Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Learning about the manipulation process 

Don't you wonder how manipulators manage to enter the lives of intelligent, educated, decent people, and somehow make them act like lunatics? This is one of the things I want to figure out the most, because I've never been able to construct in my mind a logical scenario by which a manipulator could get their puppet to do their evil bidding; it's not like they can just ASK

Manipulator: Why don't you stop being Sally's friend, and start treating her like dirt from now on?
Puppet: Sure, I'd be happy to repay Sally's love and trust with abuse.

so how DOES Sally end up having a friend turn into an enemy overnight for what looks to her like no reason? What are the magic words that are used to persuade the puppet, and what's the psychology behind it?

One of the truisms of human nature is that manipulators feel that they MUST be the central figure in whatever social group they're in, and if someone new shows up who does NOT show them deference, and, worse, who members of the group openly admire, war is declared, and the end result will virtually always be that the manipulator will turn the entire group against the interloper... because not one person in a million ever realizes that the manipulation is going on, or thinks the situation through to deduce who the bad guy REALLY is, or speaks up to or about the manipulator.

There was a time in my early days online when I was friends with 2 women who became friends with each other... and then out of the blue one day, one of those women attacked me like a rabid dog, and the other woman, although she pretended for a while that she was being neutral and staying my friend, had become her henchman (henchperson?). It ended badly, of course, and I assumed at the time that that was it... but several years later, the "henchman" contacted me begging for forgiveness, admitting to having been totally in the wrong, and that I was totally right about the manipulator, who had eventually turned on her as I'd predicted she would. We've been in touch periodically since then, but it just recently occurred to me that she represents a golden opportunity for me to find out how a "start treating your friend as an enemy" manipulation is handled; I sent her a lengthy email asking detailed questions about every aspect of how the ugly events between us were orchestrated by the manipulator, and she has sent me several emails with replies, with more to come because she's got lots more to explain... or, rather, I HOPE there'll be lots more, but realistically she may get tired of it before she's finished, which I'm prepared for. I'm going to share some of what she's sent me so far, even though it's mostly about what she thought and felt rather than what was said to her to persuade her; it's interesting stuff, and valuable in its own right. I'll call my friend turned enemy turned friend Jane, and the manipulator Anne. I've chosen to quote Jane directly, even though she rambles, so that you can get the information in her own words rather than via a summary and analysis by me, and see her struggle to make sense of what she now views as crazy behavior... and also see how some aspects of her story change as time goes on (the quotes are in chronological order), as she becomes more willing to admit that she KNEW she was being led astray and didn't fight it. I'm not even going to do my usual commentary between quotes, because nothing I could ever come up with would be as powerful as this:

"When I first started talking to Anne on-line, I was in a particularly vulnerable time and I suppose I was wanting something, a good friend, a confidant, someone to love me, I think all of the above. She mentored me too on things on the internet, things I really didn't know about, like how to download IM's like Yahoo and MSN and ICQ. She taught me how to use them and such as that. She spent a lot of time with me on line and I mean a LOT of time. She seemed to totally understand me and she was very, well, it was flattering and answered a deep need within me, I suppose. She was pretty good at drawing someone out and I suppose, it is part of her personality to do that, give a lot of attention to someone new, cultivate them, I suppose, until some how, some way, they were enamoured of her to the point that, I do not really know if I have the words, but it seems that by different things, perhaps confiding weaknesses and little secrets or intimacies of thoughts, I felt as if we were connected totally. I do remember noticing on more than one occasion that she had a great need to be the one in control and that she did not very well tolerate anyone whose opinion differed from hers, but, I think in the glow of our 'closeness', I felt it was something time and perserverance would change, amazing how we always feel that we can change them, take away their bad experiences, etc., be the true friend they have always needed and wanted, take away their fears, etc. As far as what she said to me to turn me against you and what I thought, I had seen your posts after you and she started fighting, or parts of them one time before she deleted them, and though I felt you might have had some truth to what you were saying, and it was your opinion, after all, she told me of other incidents where you had supposedly insulted her, etc., and that made you appear in the wrong although I truly knew better. I do not know everything, but I felt it was a very unfortunate thing and it could have, should have been discussed more, but I was afraid of forwarding that opinion too much as what effort I did make to say something along that lines caused a rather violent response from her, and, frankly, I was afraid she would delete me too, I am ashamed to say, I was afraid of that same thing."

"I can tell you one thing I have learned, more than anything else, through not only my experiences with Anne but also with other people since then. No one manipulates anyone to do something but what they allow them to manipulate them to do. As for all the why's and wherefore's, I am not sure I can answer for anyone other than myself, but I think in my case there was this strong need to be needed, to be wanted, to be accepted, to be loved, whatever, and an equally strong feeling that I did not deserve any of those things. I think that the 'manipulators' of the world recognize those weaknesses in others and hone in on them as a lionness hones in on the weakest member of a herd. Maybe there is a 'scent', lol, seriously, though since some of this was accomplished only on-line, there must be a way that that yearning and weakness is communicated through words alone, or something in the attitude, but I am as sure of that as I am that I am now stronger and not so 'needy', or at least I truly hope so, perhaps it is just that I no longer need to be needy as I am as needed as I need to be by the circumstances of life. Still, there is that weakness that is sensed by the predators out there and they are able to capitalize on it. Perhaps they know that what we fear the most is being abandoned by the one on whom we have placed our obsessesion. It also seems that those of us with this problem unconsciously or subconsciously choose someone whom we believe is wounded, hurt badly by others and we can be the hero, you know, we can save them, we can turn them to love anew, we can make them see the beauty and the reward of true love."

"I think, looking back that I knew that what she was saying wasn't right in some area or the other, but I simply chose not to act on those instincts. I have come to the conclusion that we all have to own our mistakes and I own those mistakes I made, but there are no excuses, there can only be truth, and truthfully, I chose to willfully ignore the warning signs I saw myself, the callous disregard for others, the need to be #1 with everyone, and I surely was able to convince myself, somehow, that in the long run I could maintain a friendship with you and still keep my relationship with Anne. Looking back, I know I compromised my own instincts there because truly I felt that whatever had started the argument, and again, I promise you that I did not read all the postings as I believe I had read only one part of it when she ended up deleting everything, what she showed me, I believe, was nothing, I simply relied on everything she told me as 100% truth, despite my feelings that there was more to it than I was hearing, I simply decided not to listen to my own feelings, once again, I believe that it was not so much that she told me anything, but that she emoted to me that only 100% support of her would do and that anything less would result in a loss of her in my life, which I wanted to avoid at all costs."

"The only thing I can say, looking back, with more knowledge of the workings of a bipolar mindset, is that those people who have that disease are truly masters at manipulation, they exist mainly during the times their disease is extremely active, by manipulating the emotions and weaknesses of others. They seem to have almost a sixth sense for those weaknesses and emotions they can manage too, but I am sure that we 'walking wounded' transmit all too clear signs to them that they can find something to do with."

"As to why I kept in contact with you even though I became increasingly hostile to you, well, I am not sure, I could say that it is possible that I simply wanted out of the situation I had put myself into, not being able to voluntarily give up Anne and yet wanting to stay around more positive influences which meant you and your group, but you in particular. I suppose the reason I became hostile to you when we hadn't had a fight was because I was being asked, no actually demanded by Anne to be a spy, and why I do not know, nor why I reported back to her, actually I do not understand any of why I did those things too well, you know, other than having this complete fascination, obsession, with Anne."

"As to why I got hostile to you, more so over time, I could only speculate that that might have been a result of my feeling guilty. Truly, I know that I did not really believe that you were the kind of person she was trying to make me believe you were, and yet, it seemed so absolutely necessary that you be that person, and the amount of pressure put on me to see what was being said and done her way, and try to act as a spy, well, that was a pressure, for sure. Perhaps it was a way to not be able to do those things, if I were rejected and/or ejected by you, then I could not be in that position, could I? And, also possibly I would not feel such a hypocrite, or would anything have caused me not to feel that way, not sure, I can only look back on that time, as you said, with some amount of difficulty due to my own disdain of my actions."

"You know, looking back on the whole thing, the situation with Anne that is, I wonder why so many people were controlled by her so well, and why so many people seemed to look up to her, considering the way she treated everyone."

"I seem to find myself too challenged to try to hold true to what I really basically believe in rather than somehow following along with what the stronger, perhaps more dominating, leader person in that area wants me to conform to, but I cannot hold to truly aberrant (for me) behavior for long periods of time until I begin to break from the self-imposed pressure of that. Still, it is rather daunting at my age to realize that I have this continuous pitiful and to be despised by myself, need to be accepted for myself and yet, at the first sign of possible rejection, I find myself quickly determining that I can be something else. Not true!!!! thank goodness, thank the goddess, I am me in the long run."

I've learned more from the contents of these emails than I've ever learned from a whole book on psychology, and I'm grateful that Jane is willing to take the time, and endure the discomfort and embarrassment, to give a painfully honest description of how her own weaknesses and failings made it possible for Anne to turn her to the dark side; although I'm still hoping passionately that Jane will be able to recall at least a few specifics of what Anne said to her to persuade her to do some of the ugly things she eventually did, because my major goal is to know what tactics manipulators employ to persuade people that friends are in fact enemies, the revelations I'm being given are still priceless.

