Friday evening, I carried a pot to a potluck dinner, as one does. (I often bring salad or cookies to potluck meals, because they're so portable.) But this potluck was very close to home, so I had an actual pot in my arms, lid held on with rubber bands, wrapped in a towel to keep it warm.

A dog went for it, very aggressively. He was on a leash, but the leash was so long it didn't help as much as I might have hoped. I was scared, and just tried to run backwards. I don't know why I didn't just drop the pot when he clawed at the towel around it.

It would have been scary but not surprising if the pot had been full of beef stew. Nope. It was braised cabbage with apples. It wasn't even pretending to be meat.

Stupid dog.
The other human got the dog under control eventually, and I got past them with no harm done (to me or the cabbage.)

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There really is power in positive thinking. People really do have trouble with "no," beyond being assholes. I knew that. I took the defensive driving class that explained the problem with trying to steer away from a tree. (In a skid, you should steer towards the gap between the trees.)

I've interacted with small children who showed me the value of saying "walk slowly" or "touch the kitty gently," rather than "don't run" or "don't pull the kitty's fur."

Nevertheless, for some reason I didn't stop with "just trim 3 inches off the bottom." I went on to tell the hairdresser, "I don't want it tapered, and and don't even try to get all the split ends off the sides. Just 3" shorter, straight across the back, ok?"

I feel very foolish. And not just because so much of my hair is too short to go into my braid.

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Follow up to my previous post

I just ran into Mr. Emphatic again. I said "Good morning," to him in the T station, without really looking at his face. And there was a shocked little pause before he said "Good morning," in a strangled sort of voice. I looked up, thinking he might be one of Oursin's people. Then I recognized him and fled up the stairs.


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proper and modest

I like public transit. I grew up in a car-based world, where the only way to communicate with other travelers was turn signals and flashing high beams, and those were dangerous. [1] I'm one of those people who smiles at strangers and says "good morning." When somebody asks the world at large, "why are we stopping?" or "when is the bus coming?" I answer. Even when that means talking with a child I don't know.

I try to be polite. I listen to many many fascinating conversations without saying anything at all. I don't want to be an intrusive creep. And when I hear an angry person with bad boundaries, I know I shouldn't get involved in their conversation.

Except last Wednesday, when I met Mr. Emphatic.

Wednesday afternoon I settled onto the bus home from Cambridge. I had one of the sideways seats I prefer, and Mr. Emphatic sat down next to me and started telling me how dangerous my phone was. At first I thought he meant kids-these-day-get-off-my-lawn, because people using their phones aren't doing whatever imaginary wholesome things he imagines, but he was talking about the mind control rays coming through the back. He told me I needed to get an insulating cover, to protect myself. See? SHE has an insulating cover on HER phone. (He pointed to the very young and very distracted preschool teacher on his other side. Her phone had a pink plastic cover, but she had no time to discuss how well it protected her brain from being taken over by mind control rays hackers sent up her arm, as she was busy herding a class of 3 year olds onto the bus.[2]) I thanked Mr. Emphatic for his concern and read "Cold Comfort Farm" with my head down. It's an ebook, and I was reading it on my phone with no cover.

Mr. Emphatic turned his attention to one of the little kids sitting across from us. "Is that a tattoo on your arm?" The kid presumably nodded, and he started talking about how tattoos were ugly. And how they got uglier as the woman's body under it got older. Ugly, ugly, ugly. I was trying to think of what to say[3], if I should say anything, when the whole conversation wound down to silence. Peeking out from under the brim of my hat, I couldn't tell if the three children on the opposite seats were feeling hurt or frightened or what. Or if they were ignoring him. Or if they just believed him quietly, without any fuss.

A little while later, he started telling one of the little girls how terrible it was that he could look up her skirt. I don't remember his exact words, but the first thing he said wasn't that awful...if a woman had said it to another grown woman, it could have been useful information, not an attack. (A whisper about a wardrobe malfunction can be a courtesy.) But it feels different when a man is talking to a little girl so emphatically. He didn't just give her the bit of information, for her to use or not. He escalated quickly from "Here is useful information," to "This is a terrible mistake," to "How dare you make this mistake?" The child's legs were short enough to make it difficult to sit modestly on that bench, in that skirt. And as he scolded her about how wrong it was for her to sit with her legs out, she scooted back and drew her knees up to her chin. This, of course, exposed even more of her legs. He kept badgering her, going on about how terrible it was that he could see all the way up.

