Tuesday, November 30, 2004

The organic issue 

Until recently, I never had any reason to consider purchasing organic food; organic produce tends to be smaller and poorer quality, not to mention more expensive, and I'd never even HEARD of organic meat and dairy. An article in the October 2004 issue of Experience Life magazine made some interesting points that got me thinking, however:

"There's proof that organic produce is better for you. A review of 41 studies published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine in 2001 compared the nutritional value of organically grown and conventionally grown produce. Researchers found that, on average, organic fruits and vegetables offer 27 percent more vitamin C, 21 percent more iron, 29 percent more magnesium and 13 percent more phosphorus than their conventional counterparts."

I figured that it was meaningful that I'd never heard any such thing before, and I was right; I wasn't able to find any impartial sites (ie gov't or scientific sites, as opposed to pro-organic sites) that backed this up, but I DID find several good sites that said something like this:

"Organic foods are not superior in nutritional quality or safety when compared against conventional foods, yet organics do have the potential for greater pathogen contamination. Thus, purchasing organically grown produce is not necessary for safety or nutritional reasons, according to the Institute of Food Technologists, an international, not-for-profit scientific society.

'Consumers need to understand that organic production does not mean pesticide-free and pathogen-free production,' says IFT food science expert Carl Winter, the director of the FoodSafe Program at the University of California at Davis. Neither organic nor conventionally grown foods are free from pesticides. And scientific evidence indicates that health risks associated with disease-causing microorganisms are far greater than risks associated with pesticide residues, which are negligible."

And this:

"Vaclav Smil, author of "Feeding the World: A Challenge for the 21st Century,'' says relying only on organic fertilizers would allow us to feed only half the world's people - or force the hunger-stricken to clear the world's remaining forests to plant more low-yield crops."

So, my disinclination to "buy organic" turns out to be correct... at least in reference to produce.

Although what this magazine said about food had by this point become HIGHLY suspect, I read on and learned:

"There have been no cases of BSE (aka mad cow disease) reported in animals that have been raised entirely according to organic production methods. Beef labeled "organic" cannot have received any animal byproducts in its feed; even the animal's mother must have been fed organic feed for three months before giving birth. To label beef organic, the farmer must trace an animal from birth to slaughter. Buying organic is a good way to avoid the risk of BSE as well as vote against the common practice of spiking animal feed with antibiotics and dosing cows with hormones."

That sounded good... until my husband and I got some organic steaks and found them to be gamey-tasting. We'll try it again, as every so often you get beef that isn't as good as usual, just like any other kind of food can have "bad days," and maybe overall it'll taste as good; I'm not willing to eat meat that isn't as good forever, though, so if it turns out that it takes modern methods of meat production to get good-tasting steaks, so be it. However, those of you who put beef in dishes with alot of seasoning probably couldn't tell the difference even if the taste really is significantly less appealing, so by all means try it if you can afford it.

The next tidbit was:

"Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH) is a genetically engineered hormone produced by Monsanto and designed to increase milk production. Unfortunately, it promotes significant health problems in cows, problems that are then treated with antibiotics. It also has questionable impacts on the milk that treated cows produce... Despite discouragement from the FDA and Monsanto, some dairy companies (both organic and nonorganic) do label their milk cartons stating their position against the use of rBGH. By law such labels must also include a statement saying that the FDA has found no significant difference between rBGH and non-rBGH products. The organic label on milk, cheese and yogurt ensures that no rBGH was used during production."

It might be worthwhile to pay more for non-rBGH dairy products to save cows from being given health problems; my husband and I are already paying more for local, high-quality dairy products because of the superior flavor, though, so the only new thing we're likely to try is the milk, as we only use it in cooking and the flavor isn't an issue... again, however, I'd recommend trying anything you can find if you're up for it.

Another important issue about dairy that they mention is:

"It's becoming easier, too, to find dairy products from pasture-fed animals, which are higher in cancer-fighting conjugated linoleic acid, beta carotene, vitamin E and healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Some people assert that milk from grass-fed cows has a richer taste as well."

I couldn't find anything "official" to back THESE claims up either, which shows just how suspicious we need to be about articles of this nature, BUT, it's a nice idea to let cows walk around outside and graze, and the cows that produce the dairy I eat DO get to graze (I've seen them in the fields myself), and their products ARE better, so... it's worth a try if you can find and afford it, as you'll probably get some good karma, and maybe better taste too.

The info on poultry was REALLY eye-opening:

"Arsenic is an approved feed supplement for poultry."

WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAT?!! I checked it out, and discovered that this IS in fact a standard component of feed for poultry, as it allegedly fights disease and promotes growth; there's debate amongst various agencies and researchers as to just how much arsenic is in the meat of these birds, with some saying that the levels are unsafe... that's sorta scary, isn't it?

There's more grim poultry news:

"Conventionally farmed chickens are often pumped full of chemically laced feed and raised in cramped group cages that put four or more birds in a cage the size of a sheet of notebook paper, encouraging disease and cannibalism. Although use of antibiotics in healthy animals has been reduced in recent years, it is still common."

There aren't many creatures as stupid and mean as chickens, but... this seems excessively cruel to me. The good news is:

"Certified organic chickens are fed organic, vegetarian feed and allowed access to the outdoors. They are not treated with antibiotics or hormones."

Although I dislike chickens, I still think it's better if they get to run around outside, both from a health standpoint and from a karmic one; the difference in the lives of the birds is so dramatic that I'd even recommend spending significantly more to get organic chicken if you can afford it, because the more we spend on this more humane system, the more chicken "farms" will adopt it... and that'll make the price eventually fall.

A final comment about organic-ness that was NOT in the article: When we think of organic fertilizer, we normally think of manure, but far more common are fertilizers made of bonemeal and bloodmeal, which are exactly what they sound like, so vegans take note; the cows that provide the bloodmeal didn't voluntarily donate the blood, and the ones that provide the bonemeal didn't die of old age... these products come from cows that are slaughtered for their meat. If part of the reason you're a vegan is for no animals to die to feed you, you'll want to either buy organic produce exclusively from farms that you've verified use only manure, or just buy non-organic produce.

To sum it all up: If it's available in your area and you can afford it, give the organic beef, poultry and dairy a try; unlike organic produce, organic animal products DO seem like a better choice overall.

Monday, November 29, 2004

How do you feel? 

Do you feel something that no other human being has ever felt? Have you EVER felt something that no other human being has ever felt? Does ANY person feel anything totally unique? It just doesn't seem likely, does it, even if you only consider the 6.1 BILLION people currently alive and not everyone who ever lived? Our ability to interact with each other in a constructive manner REQUIRES, in fact, that we DO feel alike about similar things; without this commonality, we couldn't feel empathy, and that would make all of us sociopaths by default... not a pretty thought. All of the systems of rewards and punishments that we use and depend on, from parent/child, teacher/pupil and employer/employee systems to our societal agreement about the rightness of putting bad folks in jail and giving good ones awards, can only work if we all agree that certain things feel good or bad to ALL of us. Psychology couldn't exist if people's feelings weren't relentlessly consistent, and the way any decent shrink can figure you out to the last detail shows that they do, in fact, have a handle on what a human being will feel under given circumstances. Books, movies and TV shows just plain wouldn't make sense to us if the people who write for them couldn't predict how the characters should feel (knowing that everyone who's reading/watching will be able to tell if any of it's wrong) and how YOU will feel in response, and the advertising industry would cease to exist in an instant if they couldn't predict out to 9 decimal places how the images they present will make people feel.

Why, then, do so many people try to claim that no one knows how they feel, that no one feels like they do, etc? Yes, alot of the time it's angst-filled young people who say that, and it's a natural part of their development to separate from their families emotionally and thus feel for a while like emotional "islands," but I've heard plenty of adults say the same sort of thing:

Jane: I've been so sad since my mother died.
Sue: I know how you feel; when MY mother died last year, I felt really sad, too.
Jane: No, you don't know how I feel.
Mary: That's right, everyone has different feelings.

Jane's being unreasonable, not to mention ungrateful for the attempted empathy and sympathy, Mary's a busybody and dead-wrong to boot, and Sue just learned that it's a waste of time to try to give heartfelt comfort to anyone... not an ideal picture, is it? When a tragic event occurs, every sane human being will feel the SAME intense emotions; there aren't a different set of emotions for each person. Grief and loss in particular follow such a predictable pattern, not just in how people feel but what sorts of thoughts they'll have at each step, that they've actually been "flowcharted"; most articles on the subject will list the stages and how they work, so there's no mystery there. If you're the one with the loss, to claim that your feelings are different from everyone else's cuts you off from the emotional support of others, as they need to believe that they have some sort of grasp of the emotional landscape before they can reach out, and if you try to be like Mary, convincing people that "everyone has different feelings," you'll be blocking other people from giving and receiving support for the same reason... and that's gotta be seriously bad karma.

Another disgraceful example of this concept of everyone's feelings being different comes on too many news programs, where, when someone just found out that their house burned down, or that their brother is a serial killer, or that they won the lottery, some moron shoves a mic in their face and asks, "How do you feel?," as if there were CHOICES as to what feelings a person would have under those circumstances... as if they weren't just trying to manipulate the emotionally-dazed victims into saying exactly what they know they'll say, especially when it's BAD news that's just been received. Why do we have this ghoulish desire to hear devastated people describe their feelings? In the rare occasion that someone who's gotten joyous news is being shown, why do we want to break into their moment of exultation by demanding that they face the camera and say "I'm really happy, I'm just... really happy"? We know perfectly well how they feel, we can see it in their faces even if we didn't catch the description of what just happened to them, so why the endless game-playing, this waiting with baited breath as if there's ANY chance that the feelings they describe won't be the ones we already know they're experiencing?

