New Normal

As the inauguration looms ahead, I’ve been trying to ease into a new normal.  It should be said that the protections I enjoy as a white hetero cis American citizen may make this easier for me than for some of my friends who are wondering if they are about to be deported, if their marriage will still be valid, and if they will be able to afford medical treatment. The increase in gay weddings and IUD purchases illustrate the specific fears of groups who feel vulnerable, who feel like rights and privileges granted to them are no longer guaranteed.

Those who speak out are not only criticized by Trump supporters, but also have to deflect a possibly deserved rhetoric from the down-trodden for not doing enough.  If the backlash against Meryl Streep for her impassioned anti-Trump Golden Globe Speech doesn’t make you want to hide under your bed, you are made of stronger stuff than I am.

In a previous post, I called upon you to mobilize, to finish your grieving and to act.  Since then, I have….well…I’ve made a few phone calls.  That’s not really very impressive.  I keep waiting for something to happen.  I dreamed of a rogue electoral college, a stray New Year’s bullet, a miracle.

If you still hold out hope for divine intervention, today may be a good day.  The news is filled with unsubstantiated claims that the Russians have both financial and personal dirt on Trump.  This seems entirely plausible to me, but fake news has made me both wary and weary.  And I am left to wonder what Trump could possibly have done that would conceivably turn his voters against him.  I do not think paying hookers to urinate on him is enough, but what do I know?  I already think he has committed any number of more egregious acts than that in public, and here we are.  I am sadly not in the mood to enjoy the myriad of pee jokes already hitting social media. Still, we should be concerned. While our security is thankfully not dependent on the sexual proclivities of one man, it is dependent on having elected leaders who cannot be blackmailed.

Still, Donald Trump is very likely to be president 9 days from now.  What are we going to do?  It’s never fun to lose, but this particular loss has exposed the dark underbelly of the right-leaning disenfranchised, and sooner or later we are going to have come out of hiding and decide if those people are still our enemies.

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We Need to Talk-About Science

One might argue that science is enjoying a bit of an upswing in terms of pop culture. Science fiction movies are in at the moment, documentaries about actual scientists are also box office hits, Bill Nye is a household name, and there’s The Big Bang Theory on television (Not a fan.  Don’t have cable.  Also it’s painful to watch other people think Asperger’s is funny.)

So maybe it’s cool to be a scientist- at least in some abstract, aren’t nerds cute kind of way.  But what about science itself?  I’m sorry to say science is not sexy.  The plodding work involved in the scientific method is not glamorous. Lab work is downright tedious.  And that whole thing about having to replicate scientific results—how boring.

But we don’t all have to be scientists to appreciate what science brings to us ordinary humans—a way of understanding the world around us.  A way of possibly even improving the world around us.  This is not new, right?  From the polio vaccine to Tang to solar panels, science brings us new technology that improves the life of everyone. But we also have to have the wisdom to use what we are given.

My own personal favorite celebrity scientist, Neil deGrasse Tyson, embraces pop science, saying it gives him a vehicle to communicate to a larger audience.  He urges scientists to learn to communicate better, to reach people who may have other things on their minds than the physics of Star Trek. “You testify to Congress and you say they don’t get it there’s something wrong with them. Noooooo. There’s something missing in your lexicon because everybody else is fluent here.”

Well, it’s past time for learning to talk about science. We have completely failed at imparting even a rudimentary standard of scientific knowledge on the general public.  I see no other possible conclusion when the incoming Trump administration is riddled with anti-science buffoons.  This goes well beyond a Republican tendency to prioritize short term economy building over long term environmental consequences.  We have an incoming administration of anti-vax climate change deniers, and I’m scared.

Let’s take global warming.  On record as rejecting the overwhelming scientific evidence for human-created temperature increases, we have, based on my 4 minutes of research, Pence, Pruitt, Perry, Carson, Mulvaney, and Sessions.  So much for the 97% scientific consensus.  We’re screwed.

I’m not really sure how we got here.  Was it Oprah?  Was it Oprah giving platforms to anti-vax hot bod turned concerned mom Jenny McCarthy and Dr. (there really is nothing behind the curtain but I’m pretty and I have an MD) Oz? Was it evangelical-fueled anti-intellectualism insisting God and Einstein couldn’t both be right? Was it the dumbing- down of America that began once we won the space race? Reagan-era materialism over knowledge?

