Damned Hippie

I'm a goddamn ray of sunshine.

Category: Uncategorized


August was the last time I posted here. It has been a while.

In the small hours of a Sunday morning a few weeks ago, I loaded one of my posts onto my little netbook and pushed it across my kitchen table to my dear friend. She scrolled through, laughing, then taking in a sharp breath the way she does when she comes across a thought that strikes her as profound, then breaking down into tears.

“Do you have any idea the gift you have?” she said to me.

I did. I always have. Almost before I knew I was good at anything else, I knew that I could write. That is why I do this: because I’m good at it. No other reason. That’s it- just an ego-building hobby that also happens to develop a skill valuable to employers. The world does not need another blog from another white, first world, college educated mom/feminist/atheist/science nerd/whatever. Therefore, other responsibilities take priority, and the internet chugs along blissfully without me.

In the meantime, a sad, profound thing has happened in my life, making this hobby difficult to resume.

My ex-husband passed away November 10, 2012. He died of a pulmonary embolism. I wanted to use my gift to honour his memory. I wanted to write something that would let people know exactly what kind of person he was and how much he is missed. I wanted to write something that wasn’t all about me.

It turns out that isn’t going to happen. The grief of an ex-spouse of someone who dies, especially so soon after the end of the marriage, is much too complicated and personal for me to work through out in the open.

In the meantime, I need my blog back. Christopher Hitchens once said, “If you can talk, you can write.” I’ve experienced the inverse of this maxim. Face to face conversation often requires quite a bit of mental energy on my part, and I’ve had to actively work on this skill to even have a normal social life. I’ve found that the more I write, which is something that has always come easily for me, the better I become at communicating verbally.

I will say that for all his faults, in many ways, Bryan made me a better person. I miss him, many times to the point of tears. As I write this now, the tears well up. Once in a while, in my dreams, I see him. He always looks so real, and I always hug him, as if physically holding on to him will keep him from going away when I wake up.



Gay Up a Chick Fil-A?

I forget how exactly how I got on Mike Huckabee’s email list.

In any case, I got this piece of spam personal letter yesterday:

Dear Friend,

I have been incensed at the vitriolic assaults on the Chick Fil-A company because the CEO, Dan Cathy, made comments recently in which he affirmed his view that the Biblical view of marriage should be upheld. The Cathy family, let by Chick Fil-A founder Truett Cathy, are a wonderful Christian family who are committed to operating the company with Biblical principles and whose story is the true American success story. Starting at age 46 Truett Cathy built Chick Fil-A into a $4 billion a year enterprise with over 1600 stores. At 91, he is still active in the company, but his son Dan runs it day to day as CEO. It’s a great American story that is being smeared by vicious hate speech and intolerant bigotry from the left.

The Chick Fil-A company refuses to open on Sundays so that their employees can go to church if they wish. Despite the pressure from malls, airports, and the business world to open on Sundays, they still don’t. They treat customers and employees with respect and dignity.

I ask you to join me in speaking out on Wednesday, August 1 “Chick Fil-A Appreciation Day.” No one is being asked to make signs, speeches, or openly demonstrate. The goal is simple: Let’s affirm a business that operates on Christian principles and whose executives are willing to take a stand for the Godly values we espouse by simply showing up and eating at Chick Fil-A on Wednesday, August 1. Too often, those on the left make corporate statements to show support for same sex marriage, abortion, or profanity, but if Christians affirm traditional values, we’re considered homophobic, fundamentalists, hate-mongers, and intolerant. This effort is not being launched by the Chick Fil-A company and no one from the company or family is involved in proposing or promoting it.

There’s no need for anyone to be angry or engage in a verbal battle. Simply affirm appreciation for a company run by Christian principles by showing up on Wednesday, August 1 or by participating online – tweeting your support or sending a message on Facebook. No need to make signs, honk horns, or have rallies. Just show up August 1, eat, and/or affirm support for a business that stands for something.

