Periodically you see posted signs with large type, bolded lettering at the top: NOTICE! Sometimes this lettering is underlined or italicized in an attempt to raise it from mere prominence to attention-grabbing radiance. The sign writer seems to believe that this simple written command will seduce its reader into paying extra attention to the message. Every now and then it even works; but when it does, commanding attention is the least of the posting. There is usually also an action component. NOTICE: report finding lost items to campus police. NOTICE: The Astronomy Club is looking for new members, inquire with ______ (president) or _______ (faculty advisor).

Paying attention to things around you is a good idea in general. But understanding the implications of what you’re seeing and then ACTING on those implication is even better. Simply “noticing” is not enough. One of the best examples of the difference between noticing a fact and understanding a fact I’ve seen so far is within one of the first few chapters (chapter 4, I think) of Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey. The scene I refer to is when Delauney asks Phedre to describe what she’d observed about the carriage and horses she’d just arrived in. She gives a very good description of them and thought herself very observant when Delauney praised her. Then Delauney asks Alcuin (who’d only seen the horse and carriage long enough for Phedre and Delauney to disembark and Delauney to pay the driver) to describe what he’d observed. Instead of describing the physicality of the horses and carriage, he describes that the unmarked carriage meant a livery stable, that matched white horses were rare and thus valuable (so that the stable was probably prosperous), that the driver had the mannerisms of someone country-bred but had been in the city long enough “not to bite the coin given by a gentleman”, and thus it would not be too difficult to trace the coachman if he needed to be questioned.

The more information you have in your mind, the easier and faster it is to do this. Also the ability to make connections between multiple disciplines is a good skill to train. (For instance: The reason why stars are dimmer than our sun follows the same principle why we do not bleed out every time our heart beats.) It’s one reason I love learning. Every time I find a connection between disciplines, I feel like I’ve pulled a gem from a bog. This is what I try to impart in my “running woman” exercise.

I’d been trying to get my students to think in this manner for many years before Kushiel’s Dart was published. I’d been giving my students a simplified example and asking them to come up with possible scenarios for what they see. I start with something like: “You see a woman running. What’s going on?” I usually address newer students first and rarely get anything other than “She’s running from someone.” Occasionally, I get “She’s out exercising.” Given that the “running woman” exercise is done in the context of a martial arts or self-defense class, the answers are understandable. If no one asks clarifying questions, I start adding details: “She’s dressed in slacks and a nice blouse.” There goes the out for a jog explanation.  “She doesn’t look back and her head is up.” Probably not running from someone. And so on. Depending on how quick the students are, I may end with “She has nothing in her hands, but everyone else on the street is carrying a closed umbrella.” If they need something a little more obvious, I throw in “The sky is filled with low, black rainclouds.” So instead of running from danger, she is trying to get home before she gets soaked. Depending on the level of interest and the number of light bulbs I see going off above people’s heads, I take it further into possible habits and thinking patterns.

Unfortunately, this sometimes gets me into trouble. As a very shy extrovert (not really a contradiction), I spend a lot of time around people without directly interacting with them. I also tend to score very high on empathy. Since I tend to think in sensations rather than words, it’s not difficult for me to see someone in distress and get “sympathy pangs”. It’s also very easy for me to get sucked into their problems. This is one reason I’m not a therapist despite many people telling me I have a talent for making people feel comfortable and safe; until I get these responses under conscious control, I would get burned out too fast be of use to anyone. I recently told someone, “If I see someone in distress, I can’t not respond.” As I said, seeing, understand, and responding sometimes gets me into trouble.

Seeing a NOTICE! sign, or posting one, is all well and good, but it is rarely sufficient to the underlying reason why the sign was posted in the first place. A notice sign calls for understanding and action. A paper posted on a bulletin board is usually about a matter simple enough to understand and act upon. But paper notices aren’t the only notice signs out there. Many of those notice signs are hidden beneath other things, and in order to see them you have to understand the implications of what you’re seeing on the surface. “Reading between the lines” is often hard enough in print. Graduating from the two dimensional of text on a page (or screen) to the four dimensional world of life is much harder, but it can be done.

