Dawn Keenan

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In the Before, I used to travel for work a couple of times a month: airports, hotels, getting food in restaurants sometimes. Bus rides and long days in the war room. 1/Now, I mostly stay a few feet from my bed. I wear a mask to go out in the hall, fret about the cost of supporting local restaurants with takeout once a week. /1

I went to the condo gym every day. Most days I used equipment: machines or free weights. 2/I exercise in the same space I use as my makeshift office, with a floor mat and occasionally a dumbbell or two. /2

I rehearsed music with my choir every week: sixty people sitting and standing together, building music for performance, in a small room in a church, with lively social time. 3/I have Zoom sessions for two choirs, preparing to record a total of three songs in November for sound engineers to assemble with others' submissions for December. Online meetings are tiring. /3

I walked all over, pretty much every day. Spaced errands and shopping throughout the week. 4/I get food and other items delivered when I can. I'm supporting local farmers. Baked goods come in the mail. /4

Weekends were for galleries, museums, cultural and community events. It was great to be in crowds, people watching. 5/I stay indoors most days. Sometimes I will walk on the crowded streets, wearing my mask, following public health orders. /5

I volunteered, working in close proximity to people I had something in common with. 6/I don't spend much time around people in "real" spaces. It reminds me of being trapped in isolation long ago, not even seeing friends. /6

I want to move forward to a time after the pandemic. I have to live through now to get there. 13/

It's hard. My health is not superb. I can't make it stop on my own. I have to rely on our community and our leaders. 14/

Please stay as safe as you can. Help us all be safe. 15/15

10/21 '20 3 Comments
This captures it pretty well.
Karen Kuhl 10/28 '20
Here's to community and leaders, wherever we may find them.
Brian Rapp 10/21 '20
The community around me includes hundreds of people who like to gather in large, tightly packed crowds and shout about how they're oppressed and aren't gonna wear no goddam masks. And also, as I was reminded last night, gay white people who don't want any space given to QTBIPOC stories LALALAICANTHEARYOUANDIMTAKINGMYBALLYOUCANTMAKEMESUBMITTOLISTENING.
Dawn Keenan 10/22 '20

The choices I have made and continue to make define borders in and around my life. They're not my only constraints, but past and present me are accountable for them.

I live in a densely populated area of a city with a population of 2.9 million humans. S and I moved here from a smaller, tech-focused city three years ago. Housing costs mean 3 humans and 2 cats occupy about 800 square feet including the balcony, at the edge of affordability for us in our current income/expense situation. The mortgage is scheduled to be paid off when I'm 72 years old. Being close to services, events, culture, transit, and a diverse population along many measures is critical. Expressions of white supremacy are out in the open; expressions of love and mutual respect within and among communities are as well, and they more than balance the evil in this part of the world.

We've come up with some curious logistics with our limited space. We don't have a working shower in the second bathroom because it's full of art. We rent a storage locker in the building and a parking space for our motorcycles, no car because we can hire one from two different car sharing services at need. We have no working stove or oven because storage is more important than the types of food prep we can accomplish among a microwave, toaster oven, instant pot, waffle iron, and air fryer. My work-at-home space through at least the end of December and our bed are in the shared space of our condo, because K having privacy and S having a studio with a door that closes outweigh my own needs and wants.

Until the pandemic is extinguished, I don't get out much. This is a huge change from The Before when I would walk all over, run little errands on a whim, go to the choir practice that is part of my health management, wander around crowded spaces to watch people, hit up the art galleries at least monthly. With health concerns in the household and others' behaviours and available environments outside it, even going downstairs to drop off recycling is a risk that requires masking up and diligent hygiene. Some days I don't break 3000 steps despite exercising at least 30 minutes daily. Exercise is critical, and I'm relying on an app to schedule my workouts for the space, time, energy, and equipment available. I need more biceps work if I'm going to ever do a pullup or chinup on the bar S installed in our kitchen doorway.

