Posted by: mydarkestplaces | November 30, 2014

Company with a soul

Many of you know I worked for a clothing company called Horny Toad for a few years. There’s more awesome to the company than incredible comfortable clothing that often doesn’t scream, “I’m wearing the most comfortable clothing in the world.” (Think what you’d wear to an 8:30am final in college.) in addition, the folks who run the company, work for the company, source for the company, produce for the company, distribute for the company are *good people.*

It’s the distribution I’d like to talk about here. Since 1997 HT has partnered with Planet Access Company (PAC), a distribution center outside of Chicago. PAC works with Search, Inc., an organization whose primary objective is to empower and enrich adults with developmental disabilities, a demographic far too often overlooked. These men and women work to pick and pack the warehouse’s orders. They get paid. They are so enthusiastic, so excited, to be treated with dignity and respect (shouldn’t be so much to ask, right?).

Par for the course, this is all a long lead-in.

Search, Inc., is a part of the Coleman Foundation’s Giving Tuesday Matching Grants Program this year – the philanthropic answer to Black Friday and Cyber Monday. This Tuesday the Coleman Foundation is offering a dollar-for-dollar match of donations up to $15,000. That can make a difference in the lives of so many who deserve a difference made in their lives because they’ve had their families and the state give up on them.

Like the posts on the Animal Refuge League I’ve been sharing of late, this is an effort that can make a very real difference in the lives of a lot of people (in the case of the ARL, a difference in the lives of animals). As I’ve said in my other entreaties, it’s not always easy to find the money to give this time of year, but with the ARL and Search, Inc., these are opportunities where five dollars can make a huge difference.

Let’s do what we can to make Giving Tuesday a thing. Whether it’s a dollar, a word, a hug or a smile we all have something we can give and each of these things are capable of changing the world.

Posted by: mydarkestplaces | October 1, 2014

Arab Spring – Fall 2014

In 2011, I was working third shift in a retail store. I did a lot of work, but the world was also in turmoil so I also spent a fair amount of time sneaking into stockrooms so I could check in on the goings on in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, etc. My social media feeds weren’t filled by just the Washington Post, the New York Times, CNN or even the BBC (though the last was certainly better than the American three – granted that’s a low bar to clear in my opinion). Somehow, from behind the scenes was Andy Carvin (@acarvin on Twitter) the man who would live tweet a revolution.

From the beginning he would retweet what folks on the ground – the folks literally in the line of fire – were saying. He wasn’t doing so in any studied, propagandizing, biased way. He was just hitting the “retweet” button in a manner which got someone’s words from their phone or computer located in Libya into my phone or computer in Maine.

Just think about that for a minute.

With or without him the Arab Spring would have happened. Men and women – young and old – found themselves despairing of the status quo. They may not have known for sure – hell, they still may not know – but they knew enough to know it couldn’t continue as is.

They had the presence of mind and principle to say, “We can’t live under this dictator anymore. It’s time for us to fight back.” And they did. And it was excruciatingly glorious and exultant and heartbreaking and tragic.

It would have been all these things without social media and people like Andy Carvin bringing news of North Africa and the Near East’s plights to Western attention. We would have just let it happen. Not that Western influence did a whole lot even when the powers that be and the general public were made aware, but the Western awareness at least stemmed everything from being completely apocalyptic.

Too many people died. Too many people were injured. When it comes to people dying or being hurt at the hands of their government it’s always one too many.

Why am I bringing this up three years down the line? I Just picked up Andy Carvin’s book recounting his experience helping curate and commemorate the events that happened in 2011. I’m remembering all the feels and fears I felt watching the events in the Near East and North Africa unfold. I remember crying the day Muammar Gaddafi was unseated. Cheering the day he was assassinated. Through Andy Carvin’s work I felt I had gotten to know some of the people who lived in those areas. In some cases I even became friendly with them and we would tweet and message each other (another sign of social media shrinking the world).

When the twenty-four hours of any particular news cycle is up we – particularly we in America – tend to adopt an, “Out of sight out of mind,” attitude. This is dangerous. Not just for us (please reference hysteria regarding ISIS), but for those who live in the Middle East and North Africa. Like my feeling that if we’re not talking about mental health issues then we’re missing someone who’s suffering if we’re not talking about what’s happening in the Middle East and North Africa then the sacrifices of those who fought throughout the Arab Spring have been wasted.

