That awkward moment you realise you’re in a Maoist cult meeting but don’t want to appear rude (Berkeley day 14)

February 15, 2017 2 comments

Once talking politics might have been considered not for polite company, but these days its foregrounded in almost every encounter, be it in a shared taxi, on public transit (an unknown fellow passenger commented, in a conversation about where to get beer, that he’d just bought a pack of Budweiser in support of “the ad”), the grocery store…  95% of interactions that last longer than 10 secs have at least some kind of explicit nod to the political context.

Keen always to meet Anarchists as I travel, I was especially eager to see what they were up to given the attacks and protests going on. Last year I’d done a bit more research and seen there were 2 anarchist bookshops in the Bay Area, but only visited the one in SF, having seen there was also one in the East Bay. So yesterday I looked up “anarchist bookstore” on google maps and not only did a result show up just over a mile away but they had a meeting on fascism a couple hours later! Score!

Arriving shortly before the meeting I saw bookcases filled with radical titles and was especially excited by sections for graphic novels and children/young adults books. Another blue haired person came up (its normal for us blue hairs to want to greet each other) and was happy to hear I was from Glasgow as she’s seen that we had Trump inauguration protests, though she seemed strangely unexcited when I said I had come because I’m an Anarchist and wanted to learn more of what people were doing here. I went back to browsing the kids books.

Another person approached me asking how I knew about the meeting. He seemed friendly, and we casually chatted about Scotland and politics. At some point though he got intense and started recommending a book that was on the main display just inside the front door promising “The New Communism”. Now its not unusual for me to encounter those defining as communists who have libertarian politics, so this wasn’t a red flag to me, unlike his explanation that “since Mao died we haven’t had socialism in the world”…. Woah, wait up a second! I politely, whilst also trying to back away slowly, said that I had some issues with Mao, but luckily just then we were called to sit down for the meeting and I assumed he was just some random lefty who was also interested in fascism.

newc-book-cover-largeIt was only once we were sat (in *rows* with the speakers at the front! yes i really am this dense!) that I looked above the bookshelves and noticed that the walls of the bookshop were *covered* in large posters featuring this one dude “Bob Avakian” with the distinctly un-libertarian sounding title of “Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party”!

But by this time the talk had started and it felt like it would be rude to just get up and leave. So I sat through half an hour of unsophisticated pontificating, slowly sinking in how I’d proudly informed these authoritarian leftists that I was an Anarchist expecting them to connect with me on that! Finally I pretended i’d just got a message on my phone and suddenly had to leave smiling as I legged it out the door. Later I looked up Bob Avakian and found out they’re a legit personality cult. Absolutely no idea why google maps thought they were an anarchist bookstore, unless its a conspiracy to redirect potential radicals into something so bizarro that they retreat to capitalism sharpish! Next time I’ll do my research before merrily waltzing into a Maoist den!

Categories: diary, politics, travel

Berkeley days 0-2 i) WOW air flight ii) arriving to #SFO protest iii) politics on the streets

February 2, 2017 3 comments

i) WOW air flight

Yesterday I flew WOW air from Edinburgh to San Francisco airport (SFO) via Reykjavik. The seats were pretty spacious, unlike the baggage allowance. Measly even compared to ryanair, the free carry-on was only 42x32x25cm! I decided to refuse to pay for a “large carry-on” in addition, so packed into my day pack:


Top row: laptop, power adapter, menstrual pads and cup, glasses case, torch/battery pack. water bottle was in side pocket and i refilled it in Rekyavik airport (water fountain is downstairs next to the toilets, below the duty free shop).

Middle row: toy bag, spare hoodie, mirror for applying eye drops, kindle (was in other side pocket), micro USB cable, headphones (were around my neck prior to eating picnic, then fitted in bag), toiletries/meds in poly bag

Bottom row: 3 * luggage cubes. 1) a gift, pair of shorts, a dress 2) underwear for 8 days plus swimsuit. 3) 6 * tshirts.

I brought a plane picnic with me, but by time i took photo (when i unpacked today) i’d already eaten it all. It was inside the bag as well so i optimised for filling/protein/fruit per volume : 2 scoops of huel in a sandwich bag (i used the water bottle to mix it in after drinking half the water), 6 cooked fishfingers, 2 hard boiled eggs, raisins and 2 apples. meant to bring nuts as well but forgot. i bought a sandwich at reykjavik airport. Only just managed to finish it all by time i landed at SFO! Will definitely do similar flying again as even on a normal flight the provided food is insufficient whereas this actually had me content. I also had 2 small containers of whisky

The seats were pretty spacious. On the trans atlantic flight they had european plug sockets to charge from. There was no tv screen at all, and it was surprising how much i missed  knowing our position as we fly, and those stats such as speed/altitude/eta. if i’d had a window seat i would have been able to turn gps on and at least know something of where we were.

ii) Arriving at #SFO to arrivals protest

I was actually more nervous about USA immigration this trip than ever before, although I thought (accurately) that my white skin and “western”/high income country passport would see me through, and they did. I looked around for the doors that those deemed unworthy because they were born in the wrong country, of the wrong skin colour were bustled off through but this was hidden for those of us who were allowed in. Fingerprints and photo was taken by the biometric systems at the immigration desk.

