Category Archives: Opinion

Elon Musk, Inspiration or Jerk?

I do not often get the chance to write an opinion piece, so I am going to make the best of this opportunity as it’s been burning at me for awhile.

How to describe Elon Musk’s year so far? Musk so far has not had a good year. After calling a British diver a “pedo” on Twitter (due to his criticism toward Musk during the Thailand cave rescues), Musk is getting sued. After this, he returned to Twitter to threaten the removal of Tesla from the stock market. This ended with Musk being sued by the SEC which lead to him stepping down as chairman from Tesla, paying a $20 million fine and a Twitter “timeout” while Tesla monitors Musk and his activity on the social media platform.

These events happened over a two month period, and they are not the only thing that Musk has done that was stupid or questionable. The man donates money to both political parties for the heck of it, launches a Tesla car into space without any reason other than his own kicks, and started a company that was meant to help with Los Angeles traffic by creating “flamethrowers” just for the heck of it.

Now, there are reasons why Musk does these things. Launching a car into space shows how much potential SpaceX has, while donating money to both political parties serves to show how much influence that he can have in a more political scale. Lastly, creating “flamethrowers” seemed to simply be his method of showing that he can do whatever the “hell” he wants.

That reminds me of a certain someone who is currently sitting in the Oval Office. Yes, we know that you are rich, but you do not need to flash the money. Such actions only serve to make you look like a jerk. This is not sarcasm, nor is it Musk simply trying to be funny; these actions are trying to make yourself better than what you are.

I will admit that Musk has done a great job with SpaceX and PayPal (which he sold to Google). But that does not mean that I have to like the man. He is a person that has to show how much money that he has and does it in the worst ways possible. That is why I do not see him as an inspiration, I see him as a jerk.

Don’t Worry About It

There have been many new words coming into creation or popularity to describe people’s sexualities or gender identities. Most of the sexualities are becoming fairly mainstream knowledge; gay, bi, pan, ace, all are fairly simple and self-explanatory. There lesser known sexualities such as demi or gray-sexual. But gender identities seem to be where most people become lost. Most people understand the basic cis or transgender dichotomy, but words like agender, nonbinary, and genderfluid have not reached the same level of public acknowledgement and understanding.

I am a genderfluid individual, in short it means that sometimes I feel more like a man and sometimes I feel more like a woman, and many times I exist somewhere in the androgynous middle ground. This feeling affects me daily as to how I dress and present myself in public. I do not vastly change my personality, I may attempt to keep my voice in a lower octave when I am having a masculine day but that is the extent of personality changes. I own a chest binder, as without it I have a D-cup chest, so when I feel masculine I will usually wear that under my clothing. Pronouns are a bit tricky when it comes to nonbinary individuals. Many people choose they/them pronouns or some other nonbinary ones such as ze/zem or xe/xer. And nonbinary individuals may still wish to go by gendered pronouns for several reasons; it may make them more comfortable or they may not be out to everyone around them.

I personally am not stressed by pronouns, I don’t usually care about whether or not people call me masculine, feminine, or neutral pronouns. I will answer to any of them unless I am obviously trying to present as one or the other. It is important to honor other people’s pronouns, however asking for them can be tricky. Asking someone you just met outright what pronouns they use can cause the person to feel insecure that they may not be passing as the gender they wish to present as. It is best to only bring it up after the person leads up to it and feels comfortable to bring that up with you.

Learn to Write, Stem Majors

Just last week I watched one of my friends trod through grading some assignments. For anyone of you who is familiar with the pain that is grading, you know how horrible it is. For those of you who haven’t yet had the pleasure I will say this, it’s worse than actually doing the assignment. No matter how much you suffered writing that paper or finish that lab I can guarantee you that grading it was worse. Why? Because the person who graded it had to do it 20 times while you only had to go through that hell once.