I'm somewhat underemployed for my skills. When we moved, I quit my job without another to go to. It was a long 12-13 months with no employment income other than working one long day as a Deputy Returning Officer in the provincial election for about $22-25 per hour. My prior career was in IT, where even a brief period of unemployment without a portfolio of side projects is ill advised. I'd had good prospects, I thought, and I knew my old job and workplace and city were deleterious to my health. Cutting ties even more completely that a former abuser could leverage to get at me was an additional factor. So I'm in the civil service, in an administrative support job I aced the qualifying exams for. I'm on assignment to a special project for 16 months at my substantive pay grade, doing work at a level people getting half again to double my pay are doing alongside me, having a mostly good time though chafing at the lack of physical presence. Maybe the assignment will help my longer term income and my level of engagement. My grandboss knows I don't want to go back to working for my substantive supervisor and we're working on a possible way to use and reward my skills and interests. Meanwhile, my 7.5 hour days tend to run to 8.5 or 9 and I'm both highly stressed and highly engaged. By Thursday I'm exhausted.

I started subscribing to a grocery service two months ago. FoodShare TO delivers a non-negotiable box of "enough fruit and vegetables for 2-4 people for a week" every week, and I get a loaf of locally made sourdough bread for K once a month. It reduces my exposure to grocery stores, especially the produce aisle. My purchase supports food insecure households and local farmers. Yesterday is the first time we got the automated notifications for delivery time: before that, the box was left in the building lobby and it was mostly our overburdened concierge who would let us know it had arrived. There's less fruit than I'd rather, and the vegetables are mostly brassicas and nightshades that S can't eat. I'm eating even more vegetables, K is making soup regularly, and I'm farting more (and have more gas pain) than before. It's good food, and I'm learning new approaches to cooking and eating when I have the energy and executive function to do so.

My garden is four pots on the balcony, each big enough to support one tomato plant. This year I haven't been able to work up the energy and interest to get food plants or seeds for planting while the few, narrow stores providing those goods are open. If we can find the wildflower seeds that friends gave us with their wedding invitation last summer, we'll plant those. It's not like I need more produce, though I'd love fresh strawberries that don't cost $8 a quart in season.

The days blur into each other, the weeks as well. Is it the hundred and twelfth day of March or something? It's summer now, and the sky will start getting bright, the birds singing, a little later each day. I'm in a cage I've chosen, better a housecat than roadkill. May as well sing.

6/21 '20

Move along, nothing to see here.

I've been the strong one for a very long time. Not always-always, but a lot of my life and identity has been in roles where tears, complaints, and collapsing from exhaustion are accepted in the people I'm supporting but have to happen off stage if I run out of solidity. Funeral? Severe illness? Team or family troubles? I'm the guy with the shoulder and the resources.

Sometimes I have depression. Or loss of executive function. Or a physical illness. I don't let it show, except to one or two very well trusted people who get the hell of my worst, some of the times when I am at low ebb and simply cannot any further.

The rare occasions when I do let it show more publicly, inevitably someone or other throws noise my way about how horrible I've become. Or quietly backs away, never to interact with me again. I've seen both extremes and a few departures in between.

Between a cold last week and the work-from-home mandate that came down for most of the civil service on the weekend, I am already weary of a confinement that will go on for at least a month and possibly longer. Getting physical activity and social interaction have been keystones in my self care, and both have become considerably harder to achieve: no gym, no choir, lack of routines and structure to replace either.

Today I got not unexpected news that my aunt's funeral last year is probably the last I will have seen my mother alive. I've been  treating every goodbye as a farewell for years but it's different when a lockdown order gets issued, it seems.

I will keep doing my best to put on a public face of being the kind of person I desperately need. Thoughtful advice. Wacky, uplifting distractions. The stuff that gives people strength.

I sure could use some of that strength now.

Hail, Hydrate.

3/19 '20 4 Comments
I'm sorry to hear. Hail Hydrate.
Thomas Boutell 3/20 '20
Come with me
Where tongues are never taxing.
All us nerds
At home, at home, relaxing.
Tom, our patron,
We pray you won't be picky.

Admit me to your Lebensraum
And set me dark and sticky.
Brian Rapp 3/20 '20
Tuberculosis is so romantic. Thanks for the reminder of other times.
Dawn Keenan 3/25 '20
My advice: search for images using the words, "Castello di Sammezano."
Anne Mollo 3/20 '20

"You're so thin."

