My last birthday before the war

Yesterday was 17 March 2020, my 28th birthday. I spent it with my husband and my sister. In the evening when we sat down to dinner together, I saw everything about that moment through the lens of history. In 10 or 20 years, how would we remember this night? Would it be the last time we saw each other in months? Would it be “the good ol’ days before the world changed forever”? I felt compelled to take a photo of Jacob and Julia at that little dining table in her Atlanta studio apartment. “I want to take a picture of this, just as it is,” I explained. “It’s for my war scrapbook”. They rolled their eyes but complied.

I have lived such a safe, privileged life. For years I had a countdown on my phone marking my 10,000th day alive (3 August 2019). When that day arrived, I thought, this is amazing. I have lived a 10,000-day streak of life with no tragedies. Never has someone very close to me died or been in a major accident. Never have I been in danger of living in poverty or having any of my physical needs not be met. There have been several ‘crises’ in my lifetime (September 11th, the 2008 financial crisis, so many hurricanes, etc.) but none of them affected my everyday activities. I was always able to go to school and enjoy life and walk around without fear that my safety was at stake. In stark contrast to my idyllic existence, history is filled with stories of tragedy and danger. War, famine, societal collapse. These are not uncommon in our world. I have always wondered when it would happen to me.

As of this writing, there are just over 7000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the USA (but we haven’t been testing a lot of people so who the heck knows how many cases there actually are) and 100 confirmed deaths. Admittedly, relatively low numbers. But we have all seen the statistics. I understand the shape of an exponential curve. I’m not here to write about all of the factors that are making this a worldwide concern, I’m just here to write about what it feels like to me. Virologists and epidemiologists knew this was coming. Governments around the world are instituting mandatory lockdowns/shelter-in-place guidelines, and considering enacting some form of martial law. It hasn’t happened here in Atlanta yet, but it has in New York and California.

There are so many questions right now. How will society continue to function with everyone staying in their homes and not going out? The economy has all but evaporated in the last week; all events of every sort are canceled. The DOW is losing thousands of points a day. I was looking for a job before all this went down, and now I know I won’t be employed any time soon. Huge swaths of the world population are facing unemployment while everything is paused. How will we get the resources we need? What will happen to the supply chains of food, medicine, and other essentials?

Some people are not nearly as nervous or concerned as I am about what is about to unfold. My sister Julia is studying macroeconomics and public health. She believes this will blow over with (relatively) little impact. My husband Jacob is still going to work at this time, he is a chef at a restaurant down in the city, and although they are not serving customers in the dining room, they are still doing pickup orders. Jacob already likes to live a rather socially isolated life on a normal basis, he just goes to work and comes home and chats with friends online. So besides the fact that traffic is lighter and the restaurant isn’t filled with customers, his life hasn’t been changed much yet. He is not bothered. Meanwhile, I have the TV on and am watching commercials that feature people enjoying sporting events and concerts; it seems like a cruel taunt. The fact that everyone is reacting differently to this pandemic makes me feel confused and guilty. Yesterday did we do the wrong thing by taking a walk in the park and visiting my sister? Of course I wanted to see my mother on my birthday, but I simply can’t visit with my parents right now.

Joking about the ‘impending war’ has been a common jest among young people for years. I know I really started thinking about it in 2014. This, however, is the first time I’ve felt it might be genuinely imminent. I have visions of people resorting to violence because they can’t afford/find food. I see soldiers guarding the streets making sure people don’t move around. I see food, water, and energy rations. I see field hospitals overwhelmed with sick and injured patients, I see so many deaths. These fears are NOT unfounded; as I stated earlier, these things happen all over the world. We have been extremely lucky in the United States, but we are not immune… pun intended.

Will my fears play out, or will this indeed all blow over? Time will tell. I will keep writing while this pandemic is part of the zeitgeist.

A literal waste of life.

This month, legislators in North Carolina and Mississippi have passed anti-LGBTQ+ (emphasis on the T) laws that discriminate against LGBTQ+ people.

In case you are wondering what mental gymnastics are involved in rationalizing actual discrimination, they call it “privacy”.

So clearly, these people take pleasure in damaging other peoples’ lives. But do they not realize they are literally wasting their own lives too?

