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Neko

Saturday, July 31, 2004

When was it decided that couples had to be clones? 


It used to be that men and women were expected to be totally different in every way, from the activities that filled their days to the clothes they wore to the personality traits that were considered admirable in them. For all that we can argue that women were oppressed in those days, this system worked pretty well, because opposites attract... and people who are just like us aren't mysterious enough, and thus not exciting enough, to engender long-term romantic feelings in us, which is part of why we've become so terrible at forming relationships that last.

We've done a complete 180 from the times when we effortlessly hooked up with marital partners before we left our early 20's and were pretty satisfied; in those days, if you felt any twinge of attraction and got along ok, boom, you were set for life... and biology made sure that the spouses, who'd always be a little mysterious to each other, would stay solidly together. Nowadays, the first thing we ask ourselves after "is this prospective partner attractive?" is "what do we have in common?" and if the answer is "not much," we use that as a reason to ignore the qualities the person possesses that actually count for something, and go looking for some worthless person who likes to play tennis as often as we do (or whatever)... and then we wonder why we can't keep the fire burning with whoever we choose. What on Earth does liking the same food or music have to do with whether you're compatible for a long-term relationship? What does liking the same colors and movies have to do with how honest and decent the other person is? I know we WANT to believe that the things we like translate to certain personality traits, and it would be convenient if it was so, but the sad reality is that people of ALL sorts like every kind of food, music, movies, art, etc imaginable, so finding someone who likes what you like does NOT mean that you've found someone with the same personality as you, much less a GOOD person... and that someone with the same personality as you is the last thing you should want in any case.

It's not just that someone just like you would bore you silly, it's that someone just like you won't show you new things, or challenge you, or stimulate you to grow... and that will lead to stagnation, which is relationship death. Plus, it's no secret that people with our same flaws drive us crazy; even worse, people with our same flaws tend to reinforce what's worst in us, such that 2 people who are sloppy will live in a pigpen, 2 people who are bad with $ will live in eternal debt, and so forth.

Still not convinced? Think you'll only feel safe with someone that has everything in common with you? Ask yourself this; what happens when you change, when they change, as you both inevitably will, and suddenly you're NOT the same any more? Neither of you feels safe, and you both go off looking for someone who matches who you are at that point... and the cycle continues.

My husband and I have virtually nothing in common in ANY area, and, after nearly a decade together, we're still as lively as we were the day we met; do you know any other couples that can say that? Trust me, look for someone who has VALUES that match yours, and let the rest go; you'll spend alot of time picking up their messes and such, if MY marriage is any example, lol, but at least it'll be the same person's mess until death do you part.


Friday, July 30, 2004

Screwed by the food police 


Do you think that those who scream for "healthier" foods to be made available are always working for our benefit? It seems as if they should be, but consider:

It's getting hard to find a decent milkshake anymore, because, in order to reduce fat and calories to acceptable levels as dictated by the food police, fast food chains have in large part caved in and are now making shakes that are mostly air or corn syrup... or, in the case of Foster's Freeze, some sort of gross synthetic stuff that leaves unbroken bubbles in the cup WEEKS later, and doesn't ever go bad (I only WISH I was joking). Jack in the Box and, weirdly, Arby's, still have good shakes, but I resent not being able to get real shakes in all the traditional places because a bunch of busybodies think they're fighting obesity by foisting low-fat shakes on everyone, and have insisted that the icky shakes REPLACE the good ones, rather than just being added as an option.

Because so many people have been suckered by the low-carb nonsense into thinking that that's the path to thinness, all sorts of goofy low-carb fast food options, like burgers wrapped in lettuce instead of soft, lovely buns, have appeared, which isn't really a problem because the good stuff is still available, but the next step has been taken, and Round Table, makers of the finest pizza in the country, has switched to a thinner crust with about a third fewer carbs; note that I didn't say that this had been added as an option-they have REPLACED their excellent crust with this distinctly less appealing one.

Kids are getting royally screwed by the push to make tasty food "healthy"; the fast food chains are increasingly offering the "choice" of milk and/or juice instead of soda, and fruit instead of fries, with their kids' meals... which means, not that kids will have more choices, since no child would choose milk and fruit over soda and FRIES, but that the entire point of going to get fast food will be ruined for some kids, because their parents will jump on the idea of replacing the treats with the same boring food the kids get at home. I'm grateful beyond words that these things weren't being offered when *I* was a kid, because my parents would have been the first in line to turn the special treat of going for fast food into a battle, stress, and the bitter disappointment of not actually being allowed to have anything tasty to eat while those all around me were happily slurping up fries, and my heart breaks for the kids who'll be suffering just that fate.

Another psycho idea is the production of favorite cereals, like Frosted Flakes, with reduced sugar; we all know that no child who ever lived paused in their cereal consumption to whine "but this is too sweeeeeeeeeeeet-I wish there was a kind with less sugar," so this new twist is aimed at parents, allowing them to get something that their kids will like far less, or not at all, but which they'll be forced to eat in order to let the parents feel like they've taken bold action to enhance the health of their kids.

I remember when they arm-twisted all the fast food places to stop including beef lard in the mixture their fries were made in, although the flavor was dependent on the beef lard and so was far less delicious with it removed; all the above seems every bit as insane. I'm tireder than I can say of having my food choices controlled; there's something truly surreal about living in a wealthy country with endless choices for everything, but not be able to get real fries and a real shake anymore. What's next, nonfat cheese and soy bacon on my burgers?


Thursday, July 29, 2004

10,000 hits!! 


I'm happy to announce that my little corner of the universe has surpassed 10,000 hits; I'm pleased and touched that a blog with no comments, no pictures, no news, no porn, no games, no tech stuff, nothing but my lengthy rants on usually oddball topics, has managed to be visited so many times in its first 7 months. To all of you who take time from your lives to visit me, and especially any of you who send others to take a look around; THANK YOU!! :-)

Nearly as amazing to me as the # of hits I've gotten is the geographic composition of my visitors; although I've only had geo-tracking for a couple of months, I've already recorded hits from over SIXTY countries: United States, Canada, Singapore, United Kingdom, Australia, India, Netherlands, Brazil, Spain, Philippines, Korea (Republic of), Germany, Japan, Malaysia New Zealand, France, Norway, Belgium, Austria, Portugal, Taiwan (Province of China), Mexico, Sweden, Italy, Ireland, Finland, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong, Denmark, Israel, Lithuania, Switzerland, Russian Federation, Chile, Thailand, Yugoslavia, Indonesia, Trinidad and Tobago, South Africa, Greece, Uruguay, Slovakia, Oman, Qatar, Poland, Morocco, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Croatia, Peru, Jordan, Azerbaijan, Czech Republic, Georgia, Venezuela, Ghana, Argentina, Pakistan, Kuwait, Luxembourg, Cyprus, Puerto Rico, Romania, Egypt, and Sri Lanka (this list is in the order it appears on my tracking page, and does NOT reflect any preferences on my part for some countries over others-ALL are welcome here). I'm astounded, and humbled, to discover that Americans make up only 56% of my visitors; I don't suffer from excessive modesty, but I'd have never thought that so many people from other cultures would find the ramblings of a manic American to be of interest.

From my encounters on other blogs with people who visit here, I know that some folks still wonder why I don't have comments, a posted email address, or personal info on my blog; if you want the detailed answers, see my entry of March 1... the short answers are that I don't want to invest the time to have debates here, or the emotional energy to deal with that small % of prospective commentors or emailers who'd be belligerent, and that I need to be able to be anonymous in order to post openly without worrying about a loved one finding my blog and freaking out.

I can't tell you how many times I've wished there was a safe way for me to communicate with my "regulars," whoever you are, see what you like the most here, what keeps you coming back, and find out who you are, what sorts of lives you live... because, in a weird way, you're closer to me than anyone in my real life (except my husband, who DOES read along), and naturally I'd enjoy feeling close to YOU.

Until I can find a way to make that work, I hope that my efforts to inform, to present new perspectives, to suggest new ideas, and to entertain you, continue to make this blog a place worth coming to. Again, thank you!! :-)


Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Fortuitous psychic event 


I was replying to an email tonight from a guy I recently met online, one who shares my interest in 80's metal, and was working my way down the list of bands we'd been talking about; I was somewhat disappointed to see that, although he was familiar with some of the more obscure bands I liked, he'd never even heard of the one that was the most obscure and also my favorite. I was typing "Unfortunately, they only made one album, so" when I froze, and had the urge to look them up with some vague idea of verifying... I'm not entirely sure, and looking back I can't pin it down-I just HAD to look them up. Because the band's name is an actual word, I had to add another search term, and, although one of the bandmember's names would have made the most sense, I found myself typing in "CD" instead... and, you guessed it, discovered that the band, which as far as I knew had disbanded after touring briefly for their album many years ago, has released a CD of new material AND a live CD in the past few years, just not in America. In a daze of disbelief, I sifted through music-selling sites until I found one that had both CD's at a decent price and ordered them.

