• Religion vs. Atheism

    I read an interesting article the other day, in Salon. It includes quotations from Lawrence Krauss, suggesting that religion could be gone in a generation. One salient quote:

    Change is always one generation away. So if we can plant the seeds of doubt in our children, religion will go away in a generation, or at least largely go away. And that’s what I think we have an obligation to do.

    There is so much wrong in this one sentence, I can't even... To start, change is sometimes a generation (or shorter) away, and often not. But what's more important, I think, is the attitude that many atheists have (some, most? I don't know how common this is, but it certainly is common among the "new atheists") about religion. To them, religion at worst are these big, fundamentalist systems that deny science, and do horrible things in the name of God, and at best are some stupid fairy tales that people use as a crutch to give their lives meaning.

    I want to start with the flaw in the fundamental premise that many (most?) atheists espouse: atheism as the rational, logical conclusion based on what we've learned about science. I have nothing against atheists, just like I have nothing against anyone who believes in anything else. That's the key. Atheism is a belief, just like any other. The scientific method doesn't have in its toolkit a way to investigate the divine (especially since there are gazillions of ways that people define  it.) The only logical, rational conclusion based on science is "who the frakk knows?" Anything else is belief.

    Second, what is "religion" anyway? As you see above, there are a couple of definitions that apply here. First "the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a …


  • Oh, #Gamergate

    I'm a gamer. Yup. You got it. I'm a 55-year old black woman (er, well, genderqueer) gamer. I've been playing video games since PONG. Right. PONG. I don't have a console now, but I've had 4 in my life. I have 144 games in my Steam Library, and I have downloaded probably hundreds of Android games. I play a game (or two) just about every day. Every once in a while I'll even spend a good chunk of the day on an especially compelling game. I spend far more time gaming than I do watching TV and movies. I have been sitting on my hands, drooling, waiting for the release (tomorrow!!) of Sid Meyer's Civilization Beyond Earth. And I will happily plunk down my \$50 to get it and play it (tomorrow!!) And, my dream (really, my dream) is to write for games. I would love aspects of my novel "The Right Asteroid" to make it into a game. I love strategy, space, puzzle and sim games. Really, I love them.

    OK, I'm done with the gamer creds. But truthfully, if you play Candy Crush Saga on Facebook, you're a gamer. If you play Bejeweld on your phone, your a gamer. Most importantly, if you ever have spent a dime on a game, you're a gamer. You might not resonate with that label, but as far as the game industry is concerned, they want to know who you are. And you know what? It turns out, that there are a lot more women and people of color gamers than anybody thinks. Well, not anybody. The industry knows. They have been slow to respond, but they are responding, and games are changing, and great diverse indie games are appearing. Hence, #gamergate.

    So what is #gamergate, anyway? I don't want to spend …


  • Fat: Fear, Hate & Love

    I just finished watching a documentary film called "Fed Up" about how totally screwed up our food system is, particularly when it comes to sugar. (I've also seen quite a number of documentaries on our food system, all of which are incredibly damning.) And I've read some blogs and such about the movie, and one of the primary critiques of the film is that it exploits fat hatred, and fat phobia. And then I came across this post, about a powerful art installation (the post does not include information about who the artist is - if you know, please let me know.) The post's primary critique was this image, saying that among other things:

    I call SUCH FUCKING BULLSHIT on the picture with the fat child. First, because being fat ISN’T A FUCKING CRUCIFIXION, ASSHOLE. It isn’t a damage or a blight or a sickness or a perversion or any kind of wrong. A kid being fat isn’t automatically a kid who’s got something wrong with them.

    And what's true is that statement above is very right, and very wrong. Across the spectrum, we have a set of truly problematic ways of thinking about and dealing with the issue of fat.

    One one hand, we have a society which feeds us photoshopped pictures of models and stars that set completely unrealistic (CRAZY unrealistic) ideals for how women (particularly women) should look. We have objectified and fetishized thinness, to a degree that is, actually, crazy. It is simply not healthy to be as thin as women are "supposed" to be, and the amount of money that is spent on diet books, diet plans, surgery, gym memberships, etc. is, well, part of the reason I expect those ideals get perpetuated.

    There is a lot of fat-phobia. It's considered our …


  • The Social Media Product is YOU

    ElloI was inspired to write this post by reading a post from my colleague Peter Campbell. It's worth a read.

    If any of your fellow travelers are queer or trans, you definitely have heard about the Facebook real names brou-ha-ha. It has been, for many, the straw that broke the camel's back in terms of Facebook. I don't know that I've seen an exodus, per se, but I know that a lot of people I know have been checking out Ello, as have I. (If you want an invite, email me. Frankly, it has a horrible UX.)

