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Apr. 4th, 2011

boom de yada!

long overdue post: 5 things making me happy today

1) Weather in the 70's for the first time this year. I sat barefoot on the grass and read a philosophy book. Yeah, I know.

2) Feeling optimistic at the moment, like I've been paralyzed with fear and now I can do all those things that I set out to do.

3) I went to a party the other night with a new group of people, at the house of a new friend I have here who's smart, intuitive, a good listener, and calls me on my shit. I like her and I have an open invite to go over there whenever. Her roommates are mostly my age.

4) Registered for summer classes, got my fall classes all lined up, and it *looks* like I might be able to go to Tunisia in the winter. (holy shit holy shit holy shit) Summer classes are: Politics of Developing Nations and America in the Middle East, though that last might change to an independent study or an internship. For the fall I have Intermediate Arabic, Immigrant Islam, Algebra (can't put it off any longer), and two ANTH courses that I might still switch to IR courses depending on what my advisor tells me tomorrow.

5) I've been meeting with a Saudi Arabian family and one of their friends to improve my language skills. This is actually a fantastic story deserving of its own post, but for now, I'm thrilled to have this opportunity to really improve my skills through conversation, as well as get to know a little bit more about a pretty alien culture. I actually like all of them personally - they're friendly and we get along really well, which makes getting together as much a social occasion as a learning process.

Apr. 2nd, 2011

boom de yada!

City Kitties Art Auction!

Originally posted by kylecassidy at post
Are you an artist? Do you want to see your work hanging in a gallery? Do you want to help homeless cats find people who love them? If so you're in luck, because City Kitties is seeking donations of art for their 2011 art show. This is their biggest fundraiser of the year, bringing hundreds of pieces of art to a thirsty public. It's very well attended and I'll have stuff hanging there, so, you know, we can say we had a show together.

The deadline for getting art to the gallery is April 15. If you're not an artist you can still donate money or time. It'll be a fine fancy event.

here's my piece from last year with it's new owner.

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Mar. 16th, 2011

I'll connect the dots my own way

(no subject)

My anthropology professor just walked into the lab and asked me if I'm going to be ok toinght, started to walk away when I said I'll be fine, then turned around and said, with no context or warm-up: If anyone's going to succeed, it's you.

I'm going to remember what it was like to hear that for a long time.

Feb. 22nd, 2011

boom de yada!

(no subject)

ganked from fizzyland. I freaking love Far Side.

Feb. 12th, 2011

boom de yada!

Something You Can Do: Windermere Cats Update

Originally posted by kylecassidy at Something You Can Do: Windermere Cats Update
I'll keep this brief. There is something you can do even if you live far away. (Latest update from City Kitties here.)

background behind this cut )
There are several people you can call, email and fax. The building is still scheduled for demo on Monday, so the only way we can stop it is to raise a ruckus.

Sue Cosby at PSPCA is in charge of Animal Care and Control Team. They're the people the city has hired to (among other things) "remove animals from the premises of ... burned-out, condemned, vacant, or abandoned buildings"

The Pennsylvania SPCA
350 E. Erie Avenue
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19134
(215) 426-6300

Also, the owners of the building, Sam and David Ginsberg: Sam Ginsberg: 732.213.3088, David Ginsberg: 215.892.3043. They're probably not in over the weekend, but you can leave a message.

When leaving a message, calling, or emailing, be polite we want these people to help. We're asking that the building demolition be delated and animal rescue groups be allowed into the building to set traps and look for animals. These are people's pets which have survived a fire, 24 hours of high pressure hoses, and a month without being fed. Their people have been through enough already without having to imagine walls and debris collapsing down on a pet that survived so much. Also, when contacting ACCT or the SPCA we want to know how this is going to be avoided in the future -- it may be too late to save these pets, but we want to be sure this won't happen the next time.

The protest is still going on in just a few minutes. I'll report from there, you can check on twitter for updates.

Thanks. (& Apologies to everybody who's reading this blog for the photos -- we'll be back to normal as soon as possible.) "Official" up-to-date info will be at the City Kitties website.

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boom de yada!

God of the Gaps

I heard a great phrase on Being the other day that helped me be able to articulate... well, what I try *not* to let my spirituality become.

