A killer app

June 9th, 2016 | Posted by Mush in Events | Soapbox | Web - (2 Comments)

In which I talk about the news.

Was told by WaPo via popup that I’d already viewed my allotment of free stories for the month, and was invited to give them a hundred bucks per year. Instead, I switched to another device and read the story anyway, and they got no money. (I sometimes subscribe for a month or two to a paper I read frequently, out of guilt, but there are so many I visit that it’s a hassle to subscribe and remember to unsubscribe and keep them all straight.)

Same with the NYT. And the local paper from the last town I lived in. It’s only the 10th of the month, so clearly I click on a lot of news links as I scroll down my Twitter and Facebook feeds. But ultimately, there’s no paper I want more than twenty articles, maximum, per month from.

Problem is, I feel bad about it. I want to support journalism. We need newspapers more than ever before, because they do things that nobody else does: they do long, involved, expensive research; they send reporters to sit through meetings at every level of government; they centralize and curate conversations.

And most of them, unlike entities that were never papers but have only ever existed online, still feel the ghosts of journalistic ethics. They went to school for this shit, and they took ethics classes. They care about impartiality, facts, and justice. We may not agree with their various slants, but they’re all we’ve got. And they’re dying. (See: tronc.) Imagine a world with no journalistic exposées: just imagine it. You think it’s bad now?

When real papers, with real traditions and real experience and real journalistic ethics die, what will fill the void?

And not just big papers. In most small towns, once the paper fails there will be nobody to sit in on the budget meetings and report the results to the citizenry. (And, as we know, unobserved people do things they’d never do otherwise. Enter the new age of rampant fucking fraud and embezzlement at the city and county level!) Nobody to cover the town hall meetings, or the police reports, or the local obits.

This stuff is important, and without it we’re at the mercy of… God knows what. No information, bad information, information made up by politicians, corporations, and whackjobs; important information that never sees the light of day because there’s nobody whose job it is to report on it.

I want to pay for the work of journalists and journalistic institutions because I believe it’s valuable.

However, I have no interest in annual subscriptions to a dozen different news entities, because there’s no paper I want to read thoroughly enough to justify the expense. (The last time I subscribed to the NYT, it guilted me that I wasn’t reading enough of the content to make sense of the subscription. Who has time to read the whole paper each day, let alone the Magazine every week?) This is no longer the age where we all subscribe to our local paper, expecting it to cover local events and to buy important national and international news off the wire. That day is done. Nobody wants a full subscription to a non-local paper, or even a local one. We get our news from everywhere.

What I want instead — and I’ve been thinking about this really hard — is the following:

  • A widget I can sign up for once, that follows me from paper to paper and lets me pay a dollar with a single click to view a story behind a paywall. (Or two dollars. Maybe five if it’s a massive research-based exposé.)
  • AND/OR

  • A way to buy an annual subscription that is allocated across all the news sites I visit. (For $99 you can access X number of articles across all member news entities for 12 months; if you go over, you can upgrade incrementally or revert to the per-story fee.)

Is it so much to ask? A little button that pops up and says, “You’ve read your free stories. This article is $1,” and which hits my card immediately and grants me access when I click on it, and which is secure and fair and works across all devices and platforms once I login? Why has no one invented this, when papers are starving for money? Maybe a bank could do it, or a credit card company. Bitcoin. Google. I don’t care, just make it happen.

I don’t want to subscribe to WaPo; I read the big stories but I’ll never read the whole paper every day because I don’t live there. Same for the NYT and the Star-Tribune and the L.A. Times and the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin (as well as magazines: Slate and Mother Jones and Wired and The New Yorker and The Rolling Stone).

Since most U.S. papers have shut down their international bureaus, I go to international papers for international news. I’d like to pay them, too. But I want it to be convenient and I want it to be fair.

I don’t buy print newspapers or magazines, and I don’t want online subscriptions, but I do want to pay for my news.

So, make it easy for me to do so. I beg you. I love you. We need you.

In which I go off on stuff that has nothing to do with me and about which I know nothing! Because it’s the internet!

A guy from Tor has recently been accused of rape. He had to resign. (I don’t know him, I’ve never chatted with him, but people who do and have say he’s a twat. So there’s that.) A woman who, ten years ago, had multiple sexual encounters with him over the span of a year, has now accused him of rape.

By her own admission, she slept with him repeatedly, in group settings, and while drunk. Apparently he violated her “safe word” in front of another man, who was allegedly appalled but failed to stop the alleged rape.

One thing the sexual revolution told women was that they need sex as much as men do. This is not true. (I suspect this is why gay males will hang out in bathrooms and parks and malls and bars and concerts trying to get laid by strangers, but there really isn’t much, if any, of a lesbian corollary of the same behavior.)

Another thing the sexual revolution told women was that dangerous sexual activities are safe, and that women have an expectation of safety in unsafe situations. Which is obviously not true, if women are routinely upset for entire decades after engaging in such activities.

Women prefer less sex than men and they often prefer sex with committed partners.

Much if not most of the sex women have with non-committed partners is performed in an effort to convert the non-committed partner into a committed partner, rather than a male-like desire for the sex itself.

Women with truly high libidos are the exception, not the rule. There were always places in society for such women before the sexual revolution. The lower classes became dancers, hookers, escorts; the upper classes made secret assignations via servants, sometimes with servants (and often to the servants’ detriment). Men knew their expectations of such women could be different than the expectations they had for the rest of women.

For these types of women, the sexual revolution was awesome. For the majority of women, though, it’s been confusing. And damaging.

Before the sexual revolution, society kept females out of situations in which they could be emotionally damaged by the fundamental sexual differences between most males and most females.

It wasn’t oppression, it was protection. Withholding the vote was bullshit, of course, but telling us we need chaperones probably wasn’t. (“Boys will be boys” actually means something like, “you’re probably not going to like what he’d like to like, so let’s save you from that.”)

The sounds of a woman being happily fucked are virtually indistinguishable from the sounds of a woman being unhappily fucked. If you don’t move, turn, sit up and demand in clear language that the activities cease, well, there’s a lot of grey area. Especially if you’re not objecting to sex in general, but to a specific act.

