The anti-vaccine movement – and other similar questionings of authority and science for that matter – fascinate me as they seem to be a culmination of a number of modern advancements and current issues. Plus it bugs the shit out of me because it’s so stupid.

A Very Concerned ParentWe seem to be in an age where we need to re-learn or re-discover why we have certain nice things. Like public health programs, unions, and consumer advocacy. If there hasn’t been an outreach campaign about something that the public forgets about things in about a generation. Sadly, with the anti-vaxxers, we will apparently have to experience a rash of preventable, tragic deaths before people bother to understand why we have vaccines in the first place.

The last major plague we’ve experienced – AIDS – only affected “those people”: those dirty gays and IV drug users (and they probably deserved it!). It didn’t directly affect the general population, so they don’t understand the impact of public health programs (or lack thereof). It took decades to get definitive research and treatment for AIDS patients after decades of screaming for help. That’s the thing that’s ironic – a group of people had to work hard to get treatment for a new disease, while a population today completely eschews tested and effective treatment for a known set of diseases. They will have to experience the tragedies of what happens when you go without.

I think the Internet is part of the problem too. Anyone can find something on the Internet to bolster their beliefs, and most don’t know how to vet research from an accredited institution versus someone’s “deeply held concerns” and opinions. I do know of one anti-vaxxer friend of mine on Facebook who worked at a university and should know better. But she’s constantly citing blog posts from “concerned parents” and links to science that has been discredited. She seems determined to stick to her beliefs despite nearly a century of medical research and advancements in public health. I don’t know how to convince her otherwise.

This anti-science set of beliefs is linked to an anti-authority movement. I’ll go out on a limb here to say that it’s rooted in anti-Obama. Perhaps since they can’t deal with a black president, and he’s in charge of the government and ultimately public health, therefore everything in authority is untrustworthy. I would go so far as to say that some parents are terrified to vaccinate their children because they are essentially injecting black in their children. Or that sneaky Obama is up to something and it’s probably forced autism.

All of the above makes me very concerned about the next new disease that hits the U.S. We didn’t handle Ebola very well. There was just as much confusion, accusing and fear about ebola as there was about HIV. Include mistrust of public health and the government and we will have a perfect storm of tragedy and death when the next new disease comes around. And most likely it will be preventable.

There seems to be two camps of anti-vaccine kooks: those who are Libertarian (or something) and dislike being “told what to do,” and hippy-dippy naturopathic enthusiasts who distrust western medicine. The latter may be convinced to vaccinate their children if you accuse them of racism. It might work.

Oh, and about autism: I don’t doubt it exists, but I think it’s overly diagnosed in an age where parents are working too much and can’t (or don’t want to) deal with the typical problems children go through. It’s the modern-day boogeyman, today’s Communist that puts the fear of god in mothers. Mothers who will click on anything with mention of it. It’s part of the hook that makes “concerned mothers” so willing to believe in the discredited threats of vaccination. They would much rather dope up their children with behavior-modifying medication than vaccinate their children. It’s easier that way and you don’t have to think about science.

I also wonder if there are parents who just can’t handle the thought of their children experiencing any kind of pain or hardship, like getting a shot in the arm. Seeing their children cry during what was once a rite of passage when I was a kid. Maybe these parents just can’t let their precious snowflakes experience the agony of a vaccination.

I suppose I could back up all of this conjecture with research from accredited institutions, but I’m too busy reading about the Kardashians.

Thanks for all the congrats on the new job. The first week has been mostly admin stuff and lots of forms. Forms for health insurance and nice stuff like that. It’s already clear I’m going to be a busy bee, but hopefully I’ll have time to blog more often now that my brain is clear to write about topics other than the horrors of 26 months of un-or under-employment. Blogmistress Kiri is also getting back on the bandwagon as well.

In the 80s and 90s I was never really a huge fan of Kate Bush. Her music was always in the background of my awareness despite releasing tons of music videos during that time. I liked her collaboration with Peter Gabriel and that was about it.

My Computer” was another collaboration she did with Prince in 1997 that started to pique my interest in her music a little more. It was an interesting song about being lonely despite a high download speed with your AOL dialup. The song wasn’t that catchy but I was starting to get the impression she sang about deeply personal situations and my interest grew.

