Friday, July 30, 2021

A Message to Sighted People


I bought the Street Sheet yesterday from the woman I usually buy from on 24th Street, but now she was standing on Market. She asked me if I wanted to buy any of her fridge magnets of Maya Angelou and Nina Simone, but I reminded her that I'd already bought some. (But then again, can anyone have too many fridge magnets of Nina Simone?) Then she recognized me because of the pups. I might be the only person who spends a lot of time walking around San Francisco with a pair of elegant black Standard Poodles.

Why did I only give her $2 -- the minimum? At that moment, I felt I was being generous to buy the paper at all. I thought I was doing her a favor to buy the paper. Often I don't read it at all -- except the poetry issue, which is always fantastic. But after I started actually reading this Street Sheet -- the Disability Justice Issue -- I realized, SHE was doing ME a favor by standing out there selling it! And I plan to read every Street Sheet from now on. I went to the website to donate to make up for my chintzy $2. If you are so inspired: Click here to donate.

Below you can read A MESSAGE TO SIGHTED PEOPLE written by Dlan, which I retyped in its entirety. I hope you take the time to read it. Dlan is clear, kind and helpful. And after you read that....

I urge -- I mean I really URGE YOU to read.....

This is the story of Dlan's life and it's actually
and, unbelievably...

Come on, folks, how often do you get that combo of qualities?? Admittedly, our country shares the responsibility for Dlan becoming a refugee in the first place.

Did you know the U.S. has a program to resettle disabled refugees and their families here? And the program is well and compassionately run! I know, I know. It's weird, but true. So please read the story Dlan's life after you read...

A Message to Sighted People

My name is Dlan and I am blind. I have been totally blind since birth. My whole life, sighted people have been trying to help, but they do it poorly. They often do not understand me and do not think of simply asking me what I feel comfortable with when they have tried to help. I don't need to be grabbed or touched to be helped. I want to spread the message of respect, communication and equality from those with disabilities to people without disabilities.

Here is how to better help blind people:

  • First, don't assume blind people always need help. No matter who you are, some people can do things better than others -- whether they have a disability or not. The way someone does something may simply look different than how you're used to seeing it.

  • Second, you can feel comfortable around blind people, but please make sure you're paying attention to what's around you if you're guiding one of us. At that moment, we are trusting that you are making sure we are safe. If you don't know what to do, just ask. Most of us are happy to answer your questions on how to best give us assistance.

It's easier than you think. Ask and listen to blind people. That's it. It's very easy to help people who are blind or disabled. Avoid making assumptions. If people approach each other with more communication, there would be more respect. Treating each other this way will set us up for better interactions. I know many sighted people want to say and do everything correctly without offending anyone, but don't put that pressure on yourself. How cn you know what to do without learning first from the person that is disabled? Communication is all it takes. And who knows? Maybe we'd all realize that we're more alike than different and can build community.

Bloggelinis: I was blown away by Dlan's writing and moved by the simple compassion of "don't put that pressure on yourself." Other articles were also compelling, like THE RIGHT TO WASH. The Street Sheet is a treasure. Terry

OLYMPIC WOMEN: Norwegians & Simone

The horror! The horror!

You see, they were fed up after complaining for fifteen years of being required to dress like this:
According to the New York Times:
The International Handball Federation requires women to wear bikini bottoms "with a close fit and cut on an upward angle toward the top of the leg." The sides of the bikini bottoms must be no more than four inches. Men, on the other hand, can wear shorts as long as four inches above their KNEES as long as they are "not too baggy."
A spokeswoman for the International Hand ball Federation said on Tuesday that she did not know the reason for the rules. "We're looking into it internally," she said.
Hmmmmm.... Very mysterious, don't you think? Why oh why oh why are the elite women handballers of the world required to wear itsy bitsy teeny weeny bikini bottoms?!? I just cannot imagine what the Federation will find when they look internally. Perhaps if they look internally inside the male Federation executives' pants, they will find the ANSWER!

Of course we all know very well why these women are required to wear bottoms no more than FOUR INCHES WIDE at the side. It is to increase audiences by pandering to the straight men who enjoy seeing women sexualized.

