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How door-to-door political campaigning restored my faith in humanity.

"The truth is that the real work of politics, the stuff that wins elections, isn’t exciting."

I’ve seen a lot of elections, but I’ve never seen anything like 2016.

No matter where you fall on the political spectrum, chances are that your feelings about this race are strong.

Case in point: Protesters at a Donald Trump rally in San Diego getting in a massive fight in May. Photo by Mark Ralston/ AFP/ Getty.


With just 21 days left, I wanted to know what I could do to make sure my voice was heard. Of course, I would vote. But what else? Not everyone can donate money. And because social networks like Facebook are engineered to show you opinions they think you’ll agree with, posting isn’t always making a huge impact, either.

The race has been so negative at times, it’s hard to not feel cynical.

But because the choices feel so stark to me, I knew that couldn’t stop me. I kept asking myself this question: "How can I help?" So I decided to try volunteering for a candidate.

Volunteers have been the difference in winning and losing a lot of elections. Barack Obama would have lost Florida and North Carolina if it weren’t for his volunteers. People who cared enough to get involved turned the tide of the election, and I wanted to be one of those people.

That’s how I found myself going door to door in New Hampshire, talking to people I’d never met about politics and policies.

I want you to know that personally, I support Hillary Clinton, but that doesn’t matter much for this story. What I learned was that it’s important to get involved in the things you believe in, not to suggest who others should vote for.

Because Massachusetts is a blue state, I decided to drive to a nearby swing state where my time ringing doorbells would have the biggest impact.

Photo via iStock.

I arrived at Hillary’s campaign headquarters in Manchester, New Hampshire, on a Saturday. It’s a quiet New England city, the kind you see in postcards. The people are friendly, but the economic analysis shows this is an important election for the city. Wages have been stagnant for the last decade, and child care costs are among the highest in the nation. The decision about our next leader will strongly affect Manchester.

Walking in the door of the headquarters was hugely encouraging.

It was packed with millennial volunteers, which seemed like a stark contrast to the “millennials are apathetic” commentary I’ve been hearing on the news. After a rallying speech, we were given a quick orientation session, handed packets with addresses, and dispatched to go knock on doors.

I was paired up with Josh Query, a friendly ceramics major in his 20s.

World, meet Josh. Photo by me, used with permission.

Josh was an experienced canvasser, and he said he loves volunteering because he’s made so many friends. He says there’s a place for anyone to get involved in a campaign.

“Phone banking is one of the most valuable contributions if you don’t want to go face to face,” he told me as he led me down the street to our assigned neighborhood.

Canvassing is not the place for a hard sell. Lecturing people about who to vote for can feel both rude and ineffective.

I learned, instead, that the secret to all of this was in listening more than I talked. Canvassing neighborhoods showed me how much (or little) interest people have in politics. I was surprised that the majority of people I talked to didn’t have strong preferences, and they were shy in voicing them.

My husband, Frank, and our new BFF, Josh, after a nice conversation with a nice person. Photo by me, used with permission.

Quinn Rose, a Boston college student who was volunteering with us in New Hampshire that day, echoed my sentiments. “I was surprised by how nice everyone was, even when they disagreed with me. So it ended up being a really interesting and positive experience,” she said.

In the end, I was most surprised at the civility of people, even when we disagreed.

One house I canvassed had a gorgeous golden retriever that playfully barked at me as I knocked on the door. Over the fence, I could see a father playing in the backyard with his two blond daughters. It was one of those heartwarming moments where you could tell he loved being a dad.

“Sorry! I’m on the Trump train,” he told me. “Thanks though, and good luck with the election!”

“You, too!” I returned.

In the middle of a presidential cycle that increasingly feels like an apocalypse, it was an amazing moment. I probably don’t agree with that man on much, but ultimately, he just wants what’s best for his family.

It’s a good reminder that through all the acrimony of the election, there are real people on the other side.  

