It was losing Carrie Fisher that did me in

Oh 2016…what a year you turned out to be.

I had to summon up the courage to walk away from my abusive boss and my job with no where to go in the Spring.  Yeah, I was unemployed for four months but I managed to find something more lucrative.

I did a lot of really intense professional development and have spent the last 10 months trying to pivot my career while studying and constantly applying for jobs putting myself through the application-interview-don’t call us/we won’t call you grist mill of self-promotion and epic rudeness.

Then there was the election which was less about the disappointment of not seeing the first woman President get elected and more about the abject fear of the slow slide into fascism picking up speed endangering me and my friends who diverge from Steve Bannon’s neo-Nazi ideal of the world.

After a certain amount of intellectualizing denial and lots of strategic research into gun ownership where I live, I found I could handle the election results. After all, I’m a Washington DC native; we’re used to living in occupied territory. I lived through the Reagan years and the Dubya years, how hard could the maybe 18 months of Donald Trump and the rest of the Pence administration be?

Uncharacteristically for me, I’ve been trying to look on the bright side.  I’ve been making an effort to see opportunities in challenges, to learn from negative experiences, and to let things go and move on when things don’t turn out the way I want them to.

So, for the last several weeks, I’ve been looking for some clever way to skewer the dumpster fire, shitshow of a year 2016 turned out to be.

Exchange I had with a friend who lives in the UK. My comments are in green. Little did we know.

And then Carrie Fisher died.

Author, actress, mental health advocate, all around loud-mouth unafraid to speak the truth about herself no matter how socially unacceptable it might be. She was a fearless feminist who stood up to the internet trollery. She was Princess Leia the most kick-ass woman in space ever…that Carrie Fisher.

Yeah, my brain said, she’s been living on bonus time since 1985. After all, is there any other way to view the time after you recover from a drug overdose except as a gift?  She made the most of moving between screen and page in a way that seemed effortless from outside but it was bonus time nonetheless.

But the rest of me reeled, gut punched.

Carrie fucking Fisher.

I want to write something clever about 2016 but the only thing I can come up with is inchoate rage and sadness.  It sounds something like this:

fuuuuuuuuuuucccccccccckkkkkkkk

The thing of it is I can’t sit paralyzed.  If I sit by and keep letting life roll over me the bastards win.

Somewhere in the last four days I decided use 2016 as fuel, and oh was there so much fuel. So much rage, so much fear, so much shock.

If nothing else, Carrie Fisher dying is a kick in the ass for me. It made me realize I am tired of waiting for my life to start.  I am tired of not doing things because I’m afraid of being judged.

2017 is probably just the beginning of the coming debacle (Hello, January 20th and beyond) but I plan on burning brightly this year.  It won’t be easy but it’s the only thing I can think to do besides hide under my desk and stress eat chocolate.

The shortest day came

But we get 3 seconds more sunlight tomorrow and that can’t hurt.

2016 Solstice astronomy panel from Weather Underground

2016 Solstice astronomy panel from Weather Underground

Sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel is the sun

Tomorrow we begin the journey up.

solstice-winter-2015

Blindspot

You can mess with time. You can mess with space. But you can’t mess with both.

Oh, NBC. Your new series Blindspot had such potential for people intrigued by puzzles. And then you had to go and spoil it all by not understanding how time and distance work.

For those unfamiliar, Blindspot‘s premise is this: a woman covered in fresh tattoos is found naked in Times Square. She has no memory of who she is or how she got into the duffel bag she was found in, or why one of her tattoos is the name of an FBI Special Agent.

Following the structure of most big-4 TV network shows, each episode includes a episodic plot and an serial plot. In this instance, the serial plot – that Jane Doe’s tattoos will eventually reveal not only her identity but also why she was covered in them and delivered to the FBI – is fed by the episodic plot – that each tattoo is the clue to some urgent, criminal or national security situation.

The urgent, action driven nature of the episodic plots:

  • a disgruntled ex-pat Chinese chemist makes a bomb that could kill thousands of people in New York City;
  • a paranoid, ex-drone jockey seeks to expose a secret, domestic drone program based in New York City by hijacking a drone and bombing the building that houses not only the drone program but also the FBI field office in Manhattan;
  • an international heist crew made up of ex-SEALs take over a New York City hospital in an attempt to rescue one of their own who was shot during a jewelry store robbery;

is supposed to support the more cerebral, nerdy lets learn about steganography while objectifying this beautiful woman serial plot. The episodic plots, however, strain credulity, something I was willing to overlook because 1) beautiful woman, 2) intriguing puzzle. I was willing, that is, until that strain snapped the fabric of the space/time continuum.

[WARNING: HERE BE SPOILERS]

[Read more…]

The stroller isn’t the problem (an open letter)

Dear men in urban environments and in grocery stores,

Standing behind it and pushing the stroller or the grocery cart doesn’t make you look less manly.  You look less manly by standing beside the stroller or grocery cart and pushing it with one hand. It is your very standing beside it that tells the rest of us you care about how manly you look which in and of itself makes you look less manly.

