News of the week – August 7, 2015

Happy Friday everyone! I thought I would try doing a weekly post where I share news stories that I found interesting. Because, why not?! Clearly everyone should be interested in what I’m interested in.

Gender Bias in Publishing – One woman writer’s story of what happened when she submitted the same material as both a woman and a man. Sadly, the results are exactly what you expect.

Donald Trump appeals largely to less educated americans – Duh.

Kermit finally gets out of his physically and emotionally abusive relationship – Hear that single ladies?

Book to screen adaptations – Forget about the weird CW version of Little Women – they’re casting Jennifer Lawrence as Rosie! I don’t know how I feel about this piece of casting. I mean, I love JLaw but I don’t know if she’s right for this role. But I’m just definitely happy they’re going to turn The Rosie Project into a movie. Yippee!!!

Get it together white people! – Probably the most important piece of journalism of our time.

Have a great weekend!!!

Get it together white people

I’m very disturbed by the news regarding Cecil the Lion. Not so much because an overprivileged white guy paid a huge sum of money to decorate his home with a protected animal’s head (don’t get me wrong, I am super pissed about this too), but because of the level of outrage shown for Cecil versus any number of outrages perpetuated against people of color in the United States.

When I first heard this story I was astonished by what a dick the guy is. I mean, he already had a felony for illegally killing a black bear. He also settled a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by an employee out of court for over $100,000. Of course he claims he’s innocent and just wanted the matter to go away quickly. I don’t know about you, but that’s a lot of money to make something go away quickly. How much do dentists make anyway???

I was also amused by all the angry Yelp reviews for his dental practice. (By the way, Yelp seems a little slow in taking those reviews down, most of them are obviously not customers of his.) I saw news stories with pictures of angry, mainly white, protesters with signs calling him a killer and a coward. And these folks looked REALLY REALLY angry.

But then I was listening to a discussion of this story on NPR and someone pointed out that they’d never seen so many white people worked up about the death of an African before. OUCH! I thought. That truth shit stings. And of course I started repeating this line to people as if I had thought it up myself.

Then I saw this:

I love Roxane Gay and all I could think was HELL YEAH!

Because I’m a masochist, I started reading the responses to her comment and was shocked at how incredibly upset (and defensive) people were about the remark.

“What a selfish twit Roxanne is.”

“Grow the eff up.”

“Why does this have to be a competition?”

 Lions are endangered animals.”

“this lady is dumb & does not realize how hot it is going to be wearing a costume in this heat.”

 “This is preposterous… !!!”

“That’s not fair!”

That’s right, somebody actually cried ‘Not fair!’

Now, let’s be clear. It’s okay to be upset about Cecil. Many people are upset about Cecil AND African Americans being killed by the police. But the comparative outrage is absolutely astonishing and this is what Roxane Gay was pointing out. She was being really funny about it but I’m going to say it like it is: White liberals get more upset over animals getting killed than they do about black people being murdered by the police. Then they get more angry if you point this out. I am saying this as a white liberal: We kinda suck.

I’ve heard this said for years but I was definitely in denial. Now I see it. And I’m sorry. But apologies don’t matter, what matters is how we change our future behavior and I don’t have an answer for that yet.

Beam my ass outta here please!

When I was younger one of the worst things you could be called was a “Trekkie.” In fact, in my group of friends we referred to a group of perceived losers as a “Star Trek Convention.” Being a nerd was something you were ashamed of back then. Cool folks would call those beneath them “nerds” like it was  a filthy word.

But I lost the privilege of making fun of anyone who loves Star Trek or any other show several years ago. Not just because my own nerdy fangirl has blossomed or because I married a Trek-loving engineer but because I was completely shamed in front of a group of people that society had deemed to be the lowest form of losers on earth – Trekkies.

It was several years ago, before I was a mother or even married. My now-husband is a huge Star Trek fan (his cats are named Spock and McCoy) and when we went to Las Vegas he was adamant that we go to the Star Trek Experience at one of the big hotels. I really didn’t mind going, despite my mocking of Trekkies I secretly had fond memories of watching the original Star Trek and subsequent Next Generation and Deep Space Nine with my mother. (As a side note, I like DSN best but my husband always tsks me and says it was the worst of all the shows.)

