Joining Mastodon and Getting a Calm Setup

I’m so happy I got into Mastodon years ago and have found a way to use it that keeps me happily engaged with interesting new stuff and connected to my friends without becoming overwhelmed. Here’s my advice on how to get started and optimize your experience.

Come on over to Mastodon! It’s lovely!

Mastodon is part of the Fediverse of federated servers that can share messages, but have their own rules. A server is kind of like a service provider; like how you get your mobile phone from one company but can call people who get theirs from different companies.

Right now there are not that many open servers to choose from because so many new people have arrived at once and some of them are very specialized communities, but that will quickly change.

When you join, I recommend setting things up using your computer rather than a phone or tablet, just because it’s a little easier to get familiar with things on the bigger screen.

Sign up using joinmastodon.org ‘s Create Account button.
(You can get the app later if you want, but it works fine in current browsers.)

You’ll then see a list of servers that are accepting new members.
Pick your server by looking at their about page and expanding their Server Rules section. For example, here’s Mas.to
https://mas.to/about
I don’t know this server from personal experience, but here are the clues to me that it might be a good one to join:

• I can see on the upper left that there are thousands of active users. That means that it is being well-enough administered to keep people there. (It is easy to take your follow/followed list to a different server later; you just leave behind your old posts. So if people aren’t leaving, that’s a good sign.) A server with fewer than 500 or 1000 users may not have gone through its growing pains yet, so you may want to keep looking.

• The rules look good! This is the kind of community environment I want to be in.
“No discrimination, including (but not limited to) racism, sexism, homophobia or transphobia.
No explicit (NSFW) content without content warnings and/or sensitive media markers. Explicit content must not be used in user avatars or header images.
No harassment of other users on this or other servers.
No content illegal in the following countries: United Kingdom, Germany
No incitement of violence or promotion of violent ideologies.
No disinformation regarding public health issues or political/military campaigns.
No spam. This includes commercial advertising, promotional campaigns, and SEO.”

If you like what you see, click the ‘Create Account’ button on the upper right of their about page. 🙂

If you have trouble, give it a few more days. There are lots of new arrivals and all the server administrators are scrambling to expand their capacity, so it’s not always running as quickly as usual, but that will be a brief problem and well worth all the nice new folks coming in.

Once you’re in your account, I recommend experimenting with the ‘Advanced Web Interface’; it’s not that advanced, it just gives you multiple columns which is a great way to find your interests and have them part of your default view. (⚙️Preferences > Appearance > ☑️Enable advanced web interface )

With that view you’ll start out with your Home column. That shows posts from everyone you follow and their “boosts”. That timeline is chronological, not based on an algorithm moving things around and adding advertising.

Boosts are like Twitter’s retweets—they share something to your followers and help that post show up in the Explore view—but you can’t add text on top of the share or “quotetweet”. (That is an intentional design choice to prevent people “hate sharing”.)

In Mastodon, you can also ⭐️Like, which shows up in the poster’s notifications and lets them know you liked something, but doesn’t otherwise affect anything.

No one’s posts are searchable on Mastodon—people can’t go hunting for someone to hassle using keywords like they can on Twitter—but hashtags are searchable. And when you search for a hashtag, the results will show up as a new column.
Click the slider controls icon and you can pin that column to your display.

Screenshot from the top of a Mastodon column. Top shows the hashtag—#BirdWatching—along with a back arrow, a person icon with a plus sign on it (to follow this hashtag in your Home column), and an icon of some horizontal slider bars. Below that is "+ Pin". 

The latest post for this hashtag is below and shows a user icon, their display name, their user name in the format @UserName@ServerName), a globe icon to show this came from another server not local, 1h indicating it was from about an hour ago, and the post itself. 

The post says "Had the great privilege of hanging out with some White-winged Choughs at Uni of Newcastle Callaghan campus. These highly social birds are fun to watch as they interact in their little group! #birds #BirdWatching #WildOz" and two pictures of gray birds with pink mouths and yellow eyes, whose wings reveal white feathers when they spread them.

Now you don’t have to search for it again, but instead when you go to your Mastodon account you’ll find all your birdy interests right there!

Notice how the person who posted that example, cytokine_storm, has the rest of their address starting out with something that isn’t my server, mastodon.social, but instead is “@aus.s…”. That’s because hashtags pass around between all the servers of the Fediverse. You don’t have to find the server where the birdwatchers are, you just have to watch the #birdwatching hashtag and their posts will come to you.

It gets even better because once you’ve pinned a search result into a column, you can further refine what that column displays. Say I want to see posts about #gardening. Here’s the column when I first pin it and expand the controls by clicking that little sliders icon.

A pinned Mastodon column for the #gardening hashtag expanded to show options for the column. Switches: "Include additional tags for this column" and "Local only". Below that is "x Unpin" to remove the column and arrow controls to move it left and right in your display of columns. The posts shown below both have many hashtags and are people introducing themselves.

Notice how people are listing the hashtag in their introductions. That’s nice, but say I actually want to skip most of those. I can turn on “Include additional tags for this column” and it changes to this:

The same top information for the column pinned to show #gardening, now with the "Include additional tags for this column" switch turned on.

Three new text boxes are displayed. 'Any of these', 'All of these', and 'None of these', each with "Enter hashtags..."

I can do lots of fine tuning with these controls!

The same controls now altered to have #Mosstodon and #LichenSubscribe in the 'Any of these' box and #Introduction in the 'None of these' box.

The posts at the top of the column have changed, with the #Introduction hashtagged ones not shown. The most recent one is now a post from someone about a vintage botanical print with that pretty illustration and the second says "Any websites or advice from people who know about #permaculture #gardening #rewilding & #mycology?"

There’s still lots of growing pains with Mastodon and the Fediverse, but so much less social pain than Twitter. It’s clear that this is a much healthier way to do social media.

The social media tide rolls in and out

One of my big projects this week was updating the privacy, advertising, and linked apps settings in my Twitter accounts to the most private and secure option. Some I’d already done, but some new sharing had slipped by me and defaulted to opt-in (grrr 😠). I’m very glad to have done so, even staying up later than planned on Thursday night to finish the last two. Friday when I logged in I was greeted by this:

Twitter alert: "An update to your data-sharing settings. The control you have over what information Twitter shares with its business partners has changed. Specifically, your ability to control mobile app advertising measurements has been removed, but you can control wheter to share some non-public data to improve Twitter's marketing activities on other sites and apps. These changes, which help Twitter to continue operating as a free service, are reflected now in your settings."

The downhill slide is faster than I expected, and, based on the whistle-blowing-adjacent leaks coming out of Twitter as they fire key people and others walk out, the collapse is going to be dire and possibly complete. I thought Twitter would continue to degrade and there would be a bleed off of users and brands, but this is dramatic. There are 1 million more people using Mastodon today than there were on October 27th.

I had six Twitter accounts. Two were inactive, one no longer used, one never used. Two were rarely used, FeralHistorian and Discardia. The deactivation process has been initiated on these, though I have to wonder if Twitter as a platform will even survive long enough for that 30 day process to complete. Two were used more often, but still not much at all since 2018, MetaGrrrl and Bibulous. Yesterday I requested a new export to archive anything on those since 2018. I wonder when and if that will complete. There isn’t much to lose so I’m not stressing over it.

Once I have my exports, I will deactivate those accounts as well. Entirely deleting content from the web is not my general approach, but Twitter is a toxic space and want no further part of it. Yes, this probably means someone will do something dreadful with those usernames eventually, but as we’ve seen this week, Twitter identity has been made a mockery and we all just need to get better at verifying legitimacy of sources, especially when they say something surprising, uncharacteristic, or dramatic.

As I go, I want to salute the good things that Twitter brought over the years, particularly its role in tearing off the blinders from comfortable liberals like me about how extreme and real and currently occurring systemic racism, misogyny, and anti-LGBTIA+ activity is. Grateful too for the random loveliness of Twittering shepherds, snarky museums, and all the other smiles, inspirations, and insights over the years.

I joined Twitter in September 2006. I have a vague memory of sharing a cab from the airport to SXSW with Ev in March 2007, when he was still very involved. I used it a lot and many folks I was interacting with in the early years are still folks I’m interacting with on Mastodon now.

I guess 12 active years plus 4 occasional checkins years is a pretty good run for using a particular web service.

