Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Lucky to Be Alive: Dad's Accident (Part 1)

There's really no nice way to transition into this, so let's just get down to it.

On October 18th I got a phone call from my mom. This in itself is a bit of a rarity, and I have frequently told her she needs to call more often, because she seems to only call with bad news. I need to be reconditioned not to expect negative things when she calls. (You know, like how you take your dog for car rides so he doesn't automatically assume car = vet.) But I got blindsided on this one. First, she called from my dad's phone, and my dad is a billion times more likely to call me for something random (like to tell me he's 20 minutes from my house, and would I mind if he stopped by). Second, she started the conversation so normally that I suspected nothing. (Sneaky woman, she is...)

And then she hit me with it.

My dad was in a motorcycle accident on the night of October 17th. He was on his way home from a softball game (he plays in a Fall Ball league when he's able) and was worried about hitting wet leaves on the street he normally uses to get home. Instead, he went one street down, nicked the median (we think), and went down. 
The table was still set for Monday's
dinner when I arrived on Wednesday night.
My mom had been waiting at home for him. Over an hour after he should have been home for dinner, the hospital called my mom to let her know Dad was there. After explaining that his injuries were serious, but non-life-threatening, she got off the phone and headed straight to the hospital.

It wasn't until late Tuesday morning that my mom called to tell me. I immediately requested the next two days off from work, planning to go to Madison as soon as possible. I ended up spending Wednesday doing chores to get caught up at my house and then headed to Madison that night so I could spend Thursday at the hospital with my parents.

Wednesday night, Mom filled me in on the details of his accident, including the laundry list of injuries he sustained. Both bones in his left leg were broken, which included a compound fracture (bone came through the skin). His left thumb was partially dislocated (subluxation) and two of his fingers were broken. He broke his sternum and 20 ribs (he likes to boast that he was going for the record). The bridge of his nose was broken, leading to some nice bruising that made it look like he was rocking purple eyeliner. He had some relatively minor road rash, as well as some other bumps and bruises. And he hit his forehead enough to need some stitches and have a mild concussion. Seeing as he wasn't wearing a helmet, he is insanely lucky that was the extent of the damage to his head (and that he's here to tell the tale). 

As for the accident itself, the details were - and still are - pretty sketchy. We know he was making a left turn when he went down, and was less than two miles from home when it happened. Other than that... We're just not sure. There were a few witnesses who gave statements (one said she saw a car run him over, but the others didn't mention anything about that), and Dad has some flashes of memory from the accident (he thinks he remembers seeing the bike sliding away from him). Mostly he remembers a woman who sat with him while they waited for the ambulance. He says she was wonderful. She made sure someone called 911 and she stayed calm through the whole ordeal. He has no idea who she was (he couldn't really turn his head or body to look at her as she sat with him), but he'd love to thank her. So would I. 

There's a LONG road to recovery ahead of us. I'll share some details of that journey later. For now, just know that he's going to be OK. That's the only part that matters.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016


Well, here we are. 

It's November 9th. The election is over. Donald Trump has won and will become our next president. 

Am I happy about this? Not particularly. Am I worried by the outcome? A bit, yes. Do I feel regret over how I voted? Not at all.

As I mentioned yesterday, I'm well aware that I - along with all other third party voters - am going to be blamed by some for the outcome of this election. In fact, it has already begun. Here's a sampling of what I'm seeing from people on my own Facebook friends list:

"How are you feeling, third party voters?"

"I blame... 3rd party voters."

"If you voted 3rd party... shame on you."

"If you voted for Johnson, just smack yourself - why bother voting?"

There's more, mostly in the form of memes and shared posts, but the general consensus re: third party voting is that I should feel terrible, shamed, and shouldn't have even voted.

And now, my response.

How am I feeling? I'm OK, thanks. Not great, mind you, but I'm hanging in there. I really thought Gary could get to 5%, so I'm definitely upset that he didn't, that there's no guarantee that 2020 will be any different. And I can't say I'm really looking forward to Trump's presidency, but it will be interesting to see where this takes us as a country. I want to see how people step up to fight against, or support, a Republican-run America. There is so much anger and sadness today, and that hurts my heart, but I also hope it pushes people to take action (appropriate, positive, non-dangerous action). Our votes are our voices, and last I saw, Hillary edged past Trump in the popular vote. That means that more people voted for Hillary, more people's voices screamed her name and wanted her leadership, yet Trump becomes our president-elect. This is how the system works, and clearly a LOT of people are not happy with that. So speak up about it. Keep using your voices until you are heard.

I will accept your blame if it helps keep the peace. I shouldn't accept it; I'm not truly to blame. You think that if I hadn't voted for Gary Johnson that surely my vote would have been for HRC, and that's why you're blaming me. You believe my vote would have helped your candidate, and that Johnson stole my vote away. Here's the thing about that: It's simply not true. Hillary never had my vote. Nor did Trump. Had they been the only two choices, I would have abstained from voting completely. Are there people out there who might have voted for Clinton if a third party option hadn't been available? Sure. But I'm not one of them. Nor is my Hubby. Many of us would have preferred to NOT vote rather than vote for "your" candidate. So you can blame me all you want, and I'll take it. I'll shoulder that for now because you're hurting and upset, because - particularly if you're my friend or family - I love you and I'm willing to do that if it will help ease the pain. 

Accepting your blame is one thing, but I refuse to feel ashamed of my vote. By telling me I should be ashamed of myself or by trying to shame me for my choice feels no different than bullying. Shaming me for voting for someone I believe in and admire? Shaming me for using MY vote for MY voice? Shaming me for not voting YOUR way? I've been raised to believe that voting is a duty and an honor. If I had voted any other way, I would have been doing myself and my country a disservice by letting my voice be silenced by those who are now trying to shame me. I voted for the person I truly felt was best suited for the role of president. In doing so, I have done nothing shameful or of which to be ashamed. I've taken your blame, but keep your shame. You may need it.