The dark side of this nonsense is that an increasing # of people truly believe that their feelings ARE unique, and thus that no one understands what they're going through... and this leaves them feeling isolated, lonely, and miserable on top of whatever else was bothering them. It's high time that we all accept that, as human beings, we have the same emotional experiences under the same circumstances, and use that fact to give comfort and support to, and receive it from, those who care about us.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Synchronicity, and a realization 

I was thinking today that it had been an unusually long time since I had a significant incident of synchronicity, eg something bigger than thinking of someone and then having them call or email me minutes later... and, as always, karma obliged me. I got the urge to do an eBay search for a DVD that, as far as I knew, didn't exist other than as a bootleg of unknown quality; an auction showed up that looked like it might be the real thing, at long last... and claiming that it had just been released a couple of weeks ago, which isn't too bad since I hadn't done this search for about a year. I went to the website most likely to have this DVD for sale if it were for real, and, right there on the home page, there was a picture of the hottie featured in the DVD, which, when clicked, revealed that he was one of a bunch of celebs picked to be featured on that site for ONE DAY each in the month prior to Christmas... and there I was on his day.

The DVD did turn out to be real, and I went back to eBay and did a differently-worded search, found a seller offering it at less than half the discounted price the site I'd been on had had it for, and added it to my list; hopefully, I'll get it right away, but if not, at least I know to look for it. Cool, huh?

The realization I had today is that the antidote to my lifelong tendency to freak out endlessly over anything that goes wrong (which was engendered in me by my mother, who does it way worse than I ever did) is... my husband, the KING of endless disasters and screwups. He'll laugh when he sees this, as from his perspective I'm always squawking at him about something, but the bigger picture is that, while one problematic thing would once have haunted me night and day (egged on by my mother's non-stop doom and gloom), these days I've become so used to things being FUBAR that none of them stick with me any more; I've just started noticing that things that would have been on my mind every second a few years ago, like the missing Blockbuster DVD that's messing up the value we're getting from the online ordering service, are miraculously dropping off of my radar for DAYS at a time, something I would have previously thought impossible. Although I'm certainly still tightly-wound by "normal" standards, I've become almost laid-back by my family of origin's standards; although I've often complained about my husband's endless foulups, and will continue to do so, they've collectively benefited me, causing me to become a more relaxed person instead of causing me to need the padded cell that anyone who knew me would have predicted I'd need had they known what I'd have to deal with once I got married.

I'm sure I've received this insight courtesy of my thinking about the need to be grateful for the benefits we get from the "bad" things in life, which I wrote about a few days ago; it's worth saying it again-cool, huh?

Saturday, November 27, 2004

The day after Thanksgiving 

What do we do in America on the last Friday of November?

1) Eat leftovers (this is the first day of MANY in some households where leftovers will be on the menu)

2) Get up at 5AM to be there when the stores open their doors at 6AM with insane sales to begin the Christmas buying frenzy

3) Start putting up Christmas decorations

In MY household, however:

1) We have very few leftovers from our Thanksgiving dinner, as we have a simple meal for just the 2 of us, and what little there are get vacuumed up by my husband before I even get out of bed, so *I* never have to eat any-HOORAY!!

2) "Insane" is my exact word for these sales that start before dawn, and for the people who get up to go to them; I'm just going to BED by 5AM as often as not, and the thought of going out into the cold and dark to SHOP at that hour is about as appealing as a root canal. Also, I don't NEED to go shopping during the holiday season, because I bought all of my Christmas gifts by June; the likes and dislikes of my loved ones are the same all year long, so there's no reason to wait until a month before Christmas to buy their presents... and nothing short of an emergency will get me into a mall from this point until the new year.

3) I've intended to start decorating at this time every year of my marriage, but have always been thwarted by my husband, whose muscles are necessary to drag the boxes out... and the fact that our Halloween decorations are always still up at this point doesn't help either. This year, though, I set my jaw, got the Halloween stuff and assorted clutter cleared up, and... ok, we don't actually have any Christmas decorations up yet, but the boxes ARE out, and as soon as the artificial tree parts are dug out and put together, and my husband drags the ladder in so that things can be hung up, we ARE going to get at least a solid % of the stuff up by the end of the long weekend.

Now, if we can only get the decorations back DOWN by the end of January, rather than the end of APRIL like we usually do...

Friday, November 26, 2004

This year I was thankful that... 

... when so many people are oppressed, I'm free.

... when so many people live in danger, I'm safe.

... when so many people are ill, I'm healthy.

... when so many people are homeless, I have a lovely house.

... when so many people are hungry, I've never missed a meal.

... when so many people are impoverished, I have $ in the bank.

... when so many people are lonely, I have loved ones.

... when so many people can't find love, I found the right man and married him.

... when so many people are miserable, I'm happy.

And I'm thankful for the annual reminder that, although I'll never have everything I want, I already have everything that matters.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

A different sort of thing to be grateful for 

When bad things happen in your life, if you're like most people you agonize endlessly over them, and think "why ME?!!" Look at it logically, though; when GOOD things happen to you, do you think obsessively about them, trying to figure out "why you"? Probably not, because we tend to go through life believing that good things are our due, but that bad things should never touch us, and if they do it's a catastrophe; it's understandable from an emotional standpoint, but it's not very logical.

Aside from realizing that we should be more accepting of the inevitability of bad things, and more appreciative of good things, we should be aware that, when bad things happen, they're not usually ALL bad, especially when seen from a broader perspective:

You've probably heard the line about how we need the bad times to make us appreciate the good times, and this is true; not just on Thanksgiving, but EVERY day, we should be grateful for all the good things that come into our lives.

When bad things happen, our loved ones console us, and we truly feel the affection they have for us; using their example, we learn to console others, which is an important part of being a good person.

When times are tough, this is when we learn most of life's important lessons; one day, these lessons will benefit us, and we can use them to advise our dear ones when they're in similar straits.

When we learn what pain feels like, it gives us the ability to have empathy for others who are in pain, and this in turn tells us when to feel sympathy, and keeps us from engaging in the sorts of behaviors that cause others pain... all of which makes us better people.

How many times have you heard someone who went through a tragedy say that it has enriched their lives, made them stronger, braver and happier, and that in general it was a GOOD thing? Tragedy can lead to people making different choices that improve their lives (the most common one is probably the person who has a heart attack who then becomes a health nut), and bad things at all levels can stimulate us to grow and change... with the end result that we end up with more happiness in our lives than we would have had had we not had any of the bad things happen to us. If you're young enough to think this sounds crazy, I don't blame you, as it DOES sound a little counter-intuitive, but let me assure you; the roots of the lion's share of good things in MY life today can be traced to the most tragic period in my life, so it really does work that way.

Just as the most beautiful flowers grow in manure, the best parts of human nature flourish from adversity; be grateful today, not just for the good things in your life, but for the bad things that made you into the special person you are.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

A nice guy finished FIRST!! :-O 

I've greatly enjoyed watching the TBS reality series "He's a Lady," which featured macho men who thought they were signing on to climb mountains and eat worms, and instead had to participate in all sorts of "girly" competitions in full-on drag; I was a little bummed that today's episode was the last one, but I was astounded, and thrilled, when they gave the $250,000 prize to the guy that was so big that he had no neck, and who possessed no shred of prettiness, but who was a devoted husband and father, a good friend to all the other guys, gentle and soft-spoken, and nice, nice, NICE!! :-)

The other 2 of the final 3 were the one who was by far the best-looking of the bunch, who'd done the best job of passing as a woman, and won the most competitions, and the one who was the most ruthless and conniving competitor, and I'd have expected one of them to win; in real life, after all, it IS the hotties and the sociopaths who get most of the goodies, and on reality shows they're at the top of the heap too. They did something innovative on this show that made all the difference, though; they gave each man the opportunity to say what "being a lady" had taught him about being a man, and the big guy did such a good job of showing that the biggest thing about him was his HEART that people in the audience were crying, and emotions ran so high that the standard American deal of rewarding the LEAST deserving people fell by the wayside.

Is this the start of a new dynamic on reality shows, one where people will be judged by goodness rather than by degree of deviousness or breast size? Could Americans be tired of seeing the shallow and mean types cleaning up on every show? Will we start seeing more basic, decent folks winning the big $? Probably not, sadly, but there's at least a little bit of hope that maybe, just maybe, virtue is coming back into fashion.

The important thing is, a nice guy DID finish first instead of last; now THERE'S something to be thankful for on Thursday. :-)

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Do 2 wrongs make a right? 

Where did people get the idea that those who've been mistreated should just eat their misery and never strike back, because striking back somehow magically makes the victim a wrongdoer too, and thus makes their perfectly correct actions wrong?

When someone does something evil, should they get off scott-free just because whatever might be done in retaliation wouldn't combine with it to "make a right"? We'd expect a wrong-doer to expound that philosophy, as it's to their benefit, but what on EARTH induces anyone else to spout this nonsense?

When someone does a person wrong, they DESERVE to get something done to them in retribution, and there's no wrongdoing involved in the victim doing just that (unless, of course, the victim chooses to do something criminal, which is obviously a different story)... so saying that 2 wrongs don't make a right is conceptually wrong from the get-go, because there aren't 2 wrongs involved, just a wrong and a morally-acceptable payback.

Even if you think that the payback IS something wrong despite it being deserved, and that it's not right for the wrongdoer to suffer, and thus that the 2 "wrongs" didn't make a right, that still doesn't mean that that 2nd "wrong" didn't do some good, because it DID; it counteracted the first wrong... and isn't it better that a wrong be counteracted than left there, unchallenged and triumphant? Furthermore, the 2nd "wrong," by giving the original wrongdoer some well-deserved unhappiness, provides them with a powerful disincentive to behave badly again, and as a bonus the victim gets to feel closure and vindication instead of wounded; call me crazy, but that has the feeling of a "right" to it, and therefore I'd say that 2 "wrongs" DO make a right, or rather several rights... thus leaving us with no reason to not kick the butt of whoever does us wrong.

One of the main reasons that the evildoers of the world are able to do so much harm to so many people is because of this psycho idea that anything done back to them is "wrong"; *I* say that it's time for us to remember that we're supposed to support the VICTIM, not the wrongdoer, and to go back to the sort of behavioral cause and effect that makes hurtful actions less attractive to those who're likely to engage in them, and so less likely to happen. There's nothing morally superior about letting people get away with murder; get Old Testament on them, and win one for the good guys.

Monday, November 22, 2004

When handicapped access goes too far 

As all too many of us do, I have people that I care about who are forced to use wheelchairs; I want them to have everything they need to make their lives easier, and I want them to be able to live their lives as freely as the rest of us do, including being able to go where they want to go. However, in the same way that I don't expect the hills of San Francisco to be bulldozed because they're not manageable in a wheelchair, or the forests to be razed because wheelchairs can't always fit between the trees, or the beaches to be paved over because wheelchairs can't get through the sand, I don't think it's rational to expect that 100% of public buildings can, or even should, be remade such that someone in a wheelchair can get in and get around without help, or sometimes at all. Don't get me wrong, I think that ALMOST all such buildings can, and SHOULD, be made handicapped accessible, because it doesn't generally take an unreasonable amount of $ or effort to do so, but there are a few exceptions where trying to provide access, or independent access (eg with no assistance from another person) to folks in wheelchairs would be disastrous; historical buildings are one example (since the entire point of them BEING historical means that they can't be torn apart for the necessary remodeling), but I've seen other instances where I think they went too far in enforcing the idea of total wheelchair access in places were it was just ridiculous to try to do so... judge for yourself:

The first accounts of this that I heard about in my city where when they required ALL businesses to be fully accessible by wheelchair, including those businesses whose premises were so tiny that they had to literally rip out most of their merchandise displays to comply, leading swiftly to their going out of business; people's finances, LIVES, were wrecked from this unstoppable destruction of their ability to make a living from their stores, with all of their hard work ending up wasted. I'm all for NEW businesses being required to take handicapped access into account as part of their layouts, AND for older ones being required to retrofit to that same end, but NOT in cases of stores that are too tiny to allow for wide aisles AND enough merchandise displays to be profitable... and besides, when they're forced out of business, people in wheelchairs have STILL been denied the ability to shop there, have they not? Along with everyone else. Not having some flexibility in the laws to allow for small stores is just outrageous, doubly so because this disproportionately targets stores in poor and minority areas of the city.

Another example was of an office building that had a sidewalk that was proclaimed too steep for wheelchair use; since they didn't want to pay to rip it out and replace it with another sort of sidewalk, and didn't have to do so because it wasn't the only way into the building, they just ripped it out and that was it, to the inconvenience of EVERYONE... including the one man in a wheelchair who worked in that building, who had been using the sidewalk just fine, and from then on had to go all the way around the building to use a different entrance. Needless to say, the enforcement of laws requiring handicapped access should NOT lead to an access to a building just being removed; what possible good could that ever do?

The grimmest example of the blind and foolish enforcement of these laws is at one of our local libraries. First, they demanded that the racks containing periodicals be lowered so that they were all reachable from a wheelchair, and no, it was NOT ok for them to have to ask for help getting things down; that sounded reasonable at first, but it turns out that the new rack positioning made many of the periodicals INaccessible to some of the senior citizens, who can't be expected to be squatting down... so now THEY have to sacrifice THEIR independence to ask for help reaching the materials. There's no point in robbing Peter to pay Paul, as the old saying goes; it's unfair to alter things to make them easier for people in wheelchairs to use but harder for some other group to use, especially a group that is less than perfectly able-bodied... it's a wonderful goal to want all wheelchair-bound folks to never have to ask for help, but other people would like to be independent too, and it's not right to take that from them just so that someone else can have it.

Next, they demanded that ALL of the restrooms be made handicapped-accessible, not just one; the resulting remodeling caused the bathrooms to take up far more floor space than they had before... which they accommodated by ripping out racks of books, to the loss of all. Since this library had NEVER had a patron in a wheelchair, perhaps it was a little much to require them to be able to accommodate a whole group of them all needing to use the restroom at once?

The worst was yet to come; the claim was made that IF someone in a wheelchair came to this library by bus, and IF they had a non-motorized wheelchair, they'd have difficulty making it up the ramp to the library. Again, they refused outright the idea of just letting someone help them; they demanded a wheelchair lift from street level up to the library level... and they got it, to the tune of $100,000 from the library's budget, and that's NOT a typo. What's even WORSE is, because of the issues of kids messing around with the lift, they had to make it so that the lift can NOT be controlled from street level; they would have to STILL call up to the library, a library staff member would STILL have to go down to help them, in this case by bringing a key to turn the lift on... and since this is NOT indicative of the person in the wheelchair acting totally independently, can you see any reason for the library to have lost out on $100,000 worth of books and other materials just so this theoretical person would have the staffer turn a key for them rather than give them a push?

Worst of all; the $100K lift, which continues to drain money from the library's budget for constant repairs and maintenance, has NEVER been used, not ONCE in the nearly a DECADE that it's been there; no handicapped patrons ever materialized to use it. To say that this has been a disgraceful misuse of the taxpayers' $ would be an understatement; for a tiny fraction of the $ wasted on this nightmare, they could have bought a van, hired a driver, and had him drive all over the city, picking up wheelchair-bound people and dropping them off right at the front door of the library... assuming they could have found any that cared to go there.

In general, we must OF COURSE find a way to get folks in wheelchairs into every building operated by any level of government, regardless of the geography of the surrounding land, but... if there had ever been a handicapped person trying to use that library, can you imagine them saying that it was worth all that loss of books to the many children and seniors who use that facility just so that the assistance they had to receive to get to the door was NOT in the form of their wheelchair being pushed?

I'm all for spending as much $ as it takes to do research that will lead to those with ANY handicap being helped, healed, or given more ability to get around and do things for themselves. I'm happy for tax dollars to go for the latest wheelchairs, customized vans, and special equipment to allow people with limited use of their limbs to get in and out of bed, the bathtub, whatever, without assistance... for virtually ANYTHING that will directly benefit them. Where I draw the line, and where I'm hoping we as a society will eventually insist on drawing the line, is at the point beyond which an insane amount of $, and/or the ruination of businesses, is required to get that last .001% of structures into compliance with the admittedly noble idea of making it possible for folks in wheelchairs to go everywhere, and without assistance; at that point, let us instead extend caring hands to those who need a little extra help, knowing that one day, when WE need help, it will be there for us.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

When is it cheating? 

It never ceases to amaze me the ridiculous excuses people make to give themselves permission to get sexual gratification outside of their relationship without admitting that they're cheating:

1) It's only sex, not a relationship, so it's not cheating.

2) I don't love her/him, so it's not cheating.

3) It was only once, and it didn't mean anything, so it wasn't cheating.

4) It was with a hooker, so it wasn't cheating.

5) It was with someone of my same gender, so it wasn't cheating.

6) I was drunk, so it wasn't cheating.

7) I was out of town and lonely, so it wasn't cheating.

8) My partner was out of town, and I was lonely, so it wasn't cheating.

9) We had a fight, and we were sort of broken up, so it wasn't cheating.

10) We didn't mean it to happen, it just happened, so it wasn't cheating.

11) We didn't have intercourse, so it wasn't cheating.

12) "Eating isn't cheating."

13) We weren't naked, so it wasn't cheating.

14) I didn't come, so it wasn't cheating.

15) We didn't kiss, so it wasn't cheating.

16) All we did was kiss, so it wasn't cheating.


Having ANY sort of sexual contact with another person is cheating, and "sexual contact" is any sort of physical contact you wouldn't have with your mother.

Is looking at porn cheating? No; cheating requires another human being to be directly involved, and images are just paper or pixels.

How about chatting and exchanging emails? No; talking isn't cheating in person, and it's not cheating using a computer.

How about calling a phone sex line? This is interacting with a human being with the intent of sexual arousal, but it's not actually having sex, so I'd say no... although I admit that there IS some gray area and valid cause for the partner to protest.

How about cyber? If it's with a stranger, hooked up with online just for both parties to get their thrills and then part company, I'd say it was the same as phone sex... BUT, if it's part of a developing relationship online, we have to understand that real feelings could result, and with those feelings would naturally come the desire to be together, which makes it the equivalent of having an affair... and that IS cheating.

