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September 8th, 2016

Discovering Shostakovitch

I was 17, and me and mom were in her car fleeing westward to California and the half of my family tree I’d never seen, and never known. I won’t go into the details of the family tensions at that moment, just that they were huge and mom was making a heroic effort to keep them away from me. She felt it was time for me to get to know my father. And in truth, she still loved him very much. All I knew was I was born in California, and it had called to me my entire life. I ached to be there. Now, hopefully I would finally walk its ground and see the people who were the other half of my bloodline.

I’d had my driver’s license by then. I was driving, mom was resting in the front seat beside me, it was night and we were on the interstate driving through Ohio, into the darkness beyond the headlights, driving to whatever was ahead. I had the radio on. In those days the radio was all you had to keep you company on the highway. The radio stations faded in and then faded out as the miles passed. I had a classical music station tuned in. This began playing.

Somehow, it just captured my emotional state just then. It was as if the composer wrote it just for me, just for that moment, driving from one world I knew, into an unknown one. Fleeing the relentless iron grip of one, but into what?

As soon as I could I began searching for this music. All I heard from the radio was “…Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra…” Eventually I learned the name of the composer. He was a Russian…Dmitri Shostakovitch. And it was his first symphony, as performed by the Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra. I later learned he composed it when he himself was a teenager. I have always imagined listening to it, that this was his statement on coming of age, and finding himself in a country where the artist’s only duty was to the State. Somehow, raised in a rigidly authoritarian faith that was nothing like the state imposed atheism of the Soviets, and yet everything like it, I could relate. The Man was a soul sucking bastard whichever side of the iron curtain you were on.

This is intense, amazing music. It aches. It burns. It is sarcastic, ironic, broken hearted and proud and defiant. Shostakovitch became my musical companion through the rest of my adolescence and young adulthood. He went on to compose 15 symphonies, all of them masterpieces of 20th century music. And his music never lost that bitter, ironic, defiant bite. His 8th symphony, composed during the siege of Leningrad is the most perfect expression of the soul crushing inhumanity of war I have ever listened to. (Get the version by Kyril Kondrashin and the Moscow Philharmonic.) Later, I discovered Vaughan-Williams and Rachmaninoff. They speak to my heart in a different, more settled and romantic way. But some days I dig into my collection of Shostakovitch because nobody expresses this feeling of bitter, laughing resolve better, and especially the piece he composed while a teenager, in Joseph Stalin’s Russia.

Note: only the Russian conductors seem to really understand Shostakovitch, and especially this piece.

 

dmitri_shostakovich-sm

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Discovering Shostakovitch
September 7th, 2016

Go Ahead And Stare Back Into Me…I Don’t Care…

Maybe the good in the world doesn’t outweigh the bad after all. But it’s still the good. It’s still worth believing in, still worth living for.

Maybe even more so.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Go Ahead And Stare Back Into Me…I Don’t Care…
September 6th, 2016

Staring Into It

Some days I read something in the news and it angers me or depresses me but my vision of the human status withstands it and I put it somewhere it belongs, filed away in some sort of hierarchy of categories of bad things which are outweighed by the good and beautiful things, and I carry on. But some days, like today, I read something that so profoundly disturbs and depresses me that I just can’t. I won’t say which story it was but it really did me in. I really don’t like staring into that Pit. I really don’t like losing my sense of the human status. But this afternoon I did.

So a someone or someones did something truly evil, and against the advice of some inner voice telling me to beware I read the entire account. And it leaves me without any inner resources. I just can’t come to terms with it. I can’t find some place to put it where it makes any sense in the grand scheme of things. I can’t help imagining myself seeing these events unfolding, over and over again in my mind’s eye, and being shocked and horrified over and over and over. Wishing, imagining, I could have done something to prevent it. Knowing, logically and rationally there is nothing to be done for it. Oh yes, we can bring the perpetrator(s) to justice…sort of. Guilt can be pronounced, verdicts read, sentences handed down. But what of it? How do you punish crime that is so utterly beyond the pale that no amount of retribution can ever adequately punish the guilty? Death sentence? Maybe if you believe in hell. I don’t. As far as I can tell, death removes the possibility of punishment entirely. Oh you can argue that at least the dead won’t reoffend. Yes, but they feel no pain either. It’s the living that feel it. And will, always. Life in a torture chamber? Leave aside that torture dehumanizes both the victim and the torturer together, reason enough to turn away from it, the fact is you just can’t do that to a flesh and blood human being for very long without the human eventually succumbing to madness or death, and so release from punishment happens anyway. The bitter fact is the guilty go free eventually, the living never.  

