… on a quiet word to music parents (shhh, don’t tell!)

This is another reblog test, but also, music is good, and a totally vaild career choice. :)

just ponderin'

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Number One Son Sam, Jazz Student, on the Big Bass

Okay. Firstly….


It looks like little Johnny’s or Susie’s interest in the drums, or sax, or bass…

Or guitar, or piano, or clarinet, or flute, or didgeridoo…

Or that cute little triangle thingie they used to give you if you couldn’t play anything else, has lasted through elementary and middle school.

And now it looks like that cute little hobby that was supposed to stay a hobby has grown up and maniacally land-war’d itself into Potential Vocation territory, crushing the once-safe provinces of Medicine, Engineering, Nursing, Plumbing, Law, Accounting, and/or Fashion Merchandising along the way.

Particle Physics is still hanging on, but it doesn’t look good.

And you know this has happened because your perfect cherub just walked into the room and told you that they want to be… wait for it…

A musician.

Yes, they did tell you that.

Yes, they…

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On Blog Comments

I’m mostly testing the reblog feature right now, but this post by Christine Lee about comments was good. :)

Press Publish

Comments from readers are some of the most gratifying parts of blogging. Someone’s reading! Someone felt compelled to send a note!

Even more gratifying is when a lurker de-lurks and identifies him or herself. Those are times when I’ve re-read my post to see what on earth it was about THAT post that got someone to shed their anonymity, and introduce themselves.

It is very much like inviting guests into your home, and making a connection. And sometimes, making very good friends as they return repeatedly for your hospitality, and you in turn, invite them to return for their good grace.

So how do we make our home and blog inviting? And what it is that keeps people returning?

I’ve found that it’s about making your blog safe–and curating the comments, should people disagree and escalate disagreement into barbs. It’s starting a dialogue in your own post, and then facilitating…

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Speaker Spotlight: Erick Prince-Heaggans

I’m so stoked about having Minority Nomad as a speaker at Press Publish, I’m even reblogging the speaker announcement. :)

Note: I do not like the UI of how reblogs are displayed in this theme. Hmph.

Press Publish

We got so lucky on this one! The hard part about getting travel bloggers to speak at a blogging conference is that they’re likely to be, well, traveling. When we first spoke to photojournalist and travel writer Erick Prince-Heaggans to see if he would be interested in being a part of Press Publish, he’d recently landed in Bali, and had a travel schedule planned through the end of summer that was going to take him through Europe, Africa, and Asia. Luckily for us, the stars (and flight schedules) aligned just right for us to bring him to Portland by way of Bangkok to share his experiences with you.

There are so many reasons I’m excited to have Erick join us. Where to start?

Erick makes his living as a photojournalist and travel blogger, visiting places all over the world. That’s a career I know many people would love to have…

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Holiday De-Stress: Community Acupuncture

From what I see at the store, in the street, and on the web, a lot of people are starting to get pretty stressed out. I stopped celebrating Christmas years ago, but I see my friends and family and coworkers and acquaintances getting more tense as the holiday approaches, over all kinds of things —  family commitments, travel, expensive gift bills, trying to keep the Santa myth alive for your kids, having an existential crisis over Christianity and the conflation of Christ’s theoretical spring birth with the pagan Yule/Saturnalia/Insert-winter-holiday-here to try and get more converts, whatever. I’d like to offer a cheap yet healing suggestion for how to de-stress this holiday season: community acupuncture!

Community acupuncture is practiced in group settings, with patients fully clothed and relaxing in recliners rather than lying on a table. There are a bunch of reasons for why it is done this way that I’ll likely write about at some point, but in the meantime, use google if you are curious. :) Anyway, community acupuncture clinics make this form of healthcare more accessible and affordable to many people, and it’s much less intimidating than a solo session for the uninitiated. I’ve been getting acupuncture for something like 20 years, and though I have loved my solo acupuncturists in the past, I don’t see wanting to go back to that model (for one thing — so expensive!). Community acupuncture clinics that are members of POCA (People’s Organization of Community Acupuncture, a co-op that oversees the evolution of the model and sets standards for community acupuncture) generally have a sliding scale for treatments that goes as low as $15, compared to the average $100 per treatment at a solo office. This means you can get more treatment within your budget, and in the case of dealing with injuries or conditions in need of multiple treatments, this is important.

