when the status quo frustrates.

The absolutely true reason, until another comes along.

Monday, August 16th, 2010

Over at The Friendly Atheist has sent two observers to the Americans For Truth About Homosexuality Anti-Gay-Rights Academy (the AFTAH-AGRA, I suppose). Let me summarize: these people believe that homosexuals are trying to rape your children and destroy the world and want to stop this. Yes, very shocking, but let’s look at this bit from Maria:

The fatal flaw in [AFTAH‘s] arguments was the necessary requirement of the belief in a Judeo-Christian conception of God and an acceptance of the Bible as wholly true. Until we can come to a consensus on what “truth” and “evidence” should be defined as, this argument is never going to be resolved. I don’t hold out much hope that it will be.

Look: that is not their fatal flaw. Their fatal flaw is that they’re hateful. The arguments they’re spewing to further their agenda are hateful, fearmongering manipulation used to maintain oppressive systems. Their fatal flaw isn’t incorrect, it’s that they’re wrong.

Christianity doesn’t compel you to believe that homosexuality is wrong, let alone dangerous. If Christianity weren’t around, these folks would find another way to prop up the patriarchy. They would swap out the cornerstone with another, similarly-shaped brick without a moment’s hesitation, and nothing but the words would change. On the flip side, there are plenty of Christians—though, I’ll agree, fewer—who fully support the radical queer agenda.

I think this cuts to the root of why I, at least, find atheists irritating—they see that Christianity is incorrect, and assume that’s the problem. As when we turn on the worldwide DeReligionizer Ray tomorrow, there will be no more social injustice!

Which is, I think, not quite what would happen. People will realize that there’s no more money or power in the religious oppression game, and they will move on to codify new structures to oppress people with, in remarkably similar ways.

The Catholic Church has lots and lots and lots and lots of problems. Some of those problems are epistemological, and they are not, should not, must not, be the top priority.

AFTAH has some serious problems, but the fact that they’re incorrect about this or that inconsequential thing isn’t the big one. Their biggest problem is that they’re wrong.

Failure!

Friday, August 13th, 2010

You guys, I just failed to cook something.

That’s kindof a big deal. Cooking is one of the few things I can do reliably and well. I’ll fuck up crazy experimental food (what happens… if I stuff peanut butter into this bell pepper?!?! Nothing good, it turns out.), but this was pancakes.

Pancakes are not experimental.

What’s more, I failed at pancakes by adding too much baking soda. That’s like failing at partying because you took too much ecstasy (and, incidentally, tastes similar).

Two days ago, I burned Daal. I’m not becoming a fantasy writer (“the Da’al wound their way up the to’wer, donning their ky’aap’es and activating their læn’tyrr”iens”). Daal is lentils. Lentils in a pot. With spices. I burned lentils in a pot with spices. I still don’t know how I did this.

I just tried another pancake, made with new batter. It’s vaguely tolerable. I think I still added too much baking soda, or maybe my baking soda has been absorbing the taste of ass. Maybe it absorbed the smoke from the burnt Daal.

I think I need a time-out. No, wait, what’s the thing in that Canadian game, with the sticks? I need to go into the penalty box. The ingredients will have a power play in my kitchen during which I will not cook them, because apparently I pissed off M’oskyo’wyts, the goddess of cooking stuff.

I’m going to get stoned now, and eat the rest of my vaguely ass-absorbed pancakes.

Sluts and Mothers

Friday, August 6th, 2010

Generally, two things only women can be.

I’ve seldom been a slut–I was never able to say that before, or anything else on the topic of how much of a slut I was or wasn’t, because I never had a definition before that I felt satisfied any kind of consistency (internal or external). However, I have finally lucked out and stumbled across the bestest definition of s-l-u-t evar:

as the awesome Kelly Huegel pointed out, is a female person who has had sex with more people than any one person calling them a slut considers acceptable

Actually, by that definition I may never have been a slut, since as far as I know nobody has ever called me one. However, since the strong possibility always exists for any woman that at some point in time somebody somewhere has called her a slut outside of her hearing, I may have periodically been a slut. The closest I ever came to this face-to-face was the one-and-only-boyfriend-who-ever-asked-me-what-my-number-was, and appeared to be either deeply shocked or deeply impressed by said digit once it was delivered to him. (I returned the favor and asked him for his, and thence learned that his was, oh dear, lower than mine, which likely had some influence on the rather odd number-asking behavior and response to my response.)

