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Category: Articles and Intelligent Thoughts

A’s, Laney, and Gentrification

There’s a lot of interesting politics at Laney right now. The Oakland A’s want to build a new stadium on land owned by the Peralta school district. Much of the faculty and staff at Laney are actively against the project. On it’s face, I don’t really care about the A’s stadium or understand why they need to build a new one when they could easily expand it by getting rid of some of their infinite parking. Most of the opposition to it is about the gentrification it will bring.

I’ve observed that in practice, many people who claim to be anti-gentrification advocates display that not by advocating nuance and care in the implementation of resources, but by outright trying to disallow opportunities, programs, services, and improvements to underserved communities. These same people will come down to city hall to block developments with affordable housing because it will change their view, garden shadow, or because they want to get something out of the deal that winds up killing the project. The way I have seen white people try to avoid gentrification is by segregating – actively avoiding integrating with underserved communities and only living near other people in the same or similar racial/socioeconomic status.

Gentrification as the destruction of underserved communities by the wealthy steamrolling over them is terrible and wrong.

Gentrification as road improvements, better transportation access and options, food, and new housing developments? These are things that improve people’s lives, not decimate them.

Access to these things because I live in an area with them improves my quality of life and chances of success as a poor QTPOC student. Gentrification in this sense is not bad, and is in fact helpful to the community as a whole.

When I hear people talk about gentrification they equate these two. They talk about the addition of new housing, improved transit, and access to opportunity as if these things are the same as literally destroying entire neighborhoods. The flyer that has been circulating campus demonstrates this.

“Construction Noise and Air Pollution”

First thing, is that Laney is known for its trade school. There is a literal construction pit right outside the cafeteria. I spend 4 hours a day in the machine shop or welding lab on campus adjacent to the construction area. A trade school complaining about construction noises seems ridiculous. Additionally, the proposed site isn’t on Laney’s actual campus, it’s on a Peralta District site that consists of warehouses and office space several blocks away. I think our construction site outside the cafeteria may be more disruptive than the proposed ballpark construction several blocks removed.

“…Upscale Restaurants, Shops, and Apartments Expand”

The cafeteria closes before I get out of my classes and I don’t often have time to walk multiple blocks to order lunch between them. As a result my food intake is shit which is terrible for my health in a program that demands a lot of physical activity. I don’t usually have the spoons to figure out dinner, let alone pack a lunch the night before. It seems like people are patting themselves on the back for starving Laney students by disallowing and vilifying restaurants and food trucks in the area adjacent to campus, because avoiding gentrification is more important than student health.

“Displacement of Local Community Residents”

There is currently no housing on the land the A’s would like to acquire – however, part of their proposed plan is to build housing including below market rate homes, and possibly even some dedicated housing for Laney students and faculty. Increased housing supply is something that is desperately needed in Oakland, regardless of who funds it. As far as I’m aware, no people will be removed from their existing homes for the A’s stadium to be built. Displacement is a terrible problem and misrepresenting the causes to further an agenda helps no one.

“Skyrocketing Rents in Surrounding Communities”

It’s a bit disingenuous to say that a stadium with a development plan that includes affordable housing built on land currently containing no homes is going to make us face skyrocketing rents. As if skyrocketing rents are something we don’t already have, and as if the solution to skyrocketing rents is to not increase the supply so we have the ability for those to go down in this capitalist hellscape. This is the one that gets my housing activist goat up in arms, because that’s not how it works.

Influx of Humans Existing Near Me in My Parking Spot

The other points about parking and crowd/traffic noise are problems that I feel are super solvable. Laney is a commuter school and some of my classmates drive hours in the morning just to get to class on time, half of which start at 8am. As much of a transit advocate as I am, I understand that people still do need cars and Laney needs to be able to handle student parking and the students who drive will be sitting in that traffic. We don’t live in a public transit/cyclist/scooter/pedestrian utopia yet, and most of the East Bay is car-centered, so I get that concern.

