Monday, April 24, 2017

March for Science

I saw a lot of brilliant, creative signs at the march,
but this one succinctly summed up my own feelings.

On Saturday, I attended the March for Science in Washington D.C. This march was intended for scientists, but also "science enthusiasts." I'm an analyst which is similar to a scientist, only we work with data and not the natural world. Anyway, it's not like you had to show your science cred to participate, although it was clear that many, many people at the march were genuine scientists.

Originally, three of my children were going to go with me, but for various reasons, had to cancel. That was OK because I had plans to meet with a friend who was traveling down to the march from Pennsylvania. Brigid made this fantastic sign for me out of an old shower curtain. "Mama" = Mother Earth.

I rode up on a bus full of other marchers and when we arrived and parked at RFK Stadium, I set off alone on the three and a half mile walk to the Washington Monument. It was a nice walk and, as at the Women's March, many of the houses along the way had pro-immigration, anti-racist, and anti-Trump signs displayed in their yards or windows. Trump seems to be deeply unpopular in Washington. 

One of the signs I liked - Approaching the security checkpoint.

The crowd swelled as I approached the monument and we were all funneled through a security checkpoint for a bag search. Once through security, the crowd was very tightly packed, and it had started to rain. I draped my handy waterproof banner over my back like a cloak, and it did a good job of keeping me dry, but people kept stepping on it, and the wetter it got, the harder it was to hold around myself. Then I realized that the ink was running off and my fingernails were black, so I reluctantly folded it up and carried it in one hand. 

Selfie with Shower Curtain

It was, I have to admit, intensely uncomfortable. The rain was lashing down now and it was cold and muddy, with medieval-grade filth in a wide margin all around the portapotties. (Which were, I was pleased to note, "Don's Johns" - the same used at the inauguration and about which Trump insisted that the word Don be covered up.) I stood on a manhole cover - a tiny island in the mud, while my friend and I kept missing eachother's texts and my brain began another weary round of depression thoughts. What a stupid and useless person I must be, not to be able to manage a shower curtain and an iphone simultaneously in the pouring rain. 

We cared enough to brave these muddy conditions

Rain lashing down. Mine wasn't the only sign with runny ink.
(Actually, I saw another sign that said, "Now I AM a mad scientist.")

But then my friend Laura and her daughter and their friend found me on my manhole cover island and things were better after that. It was still raining and freezing, but it was nice to be together. The first part of the event was a rally with speeches and music. (I arrived just in time to hear Bill Nye speak!) At 2:00pm, the actual march started, in which we would all walk to the Capitol Building. We were eager to march, if only because moving might help us warm up a bit. The entire rally area was fenced off, with the only exit through the narrow security checkpoint. Luckily, someone realized that this wasn't a good situation and took away some of the fencing and we all poured out into the street. The crowd was so dense, that after the initial surge, we stood at a standstill for quite a long time. The rain cleared for a bit, but then started again.

Here are a few pictures I took - the conditions for photography were terrible.

Crowd density during the march

Above is my friend Laura's daughter's sign. It perfectly captures what I wish politicians would understand. Climate change trumps everything! If we don't have a planet, we have nothing. Do jerks like Trump really not care that they are destroying life for future generations? Is it really worth it to sacrifice the lives of billions of people so that a tiny few can get rich? This shortsightedness for the sake of instant gratification is truly baffling to me. And, and, let's just say that climate change isn't caused by human behavior? Even if that were true, WHERE IS THE HARM IN REDUCING EMISSIONS AND INVESTING IN GREEN ENERGY? It could be an economic boom, I DON'T understand the resistance to it.

Steminist - very nice

Eventually we started moving and marched our way up to the Capitol, where the march ended. The program suggested that everyone would "peacefully disperse" at the end of the march, which is more or less what happened, although a lot of people stuck around to take pictures. On a tree near the Capitol Reflecting Pool, Laura and I hung a yarnbomb I'd made for the occasion. It was gratifying to step away from the tree and immediately see a group of people notice it and take pictures.

Impeach Trump

Laura took this picture of me at the end of the march.
Nice capture of the random Buffalo Bills poncho! Go Buffalo!

