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Neko

Monday, October 31, 2005

A bad start to Halloween 


Granted that it's usual to wait until you've gone to bed and gotten back up before seeing a new day as having started, it's technically Halloween already... and it's not looking good.

Our Halloween decorations, like much of our stuff, are packed in big boxes that are stacked nearly to the ceiling in various rooms of our home; because I don't have 1% of the strength needed to move them around, I'm stuck depending on my husband to shuffle things into and out of the boxes... and if you're a regular reader, you know from the outset that that's a disaster waiting to happen. When we get a new thing that needs to be stored, he consistently refuses to put it in whatever box it SHOULD be in, and instead sticks it in the nearest box, with the pompous claim "I'll remember where it is, it's right on top/in front and it'll be easy to find"... and then he promptly forgets where he put it. Soon, he dumps more things in the box, and then he moves the box somewhere else, and thus the item's nowhere to be found when it's needed, and requires HOURS of searching to locate... and sometimes is never found.

Currently, there are THREE things of mine (along with countless things of his) missing; 2 Halloween doodads, one of which has now been missing for 2 YEARS, and 1 other thing that was supposed to be part of my revised kitchen decor. After procrastinating as long as he could, my husband finally started searching for the Halloween stuff, with the hope that the final item would turn up too; he got through about 90% of the boxes, which took much of the weekend, and NONE of the 3 things were found. Worse, with the emergency of having the Halloween items in time to use them gone, he's going to refuse to look through that last 10% of the boxes; oh, he SAYS he'll look, but 1st he'll complain that his back still hurts from moving boxes, and then he'll insist on waiting until the weekend, then he'll make melodramatic claims of exhaustion and do nothing over the weekend, then he'll point to the lack of urgency as an excuse to move it to the NEXT weekend, by which time we'll have 20 time-sensitive emergencies piled up, and that'll take up the next couple of weekends... and in this manner MONTHS will slide by, and then he'll reveal that he can no longer remember which boxes he looked in, and that they've been restacked 10 times in the interim, so we can't even GUESS which boxes have been searched, and that'll be it for my stuff until MAYBE right before NEXT Halloween.

All this time wasted, all this sleep sacrificed, all this stress endured, all this frustration of knowing that if he'd just put in a little more effort, he'd have gone through ALL the boxes and HAD to have found the stuff, and nothing to show for it; he hasn't even put up that portion of the decorations that I can't do myself... this does NOT fill me with the Halloween spirit, sigh.

Just once, JUST ONCE, I'd like to reach a holiday with everything necessary unpacked, purchased, assembled, set up and otherwise totally ready, with nothing missing, forgotten or destroyed, and with my blood pressure not making me feel like my head's about to explode; is that too much to ask?


Sunday, October 30, 2005

Proof of the existence of auras? 


In the November 2005 issue of Discover, I found this little blurb: "A Japanese scientist finds that human hands, foreheads, and the soles of the feet emit detectable light." Are you as stunned as I was? As always, I was very excited to learn something totally new, doubly so in this case because the folks who confidently proclaim that things like psychic phenomena can't possibly exist because science hasn't seen any evidence of them are going to have to accept that if they just now realized that light, which is hardly a new thing in the world of science, comes out of human skin, isn't it reasonable to think that there MIGHT be some energies that they DON'T know about going out of and/or into us that they haven't detected yet?

Eager to learn more about this subject, I did a search, and found this article:

http://dsc.discovery.com/news/briefs/20050905/handlight.html

"Human hands glow, but fingernails release the most light, according to a recent study that found all parts of the hand emit detectable levels of light.

The findings support prior research that suggested most living things, including plants, release light. Since disease and illness appear to affect the strength and pattern of the glow, the discovery might lead to less-invasive ways of diagnosing patients."

When people say that they see auras around all living things, and, and this is the kicker, that when someone's sick their aura CHANGES, they mostly get written off as liars or kooks... but now scientists are telling us the exact same thing. While this doesn't constitute proof of auras per se, it sure pushes the boundaries of coincidence, doesn't it? (Don't expect to see them testing this any time soon, though, as scientists don't want to be associated with anything "mystical.")

"Mitsuo Hiramatsu, a scientist at the Central Research Laboratory at Hamamatsu Photonics in Japan, who led the research, told Discovery News that the hands are not the only parts of the body that shine light by releasing photons, or tiny, energized increments of light.

'Not only the hands, but also the forehead and bottoms of our feet emit photons,' Hiramatsu said, and added that in terms of hands 'the presence of photons means that our hands are producing light all of the time.'

The light is invisible to the naked eye, so Hiramatsu and his team used a powerful photon counter to 'see' it."

If it's not visible, how could people be seeing it in the form of auras? Presumably the same way some people see ghosts all around us all the time although most of us can't see anything; there's something in the brain that's extra-sensitive in some folks that allows them to perceive things hidden from the rest of us... and just because the perceptions are visual doesn't mean that the eyes are involved, any more than the eyes are involved when you close your eyes and visualize things.

"The detector found that fingernails release 60 photons, fingers release 40 and the palms are the dimmest of all, with 20 photons measured.

The findings are published in the current Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology B: Biology.

Hiramatsu is not certain why fingernails light up more than the other parts of the hand, but he said, 'It may be because of the optical window property of fingernails,' meaning that the fingernail works somewhat like a prism to scatter light."

Did you look at your fingernails when you read that? *I* did, and my 1st thought was of how wizards and witches in stories are often described with light coming from their fingertips when they're exerting their powers; could people with greater ability to manipulate karma be emitting more light than normal, and that's where that idea came from?

"To find out what might be creating the light in the first place, he and colleague Kimitsugu Nakamura had test subjects hold plastic bottles full of hot or cold water before their hand photons were measured. The researchers also pumped nitrogen or oxygen gas into the dark box where the individuals placed their hands as they were being analyzed.

Warm temperatures increased the release of photons, as did the introduction of oxygen. Rubbing mineral oil over the hands also heightened light levels.

Based on those results, the scientists theorize the light 'is a kind of chemiluminescence,' a luminescence based on chemical reactions, such as those that make fireflies glow. The researchers believe 40 percent of the light results from the chemical reaction that constantly occurs as our hand skin reacts with oxygen."

Why do they have to "theorize"? How tough can this be to prove, once they knew what to look for? They're probably right... but wouldn't it be interesting if they weren't?

"Since mineral oil, which permeates into the skin, heightens the light, they also now think 60 percent of the glow may result from chemical reactions that take place inside the skin."

So now there's TWO sources of light, one ON the skin and one IN it? That violates Occam's Razor, which makes me think that perhaps it's all coming from the same sort of chemical reaction, since after all there's oxygen in our bodies as well as in the air. I'll be interested to see if they'll be able to test if parts of the body other than skin emit light; would they be allowed to use a version of their detection equipment during surgery, pressed tightly against various organs to check for light coming from them? Or how about blood-wouldn't you have thought they'd test that right away?

"Fritz-Albert Popp, a leading world expert on biologically related photons at The International Institute of Biophysics in Germany, agrees with the findings and was not surprised by them.

Popp told Discovery News, 'One may find clear correlations to kind and degree (type and severity) of diseases.'

Popp and his team believe the light from the forehead and the hands pulses out with the same basic rhythms, but that these pulses become irregular in unhealthy people. A study he conducted on a muscular sclerosis patient seemed to validate the theory."

Why would the light PULSE? If it was mirroring the heartbeat or breathing, you'd think they'd have noticed that and said so; what else could make these supposed chemical reactions wax and wane... does the SOUL perhaps pulse or otherwise cycle, or our karmic emissions, and that's what's causing it?

I found a little more info here:

http://content.karger.com/ProdukteDB/produkte.asp?Aktion=ShowAbstract&ArtikelNr=83935&ProduktNr=224242&Ausgabe=230810

(you may have to click on "Free Abstract" to see it).

"Generally, the fluctuation in photon counts over the body was lower in the morning than in the afternoon. The thorax-abdomen region emitted lowest and most constantly. The upper extremities and the head region emitted most and increasingly over the day. Spectral analysis of low, intermediate and high emission from the superior frontal part of the right leg, the forehead and the palms in the sensitivity range of the photomultiplier showed the major spontaneous emission at 470-570 nm. The central palm area of hand emission showed a larger contribution of the 420-470 nm range in the spectrum of spontaneous emission from the hand in autumn/winter."

Yeah, it's a little dense for a layperson, but the upshot of it seems to be that these light emissions are showing all sorts of variations... but WHY? What's their nature, what's their source, that time of the day and time of the year affect them, and that they vary so much from different parts of the body?

I'll be anxiously awaiting further developments about this topic.