However, we have more than 6ft available to drill into before we hit water so we can dig underground and like, store cars there without loosing much room for people to exist. What I’m saying is, we can make parking garages. Additionally, it’s not like roads are unchangeable. I am not a traffic scientist, but the topic people are on about the most is roads and traffic so I feel confident in assuming many people are On That Problem Already.

While I’m really ambivalent about where the baseball stadium goes, I do give many shits about how and what the arguments are from my school; I have to say I’m disappointed. If these are the arguments to stop all movement from happening, they are not good enough, compelling enough, or even accurate. They are largely fear tactics, buzz words, and a misrepresentation of facts. The bullet points for being against the stadium just don’t hold water. We do know that the A’s appear willing to pour boatloads of money into our college system and the area surrounding it, however, and more money to the school directly benefits myself and other students.

The way I see the situation is thus: The Peralta Board has already decided at this point so instead of spending all of our energy fighting something that will happen, we should be using it to our advantage. Which means getting as much as we can out of the deal for the Peralta college district and especially Laney.

My thoughts are that Peralta should:

  1. Lease the land to the A’s – This will give the district a constant stream of income which would help all the schools in the district. Especially since funding for community colleges has been getting harder and harder to come by. It just seems to make the most sense and be in the best interest of the longevity of the school.
  2. Have some stipulations about Laney College Student/Faculty/Staff Only Parking – which will eliminate the “game goers are stealing mah parking!” anxiety.
  3. Negotiate creating dedicated BMR Student/Faculty Housing near campus.
  4. Think about some way that the A’s stadium construction and maintenance could be used to advantage Peralta students. i.e. Providing work/job experience/internships to students in relevant departments (like welding) and require prevailing wage.
  5. Some kind of fee or donation that would go to improving the infrastructure on Peralta campuses (bathrooms and elevator maintenance, longer cafeteria hours, etc)
  6. Look into creating a community land trust that protects existing housing nearby

I am not a policy analyst. I’m just a machine student & housing activist who wants to be able to eat between classes, live near school, and learn things.

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Becoming Geek

Not so long ago, I was one of those really unsocialized homeschoolers who couldn’t hold up a conversation about Harry Potter but could tell you about ANWR (Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge), domestic (oil) drilling, and how little control our federal government really has over the control of oil prices. I’d only ever played racing video games occasionally – my favorite games were the educational ones my parents bought or that my grandpa got from school – namely, Mavis Beacon Typing, Story Weaver, and Amazon Trail. Those were just the games I was allowed to play, actually. My brother played Need For Speed, and Lego Racers (which I joined in on a few times) and was allowed video games and consoles.

I lived in a very controlling, mentally/spiritually/emotionally abusive home, where I raised and nurtured 6 of my siblings until I moved out days before my 7th sibling was born at 18. I was never encouraged in any artistic endeavor or to do anything but get married and become a breeder for religious reasons. That’s what I got for being born with a uterus – my reproductive organs defined my worth.

I never read The Chronicles of Narnia, Lord of the Rings, or Harry Potter because magic was witchcraft, which we would inevitably start practicing if we were exposed to it (because of our lack of brains?). At one point we abandoned our Disney collection, until my mom had too many kids it was impractical to keep them from Cinderella even if it did have a fairy godmother in it, and she did use a spell (bippity, boppity, boo).

I thus immersed myself in historical fiction and studying history so intensely that I still have a lot of random stuff memorized. It was the only allowed form of geekiness that I had, and so, I used it. I had 4 pocket constitutions; for a couple years I always had one on hand, just in case. I knew where to find ANYTHING by the article, and often section number.

Because I was so intensely set on learning I saw through the bullshit that a lot of the history “teachers” in the Christian community were peddling. Their revisionist history – while I was never allowed to say otherwise without being lectured – was clearly ill informed, completely untrue, and lacking in any historical context. I knew this because I studied everything around and leading up to events just for the context.

Now when people try to tell me that we were meant to be a theocracy by our founders, I call bullshit and brainwashed.

