A Year of Tired

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I try not to define my years by a theme. I know they’re arbitrary time periods. I know they’re more complex than that. I know persistent themes are more likely to stretch over much more of my life than one year.

Still, knowing all that, I can’t help but feel 2017 is the year of tired.

Some of that tired is entirely literal. Something, probably perimenopause, has been messing with my ability to stay asleep most mornings. Given my nighttime insomnia, that’s meant highly disrupted sleep. Add in thermal dysregulation that falls just short of hot flashes, and I started the year as a zombie. Make that a mentally ill zombie whose coping strategies have long relied on thinking my way through trouble but was now too tired to think.

Photo of kitten with particularly fluffy ears sleeping on top of its paw and a crocheted comforter.
“Built in Pillow” by Lisa Zins, CC BY 2.0

Trying to treat all this made things worse, at least for a while. In 2017, I tripled the classes of drugs that have pushed me into narcolepsy. A few years ago, I lost a summer to a tricyclic antidepressant that was supposed to help with my migraines. This year, I lost about six months to SNRIs and SSRIs that were supposed to help perimenopause issues, including the worsening mental health. I still have no idea whether any of those drugs did what they were supposed to. I spent too much time napping or in withdrawal to find out.

That made 2017 the year of the sleep study too. Well, the year of the first sleep study, the one that didn’t contain the differential test for narcolepsy. You see, I’m overweight and I’ve been known to snore when I fall asleep somewhere other than my bed and I only experience a full range of narcolepsy symptoms when I’m on a drug that can treat anxiety, so my problem is obviously apnea. Only I don’t have apnea. I do have a pattern of REM sleep that could indicate narcolepsy, though.

So there will be a second sleep study when I’m up for telling the clinic I really don’t want to try a CPAP for my lack of apnea. As it turns out, advocacy is also harder when one is tired, even after one has become thoroughly tired of bullshit.

I did a lot of being tired of bullshit in 2017. Continue reading “A Year of Tired”

A Year of Tired

Getting SLAPPed, Please Help

In September, on my birthday, I was served with an absurd lawsuit trying to shut me up. I’m fighting it, but I need help. I can’t explain the situation any better than we already did:

Dr. Richard Carrier is suing us for reporting  on his well-known allegations of misconduct. These allegations were widely reported on throughout the community, including by third-parties critical and sympathetic to him who are not themselves defendants.

This lawsuit has all the hallmarks of a SLAPP suit — a lawsuit filed to stifle legitimate criticism and commentary. The named defendants are Skepticon, The Orbit, and Freethought Blogs – as well as individuals Lauren Lane, the lead organizer of Skepticon; Stephanie Zvan, a blogger for The Orbit; PZ Myers, a blogger for Freethought Blogs; and Amy Frank-Skiba, who publicly posted her first-hand allegations against Carrier.

We need your help to keep our voices alive. All the defendants are represented by the same attorney, First Amendment lawyer Marc Randazza. Randazza is providing his services at a significant discount, but we are not asking him to work for free. Plus, there are thousands of dollars in “costs” for the case that don’t include legal bills, and there is no way to discount those. In order to continue fighting this lawsuit, we, the defendants of this case, have put together this campaign to raise money to defray our costs, some of which is outstanding. Donations will be used only for this case. In the event that the funds raised exceed our legal bills, they will be donated to Planned Parenthood .

We are pooling our defense costs with Skepticon, however as a 501(c)3 non-profit Skepticon is also conducting its own fundraiser where donations may be tax-deductible (ask your tax advisor). Skepticon cannot use donations it receives to help pay the shares of other individuals or organizations, though, and any excess funds raised via their campaign will go to the Skepticon conference fund.

We are confident that the court will uphold our First Amendment rights. But, through time, stress, and of course financial expense, every case like this has a chilling effect. Your support enables us to fight, and creates a warmer environment – not just for us but for others in the future.

Thank you for your support of freedom of speech, and may your new year be powerful and effective!

If you can, please donate here to help keep suits like these from being an effective silencing tool. If you can’t donate, please share. Thank you.

Getting SLAPPed, Please Help

Who Niki Massey Was

We lost her yesterday. We don’t know how. Her life and her health were complicated enough we might never have clear answers. It doesn’t matter. Answers won’t make her not dead. My friend, colleague, co-conspirator, and a host of other, more complicated relationships, Niki Massey, died early yesterday afternoon.

There are good reminiscences out there already. I don’t know how Olivia managed to write this amid the shock and the sorrow, but she did, and I love her for it. Alex wrote this, I think, because it needed to be written, and I love him for that as well. And yes, PZ, so vivid. There are others, but I’m having a hard time reading any by people I don’t know fairly well. Facebook is a wave of every emotion grief can possibly raise in no orderly, “staged” progression.

