Intelligence, problem solving, and Star Trek

I know I wrote something somewhere about this, but for the life of me I have no idea when or where. Some time in the past year, and somewhere on the internet is as narrow as I can figure it. Totally helpful.

Some time ago, a few months I believe, I was speaking with a coworker about movies and TV, and coworker mentioned that he always liked Star Wars better than Star Trek, because Star Trek didn’t have enough action in it. Which is a totally fair assessment, and I completely agree with it. In particular, I’m thinking of Star Trek: The Next Generation, as that is what I grew up on. That is *my* Star Trek. (Picard is a way better captain than Kirk.) Part of the reason I like Star Trek so much, and this is something my father imparted on me early on, was that they were problem-solvers. There wasn’t some big rebellion going on and they weren’t fighting for their lives. They were explorers and diplomats and scientists and thinkers. Picard had roots in the classics, philosophy, archaeology, and had vast scientific knowledge on top of all of that. They didn’t whip out their phasers at the first sign of the unknown. They studied it. They learned from it. And if they were in a tight spot, they used violence as a last resort.

The problem I find is that a lot of people don’t find that entertaining. They don’t want to think, they just want to zone out. That’s why (I think) sit-coms and reality shows and pure dramas are far more popular. If you’re faced with a choice between how a relationship is progressing and whether or not an android has the same rights as a human, well, I think most people end up choosing the former to be entertained for an hour by. It’s the more relatable situation versus the philosophical ideas.

Don’t get me wrong, I like to zone out sometimes, too. I enjoy shows like Grimm and Vikings, or some of the superhero shows like Arrow and The Flash. But I also like Law & Order, Person of Interest, The West Wing, Newsroom, Stargate SG-1, Star Trek… All… slightly technical shows. They aren’t about the people so much as they are about content. (Yes, I realize NONE of these shows are current, except SVU. A pattern, I wonder?) The former shows I listed all have one thing in common: They all have clearly defined Good and Evil. The other ones? Not so much.

And that’s part of the enjoyment I get out of them, because it so much better mirrors real life. We don’t have clearly defined Good and Evil. It’s a constant struggle, and what you think is Good now, may not always have been Good, and may not be Good in the future. It’s important to take a step back and look at the other side.

I don’t think people are capable of doing that very well, as evidenced by some of the discussions I’ve seen and been a part of over the past year, mostly revolving around the presidential election.

I find myself wondering if our entertainment menu is a part of that. What we see on TV and in movies is supposed to mimic real life. But what happens when it doesn’t?

I remember hearing that it was a big deal when the first blacks started appearing on TV shows. And I see that big deal now with homosexual relationships. (Actual experience: A person said to me that he didn’t mind if people were gay, but it seemed like every show had to have a gay couple, and that was ridiculous! No, not really, I think to myself, but I don’t really want to have that argument with that person.) Our society is not all white, so to have a show that consists of nothing but white actors is not representative. Same thing for sexuality.

This isn’t a situation that will ever fix itself on its own. Producers are going to make shows that bring in cash, and simple shows are what sells. They aren’t going to make shows that get low ratings, because the networks won’t buy them. Writers can have all the ideas in the world, but if other people don’t find them interesting, what does it matter?

My only suggestion is this: That the writers keep on writing, and trying to get their ideas out there. Because there will be some good ones, some that will get picked up by some fluke, and we can continue to inspire at least some of the new generations to think critically.

Music: Mumford & Sons – Babel

I realized while I was in the shower that I promised a month ago when I started that I would probably have some music content on here, and that I hadn’t delivered on that promise at all. So I’m here to remedy that!

I’m a few years late to the game here, but I recently discovered how totally awesome the group Mumford & Sons is. I knew of them, I’ve heard the name plenty of times before, years ago when they first became big, but I avoided them. Why? The truth is… I have an ex-something with the last name of Mumford, and it felt weird to listen to a band named after him. No relation, I’m sure, but sometimes my brain makes associations that are really hard to reverse.

Anyway. Moving on. So I was in the car, on my way to work, and the radio DJ played the title track off Mumford & Son’s second studio album, Babel. And it just clicked in a way that I Will Wait never did. I think it’s the bridge, that’s usually what gets me. Don’t get me wrong, I Will Wait is a great song, I like it, it just doesn’t grab me.

So I got to work, found the album Babel on Spotify, and set to listening.

Now sometimes, a lot of the time really, I’ll hear a song on the radio, think it’s awesome, go look up the band, and be kinda disappointed by what I find. Their “radio song” is literally their best song. Don’t worry, this is NOT the case here. 🙂

I get half way through the album, loving Holland Road, Ghosts That We Know, and Lover of the Light all along the way.

But then, this plays.

