Link Me Up, Scotty - Hate and Fear Edition

Monday, April 15, 2019

Is empathy eroding in the United States? This journalist sure thinks so, and I am hard pressed to gainsay researchers' conclusions. I see this not only on-line, but in people I know and care about. Hell, I saw it in me for a while, when I was routinely "discussing" politics on Facebook and found myself liking myself less and less. Which is why I (typically) don't discuss anything more important than why the Night's Watch in Game of Thrones don't wear hats when it's snowing. It actually pains me to see people I feel like I used to know disregard the pain and suffering of others. But I'll be damned if I know how to fix it.
________

Morehouse College is America's only all male traditionally black college, and they have decided to change their policies to admit transgender men. This story makes my heart happy, as this type of inclusiveness goes a long way toward changing attitudes about transgender folk in communities where they've long been looked upon with suspicion.  Nicely done, Morehouse Trustees. Nicely done, indeed.
________

My favorite Christian Pastor has something to say about MAGA Christians and their God. As an Atheist, I typically leave criticism of specific groups of the faithful to other persons of faith, since the entire social construct of religion is a complete fucking mystery to me. Luckily there are people in the world whose basic religious teaching boils down to kindness and compassion (two of my own core values), and who are courageous enough to call out those who don't comply with their own professed belief system.
________

It's Peep season! And each year, Peep art becomes more and more elaborate. I myself am particularly fond of RGPeep.
________

Tiger's back! I have to say I'm happy for him, coming back after so many years of physical and emotional struggle. Please note I am in no way excusing his personal shortcomings as they relate to his poor choices. But I can't help admiring his grit.
________

There's a lot I don't like about Speaker Nancy Pelosi. But I'll give credit where credit is due, and give her props for being an extremely adept political operator. Especially when dealing with 45, she comports herself in a way that makes it obvious that she's the one in the room who is adulting, and refuses to let him drag her down to her level.
________

Anti-Vaxxers make me apoplectic with rage. Their Dunning-Kruger attitude and disregard for public health spits in the eye of the greatest medical achievement in the history of the world, and they seem not to care about the consequences of their stupidity. APOPLECTIC WITH RAGE, Y'ALL.
________

The link between cancer and obesity. I've been struggling with my weight since I hit 40, and these types of analyses motivate me to try and keep it in the healthy range. Yikes.
________

Video of the Week: This gave me a terrible ear-worm, so of course I'm sharing. A charming version of the Beatles' Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da by young  Gabriela Bee.


Link Me Up, Scotty - Change on the Rise

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Scientists are getting their first real look at black holes, which, when you think about it, are just the most bizarre fucking things ever.
________

The field of Democrats pursuing the Presidential nomination just keeps growing and growing. For those of us who tend toward liberalism (or, to be fair, those who tend away from the dumpster fire that is our current administration), it's an embarrassment of riches. For myself, I will not be considering any candidate over 60 this year. The old white dudes have had their chance for the last 243 years, and I am Not Impressed. I want some new blood in there, with flexible minds and fresh ideas. Also: The first 45 fan-boi who tries to disparage any Democratic candidate for their lack of experience is going to get a crash course in the dangers of hypocrisy, as well as the point and laugh treatment for their lack of critical thinking skills.
________

Have any of my readers used Groupon for travel? I'm digging the options and prices, but am hesitant to relinquish that much of the planning process to someone I don't know. And if you call me a control freak, I will say, "Yes. Yes, I am."
________

Speaking of young Democrat Presidential candidates, I love the way Pete Buttigieg addresses his sexual orientation as an aspect of who he is, without making it ALL that he is. Aside from being a mayor, a war veteran, a Harvard graduate, and a Rhodes scholar, Buttigieg is a deeply faithful man, and it informs his positions, policies, and life. And strangely enough, I find it does not offend me or make me nervous. He doesn't want to legislate his faith on anyone else, he simply wants our country to behave in ways that are decent and kind (the fundamental message of Jesus, if I'm not mistaken), rather than otherwise. I can get behind that.
________

And out of Texas (because of course it is), there is a state law under consideration which would "criminalize abortion without exception, and make it possible to convict women who undergo the procedure of homicide, which can carry the death penalty in Texas." I can't fucking believe we're still having this conversation. Margaret Sanger must be rolling over in her grave.
________

In other news, 45 is losing his shit over his self-created "crisis at the border." I swear to Cthulhu, if there's a way for a leader of the free world to shoot himself in the foot, this chuckle-head will find it.
________

New Zealand has passed a law banning most semiautomatic weapons less than a month after the mosque massacre. Because apparently the rest of the world doesn't rely on "thoughts and prayers" when violent events occur within their borders.
________

From the "I love the universe" files: 21 of the year's best photos of our solar system and beyond.
________

Video of the Week: My celebrity platonic boyfriend, Avi Kaplan, sings Change on the Rise.

