Monthly Archives: October 2015

World (series) Enough and Time

The first game of the World Series started tonight.

The only sport I grew up knowing anything about or having any regular interaction with was baseball. My grandmother used to tell us stories about her father taking her to see Babe Ruth play. Baseball is a powerful through-line for me in my family history.

For a couple of years we lived in South Dakota, within spitting distance of Minneapolis/St. Paul, and more importantly, the Minnesota Twins. My father was thrilled to take his twins to a Twins game. We were supposed to get rain ponchos as a giveaway, but for some reason, we didn’t get them. So my dad wrote them a letter and we received them. A triumph, even if they were crappy!

Go team! Team bonding :). ⚾️

We moved to Florida when I was nine. Our hometown was also the spring training location for the Kansas City Royals. Terry Field felt like it was on the other side of the state, but I still felt their presence in town. My brother played in Little League, and one of the men who was deeply involved with Little League had ties to the MLB. We went to all my brother’s games, and worked the concessions. This was the mid-80s, and these cute little kids would come up to the window and ask for a “suicide” – a soda that was a mix of all the flavors.

A quick aside: when my brother was probably about 10, he had two loves – baseball and mythology. When we would have guests over, he would ask them, “What would prefer to talk about? Baseball or mythology?” We would not-so-silently urge the guest to pick mythology!

In 1986, the Little League bigwig scored tickets to the World Series games. To this day I don’t quite understand how it works, but it involved buying tickets for all the possible combinations and then getting refunds on the games that didn’t happen. So my dad got two tickets to a couple of the games in New York City. It was the Mets against the Boston Red Sox (I will admit I had to look that up). While my dad and brother went to the games, my mom and my sister and I traipsed around the city and shopped. I got a denim jacket that I never felt cool in, but did manage to decorate over the years with lots of fantastic buttons. I remember my dad and brother coming back from the game, elated, and regaling us with tales of rats in the subway. It seemed so horrifying and exotic all at the same time.

But I digress. Eventually my brother stopped playing baseball and I went to college and moved far away. And yet .. whenever I hear about a game, there’s a flicker of connection. I think about my grandmother, going to see Babe Ruth. And all the games I watched with my family. And then the games I’ve gone to, even when separated by a continent. When I was in Japan two years ago, even there I was thrilled to see on the news that the Hiroshima team had made it into their playoffs.

I’m sure people more eloquent than I have waxed prophetic about their love of the game. I wouldn’t know about that. I can’t speak to strategy or athleticism. I can’t even really talk about the history of the sport, although I did love A League of Their Own.

In August I got to go to a game through work. It was a shutout no-hitter, and only the 5th in Mariner’s history. I texted my brother about it, and he told our father. The next thing I know, my dad is talking to me about it. It was another fabulous stitch.

When I enter a baseball stadium, it’s a form of time travel. The air holds all of the space-time continuum, and I sit there with the crowds and my family, connected throughout history to the present. And that is why I love baseball.

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Slow Steep

I left my notebook with my notes on the last panel from Geek Girl Con at home, so I asked if anyone on Twitter had any topics they wanted to hear me riff on. The lovely Brenna Layne, who has been doing a #HereBeDragons run of late, asked me to write about tea.

My first response was, ME? Write about tea? But I know noooothing. I mean, what about Lauren? She’s so much more knowledgeable. Or all these other people I follow on Twitter. Or the people at Smith Teas. Or Remedy. Or or or …

So I’m going to stop quailing and tell you a few things about me and tea. I am at least an expert on that.

Fudouin in Koya-san - tea service

Brenna asked me how I got into tea. Now I have to dig into the archives. Like many decisions I’ve made, it started as a negative: I didn’t like coffee. I couldn’t tolerate caffeine. But I went to college in the Frozen North (otherwise known as Ohio, just west of Cleveland). It was cold. Oh so cold. And I started drinking tea to stay warm. I think the inside of my lower lip was permanently scalded from about November to March. Bigelow Tea bags. The lemon flavored one. That was my tea of choice. Hot, flavored water.

After college I moved to Seattle, The Land of Coffee Drinkers. The birthplace of Starbucks. I even applied for a job there, as a barista, but didn’t get very far when they found out I didn’t like coffee. Think of how much I would have saved the company in the drinks I wouldn’t consume!

So for the last twenty years or so I’ve been an erstwhile tea drinker. I had a basket for loose leaves, but I never paid attention to the water temperature or really much about the leaves, other than that they were loose.

All that changed a few years ago when I met my friend Lauren Hall-Stigerts. Lauren and I met at this time of year, at an unconference. We immediately bonded over many things, one of them being tea. Lauren loves the greens. I keep trying them, like some people do with certain vegetables, but for the most part, they leave me cold. My impression from hanging out with the tea people I know is that greens and oolongs and pu-ers are the prized teas. There’s not much noise made about blacks or whites.