I hear that, or Beloved's quips on me being a tiny wee thing, frequently. Pointing out the enormous bags of fat that depend on my chest (G cup in British sizing), or the fact I'm about as tall as an average man my age, doesn't deflect from the fact that I am shorter and considerably thinner than most of the people I spend time with, thinner than woman-bodied people of my age as well.

Doctors have commented favourably on me having a fairly low body weight and decent overall fitness level. I don't get told to lose weight when I have a completely unrelated condition. Some overweight people are not so fortunate, even if when weight on a chart is not correlated to poor overall health.

I don't work at being thin. I don't try to starve myself and my exercise routine is specifically designed for strength and endurance, adding bulk in the form of muscle. I hear that I'm lucky, or that I won some kind of genetic lottery.

I don't try to starve myself, but sometimes my biochemistry and past patterns do. When I'm depressed (clinical, not having a sad time so much as a flat affect, anhedonia and impaired executive function), I forget to eat until I figure out the grey-out from low blood sugar and the severe pain in my gut are signs my body needs fuel. I've been discouraged from being seen and heard, and what better way than programming myself to insubstantiality?

I eat what tastes like food, which is mostly fruits, vegetables, nuts, and meats. Sweet and higher-fat foods I will sometimes nearly inhale when I've been exercising intensely, but I don't reach for them. I don't like the way my body feels when I eat starches, so I eat little in the way of breads, cakes, cookies, potatoes, and the like. When I drink juice, it's diluted usually at least 3:1 with water because it's cloyingly sweet.

I've been through financially difficult times. My response to not having much money for food is typically to not eat at all or ro eat less, not to reach for filling (usually starchy) foods. I haven't built up a layer of fat, except in the chesticles when hormones had their way with my body.

I don't drink alcohol. I used to. I don't like the sensations and altered consciousness that intoxicants induce. I tried edibles once in the past year and they're not for me either. Booze has a lot of calories.

One of the ways I calm my mind is being physical. Walking, working out, to a lesser extent singing. It's a rare week that sees me average fewer than 10,000 steps a day in addition to daily stairs (9th floor) and exercise (4-6 times a week). The activity burns fuel and raises my base metabolism so I need more fuel to maintain function.

I don't manage my pain well. I'm working on improving here, but even as I type this I have two hips that are searing their ache into my awareness. When I'm in pain, what appetite I do have is greatly diminished.

The size I am is a part of me that I don't put any effort into. It simply is, like the colour of my eyes. Yes, they're really brown. I'm not virtuous because I'm kind of skinny.

People who are fat to any degree are not lazy or bad. I find my programming telling me they are sometimes, which is its own kind of disturbing. If you notice me acting, speaking, or writing in a way that implies fat people are inferior, please thwack a portion of sense into me by whatever means you prefer. Preferably consensual.

Here endeth the sermon.

11/14 '19 2 Comments
There's no easy way to put this sermon into conversation, though, is there? When my dad gets complimented for fitting into his Army uniform from over 50 years ago, what can one say?
Brian Rapp 11/15 '19
If I were in high spirits, I might respond along the lines of "I'm a bigger man than I was fifty years ago, but the fit of my clothes doesn't show it." Or hauntingly, "I wish I could forget what I went through when I wore this uniform daily."

I think it's harder for a man and an elder to turn a well-meant compliment on being fit and thin into the start of a conversation on weight and health.
Dawn Keenan 11/15 '19

Questions from a friend's post on an antisocial network. Answers all mine.

1. Do you make your bed every day?
My sweetie does, so I almost never do.

2. How many hours of sleep do you need to be great?
Highly dependent on the environment and context, but average 8-9.

3. What two grocery items do you never run out of?
Peanuts and tea.

4. At what age did you start doing your laundry?
I started helping with household laundry in childhood, and didn't separate my own from the family's until I moved out at twenty-one.

5. If you could, would you go back to high school?
Hell no.

6. Can you parallel park in under three moves?
I doubt it.

7. A job you had which people would be shocked to know you once had?
I'll go with nude model, which seems to surprise most people. Others might find it odd that I was once a Kelly girl (temporary administrative and secretarial help through an agency).

8. Do you think there are aliens?
I think there's intelligent life we will never have contact with.

9. Can you drive a stick shift?

10. Guilty TV pleasure?
Haven't watched TV in many years. My guilty movie pleasure is chop-socky.

11. Tattoos?
In the planning stages. I have a studio in mind (three possible artists on their roster) and am working on the design.

