The One about Concentration Camps: Acts of Empathy for Cruel Times

I’ve been mulling over what to say about this for at least a week now. There’s no arguing, at this point, that the United States is running concentration camps at our southern border. The conditions are horrific and the guards running them are racist, misogynistic assholes. This post isn’t about how we got here or what’s wrong with detaining refugees and immigrants in camps. It’s about what I’m doing, and perhaps what you can do, in response to it. It’s hard not to feel paralyzed by horror in witnessing our concentration camps. I’m ashamed of what our country is perpetrating in our name.

I’m certainly not the first or the best informed on this topic but I’m here presenting thoughts on what we can do all the same. Writing this out helps me think about the issue. I can only hope this also encourages a few others in my small audience.

Bear Witness

We have to recognize that this is part of a pattern and no one should be claiming this “isn’t who we are.” This is totally who we are. It’s only recently that we’ve tried to redefine who are to not be the kind of people who put other people in camps. It is scary and stressful, but we can’t ignore it. Ignorance will not solve this problem. Maybe it’s shallow, but I don’t want to look back on my life and know that did nothing and ignored concentration camps in our own country.

Send Money

At Rollercon, I’ll be participating in a fundraiser called Reps for RAICES. Derby trainer Prime organized it and invited people to take part. I’m hoping to raise $300 in donations and I’m planning to match up to $500 of donations. I’m very proud to be part of a community that wants to work against oppression.

RAICES isn’t the only organization out there. There are a lot of places you can donate to, depending on how you want to prioritize your dollars. Last year, Slate published a comprehensive list of organizations working against family separation at the border and, since not much has changed in the last year, it’s still a very good resource. Another resource is, which lists the organizations working to provide aid to migrants.

I read recently that charitable organizations most appreciate recurring monthly donations because they can plan programs around a stable amount of income. Although they love all donations, recurring donations are the best. I have decided to make a recurring monthly donation to the Women’s Refugee Commission. Even if you can only make a recurring donation of $5 per month, it will make a difference.

You can also send money in other ways. It turns out, you can donate airline miles via to help volunteer attorneys travel to people who need legal support. I have a bunch of Southwest miles, so I will be donating some to support the cause.

Withhold Money

I was cheered by the news that Wayfair employees staged a protest when they “discovered … that Wayfair intended to fulfill an order from BCFS, a government contractor that is operating camps at the border, for $200,000 worth of bedroom furniture,” as the Boston Globe reported. I’ve made the argument before that the only thing that seems to motivate this country’s upper class is money. We have to demonstrate that it is more profitable to NOT support government-sponsored internment camps than it is too supply goods and services.

If you’re looking for companies profiting from detaining migrants, We Are Your Voice Mag has a list. The most notable inclusion is Amazon, if only for its popularity among regular people. Bank of America is also profiting from the camps. If you want to divest and change banks, you can take a look at my posts on divesting from Bank of America.

Make Demands of Congress

Most organizations working for immigrants are saying the most important thing we can demand of congress is that they defund U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The National Immigrant Justice Center has a form you can fill out that will send an email to your congresspeople. I am using it as a template for a letter that I’m sending to my congresspeople via ResistBot.


This one is tricky because a lot of the volunteer work needed is on site at the border, which is not where I live. Additionally, the professions most in demand are lawyers and interpreters. I am not a lawyer, and although I speak Spanish, I’m not confident in my ability to run live interpretation for a bunch of scared people. If anyone discovers other ways to volunteer, please let me know. I am very interested but not sure what to do.


There are lots of protests happening around this issue. I am personally planning to attend some hosted by NorCal Resist in my area. If you don’t know how to find protests near you, ask your politically savvy friends, search on ResistBot, or try scouring facebook for events near you.

Don’t Take My Word For It

Here are a few other lists for what you can do to help end family separation and support immigrants.

Talk about It

Whatever you decide to do, I would love to hear about it. Leave a comment or let me know what you’re doing to stop concentration camps in our country. Or, leave a comment to commiserate about how terrible it is that we still have to fight so hard against injustice. Talking about what we do makes us stronger! Go forth!

A Week in the Life: June 28, 2019

a sheet pan of freshly baked rolls

I’m back for another week of talking about my life. I’m proud of me for sticking with this for at least two weeks.

Something I’ve been thinking about a lot this last week is the situation at the border with refugees being kept in concentration camps. I want to write about this but I’m still organizing my thoughts. I’ll probably make a separate post this weekend about what I plan to do and some articles. So, even though that’s been on my mind all week, it’s not making an appearance in the rest of this post.


Here are some things I read, listened to, or bought this week.


This week I finished reading Anti-Social Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy. I started following the author, Siva Vaidhyanathan, on twitter a while ago after reading his book The Googlization of Everything — and Why We Should Worry. Vaidhyanathan is a professor at the University of Virginia who researches communications and technology and their interactions. I really appreciated reading Anti-Social Media and I recommend it for anyone who uses facebook. Although it’s an academic work, it’s very accessible and easy to read. One statement from the book that resonated with me is that facebook encourages declarations, not discussions. You post something and … that’s it. People click on the emotional reactions and most posts don’t get much further. That’s something I have noticed, the lack of discussion. It is possible but it is hard to get it started. Although facebook claims to be a tool that brings us together, it does so only superficially. A lot of what we post could serve as a conversation starter, but I rarely see conversations started, which is why I started these weekly posts for myself.

cover of the book "anti-social media"
Anti-Social Media

Related to this lack of discussion is that facebook rewards emotional engagement and that, according to Vaidhyanathan, contributes to our inability to see large-scale issues. If a political campaign knows people get riled up about abortion, the campaign can make targeted ads about just that. People will share (in outrage or glee) the ad and no one will have discussed the bigger issue of how the candidate actually intends to govern or what our cultural values are and how we promote them through governance. I liked the book for putting words to this phenomenon. I want to keep trying to find ways to connect with my friends and communities that are not mediated by facebook, or at least that encourage a deeper connection.

I also read an interesting article from The Atlantic called The Boomers Ruined Everything: The mistakes of the past are fast creating a crisis for younger Americans. It makes the argument that the baby boomer generation perpetuated a certain level of conservative policy making, which has made it much more difficult for younger people to get jobs and houses. I’ve complained plenty about baby boomers fucking things up for us, but it’s interesting to see a case for specifically how that happened.


I’ve had the Pussy Riot song “Make America Great Again” stuck in my head all week. It’s something of an anthem for these fucked up times. A warning if you are going to watch the video, it’s fairly disturbing. However, it is a strong, artistic statement. Look up the song on spotify if you’re not ready to watch, but here’s the video link regardless:

Rampant Consumerism

a bunch of new socks from Bombas
new Bombas socks

I bought some new socks from Bombas recently. A few teammates have been talking about how great they are, so last month I bought two pairs to test it out. I told Kirk they felt great and his response was that all new socks feel great. He had a point. After a few washes, they still feel amazing. I didn’t know socks could actually feel this good, as ridiculous as that sounds. Highly recommended. This isn’t even a paid post, it’s my real opinion. I like the company because they donate a pair of socks to people in need for every pair that people purchase. In the absence of our government using tax dollars for taking care of citizens, I appreciate companies taking the initiative to do so.

a tee shirt with a picture of me wearing a shirt with a picture of me on it
portrait of the artist on a tee shirt

I also finally got my new shirt, which features me wearing a picture of me wearing a picture of myself. This shirt will imbue me with even more power—because what’s more powerful than adorning yourself with your own image? You can get your own on my teespring site, which has this shirt as well as the non-recursive version. Profits go to me and world’s best derby photographer Bone Appétit to fund derby travel.