In 1862, dozens of politicians voted to maintain slavery. 250 years later, they look like fools to us, but at the time they thought they were doing a reasonable thing. They didn’t know any better.

In 2016 we DO know better. We have seen society completely transform and become unrecognizable over and over again thanks to technology. Compare 2016 to 2006. To 1996. To 1986. Completely changed. We cannot picture what our lives will look like in 10 years. In 50 years, technology and society will have advanced beyond our wildest dreams, the same way a person from the 1960s could not in their wildest dreams have imagined Snapchat 2.0 (which is INCREDIBLE btw)

The future of humanity is so, so vast… in time, in knowledge, in population. Each one of us only has one lifetime to be alive. Just one. And then for ALL OF THE LIFETIMES AFTER THAT, we take our true place, in history. You think you are important because you are alive right now, but no! You will be dead infinitely longer than you will be alive. Life is tiny.

These legislators are wasting their tiny stupid little lives trying to deny LGBTQ+ people their rights while anyone who can recognize patterns or execute logic can see that transgender rights will be granted in less than one lifetime. We’ve seen this occur several times in the past 100 years.

For THE REST OF TIME, these legislators will become like the 1862 democrats. Primitive, foolish, shrouded in shame as the passage of time swallows them up like it does everyone else. We are so small! Anything we try to do to stop change is ridiculously futile. Passing these laws is like an ant trying to hold back a glacier. The future is always coming and it is so, so big. And yet they still spend their precious time on this.

What a literal waste of life. Some people’s stupidity knows no bounds.

Four concepts you have about space that are actually wrong

This is my lengthy and not required introduction. If you’d like to skip to the four concepts, click here.

Let’s be real, most people don’t think about space that much. They know the names and orders of the planets in our solar system, they know the name of our galaxy, and that’s about it. The average citizen doesn’t know, say, the distance from Earth to the sun (8.2 light minutes), the diameter of the Milky Way (100,000 light years), how gravity works (distortion of space-time), nor even a general idea of how far the moon is from the Earth (nor any other celestial bodies for that matter)!

Now, I am NO astrophysicist, but this is pretty basic stuff. Honestly, if we consider ourselves to be an intelligent species that may some day be able to travel freely off of our planet, we should at least have a general concept of how big space is. Unfortunately, such things are not taught in our public education system and therefore most people go through life never even pondering it.

Reader, I encourage you to learn about space. Watch some videos on YouTube. There are thousands of them, too many to list, about every topic, and they are incredibly informative. (If you are already a space video watcher and are ready for extreme hard mode, watch “The Inexplicable Universe” lecture series by Neil Degrasse Tyson, available on Netflix as of this writing. It covers literally everything.) When you start venturing into this topic, you start to realize that space is EVERYTHING. Earth is so damn small, knowing only about Earth is really not an accurate understanding of our universe.

The unfortunate consequence of the public lacking this general knowledge is that false information and unrealistic ideas about the universe get spread and accepted by people because they’ve got no knowledge against which to judge it. All of this information is available to us thanks to the glory of the Internet but people just don’t think to seek it.

Example: the film Gravity (2013). Y’all, this movie is so damn inaccurate I actually cannot believe it got made. Literally every scene is impossible yet I’m pretty sure it is supposed to portray real astronauts in the real future operating under real laws of physics. I have included a list sampling of three scenes from Gravity and how wrong they are. Feel free to skip if you are not interested in this film.

