“Social Justice Warrior” has a really lovely ring to it.

I’ve been meaning to write a GamerGate post.  Everyone else has, pretty much.  I’m busy with other things (such as deciding if I have enough of an idea to try NaNoWriMo this year — I may need to settle for NaBloPoMo), so I think I’ll have to let it slide.  A couple of observations, however: you know your “crusade” is on the wrong track when articles about it hit the Southern Poverty Law Center’s “Hatewatch Headlines”; and, once again, I need to declare my adoration of Chris Kluwe.

Also, I wish I could call myself a “Social Justice Warrior” but if it were left up to me, I reserve that honorific to people for people who have actually worked hard (or harder than I have, in any case) for social justice. Like the good people at the SPLC, for example. (Blogging doesn’t really count.) Simply calling out misogyny and hatred where it occurs really doesn’t require one to be a “warrior,” only a person of intelligence and common sense. (And yes, I know it’s supposed to be pejorative, but really, people. You have a problem with social justice?  Someone did a poor job of raising you. We can have differing opinions of what social justice is, or how to achieve it, but to deride it? That’s just sad.)

I am proud to call myself a liberal.  Loudly.  I know that many of us have retreated to “progressive” to avoid the dreaded “L” word, but screw that. Our tradition is too long and too important to pretend it doesn’t exist.

Liberal. Liberal. Liberal. LIBERAL.*

That’s me.

*My political and social outlook is pretty much described by the first three quotes in my “Words to Live By,” but most especially by Micah 6:8.

I am in love with Mary Chapin Carpenter.

Last week I went to see the wonderful Mary Chapin Carpenter in concert. (Tift Merrit was the opening act — she was pretty great, too.) I have seen her before, and plan to catch her the next time she tours.

One of the delights of the concert was her question and answer session with the audience — although “session” is too much formal a word to use here.  It was more MCC asking “Anyone have any questions?” at more or less random intervals.  (It was a small enough venue that this was possible — for people in the Bay Area who have not caught a show at Berkeley’s Freight and Salvage, you really should.)  One gentleman asked about a song that she performed only once, at a country music awards show, called “Opening Act.”  One of the friends I attended the concert with sent the YouTube link of the performance the next day.  I have watched it probably ten times since then, and it makes me giggle.

She wrote “Opening Act” about being a new musician, but it applies to so much in life.  (Ask new associates at very large law firms, e.g.) As she told the tale, as she was going on, a major industry figure told her “Nice career you had going there, Carpenter,” but when she was done, she received a standing ovation. The very best part, for me at least, was that she resisted the efforts of her label to capitalize on it and release it as a single. Clearly a woman who has a sense of time and place. (Also, for me, I try to figure out who “the jackass I am opening for” was… especially given the line about “I’m not going bald so I don’t wear a hat.” Okay, so there’s Garth Brooks, and Alan Jackson, and quite a number of other male country acts at the time…)

I love Mary Chapin Caprenter’s music.  I have written before about “Come On, Come On,” but it goes beyond that.   Just right now, I am sitting in my home-away-from-home (a.k.a., the Starbucks near work) dancing in my seat to “I Feel Lucky” and “Shut Up and Kiss Me” and “I Take My Chances.”  (Dignity be damned.  I am too old to give a flip.)

“The Moon and St. Christopher” describes my relationship with the world for too much of  my life. “I have run from the arms of lovers, I have run from the eyes of friends, I have run from the hands of kindness, I have run just because I can…”

“He Thinks He’ll Keep Her” hit far too close to home when I was a stay-at-home mother of small boys. “For fifteen years she had a job, and not one raise in pay; Now she’s in the typing pool at minimum wage…”

She was singing “Down at the Twist and Shout” as I danced in front of the Capitol steps in 1993 with a very small boy on my shoulders. A very small happy boy.

“I Am a Town” tells the story to me of my very early childhood, and the small Southern towns we drove through on the way to visit my grandparents. It makes me remember that, for all the reasons I hate the South, there are many more reasons I love it.

“This Shirt” could be about the cotton shirt I had in college with the butterfly (what else) painted on the back, that I wore until you could see your hand through the fabric.

“The Stones in the Road” is about the compromises we make in growing up, and the toll that it takes.

“Passionate Kisses” and “Quittin’ Time” bookended a friendship.