Making Things and Doing Stuff

Here are some things I did this week.

Roller Derby Life

Our game against Santa Cruz went really well! It was a close game throughout, which means our opponent was a good match, but we won in the end. It’s always satisfying to win a close game. Knowing that the game could have easily gone either way, but that we won, makes it feel like we accomplished something. I thought all my teammates did a really good job and it was fun to have a big crowd at the Rink. I also got the award for best blocker, which is always exciting! Although I am pretty sure that in some games, I’m not actually the best, just the one with the hits that my opponents most remember.

I also found out this week that I did not make the travel B team. It didn’t surprise me but I was hoping for that extra bit of validation. The upside is that I don’t have to adjust my practice schedule and I get to stay with all my friends.

Language Learning

My Spanish teacher Oliva and I discussed learning versus acquiring a language, inspired by this video in which the author spends a year learning Arabic. Linguists differentiate between acquiring a language (learning like a baby would, by interacting with people who speak the language) versus learning it (like you would do in school, memorizing grammar and vocabulary). In the video, the author sets out to acquire Arabic by having language exchanges and lessons with native speakers. I will say it made me nostalgic for learning Arabic, although I suppose the matter of that language is a discussion for another day. I like some of the strategies he used, but I found it presumptuous that he suggested you could just approach people you know and ask them to help you learn a language, as if that’s not a big investment of time and labor. In any case, I am going to try to incorporate some of the spirit of this into my own learning. I tend to focus on my flashcards and drills because it has a certain predictability that I enjoy, but I know I need to spend more time reading and listening and getting that comprehensible input. I’m hoping this will especially help my Icelandic, since that is a tricky language and I’m super bad at understanding the spoken language.

Getting Crafty

If you follow me on instagram, you’ve seen this already, but I am proud of my handiwork, so I’m sharing it again. I finished a baby quilt for my friend Mandy and her forthcoming baby. I choose fabrics to celebrate her heritage and I think the end result turned out great, especially considering my limited quilting experience.

Kitchen Witchery

We went to the farmers market last Sunday so of course I spent this week making lots of good food based on what I found there. For the most part, I didn’t cook anything too elaborate, but I enjoy the task of making simple food extra tasty.

  1. Chicken caesar salad with carrots and lettuce from the farmers market. I grill up a bit of chicken and the result is a very simple meal.
  2. Macaroni and cheese plus some broccoli. This colby jack cheese from the farmers market is basically the perfect cheese for macaroni.
  3. Pesto. I bought a huge bunch of basil from the farmers market with the intention of making pesto, but without a clear idea of what to do with it. Luckily I discovered some inspiration.
  4. Walnut pesto, and cheese rolls. The recipe is from “The Harvest Baker,” and these are basically all I want to eat now.
  5. I grilled a pork tenderloin and glazed (in a manner of speaking) it with pesto. Served with grilled zucchini and mashed potatoes, and of course, more pesto.

Finally, here’s a luxurious Huey for your nerves.

a black and white cat lounging on top of a love seat.
Huey the Cat atop the couch cushion

A Week in the Life: June 21, 2019

After stating on facebook that I wanted to replace posting there with weekly newsletters, here I am. I did look a little bit at newsletter applications, but then I thought, I’m paying for this website and why not use it? I’m bringing blogging back.



This morning I read an article from The Atlantic called “The Adults Who Treat Reading Like Homework.” I didn’t like the title, but I was interested in the content, since I am, arguably, one of those adults. It discusses people setting reading goals for themselves and talks a little bit about how the process of setting a reading goal impacts reading habits. As someone who has tracked her reading habits for over a decade, I have some opinions. I actually don’t set a goal for reading a certain number of books. It’s something I’ve done in the past, but you never know how the year is going to go. I plan to read as much as I can and make allowances for life. I also try to think about reading as something to do instead of getting lost in the infinite scroll of social media. It has to be an active decision even if you don’t set a specific goal. The article also discusses the site Good Reads and how sends annoying notifications when users are not meeting their goals. This is one of the many reasons I prefer to track my reading and maintain my personal library through LibraryThing, which I’ve been using since 2007.

I also read a really interesting article from The Guardian about trauma and how we react to it. It discusses what is called polyvagal theory, kind of a corollary to the “fight or flight” response that says that, when faced with something traumatic, sometimes people freeze up and that’s normal. I won’t try to summarize it because it is a little complicated, but I highly recommend giving it a read, especially if you are someone or know someone who freezes up when stressed.


Spotify recommended the band Tacocat to me and I’m enjoying it a lot. I really like “I Love Seattle” (because I do, even though I’m living that Sacramento life). I’ve only seen a handful of episodes of the X-Files, but their song “Dana Katherine Scully” really resonates with me, and the video makes me laugh. “The truth is out there, but so am I.” Video link:

Rampant Consumerism

I recently discovered the magic of fiber optic fabric. I ordered some to make something (to be determined based on my sewing skills, I suppose) to wear at Rollercon. I also bought a fiber optic bow tie from an Etsy shop and it is amazing. These may or may not end up in the same outfit.

Making Things and Doing Stuff

Roller Derby Life

Speaking of Rollercon, that’s been occupying a big part of my mental space this week. In part from excitement and in part because I got into a big fight with my dad last weekend and I need the emotional distraction. I’ve been thinking about costumes and outfits, and also figuring out my food game. You’re not allowed to cook in the hotel and there are no microwaves, so you have to get creative. My first Rollercon, I brought a tiny crock pot and slow cooked meals every day. This year, on the advice of Bob Uckerlele, I’m bringing a sous vide immersion cooker and some vacuum-sealed meals. My sister generously bought me an immersion cooker for Christmas, but I haven’t found the courage yet to test it. I bagged up some leftovers this week and froze them, so I’ll be doing a test run soon. I’m hoping this strategy keeps me well nourished during Rollercon.

Tomorrow (Saturday, the 22nd) we have a home derby game at the Rink. Tickets are still available online. I’ll be playing with our C team, Kodiak Attack. Even though I promoted to the B team this year, I’ve played basically every C game thanks to a dearth of players. I’m happy for the play time but I’m also looking forward to some of our newer skaters being ready to fill out that roster. Because I’m forever pushing myself, I tried out for our “Travel B” (league top 30/combined charter + B) team. I have no idea if I’m at that level or not but I’m hoping that by moving up a practice level, it will force me to get better. It’s always a shock to go from feeling pretty good to being the worst player at practice. But, of course, that’s how you get better.

I started selling t-shirts with my face on them, mostly for my own amusement but also to earn a little money for me and world’s best derby photographer Bone Appétit to pay for tournament travel. Some of our newer skaters have already joined my fan club. Honestly, I’m honored that anyone wants to wear my surly visage. I hope to stay worthy of having people in my fan club.

Number 1 fans, featuring Cocky and Honey


In my Spanish lesson yesterday (which is more just hanging out and talking about things at this point, but that is good), my teacher, Oliva, and I were discussing fluency and what it feels like, more in the context of us learning difficult languages. In that discussion, she said she considers me to be fluent in Spanish! I have been saying for a while that I’m working toward fluency, but it is amazing to get that validation. Obviously, I’m not perfect at Spanish but I am fully operational. Exciting!

