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27 Aug 17:08

Took me a long time to learn this one.  Actually, I’m still...

Took me a long time to learn this one.  Actually, I’m still learning this one.

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25 Aug 09:00

Who Will Care When You’re Not There?

by mark

Sobering but important.

Who will care for your animals after your death? If you are fortunate, family or friends will do so. The specifics should be part of your estate planning; you should not take anything for granted. People may not be able or willing to take on the responsibility for your pets.

After the death of an owner, beloved pets may be dumped at a shelter or tossed out of the house or even euthanized. Old cats that have only known one home and one owner, end up sitting in a cage, bewildered and depressed. When someone comes to the shelter looking for a pet, they are going to adopt the young, outgoing cat, not the depressed animal sitting in the back of her cage. If it is not a no-kill shelter, the feline survivor will soon be euthanized.

To avoid this, you need to plan. If you are lucky, you’ll just need to discuss your animals’ care with your family and friends. You probably should include a provision in your will. If you don’t have people that you can depend on to take care of your animals, you may need to set up a trust or make other complicated arrangements. Most states have specific statues for establishing a Pet Trust.

You cannot just leave money (or anything else) to your pets. Animals are not ‘persons’ legally. Only humans or corporations can inherit directly. And no matter how much money your cats have, they’ll need people to spend it for them.

If you leave money to a dog, you will be considered crazy (or eccentric, if you were rich enough). Anyone who challenges your wishes in court will succeed. On the other hand, if you leave a reasonable amount of money to a person or to a trust to care for your animals, you will be considered a responsible individual and your wishes will most likely be upheld.

This book is somewhat pricey for a paperback, but cheap for legal advice. The first part reviews the options open to pet owners. The appendices are the most useful part of the book, once you have figured out what to do. References to the appropriate state statutes, checklists for planning, and pet information sheet guidelines are included. There are no sample forms: the law varies from state to state and the complexity of tax and other considerations will probably require a local attorney to set up a trust.

The importance of making arrangements for the care of your pets if you are temporarily incapacitated are also discussed. Who takes care of your animals if you are in an accident and don’t make it home tonight? The authors suggest a Durable Power of Attorney and also provide a wallet card so people know you have pets and who to call.

Besides your companion animals, don’t forget other animals that depend on you: livestock and any other farm or domestic animals. If you have stray cats that you feed, try to find someone to help you who will continue when you are gone. The same goes for birds who need your feeders to get through the winter.

Your death should not cause unnecessary suffering to animals that depend on you. A little planning can probably prevent that from happening.

-- Walter Noiseux

Who Will Care When You’re Not There?: Estate Planning for Pet Owners.
By Robert E. Kass and Elizabeth A. Carrie
2011, 130 pages

04 Sep 09:00


by mark

If you are inundated with credit card offers, is the best way to stop them. It’s like the “Do Not Call” list for credit card offers.

About a year after I started college, I began getting credit card offers. On a bad day I’d receive up to four offers from various credit card companies. Having to deal with that much junk mail was a real annoyance, and I tended to throw the envelopes into a box and either shred them or burn them all at one time. One day, a year or so after I finished college, I was sitting in the lobby of my mechanic shop and reading the newspaper. That’s when I read a column extolling the virtues of, a service that claimed to get that pesky first-year-no-interest monkey off my back.

So that afternoon I went to the website and filled out the required info (name, address, SSN, and date of birth.) For roughly two weeks I still received the same volume of CC offers as before signing up. After a month, however, the flow of credit card offers had dramatically slowed. Within two months, I was getting NO offers. Fantastic!

My experience matched with’s confirmation page, which states “Your request will be completed within 5 business days. Although your request becomes effective with Equifax, Experian, Innovis and TransUnion within five business days of your request, you may not see an immediate reduction in the amount of offers you receive. This is because your name may have already been provided to some companies that have not yet mailed their offers to you. You may continue to receive certain firm offers for several months.”

Here’s how it works: Once you sign up for the service, they will then send your information to the companies that provide consumer credit reporting services (Equifax, Experian, Innovis and TransUnion.) These companies will then take you off the mailing lists they distribute to credit card companies and you will stop receiving offers from those credit card companies. Simple as that.

The website states your request to opt-out of CC offers is good for five years, however this can change if you sign up for a service that sells your name and address to CC companies, or apply for a credit card. I noticed recently after purchasing a website domain and space to set up a friends’ commercial website, the credit card offers started pouring in again. I went back to and re-applied. I thought now would be an apropos moment to write a review of this great resource.

Finally, they do warn you that “while your name will be removed from the lists that Equifax, Experian, Innovis and TransUnion provide to businesses for the purpose of making you a firm offer of credit or insurance, you may continue to receive offers from sources that do not use Consumer Credit Reporting Companies to compile their lists.”

Great service, highly recommended.

-- Owen Kelly

10 Sep 20:59

You are home.

by thebloggess

This is my song for you today:

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day and it’s truly wonderful to have voices speak out about something so many of us struggle with.  It’s not an easy subject or even one that people understand.  Even the people most vulnerable to suicide have a hard time understanding it.

There are many things I could say here but there’s one thing that I hope you hear completely if you are one of us…one of the strange people who feels things too strongly…one of the people who battle with a brain that tries to kill you…one of the people who has to remind yourself that depression lies.  It does.  But I’ve said that before.  This, however, is new:

One of the things that always saves me when I feel the deep isolation that comes with depression is the thought that I’m not alone – that so many amazing people are in this same dark place.  And they feel alone but they aren’t.  I’m with them.  Sometimes you’re with us too.  You might not be able to feel us here because your brain has robbed you of the ability to feel (or to not feel) but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true.  You are here.  You are needed.

You are home.

I mean that in two ways.  You are home with us, the strange ones feeling the same doubt and pain, who understand and who would be the first to tell you that you are needed and necessary and that if we are going to keep fighting you have to as well.  That’s just basic fairness.  We rely on each other because no one else understands totally this terrible halfway-gone waiting place we have to survive until life comes back to us.

And I mean it in another way.  You are home.  You are home for the wonderful things that you still have to offer the world.  You are home to unique thoughts that will help and inspire others.  You are home to people who love you.  And you are home to people who will one day meet you and tuck themselves into your heart for shelter.

You are home.  You are real.  You are needed.  You are loved.  You.  Even if we’ve never met, know that I mean you.  The you doubting yourself.  The you who doesn’t let on how tough it is.  The you who doesn’t know if you’ll make it through.  You will.  You’re gonna get through this.  Even if you don’t feel it yet, trust me, you are already home.

PS. I know a lot of people who don’t touch this subject because it’s complicated, or maybe isn’t something they feel they understand enough to write about and I completely get that.  There are all sorts of ways to help, from sharing suicide hotline numbers, or asking someone who seems down if they’re okay, or leaving an encouraging post-it note on a bathroom mirror, or just reaching out to say something kind to a friend.  The small act of telling someone how important they are to you can be a limb to cling to when everything else in the world seems to be telling you otherwise.  Spread kindness.  Pick a few people and tell them the world is better with them in it.  You make such a difference.  Every single one of you.  Thank you for answering the door when we ask for help.  Thank you for being home.

12 Sep 15:42

#744: Informing someone you’re not talking to anymore about STI risks

by JenniferP

Did not know about the anonymous service! Excellent option in a situation like this.

Dear Captain & Army,

About a month ago, I finally broke things off with a long-term Darth Vader ex I’ll call Joe. We officially broke up last year, but spent this summer falling in love all over again, though we kept it completely secret. However, when Joe finally admitted to cheating on me with a very close friend while we were still together – something I had long suspected but never had confirmed, and which he had directly lied to me about many times – I knew it had to be over, once and for all. So, despite Joe’s protestations and pleas, I told him not to contact me ever again, and after a few days of mourning (and not reaching out, despite wanting to very badly) found the courage to block him in every way possible. Only in the last week was I finally starting to feel something more than the emotional mess that is equal parts angry, sad and nostalgic.

But then, just yesterday, I got a call from another ex, someone I briefly dated just a few months before Joe and I resumed our relationship. The ex told me they were recently tested for STIs, and came up positive for a common one. I immediately made an appointment for myself, and am now waiting for results to come back.

Of course, I know that if the test comes back positive that I will have to tell Joe. But I’m already worrying about having any contact with this person again, who I have finally removed completely from my life and who was a 100% toxic influence. I feel that news like this merits a phone call, but the thought of even hearing Joe’s voice again fills me with sadness, dread and, if I’m totally honest, excitement. I worry that I won’t be able to keep the conversation to simply the facts of the situation, and that if I open that doorway right now, I won’t be emotionally able to shut it again. My only friend who knows about our summer fling suggested writing an e-mail, and then keeping Joe’s blocked so he can’t respond. But I feel like that is somehow wrong, considering this is an issue of sexual health and safety.

What do you think, Captain? Should I call, or will an e-mail suffice? And either way, how do I make sure to stay to the script? Is there a good script for this?

Possibly Positive

Dear Possibly Positive:

Would you believe that there are greeting cards for just this occasion? And that there are services where you can send this info anonymously (recommended!)? And that there’s a very sweet show on Netflix called “Scrotal Recall” about just this problem if you’d like to feel less alone about the whole thing?

You do not have to have a talk with “Joe” about this, LW, and you don’t owe him and the “close friend” he was sleeping with anything but the basic information to protect their health. If you choose not to use InSPOT, an email (DEFINITELY EMAIL OR POSTAL MAIL, NO PHONE OR MEETING UP) script might go like this:

“Dear Joe/Dear Friend:

One of my former sex partners tested positive for _______ STI, and given the timing you may have been exposed, too. Please get tested and inform your partners.”


“I recently tested positive for _______ STI, and I recommend that you get tested and inform recent sex partners as well.”

Informing them takes care of your ethical responsibilities here. I do think you should reach out to the friend as well (Do you honestly trust Joe to take care of someone else’s health in an ethical way?) Once you convey the info, you don’t need to have one iota more discussion or provide any more details.You can safely ignore/block any replies. You do not have to listen to Joe’s reactions or care about his feelings right now. Pesky microbes are not a referendum on you or on your past relationships, and reaching out with key health information is one good exception for violating a “no contact” policy.

I hope you get answers soon and that they alleviate your anxiety. When you climb back on the dating horse, this might help.

P.S. There’s always singing telegrams!

11 Sep 11:45

"He's not my husband, he's her husband, but we all really want a loan together": Life as a long-term polyamorist

by Elizabeth Weiss
"Threesomes 4 Lyfe," custom polyamory shower art, from Etsy seller UglyBaby
"Threesomes 4 Lyfe," custom polyamory shower art, from Etsy seller UglyBaby

I have been following the recent stories on polyamorous relationships, both on Offbeat Home and elsewhere, and saying a silent "hallelujah." I've been in a polyfidelitous triad (like a marriage but with three people) for thirteen years, but I've never found the strength or the venue to start a larger conversation about long-term polyamorist relationships.

But given how long the three of us have been together, I feel like I can offer some useful tidbits of advice and some observations on living a life that exists on the fringes but still in the mainstream.

What does our family look like?

I have a male partner and a female partner; she and I are both bisexual, and he is heterosexual. We have three children, ages 18, 10, and 3. We've known each other for longer than we've been together romantically, and our relationship turned from friendship into romance at a point where we were all going through massive relationship upheavals. To make a long story incredibly short, we spent a summer flirting and talking (and drinking an awful lot of wine) and decided to give life as a triad a shot. I moved in with them, and we began co-parenting their (then) 5-year-old daughter.

In the beginning, it will be tough

In spite of our happiness and optimism, our larger relationships suffered in the first few years. We endured periods of estrangement and strained relationships with some family members in the beginning.

