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Jul. 15th, 2011

Blue Stripes

Can I just say I LOVE THIS?

Cause, y'know, I LOVE THIS.

I tried something similar posting elsewhere for a time, but got tired of being whacked with narking about how "we can't tell, nyah nyah nyah". I'm willing to go with their assumptions, in this case.

Tip of the CaitieCap to my lovely buddy eastsidekate, who's just started (at the link) her blog project to raise money for trans-related medical care. I'll be guest-posting over there from time to time, and have a big post brewing for Shakesville on a related topic.

Jul. 5th, 2011

Blue Stripes

This is why I'm not part of movement atheism

(TW for brief mention of rape)

This post is dedicated to the bravery of Ms. Rebecca Watson - you may not have known the storm you'd set off, but I salute your bravery in both attending the con, and in speaking up.

ETA: I have specifically enabled anonymous comments, but anyone not on this LJ's friends list will be screened. Haters, just save it. Not interested. You won't get out of moderation, and I won't read past the first hateful thing I read.

This. (Uppity, Mr Myers? Really?)*

It will surprise few that my favourite take on it is Liss', over at Shakesville.

Why am I not part of movement atheism?

Because we are told that if we want to be part of the movement, we have to put up with the "clueless" sexism of many of our fellow atheists. So clueless they preface their remarks with "Don't take this wrong," which sounds pretty knowing-of-wrongness to me. But if we must speak, we must do so politely and calmly.

Because if we do speak up, politely and calmly, saying "Hey, if we're in $SITUATION, it's really not a good idea to be hitting on me," we are virtually pilloried, the rotten fruit of sexist slurs being slung from every passing privilege-denying dude, and from as many more as they can gather with their WAT ABOUT THE MENZ RAEG ELEVENTY posts and tweets and tumblrs andandand...

Because if we don't speak up politely and calmly, we are ignored for being too rude.

Because if we don't speak up "rudely", we don't get heard at all.

Because if we get heard at all, we're "distracting from our purpose", which we stupidly thought with our silly ladybranez was "equality for all".

Because if we dare to distract, we are criticized for drawing attention away from the Much More Important Sexism in $RELIGION, thus explicitly denying the central core of feminist thought for nearly 50 years, that the personal is political: our own experiences denied to our faces, told they aren't what we experienced, but what we're told we experienced.

Because if we talk about our experiences, we are likewise pilloried, and must be defended, ad nauseam infinitamque.

Because if we try to defend one another for speaking up about it, as we've supposedly been encouraged to do, the reaching for No True Scotsman fallacies would make the poet Burns weep (or Calvinball, as Ms. Marcotte put it).

But most damningly, that even in the home of free thinking and rationalism, sexist privilege can be so in-ground that one of my feminist siblings probably wrote this post in 1965 for a mimeo machine, or 1920 to be set in type on a small press, or any of a number of previous centuries and technologies, about the same kind of men, for the same kinds of reason. It would surprise me not at all to know that in some hidden cave somewhere, a woman's scratched drawing of her view of her world was carefully coloured over with a picture of how many mammoths some man had killed. And probably showed him raping her while doing it, as her "reward" for speaking out.

Because this is what rape culture looks like: women silenced, bad men excused by "good" men, and goalposts that will never stand still for us.

So yeah: This is why I stay right out of movement atheism.**

I encourage other women who've made that choice, or whose experience of misogyny leads them to limit their contact with movement atheism, to leave comments here. I say women, specifically, because while there are undoubtedly progressivist men who are staying out for the same reason, I want this to stand up as a post where atheist men in the movement can see just how many women they're leaving out, while they bleat on about how they want more women in the movement. Here's a clue, guys: if the reason you want more women in the movement is because you're at an atheist conference to get laid, you're part of the problem.

I'll be tweeting this post on @TheCaitieCat. I would be pleased if you'd be so kind as to spread the word.

* How thoroughly disappointing from someone I'd respected. And /sarc me no /sarcs, because there was no such indicator on the title, and it should have been all too clear that your readership remains strongly invested in their privilege, and this just basically told them they're right.

