Thursday, December 30, 2004

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Another busy day at work. It just never seems to end.

Off the clock I stayed at work an hour or so to put together a leaflet for the January 20 anti-inaugural anti-war demonstration in January. The leaflet was a riff on the leaflet put out by the Answer Coalition in Washington, D.C. The internet and Acrobat PDFs made it possible for me to rip off the art and headline type of the D.C. event and then add in our own local demo information. Years ago, I would have needed a hard copy of the D.C. flyer, a knife and a whole lot of wax to piece together something I did in a matter of minutes today. Progress has occurred, for those who doubt it! If I can find a way to link the PDF here, I will post it in a day or so.

The news from Asia is stunningly, shockingly bad. The death toll has risen over 100,000 and still climbs. I don't think it is possible to understand on any level what is going on there right now. I wish we could all just drop every petty thing we are doing right now and do whatever it takes to help out the people affected. Each day another example of incredible selflessness and generosity is revealed on the part of individuals and organizations all across the world. One shocking thing I heard today: that the survivors who collect the dead are cutting off fingers and saving them to use for print identification before disposing of the bodies.

I am reminded of the floods in the Red River Valley a few years ago and how the local newspapers and radio stations transformed themselves into bulletin boards for people trying to find each other after that disaster. I imagine that in this time of crisis, amazing progress will be made in all such areas in order to solve some of the many problems that result from such tragedies. And yet, the tragedy is still beyond anything we can ever imagine.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Is it just Wednesday?

It's been feeling like Friday all week long! The problem with putting in 12 hour days at work, over and over, is that there is no time left over for real life. I need to re-acquaint myself with the Haymarket martyrs before this becomes a habit. The good news is that I've composed and edited my farewell statement for a community I have decided to depart and I'm feeling pretty good about it. The good far outweighs the bad and I think that comes through in what I say. If not, well, it's not because I didn't make the effort.

Today we had a holiday party at lunch. It was a "white elephant" gift exchange. I wrapped up the "13 going on 30" VHS as my contribution to the exchange. I had it in my hand as I was going out the door this morning. But when I got to work, I couldn't find it. This is what getting old is all about! When I got home the wrapped present was sitting on the cat tower. Sheesh!

I got a quick gift from the company store and wrapped it up in the hour before our party. The mascot was surprisingly popular. In the gift exchange I ended up with a lovely scarf that obviously came out of the sample pile at work. It's quite striking and I'm happy with it.

The problem with working too much is that I neglect the important things. Family. Friends. Cats. All of which is far more important that whatever overtime pay I get for my overzealous time-clock participation.

This week two of my favorite role models died: Susan Sontag and Jerry Orbach, each of whom made my life better. Both lost their lives to cancer. Fucking cancer.

Some U.N. official complained this week that the western countries were "stingy" in giving aid to poorer countries. Which was pretty fucking stupid. The obvious response will be a backlash against "anti-American" sentiments by foreigners. What will be lost is any actual facts about aid money per capita or aid money as a percentage of income -- the real testement as to whether a people are generous or stingy.

Democracy Now, the radio show, came through with some frightening statistics about U.S. aid to the victims of the earthquake/tsunami in Asia. The U.S. is sending several millions of dollars to help out. That donation is equal to the amount G.W. Bush plans to spend on his inauguration party on January 20 OR the amount spent every 4 hours for the war in Iraq.

Enough said.

The Star Tribune had an article about last night's Candlelight Service here which was written as a letter to the children of Iraq:

Last update: December 29, 2004 at 6:52 AM

Dear children of Iraq ...

There was a candlelight vigil in your honor Tuesday at St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA. The people at the vigil were thinking about you and others your age who have become victims during the conflicts in Fallujah, Mosul, Najaf, Samarra and, of course, Baghdad.

Steve Clemens, 54, of Minneapolis told the crowd of more than 300 people of all ages and many backgrounds that more than 1,300 American service members have died in Iraq as of Monday and that countless Iraqi children also have lost their loved ones.

Like many of those in attendance, he remembers the day of carnage two months ago on which 34 children were killed in a series of car bombs in Baghdad and northern Iraq.

"We wonder what the future will hold for our children and grandchildren and the children of Iraq if the current hostilities continue," Clemens said.

Inspired, those in the audience responded, "We must awaken the conscience of our nation. Let us have the courage to act."

