Friday, October 20, 2017

I don't know how to fight nationalism nor fascism

In school, I was taught that Germany turned to fascism because the country was economically devastated, because people didn't have enough to eat, because they were desperate, because conditions were extreme. I was taught that, had these things not happened, Germany wouldn't have lost its collective mind and murdered several million people.

For many years since, every time I've studied a time when people have flirted with nationalism or fanatical religion, or seen it happening in other countries, I've thought, well, things are dire there, people are scared, maybe justifiably so. Some economic stability and education will take care of this and they'll stop this nonsense as a result.

I don't believe it anymore. I'll never believe it again. Because of what I'm seeing right here in my own country. Nationalism - fascism - is rampant, not just in marches but in casual conversations on Facebook and over lunch and dinner tables. People are saying, explicitly, proudly, that criticism of the President should be utterly unacceptable, that people should be forced to stand for patriotic music, that police are justified in killing unarmed black men, and on and on. There's a constant denial of science and a continually deriding of public schools. There is an insistence that one religion is right and every other religion isn't just wrong, but is a threat. The majority of white people in the USA who have at least some college education and voted in November 2016 voted for Donald Trump. The majority of white WOMEN in the USA who have at least some college education and voted in November 2016 voted for Donald Trump. That he has been a sexual predator in the past - and bragged about it - didn't matter to those voters. That he blames sexual assault in the military because women were admitted into the military - didn't matter to those voters. That he ripped of several hundred people via his "university" and had to settle for many millions of dollars didn't matter. That he lied about Barack Obama, disrespected Gold Star families and military heroes, and said vile things about women didn't matter.

And none of this support for him is because white people are economically devastated, because they don't have enough to eat, because they are desperate, because conditions are extreme.

Quite frankly, I'm not trying to figure it out anymore. Because I don't care. I'm tired of their belief in fake news despite the mountain of reality proving it wrong. I'm tired of the double standard regarding the horrible man in office now and the very respectful, honorable one he replaced. I'm tired of their "I'm not a racist, but obviously white people are better and history shows us that" nonsense. No, I'm not going to reach across the table. No, I'm not going to listen. I'm done.

Geesh, even George W. Bush is worried.

Extreme nationalism has no signs of slowing down in Europe. It's also happening in Turkey and the Phillippines and India and Russia. People are feeling militant about their native languages and what they perceive as their national culture.

And people in the USA are embracing it as well.

So... now what? Education doesn't work to change their minds. Facts don't work to change their minds. These people do not have any patience or attention to detail, and they balk at the idea of time and deliberation it takes to learn and make important decisions, like a nuclear deal with Iran. They want simplistic, almost childlike emotional and very quick answers, answers that feel good rather than are based on any study or fact.
What to do?

Slaves were not freed in the USA because a majority of slave owners were convinced that slavery was wrong. Nazis were not defeated in Germany because a majority of Nazis and their sympathizers changed their minds. It took violence. It took devastation. It took an incredible amount of death.

I don't want violence. Or devastation. Or death. I do not romanticize nor desire any of that.

The victories of the civil rights movement did not happen by winning over racists. People didn't' vote for it - the courts and the Executive Branch listened to those supporting civil rights and did what was right, even if it wasn't popular with millions of people - maybe a majority of people. But we don't have that on our side now.

I've marched twice in Portland, once for women, once for science. I've been attending city council meetings since before the election; I want to keep my eye on the city council to make sure they aren't up to any shenanigans, like trying to cut an essential service or giving developers sweet heart deals. I've attended four public meetings with my state or national legislators, making sure right-wingers aren't showing up in greater numbers at any event and so that I can listen first hand to their messages. I've joined the official local arm of the Democratic Party, because I very much want to keep the party fighting for social justice, fighting for abortion rights, fighting for workers' rights, fighting for civil rights, fighting for the issues that affect people on a daily basis. I write the news media every time they get lazy in their reporting, every time they drop the ball in an interview with a member of the GOP.

But nothing changes. The fascist march continues.

Next week in Idaho, at Boise State University, there will be a presentation on how Idahoans organized a successful counter-movement to white supremacists in Idaho. According to the web site,  the presenters will "explain how people united around a variety of strategies that resulted in many victories--culminating in 2000 with an Idaho jury’s civil judgment against the Aryan Nations for $6.3 million that bankrupted it. The decades-long campaign for human rights--and to check the threat of the white nationalists, white supremacists and neo-Nazis--included passage of state legislation, support as allies for victims, comprehensive programs in the K-12 schools and colleges, public rallies and events, numerous press conferences and press releases condemning acts of hate, close working relationship with the police and prosecutors for aggressive prosecution of hate crimes, partnership with the faith community, statewide coordination with organizations and institutions for positive steps to advance human rights, commitment to the philosophy of non-violence and peace, and a pledge to never remain silent in the face of hate."

