Monday, October 8, 2018

Women Are From Venus

Today's post is about Venus.  No, not the goddess.  The planet, which was named after the goddess.  Venus was the Roman goddess of love and beauty; Venus has long been considered Earth's "sister planet" because it's right next door to us (261 million kilometers), about the same size as Earth, and, like us, covered in a dense layer of clouds.

Those clouds made people assume that Venus was a swampy, marsh-like planet; it was thought of as a swamp planet up until the 1950s, and plenty of science fiction writers suggested humans could go and live there.

In fact, the inspiration for this post was a short movie I remember seeing in high school, called All Summer in a Day.  The short film, based on a short story, is about a group of kids who live on the planet Venus, and mercilessly bully a girl who moved there from Earth.  Venus is so cloudy that the sun only comes out once a day, and on the day that the sun comes out, they lock the Earth girl into a closet and she misses it.  That's... that's the whole thing.  Yeah, it's really weirdly depressing.

Anywho, we all figured Venus was a world rich with life.  We've been sending probes to other planets since the '60s but we only learned in '78 that Venus wasn't what we expected at all.  The Pioneer Probes of NASA (along with the USSR's 23-year-long Venera program) revealed that Venus turned out to have a totally uninhabitable, hostile, acrid environment.

That picture was taken on Venus's surface, revealing a desolate wasteland domed with a stormy sky of sulfuric acid rain.  The probe crumpled quickly under Venus's atmospheric pressure, which is 92 times greater than Earth's.  With a thick atmosphere of carbon dioxide, Venus's surface is actually hotter than Mercury's.  And it's humid heat, not dry heat.  A weak magnetosphere means that Venus is constantly buffeted by cosmic radiation and solar winds.

In short, Venus, the "women's planet," is a hostile environment.  Which, considering the events here in America recently... well, you see where I'm going here.

But I don't want to talk about the very upsetting decisions made by the current administration.  No, I want to talk about Venus.  We've been poking around up there a lot.  Russia, then the USSR, sent over twenty probes to Venus in the 1970s and 1980s, most of which failed hilariously.  Their biggest problem was getting the lens caps to come off of the probes.  They failed to separate multiple times, and when they finally did, the lens cap landed directly beneath the probe's soil sampler, causing the craft to measure the compressibility of the titanium lens cap instead of the dirt. You can actually see the offending lens cap in the Venus picture above; it's the little pie tin thing in front of the probe.

One of the most interesting things about Venus is that it is the only planet that rotates clockwise.  A single Venusian day is 243 Earth days... making a "day" on Venus longer even that a year.  (It takes Venus 224.7 Earth days to make an orbit around the sun.)  Why does Venus rotate differently?  One idea is that its a fluke caused by the attraction of Venus's loco tidal atmosphere combined with the sun's gravitational pull.  Another is that it was at some point flipped upside-down.

 Presumably while shooting b-ball outside the school.

But the most appealing idea to me is that it used to rotate counter-clockwise, and took a severe enough impact from a meteor to turn it around.  This idea is supported by the fact that Venus's rotation appears to be slowing down... and may, perhaps, one day reverse back to the "correct" counter-clockwise rotation.

I guess this idea appeals to me because I like the idea of the universe fixing itself.  I like the idea that, despite taking catastrophic hits, the damage done is reversible.  Which, considering the events here in America recently... well, you see where I'm going here.

Emmeline Pankhurst is one of my personal heroes.
Here she is getting carried away from a protest by the fuzz.

Venus, our "sister planet," the place where women are from, is a resilient little ball of unsympathetic maliciousness.  It takes a hell of a lot to withstand, and it withstands a hell of a lot.  Well, isn't that the plight of women in a nutshell?

Venus was the goddess of beauty, of sex and love and womanly seduction.  We named Venus, the planet, after her, because we thought it, too, might be a fertile place.  But Venus did not take the USSR probes kindly.  Oh, no.  Venus crushed 'em up and spit 'em out.  Venus is not to be trifled with.  Perhaps a better name for Venus, and a better patronness for women, would be Freya, aka Frig, the Nordic goddess of love... and war.  Freya, goddess of beauty... and death.

 Freya is most often depicted with some battle gear, usually a spear, hanging out with her cats and holding her own boobs, presumably because of her refusal to wear a bra.

I do not like to comment too readily on current political affairs.  They depress me, and they should depress you, too.  Women's rights are humanity's rights.  If women are from Venus, then women must surely be stronger than they are given credit for.  I mean, you'd have to be, to withstand the 90 atmospheres of pressure and the temperature hot enough to melt lead and the volcanic activity.  (About 2/3rds of the surface of Venus is made up of lava plains.)

If Venus, the planet, has taught us anything, it's that even the biggest hits can be absorbed and eventually, over a long time, corrected.  Venus is a strong, independent planet who don't need no moon.  (Did I mention Venus is one of only two planets in our solar system without a moon?  The other is Mercury.)  (Side note: Yes, Pluto has a moon.  Its name is Charon and it's so big compared to Pluto that it makes Pluto wobble.)

The lesson we take from our humble little sister planet is that we can overcome any devastation, no matter how bad it seems, if it goes against the natural order of things.  We can overcome a meteor hitting us so hard that it flips our orbit around.  We can overcome the trials and tribulations of heat and pressure and crappy USSR lens caps.  Yes, if Venus has taught us anything, it's that, given enough time, things will turn out okay.