Here we can see the men's and women's teams together:
I have good news for the International Handball Association: If they put all their men in bikini bottoms, they could increase their audience even more! I personally know several men who would pay a LOT more attention to men's handball competitions if that were the case. And there are probably some straight women who feel the same.

But for some strange reason, the Federation only sees the male players as fine athletes, rather than fine athletes AND sexy bodies to be exploited.

From the NY Times:
Martine Welfler, a Norwegian handball player, said there were players in Norway who did not want to compete at an international level because of uniform requirements. (In domestic tournaments, Norwegian plays can wear shorts.)
"That's really sad because maybe the best players won't participate," she said. She also said female players were tired of being scrutinized in skimpy attire. The focus should be on the game, she said.
So this skimpy uniform requirement is actually WEAKENING the Norwegian team. Indeed, if any great handball player is the least bit chubby, she's not going to play internationally because she will certainly be ridiculed. And the uniform requirement precludes any female handball teams from cultures that have a strong tradition of modesty.

The Norwegian women were fined 150 euros ($177) each for their violation of the sacred rules of their sport. Fortunately, the pop star Pink was moved by their disobedience:
“I’m VERY proud of the Norwegian female beach handball team FOR PROTESTING THE VERY SEXIST RULES ABOUT THEIR “uniform,” Pink tweeted late Saturday. “The European handball federation SHOULD BE FINED FOR SEXISM. Good on ya, ladies. I’ll be happy to pay your fines for you. Keep it up.”
It turns out that women have been speaking out against the double standard in uniforms or decades. This is an issue in track and field, beach volleyball, and tennis. And it's not getting any better. Beginning in 2011, elite female badminton players were required to wear skirts, in a bid to increase interest in women's badminton.

I have to say, the high-cut bikini bottom worn by women athletes has always made me uncomfortable ever since it were introduced. I cannot imagine performing athletic feats before audiences if I were dressed like that. It LOOKS uncomfortable. But somehow it never occurred to me that women are FORCED to dress this way.

July 28, 2021

Well, that was what I wrote yesterday about the particular pressures that elite women in sports face. Now today I see that the pressure on the woman at the very pinnacle of the Olympics, Simone Biles, turned out to be too much for her to bear. This astonishing gymnast dropped out of the team competition because she was so overwrought she couldn't control her body anymore.

It has always seemed to me that being the favorite to win a gold medal is an absolutely horrible position to be in. Even when you do succeed, well, it's only what everyone was expecting anyhow. The only real news is when you fail.  What a drag.

And how can it be a FAILURE to win a SILVER MEDAL at the OLYMPICS, as the American women's gymnastic team did WITHOUT their star? The other three young women rallied, took over Biles' performance slots without any time to prepare, vowed to do their best for Simone, and came in second. Isn't THAT a great story?

What is it like to be Simone Biles? She was completely stressed out before the Olympics started. In an interview, she said, "I can't wait... for it to be over." The top gymnast in the world, the 24-year-old African-American has been pushing herself -- and being pushed by others -- since 2013, when she won her first World All-Around title at the age of 16.
Besides all the pressure that comes with such extraordinary achievement, Biles also has:
  • Carried American gymnastics through years of scandal about the sexual abuse of young women athletes
  • Acknowledged her own sexual abuse, and..
  • Embraced being a role model for young women of color in a sport that has been traditionally for white athletes.
And all this during a time when everything is heightened by being played out on social media.

Not to mention that little ever-present detail, the pandemic.

So far, other gymnasts have only expressed sympathy for Biles. They all know one thing that I was not aware of:
Gymnastics is a DANGEROUS sport.
If you make a mistake, you could break your neck.
And Biles was renowned for pushing the boundaries of what was possible for a human body to accomplish. At the same time, she was putting herself out in the world as a spokeswoman for the travails of gymnasts and the hopes of young Black girls. She pushed herself too far. Good for her that she had the courage to realize it and give herself a break, rather than breaking her neck. She said she was inspired by Naomi Osaka, who dropped out of a tennis competition rather than do a press conference that she found too stressful.

