06 March 2017

More National Parks

Last weekend the boyfriend and I took a trip. Mostly it was just to get out. To check a couple more national parks off the list. We headed south to Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico and Guadalupe Mountains just south in Texas.

I must say, I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed those two parks. We hit Guadalupe Mountains first. The Chihuahuan desert is pretty bleak and Texas' tallest mountain is just over 8,000, and thus none-too-impressive, but there is a beauty there. I'm sure it helped that we went in February, before the temperatures settled in the mid 90s. The one major drawback was the wind. It was windy the entire time. Blowing us around while on the highway south. Blowing dust. Blowing the tent over (we ended up sleeping in the SUV.) We were unable to hike Guadalupe Peak because of the wind. We did get in a nice hike to a stone cabin up a canyon that would surely have been much prettier with some summer greenery.

Guadalupe Peak. 
Pratt Cabin and madrone trees
After our hike we drove the 40 minutes north to Carlsbad. The entrance to the caverns is actually up on top of a hill, the caves are 750 feet below. That first day, we descended via the elevator and stepped out into an underground cafe of sorts. It was pretty surreal. The ground was flat and paved and there were kiosks for snacks and t-shirts. And picnic tables and bathrooms with running water. And then, a bit further on, the Big Room.

(part of) the Big Room
I used to work at Glenwood Caverns. I always thought it was super cool. There are lots of formations and plenty of space to stand up on the basic tours. The Big Room is huge. I knew somewhere in my mind that Carlsbad Caverns was big. I mean, it's a national park and all. I was unprepared. No photos will ever fully show the vastness of that space. Something like 60 football fields in length. Monolithic stalagmites. We walked around the whole room. The trail is over a mile. It's paved and has handrails to keep people contained to protect the visitors and the caves.

These are at least 2x taller than me. 
gazing into the depths of hell. Or something.
The following day we walked down the natural entrance. The whole 750  vertical feet via a winding trail down a dark hole in the earth. It was quite the experience.

candle lanterns lighting the Left Hand Tunnel
We had a ranger guided tour to a different part of the cave. It was lighted only by handheld candle lanterns. It was a highlight of the trip. Though the formations were not as impressive as in the Big Room, Left Hand Tunnel was a very fun experience. We learned a lot of history about the caves, some Native American lore, some stories about the man who first explored and pushed to make it be a park.

cave pool

It was a very pleasant trip, any really not that long a drive compared to what we often do to visit parks. My main regret is that the bats were wintering down south and so we couldn't watch them fly out at dusk. And also the crawling tours weren't available in the off-season. I guess we'll just have to go back in the summer sometime. And spend the whole down down below to beat the heat.

Here are a few more photos from the trip.

sunset from our campsite near the Caverns. 

see? they're big.

14 February 2017

Truth, Facts, and Fact-Checking

I have been thinking a lot about truth and facts lately. Mostly in regards to the current POTUS and the way things are shared on social media. But it’s actually something I’ve been thinking and talking and writing about for at least 10 years. Because I find the differences between truth and fact fascinating.

I believe that something can be true without being strictly factual. Mostly, this applies to novels and other works of fiction. I can learn truths by reading Everything is Illuminated or watching Star Trek, even though nothing in the storyline happened in actuality.

Facts seem much more straightforward. Facts are things that are real. Verifiable. Observable. Concrete. I say they seem straightforward because people often dispute things that are facts. The real challenge I have found recently is the sources. In many cases people cannot experience something firsthand in order to verify it for themselves. And even when eyewitnesses are present at an event, the facts can get jumbled in memory. The real issue is finding credible sources.

I am not expert at this myself, though the past year or so has been quite the learning curve. I have repeatedly pointed out “fake news” to people on social media. “Fake news” in this context being anything from blatantly and provably false to a misleading or untrustworthy source. Sources prove their trustworthiness mostly though time. If a news agency misleads the audience, or gathers and interprets data in a faulty way, the credibility falls. It falls further when they refuse to acknowledge these things or if they continue to do so. Other poor “facts” include those that aren’t independently checked but at least one (preferably more) other sources. If a piece of information can only be found in one single place, it is more than likely not an actual fact. This is what irks me about many conservatives/Christians* arguing about scientific facts. The scientific method is a rigorous way to gain information. But even doing a rigorous experiment once is not enough to claim the result as a fact. The findings must be peer reviewed and replicated successfully. The word “theory” in science doesn’t mean untested or unproven; it means that it can still be subject to testing and refining, but can be used as a method for predicting and explaining scientific phenomena.