My bus wasn't scheduled to leave Washington until 7:00 PM, so I had three hours to kill. We walked in the general direction of RFK stadium and stopped in a burrito place. I'd eaten nothing since 6:00 am. It was so good to get out of the cold and sit down! The actual air temperature wasn't really all that cold - upper forties or low fifties - but when you are soaking wet from head to toe in fifty degree weather for over five hours, you are very cold indeed. My hands and arms were so cold and wet I was unable to unzip my jacket, could barely pick up a pen to sign the receipt for my meal, and was unable to sign my name but managed a sort of scrawl. But the food was delicious and the warm bowl returned the function to my hands. I dug into my bag for the sweater I'd packed and found it buried under the wet and inky shower curtain I'd stuffed into the bag and carried all over town. Laura's bus left at 5:00, so they said good bye. I found a cozy coffee shop on North Carolina Ave and waited there with a latte until it was time to get my bus.

Despite the rain and discomfort, I'm glad I attended the March for Science. If a march has a good turnout, it sends the message to our elected representatives that the people are serious about this issue. I read here that the estimated attendance at the DC march was 40,000 people. That's a lot of people who were willing to give up their Saturday and endure being cold and wet for the sake of humanity and the sake of our planet. Without science, we are doomed.

Did any of you make it to your local march, or the one in DC? Anyone have plans to attend the Climate March this Saturday? (I'm not, it's a bit much for me to go to DC two weekends in a row, but if there's a sister climate march in Charlottesville, I'll go to it.)

Monday, April 17, 2017

last week

Last week was terrible. So terrible that on Tuesday, when I went upstairs after work to put my things away, and discovered that flying ants were swarming all over the windows in one of the bedrooms, I just shrugged and decided to deal with it later. And then just went about my business, with ants swarming everywhere. And here is the thing: the ant swarm was only the third-worst thing to happen to me that week AND IT WAS ONLY TUESDAY.

On Tuesdays I go to a support group thing, so I went to that and left the ants to themselves. I told my support group about the worst worst thing and I'd meant to mention the ants, sort of as a humorous icebreaker, but I'd completely forgotten about them by that time. And when I got home, most of the ants had gone back to the nest. There were a few stragglers that I sprayed with Raid. I had, at least, remembered to go to Wegmans for ant spray, and also spent a fair amount of time browsing in the kitchen and dining aisles because that's what I do when I'm upset now. It is soothing to peruse kitchen linens in cheerful colors and clever gadgets and lovely unstained cutting boards.

Anyway, this is not my first rodeo with flying ants. Jon and I have lived in a number of sketchy rentals in our time and have had encounters with all kinds of pests. And in this case, the ants haven't reappeared, but I suppose they are lurking - there's no way my halfhearted spraying could have killed them all.  We'll have to hire an exterminator which will be a nuisance. Only now we're about to be at war with North Korea and maybe also Germany and Australia and whoever else Trump decides to insult today, so the ants and I are both doomed.

This post isn't really going anywhere. I wrote it because it struck me that if a flying ant swarm in your house ranks low on your list of problems, then it should be recorded. That's all. I hope your lives are going as well as possible, considering we're all living under an emotionally abusive dictator who possesses only animal intelligence and has no impulse control. Here's to a better week.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Table for One

Last week, Jon, Ian, and Seamus went on an all-boys trip to Colorado; staying in Boulder as a base and hiking in the mountains every day. Meanwhile the girls went up to Buffalo to visit family and see a comedian they really like. (Joe Rogan.) So I was the only Bartels in Virginia for the week.

I won't bore you with the details of my cleaning spree - although I did empty, clean, and paint this little cupboard in my kitchen. I got the inspiration from bruktogblandet - a Swedish instagram account that I follow.  I just used leftover paint that I already had on hand. I follow so many home-focused Swedish instagram accounts, I'm starting to feel like I should learn Swedish.

Hasn't been painted in sixteen years

After - also freshly painted white on the inside

The Inspiration:
I was without a car for the week, which was fine, although my commute to and from work was a long three mile walk each way. (Usually, I drive partway there and walk the last mile.) Since my bike accident last year, I can't face cycling. One day I was lazy and took an uber to get home. I also took Thursday and Friday off from work, so I could have a little spring break too.

