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Another reader!

Guy in his late 20s, blue t-shirt, scruffy. A Memory of Light, Robert Jordan/Brandon Sanderson.
I actually saw someone reading at the gym!

Dragonflight--Anne McCaffrey.

What's That You're Reading?

It's almost as if people don't read in public.

In the past few months, I've been sure to look around, see if anyone is reading, for that little feature down below I've never actually kept up on. I've seen a few--textbooks, usually, which is really to be expected.

I didn't go into this expecting to see books in restaurants or anything crazy like that. But doctor's and dentist's offices? Car wash waiting rooms? Starbucks, if only for the hipster-ness?

Not even a teenager reading Twilight.

But, I hear you not ask, ebooks! Surely some people are reading with those! Well, it's hard for me to get to my public library branch, so I do this a lot myself. It's certainly possible. But I don't see a lot of devices that are ebook capable.

I wonder. Do people who read read at home rather than just whenever? Is aliteracy (being able to read but choosing not to) or functional illiteracy (reading with very little comprehension) going up, as some seem to think?

Now just you watch, I'll decide on a whim to go somewhere tomorrow and see five people reading physical books.
  In an effort to explain why exactly I've bounced from concentration to concentration, I've written this...thing. It's very messy since I'm thinking as I'm writing, and I've made no effort to edit it. That said, I'd like to mention that recall bias is a very real thing, and that I am "the easiest person to fool".

  One of my mother’s favorite stories about my childhood goes something like this: at a family reunion, my ability to identify letters before my second birthday shocked my entire family. Sometime later, I shocked my father by reading a newspaper article to him at three years old, disproving his idea that I had only memorized my picture books.

   This pretty much informed my intellectual life until halfway through high school: I was reading at a college level before middle school, I read whatever I could get my hands on, and I was good with language. Though I had ability with math and science, it was clear that English and Social Studies were my best subjects, and I was expected to go to college for something humanities-related, if not strictly the humanities. (I spent a few years wanting to major in psychology.) I was almost always with a book, and I adored history, though I hated the usual war-focused method. Instead, I wanted to know the why of it, why did these things happen, what was the socio-cultural milieu?

  This changed with junior year and the International Baccalaureate program. For the first time, I was fully and directly expected to back up my assertions, with sources or the book we were reading or general scientific consensus, depending on the subject. At the same time, I was realizing my asexuality and doing absolutely tons of research, both scientific and not, in an effort to pick a religion congruent with my values. It wasn’t until after senior year when I finally landed on atheism, but in the meantime I had gained an enormous respect for science and a tendency for the analytical. 

  The mental and emotional benefits I’d gained from seven years in band originally led me to major in music education, though constant complications and an episode of How I Met Your Mother made me choose an intro course in anthropology as the most interesting thing I could find. The interaction involved in the four-field approach was everything I’d wanted, and I changed my major during the semester.

  By this time, though (and this is where everything starts to get messy, including my organization), I’d lost any confidence with my skill in the humanities, realized just how much of a people-person I wasn’t, and reinforced that love for science, and so I chose bioanthropology, thinking I’d go into forensics.


I've just picked up a copy of Greta Cristina's recent book, <i>Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless</i>, and I was somewhat relieved just to read about religion and harm rather than the social justice stuff the online atheist community has been focused on lately. Not to say that it isn't important, because it is, but it's the baggage that comes along with these topics that drove Jen Mcreight away from blogging as of yesterday, and forced me to take a break in the Internet Happy Box a few weeks ago. 

See, I am very rarely directly harmed by religion, and if I am, it's by way of a group affiliation (e.g., I study evolution, I'm a woman). Since I'm mostly closeted about my atheism, I experience these arguments much as a theist ally would. 

There's a close parallel here with LGBT issues. As an actual LGBT person, you are being directly harmed by anti-gay policy and attitudes, and this can be degrading and exhausting. As an ally, yes, you are angry on their behalf, but you have far more stamina in the argument because you are not quite so invested in it. And that is the biggest reason allies are a hugely important line of defense--they don't burn out as easily. 

So be an (good) ally! Have a cause like LGBT or feminism you aren't directly affected by? Take a stand and have an argument! 

A Ramble

        An honest skeptic tries to hold hir beliefs based on evidence or at the very least reason. The key word there, though, is ‘try’. It’s entirely fallacious to assume that someone will never act irrationally; will never hold a belief based on no or bad interpretations of evidence.

        But there’s a tendency for people to expect a skeptic to be the epitome of Vulcan Logic, and sometimes we put that on ourselves, becoming upset when we realize we’ve compartamentalized something, or failed to look at it from a certain angle, or whatever else. Part of this is undoubtedly a wish to represent atheism/skepticism well. But even atheists who aren’t out or who don’t publically call themselves skeptics, like me, experience this, and it happens in other movements—civil rights, LGBT, feminism, etc.

        This thought isn’t anything new, and at the moment, I don’t really know where I’m going with this. There is definitely something to being intellectually honest and self-aware enough to realize our own failures of logic. Maybe this whole rambling thought is about our ability to accept ourselves as imperfect, on more than a conceptual level. Maybe it’s about accepting that we can’t always be the strong one, the one fighting something, that we don’t have to get into that argument, that depression or anxiety or just being sad or angry will get us down every now and again and that’s okay.

