Thursday, December 20, 2012

with three hours to go, I couldn't resist

you really should know better

I had to have a minor medical procedure done yesterday, and had been told I needed to have someone drive me home because of the local anesthesia that would be required. Dan promised to take me there, and drive me home. I had to give his name to several nurses, and I wrote it on forms, including what he was wearing so they'd find him in the waiting room when it would be time to leave.

So, when I was done, lucid, and dressed, the recovery room nurse went to get Dan. She came back, twice, and said he wasn't there. The second time she came back without having found him I got the slightest bit irritated, repeated the information I had written down (black fleece jacket), and added "Mexican-American, in his 40s". She looked startled.

Not that she admitted it, but it was obvious that she had been looking for a white "Dan". Because I'm white. He had been sitting there the entire time. He told me later that she hadn't even bothered to say his name out loud. Or mine. So sure was she that he wasn't there.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

yet again, it was bound to happen

I fought the impulse to say this all day yesterday, but what do you do when it's true? Click to read the evidence. People are idiots.

Monday, December 17, 2012

the fury, and the frustration

So now, with 20 little children dead, we begin to consider the access to mental health care. What will it take for us to consider access to health care? A medieval plague?

Because, let's be honest, we don't consider the access to mental health care out of concern for those suffering from illness. We discuss it because of the threat they may pose for everyone else.

the irony

The MSNBC commentators say that the way they personally "deal with the tragedy" in Newtown is by avoiding all news coverage. (Yeah, glad you asked. They said it on-air, of course.)

Monday, November 19, 2012

what has to happen, seriously

We've heard a lot of disrespect towards women, and, frankly, a lot of sexist stupidity, this election season. I think the fact that there isn't a serious discussion about gender equality on the national level in United States is going to set the country back. How? According to my colleague Barbara Kelley, who, with her daughter Shannon, has written extensively about young women entering the workplace, young women are being disenfranchised. Women do really well in school, but see themselves be bypassed in professional settings that generally are more conservative than higher education.

It's embarrassing to hear and read how American men talk about women, and it's an embarrassment to the country that the drive and skills of young women are going to waste.

Of course, not all men are sexist pigs. But, never do we hear the decent respectful men who are out there speak up against their sexist pig brothers.

The truth is that we won't see any real change until men speak up, publicly as well as privately. We won't see any real change until men are willing to do the work of changing attitudes and behaviors in others. People of color can't fix racism, they're just at the receiving end of it. White people have to fix racism, because they are the ones to perpetuate it.

We will have to get used to the idea that women can't fix the inequality that is based on gender. Men will have to do it. They're the ones to perpetuate it, and they're the ones who benefit from it.

In doing this work men will free women as well as themselves. Because equality isn't just about lifting up the group that has been kept down. It's about creating a world that is just, and a world that allows everyone to make choices based on who they are, not based on what others expect of them.

We're waiting, guys. See you outside the box, yeah?

Friday, October 05, 2012

the fair trade iphone

If a regular cup of coffee costs $3, for a few cents more we can buy fair trade coffee, and make sure that local workers and growers of the coffee get to keep more of the profit. Besides fair trade coffee there is fair trade tea, rice, chocolate, and other products. In a world where the little guy is often overrun, buying fair trade is an easy way of doing the right thing.

Apple's products, the iphone, the different ipods, the ipad, and so on, are manufactured in China. When I turn over my iphone on the back it says, in silver letters, "Designed by Apple in California. Assembled in China."

Thousands of workers were on strike today in one of Apple's facilities in Zhengzhou in north-central China. Why? Workers assembling the iproducts are under a lot of pressure: long days, little pay, no time off, and "impossibly strict standards". "Employees could not even turn out iphones that met the standard", said the widely cited organization China Labor Watch.

The new iphone, the iphone 5, costs from $199, with a 2-year contract. What would you be willing to pay for a fair trade iphone? $299?

Monday, August 13, 2012

and then someone called me a racist. and stupid.

Today I put the following as my Facebook update:

there are some asian accents that are really hard for me to understand. it makes me irritated and embarrassed at the same time.

