Saturday, June 22, 2013

There is now a great new program at the Foundation Beyond Belief!

Recently I posted about a need in our community and a more specific need for a friend in NC, that are related. My friend Celia, is still in desperate need of rent, food and money to get her power turned back on. She and her son are close to losing their apartment and while there are some potential job opportunities, they will come to late. She needs the power turned back on now and has only a couple of days left to pay rent. She and her son both have autism spectrum disorders and a lot of struggles, as outlined here, at the fundraiser page I put up for her. She is very desperate and unfortunately help is coming just a little too late...

But help for needs such as hers is coming! I have been very frustrated by the need for infrastructure by which secular communities could help our own. By which we might prevent some of us in need, from having to lie to religious organizations, be proselytized at, and/or make dishonest declarations of faith, just to get a little help. Now meet, FBB's Helping Hands:

Foundation Beyond Belief's Helping Hands is meant for individuals needing help in tough times. Our vision for Helping Hands is that secular humanists, atheists, and freethinkers will have a centralized method of reaching out to the movement for help. Natural disasters and crises are obvious reasons to need aid, but not the only reasons. People who have suffered a serious illness or injury, loss of residence, unemployment, and other negative life events might also need a helping hand. People may nominate themselves or others for aid from Foundation Beyond Belief's Beyond Belief Network and Humanist Giving members. FBB will promote the specific needs of worthy applicants. We will also attempt to put recipients in contact with local freethought or charitable organizations in their area that can help further.

Now there is more that I think we need to work out, but this is a brilliant starting point. I can't begin to express how excited I am to see it. I am not just excited because this will afford an important opportunity for non-theists, skeptics and freethinkers to get help without religious strings attached, but because this will afford non-theists, skeptics and freethinkers who want to help out our own. We need to be able to do that, be able to fulfill a need that only we can reasonably manage - that we should be managing. With that said then, what more is needed?

I'm going on five years now, since I lost the roof over my family's heads. For some time I was very seriously considering taking my own life, because the social security benefits would be an important contribution to my children's lives. I wasn't sure what else I could do for them and I had just failed them utterly. I was quite seriously weighing the benefits of me being alive, versus my children having that financial aid. My children's mother was making similar considerations. We actually discussed at one point, whether it might be good for one of us to commit suicide and if so, which of us. That is how very desperate we were, how desperate I was. I actually asked my parents if they would take my boys, really not sure what I would do.

When you are desperate enough to start considering suicide for the pittance your children would receive every month from the state, it is virtually impossible to explore what options might be available to you. There are a remarkable number of resources out there, enough so that not even social service organizations that try to compile lists of local resources are generally able to find them all. I know this because as the mentally ill only parent of mentally ill children, I am actively seeking what is available to help us. I get compiled lists on a frequent basis, not just for myself, but because I come into contact with a lot of families that need help and it is nice to know what is out there - whether for me and/or the boys, or for someone else. There are a lot of places to seek help, a lot of venues that offer aid of various sorts. But of course all of them have limited resources. And state aid can be cumbersome and complicated to obtain - or even to learn if you are qualified for.

We need to help those of us who are in crisis, to find out what helps we qualify for and to obtain it. When you are not sure you will have a home next week - or tomorrow, when you literally don't know where your next meal is coming from, when you are contemplating ending your life - or worse, your brain is not only not functioning at it's best, you are operating under serious deficits. You need to be at your best and could hardly be any worse. There might well be services available, help available from sources unplumbed. It would be extremely useful were we to offer help in finding out what help is available, not just from the secular community, but from their local community and even the state. This is something that local secular groups might help out with, but it is something that anyone with the internet and a telephone could manage from anywhere in the country of the person needing help.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Bringing our communities together to help someone in need, throwing a larger need into sharp relief

Update - See this post for new information.

Living in poverty, I have frequently been in need of help. Indeed my children and I receive assistance from the state in the form of food stamps and medicaid. And at a time of especial need, people in our secular communities came together to help me. But then, I have the privilege of having family and friends with rather expansive voices in our communities. Obviously there are rather a lot of us who don't have my privilege.

Celia is one such person. She and her son both have autism spectrum disorders. She views the world through a very different lens than most people and because of that is rather strange. Because of this she has felt less than welcome in our secular communities. She doesn't feel she fits in and I can understand that, because I have experienced much the same thing. If my experience in our secular communities was limited to some of my first impressions, I would feel rather alienated. Because of my mental illness, I too view the world through a lens that is very different than most. But then I dug deeper, made more connections - in large part because I know people who are prominent voices in our communities, including my brother Ed Brayton.

Celia doesn't have those connections and she is in desperate need. From the fundraiser I started for her:

Celia is an awesome woman with a goofy, wonderful son, both of whom have autism spectrum disorders. She has struggled a great deal of her adult life to maintain a reasonable living situation for herself and since he was born, her rather silly son. Unfortunately she hit a major bump in the road that started when a combination of her and her son getting sick and her car breaking down rather cut into school and work. She lost her financial aid, her job and her best means for finding a job in a town with limited public transportation. 

She almost lost her apartment and power last month. Now the situation is even more dire. She has no food, no power and ten days to come up with *this* months rent. Her son is staying elsewhere, but she is stuck in a house with no power and a whole lot of worries. She is in desperate need and has talked of very a very permanent solution to her problems. It is *that* dire.