Is it really that hard to understand that a muffled “um, no, stop” can sound — especially in a kinky setting — just like continued consent? Especially if you’ve already said the same thing earlier as part of the play?

Is it really hard to understand that an avoidant wiggle looks very much like a playful, fake-avoidant wiggle?

Is it really hard to understand when you’re in a hotel room with two or more men with whom you’ve agreed to have sex and with whom you’ve already discussed your safe word, that they might believe you’re up for pretty much anything sexual within a probably-not-completely-pre-discussed reasonable range?

Is it really hard to understand that when you’re in a hotel room with two or more men with whom you’ve agreed to have sex and something’s happening that he really enjoys and you suddenly safe word that he’s maybe going to have trouble getting on board with that?

Is your refusal to honor part of an implied social contract really rape? I mean, you agreed to be there, you agreed to sex, you agreed to take part. You agreed.

In before accusations of accusing the accuser!

I’m not accusing you. I’m telling you that your choices and behaviors have consequences. You’re not on a nice date with a nice boy; you’re drunk in a hotel room at a convention with a safe word and a couple of horny guys.

You have put yourself in what is clearly and plainly a dangerous situation: a purely sexual encounter with multiple partners, sexual play and/or role playing that requires a safe word, and intoxicants.

It is a situation in which someone is very likely to do something to you that, while not clinically harmful or physically dangerous, you don’t want or like.

And ten years later, this is rape? I’d say rather that it’s remorse, and that you need to take responsibility for not protecting your body or fine feelings adequately.

I’m not judging you. I’ve made equally bad decisions myself. I’m just saying it’s not legally actionable. (Destroying a man’s livelihood through public accusations is legally actionable. Again, I don’t know anybody involved, but still.)

If you’re super horny and a woman and on contraception, sex with random people is great and fun. Yay sexual revolution!

But if you’re a regular female with a typical libido, you’re doing it because everybody else does and because you’re human and enjoy human contact. But you’re not doing it like males do it, because you rarely want it like males do. (That you believe otherwise is part of the great feminist whitewashing, which has denied you many kinds of happiness and exposed you to many kinds of emptiness.)

When you get older and look back over your sexual career, you may find that most of your sexual encounters were not sexual as much as societal. If sexual intercourse weren’t now so normalized, if you’d had to go out and seek it rather than having it more or less just happen, you’d probably have had a lot less sex. And if you hadn’t had access to media that taught you about kink, if you’d had to invent it yourself, you probably wouldn’t have. You probably wouldn’t identify as submissive or sadistic or whatever you identify as; you probably wouldn’t have invented the safe word.

It probably never would have occurred to you, if it weren’t societally normalized, that you’d feel powerful getting drunk and naked in a hotel room with one or more men, being the willing object of a specific and certain kind of male regard. A kind of regard that is entirely physical and sexual, and which does not, in fact, encompass the whole of who you are.

If you weren’t both promiscuous and naive, you’d know that getting drunk and naked in a hotel room with one or more men is very, very likely to get you fucked up the ass, or spanked, or gagged, or pissed on, or used in some manner that, while not technically dangerous, you would prefer not to be used.

Because while this particular type of power over men can feel good, you can’t help but note that: you’re not a beloved female, known and cherished and cared for, you’re an imaginary sexual archetype. You’re a fantasy. You’re a dirty girl.

You’re a whore.

Because you’re drunk. And naked. In a hotel room. With one or more men. Who believe they have your permission, because you’re there. Freely, and of your own volition. They think you’re one of those women who like sex the way they do. But mostly what you want is attention and contact and to feel valued and powerful.

This is generally not the ideal way to experience those feelings.

And the other guy in the room, the one with whom you say you did have a closer relationship? Why didn’t he protect you? If he did, you weren’t raped. If he didn’t, why aren’t you accusing him, too, as an accomplice?

And why did you have sex with your so-called rapist again, afterward, at a later date? How does his charisma relieve you of responsibility for your own actions, your own choices, your own decisions? I mean, c’mon. He’s a fucking nerd. Literally.

While wanting to feel powerful and desired is quite normal, it doesn’t relieve you of the responsibility of the results of your decisions. Because you’re an autonomous grown adult, not a child.

Accusations of rape can ruin men’s lives. And society listens to women who accuse men of rape, because women are — in spite of all our efforts to prove the contrary — still considered valuable and precious, simply because we’re women.

“The crime of rape generally refers to non-consensual sexual intercourse that is committed by physical force, threat of injury, or other duress. Common law defined rape as unlawful intercourse by a man against a woman who is not his wife by force or threat and against her will.”

If you’ve already consented and are in flagrante delicto, and [one of] your partner[s] tries to do something you don’t like, where’s the duress? Men are generally bigger and stronger, of course, but if you weren’t already tied up and spanked and drunk or whatever, you’d be able to let your caring partner[s] know you’re not into that and that he should stop. And he would.

Could it possibly be that your decision to make yourself available in such a way to men who are not deeply invested in you emotionally was a dumb idea?

And simply not preferring one act to another, is that rape? Is an expectation that you should like and enjoy every single aspect of a sexual encounter truly realistic? Do you like and enjoy every aspect of your job, of your family holiday get-togethers, of your Tuesday night bowling league? Why do you believe you have the right to like and enjoy every single aspect of a sexual encounter, that only your own pleasure should be considered? Is that at all mature?

These men, after all, are not your husbands or committed partners. They have not made any formal commitment to protecting you or providing you with happiness, have they?

No. You’re just a fuck. You are owed only what fucks are owed, which is fucking. You cannot possibly argue that long-term partners and fucks get the same considerations.

I could safely consent to being spanked and tied up and gagged by my current committed long-term partner. Because he’s my committed long-term partner, he’s invested in me emotionally, and we have history and we have context. My pleasure and happiness are his concern.

I doubt he’d be equally as invested in some random convention chick in a hotel room, even if he’d known her a few years, through work. Context.