I think that the reason people don’t trust science (or math/statistics for that matter) is that the lay person cannot understand the nuances. The real problem then, is trusting the professionals that present the information. For instance, I am not a physicist and I do not have the means to observe and test relativity, so I have to trust that the physicists who are reporting their findings are reporting facts. Now, I don’t have to take each one at his/her word, I can go back to the basis laid out earlier: was this result replicated independently? Has it been reviewed by other people and tested for accuracy?

My point is, scientists find new things regularly. Scientists disagree about findings and some are proven wrong. The scientific community as a whole is not purposefully lying to the general populace. (For example: climate change and evolutionary biology. But that’s not the point of this right now.)

Through a couple of recent arguments I’ve had with people about sources, I have found that it is nearly impossible to come to an agreement if a people do not agree about credible sources. For whatever reason, some people have a proclivity toward conspiracy theories.

Now, I am willing to entertain many fanciful ideas. I am willing to read articles and reports about things that are outside of the mainstream media and outside of my normal ideology. I am even willing to agree on the premise of many of these theories. But I cannot accept them as fact unless I can verify them with sources I find to be credible. This becomes really hard when the conspiracy is about the media in general.

On most issues of this sort, I am willing to remain civil and friendly. To me, these are thought experiments that don’t really affect my day to day life. I am not much of an arguer. I do not have to persuade people to believe what I believe. I’ll often bow out of an impassioned argument because I simply don’t care as much as the other. I’ll admit I am a bit incensed to do so, as it often makes the other party feel that they’ve ‘won.’ But that doesn’t really affect me for long. My sanity is more important than proving I’m right.

I recently watched Denial, a film about a trial in the UK involving historians and the Holocaust. It was a good film. My takeaway was that regardless of the verdict, regardless of how many sources or witnesses or other proof one provides, people often still hang onto their opinion and cannot be forced to adopt another. It’s best to just let it go.

So that’s what I strive to do. I may engage initially. I may take part in debate. But I will not drag an issue to death. I will not waste my time or energy on what is likely a lost cause. I will not let someone else’s opinion ruin my day (mostly.) I will generally remain friends with people I disagree with, though it’s wise to avoid those areas of disagreement.


There are exceptions. There are some things that do affect my every day life. Or that tie in very closely to my morals. There are some things that I will not let go. Or that I will not remain friendly over. Most of them relate to human rights. I cannot stand the dehumanizing of any person for any reason. I have argued with people about refugees, about people on public assistance, about LGBTQ+ people, about racism, about feminism. This, in my opinion, is where truth comes in. (Or is it Truth with a capital T?) In these instances, for me truth is about integrity. The issues are moral. Not to say that my opinions about how to treat people are not backed up with facts, but it is more than facts. Even if public assistance really does incentivise people to use it more (it doesn’t), even if helping refugees does let some terrorists into the country (ridiculously rare), I still believe that helping people is the greater worth. I don’t believe in “us and them.” I don’t believe that American children are more important than Syrian ones. I don’t believe that only those who can contribute to society should be able to benefit from it.

Basically, I am generally easy-going if we don’t agree. Except when I’m not. People are worth more than opinions.

* I know I seem to bring up Christians a lot in this blog. It’s simply because that is what I know and I have a hard time reconciling my past beliefs with what I know now. I have nothing against followers of Christ, I simply do not believe in blindly following what some random religious or faux religious leader says.

I can provide sources for anything I’ve mentioned here, if needed. 

30 January 2017

On my heart and mind

My head has been super busy this week/month/season, but I've been having an exceptionally hard time getting my thoughts onto "paper." I've read a lot of news. A lot of articles analyzing said news. I've ranted to and been ranted at by friends, online and in person. I know the audience of this blog is generally fairly limited. I'm going to assume nothing and simply write what's on my heart and mind. I will not likely link any sources, but I can get them if anyone is interested. 

All lives matter. This is true. This is a statement that I can, in general, get behind. But it's certainly not being used correctly. People use it as a rebuttal to Black Lives Matter. saying that BLM is trying for special treatment or the like. "Special treatment" being not being gunned down at traffic stops. Being given the benefit of the doubt in court. Being simply understood as part of humanity. And all lives matter while then not helping refugees from war-torn countries, while not protesting a ban on said refugees. People are worried about the safety of this country in respect to refugees. In the last 15 years not a single refugee has carried out a terror attack on the US. Worldwide, fifty percent of refugees are children. So "all lives matter" doesn't actually seem to mean that.

