I think I'm finally settled in, so this ought to be the last time I ask you all to change your bookmarks and RSS feeds... unless, of course, I finally decide to jump to a network... but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. For now:
The blog is now located at DaisiesAndShit.com
The RSS feed is DaisiesAndShit.com/feed
First thought: Wow... that takes balls.
Second thought: I hope the billboards are high enough to discourage vandalism.
Third thought: Wait a minute... why should it take balls to state an evidentiary truth?
Fourth thought: Hrumph... stupid priviledge-soaked fundies.
Fifth thought: Hehehe... they're gonna' have a fit.
Then I gave off thinking for a while and instead occupied my mind with the imagined reactionary antics of the Focus on the Family clan (ensconced in Colorado Springs where one of the billboards is featured) set to Yakety Sax. *giggles*
Over all, I approve. Yes, there are certainly panties bunching all over the state right now, including the frilly sets worn by the accomodationist crowd, but that merely assists me in identifying those individuals I don't care to spend time with. I do, however, take umbrage with a line from the COCORE page dedicated to the billboard, which states, "We don't ask you to stop believing in your version of a super-natural being."
Telling someone that their god is not real, and then instructing them to "choose reality", is most certainly asking them to stop believing in their version of a super-natural being. It's a reasonable request, and this apparent attempt to soothe potential hostilities by backing away from it annoys me.
For those of you still staring longingly at that beat up cardboard box full of old Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo games that's slumped in the back of your closet soaked in the tears of your forgotten youth, I present the Retrode:
Slap those poor abandoned games into this handy contraption and you'll be able to play them on the desktop, laptop, tablet, or smart phone of your choosing. Retrodes will start shipping on the 23rd, but they're available for presale now.
I suppose, for the purpose of clarification, I should offer a touch more than that single word... It breaks my heart to think of the misery inflicted by generally well-intentioned individuals who stumble upon an unusual pet and adopt it on a whim, completely ignorant of the type of care the poor critter requires to keep it both healthy and happy. Glancing over my recent snake adoption post, I realized that it might appear to readers that this is exactly what I had done; lucked into an opportunity to pick up an exotic animal and made a snap decision to bring it home where it could suffer in a pool of my impulse-tinged ignorance. First, I want to assure that this is absolutely not the case. Then, I'd like to talk a little bit about exotic pets, and offer a little unsolicited advice.
I will readily admit that our decision to adopt this snake took all of five minutes, but our decision to adopt a snake took a few months. In weighing our options, we took several different factors into consideration - the general temperament of the species, average size and weight, average life span, feeding issues, susceptibility to disease, climate requirements, space requirements, habitat considerations, common genetic disorders, etc... By the time we were done with our research, we had a fair amount of knowledge and felt confident in our ability to care for up to two constrictors from a number of readily available species; having already identified a local breeder, we planned on adopting one later this year. When the opportunity to adopt our new ball python unexpectedly arose, we were already well aware of our ability to properly care for him; the only decision we had to make was whether or not we wanted to give this guy the loving home he needed... and that was a no-brainer.
I mention this, not as some kind of fallacious, "better than thou" diatribe, but to make it clear that I don't hold other families to different standards than I hold my own.
What exactly are we talking about here?
Before I go any further, I want to clarify just what I mean when I refer to an "exotic pet". Fact is, there isn't universal agreement as to what constitutes an exotic pet, and legal definitions vary by location. Personally, I consider dogs, cats, mice, gerbils, hamsters, small birds, and small freshwater fish to be domestic pets; if it doesn't fit in that list, I consider it an exotic pet. I base these classifications on the concept of common knowledge - most reasonable adults would be able to care for the animals in my list of domestic pets with little or no instruction. Above the threshold of common knowledge, an adopted animal is fairly unlikely to suffer due to the ignorance of it's new caretaker. Below the threshold of common knowledge, ignorance related suffering, injuries, and deaths are depressingly common.
