That Didn’t Take Long

From the Los Angeles Times:

The Supreme Court rejected an emergency request to stop same-sex marriages in California, a lawyer for the gay couples who sued said Sunday. Theodore J. Boutrous Jr., one of the lawyers who challenged Proposition 8, said that he had just received word from the court Sunday morning that Justice Anthony M. Kennedy denied a request by ProtectMarriage, the sponsors of Proposition 8, to halt the marriages.

Boutrous said that Kennedy, who handles petitions from the Western states, did not comment on the decision. The 9th Circuit normally waits 25 days before acting on a case just decided by the Supreme Court. But in a surprise move, a three-judge panel that included liberal jurist Stephen Reinhardt lifted a hold it had placed on a 2010 injunction ordering state officials to stop enforcing the gay marriage ban.


(Except we know they won’t be.)

Movie Review

Instead of heading to the theater to see White House Down last night as I’d originally planned, I came home and curled up in front of the television and ordered Europa Report on cable.

I read yesterday that this geekly-anticipated film—while not released to theaters until August 2nd—was for some reason immediately available via VOD.

Europa Report was something I caught wind of several months ago and found the premise intriguing: a “hard” science fiction story (aka 2001, or Moon) without the usual epic space battles and prosthetic aliens we’ve come to expect from the sci-fi genre.

When all was said and done, I wasn’t disappointed—but I wasn’t wowed either. Good, but not great. I didn’t feel like I’d wasted ten dollars to see it, but it left me wanting more. If you’ve read any of the speculative fiction written about Europa since the Galileo mission back in the 1990s, you knew how the storyline was going to play out from the very first scene, but it was still nice to see  some of those ideas finally realized on screen. It was interesting, but not particularly surprising.

I was hoping the film would be more along the lines of The Frozen Sky by Jeff Carlson, a book I highly recommend and another one of those novels that’s begging to be filmed.

Oddly enough, it’s still something I’d like to add to my library when it’s available on disk. Take from that what you will.

A Question for My Readers

Today, while reading this, I was reminded of one of my favorite short stories—and one of my most despised movies of all time—Nightfall, by Isaac Asimov.

When I first read this as a young adult, the story fired my imagination, and actually inspired a painting that I started but never completed. That’s why—some twenty-five years later, I was thrilled to hear that it had been made into a film. It was with great anticipation that I went to one of the first screenings, and never have I been so throughly and completely disgusted. Most of the audience had walked out long before the film finished, but I—and probably about a couple dozen others—lasted until the bitter end.

As we were walking out something happened that has never happened since: the theater manager actually offered to give us our money back without anyone asking.

It was that bad.

While there are many, many films that should never be touched because they are already perfect in their original incarnations (The Women immediately comes to mind), there are  hundreds of others that beg for an update. So my question to you is this: what film would you remake if you could?  Nightfall is definitely at the top of my list, but there are others. What piece of literature (of any genre) would you like to see on the silver screen that hasn’t been put there yet?

 

I’m Convinced…

…that it is one of the immutable laws of the physical universe that when you’re in a hurry to get somewhere, you will hit every single stop light on red. Additionally, you will hit those lights at such a point in their cycles that you will not have enough time to send a text message while you’re waiting. (Yes, I text in the car, but only when stopped—or as a passenger.)

Happy

Very, very happy at today’s events.

And I know it’s kind of immature, but damn…the schadenfreude I’m feeling right now from all the bleating coming out of  the usual suspects on the right who were convinced their imaginary friend in the sky was going to come through for them and support their hatred is just delicious.

As Homer said, I wish I could have seen Brian Brown and Maggie Gallagher’s faces when it was announced.

Life is Strange

Having just celebrated one of those half-decade semi-milestone birthdays and finding myself at an age I would have thought ancient in my youth, I think I have earned the right to say that life is, unequivocally, strange as fuck.

Or maybe I’m just making the same discoveries that the millions who came before me have made at the same point in their lives.