Bloggelinis, it has seemed to me for a while that Black women are rising to the the top everywhere. I can only say to that, "It's about time!" When I think about Biles & Osaka, I think maybe they are not only leading in achieving extraordinary things, but also leading in saying "Enough! I cannot do this! I am a human being and I have limits." We need to be able to stop when we've pushed ourselves -- or are being pushed -- too far. Terry


Tuesday, July 20, 2021

A Brief Castro Ramble


When I'm feeling good, I want to ramble. And when I'm feeling BAD, I NEED to ramble. This was a good day, starting with my ramblin' pants. The Lee Pants people must have gotten my message about cheering people up, because not only are they awarding me TOTAL FREEDOM, they actually know that I AM Amazing. Frankly, I'd prefer that the recognition of my amazingness was in a larger font than the freedom business, because I think being amazing is more important than having TOTAL FREEDOM.

Come to think of it, how can these pants give me TOTAL FREEDOM when they have a zipper and a button?!? I mean, if the waist was elastic -- very loose elastic -- then I think they can make the case for the freedom. Although even LOOSE elastic would not reward me with TOTAL FREEDOM. Perhaps "QUITE A BIT OF FREEDOM" would then be an accurate waistband slogan.

Inspiring Slogans on the inner waistband. Capitalism is definitely trying too hard. The Lee folks are trying. Very trying.
When fully dressed -- still amazing but not totally free -- I went out to my deck and witnessed my beautiful new succulent held up by spiderwebs! Thank you, spiders, for preventing my new succulent from falling over!

Self-validating pants, structural engineer spiders -- and I haven't even gone out the front door. My close ex Jessica was visiting, so we headed down to the Castro to have breakfast.
At Spike's, we noticed a new attraction --
The Spike's Rainbow Gay O'Meter!

I'm so happy to live in a neighborhood that is not only so gay, it can invent a meter the measures that quality.

And on the corner of Market & Castro, two separate welcoming murals ....
The large mural on the left of the tower needs to be studied in detail.
"Out of the bars & Into the Streets" gives the Castro an explicitly political identity! But I cannot claim to understand the whole mural. "TRAIN YOUR FRONT-LINE IMMUNE SYSTEM TODAY." What IS my front-line immune system? And how do I go about training it?!?
Perhaps with the sign on the right, we can see evidence of someone who might have been approaching TOTAL FREEDOM. Or perhaps she reached TOTAL FREEDOM and moved on, abandoning this tantalizing sign. An outlaw roller blader, making a living from tips received for teaching illegal roller blade tricks.,,

And what is that strange being on roller blades?!? A sheep? Even if the being has no pants, the amazingness quotient is very high, don't you agree?

Perhaps if I knew what my FRONT-LINE IMMUNE SYSTEM was, I could have trained it to do illegal roller blade tricks.
Absolutely no point in drowning in all of life's "what-ifs." Let's move on!

A heartfelt plea on the left?

A joke?

Could that be a renegade Portland pig in the sheep suit in the sign above, desperately trying to survive far from her Portland home by teaching illegal roller blade tricks? The mind boggles.

And then I encountered Elliot, a Poodle of Presence, as you can see in the close-up. I have a close friend named Elliot, and it seemed such an unlikely name for this tiny morsel with a demonic gleam in his eye.
And the "DO NOT FEED" tag -- heart breaking. But when you're that small, you gotta watch your weight. Perhaps if Demon Dog Elliot could learn illegal roller blading tricks, then he could eat more.... I'm losing it.... I need to eat something....
At last we arrived at our breakfast destination -- Orphan Andy's!
Jessica was very pleased that we could sit outside for breakfast and watch all the F-cars leave on their journey down Market Street. She took great pleasure in the beautiful colors of the different street cars.

That's all, Bloggelinis!

MY OWN LITTLE CHAMPLAIN TOWER or A Hard Story About a Soft Story


How could they have possibly waited so long to make repairs?!?

Of course that's the first thing I thought when I heard about the terrible tragedy of the disintegration of Champlain Towers South in Seaside, Florida. And I continued to think it again and again as I read about the engineer's report and the procrastination of the condo board.