Kitchen Witchery

I made a few tasty foods this week, but nothing too exciting. Because everyone likes food photos (or does everyone hate food photos? I can’t keep it straight), here’s some foods of the week, presented at various odd angles:

The cake is the white chocolate cupcakes recipe from The Baking Bible. I made one cake instead of a bunch of tiny ones because of laziness. It’s currently in the freezer. I wanted to bake it to finish using all the leftover egg whites I had from making ice cream last week, but also wasn’t prepared to frost and eat a whole cake. I also made a lentil shepherd’s pie, which is not really a summer food, but is what I wanted. I used some leftover buns I made (recipe from The Bread Lover’s Bread Machine Cookbook) and leftover bleu cheese sauce to make some chicken burgers, which ended up being a really good choice.

Finally, here’s Viola for your nerves.

Viola in repose

Fight with your Dollars: Alabama Abortion Ban Edition

This week, the Alabama State Senate voted for a complete abortion ban that makes no exceptions for rape or incest. The law would penalize women who get abortions and completely ignore men who contributed to the pregnancy. The state’s governor signed it into law yesterday.

I am outraged. I spent much of the last week fretting about what I can do to stop this assault on our rights. I saw this Guardian article naming and shaming all the male state senators who voted to ban abortion. I wondered what we could do.

If this century’s late-stage capitalism has taught me anything, it’s that the only thing the oppressor responds to is threats to its capital. That is why I’ve compiled this list of businesses interests of the Alabama senators who voted to ban and criminalize abortion in their state. It’s not enough to “boycott Alabama”—it’s also too much. Regular people live there, people who want access to reproductive care, and they need our monetary support. However, we should do everything we can to not give money to people who vote to deny us rights. It’s obvious to me that these men don’t consider us to be people. There’s no amount of pleading and sharing experiences that will get through to them. We have to demonstrate that their actions have consequences that will cost them money.

This post provides a list of businesses first then more detail about who is associated with what and links to the places where I found this information.

Disclaimer: I am just a regular person with a strong sense of moral outrage and very good research skills (thanks, master’s degree in library and information science). I am providing this information as a resource. I cannot tell you what to do with it. I do not encourage anyone to harass these individuals or their families.

List of Businesses to Avoid

I compiled this list based on research of public information that is online. I am certain it’s not comprehensive, but it is a strong starting point for people looking to grab back. I have included businesses that these senators own and businesses for which they occupy senior management positions. I have also included businesses belonging to top donors to the senator’s campaigns. Only businesses related to senators who voted to ban abortion are included. If you have a tip or something to add, please leave a comment and I will update the list.

If you stop doing business with one of these companies, I highly recommend calling or writing a letter to them explaining exactly why you are no longer a customer. They should know why they are losing your business.

Here is the list of companies to boycott:

List of Individual Senators

I researched each senator to find out what they own. Many state on their own websites that they own businesses. I made frequent use of the Alabama Secretary of State’s Business Entity Record search, LinkedIn, Ballotpedia, and

I thought I was cynical about politics before I started this research. I had no idea how much worse that could get. One of these senators owns a company that makes ultrasound equipment. The same senator also proposed a bill requiring women to get transvaginal ultrasounds before getting an abortion. I’m learning that there is no deep strategy here. These people are out to make money and that’s it.

Andrew Jones (R), Senate District 10

Andrew Jones says on his website that he is the founder of Deep South Coffee Factory, a “craft coffee roasting company.” He is also a shareholder of Paul Jennings Farms, according to

Arthur Orr (R), Senate District 3

Arthur Orr is the Executive Vice President/Chief Administration Officer of a company called Cook’s Pest Control, where his responsibilities include “oversight of all of the company’s administrative duties including the areas of Accounting, Human Resources, Property, Marketing and Advertising, as well as handling all legal matters.” This company operates in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, and Tennessee. Their website lists, along with a mission, their “position:” “Cook’s has been dedicated to God, and we are entrusted to operate it for His honor and glory. We are committed to principals [sic] of honesty and integrity.” Yikes.

Ballotpedia lists Orr’s top campaign contributors in 2014 (although note that none of these are especially large contributions, relatively speaking):

  • Alabama Power Co: Utility company
  • Alabama Bankers Association: Professional organization
  • Cosby Co: Seems to be some kind of lobbying group or PR firm for politicians.
  • Medical Association of the State of Alabama: Professional organization
  • Alabama Trucking Association: Professional organization

As far as I can tell, these are professional organizations and a utility company (Alabama Power Co). Frankly, I do not know how one would go about boycotting these organizations. In fact, nearly all of these senators had professional organizations among their top donors. This is an example of how these people are deeply entrenched in our institutions. If you are a member of one of these organizations, I recommend looking into who decides how to spend your funds and how you can influence that.

Cam Ward (R) Senate District 14

Cam Ward, according to his personal website, seems to have worked in the public sector for his whole career. In 2014, his top campaign donors were:

  • Alabama Power Co: Utility company
  • Alabama Nursing Home Association: Professional organization
  • Boatright Companies: This company has an empty website, but this article explains that Boatright Companies includes Boatright Vegetation Management, Service Industrial Rail Car, Service Rail Group, Boatright Rail Gear, and Boatright Safety Solutions.
  • Alabama Bankers Association: Professional organization
  • CAN PAC: I cannot find anything useful about this PAC because its name makes for confusing search results.

Ward has a company called House Republican Caucus, LLC registered in his name. The nature of the business is “any lawful activity,” so it’s anyone’s guess what they really do. This is extra puzzling to me because Ward is a state senator, not a state representative. 

Chris Elliott (R), Senate District 32

Chris Elliott, according to his own LinkedIn page is a partner at Elliott Development LLC, President of the Elliott Companies (which includes Service Master Restore, Elliott Builders, and Elliott Catastrophe) and Vice President of Elliott Builders. The Elliott Companies, according to their website, “provide multidisciplinary construction and development services to clients throughout Florida, Alabama and Mississippi.”

  • Elliott Development: “owns and manages professional office spaces primarily in fast growing Baldwin County, Alabama”
  • Service Master Restore: a company that “provides guidance and expertise in disaster restoration” for residential and commercial customers.
  • Elliott Builders: a company for building custom homes
  • Elliott Catastrophe: This sounds similar to the Service Master Restore company. There is a focus on restoring property amid damage, but more information about how they work with insurance companies.

Clay Scofield (R), Senate District 9

Clay Scofield does not have much of an internet presence. As far as I can tell, he is not associated with any businesses.

Ballotpedia lists the following as Scofield’s top campaign donors in 2014:

  • New Alabama Leadership Committee: This is a political committee or political action committee (PAC). The only information I have found about it is in articles like this one, which asks whether PACs are financially up to no good.
  • Alabama Power Co: Utility company
  • Alabama Bankers Association: Professional organization
  • Alabama Trucking Association: Professional organization
  • Alabama Rural Electric Association: A co-op of electric distributors

Clyde Chambliss (R), Senate District 30

Clyde Chambliss, according to his LinkedIn profile, spent 20 years as the “Principle Engineer” at Chambliss Engineering, LLC, “a civil engineering firm providing services to water and sewer systems, local governments, and real estate developers in Alabama.” I don’t know for certain if Clyde Chambliss owns the company. It was incorporated by Tara Chambliss, according to the state’s Business Entity Records search. Based on the header image on Tara’s twitter (which I am NOT linking because I am not trying to encourage DDOSing or abuse), it is reasonable to assume that she and Clyde are related somehow.  

