Date With DC: Virtual Reality Edition.

Yesterday, my dear Twitter friend StarlightGeek and I met up for the first time since she moved to DC. As a fellow former Bostonian, we had met once before, but it was so nice to be exploring our new city together. Though I’ve been here for about 9 months now, I still feel very, very new here. And lately, I’ll be honest- DC had lost some of its luster. I was frustrated with the lack of medical support, and that trickled down to other aspects of DC life. I am going to be here for at least another 18 months by lease alone, so I might as well fall in love with DC again. It was one of my treatment goals for my last two days of medical leave (more on that in another blog post later).

Our original plan involved seeing if we could get Washington Monument tickets and then hitting a museum, but they were sold out and the weather was perfect for walking, so we thought we’d do monuments. Stopping for our obligatory coffee, StarlightGeek asked, “hey, do you play Ingress?” I look over at her phone. “Oh, Kelsey plays that sometimes, but not really. Why, is it fun?” She explained that you join a faction (either blue or green) and try to gain control of “portals”, which are really important sites in real life (monuments, cool art, local institutions of culture, community meeting places, etc). The thing is that you have to be within 40 meters of this important site in order to interact with it (“hacking” it allows you to find supplies, deploying resonators helped defend the portal if it is in your color, and you can also “Fire” at an enemy portal to try to make it your faction’s). StarlightGeek is a proud member of the Green faction (“The Enlightenment”), so I joined hers, only to find out later that Kelsey is a member of the Blue faction (“The Resistance”). “A House Divided” was joked by all involved.

{Screenshot: a map of portals in an area. There is a long stretch of blue (read: enemy) portals  around the bottom and a few green (read: correct) portals in the top left corner}.

{Screenshot: a map of portals in an area near the Dept. of Agriculture. There is a long stretch of blue (read: enemy) portals around the bottom and a few green (read: correct) portals in the top left corner}.

We played Ingress as we walked down the mall, to the Jefferson Memorial, to the FDR memorial, and then in Adams Morgan later that evening. You know all of those little place-markers that are all over the place in a city like DC? They’re all portals in Ingress. DC has so many historical landmarks all around us that we sometimes tone them out. Ingress allowed us to embrace them all, like this beautiful Dogwood tree.

{photo: an historical marker}

{photo: an historical marker for a Flowering Dogwood }

{Photo: A Flowering Dogwood tree}

{Photo: A Flowering Dogwood tree}

{Photo: a selfie with StarlightGeek and our newfound Flowering Dogwood}

{Photo: a selfie with StarlightGeek and our newfound Flowering Dogwood}

This game facilitated a way for us to explore so many different landmarks, monuments, and cool art that we never knew existed, and as we found them and put resources into them, we now have an interest to go back and up our defenses (or attack further). The best part about this game is you can look at it, find the next portal you want to go to, and then turn it off and enjoy the walk and take out your phone again when you get to the portal you’re looking for. It allowed me to see a beauty in DC I hadn’t felt in a really long time.

For instance, we knew that there was a George Mason memorial, but we had never found this place before. But, we saw there were a lot of portals to tap into nearby, so we made our way towards it.

{Photo: a statue of George Mason with a book in his hand, looking off into the distance contemplatively, and me next to him, imitating his pose}

{Photo: a statue of George Mason with a book in his hand, looking off into the distance contemplatively, and me next to him, imitating his pose}

We then ran into a lot of “enemy territory” by the FDR Memorial (which just so happens to be my favorite part of the Tidal Basin walk):

{Screenshot: A map with a lot of blue  (enemy) portals in one area}

{Screenshot: A map with a lot of blue (enemy) portals in one area}

But, this gave us a chance to take a look at every aspect of that intricate memorial (and even added artwork by Baskin that was previously unaccounted for in the game!). Now that we are expecting foliage soon, and have portals we care about around the Tidal Basin, we hope to do another walk later in the fall.

