Missing Niki

When I started playing the Mass Effect series I named my Commander Shepherd “Niki.” Niki Massey was such a geek. She loved those games, especially around the time I played through them, and naming my character for her felt appropriate and I loved and gushing about the game together on Twitter. I was so grateful to her for talking about her love for those games because I would not have gotten to enjoy them without her.

Others have written beautifully about who Niki was, but I knew her best as a geek. Niki and I first met at Convergence, when I was a timid newbie to the Skepchick network, and she was incredibly friendly to me there. Two years later when I returned to Convergence we geeked out about her new costume together and shared in our mix of both loving, and struggling with, the party atmosphere. Niki understood my conflict with that perhaps better than anyone else, but over and over she dressed fabulously (I adored her cool outerspace dress) and turned out to party because she cared so deeply for her community of geeky atheist friends.

When we talked it was about video games and cats. Niki was accepting and welcoming of me and my friendship in an intense way I treasure when I find it. Everyone who knew her knew that Niki accepted no bullshit, but she was also able to see good in people and accepted me without hesitation.

What Niki was able to accept so easily in me and others, she struggled with accepting in herself. It is sometimes harder to deal with our own weaknesses or struggles than those others experience, and she was no exception to this. She could be HARD on herself, and reassuring her of her value didn’t always work. Now, though, all I want is more time to tell her over and over how important she is to me.

But I can’t.

Missing Niki

Invasion of the Cisgender Heterosexuals

CN: Generally terrible and abusive behavior towards people across the queer community.

Usage note: “Cishet” is short for “Cisgender and heterosexual.”

On August 11th The Daily Beast published an article that was basically a straight man ogling the cruising culture of gay and bisexual men at the Olympics. There was no particular point to the article other than heterosexual fascination with the sexuality of queer athletes. In the process he outed several of these men, giving enough information to easily identify some of them, without caring if their careers, families, or lives may be threatened by being outed. Many writers have responded to this article with outrage, including Greta Christina here on The Orbit, leading to Daily Beast eventually taking it down, but of course nothing ever really goes away on the internet.

Last weekend a transgender performer called Valentine Steaphon was kicked out of a New York gay bar after a cis woman complained about her using the women’s bathroom. Steaphon says the security at the bar told her “Well we cater to straight women here,” which is not likely to be a big shock to anyone who has attended a drag show in a gay bar recently. Cishet women are a huge part of the audience for these shows, and bars have increasingly geared their businesses towards that audience.

In fact, many people in the queer world have discussed the increasing prominence of cishet people in gay bars, at Pride events, and on hook-up apps. Those articles are only a tiny taste of the huge number of pieces out there about all of the ways cishet people are invading queer spaces.
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Invasion of the Cisgender Heterosexuals

Go Outside and Do Something! Except Not That

One of many criticisms of the millennial generation is that we spend too much time surfing the internet and playing video games, and we apparently don’t get outside enough. This accusation has been levied against us for our whole lives, since our early days of teething on Nintendo controllers. I do not remember a time in which people older than me did not lament “Go OUTSIDE! Do something!”

This week Niantic Labs (the same company that makes my beloved game Ingress) released a new game aimed directly at users mostly younger than me. Like Ingress, Pokemon GO is an augmented reality game, requiring players to actually move around in the real world in order to play. Those who want to play need to go outside and do something, just like we’ve all been told we should.
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Go Outside and Do Something! Except Not That

Getting My Beloved Beverage Back

Until last October it was pretty rare to see me without a Diet Pepsi in my hand. I was a deeply devoted fan of the stuff, and had been for many years, ever since my days working third shift in dorms and through many years of overtime hours in a terrible, boring office job.

Then last fall Pepsi Co. decided to discontinue the use of aspartame in many of its products, including Diet Pepsi due to declining sales that Pepsi Co. thought were due to people’s fears about aspartame’s safety. Those fears are completely unfounded but that doesn’t stop people from believing things. They replaced the sweetener with sucralose, a newer artificial sweetener.
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Getting My Beloved Beverage Back

Grief Is Weird

CN: Pulse shooting, sort of. Pet death. Particularly for my poly family, this is about Jordan.

Grief is fucking weird.

The tears finally came. I’ve “teared up” more times than I can count since Sunday morning. Finally, now I have cried. Sobbed. Certainly not for the last time, but the first comes with some relief.

It was triggered by a fucking commercial for dog food of course. Because although I have not talked about it much, a dog I love enormously passed away in April. Jordan was an incredibly sweet, loving, happy dog who lacked significantly in the brains department. My metamour and I joked that we wished Boyfriend would love us like he loved her. She was a big dog, and insisted on cuddles from Boyfriend by trying to be a lap dog. He never said no, as far as I saw. It filled me with joy to see them together, because it was compersion every time. Beings I loved, loving each other.


This picture is of Jordan (black) and Bailey (brown). I take shit photographs, and Jordan refused to be in good photos for me, so this is the only one of her I have. My family got a few in the last few days of her life (because then she’d hold still) but they’re too hard for me to look at.

When I slept in Boyfriend’s bed, Jordan slept between my legs, pinning me down very effectively. When I came home to the family house she would greet me with pure joy at my presence, while the other two dogs show more complicated feelings*. She was pure hierarchical polyamory – loving Boyfriend most of all, but happy to share cuddles with any of the rest of us otherwise. I miss her so much.

