• A little political rant (poverty edition!)

    One of the blogs I read, Feministe, had up an interesting little article today.  I probably shouldn't be surprised that people are deriding Henrietta Hughes for daring to ask for assistance, but it still upsets me.  Mainly, because of the bloated and ignorant reek of entitlement that drips from every word.  The people that mock, deride or otherwise stereotype poor and needy people are clearly living on a different planet to the majority of us, and yet seem to think they speak for us all. 

    Poor people, people on benefits, unemployed and/or homeless people are, time and again, portrayed as lazy, stupid, workshy wastrels that have no interest in being gainfully employed, and expect "honest taxpayers" to pay for them to live.  In actual fact, such cases are extremely rare.  I, myself, am in a precarious financial position.

    I am not a lazy, shiftless wastrel.  I work full time.  I am educated, intelligent, and have a diversity of skills, both creative and analytical.  I do not have an impressive range of qualifications, however.  I did start studying for a BSc in astrophysics, but had to give up the course because I could not afford to cover the rent.  I had 20 hours a week of lectures and lab, 20 hours a week of coursework and exams, 25 hours a week of employment and a 2 hour outbound, 3 hour inbound daily commute to my studies and work, leaving me approximately 9 hours a day to eat and sleep, and 1 Sunday off per month when I wasn't working or studying.  So, exhausted, sick and unable to cover my basic living expenses, i gave up on my degree and qualifications in order to seek full time, gainful employment.  I am still poor and struggling, now.

    My partner of 6 years was made homeless when he was about 19, and as a result only has a brief work history prior to homelessness.  (He was still on the streets when we met).  He is signed up with a variety of agencies offering short term work, and regularly volunteers, to keep his work history active and show willing to potential employers.  He keeps an eye open for apprenticeships that coud allow him to train and earn, or at least train for free.  He searches for work daily, but still hasn't been able to get a permanent position anywhere.

    We are fortunate that my wages are... whilst very small... above the UK minimum wage and just enough that, with extremely tight budgetting, we can pay rent, cover food costs if we ration and have electricity and hot water for most of a month (electric is on a meter so when we run out of money, towards the end of a month, for it we have a day or 2 of candles!).  I can even afford to have an internet connection at home, so long as I go without several other luxuries.  But I recently had a redundancy scare. 

    Because I work full time, we have no benefit entitlement.  In order for us to obtain housing or council tax benefits, my partner must be receiving jobseekers allowance.  He has no entitlement to an allowance so long as I remain in full time employment.  My wages and his unemployment means we cannot even afford house or contents insurance, let alone put money away in savings.  I could have started claiming benefits if I lost my job, but not until my redundancy package ran out and it would not be enough for us both to live.  If I had been made redundant, I would have received 2.5 weeks worth of wages as my package- within a month we would have been homeless, unemployed, and hopeless.

    I am safe for now, but the company I work for is having problems and there is no guarantee that in another couple of months the same thing won't happen again.  I am looking for more secure work, but unemployment is so high right now that most jobs receive dozens of applicants, so the chances of my finding work elsewhere are extremely low.

    I know that I may be made redundant, soon, and if that happens I will be homeless, as will my partner.  Obviously, we would then sell the majority of our posessions, keeping only what was needed, but that money would probably not go far; people selling urgently have to accept low offers, and in the current climate people try to haggle even when getting a cheap deal.  Once homeless, we could receive some basic benefits to keep us from dying on the streets, but not enough to get back into a normal life, and housing for people in those sort of situations has a waiting list of several years.  Even then, once we have a home, work would be scarce and hard to come by.

    Of course, there is also the problem that, once on various benefits, I would risk losing a massive chunk of financia assistance if I did subsequently manage to obtain more than a bare minimum number of hours of work.  With a base rate of 20% tax now being paid, I could find that taking a minimum wage, part time job would leave me worse off than if I remain unemployed, as the benefits I receive drop off extremely disproportionately to my situation.  Thus, I would likely become homeless again.