I "bothered" to vote because it's my right as a citizen of this country. Just as it is your right to vote for HRC, it is my right to vote for Gary Johnson. When I say, "Get out and vote!" what I mean is "Get out and vote!" Apparently, when some of you said "Get out and vote!" what you meant was "Get out and vote for my candidate!" You made it sound like you were encouraging me to exercise my right, but my right is to vote for whomever I choose. And yes, it is also your right to (try to) blame me and shame me for my decision. You are using your voice to convey your disgust and desperation, and you are entitled to do so. But here's a question for you to consider: Why? Why chastise me for voting third party and not almost half of the country who actually voted for Trump? Why use your voice to beat me down instead of using it against the party you're actually against? Why ruin friendships and burn bridges when you could be embracing an opportunity to engage in dialogue and hear different views? I "bothered" to vote because I wanted things to change. Now that the results are in, might you agree with that?

Donald Trump will be our next president, but don't blame me... I voted for Johnson. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Election Day Thoughts

Well, here we are. Election Day at last. Seems like it took FOREVER, right? 
No stickers for absentee voters.
I'm pretending this is mine.

Today, "I Voted" stickers will cover the country (or, at minimum, Susan B. Anthony's grave site), social media will take one last look at Ken Bone and his charming red sweater, and we the people will elect the next U.S. president. It's kind of a big deal.

As I've definitely made known, I voted for Gary Johnson. I've explained why I'm voting for him, but one thing I haven't really mentioned is this: I know he won't win. 

I'm not delusional. I've known from the very start that Gary had less than a snowball's chance in Haiti of becoming our next president*. And yet, I voted for him. Proudly so, I might add. 

Do you like your mom's posts
with that finger?
I voted for Gary knowing he wouldn't win. I voted for him knowing that I'm going to continue to hear that my vote was wasted. I voted for him knowing that I'll be blamed by some for the outcome of the election because somehow my vote for a third party candidate gave votes to, or took them away from, Mr. Trump or Ms. Clinton. I voted for him knowing that it was an unpopular position to take among my friends, and that some have chosen to hide my posts or unfriend me as a result. I voted for him knowing some people would get downright hostile about my decision and would probably think less of me because of it. 

 So knowing all of that, why did I do it?

Aleppo-shmaleppo, Gary's my guy!
I voted for Gary because I felt his voice best represented my own. I voted for him because I trusted in him over the other candidates. I voted for him because I believe he has this country's best interests in mind. I voted for him because the system isn't working the way I believe it should. I voted for him because I want him to reach the 5% mark so we are guaranteed more than two options in 2020. I voted for him because I wanted to vote FOR a candidate, not AGAINST one. I voted for him because when all is said and done, I will still feel good about myself and my vote. I voted for him because it was my vote to cast however I wanted, despite what others may think. I voted for him because it felt right for me.

I voted for Mr. Johnson because Ms. Clinton is well-spoken, polished, and prepared for the job, but she is a candidate I cannot trust. I voted for Mr. Johnson because Mr. Trump is bold, business-minded, and not afraid to shake things up, but he is a candidate I cannot respect. 

In the end, it doesn't really matter why I voted for Gary Johnson. Others who voted for him already understand and those who didn't aren't likely to care one way or another. But I have my reasons and I stand behind my decision.

I hope you stand behind yours as well.

*Yes, I meant Haiti, not Hades. The temps in Haiti are almost always in the 70s or 80s. This is not a place Frosty is going on vacation.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

A Lot to Cover

The countdown is on. We are one week away from Election Day, so I must be here to talk about politics, right? Right? Bueller?

Nope, I'm taking a break to write about something a little lighter. The past month has been rough. In addition to all the election BS everyone is dealing with, my dad was in a motorcycle accident and has been in the hospital for over two weeks. Add some extra personal stress and anxiety and... Well, it's just not been a great time for me.

There are a few things in life I can always count on to make me feel better. My hubby. My friends. My family. My pups. And music.

I love music.

Lately I've been focusing on covers, largely thanks to a trial of SiriusXM during which I could listen to their online stations, including the new Covers channel. I fell in love with that channel. Hard. My trial ended just over two weeks ago and I'm still not over it. I'm mourning the loss of my channel. I've tried creating sort of a covers station on Pandora, but I don't think it understands what I want (though it, too, has shown me some awesome songs).

I've written in defense of covers before, thanks to Glee. I've even written about Christmas covers. So it should come as no surprise to anyone that I'm obsessing over cover songs yet again.

Today I want to share my five most recent cover obsessions. (FYI, just because they're recent obsessions doesn't mean the covers themselves are necessarily recent. I say this so no one goes, "Pfft, that's not new!" Yeah, I know it's not. Shut up.)

So, in no particular order...

1. KHS, Sam Tsui, Madilyn Bailey, Alex G - Send My Love: This collaboration of awesome Youtube artists Kurt Hugo Schneider, Sam Tsui, Madilyn Bailey, and Alex G is one of MANY Adele covers out there, yet it stands out to me as one of the very best. Not only are the vocals amazing (a cappella is my weakness!), this is probably the craziest game of patty cake you'll ever see.

Favorite Moment: The vocals drop out around 2:22 for some intricate hand clapping. When they come back around 2:38... Perfection.

2. Disturbed - The Sound of Silence: I'm a big fan of oldies, and I have a hard time with a lot of modern covers of songs I fell in love with as a kid. However, this Simon & Garfunkel cover is a definite exception. David Draiman's voice and delivery really bring out the intensity of the lyrics, stirring up visceral emotions and rekindling my love of this 60s hit.

Favorite Moment: Hard to choose, but I'll say right around 1:48 when Draiman starts belting out the words. His voice is so beautiful it hurts.

