karlht: (Default)
An excerpt from a note I sent to my mother's family on May 28:

Most of you have met my father Bill at some point --- he and Janet divorced in 1979, and his interactions with the family thereafter were quite limited, but he did come to Lisa's and my wedding in 2000, and most of you saw him and his wife Kathy there.

Bill is about to be sent home from Oak Ridge Hospital with a hospice team -- he had an infection outside his lung that they were able to successfully remove, but the lack of oxygen to his brain, coupled with the liver damage that 50+ years of alcoholism had done to his liver, has meant that he has not regained consciousness since the surgery on May 8th. We had some hope that in the week following the surgery, he might come back to us -- he was breathing on his own, reacting to some stimuli, and seemed to be making slow and steady progress. But it is now pretty clear that recovery of consciousness is unlikely, and that he is in that unenviable twilight state between life and death. The end may come in days, weeks, months -- we don't know. There is no brain bleed and no gross trauma that any scans can see, but his brain seems to have reached its limit in terms of re-establishing connection with his body.

When the time comes, I will let all of you know, and those of us who knew him can gather (with Dan Decious and anyone else I can think of on this coast who loved my parents) and tell stories and toast his memory. If you have suggestions for who should be invited, please feel free to send them in a reply. In the meantime, I ask for all of your good thoughts for Kathy -- their 30th wedding anniversary was April 6, and what this is doing to her is just heartbreaking.

Bill left us about 6am Eastern time this morning. RIP William Ernest Thiessen, born September 17, 1934, in Kansas City, Missouri, died at home in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, June 4, 2015. He taught me how to draw a crystal structure, how to musically blend in an ensemble, how to drive (and parallel park!) a stick shift, and how to make popcorn on the stove. My current profession as a software engineer also owes much to his development of programs in FORTRAN to analyze scattering patterns from neutron diffraction when I was at an impressionable age.
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TL;DR: "We used to do it differently" is a different statement than "You kids these days don't know what you're doing." Under live convention conditions, the first can lead to instructive conversation; the second is a violation of Wheaton's Law that needs no refutation beyond an invitation to the door.

When I help to prepare the staff of my regional convention the week before load-in, I tell them two things: One is "Everyone on the staff is going to be a little crunchy this week, so please cut each other some extra slack." The other is, "Please don't swear at the attendees; we're here to show them a good time, and it's hard to do that if you're grouchy and upset -- if you need a break, tell your department head and take one."

As of this year, I am making one addition to those notes: "No attendee has the right to belittle you or tell you what a terrible job you're doing, or how they could do so much better at your job than you are doing. If they have constructive criticism, they will be sensible and give feedback to your department and division heads, or they will show up at the closing session and air it there. But if they are berating you, particularly, that is not ok. That is not constructive criticism, that is abuse. If your department head is in the room, ask for help. If not, ask another staffer to call security. Do not engage the attendee, do not try to argue with them. Simply have security remove them from your presence. If anyone asks you why you have done so, please feel free to say, 'Violation of Wheaton's Law; Karl said I could.' If you observe this happening as a department head, do not hesitate to call security. Don't worry about refunds, 'this person is a big name,' or any of that. The right to be at our convention does not include the right to abuse our staff."

The fact that I have to add this to my pre-con preparation makes me angrier than I have been in a very long time. I am trying to teach a new generation of fans that staffing conventions is a rewarding thing for them to be doing; exhausting, yes, frequently under-appreciated and strenuous, but community-building, enjoyable, and with moments of real bliss. And one attendee walking into my room and berating my staff turns what has been, for most of us here, a transformative and much-treasured experience into yet another instance of "Why would I want to be here? This is just as bad as retail work, and I'm not even getting paid. At least in solitary fandom I don't have to deal with people telling me to my face how useless I am."

This is completely unacceptable behaviour. Don't put up with it at your own conventions. And if you do it at someone else's convention, expect security to escort you to the door and ask you not to come back.