But even if it were not so, what would a perfectly tailored punishment for such crimes really accomplish? Really? The dead do not return to us. Their last moments will always be what they were. None of it can be erased. Punishment is irrelevant. There is only prevention, and even that is hard to come by. Jail yes, but is that ever a sure thing? Parole, forgiveness, rehabilitation…some people will always be a danger, and some crimes telegraph that fact with certainty.  And yet they can and often do go free, to kill again. Death penalty would surely prevent at least that much, but an institutionalized death penalty is bound to catch an innocent in its wake, and then it commits exactly the crime against humanity it stands to avenge. Then what? And if torture degrades the human soul, what of institutionalizing deliberate killing. George Will, whose conscience I have little regard for, wrote once that while some people see a death penalty as addressing the deepening coarseness of human behavior, others see it as encouraging it. So it turns out that even punishment can turn on us, dig us deeper into the Pit the initial crime threw us into. 

The despairing truth is some crimes against humanity can never be adequately punished. The darker dismal truth is they can’t even be prevented always. I heard it said once, during a retelling of crimes of the Holocaust, that evil sometimes gets its turn at bat, and hits a good one.  And you can’t stop it from happening.  You come to realize that evil leaves scars in the world that just don’t heal. And then you find yourself wondering if all the good humanity is capable of actually really does outweigh the bad. You find yourself tarrying with misanthropy. Surprising considering the work I do, the thing I participate in every working day. I’m on the long walk into old age now, and that is not what I want to become. But age has its way with you. It’s not the lines in my face that worry me, so much as the lines in my heart.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Staring Into It
September 2nd, 2016

Holiday Fun Stuff

I’d tentatively planned to take a wee road trip up into Pennsylvania this holiday weekend, but the hurricane is getting in the way of that. As I write this it looks like central Maryland won’t take a direct hit like it was looking earlier, but the thing is now predicted to stall off the Jersey coast and dump tons of rain, mostly on the coast, but also it seems, here in Charm City. So instead of a road trip, I’m going to stay home and pretend for three days to be a working artist. No seriously, I’m going to put my nose to the grindstone on some projects I have going, including the next two episodes of A Coming Out Story, and try to make some progress. I also have a fun thing about how visits to the doctor get creepier the older you get I’ve been plinking with off and on for way too long. It’s a stand alone strip I am thinking about submitting somewhere, most likely to a gay comic if I can find one taking submissions from unknowns. Paul Cameron makes a cameo appearance.

I’m also hoping to get some time in with my oil paints…

But mostly I’m really needing to make some progress on A Coming Out Story. There are fun things to come, if I can just get past the current block. So when I get up tomorrow I’m going to start my day as if I’d been doing this for a living all my life.

And because…deep down inside…I’m really hurting. And the more it hurts, the more I need to go find that life I dreamed of first, when the world was new and everything seemed possible.

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Holiday Fun Stuff
August 31st, 2016

Peace And Quiet Llama Says…

I’ll take Tales of The Closet for 100 Alex…

And the answer is… It Stinks For A Little While And Then It’s Gone.

Be-Beep!

Bruce…

What is A Laughably Stupid Metaphor For Sex?

 

peace_and_quiet_llama

 

Oops!  Sorry!

 

Auf Wiedersomething…

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Peace And Quiet Llama Says…
August 23rd, 2016

Please Walk A Mile In Our “Social Stigma”

A blogger I gained some measure of unexpected respect for, when he turned around from being a supporter of forcing teenagers into ex-gay therapy to being in opposition when confronted by the evidence of what it was actually doing to those kids, wrote a brief-ish blog post critical of this new paper (he called it a study that isn’t a study and you may notice I’m not calling it a study either because it isn’t) asserting that there is no scientific evidence that gay folk are born not made, but seemingly agreeing, or at least he quotes someone who agrees with, the conclusion that “social stigma” is an insufficient cause for the higher than average mental health issues gay people in general experience.