As I watched my friend grade those papers I felt nothing but sympathy and gratitude. Sympathy that he had to do that and gratitude that I only had to grade lab assignments and not papers. Because I’m going to be honest, there’s nothing worse than grading papers. When you grade a paper you’ve got to not only grade for content but also for grammar. Which is annoying and time consuming. Papers are often peppered with mistakes, some serious and some small. The line between too harsh and too lenient is blurry, making it difficult to know how many points to take off exactly.

The reason I bring this up is because I see the worst offenders for this sort of poor writing is STEM majors. We STEM majors have a lot of catching up to do when it comes to our ability to write, it’s almost sad. The worst thing about it all is that we make fun of the humanities while we do it. A majority of science majors can’t string three words together into a cohesive sentence but we delight in making fun of the people who can. I’m guilty of that myself, I’ve got at least a dozen English major jokes in my arsenal ready for use at any time.

But honestly? We STEM majors need to get it together. Either we have to stop making fun of the people who can do what we can’t and treat them with the respect they deserve. Or we need to stop scorning the skills altogether and learn how to do it ourselves. A lot of STEM majors will claim that they don’t know how to write, that their brain doesn’t work like that. Coming from the same group that’ll look down on an Art major who can’t do calculus. It’s funny because that Art major is going to need calculus way less than the STEM major will need to be able to write.

Pull yourselves together STEM majors and learn to write!

Tattoos in the Work Place

In the new and growing environment of a work place filling with millennials, changes and approaches to how the work place is run are being introduced. On one hand, more interesting appearances are coming into greater view, and on the other hand managements are struggling to deal with evolving trends.

One of the biggest controversies that occur with employee appearances are tattoos. They are often bright, colorful, and attention grabbing, and oftentimes permanent, and therefore not easily covered. While most other changes to one’s appearance can be changed or modified to be considered appropriate for the work environment, tattoos do not provide such a luxury, and so employers can be hesitant to offer opportunities to applicants with tattoos.

The question, however, is why should they?

Tattoos have long been seen as unprofessionally, but given the rising popularity of tattoos and the ever increasing number of people who get them, it is becoming harder to view them as anything other than a common method of self-expression. When something has grown commonplace among the public, it is difficult to argue that potential customers could be put off by tattoos, especially if they themselves have some.

As time presses on, so to do we find ever-evolving shifts to popular culture—both in the workplace, and out. While this does not necessarily mean that employees will be able to go around covered in tattoos, piercings, or extreme hair styles, it does encourage more freedom in what is considered appropriate for work.

A few tattoos may be just artwork to some, but to others they represent something deeper—a permanent and personal fixture of their body that tells a story, and shouldn’t have to be hidden just to be considered for employment.

At the end of the day, though, we are who we make ourselves—whether inked from our head to our toes or a sanitary slate, our bodies remain the one thing we can say without a doubt is ours to control. Whether the professional environment can keep up with the trends of a new society is anybody’s guess, there is no doubt that we as a culture will continue to press on regardless.

 

Photo from STAPAW

Stormy Daniels, Her Lawyer’s Threat, and What This Could Mean

Stormy Daniels, the adult film actress who is suing President Trump, has once again resurfaced in the news, though, to be more accurate, her lawyer has been the one making waves. Michael Avenatti, better known as Stormy Daniels’ lawyer, has recently stated that he has a DVD he is ready to release, which could prove to be very embarrassing, if not detrimental, for many of the concerned parties in the affair.

Avenatti has tweeted a picture of a DVD, warning that he will release it if President Trump or his lawyer continue to call Stormy Daniels a liar after her “60 Minutes” special. Avenatti has called his tweeted picture a “warning shot,” and so far, it seems to have worked. Trump and company have been silent on the matter, though it is uncertain how they will respond with the various scandals and responsibilities going on with the White House and Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen.

It also brings up the question of what is on the DVD that could be so frightening to Trump and his lawyer that Avenatti would feel it is sufficient to hold them off. There seems to be some implication that the DVD could contain video of Trump caught in the act of his affair with Daniels, possibly even explicit evidence. If so, what could that mean for the President and the state of the White House?