One of Chambliss’ top campaign donors in 2014, according to Ballotpedia, was Joe and Geraldine Chambliss. These two individuals donated $20,000 to the campaign. My best guess is that these are Clyde’s parents, but again, I am not sure. Joe Chambliss is a Partner at Gulf South Culinary Marketing.

Dan Roberts (R), Senate District 15

Dan Roberts is, according to, a board member of Briarwood Christian School. Probably anyone sending their children to Christian school is okay with their legislators banning abortion, but if not, you know what to do. In fact, every organization that Roberts is involved with, perhaps, the exception of the Alabama Policy Institute, is explicitly religious.

David Sessions (R), Senate District 35

David Sessions is, according to, the president of Grand Bay Water Works (a waste management company) and Producers Gin Company (a farming company).

Del Marsh (R), Senate District 12

Del Marsh’s campaign page says he is a “small businessman” who owns “an Oxford, Alabama-based engineering services and aircraft part repair company that employs roughly 150 people in the Calhoun County area.” That company appears to be Aerospace Coatings International, however, it is “privately held” according to Bloomberg and other business sites, so I can’t say with total certainty that Marsh is the owner. This article states that Marsh sold the company to the Wencor Group, so Marsh may no longer have any stake in ACI. The Alabama Secretary of State Business Entity Record search shows registered agent changes in 2015 and 2017.

Donnie Chesteen (R), Senate District 29

Donnie Chesteen used to teach P.E. and coach football. Boycott football, I guess.

Garlan Gudger (R), Senate District 4

Garlan Gudger owns Southern Accents Architectural Antiques, a company his dad started. He also owns Gudger Properties.

Gerald Allen (R), Senate District 21

Gerald Allen owns a business called Cashco Marketing, according to I cannot find much about the company, but this 2002 news article alleges that Allen was withholding grant money from schools that refused to do business with the company.

Greg Albritton (R), Senate District 22

Greg Albritton seems to not have any business interests. His profile shows a lot of military and public-sector experience (boycott the military?). One of Albritton’s top donors in 2014 was a company simply called “Speed.” There are, predictably, a lot of companies with “speed” in the name on the Alabama Business Entity Records database, but there is one simply called Speed, LLC. I cannot find out what this company is, but the address associated with the record seems to be a beach house. I do not know if this is the same company that donated to Albritton.

Greg Reed (R), Senate District 5

Greg Reed is the current vice president of a company called Preferred Medical Systems, which produces ultrasound equipment. Here’s a 2012 article from Rewire News discussing the apparent conflict of interest of introducing bills mandating transvaginal ultrasounds while having a company that sells ultrasound machines.

Jabo Waggoner (R), Senate District 16

Jabo Waggoner owns a real estate investment company called Birmingham Business Consultants, LLC. says Waggoner is also the Vice President of Healthsouth Corporation, but Healthsouth has since been acquired by Encompass Health. Based on this description of the rebranding, I would assume that Waggoner is still involved in and profits from the business, but I do not know for certain.

Jack Williams (R), Senate District 34

Jack Williams owns Twin Oaks Nursery, now merged with Tom Dodd Nurseries (per the Alabama Business Entity Records database). I do not know what role, if any, Williams currently has in the merged company, but states Williams is a “former owner” of Tom Dodd Nurseries. Williams is also listed as owning the JBarW Cattle Farm, but I cannot find any records of this farm.

Jim McClendon (R), Senate District 11

Jim McClendon has a private optometry practice. I’m not able to discover if he owns his own optometry business.

One of his top 2014 campaign donors was Swatek Azbell Howe & Ross, which donated $20,000 to the campaign. This is a group of lobbyists.

Larry Stutts (R), Senate District 6

Larry Stutts is a doctor and, according to his own website, opened Colbert OB-GYN in Sheffield, Alabama. One of Stutt’s top donors in 2014 was Anesthesia Consultants Medical Group, which donated $10,000 to the campaign.

Randy Price (R), Senate District 13

Randy Price’s website says he is a small business owner. He runs a “family farm” and “he started a custom homebuilding business and commercial trucking company.” Based on what I found in the Business Entity Records database, I believe the housing company is RLP Homes, LLC. There is also a Randy Price listed as the incorporator for R. Price Company, Inc. and Ontime Solutions, LLC. I cannot say for certain if this is the same Randy Price as the senator, but these may be the businesses he mentions in his profile.

Sam Givhan (R), Senate District 7

Sam Givhan says on his website that he practices real estate and business law. He practices with and, according to, is a shareholder of Wilmer & Lee: A Professional Association. also says Givhan is the owner of Houston Land Company and SHG Development.

Shay Shelnutt (R), Senate District 17

Shay Shelnutt has been a realtor and a math teacher. He was also his own top donor for the 2014 campaign.

Steve Livingston (R), Senate District 8

Steve Livingston owns, per, two companies: The Fuel Center, Inc. and Discus Oil Company.

Tim Melson (R), Senate District 1

Tim Melson owns a Sheffield, Alabama company called Shoals Medical Trials, Inc., which seems to be dedicated to running clinical trials.

Tom Butler (R), Senate District 2

Tom Butler is a registered pharmacist and works for Rite Aid Pharmacy, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Will Barfoot (R), Senate District 25

Will Barfoot is the owner of the law firm Barfoot & Schoettker.

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Suddenly, It’s 2019

A collage of images representing my mood for the year

When I started thinking about my goals for 2019, I was initially at a loss. I did a lot in 2018 and feel good about it. I don’t necessarily need to do anything differently. However, after letting my thoughts percolate for a while, I realized that, even if I want to continue making progress on existing projects, I still have goals for 2019. I also have some things that are not necessarily goals, but things I want to do this year.

Self-Sufficiency and Resourcefulness
Something I’ve started thinking about is how to make better use of what I have and not be wasteful—to be a citizen and not a consumer. This is driven by wanting to leave a smaller impact on the environment and by the belief that we are what we do, not what we consume. I have been taking small steps to be more resourceful and conscientious, but this year I want to make a point of behaving responsibly.

In 2018, I learned how to roast a whole chicken and make broth from its carcass, I started sewing again, and I’ve gotten a lot better at knitting. In the coming year, I want to:

  • Knit myself a pair of socks and an item of clothing. I knit my first pair of socks this year, but I didn’t keep them for myself.
  • Sew a cool item of clothing for myself.
  • Consume less, in a broad sense. I want to spend less time on social media (especially facebook), and be less wasteful by not letting food go to waste and by mending clothes. I’ve been inspired by visible mending and the concept of repairing clothing in a way that makes it more beautiful. I also plan to consume less meat and eat more plant-based foods, and eat less sugar.
  • Be informed. Something I was really proud of in 2018 was writing a voter guide and encouraging friends to vote. This year, I want to keep reading (news and books) and stay as engaged as I can without wearing myself out.
  • Cook from scratch using local ingredients as much as is possible and reasonable for me. I’ve really enjoyed going to the farmers market with friends in the last few weeks and making food out of the things I’ve found there.
  • Buy from local or small, woman-owned business, if I do buy things. I want to buy fewer things this year. I don’t really need anything.

I have embraced athlete life. This year, I want to get stronger and better at my sports and take better care of my body (not that I did a shabby job last year!). My goals are to:

  • Deadlift 405 pounds. My current personal record is 380.
  • Compete in weightlifting and mas wrestling. I tied for second place in a competition I did last fall. I’d love to get a first place medal!
  • Keep playing roller derby and defend our title of home team champions!
  • Stretch regularly. Seriously, I need to make this a daily thing or I’m going to be miserable.

