Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Khristmahanukwanzulestivus, bitches!

May there be made manifest an ecstatic yuletide to the planetary constituency and to that selfsame assemblage my most sincere and heartfelt wishes for a salubriously beneficial and gratifyingly pleasurable span of time subsequent to sunset and prior to dawn.

The 10 Days of Newton, Olivia Judson
On the tenth day of Newton,
My true love gave to me,
Ten drops of genius,
Nine silver co-oins,
Eight circling planets,
Seven shades of li-ight,
Six counterfeiters,
Four telescopes,
Three Laws of Motion,
Two awful feuds,
And the discovery of gravity!

Happy birthday, Sir Isaac Newton. And Cab Calloway, Humphrey Bogart, Clara Barton and certainly Louis-Joseph Chevrolet.

Also, according to varied myths and legends involving mangers, miracles, virgins and disciples, happy birthday to Horus, Osiris, Attis, Krishna, Zoroaster, Mithra, Buddha, Heracles, Dionysus, Tammuz, Adonis, Hermes, Bacchus, Prometheus, and Jesus.

Random circumstances and the smooth operation of the laws of the universe bless us, every one.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

stuff I shared on Facebook today (and yesterday)

It's been a busy couple of days. Mostly I'm still pissed off at people who think changing their profile picture will stop child abuse when they could donate money to any number of organizations and do some actual good... That said, I posted a couple of links to DonorsChoose and one to Little Kids Rock, encouraging people to help kids get a better and more varied education (this is on top of the abuse prevention sites I'd already posted -and mentioned here). So, do that.


Over Thanksgiving weekend, Age of Autism planned to show some very misleading (is not outright false) promotional ads in movie theaters, claiming to help parents choose whether they should vaccinate their children or not (when in reality, they're just fear mongering and spreading false information regarding made-up and dis-proven claims about vaccines), but thanks to an outcry from the skeptic community, spear-headed by Skepchick Elyse Anders, AMC decided not to run the bullshit. Instead of vollying back with actual science or even a well-worded complaint, Age of Autism instead decided to smear Elyse, threaten her with harm and post pictures of her and her baby on that site. Because that's what grown-ups in the real world do.

Check it out:
Information is beautiful. Science saves lives. So do vaccines. Some people cannot be vaccinated, which is why the rest of us should make sure we are protected to protect them. Misinformation, on the other hand, actually kills babies. Stay informed! And help supporters of science stand up against those who threaten them with harm!! Despite a number of flags and requests that the photos be removed and the threatening language be stopped, Facebook has refused to act. Please to sign here to stand with Elyse and tell Facebook that Age of Autism is out of control.


The Salvation Army does some good, sure. But they do it while having discriminatory employment policies and making moral judgments that parents should be making. If I didn't already refuse to donate to them, this kind of thing would make that decision for sure. Twilight and Harry Potter toys aren't compatible with their Christian principles? Well, their Christian principles aren't compatible with my ethical code! So there!! Granted, "Twilight" is -in my opinion- less than fantastic and I don't know that such toys are in fact appropriate for kids, but I also don't know that this decision is the Salvation Army's to make (and admittedly, this is likely just one location and not necessarily across the board, though their anti-gay policies ARE). Parents should (ideally) be the moral compass for their children, not a charitable organization claiming to answer to a higher power. Especially when toy guns are considered appropriate for children, but magic and mystery are not. Guns actually exist and actually harm people. Vampires and wizards? Not so much.


This will give Jerry and Maury and all those other terrible programs a whole new aspect to exploit: "Using stem cell technology, reproductive scientists in Texas, led by Dr. Richard R. Berhringer at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, have produced male and female mice from two fathers." Imagine the potential! This sort of process could help "preserve endangered species and even help same-sex couples have their own genetic children one day." KICKASS!!


Via Declaring Independence, John Scalzi writes of things about which he doesn't have to think, because he's a white heterosexual male. I don't have to worry about many of these things, either, by virtue of how and where I was raised and where I live now, but for so many of us these are real true worries, and so many shouldn't be. Please to read?


Finally, a lovely article about Elizabeth Edwards' passing. Her untimely death is a personal tragedy for her family and a reminder of how far we have to go in health care and understanding cancer; but her legacy shouldn't focus on her death, rather on what she cared about while she was alive.


Lastly, let's round it out with some beauty. Don't forget about the 2010 Hubble Space Telescope Advent Calendar with a new image every day through Christmas, including this turbulent cosmic pinnacle within Carina Nebula stellar nursery from December 2nd:

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

addendum: Luscious Lauren's Guide to Gifting

If you're like me, you probably have to actually GIVE people tangible gifts for the holidays, at least in most cases. When you can't get away with donating to a charity in someone's name, here are a few ideas for the smrt-minded among us:

Let's start with books. I almost always give books. Books can last a lifetime and are just freakin' awesome.

Science books for kids:
- The ever-important and breath-taking Evolution: How We and All Living Things Came to Be by Daniel Loxton
- Douglas Richards' Prometheus Project trilogy: Trapped, Captured and Stranded
- George's Secret Key to the Universe and George's Cosmic Treasure Hunt by Stephen Hawking and Lucy Hawking
- the League of Scientists book series

Please check out my recommended non-fiction and my recommended fiction on Good Reads.

Among my most recommended are:
The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan (and everything else by Carl Sagan)
Dr. Tatiana's Sex Advice to All Creation, Olivia Judson
The Third Chimpanzee: The Evolution and Future of the Human Animal, Jared Diamond
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, Barbara Kingsolver
The Sea Around Us and Silent Spring, Rachael Carson
Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers; Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife; Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex; Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void, all by Mary Roach
everything by Michael Pollan, especially The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals and The Botany of Desire: A Plant's Eye View of the World
Physics for Future Presidents: The Science Behind the Headlines, Robert Muller
How Not to Die: Surprising Lessons on Living Longer, Safer, and Healthier from America's Favorite Medical Examiner, Jan Garavaglia
Medical Myths That Can Kill You: And the 101 Truths That Will Save, Extend, and Improve Your Life, Nancy L. Snyderman
Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth about Your Weight, Linda Bacon
Trick or Treatment: The Undeniable Facts about Alternative Medicine, Simon Singh and Edzard Ernst
Denialism: How Irrational Thinking Hinders Scientific Progress, Harms the Planet, and Threatens Our Lives, Michael Specter
Autism's False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure, Paul A. Offit

Situation-specific books:
Putting Children First: Proven Parenting Strategies for Helping Children Thrive Through Divorce, JoAnne Pedro-Carroll
The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country's Foremost Relationship Expert, John Gottman
V Book: A Doctor's Guide to Complete Vulvovaginal Health, Elizabeth G. Stewart and Paula Spencer
The Trouble with Christmas, Tom Flynn
Parenting Beyond Belief: On Raising Ethical, Caring Kids Without Religion and Raising Freethinkers: A Practical Guide for Parenting Beyond Belief, Dale McGowan
The Easy Way to Stop Smoking: Join the Millions Who Have Become Nonsmokers Using the Easyway Method, Allen Carr

...Now, on to STUFF!!

Tops of the list for the nerds and geeks among us has to be Think Geek. My favorites for the kids include Mad Science Alphabet Blocks and Giant Plush Microbes. There are also Heroine shirts featuring female scientists like Ada Lovelace and Marie Curie!
Also fun for t-shirts and other gear are Threadless and Northern Sun. Cafe Press and Zazzle also have great stuff for just about any topic which they can put on shirts or mugs or mouse pads, etc.

Maple Landmark Toys in Middlebury VT crafts a wide range of toys and gifts from local (to VT) materials which follow American standards of product safety, employee safety, and environmental protection. And the toys are beautiful and fun, too!

Looking for science (etc.) action figures? Check out Albert Einstein, Ben Franklin, Edgar Allan Poe, William Shakespeare, and so on.

Beautiful jewelry for the science-minded: Surly Ramics. She even does custom orders, and I got a fantastic necklace for my sister-in-law last year.

