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17 Oct 13:00

Books and letters

by Kristin

On Wednesday, it rained. It rained a lot. The rain fell so hard that I could hear it from my desk three cubes from the window, and I can never hear the rain from my desk. I don't really see outside at all during the day. I know it exists, somewhere out there, but I can't tell if it is day or night, dark or bright. On Wednesday, though, I heard the rain.

Around me, people received tornado alerts on their cell phones. Some people congregated in the hall in the middle of the building, away from the windows. Some just kept working. I kept working, and the rain kept falling.

After work, I considered going home, even though it was Wednesday, even though I normally volunteered on Wednesdays, but I had a bag full of letters addressed just to me, words and thoughts of prisoners behind bars and I really just needed to respond.

I am a terrible pen pal. It is not a role I have sought, and I would never volunteer for such a thing. Not with prisoners. Not even with people I know and love. For a year, I served as a mentor to a student long distance, and I fear that I failed miserably. She never reached out to me, and after our initial interaction, I couldn't think of anything to say.

Despite the fact that I write every day and through it all, I struggle for words. I labor with ideas and finding a way to string a story together, to write something worth reading, to put out something worth remembering and representing me, even if nobody reads it or it's going to a man behind bars that I don't know and will never meet. I don't do things halfway. For some reason, more and more prisoners have started writing to me, and I feel pressure to respond.

While I was walking to the church that gives up space, the rain started pounding and I almost regretted leaving the shelter of metro. I could have stopped for a while and gotten a cup of coffee while I waited for the downpour to lighten, but I had my rain jacket and the umbrella that reminded me of another story, the Love Festival, and hiking in the Alps. Temperatures were still fairly warm and frankly, even if I got wet, I would get dry again. It was just water, a short walk, a short story and something to add to the letters.

"It's a cool, rainy night in DC - perfect for books and letters."

And it was.

Life has been somewhat exhausting lately. Not bad. Just a lot. Everything seems to take so much time, so much thought and so much work, and I am tired of thinking about it and about me. Thinking outside of myself let it all drift away.

I faced the rain, got a bit wet and volunteered a few hours with DC Books to Prisons. I answered most of those letters addressed to me, caught up with friends and fellow volunteers, and spent some time performing quality control on the packages pulled together by new volunteers. I didn't do much. I did not save the world, but I think that maybe I made a small difference. I made far more of a difference that I would have done if I had just gone home.
18 Oct 13:00

Lowering the cost

by Kristin

Yesterday, my heart nearly stopped. I went to my local pharmacy (for the fourth time in a week) to see if maybe the prior approval had come through on one of my prescriptions, and I found that it had. After insurance, I paid $230 for one month of one medication. Then, I went home and found that after insurance, on a monthly basis, I needed to pay almost $1,600 for my second prescription, the disease-modifying one, the one that I have to take twice a day for the rest of my life. That’s when my heart nearly stopped.

At a retail pharmacy, I would pay more than $19,000 for a single prescription on an annual basis. Granted, insurance would pay another $45,000 so I wouldn’t have to pay the full $64,000 on my own, but the numbers were staggering. There had to be a better way.

The Census Bureau reports the median household income at $53,046. Without insurance, my medicine – one of my medicines - would cost more than the average family brings home in a year. And I’m single. Using a more comparable metric from the Census Bureau means that my copayment with insurance for one year of one pill represents 68 percent of the per capita income.

That fact bears repeating. One year, one pill = 68 percent of the Census Bureau's per capita income WITH insurance.

Health care is the number one cause of bankruptcies in the United States. More than those from credit card debt and unpaid mortgages, bankruptcy from medical bills affected nearly 2 million people last year. Outside of bankruptcy, about 56 million adults – more than 20 percent of the population between the ages of 19 and 64 – struggled with health-care-related bills last year, according to NerdWallet Health as reported by CNBC, and having health insurance doesn’t save people from financial hardship.

My medicine isn’t supposed to fix anything. I have an incurable progressive and debilitating disorder. The capsule that I take is supposed to slow down the progression and disability. It won’t do anything to the damage I already have. It won’t make me better. The second pill that I take helps make me feel slightly better in light of that damage. (It calms my nerves to address pain and fatigue, and it keeps me awake in good ways.)

I did pick up the prescription that controlled some of my symptoms. I had only three pills left and hadn’t taken any for a couple of days, pacing myself, trying to make them last until the prior approval came through. When I realized the cost, though, I went home, sank into a chair and considered my options. I could use one of the online tools to find a pharmacy that offered the medicine for less. I could call my neurologist and ask for a cheaper alternative. I could just stop taking the medicine and give up feeling slightly better.