If you've ever seen people being manipulated, whether against you or against others, and I'm betting you HAVE seen this in action, and have been stunned and puzzled as to how it happened, as you'd pretty much have to be, I hope this has helped you as much as it has me. Stay tuned; with luck, there's lots more to come.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The sexiest photo ever taken 

It's not of an actor, or a singer, or a model; he was a gunner on a patrol plane in WWII... I don't know what his name is, as it was apparently never recorded. The image is black and white, so I can't tell if his rumpled light-colored hair was blond or maybe red; his skin isn't freckled, which means he was most likely blond. His face is turned away so that it shows less than a profile, but it's enough to show he was handsome; the nose is straight, the lips hint at fullness, the chin looks strong and the cheekbones high. The sliver of iris visible suggests light eyes; most likely blue, and I imagine them being a pale translucent shade, for no reason I can justify. His body has no gym bunny muscles, but is the body of a trim, healthy, active young (I'd guess under 25) man who has better things to do than sit in a weight room. He's not doing anything sexual in the photo, he's not posed, not flexing anything, and although he's naked only his backside is showing, and even that's in shadow... so why is it so sexy?

What makes this photograph thrilling, powerful, indicative of the purest and noblest sort of maleness, and therefore sexy at a level that no porn pic could ever come close to, is the story behind it, which can be found in the December 2002 issue of B&W magazine, in an article about the man who took the picture, Horace Bristol; he was a member of a Navy unit of photographers, and thus ended up being on the plane the gunner was serving on, which was used to rescue people from Rabaul Bay (New Britain island, Papua New Guinea), when this occurred:

"...we got a call to pick up an airman who was down in the Bay. The Japanese were shooting at him from the island, and when they saw us they started shooting at us. The man who was shot down was temporarily blinded, so one of our crew stripped off his clothes and jumped in to bring him aboard. He couldn't have swum very well wearing his boots and clothes. As soon as we could, we took off. We weren't waiting around for anybody to put on formal clothes. We were being shot at and wanted to get the hell out of there. The naked man got back into his position at his gun in the blister of the plane."

THAT'S what makes the photo so sexy; he was a HERO. A hero photographed right after he'd completed his heroic act. NAKED. To the best of my knowledge, this is the only nude photo of a hero ever taken, much less one where he's still in action; he's manning his gun in the picture, with water beaded on his back and headphones over his wet hair, tense with alertness and concentration, and seems totally unaware that his goods are still hanging out, so to speak. A naked man in what are clearly military surroundings (there's even a series of images of ships with the header "This is the enemy" to the right of his butt, so you KNOW there's a war going on) sounds like something that'd be set up for a gay porn movie, but this is no porn star displaying a shaved body half out of a costume uniform, this is the real deal, presumably the only time such a thing has ever happened much less been captured on film... and it blows my mind every time I look at it.

Are you ready to see the photo? Remember, there's a naked butt in it, so don't look if that will bother you:


Its full title as given in the article is "PBY Blister Gunner, Rescue at Rabaul," and it was taken in 1944... so the hero is at best a very old man now, and could easily be dead-he might not even have survived the war. Did he notice the photo being taken? Did he ever see it? Did he know that the pic of him became famous? Did it occur to him at any time that flinging himself naked out of a plane with bullets flying around, rescuing a man who would have surely died otherwise, and then racing back to his post still naked and wet, was something extraordinary, or did he shrug it off as doing his duty and never think twice about it?

Did anyone ever tell him that he had a world-class butt?

I hope you were at the very least impressed by this bit of history... and that maybe a few of you will feel the same way I do about this astonishing photo.

Monday, November 28, 2005

The evolution of my home 

I posted on 9-7-05 that my husband had at long, LONG last agreed to clear the boxes and piles of his junk out of our house, where they fill most of the rooms floor to ceiling, making it very belatedly possible for us to have furniture, to set up a guest room so that friends can stay here, and for me to show people my home with pride rather than with explanations. Although he'd promised at that time that this process would begin right away, it took him a couple of weeks just to rent a storage unit; he got the 1st load of stuff taken there pretty soon after, but then that big empty unit that we're PAYING for sat there essentially empty until now, almost 3 MONTHS later, when he's used the Thanksgiving holiday to FINALLY get the project moving.

Even HE has been amazed at how much of his lovingly packed stuff is literally garbage; he's keeping more than he really should, but he IS throwing out a decent amount of things too. In addition, he's gone from vehemently denying that most of his boxes were less than half full, even on the many occasions when I dragged him over to the stacks and pointed out the level in box after box, to voluntarily consolidating similar items. The end result of these 2 things is that the empty boxes are piling up, proving the point I've made endlessly that he has far less stuff than he thought he did, and thus can take up far less space with it than he's been wasting, grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

Typically, we've had numerous battles during this process; he keeps stopping and trying to insist that he "can't" store enough of his things to clear the rooms for proper use, and I have to keep pointing out that his clothes and tech equipment are the only items out of this warehouse worth of stuff that he's actually USING, and thus that every single other thing can validly be stored, and in fact he's being asked to store far less than that, since he can still pack his study with his junk... so he hasn't got a case, which sadly never stops him from arguing and sulking but at least keeps him from calling a halt.

He actually tried to sneak a couple of the few boxes there are of MY stuff past me and into the car to be stored withOUT my consent; a fight ensued over that as well, in which I made it crystal clear that there's no way he's got any right to even SUGGEST that my stuff go to storage as long as he has a greater volume of boxes stored in our home than I do... I am NOT going to have my precious collectables taken where I can't easily get to them to allow him to have a few more boxes of old magazines that should just be tossed sitting around where he can look at them.

Although as always he accomplished WAY less over the long weekend than he promised, in particular he didn't rent the Rug Doctor and bring out the Christmas tree, the former of which is desperately needed and the latter of which he'd promised all year to do (the battle to have the tree up before December 24th is now officially underway), he got a decent chunk of stuff processed and either thrown out or sorted, and he's got another stack of boxes ready to go; it's already making a big difference in how the house looks.

As I'm writing this, he's carrying boxes of magazines out to his car, some of the same boxes he'd argued quite aggressively that he could NEVER have where he can't get right to them when the one time a decade comes when he'd actually open one of them; the world hasn't come to an end, so it looks like he CAN have those boxes somewhere other than filling up my future guest room, imagine that, lol.

There's still a gargantuan amount of work left to be done before we get down to bare rooms that can be furnished and decorated, and the furnishing and decorating themselves will be huge projects, as will bringing my stuff here from my mother's house, but what matters is that it's HAPPENING... I'm in the midst of the process that will lead to me having a REAL home. aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhh

Sunday, November 27, 2005

An amazing thing that influences intelligence 

We can mean 2 different things when we refer to intelligence; the 1st is a person's ability to think, and the 2nd is how much they know... granted, the ability to think influences the ability to know some things at a level beyond memorizing facts that you don't grasp the meaning of, and usually people with the ability to "think well" seek to gain more knowledge, but there are still 2 concepts involved.

Intelligence in the "ability to think" sense is obviously inborn, despite how fashionable it is in some circles to pretend that we're all born with equal potential; within every socioeconomic group, there are kids that develop at a wide range of paces, with a wide range of talents, and, when they get old enough to be directly educated, that learn with a wide range of speeds... no matter what you do, there are kids who always struggle, and kids who rocket ahead effortlessly. I think that most people's maximum possible level of intellectual functioning, which they'd achieve under the ideal circumstances, is probably WAY beyond what they'd have with little or no development of their innate abilities, but there's no amount of educating that'll make a kid the next Einstein if they don't have the intrinsic brainpower; all anyone can do is make the best of what they're born with.

We want our kids to be developing their ability to think and increasing their knowledge in school; the combination of those 2 things is what we see as their academic performance. Many factors have been found to influence how well children perform:

Wealthier parents are more likely to be educated, to try to help their kids learn, to give them books and educational toys, take them to museums, provide them with better nutrition and health care, and all the other things that give more privileged kids a higher average level of grades and test scores in this country.

Even the poorest parents can stimulate their kids' minds by talking to them, singing to them, reading to them, and taking the time to teach them "the 3 R's"; we've all seen countless reports of how big a difference this sort of parental involvement makes.

The quality of educational opportunities a child has clearly has a huge impact; the level of qualification of the teachers, the class sizes, the book budget, and all sorts of other elements of the schools a kid attends affect how much of what they need (which varies from child to child) to nurture their mental progress they actually receive.

What we have NOT seen is any evidence that a child's, or anyone's, IQ (Intelligence Quotient) scores, which measure basic cognitive abilities and thus supposedly (it's hotly debated) come the closest to measuring intelligence, can be increased; since IQ exams are supposed to test for JUST intelligence, NOT knowledge or level of education, the scores are supposed stay pretty steady throughout life


There's apparently an exception to this, though, as I discovered here


which shows that for kids in grades 3 and below, and to a lesser amount in 4th and 5th graders, something CAN actually increase their IQ scores:

"In the classic 1968 study Pygmalion in the Classroom, Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson demonstrated that raised teacher expectations could, in fact, be directly correlated with student success. In their Oak School experiment, they randomly identified certain children as likely to 'spurt' or 'bloom.' Neither the children nor their parents knew of this designation, but teachers apparently reacted by expecting the children identified (the experimental group) to outshine their peers. After a year, these students had gained significantly on their IQ tests."

