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19 Aug 21:56

Sunil Dutta Tells It Like It Is About American Policing

by Ken White

Sunil Dutta, a "professor of homeland security" at Colorado Tech University, was an LAPD cop for 17 years. Today, the Washington Post ran his column explaining how citizens should interact with the police.

First, Dutta talks about the challenges cops face from rude civilians:

Working the street, I can’t even count how many times I withstood curses, screaming tantrums, aggressive and menacing encroachments on my safety zone, and outright challenges to my authority. In the vast majority of such encounters, I was able to peacefully resolve the situation without using force. Cops deploy their training and their intuition creatively, and I wielded every trick in my arsenal, including verbal judo, humor, warnings and ostentatious displays of the lethal (and nonlethal) hardware resting in my duty belt. One time, for instance, my partner and I faced a belligerent man who had doused his car with gallons of gas and was about to create a firebomb at a busy mall filled with holiday shoppers. The potential for serious harm to the bystanders would have justified deadly force. Instead, I distracted him with a hook about his family and loved ones, and he disengaged without hurting anyone. Every day cops show similar restraint and resolve incidents that could easily end up in serious injuries or worse.

Note how Dutta unsubtly conflates genuinely dangerous things — like threatening to set off a gas bomb — with curses, "tantrums," and "outright challenges to my authority." This sleight-of-hand miscategorization is how cops convince us they need the power to order us to refrain from gathering in one place to protest or put away that menacing cell phone or stop being developmentally disabled around them. See, cops know what is dangerous, and if you say they shouldn't be able to tell you not to do whatever they say is dangerous, you're really saying you should be allowed to set off gasoline bombs at the mall.

We are still learning what transpired between Officer Darren Wilson and Brown, but in most cases it’s less ambiguous — and officers are rarely at fault. When they use force, they are defending their, or the public’s, safety.

"Rarely" is an empirical term; Dutta does not cite evidence. Certainly cops are very rarely deemed responsible by the justice system for use of force. But a rather rather large number of people are killed by police every year; we don't know exactly how many, and we have no reliable resource to test law enforcement asserts that the killings are justified. Never mind lesser violence, like tasing and pepper spraying people, or things not classified as uses of force, like forcible torture and rape of suspects under the guise of "investigation," or situations where police got innocent people killed through idiocy.

But this is Dutta's main point:

Even though it might sound harsh and impolitic, here is the bottom line: if you don’t want to get shot, tased, pepper-sprayed, struck with a baton or thrown to the ground, just do what I tell you. Don’t argue with me, don’t call me names, don’t tell me that I can’t stop you, don’t say I’m a racist pig, don’t threaten that you’ll sue me and take away my badge. Don’t scream at me that you pay my salary, and don’t even think of aggressively walking towards me. Most field stops are complete in minutes. How difficult is it to cooperate for that long?

Note now nicely this dovetails with Dutta's first point. First, Dutta gets to decide what is dangerous and what he can order you to cease doing. Because gas bombs! Second, if you keep doing it, that's a tasing. Or a beating. Or a shooting.

Dutta's message is this: a cop can always tell you what to do, and you have to take it, or else. (The "else" is violence.)

We have a justice system in which you are presumed innocent; if a cop can do his or her job unmolested, that system can run its course. Later, you can ask for a supervisor, lodge a complaint or contact civil rights organizations if you believe your rights were violated. Feel free to sue the police! Just don’t challenge a cop during a stop.

This is either blissfully naive or breathtakingly dishonest. Do we have a justice system? By name, yes. Is it effective in deterring cops from abusing citizens or punishing them when they do? No. If you go and ask that supervisor to lodge a complaint, better have a lawyer's phone number, because you may get threatened and harassed. If you hope the cop will be charged criminally for misbehavior, you're going to be waiting a very long time for no result. When it comes to breaking the law, the system treats you one way and cops another.

But Dutta's rationales are mere window dressing. His core message is this:

Even though it might sound harsh and impolitic, here is the bottom line: if you don’t want to get shot, tased, pepper-sprayed, struck with a baton or thrown to the ground, just do what I tell you.

The outrageous thing is not that he says it. The outrageous thing is that we accept it.

Would we accept "if you don't want to get shot, just do what the EPA regulator tells you"? Would we yield to "if you don't want your kid tased, do what the Deputy Superintendent of Education tells you"? Would we accept "if you don't want to get tear gassed, just do what your Congressman tells you?" No. Our culture of individualism and liberty would not permit it. Yet somehow, through generations of law-and-order rhetoric and near-deification of law enforcement, we have convinced ourselves that cops are different, and that it is perfectly acceptable for them to be able to order us about, at their discretion, on pain of violence.

It's not acceptable. It is servile and grotesque.

Sunil Dutta Tells It Like It Is About American Policing © 2007-2014 by the authors of Popehat. This feed is for personal, non-commercial use only. Using this feed on any other site is a copyright violation. No scraping.

17 Aug 07:24

Norwegian atheist's velicoraptor trike

by Cory Doctorow

This guy is probably an asshole but man I want a dino bike.

Norwegian artist Markus Moestue pedalled it around the countryside to protest "the dogmatic religious education of children."

Crossing the Bible Belt [Markus Moestue]

(via JWZ)

17 Aug 04:00

August 17, 2014

Only 5 days left to submit for BAHFest!
14 Aug 16:48

Industrial cake-decorating robot

by David Pescovitz

Bakery equipment manufacturer Unifiller's robot can frost and decorate a cake much more efficiently than you. (via Laughing Squid)

14 Aug 19:11

All beer labels have to be approved by one guy, and he's a nutcase

by Rob Beschizza
A man named Kent "Battle" Martin is the "Beer Bottle Dictator", said to be loathed by the business for his capricious and arbitrary decisionmaking. Read the rest
08 Aug 14:25

97p shop slashes tags to 95p in price war with 99p shop

by Rob Beschizza

If you click through to the American dollar store story it's basically "poor people - not as wacky as I hoped" and it's really gross.

2013-07-17 14.10.38.jpg  richard green 99p shop Richard Green took this shot of discount stores on an ultra-competitive high street in Barking, England. Given the greater purchasing power of a pound, one assumes prices could fall quite a ways before attaining true American "dollar store" minimalism.
06 Aug 17:39

The most awesome party west Michigan has ever seen

by Mark Frauenfelder

Matthew says: "Mr. James Taylor is interviewed about his epic "Party of the Century" in west Michigan. I particularly like the guest at about 30 seconds into the interview."

24 Jul 07:15

Great video explainer: Vint Cerf on ICANN and NTIA

by Cory Doctorow

The "father of the Internet" explains why the Congressional posturing and global freakout about the US National Telecommunications and Information Administration stepping back from management of the Internet domain name system is misplaced. Read the rest

25 Jul 16:47

Video: computer hacking in 1980s movies

by David Pescovitz

"80s Computer Hacking: A Supercut." List of movies below: (more…)

30 Jul 15:29

Perfectly-timed photos

by David Pescovitz

A fantastic collection of photos taken at perfect moments, mostly culled from Reddit. Read the rest

21 Jul 14:43

If Facebook Was A Guy

FACEBOOK: Hi, I’m Facebook.
ME: Nice to meet you, I’m Ryan.
FACEBOOK: What’s your last name? Where do you live? When were you born? What’s your phone number? Is that work or mobile? Can I have your work number too?
ME: Facebook, I just met you.
FACEBOOK: This is what friendship is to me.


ME: Hey, you know what’d be lots of fun? If we had a picnic!
FACEBOOK: Hey, you know what’d be lots of fun? If you told me the names of every single person you know!


FACEBOOK: Hey Ryan, do you know this person?
ME: That’s Sarah. I haven’t spoken to her for years.
FACEBOOK: Okay, here’s a shot of her bedroom and some pictures of her children as they sleep.


FACEBOOK: Hey Ryan, do you know this person?
ME: I… maybe? I may have seen him at a party.
FACEBOOK: He likes The Big Bang Theory. You wanna be friends, right?
ME: No.
FACEBOOK: I’ll ask you to be friends with him every time I see you again for the next six months.


FACEBOOK: Your friends went to the beach. Do you have any comments on these pictures of your friends at the beach?
ME: Huh?
FACEBOOK: I’m showing their swimsuit pictures to everyone. Do you like them? You can tell me if you like them. It’s fine if you like them.
ME: They’re… okay, I guess?
FACEBOOK: Okay, I just told them and everyone they know that you like their swimsuit pictures.


MY FRIEND STEVE: Hey, Facebook just said we’re not friends anymore? What the hell, Ryan?
ME: Huh?
FACEBOOK: Hah hah hah


NSA: Hey Facebook, what can you tell us about Ryan?
FACEBOOK: Age, interests, relationships, activities, where he was last night, what he looked like while he was there, the last five places he’s lived - what do you want?
NSA: That’ll be great, thanks. Do we need a warrant?
FACEBOOK: Nah, just make a fake account and friend someone who is friends with Ryan. That’s good enough for me!
NSA: Hah hah hah


FACEBOOK: Hey, did you know your aunt is racist?
ME: I… no?
FACEBOOK: Here’s something they wrote about “the foreigners”.
ME: Why would you think I’d want to see this?
FACEBOOK: Do you like what you see? You can tell me if you like it. It’s fine if you like it.


FACEBOOK: Hey, this corporation wants to engage with you.
ME: What? No.
FACEBOOK: They paid me money so you’re going to listen to them whether you want to or not.
CORPORATION: Hi, are you getting married? Do you want to buy diamonds? You mentioned diamonds earlier so you should buy our diamonds.
ME: I was talking about the James Bond movie, Diamonds Are Forever.
CORPORATION: We can sell you that too.
ME: Wait, how did you know I was talking about that in the first place?
FACEBOOK: Hah hah hah


ME: Facebook, I don’t want to be friends anymore. Forget everything I ever told you about myself.
ME: Facebook, did you delete everything?
FACEBOOK: I did. Sorry to see you go.
ME: …
ME: …Facebook, if I said I wanted to be friends again, what would you say?
FACEBOOK: Here’s all your old shit again! I never deleted anything!
FACEBOOK: Hah hah hah

15 Jul 18:37

#599: It’s awkward when I run into my former students. How can I get better at these interactions?

by JenniferP

I like this question/answer in general, but am mostly sharing for the "awkward stories", all of which I can imagine happening with my students. Except I would handle them with far less grace.

Maggie Smith as Professor McGonagall with text "Professor McBadass"

There is more to teaching and life than having a good small-talk game.

Dear Captain Awkward,

This question is not so much about a single major situation or a crisis as it is about a recurring, if minor, situation that I encounter again and again. I am a graduate student at a medium-sized research university where graduate students do a lot of teaching. As a result, I encounter former students on campus on a very regular basis. I hope very much to keep teaching college students long-term, though who knows what my future holds.

The problem I have is this. My classes are often fairly popular with students, in part because my teaching persona is very warm and approachable, and in the classroom, I am good at not taking myself too seriously and putting other people (i.e. students) at ease. In real life I am none of those things: I am awkward, introverted, and ill-at-ease with social acquaintances, and I overread Every. Damn. Detail. of routine social interactions. I often feel that students who run into me in public social settings (at coffee shops, libraries, etc.) are surprised by what they perceive as a change in my affect, and that–put bluntly–I make them feel uncomfortable when they greet me after our class is over. I hate that. I feel I talk too long, or not long enough, or that I greet them when they’d rather avoid me, or that I avoid them when they’d rather greet me.

I should say that, while many college instructors resist or resent outside encounters with students, I don’t feel that way at all. I enjoy keeping up with former students. Even more importantly, I think that students at my large, cold, competitive institution need as many one-on-one adult contacts as they can get, and that it’s important for them to feel like they are part of a supportive social network made up of people of many different ages. I think that having good, positive, low-key, supportive encounters–not with every single student, but with students who actually want to say “hi” or catch up briefly in passing–is an important part of my job. But I’m not good at it.

I’m asking you because I know you are a college professor, and I imagine that–like me–you have a lot of students who would like to keep in touch, or who check in when you pass them in the hallway. Any advice on how to make these encounters productive, or at least comfortable?

Wants to Be That Supportive Former Teacher

Giles and Buffy from the Band Candy episode. He's smoking and dressed ridiculously.

Librarian by day, dorkus malorkus by night.

Thanks for this letter. You’re describing a situation that comes up in my life a lot, and it’s also something I deal with without necessarily thinking about it. Metacognition time!