  1. Early in the film, the astronauts’ space walk goes wrong. Everyone dies except for the characters portrayed by George Clooney and Sandra Bullock. Luckily for George Clooney, he is on a tether and that tether is being held by Sandra Bullock, who is safely anchored to the spacecraft. George’s momentum is stopped by the tether. The energy of his motion is converted into rope tension.
    1. What should happen next: The tension is absorbed by Sandra’s muscles and reverses George’s direction and he is moving back towards Sandra, who can safely pull him back in. This isn’t even a space thing, that’s just how energy and force works. We have this on Earth.
    2. What happens in the film: The tension STAYS in the rope even though there is no force acting on George in that direction (????? magic?) and he says “Sorry Sandra you have to let me go die in space” and she regretfully lets go and he FLIES OFF INTO SPACE! Kinetic energy is spontaneously manifested. Jesus be a fence.
  2. Sandra manages to jet-pack her way through space (lol) from the Hubble Telescope to the ISS which is a convenient 100 km away (LOL). She manages to get inside (LMFAO). Unfortunately the parachute for the Soyuz capsule has been damaged so she can’t take it back down to earth, and also there is a fire on board and she must evacuate.
    1. What should happen next: Well dis bitch would already be so dead. You can’t just navigate around space freely like you can on Earth so she wouldn’t have been able to jet-pack to any point in the first place. Also you can’t just get inside the ISS with your space suit on without assistance from the inside. OK so forgiving ALL of that, she gets to the ISS, can’t escape in the Soyuz, there’s a fire, she would die. End of story.
    2. What happens in the film: She sees in the distance a fictional Chinese station called the Tiangong. In real space everything is REALLY far away from each other so IRL it would be too far away for her to actually see. It’s also likely that the Tiangong could be around the horizon and thus not visible from the ISS. But anyway she spots it and then DRIVES THE SOYUZ OVER THERE. HOLY CRAP. I already mentioned how you can’t ‘drive around’ in space, right? Like on Earth, I can see a building in the distance, get in my car and drive (effectively in two spatial dimensions because I am not flying) to that building. But ok in space we are in 3 dimensions also you and your destination are both orbiting AKA falling at like 5 miles per SECOND. No honey you can’t just scoot on over there in the Soyuz capsule you snatched that is not even designed for space flight but is actually built for returning to Earth.
  3. Ok so Sandra drives to the Tiangong. FINE. Then she gets in an escape capsule and finally, praise God, falls towards Earth. This is unplanned, there is no trajectory. There is no mission control. She just hopin’ for the best.
    1. What should happen next: Earth is 70% ocean so she should land somewhere random in a random ocean and then drown. Alternatively, she crashes on land. Bye bye Sandra.
    2. What happens in the film: She does not land in the ocean. She does not land on land. Dis bitch lands in like FIVE FOOT DEEP WATER ON THE BLOODY COASTLINE. I wonder what % of Earth’s surface is shallow coastal water in an area that happens to also be in a nice (read: not arctic or dangerously hot) climate like where she lands. I don’t know the exact number but I’m pretty confident it is near to zero.

Geez, I hate that movie. The point is, this film is accepted as a realistic portrayal of space and propagated huge amounts of false information to the public. The public is not able to spot blatantly false information about space. And that is sad. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Here are some spacey things you may believe but have not given much detailed thought to.

1. Humans will be able to travel outside our solar system.

Let me lay this out for you. The distance from the sun to Pluto is about .0005 light years. I think we can all agree that Pluto is pretty far away. Still, it’s within our reach. The New Horizons spacecraft got there in less than 10 years! So freaking fast! That thing is going at over 36,000 mph. Nice. Within 100 years, travelling to Pluto will be a piece of cake. We will be capable of sending manned missions to Pluto and other other outer/exo planets. Though I’m thinking we probably will not because there’s nothing out there that is worth an in-person human visit that a robot couldn’t check out just fine.

Ok so the good part of our solar system (fuck the Kuiper belt and the Oort cloud) which lies within a .0005 light year radius of us is accessible. That’s truly great. The next nearest object of interest to us is the star Proxima Centauri, so named because it is the nearest star to our solar system. That shit is 4.3 light years away. Quick review: Pluto = .0005 light years. The next fucking star = 4.3 light years. Pluto = accessible. Proxima Centauri = not accessible.

Maybe I’m underestimating future human technology. Maybe in 500 or 1000 years we will have crafts that can travel near light-speed and we will be able to get to Proxima Centauri within a reasonable amount of time. But remember, the next star after that is ANOTHER 4 light years away. Or 10, or 20, or 100. Proxima, while on a human scale is very very far away, on a universal scale is… insignificant. We are insignificant, and all the celestial bodies within our reach past, present, and future are insignificant too. We are small. We can’t help it.

In conclusion: while we will likely be able to send unmanned crafts to “nearby” points of interest outside the solar system, we will never be able to shuttle humans around, nor will there be any reason to because none of those places can support life.

