Nerdy Reminders

Let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due season, we shall reap if we do not lose heart.

Part of me broke on the day of the election. Hillary Clinton quoted that verse in her concession speech. While I would have gone on if she hadn’t, those words have sometimes given me the ability on some days to not snap at someone or not snark or dismiss or even just to stop crying and get up. I’m not really religious anymore but I went to a Presbyterian church for many years and went through confirmation. Even as an adult many of the ethics underlying and certainly the words of Christianity resonate with me.

I work at a company making a laser cutter so I decided after the election to make something to carry with me to remind me of my values. I’d been planning to make an IDIC for a while. So I made this on the Glowforge:


The woods are unfinished walnut and padauk with a small chip of mussel shell glued at the center. The wood is stitched together with some copper wire and then small metal posts were drilled to attach the chain. Everything was cut on the Glowforge except the metal (low power CO2 lasers just don’t cut metal).

Why I would want to carry around that quote – a reminder to pick myself up again – is obvious. The IDIC is perhaps less well-known. Spock wears one in the original Star Trek television series and the symbol was explained in one episode. I was often a loner as a kid and my devotion to Star Trek extended to being home every afternoon for a summer so I could record every episode of TOS on VHS. Spock was a figure I looked up to. The concept of the IDIC was barely explained in the show barely telling us more than it stands for “Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations”. It expresses the Vulcan belief that the diversity and strangeness of the universe was to be embraced and celebrated. I was saddened to learn as an adult that the symbol in this world was really created as a prop to sell merchandise to fans. But as a kid I knew none of this and I read every Star Trek novel I could get my hands on. A book provides a lot more space to create emotional resonance to a simple idea – and they are often written by very good authors with real ideas even if they are “only” writing franchise fiction.

One of my favorites has always been Spock’s World by Diane Duane and it holds up well enough as an adult. The structure of the plot is alternating chapters with a “present day” story of Spock, Kirk and the rest arguing against the planet Vulcan seceding from the Federation and past chapters presenting episodes from the supposed history of Vulcan, including eventually the life of Surak and the philosophy that turned (most) Vulcans away from war and fear. The chapter on Surak carefully does not try to explain the philosophy too much. How can a Star Trek franchise novel invent the full philosophy in enough detail to make it credible? But the philosophy was enough to emotionally attach to the pre-teen me. As an adult the bare strokes of the supposed philosophy are recognizable in different real traditions or thinkers.

Most days I remember to wear it and after a few months I feel naked when I realize I’ve forgotten it that morning.

We must turn and realize that the Other is afraid—and then say to him, ‘You have nothing to fear from me,’ in such a way that he knows it to be true. Another thing we have no desire to say! Each of us secretly desires to keep the Other in some slight fear of us, so that he will not harm us. But if we can only bring ourselves to say those terrible words, and have them be true, then the Other will become what he should have been from the earliest days—the constant companion, the source of delight in all his differences.
(Spock’s World)

Let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due season, we shall reap if we do not lose heart.
(Galatians 6:9)

Toward a feminist future

Tomorrow is International Women’s Day which is a much bigger deal in every country that isn’t the United States. I only learned about it as an adult at a company with offices all around the world. It’s not really surprising that a day created by socialists is ignored here. This year in the United States, a “women’s strike” or “a day without women” is being organized for the same day. I guess we can thank one of the more openly misogynist political campaigns and administrations for all the newly activated feminist agitation.

I feel weird about a strike, even in solidarity. I like my job. I’m at no risk of losing my job (nor have I been for a long time). I’m appreciated at work. I’m paid well. I believe the men who run my company try to be aware of the contributions of women, both in our workplace and elsewhere in society. It seems hollow for me to not be at work for the day as my absence won’t teach much of anything. Working in tech, often it feels like my presence in a room is an uncomfortable statement. Plus we have a lot to do at work and I want to work on it.

Instead, I’m giving a day’s salary to Living Goods. In the words of the Life You Can Save, Living Goods “employs and trains local people — the majority of whom are women — to sell goods and life-saving medical supplies at competitive prices. Living Goods provides businesswomen and saleswomen with employment and entrepreneurial skills while improving health outcomes in their communities.” They even did a randomized control trial studying the outcomes of their model and it saves children’s lives. Sounds about right to me.

I’m doing pretty well in life. I attribute a lot of that to a lot of luck. Our household normally gives money to international aid organizations because luck isn’t distributed uniformly. Women everywhere, but especially in less wealthy countries, do most or all of the work needed to maintain households and raise children with less social or political power and less wealth. A day’s salary for our family is not really a lot, but that’s a lot of luck to pass on to another.

If you don’t feel comfortable taking tomorrow off, consider giving some money to an organization working to improve the lives of women. You’ve got a lot of choices because there’s a lot of work to do.

“Feminist: a person who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.” — Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie