Archive for the ‘Ranting’ Category

New Marvel Title: Dat Ass

August 21, 2014 - 12:04 pm 18 Comments

Cross-posted, because anything that inspires me to spit out six hundred words before I’ve finished my coffee probably shouldn’t be wasted at an away game, as Tam says.

“Female Comic Fans Upset Over Spider-Woman’s Ass”

Ufffff.

Erotic comic art, cheesecake, and beefcake (please!) has a right to exist, joyously. I’ve got two not-cheap books of it myself by two of my favorites, Bruce Timm and Frank Cho. I do love a gorgeous drawing, and I’m a fan of a good appreciation of anatomy, clothed or unclothed, erotically inviting or not.

But this isn’t a cheesecake portfolio. It’s the front cover of a mass-market book. I wouldn’t feel entirely scornful if a religious group were protesting this as wholly inappropriate for a such a cover, which while much more aimed at adult audiences these days are still also marketed to children, and superhero books always appear front and center on the racks. (I know I’ve spent a lot of time in comic shops, and there’s always kids there.)

1) That’s not a pose of a powerful character with spider-powers stalking the city. That is, as Bricken pointed out, most reminiscent of an animal in heat “presenting”.

2) To those admiring the anatomy, um, stop. Frank Cho draws beautiful women with beautiful anatomy. This guy drew a back and butt and damn near photoshopped some arms and a head on there. True that he’s a hell of a lot better than Liefeld, but the anatomy isn’t there so much as it is randomly assembled to make that ass display possible while still showing her face. At least he didn’t go full cubist to get her tits in there too.

3) It’s not about her being “too beautiful” or even an unrealistic body. Most superhero bodies are in fact unrealistic, and frankly no one looks good in spandex except professional dancers. It’s about the bit where the last time I saw something displayed like that, it was one of the roasts I was contemplating on my last trip to the butcher counter. Even a bitch in heat has more dignity. “Here’s your monthly Spider-Woman title, her own book about her adventures and hero career with full focus on her character! This month it’s about DAT ASS. I MEAN DAAAAAMN. We won’t mind if you go get some tissue and hand lotion before you read the rest.”

4) Milo Manara’s main focus as an artist is pinup and erotic art. He’s not so much a regular artist for ordinary comics and animation the way Timm and Cho are. Yes, he does some gorgeous work. Yes, he deserves his own art books. Was it appropriate to hire him as the guest artist for the front cover of, again, a mainstream monthly book? UM. I’m not actually criticizing Manara here, except for his grasp of anatomically correct poses- I’m criticizing Marvel and whoever the fuck at Marvel decided this was a great idea. And if you don’t think this sends a message about what Marvel thinks about its fans and its characters, you’re either legally blind or fucking high.

Marvel does in fact have a right to do this. It’s their book and their house, and while it certainly sashays right up to pornography, it’s not quite. Likewise the fans who drive Marvel’s industry, male, female, feminist, and not, have an equal right to be alienated and to voice that alienation. Loudly as they want. They just don’t have the right to demand any other entity censor Marvel. Do they have a right to imply or outright say, loudly, that Marvel should self-censor? Of course they fucking do. Self-censorship is something every one of us does every day. It’s called “trying not to be an asshole”. They don’t have a right to tell an artist what to art, but they’re *not*. Manara was a guest artist, and no one has suggested he shouldn’t draw whatever the fuck he wants in the already healthy career he’s in. They’re criticizing Marvel’s decision to have him do this in particular, and the comic industry in general’s attitude to their female fans. (Which in Marvel’s case is really, really schizophrenic- which actually beats hell out of “uniform contempt”.) Demanding enforcement of “political correctness” can be kind of assholish, but when they have several *really good points*- and are in fact consisting of a huge chunk of people who pay money for Marvel’s content- it’s really not.

< /rant>

New Ground Rule

July 17, 2014 - 12:44 pm 17 Comments

Ok, hippies, that’s quite enough of this bullshit. New rule: If you can’t explain at least one of three of a) what gluten is, b) how it is formed, or c) the specific set of requirements under which avoiding it actually makes sense, you are not allowed to spin your shit up about it.

This gluten-free “bread” I just ate? That’s called sawdust, you trendwhore fucks. It doesn’t taste any better, and I’d bet the cost of lunch any day of the week that the latest dietary scourge is actually not in any way a problem for 95% or more of the people demanding shitty food in service of avoiding the g-word.

God damn it, the one thing hipsterish localvore organic free trade sustainable cruelty free birkenstock clad fixie-bike riding food is supposed to have going for it is that it’s supposed to taste better. When the fucking egg salad sandwich from the national chain grocery store is not only cheaper (half the price of the pretenchou version), tastier (Bread with gluten actually acts like bread! WHO FUCKING KNEW.), bigger, AND COMES ACTUALLY ASSEMBLED AS A GODDAMN SANDWICH INSTEAD OF A FUCKING BOX OF COMPONENTS, you have failed so goddamn hard you should be put on a starvation ration of oxygen so you quit wasting it for the rest of us.

Guest Post: Herd Immunity

June 28, 2014 - 3:28 pm 13 Comments

This is a guest post from my friend Indy, currently working on her master’s in public health after her first in biostatistics and genetics. Who is also rather fed up with seeing the concept of herd immunity abused, usually in service of justifying Why My Kid Doesn’t Need To Be Vaccinated. She’ll be around in comments to answer questions, too. Take it away, Indy.

As most of you have probably noticed, there’s been a lot of coverage in the last decade and a half about what’s politely termed “vaccine non-compliance.” What you might have missed, however, is that the tone of that coverage has started to change rather dramatically in the last few years. Media coverage in the 2000’s focused on isolated cases, the uncertainty about adverse events, vaccine schedule spacing, the theoretical link (and the disproving of said link) between vaccines and autism, and, in some cases, what the future might look like if vaccination rates continued to drop. The coverage in the past few years has been about that future – we are now living in an era of major communicable disease outbreaks. Measles, mumps, rubella, polio, and whooping cough are all making a comeback in a big, flashy way; Google any one and you’ll find at least several cities with major outbreaks going on at the moment. The World Health Organization (WHO) just declared an international state of polio emergency. These outbreaks have become international in scale and are impacting every other continent (save Antarctica) in addition to the US. (If you’d like to explore this further, check out the map here: interactive vaccine map. Start out in 2008 and then jump forward in time to 2011 and beyond. Or just look at the contrast between “all” and 2008.)

In addition to billions of dollars in health care costs, they’re taking lives; in the US, this number is currently just shy of 1400 for deaths between June 3, 2007 and June 14, 2014.1 This may not seem like many, but consider that it’s about half the number of deaths from the World Trade Center bombings. This is also approximately double the number of unintentional firearm deaths in children (ages 1-14) between 1999 and 2010, and there are massive public policy campaigns currently going on to reduce that number.1 Furthermore, this number is isolated to the US. I’m a US scientist and I work with US data sources, so I’m pretty dependent on the CDC; some countries in Europe have death tracking systems similar to those we have in the US, others don’t, and in Africa, we have to rely predominantly on WHO data. In short: given infrastructure constraints, there are decent ways of estimating how big outbreaks are in other world regions, but not great ways of carefully tracking the number of vaccine preventable deaths on a global scale. But we can conclusively say that got a very, very big problem on our hands.

This brings us to the multi-billion dollar question that’s really the point of this post: why are we suddenly seeing such massive outbreaks of vaccine preventable diseases when, in most places, the majority of parents are still vaccinating their kids? The answer, in a nutshell, is herd immunity. You’ve probably heard this term before, and many people have a general idea of what it means, although sometimes the colloquial definition is just flatly wrong. Herd immunity, in a very broad sense, is the protection granted to a few individuals without immunity when the majority of the population has immunity. In order to talk more specifically about it, though, we’re going to have to use some nitty-gritty disease science.

There are two concepts that are central to the workings of herd immunity. The first is an R0 value (pronounced “R-nought” in the world of biology and disease) and the second is an SIR model (pronounced as an acronym (S-I-R), although epidemiologists might have more fun if we’d called it “sir”). These provide two similar but slightly different ways of understanding herd immunity. Let’s start with the SIR model. SIR stands for susceptible-infected-recovered – in short, the three categories a person can fall into. You can either lack immunity to a disease, be infected with a disease, or be recovered from a disease (and thereby have immunity to it). If a disease has never been introduced to a population, everyone sits in the susceptible class. If we’re looking at what scientists call a “metapopulation” (a large population made up of small populations) a disease might have moved through some small populations but not others, so some people might be recovered, some people might be immune, some people might be susceptible. The general idea behind an SIR model of an outbreak is that eventually, every susceptible person will contract the disease, move into the infected category, and then either move into the recovered category or die. Once a disease has swept its way through a population, there’s simply nowhere else for it to go in human hosts and it dies out in that particular population. So why do we see diseases persisting over time? Firstly, because of that whole “metapopulation” thing – a disease might have burned its way through one population, but it’s probably still working its way through another, and secondly because of this pesky tendency humans have toward reproduction. When humans have babies, they’re effectively putting people directly back into the susceptible population. When that number climbs high enough, the disease is able to gain a stronghold in the population again, and you see another epidemic. This is why infections in populations tend to have a cyclic nature; time elapses and the susceptible category rebuilds itself. If you’re interested in a real world example, San Juan Pueblo in New Mexico can provide one.3 (Full disclosure: this example and the citation are from a human biology course I took a few years ago.) Smallpox first broke out in San Juan Pueblo in late 1700s (around 1780). Another major epidemic occurred about 35 years later – enough time for the susceptible population to have built up again. So what does all this have to do with vaccination? Vaccination performs a neat trick – it moves people in the susceptible class directly to the recovered class, completely skipping the infected stage. In this way, we can move babies and children directly from susceptible to “recovered” (or immune) and the susceptible population never moves above a certain level. The majority of our population is immune, the susceptible population is too small for diseases to move in, and we’re safe. Phew. But why does the size of the susceptible population matter? Here’s where we get to R0’s.

An R0 value is the basic reproductive number of a virus or bacterium – it’s the number of people an infected person will infect provided that no one around them has immunity. It’s a shortcut for understanding how rapidly a disease can spread through a population. There are a lot of parameters that go into this value, depending on things like population density and disease dynamics, but the long and short of it is that some diseases have higher R0 values than others. Most of the “big bad” diseases that are vaccine preventable have really high R0 values; measles can be as high as 18, mumps can reach 14, rubella’s high is 16, and pertussis’ (whooping cough) is 18. The 1918 flu (as bad as it was) had a maximum R0 somewhere around 3, so even diseases with relatively low R0 values can be major problems if the majority of the population is susceptible.2 It’s worth noting that similar data aren’t widely available for many common domestic animal diseases, but rabies has an R0 of around 2 (not surprising given that its method of transmission is the rare act of biting). Scrapie (a sheep disease which involves, well, the delightful case of sheep eating other sheep bits) has an R0 around 4.5 It’s reasonable to assume based on human diseases that spread in similar ways that respiratory viruses such as distemper and viruses that are spread via surface contact (such as canine parvovirus and feline panleukopenia) have higher R0 values than these; these types of diseases are referred to as “highly contagious” across veterinary literature. A Swedish study in the 1980s on canine parvovirus infection found that epidemics of parvo could continue as long as there was a concentration of 6 unvaccinated dogs per square kilometer.6 Given this, it’s starting to seem obvious how big outbreaks can start. One person infects 18 others? That’s a fast moving disease. So what do you do with a disease like measles? How do you stop an R0 of 18? (How do you solve a problem like rubella?) In short: you make sure every person the infected case has contact with can’t catch the disease. This is herd immunity. If a person with measles would infect 18 people, but all 18 of the people who might become infected are immune, the chain of infection stops with that individual. No one else gets measles, and there is no outbreak. This is a great thing from a public health perspective, but it’s a really crappy thing from a vaccine compliance perspective. In order to achieve herd immunity for diseases like measles, mumps, and polio, vaccine rates have to be above 90%. (Sometimes it’s more in the neighborhood of 95% – diseases with high R0 values are incredibly hard to stop in their tracks.4) (As an aside, this number is the “critical proportion”, “pc”, or the minimal immunization coverage needed in a population to eliminate infection. It’s found as the simple equation [MATH] 1-1/R0. [/MATH] Sorry for the equation.) As vaccination rates have dipped, diseases are able to gain a foothold. We have a two-fold problem on our hands: the susceptible population is too high, and we have diseases with really high reproductive numbers that can infect very large numbers of people. Diseases jump back into populations, find a big, thriving susceptible population, and start infecting away. Voila: you have yourself an outbreak.

So why is herd immunity such a hot topic, given all of this crazy disease math? It’s because most people have very mistaken ideas about susceptible population sizes, R0 values (if they know what they are at all), and needed vaccination rates. Most people think that if we vaccinate the majority of people (oh, say, 50-60 percent) then their kids (or themselves, or their dogs, or their pink flamingo lawn furniture) will be protected by the nebulous “herd immunity.” (This, by the way, is why when Amanda Peet called parents who didn’t vaccinate “social parasites,” I agreed with her. Sure, it was a rude way to phrase it, but it’s exactly what’s going on – people are relying on others in the community to keep themselves safe and to derive benefit.) But sadly for them and even more sadly for everyone else, that’s just not how it works. When we need vaccine compliance rates of 95%, everyone has to vaccinate to keep the susceptible population low enough. But, but, but, someone out there is starting to say, there’s still 5%! Can’t I be in that 5%? Firstly, everyone thinks they can be in that 5%, then we end up with really low vaccination rates and the same problem to begin with. And secondly, the medical community needs that 5% buffer because not everyone can be vaccinated. People with compromised immune systems. (See: children with leukemia.) People who are actually allergic to vaccines. People who have chronic infections. Cancer patients. Some AIDS patients. That buffer is being used, and it’s being used by people with a significant need to avoid vaccination. So in short: herd immunity is not going to provide protection, and lack of vaccination has lead to its failure over the last decade or so.

There are a lot of reasons to vaccinate your kids, self, dog, and pink lawn flamingo. Some of them are medical. (You don’t want polio.) Some of them are logical. (There is no link between autism and vaccines, and vaccine side effects are exceedingly rare – the likelihood of having an adverse event is much lower than your likelihood of getting measles if you don’t vaccinate.) Some of them are ethical. (You don’t want to give measles to a childhood cancer patient.) Some of them are social. (Most public health professionals, myself included, believe that we have an ethical obligation to the communities that we live in to vaccinate.) But this one is, simply put, mathematical. We have to keep the susceptible population low enough to prevent outbreaks, and we’re not doing it. It’s putting people in very real danger for no real benefit. So vaccinate your kids, yourself, and your pets. (And now that you understand all this epidemiology math, explain it to people on airplanes. You’ll be doing the world a favor, and they’ll leave you alone with your book.)

1a. There are a couple of sources for vaccine mortality data. I’m using anti-vaccine body count, which is calculated from CDC’s weekly morbidity and mortality reports, but CDC Wonder’s Mortality database would provide the same data. And would be named after a slightly less inflammatory celebrity.

1b. Gun death statistics are from CDC Wonder.

2. Data here are predominantly from our friend the CDC again, with the exception of the 1918 flu number which is from Fraser et al. 2009. “Transmissibility of 1918 pandemic influenza”. Nature 432 (7019): 904–6.

3. Aberle SD, et al. 1940. “The vital history of San Juan Pueblo.” Hum Biol 12: 141-87.

4. http://www.cs.berkeley.edu/~daw/teaching/c79-s13/slides/0319-diseases.pdf

5. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1689932/pdf/10380685.pdf

6. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0167587783900326

Handegg Meets Politics

June 26, 2014 - 1:40 pm 22 Comments

So this is, again, late, but this took awhile to finish distilling through the mental filters.

There’s this football team that plays in the Washington D.C. area. They’re called the Washington Redskins, their uniforms are a dark maroon shade, their logo is a profile of a Native American* man, and their mascot looks like this: how inspiring

A lot of people, particularly Native Americans, feel the name and additionally the logo and mascot are offensive. The Redskins are of the view that this has been their name and their color scheme and their logo for a long damn time, there’s a whole army of Redskins fans out there, and changing any of it because a minority finds it offensive is entirely unreasonable. They also feel that it’s an admiring and respectful use, given football teams don’t name themselves after anything that is wimpy and pathetic, they name themselves after strong, aggressive images.

Recently the U.S. patent office ruled that as the moniker and logo are “derogatory to an ethnic group”, the Redskins trademarks are invalid. This doesn’t mean, by the way, that people can actually go out and bootleg Redskins merch left and right now- at least not yet- though Harry Reid seems very confused on this point himself. (Harry Reid, litigator, has no clue about the law; film at eleven.)

I have Views on all of this. As follow:

The patent office thing is a total bullshit bureaucratic move, a rather craven roundabout way to try and strongarm the team into doing the thing that the government would prefer politically. It’s a rather classic case of “technically correct, blunderingly wrong in actual fact”. It’s stupid and a thing the federal anything should not be doing, an entirely righteous generator of outrage from a libertarian perspective. I do not approve in the least.

That said, sorry, but the Redskins name, logo, and mascot actually ARE pretty goddamn offensive and in my opinion the team should have done this of their own free will long ago. Why? Well, it’s my damn blog, so I’ll tell you, at length.

1. The historical usage of the term “redskin” ain’t all that nice. There’s a lot of linguistic argument that the origin of the term and most of its usage weren’t, much of which is justified, but at the time the team was named and for the bulk of RECENT history, yeah it was. In the middle of the twentieth century it was usually used about like “negro”- if a common phrase in a genre of movies had been “THE NEGROES ARE ATTACKING” or reflections on the noble savagery of the negro. I’m sorry, but it’s just not a polite term. The context in living memory has been a lot more “racist” than neutral or “admiring”. To claim otherwise is the revisionism. Go watch a few weekends’ worth of Westerns from the thirties through the sixties and seventies and then come back and tell me that “redskins” usually meant “our awesome neighbors”.

2. Using a group of people as a mascot is pretty fucking sketchy in and of itself. The NFL has 32 teams. 15 are named after animals (Bears, Lions, Panthers, Rams, etc). 4 are named after jobs identified with the region or city their team hails from (Packers, Steelers, Cowboys, 49ers, the former Oilers as a bonus). 3 more are named after some combination of job and group identity, again associated with the dominant population of the region their team hails from and in one case a highly admired identity throughout (foundational to) America’s history (Vikings, Buccanneers, Patriots). There are a handful more named after more esoteric or generic things (Browns, Saints, Jets, etc), and 2 named after mythological humanoids (Titans, Giants). And then there’s two named after an extant, resident ethnic group in the United States, the one at issue having by far the more derogatory name and mascot. Not coincidentally, the same group. (And no, the Vikings aren’t just the same thing. For one, there’s a huge Scandinavian population in Minnesota. For two, in order to compare to “Redskins” it would have to be “Ignorant Thuggish Norsemen”, for which there isn’t a derogatory term in common American parlance for reasons that should be obvious if you ponder the matter.)

3. Arguing that the history of the Redskins franchise has always been totally respectful and it’s just modern overweening sensitivity targeting a convenient target with the “racism” charge is, like arguing that “redskin” is a neutral or respectful term, bullshit. The Redskins were the last NFL team to integrate and allow black players on their roster- in 1961. And not of their own decision, either- the .gov told them they could either integrate or they could GTFO Washington D.C. and the stadium they were using, seeing as how it was all federal property.** The Redskins as a franchise have had to be shoved, struggling and protesting, toward any sort of respect for people who aren’t parts of the NFL. Or ones that are but aren’t white enough.

4. Speaking of D.C. and federal land, does it seriously strike nobody but me that naming the D.C. football team a derogatory term for the only ethnic group the American government fought an actual official war of extermination against is incredibly fucking cringeworthy? Really? Just me? Okay.

5. I’ve heard complaints that the Redskins shouldn’t change their long-held name because of the complaints of “a tiny minority”. Okay. A) Native Americans themselves are kind of a tiny minority in the US, just under 1% of the population, b) There are Natives that don’t care, though suspiciously every single one I’ve met personally finds the “Redskins” thing ridiculously offensive whether or not they think it should be a political priority, c) Dismissing Natives as a minority so tiny that they shouldn’t really have significant political sway is pretty goddamn tasteless given the people brushing them off and the city the Redskins are based out of are pretty much the reason they aren’t the ethnic majority in the first place.

6. Speaking of political sway, it matters in just how grating and how big of a problem something is. I’d be pretty irked with a team called the “Bitches” that featured a furious-looking woman with her teeth bared as their mascot, but it stings a lot less given that women have the political power to put a hell of a lot of pressure on to have it changed. Likewise I hate being described as “flyover country”, or any variant of hick or rural rube or redneck by snotty liberals from blue urban enclaves with the implication my opinions should be dismissed out of hand, but much to the frustration of these individuals me and mine have the political power to blow off THEIRS at least half the time and more often at our own local level. Shrugging off group-based insults is a hell of a lot easier when your group actually has the power to hit back hard over more serious abuses. Native Americans, for the most part, don’t.

7. And still speaking of relative power and minorities: “Washington Redskins” is about as offensive as a Richmond-based team in a black uniform with a portrait of a brutish-looking black man called the “Bucks” would be. You will note there is no such team. You may also note that the NFL has a pretty high proportion of black players, coaches, and staff. Also that black people represent a much larger minority in the US than Native Americans do. You would probably also be able to draw the conclusion that this is not a coincidence. There are, so far as I can determine, only slightly more actual Native players in the NFL as there are teams using them as a name and logo. You can’t really talk about reclaiming derogatory terms when the actual people they refer to aren’t even remotely represented among the almost entirely white people using them. You can’t actually “reclaim” a term on someone else’s behalf. Especially when they really don’t want you to.

I’ve seen the charge “white liberal guilt” thrown around a lot. On a more personal note? My objection is not in the faintest based on guilt over being white. It was what I was born as, I feel zero guilt for things I did not personally do, the sins of my father’s fathers are not my sins. I was, however, raised by my parents to not be an asshole, and THAT is why I find the “Redskins” thing offensive and why I think they ought to change of their own initiative. Not because it’s more or less popular to do, not because either a minority or a majority thinks it’s good or bad, not because white people ought to slink around whispering apologies for what our ancestors and government have done, because using people as mascots, ignoring the objections of the people they represent in favor of what’s more comfortable for you to do instead, willfully dismissing the history behind it all, and telling those people in the process how they ought to feel about it are asshole things to do.

The Redskins have, and should have, every protected right to go around being assholes. The beauty of freedom is that you can stand up and take your place as a proud Asshole-American and go prancing about in redface with a cartoon warbonnet if you so choose. And given that Native Americans are a tiny population, you’re probably not even going to face any consequences for it at all beyond people like me saying “Jesus, what an asshole”. They have to right to whine about being called assholes if they so choose from their megaphone; they have the right to say “Well fuck you, you’re too puny for me to care about”.

“Have the right” and “right thing to do” are totally different things, however.

*Before “politically correct” starts up: a) “Indian” is already an ethnic group from India and having to verbally distinguish between the two irritates me, b) I don’t see what the hell the harm is in calling a group of people what they actually want to be called, especially when it’s clearer, and c) of all the hyphenated-American ethnic terms, which I have mixed feelings about, “Native American” is the one that is actually accurate rather than redundant as a descriptor. We’re all Americans, but they’re the group that was here in the millions strong on the actual American continent before History Happened. “Politically correct” is a pretty pointless charge when it’s also geographically and anthropologically correct.

**I DON’T disapprove of this on libertarian grounds. “My house, my rules” is an old and respectable principle, and if they had really wanted to stick to their guns they were free to- as long as they found someone else willing to host them, or bought their own stadium.

Hello again, world.

March 24, 2014 - 8:29 pm 4 Comments

*deep inhalation*

*blows off a thick layer of dust*

I’m not going to explain why I stopped writing for so long, because it’s personal AND boring, but the itch to exercise those muscles is getting pretty strong, so I need to stop self-criticizing for everything I might or might not write and Just Do It, as the overpriced brand has it. So, in light of that, I’m gonna start with a warm-up set commentating on an article I saw today. It’s LIFE ADVICE, y’all. Mostly about destructive self-criticism. So naturally I’m going to criticize someone else’s insights instead.

1. 1. Stop spending time with the wrong people. – Life is too short to spend time with people who suck the happiness out of you. If someone wants you in their life, they’ll make room for you. You shouldn’t have to fight for a spot. Never, ever insist yourself to someone who continuously overlooks your worth. And remember, it’s not the people that stand by your side when you’re at your best, but the ones who stand beside you when you’re at your worst that are your true friends.

Mixed feelings about this. The first bit is good- people who like you will act like they like you, it won’t be a mystery, and you won’t experience much ambivalence over it that isn’t fairly recognizable as coming purely from yourself, and passive-aggressive or mercurial “friends” are a waste of time and energy. The same thing applies to dating- someone who is constantly giving you mixed messages is either a pointless time-waster or someone who is actually giving you really clear signals you don’t want to hear, and more to the point anyone who couldn’t be a good friend as well as a lover isn’t worth your time either unless all you’re after is short-term sex. (In the long term these people won’t make good partners in bed either.)

But I have a big issue with this line: “And remember, it’s not the people that stand by your side when you’re at your best, but the ones who stand beside you when you’re at your worst that are your true friends.”. Yes, true friends will stand by you during the lowest times in your life rather than scattering as soon as you’re no longer that fun to spend time with, but a really true friend will kick your ass if you’re acting like your worst self. They won’t put up with it. They’ll tell you you’re wrong. If you’re really fucked up they’ll tell you to get professional help, repeatedly. And eventually, if you refuse to work to get better? They’ll leave, because you’re no longer the you they loved.

2. #2. Stop running from your problems. – Face them head on. No, it won’t be easy. There is no person in the world capable of flawlessly handling every punch thrown at them. We aren’t supposed to be able to instantly solve problems. That’s not how we’re made. In fact, we’re made to get upset, sad, hurt, stumble and fall. Because that’s the whole purpose of living – to face problems, learn, adapt, and solve them over the course of time. This is what ultimately molds us into the person we become.

No issue here. Good advice. The only thing I’d add to it is that no matter how painful dealing with the problem is, it’s not nearly as painful as living with indefinitely.

3. #3. Stop lying to yourself. – You can lie to anyone else in the world, but you can’t lie to yourself. Our lives improve only when we take chances, and the first and most difficult chance we can take is to be honest with ourselves.

Actually you can lie to yourself very well if you’re really motivated to, and a lot of the time you’ll do it without even thinking twice about it. It’s pretty normal, actually. But your life will go smoother in direct proportion to how well you learn not to. Also while lying to others is sometimes necessary and even honorable, it usually doesn’t help you to lie to them, either.

4. #4. Stop putting your own needs on the back burner. – The most painful thing is losing yourself in the process of loving someone too much, and forgetting that you are special too. Yes, help others; but help yourself too. If there was ever a moment to follow your passion and do something that matters to you, that moment is now.

You don’t actually get a cookie or a medal for martyrdom. And constantly feeling deprived or like your own needs don’t matter is a recipe for misery, and miserable people make lousy friends and partners.

5. #5. Stop trying to be someone you’re not. – One of the greatest challenges in life is being yourself in a world that’s trying to make you like everyone else. Someone will always be prettier, someone will always be smarter, someone will always be younger, but they will never be you. Don’t change so people will like you. Be yourself and the right people will love the real you.

Actually if the real you is a shitty person with shitty values, no they won’t. But the good news is you actually CAN change that, it will just be a lot of work. But ultimately very rewarding work.

6. #6. Stop trying to hold onto the past. – You can’t start the next chapter of your life if you keep re-reading your last one.

Having your brain taken over by constantly re-enacting past patterns, emotions, and experiences is one of the most effective ways to attach a metaphorical boat anchor to your own ankles.

7. #7. Stop being scared to make a mistake. – Doing something and getting it wrong is at least ten times more productive than doing nothing. Every success has a trail of failures behind it, and every failure is leading towards success. You end up regretting the things you did NOT do far more than the things you did.

Or, as we say in derby, “If you’re not falling, you’re not learning.” And most stuff isn’t going to leave bruises.

8. #8. Stop berating yourself for old mistakes. – We may love the wrong person and cry about the wrong things, but no matter how things go wrong, one thing is for sure, mistakes help us find the person and things that are right for us. We all make mistakes, have struggles, and even regret things in our past. But you are not your mistakes, you are not your struggles, and you are here NOW with the power to shape your day and your future. Every single thing that has ever happened in your life is preparing you for a moment that is yet to come.

