Backing Up

Wednesday, July 1, 2015
I wrote a really long blog post for today. It touched on a variety of issues, including faith-based bigotry, cafeteria Christians, following my moral compass, and being intellectually honest about people I care about without being ungenerous.

And then I deleted it.

The reasons for that decision will remain unpublished, but I will say this: I am deliriously happy about SCOTUS's Obergefell v. Hodges decision. I don't think any reason for discrimination is a good reason. I'm making strides in accepting the people I care about, warts and all. And I still have a lot of internal work to do in regards to recognizing my unearned privilege and spending energy on this work rather than being self-righteous about others' sins.

This concludes my vague-blogging for the day.

Link Me Up, Scotty - MOOCs, Marriage and Gaslighting

Monday, June 29, 2015
Turns out that MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) aren't filling the need for which they're designed. Instead, they're filling a different need, one that will still have positive educational effects for students. Life long learning for the win!
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A fascinating article about Gaslighting and how to recognize if you're a victim. Having been victimized by this exact form of emotional abuse by someone I trusted, I can affirm that it is a form of mental abuse, and a particularly nasty one, at that.
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White people avoid taking responsibility for institutional racism. I especially like the phrase "white fragility." Like most white Americans, I have a long way to go in this area.
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A fabulous comic about how rape culture has skewed society's view of "consent."
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The Big Picture provides photos of celebrations of marriage equality on Friday. THERE'S SOMETHING IN MY EYE.
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My friend and shippie Jim Wright makes a pragmatic and sensible suggestion on legislation designed to reduce gun violence as a matter of culture in the U.S.  I spent too long in the Armed Forces not to support the 2nd Amendment, but I am TOTALLY DOWN with the level of accountability Jim proposes. Put your money where your mouth is, gun enthusiasts, or shut the hell up about gun control.
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Because what could be cooler than Vladamir Putin as every member of the Village People? Nothing. That's what.
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Brother Seth provides thoughtful commentary on the Obergefell v Hodges decision. Having friends with a wide variety of expertise makes me furiously happy.
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Video of the Day: Roxane Gay talks about being a "bad feminist" with humor and grace.


Must Buy Books, A Meme

Friday, June 26, 2015
My dear friend Random Michelle recently wrote about her "must buy" books. I believe she took the suggestion from SF Signal, but since I'm third in line, I'm going to declare it a meme and generate my own list. Because, books.

Please note this list is not completely inclusive. I'm running out of time.


Lois McMaster Bujold - The Vorkosigan Series

I loves me some Miles Vorkosigan. I love his parents, his cousin, his friends, his weird-ass brother and I love the universe that Lois has built.

The thing about the Vorkosigan universe is that there's consequences. If you act like an ass and go off half-cocked, you're going to get yourself or someone else killed. If you screw up bad enough, you're going to lose everything you've worked for, and there aren't exceptions to this fundamental rule of life. Such a writing strategy gives me a huge emotional investment in the characters. I care about Miles and his family and friends, and I await the next book with joyful anticipation.

Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child - The Aloysius Pendergast Series

This series started with the best thriller ever written - Relic. Seriously - the very best. There's now a plethora of sequels, all featuring FBI Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast, one of the oddest protagonists I've ever read about. Odd, but extremely effective. 

My only complaint is that in the middle of the series, Aloysius kind of became a Gary Stu for a while. However, subsequent books showed a bit more vulnerability, so it appears he's back on track now.

Louise Penny - The Armand Gamache Series

Louise is a new addition to my "must buy" list. She writes about a French Canadian police detective named Armand Gamache, and he and his team investigate murders in a small town called Three Pines.

Honestly - I don't know why I find these books so compelling. The mysteries aren't particularly complex, the characters are typically work-a-day people with work-a-day problems (murders notwithstanding), and Armand is simply a smart, decent man. But I can't wait for each book.

John Scalzi

I always buy John's books. I'm not in any way declaring him a "great writer," but his books are good SciFi popcorn books, not very deep or meaningful. But they're fun, and that's enough.

Robert Sawyer

Bob's books make me think. They make me think about the human condition, spirituality, what makes us uniquely human. His asks hard questions, and even though he doesn't necessarily provide answers, he compels me to try and find them for myself. What more could I ask for?

Janet Evanovich - The Stephanie Plum Series

Brain candy, pure and simple. But fun brain candy. And I think I want to be Lula when I grow up. Not the 'ho part. The reformed Lula.

Charles Stross - The Laundry Files

The idea that magic is just another branch of mathematics tickles me on a fundamental level. And Charlie's droll sense of humor always makes these stories a pleasure. But the inside of Charlie's head must be a very strange place.

