ideatrash

Writing, publishing, geekdom, and errata.

I can save today. You can save the world.

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Because it's needed. For her today. For others every day. You are more awesome than you think, and a damn sight more awesome than those who would tear you down.















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Flash Challenge THIS WEEKEND! Get critique on your writing for free!

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Several of us have started our own, self-hosted, flash fiction challenge over at a website we're calling Obsidian Flash.  It's on a forum behind a password, so that anything you write and submit is considered unpublished.  Registration is quick, free, and pretty painless.

Here's why you should do it, especially if you haven't been writing for a while:

1. Challenges like this are great for stimulating creativity.
2. You don't have the time to critique yourself.
3. You'll get helpful feedback from published authors and editors like myself, Donna Munro, Anton Cancre, and more.
The next challenge is scheduled for THIS weekend.  The prompt will go up this Friday (TODAY) at 8pm EST.

Go sign up now at http://obsidianflash.com/forum and we'll see you writing this weekend!

Here are the rules:

1. All stories should be complete, written and posted within 24 hours of the prompt being posted, and can be anywhere from one sentence to 1,000 words in length.  Typically the prompt is posted by 8pm EST on Friday, and stories are posted by 8pm EST on Saturday.  

2. You may choose to write your story in any genre.

3. Your story must be built around the restrictions—words, themes, photo prompts, word limits, etc.—provided by the Flashmaster at the beginning of the challenge.

4. Once the participants’ work is posted, the voting and comment session begins and continues until all votes are in. Time limit for voting will be determined on the spot, depending on how many people finish the challenge.  Typically this is within 24 hours of the end of the writing portion, or 8pm EST on Sunday.

5. The winner becomes Flashmaster and chooses the prompt(s) for the next contest.  Also, you get all the Internet Bragging Points you think you can get away with.

Don't wait - get going and register at http://obsidianflash.com/forum right now and join us!

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You need a password manager if you want to be safe online - and probably one you control

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I heard one of the more ignorant things last week:  A guy told me that he preferred a closed-source, commercial password manager instead of an open source one "because [he doesn't] trust open source software".

Amusingly, he was saying this about the same time that the news that commercial password manager OneLogin was hacked and potentially stole sensitive user data.

I tend to trust open source (and community-supported) software more for two basic reasons:

1. The source code is available, and I could examine and compile it myself.

2. Practical experience - most notably the experience I had with seeing how fast patches for Heartbleed rolled out in 2015 compared to patches for Stagefright for Android.

Additionally, this is the risk you run whenever you store sensitive information "in the cloud" (and remember, "in the cloud" simply means "on someone else's computer").  Yes, this includes the syncing that both Chrome and Firefox can do.

My advice on making your online life more secure is still valid five years on.  I still use KeepassX (Win/Mac/Linux) quite happily. You can sync the password database to your phone using a commercial service such as Dropbox (using DropSync) or a self-hosted one like OwnCloud (use FolderSync) and then use the app Keepass2Android (offline version) to open that local file.  

Why is that better than trusting it all to a company like OneLogin?  Simple.  If my OwnCloud/Dropbox gets hacked, there's another completely separate password that's locked my password data file.

I'm not going to tell you that you have to use KeepassX. You should use whatever works with your workflow.  But you should make sure that you take your own responsibility for your online security.

One more addition that I'll make to my recommendations: Your password manager should have a "notes" area.  Use that so that your "security questions" can be completely random answers and still be accessible from your phone if you need them.

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Memorial Day Flash Fiction Challenge - It's FREE (and extra time to boot!)

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Several of us have started our own, self-hosted, flash fiction challenge over at a website we're calling Obsidian Flash.  It's on a forum behind a password, so that anything you write and submit is considered unpublished.  Registration is quick, free, and pretty painless.

Here's why you should do it, especially if you haven't been writing for a while:

1. Challenges like this are great for stimulating creativity.
2. You don't have the time to critique yourself.
3. You'll get helpful feedback from published authors and editors like myself, Donna Munro, Anton Cancre, and more.


The next challenge is scheduled for Memorial Day weekend.  The prompt will go up this Friday at 8pm EST.  You'll have twice as much time to write as normal.

Go sign up now at http://obsidianflash.com/forum and we'll see you writing this weekend!

Here are the rules:

1. All stories should be complete, written and posted within
24(48 THIS WEEKEND) hours of the prompt being posted, and can be anywhere from one sentence to 1,000 words in length.  Typically the prompt is posted by 8pm EST on Friday, and stories are posted by 8pm EST on Saturday.  BUT BECAUSE I'M THE FLASHMASTER, and it's Memorial Day Weekend, you've got 48 hours! Stories are due on 8pm EST on SUNDAY

2. You may choose to write your story in any genre.

3. Your story must be built around the restrictions—words, themes, photo prompts, word limits, etc.—provided by the Flashmaster at the beginning of the challenge.

4. Once the participants’ work is posted, the voting and comment session begins and continues until all votes are in. Time limit for voting will be determined on the spot, depending on how many people finish the challenge.  Typically this is within 24 hours of the end of the writing portion, or 8pm EST on Sunday. But because it's Memorial Day Weekend, the critique is due on 8pm on MONDAY.

5. The winner becomes Flashmaster and chooses the prompt(s) for the next contest.  Also, you get all the Internet Bragging Points you think you can get away with.

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Going on hiatus for a while

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I'm going to stop writing blog posts for a while, especially about relationships and self-improvement and that sort of thing.

This pains me, as I've seen people respond positively both in comments here, in e-mails, and on social media.  It sucks for me personally, as I'll often realize further things about myself and ways I can further improve while actually writing the posts.

But I have to stop, at least for a while.

It's important to know how I typically write posts for the blog.

I write them in fits and spurts - for example, the posts in May were pretty much all written one weekend in April. In some cases, the ideas for the posts were floating around longer than that, and I'd just not gotten around to writing it. 

Sometimes I'll dash off an immediately relevant post - like the one about inviting dictators over for tea, or how we already have the worst form of socialized medicine - and I'll bump the rest of the posts even further down the queue.

I can also say that most of the posts in May were directly inspired by my own screwups, failings, and realizations as I overcame my own mistakes.  And in the cases where they weren't, they were completely covered by my artistic license - something I made sure to occasionally point out.  (In short - if you recognized yourself in a post and I didn't name you, I was talking about someone else.)

Despite this, it's come to my attention that to some, it's seemed like I was aiming my posts at a specific individual. 

They weren't. 

Regardless, a number of people whose opinions matter to me believe this, even when I've (privately) shared the reasons and inspirations for why I wrote the posts that went up this month, or pointed out that I wrote them before the events that they were supposed to be in response to.