I sometimes think there’s a Shame Center of the brain that has no other purpose other than going over past regrets and embarrassments until we feel almost as bad about them as we did the first time, all over again.

9. #9. Stop trying to buy happiness. – Many of the things we desire are expensive. But the truth is, the things that really satisfy us are totally free – love, laughter and working on our passions.

Actually, working on our passions isn’t remotely free unless your passion is bodyweight exercise, and even then it costs in time and energy. Love isn’t really free either, it requires hard work, lots of time, and sometimes money- though real love usually (usually!) doesn’t feel like work.

10. #10. Stop exclusively looking to others for happiness. – If you’re not happy with who you are on the inside, you won’t be happy in a long-term relationship with anyone else either. You have to create stability in your own life first before you can share it with someone else.

More or less true. I don’t buy this sentiment’s close cousin, “you can’t love anyone else until you can love yourself”, though. I’ve known plenty of people who struggled or still struggle with loving themselves who did a lot better at it when they had a strong, healthy relationship- but it does take a lot of self-awareness and self-control to pull off.

11. #11. Stop being idle. – Don’t think too much or you’ll create a problem that wasn’t even there in the first place. Evaluate situations and take decisive action. You cannot change what you refuse to confront. Making progress involves risk. Period! You can’t make it to second base with your foot on first.

Mostly true. Sometimes taking action won’t lead to success though, especially when you have a basic belief that doing something is invariably better than doing nothing and placing a little faith in those around you.

12. #12. Stop thinking you’re not ready. – Nobody ever feels 100% ready when an opportunity arises. Because most great opportunities in life force us to grow beyond our comfort zones, which means we won’t feel totally comfortable at first.

Again, mostly true. Sometimes we genuinely aren’t, though, and failure when there was never a possibility of success isn’t necessarily beneficial.

13. #13. Stop getting involved in relationships for the wrong reasons. – Relationships must be chosen wisely. It’s better to be alone than to be in bad company. There’s no need to rush. If something is meant to be, it will happen – in the right time, with the right person, and for the best reason. Fall in love when you’re ready, not when you’re lonely.

You shouldn’t pursue love just because you’re lonely, as that will only lead to searching for anyone to fill that partner-shaped hole in your life, which NEVER ends well. (Healthy people you actually want to be with will correctly sense you see them as an object/spacefiller and not a person, and they’ll run like hell- but the people who are fucked up or exploitative might bite.) But we all get lonely, and it’s not a reason to back-burner it until we’re not. You might wait forever.

14. #14. Stop rejecting new relationships just because old ones didn’t work. – In life you’ll realize that there is a purpose for everyone you meet. Some will test you, some will use you and some will teach you. But most importantly, some will bring out the best in you.

I agree with the first sentence and nothing else. People don’t exist to serve a purpose for you, they’re people and they exist for their own damn sake, not to teach you some sort of lesson. Definitely avoid people who seem to bring out your worst self and stick with ones that bring out your best, but people are not FOR you and your personal development.

15. #15. Stop trying to compete against everyone else. – Don’t worry about what others are doing better than you. Concentrate on beating your own records every day. Success is a battle between YOU and YOURSELF only.

Yup. Though for certain very specific goals (like picking up your time on a speed/endurance metric, or a weightlifting personal record), it’s sometimes helpful to pick someone who is *already very close to you* and use them as a rabbit to chase- as long as it remains good-natured.

16. #16. Stop being jealous of others. – Jealousy is the art of counting someone else’s blessings instead of your own. Ask yourself this: “What’s something I have that everyone wants?”

Actually, that’s ENVY. Jealous is worrying that someone else is going to take or already has something you have. This is why we use the phrase “jealously guarding”, and refer to someone as jealous when they’re suspecting a partner of cheating. Technically speaking this bit of advice is telling you to drop envy for jealousy instead. This has been your pedant moment of the week.

17. #17. Stop complaining and feeling sorry for yourself. – Life’s curveballs are thrown for a reason – to shift your path in a direction that is meant for you. You may not see or understand everything the moment it happens, and it may be tough. But reflect back on those negative curveballs thrown at you in the past. You’ll often see that eventually they led you to a better place, person, state of mind, or situation. So smile! Let everyone know that today you are a lot stronger than you were yesterday, and you will be.

While it’s true that wallowing in self-pity and constant bitching will only get you more of the same, you still need to feel and process sadness, disappointment, and unhappiness and there’s nothing wrong with you doing so. Thinking you need to show a happy, positive face all the time will only make you feel a miserable secret self and terrible loneliness. Also, telling someone else to smile is a fucking asshole move, and sometimes what doesn’t kill us doesn’t make us stronger, it just leaves scars and crippling injuries.

18. #18. Stop holding grudges. – Don’t live your life with hate in your heart. You will end up hurting yourself more than the people you hate. Forgiveness is not saying, “What you did to me is okay.” It is saying, “I’m not going to let what you did to me ruin my happiness forever.” Forgiveness is the answer… let go, find peace, liberate yourself! And remember, forgiveness is not just for other people, it’s for you too. If you must, forgive yourself, move on and try to do better next time.

You don’t have to forgive to not being wasting energy and thought cycles on the person you haven’t and maybe will never forgive. Sometimes forgiveness benefits neither of you. Letting them ruin your life or your peace of mind after you’ve gotten clean away is letting them win, and living better is your victory- but you don’t have to forgive to do that.

19. #19. Stop letting others bring you down to their level. – Refuse to lower your standards to accommodate those who refuse to raise theirs.

Words to live by. Tit for tat erodes your own integrity and self-respect- or it should.

20. #20. Stop wasting time explaining yourself to others. – Your friends don’t need it and your enemies won’t believe it anyway. Just do what you know in your heart is right.

BULLSHIT. If you take it for granted all the time that your friends understand exactly what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, you’re going to lose friends, and your butthurt reaction when you discover you were NOT understood is only going to hasten the process. This is particularly important applied to partners. (Romantic or business.)

21. #21. Stop doing the same things over and over without taking a break. – The time to take a deep breath is when you don’t have time for it. If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you’re getting. Sometimes you need to distance yourself to see things clearly.

Fair enough, but far from universally applicable. If you’re a paramedic keeping someone alive on the way to the hospital, you don’t want to take a break, change what you’re doing, or pause to reflect. Less extreme situations sometimes also apply.

22. #22. Stop overlooking the beauty of small moments. – Enjoy the little things, because one day you may look back and discover they were the big things. The best portion of your life will be the small, nameless moments you spend smiling with someone who matters to you.

Agree. Happiness is a fleeting enough emotion you’ve got to savor it while you’ve got it.

23. #23. Stop trying to make things perfect. – The real world doesn’t reward perfectionists, it rewards people who get things done.

This is true. Although perfectionism is sometimes appropriate to time and place- perfectionists make good neurosurgeons, though you still have to close up that skull someday.

24. #24. Stop following the path of least resistance. – Life is not easy, especially when you plan on achieving something worthwhile. Don’t take the easy way out. Do something extraordinary.