Apparel and jewelry specifically for the geek girls in your life: Her Universe

Socks!! Who doesn't love socks? Well, I guess there are some people, but I know that I <3 socks, and I <3 Sock Dreams hard. Stuff for ladies, stuff for dudes, stuff for kiddies, not to mention accessories like leg warmers and garters and gloves.

Snaz75 also sells socks, but for the most part they are an excellent source (the northeast's largest distributor!) for outrageous shoes and outfits, stripper shoes, boots, costumes and accessories.

Looking for something smart and sarcastic? Placebo Bands to the rescue!! (I don't need to remind you why "Power Balance" bracelets are bunk, do I?)

Another gift that makes a point for those of your friends who understand the importance of vaccination: Hug Me, I'm Vaccinated gear!

Great Drinkers shot glasses and other neat-o gifts from the Unemployed Philosophers Guild

Darwin fish, humanism gear, liberal apparel and more at Evolve Fish

Have a crazy survivalist/ hunter/ doomsday prophet/ practical preparedness enthusiast in your life? Try Major Surplus & Survival for all kinds of gear, goodies, emergency kits, boots, cots, and even antiques and collectibles.

Gaiam is your source for green hippie compost yoga products, including bat conservatories and reusable water bottles. Beware, though, because they do sell whack-a-loon woo-woo stuff like light therapy and detox foot pads.
Burt's Bees also has great products, and Vegan Essentials is your one-stop shop for all things vegan.
Got a locavore to shop for? Check out Local Harvest for co-ops, restaurants and stores near your friend which use local organic ingredients and see if you can get gift certificates. Plus, gifts for gardeners, including seeds, supplies, clothing and books- can be found at Harris Seeds.

Want to buy gifts and still do good?
- Consider the UNICEF store, where everything you buy helps children around the world!
- The Natural Resources Defense Council has a Green Gift Giving Guide as does the Nature Conservancy.
- Proceeds from the Ford Cares Warriors in Pink campaign go to Susan G. Komen for the Cure, and the site even tells you exactly how much is donated for each purchase.

Now, go forth and spend wisely!! Oh, and be sure to run your credit check annually!!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Luscious Lauren's Guide to Giving

It's that time of year again! Albeit, I'm probably too late for most people as you've likely been done with your holiday shopping since the summer and probably have everything wrapped and stacked and good to go -or wait, is that just me?- but here are some tips for next year, if not for this.

[disclaimer: As always, check out the Charity Navigator to see how your chosen charities are rated.]

So, you want to support skeptical and atheistic causes, or charities that are secular? Check out TechSkeptic's increibly comprehensive list.
Also, specifically:
- Secular Coalition for America
- James Randi Educational Foundation
- Freedom From Religion Foundation
- Skeptics and Humanists Aid and Relief Effort(SHARE), collecting funds for Haiti earthquake relief at the moment
- Center for Inquiry

Interested in green gift-giving? Try the Natural Resources Defense Council's Green Gift Guide!

Reproductive rights and women's issues?
- Planned Parenthood Federation of America
- National Organization for Women (locally: Rochester NOW)
- Guttmacher Institute

Stuff for kids and education?
- Donors Choose
- Victory Junction Gang Camp

- Humane Society (locally: Lollypop Farm)
- also local to me: GRASP (Greece Residents Assisting Stray Pets) and Animal Service League

Human Rights and social good?
- Human Rights Campaign
- Heifer International
- KIVA microloans
- PBS (locally: WXXI)
- Plan USA
- Grist (a beacon in the smog)
- autism research that doesn't involve fear-mongering and spreading lies about vaccines: Autism Science Foundation

Remember, these organizations need support, donations and volunteers year round and not just during the holidays, but if you can give anything, even a little, it helps a lot. Send an anonymous check or request not to receive solicitations if you are worried about getting on a mailing list, but do send something. Perhaps in lieu of dinner out some night you could buy dinner for a less well-off family. Perhaps in lieu of buying a new DVD you could help kids learn to play an instrument, or eat. Perhaps in lieu of another new pair of sneakers, you could help supply warm shoes for a needy person. We all likely have more than we need, especially if we have the time to wile away on a blog, so we should take a few moments this season and see what we can share with others.

Besides, 'tis the season for giving, after all, and 'do unto others' applies to secular folk, too.

Monday, December 6, 2010

cartoon wars

Change your profile picture to a cartoon character if you want to. Post an obscure color-only status, or a deliberately sexually-charged status if you want to. But don't pretend that it will prevent cruelty to children or raise awareness about breast cancer or really do any good at all.

It's the blind leading the blind out there on the internoodle. "What? Bill Gates is going to send me eight kajillion dollars if I forward this to everyone I know? It must be true, it's on the internet! It must be true, this e-mail says it was on Good Morning America and it says it ALL IN CAPS!! People who write and/or forward mass e-mails and use all caps never lie!!" (although in this case there is an actual CNN article, blithely reporting a Facebook fad without even linking to an actual cause site that might actually help children)

Bullshit. Wake up, sheople. Don't just change your profile picture to stop child abuse, DO something!! Donate actual damn money to help! And then don't change your picture back to you because someone said it's a pedophile campaign, research it yourself! Snopes is on the case as always and calls BS on both the cartoon helpfulness and the pedophile threat. Ug.

Skepchick Rebecca Watson: Somewhere a father is raising his hand to beat his child when he decides to check on his Farmville first, and when he opens Facebook he sees Snarf from Thundercats and he thinks, "You know what? I think instead of beating my child I'll take up knitting or maybe origami." Mission accomplished, Facebook friend!


Look, if you want to bring awareness to the real and actual tragedy that is child abuse and child neglect, give some stats! Tell people how prevalent it is and how easy the signs can be to miss!

240 children are sexually abused every day in this country! Nearly five children die every day as a result of abuse and neglect! 1 of every 5 girls and 1 of every 7 boys is sexually abused before their 18th birthday!
An estimated 905,000 children were found to be the victims of some kind of child maltreatment in 2006! 22,000 children still die each day from preventable diseases!

See? Statistics actually bring awareness and draw attention; tangentially related cartoons do not, unless you add some stats or information to status. Vague "it's bad so don't do it" statements won't cut it. We need ACTION!!

If you want to actually DO something that makes a real difference, consider the following:
- Bivona Child Advocacy Center
- Child Health Site 100% of sponsor money goes to charity, all you have to do is click (seriously, just click. no money, no obligations: you just click)
- Child Abuse Prevention
- New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children
- UNICEF humanitarian relief for children

Bringing an end to child abuse and helping the victims are honorable and commendable causes and by all means you should do something toward that end, but you should actually DO something. Don't just change your profile picture or your status and act like that accomplished something, donate some actual money to a cause so you can actually help and actually feel validated. But please don't pretend that changing your picture to a cartoon or your status to a color does any good. Unless, of course, you live in imaginary fake website land.

ANECDOTE: I did not change my Facebook profile picture and yet somehow, amazingly, I did not beat any children all weekend! Nor did anyone in my family! Isn't that amazing?!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

the Philadelphia experiment

Once upon a time -or, in August- I discovered that there were a bunch of exhibits happening in Philadelphia that I desperately wanted to see, as well as other historical and scientific sites that interested me, and began to plan a trip. When my husband and I realized that he would be bored out of his skull if he came with me, we decided I should ask my nerd friend Farrah to come with me instead. My friend Farrah is basically exactly the same person as I am, except that she plays roller derby, and her hair is longer (now). We get excited about the same ridiculous science news and laugh at the same obscure references and appreciate the same nerdlicious humor. And so after some wrangling and finagling, off to Philadelphia we went!

Day One
Fucking traffic. It's a six hour trip under normal conditions but route 81 was an absolute clusterfuck which scarred me for the remainder of the trip. Apparently, to my recollection, a tractor trailer driver was distracted by his cell phone or some other electronic gadget and managed to overturn his truck and block the entire southbound side. So we were detoured off the interstate onto a one-lane-per-side road that got back on the interstate by way of a stop sign intersection. It. Took. Three. Fucking. Hours. I wanted to murder everyone. All I could think about was how much awesome nerd stuff we were missing as the minutes slipped by...
It was agony, and for the rest of the month any time I saw taillights lighting up ahead of me I would let loose a barrage of obscenity topped only by longshoremen and real housewives. Finally, though, we made it to Pennsylvania and found the signs for "Central Phila."

