Politics and the Cool Kids’ Table

I didn’t fall asleep until about 0400 because I made the mistake of watching Snowden at 2100. I thought I didn’t care about privacy because I didn’t have any, anyway (I’ve had a wallet stolen and Dana accidentally gave my passport to Goodwill). However, this was beyond my wildest dreams in terms of the power of the NSA/CIA/DIA/etc. As you can tell by the time of this posting [Editor’s Note: I started writing at 0830.], it didn’t take long before I woke back up just as freaked. If there’s anything that the movie points out, it’s that just because something is ruled illegal doesn’t mean that the intelligence community won’t do it, anyway. I’m not worried about access to my Facebook account- it’s all public, anyway. But access to every e-mail I’ve ever written, my phone, and my web cams on both my laptop and desktop? I am doing my best to remain in chill mode, because I have been sure since the Internet became mainstream that I didn’t have private information anymore. I just had information. But there’s one scene where the NSA is watching a Muslim woman and she starts to take off her clothes and they don’t not watch, because they’ve activated her web cam from their SCIF (Secure Contained Information Facility). The scariest part is that this could be dramatization for a movie, or it could be exactly the type behavior that Snowden was trying to highlight. The things that Snowden told the public were being fought internally, and nothing changed. I can’t necessarily support “telling family secrets,” and I can’t decide if I am better off for having seen the movie or not.

Because it’s Oliver Stone, there are real news clips mixed in with the dramatization, and I can’t recommend it highly enough as a good movie. I can promise that the issues it presents are complicated and there’s no easy answer. I have friends on both sides of the aisle, those that think he’s a traitor and a hero. I don’t know what the hell to think. I am able to see both sides of the equation, and just how involved the dialogue must be. Thus, my sleep last night was mostly reduced to sneezing and my eyes closed for a second. Who knows if I am a third or fourth connection to someone that deserves to be watched? How would I even know? I am glad that I am taking anti-anxiety medication, because even if I can’t turn off my brain about this, I’m not having any physical reactions to it. When the credits rolled, though, I was nauseous. By then, my medication had worn off and I couldn’t take any more until this morning. I have to be really careful with the clonazepam, because overuse tends to cause addiction and that is the last rabbit hole I need in my life. It would be easy to accomplish given the amount of stress and grief I’ve been under lately. Even with my mother dying, I still managed to get my savings to last until recently, because I greatly underestimated the time it would take me to get a job. Being a freelancer helps, but it’s not enough. The best I’m doing is expanding my network in hopes of meeting someone that can point me in the right direction.

It’s the same in terms of working for the church as a volunteer. It may also lead to something paid because on the social communications committee, I’m meeting other people who do what I do, which for the church is responsible, measured responses and in my own life, whoring my dirty laundry for money (explain your job badly). But the thing is, I don’t write for anyone else but me. If money comes from it, it’s a blessing, but it is not in any way necessary. Although I have to say that my favorite donation came from a woman who said you must have custom fonts. At the time, my reaction was you get me. You really, really get me. 😛

This is because any money that comes through goes right to WordPress.com and professional development. So far, I’ve been able to upgrade to the pro version of WordPress and get a subscription to LinuxJobber.com. Speaking of which, I need to create a CentOS virtual machine… more of a reminder to myself than telling you about it. That’s just an added bonus to hold me accountable. Although, wait. I don’t have to install anything on my local hard drive, because I can get a free VM in the cloud thanks to LinuxJobber and Amazon Web Services. It would just be nice to be able to learn stuff when I’m offline. It doesn’t happen often, but if my internet goes down, I’m not SOL, either.

This won’t make a lot of sense to non-computer people, but my computer has this inane thing where access to the extensions that make it possible to run a 64-bit guest operating system are soft-coded into the BIOS, and I Googled it, and there should be a BIOS update that fixes it, but so far, all of the BIOS updates I’ve downloaded haven’t included that one feature I really need. However, my computer is fast enough and has enough RAM that I can run a 32-bit guest operating system, and I have. Right now I’m running Windows 10 and can’t decide if I want to dual boot or just install VirtualBox. I had to switch back to Windows when my wireless adapter didn’t work natively in Linux and I have to install the Windows XP driver to get it to work, which reduces my download speeds to absolute shit. In order to properly use my internet connection in Linux, I have to tether my Android, which comes with two problems. The first is that I can’t use file transfer and tethering at the same time. The second is that there’s a large chance I could burn out my phone battery from keeping it plugged in so long. My laptop is fully capable of running multiple operating systems with VirtualBox, but I took it to the church so they wouldn’t have to provide a computer for me, and I got a refurbished desktop for Christmas, which is why I had to add USB wireless in the first place. Overall, I am extremely happy with it. Windows 10 doesn’t suck, and I’ve missed Fallout 3. The second is that the browser plugins are just better… I can use any browser for anything, which is important because I switch between Chrome and Firefox *a lot.*