Saturday, October 29, 2005

Odds and ends 


I saw a program on the A&E channel tonight called "The Secret Life of Vampires"; as I'd hoped, it had lots of bits with Don Henrie, the hot vampire from last year's wildest reality series, "Mad, Mad House." There was one other intriguing thing on the show; one of the so-called psychic vampires had described how she causes interference on cell phones, and drains batteries just by being near them... and the next time they tried to film her, they ALLEGEDLY got weird interference in their camera, and ALLEGEDLY their freshly-recharged batteries died. I can't prove if it really happened or was just a stunt in the otherwise serious-seeming documentary, but let's imagine for a moment that it DID happen; what about that woman could have caused it? I've read about this sort of thing on vampire sites, and according to them the reason why it happens is that it's natural for them to be able to absorb energy, electrical as well as psychic; could there be some shred of truth to that? Not necessarily that they're somehow "consuming" the energy, but that they're drawing it to them, or even just doing something to make it dissipate? It should be easy to test, but no scientist will touch a thing like that with a 10-foot pole, so we may never know.

Kudos go out to the folks at Tic Tac for their clever new ads, which I also saw tonight; they've got girls taking several Tic Tacs and using their tongues to balance them in a stack or juggle them, to show how fun and exciting the little mints supposedly are... if there was every anything a girl could do to make sure every man in sight wants her, it's that sort of demonstration of oral dexterity, but alas guys, it's obviously just a special effect.

And speaking of kudos; it was with great pleasure that I heard today that George Takei, who played Sulu in the original "Star Trek," the man who gave me one of the biggest thrills of my early life with that bare-chested scene he did with the sword, came out as gay:

http://www.cnn.com/2005/SHOWBIZ/TV/10/28/people.georgetakei.ap/index.html

I'm so happy for him that he felt able to do this at long last, and I'm also pleased to think that there must be alot of gay scifi fans who're holding their heads up a little higher now (and that goes double for gay Asian kids, who are sadly lacking in role models). As both a lifetime Trek fanatic and supporter of the gay community, I'm thrilled that it turns out that one of the regulars in the greatest scifi series of all times was gay, even if we didn't find out until a few decades later.

And one more bit of fab news; there's going to be a Criss Angel Halloween special!! It's a good thing I was watching A&E tonight, or I'd never have seen the ads for it; I wouldn't want to miss this, especially since they're going to put him in a ... well, I'll leave it as a surprise. Granted that he's sort of in costume year-round, but I still wonder if he's going to dress up, preferably as something that'd truly suit him... maybe as a Chippendale's dancer? I'm going to go and give that idea further consideration... ahhhhhhhhhhh.......


Friday, October 28, 2005

Evil strikes one of my blog friends 


When I went to the site of one of my long-time blog buddies, let's call him Jack, eager as always to see his latest articulate, interesting post, I found instead an announcement that he was abandoning his blog, along with links to vulgar, ugly posts about him on another blog that included links to his site. Stunned, I read back through Jack's posts to see if there was any mention of an issue with that person, or anything they could possibly be reacting to to bring on such vitriol, but none of them contain anything about the other blogger, or anything that could be seen as offensive or belligerent. I forced myself to re-read the semi-literate ravings on the other site, to see if there was some mention of, say, a forum that they both post at, or anything that might indicate that there'd been a fight somewhere else online, or even in real life (they apparently live in the same city), but couldn't find anything. What, then, could be the reason for the nasty posts?

That's a silly question, of course, because evil people do things just for the sheer joy of BEING evil; it was no surprise to me, therefore, to see that nearly every post on that blog was some sort of badmouthing about someone or something, all replete with foul language and 2nd-grade vocabulary. The really damning thing, though, was that they'd gone on at great length portraying Jack as gay, including twisted sexual references, all with the tone that this was a gargantuan insult; although there are probably a tiny % of people who see being gay as wrong who are good folks who've just been misguided, a good person wouldn't make a post like this... and that told me all I needed to know about the character of the blogger.

Let me make clear that I have no idea what Jack's sexual orientation actually is; it's none of my business, and it doesn't make one bit of difference to me either way... really, since I've always had a thing for gay men (as so many women do, for all the obvious reasons), it'd be a point in his favor to me if he WAS gay. What I DO know is that his posts show him to be an intelligent, educated, well-read man, one who's got lots of things to say that are worth reading and thinking about... and there's the answer to the question of why those hateful posts were made-there's nothing a dumb and spiteful person hates more than an intelligent, eloquent one. As is usually the case, there's a group of like-minded people hanging around to laugh uproariously at the blogger's, and each other's, spewings; people like that will egg each other on endlessly when they've targeted someone superior to them, making themselves feel better by dragging that person down.

My heart goes out to Jack, both because he's been abused and because he's had to give up his blog to escape the abuser(s); there's a little bit of comfort in that he's got another blog, a secret one, where he'll continue to post... but only a limited # of people have been told where it is, so that the turds won't find him and start up again. As part of the secrecy, he's asked me to not link to him, and, while of course I've honored his wishes, it's sad that I can't make it possible for others to see what he has to offer. I've also made the decision to not link to his old blog any more even though there are still a few comments being made there, partly because he won't be posting there anymore, but mostly because I don't want to possibly send anyone else into that situation, to build the overblown ego of the one responsible by more people using the links in the final post to go to their blog and see what they wrote.

I don't have the words to express my disgust and dismay at seeing this sort of thing happen online for the 10 billionth time, especially to a blog buddy; I wish Jack all the best with his new blog, and as for the evildoer... KARMA.


Thursday, October 27, 2005

Why do people believe rumors? 


The October 2005 issue of Cosmo has an article called "The Way Nasty Rumors Start"... but 1st, a quick quiz:

Someone at your office tells you that fellow employee X slept with boss Y. Your reaction is:

A) Wow, X slept with Y!!

B) How do you know-did you SEE them?

If you answered A, you're with pretty much everybody else... if you said B, think back to all the rumors you've been told your entire life, and how you actually responded, and re-think your answer.

The sad truth is that we tend to believe anything we're told, especially if we know the teller reasonably well, even if they offer no shred of proof... not that we think to ASK for proof as a rule. We stupidly trust that anyone we know personally would only tell us things they've personally verified to be true, even though we ourselves don't make that sort of effort for the things WE pass along, and we've seen ample evidence that other people don't either... and, we find gossip exciting, and we enjoy things that are mean-spirited at the expense of anyone who's not our dearest loved ones. Yeah, that's harsh, but the way just about everyone behaves proves that it's true.

WHY are we so quick to believe? One reason is that we're taught that where there's smoke, there's fire; evil people in particular depend on that to cast aspersions on others, because they know that even the most crude and transparent lies will ALWAYS cast doubt in the minds of most as to the virtue of the victim. It's not only the evil who start rumors, of course, and this concept works for whoever uses it; someone might see boss Y place her hand on the shoulder of employee X and truly be foolish enough to believe that that means they're having an affair, and when they pass that foolishness along, no matter how pure and honorable X and Y are, people will NEVER be 100% sure that that affair didn't take place.

Another reason we believe is that our culture trains us to be competitive with everyone about everything, from our income down to which brand of athletic shoes we wear, and if we accept that someone we know is guilty of wrongdoing that gives us a feeling of power and superiority over them; human nature is just that petty.

We also believe because of the pack mentality; we see, or assume, that everyone else has been told and bought the story, and we prefer to do what everyone else is doing, and shrink away from being the one to stand up and declare "This isn't right"... because then WE become the subject of disapproval, and are forever after seen as "not really one of us" by our peer group-a terrifying thought to us on an instinctive level.

In the Cosmo article, Ralph Rosnow, PhD, professor emeritus of psychology at Temple University, said, "The driving force behind a rumor is a deep need to figure out the truth. When you feel anxious and uncertain about a lack of info, your mind goes into over-drive filling in all the missing details." I think this is very likely true in many cases when authority figures are up to something that their underlings (kids, students, employees) want to know about but can't ask, and so have to do the best they can with formulating an explanation, but rumors about personal issues don't arise from anxiety or uncertainty, but from the desire to share a juicy story, and if it hurts people that's jut too bad (or may even be the point).

The article also describes the various ways you can judge the accuracy of the source, which are all obvious things like, "Is this a person who's likely to be in the know about this?"; I think that any marginally intelligent adult can do a decent analysis of which people are likely to have crucial info and be honest about how they pass it along... the problem is that no one DOES that analysis, or thinks any aspect of the rumor through. Someone can say, "John and Jane have a bondage dungeon in their basement," and people go "WOW, who thought they were such perverts?" rather than "Wait a minute, what proof is there that this person was ever in John and Jane's house? Why should we believe any supposedly secret info they tell us about John and Jane?".

A more important point the article makes is another of the basic truths that every evil person knows; if you present a tiny crumb of truth with a lie, people are pathetically willing to believe the most horrific stories based on virtually anything. The example given is, "When you see a photo of two celebrities kissing... reporters assign it meaning-such as 'Did they elope?-which you in turn believe because you have the photographic proof. The thought process is 'I saw it with my own eyes, therefore it must be true.'" I've read many articles about how witnesses to crimes are often wildly wrong about what they saw, and in general our recollections are far less accurate than we think, so seeing some little thing shouldn't lead to us feeling secure in shooting our mouths off to begin with... with the wider issue being that there tend to be many possible interpretations of a little bit of info, and there's just no excuse to latch onto one and pass it along as factual.