I would like anyone who thinks you can bundle the stresses imposed on gay people, and in particular on gay kids, into a tidy little package labeled “social stigma” to take a step back and appreciate just how hard it is to grow up gay, even these days, let alone try to live a whole and happy life as a gay adult.  It isn’t just “social”, it’s “family”. The stories I’ve heard from other gay people about growing up in a unsupportive family environment, let alone a hostile one, would make a brick cry, if not a fundamentalist.  Here’s one from my own past I’ve posted about before

Perhaps we were just not right for each other after all. The hard lesson to learn about love is you can find someone who is just right for you, who seems to complete you in all the places you never even knew were empty, until you met that one person, saw them smile into your eyes. And yet even so you may not be right for them. They may have a completely opposite feeling about you. Ask me how I know this. Perhaps we were not right for each other.

Or perhaps it was something he told me one night as we lay together, in a very quiet, emotionless voice. About the day he came out to his parents. About how the next morning before dawn his father had gone into the household office, fired up the computer, and created a brochure filled with verses condemning homosexuality and what God does to nations that tolerate that which is an abomination in His eyes. About how his father printed up dozens and dozens of copies of the brochure and as the sun rose, walked around their neighborhood and put one in every door of every house, for blocks around. Then he told his son what he had done.

I ended that one with these words…please pay attention: What gay people know is this: strangers can beat you, can take your life away from you, but only family can chew your heart up, and spit it back out.

You can’t write “social stigma” on that knife to the heart and say you understand anything about how deeply it cuts.

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Please Walk A Mile In Our “Social Stigma”

Sympathy From The Devil

This started making the rounds yesterday…

A New Regnerus? Anti-Equality Groups Promote New Study on Sexual Orientation and Gender

Anti-equality organizations are enthusiastically promoting a new study on sexual orientation and gender, hoping it will be new culture war ammunition.

The study by Dr. Lawrence Mayer and Dr. Paul McHugh appears in “The New Atlantis,” a journal co-published by the right-wing Ethics and Public Policy Center and the Center for the Study of Technology and Science, which shares an address with EPPC. The New Atlantis is not a peer-reviewed journal, and has critiqued peer review, widely considered the gold standard in scientific publishing.

I first caught wind of this from a headline on a religious right website that appeared in my Google news page. I did a search to see what I could find out about it. There wasn’t much at that point, and I got less than a page of hits back. But Every Single One was to a religious right website, or a political website deeply aligned with the religious right.

That’s telling. A real science paper will appear first in the science journals and then percolate out from there into the commercial press depending on the popular interest in its topic. But for some time now what we’ve seen is that junk science from the anti-gay industrial complex first hits some right wing vanity publication with a sciencey sounding name, or a small journal easily compromised by a big right wing foundation with buckets of money, and at the same exact time it also hits one or more of the big players in the religious right echo chamber, and from there it spreads; first via the usual suspects like World News Daily, and talk radio, and then into the commercial press when it smells a controversy. That was the pattern with the Mark Regnerus paper on children (allegedly but actually not) raised by same sex couples. What this is telling you is that the paper is part of an orchestrated campaign. Real science doesn’t work like that. Religious right junk science only works like that.

I haven’t read the paper yet, but the press releases say it makes two basic points. You need to understand that both of these points are actually long standing religious right anti-gay tropes: First, that there is no evidence that a homosexual orientation is innate at birth…Second, that social stigma does not account for how mentally unstable homosexuals are. These have both been a part of the homophobe chorus since at least the 1970s.

The first simply digs in its heels and refuses to accept any of the mountains of evidence that sexual orientation is innate, at least in part if not wholly genetically determined, and cannot be changed through any kind of therapy. And that, as I read the first wave of reviews, is what this paper does, although it seems to acknowledge that the twins study does indicate a genetic “predisposition”, but that is homophobe doublespeak. The dogma is homosexuality is a perverse sexual addiction that people are either lured into or fall into through godlessness, bad habits and low morals, and which they can always choose to not act on. These arguments quickly start sounding like arguments about creationism versus evolution, and that is no coincidence. It is the same exact mindset.

The second point the paper makes neatly dovetails with the idea that homosexuality is a mental illness and removing it from the list of known mental illnesses only happened because militant homosexuals pressured the psychiatric profession into it. This knife in the back mythology as to how the understanding of homosexuality and sexual orientation evolved and changed among social scientists and professionals has a long, long history, and it is a foundational belief among the few still practicing reparative therapy like Joseph Nicolosi and his organization NARTH.