I have never met Celia or her son in person and, unfortunately, probably never will. Her son sounds very much like the sort of kid I would love to hang out with and whom my boys would love to befriend. I really don't want him to have to grow up without a mom - a mom who loves him, takes excellent care of him and who understands his life experience better than anyone else possibly can. And frankly, I really appreciate her friendship myself. 

Celia has never had a great deal of luck, finding a place in the various secular communities in which most of us have found friends and even new families. She is quirky and different, viewing the world through a lens that differs rather radically from most. It frustrates me that she hasn't enjoyed more of a welcome and I want to see that change. She desperately needs our help and I want to show her that when we're in need, our communities will come together and help each other out, even if those of us who need help are rather odd.

But Celia's need is far from unique. There are a lot of us who are stuck in the periphery, effectively alone. There are many of us who feel left behind by communities that are focused in many directions, but not on the needs of those who make up these communities - or those who should make up our communities. I know from personal experience that it isn't due to a lack of desire to help. I have seen our communities come together repeatedly to help our own. It is time to step up and make it happen on a much larger scale. We lack the infrastructure to offer emergency aid for meeting the basic needs of non-theists who hit hard times.

I aim to see that change.

I hope that as we are able to develop such an infrastructure, our communities will come together and make this happen. We need to care for our own. It makes me feel ill, to think about people begging religious organizations for basic needs. It is so much worse to consider how many of them are forced to pretend some show of faith, just to keep the power on, cover their rent - get away from an abusive partner. We can bloody well do better than that and I have ever confidence that we will.

Meanwhile Celia is in desperate need. Please visit her fundraiser page and either make a contribution, or help us promote her fundraiser. Together I know that we can save her family and I know we can fulfill a greater need as well.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Please help this woman out.

Please do something more than just signing the petition. This is incredibly time critical. Take a few extra minutes to call the CEO of Ocwen, the new owner of Jacquline Barber's loan. They are refusing to honor the agreement made by Ally Bank, which was achieved by a previous petition. She is set to be evicted today, so please call immediately. Jacqueline was disabled on the job, a 20 year veteran of the Atlanta PD. She is currently battling cancer and was only recently released from the hospital after procedure on her back. This former police detective was the victim of predatory lending and desperately needs our help.

I know that I post a lot of petitions. The reason I do that is because the issues are important and such petitions are extremely effective - a few seconds of clicking and you are making a real difference. Today I am asking for just a little bit more. Not a lot though. A few minutes of your time, in the hopes that we can make a difference for this woman who lost significant function, while serving and protecting the people of Atlanta. The loss of her home would not only put her, her daughter, and four grandchildren on the streets, it would also accelerate her cancer.

Please, call Ocwen CEO Ronald Faris at 561-682-8560 and tell him to make a deal she can manage, or even to fulfill the agreement made before Ocwen acquired her loan. A few minutes of your day could make the difference between life and death for Jacqueline and homelessness for her daughter and grandchildren.

Sample Script: “Hi, my name is _________ and I'm calling on behalf of Jacquline Barber at 160 Stearman Road in Fayetteville, GA 30214. I understand that Ocwen aquired GMAC in February and will not honor the negotiations that have kept Jacqueline and her family in her home to this point as she undergoes chemotherapy. I demand that you offer Jacqueline and her family a deal they can afford to keep them in their home, and relieve Jacqueline of the stress of eviction while she bravely fights bone cancer.

Monday, April 22, 2013

We could really use a hand about now...

So I hate that my first post in a long time, a very long time indeed at this location, being a request for help. But we need help rather badly right now. We have been in financial difficulties for some time now, but while we have insurance that will cover our medical expenses from Dave being in the hospital, our financial problems are becoming acute. There will be expenses related to Dave's recovery and extraneous expenses are coming due over the next few weeks that I can't cover, not the least being a need for repairs to keep our van on the road. I'm not big on asking for help, but I'm really not sure what else to do.

I am a student, trying to finish my undergrad and get on towards a PhD in neuropsychology. I am also an only parent of an 11 and a 5 year old boys. All three of us are being treated for mental illness and it is a constant struggle to keep moving forward. Recently David, my five year old had surgery that removed a portion of his bowel. There were complications and as such, I have spent most of the last nine days and counting in the hospital.

I really don't want anything from anyone who can't rightly afford to help. But if you happen to be in a position to do so, we could really use some help about now.

And I am going to be getting back to some blogging shortly. I am not sure if I will be blogging here at all. I will definitely be blogging at a group blog about issues of sex and culture and possibly at another group blog. 

Monday, August 9, 2010

If only I had an extra seven grand to toss about

I would have the best computer ever...

I will have some discussion about the boys - including an hour stuck at a rest area in the middle of nowhere, while I disassembled my steering column to start the van later.  I will also post about ignorant fucking morons and the implications of a paper (PDF) that shockingly reveals that the metric to test whether employment screens are biased, turns out to be fatally flawed. But first, a bit of my fantasy life. 

It would start with this, set into this.  It would have two sets of these, cooled by this.  It would also contain one of these and six of these.  It's primary drives, would be two of these though.  It would live right here in this pretty case, assuming I can make the stupid blue light go away.  It would use this power supply.  It would be controlled with this mouse and keyboard set, though sometimes might be controlled by a handy little remote keyboard with trackball.  I would use this lovely thing for a monitor, while also piping a split to the tee vee in the living room - which, since we are dreaming, is a sixty some inch flat panel, hidden behind bookshelves on sliders most of the time (thus the need for the wee remote keyboard).  I would use these speakers in my home office, but would totally go with Bose in the living room.  I honestly don't see a need for optical drives, since with twelve TB of storage and the ability to use this desktop as a server, I am not sure what the point would be. 