A grim truth about rumors is "Regardless of whether or not a rumor is true, the more it's repeated, the more credibility it earns, and the power it holds over its intended target increases." Evil people are all over this concept; they'll tell every person within the peer group, knowing that those people will in turn all talk to each other about it, and every time it's mentioned, the listeners wrongly chalk up one more point in favor of the story, and against the victim... why this is so even when everyone KNOWS that they all got the story from the same person is beyond me, but I've seen it both in real life and on forums-again, everyone seems to think, based on nothing, that the others have all independently verified the story. The explanation given is "Our brains are structured to learn by rote, that is, to remember via repetition"; that's probably true, but I maintain that it's not an excuse.

If it's YOU that the office whispers are about, what should you do? "Surprisingly, while instinct might tell you to refute a false accusation emphatically and repeatedly, desperation to clear your rep may actually reinforce the rumor. 'No amount of denial will put a rumor to rest,' says Levin. 'In fact, the more you "doth protest," the more guilty you will appear.' By cornering everyone... to ensure them that you're innocent... you 'unwittingly perpetuate the rumor by keeping it on everyone's mind'... the more frequently a rumor is repeated, the more credible it becomes." Evil people are of course counting on this one, too, because it's natural for the outraged victims to squawk in protest; the refusal of onlookers to believe the victims, although they were quick to believe the accusers, is a sad comment on human nature, and one of those things that I'll never understand, as I personally will always believe the victim unless VERY convincing evidence says otherwise. The recommended strategy for the victim is "Simply refuse to comment on trivial trash talk by saying once and only once, 'That's ridiculous-and you know it.'" When the people discussing the rumor don't know you well enough to judge what you would or wouldn't really do, I'm guessing that, "Have you been shown any proof? If not, why would you believe a story like that?" would be the best bet.

Where the stakes are really high, like if it could cost you your job, they suggest "Appeal to the most socially-connected person you know and tell them your side of the story. You need credibility on your side to set the record straight, and people will be quick to accept the word of a leader as the truth." Yeah, that's IF they aren't buddies with the rumor-mongers, IF they believe you, IF they consider you worth sticking their neck out for, and IF they truly have that level of power over everyone else... still, in some situations it's probably worth a shot.

What's MY advice? First, make a vow to yourself that you'll never, EVER, give knee-jerk belief to a rumor again, that you'll demand proof (and show some common sense as to what constitutes proof, especially online), AND make it clear to the other people involved that proof is necessary. Second, pass along to everyone you know the importance of them doing these things, and passing it along to everyone THEY know. And finally, when the day comes that YOU are the potential victim, keep your cool, and say, "Here's a perfect example of how nonsense gets passed around without any proof-it's a good thing that we all know better than to believe this sort of stuff." (Needless to say, you have to have done the 1st 2 things for the 3rd to work.)

"Rumor psychology" is one of a sadly long list of examples of how we let ourselves be fooled by, and eagerly assist in the wrongdoings of, the troublemakers of the world; luckily, this is an easy one to combat... what will YOU do about it?


Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The karma and souls of animals 


I've always believed that at least some animals have souls, probably many, possibly most, and theoretically all, but the only thought I gave to it was about what you'd look for in a creature, such as the ability to feel love and loyalty, that would suggest the presence of a soul, not about where the energy for those souls might come from... and now, at long last, I'm thinking about it.

Some animals are obviously capable of emotion, and many are capable of thought to various degrees, so the same creation of soul from thought and feeling that applies to humans would apply to them, while leaving lower creatures with no more soul than a rock of the same size would have due to the principles of animism... which is to say, almost none. However, my post of a couple of days ago, in which I discussed how the energy from the electrical impulses that travel along our nerves, since it can't be destroyed, must become part of karma, and possibly of the soul as well, led to me thinking about how animals, down to a very primitive level, have electrical impulses in their bodies too... so whatever effect those impulses have on us, karmically speaking, they should have on them as well.

If it's true that those impulses build the soul, which I haven't been able to build a conclusive argument for or against yet, would that mean that a big creature, such as an elephant or whale, would have a much bigger soul than a cat or a dog... or a human? Size doesn't imply spiritual depth, of course, but it seems like it'd have to mean something given the enormous spectrum of body mass of soul-bearing creatures; I'll be giving alot of thought to WHAT.

Whether or not they join the soul, the impulses have to be joining karma... but does that affect the animals in any way, in other words do animals HAVE karma? If an animal is bad-tempered, aggressive, hurtful (I don't mean in the "it's cruel but it's nature's way" sense, I mean because it has an unpleasant personality), does that bring it bad karma the way that analogous behavior would in a human... and if so, what form does bad karma, or for that matter good karma, take for an animal, if it does exist? Would it receive a heightened awareness of the location of food, water, predators, and shelter, and attract better mates, if it's a sweet-tempered member of its species, and the opposite if it's a badly behaving animal?

There's no way for me to examine the lives of creatures in the wild to try to determine the answers to any of these questions the way I can for humans, so they're going to have to just be food for thought for now as well; it's frustrating, but in the realm of spiritual truths, coming up with the questions is valuable even if you don't have the answers, so I'm pleased to have increased my scope of inquiry if not my level of understanding.


Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Mirror mirror 


Can you remember at what point in your childhood you started hanging around watching your parents do housework and maintenance tasks, eager to be allowed to help, which eventually led to your having some of those tasks assigned to you? In MY family, it was a different story; my mother plowed through life assuming that no one could do anything right but her, and in particular that *I* couldn't do anything (other than schoolwork) right, and I had no desire to hang around either her or my father, so I didn't get involved out of eagerness to help, and thus the official passing on of the chores never happened. I guess, looking back, that neither of them ever thought to go and drag me out of my room to stand there watching them do anything, and when the standard time for kids to be taught and assigned chores came and went they were so used to handling all the menial tasks of the household and property themselves that it never occurred to them that they'd skipped a step... or rather, an additional step, since they'd also missed the "form a bond with your child" step, but that's a whole other essay. My mother did make a few efforts throughout the years to have me do tasks, though:

She made one attempt in my early childhood that I can recall; she was putting fresh sheets on my bed, and said, "Let's see if you can tuck this blanket in." After a protracted struggle, due to it being bigger than I could comfortably manipulate, and my mother giving endless and confusing instructions, the blanket was on; she said, "Very good... that'll be your job from now on." I was only about 6 at the time, but I learned the lesson well; any new thing I demonstrated that I could do around the house would lead to my being permanently stuck with an unpleasant task... and any chance of my ever voluntarily doing anything died forever at that moment, while my mother was gloating over having tricked a little kid. Her triumph ended up being short-lived, as I never got any better at putting on the blanket, and she quickly tired of having to spend 15 minutes standing over me giving instructions and watching me struggle when she could do it in 15 seconds, so she went back to doing it herself... and I wasn't given the responsibility of putting the sheets and blankets on my bed until I was an adult.

When I was a little older, she decided I should dust a room; when I was done, she declared that the room looked dustier than before I'd done it (I kid you not), and that was the end of that... and she had to re-dust the room herself in the bargain. The few other times she thought to have me do it, a reminder of her previous analysis, and that she'd have to dust anyways, would get her to drop it.

When I reached my teens, she tried having me do the vacuuming; again, she stood there giving instructions, and it quickly became clear that there were only 2 ways I could be doing it in her eyes-not getting close enough to the furniture, and hitting the furniture. Although I never actually hit anything with the vacuum cleaner, she'd lunge repeatedly at whatever I was near and insist that every dent or scratch she could find, all of which were old ones from our various moves, was due to me... and of course pointing out that they WERE old damage, and that she was repeatedly claiming that the same old marks were new, cut no ice. As she was unwilling to either let me near the furniture unsupervised, or to let me just vacuum the center of the room and do the edges herself, that task went back to her as well; once a year or so she'd decide I should do it, but when I sweetly inquired whether she wanted the center of the room done or to get hysterical over the old dings in the furniture, she'd stalk off and do it herself.

And finally, her finest moment; the mirror. Out of the blue one day, she decided that I should clean the bathroom mirror; I was given a full bottle of Windex and a paper towel, and she marched off to do whatever she was up to in her room. I'd never seen a mirror being cleaned in person, but I'd seen it on TV, so, although the mirror looked spotless to me (and probably was, as my mother's firm belief was that something didn't have to have one speck of visible dirt on it to require cleaning), I did what I'd seen in the ads; sprayed the Windex on and wiped it off. When I told my mother I was done, she came charging into the bathroom, announced that it was NOT clean, demanded, "Do it again" and took off. I sprayed, wiped, and called her back in; she gave the same order. So I tried again. And again. And again. Finally, even I could see some white smears on the glass, which was puzzling as I was sure they hadn't been there before, but I couldn't seem to get rid of them; every few minutes, my mother came back to bark with manic glee, "Do it again!! Do it again!!" The glass got cloudier and cloudier, and I sprayed more and more Windex to try to battle this growing mess, but to no avail... until finally, my mother took more than a cursory glance at the mirror, saw that it was SOLID WHITE, and shrieked, "Look what you've done to this mirror!!"