After a couple of hours of reading through paperwork, online with my insurance company and their pharmacy division, and a number of phone calls, I found a much more affordable option. I would still pay over $100 for the prescription that controlled my symptoms but the price of the disease-modifying one would drop from almost $1,600 a month to $35.

“Do people already know this?” I wondered. “How do people figure this out?”

It had taken weeks of coordination to get the prior approval (after months with my prior insurance) and hours of sorting through benefits and pharmacy information to find something I could afford.

Was some key piece of information missing from my education and upbringing? Did other people already know how to do it?

I might have jumped the gun with a serious diagnosis in my mid-30s, but eventually, as we grow older and our bodies start falling apart (or sooner with aging parents), we all need to figure it out. Health insurance. Prescriptions. Long term care. By the time we realize we need these things, it can be too late.

Maybe people already know how this all works, but I want to share some of the information that I have learned about prescriptions.

Don’t accept the price that the pharmacy gives you as the final price you will pay.

A few days ago, my prescription would have cost me almost $500. Yesterday, it should have cost $230 but I had a card from the pharmaceutical company, which saved me $50 so I paid $180. Going forward, if I use the mail order pharmacy, I will pay $105. (If the card from the manufacturer works, that will be lowered to $55.) Not only that, different retail pharmacies charge different prices for the exact same prescription, dosage and quantity. A number of online tools allow you to see who charges what.

* Compare prices between retail pharmacies. A number of online tools allow consumers to compare prices at local pharmacies. Some even offer coupons. A quick search resulted in GoodRx, Drug Price Search, I don't know how they compare; I actually do this through my insurer’s website.

* Contact your doctor. Explain the situation and ask what your options might be. Are generics available? Is there another medicine in the same class that will work? When I traveled to Sri Lanka, I needed to take an antimalarial, but I didn’t need to take the one originally prescribed (at hundreds of dollars). I could take another for $7. They had slightly different side effects but those differences were negligible.

I am taking the $500/230/180/105/55 medicine because my old insurance denied the original prescription. They dictated trying this one first, and my doctor switched. However, my new insurance not only covers the original but also offers a generic for as low as $5 a month. This might be a possibility; I need to talk to my doctor. I hate to feel like I am bothering her, but I have realized that it’s not a "bother." She is in my life to help me stay healthy and finding the right medicine, one that works and one that I can afford, is part of that.

* Contact your insurance company. Look online or call customer service to ask about options for filling prescriptions. Retail pharmacies (the local drugstore or the counter in your grocery) might be great for emergency, “I need it right now” sorts of prescriptions but mail service often provides a cheaper option for medicine taken long term and regularly.

* Contact the pharmaceutical company. Look online or call the company’s customer service department to ask about help in copayment, especially for branded drugs. If generics are not available, they very well might have a program in place.

This by no means constitutes a complete list and really only addresses those who have insurance, and maybe I am preaching to the choir. Maybe this is common knowledge. It's all new (and overwhelming) to me, and I want to share things as I continue to learn. This is all so confusing and a lot of work. I don't know how anyone does this, but at least my heart is still beating for now.
18 Oct 07:42

dafuq?! where the fuck?

dafuq?! where the fuck?

18 Oct 18:45

What are some animals that most people have never seen before?

by Xu Beixi
14 Oct 13:00


by Kristin

We didn't expect it to be good, not in the "Academy Award winning, this is going to change the way we see the world" kind of way. We just wanted a decent scare on a rainy Monday afternoon. Unfortunately, outside of a few cheap thrills, Annabelle failed to deliver.

With a three-day weekend and gloomy weather, my nephew and I made plans to see Annabelle, the prequel to last year's horror hit The Conjuring. The boy and I had seen The Conjuring together, deconstructing it after the film and determining what we thought worked and what we considered poor execution. We talked it out. We decided we weren't all that scared. We liked it enough, though, to follow it up with Annabelle, the story of the evil doll shown at the start and end of it all.

In the new film, a dashing young doctor has found the perfect gift for his pregnant wife, a rare vintage doll in a white wedding dress to complement her collection. Unfortunately, the dolls draw the attention of a home invader, a member of a satanic cult intent on death and destruction. Gristly violence ensues with blood, shrieks and tears, and the invaders leave more than terror in their wake. They have conjured something purely evil, and all seem attached to that doll.