What it boils down to is; if you did ANYTHING that you find yourself coming up with arguments about as to how it wasn't cheating... it probably WAS.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

A better kind of civil union 

If it were up to me, gay marriage would be legal TODAY. The majority of Americans are still against that, however, so it's a good idea to think through the best way to design a civil union, hereafter abbreviated as "CU," which would provide all the legal benefits of marriage without actually being called marriage, such that it would provide gay couples with the best deal possible. WHY do we need to give it any thought, when it's suppose to be designed to be exactly the same from a legal standpoint? Because, as we all know, "separate but equal" ISN'T. The only way I can see to avoid the CU falling into that category is to NOT have it be only for gays; if straight people were getting CU's also, it wouldn't be possible for any laws to later be passed eroding the value of a CU, or for any prejudice to be shown against it... too many straight people, all of whom are voters, would scream in protest for it to ever happen.

My idea on how to set this up is to go back to the concept of marriage being a religious construct, and to alter the laws such that the word "marriage" would apply only to a ceremony performed by a religious leader; straight couples who were NOT married by a religious leader (and that would include my own marriage, by the way) would therefore also have CU's, in addition to the gays who'd be getting them... and thus, a CU would NOT be just a gay thing, and it would be awfully hard to make it less than a marriage, benefits-wise.

Aside from straight people who, like my husband and I, just don't want religion in the middle of their marriage ceremony (for the record, we were married by a lesbian justice of the peace, how's THAT for PC?), who'd want a CU rather than a marriage? Pro-gay people would be choosing CU's just to show solidarity with the gay community, and their gay friends and relatives. Hollywood types would do it to seem hip and cool and modern, and to get massive publicity; star-obsessed regular people would do it to be like the stars. Rebellious and anti-establishment young people would do it to tick off their elders, and some folks would do it just for the novelty. If it could be made legal for religious leaders to officiate over CU's, and I see no reason why it couldn't, progressive churches could offer the option of a CU ceremony, and then gay people could get married in a church, and so could their friends and such who wanted the CU and the religious stuff too.

What about people who are already married? They'd be grandfathered in as still being called "married," and then, for a small fee, could choose to re-register as CU's; I'd be the first in line to do it, and many of the same sort of people who'd choose a CU would also pay to re-register. And then... gays would have a legal way to make their love official, a way that would NOT ghetto-ize them, religions could decide for themselves how to handle marriages, as they should be able to do, the religious folks would have nothing to complain about, and straight people would FINALLY have the option of a legal bond that's free of religious and historical trappings. I hope with all my heart to see at least this much progress made in my lifetime, and I'll NEVER stop hoping that it doesn't end up being necessary, that the American people will decide to cherish love rather than punish those who are different.

Friday, November 19, 2004

A couple of updates 

The Blockbuster disaster (original post 11-9): 2 of the 3 missing DVD's turned up stuck into a magazine that had been floating around in my husband's car; he HAD lied about mailing them, as I said all along. He sent them back, and hopefully we'll get something sent to us to watch soon, as we're STILL paying for the service-we can't cancel until we return the 3rd DVD, unless we want to pay full retail price for it. Occam's Razor tells me that DVD #3 is also unmailed and shuffled in with my husband's stuff; he's still got alot of looking through piles of junk to do.

I'll tell you what I've been telling everyone; if you're the tiniest bit disorganized, do NOT use an online DVD service, because they don't contact you if you don't return the DVD's promptly, and it's all too easy for weeks to go by before you realize you're not getting new ones, or not getting them at the expected rate (eg if less than all 3 DVD's are unreturned), and by then you don't know where in all of your possessions the darned things might be hiding.

The first grader who was being starved (original post, 11-11): on my advice, her mother DID call the school, and the teacher she spoke to had the unmitigated gall to reply that the child was "eating enough food to sustain her," and that therefore nothing needed to be done. Oh REALLY? How DARE she pass judgment on how little food a growing child could eat and still be "sustained," much less do well in her lessons? The child's mother isn't capable of anger (it's part of her emotional problems), but this seemed wrong to her; she reported it to me, and when she saw how enraged *I* was, she was emboldened to try again, so we discussed what she should say next. This time, she told the principal that she wanted her child to have a FULL lunch like every other child was eating, because no fraction of a meal was enough for a child that had no access to other food all afternoon... and they GAVE IN-the girl can now bring a lunch. HOORAY!! :-)

Parents, take note; school policies aren't always set in stone, even though they try to make you think they are, and, if you make an issue of something, you often CAN get them to give in. If you think that your child isn't being provided with something they need, or is being subjected to something counterproductive to the goals they're supposed to be achieving, FIGHT it... every change starts with ONE person.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

The aging of my mother 

My mother has always looked many years younger than she is, and she still does; although she's pushing 70, she looked easily 20 years younger, until... well, I guess I don't know when things changed, but I just noticed it yesterday. Don't get me wrong, she STILL looks amazing for her age, but... it's like her skin suddenly got looser. She lost the skin tone on her arms in the past year, but now suddenly the skin on her eyelids and browbone, which had just been a little crepey before, with some hollowness in the sockets, is... hanging, and folded-looking. This is the only change I saw in her face, and it's objectively not a big deal, especially on a senior citizen, but it sent a chill up my spine, because when she had certain expressions it made her look OLD, and I've never thought of her as an old woman before.

I have extreme longevity in my family, and she could literally last another 30 years, so it's not like she's going to die anytime soon; she's healthy as a horse, and lives a busy and independent life, so there's nothing whatsoever for me to stress about, but that still doesn't keep me from being a little weirded out. Part of the reason for that, I think, is that HER mother, who's in her 90's, is slowly losing her cognitive abilities, and this makes me see her death within the next decade, and THAT makes me see a time when I won't have either of them... and this is hard for me to grasp emotionally, as none of my family of origin have died during my lifetime as of yet.

Psychologically, the first thing anyone would say about this is that I'm worried about my OWN mortality here, and I'm sure I am at some level, although I haven't been consciously aware of it; people tend to freak out about the years past vs the years remaining when they reach certain pivotal ages and realize what they failed to do, and/or will never be able to do, but I've already exceeded my lifetime goals, and am far from the time when I won't be able to do anything I care about, so I honestly think that's a minor consideration for me currently... although when one of my closest friends turns 40 next month, that'll probably change for a while.

I'm not going to focus on this issue, as that generates bad karma; I'm glad that Thanksgiving is in a week, because I'm going to be VERY grateful this year for the family tendency to live past 100.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

A standard troublemaker pattern 

As I read through forums, I'm constantly amazed as to how the same behavioral patterns emerge over and over in troublemakers; do they all read the same book or something? How do they always know to do the EXACT same thing, when they don't even know each other?

Here's one that's easy to spot, both online and in real life, and easy to BEAT, if you can just keep your head at the crucial moment:

1) The troublemaker, from here on out referred to as "TM" for short, says something nasty to or about the victim; it's usually blatant, but it can be more subtle if they're an experienced TM who wants to have a little gray area to work with later on.

2) The victim protests; it doesn't matter how mildly and politely this is done, the response will be the same.

3) The TM denies having said anything wrong or bad, no matter how extreme and ill-intentioned what they said was.

4) OK, here's where it gets tricky; the TM will then claim that, because they've been "unjustly accused" of saying something mean, THEY are the VICTIM. They'll generally also accuse the actual victim of having "attacked" them via this "accusation" (the phrase "you're jumping all over me" is a favorite), or they may be somewhat indirect and say something like, "You're just trying to pick a fight," or they might go for the "wounded" ploy, with "I'm just so HURT that you've said this"... whatever it is, it's an attempt to drum up some sympathy for themselves for their nonexistent victimhood before anyone has the chance to logically sort things out and say "Hey, wait a minute here..."

5) The TM might pause at this juncture, to see what the victim will do: if the victim is a wimp and backs down rather than get into an argument (as if an argument could HARM them), the TM gets an easy victory... but if the victim tries to argue the point(s), as they usually will, at that instant the interaction has switched from the victim voicing a valid protest to the victim having to defend their OWN statements, and thus the FOCUS of the argument has switched from the TM's actual wrongdoing to the victim's falsely accused wrongdoing. Unless what the TM said was fairly subtle or indirect, though, they won't have enough gray area, or a strong enough case, to win if the victim comes back at them quickly and with solid logic, and they know this instinctively, so you can be fairly sure that the next step will be used.

6) The TM will toss out a bunch of accusations at the victim to further confuse the topic in the eyes of the onlookers, and to throw the victim into a tailspin; they may say "You're making things up, "You're being defensive," "You're overly-sensitive," "You just want to be right," "You're denying my right to my feelings/opinions," "You're not being objective/fair/reasonable," "You're taking this too personally," "You just want people to say what you want," "You're trying to control everyone," and on and on, often getting more and more ridiculous and even belligerent.... and the stunned, outraged victim will almost always fall into the trap and start arguing about their guilt or innocence of each of the charges, thus making it look to observers, who are often incapable of remembering how the whole thing started, or unwilling to read all the posts from the beginning, like the victim is the bad guy, who must have done at least SOME of the many things they're being accused of (the usually-right concept of "where there's smoke, there's fire" works well for the TM, sadly).