Context is a real consideration, and one that must be considered both morally and legally. And your having repeatedly consented to this sort of play with this man is willing and repeated consent, without force or duress.

The person who owes you an apology is you. The person who endangered you and let you down is you. The person who treated you like an unpaid whore… is you. The men you did this to yourself with were merely set dressing.

I might also posit that a post-birth control feminist society, which has repeatedly told you that you want and enjoy and deserve sex as much as men, might also be at fault. It repeatedly tells you that you can and should have a realistic expectation of safety in unsafe conditions. It tells you that nothing that ever happens to you is your own fault.

It tells you that you cannot and should not be held responsible for your own choices and actions.

It tells you that you can be drunk and naked with a safe word in a hotel with two men and not suffer any discomfort. Which is total bullshit.

Yeah, that might be at fault.

I know, I know.

People will say I’m not “sex positive,” like it’s some sort of an insult.

Telling women they’re frigid is an insult these days, too, because women are as horny as men. Right? It’s not like we exit these situations with experiences that bother us for years or anything, while the males very seldom do.

I won’t even bother to trot out my own sex life, because it’s lovely and it’s nobody’s business.

Instead, I’ll say that the majority of the hurts and fears of my past were due to the idea that I wanted and needed and enjoyed sex for its own sake just like men do. Furthermore, I would say that the majority of the hurts and fears of most women, their pain and rage and anger, their conviction that there are “no good men,” are due to the same myth. (See: all episodes of Sex and the City, ever.)

Women are not men. Left to our own devices, we don’t act like men, especially not sexually. Our society has told us that we like meaningless sex, but what we really like is attention and power and to be desired. And because of this, we put ourselves into situations that are quite plainly not safe.

The idea that you can go anywhere and do anything is false. We cannot. There are neighborhoods it’s best not to drive through, but if we must, we lock our doors and roll up our windows, don’t we? This expectation we have, that we can go anywhere and do anything, is both privileged and false. If we willingly go unsafe places and do unsafe things, the results of those choices are our own. We are credited with discrimination and, ladies, we must strive to deserve it.

If a male hangs out with drug dealers, uses drugs, engages in unsafe behavior, and ends up in jail or shot, whose fault is it? Well, we can, like I’m doing here, partially blame society, but ultimately his decisions — and their results — are his own. Is that blaming the victim?

When a person gets shot, it’s the shooter’s fault. When a person gets raped, it’s the rapist’s fault. Of course. But we have a definition of rape, and it does not include not liking a particular sex act while engaged in otherwise consensual sex.

Recognizing our own agency in our hurts is not blaming the victim. It’s responsibility.

Until women stop playing the blame game and start owning their choices, we’ll continue to be mocked and made fun of. Which is why I think it’s ridiculous that this entire thing, and all the other things like it, is playing out online.

This is what his detractors are doing:

‘The site was made by a small group of people of different genders, who are tired of Jake victimizing and harassing our friends in the infosec and internet freedom communities. Some of us have personal stories of being abused by Jake and some don’t. We have heard lots of complaints about his behavior over the years, and have experienced it first hand. We want it to stop.’

Maybe he’s a rapist. Maybe it’s a bunch of hearsay. I read the site, and he does sound like a manipulative, aggressive jerk!

This right here.

May 28th, 2016 | Posted by Mush in Soapbox | Social | Web - (0 Comments)

In which I bitch about things I see on Twitter! (You kids get off my lawn!)

A snowflake narrative is being claimed by nearly everybody these days, from African Americans to feminists to white males to the parents of autistic children, and they’re all saying the same thing: our suffering is so unique that no person or group can ever possibly understand it or us. Ever.

Here’s a prime example:

Capture (2)

Complex! Contextual! Nobody can speak to it!

Bullshit. What are you, twelve? Have you not yet learned that other human beings can model your experiences if you explain them?

Listen, you’re human. So are the rest of us. We can and do understand you. You’re not that unique. Or rather, you’re just as unique as everybody else.

The article itself well-written and interesting and is worth a read, even though the author gets himself turned around and eventually says that blackness is cultural, thereby negating his own point about racism and the so-called “black experience.” (He actually means the black American experience, which doesn’t apply to blacks in Europe, for example, or Somalian refugees, who can walk around being black all day long without getting shot by police.)

I’ve basically had it with this complaint. The concept that there are human experiences that nobody can understand unless they belong to a certain group is untrue and contributes directly to racism. Nay, it actually is racism, because it claims that human beings of various different skin tones are fundamentally unknowable to one another.

Which is stupid. Race is a social construct. We’re far more alike than we are different. Race is cultural, and cultures can be understood because everybody belongs to one or more.

Fear is universal. Fatigue is universal. Anger is universal. These are all human experiences, not black experiences, not female experiences, not disabled experiences. Blacks as a group and females as a group may feel fear in response to different triggers (cops for one, and strange men for the other), but fear is fear. We can model each other’s experiences, and we must if we wish to actually achieve the goals of these various social movements. If you’re a white member of Black Lives Matter and you parrot the idea that you are incapable of understanding the black experience, you’re perpetuating racism.

The article is really about finding out you’re not what they said you were, which is not a black experience, nor an American experience. It’s a human experience, and cloaking it as “racism” is disingenuous.

If you want to be understood, tell your story. But every time you claim nobody can possibly understand you but your own group, you’re basically claiming victimhood as your identity. Which isn’t exactly a healthy psychological state.

That political machine, though.

May 25th, 2016 | Posted by Mush in Health | Life | Soapbox - (0 Comments)

In which I’m feeling annoyed and paranoid about big tobacco and pharma lobbies.

So the doctor-medical nerds in the U.K. were recently all, like, “So vaping, in our opinion, is less dangerous than smoking, and we see no evidence that the candy flavors are causing teens to try vaping or that vaping is a gateway behavior to smoking.”

So I read up, decided that vaping had to be less harmful than smoking cigarettes, and, because I had to quit smoking, I switched.