Walking out of the doors into arrivals was fucking awesome because from the bleak banal horror of the immigration system I walked into cheers and colourful handmade signs reading “Muslims welcome here”, “This Native American wants you in her country”, “We are a nation of immigrants” and “No ban, no wall”. Was such an upbeat, vocal, cheerful protest, although this was Monday, the day after the big callouts and airport presences of the weekend. And a dozen lawyers had a makeshift legal space set up nearby. Was so beautiful to see a diverse, courageous, visible demonstration of opposition to the white supremacy being enacted by the state.

iii) politics on the streets

Walking around Berkeley there are signs of resistance everywhere. Antifascist posters, stickers, even conversations in the grocery store. People talking about the airport protests with pride and some kind of determination to stand collectively together. Communities of resistance and solidarity to me are like the mother spider plant, nurturing and allowing baby plants to be sent off in all directions to spread this defiance and better way of living afield. I’ll write more about this as days go by.

Categories: politics

restarting a diary on this blog

January 28, 2017 Leave a comment

Today I bumped into an old friend in that awesome way of Glasgow – meeting pals in saramago, purveyor of Glasgow’s finest chocolate cake, evolved into an extended hangout including free gin and tonic, lots of cake, soup and seeing several different friends over the afternoon/evening. And then unplanned stop off at project cafe on way home for some surprisingly good open mic music and poetry. Anyway one of the old friends has left facebook for all the good reasons we all should and nudged me about this blog and that reminded me that I keep meaning to use it more.

Apparently its not super annoying that mostly what I write here is livejournal-esque navel gazing, and anyway, its not like me writing here is forcing anyone to read it or otherwise attention/time stealing, so I’ll try not to feel guilty that it feels a bit narcissistic to be writing so much from my first person.

I think I might actually write about some aspects of my life that maybe are of more general interest but aren’t overtly political – I tend to write political stuff anyway but often on more overtly political mediums. So I’ll try and write more about :

  • how i do “relationships” – terms might include solo polyamory, relationship anarchy, off escalator, but i often prefer plain old “ethical non-monogamy”.
  • travel-logging. partly this is because as a female bodied person who travels alone and in unconventional modes, i find it heartening, inspiring and most importantly emboldening to read of similar others so i want to add to that. but mostly its because i have really cool adventures and experiences but a terrible memory so i want to be able to read back and go, “oh yeah, that was amazing!”
  • finding/creating ways to be and do judaism that accord with my world views (i tend to write this already, and i want to keep this up)
  • being a nurse and ideas about healthcare
  • living in glasgow, and figuring out what i want from home – both in terms of my personal nest and the city within which that is currently set.
  • whatever i’ve been up to in a given week – i’ll try and write at least once a week (self discipline and all that) but if i don’t have anything more general to blether about, i’ll just start from what i’ve been up to.

again – whether anyone reads this or not is not important – writing helps me figure stuff out and gives me something to refer back to when my memory fails me again. though i’d be lying if i said my ego doesn’t like it when folks tell me they enjoy reading this shit.

i guess this post is a kind of warning – if you read this blog what you are getting is a stream of consciousness that aims to be unapologetically first person – you ain’t gonna get any passive voice pseudo objectivity/universality here, unless i want to try out some ideas that seem to suit that format.

here goes!

Categories: diary, personal

Hanukkah and finding hope at end of 2016

December 31, 2016 Leave a comment

I like it when Hanukkah coincides with Christmas, as it did this year. I tend to do ALL THE HOLIDAYS, especially given how grim 2016 has felt, and coming into the misery of winter (I do try and look for the positives, but when its grey, rainy, cold and dark outside so much of what I do to cheer myself up and enjoy life – spontaneous bike rides into the mountains or seaside, hillwalking, wild camping, exploring highlands and islands – is less available/fun (Scotland is rainy rather than snowy so far) and so I need to work harder at keeping the glums at bay) I go fullout tinsel, pretty lights, christmas foods (3 batches of homemade mince pies this year!) and annual trip to the forest to fetch in an evergreen tree to decorate for solstice. Plus Hanukkah – my spiritual practice reflects my dual roots of family heritage and geographical home; from the latter I take christmas, hogmanay and solstice.