It is hard not to think back to the time of Bill Clinton, given some of the similarities that are present. Frankly, it would be shameful to have yet another president found guilty of having an affair, though few people would be surprised by this one. What is particularly mind boggling about this situation is that this affair was already an issue before Trump became President. For all of the uproar there was over Bill Clinton’s affair, many of Trump’s voters and supporters seemed to gladly ignore this side of Trump. It brings up one final question: At what point do we stop acting like Trump’s election was about his policies or character (or lack thereof), and start admitting that his election as president was merely about his pandering to hate filled rhetoric and beliefs?

This is a despicable man, not because he slept with an adult entertainer, but because he had an affair, and then chose to have his lawyer pay Daniels hush money, only to demean her in various ways when his dirty laundry gets aired. The quality of Trump’s character was well known before this and during his campaign, yet not of his supporters batted an eye. This scandal comes about, which would be enough to end the career of any president before, and there is hardly an outcry. You have to begin to wonder what this man really represents, and why it got him elected.

Saving Lives, Bad for Business?

Recently a report has been published by Goldman Sachs analysts exploring the question “Is curing patients a sustainable business model?” The idea behind it being that as “one-shot cures” rid more and more people of their disease and/or medical condition, the need for that particular medicine will go down, as there fewer people to spread it. The report cited a study about treatments for Hepatitis C that have more than a 90 percent cure rate. As a result of that effective treatment, the need for that treatment decreased significantly, as did the profits from it. All of this begs the question, what in the world is wrong with medical companies?

It would seem that profit is the greater concern over improving lives and saving lives. This report appears to suggest that medical companies developing treatments and cures for sick people should focus their efforts on diseases that can and will appear on their own, without the need for carrier. It suggests that the research should focus more on disease like cancer or medical conditions like asthma not because they should try to cure it, but because it has a more sustainable business profit. That is to say, because people will always have to deal with these conditions, and therefore they can continue to profit off of the sick. And as for the people will curable or potentially curable disease or conditions? It seems they are just going to get ignore and be left to suffer. It is apparently a bad thing that so many people got treated for Hepatitis C.

What sort of world do we live in were profit is put above improving and saving lives? It is understandable that companies need to make a profit so they continue to fund medical research, but it should never be taken so as to even consider placing profit over the lives of their patients. If this is how things are going to go, how until we hear from our doctors that our illnesses are curable, but that they will not cure it because it would mean less money for them and the medical companies?

 

Photo from the Wall Street Journal

Trump Rants on Twitter… Again

Once again, Trump has taken to Twitter to address his grievances with the latest debacles, news, and world affairs concerning him. No surprise there, as this seems to occur on an almost weekly basis, which is something we should talk about. For now, let us ignore the specific subject matter of Trump’s latest Tweets, though they do merit attention and consideration, and concentrate on the fact that this is how Trump deals with any backlash or negative criticism.

Donald Trump is, unfortunately, our president, and he should act like it. This man is meant to be the figurehead of our nation, and the singular person that the rest of the world looks to and sees America, and what do they see? An angry man that response to every piece of negative criticism like a child. This man is supposed to be running our country, yet he appears to spend too much of his time concerning himself with the opinions of others, and rushing to Twitter so he can bash and decry those he does not like. This is a man that resorts to, essentially, pointing his finger, calling someone names, and saying they are a liar. He is doing precisely that to James Comey, who is releasing a book on April. 17 that details his (poor) experiences with Trump and had an interview on the 15th about this same book. Given the numerous issues and problems facing the government and America as a whole, not to mention the recent missile strike in Syria (which should be mention), Trump has better things to do with his time than concern himself with a book.

