Awesome Award: Elina Berglund and her contraceptive app

Photo Source: Official Leweb Photos (flickr)

Elina Berglund. She is already better than all of us for being a Swedish nuclear physicist (who discovered the Higgs Boson, by the by). Now she has crossed over into incredible awesomeness territory by turning her superior brain onto birth control.

Right now birth control is pretty much all weird or scary or stressful or invasive or painful or unreliable or unsexy or depression-inducing or estrogenizing the planet or frighteningly expensive or or or or!

Don't get me wrong. We live in a golden era of birth control. You can put a little plastic device inside your body and then not have to worry about pregnancy for FIVE YEARS. That is pretty incredible.

It's just that there are so many trade offs with every birth control option right now: what if you can't afford it or the hormones are bad for you or your body doesn't react well to plastic inside its cervix? What if you are allergic to latex or prone to breast cancer? What if you live in a country that keeps making it harder and harder to access birth control?

Now there is actually a clinically-tested app for that. An APP. That you download onto your phone. That has been proven to work just as well as the birth control pill. That Elina Berglund invented. Because she is awesome.

The app works pretty simply: sign up for a subscription and take your temperature every morning. Then it will tell you if you're fertile that day or not and you decide whether you should have sex and/or use another form of contraceptive that day.

I genuinely feel more empowered knowing that this exists.

Elina, you are awesome!

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Cute! Roundup: There is a live-streaming reality show of KITTENS! Nothing else matters! (But there are other cute things here, too.)

Can you spot the Gertie in this picture?

Cute! Roundup includes Keeping Up With the Kattarshians, a live-stream reality show of kittens in a dollhouse! Plus a baby owl who wants treats, a puppy who doesn't do Mondays, and more kittens.

Other Cuteness:

KEEPING UP WITH THE KATTARSHIANS!!!! This requires so many all caps! It's basically a reality show of four kittens living together in a dollhouse. You can stream it live anytime. Kill me now.

Baby owl wants treats!

Mondays, amiright?

Kitty keyboard!

Come along, babies!

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Singalong! Head Over Feet by Alanis Morissette

I'm feeling a bit romantic today, so I want to sing along with Alanis and her ode to love.

by Alanis Morissette

I had no choice but to hear you
You stated your case time and again
I thought about it

You treat me like I'm a princess
I'm not used to liking that
You ask how my day was

You've already won me over in spite of me
And don't be alarmed if I fall head over feet
Don't be surprised if I love you for all that you are
I couldn't help it
It's all your fault

Your love is thick and it swallowed me whole
You're so much braver than I gave you credit for
That's not lip service

You've already won me over in spite of me
And don't be alarmed if I fall head over feet
Don't be surprised if I love you for all that you are
I couldn't help it
It's all your fault

You are the bearer of unconditional things
You held your breath and the door for me
Thanks for your patience

You're the best listener that I've ever met
You're my best friend
Best friend with benefits
What took me so long

I've never felt this healthy before
I've never wanted something rational
I am aware now
I am aware now

You've already won me over in spite of me
And don't be alarmed if I fall head over feet
Don't be surprised if I love you for all that you are
I couldn't help it
It's all your fault

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Learning! Roundup: Ballet and the brain, sounds of silence, police at pride, and more!

Ballet and the Brain

Dance is good for our brains in so many ways, but it's possible that the rigid control ballet requires leads children to suppress their emotions.

Sounds of Silence

Turns out we're not experiencing enough SILENCE and that one in five people are now losing their hearing because of it. So basically, our ears are like, "if you won't let me rest and give me silence, I will make you live in silence!"

Netflix Knows Your Thoughts

Remember the Portlandia sketch about mind fi? Where people download apps into their brain to think through the internet? Well, we're one step closer. Netflix engineers have created a headband that lets people control content with their mind.

This makes me uncomfortable.

Swishing Sugar for Speed

A new study has shown that athletes who swish a sugary liquid in their mouths, but don't swallow, perform better in endurance running challenges than those who don't. So apparently you don't even need to ingest sugar to get energy from it?

Straight Men Who Kiss Men

There is a general "wisdom" out there that women's sexuality is fluid while men's is starkly categorized. This is somewhat supported by research - women are physiologically (although not psychologically) aroused by pretty much any sexual image, whereas men are only aroused (physiologically and sexually) by images of sex that match their orientation.

However, straight men do have sexual encounters with other men. Here's how they explain them.

Why No Police at Pride?

If you are in tune with the happenings between many chapters of the Black Lives Matter movement and Pride Parades, you know that there is a lot to dig into there. I, personally, did feel a little conflicted. On one hand, police organizations, as a whole, have a very bad history with queer communities and I can see how their participation in the parade would be alienating to some people. On the other hand, Pride may have begun as a protest, but it is now a celebration of inclusion. Isn't is a powerful statement of inclusion to have the once-oppressive force marching in support?

This article in the National Observer helped me flesh out my understanding.

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This Week in Church: Being a peacemaker (again)

Welcome to the series wherein I share my take-aways from church. The things that, I think, are beneficial to all of us to know or think about, whether or not we believe in any church-related things.

This week in church we talked, again about being peacemakers.

"If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." -Romans 12:18

That's about as clear a directive as any, isn't it?

Well, it is and it isn't, because what does it mean to live at peace with everyone? How do you live at peace with someone when you disagree with them? Can you peacefully fight back? Probably we can look at someone like Martin Luther King Jr. for some help with that idea.

This week in church we talked about the prodigal son.

Specifically, we talked about the "good son" and the father. We talked about how it can sometimes be hard to see someone else receiving forgiveness and feel true joy for them. The question was raised of how we can be more like the father in the story, handing out forgiveness, love, and, ultimately, peace like it's free?

Good question! I am really good at forgiving people, as long as they deserve it. So that's not a problem, right? (That is a joke, but they way, obviously the point of forgiveness isn't just to give it to people who "deserve" it, because what the heck does that even mean?)

