Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Seattle Freeze

After the first few days I spent in Seattle, I kept wondering what was up with the rumored "Seattle Freeze."  A quick scan through the cons of moving to Seattle had left me with the impression that people wouldn't be particularly friendly there (on the street, in stores, in restaurants, etc).  I didn't find that to be the case at all.  Every stranger I came across was suitably friendly, if not downright fun to talk to.  So I asked my friend, Jamie, to explain why people always talk about this "freeze," of which I had seen no evidence, whatsoever.  I also started referring to it as the Snickelfritz.  Just because.  "This chick has a serious case of the Snickelfritz."  Doesn't that sound so much more interesting?

Anyway, Jamie took the time to explain to me that it's actually about making friends in Seattle - it seems it is often hard to do, even for people who are pretty outgoing.  I am not-so-outgoing, but I have already been adopted by a few lovely people, thanks to their friendships with a dear friend of mine who lives there.  Still...does my future in Seattle hold some hermitting?  And would that bother me?

Here is the definition of the Seattle Freeze according to
A phrase that describes a local public consensus that states the city of Seattle and/ or its outlying suburbs are generally not friendly, asexual, introverted, socially aloof, clickish or strictly divided through its social classes, thus making the city/ area difficult to make social connections on all levels.
So will I, a year from now, be writing a post in which I kvetch about my friendlessness?  I might just be so awkward and introverted myself that I won't notice people being standoffish.  Or perhaps I will become a hermit, living on a Seattle hillside, who occasionally comes down to the city for hugs from those select few whom have been hugged into submission in the past (Jonie!), would hug me into submission if I didn't visit (Steph!) or adopted me because Jenn made them (everyone else!). I going to be in a co-dependent relationship with Seattle in which the city totally enables the worst of my personality?

In any case, all you can do when checking out a new place to live is to make sure you are somewhat prepared, at least mentally, for what it may be like.  And really, no city will be entirely perfect (and every one will have good and bad surprises).  I will be the first to admit that I have no idea if I'll suffer from the drabs from the constantly overcast Seattle winters.  I won't know until I've fully experienced one.  What I do know is that I felt instantly at home when I visited (and for the duration of my trip).  The more I read about it, the more I want to be there now.  I'm also happy to have isolated the two biggest cons and am excited to share some of the pros I discovered on this blog.  Including tater tots.  Tater tots and biscuits.  But not together.  Well, maybe.  Oh, you. just. wait.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


I got back from Seattle several days ago, but have been settling back in and procrastinating like a son of a...

Last week's visit to Seattle was the easy part - I went to see if it was the city for me and came to the conclusion that it most certainly is.  That's fantastic and I have lots of photos to share, but the moment I arrived back at Dulles International, I realized that I now have to face the hard part.  Finding a job there from across the country is the first step, of course.  And as if that won't be enough of a challenge, the logistics of actually getting there, as I've said before, are not pretty.

That said, I have done it before and, while it is unpleasant and costly, I know I can do it and I will have help.  I really can't sit around wallowing in self-pity when I'm lucky enough to have the opportunity in the first place.  It is scary and I will owe a few people a great debt, but I knew after the first day there (not even a full 24 hours) that it was just the right fit for me.  On the water, near the mountains and lovely forests.  Eating the best tater tots ever (I'm not joking) at Canterbury or Lunchbox Labratory, oh god and Serious Biscuit (damn you, biscuits!).  Getting to try a bunch of local beers (and ciders) at Tippe and Drague and meeting the lovely people who make it such a great place to hang out.

I am also very lucky to already have one of my dearest friends living there (Meg's sister, Jenn), who introduced me to a bunch of amazing people that made my trip that much more interesting.  And Seattle that much more enticing.  Steph, Murph, Michelle, Panda - I can never thank them enough for making me feel at home.  And for giving LostGirls a new sub-blog: Found in Seattle (label-wise).

