Category Archives: Real Life

I love Daylight Savings Time

My only problem with DST is that we don’t stay on it all year.  DST is the best — it stays light later so that when I get off work, I actually have hours of daylight left to use.  I can go for a walk!  I want permanent Daylight Savings Time.

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Boobaversary: In Defense of Plastic Surgery

Two years ago today I got a boob job. I feel like blunt is the best way to start this conversation.

Plastic surgery is usually the butt of jokes, it’s what celebrities do to themselves that makes them look like aliens. Sure, there are burn victims and cancer victims who get cosmetic surgery, but that’s just to make them look “normal”. If you’re a “normal” person who gets plastic surgery, it’s probably because you’ve got too much money, are incredibly vain, or have no self-control when it comes to weight. If a woman gets plastic surgery, she is stupid and skanky. If a man does, he’s kind of gay.

If you’re a feminist, you are betraying your sex by succumbing to the cultural pressure of normative standards of beauty.

I am admittedly biased, but I think plastic surgery is great, why shouldn’t we be able to do whatever we want to with our bodies? Tattoos, piercings, hair dye, nose jobs, whatever… why isn’t this a great thing? My reduction is one of the best things that has ever happened to me.

I introduced my procedure as a “boob job” for a reason, because it was a more aesthetic and emotional choice than a medical one. Even though reductions seem to be more culturally acceptable than augmentations, the difference is simply the direction I moved on the size scale.

I was a 32H and it was making me miserable. They were uncomfortable, there were no clothes that fit me, I always felt like people were staring at them, and the bras I had to wear were incredibly painful. I would get sores on my shoulders from where the straps dug in.

I hated my breasts. Loathed them. In fits of pique I would daydream about getting breast cancer so that I would have a reason to get rid of them entirely. Let’s just say I didn’t have a healthy working relationship with them.

I was already a D cup in 6th grade. By the time I was in high school, there were no local stores that actually stocked bras in my size.  Open stares were not uncommon.  And then there were the comments, shouts, and open groping from strangers.  I was a freak.

It took me nearly a decade from when reduction surgery was suggested to me and actually going under the knife.  It turns out surgery is really scary and you find that people are going to think less of you if you have plastic surgery.

I can usually weasel out of it because I had a reduction and not some other procedure.  I still feel obligated to emphasize just how much I had to get removed, to try to justify it.  I feel the need to tell you all that there was almost no fat in what they removed, so having more control over my weight wouldn’t have made a difference in my breast size.  I feel obligated to assure you that it was absolutely necessary, that I had macromastia, but in reality, I would have been fine without it.  Just not as happy, not as confident.

And while getting smaller breasts wouldn’t generally strike people as trying to fulfill the normative beauty standards, I immediately looked as though I’d lost 20 pounds. I think I look way more conventionally attractive now, which means that I’ve engaged in a hateful act that some people think is morally equivalent to female circumcision.

“Slicing up the body to conform to a societal ideal is inherently a woman-hating act, whether the offending body part is the clitoris or thigh fat.”

On the other hand, I no longer look like I’m smuggling party balloons under my shirt.  I can run.  I can buy bras that cost less than $150, or I can even just not wear one!  I can wear normal clothing and I am not immediately perceived as slutty for having enormous tits.

I recognize that there are a lot of cultural specifics to what we consider beautiful, but  I wasn’t trying to please anyone except for myself.  I’m still a freak, but now it’s for reasons that have nothing to do with my appearance.

Nerdy Image Dump in Honor of Nicol

In honor of my bestest friend ever coming into town, and in honor of the fact that I found a harddrive with a lot of really old crap on it, I’m going to do an image dump of things I thought were awesome 8 years ago.

These things, it should be noted, are still awesome.

Hey, National News, That’s a Picture of Me!

I go to one protest and I get in the national news: Result!

I’m not sure why I looked so sad at that particular moment.  I’m going to say it’s because that’s how much I care about the First Amendment.  You all going to go along with that?  Excellent.

Occupy Columbia: Evicted and Arrested

Nikki Haley ordered the Occupy Movement off the state house grounds today — she gave the word at 4:30 and they had until 6pm to leave.  Peaceful protesters were then arrested, 23 is the number currently being reported.

They removed all of their overnight stuff but were still arrested for being on the grounds after 6pm.

