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.

Thursday, September 4

Back to School

I recently attended Back-to-School Night at my child's High School as I'm sure many parents around the country are doing these days.

Since each kid has multiple classes and teachers, the schools have determined the most efficient way to meet all your child's teachers is to have the parents "attend" each class in the same order that your child would - complete with bells at the beginning and end of each mini-class period. This was quite an interesting experience the first time. I don't remember whether my high school had such a thing. If they did, my parents never attended, to my knowledge.

It took roughly 2 hours to go through all 7 classes. In each class, the teacher has a sign in sheet where you put your name, your student's name, your phone and your email address so they teacher can contact you if needed. The teacher then goes over a brief summary of what they're going to be teaching, how things are graded, and some tips on how to help your child be successful in the class. It's a bit tiring going through all those classes after a long day's work.

Overall, I was impressed. The teachers seemed to really care about the kids and obviously had put some thought into making the subjects more appealing and relevant to young people than I remember school being. Even the coaches seemed "nicer" than I remembered them being in school.

Wandering the halls got me to thinking about my own memories of high school. My high school was quite different in its layout. Instead of walking down halls, we generally walked outside, in the open air, between buildings. I don't know how the kids can stand being cooped up in one building most of the day.

I loved it when we'd have a good downpour. The walkways would turn to streams and there was no way you were getting to class dry. I'm not sure why I loved it so - other than it being a break in the routine.

As frustrating and boring as it sometimes was to be in school, I found myself missing it. Missing a time when my biggest responsibility was getting a paper turned in or taking a test. And deeply regretting the years in high school when I was obsessed with my long distance boyfriend instead of relaxing and enjoying the people right in front of me. I'm hoping my kid will be able to better than I did - to make good friends and cherish them and to just enjoy life as it comes.

Saturday, July 26

On Parenting

I don't write a lot about it here. It seems odd since it's a subject at the top of my list of most important things to understand and to do well.

I have been reluctant to violate the privacy of my children and, frankly, not sure I wanted to expose my ignorance on this subject to the world.

Of course, immediately upon writing that, I realize it is completely inconsistent with the rest of my writing. I don't mind admitting my ignorance on a host of other subjects - politics, economics, etc. Why is parenting so sacred?

Well, for one, it's personal. If I make a mistake in politics, and all I do is vote periodically, then the worst that can happen is that my incorrect vote will hopefully be drowned out by the votes of many others.

If I raise my children wrong, however, then it's all my fault. Err. Never realized I thought about it quite that way.

The point is, I realize that just like politics, I might learn more in the process of writing about it, and getting the occasional criticism than if I kept it all to myself.

Besides, at the least, I can find interesting other articles and blogs about parenting and share my thoughts on those - without violating my children's' privacy.

So here's the blog that inspired me to finally consider blogging about parenting: Mama Specific Productions

Also, this post in Black Domestic Goddess really cracks me up.

Friday, July 18

Leaving the world a better place

In browsing around the blogs of some fellow atheists, I ran across one whose writing philosophy and general philosophy of life caught my attention as being a bit like my own.

Generally, I do whatever I do with some eye towards making myself and the world better. Sometimes the details of life distract me and even overwhelm me, but it's always there...

Why am I creating this blog?

Ultimately, it is because I want to leave the world better than it would have been if I were not here.

Introduction - Making the World a Better Place

Knowing what is better has proved to be a very difficult problem to solve. In fact, I'm not entirely certain it is solvable by me - or even by one individual. Knowledge can be quite difficult to achieve and my thoughts are ever changing, updating, to take in the next bit of information and experience. In fact, I state this in my warning. I don't state it in quite the same way and I left off how my writing process works when I do edit (and yes, occasionally, I do manage to edit without completely stripping everything I said and still manage to publish the post).


I’m sorry about the editing problems. I just run out of time. You see, when I go to edit a post, I usually end up rewriting it. I remove all of the old mistakes (because I simply block off whole sections of text and delete them) but introduce new mistakes in their wake. At the end of the day, when I am finishing up my post, my head is typically bouncing off the desk as I fall asleep at the keyboard. That has something of an adverse effect on quality. I’m sorry about that.

1000 Posts and Birthday

It's nice to know I'm not the only one who runs into that problem. This fellow seems better educated, at least formally, than I have been. Which leads me to another train of thought which I sometimes toy with and am thinking about pursuing more actively.

The idea is that perhaps the problem of "better" is too big a problem for me to solve and therefore, I shouldn't spend too much time on it. I've only got one life, as far as I know, and is the pursuit of truth the only thing I want out of it? Don't I want to enjoy it? Experience it? Just live? How? Which way?

I think about Socrates' wife sometimes, and his children. What must it have been like for her? As a woman in those times, she would have been totally dependent on a man for her care, and he failed her - so he could pursue knowledge. It may have been wonderful for the rest of humanity, it may have launched humanity into a whole new, greater level of existence in the long run, but what good did that do her? Or his children? They lived a life of poverty when, if she'd married a different man, she might have had more from life, both in material possessions and in care. Even if Socrates' wasn't one to provide her a good living, he also failed to provide her with companionship, with caring, with love. At least, that's what one would guess given his apparent neglect of his family.