How could children's IQ scores change because of beliefs about them held by their teachers? My 1st thought, and probably yours too, was that the teachers gave the kids they believed to be gifted special educational opportunities that enhanced their abilities at test-taking (in the same way that older kids can attend classes that teach them how to do better on other sorts of standardized tests like the SAT's), but that's not the case:

"The children in the experimental group were different from their peers in only one respect: Their teachers expected them to perform well. 'There was no crash program to improve [these students'] reading ability, no special lesson plan, no extra time tutoring, no trips to museums or art galleries. There was only the belief that the children bore watching, that they had intellectual competencies that would in due course be revealed.'"

And there's also this, which is far less astonishing but still meaningful:

"Standards proponents Marc S. Tucker and Judy B. Codding also decry 'the tragedy of low expectations.' In their 1998 book Standards for Our Schools, they write: 'One of the most striking features of countries that are more successful than we in educating their students to high standards is the assumption made by parents, teachers, and the students themselves that the students can do it. By contrast, the single most important obstacle to high student achievement in the United States is our low expectations for students- not just students who are poor and come from minority backgrounds, but ... most of our students.'"

Did you have any idea that expectations were such an issue? What I'd really like to know, of course, is HOW the attitude of the teachers translated to an alteration in students' IQ scores; it's been nearly 40 years since that study was done, but no medical or scientific explanation is given for how the children's ability to perform on IQ tests changed... does that mean they didn't do any research to try and figure it out? Although the obvious differences in the ways a teacher might treat a child perceived as gifted, which might encourage a child to work harder, are often described, nothing I was able to find after a reasonable amount of searching turned up any evidence that the mechanism leading to the IQ increase (which can't be caused by hard work) had been pursued at all since 1968; doesn't that strike you as a little odd? They didn't say how much the increase was, so it can't have been huge, but every parent and grandparent would be eager for their tax dollars to fund research that might lead to their little darlings having even a small increase in IQ, so... where's the research? Don't they WANT to know what they can train teachers to do to give little kids higher IQ's?

They know so little about how the brain works that, even if they start studying it tomorrow, we probably have a long wait for answers on this topic... but we can use the information even without the explanation, and we should, since

"... even the harshest critics conceded the basic conclusion of the study: teacher expectations are correlated with behavior and achievement. This same study has been replicated in educational settings from kindergarten to graduate and professional schools. Decades of follow-up research have confirmed the existence of the phenomenon"


Parents, YOU are by far the biggest influence on your kids; no one disputes that, nor should they ever. However, you have to use the knowledge that little kids can receive a real effect on their IQ's if their teachers believe in them to spur you to think long and hard about if your children are being taught by the right people; if your child's teachers don't seem enthusiastic about your child and her/his prospects for learning, or, worse, if there's even one teacher who doesn't get along with your child and is looking for the worst in her/him rather than expecting the best, your child is getting CHEATED of their chance to have the lifelong benefits of a higher IQ, or, more importantly, higher scholastic achievement... and it's time to take action.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

More brilliance from Scott Adams 

There was a particularly insightful Dilbert comic on November 21


in which the boss tells Dilbert, "I hired an abusive, lying, back-stabbing control freak. But don't worry, because I'm sending you to a class on how to deal with difficult coworkers." This is funny because it has the ring of truth; American culture is very much dedicated to catering to rotten people. We seem to have lost total sight of the fact that the proper way to deal with a bad person is to reject them, get away from them, be openly critical and condemning of them, and, if you're in a position of power, kick their butts over and over until they either get lost or get squared away; instead, we fall all over ourselves to coddle and appease these turds, which is of course done at the expense of the virtuous, and particularly of the victims... and that goes x10 online, where once the 1st nasty comment is made everyone either heads for the hills or rolls over and lets the turd get away with murder.

You know what comes next, right? Someone who behaves in an ugly way is a bad person, and the reaction of a good person to a bad person should be adversarial; don't be their friend, don't treat them nicely, don't turn a blind eye, speak up against them and encourage others to do so... that's the only way we'll ever make the internet a less attractive arena for them to spew in.

Scott Adams is clearly also aware of online turds; he has a blog now, which gives him the chance to demonstrate his brilliance in essay form, and one of his recent posts covers perhaps the most common form of turd-ism, twisting what a person has said and/or coming up with ridiculous reasons for not accepting facts as facts in order to argue belligerently with a chosen victim. The post, which is here


describes how this style of "debating" is done:

"If you are new to the Internet, allow me to explain how to debate in this medium. When one person makes any kind of statement, all you need to do is apply one of these methods to make it sound stupid. Then go on the offensive.

1. Turn someone's generality into an absolute. For example, if someone makes a general statement that Americans celebrate Christmas, point out that some people are Jewish and so anyone who thinks that ALL Americans celebrate Christmas is stupid. (Bonus points for accusing the person of being anti-Semitic.)

2. Turn someone's factual statements into implied preferences. For example, if someone mentions that not all Catholic priests are pedophiles, accuse the person who said it of siding with pedophiles.

3. Turn factual statements into implied equivalents. For example, if someone says that Ghandi didn't eat cows, accuse the person of stupidly implying that cows deserve equal billing with Gandhi.

4. Omit key words. For example, if someone says that people can't eat rocks, accuse the person of being stupid for suggesting that people can't eat. Bonus points for arguing that some people CAN eat pebbles if they try hard enough.

5. Assume the dumbest interpretation. For example, if someone says that he can run a mile in 12 minutes, assume he means it happens underwater and argue that no one can hold his breath that long.

6. Hallucinate entirely different points. For example, if someone says apples grow on trees, accuse him of saying snakes have arms and then point out how stupid that is.

7. Use the intellectual laziness card. For example, if someone says that ice is cold, recommend that he take graduate courses in chemistry and meteorology before jumping to stupid conclusions that display a complete ignorance of the complexity of ice."

What's even scarier than people using these methods on a regular basis is that when they do it, no one contradicts them or points out the insanity of their comments... and this is why I try to avoid getting into "discussions" with people who don't have to look me in the eye after they've had their say.

Anyways, visit The Dilbert Blog and show Adams some love; he's the MAN.

Friday, November 25, 2005

A typical geek Thanksgiving 

Just my husband and I. Not a single phone call all day. Small, simple but festive meal. I know it sounds un-American, but it's what we always do (barring the occasional phone call from a friend), and we both love it that way.

He spent the day wasting time in forums in his study, while I was in the bedroom playing air guitar along with Van Halen's "The Best of Both Worlds" CD; aside from dinner, and later dessert, we spent most of the evening in different rooms, typing away. No, we don't have the urge to be in each other's faces just because it's a holiday, but we connected well at the end of the meal, fear not; my husband brandished the wishbone at me, and we went through several rounds of "Stay on your own half," "Move your fingers, "Quite cheating!!" etc before breaking it. I won, and closed my eyes for a moment to make my wish; he started going "Ow ow ow!!", and I was alarmed for a few seconds... until I realized that he was pretending to "grant my wish," and we both howled with laughter.

After dinner, I updated the software on my desktop, and it messed up my network connection so that my laptop was getting screwed up... and when he fixed it the adaptor to my keyboard died. He had to put in a different keyboard that doesn't work perfectly until he can replace the adaptor; he got one on eBay, stupidly paying FAR more than he should have with a Buy It Now without consulting me because he decided that *I* thought it was such an emergency that $ was no object... AND there's a keyboard as part of the auction, meaning that he'll pay quintuple the shipping as well, grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

He promised to do several tasks by the end of the day; he did one of them at 3AM, and that's it.

Basically, therefore, it was a standard day off for us (aside from the poultry being roasted in the oven instead of being part of a frozen meal zapped in the microwave)... with one exception; we took a couple of minutes early in the day to comment on how unbelievably lucky we are to have our comfortable life rather than any of the thousand types of miserable ones that too many people have to endure. I hope you took time today to think about how lucky YOU are, to have been given enough education to read, to know how to use a computer, to have the resources to purchase one, to have the free time to read blogs, and for the many other good things in your life... and that you had people you care about to share the day with.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

I'm thankful for... 

... all the usual stuff everyone says.

... salt.

... ibuprofen.

... Godiva coconut truffles.

... helium.

.... plantains.

... eBay.

... cinnamon.

... digital cable.

... you.

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Marital moments 

If you're dismayed by references to bodily functions, you'll want to skip this post.

Many years ago, before I met my husband, a married friend used to share the sorts of stories with me that men cringe when they realize are being told about them; to many of them, my reply would be "That's GROSS!! Marriage is GROSS!!"... little did I know that she was toning it down, lol.

When you've been together for ages like my husband and I have, there's pretty much no mystery left; you become as aware of the other person's excretory functions as you are of your own... and yes I know how objectively icky that is, but it's mostly unavoidable and sort of amusing at times (plus it makes for good stories with which to bond with my married friends and gross out my single ones). Today was a banner day in the Omni household in that respect:

My husband had gone off to his study to take a nap; about 20 minutes later, I realized there was something I needed to do on his computer, so I carefully opened the door so as not to wake him... only to discover that he was, um, not sleeping. Due to my many years of dealing with this particular thing, I was of course able to, er, handle it in a calm and mature fashion; "EWWWWWWWWWWWWWW!! Ew-ew-ew!! Gross!! Gross!! You were supposed to be SLEEPING, you disgusting person!! Yuck, YUCK, don't you know how to lock a door?!!" My husband was mortified despite the many times this has happened before (I guess some things you never get used to), and rapid detumescence occurred as he tried to conceal his inspirational photo... not that he had any cause for embarrassment, as he has the tamest porn on the planet, while I'VE got stuff that'd make Larry Flynt blush. After I finished gagging and squawking, I did what I needed to on his computer and left; too rattled to pick up where he left off, he took his nap.

