JC’s Confessions #8

On The Late Show, Stephen Colbert does a recurring skit, now a best-selling book, called Midnight Confessions, in which he “confesses” to his audience with the disclaimer that he isn’t sure these things are really sins but that he does “feel bad about them.” While Stephen and his writers are famously funny, I am not, so my JC’s Confessions will be somewhat more serious reflections, but they will be things that I feel bad about. Stephen’s audience always forgives him at the end of the segment; I’m not expecting that – and these aren’t really sins – but comments are always welcome.
~ JC

I have a love/hate tolerate/hate relationship with my smartphone.

It is a perfectly fine Android phone, but I can’t get used to it. I don’t find all the tapping and swiping intuitive. The first call I got on it I couldn’t figure out how to answer. I guess the Verizon Store employee assumed I would know how, although he did know that it was replacing a flip phone.

Before I go further, I should explain that I don’t use my cell phone for general communication. Only family, a few friends, and people who might need to reach me urgently have my cell number. I don’t want to hear from my dentist’s office with an appointment reminder while I am shopping or driving or visiting.

I have learned to use texts. My flip phone could text, but it was so hard hitting the numbers multiple times to get the correct letter that I seldom did it. So, I do text with my smartphone. I just don’t do it very well. I don’t have very big fingers, but the keyboard is so small that I am forever hitting the wrong letter or finding myself in the emoji section when I am trying to type a comma.

I don’t like having to have apps for – well – just about everything. I’d love to delete a bunch of them, but some of the ones that came preloaded on the phone you aren’t allowed to delete. I really, really dislike notifications from apps. I try to turn most of them off, which involves going through a bunch of confusing screens in settings.

I have a lot of trouble navigating and finding things when I need them. When we went to London in December, we sometimes had our travel documents on the phone rather than printed out on paper. It made me really nervous that I would not be able to pull up what I needed. At one point, I was trying to scan a boarding pass to get through a turnstile sort of thing and wound up on some other screen and needed to be rescued by an airport employee to get through the checkpoint. It was disconcerting.

At this point, you may be thinking, “Wow, Joanne must really be a Luddite,” but I’m not totally without technical skills. I’ve managed to keep this blog going since September, 2013. It’s not fancy, but it exists. I do much of my poetry in google docs. I’m decent at researching online and finding reliable sources, instead of fringy ones. I know how to use some keyboard shortcuts. I can even troubleshoot some problems – restarting often works wonders – although I need to call in reinforcements, sometimes. Fortunately, my spouse B has worked in tech for decades and my (now adult) daughters are digital natives, although one is quite a bit more tech-oriented than the other.

I do not, however, feel compelled to be reading or playing on my phone at all times. I don’t need to look up some factoid on whatever subject. I don’t need it to tell me what time it is or when my next appointment is. I don’t feel lost without it.

I will confess, though, that I sometimes need it to tell me the date. My paper calendar is not so good at that…
*****
If you want to read other JC’s Confessions, there is a handy-dandy link at the top of the page. This confession is also part of Linda’s Just Jot It January. Join us! Find out more here: https://lindaghill.com/2020/01/19/daily-prompt-jusjojan-the-19th-2020/

SoCS: Just Mercy

(I reviewed Just Mercy earlier this week, in case you want to check it out.)

When I hear the phrase “just mercy”, I think of Pope Francis. Pope Francis called a Jubilee year dedicated to mercy a few years ago and the spirituality study group that I facilitate was learning about and discussing mercy. Many people think of “mercy” in relationship to forgiveness. For example, many Christian churches say, “Lord, have mercy.” as part of their penitential rite. Francis, though, includes a broader understanding – mercy in the sense of lovingkindness. (For Catholics, this is more the sense of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, which includes actions like feeding the hungry and burying the dead and acts of compassion like offering consolation.) I appreciate the sense of mercy as lovingkindness, as a counterweight to forgiveness in that mercy is expanded to everyone, not just those who have done something wrong.

This, to me, ties into the way we use the word justice currently in the United States. Many people equate justice with vengeance. We use phrases like “criminal justice” in a context of punishment. I think of justice as the restoration of right relationship. This is the sense of justice in phrases like “social justice” and “environmental justice.” In this context, justice is tied to care and concern for people and for all created things. This is also evident in the term “economic justice”, recognizing that it is wrong for employers to enrich themselves at the expense of their employees who are not paid a living wage.