When I started Lost in DC (the first blog for LostGirls that we came up with).  It was created as a way for me to force myself into local adventures in order to help other people who arrive in the DC Metro Area and are as befuddled as I was at first.  I was under the impression that at some point I would know the area really well and be excited to live here.  Now that I've been here fifteen months, I realize that as amazing as this area can be, it just isn't for me.  DC itself is a pretty awesome place, filled with free museums (and some that are not) that I'm so glad I got to spend time in.  The National Portraiture Gallery and the Botanic Gardens (both visited with my best Jess...and I don't think I ever posted about the latter, so add that to the list of things I need to do before I leave) were wonderful experiences and having a birthday dinner at Fogo de Chao (a Brazilian steakhouse - it's meat-tastic) is something I'll never forget.

This isn't a bad place to live and I know plenty of people who are very happy here.  But while I don't hate it, I know it isn't right, not a good fit, not the place for me.  So the adventure to Seattle begins here...I'm sorry if it ends up being as painful for you to read about, as it is for me to experience, but I'm pretty sure it'll be worth it in the end.  

I have a lot of great Seattle memories and photos to share with you in the coming days, but for now I leave you with my first pictures of Seattle:

These were taken on a friend's balcony in Eastlake, a few blocks from Lake Union.  From there, you can see all of downtown (including the Space Needle, of course) and over to Gasworks Park (just outside the right frame of the bottom photo).  I spent a lot of daytime hours staring at that view during my visit, just dumbfounded by it.

 Coming Soon (more Found in Seattle):

  • True definition of the "Seattle Freeze" (what's up with the Snickelfritz?)
  • Seattle, the true home of Tater Tots (so says I)
  • A few Seattle bar and restaurant reviews (real quick ones, though)

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Nothing a Lot

I have a lot to write about right now, it's just that none of it is appropriate for this blog.  Which is to say that only those who know me would find it compelling.  It's a sort of writer's block - everything else that I'm nervous about is getting in the way and there's so much of it that I need hours to write it all down.

Eh.  Maybe this is a chance to talk about journaling.  Sure, why not?

I very much admire those who keep a daily diary.  I've managed to do it now and again, even for months at a time, but looking back at my old journals I see gaps of days, weeks or months here and there.  I can't stress enough how wonderful it is to get all the crap out into a journal (or however you choose to remove those random thoughts from your writing/living path).  New worlds open up. Inspiration comes more frequently, more steadily.  If you get into enough of a habit, you find yourself scribbling things everywhere you go on any surface that is handy.  It's lovely.

So don't be like me and procrastinate to the point of blocking yourself when there is such an easy way of preventing it.  I know I've written about all of this before, but I'm feeling free to illustrate my point with live examples of my stupidity.  I have only myself to blame.  And Hell on Wheels.  I should never have started watching that on Netflix.

In other news...

I am leaving for Seattle soon, to visit friends and see how I feel about possibly moving there.  I'm excited, but it's tamped down by the stress I feel.  I know for a fact (having done this kind of move before) that it is a logistic nightmare.  A huge pain in the arse.  And the last two times I did this, I barely had any furniture.  Now I have almost enough for a one bedroom apartment and I don't want to get rid of any of it.  At least I've managed to pare down books, clothes, papers and such.  It's funny what you let go of, material-wise, after moving and losing things.  It certainly changes your perspective.  So here I am, stressed out on a gut-deep level about something I'm not even sure is going to work out.  Because I'm silly.


You will notice (soon if not now, I'm about to do it) that there is a new gadget up on LostGirls.  We are very excited to be part of a couple of BlogHer's Influencer programs.  The LostGirls Pinterest page has been selected to partake (and we're doing our best to keep it interesting for you anyway - anything sponsored will be noted as such).  And we are now part of the TV Influencer program, which means we have that lovely video ad at the top of our home page.

The BlogHer community is pretty amazing and I have thoroughly enjoyed being part of their NaBloPoMo (even when I haven't written a post, I go there to read everyone else's) groups.  I would love to eventually make it to one of their conferences, but for now I'm just happy to be involved with them in any way I can.  And all we LostGirls are interested to see what being a part of the Influencer programs will be like.