Meg Novak, 30, of Minneapolis, who traveled to Iraq to see children like you two years ago, challenged the audience to think about what thousands of you are going through, and even encouraged them to talk with family and friends who may not share the same beliefs.

She said, "What kind of world are we creating for these children when the massacre of children can happen and we don't stop what we are doing for one minute to think about it? Have the courage to feel, to lose it, at this insanity. Next time you are touched by this, cry, scream, pull your hair. "Let your barriers fall and feel the pain. ... The future of the world is depending on each one of us."

The mood grew more somber and tears started flowing as Mel Duncan, 54, of St. Paul, addressed the audience. He told them how painfully he misses his 24-year-old son, Elmer, a sergeant with an Army National Guard unit from Anoka stationed 35 miles northeast of Baghdad. He said he has nightmares about two soldiers arriving at his door in a dark blue sedan to say that his "son is no more."

Yet, like your parents, he also is worried about you, thousands of miles away, amidst all of the conflict.

"We stand with our children," Duncan said. "We recommit to defend our children, whether they be named Omar, Rieke or Elmer ... in these dark times such actions require even deeper acts of courage and hope...."

Terry Collins,
Star Tribune Staff Writer

Monday, December 27, 2004

Monday, again.

Another busy day at work. Surprise, surprise.

Spent some time reading opinion pieces from many different sources about the coverage of what is going on Iraq these days. The mess in Fallujah will have an impact we can only imagine at this point. It was an awesome display of the power of the U.S. military and its modern machinery to annihilate an entire city. What little news trickles out is terrifying -- piles of rubble, the entire infrastructure destroyed, rotting corpses everywhere. As a show of terrible manmade force, it is unbeaten in the modern age. Those who dream up new and better ways to destroy the world are understandably proud of this impressive display of their ruthless efficiency. Phrases such as "We won" and "Victory" have been spoken by U.S. military personnel on the ground in Iraq.

Yeah, well we won Vietnam if the measure of winning is who can create the most destruction. I do believe the U.S. has now won the World Series/Stanley Cup/World Soccer Championship of destruction. So how do we go from that to being a force for democracy in the Middle East? Guess we'll have to work on that pesky problem, eh? Yes, Virginia, that is sarcasm.

It is so odd to learn about this kind of destruction on the same day we learn about the after-effects of a 9.0 earthquake in the Indian Ocean. The quake and its accompanying tsunamis have racked up over 21,000 estimated deaths so far and created mass destruction across huge tracts of land. It will be days or weeks before the full effect will be known.

With all the opportunities that living on this planet can provide us in clean-up efforts, why would we choose to add to the mess by going to war against each other? I do understand that imperialism has to be defeated. But it is such a distraction from the real work of creating progress for our planet and its inhabitants.

Today's political work was limited to catching up on news from Iraq and putting out a press release for an inter-faith memorial service tomorrow to remember the children who have died through war this year. We won't attend the service, but we'll help by alerting the local press-titutes of the activity.

News Alert

A Candlelight Service for The Children of Iraq And Other Child Victims of War

Tuesday, December 28, 2004, 6:30 pm
St. Joan of Arc Church
4537 - 3rd Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN

A coalition of Twin Cities area churches and other faith-based groups will hold a candlelight service for the children of Iraq.

The service will be held on Tuesday, December 28 starting at 6:30PM at St. Joan of Arc Church, 4537 3rd Ave. South in Minneapolis.

The event is sponsored by the Twin Cities Peace Campaign.

A statement issued by organizers says in part, "In this service, we will commemorate the children who have been and continue to be victimized by war. By keeping alive in our hearts the memory of these innocent children, we hope to renew and re-energize our resolve to change the conditions that caused their suffering and death, and to recommit ourselves to speaking out publicly against war, injustice and the "politics of fear."

For more information 612- XXX-XXXX.

-- 30 -

A couple of links:

Via metafilter, a metal sculptor who does marvelous things with armor for your pets!

Via presurfer, a wonderful animation illustrating the rock-paper-scissors odyssey.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

A lovely weekend.

It's been a wonderful weekend. On Friday, my Mom, my daughter and my brother in law were here for dinner. We had the traditional Swedish sausage, Swedish meatballs, jello salad and rolls. Yum Yum.

