What We Can Do

Reading Lyz Lenz’s latest newsletter (“Thank You, Dads of YouTube” ) brought me to the edge of tears.

It wasn’t her success at fixing her washer that got me. It was the fact that a woman much younger than I am still grew up surrounded by the belief that there were things women couldn’t do.

As someone old enough to remember how important this issue was in second wave feminism 50 years ago, it breaks my heart to know that so many people are still growing up with these stunted beliefs.

I don’t doubt that it’s true. It’s why I hope to teach some more self defense classes if we ever get enough of a handle on the pandemic for me to feel comfortable in a room full of people learning to yell “No.” Way too many women still believe that the fact that the average man is a little stronger than the average woman means they can’t protect themselves.

Spending half my life in the martial arts watching small people kick the asses of big people did that one in for me. I want to make sure other people know it, too.

We did make legal progress in the second wave, though the recent outrageous action of the partisan hacks on the US Supreme Court in nullifying the right to abortion by allowing a clearly unconstitutional Texas law to take effect is damaging legal rights as well.

(I was in law school when Roe v. Wade was decided. That was also a Texas case and I have met the lawyer who brought it — she was also my state representative back in the day.)

The same hacks also dismantled voting rights laws. It is not just women under attack in our society.

The extremist attacks make me angry, but the fact that so many women are still buying into the myths we fought to overcome in the 1970s is what breaks my heart. Continue reading “What We Can Do”

September 11

Tomorrow is the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks here in the United States. Many people will give pious speeches and talk about “never again.” Perhaps there will be a reading of the names of the 3,000 people who died in the attacks.

I wonder if anyone will talk about how little we learned from the experience.

Don’t get me wrong: I was profoundly affected by those attacks. I lived in Washington, DC, at the time. My sister and her family lived (and live) three blocks from where the World Trade Center used to be.

I spent a couple of hours trying to get in touch with my sister that morning before it finally dawned on me to call my parents in Texas. My sister and her family were fine and so was their building, though they weren’t allowed to go home for a month. And I explained to my parents that the Pentagon was actually in Virginia so that I was not at risk.

Though I worked about six blocks from the White House. I’ve always thought the plane that went down in Pennsylvania was headed for the White House.

Anyway, I walked home that day, all six miles, because I assumed that anyone attacking Washington, DC, would take advantage of the chaos in traffic and public transit to do even more damage. And then I stared at the TV for the next couple of days.

Like many people, I wanted to do something useful after the attacks. There was a lot of talk of organizing neighborhood groups that could help people in the event of emergencies. Those emergencies would include disasters and pandemics. (Cell phone use was not widespread in 2001.) Continue reading “September 11”

Goodness, Sweetness and just a touch of ratbaggery

Firstly, let me wish you all a happy and healthy and good and sweet New Year.

Rosh Hashanah starts very, very soon in Australia (I’ve put a delay on publication, so that it’s on Monday for most of you, but it’s already Monday afternoon here) and I’m furiously trying to get everything done in time. Lockdown, oddly, makes everything harder. If you’d asked me a few years ago, I’d have said “But of course it makes things easier.” I have apple and I have honey and I have mooncake in lieu of honeycake. I’m meeting my mother and her BFF and one of my BFFs online in a bare few minutes. My friend is a cantor and we’re going to have some music.

What makes this Rosh Hashanah special is my friends. One friend found me an apple. Another found me some honey. A third went to considerable length to get me mooncake. Even though I’ll be alone… I won’t be alone.

The downside is the number of people who want things from me today and tomorrow (sorry, but I can’t do these things) or, worse, the half-dozen different people who, just this week, have sent me invitations or reminders for events on my Day of Atonement.

To be honest, I’m not that observant. The more difficult people become around me because I’m Jewish, however, the more I stick to my special days. Holding gorgeous science fiction events (three of them! three different organisations!) on my holiest of holy days will make me stick to what I was taught as a child and even to fast and to pray. This has been the case ever since primary school. So many people have wanted me to be less Jewish or even not Jewish at all, and every time they express this or encourage me to be Christian or to eat pork or simply to work after sunset on days like today… I discover my Judaism all over again.

