I've finally arrived at a point where I can control my annoyance with ridiculous info-graphics no longer.
If every dim-witted comment attached to this gem is to be believed, there's been some sort of national conspiracy afoot to douse us in cancer causing chemicals and heart-attack inducing fast-food since 1900. It's all very hush hush, but the proof is in the graphic.
Really? Really, REALLY? Has no one considered that in the last 100+ years we've become a touch more adept at treating things like gastrointestinal infections and the fargin' flu? That maybe "suicide" wasn't all that popular a thing to write on a death certificate back then, considering the theological implications of such an act, and a lot of those "accidents" involved pesky chairs that just wouldn't stay under the noose? That maybe in 1902 when great-grand pappy keeled over on the back 40 the town doc didn't bother with a complete necropsy? That maybe "senility" was the state mental hospital's go-to diagnosis for anyone over the age of 50 who didn't die of something obvious, like... say... a hole somewhere there oughtn't be one?
"Found the man who thought he was General Custer dead on the floor of his room this morning doctor."
"Wasn't stabbed by the nutter in 214, was he?"
"Ah, chalk up another one to senility. Thank you, nurse. Be a doll and see his room's ready for the next one, will you?"
Let's not put all the blame on 20th century ignorance though. How often do you think a cancer patient benefits from a full autopsy in determining their exact cause of death? How long do you think they dig around in a 500lb corpse before scribbling "probable cause of death - cardiovascular disease" on that certificate?
No matter what angle you peer at it from, drawing broad conspiracy-mired conclusions based solely on cause of death statistics over a hundred year span is fucking daft. Just stop it.
When I tell people I'm aiming for a PhD in evolutionary biology, they almost always respond by asking what I will "get" out of the degree. Previously, I've launched into a monologue about how graduate degrees differ from many undergraduate degrees and trade school certificates; that I'm not educating myself for a single position with a range of possible employment opportunities, but rather for a single field with a range of possible positions, each with their own employment opportunities.
Monologue over, the conversation typically devolves into something like...
"Right, but what will you do for a living?"
"I don't understand the question... I'll 'do' evolutionary biology..."
"Oh... So you'll be a teacher or something?"
Not exactly productive, but I've found a solution in meme form:
From now on, I shall simply say, "I'll get some sort of idea what I'm doing."
The subject of sexual harassment in the Atheist and Skeptic community has once again risen to prominence in the last couple of weeks. Being an emotionally charged subject, extremist positions on all sides are on display, but for the most part, I feel the community is sincerely invested in creating an environment that is safe, respectful, and welcoming for everyone.
As a woman who is marginally involved in the community, I've been asked what I think about a specific incident, article, or the subject in general on several occasions. Up until now, my answer has typically been some variation of "I think the whole thing annoys me," but I've finally reached a point where I feel that what I have to offer outweighs the fear of how my thoughts may be received. So... here's what I think:
1. I think it's reasonable to expect everyone to act their chronological age.
Shouting out sexually suggestive comments during a presentation or handing nude photos to a virtual stranger violates that expectation. So does crass generalization, gender baiting, and slut shaming.
2. I think there should be clear sexual harassment policies in place.
These policies should describe inappropriate behaviors in simple language, be readily available, and include specific instructions on how to report violations.
3. I think sexual harassment policies should be as non-restrictive as possible.
I firmly believe that each individual is the sole arbiter of their personal boundaries. Just as no one should have the right to violate someone else's boundaries, no one should have the right to determine where someone else's boundaries are drawn. Similarly, just as no one has the right to not be offended, I feel no one has the right to not be approached at a public event, as long as they are approached in a respectful manner.
4. I think I would rather see women empowered than coddled.
I recognize that some women have been socialized to be polite at all costs, even when that means allowing someone to continue behavior that makes them intensely uncomfortable. Taking that reality into account, I feel it is more beneficial to give women the tools to overcome that destructive programing than it is to create an environment in which all social interaction is constrained to the strictly professional.
