Posted by Sappho on May 22nd, 2013 filed in Bipolar Disorder, Classes, Lectures, and Conferences
Last week, Joel and I went to a conference called Meeting of the Minds. I’ve blogged about this conference in previous years. It’s Orange County’s biggest mental health conference, but on by the county Mental Health Association, and serves mental health providers, patients and family, and first responders (the professionals get continuing education credits, and consumers, the term for patients and family, get a discount). About eight people from our two DBSA support groups attended this year, both patients and family members, and between us we covered a number of workshops. Joel and I always attend different workshops so that we can share information afterwards.
Our most active teen member attended a workshop on Adolescent Drug Cultures and Current Drug Trends to, as she said, see whether they pointed the finger at kids who died their hair in odd colors. She emerged from the workshop satisfied that they weren’t profiling so crudely, and dismayed by the array of drugs presented, with thoughts on how scary it might be to be the parent of a teen. She later attended a workshop on Behavioral Health Needs in the LGBT Communities. Joel went to a workshop on stress management, which he said had a lot to say about reducing stress by setting appropriate boundaries, and some others in the group went to a workshop on weight management.
I decided, after all the pain of chemotherapy, that I would attend a workshop on pain management. There Donald Sharps, MD began with a picture of the opium wars, and set forth the goals of the workshop.
- Describe how medical management of pain has changed in the last 10 years.
- Describe patients’ and doctors’ rights, and how to balance them.
Posted by Sappho on May 20th, 2013 filed in Bible study
There’s a story about my great-grandmother, Louise Rice Taylor. It’s said that once, when she was young, her church decided to act out the parable of the talents, by giving people a little money to increase, as the master does in the parable. And young Louise, it’s said, decided that the best way to make her talent grow was to do what she was good at: gambling at bridge. Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Your clever gambling has won you good things.
In Religious Education yesterday, before Meeting for Worship, we discussed Matthew 25, a series of stories that anticipate a judgment. First comes the story of the wise and foolish virgins, where the virgins who haven’t supplied themselves with oil lose out. Second, the parable of the talents, where the servants who increase their talents win, while the one who buries his loses. And finally, the separation of the sheep and goats, in which we learn that the real way to prepare for judgment is to feed the hungry and visit those who are sick and in prison, for “as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.”
“As you did it to one of the least of these” is one of those gospel lines that sticks in my head, comes to mind often, that stands as a guiding light to how I live my life, whether I live up to it or not. But what of the rest of the chapter? As we discussed it, our reactions were varied. Liberal Quakers are uneasy with stories of harsh final judgment. And for what are the people being judged? Aren’t the wise maidens a little stingy, not to share their oil? Is the tale of the master who gives out the money simply another story in which those that have, can spare enough to risk and get more? (I suggested that, if the servant who buried the talent thought he had a harsh and unjust master, perhaps his best answer was to try to organize other workers like himself, to unionize.)
Some, though, found meaning in the parables by seeing the objects in the stories as more inward things. If the oil with which the virgins must prepare themselves is wisdom, then perhaps there’s a limit to how much the wise virgins can give the foolish ones, and a point where they must supply the oil themselves. “Talents” in the story may be money, the word’s resemblance to “talent” after multiple translation a happy accident, but the story is enriched if you imagine the other meaning. And some found more meaning in stories of judgment if they saw the judgment, not as between different people who are goats and sheep, but between the parts of yourself that you can keep and the parts of yourself that you need to learn to give up.
Posted by Sappho on May 15th, 2013 filed in Health and Medicine
I’m planning to get back to my nature/nurture series sometime soon, with a post about genes and the environment, at which point I’ll also be writing about genes and cancer. But in the meantime, the BRCA genes and breast cancer are in the news, with Angelina Jolie’s decision to have her breasts removed, on learning that she carried a gene that gave her an 85% risk of getting breast cancer if she left them on. As it happens, I already know a bit about the company that offers this genetic testing (not the one I tested with, which is a less expensive consumer genomics company that tests only for a few of the BRCA variants, but one that offers more expensive medical tests), because I got genetic counseling, after I finished treatment for endometrial cancer, to see whether my family history indicated enough risk to refer me for further testing for something called Lynch Syndrome, that dramatically increases the risk of endometrial and colon cancer. The question came up, on the 23andme forums, why the Myriad test was so much more expensive than the 23andme one. I am reproducing, as a blog post, the answer I gave there:
23andme tests some BRCA1 and BRCA2 variants; Myriad tests, to the best of my knowledge, for all known BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene variants. There are two aspects to this. One is that it really is more expensive to test for all variants (whole genome sequencing costs way more than 23andme’s $99 test, and can’t currently be offered at 23andme’s price). The other is that Myriad owns patents on testing for certain important BRCA genes, and 23andme can’t legally do the same BRCA testing that Myriad does, at this time. (I’m not sure exactly how this works legally; will the ability to test for the genes go generic at some point in the future, the way pharmaceuticals do?) Myriad has a number of cancer specific tests, which test for the genes that increase risk most for a particular cancer. There is one for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer, one for hereditary colon and uterine cancer, one for hereditary colorectal polyps and cancer, one for hereditary melanoma, etc. If you have a likelihood of cancer in your family, you see a genetic counselor first, and then get referred for the Myriad test. If your family risk is high enough, and depending on your insurance company, the test may be covered by insurance. Likely, with Angelina Jolie’s family risk, her test was covered (but then, she has the money to pay thousands of dollars for the test anyway). All of the tests cost thousands of dollars.