And, someone called me racist, and stupid. For reals. So, if you point out differences you are a racist? In this case the differences have to do with phonetics, that some sounds carry meaning in some languages, but not in others. And the fact that I, as an immigrant with an accent, sometimes have a hard time figuring out other people's accents. It has happened to me many times that I've had a native American English speaking friend with me, and they have been able to explain to me what the Asian person was saying. Not difficult for them to figure out, but difficult for me. Racist? I don't think so.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

the day(s) I made it to the front page of the huffington post

My colleague at Santa Clara University Barbara Kelley wrote a fun and interesting piece for the Huffington Post about fashion, feminism, and how we communicate with the world around us using what we wear. Barbara was nice enough to include quotes from me alongside quotes from Shira Tarrant, a scholar who actually study these things. A link for the story is here. Was I ecstatic when The HuffPost pulled one of my quotes and used it on the front page two days running? You bet.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

our sins of omission

I saw a middle aged woman hit a middle aged man outside of Costco not long ago. She hit him with her fists on his upper body while calling him stupid. Her English wasn't great, but it was clear what she said. The man didn't hit her back, he just took the abuse. I wonder how much she hits him at home, if that was her treatment of him in public. Had it been a man hitting a woman the police would have been called. And I didn't do anything.

Monday, May 28, 2012

happy memorial day

How many of my Facebook friends are or have been members of the armed forces? Four. Happy Memorial Day to Scott, Paul, Loribelle, and Kelly. (I'm sure there are more, actually, only I don't know about that part of their lives.)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

more on death, and social media

One of our former students died over the weekend in a motorcycle accident. She and I were Facebook friends, and I've kept reading the comments on her Facebook wall as it has turned into a wall of condolences. It's very touching. She is loved.

Alice and I also followed each other on Instagram, the photo sharing app. The last photo on her Instagram feed is a picture of the three wheel rental motorcycle that she traveled on when they had the accident. Her comment under the picture: "What did I get myself into?"

Alice's death is heartbreaking. I don't have words for what that photo does.

Monday, May 21, 2012


Too much death. No words. Just sadness. One, dead at 27, too young. Another, a mother leaving behind a 27 year old daughter who needs her very much.

Life goes on, because there is no other way.

Friday, May 18, 2012

and now we wait, for three business days

Four years ago I was a perfect cancer patient. I cracked jokes left and right, never complained, and asked the nurses, sincerely, how they were doing as they were hooking up the IV for the chemo. And I listened to their answers, the stories of siblings dying in the Filippines.

For nine months I did whatever I was asked to do. I completely subjected myself to the apparatus of a large hospital. Especially when I was going through the 30 consecutive days of radiation treatment I had the sensation of "driving my body in". No one asked for my mind, my self, my person. They treated the body, and they did so well.

Now, four years and several clear mammograms later, the yearly, routine, mammogram makes me faint. I'm scared.

On Thursday, when I had the test done, I answered the technician's perfunctory "How are you?", with the truth. I told her I was scared. "But why?", she asked, fiddling with my paperwork. "Oh, because of your previous surgery?"

I wanted to ask her if she was dumb. Surgery is the easy part of cancer treatment. You're not even awake. Maybe she thought it was a clever euphemism. Call it surgery and we won't remember that we're in the facility to be checked for signs of cancer.

A friend told me on Thursday that it's OK to be scared. I needed to hear that. I AM scared. I don't want to die. Everyone who says "Oh, but you'll be fine", have no idea what they're talking about. If we're lucky we're fine. But sometimes we're not.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

pearls, and a bonus

I'll admit to being more than a little social media tired right now, I mean how much news, views, photos, crap, do you really need? Here are two things I do like, though:

1. Suri's Burn Book. "A study in Suri and the people who disappoint her." Suri who? Suri Cruise, of course. Hilarious.

2. American Colter. A student film project that you can support here.

And then there is this: Gin O'Clock on Facebook, and Elizabeth Windsor on Twitter.

Friday, April 06, 2012

how to get rid of the sinus headaches

I've been off dairy for about a month, and it's made a huge difference in my sinus situation. Allergy season is here, but I haven't had one migraine. (Thanks again to Katie, who suggested giving up dairy in a comment.)

Another thing that has contributed to the happy times is this little thing, the Breathe Pure nasal filter. They look weird, but they work. You plug up the nose when you go outside, or when you clean, dust, do woodwork, etc.

The company hasn't paid me to say that they make a product that actually works, but I do have an ulterior motive here. I'm thinking that if they get to be really popular they would sell more, and  maybe then they could come down in price a bit. I'm buying the filters in bulk, and for my latest order of 84 filters I paid $54. Hefty.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

the fear of whiteness

George Zimmerman, who shot the unarmed 17-year old Trayvon Martin because he feared for his life, is looking to Florida's "stand your ground" law for protection. The law "states that a person may use deadly force in self-defense when there is reasonable belief of a threat". Mr. Zimmerman had reason to be scared when approached by a black man dressed in a hoodie, he argues. (In his version of the story, Trayvon approached George, not the other way around.)