I do wonder what my religious views would be if I didn’t encounter antisemitism so often, or the limited toleration that I’m facing now. That limited toleration means that I make my mother happy, by doing the right things. This is not a bad outcome.

Whatever you believe or don’t believe, celebrate or don’t celebrate, please have a wonderfully good and sweet year. For anyone who, like me, will be fasting (at least as much as the doctor permits) then well over the fast. And for all of us, may we get through this pandemic well and safely and emotionally intact.

What Condition Our Condition Is In

“I just dropped in to see what condition my condition was in.”

— Mickey Newberry

What with fires, hurricanes, other storms, heat waves, the ongoing pandemic, and outrageous laws targeting reproductive and voting rights, our condition is headed for the ICU. And that’s just in the United States.

I could rant about any and all of these things, but there are plenty of other people doing that. Instead, I want to make a point that might be getting overlooked as people deal with our many crises:

The normal that we thought we had doesn’t exist anymore. We can’t go back to the way things were, because that isn’t going to solve any of our problems.

Or as I put it in a senryu this week:

We keep making plans
for the way we wish things were,
not the way they are.

Take the hurricanes. The new levees held in New Orleans, so some flooding was prevented. But there were communities that didn’t have levees yet that were inundated. Plus the investor-owned utility “solutions” for making sure the city would still have electricity didn’t work — power is still out all over the area.

And none of that work stopped the damage in New York City, where people died in basement apartments due to flooding.

We can’t just respond to hurricanes by building a few levees and pretending we’ve addressed a complex problem that is getting much worse due to climate change. We have to look at preserving what’s left of barrier islands, to set up power systems based on micro grids and batteries, to stop building in areas that will flood repeatedly, and generally to approach the whole problem in a multifaceted way.

Otherwise, we’re going to end up with a lot of climate refugees within our own country. Continue reading “What Condition Our Condition Is In”

Don’t Call Me

black rotary dial telephone I hate the telephone.

I used to think this was because my parents hated the telephone. When we moved from Houston to the country outside of the then-tiny town of Friendswood, my parents refused to get a phone.

They explained this by saying that it was because Daddy didn’t want work (The Houston Post) calling him in the middle of the night to go cover some breaking news. I mean, they were fine with phones at work, where they needed them (as reporters and editors).

This lack of a phone was highly inconvenient. I remember running like hell down the road to the nearest neighbor to get someone to call the fire department when the pasture caught fire as we were burning trash. (Note that there were oil and gas pipelines across our property.)

It was also inconvenient if I forgot something for school and needed to call my mother.

They finally got a phone three years later, making it a birthday present for me. They also put it in my name. This made it possible for my father to continue to avoid unwanted calls. There are a lot of Moores in the greater Houston phone book.

It also meant that I started getting obscene calls at an early age. Not to mention calls for other Nancy Moores (something I have gotten all my life).

It was also a party line, which is something that people who always have their private phone in their pocket probably can’t comprehend. I think there might have been six households on that line, each with their own ring.

This wasn’t much of a problem, since we rarely spent a lot of time on the phone. Long distance cost a bundle back then and it was long distance from my house to the town where I went to school. Even talking to your grandmother on your birthday you got off the line quick.

It was only in the last years of her life that my grandmother was willing to chat on the phone for half an hour. I am glad I got those calls in.

But I didn’t set out to write about the history of the telephone. I was talking about why I hate it. It’s not just the culture I grew up in; it’s something more basic. Continue reading “Don’t Call Me”

Angry These Days

The latest IPCC report makes it clear that climate change is happening now and that we need major, concerted, international efforts to slow it down and deal with the ongoing crises it will cause.

After 18 months of a worldwide pandemic, it’s pretty obvious that major, concerted, international efforts will only happen in a fantasy world. And not in a fantasy novel, since I’m sure no editor would accept a novel that posited major, concerted, international efforts to do anything.

“Too implausible,” they would say. And they would be right.

I haven’t thought about the report very much. I knew what it would say when I heard it was coming out. Good news about important things is in short supply.

In truth, I’ve been depressed lately. Anxious, too, though not as anxious as I was last year. And angry. Very, very, very angry.

This might seem to call for therapy. But I’m depressed, anxious, and angry because of the pandemic, the atrocious US public health response, right-wing extremism, and climate change.

