I’m not lost

I’ve been meaning to write. I’ve needed it.

It’s good to be back. I’ve held so much in, withdrawn, rescinded, faded away… My site became a dog’s breakfast as my third party hosting website for gifs and media linked in my previous posts (which added much needed and appreciated context and sidebars, even if just for me) suddenly stopped offering free third party hosting. Very devastation. Such overwhelm. Wow.

It is what it is. I am what I am. The anal part of me wants to go back and fix every single post before this one, find a new third party hosting site to relink each post. I’ll erase your memory of my crashed shitty site with a flash, like the Men in Black mind eraser.

Alas, my lazy wins over my ambition and here we are. Not a finger lifted. Could not be arsed.

I emerge 6 months after going private. What inspired me to go public again? To put myself out there?

Netflix. Curses *shakes fist*

This quote from a movie called 5 to 7 the late Anton Yelchin starred in resounded in my brain the moment I heard it. And now I’m back… from outer space…

I had a long time to consider the value of memory, and the idea that just because something doesn’t last forever doesn’t mean its worth is diminished. Maybe it was just a rationalization – easier on the soul than mourning what might have been – the life unlived. I honestly don’t know, but I chose to believe in memory. I chose to believe in her. I chose to believe that the bond was never broken and that we carried each other in our hearts. As a secret singularity. She made me a writer.

There would be other loves. Even great loves.

I don’t know if I’ll ever see her again. I don’t know if that’s a good thing, or a bad one. But I will promise you this. Your favorite story, whatever it might be, was written for one reader.

This blog is my favorite story. The one of me, and my life I’m living. Real time. Perhaps it has some too-long pauses in between breaths. But it has to be my favorite, because it is mine.

I’ve wanted to reach out to you. But I didn’t. I couldn’t. Like the lyrics of the Maroon 5 song, the weight of the things that remained unspoken built up so much, it crushed me everyday.

You may not embrace me with the same open arms you once had as I appear before you in blog form with the same open heart, wounded, yet alive with purpose. Sunshine comes to all who feel rain.

I begin a new chapter, and with it, picking up this blog again. In my absence, don’t doubt my desire. It’s always been there. Burning. Aching. Yet repressing out of necessity. Until it was clear.

I will be leaving Seattle in September, selling my lovely little condo, and moving to southern California. I have accepted a new position in Redondo Beach, CA. The move brings me closer to family and friends, and presents new challenges and learning opportunities.

I remind myself:

1) My dream doesn’t have an expiration date. Take a deep breath, and try again.
2) You are allowed to be both a masterpiece and a work in progress simultaneously.
3) To exist is to change, to change is to mature; to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly.
4) I’m not lost. I’m on a road with no destination. I’m just driving with hope that I’ll find a place that I like and I’ll stay there. I’m not lost. I’m on my way.

By idigres

Dogs of war

In a shocking turn of events, I am no longer going private. Do not get me wrong; every inclination is to take myself off the grid emotionally, figuratively, literally, physically, mentally… That could be the fight or flight reflex kicking in.

Maybe I’m extra raw right now. I found out Monday a friend of mine from my former employer passed away. He went on secondment like I did, from California (LA) to another country (London, to be specific). My journey took me from San Francisco to Australia, but we had similar experiences which left similar tastes in our mouths after the fact. He’d left the firm, and found a great role at Ares Capital Management. He was gay, as am I. He was active in our LGBT employee diversity group, as was I. He had stage 4 colon cancer and was only 2 years older than me.

I’m shaking as I type this, so much so I can barely keep my hands trained to the keys I must type to say this. Adrenaline has been coursing through my veins all morning, as the anti-immigrant executive order signed, subsequent detaining of even legal green card holders, and protests at airports has unfolded. The United States has placed a ban on travelers from 7 countries, effectively targeting the Muslim religion, which coincidentally do not include Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt. Trump’s businesses have ties there in those 3 untouched countries, to be clear. If anything, terrorists from those 3 countries were primarily responsible for 9/11. But they’re not blocked. They’d get through Trump’s “security” today. Things that make you go, “Hmmmm.”

I consider myself a citizen of the world, though my passport may be from the United States. Traveling internationally gave me profound respect for cultures other than my own. I saw the unity of humanity despite and through its differences. I appreciated how tiny I was in the scheme of the things, yet how loud a single voice and experience can be.

No, I cannot be quiet. A song debuted at the women’s march on January 21, 2017, practiced by online participants in advance, called “I Can’t Keep Quiet.” Like its lyrics proclaim, I, too, am a one-woman riot right now.

What Donald Trump and his supporters have done in just his first 8 days in office has completely up-ended the good, stable things that have made America great in the past. They have just made it un-great. That will undoubtedly have consequences. That’s gonna leave a mark.

I watch in shock and awe as history repeats itself. The dogs of war have been unleashed. It is on. This is how the 3rd world war commences, and that would make the time of the 3rd anti-christ upon us, according to the predictions of Nostradamus.

When I was a kid, I didn’t know what gift to give my dad, so I asked. Maybe it was a birthday, maybe it was Christmas. My memory begins to fail me in the details from long ago. He asked me for a Pink Floyd CD as a gift. I was shocked that there existed a Pink Floyd album he did NOT have! He told me it was the album with the song “Dogs Of War” on it. If you’ve not heard it, I urge you to give the link below a listen. It begins ominously. As we have, as well.

