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Looking for porter to help me carry my emotional baggage. (Part r4r, part lonely heart, part life story).

Prologue: Hello reddit! I’ve got issues.
I have never done this before, nor do I have any idea what might come of it, but I can tell you that this is probably just as much (if not moreso) an introspective essay as it will be lonely heart ad. I’m somewhat at the point in my life where I need to scream out into the void, and I hope that my honesty will net me just enough cosmic karma to get me out of this hole which I’ve been so unceremoniously dumped into. So, strap in; you're in for some u/rubyoobieoobie length shit.
I’ll leave you with a TLDR for now (because I’m not so callous as to make you scroll to the bottom for it): I have been to 49 states, flew to France for a date, solved a decade-old problem in microbial biochemistry and astrobiology, and am the dictator of my own country. I also have insurmountable trauma from my past (and only) relationship, but I still have deluded myself into thinking there is a hope, a person, a way in which I might someday move on and be happy again.
For those who want to know now, I am a 24-year-old non-binary, assigned-male-at-birth individual in search of someone whom has the patience necessary to deal with the above. Also, potential trigger warning for sexual trauma in Chapter 2.
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Chapter 1: Who I currently am.
I’m quite an abnormal fellow. Growing up as the autistic homeschooler of some shut-ins will do that to you, but there was always something about me that was especially aberrant. Skipping rapidly over two decades, a few highlights include attending an Online High School run by an Ivy-League university, becoming a high-school dropout, then starting college at 14 and graduating at 19. However, all magic requires a tradeoff, so I report not having a friend until I was 15 and not having more than two simultaneously until literally 2018. In many ways, I almost wish I hadn’t been homeschooled and was held back academically. I’m certain that, were my upbringing different, I would have been a nerd or geek. I could have learned to play D&D or magic the gathering, I could have liked Naruto, I could have become a gamer or learned to code. I am by no means cool or normal, but I have always lacked any sort of peers or social niche. I do not like sports, but, with equal fervor, I do not like fantasy novels. Both cause a lack of associations. I’m not necessarily lonely for friends – I do have them, and quite a blissful plenty, now – but this does show that, for reasons mostly beyond my control, I have always been somewhat of a loner.
My life, as it currently is, started when I fled a certain situation (pin in that). I moved from the west coast to New York City for a biotech job at a coveted research institution in 2017. I was so overwhelmingly hopeful because, in addition to fleeing trauma and making a good career move, I was moving out from my parents and ready to start my life anew in what had been billed to me for years as Millennial heaven. Brooklyn! Williamsburg! Dumbo! Midtown! Astoria! Tribeca! New York City had been built up in my mind as the place to make it as a young, urban-minded professional. Now, I must make a disclaimer: I was not a country boy heading into this. To that point, I had lived in 8 different cities in 4 different states, most of them major places, so I was quite familiar with how cities should be like. Apparently, New York, however, is not.
I hated that place. Trash, everywhere. Stations, crumbling. Inexcusable income disparity, half-assed parks, wretchedroads, and absolutely no scenic beauty whatsoever. I devised a 45-minute lecture on why The City (as it’s called) sucked so much. Suffice it to say that Chicago is the clearly superior American megacity, followed by Toronto, Denver, Seattle, and Austin. My whole life, growing up on the west coast (where cities ascribed to the novel idea of attempting to benefittheir citizens), I had heard of people who claimed that “all governments are bad, bureaucratic, and inefficient.” I had always dismissed them as crackpot old kooks, but, having experienced New York City for what it was, I all of a sudden can understand how someone who had lived their whole life in such places could come to think that way.
But the thing that made it most unlivable were the people. Especially at my job, but also pretty much throughout the whole region (Providence to Wilmington, in my estimation), the people were overly obsessed with “social coding”. Though an irritatingly imprecise phenomenon for me to describe, it is basically that people have a much more stringent set of acceptable social norms and shun you more harshly for being individualistic. The west coast is significantly better at encouraging you to “let your freak flag fly” (otherwise known as being genuine and honest with yourself).
But the situation was significantly worse for me, specifically. You see, for lack of a better term, I am a psychopath. I don’t mean it in a negative context, per se, and, while I do quite frequently play the role of a narcissist for sake of metahumor, I don’t actually mean people ill will, nor do I callously disregard the well-being of others. It’s just that, due to the quirk of my aberrant neurochemistry and antisocial upbringing, I have always been generally inept at empathy. I am very social, outgoing, kind-hearted, and incredibly humorous – don’t get me wrong – but I can just as much be oblivious to social cues or the tacit desires of others. This peculiar mix leads my personality to be best described as the bastard child of a foursome between Johnny Depp’s Willy Wonka, Psych’s Shawn Spencer, Scrubs’ JD, and Big Bang Theory’s Sheldon. I truly mean well and am pure of heart; to that end, I’ve spent much of my life acquiring coping mechanisms to be a better, kinder, more sympathetic person and friend. But, for one reason or another, I was ill-equipped to deal with that most fetid breed person known to man: the “Lawn Guylander”.
This all culminated in a moment of crisis, but which I have come to look back on as the “Poughkeepsie Epiphany” (because, ever so creatively, I was driving thence at the time I had it): for almost a year, I had been putting an exorbitant amount of effort into playing the part of this overly social person, but was failing catastrophically. No matter how hard I tried, I could not meet people or make friends, much less find a partner. My coworkers loathed me, but in a way which they all looked down on me as if I was a defective human whom they didn’t care to humor one bit (one of the most vindicating moments was when a postdoc joined the lab from San Diego and he was similarly abhorred at the social climate). One day, I had a realization that there wasn’t a single person in the world who knew when I woke up, nor a single person that would care if I didn’t. That was a painful day. So, my Poughkeepsie Epiphany was that I could continue struggling to play the social game and end up cripplingly lonely, or I could be exactly as lonely as I would be otherwise, but be genuine to myself – no matter how anomalous that might be – and actually be happy with who I was for so doing.
This is when I started to become crazy, and quite proudly so. If there was an idea that was absurd in scope but was a completionist goal, I did it. I started road-tripping with an epic fervor (I knocked off 8 remaining states from my list, mostly New England, to get me to 49 [pin in that]). Road-tripping and adventuring is now a major aspect of my personality, and I have since accrued over 11,000 saved places on google maps (my poor, poor phone starts to melt whenever I open the app for navigation). Over the remaining months I had in New York, I rode every line of the New York City Subway end to end. I taught myself military time, metric, the NATO phonetic alphabet, and the nations of the world. Whenever I would go to bars, instead of socializing ineptly, I would open my backpack and yank out a massive tome such as (initially) a book on the AOL-Time Warner Merger (“something which one cannot read whilst sober”) or (later) Penn State, an Illustrated History (did you know we had a branch campus in China?). Sometimes, people would look over at me as the shockwave caused by the massive thwack of the volume hitting the bartop rolled by, and I would proudly adopt the facial expression of “Yes, I am that weird, and I don’t give a damn.” To be sure, I was still cripplingly lonely, but I was, for the first time in my life, happy.
I also began devising an escape plan. I decided to rapidly accelerate my life plans and apply for graduate school years ahead of what I had intended. Come January, I got interviews at three Ivys: Penn State, Duke, and Columbia. It was no contest. Duke sux balz and felt like an incompetent department living in the shadow of their medical center while also having the misplaced haughtiness to think they deserved equal recognition (also, I didn’t want to go to a place where the yearly tuition was more money than I had ever earned in my entire life to that point). Unlike Duke, Columbia actually had some quality research going on, but there was only one professor I was interested in and the department felt like it was out more for its own reputation than to actually support its graduate students. Penn State, however, stole my heart. Though painfully rural, the town felt like a very tiny big city. The university was friendly and earnest, the students were fun-loving but not reckless, and it’s one of only two universities in the country to offer a Dual-Title Ph.D. in [Home Field] and Astrobiology, a subject which I had always been enthralled by. As a concrete comparison, Columbia had just acquired three Cryo-Electron microscopes and was showing them off to us, but they were shared with thirteen other research institutions in the New York Metropolitan Area. Penn State, on the other hand, had one Krios, all to itself, which had been installed four years earlier. I have since confirmed that Penn State clearly puts its money where its mouth was and does its damnedest to support its scientists in producing world-class research.
So, slightly over a year after moving to New York, I was ready to start my life over again – but, this time, I had the mindset to do it correctly. At risk of turning this too much into an autobiography, I’ll cut short the narrative. In the two years since the Poughkeepsie Epiphany, though, I’ve noticed an interesting phenomenon. Partly out of my passion for storytelling and humor, and partly as a way to stake out my own identity in this world, I’ve latched on to certain oddball stories that most exemplify this newfound sense of self which I’ve acquired. Since they are a significant part of my personality and do an excellent job of portraying my uniquely blusterous metahumor, I'll share a few of the most notable:
  1. I’ve been to 49 states:
When people ask where I grew up, I respond that I’ve lived in 10 different cities in six different states, and have been to 49 (some people also ask if my father was in the military [no], or, once, witness protection [I am not at liberty to disclose whether this is true]). The one remaining state is Oklahoma. I am really debating just buying plane tickets to Oklahoma City for a weekend just so that I can say I’ve been to all 50. To justify my trip, I could go on a tour of why white people are so horrible by visiting the Oklahoma Museum of the Native American, the Oklahoma Museum of the African American, and the Oklahoma Museum of the Gay Cowboy (all of which, to my knowledge, are real places). Woohoo! A trifecta of oppression! However, if I were to actually visit Oklahoma and do this, I would then lose this marvelous and witty conversation topic about which last state I have yet to visit and what I would do while there, so it’s a serious cost-benefit analysis that I must weigh.
  1. I am the Dictator of my own country:
This is probably much less interesting than you’d think. There’s a rather... unique hobby out there of people who (for the most part) tongue-in-cheekily secede from their parent countries to form ultra-small monarchies or banana republics. In my case, I thought that the most reasonable and considered response to the Trump Presidency was to give up on the entire country and secede to form my own. I’m going to build a wall and make America pay for it! This is also actually more legitimate than you’d think, too, as I was invited to and attended the United Micronations, the second-largest meeting of nations in the world (the “largest” organization is in New York, I think. I really don’t pay too much attention to it). As a result, I ended up forming a federation, making several alliances, and maintain regular contact with several other micronationalists. On the domestic front, I made both my roommates sign a 37-page, 42-clause, 17k-word Cohabitation Agreement (á la Sheldon), which, among other things, has reservations for Spots, a flag, a legal system, time travel, and gives me power of attorney over them (you’d be surprised; they both signed it voluntarily, without complaint, and after having read it in its entirety). One might add that they do not pay rent; I levy taxes. Finally, I attempted an infiltration of the local Civil War Reenactors (they have a cannon!) to help me in my ongoing war against the local recycling agency for gross ineptitude, but, for some incomprehensible reason, a bunch of old, white, rurally-inclined men didn't take so kindly to my opinions on conservatism and modern politics. I am convinced that this is merely a marketing issue, and we are workshopping new slogans for our planned invasion of the adjacent curb and sidewalk.
  1. I flew to France for a date:
The story I’m sure you’ve all been waiting for. I met an undergraduate here and went on two dates with her, but then she did a semester abroad in France. It was going somewhat well; we were texting every day, and this was the first meaningful person I had actually gone on a date with since... things (pin in that). I quickly ran the numbers, looked at my schedule, and then came up with a hair-brained scheme. You see, I grew up in Florida, so a significant part of my childhood was consumed by theme parks. Sparring you a lot of details, two of the parks (Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Universal Studios) originally opened under the auspices of special-features theme parks, a de-immersive experience where they show you how the movies are made. In the past decade, however, both parks have been moving towards more immersive experiences, where the only common factor among the attractions is that they are all based on intellectual properties that just happened to be movie franchises. This started to feel like a real loss when I learned that the Backlot Tour and Lights, Motors, Action at Disney were being bulldozed for sake of Star Wars: Galaxy’s edge, the former of which was a very important ride to my childhood, and the latter of which was something that I always wanted to see. Lo and behold, a little research revealed that both of these attractions were intact at Disney Studios in Paris. So, a date in the South of France, personally-important theme park attractions in the north, TGV connecting them, and, oh, yeah, duh, it’s Paris, that’s justification in itself.
I planned it out meticulously. For the week leading up to the trip, I would get up, go to work, and go to bed an hour earlier every day (the trip was only going to be three days, so any jet-lag-induced napping would have had an alarmingly high opportunity cost). Then, on the day of the flight, I woke up just before midnight, had breakfast at a favorite bar at closing time, went in to work, and left for JFK by noon. Ten hours of globe-trotting later, I arrived on the Mediterranean coast and proceeded to mispronounce everything.
The date in France was supposed to be our third. What traditionally happens on the third date? Now, let it be known that I would NEVER be the type of person to demand sexuality from anyone, but, you do have to admit, flying 20% of the circumference of a planet is a pretty grand gesture, is it not? I mean, you can’t get a much grander gesture before you literally run out of planet. So, for this third date to take place and for me to not get laid is pretty empirical proof that I am quite irrevocably unfuckable. My next plan is to start looking for dates in Bangladesh (or Oklahoma), because that’s as close as you can get to antipodal (a perfect 50% of the planet's circumference) as you can get from here. Oh, and those two attractions at Disney Studios, not kidding, they were closed ahead of schedule a week before I arrived. Now, I’m not asking for pity at all; don’t get me wrong, I had a blast! It’s Paris, godsdamnit! But I prefer to view this trip in the narrower, funnier, yet sadder context of the two busts above because it helps me to better come to terms with the parts of myself I dislike. As I often say: “I could either laugh or cry at myself. I’d rather one than the other.”
  1. I returned from France with a Motorcycle:
Although France girl never worked out (I don’t think I made a fool of myself or anything, but, remember, I am legitimately inept at this), the trip to France did have a lasting impact on my life in another way. I am an avid bicyclist for a variety of reasons: staying active, helping the environment, and it’s flying like superman at ground level when [safely!] dodging in and out of undergrads. Now, while strolling down the lonely streets of a certain city in the South of France, I encountered one particular bicycle rack with about 25% regular bicycles, about 25% electric bicycles, about 25% mopeds and scooters, and 25% fully-blown motorcycles, all chained up side by side. Having a doctor as a parent, I spent my entire life thinking of motorcycles as hooligan deathtraps, but, here, I was seeing them for the first time in the context of something I had already made an important part of my life.
Upon returning home (by the way, you already know my disdain for New York Shitty [sic] and Wrong Island [sic], so imagine the gutwrenching heartbreak of arriving there after just having spent a weekend in Paris[!]), I arrived at the parking lot, looked at my car, and counted room for four extra people that I didn’t need (because I had no friends). Thus, in my feverish road-tripping, I was hauling around an unnecessary 1.96 tons of extra material – with a dreadful gas mileage to boot! – killing the planet as a result. The next few days were spent obsessively investigating this newfound world which I had heretofore disregarded. Ever since being gifted my car and spittaking at its gas mileage, I always wanted another, more environmentally-conscious vehicle. However, living in the so-called Pennsyltucky, electric vehicle charging stations are fairly sparse in their deployment. Also, I didn’t want to buy a true replacement vehicle, as I am too poor. I was more targeting a hyper-environmentally-conscious vehicle which I could use for my luxury adventures, and then still have the old, reliable gas-guzzler for when I needed to haul around a couch or power through to Virginia. Motorcycles, as I found, have an average of 56mpg, 2.5 times better than my car.
But, now, I was starting to find my way into the culture of motorcycles, something which, on the whole, I find myself violently at odds with. As the joke I tell goes, most motorcycles aren’t actually built for long-distance exploring, like what I already did in my car. Most of them are dirt bikes, with basically bench seats, or sport bikes, which require you to hunch over and lean your stomach on the gas tank. Not very comfortable for long treks. There are only two types of bikes made with comfort in mind: the sport-tourer, which I ended up getting, and the cruiser, which is made entirely out of chrome, handle-bar mustaches, and racism (or homophobia, depending on my audience). Needless to say, I prefer the former.