Somewhere in this period I had some tea from Smith Teas. In many ways I feel like I have an undistinguished palate, but Oh. My. God. This was TEA. I mean, when I sipped my first cup from them, I tasted something. It wasn’t just flavored water. There was so much more going on. This was their bagged tea, and if you know anything about bagged tea, it’s usually the leavings. Broken leaves swept up unceremoniously and dumped into those hideous bags. Like the Red Rose tea my Canadian grandmother drank. Smith’s bags are the “pyramid” sachets, with full leaves. This was another story altogether. Another world.

So I started buying whole leaves from a tea shop around the corner. That was a couple of years ago and I haven’t looked back. I made more connections on Twitter, and we shared our favorite teas with each other, furthering my explorations. Last year my mom got me an electric kettle with variable temps. I USE IT EVERY DAY. I love it.

Here’ s what I’ve discovered:

  • I love fruity, malty, and bitter, which is why I love IPA beers so much, too.
  • I like my tea straight, unadulterated. Some blends and teas are meant to take cream or milk, like Earl Grey. I just like the flavor of the tea, and while I used to like flavored teas, I’m finding them less appealing.
  • Among the world of blacks, I’ve said Yunnan is like the champagne of tea. It’s perfectly black, and the bitterness is balanced by a delicate apricot flavor. Keemun has a harsher flavor, as well as smoky. I heard someone else describe Assam as a velvet fist. I had to laugh, because it’s very smooth, but really packs a punch in terms of the caffeine.
  • Turns out there is technically one green tea I like: hojicha, which is sometimes referred to as bancha or twig tea. It’s the twigs and stems from the camellia sinensis and they are roasted. And there’s an oolong from Smacha Tea called Red 27 that is similarly roasted and that is a revelation. If you ever have the chance to try that one, do it.
  • I just realized I didn’t say anything about Darjeeling. Like oolong, it’s too slippery or something. It doesn’t hit that pleasure center for me. Just cruises right on by.

As much as I love the flavor of tea, I also love the ritual, the quietness, and the connections I’ve made.

What do you like to drink? Given what you know about my tea tastes, what should I try next?

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Geek Girl Con Part II: Not like other

Team Nerd

The second thing I wanted to write about was sparked by the panel Not Like Other Girls. There was a general discussion about what this phrase implied and how divisive it can be. Geek culture tends to be defined by boys and men, and they are the gatekeepers and identity policers. I’ve heard other discussions about this phrase, so the panel wasn’t the first time I’d come across this concept. If you want to get some perspective from the inside, I highly recommend reading David J. Schwartz’s essay, Masculinity Is an Anxiety Disorder: Breaking Down the Nerd Box.

Not like other … is used as a tool to create more isolation and separation. The panelists spoke about how special it made them feel, to be identified this way, at first. They also started to look down on the girls who weren’t like them. They then believed that because they weren’t like the other girls, that those same girls wouldn’t like them and vice-versa. So they withdrew or withheld and stayed with those who approved of them. They spoke of a desire to maintain approval, which included not appearing too emotional or “high-maintenance.”

There are wide-reaching implications for this phrase. It’s not just limited to romantic relationships, or social interactions. This plays out in the workplace, too.

The panelists talked about how this affected their relationships with women in the workplace. One panelist told a story that I am sure was incredibly painful for her. She was the only woman on her team, and in a lead role. A second woman joined her team, and the panelist didn’t reach out to her or welcome her. She was afraid of losing her position within the group, and felt threatened, rather than seeing her as an equal. This ended up creating more conflict and affected cohesion and trust within the group.

Because we are not immune to the messages we receive from society, we internalize the messages and judgment of the mainstream, even when it contradicts our own internal knowing. One of the panelists talked about how we have a first thought when we meet someone. These are the judgments we’ve learned from society. But hopefully we then notice this thought and reflect on it, leading to a second thought, which is what we think. Second thoughts are generally considered bad, but in this case, HAVE SECOND THOUGHTS!

I also wanted to talk about you’re not like other … in general. I don’t know if you’ve ever had someone say this to you in a different context, but I have for pretty much every demographic I can fit into: American, women, Jews, queers, femmes … Probably twins, writers, brown-haired people, tea drinkers, etc. This has had the effect of making me feel weird. It sends me the message that I don’t fit in or belong. It never felt like I was receiving the “cool” badge.

We all have ideas of what defines a particular group of people. I know I do, too. The next time you meet someone and you think, “Gee, that person isn’t like other [people],” consider flipping it around. Try seeing them as a way of expanding your definition of what qualities or attributes define that group, as in, “Oh, [people] can be like that, too. Coooool.”

Next week I’ll do my final write-up, which is going to be the panel discussion with Anita Sarkeesian and Zoe Quinn. So stay tuned!

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Geek Girl Con Recon

I spent last weekend at Geek Girl Con. For those of you unfamiliar with it, here is the description from their website:

GeekGirlCon celebrates and honors the legacy of women contributing to science and technology; comics, arts, and literature; and game play and game design by connecting geeky women world-wide and creating community to foster continued growth of women in geek culture through events.

I wanted to write up a summary of my weekend, for a variety of reasons, but mostly because several of my friends asked me to since they weren’t able to join me.