Searching for Topics

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Excepting the previous two posts, I haven’t blogged for more than a year. I’m out of practice at seeing topics in everyday life. I reread my post on finding topics and I wonder, who is this guy? I remember thinking those thought. I remember writing that post. I remember posting it. Yet in some way, that person is so different from where I am now that I don’t remember being that person at all. This isn’t a complaint. Nor is it a celebration. It goes back to the title of by blog: Maunderings of a Baffled Man. I’m very baffled right now…at least concerning getting back into blogging.

I enjoy writing. I enjoy sharing my ideas with people…at least those who are willing to listen. I even think about lots of things. And yet, I’m finding it difficult coming up with blog topics. I have confidence that this will pass as long as I keep working at it. For now blogs are likely to be short and fairly simple until I get back into the swing of things. I hope to start off with one blog a week…beginning next week. I’m counting these first three posts as a single post since they could probably have been combined into a single post.

“It’s doctor’s orders…really.”

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“I need a girlfriend! It’s doctor’s orders.” Well. That’s what I told my friends. To some extent, it’s true. What he actually said was that I needed a person or people I could be intimate with. And by “intimate” he meant “real”, “completely open”, “absolute trust”, “totally honest”. I knew what he meant when he said it, and that sexuality and attraction do not necessarily play a part, and he knew I knew what he meant. Which is why he said it that way. Nevertheless, it kind of tickles my sense of humor that I’ve been “prescribed” a girlfriend.

My dating “resume” is pretty short. I’ve only had three serious relationships: one that lasted a couple years in high school, one that ended in several years of marriage before divorce, and recently one that lasted about a year. Suffice it to say, I’ve never been “in practice” at this dating thing. So how does one approach a familiar obstacle that one has very little idea about how to get past it?

Well, there are divorce recovery groups. There are various meetups (through There are singles groups through church. I’ve tried the meetups. They’re great for doing activity centered get-togethers. Not so great for pure socialization. Of course the problem may be which ones I attend. One of the issues may simply be that most of my interests are not as mainstream as I believed. I’ve signed up for a divorce support meetup. I’ve signed up for a single’s meetup through my church. In fact, today arrived early at the meeting location at Mozart’s coffee shop at Lake Austin. I’ve been writing this blog entry as I wait for people to show up, taking the occasional break to watch the turtles swimming around, poking their heads above water to demand food. We’ll see how it goes.

I’m Wearing White. Are you?

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Here is the text of a press release for the Where All White for Women’s Rights movement. This movement was started by a long time friend of mine, currently living in NYC. I don’t often make a big deal about actions I’m taking, but given the topic and the number of women among my friends, it just made sense that when asked to be part of her campaign team, I joined (and used my real name). That’s right. Quiet me has volunteered to be loud about something. As I said in a Facebook status: “I’ve put my foot in it, now…this is going to be interesting.”

Press Release:

Based on the Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee’s nonviolent protest for women’s rights in Liberia, I have started this protest as a single woman in New York, a woman who is horrified at watching my rights being stripped away in this country that I love so much. I can no longer sit back and do nothing. I am beginning this grass roots movement to stand up for my rights, your rights, human rights. Will you stand with me?

Before this year, I was your average American person, not really political – just trying to live my life, pay my bills, pursue my dreams – same as the next person. I voted in major elections but that was the extent of my political prowess.  Then things started showing up in my facebook newsfeed – things from my politically active friends who did read about what was going on in the world.  Needless to say, I was upset.  I started finding articles for myself – and I am now more than upset, I am scared.  The more I read, the more frightened I have become about what is happening to my rights as a woman.  So I did what I could.  I resolved to vote this year, to continue to educate myself more thoroughly, and to talk about it with others and get the word out.  I’ve posted articles I found on facebook and twitter.  I’ve written notes about it.  I’ve talked to people about it in bars and restaurants and subway cars.  I’ve looked into places to volunteer my time.