12. If the world ends do you want to be one of the survivors?
It would be an interesting challenge to make the best of an entirely changed environment, so yes.

13. Sweet or salty?
Salty. Bitter or sour would be more of a toss up.

14. Do you enjoy soaking in a nice hot bath?
Of course, though only on special occasions to unknot and relax.

15. Do you consider yourself a strong person?
Others consider me a strong person. I consider myself stubborn, which I will grudgingly admit requires a lot of strength. I am also brittle and need friends who help me avoid breaking.

16. Something people do that drives you nuts?
Judge (look down on) people based on their appearance. I know I do this myself, albeit with different parameters.

17. Do you have any birthmarks?

18. Favourite childhood game?
Kick the can.

19. Do you talk to yourself?
Not out loud (usually). I do some of my blog and speech writing by talking to myself in my inside-my-head voice.

20. Do you like doing jigsaw puzzles?
Have enjoyed them in the past. It's been a few years.

21. Tea or coffee?
Tea first thing in the morning, coffee mid morning, then tea. I'm mostly a tea person.

22. First thing you remember wanting to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be an astronaut.

9/7 '19 1 Comment
I also loved Kick the Can. I was frustrated that it wasn't played more often.

This is a reader-focused edit of the speech I recently gave as the capstone of the Dynamic Leadership path in Toastmasters. During the speech, I switched a few things up in response to audience reaction. I broke several of the common rules for Toastmasters speech struture and delivery, every transgression a choice I had deliberately made and weighed in advance.

As I said afterward to the fellow who'd roped me in to serving as the club's VP Education and proceeded to be unavailable to provide promised guidance, support, and backfill over much of the following year: it’s not the speech I wanted to give. It was the speech my audience needed to witness.

Thousands of books, millions of pages, have been written on public speaking. Each resource has a structure, but the number of tips and guidelines and exercises is overwhelming to someone just setting out. How many rules are there for giving a speech?

My friend Linda Carson says there are fewer rules than you think. Linda trains beginning artists to understand and follow rules of composition. In every lesson, she provides guidance to help artists improve in seeing, painting, drawing, sculpture. The rules are important to learn new skills and perspectives, but at some point the training wheels come off. More advanced artists consciously use fewer rules than beginners. If it’s true for visual art, is it also true for the performance art of public speaking? Come with me on a little journey.

Two years ago I was packing up my life and moving. From some perspectives, my plan for the future could have been written on a beer-soaked napkin. I have lifelong friends who are have used Toastmasters to build speaking, writing, and leadership skills. They all encouraged me to join Toastmasters and leverage it to improve my skills and my network in a new city.

At the end of the summer, I joined a Toastmasters club in the neighbourhood where I would live for much of the following year. The members were like a second family to one another. I saw some impressive skills from practiced speakers and leaders. Personal and professional development were actively encouraged through mentoring and effective critique.

When I got my speech craft and leadership manuals, I read them thoroughly. I hunted down guides from the Toastmasters International web site. I studied the rules, watched like a crow at meetings, and prepared. And prepared.

I was so keen on doing well out of the gate that it took me two months to give my Ice Breaker speech, the first prepared speech project in the programme. I would take my first meeting role, noting and reporting on the use of filler words, the following week. In my prepared speech I talked about my childhood. I went more than a minute over time even though I’d practiced. People didn’t seem to mind, but I recognized the need to change from my rambling storytelling to a more concise style.

The Pathways system came out and I decided to give it a spin. I delivered another Ice Breaker about being disabled for a year. I wasn’t too uncomfortable. I didn’t run as much over my allowed time. I kept showing up, taking formal roles every few weeks, volunteering for impromptu speaking when I didn’t have a role. I kept trying, watching, listening. I was slowly improving.

Then I cheated, singing the last 40 seconds of a speech about singing. When I presented the revised version, I stood on my writing and speaking skills alone. I needed to expand my comfort zone, not the audience’s.

I gave a technical talk next. It was loaded with acronyms and detail relevant to IT project managers. Most of the club members weren’t technology workers, so I got to watch people grow increasingly bored, confused, and disengaged. I needed to write and speak in easily understood terms.