In and around class, there is a structure and a hierarchy that governs interactions between students and instructors. One aspect of it is that the instructor will have an open door policy (literally, with office hours), and the instructors will often set explicit rules around how and when communication should happen (email only, texts are fine until 9pm but not on weekends, etc.) This is important to keep in mind: Different institutions and different disciplines will have different cultures and vastly different expectations about how “friendly” and/or accessible professors are supposed to be and how much they are expected to interact with students. At a certain kind of small school the expectation might be that students have your home number and that you’ll take calls anytime. In another place “come to office hours or make an appointment, otherwise, work it out yourself” might be the expectation. I’m sure it would not surprise you that expectations are heavily skewed by gender, race, and age and that double-standards prevail in deciding who is “a gruff but beloved eccentric” or “focused and professional” vs. “Unavailable and uncaring.”

After the class is over, a lot of the bones of the professor-student relationship structure stay in place. For instance, former students will sometimes drop by current office hours or run into me on campus and want to catch up, or speed-pitch an idea, or ask a question about navigating the institution, and that’s mostly great. I like knowing about what films they are making now and bragging on their successes, I don’t mind writing recommendation letters at all, and I like feeling part of a friendly community that goes on after the class is over. Since filmmaking is collaborative, I often see former students again and again as my fellow crew members on shoots.  I’ve had to set boundaries about not reading screenplays not written in my class because if I said yes I would literally never do anything else, and that’s been met with disappointment but understanding. The culture of my institution is very informal. Students call us by first names, everyone dresses very casually, and aside from some obvious age differences, a stranger coming into a classroom could be forgiven for not knowing which person is the instructor. At another institution, as a young female instructor I might take pains to dress more formally and behave more formally while I learned the lay of the land, but for now it’s not even a noticeable leap to code switch from instructor role to regular person role.

Outside of on-campus interactions, social media is where I have the most interactions with former students. Lots of schools have policies about how this is supposed to work, mine doesn’t have one that covers part-time instructors, so this is my own policy: I don’t friend-request former students, period. I only accept requests from students after graduation or in some cases after they’ve completed the portion of the curriculum I teach in, so we know for sure that I won’t be their teacher again. I do it with the caveat that Facebook, etc. is my personal space for my personal interactions, views, politics, etc.; I’m not representing the school, and we’re all just humans here. And, where it gets a little weird, I only accept requests from students that I personally like* and want to be in touch with after the class. It has to be mutually voluntary, or else it’s a no-go. Over time, we find a flow that feels right. Depending on how the algorithm is feeling today, we might never actually interact there. Or, if we do, I might comment on their latest films and film-related stuff they share, congratulate them on big life events, and send internship and job postings or interesting film-related links the way I would with anyone I know from a professional context, but I leave their day-to-day social stuff mostly alone. I completely ignore posts about religion, politics, sex, drugs, drinking, etc. or anything where a comment from me might get contentious or sound parental, and I try to watch my snark factor. We’re in this age where online identities are hybrid and we’re using a single platform like Facebook or Twitter to interact with people we know from many contexts, and I think it’s a good idea sometimes to ask whether you are the intended audience for a given post before diving in.

As for the rest of it, remember when you were a kid and you ran into your teachers in a context outside of school and it was the weirdest thing? Teachers don’t….sleep at the school? They go to concerts and buy groceries? Two of my high school teachers fell in love and got married while I was a student there, and now I try to imagine them dating in our tiny town and my heart goes out to them for all the times they must have run into students when out together but before their relationship was public.”Please open your books to page 150” (THEY KNOW) “And let’s do the first 5 problems as a speed-quiz right now. You have 15 minutes.” (THEY DEFINITELY KNOW)

When your students run into you outside of class, one reason it might feel awkward is they are very likely doing a swift mental recalculation, trying to place you in context, and you are doing the same to them. “Whoa, who is that? That’s…okay…um, hi! I see you also…eat…breakfast?” You’re neither of you in the modes you usually wear to communicate with one another, and it takes a second for brain and mouth to sync up. I think that might generate a lot of the anxiety and awkwardness you feel, but I think it’s happening just as much to the student in those interactions.

Awkward Story Time: Once I was all dressed up to go to a friend’s drag show, wearing lot of makeup and a halter top that a friend had screen-printed for me that said “Classy Earl’s House of Class and Tits” (you could also see a bit more of the actual tits than would normally be on display), in the company of several drag performers who were also dressed to the nines. On the same train was one of my former students, his parents, and his grandparents, in town for Parent’s Weekend. He spotted me and his face lit up and he started moving toward me to introduce me to his folks. It turns out that it is hard to shake someone’s hand while crossing your arms over your chest, but it can be done.

Awkward Story Time: Once I was on the eL at 2 am and I ran into a former student. After exchanging hellos we had one of the most awkward and stilted conversations in recorded history, because once we acknowledged each other it’s like we had sealed our fate and had to talk but didn’t really have anything to talk about. After a few minutes I said “It’s really nice to see you, but I’m tired and having a hard time thinking of stuff to say” and he laughed and said “Meeeeee toooooo” and then we sat in silence and I pulled out a book and he did too and this is why you should always carry a book.

Awkward Story Time: Once right after I got done teaching a class I went to lunch at a place next door and basically the whole class had gone to lunch together at that place, too, and it was like, “do I leave oh no they’ve spotted me now we have to talk” and they were like “Hi Jennifer!” and I said “Hello!” and then I think I paused a bit too long before automatically leaving so one of them said “Well, this is awkward” and I said “Yes, for me too” and then I remembered an urgent errand that I had to run at the Trader Joe’s across the street. I’m sure they laughed as soon as I was out of earshot, but I also laughed all the way to the grocery store. What was that, even?

Awkward Story Time: In production classes, once we’re well into shooting, I sometimes give out my cell phone number so that students can text me from location if they run into an emergency on set. Once a student sent me a 2 a.m. text offering to do some things. Private things. Described with a level of detail one would expect from a talented writer and visual artist. I wrote back “Hi (studentname), thanks but no. Maybe recheck the # you were sending to?” 10 horrible minutes later I got a text that said “wrong jennifer” and another one that said “sorry” (which I imagine happening in the smallest and most pitiful possible voice) and when I saw him in class the following week he wore his hoodie basically like this:

A still image from the show Arrow, where the character is shooting an arrow and has a hood pulled to hide his face.

I obviously did not mention it and by the end of the semester his hoodie was more like this:

Arrow in a slightly less covered-up hood

See? It can always get awkwarder. So let’s talk about the interactions you are having and most likely to have, and see if we can’t generate some scripts.

