Showing posts from January, 2012

What makes you qualified to give people advice?

I'm qualified to give people advice because they keep asking me for it.

I have a reputation for being able to figure people out, so I get a lot of friends and acquaintances asking me for my opinion of someone they're starting to date, or whether some coworker is really being unreasonable or they're just too irritated to see straight. Other times people recognize that there's some sort of recurring problem in their lives and they can't unpack it by themselves. I make it a point to say the things that most people just think, and sometimes I'll make an observation about someone that shines a light on something totally unrelated. It happens pretty constantly. Some weeks I am just the goddamn Epiphany Fairy.

Very rarely, I'll pop up on Omegle and just give advice to completely random people. Last time I did that, I apparently brought enlightenment to a bisexual girl who wanted to be told to go for her crush, some guy who was having issues with having to see the …

What makes you such an authority on depression?

My life, in general.

I have had depression problems about as long as I can remember. I do believe that this is part hereditary --every relative I've ever met and had more than a five minute conversation with is kind of insane in one way or another. Unfortunately, they're all also kind of genius, which means that they are more than smart enough to cover (mostly) or compensate (rarely) and therefore even the ones that have had the advantage of modern medicine have no diagnosis. The only one I'm aware of is my mother; she has a diagnosis, but she also took great pride in lying to the psychiatrist in order to get the medication she wanted, so it's probably not the right one. I strongly suspect she's got borderline personality disorder or histrionic personality disorder or something in the general category of 'acting like a goddamn self-centered child at the most puzzling of times'. What she actually told the shrink she had was clinical depression. She may have …

Where can I find you?

Physically, Boston. Boring -- I can only be in one place at a time. It is unfortunately not possible to open up multiple tabs in real life. I live on the north side of Cambridge, and can often be found knocking around downtown in places like Chinatown and the Back Bay. Occasionally I'm out at the end of the Green Line by BU. Every once in a great while, I trek all the way to Wonderland. The locals think the place is a pit, but having grown up in Arizona I'm still not over the novelty of being able to take public transit out to a beach, however tiny and urban and low-rent and under the flight path of Logan International Airport it is.

Online, you can obviously find me here, at Unsolicited Advice. You can also find me on Google+, and Twitter. Both of those update when I update the blog here, and I sometimes post other things there. You're welcome to circle or follow me in either place.

I also have profiles on YouTube, and, and probably a load of other places I've…

So, what ARE your qualifications, anyway?

Basically none!

My official qualifications consist of a diploma proving I earned a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies from Northern Arizona University. It was the closest I could get to earning a degree in Everything with a emphasis in Stuff. My focus was in sociology and communication theory, and I earned a minor in Japanese more or less by accident. If you were to examine my transcripts, you would find that I took what appears to be a load of almost completely random classes, and got grades ranging from A+++ to D. The reason for this is not apparent until you also get a load of my semester schedules as an undergraduate, and realize that I got all my best grades in classes that didn't give a lot of take-home work and met between 11 in the morning and 3 in the afternoon. I do quite brilliantly at school until I run into something that quite literally bores me stupid, and I'm not a functional human being before 10:30am at the earliest.

I also have an aborted attempt at getting…

Do you get paid for this?

Not so's you'd really notice.

I work as a tutor (paid and volunteer) and as a research consultant, mostly in IT. I also do freelance copywriting, technical writing, editing, and translation. I do take commissions for a variety of written work, and if you would like something written for you, please feel free to contact me at Likewise modeling; I haven't really done any since I moved to Boston, but if anyone wants to hire me I'll still take bookings. I am also working, very slowly, on a book, which I eventually plan to e-publish to Kindle and Nook.

Every so often, someone takes me to task for not giving them a way to send me money or random objects. This always weirds me out no end. I'm not used to anyone actually caring what I think to the point where they want to pay me to keep typing this stuff on a regular basis. I do run ads on the blog; I expect most of you don't know that, because most of the serious internet people have ad-…

What makes you such an authority on fashion?

Absolutely nothing at all, aside from the ability to dress myself well enough that perfect strangers stop me on the street to tell me I look great. Truth.

I don't actually think I'm a greater authority on fashion/makeup/style than anyone else. I'm rather terrible at telling people how to follow the latest trends, in fact. I'm better at telling people what elements they need to apply to themselves to look however they want to look, but that only works if the person asking knows what they want to look like in the first place.

What I think I bring to the discussion that is lacking in many other viewpoints is the ability to explain how to dress yourself in terms of social messages and artistic design. I'm not the only one who can do either of those, but in my experience, the combination is rare. It works particularly well when explaining this stuff to people who have never been interested in the immediate social payoff of playing the 'matching trends' game with…

What makes you such an authority on bullied kids?

I  have been the smart kid from day one. Nobody talked to me in elementary school, only the other smart kids talked to me in high school. I missed the last few weeks of one grade and the first semester of the next because the other kids had escalated to shoving me into things, and it took months of my parents fighting tooth and nail to force the district to transfer me to a different school, since they knew it would be impossible to effectively discipline or transfer every single one of the people who were giving me such a hard time.

I think that's really all I need to say about that.

What makes you such an authority on smart kids?

I am one. Always have been. I have a really, really bad case of 'mad genius' going, and have pretty much since I was born.

My birthday's in early September, so the school district wanted to have a look at me before they let me start kindergarten at the low end of the age range. The psychologist whom they brought in to have a chat with me suggested that they throw me into the gifted program when she caught me, a couple of weeks shy of five, reading her cursive case notes upside down. Somewhere around there I took my first and last official Stanford-Binet type IQ test; the result was a thoroughly ridiculous number, well over two standard deviations out, based almost entirely on the fact that there is no such thing as a set of questions that are age-appropriate for a kindergartener reading at a high school level. I basically made their test go TILT!.

These days I only take informal internet IQ tests when other people get the bright idea to judge how smart I am when I'm lo…

So, are you some kind of authority on this?

Kind of?

I have a degree in sociology from a four-year state university, but to be honest, I got that after I figured most of it out on my own. I will say that getting that degree is one of the easiest things I've ever done, brain-wise. All I had to do was develop opinions on stuff and explain them in essay form for credit. People-ology is like that -- if you already think like that, it takes practically no effort to continue thinking like that on paper. Ask Hugh Laurie.

There's no real certification for "being able to figure out people really well", at least not as far as I know. Judging from my own experience with them, most counselors, psychiatrists and psychologists aren't any better at it than laypeople, they just have bigger words and a more systematic method for laying out what they do notice. You just start out telling people things about themselves and after a while you get a reputation for being able to predict the really big train wrecks before they ha…

Who the hell are all these people?

Other than the celebrities, they're generally my friends and acquaintances. Pretty much everyone gets some kind of alias -- of their choosing, actually, if they're aware that I write this thing -- because if I'm going to use a pen name, it would just be really silly not to let everyone else in my life do the same.

You may notice I don't talk about my family too much. This is because I don't talk to my family too much. I've never had much contact with my father's side of things and my mother's side is uniformly crazeballs, so I avoid them as much as possible. Last year I picked up and moved 2500 miles east without bothering to tell them, which I think gets the point across. They no longer have a mailing address or phone number for me, and since one of them sent me a lengthy nastygram a few months ago, I haven't checked the email address they have either. Suffice it to say that anyone who has ever tried to tell me that "blood is thicker than wate…

On body acceptance

I also blog a lot about body acceptance. It is not all happy-happy joy-joy. I get very angry at both sides of the debate on a regular basis, particularly the late-model feminists and the fat acceptance people. I think that both movements have lost sight of the fact that while anger is a great motivator, it's a shitty way to get what you want; and that if you try to build your constituent up by trying to trample other people down, you're no better than the wankers you're theoretically fighting against.

I have a lot of opinions on this stuff that piss a lot of people off something awful. I frankly don't care.

I do not believe in the philosophy Health At Every Size. I believe in health at most sizes. If your weight is preventing you from completing everyday tasks without assistance, I think that's justification enough for declaring that, medically speaking, there is something amiss. Note that this holds true whether you weigh too much or too little for your frame, and…

How do you KNOW all this stuff?

If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me how I had all this stuff in my head, I wouldn't have needed student loans for college.

It's a combination of things. One is that I read incessantly. If reading is physically impossible, or at least untenably risky, like when I'm walking somewhere, I have audiobooks and podcasts on my MP3 player. If I'm not reading, I'm working (which often involves Googling things like mad), or playing puzzle games (which often require me to recall things, or deduce things from clues I'm given), or writing (which requires me to regurgitate things which I have taken in via other methods). There's words around me all the time, and they say stuff. I try to parse out the useful ones.

Two is that I have an eidetic memory. I don't have a true photographic memory, where you can look at a random dot field and recall it while looking at another random dot field and tell the memory researchers leaning over you and probably already…


I am very, very smart. I'm not putting that out there because I want to impress the internet -- I'm not sure I would even know how to impress a gestalt entity which routinely ends arguments by invoking the ghost of Hitler, and whose main point of comparison for coolness is a picture of a cat with a hollowed-out fruit on its head -- but I because I think it's an important piece of context. When you are the smart kid in your little social arena, it affects how everybody reacts to you, and that in turn affects everything you do. People treat you differently when they think you're smarter than they are, and the amount of different goes up in lockstep with the amount of smart, until you're ten and sitting in the back of a classroom, being (successfully) taught algebra by a volunteer eighth-grader and copping these sidelong looks from the adults, like they're not sure whether you might sprout a second head at any moment. Or at least it did for me.

This does weird thi…

Why are you so obsessed with celebrities?

I do a lot of celebrity profiles in my writing. This isn't because I'm obsessed with celebrities. This is because I'm obsessed with people.

I people-watch all the time. I think people are fascinating, and I also think the process by which we generate our guesses and impressions of people are fascinating. This is what happens when the kid nobody talked to in grade school goes into the social sciences. My family is bats and my classmates demonstrated a remarkable talent for bullying me and ignoring me at the same time, so I had very little meaningful or helpful social interaction as a kid. I pretty much had to teach myself socialization in my late teens and early twenties, the same way I taught myself everything else: by frantically inhaling as much information as I could and combing through it for patterns and rules.

The ability to read people is not unique to me. Most people can do it to some extent, and there are people out there who are far better at it than I will ever …

Looks, and what you do with them

I write a lot about the sociology and politics of beauty. It's something I have a vested interest in both as an academic and just a human being. I also write about the intricacies and effects of wardrobe and makeup and hair, and their social meaning.

It's one of the more hilarious ironies of social discourse that the more you talk about whether your looks ought to matter in life, the more people use what you look like to judge whether or not you're a total crackpot. I think, in this case, it's actually appropriate to take that into account, in the same way that it's appropriate to take into account whether the author of a women's studies tract is male or female, cisgendered or transgendered, heterosexual or homosexual or bisexual, etc. It influences what your personal life experience has been, and gives some much needed context to what you say.

Pics and more rambling behind the cut.

FAQs: Who the hell are you?

So, who are you anyway?
I am a bunch of words on the internet. Everything on here is my opinion, and if you don't like it you're welcome to not read it. If you do like it, please hang around -- I like having an audience. I mean what I say, but I'm really snarky and enjoy using sarcastic hyperbole to make my point. Figure my writing has 'for entertainment purposes only' stamped everywhere.

That's nice, but what are you like in meatspace?
I'm female, and as I write this, I'm 30. Nobody believes this. Occasionally someone will actually argue with me when I tell them, which always makes me check to make sure I haven't wandered into a Terry Gilliam movie by mistake.

In person, people usually conclude I'm younger. My dress sense tends to skew young, mostly because I'm on the small side and clothes from the Juniors department usually fits better. I'm allergic to benzoyl peroxide, so for the past fifteen years my acne-control technique has consis…

Why We Do Not Wear Superman Jammies To Job Interviews

I have spent most of my life immersed in geek culture. Geeks tend to value form that derives from function, rather than the other way around, and place a much higher priority on being individuals than on meeting the expectations of others.

Many geeks -- especially girl geeks -- get very up-in-arms when confronted with someone who clearly wants them to dress or act in a way other than the one they prefer. They see it as pressure to conform, specifically pressure to conform to the norms of people who have socially rejected them their entire lives. Geek women also show a distinct tendency to be vehemently feminist, sometimes to the point of frightening onlookers, and any push towards conventionality risks a violent backlash of, "Oh, so you're telling me I'm lesser if I don't look like a supermodel? Maybe my friends like me the way I am and I don't need to join you and your vapid sheeple!"

(This goes double, possibly treble, for any of them who didn't start o…


It is a new year, and I have come to a new conclusion: This blogging thing is not fun unless I get to air my opinions in public. People will praise me, and people will yell at me. As this is my blog, when people irk me, I get to banhammer them. C'est la vie.
Go forth, ye, and read the things that my brain coughs up when I am trying to do useful shit, like work or sleep.