The months passed. I kept watching other people’s performances and feedback, getting up on stage, receiving personalized feedback, making and acting on plans for incremental improvement. I was developing skills: learning many rules, mastering one and moving on to the next. Sometimes I connected with a lot of the audience, sometimes just one or two people. I needed to focus on speaking effectively to everyone in the room.

When I became the club’s Vice President of Education almost a year in, it was a huge set of new challenges and a chance to deliver speeches that could help people become better speakers and leaders. I was growing, blossoming. I was continuing to hide my identity in a group that had some fundamental differences from me: a group that has occasionally invited guests from demographics where people like me are not accepted with open minds and hearts.

I’ve lived with the tension between being honest and being despised for most of my life. Be yourself, but not that way. We’re taught from our earliest socialization that the one who is different, the outsider, is a good target for oppression. Sometimes it’s access to opportunity: we promoted or hired another candidate based on culture fit. Sometimes it’s ostracizing, shunning the different: you are not my kin. Sometimes it’s open threats and assault. Even in a nice suburban neighbourhood, fifty years after response to a police raid at the Stonewall Inn started changing society.

I rely on layers of rules and guidelines to protect my well-being and that of my dearest loves. My heart hides behind an interlocking set of riddles. But when I get to know you, there are fewer rules than you think.

In her art classes, Linda taught all her students that rules can be broken. Not arbitrarily, but after you understand what the rule is and why it exists. Great works of art often break one or more rules. Linda had two inviolable rules in her studio. Don’t lick the brushes — some art supplies are poisonous. More importantly, don’t put down anyone’s work, especially your own. Every other rule she taught, there was a way around it once you developed enough skill and had a good reason.

Linda’s universal rule for creating art isn’t quite what we need for public speaking. Let’s expand to the broader principle and refocus. The universal rule that resonates best with me comes from Kurt Vonnegut in his book God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater.

"Hello babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. On the outside, babies, you’ve got a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies-‘God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.’"

You’ve got to be kind.

When a man asks you for your coat, give him your cloak also.

What that looks like in public speaking is this inviolable rule: honour your audience. Every tip on drafting a speech, every presentation skill you have mastered and will go on to master, every morsel of feedback you receive comes down to this. What is best for my audience? Walk a mile in their shoes, another mile barefoot beside them. Pay them your full mind and meet their needs. Adapt to new audiences when you find them at work, in a speech contest, on a stage in front of hundreds of friends you haven’t met yet.

As Ted “Theodore” Logan III would say, Be excellent to each other.

6/22 '19 2 Comments
Brian Rapp 6/22 '19
It wouldn't be a half bad sermon with some editing, though I think it bears little resemblance to the evangelistic style I was exposed to in my childhood.
Dawn Keenan 6/23 '19

yes, it came out just as i typed it.

hese boxes seem to multiply.t

11/10 '14 3 Comments
You can also type whatever title you'd like and use the "link" icon. That way there is no auto-embedding of any sort, just your text linking wherever you wish it to.

The auto-embedder for pasted links needs work. The text needs to be fully editable and the image it chooses needs to be selectable, including eliminating it entirely.

It works very well on sites that support oembed (youtube, vimeo, slideshare) and moderately well on sites that use facebook's Open Graph tags. It has the most trouble with sites like sinfest which don't even have a distinct title tag for each strip.

Thomas Boutell 11/10 '14
At first, I wanted to share a link to a webcomic for a specific date, and proceeded to do what Just Works when I'm on Major Site. I was mildly dismayed by the appearance of additional boxes but figured something might get cleaned up in posting-production so left it as it lay.
For the next post (above), I acted as a naive user in attempting to use again the link to the page and then, when that WYSInotWYW, trying a link to the image only. Boxes popped up and I typed into them. The shifting right of my first character typed in one of those boxes pointed to another likely UI issue.
It still takes more work than a casual user of technology *who isn't going to look for functionality that isn't obvious when presented with WYSIWYG and limited icons to try* wants to expend to provide a link to content that is easily identified by many other web-based social services.
Dawn Keenan 11/10 '14
Facebook happens to get this one right by just displaying the correct image, which is impressive given the inscrutable markup - there's really no good way to know which image is the webcomic. Perhaps they remember which image people used to choose manually. Perhaps they scan for the largest image, which is a good idea for a webcomic.