Our first stop was the Dialogues with Darwin Exhibit at the American Philosophical Society Museum -an exhibit of writings and sketches related to evolution and Charles Darwin, as well as a plethora of copies of "On the Origin of Species" in myriad languages.
According to the museum page, "Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution through natural selection has produced more spirited dialogue than any other scientific idea in modern history. The APS Museum’s Dialogues with Darwin exhibition continues the conversation." Part of how they did this was by providing post-it notes and pens for people to record their thoughts on the exhibit, and on evolution and Charles Darwin, too. Unsurprisingly, many of them were dismissive of evolution or thought it was dumb or boring (so is your mom), some of them praised the exhibit and the science, and some even invoked the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Also unsurprisingly, the majority of the anti-evolution post-its were rife with misspellings and bad grammar and just plain had teh stoopid. Anecdotally, I've noticed that in an argument between pro-science and anti-science or between religionists and atheists (or between breeders and the child-free), you can often tell which side a person is on just by the way their words are spelled and their responses are worded...

Next, we drove through a whole mess of one-way streets and questionable neighborhoods to get to the Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site. Poe lived in many houses over several years during his Philadelphia tenure (1837 to 1844) but this is the only one which still survives. And survives barely. The floors are uneven, the interior walls need plastering, it is unfurnished and sad and gloomy -and wholly Poe-appropriate. Spiders in the basement, suspicious characters on the sidewalk, and (a CD of) Christopher Walken reading "The Raven" in the sitting room. Ahhh, glorious.

We were hoping to make one or two more stops that day but, because of the traffic jam and because for whatever reason everything smart in Philadelphia is closed by 5p (and doesn't open until 10a -seriously, what is that about?!), we decided to just head to the hostel and get an early start in the morning.

We'd contemplated using Orbilocity or Traveltube or something to find a cheap hotel in Philadelphia, but there is no guarantee as to what hotel you are getting when you use a site like that, requiring a lot more trust than I'm comfortable with. We figured we could count ourselves lucky with a city-center hotel for around $100 a night, not counting overnight parking, but then Farrah suggested a hostel. Of course, visions of slaughter and abduction danced in my head, but the hostel in question, Chamounix Mansion International Youth Hostel, belongs to Hostelling International and they were very knowledgeable on the phone on top of having a very comprehensive internet site. And you can't really beat $20 per person per night. The hostel supplies sheets, a pillow and blanket (and no bed bugs, at the time!), towels are available for an extra charge, and there is a TV/VCR, an internet-connected computer, a kitchen full of dishes, pots and pans for cooking as well as refrigerators to store your food. There are several lovely sitting rooms with couches and arm chairs, and a wide expanse of lawn perfect for live-action role-playing -as evidenced by the well-behaved foam-sword-wielding hordes from Epic Adventures.
The hostel was comfortable and climate-controlled, and we got a lot of reading done at night and while waiting for the hostel to unlock its doors in the morning.

Day Two
We arrived early at the Mütter Museum, having navigated our way through the ridiculous mess of one-way streets and traffic circles that is Philadelphia. It was everything we'd dreamed of and more! Disturbingly informative, indeed. So many specimens (specimi?), so much gross fascination, so much Soap Lady... My only regret was not using up minutes on my pre-paid cell by calling all the numbers in the cases and getting an extra dose of geek...

On to the Academy of Natural Sciences (connecting people to nature since 1812)! Therein we toured the Dino Hall. Hooray for dinos! And the Outside In space -it's not just for kids anymore!! Okay, well maybe it is but we totally acted like we were kids. Madagascar hissing cockroaches, axolotls, vinegaroon, snakes, bunneh, rat, cow bird, fossils, shells, giant freaking crab, bees... And then the Butterflies! exhibit (that we totally didn't sneak into...); and finally, one of the big reasons I wanted to go to Philly in the first place, the Creatures of the Abyss exhibit. So much nerdawesome. So highly recommended. And also where, when discussing bio-luminescence, I coined the phrase "Evolution: it's like magic, only better 'cause it's real." Woot!

Then, 'twas lunch time. We'd brought some snacky food and road treats and didn't plan on spending a whole lot on meals -it was a nerdcation, after all, not a foodcation- but Farrah remembered hearing about a vegetarian cheesesteak place and had iPodTouched it the night before, so we decided to try to find that for lunch. When in Philly, after all -especially since I'd never had a Philly cheesesteak.
Sadly, the place was closed. But we did find a corner pizza shop with a parking space nearby and something like $1 slices, so we stuffed our faces for a few bucks, and the sweet lady behind the counter dragged a table outside for us so we could eat in the 95° weather instead of the 110° pizzeria and she even filled up our reusable water bottles for us! Twice!
And so, alas, I still have never had a Philly cheesesteak, vegetarian or otherwise. Or perhaps not alas. They look kind of gross...

Finally, our last stop was Eastern State Penitentiary. It's a ruin now but when it opened in 1829 as part of a controversial movement to change the behavior of inmates through "confinement in solitude with labor," it quickly became one of the most expensive and most copied buildings in the young United States. It is estimated that more than 300 prisons worldwide are based on the Penitentiary's wagon-wheel, or "radial" floor plan.
Unfortunately, it wasn't the season for the haunted prison tours, but we each got an audio tour and ambled around at our own pace for hours as Steve Buscemi recited history and anecdotes into our ears.
It was still about 95° but luckily most of the prison has a roof still, so we were able to spend a long time wandering and learning, even though it was blazing hot.

And then we were on the road again, heading back north to Rochester after a whirlwind of awesome geeky awesomness.

Farrah and I have already decided that if (when!) we get back to Philadelphia, not only will we probably have to go to all of these places again, but also the Franklin Institute, the Free Library of Philadelphia (though I did get some Free Library bookmarks when we were at Eastern State, and passed some of them on to my nephew, too, when he was in need of placeholders for his readings), the Philadelphia Museum of Art (especially the Rodin Museum), the Philadelphia Zoo, Adventure Aquarium (in Camden NJ) and Longwood Gardens (in Kennett Square PA). Just so's you know.

PS: You can see a photo tour of our glorious trip if you're friends with me on The Face.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Don't care.

Dear men who act inappropriately toward women (and anyone who makes light of their inappropriateness with an attempt at victim-blaming):

I don't care if a girl walks past you in a mini-skirt. I don't care if you can practically see her aureoles above her tank top. I don't care if she's naked. I don't care if she bills herself as the sexiest newscaster on television and wears tight pants. I don't care if you find her passed out in your bed half-dressed. YOU ARE STILL A GROWNUP and you STILL HAVE TO ACT LIKE A GROWNUP.

Everyone, stop making excuses for men acting like children! Worse than children. Even children know better than to yell obscene and uncomfortable things at strangers. Even children know to keep their hands to themselves.

I realize that women in questionable or unsafe situations ought to take care to ensure they are not dressed too provocatively, and should keep an eye on their surroundings at all times, should lock their car doors immediately, should not stop to give directions to strangers, should not smell "perfume" on proffered handkerchiefs... But why should SHE have to do all of these things? Why should she HAVE to? Why is it always the woman's responsibility? Why are we always judging what happens to women based on what they were wearing or how they were acting or what kind of underwear they chose that day or what kind of work they are in, when we should be asking, "why aren't men keeping their damn hands -and penises- to themselves?!"

I don't care if the stripper just spent ten minutes nakedly grinding away on your junk. I don't care if the pretty cashier smiled at you as she price checked your condoms and scented lube. I don't care if that woman's skirt blew up and you saw that she is wearing a thong. I don't care if that girl is drunk out of her mind and passed out right after you got to her room. You are still a grown-ass man and you are required to act like one. Stop saying things you wouldn't want people to say to your sister or mother or niece, and unless she actually says YES, assume the answer is NO.