7) There are 2 ways this can go now:

a) The victim gets bogged down with accusations that come faster than they can rebut them, especially if, as is often the case, the TM has friends that come and join the fun, making the victim have to rebut ALL of them; even onlookers who ARE following the entire story will react so badly (even *I* have felt this, although I always recognize it as wrong and push it away) to seeing a person arguing endlessly about what they actually said or did that they'll judge against the victim, who is now just screwed... the best they can hope for is for an admin to show up and announce an end to the battle (if they're online) or for some decent-minded person within earshot to say "Enough already!!" (if they're face to face), after which they're seen forever as being this awful, argumentative person, while the TM will mysteriously not be held accountable for all the arguing THEY did, much less for their original wrongdoing. If no help arrives, though, the victim flounders helplessly until the TM gets tired of it and makes a grand announcement along the lines of, "It's clear that all you want to do is argue and argue, but *I* don't want to spend time doing that, so I'm going to go now/stop posting so you can have the last word as you clearly want to"... after which, the TM looks like a HERO, and the victim is left looking like pond scum.

b) The victim can refuse to get sucked in, ignore the flood of accusations, and say something like, "You are NOT the victim here, and I am NOT the attacker. I'm not going to talk about ME, as *I* am not the issue here-YOU are. You have said something that, regardless of what your intentions may have allegedly been, can easily be seen as being insulting, and nothing you can say will change that; since you're not mature enough to admit to what you did and move on, at this point we can go a few more rounds of 'Yes you did/No I didn't,' or we can just STOP now-which would you prefer?"

Assuming you chose 7)b), the response will be:

8) The TM will launch another volley of accusations to try to get you sucked in; refuse to respond to individual comments, and instead make it clear again that you're not going to drop your claim or argue about what YOU said, did or meant. You may need to go through this several times, but be patient; there's no defense against this ploy, so all you need to do is stick to your guns. It may help to realize that, to the onlookers, the fact that the TM is still spewing attempted arguments, while YOU are no longer arguing, and are instead offering a way to end it, makes the tide turn sharply in your favor... and the longer the TM drags it out, the worse they look.

9) If you're with them in real life, the TM eventually will say something like, "Oh, you're just impossible" and flounce away. Online, they'll post something similar, and announce their intention to not post to you ever again (which is conceptually the same as leaving).

10) Congratulations-you WON!! :-)

All you have to do is resist that moment when every cell in your body is screaming for you to rebut all the accusations, and instead consciously realize what game is being played and refuse to play it; you'll not only beat the TM's, you'll usually be free of them, at least for a while-2 for the price of one. Remember, evil is always at its base blind and/or stupid; don't freak out if they target you, because there's ALWAYS a way to beat 'em.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Nonsense in women's magazines 

If I had a dime for every time I've read the following in articles purporting to advise women on relationships:

"Don't worry about his ex-she's ex for a reason."

The reason might be that she dumped him... and he might still love and/or desire her, in which case you can't have a true relationship with him yet. The reason might be that they had a stupid fight... but they still love each other and might want to get back together. The reason might be that they just got a little bored... and absence might be making the heart grow fonder. Although it IS foolish to obsess over his exes, the reality is that exes DO get back together, and DO have "nostalgia sex"... so listen to your instincts, especially if he's still keeping photos and mementos of her around and/or keeping in constant touch with her.

"A man is so thrilled to be in bed with you that he doesn't notice any physical imperfections."

Yeah, right; nearly every woman has had the ego-wrecking experience of a man commenting, after or even DURING sex, about her cellulite, her spider veins, the pimple on her butt, that she needs to lose weight, exercise more, get her boobs enlarged or lifted, remove body hair... men are NOT blind during sex, and they ARE comparing our all too human bodies to the airbrushed perfection of the silicon-inflated, bone-thin women in cheesecake pics.

There IS plenty of good advice in women's magazines, but about some things they show an alarming lack of grasp of reality; be sure to take it all with a grain of salt.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Freedom of speech online 

Have you noticed how many people have become confused as to what "freedom of speech" means as it applies to the online world? They seem to have gotten the idea that it includes the "right" to go anywhere they want and MAKE people "listen"... when of course nothing could be further from the truth.

In the real world, freedom of speech means that you have the right to speak, yes, but you can NOT force your way into someone's home or place of business, or come onto their property, and speak if they don't want you there; that's NOT exercising free speech, that's trespassing. Similarly, you do NOT have the automatic right to go onto a forum online that's owned by someone else and "speak," aka "post"; whoever pays the $ to maintain a forum has the right to decide who can post there and who can't, and what sort of posting is allowed there and what sort isn't... and if you don't agree, you do NOT have the "right" to use their forum to say so.

Nevertheless, I can't tell you how many times I've seen people arguing their "right" to post on a forum, and post whatever suits them; most such people are trolls, of course, and in fact I've learned that the surest way to determine that a person is deliberately trying to cause trouble is when someone takes them to task for their ugly posting and they start screaming about "freedom of speech."

Granted, there's some gray area in the case of things like Yahoo Groups, and blogging systems with commenting, where the actual owner and the one who admins/runs the group/blog/etc aren't the same; in this case, the admin is granted most ownership powers by the actual owner, but any terms of service the actual owner has made all users subject to obviously overrides the wishes of the admin where they're in conflict... but, there aren't going to be many instances where the actual owner wants free-for-alls on their forums, if any, so you still don't have the "right" to post on them.

Another area of confusion over "freedom of speech" is the idea that, if you're speaking somewhere where you ARE allowed to speak, people have to listen to you; no law says that people in real life have to listen in respectful silence while you spout off, or give up THEIR freedom of speech by not arguing with you or criticizing what you've said, and people online don't have to respect what you say, or refrain from argument or criticism, either... despite the trolls who claim that their freedom of speech has been compromised if the others on the forum respond to their nonsense with other than total agreement.

I've even seen people so deluded as to their "rights" that they've told forum owners that they have no right to in any way control what goes on on their own forums; what's even worse in a way are those who, while they agree that the owners technically have the right to control what they own, believe that they're somehow evil if they do so. Don't you wonder what planet the people who think they have the right to piss all over someone's forum, and the owner has to just sit and watch it happen, come from? Wherever it is, I wish they'd all go back there... I'm tireder than I can say of seeing forums grind to a halt because someone felt like spending their time disrupting it and then reacting with outrage when people take umbrage.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Laughter IS the best medicine 

It's no secret that laughter makes you feel good, and that anything that can give you a more positive mindset, reduce your stress, and make you happier is good for your emotional and physical health... hence the old saying in the title. Today, though, I saw laughter perform yet another health-enhancing function, and it was so odd that at first I didn't see what has happening.

The background; a friend of mine has been under heavy and steadily increasing stress in recent weeks, and when she was hit with a monstrous betrayal by people who she'd done an endless # of gigantic favors for (they stole $2000 worth of jewelry from her, and that's NOT a typo), she was so overwhelmed with her rage and pain that she shut down emotionally, sealed it all inside of her because she was afraid of what would happen if she let it out.

Today, she was desperate to be distracted and cheered up, so my husband and I went to spend the evening with her and her husband; I have the wildly funny "Blue Collar Comedy Tour" on DVD, and I brought it along in the hopes that it would take her mind off her troubles for a while... and it performed beyond my wildest expectations. I'm not using a hyperbole when I say that I don't think she paused in her laughter for even so much as 30 seconds during the entire 106 minute show; she showed no signs of hysteria, she just laughed at every punchline... and laughed and laughed.

It took me a while to figure out what was going on; deprived of any other form of release, her intense emotions were pouring out, not in screaming or tears, as would be normal, but in laughter. The woman who was nearly vibrating with tension when we showed up was all loose and ready to go to sleep when we left; I've never heard of "bad" emotions getting dealt with that way, and might have been dubious about it if I HAD heard of it, but having seen it in action, I'm going to try it myself... if it works, I'll have a way to get rid of bad emotions that's not only healthier, but produces good karma rather than bad-you can't beat that.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

The myth of the underpaid woman 

I heard it today for the millionth time: "We women are getting paid 75¢ for each dollar that men make... for the exact same work!!"

No no no NO, we are not not not NOT!! Oh, the first part of that claim IS correct, but adding on "for the exact same work" makes it no longer correct; the average woman does in fact earn significantly less than the average man, but that's because women on the average take lower-paying jobs than men do... yes, it really IS that simple. Most doctors and lawyers are men, the gigantic majority of engineers and computer professionals are men, and the financial industry is still heavily male. Men are bigger risk-takers in general than women, so most business owners, and salespeople for big-ticket items like cars, are men, and most workers in hazardous jobs are men. Even when a woman DOES enter a professional field, she's very likely to pick the least well-paid sub-category in that field; female doctors gravitate towards OB/GYN and pediatric, female lawyers go for feel-good work for charities and battered women, female shrinks end up counseling abused kids... all WONDERFUL careers, and undoubtedly deeply satisfying, but FAR less lucrative than the choices that men in those fields make.

If a woman wants to make the big $, she has to do exactly what a man has to do to get it; get the requisite education and training, take the risks, select the right specialties, and put in the hours... until we do, the average man will still make more than the average woman.

Some people try to argue all this, of course, and when they do the following conversation ensues:

Them: No, women ARE making less for the exact same work!!
Me: Do the men who do your job make more than you?
Them: No, but...
Me: Do the men in ANY job where you work make more than the women doing the same job?
Them: No, but...
Me: Do you know ANY woman who says that the men doing her exact same job are making more than she is?
Them: No, but...
Me: So, where exactly are these women who are making less for the exact same job than men?
Them: Uh... well... but I READ about it...
Me: No, you read about what women and men in general earn; women haven't been paid less just because they were women for DECADES, because it is ILLEGAL to do so.
Them: But... but... at some jobs, there's a salary range, right? Don't men earn more than women in those jobs?
Me: More valuable employees DO get paid at the upper edge of the range in those jobs... and the more valuable employees ARE often men.
Them: {horrified gasp} How can you say that?!!

Because it's TRUE. Why? Say you're an employer; what sorts of things would make an employee more valuable to you than other employees doing the exact same job? Education, for one, and men on the average have more education than women (although that trend is reversing, because women make up a slightly higher % of students in college, med and law schools these days, HOORAY!!). Education in an area that might actually be applicable to the job counts, too... and useless majors like Art History are still bursting with women, while impressive majors like Math are mostly "male."

