eXTReMe Tracker WARNING: The opinions expressed and linked to in this blog are not necessarily mine (anymore).

My ideas are constantly changing as I learn. Sometimes they even change midway through writing a post.

Sunday, December 31

Amazing progress in HIV prevention, Killing

I love technology. Sometimes the usefulness of particular things is questionable, but I figure they're just part of getting to the really good things. It's so great, when frequently surrounded by people who think the world is going to hell, to see something like this! Yay! Woohoo!!

Can you imagine? Wiping out a disease like AIDS?! Well, this may not quite do that, but it definitely has the potential. There are a lot of other great things being created all the time. I only heard about this one because I noticed a funny button on my Firefox - "Latest Headlines" it said. Curious, I clicked on it, and it seemed to be a bookmark type list of headlines - including the one about AIDS. I think I've noticed the button before and then forgot about it until today. Handy thing it is. I'll have to remember it better. Of course, the majority of the headlines were bad news - bombings, killings, the body of Saddam Hussein being laid to rest.

I watched a clip of the video of him being led to the execution room. I've sometimes thought that if I had the opportunity to kill a murderer - to prevent him from causing more deaths, that I would do it. Watching him, though, I'm not so sure anymore. He just looked like a regular man - a bit sad. I realized that I don't think I'd be able to kill someone unless they were an immediate threat. Even then, I'm not so sure.

When I was in high school, I was supposed to collect and kill insects for science class. I found a little greeen bug and put it in a jar and dropped the alcohol soaked cotton ball in with it and closed the lid. It struggled to get out. I watched it thinking that if it was going to die by my hand, I should at least have the courage to watch. I couldn't do it. I let the bug go. I think it died anyway, but it did not become part of my collection. My mother had to kill the rest of them for me. I didn't like that she did it. I wondered if it would have been better to fail. Back to Saddam...

I was afraid for a moment that they would show the actual hanging. I was going to turn it off before that. It seemed disrespectful somehow. Then the correspondent said that the network had chosen not to air images of the body or the death.

I wondered if I had it right the first time. Maybe it's more respectful to actually witness what is going on with seriousness and even empathy. Some people might say that some individuals don't deserve to be treated with dignity. I'm not sure what to think of that. It's hard to say what other people "deserve". I don't usually have the desire to treat people any other way - unless I feel immediately threatened. Then it's more a matter of self-protection than consideration for dignity or an attack on dignity.

I've wondered what Saddam might have been like as a child. I was thinking that no infant, as far as I know, was ever "evil" or destructive of others. Neither are children up to age 5 or so generally. Sometimes when I think people might be born "bad", I think about that. Even the children that indeed do terrible things aren't necessarily considered "evil". It seems more like someone failed to care for them and guide them. It's hard for me to understand how it happens that so many adults and even teenagers turn out to be more violent. Maybe they're just big enough to get away with it easier?

Me? A dragon? Eragon and Superman - spoilers

I noticed the book, Eragon, a year or more ago and kept thinking it looked like something my daughter and I would like. I finally bought it for her, but it's been sitting around for months unread.

I didn't know the movie was coming out until I saw previews for it recently. I hate reading a book before seeing the movie because I then tend to find the movie shallow and disappointing compared to the depth usually found in a book. I thought it would be nice to spare us that (and encourage her to pick up the book), so I took my daughter to see Eragon last weekend. I knew we'd love it, and I wasn't disappointed!

Briefly, the boy, Eragon, finds a "stone". It "hatches" unexpectedly and he soon realizes it's a dragon! I love the scene where Eragon climbs on the dragon and then gets to look over a cliff just before the dragon takes off! I hope there's a sequel because it ended with some very interesting unfinished business.

I think the movie likely inspired a fun flying dream I had the night before last. At first, I was like a fly on the wall observing a "family" of dragons or flying dinosaurs. The father dragon/dino was large and black and seemed a bit scary. It seemed like he might kill his young if he didn't approve of them. The parents were taking the offspring out for flying practice. They were intelligent creatures who could talk, walk upright, and the wings looked a bit like bat wings so that when the dragons lifted their arms/front legs, the wings spread from front to bottom legs. Suddenly, I was one of the offspring - the oldest - and was flying over the water slightly behind "father". It was fantastic! I dream of flying fairly often. Sometimes I have fun dreams of being telekinetic. I love those sorts of dreams, but I don't think I've ever dreamed of being a dragon before. What a blast!

Speaking of flying, I saw Superman Returns yesterday. I wasn't thrilled with Lois. The actress seemed perfectly nice, but she was and young... and soft! She just didn't have the obnoxious, in-your-face New York toughness that the original Lois had. They both seemed much younger than the actors were in the original movies. Superman/Clark seemed different too. I think the differences with him were more believable and an improvement. Besides, he's gorgeous! Christopher Reeves was handsome, but the new guy is downright beautiful. His acting had some nice subtleness to it. I suppose that could be the case with the new Lois, but with her it was just a bit too much of a personality shift. It's still an excellent movie and she seems a good actress, it just doesn't quite fit with the old movies.

Friday, December 29

Leaving on a Jet Plane - Fun to Sing

I've had this song stuck in my head lately. It's the first song I'm learning on my new guitar. It's even invading my dreams. I dream about going on plane trips, forgetting to buy the plane tickets, the plane getting delayed, etc.

I found a nice little clip of John Denver singing it on You Tube. I always thought it was a bit of a boring song, but I would find myself singing along just the same.

Some songs are just more fun to sing than to hear.

A lot of popular pop songs seem to be written with this understanding. If you look at the lyrics, there may be one or two unique verses and the rest is the same verse over and over. Who cares to hear the same verse 3 to 5 times? No one. The point isn't to listen to the whole song. You might listen to the unique parts and the first chorus. By the third verse you're singing along. Once you start singing, you're having fun and don't necessarily want to stop, so the singer obliges you by repeating it a few more times. At least, that's my experience.

Of course, there are songs that don't follow this trend. One of my favorite bands to have more "unique" lyrics is Rush. After a while, though, I tend to get tired of listening and Rush really isn't easy to sing along with. One exception is The Trees. It makes for a lovely lullaby (Ok, so it's a bit scary at the end to sing to a baby, but then so is "Rock-a-bye baby").

Thursday, December 28

Commandments Six through Ten

Well, the end of the year is coming up fast, and since the rest of the commandments are fairly straight-forward, I'll list them here:

6. Thou shalt not kill.
7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.
8. Thou shalt not steal.
9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbor's.


I think I have a rough understanding of them. What I don't have is a way to remember them. I've tried to come up with one word to represent the basic concept of each of them...
1. first
2. images
3. vain
4. Sabbath
5. parents
6. kill
7. adultery
8. steal
9. false
10. covet

I don't have any particular reason for deciding to learn this. I see it as part of getting a better understanding of the world's religions - starting with the one I'm exposed to most.

Tuesday, December 5

Third, Fourth, and Fifth Commandments

(Part of my series of posts on The Ten Commandments)

I made a New Year's Resolution to learn the commandments and to be able to explain them. There are multiple translations and ways of breaking the text into commandments. I've chosen to learn a Protestant version.

3. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain: for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

4. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

5. Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.

[Exodus 20]

These don't seem particularly difficult to understand. I don't know exactly what is meant by "honor", but I am guessing it's something along the lines of the first definition from Dictionary.net:
1. Esteem due or paid to worth; high estimation; respect; consideration; reverence; veneration; manifestation of respect or reverence.

Thursday, November 23

The Second Commandment

2. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

What's a graven image? An idol. At least, that's what the dictionary says.

I don't understand the idea of not making likenesses of things in heaven, below the earth, or in the water under the earth. I was assuming this meant the oceans? Does this mean no statues of whales but dogs are ok? What is meant by "under" the earth? Is that different from oceans?

Then it goes on some more about not worshiping or bowing to "graven images" or "likenesses".

Doesn't being a "jealous" god imply something to be jealous of? Does that mean god is here admitting the existence of other gods and wants us to be monotheistic?

Wednesday, November 22

Readerware for the Book Collector

I used to have it as a goal of mine to collect as many books as did Thomas Jefferson - or at least as many as he sold to the Library of Congress. I read somewhere that he sold some 5,000 volumes to the Library of Congress after the original library burned down.

I was well on my way with this project when it occurred to me to catalog the books. I used a spreadsheet. At first, I tried to look at each book and type in all the information I could find about it - the title, author, publisher, copyright date, categories, current list price, price paid, when purchased, etc...

This was very tedious and I didn't get very far. I switched to simply typing in all the titles I knew I had just to get started (minus most of the other info). After a few hundred, I got tired of the project. It did give me quite a perspective on just how many 5,000 books is. I think I counted something in the hundreds - and that took up 9 bookcases! Although a few were half-sized, that's still a lot of books!

I started to realize that 5,000 books would take up more space than I could really afford (not that I could afford all those books either!) Plus, moving with so many books was horrible. I sold off a large number of them and I'm down to roughly 3 bookcases worth. I take advantage of the library sometimes when I really "need" a book fix. Otherwise, I try to only own books that I am likely to refer to over and over again.

Still, sometimes I think longingly of my dream home - a place with a 5,000+ volume libary. This readerware seems just the thing I needed to get my collection organized. It even works with barcode scanners/readers. It reminds me of when I was a kid and would look through the Sears catalog pointing out all the things I wanted for Christmas - "I want this and this and this and this". I rarely got much of what I pointed out, but it was fun to think about anyway.

Tuesday, October 24

FlyLady Day 1

Judging by the state of the clutter in my home, I'm in dire need of some housecleaning inspiration. A long time ago, I made some amazing progress in this area with the help of FlyLady but I haven't kept up with it in a while, and it shows.

Who is FlyLady? She's the one who set up a website and email list full of reminders and inspirational messages about house cleaning, designed for people, like herself, whom she calls "born disorganized". Not that her techniques couldn't work for the "born organized". But organized people just aren't as likely to need them.

The problem I've had with getting back into her system is that her webpage is, well, cluttered. Maybe cluttered isn't the right word. All the information is useful, but it's a bit overwhelming.

Luckily, she has a nice side link for beginners. It's set up with instructions for each of the first 31 days. Beginners used to get an email with 3 days worth of instructions. It will be interesting to see how the new structure works out.

Today, I'm going to start with number 1: SHINE YOUR SINK.

500 Generic Prescriptions for $5 each

No, I this isn't spam. I'm just amazed by this latest announcement by HEB. HEB is a large chain of discount grocery stores here in Texas and Mexico.

The discount comes with using the Rx card. I haven't seen what the price for the Rx card is yet, if there is a fee. Even if there is some sort of monthly membership, $5/prescription is a good deal for people with multiple prescriptions - possibly even less than a typical copay. They would also be offering huge discounts (up to 50%) on other prescription drugs.

HEB isn't the only one offering low cost health products. Walmart just announced $4 prescriptions last week and I've seen articles about Walmart offering low cost health care.

Monday, October 23

Walking the Circle

It was a cool, crisp morning with a light breeze. There was a forest. A stream flowed nearby. Then I saw caves with fires for light and warmth. It was actually a fountain flowing into a swimming pool, some buildings, and a pavilian with propane lanterns. They were too high and too small to actually be warm. It was a bit disappointing, but still a beautiful day and a beautiful place.

We did some drills - striking, blocking, and even a bit of kicking. Finally, I worked on walking the circle. This is supposed to be the basis of Bagua, so I tried to approach it seriously. Still, how hard could walking in a circle really be? I tried bending my knees more. Then it was a bit more difficult. I held my arms toward the inside of the circle - one hand up and one to defend the elbow area. It was a bit more difficult. Every few rotations, I'd get dizzy and change directions. I wonder if I'll build tolerance to the dizziness. I wonder why it's supposed to be a circle.

Somehow I had envisioned the circle being larger when I first heard of this practice. I imagined monks walking slowly and carefully over painted lines. I don't know why I thought of paint. I also thought of something like those labyrinths that are so popular these days.

After a while of circle walking, my legs were getting tired. A while longer and my arms and shoulder started to ache. They were still sore the next day, and my ankles are still sore two days later. I guess it was more of a workout than it seemed.

Tao Te Ching, 8

The supreme good is like water,
which nourishes all things without trying to.
It is content with the low places that people disdain.
Thus it is like the Tao.

In dwelling, live close to the ground.
In thinking, keep to the simple.
In conflict, be fair and generous.
In governing, don't try to control.
In work, do what you enjoy.
In family life, be completely present.

When you are content to be simply yourself
and don't compare or compete,
everybody will respect you.

-from Tao Te Ching, A New English Version by Stephen Mitchell

Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

I was looking through my New Year's Resolutions. One of them was to be familiar with the Ten Commandments. I started some research into them and discovered some interesting things about them, but they aren't yet familiar.

Towards the end of being familiar, I intend to go through the text line by line.

Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
I find it interesting that it refers to the (possible) existence of other gods and accepts them. It doesn't say that there are no other gods or that they should not be worshipped - only that this God commands that he/it come first.

Thursday, October 19

S. 3930: Military Commissions Act of 2006

I've been hearing and getting email about this for a while now. I don't know what to think of it yet.

I haven't read the bill.

Reading the bill wouldn't be enough to understand it anyhow. There are plenty of laws that don't get enforced or get enforced in ways that seem contrary to their wording.

Without getting into the bill just yet, I'd like to explore some related issues.

Is torture always wrong?

I can imagine scenarios where I would think it "might" be the least worst option, but it's difficult.

If I knew beyond all doubt that torturing someone would uncover information that could save millions of lives, I might be willing to do it. It would be a terrible situation to be in. I'd try to find some way to avoid it. I might put off doing it for so long that I'm too late to save anyone. I don't know whether I'd actually be able to do such a thing - even for a million people.

Most cases aren't so clear cut. An individual may or may not have such information, and torture may or may not succeed in obtaining it.

I also wonder about what torture does to the torturer. One would have to maintain a degree of indifference about or even enjoy the pain of others. Is this a good thing to encourage in anyone?

Friday, September 22

Toilet Light

Wushu

Now that I've been learning Tai Chi for a few months, I felt brave enough to attempt a Wushu Kungfu class.

If I had to pick just one word to describe that experience it would be:

OUCH!



The first few minutes involved a bit of mild warming up and stretching. Then the drills began. They didn't LOOK that difficult. I mean, anyone can jump up in the air, kick out, and land again without even breaking a sweat. At least, I could when I was 16 and weighed about half what I do now (lucky for me I was a STICK back then or nearly doubling my weight wouldn't be a laughing matter). Nevermind doing variations of that for 30+ minutes.

By the time we stopped to stretch again, my legs felt like rubber. It was a weird experience to take a step and wonder if my legs were going to collapse under me or not. If I hadn't been so exhausted (and a bit self conscious about being the most out of shape person in the group), I would have found it funny. As for the stretching itself, it was nice to have one thing that I do fairly well. I can still "nearly" do the splits even though I haven't any done serious stretching in over 15 years.

Finally, we started working on forms. Of course, I was so exhausted by then that things that really ARE normally easy were difficult.

My class was Monday. Today is Friday, and I'm still sore. I can hardly wait for my next class Monday!

Wednesday, September 20

Creativity

What is creativity?

Is it related to intelligence?
Intelligence is the ability to learn. It also implies a certain amount of knowledge.
Creativity has to do with making up knew knowledge or applying it in new ways - which also implies making up new knowledge.

How does one go about making knowledge?
Mistakes? The willingness to make a mistake?
The willingness to give up or challenge one's assumptions?
Awareness. Awareness of one's assumptions. One can't really challenge assumptions one doesn't know one has.

When stuck, some of my best ideas have come from saying something really silly, something ridiculously impossible - and then realizing that some variation of it might be possible after all.

Tai Chi

OMG. I just read the previous post again. I'm starting to sound like one of those girls who can only talk about shopping, hair, and makeup! Ugh. Except I forgot to talk about hair, makeup, and Tai Chi.

I'm skipping to Tai Chi today to make up for that last fluff piece:

reprinted (with some edits) from an email, Wednesday, August 23, 2006
When I first decided to learn more about Tai Chi, I thought it would be
a good way to work on my concentration and fitness and maybe relieve a
bit of stress.

I thought of Tai Chi because of a book I read when I was a teen. It was
about a woman who is framed for murder by the mob. She gets sent to
prison and has a rough time there and is sent to solitary confinement
for a long while.


It was called "If Tomorrow Comes"

http://www.imdb. com/title/ tt0090455/ plotsummary

Tracy, the main character is stuck in isolation at
prison. She does some sort of exercises during her
month of darkness and isolation. Instead of stumbling
out of her month of isolation, she walks out serenely
and in good mental and physical shape. I think that's
where I first heard of Tai Chi.

I would go on about the movie/book - it was a learning
experience in itself, but I want to go on about Tai
Chi now.

I recently read an article about it that explained Tai
Chi Chuan meant "Supreme Ultimate Boxing". I've also
heard it called something like "Supreme Ultimate
Fist". It said that Tai Chi is actually a martial art
meant to train one for killing.

We've definitely learned some practical applications
for the movements within our lessons, but I can't
remember them well enough to make much use of them
yet. It has got me paying more attention to
balance - my center of balance, how I walk, etc.

My instructor has talked about how when he was
trained, students would practice standing in one
position for 20 minutes at a time. They were not
taught to move from one position to the next until
they could stand perfectly in each of the positions. I
find it difficult to stand still for even a minute!
Every little breeze could be an ant or a hair and
seems impossible to ignore. Hopefully I'll get better
at focusing with more training....

Sunday, August 27

Makeup. Tai Chi. Hair care. Media. Parenting. Shopping.

When I sat down to write, these are the thoughts that came to mind. I've been exploring things lately - especially traditionally "feminine" things but also just trying new things in general. I'm not a tomboy, exactly, but I've never been able to make myself stay interested in hair or makeup for more than a week or in wearing fancy (and generally uncomfortable) clothing.

Shopping. I've always hated shopping. Browsing is a different matter. I've always enjoyed browsing. I love seeing new gadgets and convenience items. Shopping requires one to make decisions - giving up some money for this item versus some other versus saving the money for another time. I generally don't enjoy it. Within 30 minutes, I'm done and have been known to get quite cranky about being pushed to shop any longer than that.

Recently though, I've caught myself shopping for longer and enjoying it. I had been to a lot of other shops, searching for some new work clothes. I tend to wear the least dressy clothes I think I can get away with, but I've just been "aquired" by a new comapny, and the new company seems to expect a higher standard of dress. I tried to go into this cheerfully but really struck out on my first few attempts. I disliked most of what I saw, and the few things I liked from the racks looked terrible on me.

I was getting pretty discouraged and wondering if I should start doing some online searches for something I could like. Just when I was about to give up, I finally found a store that had something close to what I wanted. I wanted solid colored, short-sleeved, button-down shirts - plain and simple. They had solid colored, button-down shirts with 3/4 length shirts. In August, every inch counts, but I decided if they were loose enough, I could make do with them. They also happened to be on sale - two for the price of one. I found a lot of other things I liked there too, and, even with the sale prices, I found myself wanting to buy much more than I really had money for. I can't remember that ever happening. I went with it and got a lot of things I liked. For a few minutes, I could relate to the old sit-coms where the woman comes home with armloads of stuff and talks about how much money she'd "saved" them.

Then I got home and looked and started looking at my receipts and the items and realized that several of them just weren't going to actually go with anything I had. Either I'd have to buy lots more stuff, or I'd have to return some of it. I ended up returning about half what I bought and still having enough of what I wanted. I'm glad it's done and don't have to think about shopping again for a while. Back to browsing.

Friday, July 7

Remembering King's Cross and Double Deckers

I don't know what to say really about things like this. I don't much care the media coverage of this sort of tragedies and "anniversaries" of tragedies, but I suppose "something" ought to be said and remembered.

I don't remember much about King's Cross except being a bit confused as there seemed to be a "train" and an underground station by the same name. We simply couldn't be in London at King's Cross and NOT at least look for platform 9 3/4, so we found 9 and 10 and then went back to our sight-seeing.

Another thing we couldn't do was go to London and NOT take at least one spin in a double decker bus. My daughter insisted we ride on the top - and so we did - right in front! Sure, I came out of it feeling a bit like a popsicle (frozen), but we had a great view of things from up there.

I loved how the drivers called me "love". I suppose it's similar to how some people around here call everyone "sweetie", but somehow it sounds nicer. I guess it seems more personal and genuine since I'm not used to hearing it. Seeing big chunks of bus in places where they shouldn't be isn't nice.

Thinking about that, though, reminds me of the great time I had visiting London and other cool parts of England. I miss it - the double decker busses, the loves, the rain, the lovely accents, and the people there. Someday when I actually get some vacation time, I'll have to go back.

Sunday, June 25

Pyrates Mystery

There is some dispute over the actual author of "The Pyrates" book. It seems more likely that the author was, in fact, Captain Charles Johnson.

Saturday, June 24

Argh! It's me birthday

I've been reading one of my presents - A General History of The Pyrates by Daniel Defoe. Originally, it was called A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the most notorious Pyrates and also their Policies, Discipline and Government.

It's not a subject that has ever occurred to me to take an interest in (beyond a half-hearted attempt to celebrate Talk like a Pirate Day), but I've come to think of gifts as a fun way to explore random new things. I've never read Robinson Crusoe or anything else by Defoe. I had no idea he'd written any non-fiction.

Usually when I am going to explore a book, I like to read or at least skim the introduction if it was written by the author. I don't always like to read intros and front matter that is added on later. Sometimes they can be well done and interesting. Sometimes they're rather detailed and tedious. So far, I'm enjoying this introduction.

Apparently he often wrote for both sides of competing political parties or groups. Sometimes he did it covertly and sometimes, it seems, he did it quite openly. Either way, he got himself into a lot of trouble over it before he turned to fiction writing.

Saturday, June 3

I Know You're Out There Somewhere

(The Moody Blues)
I've been trying to figure out what it is that I like in music. The lyrics may say something I understand or make me feel understood or the melody just evokes particular emotions. Sometimes, I just like the way it feels to sing it. I think I'm pretty unsophisticated about music that way. If it's too vague and esoteric, it likely won't catch my interest. One that's too plain simple won't HOLD my interest, but I'll still have fun with it for a time.

The Moody Blues have a lovely way of putting words and melody together such that they're easy to understand, great to sing along to, and in some songs word things just vaguely enough (but not too much) to leave a little room for speculation while still having some more obvious meaning.

"I Know You're Out There Somewhere" really fits that description to me.

I've always seen it as a sequel to "Your Wildest Dreams". "Your Wildest Dreams" is easy to sing and has a nice melody but it seems pretty straight forward and simple. I don't know whether it was really intended to be a prequel, but I seem to remember the video ending with "To be continued." to be part 2.

"Your Wildest Dreams" seems like a memory of a lost love. ".. Somewhere" seems more hopeful and active... like a Dream getting close to being achieved. It could be about finding that lost love, but it could also be about finding a real love or even finding oneself...


I know you're out there somewhere
Somewhere, somewhere
I know I'll find you somehow
Somehow, somehow
And somehow I'll return again to you

The mist is lifting slowly
I can see the way ahead
And I've left behind the empty streets
That once inspired my life
And the strength of the emotion
Is like thunder in the air
'Cos the promise that we made each other
Haunts me to the end

I know you're out there somewhere
Somewhere, somewhere
I know you're out there somewhere
Somewhere you can hear my voice
I know I'll find you somehow
Somehow, somehow
I know I'll find you somehow
And somehow I'll return again to you

The secret of your beauty
And the mystery of your soul
I've been searching for in everyone I meet
And the times I've been mistaken
It's impossible to say
And the grass is growing
Underneath our feet

I know you're out there somewhere
Somewhere, somewhere
I know you're out there somewhere
Somewhere you can hear my voice
I know I'll find you somehow
Somehow, somehow
I know I'll find you somehow
And somehow I'll return again to you

From the words that I remember
From my childhood still are true
That there's no so blind
As those who will not see
And to those who lack the courage
And say it's dangerous to try
Well they just don't know
That love eternal will not be denied

I know you're out there somewhere
Somewhere, somewhere
I know you're out there somewhere
Somewhere you can hear my voice
I know I'll find you somehow
Somehow, somehow
I know I'll find you somehow
And somehow I'll return again to you

Yes I know it's going to happen
I can feel you getting near
And soon we'll be returning
To the fountain of our youth
And if you wake up wondering
In the darkness I'll be there
My arms will close around you
And protect you with the truth

I know you're out there somewhere
Somewhere, somewhere
I know you're out there somewhere
Somewhere you can hear my voice
I know I'll find you somehow
Somehow, somehow
I know I'll find you somehow
And somehow I'll return again to you

Saturday, May 6

What to do When You Want to Have a Tantrum

Ask for help.
And ask for more help. Call friends, call relatives, call API, but make sure you call. You and your husband should not carry the enormity of parenting yourselves.


I found this refreshing coming from the Attachment Parenting International site. Attachment Parenting has some great goals for caring for children. I think it's great to be informed about childbirth and parenting and to be responsive to your child and his or her needs. My experience, though, is that the actual practice of it as stated will result in parents who are exhausted, frustrated, stressed, and possibly depressed.

A brief glance at the eight ideals supports this.

1. Preparation for Childbirth
2. Emotional Responsiveness
3. Breastfeed your Baby
4. Baby Wearing
5. Nighttime Parenting and Safe Sleeping Guidelines
6. Avoid frequent and prolonged separations from your baby
7. Positive Discipline
8. Maintain balance in your family life

The most important item is listed last, self care isn't even on the list as a separate item, and the first 6 items are geared around what the parent does for the baby. The fact is that there are a lot of other things that are important in a family besides the child's immediate emotional and even physical needs and some of them are necessary to providing for a child's needs.

I don't have time now to do an exhaustive list of priorities and needs in a family, but one of the top items I consider important for functioning well and maintaining balance in life is sleep.

If a child doesn't sleep well, he can be cranky and have a rough day. If the parent doesn't sleep well, especially over long periods of time, she can become cranky and have rough days too - only she has a lot more responsibilities and needs to be in top mental and physical shape to attend to her children well. Of course, everyone will do better if they get more sleep. It hasn't been my experience, however, that this happens over the long term with co-sleeping and heavy attention to "nighttime parenting".

Some people can sleep quite well through anything and find it difficult to wake up, and having a young baby near might help with hearing the baby well enough to wake up. (Then again, it's probably more dangerous if the parent really sleeps so heavily). For a light sleeper, every little noise and movement is a stimulus and interrupts sleep. In either case, the parent will likely sleep even more lightly so as to be careful about not rolling over the child.

Someone rolling over, touching me at all, or even a sigh can awaken me! I did eventually get exhausted enough to sleep through some of this sort of thing, but passing out from extreme exhaustion isn't exactly something I'd consider a benefit to co-sleeping.

This applies to the children as well. Co-sleeping with a child who awakens easily may actually make it harder, generally, for the child to sleep. Co-sleeping with a heavy sleeper may not have much impact at all either way. Children don't need to have their every whim met to feel cared for. They might be frightened about sleeping apart at first, just as anyone might be about a new experience, but once they have confidence that they are going to be ok and are cared for, they'll do fine.

Of course, to some people, this will seem like common sense. It isn't, really. There are whole cultures where it is common practice to co-sleep. I think this tends to be in places where space is expensive, but it could be that some parents and children do well with it!

The point is, it's not the co-sleeping or the breastfeeding or any of that which matters so much as having everyone's most important needs met.

Monday, May 1

Immigration problems

Recently there has been a lot of discussion about the immigration issue. It's something that has come to affect me very personally in the last few years. I've had a hard time understanding why the laws are so strict.

Morally, it seems wrong to keep people from taking the opportunity to have a better life.

I can see how having large numbers of "poor" people move in at once could really put a strain on our resources and generaly affect the quality of life for current Americans. I don't especially want my way of life to suddenly shift for the worse. It's worth doing, though, if it really improves the quality of life for a lot of other people. In the long run, I think we'd all be better off for it.

The thing I hadn't thought of much before, though, was the consequences of having a large group of people with a similar background come in. Their practices and beliefs may change things in ways that recreate the same problems they are trying to escape.

As the article referened above discusses, there's also the issue of large numbers of poor immigrants developing the view that the wealthier people are oppressing them. Actually, I'm guessing it's their children who grow up seeing the disparities and see them as signs of oppression. originally written April 18, 2006

Sunday, April 16

The Meaning of Pain

In trying to understand more about this in regard to animals, children, infants, and fetuses, I did some brief searching on the meaning of pain.

Definition and descriptions of pain from the The International Association of Pain

"An unpleasant sensory and emotional experience
associated with actual or potential tissue damage, or
described in terms of such damage."

Definition and descriptions of animal pain from The Animal Welfare Research Group

"Pain in animals is an aversive sensory experience
that elicits protective motor actions, results in
learned avoidance and may modify species specific
traits of behaviour, including social behaviour"

"Animal pain is an aversive, sensory experience
representing awareness by the animal of damage or
threat to the integrity of its tissues; (note that
there might not be any damage). It changes the
animal's physiology and behaviour to reduce or avoid
the damage, to reduce the likelihood of its recurrence
and to promote recovery. Non-functional (non-useful)
pain occurs when the intensity or duration of the
experience is not appropriate for damage sustained
(especially if none exists) and when physiological and
behavioural responses are unsuccessful in alleviating
it (Molony, 1997)"

Another useful term that I came across is Nociception:

"Nociception is detection of a noxious stimulus,
whereas Pain is an 'experience', which is the
product of the parts of the brain responsible for
mental processing of the noxious stimulus. "Pain
occurs in the brain"."

Friday, April 14

Queen of Chess - Susan Polgar

I'm not a great player, but I've thoroughly enjoyed the few tournaments I've played. Even if (more like when) I lose, I enjoy the attempt at solving the puzzle and seeing how my opponent will go about defeating me. I don't know much about the world of chess, but Polgar is one of the few names I recognize. It's enough to make me want a game.

Irrationality

Would it be irrational to have a mistaken view? For
that matter, what does irrational mean?

I'd think it would mean something like holding a
belief in spite of being presented with "better"
knowledge/arguments. By better, I mean the person
would themselves understand that the knowledge is
indeed better and actively choose not to accept it.
Even there, it might be "rational" to hold on to one's
previous belief and subject the new knowledge (and
one's old knowledge) to some examination before
adopting it since the new information may (will?) have
a lot of implications that one hasn't yet examined.

In the case where a person just refuses to accept a
"better" argument out of an un-examined fear it may be
the "best" response for that person, as the person may
not have the knowledge to fully benefit by taking on
that new information. Then again, maybe it's not
really "better" if the person isn't able to handle it
well.

I think this is going around in circles.... *gets off
the merry-go-round*.

Irrational could mean refusing to accept a
better argument out of fear or for some reason other
than the merits of the argument.

Popper and Falsification


Popper recognized, but dismissed as unimportant,
that every falsification of a conjecture is
simultaneously a confirmation of an opposite
conjecture, and every conforming instance of a
conjecture is a falsification of an opposite
conjecture.

Is this true of Popper? What is the explanation for
this? How is the idea of falsification different from
a complicated version of inductivism? Why not just
call it inductivism with an extra emphasis or focus on
falsification? Or tentative falsification induction?

Wednesday, April 12

Truth and Knowledge

What is truth?
Is it the same as "what is"? Does that make it a tautology? Is it an aspect of reality?
Is it only meaningful to speak of truth in the context of knowledge?
Is truth "knowledge of reality"?
What is knowledge?
Knowledge is the possession of ideas that are true?? Knowledge consists of an idea or ideas that are true?

Sometimes I think of knowledge as a recreation of reality or a "virtual reality". I suppose it could be part of a recreation of reality. That's not exactly accurate as I don't think a physical model of reality would be considered knowledge - unless it's within a brain ... or a computer... or a book.

SOS (Save Our Springs) and Open Government

I started to write about this a while back but I haven't had time to really investigate it.

Council votes to revise amendment language
Representatives from the Save Our Springs Alliance verbally sparred with council members, who predicted that the two measures, if approved, would stymie economic development efforts, restrict the use of programs for affordable housing and solar power, and violate privacy. Supporters said the city's interpretation was inaccurate, dishonest and intended to scare voters.

So which is it?

Actual wording of the amendments:
Save our Springs Charter Amendment
Open Government Online Amendment

Open Government -- Worth our Privacy?

S.O.S. Alliance

Joyful Living and Unschooling

The unschooling philosophy is that people will learn what they need to learn by living life freely and joyfully in an environment that supports who they are and is rich enough for them to both explore their interests and stumble across new interests.

I'm not sure that I agree with this. Even if it were true, the problem then remains with providing an environment that fully supports and is rich enough for a child to really learn what he or she needs to know. In any case, I just wanted to put a link to the site because it does a pretty thorough job of presenting unschooling and how to go about it.

Saturday, April 8

Optimism

Optimism or pessimism shouldn't properly be tied to specific views about economics or psychology. Some reasons for optimism are (1) fallibility - a person's understanding is likely extremely incomplete or wrong, so at any moment more information may help uncover a new good solution (2) creativity - this might be essentiall the same as coming up with new information or a more complete understanding, but I'm thinking of it as looking at the situation from a different perspective completely. One might be looking at the same information with a different hypothesis/theory (3) pessimism might keep one from trying to find or recognizing a solution.

I suppose the last might not be a reason for optimism so much as a reason to remain open to being wrong about pessimism if it were just a matter of recognizing a solution. It's been my experience, though, that my chances of finding a good solution is highly dependent on whether I really look for one. A weird other factor is that I tend to think of a good solution after I've finally fully accepted my bad solution and it worked "ok" but not as well as I would have liked. I suspect that I start out thinking a problem can't be solved and the immediacy of the problem is occupying my mind. Even a bad solution eases stress and frees up my mind enough to really explore those other possibilities, and I'm just stubborn enough to keep looking even after the problem is (badly) solved. It can be frustrating, but luckily the solutions often turn out to be reusable for other situations.

Wednesday, April 5

Questions about Development

What is it?

Positive change, Growth, improvement, the better use of resources, the acquisition of resources

I think it goes further than that. It includes sustained improvement and perhaps even structured improvement.

Economically, it would be about the improvement of production and general availability of goods and services. Socially, it might be about the improvement of relationships - people getting better at interacting well with each other. Political development might be something similar to social development. Is it structured social development? I suppose a society could have an unstructured system of interaction. Does that mean they don't have any political development?

Structure might be a misleading term to use here. When I think of politics, I think of a community coming together to make rules about how they will interact - something that includes enforcement. Social development might be improvement of relationships that are outside the scope of politics. For example, people might hold open a door for the next person or they might not. If there's no law regarding whether people have to do it or not, then it's a social issue. A more socially developed society might tend to hold the door open for the next person.

Then again, law and enforcement doesn't seem totally unrelated. Laws can be difficult to enforce if they are socially unacceptable to a large percentage of the population.

Tuesday, April 4

More about Professor Pianka

It was pointed out to me that there is some controversy as to whether Professor Pianka actually expressed joy, amusement or a wish for the deaths of billions of people by ebola.

I find it interesting also that Mr. Mims of the smiling electrons is an advocate of the creation science "theory" (I don't know if that's the proper scientific term for it). Anyhow, it would be a mild relief to find out that at least one less person (and possibly a whole roomful) don't actually wish for the deaths of 5 billion people - even theoretically.

I'll be curious to see what comes out of this.

The Doomsday Professor and There Are No Electrons

A University of Texas biology professor has been targeted by talk radio, bloggers and vitriolic e-mails — including a death threat — after a published report that he advocated death for most of the population as a means of saving the Earth.

This isn't new to me. I've been well aware of some of the more extreme views in the environmentalist movement. I was a little surprised to read that the professor received a standing ovation for his speech. Still, it didn't merit even an eyebrow raise from me. I guess I've seen too much.

A few others were able to muser a bit more outrage. It does concern me that this professor is speaking to impressionable young people. Most of them will hopefully come to have more empathy for the rest of the human race, but it does worry me that a random nutter might find this just the bit of encouragement and information that is needed.

I don't think one can really live life worrying all the time about the random fringe mass murderer. However, openly reveling in the idea of the deaths of billions of people dying just seems wrong. It's elevating "nature" to a moral ideal and then separating "nature" from "human" - as if humans were outside nature. If someone suggested that some (non-human) animal is overpopulating the world and ought to be wiped out be a disease, I don't think he'd find it quite so funny.

It's like what Shawn Carlson says in his article:
Pianka, however, is an evolutionist who believes that humanity is not part of the natural world. Somehow, the fact our evolution led us to a point whereby we can adapt our environment to our bodies, rather than wait for our bodies to adapt to our environment, puts us in an inferior position in nature.

It occurred to me that maybe he and his students should be made to go help out in places where people are dying of ebola. Then again, perhaps they shouldn't be allowed anywhere near the stuff.

What this whole thing has made me aware of is how easy it is for me to become indifferent about things. I'm really not seriously bothered about what he said. Maybe I should be. I remember thinking such things in my more impressionable youth. I don't think I would have actually been happy about such a thing. Perhaps he and his students wouldn't really be either.

Some might suggest that only a young person could be "excused" for holding such a mixed up belief because as they learn they'll likely give it up and become more "reasonable". A man of the professor's years should know better. Really, though, there is no accounting for what any particular person might know. If the guy's spent most of the last 15 years with animals, he's going to have a different set of knowledge than a guy that's spent them with people. A young person who's been cared for and helped a lot by people, though, is going to be horrified at the idea of people like the ones who've been there for her might die.

Ah well, enough rambling. Just one last thing. If you recognize the name of Forrest Mims - it's because he's the guy that draws the smiling electrons. It's a decent introduction to electronics although I personally found There Are No Electrons: Electronics for Earthlings more amusing.

I'm told the latter doesn't really explain things properly. I wouldn't know as I still haven't got around to finishing either of them.

Thursday, March 23

New Writing Project - Development and Prosperity

In an effort to improve my writing, I've been looking for a longer term project to work on. Coincidentally, I stumbled into a controversy about 9/11 which included some accusations about the World Bank. Right there on the front page was an announcement about a research competition. The theme is Business and Development: The Private Path to Prosperity. It seems perfect - a potentially interesting subject to research, a deadline, and even a potential prize. I don't know whether I'll have time to really do it properly, but I hope to at least get some better writing out of it.

The problem is, well, I've never been particularly good at narrowing down a topic to write. When I had research papers in school, I'd check out every possible book on the subject, skim them all, enthusiastically read some of them and be completely overwhelmed with where to start writing. I'd put it off until about 2 days before it was due. Then, suddenly, the paper would nearly write itself. Then I'd turn it in and generally get an A or a high B - unless I was supposed to have turned in a draft. If I had to turn in drafts and abstracts and other little stuff first, then I'd get points deducted and get a C or maybe even a D.

It seemed as if I wrote better under stress. I suspect that's because I'd stop trying to make it perfect and just put something down. "Just putting something down" worked because I'd done all that reading weeks before. It also occurred to me more recently that maybe it just took me a few weeks of thinking about the new ideas to come up with some sort of coherent viewpoint.

Moving along. I would really like to be able to write something where there was an actual draft, some criticism, some editing, some revisions, and it felt complete. The trick is, still, how to get started.

There's way more information than I could possible read much less analyze. All I can think to do is ask some questions about the topic and see where it leads.

It seems logical to get some understanding of what the theme itself means. I have some notions about it, but it seems like as good a time as any to re-examine them.

I think for now I'll list out the questions and brief first thoughts about them. Later I'll write separate articles about each of them.

What is development?
I'm assuming they mean Economic Development but maybe I shouldn't.

What is business?
A group of people pooling their resources. Sounds a bit like a government.

What is private?
Is business private and government public? Seems like some people consider things like restaurants public. I don't.

What is prosperity?
I think they mean material wealth - like food, clothes, shelter and enough surplus to not have to worry about those things anymore. I wonder if free time is included in a measure of prosperity.

Is there a private path to prosperity?
It depends on the answers to my questions. I suspect that there isn't one for some people. They simply don't have the knowledge and/or resources to become prosperous. Maybe they could acquire that with private help. I'll think more about that later.

Wednesday, March 15

True Lies

CIA front companies identified by the Tribune typically do not list any directors, officers or other employees - usually just a single CEO who, upon
further investigation, appears to have no spouse or family, no mortgage history, no previous addresses, no driver's license or auto registration. In short, no existence.

The company's telephone number, if one is listed, rings at the switchboard at CIA headquarters in northern Virginia, where operators pretend to be an answering service that takes messages for the company's owner, who is perpetually "out of the
office."


It's been a long time since I've seen the movie, but I distinctly remember a scene where the wife tries to call her husband at work and the intelligence agency answers and pretends to be a typical office. It hadn't occurred to me that things were really done that way.
Not having any sort of background on spy work. I assumed that if there were "front companies", they'd actually be real businesses that were a bit less efficient than a normal company.

Warning

The opinions expressed and linked to in this blog are not necessarily mine.

I link to what interests me - not because I agree or disagree with all or part of it. My opinion and knowledge sometimes change very rapidly. I disagree with what I wrote before I can even finish a post. I post anyways. If I only posted the ones where I thought the same thing through the whole post - this would be a blank site.

I write what I think about the topic at that moment given my particular set of knowledge, my particular interest in the topic at that moment, and a variety of other factors (possibly including what I had for dinner). If I waited 5 minutes, I'd write an entirely different article.

Genetic Selfishness and Altruism - Comments

Leo said...

I think it is a HUGE mistake to see selfishness as an opposite characteristic and as an innate one. I actually think that selfishness is more complex to learn than altruism. It is not easy to not care about others.


I must admit, I hadn't thought of this before. I've heard people suggest that it "feels good" to do something for someone else. I thought that this didn't necessarily hold with all people - that some people got no enjoyment out of doing "good" for others. I concluded that some people are conditioned or taught to feel good about doing something for someone else very early on.

I don't have any particularly good reason to think that people are innately selfish.

Leo also said...

If nobody inately has altruism, how is it possible that some people know it so they can teach it to others, where does the knowledge comes from?

Perhaps, originally, someone simply thought of it and tried it out. It brought good results (allowed them to survive) and other people copied the example.

Leo also said...

What decided what gives us pleasure and what doesn't? Can we really control what we feel about things? Can we make ourselves like food we don't like? Much more complex than that smart moral upright author makes it sound like, really. ;)


I think we can change how we feel about things. At least, I've had the experience of my feelings changing about things after my thoughts changed. Sometimes there's a lag between the thoughts and feelings. Sometimes the lag is years. Sometimes I've changed my feelings by exposing myself to particular experiences. I could be very timid and fearful about things as a child. I hated being afraid of things, so I would sometimes purposely expose myself to frightening things. Often, over time, I would stop being afraid of them or become less afraid of them.

I've definitely experienced liking a food that I didn't previously like. I don't know if that's the same as "making" myself like it. It seems that with many foods, I don't like them until I've tasted them a huge number of times. My expectations about them also "flavor" them. There are some foods that I don't think I could make myself like, but it's possible if I mixed them with foods I liked and got used to their flavor. I've become able to enjoy quite a lot more foods now than I used to. I've read that sometimes people's sense of taste becomes less sensitive over time. I also have come to find it more of a hassle to go to social events and not be able to eat, so motivation to have more flexibility (not have to leave events because I'm hungry and can't find food I can stand) could be part of the change. I'll stop this now, as I'm rambling...

Friday, March 10

A gene for altruism?

I don't like just posting a link without comment, but I'm finding it a bit tedious to add them to the sidebar where they tend to get out of date quickly...

Altruism certainly does occur amongst human beings, but it must be taught, and those who display it are only confirming that innate selfish human drives can be overriden with enough instruction.

Thursday, March 9

Is Altruism hard-wired or just learned very early?

The observations of 18 month old human children showing "helping" behavior seems consistent with my experiences with children, but I don't think the observations really support the conclusion that such behavior is hardwired:

"It's been claimed chimpanzees act mainly for their own ends; but in our experiment, there was no reward and they still helped." Altruism might have evolved six million years ago in the common ancestor of chimps and humans, the study suggests.


I don't know all the details of the study, but children can learn quite a lot in that 18 months. Although an average 18 month old may not have a large speaking vocabulary, they do tend to understand quite a lot more than they are yet able to speak.

Even if "helping" isn't rewarded in the study, I would expect that many children are "rewarded" for helping by their parents or other people who take care of them. The parent may be pleased and tend to do more things that the child wants. The child may not be aware of it fully. He just may associate helping with being happier. I don't know that I would consider that being hardwired for altruism so much as being wired in a way such that altruism could easily be learned.

Tuesday, February 28

The Real State of the Union

This guy seems to think we've taken a wrong direction in foreign policy and have our priorities mixed up. I didn't get through all of it nor have I read The State of the Union 2006. I just wanted to get links to them set up for my future reference.

Are you nice?

What does nice mean?

Is it politeness? Is it doing minor good things? Can a person be "nice" and "bad"? Could they generally seem kind to most people and then go off on a murderous rampage? Could they be nice and just not very good?

Wiki says "pleasant, pretty".

A friend says "generous, caring, sensitive".

What does it mean to be generous?

to be continued...

Kinky Friedman for Governor

With a name like that, how could I NOT vote for him?

Seriously, though, I don't even know what I'd want the ideal candidate to believe, so it seems a bit irresponsible on my part to vote at all.

Kinky says pretty clearly what his "issues" are - more money to schools, toward health insurance for poor children, and toward "renewable energy". He also wants to de-emphasize TAKS tests. He doesn't say where the money is to come from or what should be done to make education better or less worse. He doesn't make any argument for why people should think the way he does about the issues. I guess that's someone else's job.

The whole structure of schools seems bad to me. The idea that kids of the same age will necessarily be ready to learn the same things at the same times just seems ridiculous. It's hard to care about specific policies like TAKS when it all seems so messed up. With the bizarre way things are run, I guess I can see where TAKS might have been a serious attempt to help those in the poorest schools. I know that some people think that "money" is what is needed, but that isn't everything. There have been some fantastic teachers who have done well in poorer districts - it had a lot more to do with their attitudes than with how rich their school district was. I guess in the absence of such attitudes, money is the next best thing. Except, it's a poor 2nd place.

For an example of what I mean, check out Marva Collins. Her methods seem rather heavy handed - and yet they have made a huge (positive) difference in the lives of children. Such methods might not be appropriate for every child, but I wonder if they're the only hope for some children.

Tuesday, February 21

Tenacity

In my more recent research (my fancy term for frantically following whatever links and reading whatever articles catch my interest), I ran across something that particularly resonated with some ideas I've thought a lot about in the past.


Leadership without Vision

I'd like to start with a quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald that sums up the essence of leading in an unpredictable market: "The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind, at the same time, and still retain the ability to function."
That's what you have to do as a leader in an unpredictable market. You have to think that you're right to act. You have to know that you're wrong, because all knowledge is provisional, and yet you must act. How do you do that?


It's not only leaders of unpredictable markets who have to act while knowing they're wrong. It's most everyone. Everyone else acts while under the illusion that they aren't wrong. By wrong, I mean that a person's understanding of reality isn't complete and can't be. At best one might have a lot of important things close enough to right to accomplish something good.

How do you go about choosing which of several potential visions of your life is your best option? Can you really have such a vision?

When looking at a far off vision that doesn't quite "work" yet can it help to do indirect things to make your own ability to solve problems better? Shouldn't your "vision" change sometimes according to the knew knowledge and skills you've gained (or come to realize you don't possess and don't care to posses)?

What do you think of the idea when "stuck" of exploring things randomly to get unstuck? Is there a more efficient way to get unstuck? Explore randomly and then apply it to the current situation?

The article goes on to talk about criticism - how it's needed and yet difficult to accept. One thing that has come to mind is that fear is a big part of the problem - fear that you won't be able to cope with your new "improved" vision, or understanding, of reality. There may be good reasons for this fear. It may take skills and knowledge and abilities you don't think you have. Then what?

So at its heart, the key to leading in an unpredictable world, is tenacity. It's about never mistaking an interim defeat for final defeat. It's about never confusing a victory with ultimate victory. It's about keeping going, keeping learning, keeping revising, and knowing if you go at it long enough, you can win.

I have thought of tenacity as sticking with something and accomplishing it or continuing to try whether that something is good or not. I imagine it being like a guy persistently beating his head on a wall to knock it down. It might be tenacious, but is it good?

Professor Sull's description is a bit different. It combines stick-to-it-ness with learning and revising. The guy things about bringing in some heavy machinery or some dynamite but then he remembers that the point of his effort was to get to the other side of the wall and walks around it.

Monday, February 20

What Do You Care What Other People Think?

Do you say what you think people want to hear? Do you do things to please them?

Do you relish in saying that which they don't want to hear? In doing what they don't want you to do?

Or are you indifferent to what people think?

Should anyone care what people think?

-----------
Early on as a parent, I had the idea that if I wanted to do a good job of bringing up my kids, I ought to know something about the parenting of particularly "good" people. At the time, by good I meant having one or more of the following qualities: productiveness, creativity, inventiveness, courage, intelligence, honesty.

Although I didn't think of it explicitly at the time, I think I would have included "famous". I didn't mean that I necessarily wanted my children to be famous. I think I inadvertantly linked famous with being particularly good.

I did a bit of research on the childhoods of a few famous people. I learned some very interesting things although I only read about two people before abandoning the project. I'll try to say more about the limited results I came across sometime.

I still have a certain fascination for knowing about the childhoods of people and especially "good" people although my description of "good" would be a bit different these days.

One of my favorite readings of this type was What Do You Care What Other People Think? by Richard Feynman.

I picked it up because I recognized his name as a scientist and noticed that most of the books about or by him had humorous titles. His father apparently planned for him to be a scientist all along and went about making it happen in some very interesting ways.

As for the question... it was really the motivator for this post and reminded me about the book. In the book, it's part of the story with his first wife. She comes across as intelligent, creative, inventive, and as someone who had a wicked sense of humor...

Monday, February 13

War is Over (Happy Christmas) - Warning (Link points to some disturbing images)

For those sensitive about imagery, I found another no graphic version of the song.

I know it's well past Christmas, but this song has been on a continous loop lately in my brain. Some people find it annoying to repeat a song over and over like this in their mind. I usually enjoy it. I think of it as a song craving. The only problem sometimes is finding the song I want to hear.

Happy Christmas was one such song craving. I looked all over online for a version of it to listen to. I didn't know what the lyrics were all about. I just thought it sounded sort of sad and a bit optimistic too. It seemed exactly how I tend to feel about the holiday. It's really not my favorite holiday.

As soon as I did a search, I realized the song had more to the title - War is Over. It took a little longer than usual, but I finally dug up a link where I could listen to the whole song to my heart's content. As usual when I'm satisfying a song craving, I looked up the lyrics too so I could sing along. (I really do love to sing and listening to a song several times is a good way to learn it).

Between the video and the lyrics, I found it a bit overwhelming. I couldn't watch it all at first. Then I thought that if the people in the videos could endure living it, I owed it to them to not avoid it. I understand that some people who are particularly visual can't seem to shut off such images. I can, though, so I don't really have an excuse.

I have long been opposed to appealing to emotion in persuasion. I've come to think lately, though, that there's a difference between relying on emotion as an argument and taking an emotion into account when making a decision. Avoiding images like that, for me, would be failing to take important information into account.

Thursday, February 2

YOU can become a legally ordained clergy member

You can become an ordained member of the Spiritual Humanist clergy for FREE right now! As a legally ordained clergy member you can legally perform religious ceremonies and rituals like weddings, funerals, benedictions, etc.

I normally have a strong aversion to this style of advertising, but the product struck me as funny.

On an almost entirely unrelated note, it reminded me of a commercial prepared by a group in my high school Economics class.

The class was divided into groups and assigned the task of coming up with an advertisment which we then recorded on video. We could make up our own products or services to advertise. The idea was to demonstrate some marketing techniques.

The group tied with ours for the best in class. Personally, I didn't think their skill was in their presentation so much as it was in creating their "service provider" - Fast Freddie's Funeral Home. It's been a long time since I watched it, but from what I remember, the commercial looked a bit like the outside of a drive-thru restaurant. The customer drove up and was able to view and pay his respects to his beloved deceased, all without leaving the comfort of his vehicle.

Our group picked a perfectly mundane sounding name and made a commercial in a slapstick style similar toWhere's the Beef? I was a bit skeptical when they started talking about a chicken suit and such a mundane sounding name for a restaurant, but I couldn't argue with the results. It turned out to be quite a laugh, and we had a lot of fun making it:

Scene 1:
Narrator: "At some restaurants the food isn't quite right."
(Customer holds up piece of rubber "chicken" and looks less than enthusiastic about eating it.)

Scene 2:
At some restaurants, the food takes just a little long. "Come here you!!" "Squawk" (Butcher running around chasing chicken - person in a costume - around with a large knife).

Scene 3:
I can't remember this part very well, but basically a happy customer is sitting down to a yummy looking cooked chicken dinner and the narrator talks about the great service.

It ends with a cut back to the cook from other restaurant:
"At Texas Fried Chicken, at least it ain't still kickin'." (Holding chicken and knife):
Chicken: "Squawk!"

Wednesday, February 1

Would the Real First Amendment please stand up?

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

It was very recently brought to my attention that the First Amendment, by it's own wording, doesn't restrict local school districts, governments, or state government from establishing or prohibing religion, prohibiting free speech, etc.

I remember being taught in one class that the original constitution was generally meant to set the structure and establish limits on the Federal government, but it didn't occur to me - or the teacher as far as I could tell - to apply this to the First Amendment.

Why is it, then, that I have this impression that the First Amendment has been used by the Supreme Court to restrict prayer in schools?

Tuesday, January 31

A child's thoughts on God...

If God was needed to create everything, then who created God? You'd need another God to create God and another to create that God. That doesn't make sense. There can't be a God. If God was real, God would have to make sense.

Monday, January 30

Which Ten Commandments?

As part of my general research into morality, including religious theories about it, I thought it would be good to look up the Ten Commandments and look at the text of them for myself.

I was surprised to find that that the commandments don't obviously break down into ten commandments. At least, the text could be broken down in a number of ways, but it's not obvious that it's 10 ways much less which 10 ways. I could see ways to group the ideas into somewhere between 8 and 12 commandments.

According to this particular article, Protestants, Catholics, and Jews each break them up differently. It might not matter much if they are all worded the same way or essentially mean the same things. Also, it might have actually seemed "obvious" to Moses and the people of his culture. Except his "culture" due to his upbringing was partly Egyptian... It just seems odd to give a number at all.

Exodus 20:
2 I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:
5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;
6 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
7 Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:
10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:
11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
12 Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.
13 Thou shalt not kill.
14 Thou shalt not commit adultery.
15 Thou shalt not steal.
16 Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.
17 Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's.


Further references:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ten_Commandments
http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_10co.htm

Saturday, January 28

What does a baby know?

While out at a restaurant one night, I heard a baby crying. By the sound of the crying, I knew the baby had to be not much older than newborn. I tried to explain to my companion how I could tell. The cry was unrestrained. An older baby's cry sounds intentional. I don't know if that's actually the difference.

I watched the baby for a bit to see if I could tell anything else about him/her. The parent showed the baby a stuffed toy and attached it to the carrier. The baby waved his/her arm around a bit and sucked a fist, confirming that he/she wasn't very old. I can't remember exactly when a typical baby tends to intentionally grasp objects, but I think it's around 3 to 4 months. How it is that some newborn babies can get their fist or thumb to their mouth and yet seem unaware of their hands?

Thursday, January 26

Happy Birthday!

I don't think she reads this, so I'll post it elsewhere for her eyes later. I remember the day she was born. I was ten years old and my oldest sister woke me up to tell me that my Mom had gone to the hospital late the night before and that the baby might have even been born by now. Not long after, we found out that we had a new baby sister. We all cheered and were very happy about the news as our youngest brother's antics had us all hoping for a girl.

I remember visiting her at the hospital and thinking she was one of the prettiest babies I'd seen. I remember little bits about holding her, changing her diapers, feeding her, bathing her, teaching her to bathe herself, teaching her the alphabet, how to count to ten in Spanish, how to pout more effectively... "Your lip isn't quite sticking down low enough. Do it like this."

She remembers me teaching her to read and more Spanish. She's still a fanatical reader and is quite sure I am responsible for it. I don't remember teaching her to read. I didn't know I even knew how to do that then, but I can believe that my enthusiasm for it might have rubbed off on her a little.

Anyhow, now she's got her own little ones to look after, and it's making me feel very old.

Passenger's Log Part 2

More bits about my trip to the coast. I'm afraid I'm not so good at retelling things like this and I realize it's probably boring to most. I had fun, though, so I want to post about it so I can remember it better later.

Saturday, January 16, 2006
12.10 Having lunch (ham and cheese sandwiches, chips, and lemonade or punch).

13.50-16.00
Playing on the beach. The weather was perfect for shorts or long pants and a tshirt - sunny and windy. The water was very cold but not too cold for splashing around a bit.

I touched a jelly fish. Someone said it was called a "cabbage head" and that it had such a mild sting that it would be ok to touch. A few of the boys touched one lightly at first and then picked them up to play with.

Eventually, I worked up the courage to try it myself. Although it looked very slimey, it felt somewhat rough and firm and not unpleasant. Later, another fellow me to make sure we washed our hands carefully after touching them because they give off a mild poison that might cause a rash. I handled a lot of sand in helping to get a castle started, so I wasn't too worried. I washed them later, though, just to be safe. I never noticed any symptoms from it.

16.50
Opening Ceremony
I don't know if that's what it's called but the "drill master" guy talked to us a bit about the plan for the evening. Dinner, tours of the ship, movies, an evening ceremony, free time, ghost stories, and lights out.

I was so hungry and tired from the beach time that I think dinner tasted extra good. It was some sort of chicken casserole and cake. There were veggies too but I didn't pay much attention to them. I noticed as I was waiting in line for dinner that I had quite a sunburn. I've had worse, but I was a bit annoyed with myself for not bothering to pack sunscreen.

I really enjoyed wandering around looking at things below deck - in the engine room. I had to go through it pretty quickly, so I didn't get to see as much as I'd like. I was amazed to see that there was a dentist, a chapel, and a lot of other things you might expect to see in a small town.

The movie was interesting. It started off with a view of the pack of a plane/jet as a pilot is taking off with it and going vertical and then upside down (at least it looks that way). It reminded me of a roller coaster only faster, higher, and more exciting. Then it went onto show the "final training" some pilots get.

The evening ceremony was about as I expected. Patriotic music and pictures.

I didn't have much interest in hearing the "ghost stories", but I thought they might be mildly entertaining, so I found a seat near the back of the darkened room. The same drill master was the story teller. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the stories really seemed to be a sneaky way of giving a bit of history about the ship while adding a bit of excitement and fun to the telling. It amazed me how many people had died in accidents on board.

Finally, it was time to go to bed. I climbed up to my bunk and then realized there was no rail. I thought it unlikely that I'd actually roll off as I'm an extremely light sleeper and have slept on top bunks before, but I was a bit nervous about how narrow they were. Even if I didn't roll off, I knew I'd worry about it all night and get even less sleep. I wasn't thrilled with the idea of sleeping in a lower bunk. I dislike close spaces although I can tolerat them if I have to. I looked around at the other bunks and realized that it was just my one that was missing a rail. I looked around and found another top bunk.

Another woman came in after me and seemed terrified of getting in a lower bunk due to claustrophobia. She apologized to me about it. I sympathized with her and offered her my bunk. She declined and eventually settled in. I eventually fell asleep but then woke up to a crash. I wasn't sure if I'd dreamed it though because then it was relatively silent. I wondered if I'd bumped my rail or if someone else had. There were a lot of little noises with so many people sleeping in the same area. It took me a long time to fall asleep again and then I found I kept waking up. It really wasn't any worse than any other time I sleep in a strange bed, but I was relieved when it was morning and I could finally get up.
originally composed January 21, 2006

Friday, January 20

On being mother to a wanna-be soldier

Leo said...

I am not sure if I would be right to discourage him, but I would tell him how I felt about it. I would make sure he was well informed and that he knew exactly what he was doing. Perhaps I'll even find him some veterans to meet.

If my child really decided to be a soldier I would tell him he had an obligation not only not to hurt but to help innocent people.

If my child died in war I cannot predict how I would react, but I guess the right thing would be honoring him as a proper hero and not make him a victim...

Thursday, January 19

I Don't Wanna Be a Soldier Mamma


Well,
I don't wanna be a soldier mama,
I don' wanna die,


I'm currently listening to this groovy tune by John Lennon. It's very repetitive, the lyrics are simple, but it's a funky bluesy type song that I can't help wanting to move around to. I love dancing although I don't usually do it around other people.

This song has been stuck in my head for the last few days. I've mentioned this on my Livejournal before, but the best way I've found to "cure" that problem is to listen to the song several times in a row. I think digging up the lyrics and getting to know the song pretty well helps too.

I think it's particularly timely after my visit to the Lexington this weekend. I'll try to write more about it soon before I forget it all. It was weird hearing the presenters talk about "missions" and realizing that the mission really meant dropping bombs and killing people purposely.

I found it a bit hard to stomach really. I am not anti-war, but I neither am I very enthusiastic about it. Still, I loved being on board. I was amazed at all the comforts available on board such an old ship - and of course by all the knobs, switches, and buttons. It meant a lot to me to stand on the runway on top and look out at the sea.

I think what I like about weapons and ships and machinery is the logic, the beauty of design, and the power - the power to change the destiny of mankind. I know, it probably sounds cheesy, but there it is.

Back to the song. I've tried to imagine what I'd do if my son intended to be a soldier. My first thought was to take him as far away from any such temptation as possible. Next I thought of telling him all about the horrors of war. What if I did my best to discourage him from it and made all the best anti-war arguments or at least the best arguments for not being one of the ones who offers his life for some "greater good".

What if he wanted to do it anyways? What if the worst happened? I'd live, I guess. I'd encourage him to make damn sure he was certain it was the best thing he could do with his life. I know there are people who seem to thrive off doing very dangerous things and seem happiest when doing such things. Is that sane??

I wondered if I'd go in his place. I read in some spam mail that there are some grannies offering to do just that - go to war so their grandsons can come home and live. Of course, I don't think they don't mean it. Besides, a young healthy person probably has more chance of coming back alive, but they also have more "potential years" to lose.

What if they did it though? Would you die for your grandson? Would you risk it? Would I?


Well,
I don't wanna be a sailer mama,
I don't wanna fly,

Well,
I don't wanna be a faliure mama,
I don't wanna cry,

Well,
I don't wanna be a soldier mama,
I don't wanna die,

Oh no,
Oh no,
Oh no,
Oh no,

Well,
I don't wanna be a rich man mama,
I don't wanna cry,

Well,
I don't wanna be a poor man mama,
I don't wanna fly,

Well,
I don't wanna be lawyer mama,
I don't wanna lie,

Well,
I don't wanna be a soldier mama,
I don' wanna die,

Oh no,
Oh no,
Oh no,
Oh no,
Oh no,
Oh no,

Well,
I don't wanna be a beggar mama,
I don't wanna die,

Well,
I don't wanna be a thief now mama,
I don't wanna fly,

Well,
I don't wanna be a church man mama,
I don't wanna cry,

Well,
I don't wanna be a soldier mama,
I don't wanna die,

Oh no,
Oh no,
Oh no,
Oh no

Wednesday, January 18

Tuesday, January 17

Passenger's Log - Part 1

Sunday, January 16, 2005 A log of my experiences on the USS Lexington also known as The Blue Ghost.

10.50
After 3.50 hours of travel from Austin, we're nearing a tall bridge. To the right, just past the bridge, we can see a huge ship - the USS Lexington. It takes us a while to figure out which turns to take to actually get to the loading/unloading area.

10.75
We're gathered near the entrance ramp to the ship with several other Boy Scout and Cub Scout groups.

11.00
Our "drill master" had us line up along either side of him and instructed us on the Ship Rules:

Tie your shoes.
Keep your shirts tucked in.
Keep your hands out of your pockets.
(Hands might be needed to break a fall. Eight inches of steel can knock out teeth in a fall and he mentioned a kid in Houston who's now missing his.)
Strike the following words from your vocabulary: "yeah", "huh", and "what".
Address adults with "yes sir, no sir, yes ma'am, no ma'am".

Consequences:
Disobedience means being added to the list of uglies who would be providing 5 minutes of entertainment for the staff after the closing ceremony doing the "ugly dance".

No electronic devices except for cell phones. (See him about where it is safe to plug in cell phones).
(A humorous command to let him know before plugging chargers into room outlets as he and his ship mates hadn't seen a phone smoke in a year).

He also mentioned a bit about the upcoming events. Lunch, a gathering at 16.50, dinner, a movie, tours, and ghost stories.

A few of our group was late arriving, so he held off sending us in until everyone else had settled in. In the meantime, he chatted with us and kept us fairly entertained.

The beach looked inviting - the continuous crashing waves, the wind, the sand, and the sun. I regretted leaving my beach gear behind in Austin. I looked forward to at least splashing around at the edge with my children.

11.50
Eventually, we had to line up again and go through the indoctrination for the sake of the late arrivals.

We lined up again, ladies first, to walk up the long ramp to the ship. I noticed an eerie "whooooo" sound as we walked up. I guessed the pipe-like side rails and strong wind had something to do with it. It added an interesting melancholy atmosphere to the ship.

12.00
Waiting in the chow line below deck.

We stowed our gear in lockers and set up our sleeping bags in our bunks. I claimed a top one since I wasn't sure I'd be able to relax in the enclosed space of a middle or bottom bunk.

I was pleasantly surprised by the bathroom. It was reasonably clean and modern looking.

... to be continued

Saturday, January 14

Respect

Respect is the attitude of acknowledging the feelings and interests of another party in a relationship, and of treating as consequential for the self the helping or harming of the other....

Respect is sometimes loosely used as a synonym for politeness or manners, though these are behaviours, whereas respect is an attitude. Intercultural differences in behaviours, self perception and outward appearance may result in the unintentional appearance of disrespect.


When I was very young, I remember adults trying to teach me to respect my elders. It didn't make any sense to me.

I thought respect should be earned. Someone who was dishonest with me, didn't listen to me seriously, or expected me to believe things that they couldn't explain to my satisfaction generally didn't have my respect. Many adults - sometimes the very ones who demanded respect the loudest - seemed petty, dishonest, and mean - certainly not people I should look up to. Other adults who said such things just seemed to be a bit naive - thinking that all adults were worthy of respect.

Respect, to me, meant thinking someone was good and right about things (and nice, a kind of goodness). It meant I listened seriously to what they had to say and considered it before making up my own mind about it. It meant that I took their word in the best possible way. It didn't mean I would agree with them or comply with their wishes if I thought it wrong to. It meant that I'd give them the benefit of the doubt.

It was a self-centered way of thinking about it. It didn't occur to me to "help" them out of respect for them although I did tend to want to help people I felt respect for.

Obedience was a different issue. I was willing to be generally obedient to adults who fed and clothed me so long as it wasn't harmful to someone else - even if I didn't have respect for them. Perhaps it was a degree of respect or appreciation.

Judging how some people use respect, I thought that they really meant "agreement" or at least "pretended agreement".

I think if someone had clearly distinguished "respect" from "politeness" and suggested the latter, it might have made more sense to me.

It didn't occur to me to earn the respect of others. Of course, I wanted to be listened to and considered seriously. I didn't think of it as "respect" toward me. It didn't occur to me that I hadn't earned it. I think that I saw myself as honest and as good as I knew how to be. Maybe, implicitly, I felt like I had earned it, but it seemed that I wasn't given it by some people - people who seemed to think that children, by default, shouldn't be treated respectfully. Children generally weren't treated with respect - even when they appeared to have earned it.
created 1/13/06

Friday, January 13

In reference to my little jab about burying one's head...

Leo said...
The warning is too abstract to be helpful and can be misunderstood as an insult.

If you have the skills and can help people with their problems or help people understand why they can't solve their problems it might be better to do just that than drop those maxims.

12:33 PM

Well said.

Reflections on Happiness

The site is a bit odd to navigate, so I can't figure out how to link to the exact article I am referring to here. It's near the bottom of the list of articles on Self-Esteem:

There is a tendency for most people to explain feelings of happiness or unhappiness in terms of the external events of their lives. They explain happiness by pointing to the positives; they explain unhappiness by pointing to the negatives. The implication is that events determine whether or not they are happy...

The more I studied and thought about other happy people I encountered, the more clear it became that happy people process their experiences so that, as quickly as possible, positives are held in the foreground of consciousness and negatives are consigned to the background. This is essential to understanding them.


In contrast to my snarky bit about avoiding one's problems, one could instead choose positive experiences to dwell on that help one be most creative and able to cope with the negatives. This doesn't mean ignoring those problems, but it might mean prioritizing differently.

I suspect that this might carry over to dealing with other people as well. It may be more important to nurture a person's good qualities and encourage them than to criticize their faults.

Sunday, January 8

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte - Getting Started

I don't have much time to read fiction, but a dear friend gave it to me, so I'm making my way through it slowly.

Her style has some understatement and vagueness. She also uses so many words to describe things that I lose track of what she's talking about sometimes. The vocabulary, while mostly understandable to me, still has enough unusual words in it that I think I may be missing out on some of the meaning. I don't generally like to interrupt the flow of a story to look up words, so it gets a bit frustrating at times. On the positive side, when I do manage to get the meaning of some long-winded passage, it can feel a bit like having solved a puzzle - something I tend to enjoy.

Thursday, January 5

Religion is a closed system

Sadiq M. Alam said...
It is a wrong conception of Religion mostly laid down from the control of church that make the religion closed. Religion was never meant to be closed, rather it is suppose to liberate human being.

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http://wahiduddin.net/hik/hik_sufism_heart.htm

http://wahiduddin.net/mv2/VII/VII_2.htm

thanks,
http://mysticsaint.blogspot.com

I'm sorry to say I don't have time to look at all these links right now, but I wanted to save them here in a post for future reference. I look forward to checking them out.

I agree that some religions can be fairly open to new understandings of truth in many ways. However, most have at least a few fundamental "truths" which are supposed to be accepted. Not all of them are the same from one religion to another or even within one branch of a religion and another. Most religions include a supernatural God as part of those accepted beliefs and try to claim to have their God's support in their beliefs.

I don't mean to be disrespectful, but I'm skeptical that you or anyone else really knows what was "intended" by the invention of religion or modern religion. There are many differing views of what a religion is.

That said, it doesn't matter what religion intends so much as what it does. Religion having the "intent" to liberate doesn't mean it actually does liberate people. It has contributed to both liberation and oppression of people.

What does matter is that people are open minded and seek truth and goodness. Religion is a distraction. It might have protected us from the idea that people can't know anything but it also takes the focus away from figuring out what's good and puts it on "what some deity or text says is true and good".

By open minded, I mean a person is willing to give up ANY belief if there is good cause to think it wrong. In addition, I would suggest that it means that a person would have a personal commitment to actively challenging each of of their own beliefs - especially the ones they feel most reluctant to give up.

It could be that it isn't actually good for everyone to be so open minded. Maybe we need some people to just dig in and do the conventional thing because if we're ALL sitting around thinking and working out the best ideas, we'd all starve...