Rehabilitating Fahrenheit

For most of my life, I lived in Florida. Sure, I was born in New Jersey, but my family moved South when I was roughly six weeks old. Aside from a few years in Germany and my more recent translocation to Virginia, all the rest of my days were lived in Florida.

It’s for this reason that my brain is broken in a really peculiar way. The only time I’ve ever lived in a place with actual winter, the metric system was in play. The result? I don’t really understand cold temperatures in Fahrenheit. When the temperature drops below 60 degrees Fahrenheit, my brain short circuits and I have no frame of reference for what that feels like.

Unless you tell me it’s 16 degrees Celsius. Then I understand it completely.

Warm temperatures I completely get in Fahrenheit, but cold temps I only grok in Celsius. I have no idea how to dress for 32F, but I’m ready to go when it’s 0C outside. Intellectually I know it’s the exact same thing, but… my brain still doesn’t make that association.

Twelve degrees celcius on a sunny day is a gorgeous, perfect day in my brain, but if you tell me that it’s also 53F, I’m bound to think it’s colder than it really is.

As you might imagine, I spend a lot of time flipping the weather app on my phone between Fahrenheit and Celsius whenever I leave the apartment. I’m trying to forge new associations in my brain about what each of those numbers actually feels like. I think that in time, I can rehabilitate my brain to properly understand cold weather in Fahrenheit.

Which sounds nicer to you, 18C or 64F?

7/52

Let’s talk about last Wednesday.

I’ve tried several times over the last few days to write about last Wednesday’s insurrection at the US Capitol, but was having trouble finding the words. I generally don’t blog about politics, because politics are angry-making and I prefer to stay on the side of whimsy. This cannot go without comment though.

The events of last Wednesday enrage me. I was watching C-Span to see the counting of electoral votes. C-Span’s whole schtick is that it’s parliamentary government in action so it’s usually the height of boring. But then partway through the vote counting and objection speeches, insurrectionists breached the Capitol and the Congress had to be evacuated.

We already knew the so-called “stop the steal” rally was going to be noisy and awful, but then Rudy Giuliani suggested trial by combat, and Trump himself egged on his cultists, telling them to march to the Capitol.

Like so many of you, I watched the news in real time, horrified at what I was seeing. Watching the insurrectionists replace the US flag with a Trump flag was stomach-churning. By 6pm, a curfew had been declared for Washington, DC, and soon after for nearby Arlington, which is where I live.

I’m four miles from the Capitol building, as the crow flies. About six miles by bike. It’s an eighteen-minute ride to the nearest Metro stop for the Capitol. In other words, everything that happened was actually fairly close.

Being on the other side of the Potomac River made it feel distant, but it really wasn’t. That became more evident when I learned that many of the folks who traveled to DC for the insurrection were staying at AirBnB’s in nearby Rosslyn and in the suburbs closer to me.

As more information became available, it became more and more clear that this wasn’t just a bunch of misguided Trump cultists protesting, it was much, much more chilling. Pipe bombs and other improvised explosive devices were recovered from the Capitol building. Members of the alt-right had been sharing maps of the Capitol, including diagrams of the tunnels beneath the building. Some of the insurrectionists were carrying zip ties. A gallows was erected nearby. It became more and more clear that if the insurrectionist mob had managed to reach our elected officials, there would have been public executions. The Confederate flag was finally marched into the Capitol, more than 150 years after they lost the American Civil War. This was an attempted coup.

Image Credit – Shay Horse / Getty Images

Trump has spent four years calling the media the enemy of the people, and so his cultists screamed at journalists, chased them, destroyed their cameras and equipment. I cannot imagine the courage it takes to objectively cover a snarling crowd who wants you dead. They are not paid enough.

We’ve all seen the aftermath. Five people are dead, including one policeman who was beaten to death by the so-called “Blue Lives Matter” crowd. Twitter finally decided that Trump was too dangerous to be allowed to remain on the platform. A variety of seditious insurrectionists and agitators were suspended and removed from various social media platforms. Helicopters overhead have been more numerous and frequent than before. Facebook banned Trump’s account. They’re putting an “unclimbable fence” around the Capitol, and the National Guard will be stationed in and around DC through the Inauguration.

Right-wingers left (or were forced off of) their social media accounts in droves, choosing to go with friendlier platforms like Gab and Parler, at least until Amazon Web Services terminated Parler’s account, making it very difficult for them to maintain enough capacity for all their hateful members.

The FBI and various state law enforcement agencies have been making arrests as they identify people – the last count of arrests I saw was 69 people out of the many thousands who were present. The House Homeland Security Committee is now asking the FBI and TSA to add participants of the insurrection to the no-fly list. Right-wing media like Faux News are still pushing the lie that there were Antifa members dressed as Trump supporters and they’re the ones who overran the Capitol. That lie is easily disproven since the insurrectionists are so proud of their insurrection that they keep posting their crimes to social media.

