Behold, Some Bold Blog Posts

Here’s what I’ve been reading lately on the internet that I would recommend to friends and strangers alike.

Happy weekend, and I would love to hear your own thoughts on any of these articles and blog posts!

Tuesday Tunes: First Aid Kit, “My Silver Lining”

Heard this song on the radio while driving with a friend to church, and fell in love. The melancholic chords combined with the hopeful lyrics are fitting for these last weeks of winter’s dregs.

Something good comes with the bad
A song’s never just sad
There’s hope, there’s a silver lining
Show me my silver lining

With the maturity of their music, it’s hard to believe this group is two Swedish girls who are under 25 years old! If you like it, check out First Aid Kit online. And at a folk festival near you….if you live in Norway, anyways.

Diabetes (Or Not) In the City

Within a few days, I had the exact same conversation with a coworker and a running teammate, both of whom I have known and seen regularly for several months:

Me: blah blah blah low blood sugar blah blah blah continuous glucose monitor blah blah–
Him: Wait, you have diabetes?
Me: Yeah…
Him: Oh, I had no idea.
Me: ??

I had a few reactions to this:

  1. Confusion: Haven’t they seen me check my beeg, take a shot, or talk about lows and highs before? Guess not. Or they did and didn’t put two and two together.
  2. Relief: Things have been great with my diabetes lately– I’ve had no crisis or even difficult events that puts diabetes Out There in view. Phew!
  3. Amusement: LOLlerskates, me being so self-absorbed that I assume this thing that is so obvious to me is also obvious to them! Reality check, self, no one’s watching you that closely! Spotlight effect!
  4. Despair: Oh God, the running buddy didn’t notice because I never bring my meter and insulin on long runs. BECAUSE THEY’LL FREEZE AND STOP WORKING NOOOO WHEN WILL WINTER END.

Contrast this with a meetup last Thursday with Manny and Melissa of the Diabetes Hands Foundation, along with many other diabetics (and a few non-Ds to boot). Manny is stepping down as the Executive Director of DHF, and Melissa is the new Interim Executive Director. They were in NYC for various stakeholder meetings and (wisely) planned a social get-together. We hung out at a cafe in the East Village and ate and drank and talked for hours. A lot of the conversation I was involved in was about DHF now, DHF in the future, my work in healthcare, and running in this godforsaken winter. There was a lot of talk about advocacy and where our efforts are, and should be, channeled. And, of course, the usual conversational fodder like TV shows and daydreaming of winter vacations.

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Melissa had someone take this happy, happy photo

 

The thread between these encounters is that there was very little talk of ME and MY diabetes. Which is nice. (Realization of point #3 and all that.) Not everyone needs to know. And time with my diabetes friends is better spent plotting about how to support the people who most need it.

(I realize it’s somewhat ironic to be saying this…..in a diabetes post…..on my personal blog…..”OH IT’S GREAT NOT TO TALK ABOUT ME! LET’S JUST DO IT SOME MORE.”)

In any case, I was delighted to see friends like Manny, Melissa, Maria Q, and others for the first time in years. I also met terrific people like Riva Greenberg & her husband Bou, and Marina of The Betes Org. I’m excited for the future of DHF and their ability to continue connecting and helping others, and I trust in them to be a voice for everyone with diabetes who wants to be part of the conversation.

I hope it’s less than a few years until I see all of them again! In the meantime, I’ll just continue plugging away until the next person asks, “Hey, what’s that beeping noise?”

The X-Files: Season 1 Review

I recently started working through the X-Files archive on Netflix. Did you watch X-Files when it originally aired? Did you watch it more recently and point and laugh at the hokey 90s technology? (Speaking of technology, I’ve had even more time to watch X-Files recently after spilling wine on my laptop, killing it, having to buy a new one, and thus being computer-less for a few weeks…..)

I watched bits of seasons 1-4 when it was originally on TV. My older sister was into it and I think I started sitting on the couch with her out of curiosity. Trouble is, curiosity and a desire to emulate her older, adolescent coolness did not get me very far. Every night I was either scared out of my wits or peppering my mother with so many questions about the plot that my sister Meg would roll her eyes in older, adolescent disgust and say, “Ugh, Caroline, BE QUIET!”