Election Slate November 2022

Governor: Gavin Newsom
I continue to be pleased with his work as Governor over a very turbulent period. With the challenges of climate change growing ever more intrusive, I want to see as self-sufficient a California as possible. Our economy is the 5th largest in the world and we need as effective a leader as Newsom.

Lieutenant Governor: Eleni Kounalakis
Seems to be doing a very good job judging by the state of the state.

Secretary of State: Shirley N. Weber
I like the job she’s been doing.

Controller: Malia M. Cohen
I’ve been pleased with her work in San Francisco and she handled the task of Board of Equalization well.

Treasurer: Fiona Ma
Another great, solid, long-term performer in the state’s best interests.

Attorney General: Rob Bonta
Done a good job since appointment, and doing an especially nice job at keeping the public informed; let’s keep him at it.

Insurance Commissioner: Ricardo Lara
Seems to be doing a good job; no compelling reason to disrupt things with a change.

Board of Equalization Member, District 2: Sally J. Lieber
Whether California’s Board of Equalization, the only elected tax board in the country, should exist at all is definitely a question. Certainly we need more protections against money flowing as campaign contributions to someone who may make a judicial decision for the donor. But while it exists we need good people elected to it. Lieber has good endorsements.

United States Senator (both term ending Jan 3, 2029 and remainder of current term): Alex Padilla
Easy choice. He was great as Secretary of State for California and it’s good to have him in the Senate.

United States Representative, District 11: Nancy Pelosi
In the primaries I was still in the same place I was two years prior on this. Pelosi served us very well in getting through four years of Trump/Pence/GOP policies without losing more ground than we did. Do I agree with her on everything? No. Is she as effective as anyone could be as Speaker of the House right now could be? Yes. Is there an obvious experienced next choice for Speaker of the House if she doesn’t remain in office? No. We need her insider savvy holding the line and taking the heat as we weather the next two years. (Also, it gives the progressives we’ve elected time to build a little more seniority and have a little bit better chance of important committee positions in any upward shuffle.) When the choice is Pelosi or a Republican, then I’m even more strongly in favor of Pelosi.

State Assembly Member, District 17: Matt Haney
I was impressed by Haney through the primary campaign, and am not a Campos fan.


Judicial positions: Yes
Judicial elections are bad. Judges should not be in the business of campaigning, raising money, and so forth; they should be appointed to life terms by the political branches, removable for cause. But here we are nonetheless. In California, justices of the Supreme Court and Courts of Appeal are appointed by the Governor, with periodic referenda on whether to “retain” them. Justices are almost always retained.  Between 1934 and 1986, no justice ever failed his or her retention vote. In 1986, three justices of the Supreme Court were voted out (arguably) because of their principled opposition to the death penalty. No Justice has failed a retention vote since then. So, vote yes on retaining appellate judges! The fact that there’s a vote at all is bad, but the least we can do is vote “yes.” Especially for Goodwin Liu who will be excellent.

Superintendent of Public Instruction: Tony K. Thurmond
I’m glad I voted for Thurmond before and will do so again. Great endorsements. I first was drawn to him by his commitment to quality public school education and teaching critical thinking rather than a “teach the test” approach.

Member, Board of Education:
Member, Community College Board:

I’m neither a student nor a parent. Based on the candidate statements for BoE, I’m leaning Ann Hsu, Lainie Motamedi, and Lisa Weissman-Ward mainly because of the Scott Weiner endorsement.
Likewise for CCB, I’m voting for Thea Selby, whom I’ve supported in the past, and leaning John Rizzo because of the Scott Weiner endorsement and Murrell Green because of the Eleni Kounalakis endorsement and a strong candidate statement.
(I live in Dean Preston’s district and consider his endorsements a negative point for a candidate; he has not been a great advocate for the neighborhood and did some cruddy campaign stuff in the past when he first ran.)

Assessor-Recorder: Joaquín Torres
Seems to be doing fine.

District Attorney: Brooke Jenkins
Doing fine and good endorsements.

Public Defender: Mano Raju
Doing fine and hard to argue with that list of endorsements.

State Propositions
1 CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO REPRODUCTIVE FREEDOM: YES
Enshrine the right to abortion as a personal decision in the state constitution.
Planned Parenthood, NARAL, ACLU, California Medical Association, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, League of Women Voters, and CA Democratic Party are in favor. Opponents (Republicans, California Conference of Catholic Bishops, Knights of Columbus, other abortion foes) say it’ll cost a bunch of money but current analysis is it will have no direct fiscal effects to the state.

26 ALLOWS IN-PERSON ROULETTE, DICE GAMES, SPORTS WAGERING ON TRIBAL LANDS: NO
Would legalize a bunch of sports betting at California American Indian casinos and racetracks. and tax it at 10%. Opposed by Republicans, existing casinos and racetracks, but also by SF Chronicle, LA Times, and Mercury News and East Bay Times Editorial Boards. There’s apparently been a bunch of lawsuit issues around sports betting and online gambling (see prop 27), and the funds this generates can fluctuate in ways that are risky for local government.
I’m not a big fan of gambling as a government revenue source—it’s exploitative in a way that other recreation isn’t. The immediate negative impact of this is probably going to be on existing card clubs. The long-term impact is probably going to be more money flowing into gambling as business and encouraging more gambling generally, which I don’t think is great for society.

27 ALLOWS ONLINE AND MOBILE SPORTS WAGERING OUTSIDE TRIBAL LANDS: NO
As above, but online which reaches even more people, even more easily, and even more likely to reach those to vulnerable to the harms of gambling. Seems to be an out-of-state gambling corporations power grab. The veneer on this one is funds for relieving homelessness, but best case likely would be less than $500 million per year with regulatory costs in the tens of millions. Opposed by the Democratic, Republican, and Peace and Freedom parties, which tells ya something.

28 PROVIDES ADDITIONAL FUNDING FOR ARTS AND MUSIC EDUCATION IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Yes
Sets a minimum source of annual funding for K-12 arts and music education funding. Nobody is opposing this. Gotta love seeing “If you are aware of any opponents or opposing arguments, please send an email with a link to editor@ballotpedia.org”!
Edited to add: One argument I’ve since heard is that this set-aside is fine while the state has lots of money but could lead to tough choices if finances get tight. I personally don’t think that risk is high enough to offset the benefits of the continuity of funding, the employment that comes with that funding, and the creative and inspiring education which kids really need. I’m still a Yes.

29 REQUIRES ON-SITE LICENSED MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL AT KIDNEY DIALYSIS CLINICS AND ESTABLISHES OTHER STATE REQUIREMENTS: NO, for the third time, NO
Back every other year with a crappy proposition, apparently, here’s SEIU-UHW spending about $8 million to try through government mandate to get the big dialysis clinic companies to change their processes and staffing. No other state requires a doctor on site, the patients who come to clinics already have a physician they work with, and this isn’t a matter for the ballot, particularly when there isn’t evidence the current arrangement has harmed patients.

30 PROVIDES FUNDING FOR PROGRAMS TO REDUCE AIR POLLUTION AND PREVENT WILDFIRES BY INCREASING TAX ON PERSONAL INCOME OVER $2 MILLION: YES
Great list of endorsements from firefighters, medical professionals, clean air advocates and other environmentalists. This impacts 0.2% of California taxpayers—that’s 1 in 500, because we’re a rich state. The rich here, as elsewhere, have benefitted from the same economy that helped create climate change and they’re rich enough to pay 1.75% more on the extra money they earn beyond the first $2 million (which should be enough for anyone). Note that Lyft has spent $35 million in support of this, leading Gov. Newsom to oppose it; but even though the state is doing a lot, we need to do more to decarbonize the state and it’s worth it even if Lyft benefits in the short term. LA Times Editorial Board opposes saying “Proposition 30 would push the top-earner rate to 15.05%, which is much higher than other states, most of which have income tax rates in the single digits” as if the other states have it right. I don’t think so, I don’t think we tax the rich enough and climate change is the most pressing problem we have, so let’s get that money to do something about it fast. The clock is running out on being able to make these changes.

31 REFERENDUM ON 2020 LAW THAT WOULD PROHIBIT THE RETAIL SALE OF CERTAIN FLAVORED TOBACCO PRODUCTS: YES
We do not need candy tobacco any more than we need candy asbestos. Will it cost Phillip Morris, ITG, R.J. Reynolds, Swedish Match, and American Snuff money? You know it must because they’ve shelled out nearly $21 million trying to get people to vote no. Big doners in support are Michael Bloomberg, Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, American Cancer and Heart and Lung Associations. Fuck the cancer profiteers; vote YES.