But what if the white nationalists are a populist movement that doesn't see itself as "white nationalists", even as they espouse similar statements? What if parents in those K-12 schools and universities block programs that encourage understanding and deliberation and, instead, promote anti-science curricula and a one-sided story of history that glorifies Western Europe alone?  What if the police and faith communities are part of the problem in creating intolerance and division?

I'm going to keep fighting, non-violently. I'm going to keep talking. People are in danger - particularly people who aren't white like me. My country is in danger. But I still believe in the ideals of my country and want to continue to live them and try to promote them.

But I also admit that the idea of buying a ranch in a remote location and living the rest of my days taking care of abandoned horses and providing tent space to people traveling the world by motorcycle, and cashing in on my privilege and giving up on humans in general, is sounding better and better.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The Blue Gardenia

My informal film studies via Turner Classic Movies continue... all I'm missing are the post-film discussions.

A couple of years ago, I saw The Blue Gardenia for the first time. It's directed by the legendary Fritz Lang, of Metropolis fame, and his eye elevates the movie far beyond what it could have been in less attentive hands. The film was completed in just 20 days, and in many ways, that lack of time shows. But it's still excellent. In fact, it should be celebrated, but sadly, it's not. It's a forgotten melodrama, almost film noir, from 1953 - forgotten except by TCM and me. I'm sure it's been overlooked by most movie buffs and critics because most of them are men, at least the ones that get asked to write columns and do interviews, and this is a movie almost entirely from a woman's point of view.

I probably wouldn't have liked The Blue Gardenia had I seen it when I was a teen. Maybe I did start to watch it as a teen and turned it off. But at my age now - oh, it resonates in so many ways.

The film opens with an attempted rape. The first 33 minutes would be great to show to a group of young people now, to talk about predatory behavior and victim blaming. It's rivaled only by the opening of Thelma and Louise in that regard.

Ah, but the difference in those two movies, in terms of when they were filmed, what the law is, and what the law was...

I saw Thelma and Louise the night it came out in California and several weeks later in Southern Indiana. In the California theaters, the audience gasps at the shot, but in Southern Indiana, women cheered. Sympathy or not, most audiences in the USA wouldn't think of the killing as portrayed in that movie, legally, as self-defense - because it wasn't - but it would probably go down legally as voluntary manslaughter: the purposeful killing of a human being, yes, but in a case where the offender had no prior intent to kill and acted during the heat of passion, under extreme circumstances that could be understood as causing a reasonable person to become emotionally or mentally disturbed to the point that they can't reasonably control their emotions (based on the definition in "What Are Homicide and Murder" by Aaron Larson in ExpertLaw.com).

Contrast this with The Blue Gardenia. The killing by Norah is clearly self-defense by the law of today, 2017. What Prebble tries to do is clearly rape - Norah is in no condition to give consent. But in 1953, those ideas, legally, didn't exist in those circumstances, even if women at that time, and for all time, knew it in their hearts - just as the character Norah does. But she hides because she knows she has no legal protection at all - if she is found out there is no legal justification for that murder, not in 1953, and she's going to prison for life, probably to be executed.

I watched The Blue Gardenia yet again today, and the conversations I see all over social media about the behavior of Harvey Weinstein, Roger Eugene Ailes, Bill O'Reilly and the current President of the USA, Donald Trump, all flashed through my mind during the first 33 minutes of the movie. Because I realize that what is clearly predatory behavior in this movie, what is clearly attempted rape in this movie, would be called by many men here, today, even in 2017, as a "gray area," and Norah's behavior would be seen as "sending mixed signals" by those men.

And it makes me want to scream. It means every use of the word clearly in this blog would be disputed by many men and women today, even in 2017. It means that, when I watch Mad Men and am appalled at what is said to Joan in that 1960s world, there are also men and women that watch it and still think she is asking for it because of how she dresses.

We still have so long to go...


Tuesday, October 10, 2017

it was a good wagon, but an impractical star

I would love to downgrade my Direct TV package. But I can't. Because I must have Turner Classic Movies.

I must.

I love the truly classic movies they show, like Casablanca. But I also love the old, obscure stuff they dig out from under the couch that maybe isn't THAT good, but I watch them and find some incredible little moment in many of them.