Would he have been "better" as a person, if he'd taken care of his family? What would that have done to his ideas? Would they have been more mediocre? More of the same? Or would he have taken them even further - by making them practical, practicable, useful to his wife? We'll never know.

For me, a lot of the everyday things are quite difficult. Oh, sure, I "can" cook passably, sew, write a simple program, mow a yard, get kids ready for school, and quite a few other little household things. What I find difficult, mostly, is making myself do them.

I wonder if that's what happened with Socrates. Perhaps he lacked motivation and self-discipline, but he was clever and could get a crowd of other men to listen to him and make him feel better about his failings. His wife may have had more moral character than he did, in that respect. I wonder what she would have to say on that subject.

Tuesday, July 1

Question of the Day: Have you laughed today?

Ok, another not-so-profound question wrote itself. I wonder if this is going to be a pattern. I have certainly giggled today but am sorry to say I haven't quite worked up to a full out guffaw about anything. However, this one got a chuckle..

Q: How do you tell the difference between a liberal and a conservative?
A: Easy. Watch a man drowning fifty feet offshore.

The conservative will throw out 25 feet of rope and shout "swim for it!"

The liberal will toss out 50 feet of rope, drop his own end, and go off to do another good deed.

Monday, June 30

Question of the day: Do you like my hat?

I had hoped to think of something more profound, but the question seemed to type itself out before I could think of something else.

I'm curious to know how many people recognize where the question comes from.

The question is part of my psyche after countless hours of reading "Go, Dog, Go!" to my daughter. I picked up the book because it was on a recommended reading list for beginning readers, and I was in the process of teaching her to read.

At first, I was a bit put off by the endless repetition and utter silliness. This review by Amazon changed my mind.

As a kid, I used to find the usual greetings quite meaningless. People seemed to ask "How are you?" and folks always answered, "Fine."

I never heard anyone say anything else. No one ever said, "Rotten. Terrible. Awful." It just seemed a routine. No one really seemed to actually care about the answer.

On the surface, "Do you like my hat?" seems quite similar in its meaninglessness.

Except, in the book, the answer is always negative "No. I do not like that hat."

It reminded me of how I always wanted to answer, "I feel terrible. How about you?"

Finally, at the end, the hat question gets a different answer. I found the end amazingly satisfying. It's not, "Fine," or "Yes," it's "Yes. I like that party hat." After all the no's and negatives, it was meaningful to hear a positive response.

Tuesday, June 24

I'm 36

I don't know why, but I'm disappointed with it. I guess I haven't quite let go of the idea that my birthday ought to be a national holiday of some sort. I don't necessarily like parties - all that attention turned on me at once. I do like "some" attention though. But I think I keep hoping for something else - something that has rarely happened. The closest I've come to having that was my 17th birthday.

The mother of my then boyfriend made me a homemade chocolate cake. His siblings gave me little presents (odd, unidentifiable, stuffed animals from their collections). Nothing fancy, but genuine - something a little beyond the everyday - but not too much. Not that I don't enjoy some extravagance sometimes. My 16th birthday was like that. A group of friends arranged for a clown (to my complete embarrassment and delight) and then we walked over together to a dance. It did make me feel special - cared for.

I've had "nice" ones since then - mostly when I've arranged for them myself. I just haven't had the energy to do much about them the last few years. I had meant to do something this year, but somehow it snuck up on me.

I used to take the day off, but I'm using up my vacation pretty fast this year. I'm trying to save a little for later. Ah well, it might be a good time to reflect on my New Year's resolution. My resolution is very very simple this year - self-discipline. I want to develop a backbone. Do what I say I will or don't say it. That kind of thing. It didn't seem like much happened at all the first month or so but I kept thinking about it and making little changes. Progress is starting to accelerate. I thought it might. It's like an analogy I heard... something about moving a flywheel. It can take a lot of effort to get it started, but if you keep at it, little by little, it gets moving - and then it takes off with its own momentum and far less effort than it took to get started. I was hoping self-discipline would work that way. So far, it seems to. We'll see.

Maybe I should have a "Birthday Resolution" as well. Nothing leaps out as an obvious need right at the moment. Self-discipline seemed to be the "root" of my lack of progress in all other areas.

Maybe a birthday resolution should be a sort of gift to myself. Less of a "make myself do something" and more of a "I'm going to let myself ...." It should be something good for me, of course. No point in taking up something self-destructive.

What do I most want to do? Guitar lessons? Bungie Jumping? Singing lessons? Drawing lessons? (I sense a theme of wanting to learn here although the bungie jumping is... jumping out at me). I've always wanted to jump out of a perfectly good plane. I find it difficult sometimes to be in high places. On the one hand, I can be afraid of falling. On the other hand, I find myself wondering what it would feel like to free fall... wanting to take a running jump off the edge. Not that I want to hit the ground or die or anything. It's the freefall part I want to experience. Perhaps it could be a goal for the year to work up to taking a sky dive. :) Or something like it.