The epic eyerolls did not stop me from a fit of nostalgia when my man and I were sitting down with a pile of takeout and Netflix on browse. “Can we watch X-Files?” I begged him. Lucky me, my favorite nerd did not require extra guacamole as a bribe to say yes.

And so it began…..

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Obviously a lot is different now as an adult in the 10’s vs. a kid in the 90’s. The computers and clunky cellular phones are charmingly antiquated. I am able to grasp the ambiguity and plot twists involved in chasing unexplained phenomena. And I have a better appreciation for the FBI bureaucracy and obstruction now that I am a mature human with work experience. But I confess: this stuff still scares me. I keep having to take a deep breath and tell myself, “It’s okay! Mulder and Scully have to survive until the next episodes….” (The random side characters, on the other hand, you learn not to get attached to. At least 50% of them are surely toast by the end of the episode.)

Since I love taking to the internet and reading reviews after each episode of TV I watch, here’s a recap. Season 1 of [however many we’ll get through]! Obviously, spoilers follow.

The Gist: Mulder and Scully are thrown together by the FBI. Shadowy government forces being all passive aggressive, wanting to destroy them but kindasorta keeping them around too. So many ghosts and reincarnations of dead people! And of course, aliens.

Things I Learned: Doug Hutchinson was creepy before he married a porn star 35 years his junior. Alien spacecraft can fly really fast. From his ex-girlfriends to former perps to his fear of fire to his (of course) sister’s abduction, Mulder’s past sure does come back to haunt him a lot. And cute little girls are often not to be trusted.

The Mythology: Just getting set up, obviously. I forgot that Deep Throat got offed so I screamed when he was shot. The alien conspiracies are gripping and intriguing, though I know it’s going to get real messy in later seasons.

The Best: My favorite episodes were “Beyond the Sea” and “Eve.” Both featured magnificent acting. (Question: is Brad Dourif more or less creepy than Doug Hutchinson?) Both played my heartstrings as well: “Beyond the Sea” featuring the loss of Scully’s father, and “Eve” featuring the delicious creepiness of both the child and adult clones. Honorable mention goes to “Ice” for the suspense factor. (No, I have never seen “The Thing.”)

The Worst: “Space.” Space ghosts? Huh? Low on scares and high on boredom.

Episodes I’ve Already Forgotten About: “The Jersey Devil,” “Miracle Man”

Most WTF: “Genderbender.” Seductive murderers, okay. Seductive murderers…who morph gender presentation….okay. Seductive murderers….who morph gender presentation….who are Amish…..who are actually bizarrely sexy morphing Amish alien cultists?

Overall: I wonder what my life would have been like if I had been a little older when this came out. I would have eaten this stuff up as a sixteen-year-old. Oh, but wait….I already spent my Friday nights online reading fanfic as a teenager. Maybe not much was different.

Tuesday Tunes: (I Want Jesus to) Walk With Me

I finally saw Selma last week. If you have not seen it yet, I urge you to go watch before it disappears from theaters. It is moving and magnificent.

One of the most powerful scenes is the first attempt to march to Birmingham. The protestors peacefully cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge and are confronted by armed sheriffs and policemen. Without time to negotiate or even think about turning around, the thugs descend and begin beating the marchers. You sit watching in horror as old ladies are chased down and tackled, and peaceful college students are struck with billy clubs. Blood flies and people scream.

All while this song is playing.

I got a frisson of recognition when I heard the first line. We sing this song in our church choir regularly. A slightly different arrangement (no spirituals are exact, right?), but on those Sundays when we need some weight.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I walked into rehearsal a few days after seeing the film and hearing our director Amy say that we would be singing it this Sunday.

So that’s what I thought of as we sang. What’s my pilgrim journey? Where is my Edmund Pettus Bridge, and who are the forces of evil blocking the path? I want Jesus to be marching right alongside me.

The First Presbyterian Church of Brooklyn is a group I am proud to be a part of, and our choir is phenomenally talented. We have a few albums out, most recently ‘Where I Am,’ released in 2014. You won’t hear me on this, but the album features another haunting arrangement of I Want Jesus to Walk With Me.

