Workers Wages for #WATWB

IMG_3344Silicon Valley was once called The Valley of Heart’s Delight, because of all the agriculture and fruit trees that used to grow here. The housing development where I live was a pumpkin patch until the 1980s, and I still have a persimmon tree in my backyard. Nowadays when people think of this area, they mostly think of computers and cutting-edge technology: Google, Facebook, Apple, Genentech, 23andMe, and many others. The history of both industries has a dark side: the conditions of the workers that make all this bounty possible.

According to Silicon Valley Rising, an advocacy coalition of labor, faith leaders, community-based organizations and workers, high-tech companies contract out most of their service jobs to workers who are poorly paid and don’t receive basic benefits. Latinx and Black people make up the majority of these janitors, food service workers, maintenance workers, security guards, and shuttle bus drivers who help build and sustain the tech economy. Many of these families have lived here for generations, long before the arrival of the tech riches that have priced them out.

This article, “Silicon Valley Security Guards Approve Contract to Raise Wages,” by Wendy Lee in the San Francisco Chronicle, highlights some recent results of Silicon Valley Rising’s efforts to change this narrative.

Security officer Elizabeth Valdivia’s job is to protect the employees and property of offices in the Bay Area, including from encroaching homeless people.

The irony is that Valdivia is homeless herself, living in her Mercury Tracer because she couldn’t afford a place to live.

Now, after more than five years of negotiations and activism, thousands of security officers at Silicon Valley tech companies will get pay increases, higher healthcare contributions and paid holidays after ratifying this, their first ever union contract, through Service Employees International Union/United Service Workers West. This was one of the largest private sector organizing efforts in California history.

I chose this article for #WATWB because it represents a vision worth fighting for, both in Silicon Valley and world-wide: an economic model that rebuilds the middle class and doesn’t leave hard-working people behind.

~~~About #WATWB~~~

The We Are the World Blogfest (#WATWB) seeks to spread positive news on social media. Co-hosts for this month are: Simon FalkAndrea MichaelsShilpa GargSylvia Stein, and Belinda Witzenhausen  Please stop by and say hello!

~~~GUIDELINES~~~

1. Keep your post to below 500 words, as much as possible.

2. Link to a human news story on your blog on the last Friday of each month.

3. Place the WE ARE THE WORLD Badge on your sidebar, and help us spread the word on social media. Tweets, Facebook shares, G+ shares using the #WATWB hashtag through the month most welcome. The more the merrier!

4. We’ll read and comment on each others’ posts, get to know each other better, and hopefully, make or renew some friendships with everyone who signs on as participants in the coming months.

5. To signup, click here to add your link.

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Thursday Doors: Achtung, Baby!

While regular doors on buildings are a staple of Thursday Doors, I have also liked varying the theme a bit, especially to include doors on other structures, such as trucks, little free libraries, electrical boxes, or porta potties. Or geocaches. Germany is the place for elaborate geocaches, in places and containers and behind doors you might never expect.

For example, what would you think of if you saw this box?

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It looks electrical, and like something you should avoid, right?

Well, in fact, it’s a geocache. Something called a “Travel Bug Hotel.” Travel Bugs are items with a tracking code attached that you can follow online on the geocaching site.People pick them up and drop them off, and they travel from cache to cache. Sometimes they have a goal, a specific place they want to get to. In some cities people set up large caches that can hold many travel bugs at once for drop-off and exchange. These are known as Travel Bug hotels.

Open this door, and this is what you see:

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No danger of electrocution, but unfortunately there were not as many travel bugs as we hoped. The owner appears to have been expecting more too. We dropped one off and took one. And then visited more hotels!

Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favorite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in on the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post and then sharing it, between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American Eastern Time), on the linky list at Norm 2.0’s blog

ThroughTheGate

Follow my trip with this and previous posts:

August 16, 2018: Ku’Damm

August 9, 2018: Berliner Dom

July 20, 2018: Berlin Walk

June 13, 2018: Thursday “Tors”: Brandenburg

June 7, 2018: Germany

A Tale of Two Editors: the makings of The Little Women Legacy

A fun interview with Merry Gordon and Marnae Kelly, the editors of Alcott’s Imaginary Heroes. As someone who moved to New York and married a German guy in real life, I am naturally Team Friedrich!

Much ado about Little Women

I had to ask: Team Laurence or Team Bhaer? Editors Merry Gordon and Marnae Kelly talk Jo March’s ending, how they’d put the March sisters to work at Pink Umbrella Books (not just work of course – they’d go on holiday too), and surprises for fans in the to-be-released anthology, Alcott’s Imaginary Heroes: The Little Women Legacy.

Jo March’s ending – Jo with Friedrich Bhaer, Jo with Theodore Laurence, Jo single, or something else?

MERRY: I’m Team Friedrich. Unpopular opinion, perhaps, but Laurie is such a puppy.

MARNAE: I’m a big Bhaer fan because of the equality of minds in that relationship and the opportunities for growth in both characters.

Who of all the March sisters would you go on holiday with, where would you go, and why?