Another thing I've always wanted to do was sing/perform. I've got a huge fear of speaking in front of large groups. Performing is slightly easier. At least, when I played flute and would have a solo - I found playing for a crowd to be exciting despite being a bit nervous. Singing and playing guitar or a piano might be more fun because, hopefully, I'd be performing something the crowd is more interested in. Of course, first I'd have to be good at it. Would take a lot of work. Not sure I have the time.

Ideas anyone?

Friday, June 6

Truth

My most fundamental belief since I was ... oh, age 8 or so, is in the extreme importance of seeking and finding truth.

I decided, that in order to know the right thing to do, I'd first have to find out truth. Once I understood truth, I'd then set about figuring out what to do about it.

The alternative, in my mind, was to "do" a bunch of things someone says is good only to find out it was actually a bunch of BS and have been doing the wrong things all along.

Early on, I had the notion of truth entwined with honesty. Not only did I pursue truth but I was convinced that everyone had an obligation to do so as well. It wasn't just about obligation, either. I had no doubt that everyone would be better off, the more they pursued and understood truth.

The truth could seem to bring hurt and pain, sometimes, but to my mind even the pain and hurt would be far greater in the long run due to all the wrong that would continue to be done and spread.

I couldn't always live up to that, but I tried pretty hard. Avoiding lying was important, of course, but so was honesty and openness about the truth.

I'm sure part of this belief came about through my religious upbringing where the commandment about bearing false witness was mistakenly taught as "thou shalt not lie". I turned it into something like, 'Always tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth'. (or, at least my best understanding of it so that my understanding could be corrected).

Maybe if I'd really lived up to that, I'd have figured out even more. I can see now how there were a lot of things I hid from people - sometimes intentionally. Sometimes, what I hid were good things about myself - or what I thought were good things.

I would be so offended by wrong accusations that I would refuse to even defend myself. I didn't think I should have to defend myself and I think, in a sense, it was a way of hurting my attacker - by refusing to allow them more intimate knowledge of me.

Anyhow, I learned to explicitly separate truth seeking from honesty through Objectivism. Ayn Rand and others made the case that revealing the truth to someone of poor character might result in real harm to generally good people.

One example might be a person robbing your house and demanding to know whether you have children. It might not be a moral obligation to tell the robber where all your valuables or your children are. It may be practical depending on the situation. In some cases, being completely honest may work out in helping you to form enough a connection with the attacker to cause them to refrain from harming you as much. In other cases, a connection may be difficult or impossible to make and trying to establish one puts you and your family at further risk.

Some highly religious folks would consider honesty obligatory even in that situation.

Up until the last year or so, I had never seriously questioned my belief in the fundamental importance of truth.

I questioned how to pursue the truth.
I questioned whether I should share my understanding of the truth.
I questioned whether I should try to force people to my understanding of the truth.

Piece by piece, the truth seemed to be something that wasn't found and wasn't easily shared by following a straight path. People are afraid of truth. It prompts change and change isn't always something one is prepared for.

Sometimes, the way to take on a new understanding of truth is to play with it for a while, try it on here and there, and over time take it on. Sometimes finding the truth involves plunging in and acting as if something were true. It may not turn out to be true, but you'll find the holes in it pretty fast that way. It's a dangerous and sometimes painful way to find truth, but also thrilling and exciting sometimes. Sometimes, it's best to ignore a potential truth for a while and work on pursuing other truths.

So, now, here I am questioning truth again. Is truth really fundamental to goodness? Is there some other way to look at this?
Religious folks have an answer for this. The truth is revealed through a book that was handed down by God.

I can't verify God one way or the other, and I'm not going to get into that right now. It's an essay or a book unto itself.

However, thinking about it prompts another question. Could the truth be found better by "living" a particular belief to its fullest and finding the holes?
Maybe so. Dangerous and risky but possibly useful.

My best guess would be that some variety of approaches is idea. Some folks plunging into the deep end, some folks splashing around on the shore, some folks swimming strong and sure, others floating along, and still others doing some combination of them all. If I were a scientist, trying to find the best answer, I think I'd set up something like that. Lots of people doing different combinations of things and seeing what happens. Of course, that means there are a few important experiments that aren't possible (like what would happen if everyone fell in and pursued the same set of beliefs - if that were even possible).

I'm still thinking about other ways of looking at the belief about truth. Perhaps, in itself, it was a sort of thing where I plunged into following a belief full throttle and learned a lot about it, right or wrong. Even now, I am questioning whether I didn't have it right in the first place.

I'm also wondering. Which sort of person do I want to be or have I already decided?
There were a lot of questionable aspects to what I was taught about God and the Bible.

I didn't know for sure whether there was a God or what was good, but I thought that if I pursued truth, I'd eventually figure it out.