The God of the Gaps. Basically, when we fill in the blanks in our understanding with "God." We see people try to prove the existence of God by challenging scientific understanding. This leads to stuff like the hilarious new insta-meme inspired by Bill O'Reilly's self-righteous ignorance. (DO check out that link for an explanation and awesome examples. And know that as I was reading them aloud to lxbean, who hadn't heard of the meme before, she came up with the "Food goes in, poop comes out" one BEFORE I got to it.)

The thing is, I think Bill O'Reilly and others that do this are not asking the right questions.

The problem with the God of the Gaps is that he keeps shrinking. That god used to explain everything from lightning to potato blight to hemorrhagic fever. But as our understanding grows, that God diminishes. Which doesn't exactly have a positive effect on the notion of God as unchanging and eternal. If we can SEE that God change, in our lifetimes, of COURSE it's going to promote skepticism. I want to tell these people that they will NEVER come up with that ONE thing that defies not only all understanding, but the very idea that someday we may be able to understand it.

Scientific progress has gained such momentum. In this day and age, this generation of educated people watch the unexplainable get explained and exploited within their lifetimes. Of COURSE we'll reject the notion that there are things that will be eternally unexplainable, and that THAT'S where God lives. Not only does that not coincide with our observations of the world we live in, but that god becomes increasingly distant and irrelevant. That god is not particularly useful.

And that's the crux of it, at least from where I'm standing right now on my own path. Any concept big enough to explain God is too big to be of any real use to anyone.

The best I can put my notion of God into words is with a Stephen Hawking quote:
“The usual approach of science of constructing a mathematical model cannot answer the questions of why there should be a universe for the model to describe. Why does the universe go to all the bother of existing?" -Stephen Hawking

And that's pretty much God to me. Not because this defies explanation - although I can't imagine we'll ever be able to explain what MAKES the universe organize itself into an existence (and neither can Stephen Hawking, apparently), I suppose it's theoretically possible that we'll someday find that equation that explains what we can now only call "will" - the "will" of the universe to exist. Sure. And even if we DON'T find it, I'm quite sure it's out there - everything really does come down to math in the end. Pure math, pure universal truth.

But to me, that's God - I mean, "God" is the short-hand and heavily loaded term I use for that tendency of the universe to go about existing. It can't be separated from the explainable and relegated to whatever science hasn't figured out - it's in our cytoplasm, it organizes our cell walls. It moves through us and exists around us the way we move through the air.

So for me at this particular point, the God of the Gaps becomes kind of... irrelevant and pointless. And he's increasingly irrelevant to scholars and rational thinkers of all kinds, for all sorts of reasons. But we live in a post-Enlightenment age where "religion" is separated from daily existence. That's how we're used to thinking about God, so the God of the Gaps is still dragged out as if it exists separately to be ignored or invoked at will.

The problem with God as I see it, and as articulated by Stephen Hawking, is... what the hell good does that do me? MY God can be ignored or invoked at will, too. That God doesn't tell me anything about how to live, it doesn't answer any hard questions. That God certainly covers pretty much everything I need it to, but as it's not particularly relevant to anyone else, I can't exactly invoke it for the purpose of offering guidance. It's got no need to proselytize itself; it's just as comfortable in Christianity as in Hinduism or Wicca or atheism or Islam or anything else, since none of these things are sufficiently contrary enough to contradict it.

Great, so I can see God in the very fact that I exist, that chemicals organize themselves into patterns, that those patterns occasionally become self-aware and grow themselves the desire to keep existing. That's so fucking beautiful to me, but meanwhile I'm still going to ask the questions every other human being asks: What happens when I die? What's the right thing to do in this difficult situation? I still want guidance. I have to look to other things for it, besides God.

And so does everyone else. Even atheists can't really opt out of this, because the very fact that they've addressed these questions means they're reacting to the same need for answers that we all have. If you call yourself an atheist or an agnostic, you've answered a fundamental question the best you can.

As for me, God becomes cognitive behavioral therapy. Religion and spirituality are so very adaptable. What I need right now is to change my thought patterns and make myself continually grateful for my life and not aggravated by it. I do that by trying to remember to pray frequently and to tell myself that I live inside God and my whole existence is encompassed in a womb that is designed to nurture. Patterns continually organize and reorganize themselves and when I focus on that dazzling reality, I feel a little braver and the scary things in my life become less scary. That's how God works for me.