So, we went to the the big hotel, lost some money in a Star Trek slot machine, ate at Quarks Restaurant and paid for the Experience. This involved walking along a long corridor filled with pictures and storylines from all the shows. There were dozens of displays filled with costumes and props. I found my husband giggling in front of a big green alien costume in a glass case. It was reptilian with a mouthful of sharp teeth (how did it chew its food?).

“That’s a gorn,” he said. “I sent a picture of it to my friends when we first started dating and told them it was you.” He’s such a sweetie pie.

Finally, we got to the actual Experience which was an interactive ride through several sets of various shows and ended in a virtual reality-type shuttle ride through space. Our group of “travelers” we walked with consisted mainly of overweight middle-aged men. I kept whispering jokes about them to my husband.

We made our way through the sets, complete with actors and storyline and then sat down in the shuttle for the big finale. Our seats shook and moved in alignment with the screen in front of us. But midway through, the ride stopped and the lights came on.

“Sorry folks,” said a voice over the loudspeaker. “It seems that somebody’s seat belt has come undone.”

Everybody checked their seatbelt. I gave mine a sharp tug but it stayed latched. A minute later, it seemed to be resolved because the lights went back off and the ride started up again. But, a few seconds later, the ride stopped and the lights came on again.

“Maybe we had a breech in the warp vector!” One of the trekkies behind me shouted and everyone laughed. Did I mention that we were probably the only ones there not wearing Trek t-shirts?

The announcer came back on. “Seat E5, please latch your seat belt.”

Everybody looked up to find their seat number. But I had already checked my belt and knew it was latched so I didn’t bother checking.

“Jeez,” I said to my husband. “How hard is it to put on a seat belt?”

He didn’t respond with words he just looked up at a spot above my head. I looked up at the number there: E5. I then realized that the everyone had gone silent and was staring at me with their Geordy LaForge visors and wobbly deely-bopper antennas.

I pulled at my seat belt again. Still latched. Then I pushed it together. Click. There was a millimeter of space in the latch that the sensor had picked up on. I sunk into my seat and contemplated suicide. Fortunately, the lights shut off and the ride started again.

The second the lights came on and the doors opened up I shot out of there like a Latter Day Saint at a Book of Mormon show. My husband followed me silently to the monorail. I wouldn’t look at him because I knew he was trying not to laugh and if I made eye contact he was going to explode.

Since then, the zeitgeist has changed and it has become cool to be a fangirl or fanboy. However, it is not now, nor was it ever, cool to be a jerk who makes fun of other people because of what they love – especially when you can’t even correctly operate a fucking seat belt.

Punk rock ninja seeks work with failing company

A couple weeks ago I sat in my cold, windowless office and had a mini meltdown. I told my boss that the passion for my work has gone out of me. She asked if I was looking for a new job and I told her “No, of course not!” That may seem like a strange reaction to you, but the thought of getting another job makes me sad. I’ve been here a long time and I’ve settled in so deeply that it would be hard to leave. But it did make me ponder what sort of job I would be willing to leave my long time work to accept…

My ideal company:

I LOVE working for companies that are struggling so I can fix the hell out of them. Basically, if your company is a messy failure I might pay you to work there.

I need to believe that I am doing good in the world… or at least not making it a worse place. Non-profits, the arts, small businesses and educational institutions all sound like great places to work.

The company has to value creativity and have a diverse group of employees. If I can be somewhere with my fellow intellectual punk rock ninjas (aka nerds) I would be in heaven. Finally, my muggle and tardis jokes (of which I have many) would receive laughs instead of crickets!

I don’t want to be forced to bond with my co-workers but I love a good potluck. Mostly because of the food, but also to hang out with folks. In fact, I am volunteering in advance to plan the company Halloween party, Secret Santa, Office Olympics, Book Club, Cultural Awareness Bingo and whatever else we come up with. Sometimes that’s all it takes to build a sense of camaraderie and trust between co-workers.

