Close Encounters of the 45th Kind

The only thing I can add to the clamor surrounding the situation in Charlottesville is to condemn hatred, white supremacy, and anyone who seeks to make certain Americans feel uncomfortable in their own homes and skins. I’m so grateful for Heather Heyer and her fellow protesters for taking a stand, and I mourn the loss of one and the injury of several voices for good.

The march in Charlottesville terrifies me because I thought our country had come so much farther than it apparently has. Of course I knew that there were a few small, pathetic enclaves of white supremacists still hanging on here and there, but to know that there are that many people who are excited to wave the Nazi flag without even covering their faces, whether they’re fully committed or just “weekend warriors” chills me to my core. In some ways it’s those “weekend warriors” that scare me the most, those who thought they’d shout a bunch of racist threats one afternoon and then return happily to their comfortable lives and jobs, because if this past year in the United States has taught me anything, it’s the danger of large groups of people being unable or unwilling to see the obvious future consequences of their actions.

I’ve been Facebook friends with a close relative of one of my best friends for a while because of a project we were both involved with last year. Last night, this guy posted a big, long rant (something he’d obviously copied and pasted from someone else) about how no other American president and first lady have been insulted, scrutinized, made fun of, etc. the way the Trumps have. Now, if someone’s going to go and complain about how the current president and their family are being treated unfairly, I will admit that that’s a matter of opinion, even if I disagree with the sentiment. But facts are facts, and I can’t stand people who try to rewrite history, so I pointed out the inaccuracies of this guy’s statement. Completely ignoring everything I’d posted, he responded with a statement about how happy he was to have voted for Trump. Then this happened:

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I already knew this guy was no Einstein, but this floored me. I know there are people out there who voted for Trump without a thought for how their vote would affect the women, LGBTQIA+ people, black people, etc. in their lives, but at least a lot of them are able to seem properly ashamed of themselves when you point it out, like the man my sister talked to the night after the election. This guy has posted more than once in the short time we’ve been Facebook friends about how he became a Christian while in prison a while back and is involved in a ministry that serves current prison inmates — and this is his attitude? My heart breaks for this guy’s sister-in-law and nephew, knowing this member of their family doesn’t see or care about the very real danger Trump poses to them. My heart breaks for his beautiful little daughter, who was a flower girl in my friends’ wedding. She’s white, and she immediately became friends with the other flower girl, who was black — she even told off her brother for bumping into her new friend and knocking her down on the dance floor at the reception. Will she continue to set race aside when making friends as she grows up, given the kind of values her parents are going to be teaching her? Will she learn the importance of consent and the ability to stand up for herself and her bodily autonomy while growing up in the household she’s a part of? How will their sons learn to treat women, or anyone whom society declares weaker or less worthy than themselves?

I care very strongly about the kind of leadership the president of our country provides because it has a profound impact on my life as a woman and a person who loves a whole bunch of non-white, non-male, non-straight, and non-cis-gendered people. It’s become very clear that the attitude set by the presidential administration creates either a favorable or an unfavorable environment for the disgusting actions we saw in Virginia this weekend.

I’ve always relied on facts and figures, as well as personal experiences, to bolster my arguments and help me make my points. But now we are dealing with a huge crop of people in this country who will deny facts, figures, and primary sources until they’ve gone past blue in the face and have simply expired. I don’t know how to deal with that. I don’t know any other way to get important messages across.

I’m currently in the middle of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, which I’m reading for (I think) the sixth time. Voldemort has divided the British Wizarding community through terrorism and the spread of misinformation, to the point that the Ministry of Magic is literally asking Muggle-born witches and wizards from whom they stole their magical powers. It’s insane. Those Muggle-borns bought their wands in Diagon Alley when they were eleven years old just like any pureblood wizard, and it’s impossible to steal magic. But Harry and his friends are determined that love and truth will win out, and though it’s a long, hard, sometimes dangerous slog, I know they’re going to be victorious in the end.

As always, Harry Potter gives me hope when little else does.

When $30 Feels Like $1 Million

I was feeling a little down on Thursday. It was so gloomy when I woke up at 8:30 that I thought it was 5 AM before I looked at the clock. It rained all day. I had work to do, plus I needed to finish cleaning my apartment because my mom and grandma were coming up the next day, but I couldn’t seem to concentrate on anything for more than a few minutes, even if I played music from iTunes, which often helps me focus. Nothing was really wrong, but I just felt a little out of sorts and grumpy. I also needed to eat some lunch before I went to babysit in the afternoon, and I was struck by a sudden craving for Chipotle, but it’s the end of the month, and after a couple of unexpected expenses popped up over the last few weeks, my bank account is depressingly low until the start of June.

