Commuting by Train

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I was gored by a bull today. That’s what I call it when I accidentally encounter an opposite moving commuter as I make the dash down the steps to my Redline train. One of the things I’ve become adept at is choosing the right car on the train so that I can more easily make my commute in the shortest possible time. I really actually kind of enjoy the weird ebb and flow of my train commute.

 

Starting in Ipswich in the predawn I get on the train with my fellow sleepy travelers. We nod at each other, but mostly conversation is limited. By the time we reach North Station we’ve been jostled by tracks and fellow passengers and are mostly awake, we stream off the train and I get my coffee at the Dunkin’ there. Across the street we go where the traffic cops are holding the cars back as pedestrians obscure the entire intersection. It’s a good thing the cops are there because if walking in Boston has taught me anything, it’s that people are going to walk whether the light says to or not.

 

Most days my Forrest Hills train is rolling in as I get to the bottom of the escalator but the car I want is the second to the last one. The last car is really the best car but everyone knows it, so it’s always so packed that the last car is only an option if you also want to get to know your neighbor well.

 

We pull into Downtown Crossing and this is where the running of the bulls begins. It’s not Pamplona but it’s just as serious and much less cruel to animals. The wave of Orange line riders breaks and takes over both sides of the stair case which is how I was gored this morning, I felt bad for the poor isolated man trapped in the deluge, but not bad enough to offer more than a casual “sorry!” as I jogged down the stairs. As I was halfway through the tunnel I heard the rumble of a train and the announcement that my train was arriving and the crowd surged. We made it into the last few cars before we rolled out.

 

Arriving at my stop I’m always the only or one of 2 riders getting off. There’s not a lot of business in my school’s area but as I emerge I cross the weird intersection, often against the light, and stroll down toward my school. Sometimes I run into parents and sometimes I see co-workers. It’s actually kind of relaxing.

 

I arrive at the building somewhat mellow and about halfway to my step target for the day. It’s a process and sometimes I really long for a shorter commute but I’m also in a mindset for work when I arrive so that’s nice.

 

Going home is the reverse, if I was shifted from humanity on my way to work, there is definitely a feeling I am being folded back into the masses. By the time we reach the crosswalk to North Station we are walking lock step past the panhandlers and the street cops and the sports fans jockeying for a place in the line leading to the garden. We break and flow into the train station where we end up standing in front of the board until our train is called.

 

By the time I’m on my way back to Ipswich the trains are quiet again, everyone has had a long day and we are ready for it to be over and to arrive home.

 

Commuting by train is very different for me but I also really like it. I don’t have the same kind of anxiety about car accidents and maintenance issues, and I don’t have the same kind of frustration that I had when I used to sit stuck in traffic. Anyway it’s an adjustment but I walk more now and I feel more active and I like that.

Adventures in Massachusetts

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So it’s been awhile since my last blog update, and part of me thinks that if I’m going to write about moving to Massachusetts I should write about things like how weird it is to me that I seem to genuinely enjoy having a roommate again when the last time I had a roommate was 2005 and I’ve always kind of loved my solitude, and how work is going, and the struggle to figure out which grocery store carries the yogurt I like.  And I guess I’m going to end up writing about those things sometimes but here’s the thing about moving to a place you already loved visiting… you kind of feel like you’re on an extended vacation.

It’s nice, because like.. I already knew about Charlie cards and I can name all of Boston’s sports teams (which is oddly more important than you’d think), and stuff like that.  But like I also am just like, probably annoying really in my absolute caps lock style EXCITEMENT about where I’m living.

So anyway I’m going to tell you about the Choate bridge. The Choate Bridge is a bridge in the town I live in and it was completed in 1764.  That’s right.  This bridge is literally older than our country and I regularly drive my truck over it.  Like it’s not even a thing, you just drive on over.  It’s 252 years old and it’s still the primary way cars get over the river.  It’s also the oldest two span, masonry arch bridge in the United States.  I do not exactly know what that means, but it makes our bridge more special and as a result I’m all about it.  It’s made of granite, like so many things in New England are, and I’m guessing that’s A) why it’s still standing and B) why we are still driving over it.  If you’ll pardon the expression, the thing is solid as a rock.

There is a fantastic website that will give you so much more history about the bridge than I am here, and if you click that link you can even read a poem composed by a blind man from Rowley on the occasion of the bridge’s opening in 1764, which frankly you definitely should.