Things to think about
Our family has cared for a number of exotic pets, and we have plans to adopt more in the coming year, so I want to make it clear that I'm in no way against the adoption of exotics as long as they can be cared for properly. Also, while I am against exotic pet bans, I'm generally not against reasonably strict permit requirements; especially in the case of rare, fragile, and dangerous animals. For those among you who are interested in exotic animals, I've compiled a short list of considerations:
Habitat: The habitat requirements of exotic pets frequently go beyond the simple provision of shelter, which all pets require. Cold-blooded animals require a range of heat zones within their primary habitat, with highs and lows dependent on the species, so that they can properly regulate their body temperature. Specific humidity levels must also be maintained for cold-blooded species, with some requiring a semi-aquatic habitat. The size and shape of the habitat must also be considered; arboreal animals like golden geckos, chameleons, and sloths require largely vertical habitats, whereas vertical space for leopard geckos and ball pythons would be largely wasted. Also, don't be fooled into thinking that the size of the animal determines the size of their habitat - tiny sugar gliders* (which have become VERY popular in recent years) require a disproportionately HUGE amount of space. Responsible pet caretakers learn everything they can about their pet's natural habitat, and do their best to recreate that habitat in their home.
Food: While food for rats, ferrets, lizards, and other popular exotic pets is becoming more common in the pet food aisle, most exotic species require a more specialized diet than your average kibble will provide. Many exotic species, like raccoons and sugar gliders*, require a variety of fresh foods that have to be prepared daily. Predatory species, obviously, need prey, and not all species will accept pre-killed food. Consider the nutritional needs of your desired pets carefully before committing to caring for them; make sure you have multiple sources for purchasing food, the ability to store it, and the money to pay for it.
Social needs: I know a number of individuals that wound up adopting a second domestic pet in order to keep their first domestic pet from feeling lonely, and subsequently destroying their house, while they were away at work or school. For some exotic pets, however, companionship isn't a nicety, it's a necessity. Sugar gliders*, for example, are highly social mammals that experience a significant, and in some cases deadly, amount of stress when denied the companionship of other sugar gliders their same age. Rats and ferrets, also very common pets, have similar needs for same-species companionship. Conversely, hedgehogs, snakes, and many lizard species prefer (or even require) a solitary environment. Those tiny snakes at the pet store, all huddled together like they're enjoying a good cuddle? What they're actually "enjoying" is the stress of attempting to hold on to the territory their instincts say they need to survive.
Veterinary care: My family is extremely fortunate to have an exotic animal veterinarian close by, but most exotic pet caretakers aren't that lucky. Make sure you've located and spoken with at least one veterinarian in your area that has experience with the exotic pet you're considering before you make that final decision to adopt. An emergency is no time to be thumbing through the phone book. Make an appointment for a well-animal check with your vet as soon as possible, and be sure to ask them for an appropriate back-up referral in case your pet needs immediate attention and your primary vet is unavailable.
Back-up care: It can be difficult to find a home for displaced domestic pets when their caretakers are no longer able to care for them due to unexpected circumstances, illness, or death; this difficulty increases dramatically for exotic pets. I would suggest, at the very least, being aware of local exotic animal rescues and discussing with family and friends how you would like your pets cared for in an emergency. Also, please remember that granting custody of an exotic animal to a loved one in a will isn't quite like granting custody of a domestic animal. Make sure that the people you name as caretakers for your animals are well-versed in their care, capable of providing the life they deserve, and above all, willing to take on the responsibility.
Local laws/ordinances: It's easy to assume that any pet you can purchase on the internet is legal to own, but that is absolutely not the case. Poachers and shady exotic animal dealers are more than happy to ship animals all over the world without any regard for the animal's well-being, or it's local legality. Do your homework - there are federal, state, county, city/town, and even HOA/community ordinances to consider before adopting an exotic animal.
HONESTY: This is a big one for me. Lying to yourself about your capabilities to care for an exotic pet is a recipe for stress; both for you and for your pet. My mind boggles at how many people out there actually think they can properly care for exotic animals like kinkajous and sloths, let alone tigers and bears. The number of reptiles, hedgehogs, sugar gliders*, and other more common exotic pets that are relinquished to rescues every year testifies to the fact that even relatively "easy" exotics are too much to handle for many people.