I would, however, need one of these, these and this + a hell of a badass internets connection.

We won't even begin to talk about my five odd thousand dollar laptop.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Youth, men and sexual being

I would just remind people reading this on blogger, that I am not going to be cross-posting here much longer.  My new address is over here and if you leave a comment, that is where they will be responded to.

Stephanie posted an interesting piece at Quiche Moraine about "safe" boys and a state of sexual being.  Suffice to say that this post generated a lot of discussion, some of which exposed some confusion and frustration - if not a lot of gratitude as well.  Then she turned around and posted a gender reading list on her personal blog - which included me.  I would like to address some issues that came up in the discussion at QM in a little more detail, though I highly recommend the post - if you have yet to read it and the discussion that follows.

Of particular interest to me, were some comments by becca, that I think really encapsulate a rather significant problem with this sort of discussion:
I get that it’s very hard for men without many communication skills, or strong interpersonal skills to learn to say this kind of thing. I get why it might be difficult for them to *communicate* how they want to define the parameters of relationships. I just don’t get how “safehood” is having their power to define the relationships stripped from them. Why aren’t such communication-challenged men equally unable to ask for a certain type of relationship before being classified as “safe”?
This is a problem when a conversation about men and archetypal male gender constructs comes up with a crowd like this one.  There is an assumption on the part of many women, that their experience with men is representative, that they understand men better than they do and ultimately that men should just suck it the fuck up and deal with the problem.  I am not singling becca out for any other reason than I am a little bit familiar with her from previous discussions and I know that she won't get particularly annoyed with me for doing so.  Suffice to say that there were several people over there making much the same points, some of whom encapsulated all three of the problems I listed rather better than becca did.

First of all, when dealing with women like becca, who have a father who is atypical, there is going to be more than average selection bias going on.  IIRC, her dad was largely stay at home and heavily engaged in her homeschooling experience.  He also seems, by her few accounts, more than a little comfortable in his skin.  If that weren't the excuse, there are many others - if nothing else, rather intellectual women (at least that I have noticed) tend to go for rather intellectual men. Often enough, dare I say, rather nerdy and/or geeky guys.  This is a rather delicious irony to the discussion about "safe" men - when those nerd boys grow up, they are often rather more emotionally mature than men in general.

For whatever reasons, women who are likely to get involved in a discussion like that one, are far more likely to have a partner who has certain, specific characteristics - such as not being a testosterone driven jackass.  They are more likely to spend time with guys who are more thoughtful and introspective.  Not just in their romantic endeavors (assuming they are into guys), but in their platonic relationships as well.  So this conversation is confusing for some of them - especially if they are partnered to a nerdy, geeky guy.

But that doesn't explain it all.  There is also the problem of really not seeing what there actually is to see.  For those of us who grew up in Western culture, especially in the U.S., there is a lot that we miss because we are inundated with it, surrounded by it.  Archetypal gender constructs are still alive and well and pervasive in the West.  That isn't to say that there haven't been improvements - there absolutely have.  But we are what we are and we are acculturated in our given culture.

Even those of us who are introspective and thoughtful are fucked up.  Men who are acculturated in the West, especially in the U.S., have certain, specific emotional deficits.  While maturation generally helps, nothing can erase a lifetime of these gender constructs and pervasive, continuing bombardment of them.  Some of us are generally decent guys in many regards, others of us try our damnedest but are not quite as decent - most of us just kind of suck.  But not a single one of us has the ability to understand, much less discuss our emotions all that well.

This is, of course, made exponentially worse by the common assumption on the part of most men, that women are absolute emotional geniuses who are perfectly comfortable understanding and discussing their emotions with a friend.  And if a friend isn't available, well, there is always some woman somewhere, to talk to - maybe in a public bathroom or something.  The reality is that women are moderately better at this than men, but that is relative to men who mostly range from complete incompetence, to bumbling ineptitude.  That doesn't mean that women aren't pretty fucked up too.

The final problem here, is the assumption that even  a relatively confident, emotionally intelligent guy - even one steeped in interpersonal communications, is capable of really expressing what they really want.  Again, this is something that women aren't perfect at - it is just relative to the seriously fucked up problems  many men have with communication.  This doesn't even address the problems with communicating feelings we barely have a grasp of, this tendency to only "feel" those emotions that are most intense.  This is also more relevant to romantic interests - unrequited and otherwise.

We are, as a general rule, not very good at communicating what we actually want, because for the most part we're not really sure.  Even when we have a pretty good idea, often we try to figure out what that person of interest wants and do our best to fulfill that instead.  Unless of course, we want sex and pretty much just sex.  Not that we're generally grand at that either, we're just usually rather obvious.  But when it comes to developing a serious relationship with a significant other, we really suck at even necessarily knowing what we want, much less how to communicate it.

This relates rather closely with our inability to functionally manage our feelings.  I remember years and years ago, as a rather young teen, I was about to make out with a girl I had recently met.  I really liked this girl, having just lost a debate round to her.  Both her partner and mine really sucked and we would have been evenly matched, except that she busted out with a totally unexpected argument that flustered me both because it was brilliant and because I suddenly found her very attractive.  About two hours after meeting her, we were in her hotel room and the person she was sharing a room with had just left.  She laid down on the bed and like a complete moron, I accidentally told her "I love you."