Is it just our own self-centered natures, unwillingness to embrace unfortunate truths, the stubborn human trait of lack of foresight?  Are we all like Donald Trump who complained that those irritating scientists were threatening to take away his hairspray? “So if I take hairspray and I spray it in my apartment, which is all sealed, you’re telling me that affects the ozone layer?…I say no way, folks. No way. No way.” If only Donald Trump’s apartment were a closed system. I’d be the first to encourage him to use all the hair spray he wants.

But none of us live in a closed system.  We’re all in it together.  Well, you people who live in Miami are going first, but the rest of us could very well suffer real consequences if scientific policies backslide over the next four years.  I wish I had some sage advice as to how to temper the impending apocalypse, but all I can say is stay angry, and stay vigilant.  And help us, Neil deGrasse Tyson, you’re our only hope.

 

 

 

We Need to Talk-About Science

One might argue that science is enjoying a bit of an upswing in terms of pop culture. Science fiction movies are in at the moment, documentaries about actual scientists are also box office hits, Bill Nye is a household name, and there’s The Big Bang Theory on television (Not a fan.  Don’t have cable.  Also it’s painful to watch other people think Asperger’s is funny.)

So maybe it’s cool to be a scientist- at least in some abstract, aren’t nerds cute kind of way.  But what about science itself?  I’m sorry to say science is not sexy.  The plodding work involved in the scientific method is not glamorous. Lab work is downright tedious.  And that whole thing about having to replicate scientific results—how boring.

But we don’t all have to be scientists to appreciate what science brings to us ordinary humans—a way of understanding the world around us.  A way of possibly even improving the world around us.  This is not new, right?  From the polio vaccine to Tang to solar panels, science brings us new technology that improves the life of everyone. But we also have to have the wisdom to use what we are given.

My own personal favorite celebrity scientist, Neil deGrasse Tyson, embraces pop science, saying it gives him a vehicle to communicate to a larger audience.  He urges scientists to learn to communicate better, to reach people who may have other things on their minds than the physics of Star Trek. “You testify to Congress and you say they don’t get it there’s something wrong with them. Noooooo. There’s something missing in your lexicon because everybody else is fluent here.”

Well, it’s past time for learning to talk about science. We have completely failed at imparting even a rudimentary standard of scientific knowledge on the general public.  I see no other possible conclusion when the incoming Trump administration is riddled with anti-science buffoons.  This goes well beyond a Republican tendency to prioritize short term economy building over long term environmental consequences.  We have an incoming administration of anti-vax climate change deniers, and I’m scared.

Let’s take global warming.  On record as rejecting the overwhelming scientific evidence for human-created temperature increases, we have, based on my 4 minutes of research, Pence, Pruitt, Perry, Carson, Mulvaney, and Sessions.  So much for the 97% scientific consensus.  We’re screwed.

I’m not really sure how we got here.  Was it Oprah?  Was it Oprah giving platforms to anti-vax hot bod turned concerned mom Jenny McCarthy and Dr. (there really is nothing behind the curtain but I’m pretty and I have an MD) Oz? Was it evangelical-fueled anti-intellectualism insisting God and Einstein couldn’t both be right? Was it the dumbing- down of America that began once we won the space race? Reagan-era materialism over knowledge?

Is it just our own self-centered natures, unwillingness to embrace unfortunate truths, the stubborn human trait of lack of foresight?  Are we all like Donald Trump who complained that those irritating scientists were threatening to take away his hairspray? “So if I take hairspray and I spray it in my apartment, which is all sealed, you’re telling me that affects the ozone layer?…I say no way, folks. No way. No way.” If only Donald Trump’s apartment were a closed system. I’d be the first to encourage him to use all the hair spray he wants.

But none of us live in a closed system.  We’re all in it together.  Well, you people who live in Miami are going first, but the rest of us could very well suffer real consequences if scientific policies backslide over the next four years.  I wish I had some sage advice as to how to temper the impending apocalypse, but all I can say is stay angry, and stay vigilant.  And help us, Neil deGrasse Tyson, you’re our only hope.