The reason I’m telling you about the Choate Bridge though, is to tell you about how about a week or two after I moved here, my roommate asked if I wanted to go for a walk around town one night.  So we did.  We walked down the hill and the length of the main street and up a hill where we saw a plaque talking about the town’s revolutionary roots, we circled down to some of the smallest city parks in existence and we yelled at geese.  We then continued on as it began to rain, across a much newer pedestrian bridge and as we walked along the river I looked up and there at 10 o’clock on a random rainy night was this bridge lit up.  And it’s beautiful.  And two things occurred to me.  First, I like living in a place that recognizes cool things like that gorgeous old stone bridge and second, that I was going to like living here.

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More adventures to come.  Ciao.

Massachusetts 

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In 2013, when I was debating where I should settle,  since I laid out a list of possibilities.  DC,  California, back to Nebraska, Boston…. 

Well a lot has happened since then, but most recently I have moved to Massachusetts. *cue celebrations*

Anyway,  it’s been forever since I’ve updated, but the process was long,  grueling and frankly it’s kind of burned the nomad out of me a bit,  but I’m here now and pretty happy about it. More posts coming probs, but that’s the big news from the front. 

#TeamIronMan (Spoilers ahead, obvis)

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So I saw Captain America: Civil War today and I am Team Iron Man.  I mean, I was always going to be Team Iron Man because first of all the first Iron Man movie was and is the greatest superhero movie ever made. Hands down, no question.  The other thing is that I understand Tony Stark better.  He’s a flawed character doing the best he can.  Steve Rogers is a great character but he’s a little too perfect for me to ever be comfortable with.

After watching the movie, the question becomes more muddled but I’m still Team Iron Man, and I’ll tell you why.

Steve is a super good metaphor for the United States in a post 9-11 world, and I have always disagreed with our actions.  Sit down kids, if you weren’t alive on September 11, 2001, I’m about to give you a history lesson.

That day sucked.  It sucked bad.  It sucked so hard I’m not even going to waste my time trying to explain the fear and the heartache and the terror that we as a nation experienced.  Other people have done it, and done it better than I can, and frankly it’s not a thing I’m going to get into.

Lets talk about the aftermath instead.  In the wake of September 11 we decided that we needed to do what we needed to do, we needed to give the people who had the power to protect us the freedom to do it.  The Patriot Act which gave the government unprecedented power to search and hold people was passed.  Torture became a thing that we decided was acceptable.  We went to war with the support of our allies, but then when our allies decided that war all over the world wasn’t helpful, we went to war without our allies.  Because we were America and we alone knew what was best.  Sound familiar?

I’m not trying to compare Steve Rogers to Dick Cheney, although lets be clear Tony definitely took a couple blows to the face on this one.  What I’m saying is that unchecked power isn’t a thing that we should embrace.  There should always be oversight.  Do I trust Steve Rogers?  Sure, but what about everyone else?  No.

So Tony does the next best thing.  He wants the avengers to submit to a world authority.  Not a national one, but a world authority.  Lets be completely clear here, if the UN had jurisdiction over the Avengers, the world would be a more peaceful place.  Right now you have a governing body with no teeth.  The Avengers would certainly be teeth.  Would they still be used?  Sure.  But it’s good to have guidelines.  If we’d listened we wouldn’t have gone into Iraq.  ISIS wouldn’t be the problem it is.  But we went the Steve Rogers route, we are always right after all.

Don’t get me wrong, we all love the hero who can always save the day.  But in the end most of the time the right decision is reached by thought, consideration, debate and consensus.  Do you think the Avengers WOULDN’T have been called to New York?  No.

But Kristen, I hear you saying, Bucky would have DIED.

Yup.  He sure would have, and that would have sucked.  But on the other hand, how many other people do we think have died in this movie?  People who were driving on that collapsed roadway, those guys in the tanks, etc.  I mean I get it we all love Steve so Bucky is more important to US but is he actually more important?  Probably not.  I’d argue that no one is more or less important than someone else.  But even so, lets not forget that Bucky is a mind scrambled, 100 year old, war vet turned murderer.  So…. yeah that guy who was just trying to get home from work? He should definitely be sacrificed for him.