After a few years, it won't be as tough

Once people saw that we were serious and were not barreling down the road to Relationship Armageddon, their views changed. It was slow and painful at times, but at this point we have full support, inclusion, and love from our families. We have found schools, doctors, lawyers, and other professionals who welcome us and are supportive. We have an excellent group of friends who accept us for who we are.

The poly community may have nothing to offer you

In an effort to meet other families like ours, we spent a brief time meeting with a polyamory group in our city. We found many different relationship configurations but nothing that looked like what we had. There were people looking for recreational sex partners, trying to figure out how to make an affair into something livable, or trying to cope with a spouse's desire for "fun" outside the relationship. We didn't meet anyone who seemed like us.

In the end, we decided that we had our friends, and that even if none of them had a family like ours, we were okay with that. Families are different, and we had things in common with our current friends that were much more important than the genders or number of partners in their relationships.

It's not always good, and it's not always bad

We've had good times and bad times in our relationship, just like people in any relationship do. We disagree sometimes, we feel jealous or hurt sometimes, we have money problems sometimes. Our ups and downs aren't any greater in number or severity than anyone else's.

It's not a porn film

We have three kids. Do I need to say any more about how un-porn-like our relationship is? In all seriousness, I would guess that we have a sex life that is very parallel to most married couples. We don't get as much as we'd like, but we get by. My female partner has chronic pain issues, and that has definitely been a challenge, but we work with what we have. I can safely say that nobody will be knocking down our door looking for an adult film contract any time soon.

You'll come out a lot, and you'll get used to it

Initially, coming out will be an event. Those first conversations with family and friends are high-stakes and anxiety-producing. Once you get past that hump though, coming out can feel iffy, but overall we've had great experiences. Most people are inquisitive rather than rude. I generally wait until someone knows me to some degree and has figured out that I'm not a freak of nature or sociopath, and then I tell them. By then, they've figured out that I'm a decent person, so they figure it can't be all bad.

Your kids will be awesome

Our kids have an incredible amount of support. With three parents, there is nearly always someone to attend a school function, drive a kid to a friend's house, chaperone a field trip, or stay home when a child is sick.

Of course, it also means one more parent to go ask when they don't like the answer they are given by the others, and they are subjected to 150 percent of the supervision that their friends are. We believe that to be a good thing. Our kids are smart, friendly, personable, and confident.

Legally, things will be weird

When I was pregnant with kid No. 2, we went to a lawyer to try to set things up so that we could all have some legal tie to each of the kids. After many interesting conversations, it was decided that three people cannot legally parent one child. We were able to work things out to a point where we felt reasonably secure, but it took a while. The moral of the story is that you should find a good lawyer, develop a relationship with that person, and put things in writing. It's not perfect, but writing things down in an official sense is important.

Get used to explaining things to financing companies

We own our home. To be exact, I have the mortgage (this time around) and all of our names are on the title. We have moved and refinanced, so we've gone through the home-buying process several times.

Often, I feel like we should make a pamphlet. It could say things like "Yes, his wife knows about me" and "No, they are not getting divorced" or "He's not my husband, he's her husband, but we really want a loan together." Everyone, from the realtor to the closing agent will need a quick explanation. Don't take offense, just roll with it.

No, I don't want to sleep with you, and we don't want a group sex thing

Just because there are three of us does not mean that we are open to sleeping with people outside our relationship, that we are all "allowed" to have affairs, or that we routinely have other people in our bed. But thanks for the flattery!

We're really not that interesting

A long-time friend of ours once said, "You know, you meet so many people who look normal from the outside, and then you find out they're screwed up. With you guys, it's the opposite — you look weird from the outside, but once I got to know you, I realized you're just pretty boring." Thanks, I think…

Recent Comments

  • Elizabeth: I created us a facebook group! Here is the link that (I hope) will connect to it: The name … [Link]
  • Krista: Omg, Yes please? :) It'd be nice to have a community for this. [Link]
  • Polydactyl: I'm very glad your family life is working out so well, and it makes me happy to see someone with … [Link]
  • Elizabeth: Hang in there, and don't "look" too hard. The right person will be there when it's right :) One of … [Link]
  • Elizabeth: Hmm - I kind of like the idea of an advice/question-type format! I don't want to commit to a blog … [Link]

+ 19 more! Join the discussion

10 Sep 12:00

The Best Eyeliner

by Casey Johnston

Might need to pick up that Revlon soon...


The best eyeliner stays on as long as possible while looking great, with deep pigmentation and perfect, uniform coverage, and comes off without a huge hassle. After more than 100 collective hours researching eyeliners; considering more than 100 gels, pencils, and liquids; and testing more than 50, we’ve found the three best eyeliners in pencil, liquid, and gel: Stila Smudge Stick Waterproof Eyeliner pencil ($20), Revlon Colorstay Skinny Liquid Liner ($8), and the Bobbi Brown Long-Wear Gel Eyeliner ($25).

09 Sep 02:15

#743: How can I be a good friend to my friends with kids?

by commanderlogic



This Baby would like to disrupt all your fun times.

Dear captain awkward and army,

A handful of my friends have become parents this year. Consequently, and as expected, I don’t see them very often any more, and when I do, it’s for brief 30-minute “passing by” visits just to see how they and their rapidly developing Von Neumann machines are doing.

I’d like to invite them to larger gatherings and events, and shape these gatherings so that new parents feel like
a) they can take their kid without feeling like it would be a distraction or burden b) they could genuinely enjoy themselves c) the setting won’t be too chaotic even with multiple adults and kids d) the kids themselves would be comfortable, happy, and safe e) travel wouldn’t be inconvenient.

I live in a major metropolis where apartment space is coveted, so the home setting is limited.

But I’d just like to give my parent friends opportunities to socialize and do really fun things without making any implicit unreasonable demands to inconvenience themselves. Not having kids myself, I’m looking for best practices to provide that.

And to parents in the awkward army, what would something like this look like to you?

-Friend to new families

Hi Friend!

CommanderLogic here at your service.

Boy howdy do I feel you on this. I’ve got two Little Logics, 2.5 and 1 years old, and getting out to see friends with kids this age is hard. It just is. Even when our friends go the extra mile to make it easy for MrLogic and I, it’s still too hard sometimes, or something kid-related comes up and we have to bail. But I cannot tell you how much we appreciate the efforts our friends make! You are doing superb friend-work even thinking about this, so kudos to you.

The Challenges You Face

Parental Bandwidth (and the lack thereof): The social calendars of myself and the other parents I know aren’t especially full. This is because a full social calendar requires either leaving the house (ugh) or having a shit-ton of people at your own house (UGH).

Our MENTAL calendars, on the other hand, are stuffed to overflowing with things that MUST BE DONE – work, shop, cook, eat, keep tiny humans alive, keep tiny humans clean(ish), keep tiny humans happy(ish) – so the work involved in entertaining adult friends (as opposed to collapsing on the couch with laundry, wine, and Netflix) can easily be overwhelming.

Naptime: Unless your friends are all using the same daycare, or somehow coordinated to make their routines line up (HOW?), all the kids are gonna have different nap schedules, and it will FUCK WITH EVERYTHING. Some people are like “But what is a skipped nap here or there?” NOAP. NOPE. NOOOOOOOOOPE. Yep? NOPE. If the kids are under 4, and the parent tells you it is naptime – even if the kid seems wide awake and cheerful – trust me, it is naptime. The parent is sparing everyone from napless horrors.

Development: The under 3 set is always changing. ALWAYS. You look away for a week and suddenly the cuddly, immobile, everyone’s-my-friend baby will be a holy terror that only wants DADADADADA and will climb into every pointy bit in your apartment to reach their parent.

Everyone is Goddamn Different: This goes for the parents and kids alike. Some parents are going to be gung-ho about social activities, some are going to insist their children can’t be exposed to Outside People. Some kids are outgoing or able to collapse into a nap anywhere, some are nervous or unable to fall asleep without a frillion carefully timed procedures. No matter what I tell you, nothing will work for everyone in every situation. You may just have to ride it out for a couple years while the wee Von Neumann machines turn into semi-logical humanoids that you can shove into a room or outside with some toys and expect not to destroy themselves or everything (too much). It will be easier, and it will really not be that long in the scheme of things.

How much whisky would you like?

Not a single one of my parties has ever looked like this.

Here are a few coping strategies for Friends of Parents of SMALL Children to keep in mind, (*) will be included for those strategies that only work for couples. Single parents, you are impressive beyond my ability to express. Amazing.

1 – Embrace the Open House. If people can cycle through on their own (or let’s be real, their kids’) schedules, they’re more likely to come by.
Open Houses can be at your house, or at a park (“We’ll be at Moomin Park by the big blue play structure from 12-5! Come by whenever, leave whenever.”), or a beach, or other places the commentariat will doubtless suggest. Televised sport events are great for an open house. Or a board game day. Or a Terrible Movies marathon. The point is that people don’t have to be there exactly at a specific time, or stay to the end.

2 – Expect last minute cancellations. This can be hard. It will feel like a comment on your friendship, but it is NOT. Babies are assholes and they know, THEY KNOW, when you want to do something and will choose that moment to be epically sick.

3 – Set aside a Quiet Room, stocked with a comfy chair, something to function as a changing table, and room for one or more pack’n’plays. It may not get used, but this is way more helpful to parents of small children than a set aside Play Room. When you set up a Play Room for the under 5 set, what you’re really doing is setting up a situation where the parents are going to hang out in the Play Room instead of with the adults. If the kids are there, they’re gonna be partying with the adults. Count on it.

4 – Offer to come to them. It will feel SUPER WEIRD to invite yourself over, but as I said, most new parents’ social calendars aren’t very full, and by offering your presence you’ve made it possible for them to socialize without adding One More Thing to their mental calendars.

The Captain and her Gentleman Caller do this frequently and we love it: they come over around nap time and hold down the fort while MrLogic and I go out to a movie. Or they make us dinner. We all play with the kids. When the kids go down for the night, we hang out and play board games.

Here’s how you make it happen: “Hey Friend! I’m free this weekend, can I make/bring you dinner and we [whatever is your jam] after Little goes to bed?”  “Hey Friend! I can come over during Little’s nap and stand guard while you go run an errand or see Fury Road on IMAX. Let me know if there’s a time that works best!”

Adult-only events:

1* – Resign yourself to seeing only one of your friends at any given event, or expect that they’ll tag team it. Finding babysitting is annoying as fuck, especially if your go-to babysitters are in your friend group and are probably also invited to the event. Frequently, MrLogic and I will decide who is more interested in (or has more energy for) a given event and only one of us will go. The parent left behind is usually rewarded by getting sleeping-in dibs, the most precious dibs of all.

2 – Give as much lead time as you possibly can, and be SUPER EXPLICIT about it being adult-only. This gives your friends the info they need (I need a babysitter) and the prep time to make it happen (SHIT I NEED A BABYSITTER).

3 – Change your go-to events/times.  I can’t do brunch at 11 anymore. How about 7:30AM breakfast instead? I can’t go to a party that starts at 9PM but REALLY gets going around midnight. Let’s do a lunch during the workweek instead, while the kid is in daycare. I can’t go out to the club, why don’t you come over and we’ll watch one terrible movie and drink no more than a bottle of wine? Basically, my energy times are all out of whack with what they were when I had no kids. I have to be up and sober at 6am because a tiny person is going to yell at me regardless of my condition. Ask your friends what works best for them and try it out. tbh, 7:30 breakfast is some of the best brunch in the city.



4 – Try a standing-invitation event. (A variation on the Open House) This is kind of 400-level social maven advice, and heavily dependent on one person birddogging it, but it has really worked for me: Have a once-weekly Thing to which people are invited. It must be flexible enough to accommodate ALL the invitees or only one showing up. Maybe it’s a weekly potluck. Maybe it’s game night. Maybe it’s weekly rifftrax. The goal is to have something that is attractive to your friends, reliable on their calendars, and easy to say “shoot, I can’t make this one but I hope I see everyone next time.”