City and County Propositions
A Retirement Funding: YES
Tidy up retirement security for people who retired before late 1996. Rubberstamp by electorate on unanimous Board of Supervisors action. No opposition.

B Adjustments to Sanitation and Streets Department Affiliation: YES
Move Department of Sanitation and Streets back under DPW after vote to move it out to a separate department in Nov 2020. (That vote also created a separate oversight commission, which yes on B does not eliminate.) This streamlines government staffing and therefore costs to the tune of around $2.5 million a year ongoing, possibly more. Supported by the mayor, city administrator and lots of the board of supes, but opposed by sanitation workers’ union and related workers. I gotta say, I haven’t seen an improvement in the state of our streets in the past year, so having additional bureaucracy doesn’t appear to be an approach that’s actually creating results. Better to save the money and lean into not having corruption in that department. The opposition arguments are basically all the same argument with a different “we are the [workers] who [do dirty job]” phrasing. There isn’t a nuanced opposition to this which suggests the diverse support is more valid.

C Homelessness Oversight Commission: YES
Creates an oversight committee for the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing. Minimal fiscal impact. Rubberstamp by electorate on unanimous Board of Supervisors action. Opposed by Republicans and, in an odd combo, SF YIMBY. The latter is concerned it will slow down action and diffuse accountability, but if there were real worries there I don’t think we’d see an unanimous Board of Supes vote, so I stay Yes on this.

D Streamline Approval of Some Affordable Housing (from 80K+ signatures, pushed by YIMBY groups): YES
Fast-tracks multifamily affordable housing and still requires compliance with Planning and Building codes. Also requires certain projects to provide health care benefits to workers and apprenticeship opportunities. Minimal impacts on cost of government. Great endorsements including Habitat for Humanity, Scott Weiner, NorCal Carpenters Union, and SF YIMBY. Concerning opposition from SF Tenants Union, SF Labor Council, and Council of Community Housing Organizations who don’t like its definition of “affordable” and are opposed to building more market rate housing before below market rate. Personally I don’t think it is realistic to expect a ton of new below market rate housing to be build, but that an influx of any housing creates more affordable housing at the bottom of the total housing pool. San Francisco needs 82,000 more units by 2031 to preserve state and federal grants; we need to build and this will increase building.
If D passes with more votes than E, then E has no legal effect.

E Streamline Approval of Some Even More Affordable Housing (Poison pill for measure D; from certain generally anti-building members of Board of Supes in a 7 to 4 vote): NO
Fast-tracks 10+ unit, even more affordable than measure D housing and still requires compliance with Planning and Building codes. Has more requirements than D on compensation, workforce composition, and apprenticeship. Retains veto power of Board of Supervisors which measure D does not. Supported by many very very liberal organizations and individuals. Opposed by YIMBY groups. This promotes a lovely vision of more affordable, targeted to specific worthy groups housing, but suffers from the reality check of what building projects it will actually result in. It’s yet another case where the vision of nearly perfect won’t result in as much good actually resulting in the real world as the compromise with a good chunk of positive requirements. SF extreme liberals—and I chart pretty far left, so these are waaaaay left folks—have a real problem with holding out for ‘perfect or nothing’ and we end up with a lot more nothing.
If E passes with more votes than D, then D has no legal effect.

F Renew Library Preservation Fund For 25 Years: YES
Minimal impact on cost of government, as it just renews existing uses of property tax funds and other city revenues. Rubberstamp by electorate on unanimous Board of Supervisors action. No opposition. Libraries perform an absolutely vital service, even more so in an area like ours with profound income inequality.

G Grants to SF Unified School District: YES
Additional school district money for academic achievement and social/emotional wellness. Programs could include academic tutoring, math and literacy specialists, additional social workers, arts and science programming, or afterschool and summer enrichment. Nice requirements around school/parent/community involvement; it’s not a blank check for the school that gets the grant. Pretty significant fiscal impact, pulling money from General Fund to this allocation to the tune of $11 million next school year, growing to 35 and 45 the following two years, and 60 each year after that through fiscal year 2037-38. Rubberstamp by electorate on unanimous Board of Supervisors action. Widely supported by educators. Opposed by Republicans and anti-tax folks (the Howard Jarvis crowd). School kids got royally screwed by the pandemic; this is the chance to recover from it. We’re a rich city, it’s a solid investment, and it will pay off.

H Streamline Local Election Timing To Even Years, Change Minimum Number Of Signatures To Put Things On Ballot: YES
The election timing thing is a no-brainer; normal things around local office and measures elections don’t move so fast that we can’t do this every other year. Streamlines costs. This would extend the current terms of mayor, sheriff, district attorney, city attorney and treasurer by one year, and I’m fine with that. Currently to qualify for the ballot, a petition must include signatures from San Francisco voters equaling at least 5% of the votes cast for all candidates in the preceding election for mayor. As of July 2022, these petitions require a minimum of 8,979 signatures. That’s a really small percentage of the population to require all of us to research and vote on it. This only changes it to 2% of registered voters in San Francisco, which was 9,948 as of July 2022. Still pretty small, but better, and more tied to potential election participation rather than turnout. (Though it should be noted this will likely increase turnout.) Opposed by Ritchie Greenberg because it “undermines our democratic norms” and by other Republicans because the ballot in those years would be too long and voters would have to think too hard. Six ballot cards! Instead of the 5 we have this election. Oh the pearl clutching! Supported by pretty much everybody else.

I Cars On JFK Drive and Great Highway: NO
Got on ballot by signature drive. There are legitimate disability access concerns yes, but the new dedicated ADA space parking lot and the coming additional accessible shuttles (adding to the current every-15-minutes shuttle) are solving those issues, as well as the reduced traffic making things much more accessible for all. Measure I will also block the Ocean Beach Climate Change Adaptation Plan, which is just not okay. And it will mess up the lovely alternate weekend use of the Great Highway for non-cars. This is an end run around a two year public process that resulted in a workable compromise plan. Also probably will cost as much as $80 million in increased project costs to change the existing compromise plan. Some disability groups but by no means all, some museum groups, and some neighborhood groups, as well as driving advocates are in favor. SF YIMBY is opposed as are lots of of environmental groups, walking and biking groups, and SF Democratic party.

J People On JFK Drive: YES
This preserves the open spaces added during the pandemic on portions of JFK Drive and certain connector streets in Golden Gate Park, keeping them free from private cars seven days a week. The Mayor, Board of Supes, parks and green space fans, SF Democratic Party, waling and biking advocates, Scott Weiner, health care professionals, Honey Mahogany, nearby small businessfolk, SPUR, Church of 8 Wheels, YIMBY folks, etc. etc.are in favor. The folks who support I are opposed.

L Continue Half-Cent Sales Tax; Transportation Funding: YES
Continue the existing sales tax to pay for transportation projects another 30 years. Rubberstamp by electorate on unanimous Board of Supervisors action. No opposition other than anti-Muni gadfly David Pilpel and local anti-taxation/anti-government folks including of course Quentin L. Kopp.

M Tax Mostly-Vacant Residential Units In Three+ Unit Buildings: YES
Note that this isn’t an empty home tax as it exempts single family homes and duplexes, but it does incentivize getting people into existing housing or at least making some money from it to build new housing. This got to the ballot by petition. SF YIMBY is in favor, not because it will make a huge difference (brings in about $20 million annually since it probably affects about 8,000 not 40,000 units), but because it does something anti-development policymakers spend a lot of energy on and lets the focus move ahead to the real challenge of housing affordability not vacancy. Supported by SF Democratic Party, some housing access advocates, lots of local elected officials, diverse community groups, SF Tenants Union and related organizations, some labor unions, and the Coalition on Homelessness. Opposed by the SF Apartment Association and other landlords, and of course the anti-tax Howard Jarvis folks.

N Public Parking Under Music Concourse In Golden Gate Park Managed By Rec And Park Commission: YES
Placed on the ballot by Mayor Breed because the existing parking is expensive and sits vacant much of the year. Even with some subsidizing of parking for visitors, the City Controller says this may reduce government costs as it could allow refinancing existing debt. Walking advocates, neighborhood groups, SF Democratic Party, and SF YIMBY are in favor. No opposition.

