Archive for the 'Geekalicious' category

Truly Social Media

Jul 18 2014 Published by under Geekalicious, Naming Experience

A change of scenery is an excellent treatment for depression, anxiety, and worry. So Mr. Z and I are going out tonight to see a band that he never wanted to see before.  But you know, they are taper friendly, and he has this fancy new bit of gear, and it's nice weather, and his taper friends all asked if he couldn't come out and play this weekend, and I said yes honey run along! Of course I am running along with him.

It's up in the Poconos, an outdoor show, and should be a beautiful evening so how bad can it be. I love the taper dudes, they are great guys, but sometimes hilarious to me. They all call each other up and encourage each other to go to various shows. "Take your rig out to play" "Your rig needs to get out and get some air" "Time to give that rig some exercise" and so on. Their behavior is indeed much as the proverbial women-going-to-the-restroom-together. They do not wish to go to a show alone, it is more congenial to have a taper friend to go with them.

They will tell you it's for safety - the music's safety. There has to be a backup. If one taper's recording is messed up, there will be another recording "for the archive", "for posterity" because they are in the business of preserving music.

And part of that is true.  But mostly I think it is because, surprisingly, taping is a social thing. It may look to us like a solitary pursuit but they know better than us. They have inside jokes about it, about the characteristics of the "taper" (with a picture of a tapir on a t-shirt) - the taper erects temporary structures, the taper does not like glosticks or beach balls (see here for further explanation) etc.  They know they are a tribe. Music led them to the tribe, but they are not bound by a particular music. It is the calling of the tribe to preserve music.

The calling of the tribe: to preserve music, and to gather the highest quality gear for the preserving of music, so as to have the rationale for the necessity of going out to preserve music. With the tribe. Socializing, by the media, with the media, for the media. It's all good!

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Quick, Who's A Geek?

Not you, I bet! Unless you're a dude, that is. I know this for sure because just this morning I came across a helpful new tome, The Geek's Guide to Dating, written for dudes who want to get girls.

You keep your action figures in their original packaging. Your closets are full of officially licensed Star Wars merchandise. You’re hooked on Elder Scrolls and Metal Gear but now you’ve discovered an even bigger obsession: the new girl who just moved in down the hall.

What’s a geek to do? Take some tips from The Geek’s Guide to Dating. This hilarious primer is jam-packed with cheat codes, walkthroughs, and power-ups for navigating the perils and pitfalls of your love life with ease. Geeks of all ages will find answers to the ultimate questions of life, the universe, and everything romantic, from First Contact to The Fellowship of the Ring and beyond. Full of whimsical 8-bit illustrations, The Geek’s Guide to Dating will teach fanboys everywhere to love long and prosper.

It would have been out of the question, of course to have written the above thus:

You keep your action figures in their original packaging. Your closets are full of officially licensed Star Wars merchandise. You’re hooked on Elder Scrolls and Metal Gear but now you’ve discovered an even bigger obsession: the new girl Person of Interestwho just moved in down the hall.

What’s a geek to do? Take some tips from The Geek’s Guide to Dating. This hilarious primer is jam-packed with cheat codes, walkthroughs, and power-ups for navigating the perils and pitfalls of your love life with ease. Geeks of all ages types will find answers to the ultimate questions of life, the universe, and everything romantic, from First Contact to The Fellowship of the Ring and beyond. Full of whimsical 8-bit illustrations, The Geek’s Guide to Dating will teach fanboys cosplayers everywhere to love long and prosper.

Out of the question, of course, because then how the hell would you have written the book to go with that? It is geeks, who are dudes, white dudes to be specific, who need help with mating, and it is girls, who may or may not be geeks, who cares, who are out there waiting to be properly mated. Always this way. Dudes, seeking and finding girls, like a precious grail quest. Too bad if you are a geek girl who would like some dating tips on sorting dudes from duds. Or a geek dude who fancies other geek dudes. Or likewise a geek girl whose heart beats faster for other geek girls. No book for you!

The book authors were on this morning's Radio Times with Marty Moss-Coane. I hasten to add that they declared, many times, while talking about the book and answering questions, that geek is not an identity owned solely by dudes, that anyone can be a geek, that geek culture has broad meanings and shapes, that it is welcoming to all, and that the openness and welcoming to all is part of what makes geek culture so great.  The irony of having written a book that takes as its unacknowledged knowledge-we-all-share that geeks are dudes completely escaped them. It also seemed to have gone right by Moss-Coane, for the usually quite sharp host did not remark upon this at all.

Why does it take so much help to be a dude? Some years back there was The Dangerous Book for Boys, because boys were in danger of growing up as namby-pamby nancy boys who wouldn't know a penknife if a Real Boy jammed it in their thigh. The Dangerous Book for Girls was promptly produced as an antidote (and for more book sales). Now Real Geekness needs shored up a little with an Actually Real Geeks ARE Men Even Though We As A Community Say We Are Totally Welcoming To All dating manual.

Oh come on, it's all a bit of light-hearted good fun, can't you relax and laugh a little, you feminists have no sense of humor! We even put in a Note To Girl Geeks (see page 19)! Where we said this book is for dudes but if you try hard you can see yourself in it! Except facial hair! If you're so bothered by it, why don't you write your own Geek Girl's Guide to Dating?

Would a Geek Girl's Guide to Dating be of any help? (1) No. (2) No. (3) No. It doesn't address compulsory heterosexuality in geek culture. It doesn't solve the problem of Real Geeks Are Men, But There Are Some She-Geek Oddities As Well. It doesn't address the problem of a book that stakes the claim of a single very specific identity as the center of the universe and equivalent to the community identity. The book is more accurately called The White Geek Dude's Guide to Dating. The following phrases are crutches used to walk away from that: "well, we really do welcome everyone; you should just write your own book" and "some women think it's funny" and "just try to picture yourself in it" and "there aren't that many gay geeks, I never met any" and "if we had to take all that into account,  it wouldn't be funny anymore".

Ah yes. If you had to take everyone else's perspective into account in writing your book, then 95% of the jokes in it wouldn't be funny, would they? Because the funny is based on the unacknowledged knowledge that Real Geeks Are Dudes. Where's the funny in having to admit that Real Geeks Are Men is just a bit of bad cosplay, and that the costume is wearing mighty thin, eh? No book for you.

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Why Don't The Humanities Bring Science Into Their Classrooms?

Nov 19 2013 Published by under Geekalicious, Gendering Technology, Logos, Pathos, Ethos

In my usual graceful manner, I barged into a conversation on twitter between @Drew_Lab and @LauraSBooth regarding this point: "I see scientists bringing in Steinbeck, I never see English profs bringing in science." Nuh-uh, I said, they do too bring in The Science! And I promised references.

