i was in chicago last weekend for a book thing. and when i wasn't in my beautiful hotel room intermittently sobbing into the crisp white towels over how many delicious varieties of fried chicken were available within any one mile radius at virtually any time day or night, i was unfortunately outside of that hotel room being assaulted by other people's inane conversations. one night i was standing on the corner of halsted and randolph laughing at the idea that anyone would actually wait 2+ hours to eat a cheeseburger at au cheval when a handsome young man with two vibrant and colorful full sleeves adorning his pale, slender arms stumbled out of the restaurant, insulted that he was on the wait-for-a-text-list, griped "we can't get a seat at the bar but that guy with the cubs tattoo has a table!? let's go back to logan square, bro." (i might have taken some creative license with the last part of that sentence but whatever you know it's true.)
i could feel all the hair on my unironic mickey mouse/tweety bird/tazmanian devil tattoo stand on end. (i don't have any of those, but i know some bitches who do, and this is about solidarity.) everyone is a dumbass at 18. some people are still dumbasses at 32. it can't be helped. and sure, maybe i should've known that one day the olde english lettering spelling out ONE IRON DUKE on my right forearm would cause me deep and powerful shame at the hands of a style blogger with access to an american express card, but i fucking didn't. there were no smartphones back then, i couldn't just whip out my iphone and bring up the 10,000,000 pictures of the chinese symbol for "mother" available to me so that i wouldn't end up with the word "vagina" TATTOOED ON THE SIDE OF MY MOTHERFUCKING NECK FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE. so give us a goddamned break, kids. back then we still had to fucking use encyclopedias.
so this one's for all the homies getting tattooed in the early aughts who had neither access to 2500 real american dollars to get inked from shoulder to wrist with something cool enough to impress our future roller derby teammates nor the foresight to realize that tattooing "i want no one else to succeed" on her breastplate would force her to engage with so many hideous, mouthbreathing strangers. ugh my life is neverending misery. i should either wear a turtleneck every day or get cards made up that say "please don't make me take my headphones off, it's a quote from there will be blood, okay!?"
i'm here for all you girls with butterflies flapping gently above your ass cracks and what you were misled to believe are the japanese letters for "love" and "destiny" peeking out from under the hems of your jeans; and the bros with barbed wire circling biceps that no longer flex as hard as they used to and faded orange koi gasping for air atop flabby pectoral muscles that strain a little tighter against your old abercrombie polo shirts. yes, i have an inky black tribal "sun" tattooed over the ill-conceived initials on my inner left wrist of a grown man who put ketchup on a steak at ruth's chris one time before leaving a 10% tip and I WILL NO LONGER BE ASHAMED, friends. did that dude and i end up happily ever after? no! but at the time did my then-25 year old brain think that a person who made me a copy of his house key should be honored in return with a corner of real estate on my body!? you bet that ladybug tattoo on your ass i did.
i'm not hiding anymore, fam. some asshole at a reading a couple years ago was like, "lol japanese wave tattoo!?" and for a split second i felt stupid and almost apologetic but wait: HELLO, SON. I AM OLD. and while i hope that tiny hipster mustache etched permanently into the side of your finger remains au courant forever, i'm smart enough to know it won't and that you better start thinking up the cutesy story to explain it away at parties now. because in ten years when 3D face tattoos are the wave and the girls you're trying to bone are all, "ew...mustache?" you're going to feel this exact same shame and hopefully by that point my aquarius constellation tattoo and i will be cackling up at you from the ninth circle of hell.
a semi-exhaustive list of all my trash tattoos, which hopefully will make you feel marginally better about your own life choices:
1 my first ever tattoo was this garbage i got, inspired by my 1998 hero ani difranco, in the dead center of my chest. i had the cover of her spin magazine tacked to a square of cardboard hanging on my dorm room wall, and that tattoo seemed as fitting a tribute as any to let everyone know that i spent a lot of time in high school crying along to "not a pretty girl."
2 giant tribal flame on top of right forearm.
3 tribal flower with nearly illegible name of dead mother scribbled beneath, top of left forearm.
4 below that, some other tribal thing that this dude at jade dragon kept calling a spider as he was tattooing it on me. i'm not really that into bugs and twenty years later it lives on my arm and still creeps me the fuck out.
5 "one iron duke," in honor of dead father, in that running from your wrist to your elbow style that eminem has wow o wow is this humiliating.
6 AFOREMENTIONED NECK TATTOO.
7 "shut up" on right upper arm.
8 ugh my sister and i got these matching butterfly tattoos? which is weird because i don't think we even like each other enough to do that kind of thing, and i'm going to go on record and say that i had chosen mine first and was in the chair with my shirt off when she got hers.
9 oh man i was deeply in love and got the initials of a non-fictional person on the inside of my wrist and totally didn't think it was a mistake.
9a happiness is a lie and love is fleeting as fuck. cover ups to the rescue.
10 i was never one to instill a whole lot of meaning into my tattoo choices (and i definitely did not give them a whole lot of thought?) but i couldn't resist getting a little something when i went with a friend and got that there will be blood quote written on my left boob in this font that looks like a child's handwriting. i think this is officially when i was like "let's just cover this bag of rotting meat with whatever who cares."
11 case in point: i got really, really into sons of anarchy and decided that i was going to get a bunch of biker tattoos? okay so the first is this black and white shaded reaper surrounded by smoke and waves, angrily wielding a sickle with blood oozing from it; 12 the second one is a freehand skull done with only shading needles. he's surrounded by stars and roses and has a serpent coiled throughout, with its tail coming out of the skull's mouth and its head slithering out of where his missing brain would be; and finally, 13 a screaming reaper with terrifying sharp teeth who is brandishing an incredibly detailed smoking pistol. these are all on my right arm, and i still stand by this decision. man, i love that show.
14 slowing down in my old age, i got the aquarius constellation because if you pretend you believe in astrology people tend to be less irritated by your idiotic decision-making.
15 when i went to dump my dad's ashes i got a tattoo of the state of tennessee, mostly to remind myself that i drove from chicago to nashville in a rented camry in seven hours fueled only by lukewarm diet coke and the kind of adult contemporary playlist that would melt your mom's panties right off.
16 cursed, on my wrist. because duh.
i wish i was cool, man. but i feel like that ship sailed as soon as i decided to pick my first handful of tattoos from the drunk rugby player's handbook circa 1997. there's freedom in covering your body with nonsense, though. once you get one dumb piece of garbage, you can just do whatever the fuck you want! aim low! get all of the cartoon characters and insipid motivational quotes your body can handle! ALL TATTOOS ARE TRASH. "dream as if you'll live forever." *cluster of birds trailing over mole-speckled right shoulder*
Vestiges of monogamy…
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With Epbot I set out to create a place where, among other things, I could be myself and just talk to people. And ideally, have them talk back. About silly stuff. About fandom stuff. Of struggles and triumphs and inspirations - of cabbages and kings!
I got all that in spades.
Today, most of my closest friends I've met through this blog. Some were fans who asked for a meetup, others were artists or cosplayers I featured on roundups. Some I've only met IRL a few times, others I get to see every month. But all of them found something in common with me, chose to express it, and have made my life so much richer.
Even those of you I don't know yet, I feel like I know, at least a little. From what I hear on meetups, I think you feel the same. We have these commonalities, you see. Not everything, of course - that'd be boring - but enough to bring us together. Enough to cheer each other on.
Yesterday John and I had a meetup at Diagon Alley in Universal. Not unusual; we do these a lot.
This was a particularly lovely one, though, because right up front Chelsea admitted she was nervous meeting me, so I got to confess that I was nervous, too. Not over the meeting, but because I'd decided that maybe that was the day I could finally, after years of hoping and trying and failing - finally get myself on the ride E.T.
You're laughing now, but my agoraphobia has prevented me from going on rides for around 5 years now. It's an irrational nuisance, a fear-monster I've been working to tame. Two years ago I conquered the kiddy Dr. Suess ride, but anything that locked me in, that lifted off the ground or sailed into water, has been off-limits - and of course that's nearly all of them.
E.T. was my holy grail, because I hadn't been on it since I was a kid, and because I was afraid it would close before I could work up the courage. Yes, I, a grown woman, was afraid of the E.T. ride.
I've been working on my exposure therapy, though, while continuing to get my thyroid and hormone issues in check. Several months ago I went on the boat ride in The Land. Before that I made it through the queue of E.T. - a big step, since they lock you in a room first - before ducking out at the end with shaky, sweaty palms. And often at night, before I went to sleep, I would imagine myself on the ride, the darkness and the height and the restraint bars, until the fear loosened ever-so-slightly.
So I'd been doing my homework, and I felt, finally, ready. All I needed now was moral support, a pinch of distraction, and maybe even a scosh of peer pressure.
I told Chelsea this - well, an abbreviated version - when we first met, and later that day, just before the park closed, she and her hubby Nate insisted on accompanying me and John to the ride.
We told them they didn't have to. There were other things they'd rather do, and we told them to go do those instead. But they spent their precious vacation time to come with us, chatting and laughing, and then they rode E.T. with me, and you guys, I rode E.T., I did it, and though I shook quite a bit and gripped those handlebars 'til my knuckles went white and I very nearly panicked, I didn't panic. I went right to that edge, and came back safe and sound. I can't say it was fun, not yet, but I can see how it might be again someday - and just that is something I couldn't imagine even a few months ago.
I know a theme park ride is a silly victory, I do, but it's a marker of so much more. Last week I sat comfortably through a community play. Bad traffic doesn't bother me anymore. Neither do elevators or movies. A month ago - and this one stings to admit - I successfully drove by myself for the first time in over two years, and it was actually fun. Best of all, I did all of these things without Xanax.
While I'm proud, let me be clear: It's not mind-over-matter. It's not that I have better or stronger willpower. It's proper health care and treatment and medication, combined with a few mental and breathing techniques for fine-tuning. After years of searching for the right doctors and tests, my Hashimoto's is mostly under control, I do spine stretches to relieve "computer hunch," and most recently I've been correcting some imbalances with prescription hormones - all issues that have triggered and exacerbated my panic. It's been such a long, tedious journey, but now, almost a decade after my panic switched on overnight, I can almost imagine a life without it. Almost. That. is. HUGE.
I'm telling you all this because I want you to know there is hope, and because this isn't a private victory. Whether you're aware of it or not, you've helped me get here. This community is helping me take back what agoraphobia has stolen from me. So it was only fitting that Chelsea and Nate were there with me at E.T., even if they, too, didn't know how much they were helping. (I managed not to cry after; just stood there grinning and shaking. That's another little battle won.)
Thanks to this community, I don't have to face the monsters alone. And neither do you.
Oh, and since I believe every victory deserves its spoils, check it out - I got myself a battle trophy:
I took this on a nearby bench while the rest of the group went on the Simpsons ride. (Baby steps - I'll get to more rides eventually.) You know I'm giddy when I resort to taking selfies. [shudder]
My new E.T. plush stands next to my monitor, a reminder of triumphs and home and friends I haven't met yet, and also that when the really hard times come, next time, I won't have to face them alone.
Fist bumps all round, y'all. We did good.
Heads up: Spoilers for Mr. Robot in the above video.
Leslie Jones wants the world to know she’s got the world’s most notorious hacker on her side. The recent Saturday Night Live premiere included a Mr. Robot parody in which Jones recruits Elliot Alderson (expertly spoofed by Pete Davidson) to help her hunt down her hacker. Mr. Robot and Darlene also make small appearances.