So I did what any frustrated millennial does: I wrote a whiny Facebook status. Specifically, it said, “Cannot concentrate on anything today for more than 10 minutes. Also craving Chipotle and have no money for it. Life is rough.” Really and truly, I was just venting a little bit. I wasn’t asking for anything. Continue reading “When $30 Feels Like $1 Million”

The Battle of Hogwarts

Today, May 2, 2017, is the nineteenth anniversary of the Battle of Hogwarts. Every year on this day, I think very seriously about the bravery and the sacrifices made by some of the greatest literary characters ever created, because the Harry Potter books are not just stories to me. Even today, when something in my life has got me feeling a lot like Harry when he found out how much information Dumbledore had been keeping from him, I think about the children who hadn’t yet graduated school who stood up against the ultimate evil to protect their friends and classmates and even people they didn’t know from prejudice and hatred and human rights abuses. I think about the adults who put themselves in harm’s way even if it meant losing their jobs or their dignity or even their families. I think about the power of love and truth and justice and how important it is for every one of us who believes in those things to never back down, never surrender as long as our fellow humans need our help. Continue reading “The Battle of Hogwarts”

Bill Nye Saves the World

I had heard a while ago that Bill Nye was going to be starring in a new Netflix series, but honestly, there’s so much going on in entertainment these days and in my life in general that I had pretty much forgotten about it. Then, on Sunday morning, Jeremy said, “Hey do you want to watch Bill Nye’s new Netflix series?” And, of course, I said, “Sure!”

When I was in elementary school, I watched PBS shows pretty much from the time I got home from school until the time dinner was ready, which usually coincided with the start of the MacNeil-Lehrer News Hour and the end of more interesting shows such as Wishbone, Where In the World is Carmen San Diego?, and, of course, Bill Nye the Science Guy. IMDB says that the original Bill Nye show started in 1993, when I would have been in preschool, but I’m pretty sure it didn’t start airing on my local PBS station until I was in first or second grade. Continue reading “Bill Nye Saves the World”

Filming Jeopardy! and the Aftermath

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Note: If you’re interested in reading about my history with Jeopardy! and how I got to be on the show, that post is here.

As soon as Emlen and I were chosen to compete in the Wednesday game against returning champion Kevin, we had our makeup touched up, and we had a few minutes to use the bathroom and get a drink. Then we went back to the studio and out on the stage to our podiums (which are also randomly assigned, except for the returning champion, of course). The contestant coordinators came over and made sure we knew which camera to look at for the intros and had our names written on our screens. They asked if we had anyone in the audience, and they had our friends and family wave to us — Jeremy was a little salty that he hadn’t been allowed to look at or talk to me, and at first he didn’t believe that he was finally allowed to interact with me.

I don’t remember a whole lot about getting started. I know I was feeling really anxious, and I kept telling myself I was just on stage for a performance like I’d been zillions of times before. The stage manager called for quiet and started the show, and hearing the opening music while standing on the stage felt a whole lot more surreal than it had when I’d been sitting in the audience.  Continue reading “Filming Jeopardy! and the Aftermath”

How I Got to Be on Jeopardy!

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I’ve been a fan of Jeopardy! for literally longer than I can remember. When one of my former neighbors, who lived across the street from me for the first several years of my life, found out that I was going to be on the show, she said, “That’s been your dream since you were in a high chair!” My parents tell me that when I was a baby, I would get really excited and kick my feet when I heard the Jeopardy! theme music. Nerdery starts young in my family, for sure.

When I was in elementary school, I enjoyed watching the show, even though I could hardly answer any of the questions. I had a Jeopardy! computer game for Windows 95 with a digital Alex Trebek (still with the mustache and glasses), and I could hardly answer any of the questions even on the easy setting, but I still played it a lot. (I remember one particular game when I was actually certain about the Final Jeopardy answer – Giancarlo Menotti’s operetta Amahl and the Night Visitors – and I felt like I’d won the actual show!)

I didn’t watch the show much when I was in middle school and high school, because most evenings I was either at the dance studio or busy with homework, but I still caught it whenever I could. My Algebra 2 teacher would occasionally give us a break from regular classwork on Fridays and give us a fun math problem to solve, and once she had us figure out the maximum amount of money a contestant could win in a single Jeopardy! game. (I’ll post the answer in my next blog post, in case you’re interested in solving the problem on your own.) I had a bit of a leg up because I was already really familiar with the show, and I remember thinking it was pretty cool that this young, cool teacher whom I really liked was a self-professed fan of the nerdy show that I secretly wanted to go on someday. Continue reading “How I Got to Be on Jeopardy!”

Permission vs. Blessing

This blog post was supposed to go up on Friday, but I got a medium-bad migraine that day and couldn’t sit and type in front of a computer screen. 😦 But anyway, this week on one of the shows I watch (which is fairly progressive), a character asked his girlfriend to marry him, and when they announced their engagement to their friends and family, the girlfriend’s father (who’s a fairly progressive character) got really salty that the boyfriend hadn’t asked his “permission” first. I was rather annoyed by this, and I talked about it with a close friend. I would totally have been in favor of the boyfriend asking the father’s “blessing,” but I’m not okay with the word permission being tossed around like that, and I’m not okay with the writers making the father upset that he didn’t get asked. To my surprise, my friend basically said “Meh, permission and blessing are essentially the same thing.” To me, they are extremely different, and here’s why.

In many world cultures for many thousands of years, women were treated as property by men (and of course, this practice continues today in some places). Fathers controlled their daughters’ lives — their education, their opportunities, their money, and more — until those daughters got married, at which point their husbands began controlling their lives. Often, marriage was literally a business contract between father and future spouse: a man might refuse to marry a woman if he didn’t get enough money, land, livestock, or other possessions as part of the bargain. In any case, these sexist beliefs completely discounted a woman’s desires and her ability to make her own choices about how the rest of her life was going to go. Continue reading “Permission vs. Blessing”