She of course got pissed, thinking I was completely lying to get what was rather obviously already coming.  The problem was, I was thinking that - not that I really loved her, just that I was really blown away by her.  But this is rather par for the course with men - especially when we are boys.  I had a pretty good idea that I wasn't in love with her, though I definitely had a major crush going.  I definitely knew better than to tell her that I loved her.  I had no idea really, what I was feeling and instead of telling her that I really thought her argument was rather sexy - which was what I had meant to say, I completely and humiliatingly flummoxed it completely.

Fast forward about five or six years, when I have been traveling for a while and had more than a little bit of experience with sex and exploring my sexuality under my belt.  I was falling in love on a regular basis, sometimes rather more intensely than others, never for very long.  I was still having a lot of trouble really understanding my emotions, though thankfully experience had taught me that I was unlikely to remain in love and I was rather upfront about my actual interest - generally sex and friendship.  That was, however, generally a lie - at least from my point of view early on.  I was desperately in love and would always be in love, at least for the next several hours - maybe a month or so.

Keep in mind that I was very introspective by this point in my life.  I had spent several years rather desperately wanting to die, which later settled into a feeling that while I didn't want to die persay, I would be rather pleased when I finally did.  I had created an entire version of reality for myself when I was nine or ten, to stop me from wanting to die so badly and to slow down my brain (though I didn't understand that at the time).  It was intricate and wonderful, until it completely shattered and I focused ever inward.  Focused on my emotions and my feelings and the developing DuWayne - who was starting to really get enthusiastic about sex and drugs.

I became huge on LSD, because rather than masking my emotions, it intensified them. It fucked things about in such a way that I could actually feel things that weren't intense - though I did tend towards rather a lot of anger.  Anger that I dulled with rather copious amounts of cannabis and alcohol - but that is another story altogether.  What I am getting at, is that in a lot of ways, I was very aware of my emotions.  Aware enough that I could be reasonably honest with women, even though what I actually felt contradicted me.  And I was reasonably self-aware - though I missed an entire line of feeling, in a fit of what can only be described as extreme denial.

Yet self-aware and emotionally aware as I was, I managed to end up in a really badly matched relationship for nearly ten years.

And as aware as I am now, I managed to rather seriously fuck up and hurt my partner - with whom I have the healthiest relationship I have ever experienced.  I am not alone in this.  While there are certainly men out there who are more emotionally competent than I am (many, many men), most are considerably worse.  Those who are considerably less fucked up than I, are less fucked up by a matter of degree.  They have generally bumbled through brutalizing incompetence to get there - often being scarred by bullshit as well, such as being labeled nonsexual "safe."

Saturday, July 31, 2010

My brain hurts, but we made it

I love the video screen and player.  Youngest was fucking perfectly behaved and Eldest actually spent well over half the drive up front, talking to me.  About the only downside, was that we spent roughly five and a half hours, watching about an  hour and a half of Dinosaur Train - or in the case of Eldest and me, listening to it.  We also spent about 60 miles of highway 127 in Ohio, arguing about whether we had gone this way ever before - which until today, the boys had never gone.

We are here, we just read Edward Fudwupper Fibbed Big and some Curious George.  And now Youngest has decided to play with his damnable dog, instead of sleeping.  Never mind getting up an hour early this morning and not getting a nap, he is just not big on sleep.

He has now started trying to sing along with the goodnight music, Mike Oldfield's Songs of Distant Earth.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The insanity that is DuWayne...Or "Superpapa"

I would just remind people reading this on blogger, that I am not going to be cross-posting here much longer.  My new address is over here and if you leave a comment, that is where they will be responded to.

I have now managed to get the flip down monitor installed and discovered that for the MP4s to play, I need to have them on a CD or DVD - for some reason they don't want to play off of USB.  Of course the reason I discovered that, was because the first couple of discs I had burnt wouldn't play.  So the discs wouldn't play, then I couldn't get them to play off the USB - I was starting to think that I would have to bring regular DVDs, of which there are few and sucky.  Then, in a fit of determination, I decided to try putting some on CD, to see if that might work.

Moments later, I felt like a complete and utter fucking moron.  When I had burned the first few discs, I had burned them in a "USB" format, rather than the format that makes it more likely it will play on other shit.  So now I am in business.  We have some Scooby Doo, some Diego, some Dinosaur train, some Wallace and Grommit and some Ben Ten Alien Force.  We also have almost the entire Walking With series - including Sea Monsters, and Cave Men.  We don't have the bit with the jackass who "goes back in time" though, because eldest thinks he's a lying idiot who thinks kids must be stupid.  We also have Sarah Jane Adventures and Roman Mysteries and some random documentaries.

So tomorrow I will drive ten hours down to Knoxville and then Saturday, I will drive back up here with the eight year old and the two year old.  And I will be making this run all by myself - with a little help from the kick-ass DVD, CD, mp3, mwa, mp4 player that I installed several weeks ago and the flip down monitor that I, unfortunately, put off until yesterday...Because I'm insane.  And because I was/am very busy with school and being depressed (though the latter does seem to be getting better).

Did I mention that I am going to be spending ten+ hours in a vehicle with an eight year old and a two year old?  Without another adult?  Fuck.