We ended up going to AdMo after our Tidal Basin walk (we had taken a lot of steps, we needed some diner food!). We didn’t have time to get to every interesting portal we saw, so I took screenshots of their page so I can find them later. This mural is uncaptured still, so I might need to claim it soon.

{Screenshot: a portal page for a mural of President Obama walking dogs, near the main stretch of AdMo}

{Screenshot: a portal page for a mural of President Obama walking dogs, near the main stretch of AdMo}

When I got home, I explored the many (at the time…) uncaptured portals in my neighborhood and planned an evening competitive walk with Kelsey. We were pretty civil this time (I let him capture the embassies of countries he cared about, he let me capture the cool art), but I can imagine these evening walks getting competitive as we nurture our portals and attack each other. Seeing we also recently added Mario Kart to our home, it sounds like we are going to be playing lots of competitive games together.

Overall yesterday, between my long walk with StarlightGeek and my neighborhood walk with Kelsey, I took about 19,000 steps, nearly twice my daily wellness goal. Though I won’t have time to take long walks like that every day as I return to work, I can imagine spending some lunch breaks wandering my work neighborhood, capturing portals, and some “romantic” evening walks exploring the portals in every direction of our apartment.

I also noticed when I got home and did more research that there are portals in so many places- even the tiny New England town where I grew up. It kind of reminded me of geocaching in that way- more portals existed than you would ever know until you looked it up. It’s a great way to explore the landmarks in your neighborhood, strengthen your connection to the community, and get some exercise. I can tell you that I feel much more connected to the rich history of this city, and my legs hurt this morning in the good way. Yesterday was a great date with DC.

A Values Statement For Our Wedding

Kelsey and I went to Massachusetts this weekend for two of our best friends’ wedding. I was the best man.

{Photo: A woman in a black dress with a blue accent, holding a bouquet and making a sour face with a hand on her hip}

{Photo: A woman in a black dress with a blue accent, holding a bouquet and making a sour face with a hand on her hip}

{Photo: a beautiful bride in a white dress, with her groom in a tux looking at her}

{Photo: a beautiful bride in a white dress, with her groom in a tux looking at her}

We had a lovely time. There are (literally) hundreds of pictures on Facebook.

As we just got engaged the week before, it felt nice to see another wedding in action as we are planning our own. We had such a lovely time at Lindsay and Gavin’s, so we took note of the things we enjoyed the most.

The best advice anyone has given me so far came on this trip. My mother, the event planning expert she is, asked Kelsey and I to write a values statement about our wedding so we can make sure we are prioritizing the right things as we continue to plan over the next few months to year.

Some examples my mom gave are:

– familial involvement

– good food

– flowers

Kelsey and I used this as an exercise on the plane ride home today. Though I want to keep the contents of our list to our families (at least for now), we had a great time brainstorming what we care about and what we envision our shared wedding to look like. I can tell you that, for all of our jokes about our “brand merge”…

…we want it to look as little like a business deal between Kelsey and my father as possible.

More importantly than the details of our nuptials, this process reminded me why I am marrying Kelsey in the first place- our values are so in line with each other and we really care about the same things. I can tell you that to Kelsey and I, the most important part of the wedding is the bond we make as a commitment to each other forever. The wedding is a kick-off party for the best part of our lives. Sure, the wedding is a celebration of our love, but we’re more focused on building the happily ever after part.

❤ ams

Twitter Fight Club and Gender #TFC14

[Note: If you want to understand this post at all and are new to Twitter Fight Club, I strongly recommend you read this FAQ post by Hayes Brown and also follow him @HayesBrown]

I’ve never gotten super into basketball, and my beloved UMass Lowell Riverhawks lost in the Elite 8 in hockey this year (*wipes tears*), so all of my March Madness energy has been channeled into a quirky competition known as Twitter Fight Club. I even had the opportunity to judge a round this year, an opportunity that @PTSDInfo wrote about in the Huffington Post. You can read my scathing reviews of the great minds of National Security here.

