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Neko

Friday, September 30, 2005

Spotting losers online 


The most basic rule of sites that people meet each other at online is that people LIE; some do it for the thrill of tricking others, some because they don't grasp that the moment they meet someone in person the truth of their not being model look-alikes will be revealed, and some because they don't really live in the same world the rest of us do and don't know what the truth IS. If you're paying attention, though, you can see plenty of truth in what folks tell you that they're unaware they're revealing; people who are emotionally challenged or manipulators will give themselves away with certain totally consistent types of comments, and if you're on the lookout for them you can save yourself endless time and grief by avoiding them before they suck you in.

A guy from one of these sites was attempting to get to know me; inspired by this quote

"He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you."
- Friedrich Nietzsche

which I had as my sig line, he sent me a message which contained endless complaints about the site (which in my experience worked just fine), and this astonishing paragraph (don't worry, he doesn't know about my blog, so he'll never know he was quoted):

"I have very unpopular beliefs, if you will. I think that people should look at what they themselves are supporting before they call others 'evil.' They should take a look in the mirror of their beliefs every once in a while. If they analyze their beliefs critically they may find that they are staring into the abyss of 'evil' that they claim to hate so much. So, they consider me 'evil' or 'bad' or what have you... They think they are fighting a monster. But they better take care lest they become monsters themselves."

To explain what was problematic about that, as if it wasn't amply obvious, here's part of my reply to him:


"Here are a few things that I've learned are BIG red flags about a person:

1) They complain on and on about trivial things, even to people who have no problems with whatever they're complaining about, and have SAID so.

2) They have sweeping and harsh criticism about people in general, and feel it necessary to pass it on right away, before they get to know their listener(s); if you think everyone needs to do something they're not doing, or has a problem, or is bad or wrong or lacking in some way, that shows that you're a social misfit, clueless as to why, and bitter about it.

3) They reveal that they're widely disliked, criticized, looked down on, etc; if society as a whole has judged against you, again, that means that you're a social misfit, and TELLING people this means that you don't have any idea about how to handle getting to know someone, or about how people react when given this sort of grim information... and you can't be a friend to anyone if you don't have the slightest grasp of human nature.

4) They use melodramatic negative words to describe themselves or their lives; if you use words like 'evil' or 'monster' when referring in any way to yourself, EVER, but especially with a stranger, you're out of touch with reality, and probably a depressive, as emotionally healthy people don't describe themselves in those terms... and you're also more than likely totally without friends (or without emotionally healthy ones at least, as they avoid depressives like the plague), which is itself a red flag.

5) In general, they spout negative things about themselves, their lives, other people, etc, and fail to balance it out with positive comments (of which there should be several for every negative comment)... especially if there are NO positive comments included.

I'm sure you're not a bad person, but the 'everyone hates me but it's because THEY are all bad' attitude utterly disqualifies you from being in my life in any way whatsoever.

It's time for YOU to look in the mirror."


Does that seem harsh? Do you think that maybe he was a normal person just having a really bad day? My experience is that most people will vacillate in their judgment of losers at 1st, or even outright deny that that's what they are (which is why losers don't correct those behaviors), so maybe you did think that; allow me to reassure you, instead of reacting as a healthy person would if they were ever so far gone as to send a message that mimicked loser patterns and got called on it, by hurriedly explaining the situation and offering assurances that they don't really feel that way, or perhaps by ignoring that the analysis accurately summed up what they did in fact say and becoming angry or offended, this guy responded by trying to convince me that people who know him well go from seeing him as evil to thinking he's the epitome of virtue, and trying to persuade me, a total stranger who already made it clear that I wanted nothing to do with him, to be his friend... need I say more? Yes, I feel bad that he's one of the world's millions of sad, depressed, messed up people, but that doesn't alter the truth, or what the right thing was for me to do based on the truth.

When you're getting to know someone, or contemplating doing so, take an objective look at what they say, and ask yourself honestly, "Is this normal, healthy behavior?" If the answer is "no," resist the urge to try to cheer them up, or be their therapist, or, worst of all, invest emotion in them by being their friend; the only thing you can do for people who are screwed up is let them know that they have a problem, make clear what the problem is (or how else can they see it and fix it?) and then back away from them... they'll NEVER try to sort themselves out if they don't hear the truth, or if they keep getting attention from the well-meaning.

An emotionally healthy person, when getting to know you, will be mostly positive, portray themselves as good types that get along with others, and that others approve of, and will display overall liking for the people in their lives, and for people in general; if you encounter anyone who varies significantly from that, RUN!!


Thursday, September 29, 2005

OK, one more blog tweak, lol 


The LAST thing I should be spending time on right now is adding more stuff to my sidebar, given how much I've already changed there recently, but today's blog surfing revealed something too cool to ignore; a digital time readout with a drop-down menu that allows the user to choose from a variety of other cities, and the display changes to whatever time it is there... you can see and play with it under the Flash clock. It looks like a simple enough thing to install, but I spent hours and hours working on it; it's very different now than when I found it.

First, I had to find where the clock code was on the blog of origin; I looked in vain for a script, but they'd gotten clever and put it elsewhere and then called that html page; once I figured that out, I brought that page up and got the script from the source code. The code was a MESS; the commands had inexplicable line breaks in the middle, and many lines had pieces of several commands on them... so before I could do anything else, I had to tidy up the code so I could make sense of it, and that took a while, as there were many lines involved. Next, although I don't know JavaScript, I read through it to get a basic sense of what each part was doing; this was especially important because I had to figure out if any of the other code on the blog was necessary to make it work, for example if something outside of what I had was being referenced... I lucked out, though, because what I had was all I needed. I was vaguely concerned that the readout as it appeared on the blog was a very light color, as their background was dark, and I knew it wouldn't be easily readable on my white background; I couldn't see any assignment of color within my code, so I assumed that that had come from somewhere else, and that it'd default to black when I used it... luckily, I was right.

What ended up being insanely labor-intensive was the drop-down menu. The one on the blog was too narrow, chopping off the ends of the longer city names; I made a guesstimate of how long it needed to be, and it turned out that I was within a few pixels of being dead-on... I'm kinda proud of that. Next, I re-arranged the cities to be in time zone order, based on the #'s assigned to them, which represent their variance from GMT. On a hunch, since nothing in the code seemed to be adjusting for Daylight Savings Time, I checked the times and found that all the ones for countries that observe DST were an hour off, so I corrected them... and I'll have to switch them back when the time changes, sadly. I tested the code, and saw that, although on the blog of origin the time and menu were on different lines, on my blog they were on the same line; it took embarrassingly long to realize that they had their readout formatted to fit into a narrow box, and that forced the display to split, but that my sidebar was wide enough for both parts to be on one line. I decided that I liked the look of it on just 1 line better, so I kept it that way; I wanted to have the time 1st, though, so I swapped the code around to do that... and discovered that something in the time code generated a line break, making it impossible to get both things on 1 line in that order, so I gave up and put it back the way it was before.

And then came the hours-long task of choosing which cities to add to the menu; the original code only gave a handful of choices, but mine has 20... and I'd never have gotten so ambitious had I known how much work it'd be, but once I got sucked into it I couldn't let it go half-done.

My idea was to go through every time zone as shown on this site

http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/custom.html?sort=2

(or rather those that contain cities of reasonable size, or at all, which isn't quite all of them), and from each one select whatever city I thought would be most recognizable to the average reader and add it to the menu; that worked well for some zones, but for others there were several good choices, and then I went to my geo-locator record of how many visitors I've had from different countries and used that data to pick the city that was most likely to be in the country of a reader. In some cases, there were several cities shown for a country, or the city shown didn't seem to me to be the best choice for that country (for example when they used a small capital city when there are other cities that are larger and/or more familiar); this necessitated bringing up an almanac site and researching several countries to see which cities were biggest.

If you're thinking that this is way too much effort to put into a little doodad that few people will assume I invested any significant effort in customizing, you're right... but being a geek means you've gotta nail down every detail. And there's MORE:

I looked at what I had, and decided that I didn't want to have Anchorage and Honolulu, because that'd give me 4 American cities in the list, and that didn't seem right; I just went with New York and Los Angeles and dropped those other time zones. I saw that Africa, Central America, and the Arab world weren't represented on the list, so I did a bunch of research on countries in those areas, checked how many visits I was getting from each one, and how major of cities were in their time zones, and finally made my choices; this required me to make a couple of alterations to what I'd already chosen, and to double up in a couple of time zones, but I think I did ok.

Then, there was the unfortunate issue of those countries who've chosen their times to be between time zones... unfortunate because the way the code is written, there's no way to get correct times for those places, since it ignores numerical values other than whole #'s; this made me very unhappy, as some of my blog buddies are in countries that this applies to (India and Afghanistan, specifically)... I'm sorry, you guys, I really did try to have Mumbai and Kabul on the list.

Last, but far from least, I realized that I couldn't ignore a country that I amazingly have 5 blog buddies from, even though it's an exotic far-away place that I knew nothing about before I started blogging; Malaysia. Although I already had Singapore, which astoundingly is the 4th biggest referrer to my blog, from that time zone on the list, I added Kuala Lumpur to honor my Malaysian friends.

With that done, I made myself stop and think; my head swam with the other big-name cities I hadn't included, countries that were top referrers who likewise weren't listed, plus a couple more countries that blog buddies live in... and I finally had to call a reluctant halt. I'd been at it from early evening to late at night, breaking only to finally eat my stone-cold dinner, and the code had gotten cumbersome with all the added cities; I wish there was a quick and easy way to make sure that everyone who visits here could find a major city from their country on the menu, or, even better, that someone had a script that links to a site where all those cities are already coded, but there's not, so if your country isn't represented, please don't take it personally... I've given up all my free time today, and several hours of sleep, to this project, and I'm calling it finished.

This addition to my sidebar definitely wins the prize as the most anal-retentive, bordering on psychotic, thing I've ever done for this blog, lol; I still can't believe how all those hours just slipped by as I was doing the research, but sometimes I get so involved in a task that time seems to stand still, and I end up blinking dazedly at the clock (oh the irony) and wondering what happened to my day/night and all the other stuff I should've done.