This post is my reply. Some qualifiers: I don't claim this is an exhaustive round-up of what's out there. It's just what I know about and can lay my hands on quickly. Also, consider these ponderings.

1. Humanities and social science scholars have been studying, critiquing, and writing about science & technology since forever. There's even a whole field called Science, Technology, and Society, with journals and conventions and classes and even, in some places, one can major in it. Does any of this scholarly activity count as bringing in science?

2. I will acknowledge, these scholars are not running gels or differentiating equations in their classes or having poster sessions of latest results at their meetings. But is this what we need humanities and social science scholars to do, really? And what outcome do we expect or want if they do?

3. What do we mean by science? What kinds of things do we want brought into non-science classrooms? Does that differ significantly from field to field?  Is history of science good enough? Are critiques of science (STS, feminist theory) sufficient? Do we want humanities students to learn actual bits of science - and if so, what bits?  Is the entrance of science into the humanities/social science classroom to be a demonstration of the wonder of science? Are the students to learn the scientific method, to think like scientists?

I'll stop now.

If your campus has a women's studies program, there is a chance that someone in that program has been doing something with science in one of their classes. This will most likely be one of two things: history or critique. Women's studies scholars look at the history of lost and forgotten women in science, and the barriers women faced against their participation in science. Margaret Rossiter's three-volume Women Scientists in America is a comprehensive overview, but of course there is much to be said outside these volumes and about women outside the U.S.

Women's studies scholars also critique the practice of science, its processes and products. Books on these topics are too numerous to list.

There are many courses that take these topics as their subject or include them as a portion of the course.  There once was an archive of these courses accessible through the wmst-l site but the link seems to be broken now. The wmst-l listserv would be a source of information for people who have or are currently teaching courses in these areas.

STS programs list their courses: check out Stanford's program's offerings. I want to take Text Technologies: A History. That sounds so cool.  Take a look at their faculty list - they come from all sorts of disciplines. OMG Helen Longino is there! Fangirl moment!

I would also like to point out that the esteemed Janet Stemwedel, @DocFreeride, teaches about ethics and science. Surely that must count as bringing science into the classroom. Do not argue that point.

There are print resources. The book Feminist Science Studies: A New Generation ed. M. Mayberry, B. Subramaniam, and L. Weasel, contains several useful essays. Take "Difficult Crossings: Stories From Building Two-Way Streets" by Baker, Shulman, and Tobin. A several-years long program designed to help scientists bring women's studies into their classrooms and vice-versa, it did not try to do both at the same time. The project devoted an entire year to each. I would bet that this project yielded more publications than just this book chapter. It might be worthwhile looking for them, or just contacting one of the authors about it. This is the most organized approach I am aware of.There could be others, I just don't know about them, as this has not been an area I've focused on.

There are two more essays in the book, companion pieces by Subramaniam and by Witmore. Subramaniam was a biological scientist, Witmore a rhetorician. He analyzed her scientific writing as rhetoric. They each wrote about the experience and outcome. I believe any scientist or humanities scholar would find these pieces of interest.

I myself have collaborated with a social scientist,  and we produced a publication! "Telling Stories About Engineering: Group Dynamics and Resistance to Diversity". It is in NWSA Journal, vol 16 no 1 spring 2004 pp 79-95. It's in an anthology somewhere but you can get it at your uni library in the journal form.

Helen Longino famously collaborated with Ruth Doell to write Body, Bias, Behavior: a Comparative Analysis of Reasoning in Two Areas of Biology Science.  So yeah, publications are not classes, but actual collaborations of a non-scientist with a scientist are worthy of note, I think.

One last significant publication: Sally Hacker's book Pleasure, Power, and Technology: Some Tales of Engineering and the Cooperative Workplace. Hacker was a sociologist who actually took calculus classes. Then she wrote about the role intro calc performs in the lives of engineering students: how important calculus was as a gate-keeper, how it functioned as a maker of men from the boys.

This is a completely random listing of things that I think speak to the question of "English profs bringing in science".  There would be more links if my head hurt less right now.  It may or may not be helpful, and it may or may not answer the original question. I think that's about a complete CYA. I shall therefore stop now.

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Give Us This Day Our Daily Meds

Nov 19 2013 Published by under Geekalicious, Making Disability Visible

Med Art

Daily Meds as Medi-Art

 

Not inclusive of meds "taken as needed" for migraine! Or the PPI, every other day-ish. I wish I could call mom and tell her I'm catching up to her all-time impressive total.** Winning! Winning!

 

**We did manage to get it re-evaluated and whittled down to a more reasonable number.

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What (I Think) I Know About Logic And Knowledge

Sep 26 2013 Published by under Basic Concepts, Geekalicious, Logos, Pathos, Ethos

With apologies to Dr. Seuss, and to philosophers, logicians, and poets everywhere.

LOGIC, or, The Philosopher Edits Dr. Seuss

1st submission: My shoe is off. My foot is cold. I have a bird I like to hold. (1)

You have here a valid, yet unsound argument. The holding of the bird is required neither by the offness of the shoe nor the coldness of the foot.

Revision 1: My shoe is off – my foot is cold. My foot is cold…my shoe is off!

Better, in that the irrelevant bird has fled the scene; but worse: this is made unsound by the very fact that the whole structure is itself invalid! The offness of the shoe is not required by the coldness of the foot. To wit: coldness of foot may also be caused by thinness of sock.

Revision 2: My shoe is off: my foot is cold. My shoe is off. My foot is cold.

Excellent! Valid, and sound. Persevere.

Revision 3: My shoe is off – my foot is cold. My foot is warm...my shoe is on. And now it's time to sing this song.

 

KNOWLEDGE

It is not an easy thing
To understand the song they sing
It grows, adds new words over time
Watch out! It turns round on a dime.

Physis, nomos, flux, the One
Atoms (but not like hydrogen)
Paradoxes, Sophistry
Hemlock juice for Socrates

Simple concepts, hard to follow
Up the mountain! Down the hollow!
Back to the grove! The maze of logos
Either leads, or makes fools of us.

A fish is old, a fish is new
A fish is yellow, red, or blue.
A fish is here and gone today.
The Form of Fish is here to stay.

A Fish and Fish make two, I say.
Two Fish by night, two Fish by day.
We know the Fish, without a doubt.
Yet still we cannot catch a trout.

 

(1) Quote from "One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish" by Dr. Seuss, 1960, Random House Books

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All Good Things...Eldercare Version

You’ve been traveling on the Enterprise E(ldercare), when one day you burst into your therapist’s office confused, upset, wanting to know what’s going on, what the hell you are supposed to be doing, and why she was on the holodeck with Worf. You feel at a loss, half-recalled pieces of the past and visions of your future mixing with your present. In short, you have become unstuck in time.