Otherwise I could "do" a bunch of things someone says is good only to find out it was actually a bunch of BS and have been doing the wrong things all along.

Along with that belief, I seem to have tied in honesty. I thought that not only should I pursue truth but that everyone had an obligation to do so as well. I had an obligation to tell them truths (or my best understanding of it) even if it "hurt" because the pain caused by being wrong would be far greater, in the long run, than facing the truth. I couldn't always live up to that, but I tried pretty damn hard. Avoiding lying was important, of course, but so was honesty and openness about the truth.

I'm sure part of this belief came about through my religious upbringing where the commandment about bearing false witness was mistakenly taught as "thou shalt not lie". I turned it into something like, 'Always tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth'. (or, at least my best understanding of it so that my understanding could be corrected).

Maybe if I'd really lived up to that, I'd have figured even more out. I can see now how there were a lot of things I hid from people - sometimes intentionally. Sometimes, what I hid were good things about myself - or what I thought were good things.

I would be so offended by wrong accusations that I would refuse to even defend myself. I didn't think I should have to defend myself and I think, in a sense, it was a way of hurting my attacker - by refusing to allow them more intimate knowledge of me.

Anyhow, I learned to explicitly separate truth seeking from honesty through Objectivism. Ayn Rand and others made the case that revealing the truth to someone of poor character might result in real harm to generally good people.

One example might be a person robbing your house and demanding to know whether you have children. It might not be a moral obligation to tell the robber where all your valuables or your children are. It may be practical depending on the situation. In some cases, being completely honest may work out in helping you to form enough a connection with the attacker to cause them to refrain from harming you as much. In other cases, a connection may be difficult or impossible to make and trying to establish one puts you and your family at further risk.

Some highly religious folks would consider honesty obligatory even in that situation.

Up until the last year or so, I had never seriously questioned my belief in the fundamental importance of truth.

I questioned how to pursue the truth.
I questioned whether I should share my understanding of the truth.
I questioned whether I should try to force people to my understanding of the truth.

Piece by piece, the truth seemed to be something that wasn't found and wasn't easily shared by following a straight path. People are afraid of truth. It prompts change and change isn't always something one is prepared for.

Sometimes, the way to take on a new understanding of truth is to play with it for a while, try it on here and there, and over time take it on. Sometimes finding the truth involves plunging in and acting as if something were true. It may not turn out to be true, but you'll find the holes in it pretty fast that way. It's a dangerous and sometimes painful way to find truth, but also thrilling and exciting sometimes. Sometimes, it's best to ignore a potential truth for a while and work on pursuing other truths.

So, now, here I am questioning truth again. Is truth really fundamental to goodness? Is there some other way to look at this?
Religious folks have an answer for this. The truth is revealed through a book that was handed down to people by God.

I can't verify the God theory one way or the other.

However, thinking about it prompts another question. Could the truth be found better by "living" a particular belief to its fullest and finding the holes? Maybe so. Dangerous and risky but possibly useful. My best guess would be that some variety of approaches is idea. Some folks plunging into the deep end, some folks splashing around on the shore, some folks swimming strong and sure, others floating along, and still others doing some combination of them all. If I were a scientist, trying to find the best answer, I think I'd set up something like that. Lots of people doing different combinations of things and seeing what happens. Of course, that means there are a few important experiments that aren't possible (like what would happen if everyone fell in and pursued the same set of beliefs - if that were even possible).

I'm still thinking about other ways of looking at the belief about truth. Perhaps, in itself, it was a sort of thing where I plunged into it full throttle and learned a lot about it, right or wrong.

Thursday, June 5

A few statements about Evolution

Rather than go into the details here, when they are explained elsewhere, I thought I'd state the misconceptions in the form of positive statements for easy reference. I have to admit, I was a little surprised by them considering how frequently I hear statements to the contrary:

1. Evolution has been observed.
2. Evolution does not violate the 2nd law of thermodynamics.
3. Thousands of transitional fossils exist.
4. The theory of evolution does not say that life originated, and evolution proceeds, by random chance.
5. Evolution is both a fact and a theory. A theory in scientific terms doesn't tell us anything about the likelihood of its certainty.

Friday, May 30

What's the harm in obeying a commandment?

This is similar to a question I've heard commonly asked of atheists. The more general question is why not just act as if you believe even if the Bible isn't true?

My initial gut feeling is that there likely is harm in following any rule without qualification, without using some judgment about the situation. It's even worse if the rules aren't open to changes or refinements.

One particular example is the commandment regarding adultery.

Thou shalt not commit adultery.


Austin Cline gives some background on this commandment. Historically, adultery meant a sexual act between a man and a married or betrothed woman. An act between an unmarried woman and a man, whether he was married or not, was not adultery.

The commandment is premised on the assumption that women were essentially property of men.
Historically, has it been good for women to be treated as property? Overall, no, but even wrong, awful practices can sometimes have a few good qualities. I'll save that for another time. If it's not good for women to be treated as property, and the commandment depends upon women-as-property for validity, then the commandment is on shaky ground.