 

 

 

We Need to Talk-About Science

One might argue that science is enjoying a bit of an upswing in terms of pop culture. Science fiction movies are in at the moment, documentaries about actual scientists are also box office hits, Bill Nye is a household name, and there’s The Big Bang Theory on television (Not a fan.  Don’t have cable.  Also it’s painful to watch other people think Asperger’s is funny.)

So maybe it’s cool to be a scientist- at least in some abstract, aren’t nerds cute kind of way.  But what about science itself?  I’m sorry to say science is not sexy.  The plodding work involved in the scientific method is not glamorous. Lab work is downright tedious.  And that whole thing about having to replicate scientific results—how boring.

But we don’t all have to be scientists to appreciate what science brings to us ordinary humans—a way of understanding the world around us.  A way of possibly even improving the world around us.  This is not new, right?  From the polio vaccine to Tang to solar panels, science brings us new technology that improves the life of everyone. But we also have to have the wisdom to use what we are given.

My own personal favorite celebrity scientist, Neil deGrasse Tyson, embraces pop science, saying it gives him a vehicle to communicate to a larger audience.  He urges scientists to learn to communicate better, to reach people who may have other things on their minds than the physics of Star Trek. “You testify to Congress and you say they don’t get it there’s something wrong with them. Noooooo. There’s something missing in your lexicon because everybody else is fluent here.”

Well, it’s past time for learning to talk about science. We have completely failed at imparting even a rudimentary standard of scientific knowledge on the general public.  I see no other possible conclusion when the incoming Trump administration is riddled with anti-science buffoons.  This goes well beyond a Republican tendency to prioritize short term economy building over long term environmental consequences.  We have an incoming administration of anti-vax climate change deniers, and I’m scared.

Let’s take global warming.  On record as rejecting the overwhelming scientific evidence for human-created temperature increases, we have, based on my 4 minutes of research, Pence, Pruitt, Perry, Carson, Mulvaney, and Sessions.  So much for the 97% scientific consensus.  We’re screwed.

I’m not really sure how we got here.  Was it Oprah?  Was it Oprah giving platforms to anti-vax hot bod turned concerned mom Jenny McCarthy and Dr. (there really is nothing behind the curtain but I’m pretty and I have an MD) Oz? Was it evangelical-fueled anti-intellectualism insisting God and Einstein couldn’t both be right? Was it the dumbing- down of America that began once we won the space race? Reagan-era materialism over knowledge?

Is it just our own self-centered natures, unwillingness to embrace unfortunate truths, the stubborn human trait of lack of foresight?  Are we all like Donald Trump who complained that those irritating scientists were threatening to take away his hairspray? “So if I take hairspray and I spray it in my apartment, which is all sealed, you’re telling me that affects the ozone layer?…I say no way, folks. No way. No way.” If only Donald Trump’s apartment were a closed system. I’d be the first to encourage him to use all the hair spray he wants.

But none of us live in a closed system.  We’re all in it together.  Well, you people who live in Miami are going first, but the rest of us could very well suffer real consequences if scientific policies backslide over the next four years.  I wish I had some sage advice as to how to temper the impending apocalypse, but all I can say is stay angry, and stay vigilant.  And help us, Neil deGrasse Tyson, you’re our only hope.

 

 

 

When Trump is Your President

Close elections are tough.  Close elections where the majority of people who voted actually lost are brutal.  If you are like me and in the majority, you’re upset right now.  I understand.  You feel personally betrayed by every neighbor, friend, colleague, and relative who voted Donald Trump. You blame the media.  You blame the DNC.  You blame the RNC.  You blame third party voters.  You blame Bernie Sanders.  You blame Hillary Clinton.  You blame your racist uncle.  I’m with you.  You are genuinely fearful of a new era of discrimination against people based on their gender, their race, their religion, who they love, or where they pee.  I think your fear is justified.  You lay awake thinking about the nuclear codes in the hands of a man with the emotional maturity of a four year old.  A period of mourning is appropriate.  But let’s not be paralyzed by the apocalypse before it happens.