You can preview the whole album on Soundcloud. But why not go ahead and buy it and support great music? You can find it on iTunes and Amazon in both digital and hard copies. If you are in close proximity to NYC….come to church one Sunday and you will get it for free!

More Like Winter Storm Ju-No

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No blizzard, and no fun.

The problem with working at a hospital is that….you never get snow days. Sure, sometimes when you get lucky you can go home a couple hours early in the face of impending doom. But while your teacher friends are brewing up hot cocoa, your businessmen college classmates are binging on Netflix, and your software engineers are working at home in their pajamas…..your duty calls. No matter how nonessential your regular job may be, patients are still sick and you need to schlep on in and do something about it.

Luckily, the snow and wind were underwhelming– and I live within schlepping distance. A long schlep, sure, but manageable. So Tuesday morning I put on my crummiest pair of sneakers, packed some dry socks and pants in a bag, layered up and strolled some miles through the quiet snow.

It was not eerie, like some people described Manhattan on Monday night. The travel ban had been lifted by the time I was snow-commuting, so there were cars on the road (and even a few intrepid cyclists!). It felt like an early weekend morning. The city is just starting to rumble to life.

I reported in to the disaster command center, and almost got assigned to help break down cots from all the staff who slept over…..until the Building Services guy saw some other dudes waiting for work assignment and picked them instead. I eyed their puny arm muscles and thought, WIMPS! I’m training for my eighth marathon right now and there is at least a 53% chance I could kick your asses! Don’t f#$&ing stereotype me!

I was then punted off to clerical tasks with a colleague who roped me in. At least the residual feminine rage fueled my workouts for the rest of the week.

Whatever, once I angled to make all those phone calls (“Nope, any non-essential services are shut down for today, but your appointment is set for tomorrow!”) from my office, I could lock the door and jam to some U2 and not have anyone giving me the side eye if I texted with my snow-day friends while doing so. And the hospital gave us free lunch!

The subways were back to normal by the end of my shift, so I had a normal schlep home. Not as cool as this guy:

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Ludacris shared this picture on Facebook, with the utterly perfect caption of, “you da real mvp”

With another snowstorm headed our way on Monday, he’s gonna get the opportunity to be da super mvp soon…..

Call this a listicle of the things I have done in the past month

Hello blog friends! I took a nice little hiatus that started with the holidays and went straight through until the next year. What happened in that time?

  • Drinking
  • Snowy bus rides
  • Christmas with family in Pennsylvania
  • More drinking
  • My sister, dad, and I went on or first run together….ever
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  • And drank to celebrate
  • Seeing my extended family in Virginia
  • Drinking there too
  • Going to Chicago for the Alpha Phi Omega National Convention 2014
  • SO much drinking
  • Presenting workshops, seeing old friends, going to the Bean and eating deep dish for the first time
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  • And definitely not drinking for the first time
  • NYE in Chicago…..guess what that entailed
  • Returning to New York and soothing my liver
  • Wait, marathon training? In 8-degree weather?
  • Taking my pants off in the No Pants Subway Ride…..in much warmer (22 degree) temperatures
  • Returning to baseline liver abuse….I mean drinking

 

Being a White Girl Marching for #blacklivesmatter

This weekend I brought my voice to the Millions March NYC, in protest of police brutality nationwide. The pain is especially raw here, after the grand jury decision not to indict Daniel Pantaleo in the death of Eric Garner.

So how do you describe a march like this? It wasn’t fun. It wasn’t good. It was not a pleasant way to spend a Saturday. But it was important. It was important to have a mass show of support, to send a signal to politicians and leaders. And, on a personal level, it was important to me to be supportive of the black/brown/not-white people in the city (and in my life) and speak up for them. (I have written previously about why I think this is indeed a racial issue.) Maybe selfishly, it was important for my soul to stand on the side of justice.

So if it wasn’t fun, good, a picnic, etc, what was it? It was powerful. It was angry. The march hummed with an energy that I did not expect. Just a few months ago I participated in the People’s Climate March to protest climate change and demand action. We did get action (hooray!), and the march was significant primarily for its size. Over 300,000 people marched in NYC alone. And maybe it was my pocket, but there was a sense of bland goodwill in the air. It mattered because it could affect most of us there, not because it already had. (Notable exception- the band of Hurricane Sandy survivors we passed near Central Park.)

The Millions March Day of Anger, though……there were five percent of the protestors and twice the energy. The chanting was almost constant, from “Hands up, don’t shoot!” to “Grand jury, bullshit!” to “Eric Garner, Michael Brown, shut it down, shut it down!” Waves of shouts or cheers would roll from the front of the protest to the back. Even though we were cold and tired and walking for miles, determination filled the air.

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These were a few signs among many that resonated with me. Equally powerful were signs showing pictures, names, and cause of death of innocent African Americans killed by police for doing such shocking criminal acts as sleeping at home, stepping out of their car after being pulled over, or asking for help from an officer.

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People peacefully entered a store and posed with hands up, near Canal Street.

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You can barely make it out, but the sign quotes “A Change is Gonna Come.”

It has been a long time coming, and as a white girl in a predominantly white country, I will do what I can to hurry it along. That means listening to the stories and experiences of other-hued people, especially black and brown people. It means standing up for what is right, even when it is uncomfortable. And it means putting my faith in action and doing justice for the oppressed.

Speaking of which, this was the sign that I carried (yes, photographed while taped to a wall because it no longer lies flat).

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Things I love this week (12/10/14)

1. Shiner Holiday Cheer beer
2. Starting spring season with Team in Training
3. Five Tips for Being an Ally, by Chescaleigh
4. Somewhat related to #1, the giant Christmas tree made out of kegs
5. And most thrillingly of all……..

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…..having tickets to see THESE GUYS next year!

What Can Science Teach Us About Racism and Ferguson?

In the wake of the grand jury decision to not indict Darren Wilson in the killing of Michael Brown, I have heard a number of people say that this is not about racism. “Consider only the facts,” they say. “People are letting their emotions get the best of them.” “They are going hysterical and calling this racist when it isn’t.”

You can easily peruse the facts of the Brown-Wilson case specifically (the transcript is right here). Removing hot emotions and lived experience, what if we use cool data to look at this case and others?

What if we use humanity’s highest form of fact- and logic-based thinking…..science? Experimentation? Controlled variables in a laboratory setting?

Let’s take a look.

To start, if you’re wondering about my qualifications, I have a degree in social psychology from one of the top 20 schools in the country. For several semesters, I ran lab experiments for a PhD student who is now a psychology professor at another top 20 school nationwide. So I promise, I didn’t just read a few Malcom Gladwell books and call myself an expert.

First off– how the hell do you measure racism in a lab setting, anyways? You can’t just ask research subjects, “Hey, do you hate black people?” Most people will answer no– not just because most people aren’t KKK members, but also because of social desirability. That is, they know they’ll look better if they withhold or underplay racist beliefs that they might have. So scientists developed what’s called the implicit association test (IAT). The IAT primes a subject by first flashing a prime– a word or image displayed for milliseconds, which registers subconsciously but not consciously– then showing another word or image. The subject must categorize that second word or image as instructed by the experimenter. The variable is response time– if she was primed with a first stimulus that she associates with that category, then she selects the category faster. So, let’s say that someone was being shown a smiley face and a frowny face, and asked to click on the smiley face each time it comes up. If the subject is primed with flower on the screen for just an instant before the faces appear, she will click on the smiley face more quickly than if she is primed with insect. (Unless she happens to be an entomology major, I suppose.)

So Drs. Fazio, Jackson, Dunton, and Williams studied this in race. Subjects were shown adjectives such as wonderful, disgusting, and attractive and asked to press a key to indicate if it was good or bad. Before each word, they were subliminally primed with photographs of Caucasian and African American faces. When primed with African American faces, white subjects were quicker to categorize bad adjectives– because they have negative associations with black and brown faces. Moreover, their scores on the implicit association test didn’t correlate precisely with explicit written questionnaires (the Modern Racism Scale).

This indicates that white people who do not identify as disliking African Americans can still harbor negative attitudes towards them. Full text of the study can be found here.

Yes, you say, but there is a difference between negative attitudes and being a police officer who has to quickly assess and act on a threat. Dr. B. Keith Payne wondered if implicit attitudes could affect decisions that police officers make– namely, does that guy have a gun? In the lab, Payne had subjects categorize an image as either a gun or a simple hand tool. Before each image, they were primed with either an African American face or a white face.

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That’s the image included in the research article, published here. Subjects showed a greater weapon bias when primed with African American faces– that is, they were quicker to pick a gun, and more likely to erroneously mistake a hand tool for a gun.

So, we have established experimental evidence that people’s decisions can be influenced by race without their explicit knowledge, and that these decisions can have to life-or-death consequences. (Payne cites Amadou Diallo, whom police shot to death because they thought he had a gun– in reality, he was pulling out a wallet to show ID.)

Is this justified? African Americans are disproportionately more likely to commit a crime, right? Doesn’t that make it their issue, their fault? Caucasians are just using facts here. African Americans need to shape up and improve themselves.

Does science say that it is merely an issue of character flaw, though? Take a look at some data.

The National Poverty Center at the University of Michigan shows that poverty disproportionately affects Hispanics and African Americans– 26.6% and 27.4% respectively were poor, compared to 12.1% of Asians and 9.9% of Caucasians. We also know that people of low socioeconomic status experience greater levels of stress, as objectively measured by cortisol (one of the fight-or-flight hormones). There is lots of work on cortisol and child poverty, but here is a study in adults by Sheldon Cohen et al.

If you have taken any introductory psych course, you may recall the name Roy Baumeister. He is the rock star of self-regulation, and did some enormously influential experiments that show that willpower is much like a muscle. If self-control is used, eventually that “muscle” gets tired and it becomes hard to control yourself until you can rest. (So, if you have been biting your tongue to keep from lashing out at your cranky boss all day, don’t expect to have an easy time of coming home and forcing yourself to exercise instead of pigging out on chips and salsa on the couch.) In Baumeister’s extensive review of the literature, he says, “When stress or fatigue depletes an individual’s strength, self-regulatory failures become more likely.”

Now let us return to the lab. Dr. C. Nathan DeWall, in conjunction with Baumeister and others, did a clever set of experiments to look at the relation between self-regulation and aggression. Subjects entered the lab, presumably for an experiment on “food preferences and written expression.” The subject and a partner, hidden in another room, first wrote essays. Then the subject either received a donut or a radish for taste testing– until the experimenter burst out that the subject got the wrong food, and to please hold on for a few minutes while she fetched the right food item. That is the experimental vs. control setup. Afterwards, the subject gets his or her essay back, graded by the “partner” (actually, a confederate of the experiment) with negative commentary scribbled all over it (including, bitingly, “this is one of the worst essays I have ever read”). Subjects then had to prepare a taste test for their partner. In a food preference questionnaire, the partner (falsely, of course) rated a strong dislike of spicy foods. Subjects were advised to give their partners three potato chips and “adequate sauce.” Guess who dumped hot sauce all over their one-alarm, Tabasco-hating partner’s chips? Yes, the participants who resisted eating the donut– the ones who exerted their self-regulation muscles. Their hot sauce alacrity had nothing to do with feelings of anger towards the partner, as post-test questionnaires showed. It was a result of ego depletion (that is, wiping out their self-regulation).

What to conclude from this? Poverty leads to stress and problems with self-regulation, which leads to increased aggression.

People of all races are poor, but African Americans are far more likely to be poor than Caucasians.

Caucasians may say “this was not influenced by race,” but race can influence us in subtle, harmful ways.

During grand jury deliberations, a 12-year-old black boy was shot to death for carrying a BB gun, which a 911 caller repeatedly told dispatchers was probably not real.

A week before, a black father named Akai Gurley was shot and killed by a rookie police officer in the Brooklyn housing project where he lived. Mr. Gurley was taking the stairs, dark without bulb replacements for months, because the elevator was broken. He was unarmed and innocent.

When you don’t know who to believe, believe the science.

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