A couple of hours later, he was back up, and in the bathroom; I needed something in there, so I tapped on the door and went in. He gave me a pained look, which is silly as he usually leaves the door OPEN, and we have conversations every day while he's on the throne, but I think he was feeling shy after the earlier fiasco. He made a querulous comment about how he was on the toilet (in case I'd gone blind while he was napping, maybe, although if there was anyone who might've gone blind it would've been HIM, given his earlier activities), and how there's no privacy in marriage; yanking open the cabinet, I pointed out that nothing was actually showing, and even if it was it's not like he had anything I hadn't seen before. As I rummaged around, he said, "Do you mind?", and when I asked him what his problem was he replied that I was too near his butt; that was a new one, and the reason apparently was that he couldn't proceed with business with me that close... which is probably just as well, as the fan wasn't on. Having found what I was looking for, I told him he could go back to what he'd been doing; he demanded that I close the door on my way out, lol.

Everyone has their own definition of marital bliss; for my husband, I think it'd be "remembering to lock the study and bathroom doors."

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

How people learn to be liars 

A parent sees a broken vase in the living room, and asks their child "Did you break it?"... and what does the child, who obviously must be the perpetrator unless a monkey escaped from the zoo and is running around the house, say in response? Even the tiniest child will say "No," because they know that the truth is sure to bring punishment. To combat this, some parents will say "I won't punish you if you tell the truth," which, if they actually handle it that way AND don't take it out on the kid indirectly because they're mad, allows the kid to do any wrong they want, knowing that they can say the magic words, "Yes, I did it," afterwards, and get away with it; since even the most "progressive" parents don't see that as a valid outcome, this leaves no choices other than giving the kid the chance to lie or just punishing them automatically for everything that goes wrong... which means, in practice, that kids get asked all the time and lie all the time.

If they got punished every time they lied, if it was always as clear as in the example above who was at fault, they'd probably stop lying, because they'd see that it never helped them; the reality is that when there are no adult witnesses to something being broken, or the last slice of cake being eaten, or whatever, there's often an element of doubt, the thought that maybe a sibling or friend of the kid did it, or a pet, or in some cases another adult, and this means that the kid can get away with wrongdoing some of the time by lying... and since not one parent in a million adds extra punishment for lies, there's no downside to the kid of trying a lie.

From the moment kids are old enough to play with others, they discover that they can improve their status with their friends by lying; "My mommy lets me eat all the candy I want/stay up until midnight/jump off the roof" type lies are common among the youngest, and the lies of older kids are usually just as transparent, at least to adults, but within the peer group they're inexplicably accepted as facts... so it's almost stupid for a kid to NOT lie, with there being, again, no drawbacks to doing so (as long as the lies aren't so ridiculous that they get the liar laughed at). Sadly, any kid who's honest about having rules, loving their family or disliking whatever music the other kids listen to learns that the truth can get them looked down on by their peers in a way that lying never does, and the parental lesson of "truth leads to unhappiness" gets reinforced.

When the kids start school, with one adult in charge of a bunch of them, lying works even better, because there are rarely adult witnesses and nearly always other kids who could have been behind any given wrongdoing... and the children's moronic code of "don't be a tattletale" means that when they're witnesses they usually won't speak up, leaving the teacher up the proverbial creek, and the liars victorious.

When they begin dating, kids learn that if you tell a bunch of lies, making out like you're better than you are or have more in common with someone than you actually do, it can make a person like you more, whereas the plain truth usually scares romantic prospects away... and when sex enters the picture, the lies escalate beyond belief, because, again, they often work, and the truth usually doesn't.

When adult relationships start happening, they bring on a whole new level of lies, as the participants try to combine doing whatever selfish things they want and keeping their partner in the dark to avoid arguments; this most often takes the form of the woman playing a mommy role, questioning the man and ragging him for his lapses from proper action, and the man ducking and dodging and trying to prevent her from knowing the full truth... and since the woman can withhold sex if she gets mad enough, it's clearly to his benefit to try to lie his way out of trouble.

And finally, there's the workplace. It's often said that it's necessary to lie on your resume, lie as much as you can, because the more qualified you seem the better your chances of getting hired; I've even read articles explaining how to lie most effectively on resumes and job interviews... and this clearly works even though employers MUST be aware of it, as almost everyone has a story about the wild lies they told that got them a job. Once hired, the employee's career path can be greatly smoothed and accelerated by lying; denying responsibility when things go wrong, claiming credit for the work of others, badmouthing those they're competing for a raise or promotion with to turn the higher-ups against them... all of these things are common, because they produce better results than honesty.

The truly amazing thing, really, is that anyone ever tells the TRUTH; it's not as if we LIKE virtuous people, after all, so what does a person gain by being truthful? Trust? If only that were true; the sad reality is that for all but the most atrocious lies, the liar gets forgiven and fully trusted again, as if they'd always been honest, so the person who really IS honest doesn't get anything extra... and, worse, tends to be disliked for being a goody-goody and suspected of secret wrongdoings.

In American culture, the focus is on doing whatever it takes to reach a goal, and, while that's produced wonderful medical and technological advances, and our position as the richest and most powerful nation in the world, the dark side of it's that our willingness to accept, and reward, dishonesty makes us seem childish and callous to people from other nations... and rightfully so.

And if you're one of those who complains about the dishonesty of our politicians... where do you think they come from, Mars? Why would you expect them to be honest when nobody else is, especially amongst the ranks of the successful? They're the products of American culture, that produces few citizens who can be called really honest, that rewards the least honest, and that doesn't see honesty as something laudatory (although we loudly proclaim the contrary)... and seeing how they, and their no more honest buddies at the big corporations, get to skim off the cream gives the final encouragement to anyone who needs it to say what works rather than what's true.

Grim, isn't it?

Monday, November 21, 2005

So, a friend called... 

... or, rather, an ex-friend... or, rather, someone who used to be a really good friend, is periodically not a friend due to her bad behavior, and for a while now has sort of been just an acquaintance, because although we parted on pleasant terms the last time we spoke, we haven't spoken for a long time.

Her tendency when we're in touch is to want to call 20 times a day to talk about nothing, and I don't have the time or patience for that, so MY tendency is to keep her at enough of a distance that she doesn't think she has a green light to suck up all my time; since most of HER time is taken up with whatever drugs she's doing (she claims it's just pot, but I doubt it), our sporadic contact seems to satisfy her.

She called this morning for the 1st time in ages, and by "morning" I mean 1AM; I heard her lighter clicking, so she was obviously smoking something, and her thoughts were so disjointed that I couldn't follow them. Quickly getting tired of listening to her ramble, especially so late at night, I patiently tried to make her understand that she wasn't communicating clearly, and she switched to her favorite tactic, making melodramatic claims of having mysterious illnesses, having been in another car accident and broken every bone in her body, having all these secrets about famous people... and I'd suddenly just had enough. I told her that I didn't believe any of her stories, and that she had to stop telling me that sort of thing and stick to the truth; this enraged her, and she hung up on me.

I hadn't been able to make myself cut her out of my life, despite there being no benefit to me anymore of having her in it, because she meant alot to me once, when she still had some shred of ownership of her own mind, but that was the last straw; unless and until she can convince me that she's cleaned up (again), I'm not going to interact with her anymore... starting when she calls in a few days to apologize for calling me while stoned and for anything she might have said or done that she didn't mean and allegedly can't remember.

One of the hardest things to do is to make a decision with your head that hurts your heart... and it doesn't get easier as you get older, sigh...

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Going postal 

Take a moment and imagine the absolutely most remote spot on the planet; would it be on top of a mountain, in the middle of a desert, or a place so deep in the rain forest that no white person has ever seen it? Whatever location you envisioned, I could have gotten a letter to it in less time than it just took me to get a payment to an eBay seller in a neighboring state.

You think I exaggerate? Check out the surreal tale of what it took to pay for a 99¢ item: 1st, the auction inexplicably showed up in the PayPal account even though the seller doesn't accept PayPal, so we paid for it and then had to cancel that payment when I spotted the pending symbol in the "Items I've Won" list (heaven forbid she could have CONTACTED us when she got notification of the payment and saved us all some time, grrrrrrrrrrr). Then, we had to pay for a $ order and send it to her; she never got it, nor, meaningfully, did she get a payment from another buyer sent around the same time. Miraculously, my husband found the receipt for the $ order (this is the man who goes to a store 5 minutes away and loses the receipt before he gets home), and took it to the post office; instead of getting a refund, he had to file a claim, which they won't act on for 60 days, after which we might find out that some thief cashed it, and then a whole new hooraw will ensue. Then, and here's where it gets REALLY insane, we had to send her a THIRD payment for this little knickknack; this time, we sent it certified mail, which means it can allegedly be tracked through to wherever they finally dump it. Money order #2 + the certified deal cost us $2.67, which means that we've now laid out nearly TRIPLE the cost of the item + shipping (we MIGHT eventually get the original payment back, but for now it's lost), but we figure it's worth it to put a swift and definitive end to this fiasco.