Seriously, though, why is it hard sometimes to see people get forgiven? Because we want to see them get "what they deserve", right? Maybe because we think we're a little (or a lot) better than them? Because we worked hard and they cheated and the outcome shouldn't be equal. What's interesting in this story is that the outcome isn't equal - the son who left has used up his inheritance, he won't get anything after his Dad dies. Right now, though, he will live as a son again. He will be welcomed and celebrated, something that feels wrong when you've been nursing anger and feelings of superiority.

I wonder how much our pride and feelings of superiority really come into play in these situations? We are better, and so we suffered (or because we suffered) and thus deserve a reward.

This week in church we talked about prayer.

Specifically, prayer was presented as both a way to get into yourself and get over yourself.

This was a really really good way of describing what I have felt to be the benefit of prayer for a long time, but couldn't articulate. You get to go deep with yourself and understand what's really going on, while at the same time getting a wide perspective on everything, seeing your smallness in it all.

This week in church we talked about love.

"Love makes every effort."

Every effort. That is a tall order. I immediately want to put parameters on it: every effort with which people? Where? For how long? How lopsided is this effort?

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Inspiration! Roundup: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, feminine monsters, Rosa Parks' rent, and more!

Inspiration! Roundup includes marriage advice from Ruth Bader Ginsberg, feminine monsters, the Little Caesar's owner paying Rosa Parks' rent and some wisdom from Marcel the Shel
This Week's "I want to go to there":
I normally don't have much of a sweet tooth, but lately, this is alllllll I want!

RBG Knows What's Up
“‘In every good marriage,’ she counseled, ‘it helps sometimes to be a little deaf.’ I have followed that advice assiduously, and not only at home through 56 years of a marital partnership nonpareil [Ginsburg’s husband Martin died in 2010]. I have employed it as well in every workplace, including the Supreme Court. When a thoughtless or unkind word is spoken, best tune out. Reacting in anger or annoyance will not advance one’s ability to persuade.”
– Ruth Bader Ginsburg
This is, of course, sage advice. Sometimes you've just got to turn a deaf ear and a blind eye to something. My question is not on the wisdom of the suggestion, but on carrying it through. How the HECK are you supposed to do that??? Like, actually, how? Are any of you good at ignoring or forgetting mean or hurtful comments? From people you love? I mean, it's one thing to write off some idiotic statement from a person you don't care about, but from your beloved? UGH, I am SO BAD AT THAT! I can't even be around my partner when he's in a bad mood without it rubbing off on me, and he doesn't say mean things.

Feminine Monsters

Ooooh, this one is fun! Check out Bonnie Lucas' series of works that she calls "feminine monsters", featured on Hyperallergic. She takes sugar and spice and make them oh so not nice.

Hello, Future Self

A lot of goal-setting practices have you imagining your future self as you would like to be, and then figure out how to get there. Here's another tactic: imagine that you don't really change anything about your life. What will it be like in 5-10 years?

Think about your relationships, your home, your finances, your careers, your body and health, your hobbies, everything. Who will you have the closest relationship to? What will you be good at? How much money will you have saved? Will you body be healthy? Will you have a job?

Don't forget that inflation is a real thing that is guaranteed to happen, and that certain things will always deteriorate, like your body, relationships that have been left unattended, and skills you aren't practicing.

Honest Talk About Parenting

As I watch all my friends have babies, and hope to one day carry one of those little criers around, I am both discouraged and encouraged to read some real talk about parenting: some parents - some mothers - regret having children. And that's okay. I mean, it sucks, because you can't undo having kids, even if you run away from them, they're still there, but it's okay to realize that, just like any other life decision, you don't have to be constantly happy about being a parent.

How to Double Female Filmmakers

Tropfest is the world's largest short film festival, and a little while ago they realized that they had a tiny number of female finalists in their competition. They looked around, realized that implicit bias is a thing, and decided to judge the films without knowing the name or age of the participant.

Suddenly, the ratio of men to women is more like 50/50! Look at that.

Who Paid Rosa Parks' Rent?

The owner of Little Caesars, who just passed away, is now revealed to have paid Rosa Parks' rent for years. What a perfect example of a person doing what they can to help! He was a wealthy white man, and knew that one thing he could do is support this woman so that she had a roof over her head while she fought for her rights.

It's Worth It!

My friend Alison made this excellent cross stitch, reminding us all of Marcel the Shell's wisest words.

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Ladies! Listen up! Our time has COME thanks to Mensez!

Here's a fun thing making the rounds on social media: Mensez!

What's Mensez, you ask? Judging by the name, it's a platform for men to share their thoughts and feelings (you know, "man says", but written out all cool-like?)

HAHA, nope! Well, actually, yes.

It's a new menstrual product invented by a man who thinks he understands women's anatomy (and desires) better than we do. So essentially, it's mansplaining in product form.

The product itself is a lipstick-shaped glue that a refined woman would use to stick together her labia, holding period blood in. Then, when she pees, it dissolves the glue and her pee and period blood all flow down into the toilet. Then, I guess, she re-glues herself?

So.... No. Nobody wants this. I mean, maybe some people want this, but I can't imagine that being comfortable AT ALL, let alone leak-proof. How is this an improvement over pads, tampons, Diva Cups, period undies, or getting an IUD and not even having a period????

Also, the website is also hilarious. Let's unpack it:

Overall Impressions:

The whole thing is kind of blurry/pixelated, even the text, giving the website a sort of 1996 Geocities look (minus the flashing text). In fact, the font, picture, and layout really give the whole thing a very old school vibe, but not really in a good way.

Also, I know that the feminine hygiene industry loves posting pictures of women's faces when talking about our reproductive organs, but this picture seems especially out of place, since it's clearly a stock image for mascara. Or maybe contact lenses. Or mind-reading.

