I Will Not Be Your “Model Victim”

There has been a conversation happening in the comments of a recent post on calling harassment “harassment”.

Simon: A question for all the commenters that disagree with what Greg did: what would you do in his place?

chrisho-stuart: There are any number of good examples of how to do engage these kinds of things better than Greg manages. Stephanie Zvan stands as a good example of expressing anger and contempt in much better ways than what Greg did.

Simon: I share your admiration for Stephanie. However I can’t help but notice that she too gets a ridiculously high amount of harassment from the same general direction.

chrisho-stuart: Simon; I agree that Stephanie, and FtB in general, and a range of other posters especially women, get completely over the top abuse from the general direction in which Mykeru tends to inhabit. Over this last year it has been a sharp wake up call to me and many others at the depth of sheer mean spirited venomous misogyny that exists.

They generally handle it very well.

Let’s put an end to this right now. [Read more…]

On Making Merry

A repost/remix for the day. Original here.

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Let your heart be light
Next year all our troubles will be out of sight
Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Make the yuletide gay
Next year all our troubles will be miles away
Once again as in olden days
Happy golden days of yore
Faithful friends who were dear to us
Will be near to us once more
Someday soon we all will be together
If the fates allow
Until then, we’ll have to muddle through somehow
So have yourself a merry little Christmas now

I prefer this version of the song to the newer, cheerier lyrics. [Read more…]

Gaps in the Net

If you read Dispatches from the Culture Wars with any regularity, you know that something has been up with Ed this week. What you may not know yet is that the reason Ed’s blog has been quiet is that he’s been busy worrying us here at FtB. We’ve been getting emails through the weeks with dribs and drabs of information like this:

The ambulance came Monday morning and they thought I was having a heart attack. I get to Greenville ER and the doctor there immediately decides to send me to Butterworth hospital in Grand Rapids, a world-class medical facility, especially for cardiac problems.

I get to Butterworth with my heart rate over 160. They did a heart catheter and found no blockages at all. They did a CAT scan and found the lining of my heart a bit thick and the right ventricle a bit stiff, but those things shouldn’t cause the problems I was having. All day Monday they did tests, also finding that my lymph nodes were swelled badly. Tuesday morning about 10 AM, my heart rate goes over 200 bpm and they decide they can’t wait any longer, they have to open me up.

Ed is okay, at least for now. The doctors ruled out a whole bunch of unpleasantness that could have kept this drama going for him far too long–or shortened it unthinkably. They took very good care of him.

Of course, they took very good care of him in the U.S., and you probably know what that means.

The good news is that I have health insurance, which I pay on a COBRA from my job with AINN (it runs out in six months and I’ll have to get my own insurance, which thankfully can’t be denied anymore because of the preexisting condition). But I’m still going to have some significant out-of-pocket expenses and loss of income during the recovery period (it’s going to be a couple months before I’m really back to normal). So you can certainly help out financially if you have the means to do so and it would be greatly appreciated.

You may not know that, since his newspaper job ended, Ed has been working on a book documenting the types of harassment faced by activists promoting the separation of church and state. It’s a worthwhile project, but it takes time, during which income isn’t coming in except through the blog. Ed planned for that, but…well, most people don’t really plan for open heart surgery.

If you want to help Ed out, either out of outrage at our ridiculous health care system or because you want the book to get here faster, you can do that on his blog.

Cottage Cheese Cookies

A repost. This is my day. Yours?

It’s the time of year when almost everything else takes a backseat to cookie making. As I’ve mentioned before, most of the gifts we give are charitable donations, with cookies to sweeten the deal for the recipients. That’s a lot of baking in a short period of time, particularly if I’ve compressed my holidays by taking a week-long trip in the middle of them, as I did this year.

What am I making this year? Nothing too fancy; I go for variety of flavor over shapes, making at most one “presentation” cookie in a year. There are a couple of trusted standbys: almond sugar cookies and pecan sandies that Ben makes. There are the tweaked classics: Kiss cookies with a coffee cookie and dark-chocolate Kisses, crispy rice bars with chopped pistachios and dried cherries mixed in (‘Cause they’re green and red. Get it? Oh, never mind.). There’s the untried recipe: “Pumpkin cookies with orange icing? Huh. Sure.”