You were perfectly fine with your role in Engineering; serving drinks in Ten Forward; trying to corral tweens Jean-Luc, Ro Laren, and Guinan; or just being a red shirt. But now the Enterprise E(ldercare) has been ordered to investigate an anomaly in the Nursing Home System of the Senior Living Zone. Off you go. And there it is, a large anomaly threatening to consume you, your ship, and your elder. You go in for a closer look and…

Suddenly, you are back in your youth. The anomaly is bigger, but you are stronger, more confident, maybe even a bit arrogant. You take the Enterprise D(evilmaycare) out against explicit orders to see what's going on. You drive it around late at night, with too many of your friends in it, hepped up on synthahol. You ignore the jeering fools on the sidelines as best you can. You set off for Far Point University with barely a "make it so". On the way you run right over the trappings of your childhood once carefully hoarded by your elder.

Wait! That was a dream! Wasn't it? But it felt real. Who was that callous ass who paid so little regard to the feelings and concerns of others? And why was that anomaly so damn big?

Whoa! You’ve been put out to pasture; your joints are creaky, your hair is white, and you've got early onset Irumodic Syndrome. But you remember, you remember, you remember...there was an...an anomaly...your family is visiting, you desperately need to communicate to them the importance of going back there, because you were just there, it is real, it is not a dream, it is happening now. And they speak soothingly, and promise to take you there, and...

No, you are back in the present! That's just a vision of the future, some projected bad acid trip. You do remember the past. If only people would listen to you when you tell them it's bigger in the past...

And you're back there, and you are taking Enterprise D(evilmaycare) further and further out ...

Into the future, where your kids and ex-wife remind you that you that Irumodic Syndrome is causing your brain to deteriorate, and this is all in your head.  But they promise to take you for a ride anyway, and that goddamn son of your is driving the Enterprise E(ldercare) and after a spin around the block he insists it’s time to go home and you say "no, no, we have to go to the Devron System!" and you become increasingly agitated and they say we were already there and we're on our way back and here's some haldol and wait those aren't your kids and those aren’t Starfleet uniforms and a voice whispers to you that the only way to understand the anomaly is with a letter-call-visit (LCV) beam...

You are talking to the staff of the nursing home where your elder is now staying. You suggest a more aggressive LCV beam to deal with the health care bureaucracy and to fight depression in your elder, making physical therapy more effective. Your family needs professional support in this, and some sort of data organizer. And you think...

That you should use a LCV beam all the way out here at Far Point University And Beyond. Yes! Make it so!

And waking from the haldol you insist you do remember the Devron System, you must go there, the LCV beam is absolutely critical, and they wheel you to the holodeck and set up the Wii bowling...

And now in the present you realize that the LCV beams from all three time periods are together creating the anomaly, which is indeed a temporal anomaly. But the LCV beams must not be disengaged, they must be made stronger in each time period. (Your therapist tells you to ignore that little voice which says you are going to be responsible for the destruction of humanity, that’s just internalized homophobia.)  Together the LCV beams create a static warpshell and blammo!

You find yourself in the present, wishing that when you’d gone to Far Point University And Beyond you could have somehow brought the Enterprise D(evilmaycare) back to the spacestation a bit more often. The little voice in the future, the one that whispered about the LCV beam, was also going to tell you how to arrange things so that people can do useful work and keep their elders close by, and not have to worry about their own elder care years, but it stopped short. All you can do is share your time-travel story, finally join the poker game – and keep that LCV beam going.

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Letter to Santa

My mother kept a book for each of her children (at least, the younger ones) called "School Days. It had two pages and a pocket for each grade. It had room to record your child's teacher(s), friends, pets, hobbies, clubs & activities, awards & achievements, sports, school & location, height & weight, "additional information", a place to paste their photo, and a line for them to print or sign their name, as they gained prowess. We always thought the entry for school and location was hilarious because you could just put it in at the beginning of the book: Bobtown Elementary, Mapletown Jr-Sr High School. What else was there to know? We had no concept of kids moving from one school to another as their families moved. Nevertheless we dutifully filled it in.

Fifth grade's additional information dutifully notes in my crabbed printing "My teeth are coming in; hair is shoulder length; am going to write". A very important year: the gap from my missing front teeth, which had inspired the great poetic work "Toothless and Teethless" (another time, Zuskateers) was finally getting patched; and I declared myself as a writer. Never mind there were detours through engineering and administration, and writing turned out to be blogging. I was right all along.

The pockets were for newspaper clippings, extraordinary art work, and things of that nature. I was going to say "I don't know how she had time to keep up with that" for all of us. Except that, you know, we were our mother's job - nay, her life's work. There was time because this is what she did. I was thinking the other day how badly we've all been hoodwinked with that "how can I combine career and family" question. The question implies that "family" a.k.a. mothering (and here I mean mothering, not parenting) is something that is not very difficult, creative, important, worthwhile, or time-consuming when done right. Therefore it can be "combined" with Career, which is all of those, by correct application. Think of Career as the shiny new glass tile of your kitchen backsplash that everyone looks at and wants, and Family as the grout which you paste in the thin little spaces inbetween (and nevermind that you need the grout to keep the whole business together).  Once the grout is properly in, you need not think of it much anymore, and can refocus all your attention on the pretty, shiny glass tile.

Mothering can be done by women or men, I think, but it truly is more than a full time job - it is a life's work.  Parenting is something different. It can be done by one or two parents, and parented children can thrive just as well as mothered children. Whether you are in a family where the children are being mothered or parented, life for everyone would be so much better if everyone's workplace was less greedy and demanding. And not just your fancy white collar jobs.  I remember my dad would trade shifts with someone in the coal mine, or go without sleep before the next shift, so he could see me or my sister or brother sing a silly song in a school play, or be crowned Queen of Hearts at Valentine's, or march with the band at our first football game. Mom would be glad he was there, and then worry about him at work.

Among the ephemera my mother saved in the pockets of my school years was a frantic 5th grade note:

Mom,

I need 50 cents, one self-addressed envelope, 3 buttons, my cotton balls, and a milk carton for Monday. Also, get me up at 7:00 and make sure I get up then.

Sue

p.s. I need an 8-cent stamp

I would dearly love to know what that was all about.

Another piece she saved leads us finally to the title of this post - a letter to Santa. Written when I was 9 years old and in the fourth grade, I was teetering on the edge of believing/non-believing. As a budding scientist, I was hoping to garner some proof one way or the other.