What else would you, as an employer, value in an employee? How about the willingness to work long hours? The average man works significantly more hours per week than the average woman, and, although this is largely attributable to the disproportionate amount of child care women provide, all that matters to the employer is how many hours an employee is willing to work. The childcare issue also explains why women are much less willing to travel for work, but, again, the extra benefit an employer can get from a male employee makes him more valuable regardless.

Perhaps the biggest thing you'd look for in an employee is how much experience they have; as important as motherhood is, it doesn't replace job experience, so a woman who takes time off to care for even a single kid will have less experience than a man who started his career at the same time she started hers. If a woman is going back to work after taking so much time off to be with the kid that she had to actually quit her former job, not only is she lagging in job experience, but, for many types of jobs, now her skills have gotten rusty, and she's thus worth less to an employer than someone, male OR female, who doesn't have that "rustiness."

All these things combine to give a man (as of the last time I saw statistics) a dollar for each for each 97¢ a woman working the exact same job gets. Surprised? Employers are so afraid of being sued for discrimination that they're oftentimes not paying MEN a fair wage for what they're actually worth; I've heard some men complain about this, and that at some workplaces ONLY women (and minorities) are being promoted, but overall, the male gender, bless them, doesn't whine much about this sort of thing.

If a woman is willing to either not have kids, or take extreme measures to have the freedom to work long hours and travel, and becomes willing to take greater risks and choose the specifics of her education and career to dovetail with what makes the most $ rather than what's the most emotionally and spiritually satisfying, she can then be assured of earning at the highest level for her career category and specific job, and of earning overall the same as a man does; but, ladies, would that few extra cents be worth it?

Friday, November 12, 2004

A few thoughts on Veteran's Day 

Everything we have, everything we are, everything we take for granted, in this country exists because of the many men and women who have fought, and all too often died, for us to be free, for us to be safe, for us to even BE a nation, and for us to be able to hold our heads up and say that we've done our best to ensure that others in the world have the same freedoms we ourselves enjoy. "Thank you" doesn't seem sufficient to cover what we owe to our veterans, but there just aren't any words to cover the depth and breadth of our debt, so I'll say it and hope that some of my feelings come across with it; to every veteran, from the bottom of my heart, thank you for this great nation, thank you for our freedom, thank you for making us strong, thank you for keeping us safe, thank you for making it possible for us to bring freedom to people in other nations, and thank you for providing me with a better life than I could even have dreamed of having without your sacrifices.

To all the military personnel whose lives are currently at risk from the evils of terrorism; regardless of our differing political views, every American wants you to come home safely to your families. Thank you for being willing to serve so that the rest of us can stay here in safety and comfort.

You probably saw this quote in a bunch of places today, but it's so perfect for the occasion that I'm going to use it too:

"It has been said so truthfully that it is the soldier, not the reporter, who has given us the freedom of the press. It is the soldier, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech. It is the soldier, not the agitator, who has given us the freedom to protest. It is the soldier who salutes the flag, serves beneath the flag, whose coffin is draped by the flag, who gives that protester the freedom to abuse and burn that flag." - Zell Miller

Thursday, November 11, 2004

The Food Nazis starve a 1st grader 

As you may have heard on the news, some schools have adopted the policy that THEY, not the parents, get to decide what children eat during the schoolday, with the justification that they're going to alter the rate of obesity among children by doing so. As part of the implementation of this new plan, children are forbidden to bring a lunch from home; the only lunch they can have is whatever the cafeteria provides, and they have to either eat that or go hungry... there are no exceptions made, even if the lunch contains things the child in unwilling or unable to eat, even if the ENTIRE lunch will end up uneaten. How did this disgraceful policy get implemented? Were the parents all indifferent to the potential hunger of their innocent children? Are they too stupid to grasp that a hungry child won't learn anything, won't do well on tests, and may become a discipline problem, and that it's just plain WRONG to make it impossible for some kids to eat lunch?

I learned about the extreme nature of the food-control policies today when a friend called to tell me that her worthless ex-husband, who has custody of their child (and lives very far away, sadly), had belatedly informed her that their little girl was going hungry EVERY DAY at school, because there are only a few things she'll eat, and the school isn't providing those things. Can you imagine a father so despicable that he doesn't feel it necessary to take action so that his child can EAT? The girl's mother is a mental health patient under heavy medication, so when she told me about all this, she didn't have a plan of action figured out, she was just distressed and turned to me for help; as you might imagine, once I got the details of the situation from her, *I* came up with a plan, which will go into immediate effect:

With the assistance of her mother, my friend (who can't always communicate clearly) is going to systematically take on every person and agency with any control or influence on this situation until an exception is made that will allow her child to either bring a lunch from home or to be given a special meal each day at school that she can eat. If she has to go to the mayor's office, the governor's office, the media, whatever it takes, she's going to make sure that her 1st grader doesn't have to have an empty tummy every afternoon.

What is this country coming to, that the Food Nazis have become so powerful that, not only have they taken the real milkshakes and the super-sized fries out of fast food restaurants, they've also managed to create situations where the school lunch programs, which were intended to make sure that even poor kids get a lunch, are actually DEPRIVING kids of lunches? Anyone with half a brain knows that there's no such thing as a nutritious meal that all kids will be able to eat; kids are bursting with food allergies, and they might be lactose intolerant, vegetarian, supertasters, or just plain picky eaters... but don't they still all deserve to be able to have lunch? Unless the schools are willing to provide customized meals for any child who needs them, to guarantee that each child has a full lunch every day, it's simply not acceptable for the schools to be forbidding kids to bring food to school with them; I ardently hope that, once they're forced to make an exception for my friend's little girl, other parents will demand exceptions, too, undermining the program until it's discontinued.

I don't suppose they'll be bringing back those real milkshakes any time soon, though...

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

20,000 hits!! :-) 

Today, I was thrilled and flattered to see that, despite the extreme popularity of political blogs over the last few, pre-election months, or perhaps because of it, I've passed the 20K hits mark... pretty amazing for a blog that I never expected to have more than a handful of readers due to the length of my essays and the weirdness of my topics.

Even more amazing to me is that, although my first 10,000 hits took 7 months to get, the 2nd 10K took only 3.5 months; I don't know what to attribute that to, as I haven't changed anything on here other than adding a few doodads in the sidebar, and haven't enhanced my "marketing" beyond using the ping form on this site


to alert all the major "tracking sites" when I've updated (which I highly recommend that ALL bloggers do, as it DOES bring you more traffic), neither of which could have made this big of an increase... so, I'll just be grateful for it and say "welcome" to my newer regulars. :-)

At 10K hits, my geo-tracker showed that I'd had visitors from over 60 countries; now, I'm at nearly a HUNDRED. I've become adept at finding maps online to give me a clear picture of where the more unfamiliar countries are, and in doing so have learned more geography than I had for the entire rest of my life put together. Since nearly half of my visitors are from outside the United States, I try to keep in mind what things might need some extra explanation to make sense to people without my cultural context; I hope I'm succeeding, and, if I'm not entirely, be assured that I AM trying. It's also much on my mind that people from other lands read blogs by Americans and take away a sense of what we're like; if this applies to YOU, be aware that VERY few Americans are as long-winded as I am, lol, or as interested in metaphysical topics, and that my opinions in general are RARELY representative of that of the average American... and that you probably know more about the TV shows, music and movies that are popular here than *I* do.

Curious as to how I'm doing in a broader sense, and inspired by a blog where the "owner" posted about being #1 on Google for some term or other, I went to Google to do a search for "omniverse" and see how I'm stacking up amongst the scifi and comic book sites; Google returned 12,900 URL's for "omniverse," and out of all of those, mine was... #1!! WOOHOO!!

The funny thing is, there's probably not anyone who gets more out of this blog than ME; writing it has opened and focused my mind, leading me to make astonishing spiritual progress, and gain insights into many aspects of human nature. Furthermore, it's you, the readers of my ramblings, who are truly responsible for my success, not just in terms of hits, but because knowing you're here, even if we can't communicate directly, makes it necessary for me to achieve a level of thoroughness in my analyses that wouldn't be there if I were just writing for myself; the need to be sure that I'm as clear and logical as humanly possible, so that you can see what I'm seeing, makes me a better writer... and my blog more worthy of your visits.

I don't want to get all sappy, or sappiER, I just wanted you to know how grateful I am every day when I see that the # on my counter has increased, knowing that most of those hits are from people who are coming here by choice rather than by accident; to all my readers, THANK YOU!! :-)

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

The dark side of Blockbuster online 

I wasn't excited, at first, about these programs that allow you to maintain a list of DVD's you want to see at the company's website and let you have 3 at a time, sending you new ones as the old ones get mailed back; unless availability and mailing times worked in your favor, it'd be cheaper to just rent locally, and I'm too Puritan at heart to be willing to pay extra just not to have to go to a store to get DVD's... even my husband, as lazy as he is, thought the whole idea was silly. We converted in a hurry when we discovered that the only place we could rent season 3 of "Queer as Folk" was online, but the intention was to only be members for 1 month, during which we'd see all the episodes... or, rather, that was MY intention; my husband, once he experienced getting DVD's through the mail, got hooked, and so outright LIED when asked whether the month was almost up, and didn't reveal that he'd be billed automatically once it was so that I wouldn't demand the exact billing date and then make him cancel before we reached it (my response to this revelation is a whole other topic, one that no woman needs spelled out, and no man wants to hear, so I'll skip it).