1) The tag line for this product is "a feminine lip-stick."

Because lipstick is generally considered to be so masculine? Also, hahaha, "lip-stick", because it looks like lipstick and it sticks our lips together! So funny!

2) "Your time has come..."

Kudos for coming up with a dramatic line, but for what? What time? Was I waiting for something? I don't understand.

Actually, here's what I am waiting for: I am waiting for a national childcare strategy, so that more women are able to go back to work after having children; I am waiting for women of colour to start earning the 77 cents on the dollar that white women make, so that we can all start working towards equal wages; I am waiting for transgendered people to be considered equal to their cis-gendered counterparts.

Does Mensez help with any of that, or is it just a weird glue that will probably come apart at the most inopportune time, releasing a cascade of period blood all at once?

3) It's always a good sign when a company has a message like this on their front page.

PR tip: instead of putting a note on the front page of your website, simply take down the invitation to like you on Facebook on other parts of your site. Maybe put a small note there explaining why your Facebook page is gone.

4) "Control... would you like more control over your period?"

Okay, let's say that I do want more control over my period. What would that actually look like?

The first thing that springs to mind is being able to decide when it does or doesn't happen. That is the epitome of control, right?

If I can't do that, then maybe controlling my period would look like, oh I don't know, taking a pill that determines when my period happens and having the choice to skip it over by taking more pills if I want to, or having a little device inserted into my body that completely stops my period from happening. THAT sounds like having more control over my period.

Perhaps it's my period-addled brain, but I just don't understand how gluing my labia together gives me any more control over my period than tampons, pads, or menstrual cups, nor do I see how a clip-art image of a file folder and pencil connects to this concept at all.

5) "Mensez is based on the theory that modern bathing habits, while helpful in most respects, wash away some protective bodily compounds that previously helped control menses (as discharge from the uterus at menstruation is known). Mensez is simply a natural replacement for those compounds."

WHAT? What? What? What?

I don't know what else to say to this. Modern bathing habits wash away protective bodily compounds that help control our periods? We have period-controlling bodily compounds? And this glue helps replace them? So women's bodies used to have some kind of natural period-controlling glue? WHAT?

I can't even think of what to google to fact-check this. Because I'm pretty sure women in the past just had normal periods.

Also, what is he talking about with "modern bathing habits"? Douching? Soap? Because those things are bad for our vaginas and so I don't think that's a super common practice.

6) This website is FULL of explanations of what menses is.

WE GET IT. It refers to menstrual fluids. Also, we just call them periods, usually. Is this website for women, who have periods and understand what they are? Or for men who are a bit confused about what a period even is?

OH OH OH OH OH! On another page it says "Mensez Feminine Lip-Stick: for the woman you could be"!

By "the woman I could be" are you referring to a much more uncomfortable, nervous, and irritable woman? Because I can only imagine that as the outcome of gluing my vulva shut five days a month.

Finally, an inspirational quote from the creator of this product:
“[Y]ou as a woman should have come up with a better solution than diapers and plugs, but you didn’t. Reason being women are focused on and distracted by your period 25% of the time, making them far less productive than they could be. Women tend to be far more creative than men, but their periods that [sic] stifle them and play with their heads.”
-Daniel Dopps
Read more of his gems in this Forbes interview.

Mr. Dopps! Please tell us more about our bodies and brains and potential. We're listening!

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Let's make a love deposit, because I'm secretly sabotaging our relationship with my negativity

I recently read this article on treating your relationship like a bank account. Not in the sense of monetizing it (although, awesome?), but in "depositing" positive interactions, to make sure you don't run out.

The idea comes from Dr. John Gottman, basically the biggest expert in everything to do with relationships, and his theory that relationships that last have 5 positive interactions for every 1 negative interaction.

So far, so good. This makes sense. Those little negative bits can add up, so why not be intentional about throwing some good stuff in there?

I was chatting with my own partner about this idea, when suddenly I realized something: me being secretly annoyed him COUNTS AS A NEGATIVE INTERACTION. He just doesn't know it's happening.

Well, bugger.

(Now this is reminding me of how Jesus said that murdering someone in your head is just as bad as murdering them in real life. That's one HUGE negative interaction that person doesn't know you've had. That relationship is doomed.)

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Cute! Roundup: Kitty toddlers, sleepy porcupines, dik-diks, manatee belly scratches, and more!

You know how parents of toddlers talk about not being able to turn around for even a second without their offspring getting into something they shouldn't be? Well, I clearly completely understand what it's like to raise a child, because I turn around and Gertie is up on the counter, drinking out of my water glass.

Cute! Roundup of adorable pictures to start your week

Other Cuteness:

Mondays are sleepy, amiright?

Papa-pup cuddle hour!

Why are interspecies BFFs just SO AWESOME? Because they are!

I didn't even know what a dik-dik was until I saw this cutie.

Gimme some belly scratches.

Also, this cat reflects a lot of our current statuses, no?:

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Singalong! Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood by Nina Simone

Isn't this the cry of all of our hearts? To not be misunderstood? Sing it, Nina, and we'll sing along!

by Nina Simone

Baby you understand me now
If sometimes you see that I'm mad
Doncha know no one alive can always be an angel?
When everything goes wrong, you see some bad

But I'm just a soul whose intentions are good
Oh Lord, please don't let me be misunderstood

Ya know sometimes baby I'm so carefree
With a joy that's hard to hide
And then sometimes again it seems that all I have is worry
And then you're bound to see my other side

But I'm just a soul whose intentions are good
Oh Lord, please don't let me be misunderstood

If I seem edgy
I want you to know
I never mean to take it out on you
Life has its problems
And I get more than my share
But that's one thing I never mean to do

Cause I love you
Oh baby
I'm just human
Don't you know I have faults like anyone?