Which makes the smarmy dedication Lawrence Mayer places at the beginning of the paper he co-authored all the more loathsome…

In his preface, co-author Mayer dedicates his work to the LGBT community, “which bears a disproportionate rate of mental health problems compared the population as a whole,” and to “scholars doing impartial research on topics of public controversy.” He declares himself a supporter of equality and opponent of anti-LGBT discrimination.

You have never had spit flung in your face so sweetly. This bullshit about being an LGBT supporter is also one with a long pedigree, going back to every 1950s movie with a sick and pathetic faggot character and a plea for sympathy for the mentally ill…

 


“And here I was and I couldn’t do anything about it. I couldn’t stop.
I thought if I could have just one night, I could get it out of my system.  Just one more time…”

 

We should not be cruel to these poor sick creatures, they can’t help themselves… But to say you disagree with abusing the mentally ill is not to say you are supportive of LGBT people, let alone our civil rights, let alone the pursuit of science. There is nothing wrong with us. The science has been demonstrating that for decades now. If you can’t see that it’s because you are not interested in the science.

Which the two men who wrote this paper manifestly are not. They did not publish in a respected peer reviewed journal but in a right wing vanity publication in tandem with what was clearly a prepublication publicity campaign in the religious right echo chamber. That is not how science works.

But it’s how the kultar kampf is waged in the kook pews.  There is a pattern to this that is becoming routine.  A new paper is published in some science publication nobody has ever heard of before, that refutes the last 50 years of research on homosexuality and sexual orientation. The echo chamber picks up on it and next thing you know the entire religious right is trumpeting this new research that proves homosexuality is a cancer on society, or at the very least a tragic mental illness a civilized society should find a cure for, but certainly not grant special rights to. From there it moves into the popular press, and suddenly it’s in all the papers and news broadcasts.

Now it starts getting the critical attention it had been avoiding in the vanity press. But no matter that: critical attention always lags behind that first exuberant wave of publicity. Debunking takes time, and usually demands the attention of the reader more than the initial sound bite headlines the paper has already generated. So several news cycles, maybe even a year can go by before the debunking takes hold. In the meantime the homophobes have the stage practically all to themselves. This is what happened with the Regnerus study.

And then…it stops. The sails lose their wind. The curtain is drawn back. The lies are exposed. The commercial press moves on. Gay folk and our allies learn how to debunk the latest round of religious right junk science. The public conversation turns away from the latest faux controversy…

…and the haters duck back into the shadows…back into the echo chamber…repeating the same lies to themselves over and over…embellishing them even…holding onto them as long established truths that no amount of fact checking can touch…because in the gutter the only facts that matter are the ones prejudice and hate tell them that matter…

Soon there will be a new study…another paper…another round of it to go with the human gutter. Ask the Jews how long they’ve been dealing with it. Ask your black neighbors. Ask any hated minority.  They say love always wins. Perhaps. But hate never gives up. Because it has nothing else.

 

by Bruce | Link | React! (1)
August 22nd, 2016

Mercedes Love

…still in it.

mercedes_love-8-16-sm

 

Took a wee day trip into Pennsylvania to wander around a bit with my cameras, finish off the roll of color film I started on the road trip last June, and hopefully clear my head so I can get back to work on A Coming Out Story. On the way home I saw a signpost advertising a scenic overlook beside the Susquehanna river and I turned off and started climbing. You really notice how nicely a diesel engine’s torque helps navigating a little twisty state park road when the switchback curves don’t even bother trying to smooth out the elevation gain. The car simply did not care how steep it got. 

