Author Archives: mrswhatsit9

Speaking of Hidden Figures…

It’s Women’s History Month, once again. SOOOOO much of women’s history is that of “hidden figures,” either because a woman did the work and a man took the credit (Rosalind Franklin), because a woman had to pose as a man to make her contribution in the first place (Deborah Sampson), because a woman’s contribution was compelled against her will (Lucy, Anarcha, and Betsey among others), or because a woman was both the “wrong” gender and the “wrong” color (the original Hidden Figures, Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughn, and Mary Jackson).

So I wanted to start a little sharing circle, of “hidden figures” women we should all know.

I’ll go first, with Ada Lovelace.

Ada was an English mathematician who lived in the early 19th century. Although she did not *build* the first computing machine, she did the theoretical work to move the concept of the “analytical engine” from the realm of calculation (numbers) into computation (symbols and other data sources), and wrote the first computer program, describing “a stepwise sequence of operations for solving certain mathematical problems.” (source)

Although Charles Babbage actually built the engine, his work would not have been possible without her. Since 2009, she is honored on second Tuesday in October, Ada Lovelace Day, an annual celebration of women in STEM, which was originated by Suw Charman-Anderson.

Who’s next, with a “hidden figure” of your own?

Image from the Computer History Museum.

Like what you read? Follow me on Twitter @MrsWhatsit1.

Hey, Venus

Very cool discovery about our beloved Venus of Willendorf figure.

Although she was found in Austria along the Danube River (which is how she got her name), researchers knew that she wasn’t originally from there, due to the material she was made out of, oolite, a type of limestone that is not present along the Danube in Austria.

Similar figurines made of different materials show up across Europe and across time.

But it turns out this particular Venus is almost definitely Italian, from the region around Lake Garda, which is about 80 miles east of Milan. And it may have taken years or even centuries for her to make the journey from where she was shaped to where she was found.

Che belleza!

You can learn more here, or read the original research paper here.

Image from the Smithsonian Institution.

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All She Does Is Be Right

I know I said no more Hillary posts, but…

ALL SHE DOES IS BE RIGHT.

That’s it.

That’s the post.

Also, Goddess guard Ukraine and all the brave Russians who are protesting Putin despite SIGNIFICANT personal risk.

Like what you read? Follow me on Twitter @MrsWhatsit1.

 

Satire: Ur Doin It WRONG

In my continuing series of Fun New Year’s Resolutions Only (Some Are One-Time Offers, Some Become Long-Term/Permanent), last year’s resolution seems to be sticking: watching all the movies nominated for major Oscar categories.

This year’s list was released this week. We’d already seen a few (Summer of Soul, Coda, King Richard, Spouse has seen Dune although I have not, but he’s up for watching it again), but we do have some ground to cover, although this year, I’m not stressing about getting to all of them before the awards ceremony on March 27.

ANYWAY.

We had to get cracking this week, and decided to start with Don’t Look Up, the big-budget, movie-star filled, climate crisis satire released on Netflix during the year-end Oscar bait movie season.

In case you’re unfamiliar, the thing about satire, to quote the nice folks at Merriam Webster, is that it’s:

1. a literary work holding up human vices and follies to ridicule or scorn

2.trenchant wit, irony, or sarcasm used to expose and discredit vice or folly

Trenchant WIT.

In other words, satire is supposed to be funny. And Don’t Look Up is AGGRESSIVELY unfunny.

And I should be the target audience. I love comedy, I’m down with spiky comedies that venture into cutting/snarky territory, and I’m a super-liberal person living in a deep blue city with solar panels on the roof, a green roof on the garage, a garden of native plants chosen to attract pollinators, compost pile, rain barrel, bird feeder, public transportation frequenter, zealous reduce/reuse/recycler, long-time CSA member, single-car family with plans to transition to a BEV for the next one. I’m bought in, yo.

But it was just NOT GOOD. Not even a little. Not even Meryl Streep was good. (Nice touch there, guys, making the Trumpy POTUS a middle-aged blonde lady. I’m sure that wasn’t intentional. EYE ROLL.)

Now I’ll admit, I was primed to NOT like it. David Sirota is a Bernie Bro troll who passed himself off as a journalist WHILE HE WAS WORKING FOR THE CAMPAIGN. He’s an emblem of everything that’s awful about the “dirtbag” left, of a piece with the Young Turks and Cenk Uygur and their bullshit misogyny and thinly veiled racism. And at any given time, he’s probably about 30 seconds away from going full Glenn Greenwald.

Adam McKay has done some good – and not so good (Step Brothers anyone?) – stuff, although I can’t be the only one who sees Succession as primarily a tragedy that is mostly an exercise in humiliation for every single character on it.