NOW, as a haver of small children myself, I also have some suggestions to the parents out there who may be feeling a bit trapped.  THE POWER IS WITHIN YOU.

Everything I recommended to our LW is something that YOU TOO can do. As I said, I myself host a standing-invitation event on Wednesday nights, and it’s THE BEST. People I love come to me, I feed them dinner, I put the kids to bed, and then we talk about stuff and watch Project Runway.

We’ve had open house parties that our kids weathered like champs.

I go to breakfast and weekday lunch with my lady friends, sometimes at their invitation and sometimes at mine.

Our friends with kids come over and play board games while all the littles are sleeping.

But having a social life is work. It is. It doesn’t happen by wishing one of our friends would set something up and inviting us at just the right time (though that’s definitely great!). We have to make the effort of inviting, too. So parents, this is your permission to invite people over for delivery food and Netflix. Host a poker night. Ask your friend to take your kid to the park and get some ice cream so you can nap, please, and maybe can that be a weekly Sunday thing? Ask a friend out to breakfast.

Having a social life doesn’t require you to be perfect. It doesn’t require you to have a perfectly kept house, or perfectly behaved kids, or perfectly so anything. All it requires is that you ask for what you need.  You need adults sometimes. Invite them in!

And Letter Writer? Keep rocking on.

CommanderLogic OUT

08 Sep 11:45

Reclaiming a syndrome: embracing vs. cursing its existence

by Little Bear the Bearded Lady

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome Awareness

Lots of things get "reclaimed" — body shapes, offensive words, etc. Today I'm doing something bizarre: I am reclaiming disease.

September is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome Awareness Month.

I'm going to present you with a narrative that is NOT popular with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome: I am proud of and happy with me having PCOS. Because what it gave me is a beautiful, soft, warm, luxurious face and body full of curly, beautiful fur. Like a tree, I am decorated in moss from my face, neck, chest, and nipples down to my belly, cunt, back, asshole, and legs.

It is my crowning and all-enrobed glory. It is my pelt. It is my fecund, abundant femininity sprouting forth in pheromone-laden, primal, earthy joy.

I am not beautiful despite it. It is part of my beauty.

So, yes. I have trouble losing weight around the middle, and my periods are torture, and I can't make babies. (I'd rather adopt anyway!) I look at it as a small sacrifice for not just my fur but for what I have been able to do with it — I raise visibility.

I offer an alternative route to self-loathing (not that shaving is self-loathing. But thinking you are a "mistake" is). I tell women they don't have to "be grateful for whatever they can get," and settle for concern trolls, fetishists, and white knights. I show that a woman can — if she wants — be hairy AND happy.

That said, I do not want to trivialize the trials of those people with PCOS. I do understand and recognize that it causes pain — emotional and physical — for many people. I honor that, I respect that, and my heart breaks for them.

But with so much of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome rhetoric revolving around phrases like "overcoming" and "battling with" and "suffering from," I want to expose a different viewpoint. I want to — without policing or shaming — show that one can, if one wants, embrace their endocrine variance as part of what makes them special and beautiful.

I'm proud of my beard. I'm proud of my hair. I'm proud of my high testosterone. I'm proud of my ovaries for being the ovaries they are.

And if all this does is show others with PCOS that it doesn't have to be a sentence? Then that's good enough.

Recent Comments

  • Sarah: I've had a special sonogram that actually showed me all the "pearl like strands" on my ovaries that confirmed my … [Link]
  • Ashlah: Oh absolutely! I was actually just re-thinking my comment this morning. My "is it real" feelings are really restricted to … [Link]
  • MinaKelly: I do think, considering how prevalent PCOS may be, that a lot of symptoms have become part of a misogynistic … [Link]
  • Devin: Thanks for sharing this! I got my PCOS diagnosis in 2011. I was having terrible pains around my ovaries and … [Link]
  • Tara: Man you guys are so great and empowering yourself and I am just sitting over here going I hate my … [Link]

+ 28 more! Join the discussion

03 Sep 13:00

Ask Baba Yaga: How Can I Turn Platonic Love Into Romantic Love?

by Taisia Kitaiskaia

Dear Baba Yaga,

I’ve always been able to make friends and have people love me platonically, but I’ve never had anyone really fall in love with me romantically. I’m easily thought of as cool and a great and supportive friend, but this doesn’t translate into the dating world. Can I remedy this?


There is , in some forgotten creek in yr woods a small tortoise shell loaded with jewels–covering the wellspring of that dried aquifer. In this shell you ; have hoarded all yr pretty qualities, you have carefully placed the shiny heavy stones you think will make others ) love you. But in gathering them so you have hidden them; lift the shell–let the waters rise back up & flood the stream; let the water blast the shell open & carry yr precious gems far & wide. It is in this wild rushing & abandon of what you believe makes you lovable that others will see you as a raw creature to be chased & peered at.

Previously: How Can I Forgive My Narcissistic Mother?

Taisia Kitaiskaia is a poet and writer living in Austin. She’s taking questions on behalf of Baba Yaga at askbabayaga [at]

Illustration of Baba Yaga’s hut by Katy Horan.

27 Aug 23:57

Is one of the Ashley Madison hackers living under your own roof?

by Kerry


A mother in Bellevue, Nebraska found these notes in her “drawer of fun.” (Looks like somebody wants a new little brother or sister!)

Don't you dare use these otherwise I will go public on you. My siblings know already

related: You should probably delete your search history…

28 Aug 14:45

Become your own brand of fatshionista: finding the self-confidence to rock your curves

by Minerva Siegel

You might recognize this bride from her vow renewal featured on Offbeat Bride

Photo by Sarah Christine Moore
Finding self-confidence and a style identity as a fat babe in a world that's constantly labeling us as "Before" pictures can seem like a near-impossible task. We live in a society that generally glorifies thin body types as perfection, while labeling plus-sizers as people who need to be "fixed."

I don't have a thigh gap; in fact, mine are full of cellulite. My hips are wide, my booty is enormous, I have a belly, my arms are big, and I weigh a solid 300lbs — yet people stop me on the street constantly to compliment me on my style. This is how I found the courage to come out from underneath baggy, shapeless clothes and embrace my curves, "flaws" and all.

Become your own brand of fatshionista

Step 1: Stop bullying yourself

I'd often catch myself looking at my body and thinking that it was ugly, or gross, or too big/too cellulite-y/too stretch marked. I realized that I was constantly bashing my body; that I was bullying it and making myself feel worse.

To remedy this, I decided to stop allowing myself to use negative words when thinking about my body. Whenever I did slip up and have those thoughts, I'd make myself go back and compliment myself instead. My inner dialogue went something like, "Ugh, nothing fits me right, I feel so ugly… but my butt looks really good in these jeans, and I have such a nice smile."

It felt silly at first, but when I kept it up I saw that it was really starting to improve my outlook not only on my body but on life in general.

fatshionista inspiration as seeon on @offbetbride

Step 2: Realize your worth

It's so easy to get caught up on body image. Our society teaches us that it's tightly connected to our self-worth, which just isn't true. Part of gaining the self-confidence to rock the edgy fashion trends I want to (sheer! crop tops! short shorts!) was realizing that I have so much more to offer the world than my appearance. I wrote a list of all the things at which I'm excellent and kept it taped to my mirror, so that every morning, I'd be reminded that I have value as a person and an identity beyond the word "fat."

Photo by Sarah Christine Moore

Step 3: "Fat" is not a bad word

All my life, people have hurled weight-related insults at me. I've been called a whale, a pig, tubby, a chubbers, fat; every time someone called me one of those, it stung me deeply and left me feeling insecure for days.

Realizing that "fat" isn't synonymous with "ugly" was a big game-changer for me. I AM fat. So what? "Fat" and "beautiful" aren't mutually exclusive adjectives. I can be both. When I feel down, I scroll through body-positive hashtags on Tumblr and Instagram. Seeing all those photos and posts of fat babes absolutely killing it always reminds me that being fat doesn't automatically equate to being unattractive.

fatshionista inspiration seeon on @offbetbride

Step 4: You don't owe anyone "flattering"

I unapologetically rock crop tops and sheer blouses with nothing but a bra underneath. I go sleeveless, I wear short shorts. I participate in whatever fashion trends I feel like participating in, because no one owes anyone "flattering." Being yourself is enough, without body shapers, without long-sleeves and pants, without covering up and hiding your body to make other people more comfortable. YOU have to be happy with YOURSELF and not live for other people.

I used to wear baggy sweaters in 90-degree weather because I didn't want people to see my fat arms, my rolls, my chub. Now my comfort and happiness are my number one priority. I no longer care what people think about my cellulite, fat, etc., and that's such a powerful, liberating feeling.

My mantra is: If people don't like the way I look, they don't have to look at me. Some people won't like the way you look. You're going to have haters. That's just part of life. Universal popularity is unattainable, so instead of trying for it, you'd might as well make yourself happy.

fatshionista fashion insporation as seen on @offbeatbride

Step 5: Go for it!

Body acceptance/love is a process that takes time and work, but when you're feeling up to it, I dare you to try out new trends that go out of your comfort zone. The first time I went out in public in a sleeveless dress, I was terrified and insecure. The second time wasn't as bad. And now I don't even think twice about it. When you go out of your fashion comfort zone, and the world doesn't end, you'll feel unstoppable!

Self-confidence doesn't always come easily, but cutting out negative self-talk, taking stock of your true value, realizing that "fat" isn't an insult or synonymous with "ugly," and forcing myself to step out of my fatshion comfort zone helped me to be able to love myself for who I am, stretch marks and all. Because we live in a society that glorifies skinny regardless of health, people will always try to make fat people feel badly about themselves, perhaps even more so if they have the "audacity" to be both fat AND happy.

Being confident and secure in yourself makes it easier to let negative comments roll off, as the fabulous Jinkx Monsoon would say, "like water off a duck's back." So, get out there, be large, and become your own brand of fatshionista! There's no better feeling than the self-confidence that comes with unapologetically rocking your curves and knowing you're hot as hell.

If you haven't already, make sure to check out Minerva and her husband Max's intimate vow renewal on Offbeat Bride.

Recent Comments

  • Minerva: My advice to you would be to go with what you like! Don't worry about 'flattering'; you don't owe anyone … [Link]
  • Minerva: amen! <3 [Link]
  • Minerva: Body positivity is a process and a journey, and I'm proud of you for embarking on it! Don't be so … [Link]
  • Minerva: aww I'm tearing up! Thank you so much! I really pour my heart and soul into what I write. <3 … [Link]
  • Minerva: thank you! <3 [Link]

+ 18 more! Join the discussion

19 Aug 14:00

What To Expect When You’re Expecting A Changeling: Forum Names On Message Boards For First-Time Mothers Of Changelings

by Mallory Ortberg

Bahahaha delightful.

The Tithe To Hell And When To Pay It

Dealing with the Queen of Elphame

Iron safe to touch on FODMAPs diet??

husband refused dance with elf-king's daughter, now front door won't stop knocking?? HELP

[Comments closed for this post] Erlkönig really something to worry about? My MIL said...

Read more What To Expect When You’re Expecting A Changeling: Forum Names On Message Boards For First-Time Mothers Of Changelings at The Toast.

25 Aug 20:00

Two Secrets of Good Bubble Tea — Comment of the Day

by Faith Durand

YES YES I have Taro powder and boba and haven't yet recreated a good bubble tea!!