And it's costing me in my own personal life.

If you've found resonance in the posts I've written, or meaning, or clarity, or a point of view that made you stop and think, I'm glad. That was the purpose for writing them here.  If you've found yourself uncomfortably reminded of yourself, you're welcome to ask me directly if I was talking about you.

But I wasn't.

Because I know others have gained value from these posts, I'm not going to take them down.  Maybe I was naive to think that writing things weeks ahead of time or publicly making a point of obfuscating details would be enough to keep people from getting upset and think I was writing about them. I hope that me writing this publicly is enough for those who've thought I was writing about them to think differently.

Regardless, I'm going to take a break for a while. 

Have a good one.

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Moral Judgments and the end of relationships

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I was recently recounting the end of a past relationship, where I was dumped - and found out I was dumped by another person trying to sympathize with me via text message.  I mentioned that I'd pretty much cut all ties with that ex immediately.

The person I was telling said: "Wow, you must have been hurt".

And the thing was, I wasn't.

I was upset, sure. But it was a pretty casual relationship in many ways, so it didn't experience the deep core-level hurt that I've experienced at other times.

Which got me thinking.

In all the instances where I'd either been the person doing the dumping - or cut ties with the person who dumped me - it wasn't because I'd been hurt.

It was because I'd been morally offended.

To back up:  We all have some things where we make a moral judgment. Maybe it's abortion, or the death penalty, or cheating, or lying about money.  The specific offense doesn't matter so much here as the reaction.  They're the thing(s) that are simply unforgivable and elicit an immediate, visceral reaction from you.  Those are moral judgments.

What occurred to me is the possibility that when I (at least) break up with someone or cut ties with them, it's not because they've hurt me, but because they've crossed one of those absolute lines.  For example, explicitly trying to poison a kid's relationship with a parent because your relationship with that parent sucks is definitely one of those lines for me.


Maybe this is just me.  But if it's not just me, then this gives us a different way of looking at how relationships end and how (toxic) relationships persist.

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Luring the thing with feathers - Seeing past the limits of what is "possible"

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I asked her what she wanted from her life.

"I don't see how it can be any different," she replied, and it nearly broke my heart.

Let's back up.

She's (see my artistic license policy; and let me explicitly state this is an amalgam fictional character) in a pretty awful relationship. There's abuse - mostly emotional, but some physical and sexual - as well as the logistical entanglements of money, having been a homemaker for years, and children. She's female, but I know this can happen to men as well; I've been there myself.

I've been talking with her, trying to help her decide what she wants to do. Hell, just what she wants, and it keeps coming back to this exchange. So fast-forward again.

I sigh. "That's not what I asked. I want to know what you would like to have happen if you... I don't know... waved a magic wand."

"I don't have a magic wand."

"Pretend."

"It couldn't happen."

I'm reminded of my dog Taylor. The first house he lived in had the kitchen off to the side, and he was trained to keep out of it. When we moved, the door to the backyard required him to go across the tile floor of the kitchen - and he wouldn't. As far as he was concerned, the back door might as well not exist, even though we were begging him to walk across it.

All of us - but especially women, thanks patriarchy - are trained. We are trained to see the walls of what society says is possible... even though these walls aren't based in anything real. If we don't have a concept for something, it's impossible to comprehend (such as the color blue in early Western history, or the concept of progress prior to a few centuries ago).

In this case, it was the walls of society's assumptions that kept her in this abusive relationship. She'd internalized them so much that she couldn't envision changing the relationship, let along leaving.  It did not matter how many ways I tried to phrase it, how many resources or options I pointed out. Her aspirations and dreams were limited by what she'd been told - both explicitly and implicitly - by the walls society (and her boyfriend) had set up around her.

I remember not being able to see a way out. I remember feeling hopeless. I remember thinking that since it wasn't a big blowout fight that day, it counted as a "good" day.

I remember not having any hope.

And so I keep trying to coax the thing with feathers to perch within her mental line of sight, and to sing so that she can no longer ignore its existence.

And maybe someday, she'll be able to imagine a better future for herself.


Because this scenario - or something so close to it - has played out so frequently in the last few years, I'm going to again note my artistic license policy, and add in that if the shoe fits, you should probably check out the signs of being in an abusive relationship.

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Don't let the loops and whorls of self-improvement throw you for a loop!

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I've written a lot of posts about relationships and communication over the last few years.

Sometimes that causes a problem for me.

I usually tell people "If I sound like I know what I'm talking about, it's because I'm either quoting Dan Savage or it's something that I've screwed up in the past."

And I have screwed up a lot in the past.  And I've done a lot of work on and with myself to improve.

But.

Sometimes I get overconfident. Sometimes I forget that I have to keep doing the work.  And then I screw up, and things get worse, and I recover, and improve.

And that's the way it usually works.

Look, here's a graph to illustrate:

Improvement tends to have loops and backsliding and be irregular as all hell.  The important thing is that the overall trend is upward.  It's great if your best is way better than you were before.  But it means something if your worst is better than your worst before.

That said... if you're dealing with someone who is trying to improve, that does not mean that you have to put up with behavior that violates your boundaries or hurts you... even if they're improving.

Don't forget that either.

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We already have (partially) socialized medicine; just the worst form of it.

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Shared from a friend:

If you're saying "people without heath insurance can just go to the ER!", you've already conceded the argument. You've admitted that people should have health care regardless of ability to pay. Now, you're just insisting on the least effective and most expensive way to pay for it.

To put it another way: you've agreed to help pay for your buddy's tractor repairs. But instead of chipping in for oil changes and regular maintenance, you're insisting he wait until the engine seizes up and the transmission drops before you'll give him a dime.

An addendum: To say nothing of the fact that certain long term or chronic conditions (cancer, MS, Parkinson's, to name just a few) can only be ameliorated by preventative care - once it's reached "emergency room" levels, it may be too late, and long term damage is already done.

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Three things that mess up communication without you even realizing it

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Brains are tricksy things, and you've got to do some due diligence to make sure that the things that are going on in your head are actually... well, real.

I don't just mean "better communication" things - though those are vital.  I mean things like external factors that can completely alter and shift the ways we interact without us being aware of them.

Here's three ways it happens - and the odds are good that at least one of them effects you.

1.  While "hangry" might be a marketing slogan, it's also a real thing. Aside from it meaning that you're low on energy (including willpower), it also kicks in adrenaline and physiological effects that often lead to anger.