I will end this homilette before everyone’s eyes glaze over, although I may be too late…

It’s what can happen when I am writing off the top of my mind.
*****
Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is to base the post on the title of the last movie that we saw. If you would like to join in with Stream of Consciousness Saturday and/or Just Jot It January, you can get all the details here:  https://lindaghill.com/2020/01/17/the-friday-reminder-for-socs-jusjojan-2020-daily-prompt-jan-18th/

Inspire

Every once in a while, I used to post about my Fitbit Flex. The last post I wrote reported that it seemed to have stopped being able to transmit data. It had and couldn’t be fixed.

I went a number of weeks without having anything to count my steps, until B got me a new Fitbit Inspire.

It is way more complicated than my Flex was. It has the time! And date! And can display steps and calories and other stats that I can’t remember what they are and it has a timer!

And I use very few of these features. I opted not to have an Inspire HR which also does heart rate, because it would be even more features that I would most likely not use.

Given that my skin tends to be sensitive to the rubbery-synthetic bands that come with Fitbits, I ordered some cloth bands from Go Fish on Etsy. Susan has lots of choices for customized bands/holders for all different models of Fitbit, as well as other fitness trackers, and some custom clothing. The bands she makes fasten with snaps, which are more comfortable than knots and more stable than Velcro.

My favorite feature is that she makes bands that you can wear on your wrist or on your ankle. I was interested in trying my Fitbit on my ankle, as I suspected that the number of steps that were registering with a wristband was lower than reality. My suspicion was confirmed; my daily step count suddenly went up 50+%. I assure you that I did not simultaneously take up fitness walking, although there is another factor that could be involved.

Because I used to wear my Fitbit on my dominant side, the programming may have made the device less sensitive. I hadn’t worn it on my other wrist because I always wear my (solar-powered, analogue) watch on that wrist. Of course, now my Fitbit has the time, but I still prefer my watch. Yes, I’m old-school.

I am wearing my Fitbit on my non-dominant ankle during the day and on my wrist at night. I quickly learned that wearing it on my ankle at night was a bad idea, because it tends to shift and flip over and such. The only other tracking I do with my Fitbit is sleep tracking, thus the wearing it at night. I don’t know how accurate the sleep tracking is, but…let’s just say the stats don’t look good.

I’ve also learned that it’s good to wear the ankle band over socks rather than under them. Because I don’t have the heart rate monitor, the back of the tracker doesn’t need to be in contact with my skin, so having my sock between it and my skin isn’t interfering with function in any way.
Fitbit Inspire on ankle
You can see the time and step count because I pushed the display button before taking the picture and because Susan makes bands with windows. She also makes them without windows. I have a sparkly gold band without a window to wear on my wrist or ankle when I am feeling dressy.

I haven’t felt dressy yet.
*****
Join us for Linda’s Just Jot It January! Find out more here: https://lindaghill.com/2020/01/17/daily-prompt-jusjojan-the-17th-2020/

and so it begins…

Yesterday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi signed the articles of impeachment and named seven impeachment managers, House members who will act as prosecutors in the Senate trial. The managers ceremoniously walked the articles through the Capitol to the Senate Chamber, starting a 24-hour clock in which the trial must begin.

Much is being made of the way Speaker Pelosi signed the bill, using a different pen for each letter. That is often done when signing historic legislation, so that people who are important to that piece of legislation have a memento of it. I remember the ceremony when President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act in this fashion; one of the pens went to the head of the Catholic hospitals who had publicly advocated for passage of the bill.

Some have questioned the solemnity of the procession through the Capitol building, but this is part of the Congressional tradition, seen most recently after the impeachment of President Clinton. Among the House managers, who will act as prosecutors in the trial, are Representatives Adam Schiff and Zoe Lofgren. Rep. Schiff is a former prosecutor who is chair of the House Intelligence committee, which is conducting an ongoing investigation of the Ukraine situation at the heart of the impeachment articles. This is the third impeachment on which Judiciary committee member Rep. Lofgren has worked. As a law student, she assisted the Judiciary committee in drafting the articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon. She was a member of the Judiciary committee during the Clinton impeachment.