Hopeless Wanderer

Lyrics:

You heard my voice I came out of the woods by choice
Shelter also gave their shade
But in the dark I have no name

So leave that click in my head
And I will remember the words that you said
Left a clouded mind and a heavy heart
But I was sure we could see a new start

So when your hope’s on fire
But you know your desire
Don’t hold a glass over the flame
Don’t let your heart grow cold
I will call you by name
I will share your road

But hold me fast, Hold me fast
‘Cause I’m a hopeless wanderer
And hold me fast, Hold me fast
‘Cause I’m a hopeless wanderer

I wrestled long with my youth
We tried so hard to live in the truth
But do not tell me all is fine
When I lose my head, I lose my spine

So leave that click in my head
And I won’t remember the words that you said
You brought me out from the cold
Now, how I long, how I long to grow old

So when your hope’s on fire
But you know your desire
Don’t hold a glass over the flame
Don’t let your heart grow cold
I will call you by name
I will share your road

But hold me fast, Hold me fast
‘Cause I’m a hopeless wanderer
And hold me fast, Hold me fast
‘Cause I’m a hopeless wanderer
I will learn, I will learn to love the skies I’m under
I will learn, I will learn to love the skies I’m under
The skies I’m under

 

Followed by this.

Broken Crown

Lyrics:

Touch my mouth and hold my tongue
I’ll never be your chosen one
I’ll be home safe and tucked away
Well You can’t tempt me if I don’t see the day

The pull on my flesh was just too strong
Stifled the choice and the air in my lungs
Better not to breathe than to breathe a lie
‘Cause when I opened my body I breathe in a lie

I will not speak of your sin
There was a way out for Him
The mirror shows not
Your values are all shot

But oh my heart, was flawed I knew my weakness
So hold my hand consign me not to darkness

So crawl on my belly ’til the sun goes down
I’ll never wear your broken crown
I took the road and I fucked it all away
Now in this twilight, how dare you speak of grace

So crawl on my belly ’til the sun goes down
I’ll never wear your broken crown
I took the road and I fucked it all away
Now in this twilight, how dare you speak of grace

So crawl on my belly ’til the sun goes down
I’ll never wear your broken crown
I can take the road and I can fuck it all away
But in this twilight, our choices seal our fate

 

And these two songs just sealed my fate and I fell in love with this album. A beautiful combination of lyrics, unique instrumentation, and a variety of melody throughout pretty much all their songs (instrumental and vocal) keep me interested for the duration of the album, and keep me coming back again.

5/5 stars, highly recommended. Will headbang to banjo.

Apologies, Giving and Accepting

I had two people apologize to me this week. A coworker and my husband. (No, not at all related.) And they both got me thinking about a few things. I’ll only going into the one from my coworker here, as this is lengthier than I thought it would be.

A bit of background. On Wednesday, I was doing one of my daily tasks which was recording the cash receipts from the prior day. One of these items was an internal check, which has to flow through specific accounts for legal reasons. There is one step that is a bit different than all the rest, and that is setting up the receivable for this check, because it has to be set up in a different module in our accounting software. (I know this is technical, but bear with me.)

For a while, there was a pretty good (undocumented) process in place. This got lost when we had staff changes, so the past four or five months have each been a little bit different: in the timing, who records what pieces, who initiates what pieces, etc.

Because of this inconsistency, I asked my manager, W, if there was any way we could better automate any of these pieces. Yes, there was a bit of irritation behind this, because I don’t feel I should have to keep track of [x] steps in the process, but I end up doing it anyway. But this is a schedule monthly transfer. It doesn’t NOT happen. And if for whatever freak reason it doesn’t, well it sounds easier to me to back out one charge than to manually record one per month for… a lot of months. So W ended up calling my coworker L over, as L is usually the one who records this charge. W asked about why it’s recorded the way it is, if there’s any benefit to it, or because of the manual tracking we do if it’s a moot point. Well… L went on a bit of a tirade. And I mean that in the nicest sense of the word, because L is a very calm and unruffleable individual. Literally, tirade here just means a slightly raised voice and some run on sentences. So L had a say, W said thanks, we’ll talk about it and let you know what we decide, and L left. W gave me this look like, “I’m sorry you had to suffer through that.” I’m just sitting here thinking that it’s a perfectly normal reaction to someone who is the victim of certain individuals not bothering to think about perhaps telling people who may be involved that things are changing. ‘Cause that’s happened to me, and I totally get it. I’d be pissed, too. As evidenced by my bringing this up in the first place…

Well W and I finish our discussion, and it’s about the end of the day, so we both go home.

Next day, L does not come in, is not feeling well.