Again, this underscores the metaphor, Capt loses Peggy, he’s hurt and wounded and bound and determined to not lose again.  Seriously its America in the post 9-11 world.  And it hasn’t worked out well for us.  We’ve lost a lot of veterans due to the Iraq conflict.  From active duty, from suicide after… we lost credibility among our allies, and our belligerent, war mongering ways may have encouraged the current cluster fuck we are dealing with politically now.

Team Iron Man, Team Restraint.

 

 

 

 

 

Birthday Thoughts

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Today is my birthday and while the rest of the world always seems to make resolutions on my day, I feel a little more entitled than the rest.

Every year I have a list of things I wanted to accomplish and didn’t.  Things I want and don’t have, things I haven’t gotten done, ideals I haven’t lived up to and goals left unaccomplished.

I used to think that that was failure and it made me sad.  I’m starting to reassess that though.

The truth is, that I’ve had a fantastic year.  It’s been full of challenges and humor and friends and adventures.  I’ve met men who walked on the moon and women who will keep us safe and healthy one day on Mars, I’ve had the pleasure and honor of teaching another crop of children and I’ve led small rebellions and caused just enough mayhem to make my 12 year-old self proud.  I’ve traveled a fair bit, and seen things I didn’t imagine I would ever see and learned a lot.

Which isn’t to say that it’s been all sunshine and roses.  I’ve fought with people I love, I’ve had car troubles and been to the doctor more than I’d like.  My cat still vomits on everything I care about and I have never quite figured out how to organize myself.  Someday I’m not going to have to budget every single decision and someday before that happens I’ll remember to keep my shit to a budget.

Looking ahead I’ve got a lot to be excited about.  I’m moving to a new place and I’ll have new professional challenges.  Its a year that looks to have more personal adventures as well and I’m excited about that.  I have travel planned that I’m so excited for I can hardly wait and I’m going to meet my new nephew next year and I’m all kinds of excited about that.

So I’m not overly bothered by my list of undone things.  Undone just means I’m not finished yet.  And I hope I’m never finished.  Everyday there’s more to do and more to experience and more to see.  I’m not done yet, at this point I might never be and I’m okay with that.

So happy new year.  I hope you’re also not finished yet, and as you look at your list of probably uncompleted resolutions last year keep that in mind.  Happy New Year everyone, here’s to an unfinished 2016 as well!

The ExtraOrdinary Spaceman

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I spent some time with my good friend Clay Anderson recently.  No, I don’t know him personally, although I have had the good fortune to meet him.

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But after I read his book, I kind of felt like I did.  Anderson writes much like he talks.  He’s direct, unassuming and hilarious.  Starting with his first flight in a T-38, the astronaut training aircraft which recently formed so much of the backdrop of that One Direction Video, Anderson mixes the glory and the excitement with the humbling.

The book is called The Ordinary Spaceman, and as astronaut memoirs go, I enjoyed it more than most.  Anderson attempts to make the point over and over again that he’s an average guy who got to go on a tremendous ride, but having read it I tend to disagree a little bit because by writing his book he did something extraordinary. Anderson should be lauded for his ability to stick the mat, he applied to be an astronaut 15 times before he was accepted, but he should also be applauded for his bare faced honesty about struggles and conflicts.

It’s easy to look at our heroes and wish we could be more like them, it has to be incredibly difficult for those heroes to acknowledge and embrace the places where they struggle.  In doing so however, the people who do so empower us all to achieve higher goals and work harder to see our dreams come true.  The portrait of an astronaut that Clay Anderson paints isn’t an infallible, pedestal dwelling, super hero the reader wishes they had been born as.  Instead he is what he claims to be: an ordinary guy who made dreams come true because he worked really hard and took advantage of opportunities that came his way that the reader can realize that they could be if they worked for it.  It’s a powerful and convicting narrative, and I’m both grateful for his candor and proud of him as a Nebraskan.  I’d expect nothing less from a person raised living the Good Life.

Go Big Red.

And go buy the book: The Ordinary Spaceman by Clay Anderson

AAAHHHHHHHH!

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I want to preface this post with the assertion that I’m aware I’m immensely lucky.  I am doing the job I always wanted to do.  I have amazing friends, and I have fantastic adventures which I am only glancingly competent at chronicling in any real way.

