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On hijacking conversations: But what about [different issue]?

September 21, 2016

This is a pattern that must stop.

Person #1: “[Fill in the blank] is a huge issue! Yet another example of [Fill in the blank] just happened. That’s [an unreasonably large number] times it’s happened this year / lives affected!”

Person #2: “But what about [different issue]? Why isn’t anyone upset about [different issue]?”

This is never, ever appropriate. Stop being Person #2. Person #2 is, at the very best, derailing a comment or conversation. At worst, he or she is strongly implying that [Fill in the blank] is far less important than [different issue], and that Person 1 should stop talking about it.

Person #2 is saying SHUT UP. He or she is saying STOP TALKING ABOUT THAT THING. DO NOT TALK ABOUT IT.

This is inappropriate. Stop it.

Other, ridiculous examples include:

At home

Person #1: “Jimmy’s low English grade is a huge issue! Yet another example of Jimmy’s low English grade just happened. That’s the fourth six weeks he’s nearly failed English this year!”

Person #2: “But what about Jane’s messy room? Why isn’t anyone upset about Jane’s messy room?”

Jane’s messy room may indeed be a very big problem. But it is not what we are talking about right now, and we have to address Jimmy’s low English grade.

At work

Person #1: “Server outages are a huge issue! Yet another example of server outages just happened. That’s 14 times it’s happened this year!”

Person #2: “But what about network security? Why isn’t anyone upset about network security?”

Network security is indeed very important, and we can schedule a meeting for that at another time…even later today, if you like. But this particular meeting / conversation / email thread has the subject line “Server Outages”.

About the issues

Person #1: “Police violence against black people is a huge issue! Yet another example of Police violence against black people just happened. That’s an unreasonably large number of times it’s happened this year!”

Person #2: “But what about black on black violence? Why isn’t anyone upset about black on black violence?”

It is, again, entirely possible that ‘black on black violence” is a big issue that needs addressing. So is police violence against black people. So stop hijacking the damn conversation every time it comes up. Start your own, separate conversation about your issue.

Do not tell Person 1 to shut up.

He or she does not have to stop talking, for you to have your own conversation.

New music by Amanda Palmer

September 14, 2016

Sep 9: Inmates Are Planning The Largest Prison Strike in US History

September 8, 2016

Read all about it.

Register to vote NOW

July 29, 2016

Not later. Now. If you’re registered, make double sure you’re registered:

And here’s some political commentary from John Scalzi, for good measure. 

How do you fight insurance in America?

July 12, 2016

Insurance just refused to approve surgery for a 7 year old kid – family friend – that 2 specialists says is absolutely critical.

How do you fight that?

A hike in the Rockies – Day 1

July 9, 2016

Fifteen years ago, I went on a solo hike across Rocky Mountain National Park. I started at the Bear Lake trailhead, summited Flattop Mountain (only 12,000-some-odd feet altitude), and through the park on the other side. The original plan was to make a full loop to the west side, then go back along a more northerly trail, and back out Bear Lake. As it turned out, I did the trip one way. (My pack was too heavy, my boots hurt, my tent was flimsy, and I got creeped out by the end of the westward trail.)

I recently got excited about repeating this performance, and my 11 year old son Eric got into the idea, too. So we walked and trained and got gear, and last week we went.

Here are notes and pictures and stuff from day 1.

7-3-2016: Rocky Mountain National Park. Spent two nights in Glacier Basin [a front country camp, to acclimatize to the altitude. We just camped in the back of the minivan…why bother setting up the tent?]  Set off from Bear Lake trailhead at 7:45am.

We had gorgeous weather and a reasonable time to start.

I should note that a couple days before we started out, we assigned roles. I was Hydration Officer, and Eric was Safety Patrol. We each did our jobs admirably. We both stayed hydrated, and Eric was super conscientious about pointing out poison ivy/oak, giving advice on tall steps, and keeping us on the uphill side of the path (away from dropoffs). He probably saved me from a buttfull of poison oak, as he’d mentioned it so much I was on the lookout.

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Start: Bear Lake Trailhead

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My view, for most of the trip: Eric’s pack.

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There were some other views, too.

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NICE views.

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Really, REALLY nice views.

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The summit of Flattop Mountain.