If you weren’t already aware, the video references Jones’ real life experience getting hacked. After being targeted for online abuse which consisted of posting Jones’ private photos, information, and other horrific types of sexism and racism, the Ghostbusters star spoke to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, who promised to do more in combatting this kind of behavior. Homeland Security is also currently investigating the case.
While most of the jokes in the video play off Mr. Robot‘s seriousness by building the contrast between Elliot’s sad, technological prowess and Jones’ energetic, outdated sensibility (her password is “password”), there’s something very powerful about Leslie Jones making comedy out of something as awful as her harassment. How amazing is that? Not only does she unapologetically bring up her role in Ghostbusters in a clever “I ain’t afraid of no ghosts” to remind us she won’t let the haters get her down, she’s using that terrible experience as fuel for new content.
What did you think about the spoof?
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—The Mary Sue has a strict comment policy that forbids, but is not limited to, personal insults toward anyone, hate speech, and trolling.—
You know how we say, "Please let us know if you need anything," to people in pain? And how that's just putting the burden on *them* to tell us how to help, right when they're least capable of thinking straight?
I think we can agree that doesn't work.
But what if we each had a list: a Personal Emergency Guide. A PEG. And on this list, just like a medical ID bracelet or an In Case of Emergency notice, we could record how and when and to-what-extent our friends and family can help during a crisis.
Obviously you'd have to fill out this list before there's trouble, when you're clear headed, but once it's done you can invoke your PEG at any time on social media. Even better, post it now, so others can reference it as needed.
So what goes on a PEG? Any and everything you'd want to know about your friends when you're trying to help them feel better. Something like this:
Obviously you'll want to tailor your PEG to fit; these are just some basics to get you started. Remember this is for emotional emergencies, though, not everyday. Think about how you cope with fear and bad news and sadness, and about what's helped in the past.
In the same vein, don't assume you already know what your friends need; everyone is different, and pain changes things. That friend who hugs everyone may want space, or the distant, cynical one may want company - you never know, and only they can tell you for sure.
I'm planning to post that graphic on my personal Facebook, and ask my friends to fill it out. Call me awkward - 'cuz I am - but I appreciate some guidelines when life gets messy. Maybe you do, too. If so, grab that graphic (or make your own!), and let's start some conversations. Let's learn something new. Let's be better friends.
Now it's your turn: what'd I miss? What would you add to your PEG, and what do you wish your friends would add to theirs?
P.S. Our friend's situation yesterday turned out OK, and we were able to visit and laugh and have an awesome time together. I'm lucky she took charge, though, and simply told us what she wanted. That's all a good PEG is, really, so however you express it, just get one out there, k?
Dear Captain Awkward,
I am so scared. I keep messing things up financially. I just don’t know how to do it. How to DO MONEY. But it’s a paradox, because I am earning a decent amount.
It’s a paradox about which I feel rather ashamed, because I am aware of my privilege. I come from a middle-class family of financial flailers–always earning a comfortably middle-class salary, yet always lurching, always in debt, always bouncing checks, always living paycheck to paycheck, always STRESSED AS FUCK about money, yet never really changing (or seeming to know how to change) spending habits, or debt, or livingsituation, or whatever the fuck it is you do to live with lower financial stress. I am just like my parents in this regard.
I am so scared. I am always living paycheck to paycheck, and even that isn’t enough. To illustrate what I mean, I often have to stop eating for 3 days before paychecks, I tend to bounce checks once every month or two, and I’ve had to postpone my student loan payments 3 times in 4 months. It is not so easy to just move, either–my rent is pretty decent for the location, especially considering that now I don’t have a car (a crash last summer, another financial fuckeroo), it is important to live near my workplace.
I just don’t know where to start. Whenever I google stuff about getting financial advice online for free, it’s always some advice that comes in the form of happy go lucky blank slates. Like, these super-duper positive people writing how-to’s as though they are teaching the teenage children of rich and stable folks how to save their allowance. Fuck that shit! I don’t want advice that is starting from some elusive, unrealistic (at least for me, but probably for most) baseline of financial stability and emotional okayness.
I want some advice that respects my baseline of terrible credit, shitty habits, major upcoming expenses, MAJOR student loan debt, major shame and self-loathing, and total overwhelm and fear.
I feel so fucked. I am scared.
I know that here, Captain, you tend to respond to stories. However, I also know that you love advice blogs in general, that you’re an aficionado of the genre. Therefore my question is a request for help in finding some other advice blogs: do you know of any places on the internet I can go to find the kind of help, the kind of realistic, open, detailed, respectful advice I’m looking for?
And frankly if you have thoughts on my situation, I will definitely take your advice, too.
Thanks a lot,
I hear you that you feel scared—and that you feel especially ashamed because you recognize your relative good fortune to date. Would it help to know that you are not alone, that you are now among the majority in the US? Living paycheck to paycheck—or well behind one—is common, including in folks who’ve had sound opportunity. So kudos to you for actively seeking to set straight what so far feels to you like an impossible situation.
As you’ve found, the advice common in financial guides does not apply to everyone, or at least not to everyone’s starting point. Many such resources assume a near-magical combination of higher-income, plus a naturally frugal bent, plus a supportive family, plus a state of emotional zen, plus a cognitive capacity to navigate institutions ranging from banks to universities, plus plus plus. Not everyone has all of these. Folks with barriers such as stress, grief, cognitive limitations, a difficult family history, an experience of abuse, or a disability are often left to their own devices and, like you, feel embarrassment and shame that they aren’t “succeeding.”
Many mainstream resources don’t help. In fact, they exacerbate the issue by making it difficult for folks to come out of their financial closets. I know it didn’t help me one iota when all the advice seemed to scream, “Be an entirely different person! Become an extrovert! Don’t have Asperger’s or depression! Have more physical stamina!” Ack. Our financial path must—at its most basic level—honor who we are at our heart, not to mention at our physical capacity.
You’re smart, articulate, and educated but, as you’ve discovered, these qualities alone do not lead to financial success. But other ones do.
As a volunteer, I serve some of my region’s lowest-income people. Interestingly, some had extremely high income (think executive directors and an NHL player) before needing help to secure and then live on $510 per month. As is usually the case, their financial flailing was not about a lack of drive, commitment, hard work, or intelligence. These folks’ careers relied on these characteristics. So what else is at play?
You seem to be painfully aware that you have sufficient income and status, and that there is some self-sabotage going on. This means that while you feel like a failure you’re actually already two steps ahead of the game!
I propose five strategies to help you fulfill your dream of financial well-being:
1. Prepare. Interestingly, preparing for financial recovery involves no file folders, specialized software, or fee-based advisers. Getting ready will involve just the simple step of writing down five free things you can do when you start to feel overwhelmed. What soothes you? A bubble bath? A run? Knitting? Texting with a dear friend? Meditation? A pitch black room? The Pogues on maximum volume? Post your list to at least five key places: your bathroom mirror, your car dashboard, the top of your shoe, your wrist, wherever you will see this prompt to self-soothe rather than spend. When the judgement or panic begins to arise, implement one of your personal self-soothing options. (And if you spend instead? No big deal, because you’re going to put in place the next steps too.)
2. Connect. The primary difference I see in people who transition from struggling to stable is emotional back-up. Many of us rely on spending to alleviate intolerable levels of loneliness, isolation, fear, anger, guilt, and more. Ironically, when we then spiral into shame about our spending, we often spend even more to cope! For this reason, I recommend your second step be putting support in place. For a sociable introvert or a person with a wild schedule, an online forum such as that offered by the Simple Living Network might be the best bet. For a person who thrives in live groups, the twelve-step program Debtors Anonymous can be a boon. If you have access to affordable one-on-one therapy, I encourage you to take that opportunity, too.
Even when these resources use financial floundering as a focus or anchor topic, much more will happen. This is because for most of us, money is attached to loss, hope, grief, attachment, and shame. When we focus on our finances, our money issues begin to resolve but so do layers of psychological struggle. When we act on one, we are inherently acting on both. So in healing financially, it is critical to have support not just to spend more judiciously, but to live through the emotional layers that arise when we shift the very way we’re interacting with our world. Your support person or group provides practical support while simultaneously (and more importantly) caring for your heart—walking you through your shame and out the other side while you implement change.
3. Envision. Take up to an hour to consider your personal goals. What are your dreams? When you see yourself in twenty years, what is your life full of? What does that look like, smell like, sound like, taste like? Pull related photos out of magazines, jot down key words, or chat about it into your phone or video camera. The sky’s the limit. Record everything you truly desire materially or environmentally. Silence? A turntable? An English country garden? The opportunity to raise a child?
4. Assess. Does your current lifestyle match this vision? If your heart tells you that in the future you want a peaceful cottage to write in, does spending $4 on ice cream today align with that? Don’t judge or kick yourself. Just notice. Watch yourself as though you are a scientist—a neutral third party curious about the patterns.
5. Record. On any given day, write down every penny that comes in to your life and every penny that goes out. This includes the dollar to the busker and the auto-debit for the internet bill. This activity can seem intimidating, because we anticipate seeing evidence of unmitigated disaster: pen hitting paper minute by minute, volumes of scrawled notes. It needn’t be overwhelming, though, and in fact can be strangely soothing. When we record in a notebook every penny as it goes out or in, we begin to see the power we have—the choice we get to make from moment to moment. We give ourselves a glimpse of our healthy decision-making capacity. Record nothing from before this moment, and nothing from beyond now. Just this moment’s transaction. As you record, accept your feelings. (Rely on your list for self-soothing.) Don’t try to modify your spending; no one else need see the information. Just record. Do this in as many moments, on as many days, as you feel up to it. Your consciousness will take it from there.
Once we have these five elements or practices in place, we naturally take steps to increase our income—asking for a raise, babysitting for a neighbour, snagging that grant—and decreasing our expenses—applying for a halt in student loan interest, canceling the gym membership we never use, inviting friends to a potluck in place of our usual Friday night restaurant outing. We do these one at a time, as our support team helps us to.
When we’ve connected more deeply with ourselves—and recognized our right to honor our truest self—we begin spending on that which aligns with our own deepest values, and declining to spend on that which others told us we should want: marriage, a magazine subscription, the university degree. Of course, the actual details of what we spend or save on are unique to each person, which is why our financial journey is often one of achieving physical, psychological, and relational freedom as well.
When we align our finances with who we really are at heart—ditching other people’s priorities in favor of honoring our own values and dreams—the perplexing paradoxes resolve. In the end, it seems that near-magic is involved after all, but it’s you who creates it.
Joon Madriga was marginalized by a severe yet undiagnosed brain-based disability, which left her on the streets. She subsequently found her way to help herself, then thousands of others. Her recently released book, Rising: Strategies for the Broke, the At-Risk, and Those Who Love Them, is available on Amazon.com. She blogs at financialtipsforthebroke.com and welcomes your questions and struggles there.
Moderator Note: Readers, feel free to recommend other resources & techniques in the comments. I’d prefer to see recommendations in the form of “X site/forum/tool worked really well for me, here’s how and why” over “You should try X.”
We shot our new Rose Armor Gown and revisited the Princess Celestia Gown with Saffels Photography and model Kelly Eden! You can view the BTS here! – https://youtu.be/bVEMIgirRbs
A special thanks to Creature of Habit for helping on set <3
– Rose Armor Gown –
We used a dusty rose chiffon that parts in the front to reveal silver 3D lace. The underlying fabric is a pale peach wedding satin. Metal filigree decorates the top of the dress and under-bust. We created matching filigree shoulder caps glittering with gems. Swags of chain drape over the sides of the arm and back.