I, with my arms, shoulders and back screaming from all the unaccustomed stretching and exertion, and feeling very much like Sisyphus (even though I don't think I knew who he was at that age), shrieked back; "What do you mean what I'VE done? I've done exactly what you've told me to do, over and over and over!! If there's something wrong, it's because of YOU!!" Her reply was, "This mirror is totally coated-I'm going to have to bring in hot water and a scouring pad and SCRUB it to get all of this off!!" to which my rejoinder was, "You should have thought about that 10 cleanings ago, BEFORE it got this bad." She couldn't deny that, so, as usual, she switched to cursing me and loudly proclaiming my utter worthlessness to distract attention from her culpability, and told me to get out as she stormed past to fetch what she needed from the kitchen, pausing only to berate me for having used ("wasted") nearly an entire bottle of Windex... my response, that it was all used by HER orders, got her switched back to general abusive mode with no further attention to the details. She ranted on and on, not just while scraping the mirror clean but for hours afterwards; she'd finally dried up a little while before my father got home, but as always she got a 2nd wind when he appeared, and rushed to tell him all about it so that we'd have another round of frenzy on the subject... but she forgot that, although evil, he was bright enough to grasp the facts, and those facts pointed to HER being at fault. Their discussion of this topic, which I heard clearly from upstairs, was:


Her: I had to spend an hour scouring the mirror in her bathroom with hot water because she got it all coated.
Him: What did she coat it WITH?
Her: Windex.
Him: What sort of an idiot are you, that you "scoured" a mirror to get some streaks off of it?
Her: It wasn't streaks, it was solid white.
Him: Get outta here, that's impossible!!
Her: No it's not; she wasted an entire bottle of Windex on that mirror.
Him: How could she possibly use an entire bottle of Windex on one mirror?
Her: Because she had to clean it so many times.
Him: WHY did she have to clean it so many times?
Her: Because she wasn't getting it clean.
Him: And you told her to clean the mirror so many times that she used up an entire bottle of Windex?
Her: Yes, she's stupid, and wasn't cleaning it right.
Him: Did you show her how to do it right?
Her: No, I didn't show her anything.
Him: Did you TELL her how to do it right?
Her: No, I just told her to clean it.
Him: And when you SAW that she hadn't done it right, what did you do?
Her: I told her to do it again.
Him: You didn't correct what she was doing?
Her. No.
Him: Why not?
Her: Because I was trying to get her to do it right.
Him: How was she going to do it right when you didn't TELL her how to do it right?
Her: All she had to do was spray and wipe; how was I supposed to know she was never going to figure out how to do it properly?
Him: Because you're supposed to be the goddamned ADULT, and when a child is doing something the wrong way you're supposed to tell them the RIGHT way.
Her: It's perfectly simple, all she had to do was...
Him: I heard you the first time, and if it was so simple how did the mirror end up white?
Her: Well, I don't know, but...
Him: What do you mean you don't KNOW, you don't know that Windex has that little bit of wax in it to make the glass shiny, and that that's what was building up on the mirror?
Her: Of course I do, but she was doing it wrong...
Him: And you stood there and watched her use up a whole bottle of Windex and cover the mirror with wax?
Her: No, I was in our room watching the...
Him: You mean you didn't even watch her one time to see what she was doing wrong?
Her: No, I just kept telling her to do it again.
Him: And you never noticed that the entire bottle of Windex was getting used up?
Her: No, but...
Him: And it never occurred to you that once the wax buildup was visible on the mirror she couldn't GET it clean by spraying on MORE wax?
Her: {silence}
Him: So you just kept telling her to spray more and more Windex on the mirror until it was white?
Her: {silence}
Him: WELL?
Her: Yes, but...
Him: But nothing!! YOU'RE the one who's stupid here!! Some goddamned adult you are, having a frigging kid spend all afternoon and a whole bottle of Windex and not even get the mirror clean!!
Her: I wanted her to learn how to do it!!
Him: All she learned was how to waste Windex, and that her mother's a moron.
Her: She was being stupid...
Him: I told you that YOU were being stupid!! You were too stupid to figure out that the mirror was getting covered in wax, so how did you expect HER to figure it out?
Her: Well who would have thought that she couldn't clean a mirror properly without being told how?
Him: Everyone has some streaks to wipe off after using Windex; all you had to do was tell her to do that, rather than telling her to spray on MORE wax like a frigging idiot.
Her: I wanted her to figure it out herself.
Him: She's not SUPPOSED to "figure out" how to do the tasks she's given, you're supposed to give her instructions and she carries them out; you don't just give her a task and then go watch TV. From now on, if you want her to do a task, you tell her EXACTLY how to do it, and then you stay there and monitor her and correct her errors BEFORE she makes some sort of mess, got it?
Her: I don't have time to tell her every little thing and then stand around watching her do it.
Him: Then you just do it yourself, rather than having her waste all afternoon on something that you could have done in 20 seconds and then wasting YOUR time fixing whatever she screwed up; I don't EVER want to hear that you pulled a stupid stunt like this again!!
Her: {unintelligible mutterings followed by her footsteps on the stairs that told me that she'd flounced away from him}


It wasn't often that he didn't blame everything on me as a matter of course, but in that instance her choosing to get her jollies by telling me "Do it again" over and over and OVER instead of handling the situation in any of the several ways that a mature adult might deal with a child that doesn't know how to properly do a task, and continuing with it to the point that the results already described were allowed to happen, was so excruciatingly stupid that he had no choice but to blame HER.

That was all the mirror-cleaning I did until I got married and moved out many years later; as with the vacuuming, every so often she'd decide I should do it, and I'd ask her if she was in the mood to scrub glass that day... and she'd do it herself. She never did tell me the correct way to clean glass, by the way, I just grasped from what I'd overheard my father saying that I should've gotten a dry paper towel and wiped down the mirror with it once the first hint of white appeared... did I mention that I went through that bottle of Windex with ONE soggy paper towel because that's all she'd given me, lol?

Why didn't my mother ever take 2 minutes to demonstrate glass-cleaning, or any other task, to me so that when she wanted to have me do it I could have in fact done it? I think the main reason was that she truly believed that I wasn't CAPABLE of doing it, because she told me many times that when I had a home of my own I'd be unable to clean it, and making these sorts of dire predictions about my life gave her more joy than passing along some of the housework to me ever would have.

Yes, she's a psycho, and my father was worse, but the upshot of this particular aspect of my childhood is actually positive; unlike virtually every other kid, *I* didn't have to do chores... and considering how unpleasant I've since discovered housework to be, that's a BIG positive. Is that why the mirror story came back to me today, because karma wanted to lead me into seeing that? Maybe, or maybe it was just some random synapse firing that did it; in any case, it can only be good to have a + realization about my childhood, right?


Monday, October 24, 2005

Do the exertions of the body affect karma? 


This idea came to me today as I was pushing myself through 1500 crunches (and that's not a typo, I'm proud to say); does your body produce any of your karma, and/or does it affect how much or what sort of karma your brain's producing based on how your body feels (tired, energetic, hungry, full, etc)? When you move around, energy is used up, and more energy is radiated in the form of heat... but what about the electrical impulses that are constantly racing back and forth between your muscles and your brain? Energy can't be destroyed, so does that mean that those impulses become karma... wouldn't it HAVE to? And does that karma radiate away like heat, or does it become part of your soul like your thoughts and emotions do? Does it fuel the engine of karma, and thus potentially influence events in some way, however trivial, or is it as meaningless karmically as the drifting of dust motes?

Does muscular exertion produce positive, negative or neutral karma? Natural bodily activity seems at 1st like it'd have to be either neutral, because there are no "bad" emotions or thoughts to taint it, or + because life might be inherently positive, but think about it; if your muscles are hurting as you exercise, or are sore afterwards, wouldn't that mean you're releasing NEGATIVE energy, since the messages carried by your nerves are ones of pain? BUT, what if you're one of those hard-core exercisers who exults in reaching the point where your muscles start to hurt; would that make it positive karma, or a mixture of + and -... and which is stronger, or at least more plentiful, karma from your brain or karma from your body?

Exercise is good for your health, which sounds like good karma, and is supposed to improve the levels of various brain chemicals, which also sounds good, but most of us hate it, which sounds bad... or are only our emotions bad, and the karma from muscular exertion still good, and is the final tally + or -? If you exercise until you're exhausted, is that karmically bad, and does it reduce the flow of karma from your weary body and brain? If you get an exercise high, does that produce good karma, and is it strong enough to counteract the pain of your muscles which is still radiating negative karma even if your brain's feeling no pain?

It wouldn't have to be just exercising that creates karma, either, because logically even the slightest movement requires, and generates, nerve impulses and thus karma; even if you're holding still, your internal organs are doing brisk business, necessitating nerve impulses and thus creating karma.... so, if you're sick, injured, in pain, drunk, hungry, or anything else that causes your body to react in different ways, does that affect your karma? Could the "bad luck" that plagues people with illnesses and injuries be caused, not just by the negative thoughts and emotions engendered by their conditions, but by negative karma coming directly from the affected area(s) of their bodies?

