Marching For Science

Posted by TechyDad on April 28, 2017 under Politics, Science

One of the many scary moves that the current administration has taken has been a disregard for science. Whether it’s declaring climate change a “hoax” or candidate Trump insisting that vaccines cause Autism or massive cuts to the EPA, the Trump administration has taken action after action against science. Scientists, as well as people who are in favor of supporting science wanted their voices heard. Thus, the March For Science was born.

Like the Women’s March before it, the March for Science was a series of marches that took place all around the world. Our local March for Science differed from our local Woman’s March in many ways, though. While the Women’s March involved a march first followed by speakers, the March for Science began with science demonstrations by local colleges and companies. It was hard to get to some of these tables due to the sheer number of people around them – especially kids. I’m not going to fault the march for this, though. If anything, it showed how many people love science.

After the demonstrations, there were a series of speakers. Our local Women’s March suffered here with the sound system not being good enough. (A consequence of there being way more people than they projected – so it was a good problem to have in some ways.) I’ll admit that I couldn’t hear much from the speakers, but then again, we weren’t positioned well. We behind the stage and to the side so the sounds of cars and people around us drowned out much of the speakers.

While the speakers were talking, we spent much of the time looking at the amazing signs that people had made. Since the march coincided with Earth Day, many of the signs carried pro-environmental protection messages. A few were anti-Trump specifically, but many supported science without directly referencing the President.

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I had made my sign earlier in the week and was very proud of it:

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JSL one-upped me, though. While brainstorming ideas for him to make into a sign, I heard NHL watching Pokemon and joked “Science, I choose you!” As soon as I jokingly said it, though, our eyes went wide and we knew that had to be his sign. He sketched it out and made the sign himself. (The only help I provided was holding the poster board still so it didn’t move as he traced the lines.) JSL’s sign had plenty of admirers and a lot of people asking to take photos of him with it.

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Soon, it was time for the walk to begin. This walk was around a block in Albany – about four tenths of a mile. We walked down the street, cars honking as they passed by. At one point, some women behind us started an inspired chant: Stand up for Truth, stand up for reason, science and facts are always in season! (NHL got annoyed at me when I joined in. Teenagers!)

The sidewalk was jam packed and, at one point, we stopped entirely. Science can’t be held up too long, though, so the march continued. When we finished, there were some after events, but we had been there awhile and knew the kids would be fried so we took our leave.

Still, the March for Science had one more surprise. As we rounded the corner to walk to where we were going to be picked up, we spotted the end of the March for Science. Yes, we had finished the march, but the tail end of it had barely begun! I suggested we join the tail end and march again, but I was over-ruled. (Spoil-sports!)

As we left, as with the Women’s March, I felt buoyed by the turnout. The administration might not be a supporter of science, but there were plenty of people in our local area and at marches around the world that do. We’ll keep fighting, keep resisting, and keep demanding that science be unrestrained from political interference and listened to when crafting policies.

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Busy Real Life

Posted by TechyDad on April 21, 2017 under Life, Writing

I recently realized that I haven’t been blogging as much as I’d like. Real Life seemed to keep throwing curve ball after curve ball – derailing any blog ideas that I might have.

First up was B’s mother’s open heart surgery. We had known this was coming for some time, but a recent checkup turned it from “some time in the future” to “in the next three weeks.” The surgery itself went smoothly, but B’s mother was very weak and in a lot of pain afterwards. This was normal – the nurses described the procedure as if you were pummeled by a professional boxer inside and out. Still, B’s parents needed as much help as they could get. Understandably, B wanted to be with her mother every second she could. It fell to me to juggle working my day job with taking care of the day-to-day parenting tasks that B normally does. Of course, I had no problem with this, but I was exhausted at the end of the day.

Of course, during this time was when I blogged last about my computer being fried. I got a new computer (a nice touchscreen model from Dell) and took some time to set it up. Luckily, my old hard drive wasn’t fried. A quick USB enclosure purchase from Amazon and I have an external hard drive with all of my old data. Of course setting up this new computer took days and contributed to not-blogging.

After B’s mother improved, things slowed down a bit, but by now Passover was on the horizon. Passover is the Jewish holiday that requires the most work. I need to clean the kitchen entirely from top to bottom, put all non-Passover utensils/pots/appliances/food away, and take our Passover supplies down from the attic. Complicating matters was a visit by some of B’s family the weekend before Passover. Though it was busy, Passover went by relatively uneventfully – except for the last day.