On Saturday, we opened presents. This year was a spare year for presents because money is tight and the focus is more on being together than on spending. I got a couple of books I wanted and a beautiful cross-stitch that my Mom made. My brother in law and daughter came in around 12:30 and we had lunch. Ham, potatoes, seven-layer salad and rolls. Around 3:00 my other daughter arrived with her husband and my grand-daughter who had already had an exhausting day. It took a while for Ravengranddaughter to get into the spirit, but soon she was opening up everybody's presents for them. My uncle and aunt arrived around 3:30 and we had pies. Everyone but my brother in law left by 5:00 and then we sat around reading books while "The Sound of Music" aired with the sound turned down low on TV.

This morning Ravenhub made brunch and then Mom headed out to my visit with my uncle. Then it was time for chores to get back to work tomorrow.

A couple of important things to note:

The Public Housing workers won their strike and our back to work already. Good for them!

This month CenterPoint energy, in violation of the Cold Weather Rule, turned the heat off in hundreds -- maybe even a thousand -- homes this month. There was a minor notice in the paper on Wednesday and the Tenants Union stirred it up into a huge story. Apparently people who couldn't pay their bills were not properly informed of their rights. CenterPoint tried to pass it off as a few employees forgetting to do their jobs. Funny, how it is always the fault of the workers, eh? By Friday night it was a huge story and the attorney general for Minnesota is considering action against the utility.

It is just another example of how even when we have won battles, we have to keep struggling to ensure our rights. The Cold Weather Rule was a major victory when I first got active in politics in the early 1980s. COACT and ACORN won that fight by making it unlawful for the heat to be turned off if there was an honest effort by home owners and renters to pay their bill. In Minnesota, shutting off the heat can be deadly. And yet, today, CenterPoint tries to weasel out of their obligations.

Over the weekend I read William Kent Krueger's book, "The Devil's Bed." It has a great lead character in Bo Thorsen but the political stuff as well as the hints at romance, were awkward. There is a deliciously flawed murderer in David Moses. But what took me right out of the story is when Thorsen's entire back story was "told not shown". Moses, the murderer, breaks into Thorsen's apartment , looks through his personal belongings and "tells" us all about Thorsen's life up until now. It felt like cheating. Let us get to know Thorsen through his memory or flashbacks, not through an info dump disguised as a chapter.

This book included the President, the First Lady and Washington politics. One is supposed to conclude that a naive President was misled by evil political operatives. The problem is that a President who is so stupid that he can be manipulated by these guys is not the sort of person to be admired. Not Krueger's best work, even though a couple of the characters were very interesting.

Next up: KJ Erickson's latest Marshall Bahr novel.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Attack in Iraq.

Yesterday we learned that an attack hit a mess tent full of soldiers in Mosul, Iraq, killing 22 and wounding at least 66 more. I'm sure the details will change over the next few days. They aren't even saying whether it was a rocket or something that exploded from inside the tent. It is a sad day for many American families and one of the worst attacks on American forces in over a year.

This morning, a common response seems to be along the lines of: the war was a huge mistake, but this attack proves we have to stay the course in Iraq. This is so familiar -- it is exactly what was said about Vietnam. And it's also why I find arguments made based on flooding the U.S. public with the truth about the horrors of war ultimately fail.

These war supporters aren't stupid. They understand the horrors of war. No list of horrors, no casualty figures, no amount of disabled veterans will ever convince these people to change their minds about the war. They are willing to pay the price. Of course, the price is paid in the blood and misery of others. But that isn't the point I'm trying to make. I believe these people would make personal sacrifices willingly -- they probably have made donations to soldiers and their families -- to continue a war they know was a mistake from the start.

Because at some point, "staying the course" becomes a code of honor. The discussion moves from realities on the ground, to a belief in something mythological. One part of that myth is the belief that leaving Iraq now would dishonor those who died in the effort so far. It is an idea that should have been put to rest after Vietnam. But that lesson will have to be learned again. But the myth is broader than that. It contains the belief that any presence of Americans in Iraq must be better for the Iraqi people than no American presence in Iraq.

I constantly hear the refrain that removing the U.S. presence in Iraq would lead to chaos. Well, they've got that already, haven't they?

For 30 years, the Iraqis never knew of a world without Saddam Hussein in power and for that they have paid dearly. But Iraqis have also paid dearly at the hands of the U.S. military -- through two wars and 12 years of sanctions. Being free of Hussein was a start in rebuilding Iraq. True rebuilding, as well as real democracy, will not return to Iraq until the Iraqi people are also free of U.S. military occupation as well.


Today we had a potluck at work. Lots of fun food and good conversation with people. For the first time in over a week I feel as if I'm getting caught up at work and actually have time to do some of my long-term projects.