Agreed, just so long as you have a healthy sense of proportion about it. Your life is not wasted if you don’t climb Everest or otherwise go down in the record books. Being a good parent and raising kids to well-adjusted, kind, productive adults is extraordinary. So is doing a job the way it should be done, every time.

25. #25. Stop acting like everything is fine if it isn’t. – It’s okay to fall apart for a little while. You don’t always have to pretend to be strong, and there is no need to constantly prove that everything is going well. You shouldn’t be concerned with what other people are thinking either – cry if you need to – it’s healthy to shed your tears. The sooner you do, the sooner you will be able to smile again.

You have to pick your time and place, but also words to live by. Take it from someone who has an ulcer without a helicobacter infection, purely from internalizing stress: it creates so much long-term misery permanent stoicism just isn’t worth the cost. Doesn’t mean you have to be public about it, though.

26. #26. Stop blaming others for your troubles. – The extent to which you can achieve your dreams depends on the extent to which you take responsibility for your life. When you blame others for what you’re going through, you deny responsibility – you give others power over that part of your life.

Yeah, though this really cuts both ways. If you constantly internalize everything bad that happens as having been somehow your fault or something you could have prevented, you will eat yourself alive and then you won’t be much good to anyone, including yourself. Psychologists call this internal vs external locus of control; people who are balanced somewhere in between are happiest and most successful. Plus taking credit for sheer gobsmacking luck will make you an arrogant ass.

27. #27. Stop trying to be everything to everyone. – Doing so is impossible, and trying will only burn you out. But making one person smile CAN change the world. Maybe not the whole world, but their world. So narrow your focus.

Take it from a lazy person: this is so much less work and stress it’s not even funny. Doesn’t mean don’t make an effort, but taking on impossible tasks just consumes you.

28. #28. Stop worrying so much. – Worry will not strip tomorrow of its burdens, it will strip today of its joy. One way to check if something is worth mulling over is to ask yourself this question: “Will this matter in one year’s time? Three years? Five years?” If not, then it’s not worth worrying about.

Would that people could just turn this off by thinking positive. Believe it or not, how much anxiety you experience, as well as how easily you can turn it off on command, is heavily genetically influenced- and people who draw the short end of that straw have to learn much more powerful coping methods, and in some cases use medication.

29. #29. Stop focusing on what you don’t want to happen. – Focus on what you do want to happen. Positive thinking is at the forefront of every great success story. If you awake every morning with the thought that something wonderful will happen in your life today, and you pay close attention, you’ll often find that you’re right.

I DO BELIEVE IN FAIRIES I DO I DO I DO. Being able to visualize success clearly and move toward it is very important, but so is avoiding pitfalls you can see if you keep your eyes on the road and not the horizon.

30. #30. Stop being ungrateful. – No matter how good or bad you have it, wake up each day thankful for your life. Someone somewhere else is desperately fighting for theirs. Instead of thinking about what you’re missing, try thinking about what you have that everyone else is missing.

Ehhh. This is a good way of calming yourself in a crisis, but feeling like you have no right to your own unhappiness over your circumstances just because there are starving children in Africa isn’t going to lead to any sort of psychologically positive outcome. It’s not good for making kids eat their dinner, either. Is good for giving them a weird and dysfunctional relationship with food, though. And for that matter happiness.

Tune in next time for… I have no idea what, or when.

Ceci n’est pas une post title

December 12, 2013 - 11:54 pm 13 Comments

Recently, LabRat’s mother paid us a visit. This is not a happy occasion to put it mildly, but detailing this is not the purpose for which I blow the dust out of the keyboard today.

As part of the appeasement package, some of the art museums available in Santa Fe were tapped for afternoon visits. The fact that most were located near the damnable plaza, the tourist-packed heart of the oldest part of Santa Fe, and thus not well configured for the high vehicular traffic that tourist attractions draw deterred none but me, the driver of the ginormous pick-up.

The New Mexico Museum of Art was eventually selected as the top candidate, and thus we hauled the ponderousness of the truck and LabRat’s mother directly to the plaza to see The Art.

This did not go well. Allow me to present, with minimal commentary (until later), some of the pieces of art we encountered in this fraud of an institution. File names contain additional commentary, and those that are not terribly well in focus, I’m torn between calling art and just noting that the pieces were bad enough that focus would not really help anything.

areyoufreakingkidding

yesthatscardboard
Yes, that’s construction paper on cardboard.

coffeestainsmaybe

betterfocuswouldnotimprovethis

openlytrolling

trollolololol

nowathomedepot

puregenius

yarnballofpretentiousness

I’m not positive these next two were actual exhibits, but given the rest of the museum I wanted to be sure to get a snapshot just in case I was standing in front of genius.
notsureifart

I don’t know, this one had a light shined specifically on it so I think it was an installation piece. *rimshot*
wellitwasilluminated

And finally, I present the best thing in the whole damn museum:
bestthingthere

Now, to be fair there were two, maybe three pieces that were actually interesting and worth looking at. There was a decent Georgia O’Keefe repressionist piece. By contrast, there were roughly 15-20 of those bullshit “I sloshed my brush-water on loose-leaf” pretentious troll-pieces from Richard Tuttle. LabRat left insulted on behalf of the two good artists for having their actual work displayed next to such vapid drivel, while I was insulted the institution would willingly display so much that would be best used wadded up to light the fireplace and have the gall to charge money to look at it. Or go in the fireplace as actual fuel at Blogorado. I’m reasonably certain we destroyed thousands of dollars worth of art in the firepit there this year, but luckily it’s ok because my scrap pile must be worth millions. I’m sincerely tempted to select some random chunk of battered 2×4 with a nail sticking out of it, and attempt to deliver it as an addition the artist sent to the exhibit.

In fact, y’know what? Check this out:
Stingray-genius
I made that. Right now. Between typing the colon in “check this out:” and typing this line. I dare any one of you to find an expert who will say “Nope, that’s not part of this collection of pretentious bullshit.”

I’m not strictly sure photography was allowed. Frankly I don’t care. Being thrown out would very much have been an “Oh, don’t throw me in that briar patch!” situation. Forestalling my urge to redouble my efforts into researching a way to destroy all life on the planet from my back yard, most of the guest book broadly agreed that, in the words of art critic Hilton Kramer invoking the axiom “less is more,” “in Mr. Tuttle’s work, less is unmistakably less…One is tempted to say, where art is concerned, less has never been as less than this.” One can hope that the curator in Santa Fe is similarly fired as the curator responsible for the exhibit that prompted that critique.

Finally, on the long hike back to where I finally managed to find a spot near the plaza big enough to accommodate an extended-bed extended-cab pickup, something caught my eye:
familiarostritchisfamiliar

I could swear I’ve seen that emu head somewhere….
(And paging the ministry of irony, the piece is titled “Money Is Too Important To Take Seriously” and they want $3,600 for it. I actually do like it, infinitely more than anything I saw in the actual museum, but…. seriously?)

Neo-Luddism Rides Again

November 13, 2013 - 4:56 pm 8 Comments

So, across various sources that I read in the last few days there have come angry reactions to this piece of psuedo-intellectual reactionary bloviation. Which doesn’t usually come hipster-flavored, but hey, it’s the digital age and anything is possible. Except, according to the title and premise of the piece, getting lost. But swiping at low-hanging fruit is still totally possible in any age and with any technology, so let’s give it one more look than it really deserves.