We can’t stop what has begun. Signed, sealed, delivered – oblivion, as the lyrics to the song go.

I am so disappointed. I’m disgusted. I am angry. I am sad. I am ashamed. For America. But I cannot hide. I’ve chosen my battle. I’m 35 years old. This and now is as good as it gets. I am as strong as I need to be right now. If I don’t commit myself to fighting this, then what is my purpose in life? I’ve never felt so passionately for something before. Peace. Open borders. No walls – the wall in Berlin was not only to keep unwanted outsiders out, but also to keep people in. If Trump builds a wall, part of me knows it too will be to keep Americans who want out in.

Giving up is not an option, now. Staying silent isn’t either.

He is Voldemort in the sagas of Harry Potter. He is President Snow in the Hunger Games. I just hope it doesn’t have to take 2+ more books to put his evil to rest for good. He cannot win. This is not how the story goes. I find myself wanting to shout from the rafters, “I volunteer as tribute!” if it would help the situation. It will not, but I’m involved now. It’s gone too far.

Iran is already retaliating against Trump’s order. I do not blame the Iranian people. I worry about future international travel plans I have. What if citizens of the US are no longer welcome anywhere else? What if the tables turned, and the Americans are now the refugees trying to escape a terrible force of unwanted government, and we have nowhere to go? No one to help us? No no no no no. Borders, bans, walls – these are not the answer.

I feel unsafe. Uncomfortable. The stress of only 8 days in the presidency is taking its toll on my body. My PT had to tape my left knee the other night, as I’ve got bursitis from perhaps too vigorous a leg workout day, working out my aggressions and stress. All morning I had a tension headache. I’m not sleeping well. I’m barely eating. This is not good for me.

His impeachment cannot come fast enough. This tangent we’re on needs interrupting. This would be a great time for the Avengers to make their presence known. For greater powers with sanity, logic, and a heart to intervene and make things right.

But that would be easy. Nothing ever comes easy. We must fight for it. Our ancestors fought for freedom in the past, and the fight is not over yet. I hope the election didn’t wear you out, because this has only just begun.

Resist. Everything. He. Orders. Resist.

Also, I again refer you to a post written by John Pavlovitz, who seems to have a knack for saying things the way I want to these days. Please read his most recent post “Dear World, From America”. I couldn’t have said it better myself, again. Please forgive us; you are seeing us at our very worst right now. We are turning to look at ourselves with horror.

I’ve said it before and it’s worth reiterating: Muslims, I’ll ride with you. Like the hashtag that went viral after the Lindt café shooting in Sydney, you are safe with me. I was coming home on the bus from yet another stress-induced vigorous workout today, when two women with head coverings and dark skin sat next to each other on the bus next to me. Maybe they weren’t even Muslim, but my sense of protection kicked in. My reflexes were so taught, I was literally thinking if anyone came onto that bus and began to harass them, I would literally get in that person’s face. I wondered what it would be like to get my ass kicked for doing so. I found myself not caring because what is right must win. It must.

I have also said before (see my post) and I’ll say again, this is exactly what the terrorists wanted, and America has played right into it. Fools.

Yes, I’ve admitted before to having hate for Trump. But that shows that I have passion. I am not indifferent, which is the true opposite of love. I’m certainly not indifferent. I have chosen a side, or perhaps the light has chosen me. I refuse to be on the wrong side of history, and now, I am prepared to die for that. Where this is going is unacceptable. Where America is going under Trump’s tutelage is not acceptable. I cannot, with my mind, all my heart, and very being, exist in a universe where the bad guys win.

So I must do everything I can to see to it they don’t. It’s hard to keep it all straight, as the M.O. of Trump and Republicans has been to throw the entire cavalry to the field within the first 8 days, signing executive orders that impede on my rights as a woman, as someone with a voice, as someone who appreciates the many freedoms afforded to me as a US citizen.

Yet today, I’m a little unsafer. Yes, I’m scared, if I’m being honest. I might look white. But I am female. And I definitely look gay. I’m not safe in Trump’s America.

If you’re not scared, then maybe you should be. Leadership of America now rests in the tiny hands of a malignant narcissist, bringing us ever closer to midnight on the doomsday clock.

Remember to find little joys where you can now. Sleep. Try to be good to yourself and others. Build strength. Find a way to fight and be active. Now is the time. If you find yourself getting tired, just rest; don’t quit.

I recently rewatched V for Vendetta as it recently became available on Netflix. Where is Guy Fawkes now? What day exactly do we mail out costumes to everyone to create an uprising? Do we wait for the curfews? How far does it have to go before we stop giving him a chance and begin shutting him down? Why isn’t he impeached yet???

I still believe in diversity and freedom and liberty. I have no children to protect or look out for. I have no wife to keep a photo of in my helmet as I press on. I sit here, writing to you now like Bastian in the attic of his school while reading the Neverending Story. Perhaps we had to be brought on this terrible journey, to give the empress a new name and save this world. We had to watch the horse die in the swamps of sadness. We loved the damn racing snail.

I sit here, writing to you now like the lesbian who died in V for Vendetta among the masses of emaciated prisoners likened to Holocaust victims in the film, who wrote her life story on a tiny scrap of toilet paper and rolled it up between the bricks of her cell for Natalie Portman’s character to find during her stay in the very same cell.

I have something to fight for, though. I still believe in good. I do not own a gun, nor do I want one. It would defeat the purpose of what I believe in, to fight with a gun. I do not think our government should take away your gun, if you have one. I’d feel a lot safer if you put it away, actually, unloaded, thanks.