All lives matter so long as they're upper middle-class white people and/or fetuses. Before I get too far into this one, let me say that I'm "pro life" in the same way I'm "all lives matter," (same thing, different words.) Conservatives/ Christians seem to care a whole lot about the unborn and very little about the children in the world. Young mothers are told the only option is having a child, but then berated for being on public assistance because they cannot support these children. Now, I know that the best choice is considered to be abstinence. And I agree on some level. But let's be honest, humans have sex. So the best course is actually education. Comprehensive sex education that includes all contraceptive options. And it works. Numerous countries in Europe have a much lower rate of abortion than the US simply because of this sort of education. There is a lower rate of abortion and teen pregnancy when there is a Democrat as president. Because of the access to contraceptives. The bottom line is that abortions will happen whether or not they are legal. The tragedy is that mothers will die if they are not given a safe method of abortion. And that is a life that matters. Now we can look at adoption, because that's heavily advocated. What's upsetting about it is that the foster system is packed with children. Most of them are children of color. It is a fact that the adoption process is expensive. Thus, prospective adopters are often white and generally want their children to resemble them. This is obviously a broad statement, but it is not unsubstantiated. I can go on about abortion, but I will not, I just want to make the point that "pro-life" doesn't actually seem to mean that. 

An argument I hear is that the private sector needs to be the ones that help those in need instead of tax dollars. And I agree, except it doesn't always work that way. Besides (possibly) a tithe to church, who is donating to the local homeless shelter? Who is working at the food pantry? Also, more of these organizations need to be  no-religious ones, because too often religions organizations exclude some of those in need. Most notably LGBT people. Queer lives matter too. Refusing to help a gay or trans person is violence. There is no way around that. And if private organizations will not help all people, then it is up to the government to care for all of its citizens. 

I was raised Christian. All of my formal education was at Christian schools. I retain a lot of the morals and ethics I learned. The God I learned about was love. Countless Bible verses talk about caring for those in need. Accepting the aliens and strangers. Caring for even those considered sinners. Judging no one on any basis because that is God's job alone. This has always been the major takeaway from Christianity. I now have quite a problem with many followers of Christ that are not at all Christ-like. Many of these Christians seem to have confused Christ's teachings with capitalism/nationalism. It is not Christianity and it is dangerous. When we exclude those in need out of some sense of personal safety, it is morally wrong. It goes against all true Christian teachings. 

Fear is natural. Fear is understandable is some situations. Acting inhumanely because of that fear is unacceptable and inexcusable. 

I have made it quite far without mentioning the current US President. But it really does come back to him. What he and his advisors are doing is wrong. Excluding people from this "land of opportunity" from the "home of the free" is not only against the precepts that formed this nation, but also is morally wrong. The US was settled as a haven from religious oppression. I won't get into how that was immediately used to oppress the indigenous peoples, but the original thought was the separation of Church and State so that there could be no national religion that everyone was required to follow. By excluding people based on religion or nationality, we go against that basic principle. It is not about safety. Or even religion, as evidenced by Middle Eastern nations excluded from the ban. It is about money. It is about racism. It is very far from being Christian or Christ-like. 

I have a lot of privilege in this country. I was born into a family with the means to house and clothe and feed me well as well as send me to private school. I did not grow up in need of anything essential. I am white. I also have male passing privilege. I am generally assumed straight, as it is default. The fact that I am trans and gay can be hidden. Many people in my situation do not have this privilege. So I have advantage over all people of color. Over women. Over non-passing trans men. Over obviously gay or effeminate men. 

Currently, I am personally unaffected by the new administration. But I am affected mentally and emotionally. I have friends who work with refugees. Friends who work for the federal government. Their jobs have a real possibility of going away.  I am friends with people of color who already face discrimination and now have seen an uptick.  And though I'm physically safe now, I will be completely unsurprised if some new executive order comes along that affects trans people. 

If these things do not affect you. You have privilege. And that privilege should be used to help those without. 

I feel like I could go on and on. I’ve been writing this off and on for a couple of days. I’m exhausted. But I’m not going to stop being outraged. I’m not going to stop using what voice I have to help in any way I can. 

10 January 2017

a new year

So with a new year generally comes new goals and dreams for that year.

I've got a few to be sure. But mostly I'm just trying to build good and healthy habits. Today I'm struggling a bit. It's an off day to be sure.