Bonus: “Intergalactic” travel is even more of a fantasy and will literally be impossible forever. Try if you dare to imagine the distance from Sol to Proxima Centauri magnified from a single star-scale to a galactic scale. Nevermind, don’t try. Our primitive brains cannot comprehend a fucking galaxy. Also, the universe is expanding and galaxies are moving away from each other so the distance between them is always increasing. So even if we did depart from earth and head towards Andromeda, it would recede from us faster than we could approach it.

2. We will find life elsewhere in the universe

There is undoubtedly life elsewhere in space-time. The universe is so so vast that any scenario you can conceive of has at least some probability of occurring. It’s like Hitchhiker’s goddamn Guide to the Galaxy out there.

Just because there is life in the universe does not mean we can detect it. Our ability to observe the universe is limited to what our technology can read, what our minds can comprehend, the small time frame we inhabit, and what our four dimensions can express. Life could be all around us, just beyond the reach of these impassible barriers. Life could just be too far away for us to detect (a likely scenario, see above paragraph about how far away our neighbor star is) or maybe it existed in the past or in the future. Time is theoretically as vast as space and we take up such a tiny speck of time the way we take up a tiny speck of space. Once again, we are just too small to contend with the universe.

If we can’t discover aliens, maybe they can discover us. But if aliens exist that are capable of finding our little Earth, a needle in a trillion trillion haystacks, then they 1) are so much more advanced than us that they would not deign to contact us and 2) will have located many, many more interesting planets to visit than ours. Thems the facts.

So yes, aliens exist, but not in a way that is accessible to us.

3. If and when we establish contact with intelligent aliens, we will be able to communicate with them.

Many science fiction stories portray aliens as humanoid, able to understand English (obviously fiction) or at least having some form of language that we can decode and use to exchange information with them. Is this realistic?

Not 👏 a 👏 chance.

We have so many other beings right here on our own planet! Some of them (ex. dolphins, many primates, elephants) have their own methods of communication that we can observe, but we cannot meaningfully communicate with them.

Answer me this: if we cannot communicate with our own fellow Earthlings that have 98% or more common DNA with ourselves, how the fuck are we gonna communicate with super-advanced, possibly not carbon-based, possibly multi-dimensional beings that have for some inconceivable reason decided to pay Earth a visit and not blow it up instantly and farm the debris for resources?

Rhetorical question, obviously. We can’t.

4. We are intelligent.

I think it is clear that we are not (yet) really intelligent, if you define “intelligent” as having a decent understanding of our universe. You might think we understand the universe because our understanding is the only concept we have, but y’all, we only JUST got a picture of Pluto. We don’t even know how life started on our OWN planet. Have you heard about dark energy/dark matter, the mysterious stuff that we know exactly zero things about? This mystery thing (a force? a substance? something in another dimension that manifests itself in our dimension as gravity?) makes up 96% of our universe. We can only observe four 👏 percent 👏 of the universe right now.

So no, unfortunately we are not yet intelligent. But you know what’s amazing? We can imagine it. We little brand new humans with 3 pound brains can contemplate the beginning and the end of existence, multiverses, ridiculous things like String Theory and wormholes. That’s extraordinary. We may never be able to physically exceed the limits of our tiny plot of space-time, but our imaginations are limitless. In that way, we are intelligent.

“Choir Triplets”

If you are not a musician, you might want to skip reading this, as you will find it quite boring.

I have found that most singers have a little problem when it comes to performing rhythms… they simply do not execute triplets properly.

I used to have this problem, too, until last year in a class myself and another percussionist were supposed to play a rhythm in a song written by one of our classmates. Everything was going fine, I feel like I have a good sense of pulse. However, when we got to the triplets, we played them differently! He explained to me what I was doing wrong, and I was shocked! What I was performing is what I have come to call a “choir triplet”, since I find that it happens a lot with singers in a choir.