I'm still reading "Mystic River". I can already tell that the book would have been a much more enjoyable experience if I didn't know the ending. Lehane is doing a great job of keeping several possibilities open and I'm pretty sure I would still be wondering "who done it" if I didn't already know.


I've been meaning to post about the tendencies of some Christians to believe there is a massive war out to make American a non-Christian nation, ever since I heard that mentioned during an interview on Fresh Air last week. But James Woolcott beat me to it with this great commentary on a recent discussion about whether one should say "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays":

This "fear of Christmas" is a phantom menace conjured every year so that certain crybaby Christians can adopt victim status and model a pained expression over the sad fact that not everyone around them isn't carrying on like the Cratchits. This thin-skinned grievance-collecting gives birth to all sorts of urban legends and rumors about big institutions being hostile to Christ's birthday, such as the one that swirled on WOR radio last week about how Macy's employees had been instructed not to say "Merry Christmas!" to shoppers. A fiction that was put to rest when the host hit Macy's website and saw its "Merry Christmas" greeting, and Macy's employees chimed in over the phones to say there was no such policy. To read conservative pundits, you'd think everybody was wishing each other Happy Kwanzaa! and averting their eyes from oh so gauche Nativity scenes. I've got news: Even here on the godless, liberal Upper West Side, people wish each other Merry Christmas without staggering three steps backward, thunderstruck and covered with chagrin.


I read a great poem this morning that has meaning -- for solstice and for a problem I am dealing with personally. It's from a wonderful book called "Open Mind -- Women's Daily Inspiration for Becoming Mindful" by Diane Mariechild. The author is Buddhist, but the readings come from a variety of spiritual sources. Today's reading started with a poem by my favorite author, Marge Piercy:

I was trained to be numb, I was born to be numbered and pegged,
I was bred and conditioned to passivity, like a milk cow.
Waking is the sharpest pain I have ever known.
Every barrier that goes down takes part of my flesh
Leaving me bloody. How can I live wide open?

Very soon I will be leaving an online community that has been my home for many years. In addition, I will be opening this blog up to a wider audience. It is both frightening and exhilarating. The combination of solstice and the New Year should give me the strength to take this step soon.

Monday, December 20, 2004

That pesky election!

The presidential election is still a topic of discussion on the boards and recounts are in the offing. At the last demo, a Green Party member went on and on about the election and was shocked ("shocked!") to find irregularities. I still can't see that as anything but a distraction from real political work.

Our elections have always been rigged. Read any accurate political history of our great nation and, time after time, you will learn about all the shenanigans and back-door dealing that has gone on. Some of our greatest leaders got there by cheating. It has always happened and it will continue to happen until our society is significantly transformed.

In the first place, there is no doubt in the world that only rich people can be successful as politicians. That's been proven time and time again. So why cry foul about a system that is already ... well ... foul? There are concrete methods to make elections more democratic. But our country has chosen not to use those methods.

The only way -- the only way I know -- to make any difference at all, is by the thankless, dauntless and endless task of grassroots individuals pushing that damn rock back up the hill. So has it always been, so shall it always be.

Today I read an interview with Larry Kramer of "Act Up" fame that was in the Village Voice. His advice is the best I've heard yet:

"You can never not fight back!"

Amen, brother.


Mother Nature put on a show this morning during rush hour: freezing rain. Yikes! I could barely make it from the the car to the door at work. It continued all day and I managed to hit the pavement twice on the way home from work. Ah, well. No damage done.

Work is still busy. I put in 11 hours again. After finishing up another huge job, I created a Secret Santa gift for one of my co-workers. It's based on the motto "Speed is Life" -- but I made sure that I made every mistake a production artist could make if she works way too fast on a job. I even poured coffee on the project. I think Margery will adore it.

Tonight we're hiding inside. There were dozens of accidents today and there's no need to add to the totals. Just a couple of links to add:

The 12 Sexually Transmitted Infections of Christmas!

Probably not safe for work, although the stick figures have tiny stick penuses. You can find it

Scared of Santa photo gallery

Real pictures of people not quite enjoying their visit to Santa Claus can be found here.

More tomorrow!

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Friday was a bear at work once again. Never really got caught up. Plus, the office snitch was on a rampage demanding to know where everybody was at all times and trying to hand out work. It was infuriating.