If you’re in the library working, or in a cafe, and you spot former students, let them be the ones to approach you. If they do not, but they do see you, it’s more than okay to just smile/nod/wave/acknowledge them somehow and then go back to your work or your meal or whatever. The most likely scenario is that they respect and understand that you’re busy and just want to get on with their own stuff. If you feel like it, swing by their table for a brief hello if you get up for a bathroom break or on your way out. This can literally be “Hi, nice to see you” as you walk by. If they do approach you, have a short conversation. You can ask them how they are doing. If you like, you can tell them briefly what you’re working on and how you are doing. It’s good sometimes to reset the expectations a bit, like, when we were in class we focused 100% on your work, but I also have my own work that is important to me the way yours is important to you.

At some point, you should take steps to end the conversation. I think this is one of the sources of awkwardness that is present. You still have an aura of authority about you left over from being their teacher, so some students will want some sort of permission from you to disengage, because they are worried about being rude to you and they don’t know how to end the conversation either. Other students will treat all interactions with you like extended Office Hours, where the Starbucks line or the library or the subway ride is a chance for them to ask you questions and discuss their work and their lives, without recognition that you might have your own reasons for being there and your own stuff to do. In both cases, you saying “Well, it’s nice catching up with you, but I do have to get back to my stuff. Good luck with (whatever)!” before YOU start feeling awkward and uncomfortable is a kindness, to them and to yourself. Undergraduate students are also learning how to adult at the same time they are learning about everything else, so cut them and yourself some slack. They might do awkward stuff, you might have to actively model a constructive way of interacting. You do actually know how to do this, because you do it when you’re in professor mode, so don’t let the idea that you are “naturally” geeky or introverted stop you.

If you get the vibe that a former student really had more to say or needed some more TLC than you could afford during whatever random sighting you had, you can always follow up by email: “Hello, I was very glad to run into you in the library the other day. If you’d like to continue our conversation, my office hours this semester are (schedule). Please stop by whenever you like, or make an appointment, I’d like to hear more about/ tackle your questions about/take a look at your thesis/walk you through the next slate of classes in the program when I can give you my full attention.” That’s an actually supportive and caring way to respond, and probably more useful in the end than trying to do serious listening or advising when you’re distracted with your life, but it also has some professional boundaries around it. If they never stop by, then it probably wasn’t that urgent, but they’ll still appreciate that you cared.

Moral of all the Awkward Stories: Students are people. Teachers are people. People are awkward. You and your students can survive momentary passing awkwardness when you meet in public. You can be your introverted self, with a slightly more professional filter than you might use with peers or friends, and let go of the mantle of being the most supportive and inspiring and friendly teacher ever. If you make the interactions as comfortable as possible for you, these other humans will mostly get it and it will work out just fine, and if it doesn’t, one awkward encounter hopefully won’t undo all your good work. The class is over. The evals are in. Mostly your former students probably don’t think about you that much, and if they do you’ll probably never know about it. To be a teacher is to sow a lot of crops and never really know how or if they grew or what pieces of the class they retained.

Tom Cruise in sunglasses giving double finger-guns

Bonus Awkward Story Time: A friend of a friend did tech support in a fancy hotel with a lot of celebrity guests, and when at that job he had to help Tom Cruise connect to the internet, print some stuff off – a few minor things from time to time. Tom Cruise, as you may have guessed, is pretty intense. He makes deep eye contact and holds it and gives a firm handshake and uses your name a lot. The tech support guy was quick to say that he’s really nice, but that the niceness was so aggressive that it was a bit creepy, like you’re attending a one-man Tom Cruise show and you are the only audience member and you can’t leave because the Wi-Fi isn’t connecting and Tom Cruise is holding you prisoner in the tractor-beam of his gaze because he wants to make this moment PERFECT and MEMORABLE and everyone is feeling the strain of that. I’ve met Cruise, once long ago at a premiere in Prague (they were shooting Mission Impossible near my dorms when Interview With A Vampire came out, so he came to the premiere), and this bears out. He was really friendly to this awkward expat college student, but I think my hand is still a little mangled from the handshake and my soul still has a few spots missing from where his eyes scraped it when they looked into mine.

That is to say, Letter Writer, when you run into your former students you have a heightened sense of being visible and wanting very much to live up to a role. So does Tom Cruise. People will notice what he does, and they will talk about it amongst themselves (like we are doing now), so it’s not wrong or weird at all that he would be conscious of how he comes across or that he tries hard to be nice. But he should probably relax, like, a lot, because he will weird people out if he turns basic interactions into a show. He’s thinking way too much about himself and trying to hit his marks, to the point that he’s ignoring other people’s and probably his own comfort level in an attempt to give them what he thinks they want. This is a recipe for awkwardness anywhere; see also “the person who is trying to be the perfect date.” So, learn from this cautionary tale. It’s a good idea to be conscious of professional behavior when you run into students in other contexts, but It is okay and in fact preferable if you do not put on a “professor show” when you do. Look after your own comfort level in interactions. If you are a supportive teacher, they already know. If something misfires, it’s a big school, and there are other people who can also answer their questions and guide them through their education. Teachers don’t sleep at the school, and the students have to learn that sometime.


*This is mostly a non-issue, but not everyone is destined to be friends. Every now and then there is a student who follows me into the bathroom on class breaks to ask questions, and when I say “Can we talk about this later? I am busy right now” says “I don’t mind!” and keeps going, and when I say “Ok but I mind” and they say “Sorry” but keep talking anyway, graaaaaaaaaah! And then afterward I say gently “I want to answer your questions, but not in the bathroom” but then a few weeks later they do it AGAIN. It’s not even about not liking them necessarily, it’s just, hey, our interaction styles are really incompatible in a way that makes it a bad idea to have an ongoing, personal relationship.

15 Jul 04:06

pluckyyoungdonna: maryrobinette: shakespearean: A young...