Midnight Ramblings

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

As most of my readers know, I have chronic, anxiety driven insomnia for which I take medication. Sometimes it's great, and I'll go weeks without an incident, and sometimes it's bad, and I'll have several bad nights in a week, for several weeks in a row.

Right now I'm living in the second category because reasons, and crap on a cracker, my brain is such an asshole. You want to know what kind of crap runs through my head while I'm laying there not sleeping? Here's a sample.
________

I wonder whatever happened to that youngest Osmand kid...Jimmy? I always felt bad for him. He always seemed like the "also ran" in that family.*
________

I cannot believe white people don't realize how much they're telling on themselves when they post dog whistle commentary on social media. Such blatant racism makes me feel like I'm living in an episode of Dear White People. They might as well start each proclamation with, "I'm not a racist, but..."

________

Once again, Colorado has been named a top ten state for well-being in the United States. Makes me feel bad for other communities, especially in the deep South, where poverty, crappy education, and minimal health care puts them in the bottom ten.
________

How come my left leg hurts when I wake up? It's a deep pain, like it's in the bone. I'll bet it's bone cancer, and my leg's going to explode from the inside out, like that episode of House where the soccer athlete broke her leg.

________

Do Christian conservatives realize how very hypocritical they are when it comes to 45's behavior? When it was Clinton engaging in non-biblical congress with his intern and lying about it, it was worth impeachment, but when 45 does that and more and also lies like a dog about every fucking thing, then "it's not for them to judge" his personal life. Yeah, right.
________

Man, crowds suck the big one. They make me feel like I'm being squeezed, and not in a good way.
________

Seems like most of the countries with very high well-being all use a form of Democratic Socialism or Social Democracy. Must be a coincidence. Has to be.
________

Turns out Douglas County [where I live] is the healthiest county in America according to U.S. News. Amazing how lots of money, access to fresh, healthy foods, and plenty of open space will affect populations.
________

Dude, the "Fountain of Youth" attraction in St. Augustine is like the poster child for pro colonial white washing. The exhibits make it look like Ponce de Leon flounced into Florida and held Kum-Ba-Yah sessions with the native population rather than killing them with disease, kidnapping and raping their women, and forcing them to convert to Christianity. I guess the actual truth wouldn't attract many visitors at $15.00 a pop for admission.

________
*He's not, for those interested. His musical career was pretty successful, he's still working in the entertainment industry, and is apparently happily married with four kids. 

Some Thoughts on Disney World

Monday, April 1, 2019

Or as Moe's BFF calls it, "Didney Worl."
Last month, the Smart Man and I took a vacation to Florida. One of the things we did there was visit Disney World with our awesome, awesome niece and her parents. We were there for 5 full days, and I have some observations on our visit.

1. Disney World is crowded. Really crowded. And because of where people are what they're doing, people who are there have a profound lack of situational awareness. They stop in the middle of foot traffic, turn around abruptly with no clue who's behind them, block the only available foot path with their strollers. I decided on day one not to get wrapped about it so as not to drive myself crazy, but by day five my patience was wearing thin. The driver that took us to the rental car place at the end of our stay told us that the current crowd wasn't that bad, since we were off-season. He said the worst is New Year's, when the Parks are so full they're at capacity, and people wait in line to enter the Park only after someone else leaves. Yikes. You will never catch me there at New Year's.

2. Disney World is not a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants type vacation. If you don't plan ahead, there are lots of things you and your kids won't be able to do because the lines are too long or all the slots are taken. Disney has this thing called a "fast pass" whereby you can essentially make a reservation at a ride or a show and skip the plebe line. Each ticketed guest gets three of these per day, and once you use them, you're relegated to the plebe line. The issue is that in order for the Fast Pass line not to turn into the plebe line, they have to limit the number of Fast Passes for every hour on every attraction. So if you don't reserve early, you'll be SOL. This is good in some ways - if you're a planner, you can manage your day in such a way that that you can skip the most egregious lines. If you're not a planner, however, be prepared to spend at least half your day in lines, and also be prepared for the fact that your kid isn't going to get to do some things they want, such as have dinner with specific characters, visit the "Bippity Boppity Boutique," or attend the Jedi Academy. Remember the Navy adage, kids - Piss Poor Planning leads to Piss Poor Performance.