- Unless she is literally asking for it, in words, she is not "asking for it."
- Yes means yes, no means no, and silence means no, too. Silence (passed-out or otherwise) is not implied consent.
- Stop being a childish asshole and behave like the grownup you are. You know damn well what's appropriate and acceptable, so do those things and not the first thing that comes into your reptilian brain.


Thursday, December 2, 2010

bein' a gurl iz haaaaard

Apparently. Or so the media would often have you believe. And the right-wing religious dickbags who treat women as property to be ruled over, who insist that a few cells in a woman's uterus are somehow more important and more deserving of life and protection than the woman who carries them. And the sexist stereotypes that insist women are too emotional, too flighty, to reactionary to be trusted with information or knowledge or the vote or any sort of decision that involves themselves, their families, or heaven forbid the country.

Amanda Marcotte addresses a new/same old article with this theme, so I'll just direct you to her words on the topic: Nothing is Natural focuses on the insistence that The Pill is somehow more unnatural than other forms of birth control and women are somehow to silly and dumb to understand just what the pill is and does.

Granted, women should be aware of the concerns and possible side-effects surrounding use of the pill, but the correct place for this is a doctor's office and not a magazine article harping on unlikely harm and fear-mongering about the supposed tragedy of "tricking" your body with contraception.

So, here's the familiar refrain from me... Be informed! Be responsible for your choices! Know your body and understand what you're putting in it! Get your medical advice from YOUR DOCTOR!

That is all.

Oh wait, except:

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

teh gayz r coming! teh gayz r coming!

I'm always surprised at the wording surrounding the "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy of the US military. It's a policy that prohibits gay people from "serving openly." Because it's totally work-appropriate for heterosexuals to prance around with their cock winging about, being all openly straight. ...And don't even get me started on "mushrooming."

Personally, I feel like NO service members (or anyone) should be openly displaying and discussion their sexual preferences, at least not when on duty (or at work). It is not professional and should not be encouraged. But admitting that one is gay (or straight) or discussing ones spouse and lifestyle in casual conversation? No problem.

But, we must fear what is different and so we insist that letting teh gayz be all teh gay in the army would be teh badz. They're too frilly or too sex-obsessed or too flighty or they're somehow detrimental to morale (still not sure how that argument goes) or -best of all- they're big scary violent hate-filled Nazi baby-eating monsters and are just too volatile to allow into the military (yes, that's a real argument; I saw it on The Daily Show).

Can you tell which one is gay?

Yeah, neither can I.
(image source)

Or not fear. Maybe we could just act like grownups and accept that some people have different colors of hair while some people are attracted to the same sex and STOP MAKING SUCH A BIG FLAMING DEAL ABOUT IT!!

At last, the super-important are-teh-gayz-okay-for-teh-warz study has been released and (while this is exactly what he asked for in his last goalpost moving, McCain is claiming this isn't good enough, either) surprise, surprise, once again I get to say TOLJASO: "Ending a ban on gays serving openly in the armed services would not harm long-term military effectiveness, the Pentagon said yesterday in a long-awaited report that is expected to speed a vote on the repeal of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy."

Oh, and also: sign here to stand with President Obama as he moves to repeal this ridiculous policy.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

belated thanks...

Happy belated Thanksgiving. I just wanted to take a second to thank my parents for not only not indoctrinating me into the ridiculousness of religion but for ensuring that I grew up with access to quality comprehensive health care that included all of the recommended childhood vaccinations. I would like to thank scientists and doctors for persevering in the face of true stupidity and encouraging everyone to continue to protect themselves against dangerous, deforming and deadly diseases -because no one should have to die from whopping cough and no one should have to get the measles in this day and age. And I want to thank everyone who is aware of their vaccination schedule and their need to get regular booster shots to ensure that they, and the people around them, are protected.

This pretty much says it all:

Hugs for smart people! Hooray!!


Ur: a city in Mesopotamia.

Ur was an ancient city in southern Mesopotamia.
Hay Ur is a neighborhood of Baghdad, Iraq.
Ur, Pyrénées-Orientales, is a commune of the Pyrénées-Orientales département in southern France.
Ur, Catalonia, is a town in Catalonia, Spain (go figure).
Ur was the name given to the first known continent in tectonics.
Úr was a letter of the Ogham alphabet, and of the runic alphabets.
Also, Ur is a race of aliens in Fading Suns, a role-playing game, and a novella written by Stephen King, originally exclusively released for the Amazon Kindle.
UR is an abbreviation for several universities: Universität Regensburg (Germany), University of Regina (Canada), Universidad Regiomontana (Mexico), University of Rhode Island, University of Richmond, University of Redlands and the chickenfucking University of Rochester, bitches.

Ur is NOT, however, in any sense of English, an appropriate abbreviation for "your" or "you're," and when you do that, you make me want to cut off your fingers with a straight razor and pull your tongue out with tongs.

On a related note, you say "you're so funny." Not "your so funny." Every time I read "your so funny" I think "My so funny, what?" and I die a little inside because you are to motherfuckitlazy to add an apostrophe where you should damn well know one belongs.

And if you don't know the difference between "there" and "they're" and "their," you should be banned from all electronic communications devices and have your fingers eaten off by scarabs.

Further enlightenment:
It is "another whole" or "another entire." It is NOT EVER "a whole nother."
It is "suffice to say." It is never "suffice it to say."
It is "especially" and "espresso," with an S. It it not ever, ever "expecially" or "expresso," with an X. Never.
It is "beside the point," NOT "besides the point."
It is "I couldn't care less," not, I repeat, NOT "I could care less." Because you mean to say that you could not possibly care any less than you do about the topic at hand, like Lady Gaga or "Twilight." When you say that you could care less, you are implying that there is a lesser level of caring which you could read about the topic, but you're not quite there yet. Which is, in all likelihood, not what you mean. So stop it.
It is -quite obviously- "ET CETERA" and not "eck-cetera." ...As should be pretty clear from the abbreviation, which is ETC and not ECT.
It is "I saw it," it is not "I seen it." It is especially not "I seen it" if you work for a publishing company.
It is "the thing is." It is NOT "the thing OF IT is" and especially not "the thing of it is is." Just "the thing is." Stop adding words!
It is "even so," and NOT "even still."

And please, by the power of grayskull, only use the word "literally" when you actually mean LITERALLY. Not almost, not practically, not virtually, not nearly, but literally. Yes, there is a difference. No, H and J are NOT literally right next to each other in the alphabet because I is between them. H is literally next to I.

Further bulletins as events warrant. Stop writing and speaking like a moron. Don't make me get my Alot and stampede your ass.

(image source)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

symphonies? science? BOTH?!

I hate autotune, but it occasionally has its uses; like here in this latest release from the Symphony of Science:

Be sure to check out all the brilliance from this series, including my still favorite:

Monday, November 22, 2010

You get a placebo, and YOU get a placebo, and YOU get a placebo! Everyone gets a placebo!!

On Friday, the Red Dragon and I went to the mall. Gulp. I hate shopping, I hate the mall, I hate people, I hate holiday bullshit. But we had to go, so we consolidated a bunch of errands and did a quick tour, which hopefully will be our only trip to the mall this season (I make it a rule to avoid the place between Halloween and Valentine's Day if possible).

While there, we passed by a Power Balance kiosk and I had to be restrained from asking for a demonstration and then explaining "placebo effect" and "confirmation bias" to them...
In case you don't know, Power Balance bracelets are only one product in a long line of scams designed to make you feel like you're doing something useful or beneficial when really you're just wasting your money. You know, like Airborne, or detox products, or multi-vitamins, or acupuncture.
The Power Balance people bet on the idea that if you're sick or in pain, you're probably not 100% satisfied with your current treatment plan so why not add a rubber bracelet to your regimen? What's the harm? I mean, aside from wasting your money on a provably implausible gimmick and encouraging other people to forgo actual medicine and treatments in favor of an overpriced bit of junk. Because those seem to be pretty big arguments against it for me...

As far as the science goes, it's pretty conclusive.
Harriet Hall and Phil Plait (not to mention SETI’s Are We Alone radio program) gotchu. SGU gotchu. A round-up from gotchu.
And it's a Shonky Award Winner. So, yeah. Shonky gotchu.