– Princess Celestia Gown –
This gown was made for The Labyrinth of Jareth Masquerade Ball ( www.labyrinthmasquerade.com ). I wanted to create a human version of Princess Celestia (My Little Pony : Friendship is Magic). Not only did I want to make a human version but also something decadent that she would wear to a masquerade. Celestia has a sun theme, I incorporated a star burst to the center of her tapestry panel. I added white LED lights to the wings for an ethereal glow. Fluffy layers of tulle and pearl organza make the high collar and puff sleeves.
Why Star Trek: Discovery Needs an Environmental Conservation Plotline - Can a show about exploring strange new worlds help save life on our own?
The announcement of a new Star Trek TV show has Trekkers around the world, including me, buzzing with excitement. CBS and showrunner Bryan Fuller have revealed some key details about Star Trek: Discovery, promising “new crews, new villains, new heroes, and new worlds.” We know that the new show will take place in the Prime timeline, approximately a decade before Kirk’s original 5 year mission. What we don’t yet know is what the main plotlines will be. As a lifelong Star Trek fan, a conservation biologist and a citizen afraid of the future, I hope that Star Trek: Discovery will feature an environmental conservation plotline.
Star Trek is at its best when it focuses on important real-world problems through the lens of science fiction. In the original series, “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield” showed how preposterous and harmful racism can be at the height of the civil rights movement of the 1960s. “Homefront” in Deep Space Nine showed that moral compromises made in the name of security can be more damaging to a peaceful society than the actual danger from the enemy. And for all its flaws, Star Trek: Enterprise did a great job portraying the stigma that AIDS sufferers face via Vulcan Pa’nar syndrome.
But in hundreds of hours of airtime, Star Trek has barely covered topics related to environmental conservation at all. Spock referred to killing what was believed to be the last surviving Horta as “a crime against science” in “Devil in the Dark”; The Voyage Home focused on Kirk and company going back in time to retrieve now-extinct humpback whales; and in The Next Generation’s “New Ground,” Worf’s son Alexander learns about how rhinos went extinct on Earth and tries to rescue an endangered Corvan gilvo from a shipboard fire. That’s about it.
Environmental conservation is one of the most important issues facing the world today. According to the WWF, wildlife populations have dropped more than 50% in the last few decades. Research shows that human activities are causing species to go extinct at more than 1,000 times their natural rate. Things are so bad that scientists say human actions have created a whole new geologic epoch, the Anthropocene, and have caused the Earth’s sixth-ever mass extinction event.
An environmental conservation plotline on Star Trek: Discovery could help raise awareness of these real-world problems. Such a plotline might take several forms. We know that before the relative paradise of the Discovery/TOS era, things got ugly for the people of Earth. Crises such as the Bell Riots, the Eugenics Wars, and the post-atomic horror have been somewhat well explored. Others, such as the World War III era eco-terrorism movement led by the dictator Colonel Green, have been barely mentioned. A Discovery-era extremist environmental movement influenced by Colonel Green could be an interesting plot point. After all, the Terra Prime movement on Enterprise was one of the best parts of that show.
A society with interstellar commerce must face ecological problems with introduced or invasive species. In the real world, ecosystems are being devastated by the introduction of non-native species. These species often have no predators in the new ecosystem, or outcompete native species for food. One way that invasive species are spread in the real world is through cargo vessels moving from port to port. How much worse must this problem be when you’re dealing with ships moving between hundreds of worlds? We learned from The Phantom Menace that plot points based on trade policy aren’t always the most fascinating thing to watch. However, introduced Tribbles eating all the grain in a silo was a key component of one of the most beloved Star Trek episodes of all time. And speaking of invasive species, what ever happened to Sluggo, the invertebrate who Ensign Sato took from one planet and released on an ecologically similar planet in “Fight or Flight”?
From The Voyage Home, we know that Earth’s oceans in the days of Star Trek: Discovery don’t have humpback whales anymore, but we know little else. Maybe we could explore what’s happening in the oceans through the eyes of the fish-faced Antedeans, introduced to us in TNG‘s “Manhunt,” or through the Xindi Aquatics from Enterprise, or through a new amphibious species entirely. Did humanity ever solve the overfishing crisis from causing major disruptions to global food security? Did ocean acidification ever disrupt ocean food webs by making it impossible for shelled organisms to create their shells? Did we ever try mining the deep sea? What did these things do to our oceans, and the many animal species which call them home? If we solved these problems, how did we solve them?
There are lots of other ways to incorporate environmental conservation into Star Trek: Discovery. A look at how “modern” science helped Earth’s environment to recover from the post-atomic horror could be interesting, and could be perhaps mentioned in the context of helping another species to move on from a similar problem. Could the genetic engineering technology used to create augments like Khan be used for de-extinction, or to make threatened species more resilient to environmental change? In the modern world, zoos have captive breeding programs for endangered species; might a spaceship or offworld colony be a 23rd century equivalent? Does “infinite diversity in infinite combinations” refer to biodiversity as well? How did Alexander’s Corvan gilvos become endangered in the first place? The list goes on and on, and I’m sure writers far more creative than I could suggest even better ways to shine a light on these problems through the Star Trek universe.
An environmental plotline on Star Trek: Discovery won’t save the world, but it could help to bring attention to some real-world conservation issues. And the way things are going, if our world’s threatened species are to live long and prosper, environmental issues need all the attention they can get.
David Shiffman is a marine conservation biologist and science writer. You can follow him on Twitter @WhySharksMatter.
—The Mary Sue has a strict comment policy that forbids, but is not limited to, personal insults toward anyone, hate speech, and trolling.—
#905: “I’m a college student who doesn’t drink. How can I make my peers understand that without killing the mood?”
"Pay attention also to the people who Will. Not. Fucking. Let. It. Go., the ones who keep trying to override your choice, the ones who hint that they will spike your drink “as a joke,” the ones who call attention to it in a way that feels belittling or coercive. Avoid them, where possible, and if they’re in your social circle, keep an eye on them. Don’t leave your friends, especially drunk friends, alone with them. Don’t leave your drink unattended with them, or drink unidentified things they hand you. Someone who meets your “no thanks!” with half an hour of manipulation and second-guessing is communicating that they are bad at consent. "
I’m a 20-year-old college student and I don’t drink, nor will I likely ever drink in the future. My father is an alcoholic, and every family member on his side has some form of substance abuse problem. I know that having a drink now and again will not necessarily hurt me or lead to a drinking problem of my own, but I’ve decided to just abstain completely anyways.
Most of my peers/classmates, however, like to drink and will often talk at length about it. I’ve been asked multiple times about my beer preference or some other alcohol-related question, to which I simply reply I don’t drink. For some reason, most people can’t seem to accept this and will ask me why not, or even try to convince me how great drinking is if I say it’s because I’m not interested. I don’t have a problem with other people drinking or listening to stories about it, but I don’t know how to explain my “disinterest” to other people.
I really don’t want to be a huge bummer in front of other people and say outright, “I don’t drink because my dad is an alcoholic,” but I don’t know how to get people to stop asking questions. “I don’t drink for personal reasons,” also feels like either a bummer or might lead to people asking what those reasons are.
So, Captain is there any way I can sidestep these questions without having to divulge my personal circumstances or bringing down the mood of the group?
Thanks for any help,
Sober in South Florida (she/her)
Dear Sober in South Florida,
For close, trusted friends, consider telling the unvarnished truth at a time when you’re one-on-one with them in a calm, quiet place and not at a party or immediately heading to one: “The [party last week] [where the topic came up in a big, awkward way] wasn’t the time to talk about this, but I wanted to tell you: I don’t drink because of some serious addiction problems in my family. I’m fine if other people drink, but sometimes it’s exhausting when people try really hard to sell me on how great it is or pry into my reasons. I know for sure that it’s not for me.”
You don’t owe anyone your whole family history, but you don’t owe your family a shield of never talking about it, either, and maybe it would be helpful for people close to you to know a little bit about your reasons. If they know, they can stop pressuring you about it right now, forever. They can have your back when others do pressure you. You can ask them directly to do this, like, “Not everyone has to know about my family, but now that you do, can you help me out sometimes? Remembering that I don’t drink and not making me re-negotiate that every time we are out and about would help, a lot. When others don’t get it, helping me change the subject (i.e. ‘Dude, she told you she doesn’t drink. New topic!’) would also help and make me feel less alone about this.”
You never know: They might have their own complicated families. You are not alone.
Now, repeat after me: “Reasonable people who are cool to hang out with will accept what I say at face value. The people I generally want in my life will not pressure me, demand elaborate reasons, or make it their mission to sell me on the wonders of booze once I’ve said I’m not into it.”
Also, repeat after me: ‘The mood of the group’ is not my job.
Culture being what it is, there is no one way you can communicate that you don’t drink that will magically stop people from having feelings (or occasional annoying reactions) to that fact. However, if your perfectly reasonable life choice ‘brings down the mood of the group‘ then that’s on the group. The stuff you’re already saying, like:
- “No thank you! But you go ahead.”
- “Not interested, thanks! But your story is interesting – what happened next?”
- “I don’t drink, but I don’t mind if other people do.”
- “You do you! I don’t drink.”
- “I don’t have a favorite drink, but what’s in yours?“
…is just fine. You’re not being mysterious or unclear or judgmental or a jerk.
You could try throwing in a subject change and see if it changes the vibe. Does the other person take your cue?
- “I don’t drink, thanks. How did you hear about this band?“
- “Not for me, thanks. Where’d you find that t-shirt?“
- “It’s not my jam. What’s your favorite place to eat around here?“
When you encounter someone who just won’t let it go, remind yourself: It is NOT COOL to pressure you or interrogate you or make you feel weird or somehow “less than” because you don’t drink. You are the sole boss of what goes into your body! You told them, straight up, how things are. You don’t have to continually negotiate. In fact, it’s better not to, because negotiating & giving reasons to unreasonable people communicates that things are up for negotiation.
Random Party Person: “What’s your favorite beer? IPA? Stout? Porter?”
You: “I don’t have one. I don’t drink.”
Random Party Person: “You don’t drink. At all.”
You: “That’s what I said. So, what’s your favorite kind of beer?”
Random Party Person: “But how will you know until you try it?”
You: “I guess I’ll miss out! I hear that [Subject Change] is happening soon, what do you know about that?”
Random Party Person: “But you have to try [drink]. [Drink] will change your mind.”
You: It really won’t. So, what are your thoughts on [Subject Change]?
Random Party Person: “But my favorite drink that I love drinking is so awesome! Are you sure?”
You: “Positive. So, howabout that [Subject Change]?”
Random Party Person: “So, do you think we’re all alcoholic reprobates? Are you silently judging all of us?”
You: “Yes, absolutely. So, [Subject Change] is [Subject Change-y]. What’s your plan for [Subject Change]?”
Random Party Person: “But how can you have fun at parties in college and not drink?”
You: (Choose your own adventure, depending on your energy level and how invested you are in talking to this person after they continually ignore your wishes and talk over you)
- [AWKWARD SILENCE][LET THE AWKWARDNESS GROW][OH GOD, SO AWKWARD][REMIND YOURSELF THAT YOU ARE NOT THE ONE WHO MADE IT WEIRD]
- “Ooooooooooookay then. Bye.” (Walk away)
- “I manage to have a great time, except when I meet people who Will. Not. Let. It. Go.”
- “Was something unclear? How many times do I have to say that I don’t drink?”