** Imagine that blinking, if you will.

Jun. 29th, 2011

Blue Stripes

On my identity as "partially disabled"

I've been asked a few times why I use this self-identifier, and today's an excellent example of why.

I've finally induced someone to come over and clean my kitchen in exchange for these colourful bits of paper with numbers on them. The kitchen had gotten away from me. I can only do dishes in very small amounts, like one or two dishes at a time, max. And sometimes not that.

But since someone was here, and cleaning, my socialized girlguilt took over, and I felt the urge to get some cleaning done. So I cleaned the toilet. Maybe three minutes work, tops.

And now I can't move. I can't lift my can of Coke. I can't sit, stand or lie down without being in excruciating pain, and that's with every med I have deployed to help me (opiates, muscle relaxants, NSAIDS, and a certain smokable herb which can be good for pain-induced nausea).

In a matter of several hours, if it follows the usual pattern, I'll be able to do a couple of stretches, click my SI joint back to where it belongs, and I'll be able to move again. I'll be back to my usual daily 4-7 (on a scale of 10), instead of this mind-shrivelling 11.

Some days, I could make good use of a wheelchair. Other days, the cane is plenty, and other days, I could probably go without even the cane (but I've long since learnt: those days can turn ugly very, very quickly, and then I'll be very unhappy I don't have my stick).

So, "partially" disabled.

Jun. 28th, 2011

Blue Stripes

Joining the twittersnappers

Well, sorta.

I'm now on Twitter as @TheCaitieCat.


I won't be following anyone, save for feeds relevant to progressivist and feminist causes. I will be specifically aiming to find and follow such feeds that are in French, German, Spanish, and Russian, initially, and eventually in Arabic and Mandarin (but not yet!). I'm also interested in feeds relating to international aspects of feminism and progressivism in English or any of the above languages. Where possible, I'll provide a quick translation of the non-English ones when I re-tweet them.

I won't be following anyone because my phone was state-of-the-art in 1999, and I have the World's Worst Cell Contract for it. And I don't want my e-mail overrun with Yet Another Timesink: my blogroll would take up several feet of bogroll already.

So, if you've links to foreign-language feeds that fit the above, I'm definitely interested. But please don't be upset when I don't follow your personal twitter, as I still much prefer the longer (Livejournal/blogging) form for personal contact. As this post shows, I have a hard time making a sentence in less than 140 characters, let alone an update I'd bother to post.

aqua-coloured-ungulate version*: CC tweets now. Give FR/DE/RU/ES-lang feeds for progressivist/feminist causes, and non-NAm-focused p/f feeds in English or above langs.

* See? I can't even say "tl;dr" without making it longer.

Jun. 13th, 2011

Blue Stripes

Just a little one

I <3 Weregeek SO SO MUCH.

Alina Pete: My hero. Buy her books, now!

Apr. 28th, 2011

Blue Stripes

Car Caitie-Four, Where Are You?

I'd like to say that I'm lying low because I've decided to live off the grid in anticipation of a victory by the horrid Conservatives in the upcoming election, but the numbers aren't looking that way, and anyway, off the grid is hard when you're medically dependent on a fairly specific medication regimen.

So really where I've been is the same place I usually am, home with a touch of office1, only for the last couple of weeks, I've been hors-d'Intertoobz, as it were, having failed to convince my ISP/cable provider/phone company/cell contractor2: when living hand-to-mouth, sometimes things get behind a little, or a lot, and in this case, it got behind enough that they're all turned off, meaning I'm living on a sort of virtual Gilligan's Island just now:

No phone, no cell, no Internet,
Not a first-world luxury,
Like Robin E. Crusoe
Oh woe is first-world me.

So yeah. I have a friend to whose home I can go and borrow cups of Intertoobz as needed, but if I'm slower to respond to e-mails, it's because I'm only checking them a few times a day, instead of my usual manic check-every-couple-of-minutes pace.