Next day, L comes in. About half an hour goes by, and L comes up to me. L apologizes for the tone and manner of discussion the other day, that it wasn’t right, and it shouldn’t have happened. I say not to worry about it, it’s not a big deal. L says that it is a big deal, it shouldn’t have happened at all. L goes on to explain some of the things that are going on right now (medical issues) and how it’s affected a wide variety of daily tasks. I say that I understand, everyone has a bad day, but thank you for saying something, I do appreciate it.

Because… I really didn’t know what else to say. I mean, it really wasn’t a big deal. I wasn’t offended by anything that was said. I didn’t think anything was directed at me. I didn’t think that there was any anger or malice in what L said. I really thought it was just someone blowing off some steam, which I know I do but I also encourage it in others. I have a very good understanding of ranting and just needing to get things OUT. And I think it is a very healthy and necessary thing to do.

But maybe it isn’t? Maybe it isn’t something that is commonplace. Or maybe it’s not commonplace in the manner it took place in. W and I have a very good work relationship because we are very similar people, at least in a working environment. We also have similar personalities, in how we react to various situations, what we read into things, how we feel about job roles and duties. So if I were to have the same conversation with W that L had with us, I would not feel the need to apologize, W would not expect it, and I would feel the same way if our roles were reversed. I guess it’s one thing to rant to your friends and family about your coworkers and another to rant about your coworkers to… your other coworkers.

Either way, the situation left me with a couple of questions.

First, how DOES one accept an apology, especially one that is not needed or expected? I worry about making the other person feel uncomfortable, I want to acknowledge what they’re saying, but I kind of want to help them understand my side. Or should I not?

Second, since my view is apparently skewed, how many times should *I* have apologized and I didn’t? And how do I fix this for the future?

The Ending of The West Wing

It only took about three months, but I watched all seven seasons of The West Wing. Minus a couple scenes, ’cause the DVDs from the library were sometimes scratched.

Overall, I really enjoyed the series. Much like Newsroom, it is a fast-paced intelligent show that you have to really pay attention to in order to get everything, and there’s probably a bunch of stuff I’d pick up on a re-watch that I missed. It didn’t focus so much on specific events as it did broad, general concepts. Issues that are contentious today. I was actually surprised about a few of the issues that came up, and I have to wonder if some of these things were really issues 10 years ago and I just wasn’t aware of them, or if Sorkin was eerily predicting the future. Either way, there are a lot of things that come up either in an episode or a longer story-arc that are relevant today.

I do find that I enjoyed seasons 1-4 much more than I did 6 and 7. Five is somewhere in the middle. And it’s not just because Rob Lowe left the show! Although that is part of it.

Sam Seaborn was a wonderful character, and I loved it when he had discussions or arguments, particularly with Toby Ziegler. I love that he stood up for Ainsley Hayes when she first started working for the White House. I love how he argued with Mallory about vouchers (even though he wrote an opposition piece). And I also really loved that he was easily the most awkward and nerdy of the bunch, and that was just how he was. When he came back for a couple episodes in season 7, at first I was super excited to see him! But his character felt so stiff, and it almost seemed like there was disdain in his voice and mannerisms, like Lowe didn’t really want to be back in that character. Maybe that’s how it was meant to be played, but I dunno, it just didn’t feel right to me.

Toby Ziegler was definitely my second favorite character on the show. He argued his points with such passion, and wouldn’t yield until you argued your points with equal passion. He was devoted to his writing, and while this may have been a romanticization of speech-writing in the White House, I loved it and thought it was beautiful. I also did like his final story-arc, about leaking classified information to the public regarding a government space program. I thought everything throughout that arc was a very Toby thing to do. Leaking the information, admitting to it, refusing to lay blame on his brother… It all showed such a sense of loyalty and commitment. “This is the right thing to do, and I will do it well.”

My favorite character by far was CJ Cregg. She is who I want to be when I grow up. As Press Secretary, she had to be extraordinarily aware of what she said during briefings, and how she said it. She had to be the very definition of composed, which is something I admire. When the press threw things at her that she hadn’t been briefed on or had little to no knowledge of, she was damn near unshakable. But at the same time, we saw the emotional side of her, when stories about animal migratory patterns and women oppressed in Middle East countries touched her and infuriated her into action. When she moved up to Chief of Staff, she found herself struggling to keep up, but she learned to embrace the insanity and live within the chaos.