Frankly, Trump only seems to really care about his image. This is not news, by any means, but it bears repeating. His actions seem like that of a desperate man doing his best to discredit any who oppose him for fear that people might actually realize what a horrendous job Trump has been doing. This man may be the President, but he does not act like one or seem to hold much, if any, respect or regard for the position. Simply put, Trump is president in name only.

Let Me Out

I recently watched a movie called ‘Let Me In’ on Netflix. It’s a sorrowful tale of a young boy growing up isolated, alone and afraid. Bullied at school and suffering through the divorce of his parents at home, his only solace comes when a girl, Abby, moves in with her father, Thomas, next door. He is instantly intrigued by her; she is aloof and reluctant, for reasons that are explained later. But they nevertheless find themselves drawn to one another and are able to bond over a mutual love of puzzles.

The tale unfolds in one sense as a Peter Pan fable. There are elements of eternal youth depicted in the character of Abby, who is revealed to be a vampire. In a more traditional take on the vampire myth, she must be invited into a house like in vampire legends of old. She burns in the sun and is only seen at night. And while it is unknown if religious artifacts have an adverse effect on her, there are numerous religious overtones displayed in the character of Owen’s mother who listens several times throughout the movie to late night sermons on T.V., a habit that is hinted to have contributed to the dissolution of her marriage. Abby is also super-strong, and seems to revert to a more animal state with glowing eyes when feeding.

Despite this, she remains very much a child. In describing her plight to Owen, she self-describes as being “…12. But I’ve been 12 for a long time.” She is inquisitive, laughs, and engages at every turn with Owen for all the world like a 12-year old girl would. She doesn’t really hint that she knows why she has to be invited in to a house beyond knowing that it eventually causes blood to pour from her eyes, nose, and mouth. She knows that she must not be in the sun, and that she needs blood to live. And that is all that is given.

In another sense, this makes Owen and Abby’s infatuation all the more tragic. While being an otherwise very stereotypical childhood crush, the revelation that Abby is a vampire, combined with the discovery that her father is not in fact her father but the last boy she fell in love with, gives rise to the implication that Thomas’ fate is what is in store for Owen.

Owen, like Thomas, will grow old and die in service to a childhood love that cannot grow old with him, in addition to his already ravaged childhood, torn asunder by the divorce of his parents and, towards the end, his near death at the hands of his bullies. This spells depressingly cruel consequences for Owen that two children, one immortal and the other merely troubled, could never be adult enough to foresee. Thomas, it is shown, commits several acts of murder just to collect blood for Abby to survive.

During overheard conversations between Abby and Thomas, it is shown that decades of such murders begin catching up to him as an old man. In the end, after botching a second attack and about to be captured, he douses himself with acid to obscure his identity and, thus, his connection to Abby, protecting her. When she comes to visit him at the hospital, he is unable to invite her in due to the acid damage to his vocal cords. Lastly, unable to speak, he offers himself to Abby, who feeds from him before allowing his body to fall from his tenth floor room. On a police tablet, left by an officer near his bedside should he wish to confess, is scrawled a single line: “I’m sorry Abby.”

By the end of ‘Let Me In’ I was shouting internally ‘Let Me Out’ as I tried to imagine any way in which the ending of such of a path could ever be thought of as romantic or good.

Organ Donation

Organ donation is a long and incredibly difficult process. It can be very difficult to get on an organ donation list, and they may not get the organs they need due to the short supply. People can only donate a few organs while they are still alive, so organ donation after death can be extremely helpful for sick people with conditions like heart defects.

There is also the issue of getting a compatible organ. You have to get an organ that matches with your body in order to get the transplant. There is no guarantee that the one organ available will be compatible with a person. Even a blood relative might not have an organ that is compatible. So the more people who become organ donors, the better the chance there is for another person to live.

Organ donors do not have to be the healthiest individuals; anyone can donate parts of their body even if other parts are not in the best shape. A heavy smoker could still donate something like their eyes or even the bones after their death. Every part of the human body can potentially be used to help a person in need. The skin, for example, can be used to help burn victims if doctors get to the deceased fast enough.