That’s kind of besides the point, though. The point is that I was sheltered. I was not allowed to play actual video games for more than an hour here-or-there if my siblings needed a player 2. I wasn’t allowed to read fantasy books because of religion. I hadn’t seen Star Wars until I was nearly 17, and even then I was bored because it was Episode 1. I’m convinced we only saw it because my mom was confused about the “classic” nature of it, and the kid from Jingle All The Way was starring.

I didn’t see LOTR until I was 17 at my boyfriend’s house, because he was really into it: Tolkien quote in email signature and everything. We started with the extended edition – I had to watch it 3 different times before I got the story and then I fell in love with the genre and with LOTRTwo Towers especially.

When I moved out, and moved in with my boyfriend’s family which is an even longer story, we started playing the PC version of Halo on occasion. That was my first “real” introduction to gaming, even though I hated getting shot all the time while figuring out how to move. I was also introduced to Firefly and Fringe – we’d watch these quietly to avoid waking up his parents, who are also not into science fiction or fantasy.

When we got married, we bought our first console, cable, and I’ve come a long way since then. I’d always identified as a geek, much to my mom’s horror, because I always knew I was – so you can imagine my happiness upon finding not only a ton of content, but a ton of people who were into the same things. We discovered that Focus on the Family outright lied about Harry Potter; Doctor Who is amazing; Browncoats are forever; and GAMING IS FUN. There are games that have stories, you guys! STORIES, not just racing and/or shooting. I had found that piece of me that was missing and wanting to manifest, that piece of me that helps everything else make sense.

Ask any ex-quiverfull or fundamentalist daughter and they’ll tell you it’s reallllllly hard to escape the you-are-your-uterus-mindset and find out who you actually are, what you actually like. This has been a long process for me – an ongoing process even, because I’m still unlearning old thought processes. On bad days, I just sit and wonder if doing what I want is even worth it – if being me (whoever that is) is even worth it.

It is.

Now, I’m making the third season of my web-series. I started it last year in a moment of clarity, sudden bravery, and lack of fucks to give after an existential crisis.

This project, KieryGeek Season Three, is all about storytelling: the things that I love about gaming, sci-fi, fantasy, and geekdom – I’ll be talking about world-building in games and collecting play-through footage. I’ll also be creating stories with the help of my co-conspirator Matt (MALE FRIEND I’M NOT MARRIED TO WHAT? TAKE THAT UPBRINGING!) in a hangout format. I’d really like to see this funded not just because it’s cool and another kind of community, but because it would mean so much to me personally and my constantly self-critical psyche to do something amazing and worthwhile and completely me for a change.

Thank you everybody!

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Feminism and Women in Games

I am a gamer-girl. I fly under the radar, and I never have Xbox chat open. Honestly, I never interact with random people in game and I completely ignore trade chat. So, I’ve never experienced the bullying and misogyny that many other gamer-girls have.

But I have noticed, the lack of (well written) women characters in games. Sometimes it’s directly sexist, other times it’s just like, the women disappeared except for the occasional bar-maid or rescue quest. Never really main characters unless you *decide* to play as FemShep or FemHawke.

Bioshock Infinite, I felt, was groundbreaking because their female character was remarkably well written, strong, capable, and <spoiler> saves your ass more times than you can count </spoiler>.

A lot of people, when talking about female characters focus on what they look like. Which, I understand, I guess, but I also find it…I don’t know. I feel like if your complaint about female characters is centered around how they look, then you’re putting women into games as sex appeal just as much as the other people (without taking into account whether or not the design fits the entire world/style of the game and isn’t a special thing). Honestly, it’s an animation, I don’t particularly take issue with how things were rendered so long as the design fits the style of the game and story.

What I do wish, is that the writing of Elizabeth and her character-type weren’t groundbreaking. I wish it were standard. I wish women were written better, and even, actually written as characters as opposed to furniture or quest objectives. Maybe eventually we could get to the point of having a female character showcased as the default – but that isn’t going to happen until other things happen first.