- “Why are you trying so hard to sell me on this? I’ve already said ‘no thank you.’ Once should be enough.”
- “By my count I’ve tried to change the subject three times. It’s your turn for a new topic.”
- “Drinking/other people’s drinking/your drinking/Friends’ drinking mostly doesn’t bother me. Being interrogated & pressured about it really does, though, so, I’m gonna cut this short.”
- “You seem smart – you really can’t think of any reasons that a person just wouldn’t be into drinking? None?”
When you have these conversations, pay attention to the people who say “Oh, I didn’t realize. That’s cool!” and the ones who embrace the subject changes you throw out. They are communicating an important thing to you and that thing is “I can hang with who you really are. I won’t pressure you.” In other words, they are giving signals that they are good at consent.
Pay attention to the ones who shame-spiral in front of you about their own drinking habits or who admit that they don’t really like it but feel like they have to because “it’s college!” You don’t have to intervene or becoming a sounding board for or fix their issues, but sometimes saying, “It’s college, exactly, so we can do what we want,” is a good thing to hear. They’ll mark you down somewhere as a safe, cool person who won’t pressure them.
Pay attention also to the people who Will. Not. Fucking. Let. It. Go., the ones who keep trying to override your choice, the ones who hint that they will spike your drink “as a joke,” the ones who call attention to it in a way that feels belittling or coercive. Avoid them, where possible, and if they’re in your social circle, keep an eye on them. Don’t leave your friends, especially drunk friends, alone with them. Don’t leave your drink unattended with them, or drink unidentified things they hand you. Someone who meets your “no thanks!” with half an hour of manipulation and second-guessing is communicating that they are bad at consent.
You have great reasons for never drinking and there is nothing particularly strange about making choices about what you want to consume. When people want to push and question your choices, remember: They are the ones making it awkward and weird by not taking ‘no’ for an answer. College drinking culture *is* really pervasive, but the more you hold your ground the more other people around you who don’t want to drink or don’t love drinking are going to feel safe to push back against people who pressure them.
P.S. If you are a college student who is friends with someone who doesn’t drink:
- Remember that they don’t drink – don’t keep offering it to them or calling attention to it. Treat it like the non-big-deal that it is.
- Don’t bring booze to or make booze the center of every hang your group has.
- Don’t make a big deal of their reasons, disclose things they’ve told you in confidence about their reasons, or demand reasons.
- Drink or don’t drink, as you will. Don’t make the non-drinker your Drinking Confessor, Repository Of All Your Complex Feelings About Alcohol, Secret Keeper of the Order of Drunken Hookups.
- When y’all meet someone new, and that person starts to make a big deal, step in. “[Friend] doesn’t drink, it’s not a big deal. What are you having?”
- Try thinking about this in terms of coercion and consent. Is it every okay to pressure someone to do something they don’t want with their body? Who in your social circle understands that the answer to that is “nope!”? Who has poor boundaries and won’t stop pushing people? Someone who would spike your friend’s drink when they aren’t looking or who makes constant fun of someone for not drinking is telling you, “I do not actually respect other people when they say no.” Take care of each other out there.
The other day I was pinning Indian food recipes and ran across a few for potato kofta curry. Kofta is basically a type of Indian meatball made with lamb or beef. Since we eat meatless meals most nights, I was more interested in the veggie recipes. Potato koftas are made with riced potatoes, onions and spices. Most of the recipes I read went through the painstaking instructions of how to make these potato balls… I read through them and realized, "They are just making tater tots!"
I've been known to scoff at home made tater tots in all shapes and sizes so I decided that I'd make my own version of potato kofta for our lunches this week… "kof-tot curry."Warning: Don't serve my potato kofta curry to any Indian food purists… they will laugh you out of the kitchen. Do make it if you want a quick and hearty meat free meal that makes excellent leftovers. It's probably the most glamorous way I've ever eaten tater tots…
- 2 cups of unseasoned tater tots (I used 365 brand from Whole Foods)
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- ½ teaspoon red pepper
- 2 teaspoons of curry powder
- ¼ teaspoon coarse salt
- 1 and ½ cups of water
- 2 Tablespoons of olive oil
- 1 small onion
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 can of tomato paste
- 2 Tablespoons plain yogurt, cream or cream cheese (I used yogurt.)
- 1 cup of mixed greens ( I used frozen kale and collards from our CSA. Any veggies you like will work fine.)
- 1 can of garbanzos
- For the koftas: Bake tater tots as directed on the tot bag. Do not fry them or add oil or salt.
- Combine spices with ½ cup of water.
- Cook your onions in olive oil until translucent.
- Add the garlic until and cook until everything is starting to turn golden.
- Add the spice water, and stir.
- Add tomato paste, water, and greens. Stir until all items are combined and the tomato sauce is not clumpy.
- Drain and rinse your garbanzos and add them to the pan.
- Let simmer for 10-12 minutes or until the sauce thickens and the greens are cooked.
- Add dairy and mix gently. (Or omit this, up to you, it does make it creamier.)
- Once your tots, I mean, "koftas," are done you can add them to the sauce. Eat a few off the pan to make sure tater tots are still delicious. They are! Let them sit to absorb the sauce.
At this point I put them in mason jars in the fridge for lunches in the week but you can also heat it back up and serve it. More time marinating with the rest of the curry makes it more delicious.
YESSSSSSS Worst adult struggle, for reals.
At the grand old age of 35 I'm still figuring out how to be an adult, and I think I'm learning that all of adulthood is probably faking it…
One thing I wish someone had warned me of is that one of the hardest parts will be feeding yourself. Plan food, buy food, cook food, eat food, clean up after food, and repeat over and over forever.
A challenge I've had for years is… I just don't know what to pack for lunch at the office. I struggle to get going in the morning, and some things, if packed the night before, get soggy. I often end up throwing a yogurt in my bag along with a scoop of this soup recipe in tupperware. Then I keep a box of dry cereal under my desk for if I'm still hungry. PBJ and an apple work their way in there from time to time as well.
Homies, what do you pack for lunch?
Share your lunch bag with us in the comments!
- mjshegog: Honestly my life got a whole lot better when I just started doing high protein shakes or meal replacement bars.… [Link]
- Carrie: All of these ideas are GREAT and are making me think I need to step my game up! But, I… [Link]
- Ky: Lunch at the office is the WORST! Here is the only thing that works for me. I am… [Link]
- Kadence: I have no idea, but even so, you could put half in the freezer and do just one week at… [Link]
- Kamea: This is what I do. If we have leftovers from grilling (burgers, brats, chicken, whatever) I'll bag up some for… [Link]
+ 61 more! Join the discussion
Well, this is exciting!
UPDATE: We are experiencing unexpectedly high traffic volumes on Pine + Main and are working hard to get the site restored. Thank you for your patience.
UPDATE 2: We are back up! Thank you for all the interest in Pine + Main!
Many years ago, when I first started blogging, someone once commented that they hoped I would grow and get big someday, because they knew I'd do something good with the opportunity.
That comment has stuck with me through the years, and has kept me restless. I've felt guilty, and could not be happy with just personal work success. I needed to do more with this opportunity I'd been given.
For a long time I believed that simply meant reaching more people, and empowering them with more DIY inspiration. So I spent many years concentrating on creating more plans and reaching more people through blogging, social media, tradditional media and television opportunities.
DIY is such a good thing. Not only are you able to create something useful and beautiful for your home, but you can do it for pennies on the dollar using the most local of all materials - wood. The more people building furniture for themselves, the less freight ships barging it around the world.
So when more and more bloggers began creating plans, I embraced it, happy more of us were spreading the DIY message, more plans were being shared, and more people were being inspired.
I, for a good moment, thought that there would never be a piece of furniture bought again.
Boy, was I wrong.
People were buying more furniture than ever.
But not from big box stores or fancy catalogs.
They were buying from the stay-at-home-mom, who made a coffee table, then a bed, then furnished her entire house, then started building for friends and family, and pretty soon had a six month waiting list. The dad who builds on weekends, the sisters who build together, the grandma that never knew she could use tools - people who understand why local furniture matters, why handmade is so great, and care about their communities, are buying their furniture from local makers.
I have always been a fan of the professional makers - many years ago, I myself used to earn extra income for our family by making custom furnishings. It was a way I could help, doing something that I loved, that directly affected our family's bottom line. I eventually transitioned into plan creation because it was easier for me to share plans than to set up and run an ecommerce website, find new customers and deal with marketing, when I really only had time to build.
I believe the problem still exists today. There are many makers - and many thousands more buyers - but we are still lacking an easy to use, trusted solution that makes finding a locally available, handmade table or a custom-sized dresser as simple as ubering a ride or buying a hand knitted scarf.
I'm so excited to formally share with you Pine + Main - built from the ground up to support the local maker, to celebrate community, and to always consider sustainability.
It is with great joy that I invite you to visit, let me know what you think, and be a part of this new venture.
Let's make furniture local again!
Check out this article Lux Alptraum interviewed me for.
As Wolf sums it up, “Sometimes when I mention polyamory, people are like, ‘I don’t want to hear about your sex life.’ But that response does not happen if someone monogamous says, ‘I have a fiancé.’ People’s natural response isn’t, ‘Whoa, dude, too much information!’”
Oatmeal has a lot of soothing properties both for your skin and digestive system. It's packed with soluble fiber (the kind that keeps everything moving without the cramping), it is a good source of iron, it contains naturally occurring heart-healthy fats, and even has some protein! Although despite it's comforting texture and subtle flavor, it is notorious for being a little bland.
Most dishes require multiple steps in order to create layers of flavor, but not oatmeal, this breakfast is one dish that actually benefits from a one step process!
When you think about it, dry oats turn into oatmeal by absorbing whatever liquid is added to it, therefore adding the flavor during the cooking process means all of that flavor is going to end up inside of the grains instead of just laying on top. The problem with instant oatmeal is that almost a third of that little packet is sugar, and more than half of the ingredients listed are artificial flavors, chemicals, and preservatives. Not exactly clean eating for a food that is so naturally good for you!
The solution here is to make your own instant oatmeal!
I know what you're thinking, is it really "instant" if I have to make it myself? There may be a lot of info here, but trust me, once you get the hang of it the prep is so easy a three year old could do it! It will take you less time to make this oatmeal than it will take to read this article.
Of course you could take like ten minutes on the weekend to prepare a few of these ahead of time. Although when I was a commuter I was one of those people who woke up, no joke, 15 minutes before I had to leave the house and I would whip these up in less than a minute as I was running out the door. The most difficult part of the whole process was finding the correct lid to match my container (in retrospect ziplock bags probably would have helped).
What You Will Need:
- Hot water source
- Container for dry ingredients (if traveling)
- Heat-safe bowl or mug — This is what you will be cooking your oatmeal in. At work I always just used a coffee cup with a lid, any mug or bowl is fine as long as it can take the heat.
Quick cooking oats
Make sure that you buy quick cooking oats rather than old fashioned or steel cut oats. The "quick cooking" is the "instant" part of this trick! Also pro tip: a big container of oats costs way less in the long run than those individual instant packs.
I enjoy a teaspoon of raw sugar (you could also use brown sugar, maple sugar, maple syrup, honey, agave syrup, brown rice syrup, molasses, whatever you have on hand. Granulated white sugar will work in a pinch but it won't give you the best flavor). Or if you're not too strict about clean eating and low-cal or artificial sweeteners are your thing, that's fine too!