Sometimes I find myself alone regretting
Some little foolish thing
Some simple thing that I've done

Cause I'm just a soul whose intentions are good
Oh Lord, please don't let me be misunderstood

Don't let me be misunderstood
I try so hard
So please don't let me be misunderstood

Sing along with Nina Simone in Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood (lyrics provided)
Photo Source: Roland Godefroy

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Learning! Roundup: Get politics out of your feed, black cowboys, cerebral palsy, and more!

Image by Zabou

How to Remove Politics from Your Facebook Feed

If you're oscillating in the battle between staying informed and keeping your sanity, while still wanting to actually connect with your friends on Facebook (weird, I thought that's what Facebook was supposed to be about - or is it only for political diatribes?), then here is a solution! Real Simple has gathered together a collection of ways to eliminate politics from your Facebook feed. The suggestions range from installing the Social Fixxer plugin and eliminating posts with keywords like "Trump" to unfollowing the particularly virulent posters in your feed to banishing your feed all together, or just up and quitting Facebook.

Black Cowboys

Quick! Let's all picture a cowboy! Now read this Hyperallergic article about black cowboys and how they existed before they were whitewashed out of our memories.

About Cerebral Palsey

Don't know much about CP, or what it's like for people who live with it. This video from Zach Anner lists his top ten things he wishes people knew about cerebral palsey. It's hilarious and informative.

What It's Like to Be a Neo-Nazi

Have you grown up sheltered enough that you sometimes look at news about terrorists and neo-Nazis and wonder how on earth someone learned to hate so much? Me too.

Here is a really fascinating interview with a Quebec man who used to be a neo-Nazi. He speaks openly and candidly about what drew him to the movement and what changed his mind.

How Black Children Learn About the Police

The relationship between black people and the police has been, obviously, in the news for a while. This video is a really eye-opening and emotional look at how black parents have to teach their kids about dealing with the police.

Post-Election Slump

Feel like you've been less productive since the election? You're not alone. A new survey shows that about a third of people have lost productivity since the election.

How Job Listings Screen Out Disabled People

A handy reminder for anyone in a position to do some hiring: watch out for things in your job listing like "must be able to life 25lbs" or requirements of "normal" communications methods. Does the job ACTUALLY require that? Are there no ways you can work around someone with a disability? Here are some ways that your job listing might inadvertently be screening out people with disabilities.

Ten Black Female Academics to Watch

Hidden Figures was a FANTASTIC movie and a reminder of the erasure of black women from history. Want to avoid having to make another Hidden Figures in 30 years? Learn about these ten black women who are rocking their academic fields.

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Hidden Figures: Thoughts and feelings and questions

Earlier this week, I watched Hidden Figures. It was a really wonderful, inspirational movie for so many reasons.

Image by Dunne Designs (Tumblr)

It also highlighted one of my biggest pet peeves about movies, plays, and books that tell stories of historical racism: I think they tend to lull us (white people/the establishment) into a pleasant sense of complacency. We see how bad things used to be and think, "oh thank goodness we are so much better now! History is unfortunate, but good thing we don't have segregated water fountains anymore." Then we mentally hug the brave protagonist who stood up to their oppressors and pat ourselves on the back for being better people.

At home we scroll through our Facebook feed and see stories of Black Lives Matter protests, Margaret Cho vs. Tilda Swinton, or Indigenous reserves that don't have clean drinking water, and through the power of our brain's incredible ability to protect itself from difficult thoughts, we don't put together ANY similarities between our current world and the movie we just watched.

If you ask me, our job when we watch movies about terrible historical realities is to ask ourselves what moments in the story still ring true today, and (if we dare) what we can do about them.

Of the MANY powerful moments in Hidden Figures, a simple exchange between Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and her supervisor Vivian Mitchell (Kirsten Dunst) that happens in the bathroom that struck me as emblematic of most conversations about race that happen between white people and people of colour today:
Mitchell: "Despite what you may think, I've got nothing against y'all."

Vaughan: "I know. I know you probably believe that."

Dorothy Vaughan just DROPPED THE MIC on her complacent supervisor SO HARD! And on me! And other people who think that we have nothing against [insert group identifier here], and yet are unwilling to go out of our way, even a little bit, to help them!

Screenwriters don't repeat lines very often in movies, and the line "that's just the way it is" is said SO MANY TIMES in this movie, someone should do a count. Most often, it comes out of the mouth of a white person who has the opportunity to help make a change, or even just extend a small kindness, but instead falls back on "the way it is." This movie is CHALK-FULL of white people who aren't racist, they just don't feel the need to ever go out of their way to help a black person.

This leads me to a question I would like to ask myself. Feel free to join me if you, too, would like to experiment with not being a part of an oppressive regime:

     Who do I "really believe" that I have nothing against?

     When do I say "that's just the way it is" about something that hurts them or holds them back?

     What are the actual arguments that make me think that answer is good enough?

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Inspiration! Roundup: Story objects, still dancing, punching the devil in the face, and Patrick Rothfuss

This Week's "I want to go to there":
A hammock and a book.

Story Objects with Vera van Wolferen

Love love love this series called Story Objects by Vera van Wolferen. (Also, what an incredible last name! I would actually considering changing my last name if I was marrying a van Wolferen. Although I may also need to become more brooding and dark as a person.)

A post shared by Vera van Wolferen (@veravanwolferen) on

Classical Paintings Get Modern

What would happen if the women in classical paintings suddenly were thrust into the modern era? This image series by Alexey Kondakov imagines just such a juxtaposition, and dang if it isn't stunning. I would buy these for my wall.

A post shared by Alexey Kondakov (@alksko) on

Still Dancing

This stunning piece of artwork by Jonathan Labillois commemorates the many missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada. The title "Still Dancing" came from his sister, who said to him “Dancers dance for those who cannot, the sick, the elders, and those who are gone. It's like all those women are still dancing thru her.“

Still Dancing by Jonathan Labillois
Labillois donated this piece to the Montreal Native Women's Shelter.

