Posted in Politics

Bathroom Bills Just Don’t Make Sense

Remember I mentioned I got a blog post published on an academic blog? Here’s the link: http://bit.ly/2xjzolM.

In the article, I poke holes in the logic of bathroom bills by looking at how they classify gender as binary when, medically, it is not. I hope it provides an cogent argument against a set of discriminatory laws. More than that I hope it helps shed some light on non-binary and nontraditional gender and sex identities, something that, for most, is a confusing issue.

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Posted in Politics

Solar Eclipse and Media Events

In the seemingly distant past, when TVs were the pinnacle of luxury, major televised events–like Elizabeth II’s coronation–became major events. These so-called media events centered around a media experience, but were truly communal. People crammed into living rooms and public spaces with TVs to watch the spectacle.

That has changed. Media events were always uncommon but now they are few and far between. As Robert Putnam theorizes, TV has caused the fragmentation of society. He really does go as far as to say that TV might well be the ruination of western civilization. This is a bit extreme, perhaps, but it does seem that television no longer unites us but rather divides us up into our individual living rooms–and even drives family members into their own rooms to watch their own screens.

Perhaps that is why it was so refreshing during to see that we do not need television to create a moment of coming together. On Monday, during the peak of the eclipse in NYC people stood outside office buildings and restaurants and stores, all looking at the sky through absurd “glasses” that looked rather like old-fashioned 3D glasses. People were in awe. And they were friendly. They passed around glasses and pinpoint projectors made out of shoeboxes and the like.

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I didn’t have glasses, but I’d read that the iPhone camera was wide enough that the lens wouldn’t magnify the light enough to damage the camera or my eyes. The photos weren’t amazing because the light was bright enough and (obviously) distant enough that the sun basically looks slightly less spherical. The lens flare (the bright blue thing in the photo), which is usually circular, was only a crescent–a better indication than the lumpy-looking sun that there was an eclipse. The trick of getting even that was bringing the exposure adjustment down (that’s why it looks so dark–it really was a normal, bright sunny day).

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Still there I was taking the photo, and a woman walks over to me and ask, “can you see it in a photo?” I told her that it was barely anything but it was still something. So she tried but it was too bright. I told her to do the exposure adjustment thing. She didn’t know how to, so she held out her phone for me to show her.

A few blocks away, I ran into someone I knew–someone I’ve only met a handful of times through a mutual friend. The odds of that in such a big city are slim (especially for an introvert like myself), but everyone was outside so I guess the odds rose enough. He didn’t have glasses either but was sharing a pair with someone he barely knew. They asked if I had a pair. When I responded in the negative, they instantly offered me their glasses. So the three of us near-strangers stood on the sidewalk and chatted and passed around the eclipse glasses (which gave you a decent photo if you held them up to your camera lens, hence the featured photo on this post). And we let passers-by borrow them, too.

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My mom was worried about me being out during the eclipse; “things are weird in the country right now and the eclipse might escalate it.” Granted she’s a worrier, but she has a point that violence, hatred, and anger seem the norm these days. It wasn’t like that at all on Monday. For about 30 minutes, New Yorkers (generally a jaded and aloof bunch) stood on every sidewalk acting rather like my elementary school class did when we watch a partial eclipse back in the 1990s, with nothing but cereal boxes we’d brought from home. It was almost more awe-inspiring than the eclipse. After all eclipses just happen; these communal experiences don’t.

Posted in Politics

Out of Focus: WPC

This week’s challenge, focus, was almost too easy! I do a lot of macro and/or food photography so focus is very important. I’ve had many a photo come out terribly, with the focus just slightly off or the depth of field just a bit too wide or too narrow. On occasion, though, as the prompt reminds us, sometimes an out of focus photo can be beautiful in it’s own way. Continue reading “Out of Focus: WPC”

Posted in Other, Politics

Stegosaurus

I’ve got a close friend who, among her many talents, is a software engineer. She build me a website for my birthday. It’s like index cards for recipes, but online and prettier! Plus you can’t lose a website. Plus she gave me a dinosaur origami book! Her birthday is a month after mine and the bar was set pretty high.

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Look at the blue belly! That took some skill to plan and sew (if I do say so myself).