If you love boba (bubble) tea and have a hankering to make it at home, we have a cooking lesson just for you. You can see how to make bubble tea here, and also read a lot of good comments and tips from the readers. Here are two pro tips for really excellent bubble tea.


24 Aug 19:00

Dragon Con Survival Tips (New & Improved!)

by Jen

Good convention tips for those of us who suffer from anxiety!

With Dragon Con just over a week away, I thought I'd dust off this old post from the archives and give it an update/overhaul. This is a must-read for newbies, but even those of you who've been a few times may find it useful!

First... what is it?

Dragon Con is an internationally known pop culture, sci-fi, fantasy, and gaming convention held in Atlanta, Georgia. It spans 4 days over Labor Day weekend, and averages upwards of 65,000 attendees.

 Unlike most large conventions, Dragon Con is NOT held in a convention center; it's held in 5 large "host hotels," which span several blocks in the downtown Atlanta area. Here's a helpful map from Reddit:

Because the con is spread out over such a large area, it's easily the most confusing and potentially stressful event you'll ever attend. First years are guaranteed to be lost a lot of the time, as it can take 2 or 3 years to really get the lay of the land.

HOWEVER, nothing can describe the exhilaration of being surrounded by "70,000 of your closest friends" as we attendees like to joke, and there's plenty you can do to prepare.

Quick Tip: DC doesn't sell tickets, they sell "memberships." On their website, there's no "buy" - it's "join." That can be confusing for first-timers, but rest assured it's the same thing. Right now tickets for all 4 days are $150 - but keep in mind for next year that if you pre-purchase you get steep discounts.

The Marriot lobby, where all the best cosplayers come out to play (via)

 So, all that in mind, here are some essentials for surviving - and enjoying! - the weekend:

- Prioritize & Plan Ahead

Again, DC panels are spread out over 5 different hotels, and running from hotel to hotel in the 90+ degree heat alongside a billion other nerds will wear you out FAST. Map out where your can't-miss panels are ahead of time. (DC has a fantastic free app for this, so if possible, download that ASAP. If not, grab the pocket program when you arrive.)

The good news is most Star Trek stuff happens in one hotel, most Star Wars stuff another, etc., so if you're only interested in, say, Steampunk, then you won't have to travel around nearly as much. These areas of interest are called "tracks," and everything is listed by track in the DC guides.

Once you have a tentative schedule figured out, watch the Dragon Con Twitter account (or the official app) for updates and cancellations. At the con itself, scheduling changes will be announced online, on the app, and on the DC programming that airs on all the host hotel TVs.

- Know Your Sky Bridges

There are several handy overhead bridges connecting 3 of the 5 hotels (plus the food court area) which allow you to stay in the relatively cool air and avoid trekking up and down the outside hills. These bridges are a life-saver in the Hotlanta heat, so use them whenever possible! Refer to that map I posted above to see which hotels are connected to which.

There's also an additional bridge connecting the Westin and America's Mart, where the two-story merchandise/vendor room is located. Not as vital, but still useful.

If you get lost and can't find the bridges - and know now that you will -  just ask someone next to you in the crowd. Odds are, they'll know!

- Think of it as a mini camping trip, and pack accordingly

A backpack is ideal, or you can make do with a large messenger bag. In it, pack the following:

- water bottles
- plenty of snacks that travel well (I like sliced apples and meal bars)
- deodorant (a necessity and a courtesy)
- Purell or sanitizing hand wipes (the Con Crud is real, and odds are you WILL catch it - but don't go down without a fight!)
- grooming necessities (hair brush, chapstick, etc.)
- emergency supplies (costume repair glue, Tylenol, prescription meds, etc.)
- extra batteries for cameras and/or cellphones (Don't expect to find any outlets to recharge!)

-  Think Comfort

Sure, you're dying to wear your new thigh-high platform boots or that rubber Leelo crotch harness, but after a few hours you may be willing to trade a small appendage for some bunny slippers and sweat pants. Be sensible. Bring a change of clothes or footwear, if necessary - even just flip-flops - and remember that no con is fun when you're tired, hungry, and/or in pain.

Also keep in mind that frequently your only seating will be on the floor, ladies, so beware certain wardrobe malfunctions. And for my fellow cosplayers: can you get out of your costume by yourself when nature calls? Find out ahead of time. Make a plan, and if necessary, bring a bathroom buddy.

My go-to con attire: comfy boots, hat, & a cross-body bag. (John carries the backpack.) I also wear shorts under my skirt to make sitting on the floor more comfortable.

Quick Tip: There are several costume contests throughout the con, but the big BIG one is called "The Masquerade" on Saturday night. This confused us our first year, since it sounds more like a ball, but it's really just a costume contest - no masks required.

- Anxiety Sufferers, Have A Panic Plan

My most frequently asked question regarding DC is how I deal with the crowds, considering I suffer from both anxiety and agoraphobia. The simple answer is, I don't have crowd anxiety - unless of course the crowds are preventing me from reaching an exit. And I'll be honest: sometimes the crowds DO get that bad, where you're forced to shuffle shoulder-to-shoulder for long stretches. However, 95% of the time you'll be able to get away, and there are plenty of nooks and crannies to escape to for a recharge.

If you have severe crowd anxiety, I'll be blunt: DC is not the con for you. However, for those like me who "only" have run-of-the-mill panic and anxiety issues, this convention is totally do-able. Bring your meds, pay attention to your food & rest needs, have a buddy with you at all times, and take lots of sit-down breaks as far from the crowds as possible. Earplugs and sunglasses can also be a big help for over-stimulation - and of course have your phone on hand for a quick distraction.

Need a place to hide/rest? Two of my favorites:

- The bottom floor of the Hyatt (keep taking the escalators down) has lots of small panel rooms and corridors. The rooms will be full, but the hallways will be relatively crowd-free, and are a nice spot to sit.
- The Westin lobby - it's huge and the least crowded of all 5 host hotels. Great place for a recharge.

- Don't Over Schedule!

This is one of the most common pitfalls, and if you're not careful you could spend the entire con frantic and frustrated. Panels have long lines. Everything is crowded. You have to stop to eat and rest sometimes. Not to mention you want to see the vendor rooms, take pictures, have a drink with your friends, and grab that autograph from Felicia Day. So here's my hardcore con-going advice: don't plan to attend more than 3 or 4 panels a day. Yes, seriously. If you plan more, you'll be disappointed - but plan less, and if the odds are in your favor (see what I did there?) maybe you'll squeeze in a bonus panel or two and come out ahead.

Now, that's coming from someone who LOVES taking cosplay pictures, strolling through the vendor room, and gawking in artists' alley. I also enjoy sleep - a lot. If you don't like any of those things, then no doubt you can see more than I can. Still, keep your expectations low, plan your "must-see"s with a few optional "it'd be cool if I got to"s, and go from there.

Another shot of the Marriott lobby, via 
My strategy: stand at that top railing, watch the crowd on the floors below for costumes I want to photograph, and then chase each one down in turn. It's a true photo safari, and the most fun any cosplay photographer can have.  

- Consider Skipping The Parade

The Dragon Con parade takes place on Saturday morning, and boasts over 3,000 participants. That's right, 3,000 people just IN the parade itself. I don't have the numbers for the viewers, but I think it's roughly "the entire population of Atlanta."

I'll be honest, I gave up trying to see the parade a few years ago. The madness is too much. However, if you decide to go, get there very early, and be prepared for a long wait in the heat - and for lots of people to jump in front of you when the parade starts. (Since the parade is open to everyone, I've found the crowds there are significantly less polite than the ones inside the actual con.)

Silver Lining: the parade is broadcast on all the host hotel room TVs. So if you have a friend with a room, go there instead, and enjoy the AC!

If you do skip the parade, note that police shut down almost all of the streets in the immediate area, so you won't be able to get anywhere NEAR the convention (or the parking garages) until the parade crowds have cleared. I usually sleep in that morning, and we drive in around noon.

- You Gotta Eat... And Sleep!

Quick Tip: Strapped for cash but need something to nosh? Then head to the ConSuite in the Hyatt, rooms 223 & 226. They'll have sodas, snacks, and various food stuffs available - all free - every day of the con. Be prepared to wait, though, as there WILL be lines.

I know I already mentioned packing snacks, but I can't over-emphasize the importance of having something to eat on you at all times. Our first year at DC we didn't get a lunch break all four days - we just wolfed down bars and trail mix in line. Your only real down time will be in lines or while waiting for a panel to start, so those are the most efficient times to eat. If you don't eat, you'll get tired, cranky, and start to wonder who thought this stupid convention thing was a good idea in the first place. Trust me, I've been there.

This goes for sleep, too. Hopefully you're not as crabby as me on too-little sleep, but you'll still need to be at 100% to not only get through your day, but to enjoy it as well. (And really, isn't that the whole point?) I tend to sleep later because I want to stay up 'til after midnight for costume shots. That's my priority, though, so plan out your priorities, let the rest go, and focus on going with the geeky flow to have the best con experience possible.

In fact, that's going to be my final tip:
- Go with the Geeky Flow

Remember, this is supposed to be fun. If it's not, then something is wrong and you need to figure out how to make it right! Talk to the people in line with you; it'll make the time zip by, I promise. Stop to listen to a band, or sit down and have a drink. Do what you want to do, not what you feel like you should do to "get your money's worth," or even what your friends want to do just so you're not alone. In fact, go somewhere by yourself sometime - you'll make more friends that way! Dragon Con is more about the experience of banding together with other real-live humans who share your passions than it is about getting to that next panel, so live a little. Make some memories. And above all, have fun!

So tell me, con vets, what'd I miss? Share your tips and tricks in the comments! 

PS - Want to find me and John at DC to say hi? Then send me a friend request on the official DC app; you'll be able to see my schedule for easier stalking, and even send me messages to co-ordinate a meetup. (Note that my schedule is subject to change, and is more like a wish list of where I *might* be, so it's better to message me, just to be safe.)  Just search for my name, Jen Yates, in the app. My profile is public, so anyone can send the request!
16 Aug 17:25

Paleo Lunchboxes 2015 (Part 1)


Mmmm...Adult lunch boxes. I want these stainless steel containers!

Paleo Lunchboxes 2015 (Part 1) by Michelle Tam

As promised, here’s the first installment of Paleo Lunchboxes 2015, my annual collaboration with our pals at LunchBots—makers of the gleaming stainless steel food containers you see in these posts. Our goal every year is to inspire you and demonstrate that packed lunches can be simple, nourishing, and magically delicious for kids and adults alike. 

Ready to tackle packed lunches this year? Yeah…me neither. 

Unfortunately, healthy lunches won’t make themselves, but they don’t have to be complicated to be fantastic. In fact, to keep things as easy as possible, today’s packed lunch repurposes leftovers from the night before! 

Here’s how to tackle this lunch (and dinner!): Paleo Lunchboxes 2015 (Part 1) by Michelle Tam

For an easy weeknight dinner, roast a chicken (or two) for and a tray of carrots. Serve the chicken and carrots with a giant green salad and you’re good to go. Before you hit the sack (or, if you’re a procrastinator like me, the following morning), throw together a simple chicken salad, chop some fruit and veggies, swirl up a quick dipping sauce, and add some optional Paleo crackers. 

Need more deets? 