    And, just like that, I find myself trapped in a cycle of poverty and homelessness, with little or no chance of escape.  With extremely good fortune, I may one day be offered a vacancy in a job role like the one I am currently employed in, and may again find myself poor, but earning enough to basically live, unable to put away savings and looking desperately, constantly for an opportunity.  Any opportunity to increase my wages, or find more secure work, or work with a chance of promotion, so that I can finally work my way towards a life where I can put away savings.  Maybe even, if I am fortunate, have enough money spare to put some away into a pension fund, so that I don't spend my final years living off of an even tighter budget, and running the risk of freezing to death every Winter, like so many elderly and poor people do.

    I am not seeking sympathy.  My situation is not unusual or special, or especially tragic.  In fact, I suspect that my life is a more average and common one than that of the entitled, priveleged and extremely fortunate people that mock "benefit queens" and other people in need.  I would be interested to see how some of these priveleged people would cope trying to live like I do for, say, 6 months.  Of course, they would never know that slow, crushing and constant pressure, that low gnawing terror that grips every time I check my bank balance, or try to take money out of my account, or need to buy groceries, during the last 10 days prior to payday.  They would never know the slow, heavy resignation of not knowing how to escape, or of seeking daily, and failing to obtain, that prized path out of poverty; that £1k a year wage increase, that new job with advancement prospects, that bar offering work that my partner could do.  How could they, when they would know that all the while they play their little "game" of being poor, they need only go to a bank with their fancy credit card and the whole, terrible trial will be over.  They might, however, have more of an appreciation of just how little many people really live on.  That appreciation of what it is like to live when meat and real toilet paper are considered luxury items.

  • Little Mother Goddess Poppets/Charms

    So, having recently been dealing with problems regarding a certain old acquaintance with a history of violent behaviour and "praying for me" when he isn't being a crazy bad person, I've been wanting to make some little charms to make me, my loved ones, and my home feel safer.

    Drawing inspiration from the Spiral Goddess poppets I've seen, I have been making little stuffed Goddess poppets that call forth the Goddess in her aspect as the Mother.  The complete poppets I've made have some very personal runes and symbols on them, which I won't share here, but I have made a blank, unstuffed poppet to give you an idea.  This was my prototype for the pattern.

    IMG_3702

    The image is sideways, and I apologise.  The circle in her womb would, in a completed poppet, contain a symbol or rune indicating the item/person I want the poppet to act upon.  Of course, where I want her to act upon someone other than myself I would require their consent; for example, I made a poppet like this for my partner yesterday.  On her brow, I would then embroider a rne or symbol denoting her purpose.  Finally, I would stuff her with herbs and items relevant to the intent.  She could then be hung in the house or kept in one' possession as required.

    Being an invocation of the Goddess as Mother, this poppet could be used as protective, nurturing, to aid fertility or to promote positive sexual or emotional intimacy, depending on the details added.

    Just in case, here's a copy of the pattern!

    poppetpattern

    Just click on the image to enlarge it, print it at the size you want and use as sewing/embroidery guide.

  • Ach! Sorry!

    Oh, dear. I have been gone a long time, haven't I?

    I'm afraid I quite lost the will to keep updating this blog for a while. I just didn't have anything new that seemed like it was worth saying.

    I've decided to take this blog in a new direction, focussing more on my spiritual life, and will now also start using it to post entries from my Grimoires as I develop them. A new post will appear, soon!

  • Sorry...

    Sorry for the radio silence... I have been whisked away and am busy enjoying THIS PLACE HERE!

    Any Pagans feel like finding somewhere to socialise, please check this place out.  They have cookies!

  • Saimhain, Halloween, and what to do!

    Celebrating Samhain is something of a juggling act for me.  My friends, whilst Christian or agnostic mostly, are great fans of modern Halloween celebration.  Every year until this year, a grand party (fancy dress mandatory) has been held at E's house, with open door policy, lashings of booze and food and all the tacky and cute spooky decorations you could ever want.  I love these parties, and couldn't not go.  I'll never forget the time E decided to put "spooky bloody handprints" up her bathroom wall using jam... and found that the stuff stuck so hard she had to scrape back the wallpaper and repaint over it!

    Sadly, thanks to certain unidentified local snots deciding to use the party as an opportunity to turn up and nick stuff, no such party will be happening this year.  Instead, by friends all want to take the bus to Canterbury (in fancy dress, of course) to visit pubs and generally have a fun night.  I've heard of a possible Halloween Crawl of the Dead this year, which should be fun to watch.