For people like Bill O'Reilly, I guess God works to distinguish himself from The Other. Because he is a man of faith, he is therefore Other than an atheist, which gives a great fundamental justification for clashes of interest. But I think he'll find his God of the Gaps increasingly irrelevant and easily dismissed.

In that interview, he also said: "You're using science to explain that? You're coming off as desperate to me." I think that it's HIS narrow, ever-shrinking God that's becoming desperate to keep itself relevant.

Feb. 10th, 2011

boom de yada!


Originally posted by kylecassidy at post
I'd posted a few days back about the fire at the Widmere apartment building and the pet rescue that was going on. Things have taken an ill turn. While a number of missing pets have been spotted inside the building, in the windows of their own apartments, and in the building by security guards, the city is refusing to let rescue workers into the building and is scheduled to demolish it, with these pets still trapped inside.

I know the thought of someone taking a wrecking ball to my place with Roswell and the others still inside would be worse than losing any of my material possessions.

Time: Saturday, February 12 · 2:00pm - 4:00pm
Location 4800 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA
Created By: City Kitties Rescue
More Info One month after the fire, cats are STILL ALIVE inside the Windermere Court Apartments! Read more here:

Despite obvious signs of life inside, no one took action--not the owners, not L&I, not the fire marshal, not the insurance investigators who all had access to the building. Just two days after this disaster, fire fighters said there was nothing more they could do and no possibility that cats could have survived.

Now the Windermere owners claim that the buildings' exterior doors are sealed and that L&I won't allow anyone inside ever again--and yet a maintenance man, security guards, and insurance company investigators have accessed the building as recently as today, Wednesday February 9th. Meanwhile, the owners are moving forward with demolition, knowing full well that there are still pets inside!

If you think this is wrong, if you care about the cats inside and the people who want so desperately to get them back, if you want to let the City of Philadelphia know that it should never happen again...

Join former Windermere tenants, neighborhood residents, City Kitties, and animal welfare advocates for a peaceful rally and protest:

Saturday, February 12 @ 2pm
4800 Walnut Street - in front of West Philly High School, across from the Windermere
Bring friends and signs

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Jan. 31st, 2011

boom de yada!

(no subject)

What a morning. Lots of tears and panic.

But that was the aberration. So onto the rest of the weekend, which was good: I am finally officially moved out of my apartment. And I'm driving the car my sister gave me and it's insured and legal. Now I have to get it registered quickly and get my DE driver's license, etc.

I spent the weekend at my mom's. Tonight I'll spend at my new... hmm, home? What do you call it when you're only renting out the space for 9 hours a night? I feel like I can't call it my home when all my clothes are stored in my car and I can't use the shower or kitchen. But saying "homeless" sounds even worse.

Couch, I guess? "Tonight, I'll spend the night at my new couch."

...yeah, I think I'll just call it "home" and acknowledge that there's not really a word for my situation.

Anyway, my car is now set up as my closet and dresser. I *think* I have my routine down about how to handle such tricky concepts as food and hygiene. This next couple months will be make-or-break, and I have a very long to-do list that includes everything from getting a job to scouting out the parking situation here at DE, but Time, she marches on... and slowly things are coming together.

I got to see my cats this weekend and hopefully, I'll be able to see them at least every couple of weeks. My family and friends have been enormously supportive and have gone to great effort to help me out and it's kind of overwhelming. I mean, not even just MY family and friends. My mom's friend. My friend's mom. Just people who want to help because that's what people DO.

I hope I can get a good night's sleep tonight. This is going to be a rough week. I'm a little too exhausted from a rough morning to be incredibly optimistic right now, but I see optimism on the horizon. I suspect I'll find my way to it after I spend my first night on that couch, exercise at the gym tomorrow morning, shower, and find myself sitting right back here at the anthro lab getting in some quick Internetz before class.

Jan. 30th, 2011

boom de yada!

Pets and Fires

Originally posted by kylecassidy at Pets and Fires
A few weeks ago now I got home from Chicago to find my neighborhood ablaze.

Click to see larger

It was a three story apartment building and it covered all of west philadelphia in a black smoke that smelled like burning televisions. All the people got out but, standing there, watching it burn, and then all night sitting at home, smelling it burn, I couldn't do anything but think about pets trapped in apartments.

Rescuers, including City Kitties did everything the could -- they staked out the building, the enlisted the aid of firefighters, they set traps. Ultimately they recovered seven living cats from the ruins and two that had died. Inexplicably, two people never turned up to claim their cats -- after surving a fire that lasted two days, and thousands of gallons of water being poured through the windows in sub freezing weather, they got left, alone in the snow with nobody looking for them.