There was no reason whatsoever for me to have any urge to look these guys up; I'd have never guessed in a million years that they'd ever play music together again. And why didn't I use the obvious secondary search term, the name of the band member who was the central figure of the band because he'd made a name for himself elsewhere? As it turns out, he's not in the band any more-surprise, surprise.

So, what happened here? I was thinking about this band's musical output and, with that "receptor" activated in my mind, info about them slipped in "under the radar" and guided me to CD's that I'd never have known about otherwise, and that I'm ecstatic about getting. Every thought, feeling or action has the potential, via the workings of karma, to create an attraction to related "stuff," and, if you pay attention and go along with any urges you get, however odd they may seem, you'll be glad you did... because it generally leads to you getting or learning something.


Tuesday, July 27, 2004

A useful trick 


I was watching "Courage Under Fire" tonight, and, while Dazzling Denzel was questioning a hostile witness to the events the movie circles around, he told the guy that they were all done, and I just KNEW that he was going to do a 180 and hit the guy with another line of questioning... and he DID. This wasn't a psychic flash on my part, it was the expression of my subconscious realization that this exact technique has appeared in MANY movies, cop shows, even a Stephen King book; I figured there was something to this, so I thought about it for a while.

Why's this questioning method shown all the time? It has to make sense to us that it would work for the plotlines to be believable, so there has to be some underlying psychology going on: If you're being questioned about something that you don't want to reveal info on, you'll be tense, guarded, and rather unhappy, worrying that you'll let something slip. When you're told that the questioning is over, and you realize that you succeeded, that you didn't spill any secrets, you'll heave a big sigh of relief, relax... and drop your guard. If, right at that moment, the questioner hits you with the big question that was being held in reserve, there's a good chance that you'll blurt out the truth before you can rebuild your protective wall; we've all said things without conscious volition when we were caught offguard, even when it wasn't a situation with this sort of emotional intensity.

So, it makes sense, but does it work in real life, or is it just a fictional creation, like the idea that hot women will go for short, dorky guys? I'll try to find a way to test it and see; my husband will be quaking in his boots, lol.


Monday, July 26, 2004

Joel Osteen 


If you'd told me even a few months ago that I'd be watching a TV minister, much less watching with avid interest, I'd have laughed, but I've gotten very caught up in watching Joel Osteen preaching (he comes on on the Family channel late Sunday nights); the version of Christianity that he espouses, and the way he speaks, are captivating.

Don't worry, I'm not being lured away from the study of karma to become born-again or some such thing, but I enjoy any intelligent and eloquent speaker, and this guy has a style that I think would appeal to a broader cross-section of the population than most, and he's obviously actually THOUGHT about spiritual matters, which is a rarity in any religion. He uses humor effectively to get his points across, he has a solid grasp of psychology, and of how spirituality can benefit people (as opposed to scaring or oppressing or confusing them), and, contrary to what one hears from most religious leaders, he talks about not judging people, about accepting them and trying to understand and care about them... which actually bears some resemblance to the message Christ supposedly tried to pass along.

One of the more striking examples of how he's seeing the deeper truth is in a story he tells about seeing a TV preacher with long hair and a generally wild appearance, and that, while his first reaction was "He can't be a real preacher," he thought about it and saw that that man was preaching in the way that seemed right to him, and that that way would appeal to some people who couldn't be reached by a conventional clean-cut preacher... and thus that ALL paths to spiritual truth have value and have the potential for good.

Which is of course what *I* always say.

I'd love to be able to talk to him one day, and see what he thinks about karma. In the meantime, I feel strongly drawn to him, and will keep watching him do his thing. If you can't see him on TV in your area (his shows are seen in over 100 countries, so chances are you CAN catch him), or just want to learn more about him, his site is here:

http://www.joelosteen.com/


Sunday, July 25, 2004

Why is porn so UNerotic? 


I suppose it seems that way to me, and women in general, because nearly all porn is made for men; straight porn, so-called lesbian porn, and gay male porn, are all designed to appeal to what men find stimulating, which basically means jumping right to the most graphic images, descriptions or actions in order to lead to the quickest possible orgasm. Yes, I know there's a tiny % of straight porn allegedly made for female consumption, but it doesn't really look any different, probably because the main consumers of it is gay men (in the case of Playgirl magazine) and straight men, NOT women. There IS some lesbian porn that's actually made by and for lesbians, and this seems to be the main exception to the non-erotic rule; no surprise there, but it's sadly a RARE exception among all the porn out there.

I understand WHY porn is geared towards men-that's where the $ is. Would women be bigger porn consumers if there was quality porn for women available? No one seems to care enough to find out, with easy $ to be made the traditional way. For stories and movies to be erotic, they'd have to be more expensive, and thus with lower profit margins; they'd have to be longer, have plots, dialogue other than oooh's and aaah's, and a visual sense geared to something other than... what men want to look at.

Which is what? Gigantic boobs, usually fake (gay men don't care about them, obviously, but straight men love them enough to make up the difference). Extreme closeups of genitals/orifices. Tight shots of the insertions and piston-and-cylinder type action. And, of course, "the money shot." I can't think of anything LESS erotic than this sort of thing. The preference for surreally perfect bodies, with no body hair and with overall tans, is pretty grim too. Eroticism is NOT made up of this stuff; there's supposed to be some subtlety involved, some surprise, some "personalness" to images and ideas to make them erotic rather than just graphically sexual.

What IS erotic? From what I've read and heard, most women look at it pretty much as I do, which would be:

Seeing entire bodies (rather than just the "dirty parts"), which should be reasonably fit, but natural, rather than gym-bunny-ish, have some semblance of their natural hair where adults have it (I LOVE a hairy chest, and prefer genitals that don't look prepubescent), and don't have tanned skins that one supposes would feel like leather. The person's face should be showing most of the time, both to personalize the body (which otherwise could belong to anyone) and to show emotion and personality; this is probably the most important element for visual eroticism. Some degree of good looks is nice, as that's what gets the juices going, but someone who looks like the cute UPS guy is FAR better than someone who looks like an animated mannequin; chiseled perfection is boring.

In a photo, I like to see the man relaxed and smiling, not tense and posing; bonus points if it looks like he was caught candidly while eating his Wheaties, or something equally innocuous... as if we're getting a forbidden glimpse through a cutie's window as opposed to a photo of a model. In a movie, the man should look and act like he's in love with the woman, because that's what it takes for a man to be tuned into the woman's needs enough to have a shot at giving her what she wants; she should also seem to love HIM, of course, so that she'll look like she's really into it (as opposed to the fake proclamations of desire that are porn staples). There's a bonus to all this pseudo-love; people in love tend to automatically engage in the sort of varied all-body touching that's a big part of eroticism, and to portray a couple in love believably, these things would have to be included. The pace of the sex should be slow, showing savoring of each separate act, rather than the standard pornographic rush to the heavy-duty stuff. Orgasms should be portrayed like orgasms, as oppose to Olympic yodeling events, and afterwards the couple should act like they care about each other, rather than lighting up or, just as bad, fading to black. Written porn should follow along these same lines, but also take advantage of the medium to delve into the thoughts and feelings of the participants; the more human they seem, the greater eroticism they can generate, even though they're just words on a page.


I'm sure that some women will read the above and think, "Oh no, not ME, I prefer the closeups and the fast and furious action"; to you I say... how much porn have you looked at recently, much less collected and/or spent $ on? If little or none, how erotic can you actually be finding what you claim to like? To those men who might be shaking their heads in disbelief or rolling their eyes in dismay, keep in mind that most women view the porn YOU like with the same feelings. And to those men who are thinking of using this info to provide something stimulating for the women in their lives; you're worth your weight in gold.


Saturday, July 24, 2004

A few words on summer wardrobes 


Tis the season to wear less clothing... which is fine, except that for some people the need to dress to stay cool makes them lose their minds. Here are some hints on how to keep some sanity this summer:


Ladies:

(1) Wearing lightweight, gauzy shirts and skirts will keep you FAR cooler than shorts and tank tops, and have the added benefit of keeping your cleavage, bra straps, cellulite, spider veins and fat rolls covered up.