Kelsey (@AthertonKD) is competing in the finals today against our dear friend Daveed (@DaveedGR), which sparked a conversation at home for us about gender representation in NatSec Twitter. We thought it would be interesting to take a look at gender in Twitter Fight Club since its 2011 inaugural season. Since Kelsey had his big fight today, and I’m usually the one who does gender (get it?), I volunteered to do the dirtydata work.

Before I dive in, I also want to say a note about language. I chose to use the terms “woman” and “man” because I don’t really care so much about biological sex, but the gender perceived by third parties. I wasn’t going to be asking anyone point blank about their gender for two reasons: a) because that’s rude to do to strangers and b) if I can’t perceive their gender, other competitors probably can’t perceive their gender, and therefore, it’s probably not affecting the overall gender climate of the competition.

To be honest, I think gender looks a lot more like this, but I wasn’t going to be able to ask all 64 competitors from every year to draw themselves as a gingerbread person, so here we are.

My methods were this: I found lists of every competitor of every TFC match, and did research (through Twitter or asking one of my trusted sources who may know them offline) if they knew their gender off hand. If my immediate searches were gender-less, I did not include them in the results one way or the other. I assigned perceived women with a 1, and perceived men with a 0, because that’s a fun excel trick to make averages super easy. It wasn’t a political statement, I swear.

I repeated these steps for each match, and then made a graph showing the percentages of competitors by gender for each year.

Here’s #TFC14.

Gender Breakdown 14

Started with a gender disparity, got a little worse, then there was a 50/50 split, and then back to the patriarchy an all-male championship.

Then this was last year, the year when a woman (@TexasInAfrica) won it all:

13

In 2012, things were a little worse…

12 jpeg

But the first year had the worst gender diversity of all.

11 jpeg

 

The bottom line is this: I think things are getting better for the women of NatSec Twitter, but there is still some room for improvement.

I opted not to put my individual spreadsheets up because I didn’t want to have mis-gendered someone that I couldn’t have confirmed with someone or something, or have someone wonder why theirs was left off if I was unable to Gender ID them. If you have any questions about it, I’m happy to talk over email, especially if it’s about your own status in our data. If you want me to republish stats with new info- also happy to do that.

Some shortcomings for this afternoon project? I can’t stress enough, this was a pretty cisgender-focused lens. If folks don’t identify as one gender binary over another, that was not represented because we went by genders represented on social media as perceived by third parties, not necessarily self-ID’d gender. Competitors also did not ID themselves when I sent out a blanket ask to everyone… well…correction: only one person (publicly) ID’d themselves, but it was not in any gender scale my training in gender studies has taught me:

Some DMs allowed clarification to what gender this individual wanted to be represented as for statistical purposes.

There’s a lot more that can be done with gender and TFC data (I keep coming up with ideas!), but this was the place to start. I want to give a special thanks to @AthertonKD for being a collaborator for this project, all while fighting a #1 seed for the title and taking care of me while I’m sick, and also to @caidid and @AnniesPerson for help and pointers along the way.

❤ @Alymaybe
PS- I always try to add visual accessibility brackets to my photos, but I wasn’t sure how to best do that with a graph. If you need accommodations, please email me at Alymay.Sellars@gmail.com and I’ll try my best to do what I can! Also if you have tips for the future, I’d love to hear them!

 

I Want To Support Your Cause…But Not Your Catcall

I have a hard time saying “no” when people ask me to donate money for things. When I had a steady income, it was easy for me to say – “I made x amount of dollars this week, I can totally give $10 to _________. That’s like two and a half lattes! I probably would have bought like three lattes this week if I lived closer to Starbucks. Done.”

Now that the paycheck is not coming at any particular time, I’ve had to tone it back a lot. Those lattes mean a lot more to me. I still want to help my friend Sophie raise money for the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center- I’m even in her fundraising picture (please donate if you can!), and I want to help all of my friends raise money for their Abortion Bowl-A-Thons (DC page here, Eastern Massachusetts page here– again- please donate if you can!), but until I’m employed, I have to say “no”- for now. It’s a skill I’ve had to learn quickly in this time of less financial flexibility.