But I am literally so stressed out right now that my eye is twitching.  Have you ever had an eye twitch?  Its unsettling.  Incredibly unsettling.  Stop twitching, eye, you think to yourself, but the eye goes on.  It doesn’t care, the more you are bothered by it the more it will probably twitch. So of course then you (and by you we know I mean I, right?) put a hand over the eye.  I will force you to stop, you think.  But all that happens is that now you can feel the tremor of the one part of your body you can not force to internalize your stress.

The worst part of stress is that stress does not care that so many things are going well.  You can still be set upon by stress.  Which is why rich does not automatically mean happy, I suppose, although I’d still like to be able to test that theory.

Anyway, so why are you stressed, Kristen?  Well, lets chat shall we?  Last year at school was pretty rough.  New changes, new grade, new teaching partner.  Everything shook out okay in the end, but through the year I nonstop applied for jobs.  Everywhere.  This summer, I promised myself, I will find a job this summer. I got my Massachusetts teaching license.  I have always wanted to spend time in New England and my trips north only confirmed that New England is a pretty cool place.  But as a reserve, I also applied to work again in Nebraska. Nebraska my adopted home and chosen world.  I’d go back to Nebraska if nothing else worked out.

But then at the end of the school year things seemed to be looking up.  I’d only be teaching math and science the next year, I’d be in my wheelhouse all day, every day.  I’d be science coordinator so I’d be able to manage the resources.  I could have it all ladies and gentlemen.  The district cut a position and there was a momentary fear that I’d be sent away, but then someone else went instead.  Crisis averted.

Then on Monday I went in to clean out the science closet and get ready for the next year.  And I saw the class numbers.  There are only 16 kids in my class.  Only 17 in the other 4th grade.  33 students.  You could make one class of 33 students.  Even more concerning?  There are only 13 kindergarteners.  Total.  Between 2 classes.  Oh we are definitely losing another teacher.  And that teacher will almost certainly be me.  I guess I should explain that, that’s not just me being crazy.  Teacher cuts depend mostly on seniority, and despite this being my 3rd year at my school, I’m still the least senior member of our school’s staff.  People tend not to move from there, so I’m still on the bubble regardless.  Which is just one more source of stress I guess.

I won’t get fired, that’s not what this is about.  Part of the reason that we’ll definitely lose another teacher is that our county is woefully short on teachers.  There are schools that have had positions open for 2 years that they just can’t fill.  These schools tend to be in awkward places and have tough clientel.  They also tend to be pretty far from my house.  My school by comparison is pretty mellow, they will definitely take a teacher (or two) from my school to try to fill those positions.

It’s not that I can’t teach in that environment, I certainly have before and I liked it.  It’s more that I don’t like to be dictated to, and I haven’t had a chance to prepare properly.  I spent part of my summer making my long range plans, planning activities and strategies that I’m ready to implement, but that being endorsed K-6 I only have a 1:7 chance of getting sent to a 4th grade classroom.  Probably more, I’d hope that HR would take into account that I’ve always taught in the 3-6 band.  I don’t like to be told though.

And the worst part.  The worst part.  Is that I turned down jobs this summer.  I was offered jobs, nice jobs, jobs I would have liked, because I had decided to stick it out where I was and see what happened.  Good move, Kristen.  Maybe go with your first instinct next time okay?

So I spent some time the other night filling out applications for positions that are still open, and kicking myself.

Streeeeeesssssssssss.  Sigh.

Anyway here’s cute pictures of my cat.  Because if you waded through that mess, you deserve some sort of reward.

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It’s going to be okay, human.

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zzzzzzzz

Things I learned in Texas

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1. Don’t mess with Texas is an anti-litter campaign.

I’ve always thought that this was the Texas version of “Come at me, bro.”  But it turns out, the phrase was coined in 1986, and since then has been used to remind Texans that they should not junk up their state.  There are trash cans emblazoned with the logo and the visitor’s centers give out car trash bags.  There are even ads like this one featuring Matthew McConaughey. There is absolutely a ton of stuff you can buy which carries the motto, but it remains an anti-littering campaign and is trademarked.  You can find more info on their website. In case you’re wondering, yes, Texas is pretty clean.

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2.  The importance of left-hand history is inversely proportional to the amount of time spent on the road. 

