they were worried about were a heart attack and a blood clot in the lungs. Both are potentially fatal, of course. There are blood tests for both of these. At some point, the doctor came in, and was cheerful and informative. Very nice man. I believe his name was Treirweiler, but I have probably spelled that wrong. They also hooked me up to a nice little monitoring set up, that checked my blood pressure periodically and kept track of my heart and oxygen levels. Oxygen levels generally quite good (100% when hyperventilating), I got to watch my heart throw a perfect little PVC (not a good thing, but I did already know that my heart did that), and my blood pressure was unusually high, 158 over 95, I think, or something like that. Since it's usually 120/70, that's unusual. But there you go.
There then ensued much boredom. I played a little Pokemon Go, sent texts to various people, whined about not having my cat, and allowed as how I hated life a lot. Then a cheerful young man with a large piece of equipment came in, and I said, "Oh, fuck. You're here to place an IV, aren't you?"
He allowed as how he was. My nurse came in to explain that the bloods indicated that I had not, in fact, had a heart attack, but that the clotting factor thing came in at .6, when normal was .5 or lower, so they were going to have to do a chest CT. She then warned the new tech that I cussed like a sailor, and he said that I had already established that.
I do not know what machine it was that he had. It was different than the one the nurse used, and I was past asking questions. I was very tired, I had not eaten since one that morning, I was a couple hours past my bed time, and I was scared. He had this round-headed thing that the rested against my elbow, and gently pressed and massaged my elbow. I'm not sure, some sort of ultra-sound or something? No idea. Any gate, he took a good shot at the left elbow, and failed. I made a new land record for the word fuck, and burst into tears. David said later that when he finally gave up on the left elbow, the needle had a thirty degree bend in it when he took it out. He then went to the right elbow. That took a lot of time, although I think it was really just one extended try. At some point, I said that this was the last time, I was not doing this again. At some other point, I started talking in a very childish voice about Pokemon Go, and getting shots as a small child, and then stopped and said, "I am two. Or maybe four. That's not good." In general, if my system breaks to the point that my individual personae start popping up, I'm under a lot of stress and there's hell to pay, later. Very destabilizing.
He did get the IV in. At which point there was a lot more waiting. It was in my right arm, which meant that I couldn't really use my phone any more, since every time I moved my right arm, it hurt. I was resting the arm on the bed rail, and would move it from time to time to get more comfortable. Each time I did so, I would forget about the IV, and bend it slightly, and it would hurt. I would complain, and David would make fun of me for forgetting. Which would make me laugh. David was absolutely wonderful throughout. Calm, easy, distracting, kind, and infinitely patient.
Eventually, there was the CT, which was much less uncomfortable than I had feared. The contrast does feel intensely odd, but it doesn't hurt. So nice to have something that doesn't hurt. I was relieved that the IV was still working.
The results from the CT came back pretty quickly. I have gall stones.
The doctor said that the symptoms were not caused by the gallstones. However, some time in the future when I have a piece of pizza or a slice of meatloaf, or some other fatty food, and then suddenly have an "oh my god I'm going to die" pain in my right side, I should remember this conversation with this incredibly smart, handsome, bald doctor. I laughed, and he went away for a little bit.
They had left the door to the area where the med people were open, and a little while later, I heard my doctor say, "Yeah, we should probably get more blood. I don't think she'll like that." I didn't know if he was talking about me, but it seemed a good guess. So when he came in with a tech, I knew what was up. He sat at the foot of the bed, and cheerfully explained about how the enzyme test they had done to establish that I didn't have a heart attack had been done within the window where it was possible that the enzyme hadn't yet shown up, because I'd come in so quickly, so they were going to need to run it again. While he was talking and being entertaining, the tech took some blood from the already placed IV. I pointed out that I had noticed he was just distracting me while the tech was stealing my blood, he agreed, and everybody went away again. In actual fact, I didn't care about them taking more blood. It's the getting the needle in that was the problem. Once it was there, the very slight about of pain that drawing blood causes was no big deal.
More waiting, and then the doctor came in and said that the second enzyme test also came back negative. There is, as far as he can tell, nothing wrong with me. A little while later, another tech came in and took the fucking needle out of my fucking arm. I got dressed, and we left. It was about 3:30 in the afternoon. Parking cost $7. I have no idea what the medical bill will be like.
We went to Punch Pizza, and I had pizza and a beer. I got home, and eventually got to bed. My left arm still hurt from my flu shot (remember the flu shot?) so I had to sleep on my right side. I slept from about 5:30 p.m. until about 8:30 a.m. this morning. Lady Jane Grey came and curled up against my tummy and snuggled for a long time.