3. Twenty One Two - Love Yourself: Twenty One Two consists of a drummer and a singer/guitarist, both from Sweden. I'm a huge fan and all of their covers rock (in fact, their cover of Lukas Graham's "7 Years" just won MTV's best cover of the month), but this one holds a special place in my heart. I hate to admit it, but I love this song in general. If you're like me, you probably got into it on the radio and then found out it was Justin Bieber and sort of hated yourself a little. Well, fear not! This cover means you can love the song without having to love the Biebs. Also, it was the first of their songs to come up on XM's Covers station (and you always remember your first love).

Favorite Moment: Probably the first time they start the chorus (1:13-ish), just before you find out about a slight modification in the lyrics. The impact is greatest when it's unexpected.

4. Pentatonix ft Jason Derulo - If I Ever Fall in Love: I've been a fan of Pentatonix since they were on The Sing-Off, and I've been following Jason Derulo since the days of MySpace (you know, when people still used it and thought Facebook was a "ripoff" of it). When I showed Hubby the carpool karaoke clip with Jason showing off his training, he was amazed to learn that he can really sing (not just "pop crap"), so I had to share this song with him as well. Shai's original is... well, it's something. Don't get me wrong, the vocals are pretty sweet (holy falsetto, Batman!), but the style of the early 90s didn't do the original any favors. This is a rare case where I think the cover is way better than the original.

Favorite Moment: 2:36. Falsetto FTW.

5. Postmodern Jukebox ft Haley Reinhart - Creep: Scott Bradlee's Postmodern Jukebox is a thing of wonder. "We take pop music back in time," says their Facebook page. Sounds simple, but the arrangements are anything but. PMJ takes a song and gives it a makeover, a whole new life. (I can't explain it any better than that, so just check out their Youtube channel, OK?) This Radiohead cover is a fan favorite, thanks in part to the incredible voice of Haley Reinhart, who I have a HUGE music crush on. (If she sounds familiar, you might have heard her version of "Can't Help Falling in Love With You" from the Extra Gum commercial. Oh, and I guess she was on American Idol. So. Yeah.)

Favorite Moment: I truly love this entire song, and if I could wrap myself inside Haley's voice like a burrito, I probably would. But my favorite part begins at 4:03. Not only is Haley singing her freaking heart out, but listen to the instruments in the section that follows. Scott Bradlee is going nuts on the piano (his arrangements are insane!), and the whole thing just comes together in the most spectacular way. I adore it.

Friday, October 7, 2016

CNN: Censoring Nonconformist News

As I've pointed out, major news networks tend to ignore third party candidates. This happens all the time. But to flat-out censor the opinions of your own focus group to remove any concept of a third party option? That's just low.

Lower than low, really. (I'd say it's deplorable, but that word has already been taken this election season.) The following is from an article from LibertyBuzz, so yes, it's admittedly biased, but what news source isn't?

Clearly, the debates weren't on HBO.
After the debate, they asked all of us in the focus group if we were decided on a candidate. Out of 28 panel members, 5 said they were decided on Clinton, 2 said they were decided on Trump, and 12 said they were going to vote 3rd party. But once they saw the response, they reshot the segment and replaced "3rd party" with "still undecided".

This comes from a Facebook post made by one of the members of the focus group, Justin Smith. Later amended by Smith to clarify a few things, the post explains how CNN originally asked the group to raise their hands for either Clinton, Trump, or a third party candidate. CNN then told the panel they were going to re-shoot and removed the option for third party, leaving many to indicate they were "undecided" as this was the only non-Trump, non-Clinton option they were given. 

For the rest of this post, I'm going to make an assumption that Justin Smith's account of things is accurate. Do I know this for certain? No, of course not. I wasn't there and I only have access to what CNN.com has provided. It's entirely possible that it didn't happen this way. In fact, I hope it didn't. I'd like to think that we're not being censored from the truth. But if there's a chance that this all happened, the following is how I feel about it.

Moving on. 

The transcript for this, of course, only gives what was aired. Pamela Brown is asked whether the VP debate has influenced anyone's vote, and her response follows:

"It sure did. In fact, let's take a tally here. I want to ask everyone in the group, after watching this debate, who in this group will now vote for the Clinton-Kaine ticket come November? Raise your hand. All right. So as you see, we have five people who say they will vote for Clinton-Kaine.
If you're getting screwed in this poll, raise your hand.

Let's look at Trump-Pence. Raise your hand if you will vote for them come November. Two people. And those still undecided, still have no idea who they're going to vote for, raise your hands. All right, Wolf, as you see, a majority here in this room at the University of Richmond still undecided."

Except, according to Smith, about 40% of the people in that room had already indicated that they were planning to vote for a third party candidate. If you add those 12 to the seven who indicated they will be voting for either Trump or Clinton, 2/3 of the panel have already chosen a candidate. By definition, the majority of the room (with majority literally meaning more than half) is decided, not UNdecided. And to suggest they have "no idea" who they're voting for is simply not true.  

It's no surprise that CNN is backing Clinton. Not only is CNN notorious for leaning to the left (hence the reason my dad, among others, calls it the "Communist News Network"), but this Observer opinion piece points out that host Chris Cuomo let it slip in 2015 that they were one of Clinton's biggest backers. (If you watch the clip, he doesn't specifically say that CNN is a Clinton supporter. But since CNN is generally considered part of the media, and due to his use of "we" in his statements, I think we can safely make some inferences about where they stand.)

Still, CNN (and all other media outlets) has a responsibility to accurately report the news. I had to search around for their mission/vision statement and finally found it on the Cable News Network blog (via Wordpress). Under accuracy, it is stated that "CNN is committed to achieving accuracy. We strive to present the truth to our audience." They even specify ways by which they ensure accuracy, such as "guarding against carelessness and omission of important news" and "continuously seeking and reporting the truth." 

And then, under the section titled Objectivity, is this gem.

Totally checks out! *WINK*

CNN strives to provide the most neutral and unbiased stories to our audience so that they can obtain the most accurate information. We consider a range of varying perspectives and treat controversial subjects, as well as all other subjects, with impartiality.