Forget Punching Nazis

Punch The Devil HIMSELF in the face!

You and The Virgin Mary, anyways.

Every Woman

Just in case you still think that pregnant women should be confined to their beds and avoid physical activity, watch Ciara (among other things) jump a couch while dancing her belly off to Whitney Houston's "I'm Every Woman".

Of course, I'd love to see the moments after they finished shooting this video. Personally, I would have just laid down on the floor and not moved for the rest of my pregnancy. (Says the woman who has never been pregnant.)

What Can You Do?

"The simple truth is this: When things are bad, all you can do is what you can do."
-Patrick Rothfuss

Check out this awesome blog post from Patrick Rothfuss on what he is doing and how he is coping with a big, bad world.

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A Valentine's Day Poem

Hey! Hey!
Today is Valentine's Day!
Just in case you forgot.

Maybe you wanted to forget.

In which case, sorry to remind you.
Although I don't know how successful you were going to be at ignoring this holiday.
It pours out of every dollar store, drug store, and restaurant.

Hearts are everywhere.

Not literal, physical hearts though. So that's good.
Otherwise, things would be messy.
Although a good science lesson for kids.
And adults who didn't pay very close attention in science class.

Last year I made some Valentines.
Some of them were cheeky and some were sincere.
It's open to interpretation.
Because that's how art works.

A few years before that I made other Valentines.

Listen, this holiday isn't going anywhere.
Who cares why it was invented.

All that matters is that St. Valentine was martyred and this day commemorates him.

So maybe we should start throwing our physical hearts around?

It would help with global overpopulation.
And we would feel so much, we would really know we were alive.
In that moment, anyways.

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Cute! Roundup: Going full cat lady

It's happened, guys. I've gone full Cat Lady.

Other cuteness:

This owl shows us how to go with the flow.

New home, new bed.

Now this deer is feeling pretty good about life.

Someone should start a Tumblr of animals in their bizarre sleeping positions. Well, they probably have, but here's an entry.

Let's get him!

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Singalong: Napoleon by Sarah Slean

Just throwing this song out for this week, as another not-so-subtle warning to all of us about, oh, I don't know, tyrants. Not that it's topical or anything.

by Sarah Slean

Under great golden statues
There is an ancient grave
The emperor's fort is restless
There's something he wants to say

To the princes of lazy science
To the merchants of holy war
He had but one instruction
Be careful with metaphor

So every nation be warned
Soon as the last one is mourned
Another tyrant is born

To the pirates that came to follow
Itching to wrench on the reins of force
Napoleon sent a message
Don't get high on your only horse

So every nation be warned
Soon as the last one is mourned
Another tyrant is born

Mother, I fear of madness
'Cause I heard him call my name
I followed his ghostly finger
And I saw a world in flames

Lyrics to Sarah Slean's Napoleon
Photo source: Flare

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Learning! Roundup: Why whales jump, the easy way out, contagious personalities, generational stress, and more

Photo by Zorankovacevic
Why Whales Jump

Personally, I've never really wondered why whales do those sweet jumps - I mean, it just looks like fun - but apparently scientists have asked this question. Sadly, the answer isn't fun. It's practical. The breaching of the water helps them communicate with distant pods when there is too much background noise for vocal signals.

Blood Test for Pancreatic Cancer

A new blood test uses gold nanoparticles to latch onto pancreatic cancer vesicles in blood samples, and it worked! So far it's only been done in small-scale studies. Up next, they will test on larger populations before moving to public screening models. This is very exciting because pancreatic cancer is otherwise almost impossible to detect before it's too late.

Easy Choices

You probably think that your brain will default, when allowed, to a choice that is most pleasurable for you, right? Nope. It actually just defaults to the easiest option, whether or not you will enjoy it. Maybe that's why it's so hard sometimes to get yourself up for a hike or dance class or walk or to do anything besides sitting in front of your computer, even though you know that you'll be way happier doing the activity.

Contagious Personalities

The running wisdom in psychology (and life) is that personality is innate and doesn't change. A new study shows that preschoolers "catch" the personality traits of their peers. Luckily, the more positive traits (like extraversion and working hard) tended to transfer more than negative traits (like anxiety), so parents need not banish their kids from playing with their shy neighbour. (Please don't do that!)

Generational Stress

Your grandparents' stress may be more influential in your life than your own life stressors. This notion, that generational stress can be more impactful on a person's life than their own experience of stress, is hugely important when thinking about things like Aboriginal reconciliation, among other populations that have been systematically oppressed.

The Pain Relief of Looking at Your Own Body

This is surprising to me: looking at your own body has an analgesic effect. So if you're getting a needle, for example, it's worse to look away than to watch it happen. I am a classic "look away and take a deep breath" person when it comes to receiving shots, and I don't know if I can change that habit, but we'll see. Science is science. Even better, though, looking at a VIRTUAL copy of your hand can help relieve pain.

Health Risks of Low Social Rank

Remember back when everyone was obsessed with the obesity epidemic and the health risks of being obese and that gave everyone a "good reason" to start fat shaming everyone? Well, now it turns out that having a low social rank might be worse for your health than being obese. Guess who is to blame for someone's low social rank? US. The people who put them in a lower rank. So shall we turn that public shame around?

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Me & Ryan Gosling are taking a break

Sad news, guys. Ry Ry and I have done some soul-searching lately, and decided that we need to take a bit of a break.


Everything is okay! We're still in a Lifelong Relationship That is the Most Significant Relationship in Anyone's Life Ever, we're just both really busy right now, and he feels like all the extra attention he's getting from these posts is too distracting.

Plus, I was running out of pictures to share from our life together. Give us some time to re-collect ourselves and make some new memories. I promise, Ryan will be back.

This does mean that the last Me & Ryan Gosling post will be the last one for a while.