I hope you will use your Twitter account, Facebook page, pulpit, or printed word to share with your friends, family, and followers. Let’s make this viral.

Cut and paste and put your own message or approach to it. Make it your own platform—not mine. Please send to your personal networks of friends and family. Thanks!

To RSVP for Appreciation Day on Facebook click here.

If you do not use Facebook and want to RSVP please go to MikeHuckabee.com here.

In less than 24 hours since we posted about this event on Facebook, over 36,000 people have rsvp’d yes for this event and they have invited 325,000+ more people as well!



Mike Huckabee

You know, if you do something particularly obnoxious, like oh, say, discriminate against employees according to their religion or family status, or, perhaps, throw your money at people trying to obstruct the advance of civil rights, you can’t claim the moral high-ground by refusing to engage with people who are pissed off at you for doing that.

Mike Huck’s call for action is another example of how junk food has evolved into a political statement. I did the same thing when Oreo came out in support in gay marriage– ate and gave away copious amounts of Oreo cookies. I didn’t do that to save poor Nabisco from the mean christian boycotters. Billion dollar companies will not be impacted one bit by politically motivated snacktivism one way or the other. I did it to signal my political alliance.

So, I wouldn’t really care about Mike Huckabee harvesting emails from bible-thumpers who mistake fast food consumption with relevant political impact, but, I have a dream:

This video caused a micro-controversy over at Ashley Miller’s blog because it could be interpreted as endorsing giving Chick Fil-A business in spite of its unethical business practices and homophobia. The controversy was, in my opinion, resolved quite soundly:

I think I’d be OK if everyone takes to heart the message that it’s OK to eat at Chick-fil-A so long as you go in full drag and perform sex acts with the food.

And how awesome would it be if that happened August 1st? Well, maybe not the sex acts (at least not in public), but homophobic Christians eating side-by-side with drag queens? And more subtle gender benders? And gay couples? And gay allies wearing pro-gay rights t-shirts?

Nobody would have to make signs, or speeches, or openly demonstrate. All we would have to do is show up; be a visible reminder that we exist, that we are members of their community.

I can understand not wanting to give money to oppressive, unethical haters, but, like I said, a multibillion dollar company will not feel the impact of politically motivated consumption, especially in only a single day of sales. Furthermore, I think the political statement would be worth a lot more than the fraction of the proceeds from a cheap chicken sandwich that actually goes to anti-gay charity. How awesome would it be if that fraction was more than offset by participants donating the cost of their meals to charities like PFLAG, GLSEN, or One Iowa?

I know it’s a long-shot, and it’s not my call. I must defer to people who know more about gay-rights activism than I do. If you are one of those people, tell me, is this a good idea?



An Example of the Commodity Model of Sex

This was a comment on a blog post on the best way to deal with pan-handlers:

I don’t blame the few people that yelled at me. I looked like a nice dude that was ready to dish out some coin and when I said no, it was probably something akin to encountering that girl at a bar who chats you up, makes all the moves and then says “no” and walks off. For someone that is homeless and wants money and survives by getting it from well-meaning passersby, meaningful eye contact is the equivalent of grabbing their ass and saying, “Hey, honey. Wanna dance?”

So I won’t do it anymore. I won’t strike up a conversation with them unless I have the intention of giving something more than words.

The analogy is striking. I haven’t had men yell at me or threaten me physically when I’ve rejected their sexual advances, but I have experienced what looked like retribution for a rebuff. I’ve also figured out that most men don’t strike up conversations with me because they find me to be a compelling person to talk to (the exceptions to this are always a pleasant surprise).

Like the guy who won’t converse with panhandlers, I’ve learned to not entertain those conversations with anything more than one-word acknowledgements. I’d add the parallel caveat, “unless I have the intention of giving something more than words,” but, well, see, this is the point of the post. This analogy of comparing chatting up panhandlers without intending to give them money with flirting or conversing with guys without intending to “give” them sex is an example of the commodity model of sex:

We live in a culture where sex is not so much an act as a thing: a substance that can be given, bought, sold, or stolen, that has a value and a supply-and-demand curve. In this “commodity model,” sex is like a ticket; women have it and men try to get it … This model pervades casual conversation about sex: Women “give it up,” men “get some.

