Words of Wisdom … Maybe

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We all remember little sayings our parents used to impart to us when we were children, right? Gems such as: “If you eat too much candy, your toes will fall off,” and “If you walk around outside barefoot, you’ll get worms.”

Probably not those specifically …

It’s an interesting thing to think about, though, those little teaching moments. They’re simplified for kids. For example, sugar is not directly linked to diabetes; however, if you overindulge in sweets (or any food, really) you might gain weight which does increase your risk of diabetes and that can increase the risk of artery disease and/or nerve damage and blah blah blah amputation. Ever tried explaining that to a kid? I haven’t, but I have been a kid, and I wouldn’t have cared. I mean … I cared that I thought my toes might fall off, but you better believe I never fucking gave up that sweet, sweet sugary goodness.

The point is, sayings like that stick with you. Specifically, they instill in you the fact there are repercussions to your actions, behaviors, or decisions. If you do x, then y will happen. But there’s more to it than that. What if we go from action/consequence to action/consequence/qualifier.

Take, for example, this little saying: “You can pick your friends and you can pick your nose, but you can’t pick your friend’s nose.” Now add qualifiers: “You can pick your friends and you can pick your nose, but you can’t pick your friend’s nose unless it isn’t hurting anyone AND you have your friend’s consent.

Two qualifiers there, both essentially changing “can’t” to “shouldn’t.” Those qualifiers are also asking the recipient of this saying (henceforth referred to as Dave; he doesn’t mind) to consider others before acting. So, now Dave has to ask himself, “How will this affect the people around me and how will it affect my friend?” That’s macro and micro level empathy, you guys. That’s something that can be cultivated. With the exception of individuals with certain mental disorders (primarily, but not limited to, sociopathy, narcissism, any form of psychopathy really) people are born with the ability to empathize.

Build. On. That.

You can do anything. I mean … you can do anything physically possible for a human. Can you eat an excess of candy? Yes. Can you steal? Of course. Can you walk outside with no shoes? Absolutely! Can you murder? Why not? You can do so much!

But just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. Act with the knowledge that what you do creates ripples that reach beyond you. Or, more simply put, just try not to be a dick.

First Amendment vs Pro-Ana and Pro-Mia Websites

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I am concerned.

Well, I’ll back up a moment and talk you through that. There are a couple of issues that ebb and flow as “hot topics” and neither has anything to do with the other. The First Amendment is one. Eating disorders—specifically anorexia nervosa (AN) and bulimia nervosa (BN)—is the other. I say “eating” disorders, but I think they are more aptly put into the category of “anxiety” disorders. But, that’s not really the topic right now. The topic, what has me concerned, is this: There are websites—quite a number of them, in fact—that glorify these disorders.

Pro-Ana (anorexia) and Pro-Mia (bulimia) websites have message boards where tips and advice are shared, not on how to overcome the disorder, but how to hide it better and be more efficient at it.

For obvious reasons, I won’t be linking to any of these sites, as I normally would.

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Why do these sites exist?

Let’s turn to our friends over at ANAD, the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, Inc. (what a mouthful), to get a little insight into this. According to ANAD:

  • ~30 million people regardless of age or gender suffer from an eating disorder in the US
  • Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness (within the subset of eating disorders, AN has the highest mortality rate)
  • In a study following active duty military personnel over time, 5.5 percent of women and four percent of men had an eating disorder at the beginning of the study, and within just a few years of continued service, 3.3 percent more women and 2.6 percent more men developed an eating disorder
  • Nine percent of American women suffer from AN in their lifetime
  • One in five AN deaths is by suicide
  • Five percent of American women suffer from BN in their lifetime

This is maybe one third of the stats you can find on ANAD’s site. 30 million people in the US. That’s 9.2 percent of the US population. That’s 2,925,000 women suffering from AN and 4,875,000 from BN. If 26 percent of females and (according to ANRED.com) 10 percent of males suffer from AN or BN, a businessman would tell you that you’re looking at a ripe market. That’s one reason these sites exist. The market is so ripe, in fact, that one company has struck proverbial oil.