The latest is from a while back. It was at the beginning of The Deadly Affair, a 1966 adaption of a John le CarrĂ© story. This is a speech by a character called Samuel Fennan, who has been told by the main character, played by James Mason, that a letter has been sent, anonymously, identifying him as a former Communist:

Practically everybody was a member of the party at Oxford in the 30s. Half the present cabinet were party men. You know Mr. Dobbs, when you’re young, you hitch the wagon or whatever you believe in to whatever star looks likely it can get the wagon moving. When I was an undergraduate, the wagon was social justice, and the star was Karl Marx. We perambulated with banners. We fed hunger marchers. A few of us fought in Spain. Some of us even wrote poetry. I still believe it was a good wagon, but an impractical star. We had faith and hope and charity. A wrong faith, a false hope, but I still think the right sort of charity. Our eyes were dewy with it, dewy and half shut.

I so get this. I don't know if it's directly from the novel or was created for the film - but nothing better explains why so many people were sympathetic to Communism back in the 30s and 40s.

I try so hard not to let my eyes be so dewy that they are half shut.



Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Motorcycle trip in Washington State: a Smokey Adventure


I just realized that I didn't link to my travelogue about our annual motorcycle trip. This year, it was 10 days in Washington State: a Smokey Motorcycle Adventure in August.

Our 2017 trip included Gifford Pinchot National Forest (our favorite), Mt. Rainier National Park, Wenatchee National Forest (new for us), Lake Chelan National Recreation Area (new for us), North Cascades National Forest (new for us), Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest (new for us), Olympic National Forest (new for us), and Olympic National Park (new for us), as well as Trout Lake and Packwood, which we've been to before, plus these new cities for us in Washington state: Naches, Ellensburg, Leavenworth, Methow, Chelan, Winthrop, Newhalem, Marblemount, Concrete, Oak Harbor, Amanda Park, Humptulips and Aberdeen.

As a result of our Washington state trip, of August 30, 2017, I have ridden 23,496 miles (37,813 km) on my KLR (Kawasaki). I've ridden 34,496 (55,516 km) overall on motorcycles (my previous bike was a Honda Nighthawk).

But what's even more fun to think about is not the number of miles or kilometers, but the things I've seen. And that's why I write travelogues.

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Monday, September 25, 2017

Whores of Yore

This is an article on how horrible syphilis was during Victorian times, and what a threat it posed to sex workers in particular. Warning: if you click on the link, you will see vintage boobies. But the reason I love it is the intro, where the author tries to explain why she is going to use traditional pronouns. I'm sure lots of folks will be offended by it. But it made me laugh. It's how I feel too.

For more fun on this subject from another era, check out Venereal Disease and the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

History is fun!

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Viewing solar eclipse totality in Perrydale, Oregon, August 21, 2017

Eclipse romance 
Eclipse dork patrol

Earlier this year, I found out that solar eclipse totality would happen in McMinnville, Oregon, just 25 miles away from where I live. That city would get 56 seconds of eclipse totality. I was excited about the solar eclipse already, but I didn't realize that a complete block of the sun would happen so close to where I live. So proposed that we - my husband and I - go down to see it on the day of the event, in parking lot somewhere in the city. We’d leave around 7 a.m., have breakfast somewhere, walk out, see the eclipse, and then leave.

But then the hype kicked in, and ramped up every week, both in terms of how the crowds would be and what totality would look like. I realized I wanted more than a parking lot: I wanted a beautiful place to see the solar eclipse, and I wanted a longer totality. And there was no way we could leave the house at 7.

I saw a partial solar eclipse in July 11, 1991 in Silicon Valley, California. It was one of the worst year of my life, but the eclipse was a highlight, even if I didn’t do any more to celebrate it than stick a pinhole in a paper plate and look at the shadow for a few minutes on the ground outside of the horrible place where I worked.

Partial eclipses are worth observing, but I was reading too many poetic posts from scientists about what totality would be to pass up the opportunity to see it.

Several weeks ago, we road our motorcycles through the backroads Northwest of Salem. We had been to Falls City last year, and had a look again to consider its candidacy for eclipse viewing, but I thought there were too many trees. We were afraid Dallas or Rickreal would be a zoo of traffic, that we would not be able to get even close to either town unless we camped the day before. As we went back to our home in Washington, County, we passed through tiny Perrydale, and I had an epiphany: Perrydale, Oregon would be the perfect place to view the eclipse. It had open skies, nothing to obstruct the view of the eclipse, and there was plenty of parking. Back home, I looked up totality for the city on the NASA eclipse web site, and found that totality in Perrydale was predicted to be 1 minute 43.3 seconds - 47 seconds longer than McMinnville. Perrydale is 50 miles away from where we live. Dallas would give us an additional 13 seconds of totality, but, again, I was afraid it would be a parking lot before we could get near the town, even leaving in the wee hours of the morning.