I’m on edge tonight, and as I go into tomorrow, and the next day. My defenses are up. Maybe yours should be, too.

Going private

In the life cycle of companies, they can start small and grow larger. Sometimes, if they get large enough, and depending on other intent, they may “go public” or “IPO”. Just like companies can go public, they can also “go private”. Public companies are subject to many more regulatory and reporting requirements. Going private could be an easy way to circumvent nebulous regulations and rigorous reporting requirements.

I’ve been considering taking my blog private for some time now. Writing is cathartic for me, and it has certainly helped to write through complicated webs of feelings, get things off my chest, and impart knowledge/points of view with anyone who’ll listen/read. I try not to get caught up in readership stats of my blog, but I do like that WordPress has a dashboard of stats that tells me what countries my readers are from. It fills me with a small sense of pride to know someone in India, or Qatar, or wherever, read what I wrote. I feel more connected to a more and more disconnected world.

I started writing and posting for my reasons (as personal as they are), but I feel those reasons are becoming obsolete. Yes, I’m purposely being vague here. I find myself no longer wanting to share what I used to keep concealed. I want to conceal, again. Maybe I want to protect my fragile self, and  I’m folding inward. Like the lyrics of the Roxette song, maybe I’m fading like a flower. I am retracting. I bloomed for a while, as a result of writing, but the time for that seems to have passed for now.

Sometimes I feel like no one cares, no one is listening, and my words fall on deaf ears. I thought maybe someday I would take what I’d written and make a compilation autobiography, should anyone ever care to know my viewpoints. Or perhaps my blog posts could be edited into short stories. Little pearls of wisdom. Now, I feel like this string of pearls should be put into the bottom of the jewelry box, perhaps only donned for funerals. Perhaps even thrown away.

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If you come back, and cannot access my page, then I have followed through on this idea. I’ll likely save everything, just in case, for some rainy day… Who knows, maybe I will maintain status quo and just keep forging ahead. My feelings on writing can be cyclical, and perhaps this is part of a natural ebb and flow for me. Going private can be a good thing, and the right thing to do for a business, to ensure it continues flourishing in changing environments. So it can be with online presence, as well.

Democracy’s funeral

I don’t subscribe to cable service. I haven’t had live TV since I lived in Sydney, Australia, and that was never really an option once we subscribed to Quickflix (Australian Netflix).

I have no live TV at home, therefore, I have no “other channel” to tune into on January 20. Big Brother can’t track my interest in the History Channel or National Geographic, instead of the inauguration. Shouldn’t have typed that keyword. Should not have typed that.

I read about how viewership worked and how there are nominated viewer families today, and how non-measured families don’t really matter because of how extrapolation to 7 million viewers occurs.

Patton Oswalt in his Facebook post last night tried to tell me how it really worked. He was throwing spaghetti to a wall and hoping it sticks. It didn’t for me; I still don’t get it. Long story short, I liken viewership to proxy voters. Math. Hard. Sad! “What have I become??? Writing like he tweets???” *maniacal laughter, tears*

Point. Right. Like Ellen DeGeneres, I do have one.

Love him or hate him, it’s time for everyone to grow up and work with Donald Trump. Or so I’m told.

We fought tooth and nail. We hit all 5 stages of grief like it was Coachella, and then got backstage passes. We signed petitions for the Electoral College to prove itself useful. We held the media accountable despite arrows from “he who must not be named”. Now we have to work with him??? You have got to be kidding me.

I thought about it for, like, a second, and I realized… I’ve worked with people like him before.

My advice? Take furious notes (detailed, dated, corroborated where possible), cc HR (the media?) and bring them to any meetings/interactions if possible, and Cover. Your. Ass. Like radioactive astronaut suit cover.

I wanted to wear black today, mourning the death of democracy. I didn’t. I wore instead my dad’s flannel shirt. I’m going through today by honoring and remembering my father, instead of tuning in to the American Circus Shitshow Extravaganza. He used to wear it when I was a kid. I’m channeling my inner optimist despite every inclination to spiral into a dark depression for the next 4-8 years.

My parents fucked with me. Once I’d exhausted my mom, she would tell me to go tell my dad he wanted me, basically getting rid of me. I didn’t get what she was telling me to say at the time. So I waddled up to my dad and said like she said, “Dad, Mom says to tell you you want me?” Don’t shoot the messenger. Then once it tumbled out my mouth, I realized my mom had pawned me off on him. He’d chuckle, audibly or with his eyes, and inevitably involve me in whatever he was doing at the time. He’d break it down to the point of unbearable minutia. Educational. Like PBS educational. Like, pay him money to shut up educational.

My father was a very private man. Ron Swanson from Parks & Recreation reminds me so much of my father, it’s uncanny. From the gruffness to the mustache. He didn’t have an easy childhood. Despite his faults, he was a really good dad when he had his dad hat on. He wasn’t one for online banking platforms despite being a Silicon-Valley-in-the-80’s techie. He never wanted to hand people working Costco exits his receipt because he felt it violated his privacy, so he’d get into arguments with them on our way out. He didn’t believe in cloud computing or shared networks, or Facebook. He was a private, gruff man. I see his point.