Splendid

Panel Discussion on Gender v. Sex

Saturday morning I was on a panel with four other awesome humans. It was described as a discussion about the distinction between sex and gender, positive and negative examples of trans and non-binary characters, and where we can go from here. My fellow panelists were Raven Oak, Janine Southard, Winter Ellis Downs, and Fran Stewart. Four of us had gotten together a few weeks earlier to chat about what we might discuss. We talked for three hours, so you can imagine how quickly 50 minutes went by.

We were asked what first changed our concept of gender. For Fran, it was Warriors of the Wind, which was an edited version of Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. For Winter, it was music. Annie Lennox, David Bowie, and then Britpop bands like Suede. For me, Ursula LeGuin’s Left Hand of Darkness. Raven grew up with limited exposure, and it wasn’t until she had a friend with gay parents who introduced her to the world of science fiction and fantasy that her ideas began to change. Janine spoke of growing up as a theater kid, where the rules of engagement were based on different rules, so she didn’t realize that there were more rigid ideas of gender.

Fran pointed out that cyberpunk was about being dizzied by technology. She wants some genderpunk stories, where we can be dizzied by gender. I would love that, too! She also talked about the show Steven Universe, which is delightful, and if you haven’t watched it yet, give it a try. Fran pointed out that while the characters have apparent genders, they don’t end up being restricted by them, nor do they seem to matter to anything. The main character is a chubby little boy who values harmony. He’s half gem, his powers are pink and decorated with flowers. Connie is a human girl. She’s learning to sword fight, and she’s quicker to take action. Steven is more often in a support role. The gems themselves are ostensibly female, and they have romantic relationships with one another.

Winter talked about Greg Egan’s book Distress, which has seven genders. They found it problematic, in that each gender comes with its own roles and expectations.

The comic book Loki: Agent of Asgard does a good job of depicting gender variance in an individual, rather than attempting to deal with it on a societal level.

Seanan McGuire’s October Daye series were mentioned as also doing a good job representing gender.

We took questions from the audience, who also made several recommendations including the following webcomics:

There was also mention of the tv shows on Netflix, Orange is the New Black, and Sense8.

While this didn’t get mentioned at the panel, the Tiptree Award was specifically created to recognize work that “expands or explores our understanding of gender.” Go check it out for the list of winners, as well as the long list. I’m sure there’s enough to keep you busy for quite a while.

So, that was the panel. Since this post is getting longish, I am going to break the rest into one or two more entries. Oooh, look at me, building suspense. You might almost suspect I was a writer!

I’m listing the titles here as suggestions for further reading. I haven’t read or seen most of them, but I do encourage you to check them out. If you have recommendations for cool stuff and how it presents gender, please leave a comment!

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The People on the Bus

I have never owned a car. When people learn this about me, they are surprised. We live in such a car-centric society. So when I moved to Seattle after I graduated from college, one of the requirements was a decent public transportation system. The town I grew up in had none. Seattle’s was a dream compared to that.

children's school bus

In my twenty-two years of riding the bus in Seattle I’ve accumulated my fair share of experiences. Men who want to talk to me is fairly common. I’ve made friends from riding the bus. One friend I made ended up moving across the country to the same town my sister was living in, and they became neighbors and friends!

I take the bus every Sunday morning to Fremont, where I meet up with friends to write. Last week I decided to change up the route I had been taking. A man I’d talked to before was waiting at the stop. He’s probably in his early sixties. He’s tall, with salt and pepper hair and a mustache. He’s a quiet man, and he seems amused by what he sees, but underneath it there seems to be a sadness. I spoke with him several years ago, when Referendum 74 was going to be on the ballot. This was to legalize same-sex marriage in Washington. He was supportive of it, but he told me his family was conservative and wouldn’t. He couldn’t talk to them about it. I don’t know for certain that he’s gay, but I think he is.

Last week I talked to him again. During the course of our conversation I learned that he’d majored in computer science, and at some point while he was in college, he took a class to learn Braille. He works at the Talking Book and Braille Library, and he can read Braille visually. I didn’t even know that was possible. I thought that was so cool.

This morning I saw a woman I’d talked to before. She is an artist and she sells her work at the Pike Place Market. Last time I talked to her, it was a very wet day, and she was carrying a large piece of artwork covered in plastic. She’s also probably in her late 50s. She has large brown curls and a very open face. She clutches her art close to her body, and always wrapped in plastic. When I talked to her this morning, she said she didn’t recognize me. She has face blindness, so she can’t recognize faces, but she remembered other details that I hadn’t even paid attention to!

Did we talk at the Market?
No, I said, here, at the bus stop.
Oh, you gave me your card. It said bon vivant on it!
Diletantte, I say. Close!
Yes. And you had an amazing raincoat and boots.

We got on the bus and talked more about her art, rising cost of rent on Capitol Hill, carbon monoxide poisoning. I asked her if she knew a friend of mine who worked at the Market. She did, of course. It’s a small world. She invited me to call her to have tea or coffee sometime. I think I will.

My world is richer for knowing the people in my community, and the bus helps facilitate that. Although I have to put up with the stranger interactions, I wouldn’t trade it in for the wonderful friends I’ve made.

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