So I wonder, then, which part of censorship they believe supports their mission and vision for the company. It's not accurate, as in doing so they both omitted important news and failed to report the truth. And it's not impartial, as the way they presented the information is clearly biased against third party candidates (and in favor of Clinton). Hmmm... 

Lastly, I want to share this statement from their career page We are CNN:

We are the now and the next. The power behind the people building the future.
We are born from the spirit of innovation.
We are created from the idea that people around the world want more, need more, deserve more.
We are the home of the global digital revolution.
We are CNN.

Well, they're right. We do want more, need more, and deserve more. Let's start with the truth (the WHOLE truth) and go from there.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Election Math

I'm guessing by this point that most people have heard someone say that voting for a third party candidate is either a wasted vote or a vote for the opposition (Trump or Clinton, depending on to whom you're speaking). You might even have heard President Obama say this very thing.

This donut's just a metaphor, right?
And to a certain degree, it has some truth to it. Say you're at work and tomorrow is someone's birthday. To celebrate, your boss says she'll bring in either donuts or bagels for breakfast. You can't/won't eat either (maybe you're going gluten free or cutting carbs or just hate fun), but you must choose one or the other. Half of your coworkers are saying, "Oh man, let's get donuts! Donuts are way better than boring old bagels!" and the other half are saying, "Bagels are CLEARLY better than donuts! Let's get bagels!" There are 20 other people in the office (and therefore 21 votes), 10 voting for bagels and 10 for donuts. If you vote for bagels, you're "taking away" a vote for donuts. If you vote for donuts, you're "taking away" a vote for bagels. Either way, people are upset with you and you're voting for something you don't even want.

Think of the same scenario, but you have the option to NOT vote. Now there are still 10 votes for bagels and 10 for donuts, but you're not voting. Or, if you prefer, you're "voting" for nothing. You aren't taking a vote away from donuts or bagels. You're just not giving a vote to either.

Now think of this scenario with a third option AND the option to not vote. Omelets, maybe (yeah, getting fancy up in here!). Hey, omelets sound good! So you vote for omelets. Now there are 10 votes each for bagels and donuts and a single vote for omelets. You weren't going to vote to begin with, so no votes are being taken away from either the donuts or the bagels. They still each have 10 votes.

The third scenario is how our elections work. We aren't forced to vote at all, and we certainly are not forced to choose between only two candidates. If you were given the choices of Trump or Clinton and you didn't want either, you have the option to not vote. Just like the bagels and donuts, your non-vote does not tip the scale in either direction. Likewise, if you already decided not to vote for Hillary or Donald but then found a viable third option (Johnson, Stein, etc.) to vote for, your vote still isn't tipping the scales in favor of either of the two main political parties.
Wait, when do I carry the 1?

Let's do the math. Of 20 people, we'll say 10 want to vote for Hillary, 8 for Trump, and 2 aren't voting. That's 18 votes total and the numbers favor Hillary. What each party wants you to think is that IF the two abstainers were voting, they would vote in favor of their/your candidate. And sometimes that might be the case. So if Team Trump can get to those two voters and convince them that not voting isn't an option, then we end up with a 50/50 split and Hillary loses the upper hand.

However, it frequently happens that the two people not voting really have no desire at all to vote. For any candidate. There is no "if they were voting" scenario, they simply were not going to vote. The numbers stay exactly where they were. So not voting does not tip the scales if you were never planning to vote in the first place.

This goes for supporting a third option as well. Let's say those 2 voters are voting for third party candidates: one for Johnson and one for Stein. They never considered another candidate and are set on voting this way. That's 20 votes total now, but the scales haven't tipped. That's still 10 for Hil and 8 for Don, plus 1 for Gary and 1 for Jill.

See? A vote for a third party candidate is just a vote for a third party candidate. That's all. It's not a vote for your opposition. It isn't taking away a vote from your candidate. It's not a "protest" vote. It's not a "wasted" vote. It's a vote, and it counts just as much (or as little) as anyone else's.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Why Gary Johnson?

I have a confession to make: My primary news source is Facebook.

Seriously! Scanning my Facebook feed not only shows me what my friends and family consider important enough to share, but also what is being discussed or shared on a bigger scale. I find it's the best of both worlds.

This isn't to say that I don't go to other sources as well. I frequently check the sites for my local news stations and papers. Google News is one of my most visited websites. In my recent browser history, you can find The New York Times, HuffPo, CNN, Slate.com, and others. I don't rely solely on FB.

My preciousssss...
But it is my first stop in the morning. And my most frequent stop throughout the day. I see a TON of political posts all day, every day. It has been this way for months and it will be this way for the next six weeks (at least). There is no escaping it and I've already come to terms with that. The problem is that the majority of them seem to tell me one of the following three things:

1) Why I should not vote for Trump.
2) Why I should not vote for Clinton. 
3) Why I should not vote for a third party candidate.
I understand that, to a certain degree, every election is about why you don't want the other person to get elected. Vote for my candidate because the other candidate sucks. It makes sense. 

You know, like this.
I also see my share of "I'm with Her" and "Make America Great Again" posts (more of the former than the latter). These are the posts that usually have a picture of the candidate with some quote or tagline (or, these days, hashtag). These are at least positive, pro-candidate posts, so that's a plus.

What I seem to be missing, though, are the articles telling me why I should vote for one candidate or another. Why should I vote for Trump? Why should I vote for Clinton? Why should I consider a third party candidate? Surely they exist, but my FB feed seems to be void of such links. 

I can explain the lack of pro-Trump shares I see on Facebook the same way Trevor Noah explains why I had no clue who Tomi Lahren was before I watched this clip. Many of my friends, likes, and links are far more closely aligned with the political left, so FB probably thinks I have no interest in Trump-positive posts. And perhaps I can explain the lack of pro-Hillary links as a personal shortcoming. Maybe I'm just not looking hard enough. I mean, I've found a few links here and there, but it seems like more often I just see references to voting for Clinton to keep Trump out of the Oval (or vice versa).