2. The weather can have a significant effect on your mood - and almost entirely negatively.  It's not just through things like SADD or general light levels, but can even do a number on you if there's a rapid change in barometric pressure (I'm noticing the latter).  This effect seems to be greater with people who are already in an unstable emotional state.

3. The autonomic nervous system - the part of your body that controls "fight or flight" - tends to react differently in men and women (PDF link).  In particular, the sympathetic nervous system (e.g. "starting fight or flight") kicks in faster for men, and the parasympathetic ("calming down from fight or flight") is slower to respond for women.

How does this work in real life?  Let's say that Anastasia and Fabio are a couple and have an issue that requires a hard discussion.

1.  Anastasia and Fabio have the discussion before eating, and are both "hangry".  As a result, when Fabio brings the issue up, Anastasia responds defensively.  Fabio gets defensive in turn, and so rather than a productive discussion, it turns into an argument.

2. They try again, but this time there's a storm front moving in and the barometric pressure is dropping precipitously.  Fabio is already on edge from the first discussion, so the weather change is really doing a whammy on him, but he's not consciously aware of it.  So when Anastasia brings it up, Fabio is out of sorts, throwing Anastasia off.  Another argument ensues.

3.  After about twenty minutes of arguing and discussion, Fabio and Anastasia sound like they've reached an agreement.  Fabio breathes a sigh of relief, just in time for Anastasia to say "...and ANOTHER thing!"

All three operate on the same principle. When there's something off with our mental state, our brains - the wonderful, tricksy pattern-matching machines they are - try to find something to explain why we feel off.  In all three cases, neither Fabio or Anastasia is aware of the external influences that's pooching their communication.

The first two are pretty obvious, but the third might need a bit more explaining.  While Fabio's parasympathetic nervous system has kicked into gear and calmed him down, Anastasia's isn't done yet.  She's still in "fight or flight" mode.  The actual thing that started "fight or flight" is done and over with, so her brain - without conscious intent - finds something else to explain why she's still feeling that way.

It's the same kind of effect that happens with scary movies on date night - the excitement from fear is physiologically similar to the excitement from attraction.  Our brains try to find a reason to explain why our bodies are all worked up, and...

The cool thing is that if you're aware of these effects, you can start to work to minimize how you're thinking.  Postpone arguments until you're not hungry.  If you're out of sorts, check the weather.  Be aware of how your body handles its autonomic nervous system so you don't accidentally start a new argument just after you've finished the hard discussion you started out to have.

And above all, be kind and understanding of yourself and those you love.

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Everyone's got needs. And sometimes that means you're needy.

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Sometimes, a "truth bomb" lives up to its name.

While reading The Real Cause of Neediness over at Elephant Journal, there was one on the first page.  Here it is (though the whole article is worth reading):
So many of us internalize our sensitivity and our cries for emotional support as something negative—something that we need to fix.

Truth bomb: You are only as needy as your needs aren’t being met.
That ain't no joke.

If someone's needs aren't being met in a relationship, it can be really frustrating for everyone.  And not just in the obvious way where, hey, a need isn't being met.

Too often we aren't aware of our needs and how they are, let alone whether or not they're being met.  There's little guidance in either during our formative years.  Most of us learn by screwing up, over and over and over again.

It's most frustrating when not only is a need not being met, but that nobody's even aware what the need actually is.

Remember that our brains are tricksy little buggers.  If they can't address the actual thing that's going on, they'll snatch up something else to latch onto. 

So that unmet need will get expressed somehow.  Maybe it'll be picking fights.  Or dissatisfaction with a different part of the relationship. Or even that the disagreement or problem will continue to shift while the main need is unexpressed.  It'll come out sideways.

Here's an example of how something can come out sideways:

In my day job, I work with big imaging machines, and somewhere around 5%-7% of the population is claustrophobic.  This can be someone who doesn't like the machine too close to their face to people who can't let their big toe go under the camera. It's no big deal to me if someone can't deal with the machine.  I respect other people's baggage.  If someone is claustrophobic, they're claustrophobic, and that's that.

Sometimes, though, a person will seem nervous and complain about everything but the size of the machine.  They'll say it's anything except claustrophobia. I've learned over the last twenty years that when there's difficulty after difficulty (and fixing each one doesn't do anything) and they finally decide to refuse the test, they're almost always going to say they're claustrophobic.

We do the same thing in our personal lives. If our needs aren't met, that will come out, one way or another.

It's far, far better (and easier) to address them directly.

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How are you spending the seconds of your life?

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Economics has a reputation for not dealing with real people or nuances like emotion and relationships.

But there is one economic concept that can help us in our personal lives: opportunity cost.


Here's the basic idea:  You have a limited number of seconds in a life. In your life.  Each is worth something. Are you getting the maximum outcome for the investment of the seconds of your life?

In economics, this doesn't mean that you have to be earning the maximum amount of money every second. You may be earning at a lower potential - or even spending money - in order to maximize your earnings later. The classic example is going to a trade school or college.  You spend money up front so that you can earn more later.

Likewise, in a relationship you may spend time up front having hard conversations or tackling difficult topics. The goal there is that later on you get a return on the investment of your time by being a better person, avoiding unnecessary conflict, and having a better relationship.

Opportunity cost is a useful way to think about things to ensure that you aren't stuck.

For example, I know a young woman (see my privacy policy) who is trying to pay off a large debt. She is currently working a minimum-wage job and spending the rest of her time doing odd jobs for a family member for minimal payment.

It did not occur to her that she could spend some time learning an additional skill - perhaps getting some kind of verification or certificate - instead of doing the odd jobs so that she would be able to earn more money and be able to pay off her debt sooner.

In relationships this also relates to the fuck yes idea, or how I wrote last week about how obligation is a horrible reason to stay in a relationship.

You have a limited number of seconds in your life. Is the relationship(s) you're in now the way you want them to be? Are they growing towards what you want them to be? Are they improving?

Look, there is nothing inherently wrong with being in a minimum wage job.... If you choose it intentionally and it meets your needs. Likewise, there's not anything inherently wrong with your relationship as long as you choose it intentionally and it meets your needs.

If your job or relationship is not the best way you could be spending the seconds of your life, then you have an obligation to yourself.  You have an obligation to either improve your job or relationship... or find a new one.

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Identifying the Common Shitty Squirrel behavior

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I posted this cartoon from Poorly Drawn Lines on social media yesterday with the comment "I know people whose significant others are like this."

http://www.poorlydrawnlines.com/
And... yeah. I do know people who act like that towards their significant others. They run things on an explicit quid pro quo basis.  At best.  At worst, they'll withdraw love, compassion, approval - even things like money and help around the house - if they don't get what they want.  Some even "forget" to do things that create more problems for their significant others.