I spent my evenings watching Suffragette. It has a great cast, with some of my favorites like Helena Bonham-Carter, Meryl Streep, Anne Marie Duff, Romola Garai, and Carey Mulligan. I encourage you to watch it too, although it's an uncomfortable film and it will make you very angry and determined to smash the patriarchy for good. In light of Trump and the things he says, and the way a bunch of old white men sit around deciding women's health care, men's attitudes to women haven't changed at all since 1910.

One major bummer - I'd booked an appointment for a hair cut and highlights on Friday. I waited nearly two months for this appointment and my hair looks awful, so I was really looking forward to it. When I arrived, my stylist wasn't there and the other people working there told me he was on vacation on Puerto Rico. Honestly, it's pretty shitty to book a vacation and not take care to check your schedule and notify your clients. I walked home, fuming, and called him and left a voicemail about the mixup. I wasn't rude, and even gave him an out, suggesting that the scheduling website that he uses had something wrong with it. He texted me to apologize and told me to let him know if I had trouble scheduling another appointment. Oh, so I'm supposed to again go through the scheduling site that you apparently ignore and "let you know" if I have difficulty?  This is a guy who insists on a full 24-hours notice if you want to cancel your appointment with him and not get charged. So I'm in the market for a new hair stylist.

I know it's small and petty to be upset about a thing like that, in the context of people being killed in chemical attacks in Syria. My head has not been in a good place lately. OF COURSE, as soon as I write a post about how citalopram and a sun lamp cured my depression, I find myself depressed again. I don't want to increase my meds, so I'm going to hold out hope that I'll feel better once terrible April is over. At least I'm not quite as bad as I was last year.

The walk to the hairdresser wasn't a total waste of time because I hung up this yarn bomb on the way there. This is the "downtown" section of my neighborhood, full of restaurants and busy with tourists and locals every evening, so  lot of people will see it.

I also hung this one on my walk to work one day

I didn't want to end the day (my last day of solitude as the boys were on their way home) on a sour note, so I took myself out to dinner, to Mas, our favorite restaurant in Cville. This is a very popular, busy, and fashionable restaurant  In my depressed state, it was difficult to do this, but I also didn't want to sit at home and wallow in misery. (Maybe the citalopram is still working after all. The pre-citalopram me would have done exactly that.)

My slattern hair and I walked boldly into the restaurant and found a spot at the bar. By the time I'd drunk a quarter of my margarita, I started to feel better and had a lovely dinner of two tapas dishes: the pork empanada that is always sold out when Jon and I come here for dinner (I ate early, so it was still available) and one of my favorite dishes in all of Charlottesville: the brioche slice, sizzling in a tiny cast iron skillet and covered with manchego cheese and lovely vanilla-perfumed apricot jam. I was lucky because it's not on the menu every night, and even when we do order it, I have to share it and only get a couple of bites. It was nice having the whole thing to myself.

Yummy yummy brioche

I did feel like an oddity though, a woman alone at dinner. I have no trouble eating lunch or breakfast alone, or even dinner alone when I'm traveling, but I feel really conspicuous and out of place in a local restaurant. Like, I have no business taking up a bar stool or wasting a server's time when I'm alone. Do you feel that way, or can you take yourself out to dinner with ease?

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Reporting from the Resistance

Those of us who live in the fifth congressional district of Virginia - a large district, gerrymandered to benefit republicans - are cursed with Tom Garrett, a pompous republican blowhard, as a congressman. This is his first term in office (and last, I hope) and since being elected has been snide, dismissive, insulting, and condescending to constituents. In the face of intense pressure to host a town hall meeting, he agreed to do so, but only in a tiny auditorium on UVA grounds. There were to be 135 seats, a third of which would go to republicans, a third to democrats, and the rest to students in the public policy program at UVA. A few days before he announced the restricted access to his town hall, a crowd of 1200 people gathered at the Charlottesville High School auditorium to voice their concerns about Garrett.

VA 05 in dark green. Gerrymandered much?