This is kind of my practice run for when we come to visit grandpa and grandma, after I move down there.  And then for the Big Drive, when we actually head back out to Portland.  But this is also going to be very, very interesting - as in a "living in interesting times" sort of interesting.  On the upside, I have slipped in some baby brother stuff, which should lure eight year old up front with me, where we can talk.  I don't think I am going to try to push the important discussion on him, though I might.  But it will be nice to have some time to talk, while Youngest watches Dino Train.  While in theory, Eldest doesn't like Diego, in practice he doesn't grumble while it is actually on. 

The other problem, is that I am sure that Eldest is going to insist on watching some Sarah Jane Adventures - he was pretty adamant that I burn some to disc for the trip.  This is really going to suck, as it will totally put me out of sync with what's going on, as I haven't been watching ahead of where Eldest is at.  Worse, I will be able to hear it and not see it.  While the latter is a very good thing, as I will be driving, the former is going to suck donkey balls.  Maybe I'll just tell him the discs didn't work for that one...

The science of the social sciences

I would just remind people reading this on blogger, that I am not going to be cross-posting here much longer.  My new address is over here and if you leave a comment, that is where they will be responded to.

There have been some discussions the past few days or so, about just how scientific the social sciences are. There was this discussion at Uncertain Principles, about psychology and the limitations of psychology studies. And there was this discussion at the Lousy Canuckistanian, about whether or not economics is really a science. The former discussion led to some rather strong hating on psychology in the comments, while the latter was infested by a pretentious fucking asshole who dismisses the social sciences as pseudoscience.

I am going to focus this on psychology and basically just post my response to the thread on Uncertain Principles, because that is my field and because for the moment I really don't have time to write a long post about this.  This can be easily generalized to the other social sciences.

I will just add up front, that one of the biggest problems with the social sciences, even more than the fact that people actually make real world decisions based on imperfect studies, is science journalism.  While not all science journalists are shit, Dirk Hanson is a fucking brilliant example of a good science writer, most of them are.  Those reporting on the social sciences aren't any different.  They misinterpret studies all the time.  They tout the results of extremely limited preliminary studies as though they can be generalized.  They fuck up our work, just like they fuck up everyone else's.  That isn't the fault of social science PI's or the various social sciences themselves, anymore than it is the fault of bio-med PI's or the bio-med fields who routinely get horribly misrepresented in the media.

Psychology has a long tradition of largely being a cult of personalities. While to some degree that is still the case, the personalities are the folks who really turned psychology into a hard science. And their results are constantly being challenged or pushed to the limits, to find the breaking points.

Every single psychology class I have taken now, has focused as much on science and the methods of science, as it has on the specific science we're talking about. And I have barely begun scratching the surface. Nor is my experience in the least bit unique, this is how psychology is being taught, because that is what psychologists do - science.

And there are a lot of us who are particularly keen on generalizing outside of Western undergrad populations. That is largely why I am focusing on evo-psych, which will (for me) mostly involve cross-cultural work that will focus on Eastern European and Asian populations (I hope and assuming my brain doesn't explode while learning Russian).

But even where we are seriously limited by biases, there is a lot of solid science being done. While a lot of studies use relatively small sample sizes, they are replicated several times over. It is kind of hard to conduct studies with massive sample sizes, when you have to invest several man hours into each subject. So you use the sample that is feasible and if the results are promising, you replicate it - along with several other investigators.

It is really, really irritating to listen to (or in this case read) people who have little to no clue what is actually happening, expound on the junkiness of the science. The human brain and all the influences on human behavior are exceedingly complicated. Kind of like physics is complicated, or genetics is complicated or cosmology is complicated. Like the science being done in those fields, we break things down as much as is feasible and investigate each bit as best we can. As we reach verifiable, quantifiable conclusions, they become part of the larger picture that is "what we know," or more accurately is, "what we are pretty sure we know."
For psychology, it is complicated by the same major problem that medicine has to deal with - we need to treat real human beings with the best tools we have, regardless of what we actually know. We don't have the luxury of perfecting anything, before we try to help people. There are people who need help, regardless of how well prepared we are.

So we muddle along, because someone who's anorexic, isn't likely to live long enough for us to perfect their treatment. Someone who has absolutely no control over their drinking, their snorting, their smoking or their shooting, doesn't have the luxury of waiting until we're sure we have it down. Especially as addiction has a hell of a lot of causes. Like cancer, we're talking about an array of illnesses - not some singular entity. And that is exactly the case for a great many mental illnesses, as we have been learning through cognitive studies and neurological studies.

But we are most certainly not engaged in pseudoscience. If you honestly want to use that word, then you need to figure out what the hell you're actually talking about beforehand.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Problems with parenting from a distance

I would just remind people reading this on blogger, that I am not going to be cross-posting here much longer.  My new address is over here and if you leave a comment, that is where they will be responded to.

With a great deal of excitement, I am trying to finish up as much of my classwork as I can and get everything ready to go pick up the boys this weekend.  I will only have them for a week and unfortunately it is the week that ends the summer semester, but that is just how it goes.  I have to honestly say though, that I am really not looking forward to having a rather complicated discussion with eldest.

This is not because the conversation is overly intimidating.  While it is a little bit, that doesn't bother me, especially as I have a pretty solid grasp on how such a conversation should go.  What is less than thrilling about it, is that the timing is off.  Eldest has recently been having a lot of emotional difficulties lately - has actually been having them for a while, but more recently they have become rather more frequent and have been coming at a point where he is more cognizant of them.

Unfortunately, he is also very confused by them.  Take a discussion we had a couple weeks ago:

Me:  How are you doing today?