O Additional Parcel Tax To Help Fund City College: Yes
This would not apply to those that don’t have to pay standard property taxes (e.g. certain non-profits) or to those in which one or more owners is 65 that fiscal year. Cheapest increase (one residential unit or for a duplex; or non-residential under 5,000 square feet) is $150 for 2023. Highest is non-residential over 100,000 square feet at $4,000.
This is opposed by Mayor Breed, Supervisors Peskin and Stefani, and (strange bedfellows) public conservative and anti-taxxer Quentin Kopp, on the grounds that a lot of money has already gone to City College, the school has had lots of problems, and there isn’t even a plan for spending the funds. Lots of large apartment landlords and realtors are also opposed (the latter apparently most incensed by the idea that commercial real estate will be “taxed like a taxpayer’s home!” I don’t think they workshopped that to see how it sounds from the outside.)
It’s supported by Board of Supes President Shamann Walton, the City College Faculty and Staff unions, Firefighters Local union 798 (because City College has fire training programs), and many diverse other individuals and groups including lots of educators.
I do see the reasons for a No, but I think there are stronger arguments for continuing to invest in City College as a vital tool in helping address income inequality in San Francisco. City College is a much needed ladder to help people have greater ability to earn a living.

Reduce your front-door distractions!
Once you’ve filled out and mailed or dropped off your ballot, put your “I voted!” sticker on a piece of paper and tuck it under the edge of your doorbell. Saves you from folks pointlessly coming to the door trying to swing your vote.

Memory and Privacy

I was strongly influenced by Justin Hall when I first started my blog in 1998 and used a very personal voice. Still do, obvs, as I talk to a reader which might be a person I know, one I don’t, my future self, or unfortunately increasingly these days a scrapebot for AIs or spam trying to steal a human skin for itself.

But I calibrated myself by one of the very most personally exposed humans on the Web, and that led me, in my crowd of personal sharers, to think of myself as holding a fair amount back. But when compare myself to the average person, even the average blogger, I shared a lot. (Faith No More plays in the back of my head and morphs to “we share a LOT”.) Particularly once I started retroblogging to fill in my pre-1998 past; writing an autobiography in slow motion.

Since I’m not the person I was then, and the Web and the world are not what we hoped they’d become, not all that stuff needs to stay out in public. It can fade like spoken words. Yes, yes, the Wayback Machine, but when you use that you understand that you are looking at a snapshot in time. That’s apparently not true of people reading blog posts even ones with the year (years ago) in big type on the page, judging by some of the comments I’ve gotten. So I gently fold and put away the oldest things, packing my public life away into a closed chest of memories.

Today I travel in time to be with my beloved grandparents, such a big little girl at six years old. Sitting with my dear grandfather, from whom I think I may have learned my sly sense of humor and what bits of urbane panache I have. I know it must be very hot weather, not only because the children’s amusement park we’re in is in Fresno in August, but because I am wearing a sleeveless short dress and sandals, instead of my characteristic childhood turtleneck, jeans, and sneakers.

The Flickr comments from my mother and her cousin on the pictures of little Dinah running, with hair in two ponytails, exploring the fanciful park, are personal reminiscences as parents, but they mention the golden (plastic) key you could turn to get a story by each exhibit. I kept that amazing, magical key in its pink cardboard box for years and years. At some point I think I gave it to someone with similar fond memories of the place.

I do not remember this place in particular, but I remember my feelings about the key. And I remember those few magical places where a kid could just run around without a grownup trying to stay within 30 feet of you all the time. I remember the grownups sitting in the shade and the bubbling bursting excitement of running and playing and imagining, and the sound of child voices and sandals on cement.

That memory and post fold away into the trunk and I lift up an image of my grandmother, mother’s mother and partner of that grandfather who with his Clark Gable looks gave her an exit door from her lovely but intense family. Mennonite to Methodist, evidence that for all her kindly people-pleasing she had a strong will to get some of what she needed. Present Dinah grieves that it was not enough at the very end; she was sad and missing something, but didn’t go for it in the way she had in the mid-1930s when she went off with that mechanic from across the street. Here she is in this picture, holding little me in her lap, hair wet from a bath with nude cousin (cropped from picture) also post bath beside.

Grandma is younger than my memory of her. Hair dark, face no more wrinkled than mine now. No gray like me now. And I do the math. She’s two years younger in this picture than I am now. Grandmother to a couple six year olds. We were lovely and I’m glad to exist, but I’m glad not to have grandchildren of my own, or the child or children they’d require. She was a busy person, I think still working then, office work if I remember rightly. There’s a great picture somewhere of her with a big coffee thermos heading off to work in pants and a cardigan sweater. I think it must have encouraged me in my pants-loving that I had a grandma who wore pants and did vigorous things (sawing firewood, camping, hiking).

In this picture I’m wearing a long sleeved, long flannel robe in royal purple with white lace at collar and around the yoke portion of the top. My cousin (only hands in shot) is despite wet hair, as ever, warm enough and comfortable in her skin. From the hands you can see that despite only two months difference between us, I am smaller, more delicately built. One might have predicted with my slim fingers, button nose, and long ears (an inheritance from grandpa) that I would grow up to look quite elven, but I stayed short and over time have become rounder. More hobbit in aesthetic and preferences than elf.

We are enjoying in this picture an activity that little children and grandparents still do: looking at pictures and having them described to us. But there’s no iPad here; this is a metal contraption with one side of white plastic (cracked at the top, it was a little delicate) with ridges in it to hold slides. Behind the plastic is a light bulb to illuminate the tiny images in the slides.

The picture is in the kitchen I remember from childhood, though I do not remember the artwork, a corner of which can be seen behind grandma’s head. The table is covered with a sturdy tablecloth in a large pattern of red and white check. We had that for years and I vaguely think I inherited for a while. Don’t remember what became of it, but it was sturdy indeed. I will watch for it in more recent pictures.

I fold that away, and then pick up something much more loaded. A picture of a poem written by my biodad when my parents split. When I wrote the post I titled it “the best gift ever”, but its emotional content has become more complicated over the last five years. In the free verse poem my biological father says “And so I said to Dinah: It’s OK to like [my stepfather] as much as me”. Which was a great gift.

The rest of the poem reinforces that message that no one has to be the bad guy, but also that he’s not without flaws. For decades I focused on the first part and it served me well in making the endings of my relationships much kinder and less traumatic than they would otherwise have been. And for that it’s still a great gift.

After he died (indirectly at his own hands through the effects of untreated alcoholism, which I have no memory or evidence of affecting me in childhood or even most of my adult years), I revisited this and got some new perspective. Along with the gift were some burdens; the expectation laid on a six year old to be fine with all this. All the adults involved were young and I was a verbally mature little kid, but I was not an adult.

As I appended to the post in 2018: “setting the expectation a six-year-old would handle the whole situation with calm maturity was rather a heavy load to lay on a kid. It created a mix of useful skills—not getting worked up or rocking the boat when it wasn’t going to change anything, being able to keep authority figures happy, along with the lessons mentioned above—and the foundation for some things that had less positive impacts later, when my acting above my age had become so good that sometimes the adults around forgot the maturity with which I expressed myself didn’t reflect actual experience. That tendency to align myself toward the adults leaves me suspecting I missed out on some great bonding with my peers, especially in my teen years.”

Part of the reason I play so much as a grownup is to let that little kid part of me just be a kid.

The end of the poem is directed at my mother and stepfather and handing over the responsibility of teaching me to them. “The responsibility is yours now”. He stepped away from parenthood in some ways, though he remained involved and gave lots of financial support which allowed me to go to a great, independent, frankly a bit hippie, private school on six acres of land. But there was, for my entire childhood, this poem pinned up in the hallway with art and photos, a reminder to be cool with this, to be cool with him stepping away from active parenthood. Plus among the things he mentions to teach me about are “about feelings that come & go, about fantastic summer snow, & the winter in my soul.” So, an explicit acknowledgement of his depression. Which is like, great for understanding family history but a hell of a thing to lay on a six year old. But what did he know? It’s was the early 1970s and he wasn’t even 30 yet.