My subjective opinion is that they are a wonderful alternative to smoking cigarettes. My lungs feel fantastic, comparatively; quitting was effortless; and it’s not all about the nicotine: I use very low-percentage juices. It’s about the activity of “smoking,” which these devices mimic very, very well.

Which is what you need after 30 years of smoking: something to replace the habit.

Since that British news, though, my Twitter feed is stuffed with items like this:


Over and over. Every day. Once upon a time there was nothing in my feed about ecigs, now it’s shit like this daily. Claims from news services that there’s worry about ecig use, that there’s a spike in teen uptake (?), that people are worried about the health effects. And, most tellingly:

That because of these fears, people are going back to combustible cigarettes.

One has to ask herself: who benefits from people going back to cigarettes?

And she has to answer: Big Tobacco itself, of course, and, more worryingly, the tax funds filled with luxury taxes levied on the sales of tobacco products.

Now, I take European findings with a grain of salt, because they do shit like encourage homeopathy and ban GMOs, but even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

If ecigs were very dangerous, we’d know because people have been using them for a full decade now.

So we can conclude that if they are dangerous, they’re not immediately so but rather they’re dangerous over time, and any danger discovered is probably going to be related to the e-juice ingredients, and it’s probably still going to be less dangerous than smoking tobacco.

E-juices use food grade ingredients, and the bulk of them are the substances used in asthma inhalers and nebulizers. The only real unknown is the flavorants, which exist in such small percentages it seems unlikely they’d be truly dangerous. Only time and testing will tell.

But, while no, we don’t know that vaping is safe quite yet, we do have evidence it’s less harmful than tobacco, and all this fear-mongering for the love of money? IS PISSING ME OFF. Let’s let the fucking evidence decide. Gawd.

Ecigs have been banned by a number of countries:
Electronic Cigarette History

In which this is the scene at 27:24 of The Brief (season 1, episode 1, ‘The Road to Hell’) typed from memory. Since it’s a Brit show, he probably said “fiver” rather than “five bucks,” but whatever.

A man and a woman are looking out a window. Outside, it’s raining.

The man points at two raindrops and says, “Five bucks says mine wins.” He touches one when he says “mine” to indicate which is which.

The woman shrugs. They talk for a few minutes. The raindrop designated as hers reaches the bottom of the glass first.

The man hands the woman a five dollar bill.

She says, “Don’t be ridiculous.”

He says, “Fair’s fair,” and insists that she take the bill.

Most women absolutely do not understand the exchange: For one, betting? On raindrops? In the middle of an otherwise important conversation? What the hell?

Two, maybe at a party or in Vegas, but during a private conversation? How much more irrelevant could he be?

Three, insisting on paying out? Over something so clearly throw-away and irrelevant to anything? It’s five dollars! I don’t want it! I didn’t even make the bet!

This is the difference between men and women, in a nutshell:

Her excitement about or disinterest in the bet is irrelevant, the value of the bill is irrelevant, the silliness of the wager is irrelevant.

A man keeping his word, even under the most trivial of circumstances, is what’s relevant. To him, at least.

If there had been only two women in the room, the wager would probably never have been offered in the first place, because wagers are the sort of endless, needless competition men engage in.

If the wager had somehow been made anyway, the women probably wouldn’t have exchanged money, because, c’mon, it’s a freakin’ raindrop for heaven’s sake, obviously it was just a joke, and because with only women in the room, no honor is at stake, since women don’t have honor.

We can play at honor, of course, and often do when we enter male environments, but we’re free to opt out at any time with no repercussions. This means we don’t take it very seriously, since it can’t get us killed. (If you’re a woman and this statement infuriates you, you don’t yet understand what honor is, nor why you’re glad you don’t have to uphold it when you can’t or don’t want to.)

Basically, for all the things we care about that are baffling to men, there are just as many of their words and behaviors we just gloss over because they’re so irrelevant to us we basically don’t even hear or see them.

If a man makes a silly little bet with you, like in the scene above, you probably don’t even really register it beyond amused condescension when he hands you money, and you certainly don’t realize that he has to give you the $5 or lose his honor.

Total convert here, guys.

May 15th, 2016 | Posted by Mush in Admissions | Gadgets | Health | PSA | Soapbox - (0 Comments)

In which I’ve quit smoking!

I started smoking at 16. I’m 47 now. That’s 31 years.

I was down to smoking less than a pack a day, usually less than half a pack, but my lungs felt dry and tight. I was having difficulty breathing.

Every morning, I decided not to smoke. Every evening I smoked anyway, because the power of habit is massive. I’ve tried keeping my regular behaviors and just ditching the smoking part, but it’s hard. I’ve gotten up, put on my coat, grabbed my ebook, stepped outside and not smoked, just to keep up my normal routine, but it doesn’t really work. Before you know it, you’ve bought yourself a pack of cigarettes.

You need a substitute. And no, not for the nicotine. The gum and the patches are worthless; I’ve tried both. For the smoking.

Luckily, here in the future, we have such a thing! It’s called vaping.

A well-controlled trial has recently been carried out by Dr Grant O’Connell and colleagues working for the vaping manufacturer Fontem Ventures. They asked 15 smokers to give up altogether for five days, 15 to vape only for five days, and another 15 to mix vaping and smoking for five days. They measured the harmful and potentially harmful constituents in the urine, blood and breath of each group, and the results were striking. After five days, the vapers’ carboxyhaemoglobin levels—an indication of how much carbon monoxide they had in their systems—had dropped by 83%, which was an even bigger drop than in the cold-turkey cessation group, whose levels dropped by 75%. Even the dual users had seen a drop of 23%. The amount of carbon monoxide they exhaled had halved in both the vapers and the cessation group. Much the same was true for all the other biomarkers except, of course, for nicotine.

Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016

So I bought a Vuse at the corner gas station. It was a piece of shit and just as sketchy as the first ecig I bought a decade ago and it was so awful it basically drove me back to cigarettes. (The Vuse is by RJ Reynolds. There is speculation that they were specifically designed to drive smokers back to cigarettes. They taste bad and they’re incredibly inconsistent, delivering either burnt-tasting air or a massive hit of lung-scorching, scaldingly hot vapor. Each replacement cartridge costs at least as much as a pack of cigarettes, if not more.) The Vuse would be an acceptable experience only if you were a hard-core smoker locked in an airport or hospital for days with no other way to deal with your discomfort.