I didn’t, in this answer, talk about how much of Myriad’s higher cost is due to actual increased cost in looking at all the gene variants for the cancer genes they cover, and how much is due to their being able to charge more because they have patents on certain tests and don’t have competition. The reason is that I don’t know the answer. (Note that the test that I would have gotten from Myriad if I had met Amsterdam criteria for Lynch syndrome also would have cost thousands of dollars, and I don’t know that Myriad has patents on those genes.) Blogs and articles have been debating the matter, though, in the wake of Angelina Jolie’s revelation, as a case regarding the limits of said patents makes its way to the Supreme Court (Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics), so here are a few links:
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by Sappho on May 13th, 2013 filed in Quaker Practice
For some time, Orange County Friends Meeting has been holding Religious Education before meeting for worship. We have been doing Bible study (the gospel of Matthew) most First Days, and once a month we have an intergenerational activity for children. The group is smaller than for meeting for worship (like many people, I come some weeks and sleep late and start slow other weeks), but the smaller group discussion often influences the meeting for worship that comes after.
Recently, we decided to vary our program by adding a discussion, once a month, of an article in Western Friend (so it will be two weeks Bible study, one week intergenerational activity, and one week discussion of an article in Western Friend). This week was the first of those discussions, and the article selected, from the Jan/Feb edition of Western Friend was Zachary Moon’s “The Balm of the Other” (not one of the ones put online). I slept in and got going slowly, but Peggy passed on to me a sheet of the queries that were used in the discussion, and I include it here:
If we talk only with those whose viewpoint we share, we have similar “blind spots” that reduce what we can learn from our conversations with one another. We may be able to address the questions that arise and find answers only if we step outside of the certainty that we are RIGHT. Our Quaker practice of demonstrating silently, even in the face of open hostility, may mean that we are shutting our eyes and stopping our ears to the concerns of those we regard as “the Other.”
Am I able to listen carefully to the words of one I regard as “Other,” one who holds a viewpoint or conviction I am opposed to or hold to be “wrong” or even “evil”? Can I do this with the intention humbly to understand, to learn and to accept what I learn?
Can I recognize in someone opposing my stance on war a spirit like my own, one aroused to act by deep concerns and convictions that I may not be aware of?
Can I offer myself willingly to step over supposed lines of difference and become a listener and a learner, embracing the Other as one close to me, even one with me, in the Spirit?
I find these questions difficult. I look at the first question, and the first thing I think of, when I see the words ‘one who holds a viewpoint or conviction I am opposed to or hold to be “wrong” or even “evil”,’ is the Greek neo-Nazi political party Chrysi Avgi, or Golden Dawn. I consider their convictions evil. I cheered last month when Greek islanders rejected Golden Dawn’s free food distribution, because I feel that free food from a group like Golden Dawn comes with strings that are like chains; I don’t want neo-Nazis building their cause, in Greece or anywhere. I am not interested in humbly learning from Golden Dawn. I realize that there’s a risk of spreading the group of people we aren’t willing to learn from too far, till one half of the country sees the other’s views as evil and vice versa, but aren’t there some views I simply want to marginalize? Golden Dawn members, too, have that of God in them, but as Golden Dawn, I don’t see where they have anything to teach me.
Then I thought of the Westboro Baptist Church, and how some of Phelps’ granddaughters have left, and that the story one of them told involved a gay man who had become friends with her and simply met with her outside the context of the church, not humbly listening to “God hates fags” talk (the Westboro Church’s version would alienate even the most trying-to-live-celibate-while-struggling-with-same-sex-attraction person sexually drawn to his own sex), but also for the most part not arguing it, and rather meeting with her as a person outside that context. Not that that’s always the way to go, but in this case, it seems to have been.
The second question is easier to say yes to. My grandfather died fighting against the Axis in WWII when Italy invaded Greece. My father lived under German occupation as a child, and welcomed the Allied tanks (he acted as interpreter for American soldiers). One of my cousins served in Afghanistan. It’s easy for me to see both pacifism and belief in war as a response to attack as coming from deep concerns and convictions. It’s harder when, as in the rush to war in Iraq, the war seems particularly unnecessary and foolish. I was dismayed to see so many people I otherwise respected join that bandwagon. But I didn’t stop seeing them as people with deep concerns and convictions of their own; I simply thought that they were coming to believe things about weapons of mass destruction that didn’t fit the evidence. Still, there’s a point where this question becomes challenging as well, and for me that point is torture.