Friday night we decided we just wanted to stay home and see something silly. Our first choice is always to re-watch "The Ref" -- a very well-written movie with Dennis Leary and Kevin Spacey in it. We've probably watched it 30 times and still enjoy it. But Ravenhub couldn't find it -- it disappeared in the big cleanup before Thanksgiving.

Since we were also running low on junk food I decided to hit the store downtown after work. Bought cookies, nuts, the book "Mystic River" and then started looking for a movie. Man, we are going to have to break down a get a TV built after 1985 so we can hook up a DVD player because Target has reduced their VHS offerings to a row of cassettes for children and one shelf with the top ten movies. That was picked dry, but I decided to try out "13 going on 30". When I got home we took the car, got some wine, picked up some burgers from O'Brien's and flipped the tape in the player.

Jennifer Garner was great at portraying the physical awkwardness of being 13. But the movie spent way too long focusing on shopping trips. Yuck. Of course, the star discovers that childhood isn't as bad as she thought, but this has the added plus of her realizing that her best friend, the boring boy next door, is the man she should have gotten involved with all along. It was a pleasant way to spend a couple of hours but this is not a keeper. I'm thinking I'll give it to somebody at work to enjoy.

Saturday morning we were up early to prepare for the anti-war demonstration. I got out my X-acto and my old metal straight-edge to cut down tag board to a 12x18 pieces. Ravenhub tacked on "Bring the Troops Home Now!" signs I made and he copied. He also spent the morning sending out press releases on our fancy fax machine.

We got to Uptown around 10:30 a.m. Ravenhub had more copying to do and I wanted to go over to Orr Books to see if they had some of the broadsides I'd bought from the Laurel Poetry Collective. It turned out they had only the chapbooks. I wandered across to other used bookstores and picked up a book about political posters from the 80s and 90s and also picked up the book "Rat King" by Meiville (sp?). He is apparently a socialist Brit who writes science fiction.

The demo began at noon and about 100 people showed up. Pretty amazing considering the temperatures were hovering around 10 degrees F and dropping. The response from passersby was excellent -- a majority of them honking or giving us the thumbs up. We chanted and marched up and down the block. Three counter-protestors showed up with their bizarre signs that are supposed to be ironic -- they says "Stop the War" and in smaller letters say something snotty like, "I want to buy more lattes." But the type is so small most people can't read it. We ignored them, they didn't bother us.

The Counter-Propaganda coalition brought a bunch of anti-Christmas carols that people enjoyed singing after getting thoroughly cold. At one point a driver pulled over to the curb, rolled down the window on the passenger side and told John, "I'm home on leave from Iraq and I just want to thank you for what you are doing out here." Awesome.

After the rally, Ravenhub and I tried to catch a quick meal. But after being ignored at a local diner we gave up and went to his favorite coffeeshop where they serve sandwiches. This is a great place that is the haunt of mostly gays and lesbians. They have a whole room for smokers, which makes Ravenhub happy. We ate sandwiches and then I headed off to my book group.

All six of us made it to group this time for the first time in a while. We handed out holiday presents and got caught up with each other. Susan, our ex-member who moved to Phoenix sent us each a bag of nuts (typecasting?) and a great card. Priscilla found a book that we can share with great writings by women. We got tea and wine and books. It was wonderful to be together. I brought the three broadsides I had purchased and asked them to pick. They surprised me -- each picking different ones, so I'm glad I didn't decide for myself. We meet again in January.

I went back Uptown to meet with Ravenhub who had gone to the office for a couple of hours. We decided to eat dinner at the Green Mill, then head up to a holiday party. I had shrimp linguini in garlic. Bad idea -- the first thing I did at the party was lose my supper. I've never been able to handle garlic! But I felt better and stayed around for a little while to see old friends and hang out with their four dogs who didn't mind my constant petting. We ended up home at about 8 p.m., completely exhausted and fell into bed.

This morning I slept until ten, did some reading, and slept some more. Basically, we tried to relax, while getting chores done. I went to the dry clothes at the laundry at 5:30. I drove home through very light snow. This probably won't stick -- it's too cold and dry for the fluffy snow -- more like getting a bit of lint thrown about! But it's still cold -- below 10 and staying there for a while.

I'm halfway through Mystic River. I'm not at all surprised that it's much better than the movie. There's lots more about class differences within the neighborhood as well as the encroachment of gentrifiers from the suburbs. There's a lot about Jimmy Marcus being tied in with the Savage family and unable to escape despite his pledge to go straight while raising his daughter alone. I'm sure that will make a great contrast between him and Brendan, who is apparently able to retain his ability to be kind even though he also comes from a criminal family and lives in the midst of it.