The movie borrows heavily from better horror films and depends on cheap jolts rather than building the story line, characters or plot. There were a few moments when we jumped in our seats (generally when someone was flying across a room) but the film soon passed from our minds. It didn't have staying power. We weren't really that scared.

Far more frightening were multiple signs saying that children under the age of 6 are not allowed into Rated R films. Frankly, I wondered whether I should be taking the 16-year-old and checked with his dad before we went. When he wanted to bring a friend, I asked if her parents were fine with it, too.

I could not imagine that any child aged six or younger could fully understand that the doll wasn't really the source of the terror. The doll was really only tangentially linked. Movies with things children associate with their own life - dolls, clowns, other children (like the little girls in The Shining) - could be particularly terrifying and hard to understand at such a young age. Nevertheless, there they were. In the seats down the row, a preschooler sat between a pair of adults. A few rows in front of us sat another.

While the movie itself didn't provide a proper fright, we still managed to find one in the theater.
10 Oct 15:30

We Can All Learn Something From the Panda

We Can All Learn Something From the Panda

Submitted by: (via BaronXRojo)

Tagged: racism , panda , wisdom , hacked irl , g rated , win
12 Oct 18:45

What are the best real-world examples of "the boy who cried wolf"?

by Graeme Shimmin

Iran being 'two years away from having a nuclear weapon' - which they have been now since 1984.

  • 1984: The first claim of an Iranian nuke in 'as little as two years' is in Janes Defence Weekly based on 'intelligence sources'.
  • 1992: Binyamin Netanyahu claimed Iran was “3 to 5 years” from having a nuclear weapon.
  • 1992: Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres claimed the Iranians would have a nuclear warhead by 1999.
  • 1995: US officials (and Binyamin Netanyahu again) claimed Iran would have a warhead by 2000.
  • 1996: Ehud Barak told members of the UN Security Council that Iran would be able to produce nuclear weapons by 2004. Shimon Peres disagreed, he thought they would be ready in 2000.
  • 1998:  Donald Rumsfeld told Congress that Iran could have a nuclear armed intercontinental ballistic missile that could hit the US by 2003.
  • 1999: 'Israeli officials' claim Iran will have a bomb by 2004.
  • 2001: Israeli Minister of Defence Binyamin Ben-Eliezer claims Iran will have a bomb by 2005.
  • 2003: 'Israeli military sources' claim Iran wil have a bomb by 2005.
  • 2009: Binyamin Netanyahu is back with a claim that an Iranian bomb is 'one to two years away'. Mossad chief Meir Dagan claims 2014 is the date. IDF General Baidatz goes against the grain by speculating it will take as long as three years.
  • 2010: 'Israeli sources' claim 'Iran is, at most, one to three years away from having a breakout nuclear capability.'
  • 2012: Binyamin Netanyahu claims Iran is six months from a bomb.

Read other answers by
Graeme Shimmin on Quora:Read more answers on Quora.
12 Oct 13:00

The end of happy

by Kristin

Apparently, yesterday was the last of my happy days. In a flash, three months have passed. I have found and shared at least one happy thing for each of the last 100 days. I made it! I have not yet completely alienated family or friends with inane pictures plus a hashtag! Rather, a few people told me that my pictures made their own days brighter, and I want to keep posting, with or without a hashtag. I am not ready for my happy days to end.

If I had realized that yesterday marked the last of my hundred, I might have considered something with a little more flash. I might have found or tried to do something more than enjoy finding time to sort through laundry and my photographs, but perhaps the unknowing made it more real, more appropriate, more me. I really was happy with a little time for reflection and order on a cool rainy day. I don't have nearly enough of that.

I did not know I had reached my goal until I opened my calendar sometime late afternoon. As of today, I had a clear slate at six where once I had a reminder to post because 100 days ago I created an event just for me. #100happydays. For the past 99, my calendar sent me a daily reminder to find happiness.

Some days of the past 100, I struggled to find something to shoot and something to say. Some days, I couldn't think of a single happy thing and posted something small. The days weren't bad; they just were. Some days, I weighed all of the happiness around me and deliberated over which one to pick - just one! The project reminded me to be present and positive.

Posting a picture a day did not change my life. I cannot run faster or jump higher now. My head isn't fixed. I have not fallen in love or discovered the meaning of life (42), but maybe I have enjoyed and appreciated the world around me just a little bit more.