For the third question, what I’ve found that helps is finding people on the other side of the political fence who seem most reasonable to me, and listening to them. That and looking for the areas where I have common ground with people I may strongly disagree with on something else.
Posted by Sappho on May 10th, 2013 filed in Classes, Lectures, and Conferences, Quaker Practice
I need to quit waiting till I can write long elaborate posts, and start writing short simple posts again. This week, I went to a talk at the Irvine United Congregational Church, by Stephen Donahoe of the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL), on climate change. The talk was jointly sponsoer by IUCC and my own Quaker meeting, Orange County Friends Meeting.
FCNL, for those of you who don’t already know, is the Quaker lobbying group in Washington DC, and the oldest religious lobbying group there. It was founded in 1943, to lobby for recognition of conscientious objectors, and, that task accomplished, decided to stay in existence to lobby for other issues that concerned Friends.
Before the talk, I met someone from the Citizen’s Climate Lobby, a nonpartisan group lobbying for legislation to address carbon emissions and climate change. Here, for example, is their carbon fee and dividend FAQ. Right now, the local Orange County chapter of this group is organizing meetings between constituents concerned about climate change and our local Congressional Representatives. I also learned, later in the meeting, about the Orange County Interfaith Coalition for the Environment.
Stephen Donahoe discussed reasons why it is critical to act on climate change, legislation that has been proposed now or may be proposed soon, and why we need to keep faith that our action can make a difference, and not be cynical and convinced that nothing can be done in Washington. He also passed out some literature from FCNL, so my summary is going to combine that and the notes I took in the form of live tweeting some of the talk.
Reasons why climate change is critical: We are already experiencing resource wars fueled by climate change. An example is the water wars in Kenys, in which the nomadic Turkana people of northern Kenya and the nearby Pokot and Samburu tribes have engaged in skirmishes that have killed over 400 people and are spreading across borders, leading to clashes with the Ugandan military in 2009. (Here I note that, on a larger scale, the Darfur conflict has also been fueled by water conflict as a consequence of desertification, and spilled across borders into Chad and the Central African Republic.) Climate change has also led to increased natural disasters and climate refugees. For example, in 2010, record-breaking monsoon rainstorms over the mountainous areas of northwest Pakistan caused massive flooding that covered almost one-fifth of the country.
Reasons to trust that we can have an effect: Donahoe gave as examples a Quaker high school group came to Washington to lobby their Senator on climate change and some lobbying of Senator Grassley on the Pentagon budget done by some of his Iowa constituents. (There were other examples, but these are the two I remember.)
Lobbying that FCNL has done: This includes teaching students to lobby, joint lobbying with the Evangelical Climate Network, and joint lobbying with communities of color.
Legislation currently under consideration:
The Shaheen-Portman Energy Efficiency Bill is a bipartisan bill to promote more energy efficient buildings. The biggest emissions producer in the US is not cars but buildings, so energy efficient buildings could significantly reduce carbon emissions.
In the long term the FCNL supports a carbon tax. Boxer and Sanders have a carbon tax bill (which doesn’t currently look likely to win Republican support). Someone from Rhode Island has five people in Congress working on another climate change bill. (I didn’t manage to make a note of who from Rhode Island is doing this, I guessing maybe Senator Jack Reed? Since he turns out to be the one who chairs the Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and Environment.) Cantwell and Collins may introduce a cap and dividend bill (which would be bipartisan, since Cantwell is a Democrat and Collins is a Republican.
Posted by Sappho on May 6th, 2013 filed in Blogwatch
I thought the obvious reading of “In the long run we are all dead” was, pretty much, that you should have some limit to the sacrifices that you expect other people, perhaps poorer people than you, to put up with for an uncertain benefit that they might not get a share in. But I gather, from a blog flap that’s going on now, that someone may have taken a different reading. The result of this flap is that I learned a few new things:
A biographer of Keynes’ wife reports that, gay though Keynes was, he and his wife loved each other very much and had hot sex, something that warms my bisexual heart.
Karl Smith, at Forbes, in Childless Keynesians And The Future They Made, has a few things to say about deficits and surpluses.
John Maynard Keynes on Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren. (Hey, that’s my generation! It looks as if he was a bit optimistic.)
On another note, David Weigel quotes an earlier post of his about Benghazi:
The “stand down” theory originated in an October 26 Fox News EXCLUSIVE (capital letters in the original), which reported that the CIA “chain of command” had “told the CIA operators twice to ‘stand down’ rather than help” besieged Americans. A complementary theory, advanced by the father of the murdered Navy SEAL Tyrone Woods, suggested that the White House had a “live feed” of the attack and sat shiva, doing nothing. Another theory, universally shared: The White House, led by people like UN Ambassador Susan Rice, was engaged in a massive cover-up.
and concludes that:
The first two theories remain defunct. A response team was sent to Benghazi; according to the State Department’s report, “the seven-person response team from Embassy Tripoli … arrived at the Annex about 0500 local. Less than fifteen minutes later, the Annex came under mortar and RPG attack, with five mortar rounds impacting close together in under 90 seconds.” Hicks doesn’t say that the CIA issued stand down orders, let alone twice. He says that a jet was never scrambled to fly over the city (which we knew) and that a second team, one that arrived too late, should have gotten there faster.