But, it's clear that before George got out of his car, he had been following Trayvon for quite some time. George's 911 call proves this.

Trayvon, 17 and unarmed, was being followed by a guy in a car. I know how that would make me feel. And I'm a middle aged white woman, no one is afraid of me. I think it's reasonable to assume that Trayvon knew that people would see him as a threat. He'd have to realize that those people would be threats to him in turn. So, who is standing whose ground here? Is George just defending himself when he shoots Trayvon? Or, is Trayvon just defending himself if he gets into a fist fight with George?

I had a slim, handsome, Asian, gay dance major in one of my classes once. He told the class how he would never go to the on-campus pub by himself, because he wouldn't feel safe. The class was stunned. They wouldn't believe that someone who seemed so proud to be who he was would ever be afraid on their own campus. But he was. Other gay men have told me similar stories. And they have reason. Gay men have reason to fear big, white, heterosexual men in groups drinking alcohol. If homophobia flairs up they know they'll be on the receiving end. It's not as if it hasn't happened before.

Hegemony is a process in society through which certain things come to appear normal, even though they are expressions of an ideology that protects the status quo. Hegemony is at play here. That's why it appears normal to us that George would be scared, but we don't consider the other side with the same ease.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

sheer cover scam

I noticed a weird charge on my bank account today, $9.95 that I had not authorized. I called the bank but they said there wasn't anything they could do. So I googled the company, Sheer Cover. Turns out that if you google 'sheer cover scam' you get a lot of hits. And you learn that Sheer Cover is one of the products sold by Guthy-Renker, the company behind many of the late night infomercials.

Once I had done that much research I called the bank back, and they were able to see that I had been signed up for monthly charges. So, what Sheer Cover had done, is that they had obtained my account information somehow, and then they had signed me up for monthly deliveries of their product, a mineral powder.

I asked the bank to stop all future payments to Sheer Cover. Then I put out their name on Twitter and Facebook, and wrote on their Facebook wall. And I filed a complaint with The Better Business Bureau.

Sheer Cover wrote me back on Facebook. Read the absurd exchange below. I've emailed Customer Service. Will keep you updated.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

fury (if you want real fury, google melissa harris-perry's take on the case)

I had a student last year who lives in the Oakland area, east of the San Francisco Bay. When I'd talked to him a couple of times I started noticing a couple of sentences that he used a lot. "Twenty-five is old where I'm from", was one of them.

For being under 25 (he is 24 now) he had also attended an awful lot of funerals. He would tell me that his friends were "dropping like flies". He's a funny and charming guy, but there is also a lot of sadness about him. He's young, but old.

One of my best friends growing up is a gay man. When we were in our 20s in the 1980s his friends were dropping like flies too. He'd go on trips, and where ever he went there was always a funeral being planned, that he attended. In Stockholm, where he lived, he borrowed a suit for his first couple of burials, but then realized he should just go ahead and buy his own.

I didn't own a funeral dress in my 20s.

AIDS and street violence have given my two friends similar experiences. The two of them have lived with the presence of death in ways that you expect old people to live with death in their lives.

Death comes knocking, and claims a friend. And another. And another. And you wonder, when me? Because that's what you learn when your friends, sibling, contemporaries, die. It could have been me. Why them? When me?

Trayvon Martin, 17, died at the end of February this year, when he was shot in the chest by a self-appointed community watchman, a man who had taken it upon himself to patrol the streets in search of trouble. He came upon Trayvon on night, found him "suspicious looking", followed him in his SUV, confronted him, and shot him to death.

That's one part of the story.

The other part of the story is that the shooter, George Zimmerman, was interviewed by the police following the shooting, claimed self defense, and was released. The police spokesperson said that they had no reason to doubt his story.

If you are a young black man in the US you may get shot by someone who gets scared when they see you. One of my black students was talking about that when he said "I was raised to not go into certain neighborhoods at night because people might get scared when they see me." What he said made little sense to me, and he had to explain it. But I get it now.