With almost 300,000 state historical markers, it’s no surprise that the roadways are just about littered with them.  While driving Texas the allure of pulling over to see what happened in such a place is strong.  And sometimes justly rewarded.

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Umm whoa.

But let’s be real, for every marker honoring an ice ax wielding law man who saved the train, there are about 500 markers that dryly notify you that a church existed on the land for like 25 years in the 1870’s.  And the more you’ve been on the road, the less chance there is that you are really going to want to cross the road and pull off for a potentially disappointing marker.  Texas does have apps in the play store to guide you to the cool ones, and that’s not a bad deal.  Especially if like me you get annoyed by the totally lame ones and decide to find out just how you get a historical marker, and surprise surprise, you can basically buy one.

3. Beer is cheaper in Texas.

They tell you that everything is bigger in Texas but that is not true of your bar bill.  Not only does Texas have enough breweries to populate their own nation, you will get a pretty good deal when you drink in Texas.  We visited Rahr & Sons in Forth Worth and for the incredible deal of $10 we got pint glasses and 4 beers.  Wut.  Beer specials ranging between $1 and $3 abounded and you could basically drink almost any beer you wanted for $4 or $5.  Beer nerds, Texas is a great destination.

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4.  Not everyone is a political nutjob.

I know, I KNOW.  Texan political jokes are my favorite too.

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Looking at you, Rick Perry.

But the fact is that Texas is a pretty diverse state and the people who live there are pretty diverse too.  I got into way more political discussions than I really wanted to, but I didn’t run into any dyed in the wool crazy people, and despite my concerns about spending a length of time in West Texas, I remain tar and feather free.

5. Driving friendly “the Texas way” means that is completely acceptable to drive on the shoulder. 

They might be politically not completely insane, but in other ways Texans have their own… spin on things.  One thing that Texans do is drive on the shoulder.  I’m not kidding and they don’t do it for the anger fueled reasons that we do.  No, they pull over and continue to cruse to let people pass.  Because Tejas means friendship, damnit.

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6. Texas is a presidential state.

When you think Texas and President, you might think Kennedy, but Texas has a lot of presidential street cred that is lless sad and bloody.  Texas is home to the LBJ Library, the George HW Bush Library, and the George W. Bush Library.  In addition, Texas is also the birth place of Dwight Eisenhower and for some reason Tyler, Texas is named after the president.  I’m unclear on the why of that one, but it is so.

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7. The stars really do shine big and bright deep in the heart of Texas.

Wow.  I mean, wow.  I don’t have anything more intelligent than that to say.  Wow.  When you mix the high altitude with the low humidity and throw in a bucketful of non-light polluted skies, wow.  I mean it was like the stars just hung in curtains around us at night.  It was amazing.

8. There is a Texas themed song for everything. 

And just about any Texan will be happy to sing them for you.  All of them.  I’m not kidding though, seriously so many songs.  I love a lot of things but I don’t even have this many songs for chocolate.  Jesus Texas.

9. It really is about the journey, not the destination… which is good, because Texas is fucking huge.

We drove around Texas for like 2 weeks straight and I’m still not sure I have a handle on that state.  It’s a good thing Alaskans fly everywhere because seriously, there’s just so much of it.  I have this deep and abiding feeling that if you’ve never gone out, and gotten in your car and just taken off you have only experienced a small slice of this world.  I saw some cool things and some familiar things and I was surprised by how much was familiar and what was different. Go explore your world.  You owe it to yourself.

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10.  I really, really miss Nebraska. 

But also maybe at the end of the day return to what is familiar.  I was born in Maryland but I chose Nebraska as my home state, and it adopted me back.  I left in September 2012 and I’ve not been back in part because I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to leave again if I did visit.  The wide open spaces, pragmatic people, the small business focus and the local pride were all so reminiscent of my chosen home, it makes me miss it a lot.  I miss you Nebraska.

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An Unexpected Journey: NASA Wallops Open House

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Once ever 5 years, NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility hosts an Open house, and this year for their 70th, I was on hand to experience the magic.

Arguably in recent years, Wallops has become most well known for being the launch point for Orbital ATK’s Antares rocket, which sends supplies to the International Space Station aboard the Cygnus.

Antares Rocket

Antares rocket on it’s way to spaaaaaacccceeee.