I've been posting a bit about third party candidates lately, and I've made it quite clear that I plan to vote for Johnson/Weld in the upcoming election. But I have not shared why I am voting this way. 

Until now.

Why I Am Voting for Gary Johnson & Bill Weld
  • Let's start with issues. Feel free to dive in at johnsonweld.com, or you can check sites like isidewith.com or ontheissues.org.
  • Can't we just squish it?
    • Environment. Yes, you've probably heard that Gary says the sun will grow and encompass the earth. He also said that's going to happen billions and billions of years in the future, so forget about that for now. Johnson wants to protect our planet and is pro-EPA. He just believes that incentivizing/penalizing companies for their practices is an ineffective way to address environmental issues like global warming. He believes that we need to find ways to protect the environment, just not in that particular way. 
    • Civil liberties. The former governors are all about personal freedom. If what you're doing isn't harmful to others, then keep on keeping on. They are pro-choice, pro-gay marriage, and pro-legalization, among other things.
    • War. What is it good for? Absolutely nothing. Unless we're being attacked first. Then it is ON. (But seriously, Johnson and Weld want to get our troops home, which I am totally behind.) Yes, he plans to cut military spending. No, I don't know how that will affect things. Yes, I still support him on this issue.
    • Immigration. No wall. No deportations. No crazy stuff. Gary and Bill want to rework the system to make the immigration process more efficient. It may take some time. And it won't be perfect. But it might be better than what it is now, and it's definitely better than a wall.
    • Other. I can't possibly hit every issue (at least, not without spending an unhealthy amount of time finishing this post), so I'll just get a few others in here. I am all for reducing the size of government. I think power should be divided/limited so no one governing body has absolute power. I believe in term limits across the board. I think reducing government spending is a good thing. I don't think we should be so involved in other countries' wars. The war on drugs needs to end NOW. And we'll stop there.
  • His character. Yes, at this point I'm speaking just about Gary (though Bill seems like a pretty good guy, too). 

    • That's not misleading at all!
    • Personal responsibility. Gary Johnson is flawed. He has had a few "gaffes" along the campaign trail. Like "What is Aleppo?" and failing to come up with his "favorite foreign leader" (not just ANY world leader, as many people/websites/news sources are suggesting). But he takes responsibility for his flaws. He doesn't try to cover them up or blame someone else. Of the Aleppo moment, he said, "No one to blame but myself for it. And no excuse." He also admitted that yeah, there are going to be a few more of these "moments" along the way. Because, you know, he's human. 
    • Humor. He actually has a sense of humor and can laugh at himself. Always a plus, IMO.
    • Determination and willpower. Gary has a TON of both. He sets out to do something, and then he does his damnedest to get it done. There's something to be said for that.
    • Trustworthiness. Of the major candidates in this race, Gary seems (to me) to be the most trustworthy option. He seems genuine and honest, and so I am putting my faith in him.
  • The campaign and supporters. They factor in, too.
    • Positivity. The Johnson/Weld campaign has been quite positive overall. That's not to say he hasn't had negative things to say about the other candidates. Of course he has. But he's been largely pro-Gary rather than anti-Trump/Clinton. 
    • Funded by people. The funds raised for this campaign have come from individuals (like me) who believe in him as a candidate. That's pretty awesome.
    • Still going strong. People started calling for Gary to give up before he even got started, but his campaign is still going and his popularity is still rising. You're not getting rid of us that easily.  
Do I agree with Gary's entire platform? No. I don't think I've agreed 100% with anyone ever. Not even my husband or my best friends. But I agree with him more than I do the other candidates. Is he the most polished, most prepared speaker? Definitely not. But when he speaks, I feel like he means what he's saying, and that's more important to me. Would I have a beer with him? Probably not. But that's just because I'm not terribly fond of beer. If he's ever around, I'd gladly have an old fashioned with him and shoot the shit. 

That's MY voice.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Your Vote is Your Voice.

I want to open with something that I said on Facebook over 2 months ago:

I'm not huge on politics or posting about political stuff. Yeah, I post the occasional thing here or there, but mostly I prefer my world of puppies and rainbows. However, I feel like this is important to get out there. Important enough that I'm posting about it. So, you know, pretty damn important (at least to me).
Seems legit.

Before deciding that you "have to" vote for Trump or Clinton in this election - simply because you believe he or she is the lesser of two evils or that you have no other option - PLEASE remember that there are more than two parties out there and, as such, more than two options. A vote for a third party candidate is NOT a wasted vote - it is your chance to speak out!

If you truly want to vote for Donald or Hilary and you truly support him or her as a candidate then please cast your vote accordingly. I would never ask you to NOT vote for someone you believe in! But if you find yourself wishing for a third option, please watch this video and please consider voting for Johnson this fall.

The statement above is absolutely how I feel. If you are truly supportive of a candidate, I believe you should vote for him or her. Your vote is your voice. It's your way of saying, "Yes, I think this is the person who best represents me and my beliefs and who I think will best run this country. I believe in this person and the things for which they stand."
OK, maybe not THIS embarrassed...

Yesterday I wrote about the plethora of presidential candidates in the upcoming election. Prior to researching and writing that post, I really only considered there to be - at most - four candidates: Clinton, Trump, Johnson, and Stein. I already knew about the handful of others on Wisconsin's ballot, but I hadn't been thinking about them (nor the other myriad individuals who will appear on other states' ballots) as "real" candidates. And I have to admit that I'm more than a little embarrassed by that. 

In the past, I've written about not voting for one reason or another. I certainly received some criticism about my choices, but eventually, all was forgotten (if not forgiven). This time, things are (obviously) a bit different. I've been paying attention, having discussions, and doing my own research to make sure that I am an informed voter. I am proudly backing a third party candidate for the first time in my life, and I truly feel that he is the right choice for me.