Always, however, are the grandma cookies. I’m sure they had a name at one point, but when I copied down my father’s mother’s recipe, I didn’t keep it. I’ve never seen anyone else make them, so they’ve stayed named after her [until I found out last year what she named them]. They’re a cake-like cookie, with a smooth texture and a mild but rich flavor due to the Dutch-process cocoa. [Read more…]

Saturday Storytime: Dance in Blue

Catherine Asaro does, well, everything. She is a scientist and science teacher who has published several novels, along with plenty of shorter works. Her book The Quantum Rose, part of her epic science fiction series, won awards for both science fiction and romance. In this short story, she lets you know that however awkward family may be over the holidays for you, someone definitely has it worse.

I stopped in front of the house, faced by two imposing doors made from mahogany. The mirrors of a solar collector were set discreetly into the wall above the door frame, their surfaces tilted to catch the sun. When I rang the doorbell, chimes inside played a Mozart sonata.

No one answered. After a while I knocked. Still no answer. I looked around, but there was no other entrance. Nor was there any way around the house. A rough stone wall bordered both the east and west sides of the courtyard, and on the other side of each wall, cliffs dropped down in sheer faces. Beyond that, the spectacular panorama of the Rocky Mountains spread out for miles.

“Hello?” My breath came out in white puffs. I rang the bell again, then pulled on the door handles.

“Bridget Fjelstad?” the door asked.

I jumped back. “Yes?”

They swung open. “Please come in.”

I blinked at them. Then I walked into a wonderland.

Tiles covered the walls, the floor, even the ceiling of the entrance foyer. Shimmering globes hung in the air in front of each square. The spheres weren’t solid. When I stretched out my hand, it passed right through them. If I moved my head from side to side, they shifted relative to each other as if they were solid. When I moved my head up and down, their relative positions stayed fixed but they changed color. Rainbows also filled the foyer, probably made from sunlight caught by the solar collector and refracted through prisms. It was like being in a sea of sparkling light.

I smiled. “Sadji? Are you here? This is beautiful.”

No one answered. Across the foyer, a doorway showed like a magical portal. I walked through it, coming out into an empty room shaped like a ten-pointed star. The doorway made one side of a point on the star, with the hinges of the door in the tip of the point. The three points on the east side of the room were windows, six floor-to-ceiling panes of glass. Pine tiles covered the other walls, each a palm-sized square of wood enameled with delicate birds and flowers in colors of the sunrise. Light from the foyer spilled out here, giving the air a sparkling quality. It made faint rainbows on the wood and the white carpet.

But there was no Sadji. I felt strange, alone in his oddly beautiful house. I went to the windows and stood in a point of the star. Outside the wall of the house fell away from my feet, dropping down into clouds. All that stood between me and the sky was a pane of glass.

Something about the window bothered me. Looking closer, I realized a faint glimmer of rainbows showed around its edges. Was it spillover from the foyer? Or was that breathtaking view only a holo? It wouldn’t surprise me if this place had the best holographic equipment the twenty-first century had to offer. If anyone had the resources to create a mountain-sized holo it was my absent host, Sadji Parker. Why he would do it, I had no idea.

Then I had an unwelcome thought: what if the view was real but not the glass? Although there were no sounds to make me think I stood in front of an open window, there wasn’t really anything to hear out in that chasm of sky. And I had been in stores with exits protected by moving screens of air that kept heat in and wind out better than a door. The newer ones were so sophisticated you couldn’t detect them even if you were right next to them.

But if this was a holo, where was the hologram? My only knowledge of holography came from a class I had taken in school. This much I remembered, though, to make a holo you needed a hologram, a recording of how light bouncing off an object interfered with laser light.

I shook my head and my reflection in the glass did the same, showing me a slender woman with yellow hair spilling over her wool coat down to her hips.

Then I smiled. Of course. This couldn’t be a holo. There was no way my reflection could show up in it unless I had been there when the hologram was made.

I reached out and pressed glass on both sides. It wasn’t until my shoulders relaxed that I realized how much I had tensed.

There’s no reason to get rattled, I thought. Then I went to look for Sadji.

Keep reading.

Readings in Evolutionary Psychology

I know you’re all still very interested in the subject of evolutionary psychology. Given that, I’ve collected a short selection of readings that may interest you. First, we start with the incomparable Scicurious and her Friday Weird Science feature.

The handsome stranger clutched her shoulders, supporting her as she swooned. The suddenness and violence of the robbery and her rescue disoriented Beverlee, and for a few moments she did not know where she was. But as she began to be conscious of her surroundings, she was increasingly aware of the tall, firm man she leaned against, of his  big hands clasped around her shoulders, warm through the thin linen of her chemise.