However, the commandment could also be examined alone, in current context.

Is there value in people not committing certain acts outside a marriage? Which acts? Why?

Here's a hypothetical premise which might make the commandment harmful.

Suppose it is good for people to touch. Actually, that's not in dispute. It's not just good for people to experience touch, it's necessary for survival. This has been shown in animal studies. It's not something that would be ethical to study in humans, given the outcomes in animal studies, but has been corroborated by informal observation of humans. It's pretty safe to presume this is the case for people as well.

Now, further suppose that the more pleasurable and intense the touch, the more beneficial it is for a person. It enhances attachment and bonding - something very important to human relationships. Now, imagine, if you can, a culture where this sort of touching was openly given and received on a very frequent basis. Barring and medical diseases, you'd think the folks in this culture might come to be very attached to each other. This would be great if cooperation is an important part of human life (and it is).

If touch is important and good, limiting it is harmful - at least to some extent. The harm may be minor compared to the benefits of restricting touch. This is a difficult question for me to answer well at present.

My question is: What are good reasons for limiting a very important kind of human interaction in such a way?

Monday, May 19

I think I'm in love.

You might know who he is.

He's famous. Internationally known. He's an inventor /playboy / hero all in one. A man who's good with his hands, his brain, and his heart, all in one.

I don't necessarily approve of everything he does. But then, he doesn't have time to dally around and weigh all his choices. I think he does pretty well given the problems he's faced and the stakes involved - and the mistakes he made.

Maybe I should describe him a bit more. Dark hair, dark eyes, mustache. I normally don't like facial hair that much, but I don't mind it on him.

Did I mention he's a weapons developer? Not something I thought I'd find attractive about anyone but as I think about it, I have an idea as to why I find this aspect of him appealing.

I love science - understanding how things work. It's like a beautiful puzzle where you figure out one little piece only to open up a world of other puzzles. And yet, they all seem to come together again over time.

Cause and effect. I know that reality is more complex than that, but it's still amazing to me - to understand a long chain of causes and effects. Technology, to me, is playing with this knowledge. Making your own little something beautiful.

A gun is a work of art. The primer, the powder, the bullet, the cartridge. The pin that hits the primer, that fires and ignites the powder within the cartridge which builds up so much pressure that the bullet flies out of the gun barrel at amazing speeds.

Some of my happiest childhood memories are of sitting near my father, watching him clean his guns or helping him reload cartridges. Sometimes, I'd pick up his Handgun Digest or a gun manual and try to understand how they worked. It amazed me how complex they were. They didn't look like much. I fondly remember the smell of the cleaning fluid. Folks that have ever smelled that stuff know what I'm talking about. It's pretty distinct.

I don't think of modern weapons as people-killing-machines first. To me, first, they are incredible masterpieces of ingenuity, of scientific knowledge, of power and control over our environment - and submission to it as well.

Back to sighing over my new love interest. I've never met him and never will.

After all, he's fictional character, Tony Stark.

Monday, May 12

Free Speech or Separation of Church and State?

This article addresses some questions I've been pondering lately. It doesn't answer them, but it reminded me of them, so I thought I'd share them and my answers. The answers are subject to rapid change as I am exploring these issues further.

Is the speech of religious leaders, when it concerns politics, free protected speech or is it a case of government favoring religion (because of the tax exempt status given to churches)?
If the government isn't granting tax exempt status to only one religion, then it probably isn't a matter of establishing a particular religion, but it might be a matter of establishing religion generally (which isn't illegal, as far as I know).

Is tax exempt status a matter of government favoring a religion or establishing a religion?

While it could be used this way, it doesn't have to be. Many religions have churches or branches with tax exempt status here.

Is it bad for the government to favor religion or establish a religion?

Probably.

Is it bad for the government to favor the general growth of religion generally (vs. discouraging religion generally or remaining neutral)?

Possibly.

Wednesday, May 7

Dilemma revisited

I've been browsing through some of my old posts and wincing at some of my old ideas. It's really quite embarrassing to have them available like this. It makes me feel, well, naked. Exposed. (And not with a slender, attractive figure that I'd want to show off).

After reading a few more posts, I'm even more disgusted with some of my writing.

Then again, what kind of writer would I be if I only left up my 'good' stuff?
A good one? A wimpy one?

I say that because one source of ignorance in our society is the stigma that goes along with making a mistake sometimes. It seems like one way to counter that is to be up front about one's mistakes, past mistakes especially - to let people see that change is standard. Imagine a society where you could expect that if you meet a person a year later, they will have become, oh, say, 200% less ignorant.

If my knowledge is "better" now, then I can be an inspiration or a guide to folks who have made my same mistakes. If my knowledge now turns out to be "worse" than before, well, at least I haven't deleted that old knowledge. It could turn out to be useful to someone. The other benefit of leaving old stuff up is that smarter folks than me might take time to criticize my ideas and tell me better ones.

It's just so yucky to read some of it.