I hope that your hearts will go on.

Here, here, let me help. Here is Ry Ry being hilarious and adorable with Tyler Labine on Breaker High.

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This Week in Church: Being a peacemaker

Welcome to the series wherein I share my take-aways from church. The things that, I think, are beneficial to all of us to know or think about, whether or not we believe in any church-related things.

This week in church, we talked about being peacemakers.

It was not a coincidence. The sermon series was supposed to be something different, and then they changed it because of obvious things happening in the world.

There are so many facets to peacemaking. Here are some of the things that came up this week:

This week in church we talked about identity.

Philosopher Michel Foucault says we create a self by identifying our strengths and then deciding that those are important traits and looking down on those who don't have them. This immediately creates an us/them dynamic. Handy for feeling good about ourselves, not so handy for unity.

"But for the grace of God." - This reminds me that I am not actually better than anyone. I only have the intelligence, freedom, and physical abilities that I have through the chance of my birth and upbringing and not getting hit by cars or stray bullets.

This week in church we talked about creating a third option.

"When this culture gives you two options, choose the third."

This is a cheeky Protestant quote that is easy to write off, but also a nice reminder that we don't have to just take what's being offered to us. I fall for this kind of thing all the time - someone will present me with two options that are both terrible and I will forget to think about the possibility of a third.

This week in church we talked about loving our enemies.

It's easy to get obsessed with how we are right or how we have been wronged. This has recently been dubbed "outrage porn", and it feels kind of good, but it doesn't help with the us/them dynamic.

I get that focusing only on my rightness or how someone else has wronged me isn't helpful. So then how do I balance necessary outrage at terrible injustices with a peacemaker's heart? Loving my enemies doesn't mean agreeing with them or rolling out the red carpet, so I guess it has something to do with how we disagree with those we love?

This week in church we talked about the beatitudes.

Blessed are those who are persecuted, blessed are those who mourn, blessed are those who are poor in spirit, blessed are those who hunger and thirst, blessed are the merciful, blessed are the peacemakers. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness.

I suppose one could use this to argue that Muslim Americans are currently being blessed through the persecution they are facing. I don't feel super comfortable delving into those waters right now.

What this made me think of, for today, is the cost to standing up for what's right. I especially think of those politicians and businesses and judges that are currently saying "no, we will not go along with this." They are and will continue to experience backlash. They will receive anger and persecution for their righteousness.

If I was going to pray anything, I would pray that they stand true to those righteous values. That they don't give in. That those with an opportunity to show mercy will do so and that they understand that their persecution means they are doing something right. (PS: it might help them stay the course if those of us who think they are doing the right thing let them know.)

This week in church we spoke the Litany of Resistance.

It's long. It's so powerful.

If you don't like the God parts, rewrite those elements and then let's all recite this every morning. (Or once a week, because it's long.)

Lamb of God, you take away the sin o the world
Have mercy on us
Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world
Free us from the bondage of sin and death
Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world
Hear our prayer, Grant us peace.

For the victims of war:
Women, men, and children
Have mercy
The maimed and the crippled
The abandoned and the destitute
Have mercy
The imprisoned and the tortured
The widowed and the orphaned
Have mercy
The bleeding and the dying
The weary and the desperate
Have mercy
The lost and the forsaken
The homeless and the refugee
Have mercy

O God -- Have mercy on us sinners
Forgive us for we know not what we do
For our scorched and blackened earth
Forgive us
For the scandal of billions wasted on war
Forgive us
For the violence that is rooted in our hearts
Forgive us
For the times we turn others into enemies
Forgive us

Deliver us, O God
Guide our feet into the way of peace
From the arrogance of power
Deliver us
From the myth of redemptive violence
Deliver us
From the tyranny of greed
Deliver us
From the ugliness of racism
Deliver us
From the cancer of hatred
Deliver us
From the seduction of wealth
Deliver us
From the addiction of control
Deliver us
From the idolatry o nationalism
Deliver us
From the paralysis of cynicism
Deliver us
Fromt he violence of apathy
Deliver us
From the ghettos of poverty
Deliver us
From the ghettos of wealth
Deliver us
From a lack of imagination
Deliver us
Deliver us, O God
Guide our feet into the way of peace

We will not conform to the patterns of this world
Let us be transformed by the renewing of our minds
With the help of God's grace
let us resist evil wherever we find it
With the waging of war
and the legalization of murder
We will not comply
With the slaughter of innocents
and with laws that betray human life
We will not comply
With the destruction of community
and the pointing finger and malicious talk
We will not comply
With principalities and powers that press
We will not comply
With the raping of women
We will not comply
With governments that kill
and the business of militarism
We will not comply
With the hoarding of riches
We will not comply
With the dissemination of fear
We will not comply

Today we pledge our ultimate allegiance,
 to the Kingdom of God. To a peace that is not like Rome's
We pledge allegiance
To the Gospel of enemy love
We pledge allegiance
To the Kingdom of the poor and broken
We pledge allegiance
To a King that loves his enemies so much he died for them
We pledge allegiance
To the least of these, with whom Christ dwells
We pledge allegiance
To the transnational Church that transcends the artificial borders of nations
We pledge allegiance
To the refugee of Nazareth
We pledge allegiance
To the homeless rabbi who had no place to lay his head
We pledge allegiance
To the cross rather than the sword
We pledge allegiance
To the banner of love above any flag
We pledge allegiance
To the one who rules with a towel rather than an iron fist
We pledge allegiance
To the one who rides a donkey rather than a war-horse
We pledge allegiance
To the revolution that sets both oppressed
and oppressors free
We pledge allegiance
To the Way that leads to life
We pledge allegiance
To the Slaughtered Lamb
We pledge allegiance

And together we proclaim his praises,
from the margins of the empire to the centres of wealth and power
Christ has died, Christ is risen,
Chris will come again
May His kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.
Amen. Come Lord Jesus.