In order to explain what a choir triplet is, let’s review what a real triplet is first. They look like this: 

And they sound like this (I have added snare drum in quarter notes to help you hear the meter): Triplets

Sounds easy enough, 2 against 3 is a relatively easy polyrhythm to perform. However, you may have been performing triplets this way all your life, and not even realizing it, just as I was doing:

This is what the fake triplets sound like: Fake triplets

They actually sound rather similar. Both “real” triplets and “fake” triplets take up two beats of time. However the difference between them is that in a real triplet, each note has the same duration, and in a fake one, the first two notes are actually longer than the last. So how different are the two rhythms, really? Click here to hear both rhythms played at the same time: Both

I realize now that every choir I have ever been in tends to perform triplets as the second rhythm. It does tend to make the choir slow down and lose the tempo of the piece. When all of the voices are singing the same rhythm, (homophony) it really isn’t too much of an issue. However, when you’re singing a piece like this…In Bethlehem…it can really fuck you up!

You’ve Really Grown Up

“Oh wow, you look so grown up!”

If you are under the age of 21, there is little doubt in my mind that you hear this phrase often. When adults haven’t seen you in a while (a “while” being any amount of time from six months to 10 years), it is a reflex for them to utter some variance of this phrase.

20121023-165322.jpgI used to not mind this reaction. After all, I had indeed, grown up! I am constantly shocked at how fast time flies…Wasn’t I just beginning high school not too long ago?! I can understand how adults would marvel at my changes. After all, once you turn into an adult, you don’t change much so it is shocking to see people you knew as little children growing up.

Well, truth be told I’m starting to get annoyed by that phrase a bit. I am 20 years old now, and the only thing that has changed about my appearance in the last three years has been my hairstyle. I haven’t grown an inch since 2005! Can adults really look at me and still go, “Oh my gosh, you’ve grown up so much!” based on my appearance when in reality, I really haven’t?

Personally, I don’t think they ought to anymore!


Gay Marriage Debate

This week, I joined the group B.G.L.S.A. at my school. This stands for Bisexual Gay Lesbian Straight Alliance. It is basically a gay rights advocacy group. I am so happy to be a part of it! Through the group I learned that there will be a debate about gay marriage rights at our student union in a few weeks.

I definitely plan to attend this debate. I have never witnessed a debate on this topic. However, I can’t imagine that it will go very well. I can only imagine one basic argument that each side will make.

Before I list those arguments, let me name the sides here: one is us, the Allies. The people who want everyone in our nation to have basic human rights and think gay marriage should be legal YESTERDAY. Then there are the homophobes. Yes, I want to use the most derogatory word possible to describe these people who are bringing oppression to a group that they don’t particularly like. I swear, homophobes are #2 on my hate list after pedophiles. They just infuriate me with their ignorance.

Anyway, what can each of the sides use as their argument? I feel like the allies will say “it is common sense that everyone should have basic human rights”. Ok, yes, clearly. Done. I imagine the homophobes will say “It’s not in the Bible” or some of that shit. You’re right, it’s not. But since when do the contents of the Bible dictate the laws for our country? Never. Argument over.

If it’s so mind-numbingly simple, why the fuck do we not have gay marriage yet? I do not understand.

Maybe the homophobes will say that it is a choice to be gay. Well, first of all, it isn’t. There is science to back that up, research has been done on gay people to determine what physically in their brain causes their orientation. Also, fucking common sense. No one would CHOOSE to be in a group of people that is blatantly discriminated against across the world and is not even allowed basic rights in our country. No one would choose that life. It is not a choice.

Maybe the homophobes will say that they are afraid children who see happy gay couples walking down the street will then themselves choose to be gay. This is why we must stamp out homosexuality. Again, no. It is not a choice. A person cannot choose to be gay no more than they can choose to be short or tall.

This reminds me of a short anecdote: when my sister was little, she had this very very best friend named Lisa. They were nearly the same age and our families were neighbors so they spent every moment of every day together. You know what my three year old sister told my mom one day? “I love Lisa so much, I’m going to marry her!”

Now was my mother appalled at this? Did she think her three-year-old daughter had been influenced by the media to turn into a lesbian? Absolutely fucking not. My sister and I were taught that a marriage was a union between two adults who love each other. This, I strongly believe, should be the official definition of marriage around the world. My sister thought, oh, I love my friend, therefore I will marry her when we are adults. Flawless three year old logic. Of course, a dozen years later she was well established in her man-loving heterosexual ways.