During the past 100 days, I have made my first foray into home ownership and moved from two bedrooms to one. It included the end of a relationship and the end of a job. I started a new one, a new job, at least, which was the old one with a new dynamic and employer, earlier hours and increased responsibility. I did not start another relationship. New medication yielded adverse side effects, and I fought headaches and nausea for 24 of the 100 days. Someone tried to steal my car. I traveled to Croatia. I turned a year older.

The past 100 days haven't exactly been easy. They have actually been downright hard. Maybe the project did change my life - I don't know where I would be if I hadn't focused on finding the good in life. (I imagine a big hot mess.) 

Even though the "official" 100 days have ended, I plan to keep searching for happiness in my daily life, even when it's really just finding the time to finish my laundry and sort through pictures of a lunar eclipse.

09 Oct 07:53

A water balloon full of mercury hitting the ground.

11 Oct 04:53

samaelcarver: The Meme of our Years.


The Meme of our Years.

09 Oct 13:00

Autumn resolutions

by Kristin

Summer officially ended two and a half weeks ago (and unofficially sometime back in August), but fall didn't feel real until last night. The mornings are cool. Sweaters and jackets abound. Boots have been toeing their way out of closets for weeks, but it wasn't until last night that the feeling struck and stayed. Autumn is here.

The evening wasn't particularly cool. In fact, it was warmer than the past few nights and I felt fine in a light summery sweater without a jacket. It was dark, but the hour was late. I didn't notice the sun setting earlier, and frankly, with a shift in my schedule, I might not have noticed anyway. Everything happens earlier in my life these days. It just.... It smelled like fall.

Something in the air around me evoked a million thoughts as leaves crunched underfoot. I imagined a hint of smoke in the breeze, fireplace smoke not barbecue smoke. Caramel apples. Hot chocolate. Football games, sweaters and blankets. Long nights. Crisp mornings and brilliant afternoons, warm and sunny with clear blue skies. Never really knowing how to dress for the day and layering anyway, carrying most of the layers home later.

Even as trees shed their leaves, birds migrate and bears hibernate, the world seems to start fresh in the fall, in the autumn. The feeling was nurtured into us through the education system. School years started in August or September.

For me, school always started the Tuesday before Labor Day followed by a three-day weekend and four-day week. The third week of school was another short one with a teachers' in-service day and the county fair. (It might have been the start of hunting season, too.) The first weeks were short, but everything started the Tuesday before Labor Day.

An early September birthday further entrenched that feeling, and last night, when I smelled autumn in the air, I felt a rush of exhilaration. Of anticipation. Of promise. A new year was starting.

I feel as if I should resolve to do something in the new year before me. January seldom finds resolutions from me; it really just feels more like the same. This year, the one starting right now, I plan to take better care of myself and do what I can to help the ones around me. I want to make the world a better place. I want to continue moving toward the person I want to be.

The last year was hard, but that's over now. It is time to turn a new (fallen) leaf and see what the world has to hold.
09 Oct 07:12

Memorabilia from the Shitwind collection.

Memorabilia from the Shitwind collection.

08 Oct 13:00

Lunar eclipse

by Kristin

There are distinct advantages to rising so early and walking to work - health, fitness, and peace of mind, not to mention taking advantage of early morning alertness. I rather like the shift in my schedule even as I continue to figure out how to fit the rest of my life around it and get enough sleep. Once in a while, though, the stars, sun and moon align to make the early hours even better.

From the moment I rose to a quick morning break around sunrise, walking west and stopping for pictures every three blocks, I saw the moon progress from full, fat and happy to a total eclipse and start her way back again toward full.

My pictures might have been better if I had a tripod. They might have been a lot better if I knew what I was doing and had gone out specifically to take pictures of the moon rather than trying to sneak them in as I walked, but I stopped every three blocks anyway.

At a corner near my house, a runner stopped me and pointed up.

"The eclipse," she said. "Did you see?"

At the office, much closer to total, I joined a dozen coworkers in staring up at a dark moon in a darker sky and as they snapped with their cell phones, I pulled out a rather large camera, played with the settings and tried to capture something I knew I'd never quite get.

All through the commute, the walk to work, I stared up in wonder at the moon and the earth's shadow that crossed her face. Our shadow. There. It didn't matter if I captured the image; somebody else would. I could find it later, but my picture would remind me that I was there. I saw it, and it was beautiful.