Chicken salad is super simple and versatile if you’ve got leftover chicken and mayonnaise on hand. You can make your own mayo or buy a jar of Primal Kitchen Mayo (Psst! You can save 15% if you use the code: nomnom).  Paleo Lunchboxes 2015 (Part 1) by Michelle Tam

To make chicken salad, I combine diced cooked chicken with mayonnaise flavored with my favorite spice blend and fresh herbs (e.g. scallions, tarragon, or chervil). If I’m feeling fancy (and not so lazy), I might add some diced celery, cherry tomatoes, or apples. Madras Chicken Salad is one of my favorite chicken salad variations. Paleo Lunchboxes 2015 (Part 1) by Michelle Tam

Next, stack some cucumber sticks with leftover roasted carrot sticks. Paleo Lunchboxes 2015 (Part 1) by Michelle Tam

My kids like something crunchy in their lunches, so I sometimes add some Paleo-friendly crackers. If you want to make your own crackers, try Gluten Free on a Shoestring’s recipe for Crunchy Paleo Crackers—it’s easy and tasty. Paleo Lunchboxes 2015 (Part 1) by Michelle Tam

If baking your own crackers sounds like a chore to you, just stock up on Jilz Gluten Free Crackerz—or leave them out. There’s nothing wrong with going cracker-free! Paleo Lunchboxes 2015 (Part 1) by Michelle Tam

My kids also like to dunk their veggies in a flavored dip. There are tons of Paleo remoulade and ranch dressing recipes out there (including in my cookbook!), but when I’m in a rush, I’ll simply mix some mayonnaise with fresh herbs and spices. 

Need dip ideas?

Tartar Sauce = ½ cup mayo + 2 T finely diced cornichons + 1 T lemon juice + 1 tsp Dijon mustard + 1 tsp minced capers

Cilantro Lime Mayo = ½ cup mayo + 2 T minced cilantro + 1 T lime juice

Curry Mayo = ½ cup mayo + 1 tsp curry powder + 1 T lime juice

Smoky Mayo = ½ cup mayo + 1 tsp smoked paprika + 1 T lemon juice Paleo Lunchboxes 2015 (Part 1) by Michelle Tam

Add some fresh fruit… Paleo Lunchboxes 2015 (Part 1) by Michelle Tam

…and you’ve got a hearty lunch on hand! Paleo Lunchboxes 2015 (Part 1) by Michelle Tam

To keep this meal cold until lunchtime, I chill the packed LunchBot in the fridge overnight. If you prefer to pack meals in the morning, keep your empty LunchBots in the fridge overnight so they’re already chilled—or stick ’em in the freezer for 10 minutes before you start packing your lunches. Because LunchBots are stainless steel, they chill super fast. Once the containers are cold, I transfer them to an insulated lunch bag with frozen reusable ice blocks. Alternatively, you can get a PackIt Freezeable Lunch Bags that have freezable gel permanently built into the  liner.

Happy lunching! Stay tuned for the next installment—and in the meantime, check out our lunch ideas from previous years’ series!

Looking for more recipes? Head on over to my Recipe Index! You’ll also find exclusive recipes on my iPad® app, and in my New York Times- bestselling cookbook, Nom Nom Paleo: Food for Humans (Andrews McMeel 2013).

18 Aug 10:00

Drawn to Comics: Sarah Graley’s Webcomics About Queer Pizza Witches, Punk Rock Freelance Warriors and Cute Cats

by Mey
Art by Sarah Graley.

All of these comics are great, all of them are about women, all of them have the same impish sense of humor and adventure. And perhaps most importantly, all of them are full of cats.

The post Drawn to Comics: Sarah Graley’s Webcomics About Queer Pizza Witches, Punk Rock Freelance Warriors and Cute Cats appeared first on Autostraddle.

16 Aug 17:38

#WheresRory? Having more fun than should be legally allowed.

by thebloggess

Sharing for the link to the "Perfect illustration of anxiety" A beautiful photography series that explores visually what Anxiety feels like. Many of these photos resonate with me.

Have you been following Rory’s adventures around the world?  Because you should be.  If you’re lost, go here to catch up.  I’ve been sick for the last few weeks but I’ve been traveling vicariously with Rory and it’s been lovely and probably not just because there is a lot of codeine in this cough medicine.  In the last week he’s been to Korea, Italy, the Netherlands, Japan, Germany, Mount Rushmore, London, Canada, Australia, and in lots and lots of trouble.

You should check them out here but here are a few of my very favorites which weirdly seem to tell a story:




Maybe it’s just me.



And now, the weekly wrap-up…

shit I did by Eric Orchard


Shit I made in my shop (Named “EIGHT POUNDS OF UNCUT COCAINE” so that your credit card bill will be more interesting.):

  • UPDATED:  As requested, #WheresRory shirts to confuse everyone around you.


Shit you should buy or steal because it’s awesome:  

This week’s wrap-up is brought to you by…I dunno.  Me?  Can I bring it to you? Let’s say yes.  This is for you from me.  You’re welcome.

13 Aug 21:39

The *Other* Story Of Mertie The Snail

by Jen

Just what I needed to read today

You guys have heard me talk about my friend Jason of Red Rocket Farm a couple of times now; he's a skilled artist with a truly twisted sense of humor - both of which are on display in his new(ish) comic web series, Story Town.

Several weeks ago, as I was reading the first few pages of Jason's latest story, the strangest thing happened: I suddenly HAD to try sculpting. More specifically, I had to try sculpting Jason's newest main character, a snail named Mertie:

I was in a rough place emotionally at the time. We'd just had some more drama and controversy over on Cake Wrecks, and both John and I were feeling beat up, wrung out, and generally awful. John hadn't slept in three nights. I was writing and re-writing online apologies for something we never intended or could have predicted. Still, the Internet Outrage Machine was at full throttle, and it was all we could do to keep ahead of it.

So it was in that mindset that I sat down to read this story about an introverted, friendless snail.

Within just a few pages, I chuckled. I felt... better. There was something so reassuring and comforting there: a reminder that light and life still existed outside of my own stress-filled sphere. That art and story-telling and happy things would always go on. That this, too, would pass - even if only at a snail's pace.

John drove me to the craft store, and while I shopped for clay he was on his phone, checking for more angry comments.

Back home, I sat at the dining room table and cut off some clay. I had no idea what I was doing, but it was calming, holding and smoothing that squishy lump into a rough shell shape. I'd never sculpted before, and I was pretty sure it wouldn't work, but amazingly just trying was fun. (My fellow perfectionists know it's usually never fun for us unless perfection is guaranteed. Amirite?)

I don't know how long I sat there - an hour? - but eventually I looked down and realized I was holding Mertie's shell in my hand. I was even a bit startled.

The rest of her went much faster, so within another hour or so, I had this:

I looked at her, this thing I had made in the quiet, away from notifications and moderations and angry virtuality, and I saw tangible evidence that everything was going to be ok. I took that picture with my phone, and after a few minutes' deliberation, I texted it to Jason, along with a few lines thanking him for helping me during a down time.

Then I set Mertie on a shelf to dry, and went to bed.

The next day, I had a long note from Jason waiting for me in my inbox. Without going into details that aren't mine to share, Jason was also in a rough place that night. Much worse than mine, in fact. My text had reached him right in the midst of a terrible situation, and seeing how his work had both helped and inspired someone else was just what he needed at that moment.

Reading his note, I felt mildly ashamed of my own self-pity, but more than that, I was so glad I hadn't listened to the little voice warning me not to send my message. I generally like to be free with compliments, but sometimes, compliments take vulnerability. Sometimes you have to admit things are broken in order to thank someone for fixing them. That's tough. Especially if you don't know the person well - or even at all!

But here's the thing, and here's the reason I'm writing this long-winded dissertation about a clay snail: you never know when that heart-felt thanks will mean the world to someone. We're all a little broken. All of us. Misery and hurt are no respecters of person or position. But sometimes - and more often than you might think - thanks and praise find their marks at precisely the right moment.

So be free with your praise, my friends. Be vulnerable. Be generous. Tell them.

And now, as your reward for slogging through all that text, here's my finished Mertie:


 (Did I really order a suction cup gun set online JUST for that one dart? Yes, yes I did.) 


Mertie's story is still going over at Story Town, btw, if you'd like to read along with the rest of us. Here's the first page.

And finally, here's a sweet story from Jason - just published today - about his own hard time.

13 Aug 16:00

Ender’s Game

by Mallory Ortberg


The Government: we need children to run the military

Bonzo: welcome to battle school
the only thing you need to know about life up here is that we only have two kinds of swearing
"fart face" and vicious racial slurs

Ender: oh

Bonzo: we'll kill you as soon as look at you
but we'll never say "shit"

Peter: now that Ender has gone to space to become a general, we must do our part to change humanity

Valentine: absolutely
what should we do

Peter: let's leave comments about political theory on the internet until the government offers us jobs

Read more Ender’s Game at The Toast.

13 Aug 11:45

Makeup basics from a makeup artist: The top 10 mascaras (both new and classic)

by Tania D. Russell

Non-pro, aspiring pro, makeup journeyman, makeup novice, etc.:
We are starting a new series of posts from Tania of Makeup To Go — a makeup artist for the entertainment industries, and friend of the Empire. These posts are all about makeup: the basics, advice, and products. I, for one, am super excited, because I know NOTHING about makeup. So think of these as "Megan simple makeup" posts for folks like, well, me.
-Megan, Offbeat Home editor

By: darwinbell – CC BY 2.0
By: darwinbellCC BY 2.0

Without. A. Doubt. the number one product I am asked about is mascara. All the folks who ask about it — laypeople and fellow makeup artists alike — seem to be on the eternal quest for the perfect mascara. It’s kind of a setup of a question, however, because I also find that mascara is an intensely personal choice. So what I might look for in a mascara someone else may hate, and my “Holy Grail” mascaras might end up in someone else’s trash bin.

All I can do is offer my advice as someone who — because of my work as a makeup artist — has tried a lot of different mascara on a lot of different eyes.

Actually I don’t personally wear mascara. However, having used a lot of different products on a lot of different faces, I have some pretty concrete ideas about what I’m looking for. My criteria for The Basic Mascara are:

  1. Volume: Length can be created with just about any modern mascara with the right technique, but what I really like to add to all lashes I work with is Volume. Therefore, I tend to like thicker mascara formulations.
  2. Definition: I like to pick up every single lash. This adds to the illusion of increased volume and gives lashes that “flirty” look I like.
  3. Non-clumpy: Spider eyes — off the runway — are unattractive. I do not want the lashes sticking to one another.
  4. Long-lasting: Needless to say, having to reapply is a non-starter. Adding more if you want more is one thing, but the initial application should be able to go the distance.
  5. Finish: Like any healthy hair, lashes have a natural sheen to them. I prefer mascaras that do not dry too matte and cake-y.

Criteria established, here are some of my top mascara picks, both new and classic. Oh, and another thing: I base my assessment on the formulation, not the brush.

In no particular order, here are my top 10 best mascaras:

RMS Beauty – Mascara


This naturally derived, eco-certified brand constantly delivers. If you’ve been disappointed by the performance of natural mascaras before, look no further than RMS. Rose Marie Swift is a makeup artist, and her line performs like a makeup artist's line. The mascara is available in either a Defining or a Volumizing formula. While I like both, I tend to gravitate to the Volumizing whenever it’s time for a restock.

2. Korres – B5 & Rice Bran Mascara


Korres used to be a fully naturally derived brand as well. Unfortunately because of corporate buy-outs, that’s no longer the case. In fact, I hear they may no longer be cruelty-free, which is unfortunate. Back when these things were not an issue, I used their B5 & Rice Bran Mascara regularly. They describe it as lengthening and defining, but I found it gave nice volume as well. I used to describe it as my “natural Great Lash.”

3. Dior – Diorshow

Diorshow Iconic Mascara

What can be said about Diorshow that hasn’t been said already? Thirty thousand “Loves” and counting on the Sephora website tells the tale. This mascara creates thick, juicy, velvety lashes even when you do not use their legendary wand (just use a fat disposable wand for similar effect).

4. Benefit – They’re Real Mascara


As the name implies, this mascara is supposed give the illusion that you’re wearing falsies. It doesn’t look like you’re wearing false eyelashes, but it does a very nice job of building up lashes, particularly those on the — shall we say — more puny side.