So, it's up to you. You can buy a Power Balance bracelet for upwards of $60-$90 and get absolutely no effect aside from placebo and confirmation bias, or you can buy a Placebo Band for $2 (Australian) and get exactly the same effects. Or you could buy, like, a beer. Your choice.

Personally, I desperately want the Placebo Band, but I don't even want to shell out the money to make a point. Maybe in the new year. Either way, though, you can read about how the Placebo Band "works" from the Skeptic Bros, and can see how the woo-peddlers trick you with the demonstrations.

And remember, if you see someone peddling nonsense and want to help them reason their way out of it, be calm and kind and empathetic and patient and please please please please DON'T BE A DICK.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

the so-called conscience clause

NOTE: point forward, anything I find share-worthy for Facebook is also going to end up here. It'll lead to more blog entries, of course, and also an archive of news and nonsense I felt compelled to share. So, here goes:

Pharmacist Refusal Clauses: There's No Conscience In Sending Women Elsewhere
Agreed. One of George W. Bush's lasting monstrous acts was to allow pharmacists (and by extension doctors and nurses) to refuse to fill legally acquired prescriptions for such things as emergency contraception or even regular birth control. Because Mr. Bush was so biased against a woman's ability to make her own decisions and so distrusting that women know what's best for them, and because of his misunderstanding of what different forms of birth control are and do, he decided that pharmacists should be able to refuse to do their jobs. This has allowed medical personnel to refuse care to pregnant women because it might harm their fetus -never mind the health or life of the woman- and has allowed nurses to forcibly remove IUDs and then refuse to reinsert them, and has forced women to carry pregnancies they do not want.
Here's the deal, people: if you don't approve of abortion or allow your religious beliefs to interfere with your decisions to the extent that you need to push them forcefully on others, maybe you shouldn't be a pharmacist.

Bottom line: If your beliefs interfere with your ability to do your job, find a different job.

In a similar vein, Planned Parenthood urges you to TAKE ACTION on a petition to provide no-cost birth control -to list birth control as a preventative measure and thereby exempt from co-pays under the new health care plan.
"Birth control matters. It matters to the young woman finishing college or starting a career. It matters to the family struggling to make ends meet. It matters to the woman suffering from endometriosis. It matters to mothers and fathers who treasure the children they have."

It matters, bitches. Let people prevent unwanted pregnancies and thereby be better able to care for the children they already have, or the children they might have someday. Or, perhaps, allow them to remain childfree if that is their desire.

Needless to say, I'm passionate about this topic. Reproductive rights and vaccines and environmental causes, that's me. So there.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

you know it's a party when...

There are parts of my college years (fall of 1997 to spring of 2001) which I recall with great nostalgia and fondness. And yes, there are parts at which I roll my eyes and parts that are marred by violent retching and parts that are grey and fuzzy all the way through. But never mind that.
One of the fond nostalgic parts was the "you know it's a party when" list, scrawled across some sort of beer poster, I think. It contained such gems as "Hans wears a sombrero" and something about beer-case-helmet-jousting. I'm sure there is a photograph of it somewhere, but we'll have to make do without.

Upon graduation and my eventual entrance into the wild world of homeowners, it occurred to me that I ought to start my own list. And so I did. And so here it is -a work in progress, of course.

You Know It's A Party When...
1. You have to squeegee the garage floor.
2. Someone falls out of the pool (or doesn't make it in).
3. There's a midnight beer run.
4. Someone breaks a drumstick.
5. You can't even look at the Tequila bottle the next day.
6. Chicks. Get. Naked.
7. Something or someone gets humped by The Chris.
8. Someone is carried up the stairs.
9. You wake up in bed without your pants, and have no memory of how you got that way.
10. There is photographic evidence of your absurdities, and you never saw a camera.
11. You don't remember where that bruise came from.
12. There's nothing but ping pong balls and shot glasses in the dishwasher.
13. You wake up half naked on the living room floor next to the recycling bucket.
14. Someone is banging on the ceiling, yelling "wake up, mother fucker!!"
15. You're so passed-out drunk that someone can put weights on you without being noticed.
16. It's Cuban, B.
17. Somebody says, "I don't even know what to say."
18. Sara Lovell points and laughs.
19. The Chris asks how one gets hit in the head with a ladder golf golf ball.
20. Someone gets hit in the head with a ladder golf golf ball.
21. We have to make a "no fireworks anymore, dude" rule. Again.
22. The only clean spot anywhere is the sink.
23. The bathroom door is locked, and someone is passed out inside.
24. Someone has to be told, "one hand on the counter; one hand on your cock."
25. Amanda is floppy.
26. Yoga happens.
27. Splits happen.
28. Amanda audibly shatters another shot glass, and then asks if it's broken.
29. Someone is TOO drunk to play Asshole.
30. You have no idea how the cake got melted.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I have insomnia.

Sometimes I count sheep. Sometimes I try the Crystal Countdown. Sometimes I just count and hope to be asleep before I get too far. Sometimes I actually get up and read or watch TV. I've tried all kinds of pills and just can't get my brain to turn off. A few nights ago, I figured I'd try reciting the alphabet and picturing something related to that letter, whatever fist came to mind, in the hopes that it would keep both sides of my brain busy and it would stop thinking of nonsense. Did it work? No. Not even a little. But I was so amused by the images my brain came up with that I decided to write them down, as best as I can remember...

Slime mold
Xylophone (of course)
Zebra (pronounced zeh-bra, because of Weebks)

Any wonder that I didn't sleep?

Monday, October 11, 2010

history class

I've had an epiphany about middle and high school education and I'm going to put it out here where no one will read it and it won't do any good, but at least I'll have gotten it out of my brain.

I think that students should get a broad overview of world history in middle school, and then start small in high school.
In 9th grade, students should learn their local history. Local leaders, historical figures, origins, heck even local businesses. City and county, that's what they should concentrate on. There is a lot of stuff I'm learning now that I don't remember learning in school. For instance, I know about Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglas, but who the heck was the Troup Howell Bridge named for?! (Robert Troup and Nathaniel Howell, if you were interested; also, Robert Troup's daughter, Charlotte, was the inspiration for that oft-mispronounced bit of land by the lake) For whom was the Town of Gates named? (Revolutionary War General Horatio Gates) Did you know that Canawaugus means "stinking waters" or that Genesee means "beautiful open valley" in the native languages of those who lived here? Do you know who Indian Allen was?


10th grade, then, should be state history. State stuff, state laws, state stupids, state courts, state origins, state figures...

11th grade should be US history -with the option to take the regular course or the AP version- and 12th grade should be European history -with the same regular/AP options- or possibly another world history overview elective.

People don't know shitall about history these days, even their local history, and I'll admit to being one of those people. It needs to change, and the change needs to start by making grumpy kids learn more. ...Don't get me started on the debacle that is standardized testing, though...

Friday, September 10, 2010

I still have trouble watching it. (or, my angry 9/11 rant)

I wasn't there. I didn't lose anyone. I didn't know anyone there. I don't think I know anyone who lost anyone. And yet I still have trouble every time I see those damn planes hit those damn towers, and every time I watch a damn show about New York City they seem to find a reason to show that damn pancake dust explosion and every time it's like a vise around my heart and throat and stomach and my whole face scrunches up like I've bitten into a lime and I just can't watch it. And I just can't look away.

Nine years. Nine years, and the WTC site still hasn't been built on, and we're still arguing and squabbling about what a replacement tower should look like and who has the right to do what, where. Not to mention, the wars in Iraq (oh, sorry, the combat's over there so that's not really a war anymore?) and Afghanistan are using money like a sieve, so to speak, without much accountability or even much question at all.