I am mostly indifferent to the social construct that is a slut, but given my lack of personal dealings with the meme, I suspect a lot of my indifference stems from my privileged status as generally not being considered one. I have instead spent most of my sexual life married, which has resulted in more frequent accusations of codependency (not true–yes, I have checked with a psychologist on the possibility of that or any other quirks in my cortex–there are quirks, but not that one). I will say I have managed to spend the past five years only married for less than one of them, though I somewhat spoil that by having to admit that I have cohabitated for three.

Which is why I did really enjoy this piece from Jezebel, which has generated (unsuprisingly) all kind of bloggy feedback, both positive and negative. Not because I ever experienced the joys of “sluthood” myself, though I considered the idea on several occasions throughout the years, but because I know what it is to find well into my adult life that I was not only a serial monogamist but that I was a completely unintentional one, with unpleasant psychological results at the ending of the last foray into committed relationshiphood. I also found myself completely burnt out on the emotional roller-coaster ride, though my personal centering solution to this wasn’t to embrace casual sexual encounters. I figured out long ago that I am by nature monogamous, and in spite of the bewildering (to me, anyway–why does anyone care what someone else’s personal consensual sexual preferences are, really..? but oh, silly question–if that were the case, this wouldn’t be the behemoth it is) attempts by some to portray monogamy as unnatural and damaging for everyone. I have to admit, though, that my lack of interest in casual sexual encounters when monogamy is not an issue as everyone involved is totally single has eroded a little over the years. (Why this is, and why I feel I am naturally monogamous in general, is totally worth exploring further and I am gonna do it. Soon. Really!) But it still isn’t much of an interest.

But it’s really old news that only women can be sluts. I have periodically heard in passing, some man or other playfully labeled a “slut,” but it’s pretty meaningless in that context. For women, it can clearly become life-dominating. For Jaclyn Friedman, author of the Jezebel piece that prompted this train of musing, it clearly was as well. Frankly, I find the thought of it exhausting, the burden I and every other woman is supposed to shoulder at puberty (or even before, sometimes) based upon the fact that heterosexual men (the dominant variety) want to have sexual intercourse with us. Besides my history of not having to deal with it much personally, I suspect this exhaustion is the other main reason I am mostly indifferent to the slut meme–I don’t want to think about it. It’s not my problem, dammit! But you know, it is, by virtue of the fact that I am a woman. This is deeply irritating.

So I was already irritated when I continued my perusal of Feministe’s front page and got to this gem:

Diets all around!

Well, here’s some research that can’t possibly be misconstrued: a new study published in The Lancet has documented an association between the amount of weight a mother gains during her pregnancy and the birth weight of her infant. Since birth weight can be used to predict adult BMI, cue the ZOMG! Obesity! commentary. “For babies, studies are just now beginning to show that the effects of tipping the scales at birth may linger throughout life. Many experts suggest that excessive nutrition in pregnancy creates an abnormal uterine environment that permanently changes the baby’s brain, pancreas, fat tissue and other biological systems, said a co-author of the study, Dr. David Ludwig.”

Right.

I ate like a pig during both my pregnancies, once I was able to keep food down at all (in other words, not the first trimester or the first half of the second trimester). Though I may actually be insulting pigs by comparing my gestating eating habits to their usual ones. I gained about fifty pounds both times–I kid you not; when I stood on the scale in the delivery room while in the middle of labor with Offspring No. 2, I weighed in at 197 pounds. Not only did I consume vast quantities of food, it was whatever type of food I madly craved at the moment, which was quite the bewildering variety. (Yes, I drank pickle juice straight out of the jar, among other things. Pregnancy is weird. Avoid it until you are 100% sure it and its lifelong semi-autonomous consequences are what you really, really want.) Some of this food was great stuff for anyone, like the cucumber-and-tangerines kick I went on in the eighth month of pregnancy with one kid. Some of this food was not so great, like the french toast obsession I developed in month six or seven with the other kid.