    But as much fun as Halloween is, this night is also Samhain and for me has spiritual significance.  Just as many Christians will engage in the feasting and piles of presents at Christmas, but will still go to church for a round of rousing hymns or at least watch Songs of Praise, I do like to inject a little of the spiritual in with my merry-making.

    In recent years I have been fortunate; Samhain has fallen on a weekday, with my friends taking their parties at the weekend before or after the date, but I've no such luck this year.  Once again, I was unable to take the day off from work, so only have the evening, which will be taken up with pub visiting.  I will, of course, be spending some of my weekend having fun.

    So, what to do?  How can I inject some Samhain into my Halloween?

    I've been looking deeper into my own ways of living as well as exploring the various Pagan paths and find that kitchen, or hedge, witchery most closely describes me, inasmuch as any label or box can hold any person, so I'm not going to be missing out on any grand rituals, and being a solitary witch (or a witch of a coven of 5, including her OH and 3 cats, depending on how you look at it!) I won't be missing out on any coven meetings.  I might do a little non-household Magick, however. 

    In the days leading up to Samhain, I will decorate my house with fallen branches and living things, and fortunately the church ground where I live has some old willow and oak trees that drop branches regularly.  The final harvest will be completed; I have some rosehips still ripening on the bushes, and my pepper plants still aren't fully ripe, so these can be brought in and processed.  Practice with my tarot, my runes and my pendulum will, I hope, be time well spent.

    On the day of Samhain, I will light candles for loved ones recently lost, and those lost long ago but not forgotten, and will spend a little time meditating with my pendulum.  To celebrate the God in his aspect as the Horned Man of Winter, my OH will be dressed up as Pan for our night out, complete with hooves and a horned face mask (but no massive genitals; ours will be a PG Pan, at least until we get home!).  I wanted to go as the Goddess, but if I dress as her emerging Crone aspect people will merely mistake me for an unfinished generic witch, so will instead emphasis the Harvest aspect of this particular holiday.  The cornucopia I made for Mabon will be filled with spooky treats to hand out to friendly revellers.

    Over the weekend, with more time to spend, I will bake bread in various shapes, produce chutneys and other preserves and I will try my hand at a little astral projection.  I really want to try the doorway ritual, as well.

    I would really like more suggestions from fellow solitary Pagans who have been more effective than me at fitting in their spiritual celebrations with their modern day ones.  What will everyone else be getting up to?

  • More crazy weight-loss Crap.

    Interesting.

    The anti-fat police are really getting quite desperate, if they think people will take this crap seriously.  Lets analyse this a teensy bit, shall we?  Firstly, let us ignore the actual test and results and look first at the group that was tested, bit by bit.  9-13 year old "obese" girls already taking part in a weight loss group.

    I started puberty at the age of 10, approximately.  Most young girls start puberty at some point between the ages of 9 and 13, and with the onset of puberty comes

    • Growth spurts in height
    • Accumulation of breast tissue
    • Shifting and increasing fat deposits at hips, buttocks, stomach and breasts
    • Sweling and growth of the genitals
    • The monthly period cycle, including the regular peaks and troughs every month in weight, hormones, period blood and water retention
    • Fluctuations in weight against height as the body settles into its new shape whilst trying to grow really, really fast
    Immediately, we know to expect a lot of changes in body size and shape.  Since BMI does not calculate accurately in regards to in-scale growth, we can expect fluctuations in BMI.  By this I mean that BMI calculates the weight against the square of the height.  However, as humans exist in 3 dimensions rather than 2, this leaves taller people with comparitively higher BMIs.  Whilst taller people do tend to have thinner body frames proportional to their height than shorter people, it has been found that a factor of between 2.2 and 2.7, as opposed to just squaring, would yield more accurate results, and yet this is not done.

    On this matter alone we can see that certain fluctuations in BMI are to be expected in the 9-13 age-group, and as a result any experiment testing the BMI changes in such children should account for this in both the conclusions and study, and include an additional chunk in their margin of error for any calculations.  This still may not be reliable, however, in smaller test groups, as there really is no set amount of weight, height or BMI that a child is "supposed" to gain during the onset of puberty, especially considering late and early bloomers.