In your will, or by proxy after you die, you can still dictate what parts of your body are available for use. If a person wishes to hold on to specific parts of their body, they can. An organ donor still has a certain level of control over their body.

The community still needs organ donors; they are in great demand. While scientists are working toward creating organs in labs to help save lives, they have not yet reached a point where they can keep up with the demand of organs.

School’s Almost Over, Now What?

As this semester comes to a close, many students will be wondering what to do for the summer, or if you are a graduating senior, what to do for the rest of your life. The students that are not yet graduating will need to be looking for short-term occupations for the summer. Part-time jobs will most likely be high up on that list. A little bit of extra cash will always be helpful for a college student; if nothing else, it will give them a bit of pocket change for when those exams get tough. A night out or a good meal can be just what the doctor ordered. Internships are another good opportunity for the summer, though those can be difficult to achieve and maintain. To realistically be able to hold one, you need someone who is willing to financially support you, which is a lot easier said than done. The real trouble comes for the graduating students though.

First of all, every student has to decide what to do, whether or not they are going to go on to grad school, or head into the workforce. That in and of itself can be a pretty drastic decision, and can be cause for a lot of concern. Graduate school can significantly increase the amount of debt a college student is in already, but it can potentially mean more money. However, there is also the issue of financing graduate school, which can be difficult after spending all of that money on four years of regular college.

Going into the workforce is not much easier nowadays. For all of the emphasis on getting a diploma, many employers also want their applicants to have years of job experience that no one fresh out of college realistically has. Job experience can be difficult to gain because no one will hire you in the first place without job experience. It is a vicious cycle, one that is made even more dangerous by the fact that recent graduates will soon have to pay off their accumulated debt. The best option is unclear, and it is a decision that is ultimately different for every person. There is not an easy way out, even though many of us may want that.

Some Advice with Paper Writing

Everyone in college inevitably has to write a few papers for some of their classes. It is all part of the college experience, especially when you end up writing a paper at 3 in the morning when it is due at 10 that morning. We have all had to pull a few all-nighters to get our work done. Part of the reason for that is always the time getting away from us. We think we have enough time, that the paper is not due for another week, or four days, then suddenly it is the night before it is due and none of us have even made the word document. It would probably work out better if we tried to write a small bit at a time rather than all at once.

There are some pros to writing a paper in a single night. You can spend all of the extra time working on the other homework that piles up. We all end up with an overwhelming amount of work eventually; sometimes the best course of action is to put off that big paper to get other work done, especially when it is due much sooner than the paper. But we could do better with a bit of time management and a willingness to spread the work around.

A more efficient way to go about writing a paper, especially as we near the end of the school semester, is to write small portions of it over the course of the week before it is due. Spend an hour and write an introduction. The next, you can take another hour to make your first body paragraph. Keep up that trend and before you know it, you will have a full and finished paper. Admittedly, this is just one way to go about writing it, and it has its cons too. It can be difficult to start and stop when writing a paper and maintain the same level of quality, but it is just some advice for the upcoming weeks of finals.

A Queer Life

Gay people have been making more and more strides over the years. The LGBT community has been increasing awareness over the years and has made more progress towards general acceptance. A few years ago, they even got to the point where gay marriage became legal in every state, a landmark occasion that showed years of hard work and support can pay off. Since then, talk of discrimination against people in the LBGT community has dropped significantly; that is to say, many seem to think that gay marriage was the end of it all. Except, it is not over; it just gets swept under the rug more often than not.

Many people still have to deal with the discrimination, and dangers, that come with being queer. Even the word queer in and of itself can cause issues. It was originally used by people of the LBGT community to describe themselves, but over time it became a term of discrimination and hate. But the LBGT community decide to reclaim that word and many are using it to describe themselves, particularly some of the lesser known sexualities and gender identities like pansexual, bisexual, and asexual. That does not stop people from using it as a hateful term, nor does it mean that everyone in the LBGT community likes that as a label. Whatever the case, it is still representative of the conflict that the LGBT community has to face.