A young Patrick Stewart as Oberon in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. (1977-78)

Oh… Very much make it so.

ummmm whaaaat

*opens a heart shape locket, this picture is inside*

14 Jul 16:54

Artist arrested for distributing 3D file of her genitals

by David Pescovitz
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi was arrested for allegedly distributing the digital file of a 3D model of her genitals as part of project to make a vagina boat, reports The Independent. Read the rest
11 Jul 04:00

those incredibly, incredibly hot stars

archive - contact - sexy exciting merchandise - search - about
← previous July 11th, 2014 next


– Ryan

12 Jul 15:45

How to win pregnant, classic SF cosplay

by Cory Doctorow

An intrepid pregnant cosplayer had an inspired costume idea! It's from George Takei's Twitter feed, and a followup suggests that she's called Alison. (via Wil Wheaton)

09 Jul 20:28

Prosecutors want to photograph erect penis of teen accused of sexting girlfriend

by Xeni Jardin
In Manassas City, Virginia, a teen boy who is accused of sending a sexually explicit video to his teen girlfriend by cellphone may be forced by prosecutors to go to a hospital and get an erection injection, then allow police to photograph him with his penis in an erect state.

Read the rest

08 Jul 20:01

capnmariam: Fact: Scott Simpson (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) tells some...


Fact: Scott Simpson (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) tells some of the best tiny stories.

Fun fact: I keep a stable of monks, cloistered in my home, to illuminate manuscripts at my whim. They are…inconsistent letterers.  But: quiet.

More honest/less fun fact: I worry it is always SUPER obvious when I am working against a certain type of deadline dread.  I shouldn’t be so anxious about things, I know: The Robert Benchley GTD system has historically worked out for everything but the 3 manuscripts that have been in my bag since 2008.

I want all of these for my walls. 

07 Jul 18:43

Multiscreening is the new Multitasking

by Xeni Jardin

I totally do this - I have a "work laptop" and a "play laptop", which sort of correlate to "work" and "home" except the work laptop sometimes comes home with me.

"Now that people have several devices at work—a laptop, a phone, a tablet—they’re finding their way to a similar trick, where they use each piece of hardware for a different purpose.

Read the rest
07 Jul 15:44

Retro-style LED light bulbs

by Rob Beschizza
in These LED lights, designed to resemble old-timey incandescents, are $40 from Edison Light Globes [via]
04 Jul 19:00

sequinedseaqueen: The joys of summer time shaving! #summer...

by iamacollectionofmiscellanyandtea


The joys of summer time shaving! #summer #hair #shave #sohot #fat #chubby #effyourbeautystandards #illustration #art

29 Jun 14:27

Guest Post: Breaking The Low Mood Cycle

by elodieunderglass

Image: a cheerful orange blob monster is chatting to a friend using a speech bubble containing a question mark and exclamation mark. The friend is a grumpy grey blob monster who looks away expressing grumpiness. Its speech bubble contains a grey scribble.

Hello friends! It’s Elodie Under Glass here with a guest post on Low Moods.

I particularly want to thank Quisty, Kellis Amberlee and TheOtherAlice  for their kindly help in reading and editing this piece. It would not have existed without their care, support, compassion, and wonderful editorial abilities. They are truly remarkable humans! (edited: And thanks to the radiant and patient NessieMonster, who let me come to her city and follow her around, burbling insensibly about this post, for far longer than most people would have.)

So recently, I went on a Stress and Mood Management course, and I thought that you all might enjoy sharing what I’ve learned.

This post is something of a correction/update to Adulthood is a Scary Horse, a post for the Captain which I was never quite satisfied with. It really crystallized for me on this course, in our discussion of the Low Mood Cycle. It’s a concept described in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and I thought it would be useful to share.

I am not a mental health professional (more caveats on that at the end). But I felt that if these resources had been usefully presented for free on the Internet – especially during times where taking a train and a bus and a taxi to get to a day-long course seemed like organizing a picnic on Venus – it could have helped me that little bit sooner. Maybe it will help others.


What is this Low Mood?

Moods are curious things. We instinctively know what they are (“I’m in a bad mood! I’m in a good mood!”) and how they affect our behavior (“I should never respond to Internet comments unless I’m in a good mood.”) We recognize that we really don’t like to be in Bad Moods or Sad Moods, while much of our free time is spent in pursuing Good Moods. We know intuitively that odd things seem to affect our mood, sometimes apparently out of all proportion  - “A bus driver was mean to me, and while I know that it’s not really significant, it’s ruined my whole day.”

We can spend weeks or months or years in a poor mood, which doesn’t seem quite bad enough for us to call it a mental health problem, or a reason to seek professional help. It’s a funny thing – we don’t really trust our moods as valid emotional states – and really, something as transient and odd as a “mood” doesn’t seem like something that can be treated or cured.

But remember how terrible you feel when you’re in a Low Mood? If we’re creative people, we may explain away the apparent drought in our creativity by saying “I’m just not in the mood to write/paint/draw,” while secretly panicking because what if we’ve lost our creativity? If we’re performative people – people who work in food service, retail, performance art, or another field where you need to project happiness and serenity to do your job – then expressing a Happy Mood when you’re in a Low Mood can feel like operating the most exhausting puppet show ever. It’s really hard to “just do you” when you just don’t feel like it.

Everyone feels like this – it is a natural thing, with underlying logic to it. Here is a diagram of a Mood Cycle, a self-perpetuating hamster wheel which literally every human deals with:

Image: a drawing of a cycle demonstrating Thought, Behavior and Outcome. These three events relate to one another.

Thoughts influence behavior, which influences outcome, which in turn feeds back into your thoughts.

If you’re in a bad place, this is one way that the cycle of badness continues to percolate in your head. And we’ve all been there – we’ve all seen how Low Mood affects your health, productivity, relationships, creative output, and mental outlook. Which is to say: A good deal of your life.

Image: A worried grey blob monster is examining its thoughts, which cycle from Thought to Behavior to Outcome and feed back into Thought. It starts with the thought, "I am a bad person because I never do anything!", which results in the Behavior "So I have no motivation to do anything," which results in an Outcome of "I don't do anything."or if you’re me, it’s a bit more like

Image: Elodie's process is a cycle from "fucking hell" to "fuck this" to "fuck it," garnished with a lot of "nope."


If you’re in situations that encourage the Low Mood Cycle – certain types of relationships, jobs and living situations are basically designed to put you into this Cycle and keep you there – it becomes almost impossible to see beyond your current mood. It becomes hard to remember those times where you were really bright and motivated and funny, and you wanted to see your friends and go places and do new things, and you were completing all kinds of projects and doing good exercise and engaging with your life. And remembering those times can be kind of worse, because you’re like “I was that person? How?”