I think (and this is just a guess) that homophobes’ main argument against gay marriage is that the Bible says it is wrong. My boyfriend likes to use the “traditional marriage” argument against this point, that is, picking other mentions of marriage from the Bible that include polygamy, rape, and concubines and stating that while the Bible does condemn gay marriage, it also allows for/encourages all these other crazy marriage arrangements that we do not accept today. He says that Christians cannot cherry pick which type of marriage they think is best and condemn all other forms.

While I agree with him, this is not the way I like to come back to the “it’s not in the Bible” argument. To this point I would say, so what? Just because it is written in a book that you like does not mean one can use that opinion to control the lives of everyone else around you. Not everyone agrees with that very antiquated view of the world.

What if I decided that in my religion it was blasphemous to have red hair? Would that mean that I could oppress all the redheads in the country and not let them get married? Obviously not. So why do homophobes think it is ok for them to do that with gay people???

I think what it really boils down to is that homophobes really just think gay sex is gross. Ok! That’s fine! Have your own opinion! You know, when I first learned about gay sex as a kid, I was grossed out too. But you know what happened next? I grew the fuck up. I’m sorry you homophobes haven’t matured. And anyway, even if you still think gay sex is all icky cooties, this is just another opinion. And opinions don’t give you the grounds to discriminate against people!

I had better stop writing, I am getting too angry.

Fuck homophobes, peace out.

More Rant

In addition to my normal woes of the week, this weekend is particularly woeful because I have to go out of town for my grandmother’s birthday. That is not the sad part, but the fact that I will miss so many things while I’m gone really sucks. I will already miss going to the gym for three days, so fuck that. I will only get to go twice this week. Well MAYBE twice! Who knows, tomorrow I might have to choose to skip it again because I have too much work to do. People use “I don’t have enough time” as an excuse not to exercise, but right now I really don’t have enough time and it is making me so angry!

It seems that every awesome concert or recital in the world is happening on this weekend, the ONE weekend I have planned to be away:

  • Mark Husey’s organ recital at the church, he will have pieces that include string quartet and clarinet and there will be a reception afterwards. omg I would kill to go.
  • There is a concert that will be performed by our voice faculty that includes several Handel arias and other great stuff, IDK because I CAN’T GO ANYWAY
  • Just learned today about a concert of Baroque music that will be performed on period instruments and have BAROQUE DANCERS what is that even I want to die
  • One of our piano professors and his colleague are performing all 10 Beethoven violin sonatas in order over the course of three days… the three days I will be away

To compare, here is a list of the recitals that I want to see in September on the weekends that I will be in town:

Time Management

A bit of a rant coming here:

It is only the second week of school and already I feel overwhelmed. I feel like I am being given so much work that it would require 32 hour days to complete it all. I have fallen completely and utterly behind on Sability work (luckily they just hired a new lady to do 90% of my duties, but I am still not able to complete that measly 10 percent) and church music. Perhaps the things that will suffer the most are composition (unfortunately no surprise there) and my new love, going to the gym.

Composition is my major, but I find it very hard to work into my life. This semester I am supposed to have new material once a week. This is hard to do for two reasons. 1) Producing new material to show to your teacher is so indimidating! 2) Every day that I want to work on composition, there are about 10 assignments due the next day, and since I have a week to do comp, it keeps getting pushed back more and more. I get home and I’m like well, better do homework. Oh look at the time, better run to rehearsal. Get home, damn it’s getting late better get ready for bed. An hour or two later I fall asleep from exhaustion. Then I have to wake up and either get on a Sability call or go straight to a thousand classes.

I hate school sometimes (read: all the time).

I won’t be able to go to the gym much either. I feel like I really like going because it is the only time blocked out on my schedule that is beneficial for my health AND also not mentally challenging. Everything else I have to do requires thought and work. They gym is like a break. Today I couldn’t go to the gym because I had so much work to do in the three hours between school and church choir.

And guess what, I haven’t been able to do a bit of composition in those three hours.

I suppose I could try and do some right now, but I have the hiccups which REALLY FUCKING PISS ME OFF and I’m already in a horrible mood.