Thanks to those social media posts, many of those who posted their presence are finding that their neighbors and colleagues don’t much like traitors to the country, and so many of them are losing their jobs: CEOs, teachers, law enforcement officers, elected officials.

One QAnon-supporting Congresswoman live-tweeted Nancy Pelosi’s location to insurrectionists. This was an attempted coup, plain and simple. These people wanted to execute their political opponents and overthrow the democratically elected leadership. I am beyond pissed off.

This isn’t the end of it, of course. The crowd that did this last Wednesday considers it a successful trial run. They’ll be back. They already announced that they’re coming back around the 17th, through Inauguration Day.

I was really excited to live locally for a Presidential Inauguration, but the pandemic was already putting a kibosh on the traditional Inaugural Parade. Between that and the obviously dangerous events of last Wednesday, it’s looking more and more like there will be absolutely no public events to see. And even if there were, it seems like going across the Potomac to see them would be a terrible idea.

This is far from over. Trump incited this insurrection and needs to be removed from office sooner than his already-scheduled departure on the 20th, either by the 25th amendment or by impeachment and removal. His Sedition Caucus need to resign their seats in Congress: Ted Cruz (Tex.), Josh Hawley (Mo.), Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.), Ron Johnson (Wis.), James Lankford (Okla.), Cynthia M. Lummis (Wyo.), Tommy Tuberville (Ala.), Steve Daines (Mont.) John Neely Kennedy (La.), Bill Hagerty (Tenn.), Mike Braun (Ind.) and Roger Marshall (Kan.).

The people who entered the Capitol need to be found, arrested, and prosecuted. There must be consequences,.

This isn’t over. Trump’s cult is still here, and they’re still dangerous. They want civil war. They want blood. They are not Americans, they are domestic terrorists.

I usually close my posts with a fun related question but I’m really not in the mood today. I’m still angry.

3/52

An Obligatory Rambling Thanksgiving Post

For my Thanksgiving post, I had the brilliant idea to share some of my favorite Thanksgiving joke images today. Then I checked and sure enough, I had the exact same idea during NanoPoblano 2016. Damn it, Past Steven, why don’t you ever leave some of the good ideas for Future Steven to execute?

Since my first idea for a Thanksgiving post has already been done, I’ll have to come up with something else. Perhaps a tale of the first Thanksgiving.

No, not that one. Not the one with the folks with the buckles on their hats dining with the locals in their new homeland. I also don’t mean my favorite Thanksgiving story, the one with the dog and bird making all the food.

As an aside, can we talk about this for a second? Who ever thought it would be a good idea to have a dog and a bird create a feast for the entire group? For that matter, who thought that buttered toast and popcorn was a proper feast? (Full disclosure: childhood me thought that buttered toast and popcorn looked absolutely delicious, and in my tiny brain this meal was the height of luxury for many years.)

No, I’m actually talking about my first Thanksgiving in Germany. A quick recap for those who haven’t read this blog from the beginning: I started the blog in late October of 2011, and moved to Germany on November 11th of that year. This meant that when Thanksgiving happened two weeks later, I was alone in a new country. I hadn’t really made friends yet, and I was only just getting to know my coworkers. I was even still living in the hotel, because I didn’t find an apartment there until the following week.

What I did have was an overabundance of preparation- I had Internet-stalked the local English speaker’s Stammtisch, and had pre-emptively become Internet-friends with a few local folks. (A Stammtisch is basically any group of people that meets regularly, often in a pub. The literal translation is “regular table.” The shared topic of a Stammtisch can be absolutely anything- a photography Stammtisch, a bridge-player’s Stammtisch, you name it. Think of it like meetup.com, but in Germany and without the clunky website.)

Because I had started the conversation with other people almost before I arrived in Germany, I managed to score an invitation to a Thanksgiving dinner being held at a local Irish pub called Murphy’s Law. (This Irish pub became one of my most frequent haunts for the three years I lived there, but that’s another story.)

Murphy's Law

The pub is all downstairs, and it feels like it’s carved out of a cave. It has a front area with a small amount of space ringing a U-shaped bar and a second much larger room which left empty unless they’re very busy. I was guided to this room on arrival, and I was seated with a bunch of people I didn’t know. I really only knew one person in the room at that point, and that one only just barely, so this was socializing-under-fire.

The dinner began, and it was a warm and friendly affair. I was the only American at my table, so I found myself acting as an impromptu American ambassador. I answered lots of curious questions from the others about traditional Thanksgiving customs back in the US. I wish I could remember some of the questions they asked, but this was nine years ago and I foolishly didn’t blog about it at the time.

Someone from the nearby US Army base in Hohenfels was at one of the other tables, and they had brought an American delicacy to be shared with the group: Twinkies.

I do love a traditional Thanksgiving Twinkie.