And now a group of Muslims has purchased an old Burlington Coat Factory four blocks from "Ground Zero" and wants to build a community center there, and now everyone's all "ZOMGHOWDAREZTHEY?!" or alternatively and more PC "ZOMGIKNOWTHEYCANBUTIDONTTHINKTHEYSHOULD!!!" Because apparently religious freedom only applies to Christians in this country. But we knew that.
I mean, yeah, Islam can be a violent and dickish religion. Know what else? Christianity can be a violent and dickish religion. Atheists, while not for their unfaith or cause so much but more as individuals, can be violent and dickish. Heck, even Buddhists can be violent (though rarely) and dickish (see the Dalai Lama's comments about the supposedly-unnatural aspects of homosexuality, for instance).
So, everyone's all careful and tactful and saying "yes, they have a right to build there, but should they?" mostly because Muslims were responsible for the attacks on 9/11/01 so building a community center so close to the former WTC-site would be like them rubbing it in our faces, or something. And yes, maybe technically it's a bit tactless for them to build there. But maybe we should be the bigger and better country and get over ourselves. Maybe a community center is exactly what that neighborhood needs, even if it is the dreaded Muslim kind.

**begin tangent**
And have I mentioned that I really hate the use of the term "Ground Zero"? I do. I really, really do. But maybe that's another essay for another day.
**end tangent**

**begin secondary tangent**
And while I'm at it, fuck you "9/11 Truthers." Yes, the attacks likely could have been prevented and perhaps we do not have all of the information about how everything happened and why and when, but when a giant fucking airliner full of jet fuel crashes into a building and severs the support columns and sets the fucker on fire, you get FIRE and COLLAPSE. That's how that works. No, steel doesn't burn at those temperatures but it sure the hell melts and warps and weakens and that's all you need. And once one floor mashes, you set off a chain reaction and get yourself a nice mashy death-filled building squash. As seen on TV. I know people have questions. I know people have doubts. But it's really not that complicated. OH! And also while I'm at it, Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson and Fred Phelps can all go suck a collective bag of dicks.
**end secondary tangent**

In response to the "Ground Zero Mosque" (which is neither a mosque -it's a community center- nor AT Ground Zero -it's four blocks away- ...and there is already a mosque six blocks away), some pastor in Florida is all "I'm going to honor the memory of those lost on 9/11/01 by burning a whole mess of Korans at my church on Saturday." Forgetting, I'm sure, that there were Muslims IN the Twin Towers that day, who died as well, and whose families might be a wee bit offended by the burning of their sacred book. Forgetting that everyone in this country has the right to believe -or NOT believe- as they desire, rights granted in the Bill of Rights in the (wholly secular, by the way) Constitution that so many people seem to point to these days while clearly not having read the darn thing. No, religious freedoms seem these days only reserved for those Christians who want to offend others.

The NYC Muslims have every right to build a community center (or heck, even a damn mosque!) near the WTC site. They have every right to worship and pray and commune as they please so long as their beliefs and practices aren't harming anyone. Just as Christians have every right to worship and pray and commune as they please so long as their beliefs and practices aren't harming anyone. And that shit about Islam being inherently violent and cruel and discriminatory and misogynistic? Sure. But have you read your Bible lately, sirs? Yeah, that sucker ain't so great, either. So unless you're ready to give up your stupid backward religion and practice Humanism and rationality and logic and science, the way I think everyone should, you don't get to make demands of Muslims about their religion -so long as no one's harming anyone else. Extremist Islamic terrorist training centers? Not okay. Community centers with basketball hoops and craft tables? Not so scary, actually. And heck, it's not like fundamentalist Christians aren't training creepy little Christ warriors right here in this country, too, right?

And as for Koran-burning, (...If you're interested in some PZ perspective on this particular topic (and let's face it, who isn't?), please click here) like it or not, people have the right to disagree with other people. They have the right to do so in writing or in words or even, yes, by burning shit. In this particular care, said shit happens to be the holy book of another religion -and a religion that happens to be rather violently hostile to the idea of people burning their holy book. The pastor is within his rights to burn the book in protest. Muslims are NOT within their rights (as humans, as Americans, as Earthlings) to threaten or harm anyone with whom they disagree or by whom they feel slighted. THAT is the problem, that we as a planet and as a civilization allow Muslims (and others) to react with an inapproperiate level of insult and violence when they are offended, and that we are so afraid of their reaction that we let them get away with it. And I call bullshit.

If you defile the sacred objects of another religious group, you're kind of being a dick. But people don't have the right not to be offended. Maybe, if religionsists (and pretty much everyone) would stop taking themselves so damn seriously, they wouldn't come across as such assholes and everyone else would have a much easier time respecting them.

In closing, this September 11th I encourage you to not be a dick. Don't burn something out of spite. But don't not burn something out of fear. Rather, just do something good. Do something nice. Do something caring and thoughtful and necessary. Attend a service or ceremony in honor of those lost but not forgotten. Volunteer on the September 11th Day of Service and Remembrance.
Along with anything else I might do or attend or charitize this weekend, I, for one, will be attending the Roc City Roller Derby intraleague bout (Rottenchesters vs. 5-H8-5s), Sink or Swim at the Dome Arena. It's a charity bout benefiting Rochester Police Officers (Badge of Honor Association) and Rochester Firefighters (Benevolent Association). And it's derby. Eat a hot dog, watch some derby, do some good and be proud to be an American, where we can and do disagree and should be able to, as long as we can do it calmly and rationally. So let's try that, hmm?

Friday, September 3, 2010

why I never...

I often end up in a conversation which involves me saying, "oh, I never (...) growing up" and people look at me like my brain is crawling out of my ears.

I'm not looking for pity or pretending deprivation, I merely present this list as a statement of fact.

Why, I never...
1. read comic books (until Sarah Smart brought me back a couple from ComiCon 2010)
2. played video games (until college, where I played Mortal Kombat and Crash Bandicoot a handful of times, and that was it)
3. drank soda
4. made Christmas cookies (until last year)
5. watched MTV
6. watched cartoons
7. had candy other than at Halloween and even then only for a day or so, even if I won it in a contest
8. had chocolate of any sort (at least until I was three and my grandmother committed The Chocolate Felony)
9. had any topping on my pizza other than cheese and for the most part, still don't
10. had any kind of dressing on my salad until I was, what, 25?
11. had ketchup on anything except McDonald's cheeseburgers -and still don't
12. had mustard on anything, until I went to college and had to smother the food with something
13. knew there were football teams not named the Cowboys (until I was six or so)
14. fantasized about what my wedding would be like
15. wanted babies -except for a three-day period my senior year of high school
16. was a bridesmaid, and still my only in-wedding experience has been as a flower girl in my uncle's wedding when I was eight or so
17. watched an episode of "Sex in the City"
18. saw any Rocky or Godfather movie
19. had a Philly cheesesteak
20. had a Garbage Plate (heresy, I know) **EDIT: First official plate consumption (half plate grilled cheese, mac salad, fries from Martino's) occurred 9/11/2010!!**
21. drank coffee
22. ate a fruit roll-up


Thursday, July 29, 2010

Trust women.

Leaving aside for the moment my personal feelings about IVF and the fact that I never really thought about this as an issue although of course it is, I want to share this blog post about women who choose to go through IVF and then for one reason or another choose to abort the outcome of that IVF: IVF and then Abortion

Trust women? Are you kidding? What a novel fucking idea. Act like women are separate independent entities with their own brains and thoughts and opinions, capable of making educated choices? WHAT? Now that's just crazytalk!

Sarcasm aside... DUH. Trust women. We're not stupid assholes. Individually, maybe on occasion, but on the whole not. And I couldn't have said it any better than Ms. Marcotte, and so I shamelessly co-opt her blog post instead of creating something moderately intelligent on my own. Because, you know, I'm not capable of independent thought.

And now I have "Just A Girl" stuck in my head.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

three cheers and some twang for vaccines!!

Vaccines are good. They save lives. Here's a song about them. It's called The Vaccine Song.