It was bad enough when I figured out that the month HAD to be up, but at least we had a long list of movies, and had been having pretty fast turnaround through the mail... but then, the DVD's stopped coming. After a couple of weeks with no DVD's, weeks that we'd PAID FOR, I finally succeeded in getting my husband to log into his account to see what was up, and, guess what, their system claimed they never got back ANY of the previous 3 DVD's we'd sent back... or DID we send them back?

The plot thickens; dropping the DVD's off at the post office was my husband's job. This shouldn't be cause for concern, except he's legendary for forgetting things and otherwise screwing up. This STILL shouldn't be cause for concern, since I of course follow up and verify with him that he DID in fact mail them out, except one of his little games is to SAY he's done something, when in fact he has NOT, in order to prevent me from keeping after him about it... and this would STILL not be cause for concern if he actually was keeping track and making sure he got those things done, but he DOESN'T, which leaves me having to deal with getting constantly blindsided when things I thought he already handled turn into disasters because they never got done.

In other words, we don't KNOW if he mailed the DVD's or not, as it's been too long for him to remember whether he actually did it or just lied about it and then forgot. We started out assuming, with what was undoubtedly excessive charitableness, that he HAD mailed them, and he called Blockbuster to have them check and see if what the website showed was in error... and they claimed they never got them. Since there's a limit as to how many packages one can expect the post office to lose within a couple of weeks, that means that either they're screwed up... or, that the DVD's never got mailed.

My husband did a "search" for the DVD's, and that word is in quotes because he can't find anything in all his mess unless it jumps out and bites him on the ankle, and most of the time he's allegedly searching he's actually screwing around on the computer; as you'd expect, he did NOT turn up the DVD's.

He's going to call Blockbuster again and try to get them to make a more intensive effort to see if the DVD's got credited to someone else's account or some such thing, and we'll have to keep looking around here... but the likelihood is that we're going to have to PAY for all 3 DVD's, and you can bet they charge full retail price for 'em. And all because my husband HAD to be a smart guy and play games to hold onto the online DVD account beyond the point when we actually NEEDED it.

Note to my husband, who reads my blog; unless you want your name to appear in the newspaper along with the phrase "found with a DVD player shoved into an unmentionable bodily cavity," you had better get this handled, and FAST.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Understanding battered women 

It never ceases to amaze me how easily people brush aside the grim reality suffered by the victims of partner abuse with the convenient analysis "well, she COULD have called the cops, or run away, so she deserves whatever she got." Then, if the woman finally rises up and smites her abuser, people scream in outrage... outrage that was notably missing when SHE was the one being "smote." If you know anyone who's so dense that they STILL don't grasp what the life of a battered woman is like, and how she can be driven to commit violence, or even murder, against her abuser, here's what you can tell them:

Early on in the pattern of abuse, some women DO try to get help; the police in many areas STILL don't want to interfere with domestic disputes, though, and friends and family too often either tell her that it's no big deal (typical in poor communities), that she must be exaggerating (typical when he's successful in the business world and/or a charmer), or to just leave... and if she doesn't leave, they feel sure that things really AREN'T that bad, and there goes any possibility of support. Sadly, most women are so ashamed of what has happened that they DON'T tell anyone in the early days, and if they love the man they stay with him despite the abuse, especially if they have kids and/or he's the only wage earner... hoping, with the foolishness that so often accompanies love, that this is just a phase he's going through.

If fear of being "found out" doesn't totally cut the woman off from everyone in her life other than the abuser, he intimidates her into giving them all up; now, she has no source of affection or even human contact, no one to talk to, and, she feels sure, no one who will help her. He usually maintains total control over all the $, knowing that she can't go anywhere without a way to pay. He may even forbid her to use the phone or leave the house without his permission in extreme cases. This doesn't all happen at once, of course, it happens gradually, and as each increment of control occurs, it's always easier, SAFER, to go along with it than to get a beating and then have to give in anyways... and the woman eventually ends up as little better than a prisoner, with no freedom of action, and her entire life centered on appeasing the "warden."

When things get THAT bad, why does she still not take action? Even if she hasn't been explicitly threatened, her terror, her shame, her intimidation, her exhaustion, her isolation, her depression, her pain, and the nonstop, crushing stress of the situation paralyze her; she CAN'T act, she can't leave, she can't call for help, she can't do anything but take it and take it.

Usually, of course, there ARE threats; the abuser tells the victim that if she tries to leave, he'll find her and kill her, and she BELIEVES that... and, objectively, it IS probably true The abuser will also threaten to kill the victim if she tries to get help, and she believes THAT, too; again, the danger IS probably real The victim also knows from painful experience that she can't fight back; the abuser is MUCH bigger, stronger, and meaner, so it's not as if she can beat HIM up and take off. So what can the victim do that, in HER mind, she sees as NOT leading to her death at the hands of the abuser?

If she can get a gun, which is the only weapon she can use on him when he's still far enough away from her to not be able to grab her, she may shoot him. She might try to poison him if she can figure out how to get him to eat or drink something with poison in it. If neither of these things is viable, what she's left with is to attack the abuser when he's asleep (or passed out), which is the ONLY time he's vulnerable; she may kill him, or try to (it's HARD to kill someone if you don't have a gun), or she may just intend to injure him badly enough that he can't come after her... she may even cut his penis off, as has happened several times.

In her mind, she's defending herself, protecting herself from more beatings, and possibly even saving her life; it's hard to see it otherwise, but some people DO think that, as long as she wasn't being abused at the instant of her attack, it's NOT self defense. To MY way of thinking, the idea that it's only self-defense if you're being attacked at that moment does NOT apply when the attacker is stronger and has the victim under his control, whether in a partner relationship or a parent/child one; the victim knows that, if they try to fight back during a beating, not only do they have no chance of ending it, but that it will become more severe, possibly to the point of their DEATH, so they don't DARE fight back while being attacked... and, if they can't strike back at any other time, either, that would mean that they in effect would NEVER be allowed to act in their own defense.

If someone is abusing you, and you KNOW that you can't get away, because they'll hunt you down and kill you if you try, and you KNOW you can't call for help, because they'll kill you if you do, and you KNOW that another beating is just around the corner, possibly the beating that ends your life, what are you supposed to do... just resign yourself to taking that beating, and keep taking the beatings until the abuser either gets bored with you or kills you? Or... do you ACT?

When abused women (and children) rise up from victimhood and attack, or even kill, their abusers, with guns, with poison, or while they're asleep, we need to see that for what it is; the last flicker of the instinct for self-preservation lashing out to end the situation in a way OTHER than with their own death... in other words, as self defense.

Our legal system has GOT to come up with some sort of help for battered women other than restraining orders, which are just pieces of paper and don't deter a man who's intending to KILL someone, and a willingness to prosecute a man AFTER he's beaten the woman into a coma, or to death; I'd be willing to pay a little extra in taxes to fund something along the lines of the witness protection program that would put a battered woman and her kids out of the abuser's reach forever... would you?

Sunday, November 07, 2004

How much can we love? 

Some people say they love the entire human race, 6.1 billion people, only an infinitesimal % of whom they'll ever meet.

In some cultures, ancestors are worshipped, and people typically love relatives that not only did they never meet, but who are DEAD.

It's common for the family and friends of a pregnant woman to love the fetus, even though they've never seen it, even at the point when it's just a little blob of cells... even though they might not believe in general that a fetus at that stage is a human life yet (I myself am pro-choice, but I have to admit that that's some convoluted thinking there).

Most of the human race believes in, and loves, a deity or deities of some sort, which they have never seen, and whose very nature they can only guess at.

(If there's anything that truly separates us from the animals, it's probably our ability to love the unknown and the unseen.)

We love our pets, even those that don't love us back, like snakes and such, as if they were our children; given that some people have literally dozens of pets, it's clear that we can love a large # of animals.

What about people? How many friends can we love at a time? Some of us have hundreds of friends that we've accumulated throughout our lives, all of whom we feel love for, so our horizons seem pretty wide in this area.

What about the deeper, more intimate love we feel for family? It's standard in plenty of cultures around the world to keep in pretty close touch with a couple of hundred relatives, and generally to love them all; in our culture, we tend to keep in limited contact with most of our family, but we STILL love them.

How about the intense love we feel for our closest relatives? There are families that have a double-digit # of kids, and the parents will tell you that they love each one of those kids more than their own lives. The brothers and sisters love each other no matter how many of them there are. Grandparents whose grandkids # in the triple digits still love them all as much as grandparents that are far less blessed love their grandkids.

So here's my question; since it's obviously natural for us to love a large # of people, and to feel even our most powerful love for many people if there happen to be many available... why does American culture believe that it's impossible or evil to love more than one person in a romantic way?

Saturday, November 06, 2004

The power of empathy 

We don't talk much about empathy, but we SHOULD, because it's one of the most powerful forces in our lives; without this ability to feel what others are feeling, we'd live in an utterly terrifying world. Why? Because without empathy, a person is a sociopath; nearly all violent criminals are sociopaths, as are those who're capable of cold-bloodedly ugly behavior to people who are supposed to be friends and lovers... how would YOU like every single person in the world to be like that?

Without empathy, we couldn't treat people compassionately even if we wanted to, because we wouldn't know how people were feeling, or would feel under given circumstances; just try to do something as simple as breaking bad news to someone or setting up a romantic evening if you can't get a feeling for the other person's reactions. Empathy is necessary, not just to our relationships, but to our very humanity; as any pet owner can tell you, mammals have the capacity for empathy, so without it, we'd be worse than just sub-human... we'd be reptiles.