Blogito ergo sum, indeed...


Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Spiritual standstill 


It's been a while since I've had a significant breakthrough in my spiritual quest, and even though I know you can't schedule epiphanies as if they were restroom breaks, it's still bumming me out.

People who adhere to a religion, or even to a known spiritual path, are fortunate in that the whole truth is given to them; there are books they can read about it, people who know it well that they can talk to, and they can have peaceful minds believing that they've already got the explanations for everything (I'm oversimplifying a little, but you see my point). When one sets out to construct a spiritual path starting from square 1, as I have, though, it's like building a house brick by brick instead of just buying it and moving in; being truly spiritual requires a great deal of time and effort, constant fact gathering and analysis... and a non-trivial amount of frustration.

I've sat here looking at the screen for 20 minutes trying to come up with something profound to say about the situation, but it's just too basic; I need some new input to jump-start my spiritual progress... I was going to say "but all I can do is wait for it," but it occurs to me that there IS something I can do-I can read a little (which is all I have time for, sigh) of a book that's been sitting around un-looked-at since I got it ages ago, "The Tao of Physics," and see what someone else who saw the connection between the quantum world and the concepts of Eastern religion came up with.

Stay tuned.


Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Financial advantages to being good-looking 


From CNN comes an article called "Do pretty people earn more?"

http://www.cnn.com/2005/US/Careers/07/08/looks/index.html

which starts out with this eye-opener

"Studies show attractive students get more attention and higher evaluations from their teachers, good-looking patients get more personalized care from their doctors, and handsome criminals receive lighter sentences than less attractive convicts."

I'd heard the 1st one many times, but to think that something as important as medical care hinges even in part on how hot you are is terrifying, and cuter criminals getting shorter sentences is an absolute disgrace.

And now on to looksism in the workplace:

"The ugly truth, according to economics professors Daniel Hamermesh of the University of Texas and Jeff Biddle of Michigan State University, is that plain people earn 5 percent to 10 percent less than people of average looks, who in turn earn 3 percent to 8 percent less than those deemed good-looking.

These findings concur with other research that shows the penalty for being homely exceeds the premium for beauty and that across all occupations, the effects are greater for men than women."

So, not only do attractive people get a bonus, but there's a "penalty" for ugliness? How grim is THAT?

"A London Guildhall University survey of 11,000 33-year-olds found that unattractive men earned 15 percent less than those deemed attractive, while plain women earned 11 percent less than their prettier counterparts."

As harshly as women's looks are judged, MEN suffer more for being homely? That surprises me.

"In their report 'Beauty, Productivity and Discrimination: Lawyers', Looks and Lucre,' Hamermesh and Biddle found that the probability of a male attorney attaining early partnership directly correlates with how handsome he is."

It's usually other men who are the senior partners making those decisions; you can see them promoting pretty women, but handsomer men, too?

Height is also a factor in earnings:

"A study released last year by two professors at the University of Florida and University of North Carolina found that tall people earn considerably more money throughout their careers than their shorter co-workers, with each inch adding about $789 a year in pay.

A survey of male graduates of the University of Pittsburgh found that the tallest students' average starting salary was 12 percent higher than their shorter colleagues'."

I'd be interested to see what the #'s are for women from that 1st study, since the favoring of tall men for everything from mate selection to election winning is well-known, but I've never heard of height in women being of benefit for anything unless they're prospective runway models or showgirls.

Not surprisingly, weight is also a factor... but apparently only for women:

"The London Guildhall study showed that overweight women are more likely to be unemployed and that those who are working earn on average 5 percent less than their trimmer peers."

Just what plus-size women need, another kick in the head; I'd be interested to see if those #'s held up in countries that don't worship thinness.

The favoring of beauty apparently happens because:

"According to Dr. Gordon Patzer, who has spent more than three decades studying and writing about physical attractiveness, human beings are hard-wired to respond more favorably to attractive people. Even studies of babies show they will look more intently and longer at prettier faces."

Sigh.

"'Good-looking men and women are generally judged to be more talented, kind, honest and intelligent than their less attractive counterparts,' Patzer says."

I've written about this before, and I still don't get why external appearance should be thought to have ANY connection to finer inner qualities... especially when the opposite is so often true, because the beautiful don't need to develop inner virtue, and they get away with murder.

"Controlled studies show people go out of their way to help attractive people -- of the same and opposite sex -- because they want to be liked and accepted by good-looking people."

I can see being extra-nice to hotties of the opposite sex, but why would we have that urge for those of the same sex? Is our overall biological preference for beauty really that strong?

Now here's where CNN gets clueless:

"Despite what the research says, some of the world's most successful people have been ordinary looking at best, and you would never mistake the faces in Fortune for those in Esquire or Entertainment Weekly. Business legends are often of average height (Bill Gates at 5 feet 9 inches) or even diminutive (Jack Welch, 5 feet 8 inches, and Ross Perot, 5 feet 7 inches)."

That's comparing apples to oranges for the most part, because mega-successful people generally aren't getting their paychecks handed to them by other folks who'd be judging them on their looks and height, since people of that sort are usually their own bosses, but the bigger issue is that these men have gigantic talents that make them stand out from others so much that their looks don't enter into it.

And here's a laugh:

"many folks who are lovely to look at complain that they lose out on jobs because people assume they are vacuous or lightweights"

So, endless benefits and 1 little stereotype working against them, poor babies? Or, is it that they assume they're the best qualified because they've always been seen as better than they are, and don't grasp that they're less impressive than they think and didn't get hired because others were more qualified?

"Hiring managers say it is the appearance of confidence they find attractive, not the presence of physical beauty. And they contend that attractiveness has more to do with how you carry yourself and the energy you exude -- rather than having perfect features or a great physique."

So, if Brad Pitt was having a bad day, where he didn't exude confidence or energy, an average-looking guy who WAS feeling confident would win out over him? Not in this universe.

However, tangential attributes DO help out:

"According to Gordon Wainright, author of 'Teach Yourself Body Language,' anyone can increase their attractiveness to others if they maintain good eye contact, act upbeat, dress well (with a dash of color to their wardrobe) and listen well."

We all already knew there were enormous benefits to being good-looking, and, dismaying as it is, we need to realize that those benefits extend into every area of life... and keep that in mind when we want to let ourselves go appearancewise, or be sloppy in how we dress and groom ourselves, especially in the workplace.


Monday, September 26, 2005

Joel Osteen and a possum report 


Before I get into the topics of today's post, I want to point out some exceptionally classy behavior on the part of one of my blog buddies, Guy, whose excellent blog is here

http://www.rooksrant.com/

When he read my post of a couple of days ago, he obviously felt the same pleasure I did in the phrase "blogito ergo sum" (I blog, therefore I am) that I described putting on my blog, because he put it right at the top of HIS blog... and even though he knows I didn't invent the phrase, because he read it here he put a link to my post "under" that phrase-a fine example of the highest standards of blogging, don't you agree?

In tonight's sermon, Joel Osteen said that we should forgive those that hurt us, and give up the victim mentality created by dwelling on past injuries, so that God can give us good things; he explained that it has to be an exchange, that you have to give up shattered dreams and bitterness as your part of the exchange, and then God will do HIS part. Lastly, he said that you have to be grateful for what you have, and then God will reward you with more than you ever imagined... all of which boils down to stopping the generation of negative energy so that positive things can get to you, and focusing on a positive emotion to draw the positive to you, which is both his consistent message and the basic rule of karma.

His most interesting thought tonight was that "the Enemy" wants you to "sit in the ashes" (dwell on past hurts), but God will give you beauty for those ashes if you're willing to make the swap... and that "the Enemy" fights the hardest to keep you down when he knows God has something good waiting for you, so stay positive even when things seem the worst.

And now for the possum report: The little girl possum was eating, and the male showed up; we held our breaths, not knowing what he'd do to her this time around... and to our astonishment and delight, the same possum who'd run her right off the 1st time he saw her slowly edged in on the other side of the food pile and began to eat, without making a single aggressive move!! My husband, who as a point of manhood resists talking to the critters, joined me in crooning, "Good boy!! What a good boy!! Good possum, letting her stay and eat!!"; possums are supposedly smarter than dogs, and dogs understand "good boy/girl," so I bet he knew what we meant. They've eaten together a few more times, and once he even let her snatch the cold cuts right out from under his nose; that he's apparently given her the run of his territory proves, to my mind, that's she IS female (not that I'd ever doubted it, as tiny and pretty as she is), and has got visions of possum babies dancing in my head again... I hope they're still together in the spring!!


Sunday, September 25, 2005

A few more blog tweaks 


It never rains without pouring, does it? As you might have noticed, there are some significant changes to my sidebar again today; I hit the jackpot in my blog surfing.

The 1st change is the addition of the "Stop Internet Censorship" banner; I don't normally post cause-related graphics, but the site the gif links to has loads of information on this and related topics that I think is valuable to the blogging community... especially since we're hearing more and more about people getting in trouble because their school, workplace, or even country thinks they shouldn't be allowed to blog about whatever they choose.

The next change is one I've thought about since my husband told me that my Flash clock/calendar used up so much of the CPU of whatever computer it was being viewed on that it might make older, slower computers sluggish, or freeze them up entirely (!!!); there were supposedly some ways to ameliorate the problem, but he was dragging his feet (as usual) with helping me with them, so I was contemplating going clockless... until I found the one I've got in the sidebar now on a blog I visited, courtesy of my old friends at ClockLink.com, who provided my original Flash clock from way back. It looks really slick, and has the date on it too, so I had to have it; I swapped the new code for the old, tinkered with the size and positioning, and now my blog loads faster as well as being kinder on older computers.

The 3rd change is the most fun, and technically neat as well; the hairy green guy holding the sign that tells you your IP#, your ISP, the sort of computer you're on and what browser you're using... followed by a random choice from a list of custom messages I came up with, the funniest of which is the one where he says he's my ("Omni's") husband, lol, which my husband thought was hilarious. I had problems registering the darned thing, and in fact I still haven't gotten the email with the secret password that'll allow me to edit it, but it works just fine; it's wide enough that I may move it so that it's not sticking out so noticeably, but I'm going to see how I like it over the next few days before I decide about that.