Cool Stuff and Hobbies
I’m not really sure how to categorize everything else I want to do this year. But all of it’s cool to me, so let’s call it cool stuff.

  • Announce at least two roller derby tournaments, including a WFTDA Cup or post-season tournament (and visit a new place while doing it, hopefully).
  • Teach derby announcing again. I enjoyed the class we put on, but I think I can improve, plus I know there are more people who want to learn.
  • Take a trip to a national park with my husband.
  • Go kayaking.
  • Keep studying Icelandic and maybe start reading Harry Potter in Icelandic.
  • Keep studying Spanish and take the C1 exam. I wanted to take the test last year, but did not get the opportunity to do so. I’ve realized that I want to do it just to prove to myself I can so, in some ways, it’s hard to muster a sense of urgency for it.
  • Read at least 52 books and read more of the books I’ve already bought! I tend to get distracted by new books instead of the books I already have (insert meme of distracted boyfriend looking towards new books). One goal this year is to read through my backlog.
  • Try cooking new recipes.
  • Improve my baking skills and techniques. I had fun learning how to braid a loaf of bread and I want to master more skills like this.

So, that’s it. Just a few simple goals for 2019! This is a lot of things, but the year is long and it’s possible to get quite a lot done when you’re not exhausted (thanks, modern technology, for my cpap) and when you can tear yourself away from the internet.

2018: The 11th Annual Year in Books

It feels anti-climactic to post the books of the year after being able to post the books of the decade at the beginning of 2018. But, decades consist of years. We’re into the second decade of book tracking. Here’s to many more!

This year I read 58 books, which is quite close to last year’s total of 62, and more than my annual average (52). Other vital reading stats:

  •  Page count: 22,154, based on what LibraryThing lists. I am sure I didn’t exactly read this many pages, once you count appendices and notes, but it’s the best number I have.
  • Library use: 19 library books (mostly ebooks), 2 borrowed from friends. This year I read more books that I owned. I can’t say if this is because I was working on the backlog or buying more books. We may never know.
  • Female/male authors: 49 by female authors, 9 by male authors. When it’s right, it’s right.
  • Digital and analog: 40 digital, 18 paper.
  • Fiction and non-fiction: 39 fiction, 19 nonfiction.
  • Books in other languages: 4 books in Spanish. I really meant to read more Spanish books this year. I started out strong, but I got bogged down later in the year with exhaustion. I’ve since been diagnosed with sleep apnea and obtained a cpap. I’m hoping next year it will be easier to focus.
  • Favorites: This question always stumps be a little because I love everything I read. The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty was a definite favorite, so was Cat Valente’s Space Opera. I enjoyed Kate Elliot’s women-focused stories in the Jaran series and Spiritwalker Trilogy (which I’m still reading). All the books I got from Powell’s Indiespensible were stunning and made me reflect. This includes Red Clocks, There There, and The Mars Room. As for non-fiction, I think the books that have most stayed with me are Prairie Fires, which I did not expect to like that much, but the history involved was fascinating, and Bodies Out of Bounds. Rage Becomes Her and Text Me When You Get Home both distilled a mood around being a woman and getting along in this world.

And now for the list!

Date FinishedTitleAuthor
1/6The City of BrassS. A. Chakraborty
1/10Provenance Ann Leckie
1/18The Girl in the TowerKatherine Arden
1/24Ghost TalkersMary Robinette Kowal
1/29The Ruin of AngelesMax Gladstone
2/4Freedom Is a Constant Struggle Angela Davis
2/7The Will to BattleAda Palmer
2/8Caramba!Nina Marie Martinez
2/8The Jewel and Her LapidaryFran Wilde
2/11CrosstalkConnie Willis
2/15How We Get Free: Black Feminism and the Combahee River CollectiveKeeanga-Yamahtta Taylor
2/25The Unwomanly Face of WarSvetlana Alexievich
3/1Como agua para chocolateLaura Esquivel
3/4A Wrinkle in Time Madeleine L’Engle
3/7Red Clocks Leni Zumas
3/8EverfairNisi Shawl
3/13The Dorito Effect: The Surprising New Truth about Food and FlavorMark Schatzker
3/17Karen MemoryElizabeth Bear
4/6HildNicola Griffith
4/13Republic of ThievesScott Lynch
4/18Space OperaCatherynne Valente
4/24Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American CityMatthew Desmond
5/4La Maravillosa Historia de EspañolFrancisco Moreno Fernández
5/4The Dream-Quest of Vellit Boe Kij Johnson
5/9Invisible: How Young Women with Serious Health Issues Navigate Work, Relationships, and the Pressure to Seem Just FineMichele Lent Hirsch
5/17JaranKate Elliott
5/20US Politics in an Age of Uncertainty Lance Selfa
5/31Doing Harm: the Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and SickMaya Dusenbery
6/1An Earthly CrownKate Elliott
6/7His Conquering SwordKate Elliott
6/7Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape CultureRoxane Gay
6/8Learning Together: Children and Adults in a School CommunityBarbara Rogoff, Carolyn Goodman Turkanis, Leslee Bartlett
6/21The Law of Becoming Kate Elliott
6/29Prarie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls WilderCaroline Fraser
7/6There ThereTommy Orange
7/12Tierra de BrumasCristina López Barrio
7/18The Calculating Stars Mary Robinette Kowal
7/22The Invisible Library Genevieve Cogman
7/29The Masked CityGenevieve Cogman
8/5The Mere WifeMaria Dahvana Headley
8/15The Burning PageGenevieve Cogman
9/16The Fated SkyMary Robinette Kowal
9/16Bodies Out of Bounds: Fatness and TransgressionJana Evans Braziel, Kathleen LeBesco
9/24A Study in HonorClaire O’Dell
9/30The PowerNaomi Alderman
10/10The Lost plotGenevieve Cogman
10/16The View From Flyover Country: Dispatches from the Forgotten AmericaSarah Kendzior
10/26BorneJeff Vandermeer
10/26[Un]framing the “Bad Woman”: Sor Juana, Malinche, Coyolxauhqui, and Other Rebels with a CauseAlicia Gaspar de Alba
10/31Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap FashionElizabeth Cline
11/7The BeesLaline Paul
11/12The All New Don’t Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the DebateGeorge Lakoff
11/20Rage Becomes HerSoraya Chemaly
11/30Trail of Lightning Rebecca Roanhorse
12/15Text Me When You Get Home Kayleen Schaeffer
12/24Cold MagicKate Elliott
12/27The Mars Room: A NovelRachel Kushner
12/29Cold FireKate Elliott

2018: Toot Your Own Horn

This year has, by all accounts, been a real trash fire. Despite the prevailing national mood, my own life has been pretty good. It’s a strange dissonance, having a great life while so much horrible shit is happening. In the spirit of enjoying it while I have it, this post is dedicated to the good stuff of my year. Presented in no particular order, this year I:

  • Knitted my first pair of socks
  • Read over 50 books
  • Competed in three weightlifting competitions and got medals from two of them
  • Deadlifted 380 pounds
  • Pulled a truck!
  • Made caramel for the first time and didn’t even burn it
  • Got a new job that treats me way better and that gives me more money
  • Announced at two roller derby tournaments: Clover Cup and the WFTDA Continental Cup in Omaha
  • Visited two states I’d never been to before (Texas and Nebraska)
  • Played a lot of roller derby and got voted best blocker in four games
  • Captained my home team and won Sacramento Roller Derby’s first home team championship
  • Started a cookbook club
  • Went to Yosemite for the first time
  • Planned and ran a workshop teach derby announcing
  • Hosted Thanksgiving dinner and made a turkey and everything
  • Attended several political protests/demonstrations
  • Made a voting guide and encouraged friends to vote
  • Went to RollerCon and did everything
  • Learned to skate the banked track and played a banked track game
  • Started Icelandic lessons again
  • Met with my Spanish tutor for 48 lessons

I am still contemplating what I want to accomplish next year, but if 2019 is anything like 2018, I can’t be mad about that.