For a single serving you only need about a 1/4 or 1/8 of a teaspoon. These are things you probably already have in your pantry, any ground or powdered flavoring you would use for baking will work: cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, pumpkin pie spice, allspice, clove, cayenne pepper, cocoa powder, espresso powder, etc.
- A dash of salt is always included in more traditional oatmeal recipes.
- Some people prefer milk to water, you could absolutely heat milk (or any kind of non-dairy milk) and substitute as the cooking liquid. Or if it's easier use a little less hot water and mix in a splash of milk after it's cooked.
- Textural add-ins are also great! Fruit (dried, fresh or frozen), nuts, flax or chia seeds, shredded coconut, chocolate chips, etc.
- You could add a scoop of protein powder, or for a cleaner protein try a spoonful of any organic nut butter (which also adds a beautiful richness).
One serving of plain quick cooking oats is 1/2 cup, whereas one package of instant oatmeal is about 1/4 cup (much smaller serving because the amount of sweetener they use adds SO many calories). Personally I'm somewhere in between, one packet is not enough but two is too much. Serving size is probably the most difficult part, however have no fear I did all the math for you!
1/4c oats (1 packet) = 1/2c water (4oz)
1/3c oats (1.5 packets) = 3/4c water (6oz)
1/2c oats (2 packets) = 1c water (8oz)
3/4c oats (3 packets) = 1-1/2c water (12oz)
1. Prep: Combine dry ingredients.
For travel: Take your oatmeal plus any dry sweeteners and additions place them in a travel container. Seal and shake to combine.
For home: Place your dry ingredients into your mug or bowl and stir to combine.
2. Measure: I love using the Keurig for this because the water comes out piping hot and perfectly measured! They are programed for standard tea cup, coffee mug, ad travel mug sizes so the small setting is 6 oz, medium is 8 oz, and large is 12 oz.
Cook: Put it all together. Either pour hot water over the dry ingredients and let it stand covered for a few minutes, or mix everything together and then microwave.
Add mix-ins: Liquid sweeteners and any other flavorings can go in now. Keep mix-ins that you want to stay crunchy out until after cooking!
As far as flavors go, you can create your own combinations or try to emulate some of your favorite packet flavors. It might take a few runs to adjust the flavors to your taste, but he possibilities are endless! If you're not sure where to start here are some of my suggestions:
- Lightly Spiced: Raw sugar, cinnamon, ginger.
- Apple-Cinnamon: Raw sugar, cinnamon, dried apples.
- Maple-Brown Sugar: This one is pretty self-explanatory.
- Banana-Nut: Honey, chopped walnuts, sliced banana.
- Cherry-Almond: Raw sugar, almond extract, dried cherries, slivered almonds.
- Cranberry-Pecan: Brown sugar, dried cranberries, chopped pecans.
- Blue Razzberry: Honey, frozen blueberries, frozen raspberries.
- Oatmeal Cookie: Honey, cinnamon, raisins.
- Chocolate Chip Cookie: Light brown sugar, vanilla extract, chocolate chips.
- Speculoos Cookie: Spoonful of cookie butter.
- Nutty Brownie: Honey, cocoa powder, chopped walnuts.
- Mexican Hot Chocolate: Raw sugar, cocoa powder, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, splash of milk.
- Chocolate Hazelnut: Chopped hazelnuts, spoonful of Nutella.
- Chocolate PB: Cocoa powder, spoonful of peanut butter.
- Almond Protein: Honey, spoonful of almond butter.
- Fluffernutter: Spoonfull of marshmallow fluff, spoonful of any nut butter.
- Pumpkin Spice: Maple syrup, pumpkin pie spice.
- Apple Pie: Honey, cinnamon, fresh diced apples.
- Strawberries and Cream: Honey, fresh diced strawberries, splash of milk.
- Peaches and Cream: Raw sugar, cinnamon, fresh diced peaches, splash of milk.
Et voila! Super simple, super healthy, super delicious instant oatmeal in a matter of minutes!
- Anna: Excellent oatmeal recipe! I love the Chocolate Hazelnut flavour but I use much more than spoonful… [Link]
- enchanted: That's more or less what I do, except I don't peel the apples (you'll have little bits of peel in… [Link]
- wednesday: It was more like jam, but not very dark... I'll check apple butter too anyway, thanks for the suggestion [Link]
- H.A: That's probably apple butter? More like jam, dark color? [Link]
- Wednesday: Oh i see! Yeah, i actually do that all the time. I thought applesauce was some kind of smooth preserve,… [Link]
+ 17 more! Join the discussion
The cheapest bargain of any overseas vacation is the $25 for the travel guidebook, so I always get the latest version. And I have no qualms about cutting it up. I get the large country-scale guide, and then with a razor blade knife I excise only the portions I could possibly use (photo above). Then I staple and bind with clear packing tape for very durable, and lightweight, thin booklets. — KK
Les Revenants (The Returned) is a French supernatural television series (with English subtitles) that my wife and I are enjoying. The first episode opens with a terrible school bus accident in the alps that leaves 38 children dead. Four years later, some of the children return home, un-aged and unharmed. Spooky and fun. — MF
I’ve been enjoying using both Peak and Elevate brain-training apps for about a month now. While Elevate has more challenging writing and math exercises that actually teach you as you go, Peak’s problem solving puzzles are addictive, and I get a greater sense of accomplishment after completing them. Plus, I really enjoy competing against previous scores and watching my “brain map” grow. Here’s a good comparison review. — CL
For pithy brilliant insight into the contours of our digital future, I’m following Benedict Evans on Twitter, and I subscribe to his weekly newsletter. He is creative, quantitative, plausible and fun. — KK
I often get sinus headaches and sometimes when I fall asleep with a headache, I will wake up with deep wrinkles from brow furrowing throughout the night. Frownies helps to prevent these from forming. I’ve already gone through a box and will continue reordering. — CL
I’m a Netflix subscriber, but the built-in title browsing isn’t great. I use instantwatcher.com, which lets you browse and search shows and movies in many different ways. — MF
Want to get our next Recomendo a week early in your inbox? Sign up for next Sunday newsletter here.
-- Kevin Kelly, Mark Frauenfelder, Claudia Lamar
[UPDATED] Exclusive Interview: Comic Creator Katie O’Neill Talks About Her Work, Announces Next Project With Oni Press
If you’re a fan of web comics, you’ve probably already seen Katie O’Neill’s work. Her latest hardcover collection Princess Princess Ever After (which I reviewed earlier this morning), started life as a web comic on her popular Tumblr. Today, O’Neill’s is announcing exclusively through TMS, her next original project with Oni Press!
Oni Press will be publishing a new, original graphic novel by O’Neill called The Tea Dragon Society! In it, a talented young blacksmith named Greta (pictured in the character study above) meets the head of The Tea Dragon Society, a small group who practice the lost art of tea dragon husbandry. So, what the heck are tea dragons? I don’t know, but with O’Neill drawing them, I bet they’re cute as hell.
Also cute as hell is the rest of this world! Oni Press has provided TMS with an exclusive first look at The Tea Dragon Society, which you can check out in the gallery below! [UPDATE at 4:45PM: in addition to the preview below, O’Neill has a website for The Tea Dragon Society, and will be posting a 5-page sneak peak on September 14.]
In the meantime, enjoy the html version below. I guess. If that's your thing.
- The Tea Dragon Society 1 Character study of Greta. Art by Katie O'Neill.
- The Tea Dragon Society 2 Character study of Minette. Art by Katie O'Neill.
- The Tea Dragon Society 3 Preview page 1 By Katie O'Neill.
- The Tea Dragon Society 4 Preview page 2 By Katie O'Neill.
Oni also gave us the opportunity of an exclusive interview with O’Neill about Princess Princess, The Tea Dragon Society, and what she hopes readers find in her work.
Teresa Jusino (TMS): Princess Princess Ever After was already a popular webcomic. Why is it important that it’s now been collected in hardcover, and why did you choose to partner with Oni Press?
Katie O’Neill: Webcomics are a wonderful medium that allows all kinds of stories to exist and be read freely, which is something that really motivates and excites me. However, there’s a different kind of accessibility and visibility that comes with a book, particularly one that is in easy reach of kids’ hands in school and public libraries, and in the children’s section of book stores. Princess Princess Ever After is a story I wish I’d had growing up, so accessibility for children is very important to me. Happily, I’ve also had lots of stories of older fans sharing the webcomic with their young relatives via tablets etc, which is really cool too.
When Oni Press reached out to me, I jumped at the chance to work with them. I’d heard that they’re very respectful of the creators and properties they work with, which I have found to absolutely be the case! It’s been amazing working with the whole team to bring this book out into the world, and I’m extremely thankful for the opportunity.
TMS: Inclusiveness seems to be very important to you. What fueled your decision to not only create LGBTQIA characters in Princess Princess, but to also have characters of color in both that story and in the upcoming Tea Dragon Society? How, if at all, does that affect your story?
O’Neill: Inclusiveness is definitely very important to me, I feel it’s only natural that comics (and all media!) should reflect the diversity of the world around us. I try to do my part by supporting works and anthologies by a diverse range of creators, and portraying different identities while being aware of not writing something that I haven’t experienced and isn’t my story to tell. The most authentic stories about a particular identity can only come from those who have lived it. Instead, I try to look towards universal human experiences, emotions, problems and situations and base my story writing off those.
TMS: Since we’re announcing The Tea Dragon Society today, I’d love for you to briefly tell me in your own words what the basic plot is, and then tell me what inspired you to tell this particular story next?
O’Neill: The Tea Dragon Society is about a young blacksmith apprentice, Greta, who is learning her craft but isn’t entirely sure what use it has in modern society. When she encounters a tea dragon and becomes closer to those who raise them and grow their tea, she learns about the dying art form and how it enriches the lives of those she meets—and eventually her own. With the experiences and the memories she makes, she begins to wonder if there’s a value in craft all of its own.
The idea definitely started with the Tea Dragons themselves, and then developing ideas about their lore and husbandry, and then wondering who would go to such lengths for a good cup of tea? Keeping traditions and crafts alive is also very important to me, and in making a children’s graphic novel I hoped kids would start thinking about the different crafts they encounter in their lives that they could play a part in keeping modern and thriving.
TMS: I’ve been falling more and more in love with all-ages comics lately. What do you think is important about the existence of quality, all-ages stories? What do you enjoy about telling stories that can be read by younger readers? What do you hope they get out of your stories?
O’Neill: I think all-ages comics have a magic and charm that lies in being able to come back to them over and over again, in different stages throughout your life, taking away something different. I think when you read and love something as a child, reading it again as an adult will always take you back to that moment in your childhood, and hopefully, help you remember what made you happy then.
As much as I do have themes and ideas that I’d like to convey with my stories, the bottom line is that I hope younger readers enjoy them! I hope they laugh at my jokes and love the characters, and maybe be inspired to write their own stories and adventures one day. Both of these books have strong LGBTQIA themes, so I do also hope they help normalise all kinds of family dynamics and personal identities for kids just starting to figure things out.
TMS: I always marvel at people who both write and draw their own stories, as I’m a writer who can only draw stick figures! Do you consider yourself an artist first? A writer first? Or are you always both?
O’Neill: I find it pretty hard to un-link the two! Whenever I sit down to do some doodles in my sketchbook, it always ends up with me constructing little stories in my head about the subject or place I’m drawing. Likewise, when I write prose, I write so visually that I might as well draw it anyway. Though recently I’ve been more interested in drawing for its own sake (like landscapes, patterns, freestanding illustrations), I still like for it to be connected to a larger narrative, theme, idea or purpose.