For those interested, I ended up with the Yamaha Tracer GT. In addition to (proudly!) having only one piece of chrome (the downward-facing exhaust) and being sexy and futuristic as all futhermuck, it is functional, having two panniers (saddle-bags), each capable of holding four half-gallons of Berkey Creamery ice cream (ask me how I know). Skipping over many of the specifics of how I chose this particular model regarding my choice of motorcycle, a big figure in motorcycle news opened his review of the Tracer with “It’s not often I ride a motorcycle and walk away with existential questions for the readers.” For those who have been following along, this quote is the exact thing that I latch on to as part of my newfound identity as a blissful lunatic.
  1. The Semester of Hell and solving a decade-old issue in microbial physiology:
So, come the end of my first year as a graduate student, I started to look towards my second fall semester. The only thing I had to do was my qualifying exam, the really big, month-long exam that determines whether or not you can stay in graduate school. But that was only during November, so, overall, it was going to be an empty semester. Then I learned that a big-name professor in microbiology was retiring, and the last time he was going to teach would be that fall. So, I signed up for his course. After all, it was supposed to be an empty semester. Then I learned of a prestigious grant that I could apply for, so I decided to take a grant-writing course. After all, it was supposed to be an empty semester. Then I got an email from the department, saying that they needed more TAs for Freshman Biology lab. I had to TA as a requirement of my program, so I might as well get it out of the way now. After all, it was supposed to be an empty semester. Then, in July and August, I made an incredible discovery that solved a problem in microbial physiology that had been around since 2009 (pin in that). I spoke with my PI, and he said we could power through and probably get a paper out in under a year. I told him I wanted to do that. After all, it was supposed to be an empty semester.
Well, as you can now see, it wasn’t a very empty semester, was it now? To great surprise, I survived, but not unscathed. On average, I worked 60-70 hours a week, though some of it was partially my own doing (for example, my term paper for the bacterial physiology course had seventy citations, even though it was only required to have ten). One “highlight” was TAing. Apparently, my students thought my quiz was so hard that they called the university police on me (I’m not exaggerating; we had to pursue academic integrity violations. It was a debacle). I joked that, with each subsequent class period, I became more and more sympathetic to the antagonists of teen dystopian novels; maybe it is time to build a floating elitist city in the sky and leave the rest of the planet to shit, after all?
Now, I’m certain that many of you are curious as to the contents of my discovery. I can’t exactly speak freely, as the manuscript is in review, but, even if I could, it would be waaaaay too complex and jargony to be comprehensible to the lay public (and this is already going on long enough). Suffice it to be the simple version: A particular class of protein had been known in microbes for a very long time and is involved in pretty much everything, from simple feeding to complex infections. In certain bacteria, this category of protein is modified in a certain way, and people always thought (for over 40 years) that this modification was a transport signal. However, a decade ago, a research groups, perplexingly, discovered these modified proteins in a bacterium that didn’t have th modification-making enzyme. This left two major questions: if not for transport, what was this modification for; and, what is the enzyme that makes the modification in all the other bacteria? I solved the latter question by spending four months looking through the entire genome of the original bacterium and finally finding the modification-making protein, and I’ve spent ever since trying to characterize it. The paper should be published sometime within a month or three (the current coronapocalypse is a boon for manuscript-preparation). Additionally, the previous graduate student in the lab to me made an interesting discovery regarding the genetics of the modification-making enzyme, and my next paper will expand on their work to determine the actual function of this modification. These proteins and their modifications are important because (on the applied side) they belong to major pathogens and could be a target for treating infections and (on the basic side) we have indications that they are part of a planetary-wide stress put on bacteria during evolution (hence, my astrobiological machinations).
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Chapter 2: Where I came from.
Now we have to get into how I got to this point. Suffice it to say that I have a lot of sexual trauma. In 2014, when I was still an undergrad, I met whom I called then my soulmate. They were beautiful, fun, perky, and adventurous. They were my first relationship and we took each other’s virginity in a tent after a romantic picnic. But, sadly, less than a year in, things started to go off the rails. I came out as polyamorous. The way I have best found to describe it is when you ask a parent which their favorite child is. All parents worth their salt will say “I love each of my children in their own, unique way.” Such is the same with me. At the time, I had feelings for some of my other friends; but! mind you! they were in no way enough to ever consider ever leaving my soulmate. It was simply such that I had my one, my true, my only, but I didn’t want that to have to mean I tell all other people in my life “Bah! You mean nothing to me because of the ambiguity of my relationship status at the time you met me.” I also had quite a complex from growing up so antisocially and isolated. This was a time in my life when things started to look up. Pieces were finally starting to fall into place, I had some friends and acquaintances, and people actually cared for me. It was thusly then that I realized I was polyamorous, but in mostly a loving way, not necessarily as a swinger or horndog. So, I came out.
In any other situation in the world, this might have not been as catastrophic. However, there were certain things about my soulmate which I knew not at the time that caused not just my relationship, not just my life, but my reality to crumble. You see, they grew up in an incredibly abusive situation, and the only way they knew how to act was to throw away every part of themselves for the people whom they loved. Whelp, that meant “forcing” themselves to be polyamorous for me. They devised a ridiculous plan where they would go out and sleep with lots of people to become okay with the idea of nonmonogamy. Needless to say, this was a batshit crazy idea, but they didn’t tell me their true feelings of how traumatizing this would be for them, and I decided to trust them that this is what they knew would be best for them and that it would all work out in the end. What can I say? What is love if not supporting your partner? I honestly thought it could be okay.
However, as you might guess, it was not. The main issue came from all their mental instability that they had hidden from me for so long. They became quite dissociative and hid it all from me. As such, they tried to compartmentalize their sexual exploration away from our relationship, making me less involved. In short, I was supposed to be their monogamous “safe space” while they did all this terrible shit to themselves. Understandably, this backfired. Rather than it being a collaborative, supportive, gentle, loving exploration, it became dishonest, filled with deceit. They lied to me about doing things with people and about not doing things with people. They made up stories of fuckbuddies and hid some of the real people they were fucking. All the while, I was starting to lose my grip on reality, because, here they were, getting to do all the things I had always wanted, practically rubbing it all in my face, while barring me from having any part of it for myself. It was tortuous. Highlights include them fucking my brother for four uninterrupted hours, and kicking me out of my bed and bedroom to fuck a nine-inch cock while I made them breakfast, then not allowing me to enter until they had finished.
When I learned that they hid that they were flunking all their classes in college, I snapped, and nothing was ever the same again. That’s not how you treat your soulmate. It was supposed to be us against the world, but they weren’t acting like we were a team. In retrospect, I was heartbroken for well more than half of the time we were a couple. The entire last year we were together, I was depressed beyond description. I would come home from work and I would have so little energy that my personality would just melt away. I was devoid of existence. I would sit on a couch, and stare away at nothingness for hours on end. To my credit, my ex would cover me in a blanket, put dinner on my lap, set the iPad in front of me, and put on an anime. I know they truly loved me because they did this for over six months, without complaining.
However, I was simply too broken. Things reached one fever pitch after another. I could always tell that something was wrong, that, as hard as I tried, I was never actually getting through to the person inside. It all felt so superficial. I always knew they were hiding things (not just sexual stuff, but, more simply, their own wants and desires, their simple, everyday preferences). They were there, but not present. So, faced with a soulmate who wasn’t sharing their soul, trauma most insurmountable, and no other options, I did the only thing I could: I accepted a job across the country in New York and fled the width of a continent.
However, as you already know, things didn’t get better. I couldn’t get a date for the life of me; I was – and am – too oddball. That I’ve had only one relationship and that it imploded quite catastrophically does not predispose me to self-worth or experience with dating. I am very intellectual, but a dullard at socialization. Hell, I never even learned how to make out. To boot, I have all this trauma which will take years to move on from. Last christmas, my now ex reached out to me, and we talked pretty much every day for four months. Since I left, they managed to somehow actually succeed in making themselves polyamorous, whereupon they proceeded to date and fuck my now (former) best friend, then leave them to date and move in with their boss from work, whom is over a decade older than them. They were in this relationship for over two and a half years, and we’ve been apart for three. Talking to them again has been rather tortuous, as I’ve been treated to such lovely details about their sex life while being, once again, excluded from it most royally. So… yeah… that’s been fun. And people wonder why I have such a boatload of trauma. After misery peaking once again, I realized that we had come to an impasse: I cannot move forward from the past without them, and they don’t want me back until I’ve moved forward from the past. Such is where things were last left, and I have no indication that they will ever change meaningfully from this.
Now, I want to make clear that I am not at all looking for any sort of statements regarding how I should forget about them and move on. There is so much more nuance than what I can describe here, and I’m not completely without blame either. Although I do not think I fucked up anywhere near as apocalyptically, I did hurt them, too. Nor do I necessarily hate them, either. Though what they did was incredibly, world-endingly hurtful and stupid, it was not done with malice. Time has only made me more sympathetic to their situation, and, thus, their actions. In short, their parent was incredibly abusive, and they also were terrified of losing me, so they were drunk on fear and thought that they needed to act in major ways to keep me. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely think that what they did then and have done since has ruined my life, but I understand why things happened the way they did and I don’t love them any less. I mean, I did say they were my soulmate, didn’t I? That has to count for something, doesn’t it? Seriously, though, I wish so badly that I hated them for all they did. That would make it so much easier to move on. I still identify as polyamorous, so this has the unpleasant side-effect of freezing my emotional development on the matter in place. In my case, I could be happily married for a decade and still be nowhere nearer to being able to move on from this ex, so it’s not like having any new sexual or romantic conquests will actually help me to move on from them. And, before you suggest, I already have a therapist, and she’s very nice.
So, since I’ve just spent ten pages telling you about three years of failed efforts to move on, comments or messages saying “move on, dude” will not be looked upon kindly.
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Chapter 3: Where I want to go.
So, as you can now see, I am the literal incarnation of damaged goods. I still really don’t know where I am going to post this, but my story is complicated enough that one part is inseparable from the other. If I’m posting this on a subreddit for sexual searches, you’ll need to know why a simple hookup is not on the table at all; conversely, if I’m posting this to a subreddit in search of romantic partners, you’ll need to know about my dreadful sexual brokenness and resulting insecurities up front. Either way, I’ve now managed to waste the time of two groups instead of one; how overachieving of me!
At this juncture of my life, I’ve somewhat come to terms with the fact I won’t ever be getting the tools I need to move on from my ex (something for which I them somewhat resent). However, if it wasn’t made abundantly clear heretofore, the acquisition of another compatriot is the taddest bit flummoxing for me. In short-form, swiping-based dating app formats, it is far too easy to disregard my numerous quirks as simply that, not scars from a lengthy, complicated, demoralizing battle against a society which I am physiologically incapable of understanding. Oh, and the global coronapocalypsemageddonocaust has slightly impacted my ability to partake in social events wherewithin people might be met.
In truth, I am not necessarily the sexiest person in world. I’m a tad bit overweight, but I both wear it well (being absurdly tall helps) and am actively trying to change it (I’ve taken up running [surprisingly enjoyable!] and have lost ~10kg). I definitely don’t think I have an ugly face or anything. But I don’t think that’s actually my problem. In the event that it hasn’t been blindingly obvious up to this point, I am not your average cookie. In stark brief, I attended the Stanford (yes, that one) Online High School, dropped out, started college at 14, graduate at 19 with honors, and am now a Graduate Fellow (one step above student) at an Ivy-League university (expanded definition, fight me). As such, the way in which I go through my life is fairly cerebral. To those whom understand not my eccentricities or the subjects of which I speak, I am perceived as talking down to others. However, it is simply the way in which I approach the world, and I am wholly oblivious in the moment of how I could be perceived as such.
So it is thusly that I here myself find, holding on to the dreadfully unrealistic hope that being honest with the world about myself will earn me the possibility to find another soulmate, but one not programmed to shred what little sanity I have left. Here goes hope:
Regarding my location, if you hadn’t figured out, I live in central Pennsyltucky – 9 miles from the geographic centerpoint of the state, in fact. However, as I tell prospective students, while Penn State is in the middle of nowhere, it is half-way to everywhere! That, combined with my adventurous proclivities, opens up (literal!) horizons, dramatically. I can easily make it in a day trip to anywhere within Pennsylvania (though I love Pittsburgh!) or anywhere in the Megalopolis between Trenton and DC. At a slight stretch, I can also reach NYC, Upstate, Ohio, or, maybe, West Virginia. I am definitely open to meeting people from outside my immediate drive-shed – especially since pretty much all dates in the COVID-19 era start with Zoom, anyway – however, since I’ve been to so many places, front-of-the-line priority will be given to those from places I desire to explore more, including (in order of decreasing preference): Colorado, Northern California, Minnesota, Michigan, Arizona, Texas, and Vermont. If things develop, I both have the means and inclination to successfully conduct an LDR until I finish graduate school in 3-4 years.
Regarding the type of partner, while I am genuinely pansexual, I seem to be mostly romantically attracted with feminine-presenting people. Though, were I to have my druthers, I’d prefer you to be busty, at least moderately height-weight-proportional, and similarly tall, I affirmatively believe that it’s more how you use what you have than what you actually have, so I will always choose the average slut over the prudish bombshell. Other than that, I remain open minded to people of pretty much all walks of life.
Speaking of, for reasons that I hope are quite evident, I am a taaaaaaaaaaaad delicate in my sexuality. I used to be slightly dominant, but am definitely not anymore. I am almost in the realm of gentlefemdom. Please do be understanding that it’ll take some time (and, most likely, lots and lots of crying. I just want you to be sexually open yet patient enough that I could slowly grow back into my sexuality. Actually, that’s part of what I’m most hopeful for in a new partner. It would be really nice to have someone that is strong in their sexuality, and acts very openly with it, but is patient and loyal enough to not make me worried or scared. Someone who would, say, impulsively strip for a hike or skinny-dip, but wouldn’t pressure me to do the same if I wasn’t in the right headspace to do so.
Romantically, well, that’s a more complicated issue. I still identify as polyamorous, and I wouldn’t expect total devotion from my partner, but this is assuredly a difficult area. I think I would be benefitted by a period (likely 6-12 months) by monogamy, just so that I can recover enough to a functional level, then we can slowly and safely open up the relationship (with group stuff happening well before metamours).
Just please be careful with my heart. It’s already taken so much of a beating, and I don’t know how much more it can handle.
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Epilogue:
So, yeah, I guess that’s me. If you’ve made it this far, I at least thank you for doing so. I’ve been emotionally isolated for so long that it’s nice to just be acknowledged by other people. I know the likelihood of anything meaningful coming from this is quite, quite low, but this is part of me trying to move forward from the people that hurt me so cripplingly. I definitely come with some baggage, but I hope I’ve shown you who I am and that I at least have the potential to be good again.
I shall leave you with my dating profile. Hopefully this will show you the sonderous story that goes into only but a few words: “I find humor in everything and live for adventures. Highly sarcastic, hot-sauce-addicted, somewhat queer molecular and astrobiologist. Pro: I’m genuine. Con: -ly crazy. Looking for a porter to help me carry my emotional baggage.”
submitted by AstroG4 to Pennsylvaniar4r [link] [comments]

Looking for porter to help me carry my emotional baggage. (Part r4r, part lonely heart, part life story).

Prologue: Hello reddit! I’ve got issues.
I have never done this before, nor do I have any idea what might come of it, but I can tell you that this is probably just as much (if not moreso) an introspective essay as it will be lonely heart ad. I’m somewhat at the point in my life where I need to scream out into the void, and I hope that my honesty will net me just enough cosmic karma to get me out of this hole which I’ve been so unceremoniously dumped into. So, strap in; you're in for some u/rubyoobieoobie length shit.
I’ll leave you with a TLDR for now (because I’m not so callous as to make you scroll to the bottom for it): I have been to 49 states, flew to France for a date, solved a decade-old problem in microbial biochemistry and astrobiology, and am the dictator of my own country. I also have insurmountable trauma from my past (and only) relationship, but I still have deluded myself into thinking there is a hope, a person, a way in which I might someday move on and be happy again.
For those who want to know now, I am a 24-year-old non-binary, assigned-male-at-birth individual in search of someone whom has the patience necessary to deal with the above. Also, potential trigger warning for sexual trauma in Chapter 2.
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Chapter 1: Who I currently am.
I’m quite an abnormal fellow. Growing up as the autistic homeschooler of some shut-ins will do that to you, but there was always something about me that was especially aberrant. Skipping rapidly over two decades, a few highlights include attending an Online High School run by an Ivy-League university, becoming a high-school dropout, then starting college at 14 and graduating at 19. However, all magic requires a tradeoff, so I report not having a friend until I was 15 and not having more than two simultaneously until literally 2018. In many ways, I almost wish I hadn’t been homeschooled and was held back academically. I’m certain that, were my upbringing different, I would have been a nerd or geek. I could have learned to play D&D or magic the gathering, I could have liked Naruto, I could have become a gamer or learned to code. I am by no means cool or normal, but I have always lacked any sort of peers or social niche. I do not like sports, but, with equal fervor, I do not like fantasy novels. Both cause a lack of associations. I’m not necessarily lonely for friends – I do have them, and quite a blissful plenty, now – but this does show that, for reasons mostly beyond my control, I have always been somewhat of a loner.
My life, as it currently is, started when I fled a certain situation (pin in that). I moved from the west coast to New York City for a biotech job at a coveted research institution in 2017. I was so overwhelmingly hopeful because, in addition to fleeing trauma and making a good career move, I was moving out from my parents and ready to start my life anew in what had been billed to me for years as Millennial heaven. Brooklyn! Williamsburg! Dumbo! Midtown! Astoria! Tribeca! New York City had been built up in my mind as the place to make it as a young, urban-minded professional. Now, I must make a disclaimer: I was not a country boy heading into this. To that point, I had lived in 8 different cities in 4 different states, most of them major places, so I was quite familiar with how cities should be like. Apparently, New York, however, is not.
I hated that place. Trash, everywhere. Stations, crumbling. Inexcusable income disparity, half-assed parks, wretchedroads, and absolutely no scenic beauty whatsoever. I devised a 45-minute lecture on why The City (as it’s called) sucked so much. Suffice it to say that Chicago is the clearly superior American megacity, followed by Toronto, Denver, Seattle, and Austin. My whole life, growing up on the west coast (where cities ascribed to the novel idea of attempting to benefittheir citizens), I had heard of people who claimed that “all governments are bad, bureaucratic, and inefficient.” I had always dismissed them as crackpot old kooks, but, having experienced New York City for what it was, I all of a sudden can understand how someone who had lived their whole life in such places could come to think that way.
But the thing that made it most unlivable were the people. Especially at my job, but also pretty much throughout the whole region (Providence to Wilmington, in my estimation), the people were overly obsessed with “social coding”. Though an irritatingly imprecise phenomenon for me to describe, it is basically that people have a much more stringent set of acceptable social norms and shun you more harshly for being individualistic. The west coast is significantly better at encouraging you to “let your freak flag fly” (otherwise known as being genuine and honest with yourself).
But the situation was significantly worse for me, specifically. You see, for lack of a better term, I am a psychopath. I don’t mean it in a negative context, per se, and, while I do quite frequently play the role of a narcissist for sake of metahumor, I don’t actually mean people ill will, nor do I callously disregard the well-being of others. It’s just that, due to the quirk of my aberrant neurochemistry and antisocial upbringing, I have always been generally inept at empathy. I am very social, outgoing, kind-hearted, and incredibly humorous – don’t get me wrong – but I can just as much be oblivious to social cues or the tacit desires of others. This peculiar mix leads my personality to be best described as the bastard child of a foursome between Johnny Depp’s Willy Wonka, Psych’s Shawn Spencer, Scrubs’ JD, and Big Bang Theory’s Sheldon. I truly mean well and am pure of heart; to that end, I’ve spent much of my life acquiring coping mechanisms to be a better, kinder, more sympathetic person and friend. But, for one reason or another, I was ill-equipped to deal with that most fetid breed person known to man: the “Lawn Guylander”.
This all culminated in a moment of crisis, but which I have come to look back on as the “Poughkeepsie Epiphany” (because, ever so creatively, I was driving thence at the time I had it): for almost a year, I had been putting an exorbitant amount of effort into playing the part of this overly social person, but was failing catastrophically. No matter how hard I tried, I could not meet people or make friends, much less find a partner. My coworkers loathed me, but in a way which they all looked down on me as if I was a defective human whom they didn’t care to humor one bit (one of the most vindicating moments was when a postdoc joined the lab from San Diego and he was similarly abhorred at the social climate). One day, I had a realization that there wasn’t a single person in the world who knew when I woke up, nor a single person that would care if I didn’t. That was a painful day. So, my Poughkeepsie Epiphany was that I could continue struggling to play the social game and end up cripplingly lonely, or I could be exactly as lonely as I would be otherwise, but be genuine to myself – no matter how anomalous that might be – and actually be happy with who I was for so doing.
This is when I started to become crazy, and quite proudly so. If there was an idea that was absurd in scope but was a completionist goal, I did it. I started road-tripping with an epic fervor (I knocked off 8 remaining states from my list, mostly New England, to get me to 49 [pin in that]). Road-tripping and adventuring is now a major aspect of my personality, and I have since accrued over 11,000 saved places on google maps (my poor, poor phone starts to melt whenever I open the app for navigation). Over the remaining months I had in New York, I rode every line of the New York City Subway end to end. I taught myself military time, metric, the NATO phonetic alphabet, and the nations of the world. Whenever I would go to bars, instead of socializing ineptly, I would open my backpack and yank out a massive tome such as (initially) a book on the AOL-Time Warner Merger (“something which one cannot read whilst sober”) or (later) Penn State, an Illustrated History (did you know we had a branch campus in China?). Sometimes, people would look over at me as the shockwave caused by the massive thwack of the volume hitting the bartop rolled by, and I would proudly adopt the facial expression of “Yes, I am that weird, and I don’t give a damn.” To be sure, I was still cripplingly lonely, but I was, for the first time in my life, happy.
I also began devising an escape plan. I decided to rapidly accelerate my life plans and apply for graduate school years ahead of what I had intended. Come January, I got interviews at three Ivys: Penn State, Duke, and Columbia. It was no contest. Duke sux balz and felt like an incompetent department living in the shadow of their medical center while also having the misplaced haughtiness to think they deserved equal recognition (also, I didn’t want to go to a place where the yearly tuition was more money than I had ever earned in my entire life to that point). Unlike Duke, Columbia actually had some quality research going on, but there was only one professor I was interested in and the department felt like it was out more for its own reputation than to actually support its graduate students. Penn State, however, stole my heart. Though painfully rural, the town felt like a very tiny big city. The university was friendly and earnest, the students were fun-loving but not reckless, and it’s one of only two universities in the country to offer a Dual-Title Ph.D. in [Home Field] and Astrobiology, a subject which I had always been enthralled by. As a concrete comparison, Columbia had just acquired three Cryo-Electron microscopes and was showing them off to us, but they were shared with thirteen other research institutions in the New York Metropolitan Area. Penn State, on the other hand, had one Krios, all to itself, which had been installed four years earlier. I have since confirmed that Penn State clearly puts its money where its mouth was and does its damnedest to support its scientists in producing world-class research.
So, slightly over a year after moving to New York, I was ready to start my life over again – but, this time, I had the mindset to do it correctly. At risk of turning this too much into an autobiography, I’ll cut short the narrative. In the two years since the Poughkeepsie Epiphany, though, I’ve noticed an interesting phenomenon. Partly out of my passion for storytelling and humor, and partly as a way to stake out my own identity in this world, I’ve latched on to certain oddball stories that most exemplify this newfound sense of self which I’ve acquired. Since they are a significant part of my personality and do an excellent job of portraying my uniquely blusterous metahumor, I'll share a few of the most notable:
  1. I’ve been to 49 states:
When people ask where I grew up, I respond that I’ve lived in 10 different cities in six different states, and have been to 49 (some people also ask if my father was in the military [no], or, once, witness protection [I am not at liberty to disclose whether this is true]). The one remaining state is Oklahoma. I am really debating just buying plane tickets to Oklahoma City for a weekend just so that I can say I’ve been to all 50. To justify my trip, I could go on a tour of why white people are so horrible by visiting the Oklahoma Museum of the Native American, the Oklahoma Museum of the African American, and the Oklahoma Museum of the Gay Cowboy (all of which, to my knowledge, are real places). Woohoo! A trifecta of oppression! However, if I were to actually visit Oklahoma and do this, I would then lose this marvelous and witty conversation topic about which last state I have yet to visit and what I would do while there, so it’s a serious cost-benefit analysis that I must weigh.
  1. I am the Dictator of my own country:
This is probably much less interesting than you’d think. There’s a rather... unique hobby out there of people who (for the most part) tongue-in-cheekily secede from their parent countries to form ultra-small monarchies or banana republics. In my case, I thought that the most reasonable and considered response to the Trump Presidency was to give up on the entire country and secede to form my own. I’m going to build a wall and make America pay for it! This is also actually more legitimate than you’d think, too, as I was invited to and attended the United Micronations, the second-largest meeting of nations in the world (the “largest” organization is in New York, I think. I really don’t pay too much attention to it). As a result, I ended up forming a federation, making several alliances, and maintain regular contact with several other micronationalists. On the domestic front, I made both my roommates sign a 37-page, 42-clause, 17k-word Cohabitation Agreement (á la Sheldon), which, among other things, has reservations for Spots, a flag, a legal system, time travel, and gives me power of attorney over them (you’d be surprised; they both signed it voluntarily, without complaint, and after having read it in its entirety). One might add that they do not pay rent; I levy taxes. Finally, I attempted an infiltration of the local Civil War Reenactors (they have a cannon!) to help me in my ongoing war against the local recycling agency for gross ineptitude, but, for some incomprehensible reason, a bunch of old, white, rurally-inclined men didn't take so kindly to my opinions on conservatism and modern politics. I am convinced that this is merely a marketing issue, and we are workshopping new slogans for our planned invasion of the adjacent curb and sidewalk.
  1. I flew to France for a date:
The story I’m sure you’ve all been waiting for. I met an undergraduate here and went on two dates with her, but then she did a semester abroad in France. It was going somewhat well; we were texting every day, and this was the first meaningful person I had actually gone on a date with since... things (pin in that). I quickly ran the numbers, looked at my schedule, and then came up with a hair-brained scheme. You see, I grew up in Florida, so a significant part of my childhood was consumed by theme parks. Sparring you a lot of details, two of the parks (Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Universal Studios) originally opened under the auspices of special-features theme parks, a de-immersive experience where they show you how the movies are made. In the past decade, however, both parks have been moving towards more immersive experiences, where the only common factor among the attractions is that they are all based on intellectual properties that just happened to be movie franchises. This started to feel like a real loss when I learned that the Backlot Tour and Lights, Motors, Action at Disney were being bulldozed for sake of Star Wars: Galaxy’s edge, the former of which was a very important ride to my childhood, and the latter of which was something that I always wanted to see. Lo and behold, a little research revealed that both of these attractions were intact at Disney Studios in Paris. So, a date in the South of France, personally-important theme park attractions in the north, TGV connecting them, and, oh, yeah, duh, it’s Paris, that’s justification in itself.
I planned it out meticulously. For the week leading up to the trip, I would get up, go to work, and go to bed an hour earlier every day (the trip was only going to be three days, so any jet-lag-induced napping would have had an alarmingly high opportunity cost). Then, on the day of the flight, I woke up just before midnight, had breakfast at a favorite bar at closing time, went in to work, and left for JFK by noon. Ten hours of globe-trotting later, I arrived on the Mediterranean coast and proceeded to mispronounce everything.
The date in France was supposed to be our third. What traditionally happens on the third date? Now, let it be known that I would NEVER be the type of person to demand sexuality from anyone, but, you do have to admit, flying 20% of the circumference of a planet is a pretty grand gesture, is it not? I mean, you can’t get a much grander gesture before you literally run out of planet. So, for this third date to take place and for me to not get laid is pretty empirical proof that I am quite irrevocably unfuckable. My next plan is to start looking for dates in Bangladesh (or Oklahoma), because that’s as close as you can get to antipodal (a perfect 50% of the planet's circumference) as you can get from here. Oh, and those two attractions at Disney Studios, not kidding, they were closed ahead of schedule a week before I arrived. Now, I’m not asking for pity at all; don’t get me wrong, I had a blast! It’s Paris, godsdamnit! But I prefer to view this trip in the narrower, funnier, yet sadder context of the two busts above because it helps me to better come to terms with the parts of myself I dislike. As I often say: “I could either laugh or cry at myself. I’d rather one than the other.”
  1. I returned from France with a Motorcycle:
Although France girl never worked out (I don’t think I made a fool of myself or anything, but, remember, I am legitimately inept at this), the trip to France did have a lasting impact on my life in another way. I am an avid bicyclist for a variety of reasons: staying active, helping the environment, and it’s flying like superman at ground level when [safely!] dodging in and out of undergrads. Now, while strolling down the lonely streets of a certain city in the South of France, I encountered one particular bicycle rack with about 25% regular bicycles, about 25% electric bicycles, about 25% mopeds and scooters, and 25% fully-blown motorcycles, all chained up side by side. Having a doctor as a parent, I spent my entire life thinking of motorcycles as hooligan deathtraps, but, here, I was seeing them for the first time in the context of something I had already made an important part of my life.
Upon returning home (by the way, you already know my disdain for New York Shitty [sic] and Wrong Island [sic], so imagine the gutwrenching heartbreak of arriving there after just having spent a weekend in Paris[!]), I arrived at the parking lot, looked at my car, and counted room for four extra people that I didn’t need (because I had no friends). Thus, in my feverish road-tripping, I was hauling around an unnecessary 1.96 tons of extra material – with a dreadful gas mileage to boot! – killing the planet as a result. The next few days were spent obsessively investigating this newfound world which I had heretofore disregarded. Ever since being gifted my car and spittaking at its gas mileage, I always wanted another, more environmentally-conscious vehicle. However, living in the so-called Pennsyltucky, electric vehicle charging stations are fairly sparse in their deployment. Also, I didn’t want to buy a true replacement vehicle, as I am too poor. I was more targeting a hyper-environmentally-conscious vehicle which I could use for my luxury adventures, and then still have the old, reliable gas-guzzler for when I needed to haul around a couch or power through to Virginia. Motorcycles, as I found, have an average of 56mpg, 2.5 times better than my car.
But, now, I was starting to find my way into the culture of motorcycles, something which, on the whole, I find myself violently at odds with. As the joke I tell goes, most motorcycles aren’t actually built for long-distance exploring, like what I already did in my car. Most of them are dirt bikes, with basically bench seats, or sport bikes, which require you to hunch over and lean your stomach on the gas tank. Not very comfortable for long treks. There are only two types of bikes made with comfort in mind: the sport-tourer, which I ended up getting, and the cruiser, which is made entirely out of chrome, handle-bar mustaches, and racism (or homophobia, depending on my audience). Needless to say, I prefer the former.