That said, if there is an ad type on the page that annoys you - please let us know!  We've already opted out of floating ads (because they drive all of us to distraction) and there is some flexibility with campaigns.  Cross your fingers and squeeze your thumbs, we're hoping this will be a great experience for everyone, not just ourselves.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Follow Up to How Curious

Thank you to Sonja over at Porch Philosophy for her timely posting (oh, that was a few weeks ago, well, I just read it for the first time tonight...) of this video of Richard Dawkins reading a letter he wrote to his daughter:

Being respectful of other people's beliefs is tantamount, but too often we find out the hard way how intolerant people can be to those of us who are agnostic or atheist.  Cheers to Sonja's son Ryan for standing up for his beliefs.

How Curious

You may remember when I went on and on about how much I love the Zite app on my phone (thanks, Bren).  Well, whenever I read something on there that I particularly like, I end up forwarding it to someone I think will appreciate it.  That is how Seth and I ended up having an interesting discussion about people who "popularize" science.  Let's start with the definition of "pop science":
Popular science, sometimes called literature of science, is interpretation of science intended for a general audience. ...popular science is broad-ranging, often written by scientists as well as journalists, and is presented in many formats, which can include books, television documentaries, magazine articles and web pages.
I imagine most of the people reading this will think this is a good thing, especially those of us who don't understand half of what scientists are talking about.  Seth is a scientist and I've spent most of my life trying to make sense of things he tells me.  I feel very fortunate that he is so patient with me.  I believe that any time someone is breaking down knowledge so that anyone can understand it, they are doing good.  And, for the most part, that is exactly what these pop scientists are doing.  They are trying to explain to everyday people what is so amazing about what they study.  They are making it accessible to anyone who is interested.

The exception is Richard Dawkins, whom I find interesting, but a bit...I don't know, pugnacious?  As fascinating as he can be, and as much as I am not a religious person, I don't agree with him that science can replace religion.  In fact, I don't think it should.  I know quite a few religious people and I respect their beliefs, even if I don't always agree with what they have to say.  I also find faith to be an amazing thing and when facing the loss of a loved one, I'm even a bit jealous.  

In any case, the antagonistic article Seth and I were discussing came from the UK's The Guardian and was written by Eliane Glaser.  Glaser insists that pop scientists are using "the misty-eyed language of religion."  Her first complaint seems to be use of the word "wonder."  So let's pause here for a definition of that word:
1. to think or speculate curiously: to wonder about the origin of the solar system.
2. to be filled with admiration, amazement, or awe; marvel (often followed by at  ): He wondered at her composure in such a crisis.
3. to doubt: I wonder if she'll really get here.
verb (used with object)
4. to speculate curiously or be curious about; be curious to know: to wonder what happened.
5. to feel wonder at: I wonder that you went.
As much as "wonder" is undoubtedly part of religion, it is neither reserved for it nor the first thing that most of us think of when we hear that word.

Glaser's second complaint, that all these scientists are anti-religion (read: athiest) and therefore should not be using such religious language, is just silly.  I can understand her having a beef with Dawkins, who goes about actually trying to debunk religion.  But why attack the rest of them?  ...How dare you be in wonder of the universe!..  Nope, doesn't work for me.

I got the impression from her article that what Glaser resented more than anything else was that these scientists have fame.  Why on earth would you resent such a group of people - we're talking about people who are brilliant and hard-working, but largely unappreciated and quite often underpaid.  People who are making a name for themselves by trying to make science more accessible (read: less elitist!).  Why resent and revile these people?  Which brings us around to the article I neglected to tell you about before, the one that started it all.  It wasn't mentioned before because it described Glaser's article as "a really grumbly post" and I just didn't think it had enough teeth.  But it does deserve a mention for leading me to The Guardian.  You can find that original article here, if you're interested.