I’m glad we kept this, though maybe it didn’t need to stay pinned in the hallway? I’m glad I kept it after my folks moved out of that house almost a quarter century ago. It gives me a puzzle piece which, when fitted with the writings I cleaned up from his house after his death, creates a clearer picture of a guy I didn’t understand very well. And that picture releases me from thinking there was something either of us could have done differently in our relationship with each other (other than him getting into treatment for that terrible intertwined problem of depression and alcoholism). But he was always careful to shield me from that problem and in that and his enthusiasm for me and my projects throughout my life, I see his love for me.

Holding the love, acknowledging the flaws, I gently and lovingly fold this memory up and pack it away.

The end of that year and photos of Christmas. My cousin and I, she looking a year or two older than I after her growth spurt, standing in long dresses in front of a magnificent tree. Always fantastic trees in the house I grew up in and the house to which my parents—my mother and stepfather—retired, and for that magic I have a huge burst of gratitude. Entrancing and absorbing throughout childhood and comforting each year now. A lot of work to set up and clean up those trees and though I know it brought and brings them delight, I appreciate the part of it that was making magic for me and for the rest of the family who would gather for the holidays.

My cousin and I have long straight hair, hippie girls, with rough bangs cut across to keep it out of our mouths and mostly out of our eyes. I’m holding a package, about to deliver it to someone’s lap. This may be the year that our elf duties began. How soon the aspects of that duty of sorting and timing became part of the job, I’m not sure, but it was an annual task I enjoyed greatly in those years of many many packages. I would, at least in later years, figure out how many packages there were for each person and then space things out so no one was stuck having opened all of theirs and just watching the others. (We opened one at a time in my family, so Christmas morning often stretched into the afternoon. You could open your stocking as soon as you woke up; such early wakings for an otherwise late sleeping child! Then once all the grownups had breakfast and coffee and gathered in the living room, you would at last come to the presents. Some years there were so many and so much exclaiming and passing around of things that we would have to take a lunch break before finishing off the pile. A fine festivity.)

In the second picture my cousin and I sit on the ground, surrounded by wrapping paper, each holding up a wee pair of binoculars and peering around the room with them. I am looking up at a seashell hanging on the lower branches of the tree. Less fragile or less precious items hung down there in range of the backs and wagging tails of our two dogs. I don’t see them on this tree, but it wouldn’t be many years before someone, probably my clever mother, hit on the idea of little bells there.

With the memory of the smell of pine, and the anticipation of bells, I fold away the magic of Christmas morning. Memories pack away and I open the even better gift of the present moment.

A positive shift to my center of balance

Through most of my life, and particularly my online life, I’ve been extended outward, performative, people-pleasing. Idiosyncratic and individual still, but putting things out there and waiting for the echo that tells me I did well, met some standard, am enough.

Leaning too far, I lost some of the core connection with myself. My project of the past couple years has been to bring myself more solidly on my feet at my center. Confident in my identity not only in presentation but practice. Grounded. Self-secure. And thus better able to perceive and protect my own boundaries, and correspondingly less worried about others’ impacting me.

Heady stuff, but the practical upshot in terms of online presence is to be a little more private. Also to look askance at the way the web I first came to and helped make has twisted to be a stranger, more commercial, more exploitative place. That observation only makes me pull back with more certainty. My librarian and historian instincts are outweighed by my increasing appreciation of personal autonomy.

That strong center self of the present slides the past within a wall, where friends are welcome, but strangers and bots needn’t pry. Not a fearful withdrawal, but a cheerful ‘well, I think I’ll be headed home’ to those near me as I leave the sprawling, chaotic, strangely populated streets of a changed neighborhood I used to know better.

My pre-kindergarten self, in her wide round-collared plaid dress, looks up from the book (Curious George?) she’s reading by a huge paisley pillow, glances around at the grown-ups talking grown-up talk and, bringing the book, comes to the children’s area within the wall where she can just be a little person who can act her age and nothing more.

Next the more adventurous little Dinah a year and more later, at the park playing on the old steam locomotive—yes, the children’s playground near my childhood home had an actual locomotive you could just clamber all over—in the company of my mother and the fluffy family dog. Mother and this, later the elder dog, look young and vibrant. My mum’s on that cusp between styles, bouffant top of her hair, but long and straight on the sides, hippie with a day job. Little Dinah has, apparently, a green jumpsuit? which is awesome, and sits on piping halfway up the front part of the engine, hanging from pipes that lead into the cab. I remember pulling and pushing levers in that cab in the early days before things broke from the vigorous work of amusing kids. This little green clad self gives an enthusiastic shout, climbs down to the metal walkway, through the cab, and runs down the access ramp by the train engine, almost falling, still shouting, and into the playground inside the walls where explorations are endless and ever-new.

Here she is again, just the next month, with a shovel, and soon a hole big enough to sit in, hair up in a ponytail for working, but child Dinah having wisps escaping restraint just like Dinah now. A camping trip adventure with my grandparents. Dirty and happy and full of vitality and can-do, will-do, that little Dinah marches in behind the wall, selects a location, and begins excavating a new hole, but bigger this time. My long-gone grandparents laugh and grin and give us both a thumbs up.

That’s the little Dinah I remember, but there was also the one who was girly and wore a fancy pink dress and a ribbon in her hair for a special occasion. I don’t know her as well, so many girly things were segregated then as not being smart-person things, and it was very important to be a smart person. Was I having fun? Or being good? How much of Dinah then and through the rest of childhood was interested in stereotypical girl-stuff, but backed away from it because it seemed like a fork in the road with books and exploring and getting muddy and building things down the other path? I invite her in behind the wall, there’s a tea party and a costume wardrobe as well as a workshop and pathways through the woods and a library of all the books ever. She can have all of it, in any order and combination.

Perhaps the next month little Dinah was sad. Immunizations against measles, mumps, and polio. Bring her in and let her feel the glorious relief of understanding the threat she was spared. Worth the discomfort, still OK to cry and think it’s dumb and awful to have to do it.

Another couple months on and little Dinah is at school, climbing up a big tarp covered pile of something (hay bales?), book under one arm, Peanuts lunchbox in the other hand, to join my best friend Rick on top, while another kid I don’t recall frowns ferociously, possibly at the proximity of my book to their face. In the background is a rusty old tractor as another piece of ‘playground’ equipment, a goat pen, and the beauty of the rural valley where I spent my first eleven years of school on a six acre plot that never held more than 80 students. Here’s a Dinah that I recognize inside me still: sneakers, comfortable clothes suitable for adventures, something to read, something to nibble, a friend to share the fun. Bring her in behind the wall too, and let her tell us all about the book, and maybe share a bit of lunch. Is it french bread with butter? Present Dinah misses that (sensitive gums can’t take the crusty bread scrubbing). Present Dinah will step into those little sneakers and run around outdoors all day with no pressure (“Side effects of this medication include sun sensitivity.”) Freedom and so much blue sky above.

Here’s the beginning of the end of the happy obliviousness of very young childhood a couple months later. Laughing, excited little Dinah in her white turtleneck and her patchwork maxi skirt doesn’t know that the parents on either side of her will soon decide to part ways, and her daddy will change to something more distant, still loving, but ever mysterious and somewhat confusing from then on. We’re at grandma and grandpa’s house (my mother’s parents who hold those titles first in my mind now, perhaps then too, having spent more time with them), my parents sitting on the brick hearth-bench and me standing between them, only just at full height as tall as them seated. I’m holding a natural colored deer model, Breyer maybe, perhaps a Christmas present I’ve just received. Present Dinah has a silver deer in the same pose which serves as my primary holiday decoration at the end of each year. Everyone looks happy and as I welcome this little Dinah across to show off her deer, I let her teach me how to believe in the present happiness, enjoying it without worrying about past or future.

Four months on and this Dinah also can teach me that lesson, she sitting cradled in Grandma’s lap in the springtime foothills of the Sierra Nevada, dressed for hiking, gathering wildflowers, joyous in the beauty of the world and the time together. Welcome, love.

Two and a half years pulled close to me, and made private. Treasured, but also no longer self-defining.

Election Slate June 2022

Governor: Gavin Newsom
I’m pretty pleased with his work as Governor over a very turbulent period. With the challenges of climate change growing ever more intrusive, I want to see as self-sufficient a California as possible. Our economy is the 5th largest in the world and we need as effective a leader as Newsom.

Lt. Governor: Eleni Kounalakis
Seems to be doing a very good job judging by the state of the state.

Secretary of State: Shirley N. Weber
I like the job she’s been doing.