TMS: Tell me why you think comics fans should pick up The Tea Dragon Society when it comes out? Who do you think will love this book?
O’Neill: The Tea Dragon Society is an absolute labour of love for me, and I’m so happy to have poured as much of my interests in as possible into one story. I feel the most pride when I create a story where I want to introduce the characters to everyone like a member of the family, to watch and see how people will react to certain moments and developments, and that’s absolutely what this book is to me. It’s a very warm and comforting story, I think that anyone who loves Ghibli films, Animal Crossing games or slice-of-life stories will feel at home with The Tea Dragon Society.
Princess Princess Ever After is out in hardcover now. The Tea Dragon Society is set for release in November 2017.
(image via Oni Press)
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In my home, meal planning goes beyond dinner. Just as important as making the week run like a smooth, well-oiled machine, is lunch prep. Unlike dinner, I tackle my midday meal by preparing a whole week's worth of lunches in one fell swoop. These are the five ways I make it happen, and how you can do it too.
Since last December, you might have heard a lot of people talk about bullet journaling. There's a whole website dedicated to the concept, and a clever video that breaks down the whole process. In its basic form, a bullet diary combines a to-do list, a diary, and planner. It helps you keep track of what you need to do that day, and also helps you plan for things you want to accomplish in the future. There are many additions you can add to your bullet journal. I love this one on tracking your mental health, and this one for tracking your hobbies.
This got me thinking, however: Could a bullet journal make you a better meal planner? And what would that even look like in the bullet journaling universe?
Oh man, just this bit is relevant for recent events:
"Even when removed from the realm of the petty or the emotionally searing, different mediums foster different kinds of interactions, for instance, the Person-You-Like-At-Parties-And-Dislike-On-Facebook or that colleague who is super affable and reasonable in person, but then you email him a request and discover that in writing he is The Amazing Bureaucrat Man, Who Only Says No, but if you run the exact same request by him in person, he’s like “Sure, let’s do it?” so you learn to always ask in person first and then follow up in email only once the request has been verbally granted. "
Dear Captain Awkward,
My brother died suddenly in an accident in May. He was my only full sibling. The only sibling I grew up with and lived with. I also have 3 older half siblings from my father’s first marriage- we’re not super close, we see each other at holidays and text quarterly updates. After the funeral, I had to plan my wedding happening just 8 weeks after my brother’s death. The trouble starts when I am texting with T (the oldest half sister) and say that I am having a hard time because my mother is emotionally unavailable due to her grief. T has a tense relationship with my mother and uses this moment to tell me how unreasonably angry my mother was acting when she last saw her. I am LIVID and stop responding. T says “sorry, it just made her sad.” I lose a day of wedding planning to being angry and trying to figure out how to respond. I give up and send no reply.
In the following weeks, T sends a message explaining her behaviour and then tells me that I am acting unacceptably. I tell her that I need some time and space. My other sister K is sent to get some answers and I tell her to mind her own business. T gives me 10 days and then tells me I’m being abusive and I’m just mad because her siblings are alive and mine is dead, that everyone was at her wedding and my brother won’t be at mine. She doesn’t want to come to my wedding because she’s not sure if I even love her anymore. I tell her that needing space was about me not her. At this time she also makes a plea to my parents to get them to make me talk with her- they say she should just leave me alone. My father sobs and begs T to attend the wedding.
At the wedding, T shows up late and leaves early. I generally avoid them and have a fine time. After the wedding she blocks me and my parents on facebook and gets her husband and mother to do the same. I text T that I am available to talk now, but understand if she needs space. No response. I text K and say apologize for being snappy and telling her to mind her own business. She blasts back demanding I take responsibility for everything – for making my “wedding into a battle ground”, shattering all of the relationships, and “single handedly tearing our grieving family apart”. I’m at a loss. Am I selfish? Are they? How much of this is my fault? Should I just cut my losses? Help?
-One wedding and a funeral
(Preferred pronouns she-her)
Dear One Wedding,
I am so very sorry for the loss of your brother, how awful! There would never be a good time for something like that to happen, but to have that grief overshadowing such a happy, huge life event seems like a special sort of hell. I am mentally hugging you and petting your hair right now, unless of course you don’t like that sort of thing. And making you tea (or coffee, or hot chocolate, or something cold, if you’d prefer). And piling good-and-not-too-stressful books by your bed.
What you 100% did not need and do not need is to be the dumping ground for all of T’s complicated feelings about family during an already stressful time for you. I guarantee that you did not “make your wedding into a battleground” and you are not “singlehandedly tearing our grieving family apart” or “being abusive.” I think you were right to tell K. to stay out of it and you didn’t do anything wrong by asking for a little space. This all sounds like some grade A, level 1 projection on T’s part, and I don’t think talking more to either T. or K. about any of it more right now is going to fix things. What would actually fix things is T. saying “I’m so sorry I made everything about me, I’ve been acting like an ass.” I don’t think that apology is coming any time soon. In the meantime, you’ve tried to mend fences where you could, and now it’s time to give yourself permission to let this all drop. A victory here, given the looming winter holidays, might be “Did not get into emotionally difficult conversations with T. about family stuff. Managed to exchange brief pleasantries over pie and chill with the rest of the family = +100 Points To Gryffindor/Me.”
One script for when T. eventually wants to talk it all out (but only focus on what you did “wrong” and not apologize) could be:
a) Have the FIGHT, already. “Here’s what this all looks like from my perspective: [Brother] died, and then when I tried to talk to you about some stuff with Mom you used it to grind an axe you have with her, and then you acted like coming to my wedding was suddenly a gigantic chore and made a big hassle for me and our parents about it and made me feel like a jerk for needing a little space to grieve. Then you sent K. to get in the middle of it, which was NOT cool. And then you’ve been saying this stuff about how I’m ‘tearing our family apart,’ which is just…incorrect? I do not want to fight with you anymore, but some of the stuff you’ve said has really hurt my feelings.”
She’ll react how she reacts. Maybe it will clear the air for you to get this all out there and not just be on the receiving end of it. Being the “bigger person” all the time can be vastly overrated.
b) Refuse to have the fight. “T., it was a really messed up time, and I don’t actually want to talk about it anymore. Let’s let bygones be bygones and try to enjoy each other’s company without going into all that. I’m really glad to see you, and I really don’t want to fight.”
It’s not the same as “I forgive you for acting like an asshole when my brother died and being a big weirdo about my wedding” but “Sister, why won’t you tallllk to me, you’re tearing our family apaaaaart” isn’t the same as “I apologize for acting like an asshole when your brother died and being a jerk about coming to your wedding.” Letting the argument die might help the relationship thaw, with some time and some new, positive interactions to chase the old, negative interactions out.
You seem like a “this specific thing is bugging me” sort of arguer and T. comes across as a “This specific thing is reminding me about how you ALWAYS are a BAD PERSON who is WRONG and I am telling EVERYONE” sort of fighter. Those two styles are not real compatible, so I really wish you luck in finding a way to talk about this that gets you what you need, which sounds like a respite from being T.’s personal scapegoat for everything wrong in your family.
One more suggestion going forward:
It sounds like T. + texting + You do not mix very well, especially around emotional topics, and that is some information you can use in the future.
Let me explain: Some people really prefer the distance & time delay of text conversations, and I get why, and in many circumstances doing things by email or letter can be really valuable for that reason. However, I find that texting, email, chat, etc.* can also be terrible ways to have contentious back-and-forth conversations with certain people about emotional stuff. There’s something about it that sucks me in so easily, the addictive chime of the incoming message, the “Oh yeah, howbout THIS?” retort, the fact that I type 100+ words/minute and can answer so quickly only to realize later that I was putting things in writing that would be passing, forgettable comments in a verbal fight except I’ve now written them in stone, to be read and re-read and dissected. Text message fights: All the savoring pleasures of grudge-holding with the immediate gratification of being right!
Even when removed from the realm of the petty or the emotionally searing, different mediums foster different kinds of interactions, for instance, the Person-You-Like-At-Parties-And-Dislike-On-Facebook or that colleague who is super affable and reasonable in person, but then you email him a request and discover that in writing he is The Amazing Bureaucrat Man, Who Only Says No, but if you run the exact same request by him in person, he’s like “Sure, let’s do it?” so you learn to always ask in person first and then follow up in email only once the request has been verbally granted. (Do other people have this colleague? No? Just me?)
I generally want to like people and have positive interactions with them, and sometimes little things like “I will walk the 10 feet to that person’s desk and talk about it instead of answering this email that annoyingly CC’d our boss in kind” or “Let’s go to bed angry – I gotta sleep and so do you! – I trust we’ll figure this all out in the morning and I love you” and “I can tell this student is really upset and writing me these emails is stressing them out more, I’m gonna give them my cell # so we can talk for a minute” can make a big difference in how a conflict resolves itself.
Anyway, to bring it back to you, dear Letter Writer, you might be able to use this knowledge to help in de-escalating situations with T. and/or K. in the future. For one example, you might want to limit how much you use texts to communicate with them, especially now when things are messy. If you do text with them, you might make a personal rule to keep things light and reserve deeper topics are for a phone call or an in-person chat. As soon as something gets emotionally heavy, or you feel like they aren’t hearing you, or are escalating a conflict, it’s time to take a break from the conversation and move it to another venue. You can be explicit about it: “Hey, Sister, I feel like there is more we both want to say here than I can comfortably text – when’s a good time to call you?” or “Whoa, can’t chat right now, call me later?” You can also wait a while before responding to the text. It’s been a very hard & valuable lesson in my life that, just because someone used a fairly immediate mode of communication, it doesn’t mean I have to reply right now or engage with everything they said.”I got your message and I’m thinking about it” is a reasonable response that can de-escalate situations by giving everyone some breathing room and taking things out of the heat of the moment.
Obviously this doesn’t solve your whole problem, since T’s overall behavior and not Text Messaging is the culprit here, but in a situation where you can’t control very much this might give you one vector that you can control even if it’s just reminding yourself:”T’s being T. again, I don’t have to respond right this second.”
Wishing you the best in your new marriage, in resolving these family conflicts (or at least de-escalating them so they aren’t all coming at YOU), and sending you condolences on the loss of your brother. I hope you are being very kind to yourself and that your spouse & friends are being very kind to you.❤
*See also: Internet comments, Tweets, other social media
Can you take off your headphones for a minute?
TOM maxipads claim to convert water to oxygen and hydrogen for vaginal health. As an OB/GYN I say that’s a bad idea!
A new type of menstrual pad hopes to break into the American market. They are called TOM and that stands for either The Oxygen Movement or Time Of the Month depending I suppose on which demographic the company is trying to reach.
According to an article in Slate TOM claims the “company’s proprietary formula absorbs liquid and humidity and separates water molecules into oxygen and hydrogen, keeping the pad drier.” Both the Facebook page and the Kickstarter demo page claim the pad makes up to 50 ml “of pure oxygen day.”
The other health claims on their Facebook page are as follows:
- Women will feel drier and be more comfortable
- The oxygen will enter the vagina and kill bad anaerobic bacteria in the vagina and encourage the growth of good bacteria
- “Lighten and balance” skin tone
I only have 3 university chemistry courses to my name and that was a while ago, but fortunately I know how to Google. I remembered correctly that you typically need electricity to covert water to oxygen and hydrogen, so unless these pads are battery-powered there’s an issue. I also found other ways to convert water to oxygen such as heating a metal oxide to over 1,000 degrees Celsius (ouch), vibration at approximately 43 khz (which apparently stings), photodissociation (light may not be readily available between the vulva and a pad or inside a pad), and 14 megahertz radio waves (doesn’t seem to be a good idea in closed spaces). Separating water basically takes a lot of energy, so not very menstrual pad friendly. Someone made a leaf that can convert water to oxygen using sunlight and carbon dioxide (basically man-made photosynthesis), but it’s hard to se how such a design could work where the sun doesn’t shine.