Eldest: I'm having a bad day papa.

Me: Are you feeling sick?

Eldest: No, I don't think I feel sick.

Me:  Did you get in trouble this morning?

Eldest: No, I'm just really upset right now.

Me: What are you upset about?

Eldest:  Nothing really, I'm just upset.

Me: Are you angry upset, or sad upset?

Eldest: I forgot.

Me: Are you feeling better now then?

Eldest: No, I'm still really upset, I just don't remember if I'm mad or sad.

That was pretty much that discussion, because he had to get ready to do something with momma and youngest.  And it was most definitely not a satisfactory discussion.  Even had we been able to continue, it is really hard to discuss emotions over the phone like that.  It's hard enough with adults who, for example, might call a crisis hotline.  It is really hard when the person you are talking to is eight years old.  It's hard for him, because he needs that responsive body language and because he's talking to his dad, it is a lot easier if there is physical contact.  And it is hard for me, because without seeing his responsive body language, I am entirely dependent on his words to break it down.  Definitely not the ideal.

Of course the other problem, is that he doesn't want to spend what time he has talking to me, talking about being upset.  He wants to hear how I am doing, how school is going and what I am working on.  He wants to tell me about what he is doing, or just did, or what new and exciting invention he really wants to make.  He wants me to read to him or tell him a story about when I was an eight year old - or a story about when he was a baby.  He wants me to explain something to him, that he is wondering about - wishing, if looking it up is necessary, that he could snuggle up to me and look it up with me.

The problem with having this conversation this next week, is that it is unlikely to happen when he is actually feeling upset.  He is barely able to contain his excitement when we talk on the phone at this point.  He is very unlikely to have any significant episodes of being upset, at least not early in the week.  And later, when he is feeling upset, knowing he will have to go back to TN before very long, he is not going to have any confusion about sad or mad.  When there is a palpable, concrete reason for him to be upset, he has no problem distinguishing - mainly because context makes it pretty clear.  So that won't help us in the context of having this discussion.

That is the crux of the problem.  These are conversations that really need to happen in the moment.  It is a lot like punishing a child for misbehavior, several hours after they misbehave.  It is pretty ineffectual and takes a lot of work to make it work.  Even then there are no guarantees.  About the only thing that I have going for me here, is that eldest has been talking about this issue with his therapist.  So we will have at least something to work from, tenuous as that will be.  But any which way we look at it, it is not going to be easy to deal with.  While I am no stranger to having complicated and difficult discussions with eldest, until he was taken 600 miles away, I was always able to deal with complicated discussions at, or close to the time they were relevant. 

This is important and it is coming at a time when I am not in the best form for dealing with it.  As eldest has grown, he has been inexorably moving away from being quite the momma's boy he once was, to increasingly looking to me for certain types of support.  That isn't to say that he is ignoring his mother altogether, just that he seems to be thinking that a lot of problems should be dealt with by me.  While I doubt he will ever be focused on gender the way most boys were when I was growing up, he has definitely become increasingly aware of it - and increasingly focused on me for emotional support and for understanding his emotions.

Ironically, I have been dealing with a severe bout of depression (when overall, life is actually pretty fucking good) and a new medication and don't have the best grasp on my own emotional content at the moment.  But that doesn't matter in the scheme of things, because kids can't wait for their parents to be ready to help them face their problems.  They need us when they need us - and that is that.  That is also probably why we fuck up so often, we don't have the luxury of waiting until we've got it all figured out, or we're feeling up to the task.  Thankfully, unless we really try, most kids are resilient enough to survive our fuckups and work it out in the end.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Ethics of the Animal Rights Movement, Part One

I am now heavy into the research for my paper on the AR extremist movement and can't help but be very concerned and saddened by what I am finding.  At the moment, I am still rather stunned.  I actually had to take a break, because this just really blew me away.  A young man with a history of mental illness and suicide attempts, doused himself with gasoline and set fire to himself, outside a Portland, OR fur store, this past January.  It is clear from what I could gather that this young man wanted to die for what are likely many reasons.  There is no question that his suicide was not primarily motivated by his animal rights beliefs.

Yet the ALF pressoffice includes his story in their media links.  It can also be found on some other sites around the webs.  But what the local AR extremists did on the heels of this sad affair is unconscionable.  The following is an email received by KATU, channel 2 in Portland;
The Portland Anti Fur Campaign was just alerted to the action outside Nicholas Ungar Furs earlier today [Wednesday].

We do not know who this person was nor do we know what his intentions were. If his intentions were to raise awareness of unnecessary animal suffering and killing done in the fur industry, and by businesses like Ungar Furs, then we wish him well.

We are not saying that we want people to light themselves on fire and run into fur shops, but we do understand that sometimes you have to make noise and make a scene to stand up for the animals. It is really unfortunate that one would feel as if they must take such drastic measures, yet, this Fur Store has continued their bloody business despite protests outside for 3 years now.

If the person's motivation was to bring media attention to the issue, they obviously achieved their goal.