But umm.. since last year that hasn’t been happening.  Antares WILL be launching again (more on that later) but in the  meantime, we decided to head for the Eastern Shore aka THE END OF THE WORLD to see what was cooking at Wallops, the NASA center you go to when you are itching to head to the beach and yet are afraid of alligators (sorry Kennedy, down with bitey animals).

That’s not to say that Wallops doesn’t have its own brand of carnivorous creature.  If you make the trek I’m going to recommend that you bring bug spray.  Just make your peace with covering yourself in poison.  It’s okay, the option is blood transfusions and itchiness.

So on this trip, Brandi ran the 5K, which was a massive win for the team because we got magic parking passes…

20150627_071626And we got into the center hella early.  So we grabbed a paper and a coffee…

20150627_065652And while Brandi ran….

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I took pictures of the flight area, because of course I did.

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It rained on us kind of a lot, but eventually it rolled out and we went to explore the suborbital rocket facility.

Orbital ATK builds the sounding rockets that Wallops launches.  Sounding rockets don’t get a lot of buzz, but lets be honest, they take military ordinance, recondition it into rocket propellant, and shoot a several hundred foot long dart at space.  They revolve like a rifle bullet and shoot instruments and experiments up for about 30 minutes, then after it’s over they go out in boats and recover them.  If that’s not hardcore enough for you then I don’t know what is.

Also Orbital just like opened the doors to us and showed ups the whole dang operation.  So many rocket pieces. 20150627_114217Just like, everywhere…

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Big pieces…

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Little pieces…

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Omg.  Everywhere.

20150627_121424I basically love sounding rockets now.

So we left the sounding rocket facility and moved on to the magic that was the balloon facility.  They look like alien marshmallows but do all kinds of awesome stuff like lifting things smoothly and easily onto the doorstep of space.

20150627_124144Also, and kind of to be honest (sorry) way cooler to me was the trippy rooms with spikey foam.  Seriously, wandering in there was like being in a James Bond movie.

20150627_124709So here’s the main problem with Wallops.  There was not enough time.  We got up early, hit it hard, saw this stuff plus some planes, took in some talks, ate a good bbq lunch… basically we ran out of time.  Next time maybe 2 days Wallops.  Maybe 2 days.

So I said that Wallops is the NASA center with a beach, and if you’d prefer horses to alligators then yes, Wallops is the place for you.  We stayed in nearby Chincoteague which is the doorway to Assateague Island.  Our hotel had wild horses.  That’s a true fact.

20150626_162033As a child I was obsesssssed with the ponies of Assateague and if you’ve got a horse loving kid in your life I’m going to hardcore recommend Marguarite Henry’s amazing Misty books.  We spent some time on the island enjoying the amazing seafood, horses, beach and of course the amazing friends that always seem to show up.  CIjWYXxUAAEiehn 20150628_131812 20150628_131900 20150628_125927-EFFECTS

So I’m definitely coming back, most likely next March when Orbital ATK launches the Cygnus from the Eastern Shore again.  It’s gonna be windy, its gonna be cold and hopefully the mosquitos will be asleep.  BRING ON THE ROCKETS.

New Years Thoughts

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Yesterday I went into the city.  I love DC.  I love DC in the way that only a native who has lived away from the city, has grown to appreciate it and has returned to the city can love it.  I don’t actually live INSIDE of DC because no one can afford that, but I do love it.

Anyway I went to the city early to go and watch my team lose spectacularly, as is our custom.

Come on Everton, how can you lose when I look this sexy?

Come on Everton, how can you lose when I look this sexy?

Then I met up with a friend who went with me to visit another friend.

Oh Stephen Colbert.  I hope your new show is also amazing.

Oh Stephen Colbert. I hope your new show is also amazing.

Then we went to go see the Imitation Game.  If you don’t know who Allen Turing is, then shame on you.  As you sit here reading this on your computer, then mosey on over to Wikipedia and look up the man who fathered the very idea.  Imitation Game is a good movie, and deserves the Oscar buzz its been getting, but it left me deeply reflective.  An openly gay man and a consummate nerd during the 40’s in Britain, its unsurprising that he was eventually persecuted.  I’m entirely unqualified to speak about a large portion of his persecution, but I recognize that it compounded his situation in a way that I’ll never understand.  However as a nerd, I can relate to some aspects of his situation.