5. I think we should provide non-confrontational ways for people to express their boundaries.
Providing a visual means for individuals to indicate their boundaries does two things: it removes reliance on easily misinterpreted social cues in determining another individual's boundaries, and it grants people the security of being able to non-verbally reinforce their own boundaries. The best example I've seen are the badge ribbons available free-of-charge to all attendees at Penguicon.
The simple black ribbon sticks to the attendee's convention badge, and features nine gold letters in three groups, each letter representing a social interest: Friendship, Sex, Cuddling, Kissing, Relationship - Ladies, Gentlemen - Monogamy, and Polyamory. Other categories, Hugging or Other (for those that reject or do not conform to strict gender labels), for example, could easily be added without creating confusion. The ribbons are customized by blacking out letters with a permanent marker, leaving visible only the types of social contact the individual is open to.
6. I think framing sexual harassment in terms of predatory men and victimized women is both sexist and heteronormative to a fault.
Yes, the vast majority of rational individuals, if not all, will concede that most sexual harassment is committed against women by men. I believe, however, that the significant under-reporting of domestic violence committed against men by women and among same-sex and gender variant couples, due in part to the male aggressor / female victim stereotype, should encourage the use of gender-neutral pronouns wherever practical.
7. I think the process for reporting a policy violation should be discrete, but not anonymous.
While I believe the danger of abuse is too high with "complaint box" and other anonymous reporting systems, I also believe that only accepting violation reports at a specific location leads to under-reporting. Training all event staff (including volunteers) to accept violation reports, clearly identifying all event staff, and making it known to all attendees that violations can be reported to any staff member, minimizes the risk of both.
8. I think the same rules should apply to all participants, regardless of position (with the exception of the very few individuals outlined in #9).
Prior to this year, I frequently participated as both a vendor and as a speaker at various conventions, and I intend to do so in the future. I resent the notion that my personal boundaries should be determined by my role rather than my will. Every individual, speaker, vendor, volunteer, or attendee, should be granted the right to define their own boundaries. Individuals who feel this suggestion grants them the right to proposition a speaker in the midst of a presentation, or a vendor who is engaging customers, should refer back to #1.
9. I think individuals with direct power over others should be held to a higher standard.
There are a few individuals that hold direct power over others in our communities. Anyone who directly influences which speakers appear at an event, for example, holds power over speakers; those determining which vendors will be granted table space hold power over vendors; individuals capable of denying or revoking admission hold power over attendees; etc... A separate policy should be put in place for those individuals that includes both clear behavioral guidelines and a list of the types of individuals and roles they are perceived to have direct power over. Acceptance of this policy should be required before an individual is allowed to assume the responsibilities of any position of power or influence.
10. I think a concerted effort should be made to include programming specifically tailored for "flirtatious socializing".
For many in the Atheist and Skeptic community, organized events represent their primary opportunity to socialize with like-minded individuals. Adding singles meet-ups, dinners, and/or parties to the scheduled programming of an event both recognizes and honors those social needs while helping to constrain flirtatious contact to appropriate venues.
It should be obvious, given that they're based on my personal opinions, that I believe these are all rational suggestions that would adequately address the issues at hand, but I'm certainly open to criticism. Are there situations or concerns I haven't addressed? Do these suggestions go too far? Not far enough? All comments are welcomed and appreciated!
I will not be completing a marathon this year.
I would love to be able to blame my health issues; with the Fibromyalgia increasing the risk of injury and the immune disorder inhibiting healing, no one would question me.
I would love to be able to blame my schedule; between work, school, family, volunteering, and personal projects, it can be understandably difficult to set aside time for training.
I would love to be able to blame my finances; various wraps and supports, proper running shoes, and event registrations all come with a price-tag attached.
I would love to blame any number of things, but while all of the above contribute to some degree, the biggest factor preventing me from achieving my goal of completing a marathon this year is me.
Injuries are a fact of running. Sometimes they're the result of dumb luck, other times your body just blows a flat without any noticeable warning. It happens. If you're smart, you rest, you accommodate, and you heal before moving on. For what must be deeply profound psychological reasons, this is a lesson I just can't seem to learn.