[The first person to tell me any variant of "Your staff needs to grow a thicker skin" is going to get "Hi, welcome to being part of the problem," as a response. The details of the experience in question here are not subject to audit; I was there, you were not. Yes, I'm angry about it; wouldn't you be?]

[I am posting this to the mailing list because I think a useful wider conversation can be had there without any need for moderator involvement from me; the discussion on my Dreamwidth page will be moderated more heavily, and is likely to cover topics of more interest to my immediate local community rather than to the list in general.]
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I went up to FOGcon this morning to have lunch with a couple of friends. Had a marvellous time, but had to come home early to pick my wife up to go to dinner with her family in celebration of her birthday.

All was uneventful until I got to the freeway exit for our house, where I saw a number of police cruisers and a bunch of flares blocking off the off-ramp. That's odd, I thought, and proceeded up to Skyline Boulevard to come around via Hickey and Callan. At the corner of Callan and Serramonte, some blocks from the house, I encountered another group of police cruisers and a half-dozen officers directing traffic, not letting anyone into the neighbourhood. I explained the date with my wife and her family to one of the officers, who replied, "I understand, sir, and I apologize. But you can't go up there." There were about two dozen local residents standing on the various corners of Callan and Serramonte, so I asked one of my neighbours what was going on. His response:

"They've got a fugitive holed up in one of those apartment buildings at the bottom of the block. They say he shot a San Francisco cop." Ah, that would explain why there were so many SFPD cars down here in Daly City. (SFGate story link)

So I called my wife and let her know to call her mother and let her know we were likely to be late. And after milling around for ten to fifteen minutes chatting with people and determining that no one really had a firm grasp on what was going on, I decided to see how far up the hill the police perimeter extended. Eventually, I was able to approach our house from the uphill side and make our dinner date.

So, long story short: we're all right, but our quiet little neighbourhood wasn't so quiet tonight. I thought I had something pithy to say about the event, but I don't, really. I just hope this doesn't become the new normal, and I am uncomfortably aware that in too many places and for too many people, this is just daily life.

Edited later to add: They haven't found the guy, but the news story made the front page on KRON and KTVU.
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It was lovely to see the parade walking down Market Street from the Castro. (I'm sure there are plenty of pictures floating around the Internet; I didn't feel the need to take any.) So many hopeful people.

I am thankful to be living and working where I am, and to be reminded that we can work together to make life more livable for one another.

If you have been marching, handing out flyers, agitating, and generally raising awareness about the right to marry and have one's relationships legally recognised: Thank you. You have my gratitude and my admiration.
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The past fifteen months or so have been some of the hardest of my life. If you're reading this, you have more than likely been part of the reason I've gotten through them with any sort of grace at all. Thank you.

I've changed jobs. The new gig is very different from the old. (Of course it ended badly — if it hadn't gone badly, it wouldn't have ended.) I am working with two very different teams, each with their pros, cons, quirks and lessons. I have not yet fallen in love with this job, but I come home without that heavy slogging feeling, so that's something.

I know myself better than to promise any sort of creative output, whether it be prose, code, or anything else. I'm not saying that this post will mark a return to regular updates. But my head has broken the surface of the water. I'm still paddling like hell to stay afloat, but I can breathe.

Today, I showed up to the text box in the browser and created something. Keep going, keep loving, keep learning. Some days, that's all you can ask for.

Thanks for reading.
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[Anonymous commenting has been turned on for this entry; you don't need a DW account to comment. Please do sign your comments, however.]

Ten days ago, I was sitting in my mother's living room, listening to her tell stories about her mother and worrying about the pain she was in from a compression fracture in her spine that was not healing quickly enough to suit her, while a dear friend of ours was cooking for us.

A week ago, I was sitting at dinner with my wife and a friend, when I got a call from my cousin. She said, "We're at Sonoma Valley Hospital. Janet has leukemia."