And, you know, I'm just fine. Just fucking fine. Except that I'm a still a bit emotionally unstable. That was a whole fuck ton of stress. I guess I'm glad I went in?
Gall stones, huh? Ok, then. Gall stones. Sigh.
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12th November, 2016. 4:32 pm. Personal note: A Mess and a Muddle
In the last four days, I have managed two and a half actual meals, and several snacks. I spent the first thirty hours after the election in bed, most of them asleep, although there was a memorable 5 hour stretch where I was in terrible pain and unable to sleep, but also unable to get out of bed. The pain was not the pain of a hangover (I'd already slept through that), but the weird sleep-onset pain that I get in my legs sometimes, except ramped up considerably. I have been weak and listless, easily nauseated. My digestive system seems like it's finally getting back on track, but not with much enthusiasm. In the midst of all this, my beloved grey cat, who has been very well behaved for over a month, peed on my bed last night. When I took the bedding apart this morning to wash it, I found blood on the mattress pad. She has an appointment with the vet on Friday.
My brain has always had the ability to make my body miserable. Stress expresses itself in physical symptoms. My brain chemistry was reasonably fucked before the election. Getting the house ready for the Election Party was almost more than I could manage. I did manage, barely, but for weeks I've been weird and difficult to be around, and have found daily life almost insurmountable. I cannot bear the news, right now, it's like pouring salt on open wounds.
There is a need to do something. I do not know what that thing is. I do not know if it will be enough. I cannot think my way through this in my current state. It's all very well to put on one's own oxygen mask first, but if the plane goes down, possibly that doesn't matter. I have many muddled thoughts about the various suggestions people have had on how to respond to this election. I am not thinking clearly, though, and am badly constrained by my broken neurochemistry. Possibly things will become clearer, soon.
I will say this: I liked Hillary a lot, more with each passing day. I was not, in the end, a reluctant Hillary supporter, even though I started as a Bernie supporter. I was an enthusiastic, cheerful Hillary voter. I kept on being weirded out by news media insisting that she was unlikeable. It resembled the weird narrative that Gore was uncharismatic. I saw him on the stump; he was electrifying. The way the news media covered the email issue was a scandal; and it created the opening for Comey to do what he did.
I am a failed anarchist; I believe that we need big institutions to keep civilization alive, and that government is one of those necessary, big institutions. Civics courses, when I was a child, spent a lot of time on the hows of government. How bills became laws, how people got elected. They spent no time on the whys. Why we need to have roads and libraries and sewers and a health inspections for food and vaccinations and a check on other large institutions that use us for their own profit. We need to reclaim this understanding. No, I don't know how. I don't really know anything.
I am going to go see if I can manage to make my bed, now. Goals for today: make the bed, finish the laundry, clean the cat boxes, pay bills, stay up late enough that I can shift my sleep schedule to fit my work week, get to work. Honestly, that's probably more than I can manage, but I've got to try. Life does go on, until it doesn't. I kinda want it to go on.
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6th November, 2016. 6:41 am. Taco Tuesday Election Night Party
My place, starting at 6:00 p.m. I hope to celebrate our new Taco Truck Overlords. If the Angry Cheeto wins, there will be beer and margaritas to soothe the pain.
There will be tacos, chips, salsa, guacamole, beer, margaritas, soda, television, and wi-fi.
If you supported Trump, you will be roundly mocked. If you voted for a third party, I am willing to argue with you about how bad a choice that was, but if you'd prefer I didn't, just tell me to fuck off.
I expect that this will run late, even if they call the election early. If you want to show up after midnight, you should probably call first, just in case I made it an early night, after all.
At a pinch, I can probably bed four or five people if you end up not being able to make it home under your own power.
There are cats in this house. The nominal cat-free zone has been cat free for six months or so, but I never got around to spraying the furniture with the allergen remover stuff, and cat fur and dander does waft in under the doors, so plan accordingly. Smoking outside only (sorry, smokers.) Not even remotely child-proof, but kids are welcome if they can be persuaded to not hurt themselves or their surroundings.
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4th October, 2016. 11:11 am. Egg-spectations
So, the last two 2K eggs that I hatched were, respectively, a Pikachu and a Charmander. Very exciting. And the last two 10K eggs I hatched were a Jinx and a Scither. WTeverlovingF? I have several Jinxes (which are both horrifically racist and sexist), and another Scither. Mind, I do also have other Pikachus and one other Charmander, but how is it that the 2K eggs are ever so much better than the 10Ks?