(2) If you wear sandals, make a choice; either wear polish on your toenails and keep it up, or go without... nothing looks more trailer-trashy than ragged chunks of polish.

(3) Flip-flops are NOT a valid substitute for sandals if you're over 20 and not at the beach.

(4) The desire to keep cool does NOT justify showing up at work, or to indoor, daytime social get-togethers, in halter tops and other bare, sexy things, especially without undergarments.

(5) Capri pants make your legs look short and chunky; avoid them if you don't have a supermodel body.

(6) Bare legs are unprofessional; wear cotton tights, a full-length skirt, or lightweight pants to keep cool at work.

(7) The perfume that smells great in winter will be overpowering in summer; wear less, or switch to a lighter scent.


Guys:

(1) If you have hair on your back or shoulders, please, I'm begging you; no tank tops.

(2) If you wear sandals, do NOT wear socks with them, and DO trim your toenails... and realize that you look goofy anyways.

(3) Swim trunks are NOT a substitute for shorts.

(4) Summerwear is more casual, but that doesn't mean that holes and stains are ok.

(5) With the exception of during certain athletic endeavors, mesh shirts are a no-no.

(6) Short-sleeve business shirts are tempting, but, remember, when they put someone in a shirt like that in a movie, it's always someone who's being portrayed as a dork. Try a silk shirt instead-it's far cooler than cotton.

(7) If you use deodorant instead of antiperspirant, you'll be stinky and have big pit stains; attend to your masculine hygiene, and everyone around you will breath easier.


It's fine to want to be cool and comfy, but have some consideration for those who'll be seeing and smelling you, and make sure you're well-groomed and dressed appropriately.... unless you're a hot guy, in which case biker shorts and a bare chest are the way to go. ;-)


Friday, July 23, 2004

The natural diet of human beings 


Has it ever occurred to you that the food pyramid (and virtually every other description of what we "should" be eating) bears no resemblance whatsoever to the diet that human beings evolved to eat?

So what, you ask? Every creature in existence has an instinct that leads it to automatically eat whatever foods are right for it to eat... and the early humans were no exception. Therefore, whatever the early humans ate is exactly what's best for US to eat.

Entire categories from the food pyramid are wrong: Since the early humans never had milk after they were weaned, and never had any milk products EVER (as they hadn't been invented yet, and they had no animal milk in any case, since animals hadn't yet been domesticated), they had NO dairy in their diet... so dairy is NOT part of our natural diet. Since grain as we know it didn't exist then (it took centuries of careful cultivation to turn what started out as weeds with seeds into what we recognize as grain, and cultivation hadn't started yet, plus grain needs to be processed before it's eaten, and that was also far in the future then), the entire "breads and cereals" category is NOT part of our natural diet either.

So, what WAS our diet, then? The ONLY foods that we could have eaten year-round would have been meat (which would have included fish for most peoples), roots that could be dug up even under winter snow, and, in some places, plant odds and ends like the inner bark of some trees. That's IT. (I know this will dismay the vegans, but the simple reality is that, since we didn't migrate or hibernate, we HAD to eat meat to survive the winter, and we needed those dense nutrients to evolve and maintain our size and big brains, AND we need vitamin B12 to survive, and it's only found in foods of animal origin).

What else did we eat? In the spring, we could get eggs and sprouts, and later in the year vegetables, fruits, seeds and nuts would become available. When you think about it, it doesn't seem like we should be eating a bunch of fruits and vegetables every day the way we're told to, since these things would have been available for only a short time each year, and so weren't usually part of our diet.

Our current diet is nearly a complete 180 from the diet we evolved to eat.

Somehow, with little more than meat and roots, we managed to survive and develop into the dominant species on this planet... but HOW? How did we thrive on a diet so radically different than the one the experts want us to eat? Where did we get sufficient calcium to grow our bones past weaning age without dairy foods? How did we get enough vitamin C to ward off scurvy when fruit wasn't usually available? I'd really like to know that, to see research done that would lead to a clear description of what we're designed to eat; that research would be the beginning of a whole new era of nutritional science, and would allow us to eat right, not by reading labels and popping pills, but just by eating our natural diet.


Wednesday, July 21, 2004

A gift from.... ? 


Today I was balancing the checkbook, and I saw a scrambling of the order that checks were cashed in that didn't make sense to me, so I went and got the box with the bank statements so that I could pull out the previous month's statement and make sure there wasn't a missing check. When I got it sorted out, I put the box back, and noticed several statements sitting out that looked like they belonged in the box; upon examination, they turned out to be quarterly statements from our savings account, just sitting there instead of being in a folder or box (we've kept telling ourselves for the nearly a year that we've had the account that we're going to create a storage setup for the statements from this account, but they come so rarely that it's been off of our radar and never got done). Being somewhat compulsive about organization, I decided to create a folder for the savings account right then and there; once I'd done that, I checked through the paperwork to make sure that it was all in chronological order, and discovered that whatever we'd been given as a receipt when we opened the account was missing. MISSING?!! It didn't seem possible, but the earliest thing I had was a statement that showed the account already having earned interest and having an automatic deposit.

I started sifting methodically through every place I could think of that the receipt could have been stashed; no dice. I straightened up, sighed, and started formulating what I'd say to the bank to get the right thing from them, when I happened to glance down... and there, lying right at my feet, neatly aligned with them, was the deposit slip from the opening of the account.

Is it theoretically possible that it had been hiding in some of the papers I'd been handling, slipped out before I got to it, and ended up on the floor without my seeing it or hearing it fluttering down, perfectly positioned to be lined up an inch from my toes at the time I looked down? Yes, barely... but even my skeptical husband, when told this story, made a joke about intervention by something unseen.


How to spot a manipulator 


I think that manipulative types are attending secret meetings where they're taught to use the same techniques, the same WORDS, to push people around... well, not really, but it IS astonishing how utterly consistent they are in their methods.

This line of thought was brought on by my belatedly reading the Sunday comics from July 11; Lucy tries to get Charlie Brown to sign a petition, and when he asks what it's for, she pronounces him wishy-washy... when he points out, correctly, that it's NOT being wishy-washy to know what you're signing, she pronounces him crabby.

This illustrates 2 classic manipulator ploys:


(1) They try to get you to do something unreasonable, and, when you don't cave in and blindly go along with it, they apply an adjective to you that's calculated to infuriate you with it's non-applicability, thus messing with your ability to see what's being done to you and allowing them to take it to the next level; depending on the relationship between the 2 of you and the situation, you might get referred to as untrusting, unspontaneous, uptight, anal, inflexible, selfish, stubborn, unreasonable, a control freak, etc.

Some of these are terms that would possibly apply IF the request was reasonable and the victim was not (which is of course why manipulators use them), and some, such as selfish and control freak, actually describe the manipulator, not their intended victim... what unmitigated GALL these people have, to claim with a straight face that it's selfish to not act to your disbenefit just because they asked, or to refer, incorrectly, to insisting on the right to control your OWN life as being a control freak, right when they're trying to control you.


(2) Now that they've ticked you off by trying to make out that YOU are the one in the wrong for refusing them, as opposed to THEM being in the wrong for making an unfair demand, they'll hit you with accusations that you are; overly-sensitive, over-reacting, taking it too personally, cranky, PMS-ing, argumentative, immature, easily upset, and, their all-time favorite, defensive.

A few words about the idea that responding to an attack by defending yourself is the same thing as being defensive: This idea has been thrown out so often that people seem to be losing sight of what being defensive actually means, much to the delight of manipulators; to clear things up, we use defenSIVE to mean that someone is perceiving an attack that isn't there and so is fighting a battle that doesn't exist, and/or that someone believes themselves to be in the wrong, and is trying to argue, not just the point that was made, but the very idea that they are in the wrong... this is totally different from defenDING, which is the normal and proper response to an attack.


Manipulators will also use the following if the opportunity arises:


(3) The assertion that "we all think so, so it must be true"; seen frequently online, and familiar to anyone who was bullied as a kid, the basis of this one is the sad psychological fact that someone being attacked generally finds themselves alone against the attacker(s), as everyone else backs away to keep from being targeted (or, if any of them are themselves manipulators, they'll jump in and help with the attack), and the equally sad reality that there are manipulators everywhere, and they're eager to join forces and chant in unison even against victims that they don't know and have nothing personally against. This group attack takes the general form of; "I think so, he thinks so, she thinks so, and we can't all be wrong, so what we're saying about you is right." The manipulators may also do this indirectly by constantly quoting each other's nasty comments, as if that somehow gave all of their BS more validity, or by comparing the victim unfavorably to other people, with those people being praised, as if to say, "We don't criticize everyone, in fact we like everyone else-only YOU are awful enough to criticize."