    There is no question that the real names policy makes being on Facebook untenable for some, for a wide variety of reasons, not just because someone's a drag performer. I personally know people who could possibly be injured by ex-partners if they revealed their real names on Facebook. I also personally know people who's "real" name isn't who they are anymore.

    But there is something critical people forget. Facebook is free (as is Google+, Ello, Twitter, and every other social network.)

    If the product is free, you are the product.

    Protesting that Facebook (or any other free social media service) bow to the wishes of their users is not especially likely to succeed. They will, of course, do some things to keep people happily on Facebook - they may yet revise their policy. But they will do everything they can to enhance the money that they can make from you, the product. That is the only thing that you can ever guarantee. The real reason behind the real names conflict isn't at all about reducing the number of trolls. It's almost certainly about advertisers being able to better target you. That's why privacy keeps sucking. Privacy is in direct opposition to the ability to …


  • The Outrage

    I had a conversation with myself this morning. One side of me, let's call her Outraged, was annoyed at what the other side of me, let's call her Stillness, was thinking.

    Outraged said, "I can't believe you're sitting there looking at everything happening and not doing anything."

    Stillness answered, "I'm doing what makes sense to me. Living my life as full of compassion and joy as I can manage. Meeting everyone with kindness. Is there anything else I can do?"

    "But you should be outraged at the fact that a black man is killed by police every 28 hours! You should be doing something!"

    "You are addicted to outrage, Outrage."

    "How dare you say that!"

    "See, your blood pressure is up. That's adrenaline flowing. You're going to get addicted to your own adrenaline."

    "But we can't allow this to happen! What are you doing, sitting there looking at the trees?"

    "Calm down, Outrage. This happened. We must accept that it happened, and keeps happening. Is there anything I can do at this moment that will prevent it from happening in another 28 hours?"

    "Stillness, what are you talking about? Accept it? How dare you accept this! That's horrible!"

    "All I am saying is that what has happened, has happened. We can't change the past."

    "I'm sorry, but I can't accept it! I won't accept it!"

    "Outrage, can you turn the clock back to Saturday, or yesterday?"

    "Well, of course not."

    "Then, you must accept that it happened. You must accept that it happened twice more since."

    "So what's your alternative, Ms. Stillness?"

    "I don't have an easy answer, Outrage. This is a very complex issue. It won't come untangled easily."

    "Oh, so you don't have an answer, but you want to accuse me of being addicted to outrage? I'm outraged …


  • War, blame, self-responsibility, and compassion

    There are many, many wars going on right now. Some, like the 44 military conflicts, create suffering on massive scales, and large losses in life. But there are many, many other wars. Gang wars, sectarian conflicts, internal conflicts that have not yet gotten violent, conflicts between political parties, as well as the internecine conflicts between sub-factions social groups, and, sadly, between people in a couple who love each other. Conflict, including everything from the small, private conflicts we live each day, to the huge conflicts that kill thousands, seem to be simply... human. We can't seem to avoid it. We haven't managed to avoid it for any of our history as a species.

    I spend a lot of my day talking to couples (or members of ex-couples), and writing about relationships. My (relatively new) work as a relationship geek and coach has given me insight into why conflict gets out of control. And in thinking about what's going on in the world, I actually think that it's all the same stuff, just vastly expanded in scale. What happens in couples, especially in what we call "high conflict" couples, where each person blames the other for everything, is exactly what's happening in the world today.

    The problem is, blame is never a useful thing. It never gets at the root of the problem, and never solves anything. Even if you are able to get to a sort of settlement, blame will rear its ugly head yet again, and a new cycle of conflict will start. Blame is completely useless in healing conflicts, whether it be conflicts between partners, or conflicts between countries.

    If a couple is locked in conflict, it's easy for a cycle of blame to start going. One person blames the other for an affair, for instance, while that …


  • The Personal is Still Political

    It's funny, I'd never read the original paper that coined the term "the personal is political" until I was getting ready to write this blog post. It's an interesting read. The basic point, from my perspective, is that you can't separate what we do (or what happens to us) individually, from what happens in society. It's all connected. Interpersonal social dynamics interweave with group dynamics, differences in culture, history and oppression.

    What makes this even more true today is that even more than the late 60's when that article was written, we live in a society that commodifies everything. There are absolutely a lot of problems with this, but this blog post is not a rail against commodification -- that train has left the station, and we're stuck with it, unless we wish to radically change the way we all live our lives. (I don't see that coming down the pike anytime soon.)