This formula is lengthening, volumizing, and curling all in one. I have heard, however, people say it caused their lashes to dry out and break off, so they must be using some powerful stuff in the formulation. I’d either save this one for special occasions or use a lash conditioner regularly (vitamin E or jojoba oil works wonders to condition the lash line).

5. Besame – 1932 Cake Mascara


Every now and then I encounter a client who says that any mascara they use just slips off almost immediately. For folks who find this to be the case, I recommend going to a cake mascara.

All mascaras used to come in cake form before mascara tubes. The formulation is drier by nature (to use, you just activate with water) and less prone to slippage. Besame Cosmetics is a relatively new brand with a vintage feel, and I’m digging their cake mascara. The colors (available in black and brown) are rich, the formulation is smooth, you can apply as many layers as you dare to get the depth and fullness you desire, and once applied, it lasted all day. I recently used it on a photo shoot, and it was fabtastic.

6. Tarte – Lights, Camera, Lashes 4-in-1 Mascara

lights camera lashes mascara

I love Tarte cosmetics, so let’s just get this out of the way: I’m totally biased. Over the years they’ve had a number of mascaras, and they’ve all been excellent in my opinion. What’s nice is Tarte has “greened” their line and become a largely naturally derived brand, yet the performance has remained the same. This 4-in-1 mascara lengthens, curls, volumizes, and conditions for lush and dramatic lashes. I prefer this for private clients versus photographic use (I think the conditioning oils make this mascara break down a bit faster under lights). They also make an extra Volumizing formula and a waterproof formula.

7. Givenchy Phenomen’Eyes Mascara


Okay, remember when I said I was judging these mascaras based on the formula not the wand? Well, this one really IS about the wand. I know some folks who disdain the ball, but it is the secret to picking up every. single. lash. I mean EVERY lash, even those teeny tiny ones in the inner corner. If you prefer to use a traditional wand, you’ll still be happy with the result. The formula itself is creamy, smooth, and non-flaking and leaves you with well-defined, long, and lush lashes with a nice sheen.

8. Maybelline – Great Lash


The legend and with good reason. Thick, gloopy, and crazy pliable, with the change of a wand type, I can create any kind of lash I want. For me, Great Lash is the “winner and still champion” of all mascaras. And at $6-$8 a tube, it isn’t painful to throw it out and get a new one when three months are up.

Honorable mentions:

I have a couple of items I think are worth a mention, even though one I do not use often and one is new to me:

  • Buxom Custom Mascara Bar. I do not have any insight as to how well it works, but it’s a pretty cool idea. Basically you purchase Buxom’s Vanity Lash mascara and then based on the desired lash (volume, length, definition, etc.), you choose the perfect brush to accomplish the look. I used the Vanity Lash mascara on a private client this past weekend (it was her own mascara), and I did like the way it amplified her lashes which are rather short. So if you’re a fan of Buxom, or if you’re trying to find what brush works best for you, this is worth trying.

Alright, makeup-loving Homies, let's keep the great advice going. What are your favorite mascaras?

Recent Comments

  • Logan: I LOVE Maybelline Full & Soft. I keep trying to switch to others and ALWAYS end up back there. Not … [Link]
  • Lena: I am not a fan of Maybelline Great Lash - in my opinion Maybelline The Colossal is the best drugstore … [Link]
  • Jessica: Maybelline's Rocket! [Link]
  • Kirsten: I think the true success of Maybelline Volum' Express Colossal Cat Eyes Mascara is the combination of a curved well-bristled … [Link]
  • Jennifer: This is my favorite too. And I love that they added a volumizing version! [Link]

+ 35 more! Join the discussion

10 Jul 09:00

Mediasonic Digital TV Converter and Digital Video Recorder

by mark

Got this for xmas - might have to try it out now

I came across a good low-cost solution for cutting the cord from your cable company in favor of over-the-air (OTA) digital HD (ATSC) broadcast signals: the Mediasonic HW-150PVR.

While almost anyone can plug a simple antenna into their TV and get programming (and you should confirm you receive strong signal before buying this box), this $37 box adds DVR and program guide functionality for your broadcast signals – two things people might be less willing to give up when leaving cable. Guide data is received over the air, so results may vary.

Definitely a Tivo is a superior device – one key thing lacking in this device is the ability to set a “season pass” (record every episode of a show by name). But for a fraction of the price and avoiding Tivo’s monthly guide data fee, this device might be adequate for your needs (recordings can still be scheduled by time).

It requires an external USB drive for recording, which means you actually have to spend more than $37, but also means you can have lots of storage and can easily move the recordings to a PC (where you could also convert them into a suitable format for a tablet).

Including rabbit ears and a decent size USB drive, you could easily be up and running for $100 all-in.

Check out the user manual here.


-- Adam Berson

[Read the Amazon reviews to learn about some of the frustrating things about this converter. The reason we are including it is because it is a very low-cost alternative to TiVo and other subscription based DVR services. -- Mark Frauenfelder]

Mediasonic HW-150PVR HomeWorx ATSC Digital TV Converter Box with Media Player and Recording PVR Function/HDMI Out

Available from Amazon

11 Aug 18:00

How Not To Get Yelled At

by Mallory Ortberg

Scarily true.

The greatest possible good in life is never to be yelled at. There is no higher goal, no purer aim. There is no achievement sweeter, no more towering legacy, than to make it from birth to death without ever having once being yelled at. Better never to go anywhere, never to do anything, if the end result is to go through life without someone having yelled at you. Sweeter than immortality, more precious than fame, the greatest reward of all is nobody yelling at you.

I myself have spent the better part of my young life looking for ratholes and empty train cars to dive into rather than face being yelled at.

Read more How Not To Get Yelled At at The Toast.

10 Aug 18:40

#733: “I’m a Part-Time Vegetarian. How do I get people to stop commenting on my food choices?”

by JenniferP

Want to share this harder than I can.

THIS: "Stop commenting on the amount of something someone is eating. “You sure were hungry!” “You eat like a bird!”

I had a coworker do this for MONTHS and it was appalling. I have a chronic digestive disorder but would prefer not to discuss that it's the reason why I eat smaller portions AT EVERY MEAL K THANX

Dear Captain Awkward,

I am part-time vegetarian. I feel like I get a lot of flak: ”well are you
are a vegetarian or not?” and ”we saw you eat meat; so why should you get
the special vegetarian food?” But I’m not waffling or being weak in my
convictions. I have good reasons to eat meat sometimes and require
vegetarian food at other times.

1) For various health reasons, I limit my consumption of meat to way less
than the typical North American diet. Which means that if you saw me eat
meat at lunch, then it doesn’t mean I’m eating meat now; in means I HAD

2) I’m concerned about the environmental impact of meat production. The
solution to this, I believe, is to eat less meat. A lot less meat, but not
no meat whatsoever. Eating meat once a day rather than 3 times a day is
like driving a Prius instead of a Humvee. We don’t question the
environmental ethics of the Prius driver for consuming some gasoline.

3) My daughter, age 10, is aware of factory farming, and horrified. But
she loves meat. I don’t want to squash her empathy and compassion just
because it’s inconvenient. So, we talked this over, and decided that what
we can try to do is only eat humanely raised meat; which, in effect, means
that we limit meat to when I get to the froofy grocery store that has the
grass-fed beef and the cage-free chickens. I think this means we will have
to present as vegetarians when we go out. Otherwise we will come across as
total snobs: “yes we eat meat… but your meat isn’t good enough.”

4) I just plain like vegetarian food and vegetables and get bored with
meat, and disgusted by sausage in my food.

It would be simpler if I could just be a vegetarian, but I like some meat,
and my daughter would rebel; and, (due to reactive hypoglycemia)
occasionally I desperately need a high-protein meal, and in many
situations meat is the only option.

So… I am very interested in vegetarian and vegetarian-friendly
restaurants, what my vegetarian friends are cooking, and the vegetarian
options in the cafeteria. I eagerly discuss these topics with the
vegetarians, but then they act betrayed when they see me eating meat
later. The omnivores are just confused.

Is this all that confusing? Am I allowed some middle ground between
standard American “all meat all the time” and “don’t let any meat touch my
food”? How do I explain my food preferences so that I get the food I want
but not the flak?

— vegetable eater

Dear Vegetable Eater,

I’m a big fan of eating whatever you want and however you want when you want without a lot of friction from others, so your letter gives me an opportunity for a general manners review for adults breaking bread with other adults. These are very general and I’m sure people can think of a jillion exceptions depending on the closeness of a relationship or the nature of the food or the nature of the restriction, but I know a lot of people with wildly different food needs and preferences (including many of your fellow vegetarians-except-for-that-one-circumstance) who eat together regularly without friction, and my experience says that these principles work pretty well as a starting point.

  • What is on your plate is interesting to you. It should be boring to other people.
  • What is on other people’s plates should be pretty boring to you.
  • If you are going to comment on someone else’s food, stick to positive stuff like “That looks delicious!” “Where did you find it?
  • No telling people something that they are eating is “gross.” No pontificating on the health benefits (or drawbacks) of a certain food while you or someone else at your table is eating that food.
  • Stop talking about food as “sinful” or “bad.” “I’m being soooooo baaaaaaad by eating this cupcake.” Ok, whatever, Yogurt Commercial Lady.
  • Stop commenting on the amount of something someone is eating. “You sure were hungry!” “You eat like a bird!”
  • Telling people you plan to eat with about your food allergies or dietary restrictions helps them accommodate you. “I’m allergic to peanuts, so no Thai restaurant please. The air alone in there will kill me.” “Can we choose a place with several vegetarian and vegan options?” 
  • If you tell a restaurant “No onions, please, I hate them” they will not put onions in your dish. If you tell them you are allergic, they are obligated to find pans/knives/plates/utensils, etc. that have never touched an onion so they don’t risk making you sick. Respect the difference between “preference” and “allergy.”
  • If you have a very restricted diet and you are going to an event where food will be served, help the hosts accommodate you by letting them know ahead of time and consider bringing something you know you can eat to share.
  • If you’re an omnivore, you host a lot of dinner parties (or put together menus for indie film crews), and you have lots of vegetarians in your social circle, think about making vegan or vegetarian main courses and making meat an optional side-addition. Too many times vegetarians and vegans end up feeling like an afterthought as they piece together a “meal” of lettuce and bread.
  • Good pot luck or buffet-serving practice: A little card listing ingredients next to each dish that allows people to discreetly make good decisions.
  • If you’re planning a restaurant outing, linking to online menus ahead of time can help alleviate anxiety and help people make good decisions about what to order and whether they can or want to go.
  • If people tell you they can’t eat something or don’t like something, believe them the first time.
  • Remember that food preferences, like sex preferences, evolve. Just because you liked one thing a certain way last week doesn’t obligate you to want it now.
  • No convincing people to eat a certain dish or a certain way. Offer, if you want, but don’t evangelize and accept refusals politely.
  • Don’t eat “at” other people, don’t assume others are eating the way they do “at” you.
  • Respect the agency and autonomy of others in choosing what and how they eat. Assume they have their reasons for eating as they do that are just as valid as yours. Even if you don’t think that’s true or you hotly disagree with their choices, if you are breaking bread with someone, treat them with respect.
  • Recognize that there are enormous class, access, and economic issues at play in terms of who gets to choose exactly what and how they eat at all times.

Readers, what are we missing?

Vegetable Eater, my read on your letter is that you try to be very thoughtful and deliberate about your consumption, that you identify with vegetarianism culinarily and ethically (especially in contrast to the “standard American diet,”) that you want to be or wish you could be a vegetarian all the time, but for now you are an omnivore who eats meat only when it can be sourced as ethically as possible and/or only when you really need the protein and/or only once/day or every couple of days.