(4) Tossing insults at whatever facet of the victim is likely to be the thing they're most proud of or sensitive about: a young mother will be told by her manipulative husband or mother that she's a bad mother, an attractive person will get jibes about gaining weight or getting older, and an intelligent person will get assertions that they're stupid, uneducated, uninformed, etc... in particular, an intelligent woman can be virtually guaranteed that a man who's attacking her will try to convince her that she doesn't know anything and can't think logically, while his unprovoked attacks are the pinnacle of intellect and rationality.


(5) Trying to end, and win, the argument by telling the victim that they shouldn't keep rebutting, and should instead allow the attacker(s) to fling a final load of abuse and just eat it, or by calling them stubborn, immature, or blind for not agreeing with the attacker(s), claiming that the VICTIM loves to argue, cause trouble, and seek attention or, if they're clever, by saying "I know you think you have to have the last word, but..."


Does any of the above sound familiar? If so, congratulations-you've been the target of manipulators... just like pretty much everyone else. These folks use manipulative ploys to attack because they WORK (and because they're rotten people, of course), and they work because they make the victim stop thinking and start responding emotionally. It's surprisingly easy to fight back against this sort of thing once you realize what's going on, though; all you have to do is respond with a calm, deadpan, "No, it's NOT being a control freak to run my own life.... it's not being stubborn to refuse to admit that 2+2=5 just because you say it is... it's not being selfish to be unwilling to not let you help yourself to all of my stuff... it doesn't matter how many people you find to agree with you that black is white, that doesn't make it so." Not only can you rebut them flawlessly this way, you'll drive them NUTS. :-)


Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Lucky psychic incident 


My husband and I were just about cleared out of our hotel room, and were making our final checks... or, rather, *I* was making the final checks, as he considers making sure you don't leave stuff behind in another state to somehow be a waste of time (it's a man thing). I was doing my usual checks around the furniture for stuff that might have fallen behind or between, and I told my husband to shake out all the bedding; I didn't know WHY I'd said it, as it wasn't part of my normal "check procedure" and was objectively a little excessive, as I'd already checked the folds of the bedspread, but when he tried to deflect the task I insisted... and his driver's license turned up. Imagine our having to try to get onto a plane in these frightened times with him with no ID, and with the hotel being FAR too far from the airport to have gone back looking for it and returned before it was time to board. Was this sudden atypical urge to do a bedding check on the one day it was necessary to do so a coincidence? Nnnnnnnnnope.

Monday, July 19, 2004

Oddities of human psychology 


I recently saw another example of one of the weirdest behaviors I've ever seen; a man and a woman start out as a couple, and then break up, and the man gets a new woman, and the first woman, for reasons that have yet to become clear to me, gets the overwhelming desire to hang around with the new couple... not to try to get the man back (yes, some women DO hang around to try and get the man back, but that's not what I'm talking about), not because either the man or the 2nd woman have shown any interest whatsoever in being her friend (and in fact they tend to look a little uncomfortable, but apparently don't quite know how to blow the 1st woman off), but because... because... heck, I just don't KNOW why, but I've seen it several times now so there must be SOME reason, however warped, for this dynamic. My husband and I would like to know the reason for this one, to explain why a woman who's been divorced from a man for over 2 decades because he was cheating on her with his secretary, who he then married, would single those 2 people out of a roomful to hang out with at a gathering.

I saw one of the grimmer human behaviors demonstrated in a movie (which was based on real events) about "the Bradley," a multi-billion dollar disaster that started out to be a troop carrier and ended up taking every form imaginable over a 20 year period; the hero of the movie figured out that tests on the Bradley were being faked to move it along in the approval process, making it into a certain deathtrap for the troops who would be riding in it. As you might expect, those in charge and otherwise deeply involved in this scheme fought him tooth and nail; he outsmarted the general at the top of the pecking order by using something in the rules and regs book to allow him to get his report sent out to a couple hundred people, which led to the press getting involved, and a senate hearing being held, for which the hero was recalled from Alaska (where the general had had him sent in revenge), with the end result that the Bradley was finally subjected to real testing, failed, and was revamped before our troops got sent out in it.

Here's the kicker; wanna guess how all the folks involved with this mess were rewarded for what they did? The ones who were lying and cheating and setting our troops up for disaster got promoted and/or offered lucrative positions in the defense industry... and the hero was forced to retire from the military. Few things about human psychology tick me off like our tendency to see one person vs a group and decide, no matter how atrocious what the group is doing and how righteous what the one is doing is, to side with the group against the one... as if going against the group is so wrong that it counteracts the good that the one did, and magically turns the misbehaving group into heroes.

We're a contrary frigging species, let's face it.


Sunday, July 18, 2004

It was eerie 


How many different systems do you interact with on the many sites you visit each day? If you're like me, you encounter a wide variety... and nearly all of them cause some sort of problem at some point, right? There was one particular system that was thwarting me above and beyond the norm; I made the assumption that it worked like other similar systems, silly me, and, because it was giving me error messages that, as it turned out, were misleading as to what was going wrong, I'd gone an embarrassing length of time before figuring out what the real problem was... and then, worse, I couldn't see any way around it.

Then, an odd error popped up on a different, but conceptually similar, site, and, after trying everything I could think of to get around it, and waiting long enough to be sure that it wasn't going to correct itself, I asked around to see if anyone had a guess as to the nature of the problem; as usually happens, a variety of badly thought out nonsense was generated, but something someone said lead indirectly to the explanation, and, thankfully, a solution... and then an epiphany hit.

The solution to the problem on the 2nd site was based in a technicality that I hadn't been aware of, and that very technicality was the key to solving the much bigger problem on the first site. When I tried it, and suddenly what I wanted to do worked perfectly, I was stunned-it looked like magic, that something so subtle and yet so simple could have been the key to success... and it was eerie that the 2nd problem had provided me with the info I needed to solve the 1st problem.

I hadn't even stopped the "can you believe its" about my success to my husband when things got even MORE eerie; we started getting, er, a little marital on the hotel bed where we were watching a movie, and he came up with a VERY odd idea out of thin air... and a few minutes later the exact same thing showed up in the movie. He yelped in reaction the same as I did, but of course, as always, didn't see any synchronicity in what had happened... lol.


Saturday, July 17, 2004

Grief, final chapter: closure 


The funeral went better than expected, primarily because the coffin was closed until the end; at that point, all bets were off, but people were understanding and comforting, and my grief, which was apparently far beyond anyone else's, caused me to be seen later on as the one who had the final say as to which personal items the "lesser relatives" could take-more in that in a minute.

My loved one looked so lifelike that my mind kept fooling me into thinking that I was seeing her breathing and her face changing expressions slightly-that was sort of creepy. Despite that, I managed to choke out my final words and goodbyes, and I garnered great approval from everyone by having thought to bring pics of her beloved pets to put in the coffin with her.

The reading of the will went better than expected also, primarily because most of the relatives hadn't bothered to keep in any real contact with her and so were stunned to be getting anything-none of them had the gall to protest that some of us got more. Those few of us with "most favored relatives" status got inheritances about 5 times as large as those unworthies did; this amounted to about 5 years' worth of income for my husband and I, which is an amazing final gift from a lady who already gave us so much in so many ways.

The final phase was the parceling out of her personal possessions; the "lesser relatives" must all have modest circumstances, based on their eagerness to snatch up old furniture and appliances. I made sure and got those things that had been promised to me out of the way, and then fielded requests from them, and a couple of friends, as to what was reasonable for them to take; everyone was assuming that I was the final authority, based, I suppose, on my level of grief, the amount of $ my husband and I got, and the fact that I'd been personally promised some nice things. I pretty much gave the nod to everything except a couple of inquiries about things that were meant for me; luckily, there were no fights over who wanted what. At the end, everyone was thanking me and telling me how kind and gracious I'd been; that's a fitting end to the handling of my dear one's affairs, I think, even if it did benefit folks who didn't deserve it.

I'll continue to grieve for my dearly departed for some time, but this is the last mention I intend to make of it; the funeral provided me with acceptance of her death, and closure, as it was meant to, and now I can go back to focusing on living the sort of good life she would have wanted for me.


Friday, July 16, 2004

Grief, chapter two: the dread 


I'm in my hotel room on my laptop, reeling with exhaustion and facing having to get up at the crack of dawn, sleepwalking over to talk to the minister who's conducting the funeral service and tell him about our dearly departed so that he has something to say about her, and... and... soon after, be faced with her corpse.