This sort of squirrely behavior doesn't often show up in lists of "signs of an abusive relationship", but it probably should.

So I'm going to start referring to this behavior as being a shitty squirrel (or a shitty tree-rat), much in the same way that I use the shorthand of brain weasels.

In the meantime, I'm going to keep telling my amour that she's freaking awesome. 

Especially when she takes the time to tell me when I'm wrong, or when she needs time to herself, or otherwise disappoints me.

Because there's no way I want to act like a freaking tree-rat.

Running the abuser on a separate mental loop - and how that hurts the ones who care

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Something happens when you're in an abusive1 (or otherwise awful) relationship.

You learn to cope.

It's especially effective (but does not require) when the abuser has succeeded in isolating you from loved ones.  (You might remember that is a sign of an abusive relationship2.

I personally call this kind of mental coping "running on a separate loop", because that's what it felt like to me when I was the one exhibiting this behavior.

What's especially awful about this is that it can be extremely hurtful and damaging to those who care about you and want to be supportive.

That's what I ended up doing, and by the time I realized what was going on and started dismantling it, I'd permanently damaged relationships and hurt those I cared about.  I've seen this happen with other people as well, and that's why I decided to write this up now.

When you've been in an abusive relationship for a while, the ways that you react in that relationship are knee-jerk responses.  They're like reflexes.  You respond and react in specific patterns to minimize how much you are hurt by the abuse.

Here's the bad bit:  These responses and patterns don't hit the conscious mind.

Because these responses and reactions aren't handled the same way as everything else you do, your responses can seem completely opposite to the way that you normally behave - or even counter to the ideals that you hold most dear.

Frequently, you might be aware that something's wrong.  If you're able to be away from the direct influence of the abuser, you might even be able to identify how your behavior and responses are unhealthy... but only after the fact.  When you're back in the abuser's presence, the reactions take hold again and what seemed so clear is suddenly obscured by mental fog.

When you're the person who cares about the abused person, it's especially rough. You'll see the abused person blithely accept behaviors and conditions they'd never otherwise accept. This can even effect how they treat you.

It looks a lot like hypocrisy. It looks a lot like a double standard.  It sure as hell feels personal.

I can tell you as someone who did this sort of thing: It's not.

The double standard you're witnessing is like a reflex.  Reflexes happen without conscious thought - they're usually handled by the spinal cord, and the brain just gets notified after the fact.

The same thing is happening here.

The "hypocrisy" you're experiencing has nothing to do with the actual person you care about - it's all about the reactions and reflexes constructed during the period of abuse.  It isn't who your loved one wants to be - or even who they are - outside of the toxic influence of the abuser.

If you're the person experiencing the double standard I am not - repeat not - telling you to blindly ignore your own boundaries and mental health.  Again, from personal experience, I know this kind of separate "loop" can do a lot of damage to the people who care about the victim of abuse.  Maintain your boundaries. Maintain your own mental sanity.

Sometimes that can even mean the very, very difficult choice of cutting a person you care about out of your life.

But sometimes, just knowing that it really isn't personal is enough to help you be able to be there for them anyway.




1 I don't think that intent to be abusive is required for a relationship to become abusive.
2Ten signs of an abusive relationship (if any ring true, read more at:
http://www.healthcentral.com/slideshow/10-signs-you-may-be-in-an-emotionally-abusive-relationship
    • They want to isolate you from friends or even family.
    • They tend to insult or belittle you, even when “joking”.
    • They blame others a lot, and often times it’s you.
    • Alcohol and drug use that causes erratic behavior can be a catalyst of abuse.
    • They instill fear, uneasiness or are intimidating in their speech or actions.
    • They punish you or retaliate for time you spend away from them.
    • They expect you to be subservient but aren’t helpful themselves.
    • They are extremely jealous of your time, relationships and/or aspirations.
    • They manipulate your emotions and make you feel guilty.
    • They get physical. Obviously hitting someone is abusive, but physical abuse can start as intimidating posturing, grabbing or controlling your movements and space.

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If you walk on eggshells, sooner or later they're gonna break.

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It is a sign of a healthy relationship that you consider your partner(s) feelings.

It is a sign of a toxic relationship that you walk on eggshells worrying about your partner(s) reactions.

Put that baldly, it seems simple and obvious.  Sadly, the slope between them can be awfully slippery.

Luckily, there's one clear difference between the two: whether or not people are owning their own emotions.

Here's an example that comes quickly to mind:

Both Goofus and Gallant have a celebrity crush on Chris Evans.  Goofus denies having the celebrity crush because they're afraid that will make their partner mad or sad. Gallant is honest with his partner about having the crush, but doesn't mention it when their partner is having a rough day or feeling insecure.

See the difference there? Even though both might not tell their partner immediately, the difference is in how they're approaching it.

Goofus is taking responsibility for their partner's emotional state. They're fearing a negative emotional reaction of any kind, and so decides to hide how they feel.

Gallant is considering their partner's emotional state.  Gallant knows the information may not be pleasant for their partner, so they try to tell their partner when they're able to receive that information.  They remain honest about what they want and who they are, while still being kind to their partner.

Aside from the "hey, I want to have a healthy relationship" bit, there's a very practical reason why being honest about who you are and what you want and need is a good strategy.

It will come out anyway; you only get to choose how it comes out.

Walking on eggshells and hiding who you are and what you need - including things like irritations at behaviors or situations - takes willpower. And willpower (or mental energy) is as much a finite resource as the amount of physical energy you have.

This is why so many fights and arguments start in the evening and late night! Our mental energy reserves are low, so it's harder to balance on eggshells.  And once our reserves are so low we can't keep it inside any longer, we have no energy to spare for consideration of our partner(s).

So rather than a difficult, but honest discussion, it turns into a nuclear meltdown.

It's possible to walk on eggshells around your partner for an extended period of time.  It's born out of a fear that the difficult honest discussion will go badly.  And sometimes they do; that's just the way things are.  But I know people who walked on eggshells around their partner for years.

And sooner or later, that always - always - ends badly.

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Today, in "shit I shouldn't have to say", Philippines edition

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If you defend the extrajudicial murders (with a death toll over 7,000 people) in the Philippines, you are also defending extrajudicial murders everywhere.
 
Including  the US's shameful history of lynching. 

"But they're criminals!" Deciding that is the point of a court of law, not a mob or thugs on motorcycles with guns.

"But most of the public approves!" That applies to lynching in the Southern United States as well.

Mob violence and extrajudicial murder is mob violence and extrajudicial murder. 

Look.