Yet I have received more criticism for my choice of candidate than I ever did for not voting. When trying to advocate for Gary Johnson (because far too many people don't know who he is, or that there are more than two choices), I've been met with less than favorable responses. I have been told I am wasting my vote. I have been told that "a vote for Johnson is a vote for Hillary/Donald" as well as "voting for Johnson is taking away votes from Hillary/Donald." I have heard my candidate mocked for honest mistakes while other candidates are hailed simply for not being the opposition. And in trying to keep a positive attitude and open dialogue about this election, I have been let down again and again.

It's like you're not even listening!
When speaking about voting for Gary Johnson, no one has said to me, "Oh, that's cool!" Hell, no one has even said, "Well, it's your vote!" I haven't really been asked why I'm voting for Johnson or what I believe in politically that makes him the candidate for me. Most people don't say anything at all. Those who do almost never have anything positive to contribute. I have never been excited (or informed) about a presidential candidate before, and now that I'm finally able to join the conversation, no one wants to hear what I have to say. It's disheartening, to say the least.

Third party candidates are getting a raw deal, and so are their supporters. How do you know you don't agree with someone's policies if you aren't willing to listen to them in the first place? The issues we deal with are really complex. If you're just taking an individual's yes or no stance at face value, you aren't getting the full story. Why did they answer in that way? What reasoning do they have (or not have) for it? Do they have something to back up their response? How do they plan to handle the issue despite their response? That's a lot of questions left unanswered if you simply go, "Nope, I don't agree with that one-word answer. Not getting my vote. Done."

If you are set on voting for Clinton or Trump and you really feel that she or he is the right person to lead this country, then go for it! Like I said, I would never discourage you from voting for the person you most believe in. If you're planning to vote for Donald or Hillary but don't feel all that strongly about him or her, get out there and see what other options you have.  I'm not saying that learning about a third party candidate is 100% going to lead to you voting for one. What I am suggesting is that there is a lot to be gained by looking into the other options that may be available to you. You can learn a lot about what others around you are looking for, or about their beliefs and priorities. You might come to appreciate that even if you don't agree with everything he/she says, you actually can find some common ground. And knowing what else is out there might even strengthen your resolve to vote for your candidate, making you even more confident in your decision. None of this is bad!

And to those who are planning to vote for a third party candidate, for someone who has been ignored by the media and is relatively (or completely) unknown by the general public, I am truly sorry if anyone has made you feel like your choice is wrong or bad. If you believe in your candidate, you should absolutely vote for her/him. It doesn't matter if you shout it from the rooftop or quietly cast your vote in anonymity. Your vote is your voice! Make sure you get heard.
You get a vote! You get a vote! Everyone gets a vote!

Monday, September 26, 2016

How Many Candidates Can YOU Count?

Ah, Election 2016! I think it's probably pretty obvious that I'm voting for Gary Johnson. In fact, by now, I think a lot of voters are pretty sure they know who they're going to vote for this fall. But when considering the possibilities for president, how many candidates are people actually counting as being "in the race"? Two? Maybe three? Possibly even four?

In Democratic America, Workers World Party votes for you!
At this point, we are about six weeks away from Election Day and tonight is the first official debate. Those tuning in will see Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump respond to questions (and to each other), but they will not see Gary Johnson do the same, despite being on the ballot in all 50 states. Jill Stein will be on the ballot in 45 states (including D.C.), but she won't be on the stage either. Socialist Party (er, "Peace & Freedom"?) candidate Gloria Estela La Riva won't be up there, nor will Independent Party candidate (and former CIA officerEvan McMullin,. And of the seven candidates set to appear on the Wisconsin ballot, five will be missing from tonight's debate. 

The debate stage isn't the only place third party candidates are being snubbed. Most media coverage seems to be making a conscious effort to avoid third party candidates. About a month ago, I read a CNN.com article about Gary Johnson and his fundraising efforts. Good, I thought. They're covering Gary! So I hopped over to the "Candidates" part of their Election 2016 section to learn more, only to find Clinton and Trump staring back at me and no mention whatsoever of Johnson. (For the record, if you check the section now, they do have polling numbers for both Johnson and Jill Stein, but you have to scroll down the page for pictures or additional information.) Another example: This past weekend, I was watching Face the Nation at my parents' house and couldn't help but cringe every time the host referred to Mike Pence and Tim Kaine as "the two" VP candidates. I kept correcting him, first in my head, and eventually out loud. "Two of the VP candidates. Not THE two. Stop that! You're getting it wrong!"

And they are. We may refer to it as a two-party system, but there are TONS of candidates out there! To suggest that Pence and Kaine are the only two VP candidates out there, or that Trump and Clinton are the only options for president, is just incorrect. With the help of Politics1.com, let me break this down for you all.

Number of candidates in tonight's debate: 2
Number of candidates on the ballot in all 50 states: 3
Number of candidates on the ballot in at least 20 states: 5
Number of candidates on the ballot in at least 6 states: 10
Number of candidates on the ballot in at least 1 state: 31
Number of candidates w/out ballot status, but available as write-in: way more than I'm willing to count right now (seriously... there are a TON)

A nation divided.
We're an incredibly diverse nation with multiple races, ethnicities, religions, sexualities, gender identities, condiment preferences, political affiliations, and more. How could we possibly everyone to fall under one of two candidates? So next time you think about how many candidates there are in this presidential election, remember this crazy long list of contenders. They may not be your candidate, but they're someone's candidate. (Yes, even the guy from the Pirate Party.) Everyone needs someone to believe in.

Friday, September 9, 2016

The Third Party Disadvantage

I was 8 years old during the 1992 election year, still 10 years away from being able to legally vote. As part of our social studies curriculum that year, our elementary school held its own "election" for president. I don't recall who I voted for. If I had to guess, I probably voted for H.W. simply because he was the candidate my parents liked. On the other hand, I might have voted for Clinton because it was the popular choice in the school. I can, however, tell you who I didn't vote for: Ross Perot.