I’m going to do out on a limb here and say TOM maxipads don’t have a liquid that converts water to oxygen and hydrogen. If they did have such a liquid then NASA, the Russians, Elon Musk, basically everyone would be interested. One could sell that for a lot more money than can be made selling menstrual pads. So TOM pads, prove me wrong.
Your vagina doesn’t want any extra oxygen.
This is what TOMS thinks about vaginal oxygen (from their Facebook page):
So, WHY OXYGEN in the first place? Do we really need oxygen in that area during that time of the month? The answer is a very confident YES.
The honest truth is, during a woman’s menstrual cycle, there is a lot that can be going on. When you wear a pad that doesn’t produce oxygen (aka 100% of the pads currently out there), not only is it humid, itchy and uncomfortable…there are a lot of health issues encompassed within that. Certain odor-causing bacteria grow much faster when there is no oxygen present. These bacteria LOVE alkaline, oxygen-free environments. On the other end of the spectrum, our good bacteria (lactobacillus) loves an acidic environment and CAN live with oxygen, completely opposite of what the bad bacteria likes.
Actually, the answer is a very definitive NO. The partial pressure of oxygen in the vagina is 7 mm Hg or less (one source says the partial pressure of oxygen in the vagina during menstruation is 4 mm Hg). The partial pressure oxygen in the air at sea level is 160 mm Hg, so relatively speaking the vagina is a very low oxygen environment and is very happy that way. Also, oxygen produced at the vulva wouldn’t enter. If oxygen could move into the vagina by diffusion it would already be there. It takes inserting something, like a tampon or a diaphragm to temporarily raise the oxygen level. Raising the oxygen level is not believed to be a good thing; it’s one proposed mechanism for how toxic shock syndrome develops with tampons.
Oxygen doesn’t lighten the skin
The offensive idea of needing to lighten skin aside, if oxygen whitens or lightens skin then my kids would have lightened areas under their noses as they wore oxygen for a year. A whole year of 24/7 exposure to higher than normal concentrations of oxygen. I have never heard of lightened skin as a consequence of oxygen exposure so this seems totally bogus. Even if it were possible it’s hard to see how 200 ml of oxygen a day (assuming 4 pads a day) for 3-5 days could do that.
Could something in TOM pads be lightening the skin? They make the claim repeatedly, but have softened it for the U.S. market. I wonder about sodium percarbonate, also known as oxygen bleach, i.e. the stuff in OxyClean. Sodium percarbonate forms hydrogen peroxide when mixed with water and hydrogen peroxide eventually degrades to water and oxygen satisfying the oxygen production claim. Some people use hydrogen peroxide to lighten their skin. Could the pads contain sodium percarbonate? I would want proof they don’t contain this or any other chemical to lighten skin. These products can all be irritants.
I’m a GYNO, here’s my summary
A safe liquid or device that can be held in a menstrual pad that is capable of turning water to oxygen sounds bogus.
If such technology actually did exist it would have to be studied to get FDA approval as this is a new technology. The people who make TOM pads have a demo Kickstarted page. Keep in mind it will take years to do the studies and get approval. No one is getting pads next week or even next year or possibly even ever.
Chemistry issues aside, the biologic plausibility is weak. Oxygen made in a pad can’t diffuse into the vagina.
If we discard basic physiology and say oxygen can diffuse into the vagina that would be a bad thing. Vaginas don’t want extra oxygen.
Any product that actually lightens vulvar skin contains a chemical that you don’t want on your vulva. Since oxygen can’t lighten skin if the product actually does affect skin color what chemical/irritant is in it?
Verdict: Stay away from TOM pads until they can prove their claims and safety
I never know my name anymore.
A few months ago, I was at sex educator friend’s party getting high out of a homemade bong and listening to Dark Side of the Moon. It was the most high school moment of my life — particularly so because, aside from meeting boys off the internet in mall parking garages, I never did anything terribly forbidden in high school. Amidst dramatic readings of Sextrology and attempts at acting out #buttstuff in charades, a woman I’d never met arrived at the party and asked my name.
As I often do these days, I hesitated.
The same thing happened at the airport coming home from Woodhull, when the restaurant hostess asked for a name to reserve a table. It happened when I visited Lorax at work and their co-worker asked who I was, and then again after Mystery Box Show when my blogger friend introduced me to someone as “Piph” at the exact moment I was stumbling over my legal name.
Each time, my train of thought follows the same pattern. Why inconvenience them with my silly sex blogger name? They won’t know how to spell it, pronounce it, conceptualize it. They won’t accept it knowing it began as a pseudonym, or worse, they’ll think I’m full of myself for daring to go by it.
Back at the party, she sensed my trepidation. Offering a warm smile that instantly put me at ease, she told me to give her the name that felt most true in that moment.
So I said it: “Epiphora. You can call me Piph.”
– – –
The name began as a measure of anonymity. I chose it in 2007, needing a screen name for my account on a sex toy retail website. If my name could begin with any letter of the alphabet, I figured, I’d choose E. If it could be derived from anything, it would be poetry. So I browsed literary terms starting with E until I found one I liked.1 A year later, when I went to start a blog, the name followed me to this domain, and Twitter, and before long, it was what people knew me as.
For years, Epiphora was an online-only presence, but things changed when I started meeting and befriending other sex bloggers. Suddenly I found myself in a world in which calling someone “Girly Juice” was not only accurate, but necessary. In which you’d never ask someone’s legal name unless you were mailing them a package, and then you’d promptly forget it. I started dating a fellow sex blogger, calling them exclusively by their pseudonym, Aerie, which has become their preferred name. To them, I have always been and always will be Epiphora.
That’s when the name became truly mine. When I began forming relationships under it. When I began answering to it across hallways and saying it into microphones. It’s one thing to receive emails addressed to Epiphora; it’s another to hear the name spoken as a direct address. I still remember the rush of validation I felt when my sex blogger friends first referred to me as “Piph” and when the SheVibe crew christened me “Piphy Pants.”
I remember that validation because I still feel it every time someone uses that name for me.
Now, half my friends either don’t know my legal name, or know it and actively disregard it in favor of calling me Epiphora. My legal name is still my name too, but just as “Piph” would sound odd coming from my childhood friend’s lips, my legal name sounds wrong from sex industry folks. Context is everything. In the company of sex-positive people, my instinct is to be Epiphora. At Starbucks or at the vet, I’m still my legal name.
Unless I’m at Starbucks with a sex blogger, in which case they’re gonna have to try to spell Epiphora on my cup.
– – –
I use the phrase “legal name” consciously. I hate the word “real,” especially in front of anything big: “name,” “life,” “me.” Epiphora is not the name I was given in 1986, in my mother’s arms at the hospital. But should that moment define what people call me for the rest of my existence?
It’s not even an anonymity issue at this point — I don’t care about that. It’s that Epiphora is actually one of my names, and it’s willful ignorance (if not willful rudeness) to act otherwise. A couple weeks ago, returning from a conference where people exclusively referred to me as “Piph,” I was jarred when the owner of an adult company left me a flustered voicemail. “OK, now I’m totally confused,” it began, “because I don’t know if I should call you [legal name], or Piph, or Epiphora. I’m bewildered here.”
I was amazed. This man, in an industry dominated by performer names and nom de plumes, was perplexed by me using my legal name on my personal voicemail. Nights before, I had shaken his hand and confidently introduced myself as Epiphora. Where was the confusion coming from? Why waste your energy being flabbergasted when you could simply respect the name I gave you myself?
I’ve worked hard to establish this name. I’ve been published, cited, and interviewed under it for years. Nearly a decade, actually. I’m protective of Epiphora, because she is my creation — online, a scrupulously-edited version of myself, but in person, just myself (well, with added eyeliner). What people don’t realize is that Epiphora is who I am whether or not I’m shoving dildos up my vagina. She is also human, also fallible. She is still me.
Last Christmas, my mom got me a necklace with a typewriter key pendant. It was the letter E.
– – –
I’m always struggling to prove my legitimacy under this name. Facebook doesn’t believe me. Google+ doesn’t believe me. Advertisers don’t believe me; once they find out my legal name they start using it despite me signing every damn email Epiphora. In one particularly upsetting example, I gave an interview to Women’s Health and then was told they couldn’t use any of my quotes, as the editors don’t allow “anonymous sources.”
This is obviously bullshit, because the world already accepts aliases. Actors use stage names all the time and we don’t give a fuck. We are fine with mononyms like Beyoncé, Lorde, and Rihanna. We accept Snoop Doggy Dogg becoming Snoop Dogg becoming Snoop Lion. But with sex bloggers,2 thanks to slut-shaming and sex negativity and patriarchy, there’s a stigma. Our words carry no weight. We’re seen as people obfuscating the truth, “hiding” behind “personas,” whose opinions can’t possibly be trusted because we don’t have the guts to write under our “real” names. We must be ashamed of what we do, because sharing our sex lives is inherently shameful.
It’s easy to think that, I imagine. It’s easy for people to draw that line, to stand on the side of birth certificates and drivers’ licenses and accouterments of so-called legitimacy, to contend that people on the other side aren’t being authentic. It’s a protective gesture, and I get it. You can’t feel superior to other people without making a moral judgment.
But until we live in a world in which our parents, co-workers, and dentists can appreciate our work in the adult industry, many will continue to use pseudonyms. Sometimes those pseudonyms will become our names. These names deserve as much respect as any, and fuck you if you disregard them like they’re nothing.
– – –
Epiphora is my name when I say it is, when it feels right, when the sound makes sense coming from my mouth and yours. My original name has a different sound on the tongue. It sounds true, but it also sounds easy. I did not toil, write, and hustle for that name. I did nothing to receive it. It was given, not chosen. A gift, not an accomplishment.
Epiphora is the sound of validation. It’s my name in print. It’s Tristan Taormino introducing me to the audience. It’s Lorax’s voice whining “Piphhhhh” across the room at me. It’s the sound of recognition. Of reverence. Of having achieved something, created something out of nothing, made a living for myself doing something I love.
It’s the sound of earning it.
- An “epiphora,” in literature, is a a stylistic device in which a word or a phrase is repeated at the end of successive clauses.
- And sex workers, and porn performers, and anyone else in the adult industry…
© Epiphora. This post, "A sex blogger by any other name," appeared originally on Hey Epiphora. If it is posted outside of valid feed readers, it is a copyright violation which has been scraped illegally. Please email hey.epiphora [at] gmail.com if you see this happening.
You’ve spent months, maybe years crafting and curating your own personal skincare regime. You’ve taken the tenants of K-Beauty and put together a mystical melange of products that play out a perfect concert to needs of your skin. You marvel at how far you’ve come thanks to your hard work researching your holy grails. People […]
Oh Internet, I see we’re having this discussion again. I’m not gonna drive traffic to it, but I am gonna remind every dude who is like ‘HOW WILL ANYONE EVER MEET ANYONE IF I CAN’T WAYLAY BUSY WOMEN WHO ARE WEARING VISIBLE ‘LEAVE ME ALONE’ SYMBOLS TO TELL THEM MY THOUGHTS, THO’ and ‘I’M JUST TRYING TO BE FRIENDLY!’ that you could just greet a nearby dude, maybe one who is not wearing headphones, instead. Friendliness! Peace on earth! Meeting new people! #Dudesgreetingdudes!