I understand the desire to punish and get rid of those who are harming others without bothering with the PITA that the courts can be.  That's also been my go-to reason for being glad I don't have the power to make that call.

I understand the visceral appeal; I like superhero fiction as much (or more) than anyone. I also realize it's fiction, where the bad guys are always bad and the good guys don't punish the innocent by accident. (or it's glossed over, thanks DCU).

This is the real world. And even with checks and balances, we punish the innocent a frightening percentage of the time.

This is pretty clear cut and dry, and I'm horrified that it still has to be spelled out.

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Everyone has baggage, whether it's in the DSM or not.

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If you are old enough to read this, you have baggage.

If you are old enough to read this, you have damage.

If you are old enough to read this, you have habits and thoughts and impulses and actions that you struggle to work with or overcome.

You are still a member of society, and worthwhile.

Maybe you had a bad breakup. Maybe you're aneurotypical. Maybe you have something that is classified as a mental disorder. Maybe you simply have some aspects of a mental disorder or of being aneurotypical.

But that does not mean you are crazy. That does not mean you are wrong or bad.

You are still a person. You are still amazingYou still deserve the same love and respect and consideration as everyone else.

What some people see as othering or want to classifying as an illness I frequently see as different degrees of obstacles.

Maybe you need medication to overcome the obstacle. Maybe you just need to change your point of view. Maybe you were unable to overcome the obstacle and just have to work around it. 

All of these are valid.

Make no mistake, I am not being dismissive of anyone's struggle. Quite the opposite.

I am saying that there is a lack of empathy for the struggles we all face.

Regardless of the shape, size, or type of struggle and obstacles you face, you are not alone.

Perhaps your struggle is different than mine. Perhaps it will take extra time to understand the scope of your struggle or the shape of your struggle.  Maybe I could overcome your obstacles easily while you'd struggle with mine.  Perhaps it's the opposite.

It doesn't matter. We all have obstacles. We all have struggles.

In the end, we are all damaged goods.

We have this in common, every last one of us.

We have received help and aid and comfort during our own struggles.

You may not understand or share the struggle and obstacles of the person you are interacting with today. 

But you know what your own feels like.

You know the shame and fear that you feel while fighting your own struggle and overcoming your own obstacles. 


The only sin here is if you do not extend that empathy and understanding to those you care about as they face their own struggles in life.

The only sin is denying others the comfort and caring that you yourself crave.

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A "sunk cost" (or obligation alone) is a horrible reason to stay in a relationship

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Note: Though I'm primarily talking about romantic relationships here, this applies to all interpersonal relationships.

The "Fuck Yes or No" article, though almost four years old at this point and spawning a number of responses ("Mexican Dinner Consent" by Ferrett and "It damn well better be a yes" by me are relevant examples) has such an impact because it highlights something very important.

You have a limited number of minutes in your life. The relationships in your life, should not be ones where you simply feel obligated to remain in them.

Yes, there are obligations in relationships.  Yes, relationships are not always fun and games.

But if you're in a relationship out of a sense of obligation, if you're there primarily out of a sense of duty instead of wanting to be there, then you are doing no one any favors.

You are not doing yourself a favor by staying in that relationship. You are not doing your partner(s) a favor or kindness by remaining.

At best, you are setting everyone else in the relationship for greater drama, heartbreak, and anguish when they realize that you're simply there because you feel you have to be there.

This is especially true when you may have started out wanting the relationship, only to have you, your partner(s), your goals, or situation change.  Hiding that change doesn't make things magically revert back to the way they were, and the longer you hide that realization, the more likely your partner(s) are to question the entirety of the relationship.

Be honest with yourself and with those you're in relationships with.

Be honest why you're there, and why you remain there.

Be sensitive and forgiving to yourself and your partner(s) if things have changed over time.

But above all, be honest.

And make your priorities align with your life.

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When actions and stated priorities don't seem to mesh - they just might.

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It might seem like trying to discover what someone else's priorities are from their actions is always easy. This is not the case

There can be multiple different things acting upon a person's priorities to make their actions seem contradictory. Sometimes the person might not even be aware of the things that they are doing with the contradictory priorities.

For example, I don't particularly like talking about drama in relationships.

That statement probably comes as a bit of a shock to anyone I've dated in the last several years.

The explanation, though, is fairly straightforward. I tend to process and think about things out loud, especially while talking to other people and getting other viewpoints. And when there's drama, or a system is having problems, or an issue in a relationship, I want to fix it.  And I want to fix it rapidly!

As a result, I will often end up bumping up the priority of resolving any problems or outstanding issues, so that I can get them off my mind...and then not talk about them any more.

While straightforward, it took a bit of sitting with myself and questioning my own motivations to realize what was going on. 

Now, while I still do the same behavior, I know what's driving it, and I'm able to work on being able to postpone those conversations and efforts when I have to. (That's a work in progress, though.)

If I hadn't stopped to consider what was going on, not only would my behavior seem opposite to what I said I wanted, but I wouldn't be able to even try to control it. 




BUT.

Regardless of the motivation, if another can't control or alter their behavior while violating your boundaries or denying you your needs, you have to be prepared to ignore the other person's stated motivations and pay attention to the priorities their actions say are important instead. 

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Are you spending your life the way you want to?

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There's a fairly easy way for you to tell if your life and relationships are the way you want them to be. 

Check if your priorities in your life are how you're spending your time.

Seriously.  Do it.   

Right now.

Think about the things and goals that are most important in your life.  Think about the people who are most important in your life.

Are you spending the most time doing the things and goals that are most important to you?  Are you spending your time with the people who are most important to you?  Are you doing both in roughly the order they're important to you?

If your priorities - whether the priority is a person, thing, goal, or anything else -  do not match what you actually do, then there's a problem.



Perhaps that problem is in the structures of your life. Perhaps that problem is because the relationship that you are in is toxic or codependent. Perhaps it's simply because you're not paying attention to what's going on in your life, or not advocating for what you want or need.

Maybe you're even lying to yourself about what your priorities are, mistaking the priorities of society or your parents or your friends or your lover(s) for the priorities that you want to have yourself.

But you can figure that out by listening to yourself. By looking at the areas where there's discontent in your life. By listening to those you care about and where they're sensing a disconnect.


Deep down, you know what your priorities are.  If it's not conscious knowledge, part of you already knows who and what is most important to you.

And if that's not how your life is arranged right now, that's okay.  Now you have the knowledge you need to start making it right.

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Book Review: Codependency - “Loves Me, Loves Me Not”: Learn How To Cultivate Healthy Relationships (etc)

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I listened to the audiobook version of Codependency - “Loves Me, Loves Me Not”: Learn How To Cultivate Healthy Relationships, Overcome Relationship Jealousy, Stop Controlling Others and Be Codependent No More by Simeon Lindstrom over the course of about an hour and a half during a long drive.