I don't think the content bothers me so much as my presentation and ways of communicating bother me. That said, most of it is written stream-of-consciousness style, so, of course, it isn't really ideal for communication.

Perhaps I can find a way to rewrite them which explains my old ideas and how and why they've changed. This would meet all of my goals - sharing mistakes while not inflicting bad writing and bad ideas on myself and others.

What I've left out about War (and Peace)

One thing I am struck by as I read my older posts and articles is by how much is left out of even my most verbose writing.

For example, I wrote about my difficulty with understanding the pacifist position.

The post had started off with some figures on the number of deaths in Iraq caused by Saddam. I was astonished by them.

What I did NOT say was part of my astonishment was because the number was roughly 100 times the numbers of deaths that I was seeing reported daily on anti-Iraq-war sites. The number of deaths of American soldiers, that is. I hadn't seen a figure for the number of Iraqi people killed either before or after the war. Again, I don't think it's a matter of crunching numbers, but the numbers WERE pretty surprising.

Here are a few more things I didn't mention in that article that seem important to have communicated:
How sympathetic I really am, emotionally, to pacifism.
I think it's possible that one day pacifism could possibly win out and end all wars.
I suspect if it worked, it would be as a result of all those who would initiate war are killed off - or helped to find a better way.
It's the latter part I don't think we're prepared to accomplish... yet.

I would like to see war end altogether. I think many or most people would agree with that, but maybe it doesn't get said enough by... non-pacifists.

More important to me than seeing war end is seeing people free from oppression. It would be a good life, to me, if no one was ever killed, but we all lived in prison-like conditions.

When I expressed finding it hard to understand pacifism, I was thinking more about the idea of standing by, refusing to take an action which might protect innocent people or stop further oppression (and killing).

Tuesday, May 6

Dilemma

I've been browsing through some of my old posts and wincing at some of my old ideas. It's really quite embarrassing to have them available like this. It makes me feel, well, naked. Exposed. (And not with a slender, attractive figure that I'd want to show off).

Then again, what kind of writer would I be if I only left up my 'good' stuff? It probably won't seem good either in a few years. It also might help someone who has similar ideas relate to me and maybe eventually to my newer ways of thinking. Or maybe it will put off people who would like and respond to my more current views. Decisions, decisions. Not my strong point.

Perhaps a more interesting approach would be to denote which posts are no longer in line with my current world view. I am a little shy about that - having people really know my beliefs.

Still, I'm not satisfied with my one disclaimer about my views likely being different (now) than when I wrote any particular post.

It's not uncommon for my opinion to change before I can even actually "post" the post. I still post it, though, to keep myself from censoring everything and having a blank blog.

Ok, so, I'm going to go back to the beginning and start marking posts that I no longer agree with. I suppose I'll put a date, too. It could be fun to see if I get to "unmark" some further on.

I will try, I think, to even mark the ones I post as "I don't know if I agree with this". There may be so many marked that it might be easier to mark only the ones that I feel reflect my true, considered, current opinion. Hmm.

Tuesday, April 29

Beginner Guitar Practice Techinques

I asked a question several months ago about how to best practice chord changing on a guitar:


My question is, if there are any guitarists out there, how long does it take to get to where you can actually play 2 chords in a row without having to consciously stop and rearrange your fingers every time? Is there a practice technique to speed this up? Time to do some research...


Well, I've barely touched my guitar since then, but I did find what I think might be a useful answer. Basically, it occurred to me to set goals rather like one might for running a race or other "timed" event. I started out counting a beat and focused on changing the chord on the ... oh... 4th measure in 4/4 time - just to see whether I could. I soon realized that I could actually keep up with changing chords every 2 or 3 measures. I wasn't as horrible as I thought! (Which isn't saying much, I know, but it was a pleasant surprise for me). To an experienced guitarist, it probably sounds ridiculous, but it took me a minimum of 8 beats to get my brain and fingers prepared to switch notes. Once my brain and fingers were "ready", it still took me about 4 beats to actually perform the movement.

Once I got a sort of baseline as to what I "could" do, I set goals for improvement. Pretty soon, I could be "ready" to switch in around 4 beats and 1 to 4 beats for the actual change.

Before I came up with this strategy, I really had no idea whether I was really improving or not - whether the practice was actually working. It was very frustrating. Now, when I pick up the guitar, even if it's only for 5 minutes. I have something concrete to work towards and it's a much greater pleasure.

Tuesday, April 22

Lack of belief is still a Belief

A lack of belief is still a belief, so atheism is a belief and atheists by definition believe that God does not exist.

As a fellow atheist, I have seen this argument brought up many times. I have always had a sense that it fell short of giving any credence to religious belief but haven't been able to explain it very well.

Today, on the atheism.about.com site by Austin Cline, I found a discussion of this claim that I found to be unsatisfying. It also gave me some idea of how I might explain my own feeling that the claim, when made by theists, is a bit deceptive.