The view at the top was lovely. In retrospect I should have brought out the color film camera, and I did consider it, but then I thought of the millions of other photos everyone had probably taken at that same spot and I figured I couldn’t add anything to it so I didn’t. But I did snap off a few with the iPhone for memory’s sake that I might post later. Then as I turned back to the car I saw the sky doodling all over Spirit and I had to snap a shot of it.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Mercedes Love
August 17th, 2016

Oh Microsoft…How I Love Your Pretty Little Lies…

Mostly, I do business software. That may seem surprising since I work for the Space Telescope Science Institute and we not only operate Hubble for NASA but we’re also working on the James Webb Space Telescope, which is the project I’m deeply involved in at the moment. So you might think the work I do here is all sciencey and stuff and it mostly is, but not in the flight engineering sense of it. I do business software, and science like everything else has to account for its money and time. So as it turns out, a lot of my work still revolves around Microsoft products, and doing traditional business client-database applications.  The other day I was tweaking something I’d done in Excel VBA (Visual Basic for Applications…a product Microsoft hasn’t upgraded in decades, probably because there is so much legacy stuff out there in their business user base). It was your basic fetch some data from a backend database server and feed it to Excel and let Excel make tables and charts out of it for management to ponder. And I needed to do something that I figured I could use a custom document property for. Which I could, but not exactly in the way Microsoft’s documentation said I could.

You run into this phenomena quickly in this trade:  The Documentation Lies. Or more charitably, it is out of date. The documentation is buggy. The documentation is written by people who write software and hate writing documentation. If religious fundamentalists had to actually use passages in the bible like we software developers have to use the documentation and example code snippets we’re provided with maybe they’d stop waving that thing at everyone, and try a little figuring things out for themselves like we’re always doing…desperately at times. Oh you’re worried about the second coming are you? Let me show you my project’s Gantt chart…

See…I hate using Magic Numbers…

In programming, a “magic number” is a value that should be given a symbolic name, but was instead slipped into the code as a literal, usually in more than one place.

It makes the code hard to understand, which makes it hard to maintain. This is something a programmer is wise to avoid, even if it’s code you are nearly certain only you will be maintaining. Time passes, the universe expands, and you open a code file you haven’t touched in years to make a small change and you’ve forgotten what ThisWorkSheet.CustomProperties.Item(1).Value referred to.  Better to write it ThisWorkSheet.CustomProperties.Item(“GetsGraph”).Value. And lo and behold the documentation says I can call that property with either a numeric value (the property index) or a string value (the property name). But it does not actually work that way.

Let it be said Microsoft is hardly the only culprit here. My first experience with this sort of thing happened right at the starting gate of my career as a software developer many many moons ago, when I was a youngster doing volunteer work for a gay BBS system (before the Internet Tubes came along) and I was asked to write a system for a local gay activists organization to generate welcome letters and membership funding letters and mailouts and so forth. They had a licensed copy of Ashton-Tate’s dBase IV which back then was the powerhouse database system for PCs. It was working my way through the dBase documentation while trying out their code snippets I had the displeasure of finding out that computer documentation will lie though its teeth at you and laugh at your pain and suffering. In those days I hurled many a programming book across the room. Nowadays I glance at the time and do a quick rough calculation of how many minutes until Happy Hour. 

So I got through my little difficulty the other day by creating a sensibly named numeric constant that I can pass in lieu of actually passing the value of the name of the custom property whose value I want to check. That’s what we call in the business a kludge, because I’m not certain the property I want will have that index value Every Time. I think it’s likely since I’m the only one maintaining this code, for now, and I only have that one custom property in there. But what happens when someone else gets into this code? Okay…I’ve commented my useage of the property. But maybe the next update to Excel changes the starting index from 1 to 0? Surprise! 

Oh well. So I get things working to a close approximation of my satisfaction. Then I sit back and I ponder the Five Stages of Software Development…

Denial: Oh I probably just forgot to close a parenthesis somewhere.

Anger: Oh F*ck Me…that is a COMPLETELY LEGAL FUNCTION CALL!!!

Bargaining: Maybe if I use single quotes instead of double quotes…

Depression: I should have gone to art school…

Acceptance: My software tools are buggy, the vendor is shady, the next upgrade cycle will probably depreciate my entire code base, but the bar at Rocket To Venus is open late.

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Oh Microsoft…How I Love Your Pretty Little Lies…
August 9th, 2016

Our Bodies, Our Lives, Our Selves

A co-worker is back after several months recuperating from surgery for a torn rotator cuff.  As the link to WebMD says, it is “…one of the darkest fears of pitchers, tennis players, and many other athletes.”  Tennis players. Yes. And also probably anyone whose work requires constant lifting and moving things around. My co-worker said she’ll be in physical therapy for months more to come. Possibly years. That’s how it is with major injuries like that. Four months and she can still barely raise her arm now. But she was all smiles to be able to finally leave the house and be out and about. She’ll still have to be careful though…very careful…not to re-injure it.  Luckily for us, our jobs are all mostly low impact desk jobs. But those also have their risks. I’m wearing a Fitbit now, to attend to one of those risks, which is the opposite of having a job that requires a lot of physical activity. As it turns out, the physically cushy job might even be a bigger hazard to your health.