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Inspiration! Roundup: The Indivisible Guide, crying with Lady Gaga, women wielding swords, and more!

This Week's "I want to go to there":
Winter came back to Vancouver and I DON'T LIKE IT.
Bring me beach nights!

The Indivisible Guide

Looking for a way to resist? The Indivisible Guide is quite possibly the most well thought-out and effective technique I've come across. Short version: create an action group with some like-minded friends (or neighbours or strangers); talk (repeatedly) to your representatives; go to public events where your representatives will be; keep doing it.

Lady Gaga at the Super Bowl

I'm not going to lie, I legit cried watching this performance. I mean, CRIED. I snuffled and snotted and currently have tears dried to my face as I type this. (Apparently Lady G cried after she finished, too, so we're basically the same.) Why? Because I am a big sappy weirdo who cries at everything, for one, and one of the things that has ALWAYS gotten me are these kinds of performances that look like someone chucked their entire heart at it. But it was also the deeply embedded political message of the show.

Framing the whole thing with America the Beautiful and This Land is My Land, and then singing her songs of complicated love and self-acceptance, as well as LGBTQ anthem Born This Way was powerful. Beginning her song Million Reasons, a song about being on the verge of leaving her lover, by saying "How are you doing America, Texas, the world?", and then following it up with Bad Romance? STATEMENT.

Read about it and watch the performance in Teen Vogue (the new political resistance mag).

As an aside, I was off the Lady Gaga train for a while, but this performance and her AMAZING album Joanne has turned me right back into a Gagahead or Lady Lover or whatever you want to call me.

Cry Me a River

To be honest, I don't know if I love the fact that this dancer choreographed this piece with a "river of women" to show his indifference towards an ex-lover, but whatever. Inspiration comes from anywhere, and the synchronicity and movement here is incredible.

Cry Me a River from Andrew Winghart on Vimeo.

Women with Swords

You may be under the impression that there weren't any female samurai warriors in Japan. I was, until I came across this series of portraits of female samurai warriors.

Space Jelly

This stunning photo of a jellyfish in the ocean looks like it's floating through space. Just imagine: giant space jellyfish, floating around, bumping into things. Pretty sweet.

The Barefoot Nuclear Budgeter

A reminder that people are a little more multi-faceted than we tend to give them credit for: Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa, before having her own cooking show, got an MBA and worked for the government. She wrote the budget for the US Nuclear Program as well as policy papers.


A Hair Salon Story

My brave and smart friend Lisa had a run-in in a hair salon and posted about it on Facebook. She gave me permission to share her post.

Standing next in line at the local hair salon, waiting to pay for my goods, an older white presenting male customer is ranting to his (younger white presenting male) hairdresser, jabbing his finger into the counter for emPHAsis:

"... They don't work; they're lazy, you know. Those immigrants expect the government to take care of them, put them up in hotels, give them everything they need... We can't afford to do that. And that's why Trump is doing what he's doing—to stop that from happening."

All three hairdressers behind the counter are obviously uncomfortable. The racist's hairdresser uses me as an out:

Hairdresser: Hi, how are you?!
Me: (pause.) Welllll, I'll be much better when I don't have to listen to racist bullshit.
Silence. A brief stillness that feels an eternity.

Old Racist pays for his service, everyone is polite. Old Racist glares at me as he gets his coat on. I start shaking, I am so upset. I kind of lose my cool just as he's walking out.

me: How dare he say that *about his own people* when he is living on land stolen from MY people?!

The hairdresser and I debrief as I make my purchase. I call him on his silence; I don't mince words. I educate him and his colleagues. Then I give him language for next time... and there *will* be a next time.

Because that old racist is not going to be persuaded or changed by someone like me. And I don't expect him to be. What I do expect, however, is to be able to stand inches from another human being in a shared, public space and not be subjected to racism or language that incites white supremacy and/ or hatred.

Talking to the hairdresser, I hear it all, all the excuses we've all had, that we all hear. They are the justifications for our collective inaction and silence. There is no room for fence sitters, anymore; there is too much at stake... our very humanity.

"I'm not political."
Then be moral.

"I think everyone is equal."
Then your voice/ opinion is just as important.

"I didn't want to offend/ upset anyone."
Then don't; respond with respect, equal authority, and clarity.

"I didn't know what to say."
Then say you're uncomfortable with what is being said.

"They have a right to say what they want."
Then so do you.

"He/ She/They was/ are a customer/ friend/ family member."
Then decide if that's who you want occupying your space. And what will you lose by their absence?

I get it: it can be terrifying to engage with hatred. Hatred wants violence; it's itching for a fight. It's also terrifying because if you engage with it, you have to engage with your own potential for and history with hatred and you have to admit on a *conscious* level that Hate is present and speaking in your presence.

Those shakes? The temperature flush? The sick feeling in your stomach? Your body's right: it IS dangerous. There is the potential that the other person's hatred will turn on you and hurt you. But what is even more dangerous is the permission—the power—that Hatred gains from your silence. Because with your silence... with your permission, Hate is emboldened by the lack of obstacles in its way and it WILL go out and hurt as many as it can until it's war.

Her call to action is so clear and concise and valuable. I love and appreciate how she addresses the discomfort and reluctance people have to get involved. I love the suggestion that, if someone is being racist or otherwise inappropriate, and we don't know what to say but are uncomfortable, we can simply state that discomfort. That is enough of a statement, and is valuable and important to say.

Treehouse Views

Japanese artist group Chim↑Pom installed a treehouse in a neighbourhood of Tijuana that borders on California, looking over the wall that separates the two countries into the States.

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Ways in which I am a part of the problem

I like to think of myself as a person who is generally working to make things better. I care about equality and intersectionality and want to do what I can to burn down the patriarchy and protect the weak. I recycle and compost and unplug my electronics when they aren't in use. I am currently running an Indiegogo campaign to fight for electoral reform.