When I was in my 20s and 30s, I thought I had the whole world figured out. As I’ve gotten older, I come to realize I don’t—and  never will. It’s kind of a relief to accept that, but at the same time a lot of things I see going on just don’t make any sense. I often find myself wondering if the entire species is going insane. Understanding how and why I got to this point in my life doesn’t change the fact that I still find myself looking and thinking, “WTF?!?”

It also doesn’t help that famous people younger than me are dropping dead.

I don’t know if this post is going to be a ramble, a rant, or a therapy session on display. Be warned.

Without further ado…

HOME

I find myself living in a city that—save for a brief stint in the late 1960s when my family considered moving here because of my dad’s job—was never even on my radar as places I wanted to live. Of course, the reason I’m here now is because five years ago the unthinkable happened: a man entered my life whom I came to love and care for to such a degree that I was willing to give up my very settled and comfortable life to follow on this journey. After two years here, I don’t regret the decision to move; it’s just that it’s not at all what I expected and has been extremely…trying. I’ve given it my best, but when the obligations that are keeping us here are fulfilled, I will shed no tears when we pack up that U-Haul and move on to wherever.

LOVE

Five years ago, the absolute last thing I was expecting in my life was the arrival of a relationship. Maybe not the last thing because immediately prior to meeting Ben, I had told the Universe that I was ready to love again. It wasn’t the first time in my life that I’d done this, but this time it was different; this time I wasn’t just paying lip service to the idea—I felt it in the very fiber of my being and I guess the Universe was listening.

For these past five years, Ben has been the light in my life; a joy that words cannot express. He’s set my life on a course and has caused me to grow in ways I could not have imagined. He’s broken me out of static mindsets. He’s exposed me to new music and new ideas and yet none of it has ever felt forced. We’ve yet to have more than a minor disagreement about anything, and I’m still amazed at how easy we get along. It’s sometimes scary at how truly complementary we are. He is the ying to my yang and vice versa. I fully expect to live out the remainder of my days in his arms.

WORK

As much as I bitched and complained about aspects of my last job in Phoenix, there’s no denying that I worked with an outstanding group of people and that was probably the main reason despite my bitching that I never made any real effort to go elsewhere. There’d been only one other job in my life where I remained for seven years, and again it was the people that had kept me there.

At [Company Name] I’d proven myself; I was liked and respected by my supervisors, my peers and the majority of people I supported. I pretty much assumed that barring any major shake-up, I’d probably end up retiring from the place. For a healthcare company it was a decent place to work; just how decent I never realized until I came to be where I am now.

While I enjoy being part of a team and crave the support that gives, I do my best work with minimal supervision. I think that stems from my years and years of architectural drafting. When I worked in that field, I’d be given initial design drawings, a set of parameters, and then let loose to complete the task.

My last tech job in Phoenix provided that same kind of independence. I was part of a large, centrally-located I.T. department that was there for assistance and support when needed, but I was pretty much on my own and could schedule my tasks as I saw fit at the facilities I supported.

At heart, I’m actually pretty lazy when it comes to work, and that’s why I’m so good at what I do. I work efficiently so I can be lazy. I know that might sound like a contradiction, but if a process takes a certain amount of time to complete, I work on improving the process so it takes half as long and requires a minimum of supervision on my part. That gives me more time to goof off.

At my current place of employment, I have half of what I consider to be the requirements for a good job; namely, the fact that my workflow is basically unsupervised and can work on improving processes to my advantage. The downside is that the company is so small I have no support group. I miss the camaraderie; I miss being able to commiserate with a peer about the ongoing, never-changing abject stupidity of some members of our user base.

This lack of direct supervision is probably the main reason I haven’t been pursuing other opportunities with as much energy as I should be. The annoyance-to-goof-off-time ratio isn’t high enough yet that it’s totally intolerable, although I am entertaining with increasing frequency the fantasy of just packing my shit up and walking out; an option I used on more than one occasion with absolute abandon in my youth. Unfortunately, at this point in my life I don’t have such a luxury, and as I’ve written before, as a responsible adult, I now have to make sure that something else is lined up before I let my drama flag fly.