08 Oct 18:11

Interracial and same-sex marriage parallels

by Nathan Yau

xkcd on Marriage

xkcd doing what xkcd does. Randall Munroe charts a brief timeline of interracial and same-sex marriage, through the lens of popular approval and population.

Tags: marriage, xkcd

06 Oct 13:00

Skeleton Twins

by Kristin

In The Skeleton Twins, Saturday Night Live alums Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader reunite for a stark and darkly funny look at love, life and family.

“When estranged twins Maggie and Milo (Bill Hader) feel they're at the end of their ropes, an unexpected reunion forces them to confront why their lives went so wrong. As the twins reconnect, they realize the key to fixing their lives may just lie in repairing their relationship.”

Luke Wilson rounded out the cast directed by Craig Johnson in this comedy drama, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on January 18, 2014. It won the Screenwriting Award: U.S. Dramatic at the festival, and despite the humor, the film was dramatic at the core, with adult content and issues.

Sitting in a darkened theater, with my brother at my side, I wondered how a decade could pass between twins, how so much could change and how so much could stay the same. We each brought our own histories to the film, our own stories, and viewed it in the context of our own lives. We both enjoyed it.

The Skeleton Twins is not a film for the weak of heart or those seeking a quick comedy fix. It isn’t Bridesmaids. It isn’t SNL. It’s a beautiful, funny and bittersweet tale of love.
07 Oct 13:00


by Kristin


1. an even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady.
2. a condition in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions.

A few years ago, I spent much of a month taking Bikram Yoga classes. Three or four times a week, I would spend 90 minutes running through the same 26 postures in a room heated to 104 degrees Fahrenheit with 40 percent humidity. Theoretically, a warm body is a flexible body and more open to reshaping through yoga, and environmental aspects of Bikram help flush away toxins and impurities.

In hindsight, Bikram was a very bad idea. Heat and humidity exacerbate multiple sclerosis. The class could make me sicker, but I did not know I had it at the time. I figured everyone felt dizzy after an hour and a half in a room so hot and moist.

I had never sweated so much in my life.

Over the course of the month, I tried different days, times and instructors to figure out what worked best for me. The classes were scripted but each instructor taught in his or her own style. Some teachers seemed harder, others more comfortable, some rather awkward, and I did not know what it was. Timing? Tone? The space in between?

More than the instructors, I found that my body reacted differently at different times of day. After work on a Wednesday, practically running from office to studio meant that I could not hold a pose to save my life. My heart raced. My mind jangled with the projects I had been working. I couldn’t balance a stick to save my life. Conversely, early on a Sunday morning, in a mostly empty room, all felt right with the world.

In the end, a Toe Stand meant the end of Bikram for me. One particular instructor thought I could and should push myself farther. When I didn't, he pushed me. He thought I held back and he might have been right. I could go farther. I have hypermobile joints. My body has trouble distinguishing between "good far" and "bad far" with joints popping out. I ended up tearing something in my left knee. It hurt for years as the lessons of Bikram lingered.

Bikram taught me more than 26 poses and to listen to my body over the voice of an instructor. Bikram showed me a little of how stress impacted my body. I needed to let go of the things that my made my heart race and mind jangle after work on a Wednesday. I might never master a Balancing Stick Pose but it was a lot easier Sunday morning.

Most of the early exercises, the standing exercises, focused on balance - Standing Head to Knee, Standing Bow Pose, Balancing Stick, etc. – and each were performed on both sides of the body. I soon discovered that my left side was far less stable than right.

I had never really thought of internal imbalance before. I think I had assumed that my own body was balanced in strength and weakness (as imbalanced as it was), but it wasn’t. It isn’t. I am right handed and left brained. Scans of my noggin show greater damage on the right lobe and a spinal tap sent signals racing up and down the right side. My driver’s license shows an uneven smile and one eye squinting more than the other. Everything is slightly off kilter.

Somehow, I need to work within my own limitations to find balance. We all do. Weaker left side, off kilter smile and squinty eye, work and life, attention, diligence and distance, caring and letting go, somewhere in the midst of all that, we will find a way to remain upright and steady.

At the very beginning of Bikram, the first time I went, the instructor emphasized that the first thing anyone needed to master. Before trying any of the standing poses, before balancing exercises or poses that might strengthen our spines, we needed to figure out how to stay in the room. Maybe we could all learn from that.
05 Oct 07:01

The "What I Did to Recover" List Goes On!

by Brad Hoefs

You might have thought I was not going to continue with the “What I Did to Recover” list, since it’s been a number of weeks since my last post.  (Life was too busy for the last couple of weeks!) But, we still have a lot of things we can add that you and I have done to “recover” from bipolar disorder. 