Thoreau finds his cranky heart warmed by the quote “The fallacy of the age of big data is that all data are interesting.” It’s a good quote.
Bruce Schneier on the privacy risks of Google Glass.
Posted by Sappho on May 2nd, 2013 filed in Daily Life
It’s been more than two weeks since we got back from the cruise, and Joel has photos up, so I’ll tell you about it very quickly.
Cruise line: Holland America.
Itinerary: Puerto Vallerta, Loreto, Cabo San Lucas.
Fellow passengers: Though the sale of diamonds on the ship, right next to the casino, gave a certain air of luxury that suggested some people were very rich (who can afford a cruise and diamonds and gambling, all at the same time?), we wound up mingling with a fair number of middle class people (nurse, retired teacher), so not everyone is as rich as the diamond sales suggest.
Food: A buffet that included an ice cream bar and a seated dining room that included multiple courses were both included in the fare, and there were other restaurants you could pay for. Very good food.
On shore tours: It seemed every port had an opportunity to swim with the dolphins. We didn’t choose those tours (Joel calls it “swimming with enslaved dolphins,” and it’s a good thing we didn’t choose it, because by the time we went on the cruise he had a healing abscess on his back which prevented him from swimming), but did go on a variety of other tours: one with a Mexican cooking class, one with a Mexican fiesta and clambake, and a boat tour. We also wandered around all three towns, and Joel took photos.
Sea day activities: There were lots of them. We went to a computer class, participated in trivia contests till finally our team won one, saw a movie (Silver Linings Playbook), and I took a dance class (jive) and sang karaoke (“Bette Davis Eyes“). There was a gym onboard, where I used the rowing machine (we also exercised by going up and down the many flights of stairs), and we spent a lot of time in the library, where Joel edited his autobiography and read, and I finished two books, read part of another, and worked on the various jigsaw puzzles they set out.
For more, you can go look at Joel’s photos.
Posted by Sappho on May 2nd, 2013 filed in Sexuality
So, I gather there are three parts to the Plan B story.
- No more requiring women of all ages to ask for Plan B behind a pharmacist’s counter. Yay! Yay! While, as I said, I wasn’t all that concerned with the embarrassment argument against this requirement (much more embarrassing drugs, such a psychiatric meds, have to be gotten from a pharmacist because there’s a good medical reason for it that outweighs any embarrassment factor), I really, really dislike requiring people to get a time critical medication from the part of the store least likely to be able to stay staffed 24/7, and in a political climate in which some people are pushing to have pharmacists empowered to refuse to sell it and their employers not allowed to discipline them for that refusal. Also, having it out in the aisles makes it clearer that yes, guys can buy it for their girl friends.
- Age at which you’re allowed to buy Plan B without a prescription reduces from 17 to 15.
- Ruling that there should be no age restriction appealed.
Since it looks to me as if the age limit, to begin with, always had more to do with the age at which it’s OK to condone girls having sex than the age at which they can read the directions (if you’re old enough to buy and read the directions for Tylenol, you’re probably also old enough to do the same for Plan B), I suspect what the shift from 17 to 15 really means is “yes, sex between similarly aged teenagers of 15 or 16 is probably consensual, whether or not their parents want them doing it, but we’re not so sure about 13 and 14-year-olds.”
Posted by Sappho on April 29th, 2013 filed in Health and Medicine
Posted by Sappho on April 26th, 2013 filed in News and Commentary
I first remember it happening with John Walker Lindh, the young man who became notorious right after 9/11 by being captured as an enemy combatant, fighting with the Taliban, in Afghanistan. And the papers pored over everything he’d written on the Internet, turning up his taste in hip hop music and his occasional criticism of black people while pretending to be African-American himself. Ever since, whenever some previously ordinary person becomes notorious, the Google search is on. Occasionally it proves tricky, as with James Holmes, whose name was so common that people latched onto innocent Jim Holmes’ in their search, leading to the wrong guy being bombarded on Facebook. If, though, your name is distinctive enough, the Internet will let us know that, after the attack, you tweeted, “I’m a stress free kind of guy.”
Whenever I see these searches, I wonder. Suppose something happened to suddenly make me newsworthy? What would people cull from the mix of LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Flickr, Google+, blogs (this one and the group blog), GoodReads, Ancestry.com profile, and other places I may have forgotten that make up my Internet life? What, to a stranger writing a news story, would be the story arc of my life, and what would be the key quotes that give insight into the essence of Lynn?
On one level, I know the answer. It’s the culprits, not the victims or the heros, who inspire this fascinated search. Sean Collier may have had a Twitter feed, but if so, we don’t know his last tweet. We don’t know his favorite Youtube videos, or what was on his Facebook wall. With the culprits (or the suspected culprits), we want to know why they did it, and so we scour their Internet trail looking for answers. For the heroes, we think we know why they did it (they were good, upstanding people), and so we leave their Internet trail alone. And for the victims, the moment chosen will be the most poignant, the one that tells a story of tragic loss. Of all the many little boy things done by Martin Richards, the one everyone will remember will be the hand written sign, “No More Hurting People. Peace.”
And so I know, in general if not in specifics, what would be said of me, had I been there, and died. I’d have gotten there by taking the trip with my husband to celebrate my 25th anniversary and my survival of cancer as a trip to Boston, rather than a cruise to Mexico, and the most likely the small part of the story line that covered my death would be something about that. And you’d get, from my blog and Facebook and Twitter trail, whatever line most succinctly fit the story line “brave cancer survivor gets killed by a terrorist bomb the day before her 25th wedding anniversary.” If I’d managed to say anything that sounded particularly poignant in the light of my death, perhaps something related to my survival of cancer last year, those words would be my epitaph.
Still, the question nags at me. We live so much on the net now that career articles warn us against leaving no traces, tell us that ghost programmers don’t get hired. For a few of us, that means branding, a carefully managed image that is both public enough to be found, and crafted enough not to raise red flags with employers. Facebook posts get set Friends Only (and we hope that prospective employers don’t ask to view that wall, though we’ve already made sure it contains no really embarrassing drunken photos), Twitter accounts and blogs directed toward suitable professional interests. For most of us, though, the messiness of our “real life” bleeds onto the partial views we let onto the net. And I follow a woman on Google+ because she has gotten into a circle of Women in Tech, and discover that she’s displaying her interest in Tea Party politics, her favorite songs, or perhaps that she also has a Pinterest board dedicated to crochet. And so the question, “What would the net say about you if we stopped that story right now?” becomes a version of the still larger question, “What story would someone tell of your life, if we stopped that story right now?”
Posted by Sappho on April 21st, 2013 filed in African Ingenuity Blogwatch
About “A Gateway Into Kano,” a short documentary on heritage and its loss.
I was going through chemotherapy when the formerly pseudonymous Drima the Sudanese Thinker announced that, after six years, he was closing his blog, so I missed the opportunity then to point you to his new site as Amir A. Nasr. Here’s a Foreign Policy article in which he makes recommendations as to what you should read in 2013.
Posted by Sappho on April 19th, 2013 filed in News and Commentary
So, now we know that the hero in the cowboy hat, in that photo where he and others push a man in a wheelchair, who was injured in the Boston Marathon explosions, is Carlos Arredondo, whose son died in the Iraq War. We also know that he accidentally set himself on fire when he got the news, on his birthday, of his son’s death, and that his one remaining son later committed suicide. If anyone would seem to have had nothing left to live for, it sounds as if that would have been Carlos Arredondo. But since he did keep on, and keep reaching out to help others, through all of that, he was there to help rescue Jeff Bauman, who was able to identify one of the Boston Marathon bombers, and whose description, along with surveillance camera footage, led the FBI to video footage of both bombers, of whom one is now dead and the other on the run.
I think that’s a good argument in favor of going on living.
Posted by Sappho on April 15th, 2013 filed in News and Commentary
I’m back. I had in mind several topics to blog about on my return. I was going to tell you about my trip. I was going to write about a post Thoreau had made at High Clearing while I was gone. I was going to write, perhaps, something about where I am, these days, in the whole cancer recovery process. I was going to write about my great-great-uncle, the silent movie screenwriter. And I was going to write about Albion’s Seed. Last night, I spent some time carefully charting what information I had on various ancestors who came through Boston back in the 1630s (apparently all of the ancestors of one particular great-grandparent), to see if what I knew matched what Fischer had to say about the Puritan wave of colonial immigration.
Today, of course, I learned about what happened at the Boston Marathon, and, though I still want to write about some of those other things, today isn’t really the day for it.
My sister Carey runs marathons, as does her husband, Jeff. One year, Joel and I came back from Maine with her, through Boston, and stopped at the house of another marathon runner friend of hers. I remember them joking together about the people who had passed them in the marathon, making light of their performances (Carey’s and her friend’s, that is – Jeff apparently was way ahead of them both). Later, when Carey took a sabbatical in Kenya, she and Jeff went to the town of Iten, where Kenyan marathon runners train, and Jeff wrote a blog about them and their training (and it was his turn to run with people who were way ahead of him).
I have another friend, a fellow cancer survivor, who recently celebrated her cancer survival by running a marathon. It’s easy to imagine that one of those now missing limbs could be someone just like her.
And then I remember the streets I’ve walked, Freedom Trail, the monument to the 54th Colored Regiment whose story was told in the movie Glory, the friends and family members who have lived in Boston (and some who still live there).