Pokemon Go, an everlasting font of delight and confusion.
P.S. Sharon, I have used my very first tag, just for you.
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28th September, 2016. 6:20 pm. Pokemon GO, Ten Thousands Steps, and Health
So, I'm back from my second Pokewalk of the day. According Pokemon GO, I clocked about eight kilometers, total. This is approximately ten thousand steps, that magical number of steps that people were so enamored with a bunch of years ago. When I was working for the university, they gave everyone a very cheap and crappy pedometer, and gave us brochures on how easy it would be to incorporate those ten thousand steps into our daily routine. Park a couple of blocks further away from work, take a short walk on your lunch hour... and so on. The promises of health benefits mentioned cardiovascular improvements, but most of all, they stressed weight loss. So much with the weight loss.
I have Thoughts about this. First of all, I'm whacked. Tired and foot-sore. The idea that this is something I could easily incorporate into my daily life is fucking nuts. And the idea that this is something that everyone has the time and physical capacity for is deeply insane on so many levels. The brochures they handed out claimed that people take about 5,000 steps naturally during their day. However, I doubt this claim. My best estimate is that I get maybe two to three thousand steps in in the normal course of a work day. That leaves between five and six thousand steps. If a kilometer is about thirteen hundred steps, we're talking four to five kilometers. Average walking speed, according to the Google, is five kilometers an hour. That means finding an hour of extra time in a day, every day, to walk. I don't know about you, but that's kind of a lot of time during my work week. I can usually manage two kilometers a day, about a kilometer before and after work, but more than that is hugely difficult to manage just on time.
The claims that this will improve your health are... well, I dunno. I've been walking every day, sometimes as much as ten kilometers in a day, but usually at least two, for two months. I have seen exactly no change in my weight. My tight navy scrub pants do fit a little less snugly, which suggests that I may have traded a little bit of fat for a little bit of muscle, but not by very much. I may well be doing my heart and lungs all sorts of good, but I've also given myself several fairly small asthma attacks, and heart stuff you mostly don't notice until you have catastrophic symptoms or death.
Which leads me to BMI as a measure of health. Medicine, as a discipline, has this problem: it really has no good measure of health. Medicine is much better at measuring disease. If you have, say, Stage II Breast Cancer, that actually means an actual thing. It tells you useful things about your probable life expectancy, and provides a useful gauge for how aggressively you should be treating your disease. And while it is perfectly possible to make mistakes, if they kill off the cancer, they generally know that they have done so. If you've got pneumonia, they can usually figure out if it's viral or bacterial, and design a treatment program for it.
Health is largely measured by absence of symptoms or disease. And that's because health is holistic, and man
are bodies complicated. At this point, the medical profession is pretty sure that health is enhanced by avoiding carcinogens, being physically active, and eating nutritious food most of the time. Exactly what is a carcinogen, how active, and what exactly is nutritious is under debate. And that is partly because all of those things interact complexly within the human animal, and with the unique biological machine that is each person. None of this is measurable. However, activity and food consumption correlate with weight, and weight, weight is measurable. It's nicely objective. This height, this weight, this BMI, man
is that something that fits nicely on a chart. And, it's bullshit. It doesn't measure health. It doesn't even correlate as well as they say it does. I think that doctors rely on it so heavily because that's the only thing they have. They can't actually measure health, at all. But they can put you on a scale. And so they do.
In sum, I did my 10,000 steps today, and I am happy about the Pokemon. So there.
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26th September, 2016. 9:35 am. Taco Tuesday Party, November 8th?
I took Election Day off work, on the grounds that there was no way in hell I was going to be trapped in a room with someone I needed to be professionally polite to who was watching the returns on Fox News. Also, I like tacos.
If I held an election party with tacos, would anyone come? I realize that it's a school night, but I could make a little taco buffet, and we have a rather nice flat screen television, and really good wireless internets. This does require, you know, cleaning. Also, the tv is in the cat accessible portion of the house, so if you're hugely allergic to cats, that will be a problem. But I kind of think I'd appreciate some hand-holding come the day.
I'm also thinking margaritas.
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10th September, 2016. 1:37 am. Lady Jane Grey: Marking Time
Days since I adopted Lady Jane Grey: 367 (more or less, I forget if there was a leap year. Maybe 368. Any gate, Sept. 7th of last year. I didn't know I was adopting her at the time.)
Days since Lady Jane Grey has bit anyone: not sure, but many, many months.
Days since Lady Jane has pissed on my boyfriend's head: 8
Days since Lady has pissed on my bed: 3
So, um, a work in progress.