Last week, I tried out a new-to-me treadmill map that runs along the coast of Cape Town, South Africa. (For those unfamiliar, some treadmills allow users to download maps that automatically adjust the incline to match the topography of a particular route.) As it turns out, Cape Town, South Africa isn't terribly flat:
I finished the Cape Town map alternating between walking at 2-3mph and jogging at 4mph. My inexperience with incline running, coupled with my ignorance in regard to the muscle groups utilized, resulted in a strained gluteus medius. This is where a smart person rests and accommodates the affected muscle until it has fully healed before taking their first tentative steps back into their running routine. I, on the other hand, am apparently not that smart.
Even though the ache in my right hip was still rousing me from sleep a few times a night,
and even though the muscle was markedly stiff,
and even though I hadn't recovered my previous range of motion,
and even though the first few steps after a prolonged period of inactivity were still accompanied by a visible limp...
I fired up the treadmill last night and hopped on.
After a brief warm up, I started in on my routine jogging intervals. My hip was sore pretty much from the start. About five minutes in, I noticed that my right knee was aching a bit, realized that I had forgotten to put on my support, and then decided I could do without it for the measly mile I intended to run. About 10 minutes in, I began experiencing a rather unpleasant cramping sensation in the Achilles tendon of my right ankle. As the pain in my ankle intensified I began stretching it during the walking intervals by taking extra long, lunging strides. I lowered my jogging speed from 4mph to 3.5mph. I started straddling the belt every few steps to rotate my foot before stepping back on. Finally, at around the 17 minute mark, I jabbed the big red STOP button, started a rousing chorus of "ow, ow, ow, ow, ow", and retreated from the treadmill to the bedroom where I yanked off my shoes, whimpered, rubbed my rapidly swelling ankle, tweeted my pain, and then iced and elevated the offended appendage as instructed in reply.
Had I used my brain, my g.m. would likely have healed completely by, say... this Sunday, and I could have resumed my running routine next Monday morning without incident. I did not, however, use my brain. Instead, I proceeded like an impatient twat with no respect for her own body and now I'm dealing with both a re-strained g.m. AND a pulled Achilles tendon, both of which are now stressing my weak right knee.
Logically, I know the sky wouldn't fall if I rested a day longer than I actually needed to, but logic apparently can't stop my psyche from bullying my sense of self-worth and that affects my judgement. The VERY NEXT DAY after an injury, that "helpful" little voice in the back of my mind starts in with assurances that I could probably do just a little bit as long as I took it easy. By the time healing is actually in sight, that little voice is screaming at me about what a worthless pussy I am. WTF?
Anybody else deal with this? If so, how do you shut that little voice up?
June 4th was the saddest day I have had in a long time. It started off like any other day. I got up, went to work and peeked at my FB. It was seeing what my friend Dizzy posted that set off alarms
" RIP Bobby Durango. You were an influence and i was honored to call you friend. You are truly a Rock City Angel now. Fuck death."
I had doubt, shock, sadness and tears. I didn't want to believe it. I searched around and found enough reason to think it true. His passing was as much of a surprise to me as a shark attack in the Rocky Mountains.
We come across people in our lives that leave a mark on us. There are bands we cherish more than others because of the connection we have with them. Sometimes the world of friendship and fan cross. This is one of those times.
The story begins...
One day in 1988. I was at Budget Tapes & Records in Longmont, riffling through the tapes. There was one tape that the name hit me as kinda cool, so I pulled off the shelf to take a look.
I flipped it over and thought it had enough songs for a double album, not knowing that was part of the story of the Rock City Angels a.k.a. RCA. I purchased it and put it in my Walkman. It blew my mind. It was the perfect meld of RnR and Blues. This isn't a review, I have done several of those in the past, so I will move on. I liked it so much, any time I would find a used tape, album, (years later) CD; I would buy it. I don't think I wore out more copies of any album more so than I did this one. The last time I was in a music store, I happened across another copy, and that one went to a friend. I will continue to buy them all and make sure friends that are passionate about music, get one. I share the story of RCA which is a powerful one full of ups, downs, villains, heroes, Johnny Depp and of course Bobby Durango.