Figuring out How to Vote: California 2018 Midterm Elections Edition

I’ve started listening to Gaslit Nation, an excellent podcast by two journalists who are experts in authoritarianism. The hosts have been emphasizing the importance of voting in the midterm elections this year and have said this could really be our last chance to make the democratic process work before autocracy tightens its hold on the country. It got me thinking about how I could encourage others to vote and maybe make the process less intimidating.

This post is to explain how I researched what’s on the ballot for the 2018 midterms and how I came to my decisions. I am not at all trying to tell anyone how they should vote. You can vote like me if that is what you want to do, but what I really want is to show you how to figure out how to vote and my thought process.

I am not an expert in politics. I work as a technical writer and I have a master’s degree in library science. This means I work with language and know how to interpret complex information. It also means I know how to find information. I am providing my process, but feel free to contact me if you have other questions.

Voter-Nominated Offices


My vote: Gavin Newsom

Although my grandma told me that I better not vote for Gavin Newsom, I’m doing it anyway. The California General Election Official Voter Information Guide (which you should get in the mail, but you can find online) does not provide a statement from Newsom, which I think is kind of a dick move on his part. I looked up Newsom’s website to see what he says about the issues. His stances are all ones I agree with. So, while he can’t be bothered to put out a statement, and someone I know told me she met him and he wouldn’t stop ogling her chest, I guess I’m still voting for him.

The Republican candidate, John Cox, provides a statement that is coded to rile up the Republican base, mentioning a that politicians have “rigged the game” and talking about repealing taxes on gas, among other things. It also says that California has the “highest poverty rate in the country.” I thought this was probably a lie so I went to look it up—operating on the theory that a politician lying about something means they’re willing to lie about anything. I discovered it’s actually true, but only when adjusted for the cost of living. I’m glad it’s not a blatant lie, but I’m still not voting Republican.

Lieutenant Governor

My vote: Eleni Kounalakis

Both candidates, Eleni Kounalakis and Ed Hernandez are with the Democratic party and, based on their statements, neither of them sound like a bad choice. My highly un-rigorous method of breaking a tie when two candidates sound good to me is to choose a woman or person of color. In this case, Kounalakis is a woman and Hernandez is a person of color, so this metric is not very helpful. I checked each candidate’s website and looked at what they said about the issues. Although they were fairly similar, I liked that Kounalakis supports universal broadband internet (that is, wi-fi as infrastructure) and building more housing, among other things.

Secretary of State

My vote: Alex Padilla

The Secretary of State is an important job in these times because this person safeguards our elections. Considering that Russia meddles in our elections, both directly and through targeted propaganda, we need a Secretary of State that will protect them.

Is Alex Padilla a person who can do that? I don’t know, but I am pretty sure Mark Meuser, the Republican candidate is not. His statement talks about “bloated voter rolls” and says that we need to remove “those who have died, have moved, non-citizens, duplicate and fictitious registrations.” This is a dog whistle. Voter fraud is actually a very small problem. When candidates bring this up, they usually mean that only the right sort of people should be voting, you know, white people and not pesky black people and immigrants with opinions.


My vote: Betty Yee

The Controller “serves as the state’s account and bookkeeper of all public funds,” according to the voter information guide. State of California employees see the controller’s signature on all their paychecks.

Betty Yee is the democratic candidate and the incumbent in this position, and a woman. These are the main reasons I am voting for her. These candidates don’t publish statements about how to tackle various issues because it isn’t really part of their job. However, Yee is endorsed by tons of groups, including a lot of women’s groups, which I think is important. Roditis, the Republican candidate, has a site that is focused on things like defunding the high-speed rail and repealing the gas tax. In general, I support paying higher taxes that pay for services so I disagree with Roditis on these issues.


My vote: Fiona Ma

Based once again on my metric of voting for women of color, I’m choosing Fiona Ma. This is also based on not voting for Republicans. Ma’s statement says she supports “accessible and affordable healthcare” and wants to work to “alleviate student loan debt,” which are things I also support. Republican candidate Greg Conlon is an old white man. In general, I do not vote for old white men if there are other, qualified candidates. Old white men have been running this country for too long and I want to see more women have the opportunity to lead. Also, Conlon’s statement says that public employees have pensions that are too “generous.” The pension is the main perk of public sector employment (as anyone who has gotten a paycheck for a public job knows). Screw this guy.

Attorney General

My vote: Xavier Becerra

This one is simple. Becerra is the democratic incumbent (if I recall correctly, he took over after Kamala Harris was elected to the Senate). Becerra has gone to court against the Trump administration multiple times to defend against encroaching Trumpism.

Insurance Commissioner

My pick: Ricardo Lara

I am voting for Lara because, as a member of the state senate, he voted for a universal, single-payer healthcare system and in general his positions line up with things I support.

Board of Equalization Member: District 1

My vote: Tom Hallinan

This is an interesting one this year. The Democratic candidate, Tom Hallinan, is running for the Board of Equalization (BoE) on the platform that the BoE is no longer necessary and that he will try to shut it down. I had to do some research to figure out what the BoE actually does. Per its website:

“Established in 1879 by a constitutional amendment, the BOE was initially charged with responsibility for ensuring that county property tax assessment practices were equal and uniform throughout the state. Over the years, the legislature expanded the BOE’s subject matter to include many taxes and fees. In 2017 and 2018, the legislature created two new tax administration and appeals agencies, reassigning some of the BOE’s tax functions. As a result, the BOE has rededicated itself to focusing on its historical responsibility of property tax oversight and its constitutional responsibilities.”

That does sound a bit like the BoE is no longer relevant. Also, I don’t trust the Republican party at all. I’m voting for Hallinan.

United States Senator

My vote: Kevin De Leon

Again we have two Democratic candidates on the ballot. Diane Feinstein is the incumbent and a ranking member on a few Senate committees. However, I am voting for Kevin De Leon. I am hoping that De Leon will push back harder against Trump and autocracy and Republican foolishness more than Feinstein does. I think Feinstein and Democrats should be doing more not just to say no to Republicans but also in setting an agenda and giving us something to hope for. Democrats are doing the minimum to keep our rights from eroding too quickly. I’m hoping De Leon will do more than that.

United States Representative: District 17

My vote: Ami Bera

My options are Ami Bera (D), Andrew Grant (R) here in Elk Grove. Bera is the incumbent and I am certainly not voting to put any more Republicans in congress, so I’m voting for Bera. I think he is a good congressperson, but I would like to see him be more progressive. His website has a lot about protecting the Affordable Care Act, which is great. However, I don’t see anything about pushing for single-payer or universal healthcare. Conclusion: could be better, could be way worse.