Last night, just after midnight, I got a call from Marin General Hospital. My mother had slipped away in the night, sparing my cousin and me the agonizing decision of how to let her go when it was clear there was no hope.

This is what I wrote in the immediate aftermath:

If I have ever been gentle with you, ever been kind to you when you needed it, been a friend or a support or an ally to you, then raise your glass tonight and drink a toast to the woman who taught me how important it is that we love one another, that we keep one another as safe from harm and as cherished as we possibly can. Remember the good she has done in the world, and tell stories of it to your children and your loved ones. And go forth and make your love manifest in the world — love daringly, defiantly, completely and totally.

Thank you, Janet, for giving me life, and love, and for teaching me to cherish others as you have cherished me.

RIP Janet Roberta Barnes Thiessen. Born December 30, 1940, in Kentfield, California. Died June 13, 2012, in Greenbrae, California. Loving mother, devoted daughter, stalwart friend, passionate believer in justice and fairness, and all around hell of a human being.
karlht: (Default)
(In writing, at least. Not so much in life.)

There are a lot of things going on with me just now. Both of my parents are having serious health and aging issues, I'm re-evaluating my roles at work and in my primary fannish activity, and my social life is slowing down after a year that was best described as a bit frenetic but rewarding.

If you were expecting to hear from me but didn't, please accept my apologies and get in touch again; I can only promise that I'll do my best. I'm not hermiting; there has just been a lot of change in a pretty short time.

Dreamwidth is going to continue to be my primary expression point online, I think. I do still follow my LJ flist, but I hardly ever comment there if I can communicate with folks by other means. Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr all remain completely opaque to me -- I don't have the time or the brain-space for them, and events there will totally pass me by.

If I do wind up writing up a BayCon 2012 con report, it will be published here. I make no promises about when (or even whether), however.

Please continue to take care of one another, and remember that love is a verb as well as a noun. I'll check in as I can.
karlht: (Default)
RIP Dennis Allen McDaniel. Born Nov. 12, 1941. Died at home, Dec. 16, 2011.

My wife's family has always done an extraordinary job of loving me for who and what I am, and Dennis's matter-of-fact acceptance of me as a worthy husband for his step-daughter and a welcome addition to his family was always at the forefront of that love. I could ask for no better model of humanity, decency, and dedication to making a marriage work in the face of everything this unfriendly world throws at us. May memories and stories of him gladden our hearts for many years to come.
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If you're thinking of using your personal friendship with me to obtain not-yet-published information about events I'm associated with, then you don't know me as well as you think you do. And it says entirely too much about what you think of me that you would try.
karlht: (Default)
Naps taken: 2.
Friends seen: 4.
Productive thoughts about interesting problems: a whole bunch.
Incidents of anxiety, anger or raised voices: 0.
Snuggles given and received: lots.

More like this, please.

Happy New Year, folks. Thank you, each and every one of you, for your friendship and your love. Last year was a rough one, and this one will probably be even rougher. Let's do what we can to keep one another out of the Slough of Despond, eh?
karlht: (Default)
Short version: We're OK, we're uphill and upwind of the fire, we have not been evacuated.

That said, it was less than 1500 metres away, just across Skyline Boulevard, and the fireball was terrifying. Getting into and out of the neighbourhood is going to be a bit tricky until they get this thing all the way out.

I'll post a FAQ here sometime today, but for now please accept our thanks for all the good wishes and offers of places to come and stay.

We love you all.
karlht: (Default)
12 days to load-in for BayCon 2010 -- here are my basic tasks:

  • Import dealers list

  • Verify Programming Division's import of the Guest list

  • Email out to +1s, asking for names

  • Obtain and import Artists list

  • Test badge printer [DONE]

  • Transfer database to at-con server laptop

  • Find and kill that last client bug

  • Test clients to make sure they still work

  • Report final pre-reg figures to Chairman at meeting tomorrow

  • Make sure we have enough sheet labels to print pre-reg badges

  • Print proof sheets for pre-reg badges

  • Mail PDFs of proof sheets to Programming, Dealers, and Art Show, and have HR verify the Staff proof sheet



Well, that's a start -- when I get home from running around today, I need to organise those by deadline, and make up a plan.