I finally told him to leave the kid alone. He argued with me. He didn't slink off, ashamed at being called out for bullying a 3-year-old. He argued with me, saying she wasn't listening to him, and it was really important that he teach her to sit properly and keep her legs covered. Somebody a few rows away turned around and told him he shouldn't be looking up a little girl's dress no matter what she was wearing. (I was very relieved to have an ally.) I tried to explain that he was being intrusive and inappropriate. She's just a little kid, you can't talk to her like that. Children are supposed to learn some things from their parents and teachers, not from strangers yelling at them. She'll learn to manage skirts when she's ready, and it wasn't really any of his business. No, being able to see her legs did not make it his business. No, she wasn't my daughter. No, my children weren't on the bus at all [4]. No, I would not appreciate his "help" at all, if he ever saw a daughter of mine with her skirt up like that--I would want him to leave my children alone.

The woman a few rows away was getting angrier, telling him he should just move where he wasn't looking up the skirt of somebody who was practically a baby. The little girl was chewing on the end of her hair solemnly. I couldn't tell if she was listening to us. In between arguing with the other person about it being the child's fault he was looking between her legs, he argued with me about his moral obligation to teach the child to behave modestly. And that I had no right to stop him, especially because the child was not mine, and I was not taking on the responsibility of teaching her to sit modestly.[5] It was horribly uncomfortable. I wanted to interfere. (I WAS interfering. I mean, I wanted to feel confident that it was right for me to interfere.) And yet my whole argument was that he should not be interfering with this child. That a decent person, even a halfway decent person, would stop intruding on this child even if the intrusion was intended to teach her something useful.

I'm glad I said something. The preschool teacher thanked me, after Mr. Emphatic flounced off. I don't know why she didn't say anything to him. Or to the child when he was there. Or even to the child after he left. I'm glad I said something, but I keep thinking I should have handled it better. I should have spoken up sooner. I should have stood up and gotten between them, so he wasn't looking up her dress for the whole argument. I shouldn't have kept telling him, "Don't say that to her because she's just a little kid." I don't want him thinking the bodies of teenage girls are fair game. Worse, I don't want the preschoolers growing up to think that.

1. When I learned to drive, I heard a lot of conflicting information about what it meant to flash high beams. Warning, there's a police car ahead; Warning, there's a moose ahead; You forgot to turn on your headlights; Pull over at the next intersection or my accomplice will kill you; Pull over at the next intersection AND my accomplice will kill you...

2. You've probably seen outings like this. All the kids in bright matching shirts over their clothes, with the name and phone number of the preschool to make it easy to find and return strays.

3. Leave her alone? He wasn't talking directly to any of the kids. People can do what they want with their own bodies--it's not their job to look exactly the way you prefer for their whole lives? Do 3 year olds even understand that? Stop that, you're scaring them? Was he scaring them enough to break the "none of my business" barrier? They looked unsettled, but none of them were crying, and their teacher didn't seem to think they needed rescue.

4. As most of you know, I have no children of my own. This didn't seem the time to say so. Nor to say that if I ever did have a 3-year-old daughter, I would put pants on her.

5. I am not responsible for this child, or no more responsible for her than for anybody (given that we are all of us responsible for each other.) But I don't care whether or not she learns to sit like a proper and modest young lady with her knees together. I care whether or not she learns to be ashamed of her body. I care whether or not she learns her body belongs to her, instead of whoever might like to look at her.

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free market

Last week, I saw something on The Toast about how emotional labor should be valued more, and how the people who do it (mostly women) ought to get paid for it.
It's a nice idea.

Anytime we try to monetize something, people who value it will try to buy it, and people who don't value it with often do without. It all gets more complicated as people bid up the price, and some run into questions like "Is it more valuable to me than air conditioning?"

Jess is frustrated with being taken for granted (as well she should be), and wants some kind of recompense for the time and energy she puts into soothing wounded egos, teaching feminism 101, and gently convincing men not to pursue women after being dumped. She says:
"Whatever your opinion of capitalism, we’re soaking in it, and by its own rules we should get some kind of remuneration for work that’s highly sought."
But the work is NOT highly sought. An awful lot of people don't especially want to be taught Feminism 101. If we start charging money for Feminism 050 (Remedial Feminism), or seminars in Respecting Boundaries, men who feel they have been wronged by women are unlikely to study these subjects at all. I'd expect them to go running to MRA support groups, and assure one another their anger and possessiveness are right.