I’d found a random fat quarter with dinosaur names on it at my local sewing store upstate and bought it. I knew I wanted to make something with it for her (we both like dinosaurs!) but I wasn’t sure what. A pillow wasn’t very exciting (and definitely not as exciting as a custom made website!) So I thought a dinosaur made of dinosaur fabric would be fun. Continue reading “Stegosaurus”

Posted in Pics, Politics

Earth Day and the March for Science: WPC

I admit I didn’t march in the Women’s March. I had a lot of homework and I’m not particularly fond of crowds or being up at 7 am on a freezing winter weekend. But I couldn’t resist heading to the March for Science. Not only was it being held at a more civilized hour and in my neighborhood, I’m a scientist (alright a political scientist–but my field employs the scientific method and depends on government grants too!)

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I’m so glad I went. Continue reading “Earth Day and the March for Science: WPC”

Posted in Politics

Make the SAT Great Again (Or: Politicians Need to Learn what an Appropriate Analogy Sounds Like)

It’s time we bring back analogies on the SAT. Okay, okay, we probably shouldn’t. They were racist/classist and not remotely reflective of actual college preparedness skills.

On the other hand, being able to make comparisons is a useful life skill. I always  thought coming up with a passable comparison was as easy as falling off a log (but I was also rather perturbed that I was among the first batch of students who didn’t have analogies on their SATs, so what can I tell you?) As we’ve seen recently, however, I was mistaken.

Sean Spicer said Assad is worse than Hitler because Hitler didn’t use chemical weapons on his own people. How dumb do you have to be to say that? I mean even if you don’t remember 10th grade world history, you should know that making a comparison where Hitler comes off favorably is a bad idea. Continue reading “Make the SAT Great Again (Or: Politicians Need to Learn what an Appropriate Analogy Sounds Like)”

Posted in Politics

Thoughts on Immigration

The border control agent handed me a slip of paper instead of my passport. She had checked the box next to, “you are being detained.” It would have been farcical if it hadn’t been so terrifying.

I knew the worst case scenario was that I would be sent back to the U.S. where I have family, friends, and a life. It would also mean a struggle to get my student visa and I had only applied to schools in the U.K.—but I hadn’t even accepted a spot yet, so I wouldn’t really be losing more than a year and a few application fees.

I also knew that the law was in my favor. I hadn’t overstayed any visa, I showed ample resources, and the accusation that I was trying to establish residency was absurd (and showed the border agent’s complete and utter lack of understanding of immigration law). I had done nothing wrong and immigration law was on my side.

But in the moment, sitting on a plastic chair while the arrivals hall emptied out, the worst case scenario seemed much worse and I didn’t feel like I had anything, let alone the force of law, on my side.  I can’t imagine how terrifying that process would be when the worst case scenario as bad as I felt it was—or even worse. I can’t imagine what it must feel like when you cannot cite the law in your favor (especially when you should be able to). Continue reading “Thoughts on Immigration”

Stronger Together?

I wrote this blog post for my elections and campaigns class. The assignment was to discuss the readings in an accessible way. I’d been doing this most weeks and succeeding. But the week after the election (it was due on Monday, November 14th) I was still processing. The readings were actually quite relevant to the election outcome and I’d had every intention of writing something insightful about them. That’s not what happened.

It’s been a month since I wrote this. I’ve been debating whether to post it. It’s still very much how I’m feeling, so I’m going for it. Continue reading “Stronger Together?”

Posted in Politics

The trials and tribulations of getting a PhD during a presidential election

I have a confession: I’m studying for a PhD in American politics and I don’t want to talk about the election. More than 500 days ago, when Donald Trump announced his candidacy, I was excited at the prospect of going back to school. It would be fun, I thought, to study the electoral process while watching this crazy election take shape. I was wrong.

Studying political science requires a certain objectivity, which provided some comfort during this contested election. Conversely, there was something extremely dissatisfying about the coldness of theory during a heated campaign season. Worse than that, being dispassionate can blind us to reality—because reality is all about passion. But all I saw was the instant gratification of analyzing an election while studying elections! Continue reading “The trials and tribulations of getting a PhD during a presidential election”