Letter to Santa Claus from 9-yr-old Zuska

Letter to Santa Claus from 9-yr-old Zuska

The text of the letter reads:

Dear Santa,

We left some cookies and milk for you, and some salt for your reindeer. (Be sure they all get equal amounts.) I hope you brought my Love doll, and Cindy's doll like mine. Are you real? (Write yes or no) [Arrow pointing to two blank lines]

I really do believe in you.

Suzy, Cindy, Paul, Andy, Eddie, Mom, Dad [unexplainable sibling deletion - sorry, Pat!]

In the morning, the cookies and milk, and the salt, were gone, and the letter was signed in elaborate script "Thank you Merry Christmas - Santa". Santa declined to answer the "are you real yes or no" portion of the letter. Obviously beneath his dignity, or maybe he just didn't see it - it was in the messiest part of the letter, and he was probably in a hurry.

So Santa, since I have written proof of your realness, I'm writing again to ask for just a few things this year. I believe I have been especially good this past year. I've whined only the usual amount about the migraines; I've done a lot of elder care and not begrudgingly either - time spent with elders can be difficult but is often a gift itself; I've done most of the litter box duty and all of the cat puke duty. So please, please Santa, this is what I am hoping for.

1. Let lots and lots and lots more people follow George Bush Sr.'s lead and resign from the NRA.

2. Let those who remain fight like hell to change the organization from within.

3. Let Wayne LaPierre vanish into a world where the only sound is is own howling.

4. Let the tide be turned back on the vicious onslaught against workers and unions.

5. Let the people realize that not just the children, but the teachers, too, are our future.

6. Let parenting and mothering both become more possible and pleasurable as real and unconstrained choices for all.

7. Let The Hobbit be a reasonably pleasurable and escapist viewing experience for me and not a total crushing disappointment when I compare it to my own mental images of the novel.

Thank you, Santa. I know you are busy this time of year and I will appreciate anything you can do with this list. If #7 is too difficult you can leave it off.

One last question. Are you real?

(Write yes or no).  ___  ___

 

 

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Revenge: How They Voted!

Immediately after the election,  there of course commenced the usual discussions of voter demographics. White men, the endangered species, ironically voting for the party of climate change denial!  Single women for Obama and free contraception! As erudite and fascinating as it all was, what people really want to know is: how did the denizens of Revenge-land vote?  Now, for the first time, the exit poll results are available!

First, the Graysons:

Victoria Grayson: The lady likes her luxury. She’s a one-percenter for sure, and she’s married. She's had at least two affairs, and even though she can obviously afford her own birth control, she didn't seem interested in it when she was with David Clarke. Solid Romney vote.

Daniel Grayson: Victoria's son; Amily's former lover and husband-to-be, he wanted to vote Obama to show Amily he's not a complete Grayson but in the end went Romney to protect Grayson Global interests.

Ashley Davenport: former social planner, Amily's former friend, former gf of Tyler, former snitch for Conrad, now Daniel's fiance and hoping to make herself a true official Grayson someday soon, Ashley voted for everyone.

Charlotte Grayson: Finally, for sure, it's Declan! Yes, Declan! It's been him all along! For now.

Conrad Grayson: Third party Initiative candidate, secret ballot. VERY secret.

Next, the folks down at Porter's Bar:

Jack Porter: Jack's a white dude working stiff in New York so he could go either Obama or Romney. But Nolan's his best friend, and Biden forcing Obama's hand on gay marriage tipped the scale: Obama.

Nolan: Ran a SuperPac for Obama. Also was going to hack Romney's Twitter account but Amily called him away at the last minute for revenge-y stuff.

Declan: Just hoping to reach voting age still boning Charlotte & without becoming a felon, if the writers will lay off dicking with his character.

Baby Carl: No one; he's just a cute baby!

Emanda: Whoever Amily told her to vote for.

Kara Clarke: Write-in vote, the White-Haired Man.

Also voted:

Padma Lahari: Her relationship with Nolan will become even more rocky when he finds out she voted Romney. It's a sad truth that people never talk politics before they fall in love. Nolan will hack DemocraticPassions.com to find the perfect mate for himself, but will lose the info on him/her as he is called away by Amily to do revenge-y stuff. In the end he won't mind.

Helen Crowley: It's best you don't know any more than you already do about her.

Satoshi Takeda and Aidan Mathis, as illegal aliens, committed voter fraud. They both voted Obama to undermine Grayson Global.

Did not vote:

Mason Treadwell: is now a felon and behind bars.

Amily Thorne: Amily was busy setting up Mason Treadwell to take the fall for the murder of the white-haired man and and explosion of the jet containing all the evidence, while making Conrad and Victoria think that the Initiative actually did the setting up of Treadwell, so that they are now terrified and will continue to do what the Initiative asks; and was reviewing Revenge Camp fundamentals with Aiden; and didn't make it to the polls before they closed.

Results:

Counting Ashley's votes for everyone and the voter fraud votes, we have:

Obama, 5

Romney, 4

White-Haired Man, 2

Initiative, 2

Declan, 2

Unknown, 2

Didn't vote, 4

(what, did you forget to count Baby Carl as no-vote?)

Obama/Biden win the Revenge vote over Romney/what'shisname by a narrow margin!

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Revolution Ep.2: Killing, With Civilization!

Sep 27 2012 Published by under Geekalicious, Those Humorless Feminists

Oh lovely, lovely electric world – so sad when all the lights go out. Panic! Governments collapse! Militias rise! Why is there no sweet sweet electricity? Now there will never be a Federation Starship Enterprise.  SAVE US!

1 week post blackout

I’m wondering why the Matheson family waited so long to bug out of the city. I guess to avoid the panic jams.  Mommy is telling little Charlie how much fun they will have. “Lots o’ food ‘n’ water in the country!” she says with false cheer.  Like the farmers are going to let you have any of it. “Also, you must never let go of your brother’s hand!” Guilt trip! She’s gonna need a lot of therapy for the fallout from that. I wonder if they have therapy in the apocalypse. If they don’t, I am definitely not going.

And…we’re walking, and we’re walking through the burned out city and…

15 years post blackout

...Kwai Chang Charlie’s flashback ends. Charlie herself is striking a lovely pose while looking pensive, contemplative, beautiful inside and out. If only we, too, could be so noble…um…hey, where’s Miles?  Sound of swordplay off in the distance…that must be Miles!

Oh noes, says Charlie, don’t kill the nice bounty hunter, because civilization! So they lock him in a wooden boxcar coffin, leaving him to bake in the noonday sun.

Trudging through the woods – about these woods. Isn’t the area south of Chicago essentially flat prairie? Whence came all these trees? The forest looks older than 15 years.  One possibility is that eco-terrorists, tired of waiting for governments to wake up about climate change, changed the laws of physics and got rid of the electricity. At the same time, they planted a giant forest in the plains of Illinois, to soak up carbon.