Last year for Hanukkah I focused each night on inspirations that lit up the darkness and spread hope and possibility for change. This year I didn’t feel that so much. So I read some  mainstream Hanukkah reflections and this particularly touched me:

“[W]hat was the miracle of the first night? The light that should have lasted one day lasted eight. But that means there was something miraculous about days 2 to 8; but nothing miraculous about the first day.

Perhaps the miracle was this, that the Maccabees found one cruse of oil with its seal intact, undefiled. There was no reason to suppose that anything would have survived the systematic desecration the Greeks and their supporters did to the Temple. Yet the Maccabees searched and found that one jar. Why did they search? Because they had faith that from the worst tragedy something would survive. The miracle of the first night was that of faith itself, the faith that something would remain with which to begin again.

(from )

And so it is with the spirit of resistance, the spirit of  that is one of the things I mean when I speak of G-d in prayers.

What did I hear again and again following brexit and then again after Trump was elected? “Lets get to work” I’m sure you all did too. An *upsurge* in people looking to respond to darkness with action. People did not give up, despite all the racism and nationalism… no, *because* of the racism and nationalism. I have witnessed more and more people, previously unwilling to take action, now wanting to stand up and be counted, to pin their colours to a progressive mast and to counteract this apparent rightwing lurch. Just a quick example because I have it to hand –

“We have hope. Rebellions are built on hope!”

There was no reason to believe that any hope would have survived the systematic desecration Trump, BoJo, Farage and their supporters did to ordinary people. And yet I did not have to search at all to hear hope and inspiration pouring from all sides.

In many ways progressive movements are almost in a stronger position now than at the start of the year. In no way am I happy that Trump/Brexit happened – I grieve for the lives already affected by the emboldenment of racists, by those fearing their lives will be uprooted due to national borders, to the set back climate change action is already seeing. But all this is in a context of an existing white supremacist society. #BlackLivesMatter arose in response to racist attacks during the Obama years. The Paris climate accords that Trump is about to rip up were never enough anyway. Inequality, injustice, poverty, oppression, inhumane treatment of refugees – these are rampant and have been for years. Our political and economic systems continue to prove how unsuited they are to providing for safe, meaningful and sustainable lives and communities; given that they were never designed to do this, perhaps not so surprising.

But now, now with the dual shocks of brexit and trump demonstrating that business as usual is not just shit, but full on accelerating full-pelt to hell catastrophic, I see, unexpectedly, candle flames of hope, resistance and solidarity lighting up one after another wherever I look.


Hanukkah is also this slow build up. Its not a one day thing – you have to keep lighting night after night for 8 days. And so it is with creating a better world – you start by lighting the one candle, finding that one flame of hope, but you need to keep going; day after day, month after month, year after year, generation after generation we need to keep lighting new candles from the ones already burning.

And just as the Hanukkah story is that a meagre amount of oil lasted far longer than was expected, so too must we sustain and nourish the hope we see around us to last us through the upcoming dark days through to the light ahead.


Here is my Hanukkah blessing. I say the usual orthodox blessing in Hebrew, but here is the intention and meaning I imbue it with:

Blessed are you, spirit of resistance, who sanctifies my life by showing me how to make it meaningful, and inspires me to kindle the Chanukah light.

Blessed are you, spirit of resistance, who wrought miracles for those who struggled for a better world, in those days and at this time.

Blessed are you, spirit of resistance, who has kept me and the wider working class alive, sustained our hearts, bodies and minds, and brought us to this season.

And then I take a minute to remember how impossible the odds must have felt for those who struggled before me, and how victory would have seemed to require a miracle at the start, for those fighting colonialisation, slavery, dictatorship, and yet now so much of that is in the past*. One day let future generations say the same about these dark times.


* for inspiring stories of how much people have overcome through collective struggle, courage, solidarity and hope try


love/hate rships with airports. goodbye dear lover until next time.

July 22, 2016 1 comment

I live a “solo poly” existence. I choose not to have a “primary partner”. I choose not to live with a partner, or orbit my life around their’s. I’ve tried it and it doesn’t suit me at all. I love like I live – independent and freewheeling and with a few very deep very dear connections. Those deepest connections are primarily not people I happen to have a sexual/romantic connection with at the moment, though I tend to remain close to those I have had that kind of interaction with, because affection and care and love and connection are more permanent than whether or not sexy things feel right between folks at any particular time.

Anyway, today one of my closest folks and lovers, left after a wonderful 3 week visit. As the cab took me away from the airport, I acutely felt the separation. I felt hate for the plane that was shortly to take him even further from me. After such an concentrated togetherness, sharing intensely spacetime, deep companionship and nsfw activities, suddenly my partner in crime is no longer next to me.

We’ve talked about whether we should reorganise our lives to be geographically closer, but that wouldn’t work for us.