MERRY: I’d take an English holiday with Jo – specifically to hit up the literary landmarks, as we are kindred spirits that way.

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Play Music on the Porch Day

I’ve always liked “Days.” Like International Violin Day, which may or may not be June 17th, Igor Stravinsky’s birthday. Or International Walk to School Day, which is coming up on the first Wednesday in October.  Sometimes I find out about them after the fact, which is what’s happening right now if this is the first you’ve heard of Play Music on the Porch Day, Saturday, August 25th.

dsc02346Over the years I have eased in to playing outdoors, for example at the Farmers’ Market back in Belmont Massachusetts.

And this spring, I took the picture for the head shot for my Telemann solo with the SBP, out on my back deck. The green of the bushes in the yard blended in nicely with the green of the Yosemite hillside that I chose to illustrate the New World Symphony.

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Still, I’ve never heard live music in my neighborhood. It’s pretty quiet, except for the cars we can hear rushing by on the main street since we’re on the corner lot. When I took the picture for the poster I just posed with my instrument, I didn’t actually play it!

As I’ve mentioned I’m in a handful of Facebook music groups that keep me accountable for practicing. This is where I found out about the Porch Day. Other members of the group were posting videos of themselves on their porches. There was also a waltz challenge, “Play Me a Waltz,” and some players combined the two.

I decided to do that myself. I had been playing chamber music (Arvo Part and Borodin with friends–not on the porch) and when I got home, I found some waltz music I had lying around from fiddling in Seattle with friends from the Facebook group last year. I took it out on the porch and made my husband record me. These are the first takes.

This one is my favorite. I’ve been to the Yukon, and I can understand why one might feel lonesome for it.

We have not done a lot with our house and yard since moving to the Bay Area. But being out there I imagine soirees and house concerts and people laughing and talking.

“What if for one day everything stopped…and we all just listened to the music?”

 

Amazing New Brain Map of Every Synapse Points to the Roots of Thinking

Dave Wolf is on a roll this month with posting cool neuroscience articles! This study, from a team at the University of Edinburgh, is a real tour de force that takes advantage of modern technology in neuroscience. I can imagine that some day that we will be able to map the human synaptome, non-invasively, and in real time. Then we would finally have the tools to address more fruitfully questions such as the nature/nurture debate, how mindfulness changes the brain, even the nature of consciousness and transcendent experiences. Check out author Shelly Fan’s other work too!

author david wolf

By Shelly Fan – Aug 14, 2018*

Imagine a map of every single star in an entire galaxy. A map so detailed that it lays out what each star looks like, what they’re made of, and how each star is connected to another through the grand physical laws of the cosmos.

While we don’t yet have such an astronomical map of the heavens, thanks to a momentous study published last week in Neuron, there is now one for the brain.

If every neuron were a galaxy, then synapses—small structures dotted along the serpentine extensions of neurons—are its stars. In a technical tour-de-force, a team from the University of Edinburgh in the UK constructed the first detailed map of every single synapse in the mouse brain.

Using genetically modified mice, the team literally made each synapse light up under fluorescent light throughout the brain like the starry night. And similar to…

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California’s Emerging Writers

Z Publishing House began as a blog in late 2015 (so my blog is actually older than it is! Jeepers!) I really like their philosophy and approach, which is to produce anthology samplers of different writers, to help compatible readers and writers find each other.

Back when I first started blogging–which is apparently now the dark ages in publishing terms–I wrote a post in which I explored my feelings about admitting that some people are just not ever going to get me, that I am not writing this book/blog post/story/poem/other creative work/ for them. The flip side of that uncomfortable “no” is the “yes” of finding your target audience and connecting with them. I think that process is what Z Publishing is trying to facilitate.

So without further ado, here is my latest publication, in California’s Emerging Writers: An Anthology of Non-Fiction.

CAEmergingWritersNonFiction

It is available directly from Z Publishing House, or from Amazon.

“We like to refer to publications in this series as “sampler platters” of writers and genres, such that readers can quickly and efficiently discover talented authors that they may otherwise have never heard of as well as compelling genres, topics, and themes they may never have given a shot before.”

I have a short essay in this collection. It was inspired by this blog post: Already? Why I don’t like Daylight Saving Time Anymore. This topic is a surprisingly big issue in California this year, with a proposition on the November ballot to institute year-round Daylight Saving Time. I’m against the measure, for the reasons described in my essay and blog. This article by George Skelton in the LA Times also makes a good case for continuing to switch the clocks.

I would personally prefer year-round Standard Time, but I think clock switching is one of those compromises that makes everybody grumble a bit while in the end taking most people’s diverse needs into account. While I don’t agree with the folks who love Daylight Savings Time, I hear and understand their concerns. I don’t think that year-round Standard Time would be fair to them. In fact, my original blog post was subtitled “why I hate Daylight Savings Time.” After a conversation with someone on the other side I re-read the title, with the word “hate,” and decided to change it, for both the blog and the essay. “Hate” is a loaded word, especially these days, and it doesn’t have a place in this argument. I hope that they on the pro-DST side would be willing to give me and my needs the same consideration.