Anyway, we’re trudging through the forest, and we come to a market, and there’s a preacher railing away about our sins. We had followers but no family!  I beg to differ. I have followers AND a husband and two cats. If that’s not family, I don’t know what is.  It’s not long before Charlie takes up her plaintive, signature song: “Wah wah, I hafta find Danny! Now! What are we doing here? How will this help us find Danny?” Miles tells her to shut up and stay put while he goes to see a man about a dog.

Back room, smoky. Miles lays down a piece of gold; he’s looking for intel on one Nora Clayton.  UH OH! The ersatz Bride has punched his way out of the boxcar coffin.  He claims he broke every bone in his hand, but I’m sure I saw his fingers wiggle. He’s already captured Our Gang – daggone, he’s quick! Miles agrees to be handcuffed to save the trio, and heads off with the Bride and his gang. But not before Charlie gives the Bride the stink eye.

Commercial break – Apple asks: “there are laws to physics, right?...bla bla iPhone bla bigger and smaller bla bla…well, I guess the laws of physics are just like, general guidelines.” Hmmm.  Does Apple know something about the electrical grid and impending doom that we don’t know???

Back to Miles grimly marching out….and then….mayhem! He killz em all! Now there’s just the Bride left, who looks as though he’d just as soon call it a day and tries to escape, but Miles strangles him with the handcuff chain. But not before getting the desired intel RE one Nora Clayton. Miles displays a microsecond of remorse because Charlie saw him snap the Bride’s neck. Dammit Charlie! Can’t a man get a satisfying killin’ in with you looking all sad puppy eyes at him?

Out in the cornfields. We hear gunfire.  Captain Neville hassles Danny just because he can.  They find a dead deer hanging upside down. “Are you familiar with the Baltimore act? You can haz no guns! Only the militia! We can haz killing you!”  Okay, the poor hungry dude turns over his gun. But Neville wants to search the house!  Blam! Hungry dude shoots a soldier, Blam! He gets shot. Dead!  But the soldier is not dead. UH OH! A nasty dirty, americanses flag was found! We hateses it, Gollum! Burn it!

General Voldemonroe’s tent. General Voldemonroe chastises an underling for harsh interrogation techniques. He tenderly daubs the suspected traitor’s cheek, and whispers gently “can’t we all just get along?” His voice is so soft and sensual one expects the traitor to lay a big fat kiss on General Voldemonroe. But no. The traitor says “fuck you!” General Voldemonroe has no choice but to pick up a giant knife and plunge it into the traitor’s belly!!!!  Wait, wait, maybe he meant he wanted to fuck you, you know? Now it’s too late.

BeardyGlasses McGoogle finds an iPhone in Curly’s backpack. “What the fuck is this?” he asks in an irritated voice. Miles says he’s heading out on his own, and will meet up with the others in two weeks in Lowell, Indiana.  Charlie is cranky about this, but this is her normal state, so Miles doesn’t care much.

Light of day. Oh noes! Charlie has gone after Miles!  And she used up a whole goddam giant sheet of paper just to leave her “ I followed Miles against explicit orders” note. Isn’t paper sort of precious by now? Wouldn’t you want to be a little more conservative when writing something as ephemeral as a message that should really go on a post-it note?

Trudging through the (mysterious, eco-terrorist planted) woods again.  UH OH! Who’s following me! Run! Dammit! Broke my fucking ankle! And here comes Militia Nate! Stay away from me! He does not. Surprise!!! Ankle not fucking broken!  She handcuffs him to a pole.  Die, son of a bitch, die slowly of thirst and starvation out here alone in the eco-terrorist forest! Though in general I’m opposed to needless  killing. ‘Bye now!

BeardyGlasses McGoogle gets schooled on how you never know if you’ll see anyone again and you need the fucking iPhone because their pictures are in there. Although, what with the no electricity biz, you can't actually see them.

Gutshot soldier is dying. Sergeant Neville gives him a vial of…something.  Hey soldier, save some for the rest of us!  “You’re going to heaven and gonna see yer family!” Dude, you are really going six feet in the ground.

“Oh bury me not on the lone prairie
These words came low and mournfully
From the pallid lips of the youth who lay
On his dying bed at the close of day…
"O bury me not..." And his voice failed there.
But they took no heed to his dying prayer.
In a narrow grave, just six by three
They buried him there on the lone prairie.

UH OH! Kwai Chang Charlie sees a basketball. Flashback! She’s bouncing a ball outside Daddy’s office building, NOT holding Danny’s hand. A Zombie Drifter comes around the corner and grabs her.  Mommy calls her to come back.  But Zombie Drifter holds on and demands all their food and…..

MILES!  It’s my fault, says Charlie, I took care of Danny, he gets asthma attacks, I don’t let him out of my sight, until the day they took him, maybe I could have stopped him, so you see this is all about ME! Therefore I must be at your side at every moment. Also, this is a time-honored quest story arc, wherein I shall have experiences that will test my mettle and make a man out of me.  Or in this case, a badass woman who still has feelings and civilization and stuff.

BeardyGlasses shows Curly his thing. Not that thing. The shiny thing Ben gave him.  He is supposed to keep it safe and take it to Grace Beaumont in Grand Park, Illinois – Our Lady of the Attic. What if we could get the power back on??? Grace knows about the power! The blackout makes no sense. But if it were human-made (inclusive language please, Revolution)…then we can fix it! OMG, hot showers again!

Funeral for soldier dude. Danny scoffs. Captain Neville opines as how the Monroe Militia is the only thing “between us and anarchy”. Danny figures he can tell himself that but the truth is “you like to kill because you are a murderer and a psych-gahhhgggg!”.  Captain Neville has grabbed Danny around the neck and choked him a little in thanks for sharing his feelings.

Miles & Charlie – There’s a slave gang pulling a helicopter. That must be fun! Note to self: pay IRS on time next spring. A dude who can’t stand up gets shot. And then they take five. Maybe rest a bit before killing the peeps hauling the helicopter? I’m just sayin’.

Night camp. Charlie draws off Mr. Sniper Rifle. Miles swoops in to rescue Nora, who, it turns out, does not want to be rescued. Dammit, he foiled her plan to get the sniper rifle!  Why the fuck are you here? To rescue my brother Danny chimes in Charlie.  WTF?? Well first I’m getting that gun.