I pulled over about halfway through and called my amour.

"I just wanted to tell you," I said, "that this book is amazing and may have helped me realize what's causing my crappy behavior."

There was more than that, of course. I rambled on about what, exactly, I'd suddenly have snap into place, but that's beside the point.

But this book isn't just for people who are (or suspect they are) codependent. I'm recommending this book to everyone. 

If you're unclear on what codependency is, or aren't sure if you are codependent or not, the first two chapters of this relatively short book are worthwhile. But it's when you hit chapter three - "The Characteristics of Mindful Relationships" - that the book has concrete, concise, and valuable lessons for everyone in any kind of relationship.

Even if you've done a lot of work on yourself and your relationships (as I have), this book is extremely valuable for its brevity and practical applications.  As I've gone on about this book to my amour, I recognized that few of the things it snapped into place for me were new.  What was beautiful about it - and why I'm recommending it for you - is how it put those things into practical language.

For example, too often people (like me) get academic and flowery when talking about the problems with jealousy.  This book - despite its unfortunately long title - boils it down to two beautiful paragraphs:
For some bizarre reason, jealousy in relationships is seen as something of a compliment, even a little bit cute in the right context. If someone is jealous of your relationship, and you feel a little glad about it, what it really means is that you are pleased that someone else is, in some way, dependent on you. Rather than proof of their love, it’s proof of your ego being stroked.

In a mindful relationship, the partners are together because they want to be. The single thing that determines the quality of that relationship is the two of them - their compatibility, theirs plans. If they are secure in that connection, everything else is irrelevant. Nobody can “steal” anybody away, nobody need worry about wandering attentions.
This book quickly and succinctly highlights what's good - and bad - about our concepts of romantic relationships, and points you in the direction of how to make them better.

Even if you're a seasoned relationship guru, this small book is great to be able to read and re-read when you (inevitably) forget things and have to be reminded of them.

I highly recommend Codependency - “Loves Me, Loves Me Not”: Learn How To Cultivate Healthy Relationships, Overcome Relationship Jealousy, Stop Controlling Others and Be Codependent No More, and right now you can buy it for Kindle for only $3, or get the Audible version for $6.

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I will gladly address you as an attack helicopter

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The issue of gender - and how many there are - has been gaining notice over the last several years.  Take this Time article or the less respectful "I identify as an attack helicopter" copypasta.

The issue...confuses me.

Not because of the gender thing.  I mean, I know the difference between sex (biology) and gender (identification). And I also know that even the biology bit is really a lot more complicated than we like to pretend that it is.

What confuses me are the problems that people tend to have.

I mean, I had problems when people would say "that squicks me out" about homosexual relationships. My response was typically along the lines of "I don't want to think about most hetero people having sex, so it's all the same to me".

Likewise when we talk about what gender identification someone wants to have. To me, it's so simple that people's issues with it are puzzling.

I approach this the same way I do nicknames or preferred versions of names.

If you care about someone, you'll ask if they prefer (say) Steve or Steven, and then stick with that.  Such a request (and one that's very individual) is seen as no big deal, and if you insist on using the wrong name (or version of a name), you are rightly seen as an inconsiderate ass.

But somehow, the same people who gladly ask which version of "Steven" I prefer will say it's a huge imposition if a person requests to be referred to by a specific pronoun.

Put that way, it's clear that the problem is not about confusion or difficulty.  The "problem" is with the person making the objection, not the person making the request.

Putting it in that context illustrates how deliberate the choice is.  

Related: After watching it again, I continue to highly recommend Southern Comfort (Wikipedia, YouTube) to everyone.  This 2001 documentary is... just freaking amazing.

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Finding the Hidden Sexism In Fluidbonding - a personal adventure

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Warning for the prudish: Some mild but blunt discussion about doing adult things follows.  (Hi to all the perverts who just paid attention!)

I wasn't introduced to the idea of "fluid bonding" until I started running into polyamorous people.

Fluid bonding is one of those things that seems like it should be fairly straightforward: It's when you engage in unprotected sex; that is, your fluids mingle.  Some folks (including myself) also put a bit of significance upon this as a "milestone" in the relationship, in that it implies a level of commitment that is beyond the casual.

As is too frequent, polyfolk think and talk about this concept a lot more than monogamous folks.  The Solopoly blog has a pretty good explainer that's worth reading.

But it also highlights a failing of my own that I had; a hidden pocket of sexism and patriarchy I wasn't consciously aware existed. 

I only really considered it fluid-bonding if there was penetrative sex.

When a girlfriend of mine was also dating a woman, I didn't even stop to think about dental dams or other oral barriers.  It literally did not occur to me.

But when that girlfriend started dating another man, I suddenly stopped and asked if there was protection used during oral sex.  Again, that's something I hadn't ever even thought about asking while she dated a woman.

I could - if I was being a dishonest asshat - hide behind statistics about transmission rates.  But that would be ... well, dishonest.

It was about there being a dick involved.

And that's kind of the point here.  Not that I was jealous about there being another guy, but that even for someone who had spent SO much time examining their own societal sexism a rather large (and potentially risky) pocket of sexism managed to escape notice for so long.

(As an aside, things got sorted out rather quickly with that girlfriend, especially since I realized the bullshit double standard I'd unconsciously imposed.)

I'm not here to judge whatever protective measures you and your partner(s) have agreed upon.  Do what you and your partner(s) are comfortable agreeing to.

But I am here to say that those measures should be consistent across genders and sexual preference.

And that even if you've spent years examining your own biases and prejudices, you're never finished exhuming that crap from your psyche.  Combating the prejudices and biases that society programs you with is not a two-week crash course.

Be aware, and don't be afraid to challenge yourself.

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The simple two-word fix to "You're Mine" in relationships

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An ex of mine would whisper "You're mine." in my ear, and I 'd get pleasurable goosebumps, and whisper it right back.

It was what I wanted, after all. For us to mutually have that same feeling.

It didn't last.

Many posts and articles have pointed out that saying "you're mine" or "you belong to me" is really, really squicky in general. But more than that, it's also a crappy way of loving someone.

When you're saying another belongs to you, it's possessive. Not just in the "owning people" way (which is bad enough) but in a way that undermines all of love's ideals.

Because when you love someone, really, really love someone, it's not about just trying to get a need met. It's not about amassing the best significant other. It's not about you.

It's about the person you love.

As these similar quotations from Robert Heinlein and H. Jackson Brown put it:
"Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own."
"Love is when the other person's happiness is more important than your own."