Maxwell did a touching soul cover of “This Woman’s Work,” which my purist Kate Bush fan friend Doug decried as an abomination to the meaning of the song and everything Kate Bush. I liked it anyway, and looked that song up to understand what it meant. Still not clear on the meaning but the song is a testament to the human condition, or something.

Then for some reason lately I’ve been on a major Kate Bush roll. I think it was the first time I really listened to the lyrics from “Wuthering Heights” that started my fanaticism. I was like, “What the hell is this song about?” Then thanks to the Internets I was able to read the lyrics in earnest and I was like “OMFG SHE’S SINGING FROM THE POINT OF VIEW OF A GHOST!” based on the novel of the same name. That’s pretty creative. After a good workout you might find me screeching out the words when there’s nobody at home. “HEATHCLIFF! IT’S ME KATHY I’VE COME HOME!”

One of her more recent releases, “Eider Falls at Lake Tahoe” is about a dog running away from home. Maybe it’s about something else but I have yet to find the deeper meanings to this one. Still, writing about a dog’s romp through the woods is pretty trippy too.

During the 2012 London Olympics closing ceremony NBC cut out “Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)” due to broadcast time restraints. Curse NBC for this crime. The song is about understanding the opposite sex, but presented in a sport venue the song takes on a different meaning. It might ask: do you understand the struggle and pain of sport, either victory or defeat? Kate did not perform the song live but the video montage of the athletes was a powerful interpretation of the music.

The touching video for “Moments of Pleasure” drew me in, and again I looked up the lyrics. It may have been written during a time when her cretive friends were dying during the AIDS casualties in the 90s. Makes me tear up every time. “Cloudbusting,” about a mad scientist. “Rubberband Girl” about getting back up again to recover. “The Man with the Child in His Eyes,” “Wow, “Love and Anger,” and “The Sensual World.” The list seems to grow every day for me and I’m a giddy fan.

But despite her recent series of shows in London she’s unlikely to perform in the States. I hear she doesn’t like to travel overseas, and right now it’s unlikely I have a budget that would support a trip across the pond should she perform again. I’m caught up on seeing all my favorite 80s and 90s artists live, but Kate Bush is a glaring and painful omission from this list. I’m too late to this game, but I will continue to hope she tours again soon.

It feels odd to start the day without looking at job posts as I have been for two years. I finally got a mothafokkin’ job, accepted an offer last week. It’s taken 26 months, 160 resumes, lots of networking and a lot of resolve. I guess the lesson is: don’t quit your job and move to Portland – it’s a trap! Plus I don’t think I considered the state of the Nation’s economy two years ago. I thought my resume was robust enough to get me work right away.

Anyway the interview process for this one took quite a while. I had three phone interviews and one in-person interview strung out over the course of a month. Strangely they have not called any references. I could be an axe murderer for all they know! It is strange how some workplaces really comb through your contacts and work history, while others rely on vibe. I’m glad they like my vibe though.

The new job is communications work that supports Homeland Security. It involves science and technology innovations that help first responders. So the job is nerdy yet involves my communication skills, which is nice. It’s also less than ten minutes away by bike. Maybe a half-hour walk from my home, which is great. I expected to take a big pay cut as salaries are lower these days, but I didn’t lose much and managed to negotiate up. Interestingly this company bought the company I first worked for when I arrived in DC. Several of my friends still work for this company. But I did not get this job through networking or contacts. I applied to it cold and got it myself, which is a little unusual.

Of course the first year I will be putting my head forward and focus on the new work environment. Plus two years of underemployment has given me new financial burden that I didn’t have before. So no fancy vacations for me for a while. Gotta pay off the debt.

I hadn’t been home to Wisconsin in the winter for many years. I prefer to visit in the summer when you can do things outside like bike and fish. Although it was mid-November, temperatures were already in the single digits:
ice and houseboats
On the campus where I had my job interview, the students were riding about on their bikes in those temperatures unaffected, wearing neoprene facemasks. Hardcore kids.

The interview went well I think. The interview committee had good poker faces though, so it was hard to tell what they thought. I have TWO job interviews in DC today. The first one is for communications stuff supporting a DHS program (with a lovely short commute from home), the second is to be the spokesperson for a nearby county deer management program which would be challenging and interesting. So something ought to come out of this soon we hope. Two. Fucking. Years. Of un- or under-employment. It’s been ridiculous.