I've only ever seen a dead person once before, and nearly fell to pieces from the shock, the ugliness of the shell of cold flesh that once contained a precious soul; this has nothing to do with the actual appearance of the body, as they really DO look peaceful and as if they're just sleeping, and are made up enough to achieve a doll-like prettiness, but an ugliness picked up by senses other than sight.

The corpse, the service, and then something with the potential to be far worse; the reading of the will. Our loved one was quite well-off, and we're part of a slew of relatives who'll sit there like vultures waiting to feed off of her death... and, like vultures, human beings are often eager to grab all they can, to take more than their share, and to fight those that they perceive as trying to take some of what they see as theirs. I have no idea how her estate has been divided, and I don't know most of those who stand to inherit, so I can't judge how people will behave; I HATE this sort of thing, hate anything like a zero-sum game where anything I get has to be taken from someone else's portion... I wish they'd just send us a check for whatever she wanted us to have so that we can avoid being involved in this meeting that has the potential to be ugly.

I'm dreading the coming day.


Thursday, July 15, 2004

An odd bit of history 


We tend to think of couture designers as frivolous folks, making elaborate clothes that wealthy women will wear once... and that's often true, but I found an interesting exception in the July issue of Vogue, in their article about Gaultier taking over at Hermes. As part of the history of the company, they revealed that the grandson of the founder made a fateful discovery on a trip to Canada after the turn of the century; "something called the lightning fastener, which was then used to close protective horse covers. He obtained the patent and started to use what we now call the zipper to close bags and garments."

I think it shows a certain degree of genius to see something being used on a horse and envision it as a superior new way to dress humans; I'm glad to know who I have to thank for not being stuck with button-fly jeans.


Tuesday, July 13, 2004

A reminder of love in a time of grief 


Today, I saw a fairly cute movie, "America's Sweethearts," and, for all my exhaustion and stress, I was paying enough attention to be brought up short by a line that was said by a woman to her sister as a description of how much her estranged husband loved her; she said that he was the one "who used to sing 'Yellow Submarine' at the top of his lungs just to make you laugh, and who'd save the mango out of his fruit salad for you."

Change the name of the song, and the specific food involved, and that's a description of my husband.

This provided me with a much-needed good feeling, and made me ponder the difference between romantic gestures, which are done as a means to an end, and the sorts of little things that people do for each other out of love, in the automatic, selfless way that we do things for friends or children. We've all heard the phrase "little things mean alot" a million times, and it's TRUE, because, although romantic gestures lend themselves to being planned, and to being used to achieve a goal, little things that DON'T lead to the doer getting sex or other rewards are a sign that the doer is acting out of pure love.

Speaking as a woman whose husband has never really had almond chicken because he puts all his almonds on MY plate, I have an all new appreciation of that old saying... and, speaking as a student of karma, I have to wonder at the timing of my getting the idea to write the essay about the hollowness of romantic gestures right before I saw this movie...


Grief, chapter one: the death 


Those of you who've been reading here for a while will remember my posts at the end of May about an elderly loved one that we discovered had been given just a few months to live; after several days of being comatose with nonfunctioning kidneys, she passed away in her sleep today.

If you've lost a loved one, you know what this feels like; if not, nothing can describe the pain. Despite being absolutely shattered, we still have to scramble to get decisions and plans made, and to make the long trip for her funeral and the reading of the will; the next few days will be surreal at best.

The funeral: looking at a corpse, seeing the sweet face that had smiled at us so many times turned into a lifeless shell, touching the little hand that will be as cold and hard as marble.

The reading of the will: we have no idea what she's left us, aside from a few family and personal items that she told us she wanted us to have... I hope that however her assets have been divided, there won't be any arguments or bad feelings among the inheritors.

We've lost one of the people we loved most in the world, and instead of having her, we're going to have... money. There's something obscene about receiving benefits from someone's death, despite the fact that it's a natural and normal progression within a family.

I wish I could go to sleep and not wake up until the pain is gone...


Monday, July 12, 2004

Why do we need romance? 


To bribe the woman into having sex with the man.

Don't want to believe that? If you're a man, try to think of a single time you made a romantic gesture with NO thought of the sexual reward you were going to get. If you're a woman, try to think of a time that a man did anything romantic for you without "moving in for the kill" right afterward.

I've never cared about romance myself, but as a woman I've naturally grasped how much romance means to the rest of my gender, and thus have felt sympathy for women who bemoaned the lack of romance from their men. Recently, though, my sympathies have swung towards the men; when did the law get passed that said that men have to "pay" for hot sex by buying flowers and such? Men, don't you resent the idea that your body and sexual technique are insufficient to make a woman eager to have sex with you? Ladies, if you had to arrange an entire romantic evening for your man to be receptive to sex with you, wouldn't you feel unattractive and unwanted? Does anyone but me see how sick and twisted a mindset it is to have a setup where a woman wants regular "payments" of romance to be happy with providing sex to the man she's supposed to LOVE? Nothing I've ever read about so-called "primitive" cultures makes any reference to romance, so it seems to NOT be part of the human instinct; we've CREATED this concept, and bought into it so deeply that we don't even question it... NOT one of our prouder achievements. (There's some major hypocrisy involved with this, too: How is it that if a man paid for sex with MONEY, that would be "bad," but the man laying out more $ for a romantic dinner than most hookers can dream of getting for a sexual session is "good"?)

What about when women create a romantic atmosphere for sex, by doing things like lighting candles and putting satin sheets on the bed; what's the point of THAT? I've read articles by a variety of experts who describe that sort of thing as women's attempt to "desexualize sex" by overlaying it with romantic trappings... in other words, making sex more "palatable" by prettying it up. Men supposedly are resentful if women do too much of this, because they get the idea that just jumping in bed with them isn't enough all by itself; I think they're right on the money there, because things like candles don't enhance the actual physical sensations of sex (unless you're using them for the hot wax), and "creating a mood" isn't necessary when you're hot for someone.

Since it's supposed to be ok for a woman to want sex now, and to have it when she wants it (I say "supposed to be" because the term "slut" is still being tossed out with alarming frequency), WHY are women still expecting romance as an inducement to have sex, or to feel ok about having sex, or to want or enjoy sex more?


Sunday, July 11, 2004

When did the definition of maturity change? 


It wasn't that long ago that there were certain things that belonged only to childhood, and thus did NOT have a place in the lives of adults: stuffed animals, dolls, toys, games, cartoons, animated movies, and certain junk foods like popsicles and Pop Rocks. Nowadays, you're hard put to find any adults (and I don't mean just 19-20 year olds that are barely adult, I mean people in their 30's and 40's) who do NOT include these things in their lives... heck, most of the elder members of my family, who had done without these things for YEARS, have brought them BACK into their lives.

How did this happen? A big part of it is that we no longer have the clear-cut transition to adulthood that we used to; instead of graduating from high school and marrying and going to work right away, as was the norm until pretty recently, nowadays nearly everyone gets further education, takes time to try to develop a career, and puts off marriage... with the result that there's no sense of "ok, all of my peers are putting away childish things now, so I will too" at any point, which makes it easy to hang onto those things and habits that, let's face it, haven't stopped being enjoyable.

A related reason is that we're living with our families of origin at greater and greater ages, and, when we DO move out, we tend to not take all our things with us because we don't have room in our tiny apartments... so, we don't bother to toss out our old stuff.

Beanie Babies contributed greatly to the massive resurgence of adults having stuffed animals; I remember one woman I know making snippy commentary years ago about how SHE didn't have any stuffed animals because SHE was an adult, with the ill-concealed barb at me being that *I* still DID have stuffed animals, although I'm older than she is... but, as soon as Beanie Babies hit the scene, she suddenly was purchasing stuffed animals by the DOZENS. (And yes, I've rubbed her nose in these facts MANY times, lol.) Once it became ok to have the little, and often ugly, stuffed animals, it was ok to have all the other kinds, too, to the point where even my mother has a bunch now.

Walt Disney and Pixar (which was owned by Disney for quite a while) created a slew of quality animated movies with broad-spectrum age appeal, and this led to those movies, and, by extension, cartoons, being ok for adults to openly watch and enjoy. Cartoons that are aimed primarily at adults, like "The Simpsons" and "South Park," and the teen-themed "Beavis and Butthead," blurred the line between cartoons and regular programming, making cartoon-watching part of adult culture.