By the way, the fact that a particular exotic animal can be readily purchased online and legally owned in your area isn't any sort of indication that it can be reasonably cared for as a household pet. In my home state, Colorado, there are a number of areas in which I can legally own a freakin' wallaby. SHOULD I own a wallaby? Of course not. Wallabies require fairly large amounts of varied, freshly prepared food every day along with specially formulated pellets. They're easily stressed and are vulnerable to diseases transmitted by domestic animals. They can literally be bored sick, and in extreme cases, to death. They can be dangerous - there have been several incidences in which wallabies have attacked and injured children. They require a great deal of space. They require veterinary care from someone unlikely to scream "IS THAT A FREAKIN' WALLABY???" the second you enter their office, like our vet most certainly would. In essence, captive wallabies require a level of care that is typically only found in zoos or professional wildlife preserves and sanctuaries.
"Can own "and "should own" are very different things; that some people apparently lack the discernment to differentiate between the two is why I'm not against reasonable permit requirements. Again, I'm not against exotic pet adoption, but I don't go out of my way to encourage it either. All too often, exotic animals are purchased as a novelty rather than adopted as a responsibility, and the animals suffer as a result.
This is only a handful of the considerations that should be taken into account when considering an exotic pet. Please, do your homework.
*You may get the impression that I think sugar gliders make horrible pets, but that's not entirely true. More accurately, I think that sugar gliders are extremely difficult pets to care for appropriately and it makes me very sad to think of how many of these adorable critters are suffering the ignorance of less-than-knowledgeable caretakers. Sugar gliders require the companionship of at least one other sugar glider of the same age, though groups of three of more are preferable. They also require very large vertical habitats, made from materials that won't injure their feet, and a varied diet of fresh fruits, vegetables, and insects; they may also require calcium supplements lest they suffer a common form of paralysis. They're nocturnal, and vocal, so keeping them in a bedroom is probably a bad idea, and they are messy, messy, messy critters. Seriously, rats and parrots are practically neat-freaks compared to sugar gliders. Also, unlike other small rodents, sugar gliders can live more than 15 years in captivity, and therefore represent a long-term commitment.
Once upon a time, we had considered adopting two sugar gliders... but in the end, we decided we were unlikely to be able to give them the kind of care they deserved.
I've decided to suspend the writing challenge for the month of January in order to properly observe Fibromyalgia Can Lick My Santorum Month.
I've been riding on the back of a really bad fibro-flare for about three weeks now. For the most part, I try to just take things easy and tough these periods out, but every once in a while I'll have a flare-up that persists long enough to dissolve me into a sobbing pool of self-pity that threatens to morph into a more lasting depression. While I don't particularly enjoy fibro-flares, they're downright entertaining when compared to depression soaked fibro-flares; depression makes it hard to take extra care of myself, which prolongs the flare, which deepens the depression, which makes it harder to take extra care of myself, which...
It's a vicious cycle I'd rather avoid.
Taking a break from non-essential commitments, along with paying special attention to my diet and activity level, helps to shorten the duration of these flares, and the writing challenge is one of the few non-essential commitments I have. It's highly likely that I'll keep blogging, but I'm not going to hold myself to a daily word count. Hopefully, I'll be back to some semblance of normal by February 1st.
The Moon Zoo site, which launched just over a year-and-a-half ago, has just been updated with a new tutorial and new Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter images. The new tutorial was designed to help eliminate some of the more common classification errors that were made in the last phase of the project, so it's probably a good idea to click through it even if you've completed classifications in the past.
The Moon Zoo team is also asking its citizen scientists to complete a brief questionnaire which aims to help them build additional projects and understand what motivates individuals to help out in projects like theirs.
I don't make them*. Fin. Shortest post ever.
*The last New Year's Resolution I made, several years back, was to never again make a New Year's Resolution. It's the only resolution I've successfully maintained, and the one that made the most logical sense. I shove typical New Year's Resolutions into one of two categories, and I don't think either category plays well with human nature.