I'm trying to make it a habit to be more persistent with keeping track of my health and related things. I'm making it a point to check in weekly and record results/progress or general related thoughts/feelings. I note how many times I ran, went for walks, did parkour/natural movement, etc. Nothing to show yet of course, but I'm hoping that weekly reminders will keep me on track.

I was super bummed that we got a fair amount of snow at the beginning of my work week, and it all melted off before I could properly enjoy it. I love my 4 tens schedule, but it does mean that I don't see the sun much on my work days in the winter.

I should be running right now, but I lent my car out today, and though I can totally run on the urban trail two blocks away, I am stalling for some stupid reason. Bed is nice, y'know?

21 December 2016

Our home for broken creatures

I really have neglected writing for some time. I guess I've just been really busy.

A few weeks ago my friend was hit by a car in a crosswalk and broke her ankle and her wrist. She's been staying with us for most of the intervening time.

Now that she's had another surgery on her ankle and has a hard cast on both leg and arm, she's able to be a bit more mobile. We sent her home on Monday with her sister. She is still unable to drive, and will be that way for another month or two. But she's mending well and has been working from "home" and will be taking Lyft or the like to work soon. I think it's all going to work out.

I guess that was our third broken foster. I think I'll miss her just as much as the others. At least I get to see her again soon though.

20 December 2016

Trail Tuesday

It's been awhile! A couple weeks ago I found a new trail down in Douglas County. It's about half an hour drive, like the Jefco ones I frequent. I get about 9 miles out of it. Very nice. Two weeks ago when I went, there was only a skiff of snow in some areas but it was super chilly. The temperature was in the 20s, but the winds were as well. I wore my new soft shell pants and they worked amazingly. I'm happy with that purchase (using money I gained by selling old things on eBay.)

I was unable to run last Tuesday, as I was a day into the weeklong cold that everyone I know has been getting. It wasn't a bad illness, just some sore throat and sinus stuff ending in a cough.

Today I returned to the new trail. There was still several inches of snow on it from the storm a few days back. However, the temperature was in the 50s. And it was HOT. I actually took off my long sleeve shirt and wore only a tank top. The snow was pretty slushy in places and I can feel the effects of it in my hips from stabilizing. It was a very satisfying run.

I have about 18 miles more to run this year to meet my 2016 running goal. I think I can do it in two good runs next week.
The Front Range from Ridgeline Open Space. 

My confusion at the temperature. 

16 November 2016

A week.

It has been quite a week. I am not okay. I have been sleeping poorly. Eating horribly. Rarely exercising. The dread in my gut has not abated much. And as it was lessening due to time, there was an incident of hate right here in Denver. Today a woman's vehicle was spray painted with transphobic slurs and included "die". Right here in safe blue Denver. Again, I'm not all that scared for myself, but I fear for those who are visible minorities. It is not about me.

I don't know how to have conversations. I want to talk about my outrage, my sadness. I want to reassure my upset friends. I want to fight injustice. But I can feel my apathy creeping in. Shutting me down. I don't trust people anymore. People who say they are my friend yet do not show me. People who claim not to be racist but happily elect a blatantly racist man into the highest office. Replace "racist" with sexist, homophobic, transphobic, xenophobic, etc. And you know, I'm not even that afraid of Trump himself. He's silly and selfish. But he's surrounding himself with advisors that only bolster this atmosphere of hatred and bigotry. And I fear those who voted from him. Those who wholeheartedly approve of his ways. People who would prefer I didn't exist, that so many of my friends didn't exist. This is not okay.

I am sick of "moderates" trying to say that it is okay. That is privilege. I am sick of the people who say that we are just sore losers. It's not about that. I don't actually have strong opinions about Hillary, but I have always had strong opinions about Trump. This is not about my candidate not winning. It is about losing, but it's about losing my voice. (Potentially) losing the accomplishments I, and people like me, have worked so hard for these last few years. It's about losing all the forward progress we've struggled for. And it is even about losing lives and livelihoods. Reports have come in of over 400 people being harassed and assaulted in the course of this week. Due to the color of their skin. Their religion. Their accent. Their gender presentation. It is not okay.

I am not okay.

The only glimmer that makes me do at least something each day is my foster puppy. She's super cuddly and doesn't make messes or noises. The perfect animal.

Video games help me not to think. Teagan helps me to play video games. 

