Thursday, July 21, 2016

Voting 3rd Party...

Voting Green, Libertarian, or writing in Bernie in November won't be "sticking it to the establishment". It won't "piss off the elites", they'll be fine. What you ARE doing (especially in key battleground states) is hurting us. You know, your fellow humans. I know that every year it's "important", but our choice is especially stark this November, because Trump is DANGEROUS, not just misguided or wrong.

I hope you're not thinking a vote for a 3rd party will cause that person to be elected, because no third party has that much support, period, no matter what you wish it to be. So your vote is a "protest" vote. I get it, I really do, I'm not 100% for Hillary either, and sometimes Dems piss me off. I disagree with her (and their) Wall Street ties and semi-neocon approach to the world. But I only have two actual viable choices in front of me: Trump or Hillary.

But your protest vote will have the effect of (possibly) electing Trump. He is unstable, anti-science, incompetent, racist, anti-Muslim, and pseudo fascist. He will choose SCOTUS justices that will negatively define us for a generation. He will start wars, piss off our allies (hello yesterday's NATO bombshell?), and more than probably, tank our economy.

I remember having this same discussion in 2000 with Bush v Gore and Nader/SCOTUS being the spoilers for Bush. How did that turn out? The most successful terrorist attack on our soil in generations, illegal wars, warrantless wiretapping, a banking system & economy brought to the brink of collapse, and a massive redistribution of wealth. Some of this has thankfully been rolled back by Pres Obama. Some more will be rolled backy by Hillary, but Trump will triple-quadruple down on this, and add some SCOTUS nominees that will pledge to roll back LGBT rights (starting with, but not limited to marriage rights!) & affirmative action, support Citizens United, and put at risk a woman's right to choose.

When you vote, have some empathy towards your fellow citizens. Or at the very least look to your own interests, because Trump WILL NOT.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Chaos and Order

I recently came back from a three week trip to China (Beijing and Chengdu), Hong Kong, and Japan (Kyoto and Tokyo). What an eye opener it was! I hypothetically knew the difference between China and Japan, but only now understand how different they really are.


I found both Beijing and Chengdu quite surprising. The capital is clearly a city in transition. Traditional hutongs (alleyways) are converted to tourist traps replete with bars, shopping, and ice cream shops; whole swaths of streets become outdoor plazas containing malls and food streets. There's a mixture of highly modern, very traditional, and slum (at least to Western eyes).

And yet you can't forget that this seemingly bastion of free markets and capitalism is still China, where the Tiananmen Square "incident" happened and you aren't that far away from Chairman Mao's influence.

The people are welcoming, warm, and generous. Granted, where are they not? But in Beijing, I was repeatedly asked to be in photographs-I assume because of my height, Western-ness, and blue/green eyes. And let's not talk about how chaotic lines can be.

One really funny incident happened at a restaurant. My husband and I got there accidentally; the hotel erroneously found a Peking duck restaurant a few blocks from the one we were targeting, and I didn't notice because the name was very close. Be that as it were. With the restaurant mostly empty, we sat down near a round table with about seven or 8 men and one woman. They were clearly having a good time and not a little bit inebriated. When they saw us, out came the cameras, the handshaking, and toasts. It was both annoying and quite humorous, ending in a few rounds of one guy kissing our foreheads.

A week of this is fine, but a year of this might be infuriating. Walking the streets with my friends in Chengdu, they annoyingly waved away several people who were acting as if they were paparazzi and we were stars. My friends (one being a blue-eyed beautiful blond woman) are over it.

Beijing is also unfinished. Or at least, it's been in a hurry. Misspellings abound in public signs, leading to some quite funny photos. I'm sure they'll catch up.

Chengdu is also quite interesting in that it's much better finished. Clearly their infrastructure was designed with more time and therefore the mistakes and misspellings are practically nonexistent.

But Chengdu is still China. Sichuan University graduate housing looks like a condemned building, I heard stories about how some dormitories don't have showers (it's a building across the street), and they cut power at midnight because (of course) you should be sleeping at night. And Chengdu pandas have air-conditioned cages to keep them comfortable.

Monday, June 24, 2013

And yet here we are.

No one should be in the position of waiting for a Supreme Court case to see if their bi-national husband or wife has to leave the country because they cannot get a visa. No one should have to be afraid of extra taxation as a lawfully-wedded widow or widower when they're retired, on a fixed income, and relying on their deceased partner's estate. 

Or have to endure extra expense and paperwork to ensure their children aren't taken from them when crossing state lines. 

How about collecting each others' Social Security benefits? Or having the option of being buried next to their husband or wife in a military cemetery?

Or even to decide if you're married or not, even though you were legally married in a state-sanctioned ceremony?

Yet here we are. The Supreme Court will release any day the decisions in the Prop 8 and DOMA cases. I'm certainly hoping they decide, not just on the right side of history, but on the right side of morality. After all, we are talking about your brother or sister, your gay children, your cousins or uncle or aunt, your coworker. This isn't just a "them" you can ignore anymore, it's your family and friends. 

I'm really hoping this is something good coming. 