So, my passion for novelty sidebar doodads continues unabated; I'm sure that says something about my psychological profile, but I'll spare myself the analysis as to what that might be. ;-)


Saturday, September 24, 2005

A couple of blog tweaks 


I was reading yesterday when I came across the familiar quote "cogito ergo sum" (I think therefore I am); for whatever reason, I instantly thought "BLOGito ergo sum," "I blog therefore I am," and was dazzled by my brilliance... for about a nanosecond, after which I realized that such an obvious turn of phrase must have been thought of and used a billion times (I checked, and yes it has-there are even shirts that have that phrase on them). I still loved it, so I decided to put it on my blog; the only problem was that I didn't know how to insert plain text (as opposed to text that's part of a link) anywhere outside of a post. I started going through the blogs I read in my mind, trying to think of who might have text that wasn't part of a post or a profile, and wasn't coming up with anything (not surprising, as there's not much reason for people to stick random bits of text in their margins); in that half-aware state of "internal thought," I followed an urge and brought up a page with a long list of unfamiliar blogs on it, picked one, clicked on it... and it had exactly what I was looking for (and I was amazed to have another psychic event so hard on the heels of the recent 2-WOW). It turns out that the "p" command does more than paragraphs and alignments, because that's what I found to insert text with; I played around with the quote and the code, to see where I wanted to put it (I had it at the bottom of the page for a while), and how to best format it... the result's in the sidebar.

Also in the sidebar's an addition to the translator that's been there since the early days of my blog; it's always bothered me that there were far fewer languages available than the # spoken in the countries I have visitors from, but I hadn't found any sites that did full-site translations that had more languages available (and I'd LOOKED), so I was stuck with just 8; today, though, I found a site that had many more translation options, and that led me to the site that produced the translations... but there didn't seem to be any way to get free translations there. After too long spent floundering around the site, I followed a hunch and did a Google search; I found a site with a page with an impressive range of translation options... including access to the previous translation site. If English is your 2nd language, and you'd rather read my ramblings in Croatian, Czech, Danish, Filipino, Finnish, Greek, Hungarian, Icelandic, Latin, Norwegian, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Slovenian, Swedish, Turkish or Welsh, click on where it says "LOTS more languages" right under the Babel Fish translator; on the page that takes you to, go to the 2nd translation box from the top in the right-hand column, where it says "InterTran -- Translate a Web Page," and stick my URL where it says to. As a bonus, if you speak Bulgarian, Dutch, or Tagalog, there's a little translator at the upper right, above the rest, with those languages available; it's still far from ALL languages (the lack of an English/Arabic translator is especially unfortunate, although more because I'd like to be able to read THEIR blogs than because I think they're that interested in mine), but hopefully it'll make a significant # of foreign visitors feel more welcome, and more able to figure out what I'm babbling about (although even a native English speaker probably has some difficulty with that sometimes, lol).

While I'm on the subject; I'm always pleased to see how many bloggers have some sort of translator on their blogs, as I think that enhances our sense of unity as a community... and always sad to find blogs that look cool that I can't read because I don't know of any translators that handle the languages they're written in (that'll be less of an issue now, but still significant). Given that, and that many blog readers won't know where to go to get translations, I'd like to suggest to everyone who doesn't have any kind of translator, and that absolutely includes people blogging in English, that you put some sort of translator and/or link to one on your site so that more of the blogging community can read what you have to say... because I don't think we can over-state the importance of people from all over the world reading about each other's lives and thoughts.


Friday, September 23, 2005

A psychotic pizza memory 


If you guessed that the memory's psychotic because my mother's involved... you're right!!

Back in my distant, pre-marital past, if my mother had to work late she'd sometimes call me at some point during the day and ask me to phone in a pizza order that'd be timed to be ready when she'd be reaching the restaurant, so she could pick it up with it still reasonably hot and bring it home; you wouldn't think there'd be any way to make something so simple into a battle, but she's unusually talented in that area, so she found a way... she'd play games with what time I was supposed to ask them to have the pizza ready by, in a attempt to trick me into picking an improper time so that she could then complain that the pizza was cold, or not ready, and then hammer me about it for the next month. Not being a fool, I'd dig my heels in and insist that she give a specific time, not a group of times, not a range of times, but ONE specific time, and after a few rounds of guessing games she'd normally give in... but one memorable time she didn't:

Her: I'm not sure what time I'll get out, and then I'm not sure what the traffic will be like, so I can't give an exact time.
Me: Nevertheless, you have to give me an exact time to give the pizza place.
Her: I might miss the worst of the traffic, but then again I might not, so I can't give an exact time.
Me: You still have to choose an exact time for me to give the pizza place.
Her: I might have to stay a little longer to help close up, but I won't know until after we're closed, so I can't give you a exact time.
Me: I'm not inventing a time that's guaranteed to be wrong, and then it's MY fault that the pizza's not done when you want it to be; YOU come up with a time, and then if it's wrong it can't be blamed on me.
Her: Fine, then we just won't HAVE pizza!! {smashes the phone down}

And that's not even the psycho part; several hours later, I was at home, reading in my room, when the phone rang:

Her: So where's the pizza?
Me: What pizza?
Her: Did you screw up and order it at the wrong place?
Me: No, the last thing I heard from you was that we weren't HAVING pizza.
Her: No, I called and told you to order pizza!!
Me: No, you called about pizza, refused to give me a time, declared that there would be NO pizza, slammed the phone down, and never called back to tell me anything different.
Her: {smashes the phone down}

When she arrived home, she was frothing at the mouth about my not having ordered the pizza that she'd said we weren't having, going on about how she'd told everyone at the pizza place how stupid *I* was for not placing an order I'd never been given permission and the information to place, and she repeated her nonsense over and over, never admitting that she'd retracted the offer of pizza and never countermanded that final decree, no matter how many times she was reminded... and for MONTHS afterwards, there was an additional battle about what for everyone else in the world is a trivially simple task; she'd make nasty comments about my not "forgetting" to place the order, and I'd respond with reminders of what actually happened before, and tell her that if she pulled a similar stunt there'd be no pizza AGAIN.

For all her bluster at me about the incident, she NEVER used that degree of game-playing with ordering pizza again; at least on some level, she DID know that she'd been the one at fault, and felt it necessary to be endlessly belligerent about it to try to steamroller me into forgetting the facts... which never worked, but that didn't stop her from trying.

That memory came back to me this evening as I was cheerfully slurping up pizza that my husband had brought home; it amazes me how normal dealing with my mother's psychoses used to feel... and how much better my life is without her as a regular part of it.


Thursday, September 22, 2005

How far would you go... 


... to discover the unknown?

On the DVD for "The Ring 2" is a short called "Rings," which is a preface to the movie; it shows how groups of people, calling themselves "rings," have obtained the tape that leads to your gruesome death 7 days after you watch it unless you copy it and show it to someone else, and are watching it 1 by 1, recording in detail all their increasingly intense experiences with the paranormal, and seeing how long they can withstand the fear before they pass the tape along to the next person in the ring.

If the situation were real, would YOU watch the tape?

If you answered "yes," consider:

What if the next person in the ring chickened out? What if you couldn't find a replacement in time? What if you were in a car wreck, and the 7 days ran out as you lay in a hospital bed?

What if the person after you in the ring had some similar problem, leading to THEIR death... could you live with that? What if the problem befell the person after that, or the one after that... how far would your moral responsibility extend?

I don't suppose too many people would take those sorts of risks even to know the unimaginable, so let's remove death from the equation; let's say instead that you could stop the paranormal events at any time by destroying the tape, and that at the end of 7 days, if you lasted that long, there'd be nothing beyond the most terrifying event of them all, after which your life would go on as before... then would you watch the tape?

What if what you experienced drove you crazy? What if it gave you screaming nightmares for the rest of your life? What if it left you so shaken that you'd never be able to regain a cheerful, ordinary existence? What if knowing what lay just under the skin of reality left you so afraid that you could never be in the dark, or be alone, or look into a mirror and see what might be behind you, for as long as you lived without being paralyzed by terror?

Would the knowledge still be worth it?

There are plenty of thrill-seekers who'd still go for it, because they're used to not letting the possible consequences bother them, and there are those so desperate to know it all, even the scariest aspects of the unknown, that they'd dive right in. And those who are self-destructive, or nuts, might embrace the possibility of being swallowed up by interior darkness and be eager to do it. Heck, my husband said he'd do it, just for the adventure of it... sometimes I wonder if we're even the same species.

And finally, let's say that none of the entities you'd encounter would be threatening, none of the things you'd experience would be intrinsically scary... then would you watch the tape? I think MOST people would go for it now, don't you? You'd see some wild stuff, learn about what else is out there, none of which is "bad," and nothing would harm you; why not go for it?

Some people would refuse, of course, for religious reasons, or because their lives can't be interrupted by random paranormal occurrences (surgeons, for example, can't afford to be startled in mid-operation), etc, but I'd refuse for a reason few would think of; because I've always had the gut feeling that focusing on "other beings" of any sort draws their attention to you, which could easily end up with you wishing you hadn't contemplated them... and just imagine what the result could be if you essentially invited them to come into your life in various intrusive ways-what makes you think they'd ever just forget about you and leave you be for the rest of your life?

Or that other, perhaps less benign, things might not follow them to you, and start hanging around as well?

Exploring the unknown is a 2-edged sword, because it'd be the height of arrogance to think that there are no other sentient beings in all the universes except us, or that none of those other beings are more powerful than we are, and it'd be the height of foolishness to believe that none of them would be curious and/or belligerent enough to be interested in messing with humans like little boys poking ant hills with sticks; by learning too much about the tapestry of karma, one runs the risk of becoming TOO perceptive, and seeing things best left unseen... things that can see you back.