But right now, we’re just talking about de-stressing a little bit. Acupuncture works great for this. “But how can putting needles in your body be relaxing?” you might ask. The needles are really filaments not much thicker than a piece of my hair. In many cases you can’t even feel them go in. When you do, it usually doesn’t hurt. In those cases where it does hurt, it subsides almost immediately as your body responds.

So consider de-stressing with community acupuncture. You can search for a POCA clinic near you. Pro tip: Join POCA before you go to your first appointment. Annual membership is also sliding scale ($25 – $100), and the benefits pay for themselves immediately. As a POCA member, the $15 new patient intake fee that most clinics charge is waived, so you save that immediately. You also get a coupon for a free treatment the week of your birthday, so that pretty much covers the membership paying for itself. You also get 3 coupons for friends/family to get a free visit to a POCA clinic so they can try it out. There’s other co-op type stuff like voting rights and discussion boards, but that’s irrelevant to most people reading this. Financially, if you are going to try it, you might as well just join POCA because it’s a better deal.

I haven’t been to all that many POCA clinics yet, but there are a couple I can recommend first-hand:

So, try community acupuncture and relax!

Ways Men In Tech Are Unintentionally Sexist

Kat just saved me a couple thousand words.

this is not a pattern

A friend of mine posted this on Twitter:

I really respect the amount of self-awareness it takes to ask that question! It’s easy to disavow the trolls sending rape and death threats, but it takes much more courage to acknowledge that you might be perpetuating harmful attitudes in less-obvious ways.

[Author’s Note: I felt like it was important to establish some context, but you can also skip the 101-level discussion and jump right to the list.]

This question hints at two important concepts: implicit biases and microaggressions.

We have all internalized harmful stereotypes about women — it’s part of growing up in a culture that inculcates gender roles from a very early age. Our culture has deeply-embedded patriarchal power structures (ditto racist and classist and ableist and transphobic and homophobic…

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Easter, Epilepsy, and Trying to Cure a Broken Brain

Today is Easter. When I was a little girl, Easter meant a white dress, dinner at 2pm and featuring ham or something like that, and looking for hidden dyed hard-boiled eggs. There was always one hidden in the base of the ceramic little man — dwarf? troll? leprechaun? elf? It just looked like a miniature man with exaggerated craggy features. My mom made it in a class in the late ’60s, I think.

When I was old enough to understand the religious connotations/significance of the holiday, I mostly shrugged. Though I had a period of searching for religious/spiritual meaning like many people, my views on the Bible solidified after reading Live from Golgotha by Gore Vidal when I was 19, and I realized that if videocameras and DNA testing had been around in the biblical era, there would be no Christianity. It’s all about timing.

This isn’t a post about my religious beliefs, however. It’s about one specific Easter, and how broken brains suck.

Many people who follow this blog know that for about 5 years, from 2008 – 2013, my life centered on trying to help my brother’s kids recover from the degradation of their mother’s mental condition and the traumatic things that marked their childhoods as a result. The Easter right before I went to stay with them, my now-ex-sister-in-law gave one of her adolescent twin daughters an elaborate Easter basket filled with goodies. She gave the other a hard-boiled egg. In years that followed, I made the coolest Easter baskets possible, trying to make up for that slight.

This woman started as a ridiculously doting mother. Lived for her children to a degree I personally found vomit-inducing. Built her entire life on being a mom. Over time, her brain burned out from a combination of epileptic seizures and the hardcore drugs that were used to control her condition, and she went from a socially-acceptable doting mother to a bipolar/schizophrenic mess ranging from terror-inducing tormentor to pathetic blob.