For those interested, I ended up with the Yamaha Tracer GT. In addition to (proudly!) having only one piece of chrome (the downward-facing exhaust) and being sexy and futuristic as all futhermuck, it is functional, having two panniers (saddle-bags), each capable of holding four half-gallons of Berkey Creamery ice cream (ask me how I know). Skipping over many of the specifics of how I chose this particular model regarding my choice of motorcycle, a big figure in motorcycle news opened his review of the Tracer with “It’s not often I ride a motorcycle and walk away with existential questions for the readers.” For those who have been following along, this quote is the exact thing that I latch on to as part of my newfound identity as a blissful lunatic.
  1. The Semester of Hell and solving a decade-old issue in microbial physiology:
So, come the end of my first year as a graduate student, I started to look towards my second fall semester. The only thing I had to do was my qualifying exam, the really big, month-long exam that determines whether or not you can stay in graduate school. But that was only during November, so, overall, it was going to be an empty semester. Then I learned that a big-name professor in microbiology was retiring, and the last time he was going to teach would be that fall. So, I signed up for his course. After all, it was supposed to be an empty semester. Then I learned of a prestigious grant that I could apply for, so I decided to take a grant-writing course. After all, it was supposed to be an empty semester. Then I got an email from the department, saying that they needed more TAs for Freshman Biology lab. I had to TA as a requirement of my program, so I might as well get it out of the way now. After all, it was supposed to be an empty semester. Then, in July and August, I made an incredible discovery that solved a problem in microbial physiology that had been around since 2009 (pin in that). I spoke with my PI, and he said we could power through and probably get a paper out in under a year. I told him I wanted to do that. After all, it was supposed to be an empty semester.
Well, as you can now see, it wasn’t a very empty semester, was it now? To great surprise, I survived, but not unscathed. On average, I worked 60-70 hours a week, though some of it was partially my own doing (for example, my term paper for the bacterial physiology course had seventy citations, even though it was only required to have ten). One “highlight” was TAing. Apparently, my students thought my quiz was so hard that they called the university police on me (I’m not exaggerating; we had to pursue academic integrity violations. It was a debacle). I joked that, with each subsequent class period, I became more and more sympathetic to the antagonists of teen dystopian novels; maybe it is time to build a floating elitist city in the sky and leave the rest of the planet to shit, after all?
Now, I’m certain that many of you are curious as to the contents of my discovery. I can’t exactly speak freely, as the manuscript is in review, but, even if I could, it would be waaaaay too complex and jargony to be comprehensible to the lay public (and this is already going on long enough). Suffice it to be the simple version: A particular class of protein had been known in microbes for a very long time and is involved in pretty much everything, from simple feeding to complex infections. In certain bacteria, this category of protein is modified in a certain way, and people always thought (for over 40 years) that this modification was a transport signal. However, a decade ago, a research groups, perplexingly, discovered these modified proteins in a bacterium that didn’t have th modification-making enzyme. This left two major questions: if not for transport, what was this modification for; and, what is the enzyme that makes the modification in all the other bacteria? I solved the latter question by spending four months looking through the entire genome of the original bacterium and finally finding the modification-making protein, and I’ve spent ever since trying to characterize it. The paper should be published sometime within a month or three (the current coronapocalypse is a boon for manuscript-preparation). Additionally, the previous graduate student in the lab to me made an interesting discovery regarding the genetics of the modification-making enzyme, and my next paper will expand on their work to determine the actual function of this modification. These proteins and their modifications are important because (on the applied side) they belong to major pathogens and could be a target for treating infections and (on the basic side) we have indications that they are part of a planetary-wide stress put on bacteria during evolution (hence, my astrobiological machinations).
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Chapter 2: Where I came from.
Now we have to get into how I got to this point. Suffice it to say that I have a lot of sexual trauma. In 2014, when I was still an undergrad, I met whom I called then my soulmate. They were beautiful, fun, perky, and adventurous. They were my first relationship and we took each other’s virginity in a tent after a romantic picnic. But, sadly, less than a year in, things started to go off the rails. I came out as polyamorous. The way I have best found to describe it is when you ask a parent which their favorite child is. All parents worth their salt will say “I love each of my children in their own, unique way.” Such is the same with me. At the time, I had feelings for some of my other friends; but! mind you! they were in no way enough to ever consider ever leaving my soulmate. It was simply such that I had my one, my true, my only, but I didn’t want that to have to mean I tell all other people in my life “Bah! You mean nothing to me because of the ambiguity of my relationship status at the time you met me.” I also had quite a complex from growing up so antisocially and isolated. This was a time in my life when things started to look up. Pieces were finally starting to fall into place, I had some friends and acquaintances, and people actually cared for me. It was thusly then that I realized I was polyamorous, but in mostly a loving way, not necessarily as a swinger or horndog. So, I came out.
In any other situation in the world, this might have not been as catastrophic. However, there were certain things about my soulmate which I knew not at the time that caused not just my relationship, not just my life, but my reality to crumble. You see, they grew up in an incredibly abusive situation, and the only way they knew how to act was to throw away every part of themselves for the people whom they loved. Whelp, that meant “forcing” themselves to be polyamorous for me. They devised a ridiculous plan where they would go out and sleep with lots of people to become okay with the idea of nonmonogamy. Needless to say, this was a batshit crazy idea, but they didn’t tell me their true feelings of how traumatizing this would be for them, and I decided to trust them that this is what they knew would be best for them and that it would all work out in the end. What can I say? What is love if not supporting your partner? I honestly thought it could be okay.
However, as you might guess, it was not. The main issue came from all their mental instability that they had hidden from me for so long. They became quite dissociative and hid it all from me. As such, they tried to compartmentalize their sexual exploration away from our relationship, making me less involved. In short, I was supposed to be their monogamous “safe space” while they did all this terrible shit to themselves. Understandably, this backfired. Rather than it being a collaborative, supportive, gentle, loving exploration, it became dishonest, filled with deceit. They lied to me about doing things with people and about not doing things with people. They made up stories of fuckbuddies and hid some of the real people they were fucking. All the while, I was starting to lose my grip on reality, because, here they were, getting to do all the things I had always wanted, practically rubbing it all in my face, while barring me from having any part of it for myself. It was tortuous. Highlights include them fucking my brother for four uninterrupted hours, and kicking me out of my bed and bedroom to fuck a nine-inch cock while I made them breakfast, then not allowing me to enter until they had finished.
When I learned that they hid that they were flunking all their classes in college, I snapped, and nothing was ever the same again. That’s not how you treat your soulmate. It was supposed to be us against the world, but they weren’t acting like we were a team. In retrospect, I was heartbroken for well more than half of the time we were a couple. The entire last year we were together, I was depressed beyond description. I would come home from work and I would have so little energy that my personality would just melt away. I was devoid of existence. I would sit on a couch, and stare away at nothingness for hours on end. To my credit, my ex would cover me in a blanket, put dinner on my lap, set the iPad in front of me, and put on an anime. I know they truly loved me because they did this for over six months, without complaining.
However, I was simply too broken. Things reached one fever pitch after another. I could always tell that something was wrong, that, as hard as I tried, I was never actually getting through to the person inside. It all felt so superficial. I always knew they were hiding things (not just sexual stuff, but, more simply, their own wants and desires, their simple, everyday preferences). They were there, but not present. So, faced with a soulmate who wasn’t sharing their soul, trauma most insurmountable, and no other options, I did the only thing I could: I accepted a job across the country in New York and fled the width of a continent.
However, as you already know, things didn’t get better. I couldn’t get a date for the life of me; I was – and am – too oddball. That I’ve had only one relationship and that it imploded quite catastrophically does not predispose me to self-worth or experience with dating. I am very intellectual, but a dullard at socialization. Hell, I never even learned how to make out. To boot, I have all this trauma which will take years to move on from. Last christmas, my now ex reached out to me, and we talked pretty much every day for four months. Since I left, they managed to somehow actually succeed in making themselves polyamorous, whereupon they proceeded to date and fuck my now (former) best friend, then leave them to date and move in with their boss from work, whom is over a decade older than them. They were in this relationship for over two and a half years, and we’ve been apart for three. Talking to them again has been rather tortuous, as I’ve been treated to such lovely details about their sex life while being, once again, excluded from it most royally. So… yeah… that’s been fun. And people wonder why I have such a boatload of trauma. After misery peaking once again, I realized that we had come to an impasse: I cannot move forward from the past without them, and they don’t want me back until I’ve moved forward from the past. Such is where things were last left, and I have no indication that they will ever change meaningfully from this.
Now, I want to make clear that I am not at all looking for any sort of statements regarding how I should forget about them and move on. There is so much more nuance than what I can describe here, and I’m not completely without blame either. Although I do not think I fucked up anywhere near as apocalyptically, I did hurt them, too. Nor do I necessarily hate them, either. Though what they did was incredibly, world-endingly hurtful and stupid, it was not done with malice. Time has only made me more sympathetic to their situation, and, thus, their actions. In short, their parent was incredibly abusive, and they also were terrified of losing me, so they were drunk on fear and thought that they needed to act in major ways to keep me. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely think that what they did then and have done since has ruined my life, but I understand why things happened the way they did and I don’t love them any less. I mean, I did say they were my soulmate, didn’t I? That has to count for something, doesn’t it? Seriously, though, I wish so badly that I hated them for all they did. That would make it so much easier to move on. I still identify as polyamorous, so this has the unpleasant side-effect of freezing my emotional development on the matter in place. In my case, I could be happily married for a decade and still be nowhere nearer to being able to move on from this ex, so it’s not like having any new sexual or romantic conquests will actually help me to move on from them. And, before you suggest, I already have a therapist, and she’s very nice.
So, since I’ve just spent ten pages telling you about three years of failed efforts to move on, comments or messages saying “move on, dude” will not be looked upon kindly.
––––––––––
Chapter 3: Where I want to go.
So, as you can now see, I am the literal incarnation of damaged goods. I still really don’t know where I am going to post this, but my story is complicated enough that one part is inseparable from the other. If I’m posting this on a subreddit for sexual searches, you’ll need to know why a simple hookup is not on the table at all; conversely, if I’m posting this to a subreddit in search of romantic partners, you’ll need to know about my dreadful sexual brokenness and resulting insecurities up front. Either way, I’ve now managed to waste the time of two groups instead of one; how overachieving of me!
At this juncture of my life, I’ve somewhat come to terms with the fact I won’t ever be getting the tools I need to move on from my ex (something for which I them somewhat resent). However, if it wasn’t made abundantly clear heretofore, the acquisition of another compatriot is the taddest bit flummoxing for me. In short-form, swiping-based dating app formats, it is far too easy to disregard my numerous quirks as simply that, not scars from a lengthy, complicated, demoralizing battle against a society which I am physiologically incapable of understanding. Oh, and the global coronapocalypsemageddonocaust has slightly impacted my ability to partake in social events wherewithin people might be met.
In truth, I am not necessarily the sexiest person in world. I’m a tad bit overweight, but I both wear it well (being absurdly tall helps) and am actively trying to change it (I’ve taken up running [surprisingly enjoyable!] and have lost ~10kg). I definitely don’t think I have an ugly face or anything. But I don’t think that’s actually my problem. In the event that it hasn’t been blindingly obvious up to this point, I am not your average cookie. In stark brief, I attended the Stanford (yes, that one) Online High School, dropped out, started college at 14, graduate at 19 with honors, and am now a Graduate Fellow (one step above student) at an Ivy-League university (expanded definition, fight me). As such, the way in which I go through my life is fairly cerebral. To those whom understand not my eccentricities or the subjects of which I speak, I am perceived as talking down to others. However, it is simply the way in which I approach the world, and I am wholly oblivious in the moment of how I could be perceived as such.
So it is thusly that I here myself find, holding on to the dreadfully unrealistic hope that being honest with the world about myself will earn me the possibility to find another soulmate, but one not programmed to shred what little sanity I have left. Here goes hope:
Regarding my location, if you hadn’t figured out, I live in central Pennsyltucky – 9 miles from the geographic centerpoint of the state, in fact. However, as I tell prospective students, while Penn State is in the middle of nowhere, it is half-way to everywhere! That, combined with my adventurous proclivities, opens up (literal!) horizons, dramatically. I can easily make it in a day trip to anywhere within Pennsylvania (though I love Pittsburgh!) or anywhere in the Megalopolis between Trenton and DC. At a slight stretch, I can also reach NYC, Upstate, Ohio, or, maybe, West Virginia. I am definitely open to meeting people from outside my immediate drive-shed – especially since pretty much all dates in the COVID-19 era start with Zoom, anyway – however, since I’ve been to so many places, front-of-the-line priority will be given to those from places I desire to explore more, including (in order of decreasing preference): Colorado, Northern California, Minnesota, Michigan, Arizona, Texas, and Vermont. If things develop, I both have the means and inclination to successfully conduct an LDR until I finish graduate school in 3-4 years.
Regarding the type of partner, while I am genuinely pansexual, I seem to be mostly romantically attracted with feminine-presenting people. Though, were I to have my druthers, I’d prefer you to be busty, at least moderately height-weight-proportional, and similarly tall, I affirmatively believe that it’s more how you use what you have than what you actually have, so I will always choose the average slut over the prudish bombshell. Other than that, I remain open minded to people of pretty much all walks of life.
Speaking of, for reasons that I hope are quite evident, I am a taaaaaaaaaaaad delicate in my sexuality. I used to be slightly dominant, but am definitely not anymore. I am almost in the realm of gentlefemdom. Please do be understanding that it’ll take some time (and, most likely, lots and lots of crying. I just want you to be sexually open yet patient enough that I could slowly grow back into my sexuality. Actually, that’s part of what I’m most hopeful for in a new partner. It would be really nice to have someone that is strong in their sexuality, and acts very openly with it, but is patient and loyal enough to not make me worried or scared. Someone who would, say, impulsively strip for a hike or skinny-dip, but wouldn’t pressure me to do the same if I wasn’t in the right headspace to do so.
Romantically, well, that’s a more complicated issue. I still identify as polyamorous, and I wouldn’t expect total devotion from my partner, but this is assuredly a difficult area. I think I would be benefitted by a period (likely 6-12 months) by monogamy, just so that I can recover enough to a functional level, then we can slowly and safely open up the relationship (with group stuff happening well before metamours).
Just please be careful with my heart. It’s already taken so much of a beating, and I don’t know how much more it can handle.
––––––––––
Epilogue:
So, yeah, I guess that’s me. If you’ve made it this far, I at least thank you for doing so. I’ve been emotionally isolated for so long that it’s nice to just be acknowledged by other people. I know the likelihood of anything meaningful coming from this is quite, quite low, but this is part of me trying to move forward from the people that hurt me so cripplingly. I definitely come with some baggage, but I hope I’ve shown you who I am and that I at least have the potential to be good again.
I shall leave you with my dating profile. Hopefully this will show you the sonderous story that goes into only but a few words: “I find humor in everything and live for adventures. Highly sarcastic, hot-sauce-addicted, somewhat queer molecular and astrobiologist. Pro: I’m genuine. Con: -ly crazy. Looking for a porter to help me carry my emotional baggage.”
submitted by AstroG4 to lifeinapost [link] [comments]

A lengthy response to essenceofthought's video: "ContraPoints Is Making The Left More Toxic, Not Less - A Non-Binary Conclusion" -- PART 1

note that this is so big I will probably end up editing it just to fix mistakes in using reddit's markdown. I can only beg your trust that I'm not doing anything shady.

Tardyness

This is about the fourth time I've tried to get through this video. Formally I've only watched less than 9 minutes. First, because I really disliked how much I had to say about that much alone. I didn't like a punch in the gut I felt. Second, I felt I had to get through a real review of Natalie's Cancelling. Third, an uproarious thread on breadtube about Graham Linehan aka glinner threatening to sue EoT over his video exposing glinner for wanting to eradicate trans children. I finally got through all that Sunday night, and now I have chance to start this review.

Title (and thesis?) of EoT's video

ContraPoints Is Making The Left More Toxic, Not Less - A Non-Binary Conclusion
Pure reaction: Hard no, says I. Paying attention to the controversy surrounding Vaush, and the fact that Lily Orchard has a following, PigPuncher's shitty video on EoT themselves, and the self-hating army of Blaire White who like to inject themselves into all other trans people's business, I just cannot say there's anything Natalie has done that's special. This sphere of left-twitter and left-tube would be inundated with the same nastiness whether Opulence happened or not.

The Road Bump

The following between the lines is largely copied from my Cancelling review.
First, EoT says that Natalie is only talking about post-Opulence backlash, and thus accuses her of lying about a timeline on some tweets. They're just wrong.
Second, EoT says "Natalie has a fragile ego."
In the very least, this line is hack. Everybody's ego is fragile. That's freshment psychology 101, it's how egos are, it's a feature. It's just saying somebody is being too fragile, and that's an attack on character.
Second, it's fucking mean. It's mean in a general sense. And it's mean in a more personal sense, and I'll tell you why.
I'll mention this later, but I was what I call a first-generation youtube skeptic/atheist. Youtube was founded in 2006, and by 2008, peaking around 2010, we had a thriving group of what the media would call "New Atheists" on youtube. I can drop you a huge list of names, and it's still at most 20% of what was out there. I never made a single video, though I did have a webcam for a short while and regularly hanged out in Stickam with a dozen members of the Rational Response Squad. At first I fell for Pat Condell's shit. I was a big fan of Thunderf00t until his feud with DawahFilms. I apologize to the world. Sincerely. Look, what I want you to take from this is that I've come to be seen as redeemed by many feminists on reddit and beyond, and I think that Natalie is even more redeemable than I. I'm not trying to be a hater. This is constructive criticism.
But also back then, there was Natalie. Under a different channel whose title contains her deadname. I've linked to three different videos on parasocial relationships. Lemme tell you, I've been through 'em. Some that have had intense influence on my daily life, many others not so much. Natalie was, until she started Contrapoints, somewhere in the middle.
From what I've seen over the last 10 years, Natalie has every reason to be sensitive. Fragile, even. I've seen Natalie make meatspace friends with a few of these fellow atheist/skeptics, and they traveled and dined and chilled with one another. They even pulled a couple New Atheist stunts that backfired. Even contributed to a musical collab, which is still funny.
I've seen the community fragment and bubble and burst and burn and mutate. Basically I've watched Natalie lose friends and get hurt, as with many others. And with 10 years of experience, I can look back at old videos where Natalie's old self can be found, and see the unhappiness that she's described.
EssenceOfThought pulling the "fragile ego" line is frankly toxic. EoT only has 2 years of very hard work to look at, and 2 years of public transformation and transition. And EoT seems to assume that the quality of work a youtuber puts out is porportional to how head-above-water they are when it comes to stress levels and strength of will, and wealth of support. And that's wrong.
It's callous. You can't just assume things about people's accumulated life trauma. Calling people fragile as an insult, I've come to find, is morally wrong, because it calls that we celebrate stoic strength as a virtue. And it's always punching down. Every time it's punching down. Looking at somebody who's feeling vulnerable, and going "gross, you're vulnerable!" And EoT has done this despite listening to Natalie talking about a lack of friends in the world. I can't actually name many meatspace acquaintences of hers, much less good friends, besides {Theryn, Olly, Lindsay Ellis, Jenny Nicholson, other people in the few photos with Lindsay and Jenny maybe, Riley and Fiona, Chelsea Manning, Dan Olson, innuendostudios, hbomb...}. Can you? And how long distance most of those are! Almost all of them are expensive-distance. It sucks.
I stopped watching EoT's third video shortly after 8 minutes when they said that, becuase I was just disgusted. And as I said in Chrisiousity's comment section, it looks like a sign to me that in EoT's focus on Natalie the past month, Natalie has evolved in their mind from a popular creator with a specific and powerfully effective flaw, to an outright Adversary, capital-A included. And that's sad. It's the wrong way to go. In early drafts, I refrenced the first two videos because there's a lot of good points made in them. But EoT grows more combative over time and by the third video steps out of line.
Finally realizing what a down-punch the "fragile ego" schtick is, and coming to hate it, just might be the last vestige of being a first-generation youtube atheist/skeptic fan leaving me. I've upvoted this behavior a ton in the past, but I plan to never support it again in the way it's happened here. It's one thing to criticize a political party for being toadies to a man with an actual stereotyped fragile ego, because that's dangerous. It's another to say it to declare a hurt person's vulnerability a crime.
Whatmore, the accusation coudl just as well fit the people he speaks about in the beginning of the video, who lock down their twitter accounts at the mere knowledge that Cancelling was published. Does it just not occur to EoT that Natalie flinches and dodges certain kinds of attacks because she too can predict the punches that come next?

Shutters and Shitters

The first signs I saw that Contrapoints had published her video on cancelling were a number of nonbinary people who I know on Twitter locking their accounts.
How does EoT do youtube? Subscriptions aren't necessarily endorsements. It's like an RSS feed. Does EoT wait for friends to watch and react videos before they watch them? Seems like a good way to always be primed a certain direction.
It's really amazing how different people can act vs. how they see themselves. The cancelling of Natalie on twitter is full of piss and bile, raw hateful reactions and lots of people who have not really read into what they're mad about. But Natalie publishes a video about being hurt by it, and they slam their shutters and nail 2x4's across their doors. EoT has told us they've done this in anticipation to attacks from Natalie's fans. The stans.
The timing EoT describes here indicates that none of these people wish to watch or listen to Natalie's video. They are riding on three claims:
  • There mere existence of Natalie's video is a directive from Natalie to attack nonbinary people.
  • Implying Contrapoints Stans will attack before they've actually watched the video.
  • Admitting that the content of Natalie's videos have nothing to do with her supposed influence?!
Dealing with this takes us on a journey. One I suspect contextualizes a whole lot of problems we're going to see in the rest of the video.

Gamification, cults of personality, stans, armies, and fault.

I need to present these videos:
Like it or not -- see it or not -- youtube and twitter go together in a shit sandwich that has been gamified for toxic consumption by bad players for a decade. Breadtube is a loose coalition of fans who have a common agenda in that they are sick of how the alt-right benefits so much from youtube's algorithm and does so much harm to the world.
The way things have been going, all an alt-right youtuber has to do is make a video where they make personal attacks on a vulnerable channel, and without even having to explicitly order it (though often enough they will), their fans will en masse attack the targeted channel and their friends with repetitive harassment until they're forced off youtube and twitter, even if they have to abuse the reporting system to do so.
That last video by Skeptical Squirrel, an imaginitive parody creation by Kevin Logan, illustrates that despite what they say, alt-right youtubers and other youtube personalities of the reactionary type are completely aware of what they are doing. They are not pretending to order fans around in that video. They are practicing, and celebrating that they can. And when they make followup videos in which they laugh and praise "anonymous" and "uncontrollable" mobs for the way they've attacked the targets of their videos (such as Sargon Of Akkad "laughing" at "weaponize autism"), they are telling their fans that their harassment is good. They are rewarding it.
For years now, whether you're aware of it or not, dear reader, this is how fans come into it on youtube. It is a tacitly constructed facet of youtube fanbases that it is rewarding and expected to harass the perceived enemies of the youtuber. That Skeptical Squirrel video is from January 2017, about harassment Jeff Holiday and Bearing had been consistently ramping up against Kristi Winters for a year and beyond.
People have been saying that Natalie has been instigating harassment campaigns with her videos. And so has EssenceOfThought. I am hereby telling you: We are at a point where one can hardly be a popular youtuber without a massive group of fans behaving this way on your behalf. It takes real work to stop it. But there are definitely ways to tell that a youtuber is not intentionally doing it, and ways to tell that a youtuber is definitely trying not to. I do not see any sign that Natalie wants her stans to do what they do, and I definitely see in her videos that she does not make targets out of anyone.
I say to you all, that if you want to accuse Natalie of instigating harassment campaigns, by necessity with the way EoT talks about Natalie in their videos, EoT would have to be even more guilty. And I do say, regardless of that conditional, that the way EoT speaks is irresponsibly having a boosting effect on the twitter screamers who are witch-hunting Natalie. At 1:20 of this video, EoT says that enby people on twitter are responding to "her presence," and this shit just ain't true. They're anticipating other people attacking them. Which they will do regardless. EoT is equivocating Natalie with these toxic twitters, taking away the twitters' agency and giving it all to Natalie. Beyond bogus.

What has Natalie even done?

The focus is first on her association with Buck Angel. So far, the only things Natalie has done so far are thus:
  1. Receive and repay compliments when she was injured.
  2. Repay further words of kindness with a cameo without vetting.
That's it.

Wildly Disproportionate Response

She has refused to vet after Opulence not only because she (like so many of y'all) doesn't want to see people she's befriended as baddies, but because even if she does, she will receive no forgiveness when she issues an apology, instead receiving a tidal wave of I-told-you-so's and more harassment. They've made it perfectly clear that if Natalie works with anybody even one flaw away from Sainthood, they're going to do it all over again. Let it here be said that if you still want Natalie to disassociate from Buck Angel (and I do), then you must make it so that it's not a lose-lose situation. You can't punish somebody for something, then punish them again for apologizing, and that's clearly what you want to do. You showed it when you went after Lindsay Ellis, Hbomberguy, Philosophytube, and others. Clearly she is unforgiveable in your eyes. It's bullshit. You're assholes that deserve no fucking sympathy when you act this way. You were kicking her and are kicking her when she's down, and Buck wasn't, and that shit matters when you're in that kind of situation as much as it does Natalie. Buck was being better than y'all in the moment. Fuck. Off.
So I have a real problem (one I should've seen from the beginning) when over and over, EoT makes these videos and starts statements, ad nauseum, with "What Natalie is doing is..." It gives the impression that Natalie is out there on social media doing a thousand things. She's not. She's done the 1 thing that she's being cancelled for, the unvetted cameo, and she has not touched her twitter in a couple months. But EoT is making things worse, which makes the title of this video highly ironic. An honest way of going about it would be something like, "So this mistake she's made..." -- and you do need to describe it as a mistake and not a deliberate attack -- "... has had these x, y, and z consequences." It's hyperbolic at best and demonizing at worst when it's "She's doing this" on repeat. That's increasing toxicity in the discourse.
You're not started the fires, EoT, but you've tossed a lot of dry cow patties around. And you can only do this so long before we say yes, you are responsible for the direction a wave goes one of these days soon.

Media illiteracy or just plain propaganda?

As for the people who are hiding from Contrapoints Stans, nonbinary or not, even without the stans around, you'd still have received some backlash. Claiming the pronouns video was attacking nonbinary?? If a hundred people responded with "What the fuck you dumb shit," then tough cookies, because that is ridiculous. That section of the video y'all attacked is exactly the same as the tweet she covers in Cancelling. It had nothing to with binary or nonbinary, had nothing to do with actual validity of trans identity, but instead was about strong vs weak argumentation aimed at cis people. Have you have at some point in your life been discussing politics or scientific ignorance and had somebody bring up, "Well, it seems like this kind of argument doesn't work very well. But when you tell them this thing that way, they start to get it faster." That's what was going on in the video and the twitter conversation.
And then your opinions somehow transformed into thinking that same section of the video was truscum. As if many of you have decided that anything problematic towards nonbinary people is the same as truscum ideology. Sheer nonsense. It's the other way around. All truscum are anti-enby. But not all anti-enby are truscum. There was nothing about transmedicalism in that video no matter how you look at it.
The worst thing the Pronouns video did was not tackle the case of enby perspective. In fact, Natalie went out of her way to make sure people do not confuse the experience she's illustrating as applying to nonbinary folk, by including the modifier, "In a binary world." That's not an attack on enbies. And if she even tried to cover an enby perspective, it's likely you'd attack her for that, too. Lose-lose. That's not valid criticism, and no reason to initiate cancellation. Pro-tip: if everything your enemy can say is wrong, then you too also cannot be right. When everything is evidence of your claim (Opulent Girl Bad!), then nothing is.
As for The Aesthetic, Justine did not win the debate. Just because she got to have a long winded endcap does not mean she was indended as the winner. There's just about nothing to indicate that. Justine's position just needed a lot more words to convey. You may be used to upvoting and reposting videos where the protagonist "wins" a debate by having a long Final Attack on the antagonist that makes them sit down in shame. But you should be able to tell from Natalie's videos and tweets alike that she doesn't operate that way. You need to up your media competence, and ditch the prejudice against Natalie that has to exist to even make the erroneous leap in interpretation that you made.
So why would Natalie do anything different in this current situation? The same people who are attacking her for associating with Buck Angel are also the ones witch-hunting her based off of lies about her videos. I think you can see how one can easily begin to think that some of the claims of emotional injury caused by her videos are falsified.
And don't think I'm saying Contrapoints stans aren't a problem. They are. The people who hate enbies have swarmed to this bucket of chum fore sure. Some of them are attacking me because I want honest depictions of flaws of EoT's videos and I'm not willing to unsee Buck Angel's shittery just because they think doing so would make Natalie feel better and provide us all with a new golden shower, er, golden egg, er, video. Oh yes. There is indeed too many Contrapoints fans who've decided that they need to whitewash Buck Angel so they can kiss Natalie's ass, and part of doing that is attacking Buck's critics, which has indeed become an attack on nonbinary people themselves. Because this is how parasocial relationships evolve when the detached personality fills a very real need on the side of the consumer. Especially on youtube, where as I've said fanships enter into the situation with assumptions about how detractors are to be treated. Then everybody plays Not My Nigel.
Natalie isn't instigating, and she's not a "force of destruction." The force existed before her. If it wasn't Natalie, it'd be somebody else. It'd be more people like Blaire White, Shoe0nHead, Jaclyn Glenn, etc. I mean how the fuck has Blaire White become background noise in this obsession with Natalie Wynn. Blaire's the one that makes series of truscummy attacks on people.
Imagine thinking Natalie is inspiring more of these attacks on enbies than Blaire white. I can't. But you're doing it. Yer doin it, peter! Yer doin it! Go get that dastardly Captain Wynn Hook.
But I don't want to attack nonbinary people for being nonbinary. I want to rebuke some people who're the real culprits of toxicity.

We are in a wicked hive of scum and villainy.

Like I said, EoT calls Natalie
"...a force of destruction, all intention aside."
First of all, when you say "what she's doing" all the time, you're pretty well implying there's lots of intent.
Second, gosh, does this line sound famliar. Where's the last place I heard it? Oh yeah. When Lily Orchard attacked the Pronouns video as anti-enby and pro-truscum: "Glass of Water: Natalie Whinging" And it also reminds me of something.
Natalie has been made into a villain. No, really, that's what's happened with EoT's progression and with their phrasing. Since I've already used Extra Credits once, I'll do it again. Does it seem a little off, maybe a little condescending to compare these video essays to video game design? Maybe. But it's not wrong. Expository and argumentitive essays require world-building, it's part of the job. Me, Natalie, EoT, everybody.
EoT can't seem to make up their mind about what kind of villain they perceive Natalie to be. They actually said "force of nature," but the thing about force-of-nature villains (FONV) is they are a symptom of the system. Attacking them directly and holding them personally responsible for groups of people harmed is short-term good at best, and tacitly endorsing the system at worst. It's pointless to do just play whack-a-mole with individual FONV. Example: Trump. So why focus so much on Natalie and not the online community that is splitting over her videos on interpretations of them that are clearly a combination of error and invention? Going after the boss baddie is what you do when you have a narrative villain. EoT seems to think knocking Natalie off the stage will lead naturally to some end. There's a hidden teleology to it. And I don't think it goes where EoT thinks it does.
What we're seeing here is a system of discourse in which a person can be scapegoated for cycles of back-and-forth attacks as if they caused it, when in reality those cycles are automatic. A key in an ignition got twisted, but it wasn't Natalie who dun it and it sure doesn't make sense to point at her every time you don't like that the motor is still running.

Half a millenium in Natalie's mind

20 years ago in a human lifespan is a long time. It's not really doing any good to harp on Natalie for thinking so. EoT makes Natalie's argument against 20-years-back research as some kind of vapid and malicious thing, but it's not. Natalie argues against doing 20 years into Buck's past based on three possible points, and you'll find some over the span of the video and her recent appearances in the media such as her interviews by NPR, and The Hill's Krystal Ball (both of which I am sure were published while EoT was in post-production or after publication); a couple we can think of ourselves:
  1. People change so much in 20 years it's like attacking a different person.
  2. 20 years ago she was a child, and she wouldn't want somebody to do this to her. It would feel like endorsing the same be done to her.
  3. If somebody has genuinely changed, repented -- even if only in private -- then it's like double jeopardy.
  4. The majority of the time when we see somebody digging that far into the past for dirt, it's done for malicious reasons and serves deceptive purposes. Given the strawmen used to attack Natalie, it doesn't seem like the request for her to do so is in good faith, nor what has been presented by those attacking herself. The pattern of bad faith attacks on Natalie do not lend to trusting that the accusations against Buck are in good faith; they seem as disproportionately powered by gossip as anything else in the 2 years of attacks on her. So, it seems prudent to refuse humoring them.
  5. If the victims don't want want to bring it up, it's an invasion of their privacy as well. We'd have to ask them directly because evidence is scant. Sometimes you have to respect when the victim doesn't want to re-live trauma.
In order to have a good case, one has to argue against each of these in turn. Which EoT does not. All we get is "I don't give a fuck." So allow me to present the arguments.
  1. Buck was in his 40's when this went down. 40 year olds are well established generally, and Buck had already established his identity long before, beginning medical procedures at 28, and soon felt his transition was complete. Read his wiki. Analyzing the pathology of habits requires going back long distances in time no matter how proportionally large that time leap seems. If a wrongdoing done recently is the same kind of wrongdoing done long ago, then it's relevant, long ago or not.
  2. It's quite a human thing to forget important differences in the lives of people we've recently befriended, especially when we're hurt. We can only offer our personal promise to not do that, and discourage others from doing so.
  3. Buck has ever faced real consequences or learned.
  4. We can only offer our personal promise we are not doing that, and discourage others.
  5. Fine then. There's more than enough readily-available material to cancel him anyways.
See how that's reasoned and compassionate argumentation? Much better than "I don't give a fuck."
You can't argue justice from "I don't give a fuck," EoT.
Notice though that there were counter arguments people probably are making that I refuse to.
I will not dismiss #2 on the basis of being an appeal to emotion, because it's not one. Bullies argue that their behavior is justified by implied permissions, and I will not enable it. I will not signal to them that it's justified or excusable.
Also...

Buck's past IRL victims have not consented and IT IS NOT OK

I will not argue that invading the privacy of and subjecting the victims to reliving their traumas is necessary for the greater good, that the needs of the many (other for future victims) outweigh the needs of the few (which happen to be the ones I want to re-traumatize for my vendetta). One of my early favorite feminists Amanda Marcotte once made this mistake and argued that police were correct to arrest a woman and force her to testify in a trial against her rapist. Yes, this did happen to a real rape victim. She recanted and changed her mind after fellow Feministing contributor Alexandra Brodsky wrote the following article. Bold emphasis is from me:
edit: actually I've decided to try and using reddit's 'code' markup to change the font/background/spacing of what I want to highlight. - nevermind on that, I forgot what it does to linebreaks.
PUNISHING SURVIVORS WON’T STOP SEXUAL VIOLENCE
Earlier this week, the Daily News reported that a Cowlitz County, Washington survivor of an alleged kidnapping and sexual assault, perpetrated by her ex-boyfriend and an accomplice, was jailed when she refused to cooperate with the prosecutors on the case. The story didn’t rise to the forefront of feminist news until feminist writer Amanda Marcotte wrote a defense of the decision, arguing that the County did what it had to do to stop future violence.
The Cowlitz County case is awful, and I disagree with Marcotte’s conclusion, but neither is really an aberration from how we view criminal justice and victimhood. Two worrying parts of Marcotte’s piece implicate our larger national conversation about sexual violence: we mistakenly think survivors are irrational girls rather than agents navigating impossible obstacles – but, simultaneously, that they have more responsibility to us than we have to them.
[heading:]Confused girls
Running through Marcotte’s piece is a common threads I hear in discussions of survivors of intimate partner: a belief that the abused are irrational. We see this assumption in the pathologization of “battered women’s syndrome,” where survivors’ self-defense is understood as a symptom of delusion. We see it in the patronizing explanations of “why they stay” that talk about women (always women) untethered from reality, tumbling without agency through cycles of abuse. We see it, too, in Marcotte’s characterization of the victim’s relationship with the defendant as a sort of blinder, distorting her view of the violence and so discouraging her from working with the prosecutors:
Research shows that a victim’s refusal to cooperate with a prosecution is more about her relationship to the abuser. In this particular case, the victim has a long-standing history with one of her attackers, which suggests that she probably doesn’t see this in the same way that someone kidnapped and assaulted by complete strangers would. While there are some interventions that can help reduce the problem of victims who recant out of these complex feelings, there’s no silver bullet of counseling that will get all victims to see things the way prosecutors want them to.
We don’t know if the survivor in this particular case was abused by her ex-boyfriend when they were together, so the analogy to research on intimate partner violence may not be relevant here at all. But the rhetoric is nonetheless eerily similar – and similarly destructive. Of course we hope victims leave and, if desired, take action to ensure their future safety and to hold their abusers accountable. But to pretend that survivors stay or refuse to cooperate with the police only because of “complex feelings” simultaneously ignores the very real restraints on their freedom and denies them the agency they’ve maintained.
Manipulation and emotional abuse can create undeniable psychological barriers to leaving or seeking help. These obstacles are no less real because they are not tangible; though they are complex and they are intimately felt, Marcotte’s characterization of these burdens as “complex feelings” belies their nearly physical weight. But we also must recognize the undeniable material barriers survivors face. For example, abuse often renders survivors financially dependent on their abusers (we can’t know if the survivor was dependent on he boyfriend in this case, but we do know she is now homeless). And a trademark of relationship abuse is isolation – as a result of the abuse, survivors often don’t have friends or family to whom they feel they can turn for help. To make matters worse, abusers often charm those closest to the victim, so that those who do reach out for support or who pursue prosecution are often met with disbelief and anger from those they love. Tragically, in these situations, the decision to stay or to forgo legal intervention may be the result of an impossible, but by no means irrational, calculus. The options and risks are unjust, but the agent isn’t erased.
We urgently need to change that calculus. It is essential that we provide professional and community services to help victims of IPV leave abusive relationships. That work is so important precisely because the restraints on survivors are more than just “feelings” — whether psychological or material barriers, they are very, very real.
So, too, are the reasons why most survivors don’t trust the criminal justice system to help them out. As I’ve written about previously, those who report to the police are more likely to find insensitivity or harassment than a conviction: is it really such a shocker that victims don’t want to cooperate with a system willing to lock them up, to criminalize their survival? Plus, while I definitely know some survivors comfortable with the prison system, others see incarceration as just another iteration of the violence they work to end.
Maybe victims don’t “see things the way prosecutors want them to” because they aren’t blind to the violence in their communities and in our criminal justice system that, yes, complicate the decision to cooperate with the prosecution of your ex. We should talk about what responses to interpersonal violence would look like in our feminist state, but that’s not the conversation we’re having here. Now we’re talking about how real people navigate real choices. And we can’t pretend real obstacles don’t exist.
[heading:]You owe us
Marcotte writes that “always erring on the side of victim sensitivity means putting some very bad men back out on the streets, where they will likely attack someone else.” I 100% agree that stopping perpetrators can help prevent future violence, which is one of the reasons I think it’s so important to provide survivors with safe, trauma-responsive accountability processes. The calculus, though, doesn’t have to boil down to us vs. her, our safety weighed against her comfort, because robust responses to violence centralize support for survivors as a collective responsibility that promotes the common good.
On the most basic level: I thought we’d been over this before: violence is caused by the violent, not short skirts or alcohol or confusion or, at least of all, victims. We usually talk about victim-blaming as putting the responsibility not to get raped on potential victims, rather than potential perpetrators. However, we see a similar logic in the insistence that it’s survivor’s job to stop violence against others, even at the expense of their own healing and safety. If they won’t make that sacrifice, we’re prepared to punish them. As much as the U.S. criminal justice system likes to pretend it can distinguish between imprisonment as punishment and imprisonment as logistical aid (see: pretrial detention), all time spent behind bars is punitive.
Also, even if you buy the carceral logic that prisons are our great hope, locking up survivors who report won’t help the courts catch rapists. As Melissa McEwan wrote at Shakesville, “If we’re really concerned about preventing future assaults, then we have to foremostly make it safe for multiple survivors to report—and publicly revictimizing one survivor in this way stands to discourage multiple victims from reporting. That is bigger than even this one rapist.” McEwan’s point rejects Marcotte’s belief that the interests of survivors and interests of the broader community are in tension: we are only safe as a whole when we support survivors. It is only then that victims can come forward and give us the chance to hold perpetrators accountable.
Stepping back, I resent the way this issue has been framed, both in media and private discussions, as one of individual vs. collective safety – as though survivors are unwilling to talk due to some deep selfishness – not only because its wrong but because it distracts us from the communal duty we’re so eager to ignore. Of course any feminist resistance to violence requires collective responsibility for the collective good. But our first question here should be what we, as a community, can do to support a survivor – not what the survivor should do to help us. What local structures can we set up to provide care to those who need it? How can we create safe opportunities for survivors to come forward? What community responses to harm can we build to hold abusers accountable in a country that has abandoned victims to a broken criminal justice system? Let’s talk about what we can do, rather than what any given survivor owes us.
Here’s the thing about violence: it’s hard to stop. That’s scary. I find it terrifying that we really, truly have not yet found ways to stop assault or abuse, or structures to respond to this violence when it occurs. I understand why many hold on to our belief in the criminal justice system when there aren’t alternatives onto which we can comfortably fall. I understand why we want to believe we live in a country where a victim would of course want to cooperate with prosecutors. I understand the temptation to count conviction rates and the clang of prison doors shutting closed like beads on a rosary, the comfort of pieces moving regularly, as they should, as though we’re going somewhere better. But when the methodical plodding ends with a survivor of violence in jail for choosing to deal with trauma on her own terms, perhaps its time we lose a little faith and rise up to do some good.
Now. Buck did not rape anybody. We are talking about the victims of invasion of privacy and public denegration. But this article says a lot.
I said in a youtube comment section that Buck deserves to get vetted "all the way back" because he considers himself a leader. And I'm ashamed to say that until I was writing those 5 arguments against digging up the dirty specifics on that divorce drama, I hadn't thought of this stuff either.
Nobody has asked Lana Wachowsky or her wife. They're not talking about it. And if they don't want to talk about it, then.. what? If you force that information out into the day, EoT, then you are punishing her. You are re-traumatizing them to fit your purpose.
Think about that. Look what this has become. The more you harp on Buck's marriage, the more likely somebody's going to violate that privacy and, dare I say, terrorize those two women with their personal lives, probably their doxx too, going public. Stochastic terrorism much? People have probably already tried to contact these people on social media. It's probably already started. They want to leave it behind and now y'all won't let them.
Can you really say you're doing this for the sake of victims?
Officially: the "investigation" into Buck Angel's divorce must stop right now.
submitted by Aerik to u/Aerik [link] [comments]

[Table] IAmA: I am the Principal Investigator for the NASA OSIRIS-REx Asteroid Sample Return Mission, AMA!

Verified? (This bot cannot verify AMAs just yet)
Date: 2013-12-10
Link to submission (Has self-text)
Questions Answers
Greetings Dr. Lauretta, i have a few questions, how is 5819 doing and are there plans to probe it too? Asteroid 5819 Lauretta is continuing on its orbital trajectory through the Solar System. My astronomer friends snap a photo for me every once in awhile but there is no plan for a dedicated science campaign.
How did the idea of a sample return mission from an asteroid came about? What is the inspiration behind it? The OSIRIS-REx concept originated with Lockheed-Martin, who is always looking for new Principal Investigators for their planetary science missions. They approached Mike Drake, the original PI, in 2004 about collaborating on a sample-return mission. Mike invited me to be his Deputy at that time - which I gladly accepted. Mike and I worked on the mission concept for seven years before being accepted by NASA. Mike passed away in September 2011 - four months after winning the contract. I was promoted to PI at that time.
Can we not go faster in going to Bennu? Like less than year. What technogy is need to speed up voyage to asteroid? We can go faster to get to Bennu. However, we need to not only get to Bennu - but also go in the same direction at the same speed. Thus, if we get there more quickly, we need giant rocket engines and a lot of fuel to slow down for the rendezvous.
What is the story behind the name Osiris Rex and its Egyptian theme? I came up with the name based on the mythology of Osiris as the bringer of life to the Nile Valley - Bennu represents the type of object that may have brought the seeds of life to Earth. It is also a crazy acronym - which fits in with the way NASA names their missions,
What will happen to Osiris Rex after it return, will it remain in orbit or crash or an extension mission will be planned? OSIRIS-REx will eject the sample return capsule four hours before the spacecraft hits the top of the atmosphere at 27,000 mph. The spacecraft will then perform a deflection burn and be placed into a stable heliocentric orbit that will not intersect any object of astrobiological interest (planetary protection requirement). It may be available for an extended mission at the discretion of NASA.
Will you be able to study fragments of the Chelyabinsk meteorite? Why was it not detected earlier? Thanks in advance. We have fragments of Chelyabinsk in our lab at the University of Arizona and are actively studying it. It snuck up on us because it came out of the Sun and it was a relatively small object - we are mandated by Congress to detect objects 140-m in diameter and larger - the Chelyabinsk bolide was ~20-m across.
Awesome work! I'm wondering, how and why was Bennu selected for this mission? Do we know if we will be able to even retrieve a sample from it? (ie: do we know the composition of the surface? Are there enough small rocks on it to collect?) Also, as a current U of A undergraduate (Aerospace Engineering), what's the best way for a student to become involved in this kind of work/field? Target selection for OSIRIS-REx was originally driven by engineering constraints. First, we decided to use a Lockheed-Martin heritage spacecraft. That meant using solar power and trying to keep the thermal control system relatively simple. Using solar power limited how far out into the Solar System we could travel - setting a limit of 1.8 AU on the aphelion of the target's orbit. The thermal control limit constrained how close to the Sun we could go - limiting the perihelion of the orbit. Together these two constraints defined the semi-major axis and eccentricity of potential targets.
The next constraint was the total energy of the mission. We needed a target with relatively low delta-V (total change in velocity). We also needed a trajectory that limited the re-entry velocity of the Sample Return Capsule - since we are using a heritage design from the Stardust mission. These parameters limited the inclination of the asteroid orbit to less than 10 degrees.
These orbital constraints rapidly collapsed the number of potential targets to around 200 asteroids. The next constraint was on the size of the object. It turns out that asteroids smaller than ~200 meters tend to be rapid rotators - some spinning once every minute or so. We used absolute magnitude as a proxy for size - dropping the number of potential targets to about 20.
The final criterion was driven by science. We wanted a target that was likely to be rich in carbon and water - a carbonaceous asteroid. Of the twenty or so targets that met our dynamical constraints - only five were known to have low albedo and therefore likely to be carbonaceous. Bennu rose to the top of the list based on the extensive ground-based data set - particularly the fantastic shape model information that had been obtained from the Arecibo and Goldstone Planetary Radar telescopes.
There are three lines of evidence that constrain the average grain size on Bennu. First, in addition to the shape model, the radar astronomy also provided information on the radar polarization ratio. Basically, we transmit a beam with a specific circular polarization and measure how much of the returned energy comes back with the opposite polarization. These data show that the transition to radar roughness occurs at a scale smaller than lowest radar wavelength - 3 cm.
Next, we used the Spitzer space telescope to determine the average thermal inertia of the surface. Lower thermal inertia values mean smaller grain sizes. These data suggest that the average grain size on Bennu is on the order of a millimeter.
Finally, the asteroid shape reveals a prominent ridge at the equator - suggesting that there is loose material moving around on the surface and collecting at the geopotential lows (the valleys of Bennu) - which lie at the equator.
To get involved with OSIRIS-REx - come talk to me!
What's the biggest challenge in designing the reentry capsule? Also could I get an internet high five? The good news is that we are reusing the capsule design from the NASA Stardust mission. The only modification that is required is on the main deck to accommodate our sample collection device, which is different from Stardust. This is a minor modification - the SRC is one of the easy parts!
How do you hope to tie in your investigations at Bennu to those of Dawn at Ceres? If so, what are your plans? Ceres is a C-type asteroid - so slightly different spectroscopically from Bennu. However, we will have data that is comparable to the Dawn VIR instrument, so that will be an interesting study. We are more spectrally similar to Pallas - which is a B-type asteroid like Bennu. We have no plans to perform the comparative study - sounds like a great opportunity for a participating scientist!
Did your mission engineers take any cues from the Hayabusa probe? What steps are they planning to take to avoid computer glitches during the sample collection phase? We have studied the Hayabusa mission intently. Our main take away messages are to 1) allow enough time for the team to thoroughly characterize Bennu before sampling; 2) simulate the descent to the asteroid surface thousands of times before committing to the sampling; 3) perform a series of rehearsals for each stage of the sampling sequence - plan on repeating each step if one does not go according to pan; and 4) fly capable reaction wheels - this failure doomed Hayabusa from the start.
Does the potential for an asteroid collision worry you on an emotional level? I do not worry about getting hit by an asteroid on a daily basis. It is much more dangerous to cross the street - which I do worry about.
Also, what's your favorite Christmas song? My favorite Christmas is Happy X-mas (War is Over) by John Lennon.
What is the 2013-2023 total budget? What part of the budget is already secure? And where does the money come from? Thanks for doing this! The total mission budget (2011 - 2025 - including two years to analyze the sample after Earth Return) is $1.05 billion.
Because of the way that the Federal Government operates - the budget is secure through January 15, 2014 - when the current continuing resolution expires. However, we are a high priority for NASA planetary science and have strong support in Congress so we are confident that our funding will continue to be authorized.
The money ultimately comes from the American and Canadian tax payers - thank you!
But how much money is the actual operating budget? Doesn't the University of Arizona take out a huge chunk? Also, how do you allocate money to the different instrument teams because your group is working with other institutions. Do their budgets come out of your budget? Thanks, from a future P.I. The UA charges an indirect cost (IDC) rate of 51.5%. That means that for every dollar of direct cost that I spend at UA - I have to pay an additional 51.5 cents in IDC. These funds cover the cost of the facility, support services like maintenance, and the overall cost of running the University.
Most of our money (something like 80%) goes into our labor expenses (which includes benefits and IDC). OSIRIS-REx is all about the people.
Every organization has an overhead expense, you can't get away from paying this cost. For-profit companies also include award fee as part of their price tag.
On a lot of agencies SBIRs we're limited to 40% IDC. The UA got a good deal. Also the first time I've seen the finer points of federal contracting discussed on here. One of the most unexpected results of becoming PI for me - I have to know everything about the federal budget process and cost management. Ask away!
Hello Dr. Lauretta, I realize that there are many components to this project, but this question is in regards to the possible presence of the building blocks of life. I have read a few papers discussing the resistance of certain microbes to our most robust antimicrobial techniques (ex. UV light, saline solutions). How would microbiologists recognize pristine extraterrestrial proteins or nucleic acids? How will you keep your clean room clean? --Thank you! OSIRIS-REx has a level-1 requirement to return a "pristine" sample of Bennu. We have a pragmatic definition of pristine - which means that no foreign material introduced into the sample will hamper the scientific investigation.
We split our contamination efforts into two categories - Contamination Control and Contamination Knowledge. Contamination Control seeks to minimize the contamination of the sample using prudent and established spacecraft fabrication processes. Contamination Knowledge seeks to document any contamination that may be introduced to the sample. Together we can both keep the sample clean and document any foreign material that is present in the returned sample.
The spacecraft fabrication clean room is a standard Class 10,000 room. The curation facility will be much cleaner - Class 100.
What is the plan for extracting the sample from the asteriod? We are using a device called the Touch-and-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM). The basic concept is to contact the asteroid surface with a large air filter (something that would look right at home sitting on top of a carburetor from a '57 Chevy), then blast the surface with a pulse of high-purity nitrogen gas. The gas agitates and fluidizes the regolith, which expands into the TAGSAM device. If we fill the collection chamber - we have ~2 kilograms of material. TAGSAM can collect particles up to 3-cm across. We also have contact pads on the outer edge of TAGSAM. We will collect particles less than 1 millimeter as long as we touch the surface.
I read every comment and all of your replies. This is so interesting, thank you. I am not an expert, nor a student in this field, but a housewife married to a science fiction fanatic and we have 3 amateur astronomers. My questions focus on when you are at your described third moment terror (which is my biggest moment of terror for you)...the moment of TAG, when you send the spacecraft down to the surface of Bennu to collect the sample. What type of suction or attachment, if any, will you be using on the space craft to attach the landing? Is the landing similar to a plane landing on an air craft carrier? Do you have a plan B in case it sticks too much to the asteroid? A fun question if you prefer not to discuss my other questions: What is the most common household item you will be using on this mission? We do not have any system to anchor the spacecraft to the asteroid during sample acquisition. Instead, we have very tight control on the spacecraft state during the descent. We have to contact with an approach velocity of 10 cm/s (+/-2) and a lateral velocity of 0 cm/s (+/-2). The spacecraft can not be rotating about any of its axes. If we hit the surface under these conditions then our momentum will be absorbed by a constant-force spring in the robotic arm. If we start to rotate, the attitude control thrusters will engage to damp out any angular momentum. After five seconds of contact we fire our back-away thrusters and get out of dodge.
These back-away thrusters should be sufficient to unstick us from the surface. In the case where we are totally jammed our only option is to sever the sample head from the arm - but that would mean loss of the sample.
As for the most common household item - the spacecraft has a surprisingly large amount of tape on it! Though, of course, the tape is space qualified.
Hey Dr. Lauretta! Super excited for this. Where is OSIRIS-REx launching from, where will it return, and what parts will be discarded in between? OSIRIS-REx is launching from the Kennedy Space Center on an Atlas V 411 launch vehicle in 2016. The sample return capsule (SRC) returns to the Utah Test and Training Range in 2023. The SRC will remain intact through atmospheric entry with the exception of a small amount of the heat shield - which will ablate in the atmosphere. The main spacecraft will remain in space and likely be available for an extended mission. The SRC ultimately ends up in the NASA Space-Exposed Hardware facility - or maybe in the Smithsonian like the Stardust capsule!
How did you transition from working on chondrite meteorites to the bigger-picture project of being the principal investigator on OSIRIS-REx? -Arecibo radar minion. When Mike Drake, the original PI for OSIRIS-REx, starting put his team together in 2004, he invited me to be his deputy because of my knowledge of carbonaceous chondrites and the connection to the origin of life. In the seven years of proposal writing between 2004 and selection in 2011 I learned all about spacecraft engineering, mission management, and cost, and schedule control.
I heard something about how this mission could help us understand how moons are formed. Can you expand on that? OSIRIS-REx will help us understand how asteroid satellites are formed. A leading theory for binary asteroid formation involves the YORP effect. Basically, YORP acts to either increase or decrease the rotation rate of an asteroid. As an asteroid's spin rate increases - material will start to migrate from the poles down to the equator. This mechanism may be responsible for the observed equatorial ridge on Bennu. If the spin rate continues to increase - the material may be spun off the equator and accrete into a binary companion.
What is your plan after the O-Rex mission is finished? This work was pioneered by Kevin Walsh, a member of my science team.
Do you think you'll participate in any other missions? As for Mr. Fantastic - I am fortunate enough to be married to someone who looks like Sue Storm!
I am graduating in December with a degree in Mechanical/Nuclear Engineering from an ok-engineering school. Not Ivy League or top 25 in the country. I have an average resume: ok GPA, some work experience, and activities. What can I do after graduation that would impress NASA and get me an interview someday? I would love to work at NASA when I'm older, but how do I make myself stand out over MIT, Standard, and Cornell grads? I suggest a couple of options. If you really have a great idea and are the adventurous type, start a new company to develop your product. Try to get in space as an experimental payload - say on a student CubeSat.
- Thanks for all the responses. However, I would like to emphasize that I am graduating this December. Opportunities for me to do research with professors and apply for internships has passed =(. Mainly looking for advice on how to add onto my resume after graduation to impress NASA folks. Work on my own projects? Invent something bad-ass? Gain experience working in a certain industry? You could also go to work for one of the "New Space" companies like SpaceX, Blue Origin, or Planetary Resources - or one of the "Old Space" companies like Lockheed-Martin, Ball Aerospace, or Boeing.
Thanks for doing an AMA. Do you think OSIRIS-REx is the most complex backronym currently operating at Nasa? :-) OSIRIS-REx is both an acronym and backronym. I came up with OSIRIS when we first starting proposing this mission concept to the NASA Discovery program. I was the Deputy PI and my job was to write the science justification for the mission. I started doodling with the key science concepts and wrote down Origins, Spectroscopy, Resources, and Security. OSIRIS jumped right out at me! I then added some vowels to fill out the word.
We added the REx when we made the transition from Discovery to New Frontiers. Our previous proposal efforts had scored well - but we did not fit in the cost box. We wanted to keep the OSIRIS brand name but indicate that we were bigger and better than a Discovery mission. The name OSIRIS-REx was tossed out early on - sort of in jest - but the name had a nice ring to it. I came up with Regolith Explorer to back into the name.
I am a bit ashamed that this is the first time that I hear about this project... It sounds fantastically interesting and I look forward to learn much more about it! I am glad that this AMA has done its job - help spread the word!
May I ask you, what do you dream of finding in that asteroid? Best case scenario with your wildest fantasies, or if you prefer your most optimistic yet realistic possibility. What would be in your personal opinion and experience the best outcome of this mission? The greatest treasure that OSIRIS-REx can obtain, in my opinion, is something incredibly rich in carbon and organic molecules. Organic compounds in meteorites are present at the part-per-million level. I would love to find out that Bennu is one giant extraterrestrial tar ball.
As firing of the rockets that will deliver the payload depends on a lot of factors weather, malfunctioning... etc... what is the time frame(the number of days that the launch can be delayed) you can change the schedule launch if there is a problem and still reach the asteroid... is this event factored in your calculation?? We have a 39-day launch window that opens on September 3, 2016. Right now we are designing to a 30-minute opportunity each day. However, we have some extra capability on the launch vehicle so we may open up the daily window to two hours.
thanks for doing the AMA,,, science ftw. If we don't make the window in 2016. We have to wait one year for another launch opportunity in September 2017. Our current budget is not sufficient to cover such an extended slip - we have to no choice but to make the 2016 window!
Hi Dante! Thanks for doing the AMA! What inspired you to get into astronomy and how did you get to where you are now? You still have yet to buy the O-REx themed Bratfest shirt... For my back story - read my blog post here
What did you study in school, and what is your degree in? I've always wondered what you have to be educated in to get a job like this. My college life is the subject of a recent blog post - here
In summary, I have a B.S. degree from the University of Arizona with a double major in Mathematics and Physics. I also have a B.A. in Japanese, but that was just for fun.
I have a Ph.D. in Earth and Planetary Sciences from Washington University in St. Louis with an emphasis in Geochemistry.
I did my postdoctoral research at Arizona State University, where I learned transmission electron microscopy and mass spectroscopy.
Do you, or anyone in your team play Kerbal Space Program? What are your thoughts on the game and how it affects interest in orbital mechanics and space-travel? I am a huge fan of KSP. I play it on my own and with my two sons. I also use it as a teaching tool. Together with other staff members from OSIRIS-REx i lead an after school science club at a local Boys and Girls Club. I set up a screen and projector and have the kids help me build and fly different spacecraft designs. I find it to be a great way to convey basic orbital mechanics to middle and grade schoolers. I could really use a more education-centered version of the program so the younger kids could play it one their own more easily.
My project scientist has designed and flown an OSIRIS-REx like mission to Minimus. Many of the software engineers in our Science Operations and Processing Center are also Kerbal fanatics.
What is the plan if you get to the asteroid and it turns out to be an S-Type? Get a sample and bring it home.
I work in aerospace doing stuff like rocket propulsion. I've never stayed at a job for more than three years. How do you stay on one project for a full decade without getting kind of bored? End to end - OSIRIS-REx will consume twenty years of my life. The mission constantly presents new and interesting challenges - and I am always learning something new. The job changes all the time - especially now as we transition from paper engineering to seeing real hardware come in.
Do you work on other projects during the quieter times? I know Alan Stern has about fifty projects, in addition to being PI on New Horizons. I still have a meteorite research group at UA and try to keep up with the latest cosmochemistry research. I am also a father - which presents its own set of challenges and rewards every day.
Hell of a commitment. Have you ever done one of the Antarctic meteor collection expeditions? It's something I'd really like to do. I was fortunate enough to be a member of the 2002-2003 Antarctic Search for Meteorites. We wrote a blog while we were out there - you can check it out here.
How do you plan to avoid damage to the spacecraft from regolith that is kicked up by the nitrogen gas but is not captured by TAGSAM? Tough question - we are studying this now. Ask me after CDR!
Once you get the sample from the asteroid, what are you planning to do with it? Distribute it around the world to any qualified laboratory to analyze in support of our science objectives.
Are you collaborating with the possible asteroid retrieval/redirect mission? OSIRIS-REx is a PI-led mission in the New Frontiers Program, part of the NASA Science Mission Directorate. ARRM is a proposed mission in the Human Exploration program. We are not directly involved but I have offered to help ARRM. They just need to ask!
Do you have a suggestion on which asteroid is the best candidate for retrieval? EDIT I like 2006 RH120 - might have migrated in and out of the Earth-Trojan population.
Any advice for a soon-to-be aerospace engineering graduate? Working for NASA is a career life goal of mine and I'm curious about the general path that the engineers follow. Thanks for this great AMA! Most of the engineers that I know work for one of the big aerospace firms. Lockheed Martin has built the majority of recent planetary exploration spacecraft for the United States - I recommend trying to get a job at their facility in Littleton, CO.
Other options include getting on to the staff at one of the major "space-faring" universities like the University of Arizona, the University of Colorado, CalTech, or MIT.
There are many smaller engineering firms that provide components and support to NASA missions like the Southwest Research Institute, the Space Dynamics Lab, or ASC-3D (all contributing to OSIRIS-REx).
Finally, there is the "New Space" companies that are providing services to NASA like SpaceX and Blue Origin.
The Russian meteorite that fell in February has been called a comet, meteor, super bolide and small asteroid. What is your opinion and what is the difference? The Chelyabinsk meteorite is an ordinary chondrite meteorite - the most common type of meteorite that lands on Earth. It was definitely a small asteroid - most likely an S-type near-Earth object.
How personally taxing is it to be in charge of a NASA mission? It is by far the hardest thing I have ever done. I stay motivated by the knowledge that I will be one of the first people to fly a spacecraft to an asteroid see a new world for the first time - and bring a piece of it back to Earth.
When and where can I sign up to go work on an asteroid mine/factory? Am I too early for that? OK I brought a tent and a sleeping bag. I'll wait. Planetary Resources is accepting job applications.
Will researchers from other institutions write grant proposals to obtain some meteorite sample for analysis or is there already a designated group at the UA that will analyze the sample? --Thanks. The samples will be available to any qualified researcher from around the world. Our plan is to spend the first six months producing a catalog of the returned sample. Once we publish this document, NASA will start accepting proposals for sample distribution.
Do you and your team work in Houston? Or somewhere else? The OSIRIS-REx team is spread all over the world. I am a Professor at the University of Arizona in Tucson. We have ~100 people working on the project here. The main workforce is at the Lockheed-Martin facility in Littleton, Colorado - where they are building the spacecraft, including the sample acquisition mechanism and the sample return capsule. The third major partner is the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. GSFC is responsible for Project Management, Systems Engineering, Safety and Mission Assurance, as well as the visible and infrared spectrometer (OVIRS). Our other main partners are Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona, KinetX Aerospace (the Simi Valley, California office), the Canadian Space Agency, the French Space Agency (CNES\), the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the United Launch Alliance.
Ultimately, the samples will end up at the Astromaterials Curation Facility at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. The science team is spread all over the United States and also includes members from Canada, France, Italy, and the UK.
What's your favorite asteroid movie? Tie between The Little Prince and The Empire Strikes Back - just kidding!
The best one so far is Hayabusa
Does your mission have any correlation with NASA's plan to capture an asteroid and have it orbit the moon? OSIRIS-REx is developing key technologies that are applicable to any asteroid mission including.
Astronomical characterization in support of mission design.
Measurement of asteroid global characteristics
Detailed characterization of an asteroid surface at sub-cm scales.
Mission-critical data processing and analysis on a tactical timeline.
Accurate navigation in microgravity.
Delivery to a specific location on the asteroid surface.
Successful contact and acquisition of material from an asteroid surface.
We have no direct connection to the Asteroid Redirect Mission.
Mining of asteroids has been an idea for a long time to increase resources. Does this project have any aims to pursue that avenue? Part of the OSIRIS-REx acronym is Resource Identification. The most direct application of our mission to asteroid mining is in the technologies and proximity operations that allow you maneuver a spacecraft around a small asteroid.
As an Arizona alumnus, I'd like to start by saying Bear Down, but I do have a serious question: how do you feel the university setting benefits your work? Arizona's reputation as a center of planetary science speaks for itself but I'd really like to read your perspective. A University setting is a great place for a NASA mission. I started my career in the NASA Space Grant program at UA. It is very gratifying to be able to recruit the next generation of space scientists and engineers from my Alma mater.
We also have access to a wide range of student talents - including graphic arts, videography, business management, etc.
How large does an asteroid have to be before its gravity will allow you to land a spacecraft on it, verses just floating next to it? The rendezvous with Bennu is an exercise in formation flying. We could anchor ourselves to the surface - similar to the Philae lander on the ESA Rosetta mission - if we wanted extended surface operations.
The acceleration due to gravity on Ceres, the largest asteroid (and a dwarf planet) is ~28 milli-g (1/36 that of the Earth). Having flown on the NASA vomit comet at 5 milli-g I can tell you that this is still a very low acceleration and any spacecraft would likely need some sort of anchoring or propulsion system to remain stable on the surface.
So how long do you give before the program is cancelled? All major contracts are in place - and flight hardware items have been procured. This means that there is little money to save by cancelling the program. Also, we have strong support at NASA HQ and in Congress so I feel good about the funding line. The wild card is always the Congressional appropriation process. . .
How long do you think it will take for asteroid mining to become a viable industry? The answer really depends on how serious nations are about extending the human presence in space. If the US, China, India, or other agencies really move into space, then an industry centered around supplying life-support materials in situ will have a credible business model.
The idea of returning precious metals to the surface of the Earth is more problematic. We still produce sufficient quantities of platinum, gold, and other rare metals to cover our needs. The law of supply and demand suggests that the supply is adequate. I don't expect this situation to change in the next few decades.
Am i going to get to be an asteroid miner or should I start focusing on getting my son ready to be an asteroid miner? You can make a good living hunting meteorites - a form of asteroid mining. Your son probably has a better chance of a career on the Asteroid Frontier.
Last updated: 2013-12-14 02:59 UTC
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