So you've hopefully read the post from The Guardian and you've already heard from me (the layperson for this post).  Now I'd like to share with you how Seth felt about it (this is with his permission, of course).  I will warn you that he isn't shy about stating his opinion (which is why we like having him around):
Hello Jess.  I read the column which criticized Glaser's column, and then read Glaser's original column/polemic in The Guardian newspaper (UK). Glaser is wrong in characterizing Richard Dawkins as merely a "popularizer" of science. I did read his 614 page magnum opus (“The Ancestor’s Tale”) on the current state of evolutionary knowledge, which is somewhat beyond the full understanding of a layperson and is geared more to scientists from fields other than evolution. Dawkins is a great scientist in his own right and not just a “popularizer,” although I see nothing wrong with being both. 
Where Glaser should have focused is Dawkins' entry into being a polemicist with his latest book debunking religion. Here he departs from the realm of science to provide a polemic against religion and then proposes that modern science can replace religion as to providing a “place for awe, for ecstatic transport at the wonder and beauty of creation” to humanity. Whereas many scientists, including me, do see the last 100 years of scientific discoveries as providing a sense of wonder at our universe (a billion stars in the galaxy and a billion galaxies in the universe is certainly a wonder), we do not see science as a replacement for everything that religion provides. Science is not going to comfort someone that has just lost a loved one. Science is not going to provide a set of rules to live by in a just society (Golden Rule, Ten Commandments). But this criticism of scientists going overboard does not justify demeaning “popularizing” scientists, or for that matter, for “popularizing” doctors of medicine. 
Glaser appears to conflate such educational programs as "popularizing" science with a patronizing attitude of scientists towards laypeople, which I don’t see. Brian Greene explaining the weirdness of quantum physics on NOVA is not equivalent to "deifiying" either himself or science. Dr. Oz, a medical“popularizer” on TV provides useful medical information to laypeople, which is good. Unlike Dawkins, he is not a leader in his field of medicine but serves a useful purpose, telling Oprah's audience to change their diets and get regular testing for heart function and cancer. 
I particularly appreciate Brian Greene’s TV programs as he does capture the wondrousness and the weirdness of the universe - lots of counter-intuitive things, like a particle existing in two different places at the same time and quantum “entanglement” (look it up on Wikipedia). I find his programs to be excellent and beneficial to laypeople if they can stay awake while trying to understand the weird things. 
The one interesting thing about the weirdness and counter-intuitiveness of our world, as revealed by science as we study small particles (e.g. quarks) and their behavior, is that it is obvious that science cannot answer all questions. For example, what happened before the Big Bang which created our universe and where did the energy for the Big Bang come from (this gets back to the argument of “First Cause”). No one knows. Where did that energy come from? No one knows. We see things in particle physics and say they are weird and that's just the way it is and leave it at that, but simply do not understand why the weird things occur at smaller dimensions. They just do and that’s the way it is. Weird things (e.g. Moses talking to God disguised as a burning bush, Jesus walking on water) used to be the realm of religion, but religion depended on folk tales written by people several thousand years ago when human knowledge was relatively primitive. 
Glaser says that scientists complain about a lack of prominence in our culture. This is bullsh*t. Scientists complain about not getting paid as well as lawyers, who contribute much less to society.  
If you want to know what really annoys me regarding laypeople’s (especially politicians) view of science which might qualify as a somewhat insidious form of "deification of science" it is a remark I've heard several times from people with little knowledge of what it takes to do science - this is that "all problems can be solved (e.g. making solar power viable in terms of cost and energy production requirements for a planet of 7 billion people) if sufficient money is devoted to the work. This then translate into a political belief that whenever we are not yet successful in solving a critical problem, it is because as a society we have underfunded the work (thus offering someone or some group to blame). 
For example, the failure to solve some of the problems facing solar power as a replacement for fossil fuels is blamed for underfunding of the field (sometimes due to evil fossil fuel companies blocking development of a competitor) rather than the fact that the problems are very difficult and basic research is not yet at a state of knowledge to allow solutions (it is hard to schedule breakthroughs). 
In addition to not yet achieving the basic research knowledge to address some difficult problems, there may also be a problem in that one cannot change the laws of physics (unless on Star Trek) and this might also limit our ability to solve a problem. We have had several hundred clinical trials of potential HIV vaccines. Doubling the funding of vaccine development might not improve this problem until basic research into how the virus works (actually fairly advanced now) and how the human immune system interacts with the virus (not as advanced) reaches a higher state of understanding. The lack of a HIV vaccine is no one’s fault – not the fault of scientists, not the fault of funding agencies, not the fault of pharmaceutical companies. Not all problems can be solved during your lifetime. 
In conclusion, many of the “popularizers” of science are doing good things so more power to them; Dawkins is a great scientist in addition to being a higher level “popularizer” and unfortunately a polemicist; science is definitely not a replacement for religion and not all scientists agree with Dawkins on that; and scientists should be paid more than lawyers, politicians and other groups which contribute little positive to humanity.

