Friday, September 21, 2018

No, vasectomies are NOT totally reversible!

Yesterday, someone in the Duggar group posted this article, based on tweets by a Mormon mom of six who lays out why she thinks men are responsible for every "unwanted" pregnancy.  The mom, name of Gabrielle Blair, reminds everyone that women can only get pregnant for a couple of days every month, while men could theoretically get different women pregnant thousands of times per month.  Because men are so easily able to impregnate women, she believes they should be more responsible about birth control.  In fact, she thinks the onus should be on men to prevent "unwanted" pregnancies.  They should be more willing to make birth control accessible, affordable, and available to all women.  And they should also be much more willing to wear condoms.

Gabrielle Blair refers to "unwanted" pregnancies, but that's not a term I'm comfortable with.  I once used it when I was getting my MSW and was corrected by my field instructor, who told me the correct term is "unintended pregnancy".  Although I do think a lot of unintended pregnancies are also unwanted, I decided that I liked the word "unintended" better.  Sometimes women find themselves unexpectedly pregnant and later decide they're glad about it.  So, in this post, I will refer to unintended pregnancies instead of "unwanted" pregnancies.

I agree with many of the concepts Blair discusses in her tweets.  Although birth control has never been an issue I've personally had a lot of concerns about, I did used to work in maternal and child health, back before I was an overeducated housewife.  I have seen the aftereffects of what happens when a woman has a child she isn't ready to nurture.  I do think we need to make birth control readily available so that there is less of a need for abortion.  I would much rather see a woman prevent an unintended pregnancy than have an abortion.

The one thing that I don't agree with, however, is the idea that vasectomies are totally reversible.  Blair tweets this idea, after just having suggested castration as a penalty for men who cause unintended pregnancies.  Of course she realizes that castration as punishment for a man who accidentally impregnates a woman would never happen.  So then she suggests required vasectomies for boys at the onset of puberty.

Um...  it's not that simple.

Before I get too cranked up with my comments about this, let me say that I know that, just like the castration law Blair suggested, forced vasectomies for pubescent boys would also never happen.  Maybe if we only had female lawmakers who were also extreme feminists with a cruelty streak, something like that could possibly be considered, but even then, I really doubt it.  The United States would have to turn into a completely matriarchal society with a hefty dose of The Handmaid's Tale thrown in for good measure.  Blair's suggestions are very sci-fi and interesting to ponder, but completely implausible and highly unlikely to happen in my lifetime.

That being established, I will agree that microsurgeons have come a long way and a lot of men are able to successfully have their vasectomies reversed even years after the vasectomy was done.  However, I can also speak from experience that not every reversal will result in a man regaining his fertility.  I know this because my husband had a vasectomy reversal that was technically successful.  He had 90 million "swimmers" after he underwent a 4 hour operation to reconnect his junk.  And yet, here we sit, still childless.

Now... it's entirely possible that the reason we didn't have children could be because of something other than Bill's vasectomy reversal not working.  For all I know, I didn't get pregnant because something is wrong with me.  However, even if that were the case, the fact remains that not every vasectomy reversal will result in pregnancy.  The Mayo Clinic reports that reversal surgery can be anywhere from 40% to 90% effective.  A lot depends on the conditions the surgeon has to work with.  The reversal surgery has the best chance of working if it's done within a few years of the vasectomy, the patient is young and healthy, the vasectomy was done with a minimum of scarring, and the surgeon has mad skills.

In Bill's case, it had been about eleven years since he'd gotten snipped.  At first, his surgeon told him that he might have to do a more complicated procedure, since it had been so long since his vasectomy (done in 1993).  In the end, they did a less complicated procedure.  A couple of weeks later, a different doctor-- not the one who did Bill's surgery, because that guy got deployed to Iraq-- told Bill that he needed to be careful where he pointed his "thing", since he was firing "live ammunition".  They'd found 90 million sperm in his sample.  Sadly, not a single one was able to penetrate any of my eggs, despite multiple attempts at the right time of the month.

I don't know why I never got pregnant.  We did try.  There were a few things beyond our control that got in the way of conception, not the least of which was Bill's own adventure in Iraq.  However, even if I had gotten pregnant, I still would never agree that reversals are 100% successful.  That wouldn't be true.  Although many men can regain their fertility after having a vasectomy reversal, at least for a time, the fact is, plenty of men aren't able to get it back.  Their bodies start seeing sperm as something foreign that needs to be destroyed or there's too much scar tissue.    

Aside from that, reversal surgery is very expensive, delicate and involved, and requires time off work.  In our case, Bill was able to have it done for free, courtesy of an Army urologist who needed to maintain his skills.  He also got plenty of time to recover, thanks to his understanding Army bosses at the time.  But most men won't have the opportunity Bill had to get that surgery for free.  Reversals are also a hell of a lot more involved than vasectomies are.  They take a lot longer, cost a lot more, and are riskier.  Those who do get reversal surgery, will also need to be able to take the time to recuperate.  

I totally agree with Blair's main points that birth control is important and should be easier to get.  She's right that men should be more willing to do their part to prevent unintended pregnancies.  However, I think it's wrong to promote sterilization surgery as an easy fix for anyone, especially with the irresponsible comment that vasectomies are "totally reversible".  They're not.  Vasectomies are intended to be permanent sterilization.  Any man who gets one should do it with the knowledge that it will probably permanently end his ability to father children the easy way.  If they're alright with that, fine.  But no man should ever have a vasectomy believing that someday, he can simply have it reversed and father children without medical intervention.  It doesn't always work out that way, and it's irresponsible of Blair to promote the idea that it does, even if her comments were really intended as sort of a "modest proposal".

