Bye, bye, LiveJournal!

I love blogging. It’s like keeping a diary, but you self-edit so your posts are not so torturous to read later. And for those times you absolutely must splay your guts on the page, you can write a blog post and mark it “private.” It’s like having a secret pen pal.

I started blogging maybe around 2009? I quickly settled on LiveJournal, partly because other friends of mine were there too. Then Facebook came on the scene, and LiveJournal started doing pushy advertisements, so I switched to WordPress, leaving my old stuff on LiveJournal.

It’s not entirely the same. WordPress feels more professional and less personal, and with less of a sense of community. But it’s where I am.

Meanwhile, something happened with LiveJournal. It turns out it has been owned by a Russian company since 2007, and I neither knew nor cared. But after the 2016 presidential election, in which the Russian government explicitly meddled in the U.S. democracy, I care a damn lot. But more to the point, the servers are now living in Russia and subject to Russian espionage  (guess it wasn’t a secret pen pal after all), Russian law, and Russian censorship. This is happening in the context of human rights abuses in Chechnya relating to LGBT folks. (By the way, there is a call-out to folks to consider donating to an organization called All Out, for emergency evacuation of LGBT folks in Chechnya.  ) LiveJournal put out a new Terms of Service that everyone using LiveJournal had to agree to, and a bunch of people are leaving in droves and moving over to

Here’s a blog post with more info (especially see the comments): New LiveJournal Terms of Service.

So, goodbye LiveJournal. I made a backup on Dreamwidth (under an alias so I can splash fanfiction and whatnot on the page without worrying about the mess) and then I deleted my account. I am copying over some of my more interesting posts to this blog, as time permits, and back-dating them.

emma peel moved her blog

Let that be a lesson to me!

Somehow I ran down my iron stores and ended up with iron-deficiency anemia. In retrospect, it was inevitable. I’m a pre-menopausal woman, and although I’m not a vegetarian, I rarely eat red meat. Also, I donate blood.

The symptoms came on gradually and didn’t scream out “iron deficiency!” For starters, my red blood count was normal less than three months ago, when I last gave blood. But I was frequently lightheaded and had activity-related headaches, and a normal aerobic workout would wipe me out for the whole day. Oh, well. Now I know. I’m taking the supplements and starting to feel better, except for the upset tummy that iron supplements cause.

But it’s also a metaphorical object lesson. I just kept right on giving blood, without making sure I had enough iron in reserve. In other words, I ran myself into the ground. But I do that in many other areas of my life as well. I give other people more of my time than I mean to. And since the last presidential election, I’ve pushed myself to be more politically active than I can handle, which has meant an important life goal (my novel) has been sliding.

So my goal for the next month or so, as I build back up my iron stores and my energy: practice being selfish. I’ll see how it goes!




In defense of outlines

I. Introduction

A. Anecdote

B. Not taught in elementary and middle schools

D. Benefits of outlining

E. Call to action

III. Why not taught

A. Scare students

B. What teachers do instead

1. similar to outlining but without the Roman Numerals

2. ex. “mental map”

3. [note: research and give examples]

4. My opinion: this mystifies the writing process

II.  Benefits of outlining

A. Makes the writing process easier – manageable chunks

B. Helps with anxiety

1. There is something on the page

2. Numbers and letters make you feel like accomplishing something

3. Psych yourself into thinking you are not writing

C. Benefits for procrastinators

1. [Anecdote]

2. Can leave writing until the last minute

D. An aid to research

1. Lets you know ahead of time what research may be necessary

2. Lets you know what the gaps are in your research

3. Can take notes and cut and paste right into outline

4. Big screens are a plus. Do not attempt on a cell phone.

5. Old fashioned paper works too.

E. Organization is flexible

1. Often your first idea for organizing doesn’t work out

2. Easy to move around, add new categories

3. Word processors often have tools that make it even easier

F. The more complex the writing assignment, the more helpful

1. [Anecdote]

III. Call to action

A. Bring back outlining!

B. Not for everyone, indispensable for some

C. Yes, I am a geek for writing an entire essay in outline form and posting it to my blog. (What can I say? Organization pleases me.) If you read this whole thing, maybe you are too.

IV. Bibliography

A. [Find sources on any studies re: outlining]

B. [Find sources for any examples of mental maps, etc.]

Teaching anti-fascism to kids

All my life I’ve heard “Never forget!” when it comes to the Holocaust. But clearly, something has gone awry. Maybe the meme was too weak. Maybe we needed “Pass it on to the children!” instead. Because there’s a big difference between remembering as an individual and keeping the memory alive in a culture that spans generations.

As a child I read The Diary of Anne Frank, and The Chocolate War, and I watched Fiddler on the Roof and The Sound of Music. These had a big impact on me. But what are my children reading and watching? My assumption was that since I knew the material, my children would know it too. Of course that’s false.