As a consumer looking in to the world of games, I think that it’s a little similar to the world of female directors – there are some who work in “the industry”, but not many. Before anything changes I think we need to encourage people to write better characters, better stories, and encourage women to enter the game writing/design/programming world. That’s going to take time – especially, because apparently this is so new to people? It’s maybe not so much that it’s intentionally sexist (although, a lot of people are) but, like the absence of women in games, they just aren’t there (or if they are, they’re somewhere hidden in a male-dominated world, and we need to support them, and/or become involved ourselves).

Women should be in games and in the game creating industry not because they are women (because if we’re starting there, then I think we’ve already “lost”) but because women are people, human (just like men, WHAT?! o.O) and have just as much talent, insight, and story to offer as anyone else does. I think when we stop separating our lives – in and out of game – by gender, we’ll be a lot better off.

But that isn’t going to just happen.

If we want to see this happen, then we need to be writing the stories, making the art, making the games and becoming involved in the process. Gearbox (Borderlands) and Irrational Games (Bioshock Infinite) are two companies that I know of who take care in their story writing, and in their writing/creation of female characters – there are others, but those are just the two that come to mind right now (and then there’s indie games and I could go on – there are options!). Penny-Arcade forums are a great resource for getting started and the best thing to do? just make stuff. make lots of stuff. make the stuff you want to see, make stuff with other people, and put your stuff out there.

So that’s my advice – brought to you by the E3 controversies.

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Women are less

Growing up in a religious conservative circle taught me this ever so explicitly. They would try to water it down and say “no you’re equal, but different” the place of women is in the home, in the kitchen, pregnant or raising children. Not in the “world”, not working, not doing anything that would in any way put her in equal standing with men.

This article makes me sad – no, angry because it’s true.

People very close to me believe, truly, that women are in some way stupid and need men for guidance. I was taught that women are “easily mislead” and thus need men to teach them and “lead” them the right way. Like we are animals to be trained, or horses to be broken. It follows that women, once they reach adulthood, should not be listened to – that it’s okay to completely write them off as “emotional”, “misguided”, or “hormonal” – it’s all too easy to take anything anyone with a vagina has to say and instead of taking them seriously, say they’re just whining, not happy, or one of those evil feminists not worth listening to.

It’s taken me years to come to terms with my womanhood, with the fact that I have the horrible ability to reproduce within my body. It’s taken longer to accept the fact that I am human, and that as a human I have value – that isn’t reliant on whether or not I have a penis on my body.

Unfortunately, I still find myself in circles, exposed to the lies of my youth – who believe that women are for reproducing, teaching, cooking, cleaning, and if you’re lucky, making things and maybe having an in-home business selling house-wifely things like sewn goods, jewelry, or food.

I take issue with the god I grew up with. The god who decided that as part of “the curse” women will be in horrible pain during their reproductive cycle, while men just have the “curse” of pulling weeds or  “hard labor”, and the snake lost its legs. I can’t separate the misogyny of the religion of my youth, with what may or may not be true about christianity. I can not see god as loving when he inflicts half the population with a lower status, half a life of pain, and sets them up for being written off and told they’re stupid until the end of the earth.  People say Jesus raised the status of women, which, in the culture of his day may be true, but people who are supposed to be “like Jesus” massively fail and take the easy way of misogyny as written in the apostles over the example of the deity they claim to love and serve with all their heart and soul.

Women are “equal” in the sense that they are “people”, complete the largest chunk of reproduction, and in christianity have “equal access to god”. But in practice? Women are less, women are challenged and put down when they say things or step outside of the box, they’re labeled and personally attacked when they “make a crack in the glass ceiling”. Because  women being assertive is not allowed, still. Women having a voice, or control over their own body is still frowned upon.