I’ve been in a small, windowless cave for the past few years and would love to have a window or skylight so that I can see the actual outside world. The more light my workspace has, the more likely I will turn it into a tiny plant-filled jungle. I would also be less likely to get sick from squinky lights flickering on and off above my head.

Is there any company out there where the building temperature doesn’t shift dramatically between sub-arctic cold and Death Valley? If so, that’s your biggest recruiting advantage. I’m way tired of typing with gloves on one day and sweating through a meeting in just a sports bra the next. Believe me, my co-workers are fucking tired of seeing my cesarean scar.

Also, my employer has to be okay with swearing because I do that more than a little.

My ideal job:

My strongest talent is having brilliant ideas. Some (my sister) would call me a creative genius. However, I am far too humble to use such labels. But if there was a job where I could sit around throwing out my ideas during brainstorming sessions I would feel valued and happy.

I’m very good at organizing information, tracking progress, etc. Is that what a Project Manager does? If so, that’s my wheelhouse.

Since this is my ideal job, I would also like to work only four days a week.

I like being busy but don’t thrive in pressure cooker environments. However, I’ve come to realize that my idea of a high pressure environment may be different for me than it is for other people. I rarely get panicked when everyone around me is freaking out – I tend to be the calm port in a storm. Warning: Because of that, people can get frustrated with me when I don’t get worked up when something goes wrong. I’ve had to learn to counter with some sort of emotional reaction in order to gain their confidence that I will handle the issue. Either way, believe me – shit’s gonna get taken care of.

In conclusion

So, if you are running a failing non-profit filled with moderate air temperature and a diverse group of nerds and need someone to work four days a week to calmly throw out ideas, swear and plan parties – I am your girl! Shouldn’t be a problem to find at all.

Big girl panties needed – STAT

6/22

Dear diary,

Sorry it’s been so long, but I returned to work from a long vacation today. Apparently the world exploded while I was gone. S told me in  several emails and a meeting that I fucked up and didn’t train my staff correctly and they’re all incompetent. I promptly apologized.

 

6/25

Dear diary,

My boss met with me today and told me that I wasn’t responding quickly or forcefully enough to personnel matters in my department. I immediately started crying and told her I was unhappy with my job.

 

7/6/15

Dear diary,

My sister visited us today. Yay! She informed me that one of my books is the same one that disappeared from her house years ago and she is taking it back. I said nothing. For the record, I stole it from my parents many years ago… then it disappeared from my bookcase… and reappeared at my sister’s house… so I took it back. I don’t think that counts as stealing though.

 

7/7/15

Dear diary,

How are you? Today I told our Administrator about a project I’m working on and he told me it was not approved and to stop working on it. I immediately said, “It was Angela’s idea!” and ran out to tell Angela that I just threw her under a bus.

I call fallacy

Have you ever been reading about an issue like say, oh I don’t know… gay marriage- and in the comments section someone has written something along the lines of: “Why are we talking about this when children are dying in (name any part of the world)?”

This deflection always infuriated me. Should we be handling the world’s problems by order of importance and one at a time? And who creates this list of problems? Is it something we can vote on?

I never knew how to counter this non-argument until one day I came across someone who answered beautifully. By defining it (thanks to Wikipedia).

FALLACY OF RELATIVE PRIVATION: “In which it is suggested an opponent’s arguments should be dismissed or ignored, on the grounds that more important problems exist, despite these issues being often completely unrelated to the subject at hand.”

Oh, and people can, and do, care about more than one thing at the same time. At least, the cool ones do.

The Internet Coward

One of the nice things about having a blog that nobody reads is that I’m able to say things here that would get me attacked in many other internet settings. The subjects I am most afraid to comment on include feminism, Judaism and anything remotely approaching diversity. These subjects tend to attract a lot of hostility.