Anyway, mom’s dog Andy was cute, and he loved his squeaky burger and fries:
Andy and his burger and fries
Andy is probably a lot more well-behaved than the spoiled vermin owned by our favorite swamp hag.

Since there wasn’t much to do, I went down to the river’s edge and took artsy photos:
strings of lights
I found a hardware store where you could get the tools needed to make Scandinavian treats like sandbakkelse and krumkake:

I ate cheese curds every day. On the last day of my trip we found the place in LaCrosse with the largest cheese curds ever, possibly of this whole world:

Of course the eating does not end, as Thanksgiving approaches. I plan on eating even more.

shinerSo it’s been a year since I’ve returned to DC, two years since I moved to Portland. I moved back to DC under the assumption that there were more jobs here than in Portland. That’s somewhat true, but there aren’t as many jobs as there used to be here. Fewer organizations are hiring because money isn’t flowing here due to legislative gridlock and no budget. With the Republicans controlling the senate I think we’re going to get more of the same for at least three years. So nobody has any confidence they’ll have money for new or continuing positions.

The new job reality is in contracting. Fewer companies are hiring “permanent” positions. And salaries are lower, despite all the sunny news you hear coming from the White House these days. It’s ironic that in the past year I’ve had more interviews for jobs outside of DC than in. Two of them were for jobs in Portland. Next week I’ll be interviewing for a job in Madison, Wisconsin. It would be working for the state extension offices marketing their environmental programs. It would be a good fit, but of course the position is a 2-year contract, so that gives me pause and I would probably have to get a car too. But then again everything is contracting these days. But it is the first job interview where they are paying for my travel for an interview in person! However, I owe them a marketing presentation in return.

I had mentally resolved to “be” in DC, to accept the fact that this is where I should be. But opportunities may take me elsewhere. This sorta pisses me off because I felt very empowered to take the leap to Portland, but failed. It makes me feel like I don’t have any control over my destiny. Then there’s the constant anxiety about my career/job/bills. Two years of worry and watching my savings run out. I think a lesser person would be crushed by two years of this instability.

Granted, I’m working now, actually like the job I’m in, but it ends in December. All I’ve been able to get in DC are these short-term contracting gigs, and my resume looks like a mess now. I get interviews when people see my resume, but I think there are still hundreds of people applying for jobs these days and my resume is buried under hundreds of pages and names. It’s really tight out there.

The photo was of the shiner I got during rugby practice last month. It’s all better now. Rugby was fun this season. They have enough players now to form a third team. It’s mostly brand new players and old, decrepit players like me. Still fun to get out there though, but man it takes longer and longer for me to recover from a match.

Well the Miss Adams Morgan Pageant was a lot of fun. Much love to Miss Veronica Blake for doing up Charlene. Actually the process for getting made up was made efficient by an assembly line affair before the show. At one station the heavy foundation was plastered to my face. At the next station the fine details for a fine lady, and finally the wig was put on at the last station. Charlene was a hit, as the people expected and demanded. Don’t be jealous. In the photo to the left we see the lovely Jim Lande and Miss Charlene Hilton in all her smoky glory.

I must note that the production value for this pageant seems to get better every year. It’s quite a DC institution. DC doesn’t have a reputation for being a crazy town or particularly artsy, but when we do put on a show it’s well-organized. In a town full of Type-A personalities this is an inevitability. Like I always say, “Maryland is for crabs, Virginia is for lovers, and DC is for former class presidents.”

Now the beard will grow back again. My dry, featureless face hates me for shaving.

Oh I want to point out that our painfully cisgendered blogger friend BrettCajun is OBSESSED WITH CHARLENE. He was constantly asking questions about her, offering makeup advice, and lewd comments about what he wants to do with Charlene. Brett just do drag already and GET. OVER. IT.

I shaved my glorious russet beard for an upcoming appearance of Charlene, and now the beard gods have punished me with a pox. It’s probably razor burn, but it sure does itch. Beards keep your face moisturized and happy. I will begin the regrowth immediately after Charlene has left the stage. Shaving is bad.