This Inauguration Day, I think I need to throw out a shout-out to my Kung Fu Panda Popfarts. I think I’m going to honor my dad. I think he voted for Barack Obama. I think he loved me. I think he’d watch this inauguration like the Hobbit, or Star Wars, or Dune, or Rome. He’d be entertained. He’d go see it in the theater, only to fall asleep. He’d know that this was a total joke. That Donald was merely a reality TV star after ratings. But he’d see it as art, too. He’d smoke some weed and laugh. He’d hold his ground on voting staunchly liberal. He’d make it all better, for me.

I remember when I was 17, I bought my aunt’s 1988 Toyota pickup truck off of her when she wanted to buy a new car. I learned how to drive a stick in that car. I only had one “accident” in it that I couldn’t take care of myself. It wasn’t really an accident. It was stupid, really.

I was parked in our garage while both of them were at work to keep my un-air-conditioned little Yoda a bit cooler in the warm San Jose summers, and I was going to drive the kids next door I was either babysitting or hanging out with to 7-11 for a summertime slurpee, or to Baskin Robbins for some ice cream. It’s a bit fuzzy around the edges. 20 years does that to you.

Anyway, I opened the garage door, as we did not have an electric door, back then. I started my truck with one leg hanging out the driver’s side door. Summer heat. Summer vacation. Brain vacation. I threw the gearshift into reverse and began backing up… but I hadn’t shut my driver’s side door. Bent. Backwards. On the garage door frame. In front of the kiddos. Fuuuuuuuuck.

My dad, within 24 hours, had gone to a pick’n’pull, located a beige 1988 Toyota pickup with an in-tact driver’s side door, paid $200 (1/6th of the price I paid for the whole damn truck), and had it installed. Not all heroes wear capes.

Granted, some of the door’s ligaments didn’t exist. Some were literally rubberbands I put there to keep the door from swinging all the way 180 degrees open. Beige on white was absolutely intolerable as well, so within another 72 hours, I’d procured touch up paint in 3 shades of blue: slate/silver, turquoise, and royal, and had an ocean wave painted on that beige door. White touch up paint around the window to frame it out, because details.

I honestly don’t remember if I thanked my father for what he did and how quickly he did, and meant it. He fixed it. He didn’t get many opportunities, and he didn’t rise to every opportunity. But he did then.

My dad would watch beautiful women go by. I’d see his eyes having to look at them as they walked by. In those moments, I told myself that was not the kind of person I wanted to be, and I didn’t like that. But even in making mistakes themselves, our parents teach us things about the way we want to be. Perhaps the reason I am so plain myself is to dodge the gazes of men like that. But I digress.

He never once grabbed them by the genitals though, or bragged about what he could do to them. I would like to think, given the chance, he’d draw the line there, somehow pull off daddy of the year by insulting Donald Trump, putting him in his place, dishonoring him publicly, ruining every narcissistic thought in his head, and knocking some sense into him. I mean, I might be reaching for the stars, but maybe he’d try. He’d know Donald Trump was a terrible person.

So into today I go. In the immortal words of Boyz II Men, “I’ll take with me the memories to be my sunshine after the rain. It’s so hard to say goodbye to yesterday.” I’ll have to take my memories of a scandal-free White House and classy first family to be my sunshine the next 4-8 years.

I’ll miss you, Obamas. Like Joe Biden in one last meme, I don’t wanna be Obamaself.

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The future appears bleak. I had little to no hope in general in life going into this. I was not prepared for this on November 8, and I’m not ready for this now. He is not my new normal.

I’m no stranger to having to accept that which I do not like. It can be nigh on impossible when what you must accept goes against everything in your mind, heart and soul. When it’s so against your grain, you feel no point in existing in the same universe as what you must accept. Swallowing bitter pills doesn’t get easier with experience, contrary to popular belief. If anything, it’s worse. We would like to think we’re too old for this. We deserve better. It’s not really happening. Alas. Here we are.

When I see you at democracy’s funeral (or when I don’t, since I won’t be viewing the inauguration live), don’t say hi. My sunglasses are my armor. My headphones play silence, worn only for appearance of preoccupation. Don’t make eye contact, or I’ll cry. I’m not crying, you’re crying.

There was so much time to do what we wanted. So many steps forward in 8 years. So much growth. We’re not perfect, but we tried. Only to be cut off. By this American Circus Shitshow Extravaganza. We’re all grieving, in our own ways.

Today, surround yourself with art, music, love, bohemia, everything cultural and original and real. Everything this “administration” is against. Protest in whatever way you feel comfortable. Make a memory. Hug your loved ones. Take solace in a shared grief.

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Let the record show

This will quite possibly be my shortest post yet. It says everything I think and feel (except for the part about having children, as I have none, but if I did, then I’d echo the sentiments there, too), so I simply just share this as originally written.

Thank you, Mr. Pavlovitz. Well said.

Let the Record Show – by John Pavlovitz

By idigres

La pura vida

Not too long ago, probably back in November, I was at the gym doing some kettlebell swings, when I felt an unfamiliar crack and unsettling destabilization in my right knee and right ankle. I’m no stranger to knee injuries, but that one seemed relatively harmless, as it just felt like my joints cracked when I was standing up. For about 6 weeks afterward though, things didn’t feel right. I had pain all the way down into my foot, and my hip/IT band were tight, offsetting the instability in my knee and ankle. I’m just now getting to a point where there is less pain. The worst was the cold making everything stiff, especially in the middle of the night when I just needed to make my way to the loo with no lights on, but walking was a feat in itself.