I made a comment about how vasectomy reversals aren't always successful in the Duggar group and immediately got a ration of shit from a couple of the members who wanted to argue with me about it. One woman said that in her hospital, 95% of reversals are successful with "swimmers".  I called bullshit on that.  I don't know that woman from Adam and have no idea what her background is, but it's a well established fact that reversals don't always work, even if the surgeon is a superstar.  I would be very skeptical if any medical professional claimed that success rate because not every candidate is going to get those results, regardless of the quality of the facility and the skill of the staff performing the operation.  

Another woman commented with some tripe about how I should be more sensitive to the women who have to deal with preventing pregnancy.  I AM sensitive to the women.  I DO agree that birth control for both partners is a good thing and both people are responsible.  I don't agree that forcing boys to have vasectomies is a good idea, even if the idea is presented in jest.  I would be horrified if anyone suggested tying the tubes of pre-pubescent girls, rationalizing that they can later have the operation reversed.  I am just as horrified by the suggestion that we should be giving vasectomies to boys to prevent them from knocking up girls.  That's an extreme and unethical solution.  But what really prompted me to write this morning is the idea that a decision to be permanently sterilized is easily undone.  It's not, and reputable medical institutions confirm that it's not.

That being said... although I always wanted children, I now think it's a blessing that I don't have them.  I do sometimes wonder what a child between Bill and me would have have like, though.  Then, after I fantasize about it, I realize I wouldn't wish today's fucked up world on any child of mine.  Also... I wonder how in the world Gabrielle Blair can be a Mormon and be as much of a feminist as she is.  She's either simply a cultural Mormon or she has some serious cognitive dissonance going on.


Thursday, September 20, 2018

On writing in a US military community abroad...

Special thanks to Lauren from South Carolina for today's blog topic.  Some of this will be "rerun" territory for those who are regular readers.  I expect this will be a long post, too.

I've been writing this blog since March 2010.  In the early days, Bill and I lived in Fayetteville, Georgia.  When I wrote my first post, it was about six months after we left Germany the first time.  Back then, Bill was still in the Army.  We had been married for seven years.  I had only met his daughters once, back in 2003.  The younger one wrote a blog that Bill found.  She used Blogger, which is the same platform I use.

Younger daughter was then about 16 years old, and neither she nor her sister would have anything to do with Bill.  Bill is a really wonderful guy.  A lot of people say this about their husbands, but in his case, it's really true.  He's one of the kindest people I've ever met and, given a chance, he would have been an outstanding dad to his children when they were growing up.  Unfortunately, Bill's ex wife was hellbent on destroying his relationship with his daughters.  Her tactics seemed to work very well.  Bill completely lost touch with his girls, although their mother happily kept accepting child support.

When Bill found his daughter's blog, he was both elated and disturbed.  In 2010, younger daughter was an extremely radical Mormon.  Most of her blog was about church leaders and quotes from the Book of Mormon.  We thought it was strange for a teenager to be so obsessed with religion.  But sometimes she'd share pictures of herself and her sister.  Sometimes, she would offer glimpses of who she was growing up to be.  Bill hasn't seen either of his kids in person since December 2004, although he is now communicating with his younger daughter again.  In fact, last night they had a video chat, which they've been doing regularly for over a year now.  I'm happy to report that my very negative impressions of my husband's kids, particularly younger daughter, have apparently turned out to be wrong.

I suppose I could go back and change some of the more negative things I wrote about this situation when it was happening.  I don't think that would be fair, though.  They were honestly what I thought and how I felt at the time.  I don't even think they were altogether inaccurate impressions of the situation.  Fortunately, with time and perspective, I have come to realize that I wasn't getting the whole picture about my husband's daughters, just as they weren't getting the whole picture about their dad.  I've written before that this situation reminds me of a very warped episode of Three's Company.  It's like there was a huge misunderstanding and everyone is just now figuring out what happened.

It was my husband's younger daughter who inspired me to start this blog.  Prior to that, I was mainly a freelance writer and researcher.  I wrote product reviews and articles for online publications, as well as the odd freelance work for government contractors.  I even made some money, much to my surprise.  Although I have always loved writing and wanted to be a writer when I grew up, I figured it was a pipe dream.  So I went to graduate school to get trained for a "real job" in social work and/or public health.  I was well on the way to doing that for a living when Bill and I decided to get married.

I was an Air Force brat, although my dad retired when I was very young.  Consequently, I didn't have the globetrotting military brat lifestyle my sisters had.  I grew up mostly in Gloucester, Virginia and stayed there off and on until I was about 27.  I knew that if I married Bill, we'd be moving a lot.  But the reality of being an Army wife and what it would do to my "career" didn't become clear until I was in the lifestyle.  We moved a whole lot, and that made actually practicing my profession impossible.  I couldn't even have children with Bill, thanks to a vasectomy, subsequent reversal, and no money to try other methods (not that I particularly wanted to go that route, anyway).

As enjoyable as my life with Bill is, this lifestyle does kind of make me feel like an insignificant and unfulfilled person sometimes.  It doesn't help that I became the stepmother of kids who were like ghosts until very recently.  That really does a number on your self-esteem, especially if you're a childless woman who had always wanted to be a mother.  I mean, I never expected to be my husband's daughters' favorite person, but I did hope we could at least get to know each other.  Prior to marrying Bill, I had no experience with divorce or "steplife".  I had never met anyone with such an extreme parental alienation situation as Bill has had.  Now I know that what he's been through is not uncommon at all.