Image: a grumpy grey blob monster is thinking about itself when it was a happy pink blob monster.

“I can’t believe I had a pink phase. It must have looked really stupid.”

Here’s how one facet of the creative process can look when it’s fed into the Low Mood Cycle:


Image: This cycle moves from “I never complete anything. I feel awful – I keep failing at completing stuff.” to “I won’t start any new stuff.” to “I never do anything and I never finish anything” and back again.

Which is pretty familiar to everyone. Thought feeds into Behavior which feeds into Outcome, creating a pattern that strangles your creative attempts in the womb.


Much Behavior! Such Motivate!

So how do we stop the Low Mood Cycle? We push on any part of it we can, but it’s quite effective to push on Behavior. Specifically, it’s called “behavioral activation” – go forth and complete a task.

If you are stuck in a small and transient Low Mood Cycle and your dirty environment is feeding into that, you break the cycle by getting up and washing the dishes. Of course you don’t want to. Of course this is the last thing you want to do when you’re in a Low Mood. But completing a specific task breaks the cycle.


Image: Here the thought-behavior-outcome cycle is broken at Behavior. A new arrow comes off it, leading to a new event, marked “Behavioral Activation.”


For extra points, you can break down the Stuff You Do into three categories:

  • routine stuff (getting up, grooming, eating, taking anti-baby pills)
  • necessary stuff (paying bills, doing chores, completing work tasks)
  • pleasurable stuff.

Image: The phrase "Behavioral Activation" with rose-colored sprinkles around it. Behavioral Activation is broken down farther into three categories: Routine stuff, necessary stuff, and pleasurable stuff. If you aren’t doing enough of one behavioral category, completing tasks in another category will prove refreshing and motivating. If you’re so bogged down in work, stress and lethargy that you’ve neglected your beauty routine, then set yourself the task of cleaning up your eyebrows.

Image: A blobby grey monster is holding a pair of tweezers and making a sexy face at them? I'm sorry, I'm so bad at writing these, this doesn't even make any sense.

because you’s worth it.

At this point in the course, the therapists who were teaching it looked at each other sadly and Mentioned The Housework. When you get home, and you’ve been drained and picked at and worked hard, and your mood is Low, and there is the Housework, the last fucking thing you want to do on this earth is the Housework, because obviously the thing you need to pick you up is Pudding. And it is not Housework Time: it is time to eat pudding. But – the therapists stressed this carefully, aware that they were blowing our minds – if you do the Housework first, then you can still eat the pudding. And it will be the Pudding of Getting Shit Done. And you’ll feel better! They promised this, while the entire room of people looked at them with deep suspicion.

Image: Some grey blob monsters in various shades are looking suspicious and slightly outraged.

“This sounds like a trap.”


“Motivation comes after action,” the course leaders said a few times, so that we really got it. The idea is to get yourself into a nice cycle of self-esteem and self-reinforcement, starting with small things:


Image: A new cycle that starts with "I'm going to do this thing." The next step is "Hurray, I have done the thing!" concluded with "I am so good at doing things," which returns to the first step.

Many people find that doing things for others cheers them up – giving a flower to a strange child, complimenting someone in the market, or making people laugh give them those good, accomplished, connected feelings.

Many people find that they already do too much stuff for others. These people may get more benefit from doing stuff for themselves – breaking a low mood induced by spending all their energy on others by practicing self-care.

Some activation tasks, which may or may not work for you:

  • Unfuck a very small portion of your habitat
  • Write the email to the loved one
  • Make the to-do list and admire it
  • SEND the email to the loved one
  • pick out the new shoes you need online and buy them
  • wash out the bowls that the pets eat from or live in
  • wash out the bowls that you eat from or live in?!
  • wash the thing you’ve been meaning to wash
  • take everything out of your Sock Collection and give all the lonely socks some sock friends and fold them up together like “heck yeah, I’m shipping these two socks. NOW KISS”
  • open the envelope that doesn’t look like a good envelope
  • argh ARGH it’s a bill why is mail
Image: A grey blob monster is holding an envelope at paw's length, staring at it with shock and horror.


Then a nice thing to do might be to head over to the Friends of Captain Awkward Forum, go to the forum marked “Success Stories,” and share your winningness with the community. If you don’t want to make a whole post, the generous Rose Fox started a thread called “How Were You Awesome Today?” that would greatly benefit from your contributions! Because you are great and the things you do are great.


Do Only Doable Things

For 100% best effects, it’s recommended that you pick small, realistic things to do, with a starting point and an ending point, that don’t cost much money or sustained physical effort. If you decide to break out of the Low Mood Cycle with some vague and worthy goal – like “Today I will no longer be sad! I will write a novel and run five miles!” then that’s probably not going to happen, and then you’ll be more sad. If you are a person whose resting energy levels are quite low, then don’t say “I will cheer myself up by CLEANING THE WHOLE HOUSE FOREVER.” It just trips a switch back into feeling bad:

Image: A cycle that starts off with the phrase "I will do the thing." Unfortunately, it then feeds into a cycle where the next phrase is "I can't do the thing. It's too big and hard." The next step is "I didn't do the thing." The step after that is "I'm crap at doing things."


Here is how the brilliant, lovely and eternally helpful Quisty put it:

A useful exercise to employ can be to ask yourself, “on a scale from 1-10 where 1 is impossible and 10 is ‘it’s more automatic than breathing’ how sure am I can do this thing? Once you hit on something that scores you 8 or higher, do that.

How useful this is depends on how amenable you are to scales. Also don’t be afraid to adjust your scale if it turns out that your Low Mood has yours all fucked up. They need calibrating sometimes.

Don’t write a novel. Write 500 words of crap in your journal. Don’t renovate the house. Do a nice thing for the fish.

Image: A grey blob monster is over-enthusiastically holding up a square fish tank. The fish looks ambivalent about this. The picture is badly drawn. I'm so sorry about this. I'm so sorry about all of this.


The clever and compassionate Kellis also reminded me that many of us, particularly those socialized as ladyfolk, feel pressure to take on Huge Projects while pretending that it’s No Big Thing. Kellis reminds us:

when in doubt, pick a smaller thing.

Say No to People Who Contribute Fruit Flies

What if you’re pretty confident in your own self, but you find that there are certain people in your life who slap down or minimize your achievements?