Let’s not forget those who sacrificed everything so that all could live the lives they want.

Posted by: mydarkestplaces | August 24, 2014

Ferguson, MO, and beyond

Because of all the all going on, I have a friend who had to have the “hands up don’t shoot” conversation with her kids this weekend. I imagine several other friends have been having similar conversations with their kids this weekend.

Fucking. Kids.

What. The. Fuck.

There are parts of our population jealous my friend got to wait until her kids were double digits. Parts of our population who are jealous my friend’s kids are still alive because that part of the population’s kids aren’t.

There are parts of our population who don’t see anything wrong with any of these situations. THAT same population will often whine and bitch and cry about how gays, gender non-conformists, divorcees, atheists and any other portion of the population not white, Christian and – preferably – male and rich (although white, Christian, stay at home mom is a reasonable alternative) are tearing apart the moral fabric of society.

I can appreciate that not everyone has the same world view as me. Not everyone had the same upbringing or the same life experiences as I (the reverse is also true). But can’t we all be on the same page about this? The page where people being dead because of ignorance, ineptitude and flat out hate is unequivocally wrong? Particularly when hidden behind a Badge? PARTICULARLY when the Badge’s superiors do everything in their power to protect the Badge?

The events of the last two weeks aren’t because a kid stole a cigar from a convenience store (one, multiple accounts say he didn’t; two, convenience store cigars don’t warrant eight shots into an unarmed man). The events of the last two weeks are because a city’s population is standing up for itself against the very people who abandoned their oath to serve and protect. The very people who showed, that day and every day since, that the lives of non-whites don’t hold the same value as whites.

**I’m sure it’s not every police officer. I know there are good police officers in Ferguson and the rest of the world. What’s happening right now isn’t a situation where the police can, in any way, be portrayed as individuals. They are a very lethal entity. An entity who has military grade tactical gear at their disposal –that they’re using – to “control” the population. The good is being FAR outweighed by the dangerous.

Posted by: mydarkestplaces | August 19, 2014

How FARK saved my life

When I was in college my best friend introduced me to I was there religiously every day. I read enough headlines and articles to get familiar with what tags I really wanted to read. Very routinely a tag would pop up, “Wheaton” and I would read voraciously.

I remember thinking it odd that FARK had a tag dedicated to Wheaton College, but whatever. I’d click on the links anyway and, there was a digitized Wil Wheaton. I’m not going to lie. I had NO idea who he was. I didn’t grow up in a Star Trek household and while the entirety of my clan is plenty nerdy none of us are particularly geeky. So here I was. And I felt like he got me. I loved his posts. He was (still is) smart. Was always good for pushing me a little out of my comfort zone. Then came the fateful day he posted about Twitter. This was at some point in January of 2007. He was effusive about the great things coming out of Twitter. This made me excited. At that point the community on Twitter was so small it’d only be a matter of time before Wil Wheaton and I were best friends.

But something happened on my way to friendship with him. In fact, I’ve never actually interacted with him other than the occasional fan-girling. But for the better, I did meet a whole slew of people locally who were also early adopters of Twitter. A whole slew of people who quickly became my secret keepers and unquestioned support network. No, not every member of my innermost circle is on Twitter – and for damn sure not everyone on Twitter is a part of my inner circle – but there are several people in my innermost circle I’d never have met without Twitter. Without this support system I wouldn’t be here today.

So thanks Drew Curtis for making FARK happen, thanks FARK for being so FARKing awesome, thanks Wil Wheaton for being a big enough geek to warrant your own tag on FARK. And thanks to my Hippo for introducing me to all of the above. Without all of you I’d never have hopped on the Twitter band wagon so early and without the people I met on Twitter I wouldn’t have found the strength to be here.

Addendum 8/20/14: Because I have friends who make me think – and because I saw one of them this morning for a coffee – I’ve been thinking about this all day. The question dearest Brent posed to me was this, “If you’re thankful to them why aren’t you thankful for transistors and semiconductors? (For making the Internet a possibility)” I couldn’t come up with an answer quickly. I’m actually fairly sure I looked like a fish out of water as my mouth just opened and closed over and over again. Now, close to twenty-four hours later, I recognize this as one of the greatest gifts Brent has ever given me. Because I realized Drew Curtis, Wil Wheaton, my friends on Twitter, they may have pointed me to the path of not ceasing to exist, but I’m the one who has to decide to walk it. And obviously this is something that’s harder some times than others, but here I am.