Look, I’m not here to tell you that everything is going to be ok.  I’m not going to say it doesn’t matter who is president because that’s not true.  Besides it’s nihilistic.  The first order of the day is to fight back the existential dread of the dawn.  Some of us do this every day anyway, but if you’re new, I’ll give you a minute to catch up.  I’ll even wait until you finish that bottle of tequila.

I’m certainly not going to tell you it will be ok because you are a good person, and God is in control, and you are in his favor, and everything happens for a reason.  That’s nihilism too.  Dressed up like a big red poppy. If you are a person of faith, I hope your faith gives you enough strength to accept the hard truth that religion is, by design, the institutionalization of complacency.  If it guides you to action, great.  If you give away your personal responsibility to a higher power, then get out of my God Damn way.

It is perfectly ok to throw one hell of a tantrum.  Scream, curse, drink, smoke, run, cry.  You’ve got about 3 months to do it.

But you may not spend the next four years prostrate at the grave of your dreams.  I guarantee you Hillary Clinton won’t be.

You may not renounce your citizenship.  How dare you?  The democratic process is not over because you got an I VOTED sticker.   You don’t get to stop being an American because your candidate didn’t win.

And let’s just stop right here for a moment with the jokes about how we won’t need a wall because immigrants won’t come here under a Donald Trump presidency.  It’s not funny to imply that watching your children die of starvation due to US trade policy is somehow a worse fate than a Donald Trump Presidency.  It’s not.  It’s not worse than living in a dictatorship either.  The fact that you do live in a democracy is a privilege most people don’t have. So get a grip.  You have duties.

And don’t say Trump is not your president.  Because by doing that, you absolve him of accountability.  It is only because he is your president that you have the opportunity to hold him accountable.  And he must be held accountable for each and everything he does from here on out.  Held accountable by you.

You don’t have the luxury of saying there is nothing more you can do.  Do you know who your senators and congressional representatives are?  They are your allies, no matter who elected them.  They do represent you if you voted for them or not.  Do you know their email addresses?  Their phone numbers?  Do they know you by name?  If not, then you have plenty of work to do.  You must demand that they mitigate the Tump presidency.  That’s your job.

Everyone mourns at their own pace.  Take some time.  But then pick yourself up and pull yourself together.  Be an American.

What Happens When The Polls Close: A Poll Worker Reveals All

It was my intention to write a blog today about what it’s like to be a poll worker after the polls close and all the votes have to be counted.  In light of the unexpected Trump win, however, some of you might rather just go watch cat videos in your pajamas with a bottle of tequila, and if this is the case, you have my permission to do so.  Take care of you.

In my state, the polls closed at 7:00 pm.  It was immediately called as a Trump win.  Since my state is neither any shade of purple nor a swing state, the rest of the country gave no more thought to the ballots cast here.  However, rest assured each and every ballot is counted here just like everywhere else.  I’ve worked with a few different election commissions, and every one of them takes this job very seriously. I’ve encountered a few frustrations, usually in the form of less than up to date technology, but everyone I have encountered during this process has been professional.

I also consider myself a professional.  I’ve received training, and I am paid for the work I do.  I hope all my friends that keep thanking me for my volunteerism are not disappointed, but the truth is being involved in the polls at any level means putting aside your personal preferences in favor of the integrity of the process, and this requires a bit more from you than just being an enthusiastic volunteer.  After all, I have put myself in a position where I can go to jail for fraud.  They like to have your social security number in that type of situation.

My job begins when the polls close, and it begins by waiting.  Even though the polls close at 7:00, everyone who is still in line gets to vote, and all ballots have to be accounted for before everything is put in a big locked box and escorted to a central location by state prisoners accompanied by armed guards.  I find this somewhat ironic, and I always wonder if any of the people transporting ballots have been denied the right to vote.

The boxes (there are 50 of them) didn’t really start arriving until about 8:30 at which point, Trump had already taken the lead in made-up media world. The last box didn’t show up until almost 11:00.

The boxes are then opened and every ballot, including affidavits and absentee ballots for that district, is accounted for.  A little black box with electronic data on it is carried off to a secret room where most of the votes are tabulated.