Of course, we could have gone to Hopkinsville, Kentucky, my home state, and get more than two minutes of totality...

Beloved friends from California asked if they could drive up and join us, and we said yes, absolutely! It was actually my friend’s 87 year old mother’s idea - she came too, of course.

The night before the eclipse, we all were in bed (not the same bed) by 10 p.m., and I pushed everyone out the door so we could be on the road by 4 a.m. Because there would be HOARDS OF PEOPLE and we had to be ready for the tremendous traffic jam that, no doubt, would already be on state highway 47 heading to Gaston!

There was no traffic jam. There was no traffic at all, not even on 47. I pulled over in Yamhill and consulted with Stefan: based on the lack of anyone, we decided we’d dare to travel through McMinnville after all on our way to Perrydale. We continued on to Carlton, our motorcycles and our guests' car barely missing a live, confused possum in the road, and we turned on to 99... and there was still no traffic. None. I turned into a gas station in McMinnville to ask my traveling party if, indeed, the eclipse was today.

We continued on to tiny Perrydale. There are no businesses in Perrydale, just a tiny elementary school, a small high school (they are right next to each other), and a church. The grandstands for the school football field could hold maybe 60 people. The town doesn’t have a post office. A blog from 2013 found by a member of my traveling party is entitled “Perrydale, Oregon – Not quite a Ghost Town” and says the town has 60 residents.

After some exploration, we decided to park and set up in the school parking lot, next to a Baptist Church. It was cold outside, though far from freezing. As daylight set in, one of our party, Russell, my former sensei, walked around the school and came back with the best news we’d had all morning: the men’s restroom next to the athletic fields was open, clean, had toilet paper and had hand soap. Bathroom access had been my biggest worry about choosing this site. I almost did my happy dance, but decided to spare everyone.

We set up our camping chairs to face out to the sunrise, giving us a view of a large farm field and anyone traveling through town on Amity-Dallas Road. Another view of our view.

I felt like I was an idiot for making everyone get out of my house before 4 a.m. I kept apologizing. And I remained scared someone would come up out of no where and announce we had to move.

We had gotten there just after 5 a.m. After sun rise, Stefan set up the telescope. Once it was truly daytime, Russell said I should do a “ditch check” to see if the ditch across the road before the field was too deep to cross - we’d been planning to cross the street and sit in the field if traffic got too thick. So I went over, had a check, and when I turned around to look back at our little set up, I also looked back down the road we’d come, and saw a neon sign: open. On a coffee hut. COFFEE!! We’d brought coffee but, hey, coffee hut coffee?!? I’m there! So much for my comment that Perrydale doesn't have any businesses...

Gail (Russell’s wife) and I walked down and saw a field of campers across from the coffee hut. So, we’re *not* alone… we’d brought coffee, but I didn’t have a big enough thermos to take more than enough for each of us to have one cup - and I mean a cup, not a big mug. I was SO happy to have good coffee!!

Later, we sat in our camping chairs, all looking at the sunrise and the field. I said, “This is unbelievable: no traffic, a great viewing spot that has a clean bathroom with toilet paper, there’s not a cloud in the sky, there’s no smoke in the sky - this is AWESOME!” To which Russell replied, “Hey, isn’t that a professional massage therapist parachuting out of the sky and landing in the field right across from us?” To which Gail replied, “And doesn’t he also have wine, both red and white?”

It was a great morning. The four hours we sat there before the eclipse went SO FAST. We talked, we laughed, we ate coffee cake, we spied on a farmer working far in the distance… well into the morning, other people finally started showing up. One person told us that there was a traffic jam in McMinnville, mostly for the air and space museum there, when he had come through at 5:45 a.m. We easily could have still left our house 90 minutes, even two hours later, and made it to Perrydale in plenty of time for the eclipse. And I would have LOVED that extra two hours of sleep…

We contemplated movies and TV shows that feature an eclipse: LadyhawkA Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's CourtMadMen and Heroes. The suggestion of Day of the Triffods was withdrawn when I remembered that was a meteor shower, not an eclipse. And we though of songs featuring astronomical references: the obivous one everyone has been referring to, Total Eclipse of the Heart, as well as Bad Moon Rising, Black Hole Sun, and Invisible Sun.