Mattel had a stroke of genius when they picked up on all this and started cranking out Barbies that were so elaborate and expensive that they were clearly not for playing with, and suddenly it was common for grown women to have Barbies again.

And what's the impetus behind the frenzy of the past few years of everyone buying all the toys, games and collectibles that they'd loved as kids? No secret there: eBay. We're all online, we've got time on our hands and $ that we're eager to spend, and once you do that first eBay search you discover that everything you ever had and wish you had again, or that you'd longed for but your parents wouldn't get you, is on there, often very inexpensively, so you do what everyone else does-buy, buy, buy.

I'm not sure how we got back to eating more "kid foods"; it may be as simple as getting steadily busier and more stressed, and turning to the foods that made us feel good when life was simpler. In my case, the indulgence is primarily due to being allowed virtually none of these sorts of things as a child, but it still adds up to recapturing childhood pleasures and desires.

What this all boils down to is that many of the things that would once have caused you to be seen as immature if you indulged in them are now seen as acceptable, normal, and even cool for adults to enjoy. Personally, I'm glad about it; it took me many years, but I'm FINALLY fitting in with my peer group.


Saturday, July 10, 2004

How do we REALLY feel about virtue? 


Do you know a single genuinely sweet person who hasn't been kicked in the teeth by supposed friends more times than they can count? Do you know anyone who's a known player, backstabber, etc that's been treated that way? If you're gonna screw someone over, you could feel self-righteous about it if you did it to a rotten person, so why the overwhelming preference for NICE victims?

Do you know a single genuinely sweet person who hasn't had an endless stream of potential romantic partners tell them that they just want to be friends, or brush them off with lines like "you're so nice, BUT..."? Do you know any "bad" boys/girls who get those sorts of responses, or who in general are ever alone when they didn't choose to be? Why does everyone trample over people who'd treat them like kings/queens to get with people they should run a mile from?

Why is it that someone can demonstrate their goodness for YEARS, but a total stranger can come along and make nasty comments about them, tell the most outrageous stories, and everyone will laugh mean-spiritedly, believe what's said, and even turn against the innocent one, especially if they dare to fight back against the jerk? And why is it that those same folks can watch someone behave atrociously for ages, and then defend them passionately if anyone makes a perfectly true comment about them? Wouldn't it make more sense to defend virtue and condemn bad behavior?

The only consistent explanation I can come up with is that most people have a hidden, or often NOT hidden, distrust, dislike, resentment, and even contempt for truly virtuous folks, and this leads to them singling out the virtuous to dump on, spurning the virtuous as romantic partners, and being eager to hop on any available bandwagon to diss the virtuous.

Why the irrational disdain for the good people? Think for a minute about how you feel around the most virtuous person you know: Do you feel inadequate? Do you think they make you look bad by comparison? Are you certain that they must be looking down on you? Do you suspect them to be faking, because true goodness seems almost unnatural? Or, do you just feel uncomfortable around them because you don't feel like you can be yourself, "bad" traits and all, in front of someone who doesn't seem to HAVE any "bad" traits?

Whatever the reason, we American see the virtuous as not being worthy of the respect, loyalty and decent treatment that they've clearly earned... but we LOVE sociopaths and other nasty types, glamorize them, idolize them, seek them out, endure mistreatment to be with them, and jump through hoops of fire to get into bed with them. We worship success, which is often gained via unethical behavior, and see the very concept of virtue as an attempt to keep us from doing the things we enjoy (but know deep down are wrong).

For all that we give lip service to virtue being good and bad behavior being, well, BAD, actions speak louder than words; we've come to see "badness" as interesting, exciting, fun, sexy, and the key to wealth and fame, and virtue as, somehow, the exact opposite.

Don't believe me? Try this test: name as many people as you can in the entertainment world who have been in jail, drug rehab, and other sorts of trouble... well, maybe you should just stop at 10 or 20, or you'll be at it all day. Now, see how many philanthropists, Nobel peace prize winners, and other do-gooders you can name, if any. Then, ask yourself honestly; how do you and the people you know feel about the folks in the first group? Have you ever even cared enough to spare a moment's thought or feeling on the 2nd group?

Famous people become famous because we spend our $ on them. Elected officials become elected officials because we vote for them. Both of these groups provide a perfect reflection of the traits we see as valuable, and, indirectly, how we've come to view virtue. Grim, isn't it?


Friday, July 09, 2004

Mail synchronicities 


It started with the water bill; the day of the month when I'd usually send it out had arrived, but the bill had NOT... a call to the appropriate office revealed that they had come out to re-read the meter, for no reason that the customer service person could determine, and so the bill ended up being sent out VERY late, so much so that the payment was barely mailed when the NEXT bill (for which no read was required) came. The bill after that, which was a meter-read month again, the exact same thing happened. AND the next meter-read month, same deal. Finally, after I'd endured half a year of aggravation, they seem to have given up on the extra meter reads, because the bill with the newest read DID come on time.

Shortly after the water bill issues began, problems started with my credit union statements; I didn't get one in February, and they had to send me a copy. I did get the March one, but I got nothing in April followed by TWO copies of the May statement that came far enough apart that I didn't notice that I'd gotten 2 until today, when I got my June statement and gathered up all the recent statements to put them in their storage box (it's an old account with no activity on it, so I don't check the statements except to see if any charges are on them, which there never are)... the post office might be to blame for the missing ones, but they are NOT to blame for 2 copies of the same month's statement going out at different times.

There's MORE; I haven't received the last 3 month's power bills. For the first 2 months, we've called them, given them the story and asked them to look into it, and asked them to send copies of the bills we never got for our records... and the copies haven't made it either, AND I now have to call them this afternoon to get payment info, as the current bill needs to get in the mail on Monday.

The first thing that might come into your mind is that someone is stealing my mail, but it's delivered into a locked box that only we have the key for, and there's no sign of a break-in. There are no children in my home (unless you count my husband) who could be playing games with the mail, and no pets that could be eating it or burying it in the yard. We haven't moved, our address hasn't changed, our mail carrier hasn't changed, and none of our periodicals or our many eBay packages have gone astray.

It's easy to point the finger at the post office, but some of it I KNOW they're not the cause of, such as the super-late water bills and the duplicate/delayed credit union statement, and it just doesn't seem possible that they could have selectively lost FIVE items from the power company in 3 months... my vote is on the power company being to blame for that one.

What's un-frigging-believable is that all of this has been happening at the same time, from 3 different companies, and there CAN'T be one cause for all of it; if I told you how many times I've had things like this happen, where multiple similar but unrelated problems were all going on at the same time, you simply wouldn't believe it. People who've known me for years still shake their heads in amazement, and say something along the lines of "This sort of thing only happens to you."

What sort of karmic weirdness could cause all these mail-related things to happen all at the same time? The synchronicities here are really freaking me out... especially since my CABLE bill hasn't gotten here yet.


Thursday, July 08, 2004

Why are we trying to persuade EVERYONE to vote? 


Have we REALLY become so stupid as a nation that we believe that adding a bunch of clueless twits to the active voter list is going to somehow magically give us a BETTER election result? If so, we're in big, BIG trouble... if not, why are we being flooded with ads that try to coax the indifferent masses into voting even if they don't CARE?

What possible benefit will we as a nation get from the votes of those who can't be bothered to study the candidates and the issues? Or from the votes of people who lack the intelligence and/or background in history, economics and politics to analyze the information effectively even if they DID?

Heinlein often pointed out that you can't be expected to get a wise decision by counting the people's runny noses... in other words, that the uninformed are no wiser in large numbers than individually. He also said that there should be some sort of intelligence test that each person would have to pass before they'd be allowed to vote; if that were done, and ONLY if that were done, we'd benefit from more people voting-otherwise, all we're doing is bringing in more twits to counter the votes of more of the worthwhile voters.

In the olden days, those of education and property were the only ones who could vote, and people were PROUD to be represented by the great men of their regions; yes, I understand all the reasons for allowing EVERY citizen to vote, but I'm betting that the old system would produce consistently better decisions. And let's not forget that, as Heinlein also said, the poor will always vote themselves "bread and circuses" if given the chance to do so; the reality of wealth is that it will always exist in a pyramid structure in a free economy, with the few being rich (and middle class) and the many being poor or near poor, and this leads to laws being passed to rob, and I do mean ROB, from the hard-working rich to give to the non-working poor, and give and give and GIVE... sound familiar? I don't mean the reference to Robin Hood's credo, I mean the brutal taxation of society's most productive members to support those who produce mainly children; this is a ridiculous redistribution of $, and is made possible by those who stand to gain from handouts being able to vote more handouts into existence.