Hm, I just realized both Succession and Don’t Look Up suffer from being one-note. Could you please stop dropping that anvil on my head? My neck is getting sore.

It’s one thing to not go for the laugh when you’re creating, say, a documentary about being a refugee (although, to be honest, Flee had some funny moments). But this whole project just stubbornly missed the point.

If you DO want to see a movie that is a GREAT satire on the absurdities of modern life, particularly as pertains to technology and social media, and is pee-your-pants, get-the-inhaler-because-Spouse-is-laughing-so-hard-it-triggered-an-asthma-attack, we-have-to-pause-the-movie-because-I’m-laughing-so-hard-I-can’t-hear-it-anymore funny, check out The Mitchells v. The Machines (and I usually hate Danny McBride, too, so it IS possible to make something that overcomes my “that guy is a TOOL” bias).

Like what you read? Follow me on Twitter @MrsWhatsit1.

 

Refresh

When I started my business going on ten years ago, one tradition I began immediately was an annual planning retreat. I quickly added annual board and shareholder meetings, as my accountant, who’d advised me to incorporate as an S-Corp, pointed out that those were required. And, he also pointed out, I could hold them ANYWHERE I WANTED TO.

Hence, an annual (well, OK, not in 2021) January trip with my spouse (who is my other shareholder and board member) to a warm, sunny location (see above, which is where I was the past two Fridays).

And I have to say, I think everyone should do this, business owner or not.

You certainly don’t have to go to the Caribbean – or anywhere other than your home – if you don’t want to. (Although one thing I learned about myself during the pandemic is that, if I don’t physically leave, I find it nearly impossible to unplug from the day-to-day responsibilities of my life. But YMMV.)

But setting aside uninterrupted time for yourself to think, assess, and plan is life-giving. It’s like Virginia Woolf’s room on one’s own, only it’s time of one’s own. Time to put aside busy-ness and distraction and ask yourself the big questions about your life.

  • What work are you turning your hands to?
  • How does it align – or not align – with your values?
  • How are you investing your time?
  • How does it serve – or not serve – your larger purpose?
  • To what are you devoting your one wild and precious life?
  • Is it worthy of that gift?
  • What needs to leave your life, to make room for what’s to come?

I know it’s hard. You have a job and kids and a spouse (or an ex or both) and volunteer commitments and elderly parents and a dog and bills and a furnace that needs replacing and a million other commitments.

And shit remains fucked up. Cops killed 1,055 people last year (and men killed 1,460 women they claimed to love). Russia’s about to start a war in Ukraine. Women’s rights are being decimated by the Taliban in Afghanistan. A bunch of astroturf nut jobs funded by US right-wingers are blockading Ottawa and several of the major border crossings between the US and Canada, and there’s rumors they might start up on US cities, too. A separate but related bunch of astroturf nut jobs are threatening local school board members and teachers. The goddamn coronavirus is STILL upon us. TrumPutin’s been storing top secret documents in a box in some unlocked, unguarded closet at Mar-a-Lago, where he also frequently hosts all sorts of shady foreign nationals who bear ill will to the United States and are up to no good, so there’s no way that doesn’t end badly.

Maybe you can’t take multiple days. So take *a* day.

Maybe you can’t leave town. So close yourself in a room with a “DO NOT ENTER UNLESS THE HOUSE IS ON FIRE” note on the door.

But do it. Do it anyway. You – and your life, and your purpose, and your sanity – are worth it.

Photo by the author. If you copy, please link back.

Like what you read? Follow me on Twitter @MrsWhatsit1.

Don’t Sleep on School Boards

While we’ve all been – justifiably – running around focused on Republican  opposition to Build Back Better and Republican opposition to protecting voting rights and Krysten Sinema’s and Joe Manchin’s intransigence on the filibuster and a million other things, the GQP has been sneakily opening a new front in our ongoing war for the soul of our country: local school boards.

The US is a bit unusual in that we guarantee free public education for all in grades K-12, and in that education is largely subject to local control. That means that school districts are governed, school administrators are hired, school policies are determined, and school budgets are set by locally elected officials, aka the local school board. School board members come from all walks of life, however, they are often people whose own kids are grown and who are later in their careers or retired, and frequently they have had some sort of formal tie to education at some point in their careers.

School board members are represented by state school board associations, which in turn are represented by the National School Boards Association, a federation of the state groups. NSBA and the state associations provide education to local school board members in what they need to know and do to be effective elected officials and advocates for children. They also provide information and guidance on local, state, and national education policy to their members and can “rally the troops” (so to speak) when legislation that affects public education is being considered.