I went to the physical therapist (PT) a few days after my injury, and every two weeks since. I call him a PT because that’s his job, but I really chose this place and him due to his credentials in chiropractic care. I had a chiropractor in San Francisco with certification in active release techniques (ART), and found a chain of gyms with professionals with this same designation upon moving to Seattle. For those that don’t know, ART is a soft tissue/movement based massage technique that treats problems with muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia and nerves. Once those are loosened, often the movement-constricting issue is resolved, but sometimes a chiropractic adjustment is still needed. Rather than just going in to crack a back or neck with little to no prep work or stretching, the treatment of the soft tissues around the site of constricted movement usually resolves whatever is causing us pain or stiffness. It’s easier on your system and your soft tissue with these techniques. And hey, free mini massages in targeted spots when you go to the chiropractor!

However, the place I found in Seattle near me has a more holistic approach rather than a wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am chiropractic adjustment. They provide half an hour of chiro-care time, and half an hour of physical therapy with exercise focused on body areas wherever little nagging pains or tightness happens to be. I have been going every two weeks, 1) because my insurance covers these sessions, and 2) preventive ongoing maintenance means fewer and further between major breakdowns/pains.

In the session just after Christmas, before New Year’s, after my mother and aunt left from spending the holidays with me, something funny happened at the PT. Dr. Donuts, as his name was in school for eating donuts in class, was working out some of my tightness and making adjustments, as he normally does. My body’s response was anything but normal that day.

Maybe it was the stress of entertaining family for the holidays, or the stress of the impending doom scheduled to take over the White House. All of his adjustments tickled, and I giggled. Everywhere he touched me, the stress relief came in the form of laughter. Normally, I crack jokes and make general embarrassing deep, guttural utterances when he adjusts me. That day, my released tension took the form of giggles (much to my dismay.) So much more embarrassing, but very telling about the stress I was holding.

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Luckily, I’ve redeemed myself since, and Dr. Donuts and I continue to have amusing and lighthearted appointments. I’ve noticed many differences for the better just by making sure I go every two weeks. Plus, I feel better about my body when I can move it the way I need to and the way I like. Everybody wins.

I’ve also since been focusing on diet and exercise to build my strength back up after my injury.

Translation:
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I booked a holiday in Costa Rica at a yoga and spa retreat for a week, and I don’t want to embarrass myself in the 2x-a-day yoga classes. There are half day and full day excursions, as well as 3 healthy meals a day sourced with local ingredients. The package also comes with one massage that week, and my room has a sweet view of the central valley. I plan to hit up Poas Volcano, local hot springs, do a coffee tour through the fields that surround the resort, walk through a cloud forest (skywalk) and maybe zipline between trees, and check out the waterfall gardens and butterfly observatory. Factor in to this that I used airline miles I’ve accumulated to cover airfare, and this is an all-inclusive fairly cheap adventure for me. I’m planning to go by myself at this point, which I’m eagerly anticipating.

It feels good having more travel booked this year, since I didn’t quite make it out and about last year. It was a big year, purchasing a home, moving cities, starting a new job, and all of it required my attention on the homefront. But now that I’ve nested sufficiently, it’s time to get out there and have more adventures, take more pictures, and live la pura vida (the pure life).

Orrery

Last night I watched an astronomy documentary on Netflix, Secrets of the Solar System. I loved astronomy documentaries, and the show Cosmos, but after a while, the same old information gets stale. I feel like I heard it all before in my astronomy courses at school, and no new information has really been added to the wealth that is already there, when it comes to publicly available media.

So it was to my surprise last night that I’d never heard the information in that show. It was all new. I devoured it voraciously, of course. As astronomers are learning more studying distant solar systems, they are able to piece together more information on our own solar system.

The documentary postulated which planets were formed first after the birth of the sun as a star. It even brought up a concept of hot versions of Jupiter that are out there, orbiting stars in other solar systems. It hypothesized that at one point, Jupiter was closing in on the sun, but then the formation of Saturn kept the Jupiter orbit from approaching closer and closer to the sun: a wandering Jupiter. It was all really interesting.

Perhaps the a-ha moment for me though, was the discovery of something called Kepler’s orrery. Now, an orrery is one of those mechanical models (with clockwork mechanisms) which intends to keep the planets, their orbits, and the distance from the sun to scale.

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However, if we did that, the planets would literally wind up kilometers away from our model sun, in some cases. Accurate scaling is not practical due to the large distances/ratios. So, they usually end up not to scale so we can keep them all in one tidy, little place.

Orreries can illustrate and predict where the planets are on any given date, past, present or future. You’ve seen them before, if you’ve seen the movie the Dark Crystal (pictured below), or Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. They can be used to predict when eclipses will occur, when planets are aligned, and all kinds of important futuristic events written in the stars.

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Johannes Kepler was the mathematician and astronomer best known for his laws of planetary motion. He deduced planets orbit the sun in ellipses. His work formed the foundation for Isaac Newton’s theory of gravity.

Now, Kepler’s orrery is a little different. It’s a virtual display that shows the relative sizes of the orbits and planets in the multi-transiting planetary systems discovered by Kepler up to Nov. 2013. All the planetary systems discovered through 2013 are illustrated in a virtual collection of orreries. Planetary systems can vary so much – and our solar system is just as unique in its own formation. In Kepler’s orrery, the colors simply go by order from the star (the most colorful is the 7-planet system KOI-351). The terrestrial planets of the Solar System are shown in gray.