Another tactic to persuade the apathetic to vote is to suggest that if you aren't happy with the way things are, you should "vote for change"; the problem with that is that "change" does NOT mean "improvement," and you can get change for the WORSE just as easily as change for the better. If you think it's smart to vote the incumbent out if you hate him/her no matter who that means voting in, keep in mind that when Castro toppled Batista's regime, he was seen by the Cuban people as a liberator because they hated Batista... and they've been learning ever since how the devil you know can be FAR better than the devil you don't know. You can't just vote against someone, you have to vote FOR someone, or you could be making a mistake that you'll have to live with for YEARS.

With all that in mind, against the endless advertising aimed at getting every warm body into a voting booth, I put forth the following plea; either become VERY informed on all the candidates and issues, and all the background info you need to make an informed decision about them, or DON'T VOTE.


Tuesday, July 06, 2004

What would it be like to be invisible? 


Yes, I watched that old Chevy Chase movie today, lol.

First of all, what do we mean by invisible? The standard idea is that every cell of your body has been made transparent, colorless and without any sheen to it, such that light just passes through you without reacting to anything.

The first problem with this is that you'd be BLIND; for your eyes to work, they have to be able to "project" the light that comes in through your pupils into a dark space where specialized cells "read" it, and if you were invisible there would of course be no dark space, and so no vision.

The next problem is with STAYING invisible; the first time you ate, or even took a drink of water, you'd start a process by which your entire digestive system would become visible because of its visible contents. As the food and water you consumed became incorporated into your cells, you'd quickly become vaguely visible all over, inside as well as on the surface, and, as soon as your upper layers of skin were replaced by new cells that had been formed from visible food elements, your exterior would be totally visible. The exceptions would be your hair (of body as well as head) and nails, which would take time for the invisible part to grow out and visible stuff to come in, and, eerily, your tooth enamel, which would gradually be remineralized by your saliva, creating some degree of visibility, but, since enamel isn't actually regrown, would presumably give you only patchy, partial opacity of your teeth, leaving your mouth looking freaky forever, especially when the live inner parts of the teeth became visible... you'd have to have veneers put on them to be able to talk to people without grossing them out.

During the time where you were only partially visible, your excretory functions would produce visible products as soon as the backlog of invisible stuff was used up; your sweat, body and hair oils, saliva, the layer of tears on your eyeballs, etc, would coat and give a patina of visibility to every surface of your body. As to your less, er, benign excretory functions... let's just say that you'd have to be pretty fanatical about your personal hygiene if you weren't wearing pants.

Let's pretend that your invisibility came instead from some sort of field or magic that surrounded you and prevented light from reacting to your molecules; scifi and fantasy stories are full of ideas like this. What would you DO? Even assuming that you'd actually want to do the sorts of things we joke about concerning invisibility, like sneak into the locker room of those of your gender of interest and ogle unnoticed, or into your boss's office or wherever else there might be things you'd want to look at unseen, after you've done those things, what then? Unless you want to commit crimes, or maybe fight crimes, what's the benefit of being invisible, or even in being able to become invisible by, say, putting on a cloak like in that Harry Potter movie? How well can you communicate when you're invisible, and people can't see your expressions, gestures and body language? How much trust would people put in you, knowing that you had the ability to see unseen at will, knowing that you're human and won't be able to resist misusing the invisibility forever?

Nothing on Earth could induce ME to become invisible permanently. If I could have the ability to become invisible at will, I'd take it, keep it secret to prevent people who know me from being scared off, and hold it in reserve until I was endangered, so that I could use it to escape.

And yes, I'd probably take the occasional side trip into the men's locker room. ;-)


Monday, July 05, 2004

Does beauty really come from within? 


Of course not.

I wish it DID, that real life was like the movie "Shallow Hal," where the hero, who all of his life has lived up to the title of the movie, starts seeing people as looking on the outside the way they are on the inside, such that he sees a hot babe who's a bitch as an ugly hag, and an obese girl who's an extraordinarily good person as a beauty (Gwyneth Paltrow, to be exact). Imagine how different meeting new people would be if we all had "Hal vision": job interviews, first dates, picking people to hang out with... we would always KNOW what sort of person we were dealing with (as opposed to being fooled as most of us are most of the time), and those who "deserved" to be beautiful would be seen that way.

The sad reality is that, although we subconsciously assume that beautiful people are smarter, nicer, funnier, better in bed, etc, there's no genetic link between looks and inner qualities, and, worse, beautiful people often don't fully develop humor, compassion and other virtues because they don't HAVE to-when we find someone attractive, we invent whatever personality pleases us for them, and forgive them pretty much anything.

While it's true that we can PERCEIVE someone to be more or less attractive than they objectively are based on how we feel about their "inner beauty" or "inner ugliness," nothing that they think, feel or have on the inside alters the contours of their face, the color of their eyes, the clearness of their complexion, or any of the other aspects of facial appearance that add up to beauty to us.

Beauty is a matter of genetics, and, increasingly, surgery, and can be enhanced by hair dye, makeup, the right clothes, etc, but nothing you do to become a better person will make you one bit better looking.

Sucks, doesn't it?


Assorted comments from "1776" 


No matter how many times I watch this stunning movie, it never ceases to move me, and to get me thinking about the people and events of those days.

The religious wrong, I mean "right," tries to make an issue of the founding fathers being religious, and they for the most part were, as was everyone in those days... but did you know that the Declaration of Independence as originally written contained NO mentions of God other than the phrase "the laws of nature & of nature's God entitle them," and thus that the much pointed to phrase "with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence" in the final line was added on later? Why do you suppose Jefferson made that choice? He DID believe in God; specifically, he was a Deist, and thus believed in the "clockwork universe" idea, that God created everything, set it in motion, and then went away, never involving Himself in earthly matters... is there cause and effect there?

Speaking of Jefferson; people who make an issue of him being a slaveowner dismay and disgust me-no person is to blame for being born into whatever circumstances their family is in, or whatever culture they live in. When we think about Jefferson and slavery we need to remember, not only that he tried to end slavery in the Declaration, as I've already mentioned, but that he FREED his slaves, even though he knew it would ruin him financially... and it DID ruin him, he lost everything. Luckily, a grateful nation bought back Monticello and gave it back to him; how's THAT for karma?

George Washington arranged to have HIS slaves freed once he and his wife passed away; he also refused the offer to make him KING, saying that we needed to get away from monarchy forever, AND he insisted on a limit to the presidential term of office-we owe him for far more than his services as general.

Back to slavery; we think of it as something to blame the southern states for, but what is often overlooked is that the slaves were brought to this country by, guess what, ships from the northern states. Shipping slaves makes you as much to blame for slavery as owning them, to my mind, especially since you have to own them while you're shipping them; if you then fingerpoint at those who end up with the slaves, you're a hypocrite too.

The movie shows a certain degree of friction between Jefferson and Adams, and they DID have their battles over the years, but they were both such brilliant and important men that they ended up as friends in spite of themselves, and wrote countless letters to each other over their long lives; they were so in synch that they died on the same day... July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration. How's THAT for a synchronicity?

One of the most impactful moments of "1776" was the song that referred to what the women related to the men and boys who were fighting the British had to endure. In those days, it would often be a local militia that was fighting, and at the end of the day they went back home to their families; as the sun dropped in the sky each day, the women and girls would start watching the road, looking for their husbands, fathers, sons and brothers to come home from the battle. As it got dark, they'd become afraid, thinking of the worst; when too much time had passed, they knew it was time for them to head for the battlefield and look for their loved ones, who might be too injured to go home without help... or, who might be dead. Imagine their terror as they went down the road, not knowing what they would find. Imagine them searching through the bodies on the battlefield, seeing the gory remains of men they knew, and the agony of those who were still breathing. Imagine them seeing their husband, son or brother laying there, covered in blood, and that last bit of hope flickering as they reached out to see if there was still breath in their loved one's body.

Part of the song is a mortally-wounded boy calling out for his mother to find him before he dies; what makes this even more heart-rending is a dispatch from General Washington pointing out that many of his troops are boys under the age of 15... that's right, CHILDREN, who were willing to have their lives end before they'd even begun because even at their young ages they believed that freedom was THAT important. Even though they were wildly outnumbered, even though they were often dressed in rags and didn't eat for days at a time, even though they were up against well-funded, well-trained British troops and German mercenaries, even though it seemed impossible for them to win, they risked, and often sacrificed, their lives to create the first free country to ever exist on this Earth.

Don't ever take America for granted.