As part of their long-term goal of wrecking public education and preventing the accurate teaching of US history particularly as it regards race and racism, Republicans, led by the “grassroots” (actually Koch-funded astroturf) organization Moms For Liberty,  are now targeting school board meetings for disruption, school board members for threats, and school board races for electing utterly unqualified ideologues. Oh – and electing Trumpers under false pretenses.

And they’re succeeding. They’ve managed to pretty much blow up NSBA for daring to suggest that highly detailed and specific death threats are not appropriate communication with your school board members and asking the DOJ to take a look. (Yes, “domestic terrorists” is strong language. But the proof, as they say, is in the pudding.)

What can you do?

  • Vote. In every election. Particularly low-turnout local elections where a few votes can – and often do – swing a race.
  • Educate yourself about candidates, particularly for “minor” local positions. Don’t let these folks slide in under the radar by pretending to be someone (sane, rational, reasonable, actually concerned with the welfare of children) that they’re not.
  • Support (with money, with signal boost, with volunteerism) local candidates who stand for our kids’ right to learn the full truth of our history, good and bad.
  • Push back against Republican lies about things like critical race theory and diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives on Facebook and Nextdoor and Twitter and in letters to the editor of your local newspaper and in line at the grocery store or coffee shop and in conversations with your neighbors.
  • Run for local school board yourself.

Remember: Small local races are often a stepping stone to higher office, like city council, mayor, state legislature, CONGRESS. Stop them now, here, before this escalates.

Image source: the Washington Post

Like what you read? Follow me on Twitter @MrsWhatsit1.

Gil Scott-Heron Was Right On

I am out of ideas today, so I’m just going to let Gil Scott-Heron say it for me:

Whitey on the Moon

A rat done bit my sister Nell.
(with Whitey on the moon)
Her face and arms began to swell.
(and Whitey’s on the moon)

I can’t pay no doctor bill.
(but Whitey’s on the moon)
Ten years from now I’ll be payin’ still.
(while Whitey’s on the moon)

The man jus’ upped my rent las’ night.
(’cause Whitey’s on the moon)
No hot water, no toilets, no lights.
(but Whitey’s on the moon)

I wonder why he’s uppi’ me?
(’cause Whitey’s on the moon?)
I was already payin’ ‘im fifty a week.
(with Whitey on the moon)

Taxes takin’ my whole damn check,
Junkies makin’ me a nervous wreck,
The price of food is goin’ up,
An’ as if all that shit wasn’t enough

A rat done bit my sister Nell.
(with Whitey on the moon)
Her face an’ arm began to swell.
(but Whitey’s on the moon)

Was all that money I made las’ year
(for Whitey on the moon?)
How come there ain’t no money here?
(Hm! Whitey’s on the moon)

Y’know I jus’ ’bout had my fill
(of Whitey on the moon)
I think I’ll sen’ these doctor bills
Airmail special
(to Whitey on the moon)

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Four Black Women Every Day

I’ve written and tweeted about this issue before, but we, collectively, as a culture, do not take the issue of violence against women seriously. There’s a severe dearth of marches, movements, vigils, attention – hell, thanks to the assholes in the Republican party, we don’t even currently have the Violence Against Women Act in effect.

The situation is EVEN WORSE for Black (and Indigenous) women.

Well, at least one woman, Rosalind Page, has had enough and is fighting back.

As documented in a recent story in the Washington Post:

Ms. Page, a nurse and mother of four, “noticed about seven years ago that Black women and girls seemed to be dying at the hands of others at an ‘unacceptable rate.'” She also “couldn’t understand why it wasn’t easier to find clear, accessible information about the victims…”

So she decided to do something about that, to document and draw attention to the murders of Black women and girls. Quoting the Post story:

By the last week of December, she had gathered information on 1,472 Black women and girls whose lives ended violently and too soon. That number was an increase from the year before, which was an increase from the year before that.

In September, the FBI released data that showed that about four Black women and girls were killed per day in 2020.

But she’s not just documenting. She’s taking action.

What can you do to support her?

Glad you asked!

Ms. Page has compiled a LinkTree that includes items like:

  • Resources for contacting your state and local elected officials to advocate
  • Links to the social media accounts she maintains so you can follow and signal boost
  • Links to media related to her work in this area

She is also planning a national march in Washington, DC for later this year, and she is running a Go Fund Me to help with that. Two things to note: she takes NO money for the research work she does. That’s a labor of love and concern for Black women. Two, her financial goal is relatively modest and relatively close to being met. Can we push her over the top?