I was sleeping late as I was off of work when I was woken up by screaming. My kids were yelling at me that B needed me. As I became aware of what was happening, I first figured out that B was in the basement and feared she had fallen and hurt herself. Then, I heard her mentioning a flood in the basement. We have a utility sink down there that floods if it’s not cleaned out. My first thought, as I put on clothes and shoes, was that the sink overflowed and I’d need to stick my arm into that disgusting water to clear it out.

Oh, how I would soon wish it was that.

Turns out that our pipes had backed up and sewage was running in from a drain we have in the center of our basement. Specifically, a combination of sludge, toilet paper scraps, and feces. There was a lot in there and the smell was awful. B called a plumber and I opened the basement windows – at least the two that I could open without crossing the nasty pond. The plumber came by and figured out immediately what was wrong. Within a half hour, he cleared a U bend pipe of build-up and all of the water flowed back down.

Notice, I just said “water” and not “everything.” When the water went down, a lot of other stuff remained. His portion of the job done, the plumber left this for us to clean up with the wet-dry vacuum. Now, having handled diapers for two kids, I thought I had been toughened up in handling this type of stuff, but nothing could have prepared me for this. I used our wet dry vacuum to suck it up, but the combination of the smell and sight of what I was vacuuming threatened to make me hurl. I put on headphones, cranked the Hamilton soundtrack as loud as it could go, tried not to look (as much as was possible) as I waved the vacuum around the ground, and held my breath. This helped and I soon cleaned up as much as I could.

Then, I had to take the wet dry vacuum outside, empty it into a garbage bag, clean it off, and spray the basement floor like crazy with a bleach-water mixture. I also went to Home Depot and got a few big tubs filled with crystals that absorb water from the air. This helped to dry the basement up more. That night, despite being exhausted, I had trouble sleeping. Any time I closed my eyes, I was back in the basement looking at – and smelling – everything that was down there.

In between all of these events, I’ve been working on my Ghost Thief sequel – tentatively titled “Outcasts and Artifacts.” I’m up to 41,000 words now and the story is just getting started. I’m juggling a lot more plot threads than in the first book and a lot more characters. It’s slow going, but I’m making continual progress.

NOTE: The “Busy desk” image above comes from Wikimedia Commons` and is in the Public Domain.

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Fried Laptop, Learning From Mistakes, And Overwhelming Guilt

Posted by TechyDad on March 6, 2017 under Computers, Fatherhood, Guilt, NHL, Parenting

On Wednesday night, NHL was playing a game on my laptop while I made dinner. Suddenly, he shouted that my laptop turned off and wouldn’t turn back on again. I checked and, sure enough, my laptop was dead.

After questioning NHL, he admitted that he tried to plug it in, but wasn’t paying attention. Instead, he shoved the round power plug into a rectangular USB port.

Normally, this wouldn’t have been much of a problem. The power plug requires a metal contact inside the plug itself and the connectors in the USB drive sit atop a plastic piece. Unfortunately, that plastic piece had gone missing and one of the USB connectors entered the power plug.

You might be able to guess what happened next. A surge of electricity flowed through sensitive computer components not designed to handle such currents. My best guess is that the motherboard was fried.

I opened the computer and looked it over. While I couldn’t find and visible damage, given the nonresponsiveness of the laptop, a fried motherboard makes the most sense.

Replacing the motherboard would cost half as much as a new computer. Even then it might not work right as other components might have been fried. So it looks like it’s time for a new laptop for me.

As for NHL, he was, understandably, upset. I’ll admit that, at first, I wanted him to feel bad about it. Making mistakes teaches you nothing if you don’t take the mistake to heart. Too many people are all too eager to blame their mistakes on others and thus don’t learn from them.

After awhile, though, I saw that this had progressed past simple “feeling bad for his mistake” and had turned into full blown “nothing I do is right and I always mess everything up.”

I know that mindset all too well. It’s easy to get stuck like that and spiral downward quickly. At that moment, I set aside any anger I felt over what happened to my laptop and put on my parenting hat.

I told NHL that I understood how he felt and that I’ve felt that way many, many times before. It can be easy to sink into a depression over your mistakes, but that doesn’t help. I told him that, when I feel like this, I intentionally set those thoughts aside for awhile. I picture it like I’m packaging up my feelings/thoughts and placing them on a shelf in my mind.