As a result, I don't say "mine" anymore.

It's a small change, but the more I think about it, the bigger the ramifications, the more important it seems.

It's just a few words, the other side of a verbal coin.

I no longer whisper "You're mine".

I say "I'm yours."

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The day after the trauma is the day before hope

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Holy Saturday is the bleakest day in the Christian calendar, and it is important... even if you're not Christian.

Because it's a powerful story about everyday life.

Friday might be the dramatic day, the day everyone remembers how  one man had been nailed to a tree for saying how great it would be to be nice to people for a change.  It's the day that everyone focuses on now, but it's not the worst day.

That's when you get the shock and trauma. That's when you hear that someone's died, when your love tells you they don't feel the same way anymore, when you find out something that meant a lot to you was just another day to the other person.

Choose your trauma. There's no ranking system for pain.

That's the day of the shock.

That's Good Friday.

But it isn't the worst day.

The worst day, the bleakest day, is Saturday.

Imagine them for a moment - imagine them as part of a story or historical people, it doesn't matter.  Really imagine them, put yourself in their situation.

You're part of a peaceful resistance movement. Your leader is charismatic and great, and then one day he gets rounded up by the police and publicly executed.  Not only that, but you've suddenly found out that all the people around you, the people that you thought would be on your side, preferred to kill your leader instead of a murderer.

You're in disarray.  Your leadership is denying they were ever part of the movement. And your leader - the person you thought would at least make some change in the situation, or maybe even more - is dead and buried.

And the shock starts to wear off.

What you thought you had - your leader, your movement, your lover, your security, your family, whatever it was that your trauma cleaved from you - is gone and it's going to stay gone forever.

It goes from shock to becoming real.

And you have no idea how the world can keep spinning, how other people can laugh and smile and go about their daily lives, because don't they know?  Don't they REALIZE?

They don't.

But the thing the Gospels teach us, the reason that this story has persisted so long despite its dubious documentation, is not because of some Imaginary Sky Friend.

It is the same message that draws people to the Doctor, that draws people to Luke, that draws people over and over again.

It is that yes, there is a dark night. There is a time when everything is bleak and horrible and awful.

And then... whether in an opened tomb, a glowing regenerating corpse, a shimmering blue apparition, or just in the everyday perseverance of everyday people, there is the hope of something new, something different.

Because without Destruction, there is never anything new.  Never anything better. Without destruction and despair, there is no hope.

Friends, regardless of your faith or fandom or loves, know that Destruction is terrible and awful and horrendous.  That the day after is the day of Despair.

But the day after... the day after is the day of hope and Delight.

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Board Game Review: Sons of Anarchy: Men of Mayhem

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Last weekend I got the chance to play the Sons of Anarchy game again with some friends, and realized that I'd not actually told y'all about how much I like it.
Other people's faces blurred, because ANARCHY.
Okay, so maybe this is what you think of when you think "Sons of Anarchy board game"...
...but you'd be wrong.

http://amzn.to/2nXVTVP
First, you don't need to know anything about the show to enjoy this game. I'm sure that fans of the show will get a kick out of place names and the like, but it's the game itself that I'm a fan of, not the show.

Second, the game is only $15 on Amazon, which for a game of this kind is pretty amazing.  There's two expansions (they usually sell for about $10 each) that are nice, but not necessary if you just want to try the game out (they expand the game from 3-4 to up to 6 players).  There's also an "unleaded" and "high octane" mode; the former has all the gangs being exactly equal, while the latter makes them different, but balanced.
This was my gang
As you go through gameplay, random locations appear that you'll want to use... and you have a lot more potential locations than you'll use in any one game, so replay value is really high.

Not to mention it's kinda cool to move your little biker guys around...
I took over the military surplus!
...and sometimes things can get hotly contested.
Everyone wanted to own the porn studio...
The first time you play - especially if you have more than four players - will probably be around two hours.  After that, the sixty minute play time is pretty accurate (though possibly a tish longer for six players).

While this is a "work replacement" game (where you get to beat up the workers!), it's pretty intuitive to pick up; usually folks have the hang of it before the first full turn is over. 
 
For only four bucks more than Battleship (yes, really) you can get Sons of Anarchy, a game that's a lot more fun and has a hell of a lot more replay value.

Oh - and I highly recommend playing DOROTHY or Sleep Machine as a suitable soundtrack.  

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What Can We Do To Change the Passitivity Problem?

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Monday I talked about how women are told to always agree with men. Yesterday I told you about a time I screwed up when communicating with a woman and how I made it right.  And let me tell you right now, despite dating guides that literally tell women to lie and pretend to be someone else, that is horribly toxic to a relationship.

This question is still mostly unanswered, though: What the hell are we going to do about it?

It's easy to say "Women should be expected to speak up."  I think it's important for women to speak up as much as they can (and go past their comfort zone in doing so), but that's passing the buck. This is a patriarchy, and so if we want it to change (and if you don't, are you sure this is the blog for you?), those with power - men - are the ones who have to act in ways to recognize that power differential and negate it.

I mentioned one thing that I did yesterday:
I praised all the things she said she was shamed for (and honestly so), and took responsibility for all the craptastic jerks she's encountered in the past. I lauded her forthrightness and honesty, even if it made me uncomfortable.
This is extremely powerful, though it takes time, honesty, and commitment. A woman I dated for a while flinched when I asked her why she was taking one route instead of another. I wasn't the person who created that conditioning, but I sure as hell was the person who was there then. So I made a point of encouraging her to speak up. When we broke up, she told me pretty honestly how she felt - and a bit more later. While I wasn't glad that we broke up, I was glad that she'd felt comfortable enough to make her needs and wants known - and when I was unable to meet them, to stand by what she truly needed and wanted.

Likewise, with my amour, I do my best to recognize the times that she challenges my opinions or ideas... even if it means that I'm uncomfortable (or hurt) in the process.  Yes, it has happened.  Yes, it sucked.  But at the same time, I was thrilled that she felt able to tell me her truth.

While this is especially effective with those you have a strong emotional relationship with, it's possible to do with those you work with. Encourage women to speak up, and then listen to what they're saying, and act on it.

Further, recognize that women in our society are trained to be passive. Double check when a woman you interact with suggests something in a passive way.  For an example, if she says "Would you like pizza for dinner?", make sure she doesn't actually mean "I would like pizza for dinner, and I hope you're not going to object?"

But here's the problem: my perspective is limited. While I'm working to dismantle this power differential, I'm still on one side of it.  Women: Wherever you see this post, please comment with the suggestions that would best help YOU be able to say what you actually want and need - or that men can do to show that we are serious about wanting to hear it.