This is now my second published essay that was originally inspired by a blog post, the first being my contribution to Alcott’s Imaginary Heroes. Some of the reasons I started blogging were to write shorter pieces, to practice writing, and to practice finishing a piece of writing. That seems to be working out!

Thursday Doors: Ku’damm

Ku’damm stands for Kurfürstendamm, one of the most famous avenues in Berlin. The miniseries Ku’damm 56 is set in a mid-20th century Berlin dance school. Ku’damm is also the home of the KaDeWe, the landmark department store originally owned by the Jewish entrepreneur Adolf Jandorf. The hotel where we stayed was also located there, called the Hollywood Hotel. Each room honored a different movie star. Ours was Merle Oberon.

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A red carpet leads up to the door of the Hollywood Hotel

The hotel was in walking distance to the famous Kaiser-Wilhelm Gedächtniskirche.

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The old church ~1900. Source: wikipedia, By nl:User:GerardMOwn work.

The church was badly damaged in 1943 during an Allied air raid, and the ruined building has stood ever since in the middle of the bustling city as a symbol and reminder of the war’s horrors.

In 1956, the architect Egon Eiermann integrated the ruin in his design for a new church. The new design consists of concrete honeycomb elements with stained glass inlays.

Honeycomb
Door and honeycomb design of the rebuilt church, built 1959-61

The church was closed as we came back to our hotel in the evening. And these days a Fair Trade Shop sits across from its entrance doors.

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Several doors on the old structure are in use.

But they are not as striking as the empty eye where the stained glass window once sat.

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Or the arched spaces that have earned the nickname, der hohle Zahn or “the hollow tooth.”

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Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favorite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in on the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post and then sharing it, between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American Eastern Time), on the linky list at Norm 2.0’s blog

ThroughTheGate

Follow my trip with this and previous posts:

August 9, 2018: Berliner Dom

July 20, 2018: Berlin Walk

June 13, 2018: Thursday “Tors”: Brandenburg

June 7, 2018: Germany

Countering Hate: SPLC Offers Guides for College Students and The Rest of Us

This is a wonderful post, and the links are very practical. For anyone who wants to speak up but has trouble finding the words.

A Year of Living Kindly

“If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.… Find what’s wrong; don’t ignore it; don’t look the other way. Make it a point to look at it and say to yourself: ‘What can I do to make a difference?’ That’s how you’re going to make my child’s death worthwhile. I’d rather have my child but, by golly, if I got to give her up, then we’re going to make it count.” (Susan Bro, mother of Heather Heyer, killed in Charlottesville on August 11, 2017)

On this one-year anniversary of the white supremacist “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, VA, we need to pause and consider where we are, how we got here, and where we want to be—as individuals and as a country. And we need to commit—or recommit—to being activists in whatever ways we can—whether that means marching, running for office, writing letters, writing checks, or even just living…

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Come out on Sunday, Sept. 30th at Orchard House for the 150th Anniversary of Little Women! Book signing for “Alcott’s Imaginary Heroes: The Little Women Legacy”

Susan W Bailey, another author in “Alcott’s Imaginary Heroes,” writes about the upcoming celebration at Orchard House. Her blog is where I first learned about the anthology and about the community of modern Alcott scholars.

Louisa May Alcott is My Passion

It’s coming up fast! In less than 2 months we will celebrate the anniversary of a classic; a book that has profoundly influenced women around the world since 1868. That book? Little Women of course!

Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House is throwing a bash and you’re invited – Sunday, September 30 from 1:30-4. Stay tuned for details …

A great way to do that is to follow Orchard House on Twitter – @LouisaMayAlcott

“Like” their  Facebook page too.

One detail I can share is that copies of Alcott’s Imaginary Heroes: The Little Women Legacy from Pink Umbrella books will be available for sale. Contributors will be on hand (including me) to sign your copy. 10% of all book sales will be donated to Orchard House.

My essay is titled “Louisa May Alcott as muse, guide and grief counselor.”

Alcott’s Imaginary Heroes: The Little Women Legacy is also available for pre-order…

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Mundane Monday: Skies

Dr. K Ottaway, host of the Mundane Monday challenge, asks us to post this week about skies. But not blue skies, “skies that worry me” (although if you would like to see a really blue sky, check out this post over the White Cliffs of Dover). She posted a fire sky, which inspired me to post one too.

Sunset over Los Angeles made more colorful by haze from California wildfires
Sunset over Los Angeles made more colorful by haze from California wildfires

This picture was taken last year, 2017, from Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles. As with Dr. KO’s picture, the smoke from the fires makes the sunset eerily beautiful.

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Blood moon eclipse

The sky has often been a source of worry. In the past, people looked to the heavens for signs. Eclipses, especially, were thought to portend major events.

We’ve had a few of these in the past year. I hope that instead of the primal response that such events have historically evoked, we humans can use them as signals to come together instead.

 How to Help Victims of The California Wildfires, Refinery 29, by Alejandra Salazar, August 11, 2018