A moment of zen

As we wait for everything to make itself clear tonight, a moment of zen. Jim Bales up at MIT runs the Edgerton Center where they play with light, photography and science. Jim invited me in for a tour last weekend when I was in town for my high school reunion and it was awesome.

Here is my favorite picture that he took:

We had placed a white balloon inside of an orange balloon. We inflated both and then I popped the balloons. The “pop” was the strobe light trigger for the camera and this is what happened. If you look closely at the bottom, you can see the needle most of the way into the white balloon but the balloon not breaking (yet).

One of the other things that he showed me and my dad was using light columns to identify density differentiation. This was an awesome picture that he took.

This was just awesome and I had to share this great experience with you all for a moment of zen.

Open Thread.

Fight the Crazed Bigots: Support HIAS

Friday Morning Open Thread: Let Them Call It A Win, If It Stops the Argument…

Look, any Bernie supporters want to declare victory and get out, I am more than willing to give ’em a big hand on their way. Even better, should the more realistic ones choose to actually become Democrats, I’ll give ’em a second chance to show that they’re willing to do the hard work of winning voters, not just stanning a celebrity. From Politico (so: whole shaker of salt), “Bernie 2016 alums wary of 2020 sequel”:

With the Vermont senator kicking off a nine-state tour on Friday with stops in Iowa, South Carolina, Nevada and California, a sizable contingent of the people who helped build his insurgent 2016 campaign is ambivalent about a second run, according to interviews with more than a dozen former staffers. Many of them are looking for a different progressive champion to finish what Sanders started.

Sanders should just declare victory, they said, content in the knowledge that much of his 2016 platform has been adopted by other ambitious Democrats considering White House bids. Plus, he’s a white man who would turn 80 in his first year as president, who’d be trying to lead a diverse party fueled by the energy of young voters, women and people of color.

“I think that if a younger candidate can pick up the mantle and have Bernie’s support, I think that would be a better option for 2020. I feel like 60 to 70 percent of former staffers are looking around for another Bernie-esque candidate this time around, even if it’s not him,” said Daniel Deriso, a field organizer for Sanders’ 2016 campaign who went on to help run a successful insurgent mayoral campaign in Birmingham, Ala., last year. “But if Bernie called me to have me work on the campaign then I’d do it.”…

Enough fervent supporters — from the 2016 campaign’s top officials to field organizers — are wary of a 2020 run that it could be difficult to reignite the 2016 movement. Jeff Weaver, who managed the 2016 race, has been talking about the idea of a “Draft Bernie PAC” of sorts after the midterms. But many supporters have been noncommittal, according to two people with knowledge of the discussions…

A common frustration among former staffers is that they feel Sanders and his tight circle of aides have taken their support for granted and failed to keep their 2016 team cohesive, which would have been an inherent advantage in a second run.

Multiple former staffers said that the Clinton campaign alumni network is far more connected and active than Sanders’…

“He’s the grandpa of the movement,” said another campaign worker from 2016, “but that might not make him the best choice for 2020.”

So… People who want an actual career working in politics have accepted their loss and are calculating their next moves. Tad Devine is lying low, waiting for Robert Mueller to wrap up his various investigations. Jeff Weaver wants to get the band back together — but being the Media Village Idiot’s “More Virtuous Than Thou” Gadfly is pretty much a one-man enterprise. Just look at the latest performance reviews for its most famous modern exemplar:

(If Nader is hoping / expecting Bloomberg to throw him a bone, or a paid consultancy, he must really be desperate. Mayor Mike has been content to let the Horserace Pundits do his testing-the-candidacy-waters media for free, all these years; I seriously doubt pity, or excitement at Nader’s celebrity, will loosen his pursestrings at this point.)

Friday Morning Open Thread: Finding A Home

From the Washington Post, “Matthew Shepard Will be interred at Washington National Cathedral”:

When Matthew Shepard died on a cold night 20 years ago, after being beaten with a pistol butt and tied to a wooden fence, his parents cremated the 21-year-old and kept his ashes, for fear of drawing attention to a resting place of a person who was a victim of one of the nation’s worst anti-gay hate crimes.