Worth noting that the last time someone pissed off Boston, the British Empire lost most of its territory in North America.
And several of my friends on Facebook pass on this quote from Fred Rogers (which I likewise shared there):
When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.
I’m going to share the “how to help” links, that you may have already seen, but it can’t hurt to share them as widely as we can. But before that, I want to say something about the perennial “should we politicize tragedy” debate that follows every tragedy. One of my Facebook friends has already linked,on general principle, her defense of “politicizing” tragedy (written last year):
Ultimately, I think the impulse against “politicizing” tragedy is rooted not in compassion but in fear and political despair. We assure ourselves – at least long enough to sleep at night – that there are “bad apples” who do bad things. We express our sympathies when these “bad apples” act out, but then wash our hands of the matter. And we congratulate ourselves for remaining above the fray of politics because this is ostensibly what good and charitable people do.
My thought is this: I think we’d be better off if we all refrained from “politicizing” any tragedy for, say, 24 hours. Heck, maybe even 48 hours. My reason isn’t so much “respect for the dead.” If I ever die tragically and prematurely, you have my full permission to “politicize” the heck out of my death, if by “politicize” we mean trying to make a change that you honestly think means fewer people will die the way I did. Rather, I think it best to wait a day or two before “politicizing” any tragedy because during the first day or so no one really knows what the facts are. And I’ve seen too many people, including political figures who ought to have the brains to know better, say entirely avoidable stupid things, in the wake of one tragedy or another, getting facts wrong that they could have gotten right with even a moderate amount more patience and effort. And then, once they get it wrong, double down on whatever they’ve gotten wrong, so as to avoid having to make a proper apology for screwing up. I could name names and point to examples from past news events, here, but, hey, to be honest, if I do that, all my examples will be Republicans, and the more conservative among my readers will be miffed that I’m not pointing the finger at Democrats, and my larger point may well get missed. Soon enough, we’ll know just who did the deed, and how, and then we’ll have a better idea how to react.
Now for the links:
We also know that many people want to help. Thanks to the generosity of volunteer blood donors, there is currently enough blood on the shelves to meet patient needs. The Red Cross also has the financial resources it needs to support this event right now. We are asking those who want to help to make an appointment to give blood in the coming weeks and months. They can do that by calling 1-800-RED CROSS or visiting redcrossblood.org.
Red Cross safe and well site to list if you’re safe and well. (Failing that, I’m sure you’ve all heard already to text rather than phone.
For those stranded in Boston, people are offering a place.
A Huffington Post article on how you can help.
And, not as a pointer to aid, but just because I like the article: The Boston Marathon: All My Tears, All My Love.
Posted by Alexandra on April 12th, 2013 filed in Uncategorized
Well, it’s been a week. You’re probably missing Sappho and her husband, just like I am. Come to think of it, I haven’t seen my partner in a month. He also happens to be my closest friend, so that just doubles the agony.
I met my partner shortly before I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I was miserable nearly all the time, although I hid that fact most people. However, Brayden (let’s just call him that for now) picked up on it almost immediately. He was very affectionate towards me from the beginning, snuggling with me for hours on end. When we went to a convention together, he shadowed me for pretty much the entire time. Needless to say, he was pretty upset when he heard I would be leaving him for a month.
Although I had signed up for a monthlong writing retreat earlier that year, I was away from him for around two and a half months. Why? I had a complete breakdown while I was there. Mom barely got me out in time, before the psychosis grew too bad for me to fly. While our mutual friend Dave’s mother was told of the situation, poor Brayden wasn’t told anything at all. He actually thought I was dead for quite a while.
Luckily, someone passed on the news. He eventually visited me twice, once in each of the hospitals I landed in. He was a joy to have around both times. In spite of our occasional spats, he has been a joy ever since.
Posted by Alexandra on April 5th, 2013 filed in Uncategorized
I’ve been crabby this week, but do not know why. I suspect there is no real reason for it, and that it will pass in it’s own time. Mom feels differently. She says that I should really consider what I want to do after high school, and then do it. She knows that I have something of a hatred for formal education. And I do. But I wouldn’t exactly characterize it as a hatred. More of a general malaise.
You see, when I was younger, I read a book called The Teenage Liberation Handbook by Grace Llewellyn. This book enamored me with the idea of teaching myself. Unfortunately, there are some dreams that cannot be. And I guess I could have tried to teach myself things outside of school, but I was just too sad to try. That sadness wrecked a good portion of adolescence for me. I didn’t want to socialize with other teens at my school. I didn’t even care about rebelling against my parents, which is what most red-blooded teenagers do.
I was lucky to eventually find a couple of teenagers like me. I’ll call them Nicholas and Jasmine for now. They (as well as Nicholas’s friend, Jake) were pretty much the only people I enjoyed talking to! Nicholas, Jasmine, and I shared a common experience. And although Jake hadn’t read the Handbook like the rest of us, he still helped me a lot. I don’t remember much of what we talked about then, but he still distracted me from my other problems.