Please think about this before you block the entire sidewalk or grocery store aisle.

Sincerely,

Every urban pedestrian and grocery shopper ever.

Less Science in our Science

YEP. (Via @sciencealert)

A photo posted by AsapSCIENCE (@asapscience) on

Science doesn’t always require a lab coat

There’s a huge push in the U.S. these days for STEM – Science Technology Engineering Math – education, as if the only thing you need to be a successful human being is the ability to program, build a bridge, or solve the quadratic equation.

One thing that is good about this push is the emphasis on science. We need more science in a country that has a Creation Museum that posits with no irony whatsoever the idea that dinosaurs and homo sapiens lived simultaneously. The bad thing, though, about this devotion to science is that there’s too much science in it.

A key component of science is the experimental method:

  1. Try something
  2. See what the outcome is
  3. Judge the outcome as desirable or not desirable
  4. Note the conditions under which you tried something
  5. Repeat if necessary adjusting and noting the conditions you adjusted until you achieve a desirable outcome
  6. Once a desirable outcome is achieved, attempt to replicate those conditions every time you do that something.

The thing about this method is it works across every thing you do in life, even things like cooking and team sports that don’t meet the strict -ology definition that characterizes science. The harm in restricting the experimental method to things that are strictly science is how it shackles us to the idea of perfection.

I’m skipping my first curling team this year and it’s a huge learning experience. The first thing my Vice, who has been playing three times as long as I have, asked me was if I knew the best way to learn. By failing. The experimental method takes the stigma out of that failing and lets failing become learning, something we also need more of to be successful human beings.

It is official: Americans are idiots

If Donald Trump’s ascendancy as a viable presidential candidate didn’t already prove that we have surrendered our capacity for critical thinking then you need look no further than the USDA’s food recall email list to seal that judgement.

Stop & Shop is one of the larger grocery store chain owners on the Eastern seaboard.  They have outlets from Massachusetts to central Virginia.  In the Mid-Atlantic states they do business as Giant Food.   Today Stop & Shop, and Giant Food, issued a voluntary recall for one of the frozen vegetables in their Nature’s Promise organic line because of an ingredient which is not listed on the label.  Here’s what the USDA sent out (emphasis added by me):

U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) <fda@service.govdelivery.com>
9:55 AM (23 minutes ago)
to me
You are subscribed to Recalls, Market Withdrawals and Safety Alerts for U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA).

This information has recently been updated and is now available.

Giant Food Alerts Customers To Voluntary Recall Of Nature’s Promise Organic Edamame
10/30/2015 05:59 PM EDT

Landover, Md. – Giant Food, LLC announced it removed from sale Nature’s Promise Organic Edamame products because they contain soy, which is not listed on the ingredient label. These products are safe to consume for individuals who do not suffer from a soy allergy.
For detailed information pertaining to this Recalls, Market Withdrawals and Safety Alerts message, please click the link at the beginning of this bulletin.

Edamame are soy beans.

I’m just going to leave that right there so the ridiculousness of this can seep in.

Not so standard time

In places that follow it, the U.S. switched from Daylight Saving Time to Standard Time this morning. Practically this means 1) we get an “extra” hour today (yay for manipulating time through philosophy of knowledge principles) and 2) it means it will be lighter in the morning and pitch black when I leave the office at 5pm on Monday evening. Based on when we switch back, however, Standard time isn’t really standard any more.

Image from standardtime.com

While I think we need to stop this spring forward/fall back nonsense, this proposal from standardtime.com for mainland timezones is just as nuts.

Daylight Saving Time applied in the U.S. for 237 days in 2015. That means will only have been on so-called Standard time for 128 days out of the 365 in 2015. For 2016 we’ll be on DST for 239 out of 366 days (Thanks, Gregorian calendar!).

So how can something be “standard” if it’s the smaller portion of the division?

Random things I ponder as I reset the 23 clocks I have in my house.

If you want to read more, check out this great article on how the U.S. Navy master clock keeps time for the world or CNN’s annual piece on the myths behind Daylight Saving Time.

Love wins. We’ve still got work to do.

So…this was pretty much my day Friday

There were sparkly unicorns too.

There were sparkly unicorns too.

United States vs. Windsor, the case that partially defeated DOMA, pushed the ball down the hill. Obergefell v. Hodges, already being called the lesbian and gay community’s Loving vs. Virginia, kicked it into the goal.

Parties! Rejoicing! Singing in the streets! Marriages! Even the White House got its rainbow swag on.

But we still have work to do.

 

In 29 states you can still be fired for being LGBT. Of the 21 states that offer protection three of those don’t offer protection on the basis of gender identity. And those regulations only cover employment discrimination. They don’t address housing at all.

I freely admit I wept openly when I heard the decision Friday, just as I did with the Windsor decision. But after the joy had passed there was anger and the base, existential question: Just because I’m different why does the majority get to decide my humanity and my worth?

Dark is Coming

In other words…happy midsummer2015-06-21_1238EDT