But now with an anniversary of their son’s murder approaching on Friday, the Shepards have decided to inter his remains inside the crypt at Washington National Cathedral, where gay equality activists say they can be a prominent symbol and even a pilgrimage destination for the movement…

On Oct. 26 this year, his ashes will be placed in a niche in the National Cathedral’s columbarium, a private, off-limits area on the lower level of the massive Gothic cathedral, which is the seat of the Episcopal Church and a popular spot for high-profile national spiritual events. Shepard, who had been active in the Episcopal Church, will be one of about 200 people whose remains have been interred at the cathedral in the past century…

The Oct. 26 service will be open to the public and will be presided over by Washington’s Episcopal bishop, Mariann Edgar Budde, and Bishop Gene Robinson, whose 2003 ordination as the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church set off a dramatic split in the denomination that is still unfolding.

Robinson is friends with Judy and Dennis Shepard…

Dennis and Judy Shepard said that their son loved the Episcopal Church. As a child, he was an acolyte while his mother taught Sunday school; when he moved to Laramie for college, he joined an Episcopal church community there, Dennis said.

“He loved the ceremony, the pomp and circumstance that went with it,” he said. “I think he’d be thrilled to know that he’s home, in a place that he would like, a sanctuary. … I think he’s laughing about the whole thing. ‘All this time, I finally ended up in the perfect spot. No wonder you wouldn’t do anything with my ashes.’ It’s like it’s meant to be.”…

World Suicide Prevention Day

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day, so I’m going to talk about it a little bit, as I do every year. But first: If you are feeling like you might hurt yourself, or just want to talk, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. (Want an LGBTQ+ youth specialist? Call the Trevor Project Lifeline at 1-866-488-7386, or follow that link to chat.)

Now then.

Have you ever felt suicidal? I have. I even came very close to doing it once or twice. Thankfully and obviously, I did not.

It’s something I live with, though. Like jaw pain from grinding my teeth, it pops up during periods of high stress, and floats, in a low-grade way, in the back of my mind. But it is managed, with therapy, medication, and lifestyle choices.

Some of the management takes the form of morbid self-talk. People really hate it when I narrate this, but here goes:

Me: “Bullshit problem x is intractable and you should just kill yourself.”
Also me: “Well, how about we finish writing these tests, and then we can kill ourselves over bullshit problem x.”
Me: “…You finished the tests, and bullshit problem x is still…”
Also me: “Look, if I don’t finish writing this story, nobody’s ever going to read it. I can kill myself after that, okay? Great.”
Me: “…The story is out to readers now. It’s late at night and you’re alone. This would be a great time to kill–”
Also me: “Nope, can’t, somebody is wrong on the internet. Let’s pick this back up when that stops.”

Not today, satan, as they say. Don’t get me wrong: My life isn’t entirely, or even mostly, a mad scramble away from such thoughts. It’s just one tool in my toolbox for when things get especially hairy.

But enough about me. Today I would like to talk about my friend SP. We met when I was thirteen, and starting high school a touch early. I didn’t know anybody. SP was fifteen, probably, a sophomore. She was great, one of my first new friends in that new part of town. Always happy to show you around, lend a hand as needed, or listen to your dumb problems. Sort of the school mascot for the weird kids.

SP was bi, though I sorta figured she was probably totally gay. She was the first queer person I knew who didn’t have HIV, no joke. It seemed like her hair was always a different color. She wore Doc Martens and these ridiculous military surplus outfits, that bright red camo stuff. I remember she used to joke it was in case she needed to blend in with a pile of flaming moose. Her family was also a bunch of religious fundamentalists, including her parents, so that was fun for her.

I remember the phone call my parents got when she died. I picked up the phone and somebody I didn’t recognize asked for my parents. I assumed a telemarketer and said they weren’t there. Then she said she worked for the school and started to cry. I got my mom. A few minutes later, my mom sat me down on the white leather couch in the living room, and I started to learn a very confusing lesson about life.

SP’s family was so ashamed of her, they didn’t even have a memorial service.

Here are some facts about LGB people under twenty-five.

  • They are almost five times as likely to attempt suicide compared to heterosexual youth.
  • Their attempts are five times as likely to require medical intervention.
  • If their families reject them, they are 8.4 times as likely to have attempted suicide as their LGB peers with low levels of rejection–peers who are already many times more likely to attempt suicide than heterosexuals.

We don’t have great statistics on trans* youth, but here’s one we do know: 40% of transgender adults report having made a suicide attempt; of that group, 92% did it before the age of twenty-five.

These statistics are via The Trevor Project, a suicide-prevention nonprofit for LGBT youth. It is a very important organization to me. At my wedding, I requested donations to them in lieu of gifts. Perhaps you would like to donate something today too.

Thank you for reading.