Speaking of Thanksgiving traditions, since I’m in my new apartment here in Arlington, I’ve managed to score a can of jellied cranberry. It just isn’t a proper Thanksgiving meal if I can’t see the ripples from the can on the side of my cranberry, you know? Now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure one of the questions I was asked at the German Thanksgiving dinner was about cranberry sauce. I have a vague recollection of someone being astonished that this was a food that Americans actively seek out and enjoy.

I totally just grabbed the first cranberry jelly image I found on the Internet for this.

My family also has another tradition that is incredibly silly, now that I think about it. We would always have multiple pies after dinner, so you could choose which one you wanted to eat.

That’s not the silly part. The silly part is that one of those pies is a chocolate pudding pie. It is literally just chocolate pudding in a pie crust. With a little bit of whipped cream, sure, but it had no structure after it was sliced. It was just loose pudding in a pie crust.

This image was also stolen from the web, but it looks almost exactly like the chocolate pudding pies I am used to having.

Does your family have any unusual Thanksgiving traditions?

47/52 (and 26 of 30!)

This weekend, in Titusville.

Despite living in South Florida for most of my life, I never managed to drive up to Cape Canaveral for a shuttle launch. When I saw that SpaceX and NASA were launching astronauts into space from Florida again, I thought it might be a good time to finally see a launch. Since I live in Orlando, the Cape is right around forty minutes away by car, so I took a half-day from work on Wednesday to go see the launch with some friends.

The first thing I was not expecting was just how bad the traffic would be for the crowds going into Titusville. It took more than 90 minutes to make that forty-minute drive, and when we got out of the car to move to a place where we could see the launch, they halted the countdown because of weather.

Such is life in Florida.

The first backup launch window was Saturday, so we tried again. This time we set out with a wider time window before the launch. We arrived in downtown Titusville and found parking with about three hours until the launch, so we grabbed a quick fast food lunch, and took a quick walk through Space View Park, which has some really neat stuff to read and see.

Space View Park, Titusville, looking east toward the launch site.

A short while later, we met up with another group of friends at Playalinda Brewing Company for a tasty drink before we went to sit and wait for the launch.

Downtown Titusville is super cute.

There were already people setting up with canopies and blankets and folding chairs, none of which it occurred to us to bring. It alternated between cloudy, raining, and sunny, and about fifteen minutes before the launch we moved to a closer vantage point, even though it was in a very thick crowd.

I took some video of the launch, but trust me when I tell you that the more official video is significantly better. Seriously, check out the first few minutes of the C-SPAN video:

From where we stood, roughly twelve miles due west of launch pad 39A, Crew Dragon was a tiny dot atop a column of fire. After about a minute, the sound reached us- the most incredible rumble of rocketry.

Being present for living history- the first launch of astronauts from American soil since the Shuttle program halted in 2011- was amazing, but seeing the crowd response and hearing that thunderous rocket first-hand, I’m tremendously glad I went to see Bob and Doug heading off to the International Space Station.

I don’t even mind getting sunburned while also simultaneously being rained on. Stupid Florida.

Here’s what it looked like from my perspective:

Did you watch the SpaceX/Nasa Demo-2 launch? What did you think?

19/52

Peter Dinklage and I Have One Thing In Common

I never really gave much thought to the place where I was born. I’ve only been there twice. The first time is when I was born, before I went home to the family home in nearby Livingston.

The second time was in 1997, when the entire family went to Jersey for our cousin’s wedding. During that trip, my brother and I took the rental car for a brief day-trip to check the place out. I was a little curious about my birthplace: Morristown, New Jersey.

While we were there, we walked around the downtown area a little bit, walked by the hospital where I was born, and also walked through a park in the center of the town. Unbeknownst to me, the Morristown National Historical Park is the site of General George Washington’s encampment from December 1779 to June 1780, and there’s a Washington museum on site.jon-in-morristown-2016_08_01_21_43_27_001

The picture to the right is of Jonathan standing in front of the equestrian statue of General Washington.  This was the first moment that I had any inkling that my birthplace is interesting on its own, and since then I’ve found out a few other neat facts about the town.

  • During Washington’s encampment in Morristown, Alexander Hamilton was present. It was during this stretch of time that Hamilton met and courted his future wife,  Elizabeth Schuyler.
  • The Morristown Green is also the site of  a statue commemorating the meeting of George Washington, the young Marquis de Lafayette, and young Alexander Hamilton.  (I’m gonna have to go back some time to see this one, probably.)
  • The 1780 court martial of Benedict Arnold also happened in Morristown.
  • There’s an additional encampment from the revolutionary war situated on a hill which gives clear views to the North, East, and South, while being backed by mountains on the West.  This encampment, created by order of General Washington in 1777, has the hilarious and awesome name of Fort Nonsense.    (Note to self:  I’m totally gonna steal that for my next apartment.  “Hey, let’s go back to Fort Nonsense and watch movies!”)
  • Peter Dinklage was born there, four years before me.  He’s no Alexander Hamilton, but he’s really good at drinking and knowing things.

Does your birthplace have any interesting history?