Yes Means Yes! page 30, quoted here.

This commenter is actually comparing sex to money. The example couldn’t get any better.

Or could it?

After being yelled at and threatened several times for refusing to give money, I’ve realized that not everyone deserves eye contact and acknowledgment.

Replace “money” with “sex”, and you have your answer as to why many attractive women ignore men who try to strike up conversations with them, or even scare them away with dirty looks. I imagine very few people enjoy being a “snobby bitch”, but it less of a waste of time and often much safer than being a “cock tease”.

Of course, there is (usually) nothing wrong with talking to someone because you are interested in having sex with that person. There is something very wrong with treating sex as a commodity that someone is obligated to give for interacting with you, no matter how sexually charged the interaction.

Let’s Get Our Facts Straight

In October, 1996, his wife Karen had a second trimester abortion.  They don’t like to describe it that way.

-Ellen Shaffer, Our Silver Blog

They don’t like to describe it that way becauseit wasn’t that way. The Santorums did not have a second trimester abortion. In fact, they went to foolhardy, heroic lengths to try to save the life of the fetus. Karen went under the knife to attempt to clear the urinary tract of the fetus. The operation resulted in a life-threatening infection that caused her to go into labor. The doctors recommended drugs to induce heavier contractions to speed along the delivery. She refused. Karen requested drugs to make the labor stop. The doctors refused. Their son died two hours after it was born.

That is not an abortion. That is a spontaneous live birth. Read the rest of this entry »

A Caucus We Will Go! or, Never Toss a Santorum Salad

The Story County Democratic Caucus expected less than 700 attendees. 849 of us showed up. Outstanding. We may have broken fire codes =D

As for the Republicans, they got Santorum surging up from behind.

We also got Santorum Salad in the county next door. It is a frothy mixture of mayonnaise and chicken pieces. Pizza Ranch has graced us with this manna for the Glory of God.

Oh, Iowa.

It Gets Better, or, Why You Don’t Have to Be Crazy to Care About Mental Health

I’m pretty sure I’m not crazy.

JT Eberhard spoke at Skepticon IV about mental illness: what it is like to live with mental illness, myths about mental illness and its treatment, and how those myths and the stigma of mental illness hurt, even kill people.

The groundswell was swift and immediate. The Empress of the Dorks herself had to stand in line to give JT a hug. Within the line, hugs and tears broke out like glitter at a gay pride parade.

On his blog, he put out a call:

If you’re a blogger who lives with a mental disorder, write about it. If you don’t, learn something new about mental illnesses and write a post about what you learned or dispel a myth or share how knowing someone with a mental illness has affected your life and ways you’ve learned to help.

That was nearly three weeks ago. It has taken me this long to figure out what I need to say. Read the rest of this entry »

Anti-Choice Concern Troll Is Very Concerned About Sexism

I’m at the Midwest Feminist Conference at the University of Iowa this weekend. I will blog all about it when I get back. Until then, here is a piece I wrote in my Facebook notes just a few weeks before I started this blog. 

Read the rest of this entry »

Kham S. Ung 1972-2011

The Skeptics’ Guide to Government lost one of its members today. Kham Ung died at the University of Nebraska hospital in Omaha on October 20, 2011. I had only known him for a few months, but I can tell you he was very good natured with a wonderful, snarky sense of humor.

From his bio written for the sggov website:

Kham S. Ung is the Writer, Director, Producer and Co-founder of
Shuriken Productions; an independent film production company that produces movies, short-film, and documentaries. But before all of that, Kham S. Ung is a first-generation immigrant from Laos that grew up in small town rural Iowa and attended Iowa State University and is currently enrolled in the MBA program at Upper Iowa University, and has worked as an engineer for 15 years for many Fortune 500 companies as an independent consultant.