I don't know if the two-party system was explicitly taught to us, or if it was just inferred through what information we were given, but the idea of someone who was neither Republican nor Democrat running for president was strange and confusing to eight-year-old me. The butt of many jokes, Mr. Perot was running as a third party candidate, a term that seemed to carry some kind of stigma. Maybe my memories are distorted (goodness knows that will happen after nearly 25 years), but I don't remember anyone ever saying something positive to me about Ross Perot. I just remember people laughing at his big ears (something all too relatable for me) and more or less suggesting that dodos would spontaneously reappear and rule the planet long before he had a shot at the presidency.

Whether or not it was intentional, what I took from that year's election was that third party candidates were a joke. They certainly weren't to be taken seriously and, in most cases, they weren't even worth mentioning. Think back to the 3rd party candidates you can recall (if any) and what you thought about them. Remember Ralph Nader?  Does the name Patrick Buchanan ring a bell? How about Bob Barr? You might be thinking that these guys sound familiar, but would you consider any of them a "serious" presidential candidate? Probably not.

Take a look at the maps available at uselectionatlas.org. There is some really interesting data to see, especially involving candidates not falling into one of the two major parties. For example, in the 1992 election, Ross Perot took almost 19% of the popular vote. That means approximately one of five people in this country voted for Perot that year, but he still didn't get a single electoral vote. When he tried again in 1996, he didn't even reach 10%. of the popular vote.

Ralph Nader was on the ticket in 1996, 2000, 2004, AND 2008. The highest number of votes he received was just shy of 3 million in 2000, gaining 2.74% of the popular vote while running under the Green Party. In 1980, the Independent candidate John Anderson got a whopping 6.61% of the popular vote. John Hospers, a Libertarian candidate, managed only 3,674 votes in the 1972 election (which shows up as 0.00%) but managed to get a single electoral vote, the most any 3rd party candidate has gotten in recent history.

Is it any wonder so many people have trouble considering a non-Republic, non-Democrat as a viable presidential candidate? For a country based on the principle that "all men are created equal," we certainly don't treat our candidates as such. Instead, we scoff at the thought of someone running for office who is not affiliated with a major party and rarely give them a second thought.

It's time that changed.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Oh Won't You Stay?

Just a little bit longer. Here goes the rest.

The wonderful thing about having the internet at our fingertips everywhere we go is that we have unlimited resources to learn whatever we want, whenever we want. The terrible thing about having the internet at our fingertips everywhere we go is that we have unlimited resources to learn whatever we want, whenever we want.

With access to sites like WebMD, it's all too easy to get sucked in and fall victim to medical student's disease. Every symptom we read sounds at least vaguely like what's going on, and before we know it, we've got every illness known to man (and possibly some yet to be discovered). I experienced this while studying abnormal psychology, and I experience it when I'm trying to self-diagnose. In most cases, I'm wrong. I've found lumps that I worried endlessly were cancer but turned out to just be fat (ah, lipomas, you sneaky bastards). I've had minor colds that I thought would be the end of me (though, to be fair, who hasn't had that feeling?). It seems like every time I take a stab at it, I've been incorrect.

Until now.

For (potentially) the first time ever, I had correctly self-diagnosed. I had Optic Neuritis (ON). To hear the doctor say it felt simultaneously awful (because of what it could mean) and strangely satisfying. Thankfully, he also said it was a very mild case of ON, and that since I didn't have any other symptoms, he was inclined to believe this was an isolated case. SO. MUCH. RELIEF.

When he brought up ON, and I kind of nodded, he asked if the optometrist had mentioned it as a possibility. "No, but I read about it online." He went on to say that there are steroids available for treatment. IV steroids to start, and then I finished for him, "Followed by oral steroids. Because oral steroids alone show a higher rate of recurrence." Yes, he said that was correct, though they don't have an explanation for it. (In case you're wondering, there was a whole study on ON called the Optic Neuritis Treatment Trial, which is where these findings come from.) He also said that for such a mild case, he wouldn't suggest the steroids, as they're both expensive and can have side effects that are less than ideal.

However, he did say he was going to refer me for an MRI, just to make sure nothing else was going on that might be causing the ON. He asked Hubby if he had any questions about any of this. "Is this the one you were worried because it has ties to..." "MS? Yeah. That's why he's been asking about numbness and tingling and stuff." Doctor nodded and wrote up my referral. He told me that he was "cautiously optimistic" about the outcome and told me that I should try not to dwell on things over the weekend. Then he told me it was a pleasure to meet me, and said, "I doubt I told you anything you didn't already know. I don't think I've ever had a patient so well researched about their condition before." I think he was pretty amused. I, on the other hand, was mostly just relieved.

Image may contain: 1 person , smiling, closeup and indoor
Anime eyes FTW!
I had the rest of the day off from work, so when I got home I just tried to relax a bit. It was hard because my pupils were still massively dilated. I had to wear sunglasses over my glasses to watch TV, and I tried playing video games, but that just wasn't happening. The MRI clinic called me that afternoon to set up an appointment for early the next week. The earliest appointment that would really work for me was 8 AM the following Wednesday, so I took it. The woman said I'd be there for about 2 hours total, so I braced myself for going it alone. And by "braced myself" I mean that I started a whole new round of freaking out.

Thankfully, Hubby's boss told him just to come to work once my appointment was done. I cannot thank her enough for that, I really can't. He held my hand through the whole scan, which was between 40 minutes and an hour because they had to do both my brain and my orbitals, and they had to do it without and with the dye. He couldn't bring his phone in with him, which I know was hard for him. All he really had was a pillow, his own ear plugs, and a chair. But except for a brief break when they injected the dye, he never let go of my hand. <3

For those of you who have had an MRI, you already know what it's like. For those who haven't, I can explain it in one word: LOUD. Yes, you get ear plugs. Actually, mine were a combination of ear plugs and headphones, and I got to choose which XM station I wanted to listen to (Pop2K), at least between scans. The headphones also served as a communication tool, as the woman running my MRI would pop on to tell me how long each scan would be. "This one is 3 minutes." or "Only 30 seconds this time, stay still."