So, you’re right Brent, I did decide to save my own life. But I wouldn’t have thought my life one worth saving without the support system that’s come from Twitter and I wouldn’t have joined Twitter without Wil Wheaton being a Twitter hipster, or Fark creating a Wil Wheaton Tag.


How to find help online

Posted by: mydarkestplaces | May 14, 2014

Veterans’ Affairs

Okay. It should come as no shock to anyone that has ever had a conversation with me longer than five minutes that I have very, very strong feelings about a lot of things. One of my push button issues is veterans’ rights/veterans’ affairs. In addition to the fact our veterans should never, ever have to fight for housing, medical care, jobs, or anything really, because they spent more than enough time fighting for us. In addition to it just being the right thing, it’s especially a sensitive topic because of my Old Man. I know I’ve addressed in the past how my Old Man is my hero. And it’s for oh so many reasons – not the least of which (perhaps chief of which) is that this man is everything a man should be – smart, compassionate, hardworking, loving, kind. Okay. I’ll stop waxing poetic about my Old Man. But because of him, because of the way he and my mom raised me, and perhaps because I’m one of the biggest empaths I know, I often get so, so, SO militant about veterans’ affairs. Read More…

Posted by: mydarkestplaces | April 18, 2014

An ounce of prevention

Newsflash (not really): I have opinions. I know, I know. It’s a shock. I’m so reserved about them. But here’s the thing when it comes to me and my opinions. I recognize that not everyone sees their world in the same way. We’ve all had experiences that have shaped what we see and how we see it. Even though my brothers and I were brought up in the same household with the same values, we don’t necessarily have the same opinions about everything. But the difference is that we’re not douchebags about it. Read More…

Posted by: mydarkestplaces | April 3, 2014

Beaver Brown

I’ve not been shy about how positively I look upon my St. Lawrence experiences. My professors were (and are, bless their patient hearts) integral in me developing into an adult who is willing and able to look at current events and history with a wider angle lens than a small town New England girl. My mentors within the student life realm, again, were and are (bless their patient hearts) integral in developing me into the sort of person with patience and caring for my neighbors. Outside of my parents and my fifth grade teacher (shout out to Mrs. O’Sullivan!) there’s not been an adult (or group of adults) who has more influenced who I am as a human being than the men and women I got to know at St. Lawrence.

Read More…

Posted by: mydarkestplaces | April 2, 2014

Fort Hood and shootings in general

Today there was a(nother) shooting at Fort Hood. As I walked in the door tonight I found myself (internally) railing on people who try and deny PTSD is a real and valid … “thing.” The men and women I know who are or have been in the military don’t wake up one day saying, “I wonder what I’m going to do today. I know…” The people responsible for shootings (in general, military in particular) reach a point they feel that’s their only viable option.

Not excusing – in ANY way shape or form – pursuing said option. I think it’s abhorrent and reprehensible. Hurting and killing someone because you’re hurting is never, ever the right answer. While I understand where the need to lash out at something outside your head and heart comes from, there’s really just no way to justify having that something be a living being (animal or human).

For the same reasons it’s cheaper to provide contraception than it is to provide care after the fact, if we can provide our veterans and servicemen and -women with the mental healthcare they need when they get
home that will help prevent such atrocious crimes from happening again. I worry about my friends. I worry about my friends’ families. We worry enough about them when they’re on the front lines. We shouldn’t have to worry about them after they come home.

It’s incredible how deep my thoughts can go in the course of a thirty yard walk.

Posted by: mydarkestplaces | March 20, 2014

Nothing like a little righteous anger…

… To inspire one to get back on the blogging horse. And boy am I filled with it this morning.

I’d written about one of my transformative books on here before – The Giver – but frankly I’m too pissed to look for it on a mobile device so I’m going to assume if you’re so inspired to you’ll go back and look for it. If not, no harm no foul.