Kham is a rock-star in his own mind and envisions a world in which money, women, and power are lavishly thrown at his feet.

He is sorely missed, both as a collaborator and as a friend.

Guess What I’m Sleeping Under Tonight!

I check into my hotel room the Best Western in Chicago, turn on all the lights, and settle onto the soft, ginormous bed with my netbook for a little writing. I look up and get startled by the image I see in the mirror above the dresser.

That’s right, there’s a fighter jet above my bed! Here’s a less blurry view (in which I get my ass off the ginormous bed):

I guess this is what a decade of constant war will get you: a war culture so ubiquitous that guests to Chicago sleep under pictures of weapons. I hope international travelers find lodging somewhere more classy. I hope I don’t get nightmares of that thing shitting bombs on my face while I sleep. I hope this fucking War on Terror ends someday.


I stand corrected. With a little more context, this picture above my bed is not a patriotic romanization of war, but simply a tribute to aviation. Here is another picture that was hanging in my lab-mates’ room:

Still hope this war will end someday.

Two Fables

The Farmer & the Flood

A farmer is in Iowa during a flood. The river is overflowing. Water is surrounding the farmer’s home up to his front porch. As he is standing there, a boat comes up. The man in the boat says, “Jump in, and I’ll take you to safety.”

The farmer crosses his arms and says stubbornly, “Oh no thanks, I put my trust in God.” The boat goes away. The water rises to the second story. Another boat comes up. The man says to the farmer, who is now at the second floor window, “Hurry, jump in. I’ll save you.”

The farmer again says, “Oh no thanks, I put my trust in God.”

The boat goes away. Now the water is inching over the roof. As the farmer stands on the roof, a helicopter comes over, and drops a ladder. The pilot yells down to the farmer, “I’ll save you. Climb the ladder.”

The farmer yells back, “Oh no thanks, I put my trust in God.”

The helicopter goes away. The water continues to rise and sweeps the farmer off the roof into the swiftly moving water. Unfortunately, he drowns.

The farmer goes to heaven. God sees him and says, “What are you doing here?”

The farmer says, “I put my trust in you, and you let me down.”

God says, “What do you mean, let you down? I sent you two boats and a helicopter!”

 Stone Soup

Once upon a time, somewhere in post-war Eastern Europe, there was a great famine in which people jealously hoarded whatever food they could find, hiding it even from their friends and neighbors. One day a wandering soldier came into a village and began asking questions as if he planned to stay for the night.

“There’s not a bite to eat in the whole province,” he was told. “Better keep moving on.”

“Oh, I have everything I need,” he said. “In fact, I was thinking of making some stone soup to share with all of you.” He pulled an iron cauldron from his wagon, filled it with water, and built a fire under it. Then, with great ceremony, he drew an ordinary-looking stone from a velvet bag and dropped it into the water.

By now, hearing the rumor of food, most of the villagers had come to the square or watched from their windows. As the soldier sniffed the “broth” and licked his lips in anticipation, hunger began to overcome their skepticism.

“Ahh,” the soldier said to himself rather loudly, “I do like a tasty stone soup. Of course, stone soup with cabbage — that’s hard to beat.”

Soon a villager approached hesitantly, holding a cabbage he’d retrieved from its hiding place, and added it to the pot. “Capital!” cried the soldier. “You know, I once had stone soup with cabbage and a bit of salt beef as well, and it was fit for a king.”

The village butcher managed to find some salt beef . . . and so it went, through potatoes, onions, carrots, mushrooms, and so on, until there was indeed a delicious meal for all. The villagers offered the soldier a great deal of money for the magic stone, but he refused to sell and traveled on the next day sold the magic stone to the gullible villagers and built an oppulent city-state with the fortune, from which he dispatched a message to the village saying that the villagers should not use condoms, otherwise the magic stone would not work.

Both of these fables are about God. Given the current state of affairs of our species, it should be obvious which one speaks more to the truth.