3. There are benefits to staying on a Disney owned resort. We did not have to rent a car while we were there because Disney provides free transportation to and from all their properties, and the buses have designated entrances to the Parks, while private vehicles do not. There were a couple of days where the line of cars waiting to get into the parking lot (where you have to pay to park, natch) was pretty long, and we sailed right past. Additionally, Disney guests gain entrance to the Parks an hour before they're open to the plebes.

4. Disney is expensive, especially if you eat on property. So bring money, especially if you like a cocktail.

5. Speaking of cocktails, they are, in fact, available in the Parks. The Magic Kingdom has stricter rules about it than the other three Parks, but if you are so inclined, you can find a beer or a fruity drink.

6. Disney is known for their customer service, and I have to say - they deserve it. Chronic issues just don't happen there. For example, how often do you overhear employees bitching about management, their hours, their pay, etc. in public places? This does not happen at Disney. How often do service people make you feel like you're imposing on them when you ask them to do their jobs? This never happens at Disney. The staff is relentlessly cheerful, helpful, and most importantly, empowered to ensure their guests get what they need to be satisfied and cared for. Every time there was the slightest problem, the employee on the ground had the authority to make an on the spot decision to make things right. No "I have to speak to my manager," or "It's against policy." They just fix it, immediately. Trust - it's not just for Special Prosecutors anymore.

7. Did I mention it was crowded? Popular rides often had waits of 120 - 180 minutes, or longer, in the plebe line. And there was a line for everything. By day five, I never wanted to get in line for another thing as long as I lived. And we saw one set of parents who had lost their four year old daughter in the crowd and my heart broke for them. Their fear was palpable and overwhelming, and I sincerely hope they found her none the worse for wear.

8.  Be prepared to walk and walk and walk. Make no mistake - Disney makes every effort to accommodate people with disabilities and/or limited mobility, and they're good at it. But unless you want to rent a scooter, you're going to be walking about seven miles a day. So make sure you take a lap or two around the couch before going so you're not gimpy by day two.

9. Disney is fun, especially if you're enjoying it with a kid. Our awesome niece is an old pro when it comes to Disney World (this was her third trip), and I think she enjoyed showing us around and playing tour guide to her bumpkin Auntie and Uncle. Of special note - the women who played Cinderella's step-sisters were delightful in a "I'm a mean character, but I won't take it too far and scare the kiddies" kind of way. Watching those two mug was one of the best parts of the trip.

10. While we thoroughly enjoyed our time there, I think introverts like us are going to need a good, long break before we consider going back.

Paying Homage to Those Who Came Before

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Last year I read a book called Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, from Missiles to the Moon to Mars, by Nathalia Holt. It was given to me by my dear friend Michelle, who knows I like to learn about women in STEM.
In the 1940s and 50s, when the newly minted Jet Propulsion Laboratory needed quick-thinking mathematicians to calculate velocities and plot trajectories, they didn't turn to male graduates. Rather, they recruited an elite group of young women who, with only pencil, paper, and mathematical prowess, transformed rocket design, helped bring about the first American satellites, and made the exploration of the solar system possible.
It was a lovely book. These women worked as mathematicians at JPL before there even was a JPL, and the prowess and determination of the Rocket Girls made me proud to be a woman who works in STEM.* They paved the way for women not only in the field of aerospace, but in all STEM fields. If their accomplishments had actually been taught in schools, perhaps whole generations of kids would not have assumed that girls were "bad" at mathematics.

One of the things they talked about in the book was the fact that they used tools called French Curves in their work to graph trajectory. Evidently these tools were expensive in those days, so they shared a set to perform their work. 

Which got me to thinking, always a dangerous turn of events. 

What if I had a set of beautiful French curves to hang in my office to remind me of where I came from, professionally speaking? 

So I contacted my buddy Karl, an accomplished artist who lives in Alaska, and asked him what he thought about taking on the project. Since he's classically trained as a draftsman, he was excited about the idea, and agreed to design and build them. 

Well, they arrived yesterday, and they were so worth the wait. 