My life went from urban web worker with a social life to suburban goodaunt/fakemom/niecerescuer on a day in spring 2008 when my brother called and asked me to come to Georgia immediately to take my oldest niece out of the house and bring her up to my mother’s in upstate New York (where she would be living to go to college that coming fall) because he’d been sleeping on the floor outside this niece’s bedroom at night, and was afraid his wife was going to kill their oldest daughter in the night.

I flew down immediately and took all three girls on a road trip up the east coast, stopping in DC for some educational tourism and with documents in my bag granting me the legal right to have the girls with me because everyone was pretty sure my then-still-sister-in-law would call the police and report me as a kidnapper. The details of her decline, as I learned them in dribs and drabs, were horrifying. That these girls were emotionally abused is unassailable. The fact that they couldn’t even remember a version of their mother who wasn’t this crazed monster, beyond sad. The oldest asked me if I’d ever seen her mother smile. “I’ve seen it in old pictures, but not in real life.” She wasn’t counting the evil leery grin that occasionally still made an appearance when her mom was being cruel.

How do you tell a teenage girl that not only had you seen her mother smile for many years, you’d seen her so in love with her daughter that nothing else in the world mattered, when now that girl is literally running away from her mother because her life depends on it? How do you reconcile the person before you, who retains almost nothing of who they once were, and can never hope to regain it because this isn’t just a mental illness, this is a brain that has been so physically degraded that it cannot be reclaimed? And if we are going to talk about God on this Easter Sunday, how does anyone believe (and oh, that sister-in-law was a massive believer) that an omniscient, omnipotent deity exists in love, yet allows these things to happen — nay, makes them happen? But I’ll leave that argument to Jaquith. :)

The other horrible effect of the epilepsy was that all three girls were exposed to high doses of barbiturates in the womb. Doctors stopped giving these drugs to pregnant epileptic women shortly after the twins were born, as studies started showing learning disorders, especially those that involved sensory-processing issues. For anyone who followed my attempts to get a decent education for the twins in spite of their various sensory-processing disorders, you know they drew the short straw on the in utero lottery.

So. Epilepsy. Unless you know an epileptic, chances are you don’t think much about it. But epilepsy is one of the most common neurological problems in the US, behind only migraines, strokes, and Alzheimer’s disease. More than 2 million people in the US currently have active epilepsy (vs one-off or periodic seizure activity). That’s more people than watched The Mindy Project last week (side note: that’s just wrong, that show is so funny). And for every person who has epilepsy, there are people around them who may be affected, like children who learn how to call 911 before they learn how to tie their shoes, or whose mothers’ brains get so fried that they lose all the maternal love and compassion that once ruled them. More religion: Is the ‘soul’ separate from the brain? And if there is a soul, is her soul fried, or trapped in a broken brain? Either way it’s ridiculously awful.

So. Epilepsy treatment. DRUGS. MOAR DRUGS. DRUGS THAT MAKE YOU A ZOMBIE. Then there’s surgery to split the brain in half, but there are cognitive and other side effects (I know this thing sets things on fire, but I have no idea what it’s called!). Then there are the clinical trials for microchips to help control seizures, kind of like pacemakers for the brain. But there’s no magic bullet, and mostly they keep using drugs.

The big problem with current medications is precisely that the medication is everywhere in the brain. It’s affecting virtually all the cells all the time.
Ivan Soltesz, quoted by NPR

This guy, Ivan Soltesz. Fancy research with light and mice and seizures and brains and trying to affect only the misfiring neurons when they’re going nuts rather than flooding all of the brain with treatment all the time. Ooh, do I like him.

It’s too late to undo the damage epilepsy caused in my ex-sister-in-law’s brain, or the damage that her post-damage condition caused her children, and that really sucks. Not being able to save someone is just plain terrible. But wow is it exciting to think that someone may finally be on the right track to making epilepsy nothing more than an inconvenience to be disclosed on a health form. Keep it up, Ivan!