    *

    Having considered the above, let us now take a closer look at the experiment itself.  Any good scientist knows how to be rigorous, and that certain things can be done to increase the potential accuracy of any results.  Some of these are as follows.

    In smaller groups, a single outlier can have a statistically large affect on the overall result, skewing it unfairly.  As a result, larger study groups are best as the results from a single individual will have a smaller overall effect, verging to the point of being negligible, as the potential difference becomes significantly smaller than the calculated margin of error.  It is also best to take a reasonably specific group.  "Apples" being tested for average mass and colour may vary from the massive, pale green cooking apples to tiny, pink-hued ones so popular for childrens lunch boxes.  A test study that contains mostly small, pink apples would be significantly skewed in results if a large cooking apple is included.

    More measurements is always better, excepting the act of measuring itself may affect the results under certain circumstances (Schrodinger's Cat being an obvious example).  If I want to calculate the speed of light, and whether it is significantly affected by travelling through different media (air, vacuum, glass, etc), I would be a very poor scientist indeed to measure once, in each medium, and then publish my results as conclusive.  The equipment may have malfunctioned, or my results may be skewed by the margin of error, or there may have been a fault in one or more of the media tested that affected the result.  The best method is to use a variety of different media, several times, measuring regularly, and then calculate any underlying patterns from there.  This allows one to check for any outside factors and eliminate them from the experiment, or account for them in the results.

    The tests should take place under circumstances that eliminate as many outside factors as possible.  If one is testing the speed of light through media, the sensible precautions to take would be to eliminate all but the one source of light being used (so, switch off all other light sources or block them from the testing area) and to ensure that the light beam is being used, that the light impacts the media as early as possible, to prevent potential impurities int he air from affecting the results, and to ensure that there are no obstructions.  Anything that could affect the results that isn't the thing being measured should be eliminated.

    It is often best to continue an experiement for an extended period of time.  Certain outside factors may be difficult to eliminate, and may be dependent on the passage of time, whether it be of a seasonal nature or otherwise.  Therefore, tests conducted over years with repeated vigorous result-gathering exercises are more accurate and reliable.

    Overall then, for the best results one would;

    • Select a large test group
    • Eliminate outside variables or account for them
    • Take thorough, repeated and regular measurements
    • Continue the study for a significant period of time
    • Take similar test subjects.
    *

    So how do the above matters reflect upon this particular experiment?  We know that the group being studied is prone to sudden and large weight, height, hormone and shape fluctuations.  We know that there is very little we can do to predict when these will begin or how severe they will be.  We know that the goal of the study was to determine whether reading about weight loss or healthy living can result in changes in lifestyle that positively affect BMI.

    I would expect this test to consider the following;

    • A significant margin of error in all calculations to account for puberty-based bodily fluctuations
    • A significant group size to eliminate outlying variables
    • An upper and lower starting height, weight and BMI for all test subjects to eliminate the chance that an already significantly larger or smaller test subject could affect the results in either direction
    • Regular measurements, at least weekly, to ensure that a standard trend in BMI changes over a long period, but also monthly for bodily cycles, is identified for each test subject.  (In that manner, we would only note as significant any BMI changes that lie outside of the cycle already identified, also accounting for the margin of error)
    • A significant study period, to eliminate the possibility that BMI fluctuations at any measurement stage may be effected by seasonal changes, puberty, monthly cycles, growth spurts and other factors not predicted
    • Evidence that possible outside factors were eliminated from the results.
    This study failed to meet most of these criteria.

    1; We have been provided no margin of error from which to objectively study the results.  However, considering the factors already stated above, one would expect any announced successful "gain" or "loss" of BMI to be of significant amount.  This study resulted in maximum increases in BMI of 0.5% and maximum decreases in BMI of 0.71%, with an overall loss in BMI of 0.33% in the control group.  This seems extremely small at first glance.  More on this later.

    2; The total group size was 64 children, divided into 3 groups.  Firstly, the groups could not have been of equal size since 64 does not neatly divide by 3.  Secondly, this woulds mean approximately 20 children were in each group.  If a single child in one group experienced more significant gains or losses than the rest, this could have a massive affect on the results.  This is a very small test group.