So…good thing my co-worker doesn’t have to come back to a job like…oh say…working in a restaurant all day long slugging around great big platters of beer and dirty dishes. You just don’t go right back to work with just three months of recovery from surgery after something like that. So when you see factory workers or other folk who do heavy physical labor all day long striking for or just generally agitating for better health care, or getting workman’s comp for some injury you could work around at your desk job, don’t be pointing a finger at them and calling them moochers.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Our Bodies, Our Lives, Our Selves
August 8th, 2016

Some Of Us Will Always Be Living In A Time Of AIDS

Time passes, the universe expands, science does its thing, and where once a diagnosis of AIDS was a death sentence, now it is a largely manageable illness. Treatments are out there that can reduce a person’s viral load to undetectable levels. And there is even PrEP, Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis…a little blue pill that us HIV negative folk can take if we’re still sexually active, that can reduce the risk of HIV infection by over 90 percent. 

But AIDS still has the power to make me cry, even now, so many years after it first began taking people away from me, so many years after the worst of it. Friends I’d made on the GLIB BBS (the Gay and Lesbian Information Bureau), gay folk I’d come to know in other settings, artists, musicians, people who made life beautiful. I used to have nightmares of walking among the Names Project quilt panels and suddenly coming upon a name I really, really didn’t want to see there. It seemed like it would never stop. And it hasn’t really. Just yesterday I learned a classmate from high school, Rocky, had been taken, back in the late ’80s.

I’d had no idea. We weren’t friends back in Class of 1971-72, but he was in the Drama Seminar and as student newspaper photographer I got to watch him in rehearsals, and capture something of him on stage. And Rocky just came to life on the stage. I still vividly recall a moment when, during a rehearsal of “Beggar on Horseback”, after one of the characters delivered a dark, melodramatic line, Rocky suddenly ad libbed running across the stage laughing maniacally, flapping his cape behind him. Everyone laughed. The director said, “Keep it.” And that was how they performed that scene.

When I got my film developed I showed him some of the shots and he asked for copies. These two of him on stage below, are my favorites of him. And all these years later I’m still kinda proud he liked them. He was really something special on stage, and when another artist like that gives your art some respect it lifts you up.

In retrospect I should have seen it, but it’s testimony to how naive and clueless I was back then (years later at a class reunion I was clued into some student gossip of who was doing who back then and you should have seen my jaw dropping). I was posting to the Woodward 1970s Alumni Facebook group the other day, I began to remember, and wonder, and I asked if anyone knew what had become of him. And yes, I asked with a touch of apprehension. You had to have lived through it to understand how reflexive that flinch is. And…I was told.

And it all comes back…all the misery. It just keeps on happening. He was a sweetheart, and so very talented and alive. Way more than I ever was or could be. Here’s to you Rocky…and to everyone who loved and was loved by you. If I could have one hour of time to go back to, I would spend it back then on the Woodward stage with my camera, being the student newspaper photographer, watching you and all my other classmates in the Drama Seminar. We had so much fun and we didn’t even know how much.

 

rocky-1

 

rocky-2

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Some Of Us Will Always Be Living In A Time Of AIDS
August 3rd, 2016

The Best Exercise Machine Is Your Own Body

So if you read a previous post here, you know I bought a Fitbit. It’s one of the new Alta models. I like it’s slim profile; it rests easily on my wrist and I don’t even notice it’s there until it vibrates to get my attention. But I bought it for two features I figured would help me out. On thing is it monitors my sleep patterns so I can have a record of how well I’m sleeping…or not as the case may be.  But more importantly, it monitors my periods of inactivity and alerts me when it figures I need to get up and move around. I have a desk job. Worse, I’m a software engineer. Hours can go by and I’m in a kind of trance like state working on computer software, or working out some configuration problem or design issue, or I’m writing documentation, and I don’t even notice the time going by. Then when I do finally get up out of my chair I’m stiff all over. I’m 62 years old, going on 63, and this is not a good lifestyle for someone my age.  