Speaker Pelosi has been criticized for not sending the articles to the Senate immediately after the House passed them in December, but, at that point, Congress was getting ready to adjourn for a long holiday break. During the break, more evidence in the case became public and even more has come to light in recent days. This is important particularly if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocks new evidence at the trial. It has also given the public a chance to see more of the evidence, which puts pressure on senators to actually consider the evidence instead of voting only by party.

Today, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts will swear in each senator to “do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws.” Some senators, most notably Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham, have stated publicly that they are not impartial. Other senators have made a point of not reading the depositions and testimony gathered by the House. There is a question of whether or not there will be new evidence accepted or if there will be subpoenas for additional witnesses to testify. The House investigation was impeded by the White House and the rest of the executive branch, which refused requests for documents and testimony, even when it had been subpoenaed. A few officials chose to honor the subpoenas on their own and gave valuable testimony to the House investigation. Some documents were released through Freedom of Information requests from non-governmental organizations. The way the president and his staff have treated legitimate requests from Congress seems to me to prove the second article of impeachment, obstruction of Congress.

I hope that, now that the time has come, each senator will treat their oath seriously. If they do not, I hope that they will either not run for re-election or will be defeated if they do. The public deserves a full and fair trial. If the president is not removed from office, “we the people” need to know the extent of the evidence against the president and his team, including the vice-president, in order to inform our voting decisions in November.

The senators should also soberly consider the impact of their decisions in this case on the country’s future. The president has publicly called on foreign powers to interfere in both the 2016 and 2020 elections. Evidence already available supports this. A vote against the first article of impeachment means that the senator believes that an attack on our national sovereignty is not a “high crime or misdemeanor” – or is only a high crime or misdemeanor if the president is not a member of their party. A vote against the second article of impeachment means that it is okay with that senator for a president to defy all requests for documents and testimony, making constitutionally mandated oversight of the executive branch by the Congress impossible. It means that there is no longer a system of checks and balances among the three branches of government and that the president can get away with any action, however illegal, immoral, or unethical it may be – again, presumably, if the president is a member of your party.

That kind of political expediency may save a Congressperson’s seat for now, but will most likely be judged harshly by history.
*****
Join us for Linda’s Just Jot It January! Find out more here:  https://lindaghill.com/2020/01/16/daily-prompt-jusjojan-the-16th-2020/

 