Even though I was an Army wife for twelve of the sixteen years of my marriage, I never had a particularly strong military following when Bill was still in the service.  I wasn't involved in any military social media groups and only had a handful of military affiliated friends.  The people who read my blogs ran the gamut.  I'd get spam comments or angry rebuttals from people who didn't like my take on some issues.  Then I started to get a few readers who became regulars.  Alexis is one of my regulars, although she is busy with her medical internship and doesn't have time to comment so often now.

Although we had lived in Stuttgart before, it was just before Facebook exploded in popularity.  Back then, everyone was on MySpace.  I never got into MySpace.  Blogging was also popular back then, but I didn't get into blogging until after it was in vogue.  When someone suggested Facebook to me, I resisted it for a long time until I finally gave in and got an account.  There have been days I have rued getting into Facebook.  It's like a double-edged sword for me.  I like keeping up with old friends and getting inspiration for blog topics there, but I don't enjoy arguments or petty bullshit, even if I am sometimes guilty of instigating it.

When we moved back to Germany, I suddenly found myself in the American community, even though we live far from the military installations.  As I was researching coming back to Germany, I found a whole bunch of Facebook groups related to the Stuttgart military community.  Although I was never really into Facebook groups before, I ended up joining a bunch of them here.  Those groups made me a lot more visible to the military audience.  I started sharing my travel blog with the American community and picked up a bunch of military affiliated readers.  I also made a few offline friends, many of whom have moved on to other places and/or out of my life.

One thing I've learned after having lived abroad a few times is that you tend to meet people you might never have met in your home country.  Sometimes, that's a great thing.  It broadens your perspective.  On the other hand, being involved in expat groups, especially on social media, can also cause a lot of drama.  It may not seem like it to people who read my blogs, but I don't actually enjoy drama that much.  I've already endured a dramatic childhood with a lot of fighting and strife.  I like peace and quiet most of the time.  I occasionally enjoy company with friends, but for the most part, I'm kind of a loner and uncomfortable in groups.  I do like having friends and I have a few good ones, but I'm not the kind of person who finds a tribe with every new duty station.  When I make friends, I hope to keep them.  

When I started sharing my travel blogs, I mostly got positive feedback.  I also got some negative comments.  I think a lot of people figure that because of the name of my two more popular blogs (I have three), I'm a high and mighty bitch.  I'm really not, though.  The blog's name came from my realization that I have all this education, yet spend most of my time being a lousy housewife.  Maybe I should have named my blog "The Lousy Housewife".  That probably would have been less offensive to military types, although when I named my blogs, I had few military readers.  I've found that most of the negative comments come from men who seem to think I need to come down a few pegs.  Sometimes I get negative comments from insecure women, too, which makes me very sad.  Some of them have been drinking the Kool-Aid.

For the first couple of years of our time here, I found myself becoming kind of "famous", for lack of a better word.  A few times, I was even recognized in public.  I'm flattered that people read and sometimes even like my stuff.  I will even admit to having a bit of a narcissistic streak, too.  Sometimes, getting attention is a little intoxicating.  But there is a significant downside to having people read what you write, especially if your writing is therapeutic.  I have encountered that downside a few times.  Sometimes people react in ways you don't expect and it causes upset.

I started feeling better about a year ago, when I began dropping out of Facebook groups.  I stopped hearing so much "noise" from the US military community.  It made my life more peaceful.  Add in the fact that our landlady finally stopped hounding us after several stressful months and you could say things were looking up for my mental health.  I don't love the house we're in, but it has been nice to be left alone.  I'd rather live in an uncomfortable house with peaceful surroundings than a beautiful home in a stressful environment.

The past several months have been pretty good for us, even if they were caused by what appears to be landlord alienation.  I don't want to be on the outs with anyone, particularly not our landlords.  I honestly think they meant well, especially at first.  As pissed off as I was with our landlady, I do think she's a good person and does her best to be a good landlady.  But I also like being left alone and, this year, they have left us alone.  It's been great.   

Last month, Bill got the news that, yet again, he was going to have to job hunt.  This was about fourteen months after the previous job related bombshell.  It kind of put me in a tailspin, even though Bill was very quickly hired.  Although moving can be stimulating and even exciting, it's also very stressful on many different levels.  For instance, I know that pretty soon, there will be people wanting to tour the house.  Although I completely empathize with them, especially since I'm going to have to tour people's houses too, I have a hard time with intrusions.  I'm also not particularly neat, and I have a feeling that will upset our landlady.  

I think the worst part of a renting experience is the last month, when you're trying to clean everything and wrap up loose ends while your landlords are trying to find new renters.  We went through hell in Texas when we left in 2014.  Actually, July 2014 was one of the worst months of my life, because it was also the month my father died.  So... imagine planning an international move to a city where you know finding housing can be very difficult, losing a parent, and having to pull everything together in about three or four weeks with a limited amount of money.  Then, once you get to your new city, spending a month in temporary lodging and finding out your mother has breast cancer.  It was a very hectic time.  

I think remembering our last month in Texas back in 2014 was what prompted my first "swearing with my eyes post".  I started anticipating what our last months here might be like and it made me feel anxious and upset.  Then I started thinking about finding a new place and everything that comes with a new place.  I worry about my dogs, who are getting old and have both had cancerous lesions removed.  I especially worry about Zane, who is my buddy and keeps sprouting lumps...  although last night, he was unusually frisky and not only jumped in Bill's lap while Arran was next to him, but also stole part of Bill's dinner.  He seems to be feeling great, and yet I have lingering anxiety about his eventual death, which could be years from now.  Or it could be in a few months.