So sometimes it's easy to think that I'm pretty great and maybe (mayyyyybe) even better than some other people. That kind of thinking should make anyone's brain scream DANGER! DANGER! DANGER!

In light of this, now seems like as good a time as any to be open and honest about the ways in which I am the worst. The ways my brain is still racist or sexist and the ways in which I always do the right thing - unless it's inconvenient.

What are the ways in which I am still a part of the problem:

The other day, while talking about plays that tell stories from other cultures, I referred to stories about white people as "regular" stories. Because, you know, whiteness is regular and non-whiteness is "other". Yikes!

When I found out a friend of mine was dating a transperson, my first thought was, "Wow, I had no idea she would be okay with that!" And then I wondered about their genitals and how their sex worked. Because THAT is my business.

I only buy used clothes, partially because I'm cheap but equally in part for ethical reasons - unless it is inconvenient. Then I only buy clothes from stores with good, ethical practices - unless they are too expensive or Old Navy is having a sale.

I also only buy used clothes, unless someone else is buying the clothes for me. It's not like I can be blamed for the fact that they WANTED to take me to The Bay, right?

I think whitewashing in Hollywood is bad, but not so bad that I didn't pay money and go see Doctor Strange.

When speaking about a generic person, I still almost always default to using "he" - especially if it's a person in a traditionally male role. For example, the other day I stayed at home waiting for the "Telus Guy" who I had never spoken to, met, or heard the name of. Could have been a woman, but I assumed he would be a man because he was a technician.

I haven't asked where my TFSA investments are going. Oil? Munitions? Lalalalalala!

I sometimes walk circuitous routes to avoid running into one particular homeless person who I don't want to talk to.

When I read Ta-Nehisi Coates book Between the World and Me I felt defensive and annoyed every time he referred to "people who think they are white."

I am a vegetarian for ethical reasons, except that I eat poutine with real gravy. I have also purchased new leather items while being a vegetarian.

YIKES! You guys! Add it up and I am NOT so hot at this "good person" thing.

And those are just the things that I am aware of. Imagine all the things I don't even notice that I am doing.

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Cute! Roundup: Runaway puppies, baby chinchillas, and love, true love

Everyone, meet Dexter. Dexter is a dog that belongs to a friend of mine, but he CLEARLY wants to run away with me. Don't you think?


Something about this cat in glasses just makes me way too happy.

Wonder what a baby chinchilla looks like? Wonder no longer!!!!

Little kitty Raisin is pretty adorable.

Lifelong love.

Can I join this husky cuddle puddle?

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Singalong! Elmo by Holly McNarland

I'm still needing to spend time hanging out with some angry women who aren't afraid to be aggressive. So hello, Holly McNarland! Let me roll out a red carpet for you and your fast-and-furious expression.

by Holly McNarland

I'm still thinking about Elmo
Elmo five o'clock special
I'm still thinking about you
A thosuand ways to kill you
I'm still dreaming in pink
Gives me reason to think
When I lay down my head I'm still okay
When I lay down my head to go to bed
Where do you fit in?

Didn't say to come in
Where the hell you been
I can see you're excited
You can tell you're invited
Justify your evil ways
Make up for the lost days
Didn't mean to close the door
When I threw you to the floor
Didn't mean to close the door
Oh my personal whore
Where do you fit in?

You run out of expression
You let me make a suggestion
You've left a scratch on my face
I can see to this day
You're no innocent man
Come and catch me if you can
Didn't have the time of day
But I fucked him anyway
Didn't have the time of day to play
Where do you fit in?

Singalong with Holly McNarland's Elmo and let your girl (or grrrrrl) rage soar!

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Learning! Roundup: Listen to your (actual) heart, chimp tyrants, blind cooking, and more!

Learning! Roundup: The importance of knowing your heart, your actual, physical heart
Image Source: Wellcome Images
Listen to Your Heart

Like, actually listen to your heart. New neuroscience research is revealing the mind-body connection that yogis and alternative medicine practitioners have been talking about for millennia: that your brain isn't something separate from your body, but something inside your body, and your relationship with your body affects your brain. The better you get at paying attention to your heart (and other parts of your body), the better your brain will operate.

Ireland Divests from Fossil Fuels

Ireland is now officially the first country in the world to divest itself of fossil fuels! What does this mean? It means that they have gotten rid of all their stocks, bonds, and other fancy-money-ties to oil, gas, and coal. They will shed their 8 billion Euro sovereign wealth fund, which is a LOT of money to put on the line for their value of a fossil fuel-free nation. Go Ireland!

How Chimps Deal with Tyrants

When chimpanzees overthrow a tyrant, what do they do? Beat up, murder, and eat them, apparently. While this does sound like a BIT of an overreaction, I guess I'm just leaving this here to point out that we can at least try to stand up to a tyrant.

Save the Saiga

Saiga antelope populations are dwindling big time, and now a disease that previously has only affected goats has wiped out 10% of the population in Mongolia.

All Mouth and No Anus

A common ancestor to all vertebrates was a microscopic creature named Saccorhytus that was basically one giant mouth and... that's it. No bum.

How the Blind Cook

Ever wonder how blind people cook? Me neither, honestly. It never occurred to me until I saw this video and then went, "oh yeah, how DO they do that?" Well, here's how.

Postpartum Depression is Different from Other Mood Disorders

Apparently up until recently, nobody thought it would be a good idea to study pregnancy-related mood disorders as separate from other mood disorders. I'll just chalk that up to "typical" and then move on to say that new research has shown that postpartum depression is, indeed, neurologically different from other mood disorders. For example, people with anxiety and depression tend to have super-active amygdalae, but those with postpartum depression don't.

Shutting Down BS About Autism

Listen to some autistic people about what it's actually like to be autistic.

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