I had to buy a new comforter. I loved my old comforter, a very well-constructed, 100% down-filled, Calvin Klein comforter with a really high fill factor. Which needs to be dry-cleaned. At $40 a pop, I just can't do it anymore. So, I bought a down-alternative comforter which can be washed and dried at home. It's not as fluffy, it's not as much like cuddling into a cloud as the other, and it isn't as cool in the summer as my other, but it's launderable. Haven't decided what to do with the nice comforter. It's badly stained (coffee, fountain pen ink, sweat), and in a plastic bag after the last incident. I should probably just throw it out. But, you know, if you put a duvet cover on it, you don't seen the stains, and it's ever so nice... yeah. Well. Should just toss it.
I don't really know how to resolve what ever issue there is. LJG spends most of her time hiding in the kitchen under the dishwasher door. She really likes being petted, but doesn't come out from her cave very often unless there's a person, right there. I'm annoyed with Nuit about this, but don't have a good answer. I wish I could afford a good cat psychologist.
Still, LJG is a lovely, funny, friendly, fluffy cat. And when she's not pissing on my bed, she's a marvel. I love her a lot. I just wish we could resolve her issues with Nuit so that they were both happier.
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11th August, 2016. 5:19 pm. Pokemon GO, After About a Month
The app says that I started playing on 7/12/16. It also claims that I've walked about 85 kilometers. It's not right about that. It is, in fact, the world's worst pedometer. While there have been Pokewalks where it clearly was not counting my steps, it also has a bad habit when indoors of sending my avatar to run around to various, improbable places. Some nights, my avatar will clock two kilometers while I'm just sitting there. However, if you discount 25 kilometers (which I think is a little high) that still means that I've been averaging two kilometers a day. Now, by most standards, that's not a lot. But it's important to note that this is two kilometers more than I would have walked on my own. As I've previously noted, I'm not so much a sedentary creature as a sessile one.
It doesn't really feel like I've increased my stamina. I'm still very slow, and easily winded. But I am willing to undertake longer walks than I used to be. It may be that this is merely building on previous successes, and I was always able to walk those distances, but there might be additional stamina involved. I am also more willing to take more circuitous routes, including ones with hills. (Ok, hills by Minneapolis standards. They aren't hills that, say, a Pittsburgher would call a hill. But they wind me, nevertheless.) Most notable, though, is that I don't hurt at the end of the day like I did the first week or two when I was taking regular Pokewalks. I also feel antsy when I watch my avatar wander around when I can't. I _want_ to get up and walk, some nights. This, this has never happened to me, before.
I've never been a fan of walking for the sake of walking; I find it supremely boring. I usually read a book while walking (and, no, I don't run into things or people, although very short people moving fast are my biggest hazard.) So, going for a walk is always a difficult sell. If I overcome my natural impulse to remain at rest, then the problem is that there isn't really any reason to stop, either. Since I am walking for exercise, and not to get to a specific place, I walk until I am too tired to walk any further. Which sets up a really bad reward system. The reward for walking is being tired and hurting. Yay! Let's do that again!
Pokewalks are slow and punctuated by pauses to catch Pokemon. Which works very well for poor, old, overweight me. And I get cute pocket monsters, and spinny disks with prizes. Lots of little rewards along the way to keep me moving, and then if I walk far enough, I hatch eggs which give me more pocket monsters. If I'm bored while walking, I can pull up the Pokedex, or my list of captured Pokemon, or admire my list of medals, review my inventory, and hey, there's another Rattata, let's catch him. I am going to be sad when it gets cold and this isn't a reasonable thing to do. I wish there was an indoor module, which could link up to a pedometer app on your phone and provide Pokestops at random intervals when, say, walking around a mall, or an indoor track at the gym, or something like that. Because, seriously, there are months of the year where walking around with the phone out like this is not workable in Minnesota. Many, many months.
On the game mechanics side of things, although I haven't done a careful, controlled experiment, I have the strong impression that my catch rate is improved by continuing to walk when I toss Pokeballs, instead of stopping to catch yet another fucking Weedle. This does run the risk of walking out of range of the target, and then they escape. So if there's a pocket monster I particularly want, such as an Eevee, I will pause. But if it's just another rat or pigeon, I tend to keep on walking while I try to catch them. If they escape, it's no big deal. I have seen the claim that critters get harder to catch as you go up in levels. My own feeling, again utterly unscientific, is that the more of a particular Pokemon you have caught, the harder it is to catch them in the future. Now, this will track with levels, as when you catch Pokemon you get experience points which cause you to level up. But really common monsters, the rats and pigeons and worms, appear to be much harder to catch than the rarer ones, such as the Eevees and the Electrobuzzes. While higher combat power critters are usually harder to catch than lower ones, low powered common critters actually appear to be harder to catch than higher powered less common ones. This does not, however, apply to Pikachu. I caught my third one today, and man that was tough. Magikarp are starting to get hard to catch, which is a pain, since I need 400 candies to evolve one. I'm told they turn into a really cool sea dragon. I only have 130 Magikarp candies, so far. On the other hand, I do have a Tentacruel, and that's pretty neat.