Lately, I’ve OD’d on reading comment sections and can’t even look at Facebook anymore. Articles with topics that seem benign to me have comment sections loaded with vitriol. Even my friends are posting angry, hateful messages that I don’t understand (although, to be fair, I have been on vacation for the past couple weeks and was avoiding all media). I saw a post about someone of color who had been raped and the complacent “navel gazing” of white liberal feminists who are doing nothing about it. It upset and frustrated me. Am I supposed to stop being a white liberal feminist? How can I take action?

Today I ventured back into FB-land and saw a TED post with a speech from Roxane Gay about feminism. I stupidly looked at the comments section and it was filled with comments about how all forms of feminism seek to put women above men. I wanted to respond “No, no! I’ve read Bad Feminist and that’s not what she’s about at all!” But I’m terrified of the backlash I would incur. Now I feel like a big coward. Should I have written something even if I knew it wouldn’t change anyone’s beliefs? How can we get past all of these rigid ideas and just start talking to each other?

Truthfully, I think I’m more afraid of anonymous internet strangers than an actual physical confrontation. I’m not afraid of a fight with a person face-to-face, either physical or otherwise. But there is something about being ganged up on by shadowy “others” that paralyzes me.

I would love to start a blog where people with differing ideologies post their discussion about why they believe something. They are not allowed to attack each other or start sentences with: “The simple truth of the matter is…” or “Don’t you think that…” It would just be a reasonable back and forth conversation between two people with differing beliefs and visions for the future. No assumptions about the others’ intelligence or mental stability.

Is anyone game for this experiment? Is there anyone out there?

 

Tug on anything at all and you’ll find it connected to everything else in the universe. ~John Muir

Just a few words about Caitlynn

I just want to say a few words about something I’m seeing around the interweb regarding Caitlynn Jenner. I’m happy to see that most people are very supportive of her, but there is an interesting phenomena of sneaky put-downs. I’m talking about Facebook Posts that say: “Akon provided free electricity to millions of Africans but you were to busy paying attention to Caitlynn Jenner to notice” or posting pictures of injured veterans because they are “real heroes” or criticizing ESPN for giving her an award over someone “more deserving”.

This. Is. Bullshit.

Caitlynn Jenner did something very brave that will help thousands of kids feel better about themselves. Lots of people do brave and heroic things and we do not do enough to honor them. But her actions do not take away from them. I don’t know how one heroic act can be measured against another but I am happy that we try to recognize those who do something really scary, especially knowing that they are inviting public scorn.

While Caitlynn’s transition is certainly going to be easier than a poor, transgender person of color, it is still a remarkable moment in history and a sign that we are becoming a more compassionate nation. Let’s not put her down because heroism is not measurable.

Polar bears, snakes and motorcyclists – oh my!

We went camping this weekend and I was almost eaten by a large, ravenous snake. But I’ll get to that in a bit. This was our first of many camping trips this year and it was one to be remembered.

We’d camped at this park before, it’s in the hills not far from our home but still feels remote and isolated. I forgot which exit to take to the park, so I consulted my GPS for directions. The GPS proceeded to take us up a windy backroad I had never been on in the 35 years of living in this area. It was much faster but narrow, steep, curvy and terrifying. A group of motorcyclists were slowly riding ahead of us and on a particularly steep curve one of them slipped and fell off her bike. I stopped the car so my husband could help and was seized by panic about moving forward.

When he returned to the car I cried, “I want to go back! I don’t like this road!”

My husband was calm and rational about the situation. “We don’t have a choice, there’s no way to turn around here. Just keep going forward.”

I pulled myself together, put the car in the lowest gear and moved forward with screeching tires. Fortunately, the road became easier after that and we soon made it to the park. I got out of the car and had an anxiety attack where my daughter couldn’t see me.

Upon pulling into our campsite a bobcat ran in front of us and off into the wilderness. All signs were pointing toward this trip being epic.

The bobcat (Lynx rufus) is a North American mammal of the cat family Felidae. There are 12 subspecies. Weights range from 8 to 40 lbs.