Then I bought this sciencey-looking little Pro Tank II for only $20 at the ecig store over on Lake Street, and I haven’t had a cigarette since.

Kanger 650mAh Pro Tank II

It screws together. The whole bottom section is a rechargable battery, with a button you push to send power to the coil; the tank is Pyrex and holds e-juice, which is vegetable glycerin and propylene glycol with flavorings and nicotine, and contains a coil, which is what actually heats up and turns the juice into vapor; and then the tip is the part you inhale through. There’s an utterly bewildering variety of these things, but all of them are basically made up of these three components.

An old Fairfield friend saw my interest in ecigs on Facebook, and kindly sent me his unwanted stuff (he’s discovered a favorite brand of tank, and no longer uses any of this):

Vaping stuff

That’s hundreds of dollars of equipment and ten flavors of juices! That he was just going to throw out! A Vaporfi kit, a Nautilus tank, an Aerotank Mega, a Halo Tracer kit, a second Vaporfi tank, and coils!

Now I have tons of everything. Batteries and chargers, tanks, tips. Most of the parts are interchangeable, too, so you can mix and match and make devices that look cool and draw, due to adjustable air flow rings on the nicer tanks, exactly the way you want them to. These are the two I’m into right now:


I’m into the 6% blueberry and 3% cocoa flavors right now. (I hate even typing that because it sounds so douchey, but it is what it is! Blueberry! Cocoa! I’m a twat!)

I started with 18% juice, but I don’t think I need it. They tell you that nicotine is incredibly addictive, but I’m perfectly comfortable with 6% and 3% juices. I do have a tank loaded with the 18%, but haven’t used it much in the past two days.

I haven’t gone five days without a single cigarette in years. I’ve gone one, two days without a cigarette, sure; I’ve gone days only smoking one or two. But zero cigarettes? For five days? In a row? No, not in years.

With low-nicotine juice and a device that works well, one can enjoy the activity of ‘smoking’ almost to excess, and yet wake up in the morning feeling better than she has in years. It’s fucking wonderful.

While I doubt vaping is a zero-harm activity (after all, what is), it’s definitely lower harm than smoking cigarettes. It’s almost therapeutic-feeling; inhaling mist into dry, damaged lungs actually feels good. (Turns out that juice uses the same base used in asthma inhalers and nebulizers.) And apparently my carboxyhemoglobin levels have dropped by 83%.

Eighty-three percent.

The devices themselves probably last for quite a long time, being made of Pyrex and stainless steel. You have to replace the coil, the part that heats up, and the juice, but from what I can tell that’s much less expensive than 3.5 packs of cigarettes every week.

There’s a bunch of negative hysteria around e-cigarettes, but it appears to have been deliberately manufactured by pharmaceutical companies involved in nicotine replacement therapies and cigarette companies. The recent FDA regulation binge was brought on by these lobbies, apparently. Of course. Since so much money is generated by the luxury taxes on cigarettes, anything that threatens the market is worrisome… even if it’s a technology that is reducing harm and by extension probably saving lives.

The bulk of the evidence so far leans heavily toward vaping being much safer than cigarettes, and much more effective than NRT in helping people quit smoking.

E-cigarette studies, research and reports
E-cigarettes save lives
UK doctors urge wide promotion of e-cigs to help smokers quit
Smokers Urged to Switch to E-Cigarettes by British Medical Group
Vapers Helping Smokers to Quit

So, the take-away here is that we’re seeing research showing that vaping is much less harmful than smoking, and that if you wish to vape, you need to buy a decent piece of equipment and avoid shitty disposables made by cigarette companies. The vapor, even from low-nicotine juices, is so satisfying that you don’t even want cigarettes. Vaping is credited with helping tens of thousands of smokers quit.

“In the case of addictions, where people find it genuinely very hard to resist temptation, harm reduction surely makes sense,” said Viscount Ridley. And I agree. Being against vaping because it’s not zero-harm is ridiculous. If we expected driving to be zero-harm, we’d never build another car again. But as far as risk management goes, vaping is safer than smoking by orders of magnitude.


May 9th, 2016 | Posted by Mush in Soapbox | Whining - (0 Comments)

In which I suggest we normalize breast shape already.*

I used to think brassières served a function, but it turns out that they don’t. Well, that is to say, they serve a style function, by changing the location and shape of the breasts, but they don’t do anything for breast health or to prevent sagging:

Robert Mansell, a professor of surgery at the University Hospital of Wales, in Cardiff, reported that, “Bras don’t prevent breasts from sagging, with regard to stretching of the breast ligaments and drooping in later life, that occurs very regularly anyway, and that’s a function of the weight, often of heavy breasts, and these women are wearing bras and it doesn’t prevent it.” John Dixey, at the time CEO of Playtex, agreed with Mansell. “We have no medical evidence that wearing a bra could prevent sagging, because the breast itself is not muscle so keeping it toned up is an impossibility.”

The lingering idea that foundation garments are healthy comes from the Victorians, as far as I can tell. There were breast bands but no corsets, girdles, or bras in the Middle Ages, so this idea that female unders confer health is at least younger than the Middle Ages.

An encapsulation-style sports bra might be useful, in terms of comfort, for keeping flesh from flopping around during vigorous activity, but regular daily-wear bras perform no function beyond raising and squishing the tissue into a shape we consider ‘normal,’ but which is, in actual fact, not.

Marilyn without a bra on

Bras are uncomfortable and we only wear them to comply with social norms. Since I started working from home I’ve quit wearing bras altogether; the only time I ever consider one is when we’re going out somewhere. Usually I just opt for a coat, but with summer coming I have to consider if I’ll be putting on a bra or just going out with my boobs shaped like… well, actual boobs.