There was a loud outcry about the unfair ticketing arrangement, so the event was expanded to accommodate 250 people, with all tickets being distributed by lottery. Also, all questions would be moderated. Garrett refuses to acknowledge that the people who have been angrily speaking out at other town halls across the country have a right to be angry and has compared his liberal Charlottesville constituents to lying schoolyard bullies. He has mocked his dissenters on twitter and has also failed to appear at scheduled meetings with constituents.

So this bullshit town hall was scheduled for Friday March 31 and the University Democrats at UVA organized a rally to occur in the outdoor amphitheater, directly in front of the building where Garrett would speak. It poured rain most of the day Friday and was still raining when I got to the rally, where a crowd was shouting, "White Supremacy has got to go!"

I joined the crowd and it took me a minute to realize that a counter demonstration was also occurring. The Trump-supporting counter protesters tried to drown out our shouts with racist sayings of their own. They called us "liberal whiners" and were altogether hateful. For example, we chanted that immigrants are welcome here, and they started yelling for immigrants to go home. At one point, one of the Trumpers yelled at us through a megaphone, saying that white babies were going to become extinct because of homosexuality, abortion, and mixing of races. (I don't remember the exact words because there was a lot of shouting back and forth. He concluded lamely by saying, "well anyway all your babies will be aborted." There was also a man waving a large Trump flag and when he walked past me, I heard him quietly saying, "white supremacy, white supremacy." So these are the people who showed up to support Tom Garrett, while in the hall, he fatuously remarked that discrimination had no place in "Mr. Jefferson's University."

There was heavy police presence, with state and UVA police stationed everywhere, including sniper-style in every window of the building where Garrett was speaking. I don't think any arrests were made. There was a lot of shouting, but no violence.

I climbed onto a wide concrete balustrade to get a better view. An older man standing next to me was laughing as if the protest delighted him. I wasn't quite sure what to make of him, and then he turned to me and said, "I think the far right are all assholes and I think the far left are all assholes too." I murmured noncommittally and wished I had never climbed onto the balustrade. The man gestured at a row of students with an anti-Trump banner. "I bet none of them even voted," he said. This got my hackles up a bit, and I remarked that three of my children were young adults of voting age and all had voted in the election. "Well that's down to parenting," he said and then went on a rant about black young people, who he said didn't make enough effort to succeed, who were getting the same education as everyone else, and whose parents didn't raise them right.

I don't like confrontation, but I also couldn't nod politely at this speech. I pointed out that schools could hardly be considered equal across districts and he countered that people just needed to live where the schools were good. I mentioned housing discrimination and high cost of real estate. He agreed that things were "hard" for some people and then, as if to settle the matter, told me about how his kids had gone to public school in McLean, Virginia and how it was the second best school in the country and better even than private schools.

McLean, Virginia is an affluent town in northern Virginia and its population is nearly 80% white. YOU CAN'T USE YOUR EXPERIENCE IN A WHITE AFFLUENT PUBLIC SCHOOL AS A YARDSTICK BY WHICH TO MEASURE EVERYONE ELSE'S SUCCESS. Below is one of the brief videos I took. The inane chuckle and the yelling about voting at the very end are the contribution of my new friend from McLean.

Now I was disgusted with this man, so I hopped down and went to where the speeches were being given. Our friend Leslie Blackhall, a palliative care physician at UVA, was one of the speakers and she SLAYED. Her speech was focused on healthcare. When all of your patients are dying of cancer or heart failure, the cruelty of yanking health coverage from people is especially obvious. Dr. Blackhall was one of the group that had a scheduled meeting with Tom Garrett, for which he did not show up. When she finished speaking, amid the cheers, I heard the people behind me yelling, "Run for office!"

Now the event was winding down and it was raining again, so I walked two miles back to my car, which I'd left near my office since I figured there would be no closer parking. I am really glad that I attended this event and that so many others did as well, despite the rain. Later, I saw footage of the town hall meeting itself and the shouts of the protesters could be heard inside, which is what I was hoping would happen. Among us protester, I recognized parents of my children's classmates, UVA faculty and physicians, and the owner of a local coffee shop. I heard that the pro-Trumpers were an alt-right group who had been bussed here. So much for the Right's claim that anti-Trump protesters are paid and bussed in from afar.