Trying to stay still is torturous. It's not really a problem at first, but once you've been in there for 20-30 minutes, you kind of start to psych yourself out. Did I move? I can't move. Gotta stay still. Crap, I'm totally moving! I just kept trying harder and harder to keep my head still, which really just meant I was straining my neck muscles like crazy. At one point, she had to come in and put extra sponges around my head because I'd moved too much (she thinks I might've dozed off). Another time she came out because I had squeezed the emergency ball (which I had totally done by accident). She said she had to re-do a couple of scans, but overall I did pretty well.

When I left, they gave me a CD of the scan images and told me they'd get the results to my doctor later that day. I didn't hear from him until Friday, so there are 2 things that happened. First, I poured over those scans looking for... well, I didn't really know. I had seen images online of brain scans with lesions and plaques, but I wasn't sure what on my scan was supposed to be there and what (if anything) wasn't. The other thing that happened was that I had another 2 days to freak out.

Braaaaains... BRAAAAAINS!!
I finally got the call on Friday afternoon. "Everything looks completely normal." I have never in my life been so happy to be called normal. EVER. The amount of relief I felt was tantamount to nothing I'd ever experienced. And as wonderful as it felt, I so badly hope I'm never again in a situation where that amount of relief is necessary. I don't even think I knew how stressed I'd become until that point.

So the ON is still happening. I have to call up my doctor in about 6 weeks to let him know how things are going (since ON can take weeks to start clearing up and months to actually resolve). There's a small chance that I won't completely recover the sight I've lost. And there's also a small chance that I will still develop MS. But instead of dwelling on what might be, I'm trying to concentrate on what is.

I am healthy. I am happy. I have a husband who loves me. I have friends and family who will support me through whatever comes my way. I have two adorable pups that lift my spirits just by being here. I am fed, sheltered, and clothed.

Oh, and I'm headed to Disney World. :)

Life. Is. Good.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Jump Right In...

Sit right down! For real, you might want to be sitting. Because I'm going to tell you all about the last month or so of my life, and it's going to take awhile.

Let's start with a couple of things that happened BEFORE the last month or so, but since my last post (the one about Pepper, not the Pokemon Go post). We adopted a new dog named Penny Lane, who is an adorable, tiny schnauzer mix that I love with all my heart. We've had her for almost a year and a half now. This spring I finally graduated from PSU (huzzah!!) and had a graduation party, which was awesome. I turned 31 and then 32, which isn't as awesome, but definitely not bad. And, um... Yeah, that about covers things.

The last month of my life has been many things. Stressful probably tops the list. For the most part, it started right around August 10th, though I didn't know it at the time. It was hot and humid here in the land of Sconnie, and when you wear glasses in the humidity, a few things happen. One is that your lenses tend to fog up when you step out of the beautiful A/C into the tropic-like moisture that 80% humidity offers. Another is that your glasses slide a lot (yay, sweat) and you're constantly pushing them back to their rightful place. Basically, your glasses end up pretty dirty and smudged. Add two excitable dogs and putting a camera to your face a bunch and you start to assume the world is supposed to look slightly blurred or blobby. At least, I did.

It started with me just thinking my glasses were constantly dirty. And while that was mostly true, I eventually realized that cleaning them wasn't fixing the problem. Things were still... off. By Saturday, August 13th, I knew something was amiss. I was trying to read something and realized that it was taking longer than normal because I was hunting around for the letters. I felt like I could see the words on the page, but I couldn't see the whole word at once. Odd.

I closed my left eye and nothing was wrong. I closed my right eye and holy shit, what happened to the world?! With my left eye alone, bits and pieces of my sight appeared to be missing, which I determined couldn't be a good thing. Maybe my sight has been slowly getting worse and I'm just now realizing it? Yeah, that must be it. So I made an appointment with an optometrist for late September.

Image result for optic neuritis
Image from MS Unites (msunites.com)
As I was explaining things to Hubby, I realized that it wasn't just the sight itself. Colors were muted and things looked faded or dulled. I went back online and found an earlier appointment; I wasn't going to wait for this to get worse before I did something. In fact, I almost had Hubby take me to urgent care or the ER because I was terrified that I was experiencing retinal detachment. But then I finally searched for the color loss and found Optic Neuritis (ON), which seemed to fit what I was experiencing. So I calmed my tits and we waited for the appointment.

On the 17th, Hubby and I went to the optometrist. While I can still technically see with that eye (in fact, my prescription only changed by the smallest amount it possibly can), she said my symptoms sounded like an optic nerve issue. She referred me to an ophthalmologist and said she'd call the clinic to get me in sooner rather than later. Someone from the clinic called me the next morning and we scheduled an appointment for Friday afternoon.

In the meantime, I had plenty of time to research ON. Inflammation of the optic nerve. Usually affects just one eye. Color loss can occur. Typically resolves on its own in a few months (ugh, months?). Strongly associated with Multiple Sclerosis.

Wait, what? Back that up a minute, please. MS? No, no. That can't be right... Can it?

The more I read about the relationship between ON and MS, the more I was looking for something else - ANYTHING else - it could be. (An ocular migraine, maybe? Or Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension? That one affects overweight women of child-bearing age - that description fits me to a T! Could that be it?) Unfortunately, the more I read about ON, the more it sounded spot on, and the more anxious I got. I tried to reassure myself by going over the symptoms of MS (none of which I had, save ON) and by reading about isolated occurrences of ON. But the seed had been planted, and I was just pouring on the water and fertilizer. I was terrified I had MS.
Image result for optic neuritis
I actually missed numbers for the 1st time in my life.

Hubby was (very fortunately) able to accompany me to my appointment. I don't know what I'd have done if he wasn't there, so I'm just glad he was. After a few quick tests, those awful eye drops that turn your eyes yellow (which Hubby hadn't seen before), and some "pictures" of my optic nerve, it all came down to one conclusion: I had ON. I had correctly self-diagnosed.

I'll save the rest for later. Stay tuned.