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Archive for August, 2016

As I’ve mentioned before, I deal with depression. I’m currently doing it without professional assistance, but I do have a support network, and I take St. John’s Wort and try to use the skills I got from REBT in my daily life.

One of the things I keep remembering is the story of the Two Wolves. It’s a really positive image. More, it’s a great bit of imagery, and it serves as a reminder that every time you follow a thought chain you are building a path in your brain. For me, this doesn’t so much mean that I never follow my mind into dark places, or forbid myself negative feelings (yeah, you can really hurt yourself that way too) but I do make a conscious effort to keep most of my mental trips grounded, and I make sure to indulge in wishful thinking every now and then. Try to use all those different emotional muscles, so they don’t atrophy.

Still, because I’m perverse, and because I reject the idea that a wolf could be evil, now and then I allow that story to morph a bit. The ‘bad wolf’ is more like a wendigo. You think you are feeding it ‘the enemy’ by villifying those who have wronged you. You even get some energy back in the form of renewed anger. Do it long enough, though, and you’ll be feeding it all the time, and that ‘righteous’ anger you get back is all that sustains you. Do it long enough, and one day you’ll realize that the flesh you’ve been feeding it is your own…It’s a powerful image, and I’m fond of it, but I think the two wolves image is more suitable for everyday use.

The upshot is, this has really changed the way I approach serious emotional conflicts. I try to stay away from judging the other person, and I take a long, hard look at my own actions and motivations. I also figure out what reconciliation would take, and whether or not the relationship is worth it (not whether the person is worth it – that never works well).

The upshot is  I am (I’ve been told) the least satisfactory person to come to when you need to vent about how terrible your conflict with someone is, especially if that someone is central to your life.   Which is fine with me, because I’m completely unsatisfied to be put in the middle of other people’s conflicts.  I’m as prone as the next person to feed the drama llama from time to time, but I do my best to make sure that llama is grounded in fiction (literature, video, or role playing games) or distant from my life.  I find it’s just better all around.

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Trigger Warnings

Trigger Warnings are Controversial

A University has now come out with the official statement that the movement to request trigger warnings in schools is an attempt to limit academic freedom.  Neil Gaiman (whom I adore) has publicly mocked the idea of trigger warnings, explaining that being shocked by things is a really important part of life.

They’re missing the point.

The idea of a ‘trigger’ came out of the study of PTSD.  Over 10% of the US population has PTSD at some point in their life.  If you have PTSD you can often function, more or less normally, until something triggers you.  Sudden, unexpected exposure to a trigger might produce flashbacks and/or some kind of psychotic break.  Triggers are very specific to an individual, there is no such thing as a generic trigger, any more than there is a generic trauma.

In many circumstances it is possible for a patient and doctor to figure out a list of things which might trigger someone. If someone (for example a student) has a list of known triggers which could produce serious symptoms, and they go to a person in authority (for example a professor), and explain the situation it should be common practice to get warnings when triggering images will be presented.  If an unreasonable number of people make this request (which seems very likely) it would be logical for the authority figure to ask for some sort of proof of diagnosis, such as requiring the request to come from the individual’s physician or other qualified professional.  At that point, a refusal of the request is basically a refusal to make reasonable accommodation (because what is being requested is a warning, not a substantial change, because modern technology makes it trivial to provide that warning in a timely manner without affecting the environment of others – a text message warning the individual the day before isn’t asking much).  So refusing to provide real trigger warnings, when they are requested, is probably a lawsuit waiting to happen.

Having said that, if we’re talking about general things which might make someone uncomfortable, or even give someone nightmares, that’s not just unreasonable, it’s asking the impossible.  There is no way to label everything which might make someone uncomfortable.  I mean, one of Dottie’s college roomates gets the heebie-jeebies every time she sees a frog.  It really ruins her day.  That’s unfortunate, but it’s not disabling enough to make a focused trigger warning reasonable, nor would a general .’trigger warning’ policy on campus do her any good at all.