Strangely enough, my posting volume here doesn't correlate with how frantic I am, so you lucky people may get the play-by-play as I prepare for my last BayCon before The Great Sabbatical.

Take care of each other, you lot. I'll be around and about.
karlht: (Default)
Holy Mother, where did all of this energy come from? I've made the most serious run at our kitchen that I've attempted in months, and put a huge dent in the Laundry Monster.

Don't get me wrong, the upside of the roller-coaster has its advantages, but if there's a crash coming, I had better hold on for dear life. This isn't just spring fever; it's an unholy combination of work stress, shifting relationships, oncoming BayCon, and the stupid cocktail of drugs that keeps me breathing as normally as I can, given 40 years of asthma and related ailments.

Not in a place where I can write deliberately or even particularly coherently, but I wanted to capture the moment so that if there /is/ a crash following, I can make an approximation of the timetable.

I am profoundly uncomfortable with the notion of trying to map my own neurochemistry at nearly forty-five years of age. But if that's what it takes, that's what it takes.
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Yes, I know I'm late to this party. I hope I'm at least fashionable.

This is mostly a placeholder post to get me past the New Notebook terror.

But I'm here, and I have Plans. They may or may not be Nefarious Plans.

I hope that all of you have had a Blessed Beltane, or whatever "the sun has finally come out and the blood is flowing again" holiday is celebrated in your tradition and locale. Mine has been pretty incredible.

More content later, I hope; I'm dashing out the door to get to work.

I leave you with an aphorism which is probably not original to me:


Love and kindness are not the same thing, but cultivating one usually leads to more of the other. Both of them are utterly necessary for healthy human beings and healthy human environments, and they both lead to that wonderful, radical place where all human beings are members of the same great family.


Be good to each other, folks, and go with my love and blessing upon you.

On hugging

Jul. 20th, 2009 02:52 pm
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The discussion on hugging and personal space this morning on b.org caused me to do some fairly serious thinking about a subject that has come up quite a few times in my life, all the way from early adolescence through the present time:

Why am I so attached to the act of hugging, even in the face of the social perils (and occasional disapprobation) that it brings in its wake?

Background first. My immediate family-by-birth are not terribly physically demonstrative -- not precisely repressed, but not given to displays of affectionate enthusiasm, either. I am clearly an outlier in that context, and it's been noticed and remarked upon throughout my life. I am an only child, and while I did not lack for affection growing up, I did feel that I was 'snugglier' than most of the adults around me were quite comfortable with. I was not, as far as I know, prematurely sexualised -- I was not looking for erotic gratification, but simple closeness, and an expression of something more than simple affection ... call it joyful enthusiasm. I am fairly certain that this behaviour read as developing-sexuality to most of the adults around me, and held all of the squicks and 'danger-signs' associated with teaching an adolescent which forms of expression are acceptable and which are not. I know that it made several adults in my extended family curious, if not outright uncomfortable, and they said things to my mother which she passed on to me. She was generally as gentle as she could be about it, but I still vividly remember the sensation of rejection, especially from family. But my mother explained that it was important to take other people's comfort into account, as well, and I did my best to not offend anyone.

With my peers, I was an outlier in a different way. I tried to smooch my next-door neighbour when I was five (she was six), as little boys will do, and she whapped me with her jacket and caught my lip on the zipper, quite accidentally. She was very apologetic, but quite firm in her resolve not to be smooched. And when we became good friends a few years later, we did not engage in rough-housing or much other play that involved physical contact. When I was introduced to the playground 'chasing and kissing game' at age eight, I didn't see the point of running away, really. I wasn't very good at running (the asthma was a bit limiting), and I didn't see the point in trying to smooch someone who didn't want to be smooched, having internalised that first lesson entirely.