The Fitbit wants at least 250 steps an hour. The daily goal is 10k steps, which isn’t all that hard for a walker like myself. Recall, I grew up in a household that didn’t have a car until I was 15. Walking as part of my daily life is so hardwired into me that the first thing I did when I got the job at Space Telescope was look for a place to live within walking distance. This has been my main form of exercise and activity lately. When I can walk to work I feel better and my weight stays consistently in what I regard as the good zone. But it’s not every day the weather is that good and when we get a string of rainy or excessively hot days I drive in and my energy levels go in the tank. And it’s because I almost never get out of my chair while I’m at work. I fall into that programmer’s trance and next thing I know several hours have passed and I haven’t moved.

Until now. Every day I’ve worn the Fitbit so far I’ve been able to easily get to 10k, and I usually go a few thousand beyond that. It’s easy walking around the neighborhood, to get groceries or go to The Avenue for dinner and drinks and back. Today for the first time since I got it, the weather forecast was good enough I could walk to work and already I’m almost halfway to 10k and I haven’t even taken my lunchtime walk around campus yet. But most importantly, it alerts me when I’ve sat for too long, asks me to take 250 steps and congratulates me when I make it. That I am convinced now, is the single most important thing it’s doing for me, and it’s made a big difference in my overall energy levels.

When you first set up the Fitbit it asks you your age, your sex, height and weight. So I’m guessing the default goals it sets for you are related to all that. They’re adjustable, but I’m going to stick with the defaults and wait and see if the Fitbit decides to ask more of me later on. I’m already noticing a big difference. For the first time in months I’m not going home after work, and the first thing I want to do is go to bed and nap for a few hours. Those naps never were refreshing and I felt like I was physically spiraling downward. I’m active now all day long and that’s a big improvement. I’ve tried this and that to stay active at work and this little Fitbit is the only thing that’s worked, but it is working magnificently. I feel noticeably better throughout the day and it’s only been two weeks.

by Bruce | Link | React! (1)

A Coming Out Story #20…Please Stand By…

Actually managing now to get some work done on ACOS #20 and the start of its next chapter. Here’s the first row of panels in progress…

acos_20_in_progress

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on A Coming Out Story #20…Please Stand By…
August 2nd, 2016

That Feeling You’ve Done All This Before…But Differently…

Facebook has this memories thing where it shows you all the posts you’ve made on this day, running back to the beginning of your Facebook account. Here’s what came up in mine today…

my_life_as_a_tolkien_story

It was prescient…I watched Gollum fall in with it last spring. But he was happy at last, so there’s that.

It would have been ten years this October 6. Now I just wait for the boat to take me to The Undying Lands

 

happy_gollum

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on That Feeling You’ve Done All This Before…But Differently…
July 31st, 2016

Meanwhile…Back In The Darkness Within…

“Loving can cost a lot but not loving always costs more,
and those who fear to love often find that want of love is an emptiness
that robs the joy from life.”
-Merle Shain

 

“It was not the feeling of completeness I so needed, but the feeling of not being empty.”
― Jonathan Safran Foer

 

“I said nothing for a time, just ran my fingertips along the edge of the
human-shaped emptiness that had been left inside me.”
― Haruki Murakami

 

“There’s just something obvious about emptiness, even when you try to convince yourself otherwise. ”
― Sarah Dessen

 

“Nothing has an unlikely quality. It is heavy.”
― Jeanette Winterson

 

“Grief … gives life a permanently provisional feeling. It doesn’t seem worth starting anything.
I can’t settle down. I yawn, I fidget, I smoke too much. Up till this I always had too little time.
Now there is nothing but time. Almost pure time, empty successiveness.”
― C.S. Lewis

 

“To me, you were more than just a person. You were a place where I finally felt at home.”
― Denice Envall

Except it was all fake. Teenagers in love put each other up on pedestals all the time. That’s okay. Teenagers can do that. Just know that when you grow up you’ll have to accept that not everyone actually belonged there. Prince Charming isn’t someone you find. He’s someone you awaken inside of another. If he’s in there. They’re not always in there. That doesn’t make you the fool. What was inside of you was real, even if what you thought you saw inside of him wasn’t.

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Meanwhile…Back In The Darkness Within…
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