But each box also has a number of paper ballots, each in its own sealed envelope.  These are absentee ballots and early voting ballots.  My state has very limited early voting for people who are over 65 or meet other specific criteria.  Still, in our county that amounted to 6000 sealed envelopes.  Do you know how long it takes to open 6000 sealed envelopes?  Hours and hours. It turns out, there is a machine for this.  A letter-opening machine.  But we only have one of those, and sometimes it slices the ballot into strips.  Most of these ballots go through a scantron machine, but the machine cannot read them all. About 20% require human eyes.  That’s where I come in.

I am a member of what’s called the Resolution Committee.  If your ballot cannot be read by a machine for any reason, it comes to us and we do our very best to create a new ballot that reflects your intentions.  The new ballot is marked with a code that links it to your old ballot which is kept in another locked box, and then it gets fed back through the machine.  Some ballots are printed out on regular paper and are simply the wrong size to go through the machine.  Others are creased from being folded to fit into the envelope.  An accidental smudge (or the 4 people who wrote their names on their ballots) or a small tear can also throw the machine off.

Then there are the people who just cannot or will not fill in a bubble.  I do not know who you people are.  But for those of you who circled your favorite candidates, or marked them with a check or an x or a smiley face, your vote was counted.

Then there are the write-in candidates.  My state does not recognize write-ins unless someone dies, but there is a space that says write-in, and some people insist on using it. To be fair, this is pretty confusing, and I think there should be big signs that explain this or something, but there are not.

So if you wrote in anyone, your vote did not get counted although we recreated the rest of your ballot if you made an actual choice for another race.  I do not know who you think you are going to amuse by writing in Mickey Mouse.  Who do you think sees that?  I will tell you. Me.  Just me. Or another committee member. At 1:00 in the morning.  We do not think you are funny. And if you wrote in Bernie Sanders, your ballot was treated exactly the same way as Mickey’s.  I hope you feel good about yourself.

The most common user error was selecting multiple candidates for one office.  I don’t know what you people are trying to pull.  Is this supposed to be some kind of political statement?  It is not.  It is paperwork paid for by your tax dollars.

In partisan elections, there are 2 committees, one for each party.  So during the primaries, I handled only democratic ballots.  During the general election, there is no party affiliation attached to your ballot in this state, so we just merge into one big committee.

This means that while you were yelling obscenities at the TV and texting your ex who you just know voted third party, I was actually watching the results come in sitting at a table with members of the Republican Party.  For almost 7 hours.

A certain amount of professionalism is expected and maintained.  This is not the time or the place to talk politics.  Still, 7 hours, most of which is spent waiting for other people to open envelopes, is a really long time, and there is only so much time you can spend discussing Rebel Football. For me, this is approximately 7 minutes.

I will be honest.  I thought these people were monsters.  I cannot think of one excusable reason to vote for Donald Trump.  Not one.  Not because you are pro-life, not because you are anti-immigration, not because you want a conservative supreme court.  There is nothing NOTHING that justifies the support of a racist, misogynist bigot like Donald Trump.  My months of incredibly amateur research on the Trump phenomenon yielded no answer other than the fact that his supporters hate everyone different from themselves.  Themselves being white male supremacists.

Well, they looked like normal people.

Ok, well really they looked like well to do former Greek Society members.  And they were. But as the night wore on, and state after state turned red on the big map in the front of the room, I discovered something interesting.

While cheering every time your candidate got an electoral vote would be considered in poor taste, you might expect at least someone in the room to be feeling celebratory even if gloating was kept to a minimum.  But they weren’t celebrating.  Not even a little bit.  In fact, they considered the entire election to be one big shit show controlled by the media which was unlikely to result in anyone being completely satisfied.  They are not wrong.

I waited for someone to slip up and show their true colors, to say something racist or homophobic or misogynistic, but no one ever did.  The closest the conversation came to that was speculation over whether Hillary and Bill had an arrangement that included both of them taking on female lovers (this was after the coffee ran out), with a bipartisan consensus that this was entirely their business and theirs alone.

They seemed just as worried about the next four years as I am, and worried about many of the same things.  They worried about having enough money to leave something to their children, about being able to afford medical care, about global warming.