    This year, for Gay Pride,, a San Francisco-based company that specializes in internet porn, specifically around BDSM, had a prison-themed party. Here's a little taste of the promotional material:

    What kind of trouble will 3000 of the world’s hottest men get into when in lockdown? Let your fantasies run wild in solitary, fall in love in the shower, plan your jailbreak with your mates, celebrate your creative freedom, in Pride weekend's BIGGEST circuit party of the year!

    Now as you might imagine, there was some degree of outrage at the idea that playing at prison is a good idea for a party for Gay Pride. It's a really horrible idea. I don't know who came up with it, but I can think of about 50 different reasons why it should never have happened. Some people rightly protested, and's response to the protest has …


  • Happy.

    Ruth and I were walking down our road on our almost-daily walk. And as is often the case when we take this particular walk, I feel happy. Since I didn't spend most of my life happy, I tend to take sadness or despair for granted, and not question why I feel that way. But happiness? I'm always asking why when it pokes it's little head up, like a new flower arriving in the spring.

    But for the last few months, I have realized that I am happy. I'd say deliriously happy, except that sounds like a state that isn't sustainable, and I know I am happy in a sustainable way. Not that I'll always feel happy. I know that I'll feel sad, or angry, or despairing, or one of a dozen difficult emotions, now and again. But instead of sadness being the baseline, and happiness being a high, it feels like my life has reversed - happiness is the new baseline.

    And the funny thing is that it's not because everything is actually perfect. I still have chronic health issues I am dealing with. I'm still (trying) to pay off my seminary student loan debt. My life at the moment is in flux. I've left behind the career I've known for 15 years, onto another set of endeavors that have no guarantee. But all of these those seem more like a set of puzzles to solve or experiments to try, rather than a problem I have to deal with.

    But what started me out on this journey of happiness was this: I was committed to listening to myself, and how I wanted to live my own life. And being committed to giving myself love and compassion, and being self-aware--they are both things that are core elements of what makes my life …


  • Transitions R Us (or... So Long #nptech, and Thanks for All the Fish)

    If you've known me for any length of time, you know I don't do any one thing for very long in my life. I think that is both my strength, and my weakness. I don't know if most polymaths are like this, but at least I am. I've been a scientist, a teacher and academic, a business owner, a theology student, and a science fiction author (and a few other things, too.) But the one thing I've done the longest of anything is a technologist and developer for the nonprofit sector. 

    I discovered my love and fascination with computers and code in the late 1970s in college, and it has been a pretty consistent thread (and will continue to be) in my life. But I have been "doing stuff" for nonprofit organizations around technology issues, primarily having to do with internet technology and web development, since 1994-5, and full time (with a break in 2005-6 to study theology) since 1999. I've been meaning to leave it now for a while, and after almost 20 years, it's finally time to bid all of it adieu.

    I'm in my last weeks of working with the fabulous team at DevCollaborative, and if you want some ace people to build your nonprofit Drupal website, they'll do it with integrity and great skill. I'm happy to have helped build the collaborative, and sad to be leaving them. I look forward to watching them grow and develop as individuals and as a team.

    I felt drawn to write some reflections about my time doing the work I've been doing, and how I feel now, nearly 20 years down the pike. The first thing to reflect on is nonprofit technology. As a board member of a bunch nonprofit and religious organizations since the mid-80s, I have been …


  • What Does Marriage Mean to Me?

    A old colleague of mine wrote a sweet piece about marriage, and what it means to her to be getting married. I've been thinking a lot about marriage these days, for a variety of reasons, and that post prompted me to finally get out the one that's been brewing in my head for weeks.

    As some of you know, I've been building "Conscious Girlfriend" with my partner, Ruth. Conscious Girlfriend aims to provide resources for lesbian and queer women to have relationships that are full of awareness, joy and compassion. And this endeavor means that I have been thinking and talking about relationships a lot lately.

    This country seems to be in the midst of a major sea change in not only attitudes about marriage, and who should get them, but also the laws regarding marriage. Just today, a brand new set of federal policies were enacted, treating married same-sex couples exactly the same as straight ones. And it seems almost every month brings a new state into the fold of states that allow gay marriage.

    Clearly, there is something about marriage that has deep significance for people, so I've been examining this for myself. What does marriage mean to me?

    There are two threads I can follow. The first is personal, the second political and historical.

    First, the personal. When I was growing up, I would not say that I saw very many married couples with relationships I wanted to emulate. I remember when I was 10 or 11, telling my mother I didn't want to get married. I do know that some of that had to do with the fact that I was beginning to understand that I was queer. But I also think it was because I didn't really see many couples that seemed especially happy. So …