China Mieville

I find China's work to be compelling, complex, and interesting. But for the love of Cthulhu, if you haven't read him, choose the audiobooks instead of the books.  Trust me on this one.

Jonathon Maberry - The Joe Ledger Series

Not for the faint of heart, as the bad guys in these books are extremely bad.  But the stories are interesting, the characters are multi-dimensional, and Joe's a smart-ass of the highest order. NOTE: Jonathon's imagination makes me wonder about his emotional stability. Just speculation, mind, but seriously, dude.

Richard Kadrey - The Sandman Slim Series

Sandman Slim is a bastard. No, really - a complete jerk. But hey, if I spent years and years in Hell, I probably wouldn't be Little Miss Sunshine, either. Like Joe, he's a smart ass and a badass, and Kadrey's mythology is fascinating. 

What are you Must-Buy books?

Today's the Day!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Do you think we can read THIS many books?


Today is the Summer Solstice. That means it's time to kick off the Fifth Annual Maureen "AJ" Ramey Memorial Summer Reading Program!

Let's get to reading, and start funneling money to my fabulous local library!

Instructions and entries may be found here. Good Luck!

The Summer Solstice approaches - and we all know what THAT means

Monday, June 15, 2015

Moe cosplaying "Belle" from Beauty and the Beast
It means it's almost time for the Fifth Annual Maureen "AJ" Ramey Memorial Summer Reading Program, brought to you by Hot Chicks Dig Smart Men! 

Each year, Hot Chicks Dig Smart Men sponsors a summer reading program. Since her death in 2013, I've sponsored the program in honor of my beloved late daughter Moe. The one consistent thing in my daughter's life was her undying affection for the written word. So we'll read in her memory, and raise a book to honor her devotion to reading.

Moe came by her love honestly, as I LOVE reading. I read on my Kindle, on my iPad, on the Internet. I listen to Audiobooks whenever it's not practical to read words in a row. I'd read while I was sleeping if I could stay conscious. So once again, I'm sponsoring this reading program to benefit the 
Douglas County Library through the Douglas County Library Foundation,* in Moe-Moe's name. The proceeds from last year and this year will be combined to sponsor a bench or other honorarium at Parker's new library, currently under construction. 

The collection point is the page linked at the top of the blog entitled "Hot Chicks and Smart Men Read." Once the contest starts, I will open up the page for comments. Please leave your entries THERE and not HERE. 


Here's da rules:
  1. The contest will run from June 21th (the summer solstice! Yay!) to September 8th (the first working day after Labor Day. Boo.).
  2. When you finish a new book, post a comment on the "Hot Chicks and Smart Mean Read" page located at the top of the page with the title and author of the book. One comment, one book. PLEASE do not post entries on this page. If you do, I'm going to have to move them myself, and I know you don't want to create busy work for me.
  3. Audiobooks count. eBooks count. ANY book counts, with the exception of picture books. If you are reading a chapter book to a youngster, by all means, enter it, but picture books juke the stats.
  4. For each book that is read and registered in the comments by me and my readers, I will donate $1 to the Douglas County Library Foundation, up to $300.00.
  5. When the contest ends, I will use a random number generator to find THE WINNERS. THE WINNERS will each get $25.00 gift certificates to Amazon, so that you might buy more books. Each unique comment (one comment, one book) will be an entry for the gift certificate, so the more you read, the better chance you have to win.
  6. If the number of comments exceeds 300 (the ceiling on the donation), the subsequent comments will still be considered for the gift certificate.  
READ! READ! READ!
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Do you want me to include a link to your summer reading program? Send me a note!




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*Full Disclosure: I am the Secretary of the Douglas County Library Board of Trustees, and I am also President of the Douglas County Libraries Foundation. So unlike in years past, when these organizations had no idea who I was, I'm now deeply involved with the beneficiary of my largesse. However, this reading program (and the subsequent donation) are a private endeavor on my part, and have no connection to my volunteer work on behalf of the Library and its Foundation. I just loved them so much that in addition to my money, they're also now getting my time...also in memory of my Moe.

Link Me Up, Scotty - Shorty Edition

Wednesday, June 10, 2015
People in power are quick to call out injustice when they are harmed. I found this study gave me something to think about. In my own experience, I have always been quicker to point it out when I'm being treated unfairly when I was in a position of power. In the Navy, once I was promoted to Chief Petty Officer, I knew it would take an act of Congress or a Court Martial to strip me of my rank. That gave me a sense of professional freedom, just as being well-known in my current field and having a decent reputation means that I have options. Especially when I'm in the sweet, sweet position of "You need me more than I need you." I like that position, although it doesn't happen very often.
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The cast and crew of The Big Bang Theory have set up a scholarship endowment for low income students who wish to study science at UCLA.

Awesome.

H/T Random Michelle
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Back pain in indigenous cultures is nearly non-existent, as opposed to the chronic pain so prevalent in modern cultures. As usual, the trick seems to be getting off your ass.
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Sheryl Sandberg writes about her grief journey 30 days after suddenly losing her husband. I feel for her more than she'll ever know, and applaud her for embracing gratitude without denying her grief and loss.

H/T Karyn
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Both the jockey and the trainer of American Pharoah have decided to donate their Belmont winnings to charity. Moving forward, giving back.
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A successful businessman gives people the what-for about being punctual in both business and pleasure. Get out of my mind, Greg Savage. It's creepy.

H/T Tempest
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An interesting analysis of job-related drug testing. I've been subject to employment drug testing my entire adult life. Since I came of age in this environment, I never thought about it much, but it does seem like a colossal waste of money to me now.
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On the Courage of Caitlyn Jenner

Friday, June 5, 2015
The Internet is abuzz with the Vogue cover of Caitlyn Jenner, and the way in which she's publicly sharing her personal journey of acceptance. Many commentators believe that doing so is an act of courage. Others think it's some sort of attention getting scam. Still others believe there are more important things to think about and discuss, and some believe she's going to burn for her decision to live an authentic life.

There's a lot to unpack, here.

On the Nature of Courage

First of all, let's all agree that there are many types of courage. The physical courage of first responders, military personnel in combat, and ordinary citizens who make a decision to put themselves in harm's way for the sake of others is worthy of our respect.

The moral courage of doing the right thing in the face of certain condemnation and negative consequences to oneself is another kind of courage, and I personally have a great deal of respect for people who face these choices and come out the other side with honor and dignity.

There's the courage of people who take risks that the rest of us would never dream of. Astronauts. Explorers. Test pilots.

And then there's the kind of courage Caitlyn Jenner has shown in her transition process. Here is a human being who has decided to live an authentic life. A life of which so many people do not approve, and are not shy about communicating. A life so far removed from her previous existence she actually had to have major surgery in order to be true to her authentic self.

It's my contention that the courage of Caitlyn Jenner is as worthy of respect as any other type. Not only is she subjecting herself to numerous surgeries (and their inherent risks) in order to be her authentic self, she's facing loud and public condemnation for her choices. And she's moving forward anyway. Would you open your internal private journey to the world in such a way? I'm not sure I could, and I choose to share far more of my inner self in public than most people.

On Seeking Attention

I think it's fair to say that Caitlyn Jenner is seeking attention by being so public about her transition. Why she is being so public can be argued, although I prefer to think it's because she knows that doing so will make issues of gender identity more mainstream. If people choose to attribute cynical motives to Caitlyn, then that's their prerogative.

But please spare the world the amazing ignorance inherent in assuming that someone would actually CHANGE THEIR GENDER simply to get attention and make money. Seriously.

On the News Cycle

You know what? There are lots of things in this world that are important. That matter. That affect the lives of thousands or millions of people. As heirs of the enlightenment, we all have an obligation to approach these things in a humanistic way.

But I think people tend to fall into the moral equivalence fallacy when it comes to the type of news stories that signify significant social change. Are there events in the world that affect more people than the trans community and their families? Of course. War, food insecurity and extreme poverty come to mind. But that doesn't mean that Caitlyn's story and the trans community as a whole isn't important. It may not be important to specific individuals - in fact I'm quite sure a large portion of the population couldn't care less. And that's okay. But don't pretend that because you don't care about someone's personal story means it's irrelevant to everyone else. Your narcissism is hanging out, and it does not become you.

On Religious Objections

I love it when Christians act like...well, Christians. But if you can't, if you really can't bring yourself to mind your own damn business, then be prepared for the consequences of your free speech, including being called a bigoted asshat and being told to fuck right off with your neolithic ideas.
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I'm a human being with a fondness for the categorical imperative. I have a vested interest in other human beings being treated with kindness and respect. And what I've seen on social media and in some quarters of the press makes me ill. Leave the woman alone. If you're not interested in her transition, if her journey doesn't engage you, then don't read about it. Don't talk about it. Hide stories or commentary about it.

But spare us all the vitriol of your disapproval. You're outing yourself, and not in a "being your authentic self" kind of way. Or maybe you are. Which is a damn shame.