Additionally, if I go somewhere else, I have to make sure I have the same level of independence I’ve come to enjoy. I recently interviewed with a large investment company that is opening a new office about three blocks from where I now work; they liked me and were ready to move on to the next part of the hiring process but I turned them down because while it would afford the independence I require, I’d be only one of two on-site techs to support 1000 users with the remainder of our support staff in another state. No thanks. Any new job will need to have that same independence-to-on-site-support ratio I enjoyed in Phoenix.

FRIENDS

All my close and/or lifelong friends who survived the plague-ridden 1990s now live—on average—about 750 miles away from me. It seems that’s always been the case to some degree, having lived my adult life in four different cities, but lately I’m feeling especially cut off . Thank the gods for the technology that allows us to stay in touch much more easily now than if we’d found ourselves in this situation in the era of hand-written letters and long-distance phone calls, but it’s just not the same as being able to pick up a phone and say, “Hey, you wanna go catch a movie?”

In the early 1980s, while sitting at the kitchen breakfast bar in the house that belonged to one of those friends’s moms, I easily believed we’d all still be friends thirty years later, but I would never have even contemplated that we’d be as far-flung as we are now—or that one of us would be gone completely.

I know new, wonderful friendships can appear out of nowhere at the most unexpected times and in the most unexpected places (Cindy, Allison, and Beth come to mind—all of whom I met at my last job and weren’t even a part of my department) so I haven’t given up hope that it will happen in Denver, but at the same time I’m not exactly holding my breath. I’m friendly with a several folks at work (I mean, at least I don’t despise them as I do the majority of my coworkers), but there are only one or two I would ever want to spend any personal time with.

FAMILY

Like many of those longtime friends, I have joined their ranks as an adult orphan; a concept and term I still have a hard time wrapping my head around.

When my sister and I were young and fighting over something stupid, my mother would often diffuse whatever the situation might be by reminding us that someday she and Dad would be gone and it would just be the two of us—and we’d better damn well learn to get along. It didn’t stop the squabbling completely of course, and as adults have had some rifts develop, but that one thought was something that  stayed with us both, always bringing us back together. It’s even more poignant now that it really is just the two of us.

HEALTH

Since my cancer diagnosis ten years ago, I’ve known that my body has had plans of its own that have had nothing to do with what I particularly want to do, and as the years have ticked by it’s becoming more and more obvious of who is actually in charge in that department.

For most of my life, I’d been in pretty decent health. The worst things I had to contend with were allergies, asthma, recurrent tonsillitis, and asymptomatic chronic Hep B (never developed antibodies) that was discovered in my mid 20s.

I had the nasty tonsils yanked when I hit forty and that solved the allergy problem along with not being able to kiss boys without suffering through a guaranteed sore throat a week later. But then the cancer showed up and along with it a Type II diabetes diagnosis. (It was discovered when I went in for my first PET scan.) This didn’t come as a complete surprise because my maternal grandmother was diabetic as long as I’d been alive. Thankfully I had an excellent primary care physician at the time, and we quickly brought it under control. It remained that way until about four years ago when my glucose numbers started creeping up. The efficacy of the oral medication I’d been taking had begun to wear off, and now—after trying a combination of other oral meds to no avail—have started on an insulin regimen that’s brought its own host of issues. Add a bit of hypertension to the mix, and well…yeah.

As Roseanne Roseannadanna says, “It’s always something.”

AGING

While a teenager I remember often laughing at how inflexible my parents and grandparents were in so many aspects of their lives. As I begin to enter that age range myself I’m realizing it’s not inflexibility; it’s simply that over the course of your life—through a lot of trial and error—you figure out what works for best you and is most comfortable and what isn’t…and then you stick with it.

Back in my 20s, I wouldn’t think twice about packing up and moving to a new apartment every six months, just because. My parents berated me for never staying put. This restlessness slowed to 1-2 years by the time I’d reached 30, and by the time 40 was approaching, I was moving as infrequently as humanly possible—and only because for whatever reason I had to.