She looked up hesitantly through her lashes, and into the dark, deep eyes of her rescuer. As their eyes met, a shock seemed to pass through them both. He leapt backward, and for an instant Beverlee felt the loss of his touch, the coldness where his hands had touched her.  But the moment passed, and gathering himself, her rescuer spoke.

“Christmas” he said, flatly. “Bride baby cowboy doctor secret lady.” And each word sang deep in Beverlee’s spirit, tapping something deep in her she hadn’t known existed: the desire to find a long term mate that would provide food and shelter while she had loads of babies.

-from the romance novel I will someday write.

Sci takes a look at the methods behind a study purporting to show that inherent tendencies in female mating strategies are reflected in Harlequin romance titles. Hey, now, come on. They looked at 15,000 titles. How can a sample size that large not represent good science? I doubt I’ll spoil much to let to you know that Sci will tell you. She’ll also be hilarious as she does it. 
[Read more…]

Atheists Talk Holiday Special

“You’re an atheist? Oh, you must be lonely and miserable during the holidays.”

“No, not at all. I celebrate too.”

“What? What do you celebrate?”

You know how it goes. People who have never gotten far enough outside Christianity to look back in and realize that Santa Claus isn’t Jesus and eggnog wouldn’t have kept well in Israel just can’t wrap their heads around the idea of secular holidays. They can’t quite figure out how we manage to make festive without the bible, even though theirs doesn’t make an appearance when everyone is sitting around the Christmas tree.

So we’re going to help them out. On Sunday, December 23, at 9 a.m. Central time, we’re going to do a special holiday edition of Atheists Talk. It’s going to be all about what we do, as atheists, as everyone else is celebrating Christmas or Ramadan or Yule or making a big deal out of Hannukah for the sake of the children or going out for Chinese food and a movie.

What do you do over these dark days? Do you keep the old traditions minus the churchy bits? Do you still go to church for some reason? Does Santa visit? Do you do a big family meal? Do the people you spend the holidays with know you’re atheist? Do you decorate? If you do, what kinds of symbols do you include? What new traditions have you carved for yourself? What movies define this time of year for you? How do you really feel about Christmas music? What’s the most unholy holiday you’ve ever had?

Listen to AM 950 KTNF this Sunday at 9 a.m. Central to hear Atheists Talk, produced by Minnesota Atheists. Stream live online. Call in to the studio at 952-946-6205, or send an e-mail to radio@mnatheists.org during the live show. If you miss the live show, listen to the podcast later.

I Am Mental Illness

In response to the recent panic and misinformation on mental illness in the wake of the Newtown school shooting, Double X Science has put out a call for submissions:

I Am Mental Illness submissions
For this essay series, we welcome submissions of personal essays about your experience having a mental illness. The mission of this series is to personalize mental illness, take ownership of what it means to be someone with a mental illness, and to de-stigmatize and enhance understanding of mental illness. Essays should be factual but certainly also personal and candid. We expect to frame each essay with some basic information about the mental illness(es) it describes. Submissions should be sent to [redacted] by December 30, 2012. At that time, we will make editorial decisions about selections for the series and notify writers about our choices. We are not offering payment at this time for submissions for this series. Essays that have been posted/published previously are welcome as long as author/submitter has copyright or permission.

I pulled the email address out of that because there are submission guidelines that go along with this call. I know that a number of readers here are up front about having a mental illness and very good at communicating how that does and doesn’t affect their lives. If you’re one of those people, or think you want to be, go have a look at the guidelines.

Help make this personal and let others with mental illness know that they’re not alone.

It’s Just Disagreement

You see, it’s not trolling. It’s not hatred. It’s not abuse. It’s just criticism. It’s just disagreement. How can you not see the diff–

Wait. What is this masterpiece of dissension that is totally not hate?

Look, I get it. Y’all are skeptics, whatever the fuck that means. You think that when someone like rebecca watson starts talking stupid on the internet, there’s some logical, respectful way to rebut them. The problem is, you’re playing the wrong game. You’re playing by rules they don’t give a fuck about, and you’re going to lose over and over.

That would be John Welch, slimepitter, explaining the appropriate strategy for dealing with “new media douchebags”. Like Rebecca. Like me. [Read more…]