I struggle with depression and anxiety.  Sometimes, I'm a little paranoid.  I have a lot of free time, which gives me the opportunity to think about the worst things that can happen.  I'm also very observant, which causes me to jump to conclusions about some things.  I can't really help it, other than try to redirect my thoughts to things that are more constructive.  For me, writing is mostly constructive, except when I write something that causes upset in others.  Then I start getting more anxious and paranoid. 

I know a lot of this is irrational.  I'm sure some people who read this blog think I'm somewhat mental.  They wouldn't necessarily be wrong.  But at least I'm aware that I'm somewhat mental and try to stay grounded in reality.  That's probably the hardest part of it.  Sometimes I think it would be easier if I just embraced the crazy and let other people deal with it.  Then I realize that I don't want to be someone who makes my problems other people's problems.

Anyway, I think these past four years in Stuttgart have taught me that I don't really want to be an authority on anything.  I want people to read my blogs because they're genuinely interested in them.  I don't want to annoy people-- my reason for sharing the travel blog was entirely to be helpful, not because I was looking for "fame" or notoriety.  But I can see why some people find bloggers annoying and get the idea that they're self-absorbed and obnoxious.  I, myself, am not a fan of "overly helpful people".  So, when I refer to becoming more obscure, what I mean is that I'm going to go back to letting people find me instead of promoting myself.

I'll still share my posts on my official Overeducated Housewife Facebook page and probably my own page.  I'll probably share food posts in the food and wine group I run.  But I'm not going to offer my posts to the Wiesbaden community.  I'm going to let them find me, if they are interested.  That will mean I'll get less readers, but I also think it will mean there will be less drama.  Then, I can continue to write honestly without worrying about Internet shitstorms...  Actually, I expect there will still be shitstorms, but they will be less frequent.  And maybe I can go back to being anonymous.

Hopefully, my next post will be about something more fun.  

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

The blog equivalent to Muzak... on seeking a return to obscurity

I woke up at about 3:30am this morning.  I was having a weird dream.  Then, I needed to answer the call of nature.  After that, my mind started racing about a variety of things.  I started thinking about all of the anonymous people who read my words.  I can never know most of the people who read my writing.  I never know how my words will be interpreted.  In my mind, I can write something that seems as clear as day to me, but might still be misunderstood.  Or someone will read something, put their own spin on it, and come up with something entirely different than what I had intended to express.

For the first few years of this blog's existence, I didn't really share it with anyone.  I just wanted to have a place where I could vent my thoughts.  I suppose I could have kept a diary for that, and for years, I did have a diary/journal that I wrote longhand.  But words are meant to be shared with other people, so I decided to start this blog.  I mostly kept it under wraps for awhile, mainly because I was well aware that people I know might read it and get upset.  Also, when I first started writing this, one of my husband's daughters was still a minor.  I wanted to keep things more private for that reason.

After a few years, I decided to branch out with a music blog, which I still occasionally update.  The music blog was mainly something I started for fun.  I used to write a lot of music reviews online, but to be honest, I don't find writing about music as inspiring as creating it is.  I'd rather sing a song or even write lyrics than review music.  Although I've been told by a lot of people that I have musical talent, it's logistically more difficult for me to share music than it is to share writing.

A few years ago, I started my travel blog.  When I started travel blogging, I lived in North Carolina and was reflecting on all of the places I'd seen in my life.  It was never my intention to be a traveler.  It's just kind of how things turned out for me.  To be honest, my original plan was just to be a regular person with a job and a family.  But then I met Bill and went in a totally different direction.  My life soon became mostly about moves to new places, hanging out with dogs, and trips to Europe and, to a lesser extent, the Caribbean.  These experiences kind of demand to be recorded, which is one reason why I blog.  But I also spend a lot of time alone, so writing a blog gives me a place to vent.  I don't have "girlfriends" to talk to, so I "talk" to myself in a blog, which others can read if they wish.

Sometimes I mourn my original life plans, since blogging brings me equal parts joy and grief.  I was blessed and cursed with a curious mind and a vivid imagination.  I love to read, and I have strong opinions.  I'm also not as circumspect as I probably should be.  Yesterday, I was reminded that all kinds of people are reading my blog, and some of them know who I am and the people involved in some of the stories I share.  Most of the time, when I write this stuff, I keep people's real names out of my posts, unless they happened to be in the news or a public figure of some sort.  Still, that doesn't stop family members, acquaintances, or long lost friends from reading about some of my more personal stories, and recognizing themselves or people they know.  Occasionally, I upset or offend people when I write about my impressions and they happen to know people involved or recognize themselves.

I especially get this phenomenon when I write about true crime.  There have been a few times when I've gotten angry comments from people involved in the cases I write about-- and most of the time, my comments only come from having read books, seen documentaries, or watched the news.  Sometimes I speculate and get things wrong and people feel the need to set me straight.  There have been a few times when people have even asked me to take another look at a case and see it from a different perspective.  I'm actually grateful when people do that.  In the long run, I learn more and evolve, even if it initially insults my pride.  Other times, I hit too close to home and people get angry.  Plenty of times, I've even gotten myself angry by writing things.

Let me just say this, to anyone who does take the time to read more than a couple of my posts.  I almost never write anything with the express intention of upsetting people.  Just like I sometimes get things wrong or misinterpret things, I think sometimes people get me wrong.  Or... maybe they don't get me wrong, but they interpret things in a way I wish they wouldn't.