Basically, I thought "I would never do anything like that. Those people on the board were dithering idiots who refused to see what was truly important --- the structural integrity of the building they lived in."
I would never...
I would never...
I would never...
I would never...
But I did.

My home on Douglass Street was built in 1908. It consists of two flats. I live in the bottom flat, a storefront that was originally an Italian bakery. In 2004, we were having some work done on the basement, and a structural engineer came to check it out. He walked in the front door, stopped and looked around. He said to me,
"You know, you have what is known as a soft story."
He went on:
"There's almost nothing holding up the second story except inertia.
It could easily pancake on you if we had a really strong earthquake."

I did not need to be a structural engineer to understand what he was talking about. It was plain to see. The front facade, an old-fashioned storefront, was plate glass windows from one end of the building to the other. The only structural elements holding up the second floor were four sticks of wood around the entrance. In this photo I have drawn (very messy) arrows pointing to two of the sticks. They were -- what? -- 2 inches square? Maybe.

Did a cold chill of terror shake me when I understood that at any moment my upstairs neighbor's flat could come plunging down on top of me? Did I ask the structural engineer
when he could start working on reinforcing/replacing the facade?


But the next time I talked to my father, who was the actual owner of the building, I told him what the engineer had said. My father was very much a man of the world, very rooted in being a grown-up and taking care of business. He responded, "Well, you have a deadline now, don't you? The facade needs to be replaced before the next earthquake."

Did my father, being a man of the world, say, "Since we have absolutely no idea when the next earthquake will occur, please call that engineer first thing tomorrow morning and get started on this project"?

No. We dropped the subject. Perhaps one reason we both felt no urgency about replacing the facade was because the building had come through the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake unscathed.

In 2005, my father died. I was much less likely to take on a major project without him.

Then, April 18, 2006, arrived -- the 100th anniversary of the infamous 1906 earthquake. In honor of the occasion, the San Francisco Chronicle published in the Sunday edition an entire magazine describing what would happen NOW if an earthquake as strong as the one in '06 struck the city. The devastation would be unimaginable.

You see, the 1906 earthquake was SIXTEEN TIMES STRONGER than the 1989 earthquake. Sixteen times! For example, anyone standing at that moment in '06 was thrown to the ground. I was standing in 1989 and I was NOT thrown to the ground. I didn't know an earthquake was happening, so I thought I was having a stroke. But I did not fall.

It just so happens there is a seismograph in Gottingen, Germany that was operating in 1906 and was STILL operating in 1989. So we can see an actual visual comparison of the two quakes.
Sometimes one seismograph is worth a thousand words.

'Nuf said. So, in April 2006, I truly understood the urgency of the facade project. Clearly, if my building had been around in 1906, the second floor would have pancaked on me. And did that motivate me to immediately call that structural engineer?


But eeeeeventuuuuuuuualllllllllly my architect friend agreed to design the project. But he was very busy and had many bigger and more interesting projects that took precedence. We finally broke ground in late 2011 -- FIVE AND A HALF YEARS AFTER I'D DEEPLY REALIZED HOW URGENT IT WAS.

The contractor put up a great deal of scaffolding to hold up the second story as they removed and rebuilt the first story facade. The carpenter started to remove one of the large plate glass windows by sawing it away from the wood at the top....
.... and he couldn't get his saw out because the second story had SETTLED on the saw. In other words.....


That was very exciting for everyone. In fact, over a long period of time, glass turns into water. The windows were already quite wavy. The contractor and carpenter IMMEDIATELY devised a LOT more scaffolding to support the second story.

The job was finished without any further excitement, and today I have a very lovely facade with plate glass windows that aren't quite as wide, to allow for vertical steel and concrete panels at either end. There is also a hidden steel beam that goes across the whole width of the top of the facade and attaches to the vertical panels.
And it was finished before the next earthquake.

What am I trying to say here? That it is human nature to procrastinate about big, complex problems. Perhaps the most important thing in my father's life was the physical well-being of his children. He had plenty of money. But although he was basically rational, he had an unconscious BELIEF that an earthquake would never threaten my life.

