The Jenome is no longer crashing & comments are working!

Sorry for making all of you my inadvertent beta testers! I tried to get the Jenome as ready as possible, but the true test is always when you release the hordes. Thankfully it didn’t get totally pillaged.

Now that I’ve worked out  more adequate hosting, the site should no longer crash if PZ blinks in this general direction. I’m still a little befuddled how GoDaddy originally sold me a hosting package that can only handle 200 simultaneous users after I described my traffic… But it should be okay now.

Comments should also theoretically be working, and you can login with either WordPress, Facebook, Twitter, Google, OpenID, Blogger, and Disqus. Hopefully those are enough options to cover everyone! I’m working on making it so you don’t have to leave the page to login and so you have a better comment box, but it turns out my theme is overriding the comment plugins I’m trying to use. This may finally be what pushes me to sit down and learn CSS, since my current method is taking what I know from Python and html and then editing things through trial and error…which may not cut it for this issue. So it may be a little while before I find a prettier and more functional solution, but at least there’s something for now!

If you click the “Subscribe” button in the tiny top menu, it will take you to the RSS feed for my posts, Right now it isn’t pretty and looks like a bunch of code, but the feed is working. If you enter that address into something like Feedly, it should work (at least, it did for me). I still need to work on making this a little more functional; advice is appreciated.

There seems to be a rare but bizarre issue where people only get 403 or 404 errors when trying to view the site. I ran into this problem in the morning on a different IP, and a friend of mine had the same issue. But oddly enough, when we check on Down For Everyone or Just Me? it says it’s down for just us, and the site still worked from my phone. I have no clue, but let me know if you do!

And if you run into anything weird on the site, still have problems commenting, or have any helpful suggestions, please email me at jen (at) thejenome (dot) com.

Well, Godaddy fucked me over EDIT: then fixed it

I had talked to a Godaddy representative before purchasing my hosting services. I specifically described the amount of traffic I tend to get per day and per month and wanted their confirmation that their hosting service would be able to accommodate it. They assured me the Economy $3.99/month package would be more than enough, so I bought 3 years of service because it was the better deal.

Nope. I just called them and they said my hosting only allows 200 people on the site at any one time, and when it hits that the site will crash and be down for the day. TWO HUNDRED PEOPLE. That’s fucking nothing. I have thousands of blog readers. And I’m a BLOG. All of my traffic comes in spikes – every time I make a post people come to the site all at once, and then I have lower traffic at other times. But they want me to pay $250/month for a dedicated server, which is more than 10% of my salary. If it was $250 a year I’d just spend it, and if it was $1000 a year I may beg all of you for some money, but Jesus fucking Christ.

So now because they lied to me I’m out the money I originally spent on hosting, I wasted a week of my time coding a site that is unusable, I botched the big exciting announcement about my new blog, and I have no idea what to do.

Fuck it all.

Edit: Well, overnight I was flooded with cheap hosting alternatives, which brightened my day. Even though it would be a pain in the ass to switch, for a moment there I thought hosting my own blog would be an impossibility. I tweeted as much.

Five minutes later I have an email from GoDaddy saying they gave me a free year of Business Level WordPress hosting, which is about $250 a year (…curiously the same price that I wrote here that I’d be willing to pay, hrm). Then five minutes later I get a phone call from a GoDaddy rep who explains that they’re giving me that year on a server that can easily handle my site for free, and they’d also reimburse me what I originally paid. So I decided to go for it…for now.

I don’t exactly have the highest confidence in them right now, but maybe they’ll prove me wrong over the next year. The fact that I gave details about my blog traffic and even explicitly asked if I should get the WordPress package, I was still led to the totally wrong thing. Then the next guy tries to upsell me to some absurdly expensive private server? He also told me I could get a full refund up until 45 days, but the latest guy said even that was wrong and it was only 5 days. What is going on over there?

Anyway, I’m just glad this is resolved. Back to the fun part of blogging…getting the comment code to work!

Farewell to FtB & Blag Hag; Introducing my new blogging home, The Jenome

EDIT: Well, the moment I announced the site it crashed from the traffic, oi. I’m also aware that the comment form over there isn’t working right, and I’m trying to fix the problems.

Yes, you read that correctly – I’m leaving Freethought Blogs and “Blag Hag” is officially no more. But don’t despair! I will be writing, doodling, and ranting away like usual at my new solo blog, The Jenome.

To explain my reasoning about the move and name change, I have reproduced my welcome post at The Jenome below (though if you want to comment, why not try commenting at my new blog?). I’ll post a couple more reminders here about the move over the next week or so. Don’t forget to change your RSS feeds to the new feed!