This is the sort of thing that freezes a spiritual seeker to the spot; you look around, and you realize that every single thing, EVERY single thing, that you do, every action of your body, whether undertaken by conscious choice OR an automatic function, whether or not you're even aware of it, could be having a tiny but non-zero influence on your soul, your karma, and how your future shapes up... so what are you supposed to do? I tend to tap my pen; is that nervous habit bad karma? If I meditate and relax my muscles, is that good karma? If I'm doubled over with hunger pangs, is that bad? If I eat raw veggies, and flood my body with nutrients, is that good?

I'm going to pry my mental fingers off of this idea for now, or I'll be second-guessing myself all day and end up paralyzed; eventually, though, I'm going to have to give heavy thought to this "karma from the body" concept... gulp...


Sunday, October 23, 2005

2 brilliant commercials 


The overwhelming majority of ads on TV are dumb, insipid, or at best vaguely entertaining, but today I saw 2 impressive exceptions:

In the 1st one, there was a big Mitsubishi truck that was facing off with some other kind of truck, and when it lurched at the "challenger" the latter presumably sprung a leak underneath, which made it look like it was urinating in fear. I don't usually find excretory function humor amusing, but I think having a truck simulate it was a stroke of genius... and VERY funny.

The 2nd one had an odd bit of synchronicity to it; I saw a movie earlier in the evening in which a man writes on the bathroom mirror with his finger, so that when his girlfriend turns on the shower the steam shows the message, and in the ad this concept was used too... but far more cleverly. We're in a bathroom looking at a glass shower stall with the form of a man semi-visible through it, and steam is starting to cling to the glass; we see what's obviously a human form taking shape, and you can't tell what the deal is at first, but then it becomes clear... the outline of buttocks and long hair, paired with the handprints on either side of the head, make it clear what took place up against the glass recently. The ad is for Axe Shower Gel, and the tagline is "How dirty boys get clean"; it's not news to anyone that sex sells, but this is the cleverest take on it that I've seen in a while.

You know what the truly astonishing thing is? These commercials were better done and more memorable than any of the actual TV shows I saw tonight; how scary is THAT?


Saturday, October 22, 2005

2 of my favorite things in 1 day 


Cool tech stuff and cute animal behavior are among the things that make me happiest; they look sort of bizarre written down together, but there it is. The tech thing for today is a new Flash clock, the cleverest I've seen so far; when I found it on a blog, I got the URL from the source code and saw something new; the URL had parameters built into it, and when I altered one I found that I had in fact altered the appearance of the clock... WOW!! The version I saw of it on the blog was tiny and had muted colors; here's my version

http://moo-t.up.seesaa.net/swf/timeRain.swf?linecolor=0xff1493&numcolor=0xccff66&backcolor=0x000000&backalpha=84

Slick, isn't it? I was already planning where to put it in my sidebar, when I remembered to check how much of the CPU it was using; as you probably guessed since I mentioned it, it was using WAY too much to burden my blog with it, out of consideration for those with older or slower machines for whom my many scripts are probably already problematic, so I won't be able to add it in... but I saved both the URL and the file itself for possible future use, because you never know.

For those whose site users are all high-tech types with fast computers, here's the easy way to get whatever version of this clock you want for your own site, complete with the code to insert it

http://moo-t.up.seesaa.net/swf/tagMaker_timeRain_tag.html

The cute critter behavior today was with the possum boy and girl; she was eating on the patio, and he showed up and started sniffing all around her (with emphasis on her little bottom, of course) and cozying up to her... he scared her a little a couple of times, making her take a few steps away, but each time she came back and started eating nose to nose with him again. They looked sweet together, but there was more to it this time than just communal eating; at some signal between them that I didn't see, they took off TOGETHER... utterly amazing, since what I've read has said that possums are solitary creatures except for that short time during mating season where for obvious reasons they have to associate together, and mating season isn't until spring.

I'm hoping with every cell in my body that the little female hasn't gone into heat at this insane time of the year due to some hormone imbalance or something, because I can't imagine that babies could survive the cold weather; that doesn't seem likely, luckily, and that leaves me to conclude that the unusual situation of them coming to the same spot every night and eating unlimited food has allowed them to... fall in love? Whatever the right term to describe it is, it was wonderful to see; I feel privileged to be able to view wild animals interacting at such close range. :-)


Friday, October 21, 2005

What our thoughts about roses say about human nature 


One of the recurring themes of this blog is how illogical much of human nature is, that I'm aware of it but don't understand it, and how many ways I differ from a "normal" person. There are 2 comments I've heard many times regarding roses, of all things, that illustrate this:

1) "We value roses so much because we know they'll die soon, and we only have their beauty for a short time."

To me, this is a reason to value roses LESS, verging on not at all; my husband, who to his everlasting credit buys me flowers regularly, is under strict orders to NEVER buy me roses, because they don't last worth a darn... why spend more for less, when there are far less pricey flowers that last for 5X as long? With me, the value of a thing with a limited lifespan is judged in part on how long it lasts; the flowers I like best are the ones that live the longest, like carnations, and roses are on the complete other end of the spectrum, under "worth it only if they came free from someone's bush."

2) "It's a good thing that roses have thorns, because it reminds us that there's pain as part of life, and that makes them more precious."

How STUPID would a person have to be to not be able to remember that there's pain in life except when a rose's thorn pricks them? I refuse to battle thorns, so if we're given roses by a neighbor I have my husband break all of them off before I arrange them; there are no life lessons waiting for ME if I puncture a finger.

This ties into the wider concept of how people generally prefer a thing to not be all sweetness and light, how whether it's a lover's personality, the decor of living room, or an outfit, if there's no "edge" it's seen as dull, boring, stodgy and bland; that's always seemed nuts to me, as I don't like "edges," inconsistencies or surprises... I place the highest value on things that are uniformly nice, and am put off by every element of "un-niceness" that to other people is interesting and exciting.

If this were a scifi movie instead of a blog, at this point I'd have some sort of accident that'd peel up a flap of my skin and reveal machinery underneath...


Thursday, October 20, 2005

I saved a bird!! :-) 


I was still reeling from having failed in my attempts to save a baby bird last week, but I was triumphant today:

I heard a BANG against the kitchen window, and knew that a bird had flown into it; it happens alot, and normally they bounce right off and fly away, but this time, a few seconds after the bang, I heard a piercing avian shriek. Alarmed, I lunged for the blinds, yanked them open... and saw a little tweetie lying motionless on the air conditioner, with a HAWK standing over it!!

"Get away from him, you evil bird!!" I yelled, banging the glass; the arrogant creature flapped to the fence a few feet away and stared at me challengingly. I screamed for my husband, thinking that the victim might have to be euthanized if it wasn't already dead (that's HIS job-I could never do it), and frantically fumbled with the locks so that I could rip the door open and run to chase off the hawk and check out the tweetie. I looked him over anxiously; there was no sign of wounds, no blood, but his head was at enough of an angle that I was afraid his neck was broken. I carefully picked him up, and checked him over; his wings and legs were normal-looking, and he was able to move his head around, so I told my husband, who by that time was hovering in the doorway, that the bird was just stunned... what a relief!!

We speculated on what had happened; had the hawk showed up in the patio area and scared the bird into flying into the window in its panic, had he actually made some sort of effort to chase the bird (something that's not normal hunting behavior for a hawk), or had the bird just crashed into the window on its own and the hawk had been nearby and had come over to grab a free meal? However it occurred, it was lucky that the tweetie was laying there motionless, because landing next to an unmoving prey item and picking it up is NOT what a hawk's programmed to do, and that obviously made it hesitate; the hawk only needed an instant to grab the bird and fly away, but it was standing there looking at it instead, and because I just happened to be in that room at the right time to hear its call, that little bit of hesitation was all I needed to intervene.

When the bird shifted position in my hands a little, I figured it was ready to try to fly; I petted his little head (he could easily have pecked me, but didn't), opened my hands... and he flew swiftly and smoothly away.

HOORAY!! :-)


Wednesday, October 19, 2005

What makes a person "good"? 


Three days ago, I posted the following:

"how can we truly have 'good' if we don't have 'evil' against which it battles? And if there's no actual good and evil... then what?"

Since then, I've mulled it over alot, and part of what I've come up with is that it's HARD to give a definition of a "good" person that stands up to merciless argument.

Let's start out with the idea, held by pretty much everyone, that an animal can't be morally good or bad/evil because it's not making choices as to its actions with an awareness of right and wrong; it seems reasonable to me to get from this concept that whatever animals DO can't be morally good or bad, and thus that anything that could be seen as a natural animal behavior couldn't be counted for or against the most advanced animal, US, from a moral standpoint. I know, we supposedly civilized people have decided that many natural behaviors are immoral and bad, but I'll save that for a post on what's wrong/bad; figuring out what's "good" is hard enough.

Do you refer to anyone who's pleasant most of the time as a good person? How about someone who's quiet and inoffensive? The former is part of getting along with the pack, which is instinctive animal behavior, and the latter applies to many serial killers and so has nothing whatsoever to do with being good; it's part of how we gain the approval of others, and even scumbags generally want approval, if only to make it easy for them to misbehave.

How about sweet, warm, loving people, the kind it's easiest to see as "good"? Conscious choice and effort have to be involved to make something "morally good," and there's no choice or effort involved in being sweet, warm and loving if that's your nature, so that does NOT qualify a person as "good."