No matter what you’re going through, it’s possible to find people like you. And it’s good to. The support I got from these people was invaluable. They were points of light in what would otherwise have been total darkness, and I can’t thank them enough for that.
Posted by Alexandra on March 29th, 2013 filed in Uncategorized
Greetings, y’all! My name is Alexandra. Lynn asked me to make a brief introductory post, so here it is.
I am a politically uninformed person, who enjoys dancing and spending way too much time on the internet. I’m a senior in high school, who thinks of herself as having a pretty average life. I suppose it all depends on how you look at things, because i’ve had two fairly unique experiences. I’ve spent a month and a half in a psych ward, and i’ve been homeschooled since middle school. I am also dating a boy who thought he wanted to be a girl, but who now identifies as genderless. I’ve lived away from home with around twenty other children, in a writing retreat.
I admit this is more my experiences than who I am, but I can’t really think of any other way to describe myself. When I think of who I am, I think of those things first. You see?
I also used to write a lot of poetry in the past. If you like, I can post that as well. :)
Posted by Sappho on March 28th, 2013 filed in Daily Life, Marriage
Today, I am officially six months past my last chemotherapy treatment. Two weeks ago, I passed the one year anniversary of my cancer diagnosis. My hair is now back, thick and curly, both grayer and otherwise darker than my pre-cancer hair, so that instead of straight medium brown hair with a bit of gray I have curly salt and pepper hair that looks as if it belongs more to the Greek side of the family than the WASP side. My neuropathy has dwindled to occasional prickles on the soles of my feet, and my fatigue lingers only in a need to have eight hours of sleep and not try to skate by with seven and a half, and a tendency to tire after 10pm. I’m able to hold the plank pose for at least the first few rounds of sun salutations. And Joel and I are planning to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary, the one we weren’t sure I’d live to see.
When we married, twenty-five years ago, the Quaker meeting we then attended in Palo Alto, like other Quaker meetings at that time throughout Pacific Yearly Meeting, was trying to reach unity on same-sex marriage. The issue came up at the meeting for business where Ministry and Oversight brought forward their recommendation on our marriage. Most of the meeting favored blessing same-sex marriages, a few didn’t, and one Friend was particularly exercised on the issue. He gave a speech, of which I remember only the word “sodomy” repeated over and over, and the sight of one young gay man, who had recently started attending meeting for worship, bolting from the room. Several people, including Joel, followed him to talk and listen, but that speech was more than he could take. He did not return to meeting for worship.
Twenty-five years later, all Quaker meetings in Pacific Yearly Meeting have been united for decades in being willing to marry couples without regard to their genders (and without regard to whether California, at the time, would legally recognize the marriage). Last First Day, a Friend announced after meeting for worship a demonstration, to coincide with the oral arguments at the Supreme Court, in support of an end to Proposition 8. I imagine similar announcements were made in other liberal churches in the area, such as UU and UCC churches. On Facebook, I am greeted by a sea of red boxes with pink equals signs, announcing support for marriage equality: some from Quaker connections, some from old college friends, one of my husband’s cousins … and the official Facebook account of the California Attorney General. According to the last poll I read, my state, which voted Proposition 8 in back in 2008, now supports same-sex marriage by a margin of 61% in favor, and 32% opposed.
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Posted by Sappho on March 24th, 2013 filed in Blog maintenance
Alexandra will be guest blogging here for a while. Please make her welcome.
Posted by Sappho on March 19th, 2013 filed in Feminism
Dumbest use of pseudo-evolutionary psychology in defense of rape:
Ann Althouse, reasonably, doesn’t find the sentence of the Steubenville rapists unduly severe.
A creepy guy under the pseudonym of “Dante” (because, perhaps, his belong in one of the nether circle of hell) shows up to troll her comments with the argument that it is dreadfully unjust to send rapists to jail, and that the real “criminal” (yes, he uses that word) is the woman, for, apparently, expecting not to be raped. Now, I realize that having creeps argue on the Internet that rape should be legal is an all too common and expected sequel to the event of a prominent rape case actually ending in a conviction. So perhaps you’ll tell me, hey, Lynn, someone’s always Wrong on the Internet. Go to bed and don’t feed the trolls.
But this case of trolling has an added, extra special touch. After several comments arguing his case, “Dante” produces his proof that Men Are That Way, and the legal system is Just Wrong for interfering with testosterone.
As an example, I offer up my experience with my rooster. Normally, I go into the fenced off area, throw down some food pellets on the ground, despite that it takes the chickens more time than eating from the food dispenser. They like to eat this way. The rooster loved this, and grew accustomed to me doing this.
Our remaining hen had managed to escape the fenced in area, and I captured her, put her under my arm, and walked into the enclosed area. I felt a pain in my leg, and realize the rooster was attacking me. I tried my best to express to the rooster that I was vastly superior in power and strength, without hurting him. My efforts including making myself large with my arms, loud with my voice, and indeed it had a momentary effect. That’s it: the rooster came back to fight again, and I realized he would fight to the death for his hen.