Woods, daylight, ratty cabin. Nora MacGuyvers a mini one-shot gun. Charlie is the only one who can get close to the Mr. Sniper Rifle. First, a rant about the slaves, to make it okay for her to kill the Mr. Sniper Rifle. Then it’s all Hey Charlie, where you goin with that gun on your arm.  Kwai Chang Charlie commences slow march to the warden and….flashback!  intermingled with present time! Daddy comes out with pistol and threatens to shoot Zombie Drifter. Kwai Chang Charlie keeps walking. Little Charlie is released to go back; the Zombie Drifter knows her dad won’t shoot him. He says, I’m just hungry. Dad says, Stop we need that food, I’ll shoot!  Zombie Drifter says No mortal man can kill me –  and daddy can’t pull the trigger.  And…Kwai Chang Charlie is there at the sniper…and Mommy says I am no man  Blam blam blam! and shoots the Zombie Drifter!…and Kwai Chang Charlie shoots the sniper!…and all hell breaks loose!  Miles and Nora clean up the rest in a fun sword fight while Charlie tries to keep a dude from choking her with the rifle and then she shoots him! Blam! And now Charlie is a hardened badass killer just like Uncle Miles and that rocks! Except she still has feelings.

Slaves are free at last! Miles give her props. Charlie says maybe killing 2 men is a normal Monday for Miles but not for her.  Monday is a good day for killin’, Charlie! Miles says she is just awesome.  Dammit, Nora has a rebel US flag tattooed on her back. She’s gonna bring back the U. S. of A.!!!

Beardy & Curly trek, Grace types away on her DOS screen.  There’s a knock at her door, and it's…not Beardy and Curly! She is not happy to see this dude. Slams and locks the door, runs upstairs and frantically reboots her system; she manages to send a “Randall is here” message just before he shows up with a shiny thing around his neck and a nasty looking taser stick. UH OH!

What looks like exterior, Independence Hall.  I know I should know for sure but hate to call it and be wrong. Interior. General Voldemonroe.  And…Charlie’s mom is alive!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  She calls him Bass (definitely Bass, and not ass). She liked him better as a womanizing drunk in the old days. He’s come to tell her Ben is dead.  He’s sorry (I bet he is not, or at least not in the way Juliet is). She asks are we finished here? No he presses on, I have your son.  She tries to stab him with pen, so he strangles her a little, and says no more games, you want to see your son again  you’re going to talk about Ben, about the power, about everything, you understand?

Well gee General Voldemonroe, if we’re going to dispense with the games, maybe you could go first and not strangle people. Or keep their living existence hidden from their families for 15 years. Just sayin’.

So wow, 2 episodes and we’ve had lots of twists and a big surprise reveal and I like!

Hawtness check:
General  Voldemonroe:   Hawt, but evil
Captain Neville:  Hawt, but probably going to lose his head
Miles Matheson:  Hawt, extra hawt when using sword
Nate Walker:  Hawt, evil-ish
Danny Matheson:  Hawt in a puppy dog way; needs to get out of that wagon
BeardyGlasses McGoogle:  Hawt in an aw-shucks kinda way, especially if you go for beards

Things we are wondering: After 15 years of scarce food supply and hard labor, don’t you think BeardyGlasses would have slimmed down and toned up a little? Or is he in the protected philosopher/priest class and doesn’t have to work in the fields?  Also, if you were a woman setting out on a quest in a world full of ruffians and rapists, mightn’t you not consider cutting your hair short and going about disguised as a dude?

Talk amongst yourselves in the comments!

 

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The (Semi)Willing Suspension of Disbelief: Revolution

As it turns out, an attractive young woman can still hope to find a well-fit pair of low rise jeans in post-apocalyptic America. Charlie's parents must have thoughtfully looted all styles and sizes while fleeing after the electricity went off, so that when grown up, she'd be well-dressed to take on the walk through the woods to Chicago.

That was one of my first impressions of Revolution, a new NBC show. Everyone had relatively nice, well-fitting clothes, even after 15 years of no new manufacture, no washers and dryers, and no hot showers for the sweaty bodies laboring in those clothes. My mind wandered back to Lost, and how the characters got sweaty, grimy, soaked in rainstorms and so forth, until Ben Linus gave Kate that nice new dress.  Charlie's mother is Juliet Burke - possibly this is where she landed after the Incident, and not in the future fighting space aliens on behalf of humanity and a sulky teenage boy. Or perhaps they are all alternate timelines. Anyway, she dies offscreen in the first 10 minutes or so.  She's slated for 6 episodes so we'll probably see more of her in...flashbacks!

Charlie is also a sulky teenager, of the female variety, who wants to go exploring, even though Dad says she'll get raped.  The world is dangerous for women! There's nothing out there that's worth seeing! He wants to Taliban her up in the compound and keep her safe.  Joke's on him: he gets shot to death in the compound and she leaves to roam the wider world in search of his brother. It's okay, because he asked her nicely to do it.

The brother, in deep cover, is a cakewalk to find.  Charlie, along with her father's sexy doctor lover and the requisite shaggy-haired glasses-wearing science geek set out together as the unlikely band. Along the way they pick up a hawt archery dude. They fight off two rapists with some poisoned alcohol (did you see that, Deborah Blum?) and a well-placed arrow and boom! they're in Chicago.

Lady walks into a bar, sez "Do you know where my Uncle Miles is?" Bartender says, "No kid, I'm just trying to keep a low profile here." Lady pouts, bartender melts and next thing you know they're in the back room together. Not doing that. Just talking. Then Mr. Z and I got too sleepy to watch the rest of what we'd tivo'd. I think we were pretty far into the episode.  I'm guessing Miles agrees to help her search for her kidnapped brother even though he says he's just bait, and they set out on another leg of the quest next week.

Hilariosity in this episode, there was much. How could anyone stand to be in that bar after 15 years of no air conditioning or plumbing? Seriously, find some ethnic Germans and go to their biergarten. You know they will be brewing up Heifeweisse according to Reinheitsgebot.  Charlie does a dramatic voice-over: "If you were in the cities, you died. If you got out, you survived."  I'm pretty certain that most city dwellers (I include myself tho I'm in the burbs) would drop like flies without electricity of any source or kind.  How would you find food for yourself? Do you know how to produce your own food?  How long would it take you to learn? Could you learn fast enough so that you wouldn't starve to death? How are you going to learn if Google has already scanned all the books and they've been sent to the shredder? If you do make it out to the countryside, do you think Sharon Astyk is going to let every last blessed New Yorker trample her farm and eat everything in her larder? You'll look like a plague of locusts descending.  The farm folk will as soon shoot you as help you.  Okay, I don't think Sharon will shoot you but you never know.

So it takes a major suspension of disbelief to imagine our coddled city dwellers make it to the counstryside, learn how to farm and raise sheep (Sharon would say goats are a better choice), and manage to grab and defend some choice land, all while looting the aforementioned selection of jeans for their children's future needs.  The land looks like it's next door to the former planned community of Sylvania Acres (or equivalent). Maybe the houses were built in the fields so they were good to go. In Terra Nova they solved the pioneer problem by saying moar teknology! and dinosaurs! eating people! which was awesome, but the acting was so awful all you could do was cheer for the dinosaurs to eat moar people.