What I gathered from this collection of various solar systems we’ve observed is that each solar system is unique, like a snowflake, or a fingerprint. Some systems have two stars instead of just one; some have one central star like our sun, but contain only gaseous planets without terrestrial planets. Some stars rotate clockwise and have planets which run counterclockwise. Some are densely packed solar systems; some span great distances. The possibilities really are endless for what kinds of systems are out there, not just in our Milky Way galaxy, but in other galaxies too. It made me realize that had Saturn not been created from remnants further out in our solar system, Jupiter may have actually crashed into the sun, and we may not have Mercury, Venus, Earth, or Mars in our solar system at all. Our solar system may not have planets which sustain life, human life, at all. And even that came with time, and was a slow evolution within conditions that made it happen.

Our lives hinge on events that happened by chance, and hang in a delicate balance. It’s realistic (some say optimistic) to believe there has to be life out there on other planets. The problem is, maybe those planets will have life in millions of years, they’re just not there yet. They are all at different points along their journey, moving at different speeds, with different foci. All these planetary systems observed by Kepler hundreds of years ago have been studied by scientists at NASA in particular to aid in the search for habitable planets. However, there may be no escape hatch, no easy button, to continue the human race on other planets. That is the most conservative view. We have one planet, one chance.

We are all made up from various circumstances, too, just as solar systems are. Some we can control, but many we can’t. Things just happened. They’re a part of how we got here, though. Is it random? Is the variation planned through fractals or other mathematical concepts? Is there a master plan, or a higher power controlling all of this? Depends who you ask. It boggles my mind because I have to expand it wide for all the possibilities in this universe, but scale it down to focus on one or two small things to make a point. I don’t want to be on record as doubting intelligent life in space, thus that is where I must make my point. It must be out there. Given the variety of just the tiny sample humans have observed over our brief blink of an eye, it’s hard to believe. But I believe.

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Maybe I have a little hope after all. It’s little, and it’s been beaten and bruised, kicked around and left for dead. 

Just get out 2016; leave

Even George R.R. Martin agrees 2016 has been a horrendous year, as written in his Live Journal blog on December 28, 2016. The author of the Game of Thrones series, notorious for picking off characters we love and subjecting them to the most gruesome death (without regard), thinks, “this year just keeps getting worse and worse.” I find it hilarious that 2016 could have literally been written by him, and he kinda knows it.

Perhaps the other urban legend taking root on Twitter is true:

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The latest bout of celebrity deaths – George Michael, Carrie Fisher, then Debbie Reynolds in just the last week, has just left me in awe. Everyone we know and love is dying off, breaking our hearts, killing our hope, and leaving us shocked at how far 2016 can truly go. As if losing Prince, Muhammad Ali, Gene Wilder, Florence Henderson, Anton Yelchin, John Glenn, Alan Thicke, Arnold Palmer, Leonard Cohen, Nancy Reagan, Alan Rickman, Alexis Arquette, and others wasn’t enough… I also lost my cousin this year. But it’s not that I love everything the celebrities did; that’s not why I mourn.  These people helped me discover who I am, in a small way. My cousin did, too.

Syrians died. French people died. Germans. Black lives. Blue lives. So many. 

I feel like there are still 2 whole days left in this godforsaken year and just about anything can fucking happen. Further, the realist in me knows this doesn’t stop just by the calendar year ticking over to 2017. It’s going to keep happening. It’s not just suddenly going to end.

One of Carrie Fisher’s quotes seems apropo right about now:

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We have to keep going forward despite the fear. Against the hate. One foot. Then another foot. In front of the other one. 

Personally, 2016 was not my worst year. My worst year was actually 2013, the year I went through a break up, lost my father, and hit the pinnacle of shittiness in my career.

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So I figure if I can survive the worst for me in 2013, and 2016 was not the worst, then I’m actually ok. But I totally agree, 2016, don’t let the door hit you on the ass on your way out. I personally plan on staying up until midnight on New Year’s Eve for once just to watch 2016 leave, ya filthy animal.

Perhaps I seem to be ok despite everything crumbling around me because I seem to have a lower amount of hope. With the barriers to Donald Trump’s inauguration on January 20 (the actual electoral college vote and a looming impeachment) cleared, I have no hope that America will be great again under Trump. Shit’s going to get worse. Fill those liquor cabinets and buy that legal marijuana where you can. Hold on to your butts.

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I have friends vacationing in London and Paris right now, who get the general sense from foreigners that they’re actually afraid of what Donald Trump might do. You know what? I am, too. He could undo everything, and not in a good way. Those traveling friends are embarrassed to admit they’re from America right now. And I am, too. Game of Thrones Cersei bell-ringing “SHAME!” walk to you, America. I sound my bell at you and cry, “SHAME!” You voted this man in, not me. Shame.

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All we can do is activate the phone tree and form a protection circle around Betty White and another one around Ruth Bader Ginsburg a la Practical Magic with our Swiffers and Dysons. If you want to pray, pray for social Darwinism, that the powers that be take Donald Trump and Mike Pence and put them on an island somewhere, with no political power/affiliations and no Twitter access. I don’t want Trump to die. But I certainly am sick of seeing his chook neck and ridiculous claims all over the media.

All joking aside, at this point, 2017 can’t be anything but better, since 2016 was so shitty. So I’ll raise my glass to what can only be better than this mess of a year was. Whilst it was certainly not my worst year, it was not the best.