I was using the tracking # for our letter on the USPS website to see when she got the payment... but all it was showing was that it had been sent out. We have relatives in her state, and we can usually get cards to them in about 3 days; it took them a WEEK, 7 frigging days, to get that certified letter to her city. Worse, we got a weird message that it was being forwarded, which made no sense until the seller, who had been snippily asking about the payment even though I'd given her the tracking # and she KNEW it was in the hands of the post office, revealed that she'd left forwarding instructions to a new PO box because she thought her mail had been stolen due to the missing payments. Fair enough; how long could it take them to walk her letter over to the room of the post office building that had the PO boxes, right?

They did NOT deliver the payment that day. They did NOT deliver the payment the NEXT day, either. It took those morons TWO DAYS to get that letter into her PO box, for a total of NINE DAYS delivery time instead of the usual 3. Mail between here and Australia or Asia usually takes 5-6 days, and they took NINE days to transport a letter to an adjacent state.


There's some GOOD news today too, though... well, it's a little bittersweet, actually. On 9-29-05 I posted about how I'd spent more hours than you'd ever believe working on the code for, and researching countries and time zones for, a little digital clock thingie that allowed you to see the time in a bunch of different places, which had been in my sidebar under the Flash clock; it was with a pang of regret that I took it out today, because I found something better here


You can see it in my sidebar; it's called "World Wide Clock," and allows you to find the time nearly anywhere in the world... seriously, check the menu, you won't believe how long it is. This doodad presented a totally new problem; it was only available as PHP and ASP (server-side languages), which Blogger doesn't allow. Luckily, this presented no challenge for Jayson the Tech God


because when asked about it he quickly produced an astonishingly simple bit of code that uses an "iframe" command to, he explained, embed a page within the page... voodoo again, basically, but I don't need to understand it for it to work, luckily.

Maybe we could get Jayson to run the postal service?

Saturday, November 19, 2005

The latest blog updates 

The observant among you will have noticed that some new doodads have appeared... but 1st, an update on the new blog exchanges. BlogMad, which the weird eyeball gif in the sidebar links to, is still in the "taking pre-registrations" stage, so, if you haven't already, pop over there and sign up so you get the bonus credits. BloggerSwap took SIX days for the unnecessary approval of the change of email addy for my account, and then finally started working... but very, VERY slowly-I've got nearly 4000 page view credits with them, but in the 5 days I've been active my ad has only been shown 134 times. Hopefully, the 1:1 ratio of displays on my blog to displays of my ad will start taking effect some time soon.

I'm showing my love of critters in my sidebar now; every few days, "Animal of the day by TheWebsiteOfEverything" switches to a new photo and blurb, the idea of which is to get people interested in, and thinking about, animals... there's lots of info on their site, too, so if you want to see more cute pics and maybe learn something, give a click.

I've been tempted many times to add a word of the day script to my blog, as I enjoy $10 words, but some don't even give the definition with the word (they make you go to their website to see it, which most folks won't bother with), and the others never seemed too well thought out, so I'd never taken the plunge; when I found one with the definition AND a thing to click to hear a sound file of the word being said, so you can be sure about its pronunciation, though, I knew I'd found the right one... especially since I have many visitors for whom English isn't their 1st language.

And, coolest of all, I now have a doodad that shows what cities the last 15 (I may change that to 20) visitors to my blog are in, courtesy of MapStats, which is one of the BlogFlux services. This was probably the toughest piece of code to get installed of all time: First, there's something wrong with my account on their site, because the links that are supposed to bring up my customized code just lead to other pages with links, that lead in turn back to the original page. Second, the tech support guy I asked to fix the problem was unable to figure it out, and eventually just stopped responding to my emails; NOT a classy move, and one that I've never understood... if you give up on something you're supposed to be fixing for someone, let the poor victim KNOW, don't just blow them off. Third, I had to therefore take the sample code on their site, and the customized code on the blog I'd found this service on, my buddy Gary LaPointe's excellent site


and try to determine what MY code should be; it took some work, especially since I had to get the code for their banner set up before the script would run, but I DID it, AND customized it with a more readable font color and size in the bargain, in addition to resizing the box and its margins to fit better in the sidebar. Fourth, although I had a working display, the text was inexplicably being affected by the div command I use to right-justify all the doodads, so, although it's supposed to be centered, it was doing guess-what instead, which looked kinda grim. Fifth, I tried to insert a centering command in the code every way I could think of, to no avail. Sixth, I asked for help at the tech forums, and not one of them knew how to fix the problem. And now we get to lucky #7, which is when I consulted Jayson the Tech God, whose very advanced blog is here


with the result that you can see-the code works perfectly now. I don't know how he did it, in particular I don't know why the width of the box has to be defined twice, although it clearly does, as removing either of the commands messes up the display in ways whose cause and effect are beyond my comprehension... it looks like magic to ME. (Edit: Jayson tried to explain it to me, and all I understood is that he split the width command and put more code in the middle, which sounds like quantum programming... in other words, MAGIC, lol.)

It's fascinating to see where my readers are coming from; for example, I seem to have a daily reader, or maybe even a couple, in Ulaan Baatar, Mongolia, since that city keeps coming up, and, even more astonishingly, a regular visitor from Cow Flat, Australia (it isn't listed in any of the almanacs I checked, so it must be as small as it sounds like it is, which means it's not likely there's more than one reader there). I love seeing cities and towns, even American ones, that I've never heard of, and the more exotic the country, the more exciting it is; currently on the list are Sint-Anna Pede, Belgium, General San Martin, Argentina, and Fa Yuen, Hong Kong... it doesn't get much better than that.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Art imitates life 

Tonight, I finally saw "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory"


which, considering that Tim Burton directed it and Johnny Depp starred in it, should have been MUCH better, darker and more twisted; there was one scene, however, that gave me chills in a manner that Burton didn't plan on. Willy Wonka has a flashback to his childhood when asked about the 1st candy he ever ate, and we see him trick or treating, coming home, and having his father ask to see what he got; the father says that the caramels will stick in the boy's braces, the lollipops are just cavities on sticks, and that, since some children are allergic to chocolate, the boy shouldn't "risk" eating any... and he throws ALL of the candy into the fire (except for the one piece that falls to the side, to be recovered later, of course). Although my own father never bothered with discussions or explanations, or even pretending to have rational reasons for the things he did, or that they were allegedly for my benefit, and we never had a fire burning for him to throw things into, he DID throw out all my Halloween candy every year, and because I'd never heard of this fate befalling any other child, much less seen it portrayed in movie, that scene really packed a wallop.

The final touch was when my husband chose that moment to have his annual flash of comprehension of how I might feel (as opposed to normally when even the most thorough explanations leave him still claiming to not get it), and piped up with, "Boy, that's really eerie for you to see that, isn't it?"... and mind you, he couldn't see my face from where he was, and I hadn't said anything, so he made the connection all by himself.

So how do I feel about something that was shown to portray a freakish childhood being a toned-down replica of what I actually experienced? About how you'd expect... but fear not, I've got sufficient Godiva chocolates on hand to remind myself that the present, unlike the past, is sweet.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

The posting dilemma 

Actually, there are SEVERAL posting dilemmas, the primary one of which is how to find time to write AND sleep, but the one that's been on my mind today is; what sort of posts do people come here to read?

This blog chronicles what's on my mind each day, and part of the reason I don't have commenting is to not get sucked into catering to the readers rather than giving vent to my undiluted voice, but as my 2 year blog-iversary draws near, and my average # of daily hits edges upwards, I'm increasingly aware that I've got an audience, some of whom have been reading, and even linking to, me for an amazingly long time, and, although I still don't want to start 2nd-guessing what I should be writing, there are plenty of days when there are several things that suggest themselves as possible topics, and then the dilemma begins:

How about a science essay? People think science is boring, though, don't they? Who that cares about string theory or the latest medical breakthroughs would be reading blogs?

I could write about something from my childhood, but that's pretty depressing stuff, and who wants to read about someone else's long-ago woes?

Then there's my current life... but why would people who don't know me be interested in my latest fight with my husband or interaction with my critters?

I've added new stuff to the sidebars... but who wants to read a bunch of technical gobbledygook? People either don't understand it or it's non-revelatory to them and so no cause for excitement.

There's a movie, TV show or ad I saw that caught my attention.. but that's trivial stuff.

And of course there's my spiritual journey, which is the central theme of the blog... but why would anyone want to read about a belief system so unusual that it has no name, or even anyone else who shares it?

That's the thing of it; the subjects that really interest ME are of little interest to the vast majority of the population, so looked at objectively there doesn't seem to be any reason for people to take time to read what I write... yet, miraculously, they DO. All I can figure is that, since obviously there couldn't be any topic that I'd be the ONLY person in the world to care about, I've managed to gather in some of that small % of people who think protracted rants on odd topics are fun to read... and, although I'm sure most of you don't love ALL my posts, you must like a fair # of 'em, in which case I should just keep on writing whatever's uppermost in my mind and stop worrying which essays people are happy to see and which ones make them roll their eyes and decide to try back tomorrow.