And middle aged boobs at that, which is so outro it’s practically against the law.

While I’ve been going braless for so many months now that the shape of my own boobs, as they exist in their 47th trip around the sun, now looks normal to me, I admit to some feelings of trepidation about nipples. If you have nipples yourself, you may be aware that they become erect in response to temperature changes, chafing, breezes, or sometimes for no goddamned reason at all. Since breasts, and especially nipples, are so sexualized, it feels unseemly to fail to hide them when one is a nasty old lady who shouldn’t ever have hard nipples in the first place, even though hard nipples have nothing to do with arousal or sex, like, 99.999% of the time.

But on the other hand, fuck that boob shame, because bras are flat-out uncomfortable. They’re probably only truly appropriate in outfits that also include high heeled shoes and make-up and all the other trappings of body-as-canvas-for-artistic-expression.

And look at pictures of famous women! Their boob shapes are, as they’ve ever been, ridiculous! That one look, combining countable ribs and jutting collar bones and high, round, smushed upper boob circles above a plunging neckline? It’s absurd, so false, and the result of some combination of surgery, duct tape, and airbrushing. I’d submit it’s okay for people in the fame industries to alter their boob shape as the muse strikes them, and blessings to them, but it’s false as fuck in terms of actual boob-shape reality, and people on the streets should be walking around with actual boob-shaped boobs just like they walk around with thigh-shaped thighs and face-shaped faces.

I don’t think there is any evidence, like there is for heels, that bras are bad for you. They don’t seem to cause cancer or anything, so beyond mild annoyance there’s no pressing reason to avoid them. But that tremendous relief you feel when you take one off is proof enough that they’re silly as fuck.

The only way to normalize boob-shaped boobs is for them to be common. Same with nipples. Is it selfish to wish to be be comfortable, above and before meeting social expectations? I don’t know, maybe. In general I dress very conservatively; when I leave my house I’m covered from neck to wrist to ankle, because I don’t think it’s appropriate to be pushing 50 and half-naked in public unless it’s just hot as fuck. But in order to be officially and truly dressed in ways that cannot offend, I’m supposed to smash some fat and glands into an absurd contraption that doesn’t actually serve any useful function? Ugh! I mean, thank God bras aren’t corsets, but they’re still ridiculous.

Free the boob! Seriously.

Remember: bra manufacture is a multibillion-dollar industry dominated by large multinational corporations.

Read the history of the bra here.

* And then I went and looked at a bunch of images of starlets and red carpets and the sorts of things I generally avoid and discovered that boobs are free quite a lot now. Sometimes they’re shaped, but just as often they’re not, so this post is like a decade past its prime.

In which rape culture concept is a fabrication. It is false and dangerous, terribly damaging to males, and it selfishly diverts time and energy away from real crises.

In feminist theory, rape culture is a setting in which rape is pervasive and normalized due to societal attitudes about gender and sexuality. The sociology of rape culture is studied academically by feminists. There is disagreement over what defines a rape culture and as to whether any given societies meet the criteria to be considered a rape culture.

“Rape culture” came up on Twitter again, and I said what I usually do, which is more or less something along the lines of “lol no rape culture is a myth.”

The tweets below happened, and I wanted to respond in long form, hence this very long post:


Well, for one: “guys think it’s okay” to trick girls into getting drunk enough to rape? Which guys? Since when? Where’s your evidence for this? Walk down the street, ask a hundred men, and they’ll say fuck no because their moms, sisters, wives, and daughters are women, and they’d beat the shit out of anybody who got any of those women drunk and assaulted them. The percentage who say otherwise are trolling, lying through their lips for the shock value and to prove their bravery to their young college comrades; the fewer guys who actually do otherwise are bastards and we, as a society, put them in jail.

And two: why don’t campus rapists get charged more?! Are you serious?! Unlike the campus rape crisis, which is fabricated, rape accusations are an epidemic these days, and our culture is so anti-rape that this new trend is ruining young men’s lives. Once you’ve been accused of rape, you’re a rapist for the rest of your life even if you’re exonerated. Enjoy your diminished (or absent) prospects for mates and jobs, now that some college girl ruined your reputation by accusing you of being a violent and deviant criminal!

Women who have experienced actual assault and rape are victims. Women abducted by ISIL and the Taliban are victims. Women and girls (and boys and men) who are trafficked are victims.

Privileged American university women are not victims. Their lives are not statistically dangerous; their experiences with sex and sexuality and the opposite sex are the result of their own decisions and actions rather than those of outside agency; they are the single safest, richest, healthiest, longest-lived, and most educated class of human beings ever.

Rape culture is a fabrication. It is dangerous and misleading because equating mild social discomfort (“a man on the street complimented my looks and I felt pressure”) with actual suffering (“ESCAPEES FROM ISIS RECALL RAPE, SLAVERY“) is absurd. The two conditions are not similar and cannot be equated.

The very idea so muddies and confuses the conversation that real topics of human rights abuses can’t be discussed without also including the irrelevant and petty feelings of a highly privileged class, namely Western university girls and their feminist mentors.

Most feminist statistics are wrong. Wrong as in incorrect and untrue.

They say 1 in 5 women are assaulted; the CDC says it’s 1 in 50. They say women earn less than men for the same work; there is literally zero evidence of this (if it were true, businesses would replace male workers with female workers). Their stats on domestic violence, female land and business ownership, and slavery: all grossly wrong.

Any entity that is routinely wrong in its numbers is highly suspect in its motives.

I do not lack compassion for victims of rape and assault. I’m a “survivor” of sexual abuse myself (even though my life was never in danger, and I think the use of the word “survivor” in non-life threatening conditions is ridiculous hyperbole and inappropriately used).

If you’ve been raped or assaulted, my sister (or brother), I’m sorry. Very sorry.

But if you’re a member of a privileged class merely incapable of taking responsibility for your own actions, well, I have little sympathy for your problems.

YES, as a species we still have slavery and sex-trafficking. YES, rape and violent assault exist, and YES they’re terrible and it is our bounden duty to address these issues to the best of our capacity. But the fact that rape jokes exist doesn’t indicate we live in a “rape culture.” There are women driver jokes too, but I still have a license.