Yet I still feel like I need to say something here. I still want–need–to tell you about the bits of Niki that this much love and grief will try to file off. I need to keep her from being “sanitized” in the name of being worthy of it all. So this is who Niki Massey was. Continue reading “Who Niki Massey Was”

Who Niki Massey Was

Where I’ve Been and Where I’m Going

Oh, hello there. As you can see, we’re getting all moved in and cozy here. It’ll take a while, I’m sure. We’ll try not to leave too many boxes unpacked in too many corners for too long, but, well, you know how it goes.

In my copious spare time as I’ve been getting ready to launch our Kickstarter (oh, by the way, did you know we have a Kickstarter?), I’ve been thinking about the things I might want to say when we launch. Today, though, as much as it’s about the future and what it may hold for us, I’m thinking about how we got here.

In particular, I’d like to take a little time to thank Ed and PZ for making Freethought Blogs happen and accepting me when I asked to join. Nearly five years ago now, I approached a brand new, shiny blog network with the world’s biggest case of impostor syndrome, swallowed my terror, and asked whether they might, maybe, you know, let me sign up. Pretty, pretty please.

I’ll forever be grateful that they said, “Yes”, but I’m even more grateful for what came after. Freethought Blogs helped me build an audience and gave me a platform from which to do effective activism. It also gave me an education in what it takes to build and run something as complicated as a blog network with a bunch of headstrong, opinionated, determined, righteous bloggers.

The Orbit isn’t FtB Lite. It isn’t FtB Heavy for that matter. It certainly isn’t the Anti-FtB. It is its own new thing, with lots we still have to learn about how it works and what it can accomplish. But without the framework Ed set up at Freethought Blogs and without all the things PZ pushed us to accomplish within that framework or demonstrated could be accomplished within that framework, The Orbit wouldn’t be here. I wouldn’t have the skills or experience I’ve contributed to getting us set up. I wouldn’t have the confidence or the vision required to take the plunge. I wouldn’t have the colleagues or the social network it takes to pull something like this off.

I also wouldn’t have the experience of working with colleagues I like, admire, find frustrating, and occasionally clash with to build something bigger than all of us. I wouldn’t know that magic that is building something with almost no resources beyond our own wits, reputations, and determination. I wouldn’t know how to ask for the little else we do need with the knowledge that people want us to succeed rather than shame over not being entirely independent. I wouldn’t know what it feels like to take big, necessary risks and find a group of people willing to back my plays.

The Orbit isn’t Freethought Blogs. We have different missions, even with overlap. We have different operating structures. We have different people. But there’s still going to be a lot of FtB in The Orbit. There has to be. FtB was one of the forces that made many of us who we are.

For that, I’d just like to stop today and thank Ed and PZ for making Freethought Blogs way back when and letting me be part of it. I hope I can do you proud here.

Where I’ve Been and Where I’m Going

Best of 2015

It’s been a while since I’ve done a year-end review of my writing, but this year feels like the right time. I’ve written less here than usual, having done more activism off the blog, but I’ve also written more pieces I’m proud of on their own, not just for how they’ve shifted the conversations we’re having about important things, than I have in years. So here are some the posts you may not want to miss from 2015.

Power and ‘Political Correctness’“–“Institutions with decades of practice and journalists with professional training in the exercise of their power cannot or do not manage any better than that. This makes it ridiculous to point to the missteps of individuals who are new to power as indicative of broad failings of the group to which these people belong. Doing so is a basic exercise in essentialism, the fundamental attribution error occasionally leavened with racism or sexism.”

Family Matters: How Geek Communities Turn Dysfunctional“–“Unfortunately, many of the problems of these spaces are the problems of family as well. We pressure each other to conform to the way ‘we’ do things, whether our traditions are helpful or harmful. People play favorites, both in relatively harmless and grossly toxic ways. Abuse is perpetrated, both among peers and across inequities of position and resources. We protect the family as a unit over the individuals who make it what it is.

Right Where Dr. A Pinched“–“Again, other people disagree with you, both about it being cute and about it being intimidating. You’re trying to speak for a generation (or two) of women whose opinions you haven’t done the basics to assess. If you want to say, ‘I and the other women who didn’t find it objectionable didn’t find it objectionable’, go ahead. It’s a much, much weaker statement and meaningless as an argument, but it at least has the benefit of being true.”