    3; We have been provided no indication of the requirements for the test group, so cannot determine how similar the test subjects were at the start of the test.

    4; The groups were only weighed twice during the entire study; once at the beginning, and once at the end.  That is disgusting.

    5; The test only took place over a period of 6 months.  Considering the massive bodily changes many of the test subjects may have undergone during this period, this seems a woefully inadequate period.

    6; The group all had 2 things in common.  Firstly, that they were already considere obese and secondly, they were already enrolled in another weight loss programme.

    Regarding point 1; we have very unhelpfully not been advised the actual figures as measured.  We don't now what the starting heights, weights and BMI of the test subjects were, so we don't know how much the actual changes represent.  However, we can make a calculation.  I regret that I have been unable to search out any figures for "obese" children in terms of weight and height charts, but this page has a chart for the averages, which I will use for the purpose of calculating some figures.

    Let us take an 11 year old girl, being 56" in height and approximately 81lb in weight.  In other words, 144cm height and 36kg weight.  If this child were to increase their BMI, over a period of 6 months, we can generate the following potential height/weight changes.

    At the extreme ends of the study, discounting the utterly unknown margin of error, the increase in BMI of 0.5% could represent an increase of 0.180kg in weight, or a loss in 0.004metres in height (0.4mm).  In other words, this increase could be the result of a very tiny weight increase or a statistical error in height measurement, depending on the number of decimals to which height was measured (or a child wearing thinner socks the second time around).

    The decrease in BMI of 0.71% could represent a decrease in 0.255kg in weight, or an increase in 0.005m in height (0.5mm).

    Considering that this study was taking measurements of children going through puberty, I would expect that these actual differences would be wildly smaller than the margin of error and therefore UTTERLY NEGLIGIBLE.

  • A Pagan Without a Coven - Reflections

    Well, Mabon (sorry for my previous foolishness calling it Lughnasad; more on that, later) has come and gone.  I managed to complete one large, slightly wonky woven straw cornucopia, and filled it to the brim with more iced cookies and treats than all of my work colleagues, and a few from nearby, could finish.

    My little garden didn't do so well, so I've had very little harvesting to do, although I hope this will change next year, as I'm trying to find out about local allotment spaces for rent.  Instead of harvesting vegetables, I've been studying and expanding my knowledge.  Not so much of ritual and myhtology, but of the practical and everyday side of my faith.  Herbology, medicinal uses for everyday items and household remedies.  Home soap-making, preserving and brewing techniques, and baking.  Straw-crafting, and harvesting from nature.  I've been practicing meditation with my pendulum, and studying my tarot.  I've started working on a set of runestones made from a fallen branch, and have been compiling a personal grimoire of information regarding all of the above.

    I came to Paganism in my late teens, having found a brief spell of flirting with atheism utterly alien and unfulfilling, and having lost any will to believe the rote and scripted, sanitised stories offered up by "organised" religion.  The dawning realisation that my heart was in Pagan faiths came to me organically.  It was less of a conversion... and more an act of discovering that things I had always felt were true, little things that felt so right and small personal rituals I had followed since childhood had a name. 

    It was as though I had spent my life wandering, lost, in a strange land, unable to speak or understand the local language.  Without any memories to tell me from where I had come, or in which direction my home lay, nor any means to ask for directions.  But with always a lingering feeling that I had a home, somewhere, and with odd habits that could only be remnants of my old life, in the home country I could not remember.  Then, one day, I turned a corner after a period of wandering through wilderness, only to see another traveller, dressed like me, and with the same habits as me.  We nod our heads in recognition, and greet eachother in passing.  Our language is the same!  Over time, my will to search renewed, I find more glimpses of the lost land of my birth.  The odd written text in a language I can recognise, or an encounter with people following a ritual that feels familiar.  I haven't yet found the land I call home, but I know its name now, and call to it.