“Suppression of unpopular ideas is a tradition in South Carolina, and this is no different” – Jay Bender on #occupycolumbia

Why Alternative Medicine Exists

I have been sick for nearly six weeks, there’s something wrong with my stomach.  I’ve been to three different doctors, had seven tests done, each with different supervisors and doctors and nurses.  I am nauseous, if I eat to much it won’t stay down, and my stomach and intestines hurt.  I have lost 20lbs (and part of my brain is all “huzzah” but I’m so tired, it’s not a very enthusiastic “huzzah”).

It’s like overnight my guts mutinied and I can’t get them back under my control.  And, while my doctors have diligently tried to give me things to help, they’ve either not worked or had side-effects so bad that I’ve been unable to take them long enough to see if they worked.  The thing about an upset stomach is that you can still work, you’ll be grouchy and very tired, but you’re awake.  The thing about working when you’ve been knocked out by a drug is that you can’t.

So, of course, when people find out you’re not feeling well they 1. have a cousin/brother/aunt who had the same thing and it turned out to be celiac/stomach acid/cancer and 2. you should try acupuncture/unproven diet/homeopathy, it really worked for my friend/loved one/family member.

And when you’ve felt like crap for six weeks, you’re pretty much willing to try anything to feel better.  Even I, skeptic extraordinaire (I guess) am tempted to do things I know are useless.  I sit here and think, “Well, maybe the placebo effect will help even if nothing else does.”  It’s nutty, I know it’s nutty, and yet I am so miserably sick and there seems to be no explanation or cure forthcoming, it’s hard to say no to something that might possibly work, even through magical thinking.

Here are otters, they make things ever so slightly better.

Effort

I’ve decided to make a concerted effort to post more, even if it’s not about anything particularly interesting or a particularly in-depth post.  It turns out writing a personal blog while writing for a professional one becomes a lot more difficult.  Not because there aren’t things I care about, but because they necessarily take a backseat to paid work.

I’m trying to train myself to write more anyway, because I should.

I spent several hours yesterday at a media seminar with Fred Edwords (Fredwords) and it was very interesting how much of his talk overlapped with the things I’ve been talking about at TAM, D*C, and at the UU today.  PR is basically reliant on getting emotional responses from people.  It seems very straightforward to me, but I guess when you don’t come from that background it is difficult to understand why just a logical argument doesn’t work.

Big things are happening in Columbia, SC!

Tablet/Laptop

So, I’ve gotten an Asus eee tab transformer, which is a lot of words that essentially mean a tablet and laptop in one.  It’s pretty boss.  I mean, I’ve only had it for about an hour, so I’m sure there are some things I’m going to grow to hate.  The fact that it functions a lot more like a droid than a computer, and the fact that it uses Facebook’s absolutely crap mobile page are going to bug me, and the fact that I keep moving the cursor when I’m just trying to type are probably going to get to me.

But it is much much faster than using my phone to type, and hopefully this means that at future conventions I will be able to update my blog and so forth from the hotel.

Ooh, you can turn off the track pad.  Sweet deal. It’s more intuitive to just touch the screen anyway.  SCORE!  Now if Facebook would stop being that crappy mobile thing…

Secular Coalition for America Summit: Day 2

Day one here

Friday, in the wee hours of the morning, right after I’d gotten to sleep, there was some sort of major commotion on the 8th floor of the Hyatt, very near to my room.  I’m not sure what it was, but I was told hotel security was called and I definitely heard a man who’d been woken up scream, “Shut the Fuck Up!”  I would have applauded, but I wasn’t so much for moving.

So, I was very tired when 7:30AM came around.  And then breakfast was disappointing.  How hard is it to have toast or oatmeal or something other than a very sketchy bready fruity thing?  Everything was cooked fruit.  How gross.  (Note: I’m far too picky for people to take my food opinions seriously.)

We, the godless horde, strode over to the Capitol to meet with some staffers.  Herb, Sharon and I first met with Tara O’Neill, who is a Legislative Aide (or LA in Hill Parlance) for Tim Scott.  Tara, a Clemson grad, was very nice and polite and listened to all we had to say about HR 1179 2011 (patient rights) and Humanist Military Chaplains.  But I’d like to give you some background on Tim Scott, so that you can understand exactly the lion’s den we three atheists were stepping into.