We can’t jump off bridges anymore because our iPhones will get ruined. We can’t take skinny dips in the ocean, because there’s no service on the beach and adventures aren’t real unless they’re on Instagram. Technology has doomed the spontaneity of adventure and we’re helping destroy it every time we Google, check-in, and hashtag.

Actually I don’t jump off bridges anymore (never did, truth be told) because it’s fucking dangerous. Those aren’t high-dive boards, they’re walkways over an unknown depth of water with an unknown amount of places to haul out and an unknown amount of sharp fucking rocks. I’ve done lots of things in various wild waterways, some adventurous and some not, but jumping off a bridge into one was something I recognized as just plain stupid long before I started carrying any sort of personal electronics around with me.

I’ve also never gone skinny-dipping in the ocean, although I’ve likewise spent some time on beaches, both before and after having service there was something it would even have been possible to care about. Why? I don’t like getting arrested, and even if I had a nudist beach available to me I’m entirely too conscious of what lives in the ocean and how much of it actually spends time close to the shoreline to be all that psychologically comfortable naked to it.

You know what has changed about my behavior on shorelines since I started carrying personal electronics any of the time (I do have a smartphone now, which I resisted for years, but I still turn off the ringer and stow it most of the time I leave the house unless I’m waiting for something alone.)? There is now one additional thing I leave wherever I put my wallet and keys. That’s it. That’s all. If you find the beach boring compared to your smartphone, you have other problems that have nothing whatsoever to do with Google or Instagram.

After this bit of inanity follows a bunch of stories about getting lost, some of them adventurous and exciting, and some of them experiences no one should miss unless they’ve suffered a traumatic brain injury. (Like losing his little brother in a busy city- something no parent or guardian would sign up to go through ever again.)

I’ve got a bunch of stories about getting lost, too. I’m one of those unfortunate individuals with no sense of direction whatsoever, a trait I inherited from both my parents, who also had no sense of direction. I don’t find being lost the least little bit romantic, mostly because it was a normal experience to me growing up and not in any way associated with young adult adventure. I’ve been lost in the woods on foot and in a car, stuck in a vehicle in deep mud or snow a couple of times because of a wrong turn taken trying to leave said woods, lost in a strange city on the wrong side of midnight and in the wrong damn neighborhood to be lost in while a young woman, lost in the empty gaps between cities in the West, lost when the weather presented some real dangers of exposure, lost without food, without water, and lost in more entertaining and hilarious settings. Occasionally it ended in a funny story or some bit of unexpected adventure, but mostly it ended with a lot of stress and cold and sometimes that delightful experience when you’re a small child of seeing real fear on your parents’ faces because they know your situation might not have a happy ending. I’ve had a lot of adventures I remember fondly, but pretty much all of them involved knowing at least roughly where I was fucking going and how to leave again.

I’ve also spent a lot of time eating on the road and in strange places. I’ve got stories about terrifying meals, having to pull over to the side of the road during a road trip so someone could puke after eating somewhere no one should, and a much more prosaic story about spending a number of years only eating in recognizable chain restaurants while traveling after hard lessons learned from those earlier experiences, unless I had a reliable voucher from someone local about where to eat.

I had a lot of fantastic experiences eating in small towns and on the road in the gulf coast south during college, because the biology and environmental sciences department, having to go on a lot of road trips for field trip and collection purposes, had an effective word-of-mouth network going for where to find the best hidden gems to eat. I still have memories of some of the best meals of my life from those times. It reawakened my sense of culinary adventure and made eating at chains somewhere new feel like a personal defeat.

Know what having small portable computers around me has allowed me to do? Repeat that experience everywhere. I can go anywhere there’s good food to be had with a pocketful of recommendations from chow hounds and road food enthusiasts across the nation, and I’m still having some of the best meals of my life that way, or at least something much better than chains and eons and light years better than food poisoning far from home.

I remember the time I picked up my girlfriend from her friend’s house in Massachusetts. She was going to school down in Georgia and this was the first time I’d seen her in months. “We’re back together…finally.” I tweeted, tagging both of our Twitter handles in the status. The flash on my iPhone annoys her and she asks me to put my phone away. I begrudgingly agree and I start to drive. I put my home address into the GPS and follow the voice. She asks me if I want to get lost with her. I ask her what she means and she tells me that she wants to get lost. I ask her where she wants to go and she shrugs. I tell her that there is an interesting looking coffee shop only 2.3 miles away and she sighs. I turn off the GPS and drive. A few minutes go by and I get antsy. I turn the GPS back on and follow the voice, she crosses her arms and is silent all the way back to my house.

Dude. Here is some free advice for you, since you apparently need it. She was not pissed that you didn’t get genuinely, running-out-of-gas, freezing-in-the-dark, scary-goddamn-neighborhood lost. She was pissed you wouldn’t put down your fucking phone and put your full attention on her, and more pissed that you couldn’t do that for even ten minutes without buckling.

You know what’s nice about putting down the damn phone and going somewhere that’s actually new? Being able to, if you need to, pick it back up again when you’re done and find your way back home. If you can’t take step one of that combination, the problem is not the alienating march of technology, it’s your complete and total inability to leave your comfort zone without being forced to by circumstances beyond your control.

I like being part of the most connected generation of all time BECAUSE it allows me to have adventures without major disaster or anxiety attack on the part of my loved ones. (Who tend to, as loved ones do, worry more about me than I do about myself, after experiences of me vanishing from the face of the earth for hours or a day after I said I’d be home.) I love being able to Wikipedia the old building I’m in and find out what makes it special, that I’d never have known otherwise. I love being able to eat truly new things I’d never have tried otherwise- because I’ve had turn-you-inside-out food poisoning while in the middle of a car trip before and IT FUCKING SUCKS.

I suspect what the author really misses isn’t being lost, it’s being young and having a sense of adventure about the world because all of it really is new and having the freedom to explore it at will is too. But I’m me and he’s him, and I can’t speak for him. I can, however, speak for my portion of the same generation, that hasn’t experienced any alienation whatsoever- and is still entirely capable of engaging with non-digital experiences without a competition.

What ABOUT them?

November 19, 2012 - 1:25 am 41 Comments

Well, we’ve covered birth control 101, in which we learned that hormonal contraception for women is a fixed cost that has absolutely no relation to how much sex she has or how many partners she has it with (and surprisingly often isn’t prescribed AS contraception but for other kinds of health care), and today, class, we’re going to have the 102, because apparently we still need to learn things!

Today I got linked to a post by Dr. Whitecoat, who appears to feel that a)The Affordable Care Act’s coverage of contraception represents a free handout to women, and b)that it offers nothing to men, who will nonetheless be part of the paying pool. This particular point of view, particularly that it represents a handout specifically to young, sexually promiscuous women, is shared by the Romney Campaign. To wit, “Free contraceptives were very big with young, college-aged women.”