In August, a man in Florida was killed for defending his gay friend. Juan Cruz was at a restaurant with friends when another man at the restaurant became enraged over the fact that one of Cruz’s friends was exchanging numbers with another man. He began yelling hateful speech at the group and threatened to kill all of them several times throughout the night. Once both groups left, this man pulled out a handgun and began to fire at Cruz’s friends. Cruz himself got shot and died at the scene. This was only a few months ago. There are still people out there that are ready, willing, and capable of killing LGBT people just because they are not straight. But no one likes to talk about that. Or about any discrimination, for that matter. Too often, events like this get swept under the rug, and it seems more than strange that no one talks about it and that life just goes on. There is more work that needs to be done, and people cannot act like the fight is over just because some progress has been made.

I’m Dating a Magician

So I started dating a magician last year. I didn’t know this when I first started dating him. I guess magicians don’t like to advertise what they do; otherwise, people would think they are creepy. They are not wrong. Anyway, because 80 percent of the people in the audience of any magic show are other magicians looking for ideas to steal for their act, I’ve been dragged to about 40 magic shows. I’ve seen a couple of good shows, but I’ve seen way more terrible acts. Along the way, I’ve made a list of my top three favorite magicians. See if you can figure out what they all have in common.

My number one magician is Zabrecky. He performs in the “The Zabrecky Hour.” He looks like Lurch from the Adams family and acts like the Count of Monte Christo. He feels like a character that would perfectly fit into an Edgar Allan Poe story. All of his tricks find a perfect balance between funny and creepy, but he will never understand why the audience is laughing. He has a Sheldon Cooper level of social awkwardness, but once the audience is on his side, he hits that sweet spot of lovably awkward.

My number two magician is Rudy Coby. He performs as the “Labman,” a mad scientist magician. His show captures the best parts of classic 90’s zaniness. Rudy demonstrates his various inventions and creations in a way that just barely works on the supposed shoestring budget of the show. There is also a superhero component to the show, as various supervillains interrupt the show, and force Rudy to do some sort of magic trick to vanquish the villain. It’s the perfect mix of comedy and action. He is also famous for parodying other magicians. His roast of David Copperfield is a must see.

Rounding out the list is my number three magician, Jeff Hobson. Most magicians like to pick a lady volunteer for their tricks because they can’t interact with women in any other context, but Jeff is famous for picking men volunteers. You see, if Jeff were on fire, he would be less flaming than when he is performing. This man has a very openly homosexual personality. He prances about the stage, plays ABBA music while his helper shuffles the cards, and generally does everything he can to push boundaries with his male volunteers. I laugh to the point of screaming watching this man work his magic on the men.

Have you found the link between the acts yet? Here’s a hint. I never told you a single magic trick they did. That’s because the tricks they did were not important. These magicians could have done any trick and still been entertaining. These acts are character driven. The characters are so interesting and fun to watch that they could have done anything on stage and would have been good. That’s the real secret to being a good magician, having a good entertaining character, and then picking tricks that really let the character shine through.

Gun Violence and Mental Health

It’s a depressingly familiar pattern here in the United States. Social media blows up with news about the latest shooting. Whether it’s at a school, a bar, a movie theater, or literally anywhere, it is always the same story. A white man walked into a place and opened fire. Numbers start climbing. 2 dead, then 5, then 10, then 21 until finally the numbers plateau at one that is too high and too depressing. Finally, the shooter is identified, a white man with a deranged look in his eye.

The pattern continues as we discuss the tragedy, and try and make sense of the pain. Lots of people, conservatives and liberals both, start a discussion about mental health. Because only a crazy person would use an AR-15 on an innocent crowd of people, right? Maybe the shooter is a lone wolf, or maybe he was in the boy’s scouts. Maybe he was bullied. But he was certainly mentally unwell, deranged. Mental illness is thrown around as the one true cause for this horrible tragedy.