So I starved myself (involuntarily, I assure you, not to mention dehydrated myself badly) for half of both my pregnancies and gorged like food was going to be gone tomorrow for the other half. I gained probably about as much weight as was recommended for the Octomom to put on (nope, neither of my pregnancies were even with twins). And yet–and yet–

Baby no. 1: male, full-term, 7 lbs 15 oz and 21 in. long
Baby no. 2: male, full-term, 7 lbs 15 1/2 oz and 21 in. long

According to kidshealth.org:

Most full-term babies weigh somewhere between 6 pounds, 2 ounces and 9 pounds, 2 ounces. Their average length ranges from 19 to 21 inches.

Hmm. Does the fact that at 5 feet 8 inches, I’m the shortest person in my family, and the only person shorter than me in the kids’ dad’s family is my sister-in-law at 5 feet 7 inches, and that in neither family is there an adult male below 6 feet in height, have anything to do with anything..? But even taking that into account, the kids weren’t outside the average range in length and were comfortably within the average weight.

Well, how about now though…? Maybe my goatlike approach to ingestion during pregnancy had a delayed response–

Baby no. 1: still male, 18 years old. 6 feet 4 inches tall. 160 pounds. (Actually a bit of a problem, as he is only 4 pounds over the underweight limit for an Air Force enlistee of his height. He has been advised by his recruiter to start scarfing down protein and hitting the gym for some weight training.)

Baby no. 2: still male, 13 years old. 5 feet 4 inches tall. 97 pounds. (According to standard charts for the US, this puts him at about the 80th percentile in height and 45th percentile in weight for a boy his age.)

…maybe I’ve starved them since birth, to hide my grotesque fetal abuse?

I know, I know, one piece of anecdata does not a refutation make…but it does make it hard for me personally to really take this seriously. It makes it very easy for me to see it as yet more womanshaming, safely targeting a role that only, indeed, women can and do take–there’s no way at all to slither out of gender-specific blame here, baby!

Let’s give the ladies a rest for a day, folks. Okay?

What About Sincerity?

Sunday, August 1st, 2010

I don’t know if this really is a trend, or just something that I notice because it’s my circle of American culture, but fuck it, what’s a blog for if not to take your own experiences and apply them to the world at large?*

I am worried that we are a generation that cannot deal with anything with out a thick layer of cynicism and sardonic humor. It seems like we decided that if you care about anything, this makes you worthy of mockery at the very least, and at worst, an asshole.

The existence of 4chan seems to be the highest order of this, but it’s in mainstream society as well. South Park, if it has an over-arching plot at all, is nothing is worth it. Doesn’t matter if you’re Al Gore talking about global warming or Evangelicals winning souls for heaven, if you care about it you’re delusional, or fleecing someone, or just an ass. If you care about animal welfare rights, you’re going to grow pussies all over your body. If you want tolerance for gay people that means you want to put everyone in concentration camps and if you think that gay people shouldn’t marry that means that you’re just upset about the gay sex you’re not getting. There’s nothing as a sincere belief, and the few people who have them are shown as not having any ability to control them.

Reality television also proliferates this view. Nothing is private, nothing is worthy of respect and dignity. Love? Screw that, everyone knows it all about the sex and money (Rock of Love, Flavor of Love, Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire). Somebody gets up on stage, belts out their very best rendition of “I Will Survive”? It sucks, they should be ashamed that they ever dared to get up there, how clichéd, and jesus, look how fat she is. Intervention for drug addiction where someone honestly, rawly, and openly cries for the person that they’re losing to addiction? Let’s video tape that shit, and then autotune it.

If we go into politics, it seems like the worst meta-joke in the world. “Hope and Change” was a punchline even before Obama didn’t really deliver on them. Why should we care? Conservatives are so increasingly pandering to the “jus folks” stereotype that it’s a mockery of it becomes impossible. Any belief of what would actually make a difference seems to get shot down as not being “realistic”.

I don’t want to go so far that everything is taboo, and we hide from one another and play so close to the chest that actual expression becomes impossible. But, I think we are doing something unhealthy but not being honest with our and others emotions. Some things should be private, and not broadcast for the entertainment of the masses. Some things should be allowed to be the intense experiences they are without worrying about that everyone is going to consider them a joke, or to turn it to cynicism to distance oneself from your own feelings.