Empathy does us another big favor; it makes it possible for us to enjoy movies, TV, and works of fiction, because it allows us to see events unfolding for actors on a screen, or read about them happening to characters in a book, and, even though we know in the upper part of our brains that these things aren't real, just the sight of people who LOOK like they're having emotionally-charged experiences, just the written DESCRIPTION of such experiences, allows us to feel those emotions in our own bodies. When we become excited, aroused, angered, frightened, saddened or delighted with what a fictional person (or alien, even) is going through, that's empathy... and just try to imagine enjoying these forms of entertainment withOUT having those feelings.

Have you ever used the presence of empathy as a criterion for judging whether or not a person should be given a place in your life? Probably not, but you SHOULD; it's the only way to avoid sociopaths. Casually bring up to a new person how you cried when a character "died" in a movie that you know everyone cried about (yes, even men will at least choke up), and if they nod and at least agree how sad it was, you're ok; if they respond with some sort of remark about how they NEVER cry at movies, though, and it sounds like a statement of fact rather than transparent macho posturing... RUN!!

Friday, November 05, 2004

The season is getting underway 

No, I don't mean the holiday season, although it IS indirectly to blame; 'tis the season to get flooded with pleas for charitable donations... apparently, people are more like to ante up around the holiday season, if the contents of my mailbox are any indication.

Every critter, every square inch of wilderness, seems to have at least one organization dedicated to its preservation; this is probably a good thing, as SOMEONE has to care enough about that sort of stuff to dedicate their lives to it, but these folks generate a volume of mail that puts the politicians to shame, and it can be hard to wade through it all and figure out who to give $ to (yes, it'd be easy to toss it all out, but I love animals too much to not help out with a few donations every year)... and every time I send out a check, the # of requests takes another jump upwards.

Nearly all of them send address labels; I use them as fast as I can, but I could paper my walls with the leftovers. They give me packets of cards that are not quite nice enough to send out, but too nice to toss out. I have a STACK of calendars with wildlife photos for each month, and enough personalized notepads to pave over my front yard. These freebies are supposed to guilt-trip me into giving, but they leave me unmoved; as you might imagine, I'm not the type to feel like I owe them something for sending me unsolicited stationary supplies. They've gotten smarter in recent years, though, and have started offering neat gifts if you send them enough $, and this has been my downfall; wave a cute stuffed animal at me, or a pretty tote bag, and that'll be the organization whose info packet I'll read through, and who'll eventually get a check from me.

My favorites are the ones that give you a whole list of gifts to choose from; what a BRILLIANT strategy that is, to get the potential donor all excited about picking out a cool animal-themed gift... because once that best gift is picked out, a donation inevitably follows. What's weird is that it's apparently ONLY the animal/wilderness charities that have figured out the efficacy of this strategy; I don't get many requests from charities that directly benefit humans (don't they buy those lists of soft touches anymore?), but I get enough to see that they're sticking with that grim old method of showing you pics of starving or crippled kids and relying on guilt, rather than gifts, to get $... now, wouldn't YOU rather pick out a gift than see photos of little burn victims? They need to go for the more positive marketing method if they want to keep raking it in.

I know that times are tight for many people right now, but, before any spare $ you might have gets sucked up by Christmas gifts, consider sending a few dollars to help an endangered species, or save a wetland, or cure a disease; even if you DON'T get a gift in return, you'll feel good about it, I promise.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Post-election questions 

You probably heard/read the same questions as I did over and over today:

1) Q: Everything I saw on the news said that Bush would lose... how did they get it so wrong?

A: The liberal media (how's that for a redundant term?) understands about the Big Lie theory; if you say something often enough, and authoritatively enough, people will believe it. They made those claims to convince people of Kerry's superiority, and thus gain him more votes... but they failed to create enough votes to give him the win.

2) Q: Every poll I saw said that Bush would lose... how did THEY get it so wrong?

A: Polls are easy to rig. Even when those administering the poll truly try to be impartial and fair, they're not going to be able to invest the time, effort and MONEY necessary to do a scientific poll, which is the ONLY kind that can produce meaningful results; they want you to believe that their "random" polls (which are rarely if ever random) give results that are just as good, but if they're not making sure that their results contain EVERY category of person, in the same % that they exist in the nation as a whole, their #'s won't be valid. In addition, the WAY polls get answered skews the results; if they're calling people and asking them to participate, only those people who are at home and have nothing better to do will reply, which eliminates MOST potential voters, especially the older and more well-to-do voters who tend to be conservative... thus leaving a falsely liberal group of respondents. Polls given face to face are usually administered in urban areas, where you see high concentrations of minorities and the poor, who are traditionally liberal; again, you get a falsely liberal group of respondents. And as for online polls; how many older and/or well-to-do folks are answering online polls? Again, you have a heavy liberal bias in those who respond. All this adds up to there not being a single poll that reflected the views of the majority of voters or the actual results of the election.

3) Q: Why do we still have the electoral college?

A: If you or anyone you know subscribes to Discover magazine, you/they can go to their website and register to gain access to the brilliant article they had on this topic in the November '96 issue, called "Math Against Tyranny"


which shows why the electoral college is essential. If not, you can read my essay on the topic here:


The one-line summary is; without the electoral college, a candidate could win who was intensely popular in one area of the country but not liked in the rest of the country, which would mean that the president would NOT represent the country as a whole... and that must NOT happen.

Hopefully, that'll be it for political posts here for a while; I could use a good dose of synchronicity to refocus my mind on matters metaphysical....

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

The White House, and the Dark Tower 

Warning; this post will contain spoilers for Stephen King's novel "The Dark Tower"; if you plan to read it and don't want to have the surprise spoiled, skip this post.

As of when I'm writing this, Bush appears to have won the election beyond any shadow of a doubt, despite the fact that CNN and the rest of the liberal media are trying to hem and haw and refuse to announce the results of the last few states, especially the crucial state, Ohio; in addition, the Republicans have increased their majorities in the Senate AND the House. On behalf of myself and the other conservative Americans who cast the votes that made this happen; WOOOOOHOOOOO!!

I finished "The Dark Tower" today... and I'm in AWE. King did something unusual; he made an ending in which the hero comes to the door of the tower we've waited over 20 long years and 7 long novels for him to reach, but, although we don't know what happens when he goes in, King then "ends" the story and, addressing the readers directly, tries to make a case for us to read no further... knowing, I'm sure, that not one single reader will fail to read on and find out what happens inside the tower. Finally, FINALLY, the hero reaches the room at the top of the tower, and my eyes were nearly bugging out of my head as he turned the doorknob, to reveal at last, AT LAST, what his thousand-year quest would bring him to, and it's... it's... the desert where the 1st novel began, and the hero has a moment to remember that he's done this entire quest many times before, and is going to have to do it yet again, before he's drawn into the desert and his memory fades. The last novel ends with the same line that the 1st novel in the series began with: "The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed."


Even if there was no flicker of hope for the hero, this would be unutterably brilliant, but King DID give us that hope; the hero was sent back to the beginning of his quest with something very important that he had been without the previous times, leading us to think that this next iteration would indeed be his last, and at the end of it he'd get... well, SOME sort of reward. As much as I'd come to love the hero, and wanted him to have a happy ending for his efforts, I "know" that, if asked, he'd agree that he didn't deserve a reward yet, because he got so many people killed along the way to the tower, and so rightly had to do it all again... it's the same sort of concept as reincarnation, where you're supposed to improve with each lifetime until you're finally "perfected."

Speaking of concepts, a central one of the series is what, in the alternate universe our hero lives in, is called "ka," which in OUR universe would be called, you guessed it-karma. I LOVE Stephen King!! :-)

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Why do we love accents? 

If you don't react with a spike of interest when you hear someone speaking with an accent, you're in the minority; let's face it, most people with accents get sexual attention far beyond what someone with their level of attractiveness would be expected to get (accents which are believed to be somehow indicative of inferiority, such as the "redneck accent," are exceptions). Think about it, though; why is the mispronunciation of everything considered MORE attractive, rather than LESS? Why do we think that accents are sexy and cute?

Let's look first at the animal kingdom: Scientists have verified that some species of apes have accents too, and that means just what it sounds like, believe it or not; they "pronounce" their vocalizations differently depending on what area they live in... and yes, the apes show significantly elevated interest in those of their kind that have accents. The reason for this, they believe, is that if you meet a fellow-creature that sounds to you as if they have an accent, that means that they're not from your area, and THAT means that they're almost certainly not related to you, and in fact are from a very different gene pool... and this is highly desirable from a mating standpoint.

They think that humans are attracted to those with accents for the same reason; we have the instinct to mate with those that are less likely to reinforce undesirable genes, eg those who are very different than ourselves, genetically speaking. Since we're not just acting on instinct, though, I think that we also have to consider things like an accent making someone seem exotic and exciting, especially in the modern world where most of us are aware of the fascinating cultures that exist in the countries we've learned about and dreamed of visiting. In America, we're so eager for novelty that the mere fact that an accent is "different" makes it attractive to us, and the portrayal of people with accents as sexually desirable in movies and TV plays a part too; we have the subconscious idea that someone from a different place won't be bound by the same rules we are, and that they'll do "things" (cough*sex*cough) in ways that will be new to us and thus titillating.

Whatever the reasons, there's not much that can draw my attention to a man faster than an accent... except for a hairy chest, of course. ;-)

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