So, here are more things we can add to the list:

·      I accepted that I was not the enemy; seeing the disorder instead as the enemy named the “mood monster.”

·      I stopped focusing on my mistakes and instead chose to learn from them. And I began to focus on the next right decision.

·      I decided I was not going to be victimized by bipolar.  Nor was I going to have a daily pity party over it.

·      I decided to love and care for myself the same way that I loved and cared for my grandchild.

·      I stopped waiting for the medicines to do something “magical” (i.e. “change everything”) and started working my recovery by taking one little step at a time.

·      I decided that my past did not define me; nor does bipolar.

·      I stopped looking for the passion to live again; rather, I decided to simply live again and look for passion along the way.

·      I stopped comparing myself to others. Instead, I started to compare myself to the “old-self” and with the better self I was becoming.

The list is so long that we are working on a website that has little “memes” for each item on the list.  Please add to the list. I am keeping track of all of your responses and adding them to the list for the website along with your first name.

07 Oct 19:34





05 Oct 13:00

Early light

by Kristin

Rising early, I shower, dress and slip outside to walk alone in the dark. Unlike weekday mornings, I don't see people with dogs. No runners. Not yet. Closer to the Mall, I see a couple but even there the streets and the sidewalk feel empty.

Overnight rain and a low cloud ceiling made the sunrise less appealing. I realize that as I leave my condo but I am already out the door, so I keep going.

Those who know say that people should keep their weekday schedules through the weekend, especially those who struggle with fatigue. Besides, in the mornings, I feel best so I might as well take advantage of that. Walk. Train. Do something with my early waking hours, even if it means leaving the house at a half past five on a Saturday morning.

A few miles in, close to the Washington Monument, I realize the clouds are not solid. A lightening sky shows pink, light polluted clouds blurring fuzzily into a pale blue sky. Sunrise might be all right.

As I approach the Lincoln, I see a cluster of dark shapes on the stairs and my heart sinks just a little. Even if sunrise is spectacular, I will not capture it, not without a million other forms in the way, and I cannot edge in front of them, marring their shots with my bright orange sweater and red rain jacket. To be fair, any group of photographers out this morning is probably more serious than me, anyway.

Even closer, I see people sitting, not standing, and there is not a tripod in sight. Four military types run past me. Marines out for a run? They don't keep going; they join the group on the steps.

I take a seat far enough away that I might see something if the sun does peak through the clouds. (My hopes aren't high.) A man speaks to the group. I can't make out the words.

At seven, I hear first call, Reveille, from someplace close. Arlington National Cemetery? Fort Myer? Somewhere over the river.

The sun fails to penetrate the thick cover of clouds. I watch the sky anyway, and the group moves up in camo and backpacks, with flags and boots. All ages. Definitely military.

The man in charge hassles the group and those carrying flags. They should move faster, be at the front. They stop for a picture and he joked about his iPhone and the quality of photo they can expect. I get up and walk over to offer a shot of my own. Another girl offers an iPhone wide angle lens. Between us, we take the shot.

We talk, the man in charge and I. He gives me his email address and later I will send a picture. In the meantime, he tells me that the group has been moving all night, mostly former special ops. They do this all over the country. He gives me a card but I lose it and cannot figure out how to find more about this unique group.

Soon, they are gone. Me, too. It is a half past seven and I have more miles to walk and hours to give volunteering. The sunrise was singularly unspectacular but the walk with heavy camera was worth it.
04 Oct 20:05

‘A Kind of Secure Golden Key’

by John Gruber

The Washington Post editorial board:

How to resolve this? A police “back door” for all smartphones is undesirable — a back door can and will be exploited by bad guys, too. However, with all their wizardry, perhaps Apple and Google could invent a kind of secure golden key they would retain and use only when a court has approved a search warrant.

Just use their magic to help the good guys. Maybe if Apple and Google can’t figure this out, they can get help from the computer science department at Hogwarts.

04 Oct 13:00

Out of many

by Kristin

The National Portrait Gallery is (temporarily) changing the face of DC with the installation of six-acre portrait on the National Mall. From today through October 31, a landscape portrait made with topsoil and sand will fill the stretch between the World War II and Lincoln memorials along the south side of the Reflecting Pool.