Fat chance, lol; I'm a natural worrier, agonizer, over-analyzer and obsessor, and part of me will always be concerned about whether or not I'm providing my long-time readers with whatever it is that started them reading here in the 1st place. That's ok, though; as long as I can still come up with a topic every day, as long as I have ideas bouncing around my brain, I figure I'm still ahead of the game... because it'd be far worse to have nothing to say.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Who would you bring back from the dead? 

Tonight I watched an episode of "Babylon 5" that circled around the Brakiri night of the dead, on which someone important to you who had passed away would come back (in their physical body, not as a ghost) for one night, and you could make of your time together what you wanted. My husband asked me who I'D want to bring back under those circumstances, and this is what I came up with as my choices:

1) Beloved relative #1, who died of a heart attack after dementia had taken most of her mind; I'd just like to see her one more time, but only if she still had enough going on mentally to know who I was and understand what was said to her.

2) Beloved relative #2, who died of congestive heart failure when she was very old but completely mentally sharp; she still had things to say, and I'd want to hear as many of them as I could.

3) Several relatives that I didn't really know but might have benefitted from knowing, especially my maternal grandfather; I know so little about what went on in my family before my parents were adults, and then only from their warped perspectives for the most part.

4) Friend #1, who committed suicide; I want to understand the pain that drove her to blow her brains out, and have another chance to be sure that her crushing depression hadn't blinded her to how much she was loved.

5) Friend #2, who died from round 2 of breast cancer shortly before she was going to come and see me again; I'd met her online, and only spent one precious day with her in person (she did visit me twice after her death, but that's a different thing altogether; I posted about that on 3-12-04), and it'd mean alot to be able to double our time together.

6) The therapist who saved my life, who also died of round 2 of breast cancer; she knew me better than anyone else ever has or ever will, and there are so many things I'd want to tell her about my life after the last time I saw her, to get her feedback and show her how well I overcame my past... and I'd want to give her the gratitude that I couldn't all those years ago, when all I could do was try to survive one day at a time.

7) Wildcard; one of the characters on the show had a visitor who had very little to do with him when he was alive, but had something important to tell him. There have to be SOME people I once knew but am not in touch with who are dead; who might they be, and what could they have to say that would be meaningful to my future?

Who would it be? Who would I choose, and who'd be chosen for me if it were part of the script? The B5 episode already had a wildcard, and a suicide, so the best storyline left would be one of the family members with some sort of revelation that'd change my life. As to which one I'D choose; the feeling of unfinished business is most powerful with the therapist, with the friend who committed suicide a close 2nd (she came to me in a dream and gave me pretty good closure about her death, but not concerning her reason for killing herself).

Who would YOU choose to bring back?

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

"Woo hoo... 

... woo hoo hoo."

If you're in America, as soon as you read that you probably started hearing the theme from the Vonage commercials running through your head; if you're elsewhere, just imagine those same syllables repeated over, and over, and OVER. Actually, you don't have to imagine anything; it turns out, much to my astonishment, that what I'd thought were just nonsense syllables are part of an actual SONG... but wait, I'm getting ahead of myself.

My husband's good at recognizing even the most convoluted versions of old songs, or pieces thereof, that are used in ads, so I asked him if the "woo hoo woo hoo hoo"-ing was from a song; when he told me he thought it WAS a song, I thought he was kidding, but since he wasn't, I looked up "woo hoo" and "Vonage" and discovered that he was RIGHT. :-O

The song is called, you guessed it, "Woo Hoo," and it's by a Japanese band called "The's," from their 1996 album "Bomb the Twist"


The next shocker was that, although I'd always assumed it was a guy singing the woo-hoo's, the band consists of 3 women, Sachiko Fujii, Yoshiko Yamaguchi, and Ronnie Yoshiko Fujiyama.

The NEXT shocker was that Quentin Tarantino had apparently found this song somewhere and put it in "Kill Bill"; I've SEEN that movie, and not that long ago, and I have no memory whatsoever of any woo-hoo's, possibly because I was in a stupor from the violence and gore. Curious as to where it'd appeared in the movie, I looked it up, and found a post about it


"I'm almost positve that 'Woo Hoo' is the (2nd?) track that they play when we see that long shot that runs thru the whole club (including over the walls/to different rooms) ending in the bathroom where The Bride hears Sofie Fatale talking on her cell phone (I could be wrong about that)."

Good enough for me; I checked the "Kill Bill" soundtrack


and there it is; you can hear a sample of the song on that page, or the one for their album, in case you've seen neither the Vonage ads nor "Kill Bill."

AND, we can see here


that the band was actually IN the movie... if it wasn't so hard to watch (non-stop slice and dice just doesn't do it for me), I'd see it again just to find out what they looked like. I wondered whether Tarantino had really personally come up with the idea to use this song, and the band; after a little digging, I eventually found the pure-Hollywood story here


"'Tarantino was in Japan for a 'Kill Bill' meeting and he was browsing in this thrift store in Ebisu. The clerk is a fan of ours and she was playing our record,' says Ronnie. 'It was the first six songs on the new album, actually. And Tarantino asked her to sell him the record.'"

The article also refers to "Woo Hoo" as a cover, and a few minutes on Google showed that it was originally done by the band Rock-A-Teens; here's a pic of the labels from the original 78 RPM single from 1959


plus the story of the band and the single... which hit #16 on the Billboard charts. You can hear the original version of the song here


Legend has it that they recorded the tune in the back of a record store


and it sure sounds like they did... listen for the echo accompanying the "yeah" in the background. I don't know what's more astounding, that this "song" was actually a HIT, even that long ago, or that a Japanese band somehow heard it and chose to remake it.

And there's MORE; apparently, another company used the song in their ad, not knowing that Vonage was using it too:


"Chevrolet introduced the major TV commercial in its marketing launch of the Cobalt economy car during a New Year's Eve blitz.

A week later, the automaker pulled the spot to replace its theme music - after it discovered an Internet phone company was using the same song in its commercials.

Chevrolet would not say what it spent to yank and redo the spot.

The song, 'Woo Hoo,' was featured in the 2004 movie Kill Bill: Vol. 1.

Chevrolet used a different version of 'Woo Hoo' in the Cobalt commercial. It replaced the song with an updated version of 'Over Under Sideways Down,' a 1966 hit by the British band The Yardbirds.

Chevrolet's advertising agency, Campbell-Ewald of Warren, Mich., produced the Cobalt spot. Its chief creative officer, Bill Ludwig, says the original theme song 'had no value to us anymore' once agency executives realized the ad was sharing 'Woo Hoo' with the broadband phone company Vonage of Edison, N.J."

LOL!! Wouldn't you have loved to have seen their faces at Chevrolet when they realized the consequences of not having purchased exclusive rights to the song?

I found out something else interesting; the Vonage ads have people doing really stupid things to the tune of "Woo Hoo," and I'd always assumed it was all done by actors, but apparently it's all REAL:


"Among the mishaps in the ads: a young boy swings at a ball with a bat, loses his grip and sends the bat flying through a glass door. In another ad, a man cuts down a tree, which then falls on his car. In a third ad, a young man fooling around on a treadmill, loses his footing and is propelled off the back.

The stunts in the ads, by Arnold Worldwide, Boston, seem too outrageous to be real but they are actual footage, most licensed from the reality TV show America's Funniest Home Videos."

If I hadn't seen it on a reputable website, I wouldn't have believed it.

And last, but not least, I discovered that the "song" was released as a SINGLE, I kid you not


Can you imagine spending $ in order to be able to deliberately listen to "Woo hoo woo hoo hoo, Woo hoo woo hoo hoo, Woo hoo woo hoo hoo, Woo hoo woo hoo hoo, Woo hoo, Woo hoo, Woo hoo woo hoo hoo" for 3 minutes? :-O

Monday, November 14, 2005

Intriguing idea from Joel Osteen 

In tonight's sermon, he said that your motives for doing things are more important than what you actually do; in other words, that what's going on in your mind counts for more than the actions you take. His perspective is of course that God's judgment can't be swayed or fooled by your pretending to be a good person when you're less than nice on the inside; he's usually dead-on in describing karma with what he says about the workings of God, though, so I always take what he comes up with seriously, as his instincts seem very sound.

It's a basic concept of my spirituality that every thought and feeling counts for something; what's less clear is how those things stack up against actions. If, for example, you do good works because you feel obligated to, and so do them with weary contempt for the whole idea in your heart, which has more effect on your karma, the good works or the contempt?

It goes even further, according to Joel; he says that "your heart and actions need to match up," that you have to "keep your heart pure"... that you have to actually feel like giving and being good for it to benefit you to do those things. He said that even giving to charity, going to church or reading the Bible don't get you blessings if you're doing them to be well thought of or to get attention and praise; although in our culture we see thoughts as the form and actions as the substance, he's saying that it's the other way around... and given the power of thoughts and feelings to shape reality, could he be right?

Osteen says that if you take action with the right motives, and a pure heart, blessings will come, and that they can come so thick and fast as to seem supernatural... but if your motives are wrong, it's a waste of time taking that action, because you won't be rewarded for it. He explained that when an opportunity comes for us to act in a way that we think will benefit us, therefore, the 1st thing we should do is check our motives for wanting to do it; we can't be trying to impress people, or use them, or manipulate them, or win their friendship by taking the proposed actions, we have to have a pure motive, one that's not looking for recognition of any kind, for the outcome to be the one that'll bring us blessings... and he says that if you give up the opportunities that you can't take with pure motives, God will more than repay you for what you lost out on.