Controller: Malia Cohen
I’ve been pleased with her work in San Francisco and she handled the task of Board of Equalization well. There are some question marks around Galperin that tilt me to Cohen.

Treasurer: Fiona Ma
Another great, solid, long-term performer in the state’s best interests.

Attorney General: Rob Bonta
Done a good job since appointment, let’s keep him at it.

Insurance Commissioner: Ricardo Lara
Seems to be doing a good job; no compelling reason to disrupt things with a change.

Board of Equalization Member, District 2: Sally J. Lieber
Whether California’s Board of Equalization, the only elected tax board in the country, should exist at all is definitely a question. Certainly we need more protections against money flowing as campaign contributions to someone who may make a judicial decision for the donor. But while it exists we need good people elected to it. Lieber has good endorsements and I’m not a big Alioto-Pier fan.

U.S. Senator (rest of term and next term): Alex Padilla
Easy choice. He was great as Secretary of State for California and it’s good to have him in the Senate.

United States Representative, District 12: Nancy Pelosi
Still in the same place I was two years ago on this. Pelosi served us very well in getting through four years of Trump/Pence/GOP policies without losing more ground than we did. Do I agree with her on everything? No. Is she as effective as anyone could be as Speaker of the House right now could be? Yes. Is there an obvious experienced next choice for Speaker of the House if she doesn’t remain in office? No. We need her insider savvy holding the line and taking the heat as we weather the next two years. (Also, it gives the progressives we’ve elected time to build a little more seniority and have a little bit better chance of important committee positions in any upward shuffle.)

State Assembly Member District 17: Matt Haney
I’ve been impressed by Haney through this campaign, and am not a Campos fan.

Superintendent of Public Instruction: Tony K. Thurmond
I’m glad I voted for Thurmond before and will do so again. Great endorsements. I first was drawn to him by his commitment to quality public school education and teaching critical thinking rather than a “teach the test” approach.

City Attorney: David Chiu
One of the elected officials I trust most. He is motivated to work for the common good, and has passed up other opportunities in order to devote himself to public service. I’m glad every time I can vote to keep him working for us.

CITY AND COUNTY PROPOSITIONS:

A YES
Muni Reliability and Street Safety Bond
I’m very excited about the transit and street feature changes in San Francisco. The improvements definitely impact my quality of life and are well worth continuing to fund. Also, in this expensive city, keeping transit working well is the least we can do for ordinary working folks.
(Opposed by anti-Chesa Boudin folks and anti-tax codger Quentin Kopp.)

B YES
Building Inspection Commission
This is a voter rubberstamp on a unanimous Board of Supes proposition with no submitted arguments against.

C YES
Recall Timelines and Vacancy Appointments
Special elections due to recalls are expensive and shouldn’t be held in the same year as a general election for that seat. That makes total sense. It makes even more sense when big money (plenty of it non-San Franciscan) can be funneled into promoting a disruptive recall. (This seems to be primarily opposed by an odd mix of angry parents who want to be able to very quickly throw out the school board if they don’t like them and the anti-Chesa Boudin crowd, Republicans, and Quentin Kopp.)

D YES
Office of Victim and Witness Rights, Legal Services for Domestic Violence Victims
Widespread support. (Opposed by anti-government gadfly David Pilpil, who seems to be often siding with anti-tax folks.)

E NO
Behested Payments (donations solicited by public officials to benefit either a gov’t agency or private organization)
Folks I respect (like Scott Weiner) are opposed to this well-intentioned anti-corruption proposal because of the probable chilling effect on city partnerships with non-profit partners. This proposal needs to be re-written and brought back in a better form before we should endorse it.

F YES
Refuse Collection and Disposal
This is a voter rubberstamp on a unanimous Board of Supes proposition with broad support and only David Pilpil submitting arguments against.

G YES
Public Health Emergency Leave
This is a voter rubberstamp on a partial Board of Supes proposition with no submitted arguments against. This would really help out working individuals and only impacts companies with more than 100 employees worldwide.

H NO
Recall Measure Regarding Chesa Boudin
This is the conservative side of SF using eager Republican dollars to try to remove a progressive from office. The usual suspects are in favor—Republican Richie Greenberg, the anti-tax crowd, and some business organizations—while the opposition includes the ACLU, Sierra Club, SF Democratic Party, a bunch of labor unions, a bunch of Democratic and progressive political clubs, a big list of retired judges, some police commissioners, and some different business organizations. If you have good, solid arguments for a recall, you shouldn’t need to send piles of fear-mongering, glossy mailers, but the backers of this recall piled our mailboxes full of a Boudin smear campaign. NO.

Well. That news really puts the Grrr in the Grrrl.

Meta my ass, you unethical mofos.

Get off Facebook whatever name they call themselves. Get off every Facebook service. Block Facebook. Don’t work for Facebook. Don’t provide services to Facebook. Find every way you can to get them out of your life and support others in doing the same.

Decision-making as an immunosuppressed person during a pandemic

When the pandemic began we knew very little. We didn’t know how dangerous any given thing was; if, for example, touching shared surfaces was more of a risk than shared airspace.

It was safe to assume that immunosuppression created more risk of negative outcomes if I became infected with the virus—severe symptoms, hospitalization, death—and possibly also created more risk of infection if exposed.

In that situation, my logical choice was lockdown. Go out as little as possible, and wearing a mask when I did so (even before they were required), follow the hand washing rules rigorously, and wash or disinfect items coming into the house which may have been coughed or sneezed on at some point. Make a pod with only two other people, who were very careful about masks and hand washing and physical distance with those outside our pod.

Soon there was scientific data on the virus’ survival on surfaces which added isolation as an option to washing/disinfecting incoming items and I was able to set up boxes by the front door to allow things to sit for three days.

At various points as time went by new information came in—”yes, it’s transmitted through the air, and everyone should mask”, “yes, immunosuppressed people have substantially worse outcomes so really really avoid getting it”, “actually surfaces are only a short-term risk so you can just isolate for 8-24 hours and wash your hands after to feel particularly safe”, “N95 masks really really help, so get good ones and learn how to fit them properly”, “well, actually surfaces are even safer than we thought, so just wash hands after touching stuff”.

The vaccination became available to some people and that, plus continuing study, brought new data after a while—”vaccinated people are a LOT less likely to get infected if exposed, though not a sure thing, so still wear a mask around people other than your ‘pod'”, “outdoors makes an enormous difference, so you can go for a masked walk with your friends or socialize outside in masks”.

I remained cautious, knowing that my situation was less studied and not represented in the general instructions.

I got the Pfizer vaccine on the first day I was eligible and that lowered my stress though it didn’t change my habits. I felt even better after shot #2 because by then we had data that even people with pre-existing conditions who might not get full protection from the vaccines were experiencing reduced rates of hospitalization and death. But I didn’t change my habits. The “one wrong step could kill you” feeling began to dissipate, even as awareness grew of what a crappy thing COVID-19 is and how much I didn’t want Long COVID.

There wasn’t and still isn’t a way to directly measure protection and to see how well the vaccine did in my body. But there was correlation between protection and spike protein antibodies. So as soon as I could get a test for those, I did.

It was negative.

Not only was I not a ‘fully vaccinated person’ in CDC terms, I didn’t even have a number that let me consider myself anything above 0% vaccinated with regard to my risk of infection.

In all of that information void, I turned to probability to help me decide what to do and what not to do. I used the microCOVID.org Calculator and then moved on to create a microCOVID.org Risk Tracker spreadsheet for myself and to have my two pod-mates make one for their ‘fully vaccinated’ selves (with a different weekly risk budget than my very very conservative one).

This has been enormously helpful in my making informed decisions as I have navigated through the unknown. Those decisions use statistical risk to make safety choices about how much I can socialize with my friends or go out in the world. Having good information and methodology for those decisions helped enormously and contributed to my experiencing less stress around this than the very very very high stress levels I’d had before.

But they haven’t solved my problem: I want to see my friends more than my risk budget allows for getting together with estimated ‘vaccinated person who is sometimes working to the edge of a reasonable risk limit of their own’.

Unless I convince all my friends to track all their activities in their own Risk Tracker—instead of just following the broad CDC and San Francisco city guidelines around mask wearing—and have real week-to-week risk-to-others numbers based on what they’ve been doing, I need to use a stand-in estimated person that’s not overconfident. And that caution burns up my 21 microCOVID’s a week budget very fast now that the COVID rate is rising again.