Of course, I had weird conversations, too. But despite all that, it was an immensely gratifying day.  As my husband and I were finishing up the last few streets of our second canvassing packet, we heard music in the distance. Like a reward for our hard work, an ice cream truck pulled up. Frank and I devoured ice cream, and then drove back to Boston.

Serendipitous ice cream! Photo by me, used with permission.

In a frustrating election like this, it felt really good to actually do something. I felt less helpless and more engaged in our actual democratic process. I felt like I had a say in what will happen to our country, even for just a day.

Query, my partner, agreed with me. “There are so many ways to help,” he said. “[People] can drive people if they have a car. They can open their homes for community events. 'I have work and school and you do, too, so let’s work together and do what we can to help out.'”

I know a lot of you might feel cynical about politics as this election drags on.

But the system wants you to be cynical because then you don’t get a voice, and the status quo continues.

The truth is that the real work of politics, the stuff that wins elections, isn’t exciting. It’s walking around. It’s registering people to vote. It’s knocking on doors. It’s listening to people. It’s mundane but deeply fulfilling. And it’s desperately important.

Pop Culture

Artist uses AI to create ultra realistic portraits of celebrities who left us too soon

What would certain icons look like if nothing had happened to them?

Mercury would be 76 today.

Some icons have truly left this world too early. It’s a tragedy when anyone doesn’t make it to see old age, but when it happens to a well-known public figure, it’s like a bit of their art and legacy dies with them. What might Freddie Mercury have created if he were granted the gift of long life? Bruce Lee? Princess Diana?

Their futures might be mere musings of our imagination, but thanks to a lot of creativity (and a little tech) we can now get a glimpse into what these celebrities might have looked like when they were older.

Alper Yesiltas, an Istanbul-based lawyer and photographer, created a photography series titled “As If Nothing Happened,” which features eerily realistic portraits of long gone celebrities in their golden years. To make the images as real looking as possible, Yesiltas incorporated various photo editing programs such as Adobe Lightroom and VSCO, as well as the AI photo-enhancing software Remini.

“The hardest part of the creative process for me is making the image feel ‘real’ to me,” Yesiltas wrote about his passion project. “The moment I like the most is when I think the image in front of me looks as if it was taken by a photographer.”

Yesiltas’ meticulousness paid off, because the results are uncanny.

Along with each photo, Yesiltas writes a bittersweet message “wishing” how things might have gone differently … as if nothing happened.
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All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

True

Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

The mesmerizing lost art of darning knit fabric.

For most of human history, people had to make their own clothing by hand, and sewing skills were subsequently passed down from generation to generation. Because clothing was so time-consuming and labor-intensive to make, people also had to know how to repair clothing items that got torn or damaged in some way.

The invention of sewing and knitting machines changed the way we acquire clothing, and the skills people used to possess have largely gone by the wayside. If we get a hole in a sock nowadays, we toss it and replace it. Most of us have no idea how to darn a sock or fix a hole in any knit fabric. It's far easier for us to replace than to repair.

But there are still some among us who do have the skills to repair clothing in a way that makes it look like the rip, tear or hole never happened, and to watch them do it is mesmerizing.

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Joy

Nurse turns inappropriate things men say in the delivery room into ‘inspirational’ art

"Can you move to the birthing ball so I can sleep in the bed?"

Holly the delivery nurse.

After working six years as a labor and delivery nurse Holly, 30, has heard a lot of inappropriate remarks made by men while their partners are in labor. “Sometimes the moms think it’s funny—and if they think it’s funny, then I’ll laugh with them,” Holly told TODAY Parents. “But if they get upset, I’ll try to be the buffer. I’ll change the subject.”

Some of the comments are so wrong that she did something creative with them by turning them into “inspirational” quotes and setting them to “A Thousand Miles” by Vanessa Carlton on TikTok.

“Some partners are hard to live up to!” she jokingly captioned the video.

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