Some links:

I saw a similar sculpture on a medical show by Jonathan Miller many years ago on PBS. This one differs in that it is anatomically correct and pretty damn scary!
Sensory homunculus: "This model shows what a man's body would look like if each part grew in proportion to the area of the cortex of the brain concerned with its sensory perception."

You Are From Neptune

You are dreamy and mystical, with a natural psychic ability.
You love music, poetry, dance, and (most of all) the open sea.
Your soul is filled with possibilities, and your heart overflows with compassion.
You can be in a room full of friendly people and feel all alone.
If you don't get carried away with one idea, your spiritual nature will see you through anything.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Work just plain sucked today. I reached my quota of confusion at some point and pretty much gave up. It happens. No biggie.

It took me a long while to decompress after work and Ravenhub wisely avoided me, while supplying me with a healthy dinner. I drove him over to Mayday Books for an anti-war meeting. Then I drove over to Query Books to participate in a book club honoring local GBLT writers. Ellen Hawley spoke about her book, "Trip Sheets" in general terms. It was a small, intimate group and quite fun to be a part of. They had a drawing for prizes and I won a T-shirt for the coffeehouse attached to the book store, Wilde Roast. The slogan on the back says, "I can resist anything except temptation." :) That Wilde was one witty fellow.

Next month Ann Degroot will be leading a discussion about "The Picture of Dorian Gray" by Oscar Wilde. I bought a copy for less than $6 -- a real steal these days. I read this book long ago and enjoyed it for its sci-fi, magical components and probably missed tons of social commentary because I knew nothing about Victorian England and/or Wilde. It should be interesting reading it again. Especially interesting to be reading it at a time of new attacks on gay marriage, et al. Some southern legislator is on the warpath now to ban any book from school libraries that contains a homosexual character. Reminds me of the little kid who covers his own eyes and says, "You can't see me!"

In February Ida Swearingen will be talking about her book "Owl in the Dessert." I picked that book up while waiting for a meeting to start at Amazon Bookstore Cooperative. Then I sat down next to a stranger at the meeting. Turns out the stranger was Ida, the author of the book, who graciously signed my copy for me. It's a mystery novel with a fabulous female lead character. I'll try to read it again before the February meeting.

After the reading at Query, I drove back over to Mayday to pick up Ravenhub. The meeting was not yet over, so I hung about and checked out new books. Lots of great new stuff, but nothing that inspired me to buy.

Home by 9 p.m. and I wandered the web again, looking for left-wing women bloggers. I found a site called "What She Said" that collects the name of women who identify as leftist, even though most of them are rather mainstream liberals. Cruised through about 20 sites without finding much of interest. I continue to have faith there must be somebody out there!

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Ravenhub and I got out the door early this morning so we could join a picket line for workers at the Public Housing Authority. The event was up on 10th and Washington on the near north side. When we got there, the pickets were already in a circle. The Teamsters had pulled their huge semi-truck up along the sidewalk. It has fancy lights and pro-labor slogans all over it. We'd stopped for coffee and tea on our way. We walked on up and joined in the line. Seemed like everyone else there had on uniform jackets so we were a bit out of place. But people were very friendly, met our eyes and mouthed the word "thanks". We chanted along with the rest. "What do we want? Contract! When do we want it? Now?" and "Hey hey! Ho ho! Union busting's got to go!"

I counted about 75 people there -- overwhelmingly workers. After a while a couple of people came up beside us to ask us who we were and why we were there. I said I was a typesetter and that I'd gotten an e-mail about the demonstration from the Central Labor Council activist list. A bit later a man with a bullhorn came up and asked me to step into the middle with him. He told the crowd that I was there from the typesetter's union to support them. I got a round of applause! One of the older women came over to talk to me. She said she's been working there for 18 years and still doesn't earn top pay. Supposedly you get top pay after 12 years, but they find all sorts of reasons to not fulfill their obligation. I said, "Well you are such slow learners, right?" She laughed at that. As part of their work agreement, they take lots of classes to improve their construction skills. In return, the city is supposed to increase their pay, but they haven't done that either.