Then I stumbled upon an article about Leymah Gbowee, the most recent Nobel Peace Prize winner, awarded to her for her work in Liberia. What I read was an inspiration. If one woman could do it there, then why couldn’t one woman do it here? So I am setting off to follow her example, to no longer sit idly by as my rights are stripped away by lawmakers, but instead, to stand up and be heard – and I’ve realized that I want help.  I want to make this into a viral grassroots movement for all the other people out there like me, people who are horrified by what is happening but aren’t sure what to do.  I want to turn postings on social media into a visual force to remind the country, lawmakers and citizens alike that nothing happens in a vacuum and that there are many voices desperate to be heard.  I want an outlet for those voices, a place where they can come and not only be heard, but also make an impact.  Most importantly, I want a way in which every person, regardless of income, ability to travel, age, gender, race, or political leanings could participate.

Along the way I’ve picked up a pretty amazing team. 

Jasmine Witmer recently received a Bachelor of Arts in history and women’s studies, subjects that reflect an on-going interest in women’s welfare, past and present.  For some time, activism has played a large role in her life, most notably when she participated in the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom’s  “Practicum for Advocacy” at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women and when she traveled to El Salvador to record oral histories of female Guerilla war survivors. For this campaign, Jasmine is acting as a media consultant and assistant publicist.

Cass Morris works in the education department of the American Shakespeare Center and is also a freelance writer of historical nonfiction and genre fiction. She has joined the project out of frustration with a national legislative trend that treats her body like state or public property. Cass is acting as a social media consultant and assistant publicist.

Shandy Smith is a musician, martial artist, and writer. He joins the team as researcher, general cheerleader and all around go-to guy. As a multi-form artist, the right for individual expression is hallowed to him, so when I invited him to be part of the team, he joined up with a hearty smile.

And me?  I’m just a girl.  I live in NYC, pursuing my dreams of becoming a successful theatrical director.  I didn’t consider myself political until recent events forced me to pay attention.  And now I head up this team of wonderful people, trying to reach and motivate as many people as possible. Which brings me to this.

The real goals of this movement are empowerment, education, motivation and change.  I want us all, average citizen and lawmaker alike, to remember who has ultimate control over this – and that’s us – the voters.  I know our political system is far from perfect, but if we don’t speak up when it matters, then it will never get any better.    I want everyone to have a voice, and I want to find a way in which all those voices are heard. Restrictions or laws that affect only on a single subset of people (in this case women) are discrimination, pure and simple.  All people should fight against discrimination, in all its forms, at all times. Leymah Gbowee had a great idea that began with just a handful of women wearing white (five according to her interview) and eventually spread across the country to thousands, enabling her and her movement to vanquish a dictator and enable peace talks for her war torn country.  If Gbowee can do all of that with a grassroots protest there, then imagine what we can do here!  Please, stand by women’s rights and wear all white on April 2nd. Make it noticeable, and tell people why you’re doing it. Post on the community facebook page, share your stories, photos and videos. This is way for everyone to stand up and speak out, regardless of age, race, location or ability to travel.

Lawmakers today seem to have forgotten who those laws are being made for; seem to have forgotten how many of us there are who vote to keep them in office, or to take them out. How about a friendly reminder?

I stand by and for women’s rights.

By wearing all white, or a white shirt with pink “I support women’s rights” on this day, April 2, 2012, I am reminding those who write and pass bills:

Those women deserve honesty from their doctors – 100% of the time.

That a fetus’s life is not more important that the mother’s life.

That state sanctioned rape is still rape and not ok.

That it is not ok to charge a mother with attempted murder for a miscarriage.

That it is not ok to force women to carry a stillborn baby to term.

That it is not ok to take away the funding of women to receive medical treatment to make a political point.

That it is not ok to fire a woman because she is taking a medicine you disagree with.

For these and many other things currently being debated about in legislature, I stand for and by women’s rights.

Leymah Gbowee said, “It’s time for women to stop being politely angry.”

Here is a way to start:

Commit to wearing all white on Monday April 2. Send this invite to people you know. Call your senators and congressmen and let them know you do not approve of what’s happening right now. Stay informed. Talk about it. Shout about it. Do not stop until they have listened. Start visual protests of your own. Vote. Vote. Vote. Do research on what candidates actually believe and look at their voting history. Stay informed. Vote. Be the change.

Will you stand with me?

Please join in the community to share pictures and stories: