Link Me Up, Scotty - Terrorism and Germs Edition

Wednesday, December 17, 2014
Steven Taylor over at Outside the Beltway asks the critical question, "What Does 'Linked to Terrorism' Mean?" As he notes, terrorism is a tactic, not an organization, and when we conflate "terrorism" with "Muslim extremism," it leads to sloppy thinking and poor analysis.
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A Christian organization erected a billboard in Virginia stating that being gay is a choice by leveraging photos of "identical twins" where one is straight and the other gay. The problem, of course, is that it's all a big, stinking pile of word poop, because the model in question is not a twin, but is in fact, gay.  I am shocked, I tell you, SHOCKED, that a Christian, anti-gay organization would be caught with their pants on fire as it relates to sexual identity. Not. H/T everyone.
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According to actual scientists and registered dieticians, fad cleanses don't actually do anything for your health or weight control program. Surprise, surprise. However, there are studies that show some benefit to actual fasting on a periodic basis. I'm trying to decide if I want to incorporate fasting into my health and fitness plan, but more research (on my part) is needed. H/T Skepchick
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Tree Lobsters takes on the passive aggressive assholery that is "playing devil's advocate."
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NPR reports on a study of the gender wage gap and how it increases during the middle of women's careers. This was not my personal experience, but my career trajectory was very odd, to say the least.  H/T Random Michelle
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NPR takes a look at the possibility of an "Endless Ebola Epidemic." Crap on a cracker, the germs are going to get us yet.
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You know I'm going to link to my Eric Gardner's essay entitled Antonin Scalia, the Government, and Your Butt. Because he's my platonic semi-celebrity boyfriend, that's why.
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Where does fat go when you lose weight? I've always wondered, and now I know.
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Video of the Week: A public service announcement about how many LGBTQ kids are treated by their birth families if they choose to come out. It makes me APOPLECTIC WITH RAGE that some parents would choose to behave in this fashion simply because their kids are honest with them about who they are. And it makes my heart sing to know there are places like the Ali Forney Center who are equipped and ready to help these kids during the worst moments of their lives. Advocacy matters, because no kid deserves this. H/T Queereka

Facebook - Let's bring back original content

Thursday, December 11, 2014
For some time, I've been noticing that my Facebook feed has become a lot thinner on news and photos of people I care about, writings from people I respect, and links to news stories that make me think, and a lot fatter on crap.

And by "crap," I mean the junk you put on Facebook because...reasons? And by "you," I mean all you people who are otherwise intelligent and interesting people under normal circumstances, but think that your Facebook page is filled with deep wisdom and insight from all your re-posts, but is in fact banal and boring. Let's give some examples, shall we?
  1. If you look at your page and all you see is re-posts of political commentary superimposed over a photograph that may or may not be relevant, you're posting crap. If we're friends, it's a pretty good bet that I already know your political leanings, and informing me of them again, and again, and AGAIN, does not engage me to your cause or make me change my mind about MY political opinions.
  2. If you look at your page and all you see is re-posts of inspirational words that help you live a better life superimposed over a photograph that may or may not be relevant, you're posting crap. I'm happy that you're trying to maintain your mental and spiritual health, because I want you to be happy.  But quite frankly I'd rather hear about how fabulous you felt after a weekend retreat than look at just one more "words of wisdom" post.
  3. If you look at your page and all you see is re-posts of LOL cats, videos entitled "You're not going to believe what happened next," music videos, and jokes about bodily functions, you're posting crap. 
  4. If you look at your page and all you see are re-posts saying things like "I'm against child abuse! Share if you agree!" you're posting crap. Because really, what does that say about you? That you're against child abuse? As opposed to what? A re-post that says "I'm totally FOR child abuse! Beat 'em till they bleed?" And what are you trying to say about me, who refuses to re-post this crap - that I'm for child abuse by omission?
  5. If you look at your wall and all you see is a combination of items 1-4 above, you're posting crap.
Here's the thing. I use Facebook because I want to connect with the people I care about. I want to be informed about their lives, learn about their happenings and accomplishments, their triumphs and their pain. I want to look at links that provide me with thought-provoking content, and act as a spring-board for the exchange of ideas.

Do I object to occasional re-posts of something that will make me think or give me a chuckle? Of course not. I re-post such things myself occasionally, in addition to news about our new house, our crazy dog, and my daily life. But the re-posts aren't all I post.

I'm thinking I'm going to start getting brutal with the blocking. I only have so many hours left on this earth, and I don't want to waste even one more on people's Facebook pages who consist of nothing but items 1-4. I want to start using Facebook in the way I used to use it - as a tool to bring me closer to those I care about, rather than a banal and boring timesuck.

ORIGINAL CONTENT. Let's all get on board, shall we?

On Feminism and MRAs

Tuesday, December 9, 2014
You know, I used to be blissfully ignorant of the douchebaggery that is the Men's Rights Activist (MRA) movement. I'd heard of it, of course - it's been mentioned on several of the feminist websites I frequent, and it always seemed to me that here were a bunch of bitter, middle-aged white dudes who were terrified about the possibility of having to give up their unearned privilege so that a more egalitarian society might be achieved.

And then I had a "conversation" with one of them. By accident. When the topic of conversation was something else entirely.

According to this model of social and ethical thinking, the reason women haven't achieved pay equity and gender equity in fields traditionally dominated by men isn't because there's institutional or societal bias at work. That's just crazy talk. This guy believes these outcomes "are factually explainable, or based on kneejerk [sic] acceptance of studies by special-interests [sic] using discreditable methods."

Also, rape culture is a myth.

And my view that I should not have to be subjected to harassment, micro aggressions and tokenism in my chosen fields is RADICAL.

And WOMEN are the ones who are privileged. 

And HIS female colleagues haven't had this experience [that they'd admit to], so it must not be true!

.....

You can imagine my delight with having my life's experiences mansplained away by an aforementioned bitter, middle-aged, white dude terrified about the possibility of giving up his unearned privilege.

Say it, sister
However, I learned long ago that getting into a pissing contest in someone else's space is impolite at best, so I disengaged. That doesn't mean, however, that I'm not still feeling a bit stabby about the whole thing, mostly due to a lack of understanding.

What makes such individuals so painfully, blatantly obtuse about admitting that their experience isn't the only experience? Is it a failure of compassion? Of courage?  Of intellect? All three?

People I admire and respect tend to believe the answer lies in a failure of all three, with a good dose of Narcissistic Personality Disorder thrown in. The entire argument is just so unrealistic, I can't understand the cognitive dissonance that's required to hold the world view that men's rights are being abrogated in favor of women. Do these people actually, you know, speak honestly to women who struggle to work in male-dominated fields? Do they read the statistical analysis of salaries, elected officials, and representative percentages of women in STEM and academia? How do you look at those data and come to the conclusion that men and being kept down by the Woman?

The entire idea is nonsensical. As my friend Max notes, "MRA is a non sequitur. In order to be an advocate for men's rights, men's rights would have to be limited by some kind of external force or dominant group. Which, as a white man, I can clearly say is not the case."

The length people will go to in order to maintain their perception of themselves just boggles my mind. BOGGLES. In order to maintain the illusion that their success is due entirely to their own efforts rather than their own efforts with a boost from societal norms, these folks are willing to disavow reality in favor of a fantasy world where EQUALITY HAS BEEN ACHIEVED, AND DON'T YOU FORGET IT.

Bitch, please. 

I do believe that there are issues that have been traditionally referred to as "women's issues" where men have an equal stake in the matter. Issues such as parental leave (as opposed to maternity leave), affordable child care, work/life balance, and more. If these issues affect working women, then by definition they affect working men as well, and it behooves us to remember that "family matters" are not the exclusive purview of women. There are a plethora of issues that are human issues, and affect both genders equally. Excluding men from such discussions devalues their involvement in family life, and is disrespectful, besides. 

But the idea that men are the oppressed in Western society? Get the fuck out of here.
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P.S. My belief that these dudes are bat-shit crazy does not mean I don't think there aren't issues afoot that abrogate the rule of law when societal pressure is severe enough. Case in point. The rule of law applies to everyone, equally, and this type of crap makes me as apoplectic with rage as the nutbags who insist that institutional sexism/racism/whateverism doesn't exist. 

A Week of Gratitude, Day 7 - The Smart Man

Sunday, December 7, 2014
In the first year after Moe died, my ability to execute on even the simplest tasks was seriously compromised. My memory was completely shot, and what intellectual rigor I had retained had to be reserved for my job. Especially for the first six months, my emotional fragility was extreme, and I would cry often, at seemingly unrelated events.

I was incapable of taking care of myself, but I was so very fortunate to have someone who was willing and capable of doing so until I could recovery to a degree where I could manage my own life.

That person is, of course, the Smart Man. Throughout the first year, he kept me on track, managed our business, looked out for triggers that might set me off and avoided them. He was supremely understanding and patient with my grief-induced brain scatter, and ensured others treated me kindly, and with grace. When my inability to concentrate made me nearly non-functional on a professional level, he encouraged me to seek my doctor's help, and made sure I took at least minimal care of my body, even when I couldn't have cared less.

And he did all these things at the expense of his own grief journey. The Smart Man and Moe were very close, and her death hit him very hard. But he's been so concerned about my well-being that he's not paid sufficient attention to his own.

Today I'm grateful for a partner who has provided me with the love, support, patience and attention I've needed to round the corner of my grief, and try to come back to the world.

A Week of Gratitude, Day Six - Financial Stability

Saturday, December 6, 2014
During my first year of grief, I really came to appreciate the freedom financial stability brings to my life.

When it became obvious that I was not currently capable of maintaining the travel schedule and intellectual rigor required by my job in the Military Industrial Complex, we had to make some decisions about my career. I needed a job without so much travel, and one that used skills I had used for many years, rather than a new technology that required intense periods of concentration and learning.

The problem, of course, is that such a position bears far more resemblance to the work I was doing 10 years ago than my current career trajectory. Making such a move would almost certainly require that I take a pay cut.

Fortunately, we were in a financial position that allowed us to make this change without having to drastically change our lifestyle. I was able to find a less demanding position, with a good enough salary that we're now building a new house...because neither one of us is particularly interested in continuing to live here.

Today I'm grateful for the combination of luck and work that has given us the financial freedom to allow us to make the changes we require to move forward.

A Week of Gratitude, Day Five - Family Matters

Friday, December 5, 2014
After we lost Moe, I wasn't the only one who suffered. The rest of Moe's family, including her family by choice, have also been hard pressed to make sense of her death, and to come to terms with our loss.

But one thing we had was each other. Each of us were dealing with our grief in different ways, as is appropriate, and it helped me tremendously to know that I wasn't the only person who missed her desperately, and had a unfilled hole in my heart. The circle of Grief required that each of these family members provide whatever support I needed without asking me for support in return, but I was always aware of their own grief.

Today I'm grateful that my suffering over Moe's death has not been a solitary affair, but one in which my family shared.

A Week of Gratitude, Day Four - The Gift of Literacy

Thursday, December 4, 2014
In 2014, I have read more books in a single year than ever before. Most of them have been audiobooks, although I've finished my fair share on my Kindle, too.

Reading has always been a huge part of my life. I can't remember a time when I couldn't read, and books have been my constant companions for decades. For me, the worst part about boot camp was that I had no time to read.

For the last year, they have provided a much needed distraction in my life. I've not been reading as much non-fiction as I normally do, but for this year, learning new things has not been my priority.

This year, I've been grateful for the gift of literacy, and all that books have done for me.