All of this is just another reason why I try to be very clear when I write.  A lot of times, I'll publish something and edit it a few times after the fact.  I'll read something over and over again and determine that I wasn't as clear as I could have been.  After awhile, I have to stop, because too much editing turns into less authenticity and realism.

I can be very politically correct about things, vague about my opinions, and take great pains not to hurt other people's feelings.  A little of that is good-- since I truly don't want to be hurtful.  However, too much editing can lead to really bland, boring writing that doesn't interest anyone.  I might as well write the blog equivalent to Muzak.  People who know me, know that I hate the soullessness of Muzak with a passion.

I tell myself that I'd rather be authentic, but I still endure a special kind of torture when something goes wrong.  There is a cost to be paid for being too truthful about some things or being too free with my opinions and impressions.  For every few people who find what I write entertaining, there are a couple who find it upsetting.  I really don't take joy in upsetting people, but I also can't control how people react to the things I write.  So then, when there's an incident, I start wondering if I should retreat to a shroud of privacy and close this blog to everyone but invited readers.  Or maybe I should simply stop writing altogether.

I don't think I can stop writing.  I can always try to be kinder and less harsh when I write, but I will still have to write.  Not everyone likes what I do or likes me personally, but when it comes down to it, I'm just another person in the world, put here entirely by cosmic accident.  Some people love me.  A few people hate me.  Most people are indifferent.  I know I'm a decent person, despite my many flaws, and yet I feel shitty sometimes for not being more noble and kind.  But then... if I were more noble and kind, I wouldn't be authentic.  I'd be the human equivalent of Muzak.

Anyway... if you've managed to read this, thank you for your time.  Maybe it would be better if I didn't thank people for reading, though.  Right now, I kind of long for obscurity.  I think when we move, I'm going to seek it.

Monday, September 17, 2018

A review of Jon Ronson's So You've Been Publicly Shamed...

The summer of 2018 is just about over now.  It will go down in my personal history as a summer of equal parts fun and angst.  I had a lot of fun over the summer; there's no doubt about that.  Bill and I visited some beautiful places, ate good food, and really dove into some excellent concerts.

But it was also a summer of uncertainty and anxiety.  I've watched a lot of people I've gotten to know over the past few years move on to new places.  I've worried incessantly about my dogs as I've noticed them aging (although at this point, they're evidently fine).  I've seen Bill have to find a new job and now we're going to be moving.  I've also watched in horror as several middle aged white women were publicly shamed on the Internet as people cheered.

If you've been reading this blog for any amount of time, you might know that I tend to lean fairly liberal these days.  I am not a Trump supporter.  I like social justice and often support liberal causes, particularly when it comes to social policies.  I don't like racism, ageism, or sexism.  I'm also not a fan of shaming people.

However, over the summer of 2018, there's been a trend of people capturing people, usually middle aged white women, on their cellphones "behaving badly".  They put their videos online, often with a caption along the lines of "Let's make this bitch go viral!"  Sure enough, the videos wind up on YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook and the person being shamed does, indeed, go viral.  They go on to suffer the wrath of thousands of people they don't know, who weren't involved in whatever incident occurred to put them in a viral situation, and who actively cheer for bad things to happen to them.

I have seen a lot of the videos that have been posted online.  I will agree that in many of the videos, the people being filmed were, for the most part, behaving in a way that seemed wrong.  However, it disturbs me that people feel so free to call for the destruction of other people's lives.  Allow me to go on record to say that I really don't like this trend of publicly shaming people and actively trying to ruin their lives.  I think it's very shortsighted and, in the long run, harms more people than it helps.

Because I was so disturbed by all of the videos trending on social media, I decided to read more about this phenomenon.  That's when I discovered Jon Ronson's book, So You've Been Publicly Shamed.  This book, published in 2015, highlights several notorious cases of people who slipped up on social media and ended up going viral.  Ronson has a tongue in cheek way of describing how in this age of instant communication, a person can wind up being immediately punished for making an ill advised quip, sharing a racist joke, or not being reverent enough at a sacred place.

Ronson points out how, thanks to the Internet, the whole world can find out about something a person did and make a judgment, without knowing the context of what happened.  These shaming episodes can have real and devastating effects, and not just for the person being shamed.  I've written a lot about this over the past few months, so I won't rehash my points too exhaustively.  Suffice to say that you might feel great about Permit Patty or BBQ Becky being humiliated online for being "racist", but there are innocent people in their lives who are negatively affected by these public shaming episodes.  Moreover, 99.9% of the people sharing and opining about these videos have absolutely no idea about the context of what they're seeing.  They don't know the people being shamed, nor do they know what will happen to them once they've gone viral.  People's lives have been ruined and even ended over these episodes.

Since this book is three years old, you won't read about the most recent victims of viral shaming.  Instead, you might be reminded of people like Justine Sacco, who was a public relations executive who made some unfortunate tweets on a trip to Africa.  Sacco, who apparently has a politically incorrect sense of humor, famously tweeted back in 2013,  "Going to Africa!  Hope I don't get AIDS.  Just kidding.  I'm white!"      

Granted, this was a tasteless, racist joke.  I'm not surprised that many people were offended by it.  However, what happened after Sacco posted this Tweet was nothing less than phenomenal.  There was an incredible backlash lobbed at Sacco, who was soon the recipient of death and rape threats.  She lost her job.  However, in Sacco's case, there were a few positives.  Some people were moved to donate money to charities and Sacco did, apparently, manage to recover from the public shaming.