I'm still having fun, and I've sort of figured out the gym battles and have won a bunch of battles and even captured some gyms, now and again. I never get to stay as a defender for very long, a couple four hours, maybe. They're still my least favorite part of the game.
The other thing I find interesting is that there seems to be a pretty broad range of ages playing this game. Today I ran into a young woman with a baby in a stroller. I have had a long conversation with a guy my age with a sensitive fannish face. I had a lovely encounter with a twenty-something couple very earnestly talking about cheap breakfasts and which gyms they felt they needed to defend. I came across a small clot of teenagers at Lake Calhoun all working on conquering a particular gym, and I have had one of those weird, sideways conversations that I tend to have with eleven year old boys where I'm really not sure we're on the same planet and I'm pretty sure they hold me in deep contempt. Which, given they're eleven, seems perfectly fine to me. Broad range of ages. But...all of them white, and all of them middle class, near as I can tell from a glance. Now, I am in the Great White North, but my neighborhood does have a fair number of Hispanics and African Americans, so... I dunno?
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26th July, 2016. 9:49 am. Pokemon GO, Eleven Days Later
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It is not a game without flaws. So many flaws! The fact that it crashes frequently is amazingly annoying, and it is not improved by the fact that I have to reboot my phone in order to get a good, clean start. My phone has been badly behaved, lately, so it doesn't always reboot cleanly. This may or may not be the fault of Pokemon GO. There are all sorts of issues with the game mechanics, I suppose. I am not a gamer, and cannot evaluate this.
The thing about it, though, is that for eleven days in a row, it has gotten me to take at least one ten-minute walk. I am walking a kilometer or two more per day than I ever did, before. Now, a kilometer is about 1300 steps, so vastly short of that 10,000 steps that everybody was all het up about some years ago. But that's still 1500 to 2000 more steps than I would have taken without it. This can't be a bad thing. (Ok, the tripping over curbs, that is a bad thing. But I'm getting better at avoiding that.)
I've seen several think pieces on Pokemon GO which hold forth in alarm about various aspects of the game. It's possible they get more sensible several paragraphs in, but I tend to bounce out after the first paragraph or two sound the alarm about how there are fewer Pokestops in poor neighborhoods because poor neighborhoods have less public art and fewer institutions. I think that there is an interesting article to be written, here, but the ones I've bounced out of all seem to think that the problem is Pokemon GO, rather than the fact that too many of our people live in poor neighborhoods with few amenities. Pokemon GO could provide an interesting lens into what is where and why, but it is not the problem, guys. You know what other neighborhoods are vastly impoverished when it comes to Pokestops? Rich, white suburbs. There was a fascinating article I saw a link to a while back (on Making Light, maybe) about mapping the elevators in New York City. And a map showing the presence of elevators does, indeed, provide an fascinating look into population density and wealth distribution in the city. But no one was suggesting that the presence or absence of elevators was, in fact, the problem.
The other thing I've seen in my Twitter stream is a friend concerned about the ableist aspects of Pokemon GO. I'm not really sure how to think about this. My friend is a very smart person, who has done a lot of really useful and creative thought about inclusivity and ableist assumptions. But for me, Pokemon GO is largely a very inaccurate pedometer with a stellar reward system. For me, it's not really a competitive game. I've fought a couple of gym battles, and man, that's boring. I like collecting the pretty little monsters, and I like evolving them. I like walking to the Pokestops and spinning the disks to get prizes. I like being encouraged to go to places I don't normally go to get rarer Pokemons. I like the fact that I'm becoming more sedentary and less sessile. For me, an older, very out of shape person, it doesn't feel coercive or alienating. I'm very aware that a lot of players are way ahead of me, because they have more time and more energy and can walk a fuck-ton farther than I can, but I don't find that upsetting. However, I may be missing something important. I do very much think that inclusivity is how we build humane, resilient systems. But I'm not sure how to design a walking app that doesn't, in the end, privilege people able to walk.
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