When I landed back in Phoenix in 2002, I already knew where I wanted to put down roots. (In fact, it was this particular apartment development that contributed to my decision to move back from San Francisco in the first place; the loss of my job in the Bay Area was the push I needed to finally get out of Dodge for the final time.) After moving in, I stayed in that particular apartment complex for almost nine years; staying 6 years in the first unit and only switching to a different one at that point because I’d reached the magic 5-year  cancer-free anniversary and I needed something besides just the tattoo to signify a new beginning.

So being settled—while at one point was almost anathema to my existence, has become very important. And it’s something that’s decidedly lacking from my current domestic situation.

Another part of aging is that I no longer suffer fools gladly, a trait my friend Cindy and I share and revel in. I know now why many older people have—how shall I put this delicately? “Outspoken opinions.” It’s because after a lifetime of observing the human condition, they know bullshit when they see it aren’t afraid to let people know. Welcome to my world. At times I wonder if the stupidity I see running through in our society (I’m pointing my finger at you, scumbag politicians and people who are famous for being famous) hasn’t always been there in one form or another; it’s just that I was so busy rushing through the scenes in my own life that I  just never noticed it.

TECHNOLOGY

Being a very impressionable child of the 60s when 2001: A Space Odyssey hit theaters, I grew up with certain expectations for technology, pretty much all of which remain unfulfilled. We have no commercial flights to space stations, moon bases, or manned missions to the outer planets, but still…miracles. We are living in the age of silicon miracles, and together I think we’ve lost sight of that. Even when I was a teenager in the 70s and designing my first dream home, I knew computers would be a standard fixture in residences of the future. I even went so far as to design a dedicated 8×10 computer room into the basement! Never in my wildest dreams did I think that thirty-some years later I’d actually be carrying around more computing power in my pocket than what sent men to the moon.

Never before has humanity had such instantaneous access to the collective knowledge (and gossip) of the entire species. At the same time, I have to ask, “To what end?” I don’t know where this tech will lead; I don’t think anyone does, but I know this much: it is still very much in its infancy and is destined to change us in fundamental ways.

SOCIETY

Two words: Kim Kardashian. Do I really need to say more?

And with that I’ll stop.

 

Putting My Foot Down

I had my usual Friday afternoon one-on-one with the COO today. We’re about to embark on a major upgrade to one of our mission critical applications, and I had discovered during testing a few days ago that the instructions from the vendor are not exactly accurate. What follows will probably  sound like so much technobabble to a lot of my readers, but if there is an existing Citrix installation on the workstation, it needs to be removed before upgrading, and for whatever reason this process just wasn’t working properly. I uninstalled the existing clients—per the instructions—on a couple test machines and after rebooting and installing the new client I discovered that the machines were still referencing and trying to log into the old server. (What a surprise!) Anyhow, I didn’t want to mess around with rooting out this crap, so the quickest way to fix it was to just reimage the problematic workstations—all of which were my predecessor’s craptastic builds and overdue for a refresh—thereby eliminating all references to the old client since it wasn’t part of my standard image anyway.

I reported my findings to the COO and the other stakeholders. Enter our outside network consultant who is of the “Scripting, scripting, scripting!” philosophy and promptly proceeded to woo the COO with promises that everything could be handled with a login script—even after hearing about the problems with the client not completely uninstalling. “I can bring in a Citrix expert at x-dollars an hour who will get that sorted.” Well, knowing this consultant, I knew if this didn’t work I would end up cleaning his mess by reimaiging everything anyway, so I told the COO, “I may not know scripting, or the arcane aspects of Citrix, but I do know desktop, and this is a clear-cut desktop issue that I would feel much better handling manually. You’d be a fool if you didn’t leverage me here.”

She was a bit taken aback that I actually dared to question the consultant’s promises (who, only a year ago she had asked if I thought he knew what he was talking about) and countered with, “Can you get it all done in time for the rollout without any overtime?” I said I could—because I’d already started on it, and the half-dozen machines I’d already swapped out were working perfectly.

I honestly don’t know why I even care about this, other than I don’t want to get stuck cleaning up yet another huge mess that I had nothing to do with creating.

Very Cool!