Are those who work and sacrifice for their kids, partners and families "good"? That's basic animal behavior... and plenty of rotten people do it.

Does making donations to charity make a person good? Most of the politicians and cutthroat business types that you hold in contempt donate plenty to charity, and in general giving some of what you've got more than you need doesn't automatically prove goodness.

What about people who REALLY give of their time, energy and $ to help others and do virtuous deeds, are they "good"? I can imagine the howls of protest, but... they're doing it because they want to, and because it makes them FEEL good, and is that really objectively morally better than anything else we do because we want to, and that makes us feel good? (I know the OUTCOME is better, but that's a different thing entirely.)

What about those who dedicate themselves to serving their deity, or living in a totally spiritual way? Even excluding certain Catholic priests... again, we have people doing what they want, what feels best to them (and trust me when I say that sinking into spirituality can feel VERY good), so, although people of this sort generally adhere to a strict moral code, avoiding whatever one's culture sees as bad behavior doesn't mean a person is good, or else every prisoner serving a life sentence for heinous crimes who does their time without egregious misbehavior would get to be called "good."

If goodness exists as a distinct human quality, it'd have to be something beyond animal instinct, taking action to gain approval, doing what we want or not being too naughty... but WHAT?

How about heroes like police officers, firefighters, and our military; is being a hero the same as being good? As I know from personal experience (my father is a Vietnam vet), you can risk your life for your community or country, and still be a despicable creature once you get home to your family, so... no.

What about people whose total focus is to fight evil, just because it IS evil and so to them is worth any effort to eradicate, even if it makes their lives miserable, even if they get DISapproval for it (we all too often coddle and cherish charismatic evildoers in this country, after all), even if it turns them into grim loners who can't manage loving relationships or lighthearted moments, as can happen with, for example, those most passionately dedicated cops who live and breathe the hunt for child molesters and serial killers... in the movies, we see them as "the good guys," but are these individuals, who are so different than the warm, sweet types we normally think of as good people, actually GOOD?

I think we can say yes... but then we're back to the original concept, that if there's no evil, there's no good either, because it eliminates our only category of inarguably good people.

This line of thought freaks me out, because like you I was raised in a culture where everything is permeated with the ideas of good and evil, with the certainty that they exist and aren't just labels we slap onto what we do or don't like, that they can be recognized and described... but when you look hard at it, all of that melts away. The feeling that produces in me is the cold, empty, "hanging over the abyss" one that's familiar to many intense spiritual seekers; being actively spiritual is sometimes uncomfortable, because the very foundations of what we believe to be reality, that we subconsciously count on to feel secure, can end up being as insubstantial as mist... and the more we seek the more mist we find, which can be scary.

And yet, I'm compelled to take another step into that mist...


Tuesday, October 18, 2005

A very happy day 


Why? Because:

1) For the 1st time EVER, I saw 2 hummingbirds using the feeder at the same time; contrary to the pics on the packages of nectar, not only will they not normally share the feeder, but when 2 are anywhere near it there's either a chase or a fight.

2) My precious possum boy, who scared us out of our wits by not coming to eat last night for the 1st time in months, showed up tonight, and grinned toothily in at me as he ate, so we know he's not sick or hurt.

3) Check my sidebar. :-)

Ahhhhhhhhhhhh, I love getting new sidebar doodads; technically, this was an alteration of an existing doodad, but it was still thoroughly enjoyable (I know, I'm easily amused). My blog surfing turned up a site with some funny stuff in their bottom margin; when I saw that the name of my city was part of it, I brought up the source code and found... a script calling the site whose code I was already using for my old welcome message. Eagerly, crossing my fingers that this wasn't a new PAY service, I went to that site, found where they had the free scripts

http://geoup.com/GeoPhrase.htm

and discovered that they'd added some new options since I'd been there last, including one that just generated the name of the city of the visitor, so that the user could choose their own phrasing for a message and have their reader's city incorporated into it (be aware that if you're in some parts of Africa or Asia you may get a wildly wrong city shown for you, and if you're using AOL it may show you as somewhere in Virginia no matter where you actually are). And then came the hard part; deciding what my new message should be.

I'll admit, I spent a little time envisioning how porn and sex sites could use this script to make messages that would titillate their visitors, like "I'd like to 'date' someone from (your city)," "I'd like to get nasty on my webcam for someone in (your city)," "I'd like to be beaten with a rubber chicken by someone who lives in (your city)," etc (I hope the rubber chicken fetishists won't all boycott me now). When I got serious, I floundered around trying to find a new way to welcome people that wouldn't sound as stilted as the old message; finally, I decided to say something other than a trite welcome, and immediately came up with several messages that I liked... "I'm sending good karma to you in (your city)," which is the tamest of them but well-suited to my blog, is the one I'm using as of now, and the other ones will take its place over time when I get into a wilder mood, or feel the need for a change.

Isn't technology FUN?


Monday, October 17, 2005

Are the spirit and the soul different things? 


My buddy Gary Bourque put up a post on his terrific blog about just this topic

http://bothworlds.typepad.com/both_worlds/2005/10/the_difference_.html

and it was a real rush to have a new spiritual question handed to me for the 2nd day in a row after the long dry spell, especially since this was another concept that was totally new to me. Check this out:

"We have a body for contacting the physical world. We have a soul for contacting the psychological world and where our natural self originates. And we have a spirit for contacting God, who is a spirit, and where our spiritual life, our life which is 'hidden with Christ in God,' resides."

And here's a little more detail about what the soul would include:

"Soul in the Bible thus refers to our psychological being, our mind, emotion and will, our ego, our self."

Christian references aside, this had the ring of truth to me, which is important to pay attention to in spiritual matters as it's your subconscious mind trying to tell you what it knows. My view of the soul (I usually use "spirit" to refer to a ghost) has been that it's created by the energy of thought and feeling, aka the energy of karma; I hadn't tried to pin down exactly where the soul began, which is actually an important thing to do... and I'd have to say that it starts inside the brain where the thoughts and feelings are generated, as opposed to the more standard view of all of it floating outside our heads. Now here's the kicker; what part of this overlapping brain/soul deal is connected to the spiritual world (aka the tapestry of karma)? We know the brain can send out karmic energy, but can it perceive it? If not, that means that the soul must be taking in "mystical perceptions" (such as precognition and telepathy); the brain both sending and receiving would be the simplest setup, though, and thus satisfy Occam's Razor... but is simplicity the ultimate deciding factor in this case? After all, in the human body we tend to have multiple organs (and other bits and pieces) that work together in systems, and that suggests that, to be consistent, if we have a physical brain and a cloud of energy that are hooked into each other, that forms a system, and each part of a system does something... so maybe the brain sends and the soul receives? If that's the way it works, you could properly say that the energy cloud part of the soul is the "spiritual" part... and then you have essentially what Gary described, minus the involvement of God; a collection "personal energy," some of which is just your "self," and some of which is an extension of the self that's tied into karma.

Do those different portions of the soul need separate names, though? Could they be instead like hair, with an external part and a "root" that are distinct but seen as parts of the same thing rather than as 2 different things, because, as with the soul, the internal part produces the external part? There are important reasons from a Christian perspective to see the soul and spirit as totally distinct (Gary describes them in detail), but from a metaphysical standpoint I don't thing there's any real need to give different names to "soul in the brain as part of the self" and "soul floating around outside the brain/body"... but that doesn't reduce the importance of realizing that these 2 categories EXIST, and of making me contemplate how karma circulates in the "soul system," so a big thanks goes out to Gary for this new insight!! :-)


Sunday, October 16, 2005

The truth about lying? 


Have you ever wondered what the deal is with liars, why some folks apparently feel it necessary to stay as far from the truth as possible, not even because it's going to get them anything but because they just seem to enjoy doing it? My friend Fredette, whose excellent blog is here

http://eyesforlies.blogspot.com/

posted a link to an article

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/4293520.stm

that provided some astonishing insights:


"A University of Southern California team studied 49 people and found those known to be pathological liars had up to 26% more white matter than others.

White matter transmits information and grey matter processes it. Having more white matter in the prefrontal cortex may aid lying, the researchers said."

"The findings could not be explained by differences in age, ethnicity, IQ, head injury or substance misuse.

This is the first study to show a brain difference in people who lie, cheat and manipulate others, the researchers said."


WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT? Their brains are physically different? :-O

That really shocked me (could you tell, lol?), but it shouldn't have, as they've been discovering structural, chemical and electrical differences in the brains of people with all kinds of mental departures from the norm for years... why should this be any different? We think of lying as a choice, and in general it is, but there are many things that people with, for example, depression say and do that would be choices for most people but are truly beyond their ability to exert their will over... they're swept along by their natures just like the rest of us mostly are, it's just that their natures are different in unfortunate ways.