To the right, to the right

Even though I brought gym clothes with me to work out after work yesterday, I ended up taking a detour to Pike Place Market along the waterfront of Seattle last night. I felt a little like I was being extra brave, given the terrorist attack that happened just the night before at the Christmas markets in Berlin. I thought to myself as I walked, “Take that, terrorists.”

Of course, after the events in Berlin this week (so similar to those in Nice in July, it’s scary), I thought back to the same line of thinking I had when I wrote another recent post, Marked safe. Why should I get to go to Pike Place Market and be safe, when 12 other people went to the markets across the world and they weren’t? Sometimes, it’s just not fucking fair.

I thought of the fire in Oakland’s Ghost Ship, which happened the night I arrived in Berkeley, Oakland’s neighbor, earlier this month. How those 36 people went about a perfectly mundane night listening to music, making art, supporting other artists, and how that night ended. It felt realer and closer because I was in town over that weekend, and maybe partially because my mother knew I’d be there and was so worried I was in the fire, she made me call her to prove I was safe.

Monday night at the gym, watching the results of the electoral college (which, by the way, proved itself completely worthless and useless) voting that day, I started hate stationary-biking. I’m so fucking sick of seeing the name Trump, of seeing his chubby turkey neck and stupid schmuck look on his face all over the news/media. I’d hoped we’d have a Hillary win, and he could fade into obscurity via shame spiral, but that was not to be. Thanks, ‘Murica. Since my hate biking, I’ve tried to limit my exposure to news/media because the state of world, if it wasn’t getting to me before, is surely getting to me now.

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I know I shouldn’t hate. It brings me down to the level of everyone else rooted in hate – the KKK, anti-LGBTQ initiatives and  supporters, and so much more. But I fucking hate Trump and all that he stands for. I hate the team of people he’s selected for his cabinet. They might as well call his team the Bad News Bears. Cruella DeVil for animal protection. Bill Cosby for women’s rights. For real. I’m sickened to live in a country that voted for him. To be clear, I did not.

But in limiting my exposure to news, I still managed to read something which resonated with me. I usually try to cite my sources when I can, but unfortunately, I can’t remember where I read about this idea.

There is a global trend toward right wing ideologies inspired by the waves of terrorism increasing in frequency and amplitude everywhere. That’s how ISIS was supposedly inserting itself in nearly every country. By performing acts of terrorism in not only war-torn middle eastern countries, but also the US, Europe, etc., ISIS was effectively attacking democracy and the very foundational ideals on which the western world exists. Brexit was a British right-wing response; Trump winning the election was the US’s right-wing response to terrorism; as was the socialist president of France deciding not to seek re-election due to an unfavorable climate, stepping aside to make way for more conservative republicans who have broader favor with the French people. France had its fair share of horrible terrorist attacks recently, with the most recent attack in Nice on Bastille Day, November 2015 with shootings at multiple crowded locations before that, and shootings at Charlie Hebdo before that. And the French people are leaning more conservatively now, as a result.

Russia hacking and influencing the US’s election of Trump was the pinnacle of attack on democracy, and I did read an article that John McCain, of all people, is making a case for a special investigation into the cyberwarfare. McCain advocates that, “A committee is necessary to look at ‘the whole issue of cyber warfare, where we have no strategy or no policy’ because it is ‘perhaps the only area where our adversaries have an advantage over us.’” Cybersecurity is where America is weakest and potentially not #1, thus that is where we must build our defenses.

The global political climate leaning more and more to the right actually induces way more fear in me than I thought possible. I always felt safe in San Francisco, slightly less so in Sydney but to be fair, I was also outside the country and thus outside my comfort zone there. I feel pretty darn safe in Seattle. Having a president-elect who believes climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese also terrifies me, because this is a crucial point to continue and even ramp up environmental protections to save this planet from mass self-destruction. But, I digress.

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But it’s like countries who have been fucked with by conservative terrorists want a conservative no-more-chances response from government. So in a way, the terrorists ARE winning and everywhere is falling into the plans they had all along. They wanted us to react with hate, and fear, and conservative views on all kinds of topics from immigration to jobs to welfare. So good job everyone. *slow clap*

Being more conservative aligns more closely with terrorist views and how they want things. In my best Beyoncé voice, “to the right, to the right.” I’m not saying by any means that electing Trump was the right thing to do. Rather, in the game of chess, we’ve been played. Check-mate. We lost. Unless the sane part of the world comes up with a genius response to unwind all of this soon, where we’re heading is not good.

Despite raging against the dying of the light by going to the Seattle markets last night, most of the stalls were closing up as I got there. I didn’t get what I went there for – gifts for family and friends. I felt better for going, though. I felt I had to, despite the cold, despite my limping on a sore knee and foot that won’t go away from a gym injury a few weeks ago. Because some people who went Monday night in Berlin couldn’t finish their time there. So, that one was for you, you 12 souls lost, who have yet to be named. Trying to patronize stalls of local artisans instead of ordering everything through Amazon Prime was for you, lost souls of Ghost Ship in Oakland. I know it’s not much, but it’s the best I can do. I am not perfect, and even I am susceptible to hate. But my gift is my actions, and that one was for you.

Snow and lights

For the first time ever in my life, I watched a real live snowstorm last week.