Okay. So The Giver. It’s incredible. A dystopian YA novel before dystopian YA novels were an official thing. There’s a utopian society where the community members entrust their feelings and memories to one person, the Giver. The book revolves around the coming of age of Jonas and his classmates as they graduate from the classroom to apprenticeships and on to the careers and roles they will live, breathe and die in for the next sixty years.

The Giver is a literary hipster – dystopian before it was cool to be dystopian.

So far so good, right? Nothing that wouldn’t be what I love. Again, I’ve probably read it dozens of times and I’ve gotten something different out of it every single time.

Enter Hollywood stage right. They’ve gotten their sticky fingers into it and appear to have, fairly promptly, kill some of the most salient and important aspects of the book. Killed them. Killed them dead.

If you haven’t read it, but plan on it, this may be a good time to stop reading this post. Thar be spoilers ahead.

The very first, and likely the biggest, thing that pissed me off: the movie is shot in color. Presumably, if you’re still reading, you’ve read the book so you know that one of the identifiers that pushes the Giver to select Jonas as his successor is that in a world of black, white, and gray Jonas starts seeing flashes of color. This is a huge plot device/fact that should have factored into the movie. After all, think about seeing the red coat on top of the pile in Schindler’s List. A flash of color in a sea of grayscale. Frankly, just thinking about it is getting me a little verklempt.

The are also action sequences in the trailer. Which, while the book isn’t without action in the memories the Giver gives or the world he and Jonas live in, there’s not really any reason that a laser shooting hover scooter thingymabob should feature in the movie, and especially not in the trailer. Because it’s not something that’s a priority.

The last point I have to make is petty, but I’m going to make it anyway: Taylor Swift has billing as more than just an extra in the movie. Her role may be more than flitting through a crowd, but as she doesn’t feature in the trailer – at all – my inclination is to think that she doesn’t actually play a very big active role in the movie.

I would say I’m happy to be proven wrong, because usually I am. I often give movies and books and shows the benefit of the doubt. But this is not something I’m going to give the chance to prove me wrong. I will not give Hollywood ten dollars to watch them decimate one of THE most important books in my life.


Posted by: mydarkestplaces | December 9, 2013

Things I will never understand

Last night’s insomniac perusal of the Internet brought me across this post. Okay. So. :huffs an angry sigh: 

We’ll start with the fact, and I’ll be up front about this, I’m not that big a fan of Anonymous. When I read and/or hear about an Anonymous DDOS attack it doesn’t strike me as a group fighting for the greater good, but rather a group of nerds  and geeks who are still bitter at the popular kids and wanting to get back at them for every swirly they’d been subjected to over the years.

According to their Wikipedia page, Anonymous is focused on fighting “Internet censorship and control.” These are not horrible things to be focused on. SOPA and PIPA, two bills proposed by the US government in 2011, looked to rein in the freedom of the Internet with the end goal of protecting the profits of massive entertainment and news outlets. In general, the two acts looked to put walls up around the Internet to prevent people from travelling the cyber highways to foreign sites they could download content from before the Powers That Be were ready for said content to be available. That’s a horrible, horrible, HORRIBLE idea. Not protecting the artists – and if the two acts were aimed towards protecting the artists maybe my opinon would be different (or at least more flexible) – but the two acts seemed geared more towards protecting the corporations. And that? That’s a horrible idea.

So, preserving a borderless Internet? That’s a good thing.

However, the methods Anonymous uses are…distasteful to me. To say the least. Their methods are unsavory to the point of bullying. As the first link clearly shows. What could have been a productive start to a conversation, one that actually addressed online misogyny and talked about who is actually creating the rules governing the Internet, ended up as punches thrown back and forth between the feminist crowd and these self-proclaimed Internet police and quickly devolved into a riot of online activists.

Bullying, whether between the Alpha crowd and LGBTQ teens in high school or among the Twitter and other online elite, is unacceptable. And bullying is unquestionably what ends up happening whenever Anonymous rallies its followers against the “feminazis” or any party questioning Anonymous’ goals and methods.

Whether you find yourself on the side of Anonymous or Anonymous’s oposition, hopefully if I’m friends with you we can all agree that bullying is a horrible way to achieve any goal. It didn’t work when we were in the fifth grade, it shouldn’t work as (nominal) adults.



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