Charlie's younger brother has asthma, which makes it officially the favorite chronic disease of the post-apocalypse among show writers (Shannon had it in Lost) because a kindly knowledgeable doctor who just happened to survive along with you knows how to make natural remedies! Congestive heart failure, muscular dystrophy, chronic migraines, high blood pressure - none of it shows as well on tv as an asthma attack where a doctor can swoop in and RESCUE! And those asthma attacks are amazingly easy to relieve - just a pinch or two of this or that herb and voila! you wonder why anyone today is using inhalers.

The best part of all is that the laws of physics have completely changed! Not gravity, of course, or any of the physics having to do with the structure and use of items of steel and iron but just, you know, the electrical laws!

I won't mention the 15 year old postcard inside the RV that, exposed to the elements, is nonetheless in almost pristine shape; or the relatively high quality of the RV interior itself for that matter. We can allow that for dramatic license.  In fact, I'll allow the whole crazy bit of it, because this is a goddam prime time one hour scripted drama with actual actors, not another America Can Haz Moar Singing With The Celebrity Apprentices!  I want to cheer on their brave efforts, and hope it survives and is good, and networks don't quit doing this sort of thing. Maybe they're in purgatory...that would explain how they all suddenly know  how to farm and raise animals...and the nice clean clothing...hmmm...

I'll watch the second episode for sure, and see where this goes.

UPDATE: Finally watched the last 15-20 minutes. Crikey! Awesome sword play, and an ending as fun as finding the hatch! Let's not quibble over the laws of physics, shall we?

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Olympical Ponderings

Who hasn't been watching a lot of Olympics lately?!?! It's time-delayed and spoiled, even by the announcers on the time-delayed broadcast (damn you!) when you've managed to keep away from twitter, radio, papers, etc.  But still, you can't look away.  Well, you can, when you are shown inane announcers nattering on rather than the sports you want to watch.  Between that and the commercials and the highlights of decades-old Olympics, now and again you do get to see something recent and athletic.  And that's what you live for!

  • Swimming:  I love it, and I wanted to watch a lot of it.  What I did not want: a bunch of  manufactured crap rivalries that may or may not have existed between Lochte and Phelps, or that other guy who says Phelps doesn't train, or this or that or something else.  Now they hate each other! Now they are great teammates for the relay! We at NBC totally love Phelps, except that the poking of athletes must begin now that he failed to medal in the 400 IM.  "Tell us Michael, how totally awful does it feel to have FAILED to medal? Are you totally completely CRUSHED? Will you ever be able to recover and swim again? Please, give us all the details of your agony! America wants to know" This American did not.  You could read all you needed to on his face. The rest was invasive and ultimately uninformative.  What America REALLY wanted to know was this: Just how effing tight are those swim caps? Tight enough to give you a migraine? Are there any migraineurs among Olympic swimmers? Because I would totally be out there going for the gold, if it wasn't for those swim caps.  That, and the fact that I can't swim and I'm old and fat.
  • Gymnastics and gender: I REALLY love me some gymnastics. The men's exhibition of strength, agility, and control is always astonishing to me. This year for some reason I focused on a move on the floor exercise, where they'd bend over, put their hands out on the floor, and then just slowly lift their legs up and bring them together - and then just stay there for awhile. So awesome.  Women's gymnastics, of course, is all about pixies, ponytails, and diva behavior. Tears! Little darlings who are just going to crack under pressure and have to be kissed and hugged by their coaches to survive! Ethereal beings who fly in the air! You get my picture.  I want to hear more about strength, agility, and control, and less about tears, diva bla bla, (Eager commentator: "Tell me, has there been any diva behavior yet?")and ANYTHING about Gabby's hair.  (That last one is mostly a race issue, but I can't imagine a black male gymnast getting lambasted for not having done the right thing with his hair. It's a gender issue too.) I want to see male gymnasts loosen up on the floor-x and do more tumbly-jumpy-dancey stuff like the women do; I want to see women build in some of those strength elements men display in the floor-x that are so breathtaking.  Why do they always have to be flying? Why can't they stop a minute and show their awesome strength, too? My really serious complaints are these, however: why the hell are the men dressed in footie pajamas that they can accidentally grab hold of while they are on the pommel, thus causing them to mess up? Can't they get some nice shorties more akin to what the women get to sashay around in? And why those poor pixie gymnasts gotta perform gender soooo hard while they're out there working and sweating?  Ban the makeup!  Or else make the men wear it too. Thus speaks Zuska.
  • I get all my mother's mail, including the Senior Times of Southwestern PA.  The last issue had a story about the local Senior Olympics. It was so cool.  There was a ninety-something dude who's won a gold medal in some racing event in every year they've had it.  That's kind of vague. With a fey Lehrian stroke, I  confidently declare he was 91, the sport was a 100 m dash, and the Senior Olympics have been held for six years now.  You're never going to know the difference because how are you going to get hold of a copy of the Southwestern PA Senior Times? (90 years old, 1 mile walk, 16 years - Mr. James "Jiggs" Grubbs, July 2012 issue) What gets me is I am pretty sure that this nonagenarian could beat me in the Senior Olympics in a head-to-head match.  Mr. Grubbs reports that he was not very active until he was in his seventies, so there may still be some hope for me.  I have commenced a 30-min per day walking program (interrupted by days when I walk up with migraine and then it's too hot in the afternoon) and am eating healthy food and smaller portions.  Look out Michael Phelps!  As soon as I get that swimming cap technology worked out, I'm coming for you!

When I think of Mr. Grubbs, active into his nineties though he didn't really start till his seventies, and Z-mom, who nearly died but is now walking again and recovering nicely, I think there is no excuse for me not to get my foot out the door on the days I feel well.  There is no excuse for me not to eat well and not pig out.  There is no excuse for me not to take care of my body just because my body has not been very good to me with all these migraines.  There is more excuse to do so because of the migraines.  The care I give it will be given back to me.  It's not that I can control my migraines by exercising, or that if I just find "my food triggers" my migraines will go away.  Migraine disease is neurological and the cause is not well understood.  But exercising and eating well gives my body the best fighting chance.  So I have to say no to the depression and discouragement, not eat to comfort myself, and work at getting out there to exercise. Getting out of the house and moving, seeing something different, is rejuvenating.  Walking outdoors is more so than a half hour on a treadmill in a gym, but in a pinch, that's better than nothing.  I hate it when people tell me that I "should" be doing x or y, as if it is all my fault I am having migraines just because I am not doing x or y.  But I am going to be better to myself, and give myself a better chance.  I want to win the 1 mile walk in the Senior Games when I am 90.