I tried a some of other webcomics and got terrible results from Facebook (and also from OPW, of course). The worst are those that *do* provide opengraph tags but make them the same for every episode of the comic. Sigh.
Thomas Boutell 11/10 '14

Most people working in technology, especially the ones who write code, don't understand the underlying needs and use cases that drive their work. Under the guidance of an effective architect/manager, a few of those get it right despite their low level of communication skills.

I've worked in IT and related fields for a while, as have many of the people who call themselves my friends. I've seen and discussed a lot of getting it wrong and getting it right, and mentored a handful of folks along the way to improving their empathy, communication, execution, and humility. You don't do good work by acting like a bro. If you don't understand why someone's upset about an action of yours, you may have committed a bro behaviour -- even if you are not a bro. I myself am not entirely free of bro nature and sometimes err.

The development of this site so far has, from the multiple perspectives I can access through the miracle of conversation, been uneven with respect to listening to, understanding, and meeting the needs of anyone other than the principal developer. Fortunately, the skills that need to be developed can be learned by a person internally motivated to do so.

9/27 '14 9 Comments
That's interesting, Dawn. In our exchanges, it's seemed very much the other way. You've been all "you MUST do exactly THIS now," and I've been all "I'd like to do that but I have to balance it with other concerns, let's think about it, hey how about this which actually accomplishes all or most of them."

Then I made a mistake, as people do when their websites are in beta, and you responded as if a faceless corporation had intentionally sold you into slavery. I apologized profusely and made changes; you reduced me to a nonperson, and then decided I'm a person but I'm a "bro."

How would you respond in my place?
Thomas Boutell 9/27 '14
<blockquote>you reduced me to a nonperson, and then decided I'm a person but I'm a "bro."</blockquote>
What information led you to the conclusion that I have categorized you as a nonperson and them a "bro"?
Dawn Keenan 9/27 '14
Go back and reread these exchanges of which you write and their context. Reread the post to which you're responding and identify your assumptions.
You have been making a lot of assumptions, Mister Thomas Boutell.
Dawn Keenan 9/27 '14
Oh yes, it would be a terrible thing if either of us made assumptions.
Thomas Boutell 9/27 '14
The tone and immediacy of your response indicates you are responding purely emotionally. Please, Thomas, take the time to look at the context and ask three questions:
Am I doing things right?
Am I doing the right things?
How do I know what is right?

There are people other than you in the world. Their opinions and experiences are different from your own, though similar in some ways.
Dawn Keenan 9/27 '14
Certainly. I ask you to do the same. From the start you've acted as if your concerns were the only concerns. You've denigrated the process of balancing them with other concerns as a need for more "hammers."

You continue to imply that my intent is dastardly, even though this whole dust-up began when I (wrongly, blunderingly) tried to help. That's the stumbling block for me. If you can't acknowledge my good intentions, I can't dialogue with you.
Thomas Boutell 9/27 '14
Go back further, to conversations involving multiple actors recommending changes to improve usability and your responses to everyone. Go back to the beginning and consider.

I wrote above about best practices in design and operational principles. Since the time you initiated a message to me rooted in your misinterpretation of your site's user interface, you have treated me, repeatedly and publicly, as though I am on some kind of personal vendetta against you.
Dawn Keenan 9/27 '14
Yes, in this particular thread I've been angry. There's a reason for that.

You rushed to judgment while beta testing a brand-new website. You responded to my ill-judged attempt to help you by telling people not to trust anything I do— "repeatedly and publicly," in you phrase.

So yep: angry now!

But prior to this thread, when did I imply you had a vendetta against me? All I can find are apologies and attempts to make the situation right.

Again, the problem of intent. If you really believe my intentions are not good, then I'd be wiser to just get back to work on improving the security of the site.
Thomas Boutell 9/27 '14
I did make several assumptions in reading this post. I missed the conciliatory tone and unpacked my anger instead regarding some of your earlier remarks. That was not helpful. I apologize.

I am a human being and undoubtedly "uneven" in my consideration of everyone's needs. I will endeavor to listen better.
Thomas Boutell 9/27 '14