If you are a black in the US, and you live in certain areas, you may be going to a lot of funerals. If you are black in the US, you may also find yourself with a dead son, brother, and boyfriend, and a police department who lets his killer go. If I, or any of my white professional friends, were shot point blank, the shooter would not be let go. Even if he, or she, claimed self defense.

Racism is treating people differently because of their race. Institutional racism is having systems built into society, or parts of society, that makes those differences for you.

Austin McLendon is a 13-year-old boy who became a witness to Trayvon's death. The point has been made clear to him. He is not safe. What if someone finds him suspicious looking next time he walks the dog at night?

"If I was like two years older, that could have happened to me," he said.

And, guess what, grown-up America. He's right. The kid is right, and what are you going to do about that?

Here is the clip with Melissa Harris-Perry. Listen for how she says 'skittles' at the end.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

black, red, and, white (I can see it before me)

When I was in my 20s I had a boyfriend who lied to me for a very long time. It's a long story and I'm not going to repeat all of it except for one detail that I still think of from time to time: Some months after I had moved out of what had been "our" apartment, and the new girl (who by that time really wasn't new at all) had moved in, I went over there for some reason (I don't remember why).

I noticed a sweater on a hanger by the door. It was mine. I remembered what vintage store I had bought it in, and when. I didn't remember leaving it behind, but it must have been sitting in a closet.

It was out now because new girl was using it. The scarf she was wearing with it, black, was attached to the hanger as well. Like they do in stores. The scarf where the neck would be.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

public and private

We all know that Americans invented freedom, but it turns out they also invented oatmeal (=havregrynsgröt).

Sunday, February 19, 2012

yapping puppies

I know someone who is much younger than me and at the same time kinda condescending. I usually let it be because I don't want to be unpleasant. But I'm rethinking this choice.

Friday, January 27, 2012

when you're an "older" woman

Someone asks me in the mall, yells at me from their little booth, "What's under your eyes?". How am I supposed to respond, "Bags, do you have anything for that?"?

I'm not going to make it that easy for you. So I say, "Nothing, usually." That doesn't throw him off: "Can I give you a sample?", is how he responds. Sample for what? The nothingness? Or the bags that we don't dare mention?

Kinda makes it harder to sell the crap, not mentioning what it's supposed to cure. Right?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

get it?

Speaking of Newt, it took me a few years but then it dawned on me: His name is Knut, and he is patriotically using American spelling.

sinuses (1)

I'm mighty tired of my sinuses. Whenever the weather changes, they give me hell. They also give me hell whenever there is pollen around, especially tree pollen. Today I've used all home remedies I know, and three kinds of over the counter medications. The home remedies? Flushed the nose with salt water, ate spicy food, went for a walk, took a shower and let the water drum on my forehead. Also avoided stress.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

they're cool, so whatever

I just ordered a pair of on sale, yet still over-priced, updated and hipified Swedish clogs. According to the blurb they're based on a 1970s clog "found in a barn in southern Sweden."

There was a time when I refused to buy clothing that I had owned once before - basically anything 70s or 80s retro. Not only have I broken that promise to myself, now I also indulge in fake backstories and chose to believe that the barn in the above sentence was old and quaint, instead of the more realistic image of a boxy outlet where the clogs were sharing shelf space with equally unsellable take 3 pay for 2 white y-fronts.

yeah, good for you, you light skinned mestiza

During a class discussion today one of my students told the story about how at some point someone had asked her about her ethnicity, and upon hearing the she was Mexican, the person had given her a little pat on the back, and said, "You're kind of light for being Mexican, good for you!".

Sunday, January 22, 2012

rest in peace, annaa

A few days ago I learned that someone had died. I received an email with a link to a news story about a woman being found dead in the basement of an apartment building (the story is in Swedish, sorry if you don't read Swedish). The email told me that the woman in the story was someone I knew.

The woman, Annaa Mattsson, was a writer, and her stories have been a part of my life on and off for a long time. When I was in high school she was a reporter at the local paper where I lived. For the past few years I've read her blog, which she updated almost daily.

Many of her readers have said the same thing after learning about her death: That even though they never met in real life, her voice had become an important part of their lives. And now, after she has died, there is silence and emptiness in a way that they had not anticipated.

Someone who does a lot of online teaching once told me that there is a certain intimacy to online interactions. That's true. I think what the internet does sometimes is let us listen in to other people's thoughts. That is an amazing thing when you find someone whose thoughts are as refreshing as Annaa's.

something happened

I may start up this sadly neglected blog again. Let me collect my thoughts...