One thing is making this task easier for me. The ways people ask for donations  in DC is frankly abhorrent.

Some try to appease my (presumably) feminist sensitivities:

“You look like someone who ummmm…. really cares about the education of young girls!”

Was this because I have a pixie cut or because I look like a decent human?

But most of the time? They use the same tactics of street harassers.

“Hey girl, you’re looking fine today. Dammmn. Can I talk to you about ____________?”

Sometimes calling out my distinct features:

“Hey! Love your red hair! And the flower you put in it? You’re so gorgeous!”

And the most creepy I’ve gotten so far:

“Hey! You! In the pink pants! Oooh, I love your style. I have a question! What’s the least racist animal! The panda! It’s black, white, *and* it’s Asian!” and before I could ask, “what about the plights of Native Americans? or Hispanic Americans?” he jumped in with,  “you have really pretty eyes! And hair!”

Unacceptable.

And most of these are causes that would usually have my ear, they just can’t if I feel like my body or the way I dress is a topic of discussion. I’m not looking for the reminder, as a woman, that my body is always on display, always being judged, and the first thing people talk about when they engage with me. I am not your commodity, and you don’t want me thinking I am. Trust me- I don’t want to be thinking about my body when I’m thinking about giving you a $25 monthly recurring donation. Besides,  if you’re fundraising for a nonprofit, my body isn’t what you’re looking for. You’re really trying to go after my wallet.

If you wanted to lead with, “Did you know that *statistic about cause*? Want to hear what we’re doing about it?” I’d have a lot more trouble saying no. Or “Do you have a minute for *organization*?” if you have a big enough name. Though I don’t have the money to be donating right now (and I usually check things on Charity Navigator before I actually give them more than a few dollars), I’d be happy to listen to your pitch and maybe when I have money, be tempted to donate and not cross your org off my donation list.

I’m not going to listen to your pitch if you’re not making me feel safe.

I know a lot of times, these are tactics to get us engaged in conversation with you before the big pitch. They seem like easy tricks to get the ball rolling. But here’s the thing. Canvassers don’t exactly have the OPSEC of undercover cops. If you’re holding a clipboard and the same shirt as the person standing with a clipboard across from you, we know you’re asking for either money or signatures. We know you’re talking to us about some cause that our heart will undoubtedly bleed for, and if we’re ready to hear it, we’ll engage with you, and if not, we aren’t interested. Maybe we’re late for an appointment and were going to look your cause up later. Do you want your one sentence to be, “you are so pretty!  Love those eyes!” or “*Cool fact*! Can you help *organization* today?”

You must either care enough to volunteer or be paid enough that you are willing to stand in the cold for hours on end. Don’t end up hurting more than you help.

50 Shades of Cosmo

It’s important to see the shades of gray in anything you oppose. {image: a grayscale palette}

Writing about how harmful Cosmopolitan Magazine can be for women is straight out of Gender Studies 101. In college, my friends and I used to make Cosmo Collages to ridicule the unrealistic beauty standards presented by that magazine, especially on days that we were mad at “society”. Good times.

Something happened while I was scanning these cosmos Cosmos for offensive material- I found some good stuff, too. It challenged me to find out that this publication I’ve demonized in my head actually did a great job reporting on contraception. This was kind of a shock to me. I remember my therapist in college using Cosmo as a “see shades of gray in people and things!” example for other areas in my life.

When I was working as a sexual health counselor, I decided that it was in my best interest to see what they were reporting on, so if there were questions left open, I would make sure to know the answers. I got in the habit of buying a Cosmo whenever I saw a new one out, and let’s just say the habit didn’t exactly stop when I left my job. It reminded me to see shades of gray. And maybe I wasn’t exactly as forthcoming with my partner about this habit.