Listen, if you’re a man who believes America is a “rape culture,” then ipso facto you consider yourself a potential rapist. All men who support the misandrist idea that all men are literally just one situation away from committing rape are disturbing to me. Grow a pair, for fuck sake. (That’s what women really want, no matter what they — we — say. Don’t coddle us when we’re being ignorant; require us to be our best. Just as you require yourself to rise above your feelings and not commit rape.)

Oh, and listen, if you think you’re exempt, if your feminist sisters go on and on about repeatedly debunked “1 in 5” assault statistics [it’s 1 in 50, which is still too many, but certainly not 1 in 5] in front of you and you’re male, even if you’re gay, she’s calling YOU a rapist, to your very face, because that’s what “rape culture” means: that you’re a victim of your culture and unable to make your own decisions and will eventually rape somebody because that’s what men do.

It’s just that in your case, if you’re gay, you won’t be raping her, so she’s fine with it. It’s fine to rape men. We know this because feminism rarely mentions our brothers’ suffering, unless it’s to draw attention to their own agenda.


On the cult of printed books.

April 27th, 2016 | Posted by Mush in Memes | Reading | Reference | Soapbox | Whining - (0 Comments)

In which I’m kind of a dick about people trying to wean themselves off of their identification with their belongings (which is a very important stage of development, of course, but seriously, this has to be the hundredth blog post I’ve read about how deeply attached bitches are to their Harry Potter books, and I’m like, You were literally raised in the cheap portable personal electronics age, and your attachment to books, to actual paper printed books, is, compared to those who went before you and truly used books in a way you never needed to, tenuous at best, and yet here you are talking like you were a monk illuminator who just watched his whole life’s work burn to the very ground).

I love to read, but this maudlin affectation about book collecting currently infecting our group consciousness is getting silly. “I really love books!” is turning into some sort of off-kilter, past-worshiping, item-hoarding cult. We get it: you love the smell of books and the feel of a favorite volume in your hand. So does everybody else. Shut up already.

The vast majority of books you read aren’t that good, and won’t need to be read again. And reference is all online now, you don’t need encyclopedias or dictionaries or histories. You can put a thousand years of human knowledge on a single eReader, but you’ll still probably read throw-away pop fiction. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that!)

The old fashioned library is dying, and in many ways, yes, it sucks, but let it go. Jesus. The TERRIBLE STRUGGLE you go through trying to pare down your embarrassment of stuff, to minimalize, to quit decorating with books you’ve never even read, truly verges on the absurd. You’re having crazy romantical identity feelings about a particular style of inanimate object. If you talked like this about rolls of aluminum foil, we’d tell you to see a specialist.

(I realize the analogy breaks down, because while aluminum foil is incredibly useful, it’s not potentially filled with knowledge in the same way a book is, but books aren’t dying: the format is changing. As are our lifestyles: we don’t have family seats where libraries can live for generations; we move every few years. The energy expended in moving a library of paper books that you could store on a six ounce device just for false nostalgia is wasteful. Period. And there are more books being published every day than used to be published in entire years.)

I get that it’s hard the first time, when you’re ten or eleven or so, and, because you spent all Saturday fucking off and not cleaning your room, your dad stuffs “everything that isn’t schoolwork or clothing,” meaning all your books and toys, into trash bags and throws it all out: yeah, you’re a kid, and you cry because you just lost your purple teddy bear for disobeying, and losing your beloved things is hard.

But if you’re old enough to have a book collection, you’re old enough to know that you are not your stuff, and that reading itself, that magical alchemy in which somehow an entire world fits inside you and lives there, isn’t going away, and everything in your books and papers can be digitized and stored in a smaller, lighter, more easily searchable format, and your maudlin attachment to a data format is too forced and common to really seem genuine.


I recently started learning how to make bread. It turns out that holding a ball of soft, living bread dough in your hand feels an awful lot like holding a book: it’s an act that belongs to everyone of us, it reaches backwards and forwards through time, it contains potential, it nourishes, and, honestly, you really have only a vague idea of how it’s going to turn out.

All of which is to say, hey, if getting rid of some treeware is truly heartbreakingly difficult for you, then you’re basically a Disney princess in terms of level of real world difficulty. Lucky you!

In which my life is so completely the opposite of rock star. I’m not entirely sure how I’m supposed to feel about it.

Both of the houseplants, the kalanchoe a co-worker gave me last year and the avocado pit I started in 2014, were totally root-bound and desperately needed to be repotted.


On Saturday we went to the ghetto K-mart for pots and toilet paper. It was the first time I’d gone anywhere in the car in months! The weather was gorgeous but everything was still grey and brown; it took today’s endless hours of rain to start any greening.

I also got a little gardening tool — I have half a plan to dig up the overgrown bed in front of the building and grow tomatoes and parsley instead of weeds and grass — and some tomato seeds.


On the other hand, the rabbits would probably eat any seedlings, the site gets brutal direct sun all summer, weeding sucks, and I could just grow tomatoes in pots in front of a window and eliminate pretty much all the bother altogether.

I recently bought myself an apron. AN APRON. So when I cook and clean and do dishes, I wear my little housewifery uniform. I’m pushing 50 and I wear an apron because it keeps me from wiping my hands on my clothes and that seems like a good idea.


I still haven’t bothered to go out and make friends; I’m perfectly content hanging out with my weird and wonderful boyfriend and never going anywhere. (Plus, as far as I’m concerned, “going anywhere” weather lasts about four months a year in this part of the country. I miss Walla Walla weather so fucking much.)

I keep thinking I need to join a stitch & bitch or drag my carcass to an open mic, but then I don’t, which makes me think I don’t really want to. I’m generally pretty hard to stop when I set my mind to going out and doing things.

I cook dinner every night, I do dishes. I sleep in. I make the bed, I tidy up, I fuck around online, I read a few hundred books per year, I play with miniature sewing machines.

Miniature sewing

I don’t knit for shit anymore.

