Saturday Storytime: Thief of War

Beth Bernobich‘s work isn’t what I’d classify as light reading. Nor is it difficult, simply rich with a mix of politics and the personal that will stick with you.

I committed the message and drawing to memory, then burnt the paper along with several other scribbled notes from my research. I moved with great deliberation, my emotions held in check, as I gathered my books and headed for home.

Strange, how strange, I felt. I ought to feel a sense of victory. I did, but my emotions were strangely muted, as though my mask encompassed my heart as well as my outer self. A foolish fancy, I told myself. The late hour and my long weeks of spying had affected my mood. I had spent too many months erasing myself for a better cause.

I came at last to my lodgings. Though we had left behind the darkest season of the year and stood on the verge of spring, the wind blew cold and damp through the streets, and the sun hung low in the sky, a small white disc against the expanse of gray. Two stories up, I could see the golden squares that marked the windows of our common room.

One last night here. Then I go home.

I was sick with longing to end my exile and accomplish my task.

I longed to stay in Duenne, and earn my degree.

Two contradictory desires, much like the contradiction of magic, of life followed by death and life again.

I sighed, shifted my haversack to a more comfortable position, unlocked the door, and climbed the stairs to our rooms.

Nedda and Klera sat by the hearth, toasting bread and cheese. Taavi sat cross-legged on the floor, teasing Biss with a morsel of bread. At my entrance, Nedda glanced up, her face still alight with laughter from whatever Klera had said.

“Irene,” she said, with such obvious gladness that I collapsed into tears.

I pressed the heels of my hands against my eyes. “I’m tired,” I said. “I’m sorry.”

Before they could reply, I hurried into my room and locked the door.

Keep reading.

Saturday Storytime: Thief of War

More About Bora (Updated)

If you consider Bora a friend, you may want to sit down before reading this latest post. It will take away all the “justs” that may have been trying to make you feel better this week.

No, it wasn’t just talk. No, it wasn’t just a lack of communication. No, it wasn’t just a question of bad boundaries between personal and professional relationships. There are no “justs” left.

Update: Bora has resigned from Scientific American.

More About Bora (Updated)

"A Diverse Nation", Grant Steves on Atheists Talk

This program, “The Founding of a Diverse Nation and Ensuing Struggles”, will cover the diversity of our Founders. It will also discuss Colonial citizens as a religiously diverse group with multiple competing interests who came together to form a secular Constitutional Republic. Our European past and Colonial history was one of religious persecution and conflict that had a major influence in separating government from religion. As our country evolves and both becomes more religiously diverse and sees its nonreligious population grow, our nation’s Founders wisdom of secular governess becomes more essential to reduce religious strife and conflict.  This program will explore this history with interviewer George Kane, host Brianne Bilyeu, and guest Grant Steves.

Grant Steves has been active in Minnesota Atheists and has hosted the Atheists Talk Television program, as well as been a host and guest on the Atheists Talk radio program, a cofounder of the Secular Bible Study, newsletter contributor, and a retired public school teacher. He has a Doctorate degree in Theology.

Steves recommends the following books:

Related Links

Listen to AM 950 KTNF this Sunday at 9 a.m. Central to hear Atheists Talk, produced by Minnesota Atheists. Stream live online. Call in to the studio at 952-946-6205, or send an e-mail to [email protected] during the live show. If you miss the live show, listen to the podcast later.

Follow Atheists Talk on Facebook and Twitter for regular updates. If you like the show, consider supporting us with a one-time or sustaining donation.


"A Diverse Nation", Grant Steves on Atheists Talk

I Have No #RipplesOfDoubt

There’s a hashtag being used on Twitter right now, and plenty of discussion off the hashtag, for people to discuss the fallout of Bora Zivkovic inappropriately combining personal and professional interactions, up to and including sexual harassment in more than one case. They’re talking about doubt in their own work, in the reasons why their work was promoted, in the reasons their work wasn’t promoted, in how this will affect gender relations in the science writing community going forward.

Reading those, I feel I have to tell a story. Continue reading “I Have No #RipplesOfDoubt”

I Have No #RipplesOfDoubt

When It's Someone You Know (Updated)

I don’t usually drink and write, but I’m doing it now. It isn’t because I needed to drink to write this. It’s because I need to write this now, before I can flinch, and I happen to have had some wine.

This morning, my friend Bora Zivkovic sent me a Twitter direct message that was merely a link to this post.