Here’s a quick primer on birth control: there are three primary approaches with it. Surgical sterilization, hormonal contraception in various forms, which does not (yet) exist for men as it’s much easier to stop an egg from getting fertilized or implanting than it is to stop fertile sperm production, and barrier methods, which technically include female condoms and dental dams, but as I’ve never actually met anyone who’s used either, we’ll just go with “condoms and diaphragms”. There’s also various formats of spermicide delivery, but as they are really unreliable compared to everything else, they’re usually used as a backup to the barrier method in case it breaks or was put on/in incorrectly. There’s also IUDs, which technically is a surgical approach but is also temporary and only for women, so in effect it can be lumped in with the hormonal contraceptives.

All birth control methods have their upsides and their downsides. Hormonal contraception is fire-and-forget as long as you’re good about remembering to take your pill or renew your shot or your Norplant, but it has a number of side effects and does buggerall to prevent sexually transmitted diseases. Of the barrier methods, diaphragms have to be fitted, don’t prevent sexually transmitted diseases, and are fiddly as hell to insert; they have the upside that once you’ve managed that you can have sex “spontaneously”, but that’s a sufficiently small upside I’ve never met anyone who uses one of those still, either. Condoms are cheap and protect against sexually transmitted infection, but they reduce sensation for most men that I’ve talked to, you’ve got to have them on hand and ready to go when you’re ready to have sex, and most of them come with spermicidal lube.

Yes, that’s actually an upside AND a downside. The problem with any form of birth control that uses the spermicidal backup is that the vaginal area is an ecosystem unto itself; it’s normally inhabited by friendly, acid-loving bacteria that keep things clean and healthy, but spermicide kills them as well as killing sperm. Use too much, too often, and most women will become vastly more prone to vaginal and urinary tract infections, since the acid-lovers aren’t there making things inhospitable for nastier-tempered invaders anymore. They’re painful, they’re unpleasant, and they stink. They can also be life-threatening- a UTI untreated can happily migrate up into the bladder or kidneys and start doing some serious damage. Condoms that don’t have spermicide exist, but they can be difficult to find, or at least I’ve never managed to find any on the drugstore shelves. Granted, it’s been a long time since I tried, but at the time, it was special order or nothing doing. (I had a friend with a steady boyfriend who was also allergic to the class of antibiotics most useful in treating urinary tract infections. This was the bane of her existence and led to some pretty serious illnesses.)

All contraceptives have tradeoffs, and which downsides you’re willing to accept have a great deal to do with what kind of sex you’re having, and most of the more serious downsides are the woman’s consequence. If you’re a single woman and having casual hookups, sex buddies, or other short-term relationships, condoms are absolutely the way to go: you need the protection from STIs way more than you need anything else other than the pregnancy prevention, and since you probably have no idea when you’re next having sex, there’s less risk that the spermicide will hurt you, and simply grabbing some birth control from the drug store or night stand when you need it is a much more attractive option.

However, if you’re in a long-term, exclusive relationship, particularly if you’re cohabiting, hormonal birth control becomes much more attractive. You’re having regular sex, so the effects of spermicide are a more pressing concern, neither of you (presumably, obviously there are exceptions and the exceptions will usually be using condoms) is carrying an STI and you’re not going to be picking a new one up anytime soon unless someone is both being horrible and doing it without a condom, and since you’re having regular sex, a form of birth control that’s a fixed, steady cost is much more attractive. Since STIs and infections have been taken (mostly, some hormonal birth control raises the risk of vaginal/urinary infections too) off the table, concerns about men’s sensation are much higher on the priority list now.

Now I’m going to get a little more personal, so cut just in case anybody’s sensibilities are more, well, sensitive than I expect.

(more…)

Targeting Fail

October 25, 2012 - 5:16 pm 6 Comments

So once again learning from the pros at Popehat….

Hey Atomic Nerds,

I have been following your blogs for a long time and I am a huge fan. Anyway, we just came out with a product that I think you both would get a kick out of. It is a baby outfit that is actually part mop that cleans your floors as the baby crawls – perfect for lazy parents. http://www.retardedshitanybodywhohasabraincanseeisdumberthanboiledfuck.com/dieinafire.html

Check out our site and let us know if you want anything. We would love to send you some samples of our products.

Your product is fucking stupid and if you think we’re endorsing anything baby related you’ve very clearly never read our blog.

I should’ve looked into the option for a pony. I could’ve named it Adhesive Intoxicant. Or Huffer Sparkle. It’s a glue joke, son, work with me here.

Prep The Volcano Mounted Giant Laser

October 19, 2012 - 2:36 am 15 Comments

Venturing into the wilds of broadcast TV last night, LabRat and I were engaged in a bit of armchair quarterbacking while watching the CrossFit Games. What with the yanking shit out of our asses about how the athletes could do better considered pontificating about the events this year, we neglected to hit fast forward on the tivo at a commercial break.

This was a mistake.

Some typically saccharine blather starts up, explaining the happy life some couple is about to have together. The money quote, pardon the pun, comes in fairly early: “And they never fight about money because they found some retirement guys who work on salary, not commission, and got some straight advice and answers.”

Holy fuck it’s like they read my goddamn mind if I had been deprived of oxygen for six hours and hit with a lead pipe for four! Salary instead of commission?! Sweet merciful jesus-tits, that’s exactly the answer! How could you not want some schlub who makes the same coin at the end of the day whether he doubled your account value or lost everything? That’s exactly the lack of motivation I want in the folks running my money. Commission? Pfff. I don’t see how that could possibly motivate better service. I mean, that would be like giving the guy more money the better the job he did, and that couldn’t work.

Listen up, TD Ameritrade. You’re on fucking notice. StingrayTrade doesn’t do this sad-sack meh-good-enough salary bullshit. StingrayTrade wants the account, and wants to run it like woah, because, and this is the crazy part, the more money your account makes, the more money StingrayTrade makes, and StingrayTrade is very interested in making money. They even released a sequel advertisement:

“This is Carl and Sally. They’re not wishy-washy clownshoes like Karen and Jeremiah over at Ameritrade, those fucking schlubs who just bumble through life with the glassy-eyed focus of a tranqed duogong. Carl and Sally know what they want, and they want more money than God.

Ameritrade is bragging about how their planners are on salary. Think about all the wonderful things that have come from salaried employees, like the DMV, or the attitudes of convenience store clerks.

At StingrayTrade, we keep our staff on commission, so the more you make, the more they make. And we specially screen our employees to find people so greedy that even Scrooge McDuck thinks they’re going a little far. We want to make money. Some of us even get a sexual thrill out of making money.

This is Carl and Sally. This is Bruce, their StingrayTrade rep. This is Betsy, Bruce’s stabbin’ knife. Betsy is responsible for some really killer deals, and so Carl and Sally’s net worth has gone up 327% just this quarter. And if the Securities Exchange Commission knows what’s good for it, and for its sweet little daughter, they’ll just keep right on looking the other way.

This is Carl, Sally, Bruce, Betsy, and the new security goon they hired, Vinnie. And these are Karen and Jeremiah’s thumbs, because they couldn’t afford to keep them once StingrayTrade decided there was profit to be had involving them.

Crush your enemies. See them driven before you. Hear the lamentations of their women, and then buy a couple senators just to rub it in. StingrayTrade. We want to make some fuckin’ money.”

I swear, one more non-threatening, soft-sell “Wouldn’t it be nice if everybody were nice” financial firm ad and I’m going to start recruiting out of white collar (and a few regular ones for good measure) prisons and incorporate.