I also think you and the people you eat with regularly are blurring lots of lines in how you talk about food. No one should be commenting on your food choices as much as you describe them doing. However, if you are commenting on their food choices, and/or spending a lot of time discussing yours, people will feel more comfortable offering you commentary.

If you live in a part of the country where meat is ubiquitous and vegetarians really have to work to defend and carve out some menu space for themselves, you probably had to really speak up to get any veggie options, and after speaking up so strongly, people don’t understand why today you just really need a little bit of chicken so you don’t pass out at your desk. I also think how much friction you get depends on how much “work” other people feel they’ve had to do to accommodate your food preferences. If I’m the office manager, and you made a big stink about the catering I order for meetings because of the lack of vegetarian options, or if when we eat together we always have to go to your favorite place and never mine, if I see you eat meat I am going to at least wonder what’s up. I wouldn’t necessarily wonder *out loud*, and that wondering doesn’t mean others should police your food choices (and people in charge of figuring out catering should just get veggie options without treating it as weird), but a question along the lines of “Is having a vegetarian option still a priority or is chicken ok?” can be more about checking in about your needs than about judging you.

Going forward, you could try describing your eating habits as “I prefer to eat meatless food about 90% of the time, with rare exceptions when I cook at home or when I know the meat was humanely sourced” without mention of the “typical American diet.” You’re absolutely right to note that this will come across condescendingly, as “you know, that inferior crap that YOU probably eat” or “My meat (and need to eat meat) is good and conscious, but yours is gross”, especially if you live one of the Midwestern Meat Meccas and especially if someone’s hospitality is involved. When hanging with vegetarians, share recipes and talk farm policy with enthusiasm, but maybe lay off any “UGH, OMNIVORES. I KNOW, RIGHT?” talk (since you are one). And, when eating in mixed vegetarian/omnivore company, you could try expressing a preference rather than an identity, i.e. “Can we get Indian or Persian food instead of BBQ? Daughter and I like places with lots of veggie options” vs. “Come on, you know I’m a vegetarian.” See if that buys you a little less friction, and remember that people who harp on your food choices are acting like jerks and that you don’t have to eat or perform in a way that pleases them.

Finally, since you and your daughter are passionate about sustainable agriculture and the environment, I suggest that you look into volunteer and activism opportunities where you can meet like-minded folks who will understand and have your back and work to change policies through collective action.

03 Aug 14:55

amoeba-butter: made a quick comic about being nice to yourself


Perfect. This is perfect. You are "deeply loveable" needs to be on my mirror asap.


made a quick comic about being nice to yourself

30 Jul 16:04

what do i have to say to a cop?

by samantha

Pro tips!!
Also, I did not know about these apps.
"If the police approach you and ask why you are filming, you can remain silent; that is your right. The ACLU has a great set of apps called Mobile Justice (there are different ones for different states so make sure you download the right one). If you record police encounters using that app, they are automatically uploaded to an ACLU server so that even if the police take your phone, the video is preserved."

the first time i ever got pulled over by a police officer there were drugs in my car. i was driving a shitty 1988 ford escort hatchback with a busted taillight south on green bay road in north evanston late on a weeknight, 19 years old and mostly ignorant to my rights as a united states citizen. the car was illegally registered and willfully uninsured and my driver's license was taped the fuck together and i'm not entirely sure how i charmed my way out of going to jail that evening. the prescription bottles and maybe some mushrooms were shoved in my backpack behind the passenger seat and i could feel them radiating incriminating heat up my back and neck as dude stood at my window asking if i knew that my taillight was out. thankfully he let me go with a warning because, and i'm not even fucking kidding, i worked in a bakery at the time and he recognized me from behind the counter.

when i watched the dash cam video of sandra bland's arrest the only thought bouncing around my head louder than the sound of my own heart breaking inside my chest was "what would i have done if that had been me?" would i have gotten out of the car? tried to make a phone call? put down my cheese sandwich!? (i don't smoke, and i'm incredibly realistic in my hypothetical situations.) it struck me how loudly and clearly she was narrating the cop's actions as they moved off camera. would i ever have thought to do that? it's terrifying to realize just how much i don't know about how i can/cannot protect myself against police. so i hollered at my lawyer kaitlin jackson and asked her to answer some basic questions to give all of us a better idea of how to best take care of ourselves when dealing with law enforcement. and i know i usually keep it light (albeit hate-filled) around here, but this shit has got me vexed. i mean, samuel dubose had his head blown off over a missing front tag? WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS LIFE. so i need to chill on these jokes for a minute and use what i have to do what i can.

BIG GIANT FLASHING NEON-LIT DISCLAIMER: this is really an abridged cheat sheet for encounters with the police that has been painted with really broad strokes. reading this doesn't make you a legal expert; pleeeeeease use this information to protect your rights and NOT to argue with the cops about the law. because lawyering at the cops is never wise, and even if it were you'd need a lot more information than provided here to do that well. also keep in mind that laws vary from state to state, every situation is different, and this doesn't substitute for advice from your lawyer. last thing you want to do is be in court talking about "well sam said..." i mean, come on. i completed, like, three semesters of community college and still eat diet hot pockets as my real dinner sometimes. i love you, be safe.

do you have to let the police search you if they ask to?
legal answer Hard no. You NEVER have to give the police permission to search you, your car, or your house. They cannot arrest you because you didn’t give them permission to search. BUT there are times when they can search you without your permission. For example, if an officer has "reasonable suspicion" that you might be armed he can pat you down. You never have the right to refuse a pat down. Additionally, if an officer has probable cause to search you they can search without your permission. Or, if they have a warrant, they can search without your permission.

practical answer Most of the time you get to decide whether an officer can search you, but occasionally it isn’t your call. Luckily, you don’t need to be able to tell the difference in the moment. You only need to know two things: 1 ALWAYS respond to requests to search by saying “You do not have my consent to search.” As long as you do that, you’ve preserved your rights, and a judge will decide later if the search was legal. 2 NEVER physically interfere with a police officer who decides to search you.

one other note: People often consent to searches because they don’t think there is any contraband an officer could find. This bites a lot of people in the foot. There could be something in your car or house that someone else put there that you don’t know about. You also might have something that you don’t realize is illegal. For example, some states have rules about what types of pocket knives are legal and, if you unknowingly have the wrong kind in your toolbox, you could get a weapons charge. Or maybe you carry your spouse’s prescription medicine in your purse—that can easily turn into a controlled substances charge. The moral of the story is memorize the phrase “You do not have my consent to search” and then USE IT.

do you have to answer questions from the police?
legal answer If you are on the street Generally no, but in some states you do have to give identifying information like your name and birth date if you are asked. Otherwise you do not have to answer questions—that includes questions about your citizenship status. If you are in a car You have to show your license, insurance and proof of registration. Otherwise, you do not have to answer questions. 

practical answer It is almost never in your best interest to answer questions without speaking to a lawyer first. It’s much easier to talk yourself into trouble than it is to talk yourself out of it (overconfidence is your worst enemy). Your two safest options are to 1 end the encounter, or if you can't do that, 2 get a lawyer. A good way to find out whether you can end the encounter is to calmly ask: Am I free to leave? If the answer is yes, great. If the answer is no, calmly tell the officer you don't want to speak to them without a lawyer. And then make good on your promise and don't speak.
two other notes
 1 It's rarely wise to run from the police. Even if you aren't doing anything illegal, running has the potential to escalate the situation. 2 If you are stopped in a car, keep your hands where the officer can see them for the same reason, to avoid escalation.

do you have to blow into a breathalyzer/do field sobriety tests?
legal answer No. BUT the police can use your refusal to blow into a breathalyzer and/or do field sobriety tests as evidence against you. In other words, if you are charged with driving under the influence, a prosecutor can argue to a jury that you refused because you knew you were intoxicated and would have failed. Additionally, in some states the DMV will automatically suspend your license for refusal to blow.

practical answer Does that mean you should always blow? No it doesn’t. It means you have a decision to make. If you haven’t been drinking it’s in your best interest to blow into the machine. But, if you think there is any chance you will fail the breathalyzer or field sobriety tests, it’s probably in your best interest to refuse. Here’s why: if you are likely to fail, the jig is up. You’ve been caught. At this point the best thing you can do is stop giving the police more evidence to use against you. Blowing in the machine and doing field sobriety tests that you are likely to fail can only make you look guiltier.

one note Most field sobriety tests are based on balance. If you have leg or knee issues, weight issues, are wearing high heels, are advanced in age or have any disability that causes you to struggle with balance, you may fail these regardless of whether you are sober or not. If any of those apply to you, make clear to the officer that you are refusing field sobriety tests because you struggle with balance, and then don’t do them.

are you allowed to record the police?
legal and practical answer Yes. If the police approach you and ask why you are filming, you can remain silent; that is your right. The ACLU has a great set of apps called Mobile Justice (there are different ones for different states so make sure you download the right one). If you record police encounters using that app, they are automatically uploaded to an ACLU server so that even if the police take your phone, the video is preserved.

what are your rights in an interrogation?
legal answer You do not have to answer questions during an interrogation. You have the right to an attorney, and the right to remain silent. If you are being interrogated, and tell the police “I want to remain silent and I want a lawyer,” they must stop questioning you.

practical answer Police are well trained in the art of getting incriminating statements. You are not trained in the art of resisting their tactics. Do not overestimate your ability to talk yourself out of a bad situation. I repeat: do not think you can talk yourself out of a bad situation. DO NOT assume you can’t talk yourself into trouble just because you’re innocent.

three notes 1 Police are allowed to lie to you. They can, and often do, tell people untrue things designed to get the person to make an incriminating statement. Don’t be tricked into responding. 2 People get convicted of crimes all the time based primarily or solely on their own statements. For real, for real. Don’t be that guy. 3 Just being quiet isn’t enough to invoke your right to remain silent. You need to say something along the lines of “I don’t want to talk to you” or “I want to remain silent.”

what's the deal with miranda rights anyway?
legal and practical answer Miranda is the warning you hear cops read on Law and Order when they arrest people. You have two Miranda rights 1 the right to remain silent and 2 the right to an attorney (whether or not you can afford one). When the police read those rights, most people waive them. Meaning they decide to go ahead and speak to the police without an attorney. Sometimes because they are confused, but more often because they are intimidated and think they have to talk to the police. But now that you have read this, you know better. Use your Miranda rights, and silent treatment the police (after giving identifying info) as hard as you’ve ever silent treatment-ed anyone.

so i know i am supposed to be "cooperative" with police, but what does that really mean?
It’s always best not to escalate a situation. Be calm, polite and respectful. Don’t threaten or yell at police. However, being cooperative does not mean answering officer’s questions (other than requests for identifying info) or allowing them to search you. Remember that you are on different teams. If you’ve ever played sports you know that being a cooperative player doesn’t mean scoring goals against yourself for the other team. Often people imagine they are helping themselves by being cooperative, when in truth they are just assisting an officer who is building a case against them. This is true even if you are innocent. Don’t risk it. Saying “You can’t search me,” “I don’t want to talk to you,” and “I want a lawyer” are the best things you can do for yourself. Once a lawyer gets on the scene they can help you figure out the next best move.

note Don’t be tricked by statements like “if you answer a few questions or just let me look in your trunk I’ll let you go…” See above: officers do not have to tell you the truth.

keep your heads up, champions. be cool out there.
03 Aug 11:45

BDSM in mainstream media: Why I taught my kids about safe words

by Marnie Goldenberg

NSFW relevant

'Safe Word Warning', hand-painted pallet sign, from Etsy seller HotShotPalletworks
'Safe Word Warning', hand-painted pallet sign, from Etsy seller HotShotPalletworks

Kinky sex has made its way into mainstream culture in places other than poorly-written-erotica-gone-NYT-bestsellers-list. Music videos like Rihanna’s S&M, Christina Aguilera’s Not Myself Tonight, for instance. Our kids are seeing it, hearing it, and some of them are even reading it.

