So I Saw the Total Eclipse, Y’all

You may recall that last Monday, the U.S. had a total solar eclipse.

Eclipses occur quite frequently around the world, but this one got a lot of hype because many more people than usual were within traveling distance of totality. Including me. I’ve seen many partial eclipses, but I’ve heard from tons of people who said you must, simply must, experience the ultimate photobomb at least once in your lifetime.

Image:  awkwardyeti.com

My mum happens to live in a city in Missouri located in the band of totality that stretched across the continental United States. So, as is my wont, I vastly overpacked for three days and drove over on Saturday.

Mum’s brother decided to drive over too, on his own. I prefer not to carpool in case my travel anxiety dictates an urgent need to leave; a fortuitous habit, as it turned out.  Mum put me downstairs in the finished basement. I didn’t mind this, but I had to sleep on a slowly deflating air mattress, and I might as well have been on the floor. Oof.

Getting old ain’t for sissies.

Image: Alex Rotas / positivenews

S. and A., chat room friends from Europe, were traveling in the States for a concert and other visits, and they messaged me that they were coming to St. Louis for the eclipse and wanted to meet up. Mum was fine with them coming down to watch with us, so they did.

My uncle plays the guitar like a goddamn virtuoso and he really impressed them. We had an outstanding visit. I rarely get to see S. and A., because 1) they’re in the Netherlands and Poland, respectively, and 2) I can’t travel as much as they do.

The total eclipse absolutely amazed me. Anyone who saw a partial just cannot understand how mind-bendingly weird it is. The strange silvery light–like twilight but not, that no camera can capture. The crescent shadows (partials will make those, so you saw them if you were in any of it).

Crescent shadows on uncle’s car.

Image: Elizabeth West

As the day slowly darkened, the birds settled down as if it were night. We have cicadas this year, and they began to buzz the way they do at dusk. The temperature dropped. The day had grown butt-melting hot, so we appreciated that more than you could know. A breeze started to blow. The diamond ring appeared as the eclipse neared its peak, and we could see Bailey’s beads.

Then, totality.

I always thought when the moon obscured the sun, it would slide slowly over it and the sun would gradually fade out, but it wasn’t like that at all.  When totality comes, the moon sort of slams into place over the sun like a manhole cover, and the corona explodes into view.  It’s not the least bit subtle! And then you take off your glasses and see this big black hole in the sky.

A HOLE IN THE SKY Y’ALL

Okay, so I may have freaked out a little bit.

I forgot to upload this, I think. #eclipse2017

A post shared by Elizabeth West (@dame_writesalot) on

Video: Elizabeth West

Of course it’s bigger than the camera shows, because cameras suck and I don’t have a zoom lens (but I will next time, dammit). It resembled those pictures of black holes where artists have rendered a glowing event horizon around the edges. If you look at this picture and squint to obscure the stars, you can get a rough idea of how it looked.

Image: M. Weiss / Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics / newsdesk.si.edu

Totality lasted a little over two minutes–the shortest two minutes of my entire life. It felt more like thirty seconds. All too soon, the diamond ring reappeared and we put our glasses back on.

We didn’t stay outside for the rest of it. Instead, we went inside for a delicious lunch of chicken tenders with herbs and apricot sauce and roasted smashed potatoes (my mum could easily take Martha Stewart’s crown right off her smug little head).

Even the potatoes did the crescent thing. This was totally accidental, btw.

Image: Elizabeth West

My uncle ran a quick errand, and unfortunately, his car decided to throw a rod or something. He had to stay over another night to have it fixed. Which meant another night on the floor for me, so I decided to go home.

S. and A. left to drive back to St. Louis for the night; they spent the next two days driving to Chicago to visit a couple of other chat friends. I’d planned to hang out with them in Krakow this past May at the Fans of Film Music festival, but as you know, I lost my damn job. But with luck, I’ll see them again soon.

The next total eclipse visible in the U.S. will occur on April 8, 2024. The path of totality lies further east. If I were you, I’d start planning now.

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, that your discontented ass needs to see.

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Not In My America, Assholes

Suzanne Lucas (Evil HR Lady) recently posted an article about whether employers should or can fire the white supremacists (neo-Nazis) who participated in the deadly rally in Charlottesville, VA over the weekend.