I got through elementary school (ages 5 to 12 for non-North American folks) with the usual number of deeply-felt childhood crushes, both on my peers and on the adults around me. I got teased about a number of them, but the adult recipients were generally very sensitive about respecting my dignity. There was one incident (in grade 6 - I was 11) in which I came home crying after a teacher had teased me about having a crush on a classmate, and my mother had a very simple suggestion: Tell the teacher that she had hurt your feelings. It was stunning in its simplicity, and I had profound doubts that it would do any good. But when it happened again, I walked up to the teacher's desk and asked to have a word with her. Doing my best to hold back tears, I told her that the teasing hurt my feelings, and asked her how she would feel if she liked someone and I made fun of her for it? And a truly amazing thing happened. She took me seriously, and apologised to me. Not teacher to student, but human being to human being. And a whole raft of troubles that I had been having that year got a whole lot easier. When I went home and told my mother about it, she held me in her arms while I cried with relief.

What does that have to do with hugging? Not so much on the surface -- but I was taught from an early age to express myself when I was hurt, rather than to shut down -- and 'boys don't cry' was something I just completely didn't understand. When someone was crying, you didn't ever /make fun/ of them, you did what you could to help, no matter whether they were male or female, adult or child.

And from that day to this, that's what I associate the feeling of a genuine, heartfelt hug with -- keeping each other safe and comforted in a world that too often wants to make fun of us for being who we are. And if I can keep that in balance with the knowledge that not everyone interprets hugs in the same way, and pay enough attention to other people's sensitivities and preferences that I don't offer comfort where it's not wanted/needed, I think I may be able to do my small part to make the world a better place.
karlht: (Default)
I've had this account since the beginning of May, and I've dithered about what to put here, whether to crosspost, etc. I'm sure many folks have the New Notebook Problem -- what do I put on that first pristine page? Does it have to be perfect? What foot do I want to start on? and so forth.

I'm no closer to an answer to that than I was two and a half months ago. But I will announce an intention: Twice a week, Mondays and Thursdays, 500 words. Even if it's crap. And it will be crap, at least at first. I'm out of the habit of this writing thing, and it's going to be painful to get back in. But better to go through a few weeks of wince-worthy morning-page stuff than to go another year feeling like I haven't done any creative writing at all.

Things that have been on my mind lately:

  • Social justice in fandom: anti-racism, feminism/anti-sexism, and intersecionality among issues of gender performance, gender identity, self-labelling of sexual orientation/preference (gay, queer, lesbian, vanilla, pansexual, otherly-kinked), race, and peer-group identification (geek, fan, fannish geek, queer geek, nerd, slan).

  • The balance between being a welcoming, inclusive community and keeping members of the community safe. How do we decide when it's more important to tell our stories to each other with all the pain and blood and viscera intact and when it's more important to not trigger one another? How do we develop a set of spaces where both are valued, and the two needs don't trample on one another? How does privilege interact with who gets to tell which stories, and who gets accused of insensitivity to others?

  • I've been on the fringes of many communities for a long time now: SF/F fandom, especially as expressed by the BayCon staff/community, Buffista-dom and b.org, various corners of the Free Software community, Dreamwidth. What has kept me from participating in those communities more fully? How much of that is simply Impostor Syndrome and how much is a desire for drama-avoidance, an almost Buddhist belief that the more I invest in (get attached to) a community, the more heartache (suffering) it will bring me?

  • How can I gently begin to re-structure my life so that I spend less time being exhausted and more time feeling like I'm doing something meaningful, where 'meaningful' in this context means 'increasing the amount of love and well-being in the lives of people around me'?