Bryce Harper does not shave, and he is full of testosterone and manliness, as evidenced in this photo:
The beardy Washington Nationals made it to the Major League Baseball playoffs again but they did not make it farther than that. I am sad.

Fuck fuck fuck the proposal I was on to support a major U.S. government website did not win. So it’s back to square one. I have been temping at a great place and the commute – a 10-minute bike ride – has been great. But the pay is crap and I really need to get off the temp train. My resume is a mess from all these short-term contract and temp gigs and I look like a job-hopper on my resume. I have been applying to permanent or long-term jobs since I got to DC. But I rarely get a response, and I’m even starting to see jobs I applied to in the past year opening again. How did that person you hired work out for you? Guess it didn’t work out for either of you. YA SHOULDA HIRED ME!

This week marks the one-year anniversary of my return to DC. I knew it would be tough reestablishing myself but I didn’t expect it to be this tough. Our economy is rotten, money is not flowing through DC, salaries are lower than they used to be, everything is more expensive and firms are reluctant to open new positions. Have a nice day.

Lucas wasn’t at practice last week and no one had heard from him. He was supposed to play a forward position in the scrum. We practiced lineouts and he was supposed to be in the second pod of lifters. When Saturday match day came around he was still a no-show, and we improvised with who we had rather than sticking to what we practiced. We won the game, but still needed Lucas.

Last night the team president shared the sad news: Lucas had passed on, probably by suicide. It must have happened last weekend, or early in the week, thus his absence from practice.

It’s hard to get into the mind of a suicidal person to understand what drove them to do the deed. You really can’t understand the spiral downward that’s kicked off by a bad thought here or difficult interaction there. All you can do is hope you were there to stop the descent.

I have been going to rugby to get my mind off my situation. For two hours twice a week I can forget that I’ve been sidetracked from my career path, and not think about paying bills next month on my paltry temp salary. Even though a grave injury might put me in deeper financial crisis, I feel it’s worth it for the couple hours of mental respite from otherwise dwelling on my problems. It’s those breaks that help a lot.

Something as simple as “we need you in the lineout on Saturday” may have helped Lucas. We need you here for this one little thing may have sent a shaft of light into the darkness. I don’t know. You can’t know what they were thinking, but you also can’t blame yourself for what happened. I’ve dealt with that before and won’t again. It may sound cold but we have to move on with the living.

This is Brett PrejeanSeveral of my gay friends are getting or have recently gotten married. Some of them have been together for a long time, others for what you would compare to a heteronormative length of courtship before nuptials.

I am glad for them all. The typical media/TV stereotype of an extravagant, elegant gay wedding is already out there. Yet at least with my circle of friends, that has not been the case. Sometimes we had to beg them for a ceremony, otherwise they would have just gone to the Justice of the Peace and got done with it without telling anyone. They have been subdued affairs. Maybe all my friends are cheap. I don’t know.

As I get older and my marrying friends get older, the ceremonies or parties become more relaxed and less complicated. This is good. I’m starting to think we do not feel this pressure to be Bridezillas and put on an extravagant affair, because there are fewer expectations of us. I think it’s liberating that we don’t feel the need to put on an overpriced affair that will put a couple in debt for years. It seems to be we’ll do this our way, and we’re being chill about it.

Have we learned the lessons of the heterosexuals and know that expensive weddings aren’t worth it? Have you been to an over-the-top gay wedding? I haven’t yet.

What do you think? Come out of the woodwork, lurkers. It’s time to discuss.

Getting back to rugby has been fun, a great way to socialize, and it restores a much-needed sense of normalcy to my life after these past two years of upheaval. However me olde body does not recover like it used to. Even a mere practice has me physically wrecked for days. After this season (yeah I keep saying that every year) I will certainly question my continued participation in the sport. Still, we managed to smile for a moment a few weeks ago during play:

This summer’s weather has been remarkably cool. With the exception of a week or two here and there, it’s been really pleasant. But cooler temps are on the way, as evidenced by that fall smell that we encountered on our hike in the Monongahela National Forest of West Virginia this past weekend. We didn’t see any bears, but there were plenty of otters on the trail:

It rained Saturday morning but that’s about it. They say it’s gonna be a cold winter this year.