It's not hard for people to see that having "bad" thoughts and feelings, such as hateful or envious ones, could produce bad results and block good ones. It's a little counterintuitive, but not that much of a stretch, I think, for us to grasp that emotions like fear and grief, although not "bad," are still negative and so draw negative energy and repel positive energy. BUT, if something as seemingly innocent, and even praiseworthy from our cultural perspective, as trying to gain the approval of others is also "negative," even if to a lesser degree, and can prevent us from benefiting fully, or at all, from taking laudatory or advantageous-seeming actions... that one's gonna be harder to swallow.

Nevertheless, it may well be true; for now, let's just ponder it and see what we come up with.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Possum problem 

The male possum was chowing down on the patio as he usually does for much of the night (which is why he's gotten so BIG), when suddenly he dashed into the plants by the fence and started thrashing around and making a scary, choking sort of sound; my blood just about froze solid in my veins at the thought that he might have something caught in his throat, or be having a seizure, or maybe even DYING... on a night when my husband was out, naturally, and my head was spinning as I tried to figure out how I could capture a convulsing possum and race him to the nearest animal hospital all by myself.

I dashed from window to window, calling anxiously to him and trying to see what was happening; he was bobbing his head up and down, and still making that noise, so I thought maybe he was vomiting. He took a few steps along the fence... and a silhouetted figure moving along with him showed through the slats. The lightbulb went on over my head; there was some sort of critter on the other side of the fence. My possum boy paused, and made the noise again; I belatedly realized, much to my relief, that he was "barking," not choking (I'd never heard him make ANY sort of noise before). As I watched in amazement, he tried to climb up the plants and get over the fence to the interloper; he's way too heavy, though, and only succeeded in dragging them down and trampling them. He gave up and went back to leaping around and barking ever more agitatedly; I'd had enough, so I put on my shoes and headed out the door and around the house to the other side of the fence... where I saw the shadowy form of, not surprisingly, another possum, presumably male given his size.

"Shoo, you bad possum!!" I hissed at him; he glanced at me, didn't seem impressed, and went back to looking in at my possum through the fence. I came closer, and he grudgingly retreated a few yards... and then started walking right back. Determined, I matched along the fence towards him until he finally trotted across the neighbor's yard and out of sight around their house. I hurried back the way I'd come, into the house and over to the sliding glass door; my possum was still at his post by the fence. I called reassuringly to him, and he turned to look at me; I kept coaxing him, and after a couple of minutes he waddled over to finish his dinner.

The other possum didn't come back, as far as I know, but I'm concerned that he and my possum boy might meet up without a fence between them and have a fight; worse, he might attack the little possum girl. All I can do is keep an eye on the situation; I really hope this other possum was just passing through...

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Thank you, veterans 

It's not enough, is it? 2 measly words for people who spent months, or years, away from their families, friends, homes, and all the pleasures, large and small, that we take for granted as part of our daily existence... who endured all the hardships of the military life... who lived in danger of a sort it's hard for civilians to imagine, since even those living in the most dangerous parts of our cities tend not to have bombs being fired at them... and who consequently were in fear for their lives at all times, despite which they had to function, fight, keep fighting, and not let the fear consume them even when death seemed inches away... how can 2 words sum up what we owe them?

Veterans used to command far more respect in this country; the Vietnam War changed the national attitude forever... to our everlasting shame. It doesn't matter what the war is, or the "police action," it doesn't matter what the politics are behind it, anyone who puts it all on the line in the service of this nation, our allies, and the principles we believe in deserves every bit of respect, love and support we can give them, today and every other day.

My gratitude for this free nation, and the safe and comfortable life I lead in it, goes out to all the veterans of every war; your courage is part of what makes this country great.

Friday, November 11, 2005

A sad story on eBay 

I've spent a great deal of time (and of course $) on eBay over the past few years, mostly building up my collections; my husband, to his everlasting credit, doesn't complain about the $ or that the house is blanketed by my stuffies and figurines and such... unlike most men, he's neither repelled nor emasculated by these sorts of things, and even likes many of them. I'm obsessive about my collections, and my husband, although not a collector per se (he's a packrat, which is different), is also an obsessive type and understands my desire to have everything in existence that fits my criteria; and, although he was spoiled rotten as a kid, he also understands that, because I had so little during my own childhood, I REALLY enjoy having stuff now.

Not every couple deals with one of them being a collector so smoothly, of course, but, as long as the amount of $ involved isn't excessive (which is a problem far more often since eBay was created, making it possible for collectors to acquire their items more easily), the collector can usually proceed with nothing more than some grumbling or eye-rolling from the other person... but what if the collection is REALLY big? At what point does the spouse have the right to demand that no more room in their home be taken up by the collection? And an even bigger question; at what point does the spouse have the right to demand that the collection be REDUCED for any reason other than the desperate need to sell everything they own during a financial crisis?

I took a break from writing this to ask my husband, without preamble, if he'd ever expect me to get rid of, or downsize, any of MY collections; his reply was "Only if we were on the verge of starvation and we'd already sold all of MY stuff." It's not as if he could ever "make" me sell my things any more than he can make me do anything else, but it's good to hear anyways, because...

There's an eBay member who shares one of my passions, and whose name has appeared on many auctions that I've bid on; there was a time when she'd be bidding on nearly everything I was, and trust me, that's alot of auctions. Then, I didn't see her for a while, and wondered what had happened to her; recently, I found out, because she's reappeared... as a seller. Each of her auctions carries the explanation that her husband's making her get rid of a bunch of her stuff; I recognize plenty of the things she's got listed, because I bid on most of them when she won them, so she's not just saying that to get higher bids, she's really being forced to sell off her collection.

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :-(

Even though she outbid me on some things, and drove up the price on others, I'd NEVER have wished this on her, or on any other collector; even though I've won several of her auctions, with more on my list, I'm still VERY dismayed to see what's happening to her. I can imagine the pain it must be costing her to pack up all those beloved items and mail them to new owners, all those things that made her happy, that made her collection something to be proud of... and we're not talking a few items here, we're talking HUNDREDS-she's got more auctions being listed all the time, and lots of them are for multiple things.

She's having to spend an insane amount of time handling all these auctions, and is taking a significant financial loss on some of the stuff, in addition to the dead loss for auctions whose items don't sell; what possible reason does her husband have for making her give up the things she loves AND lose all that time and $, rather than having one of the places that buys whole collections, estates and such just come and get it over and done with quickly?

Heck, screw the time and $; a central element of her life is being taken away!! WTF?!! Obviously her husband made her stop buying, and that's why she vanished from eBay for a while, which could MAYBE be justified if they were out of room to store anything new... but why was he unsatisfied with that, making it necessary for him to force her to get rid of so many of her precious things? WHY? I asked my husband for his opinion, and he said, "Because he's an @sshole who likes to control his wife." Is that it? The husband decided he didn't want to look at her sweet collectables any more, and chose to flex his marital muscles by pushing her to sell them?

Why is she acceding to his demands? Is she afraid he'll leave her if she doesn't? Did he intimidate her? Try to make her feel guilty for taking up space with her display shelves? Accuse her of loving her collection more than him? Because nothing that anyone could ever do or say could make ME do anything, I'm always at a bit of a loss to understand how these things happen; however it occurred, it's mean-spirited and cruel, and sucks big time.

If I lost just ONE of my collectables, I'd agonize over it for the rest of my life; I cringe to contemplate what this poor lady is going through. I hope karma brings her something good to make up for this...

Thursday, November 10, 2005

A bit of wisdom from Shakespeare 

I have no particular fondness for Shakespeare, but it's clear that the man had a good grasp of human nature; a perfect example of this can be found in "Much Ado About Nothing," the 1993 movie of which I saw tonight


and found reasonably enjoyable due to the high caliber of the actors involved. The central theme of this play is "people are SO gullible"; that may not be what you were taught in 10th grade English class, but it's true all the same.

One of the easiest ways to trick someone is to make them think that they've stumbled on some information by accident; a suspicious person may doubt what they're told if it's contrary to what they prefer to believe, but it's a VERY rare person who overhears a conversation and doesn't believe whatever is said, perhaps because we love to think we've discovered secrets... it's not as if people are any more honest when they're speaking to others than when they're speaking to us, after all, and the requirement of PROOF for any claims made still applies (not that anyone ever bothers to apply it). Shakespeare uses this concept twice, against both halves of a stubborn couple, Beatrice and Benedick, who bicker constantly and haven't realized that they're in love; in each case, he has people plot to talk when the victim will hear them about how the other one loves them so much... and they both fall for it.

The more clever demonstration of gullibility in the play is an example of what I talked about in my post of 10-27-05, that people are foolishly certain that whatever interpretation they come up with, or are GIVEN, of what they see is true, because they SAW it with their own eyes; not 1 person in a million pauses and says, "But wait a minute, just because I saw X does NOT mean that Y is what was happening... it could also have been Z, not to mention A, B, C, etc." Hero and Claudio are about to be married, but the evil Don John and Borachio play a trick to turn Claudio against his betrothed; Borachio gets Margaret to make whoopee with him in Hero's window, with her back to the outdoors so that her face will be hidden from observers, and, when John brings Claudio and Don Pedro to witness said whoopee, Borachio calls out Hero's name to make them think that she's the one he's shtupping... and they're both utterly convinced that the sweet and virtuous Hero was in fact getting it on with that scumbag on the night before her wedding.