Sunday, July 04, 2004

Some thoughts for the 4th of July 


People tend to treat the subject of our founding fathers with indifference, as if they got America handed to them by the British, who then simply walked away; the truth is that they were men of extraordinary vision and courage, who risked their lives by forming a congress and an army to rebel against what was then the greatest military force in the world... and remember, no other colony had EVER broken away from a parent country before, so they were flying blind, making it up as they went along.

To get the story of what is arguably the most important event of that era, the writing and signing of the Declaration of Independence, rent the brilliant movie "1776," which is based on the actual records we have of that time, including the many writings of those involved. You'll discover that there were almost as many obstacles to be overcome in declaring independence as in fighting for it, that a man came off of his deathbed to cast a necessary vote, and that the Declaration as originally written would have ended slavery.

More important info is contained in the following essay (author unknown):


"Remembering The 56 Patriots Who Signed The Declaration of Independence


What kind of men were they? Twenty-four were lawyers and jurists, eleven were merchants, nine were farmers and large plantation owners; men of means, well educated. But they signed the Declaration of Independence knowing full well that the penalty would be death if they were captured. Have you ever wondered what happened AFTER they signed the Declaration?

Five signers were captured by the British: George Walton, after being wounded while commanding militia at the Battle of Savannah in December 1778, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Arthur Middleton, and Edward Rutledge at the Siege of Charleston in May in 1780, and Richard Stockton of New Jersey because of his status as a signatory to the Declaration.

Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned. Two lost their sons who were serving in the Revolutionary Army; another had two sons captured. Nine of the 56 fought and died from wounds or hardships of the Revolutionary War.

Carter Braxton of Virginia, a wealthy planter and trader, saw his ships swept from the seas by the British Navy. He had to sell his home and properties to pay the debts incurred by the loss.

Thomas McKean was so hounded by the British that he was forced to move his family almost constantly. He served in the Congress without pay, and his family was kept in hiding.

Vandals or soldiers looted the properties of Ellery, Hall, Clymer, Walton, Gwinnett, Heyward, Rutledge, and Middleton.

At the battle of Yorktown, Thomas Nelson Jr, noted that the British General Cornwallis had taken over the Nelson home for his headquarters. He quietly urged General George Washington to open fire. Nelson died bankrupt.

Francis Lewis had his home and properties destroyed, and the enemy jailed his wife for several months.

John Hart and his children fled for their lives when his New Jersey farm was looted. His fields and his gristmill were laid to waste, and for more than a year he lived in forests and caves.

Lewis Morris and Philip Livingston lost homes and properties to the British; Morris eventually got his house back, but Livingston died in 1778, before the end of the war, and never recovered what he'd lost.

Such were the stories and sacrifices of the American Revolution. These were not wild-eyed, rabble-rousing ruffians, they were the leading men of their colonies, who had earned much and thus had a great deal to lose by challenging British rule. They had security, but they valued liberty more. Standing tall, straight, and unwavering, they pledged:

"For the support of this declaration, with firm reliance on the protection of the divine providence, we mutually pledge to each other, our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor."

They gave you and me a free and independent America. Some of us take these liberties totally for granted, but we shouldn't; take a few minutes while enjoying your 4th of July holiday and silently thank these patriots. It's not much to ask for the price they paid.

Remember: freedom is never free!"


Do you suppose that for just one day, we could stop whining about the alleged imperfections of this great country, and just be grateful that the founding fathers were willing to risk, suffer and sacrifice so that we could HAVE a country?


Saturday, July 03, 2004

Props for Bill Cosby 


While many American blacks, especially those in the public eye, take the stance that the white race, and long-ago slavery, are to blame for all the ills of their community, Bill Cosby says what needs to be said, pointing out, even in the face of criticism, that many blacks in America have wasted their chances and made foolish choices, and that THIS has led to their poverty and lack of success:

http://www.cnn.com/2004/US/07/01/cosby.comments.ap/index.html

The best chance blacks have of achieving economic and social equality is to listen to these sorts of messages; you don't get anywhere in life by pointing the finger at everyone but yourself and making excuses, not even if you DO have valid grievances... you can't whine and complain your way to success, you can't demand endless handouts and special deals as a path to success, you have to focus all your energy on getting educated, getting a career launched and working hard, no matter WHAT your color is. Yes, it probably WILL be harder to succeed if you're non-white, or female, or gay, but your choices are to work harder or never succeed; EVERYONE, not just blacks, needs to stop seeing screaming about prejudice as a substitute for working for what you want in life.

But, don't we need to do something about prejudice? As Oprah Winfrey (who rose above being born the illegitimate child of an impoverished teenaged mother, in addition to being black and female, to become one of the most famous people in the world, with more $ than she can ever spend) has always pointed out, the way to counteract prejudice is with EXCELLENCE.

Bill Cosby helped the black community immeasurably by creating a popular TV show that portrayed blacks as intelligent, articulate, successful professionals; now, he's helping on a whole new level by telling some necessary truths... and I can't tell you how much respect I have for him, for taking this on instead of quietly enjoying his later years.


Friday, July 02, 2004

Getting older can REALLY suck 


Most aspects of aging are GOOD: the accumulation of knowledge, the development of wisdom, the steady stream of experiences had and new people met, and the growth of spiritual depth and understanding. The aging of the body, though, is of course uniformly dismaying; fortunately, I've been lucky, and, although I'm pushing middle age, I have no gray hair, a nearly unlined face, and have kept in decent shape, so I can pass for about a decade younger... and, more importantly, aside from comparatively minor things like some back pain and increased food sensitivities, my health is still perfect. There's ONE way that my biology is sticking it to me big time, though; my metabolism.

I've never been a big eater, and for the past 15 years or so my food intake has been VERY controlled to keep me trim; I've also done a steadily increasing amount of exercise throughout that time. Despite that, my metabolism has played some dirty tricks on me, and it does so in a weird way; I don't gradually gain weight, I get a sudden "growth spurt" in my hips that will literally put an inch on them within a couple of months (it's even happened when I've gained NO weight, go figure). My jeans will suddenly feel tight, and I'll get out the tape measure (I don't weigh myself, as I'm recovering eating disordered, and get absolutely psycho over those #'s), and look at the results with disbelief.... oh no, not AGAIN!!

I'll cut my food intake even more, although I already eat so little that you plain wouldn't believe it, and increase my exercising... and curse my mother's super-slow metabolism, that she has passed onto me undiluted by my father's more normal one. I'll try to imagine what I'll have to live on in 10 years, and 20, and 30, to keep from being obese... and hope fervently that they find some medical way to boost metabolism before then.

I wouldn't give up all that I've gained mentally, emotionally, and spiritually to have a younger body again, but it still bums me out that I can only eat a fraction of what other people eat, a fraction of what I myself ate as little as 5 years ago, to keep from getting too big. Perhaps my karmic path requires me to live on the sort of paltry rations attributed to Ghandi, Buddha and many other spiritual greats, in order for me to attain higher levels of spirituality? On the one hand, I sure hope not... but, on the other hand, it might not be so bad to have to eat less and less if I WERE gaining something to compensate me for the loss of my ability to eat remotely normal amounts of food. Hmmmmmmmmmmm....


Thursday, July 01, 2004

"Cell Dogs" 


There are so many goofy shows on TV these days that I almost never bother with any current series, but Animal Planet is one of the stations I'll flip on to be filler when I sit down to eat and nothing is getting started at that time, and I ended up seeing most of an episode of "Cell Dogs"... and it turns out to be a truly worthwhile program.

The premise is that dogs are rescued from the pound and taken to prisons, where chosen inmates train them to be service dogs for the disabled. It's a winning situation all around: The dogs get to LIVE, and to go to loving homes-even the ones that can't cut it in training get adopted out, NEVER put down. People who might not otherwise get service dogs can have them, with all the freedom and independence that goes with it. The prisons benefit, because the inmates/trainers have to behave themselves to gain the privilege of having a dog live with them. The trainers benefit enormously from having a loving animal in their lives, something to care for, a goal to work for, and the ability, often for the first time in their lives, to do something of value, that they can be proud of... and some of them have been so deeply affected by the experience that they've gone to work at animal hospitals upon their release.

The biggest benefit of these programs is to society; every criminal that has a change of heart makes all of us safer, and this evidence that it IS possible for even hard-core criminals to be, not just warehoused in prisons, but actually reformed, at least some of the time, should stimulate the penal system to come up with other ways to bring about attitude adjustments. With a little luck, this can lead to the fantasy of criminals becoming worthwhile members of society a reality... at least some of the time.





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