Friday, March 1, 2013

A Small Chance of Success

It's the worst when you haven't posted a damn thing for half a month and you log on to see people are still checking out your blog.  Oh, the guilt!  And thank you, as well, whomever you are.

I have a long list of things I've been thinking about writing up, but between being sick for two months, having some lovely oral surgery and planning my first trip to Seattle...  My head kind of hurts.  And then there's the I-haven't-written-in-so-many-days-that-it's-all-going-to-be-crap-now thing.  That does happen.  So, despite having only posted twice in the month of February, I have signed up LostGirls for the March NaBloPoMo on BlogHer.  I knew February might not turn out well for writing, but I don't want to get too far off track and I have enough in the works (with a little help from my friends) that I can actually promise some fun posts this month.
For The Thinnest Skin, a couple of my fabulous friends are having fun with nail polish and their iPhones so you will have some lovely pictures to check out with my post on Julep Nail Color (which we're obsessed with and have been for a few months now).

For Lost in DC, I'm examining all that I love and hate about the DC Metro Area while deciding whether or not I'll be leaving it for good.
For Uncrafty, I'm making the world's saddest crochet embellishments and hoping they'll get prettier as I go (there will certainly be pictures of that process to come).

And for LostGirls in general, this month's BlogHer NaBloPoMo theme couldn't be timelier:

So what is the NaBloPoMo theme of the month?


When was the last time you took a risk? I mean, honestly threw caution to the wind, said even a small chance of success was worth the possibility of failure, and took a big chance? If you can't remember the last time you took a risk, what are you waiting for? Don't you know that with great risks comes great rewards?
BlogHer Entrepreneurs conference happens March 21st and 22nd, so we thought we'd celebrate fierce, risk-taking women by making them the focus of our theme this month.
Obviously I'm not entirely unfamiliar with taking risks, having just moved to DC from California in 2011.  But part of the reason why we take risks is to get out of things that we know simply aren't working.  My situation here is certainly that.  It was a nice try and I don't regret having done it, but...well, I'll be writing a long post about that this week.  And Risk is something all of us here at LostGirls can sink our teeth into, so you will also be hearing from people here other than myself!

But let's start with today's prompt: "Do you think it's better to play it safe or take risks?"

In all honesty, there are appropriate times for each of those.  And only you can decide when those times are.  I think taking the risk to come to DC wasn't a bad choice overall, but I also see now how playing it safe for a few more months there and really figuring out where I wanted to end up might have been a wiser decision.  But a life without risk seems like no life at all to me.  If you don't take risks, large and small, you will be missing great opportunities.  Even those horrible mistakes that result from some risks are worth something.

The two times I've moved from the West Coast to the East Coast have turned out to be bummers, but I learned from both and those experiences definitely changed me in some very good ways.  I gained perspective that I didn't have before.  I grew up in some ways that were certainly needed.  I made new friends and had new experiences that I wouldn't have had if I'd stayed in California, where I grew up, surrounded by familiar surroundings and all my lovely long-time friends.  I don't like the idea of stagnating and it's one of those things that happens without you noticing!

My goal right now is to find a place to call home that I won't want to leave.  A place where I can spend the rest of my days without feeling like I'm suffocating in the sameness of it all.  Who among us is not looking for the right fit?  And how on earth could we find it without a little (or a lot of) risk?