Many of these workers are basically supers for the buildings they work in. They get called day and night and have to handle anything that arises: plumbing, carpentry, electric. Plus they become friends to the tenants -- earn their trust and become like part of the family. These people make very real differences in the lives of so many people, and yet they can't get treated decently by the city. I met one of the union officers -- I shook his hand and said, "Hi, I'm a typesetter." He said, "I know! Thanks for being here." Later Ravenhub said that this same man said he recognized us from the work we did with the transit workers and the clerks at the University. Apparently we have street cred! LOL!

We discussed finding ways that the tenants can help the workers. I hope to find a way to help them educate people about their issues. There really needs to be some kind of informational leaflet that they can hand out that explains their issues and what the public can do to help support them. The only thing I could find was an article on Workday Minnesota. Which is good, but not enough.

Work was another long day with a lot to do, but I finally feel as if I got a handle on the book for February. Yes, it's complicated but there is a logic to it that I'm finally understanding. I got lots of help from the freelancers and we made good progress today. I hope I have a chance to look through everything tomorrow so I have some level of confidence going into internal proofs next week.

After work I attended the annual meeting of the Minnesota Tenants Union. A small, but productive group. It could be so much more, but nobody has the energy to build it right now. Even so, the success we had in the last year is awesome. The passage of the Application Fee ordinance in Minneapolis AND the protection of immigrants rights in St. Paul were both done over the past year. Next year will be about spreading the word and getting the suburbs on the bandwagon.

Via "Left i on the news" I heard about the Koufax Awards -- awards given for bloggers on the left-wing side of politics. I checked the award winners for the years before and was disappointed to find that much of what they call "left" seems to be fairly mainstream liberal thinking. It came up tonight when Hans was talking about the difference between United Way organizations and organizations that belong to the Community Solutions Fund. "UW supports groups who apply bandaids. CSF groups work to prevent the injuries from happening."

Liberals think the system can be fixed. Leftists know it must be transformed. I'm sure there are committed leftists on the web, I'm just having trouble tracking them down.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Another long day at work. 11 hours before I forced myself away from the computer. Oy vey! Got the 57-page book done. Got lots of help from my co-workers on all the other work. Still haven't figured out my February book, but Vicki and Muriel will train me in tomorrow and that's good.

We had a team meeting which I can't talk about, but one of the results was that I came up with the idea of creating "Best Practices" fact sheets that we can send to our vendors. This is for tedious discussion of things such as hanging punctuation, proper use of tabs, etc. We really need to create a way to interact with our vendors productively and see some progress in their abilities to meet our standards. Of course, I don't have any time to produce such documents, but I would love to see it happen. Somehow. Some day. Maybe I can track down a couple of typography teachers and see if they would be willing to provide feedback on the project. I'm thinking of Nick Shin and Ilene S for this sort of thing.

After about eight hours of plowing through jobs, I spent a couple of hours just clearing off my desk and setting aside the projects I need to finish when I have time to work on them. I need to write a couple of paragraphs and find pictures of Mom's 80th birthday party to share in the team newsletter. I have to update the auxiliary dictionary instructions. And I have to finish up my IDP -- Individual Development Plan. Like I'm gonna find that time. Yikes!

A couple of good things this week: two of my co-workers commented on jobs that I had started, but fobbed off the edits because I was tied up on the huge book. Both mentioned that the files were set up in a way that showed somebody really cared about quality work and made it easier for the edits by planning the documents correctly in the first place. It was great to hear because it's the sort of thing I do, but never know whether it's worth the effort.

I updated the flyer I did for the December 18th anti-war protest. I killed a reverse I did because the cheap printers we are using are unable to maintain the black without blurring the whites. Just goes to show you that creativity means nothing if the printer can't print it!

Ravenhub is having trouble with his ankle causing sharp pains in the cold weather. I keep bugging him to call the doctor or go to urgent care, he keeps putting if off. I know the feeling, so I'm not about to whine too much. It's easy to avoid the doctor. But this pain seems over-the-top and has lasted over a week. He claims he will check on it tomorrow. We'll see.

Side note: Our 10-year-old neighbor once told us that "We'll see" was the equivalent to an 80% "No." -- he was working on percentages in math class and found a way to apply it in a real-life situation.

Got an e-mail from the Central Labor Union about a protest tomorrow at 7 am. The Public Housing workers have gone on strike. We're gonna try to make it. It will be cold and dark. Why can't we plan all our labor disputes for the summer? LOL!

Tomorrow night I'm going to the annual meeting of the Minnesota Tenants Union. It should be short and sweet. Some good victories this year -- especially the rental application fee ordinances. Not bad at all!