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It's Alive! It's Alive!!!!!

The brain! My brain! It's alive! It still works!

Well, apparently there's nothing that a six-month migraine can do to you that a one week hospitalization in a dedicated migraine care unit can't mostly fix.  They take no responsibility for my ordinary Zuskatiness, but the headache, she is GONE!  Here's how it works.

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Flying Chairs at #scio12 !!!!!!!!!!!

Forget the jetpacks, ScienceOnline is going to have FLYING CHAIRS!!!!!

They are incredibly awesome.

They look like ordinary plastic and metal classroom desk chairs, but you just sit down in them, think about where you want to go, and hang on!  They will whisk you from one session to the next, swooping and swishing above the crowds below.  You can take them outside, too, and fly around in the parking lot with your friends.  Sometimes, though, Bora programs them all to go to one place at one time when we all need to be there for a plenary session or a dinner or what have you.  It's a sight to see everyone rising up like a flock of nerdy birds, whizzing along to the next venue.

 

When I woke up this morning and realized that flying chairs at #SciO12 was just a beautiful dream, I felt sad only for a moment.  Even if there aren't going to be flying chairs, Bora and Anton will still have created something so fab I'll feel like I've been flying around by the seat of my pants for three days.

More down-to-earth and sensible discussions of what to expect at SciO12 can be found at Dr. Stemwedel's place and over at WhizBANG!

 

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Smart Girls at the Party

Via Gerty-Z - thanks so much for alerting me to this site!

Smart Girls At The Party!

As Gerty-Z notes,

the tagline [is] "change the world by being yourself". Now, that already sounds pretty awesome. BUT, if you poke around you will find that it is set up by three super-awesome women: Amy Poehler, Meredith Walker and Amy Miles. They interview women and girls who do cool stuff

Valentine is a gardener.  And there are many, many more cool videos and other things on the site.  Share this with every young girl you know!!!!!!!!!!!

 

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Why You Should Write To Your Mother

Jul 21 2011 Published by under (if) Elder (why) Care, Geekalicious, How to Grow a Zuska

A thousand years ago, when I went off to college, my mother wrote me letters, because there was no such thing as text messaging.  Why, there wasn't even any email, if you can believe it!!! She wrote real, actual letters, sometimes as many as three in a week.  "You've got mail" meant there was a paper envelope lying in a physical mailbox.  I got mail, and I got packages from home, and I was the envy of everyone on my dorm floor.

Z-Mom wrote to me, and I wrote to her.  As I moved on to graduate school, and then all over the place for various and sundry postdocs and other jobs, I continued writing letters to her.  During these years, "long distance" phone bills became an irrelevance as competition introduced one rate for unlimited calling; tethered phones evolved into cordless things; cell phones appeared and then became ubiquitous and then turned into smart phones and now threaten to make what we came to call the "land line" obsolete.  Z-Mom and I always talked on the phone a lot, more after it got cheaper to do so, but even with phone calls, we never stopped writing to each other. PC's, of course, also appeared on the scene during this time - my senior thesis was typed on an electronic typewriter, my dissertation on a Macintosh Plus - and they too got cheaper, faster, and ubiquitous. And email came along with them.

At some point, even Z-mom got a computer at home, and an email address (incorporating the name of her favorite candy bar).  She was happy to receive pictures of her great-grandchildren, and jokes forwarded from some friends in town, but she never really took to sending emails.  So Z-mom and I kept writing to each other.  I had gotten in the habit of sending her a postcard from every place I went, even if I was only there for two days for some less than glamorous business trip.  Greetings from Ames, Iowa!...  I've been in Austin since yesterday...  Greetings from Fargo, North Dakota!...

Those are the actual (totally fascinating, I know) opening lines from postcards I sent to Z-mom in October of 1999, June of 2001, and November of 2001, respectively. I know this because, as it turns out, Z-mom has apparently saved just about every card and letter I've ever sent to her.  I can look back through them and trace my travels, observe the ups and downs of my life and work as reported to her, relive events and even whole vacations I'd sort of forgotten. I went to Cape Hatteras in 2002?  Oh yes...that's when those undated photos in the album are from!

The most hilarious postcard I've found so far, however, is not one I wrote.  It's one my ex sent to Z-mom in November of 1991 while we were living in Europe, during the month I was away from him working at my German boss's collaborator's lab in Israel.  It reads in part

[Zuska] will be gone for another 12 days or so.  At least we talk often by electronic mail, which takes only an hour or less to get there, so we can even discuss things back and forth in the same day.  I wish everyone had electronic mail, it is really quick and easy.

Electronic mail!  The brand spanking new form of communication!  Takes an hour or less to arrive!  In the beginning of that same year, my German boss-to-be had wanted to communicate with me via this fancy electronic mail but alas! we did not have such a thing in my lab at Duke yet.  So we had to arrange the details of my postdoc, arrival in Germany, and the apartment he was taking for me via the other available high tech form of communication...fax.

I love what Z-mom's cache of letters and postcards gives back to me.  When I was much younger, I religiously kept a daily diary from about age 7 or so to age 17.  Then I fell out of the habit.  Writing to Z-mom has been something of a substitute, I now see.  There's a whole series of postcards I sent her from travels in Europe, which are wonderful to have, since the ex got most of the photos.

Above all I am grateful that she wrote to me so much when I was an undergraduate, for by doing so she taught me the habit of writing letters, and the tangible joy a piece of mail can impart when you are lonely and away from your loved ones.  Sometimes now we talk on the phone two or three times in a day, but I still write to  her.  All her life she has always enjoyed getting and sorting the day's mail.  You might think that now she is in assisted living and no longer has to worry about dealing with bills and banking that the urgency of the daily mail would drop away, but you would be wrong.  She is still just as eager for each day's mail delivery, and it seems more important than ever that it should contain something other than Reader's Digest asking her to renew now.  Every holiday, no matter how small, was an excuse for her to send me a card when I was an undergraduate, and so now I return the favor.  I haunt the Hallmark display in the grocery store to see what crazy special holiday cards are up next, and I buy one, and I send it off.  I look for "just because" cards that might give her a laugh, because laughter is good for you.  I buy "series" notecards - spring, summer, fall, winter; numbers 1 through 4 of a whimsical bug and flower illustration - and send them off in series, so she can anticipate the next one.

I write to her so she will have mail, but I also write to her for myself.  Not because someday I'll get to read my cards and letters again, and remember oh yeah, 2011 was the summer I put in the climbing rosebush, but because writing to her is a way I stay connected to her, a way of emulating her, a way of saying "this is a part of you that is also a part of me."

Postcard from Paris

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