Arrive Flattop Mountain peak at 12:45pm.

Hey, we’re slow hikers. The whole hike up was great.

Am writing this at the peak. Eric has been amazing, and several things have contributed to our success. Planning, water, acclimatization, [trekking] poles, teamwork,and WILLPOWER [as Eric has been emphasizing]. Ahhhh…sitting down!  Now; time to go. 12:52pm.

Trekking poles, as it turns out, are worth their weight in gold. Seriously, get thee some trekking poles on Amazon!

Right as we were packing up to leave the peak, an older lady – maybe 60-65? – arrived, and exchanged notes with us, and hikers do. I noted on my last Rocky Mountain trip that hikers are friendly people, and though then it was a safety thing. Not so: hikers are friendly, because they’re happy. They’re out doing exactly what they want to do, in a beautiful place, with few worries, if any. So it was with she, and – goal met – she turned and started down the way she’d come.

Okay, on to the west side of the mountain…


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We’re actually up in an alpine area. It’s July, so EVERYTHING is in bloom.

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Selfie, proving I exist too.

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So gorgeous.

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Took pictures of a lot of plants, to identify later. Now I don’t care; they’re just pretty.

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It rained. It rains about every afternoon in the Rockies.

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You can’t see it, but it also snowed a bit.

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Not shown: a snowfield we ended up working our way around, stepping from rock to rock, to avoid broken ankles.

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All of these flowers were turned toward the sun. Looked like a Minecraft scene.

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Starting down toward the valley.

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Spotted some elk. Elk are dangerous especially during calving season (now) and rutting season (fall). We avoided.

More notes:

We had some setbacks: snowfield, rain, crossing a river, another snowfield, a cantankerous elk, a very steep and scary snowfield. It was this last, after 12 hours of hiking, that stopped us.

The snowfield – situated in a ravine, and above what looked like a serious drop – scared us. I won’t hit the details here, but the solution lay in roping up together, carefully kicking out steps, using our poles as anchors, and taking just the light pack across on the first go. There was also a too-close-for-comfort encounter with an elk, which scared the hell out of me. But we got across safely, and found that the drop wasn’t necessarily deadly – as it looked from above – but actually just limb-threatening. Still: glad we didn’t fall.

Camp was nothing much to tell, so I’ll write an account of Day 2 (and likely beyond) tomorrow. Ish.

Lessons learned on or before day 1:

  • Assigning roles for specific, important things is good. Safety Patrol is really Eric’s bag.
  • Warm sleeping bag = good!
  • Our little stove was perfect for the two of us, and our “just heat up some water” style of cooking. Strictly freeze dried foods, cocoa, tea, oatmeal.
  • We just bought 4 stainless steel bowls at a kitchen supply store; again, perfect. Lightweight, cheap, solid.
  • The freeze dried Mountain House mac & cheese was meh. Couldn’t get it cooked beyond “mildly crunchy”. Their lasagna was great, though.
  • Eucerin lotion is great – basically nonscented, and good for hands and lips.
  • Trekking poles are worth every penny…especially if you pay $30 instead of $125 for them. We had one each, which was fine.
  • The Sawyer Mini water filter was wonderful. No problems at all, very simple to use and maintain.
  • It was great for Eric to have a Lifestraw and a Personal Locator Beacon. Planning for the worst.
  • We loved our packs and tent…ask if you want to know which ones. My pack is an Osprey, and it was wonderful.
  • Hot cocoa and marshmallows are also worth their weight in gold.


Interim post: what we tell men and boys about sexual attacks

June 8, 2016

I wrote a few days ago about what we should say to women before, and after, a sexual assault. I’m still thinking about what to tell men and boys about these subjects.

In the meantime, here is a wonderful thing that touches on this subject.

Thanks to User Actions Follow Emil Hofileña

Thanks to Emil Hofileña


And: Women are not the only ones who get attacked (see statistics from NSVRC). Things we say to women about prevention, we should say to men, with slight alterations. (“Be careful hon, just because you’re a dude doesn’t mean some total waste of groceries won’t attack you.”) And the response after should be EXACTLY the same. (“THAT COMPLETE WASTE OF GROCERIES**. Let’s get the police, let’s prosecute him to the fullest extent of the law. This is WRONG, he is EVIL…” etc etc etc.)