I want to know "The Truth," but I want to have a happy life and sleep well at night, too; I wouldn't TOUCH that hypothetical tape, or do anything else that'd put me closer to whatever might exist that needs to STAY unknown, not even if you paid me. Is it possible to know everything about the unknown EXCEPT that stuff? Perhaps not; it's going to be food for thought as my spiritual path progresses, count on it.


Wednesday, September 21, 2005

What does working harder get you? 


I could have left this post blank to answer the question symbolically, to mean that working harder gets you NOTHING... but that wouldn't be totally accurate, as obviously sometimes working hard DOES get rewarded... as long as the hard work is of the sort that whoever's in authority over you cares about, and they like you well enough to reward you for it, and there isn't someone else who worked harder or more skillfully or is liked better by those in authority... and then we're back to how working harder usually doesn't lead to getting anything extra.

What got me thinking about this was a Dilbert cartoon

http://www.comics.com/comics/dilbert/archive/dilbert-20050917.html

in which a disheveled Dilbert, who got stuck doing all of Ted's work as well as his own, says to the boss, "I didn't think it was possible, but for the past month I've done my own job plus Ted's, and done them well. I know that you're marveling at my accomplishment and wondering how you can reward me. I'll bet we're thinking of the same bonus amount!" And what's the boss thinking in response to all this? "Maybe I can fire Carl and make this idiot do his job too."

The strip is funny because:


1) We've all gotten the idea somehow that doing more work will get us benefits, when in reality we KNOW it hardly ever does.

2) Despite what we ourselves believe, we see that belief in others as naive and amusing.

3) We've nearly all experienced situations where people judge those who exert more effort than necessary in an unflattering light, either as foolish, or as brown-nosers, or as trying to make others look bad (try to think of any times that your fellow students, siblings, co-workers or other peer group saw that you'd done extra work and viewed that as praiseworthy, and you'll see what I mean.)

4) We've also nearly all experienced doing extra work in the expectation that an authority (parent, teacher or boss) would find it laudatory, only to discover that they:
a) Didn't notice.
b) Didn't care.
c) Decided that this demonstration of our ability to do more work meant that we should:
(i) Continue to do that level of work as our normal workload.
(ii) As in the Dilbert strip, be given even MORE work, since we've apparently got so much free time to do other tasks.
d) In the case of my parents and other psychos, see the work done, the initiative taken, as opportunities for criticism... and this is often part of the military mentality as well, wherein you're supposed to not vary from your assigned tasks and the exact orders you were given (and yes, my father was a military man).

5) We understand in general that we get rewarded based on the esteem in which authority figures hold us, which is virtually NEVER based on how much work we do (although it IS sometimes based on the skill or speed with which we accomplish our work).


In school, the highest grades, and the awards, scholarships, etc, went to those kids who were the smartest or most athletic, NOT those who worked the hardest (with the teachers' pets always having an extra edge, which also wasn't gained from hard work), and in the workplace the $ and promotions go to those that the higher-ups like best, to those with the ability to best produce measurable sorts of achievements like the most sales or accounts (which usually DO involve hard work, but generally go to those with the best people skills and connections rather than to the hardest workers), and even to those with seniority... but NEVER as a reward for just working hard, or for working harder than required or expected.

I used to knock myself out for people, and, not only did I never get anything in return, not even gratitude or recognition, but they expected me to ALWAYS make that effort for them with them doing nothing to compensate me for it; it was a ridiculous setup, and I've spent years gradually backing away from it, so that now what I do for others closely matches what they've demonstrated a willingness to do for ME... and no one can complain about getting less, because they know it'd make them hypocrites. If someone wants more from me, they have to ASK, which means they have to make a case to me AND THEMSELVES that the extra effort is important, and thus provide compensation, or at least overt gratitude, when it's done. I've learned that amazingly few things are valuable enough to others to make it worth even so little from them as making a request, and therefore not remotely worth me doing them on my own initiative, and that by making a request necessary I've taught them to view me as someone whose time is valuable, and to whom tasks do NOT just get casually tossed, but who needs to be approached with respect to obtain my efforts.

But I used to be like Dilbert, so thank you Scott Adams for a big laugh... at my former self.


Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Psychic flash and a scare 


I got 10 hours of sleep last night; I'm wondering if being more rested increases telepathic sensitivity, because I had a powerful psychic urge today, which is noteworthy since I just had a precognitive insight yesterday... pretty much every other mental function is adversely affected by tiredness and improved by getting enough sleep, so why not this one, right? (If so, that'd mean that these perceptions DO come via the brain, rather than the soul as some suggest... unless the soul gets tired too? hmmmmmmmmmmmm)

I was about to place a bid on eBay, and as usual had decided long in advance how much I was going to bid; $10. As I went to enter that amount, which was well above the current tiny bid amount, my inner voice (it's not actually a voice per se, it's more like a wordless certainty, but the latter makes no sense to those who haven't experienced it, so it's easier to call it my IV) spoke up:

IV: $12
Me: $10
IV: $12
Me: I only bid in round #'s; $10.
IV: $12
Me: Why does it have to be $12?
IV: Because SHE bid $12.
Me: The current bid's only $3, and I can't imagine many people would think this is worth...
IV: She bid $12.

This is why we're so unable to be certain, as a species, about the validity of psychic phenomena; even those of us who know better will STILL try to argue away the insights we receive, because we're so saturated with the idea of "if science can't see it then it doesn't exist" that we can't accept the gifts of karma. Luckily, I caught myself at it, and decided to listen to the inner voice; if the other bidder had bid $12, then *I* had to bid $12... plus the 1¢ extra that I add to every bid, to make sure I go over any bids of the same amount, of course. I placed the bid... and eBay showed my bid as $12.01.

She HAD bid $12.

No matter how many times it happens, it still amazes me.

And now for the scare: My husband and I were settling in for dinner, and I grabbed for a napkin, and inexplicably got 2; I separated them, and saw that the bottom one had...

... a LARVA squirming on it!! AAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH!!

While I shrieked in disgust, my husband fumbled for something to kill it with, then realized that it was on a NAPKIN, and wadded it up and crushed the filthy thing. I flung the other napkin, that the larva had been stuck to, at him (and he USED it without a qualm, GAG), and extracted a new one... which I naturally examined VERY carefully before using. All we can figure is that the larva had been crawling on the ceiling, and decided to break with the standard larval plan of dropping onto my keyboard and jump into the napkins instead.

What I really need is the psychic ability to ferret out all vermin BEFORE they try to get on me; sadly, I don't think that one exists... but who knows what I might accomplish if I keep sleeping this much? ;-)


Monday, September 19, 2005

A precognitive possum dream 


The Joel Osteen sermon tonight was a repeat again, so he must be on vacation; the message was still a good one, about how we should wake up every day with a blank slate emotionally, having forgiven and forgotten all the hurts of the previous day to "allow" God to give us the even better stuff that He has in store for us... or, from a karmic viewpoint, clear out all the negative thoughts and emotions so that they don't generate negative karma and prevent good things from getting to us.

Last night I slept for 11 hours, and 1 of my dreams was that there were TWO possums on the patio instead of just the 1 who's been coming several times a night for the past couple of months (see my post of 9-15-05), despite the fact that we've NEVER seen any other possums in our area, much less on our property; I woke up with a surge of hope that maybe we WOULD be getting a new visitor, but as is so often the case with precognition, it seemed so unlikely that the tendency was to dismiss it as wishful thinking... but I'm pleased to say that I was RIGHT. I heard possumish chomping as I was typing away on my laptop, and looked up already crooning hellos to the possum... only to stop in mid-croon as I realized that this was NOT our possum, but one far smaller, with darker fur and strikingly different facial markings. I immediately assumed that this one was female, although it could just as easily be a younger male; fantasies of possum courtship and a pouchful of tiny possumettes come spring began surging through my besotted brain. As the night progressed, the possums alternated feeding times, until, at a point when the female was here, I wondered why they weren't on the patio at the same time as in the dream... at which point the male showed up.

And chased her away!! :-(

We were VERY dismayed at his behavior, and can only hope that she'll hang around anyways to maintain access to the bountiful food supply available here, and that he'll eventually become more accepting of her; we'll always love him the best, but 2 possums would be twice the fun... and if she's still around when mating season arrives, there's a good chance he'll see her in a new light, and then maybe we could still have possumettes.

Is there any reasonable chance that it's a coincidence that I dreamed of 2 possums on the same day that we 1st GOT 2 possums? Of course not... and this is the most thrilling precognitive event I've had in ages.


Sunday, September 18, 2005

The oddest "religious" dream yet 


I didn't quite manage 12 hours of sleep, as I woke up after 11.5, but I still feel like a whole new person today; as a bonus, I had one of the occasional "religious" dreams that baffle my NON-religious waking mind... and this time there was some pretty blatant symbolism in it:

The 1st thing I remember isn't really clear, but for some reason I was involved in some sort of search with legendary pop psychologist Dr. Phil; I don't know what we were looking for, and I didn't recognize where we were-it was sort of surreal, as dreamscapes often are. Eventually, we were in a big building, with me up on an interior balcony or ledge of some kind, and him in a large room adjacent to the room the balcony was in; there was a huge pile of dark stuff on the floor, dirt and sticks and unidentifiable chunks, and he was trying to... do something with or to it, I couldn't tell what. He apparently failed, gave up, and walked away; once he was out of sight, from out of the wall appeared a gigantic hand, easily 20 feet long, made of something with a yellow-orange glow like a hot coal... my immediate thought was, "that's the hand of God." The hand motioned over the pile, and a glowing figure began to form, also about 20 feet long, and as it was taking shape I thought, "Jesus." It gets bizarre here; once it was completed, the outline of the figure reminded me of Dopey, one of the 7 dwarves from "Snow White."