But if Freya has taught us anything, it's that we don't have to wait.  We can choose to ride a chariot pulled by cats into battle and take what's owed to us.  We do not have to wait for years or, in Venus's case, days, which, please remember, are longer than the years over there.

Now is better than later.  Now is the time to act.

 Do your civic duty, and vote this November. 
Take your cat-chariot if necessary.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Anniversary Update!

So, remember in 2017, everyone was all excited about Queen Elizabeth II's "Sapphire Jubilee?"  The Queen was crowned in 1953; now 92 years old, she is the longest-reigning British monarch, and her Sapphire Jubilee marked 65 years of rule.

But what the hell is a "sapphire jubilee," anyway?

Those earrings must be insanely heavy.  
If you tear out the Queen's ears, do they send you to the Tower of London or what?
Is THIS why the Crown Jewels are stored there?  Because of queenly injuries??

The reason for calling the jubilee (aka celebration) "sapphire" has to do with 65 years being associated with sapphire anniversaries.

(The 75th anniversary is the original diamond anniversary, which might confuse you, as Queen Victoria, the second-longest reigning British monarch after Elizabeth II, celebrated her Diamond Jubilee on her 60th anniversary in 1897.  Nice try, Queen Victoria.  Can't get that shit past me.)

I'm a big fan of etymology so let me diverge just a little to talk about the word "anniversary," which is a portmanteau of the Latin "annus" (year) and "versus" (turning) (as in "versatile," something that can turn).  Also, "coronate" is not a verb; it's incorrectly assumed that you "coronate" a queen at her coronation, but actually, you crown her.  Coronate is used colloquially as a verb but is more correctly an adjective.  A crown is coronated, meaning it has coronets, referring to the little cross-like ornamentations on the band around the crown, which themselves have various meanings.

If you are a viscount, the meaning is, "Look at how stupid my crown looks."

Anywho, sapphire is the "traditional" present for a 65 year anniversary.  (If you were paying attention in the last paragraph, the phrase "x year anniversary" should bother you in its redundancy, since anniversary already includes the inherent implication that it's an annual thing.)

For the last 1,000 years, and perhaps even longer, people recognized milestone anniversaries with traditional gifts.  Twenty-five years of marriage got you a silver wreath in Germanic nations and gold on the fiftieth, leading the 50th anniversary to be dubbed the "golden" anniversary.  (And, in many nations, the gold anniversary can be formally recognized by a president / prime minister / other head of state.)

But why stop with silver and gold?  At some point, everyone decided that you ought to have a celebration every five years, and so they padded out the wedding anniversary list.  The fifth anniversary became wood, and the tenth tin, with the associated materials getting better and better every five years.  Then, in 1937, the American National Retail Jeweler Association introduced an expanded list of gifts, one for each year up to the 25th, and then for every fifth anniversary after that.  You might think the jewelers were somehow benefiting from this, but I can't for the life of me determine how, since the first 25 years include such things as "linen" and "pottery," which few jewelry stores carry.  Maybe they were just trying to get people more conscientious of wedding anniversary years.  Who knows?

Previously, people had to enjoy each other's company without an associated material display of affection.  
Poor souls.

In any case, since I am a sucker, I love the idea of "themed" anniversaries and have whole-heartedly embraced the concept.

"CONSUME."  - Santa

Andrew and I celebrated our first anniversary, the paper anniversary, with cards and tickets to Disneyland.

Our second was Saturday, the 22nd, and it was the "cotton" year.  I found myself thoroughly stumped on what would be a good gift.  Andrew likes practical things, and cotton, while perfect for stuffing bears, is not an especially practical gift.

Fortunately I managed to slap something together: I got two cotton blankets and a cotton picnic basket and, after going to Il Cielo for dinner, surprised Andrew with a picnic at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.  This sounds less creepy when you know that the Hollywood Forever Cematery has frequent concerts and movie screenings.  (Side note: if I were buried in a cemetery I would love for people to go live their lives there, watch movies, have picnics, enjoy themselves.)  (Side side note: the reason I say "if" is because I would most like for my body to be disposed of via jhator, or "sky-burial.")

 Il Cielo is considered one of the most romantic restaurants in Los Angeles.

The food is excellent if not very heavy and very expensive.

This table behind us was later occupied by a couple with, by my estimate, a 30 to 40-year age gap.
Ahh, Los Angeles.

We watched The Beatles' "Yellow Submarine," which tied in nicely to everything because a) the picnic basket had a nautical themed, and b) "All You Need Is Love" is the song we walked down the aisle to at our wedding.  I have never packed a picnic basket before and had to Google it, but I did a fine job (in my opinions) with dates, pistachios, red wine, goat cheese, crackers, and black licorice.  Following the movie (which is mostly an excuse to watch colorful music videos interspersed with Ringo delivering deadpan one-liners in the most delightful way imaginable) there was a firework show, which Andrew said was one of the best he'd ever seen.  He took pictures but, as usual, pictures don't do firework shows justice.

 Andrew hates that I shoot pictures in portrait mode.

After two years of marriage, I'm happy to say I not only have zero regrets but feel more confident in my decision to tie my life to another person's.  Andrew is my best friend and he builds me up, and in the end, I think these are two of the keys to a successful relationship.  I'm a better person because of him, and he is (I hope) a better person because of me.  Anniversaries are a good time to reflect on what you mean to each other, ways to strengthen the relationship going forward, and an opportunity to give aggressively over-the-top themed gifts, which is one of my hobbies.

Here's to another amazing year of us... and in case you were wondering, leather.  The third year is leather.