And what about ME? I would say the most important thing in MY life is my own continued existence. And yet I procrastinated from 2004 until 2011 on fixing a threat to that existence. The condo board in Florida has nothing on me.

And now, we are facing the crisis of Global Warming. The very urgency and enormity of it --- the reasons that we need to face it fully right now -- are the very reasons that we continue to procrastinate and take half-measures when double-measures are called for.

Now we must rise above our human nature, in order to save civilization itself.

Dear Bloggelinis: I believe It's a matter of getting our governments to act. I want to hear from you about YOUR ideas of what we can (and must) do. Send me links to actions so that I can make a list to send back to you. Terry

Wednesday, July 14, 2021


As I mentioned in my June 18 BAUMblog, my close ex Jessica, my podmate Elizabeth and I spent two days at the beach in San Francisco. We saw many wonderful things. This was one of them:
Jessica took this photo. These are pelicans. We saw SO MANY pelicans, most much closer than this but not so artistically fabulous. Pelicans seem like relics from the time of dinosaurs. There's something goofy and prehistoric about them. Do you remember when pelicans were threatened with extinction? They ingested DDT pesticide with the
fish they ate, and it made their eggshells too soft. Henry Gibson, a goofy pelican-loving comedian, wrote a heartfelt poem in 1970 about it:

It's not the same without pelicans you know?
I mean dinosaurs... Well they're too big to miss...
And besides, it was their own fault.
But we all grew up with pelicans!
I hope the ducks hold out.
But Henry was WRONG! We got rid of DDT and the pelicans are EVERYWHERE! We saw SO MANY PELICANS flying at the beach. Have you ever seen them plummet into the water when they spy a fish? One moment, they're zooming along and then suddenly they drop like a stone. Very exciting. We didn't see that this time. Pelicans make me happy.

This concrete pier is constantly repainted. First time I've seen it with olde English lettering. Very nice. Not often that you find graffiti in ancient script.

An impressive accomplishment.
Left: A work of art I took home with me.

Right: A delicate necklace of shell fragments, carefully assembled.

Next day, we took a walk on Lands End, the northwest corner of the city.
We encountered a dog almost identical to Elizabeth's Paisley! That was kinda exciting. You don't see identical mutts every day. That's Paisley on the right. Jessica, who lives in Manhattan, has been looking for the perfect dog forever. She confessed to me, after two days of driving around with Paisley in her lap, that she had found her Dream Dog. Sadly, Paisley is already the perfect dog for Elizabeth.

We drove back along 47th Ave. (I think) and encountered an absolutely spectacular environmental installation, with a Star Trek/pirate/whatever motif.

I'm not usually happy to see evidence of smoking, but this cigarette butt seems to indicate that the artists, who created this overwhelming environment, actually use it as a place to sit and relax and have a smoke.

Well done, artists! A true gift to the streets of San Francisco!

Moving on, there were morsels of delight scatter through the neighborhood.

The finest skeleton surfer in flip-flops I've come across lately.

I confess, I would never have the nerve to paint my house like this. But I'm always thrilled to come across someone who does! You know they did EXACTLY what they wanted!

This is the Honey Hive Gallery and Community Center.
While the Doggie Diner is long gone, the Doggie Diner Head remains as the mascot of the Outer Sunset. A group of citizen activists put up a fierce fight to keep the Doggie Head when the actual diner went kaput after many years.

Our last morning, we went out for a final walk on the beach. We discovered the parking lot full of vans and trucks from the the Fire Department. We asked this astonishingly gorgeous mermaid with her wetsuit half off what was going on.
Apparently, every firehouse has a specialty, and the specialty of her firehouse is ocean rescue. They had just finished their monthly practice drill to keep up their skills, and were packing up to head home. Unfortunately, I cannot remember her name. She said they had done an unusually large number of rescues in the past year -- around 250. She loves her work as a firewoman. She is able to work three days straight and spend the rest of the week at home with her kids.

Quite a lovely encounter to cap off our beach adventure.

Well, Bloggelinis: That's it. Just another beachy ramble. The Outer Sunset still has that funky San Francisco vibe. All for now. Terry