The glowing figure came under the balcony and looked up at me, asking if I wanted to come down; I did, but there was no stairway or other way to get there... so he extended a finger, which grew until it was all the way up with me, and thick enough to look like it'd support my weight, and I grabbed onto it (it felt vaguely insubstantial), and was gently transported to the ground at his feet (yes, I'm aware of the potentially sexual symbolism of a long, growing cylindrical thing coming from a male figure, but sometimes a cigar is jut a cigar). I was standing leaning slightly against his legs (I felt a little disoriented), looking up at him, with him about as tall compared to me as an adult would be to a small child, and he asked me if I wanted him to change forms; I said I did, and the glow dimmed but didn't vanish as he shifted to a fairly standard Jesus image, except with blonde hair... I thought that he should be brunette, as he's usually pictured, but figured that the light he emitted might make the darker color impossible somehow.

All I have after that is the faint recollection that we were going to go somewhere, do something together... I wish I could remember what.

So, we have Dr. Phil, representing the intellectual, rational and analytical, failing to use "analytical power" to do something with a jumble of "stuff," and God showing up and succeeding at "creating order out of chaos," physically and presumably spiritually speaking, which fairly screams the message "Analyzing the unknown won't give you the answer, because God is the answer"; I'd really like to know what part of my mind THAT idea came from, and if it's trying to get through to me or is just reflecting some primitive part of my brain that likes the idea of a deity (??!!). We have Jesus starting out looking like "Dopey," but then "rescuing" me, "bringing me to him," and then taking his familiar form (which was no more his true form than the other, because that glowing stuff could have taken any shape); the entire Christianity thing certainly looked "dopey" to me for most of my life... and now? I expect my Christian friends to tell me that the dream means that I know the truth somewhere deep down, but that can't be it...

... could it?


Saturday, September 17, 2005

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz 


Tonight, my biggest fantasy for the past year or so will come true; I'm going to get 12 hours of sleep.

I've been so tired for so long that I honestly don't remember what it feels like to be truly rested; my life is so full, and so frenzied, that the only way I can keep getting even the most essential stuff handled is to sleep less... and less... and less. And yes, part of what keeps me busy is my daily blog entries, which take up nearly all my "me time" (I still make time to exercise a few hours each week, but that's about it), and some of my sleep time, each day; I've made it a priority to do this daily mental exercise, because if I don't stick to my commitment to stretching my mind every day I'll end up with brain-lock like people I know who're either at work or vegging out, and thus haven't had a new, original, interesting, creative or spiritual thought in 20 years.

Still, my priorities take a toll on me; I'm months behind with my magazines, I barely remember what a book looks like, I have CD's I haven't listened to in YEARS, blah blah blah. When I get tired enough, if I DO manage some spare time I'm too spaced out to concentrate on anything without the adrenaline of "this HAS to get done" pushing me along; I don't think that 1 night of solid sleep, however long, will get me caught up, but hopefully it'll allow me to get my weekend tasks done quickly and be clear-headed enough to read a few articles in Discover.

It takes some work to have a 12-hour sleep session; I've taken some Advil to quiet my lower back, I'm holding as still as possible so that I can wind down and have my muscles get slack (all the physical tasks will wait until tomorrow), I've got an innocuous article to read to clear my mind, and I'm going to take a double dose of melatonin to make sure that my weary body and mind will sink into sleep when I lay down rather than ratcheting back up as they all too often do, especially when I get to bed early.

I can't describe the bliss of getting into bed knowing that I'm going to get REAL sleep... and that goes double tonight, when I'm too groggy to form any illuminating sentences, lol. If I can just get rested enough, I can accomplish more during the day, finish it up faster and thus get to sleep earlier each night, and then eventually, theoretically, get back to the point where I'm NOT tired most of the time, can focus my mind on getting things done, and...

Ah, to heck with it; even if I don't get beneficial side effects, I'm bone tired, I'm getting to bed really early, and I'm going to sleep like the dead for half a day. Life is good.


Friday, September 16, 2005

What do we do about kids being teased? 


If you were a regular target for teasing as a kid (as opposed to being the recipient of the occasional comment, which is VERY different), and your parents told you things to do that would allegedly stop the teasing, ask yourself this; did any of their advice actually WORK? The answer is almost certainly "no," as I've never had anyone tell me of a successful parent-supplied strategy that stopped THEM from being teased or harassed as kids... but why would that be? What's so hard about figuring out how a kid should be handling the misbehavior of other kids, that no adult seems to have any idea of what to tell a kid to do about it that will work? Why is it that parents tell kids abysmally stupid things to do instead, as if they don't have the brains to figure out what the ACTUAL response of the teasers will be to those things?

I know about this from experience; because I came from a sick, warped household, I was a weird kid, with the standard result... I was endlessly picked on. The one thing I managed to avoid was getting beaten up, in part because it was well known that I'd report anyone who got physical with me or my possessions to the nearest adult, and in part because of one of the few things my parents ever told me about dealing with people that's actually useful; "If someone hits you, you hit back twice as hard, and twice as many times, so that they THINK twice before daring to raise a hand to you again"... I still know it by heart nearly 3 decades after the last time it was said to me, and, despite the claims that violence never solves anything, it DOES make people disinclined to make you a target for THEIR violence. You can't tell a kid to hit whoever teases them, though, and I understood that I wasn't being given de facto permission to do that, so that useful tidbit didn't help me with the main problem.

One of my parents' ideas was for me to tell an adult if I was being teased; this is usually a waste of time to suggest to a kid because most of them won't do it, and if they DO, as I did, they find that it doesn't help, because, unlike with physical transgressions, adults don't see teasing as something to take action against... enough bullied kids have brought guns to school in recent years that teachers are FINALLY taking teasing, the precursor to bullying, seriously in at least some areas, but there was no shred of that attitude when I was a kid, and that's the way it is in many schools to this day.

My parents' glib advice to "just ignore them" was also a failure, because this led to the teasers escalating their behavior until it HAD to be reacted to in self defense, such as with things like screaming in my face or grabbing at me that didn't quite cross over into what the teachers were willing to take action against; I don't suppose that modern-day teasers are any less persistent, and even those who won't take it that far still aren't stopped by being ignored, because they KNOW that the victim hears them and is being hurt and humiliated by it even if they're stone-faced and unresponsive. When the teasing reaches the point that comments are being called out to the child wherever he is, if he doesn't respond he looks like a helpless victim, a safe and easy target... and a kid that everyone knows can't walk down the halls of the school without being followed by a steady stream of put-downs will tend to become totally socially isolated and friendless (as children fear drawing the attention of teasers and other bullies by being around a known target). This is probably the worst result of teasing, and one that adults consistently fail to take into account when judging the seriousness of those situations; if you don't take effective action about teasing before it reaches this point, there may be literally nothing you can do to get your child accepted back into "society" again... kids are loath to give up a familiar victim, and certainly aren't interested in befriending one.

My mother was big on giving me speeches to memorize that she somehow convinced herself would have a magical effect on the teasers; you might remember an episode of "The Brady Bunch" where the youngest boy (I think) is subjected to the same sort of "assistance," thereby making the bully more contemptuous and determined, with it going on and on until a fight finally ends it... to the dismay of the parents, who honestly thought they could have their son TALK the bully into submission. I'm here to tell you that speeches don't work any better on teasers in real life, any more than they have a salutary effect on ADULTS by anyone who isn't in authority over them... they just make the teasers go from "cheerful" teasing to ticked-off teasing.

Sometimes what my mother told me to say was only a line or 2, but that didn't fare any better; arguing with the teasers prolongs the teasing session, risks ticking them off, and makes more of a spectacle of the thing, making it more likely that others will join in. I learned the hard way that the most counter-productive thing you can have a child tell a teaser is that they're being immature; my use of that word caused increased problems every time, and led to me being targeted by a group of popular 8th graders for most of my 7th grade year (but in that case I managed to turn it totally around through quick thinking, see my post of 10-19-04).

Probably the stupidest advice my mother ever gave me was in reference to a boy in the 6th grade who'd taken to escalating his teasing to include poking or pushing me in a way not severe enough to get him in trouble, and then running away; when asked why I wasn't running after him to poke/push him back, I pointed out what should have been wildly obvious, that he was a much faster runner, and I had no chance of catching him. In reply, my mother told me, a bookish and unathletic girl, that when he next did this I should run after him, and keep running, because "he can't run forever," and when he stopped I could then get him back. I'm sure that you, unlike her, are bright enough to see the inevitable result; he poked me and ran, with me slogging along after him... until *I* stopped from exhaustion, long before he was even winded, while he harangued me from a safe distance until I got moving again, at which point he sprinted effortlessly away again... and this went on until I was too wiped out to continue, giving him a victory beyond his wildest dreams. When I reported this back to my mother, she didn't have the grace to admit that she'd been stupid, of course; she chalked up my inability to chase and catch an athletic BOY as evidence of some sort of character failing on my part.

Why, you might ask, did my mother not just speak to whatever teachers and other adults were responsible for monitoring my class and demand that the teasers be dealt with? It's not like she had any hesitancy about calling them and raking them over the coals when they incurred her disapproval, such as when a gym teacher was telling me to NOT hit back, and wasn't punishing those that hit 1st (as nasty as she was with him, he still shot his mouth off a 2nd time to me on the subject, and her 2nd call to him probably left him scarred for life, lol), but she shared the standard adult mindset in those days before kids started shooting up their schools that teasing wasn't important enough for adult intervention (and never lost her non-facts-based belief that there was some sort of procedure that I could be trained in that would fix things, sigh).

We're more enlightened these days; we know that being habitually teased causes all sorts of mental health problems, and often leads to unacceptable varieties of acting out as well... but we still don't have any better advice to give kids on how to handle it, especially when there are a bunch of teasers rather than just 1 bully who might be avoidable. WHY? Why is there nothing you can tell a kid that works against teasers?

I've wondered vaguely about that for many years, but the answer just occurred to me today:

We as adults can rarely, if ever, stop people who are teasing US... so why should we think we can tell a CHILD how to do it, especially when teasing is so much a part of childhood culture, and there isn't even the tiny bit of leverage offered by potential social disapproval? The scary reality is that, unless there's an authority figure (or someone tough and intimidating) willing to intercede on the victim's behalf, there's simply NO WAY to stop ANYONE from teasing.