I talked Stefan into giving away his extra pair of eclipse glasses (I think he wanted to sell them) and, just after 9, the eclipse began. We looked at it with our glasses, we looked at it via the projection from the viewer on Stefan’s telescope, I made jokes about the progress:

“Now, it looks like the sun is wearing a top hat and we can only see the bottom.”

“Now, it’s Pac Man, and he’s singing, ‘Woooooooo’”

“Now, Pac Man is singing ‘Ooooooooooo!’”

Telescope eclipse projectionPeople gathered around Stefan's telescope and took photos of the projection onto a paper plate and onto a gray matte board that some other group had brought. Other than the solar eclipse, he was a very popular photographic target as well.

There was now a sizable group in the parking lot with us, though nothing overwhelming at all, and everyone was super friendly.

I ate some chicken and potato salad and started thinking about totality. As one does. What would it really be like? Several people on the March for Science Facebook group said it was absolutely not to be missed, that it would be absolutely stunning. One guy said it was safe to take your glasses off during totality - it was mandatory, in fact. It would get so dark street lights would come on, and birds might stop singing. Stars would appear.

After 10 a.m, we all began to get anxious. Totality was coming! It was getting dimmer all around us, like sunset, except, the sun was right there above us, like always. Without the glasses, if you were foolish enough to look at the sun, you would have just seen a big light blob, like always. That's what ancient man, or medieval man, would have seen - the sun, as normal. Unless they understood the images they might be seeing on shadows cast by the trees, they wouldn't have known that an eclipse was happening, only that things were getting darker, and cooler. Gail put on a sweater. I kept commenting on how it looked like night was coming. We would look up at the sun, always with glasses, every 2-3 minutes, waiting to see how close we were getting, and watching things get grayer.

At 10:15 a.m., we were just two minutes away, and all eyes, behind eclipse glasses, were looking up. At 10:17, the last yellow sun beam disappeared behind the black moon, stars appeared, Stefan yelled, "Take off your glasses!", and I did, and I looked up and saw one of the most amazing things I've ever seen. Stars really did come out around the sun and moon. Night was descending. The sky was a million shades of dark gray and blue. The moment the last yellow sun beam disappeared behind the black moon, I saw pink beads within the corona, and long white, fuzzy glares coming out of the top and bottom of the sun behind the absolute black dot of the moon - but not in any symmetrical way. There was no yellow, just black and white and gray and pink and some blue. As Gail put it later on Facebook, "Totality Whoo hooo. We got a diamond!" I kept yelling "I can't believe this! This is amazing!" I was yelling, wooting, jumping up and down. When a yellow sun beamed appeared, glasses went back on, and day broke again, for a second time in just a few hours. We all clapped. I realized I was crying. Many of us hugged each other. We were astounded.

I found out later that the pink beads interrupting the corona of the sun come from the mountains on the moon. Yes, the mountains on the moon. When Galileo pointed out that the moon is an imperfect sphere, marked by mountains and valleys, he was imprisoned because of outrage by the Roman Catholic Church. I thought about all those early astronomers over thousands of year, trying to figure out the weather based on observing the heavens, how their observations lead them to uncover facts about the universe that were sometimes celebrated, sometimes derided. I also thought about the first humans that saw totality and how must have shuddered in terror, not understanding what was happening.

Science got us here, to this point of celebrating what physicist Michio Kaku called a cosmic coincidence, the fortuity that the moon is just the perfect size and the sun is just the perfect size and the moon and the sun and the Earth are all just the right distance from each other such that we get this eclipse that shows the sun's corona. Science predicted this eclipse, down to the second, for different parts of the world - not some preacher or physic. And they've been predicting them accurately for hundreds of years using science.

NASA asked on its web site, "What was your experience? How did you feel? Let us know what the eclipse meant to you in 6 words." And they asked, if you shared it on Twitter, to tag your comment with #Eclipsein6. Here are my tweets:

I felt connected to ancient astronomers. 

Saw pink beads around the moon. 

Cried at the beauty. Celebrated science. 

Said repeatedly, "I can't believe this!" 

Yelled "Everyone, take your clothes off!" 

Yes, really. All that. The "get nekkid" comment drew a LOT of laughs...

Cars started heading past us just after our celebrations of totality. Stefan went back to telescope projections. I went back to my glasses. We also waved at the now steady stream of cars going passed us. We ate some more, talked about how we would all get back to our homes. My guests would be leaving to head South straight from where we were. We would be going in the opposite direction.