So now, today, the grief I have been trying to deal with since Sunday morning let loose…. over my grief for Jordan’s death. I didn’t get to say goodbye to her. I miss her so much.

Grief over any one thing brings up our other grief over others. This is normal, I’m told. But today, while heartbroken and angry over a hate crime in Orlando I finally broke down in sobs over the death of my family’s wonderful dog.

*Not that complicated. Bailey is willing to graciously accept my scritches and Babs hates me with every fiber of her being until I have been in the house for at least a half an hour, then she insists on cuddles.

Grief Is Weird

A Well Founded Fear of Violence

CN: Discussion of Orlando shooting, the shooter himself, hate speech, and my own fears about violence.

Drunk, loud, and belligerent. That’s what the news is saying those who had run into the shooter at Pulse said about him. He’d previously been thrown out for being drunk, loud, and belligerent. These facts are leaving me even more freaked out. See, I work in the service sector, and I work at night.

I work with drunk people.
I work with loud people.
I work with belligerent people.
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A Well Founded Fear of Violence

How Many Harmed While The Courts Work?

Each time the news of a discriminatory law passing, or a terrible school board decision is passed around, someone replies “That won’t stand up in court” or something similar. In my experience this happens both in person and on social media, and often then devolves into a discussion of the legal and constitutional merits of the law or rule. This discussion generally takes place among people who are not lawyers, and more importantly those who are not part of the class being discriminated against.

Sometimes they are wrong. Courts don’t always end up on the right side of a discriminatory issue in the long run. But even when they are right, the legal system takes time, and while that time is passing the discriminatory laws have real impact.
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How Many Harmed While The Courts Work?

Frivolous Friday: How I Cut Myself On Soup

Frivolous Fridays are the Orbit bloggers’ excuse to post about fun things we care about that may not have serious implications for atheism or social justice. Any day is a good day to write about whatever the heck we’re interested in (hey, we put “culture” in our tagline for a reason), but we sometimes have a hard time giving ourselves permission to do that. This is our way of encouraging each other to take a break from serious topics and have some fun. Enjoy!

I own a fairly cheap food dehydrator and tend to get excited about using it from time to time. This year I pulled it out of storage when gearing up for camping and hiking trips and have taken to dehydrating everything in our kitchen, to the mild annoyance and amusement of my spouse. It’s a big bulky thing that takes up counter space, but it allows me to make my own lightweight food for work, school, and camp so I enjoy using it.

This year I’m being a little more creative than just dehydrating vegetables (though I’m definitely doing those too) and trying more sauces and liquidy stuff. After a few false starts (used improperly a dehydrator can accidentally become a very stinky incubator) I found a process that works well for me and my cheap system. Salsa dries beautifully, and I made a dish this week with dehydrated salsa, black beans, veggies, and instant rice that came out really good. Spaghetti sauce dehydrates very well and it’s a whole lot lighter and easier for me to carry a baggie of spaghetti sauce rather than a jar of the stuff. Applesauce made into fruit leather is a classic, and I love it as a chewy snack.

I also had a can of Campbell’s tomato soup in the cupboard. Generally things that don’t contain fat dehydrate very well, but canned tomato soup doesn’t have any fat so I figured I’d try it out and dry that. It should be able to reconstitute just fine, and I expect that it will work as a base for a meal or just fine as soup with some dry milk added. I put it on the dehydrator tray for awhile and it did indeed dry easily. However, removing the dehydrated soup from the plastic tray took a little work. It stuck together pretty well, in a harder plastic-like structure than something like applesauce or spaghetti sauce. In fact, as I pried the soup off the tray one end of the soup broke off to a sharp edge and I managed to give myself a good cut on my finger, much like a nasty paper cut. So that is how I cut myself on soup.

Still, the rest of the soup came off the tray just fine, and I bagged it up. It’s a small light package, so now I’ll just have to test it out and see how it tastes! I think it has potential, but only if I can find a way to get it off the tray without injury.

Frivolous Friday: How I Cut Myself On Soup

Environmental Anti-Science: Appeal to Nature

One of the most frustrating parts of being an environmental science major is realizing how much incredibly bad information is out there about environmental issues. People often believe they know what the best environmental decisions are, when they are actually ineffectual, complicated, or completely wrong. I really believe that a lot of people want to make decisions that are best for the environment, but they make decisions based on mistaken logic and incorrect information. The most common problem is the fallacy of the appeal to nature.

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Environmental Anti-Science: Appeal to Nature

Help Me With My Research!

My University requires students to do a major capstone project before graduation, and I’m working on mine. You can help!

Please help an undergraduate student researcher by filling out a research survey about gifts you have received in the past.

We are conducting a research study because we are trying to learn more about the environmental impacts of gift giving. The survey will include questions about books or movies that you have received in the most recent holiday season as a gift. We will also collect some personal information about you such as age, gender, and state of residence. If there is a question you do not want to answer, you may skip it.

This study will take about 10 minutes of your time. Research data collected from you will be confidential.

Participants will be entered to win a $25 gift certificate.

Follow this link to the Survey.

Thank you in advance for your participation!

Help Me With My Research!