Godless Horde

Tim Scott is one of the mythological Black Republicans, and he’s Southern, so he’s about as common as a unicorn.  When he was on City Council he erected the 10 Commandments in the Council Office and the AU and ACLU proceeded to sue him to take them down.  He campaigned on bringing Christian Values to Washington, and was endorsed by Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin.  He opposes gay marriage, and probably doesn’t believe in atheists in foxholes.

HR 1135 2011

He took $117,000 in campaign ads from an anti-union group and then proceeded to sponsor legislation that would deny FOOD STAMPS to anyone who had a family member on strike.  HR 1135 2011.  It’s very clever, Sheriff of Nottingham level villainy going on.  “I want this brigand found. Starve them out, slaughter their… No, take their live stock. I want Locksley’s own people fighting to bring his head in.”

But enough about the life and legislation of Tim Scott, the staff was very nice — Tara and the UCSD student who greeted us and the gentleman in charge, who understood immediately what the SCA was doing.  We were done there by 9:30 and then headed over to meet with Lindsey Graham’s staffer Jason Brown, who is now my favorite person in DC.  On the way we walked past an armed guard who had an AK-47 — it didn’t look real, they should really make them look less like toys.

Our appointment wasn’t until 11, so we went down into the cool/creepy tunnels that run under the capitol, and went to a little coffee shop below ground.  Then we went back up to meet with Jason Brown.  The Senate offices are much, much nicer than the House offices.  Graham’s office was decorated with a bunch of pictures and paintings of and by South Carolinians.

I love this picture

Jason Brown is a lawyer working as a Legislative Aide for Lindsey Graham and he took us to a relatively swank conference room and we talked primarily about the issue of Humanist Military Chaplains.  He asked us some questions that implied an interest and definite understanding of why it was important to us.  That was reassuring.  Graham is an interesting character in terms of willingness to not toe the Republican Party Line at all times, and as someone on the Committee on Armed Services, he’s a good person to have on your side in this issue.

After that meeting, I went to Union Station, which is apparently just a large mall without a candy store, and met some others for lunch at Pizzeria Uno.  At 2, the panel discussion were set to begin.  Fred Edwords, who shall be Fredwords henceforth, the head of COR was the first to arrive.  He is working with some people in Columbia to get some buildboards here as well as some media training for locals, so it was nice to see a face I’ve seen a lot of e-mails from of late.

The panel was filled out by David Silverman (American Atheists), Jesse Galef (SSA), and Sally Quinn (editor of On Faith, Washington Post).  They spent some time talking about the rapture, which was supposed to happen Saturday, and how good it has been for the cause of Atheism.  David Silverman had been on CNN several times, and Herb Silverman was fielding media phone calls all day.

Sally Quinn then spoke for a while, and she was interesting, though I’m not sure I agree with her or where she’s coming from — it could be a generational thing.  She had some good zingers though.

You all look like you’re going to hell to me.  Tomorrow.

The world is not going to end tomorrow, keep on flossing.

Not one person in this room will be elected president of the United States.  There will be a woman, gay, and muslim president before there is an atheist president.

Effective media strategy is based on knowing more about faith than the other guy.  This is what makes Hitchens so good, he makes them just give up.  PEW says atheists are more knowledgeable about religion than the faithful.

Now, I have a little bit of a problem with the defeatist attitude towards the possibility of an atheist president.  There are, of course, quite a few who argue that we currently have one.  But an openly atheist president within my lifetime doesn’t seem like an impossibility to me.  Maybe I’ll run in however many years til I’m 35.

Then they got into a discussion of when anger was appropriate, and the consensus was it was good when other people also got angry, like when children died of neglect because their family refused medical care because of their religious beliefs.  Atheists should try to get in the news for doing community service and nice things, to help dispel the myth that Atheists are immoral or unfeeling.  Fredwords echoed things I’ve heard PZ say, which is that you need the firebrands to get attention and the nice people to negotiate change.

And then this is where Sally Quinn really went off the rails for me (and Jennifer Michael Hecht), when she started talking about what the stereotypical view of an atheist is.  Apparently Quinn thinks that the image people have in mind when they hear “atheist” is Madalyn Murray O’Hair who was fat, ugly, crazy and had a mustache and that what atheism really lacks is an ATTRACTIVE public representative.  Now, I don’t think that our current representatives like Dawkins, Faircloth, Harris, and Hitch are unattractive, I’d be more likely to put them in the generally attractive categories, so I’m just not sure if she means there are no attractive female public personalities or that no one has overcome the O’Hair legacy.