And since depression sucks ass like it were a tasty tasty donut, it's been a bit hard to push past the physical disability to go to my friend's place to borrow that cup of Toobz (I can't drive when I have all my meds going, and the bus is its own...special place...for my spinal challenges).


That's the State of the Cait. I'm online sporadically, but be patient with my ability to contact you, as there's a bit of a perfect storm going on here3. Apparently-Normal service will eventually resume.

1 More than a touch, actually, these days; I've got a contract at the office of a bank here in Canada where we handle mortgages for a particular type of building)

2 All of my services are through the one company. Great discounts that way, but...

3 That is: it's spring, so cold and damp, so my back is extra-sore most of the time (call it a 2-point overall increase on my 10-point pain scale). Depression means I don't sleep as well as I'd like, which means I suffer from both inzombia (being brainless undead because of sleep-dep) and what I like to call insomnialgia, or pain inspired by insomnia, which goes so well with the lower pain tolerance afforded by sleep-dep. Thus: more pain, plus less sleep, plus lower pain tolerance, equals Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most.

Apr. 4th, 2011

Blue Stripes

Canadian Elections, and renaming parties

Canada's having a national election. We're in the Westminster parliamentary system, divided into a number of "ridings", each of which has an electoral race. The winner of each race is empowered to take a seat in the House of Commons, and the party with the most seated members is offered first pop at making a government - a majority, if they have more than half, or a minority if they have less.

I'm mentioning this because I'm reading a lot of despair from the US from lefty folk who feel horrid that there are only two viable alternatives, being the Neofascist American Pious Imperalist party (the NAPIs, whose American abbreviation is "GOP") and the Slightly Liberofascist American Pious Imperialist party (the SLAPIs).

Many have mentioned how they were dreaming of Canada - so I thought I'd point out what can, unfortunately, happen under a multi-party system (as opposed to the current American 1.1-party system). Currently, we have five major parties.

(play the Emperor's March from Star Wars here)

The recently-fallen government was a CPC (non-communist)* one, this being our own homemade version of the NAPIs, whom I'll call the "Slightly Less Imperially Fascist Than American SLAPIs", or SLIFTAS. They are unpleasant, socially conservative, typical tax-and-spend bigot-friendly neoliberals. Their leader (who would become PM if they form a government) is the Harpertron 5000.

There is also a centrist party, the "Liberals", whose name has become more true in recent years (though truth in advertising would call them the Neo-Liberal party). Their party leader is a dreadful soulless hole in space, with a summer place in Massachusetts.

There are, sadly, a few leftist parties: the Liberals like to pretend they're leftist (but are centre-right on the Canadian scene), while the New Democrat Party (fair disclosure: I'm a member) and the newish** Green Party split the leftist vote so that neither gets very much.

There is also a real kicker in the pan, that being the BQ, a socially progressive, fiscally centre-left Quebec nationalist party, who only run candidates in Quebec (which has something like 70 seats). Since they tend to take a good majority of the Quebecois ridings, we're tending toward a series of minority governments, or possibly (if we're lucky) a centre-left coalition, but it's very hard for any other party to take a national majority at this point. A quarter of the seats are in Quebec - meaning anyone wanting a majority has to win 51% of the seats outside Quebec, and that's really tough, needing nearly two-thirds of the seats in the rest of the country if you get none in Quebec. Many Canadians consider this a flaw; I don't agree. The BQ aren't doing anything forbidden by the system, and it'd be interesting to see a discussion of Scottish-style devolution of power as applied to Quebec. They've as much right to form a party as the SLIFTAS do.

So there, a very slanted, utterly biased view of the upcoming Canadian election, to give a little detail to my lefty American friends' dreams.

* The CPC has, for several decades, meant the Communist Party of Canada. Recently, the Progressive Conservatives dropped the repellent "Progressive" part of their party's name (truth in advertising, there), becoming a second "CPC".