So I was searching for something unrelated (anti-fascism in Europe) and randomly came across a post too awesome not to share. It’s about a workshop done by a multi-ethnic youth arts and education organization in Bosnia. The facilitator reported back on what they did and for which age group, and it sounds like they had a blast!

“Anti-Fascism Day 2016”

And here’s an adorable graphic that had been up on Indymedia Scotland but was made as part of a poster for an anti-fascist meeting in Athens. Modern-day Athena?


– Kristin

Multiply like a Roman

The Romans used weird, weird math. To multiply two terms, they repeatedly doubled one of them in one column while halving the other term in another column, throwing away any remainders that came up, crossed off half the numbers in the first column, added up what remained, and — voila! — got the right answer.

How on earth did they come up with it? And why on earth does it work?

Here’s what it looks like. If you’re not a mathy person, don’t worry, I’m not asking you to do any calculations–just to enjoy the strangeness.

1. Start with two numbers

536 * 42

= (500 + 30 + 5 + 1) * (40 + 2)


2. Multiply the first column and halve the second

Multiply these Divide these
(17M)CLII 1

3. If a number in the second column is even, cross it off in the first column.


4. Add up all the remaining numbers in the first column.


= (22M)DXII
= 22,000 + 500 + 10 + 2

5. And here’s the answer!

= 22,512

That’s all I have. If you want to know why it works, one of these links should satisfy.

A Different Kind of Multiplication

Roman Arithmetic

Or, if this is too much math for you, just be glad I didn’t tell you about multiplying infinity.


wikimedia commons


Do we value democracy?

A recent Guardian article got me thinking about how much people value democracy and what we expect out of it. The article, “Burst your bubble: five conservative articles for liberals to read as protests stymie Trump”, quoted a neoreactionary thinker who may have influenced Steve Bannon’s thinking. The quote, from “How I stopped believing in democracy,” is:

And, if our goal is really just the faithful execution of a trust, why assume that electoral suffrage of any sort is the most effective way to constitute it? . . . How does Google just skate along without any suffrage at all, whereas Georgia needs elections? And which trust would you guess is more effectively exercised?

Yes, folks, in addition to the voter suppression we saw in the last election, there is a serious effort underway to eliminate voting altogether. The current president, cabinet, and Congress do, collectively, have the ability to seriously erode suffrage.

There is one and only barrier standing in their way: public opinion.

If we have a populace ready to take to the streets in support of universal suffrage–to copy the women’s suffrage movement and the civil rights movement — then our right to vote cannot be taken away no matter what the federal government tries to do. This is the lesson history gives us.

Unfortunately, we don’t. The twenty-first century has seen a significant crisis of faith not only in our political leaders but also in the American people, according to a recent Gallup poll.


From Gallup article “American’s Trust in Political Leaders, Public at New Lows,” September 21, 2016.

A study by the Pew Research center from November 2016 is even less optimistic, with only 34% of the public trusting the collective political wisdom of the American people.

Well, it’s easier to take away universal suffrage from people who don’t believe in it, and that’s why it’s under attack now.

What is to be done? I have three outrageous proposals. Think ’em over.

1. Push for universal suffrage

Our laws exclude plenty of people from voting: undocumented immigrants, felons, ex-convicts, people with the same names as felons and ex-convicts, people who live in areas with limited polling stations, and people who physically can’t leave their house to vote. Is that reasonable? If not, what can be done to change it?

You might be thinking I’m going too far. But consider. Aren’t ex-convicts supposed to have “paid their debt” to society? And don’t undocumented immigrants pay local taxes such as sales tax? And wasn’t the rallying cry of the American Revolution “No taxation without representation“?

Right now, when our system is broken, is the time to question everything.

2. Use democracy everywhere

By this I mean family meetings, book groups, PTA meetings. Be a democracy nerd. Anytime you’re in a group and an unofficial leader says, “Well, it looks like we have consensus. . .” just pipe up and say, “Why don’t we vote on this?” The main objection I see raised is “Oh, we don’t need all that fancy structure” and “It will take too much time.”

Actually, democracy, even in small groups, takes very little time and is efficient. A person starts off by saying, “I move that. . . .” This clarifies the proposal in everybody’s heads. Someone else says, “I second that.” If nobody seconds it, then obviously nobody else thinks it’s a good idea, and it will obviously fail a vote, so the group can drop it and move on.  Then somebody says, “All in favor . . . all against . . . all abstaining.” Count the results, and presto! You know what the group wants to do.

Actually it’s not quite like that. There’s room for discussion after the second and before the vote. That can take time, but chances are it will be quicker than its alternative. And if the discussion drags on past the point of usefulness, somebody can always say, “Call the question!” That means “Shut up and vote already!”