Edited to Add: I Have Decided To Marry My Catcaller And This Is Our Wedding Registry (McSweeney’s)
One day, we might have to upgrade our standard bidet I just installed to this!!
15 years ago, the gay interior designer who lived in my aunt's guesthouse installed a Toto Washlet in the bathroom. At the time, I dismissed the whole thing — leave it to the Japanese to invent a toilet seat with a robotic, mechanized wand that washes your butt! Leave it to the folly of a gay interior designer to install one! I tried it, laughed, made a friend try it, laughed some more at the sounds coming out of the bathroom, and moved on with my life.
Then, earlier this year, I was staying with my friend Jon, one of the co-founders of the Lovesick Expo. He lives in a LEED-certified house that's meticulously dedicated to sustainable, greener living. I took one look at his Japanese butt-washing robot toilet and was all, "Really, bitch? How does this ridiculously expensive, hilariously indulgent Japanese butt-washing robot toilet seat fit into your sustainable home?"
"Dude," he said. "You don't have to shower as much when your butt's clean."
That might be true, I conceded… while laughing.
"And you don't use toilet paper any more," he said.
That also might be true, I conceded… while laughing.
"And they're not that expensive any more."
I checked: Oh! What used to be a few thousand dollars is now around $300.
"Ok," I said. "Tell me more."
"You know when you get the runs, how sometimes you'll wipe your butt raw?" Jon said. "…And then you have the runs AND a raw butt?"Yes, I did know about that, and it's awful. Then Jon's wife chimed in.
"It's the best for when you're having your period," she said. "It has a 'front wash' option that takes care of bloody messes."
Interesting, I thought to myself.
And then I bought one. And now I'm a convert! Toilet paper? BARBARIAN!
Ok, first: WTF is this thing?
A Toto Washlet is essentially an electrical toilet seat that washes your butt with a little wand. It connects to a power supply (via a three-prong outlet) and your water supply (via a small hose), and then you press buttons to make it do its thing.
When you're talking about the model that I got, "its thing" includes Rear Wash (a very focused stream of water pointed right at your butt hole), Soft Rear Wash (more gentle streams of water pointed more generally at your butt hole region), Front Wash (water pointed at your vulva), and Dryer (a fan that blows warm air all over your bits both front and back.) You can control all sorts of things like water temperature, pressure, and angle.
There are other bells and whistles too — a heated toilet seat being one, and a "pre-mist" function that basically wets down the inside of your toilet seat so that your poo doesn't stick to the porcelain. These things don't matter that much to me, but one friend went so far as to say that the pre-mist function was cool enough that he'd buy one for that alone. (Different people have different sticky-poo issues, I guess.)
How to install a Toto Washlet
If you're me, this is a one-step process: CALL A PLUMBER.
Even though installation is super easy, a friend gave me the tip that if a plumber installed my Toto Washlet, I could then call that plumber if something went wrong in the future, which is a nice perk. So, when my kitchen sink faucet finally disintegrated and needed to be replaced, I bundled the jobs together and called a plumber. Installation took less than half an hour, since the Toto Washlet basically just gets plugged into the wall and then attached to your water supply via one quick hose. If you're handy, you could easily DIY it in like 15 minutes. I am just lazy and wanted to be able to rely on someone else if the thing stopped working right because, again, lazy.
Ok, so what's it feel like?
- Rear Wash: it feels like a pointy stream of water going up your butt.
- Soft rear: it feels like a softer sprinkle going on your butt.
- Front wash: depending on how you position yourself, it's either a nice cleaning stream of water or (DOUBLE PRESS FOR OSCILLATION OPTION!) something more entertaining. Have fun with that!
You get to control pressure, temperature, and angle, so it's never uncomfortable… although that first Rear Wash might be a little alarming. WHEEE!
What's awesome about it?
My friends who've lived in Japan and Europe always side-eye me when I talk about my Toto, like "Srsly, girl? You're just now figuring out that it's nicer to wash your butt than it is to use a dry piece of low-quality paper to scrape that shit off?" But if you're like me, this is something you've just never really thought of. Toilet paper is how you do things. It's how you've always done things. What is this washing your under-carriage madness?Well, it's freaking awesome, that's what it is. You actually get, like, actually clean. Yes, you could achieve this with a peri bottle (right, postpartum folks? RIGHT?) or even just a freaking water bottle next to the toilet with a wash cloth (family cloth, anyone?). You totally could do that. You totally should do that. But, if you're like me, and you like pre-heated water and pre-misting and oscillations and the idea of a robot butt-butler washing your behind, this is a nice upgrade from that more basic option.
It's great for poop. It's great for pee. It's great for menstrual blood. It's great for post-coital clean-up. It's great for when you're sick out the butt. It's great for children — both in terms of them actually using it (no more shouts from my 6-year-old for help with wiping — y'all feelin' me here, moms?) and in terms of entertainment (my son figured out that "front wash" can reach the sink mirror across the room if he games it right. HA!). My parents asked me if I worried that having a Toto would make my son unable to wipe his own butt, and I was all, "I don't know, lets ask those generations of Europeans and Japanese folks how that's worked for them."
OH WOE IS ME, WE KNOWETH NOT HOW TO WIPE OUR BUTTETHS.
…You could say I'm not too worried about it.
What's meh about it?
The dryer takes a long time to actually dry your butt — like, five minutes. This means that you will likely spend more time drying your butt than pooping. One friend asked if this was an issue of taint hair (side bonus of having a Toto: you get to have conversations with friends about taint hair!), but that's not it. Even if you're one of those waxed types, it just takes a while for a little fan to dry your butt. It's not like it's a Dyson Air Blade going up your ass. It's just a gentle little whirring fan, so now I have a copy of the Tao Te Ching next to the toilet to encourage folks to get comfortable and patient with it. Butt-drying mindfulness! It's a thing!
This particular model has a very small-in-diameter toilet seat. I have a small-ish toilet and am an small-to-medium sized person so it's fine for me, but taller and wider folks have reported feeling like they're perched on an itty-bitty widdle dolly toilet.
It does sit pretty high up on your toilet. I mean, my toilet now feels like a slightly elevated high-tech command center. I'm ok with it, but it's not a low-profile situation.
I also still haven't figured out how to hide the cord, which stretches across my bathroom right now. That's strictly an issue of aesthetics, but it's worth considering where your bathroom outlet is in relation to your toilet.
This is a luxury item. It is unnecessary and kind of silly, and kind of awesome. I recommend it.
- Katie: I have IBS and got a 'prescription' for the washlet from my doctor. I was reimbursed for it via my… [Link]
- Ariel Meadow Stallings: On my model, the wand self-cleans before and after every use, and then you can also click "wand clean" and… [Link]
- KathyRo: Thanks, Dootsie. I could have cheerfully ignored that issue for the rest of my life. No, I think… [Link]
- Dootsie Bug: Have you had to clean it? Can you just swipe at it with the toilet brush and SnoBol or do… [Link]
- SamanthaB: YASSSSS BUTT HOSE 4 LYFE [Link]
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Wow, this whole series is taking the cake! Thank goodness we are investing in them....
The best chainsaw for most people is the cordless Ego Power+ 16″ Chainsaw, a decision we reached after spending five days in the New Hampshire woods with six chainsaws, and having a pro tree worker with 14 years’ experience use them on the job for an additional three days this summer.
I’ve had a lot of fun in the past few days playing with a new iOS app that creates a mosaic of video, still images, and sound, and into which you can also paste code to create animations and actions. They are cool post-gif loops. You then share and follow others who are creating. Still in beta, it’s called Universe. Follow me! — KK
Last year I started using a Salux Japanese Nylon washcloth (reviewed on Cool Tools), and I won’t ever go back. No other product has made me feel this clean before. It exfoliates, but it’s not as rough as some gloves or loofahs I have tried, and I use the one labeled “super hard.” — CL
A series I am binging on is Silicon Valley. I know all these people and every detail of their lives and situations is pitch perfect right on. The producers get the tiniest details exactly right, from the technology to the mannerisms, as well as their bigger narrative. I haven’t laughed so much is ages. At the same time, it’s a remarkably fantastic advanced class in what technology companies are *really* like; whether you want to work in one, or start one: watch this series. — KK
Reddit’s Futurology subreddit features news stories that point to our future. “New antibiotic found in human nose.” “Singapore Scientists Grow Mini Human Brains.” “Should a human-pig chimera be treated as a person?” I visit it daily. — MF
I recently bought the Junior Game Inventors Kit to build with my soon-to-be stepson. We had a lot of fun creating a board design and brainstorming “consequence” and “reward” cards. We didn’t get a chance to finish and play the game, but I’m looking forward to seeing how it evolves. Very reasonable price for a kit that inspires creativity. — CL
Truecaller is a free, ad-supported smartphone app that blocks telemarketers’ calls. When a call from a spammer comes in, your phone will display a red screen that says “Identified as Spam.” And if a telemarketer slips through, you can easily add the number to Truecaller’s database. — MF
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-- Kevin Kelly, Mark Frauenfelder, Claudia Lamar
Relevant to some of you!
Well, it took me forever, but I finally got it done!
After getting so much crap (hehehe no pun intended there) about creating a tiny house without a bathroom, I promised you a modified version with full ammenities.
This proved to be a little more difficult than I thought, because I'm a stickler for things looking balanced on the inside and out. Changing the floor plan meant changing windows - windows that had been very carefully placed for maximum curb appeal. Here's what I finally came up with -
I moved the kitchen to the front wall, and placed the bathroom where the kitchen was. The windows on the front are carefully placed to allow a stove and sink to fit under and between. This does mean we loose the end door, and the desks that convert to a table, but you can still place a smaller desk under the remaining window. When you go tiny, you have to comprimise on some things. I feel like this is a good balance of keeping that open feeling, while adding all the ammenities. And did you notice the full size appartment fridge?
One thing I did not do is account for water tanks and utility storage. Depending on your climate, you can do a few different things. If it must be insulated, the corner of the kitchen could hold tanks, or there is storage on top of the bathroom. If freezing isn't an issue, tanks could be stored outside or underneath. I'd love to hear how you tackle that one, so if you do build, please share.
Well, here are the plans! Enjoy! Can't wait to see your tiny house!
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Did you know there was a time when the fanciest way to decorate a room was to match your fabric to your wallpaper?
To this day, I can't figure out where my mom got all the bedspreads and curtains that perfectly matched our bedroom wallpaper. Did they come from the same store? Did she just happen to stumble up on wallpaper patterns so AMAZING that fabric manufacturers stole them and created all manner of products with the same pattern? I don't know (I should probably ask my mom). But this home for sale in Minnesota in the paradigm of that matching wallpaper and fabric movement…
Brace yourselves: A pattern explosion is coming.
- Laura: The stuff nightmares are made of. It makes me feel so claustrophobic. [Link]
- Carole: Upon further reflection, I think Meemaw did this when Paw was away on a fishin' trip and when Paw saw… [Link]
- TheBonnieBunnies: I doubt that's the result of a professional decorator gone wild by themself. Judging by the picture of the older… [Link]
- TheBonnieBunnies: The sun room makes me claustrophobic. I half expect the ceiling fabric to turn into a swarm of bees or… [Link]
- toad22: I just wonder if they told a decorator to do it, and then came home & went, "Ummm...well....I guess we've… [Link]
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