“John Doe 24″ makes me smile and cry at the same time.

“Halley Came to Jackson” reminds me of my family in Mississippi.

And “Why Walk When You Can Fly” … I am trying to get to this place.  Really I am.


Ms. Carpenter, all I can say is thank you.  Please keep on keeping on, and I hope to see you the next time you hit town.



Anniversaries I would just as soon forget.

Twenty-five years ago today, I sat in my loft unit in graduate student housing at Stanford, waiting for the third game of the Bay Bridge Series between the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland As to start, when the entire house began to shake.  Thus begun one of the scariest thirty seconds of my life.

What was even worse than the Loma Prieta earthquake (for me at least, I heard some horror stories from classmates who were at the Law School when the earthquake hit) was the media in the hour or two  afterward.  The Bay Bridge had collapsed.  There were houses down and fires all over San Francisco.  Part of I-880 was flattened.  Overpasses all over the area were crumbling.

Yes, part of the upper structure of the Bay Bridge had collapsed.  Yes, there were houses down and fire in the Marina district in S.F. And the Cypress structure on 880 — oh, my God.  The original estimates of the dead were about 300 — in the end only 63 poor souls lost their lives.  This may have been because of the ball game, which because it featured the two local teams meant a large viewership.  Traffic was lighter than usual, because people were home or in bars waiting for the game, the same as I was. (Oddly, there was (in the immediate aftermath, at least) few reports from Watsonville and Santa Cruz, both which had buildings down and people dead. It may be because they were farther away from the media in S.F.)

I got a call from the Rocket Scientist’s mother on the East Coast, who had seen similar reports and was only slightly less frantic than I was.  I could not get through to RS.  All I could think of was, his office building is on reclaimed land.  (Wikipedia “liquefaction” if you do not know why I was so scared.) When he finally walked in an hour and a half later, my first words were, sadly, not “Thank God you’re safe” but “We are moving the hell out of this fucking state.” (I did then say “Thank God you’re home safe.”)

We assessed the damage: we had lost a few glasses, but most of our cabinets were aligned with the movement of the earth and stayed mostly closed.  (I would like to say that we had earthquake-proofed our unit, but I’d be lying.) The psychic damage, especially for me, ran deep.

I hear people here say that earthquakes are better than hurricanes.  I grew up in hurricane country, and I strongly disagree.  It is empirically irrational, I know, but earthquakes hit me in a visceral way that hurricanes and other storms do not.  You can see a hurricane coming: earthquakes just… happen.  (When the (mild) 6.0 quake hit this summer, I spent two days in a cold sweat. The earth is NOT supposed to move like that. My husband, with his Master’s in Geology, would disagree, of course.)

We’re still here a quarter of a century later.  All of our kids have lived with the possibility of “The Big One” all of their lives.  When he went back East to go to college, The Not-So-Little-Drummer boy said he couldn’t understand how people could have bookshelves above their bed.  Of course, back there, an earthquake is not likely to come along and collapse the shelf on top of you while you sleep.

I like the state better, now, and it is home in some sense, for the rest of my family at least.  But I hate thinking about how the earth can, without warning, turn your life upside down.

Just a reminder: this year marks the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Berkeley Free Speech movement.  It was a movement that could only take place in an environment free from social media, from a job market where potential graduates have to be very careful lest they damage job prospects.

Increasing income inequality chills the exercise of rights, be it free speech or free assembly, or standing up for the Fourth Amendment.  While technically it is illegal to retaliate against workers for speaking out against workplace conditions, employees who do so know that, legal or not, they may well face the loss of jobs, or hours. I have the utmost respect for low-wage employees who fight the good fight, because their economic (and actual) lives are on the line.

Last month, when the pictures of naked female celebrities were leaked online, I read a chorus of “What did she expect? She should have taken better precautions!” My position, articulated in the several comment threads which I deemed to participate in (most common threads are dreck), was that these were intelligent women who presumably knew to take reasonable precautions. We are all at risk from determined creeps (criminals, actually), if we were to become interesting for some reason. (c.f. Gamergate.)

Taylor Swift has written a very thoughtful piece, “A Story About Jessica,” about the challenges faced by an average teen dealing with computer security.  It is well worth reading.