So, we know there is an audience for sites like these, but is that enough? Yes, and no. Sufferers of AN and BN are stigmatized, and none more so than men. To whom do you turn if you have a problem—and you know you have a problem—but you know you’ll be made to feel as though you’re worth less (if not exactly worthless) if you seek help. What will people think of you? That you’re weak? That you’re self-centered? That you value too greatly how others view you? That you can be manipulated by the media, or criticism of your appearance, or whatever the case may be? These feelings of worthlessness, of loneliness, of weakness, of anxiety only increase at the thought of saying something about your problem to someone.

With Pro-Ana and Pro-Mia sites, these individuals have a community. And it’s a community reinforcing the behavior of the disorders.

 

 

Why are these sites allowed?

This is my real question. I realize closely monitoring the Internet is like toilet training a cat—possible, maybe worth it, but definitely time, energy, and sanity consuming. Still, you would think websites that aid people in harming themselves, and which could potentially be considered aiding in suicide, would be … you know … not legal. In the same way starving someone is not legal.

I know, I just know, that if Pro-Ana and Pro-Mia sites started to be monitored and subsequently shut down, someone would cry, “You’re violating my First Amendment rights!” Is this true? According to First Amendment Center and Newseum Institute, there are essentially nine categories not protected by the First Amendment:

  • Obscenity
  • Fighting words
  • Defamation (including libel and slander)
  • Child pornography
  • Perjury
  • Blackmail
  • Incitement to imminent lawless action
  • True threats
  • Solicitations to commit crimes

According to Deb McAlister-Holland, “Chat room conversations that [encourage] suicide [have been] denied First Amendment protection.” That, and also perhaps a bit of common sense, leads me to believe that Pro-Ana and Pro-Mia sites—including forums and chats on such sites—wouldn’t be protected. So, why are they still around, and why are there so many?

While rhetoric on such sites may not be the same as, “Go kill yourself,” in some instances, it’s very close.

 

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Want more info on what is and isn’t covered under the First Amendment? Check out Sam Cook’s article, “The First Amendment and What it Means for Free Speech Online.”

Coming up…

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Coming up next:

IDUN: A first look at a brand new character!

If you’re eager to get back to the more scientific blog posts, you don’t have to wait long. Tomorrow we’re going to take a look at whether seeing is really believing, as we discuss how the brain utilizes different sensory inputs to decipher an entire picture.

Music is the Muse

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I took a break from writing a blog for which I’d need to indulge in research. I started today off doing something I had zero desire in ever doing. Or, rather, it began last night.

I was driving home, listening to an album. Every time I listen to this album, I feel it building a story. Maybe not the one the musicians are trying to tell, sure, but a story that won’t go untold. It refuses. For months, I’ve resisted. Never, ever, have I had the desire to write anything on the same plane as a work that could be called epic, nor have I had interest in world building. But, what do I know?

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Language, Please…

I see why Tolkien was so keen on using dead languages. Particularly Old English. It’s beautiful, it’s melodic (an educated guess, on account of it being a… well, a dead language), and it feels epic. So, as I sat down to outline the first few chapters for the first book in this tale, I realized I needed to brush off my Norse sagas, my Old English texts, and my Celtic mythology. I realized this mostly after I spent three hours coming up with a couple of character names and the name of the land the protagonist is from. I must have taken a severe linguistic inflection dump after college.

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Sweet, Sweet Resolution

So, I rounded up my linguistics sources, settled on character and (one) place names, and jotted the outline of the first nine chapters for this first installment. It feels great. It feels daunting. It feels terrifying. And boy, I can’t wait until I really get to dig in. I’ve set a happy pace I can keep, because once the outline is done, there’s no stopping the creative juices.

While writing (and editing and touching base with fifty people a day) for a magazine as my day (read: paying) job and writing blogs eat up time, there is an hour per day somewhere in all that for which I can spare a moment of world building, one sentence in a hybrid dead/new language, one action scene or touching moment.

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Please Stop Asking…

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From what I’ve heard (mostly on the Free Beer and Hot Wings morning show), when you are newly married, the most common question is some variation of: “So, when are you going to start pumping out babies?!” I’m sure it wasn’t worded that way, but why get bogged down by something like manners or subtlety? Yes, I’ve seen women ranting and raving about being on the receiving end of this question. Yes, it also annoys me when I’m asked because, as I keep telling people, I already have kids.