For the sort of sporadic teasing that most kids deal with, it IS fine to tell them to ignore it, roll their eyes and walk away, or toss out a one-liner, but if a kid has become the focus for even ONE constant teaser, much less a group, that causes equally-constant stress and upset, and can quickly lead to the victim becoming an outcast, so it's up to all associated adults to take action; whether you're a parent, teacher, the lunchroom monitor, the parent of a classmate, or whatever your connection is with a kid that you find out has become a target, DO something about it, and I don't mean give stupid advice... talk to whoever has authority over the teaser at the location the teasing is taking place, and demand that action be taken to stop the teaser(s), not just for a day but for good. Make clear that you're going to be following up, and DO it, so that the cycle of teasing is permanently broken... BEFORE the victim gets a gun, or starts cutting themselves, abusing drugs, or doing whatever else they can think of to stop the pain.


Thursday, September 15, 2005

The possum on my patio 


I mentioned recently that a possum had started visiting me, and promised to post about him; here, at last, is the promised post.

For the benefit of my foreign visitors, here are a couple of pics of possums as normally seen

http://users.ev1.net/~katagi/possum.jpg

http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/plantanswers/recipes/possum.jpg

and, because it's so cute, here's a pic of 5 possum babies

http://www.nal.usda.gov/awic/images/opsinbarrel.jpg

I haven't seen babies yet, but I'm hoping... although we're pretty sure that our possum is male. (I know, we've been fooled before, but he periodically walks around with his tail up, and his little male parts have a different color of fur, so they're hard to miss.) The possum is a marsupial, it has a prehensile tail (it can't hang from it past babyhood, though, as it's not strong enough), it's an omnivore, and it's known to faint from fear and thus make predators lose interest... which doesn't help them against cars, of course, which is why you'll periodically see roadkill possums in any area where they live around people.

The 1st time I saw the possum out on the patio, my 1st, panicked reaction was that he was a giant rat; he's small, and the rats infesting my yard are huge, and he does have a rattish sort of face and a naked pink tail. Once I realized what he actually was, I yelled for my husband, and we looked out the window at our new visitor; possums are homely, scrawny, their fur looks moth-eaten, and they have sort of a blank look about them, in addition to their resemblance to rats, so we agreed that our marsupial friend wasn't much to look at, but we were still excited to have a new species of critter hanging around.

We quickly discovered that the typical pics of possums, which show them with their heads hanging down, don't do them justice; when our boy started eating some food put out for the skunks, he tilted his head back, shot his little pink tongue in and out, and SMILED... I know, we're probably anthropomorphizing him, but it really DOES look like he's got a huge toothy grin of enjoyment while he chews, and this made us adore him despite his homeliness, because it was so CUTE. Heck, we even thought it was cute when food fell out of mouth while he ate, and when we realized that he was spitting out the skins of all the grapes he consumed (although the latter is sorta gross to clean up after); we were hooked.

When we got lazy one night and put out grapes still on the stem rather than pulling them off before setting them out, he picked up each bunch and held it in the air in his paw while eating from it, which was REALLY cute; he also figured out that he could grab a whole bunch and run into the bushes where we can't see him to eat it, which was smart of him but dismaying for us, so we stopped giving him grapes on the stems. Possums are supposed to be smarter than dogs, but aside from seeing that grapes in a bunch can be transported together, I've seen no evidence of this; he's too skittish to interact with thus far, so maybe he'll do something clever later on... not that it matters, because he's a sweet and charming creature, and we love him even if he's stupid.

It was my husband's idea to give him some meat, and he really enjoyed it, so we got some bland cold cuts (spices might be bad for him) and tried those, and that's his favorite so far; we tried Spam, too, but he turned up his nose at it, so maybe he's smarter than we think. He'll often eat the cold cuts while holding them in the air with one paw, like with the bunches of grapes, and will also grab a piece and run off into the bushes to eat it if he's nervous. It turns out that a species of tiny ant loves cold cuts too, and apparently also loves to climb onto the possum's hairless pink toes; the 1st time I saw him shaking his paw over and over, I was afraid he was injured, but it was just ants getting on him... and oddly, although he's supposed to eat insects, he doesn't lick them up-he's particular about his food. We also give him periodic chunks of cheese, since my husband read that possums are prone to calcium deficiency; it's a little harder for him to eat, but he gobbles it up eventually.

The possum is pretty much used to me, and doesn't object to my being very close to the sliding glass door, even when it's open, and even when he's right up to it himself and thus as little as a foot away from me. I don't think he sees very well, and unless I make a sudden move he isn't concerned; if I don't see him looking in at me, and stand up or walk around, that'll scare him, although not as much as it used to, but if I move slowly he's ok with it. I talk to him constantly, and I can see his little ears swiveling around to hear me, so he's paying attention; this helps when he's been frightened, as my voice is familiar, and associated with eating in his mind, and so reassures him. When the door's open, I can hear HIM, too; he makes an astonishing amount of noise when he eats, and the CHOMP CHOMP SMACK is often what alerts me to his presence... and I'll look out to see him smiling in at me as he chews.

He doesn't do much besides eat; he sometimes slurps up some water, or wanders around sniffing and eating the occasional bug, and he even checked out the shed once, presumably curious about the rat sounds from within (possums eat rats, but we've seen no evidence that he's killed any of ours, more's the pity). His only other cute behavior is that he sits down and washes his face when he's done with his meal about half of the time, which might not be accomplishing much when his paws are muddy but is still fun to watch; generally, he just eats, saunters over to the tree that he uses to get into and out of our yard, and then either takes off, or, less often, climbs up it and then onto our patio cover, where his tail can be seen hanging down, curling and uncurling... I thought it was a snake the 1st time he did that, but once my eyes adjusted to the dim light and I saw it was pink I knew it was him.

The possum comes around 3 times a night, and we pile plenty of food near the door for him so he'll hang around as long as possible; we never tire of watching him eat, so I suppose we're easily amused, lol. We've gotten better about being careful when we move around the room he can see into, so we don't run him off inadvertently; I check around for his pale triangular face before I chase the rats away, too, because once I caught him cowering in fear at the edge of the patio during a tirade against the evil rodents, and it was an hour or so before he dared come and get his food.

We've gotten some video of him doing his thing, although with the door open now we're stymied by the screen; I did manage to catch him out there when a skunk was here too, which made us plenty nervous, but they ignored each other and stayed on opposite ends of the patio, with the possum claiming the feeding area as his, which was either very brave or very stupid... luckily, the skunk was happy to snarfle around the landscaping, eating bugs and snails.

Even though possums have long and sharp-looking teeth, I'm of course eager to pet our little friend; I guess the next step is to try to get him to take food from me, but I'm concerned that his lack of understanding of where the food ends and the hand begins might work out badly for me... it's not like with the squirrel that couldn't have hurt us if she'd tried, or with a more courageous animal that'd be less likely to make a frantic grab and run. I know I shouldn't try to interact with a wild animal, that I shouldn't get attached, blah blah blah, but I miss my little squirrel girl (who hasn't been seen since she came to, I now believe, say good-bye, at least until the weather turns cold again and she gets hungrier), and the skunk that was hanging around alot got trapped and relocated, as happens regularly, so I missed my chance to try to pet her (probably just as well, considering the risk), and... and I love our little possum, so how can I not try?

Stay tuned.


Wednesday, September 14, 2005

An interesting realization 


If you've been reading here for a while, you've grasped that my father was a sick, evil person, which makes him fairly unusual. There's another, even more unusual thing about him, though; he's been impotent his entire life. Today, for the 1st time, I started wondering if there's a connection between those 2 things.

If you're wondering how I know about him being impotent, it's because my mother inexplicably felt it necessary to tell me; he'd just turned 22 when they got married, and should have been bursting with hormones like every other man of that age, but instead... my mother's line is that she was a virgin on her wedding night, and for several nights thereafter. He never improved his level of performance, and in fact it declined steadily; in the latter years with my mother, he never managed to complete the act at all. His lack of male functionality extended all the way down to the cellular level; he had such low sperm count and poor sperm motility that it's amazing that any of his sporadic encounters with my mother ever resulted in a pregnancy (it took them nearly a decade)... and yes, my mother told me that too, and yes, I found it icky.

Is it a coincidence that he became such a warped, belligerent person, so determined to exert his power by making and enforcing endless, ridiculous rules, and behaving in an unrestrainedly ugly way because he COULD? Can all, or even most, of the blame for the despicable creature he became be assigned to his near-total inability to perform his 2 most basic manly functions (sex and reproduction), and his inability to deal with that? Was the nightmare of my childhood and early adulthood due to something as simple as my father trying endlessly to prove his manhood?

Words fail me.


Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Odds and ends 


I was opening up the mail today, not really paying attention to what was on the envelopes, and looked down to see a pic of a cute teddy bear wearing a t-shirt that said "Home Sweet Home"... and "Habitat For Humanity." Regular readers will know that I can't resist sending $ to any charity that offers me a cute stuffie (which is why I'm on the list for every charity in the Western hemisphere, lol), and I'd already been thinking about what a good charity this would be to donate to because of all the volunteer work, and donations of goods such as appliances, that get added in along with the $, giving major bang for the buck; strangely, there was no mention of Katrina in the letter they sent me, but they ARE going to be doing a huge amount of home-building once it's possible for them to get started, so if you get a request from them for a donation do be generous... I'm going to be.

As I was typing the above, an ad came on with Bush Senior and Clinton asking people to donate $ for the Katrina victims; bravo to them both for doing this together, sending the message that people of all political parties need to work as one in this time of crisis.

Last night I saw an amazing program about chimps that're being taught to communicate via computer; the thing that totally blew me away, though, was the story of how one of the chimps was being asked to hand over trash to get a treat, and he brought it over... but when he saw the woman tear the piece of licorice she'd been holding in half and only offer him one piece, he tore the paper bag he was holding in half and held out just one piece!!!!!!!!! How SMART was that? Heck, plenty of humans wouldn't work it out that well, so I was astounded that even so bright of an animal had instantly figured out how to ideally handle the situation.