I dunno, she looks pretty hot to me...

The first doesn’t resonate with me because I’ve seen plenty of attractive women at atheist events.  The second doesn’t resonate with me because neither I nor Omar knew what O’Hair looked like.  So maybe this is an old-people-who-think-atheism-is-communism-because-they’re-old-and-stupid problem, because no one I know, and we’re people who are like into atheism so we know stuff about atheism, has any idea why anyone would care about O’Hair.  Everything I knew about her before Quinn’s comment is that she was killed before I was old enough to know anything and she was also an atheist.

Basically what I’m saying is that I don’t think we’re going to change the hearts and minds of Glenn Beck’s 70 year old audience, we just have to let them die.  Does anyone under the age of forty think that all atheist ladies have mustaches?  If so, I would like to disabuse you of this notion.  Many of us also have horns.

Then there was a lot more discussion about tone and tactics, which basically covered all the same ground over and over again, with various protests of various sorts from the panelist and audience members.  The most interesting discussion was about whether to participate in interfaith groups, which were exclusive of atheists by name and nature.

Legal Panel

The next panel was a team of legal experts, David Niose, Amanda Knief, and Mark Dunn.  Their discussion really reflected the rest of the thrust of the meeting in that it was calling for more personal stories rather than more theoretical problems.  To this end, they wanted to bring cases based on civil rights and equal protection, not on the Establishment Clause.

What it boils down to is this: when we make Tim Scott take down the 10 Commandments, we are absolutely right, but it makes us seem like assholes, but when we call someone out for violating civil liberties, like firing someone for being an atheist or refusing to allow them to form school groups or parents are denied custody because they aren’t religious, we seem like people who are just fighting to be treated equally.  And we get to tell personal stories of how the religious bias has hurt us, and people respond more to that.

And then we got a two-hour break, which I filled with caffeine, and then it was time for the reception/dinner that evening.

Paul Provenza opened with a comedic talk which was very similar to his talk at TAM.  He did have a good line, “Today we lobbied, or as I like to call it, fucked shit up.”  After dinner, JMH introduced Sean Faircloth, and she reiterated the broad theme (poetic atheism) of needing to tell human stories, we may be rational, but people need emotional connection.

Executive Director Sean Faircloth

And then Sean Faircloth spoke, and it was very State of the Union.  Lots of clapping, lots of broad, hear-hear sort of statements.  Spontaneous standing O at the end.  He thinks that Secular Americans are the next moral majority, a sleeping giant waiting to be motivated.  Then he gave a list of ten goals:

  1. Our military will serve all Americans, with no fundamentalism or religious bias or conversion
  2. Any federal/state funded program will be based on science, not belief
  3. Healthcare providers have a responsibility to their medical duties over their religious beliefs
  4. The legislature will represent the non religious
  5. There will be one consistent health standard for children, no religious exception
  6. Medical and scientific progress shall not be impeded by religious bias ever
  7. Discrimination based on religion will not happen
  8. Marriage can be defined by an individual religion however it wants, but the government cannot use religion for its definition
  9. Government zoning laws will respect all faiths and non-faiths equally
  10. Youth won’t be subjected to religious bias in schools.

Then, we were kicked out of the room because it was 9 and that was as late as they’d booked it.  I proceeded to join JMH and her husband and a few others at the bar, where she ordered a margarita, but couldn’t remember the word for salt.  This was immensely amusing.  Then there was a party in a room, and we went there.  There were all sorts of illicit activities going on (clothes all remained on) and I shan’t be more specific, but it was really fun.
JMH then did a poetry reading for the party, which was quite entertaining.  Because her poems are good, people were drinking, and it was so weird that someone would read poetry at a party in the first place.  I felt like a Beatnik, but cleaner.

PARTY!

And then, 2000 words later, I went to bed.

Obama Wins Reelection!

Not really, but basically.  He’s killed Osama Bin Laden, and I’ve got to tell you, this is almost as big as 9/11 or JFK.  If this was mid-afternoon, I think we’d all be cheering and popping champagne and making out.  All the politically and religiously and nationally different people on my Facebook page are celebrating.

And it took less than 10 years!  Today is the 8 year anniversary of the infamous Mission Accomplished speech.  Time to start a new chapter?  Great way of supporting the withdrawal of troops?  No more War on Terror?

Osama v Obama, there can be only one.  Where are the Fireworks?

Now get on TV already Obama, I’m tired.