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For me, there is a different, far more exasperating question…

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Are You Pregnant?

I know, I know, it’s in the same family as the newly-wed question. So, what’s the big difference? People have asked me this question since I was in my late teens. And for any reason. Any at all. Here’s an example:

I like to eat _______.
a. Pickles
b. Ice cream
c. Steak
d. Eggs
e. Broccoli
f. The heart of my enemies
g. Literally anything that is edible

By the way, you can fill that blank in with any of those answer choices. Except “f.” I’m not sure how that got in there. The point is: After a certain age, pregnancy is obviously the only way to explain desire for a type of food. Likewise, if I ever say that my head hurts, my back hurts, I’m nauseous, I’m having an allergy attack, I broke my ankle, the question here is also whether or not I’m pregnant.

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Although I’ve gotten to the autopilot point of saying, “No, I’m not pregnant” and “A brain aneurism is not usually a symptom (gift?) of being pregnant,” I should really just…

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Say Yes

Not because of all the fun jokes I could play on people, but because it would give me an excuse to overeat and act hormonal. Or is a female the slave to her hormones. I forget. Anyway, saying “yes” might curb the amount I’m asked that question. I mean, people know that you can’t get a pregnant woman more pregnant, right? Saying “yes” would also excuse me from having to follow up “I want ice cream” with “because it’s sweet and creamy and moist.” Seriously, who needs to give a reason to want to eat ice cream?

I’d like to say that men ask the pregnancy question more often, not because men aren’t hip to female strife, but because their lady-plumbing fell out and turned into a spitting, in-heat-seeking missile with stabilizer balls.

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That may or may not have been the best anatomical description of how the human body works. I never claimed to be an anatomist. What I’m trying to say is that I expect opposing genders to be ignorant about one another in some aspects. And yet, more women than men ask. Granted, it is almost an even keel. I just find it a bit inconceivable when I’m hanging out with a friend, talking about [insert food here] and out of nowhere, “Are you pregnant?” Wtf do you mean am I pregnant? You just said you liked that food, too!

What I want to know is…

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Why Are You Asking?

Is this a trick question? Are you asking because you hope I am, you sadistic bastard? Or maybe you hope I’m not. Surely pregnancy is not the only answer to all my ailments and appetites. Right? Right? I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that at least half the time this question is asked to me, it’s in jest.

“Are you pregnant” is the 21st century equivalent of the “hysteria” diagnosis. Prevalent and of zero help.

Harrison Ford is Making Global News

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From John Travolta to Gisele Bundchen, celebrities love to take to the sky, whether via plane or helicopter. There must be something freeing about being able to transport yourself above the land-bound hardships of the rich and famous. I know that’s my favorite thing to do when I can’t choose between the Bugatti Chiron and the Pagani Huayra BC.

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And then there’s Harrison Ford. Go ahead and riddle off all the Star Wars zingers you can. I’ll wait. Done? Ok. So, this past Monday marks the fourth “incident” in Ford’s piloting career. The first was back in 1999, when his helicopter flipped due to a delay in adding power during a power-on recovery. The next was a year later, when he performed an emergency landing in Nebraska.

In 2015, Ford was forced to execute another emergency (read: crash) landing on a golf course in the Santa Monica area. He did not crash. It was a crash landing. Or, as Ford says, “I didn’t crash. The fucking plane crashed.” Ford describes the incident in a Men’s Journal article written by Peter Stevenson: “When the engine quit, my training had prepared me to deal with it in a way. I really didn’t get scared. I just got busy. I knew what I was going to do, and I knew how to do it.”

Ford’s landing on Monday, however, is a bit different than the previous incidents in that he simply landed on a taxiway… You know, where the planes hang out while waiting to take off.

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“Was that Airliner Meant to be Underneath Me?

The above quote isn’t likely to become as infamous as Urkel’s whining, “Did I do that?” Still, it’ll probably be uttered around the office a few times, maybe worked into one of the next 15 Star Wars movies somehow, and it’ll absolutely be re-quoted in trending headlines.