What's especially disconcerting about the above myth, commonly offered in response to being told that atheism is just a lack of belief in gods, is how insanely incoherent it is. If I told someone that lacking hair is still having hair, or lacking a hobby is itself a hobby, they'd probably ask whether I've been feeling OK and might even suggest counseling.

This analogy doesn't quite work.

Belief has a very different meaning from "having hair" or "hobby" such that an analogy can be tricky.

A more precise way to give an analogy would be to say that "one is lacking red hair." A lack of a belief in atheism is a lack of a particular belief but not necessarily a lack of any kind of belief.

So, technically, the theist isn't automatically logically inconsistent by making such a claim about atheists.

To take this further, I looked at a definition of belief:

Assent to a proposition or affirmation.

By this definition, it would be difficult to be a thinking person at all without having some sort of belief. Additionally, one who lacks a belief in a God could reasonably be said to have a belief (assent to the proposition) that "There is no God".

Ok, so what is the real problem with this claim?

I suspect it has to do with one's reasons for a belief and one's degree of certainty. A believer in God bases his belief on FAITH (no evidence based reason).

A believer in the idea "There is no God" or more tentatively "There very likely is no God" considers him/herself to be basing this on reason.

One might say that the belief of Austin Cline's is something like "I don't think anything exists unless there is good reason to think so." And likely, he has good reasons for thinking so (at least, I believe something like that, and I think my reasons for it are pretty good).

A theist would still be correct that he, indeed, has a belief, but it isn't a real argument. It is begging the question of whether one's reasons for having a belief are good.

Additionally, the claim is deceptive because there is another definition of belief which is based on faith or that it is about religion. In this sense, the meaning of belief is different when applied to theism (statement of religion or faith) than when applied to atheism (assent of a proposition).

Monday, April 7

Self Care

Almost a year ago, I wrote about the struggles I've had with hate and how I found some relief from it. I got an interesting comment on it and wanted to share it and reflect on what I've experienced and learned in the last year since I wrote about it.

One thing that I noticed in rereading the old post is that I didn't completely write out all my thoughts on the issue. I stopped a bit short although it's possible that a reader could have guessed at what I intended to say.

As it happens, the thing I meant to include is relevant to the comment. The thing I realized is that although it's nice if one can achieve some sort of peace by interacting with someone - getting understanding or acknowledgment from them, the real person I needed acceptance from was ... ME.

To someone who already feels this sort of inner peace/acceptance, it may seem trivial or obvious, but to me, it wasn't. It was the feeling of self-doubt - of feeling that I deserved bad treatment - that was at the root of hatred.

I should add that there are probably other things, other feelings that contribute to hatred, but, for me, those were less of an issue. I mostly try to think of people as doing the 'best' they can and as hurting others without meaning to or because they don't know of a truly better way to interact. I may want to keep my distance - to avoid being harmed - but I believe those can be healthy feelings.

I think of hatred as something where you want so see someone HURT, you want revenge, you aren't really thinking or having feelings about what's best for you... or them.

Although other people can certainly "hurt" me, they can't "make" me hate them and, generally, whatever they can do to me (emotionally) isn't nearly as powerful as what _I_ can do. In other words, the point of the old post wasn't whether I'd be loved or accepted by others. It was about my own feelings towards myself being the biggest stumbling block. I had long suspected it but had never found a good way to "convince" myself that I was "worth" treating better.

That said, there is another aspect to the comment that I'm not sure how to address. I think people really do need each other, or at least, they thrive from the care of others and wither without it. What do you do if you have no one around who really cares to help you? To nurture you?

I don't really know the answer to this, but my best guess would be: give it to yourself first. Nurture yourself. There's a book I read some months back that talks about this in more detail -
The Journey From Abandonment to Healing.

I have one other suggestion. I'm afraid I'm going to mangle it a bit because I read it long ago and am not sure where to find it again. It was what to do when one is feeling stuck. It was to make a change - a big one. And I'd add, if that doesn't work, maybe it wasn't a big enough change. I don't know that it matters what change so much because I think change gives one an opportunity to create new patterns of behavior, new paths.


Anonymous said...

Great advice. I'm not sure I found the answer to how to stop hating. I do know you are very correct about wanting human interactions, wanting to be loved and have someone care for you. ....but feeling like this is out of reach.


This comment came at an interesting time - where I'm stuck feeling something like anger and pain and maybe a bit of hate but it's a different person and an entirely different situation. It was good to be reminded of my own advice.

Thursday, January 24

War declared on Scientology

I'm curious to see how this plays out. I'd like to see this sort of energy put into legal and legitimate ways of opposing and undermining cults (and some religions as well).

Hello, Scientology. We are Anonymous.

Over the years, we have been watching you. Your campaigns of misinformation; suppression of dissent; your litigious nature, all of these things have caught our eye. With the leakage of your latest propaganda video into mainstream circulation, the extent of your malign influence over those who trust you, who call you leader, has been made clear to us. Anonymous has therefore decided that your organization should be destroyed.