People have always wanted to not be made uncomfortable, and I can only guess that the existence of trigger warnings as a ‘thing’ has made many people feel that they want them too, because if someone else gets them it’s ‘only fair’.  I get that as an impulse, but not as a matter of course.

When Abby was a sophomore in High School she tore her ACL.  She was on crutches during the school year, so she had another student carry her books and she got to take the elevator.  That didn’t mean the entire student body did. Yes, the entire student body wanted to have an elevator pass.  Yes, it would have made their school day easier.  It made Abby’s school day possible.

Another example.  Abby has a serious fear (not quite a phobia)  of spiders.  She was required to take an entomology class for her major.  On the syllabus there was one lecture scheduled for arachnids.  She, very sensibly, planned to skip that class and get the notes from another student. The professor ended up moving the schedule around and she ended up in that particular lecture.  So she kept her eyes averted from the overhead, was very uncomfortable, and got through it.  She was confronted by her fear unannounced, but no consequences were triggered.  She would have appreciated a warning that the spidery lecture had been moved, but she couldn’t have gotten a trigger warning because no symptoms were triggered.

So yeah, trigger warnings are a thing.  Those who need them should get them – it’s important.  Those who don’t should be educated on what they are, and re calibrate their expectations a little bit.

Because I’ve picked on Abby enough in this post, there’s a creepy clown behind the cut.  You might not want to look.  It’s your choice, and you have been warned.

(more…)

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Poetic Spam

The following appeared in my Akismet spam queue.  I was tempted to let it go through, because it’s so gosh-darned poetic it’s almost cute.

What is a defense test and do? As it’s, The category is hellbent on facilitating crimes that barefoot running has metamorphosed ideas to begin making users on the other hand together with the pitch almost dependent. They can undertake big; They can not discuss cheap. That they are unable to decant even about the qb

Then again… no.  Friggin’ spammers.

The Job Hunt

So far in August I’ve applied for 13 jobs and had 4 interviews (for three jobs).  This is a lot better than July’s totals, and I have to say that the Maryland Workforce Exchange really showed me how (and why) to target resumes to a job.

One interview (face to face) was with an employment agency, for general Admin work.  The jobs I’m in line for are all very local,they know I want temp to perm,  and they have my resume and vitals on file.  It went well, but I haven’t had a call back.

Two interviews were for a Regulatory Affairs Assistant position.  I expect that it sounds dreadfully dull to 90% of my readers.  Regulations are nobody’s favorite thing, but…  BUT…  it’s research regulation.  These particular dotted i’s and crossed t’s are all about advancing science without allowing the next Tuskeegee experiment (or MKUltra, or some outbreak of GM E coli).  The people were all very nice, from the receptionist on up, and I think I would like working there.  Actually, I am ridiculously excited about the possibility of getting this job.  Not at all excited about the commute, though.

The final interview was for a help desk position for employees of  a company which provides video content.  It was a video interview.  I found it an interesting experience, but not as satisfying as an interview with back and forth.  Fortunately, they’ve asked me to come in for a face-to-face interview on Tuesday.  I’ve read up on their website, and I think I could become ridiculously excited about this one, too (I’ll know more once I’ve actually spoken to employees).  I’m already excited about the commute.  I could take the bus in and walk home, if the weather is nice (depending on the hours I might be willing to walk both ways…  I might do a test walk this weekend and see how it goes).  Maybe I could even get the bike fixed up and cycle in to work.

Obligatory Bragging About the Girls

I know I should shut up and let them toot their own horns, but they’re both doing so amazingly well.  Abby sounds like she’s thoroughly integrated into her village (though she’s very modest about it).  Dottie has been specifically invited to apply to a prestigious paid internship after she graduates.  Exciting stuff.