I also don’t sit on the floor anymore, which is beginning to get on my nerves. There may be a rug in my life soon, so I can sit on the floor. Chairs are stupid. I also think they might be bad for your legs, or at least your circulation, and your lower back.

Here’s a zucchini lasagna I made. I even made the marinara from scratch, since all the store-bought sauces these days have added sugar.


I do laundry, I sweep floors, I maintain seasonally appropriate decorations. Basically the only people I ever talk to are Scott and the guy at the gas station. Once in a huge great while I walk over to the taco bar for a drink or three, but I’m so cheap these days I feel like that’s only for treat, not for regular, even though I always used to blow my cash at bars. I mean, you can get twice as much booze for the same price at a liquor store than at the bar!

Bloody Mary

I actually like my job. I close the bedroom door, login to the other account on my computer, and take calls for Comcast. (You’d think taking calls for Comcast would be awful, but I support the security system rather than cable or internet, so we have totally different metrics and it isn’t.) After four hours, I log off and walk into my living room. I never have to wear a bra, or even brush my hair for that matter.

I routinely get perfect VOC (“voice of the customer” survey) scores, and about once a week somebody will ask to be transferred to my supervisor to report how much they liked my service. I don’t even have to wear shoes. When it’s slow, I read books between calls, or surf on my tablet. When it’s busy, the 4-hour shift goes by quickly. I have an incredibly comfy, cushy job and after the shock and awe of that year in retail I’m terribly grateful for it.

Comcast-bashing mail

I didn’t have to leave the building once during blizzard season. I worked from home and had groceries delivered! It was awesome!

I am basically the most coddled, most spoiled person on earth. Seriously. I don’t even get out of bed some days until two in the afternoon. The place is so small I can scrub the bathroom or clean the kitchen in half an hour. It takes minutes to sweep.

And the relationship is awesome. I love the shit out of him, and he loves me right back. We’re nice to each other and we help each other. There’s total affection and total parity, plus he regularly makes me laugh (even though he watches vintage pro wrestling way more than anybody should). If I get up to do some chore or another, he’ll jump up too and take out the trash, or run the broom, or pop off to the store with the grocery list (he does most of the household errands).

His only real bad habit is his regular failure to close cabinets. I close the medicine cabinet every single day, and kitchen cabinets frequently. But that’s it. Otherwise — well, beyond his propensity for puns and other forms of very unfunny, low humor — I couldn’t find anything to bitch about unless I made it up.

Sure, I do the bulk of the chores, but unlike all the other losers I’ve dated, this one actually pays the rent and the bills, so I’m happy to. And, unlike all the other losers I’ve lived with, he doesn’t treat our home like a hotel his mother works at. It’s fucking glorious.

Here’s the photo they’ll run if we ever get accused of some sort of heinous crime. (We won’t have committed it, though, because that would require us to go out and do something.)

First pic with new phone's front-facing cam

The neighborhood is host to tons of heavy traffic. I’ve never lived on a busier street, and I once lived on Powell boulevard in Portland. There’s traffic past our building 24/7, and a lot of it is emergency vehicles with sirens on. Tons of foot traffic, too, all year, although a lot more when it’s a decent temperature, of course. In the summer, there’s the pedal pubs too. Somehow it gives the impression that you’re doing something, all that activity just out your window, even though you’re probably just sitting around looking at Pinterest or something. Maybe that’s part of why I don’t seem to feel compelled to get out there and meet people.

I’ve lost a lot of of the weight I’d gained in the past few years, and intend to lose still more. But even though in some places my dimensions are what they were, say, five or ten years ago, that middle age thickening thing is clearly taking over. It’s something about where the fat lingers, and the elasticity — or lack there of — of the skin, somehow. I can look at myself in the mirror and know that this measurement and that measurement is what it was awhile ago, but now I look like an old lady. The body changes. It’s vaguely disconcerting.

My eyelid continues to indulge in its slow decline and now my eyes are entirely asymmetrical. I do wonder what causes one’s eyelid to droop. I think it’d freak me out more but Scott doesn’t give a shit, somehow that helps. I guess you can relax about the issue of your beauty or lack there of when you’ve already got a mate.


Getting into other middle aged pursuits: old movies. Movies from the 30’s and 40’s. Movies I used to find uncomfortably dull are now enjoyable. I find myself thinking about how when the weather gets nice, I should persuade Scott to go for brief postprandial walks around the neighborhood with me, for our health.

I think about holidays and tea pots, whether I should buy a spiralizer, I read tons of recipes; I don’t think about bars, gigs, and parties. I put on makeup about every six months for no reason and then generally wipe it right back off. I consider appropriateness when choosing clothing. (Well, secondarily. First it’s comfort, then it’s “does this hide or emphasize the fact these old tits aren’t in a bra?”)

Becoming amused by my invisibility; when I walk around or hang out in front of the building veritable packs of “young people” walk by and they register me exactly the way twenty-somethings register people old enough to be grandmothers. It’s weird. I used to be them, now I think of them as idiot kids and they think of me as old. Conversations that were once painfully new and riveting are now painfully derivative.

(I do know the “cure” for these feelings of aging into obsolete unhip decrepitude is to go hang out with a slightly older crowd. Then you quit being an old lady and you start being the hot young thing; but again, I just can’t be arsed.)

It makes me invisible in a way, being older than the neighborhood, and it’s such an interesting dynamic, since most of it occurs internally. The kids in the building usually say hi on the rare occasions I see them, and certain personality types will nod as they walk past on the sidewalk, but in general most of the population’s eyes just slide off me like I’m not there. I’d probably be super bugged by it if I didn’t live with someone who smooches me frequently and somehow manages to grab my butt every single day of the year.

Aired up my bike tires! Told Scott to buy me some bike baskets. Getting ready to ride for groceries! Having them delivered is awesome, of course, but hardly necessary when it’s over 50F (and under 80F). Had considered going for a ride today, but it decided to rain non-stop. At least the grass has started to become green.

Maybe I’ll go ride my bike around tomorrow!