** Newish to Canada as a nationwide party.

Mar. 15th, 2011

Blue Stripes

More detail on the situation with the Japanese nuclear reactors damaged by the quake/tsunami

Caitie's note: annepropriate1 sent me this incredibly informative and clear explanation of the situation in re: the Japanese nuclear plants currently experiencing some unhappiness after the earthquake/tsunami combo. The teal-deer version is basically what I posted last night; this goes into things much more deeply, and from someone much better informed than my laywoman's understanding. The following is entirely the work of People Who Are Not Me.

Along with reliable sources such as the IAEA and WNN updates, there is an incredible amount of misinformation and hyperbole flying around the internet and media right now about the Fukushima nuclear reactor situation. In the BNC post Discussion Thread - Japanese nuclear reactors and the 11 March 2011 earthquake (and in the many comments that attend the top post), a lot of technical detail is provided, as well as regular updates. But what about a layman's summary? How do most people get a grasp on what is happening, why, and what the consequences will be?

Below is a summary on the situation prepared by Dr Josef Oehmen, a research scientist at MIT, in Boston. He is a PhD acientist, whose father has extensive experience in Germany's nuclear industry. This was first posted by Jason Morgan earlier this evening. It is very important that this information be widely understood.

Please also take the time to read this: An informed public is key to acceptance of nuclear energy - it was never more relevant than now.


I am writing this text (Mar 12) to give you some peace of mind regarding some of the troubles in Japan, that is the safety of Japan's nuclear reactors. Up front, the situation is serious, but under control. And this text is long! But you will know more about nuclear power plants after reading it than all journalists on this planet put together.

There was and will *not* be any significant release of radioactivity.

By "significant" I mean a level of radiation of more than what you would receive on - say - a long distance flight, or drinking a glass of beer that comes from certain areas with high levels of natural background radiation.

Cut for lengthCollapse )

Now, where does that leave us?

* The plant is safe now and will stay safe.
* Japan is looking at an INES Level 4 Accident: Nuclear accident with local consequences. That is bad for the company that owns the plant, but not for anyone else.
* Some radiation was released when the pressure vessel was vented. All radioactive isotopes from the activated steam have gone (decayed). A very small amount of Cesium was released, as well as Iodine. If you were sitting on top of the plants' chimney when they were venting, you should probably give up smoking to return to your former life expectancy. The Cesium and Iodine isotopes were carried out to the sea and will never be seen again.
* There was some limited damage to the first containment. That means that some amounts of radioactive Cesium and Iodine will also be released into the cooling water, but no Uranium or other nasty stuff (the Uranium oxide does not "dissolve" in the water). There are facilities for treating the cooling water inside the third containment. The radioactive Cesium and Iodine will be removed there and eventually stored as radioactive waste in terminal storage.
* The seawater used as cooling water will be activated to some degree. Because the control rods are fully inserted, the Uranium chain reaction is not happening. That means the "main" nuclear reaction is not happening, thus not contributing to the activation. The intermediate radioactive materials (Cesium and Iodine) are also almost gone at this stage, because the Uranium decay was stopped a long time ago. This further reduces the activation. The bottom line is that there will be some low level of activation of the seawater, which will also be removed by the treatment facilities.
* The seawater will then be replaced over time with the "normal" cooling water
* The reactor core will then be dismantled and transported to a processing facility, just like during a regular fuel change.
* Fuel rods and the entire plant will be checked for potential damage. This will take about 4-5 years.
* The safety systems on all Japanese plants will be upgraded to withstand a 9.0 earthquake and tsunami (or worse)
* I believe the most significant problem will be a prolonged power shortage. About half of Japan's nuclear reactors will probably have to be inspected, reducing the nation's power generating capacity by 15%. This will probably be covered by running gas power plants that are usually only used for peak loads to cover some of the base load as well. That will increase your electricity bill, as well as lead to potential power shortages during peak demand, in Japan

1 annepropriate is herself a nuclear engineer, so this has the Seal of the Truly Informed on it. :)

Mar. 14th, 2011

Blue Stripes

In re: Japan and fallout

Give the only people in the world to have suffered deliberate nuclear attack1 some credit, folks. The Japanese know what they're doing with their atomsmashers.