From ARS Technica:

The use of silver in medicine is as old as Western medicine itself. Hippocrates is known to have used it to treat ulcers and wounds, the Romans almost certainly knew of its healing properties, and its use continued through the middle ages and up to the present day. In the antibiotic age, interest in silver may have waned a little. But with urgent need to fight antibiotic-resistant bacteria, there has been a resurgence in its use.

The reason is that silver can kill bacteria selectively, and more importantly, bacteria have been unable to develop resistance against it. Despite silver’s long medical history, we do not know how it operates.

A paper published today in the journal Science Translational Medicine sheds some light on silver’s success against bacteria. The most important finding is that silver—unlike most antibiotics—works in more than one way. This is perhaps why bacteria may find it difficult to build resistance to the chemical.

Here is silver’s multi-pronged approach: first, silver sticks very strongly to sulfur, found in parts of proteins. These sulfur groups normally bond to each other, holding proteins together and keeping the protein folded up in its correct shape. But if silver interacts with sulfur, then the protein cannot fold correctly, and thus it cannot do its job. Next, silver interferes with how bacteria use iron. Iron is often held in place within proteins by binding to sulfur. Since silver also interacts with sulfur, it blocks the iron from doing so. Finally, silver causes bacteria to produce extremely toxic substances called reactive oxygen species. These go on to cause damage inside the cell, harming the DNA, proteins, and even the membrane that surround cells.

The net result of this silver onslaught is bacteria with severe damage to their basic biochemistry. In addition, the membranes and walls that surround the bacteria are leakier after the silver treatment. This allows conventional antibiotics inside the cells; in their weakened state, the cells are much more susceptible to them. Bacteria are broadly classified into two groups, called Gram-negative and Gram-positive. Gram-negatives have an extra cell membrane that protects the bacteria, which makes it much more difficult for some antibiotics to penetrate the cell (examples include gentamicin and vancomycin). It seems that silver negates this advantage and allows even weaker drugs to do their jobs.

James Collins of Boston University, who led the research, showed that with added silver, less antibiotic drug is needed to kill the bugs. A great result in itself, but it gets better. Silver also reverses antibiotic resistance of E. Coli bacteria, making them, once more, susceptible to tetracycline.

These experiments not only worked in a Petri dish. When silver was added to standard antibiotics such as gentamicin and vancomycin, Collins could treat E. Coli infections in the bladder and abdomens of mice. Normally, these drugs have little effect on E. coli infections because they are designed to attack Gram-positive bacteria.

Finally, Collins showed that the mice themselves remain unharmed by silver. If he is able to repeat this work in humans, he may actually have a “silver bullet” for antibiotic resistance.

Horrific

I hope I live long enough to see the Republican party completely self-emmolate.

From TPM:

I just wanted to underscore how horrific the Republicans’ abortion bill was, and how it’s sent shockwaves through my circle of friends. While I’m political, many of my friends aren’t, and they were terrified last night when they heard the 20 week ban had passed the House. They didn’t understand the process and thought it would soon become law. I had to assure them that the Democrats would stop the ban and that it’d die in the Senate.

You see, to my friends, many of whom are in their 30’s and plan on soon starting a family, this wasn’t a political ploy, it was a bill that threatened their very lives. I think most women, and probably most men too, have known someone who needed a late-term abortion due to a severe fetal defect. The thought of having this happen is bad enough, it’s an expectant mother’s worst nightmare, but then being forced against your will to carry a fetus that you know will die to term? That’s the cruelest of torture. Can you imagine going out everyday and having people excitedly asking you whether it’s a boy or a girl, when the baby’s due, etc., when the baby you’re carrying is fated to die? That’s what the Republicans want for every woman in this country, and that makes them monsters.

The Republicans are officially on record as wanting to torment and torture women (I won’t even get into the lack of a health exception for women, or the rape language…). My friends, many of whom are socially conservative, will never vote for the GOP. I just don’t think Boehner understands the long-term damage he’s doing to his party. How can you win elections when you’re on a regular basis voting against the health and well-being of 50% of the electorate?