We set up our tents, hammock and chairs, started a fire and cooked up a dinner of hamburgers and baked potatoes. I forgot all the condiments and the potatoes weren’t ready until an hour after we finished dessert, but it was all good. My only complaint that night was that it was too cold for my liking. I slept in a fetal position to try to keep warm but it made my hips hurt to lay on my side on the hard ground (despite four layers of padding under me). My daughter just burrowed herself into her sleeping bag and slept for the next twelve hours.

The next morning, after breakfast we had a visit from some deer while we were all quietly reading around the campfire. It was a nice day. Still cold though.

White-tailed deer buck and doe in rut;  Minnesota in wild. By Nathan Lovas

In the afternoon I took my daughter to the restroom and we saw a snake by the side of the road. I couldn’t identify what kind of snake it was, but I knew it was not a rattler because there were no rattles and it’s head was too small. It was greenish and brownish and, although it was probably close to four or five feet, it was barely visible in the grass and leaves. I felt very sharp for having spotted it and stopped in order to point it out to my daughter.

“This is why you have to be careful about walking in the grass,” I told her. She threw a bunch of pine needles at it and it took off with a frightening speed I didn’t know snakes were capable of.

There were about a dozen bat boxes near our campsite and at dusk we joined a group of junior rangers to watch them emerge. Just as the sun set, dozens of bats came shooting out of the boxes. We watched as they became a cloud of flittering dots in the distance.

Mother nature's 100% toxin-free, graceful, harmless to humans, beautiful mosquito eliminators. No side harmful side effects.

That night was also freezing. I woke up in the middle of the night with the urgent need to pee. The bathrooms were about a quarter mile away and down a steep hill. I tried to be the master of my bladder but it wasn’t working. I got up and peed somewhere that was not the bathroom.

The next morning we ate breakfast and disassembled our campsite. When we were almost packed up I decide to visit the loo one last time. I sauntered down the hill, lost in my own thoughts and not watching where I was stepping. Suddenly, I heard a snarling, and I swear to god – barking sound. Out of the corner of my eye I saw something lash out lightening fast. I felt something brush against my leg and I jumped and ran as fast as I could go while screaming my head off. I stopped a good distance away and turned around to see the snake in the road. It gave me the stink eye and then moved into the dried grass. It was almost exactly where I had seen the snake the day before and it had the same coloring.

Titanoboa returns! Smithsonia recreates world's biggest snake - a 48-foot monster which ruled Earth after the dinosaurs
Yup, that’s about what it looked like.

I hadn’t lost control of my bladder, so I decided to continue to the bathroom where I did my business and splashed some water on my face. I was proud of how calm I was. On the way back I carefully approached the spot where the snake was. He was still there. His body was in the grass but his head was on the curb. He looked like he really wanted to go back to laying down on the nice warm spot where some stupid human almost stepped on him. I took the long way back to our campsite.

My husband and sister were chatting when I returned. “I’m so done with this fucking place!” I said and climbed into the car where I broke into hysterical sobbing. Guess I wasn’t so calm after all.

My hubby and sister got me to calm down enough to tell my story of survival. Mostly I just felt stupid about not seeing a giant snake laying in the middle of the road. It wasn’t actively trying to get me, it was just trying to defend itself from my carelessness.

My husband said what was probably the nicest thing you could possibly say in that situation: “What was it thinking -laying in the middle of the road on a busy path to the bathroom?” He was genuinely outraged that the snake hadn’t thought more carefully about his choice of napping spot. So sweet.

We shoved everything into our car and got the hell out of there with much haste. I insisted on driving and we agreed to take the slower but safer road back to town. Shortly after exiting the park something enormous and white lumbered across the road in front of us and I slammed on the brakes. Despite not having a bear in our area for at least a century, it’s size and my recent trauma made me think that was exactly what it was. And because it was white, I naturally assumed – POLAR BEAR! Because that would make so much fucking sense at this point.

We laughed for a while and then moved on, the cow had safely moved to the other side of the road.

old bathtub as a water trough
Well, hello there.