If you’re in a situation where people deliberately foster and perpetuate the Low Mood Cycle on you, the solution is:

  • get the hell out
  • get the hell out
  • hi-ho-the-dairy-oh
  • get the hell out of there

And if you can’t do that because of REASONS (and of course there are REASONS, I recognize that):

  • think of some solutions
  • there are definitely some solutions
  • hi-ho-the-dairy-oh
  • get the hell out of there

Because that is a thing that abusive people do for REASONS of their own: shutting off the part of your brain that deals in motivations, solutions, action plans and goals is a great way to keep you dependent on them. The Low Mood Cycle basically flicks that reward-switch off, making you a smaller person. It’s hard to program yourself out of it. But it’s even harder if you’re trying to round up and trap and defeat and kill all of those little fruit-fly voices in your head, while your partner or your mother or your boss is moving placidly around the kitchen of your brain, planting rotten bananas.

I’m Basically Okay, It’s Just That There’s So Many Assholes


What about when small things – like the mean bus driver, or the microaggressions, or even a friend on the street who appears to not acknowledge you – affect your mood? Obviously there are Reasons for you to be affected by this; nobody is denying the Reasons. But how are we going to feel about that? Note, of course, that you can feel whatever feelings you like, however you want to feel them.

A good way to regain your place at the center of your personal universe is to acknowledge why this is affecting your mood, and to reason with yourself about it.

In the case of the friend apparently cutting you dead – it is a very reasonable thing in my book to assume that this is because they have always secretly hated you. This could bring you down a lot, making you irritable and occupying your thoughts for the rest of the day. It could even affect your relationship with that friend, as you begin to resent them for not noticing you. But stop. Think about it. What are some more practical reasons why your friend might not see you on the street?

  • They didn’t see you.
  • They had headphones/sunglasses on and didn’t notice you.
  • They didn’t recognize you.
  • Their thoughts were occupied with something else.
  • You know them from a specific circumstance that they don’t want acknowledged in public.
  • They are trying to avoid someone you were with.
  • They had a migraine and were trying to avoid everything.
  • It wasn’t your friend at all, just someone who resembled them.

These are much better thoughts to work with than immediately jumping to the conclusion that you are no longer friends. What are some things you could do to feel even better about it?

  • Stop and call out the name of the friend, seeing if they respond.
  • Call or text the friend – ask them if they’re all right.
  • Decide to move on.

Re-aligning your Thoughts is an important part of fixing your Mood. It’s smaller than Behavior, but sometimes harder. Your negative, self-hating, gloomily triumphant thoughts are really invested in being in your head – like weeds or viruses. To fulfill their evolutionary prerogative, they want to breed and infect most of your mental landscape. But they generally aren’t correct, and don’t come from a complete picture of reality.

Image: An illustration of the cycle again. Thought leads to Behavior leads to Outcome leads to Thought. I think I put this here because I was feeling insecure.

The key thing to remember here is that you, yourself, are indeed Basically Okay. It’s just these uncontrollable other assholes that are the problem.

If you find yourself particularly affected by anxiety about other people’s perceptions of you, one thing that may help is keeping a Folder of Excellence. Keep nice things that other people have said about you there. Keep photos of yourself that you like. Keep your love letters, and records of texts you’ve gotten from cuties, and nice things people have said about your work, and silly birthday cards from your best-beloved ones. I am frequently totally convinced that I am unlikeable, untalented, useless, and hated by all who know me; nothing silences my panic spirals like Evidence Against Them.

And if you’d like a few more nice things said about you to add to your Folder, we can arrange that too.


But I Can’t Because of Thing

At this point in the course, the other attendees were getting restless and needed to Explain.  They had some problems with all of this and wanted to be excused. As we were quite a diverse group, there was a great diversity of Reasons, as predictable as if they had been reading from a script. Women in real jewelry shrilled and men with dirty shirts snarled, and the woman who’d said she led a Christian choir rang out like a great bell. “I can’t do this because I’m in a wheelchair.” “I can’t do this because I have no time.” “I can’t do this because I’m too tired.” “I can’t because I’m too poor.” “And my father won’t let me leave the house.”

“Okay,” the ladies teaching the course said peaceably.

Everyone waited expectantly for the Magic Solution, for the acknowledgement of the justifications, for the big Doctor’s Note excusing them from this assignment. The ladies looked serene and wrote all the Reasons on their big flip pad.

“I mean,” said the beautiful brown lady in the sharp suit who was writing the Reasons down. “It’s not like we’re assigning you homework.”

“It’s not like you’re supposed to impress us,” said the beautiful fat white lady in the vintage tea dress, who was flipping the pages. “Or anybody else.”

“You said that we could break the Low Mood Cycle by getting a haircut!” said the lady with no hair in a tone of great betrayal. “I have no hair!

“Okay,” said the lady in the suit, as if she had stepped down from a stained glass window.

“Don’t get a haircut,” said the lady in the tea dress kindly.

The lady with no hair said “But what should I do?” She dropped her question like a stone, like a trump card, like a heavy weight, a challenge: who dared to pick her burden up again? Her need was alarming. Everyone thought Oh goodness, what am I doing here, when this lady is here who has no hair? Is it because she is dying? If she is dying, what good will any of this do? How can I come here wanting help, with my little anxieties and crying jags, and sit next to the Lady Who Has No Hair? Her pure, raw need sucked all of the noise from the little room, and people stilled and stared at one another, until the young woman whose hot-pink nails matched her hot-pink hijab and hot-pink Converse rolled her eyes and called across the room “Do your nails.”

“Oh!” said the lady with no hair, and looked at her nails with some surprise. Then she looked at the young woman’s hot pink nails, which appeared to glow, with the gleam of growing greed.

“You could play games on your computer,” said the woman with a voice like a bell.

“Oh?” said the lady with no hair doubtfully.

“They’re not like they used to be, with all that shootin, tellin boys to steal cars,” said the woman with a voice like a bell. “There are nice games now – gardenin games.”

The ladies who ran the course wrote this down too. They wrote everything down, and then stared at it lovingly, so that we stared at it too, as if it had suddenly been transmuted into truth because it was written down.