They’ve also both coming to the conclusion that feminism is ‘a thing’ after all, and not just some hippie nostalgia Mom hangs on to.  It’s a bit disconcerting that there are parallels between the norms and expectations for women and marriage in rural Senegal and rural Ohio.

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Current Crafting

This was going to be a regular WiP Wednesday post, but my WiPs aren’t drastically different than two weeks ago (given the intervening FO Friday post).  I have started one new project, a hat.  Abby tells me that it’s customary for men in the village to wear knitted hats to keep the sun off their heads, and she thinks it would be nice if I were to knit some for her local family.

New WiP

Let me repeat that – knit hats.  In equatorial Africa. I have been asked to knit hats for people living in equatorial Africa.  I…  can’t… even…

Anyway, I started this hat.  It’s got a herringbone stripe, which I’ve never worked before.

Helical

It doesn’t much look it, but it’s actually a lace stitch – decreases are K2TogTBL, and increases are also a TBL.  The result looks very much like a line of knitting perpendicular to the wales.  The thing is, it’s also helical.

Helical Crafting

It’s worked very much like the Guinan hat was worked (in knit rather than crochet).  In that case I crocheted 1/4 of the way around the hat, held the loop in place with a stitch marker, and picked up the previous loop in the contrasting color.

Guinan Spiral

The principle is the same with the knitting, only no stitch marker is needed.  Just pick up the color and knit to two before the next strand was dropped off, slip some stitches, and pick up the next strand.  It’s rather fun to work such a similar technique in both crafts.

Blog Contests and Giveaways

I didn’t win either PhatFiber giveaway.  I’ve entered two new (non crafting) giveaways.  The Smithsonian has a quize giveaway of a tote full of cool sciencey things (2 September), and Smart Bitches Trashy Books is giving away a Kate Spade bag and a gift card to the bookstore of your choice (26 September)

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Random Stuff About My Life

The Post Which Never Was

Back in March I began to write a very long and detailed post about volunteering to be in an NIH study.  It was good, and I was going to finish it and post the whole thing today, but I realized that my memory of the study (which took place in January) is now pretty vague.  So instead of giving you a detailed description, I’m going to have to summarize.

NIH is a cool place to visit
As in oddly scary security screening (although everyone was friendly and polite) giant fishtanks, gorgeous displays, and everyone willing and interested in explaining the science.
They like me there
They appreciate interested and engaged volunteers. I absolutely felt like the favorite volunteer ever!
They like knitting there
There was a lot of waiting around. I figured out how to knit with a tube stuck in me, and a number of people watched. One of the doctors was a knitter, so she kept me thinking about ‘name the famous male knit designers’ instead of the invasive sample she was taking.
There was not fun stuff too
Invasive samples are not fun. Being intubated and having blood taken every few hours is not fun. Fasting and being pumped full of sucrose is not fun. No matter how polite everyone is, and how interested you are in the process, there are going to be not fun parts in human experimentation.

The particular study I was in had to do with the effects of antiinflammatories on metabolic syndrome.  In particular, how antiinflammatory medicine affects the calcium ion channels reaction to insulin in fatty tissue in patients with metabolic syndrome.  I ended up as a healthy control, so they just took one fat biopsy.  Thanks to this study I now know that I don’t have metabolic syndrome, and a little bit more about how my body works.

I may well volunteer for another study, because it was cool.

Looking for Work

Over the past three weeks I’ve put in ten job applications and had four interviews at three different places.  Two phone interviews, one in person interview and one video interview over a phone app.  I’ve got a spreadsheet to track (because I’m that kind of geek).  I have one good interview suit (which I’ve used) and a number of less good but still acceptable options to wear for second interviews.

The three positions I’ve interviewed for are (in chronological order):

  1. Administrative/front office (interview with placement agency)
  2. Regulatory Affairs Assistant
  3. Help Desk

I never thought I’d be interested in any sort of regulatory work, but, honestly, this job would be really exciting.  I wouldn’t be enthused about that commute, though.  Of course, if Steve gets a job near there (and it’s possible) that makes it all come together nicely.