Things I thought were resolved with the suffrage movement and the right to vote are resurfacing in this election and it hurts. It makes me feel ashamed to be a woman (scared, even), having been born with boobs and without a penis makes me feel trapped. I feel like everywhere I turn I hear old men, and some women trying to fit me into a box – the box I worked so hard, and wrestled with and tore myself apart over to escape. The box I’m still trying to completely escape – because completely leaving a gender box is more than just one process – it’s many, over a lifetime.

I don’t talk about feminism, womanhood, or anything like that very much, because a large part of myself has rejected the idea of gender. Because gender does. not. matter. At the very least, it should not matter. We are all human. We are all entitled to the same rights and opinions and control over our own bodies. We all have the right to say no – we do not deserve to be stepped on and half of the population does not deserve to be stripped of their rights just because their genitalia is different. Women are not more prone to misguidance or stupidity than men, nor vice versa. People are prone to flaws. People ARE flawed and we all have traits that are unique to our personalities, not our gender.

I’m tired of being subtly told I’m less, of being subtly hinted to that I should live in a box. I’m tired of watching men in power debate over whether or not I am smart enough to decide what happens to my body and when. I’m tired of people protecting the embryos that my body painfully destroys on a monthly basis, to the extent that it lessens my value and my rights as a fully existing person. I’m tired of people telling me that I’ll “get over it” and want to reproduce, I’m tired of people frowning at and judging me because I’m different and do not fit in the box I was supposed to belong to. I’m tired of people treating me as though I am the same clone, as though I’ll come around and find my rightful place in the stifling box of conservative womanhood. I’m tired of people thinking that they can speak, act and think for me because I cannot think for myself.

I’m tired of people lessening my value as a human being because I have decided not to have children – or trying to justify it because I’m young and I’ll “change my mind”.

All these messages, all the subtext just continue to beat me down, to tell me that my past was right, I am less because I am woman, I am even more less because I reject that being female dictates the way I live my life. It doesn’t matter how much you verbally affirm “women are equal (but different)” when you say, believe, and act in a way that demonstrates otherwise. Women are equal when they live in a box, but that is not equality at all, and I thought we were past that.

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The Outbreak (part 7)

Amy tossed and turned. Water was all she could think about but she couldn’t muster the strength to ask. She opened her bleary eyes and looked about the room. She found the cup; and noticed her parents asleep on chairs outside. She reached as far as she could to no avail. Defeated, she closed her eyes. In her mind, viewed the cup coming to her still outstretched arm and felt a splash. Her eyes bolted open; startled to be holding the cup she couldn’t even reach a mere moment ago, warm water dripped down her hand and wrist. Shock and panic began to overwhelm her, she tried to fake calmness as she sipped her water and gently placed the cup down on the bed rail.

A nurse must have come in and given it to me while I had my eyes closed and is probably just around the corner Amy hoped as she peered over the edge to see around the room. No one was there, the door was still shut, there was no sound besides the constant beep of the monitors and her heart beating in ears.

Amy laid back and closed her eyes. She thought of her cold toes and imagined the blankets moving over her feet. When her eyes opened, nothing had changed. She sat up and frustratedly put the scratchy blanket back over her toes and pushed the service button.

“Thanks, Sasha” Agent Ryan said as the screen went back into place and the other feeds came back into view. He leaned back in his chair with his pad, spun once and moved towards his desk.

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The Outbreak (part 6)

“Amy, honey” Her mom whispered softly lowering herself into a chair by the bed, her father put his hand on her mother’s shoulder and looked down teary-eyed. “I’m so…sorry” Amy managed to murmur. Her parents cried and held her hand as the world faded into black again.

Black suit, soft steps, swipe of a card, whir of a door – the room is completely dark but responds to the touch of his finger. “Sasha” he says in a clear voice and a line of blue light makes its way around the circular room. “Agent Ryan Parker” she greeted as warmly as possible for an AI. Lights slowly came on, and images of hospital rooms appeared on a wall to the left. “Your patients are all stable, the doctors reports are on the console” he moved toward the center of the room as his work station lit up – the tablet on the desk awakened with the latest updates. He flipped through the reports scanning for anything abnormal.