When I moved to Seattle, I surely expected rain. I’d be an idiot not to. When I was looking for homes to buy in the Seattle area, I researched transportation routes for each option, and as a result, intimately got to know the King County transportation websites. This includes the snow schedule/routes. I knew that Snow Days happened, but from discussions with people from the area, or who’d lived there, snow was not the norm. In fact, Seattle when it snows equated to LA when it rains. Shit shuts down. People lose their shit, and suddenly can’t drive anymore. Luckily for LA and Seattle, rain and snow, respectively, don’t happen that frequently.

Yet, it snowed twice last week, on December 5 and 8, 2016, after I’d already commuted into work. Thank goodness, or I may not have made it in. Having 5+ knee surgeries under my belt, and a propensity for klutziness, I try to avoid snow at all costs. It’s not even winter yet, so snow within my first autumn in Seattle was wholly unexpected.

After obsessively checking weather apps, which kept altering their predictions for snow at 6pm, 7pm, then 8pm… I made it to and subsequently left my physical therapy appointment to head home via bus, praying to a God I may or may not believe in that the buses hadn’t already shut down. After the 12-year-old chiropractor rubbed out my knees, neck, back and tender feet, I shuffled to a CVS for some last minute decorations once the bus dropped me off closer to home.

Suddenly, around 9pm, the snow came. As a Californian, it was never a way of life. It was a commercial. It was on TV. It was the east coast, middle America, Mount Everest, Austria, everywhere and everyone but who I am. And yet, when the uniquely individual snowflakes congregated on the balcony handrail, on the patio furniture covers, as the snow flurried in the light from the street lamps, clung to windshields of parked cars, I felt oddly, and amazingly, at home. I missed my dad, who is no longer of this earth. I hugged my cat tight for at least 30 seconds, every one of those seconds he vacillated between despondent defeat and fervently trying to escape my cuddles. As he tried to break free, like any prisoner in the show Orange is the New Black who fled for a swim in the lake when the officers were nowhere to be found, I felt more… more. That’s all I can explain it as: more. I teared up. I cried for seemingly no reason and all the reasons, at once. I watched the trash pandas (raccoons) that I didn’t even know existed in my neighborhood frolic with a pit bull, ruining the blanket of fresh, white snow.

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I felt myself heavy, perhaps from all the lives I’m not living, yet content with the one I was. Scared about the future of my home and life under the regime of a man who has time for SNL and Twitter but not the President’s Daily Briefing. Most strongly of all, I missed my Dad, and just knowing he was a phone call away, should I pick up the phone. My heart broke and rebuilt, all in the same moment. It wasn’t my first Christmas spent away from California, but it was my first being back in the USA, but not as a California resident. I felt like a stranger to this city, and at the same time, someone who now knew it during the rare occasion of a snowstorm.

Music always makes me feel better, so I airplay mirrored my holiday playlist on my Apple TV (feeling very technologically proficient since my friends showed me how to do so at Thanksgiving,) and began decorating my tree I’d acquired earlier in the week. I bought it at a lot in Capitol Hill, the gayborhood of Seattle. The lot was run by Seattle Area Support Groups, who donates to various charities after they cover costs, including providing direct support to Washington gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and minority communities, as well as toward fighting HIV/AIDS and other STDs. I basically picked the first tree I saw, because every tree is lovely if you have enough alcohol and low standards (and a time limit to your Zipcar reservation.)

My dad and I always used to go cut down our Christmas tree together from a tree farm when I was growing up. I didn’t cut this one myself, but I think the missing him hit me like a tsunami because I was attempting a modified form of getting a live tree without him for the first time since he passed. I had a fake tree my first Christmas back in San Francisco after repatriating from Australia. I hadn’t crossed that bridge until last week.

I also had electricians by today to finally complete a much-anticipated project of mine on the condo: a halogen-to-LED fixture conversion project for a majority of the in-unit lighting. The bathrooms already have somewhat more modern fixtures, and they have smaller, more manageable halogen lights. However, all non-bathroom lights were halogen. They threw off a lot of heat, not appreciated at all in the summer months. Not only am I more energy efficient as a result of this project, but I’ll begin to (hopefully) see real savings in my electricity bills. It was a relatively inexpensive way to add value to my home, and a way to see instant savings in my own use and enjoyment of the lights.

As a side note to any of my friends considering a similar project at their home – let me know if you’ve any questions. I asked a lot of stupid questions of my electricity company, and they helped educate me quite a lot. In the end, I went with 3000K fixtures (that speaks to color temperature along a daylight/bright light/soft light/candle spectrum – here, if you’re curious, is more info on the spectrum. Some folks are leery of LED lighting because it can come off as too bright, even bluish in hue. LED lights have come a long way, and don’t have to look like bug lights anymore. So if you’re thinking about it, do it!

Now that I’ve decorated for the holiday, and added more fairy lights than I previously had year-round, home is quite homey, and ready for my mother and aunt to visit. It’ll be the closest to Christmases I used to have growing up I’ll have since my father passed away. My aunt would usually fly in and it would be just the four of us nearly every year.

It’s a new city for me this year, a new condo, the same cat with new asthma, and the nearly the same but never quite the same again family. It’s been a big year for me, in many positive ways. But I lost my cousin to aggressive brain cancer, and that loss reverberates this time of year. That’s partially why I invited family to visit me here. If I’m being honest, to go back east and face my broader family without him might just be too hard for me right now. But baby steps. We all have projects that need tackling, in our homes, and in our hearts/minds. All in good time.