I did a little more reading about Scientology after seeing a bit in Slashdot about how the Church threatened a lawsuit over a comment copyrighted by Scientology. Apparently, the church has done some pretty nasty stuff - including stealing government documents and harassing and even attempting to frame people who commented negatively about the Church. They were investigated and in some cases convicted of these crimes. I can see why they might be considered dangerous.

I could also see the "War" being something set up by Scientologists. I don't know to what purpose, but then I don't always get the purpose of a particular cult. Some folks think the purpose of this one is money.

I'd been ignoring the video about Tom Cruise. Seeing a cult member going on about their cult isn't new or terribly interesting to me. I mean, just last week, someone came up to me telling me about *insert deity from other modern religion*. However, the attempts by the Church of Scientology to remove it caught my interest enough that I endured watching it... More weird stuff.

Another weird thing I happened upon was an account of a woman who was admitted to a hospital, half-starved, dehydrated, sleep-deprived an psychotic. Scientologists showed up at the hospital saying she didn't believe in psychiatrics and took her to a hotel to rest. She died shortly after. After an 8 year battle, her family finally settled out of court after trying to sue for wrongful death.

And here I thought they were just some wackos who tried to get you to take IQ tests across the street from the University.

Monday, January 21

A Tiny Star

I have never watched American Idol, but I've been hearing bits about it on the radio lately and decided to take a peek on YouTube and see if I could find some clips. While browsing around, I happened upon a YouTube video of this little girl singing.

I really wasn't expecting much, but I was curious, so I gave it a listen and was impressed. It's not just that her voice is beautiful. I think there's something else... something Simon (from American Idol) comments on. It's the silence that surrounds her singing that really brings something special to the song. The first one video I watched was of her singing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" and making it on to the finals. It's a great one to watch. She sings it beautifully in the final as well.

The other recording I recommend listening to is "I Will Always Love You". Her singing so impressed folks that she was given a record deal, so this song is more polished. It seems like a song well suited to her... with plenty of silence. Listen and I think you'll hear what I mean.

I don't recall ever hearing anything quite so beautiful.

Tuesday, January 8

Scientific American: Psychedelic Drugs

"...between 1967 and 1972 studies in terminal cancer patients by psychiatrist Stanislav Grof and his colleagues at Spring Grove State Hospital in Baltimore showed that LSD combined with psychotherapy could alleviate symptoms of depression, tension, anxiety, sleep disturbances, psychological withdrawal and even severe physical pain. Other investigators during this era found that LSD may have some interesting potential as a means to facilitate creative problem solving."
 

Thursday, January 3

Boredom and the Meaning of Life

Staving off tedium is no mundane matter. People who are predisposed to boredom are more likely to suffer from ills such as depression and drug addiction; they also tend to be socially awkward and poor performers at school or work. Getting at the origins of boredom may lead to ways to prevent and treat such pathologies and detrimental behaviors.

This article caught my eye because boredom is something I struggle with quite a lot and which seems to be getting worse as I get older. When I was young, learning something new was always interesting and fun. Now, even learning something new seems ... old. Maybe that's because I don't usually get past the boring bits that come a little after the beginning of learning something new.

The one thing I have learned to do fairly well in my life was to play the flute - had just become difficult again when I quit. I quit because small improvements, at that stage, required hours and hours of practice. For a long time, a small amount of practice could yield great results in performance. If I really wanted to make improvement, it would have to be in technique and overall music knowledge. I was an Engineering major, and I didn't see how I could manage my major along with 20+ hours/week of practice.

After struggling with the pre-engineering courses - Physics, Chemistry, Calculus, I took a programming course at the community college. It was so easy! And fun! I switched my major to Computer Science.

Then I had a baby. It didn't sink in right away, that a baby would take far more than 20+ hours a week, but eventually I quit school. I couldn't quite pull off a toddler + college. Actually, that's not quite true. I think it was the TV that was the problem more than the toddler. The programming got boring and frustrating.

Anyway, when everything gets boring as soon as you know a little about it, then how do you know what you'll be interested in on the other side of the boredom? What if you study something for years and it never gets interesting again?

I guess that happens to lots of people.

What I didn't know, is that studies were being done on the issue of boredom. I'll be curious to see what scientists learn in the long run about it. Wouldn't it be funny if it came to be treated as a 'disease' that was 'treatable'... similar to the way depression has come to be treated?

Tuesday, January 1

2008 Resolution

This year, I am going to do things a bit differently with the resolutions(s). I'm just going to have one, and it's fairly simple (although not necessarily easy):
Develop a habit of self-discipline.
It may seem a bit abstract and difficult to evaluate, but I'll know whether I've accomplished it or made satisfactory progress on it. I've occasionally set these sorts of resolutions before and felt very pleased with the results. This is a tougher one, but since it's the only one, I'll be able to focus on it.

I also have some more specific goals in mind for the short term and long term... and some shorter term goals for working on my one resolution. I'll try to expand on those soon. But for now, good night, and Happy New Year!