"Out of Many, One," by Cuban American urban artist Jorge Rodríguez-Gerada, features a composite portrait of dozens of people photographed in Washington DC.

According to the museum, the interactive walk-through experience will also be viewable from the newly reopened Washington Monument to the east, possibly from passengers flying into or out of Ronald Reagan National Airport (depending on flight paths, time of day, seating, etc.) and from satellites in space.

The Smithsonian plans to offer opportunities to learn more about the project through programs such as a talks with the artist today at the National Museum of Natural History (3 to 4:30) and Monday, October 6, from 10:30 to 11 in the Einstein Planetarium at the National Air and Space Museum. Respectively, the talks will focus on the design process and materials chosen as well as the aerospace technologies (such as high precision GPS) that make the portraits visible from so high above.
02 Oct 23:42

alienpapacy: initiating MAXIMUM OVERBIRD



04 Oct 16:41

The Bitcoin Selloff Continues

by Alex Wilhelm
bitcoin-mountain Bitcoin, the best-known cryptocurrency, recently slipped under the $400 mark, a former price floor that some viewed as a bulwark against further price pressure. Currently trading for $338.83, bitcoin is down $29.06 in the past 24 hours, or around 7.9 percent. From its all-time highs, bitcoin is down around 70 percent. For historical context, here’s the chart, with the current price… Read More
03 Oct 13:00

Small changes

by Kristin

Walking to work, thinking back on the past couple of weeks, I think how everything is the same, but different.

A little over two weeks ago, I started a new medication, which made me alert for the first time in as long as I could remember (and tired in whole new ways). I started rising earlier, wide awake, without an overwhelming desire to crawl back into bed. I found more hours. I felt more alive. Of course, it also meant that I didn’t sleep for a few nights, lost several pounds (that didn’t need to be lost) and felt queasy more often than not.

I still do.

Two weeks ago, I sent my very last message bearing my daily schedule. I left a job that I loved and a company for which I’d worked for more than 12 years because the move seemed right. I sent in my schedule, submitted my hours and closed a chapter on my life.

Two weeks ago, I walked 30 miles in high temperatures and full sun to raise funds and awareness in the fight to end multiple sclerosis. Underslept, undernourished, aching and nauseated, I walked 20 the first day and 10 the next, making friends, swapping stories and finding comfort in a community of people who walked the walk and talked the talk.

Slightly less than two weeks ago, I started a new job, which was really the old job but slightly different. The dynamics had changed as well as the responsibility, reporting and hours. I shifted my schedule with the new role (and the new med) and started coming to work earlier. Hours earlier. I had yet to figure out how/when I needed to go to bed to make up for that, but I enjoyed the morning walk and the morning work.

Not sunrise, daybreak, first light or dawn, my morning commute occurred in the dark of night. Friends concerned for my safety asked about headphones and if I took precautions. They wondered aloud if my neighborhood was safe enough, but there was little trouble to be found at a half past five in the morning. Even mischief makers tucked into bed at some point.

The cafe on the corner wasn't open yet. A girl waited outside; she must have worked there.

“Time to make the cupcakes,” I thought every day as I passed her.

I walked along quiet streets, passing and passed by a few dogs with their owners and a handful of runners. The street near the Library of Congress inexplicably smelled like bacon. The Capitol glowed fat and bright against the night sky looking as if it were donning a corset with its layers of scaffolding. It just had yet to be cinched.

Buses outnumbered cars and even they seemed sluggish and half full. Closer to the office, federal employees poured from bus doors to start their own early days.

The panhandlers seen every morning over the past few months weren't out yet - not the man with the harmonica, not the man with tremors and cane. Leaving earlier in the afternoon, I saw a completely different set and received a hug and free newspaper from a familiar Street Sense vendor who complimented also my hair.

In the mornings, I had time to talk with the security guards, and they had time to talk with me. I spent more time with the quiet woman who sat by the windows and seemed to appreciate another face in the office so early in the morning.

Everything was the same - the work and commute, the colleagues and cube. Even my phone number remained unchanged. Somehow, though, it all seemed slightly different.

“Only two weeks,” I thought.

What would the rest of the month, year, my life bring?
01 Oct 19:38

Cartoonist Ellen Forney Documents Her Struggle with Bipolar Disorder in ‘Marbles’, An Illustrated Graphic Memoir

by Lori Dorn

BiPolar Disorder

Cartoonist Ellen Foley has illustrated her struggle with finding a way to treat her diagnosis of bipolar disorder without sacrificing her creative process in her self-described graphic memoir Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me.