An alert started going off – one of the screens to the left lit up. “Sasha, focus on that one” Ryan swiveled his chair to grab a notebook and watched intensely at the feed.

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The Outbreak (part 5)

Apologies for the length of time between this installation and the last one. Life and vacation happened and I ran out of words. I finally managed to put a few together this morning because I just needed to write. Hopefully I’ll break down this block and write more frequently again, thanks for your patience.

“It seems,” said the doctor quietly as he secured the door “that your daughter has become infected with a rare strain of smallpox”. Silence and worried looks passed throughout the small quarantined room – it was then that Amy noticed her parents and the doctor were all wearing masks. “Smallpox was in the case” she realized, horrified.

As the doctor continued to explain the situation as best he could, dread filled the atmosphere. “Unfortunately, because of this weaponized strain, there is as of yet, no antidote. We’re not sure what will happen, but we have the best people working on this. I suggest that this information stays within this room, and as far as friends and other family are concerned, we tell them it’s just a very bad case of the chicken pox until we know more.”

He hung his head apologetically and left the room, giving the family some space and time to process everything that they had just learned.

Catching up? Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

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The Outbreak (part 4)

Squeaky wheels, bright lights, everything was blurring – voices, rolling, walls, beeping. Slowly unfamiliar faces came into focus. “w-wh-where, where am I?” Amy mumbled, stuttering as she was carted through a set of doors.

Doctors were shouting and saying something about “CC’s” and “pox”, they shot something into her arm and everything grew dim again.

 

When she awoke, her parents were standing outside the door of what she assumed was her hospital room. Suddenly remembering what had happened when she left the campus, Amy bolted up only to be jerked back by an IV and tubes embedded into her rashy skin. Her parents and the doctor turned towards her from the doorway and started in.

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The Outbreak (part 3)

The room slowly quieted. “It seems, that there was a mishap with the cases during transport. We don’t know what happened, we’re launching an investigation to look into it. A few of our operatives in charge of transporting are also missing.”

He breathed slowly, keeping his composure that was hanging by a thread. “At this time we are unsure how many – if any – people have been exposed to the weaponized virus. Right now, we’re assuming that there has been exposure. I suggest we alert hospitals and local CDC offices in the areas that the virus may have been transported through. We’re working on finding out the exact routes so we can get the list to you.”

The room nodded in unison. “How many antidotes do we have available?” asked one man in a lab coat on the far side of the room.

Gulping, the agent answered “This strain was newly developed by our scientists – there is no readily available antidote, although one is being worked on as we speak. The only course of action I have to offer is to alert the medical staff and CDC at the locations the agency will be sending to you and to treat it carefully. We don’t want people to know there has been a smallpox outbreak, or that it’s a new strain. I suggest treating it like a case of normal smallpox…or chicken pox.”

With that, he stood up and quietly exited the room – leaving a crowd of speechless and panicked doctors and scientists in his wake.

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The Outbreak (2)

“It appears that the case containing a weaponized smallpox virus is missing” stated the man, as calmly as possible to the room of colorless faces. Fear-struck questions filled the air before he’d finished speaking. Sighing, he sunk into a chair and waited for the crowd to calm down before continuing.

The Chem lab on campus was closed for vacation, but Amy had her own setup in the basement of her parents house. She went to her car, carefully placing the case so as not to disturb the contents and started driving towards her home on the other side of town. She passed familiar landmarks and parks full of school children, like she did every day as a commuter. Her neck slowly began to itch before she was halfway home. Shrugging it off as mosquito, she stayed calm – as the itching slowly spread across her shoulders and to her arms she began to worry. So close to home, Amy continued until she parked in her driveway. Only then did she look down and notice she was covered in pox. Realizing that this was more than just a bad reaction to a mosquito, she grabbed the box and ran to the basement – whatever she contracted had to have been from inside the box; if she could figure out what it was, she probably had the right antibiotics to combat it.

Covering the case with her jacket- she barely made it into the kitchen before collapsing.

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