I’m not at all sure what to take away from this. I still think a vote for Trump was an irredeemable heinous act.  But while we shared the last snickers bar at 2 am, the Republican contingent seemed just as bewildered as I felt.  As to why they voted for Trump, I really don’t know, but my sense was that it is because they are Republicans.  And that’s what Republicans in red states do.  That doesn’t seem like anything close to a good enough reason.  There is plenty of blame to go around.  At this particular moment, I am blaming those of you who would not consider backing Bernie because you thought an establishment candidate would do better against an anti-establishment candidate, but we are not going to ever learn anything from this election by declaring the winners monsters.  I’m going to need some time to work on that.

votevote

Grab is the Four Letter Word

I suppose it is not really shocking that there are going to be some people who stand by their man, in this case Donald Trump, no matter what.  Which isn’t to say that pussygate hasn’t sent a few decent Republicans running for the hills.  Finally. Really, McCain?  You could have jumped ship long before now.  Still, it’s interesting if not downright entertaining to witness just how someone goes about defending video evidence of Trump claiming to grab women by the privates without their consent.

The first tactic, that it was just locker room talk, is pretty weak, and puts the defenders in an awkward position.  Either all men talk like this, in which case all men are horrible, or only Trump talks like this which makes him horrible all by himself. You tell me which scenario plays out better for the GOP. Awkward.

It’s ludicrous, but it’s a thin veil for a disturbing truth.  A good number of people out there really seem to think that the choice of language is what’s at issue here.  That it’s the word, “pussy,” which is offensive.  What’s more relatable, after all, than saying something you wish you hadn’t said in language more colorful than you’d want your grandmother to hear?  We’ve all done it, at one time or another.  For me, this usually involves me dropping something heavy on my foot in front of my children.  Surprisingly enough, they seem to be pretty well versed in alternative speech choices.

I am flabbergasted I need to explain this to people, but no, it is not the word “pussy,” it’s the word “grab.”  And that word is as dirty as they come.  It implies an impulsive thoughtlessness, the way you might grab something to eat instead of having a gourmet meal.  And it’s not something you do to another person after asking permission.  If your preferred line is “Mind if I grab your ass?”  I’m guessing you’re not getting very far. But thanks for asking.  That’s more than Trump did.

And I have a word or two for those from the right who denounce him by expressing outrage on behalf of their mothers and daughter.  Really?  How about outrage on the behalf of humanity?  The type of empathy that only kicks in when you can imagine injustice occurring to someone close to you is exactly what’s wrong with the conservative movement to begin with.

I assume the point of trying to label Trump’s horrible comments as locker room talk, despite the fact that he was nowhere near a locker room but in public with a camera pointed in his face, is to characterize it as all bluster.  Men Talk.  That doesn’t mean they Do.  That there is mounting evidence that Trump has Done plenty is being categorically dismissed, as women often are when they complain about men and their tiny grabby hands.

If this wasn’t bad enough, I’ve seen a new tactic circulate over the past few days.  Have you seen the memes?  Beyonce and Miley Cyrus are favorite targets, but there are pictures of any number of powerful ladies performing on stage grabbing their own crotches.  Now to be honest, I’ve always thought this to be a might unseemly, but no one has ever accused me of lady-like behavior, so whatever.  That’s quite beside the point.   These memes are apparently designed to get you to not vote for Hillary Clinton. Kidding.  They are designed to  justify the continued support of a man who has time and again proven himself to be a misogynist pig.  My apology to pigs.

Let me trace the lines for you because it may not be obvious at first.  The fact that these women, who will of course all be voting for Hillary, are willing to debase themselves in such a way proves that Trump is not really a bad guy after all because…ummm…because….well they have pussies…and they are-how dare they–having pussies in public!  Therefore…umm… Trump’s comments on the grabbability of such obvious pussyness is inevitable.  Plus the universe has already gone to hell in a hand basket, and this is clearly Hillary’s fault.

Ok, I might need some help here from those of you posting this meme.  I mean do you really not understand consent at all, or do you just think it is so unimportant that you’ll ignore it to keep a woman out of the White House?  How dare you? How dare you equate bodily autonomy with sexual assault?  And you wonder why Hillary calls you deplorables?

The only thing worse than Donald Trump is his supporters, and long after he fades away into oblivion, they will be left with their pathetic fragile angry white masculinity.  And I will be here with my pussy.  And I will defeat you with every breath I have.