In another case, Ronson writes about a couple of guys who were at an IT conference.  They were talking among themselves and a woman named Adria Richards overheard and misunderstood a comment one of them made, wrongly assuming they were making sexist jokes.  She took a picture of them, placed it online, and set the wheels in motion to ruin their careers.  The sad thing is, she hadn't even gotten the context of their private joke, which had absolutely nothing to do with sexism and everything to do with IT.

And yet, thanks to Richards' decision to "out" them for being sexist, these guys went through the viral Internet wringer.  One of them, a guy calling himself Hank, lost his job and posted about it on a Web site called  Hank was justifiably upset because he'd liked the job and had three children to support.  Adria Richards, who had taken his picture was then outed and started getting hate mail and death threats herself.  Hank condemned the death threats against Richards, yet amazingly, she still thinks he deserved to be fired for his "joke" that was part of a private conservation and that she completely misunderstood, anyway.

Ronson later spoke to Richards and she maintained that Hank was to blame for complaining about being fired, since "his actions led to his being fired."  In the aftermath, men's rights groups decided to make her go viral and she suffered backlash for trying to shame Hank for his joke.  Both Hank and Adria suffered the consequences of Internet vigilanteism.  I certainly don't condone the death threats or rape wishes directed at Richards, but I do think she could stand to learn something from this ordeal.  If she had minded her own damned business, neither she nor Hank would have ever been in this mess.

Although I had already been thinking about the horrifying ramifications of Internet shaming, Ronson does a good job of pointing out what can happen to people who wind up in an Internet shitstorm.  I would venture to guess that the vast majority never consider beyond that moment of Schadenfreude that this kind of vigilantism has real and devastating effects for others.  They simply focus on that delicious moment of riding a moral high horse and watching someone's life fall apart and never think beyond that.  That's one thing I do think Ronson's book is good for-- reminding people that a successful Internet shaming session doesn't just last for a day, nor does it have an off switch.

Ronson writes of Lindsey Stone, a charity worker who, in 2012, took an ill advised picture of herself showing disrespect at Arlington Cemetery.  The photo went viral and pretty soon, Stone was being publicly flayed.  Stone, who had been working as a caregiver to people with learning disabilities, had a running joke with a friend.  They took "joke" pictures of themselves doing things like smoking in front of "no smoking" signs.  This time, there was a picture of Stone flipping off a sign at Arlington Cemetery that requested silence.  The photo went viral and soon Stone was being called a "cunt" and a "psychopath" by perfect strangers.

Stone had previously been a happy go lucky kind of person who enjoyed going out, dancing, and doing karaoke.  But for over a year, she stayed home.  People were calling for her to be fired and, indeed, she was.  Then, after she lost her job, no one responded to her applications for a new one.  After a long time, she finally did find a new job, but lived in terror that someone at her position would find out about what she did.  She gave up on dating, worrying that a new love interest would find out that she had flipped off a sign at Arlington Cemetery.

Long after people had forgotten about that incident, Stone was still dealing with the traumatic aftereffects.  I wonder, how many people who felt Stone is a "cunt" for posting that photo even know her?  Can a person's character really be accurately summed up in a single photo or two minute video showing them "behaving badly"?  Do the people who called her names like "cunt", "bitch", and "whore" think her life should be ruined or even ended for posting that photo?  Do they really think she deserves depression, anxiety, and post traumatic stress disorder over that one moment of bad behavior that wound up online?

Stone ended up working with someone to rehabilitate her online image.  The professional, who was an expert at social media and Google searches, found ways to make Lindsey Stone appear to be a perfectly bland person.  Sadly, this was what it came down to-- she had to be rebranded from the spunky, politically incorrect, fun loving firebrand she is to someone who likes Top 40 music and cats. How sad that is.

You see, this is why I get really upset about these kinds of Internet shaming trends.  It's not just because I worry that someone is going to try it with the wrong person and wind up being shot.  It's also because sometimes people say and do things without thinking.  Everybody has a cellphone with a camera these days.  I think it's chilling that a person's life can be ruined in an instant of carelessness.  It's also chilling that sometimes people get things wrong and ruin people who truly don't deserve to be harassed.

To be honest, I would love to see the object of some of this kind of shaming turn the tables on their aggressors.  Personally, I think they should start suing, especially when the person gets it wrong.  Not long ago, I wrote about a woman whose life was upturned after she got involved in a heated thread on Facebook.  Monika Glennon had opined about a smiling teenager's photo at Auschwitz and offended someone who decided to make up a vicious lie about her and submit it to a Web site called "She's a Homewrecker".  Although the story went unnoticed for awhile, another user took it upon herself to share the story with Glennon's friends and family.  It took a lot of time and money for Glennon to clear up the lie and salvage her reputation.  She did sue the women involved and won, but Glennon will likely never see any of the settlement she was awarded because neither of the women have any money.  Glennon recently left me a very nice comment on my post.  I was glad to see she was able to recover from the public humiliation and be an example of why this kind of trend is potentially very harmful and wrong.

One criticism I have of Ronson's book is that three years post publication, it's already dated.  So many more cases are out there now that should be written about.  I also felt that Ronson treated this topic a bit more glibly that maybe he should have.  A little humor is good, but I really think people should understand that this kind of "justice" can really mess up people's lives.  In the long run, it doesn't serve society for people to lose their livelihoods over something like a viral video, tasteless Tweet, or tacky photograph.  People should have the right to be forgotten so they can recover from their mistakes and move on.  Otherwise, why would they bother living out the rest of their lives?

Anyway... I think I'd give this book four out of five stars.  Here's a link for those who want to read it themselves.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Gone by December?