1. Unlikely Changes.
Get Out of Debt
To maintain any of these resolutions long-term requires a significant life change, and that isn't something most human beings are wired to undertake in the absence of equally significant pressures. It is, of course, absolutely possible to attain every single one of those goals - but it's pretty unlikely if the only motivation to do so is an arbitrary social expectation tied to the dropping of a glittery ball. The concept behind "rock bottom" motivating lasting change doesn't only apply to addicts.
2. Vague Goals.
Spend More Time With Family and Friends
Live Life to the Fullest
Help Those Less Fortunate
Be More Compassionate
Great ideas in concept, but virtually useless in practice. Half of these concepts lack any meaningful measure of progress, and the other half can't even be concretely defined. In my opinion, these aren't even resolutions, they're feel-good-isms; fluffy pronouncements that you intend to improve yourself in some fuzzy way that steadfastly resists any attempt at accountability. Admirable, but unobtainable by nature.
Fuck that noise. I'm not going to wrack my brain every year trying to come up with some gold-standard resolution that's significant enough to placate those who inquire, but vapid enough that my self-esteem won't be terribly damaged when I ultimately fail to maintain it. Sorry, society. I've rejected your merry-go-round of cyclical optimism and disappointment.
The Screwtape Letters, by C.S. Lewis, is a fanciful compilation of correspondence between Screwtape, an experienced demon, and his nephew Wormwood, a junior tempter working to secure a young man's soul for the hungry fires of hell. The basic purpose of the book is apologetic, essentially a humorous list of tactics the author imagined the devil uses to undermine the faith of the chosen. I heartily recommend the book to Atheists, especially those that work toward a world free from religious delusion - while the entity-packed universe Lewis believed in is patently ridiculous, his observations about the nature of faith and how it might be weakened are fairly sound.
At one point in the novel, the man Wormwood has been assigned to tempt begins to fall in love with a good Christian woman, something that greatly distresses the experienced Screwtape. Recognizing that this woman is likely to strengthen the man's faith, they begin to look for weaknesses in her that they might exploit in their favor:
"I have been in correspondence with Slumtrimpet who is in charge of your patient's young woman, and begin to see the chink in her armour. It is an unobtrusive little vice which she shares with nearly all women who have grown up in an intelligent circle united by a clearly defined belief; and it consists in a quite untroubled assumption that the outsiders who do not share this belief are really too stupid and ridiculous."
Lewis' annoying habit of forcing gender binaries aside, I embodied a very similar set of assumptions when I was a Fundamentalist Christian. I believed, to my core, that ignorance was to blame for all disbelief - those who declared themselves Atheists were either angry over some perceived slight, and therefore ignorant of the "real" nature of our lives as spiritual beings created by a paternal god, or they were bound up in the lies of the world, and therefore ignorant of the many ways in which "worldly" things like science, entertainment, and human reasoning were used by Satan to distance us from God. Screwtape continues,
"Now the element of ignorance and naivety in all this is so large, and the element of spiritual pride is so small, that it gives us little hope of the girl herself."
Oh, but there's where Lewis was wrong... well, one of many places, really... but certainly the point which most impacts this discussion. It was my patronizing assumptions about non-believers that left me vulnerable to that oft maligned atheist personality:
Though some may talk as though atheism was a cream bath of diplomatic tolerance and understanding before the rise of "new atheism", I can assure you that my fundy self had plenty of exposure to personalities just as pointed and acrid as the likes of PZ Myers and JT Eberhard. I painted aggressive atheists as petulant children; having thrown themselves to the floor, kicking and screaming about the unfairness of life and the majesty of human knowledge. I firmly believed that they would make excellent witnesses for Christ once they let go of these childish illusions and matured into the men and women God had always intended them to be. At the time, my religion soaked mind simply could not conceive of any reason beyond biblical rebellion for the anger these atheists spewed forth, and I was unable to accept the logical explanations they offered. Like a quack hypnotist digging for trauma imbedded in past lives, I believed I could help these poor souls to uncover the sin that lay beneath their professed unbelief. I was certain that once the root of their pain was uncovered, these angry atheists would finally recognize their protests as the wall that separated them from the love they so desperately desired and they would fall to their knees before God, eternally grateful for His blessed forgiveness.