The help desk position is the one which had the video interview.  I’d be providing applications support, and I know that I can handle the job.    It was an odd experience, but it makes sense for this particular company (they produce video content) and it’s only round one.  I hope I make it to round two, because I’d prefer a more interactive interview.

So that’s it, almost.  Except that I do have a literal fridge cleaning recipe.  I made this on Friday, when I realized that there was a cup of home made chicken broth which I had better use up or throw out.  Here’s what I threw together:

Fridge Cleaning Soup Recipe

1 cup homemade broth

1 cob corn

2 baby carrots

2 T quinoa (this is what I used, it was way too much.  2t probably better).

Heat broth over medium heat.  While it’s warming, put the carrot cob in the microwave (husk and all) for one minute. Remove from microwave.  Cut off stem end and squeeze cob out (corn is cooked and cob is shucked all at once).  Cut kernels from cob and discard cob.  Chop up baby carrots.  Add corn, quinoa and carrots to broth and simmer for five minutes.  Remove from stove and eat.

Clean Fridge soup

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It’s been about six months since I’ve done an FO post.  I’m going to post the most recent finished objects, and maybe a few highlights.  Not that I don’t love my projects..

Guinan

Here’s my friend Kay-Megan as Guinan.  She won the costume contest!

I finished Guinan.  The pattern is from Akua Lezli Hope AkuaDesigns, and it’s really fun to crochet.  It’s also a great pattern for variegated yarn (which is always a plus).  I’ll be working this one again.

I also finished the Charming Crawling Eyeball hat. file_medium2

The Abracadabra yarn totally does the right thing in sunlight!

Last but not least, I finally finished the Five sweater.

Five

I’m really happy with how this turned out.  Steve wants to wear it for Anachronism Day at the Renaissance Festival this fall, but I have no idea how we’d come up with the frock coat in time…

Blog Contests and Giveaways

I’ve entered a drawing for Knitter’s Pride Knit Blockers (26 August) and the Expression Fiber Arts $1000 Yarn Giveaway (15 September).

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In yesterday’s post I told you that Abby would introduce you to a scholar if you donate to the Michelle Sylvester Scholarship fund. Since she was still in the Peace Corps Regional House when I let her  know I had she was able to reply right away to tell me who my $20 would be sending to school for a year.  Here’s what she had to say:

This is Aminata Sow!

Aminata speaks Pulaar and lives in a compound with 30 other people – including her cousin, Hawa Ba, who is also an MSS recipient this year. Aminata is a great student, she’s very outspoken in class and is an active member of the English Club. In the future, Aminata wants to grow up to be a flight attendant. She likes math, and wants people who live in other countries to know that Senegal is a very peaceful country, that values “solidarity”. Whenever I stop by her village on my bike, Aminata always insists that I come by to see her family and have some tea.

I feel like I know this girl already. (And I asked Abby to tell her “No ngoolu daa”, which the Interwebs tells me is “Hello” in Pulaar) Notice that there’s no age given?  That’s because, apparently, not all Senegalese keep track of things like age.  I don’t think that’s particular to girls, but it may be.

If you’re interested in donating to the scholarship fund, you can use this form.  The directions say “*Under “Please use this box if you want to send a message of encouragement to this project’s volunteer” please enter “MSS Fund” followed by any encouragement you would like to pass along to the Volunteer”.  If you give her you email address and tell her you would like the bio of your scholar, she’d be glad to send you one.  Or if you leave a comment here with contact info I would be glad to send it along.  Just know that she doesn’t get to the Regional House every weekend, so you might wait a little while for your bio (but it will come).

If you’d like to find out ore about what it’s like to be a Peace Corps Volunteer in Senegal, you can visit Abby’s blog, or her friend Emily’s “slightly more socially conscious” blog.

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