And, of course, if you’re able, plan to travel to DC to participate when the date of the march is announced.

Image from the Black Femicide Twitter account, which you need to follow ASAP

Like what you read? Follow me on Twitter @MrsWhatsit1.

Measure Your Life In Love

I was recently chatting with some friends who’ve been – slowly – working their way through the AFI Top 100 films, and we got on the topic of works of art that do/don’t hold up over time (turns out, a LOT of “classic” old movies are SUPER sexist and/or SUPER racist).

That got me thinking about Jonathan Larson’s Rent, the film version of which has been back on TV lately (likely because Tick…Tick…BOOM was just released).

For lots of younger people, Rent does not, in fact, hold up. Being HIV positive is no longer a death sentence. Being LGBTQ no longer carries the kind of stigma it did in the 1980s (really, although there are still miles to go, the progress that’s been made in 30-ish years is remarkable). We’re – slowly – coming to understand drug addiction as a mental health and public health issue, not a criminal issue, and starting to take steps towards concentrating on harm reduction and treatment rather than punishment.

But for those of us who were teens/20s in the 1980s, I think it does. Back then, NYC wasn’t a gentrified playground for the ultra-rich – it was still awfully close to the NYC of “Ford to NYC – Drop Dead” and The Get Down. Being HIV positive was a short trip to contracting AIDS, and AIDS was absolutely a death sentence. And the epidemic decimated many communities, particularly artistic communities.

So when I first saw Rent shortly after it opened, it hit me like a ton of bricks. The songs have stayed with me – I can still sing most of them independently and sing *along with* all of them. All the Roger and Mimi (and Joanne and Maureen) drama aside, the quiet beauty of Angel and Collins’s relationship still brings me to tears, as do the scenes with the Life Support group and, particularly, Collins’s reprise of “I’ll Cover You” at Angel’s funeral.

I have a few phrases that have stuck with me as, sort-of, life mottoes. One is tattooed on my arm: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” One was in my high school senior yearbook: “We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of the dreams.”

And one is: “Measure your life in love.”

Because, really, in the final analysis, what else matters?

Christians love to talk about and focus on and judge other people over their purported sins. In that worldview, there’s an all-seeing angry daddy in the sky who’s going to reward ME for being a good little girl/boy, and punish YOU for drinking or dancing or playing cards or going to the movies or cussing or sleeping with the “wrong” person.

And that’s all bullshit.

This world, and the people and other living creatures who inhabit it, is all there is. The true measure of a life is what one does every day to make this world a better place for them. Falling down on that is the only sin that exists.

You have a choice: You can give in to love or you can choose to live in fear. (Hello, MAGA!)

Choosing love is the hardest fucking thing you will ever do. And you will screw it up constantly – trust me, I know.

I try every day. And I fail every day. And every day, I resolve to do better.

Choose love anyway.

Like what you read? Follow me on Twitter @MrsWhatsit1.

Time to Slow Down

Both in the sense of “it is time” and “take some time.”

Hecate’s been writing about this lately, too, but the year-end holidays are always such a conundrum.

Nature – you know, that force many of us Pagan folk try to follow – is saying “rest, reflect, hibernate, hygge.” Nature is saying it is time to slow down.

Meanwhile, external forces are saying “spend, decorate, consume, party!” Which makes it awfully hard to take some time to slow down.

Even our Pagan holy day traditions are a bit contradictory. The longest night is a traditional time to be quiet, to meditate, to do divination, to ask for guidance from your deities, spirits, and ancestors, to sit by the fire and dream. In this season, we also bring greenery and lights into our homes in a time where it’s dark and cold and feast in a time when food has, for the majority of human history, been scarce, all as a form of sympathetic magic to encourage the light to return, the earth to bloom, and the harvest to come in once again.

Meditate AND party. Dream AND sing and dance. Look within AND look without.

It can be difficult to find a balance that works, that feels right.

I love taking Byron’s idea of “pick three” that Hecate applied to the holidays, and I’m taking it a step further to think in terms of both sides of this holiday, the extrovert bit and the introvert bit.

What are your three outward things?

Mine are decorating the house and yard, a Christmas Eve Feast of Seven Fishes with a small group of vaccinated close friends, and a family Zoom.

What are your three inward things?

Mine are taking two entire weeks off of client work, investing some of that time in thinking and planning with regards to year end and year start (both professionally and personally), and my daily practices.

(And yes, I know the header video is a christian religious song, which I generally avoid, but it’s also a *lovely* religious song, and a surprisingly beautiful arrangement from a group one might not normally think of in this context. Happy holidays, y’all!)

Like what you read? Follow me on Twitter @MrsWhatsit1.