Because breaking the Low Mood Cycle? Here’s what it’s NOT about:

  • productivity
  • making money
  • being a good role model
  • impressing others
  • “improving” yourself (where the benchmarks for “improvement” are placed by society to make 99% of people feel bad)
  • acquiring skills or moods to function better in a capitalist environment
  • doing stuff to appeal to others
  • making yourself easier to be around for others

Here’s what it’s supposed to be about:

  • doing you
  • getting good at doing you
  • remembering what it feels like to be good at doing you
  • reclaiming yourself and the things that you love
  • feeling proud of yourself, not disappointed by yourself
  • recovering your mood
  • getting rid of a hollow feeling
  • recovering that lost-feeling Thing that you need and love about yourself

The Caveats

I’m not an expert. Captain Awkwarddotcom generally recommends professional therapy. This is not a cure for deep depression, or indeed for anything at all – this is just some diagrams and metaphors that explain the Low Mood Cycle, how it can sap your creativity and motivation, and how to go about ending it.

Think Yourself Happy/Cook Yourself Happy/Unfuck Your Habitat for Emotional Fulfillment suggestions are just not going to fucking cut it in a lot of situations, and that’s okay too! We’re just talking about that state that we all get into of wanting to be the Life of the Party but having only enough energy to be the Housepet of the Party.

Image: An annoyed grey blob monster with cat ears, a tail and a suspicious expression. It's basically an angry-looking bread loaf.

“I’m going to stalk dramatically through the center of the conversation and then disappear. Don’t touch me.”


And Then The Lights Like Stars

So long story short: none of this helped with my current habit of ragefainting during driving lessons, which was what I had originally gone to the doctor for. Knowing about the Low Mood Cycle and battling your fruit-fly thoughts can only take you so far. But here’s where it took me.

The lights shone in my face and the invisible audience behind the glare were clapping and laughing and sending back these golden sparks of we like you, we think you are a funny lady. And there was the high, that high of being imperfect, but doing okay stuff, putting it out there, seeing it well-received.

Sometimes when you do you, people like it. And you’re like yes, wait a minute, that’s true – that’s who I am. I’m not a particularly sad person. I just have sad parts.

That’s worth breaking out of any Low Mood Cycle for.

We are all grey sometimes, but under the lights, we are really bright and great – and we are inherently, wonderfully worthy.

Image: A happy-looking sun-colored blob monster that is glowing! Hurray! YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL

“I have perfect eyebrows, and many people like me because of my beautiful soul!”

Go forth, Awkward Army, and know that you have inherently beautiful souls that other people like an awful lot.

23 Jun 16:11

Adorkable rescue piglets to brighten your Monday!

by youtalkfunny

Omg, lil piglets, you need to stop. This is Magpie, Rudy, and Georgina Grace Wiggle Bottom, three new residents at Animal Place! They have a sad story (as usual):

The three piglets were born at a petting zoo which, like most petting zoos, profits off cuteness and discards the animals when they age. In this case, the birth was unexpected and the zoo didn’t want any of the piglets at all—in fact, two were sold for slaughter before an individual could intervene. We ache for these two piglets who will never know joy like the pigs at Animal Place. Luckily, the three remaining piglets were saved and brought to our sanctuary.

Luckily indeed! And lucky for us to have another cute reminder of why we don’t support bullish like petting zoos. Sure, tell me how you’ve seen with your very own eyes how they treat the animals sooooo nice…until they don’t need them any more! Bullish. 

Thanks again, Animal Place! Donate here so these little babes can eat yummy food and live with new friends for the rest of their lives. 

21 Jun 06:01

Open Wireless Movement's router OS will let you securely share your Internet with the world

by Cory Doctorow

Open Wireless Movement, a joint project of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Fight for the Future, Mozilla, Free Press and others, will reveal its sharing-friendly wifi router firmware at the HOPE X conference in NYC next month. The openwireless operating system allows you to portion out some of your bandwidth to share freely with your neighbors and passersby, while providing a high degree of security and privacy for your own communications.

The Open Wireless Movement's goals are to both encourage the neighborliness that you get from sharing in your community, and undermining the idea that an IP address can be used to identify a person, establishing a global system of anonymous Internet connectivity. The project includes an excellent FAQ on the myths and facts about your legal liability for things that other people do with your network. Read the rest

04 Jun 21:19

greypoppies: (Photos of women in the circus by Frederick W....

02 Jun 09:20

Logic gates made from pulleys and weights

by Cory Doctorow

Alex Gorischek's Pulley Logic Gates is a brilliant and delightful demonstration of attaining a set of logic gates with pulleys, weights and string, using materials you can buy cheaply so you can try it out yourself. Watch this video: the gates build in complexity and ingenuity as they go along, and by XOR, I was actually cheering (and it gets even better than XOR!). (Via JWZ)

Read the rest
29 May 20:04

Control panels on space-age ovens

by Mark Frauenfelder
23 May 04:58

The Scary Ham: disposing of an old man's prized meat

by Cory Doctorow

Science fiction writer Ellen Klages is a wonderful storyteller; as Toastmaster for the Nebula Awards, she held an audience spellbound with the delightful, terrifying story of her late father's prized Scary Ham. Read the rest

21 May 16:45

Witness a sweet reunion between rescued goat and burro BFFs

by youtalkfunny

Welcome to heartwarming day here at Vegansaurus! Animal Place recently rescued a goat, without realizing just how very attached he was to his burro BFF. Here’s how it all started:

On a warm May day, a 10-yr old goat named Mr. G arrived to Animal Place’s Rescue Ranch adoption center. For a decade he lived with a burro on the property of a woman who could barely care for herself, let alone the dozens of dogs she hoarded and three barnyard animals.
Animal Place was one of two sanctuaries offering to help the goat and burro when they were confiscated…but we could only take in the goat, and the other sanctuary could only take the burro. The two were separated in order to save their lives. We didn’t know the depth of their bond.

After Mr. G was at the sanctuary, he wouldn’t leave his stall. He refused to eat. But nothing was physically wrong with him, he just missed his friend Jellybean the burro! 

Animal Place knew they had to bring Jellybean to live at the sanctuary. As soon as they did…

Mr. G erupted from his prone position, snorting and inhaling Jellybean’s presence. He rushed after her into their outdoor pasture. The magical moment came when Mr. G began eating from Jellybean’s bowl!

Watch the reunion above. And don’t forget to help Animal Place get their new trailer so they can transport other lucky animals like Jellybean!

22 May 20:57

NFL cheerleaders live miserable lives of silent degredation

by Xeni Jardin
Man, I had no idea how rotten the contract language for professional sports cheerleaders could be. Check out this Mother Jones explainer, and the accompanying sample document. Read the rest