State Senator: District 6

My vote: Richard Pan

The options for district 6 are Richard Pan (D) and Eric Frame (independent). I actually met Eric Frame at a Sacramento Labor-Community Coalition Meeting in August. He has a good sense of the class struggle we are facing and I thought him very genuine. However, I recently saw this article in which he says he is against mandatory vaccinations. It makes me wonder if he has any other unconventional beliefs that I should be concerned about.

Member of the State Assembly: District 9

My vote: Jim Cooper

The options for district 9 are Harry He (D) and the incumbent, Jim Cooper (D). Based on Jim Cooper’s website, he has been involved in a lot of legislation that supports labor and women. I wanted to see what Harry He had to say for himself, however, he did not provide a statement in the county voter guide and I couldn’t find a website for him. If you can’t even get a website online, how are you going to be an assembly member?


For judicial candidates, you get the option to say yes or no. These are hard because you have to be really into law and politics to follow individual judges’ careers.  I mostly used ballotpedia and some explainers I found, like this one, which suggests who to approve based on whether a Republican or Democratic governor appointed them. I am not an expert at any of this, but especially not at judicial issues. I encourage everyone to research and listen to voices they trust.

Associate Justice, Supreme Court

Carol Corrigan:  No

According to Ballotpedia, Justice Corrigan has served on the California Supreme Court since 2005, when she was appointed by Governor Schwarzenegger. Being appointed by a Republican governor suggests she is a more conservative judge. From what I can tell, she’s also a big Trump supporter.

Leondra Kruger: Yes

I don’t know much about Leondra Kruger other than that she was appointed by Governor Brown in 2014.

Associate Justice, Court of Appeal, Third District

Cole Blease: Yes

This judge is an old white man, but I think his resume sounds like he has the people’s best interests in mind:

“Justice Blease received his undergraduate (1952) and law degrees (1955) from the University of California at Berkeley where he later taught undergraduate courses in freedom of speech and the logic of argument. Before appointment to the bench he represented civil rights organizations and had a varied practice in public law. His clients included the California Teachers Association, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, the County of Placer, the League to Save Lake Tahoe and public employee organizations.”

Louis Mauro: No

According to Ballotpedia, Mauro (also an old white man) was appointed by Schwarzenegger. When I searched Mauro online, I found a bunch of attack ads against Justice Blease, which did not seem very professional for someone who “serves on the Executive Committee of the Anthony M. Kennedy Inn of Court, working to promote ethics, civility and professionalism in the legal profession.” I am sure that Mauro didn’t personally create these images, but why is anyone creating propaganda about a judicial candidate? Who is backing that?

State Propositions

Propositions are tricky, but I find that if there’s general agreement from organizations that you agree with, you’re probably on the right track. I referred a lot to this voter guide that was circulating on facebook. It consolidates guides from organizations like the ACLU, Sierra Club, and Democratic and Republican parties. You can also refer to the California Voter Guide for analysis and arguments for and against each proposition. I like to read the arguments for and against because it shows what kind of logic people are using to justify their choices. It is usually pretty clear to see what kind of perspective the writer approaches the argument with.

A table showing how various organizations suggest citizens vote on the 12 California propositions.
2018 California Election Cheat Sheet

Proposition 1

My vote: Yes

This proposition helps fund housing programs for veterans. The funding for this proposition comes from the State selling bonds, which means they are not planning to increase taxes to provide more affordable housing.

Oh, the Republican Party is against it. What else do you need to know?

Proposition 2

My vote: Yes

Basically everyone supports this measure, which provides funding for existing housing programs for people with mental illness. It seems like the humane thing to vote for.

Proposition 3

My vote: Yes

I read the title of this one and immediately thought “yes” because our water infrastructure needs help, especially with the increasingly extreme weather events we are experiencing due to climate change. I did notice, however, that the Sierra Club does not support this proposition. I wanted to know why. Here’s what their voter guide says:

“The flaws in the bond will enable certain dams and other infrastructure we have opposed. It also directs to unspecified water projects a specific category of funds collected through the state’s cap-and-trade program that should be used to efficiently cut climate emissions.”

The League of Women Voters rejects this proposition for an entirely different reason, stating that it “shift[s] the cost for water from the end users to California taxpayers”

That said, I still think it’s a good idea to shore up our infrastructure for water. Two of the organizations I am inclined to side with are against this proposition for different reasons. For me, this does not override why I want to vote for it.

Proposition 4

My vote: Yes

Proposition 4 authorizes bonds to fundraise for children’s hospitals. I do find it a little questionable that public money is going to private institutions. I did some quick searching and it does seem that most children’s hospitals are private institutions, so maybe it is less weird than it sounds. In general, I want to see better healthcare so I am voting for this.

Proposition 5

My vote: No

From what I can tell, this proposal would benefit rich people who buy multiple properties. The State also estimates that it “probably would lose over $100 million in annual property tax revenue in the first few years, growing over time to about $1 billion per year.” Property taxes fund schools. The voter guide says one of the benefits is it “allows the purchase of a more expensive home.” This seems like a bad plan.

Proposition 6

My vote: No

The only group supporting this is the Republican Party. This proposition would repeal a tax passed by the State Legislature last year and reduce state revenue by over $5 billion. The tax we pay on gas goes directly to supporting roads and similar infrastructure. If you’re driving on roads, you should help pay for them.

Proposition 7

My vote: Yes

I thought this proposition was to end our bi-annual time change, but it’s actually giving the legislature the power to make changes to daylight saving time. I personally think daylight saving time is dumb and we should get rid of it. Plus, the time change results in increased traffic accidents and pedestrian deaths.

Proposition 8

My vote: Yes

The money tells the story of proposition 8. Dialysis companies are spending like crazy to prevent this from being passed because they know they will lose money if they are more heavily regulated. Regulate those bastards.

Who is funding against regulation for dialysis treatment? The dialysis companies.

Proposition 10

(note: I didn’t skip a number. There is no prop 9)

My vote: Yes

This proposition basically establishes rent control by repealing a state law that currently restricts rent control policies. This allows local governments to set rent control policies. We live in California. We see the rents. Is any more explanation required?

Proposition 11

My vote: No

This one confused me because I don’t understand why we would vote to make emergency employees work their breaks. I thought I was missing something. According to the Peace and Freedom Party’s Workers’ Vote Guide (I’m a registered Peace and Freedom Party member, by the way), it really is an attempt to “deny breaks to private ambulance workers.”

Proposition 12

My vote: Yes

The voter guide says this “establishes new minimum space requirements” for farm animals and “prohibits certain commercial sales” of certain animal food products. To me, this sounds humane. I am a carnivore, but I support treating animals better.

A teammate of mine is an animal rights advocate and expert on this subject, so I checked her page to see what she had to say on this subject. She shared this page, which suggests that the main groups opposed to the proposition are the farmers who would be impacted by the regulation. It sounds a lot like the dialysis companies opposing dialysis regulation.


Did this guide help you? Leave a comment with your thoughts or tips for others. You are welcome to share this all over the internet.

The Power: The Fantasy You Didn’t Know You Needed

Thoughts on The Power by Naomi Alderman

The Power is a story set in a frame. A man, 5,000 years in the future, pitches this book as a way to help readers visualize history and events that occurred before “The Cataclysm.” His publisher is skeptical that any story suggesting men might have once subjugated women will sell or be read as anything but “men’s literature” or smut. However, the text of this “author’s” story is included, leaving the reader to decide for herself.