” It is almost as if Plaintiff ’s counsel chose the opinion by throwing long range darts at the Federal Reporter…”

 Bradshaw v. Unity Marine Corp. (147F Supp. 2d 668 (S.D. Tex. 2001)) just may be the most entertaining court ruling I have ever read. I am making a spectacle of myself in Starbucks as I giggle, snort, and laugh outright at this gem of snarky jurisprudence.  Judge Samuel B. Kent, my hat is off to you. I have a strong suspicion that you would be a great guy to have a beer with, or a Scotch, however you roll.

Any court opinion that contains the words “What the ….?!” is worth paying attention to.

[Edited to correct the name of the case. Sheesh. My only defense is that I was laughing too hard to proofread properly.]

[Edited again to add: Actually, as it turns out, Samuel Kent wasn't a good guy after all, or a even a decent human being. He resigned in the face of impeachment hearings, following his guilty plea on charges arising from his non-consensual sexual contact with female employees.

It still is a funny opinion, though.]

The stories in the wine.

In Lisbon, there is a Institute of Port Wine ( Instituto do Vinho do Porto).  You can sit in comfortable chairs and taste different types or ports — drinking glasses of ports that are far more expensive than what you could order at home.  Hushed conversations fill the room.  This is a serious place.

One of the things I most like about the Institute is that they have descriptions not just of the individual ports but of the types of ports. White ports are different from tawny, tawny different from ruby; vintage different from late vintage different from blended. We ordered four, a white, a late-vintage tawny (1995), a twenty-year old tawny blended, and a ruby.

After I had had the equivalent of a couple of drinks (my usual limit for coherence — I’m a cheap drunk), my companion asked me what the wines said to me. I replied with stories.


The white, with its lightness, and its overtones of apple and pears: You sigh deeply, as you sit on the terrace at the Mountain Winery waiting for the Michael Buble concert to begin.  The duck was completely on point, of course, and you are slightly warm and every-so-slightly sleepy.  You look down to your second row seats, shrug, and order another glass of port. Love ya, Michael, but good port is good port.  You can hear the concert just fine from here.

The 1995 late-vintage tawny:  the breakup was, to put it mildly, brutal. After that final, awful, confrontation, which ended with him saying “I’m so fucking over you.  I never want to be in this place ever again.  Do what you want with my stuff” and storming out, slamming the door so hard the hinges bent, you decided to take him at his word.  The Stoli and caviar, not to mention the aged Patron Reserve and Cuban rum smuggled into the country in the (now shredded to pieces) Louis Vuitton bag, down the drain. The satin sheets given to the homeless guy who sometimes lives at the corner. You find the port, and slide the cork out and smell the heady vapors emanating from the bottle. You pour a glass — your crystal, not his — and sit by the hearth.  Antique cherry wood and vintage vinyl records make such a merry fire.

The twenty-year old tawny*: You’ve checked the pantry for the third time. Enough things to eat (and toilet paper and paper towels) and bottled water for three days, even if the power goes off. Then — and only then — do you turn the Weather Channel back on. They’ve run out of names, it seems: Snowpocalypse was a few years ago, and then Snowmageddon the year after that.  You prefer Snoverkill, yourself, but TWC seems intent on using whichever of those awful human names that they have been slapping on winter storms so that they can seem as cool and scientific as the NOAA, who hand out hurricane names. Alvin? Aldo? Whatever. In any case, the graph shows lavender about fifty miles out, deepening quickly to what would otherwise be a very pretty deep purple hovering over your neck of the woods. 24″ expected in the next 24 – 36 hours. You are not going anywhere for at least a couple of days. You sigh, put on some Corrine Bailey Rae, and open up the port which you have been saving for a special occasion.  This isn’t what you had in mind when you bought it, but at this point, any port — especially the best port — in a storm is a good thing.

The ruby: The little girl was scared.  She could do something wrong. She could spill wine down her pristine white dress! Wouldn’t that be sacrilegious? Would God forgive her? More importantly, would her Grandma? That dress had been used for her mother’s first Communion, and her big sisters’ (all three of them) and she had no doubt it would be saved and handed down to Lisa’s eldest girl (since Carrie had had only boys). She stepped forward, hardly daring to breathe: “This is the cup of my blood,” the priest intoned, as the little girl inhaled the warm grapey vapors rising from the chalice. “Thanks be to God,” she answered in a small, trembling, voice.


*This is the wine we ended up buying and taking home.  It is wonderful port.