The real reasons seasons 6 and 7 are ranked at the bottom of the list are few, but complex. First off, the cast changes. I get it, actors want to move on and don’t want to be stuck in a role that forever defines them. But when a show brings in and moves out too many characters and there are too many shifts, it loses a cohesiveness that I think is central to a successful show. This happens to a lot of shows, so I get it. Second off, while following Santos and Vinnick on the campaign trail was interesting, and I did really like the debate episode, it just wasn’t what the series was originally about. The show was focused on national issues, policy issues, economic legislation and foreign relationships. Switching to the campaign trail… they ditched a lot of that and it was more people-oriented than content-oriented, if that makes sense. Not terrible, and I obviously don’t mind character-building, but if I wanted to watch a show that focused on characters’ relationships with each other, I’d watch a soap opera. I want content, I want meat, I want to be made to think. Third, the whole Santos rise to the top. When Josh first met him, he was going to retire from Congress because he wanted to spend more time with his family. How exactly does a man go from wanting to spend more time at home, to wanting to be President? So that’s kind of a weird change of mind to begin with. And Santos was a virtual nobody. I guess the whole “underdog” trope is a great cliche to use, but sometimes it is totally unrealistic.

All in all, I did love the series, and I would definitely watch it again. But only if I owned it. So, hey, mark that down as a future Christmas or birthday present idea!

Formal Wear, or Sexism in Fashion

A few of my friends on Facebook are recently engaged, and thus heavily entrenched in planning their weddings. This started me on a train of thought, thinking back to my own wedding, and prom, and homecoming… All those occasions where I had to purchase an expensive dress!

Guys really have it easy. For any of these occasions, all they have to do is walk into just about any mall in the US, find the Tuxedo Junction store, and rent a suit or a tux. Pick a color, a cut, and maybe some shoes, and they’re all set.

Meanwhile, girls have any number of stores they can visit, all with a wide selection of dresses or gowns, with about a zillion different styles and cuts and various accessories. Just to focus on wedding dresses, you can get any number of necklines, waists, lengths, and hems, on top of fabrics and designs (beadwork, lace, etc.) and colors. Not to mention the train and shoes and veil and jewelry (and hairstyle and makeup and flowers…) But all of these things have to be *bought*.

Where is the option to rent a wedding dress?

Or where is the option to rent an evening gown, for that fancy holiday party you got invited to? Or the opera you want to attend?

Why are women expected to shell out hundreds of dollars for something that will be worn once at the worst and a handful of times at best (because of course you will be scorned if you wear the same thing two times in a row)?

Men can wear the same tux over and over again, and that is expected. Even if they buy it, that’s a few hundred to a thousand dollars for something they can wear again and again and again. (As long as it still fits!)

Yet I remember in high school, girls never wore the same dress two events in a row.

When I Google “cost of a tuxedo,” most of the hits on the first page are cost of renting a tux. When I Google “cost of a wedding dress,” the hits are all to big name stores where you buy your dress, and some articles on how to save money when planning your wedding.

Why must women spend so much more on clothes? Why is it expected of us?

***

The last time my husband went clothes shopping, he was in and out of the store in less than half an hour, and he bought a some plain t-shirts, all the same style and all black, and a few polos, all the same style in different colors, and a few pairs of pants, all the same style and all the same color.

The last time I went clothes shopping, it took me half an hour before I found something I even wanted to try on to see if it would fit, and I unfortunately ended up with more pastels than I wanted.

Next time I go clothes shopping, I’m going to find the boys’ section and just buy a bunch of black polos, and hope they accommodate my figure. (Which is not the least bit shaped like a male figure, but hey, maybe it’ll work…) I’m also going to try to remember to buy more than one pair of pants if I find a style that actually fits me. And pockets! I would love to have pockets in my dress pants that are functional.

Which brings me to shoes.

I like shoes. I think they’re fun to look at, and it’s fun to wear different shoes to go with different outfits. Unfortunately, due to my left ankle, wearing heels all day is not an option, let alone wearing them every day. So I am left with flats. Which are either ugly and comfortable, or cute and uncomfortable. I own one pair of “work” shoes, plain black flats that live at the office that have a nice wide toe-box, and a pair of black Doc Martens that also frequently get worn to work, but are worn many other places as well.

But here again, all men have to do is pick a style, of which many are similar, and color, and off they go. They’re always expected to wear pants (vs. skirts or dresses) and therefore can literally wear the same pair of shoes with everything.

***

One of the things I miss about my previous job is the dress code, mainly that there was no dress code, or at least a very lax one. Jeans, slacks, t-shirt, blouse, sneakers, sandals, heels… it’s all good. The only things that were disallowed were sweat pants and “revealing” clothing. (The warehouse did have a stricter dress code for safety reasons, but that was strictly for safety compliance.)

My current job mandates business casual, although they are somewhat relaxed in their definition. I get away with wearing plain t-shirts and slacks and dress shoes, and guys can wear polos and slacks and dress shoes. But tell me truthfully: Will I be less able to enter invoices and write up journal entries if I wear jeans and Chucks? Of course not. Just like the sales people will still know their product inside and out no matter what they wear. There is no reason to be taken less seriously based upon how you dress.