    The thing about all that waffle above is, because of the manner in which I have come to my faith, I have no coven or group to call my own.  My pat of discovery was a path taken alone, and necessarily took what appears at times a tangential direction from that commonly followed by mainstream Pagans.  I've taught myself most of what I know, although my partner has helped me to find my own path, and I get certain things "wrong" as a result.  For a long time I pronounced Samhain phonetically, and I confuse Mabon and Lughnasad all the time.  The Triple Goddess and Horned God that I bow my head to are as much creations of my own understanding of what a God should be as they are the Nature-based deities of old and new Pagan paths.  I think that Terry Pratchett's idea of a "dark morris" for the dark half of the year to balance the colourful and noisy Summer morris dance is really neat.  I self-identify as a "Granny Weatherwax".

    For me, what rituals I do engage in are more about the spiritual than the physical.  I own no "101 spells for beginners" books, nor do I have 20 different coloured candles for appropriate spells.  My wand is a cut, sanded and beeswax-polished piece of wood cut from a fallen branch, not a bright confection of crystals and ribbon with intricate engravings.  My pendulum is plan brass, but very well weighted.  I own no cauldron, scrying stone or crystal ball, although I would like to learn to read tea leaves.  My runes, when completed, will be plain, flat pieces of wood with the relevant symbols burnt into one side.  I do no elaborate dances, sing no chants and focus my energies instead on quiet, ritual meditation, visualising everything that I need.  If an athame is required, there are plenty of knives in my kitchen drawer, and a wonderful, blunt flip-knife given to me by my father.

    If I were to ever sit down with a coven member and discuss Paganism, I am sure they would find me very ignorant regarding my faith, and I don't know if I ever really could join a group, now, as my personal relationship with nature is developed so much, now.  This does leave me feeling somewhat nervous to even try and converse with more learned Pagans, sadly.

    But that doesn't really matter.  Paganism today is likely so very different to the Paganism practiced in older times, and it hasn't done us any harm, so it seems to me that the really important parts will remain regardless of the manner in which one practices.

  • Lughnasad is Coming!

    I'm determined this year to actually find the time to celebrate some of the festivals this year.  I have a bad habit of forgetting until the last minute, which tends to put a severe crimp on the stuff I get to do.  Sadly, I couldn't get Lughnasad off from work this year, or Samhain, so whilst I can start planning now my activity choices are rather limited.

    With this Lughnasad falling on a Monday, I'm going to spend the weekend before preparing.  My boss has given me permission to make some corn dollies and cornucopias and fill them with treats for the guys, since this can be treated as a non-spiritual, general hrvest festival thing.  There isn't, sadly, anywhere nearby that I can purchase wheat stalks, so I'll be using craft straw in bold, Autumnal colours.  I plan on making some mini shortbread bites, shaped into moons and stars and other shapes with my little mini icing cutters, iced gingerbread butterfly biscuits, and candied peel dipped in chocolate, all wrapped up in tissue paper and then stuffed in the cornucopias.

    I'm hoping one of the cheaper craft shops around will have plain masks for painting, so that I can make a set of Holly King and Oak King masks, and also some decorative wreaths and candle-holders made from gathered leaves, nuts and dried berries.

    The roses out by the front of the house are plump with rosehips, so if they are ripe in time I will harvest and candy those as a sweet treat, and with luck the vegetables in the garden will be ready for picking.  Yellow and black courgette, tomatoes, onions, potatoes and several kinds of pepper, so I should be able to have a fun time making preserves a tasty roasted vegetable selection for the Sunday before.

    My recipes for the favours to go in the cornucopias are:

    Candied Orange/Lemon/Lime slices
    Candied Peel  (I have a plan regarding the fruit peeling method, so that the prepared peel will fall in pretty spirals)
    Gingerbread cookies (shaped into butterflies)
    Mini Shortbread Bites (shaped into moons and stars and, perhaps, coated in chocolate)

    For my neighbours, I plan on making slightly larger cornucopias, with a selection of mini chutney jars, some of the candied peel, slices and rosehips, and with luck some spiced or herbed butter blocks rolled in muslin and tied with decorative raffia, perhaps some freshly baked seed buns.

    I'd be interested to know what my fellow Pagans, Wiccans and other harvest celebrators have planned, and how you intend to fit Lughnasad around your working day.

  • Communication- a few handy links and some anecdata for the Menz

    Oh my, yes.