That’s how deep these things are. To the death.
If he had offered an example of his rooster actually raping a hen, that would be bad enough. Because humans aren’t roosters, and we can make laws against harming someone, and expect each other to obey such laws, even, if, hypothetically, the thing should be perfectly natural for a rooster to do.
But in fact, it’s worse than that. As “proof” that men are naturally predisposed to be rapists, oughtn’t to be legally expected to restrain themselves, and that, instead, the onus should be on women to never go to parties, never wear anything attractive, and never flirt, but rather stay locked in convents until their fathers arrange suitable marriages for them, “Dante” offers: An example of a rooster prepared to “fight to the death for his hen,” to rescue her from a giant creature capable of wringing any chicken’s neck. In other words, this brave, if futile, effort by a rooster Don Quixote to rescue his hen Dulcinea is exactly the same thing as gang raping a 16-year-old girl and posting photos of the assault to the Internet with the Twitter tag #deadgirl.
Posted by Sappho on March 17th, 2013 filed in Genealogy
The faded photo shows a house in Bowling Green, Kentucky, the home of my great-great-grandmother, Carrie Burnam Taylor. Carrie Burnam Taylor, prominent dressmaker and entrepreneur, started her own company in the 19th century, when few women ran businesses. At least one thesis has been written about her, some of her designs are preserved at Western Kentucky University, and her portrait hangs in the Kentucky Women Remembered exhibit in the Kentucky State Capitol.
Nearly a century after Carrie Burnam Taylor died, her great-great-great-granddaughter, my niece, showed my mother a few sketches of fashion designs of her own. I don’t know if my niece has ever heard of her prominent great-great-great-grandmother, but her own designs, my mother said, showed an unexpected talent.
Has our line of DNA passed some creative spark from one fashion designer to another? Maybe, but at least as likely not. Such gifts seem to me to have at least as much to do with environment and plain old hard work as genetics. Besides, if there was DNA involved, it might just as well have come from my niece’s mother, my Chadian sister-in-law, who knows far more about beauty than most of the family.
I do know this, though. My Jim Crow era great-great-grandmother’s family looks, on the paper trail, as white as can be, even as Northern European as can be, until, in the latter half of the twentieth century, our family breaks that chain and marries every which way. But DNA says otherwise. Carrie Burnam Taylor would have had cousins who look much like my niece, and I’d give her, let’s say, at least 50/50 odds of carrying some non-European DNA herself that joined the family at some time after 1600. For the past few months, I have been on the trail of one of those connections.
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“By the way, a lot of colonial–sounding names are not from your mom’s family,” my DNA cousin L. advises me, “E.g. Z. became Jones, many others married English spouses.”
Razib Khan has remarked on how his mostly South Asian daughter shows mostly Scandinavian matches in Ancestry Finder, because of the European ancestry bias of personal genomics customers. My Ancestry Finder is actually biased towards my father’s side, showing almost twice as much Greece as UK, five other Balkan countries, and not a trace of Germany or Ireland (though I know I have lines that lead to both those countries). (There’s a reason for this; the family on my mother’s side mostly arrived long enough ago for the Ancestry Finder location of all their grandparents to show as “United States,” which gets eliminated from this particular chart unless you ask for it.) But when I hit my Relative Finder, my father’s side, like Khan’s daughter’s South Asian, appears to be swamped in a sea of relatives with Anglo-American names and reports of Northern European ancestry.
L. may be right that some of these are relatives on my Greek side who Anglicized their names. I suspect, though, that perhaps I really do have more maternal relatives than paternal ones on 23andme. There may be two other things going on here. First, in the US at least the genealogy market does seem to skew more Northern European than population as a whole. Second, there’s something called a “founder effect,” where populations that go through a bottleneck will show up as more closely related. The most commonly cited of these is the “Ashkenazi Effect,” but there are also French Canadian and American Colonial founder effects. My mother may be crowding out my father on my Relative Finder because her American Colonial lines give me relatives with longer shared segments than similar cousins on my father’s side.
The sparseness (whether actual or, as L. suggests, perhaps only apparent) is exacerbated by the fact that most of my Balkan cousins, like myself, can’t trace our ancestry back that far. One DNA cousin, like me with ancestors from multiple regions, calls her mother’s side (the Sub-Saharan African/Spanish/Central American Indian/Balkan side) her “black hole of Calcutta.” Her father’s side, like my mother’s, has lines traced back to the 17th century.
There are exceptions, most notably L., the sorceress of Balkan genealogy, with her thousands of photographs, old records, her genealogy book, and her knowledge, far surpassing that of most of the rest of us, of just where to look to ferret out Balkan family relationships. But for those of us with fewer records, DNA offers something similar to what it offers adoptees: the chance to reach beyond our meager paper trail. What has DNA revealed so far about my father’s family?
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