This week, my partner found a copy of Cosmo shoved behind our mattress, like it was my porn stash or something. Embarrassed, I explained that I admired their contraceptive reporting and the advocacy they have done for the Affordable Care Act, and I had trouble reconciling my bachelor’s degree in Gender Studies and the admiration for this reporting. He did what many curious millennial male-identifying people would do and started reading it aloud, to mock it. We found that this created many great out-of-context quotes, and if you know my partner and I at all, you know that we decided that these needed to be tweeted, @NYTMinusContext style.

Here are some of my favorites, so far:

You get the idea.

This funemployment project has me reading not only the print editions of Cosmo but the web content as well. There is never a shortage of good twitter material, and I constantly have a queue of future tweets.

I have found that some of these articles have been really great- like a Halal online sex shop? awesome reporting. A good response to Mike Huckabee’s libido comments?  To be honest, I just had to search writer Anna Breslaw‘s name on their website to find a good example. But, it goes without saying that as a feminist, I find a lot of harmful stuff. Like shaming these celebrities for their Golden Globes after-party outfits.

And just the other day, when I was looking for Twitter material on Cosmo’s website, I got caught in an Outbrain that shamed Tara Reid’s body for the liposuction scars that were caused by the very system that Cosmo capitalizes on, for example. Pretty terrible!! It’s like she’s caught in this world where liposuction feels necessary and then she gets mocked for liposuction! Anyways, that’s not Cosmo’s fault, I digress.

I think Cosmo has the means to be a great magazine. I will try to hold it as I can, but in the meantime…

You should follow our Twitter.

<3ams

In Which I Dabble In Fashion Design

The day before I moved to DC, I had one last appointment with my eye doctor back in Massachusetts. Because I had a change in prescription and my eye insurance wasn’t going to cover new glasses, I decided to shop for new eyeglasses on ZenniOptical.com. I fell in love with these pretty instantly.

{photo: a woman with an orange, casual pair of glasses and a flower in her hair in front of the Union Cavalry and the UN flags}

{photo: a woman with an orange, casual pair of glasses and a flower in her hair in front of the Union Cavalry and the UN flags}

When I was entering my prescription, I noticed that there was an engraving feature. While I put my contact info on the inside of my more professional purchase, my partner and I joked that since I had a good deal of networking to do here in DC, I should put my Twitter handle (@alymaybe) on the outside. I knew that I had a backup pair coming if it looked ridiculous, so I took the plunge and ordered myself a pair of Twitter glasses.

{photo: view of a woman wearing glasses from the side with "@alymaybe" engraved on the arm of the glasses frame}

{photo: view of a woman wearing glasses from the side with “@alymaybe” engraved on the arm of the glasses frame}

They even match our bedsheets.

They even match my bedsheets.  {photo: an orange pair of glasses with @alymaybe engraved in pink on the arms facedown on orange, red, pink, and grey bedsheets}

{photo: an orange pair of glasses with @alymaybe engraved in pink on the arms facedown on orange, red, pink, and grey bedsheets}

Was my original intention for this to become a new trend? Not really. I more did it as a joke. But a few people have since said that they want to get Twitter handle glasses and there were some pretty great conversations about it on Twitter. And maybe if enough people do this, people can network better at conferences, tweetups, and happy hours.

{photo: a woman wearing the orange glasses, looking over her shoulder as she appears to be typing a blog post (in fact, this very blog post!)}

{photo: a woman wearing the orange glasses, looking over her shoulder as she appears to be typing a blog post (in fact, this very blog post!)}

Plus my partner (pictured below, wearing my glasses) said he would buy me dinner if someone wrote a trend piece about Twitter glasses.

{photo: a man laying in bed with the @alymaybe glasses on, wearing a matching orange shirt}

{photo: a man laying in bed with the @alymaybe glasses on, wearing a matching orange shirt}

And that’s as good a reason as any to try to make this take off.

❤ ams