Raise your fist, and your voice, Fox and Mink have no Choice!
 Any sane organization would have, if anything, soundly condemned Daniel Shaull's suicide as being tragically misguided.  Were the ALF press office sane, rather than throwing this into the mix without comment, they would have made it clear that anyone feeling the urge to commit an act such as this should seek help.  But these are not sane people.  Not by any stretch of the imagination.  The following is the introduction to this video of Steven Best, that I have linked to before:
There's a new civil war unfolding in this country, a new civil war. And it's a war that's unfolding about and around the politics of nature. And on one side, there are people who are exploiting the earth, and who are destroying the lives of animals by the billions. And they are prepared to defend their interest, their alleged rights. On the other side, are people like us and our fellow activists. People who are willing to escalate the struggle, to whatever extent is necessary. And when there is a war, as a war is brewing now about the politics of nature, that means the gloves are coming off.
There is also this essay by Best:
Realizing that nonviolence against animal exploiters in fact is a pro-violence stance that tolerates their blood-spilling without taking adequate measures to stop it, a new breed of freedom fighters has ditched Gandhi for Machiavelli and switched principled nonviolence with the amoral (not to be confused with immoral) pragmatism that embraces animal liberation “by any means necessary.
Or at the last link Best quotes a Communiqué from the Revolutionary Cells Animal Liberation Brigade after the 2003 bombings of Chiron and Shaklee Corporations:
We have given all of the collaborators a chance to withdraw from their relations [with Huntingdon Life Sciences]. We will now be doubling the size of every device we make. Today it is 10 lbs, tomorrow 20....until your buildings are nothing more than rubble. It is time for this war to truly have two sides. No more will all of the killing be done by the oppressors, now the oppressed will strike back. We will be non-violent when these people are non-violent to the animal nations.
What is very important to recognize here, is that while there is insanity in the movement, these people aren't stupid. Nor are these people any different than extremists and terrorists who kill in the name of a god.  The only reason that people have yet to be killed, is because of the fortitude of the young men and women who listen to Steven Best and his ilk and commit terrorist acts.  But how long is that going to last, with Best, Vlasac and a host of activists ramping up the rhetoric of escalation?

Monday, July 26, 2010

I am moving this blog - and recruiting bloggers

I will continue to post here for the time being, but posts here will be crossposted to my new address, on my own domain - here.  I am both interested in using WordPress, because it seems a bit more versatile and more importantly, because I am going to be using it as the mainpage for the addiction site and forum I am setting up.  It turns out that WP also offers a forum platform that integrates and the WP platform is just about perfect for an easy to manage main page.

I want to move to my own domain, on the other hand, because - well first off, because I have the fucking thing and might as well use it.  I am also moving over there, because I would like to see if I can convince some other sporadic bloggers - or people who don't blog at all, to wander over there as well.  WP makes it very easy to set up an aggregator main blog that will post everything - or select posts, from all the blogs you want it to.  I would like to create a aggregator for other people who primarily write about cultural issues, psychology, sociology, anthropology - who just don't post all that often.  That listing would include social issue as well - religion, sexuality (non-porn) - there is a lot of room to work here.

I will warn that I am not going to be spending much time fucking around with this.  I intend to set it up - possibly with help, though WP makes things pretty damned easy - add blogs when they come up and let it be.  I may throw adsense or somesuch nonsense, I am not really sure.  I won't require or disallow ads on the blogs who choose to join - I really don't care.  I also don't expect anyone to restrict their blogging to a given topic.  I may not even stick very firmly to the theme at all - we'll just have to see.  I don't care whether or not bloggers who might join agree with me on much of anything - there will always be disagreement somewhere.

About the only thing I might do, if it is an issue that discourages people, is to try to keep profanity off the aggregator blog.  Comments will not be posted on the aggregator - if posts are set below a fold, clicking on it will take the reader to that blog - so will clicking on comments.  There will probably be a feed of comments from all the blogs, there will definitely be an all inclusive archival listing.  The idea is not to keep readers stuck on the aggregator, it is to direct the traffic to individual blogs from there.

I would note that I am very keen on encouraging people who are prolific commenters, people who really should have their own blogs, to join.  Seriously.  It is really easy to set up a WP blog - all you need to do is email me with a name - or the desire for a name.  I will cut you in a URL on my domain with a basic WP body and give you the generic username and password, that you can change at your leisure.  It takes mere minutes and you can be up and running.

Moving a blog over there is also really easy.  I can do the same as above, adding a plugin to transfer your blog.  All you do then, is input your URL, username and password.  Depending on the amount to be transferred, you should be all moved over in five, to fifteen minutes.

On the very off chance that there is some sort of overwhelming response to this, I need to be clear that I have limited time and will probably end up taking some time to get to it all - or I may seek someone to give me a hand getting it all together.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

What I love about Keats

When I first left home and went on the road, one of the few books I took with me that actually stayed with me for an extended period, was a book of romance poets.  Not just a book of poetry, but one that included correspondence.  I am not sure what made me fall in love with this beaten young poet more, his poetry or his letters.

Then I was given a biography of Keats.

I wondered sometimes, if I would survive to see 26.  I also wondered that the youngest of the Romance poets was the youngest to die, having achieved immortality at such a young age.  An immortality that I desperately wanted, almost as much a I wanted to die.  Not that I really understood then, just how much I wanted to die.  It didn't even occur to me that I was suicidal, when I made such suicidal moves as pounding down a couple of fifths and other random booze, in little more than an hour.  Or that given the opportunity, I would do things like increasing my dosage of acid on a daily basis, for as much as 40 odd days - hitchhiking up to the end.