But here’s the deal. Those shooters aren’t mentally ill. According to the American Psychiatric Association people with serious mental illness represent less than 1% of all yearly mass shootings. It’s not the crazy people doing this. It’s the angry, privileged, white men who see others as deserving of their violence.

There’s a serious problem with equating mental illness with violence. It produces an awful stigma for people diagnosed with mental illnesses, making getting help and treatment difficult. People with mental illnesses need our support, not the constant stream of news that tells them they are the problem. Mentally ill people cause about 3% of all violent crime annually, and very little of that involves guns.

It makes no sense to have laws that target the mentally ill when it comes to gun control. It won’t change anything. Keeping guns from them won’t stop the real perpetrators. We need comprehensive gun control; laws that will keep everyone to the same high standards for gun ownership. Targeting the mentally ill only increases the stigma around these disorders and lets the problems with gun violence in America continue unchecked. It doesn’t help anyone.

Makeup is not Freedom

As I go into the final stretch of my undergraduate education here at Radford University, I’m preparing to enter into the adult world of employment. I, like many of my peers, am searching online sites and talking to different professors about potential job opportunities in my field. For the first time I’m looking at jobs that offer an annual salary and health benefits, wondering which ones I qualify for, and what to do to ensure I get the job I want. What to wear to an interview, and what to put in my resume. That’s what I’m focusing on in the last four weeks of the semester, not, for the first time in years, on my finals.

As a woman, I have a whole slew of things I have to consider when it comes to presenting myself to future employers. How high my heels are, how short my skirt, how to style my hair and most importantly what is the exact right amount of makeup. These questions are debated over and over until I finally perfect my interview outfit.

I’ve been told by many people that makeup is a tool. It’s a form of self-expression and it’s freeing. Strong women wear makeup, and they use it to show off their inner beauty. These same people were also trying to sell me thick concealers and foundations so maybe they were a little biased.

Here’s the thing. I love makeup. I’m the kind of girl that owns bright purple lipstick that I will wear around the house just for fun. But makeup isn’t freedom. It’s not strength. It’s definitely not a sign of great feminism. Women are expected to wear makeup in the professional world. Women who do are paid more and are more likely to be given promotions. Women who don’t are told they aren’t dressed appropriately. There are real-life consequences for me if I don’t put this gunk on my face.

No matter how people want to spin makeup to me, it still doesn’t change that fact. Girls can love makeup. They can become amazing artists and even make careers out of the field. But this one fact remains. Makeup isn’t freedom. It’s another way that society has made women feel like they are not enough. That we need to cover up our very skin in order to look appropriate to work in a cubicle. That’s damaging. Don’t buy into the idea that makeup is for strong women because that only deludes you into believing that you are benefiting from a system that preys on your insecurities and weaknesses.

Ronny Jackson, Good at Fixing People, Bad at Fixing the VA

Continuing the new normal in the United States, President Trump has fired by tweet the current Secretary of the Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA), David Shulkin. As his replacement, Trump has nominated his personal physician Ronny Jackson. According to Shulkin, he was completely blindsided by this decision. Experts indicate that the decision was likely related to Shulkin’s resistance to the Trump administration’s desire to privatize major parts of the VA hospital systems.

Ronny Jackson served as the personal physician to President Trump, President Obama, and the second President Bush. Before that, he served as a doctor in the navy. By all accounts, he is a competent physician, but that does not qualify him to serve as the new director of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

The Department of Veterans’ Affairs is the second largest federal agency, second only to the Department of Defense. The VA employs 377,805 people all across the country. Shulkin, the past director, served as the President and Chief Executive Officer of Beth Israel Medical Center in New York. He had the experience required to manage a system as large as the VA. Ronny Jackson has never been in charge of more than a dozen or so people in his capacity as the white house doctor. His appointment follows President Trump’s pattern of nominating people who he likes regardless of their qualifications. This is a recipe for disaster in the already troubled VA. Our veterans deserve better. I am calling on Republicans, who always support the veterans, to reject this nomination and demand that President Trump nominates a qualified secretary.