They're currently in foster care, but looking for a person.

City Kitties' West Philly Fire Lost and Found Cat Page.
Do you recognize this young lady?

What can you do?

You can Click here to donate to the victims (human) of the fire.

You can click here to donate to City Kitties general fund which goes to help stray cats all over west philly.

Most Importantly, if you're in the area, you can foster a cat or kitten. This is what City Kitties needs the most. They're at capacity and need people to volunteer their houses. City Kitties will pay for food, litter, and vet bills all you need to supply is the love. This is a great way to perpetually have a kitten in your house. Seriously. Kittens. All the time. It's also a great way to give love to an older cat who's been abandoned or who has lived on the street and never had a person.

If you have pets in your house and you're worried about what would happen in a fire keep enough carriers for all your pets by the door of your house and pre-arrange with friends or family where you could go in the event of an emergency. Also, you can get free window decals from the aspca here these will alert firefighters to look for pets in your house.

If that's not enough to motivate you -- this is a letter City Kitties got from Evan, who saved up his entire allowance for another year and donated it to help stray cats. Every single penny he owns. In honor of Evan I'm going to match his donation. It's tax deductible.

Foster a cat (or dog) if you can, donate if you can't but want to help, spread the word if you're able, open your door for something that's cold and friendless. Be a force for good. Thanks everybody.

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Jan. 27th, 2011

boom de yada!

"Date an Illiterate Girl"

Let the years pass unnoticed. Get a career, not a job. Buy a house. Have two striking children. Try to raise them well. Fail, frequently. Lapse into a bored indifference. Lapse into an indifferent sadness. Have a mid-life crisis. Grow old. Wonder at your lack of achievement. Feel sometimes contented, but mostly vacant and ethereal. Feel, during walks, as if you might never return, or as if you might blow away on the wind.

Ok, a friend of mine linked this. It bugs me a lot. Be sure to read the first AND second pages to see the contrast.

I'd like to know if anyone else sees this the same way I do.

I get what the guy's trying to say, I think. I've seen this kind of thing before, and it's hard to put into words why I really don't see it for the grand gesture of respect it's supposed to be. But... as a girl who reads, I gotta say that's an AWFUL lot of pressure to put on a woman to be That Thing That Makes Your Life Sparkle.

I mean, all the stuff about the awkwardness of the first date and the fucking and the marriage proposal... he seems to be saying that The Right Girl - The Girl Who Reads, presumably - won't let you get away with that shit.

But... we do. We're not gods. It's not our job to save you from yourself.

I mean, is it the job of the right woman to save you from a life of mediocrity? If you can't achieve that life withOUT us, then what the hell are WE getting out of this relationship? What do we want with a guy like YOU?

In other words, what do YOU have to offer the Girl Who Reads?

Because I promise, *no* woman you pick, no matter how exotic a bird she seems, is a shortcut to an interesting life. If you take that unfulfilling job for the sake of security, and raise kids because you just figure that's what you're supposed to do, you might just have a mid-life crisis. Or you might not. Who knows. But what, specifically, is the Girl Who Reads going to do that will prevent that? Is she going to convince you NOT to get that job? NOT to have those kids? Is she so wise? And if she is, what does that make you? A fixer-upper? Is it her job to change you?

And what on earth makes you think she'd like to spend her life doing that?

The Girl Who Reads might be everything this guy says. But if she is, she knows better than to get involved with you. You don't get credit for generously doffing your hat and giving the nod of respect to the Girl Who Reads. The thing is... that girl already knows she's worthy of respect. What she does NOT take for granted is that YOU are worthy of HER.

In other words, if you think you need that girl in order to live a life worth living, chances are she's too good for you.

Edit: A girl who reads lays claim to a vocabulary that distinguishes between the specious and soulless rhetoric of someone who cannot love her, and the inarticulate desperation of someone who loves her too much. A vocabulary, god damnit, that makes my vacuous sophistry a cheap trick.

Well, that last I'll agree with. Your vacuous sophistry is, indeed, a cheap trick. So why employ it? Those of us fooled by it obviously don't have that vocabulary you prize so highly.

And those of us NOT fooled by it, who don't NEED it, very probably don't need YOU.

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