Of course, I’m a fan of Harrison Ford. Who isn’t? People with no soul, that’s who. But, I’m an even bigger fan of grounding pilots unfit to fly. So, here’s the big question:

Is Harrison Ford getting too old to fly?

The answer, of course, is that in the annals of legends, Ford is never old! But, here in down-to-earth reality, the answer might very well be yes. While Ford has flown numerous search and rescue missions (because of course he has), there comes a time when taking to the sky becomes dangerous for everyone in the vicinity.

We know that air traffic control cleared Ford to land on a runway, that he then had a close encounter with an airliner while landing on a taxiway, and that he had a safe landing. This info points to three conclusions:

  • He wasn’t paying attention (was distracted)
  • He mistook the taxiway for the cleared-to-land runway
  • He has zero fucks left to give

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Don’t Ground me, Bro

Personally, I’d like to think that Ford is both a responsible pilot and in possession of an overloaded amount of fucks to give. Which means it’s more likely that age is playing a factor in judgment, whether he mistook the taxiway for the runway or whether he just plain couldn’t see it. David Lawler explains that “The incident has prompted an investigation from the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA), which could result in penalties ranging from a warning to the suspension of [Ford’s] pilot’s license. Landing on a taxiway is a violation of FAA rules.”

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Once the FAA has had sufficient time to investigate, we might get to the bottom of this conundrum. Until then, please Harrison, for the love of all that’s holy, do not fly.

Today is…

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February 14 is a lot of things. Looking back in history, on this day, there were murders, mass shootings, economic recession in several countries, a collapsed water park in Russia, a shipwreck near Ireland, an asteroid-orbiting spacecraft, a ceasefire, the cinematic release of Silence of the Lambs.

I could go on, but we all know that the biggest thing about today is…

It’s Valentine’s Day

Some people love Valentine’s day, some people hate it (and some people buy birthday presents for their dog-children). I don’t feel strongly one way or the other about Valentine’s day, but I do feel a little aggravated at the people who get butt-hurt over this strictly-for-commercial-gain holiday. Their words.

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And I don’t disagree. But, why is that so bad? Some people spit out the words “Valentine’s Day” with as much force as Dave drinking apple juice only to realize it’s a urine sample. Seriously, you gotta read the label, man. So, before you get a full hate hard-on for Valentine’s Day because you’re single or your cats don’t appreciate you…

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Think About it from an Economic Standpoint

Back in 2016, the National Retail Federation (NRF) estimated that Americans would spend about $19.7 billion for Valentine’s Day. “As the first major consumer holiday of 2016, Valentine’s Day could provide a positive boost in spending our economy needs,” NRF CEO, Matthew Shay, said in a statement accompanying the report.

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In his 2016 article for U.S. News, Americans to Drop $20 Billion for Valentine’s Day, Andrew Soergel wrote, “These gains have been made possible in part by the growing number of Americans working in either full-time or part-time jobs; since the beginning of 2010, U.S. companies have created a net of more than 13.5 million new full-time and part-time positions.”

Wait… You mean spending money really does help make money? You get out of the economy what you put into it?!

I know, I know. I was once a young jaded girl who thought other people’s thoughts and regurgitated other people’s ideas. Then I realized it’s not ok to wear a bra on your head and runaround screaming, “Mayday, mayday, we’re going dooooowntown!” while making obscene gestures.

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According to Laura Jerpi, “Consumer spending on Valentine’s Day gifts results in major retail sales that help many businesses meet their bottom line each year.” Meeting the bottom line one of those oft-regurgitated phrases that means nothing to a lot of people. I felt the same way. Suffice it to say that meeting the bottom line is imperative to keeping businesses up and running, and not ending up like K-Mart. In turn, that means job stability and employee pay raises, which means you can spend more, which means… I mean you get the cyclical nature of this, right? Of course you do.

So, next time you get completely, aneurysm-inducingly butt-hurt about this 100-percent-commercial-BS-holiday, just remember back to that low, low time in 2008-9, pull up your adult diapers (or pants, if that’s your thing), and try not to spoil this day for those people who really just want to give things to their loved ones.

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