Displayed on their temporary home, the sideboard.

The inside of the lid.

Top - parabola; middle - irregular curve; bottom left - hyperbola; bottom right - ellipses

I don't want to damage the case, so I'll probably have to mount skinny shelves with a lip on the wall, and then put the pieces on those, leaning up against the wall.

The case is walnut, the curves are sapele with cast pewter edges, and the fabric in the case is green wool.

I can't wait to get them on the wall. Thank you, Karl - they're lovely.
________

*I am in no way comparing myself to these amazing women. I'm a complete and utter slacker compared to them...I'm just happy and flattered to say we all worked in STEM.

The Ball in the Box

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Grief is a strange and unpredictable thing. We can't really control it, nor can we schedule its arrival when it's convenient for us.

Today I following a link on Facebook to an explanation of something called "The Ball in the Box." The woman who wrote the Twitter string on this concept shared an idea her doctor discussed with her about grief and how it affects our lives.

The idea is that our emotional life is a box, and is filled with all the feelings we have - love, joy, happiness, etc. Within that box is a "pain button," that reacts when one of those feelings bounces up against it.  When we lose someone we love, the ball that represents our grief is huge, and bounces around inside our emotional life constantly and crazily, pressing the pain button again and again, making our pain constant and unrelenting. It pushes all the other emotional balls out, leaving room for only grief and pain.



As time goes on, the ball that represents grief becomes smaller, which means it hits the pain button less frequently. There comes a time when there's room for other emotional balls, and it becomes possible to function in our daily lives without being overwhelmed all the time. But it's still present, and when the ball hits the button, it hurts just as much as it did when the ball was large.




The size of the ball shrinks and expands, depending on the time of year, outside factors, current mental health status, and other factors. But it never, ever goes away. And it sneaks up on you when you least expect it.

This happened to me about a month ago. I had a complete and total meltdown in the middle of the grocery store on my way home. I saw a kid picking out his Valentines for school, and it reminded me of an incident that occurred between Moe and me when she was a child. It was one of those incidents that when you look back on it, you know you could have made better choices at a parent, and you wish you could take it back, even though it was twenty years ago.

Well, that morphed into the "what if" thought process that leads into me blaming myself for her death, wishing I had been a better mother, and tearing myself up inside because I miss her so much. I utterly lost my shit. By the time I got home, I was wracked with sobs, and cried so long and hard I couldn't breathe. I haven't had a grief incident like that since the first year she was gone, the worst year of my life, and I was exhausted and bereft after I finally stopped crying. For some reason, when my grief ball hit my pain button that day, it was huge and overwhelming, and there was no way I could have predicted it, or prepared for it. It was just there, and demanded all my emotional energy until it passed.

At this point, I know that ball of grief will always be a part of my emotional life, and that it will wax and wane for the rest of my life. It doesn't make it easier to bear, but it does give me a framework I can use to think about my grief, and understand it when it overwhelms. 

Of Two Minds

Monday, February 11, 2019
Mind 1: Crap on a cracker. LOOK at all these kids waiting to board the plane to Orlando.

Mind 2: So what? They’re probably off-track and their families are going to Disneywirkd.

Mind 1: But they’re so LOUD.

Mind 2: Quit being such a curmudgeon. They’re just excited. I expect our awesome, awesome niece will also be excited when the extended family goes to Disney World later this year.

Mind 1: Well, yeah. But I like her.

Mind 2: They’re not hurting you, nor are they misbehaving in any way.

Mind 1: Maybe I’ll go join their fathers at the bar.

Mind 2: Maybe you should. You’re harshing my mellow.

Mind 1: You’re so intolerant of my intolerance.

Mind 2: Don’t resort to the Tolerence Paradox with me, woman. I’m not the one who wants to drown kids who kick the back of our seat.

Mind 1: True. You’re the Pollyanna if the group.

Mind 2: You say “Pollyanna,” I say, “Purveyor of common human decency and kindness.”

Mind 1: Oh, that.

Mind 2: Yes, that. Bitch.

Mind 1: Whatever. You can’t tell me you enjoy flying with kids. Seen and not heard and all that.

Mind 2: We’ll, I don’t mind it, per se. It just depends on how tired and anxious I am.

Mind 1: Story of our lives, sister.

Mind 2: You said it. Let’s just try and enjoy their excitement, shall we?

Mind 1: Pollyanna.

Mind 2: Bitch.