That Don Pedro should be so easily duped is bad enough, but how could Claudio, who being in love with Hero should have doubted she was doing anything wrong even if her face WAS clearly visible, be so easily convinced that she was the shtuppee? Why did he not go charging up to her room to see what was actually going on? Because it's human nature to be stupid, to be quick to believe ill of the virtuous, to jump to conclusions and not look for proof, and, worst of all, to totally believe what a known evil person tells us even though we should NEVER believe them and ALWAYS assume they've got ulterior motives that'll lead to some nice person getting the shaft. What Claudio SHOULD have done would have been to say, "I don't know who that woman is, as her face isn't visible, but it can't possibly be Hero; it must be that one of the men is in love with her, and so chose her room to get laid in, and called out her name in the heat of passion-let's go up there and find out who's taking advantage of our host's hospitality by using his daughter's room for an assignation!!"... but instead of showing what SHOULD have happened, Shakespeare wisely had Claudio act according to human nature, which is unfortunately the only believable way to have him respond to what he's seen.

I know I'm like a broken record on this subject, but it needs to be said until everyone gets it: Someone with a history of bad behavior is a BAD person, and, no matter how charming they are, you should never believe what they say or side with them in any dispute. Someone with a proven track record of virtue is a GOOD person, and, no matter how uncomfortable they may make you, you should believe them, side with them, and DEFEND them. And last, but far from least, when someone good, or of unknown virtue, is accused of something, don't believe it automatically, don't believe it on circumstantial evidence, don't believe it because you see some little thing that fits the story, demand PROOF, and withhold your negative judgment until you get it. The power of the evil people of the world would shrink to a tiny fraction of what it is now if even a small % of people started doing these simple, logical things; isn't that worth a little bit of effort?

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

How do we know what "The Truth" is? 

Most people who follow a particular religious or spiritual path view its tenets the same way they do scientifically proven facts or other things for which there's inarguable evidence; they feel such complete certainty about the rightness of their beliefs that they "know" that what they believe is true. We're all aware that there are many religions, all of which have the same amount of proof to back them up, namely NONE, and many of whose believers possess total certainty that they know "The Truth"; if you ask one of the faithful how, with all that in mind, they're sure that THEIR belief system is the right one from all of those choices, they'll say, "I just know"... but HOW do they know? I'm not talking about those people who say they've actually SEEN God, or Allah, or Zeus, etc, who're basing their claims on what they truly believe is evidence (and may well be-I can't prove that they haven't all seen a deity), I mean those people who've decided based on no evidence they can point to, no personal experience they've had, that a certain "truth" is the right one; how do those people come to "know" that their beliefs are correct, and what makes them trust that "knowing" when they're constantly proven wrong about other things that they "knew"?

Since there are countless flavors of spiritual and religious belief but only one reality, nearly all of those people who "know" must be wrong, but none of them will ever admit it, or even entertain the suggestion that their personal "knowing" might be utterly meaningless, in fact that it almost certainly is... but, doesn't SOMEONE have to have it right, or at least be the closest to right? How do the people, if any, who actually DO have "The Truth" tell that they've got the real deal, since all they have is the same "knowing" that all the people with "incorrect" beliefs have? How can an objective non-believer judge whose "knowing" is accurate, even in part? If a believer has a crisis of faith, what can they use to convince themselves that what they used to believe is true; how can they prove to themselves that it's the belief and not the DISbelief that's "right"?

And it can get even trickier; people like me, who combine science, personal experiences and observations, and best-guess analysis of the unseen to form a spiritual path, have to ask ourselves, "How many times do things have to happen according to the 'rules' I see for how the universe works before I can REALLY accept them as proven? 10? 100? 1000?" and "How long does everything that happens in my life and the lives of everyone I know have to run as the 'rules' would dictate before I can REALLY be sure it's not all coincidence? A year? 5 years? 50 years?" At what point can we, can *I*, can anyone, validly say, "I KNOW that what I believe to be true IS 'The Truth'"?

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The latest blog exchanges 

When I 1st heard about BlogSnob early last year, it seemed like a neat idea; the more times you showed their box, the more times your ad got shown, leading to more hits to your blog... in theory. The reality was that people didn't click those ads very often, and once they got the bright idea to include paid ads (which meant in practice that MOST of what they showed were the paid ads), it became totally worthless, and that pretty much soured me on the whole concept of blog exchanges.

When Blog Explosion, and the now numerous similar services, came out, I didn't get involved, not because they wouldn't lead to increased hits, but because they made you work to get them, and all the hits you'd get in return would be from people who were trying to build their own accounts and not intending to actually read your blog... yeah, there've gotta be exceptions, but overall it just seemed like a way for people to see their counters go up faster without really affecting their readership much.

I saw references to a couple of new exchanges today, and decided to give them a look-see because they were being recommended by the bloggers whose sites I read about them on; if someone dedicates a post to a service, and with praise rather than complaint, that gets my attention. The 1st new one is BlogMad; if you look in my sidebar, you'll see an animated gif with a weird eyeball thing-that's it. I can't tell you much about it because they haven't actually started it up yet, they're just accepting registrations; you can't even read what little info is on their site until you sign up... but all they ask for is your email addy and a password, so it's not like it's a big deal to get into the system right now (they're going to be asking for more info later, of course)-just click the image and you're on your way. It appears that it'll be using the BlogSnob model of showing an ad for your blog on another member's site every time your blog displays an ad, but they're still a hair vague about it all, which is proper for something that's just a gamma (eg not quite a beta); the way they're signing people up, and giving a choice from a whole page of banners, when they're not even operational yet is so ballsy that it sort of charmed me into giving them a try... I'll be interested to see how well it works when they set it motion.

The 2nd new exchange is BloggerSwap, which was given a rave review in a post that mentioned how dreadful BlogSnob is (which tells me that the blogger has a clue about these things), is using the BlogSnob model but with images rather than text in a big ugly box, and supposedly brings in plenty of traffic; sadly, I can't point out where the link for this one is on my blog, because they're having some sort of site problem and my attempts at registration keep getting an error message that my email addy is invalid, grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. By the time you're reading this they'll hopefully have everything running smoothly again, so give them a try at


It'd sure be nice to have a blog exchange that works the way it's supposed to; keep your fingers crossed.

Edit: It turns out that BloggerSwap won't let you sign up with an email addy that has a hyphen or underscore in it, at least not at the moment (I HOPE it's just a short-term glitch), although you CAN switch over to an addy like that after you've registered with an acceptable addy... but then you have to wait for this alteration to your account to be approved before your ad gets shown anywhere, which makes no sense at all, GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR. Oh well, when you get something for free there's a limit as to how much you can gripe (but STILL!!).

Monday, November 07, 2005

An excellent point from Joel Osteen 

Today, Joel gave the following quote from Titus 1:15

"To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their mind and their conscience are defiled."

He also paraphrased it as, "We don't see others as they are, but as WE are"... and it's a wonderful example of how there are some piercing insights in the Bible whether you believe in God or not, which makes it well worth a little study.

Have you ever had someone assume you lied or did something else wrong when they've never witnessed anything but perfectly virtuous behavior from you, or had them assume you were mad or otherwise upset when you were totally calm, or had a lover suspect you of cheating on them when you've never so much as glanced at anyone else, and wondered what the heck was going on? Sometimes that sort of irrational thinking comes from having been burned by misbehaving people in their lives, but usually it's a HUGE red flag about them; they assume that you're thinking, feeling and acting as THEY do despite all the evidence to the contrary, and that tells you that they're NOT nice folks no matter how pleasant they usually seem to be. The liar assumes that everyone's lying, the thief assumes that everyone steals, the untrustworthy one assumes that no one can be trusted... and that last one is a BIG one, because if you're trying to get close, romantically or otherwise, to someone who hangs back from trusting you at the level they should be, for no valid reason, you're going to regret it if you trust THEM.

You can use this concept in a more general way as well, both online and in real life; bad people, EVIL people, have a big blind spot about the fact that they ARE bad/evil, and that people in general are NOT, which makes them assume that all sorts of things are meant with ill intent that no normal person would ever intend that way. If you're having a friendly interaction with someone, and suddenly they turn on a dime and get nasty about some innocuous thing you said that they've inexplicably twisted into some sort of attack on them, every alarm in your head should start screaming, because, although a badly burned person might also see insults where they weren't intended, and where no reasonable person would see them, ONLY a thoroughly bad person will turn into a rabid dog in the middle of a situation where people have been making nice.

The point of Osteen's sermon isn't so much for you to judge the behavior of others, but for you to look at your own heart; next time you find yourself certain that someone lied, cheated on you, attacked you, or whatever, ask yourself if the facts truly back that up, or if you're making an unwarranted assumption because you've been burned... or because the behavior you're perceiving is merely a projection of your own less-than-ideal behaviors.

The final case is if you're an observer of a situation like this; for the sake of all concerned, depart from the standard observer reaction and blame the ATTACKER, rather than the victim, internalize that the attacker's behavior means that they're a bad person even though you yourself weren't the victim, and remember the evidence of their badness for future reference... because the next victim could very well be YOU.

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