I’m going to repost my comment from Evil HR Lady’s blog post (and Inc. article) about this here.

Here’s a link to her article (somebody may have already beat me to this): Should You Fire the Charlottesville Protestors?

If you don’t follow me on Twitter, I also posted this thread.

My comment on Suzanne’s blog:

This is tricky legal territory. I agree with Suzanne; employers should be really careful to make sure they’re not firing someone unlawfully.

You can be fired if your employer deems your presence disruptive and all the legal conditions are satisfied. If you work with clients, they could decide it’s too much risk–what if one of them recognizes you and they lose customers because nobody wants to contribute to your livelihood?

And she’s right that mob identification can often result in a mistake–recently in London, a jogger randomly pushed a woman in front of a bus. Quick action by the driver kept her from being killed. The police picked up [edit] someone who was not even in the country at the time of the incident because he looked like the jogger in the CCTV video (they still haven’t found him). Luckily, they realized their error quickly and the man was cleared. If the cops can mess up, then anyone can. So do your due diligence.

I think people need to remember that our right to free speech only applies to government interference with that speech. This means the US government can’t prevent you from airing your opinion on Twitter, or marching to protest an injustice, or even staging a detestable display such as this group did, as long as you’re not breaking any other laws.

But it does NOT protect you against the consequences of that speech. When you’re out in public, you have NO expectation of privacy. You should know that attending public events might mean your face ends up on TV. People might be able to identify you. Social media makes it very easy to figure out who someone is. And yes, it may affect your employment.

On the other hand, DO NOT DOX PEOPLE. Identification is one thing. But putting people’s personal information (addresses, employers, Social Security numbers, etc.) on the internet is NOT okay. That gets into some very murky moral territory, because it’s usually done to facilitate harassment.

Just don’t be that person. If I were an employer and I found out you were doxxing people, regardless of whether they were Nazis or not, I would really rethink my decision to hire you.
———-

Hate speech has absolutely no history of or evidence backing it up as being in any way constructive. It exists merely to harass, intimidate, and terrorize people who are different from the person saying it. It can be (though not always is) inciting, which is not covered by the First Amendment, according to Brandenburg. v. Ohio When designed for this purpose, hate speech can incite terrorism.

The neo-Nazis want ONE thing–the complete destruction of anyone they view as “other.” That means anyone who is not white, or anyone who opposes them. They are pushing a false narrative of oppression to justify this agenda.

There is absolutely no reason whatsoever to entertain this kind of thing. I think we’ve (almost) reached a point where you’re either a Nazi sympathizer or you’re not. There is no “many sides.” There is no longer any nuance.

We fought a worldwide war to rid ourselves of this. Do we have to do it again? Are we going to have a war on American soil, and will troops from other countries come here to fight with us? I highly doubt it; they’ll probably just watch us tear ourselves apart from the inside.

Then someone will take advantage of the chaos and step in and take over. Guess who that could be? Might rhyme with tootin’.

If we don’t call it out immediately, it will only get worse. Trump’s waffling and refusal to do so has literally excited them. They think he supports them–he probably does, for the votes, at least until he sees that there is no way in almighty Hell he’ll be re-elected. We have to make SURE of that.

WHAT YOU CAN DO:

–Call your Congressional representatives (please be polite to the staffers) and tell them how you feel. Demand the removal of Nazi sympathizers Bannon, Gorka, and Miller (and for good measure, known racist Jeff Sessions) from the Trump administration. Tell your representatives that you support their efforts to combat domestic terrorism perpetrated by right-wing factions.
Contact information and scripts here: 5calls.org

–Donate to organizations that combat hate and discrimination.  The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) are working hard against it. You can also report hate incidents at SPLC’s Hatewatch page.

–Report hate crimes in your community to local law enforcement.

–Don’t forget to vote in local elections as well as national ones.  If someone needs a ride to the polls, give them one.  Vote against discriminatory candidates, and against voter ID laws, which target poor and minority voters who are more likely to vote for progressive candidates. Election schedules can be found at the My Time To Vote website. 

–If you want to counter protest, stay safe and do it lawfully. This article from Self magazine has tips on safety, what to bring, etc. and useful links at the end:

21 Things To Know About Your Right To Protest And How To Do It Safely

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