  • How can I maintain a balance between remaining informed about the social/political issues that are important to my life, my family, and my neighbours and not succumb to primal despair about how utterly and obviously broken our current political system is? How do I find people who can help me make sense of this constant stream of completely ineffective outrage? And how do I keep it from smothering every bit of pride I ever had in this brilliantly deranged democratic experiment I call a home country?



Close enough to 500 words for me. Any and all comments welcome.
karlht: (Default)
OK, here's the deal: For the last few birthdays, I haven't felt much like celebrating. Blame it on the Bush years, the fact that I felt my age catching up with me, or whatever.

But this year we have a new president. Sure, he's not everything we might want him to be, but he's a decided improvement. And he's sane.

In the spirit of solidarity that I have expressed in several posts in this LJ, I would like to celebrate Labour Day as workers around the world celebrate it. We may not throw a parade, but we will sit around the table, eat well, tell each other tales of struggle and of victory, keep each other company and lift each other's spirits. And for many religions, the beginning of May is the start of a sacred season of celebration and feasting, love and fellowship.

Mara's birthday is in late April; mine's in early May. We both have far too many friends we don't see enough of. What more reason do we need to throw a party?

So, the details:

If you can see this post, you're invited. If you want to come and don't have my address, follow this link for more information and directions to the house. Also, please leave a comment here or drop a note to (mayday at gigdrag dot net) to let us know how many of you are coming.

The main body of the party will be on Saturday the 2nd of May, 2009, from about 3pm until we don't want to party any more.

I invite people of a leftist and/or labour-friendly bent to come to the house the previous night, Friday the 1st, and tell stories and share their experiences with Labour Day in other countries, if they have them. Anybody who wants to stay over on Friday night is welcome to do so, provided they are willing to help the housemates and me set up for the Saturday party. I expect the Friday night gathering will be smallish (10-12 people at most), but am willing to be surprised.

On Saturday people are encouraged to show up any time after noon if they are willing to help set up; there will be general milling around and conversation. Folks who don't want to help set up should arrive after 3pm; we'll keep going as long as people want to stay, but Cindy will go to bed around midnight and we should probably keep the noise down after then.

On Sunday, of course, there is a BayCon meeting. Those of you on BayCon staff are welcome to carpool with us to the meeting; we can whomp up breakfast to fortify us for the ordeal. Those who want to stay behind and help the housemates clean up will be forever blessed and your names will be honoured in the House of the Holy Donut.

Presents are emphatically not required; I'm at the age where more stuff is a nuisance rather than a pleasure. Bring me a good story or a heartfelt hug.

Go now, bring your friends who are also our friends (and even a few new folks you think we'd like), and be excellent to one another.

My weekend

Mar. 1st, 2009 04:38 pm
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I have shaken hands with Ursula K. Le Guin. And had a few very brief, very meaningful (to me, at least) conversations with her. She was gracious, warm, very human.

Yeah, Potlatch was worth the price of admission.

I'm still floating; you can probably tell. All I can think of is "At least I got to tell her thank you, and know she heard me."

Thank you again to Molly and Mara for urging me to go. This was a lovely experience.
karlht: (Default)

Build the road of peace before us,
Build it wide and deep and long.
Speed the slow, remind the eager,
Help the weak and guide the strong.

None shall push aside another,
None shall let another fall.

Work beside me, sisters and brothers,
All for one and one for all.


(Emphasis mine. Yes, I've quoted this song before. But it best sums up what I see in front of us.)

May we strive to see the best in others, and strive to live up to the best that others see in us. And bless each other with our love, as much and as often as we can.

Quick plug

Dec. 18th, 2008 04:45 pm
karlht: (Default)
I've put my thoughts about Rick Warren giving the invocation at Barack Obama's inaugural up here at Pam's House Blend, and I'd like some feedback on slogans and other clear ways to get our point across. Please take the poll over there, and comment either there or here. Thanks for your time.

June 2015

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