One-Liner Wednesday: Hildegard

“You understand so little of what is around you because you do not use what is within you.”
~~~ Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179)
*****
Join us for Linda’s One-Liner Wednesday and/or Just Jot It January! Find out how here:  https://lindaghill.com/2020/01/15/one-liner-wednesday-jusjojan-the-15th-2020-a-door/

Badge by Laura @ riddlefromthemiddle.com

Review: Just Mercy

Knowing that a film is portraying real people and the situations they face immediately increases its impact for me. Just Mercy is based on a book by lawyer and social justice activist Bryan Stevenson, who, after graduating from Harvard Law School moved to Alabama to offer legal defense to those who could not afford representation and to those wrongly convicted.

One of his early cases involved Walter “Johnny D” McMillian, movingly portrayed by Jamie Foxx, who was on death row for a murder that he did not commit. Having just arrived in Alabama, Bryan Stevenson, played earnestly by Michael B. Jordan, delves into the case and finds ample evidence that shows Johnny D could not have murdered the 18-year-old young woman. It also quickly becomes apparent that race was a huge factor in McMillian’s conviction. The victim was white and McMillian is black.

It also quickly becomes apparent that Attorney Stevenson, who is also black, will encounter racial obstacles in his professional life and harassment by law enforcement officers and the legal establishment, but he continues to do all he can to seek justice for his clients, their families, and their community.

I have long been opposed to the death penalty. I remember writing an essay against it when I was still in grammar school. While my opposition centered around the moral belief that killing a person is wrong and the Constitutional grounds that the death penalty constitutes “cruel and unusual punishment,” this film illustrates some of the other reasons to oppose the death penalty, such as systemic racism in the legal system, incompetent defense attorneys, and lack of recognition and treatment of mental illness.  There is also the horrible possibility of executing an innocent person.

One of the most moving things about the film for me was the support that the men on death row gave one another. Even though they couldn’t often see each other because the walls between them were solid, they would shout to each other to exchange information and offer words of comfort. They would use the bars at the front of the cell and a metal cup to let another man know they are thinking about him.

The film is rated PG-13 and would be too emotionally difficult for children. There are sequences that I found emotionally difficult, especially the one execution that is shown. While the execution itself is not shown on screen, the lead-up to it is heartbreaking.

I always stay to watch the credits of films. Even if you usually do not, you will want to stay through the first part of the credits which gives updates on the people that we meet during the film. It is a final reminder that we are dealing with the lives of real people, what happened to them, and the implications of those events that continue into our present and future as a country.

A note from Joanne:  This is the fifth(!) film I have seen this month. I have never been to a theater so many times in a two week-period. Those of you who are new to Top of JC’s Mind should know that this is not usually a movie review blog. You just happened to catch me at a time when movies are swirling in my mind.
*****
Join us for Linda’s Just Jot It January! Find out more here:  https://lindaghill.com/2020/01/14/daily-prompt-jusjojan-the-14th-2020/

Review: Bombshell

As part of the mini-sabbatical I am taking, I decided to see three movies:  Little Women, Won’t You Be My Neighbor? and Bombshell.

One of these things is not like the others.

I don’t often go to R-rated movies. Usually, it is because they are too violent or scary and I am prone to nightmares. Bombshell, however, is R-rated due to language and sexual harassment, both real-life things with which I am acquainted.

Bombshell is based on the story of how Roger Ailes, then chairman and CEO of Fox News, was forced to step down after a lawsuit filed against him for sexual harassment by Gretchen Carlson, who had been a host on the network, unleashed similar claims from other women who worked with Ailes over a span of decades. Many of the characters portrayed in the movie are real people who worked at Fox News, although conversations and some other characters are fictionalized.

The movie employs archival clips of Fox News footage within the movie. It is stunning how much Nicole Kidman, as Gretchen Carlson, and Charlize Theron, as Megyn Kelly, sound like the women they portray. They also resemble them physically, but, as anyone familiar with Fox News knows, most of the women on-air at the network are young, blond, and wearing skirts, so that viewers can see their legs. Ailes’s emphasis on women’s looks was often the first shot in his sexual harassment campaign. It appears that he went on to use his control over these women’s careers as leverage to get them to engage with him sexually.

John Lithgow, who portrays Ailes, is transformed to look like him. As a woman watching the film, I was repulsed by his creepiness and his manipulative behavior. Lithgow makes the real threat Ailes posed to women unmistakeable, while also showing him to be perplexed about how his behavior was wrong. While the incidents in the film took place before the #MeToo movement became well-known, we have often seen this pattern when powerful men are forced to accept responsibility for their harassing behavior. They seem to feel that they are entitled to demand sexual favors from women and that these women are freely choosing to engage with them, rather than seeing how they are using their positions of power to manipulate women who are afraid of losing their careers. In the film, we see how Gretchen Carlson was demoted and, finally, fired from Fox News when she rejected Ailes’s advances.

The film also portrays the culture at Fox News as one of misogyny. Many of the other men at the network are shown to be dismissive of women. Others, in the aftermath of Ailes’s departure, also are forced to resign due to covering up for Ailes or for their own harassment of women on their staffs.

Some of the women around Ailes come to his defense. Some, such as Ailes’s wife, don’t want to believe he is capable of such despicable behavior. Some may have been motivated by self-interest, not wanting to see their own careers derailed by opposing their powerful boss.

Because the women who worked at Fox News all had to sign non-disclosure agreements and binding arbitration, we may never know the full story of what happened to them. Gretchen Carlson was only able to file suit against Roger Ailes because a state law in New Jersey allowed her to sue Ailes personally, rather than having to sue Fox News, which was impossible due to the arbitration clause. She is currently fighting to be released from the non-disclosure agreement so that she can publicly tell the specifics of what happened to her.

There is an unknown number of women who had their lives and careers damaged by Roger Ailes. Bombshell tells part of that story, although other parts had to be fictionalized. Perhaps someday, the non-disclosure agreements will be overturned so that all these women can tell the truth about what they experienced.
*****
Join us for Linda’s Just Jot It January! Find out more here:  https://lindaghill.com/2020/01/13/daily-prompt-jusjojan-the-13th-2020/