Adding to this is confirmation that people on my medication often do not get a full response from the vaccines, and that sometimes getting additional vaccinations helps, but not in my case. At least not so far with J&J not doing it for me and my quantitative spike protein antibody test two weeks after Moderna shot #1 still showing negative.

I’m hitting the limit of what will work for me in terms of making my social safety decisions based on statistical probability.

It’s time to switch to a model more like safe sex: a current test showing you don’t have it. And the great part is, there are easy, painless, rapid tests which only take 15 minutes. It’s an expense, but it’s one that seems well worth it for my mental health.

I think it’s gonna be easier to talk my vaccinated friends into sitting on the back porch swabbing their noses before they come inside unmasked than it would have been to convince them to maintain a spreadsheet. 😄

The essential first step to deciding to adopt this approach is to confirm how accurate those tests are and how that compares to the risk level I feel comfortable with.

Based on the interim results of a clinical study where the BinaxNOW™ COVID-19 Antigen Self Test was compared to an FDA authorized high sensitivity SARS-CoV-2 test, BinaxNOW COVID-19 Antigen Self Test correctly identified 84.6% of positive specimens and 98.5% of negative specimens.

[source]

Currently the rate of COVID cases among vaccinated people in San Francisco is about 5.8 per 100K [source]. In microCOVID terms that’s about a 58 microCOVID “expense” to be around a vaccinated San Franciscan who has no symptoms and with no other information.

If BinaxNow has a false negative rate of 15.4%, now that “expense” becomes a 9 microCOVID risk they’re actually positive. A 9 in a million chance they have COVID right now.

The chance that they would transmit to me in that case are even lower, because there’s the ‘partner attack rate’ to consider in exposure in general, but also because being less infectious would correlate with being more likely to appear negative on the BinaxNOW test.

So, I can keep using my microCOVID.org Risk Tracker in general, but for in-person activities where I’m testing people before we’re unmasked together, I should probably estimate it as an activity that costs me 1 microCOVID per person per hour. (That is based on a 14% chance per hour of of getting COVID based on microCOVID.org’s updated estimates plus some downward adjustment for reduced infectiousness.) And where people have a known risk that comes out better, I can log them on a separate line in my Risk Tracker spreadsheet and reduce my “expense” even more.

This still means that getting together with 3 friends to play boardgames or a role-playing game for 3 hours is about a third to half my weekly risk budget right now, but that is often worth it to me!

(Thanks, Joe, for helping me think through the probabilities!)

Paring Down

My “old” 2019 MacBook has had an increasingly rough time over the past quarter. Fans running hotter and hotter. Since I’d planned to sell it after my next upgrade sometime in the 6-18 month timeframe and the new 16″ MacBooks haven’t been announced yet, I’m upgrading early in hopes it’ll result in both a chance to sell it for a slightly better price and to get immediate relief for poor performance. (It’s a perfectly good machine, as far as I can tell. Its problems seem to be related to many years of migration from Mac to Mac, using Time Machine or the Migration Assistant. Too much old system and application cruft weighing it down.)

This time my upgrade is a size down. I’m in love with my extra-wide monitor (LG 34″) and find I increasingly wait to do some tasks until I can be using that extra space. So, having a large screen laptop isn’t really a priority (particularly since it’s a pandemic, I’m immunosuppressed, and I’m hardly going anywhere anyhow). I’ve gotten a 13″ M1 chip MacBook and it seems quite nice so far. It arrived on Thursday and my main project since then (apart from a lovely six-hour visit in person on the back porch with dear old friends), has been setting it up without dumping every single thing I’ve ever had on my old Mac(s) onto the new one.

I’ve figured out I can now do without TextExpander, instead entering the 30 or so key replacements (typing ssf to insert San Francisco, for example) in System Preferences > Keyboard > Text.

I’ve decided to phase out Evernote and instead have a new Scrivener project called File Cabinet with all the “I should hold on to a copy of this piece of paper” stuff. That’ll be a gradual project, which is fine because I’m paid through the year and Evernote doesn’t do prorated refunds. I’ve got 875 non-archived notes in Evernote to potentially migrate, but 250 of them are recipes I likely won’t want all of, so I doubt this will be particularly onerous to take on in batches of 25 notes or so.

I think I’ll skip Time Machine for backing up this Mac; I’ve gone years (probably over a decade) without starting from a clean install like this. It’s taken most of a couple days to get this new machine how I want it, but that seems a fair price for those years off from the task—and it’ll be easier the next time.

I’ve decided to take a wait-and-see attitude toward reinstalling Skype. I haven’t actually made much use of it since around 2016, I think.

With a salute to my past self, I’m also taking a wait-and-see attitude toward installing a code editor. I had Coda, which is now, I learn, Nova. Still looks like the one I’d want if I wanted one, but I’m not actually writing HTML/CSS anymore.

I’m wavering over Microsoft Office. I’ve had some frustrations with Pages and Numbers, for sure, and both Google Docs and Sheets have their limitations. But oh the cruft that comes with a massive install like that. And with great power comes great complexity to learn. Do I need either of those things in my life? Maybe ‘good enough’ really is? Going to try that out for a bit anyhow.

Which brings me to my other “is it worth it?”: Adobe InDesign. On the one hand, it’s an amazing tool which I can bumble around in OK already. It’s what I’d need to prepare quality documents for publishing, whether books (which I’m not currently working on) or game components. But, though I am making a game, I’m not a visual designer, so maybe I can just make do with lesser programs for my playtest purposes. That’ll let me avoid the CPU devouring Adobe Creative Cloud, at least until or unless I’m working with a visual designer.

I think the theme for my computer and my life is now: Less Cruft.

Oh hey, a well-regarded alternative to InDesign, Affinity Publisher, which can import InDesign files even, is on sale for $24.99. After a bit of YouTube review and intro watching, I’m going to give it a try. [Gave it a try, but had many many crashes on my first very simple document. Maybe it works great for some, but certainly not for me. Availing myself of a refund and reminding myself to always do the free trial if there is one to save me and the company time. Asked advice in a creative coworking group I’m in and had the good suggestion to explore Layout mode in Pages, the app that came with my Mac, and that’s working great.]

These are the apps I installed on the new machine. First, the everyday essentials.

  • OmniFocus
    My home for tracking all my tasks and someday-maybe ideas. I’ve been a big fan for years and use it every single day.
  • Roon
    Our household’s music management system of choice. It connects in to Tidal and Qobuz and has a good radio function, so there is always new music to explore. (I’m very grateful for Joe’s love of music, skill with system administration, and good taste for keeping this full of new sounds, running well, and looking great.)
  • Scrivener
    I write everything that isn’t email or websites or something on which I’m collaborating in Scrivener. Both my books grew up in Scrivener, my daily pages are in Scrivener, my gamemaster notes for running roleplaying games are in Scrivener, and all of the rules design for Kabalor started in Scrivener. Part of my baseline essential kit.
  • Dropbox
    These days I use this for one thing only: keeping Scrivener synchronized between all my devices. It’s so helpful to be able to add to something I’m writing from whatever device is closest to hand at that moment. (But if Scrivener had its own sync servers like OmniFocus does, I’d have skipped Dropbox.)
  • Slack
    Since I don’t do social media anymore, this “workspace chat” is where my group connection with friends takes place. I also use it for a volunteer gig.
  • 1Password
    This whole build-it-from-the-ground-up and log-in-again-to-all-the-things project has been made so much easier by this wonderful password manager. Super nice company and super good product. If you don’t have a password manager—you should—or your current one makes you sad, do yourself a favor and get some peace of mind.
  • Time Out
    My rest reminder software. This gets me to rest my eyes, brain, and wrists and is an essential health tool.
  • Zoom
    Vital for me to stay connected with friends and family—and where I gamemaster my ongoing roleplaying games.

Other stuff that I installed:

  • Affinity Publisher
    As mentioned above, tho’ I haven’t tried it out yet.
  • Steam
    My game platform of choice. Current game of choice: Wingspan, the online version of the bird-themed board game with magnificent game mechanics.
  • Arq
    For managing cloud backups of my files.
  • Firefox
    My secondary browser, handy for seeing if some issue is a Safari problem and for logging into alternate accounts without having to log out and back into my main one.
  • Kindle
    The desktop app for my ebook reader of choice. Though I rarely read ebooks on my Mac, it’s often easier to manage my ebook library on a bigger screen.
  • Pixelmator Pro
    I’ve been using Pixelmator for my graphics needs, which are almost entirely maps for my roleplaying games. I took the reinstall task as the opportunity to upgrade to the latest and greatest.
  • TweetDeck
    Every now and then I post something on Twitter in the Discardia account (very rarely any other), but since Joe’s account is private, this is the only way I can read his tweets now that I’m not on Twitter generally. 🤣

It really says a lot about a) the utility of the base set of apps that come on the Mac and b) how much I use browser-based apps that the above is the entire list of installs.