Hello, former Blag Hag readers. Welcome to my new home.

The Jenome was created as a sort of rebirth, even though it still falls victim to my curse of only being able to come up with pun titles. I’d like to compare it to a phoenix rising from the ashes, but that’s a little too grandiose. The Jenome is more like Selginella lepidophylla, the “Resurrection Plant”, blooming back to life after withering away into dormancy due to years of drought and hardship.

And you thought there couldn’t be a geekier metaphor for resurrection than a phoenix. Pfft, why turn to mythology when you have biology?

My blogging waned in 2012 due to a combination of graduate school stress and time commitments, a vicious harassment campaign against me by internet misogynists, and a stupid brain that’s predisposed to depression and anxiety. Unfortunately, the following year was even worse. In March 2013 my mother was diagnosed with stage four ovarian cancer, and in April of 2014 she passed away. I simply didn’t have time for blogging or speaking when I was constantly worrying about and visiting my mom, while simultaneously try to work on my PhD.

As horrible as these last couple of years have been, they’ve also given me a new perspective on life. As an atheist, I’ve always believed that this is the one shot we get at life and we should live it to the fullest. But this last year made me realize exactly how true that is. You never know if you’re going to get cancer or get hit by a bus, and all the planning in the world can still get derailed by the unexpected.

This wake up call also showed me exactly what my priorities are. I want to explore how the universe works, share that wonder and excitement with others, and create art to make the world a slightly more interesting place. I don’t want to think writing something is pointless because someone else beat me to a topic. I don’t want to spend weeks debating a sexist comment posted by some random asshole living in a basement. I don’t want to be an unintentional amplifier for hate and vitriol. I don’t want to feel pressured to write about specific topics. I don’t want to worry about creating professional posts for getting a job. And frankly, I can’t totally relate to the “Blag Hag” persona anymore – Blag Hag was effectively my less thoughtful, more reactive college self, and I have definitely changed since then.

I originally fell in love with blogging because it was an open, interactive journal for me to be creative. And this is my attempt to get that back with a fresh start. If I want to write about serious topics like the latest scientific advancements, or religious privilege, or feminism, then I will. But I’ll also feel free to post about my strategy in Civ 5, or what I thought about the latest episode of Game of Thrones, or a random doodle I made of butts wearing glasses.

I enjoyed my time at Freethought Blogs and still consider the bloggers there my colleagues and friends. I don’t want to imply that they restricted my blogging topics in any way, because they gave me absolute freedom. So why did I leave? Honestly, I’m a perfectionist control freak who hates working in groups. I’m simply happier and in a better mental space when I have total control, even if it’s control over minor things like how to arrange widgets in a sidebar or what font color to use. I gave joining a network a chance for the increased exposure and the extra spending money, but I realized that’s not what’s important to me. My anxious brain got too caught up in writing “Freethought” topics, or worrying about the frequency of my posts and how it reflects on the network as a whole, and it sucked the fun out of blogging. What I really wanted was simply a space that’s 100% mine.

So, welcome to The Jenome, where the theme is yet again Shit Jen Thinks About. I really can’t express how thankful and touched I am to have readers who have stuck by me through these hard years. I’ve constantly received messages from people who miss my writing or are just hoping I’m doing okay. I still have to pinch myself that anyone wants to read what spills out of my head, but I’m happy to be able to share it with all of you again.

Eulogy for my mother

Hundreds of people showed up to my mother’s funeral. We were lucky the room adjacent to ours wasn’t also booked for a funeral, because we filled the seats in that room in addition to ours. In addition to that, about 40 people had to stand, and that doesn’t count the 50 or so people who came to visitation but didn’t stay for the memorial. My mother was much loved, and we lost her too soon.

I wanted to share the eulogy I gave for my mother yesterday. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to write and definitely not the most eloquent, and it was extra intimidating giving it in front of all my former English teachers (her colleagues), but it still means a lot to me.

“My mother was the kindest, most self-sacrificing person I knew. When she was going through chemo the first time, she came back to work early because she didn’t want to miss the joy of teaching her Honors Art students. Some of the students and teachers didn’t even realize she had cancer until months later, because she was always putting on a happy face because she didn’t want to make others worry. She even scheduled her chemotherapy around my senior year golf matches because it meant the world to her to see me play. Even when we were playing at Wicker Park, which wouldn’t allow any spectators to ride carts to follow matches, she would still walk around the perimeter of the park to watch every shot despite the chemo and her bad back. She loved every minute of golf she got to play with me, and we made quite the team when she would invite me for Guest Day. She always joked she brought me to be a ringer, but she really just wanted any excuse to be on the course with me.

