Sometimes I feel like I have missed out on important information. Lately I’ve been mulling over how to be an involved citizen. It’s clear that letting democracy run on auto-pilot was not a good strategy, but what can an ordinary person do to nudge the steering wheel? I’m 34 years old and just now starting to figure out how this works. Meanwhile, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is three years younger than me and she’s serving in the House of Representatives. I wouldn’t even know how to run for city council.
What I have learned recently is that the city and county have committees that people can just … join? Or at least anyone can tune into a public meeting. Apparently if you hang around enough you could potentially get appointed to the committee. At least, that’s my sense of it. A lot of committees say that a county supervisor appoints the members. But how would you get on their radar? I still have many questions.
One of my questions: why is this so hard to understand? Another: why does this feel like secret knowledge? I took a class on “government” my senior year in high school, but we focused on the three branches of federal government and their checks and balances. We had a creepy male teacher who seemed to have a thing for the Asian girls. He taught us that “federalism is like a marble cake” and when I took the AP government test that year, I had no idea how to respond to a question about federalism and I drew a cake instead. (Note: I still eked out a passing score on the exam).
As part of my lifelong pursuit to make the things I encounter easier to understand, here are some things you can do to get involved or at least keep an eye on your government people:
- Subscribe to newsletters for your elected people at the city, county, state, and federal level. If you’re in California and want to know who your Assembly Member and State Senator are, you can use this site to look them up.
- If you use twitter, make a “list” of all your government people. When you’re ready to read up on what’s happening, you can look at your list, meaning you’ll only see tweets from all your government sources and you won’t lose track of it in the deluge that is the twitter feed. Here’s my list. I’ve also added the local news and a few other local organizations. I started working on it today and I’m sure I’ll be adding more.
- Look up your county’s board of supervisors and figure out which one is yours. For those of us in Sacramento County, you can check who your county supervisor is here. All of the county supervisors have newsletters, but you have to scroll to the bottom of their page to find it.
- Sacramento County has a bunch of public meetings that you can attend. The good thing about the pandemic (sorry) is that everything is online now. I think it should be online forever because it seems pretty rude to limit government involvement to the people who can make it to downtown Sacramento on a weeknight, but what do I know?
- There are a lot of county boards and commissions to join. Here’s the current list of openings. I’ve decided to keep an eye on the Southeast Area Community planning Advisory Council since that’s for “residents of the area” (that is, District 5, where I live) and members are appointed by the District 5 supervisor.
- You can sign up for newsletters for a lot of these boards and other topics from the County here. I feel like you should get a welcome packet when you rent/buy a place in Sacramento that explains how to access county government information. How did people even do this in pre-internet times? I am mystified.
Here are some things I’ve recently read, watched, or bought.
Books and Other Words
It feels like all I’m doing lately is lying around and reading. Not to complain—it’s a perfectly good use of time, but it does make it seem like I don’t have much to write about.
Republic of Lies was an interesting book to be reading on/around the election. It’s a non-fiction book about Americans and our propensity to believe in conspiracies. It also makes the point that a lot of really wild and fucked up things, like the Tuskegee syphilis experiment, did actually happen, so there’s a certain logic to believing in conspiracies.
I don’t have a lot to say about Transcendent Kingdom other than it was good and I recommend it.
The Language Hoax is a retort to the popular Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, which posits that the language we use shapes the way we see the world. It’s a cool idea that people who speak a certain language are perhaps more attuned to direction or color, but John McWhorter shuts it down as basically colonialist bullshit. It’s a salty read for those of us interested in linguistic theory.
I’m reading S. A. Chakraborty’s Daevabad Triology, which is about a society of djinn and all their drama and politics. I read the first book, City of Brass, a few years ago and am currently re-reading it before reading the two books that have since been published. I love this book a lot and am excited to read the next two. It’s really fun to read fantasy set somewhere new. We have an abundance of European-influenced fantasy in the canon. There’s nothing wrong with that but, like, it’s fantasy. Can’t we get some variety in what we imagine? Another thing I really love about reading this is it’s waking up all that Arabic I learned in college. It’s cool to be able to recognize the things characters are saying when Chakraborty drops a little Arabic into the text (Don’t worry, you don’t have to know Arabic to read this book. It is, after all, in English). Maybe once I’m done re-learning French (lol), I’ll start back up with Arabic.
Meanwhile on the internet:
- When users get mean, these chatbots sass back via Experience Magazine. Why should we let people be assholes to AI customer service? Sure, the AI doesn’t have feelings, but you can’t just let assholes practice their rampant, unchecked assholery all the time.
- From the myth of meritocracy to the rise of bullshit jobs—it’s time we admit work doesn’t make us happy via The Correspondent. One of many entries on the series of “why do I have to pretend to be happy about work?” I found it worthwhile.
TV and Music
We finished watching Silicon Valley. The show was fun but I was having less and less patience for the increasingly unsympathetic protagonist. Kirk reminded me that this was the point, but I did find it hard to watch at the end.
Tonight we are planning to watch Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. I bought a three-movie set of the Bill and Ted movies so we could watch the new one. I have insisted to Kirk that we must watch the first two before the new one so we can maximally enjoy it.
In my ballet class, we’ve started learning how to turn. It’s just quarter turns for now, but I can sense it takes a lot of practice to get this skill down. My teacher recommended getting a spin board. They’re not expensive so why not. It’ supposed to help you improve your stability. I’m curious to see how it goes. If nothing else, it’s something else to fidget on while we weather the pandemic.
Making Things and Doing stuff
It is cold and I did not want to get out of bed this morning. However I did get up because I also wanted to go to ballet class. Once I came home, I got back in bed and fell asleep for three hours. Seasonal tiredness? Fighting a cold? You decide.
Other than spending lots of time being cozy in bed, I’ve been knitting away at my Christmas gifts (no new completed projects to show yet) and chilling for the most part.
Las week, Kirk held a pantry intervention. He said my spice cupboard had gotten out of control and he was not wrong. He took everything out of the pantry, lined it up on the table, then told me to choose what to get rid of and to throw out expired stuff. Afterwards, he put everything back in the cupboard (with my input on what goes where) and put any extra jars of what I had behind the open jar “just like the grocery store.” What a gem.
I haven’t made a lot of new things lately so I don’t have a much to show. I usually don’t take pictures of something if I’ve made it before. However this week I did make a banana pumpkin bread. I had ordered two plantains from the grocery store and those colonizers brought me two bananas, which I did not want or appreciate. I don’t like bananas but I will accept banana bread. Of course, I said banana bread but make it fall so here we are. I also baked these M&M bars (and forgot to take a picture). We bought a mixed bag of candy for Halloween, but obviously no one came to our house, which has left us with the burden of consuming it all (oh no). No one ever wants to eat the plain M&Ms, so I took matters into my own hands. We didn’t have quite enough M&Ms to fill out the recipe, so I supplemented with chocolate chips. Quite tasty.
Finally, here are some cat photos for your nerves. It’s sleeping-on-blankets season.