But I am still required to go out and buy shirts that don’t fit, and struggle to find something that doesn’t look horrendous, and pay an arm and a leg for it (and get looked at funny if I buy two of the same and wear them two days in a row), yet guys can go out and grab a stack of button-down shirts off the shelf, know they will fit, and nobody will question you if you wear the blue one two days in a row.

The clothing industry is a giant scam.

What’s in a name?

I remember going to elementary school with kids named Sarah and Helen and Margaret and Megan. I remember going to middle and high school with kids named Renae and Neemah and Kendra and Kayleigh. And I remember going to college with kids named Dallis and Christian and Rayshawn and Johannes and Mitsuko and a host of others. (Heck, I met the first guy I knew named Kelly there.)

The larger my bubble-view of the world grew, the more names it began to encompass. The more differences I saw between people. The greater variety of just about everything that makes us human. And I didn’t even go on any great travel adventures to find these people. I went to college less than an hour away from where I grew up.

I’ve always been a bit sensitive about names, pronunciation and spelling. This is most likely because growing up, people could never spell my name right. Heck, kids had an easier time spelling my name than adults did. My name starts with a “C.” As I have found out, this is rare. The more common version of my name starts with a “K.” (I would also like to add here that my mother has a non-traditional spelling of her first name, and my father has a non-traditional spelling of his middle name. Also, he gets called “junior” a lot, which is not true. So maybe it’s a family thing.) Thankfully, as of the past probably 5-10 years, I have found more people asking me, “Does your name start with a C or a K?” Which I find very nice that they are taking the time to spell my name properly. Most people did not do that when I was still a kid, a minor. So because of this history, and because knowing how shitty it is when someone can’t spell your name correctly, I always try to pay attention to how names are spelled.

And yet for every time someone else thanks me for spelling their name right, and I think to myself, “Well of course I’m going to be considerate! What a silly thing to thank me for.” Someone else does something stupid and can’t spell my name. No, actually it’s more like for every one time someone thanks me, someone fucks up my name three times.

If you’ve never seen my name and only heard it, and are writing it down for the first time with a pen on paper, ok, I’ll give you that one. Or if you’re mentioning me in an email and not including me on said email, ok, you get that one, too. But when you are replying to an email I sent, that has my name in my signature, and my email address is MY NAME @ COMPANY DOT COM, and you STILL can’t spell my name correctly, I just assume you’re an idiot and I think less of you. The information is literally right in front of you, and you can’t be bothered to read it. I don’t care if you have never had a conversation with me because you’ve worked here for two days. It is right. fucking. there.

This is of course much worse if we’ve worked together for more than a few months and had plenty of contact in those months. Now you don’t seem like an idiot, you just seem completely disrespectful. You don’t respect me enough to pay attention to a defining detail about who I am. Do you just not care? Or do you have so little respect for me you find it gratifying to show contempt for me?

So… do other people really not get it? Do people who have traditional names with traditional spellings not understand how frustrating it is for others to misspell their name? If your name is Sarah, do you not understand the plight of the Saras? If you’re a Megan, do you know what the Meghan’s feel?

I’m not going to ask if I’m alone in feeling like this, because I know there are other’s out there who experience the same issues that I do. But I do wonder, on a larger scale, how other people feel about this. I know I started off by talking about how much bigger my world is now than when I was a kid and a teenager, but I know it’s still very small compared to some, and can always be expanded.

My question to you is this: How important is it that other people spell your name correctly, and why is it important to you?

Fake news

I tried to write something about this previously, but I didn’t have a fully fleshed-out idea of where I wanted it to go, but now I do. So, here it goes.

The past six months or so have seen a rise in popularity of the usage of the term “fake news.” So what IS fake news?

This is the core problem I’m finding, is that there doesn’t seem to be a well-understood and universal definition for the term fake news. Wikipedia opens their article with “Fake news websites (also referred to as hoax news) deliberately publish hoaxes, propaganda, and disinformation — using social media to drive web traffic and amplify their effect.” Actually, they preface their article with, “This article is about intentionally fraudulent websites. For satirical websites, see News satire.” They specifically distinguish fake or hoax news from satire.

I understand this distinction. I hope you understand this distinction.

But I’m afraid that a lot of other people don’t, or just don’t care. Paraphrasing from my Facebook post, I think people are simply content to have an easy pedestal to stand on and call “faaaaake” whenever they see something they disagree with, or worse, is just unsubstantiated.

There is a HUGE difference between claiming something as outright fact, and putting a disclaimer on it saying that it hasn’t been verified. The first is intentionally misleading. The second is putting your neck on the line.