Onward to my de-crufted future! Happy Discardia. 😁

Now if only after my hard day of computer setup I could join the lovely Apple support person I chatted with this morning. She was going to do a Juneteenth crab boil with her family and oo does that sound delicious. But, in the absence of that, I’ll enjoy this baked potato with all the fixin’s and revel in the lack of noise of computer fan.

Adapting in the Other Direction

I’m beginning to realize that getting used to the idea that there’s less direct impact on my city of a pandemic is as gradual and intense a process as getting used to the idea that there was. Slowly figuring out how to be cautious without being panicked. Finding the reliable sources and techniques for managing risk. Finding the appropriate and sustainable level of attention my safety requires.

Some of it is unknown; how much additional protection my vaccinations gave me as an immunosuppressed person is still up in the air. But the science is getting clearer on how COVID-19 spreads and how to keep it from doing so. N95 mask and outdoors is very, very safe. Outdoor and unmasked with a vaccinated person who is reasonably careful (not going to bars or being unmasked around people who do, for example; 1% risk per year adherent using microCOVID.org specifically) may be safe if I haven’t taken on a lot of other risk that week.

Like everyone, I’m frustrated to have to figure it all out and nervous about getting it wrong. But I’m a lot less of either than I was a year ago.

I was able to carefully enjoy my first fine dining experience since March 2020, taking advantage of the nice parklet setup which Absinthe has. So good to have that French onion soup again!

On the home front, I’m consolidating my “cold storage” cupboards. Favorite old books and physical photos and souvenirs are now packed snugly in the least easy to access cube of my wall storage system, along with genealogy and the few required papers to save from old tax returns, etc.

Pulled out from that awkward cupboard were about four cubic feet of papers to be gone through to see if they merit saving, either digitally or physically. They’re now in smaller boxes and I’ll be working through them at least 30 minutes a week until they’re dealt with. Then the genealogy items, as a hobby I’m not engaging in and don’t really expect to return to, will get their turn under the Discardian microscope. That’s a little slower process because I want to make sure I don’t have any info or documents which my uncle, the family genealogist, doesn’t already have.

“Pick the low-hanging fruit” is a valuable Discardian lesson I’ve learned. Do the easiest stuff first and the energy of accomplishment will fuel the next step.

So, wait, a sec; I’m a Discardian. I’m the Discardian. How can I have clots of old stuff that need to be gone through? The answer is simple: I’m lucky and I’m following the other Discardian principle of not making myself suffer needlessly. I’ve never lost stuff in a disaster and I’ve always had somewhere to stick a few old boxes of papers and mementos. I’ve also been kind to myself about working on the stuff which will bring me the most immediate benefit. So though old boxes may have gotten slightly pruned down over time, the hard decisions or the least urgent space-saving moves haven’t had to happen.

Now I’m ready to really clean house of this stuff. My priorities are clearer after an eventful half decade and the experience of the pandemic. I’m old enough to know that at some point I’ll be helping my older relatives out with decisions about their stuff and that’ll be mentally so much easier if I’ve got my stuff figured out. Most significantly, I’ve pared my activities down to what really excites me and makes me happy, so it’s time to make what I have support what I do.

Also, I’ll be getting my Wildlands Kickstarter reward later in the year and I need a couple more shelves free. Might as well use that as a catalyst to overall improvements.

So, as I sit and my desk recovering from hefting things from cubby to cubby and shelf to box to closet, it’s time for the digital equivalent, a bit more closing out old retroblogged posts.

Here are my cousin and I and a relative in cute tropical print dresses (which maybe she made?) posing outside my house. I kind of think my dress might have ended up worn by a mannequin my grandmother gave me, but I’m not certain. Again, the posing suggests a fun occasion but not nearly as much fun as getting muddy in a pair of overalls.

Jump ahead from June to Christmas and here’s toddler me in red and white striped pyjamas of which I have no memory, standing next to a baby bassinet toy of which I have no memory, holding a big eared, stuffed animal tiger of which I have no memory. There’s the wreckage of opening packages around and a little tree, bigger than the Charlie Brown Christmas one, but not huge and maybe not real like the ones we got from the tree farm later in my childhood. Some lady with loads of dark hair, swirled around the top of her head and cascading down to her shoulders is looking at me as I stare at the photographer (probably Grandpa). I know from context and those familiar hands that it’s my mother, but neither of us looks really like the person we’d be in a couple more years. Ah, but in her hands is an old friend. A new doll, toddler-ish like me, but the rich color of dark chocolate in her skin where I am so pale and washed out in the picture you can’t even see my nose, only big eyes and a slightly open mouth matching the red stripes of my pyjamas. I do not remember the name of that doll, but it might have been Charlotte, after Laura’s doll in the Little House books. She stayed around in my toy collection until the end, though whether she was donated or left in the house my folks sold as-is with some boxes of stuff unwanted by us I don’t recall.

Another picture from that Christmas, back at home based on the big tree and the fluffy Keeshond dog Guenevere in the bottom of the picture, with my father and mother. Both in navy blue and I in a dress of the same blue with a white block-print or batik pattern suggesting pine trees. They’re young and nicely put together for holiday time, he with tidily trimmed beard and mustache, she with a neatly buttoned high-collar dress and a bit of eye makeup. He would become shaggier with time. She would gratefully drop the eyeshadow and mascara. My lashes are as big as hers—I had so much hair for my tiny size—and I’m looking down with delight at two Fisher Price peg people I’m holding. Many many many hours of play with those toys and their kin. Behind me the tree has a popcorn string and homemade decorative balls, silky fabric spheres adorned with braid trim and pearl beads held on with long straight pins. The happy magic of Christmas time. A lovely mood and one which echoes forward through many end of year holidays with my mother. She does Christmas right and I’m lucky for that.

Hop forward to the next year and here’s my parents in that same living room. My father has shaved his beard and kept long sides to his mustache and long sideburns. Mmhm. We are entering the 1970s for sure! They’re clearly hosting a party or some occasion is taking place. My mother has her arm through the crook of his arm and they both look at someone just off the left edge of the picture. Her expression is closed mouthed, polite but perhaps cautious. He is grinning. They are not in perfect sync, but they’re going through the right motions. They would divorce the next year, though I don’t know if they had yet begun to realize that was a possibility. I turn from the picture with loving thoughts toward those two young people—not yet 30—and admiration for their bravery in stepping away from the social script toward what they really wanted.

Time hopping to that year or the previous. A camping trip, perhaps at Yosemite. Here is a Dinah I begin to recognize. Long pants in a practical green or gray. Red flat sneakers—Keds or a knockoff, more likely since I grew through the toes so fast—and a pinkish long shirt, untucked. My hair comes down to the top of my butt and my shoulders only come up to the top of the log where my mother is sitting near me. Purple bellbottoms and a blousey green shirt and 2″ heels on her black shoes, with a black handbag nearby. Her hair only comes down to her shoulderblades, but both of us are wearing it straight now. A little bit hippie, but with a job. 😄

Contrasting my blowing straight hair in the next picture—a picnic in some windy spot—with my practical grandmother holding her hair down with a round wrap around her head, over her sunglasses, and my great aunt with a beehive do and shades. I’m bundled in some grownup’s windbreaker jacket and though it appears from the table that the picnic hasn’t even begun yet, I sure look done with this cold and windy nonsense. I guess I’ve always enjoyed being cozy.

About the same time, me at Magic Mountain, photos by my grandparents. Wearing red tights and a red, navy and blue striped dress my mother made, I ride in a yellow boat on an automated ride in actual water and flat-handedly feed grain to a black-faced and black-legged lamb in the petting zoo. Excellent good times for a little kid and no doubt joyful for my grandparents watching me have fun.

Transferring shared images to shared thoughts about images is like the formation of memory. Altering as it goes, distilling, but also sometimes releasing, diffusing, discarding.