I fell in love with Keats, because I fell in love with words and the impact that words could have on others.  At poetry slams, I could stumble up to the stage and make everyone roll with laughter, if I wanted.  Or drunk as can be, I could invoke intense sorrow - me nineteen and much of the crowd twice my years.  All I had to do was open my mouth and let them flow, I never needed to read, because I just let it fly.  Fleeting, temporary arrangements of words - enjoyed, then forgotten.  I would throw myself out there, naked (occasionally literally), selfless - giving all that I had, because I was desperate for that intimate contact, me and that hundred or so people, every one of them my lover for those fleeting moments of rampant exhibitionism.

I fell in love with Keats, because I wanted to be Keats - I wanted to evoke contradictory emotions and incompatible imagery and make it all work.  I wanted to see them slam into each other in a frenzied abandoned, fucking for all their worth, or sometimes bring them together in measured, even lovemaking.  I wanted to express my awe at the beauty of my world and my fellow humans, while also striking out in rage - to express my passionate, naive love and brutal hatred.  I saw the world, see the world, much like Keats did, appreciating the often excruciating beauty - at the same time, robed in sorrow and anger at the complete and utter fucking stupidity.

I fell in love with Keats, because sometimes I could almost see him at the end.  See him literally hacking up his lungs, his sheets covered in blood.  See him dying in rage and sorrow and finally deciding to end it.  I would inhabit the body of Joseph Severn and tenderly care for my dear, dying friend - sometimes I would be Keats himself, especially when I was sick.  But mostly I wished I could care for him, wished I could have been a part of those times - much like I wish sometimes, I could have been a part of the Chelsea hotel set.  Except that was before free form verse was even heard of, and I don't think I could live without my freeform verse.

Rhyme and meter is for music.

I fell in love with Keats, because even within the strictures of poetry of the day, he was a remarkable wordsmith.  A man who could write about anything and make it beautiful - even nearly two centuries later.  A man who, though his name was writ on water, has been a very dear friend to me and who will probably be making friends two more centuries along.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Hmmm...Not sure about all this now...

Things are definitely not going well for me at the moment.  I feel like crap and the new meds are making it rather worse, though I am definitely going to give them more time.  Now I am depressed and feeling rather ill.  Having an even worse time focusing on the ginormous paper and not really wanting to be out of bed. 

Not that I was doing all that grandly before.

I am also considering moving my blog to my own domain and using wordpress - though apparently wordpress also has the problem of holding spaces at the beginning of lines.  But still - I am getting rather irritated with blogger.  I don't know, I will just have to see.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Random Poetry: Keats

Ode To A Nightengale

MY heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,
Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains
One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk:
'Tis not through envy of thy happy lot, 5
But being too happy in thine happiness,
That thou, light-wingèd Dryad of the trees,
In some melodious plot
Of beechen green, and shadows numberless,
Singest of summer in full-throated ease. 10

O for a draught of vintage! that hath been
Cool'd a long age in the deep-delvèd earth,
Tasting of Flora and the country-green,
Dance, and Provençal song, and sunburnt mirth!
O for a beaker full of the warm South! 15
Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene,
With beaded bubbles winking at the brim,
And purple-stainèd mouth;
That I might drink, and leave the world unseen,
And with thee fade away into the forest dim: 20

Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget
What thou among the leaves hast never known,
The weariness, the fever, and the fret
Here, where men sit and hear each other groan;
Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last grey hairs, 25
Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies;
Where but to think is to be full of sorrow
And leaden-eyed despairs;
Where beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes,
Or new Love pine at them beyond to-morrow. 30

Away! away! for I will fly to thee,
Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards,
But on the viewless wings of Poesy,
Though the dull brain perplexes and retards:
Already with thee! tender is the night, 35
And haply the Queen-Moon is on her throne,
Cluster'd around by all her starry Fays
But here there is no light,
Save what from heaven is with the breezes blown
Through verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways. 40

I cannot see what flowers are at my feet,
Nor what soft incense hangs upon the boughs,
But, in embalmèd darkness, guess each sweet
Wherewith the seasonable month endows
The grass, the thicket, and the fruit-tree wild; 45
White hawthorn, and the pastoral eglantine;
Fast-fading violets cover'd up in leaves;
And mid-May's eldest child,
The coming musk-rose, full of dewy wine,
The murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves. 50

Darkling I listen; and, for many a time
I have been half in love with easeful Death,
Call'd him soft names in many a musèd rhyme,
To take into the air my quiet breath;
Now more than ever seems it rich to die, 55
To cease upon the midnight with no pain,
While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad
In such an ecstasy!
Still wouldst thou sing, and I have ears in vain—
To thy high requiem become a sod. 60

Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird!
No hungry generations tread thee down;
The voice I hear this passing night was heard
In ancient days by emperor and clown:
Perhaps the self-same song that found a path 65
Through the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home,
She stood in tears amid the alien corn;
The same that ofttimes hath
Charm'd magic casements, opening on the foam
Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn. 70

Forlorn! the very word is like a bell
To toll me back from thee to my sole self!
Adieu! the fancy cannot cheat so well
As she is famed to do, deceiving elf.
Adieu! adieu! thy plaintive anthem fades 75
Past the near meadows, over the still stream,
Up the hill-side; and now 'tis buried deep
In the next valley-glades:
Was it a vision, or a waking dream?
Fled is that music:—do I wake or sleep? 80

circa 4/26/1818 - 5/18/1818 - John Keats

Motherfucking Blogger Sux Balls. I am going to be leaving here, as soon as I can figure out how to move everything. Not being able to keep the actual spacing of fucking poetry is the last straw. I am over it.