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An example of gender, power, and privilege that happened to me, and how I tried to make it right

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This conversation really happened to me on a dating site, to me.  I've changed some details, of course.

I'm sharing it partially because my amour says it shows exactly who I am, but also because it really demonstrates what I was talking about yesterday, and how the damage that our society does in communicating between people of different genders.  And it also - though my amour didn't comment on it - illustrates where I screwed up and let my privilege show.

While browsing, I saw a dating profile that looked compatible, and where we had enough things in common that they seemed like a cool person that I'd want to talk to.  (I've started more than a few friendships on dating sites.)  Unfortunately, the last line of their profile was "nobody over forty".  So I sent this message:

Damn, that's a pity - missed that age cutoff by a year or two. Though I've noticed my own age range has been SIGNIFICANTLY broadened since I started doing this a few years ago, I totally get what you're saying. I wouldn't be UPSET if you made an exception, but I'm mostly sending this as a virtual handwave to a fellow [person with the same interest].

Note the last line there.  Sure, I would've been glad if she'd said "Ooh, I'll make an exception for you," but my last line was utterly serious.  I was trying to be friendly... but I didn't come across that way.  More than likely, that was because my privilege was showing, and I messaged her even though she'd said "nobody over forty".

Her response was... well, here it is (again, lightly edited):

Funny, online dating has made me pull my age standards closer to my own because so many dudes in your age range are entitled **** heads who don't respect me due to my age, my proclivity for many partners, my feminism, the way I talk, whatever bullshit they decide makes me less than their morally and intellectually superior selves.
I guess she expected me to be angry or upset in response. I don't know.  But after a moment of bruised ego-ness, I realized she was... well, right.  And if you're like me, and want to change the culture, you take responsibility for that change.  So here was my reply (again, lightly edited):
Totally understandable, and sadly, a reflection of the role the patriarchy in our lives. For what it's worth, I apologize for the entitled **** heads (e.g like, all men) and hope that you are actualizing the HELL out of however many partners you want to have, your feminism, the way you talk, and all that stuff that makes you a special and unique person instead of some cookie cutter idiot idea of what a person of your gender is supposed to be. You go, girl, and there's not a hint of sarcasm in any of this! You have just made my day. :) I am pleased to have made your acquaintance.

And because I realized that I'd screwed up, I haven't contacted her since.

I'm not posting this here for kudos, or to shame the woman who has had to endure so many awful experiences that led to her reaction.  Remember, I was in the wrong for contacting her in the first place, no matter how friendly I was.
 Because I knew I was wrong - and because so many others had clearly wronged her in the past - I praised all the things she said she was shamed for (and honestly so), and took responsibility for all the craptastic jerks she's encountered in the past. I lauded her forthrightness and honesty, even if it made me uncomfortable.

Women do not exist to make men comfortable.  It is not the responsibility of a woman to make a random man feel okay.

But to battle the existing gendered power differential, it is the responsibility of men to encourage and support women who speak freely, honestly, and openly.

Especially when it makes men - any man - uncomfortable.

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Highlighting the issues that happen in all relationships

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Everyone can learn a lot from polyamorous folks.

It's not that polyamorous relationships are more "evolved" or "better"; it's that relationships are relationships, and that good skills that are great in any relationship like compersion or deliberateness go from being "a good idea" to things that are absolutely required.

It also means that problems that sometimes get glossed over in monogamous relationships can become unignorable.  For example, this cartoon from the excellent Kimchi Cuddles:

While the comic - and the situation it presents - is particular to polyamoury, the underlying principle is really common when it comes to needs and boundaries.  It's something that gets glossed over a lot in relationships. This is apparent with a small change:

Too often, when people - women. it's women - express their needs and boundaries they're told they're selfish.  Women are taught both implicitly and explicitly to give in.

As a man, it's horrifying to think of the times (and entire relationships) where we've done this kind of minimizing.  It doesn't matter if we meant to or not - though fuck you if you meant to - we did do it.

The question is:  Are you going to do something to change it now?

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A song to share.

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Sometimes you stumble across a song and get bowled over.  A song that is beautiful and heartbreaking and still somehow courageous. It doesn't happen very often in a world where we just try to be distracted so much of the time.

So I thought I'd share this one that I just ran across now.  Because hope is the thing with feathers.

It's Saturday Smile, by Gin Wigmore (Lyrics at Google Play).

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COLUMBUS AREA: Irish Traditional Music, Free, 1pm on 8 April 2017!

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Trellis - a Columbus, Ohio based Irish traditional music band whose lead singer just happens to be a friend of mine - is having their first concert THIS SATURDAY at 1:30 pm.  While I can't be there due to a prior engagement, I sure wish I could be.  I caught them last year at the Celtic Festival; my video of that follows their announcement (please note that the potato quality and vertical filming are my sins, not theirs).
 
From the event page:

Trellis needs to get videos of us playing a concert as a three-piece band, so we are hosting this FREE, open-to-the-public one-hour concert in the Friends Theater, which is in the basement of the main branch of the Upper Arlington Public Library on Tremont Rd.

Trellis plays traditional Irish songs and tunes, accompanied by fiddle, bouzouki and tenor banjo. Come join us after lunch on Saturday, April 8.

You can hear samples of our music on the Trellis Facebook page.

We hope to see you there! Bring friends, and hands to clap, and maybe even voices with which to sing.

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The Armed Forces Are Not A Football Team - A Guest Post

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The following is written by my friend Jennifer B, whom I served beside during my time in the Army, reposted with her permission.  All words following this sentence are hers.

The United States Armed Forces are not a football team. "We" are not going "to go to Syria and kick some ass." "We" are going to be watching it on the news while we stuff food in our faces in our nice, insulated homes whilst sitting on nice, fluffy couches. "We" will shake our heads, cheer at victories, and maybe even shed a tear or two...but only if the war doesn't drag on too long, because then we will lose interest...and it will probably never touch most of us in any significant way (exceptions being for actual military personnel, deployed military contractors, and their family members).

In the meantime, our servicemembers will be fighting, bleeding, being blown apart and dying (not to mention all the soldiers from the other side and plenty of civilians too). People you don't know and never will know. People who are willing to put their asses on the line and do things you'd never dream of doing. And quite honestly, they deserve better than to be viewed like a football team, and offered empty platitudes when they return home.

War is no joke, and it should always be a last resort. Our military is currently engaged in two fronts, and doesn't need to be in a third. There are plenty of other nations/coalitions of nations who have the capability to intervene in Syria.

We cannot be everybody's saviors.

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