Monday, December 13, 2004

After the celebration on Saturday night, Ravenhub and I came back home and watched "Mystic River" on HBO. Man what a bummer of a movie. Sheesh! I didn't want to spend any more time with any of those people -- except maybe for "Whitey". The rest of them can just crawl back under the rock they came from! I knew who the murderer was way too early so watching it plod along was painful. I can't believe this film got so many great reviews. Sure, the acting was great but if there's no plot and you hate everybody in the movie -- acting schmacting!

On Sunday we did a lot of cleaning. Collected all kinds of clothes and separated the summer from the winter. Did a ton of laundry and took it to the laundrymat to dry. We still haven't replaced our broken-down dryer, so we're schlepping the stuff to Joe's every Sunday. This time I went after 7 p.m. Big mistake! The real estate wars were intense -- not enough dryers and two many people with multiple loads. I ended up drying eight loads of laundry in the only four dryers I could get to before somebody else seized them.

Work today was busy. I've got a 56 page book for CR that is going slow -- bad formatting means I am re-doing a lot of the work. My circular that is awesomely bad -- very confusing versioning that I haven't figured out yet. Muriel and I are going to go over it together tomorrow so I can get a handle on it.

I finished reading Ellen Hawley's book "Trip Sheets" today at lunch. The most noticeable thing is how depressing it is. There is a liberal guilt element to it that I just don't understand. But there is also a lovely flow to the chapters -- each one a complete story onto itself. And I wonder whether she didn't write these first as short stories. One thing I noticed was the beautiful way she had of ending chapters -- poetic and perfect. Which is a wonderful skill but not good for a novel. I wasn't sure I needed to read any more once I finished a chapter!

But there are wonderful bits of information that make her stories come alive -- the way a stretcher bumps against the wall when being carried down the stairs -- the way a child irresistably reaches out to touch the black scorch marks on recently burnt wood. I wonder if maybe Ellen is more a poet than a novelist. I'm sure there are some terrific short stories ahead. On Thursday night, I'm going to Query bookstore to hear her talk about the book and meet with others who have read it.

Soon I will talk about the other book I finished recently: Christian Parenti's "The Freedom" -- a book about his experiences in Iraq over the last year. Profoundly depressing and also confirming to my every nefarious suspicion about what is really going on over there right now. The U.S. just finished trashing the shit out of Fallujah and I am convinced it will become synonymous with Auschwitz when we truly understand what happened there. The U.S. is seriously talking about doing DNA scans of returning refugees and forcing them to wear badges at all times. Perhaps a yellow Star of David would work. The last report I read said the U.S. forces were shooting cats and dogs because they are feeding on all the dead bodies and their is concern about rabies. What the fuck?

One delightful find this weekend -- I went to the Open House at Open Book and found some wonderful broadsides by the Laurel Poetry Collective. Beautiful poetry, wonderful typography and very affordable -- only $10 each. I may have to purchase some more and give them out to my book group on Saturday.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

The festival of lights!

We went to Anne, Dave and Emily's to celebrate Hanukkah last night. Sally and Amelia were there. Ravendaughter made it as well. What a great time. Delicious latkes. Good humor.

Amelia is leaving for Prague on the 31st for a one-month training to become a teacher of ESL. After that she hopes to get a job "somewhere in Europe." Pretty amazing. The dreidel went on forever, even though we broke all the rules to try to shorten it. Ravendaughter got knocked out early so I gave her my loot so I could watch.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Today I searched the blog world for "feminist" "activist" and "pop culture" or "literature".

One thing I found was FemSpec

I printed out the sample articles at work. Great stuff on Farscape and its wonderful female characters. I'll probably try to get a subscription and buy up some back issues if at all possible.

Tomorrow I work at the bookstore in the afternoon and in the evening we have our annual Hannukah party at Ann and Dave's. Looking forward to latkes and friendship.

I once heard somebody say that the reason they began to write fan fiction was because they could never find the stories they wanted to read. Well, I am returning to this blog because my searching has resulted in NOT finding the blog I want to read.

It is a Friday night. Ravenhub is in bed. I am awake and pondering the world as it stands today.

I want to have a place to post the fliers I make for the movement here in the Twin Cities. Perhaps this is it.

I want to have a place to provide links to stories and articles that mean something to me.

I want to have a place to post things that ought not to disappear into the oblivion of my nearly-fifty memory deficiencies.

And perhaps this is it. We shall see.