Last night, Bill came home and told me that once he gets his official offer, which will be in a matter of days, we will be on the road to a quick move.  In fact, he anticipates we'll be in Wiesbaden by December, even though we're supposed to give the landlords three months' notice.  Apparently, the company is going to take care of the last month of rent so we can make a quick getaway.  Bill's services are highly anticipated and needed.

I wasn't really wanting to move so soon, but I guess it's better in the long run.  Pretty soon, the weather will start to suck and it will be good to get this sorted before the holiday season starts.  By January, there may be truly awful weather to contend with.  Also, I don't want to be involved with helping the landlords find new tenants.  If we're out of here during the last month, then they can do whatever they want and not bug me.

We were talking about this last night.  For the past year, the landlords have pretty much left us alone. They never drop by unexpected anymore, which I much prefer.  But they also don't really keep in touch with Bill by email, either.  I get the sense the landlady is snubbing us... however, I'm not at all bothered by it.  I have a feeling that she won't be happy that we're going, mainly because we pay early every month and don't bother them.  But I also don't think she likes me, which means that maybe this is an opportunity for her to get someone in here that she likes more.  I will miss our neighborhood, since the people are very nice and laid back.  It's also very dog friendly.  Hopefully, the housing gods will smile on us and we'll find something similar in the Wiesbaden area.

I think I've decided to go ahead and get the dogs their rabies shots on Tuesday.  I don't really want to. I'm afraid they might have bad reactions.  Zane usually reacts to it and, last time, he did end up with his first mast cell tumor afterwards.  But I don't think we can get around the law, especially if we want to board them.  Since that is the only legally required vaccine, I think we'll just do it and hope for the best.  I'll do what I can to mitigate any adverse effects.  If there is anything immediate the goes wrong, at least we'll be near a vet who knows the dogs.  It could be something happens months from now... but that could happen either way, whether we get the shots or not.

I have a feeling we could move back down here at some point.  This is a hub for guys like Bill.  But we could also end up in Hawaii or Italy at some point.  It's hard to tell.  Anyway, this is happening faster than I anticipated, but it's probably for the best.

Friday, September 14, 2018

I don't go to celebrities for my politics...

This morning, I read about Willie Nelson's decision to back democrat Beto O'Rourke in the Texas Senate race.  Apparently, this decision has angered a number of his conservative fans, who have vowed to stop buying Willie's records.

Willie Nelson is 85 years old.  He smokes a lot of weed.  He's long been liberal and, although he is best known as a country singer, he's got a very eclectic style that has crossed over into many genres.  He has the right to back whomever he pleases.  To be honest, I think given the band of corrupt morons the Republicans have foisted on the American public and the world at large, Willie is showing that his mind is still sharp.  Sorry, Republicans, but you lost my vote forever when you brought us Donald Trump and Mike Pence.  I'm not forgiving you for that anytime soon.

That being said, I don't go to celebrities for my politics.  I may not like it if a celebrity is a Trump fan, but if I like their work, I'm not going to stop enjoying it because they voted for Trump.  Frankly, I don't think another person's vote is my business.  Some will argue that when celebrities use their platforms to push politics, their vote becomes everyone's business.  That may be so, but I have a mind of my own.  I don't make my voting choices based on another person's vote.  I vote for the person I think is the best one for the job.  I would recommend that to anyone, although I know some people strictly vote for parties over people.  That's their right, of course.  I think it's misguided, though.

All of this nonsense over burning Nikes, especially when a minister preaches about destroying his Nike merchandise while at the pulpit, is just plain silly.  I keep reading about people boycotting Nike over the company's decision to have Colin Kaepernick make an ad.  I keep thinking it's a stupid, futile gesture.  Nike doesn't care if you burn stuff you've already purchased.  Furthermore, it's unAmerican to deny someone the right to protest.  Now... I get the argument that Kaepernick is protesting while he's "on the clock" and maybe that's wrong, but when you think about it, in most situations kneeling isn't considered disrespectful.

Some people kneel when they pray.  Some people kneel when they propose to a potential mate.  There are many situations in which kneeling is considered deeply respectful and appropriate.  Why is it suddenly wrong to kneel when the National Anthem is playing?  At least he's paying attention to it instead of heading to the bathroom or the concessions stand for a hot dog and beer.  My guess is that plenty of fans aren't bothering to hang around with their hands across their hearts when the "Star Spangled Banner" plays.

I don't think voting for Donald Trump is a smart thing to do, but I realize people have their reasons for voting the way they do.  I think celebrities should have the right to decide for themselves for whom they should vote.  It's the American way.

Now... if Willie Nelson's decision to vote blue or back a blue candidate is that offensive to his former fans, I guess they have the right to protest by boycotting him.  But I think it's kind of stupid to stop enjoying an artist's contributions simply because their politics differ from yours.  When it comes down to it, Willie Nelson and Colin Kaerpernick have the right to their opinions and to back whomever they want.  That's an American ideal.  Those who have lost sight of that should probably consider how they would feel if they were in Willie's shoes.  On the other hand, Willie probably doesn't give a fuck.  He'll just light a joint and keep playing.

Moving on...

The moving process is about to begin.  I dread it on many levels.

It's also time to get my dogs' rabies vaccinations updated.  I'm super worried about it, especially for Zane.  I'm afraid the vaccine will make him sick and hasten his demise.  Unfortunately, it's the law.  Hopefully, it'll turn out okay, but I'm still very anxious.  He's my baby.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Time to pack the Bier glasses...