    This is something I have to deal with so often, and I the way it is explained here.  But I would also point out that, far from even failing to apologise when men discover that they are trying to lecture me on a subject I already understand, they can actually become quite aggressive and angry if I dare disagree, or assert my own opinion.

    A little personal anecdata for you;

    In the pub with family, my parents strike up a conversation with a random guy who turns out to be a great lover of popular science.  He starts telling me all about hsi pet theory regarding the pyramids and space aliens and the manner in which they were built, and mentions something that breaks the law of physics.  I try to advise him that one aspect of his theory might not actually be physically possible.

    "I really like that idea, but the forces in effect at that sort of velocity would not-"

    "And what the fuck would you know about it, any way?"

    "It's just that what you're suggesting would break the laws of-"

    "You think you fucking know more than me about this?  How the fuck do you figure that?"

    "Well, I did study astrophysics."

    "Oh."

    What amazed me in that conversation was just how aggressive this guy got.  I hadn't done what I was supposed to do.  Women being spoken to, especially about anything involving science or engineering or other "manly" type things are supposed to be quiet.  We are supposed to coo and wow and show awe and respect for the brilliant ideas that the speaking man has.  We aren't supposed to have opinions, or know anything about the subject, and certainly aren't supposed to disagree.  Somehow, this guy didn't see my response as, say, engaging in debate, but as some sort of threat.  At least, that's the only explanation I can think of for the manner in which he started shouting at me, pointing his finger and swearing.

    And then when I politely informed him that, actually, I was qualified to discuss a physics-related matter with someone on an equal level, and not be a passive vessel for his brain-seed, he just stopped talking to me, turned away, and started talking to someone else.

    Fair enough, maybe he didn't want to debate.  Perhaps this guy was so used to speaking about this sort of thing and getting nothing but "wows" that this was all he was interested in.  If that was the case, then there was still no need for that display of aggression.

    I know many, many men who are wonderful people, but all too often even the really great guys prefer to talk at women, rather than with them.  And it is impossible to engage in any sort of reasoned debate, or make any progress in understanding each other, so long as women are expected to shut up and defer to the wisdom of those with testicles.

    Observe any group that consists solely of women, and the manner in which they will communicate.  Interruptions yes, but nothing aggressive, and everyone will likely interject wit their own opinions and things to say.  Then observe what happens when a man sits down to join in.  Within a short period, he will be speaking most of the time while the women are silent.  The women don't necesarily shut up automatically, but after they are talked over a few times and their opinions shut out, they tend to just give up.

    Also, see here for a great way to possibly help avoid this sort of shit.  A really great post by a male feminist that specifies discussing rape and fear with women, but could easily be extended to any instance where men and women are talking about a subject, and the man assumes he knows more than she does.

  • WLS very, very bad.

    The lovely and talented Lesley over at Fatshionista, had a very interesting article up about WLS today.  Go over here for the full post, but I just wanted to draw attention to a particular point...

     

    [D]espite the growing popularity of obesity surgery — and the general perception that it’s a shortcut to thinness and good health — it’s no easy path. The American Society for Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS) in Gainesville, Florida, puts gastric-bypass surgery’s death rate at between 1 in 1,000 and 1 in 200. In one AHRQ study, 4 in 10 patients developed complications within the first six months, including vomiting, diarrhea, infections, hernias and respiratory failure. Up to 40 percent of gastric-bypass patients can suffer nutritional deficiency, potentially resulting in anemia and osteoporosis; seizures and paralysis have been reported in extreme cases. Some of these malnourished patients experience bizarre neurological problems, as Wells did. [Emphasis added]

    Whoa whoa whoa, hold up there a minute, article! Between 1 in 1,000 and 1 in 200? Does that strike anyone else as being kind of a broad freaking range of potentialities? Is that not a pretty horrifying reminder, in fact, that the exact number of casualties from WLS is totally fucking unknown? And is it not likewise horrifying to realize that doctors nationwide are proffering WLS willy-nilly as a cure-all solution for their fat patients who suffer from basically any health condition, weight-related or not?

     
    Hmmm... well, gosh, who would've thought that intentionally disrupting a fully functional part of the body could cause it to fuck up?

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