(Geeky interlude here. Technically, if you’re following the official Roberts Rules of Order, you have to vote on whether or not to call the question. In practice, I’ve found this makes people very confused, especially the ones that were still talking. Are we voting on whether to vote, or are we voting on the motion? Then the facilitator explains, but the people who just started talking after the question was asked are confused all over again. A trained facilitator will know when the room is ready to call for a vote, or another method can be used, like a thumbs-up/thumbs-down “temperature check.”)

3. Use democracy in the private sector

This is the most outrageous proposal at all. It brings us full circle to the quote from “How I stopped believing in democracy.” The author asked, “How does Google just skate along without any suffrage at all, whereas Georgia needs elections?”

Well, why don’t workers have the right to vote at Google, or any other company?

If you’re looking at this question squinty-eyed and thinking “What in the heck is she on about?” then this is the time to notice that you’ve internalized a belief that the private sector–even nonprofits–should not be held accountable to the public interest. Maybe it’s true, maybe it’s not true, but most people have not even thought about it.

The thing is, when we work eight or more hours a day and every meeting we attend has a boss managing the discussion and making all the decisions, we come to expect that even in meetings we hold outside of work. (This goes back to my outrageous proposal #2.) We expect to be powerless everywhere. But what if it was the other way around? What if the public was powerful everywhere instead?



Democracy. Use it or lose it. Our choice.


– Kristin

Election fraud

There’s a debate within the U.S. about whether or not “voter fraud” happened. Did millions of people vote illegally, or is that just another lie? This is the wrong question to ask. It’s taking a big-picture problem and framing one small issue, in order to divide and mislead voters.

It also hides the fact that voters broadly agree on one thing: we want fair elections. The president is calling for a massive investigation of elections but such an investigation will likely exclude:

  • voter suppression — denying eligible citizens the right to vote
  • gerrymandering — dividing up districts in ways favorable to incumbents, and
  • election machines that can be hacked

There’s a lot at stake here. People are pinning their hopes on the 2018 midterm elections, but if we don’t keep a close eye on these three issues, those midterm elections won’t be free or fair. In fact, at the same time as Tromp is stealing center stage on the news, a House committee voted to eliminate the independent election commission because it is “fluff.” (Here’s a link to an article in the Guardian about it.)

So what do we do?

Step one: Pay close attention to language used by the media. If our news sources are talking about “voter fraud,” call them on it. Use a different term, like “election fraud” — one that won’t narrow the issue.

Step two: Get informed and talk to our friends and neighbors. And by the way, if we’re sharing news, let’s look for the most neutral sources possible. A conservative neighbor is no more likely to believe The Nation, for example, than I am to believe Breitbart.

Step three: pick our news sources deliberately rather than waiting to see what new and sensational terror comes through our social media. We should control our viewing of news, not the other way around.

Further Reading

Here are a few quick sources for further reading about ways elections can be compromised:

A Bloomburg Businessweek article on voter suppression, published before the election. These are the words of a senior official in the Tromp campaign:

Instead of expanding the electorate, Bannon and his team are trying to shrink it. “We have three major voter suppression operations under way,” says a senior official. They’re aimed at three groups Clinton needs to win overwhelmingly: idealistic white liberals, young women, and African Americans.

A New York Times article that discusses the background of partisan gerrymandering:

A panel of three federal judges said on Monday that the Wisconsin Legislature’s 2011 redrawing of State Assembly districts to favor Republicans was an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander, the first such ruling in three decades of pitched legal battles over the issue.

Federal courts have struck down gerrymanders on racial grounds, but not on grounds that they unfairly give advantage to a political party — the more common form of gerrymandering. The case could now go directly to the Supreme Court, where its fate may rest with a single justice, Anthony M. Kennedy, who has expressed a willingness to strike down partisan gerrymanders but has yet to accept a rationale for it.

That particular case focused on gerrymandering that unfairly favored Republicans, but the article asks us to rethink whether it’s a good idea to let incumbents of either party should have control of redistricting.

CBS article on whether election machines can be hacked:

Roughly 70 percent of states in the U.S. use some form of electronic voting. Hackers told CBS News that problems with electronic voting machines have been around for years. The machines and the software are old and antiquated. But now with millions heading to the polls in three months, security experts are sounding the alarm, reports CBS News correspondent Mireya Villarreal.

As a counterpoint, the federal Election Assistance Commission says it certifies voting systems:

The Election Assistance Commission told CBS News that it ensures all voting systems are vigorously tested against security standards and that systems certified by the EAC are not connected to the Internet.

But guess what? That’s the exact same Election Assistance Commission the House Republicans committee just voted to eliminate.

No voter, from either side of the aisle, should support that!

cats voting


– Kristin