Moderate

Late one Saturday night / Sunday morning, I’m scrolling through my Facebook feed when I come across instructions for how to find out what your political views are based off Facebook’s algorithms. Intrigued, I track it down. It’s buried 6-7 links down in your Account Settings: Menu to Account Settings to Ads to Your Information to Your Categories to Review and Manage Your Categories to US Politics.

As I’m scrolling through, I begin to worry. As a Computer Science major, I’m more aware than most of just what kind of data can be collected, and despite that knowledge, I have maintained a pretty steady online presence where Facebook is concerned. There are many reasons for this, not least of which is I like to read, and Facebook does a good job of giving me delicious content to consume.

But in the past few years, the content I consume has turned more political than when I was in my 20’s (I’m 30 now). I have over 2,400 different groups liked on my profile. Thousands upon thousands of viewed articles, comments, and replies. Many would view Facebook’s interpretation of its users’ political stances as sort of a “What kind of toaster are you? Take our 5 question quiz to find out!” gimmicky tagline, and take it with a grain of salt. I, on the other hand, know the sheer amount of information I have interacted with online tells me that it is a statistically significant result. What Facebook’s algorithms think is more than likely a true representation of my political inclination.

What if I’m one of those right-wingers that everybody on-campus hates? What if people summarize my political views as “God, guns, and gin” or “King James, jacked up trucks, and Uncle Sam”? What if I get pegged at the opposite end and live out the rest of my days trying to figure out how to weave hemp undergarments with locally sourced, gender neutral, cruelty-free knitting needles? I have read news from all sources, everything from Huffington Post to Fox News. Doubts assailed me from all sides.

Imagine my relief when I see, in parentheses, the word “Moderate.” That’s like getting a ‘C’ on a final when you’re expecting an ‘F.’ But further down, there’s a little box. It says “Sorry, we don’t have an example of this kind of ad to show you right now.” This entire thing, Facebook and its affiliates, are nothing more than ad recommendation engines. 2 billion people all “turned on, tuned in, and dropping out.” And not a single recommendation for “Moderate” US politics? There are 170 million people who didn’t vote in the last Presidential election. Approximately 340 million total living in the US.  And there is no sizable subset who might be interested in Moderate political ads? That’s a scary thought.

More Than Just Gay Clubs

Most people are aware of the popularity of gay clubs, and how they seem to be the go-to spots for any interaction between LGBTQA+ people. It has almost reached the point of becoming a stereotype; clubs are just where all of the gays hang out. In a sense that is true, but from that stems a bigger issue. There are no casual locations for LGBT people in that community to hang out. The only places that cater to them are bars or clubs, both of which exclude younger members of the community and are often inherently sexual. It is not an appropriate place to really make friends or for people under the age of 18 to become more involved with the community. With clubs, it is hard for LGBT people to connect with those who are going through similar life experiences as they are.

The simplest solution to this is to create spaces for members of the LGBTQA+ community that are more casual and not a part of the bar/club scene. Though it is a bit of a cliché, coffee shops aimed towards LGBT people would be a good starting point. It provides a calm and casual place for people from the community to meet up and hang out. Younger members of the community could also be involved without fear of predatory behavior or overt sexual tones being an issue.

People in the LGBTQA+ community often feel the need to hide or avoid talking about their identity. They can feel isolated from the people around them and the community they belong to. Locations that cater to LBGT people can provide a sense of belonging and ease the burden of having to watch how you act and what you say around people you do not know. They often have to guard their actions and words around strangers for fear of discrimination, but in locations that are more casual and designed for LGBTQA+, they can relax and they do not need to hold their breath in anxiety.

 

Photo from nicophoto.com