Oddly enough, that's not quite how it worked out.
In reality, the false confidence granted me by these cartoonishly patronizing characterizations led me straight into the metaphorical lion's den. Emboldened by my faith in the accuracy of scripture and armed with a solid understanding of apologetics, I identified what I believed to be their greatest weakness and charged head-on into scientific debates with the dicks™. My expectations of victory, however, steadily dissolved as I found my belief in biblical literacy repeatedly and painfully skewered on the pike of factual evidence. One by one, the foundational elements of my fundamentalism met a similar fate under the force of their logical assault, until finally even the characterizations that had lured me into battle were defeated and I was forced to accept the explanations for their disbelief as valid. Weakened and confused, I hardly noticed as the diplomatic atheists I had counted as my allies against the dicks™ gathered to deliver the final blows to my bloodied faith.
Had the attitudes of those men and women not superficially resembled my faith-born prejudices, in essence, had they not been dicks™, I would not have engaged them in debate. I would have prayed for them, witnessed to them, perhaps even admonished them, just as I had done for the scores of diplomats I had encountered... but I would not have confronted them. By starting a fight I naively thought I could finish, they drew me into arenas I wouldn't have entered otherwise. They deftly used my arrogance against me by goading me into studying history, biology, and cosmology. Any enemy that can be drawn into an alliance over tea is no enemy at all; the tepid masses of moderate religion can be reasoned with, fundamentalists can not. Only the dicks™ recognized me for the enemy I was, and they were justified in bombing the shit out of my arsenal in response to the threat I represented.
The diplomatic admonishment, "don't be a dick", is a slap in my face. It's an admonishment that abandons those immune to pleasantly reasoned discourse, like the woman I once was, to wallow in their pathetically impotent ignorance. It's an admonishment that says I wasn't worth the fight, that my kids weren't worth the fight. Fuck. That. Noise. I was worth it, my kids were worth it, and the people still bound up in that cesspool of crippling, bronze-aged bullshit are worth it. Bomb them with the catastrophic truth, run them through with razor-sharp ridicule, burn their bullshit to the ground.
My commanding officer's favorite euphemistic phrase was, "No combat ready unit ever passed inspection, and no inspection ready unit ever passed combat." The dicks™ may not pass the diplomat's inspection, but I'm mighty encouraged by their progress in the war.
The husband-ish and I gathered up the kids this past Sunday and headed over to his family's home for a nice Christmas brunch and gift exchange. We expected to return home a couple of hours later with full bellies, a new game or two, and a handful of gift cards; all expectations that were dutifully fulfilled. What we didn't expect to return home with was a beautiful, nine-year-old, 4'+ long, ball python:
Jackson wasn't part of the gift exchange, coming to us instead by way of a side conversation about my interest in the Encyclopedia of Life; specifically our plans to keep and photograph a few of the mantis species that are currently lacking entries. This led to a brief discussion about other exotic species we've adopted in the past, or intend to adopt in the future... which led to the revelation that their neighbor was looking for a new home for her son's python (he recently moved to a community with a ban on exotic pets)... which led to a quick phone call... which led to the whole family trucking across the street for a peek... which led to our arranging to pick him up and take him home last night.
So, I suppose this officially enlists me in the Anti-Caturday brigade. We're thrilled to have added him to our family, and are looking forward to sharing a long and happy life with him.
*His name, inspired by Samuel Jackson's delightful performance in the Shakespearianesque classic Snakes on a Plane, is pending approval by the kids, who left for a sleepover shortly after his arrival.
Two Action Alerts in one day? Isn't that against the Geneva Convention or something?
Apparently, Congress was reminded that they can't use their office, and the taxpayer money that comes with it, to promote their own personal religion this holiday season; and that has the AFA's panties in a twist. Members of congress are, of course, more than welcome to say whatever they'd like in private messages, paid for with personal funds... but the AFA isn't really all that impressed by freedoms that aren't sticky with the taste of theocracy.
I don't have it in me explain why the fit they're pitching is ridiculous, but one line in their email did catch my eye:
"These rules do not apply to Senators."
They should. Somebody want to do something about that?