So, could lying be a person's nature too, right down in the physical part of the brain, so that we'd have to cut them a great deal of slack to be fair, just as we would for someone with a so-called "mental illness"? The very thought galls me right down to my soul, because I have nothing but contempt for liars, and for those who persist in enabling and supporting their dishonesty, but... if it truly ends up that some liars are compelled to lie, yes, we're going to have to start taking a step back when we encounter liars and try to sort out if there's actually evil intent or not. My next thought was something like, "Then again, we've known for a long time that we should be understanding and accepting of the behavior of depressives, and they're still universally looked down on and spurned, so good luck to the liars," but the sad reality is that people already treat liars better than they do depressives, so there's no real comparison possible. {sigh}

They can't tell us anything that allows us to judge the true culpability of liars yet, of course, but here's how it's summed up in the article:

"Dr Cosmo Hallstrom, a consultant psychiatrist in London, said: 'The issue is always how much of our behaviour is under voluntary control and how much is innate.

'The finding of brain abnormalities lends weight to the idea that a strong component of such difficulties may well be beyond voluntary control at least in part.'"

In case you're a little dubious that cause and effect is actually going on here, it turns out that they've verified that people with the opposite proportions of white and gray matter provide a mirror-image result:

"The findings are in line with previous studies which showed children with autism are less capable of lying than other children.

Brain neurodevelopmental studies of autism show people with the condition have more grey matter than white matter - the opposite pattern to the liars in this study."


This topic ties into a bigger one; what is the nature of evil? Does evil even exist as a separate human quality, in other words in circumstances where there's no irregularity in the form or function of the brain that causes the sorts of behaviors that we call evil? If you eliminate those people who are crazy, amoral, unable to feel empathy (sociopaths and psychopaths), burdened with too much white matter, etc, who'd still be left doing evil acts, and what would those acts be? I don't mean would people still swipe a pack of gum at the grocery store, or be totally fake to get someone into bed, or cheat on their income taxes, I mean is there really any EVIL in the world, murder and mayhem being done by people who have normal brains but CHOOSE to do monstrous acts? It seems as if there might not be... but then how can we truly have "good" if we don't have "evil" against which it battles? And if there's no actual good and evil... then what?

At long last, a new spiritual concept to mull over; if I come up with anything good, I'll post it... wish me luck.


Saturday, October 15, 2005

The struggle to look younger 


Tonight's episode of "What Not to Wear" featured a 40 year old woman who's married to a much younger man (the son of one of her friends-imagine how THAT went over), a rock musician no less, and was struggling to compete with the 20 year olds that were always throwing themselves at her husband; her solution was to wear the same skimpy, sexy, trendy stuff the girls half her age were wearing. Stacy and Clinton made a very insightful point to her; that past a certain age, dressing young paradoxically makes a woman look OLDER... and "sad" (aka pitiful). I wish all the middle aged women who parade around looking like they're wearing their daughters' clothes could be made to watch that episode.

Vogue talks about this concept periodically; they refer to it as "mutton dressed up as lamb," and also caution against it, because it makes women look foolish, desperate, and like they're trying too hard... which is neither attractive nor stylish. It doesn't matter if you look younger than you are, if you've still got the bod to wear what you like, if you're young at heart, free-spirited, whatever; for better or worse, if you dress a certain way, you'll bring the associated judgments down upon yourself... and since the women who dress too young do it to gain the good opinion of others, they need to realize that it's backfiring.

The aggravating thing is that dressing too maturely makes you look older, too, as does dressing too conservatively, or wearing clothes that are in any way connected in people's minds to elderly ladies (such as a dress with a pattern that reminds us of old-fashioned couches or curtains); even dressing in the muted colors that are emblematic of sophistication can seem matronly and be aging if not done just right. And there's one more, sneaky thing that can be aging; if you wear any style of clothing that was popular in the decade that your late teens and/or early 20's took place in, that makes it clear that you were old enough to wear adult-size clothing at that time, and accentuates how much older you are now.

So what should a woman of a certain age wear? My solution is to wear plain jeans, that can't be pinned on any particular decade and are vaguely youthful, and t-shirts that are equally decade-less and youngish-feeling, and are colorful, interesting, or representative of the things I love (such as science)... yes, I look like a geek, but I look like a geek that's routinely guessed to be 10 years younger than I actually am. For those whose lives require them to dress up a little more, classic shapes, patterns within reason, restraint with showing skin, dashes of color and a little boldness with accessories are your best bet; I know it's hard to turn away from the cute stuff prominently displayed in stores, but if you hold firm you'll be glad in the long run.

Another thing panicky women tend to do past 30 or 35 is to suddenly start growing girlishly long hair, which they dye very blond (or sometimes very red, as was the case with the woman I mentioned earlier); the intention is to look younger, but, as with the teenaged clothes, it accomplishes exactly the opposite-it shows the desperate desire to conceal their age. Long hair drags the face down, making it look older, and harsh hair colors are unflattering and aging to an older face; the worst of all is ash blonde, which adds washing out the skin and looking uncomfortably like gray hair to the problem of being too extreme. Hair that's medium length or shorter, darker blonde, soft auburn or lighter brunette, with enough volume to suggest the luxuriance of a young person's hair, will make a woman look far younger than that platinum blonde mane ever will.

And last but far from least; aging women will sometimes go bonkers with the makeup and start trowelling it on. This is a big mistake, because foundation sinks into facial lines, and so smaller amounts and lighter-weight formulas have to be used as a woman ages; dramatic makeup of any kind is harsh and aging, and frosted or iridescent stuff is an absolute non-no, because those fine particles sink more into facial lines than anything else does, and their sparkle adds insult to injury by drawing the eye right to the lines. Take it from what older female celebrities do to make the most of a face past 35; keep the eye makeup neutral, and give the lips some color to brighten your face... and don't forget the gloss, as a matte mouth looks dry and chapped.

If she knows what she's doing, a woman at 30, 40, 50, or beyond can still be very attractive, as much so as a younger woman (if somewhat less of a hot item)... and we can enter new zones of beauty as well. A couple of day ago, I received a simple black pullover that I'd won on eBay, and tried it on to see how it looked; my geek husband, looking at the nearly middle aged woman he's been with for a decade, commented enthusiastically, "Wow, you look really elegant in that top!! Solid black looks fantastic on you!!"

Elegant, who'd have thought it... take THAT, 20 year olds!! ;-)


Friday, October 14, 2005

The sad tale of a baby bird 


This evening, I noticed a bird sitting out on the patio; not eating, or hopping around, just SITTING, and because that sort of odd behavior can mean that the bird is injured, I kept a concerned eye on it until, just before it got dark, it vanished, and I was relieved...

... until an hour later, when my husband went out there to re-stuff the copper wool into the holes the rats were using around the shed. He jumped backwards into a nearby bush with a yelp and a curse, and in response to my alarmed questions told me that when he'd tried to shove the wool into the mouth of a tunnel under the shed, a rat had shoved it right back out, and had looked out brazenly at him. A couple of minutes passed, and then he made an even more amazing announcement; it wasn't a rat, it was a BIRD.

We'll gloss over how my husband couldn't tell a bird from a rat, and move onto how I went bolting out, expecting to see the bird I'd been watching earlier; instead, I saw a bird of the same species, but clearly a baby... in OCTOBER!! What sort of psychotic birds produced babies this late in the year? I hadn't heard anything that sounded like a nestful of babies, so all I could figure is that 2 abysmally stupid birds must have set up housekeeping a little ways away, and that when the babies had taken their unseasonal leap from the nest and, as often happens, one of them couldn't fly well enough to start its solo life, the mother had hung around it on the ground for as long as possible to keep an eye on it, but had flown off before it got too dark for her to see, leaving junior to squeeze into the tunnel (who would have expected a bird to go underground?) to hide for the night.

Since the bird wouldn't last 5 seconds against the rats that would soon be swarming through the tunnel, we had to rescue him from where he was by that point cowering in the foliage and get him somewhere safe; he didn't want to be caught, of course, so it took a few tries, especially since you can't clutch onto a little bird to hold onto him, because their bones are fragile. When I was fairly sure I had him securely, I had my husband drag the ladder over next to the patio cover, and I began the terrifying (I'm afraid of heights) no-hands climb to where I'd be high enough to set the tweetie safely into the vines; sadly, he wasn't willing to grip onto anything, and his little body started slipping between the twigs, despite my desperate attempts to nudge him back up from underneath (the patio cover is a lattice, not solid). I was squawking anxiously to my husband, who, in the standard pompous tone of husbands dealing with irrational wives, was saying, "He's fine, he's fine, he's not going to fall, and even if he did, he can pretty much fly, so it's not as if he's going to hit the ground with a thud..."

... 3, 2, 1, THUD!! The timing would have been comical if it hadn't meant that the bird might have broken its neck; luckily, it didn't even seem stunned, and belatedly flapped its wings and flew... and then the exterior lights, which only stay on for a few minutes after being triggered, went out, and I shrieked at my husband to wave the lights back on and see if the tweetie had landed, deliberately or otherwise, when darkness descended on him. We did a frantic search, my husband around the cars and me farther out, but didn't see him; I was about to return into the house with a sigh of relief, thinking he'd flown to safety in a nearby tree, when it occurred to me to check over the area my husband had supposedly looked at... and of course there was the bird. He didn't resist being caught this time very much, and I brought him back to the ladder, telling my husband that he'd have to take the tweetie and put him farther back into the vines than I could reach, to get him onto a thick spot that he wouldn't fall through no matter what he did... and then I looked down at the bird in better light, and saw...