It is shameful for me to admit this. It really is. However, if I upgrade to the Anniversary edition of Windows, I can install BASH, which won’t mean anything to you except that I’ll have a linux shell inside a Windows environment, and can run all the applications I’ve come to know and love that don’t make an open source Windows version. The easiest solution would be to take my desktop to the church and bring my laptop home, but my desktop is much, much faster than my laptop and has 3x the RAM. Plus, in Linux, my printer works perfectly, but the scanner won’t work over wireless… and I think it is lazy and pointless to buy a printer cable.

The entire reason I got an Android was to work in Linux natively, and I am surprised that the one feature that doesn’t work in Windows that does work in Linux is the media transfer protocol. Nine times out of ten, when I plug it in, it won’t even show up as a drive so I can’t drag and drop my music and videos. Regardless, it has a lot of features that my iPhone wouldn’t even touch, like having a fingerprint reader that allows me to log into my phone, Bank of America, and LastPass. I feel that feature alone was worth the price, even though I didn’t pay it… it was a Christmas present, too. Although it was a deep discount to get a refurbished one and take it to AT&T rather than upgrading my phone there. It’s not the latest and greatest phone, but it is to me. The fact that iPhones do not have an expansion slot is crazy. Mine is 128 GB so that it will last for a while. I use Handbrake to convert my movies to Android size, and I have a habit of using a LARGE amount of space for podcasts so that I don’t have to stream them in the car. Handbrake is invaluable because it backs up encrypted DVDs and Blu-Rays, although I do not have a Blu-Ray drive in my desktop. Perhaps that is one of the next orders of business, but first is a TV card so that I can run my cable through Kodi and record my shows onto my 3TB external drive. Thank GOD it comes in a Windows version that is identical to the Linux version, because I would be lost without it. It doesn’t have plugins for Amazon, Netflix, and Hulu, but there are so many video addons I do use, and here’s a list:

  • ABC Family (Freeform)
  • Crackler
  • TED Talks
  • Syfy
  • Travel Channel
  • Geek & Sundry
  • Linux Gamecast
  • This Week in Tech
  • PBS
  • PBS Kids (even at 39, still addicted to WordGirl)
  • WABC
  • WCBS
  • WNBC
  • YouTube

There are also programs called “Scrapers” that will download the subtitles and movie posters for my movies, which makes the interface beautiful. The OTA channel plugins often post shows before Hulu, because they’re recorded live. I also really, really love the PBS plugin, because my favorite show in the entire world is Frontline. Second to that is Mercy Street, because most of it takes place in my old hood, Alexandria, VA… and if there is a third, it’s American Experience. With the Travel Channel plugin, I have access to No Reservations. The last episode I watched was Finland, because my favorite episode of NR is Iceland, where Tony basically bitches the entire time about the cold/food and it is seriously entertaining.

I was looking forward to more of that, but as it turns out, he liked Finland much better. I would totally move there in a heartbeat if I wasn’t tired of moving and I know I would be gobsmacked by the weather- considering even though it was a lot warmer in Portland, the constantly grey skies undid me. After ten years, it was time to come home, whether it was Houston or DC. I do like their approaches to education, health care, a living wage whether you have a job or not, and the fact that if I got pregnant, my baby could live in a cardboard box. Also, there’s one train that serves beer and wine so you can have one on your train ride home. What’s not to love except for the soul-crushing weather?

Plus, Linux was invented in Finland. How can I not love that? Although ironically, Linus Torvalds lives in Portland now.

In other news, I am meeting an old, old friend at SBUX this afternoon. She was in my 7th and 8th grade classes at Clifton, and now works as a journalist here. I’m excited because she introduced me to an organization working to mobilize Montgomery County in terms of calling Congressmen and just generally trying to decide what we’re going to do over the next 2-4 years. I have a sneaking suspicion that the Midterms are going to be exciting. The hardest part we face is that this area went blue, so in some ways, we are preaching to the choir.

If this organization is non-partisan, just trying to combat injustice rather than being a mouthpiece for the Democratic party, I want to include Matt and Christ Church to it… because this was not a typical election. Even some Republicans are terrified, because this is not about a Republican administration, but decency and humanity. I don’t think we’d be this outraged had someone like Mitt Romney or Jeb Bush won. They have their issues, but they have two things going for them. The first is that they are not batshit crazy. The second is that I doubt either would have turned the country into a theocracy, because gay marriage and abortion were settled by the Supreme Court, and I doubt either one would try to overturn those cases.

