Poem Time

A young Edna St. Vincent MillayThanks to www.poets.org for reminding me about this lovely poem. It reminds me of my college friends and the road trips we took and the outings we scraped together from pocket change.

Recuerdo

Edna St. Vincent Millay1892 – 1950

  We were very tired, we were very merry—
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry.
It was bare and bright, and smelled like a stable—
But we looked into a fire, we leaned across a table,
We lay on a hill-top underneath the moon;
And the whistles kept blowing, and the dawn came soon.

We were very tired, we were very merry—
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry;
And you ate an apple, and I ate a pear,
From a dozen of each we had bought somewhere;
And the sky went wan, and the wind came cold,
And the sun rose dripping, a bucketful of gold.

We were very tired, we were very merry,
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry.
We hailed, “Good morrow, mother!” to a shawl-covered head,
And bought a morning paper, which neither of us read;
And she wept, “God bless you!” for the apples and pears,
And we gave her all our money but our subway fares.

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Action Check-In Part II

candles
I write my blog posts ahead of time, and this time around my blog post about taking political action popped up today, when we as a nation are still reeling not only from the terrorist attack in Charlotteville but also from our president’s failure to confront it.

Yesterday I went to a candlelight vigil which turned acrimonious (but remained non-violent) when two liberal groups conflicted over how to address white supremacy. Both groups were against it, but one group wanted to have a vigil with mainstream speakers including, controversially, Sacramento’s current mayor and Assemblyman Jim Cooper, both of whom have a spotty record at best when dealing with Sacramento’s homelessness problem and with police aggression towards black and brown people.

So there we were, with one group waving candles around and listening to the same speeches that we always listen to, and anther group wearing bandanas and yelling at the top of their lungs. It was tense. It was rude. It was somewhat scary especially to those of us there with kids. But a day later, I think the loud group was right, at least in their insistence on pushing for more than candles.

White Supremacy doesn’t rear its ugly head only on occasions when a bunch of poseurs have a march. It happens every day in macro and micro aggressions. If you want to fight white supremacy, then by all means have candlelight vigils – but also raise your voice when Black people are killed by police. Raise your voice on behalf of LGBTQIA people. When mosques and synagogues and Black Churches are burned or defaced call it what it is, which is domestic terrorism. Support tax initiatives that increase access for the disabled. Use your phone, your wallet, and/or your feet to make your support for all marginalized groups known consistently.

Above all, if I’ve learned anything in the last few years, it is the importance of discomfort. Don’t be afraid to confront your own baggage. We can do better.

Summer Poem: Mask by Carl Sandburg

IMG_2291This poem by Carl Sandburg makes me think of all the outdoor festivals – concerts at the parks, music at fairs, giant music festivals and radios playing in beat up cars!

 

Mask, by Carl Sandburg

Fling your red scarf faster and faster, dancer.
It is summer and the sun loves a million green leaves,
masses of green.
Your red scarf flashes across them calling and a-calling.
The silk and flare of it is a great soprano leading a
chorus
Carried along in a rouse of voices reaching for the heart
of the world.
Your toes are singing to meet the song of your arms:

Let the red scarf go swifter.
Summer and the sun command you.

Advice for Scientists from a Fan

1*kwiNY-8vonJm3sIBdwogAwHay fever could not stop this family of a biologist, a kid who is interested in EVERYTHING, and a writer from attending the Sacramento March For Science. It was a wonderful event that I was proud to have participated in.

I lurked on the March for Science Facebook thread on and off as this march was being planned, and Science People, as a friendly layperson, I have Thoughts.

1. Get intersectional.

You are not practicing science in a vacuum. You are practicing a field which does not have a glowing history with women, people with disabilities, people with color, or people who identify as LGBTQIA. Face this history. Educate yourself on it. Stop saying that science should not be political – it is political and it has always been political. Stand up for vulnerable populations with your bodies and your voices, and help both professional and laypeople understand the ethics which should be guiding science today, and what science today teaches us about poverty, racism, sexism, and so forth. This is part of your job.

2. Reach out to the public – nicely.

The world is full of people who don’t know about science. Many of them are not idiots – they just never had a chance to learn. Stop making Bill Nye and Neil DeGrasse  Tyson do all the work! Be confident, be proud of your accomplishments and your knowledge – but don’t be a snob. Maybe you can analyze the genome but you can’t unplug a toilet. We all have our areas of expertise.

3. LEARN.

I know, you are scientists, you are always learning. Learn about things that aren’t in your field – it will make your science more effective.

In the weeks leading up to the march, many worried that being inclusive would be too political. The fact is that not being inclusive is also political. There is no neutral ground, and there never has been – our choices about who is allowed to practice science, how we conduct it, what we fund, and how we interpret and use findings has always been shaped by political and social factors. The findings themselves may be neutral – gravity is real whether I choose to believe in it or not. But the field in which those findings are discovered is not and cannot be a neutral one because we are people who function in a context of other people.