Well... it looks about 95% official that our second tour in Stuttgart will soon be drawing to a close.  I'm not exactly sure when we will move, only that Bill has been told the job in Wiesbaden is his for the taking.  Given that new positions in Stuttgart have not yet materialized and the company is willing to offer substantial help to move us, it's a no brainer.  Basically, all it means is that Bill is changing locations and will be working in Europe instead of Africa.  He won't have to change contracts, salary, benefits, or anything else.  We just have to move about 100 miles north and slightly west.

Wiesbaden appears to be an interesting area.  It's just over the Rhine River in Hesse.  There's a good chance that we could be living in Rhineland-Palatinate while Bill works in Hesse, since the city is close to the state's border.  Wiesbaden is just west of Frankfurt, which means we will be very close to Germany's busiest airport.  We will also be closer to Belgium, which is a good thing if only because I love Belgian beer and chocolate.  France will still be a couple of hours away, although Switzerland will be more of a drive.  It looks like we'll be closer to Poland and the Czech Republic, too.

A couple of Bill's co-workers had interviews at places in Stuttgart and both were passed over for other people.  Although we had heard there would be a bunch of new jobs coming on a new contract, so far nothing has come up.  And though we have about six months before Bill's current job is set to end, there's no guarantee that the new jobs will ever show up.

I'll be honest.  Initially, I wasn't very happy about the prospect of moving.  I like our town and I truly hate moving.  I don't enjoy the process of finding new facilities for all the things we'll need.  However, this is a chance for us to live in another part of Germany.  My travel blog will get new life as we discover new stuff in our new location.  We'll probably end up in a nicer house and it's possible our new landlords will be less irritating (although our current ones have been leaving us alone lately).  I dread the process of moving, but at least this time we don't have to do it internationally.  We also have more time and money to organize the move.

When Bill first mentioned this possibility to me, my initial reaction was negative.  But then I started thinking about it and realized that we've now lived in this house longer than any other in our marriage.  And this house is definitely not my favorite, although we do absolutely love the area where we are.  It's very close to the Black Forest.  We also like our neighborhood.  We have very nice, pleasant and patient neighbors.  I will miss them, but I mostly won't miss this house.  The one thing I will miss is the view, because I can watch the weather.  God willing, we'll find something in a nice town near Wiesbaden... maybe even in a town where we can walk to a bakery or a bar.

So... although moves are always scary, we knew this day was coming.  And maybe it's better to get the pain over with.  I think this new job will be good for Bill, since it's a group he hasn't worked with before and in an area with which he doesn't have direct experience.  It's a good opportunity for him to expand his skill set and do something different, yet familiar enough that he shouldn't have too much trouble learning the job.  Also... I have a feeling that when Bill leaves his current job, the government employees will get a hefty dose of karma.  Some of them don't have a lot of respect for contractors.  But the best contractors, like Bill, will be scarfed up quickly and one by one, they will be leaving.  The most competent contractors will soon be gone and then they will face the pain of their decision to convert all of the jobs to government positions to "save money".

I just hope and pray for a seamless move.  I'm sure it'll be okay, but moves are always painful.  Some moves are worse than others, though.  I'm just glad we don't have to fly anywhere or take a massive road trip to another country.  Also, because of what Bill does, there is every chance we'll eventually move back to Stuttgart.  But there's also a good chance that after experiencing another area, we might not want to return.

We'll see what happens.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Air Force Colonel loses his shit at a Boy George concert...

I was quite amused this morning when I ran across this story of Air Force Colonel Mark Eugene Muth.  The 57 year old man attended a Boy George concert in Kettering, Ohio and was apparently quite intoxicated.  It appears that the combination of alcohol and Boy George's tunes were too much for the good colonel and he started trying to rush the stage.

The security force at the venue tried to contain the drunken officer, but he started shoving them.  Police were called and Muth was soon cuffed and stuffed at the local jail.

Muth, who is currently stationed at the command surgeon general's office at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, penned an article a few years ago about the importance of dental hygiene.  At the time, he was at Travis Air Force Base in California.  I suppose the prospect of moving from California to Ohio is enough to make anyone want to drink.  Also, it appears that Muth is a dentist and I have read that dentists sometimes suffer from mental health issues because many people hate going to them.

I myself lived in Dayton, Ohio many years ago.  I don't remember my time there, because I was just a little shit in those days, but I do remember that one of the reasons my dad retired from the Air Force was because they wanted to send him back to Dayton after his time at Mildenhall Air Force Base in England.

Perhaps Muth was simply looking for upbeat tunes and a little adult style fun when he decided to see Boy George and Tom Bailey of the Thompson Twins live, in concert.  Alcohol can make people do crazy things.  God knows I love my 80s music, too.  Combine it with a little booze and there could be trouble, although I can't imagine I'd get quite so animated that I might wind up arrested.

In all seriousness, this incident will probably have a deleterious effect on Muth's military career.  Besides shoving people and rushing the stage, Muth also resisted arrest, refusing to cooperate with Kettering Police Lieutenant Holly Murchland.  He's been charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest and, besides dealing with civilian law enforcement, will likely face discipline from military authorities and perhaps even whatever organization granted him a license to practice dentistry.  It's probably pretty likely that he'll be quietly asked to retire, or at least seek treatment for what appears to be a significant drinking problem.

Despite all of that, I can't help but giggle a little when I think of Colonel Muth losing it at a Boy George concert.  I mean, yeah, clearly this man is in trouble on many different levels, but the mental image is pretty hilarious.  I must also give props to Military Times reporter J.D. Simkins for writing his hilarious report about the incident.  It's not often that a Military Times piece makes me laugh for the right reasons.