I agree with President Obama, though. If the Republicans can come up with a solution to health care that is actually better than the ACA, I will personally support it. I believe that chance is less than zero, though, and perhaps by a large margin. I am grateful that I am covered by state Medicaid, and even though that may be affected, too, it stands a better chance of existing than the federal Affordabe Care Act. Nicknaming it “Obamacare” is both excellent and terrible. It reminds people that POTUS was responsible for passing legislation that truly helped a lot of people… and mobilized Republicans to paint Obama as the anti-Christ for changing the way health care is handled in this country. Before I applied for Medicaid, I got a federal stipend of $250, which made my insurance 37 cents a month. I can easily afford it, but the truth is that Maryland’s Medicaid program provides so much more coverage for free. There’s no deductible, my doctor’s appointments are free, and my medication costs are reduced to a dollar a bottle. Any insurance I’ve ever gotten through work has never been that good. If, God forbid, I have to have surgery or something, I will not have to file for bankruptsy in the process due to co-pays. With surgery and major illnesses such as cancer or an autoimmune disease, co-pays go up to thousands of dollars.

I am a huge fan of single-payer, because it takes away the Golden Handcuffs. No one is stuck in a job they hate because COBRA is ridiculously expensive. Also, when I was working for Marylhurst University, because Dana and I weren’t married her insurance had to be taken out of my salary at full price, which was $600 a month. I gladly paid it because she needed it, but it was still a huge pain in the ass when my straight coworkers paid a tenth of that to add a dependent. Alert Logic was on point. I was able to add Dana, and even though it was taxable income, it was also a tenth of the price at MU.

Single-payer would have saved us a ton of money, although I am sure that’s been changed since national gay marriage is a thing…. for now. Right now, it pays to be single, because if I get a job, not adding a dependent will make my health insurance either free or greatly subsidized.

I am terrified of a Republican president and a Republican Congress all at once. There are no checks and balances on repealing the progress that has been made over the last eight years, and I’m glad that President Obama is remaining in DC until Sasha graduates, because it will enable him to campaign on a huge platform for the midterms.

I am also greatly disappointed that Merrick Garland and President Obama will not become Supreme Court justices, because especially with Obama, as a Constitutional Law professor, it’s a job he might have enjoyed even more than being President. I’m not sure that he even wanted to be nominated, but at the same time, I don’t think it is any less true that he would have made an incredible “Supreme.”

I’m also incredibly disappointed that Ben Carson is such an idiot, because I think it would be interesting at this time in our lives to have an MD in The White House. But Carson seems to have gotten his medical degree from Bob’s College of Medicine & BBQ Pit. If Tiffany Anthony ever had any interest in becoming President, I’d vote for her in a heartbeat (see what I did there?). It also wouldn’t hurt to have a doctor on the Supreme Court… because there are no qualifications for being a Justice. It is traditional for them to be lawyers, but that’s just precedent. Anyone can be appointed if they make it through the vetting process, because in the Constitution, they are literally just Nine Guys in Robes (thanks to Ken Wall for that description). I’m not even sure that you have to have any degrees if you are smart enough.

It’s interesting to think of me getting a government job right now, because I am sure I would be a part of the rebellion that is starting as we speak, especially if I was a White Hat hacker, able to discover vulnerabilities and find SQL injections, rootkits, etc. Rootkits are of the devil, because you can actually overwrite memory as they’re working, so you can’t even see the running process. I am just not a math and science brain. I can teach someone how to use a computer and offer incredible tech support, but I am not the type person to whom programming/reverse engineering comes easily. However, maybe that wouldn’t matter in this administration. If Trump is any indication, I am qualified for any job. Any of them.

If I had aspirations in that area, it would be to work for “No Such Agency,” the only government institution that cares enough to listen. #tshirtwisdom I’ve seen it in two places. The first is the gift shop near Old Ebbitt Grill, and the second is at the Spy Museum. Especially after watching Snowden, it may go on my birthday list.

I do have a CIA baseball cap because my great uncle was a badass hero before I was born. However, I don’t wear it a lot because even though it’s just a tourist gimmick, I’ve noticed that other people look at me suspiciously, as if the CIA actually advertises. The rules for being in the intelligence community are roughly the same as Fight Club. The second is that it is black, and gathers all kinds of dust bunnies and dog hair, and I haven’t managed to get it clean in years.

And on that note, it’s time to get ready to meet “Ace.” I’m looking forward to sitting at the “cool kids’ table.” I finally think I’m worthy of it… and to be honest, it is exciting to think about my future in social justice rather than the grief that is threatening to undo me every single day. My mother would be so proud.

#beastmode engaged.

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