We meet and part at airports. I like that we both travel alone enough, and watch other folks being met, that being met ourselves feels like such a treat. Going to the airport is part of the ritual of our relationship. Hugs and passionate kisses at arrivals, later mirrored at the departure security check. In 4 different countries so far, on 3 continents. Sweet coming together. Never will we take time together for granted. The preciousness of waking up together for those weeks.

I’ve been planning for postdeparture and have nice things lined up for a few days. Tonight I’m going to have fun with a friend, tomorrow is a social gathering, Monday star trek in 3D. Self care ftw. I’m ok with the way our relationship is. I miss him because we have such a good connection and I’d rather have that and miss it than not. We miss each other because we are the people that we are, each with full lives and interests and desires and therefore don’t want to just give up all of that to live together, even if either of us were fixed enough in one place for the other to move there.

But damned if I didn’t hate that plane that was physically moving us away from each other.

Categories: diary, personal, poly Tags: , ,

EU 2nd referendum petition data / graph of signatures by date

July 9, 2016 Leave a comment

Edited to add : More data and better analysis gonna import their data into mine just for the hell of it/practice. 

So I just decided to start tracking how the signatures were increasing over time on that 2nd referendum petition. Annoyingly I only decided to do that on the Sunday after the result, which was after there was already 2 million signatures. I started looking at the petition and noticing how fast it was growing on the Saturday morning and I wish I’d started tracking it properly from then, but nevermind.

The petition is not ever going to come to anything – the govt has already responded to reject the idea of a 2nd referendum at this time. And there’s the whole irony/amusement that it was a pregruntled (gruntled too soon) brexiter who set it up in the first place as he didn’t think the vote would go his way.

Then I noticed all this querying about whether the sigs were automated because folks were claiming that they were flowing in at thousands a night and was looking for a new python learning exercise anyway so graphed the sigs to see what the pattern was :



(Apologies that its not so pretty. I don’t tend to get so motivated about that side of things)

Anyway, this pretty clearly shows that signature increase rate pretty much follows what you’d expect a pattern of those awake in UK to be.

Such as it is, the code and data that I have til now are in and if anyone wants to play around, go for it. Although now the petition has been rejected anyway, and we’re all trying to deal with this brexit world, I doubt anyone is interested anyway. But I didn’t see notice of anyone else tracking the petition data so here it is in case anyone wants to do anything with it in future. If there is a store of it from before I started tracking I’d be interested to pull that in, so comment/PM me.


Categories: politics

brexit – yeah i’m still processing the dent in hope.

July 4, 2016 1 comment

After finishing work at the new Southern General hospital in Glasgow I heard, felt and then saw as an air ambulance landed on the roof. I watched open mouthed, eyes becoming wet, at the huge amount of technology, financial cost, personnel, planning, coordination that had gone into transporting a single human being to world class medical care. So beautiful and inspiring and hope-inducing that we as a society, whilst screwed in so many other ways, at least have done this. At least have decided to have a system, free at the point of need, within which this can happen. Yes, this is exactly what massive social resources should go into. Not weapons of war or oppression or separation but into giving treatment to a human when they need it most. (and yes its screwed that that is not open to everyone, but hope and inspiration is about looking for the positives and foregrounding and learning from and expanding from them)

Beauty and hope, I’ve witnessed it again and again from the hospitality of Palestinians in Rafah, Gaza, to the outbursting of community and creativity and caring of collectivised spaces such as when we occupied the free hetherington, to the discovery of gravitational waves, to incredible online collective work put into collaboration projects such as wikipedia or free software, to walking through public parks and seeing how beautiful we can make parts of the planet when we try.

And then there’s brexit. And the way I feel is the opposite of when I think about these other things. Instead of feeling like the world might be mightily shitty, with climate change and war and inequality, but maybe humans are pretty awesome and we can maybe pull through being as we have both smarts and hearts. Instead of that I’m like, fuck. We’re screwed.

Its taken me 10 days to even start to write anything. It was this crazy bombshell that I didn’t really expect to hit. To process. But then the contrast with the air ambulance struck me. And I’d been wanting to record about the wonderment of that at some point.

The place I live has just become worse. Outright racism and the empowerment of racists has increased. Friends’ lives, and those of their loved ones, has become uncertain either as EU citizens in UK or the other way round. The economy has reduced and it is always the poorest who suffer most when that happens. Northern Ireland faces fear and uncertainty. The farmers want to go back to killing beesTheresa May is our best hope for next PM????

I’m trying to foreground that memory of the air ambulance again. Trying to remember and focus on all the positives that humans can do. Surely we can get through this too? And create a world where we can live meaningful, fulfilling, fun, connected, unique existences supported not held back by the political and economic realms?

Categories: politics