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Vatican Museum

I didn't think I'd ever write about museums, but my mom recently sent out one of her spam emails which included this link to the gorgeous VR version of the Sistine Chapel. I had seen it before, but this time it triggered my recollections of the Vatican Museum, which I thought I'd share.

To be honest, I wasn't expecting much from the Vatican Museum.  Just a few religious artifacts, then the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter's Basilica and we're done.  I should not have been surprised to discover a world-class museum, but I was very pleasantly surprised;  after all, this is a major museum in Rome.

The entrance to the actual museum was in the "rear" of the Vatican.  It's actually a small entrance in the giant walled-off complex that is Vatican City (a great picture of this wall is in the Wikipedia article for the museum).  But when you start walking around the museum, you see how huge it is, how filled it is with Renaissance treasures, and how deep its collection.  There are indoor wings, outdoor wings, corridors upon corridors of gorgeous Roman statues, busts, carvings, Renaissance paintings, and of course, religiously-themed art.  There is even an outdoor courtyard next to the food court (a food court in the Vatican!) with a stairway entrance to a really cool "garage" museum of popemobiles, carriages, and palanquin. Did I mention the gift shops?  There are several, including one at the top of a breathtaking curved staircase.

One cool exhibit is the museum stamp collection.  I know, stamps, right?  But this small exhibit is beautifully done.

Of course, the star attractions are the Raphael Apartments and Sistine Chapel.  You know this because there are "Sistine Chapel -->" signs everywhere.  It reminded me of the signs to "La Joconde" in the Louvre (that's the Mona Lisa).  After what felt like walking on a scaffolding a few floors up, we enter the Raphael Apartments; which are just a series of three or four empty rooms painted by Raphael (they were formerly papal apartments).  The last room is the glorious School of Athens; an amazing painting to see.  Two things I didn't know:  1) the ceiling is curved here.  You actually see this in the posters of the School of Athens in the top right and left corners, but only once you know.  And 2) the painted wall starts about 6 feet above the floor.  So you are looking up at it; in fact, you can see the top of the door that you enter through in any poster on the lower left.  I just thought all these little details are really cool and you'd never know from anywhere else.

After the Raphael Apartments, there's a fantastic contemporary art room. Just some really beautiful pieces.  Most people just skip over this to get to the Sistine, but it really is worth going through.

Finally, you are led into the Sistine Chapel.  I certainly won't try describing how breathtaking it looks in real life and after being restored and cleaned.  Let's just say it took me half an hour to agree to be dragged out kicking and screaming. Maybe not screaming, as the Vatican police are busy shushing everyone--which is both ridiculous and appropriate given the shushing the Vatican has done for so many things. I'd love to see a Sistine Chapel-full of atheists not being shushed and just talking about the beautiful room.

And then more gift shops towards the exit.  The St. Peter's Basilica is actually a separate entrance, this one properly in the "main" Vatican square that you see on TV.

For the Basilica itself, I only have three observations.

  1. They are surprisingly lax here in terms of photographs and talking.  You are allowed to take as many photos as you want and talk as loud as you want.  I was expecting to be shushed here too and thankfully wasn't.
  2. Dripping in gold.  D-R-I-P-P-I-N-G in gold.  
  3. It's pretty damned gorgeous (pun intended).  The floor inlays, the famous canopy, the statues, etc, etc.  It's certainly an appropriate former seat of earthly power for an all-powerful empire.  This is not a church, it is where you go for the pope to decide with his court whether you're going to be beheaded or burned at the stake. Historical criticism intended.

So there you have it; the Vatican Museum, an amazing place with gorgeous art.  A must-visit.

Incidentally, that spam email also had these links, in case you're into that sort of thing:

Monday, November 5, 2012

November 6th, Election Day: Vote!

It's the day before the election, and I want to send a big message to all tens of you who are still reading me.

I'm sure you all are, but I wanted to reinforce it.  At some point, too many people have forgotten their "Why I Should Vote" essay from civics class and become complacent.  But voting is the single time where everyone else steps aside and We the People have our say.  No matter which political party you belong to-or none, which side you lie on, what your beliefs are, how hopeful or cynical you might be about our future, all of that is useless unless you join the conversation.  With voter turnout at approximately 50% for major elections (and sadly much lower for off-cycle and local elections), this is the one time when I can say that not enough people are talking.  Join the conversation.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Followup on FEMA

"Those who would argue for a privatized emergency management system must address a series of questions. Under a profit-motivated private sector system, what would prevent private entities from “cherry-picking” easy emergency management activities while shunning more difficult tasks, like preparing huge, highly diverse cities with large vulnerable populations? What private-sector entities would offer assistance to bankrupt, but still vulnerable, communities, like many California jurisdictions, or communities caught in the vise of the fiscal downturn? Would services be more abundant in communities that are willing and able to pay for them? What would prevent companies from overpromising results and gaming the system, as they have in offering infeasible solutions in the war on terror while racking up large profits?"

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Face to face teaching

I'm just sitting in class, waiting for it to start.  I find it funny that we still value face-to-face instruction, even when it doesn't bring any value.  It would be so much easier to do a webcast or recording--once all the technology for it becomes easy to set up.  I have a friend who's class has been slightly unsuccessful with blended classes because the setup people mess it up too often!