09 November 2016

Thoughts on the Election

I have a lot going on in my head but I haven't been able to properly express any of it. I'm exhausted. I stayed up late waiting for the results of the election. I wept. My body shook involuntarily for hours.

Today I went to work and talked very very little. I cried on all of my breaks. Just reading the news. Well, reading posts that my friends put online expressing sorrow (grief, really), anger, despair, disbelief, confusion. And I mirror all of it.

The scene from V for Vendetta of gay people being pulled from their beds at night keeps playing in my head. It terrifies me and it cannot be allowed.

I think mostly of the youth. People of color now outnumber whites in America, and their children more so. Apparently some find that threatening. I am afraid for those kids. I am afraid for the children of immigrants and refugees. The Muslim and Jewish children. The LGBTQIA+ kids. Especially with Pence's hateful ideas about the use of conversion therapy for homosexuality. I fear the rates of teen suicides going up.

I also feel guilt. Guilt that I believed so strongly that Americans would make the better choice. That so many wouldn't choose fear and hatred. And that I wasn't more active in supporting those who needed it most.

I was assigned female at birth, and thus grew up with that social ideology. Being trans has made that former status invisible, but it is not forgotten. I did not transition because I hate women. I did so because I am not one. I stand for women's rights. Bodily autonomy in every way. Equality in every way.

I rarely fit gay stereotypes, but the fact remains. I am a (mostly) gay trans man in a world that just showed itself more hostile to people like me.

I am white. And from that privilege, I cannot speak to the pain that people of color of feeling now. I only pledge to use my privilege to help in any way possible.

I know that several old 'friends' of mine (not to mention family) voted for Trump under some notion that he was the better Christian choice. I will not forgive that. This man is nothing that Jesus would have approved of. He loves only money and adoration. I know that these and a great many other people would have been upset had Hillary Clinton won. People may have worried about their tax money. About their guns. Even about unborn fetuses. But right now, I am worried about my life. I am worried about the lives of my friends who live in counties and states that voted overwhelmingly red. I am worried about my friends who have an intersectionality of minorities. My Latinx lesbian friends, my Black trans friends, etc. What half the nation told us yesterday was that our safety and wellbeing is not a priority.

After all of this, I am a naturally optimistic person. And we will get through it. Progress cannot be halted. It can be hindered, but it cannot be turned back. This will prove a tough time for many of us. But I will tolerate no racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, transphobia, or victim blaming. I will stand up for everyone I can. We can and will fight for our right to exist

06 November 2016

Celestial Seasonings

Today, we went to the Celestial Seasonings factory. It was really quite amazing. I'm not sure why we'd never gone before, as it's only just in Boulder and I've been drinking many varieties of their tea all my life.

First we got to taste test so many teas: some hot and some cold. It was delicious. Then on the tour we learned a bit of history, like how and when the company started. And that all of their products are ethically sourced from around the world. And that every single tea is made and packaged at that facility in Boulder. Millions of tea bags every day. We didn't get to see the machinery in action, as it was the weekend, but it was really quite impressive. We went into the room with all the true tea leaves. Most of Celestial Seasonings teas are herbal and not actually tea, but they do have some black and green variants. That room smelled really good. Also the mint room was fun. It was very strong, but also very pleasant and cleared my chest more than I thought I needed.

We ended up buying several boxes of tea and some mugs with the tea box art on them. Not at all needed, as we have SO MUCH tea in the cupboard, but you can never have too much, right? Also, we have a lot of mugs. But this art is so cool! And look at the wee little mug!

Anyhow, it was a great day with a great person. Happy 6 years to us. 

05 November 2016

Some recent Films

This weekend I watched several movies. It was a long weekend for me and I don't generally watch movies. So the fact I watched so many is surprising.

One was Star Trek: Into Darkness, which was fine, but nothing to write about.

The next was Moonlight. Which was really very good. It was not fast-paced. It was simple. It was well-acted. It was worth seeing.

The latest was Eye in the Sky. It was a bit hard to watch, to be honest. But it is so relevant. It is about drone strikes. About weighing the lives of innocents in the vicinity when targeting potential/probable threats to other innocents. It brings up all sorts of moral issues. The impersonality of the strikes, the fact that the people making the decisions and even pulling the trigger are hundreds or thousands of miles away. The people in charge of the operation depicted were British. I think that added a layer to it. Because the US does drone strikes quite a bit differently, and with much less of a fuss about collateral damage. This was Alan Rickman's final film, and it was a great one. I highly recommend it.