And finally, the moth and larvae report; we continue to endure a plague of Biblical proportions of these disgusting creatures, with dozens of moths being visible at any given time no matter how fast we kill them, and larvae squirming across the walls and ceilings, and clinging to food packages (sometimes in cocoons). I yanked all the food off of the shelves I can reach without climbing on anything, and discovered that they'd gotten into a sealed Ziploc bag, and then into sealed individual wrappers, to reach fortune cookies; some of the cookies had a big hole in them, some were so chewed up that they looked like lace... and some of the little wrappers had nothing but dust in them, I kid you not. I gathered up all the stray fortune cookies too, just in case, and had my husband take it all out to the trash.

Later, as I was typing away, I saw a faint flash of something light passing right in front of my eye, flinched back, looked down... and there was a larva, having just missed landing on my FACE in its fall to the floor. I picked it up with a napkin, beat it to a pulp, and screamed to my husband to clear out that upper shelf with his food on it NOW, despite his claims that he was SURE that they weren't into anything up there (with said claims, as always, being based on nothing more than his desire to avoid a task). He reluctantly started doing it, and quickly found the craziest thing imaginable for them to be into; a huge container of pepper flakes, all solid plastic with no visible way for them to be getting in or out, with the flakes all globbed together and covered in larvae and moths... it was so gross that he ran outside with it before I could examine it further, which is probably just as well, given my tendency towards nightmares. He also found some open food packages on his shelf, including the favorite of moths, chocolate, that he didn't even have the heart to look into to verify if they had vermin in them; he just threw it all out.

Are we FINALLY rid of them now? I wish I could believe that we were...


Monday, September 12, 2005

9-11 and Katrina 


With the 4 year anniversary of 9-11 on the one hand, and the continuing grim saga of Katrina on the other, it was a sober and reflective day for many Americans... some of whom undoubtedly shared my emotional turmoil as to how to apportion my grief, especially since the full extent of the destruction of Katrina is still unknown. My buddy Smedley, whose excellent blog is here

http://thesmedleylog.com/

posted a photo of the New York city skyline at night that shows the twin lights symbolizing the Twin Towers, and the sight of it choked me up as it probably does most Americans... and also like most Americans, I've been choking up every time I've encountered news over the past couple of weeks, as the horror rolls on and on.

As if the memories of 9-11 and the disaster area that a part of this nation the size of Great Britain has become aren't enough, there's sadness from a 3rd source; that for every person online I see who reports what they personally have done to help the Katrina victims, there are 100 people eagerly using the tiny % of the total information about how relief efforts were handled that currently exists to point fingers and make melodramatic claims as to the evil intentions of everyone involved. I'm not saying that we don't need to figure out what went wrong, or that we shouldn't talk about it and demand that answers be provided (AFTER those in need have been helped), just that I'm dismayed that the political aspect of things is getting so much more "web space" overall than the humanitarian aspect in the sites I've visited in my endless surfing via the "next blog" button... and I hardly dare contemplate what that looks like to people from other countries. Since nearly all of those people blogging about who did what wrong HAVE most likely donated $, or clothes (etc), or their time for the Katrina victims, because Americans are always quick to give to everyone in need, I hope that they'll eventually tell us about it, and encourage us to keep giving for as long as it takes to make things right for those who've lost so much. I hope they'll take a break from their anger and share their sadness... and, eventually, their hope, the hope that we need to keep alive to allow us to take on the enormous task of putting all the affected areas to rights.

And there's a 4th source of sadness; that we're so deeply immersed in the Katrina issues that we didn't really give 9-11 and its victims the space in our minds and hearts that we should have today; I know that it wasn't really possible, and the survivors and loved ones of the fallen most likely understand, but... it just doesn't seem right that we weren't able to focus on it as a nation as we did the past 3 years on this day.

If you suffered a loss on 9-11, my heart goes out to you, and the pain you're suffering as you relive those awful memories; to the heroes of 9-11, my gratitude to you is undimmed by the passing of the time.

If you've suffered a loss because of Katrina, I know that your pain is too raw and recent to allow much comfort, but be aware that this nation grieves with you.

To the heroes who continue to emerge in the aftermath of Katrina, many of whom are ordinary citizens who've come forward to do amazing things; I salute you.

Joel Osteen's sermon today was a re-run, I think, because I recognized one of the stories he told, but his message was timely; that you may have lost much, or everything, through no fault of your own, but God will compensate you double if you simply have faith in his willingness to do so. I can't verify that God exists or will do any particular thing, but I hope that all the survivors of our nation's greatest tragedies will be buoyed up by our caring and generosity to the point where they at least feel like they've gotten the chance at a decent life again... and that we as a nation will be pulled more closely together by all of this, rather than broken apart by blame and recriminations.


Sunday, September 11, 2005

What's behind alleged alien abductions? 


And sightings of at least MOST demons, angels and ghosts that occur when people wake up, feel paralyzed, and see... something? (I'm not quite willing to dismiss 100% of such experiences as being caused by one thing without proof.) "Paralyzed" is the big clue, because the cause is called "sleep paralysis," and it provides yet another biological explanation for experiences seen as spiritual or supernatural in nature.

From Stanford's website

http://www.stanford.edu/~dement/paralysis.html

comes this list of symptoms:

"A complaint of inability to move the trunk or limbs at sleep onset or upon awakening
Presence of brief episodes of partial or complete skeletal muscle paralysis
Episodes can be associated with hypnagogic hallucinations or dream-like mentation (act or use of the brain)"

It's also possible to have realistic physical sensations:

"In some cases, when hypnogogic hallucinations are present, people feel that someone is in the room with them, some experience the feeling that someone or something is sitting on their chest and they feel impending death and suffocation. That has been called the 'Hag Phenomena' and has been happening to people over the centuries. These things cause people much anxiety and terror, but there is no physical harm."

If that happened to ME, there'd sure be physical harm... from when I regained my ability to move and jumped out of my skin.

An excerpt from a paper on the subject, found here

http://www.angelfire.com/co/SleepParalysisLucid/moreInfoPar.html

shows a wider range of possible perceptions during sleep paralysis:


"Waves, vibrations and earthquake-like tremors.

Crackling, snapping, high-pitched, ringing (hours preceding and/or during SP) and booming noises.

Luminous blobs, auras, perception of objects and details of wall crevices and bed lining fabric.

Rotation of the body (pivot: the belly area), twisting of the body, rolling into oneself. Also, pressure on different parts of the body, but most commonly the belly area; floating, flying and being squeezed through tunnels.

Microsomatognosia: Shrinking in size.

Dissociation: Out-of-the-body experiences.

Hypnagogic hallucinations; Nightmare

Presence in the room, benign or maleficent; sense of suffocation; sense of entity sitting on one's chest; sense of entity pulling ones feet (more common than incubus).

Bolt of lightening exploding at the base of the neck, pain in the midsection."


It doesn't take a medical degree to see how this adds up to even so "physical" of paranormal claims as alien abductions, does it?

The website for "Science News" has a recent article on this topic

http://www.sciencenews.org/articles/20050709/bob9.asp

in which an anthropologist describes an incident that he experienced, which shows just how detailed and realistic this can be:


"... he awoke with a start to the sound of the bedroom door creaking open-the same door he had locked and bolted before going to bed. Hufford then heard footsteps moving toward his bed and felt an evil presence. Terror gripped the young man, who couldn't move a muscle, his eyes plastered open in fright.

Without warning, the malevolent entity, whatever it was, jumped onto Hufford's chest. An oppressive weight compressed his rib cage. Breathing became difficult, and Hufford felt a pair of hands encircle his neck and start to squeeze. 'I thought I was going to die,' he says.

At that point, the lock on Hufford's muscles gave way. He bolted up and sprinted several blocks to take shelter in the student union."


YIKES!! I can certainly see how it's easy to believe that something like that was a real experience... but it's biological in nature, and found in cultures all over the world, as Hufford himself discovered:

"... in Newfoundland, and he heard from some of the region's inhabitants about their eerily similar nighttime encounters. Locals called the threatening entity the 'old hag.' Most cases unfold as follows: A person wakes up paralyzed and perceives an evil presence. A hag or witch then climbs on top of the petrified victim, creating a crushing sensation on his or her chest."

And we can score a point for so-called "primitive" peoples:

"Although widely acknowledged among traditional cultures, sleep paralysis is one of the most prevalent yet least recognized mental phenomena for people in industrialized societies, Hufford says."

If you share my love of words, you'll like this:

"Curiously, although the word nightmare originally described sleep paralysis, it now refers to a fearful or disturbing dream, says Hufford, now at the Penn State Medical Center in Hershey, Pa. Several hundred years ago, the English referred to nighttime sensations of chest pressure from witches or other supernatural beings as the 'mare,' from the Anglo-Saxon merran, meaning to crush. The term eventually morphed into nightmare-the crusher who comes in the night."

This shows that the sleep paralysis phenomenon USED to be recognized in Western civilization... how did we "forget"?

On to the connection with "the unknown":

"Sleep paralysis embodies a universal, biologically based explanation for pervasive beliefs in spirits and supernatural beings, even in the United States, Hufford argues. The experience thrusts mentally healthy people into a bizarre, alternative world that they frequently find difficult to chalk up to a temporary brain glitch.

Hufford doesn't believe that an invisible force attacked him in his college room or during several sleep paralysis episodes that have occurred since then, but he sees the appeal of such an interpretation. 'We need to deeply question 2 centuries of assumptions about the nonempirical and nonrational nature of spirit belief,' he says."

As I always say, there's plenty of biology behind what many people believe to be spiritual or other paranormal events, and it's vital that we face up to that and separate these things from those that truly defy scientific explanation.

Not everyone views the sleep paralysis experience with dismay, oddly enough:

"Many who experience sleep paralysis also report sensations of floating, flying, falling, or leaving one's body. The condition's primary emotion, terror, sometimes yields to feelings of excitement, exhilaration, rapture, or ecstasy. 'A small number of people, while acknowledging fear during initial episodes of sleep paralysis, come to enjoy the experience,' Cheyne says."