There is a part in the story that I am not sure is historically accurate.  I should look it up, but whether it is or not, it was powerful.  There is a moment when he could have had almost everything he’d ever wanted.  He would have never been brought on charges, he would have had the facade of the respectable life with a person who accepted him as he was.  And while I think that is only a ghost of what he was entitled, It would have been the safe route.  And he rejects it.  He rejects it because he wants to keep the other person safe.  And in that moment the whole theater gasps.  It underlines the heroism of the man.  In the light of history it is absolutely the wrong choice, but at the time he had incredibly important reasons for doing it.  He loses so much, and gains nothing, and if that’s not how the nerd life felt growing up, I don’t know what is.

Today being a nerd is a very different thing.  Today it’s not a bad thing, in fact nerd is cool.  All those years my dad told me that geeks would someday rule the world, and that day has come.  I see the nerdy kids in my class and they occupy a place in the social hierarchy that would have been far above my pay grade at the same age.

And I’m not bitter about it.  I know it sounds as if I might be but I’m not.  In some ways the climate in which I grew up in shaped me in pretty beneficial ways.  I’m super observant, I read social cues pretty well, I’m incredibly self sufficient, and I’m comfortable being on my own.  These are all things which sometimes seem like super powers in the modern world.

But I walked out of that theater super sad. I’m glad I had a friend with me, because watching that fall from greatness, the isolation and eventual destruction of such an important and heroic figure really kind of was emotionally destroying.  I think it showed exactly what happens when everyone’s deepest fear is realized.  He saved 14 million people, but no one would do the same for him.  The movie was amazing, I think that everyone should see it, but for me at least, it was also profoundly rattling.  I think it was the constant juxtaposition of high and low points, the film hammers home over and over again that all his achievements, all his success, all his work will not, in the end, save him.

Anyway, I parted ways with my friend after the movie and went down the Zoo so I could enjoy the last night of ZooLights, a Christmas tradition in which the zoo stays open late and puts Christmas light displays along the major thoroughfare.

Good evening, Moon

Good evening, Moon

As I checked in on Swarm and began to wander through the pathways I became struck by my own sense of apartness that I was feeling.  We have come so far as a society but I still felt isolated.  I took out my phone and texted a friend who lives near buy.  Hey nerd, you should come to the zoo tonight. And within minutes he was on his way.  Moments later another friend texted. I saw your checkin on Swarm.  Do you want company? Umm. Yes.  Yes I do.

When I was in college my roommate would tell me that my radical independence was not really a strength.  She would tell me that I needed to work on letting people know when I needed or wanted something.  That seems like mooching to me, but in the past few weeks, I have been struck by the fact that I have a stronger network than I appreciate.

I know this is a rambling post, but I really am trying to make a point.  My first point is that going into this new year, I’m super grateful to the people who keep fighting to make this world better.  The LGBTQ community isn’t automatically shunned and persecuted like they were in Turing’s day.  There’s still a lot of work to be done there but it does seem to be getting better.  The protestors that are bringing awareness to police brutality and overreach are important.  Even the angry 13 year-olds on tumblr who are growing up not with a sense of complacency but with the fire to change their worlds.  These are things that encourage me and strengthen me and make me feel hopeful.  Last night as I walked through Mount Pleasant with my friend it occurred to me that 15 years ago we would have been considered to be crazy to wander DC at night, but now it’s a new city.  There are a lot of reasons from all over to be hopeful about 2015 and the world in general.

The other point I’m trying to make is that isolation is dangerous.  I know that I just said that I was comfortable being on my own, but there is a difference between getting some alone time and isolating yourself.  I think there is a very healthy aspect to being comfortable with the person you are when you are buy yourself.  Isolation is when you shut yourself off out of fear or whatever.  And that is really not healthy.  I keep thinking about how solo I felt walking through the crowds at the zoo and how much better the night was once a few friends had shown up.  And I get it, really I do.  There’s that trepidation right?  What if my company isn’t wanted?  What if I get blown off?  Etc. etc. etc.  Don’t isolate.

I think about the people we lost in the last 12 months while they were feeling isolated and that seems like the greatest tragedy to me.  We have so many ways to be connected today, with the assistance of our Turing machines, lets use them to be healthier people.

I love you all, like this goat loves his heater.

I love you all, like this goat loves his heater.