We jump forward to the several years ago, before Facebook or Twitter, when MySpace was the place to be. I was often on the RCA MySpace fan page. One day Bobby chimes in and talks about how blown away he is that anyone even remembered RCA. He had no clue there was anyone who still know of them. He stated then and several times since, that it was finding US, that brought the passion back to him. I was blown away that he was so down to earth and humble. Something I would learn more about in the days to follow.
Bobby shocked me with one of the best birthday gifts ever. He messaged me and asked if I had gotten RCA's recently released
Another time Bobby blew me away was a couple years ago. I was sitting on the couch watching tv with Tanya and my phone rings. I looked at it and by the look on my face Tanya could tell something great just happened. I told her it was Bobby and she smiled huge. I answered and a realization that the Bobby I called friend, actually was. We have online friends, but are they really friends, ya know?! I had ordered some shirts and asked him a few questions about girl sizes in an email. As a habit, I gave him all my contact info, phone number included. I didn't realize he would call and I was excited he did. We talked shirts for a couple minutes then went onto music. Mostly RCA and other projects he was part of. We talked like we had been friends for ages, a bond that music is good at creating.
I have met most of my musical idols, but none could I honestly call a real friend, until Bobby. I think of him as a friend, musical family, and inspiration. I have always been passionate about music and friends. That is why yesterday hit so hard. Our story was just beginning. The end was much too soon. I love him and can not imagine not having him in my life. The sorrow his family has right now I am sure exceeds what I am feeling. I have read a comment by one of his sisters, and it tore me up. Her losing her legs, dropping to her knees and sobbing. The fans of his work will say his music was never given the recognition it deserved, that it was underrated. I agree and will add that HE was underrated as was his talent and more so the good person he was. He had all the talent of the best without the ego. He was and always will be my definition of Rock 'n Roll.
I think this is a good place to call it a wrap. I can and will share more later, but I want to leave some for me, for now.
Bobby... you left much too soon. You will remain with me till my dying day. I love you my brother.
We don't yet know the why, but it was confirmed yesterday that Bobby Durango, best known as the lead singer of Rock City Angels, has died.
I didn't know Bobby, but Steven did. Learning from a Facebook post that you'll never again speak to a man you deeply respect as an artist and dearly love as a friend seems particularly gutting, an indignity even members of Bobby's own family weren't spared. Knowing the connection they shared now exists only as a matter of memory is a bitter pill to swallow.
Our sincere sympathies go out to all of Bobby's family members, friends, and fans. He'll be sorely missed.
I learned a shocking fact a while back at the monthly
Feeling strongly that Chick Tracts are essential to understanding the mindset of the True Believer™, I immediately resolved to rectify the situation and ordered two complete sets of the tiny comics to share with anyone that might want a glimpse into my nightmarishly ignorant past. My order arrived with approaching-doomsday speed and I tore into the box the second I got home. I couldn't wait to discover the tiny nuggets of hilarious treasure that were surely tucked inside the newsprint pages, only visible now that I resided firmly on the heathen side of the religious fence...
I may have mentioned this before, but there's an interesting feeling that accompanies looking back and realizing you used to be bat-shit insane. Paging through those tracts brought up an acrid mixture of disbelief, confusion, nostalgia, and shame. I used to LOVE this drivel. Every tract I came upon filled me with a sense of righteous superiority and soul-winning hope. They gave me the ability to dismiss both scientific and historical fact as tools of the devil. They soothed my thoughts of the unsaved burning in hell by blanketing them in the comforting notion that in all those who encountered a tract, a seed of salvation had been planted. They kept theological doubt at bay by exposing the faiths of others as demonic and powerless. While I now doubt their ability to win converts, I'm still in awe of how they empower those already neck deep in fundamentalist faith. In essence, Chick Tracts are a combo shot for the delusional; one part vaccine, and one part steroid... like armor dipped in PCP.