Once I calm down and can rationally assess what happened, I pick the thoughts up again, figure out what went wrong and how I can do better next time. I make sure I take those lessons to heart but then I put all feelings of guilt aside so as to not let them overwhelm me. This isn’t to say that I don’t feel guilty. I do and will apologize immediately to anyone that I need to. However, for my own self-preservation, I need to be sure to keep myself out of the guilt spiral.
NHL seems to have recovered from his bout with the guilt spiral. I don’t know just yet if he’s taken the lesson to heart. (The lesson being: “Always pay attention where you’re plugging things into.”)

Now, I just need to hunt for a new laptop.

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Novel-aversary

Posted by TechyDad on February 21, 2017 under Writing

A year ago on Friday, I decided to get back into writing. I was trying to decide between writing a long tale or just a short story.

The next day (a year ago Saturday), I began writing a short story.

Of course, even from the outset I could tell that this wasn’t going to be a very short tale. I only intended for the story to be a few pages long, but it quickly took on a life of its own. Every time I wanted it to zig so I could close it out, it zagged instead. New characters that I didn’t intend to introduce waltzed onto the page. It was almost as though the characters were acting of their own volition. I was a mere scribe, recording what they were doing without having any influence over the events themselves. Eventually, my story became long enough that a novel was a serious possibility. Now, it’s looking like a trilogy is in the cards. (I’ve already written almost 28,000 words for the second book.)

To celebrate, I’m going to have a sale on the Kindle version of Ghost Thief. Starting tomorrow, February 22nd, at 7am Eastern (4am Pacific), Defenders of Shadow and Light: Ghost Thief will cost only $0.99 for the Kindle version. This sale will run until March 1st at 3am Eastern (12am Pacific). This is a savings of 81%.

Happy Novel-aversary to Murray, Ruth, and all of my characters from Ghost Thief. I can’t wait to show off their future adventures as well as the other friends and enemies that they meet along the way!

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Marching For What We Believe In

Posted by TechyDad on January 24, 2017 under Politics

On Saturday, we met up with a friend and headed down to downtown Albany. We were going there to join up with our local Woman’s March. I’m not entirely sure what I was expecting. Albany isn’t the biggest city around so I knew we wouldn’t come close to Washington D.C. or New York City’s numbers.  I guess I figured a few hundred people would show up, we’d march down the sidewalk for a bit, and that would be it. What actually happened both surprised and inspired me.

First, we arrived. We got off our bus (we weren’t going to try to park downtown) and followed a light crowd to where the meeting place was. We were about 45 minutes early, but there was already a pretty large crowd gathering. They weren’t done arriving, though. More and more people came up behind us. Eventually, I couldn’t see the start or end of the crowd. We were in a sea of people waiting to start our march.

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At around 4pm, the street was closed off so we could march down it. Thank goodness, because there was no way we’d all be able to march on the sidewalk with traffic going by. You know how I said I thought there would be a few hundred people? The organizers actually thought there would be about 2,000 people. There were easily over 7,000 people and possibly close to 10,000! We marched slowly down the street to the Capital building. There, we all gathered and listened to a few speakers. Though, I’ll admit I couldn’t hear much. My one criticism was that the sound system wasn’t up to par. Then again, they had planned for about a quarter of the attendance so I guess that was the one downside to the very good upside of great attendance.

Now, you might wonder how a man feels marching in a Women’s March. First of all, I wasn’t the only man there. There were plenty of men just like there were people of all races, religions, ages, sexual orientations, etc. I realize that women’s issues don’t just affect women. If women get access to better health care, better protections over their own bodies, and more freedom from sexual aggression or discrimination, it actually helps men also. If something happened to my wife, it wouldn’t just impact her and leave my sons and I unaffected. We’d be hurt as well. If my niece or my sister had something happen, we’d be affected.

Though NHL declined to go (combination teenager and Asperger’s/not doing well with crowds), JSL came with us. I want my boys growing up knowing that women aren’t objects to be used, but human beings who deserve to be treated just as well as any other human. I’m doing my part to forever shatter the old “a woman’s place is in the home” saying. Let that be something that our kids and grandkids study in history books in disbelief that this was ever the case. I’m teaching my boys that a woman’s place is where ever she wants to be. That might be the home or a boardroom. It might be as a doctor, a scientist, in the army, or any political office.

Oh, and JSL and I proudly wore our pussy hats.

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My one regret with the march was that we didn’t make signs beforehand. Some of the signs that people had were incredibly creative. I’ll end with some photos of the rally and the signs we saw.

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