Maybe it’s time to go from sarcasm to honest anger, from dark humor to true pain. Or maybe this is something that’s been going on from the time of Oscar Wilde and George Shaw and Romanticism and sincerity will come back into vogue again.

*And apparently, legitimate news sources as well.

Bullshit of the Highest Magnitude

Friday, July 30th, 2010

I generally avoid “Psychology Today”. The magazine believes in just-so, evo psych nonsense, it has tons of advertisements for SSR inhibitors (I’m against medical ads in the first place), and it’s just generally a tacky magazine. Scienceblogs has better biology, Scientific Mind America is better when it comes to psychology. But, Shakesville linked me to this article, and I just had to say something.

We say we want someone who surprises us with daisies just because it’s Tuesday, serenades us with his acoustic guitar, and bakes us brownies when we desperately need a chocolate fix. However, when brought face to face with a man who is truly devoted to romanticism, we quickly dismiss him. No longer considered swoon-worthy, his antics evoke discomfort and sheer terror in the hearts of women everywhere….

If Monday’s episode of “The Bachelorette: The Men Tell All” has taught me anything, it is that taking on the persona of the “sensitive male” is the quickest way to get sent home sans rose, not to mention become the butt of countless jokes among your fellow dumpees. For those who have been keeping up with the latest Bachelorette (i.e. those of you who lack any semblance of a social life) know that Kasey will forever be branded as the creepiest contestant the show has ever seen. During his time on the show, he spewed cheesy lines like, “You look imaginary,” performed an impromptu (off-key) serenade after a helicopter ride, and even got a tattoo to prove his dedication to and his vow to “guard and protect (bachelorette, Ali’s) heart.” He has every characteristic we say we look for in a man, yet we cannot help but cringe with pity and embarrassment as we watch poor Kasey pour his heart out to the frightened Ali…..

A husband knows that when his wife cries, he should comfort her by putting his arm around her, rub her back, and tell her everything will be okay. A wife is less sure of what to do when her husband cries. Instead of a complete role reversal, women tend to feel awkward watching their husbands or boyfriends in such a vulnerable state, and men tend to withdraw and feel emasculated when their significant others pat their heads and say, “Poor baby.” Although the idea of a man in touch with his feminine side seems perfect, the reality is too new for most women to fully accept….

Perhaps the answer to this puzzling phenomenon is nothing more than a simple case of “grass-is-greener” syndrome. I could spend all day looking forward to a relaxing evening on the couch catching up on my reading, but as soon as I see my roommate ready to go out, my book which was once enthralling becomes tedious and all I can think about now is how much I’d rather be going out than stuck at home. If you have straight hair, you want curly hair. If you’re tall, you want to be shorter. We are never satisfied with what we have, and maybe this same principle holds true when it comes to boyfriends. In any case, I leave all of the Kasey’s of the world with this one final word of advice: Dry your tears, replace all turtlenecks for muscle tees, and trade the roses you were about to purchase for weeds because apparently this is what women really want.

Let’s start with the obvious part: “women are” and “men are” and “women want this…”. This is the easiest shit to start with because, as a women I can clearly state that I want a sensitive guy.

I have a Hubby who buys me flowers and other small tokens for no reason but he loves me. I have a Hubby who just last week made me cookies because I was in desperate need of a chocolate fix. He doesn’t sing, but despite not having much in the way of practice, will still take me dancing. This flower-buying, dancing, cookie-making sweetheart is the person I MARRIED, not dismissed. His affection didn’t “frighten me” it is what attracted me to him in the first place.

I have also held him while he’s cried, and I know that he did not feel emasculated. We’ve already seen each other through some very dark times in our lives, and it didn’t make us feel like we were babies or unmanly- it made us feel strong in our relationship; like we could trust each other with our true selves. This “lie to one another so someone will like you” is the most damaging, unsatisfying thing I could think to do in a relationship.