(I run into a somewhat similar problem in my own work. I used to have a career in engineering research. I sometimes did a little bit of tutoring on the side, because I was good at it, and I didn't like the idea of people going into the world frightened of math and clueless about chemistry. Now tutoring is the only work I can do for money (for a variety of distracting reasons, mostly related to disability.) I keep running into students who can't afford to pay me. But I want to teach them, because the world would be a better place if they understood just a little more...But I can't work more than a very few hours/week, and I have my own electric bill to pay.)

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the right hand doesn't know

I spend a lot of time looking at bulletin boards these days. (Actually, I spend more time looking FOR bulletin boards. Remind me to grumble about their disappearance.) That's why I saw this gem.

The left side of the poster advertising the Pilates class said, "Pilates allows me to focus on my appearance and my heath in ways that are not abusive or critical."
The right side of the very same poster said, "Want a SCANDALOUS Body?"

The two statements were separated by a picture of a young woman, smiling and not wearing much. I'm not sure if I was meant to be scandalized by her hypocrisy or her outfit. (But they weren't selling the outfit?) Advertising is hard.

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every word of this is true

The most remarkable part of this conversation is that she kept feeding me the setup lines, one after the other.

K: Why were they playing the bagpipes outside your apartment last night?
A: Because they must have known I wouldn't let them practice inside my apartment.

K: Why were they playing bagpipes in the middle of the night at ALL?
A: It was only about 8. All the times after dinner are "night".
K: Why were they playing bagpipes at 8pm?
A: So they wouldn't disturb people by playing in the middle of the night.

K: Why would a bunch of people get together and play bagpipes like that?
A: There was only one bagpipe (one bagpipes? one set of bagpipes?) I was using singular "they," as is polite for a person whose gender I don't know. I mean there was only one person playing. I think one is enough, for practicing bagpipes in this neighborhood, don't you?

K: More than enough! What...why practice the bagpipes at all?
A:This person really needed the practice.

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SAT words

Redbird and Cattitude have a fine new cat tree, with several different high platforms, and scratching posts, and little cat-sized rooms to curl up inside. It matches their living room carpet, and their fine new cats are very fond of it.

As I was looking around for one of the cats, Redbird saw her on the cat tree. "There she is! They both spend hours up on that tree. They really are--"
Then she said "nocturnal" as I said "arboreal," and we both concluded with "creatures."

I didn't originally intend to teach people how to deal with the writing skills part of the SAT. My math students just asked me, and it seemed like a good idea at the time. I still think myself as a math tutor, but by now I've seen enough vocabulary questions from recent SAT tests to recognize they're better than they were in past decades. Less badly designed. Less often ambiguous or wrong.

They might still have a fill-in-the-blank "The cats stayed in the tree most of the day because they were [---- ]."


Many of you have heard me complain about this apartment. It's gorgeous. It's huge. I have been very, very, lucky in my housemates. What's the catch? Mostly, the catch is the landlord. I would also like to be closer to a supermarket and to buses that run frequently and reliably towards places where rich high school students might want tutoring. Thus I am planning a move from Somerville back to Arlington.

I am getting professional movers, because I have the kind of furniture that needs to be moved by weightlifters and cursing. But they are expensive, so I'd like to minimize the time I need them to work. I've also discovered it's very inconvenient to move even a few miles without a car to fetch empty boxes, or take fragile things to the new place. And I'm starting to feel dubious about my ability to pack everything with the body I have available.*

Do any of you wonderful local people have time in the next few weeks when you could help? Boxes you could bring, or rides you could give, or an hour you could spend helping me pack?

*The bodies I have available. Redbird is visiting for the week, but she has a hand injury and I don't want to make that worse. (This is nominally the same problem I had 15 years ago, that transformed into complex disabling chronic pain through overuse, reinjury, mismanagement, and spectacular bad luck.) So she can't do very much, and I am terrified of having her do anything at all.

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first and last months rent

When I moved into this apartment, I paid first and last month's rent to the landlord, and a realtor fee equal to another month of rent. ("Is there a security deposit?" "No, this landlord just wants first and last month's rent.") As February will be my last month living here, I thought February rent had been pre-paid.

The landlord just turned up demanding rent. In the world as he understands it, "last month's rent" can be re-imbursed after the tenant returns a clean apartment with no nicks or scratches. But only an irresponsible idiot would take it as any kind of license to not pay. *eyeroll*

I'm looking for a new apartment, and concerned about this guy being a reference for future landlords. Even though the most critical information he is likely to give a future landlord is that I can be bullied.

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