This book is a glorious revenge fantasy, which I, for one, particularly appreciated on the heels of Judge Kavanaugh’s hearing and, let’s say, the entirety of recorded history. In The Power, women spontaneously develop the ability to wield electrostatic power. It starts with young women, but the young can awaken it by passing a charge to another woman’s skein, the organ governing this sense. Soon, women around the world are exacting righteous retribution and, in the case of one of our protagonists, Mother Eve, starting religions to usher in the new world order.

Narratives Can Change Us

One of my favorite scenes in The Power was when women in Saudi Arabia realized that they were no longer beholden to the cruel, archaic power structures that had long kept them prisoners in their own homes, with fathers, sons, and husbands their wardens. En masse, the women take to the streets. Armed police advance on them, but what gun can stop the fury of thousands of women holding electricity in their fingertips? Soon, the women begin blowing up cars and rioting in earnest, their tone jubilant.

Of course, women make up half the people on the planet. I read this scene and thought, if women truly exercised their solidarity, could we be stopped? If the whole of Riyadh’s female population today, for example, said we refuse to accept this any longer, could they force a change? Could women in the United States, in a surge of power, prevent another rapist and man who believes women shouldn’t be able to decide what to do with their own bodies from becoming a Supreme Court justice? Just maybe.

Reading The Power made me think about the stories we tell ourselves and the way we frame the world. Adlerman is not the first writer to posit that how we see ourselves in the world can change reality. Another book, and a book I love, is Native Tongue by Suzette Haden Elgin. In Native Tongue, women work together to develop their own language, naming new concepts and creating power in doing so. Although the women in the story are palpably oppressed by the men in their family, deploying their new language tips the balance of power. Soon, the men cannot control women and the power they have unleashed.

Similarly, I thought of a part of the Sandman comics in which Dream, in the form of a cat, tells another feline that cats once ruled the world, saying “We were larger then, and this whole world was created for our pleasure. We roamed it as we would, taking what we wanted.” However, a human pet, in a flash of inspiration, dreamed that the world could be different. He shared the dream with others and “They dreamed … and the next day, things changed.” Humans became the dominant species.

The Power is women’s version of that dream. Perhaps if we all dream the same dream, one day we, too, will wake to find everything changed.

4 comic book panels from "Sandman." A large black cat tells a small white cat the secret to changing the world
Dream, in the form of a cat, instructs a cat in how to change the world.

But Are Women People?

The second half of the book, for me, was not so much a revenge fantasy as a revenge nightmare. Women, mad with power, start paramilitary camps that train young women to use power as soldiers. A European president institutes laws stipulating that men must have a female guardian at all times, men must carry documentation, and men can be sent to work camps for too much surly backtalk. We even witness the graphic rape of a man. That, is, we witness a gang of women raping a man.

The tale’s atrocities ramp up slowly, so when at last a man is ordered (by a woman in power) to lick up spilled alcohol pooled amid shards of glass, you almost wonder how we got here. Almost. In this scene, older women spur on the terror, shouting that men had done much worse in their time—this is no less than they deserve.

What strikes me is how easy it is to see the horror in male refugees, men’s suffering. Really, it’s the crux of the whole book: how simple it is to empathize with men, how easy it is to identify wrongs committed in the name of power and of the status quo are, indeed, wrongs, when applied to men.

It reminds me that society generally sees men as people and women as some other class of human. You know, like a woman writer, or a woman chef, or a “girl boss.” Maybe even a female doctor. We don’t read woman into these neutral words. Nothing about “boss” is inherently male. Except millennia of patriarchy and male power have taught us that, yes, boss is a male job. Men do it. The Power gives us 5,000 years of the opposite. How foolish, the fictional publisher thinks, to see men running gangs and committing violence against women. Women, in this story, are the ones with the right to humanity.

It’s easy to see the horror in men confined to their homes or in (women) soldiers raping (men) victims. How terrifying! But the reality is that this is how women in the real world live now. Women today are afraid to go out at night. Women today, in some countries, can’t leave the house without a male to escort them. Women today are raped (by men) and are the victims (of men’s) violence.

All this happens today, yet we are either too close to it or too fatigued to be shocked by it.

At the end of The Power, we return to the discussion between “author” and “publisher.” The author states, “Three or four thousand years ago, it was considered normal to cull nine in ten boy babies. Fuck, there are still places today where boy babies are routinely aborted, or have their dicks ‘curbed.’ This can’t have happened to women in the time before the Cataclysm.” He goes on to say that “the world is the way it is now because of five thousand years of ingrained structures of power based on darker times when things were much more violent … but we don’t have to act that way now.”

What if we didn’t act that way now?

What if women seized the power of solidarity? What if we dreamed the world into existence? What if the world changed overnight?


When Nothing Happens

I consider myself extremely fortunate to have never been the victim of sexual assault or abuse. That doesn’t mean I have always felt safe. There have been many times in my life that could have easily escalated into assault or worse. It is hard, in some ways, to talk about these close calls because, I think, well I wasn’t raped. It wasn’t that bad. That said, here’s the scariest story of a time that something bad almost happened.
When I was in ninth grade I lived in London for a year with my (now ex-)step-mom, step-sister, and my actual sister. It was the first and only year I had to wear a uniform for school and I was very naive about how walking around in a city in a school uniform makes girls a target for harassment.
The day that nothing happened, I was walking home after school and, a few feet from my house, a car pulled up to me. There was a man driving the car and two women passengers. The women, both adults, kept giggling. In retrospect, they might have been on drugs but I didn’t know how to identify that at the time. I had never seen any of these people before. The man invited me to get in the car with them.  I said no. I don’t remember what else the man said to me, only that was I was scared and upset, and I hurried to the door (but did not run, because running shows weakness). I fumbled with my keys and went into the empty house. I don’t remember if I cried but I remember holing up in my bedroom.
I remember being extremely shaken by this incident and I didn’t know how to tell anyone about it—in part because nothing “happened.” But something did happen. That non-event has stayed with me for 17 years. I don’t know what would have happened to me if I had gotten into that car. I didn’t know if the man was going to get out and overpower me. I am lucky that I got away and I was close to my house.
Even though nothing “happened,” this is one of many things in my life that has taught me that many men see women as objects. Actions like this, or like street harassment, serve to remind women that they are not meant to be in public, that they should not be alone or feel any power or agency in their own lives.
I have spent my morning watching Dr. Christine Blasey-Ford be cross-examined in the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. I believe her. Republican senators brought in a professional prosecutor to interrogate the details of her story, as if she has anything to gain by making this up. No one wants to relieve the most painful parts of their life. To ask her to do so in front of the whole country and then to answer probing questions about any gaps in her story is cruel.
Dr. Blasey-Ford is a civic hero. She understands her place in the national conversation. She didn’t want to come forward. She didn’t want to do this. She has spent her life trying to forget about the time that Brett Kavanaugh almost “accidentally” killed her, as she stated in her testimony today. Yet, here she is, doing all of us the biggest favor by trying to keep another privileged rapist from joining the Supreme Court.
I wonder if, in some way, Dr. Blasey-Ford also thinks that “nothing” happened. She was terribly violated, but she wasn’t raped. Does she downplay her assault in her mind, despite the clear trauma it left her?
Even though “nothing” has happened to me, enough has happened that I, like most women, think through when and where to be outside alone. I look for exits in buildings. I avoid men who give me creepy “vibes.” These are the subtle accommodations women make for men’s incessant predatory behavior.
It’s strange, the imprint that nothing leaves on one’s life.