A therapist can’t fix any of that. All a therapist can do is help me put up with this nonsense.

And I don’t want to put up with it. Continue reading “Angry These Days”

Changing the Rules

When I was young and trying to break into places that were marked “no girls allowed” (like practicing law and training in martial arts), I used to say, “Women don’t want to change things in [insert male-dominated space here]; we just want to be allowed to play.”

That was a lie. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was. First of all, bringing women into those spaces inevitably changes things. Secondly, as demonstrated by the recent decisions by people like Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka to refuse to participate on other people’s terms, it leads to changes in the underlying rules.

Playing hurt isn’t a good idea, even at the Olympics. Putting up with abuse should never be necessary.

Add in the women refusing to compete in uncomfortable clothing — a proxy for all the stupid dress codes that dictate to women just how they’re supposed to cover or uncover their bodies — and you’ve got women changing the rules of the game.

What a wonderful thing. Continue reading “Changing the Rules”

Stop the Joy Rides

I don’t like billionaires taking joy rides in space.

This is not an objection to space exploration. I’m all in favor of space exploration. I grew up with the U.S. space program. I went to church with the people who put Neil Armstrong on the Moon.

Also, I write science fiction. I believe in the human desire to figure out what’s going on in the universe.

Further, I’ve never believed that our choices are between exploring the universe and taking care of people here on Earth. We can and should do both.

What I object to is billionaire-driven space exploration. Continue reading “Stop the Joy Rides”

Things That Keep Me Up at Night

Our current civilization is built on many dangerous fallacies. Most of them have been debunked, but their impact is still felt. Here’s a few off the top of my head:

  • Some people are better than others.
  • The “better” people are entitled to take things from their “inferiors”.
  • The world is here for human use and it doesn’t matter how we use (or abuse) it.
  • Wealth is more important than ensuring that all have enough.
  • The natural world, both plant and animal, has no importance on its own.

I just read a short piece on how the indigenous people of what is now the Texas Gulf Coast lived for the 2,500 years before the Europeans invaded. They fished to their heart’s content in the bays protected from the Gulf by the barrier islands. They hunted inland for bison, deer, and other creatures, careful not to trespass into the territory of other peoples who lived farther inland. Lots of plant life grew in the area. They used bits of oil that came up in the Gulf to seal things.

Except for mosquitoes — I’m sure they had mosquitoes — it sounds like a pretty good life. The climate there is mostly warm and there must have been good sources of food year round.

I note that they did not build luxury homes and condos on the barrier islands, just temporary shelters where people could gather. I suspect they knew the signs of approaching hurricanes and moved inland ahead of them.

Here in California, the indigenous people used fire effectively in managing the forests and grasslands. They figured out that it was a necessary part of this environment. They, too, had a balanced relationship with a bountiful environment.

And now here we are, with the Gulf on fire from burst pipelines and wildfires already raging through the west ahead of fire season, plus condos on barrier islands collapsing. The people who settled here long before my Anglo ancestors knew how to deal with the environment, but their knowledge was dismissed and ignored.

Look at us now. Continue reading “Things That Keep Me Up at Night”

Eating and Adulting

Someone I follow tweeted that they forgot to eat today. I responded, “You know, I am quite sure that I have never forgotten to eat.”

I have at times skipped a meal because something came up and there wasn’t time to eat, but I guarantee I was cranky about it. I can remember coming home exhausted and falling into bed without dinner.

And of course I have been too sick to eat a few times in my life. It’s a guidepost: if I don’t want to eat, I am really sick.

But I have never forgotten about a meal.

My father used to say I was always hungry. He said the day they brought me home from the hospital, I cried and carried on while he tried desperately to figure out how to get a bottle ready.

And the family made fun of me for years after the vacation when I asked, while we were eating dinner, what we were going to do for breakfast the next day.

It wasn’t that I wasn’t getting enough dinner. I just wanted to make sure there were plans for breakfast the next day. I mean, my mother was in charge and I’d already figured out that she didn’t really care that much about food.

I’ve been teased enough about the importance I place on regular meals to feel a little defensive. But damn it, eating is important.  Continue reading “Eating and Adulting”