This goes along with the ability to research and vet a claim. In the scientific community, papers are not published (or should not be, but that’s another discussion) without research being done and evidence being presented. But you know what? It is absolutely acceptable to state a hypothesis, conduct your research, and find that the evidence doesn’t prove or disproves your hypothesis. And that is still note-worthy. That is absolutely important information to have. It is still something you can learn from.

This is the core difference between real news and fake news.

Real news by real journalists has gone through the vetting process. They found their sources, they found the facts, and now they are presenting them to you.

Fake news by who knows, maybe the basement-dwelling troll, is just a bunch of loose ends and snippets of lengthier ideas taken out of context. Or worse, an op-ed piece written on the back of a Cheetos-stained napkin. (Yes, I’m playing up the stereotype a bit, chill.)

The President Elect held a press-conference yesterday, his first in over half a year, and one of the most bothersome moments out of the entire thing (of which there were many) was him calling out Jim Acosta of CNN, and pointedly NOT taking a question from him.

TRUMP: You are fake news.

CNN is NOT fake news. CNN is a long-standing news organization that revolutionized the news industry. That’s not to say they haven’t had their ups and downs, but they do not write intentionally inflammatory pieces riddled with hoaxes and disinformation. Regarding the article in question, they specifically say, “At this point, CNN is not reporting on details of the memos, as it has not independently corroborated the specific allegations.” That is in fact the complete OPPOSITE of what a fake news website would say.

This is dangerous territory. This is legitimizing people who want to call out things they don’t agree with as being fake. This is legitimizing that opinions are more important than facts.

This is setting a precedent that a powerful man can simply say whatever pops into his head, and that it is taken at face-value.

This cannot be allowed to continue.

CNN may have a bias. CNN journalists may have their favorite sources they turn to, and may not expressly report on all sides of an issue. But they have a sworn duty to report the facts and the truth.

One of my favorite TV shows is another Sorkin show, Newsroom. The story arc for season 2 is whether or not they produced a fraudulent show (on Operation Genoa) (aside: I remember really wanting salami the entire time I was watching this arc), and how to deal with fall-out of it. The message of this arc is yes, it is a goddamn travesty if journalists report things that are not true. It is about the worst thing a journalist can do.

Journalists are the fourth estate. It is their job, their duty, to report to us without governmental influence the news. The government cannot hide behind closed doors and only let out what they think the public should know. This is why the First Amendment is so important. As a “government by the people” the people have the right to know what they are doing, and the press is how we know. They can navigate the inner-workings of the White House and Capitol Hill far better than the average American, and they can translate the legal language.

So we trust them to tell us the truth.

What happens when it is normal not to trust them?

What happens when the ones who report unpopular items have their access revoked?

What happens when the boy cries wolf too many times?

What happens when the wolf eats the boy, and we are left in the dark?

New Nerd Aspect Appears

Today’s post will be brief, but I just wanted to keep track of a realization I had today.

Previously, I posted about an episode of The West Wing. I’m almost through season 6 now, I’ll probably be finished by the end of the month. Anyway, I started watching TWW sometime in October. And I think the combination of my age, plus watching TWW, plus the presidential election this year, has brought this new aspect of nerdiness to light.

I’ve always paid a little bit of attention to political news. By always, I mean since I really started following the news, so maybe the past 6 or 7 years. Even before that, politics was interesting to me. I did Student Senate for a year in college, and the only reason I stopped was because I was too busy trying to graduate on time. I desperately wanted to take AP Gov’t in high school, but it conflicted with AP English, and AP English ultimately won.

But never, until 2016, have I really been interested in a US election.

Never, until 2016, have I watched a presidential debate.

And never, until 2017, did I ever think I would be interested in paying attention to a confirmation hearing.

But today, I remembered the confirmation hearing for Jeff Sessions as atty gen was scheduled, and I didn’t even think twice. I found that the NYT was live-streaming and commenting on the hearing, so I had that up for most of the work day, and listened to it when I could. I didn’t think this was at all weird, until a coworker came up while my browser window was on top, and said, “Ooo, ‘Live Analysis’? That sounds exciting! … Wait…”

So thank you to Aaron Sorkin, and the cast and crew of The West Wing. You’ve all coaxed a new facet of nerd out from hiding.

First Thoughts / Review, The Heart of What Was Lost by Tad Williams

***WARNING: SPOILERS***

(Mostly for MS&T.)

Just released last week, and just finished this weekend, was a new novella by one of my all-time favorite authors, Tad Williams, called The Heart of What Was Lost, published by DAW Books.

I gave it a bit of time to sink in and digest it a bit before writing this, but I don’t want to wait too long and forget some important feelings.