Religion and Atheism in Geek Spaces“–“As someone who spends a lot of time on atheist activism, I often find majority-atheist geek spaces more relaxing than atheist-activist spaces. They feel less like work, and I have a lot of friends who either aren’t atheists or aren’t activists. I have an admitted interest in keeping these spaces functioning for their original purposes. As someone who pursues atheist activism as social justice, I also have an interest in making sure atheists don’t cause the same problems for others that we’ve faced as a religious minority.” Continue reading “Best of 2015”

Best of 2015

The Reading List, 9/28/2015

I share a lot of links on Twitter and Facebook that I don’t blog about because I don’t have much to add. The reading list is a periodic feature where I share those links with my blog audience too. Of course, you’re still welcome to follow me on Twitter.

  • “An individual who you’d think would be the first gone — not last surviving — due to physical disability. Here was a game presenting Max and saying ‘He survives.’ The subtle message, vital message that goes unsaid is the next part: ‘And so can you’.” Read more.
  • “Once we are speaking passionately on a wide range of issues from an atheist perspective, I think we’ll find people will have a lot more sympathy for our current pet causes. We should be the ones on the cutting edge of social justice, encouraging people to look beyond the moral horizon.” Read more.
  • “The next time I went in, when they asked if I wanted Plan B, I said yes. When they asked me how many I wanted, I said as many as they could spare, please, which was three packets.” Read more.
  • “Unfortunately, it’s not the first time that the scientific creativity of a person of color has been mistaken for a threat. In fact, Kiera Wilmot, a 19-year-old model and mechanical engineering major at Florida Polytechnic University, is well-acquainted with the feeling.” Read more.
  • “But if your work is your passion, then it won’t matter so much that it doesn’t pay that well…right? If your work is your passion, you might want to miss your kid’s sports game or musical performance so that you could stay a few hours late and keep working. And if you want to, surely it’s not too much to expect you to.” Read more.
  • “When it comes to gender, we need to do the same: we learn what we can. We accept that even if we don’t have a strong sense of our own gender, others do. That the human mind is the most fantastically complex object in the known universe, and every single one is different in ways that maybe none of us will ever imagine.” Read more.
  • “In July, the pro-life Center for Medical Progress secretly recorded videos showing Planned Parenthood officials discussing how they obtain tissue from aborted fetuses for medical research. Since then, investigators said there have been nine criminal or suspicious incidents across the country, CBS News has learned.” Read more.
  • “Not only does trying to live in Yellowland harm you physically, it changes how you interact with your environment and it impairs your judgment. You forget what’s normal and start seeing the enemy everywhere.” Read more.
  • “Then the girl who should not have been born took what few belongings she could carry and went out into the forest, not knowing that her brothers hated her with all their hearts.” Read more.
  • “Whatever the causes, this is an underappreciated but critically important trend for the future of the Roman Catholic church.” Read more.
  • “And thus part of the reason why the British are so ready to believe Lord Ashcroft’s story, aside from the fact that Ashcroft is a top-tier Establishment figure in a country with absurdly plaintiff-friendly libel laws, is that Cameron’s ideological training is already well understood by the public.” Read more.
  • “The tragic queer narrative? Widely available. Very, very, very common. Arguably more common than positive depictions of queer characters and relationships. Books by LGBTQ authors with LGBTQ protagonists who are not tragic queers? Much less common and much harder to find.” Read more.
  • “And yes some anti-choice activists will say that they just needed a representative image, but if your plan is a ‘sting’ video you actually have to show the supposedly illegal thing you are trying to catch people doing. You can’t say we need to close the beach for shark attacks because you are sure they are happening and then offer a woman with her leg bitten by a dog as proxy.” Read more.
  • “All Makers have to start somewhere. Many of us begin by disassembling consumer products. Sometimes we re-build them into new projects or enclosures, as Ahmed did. Sometimes, as was the case when I started Making as a kid, the disassembled products don’t survive their vivisection, and they never work again.” Read more.
  • “The decision published Tuesday reverses an order for Connecticut’s Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services to hand over 200 pages of psychiatric, medical and dental records related to Amy Archer Gilligan, widely considered to be the inspiration for the Joseph Kesselring play and Frank Capra film titled ‘Arsenic and Old Lace.'” Read more.
The Reading List, 9/28/2015

Within One Year

California Code of Civil Procedure section 340(c).

340. Within one year:

(c) An action for libel, slander, false imprisonment, seduction of a person below the age of legal consent, or by a depositor against a bank for the payment of a forged or raised check, or a check that bears a forged or unauthorized endorsement, or against any person who boards or feeds an animal or fowl or who engages in the practice of veterinary medicine as defined in Section 4826 of the Business and Professions Code, for that person’s neglect resulting in injury or death to an animal or fowl in the course of boarding or feeding the animal or fowl or in the course of the practice of veterinary medicine on that animal or fowl.