It's surprisingly common:

"In surveys that he has conducted with large numbers of college students and other volunteers, about 30 percent report having experienced at least one incident of sleep paralysis."

and has been studied in Japan:

"In a sleep laboratory, the Japanese team monitored the volunteers, whom they roused at various times during the night to trigger the phenomenon. The researchers found that during sleep paralysis, the brain, suddenly awake, nonetheless displays electrical responses typical of sleep characterized by rapid eye movement (REM)."

That makes sense, as dreams can include all the sense and seem very real... and of course can be terrifying. But:

"Hufford, however, regards the intrusion of REM activity into awake moments as inadequate to explain sleep paralysis. Dream content during REM sleep varies greatly from one person to another, but descriptions of sleep paralysis are remarkably consistent. 'I don't have a good explanation for these experiences,' he says."

That consistency is used on some paranormal websites as "proof" that these are true experiences with other sorts of beings, but my $ is still on this being biological, just not pinned down fully yet.

Here's a story from a Cambodian woman:

"... events of a type known among her fellow Cambodians as 'the ghost pushes you down.' At these times, the woman said, she awakens from sleep unable to move. Three ghastly demons stalk into her room, each covered in fur and displaying long fangs. One of the creatures then leans close to her head; the second holds down her legs; and the third pins down her arms. She told Hinton that when these terrors befall her, she knows that the demons want to scare her to death and she feels that they might succeed."

I'd be afraid to sleep if I were going through that!!

Some of the possible causes of sleep paralysis are:

"Panic attacks, PTSD, and other mental disorders may indirectly promote sleep paralysis by disrupting the sleep cycle and yanking people out of REM sleep during the night, he adds. Other factors that disturb sleep, such as jet lag and shift work, have also been linked to sleep paralysis."

"Sexual abuse may also make a person susceptible to sleep paralysis. Harvard University psychologists Richard J. McNally and Susan A. Clancy have found that, among adults who report having been sexually abused during childhood, nearly half describe at least one past episode of sleep paralysis. In their study, only 13 percent of participants who hadn't been sexually abused reported sleep paralysis."

As to the connection to perceptions of alien abductions:

"Accounts of space-alien encounters typically begin with the abductee waking in the night while lying face up, McNally says. The person can't move but senses electric vibrations. A feeling of terror makes breathing difficult. Alien beings advance to the foot of the bed or climb on top of the person, who then experiences a sense of floating or of being transported to an alien craft."

Sounds pretty much like cause and effect, doesn't it? Still, they SEEM real to those that go through it, and are genuinely terrifying:

"McNally and Clancy linked the claims of 10 alien abductees to episodes of sleep paralysis. Memories of the scary incidents sparked heart-rate increases and other physiological stress reactions that exceeded those previously reported for Vietnam veterans with PTSD as they recalled distressing combat events."

Hoo-boy, I REALLY hope I never experience this; the nightmares and night terrors I've already had are more than enough.

It's easy to brush off those who claim to have been abducted by aliens or encountered demonic beings (or angelic ones) as being liars or crazy, or at the very least unable to tell if they're asleep or awake; while there are undoubtedly people who DO fall into all of those categories, it's important to note that some are also describing actual perceptions they had, that truly seem to them to have been real.

As to spiritual or paranormal experiences that did NOT occur at the point of waking, or with any of the attributes of sleep paralysis... those are still part of "the unknown."


Saturday, September 10, 2005

A lesson in courtesy from the Maasai 


No, I didn't misspell the name of that familiar African culture, although the spellchecker thinks I did; according to this wonderful site

http://www.maasai-infoline.org/

"Maasai is the correct spelling not Masai. Masai with one 'A' is incorect. In the future please spell Maasai with two AAs. We prefer Maasai, not Masai. The title Maasai derives from the word Maa. Maa-sai means my people."

How did we end up with the wrong spelling? Gee, I wonder... it couldn't be that whatever arrogant, condescending white person introduced the Western world to the Maasai decided that they didn't need the double "a," could it?

There's a great deal of valuable and interesting info on that site, which is run by a Maasai man, Kakuta ole Maimai, and therefore should actually reflect the views of their culture, as opposed to the subjective views of them put forth by white people who've studied them; the most interesting, and disturbing, section is the one called "Photo Raiders," which provides a long-overdue description of how at least some so-called "primitive" people view the eagerness of Westerners to exploit their "colorful" culture:

"Photographers are invading our culture

The Maasai people are among the indigenous people hunted by photographers..."

Invading... hunted. You can already see how they view camera-bearing white people.

"... who found free access into a land filled with exoticism, wildlife and tribal people, where the law to protect indigenous people remains scarce."

When you see documentaries about tribal cultures, or read about them in National Geographic, do you ever wonder what laws, if any, protect the people under observation, to keep them from being exploited or even mistreated? I'M going to think about that from now on, I guarantee it.

"Some western photographers are stepping over boundaries; they are not being sensitive to our culture and way of life. They are invading and exploiting our people and culture for profit purposes."

Well, there you have it; there's no reason to have ever thought that tribal peoples are thrilled to have white men charging around self-importantly in their midst, but this is truly shameful.

"Here are some questions to ask yourself, when looking at a portrait book with Maasai images:

Who is this person in the picture? What is her name? How does she feel being in a portrait book? Does she know that her picture is being sold in the western world? Did she receive anything in return? Has the photographer obtain a letter of consent from this person or from the community?"

I'm terribly afraid that I know the answers to those questions.

"Now look at a portrait book, or magazine, with images of western people. Repeat the same questions stated above."

I'm embarrassed to say that I never thought about these issues before, but everyone SHOULD think about them, because what good is our love of human rights, and the laws that protect those rights, if we're still acting like it's ok for us to treat indigenous cultures as if they don't deserve the same consideration as "civilized" (there's a laugh) people?

"It appeared that a wild animal is given a better recognition than a Maasai person.

When you visit a zoo, for example, you'll find that every animal, whether a lion, giraffe, gorilla, zebra, hippo, etc., has a name. If you talk to the keeper s/he will present that animal to you by its name. Why can't a photographer name a Maasai if s/he can name a wild animal? A Maasai is not less of a human being."

Did you cringe when you read that? How many times have you seen zoo animals in magazines or on TV where their names were given... and how many times have you seen images of tribal people with no names given for them?

"We have discovered disturbing images of our people in the western world

Recently, we came across images of a circumcision event, a sacred rite of passage that is not intended for the public. This discovery was shocking, sad, and disappointing to us, as this is a personal and sacred rite of passage that should have not been photographed, published, and sold to the public."

Shame, SHAME on whoever thought it was ok to take and publish those photos without the consent of those involved!!

"The photographers must stop invading the privacy of the Maasai people, community, and culture. There are other ways to take images of the people without humiliating, invading, and exploiting the culture. Photographers can make profits without disrespecting the culture."

Damn straight.

"We are different from wild animals and are not running naked like monkeys, as the photographers depicted us. Each Maasai person has a name and disserves a respectful recognition and representation just as a westerner would do."

So, they've been mis-portrayed to make a buck? There's a shocker.

"On the other hand, the reader/viewer can learn about Maasai culture without supporting a disrespectful photographer. The reader has the power to change this behavior of a misbehaving photographer."

I truly hope that enough people can be persuaded to make the effort, because we SHOULD.

"We are appealing for assistance from people from all walks of life to help us protect Maasai culture from disrespectful photographers.

How you can help?

Do not buy books with nude images of indigenous people
Encourage your bookseller to buy books that are culturally sensitive to indigenous cultures
Let the bookseller and photographer know that you care about the source where images came from
Ask the photographer to show names of the persons s/he photographed
Ask the photographer to respect the privacy of the individual, community, and culture
Ask the photographer to respect the customs of indigenous people
Write to the photographer and encourage her/him to give something back to the community in which s/he photographed

We are confidence that your voice can make a difference."

Will you do it?

"It is important to make clear that we are not opposed to ordinary and respectful photographers. A tourist, for example, is free to take family pictures, as s/he wish, so long as s/he has obtained a consent from the individual.

Also, we are not opposed to learners who wish to understand the Maasai culture. In fact, we are glad to learn that people from all corners of the world are willing to learn about our culture."

They're not saying "you screwed us, so get lost," which is what WE would say under similar circumstances; they only ask to be treated with simple human dignity.

"What we are opposed to is commercial photography obtained without consent.

We have a problem when our culture is inaccurately and irrespectively documented and represented. We are not animalistic-like, and we do not run around without cloths. This is not how we live and see ourselves.

We respect other cultures and their way of life. As such, we expect the outside world to respect us in return. What might be accepted in your culture, might not be accepted in our culture. Cultural boundaries must be obeyed. Our culture must be represented in a respectful manner."

This is so basic, but I might have gone my entire life without ever seeing this sort of plea, or realizing just how hurtful and ugly our portrayal of them all too often is; maybe it's just too easy to assume that they'll never know, but whether they know or not, we should still NOT use images of them in improper ways.

"How do photographers raid for Maasai Images?

In many cases the photographers came in to the Maasai region accompanied by corrupt persons, officials, drivers, and tour guides, who received bribes from the photographers.

Upon their arrival to our community, we'd welcome them with open arms, and offer them the best accommodation available in our capacity.

At the end of his/ her visit, the photographer would turn around and spear us from the back.

It is unfortunate to see photographers misusing our noble generosity."

Taking advantage of the innocent kindness of a less devious, less "using" culture; they must be so PROUD. grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

The essay doesn't specify, but you know darned well that there have been plenty of scientists among the offenders; yet another example of arrogant white men being blinded by their contempt of people with brown faces and tribal cultures and thus veering sharply from anything like a scientific analysis of those cultures.

Regular readers are aware of my interest in indigenous peoples, for their spiritual perceptions and in general, because of which I watch alot of educational programming about them; I'll never look at those programs the same way again, and I'm going to take what they say about those cultures with a far bigger grain of salt than I did previously.

Let's show that not everyone thinks it's ok to take advantage of tribal cultures; pass the word about this issue.





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