Any scientist, but especially those interested in science advocacy, should have at least a passing familiarity with some of the issues historically and currently that shape the way vulnerable populations might look at the scientific field. For instance, scientists should know something about the history of eugenics and forced sterilizations in the United States of America. They should know about the American history of using African-Americans for scientific research without their knowledge or consent. They should understand at least something about historical efforts to “treat” homosexuality as a mental illness. And of course, scientists of all genders should understand the struggles women face with sexual harassment in STEM fields today.

Understanding social issues makes science better, just as science has the potential to make social issues better. The march was a powerful step (no pun intended). Keep going!

 

 

 

44 Reasons for Happy

IMG_2291.jpgI had a birthday and my family spoiled me rotten. In honor of the day, here’s 44 things I’m happy about. what brings you joy?

  1. Big Trouble in Little China: Don’t panic! It’s only me, Gracie Law!
  2. 30 Rock: “Because society!”
  3. I’m not proud of this, but the fact that someone called Trump a loofah-faced shit-gibbon does make this list.
  4. My electric blanket.
  5. My cats.
  6. My dog.cat and dog under the covers
  7. My heating pad.
  8. Eva Green’s existence,
  9. “Penny Dreadful: “Enjoy the fairy lights!” “I always do!”
  10. The Great British Bake Off.
  11. Victorian Sensation Literature. Secret babies! AMNESIA!
  12. Feminist comics
  13. The French Toast at Tower Café in Sacramento.
  14. Book clubs
  15. Tee Turtle
  16. The unexpected revelation that kids between the ages of 12 – 14 are actually super interesting and fun.
  17. The Internet.
  18. Internet blocking apps, because the Internet is a double-edged sword.
  19. Wikipedia.
  20. The Cast of The Force Awakens
  21. Gravity Fallsmaxresdefault
  22. Feminist, anti-racist interpretations of the Lovecraft mythos
  23. Jane Eyre
  24. Antibiotics
  25. Soap
  26. Chris Evans and his tweets
  27. Intersectional Feminism
  28. Daffodils
  29. Equal Exchange Hot Cocoa Mix
  30. My bed.
  31. As always, this photo:5185
  32. Gillian Anderson
  33. The Schuyler Sisters!
  34. Weird Westerns and Gothic Noir
  35. The blue pillow I put behind my head while I cuddle my daughter.
  36. My daughter!
  37. My husband!
  38. Family and friends, online and in person.
  39. Complaining about Percy Shelley and Lord Byron
  40. Dorothy Parker
  41. Iced tea. Not sweet tea. Iced tea.
  42. The fact that 2016 is over.
  43. Reading in a hot bath.
  44. The public library.

A Few Thoughts About Family

IMG_7154.JPGLast weekend my Uncle Jeff died after many years of illness. We have a large extended family that is both financially comfortable and only slightly dysfunctional. Most members of the family live within a two-hour driving radius of the nursing home where Jeff spent his last year and his final days. Jeff was a member of society for whom family played a traditional role – someone in the family always made sure he was safe, as happy as possible, and well-cared for. Family visited Jeff several times a week and kept vigil as he died.

During that same week, the GOP proposed a budget that would cut funding for free school meals, and funding for Meals on Wheels, a program in which volunteers deliver meals to seniors who live at home. The cuts to school lunches were justified by saying that feeding children is not proven to raise their grades. Cuts to Meals on Wheels were justified by claims that the program does not show results. Merely feeding the hungry is not result enough in Trump’s America.

In my experience, Republicans like the idea that family takes care of family. The Republicans of my acquaintance are far from stingy. They have been very generous and kind with their family members, friends, schools, and churches (institutions that serve as a kind of ‘found family’ for many). However, Republicans do not like giving to those they consider to be outsiders – people from other countries, or people of other religious faiths, or people of different sexual orientations, or people they simply don’t know.In the Republican mindset, families should be empowered to take care of their own members.

Jeff’s caregivers told us that they were pleased to see how often his family members visited him. They told us that many of their patients don’t have this kind of family support. The idea that family (of blood or of choice) is responsible for caring for society’s most vulnerable members ignores the existence of vast numbers of people in our towns, our states, our countries, and our planet who do not have family at all or who do not have family with the resources needed to take care of them.

If our nation is to survive, it will have to expand its idea of what family means. Are not all of our residents family? Are we really willing to let seniors and children go hungry because they aren’t related to us, or they don’t go to our church, or their grades aren’t high? Are we really going to say that because we are healthy the illnesses of others are not our problem?

Families are a social construct by which we support each other on a small scale. Governments are (or ought to be) a social construct in which we pool our resources to care for each other on a large scale. If you drive on a public road, or drink clean water, or use a flush toilet, and you live in America, then you have participated in this system. If a nation is not a family, then what is it for? And if a government does not assist the most fragile members of its family, then why support it? In the words of the famous song by Katherine Lee Bates:

“America, America, God shed His grace on thee,

And crown thy good with Brotherhood, from sea to shining sea!”