We wouldn’t necessarily know yet, but one way or another, it’s done.

Within One Year

Help Me Go to Women in Secularism 3?

Yes, despite the shenanigans at last year’s Women in Secularism conference, I very much want to attend this year’s. Why? Well, there are a few reasons.

  • Have you seen the lineup of speakers? It’s outstanding:Lauren Becker, Ophelia Benson, Lindsay Beyerstein, Soraya Chemaly, Heina Dadabhoy, Barbara Ehrenreich, Debbie Goddard, Rebecca Goldstein, Candace Gorham, Melody Hensley, Susan Jacoby, Sarah Jones, Zinnia Jones, Amanda Knief, Leighann Lord, Miri Mogilevsky, Taslima Nasreen, Katha Pollitt, Amy Davis Roth, Mandy Velez, Lindy West
  • There is no conference like Women in Secularism for the networking. Each year I’ve attended, I’ve met women doing outstanding work. We’ve forged relationships that have helped all of us accomplish more for the atheist movement and our individual atheist communities, as well as have support when we’ve needed someone outside our own communities to talk to.
  • CFI is hosting Secular Celebrant training in D.C. the day before the conference this year. Minnesota Atheists have already agreed to sponsor me for the training fee. Given our work right now to change the law in Minnesota, this training is important to me as education in the type of training other groups offer and as education for the role I’m seeking as a certified atheist wedding celebrant.

However, I’m still not working. I have an odd set of skills, and I’m very publicly an atheist activist. While I can’t be sure this last fact has been a factor, I have had odd things happen in my search, such as a recruiter who was very eager to talk to me, then didn’t return my call or email. Whatever the reason, I can’t afford this on my own this year. This is where you come in if you’d like to. I have a donation button in the side bar under “Support Almost Diamonds” and another at the bottom of this post. I’m not going through Indiegogo or one of those sites, I’m still happy to offer rewards for donations. Here are the ones that came to me off the top of my head. Please feel free to suggest others in the comments.

  • $1 donation level–You will receive my thanks in a post just before the start of the conference. If you choose this level, please use the ability to add a comment with your donation to let me know what name you want to be credited under.
  • $10 donation level–You’ll receive my thanks as above. I will also produce a blog post addressing the argument of your choice. This can be a bad argument you expect I’ll refute or a good argument you think I can do justice to so you can link to it later when the topic comes up again. While you control the topic, my take on the argument will be my own. This will be delivered before the conference as long as I receive the topic by April 1. You can also use the comment function to request this, or you can email me using the email button in my sidebar.
  • $25 donation level–You’ll receive my thanks as above. I will also produce a blog post addressing the scientific paper of your choice in psychology or related topics. This is limited by my ability to access the paper, but I do have resources for that. While you control the topic, my take on the paper will be my own (with help from experts if I need it). I anticipate these will be delivered at about the rate of one per week, but it will depend on how much I have to educate myself first. First come, first served. You can also use the comment function to request this, or you can email me using the email button in my sidebar.
  • $50 donation level–You’ll receive my thanks as above. I will also produce a blog post addressing the men’s rights, anti-feminist, theist, or politically right-wing article of your choice. In other words, this is your chance to try to make my head explode, which is why it costs more. While you control the topic, my take on the paper will be my own (with help from experts if I need it). I anticipate these will also be delivered at about the rate of one per week. First come, first served. You can also use the comment function to request this, or you can email me using the email button in my sidebar.

What else might you want for donating?

Help Me Go to Women in Secularism 3?

It Lives

Not long ago, I mentioned that we had an ad-free subscription service in the works for FtB as a whole. Testing is now complete, and the service has had a couple of days to shake out some of the stranger problems. So if you’re interested in reading FtB without ads and are willing to pay* us a small amount ($3 for 30 days, $8 for 90 days, or $30 for 365 days) for the privilege, now’s the time to sign up. If you have problems along the way, Jason is the person to talk to.

Sadly, for me, this means going back to seeing ads. I was testing the plug-in, but now I go back to seeing the ads so I can report them when we get problematic ones.

*Yes, I’m well aware there are other technological solutions that mean you don’t have to contribute anything to the writers you read regularly in order to avoid ads. Seeing people commenting to tell other writers, “Are you silly? I don’t have to pay you for your work”, baffles me to no end. If that’s what you want to do, fine. If you can’t afford a subscription, I’m happy you have other options. But at least contribute some consideration.

It Lives

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