Gail started checking GoogleMaps and started seeing traffic jams everywhere. We weren't seeing a jam, but there sure were a lot of cars going by... We dawdled, hoping that we were letting the worst of the traffic get to wherever it was going. We were almost the last to leave our site, at about 12:15. Stefan decided it would be best that we go 77 miles out of our way, back through Sheridan and Willamenia, up into the mountains via oh-so-curvey Gilbert Creek Road, over onto NW Bald Mountain Road, down to Nestucca Road and back to Carlton. We preferred to take an extra 90 minutes of riding to just sitting in traffic in the hot sun in McMinnville. We had to make a left onto 18, and I gasped when we got to the intersection: it was a wall of never-ending traffic coming East on the highway, and some drivers going the opposite direction. And no light at the intersection. And people on the opposite side also wanting to make a left turn, which put us in each other's way. And we had no right of way. Somehow, we got across - I still don't know how. The road up into the mountains was fine, though I was really tired and went slower than I would have liked to. Once we finally made it to Sheridan Peak, a scenic lookout with a large parking lot and a pit toilet that overlooks the valley, I was in dire need of a break. There were two guys there that had camped at the overlook and seen the eclipse, and one of them gave me all the coffee he had left, half a cup. He's my hero. We met some German-speaking bicyclists and dawdled for almost an hour, hoping traffic was getting better.

We got to the intersection for Carlton and there was a MASSIVE, never-ending line of cars waiting to turn into the town. Luckily, it was a four-way stop so we got to go rather quickly. For the next 12 miles, on state highway 12, we went between 5 and 30 miles an hour. The 20 minute drive took well more than an hour. Oh, well, if I had to finally have my solar eclipse traffic jam, I preferred it now, after the event.

We got home at 3:30, and found out that was lucky - that evening, there were still people trying to get home on the clogged roads.

So, that's my eclipse report, in a sea of eclipse reports. What an absolutely amazing experience. So much so that we're already planning for April 2024.

Our photos from the day.

And added bonus: Gail's 87 year old mother, on video, talking about this, her third eclipse.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

trying, stumbling, experiencing - it's all a virtue & it's extraordinary

I've known Marnie Webb for many years, per our association through TechSoup. Recently, she posted something to her Facebook profile that I really wanted to share on my blog. I asked Marnie if I could, and she said yes, and that it was fine to use her name. What Marnie doesn't know - but will know now - is that I cried when I read this. Because I know exactly how she feels. Exactly. It's why I started a travel section on my web site. Enjoy:

You know, in all seriousness, I spent most of my life terrified of flying. Like. Well. I'll spare you. Terrified. I got through it (I hesitate to say I'm over it because it can hit me terribly in unexpected moments) because I had to. I had to do my job and earn money and that meant, for the job I have, getting on a plane. For the job I want to have.

And then when I learned how to manage that, I replaced it with other fears. Getting lost. Dealing with languages. Stepping over some cultural line.

I would not have guessed, five years ago even two years ago, that I would be a person who has a long layover in a city and leaves the airport to explore. Who takes the public metro. Who changes currency. Who wanders confident they can get back to the airport. But here I am.

I post pictures of places that are spectacular. Rio. And this week Copenhagen and today Lisbon. I go to US cities that stun me, including a small one in northern Mississippi and big ones on the east coast. I eat dinner at restaurants, rather than getting room service, and talk to strangers. Today, in Lisbon I was resolute in practicing my faulty Brazilian Portuguese.

This change hinges on one thing: the idea that it is okay not to be perfect. That trying is a virtue in and of itself.

More than anything, I learned this from running. The slow build up to the day that I ran 13 miles because it was on my calendar to run 13 miles that day. The good days running and the bad. The injuries. All the times The Spawn slow rode her bicycle next to me and cheered me on. And then, bigger and stronger, ran next to me.

Anyway. I'm kind of marveling at it today. Perhaps because I just did something I didn't have to do -- left the airport for a little sightseeing on a long layover -- and I feel like it gave more than it cost. I wandered a city for a few hours and got on a train back to the airport. I made a mistake on buying a ticket on the metro and a stranger helped -- not different than I would do in San Francisco but something I never expected.

I sat on the steps next to the water and watched boats and people. I got a coffee and a little breakfast. I bought things for my family.

These seem small, you know. They seem ordinary. And they are. And today, to me, that seems so extraordinary.