Now, on to bullshit number two: while flowers just because and cookies are sweet, what she described Kasey as doing is not “sweet” it’s “creepy and stalkerish”. I don’t watch the show, but if someone showed that much emotion it would set off warning bells to me. His behavior meant that he was treating the young woman as a cypher- a “woman creature” to which he could perform the actions of a “sensitive male”. Trading in turtlenecks for muscle tees would not address the fact that he was treating someone as an interchangeable cog, and the fact that he was performing rather than being an actual person. Just because “women” don’t want creepy stalkers doesn’t mean that they want macho meatheads either. This isn’t about the grass being greener: this is about wanting a person and not a role; a medium and not an extreme. I complain about the 100 F degree weather in the summer and the -20 F degree weather in the winter- this neither makes me a hypocrite or too picky. It means I like neither of those temperatures.

And, I know my husband is not the “perfect man” but rather he’s a man well-suited to me. There are other women who would want their guy to be a little more serious than my fun-loving husband. There are other women who would prefer a husband who was more pacifistic, or musically inclined, or what have you. There are some women who’d want a partner with a lot more X chromosomes than my husband. I know that my “type” is not the “type” that attracts everyone- women are different, and will want different people. But this “women, you thought you wanted respect and affection, but you know you want to be ignored and abused because that’s “manly”" is complete and utter bullshit (and heterocentric to the extreme).

Psychology Today, fail.

Useful redefinitions

Friday, July 30th, 2010

Hope is another word for powerlessness.

Rights are a shared fiction benefiting the powerful.

Obedience, at least when it comes to politics, is the same thing as support.

Progressives are people who keep chasing progress to amend progress.

“Will you tell those dumbasses at the tea party to stop asking questions about birth certificates while I’m on the camera? God, what am I supposed to do?”

Monday, July 26th, 2010

US Senate candidate Ken Buck of Colorado, referring to his own voter base. It should mean something to him that these are the people who are his voter base, but clearly he’s missing the tangy irony here.

This reminds me so much of my dad.

Friday, July 23rd, 2010

‘Conan’ painting by late Pa. artist goes for $1.5M.

When my mom and I first moved in with my dad, I was eight years old but already showing signs of the sf-fantasy geek I would develop into–he had a lot of posters up in his bachelor’s pad, and this was indeed one of them.

Some other examples of my dad’s wall deco below the fold–Frazetta and Vallejo dominated:

(more…)

Omg, I just had a brilliant idea.

Friday, July 23rd, 2010

When I was a little girl, one of my favorite children’s books was The Case of the Marble Monster and Other Tales of Ooka the Wise. I don’t know if this was a staple of too many other American kids’ childhoods (nobody else has ever mentioned it in my hearing) but I loved it, and one of my favorite stories was when Ooka, a judge, heard a case against a poor student living above a fish cookshop. Every day the student smelled the delicious odors of frying fish which he said helped flavor the plain bowl of rice which was all he could afford to eat. The cookshop owner was incensed and insisted that he be paid restitution by the student for “stealing the smell” of his cooking fish. Ooka deliberated, then instructed the student to pass a handful of coins from one hand to the other several times until they clinked merrily together, then told the cookshop owner he’d been paid. The cookshop owner angrily demanded how that was possible, since the student had given him no money, and Ooka told him that “the price of the smell of food is the sound of money” and then dismissed the case.

So I was reading yet another article about the Arizona immigration circus, this one about the hearings going on right now in federal court by challengers to the new law, and remembering reading about the possibility that parts, not all, of the law would be struck down–and then, like a flash of light, it hit me. I know how to fix the “show me your papers” part of the law, which is a grotesque violation of civil rights. Give Arizona law enforcement the power to ask anyone anytime what their citizenship is–keep that part. Just change the papers part to allowing a verbal or visual affirmative response to confirm any questionee’s legal status. Like this:

Arizona cop: Are you a legal citizen of the United States?
Brown-skinned person who was totes not profiled prior to being stopped: Fuck yeah.
Arizona cop: Well, then you’re free to go, sir. Have a nice day.

See? All teddy bears and rainbows. :)

Comic book geeks 14, Westboro Baptist Church 1.

Friday, July 23rd, 2010

Best protest signs evar. My favorites:

I think we all know how I feel about the Hypnotoad.