I am very ashamed of this incident which happened more than a year ago. Staff at Scientific American spoke to me and Ms. Byrne about our interaction at that time. I asked that my sincere apologies be conveyed to Ms. Byrne for the distress she suffered as a result of my inappropriate remarks and emails to her, and I also expressed my deep regret to the company about acting unprofessionally. The company offered her an apology as well. It was a difficult time for me personally and I made a mistake – I should not have shared my personal issues with her. It is not behavior that I have engaged in before or since. I hope to be known for my continued professional and appropriate support of science writers rather than for this singular, regrettable event for which I am deeply sorry. My behavior before and after this incident reflects my true respect for women, and I deeply regret the distress I caused to my wife and Ms.Byrne. I appreciate the messages of support I have received and understand the views of those who have been critical but I intend to let Ms. Byrne’s post and this statement end the discussion from my side.

Monica Byrne’s post is here. There are allegations of additional harassment in the comments. (Update: See also this post from Hannah Waters about, in her words, “not-quite-harassment“. I don’t have much to say about it at the moment except that I’m glad she wrote it, and I’m glad that her community feels supportive enough to her for her to have written it.) Continue reading “When It's Someone You Know (Updated)”

When It's Someone You Know (Updated)

Handling Criticism: Decide Whether to Respond

On July 6, 2009, the folk duo Sons of Maxwell uploaded a video for a new country song to their YouTube channel. Most of their songs recorded before that date currently show views in the tens of thousands. A couple have over 100,000 views. This new video passed two and a half million views in its first week online and is sitting at thirteen and a half million views now. The song was a download hit on iTunes as well.

What was this amazing song? “United Breaks Guitars”.

The song was Dave Carroll expression of frustration with United Airlines. In 2008, the neck of Carroll’s guitar was broken when his guitar was thrown while being unloaded from a plane. Carroll had the guitar fixed (though he said the sound wasn’t the same) and asked United to pay for the repairs. He spent months talking to people in various parts of the company, only to have his claim denied because it wasn’t filed within 24 hours, even though Carroll had attempted to get help from United employees immediately after the incident.

Within 24 hours after the video was released, it had received 150,000 views, and United offered to pay the claim if Carroll would take the video down. He suggested they give the money to charity. Continue reading “Handling Criticism: Decide Whether to Respond”

Handling Criticism: Decide Whether to Respond

Handling Criticism: Stop

“My friend doesn’t think you’re funny.”

Bland criticism like that is routine for most comedians. However, in November of 2006, responding to just those words killed the career of one of the stars of one of television’s most successful comedies. In the seven years since Michael Richards appeared on Late Night with David Letterman to talk about that gig, he’s appeared on television a grand total of eight times, most of them projects related to Seinfeld.

The problem wasn’t the criticism itself. After all, the words came from a heckler in a room packed full of people paying to see Richards perform. Engaged audiences don’t like hecklers any more than comedians do. If Richards had told the heckler and his friends to sit down, shut up, and let everyone else enjoy their evening, he’d have received a round of applause.

Unfortunately, that isn’t what Richards did. Continue reading “Handling Criticism: Stop”

Handling Criticism: Stop

So You Want to Support Almost Diamonds

People have asked in the past how they can donate to support this blog. I’ve always told them to make the donation to FtB as a whole instead. I’ve told them I make a ridiculously good living. It’s time I stop doing that. I could really use the help.

I have made a good living doing what I do, and I have enjoyed the work and the people. However, the increasing frequency and duration of the migraines that I’ve experienced over the last couple of years has cut into the amount I can work. Being able to work less has contributed to work stresses that have probably in turn contributed to the frequency of the migraines. The situation I’ve experienced over the latter half of this summer with what appears to be a very rare side effect of my migraine medication, plus some knock-on effects requiring other medication changes, hasn’t helped any. I’m doing better now, but it’s been ugly.

It’s time for me to cut that job loose, build my general fitness level back up after the last few months, and get a new job. I’m not worried about being employable, but I am worried about the delays involved in the application and interview process. There’s not much left in the way of savings, and there are one or two big bills coming due. So it’s time to stop pretending things are as they ever were and let those of you who want to and can help, help. I’ve added donation and subscription buttons to the sidebar, but here they are as well.


One note about subscriptions. FtB is currently testing an ad-free subscription plug-in for the site. As much as I’d like to be able to extend the ad-free offer to anyone who supports me directly, that can’t happen without me cutting into the revenues of the other bloggers. So if you want your money to get you an ad-free FtB, you may want to hold off.

As always, I really appreciate the support you already show this blog by reading, commenting, and sharing what I write here. If you’re not in a position to donate, please don’t feel that these things you do don’t matter. They are what makes this blog. Thank you, everyone.

So You Want to Support Almost Diamonds

Becky Garrison and the Disappearing #FtBullies

On Friday, I ran into some behavior from a reporter I expected would know better. It ended up being so typical of interactions with people who insist something is FreethoughtBlogs’ fault, I had to capture it for posterity. If the embed doesn’t work, the original is here.

Becky Garrison and the Disappearing #FtBullies