THoWWL is a short story-turned-novella that works as a bridge between where we left off at the end of To Green Angel Tower, the third installment of his series, Memory, Sorrow & Thorn, and the first book, The Witchwood Crown, in his follow-up series, The Last King of Osten Ard. In actuality, it takes place almost immediately after TGAT, and there is a gap of about 30 years before TWC will begin. It follows the beloved Rimmersman Duke Isgrimnur and his chasing of the Norns back to Nakkiga. But it also follows the Norns during their retreat and siege within the mountain. While old fans are familiar with the shifting point-of-views, seeing things from the eye of the enemy is something new.

The first thing of note is that this is the *tiniest* Tad Williams book I’ve ever seen. It’s so cute. But what do you expect out of a short story that felt the need to be a novella, when you’re used to reading behemoths of 700+ pages? A quick 200 pages is nothing! But don’t worry: it’s small size does not mean it lacks in content!

The second thing of note is that Michael Whelan is back doing the cover art! He did the covers for the first trilogy, MS&T, back when it was first released, and he has done new covers for their re-release here at the end of 2016. So for those of you just starting your journey in Osten Ard, you have the opportunity to have a lovely matching set! (I’m kinda jealous of y’all.)

We meet a plethora of characters throughout the entire first half of the book. There are some familiar faces, like Duke Isgrimnur and Sludig and Utuk’ku (kind of), but there are many new ones, most of which are Norns. There is a helpful index at the end, so when you forget who someone is, you don’t have to rifle through the book to find where they were last mentioned.

The core plot is simple: Men are feeling bloodlust-y and vengeance-y towards the Norns after the havoc the Storm King wreaked across the land, so even though the leader of sorts is really dead this time, they are unwilling to let any accomplices survive. They pursue the Norns across Rimmersgard and into the Nornfells, back to Nakkiga where they have lived for the past 500 years.

What makes this book really interesting and provokes more questions than it answers is the point of view shifts to the Norns. We see a cult-like attitude in their culture: Almost everybody has the same general thoughts and frequently blindly obey their leaders. This is perhaps not that unusual, as we learn that there are only a few thousand, if that, Norns left in all of Osten Ard. But like any large group, there are some dissidents, and these are of course the characters that we aren’t sure if we love them or hate them, and we still aren’t sure at the end of the book how to truly feel about the Norns as a whole.

There is one relationship I would like to speak on in particular, and that is the relationship between the two Norns Yaarike and Viyeki. Yaarki is the High Magister of the Order of Builders, and Viyeki is one of his Host Foremen. Viyeki is much younger than Yaarike, and although they have known each other for years, they still very much have a mentor / pupil relationship. Yaarike has the utmost faith in Viyeki’s abilities and talents, and frequently pushes him outside his comfort zone and challenges him to figure out solutions on his own. We see VIyeki struggle with how he feels about his place, complete with self-doubt and uneasiness about his future. Their story seems very much like what Simon and Morgenes’ would have been like, had none of MS&T happened (or perhaps if Morgenes had been able to escape with Simon and lived). It’s probably my favorite character-building of the whole book.

As I stated earlier, this is (un)fortunately a story that leaves us wanting more. What will ultimately happen to the Norns? What will their role be in TLKoOA? What will the Sithi’s role be? And how will the race of men recover from these traumatic events, and their unsatisfactory ending?

It was wonderful to be back in Osten Ard again, and I can’t wait to read what happens next.

Reading people

I struggle with a lot of things, as I think most people do. Most of it ends up being short little “deal with it and move on” snippets out of the day and not anything I think about once it is over and done with. Being an introvert as well as a shy person (yes, these are different, as I’ve learned) a lot of my struggles have to do with how I interact with other people, and how I value myself.

A lot of my interactions with other people fall into this broad category, one I can only describe as “work up the courage to go do it, muddle through it, be slightly embarrassed, be glad it’s over with, learn how next time it can be different/better.”

Let me give you an example of this, maybe it’ll make more sense. I hate making phone calls. Hate it. I love talking to my friends, them I’ll talk with on the phone all day and all night. Ask me to order a pizza? Umm can I place that order online?? Call the doctor’s office? Call the frikkin’ mechanic to make an appointment to get my car looked at? Egads, no, none of these things. Bleh. As an A/P clerk, my first year at my job, I got put on the task of helping out with 1099s. What does this mean? Well… this means I get to go through this *massively* long report, and all the vendors that are set up that don’t have a valid tax ID number filled in the appropriate field, I need to call and request a W-9 from them. So we can fill in that field and, if applicable, send them a 1099 at the end of January. This was such a horrible special project. I was terrified. I dreaded it. I did everything I could to NOT call these people. Email, websites, checking invoices, checking the insurance files, literally anything I could think of. But ultimately I realized that there was no avoiding it: I was going to HAVE to make some phone calls. So what did I do? Made a couple phone calls, realized I was bad at being put on the spot, wrote up a little “script” in Word, and followed that for subsequent phone calls. So you see? Work up the courage to make the phone call, push through it even though it’s embarrassing because I get flustered, hang up, figure out what the people picking up the phone need to know and what they’re going to ask, and be prepared for these questions preemptively for my next phone call.