My mother was also one of the most creative people I knew. She taught me how to paint before I could even write, and her art room always felt like my second home. I was lucky enough to have her as my art teacher for three years, even though at the time I always complained that she graded me extra hard compared to the other students. Some of my fondest memories are helping her in the art room before and after school, and helping her set up her art shows at the Performing Arts Center, and of course our traditional trips to Dairy Queen afterward. She took me to the Art Institute so many times that now I could give tours, and once she even scheduled a field trip on Take Your Daughter to Work Day just so I could come with a class I wasn’t even in. I loved playing Pictionary with her, even though no one ever let us be us on the same team because they wanted to split up the artists.

Related to her creativity, I always loved her willingness to be a little silly and dance to the beat of her own drummer. Sometimes it was literal dancing, like when every Christmas we would dance around the house with our very confused cat to Nutcracker music, or when I was little and she would chase me around the house humming the Illini fight song faster and faster as I screamed and laughed. She also had a unique vocabulary that I could never tell was Greek or made up gibberish – saklamathes, stadabamba, ohmanoshevitz – which I’m pretty sure is a Jewish wine – hazi, hazos, hazenglitha, hachimanga, yaxamou. Regardless if any of these words are “real,” they’ll always be real to me.

But most of all, my mom knew how to appreciate the little things, even if she had already experienced them a thousand times before. She was always captivated by every firework and plane taking off that she saw. She never got sick of going to a Huey Lewis concert despite effectively seeing him once a year. He was actually the first concert I had ever been to, which isn’t exactly typical for a 13 year old girl. But we listened to him in the car every day when she drove me to and from school, and I’ll always associate him with those happy memories.

It’s difficult to summarize all of the wonderful memories I have of my mom in a small amount of time. But I know her kindness, her creativity, her silliness and her joy will live on in me and everyone else whose lives she touched. And I know I’ll think of her every time I see a firework, hear a Huey Lewis song, hit a golf ball, create art, play pinball, eat Greek food, or drink a margarita. And that’s why she’ll never truly be gone.”

Happy Halloween!

Listen, all magic is scientific principals presented like “mystical hoodoo” which is fun, but it’s sort of irresponsible. I got your magic right here, okay? Haaaan-hazzle dazzle! Flubby-doo! Slama-blama-foo!


Blag Hag Grab Bag 8/22/2013

I woke up in a pretty bad mood, but thankfully I have Pixel who knows just the way to distract me: puking all over the carpet. Thanks, kitty.

Blag Hag Grab Bag 8/15/2013

Congratulations to my labmate for her successful dissertation defense today! She now officially has the coolest name ever – Dr. Claw.

The euphoria of an okay day

A couple of weeks ago I opened up about my severe depression. Unfortunately, depression is not new to me. It’s hit me from time to time since I was about ten years old. Sometimes it has obvious triggers, but sometimes it seems to strike at random. Sometimes it may only last for a week or two, but sometimes it can drag on for almost a year.

Unfortunately, this current depression was one of the long ones.

The triggers were obvious: Months of sustained internet harassment from misogynistic assholes. Worrying about my boyfriend’s impending graduation and the possibility of him moving away. Feeling lost and alone as I desperately tried to figure out my experiments in graduate school. My mother’s cancer diagnosis. And this final one seems silly, but I read an introductory philosophy book during this time and it was absolutely crushing. I had become convinced that life was meaningless, morality was a farce, and my future was utterly hopeless and devoid of any dreams or aspirations. I spent much of my time pondering how fucked and pointless existence was, crying to myself, or writing emo poetry about how my body is just a bag of chemicals. I’ll spare you said poetry.

Then, a couple of good things happened.

On one of my low days, I reached out to a friend. He looked up a therapist for me through the Secular Therapist Project, and I mustered enough motivation to write that therapist an email. For the first time in almost a year, I had a moment of clarity where I realized my brain was lying to me and I could try to do something about it. Taking a step to take care of myself lifted the black cloud an inch.

I opened up to my boyfriend about my concerns about him having to move away when he graduated. I don’t know why I didn’t mention it sooner – depression convinces you that no one cares and there’s no solution to your problems, so it wasn’t a rational decision. But once I talked to him we realized we were both on the same page and committed to make something work, because we love each other so much. He is my rock and I feel so lucky to have him, and I knew he felt the same. The cloud lifted another inch.