A) The reactors and their various containment structures have worked appropriately, and were almost unaffected by the quake.

B) Yes, unaffected. It was the tsunami, cutting them off from electrical sources and, crucially, wiping out their diesel tanks (with which the pumps for cooling would have continued to work) which has created the series of problems. The reactors shut down immediately, as they were supposed to, and have since begun being cooled by seawater indundation. The reactors are unsalvagable anyway, given the piles have suffered partial meltdown.

C) Yes, there was some small discharge into the air. Even very close to the reactor, these have not been of levels likely to affect human health, and the map that's going around (ostensibly from the Australian Radiation Services agency) showing hundreds-of-rads levels of exposure on the US and Canadian west coasts (and Hawaii) are wildly inaccurate, and denied utterly by that agency.

D) The explosions have been due to hydrogen buildup after the piles were partially exposed, and were a known issue - again, the tsunami wiping out the backup generators' fuel supply meant that the hydrogen scrubbing equipment wasn't able to operate, but the various other non-powered safety features have worked appropriately.

E) Despite all the high rhetorical heat surrounding the issue, the Japanese are excellent operators of nuclear power, with an outstanding safety record.

Besides which...if you must be critical, maybe you could save your "I told you so" for after they've dealt with more than ten thousand of their compatriots killed?

1 The islanders whose atolls were devastated by nuclear testing were definitely affected, but it wasn't meant as an attack on them or their home - reprehensible experimentation with non-consenting human subjects? Absolutely! - but not deliberate attack.

Feb. 25th, 2011

Blue Stripes

Union Girl In A Capitalist World

I grew up with the tales of unions. My granddads were unionized - one a merchant seaman, the other a postman (yes, that's what they were - they both retired before much progress had been made in career nomenclature) - and I grew up with their stories of how each had served time as stewards of their respective locals. Of the strikebreakers, "the plod" (the police, as one granddad rendered it), the bosses' retaliation against the stewards and their families, all the dirty tricks and outright illegalities the rich would use to keep the worker down: separated, isolated, vulnerable.

It's no coincidence that I grew up to dally with the Communist Party of Canada (carried a card for a bit), or that I've always been more socialist than most people I knew. It's not coincidence that I learned German (the language of Marx, and of Lenin's exile), and Russian (the language of international communism), and French (les communards, the internationale, allons enfants de la patrie...). And I say this, though I've been a member of three unions only in my life, none for longer than six months, and two of which were instrumental in getting me fired (I was temping at all three closed shops, where a weird setup happened: I had to pay dues to the union, but the union didn't consider me "part" of it in terms of my being able to apply for jobs as an inside worker, or to continue in a job that hadn't been posted and didn't have a job description while permanent workers were being laid off). Because in each case, the shops those unions represented are all still union shops, and the workers have more job security (in this appalling economy), more benefits, better pensions, than non-unionized similar workers. That's a lot of lives given a stress-reducing level of security, a lot of potential children growing up in homes that don't live hand-to-mouth, or cheque-to-cheque, a lot fewer families (remember families? those things the GOP pretend to support so much? don't unionized public workers - like, say, firefighters and police officers? - don't they have families too? Or are only management families to be supported?) torn apart by stressors from outside.

That's a better society, and I believe in that. So yes, I'm a union girl in a capitalist world. And if the time ever comes when my own little business comes to the point of having employees, and if those employees want to join a union, I will encourage them to do so, because unions? They're just about the only legal way/place for the working class to unite and feel the power. And this Walker fellow in Wisconsin, he's transparently aiming squarely at destroying the unions, the last and only legal way for the working class to feel strong together, since the HUAC fiasco.

This is my usual long-winded way of working around to saying Go Wisconsin labo(u)r! Up the Unions! Out with the Downpressor Man! Bread and roses to the workers and their supporters in Wisconsin, and those in other states demonstrating.

Bella ciao!

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