Of course, not everything falls into this category, however wordy it may be. There’s a lot of face to face interactions I have problems with as well. I get scared or nervous to ask questions because I don’t want to look dumb, I feel like I should already know certain stuff. The dreaded small talk at the copier or in the break room. Having to tell somebody they did something wrong and how to fix it. Telling somebody that you have something that needs to be finished, but you can’t finish it until they get off their butt and do their job. Learning how to explain accounting things to not accounting people. (Seriously, this one is hard and there are some times I get back up before going into these conversations, because other people have more experience with this than I do.)

And then there’s this other one, that crosses all these lines, and plays a little bit in pretty much every single conversation with another person. How do I interpret what they said to me or how they acted towards me? I’m a bit sensitive to this I think because of something that happened to me, also during my first year at this job…

I was making a phone call regarding an invoice, and the phone was ringing, nobody had picked up yet. A coworker, who I will call D, comes up and starts talking. No warning, no “hi, got a sec?”, no looking if I was busy, just starts right in. So, because I’m already in the middle of something, I say, “Just a minute!” and gesture at my phone. D then walks away, phone gets answered, blah blah, problem gets fixed, and I’m done. Yay! At this point, I figured that if D needed something, D would stop back in 5 or 10 minutes. Yeah, I could’ve gone over, but hello, introvert. So I go about my business. Some indeterminate amount of time later, I realize D had never come back over. Oh well, must not have been that important!

MONTHS go by. I get called into HR’s office. Uh oh. Turns out another coworker, B, had some serious issues with me and couldn’t talk to me about it, and didn’t like our immediate manager, so B decided to go to HR instead. Anyway, so we have this pow-wow, everything gets out in the open, yeah I was at fault for some things, but B was upset over things that were not issues and was told so, that I wasn’t actually subordinate to B like B thought I was. So that happens. Blah blah. I have a bi-weekly meeting with my immediate manager just to check in, make sure nothing’s hanging out there that needs to be taken care of. In one of the follow-up meetings shortly after this HR pow-wow, manager asks how things are going with myself and B, and then manager brings up this incident with D. And was told that I handled it badly, that D thought I was being rude. I tried to explain my side, but was basically told I was wrong, it didn’t matter that D was being rude by just starting to talk at me without paying any attention to what I may possibly have been in the middle of.

Ok, great. So now I’m all paranoid about pretty much every interaction I have with D, to this day. Luckily it’s not a ton, but it still happens.

And one happened today, which is why I’m so freaked out about this and thinking about it!

So I’m… doing something… I don’t remember… Not on the phone, though! And D comes over and asks, well first D just kind of shoves this paper at me, and then asks, “Is that an 8?” pointing at a number on a voucher that I had written out by hand. I stare at it. The number is on top of the tail of the “y” on the line above it. I’m trying to remember writing it out, but I don’t remember for sure if it was an 8 or something else. But looking at the context, I don’t think so, I’m pretty sure it was a 3. So I say that, I say, “Hmm, I’m not sure, I’m pretty sure it’s a 3 and not an 8. You could always look up this invoice,” as I gesture to the invoice number and vendor also written on the voucher, “and see what it was originally coded to.” And without a word, D turns around and walks away.

Now there’s a couple things running through my mind. Did I say this in a condescending manner on accident and D was offended by that? Like, was it in my *tone*? Because, I don’t think telling someone that they could look up the invoice themselves is condescending. But maybe D thought that! How dare I suggest that D look up an invoice! Heaven forbid D has to do a bit of extra work! (I actually just had a similar conversation with my manager yesterday…) But wait. Maybe I just answered D’s question, and D didn’t feel the need to say, “ok thanks”. Maybe D was just fine with walking away, and didn’t think my answer needed to be verbally acknowledged. Which is cool, I don’t care. I mean, I do a little, but not enough for that to not be something I just brush off two seconds later.

I really hope I’m just over-exaggerating the situation and that it really isn’t a big deal. I don’t want to have another one of those conversations again. Although if I do, this time will be different. Because I will stand my ground, and call D out for being rude, too. I hope. I really want to, if I ever find myself in that situation. I hope I wouldn’t chicken out…