        In fact, rereading this now, I’m beginning to think maybe this post is about mental illness, and it can be summed up like this: Expect great and good things from yourself, but don’t beat yourself up when you momentarily falter.

The healthcare ruling

There are posts all over my Facebook from my libertarian friends decrying the very recent decision that the Affordable Care Act is not unconstitutional, mostly along the lines of "but freedom!".

I'll tell you what freedom the act took away.

My freedom to be denied healthcare insurance because of pre-existing conditions (yes, multiple).

My freedom to go thousands of dollars into debt because my diabetes supplies and other necessary medications are expensive, and would likely cost me about two thousand dollars a month.

My freedom to be forced into a government or corporate job with excellent benefits usually not available to recent college grads, because otherwise I would never be approved for insurance.

A friend of mine lost his freedom to stay at home in bed all day, every day, because without health insurance, he wouldn't be able to afford the things he needs to walk.

So, in short: FUCK YOU if you think this is all about some limited definition of 'freedom'.
Probably the second thing I do every day after class is check freethoughtblogs, a blogging network for atheists, for the latest posts. What I usually find is a mix of science blogging and topics that make me feel angry, horrified, and sad.

In fact, I've been sitting for almost a full week now on a post about science, but it's going to have to wait some more, because...well, go check today's posts over on the network, if you're so inclined, I'm not listing them, because I'll have to think about them again.

TL;DR version: Mostly anti-woman shit again, with some overtly religious flavor thrown in.

I'm so tired, and I've barely begun.

I watch the commentariat on FtB go through this stuff over and over and freaking OVER, day in and night out, if admittedly with quite a bit of vitriol.I remember some of their handles from when I first starting reading, two or three years ago. I can barely handle it once, from feminism to atheism to gay rights to evolution and global warming.

And it causes resurgences of my depression. How on earth can I balance my own well-being with doing and supporting what I honestly think is right?

Because this stuff is REAL to me, and not just an intellectual discussion.

Tired of This

Well fuck me running.

Driving home from class today, I stop at a red light. I'm waiting for the light to change, singing along with the radio. Then the six guys in the SUV next to me roll down their windows and start hooting and hollering at me.

In the immortal (paraphrased) words of Rebecca Watson: Guys, don't do that.

There are really only three reasons why guys would do this:

1. It's meant as a compliment.
2. They're making fun of the ugly chick.
3. They're drunk. Really, really drunk. Or it's 'funny'.

Either way, they were reducing me to an object. With 1, I'm pretty and/or fuckable, reducing my worth to sex. With 2, I'm ugly and/or unfuckable, again reducing my worth to sex. With 3,at this point their intention doesn't matter, I'm going to assume it's one of the first two.

And I get reminded that no matter how well I do in school, no matter what contributions I may make to my field or society now or in the future, people on the street will not consider me a person, but a woman. And one who isn't conventionally attractive, and is therefore worthy of derision as a bad woman.

Then I make it to my daily blog-reading, and see that over 100 Afghani girls and women were admitted to a hospital because their girls' school had been sprayed with poison.

Next: Elyse Anders, a keynote speaker at a skeptic conference, was approached by a polyamorous couple for sex, via a naked/rather pornographic picture on a card, with contact info. The couple then left with all speed.

Last year: Rebecca Watson is (possibly) propositioned early in the morning on an elevator at another conference. Without naming names, the next day she says, "Guys, don't do that," and proceeds to explain why not. The torrent of vile, misogynistic comments was...well, vile.

At this point, I'm beyond anger. I'm just sad, and a little pessimistic.

Postscript: At 11 and 12, I was being sexually and verbally harassed by a bunch of eighth graders (probably 13-14). I did report it, with the help of my parents, because I was scared to walk home. Something was done, but nothing changed. I didn't bother saying anything again. Men, we live with this EVERY DAY.

Postpostscript: I should note that these incidents in the main entry were all referenced or reported today.
So here it is, about 5:30 in the morning,and I have to be up in half an hour (yes, on a Saturday) for work, because I was sick yesterday. And because there's really no point in going back to sleep for a whole half hour, I'm staring at an empty post box on Livejournal, wondering why on earth I'm planning a fairly detailed set of posts when they will never be read by anyone except me.
And actually, I can think of a few answers to that:
1. I need to improve my writing.

I'm a college student in a half hard-science, half social-science field. I do a fair amount of writing for classes, almost all of it scientifically based, and any sort of practice helps.

2. I need practice making a solid argument, and backing it up.

This follows on from 1. I’m fairly good at this part already. I understand evidence and how a piece of writing is formed. What I'm not as good at is logical flow aside from "x, therefore y". I argue on the Internet, as well, on and off scientific sites. Lastly, I plan on obtaining my Master's and PhD, and defense is going to be hard enough as it is without some practice (even if that practice isn't verbal).

3. Sometimes I just need to write.

This is the last one. Without going into too much detail, I have several mental disorders, and I would use writing to help me work these problems out when I was younger. I still do it today, and that means I often need to write things down before I truly understand what I think. So as long as I'm doing it anyway, why not post it?

While I can think of counter-arguments that would make doing any sort of posting fall on the wrong side of a cost-benefit analysis, or even a neutrality-benefit analysis, I'm going to do it anyway.

So, yeah.

...geez, I still stink at conclusions.