Friday, July 9, 2010

my number one bad boy

To be fair, he should be everyone's number one bad boy. That's right, the one and only badass Bad Astronomer, Phil Plait. And he says neat, smart things. And I link to them because my neat, smartness pales in comparison. So here, without further adieu, is something I think you should read:

The world is subtle... and that’s why it’s beautiful

Monday, June 28, 2010

book recommendation: Putting Children First

Yesterday, my mother and I attended a book reading at the Pittsford Barnes & Nobel, by one of our friends, Dr. JoAnne Pedro Carroll. She is an award-winning clinical psychologist who helps families survive and thrive times of big transition in their lives, such as separation and divorce –especially where it relates to how the children are affected.
Her new book, "Putting Children First: Proven Parenting Strategies for Helping Children Thrive Through Divorce" provides sound advice based on an abundance of research and the wisdom acquired through three decades of research and clinical experience with thousands of children—all offered with clarity and genuine compassion.

The reading/ lecture was incredibly insightful and moving for me and I belatedly realized that I should have posted this on my Face in advance of the talk so that others could have benefited from the information and had a chance to buy the book or talk to JoAnne and ask questions.

If you know someone who might benefit from the information in this book, please do direct them to JoAnne’s website so they can take a look at the information, and to Amazon for those interested in purchasing. This is also an excellent resource for families that are not separating but have internal turmoil that needs addressing.

Friday, March 19, 2010

oh man oh man oh man oh man they did it again!!

I know I mentioned the spectacular typo possibilities surrounding the large Hadron Collider in a post last January, but krikey they've done it again!!

It just makes me giggle.

Friday, February 5, 2010

in which I talk about knocked-uppery

Yes, I am child-free but yes, I'm still going to talk about pregnancy and babies, just a wee bit. Mostly, how bullshit weaves its way into pregnancy and what you can do to ensure you're getting accurate information.

If you are an alive person, chances are you know someone who had to deal with THE CANCER. Chances are, too, that someone you know is or has been or will be pregnant. Now, I have no interest in having children myself, but I do have a vested interest in knowing that future generations are wanted, loved, cared for and provided with appropriate education and health care. The best time to start in on that is before you know you're pregnant, of course, so if you're of "child-bearing age," unless you know you don't want kids, you should probably be taking folic acid. And if you're actually trying to get pregnant or think you might want to soon, quit. fucking. smoking. Actually, you should quit smoking now, regardless, but specifically if you're going to be pregnant. And talk to your doctor about any meds you are on that might affect your ability to conceive or bring a pregnancy to term.

That's basic common sense. But you will get mad crazy advice about everything from everyone, most annoyingly from people like me who have never had babies but still know exactly what you should be doing about everything. Because, let's face it, what's more American than spouting off about shit about which we know nothing?

In this case, though, while I may not have any practical womb-on experience, I do have some resources and some recommendations -and what else is a blog nobody reads for, if not for linking to junk you think is important for everyone to read?

Enough rhetorical questions. On to the meat of the matter! (mmmm, meat)

Like I said, everyone will be giving you advice and anecdotes but in reality I have no advice other than this: don't take any shit from anyone. You'll know what's right for you and if you want info, ask ask ask, but don't be afraid to tell people to shut the hell up.

Just keep in mind, there's a lot of crazy out there on the internet so try not to panic and check with your doctor before worrying about things! Actually, that holds true for everything, not just knocked-uppery.

Certainly, depending on your situation and risk factors it might make sense to stay away from certain foods and beverages for the duration -but that's something you learn from your doctor.

Books you might like:
A Child Is Born by Lennart Nilsson (reviewed by a friend of mine as "very interesting and informative"
Girlfriends Guide to Pregnancy by Vicki Iovine, reviewed as "a cute light read"
What to Expect When You're Expecting, the basic 'bible' to pregnancy, by Heidi and Sharon Mazel, reviewed as "good to answer all the neurotic questions" [EDIT 9/09/11: ACK!! I take it back! I take it back! Too much CAM!!]
And might I also recommend another viewpoint? What to Expect When You're Expected: A Fetus's Guide to the First Three Trimesters by David Javerbaum

Internet resources (yes, much of this is science- and reality-slanted, because that's the only thing that makes sense to me):
BabyCenter, where you can sign up and receive weekly updates on how baby is developing.
My Labor Nurse, practical, evidence-based information about birth from a labor and delivery nurse
Skepdad, one man’s thoughts, opinions, and ideas about bringing up kids to be critical thinking adults in a world filled with superstition, mysticism, and pseudoscience
Science-Based Parenting, promoting quality science and refuting different types of speculative claims such as the supernatural, pseudoscience, alternative medicine, and any other extraordinary claim that contradicts facts established by science and/or reasoning (see especially the page on vaccine resources)
Parenting Beyond Belief, on raising ethical, caring kids without religion

Also, Skepchick is a blog of no-bullshit (mostly) women, some of whom are pregnant from time to time and post entries debunking many myths and nonsense around pregnancy. Specifically and recently,
What Pregnant Women Won't Tell You -warning: if you're wavering on the kid-fence, this post might push you over to the no-way-in-hell!!! side...

Oh and PS... I'm sure people will give you some recommendations and advice for "sure-fire cures" or "natural health care" or what-have-you and some of it may be fine and harmless and may even work, but keep in mind that herbs and supplements are drugs, too, and can interfere and interact with other substances but are not regulated by the FDA in the same way as more conventional medicine so you want to check with your doctor about that stuff -but if you want to get some fact-based information from the internet on something that may have been recommended or suggested, might I recommend my two "sure-fire cures" ;) for bullshit?
Snopes and What's the Harm.
These are good for every day baloney-detection, but if someone tells you acupuncture or chiropractic (or what-have-you) will cure your morning sickness, you can check out the dangers or ineffectiveness of such treatments.

Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. And if it sounds like bullshit, it probably is, too.

Talk to your doctors, people.

Oh yeah, and: vaccinate the shit out of those kids!!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

in which I talk about The Cancer -or, more specifically, The Chemo

If you are an alive and aware sort of person, it's likely you or someone you know has been "touched by cancer" (as they say) in one way or another. There's a lot of blather about what causes cancer and how to prevent it, and there are of course dangerous misleading criminals out there who purport to be able to "cure you," but that's not what this post is about. You can do everything right to minimize your risk and maximize your quality of life and still get walloped with The Cancer. It sucks, but it happens and it happens a lot.

Luckily, we have modern medicine (you know, the dreaded "western" kind which actually works as opposed to "traditional" or "alternative" treatments which will just empty your wallet at best and hasten your death at worst), which has greatly improved the likelihood of survival for most kinds of cancer.

Unfortunately, modern medicine treatments for cancer are often pretty brutal. Surgery, chemo and radiation totally kick your ass. It's shitty, but that's just the way it is. And for anyone crowing about "natural alternatives" to chemotherapy, may I remind you that anthrax and rattlesnakes and arsenic are all "natural." Chemotherapy, for that matter, is synthetically derived now but it was originally derived from plant alkaloids. So, yeah. Pipe that in your smoke and stick it.

That said, there are always resources and therapy groups and little tricks a chemo patient can employ in order to help combat the effects of chemotherapy and that is what this post is actually about.

I make no medical claims with this information and it is, granted, anecdotal and based on one woman's experience with chemotherapy, not any sort of peer-reviewed research. Insert "your mom joke" here, because these tips and hints are, in fact, from MY MOM.

Surviving and Thriving through Chemo
(Different chemo cocktails have different side effects, or none, but these tricks and products got me through...)

On queasy days:
bland foods (be sure to eat! Cancer patients die from malnutrition... not good, not necessary!):
* Ore-Ida frozen mashed potatoes (healthy ingredients, easy to prepare)
* white rice
* plain waffles
* whole grain white bread
* whole wheat saltines

By the bed or sofa: (in a handy basket)
* Newman's Ginger-O's
* ginger lozenges
* bottles of ginger ale (room temp.)
* individual natural apple sauce servings & spoon (room temp.)
* Archway gingerbread men

To build you up and fight cancer cells:
* almond butter
* all kinds of berries
* green tea
* Z-bec vitamins
* orange food
* dark green leafy vegetables
* Bolthouse Farms drinks (in produce section)

To soothe and sustain you:
* rose & vanilla scented oil candles
* massage oil in the bath
* lots of long hot bubble baths
* gallons of moisturizers
* drops of pure lavender oil on a tissue put between pillow & pillow case
* lavender sachets
* lots of cool fresh air (ceiling fan, if you have one above the bed, ON on rough days or nights)

Drink lots of water, especially right after chemo. If your chemo potion might cause mouth sores, rinse twice a day with very warm water & 1 tsp. salt.
If you get the YUCK! taste in your mouth, Tic-Tacs or other hard candy or mints help (in the car, purse, end tables, have some wherever they're within easy reach).