My kids are young, so Rihanna videos and E. L. James’ fiction are not yet on their agenda. But there will come a time when talking to my munchkins about bondage and domination becomes relevant. I anticipate that the majority of learning on the topic will not be from me; they’ll likely see videos and ads or hear things from peers that could use some context. I prefer to be the person who provides that context with overarching messages about consent, trust, and communication.

Those values are not confined to safe and enjoyable kink. When those values are front and centre in a number of contexts and conversations with our kids, we help them see the breadth of their application — the primary importance of these values in positive and healthy human relationships. That, I think, will make that kink conversation a lot easier.

As an example, I had a conversation with my kids about safe words a couple years ago.

Safe words are used in the BDSM community to ensure that, during a sexual scene, people involved can communicate their interest to stop the scene or slow it down. Words like "ow" or "stop" don't usually work as safe words because they may not always be meant to end the sexual activity; in fact, those words may be sought out during a sexual encounter. Now, I’m not going to spend time on the ins and outs of safe and consensual kinky sex, except to say that the cornerstones are, you guessed it, communication and trust. So safe words are vitally important.

No, I didn’t talk to my kids about kinky sex — that will come sometime in the future. See, my kids love and enjoy each other and wrestle and horseplay a lot. While overwhelmingly it’s a mutually-enjoyed activity, not infrequently it ends with one injured or aggrieved party. If either of them hear the safe word while wrestling, the wrestling stops, and a check-in happens. It often gets forgotten or the tears or wails come before someone utters "origami" (the current safe word).

Last week in the car, a vigorous round of rough housing (yes, while strapped down by seat belts and in booster seats) ended because the safe word was spoken. My older son then said it was an inappropriate use of the safe word because his brother wasn’t hurt. We talked about setting rules for when the word is to be used. I made recommendations, they made the decisions, and I reinforced the need to always respect its use. No crying wolf now.

We also talked about what ought to happen after the safe word is used, which is to find out what went down. It shouldn’t just end the activity but rather make way for a straight up conversation to find out why the activity needed to be stopped and whether there were any misunderstood needs or perspectives.

For my kids, and everyone, the value is all about developing communication skills. Whether during a physical romp of sex with a partner or a bout of wrestling with a sibling, communication is key. And that is not part of the message that Rihanna is communicating when she sings “Now the pain is my pleasure. Cause nothing could measure. Sticks and stones may break my bones but chains and whips excite me.”

Recent Comments

  • Victoria: Yay teaching consent to children! I love the proactive approach you've taken with your children, and I especially love how … [Link]
  • Jennifer: I'm an actor specializing in stage combat, and safe words are useful for us as well-- we set them for … [Link]
  • Monk-Monk: I love this, and totally am going to start using it. Thanks for the suggestions! [Link]
  • Beth W: Great idea! ANYTHING that supports analyzing what you are and aren't ok with, communicating that effectively, and respecting other people's … [Link]
  • Melissa: This is a great idea. When I was little, my dad taught my sister and I to use a safe … [Link]

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23 Jul 16:00

Skill Builder: Getting Started with Google SketchUp for Woodworkers and Makers


On my to-learn list!

created at: 07/23/2015

SketchUp is free, robust, and really helps to bring your projects to life. I stumbled through the basics for way too long, so here are a few steps to get you modeling… Continue reading on

25 Jul 14:04

July Art Roundup: Intergalactic Travel Posters, Wicked Elsa, Tiki Baymax, & More!

by Jen

UGGGHHHH LOve all the geeky art! Must start collecting prints...

Time for my monthly roundup of great geek art!

Joseph Bayer of SpiderStopShop has a great "Splatter Grunge" style:

 These look best in big sizes, so lucky for us his 12X18 prints are all just $15!

My favs are Elsa and Vader:

Now I want to see these two framed up side-by-side somewhere. :D
 Go see the rest at Bayer's online shop!

An adorable Little Mermaid set by Josie of RoosterPop:

The 5X7 prints are $7 each in her online shop, where there's lots more to choose from!

I'm digging Crabby Squid's super bright "Tiki-style:"

These are all just $10 each in his Etsy shop.

Spotted these sweet intergalactic travel posters at a tiny local con a few months back:

All of the Science Hype poster are about $17 each, or you can get a better deal if you buy a set:

You can also buy them on Etsy, if you'd rather.

Want more? Their sister company, Lynx Art Collection, also has some sweet poster sets:

Your choice of sizes, with 11X17s starting at $17 each

I adore Piper Thibodeau's daily sketches on Twitter, and I am crushed - CRUSHED - that she doesn't sell prints. I mean, LOOK AT THIS: 

She turned Kuzco into an Alpaca! SO CUTE.

And look at these Ninja Turtles:

D'awww. little Mikey on his back!

See more of Piper's work (there are hundreds!) on Twitter and/or DeviantArt. And while you're at it, beg her to open an online store for me, k?

Sabrina Miramon (aka Sab M.) is another artist with a beautiful digital style:

 Sab has that Batgirl plus a few more lovelies in her online store. (You can also follow her on Facebook to see more.)

I saw these next two prints in person at a con, and the colors are phenomenal - really leapt off the table at me:

 "My Little Kaiju" by Jeff Schutte

Prints start at $15 in Jeff's RedBubble shop, where he also has this cool fantasy airship:

Jeff only has a handful of prints for sale, but you can see more of his work on his Facebook page.

It's impossible to pick just a few favorites from Ann Marcelino; they're all SO GOOD.

 Labyrinth, 10X5 print, $15
(The little blue worm is on Sarah's head! Hee!)

 Mulan, 10X7 print, $15

 Baby Link & Zelda, 10X7 print, $15

See what I mean? So much goodness!

And as a huge Wicked fan, I'm delighted by Ann's Frozen/Wicked mashups:

"Witch Sisters," 10X7 print, $15

Head over to Marcelino's Society6 store for more, or see it all in her DeviantArt gallery. (And you can also follow her on Facebook.)

Now it's time for a Quick Sweet Story:

A couple of years ago I was hanging out with a fan named Rachel, who showed me some or her teenage daughter's artwork. I was impressed, and said she should try selling some online or at cons.

Cut to last month, when I received an incredibly sweet letter from Rachel's daughter, Brianna "Bri Pi" Crozier. She said I'd helped give her that final push of encouragement, and in the past year or so she's sold at 8 different conventions! And she's only 17.

Bri also included some art as a thank you, including a few prints for the give-away board.
She didn't mention it in her note, but after a quick search I found she *does* sell online: here's the link to her store. (All prints start at $15)

I figured you guys would like her princess series best, but I'm also really digging this one titled, "Curiouser and Curiouser"

And she's 17. My gosh. Talk about making my heart happy.

And finally, my favorite entry from Sketch Dailies' recent topic, "Imaginary Friends":
Hobbes has his own little Calvin doll!  
The feelz.

That's by Claire Gary, creator of that realistic Winnie-the-Pooh and friends so many of you loved last year.

As luck would have it, Claire JUST opened an Etsy shop. It's still a little sparse on prints, but maybe she'll add this one if we ask sweetly? Or even if not, there's other greatness there, like this:

"Cheshire Cat," 11X17 print $15.76
"Meoad." Ha!

And my favorite:
"Charmeleon," 8.5X11 print, $7.88


K, give-away time! As always, comment below for a chance to win your choice of art from my Pinterest Art Give-Away Board. Internationals welcome.

And for this month's BONUS art prize, I have 2 print sets by Mervyn McKoy:

Each print is approximately 4X5 inches, and they're all signed. Be sure to let me know in your comment which set(s) you like, and I'll enter you in the extra drawing for those, too.

I'll announce my 3 randomly selected winners in a few days. Happy commenting!

UPDATE: The giveaway has ended!

The winner of the Batman & Batgirl set is Chiana   
The winner of Link & Wonder Woman set is Erin Schleif
And my wild-card winner, who gets to choose from anything off the Give-Away Board, is Raum

Congrats, winners, and please e-mail me your mailing addresses!

P.S. Kaitlyn Nielson, Blogger kept eating my reply to your comment - though I tried many times! - so please e-mail me your choice from the board, too, k? Or message me on Twitter or FB, since your first one didn't go through. 
23 Jul 11:45

3 good relationship habits we carried over from wedding planning to married life

by Faeriereader

Love these ideas! Simple and fun

North Bowl Northern Liberties Engagement
Photo by Mike Allebach

We got married because we made a good team. We are good at doing things together; in fact, we enjoy doing things together! Then the wedding planning came along and suddenly “things together” often evolved into "wedding things together."

Now that the wedding is over, I am no longer constantly thinking, worrying, stressing, planning, organizing, and doing wedding things. It left a noticeable vacuum in my life. And while it's okay to still think about the wedding, feel about the wedding, and even obsess about the wedding, I feel like I'm ready to move on now.

But some of the things my partner and I learned and implemented while planning the wedding are going to carry over into married life.

Here are three good habits my husband and I have carried over from wedding planning to married life:

  • Stir Fridays
  • Tasting Tuesdays
  • Wedding-Free Wednesdays

Stir Fridays:

One of the things we enjoy doing together is cooking. So on Friday, we make stir fry together. It's an easy meal to make that has a big payoff!

We shop for ingredients together, choosing whatever sounds good this week. Then we chop vegetables together. Then one of us cooks while the other gets the dishes ready. It's an excuse to hang out together, to remind yourself and your partner why you make a good team.

Bonus: Stir Friday can help you practice working as a team if sometimes you struggle with that!

Tasting Tuesday:

We wanted to try out different rehearsal dinner restaurants, so we made (and keep) a running list of restaurants to try.

We tried going on weekends, but the places were always packed and sometimes the prices were a bit higher. We decided that there was nothing stopping us from going out earlier in the week, so Tasting Tuesdays began! We pick a new restaurant every week and go out for dinner on Tuesday. If we tried a restaurant but were not quite sure if we liked it or not, we add that restaurant back to the list for later. If we find a restaurant we really like, we add that one back to the list too. If the restaurant doesn’t make it back on the list… at least we had an adventure together trying something new!

Wedding-Free Wednesdays:

We both needed a break from the wedding planning. It was nice to have a no-pressure day, where we had permission to focus on other parts of our lives, where we gave ourselves a break from the stress and worry of our To Do Lists. It was nice to be able to forgive each other, even if the wedding leaked into the day, which it often did.

Wedding-Free Wednesday is a free day to just be together and not talk about the most stressful part of your life. While we no longer have to limit wedding talk, we take turns deciding what topic our Wednesdays will be free of each week. Sometimes it's family, sometimes it's friends, sometimes it's work. Work is a bit tough, because we still have to go to work, but at least we don’t have to rehash the problems of the day when we get home.

When your relationship is overshadowed by stress, it can be a pretty miserable experience. When you have islands of time where the stress is brushed aside, overlooked, and perhaps even forgotten while you focus on each other and your relationship without all the guilt or pressure, your relationship in general becomes a lot more fun!

Inspired by wedding planning, work, or whatever: What are some stress-fighting relationship habits you've adopted?

Recent Comments

  • Jennifer: I read the title of wedding-free Wednesday, and thought maybe it would be a day for you and your husband … [Link]
  • Erin: In general, we've found that scheduling things works wonders. We're not married yet (September is fast approaching though), and … [Link]
  • KathyRo: What great ideas! [Link]
  • KendraD: Our big enlightenment moment came when my husband had to do the Myers-Briggs assessment during his MBA course. In addition … [Link]

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