The surface messages inherent in Chick Tracts, the ones intended to inform the unsaved masses and thereby rescue them from destruction, were blatant, repetitive and unsurprising. "Give your heart to Jesus or burn for all eternity" isn't exactly a message that lends itself to subtlety.
There were, however, more indirect messages to be found...
The human mind is a very interesting thing indeed. This past week in particular, mine has been reminding me just how adept it is at avoiding subjects it finds uncomfortable, regardless of the passion with which I want to examine and express them.
When I saw the presentation given by Jerry DeWitt, the first graduating member of
To say the least, it wasn't the encounter I intended. I was at a loss as to why my normally extroverted personality had been so thoroughly smothered in a thick layer of self-conscious nerves. It wasn't until much later, long after I'd returned home, that I was able to rationalize my reaction. On the surface, it had been a big week and I was feeling pretty stressed the day of Jerry's talk. Lack of sleep, physical exertion, a fairly hectic schedule, and a LOT more socializing than I was used to had left me raw and more vulnerable than usual. Beneath those reasons, however, lay a series of revelations that disturbed me.
I eventually realized that my nervousness stemmed, in part, from an oppressive feeling that I was unworthy to approach him, a feeling that was firmly linked to Jerry's (former) position as a minister. While the church I "grew up" in treated all of the men in the congregation as ministers, those leading the churches I attended as an adult commanded a respect that ranged from the fawning admiration typically granted rock stars to an unquestioning reverence more suited to gods than men. These were not mere humans that one simply approached as an equal, they were set apart and sealed by God Himself. The criticism and ridicule I so easily heap upon "men of God" now that I'm an atheist is really no different than the criticism and ridicule I was able to heap upon the ministers of denominations and faiths other than my own when I was a Christian. Confronted with a (former) minister "on my side", however, I found that old sense of reverence once again over-powering my sense of self worth.
This revelation quickly led to two more: religion had affected me more deeply and in more ways than I had previously realized, and I clearly hadn't left religion behind to the extent I believed I had.
Sadly, I'm not unfamiliar with how the mind copes with buried pain. I am thankful, however, that my past experiences have taught me how best to deal with those emotional graveyards - dig up the bodies, break them down for fertilizer, and plant seeds in their place. I've spent the last few weeks unearthing damage inflicted by the individuals, events, and teachings tied to my former faith. I fully expect to uncover rot in places I haven't yet thought to look, and to trip over the corpses of my religious past long after I think they've all been processed. I hope to examine that damage here in the blog, and with others who have dealt with, or are still dealing with, similar issues. As for seed planting, I've recently signed on as the volunteer webmaster for Recovering from Religion, and I've started a Denver chapter which will begin meeting as soon as I've found an appropriate venue. It's an incredible organization, and I'm proud to be a small part of it.
As a result of even these first tentative steps, Jerry DeWitt has lost his unwitting and unwanted powers of intimidation. Somehow, I don't think he'll mind. *laughs*
The TL;DR -
1. Religion fucked me up more than I thought it did, but I'm healing.
2. I want to explore my experiences with religion in the blog, but it's hard.
3. If you, or anyone you know, could use a little help in moving on from a religious past, please visit the
So, THIS is what panic feels like.
In order for me to complete my guaranteed transfer program with satisfactory timing, I will need to carry no less than 18 credit hours per semester for the next two years. I can't pull that off while working full-time; other people might be able to, but I can't. With that in mind, I have just given notice to my employer that August 10th will be my last day. There are a few odd jobs I will continue to do for the company, 5 to 10 hours of work per week, but my last full-time paycheck will arrive in my account on August 9th. No more paid health insurance, no more year-end bonuses, no more 9-5 security. My family and I won't be starving to death, but there are some significant lifestyle changes ahead.
Letting go of safety for the hope of a more fulfilling future is absolutely terrifying... but it's pretty fucking exciting too.