Soon after this, my experiments in lab started to work. My months of planning and more months of troubleshooting finally paid off. I grinned ear to ear. That’s when I realized that I hadn’t had a single moment of positive feedback at work since I passed my general exam in June of 2012. I had gone a whole year without success and had convinced myself that was due to personal failings, not an ambitious project. I was excited about my research again. The cloud lifted another inch.

I wrote about my depression here. I had missed blogging so much, and getting back into the swing of things reminded me how much I had missed it. Writing has always been my creative outlet and a source of support. Realizing I could still do that despite my devoted haters was a relief. The cloud lifted another inch.

But then the best thing of all happened. I got the news that my mother’s cancer marker levels were finally in the normal range. A near death experience from a bilateral pulmonary embolism and stage 4 ovarian cancer were now behind her. Months before I thought she had no future, but now we could all see the light at the end of the tunnel.

When I woke up the next day, the cloud was gone.

For the first time in nearly a year, I felt “okay.” I wasn’t obsessing over everything I said and did, horrified about what others would think of me. I wasn’t cycling thoughts through my head about how the world was hopeless and unfixable and my life had nothing to look forward to. I wasn’t thinking how I hated my job and I was an idiot who must have only gotten into grad school to fill some diversity quota. I wasn’t feeling doomed about my mom’s health or my inability to be there with her. I wasn’t having fleeting fantasies about jumping in front of the bus to relieve the pain, even though I knew I would never want to actually do that.

I was just going about my day like normal.

I road the bus and looked at the pretty trees outside. I read some interesting articles on the internet. I worked on some more experiments, excited to see my results. I walked to lunch and felt the warm sunlight against my skin. I ordered a bowl of pho at my favorite Vietnamese restaurant and smelled the wonderful aroma. And as I lifted the spoon to my mouth, I wanted to cry tears of joy. I hadn’t wanted to eat anything for weeks and food had tasted like nothing. This tasted like absolute heaven. It felt like the best meal I had ever had in my entire life, even though I had had it dozens of times before.

When you’ve been depressed so long, an “okay” day felt euphoric.

The anhedonia that comes with depression – the loss of interest in anything that once gave you joy – is partially so horrible because you don’t realize it’s happening until is stops. When it stopped that day, it took all of my energy to not sob joyfully into my bowl of pho. When I went home I ended up doing dishes and scrubbing the floor because the ability to muster up enough motivation to do finally do simple chores made me feel like I had just won a Nobel. After nearly a year at the absolute bottom, going about business as usual was ecstasy.

I’ve had a couple weeks of okay days so far. I know for me it’s a matter of when, not if, my depression will come back. The black cloud will surely come down again. But while it has lifted, I’m going to enjoy every okay day as if it’s the best day of my life. Because it sure feels like it.

The downside to vivid dreams is vivid nightmares

The other day I wrote up the amazing Harry Potter alien invasion dream I had. I’ve always had very detailed, realistic dreams that I remember upon waking up. But the downside to that is what happened the following night: vivid nightmares.

I had two that night.

In the first I was with my mom, but told her I’d be right back. While I was gone I got distracted by this teenage girl who was working on some science project for school, and was distraught about what people think about her because she was embarrassed by what she had done. I sat down and had a long pep talk with her, and tried to tell her how these little things are trivial in the grand scheme of things. It was just a middle school science project, and it wasn’t going to ruin her life if it was mediocre. I told her you shouldn’t care so much about what other people think of you, because most people aren’t even paying attention and that anxiety is irrational. But if they’re being mean to her, she shouldn’t even care what they think. You don’t need to make everyone like you, especially if they’re assholes. Why do you validation from assholes?

After the pep talk, I rushed back to find my mom, realizing I had been gone for longer than I said. When I came back and found my uncle, my mom’s brother, standing there red-eyed, and I asked what was wrong. His voice was the angriest I had heard it and he said I had been gone so long that my mother was so worried she had a heart attack and died. It was my fault. I broke down into hysterics crying, and woke up crying.

In the second separate dream, I was taking care of my parents’ house for them. I went into our laundry room, and noticed there was a little crack in the floor and a small hole was forming. I thought that was pretty dangerous and knew I needed to do something about it. Before I did anything else, I wanted to try to cover the hole so our cat Zoe wouldn’t fall through to the basement and hurt herself. As I was looking around for something to cover the hole, the crack rumbled and opened up, and the whole laundry room floor crumbled beneath me. Zoe and I fell down into the basement and were crushed in the rubble.

I’m not sure if there’s any more clear way for my subconscious to tell me “You feel guilty that you can’t always be there for your mom and the amount you care about others instead of taking care of yourself is crushing you” than those dreams. But I already knew those things.

Sometimes I envy the people who have dreamless, restful sleep.