Be selfish and take care of yourself! You can make it up to people later. Don't feel guilty. Good luck!

[disclaimer: I know, I know. I'm all blahblahblah anecdotes are not data and blahblahblah "boost your immune system" doesn't actually mean anything, but none of this stuff is medicinal and should not interfere with any of your treatments except to hopefully help you feel better]

[disclaimer 2: Please talk to your doctor before embarking on any sort of complementary regimen, even those involving exercise, foods, vitamins, herbs, etc., because everyone is different and everyone's chemo experience is different and your doctor may have better or other recommendations, or reasons to avoid certain of the above suggestions. And your doctor knows best. After all, s/he went to fucking medical school for this shit.]

* American Cancer Society (
* National Cancer Institute (, part of the US National Institutes of Health
* NCI Resources for Financial Assistance
* For Rochester-area residents with breast cancer specifically: Elizabeth Wende Breast Care and Breast Cancer Coalition of Rochester and the Pluta Center (this link takes you to prosthetic, clothing, and wig resources -my mom got hers from Alternative Hair, and they were beautiful and very self-image-boosting for her)
* For all-around baloney detection: What's the Harm and Snopes.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

good news for the reality-based community

We don't have it often enough, but here's some: Andrew Wakefield was found by the British General Medical Council to have acted "dishonestly and irresponsibly" in doing his research, and The Lancet has (finally) retracted that bloody paper that started the hysteria in the first place.

For a great write-up -with links- explaining further, I send you to the inestimable and brilliant Phil Plait, from Bad Astronomy.

Yes, autism is tragic and yes, we need to find the answers, but blaming and scapegoating vaccines when every peer-review study clearly shows no link is irresponsible and dangerous, and only leads to more injury and death when diseases like polio and measles and whooping cough come back.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

the most controversial issue of all (upgrayedded)

Vaccines. Do Not. Cause. Autism. Jenny McCarthy is an ignorant monster with a body count attached to her name, and she needs to be stopped. Andrew Wakefield is a lying shill. He made it all up to sell a treatment. Even the courts have ruled that there is no link between autism and vaccines.

Please take a moment (or a few moments) and read this science-based medicine run-down of the anti-vax movement and why they haven't a leg to stand on.

This is why we vaccinate. Choosing not to do so actually puts children, and everyone else, in even greater danger.

Of course you want to protect your children, and if they do get sick you want answers. But blaming vaccines is not the answer. Vaccines help protect us all against acute chronic illness, and diseases that can lead to encephalitis and seizures, deafness, heart defects and mental retardation, myocarditis and polyneuritis, or be crippling and disabling, disfiguring and deadly, deadly, deadly. They also give us herd immunity. The very old and the very young and those with compromised immune systems depend on the rest of us to get the vaccines they cannot, to ensure they do not contract these diseases.

The evidence is all in favor of vaccines promoting health and wellness. It seems fair to say now that Andrew Wakefield had ulterior motives and faked his research and data. All the other scientists from that study have disavowed it. Intuition and coincidences are not evidence, and every well-conducted study indicates that we do not know what causes autism, but that it is not the vaccines.

Of course we shouldn't put weird and crazy stuff into our bodies, but vaccines have years and years of trials and tests to ensure their safety. You can't say the same for your bottled water. And have you read the ingredients on your ice cream lately? There's scary stuff everywhere, but the stuff in your vaccines has been proven safe and effective. Not vaccinating may keep the vaccine out of your kid, but without the vaccine your kid is vulnerable and a health risk to everyone around. And for an overview of sixteen vaccine-preventable diseases in all their horrible horribleness, look no further.

I don't have children, so what do I care, right? Well, I care because Jenny McCarthy is wrong, and she is dangerous, and she is putting people's lives at risk because she doesn't understand science and medicine. She also, apparently, doesn't understand irony.

You don't have to believe me. I'm not a doctor (but then, neither is Jenny McCarthy and that doesn't stop her from dispensing medical advice). But Steven Novella is, and so is Orac. And so is Mark Crislip, the Chief of Infectious Diseases for Legacy Health System (see also here).
(Originally posted 4/03/09.)

Additional links:
- Remember, just because B happens after A DOES NOT MEAN that A caused B!!
- Orac search results
- Dr. Novella search results
- video from Dooce made by MOMS
- countering anti-vaxxers with Amanda Peet
- The Truth About The Evils Of Vaccination
- Anti-Vax KILLS, and now Oprah Winfrey helps (see also here and here)
- Do Children Get Too Many Immunizations? The answer is NO, in case you don't want to read the whole thing.
- Holding people accountable for "shouting fire" and fanning the flames of panic.
- For those of you who speak Spanish...
- Why a mother stopped vaccinating and then realized her mistake.
- Mariska Hargitay, Christopher Meloni, Ice-T, and Stephanie March should so celebrity death match Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carey.
- Why Does the Vaccine/Autism Controversy Live On?
- 10 Vaccine Myths: BUSTED
- Toxic myths about vaccines by David Gorski
- A website for those who DO choose to vaccine:, with info and resources.
- Don't Listen to Jenny McCarthy, from
- An Open Letter to Frightened Parents, by Skepchick Elyse Anders.
- Get The Picture: Child Immunizations, released by the CDC, unfortunately, but still important and informative.
- Roald Dahl, 23 years ago, recognized measles as a dangerous illness and encouraged parents to vaccinate in order to not suffer the same terrible loss of a child as he did when his daughter died of measles encephalitis. His words still ring true, and I wish he were still alive so that he could bitch-slap that booger-eating botox-filled bag of nonsense.
- Cracking The Autism Riddle: Common Sense About Vaccines And Autism, by Harvey Karp
- help re-establish herd immunity in Nevada with the JREF!
- New anti-vax lies just in time for the swine flu vaccine, debunked by the SkepDoc, Harriet Hall
- Also, Phil Plait and Dr. Steven Novella talk about swine flu and new lies from the antivaxxers. To quote from Phil's blog entry, "That’s something to always remember: despite the garbage conspiracy theory-toting antivaxxers are purveying, diseases tend to be a lot more dangerous than vaccination. Talk to your doctor, read what Steve Novella has to say, and get the real scoop on vaccination."
- Phil Plait on Gardasil
- How Safe is the HPV vaccine?, 10/12/09.
- More vaccine nonsense debunking from the Skepchicks. No, really, it's NOT people.
- More Evidence for Vaccine Safety
- Autism rates back MMR jab safety
- Dr. Harriet Hall lecturing at TAM7.
- Orac and Dr. Steven Novella bitchslap Bill Maher for his ridiculous anti-vax statements.
- Skeptoid podcast about vaccine ingredients.
- Quackcast podcast about flu vaccine efficacy (and taradiddles).
- An anti-vax parent decides to vaccinate. Why? Because of evidence!
- Plus, Andrew Wakefield (the guy who started all this nonsense in the first place) has been found to have acted "unethically" during his trails where he allegedly concocted a link between autism and the MMR. Unfortunately, they didn't mention that alleged concoction or his conflict of interest, but it's still good news for science, reason and evidence. Aaaaand. he's been barred from practicing medicine in the UK! Aaaaaand here's a thorough evisceration of Wakefield worth the read.

Really good overviews:
- Vaccines and Autism, Topic Editor: Steven Novella, MD
- Dr. Steven Novella: The Truth About The Evils Of Vaccination

- super cool:, For each word you get right, we donate funds to purchase .01ml of vaccine through the GAVI Fund to help end disease world wide.

One final image to leave you with: this is how Jenny McCarthy reacts when presented with valid scientific evidence which completely destroys her arguments: