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.

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:

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).

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.

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

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?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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.

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

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".

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.

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.

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 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.

I welcome u to read from this site:



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...

Tuesday, January 3

Monday, January 2

Jurors make minimum wage (almost)

Today, juror pay across Texas will increase for the first time in 51 years, from the state minimum of $6 to $40 a day after the first day of service, matching the rate paid by the federal courts. Jurors will continue to receive $6 for their first day of service.

I was telling someone about the extremely low compensation jurors receive here. It seemed like an unfair burden for low income people. It hadn't occurred to me that people could simply ignore the summons. $40 still isn't quite minimum wage for an 8 hour work-day, but at least it's close.

New Year's Resolutions for 2006

The problem with making resolutions is that there are so many things I'd like to accomplish and so little time and energy I have with which to do them. I have a few ideas about how to get more out of this process this year.

Create a to-do list. Complete tasks and add tasks daily and either take off or roll over incomplete tasks.

Write out a list of things you'd like to accomplish. Don't analyze them or criticize them while writing them out. Criticism has a way of inhibiting creativity.

What things need to happen first? Which can be put off? Which can make it easier to accomplish other things? Pick one (or a very few) to work on at a time.

Determine concretely what it means to have met a particular goal
If you want to work on your singing, does that mean practicing 10 minutes a day? Being able to sing a particular song? Join a choir?

Consider alternative ways to satisfy your goals
You might dream of being a great actor but in reality find that you don't want to deal with the financial difficulties that can go along with being as-yet-undiscovered actor. Perhaps you can satisfy that desire by joining a local theater.

Break down long term goals into short term tasks
If you have time and the motivation to map out all the tasks, that's fine, but it's ok to simply identify a first task and work on the rest later.

Schedule the tasks and shorter term goals
Decide when you're going to work on each thing. If it's a long list. Pick a few to start with and perhaps add the "task" of scheduling more at another specific time.

Combine items
If you want to spend more time with your family and get more exercise, plan to take an evening walk or swim together a few times a week.

Make plans to evaluate your progress and make corrections and additions
People change. Priorities change. You may decide some things aren't really so important after all and that you completely forgot to include something important.
Schedule time for this periodically (daily, weekly, monthly, depending on your needs). Write it in on your calendar and treat it like an appointment.

Don't expect to get it all done
The idea is to help yourself get more of what you want done, not beat yourself up about what you haven't done. If you can't get to something one day (or year), maybe you can roll it over to next year.

Put up signs and reminders
The fridge, the coffee table, your purse or wallet, a sticky note on the edge of your monitor and anywhere else you might look frequently can be a good place to put your reminders.

At risk of revealing more about myself than anyone wants to know, I've included a few of my potential resolutions:

Research Secular Humanism and meet some humanists.
Research Unitarian Universalists and meet some.
Develop a habit of exercising 3 times per week with family and friends.
Develop a habit of eating more fruits and veggies (with a goal of 5 per day).
Research the Ten Commandments and be able to describe and explain them.
Study my electronics book and be able to explain the concepts in it and demonstrate them with hands on projects.
Build a working robot.
Write daily.
Improve my skill in drawing - practice with the drawing without a model book and with portraits and occasional models.
Learn 10 guitar chords. Learn 2 songs.
Learn 10 piano chords. Learn 2 songs.
Practice singing daily for at least 5 minutes. Write one song with a simple guitar chord background (perhaps a holiday piece).
Clear clutter out of the house.
Assign spots for all items in the house.
Refinance the house.
Give more attention and time to family and close friends.