Shortly before her thirtieth birthday, cartoonist Ellen Forney was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Flagrantly manic and terrified that medications would cause her to lose creativity and her livelihood, she began a years-long struggle to find mental stability while retaining her passion and creativity. Searching to make sense of the popular concept of the crazy artist, she finds inspiration from the lives and work of other artists and writers who suffered from mood disorders, including Vincent van Gogh, Georgia O’Keeffe, William Styron, and Sylvia Plath. She analyzes the clinical aspects of bipolar disorder as she struggles with the strengths and limitations of a parade of medications and treatments.

Crazy Artist

Bipolar Carousel

Mania Pole

images by Ellen Forney

via Huffington Post

02 Oct 00:49


a bullshit tracker, like Snopes meets Twitter  
02 Oct 19:06

Rendering Chrome Letters the Hard Way


One of the first things they taught us in ID Rendering 101 was about reflections: You need a sky and you need some earth, and placing these correctly indicates the contours of whatever you're drawing up. Nowadays software takes care of all that, but in the days of hand rendering, you created sky and earth with markers, Prismacolors, charcoal or an airbrush. And getting the gradations was just a matter of layering strokes and/or going over it with your fingers.

But in this video, hot rod artist Glen Weisgerber shows us how he does it "When the compressor goes down or the power goes out," i.e. not using an airbrush, but an actual bristle brush. At 23 minutes long, the demo isn't short, but it's worth a scan-through to watch him go from zero to done:

Am I the only one who got the design-school-flashback stress jitters while watching him? I almost found myself glancing towards my window to see if the sun was coming up yet.

02 Oct 13:00

In season

by Kristin

About a month ago, I found myself traipsing through Croatia on a walking holiday. Olives and figs, forts and city walls filled my days. Sunshine. Rain. Food. On my birthday, we hiked around an island on the Adriatic, and that night, after dinner, I ordered myself a piece of cake.

"Is not season," the waitress shrugged.

"Season?" I wondered. "What is cake season?"

In the end, I settled for birthday pancakes (crepes) and decided that she meant that it wasn't tourist season so they hadn't baked cake. (That was all I could figure. In my life, it's always cake season.) A month has passed. I have eaten cake. Summer has ended and we have begun the transition into autumn and flu season.

For the past few days, the morning broadcast at work has sent me into a tizzy. Free flu vaccinations for employees! I’m an employee! After 12 and a half years of contracting, I can take advantage of some of the perks offered by the organization I have supported for so very long!

1. Are you allergic to , latex, chicken, chicken eggs, chicken feathers, or chicken dander?
2. Have you ever had a severe adverse reaction to a flu shot?
3. Do you have an acute febrile (fever) illness today?
4. Have you had Guillain-Barre Syndrome within 6 weeks after a previous flu vaccination?
5. Do you have an active neurological disorder?
6. Do you have thrombocytopenia or any blood disorder that would prohibit a shot in your muscle?
7. Females: Are you pregnant?
(If yes, you must provide a note from your Obstetrician approving vaccination prior to receiving the flu shot.)

Or maybe I can’t.

According to my doctor, the CDC and a number of other websites, I can get a flu shot. In fact, I probably should get one because the side effects of getting a shot are nowhere near as complex as the side effects of getting sick with an autoimmune disorder. If I get sick, my body will attack my brain. I need that shot! I just cannot get it at work.

Looking at my local pharmacy, I see another consent form and scan through the questions, pausing at one: Do you have a seizure disorder or a brain disorder? No. Yes. Maybe? It shouldn’t matter because I don’t need a Tdap (I had a Tdap five years ago.) I need a flu shot. Not mist. Shot. And I resent that I cannot have one for free like all of my other coworkers.

Pregnant ladies can get a note from their doctors; why can’t I? Is this discrimination? Help!

Alas, flu season is a lot longer than cake season and I have plenty of time to figure it out.
01 Oct 05:26

Reddit source code

30 Sep 18:21

With $50 Million From Top Investors, Reddit Plans Cryptocurrency

by Jordan Crook
reddit Reddit, the so-called front page of the internet, has raised $50 million in Series B on a $500 million valuation with intentions to give back 10 percent of the round’s equity to the community. Somehow. The round is led by Sam Altman, CEO of Y Combintaor, with participation from Andreesen Horowitz and Sequoia Capital, as well as individual investors like Peter Thiel, Ron Conway, Jared… Read More