I think I have that one somewhere in the back basement room, too!

The first rule of tautology club.

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

Protest signs have never really been the height of discourse.

A man wearing a cyborg Dick Cheney mask holds a sign reading, "War is healthy for Bush, Wall Street, and other imperialists."

Sometimes they’re clever, sometimes witty. Sometimes they sketch around the outlines of an interesting argument.

That isn’t really their point, though, and you’re not going to fit a nuanced look at geopolitics or community building on a 2′x4′ piece of foam board. So, mostly, protest signs call out the demands you’ve heard so many times before. They’re slogans; they’re cheers; they’re threats—we could have come with pitchforks, they offer, but we brought these instead.

Protestors hold up signs reading, "Impeach Bush!," "Make Soup Not War," and "God Bless Iraq."

So I don’t expect to see arguments, exactly, on the NOM protestors’ signs. But perhaps I expected synecdoche. Something about health, or abuse, or AIDS, or children, or the abuse of unhealthy AIDS children.

(more…)

This is awesome.

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

I had never heard of this before today, when I was browsing through Sam Kean’s Blogging the Periodic Table series on Slate. If you hadn’t either, you should really check it out. Some of my favorites from the 2009 Ig Nobel Prizes, awarded for scientific work that, er, either cannot or should not be reproduced (the 2010 Prizes won’t be awarded til the end of September):

PEACE PRIZE: Stephan Bolliger, Steffen Ross, Lars Oesterhelweg, Michael Thali and Beat Kneubuehl of the University of Bern, Switzerland, for determining — by experiment — whether it is better to be smashed over the head with a full bottle of beer or with an empty bottle.
REFERENCE: “Are Full or Empty Beer Bottles Sturdier and Does Their Fracture-Threshold Suffice to Break the Human Skull?” Stephan A. Bolliger, Steffen Ross, Lars Oesterhelweg, Michael J. Thali and Beat P. Kneubuehl, Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine, vol. 16, no. 3, April 2009, pp. 138-42. DOI:10.1016/j.jflm.2008.07.013.

CHEMISTRY PRIZE: Javier Morales, Miguel Apátiga, and Victor M. Castaño of Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, for creating diamonds from liquid — specifically from tequila.
REFERENCE: “Growth of Diamond Films from Tequila,” Javier Morales, Miguel Apatiga and Victor M. Castano, 2008, arXiv:0806.1485. Also published as Reviews on Advanced Materials Science, vol. 22, no. 1, 2009, pp. 134-8.

PHYSICS PRIZE: Katherine K. Whitcome of the University of Cincinnati, USA, Daniel E. Lieberman of Harvard University, USA, and Liza J. Shapiro of the University of Texas, USA, for analytically determining why pregnant women don’t tip over.
REFERENCE: “Fetal Load and the Evolution of Lumbar Lordosis in Bipedal Hominins,” Katherine K. Whitcome, Liza J. Shapiro & Daniel E. Lieberman, Nature, vol. 450, 1075-1078 (December 13, 2007). DOI:10.1038/nature06342.

BIOLOGY PRIZE: Fumiaki Taguchi, Song Guofu, and Zhang Guanglei of Kitasato University Graduate School of Medical Sciences in Sagamihara, Japan, for demonstrating that kitchen refuse can be reduced more than 90% in mass by using bacteria extracted from the feces of giant pandas.
REFERENCE: “Microbial Treatment of Kitchen Refuse With Enzyme-Producing Thermophilic Bacteria From Giant Panda Feces,” Fumiaki Taguchia, Song Guofua, and Zhang Guanglei, Seibutsu-kogaku Kaishi, vol. 79, no 12, 2001, pp. 463-9. [and abstracted in Journal of Bioscience and Bioengineering, vol. 92, no. 6, 2001, p. 602.]
REFERENCE: “Microbial Treatment of Food-Production Waste with Thermopile Enzyme-Producing Bacterial Flora from a Giant Panda” [in Japanese], Fumiaki Taguchi, Song Guofu, Yasunori Sugai, Hiroyasu Kudo and Akira Koikeda, Journal of the Japan Society of Waste Management Experts, vol. 14, no. 2, 2003, pp. , 76-82.