He was HURT!! One of his eyes was bulging over a swollen area of his head (fully in the socket, but it still looked scary); the eye appeared undamaged, and so did his feathered skin, but clearly it had been injured somehow. We're hoping desperately that whatever did that to him didn't crack his skull, or do anything else that'll kill him or leave him too disabled to survive, but we just don't know... he would have died in the filthy jaws of rats if we hadn't rescued him, but we still feel AWFUL that he got hurt while we were trying to save him. :-(

We've checked on him several times in the hours since then, and he's still alive and able to look around when the light hits him; if in the morning he's gone, we'll know he's ok, if he's stuck up there we'll have to start calling bird sanctuaries and see if they can take him in, and if... well, we won't even contemplate the other option unless we have to. Meanwhile, I'm fretting endlessly about him, wondering if he's in pain, if he's cold, if he's lonely and wants to be back in the nest with his mommy... anthropomorphizing, I know, but any way you slice it he's not a happy camper, and I'm worried about him. Keep your fingers crossed that a bruised eyeball isn't fatal to little tweeties...

Update: the bird survived the night, and flew away, but not very far... my husband found him dead near one of the cars, and we can only guess at what made him die on that spot. If only he hadn't ended up in a rat zone where we had to move him, if only he'd ended up in someone else's yard, where he would have been safe until morning... this is a sad day in the Omni household. :-( :-( :-(


Thursday, October 13, 2005

My Amazon odyssey 


A month ago, my husband and I ordered 3 items from Amazon.com; a calendar, the new Stephen King novel "The Colorado Kid" that was available for pre-orders (the release date was going to be October 4), and another book that was going to be released in early December... yes, we were trying to get the free Super Saver Shipping, lol. As always, I insisted on reading and checking EVERYTHING on every page as the order was entered and processed, which makes my husband nuts, especially since I make HIM recheck it all too; at every step, each item showed the shipping date that we'd seen on its page, which is what we expected from our past experiences of having items in an order that weren't all going to be available at the same time... Amazon had always shipped things as they became available even when we used the free shipping, and we saw nothing to make us suspect that that had changed.

Fast forward a month; I realized that the King book should have made it here by now, and then remembered that the calendar should have been here WEEKS ago (I don't need it until January, so it'd totally slipped my mind) ... so I logged into our account at Amazon, which showed that neither item had been shipped, and that the estimated shipment date for the entire order was DECEMBER!! I sent a note to customer service, and they replied (1st thing in the morning, to their credit) that, since the final book now no longer had a known release date (small presses don't keep to their schedules, I guess), the entire order was in limbo (the December reference must have just been the best their system could do to handle the situation-apparently it doesn't have a "you're screwed" date option); this turned out to be because their familiar line that accompanied using the Super Saver Shipping, "Group my items into as few shipments as possible," which had previously meant that they'd use the outer limit of the estimated shipping time if it meant that your order could all be sent from one location, ideally the one nearest to you (which might need a day or 2 to get some of the items into stock), as opposed to shipping it all the next day from whichever locations had it wherever they might be, now means "we'll hold your entire order until it's all available at a location near you, and then ship it all together."

Amazon.com is one of the biggest online retailers, so can anyone tell me why they changed the meaning of a phrase that was crucial to the customer's understanding of how the shipping works rather than just saying plainly, in even ONE place out of all those pages you have to go through to place an order, "All items will be held until your entire order is available," which every 2-bit online retailer has on THEIR order pages if that's their policy? Why did even the final page generated by the order process show each item estimated to be shipped on a different date, NOT all on the date of the item that would be available the farthest in the future, which would have tipped us off that the items would NOT be shipped as they became available as we were expecting them to? Why was there no clear explanation of, or even hints as to the nature of, the shipping situation, such that 2 intelligent people going over every word on every page several times didn't see that we were looking at a 3 MONTH wait to get the order if we included the still-unreleased book as part of it? Heck, why wasn't there a prompt asking us if we were SURE we wanted to place the order as entered, since we'd be waiting until the end of the year to get it? Un-frigging-believable.

The customer service agent grandly informed us that they'd do a one-time exception and send the 2 available items now, and the 3rd when it showed up, free of charge... which sounds generous until you realize that all we had to do was cancel the order, and that'd be the end of THAT problem-we could get the stuff many other places with NO wait involved, including their rival Barnes and Nobel, and it's not rocket science, or sainthood, for them to eat a buck or 2 in shipping to keep us from having to make the simple choice between waiting an unknown amount of time for our stuff, paying for full shipping ourselves, or getting the items elsewhere (they'd rightly expect us to be too ticked off to try the order with them again with a different combo of items).

All's well that ends well, I guess, but I'm pretty disgusted at Amazon's puzzling refusal to make their shipping policy straightforward and clear; next time I want to order books, my 1st choice will NOT be them.


Wednesday, October 12, 2005

"Dr. Wayne Dyer: How to Get What You Really, Really..." 


"... Really, Really Want" is the title of the DVD I saw today... and yes, all of those reallies (is that a word?) were part of the title. Dyer talks long enough to make even MY eyes glaze over, but he's worth it because everything he says makes so much sense... by which I of course mean that his analysis of how the universe works is very close to mine. His central theme is that you draw into your life what you focus your thoughts and feelings on-the most basic rule of karma, although he never uses that term. He gets bonus points for recognizing the little-mentioned "dark side" of that rule, that if you let the bad things in your life, or those bad things that you fear will enter your life, into your thoughts to any significant degree, that's what you'll end up with... I don't know why it's so hard for people to grasp that our thoughts and feelings creating reality means ALL the thoughts and feelings create it, not just those we'd choose to bring desirable results, but Dyer's got it perfectly thought out. If you're interested in hearing more about this concept than my ramblings provide, by all means get the DVD, or read one of his book on the subject; he's not as charismatic as Joel Osteen, but he's just as spiritual.

The most powerful thing he said was something that turns out to be a major point in one of his books (as I discovered when I looked it up to try to get a better idea of what he meant than he gave in his talk), that to achieve success and inner peace (and the spiritual progress that follows along with it), you need to "have a mind that is open to everything and attached to nothing." Having a mind that's truly open to EVERYTHING is a struggle; I know, because as part of my explorations of spirituality I've had to repeatedly push myself to give a fair shake to all viewpoints regarding the unknown... and it's served me well, particularly where animism is concerned (see my post of 3-16-04). He's a little vague as to precisely which sorts of attachments we're supposed to avoid, as he focuses on the challenges to being open-minded, but the basic concept seems to be (again, based on what I was able to find in a search) that we get it in our heads that we have to be a certain way, that we have to interface with the world in a certain way, that the world IS a certain way, etc, but some of our ideas are wrong, and can block our path to higher consciousness, and some of the actual things or people that we're emotionally attached to aren't in our best interests, and can prevent us from achieving our goals (including happiness). Breaking those attachments to ideas or people and things can be VERY hard, even if they're counterproductive, but we can't move forward if we're being held back by any of that stuff, so we have to at least try.

Am *I* being held back in my spiritual quest by attachments to... anything? I don't know, but thanks to Dr. Dyer I've realized that I have to start thinking about it, and looking out for it; now more than ever, I see why intensely spiritual types often give up their possessions, and even their families, to retreat from the world and live simple, and sometimes isolated, lives... the list of things that distracts the mind from achieving greater spiritual understanding is ENDLESS.

Am I just overly tired, or does progressing spiritually really keep getting more difficult?


Tuesday, October 11, 2005

An enormous tech triumph 


A couple of days ago, I posted about "Karma Kitty the Cursor Eater," my latest sidebar doodad and new favorite thing; today, there are a couple of updates:

When I 1st got him, and for a day after that, I didn't have the sound on on any of my computers, nor did my husband (who, although like most estrogen-challenged people doesn't normally like cute or novelty stuff, has been playing with Karma Kitty too); you can see where this leading, I'm sure... when I finally played with it with the sound ON, I discovered to my amazement that he ROARS when he pounces on and eats the cursor (I edited the previous post to include the roaring so that someone just reading that one would know what all the features were-sorry if that confused anyone). I shrieked with delight (again) and eagerly called to my husband; he came rushing out to hear some roars, and agreed that Karma Kitty is the cutest thing ever... and was sad that he hadn't been able to figure out how to get the file for my desktop.

Since I'd expected him to be able to get this file like he does other Flash files, I was VERY disappointed, even more so after I found out about the roaring; my husband's explanation for why he couldn't get the file was that it was NOT a Flash file, but a "server-side script," meaning that the code was running on the Bunnyhero Labs.com server and not in the browser, making it un-downloadable... and although he's FAR more technically proficient than I am, this just seemed WRONG to me, as I was SURE it was a Flash file and therefore capture-able.

He'd looked at my source code, and seen that there was no mention of Flash, just of a php file, which is why he assumed it was a server-side script (he said like Perl or Python, but those are cgi, not php, it turns out-he knew less than he pretended to about all this); when I pointed out that I had a customized version of the program, and thus that the original file could be Flash and it just showed up in my code as php because of that customization, he got VERY derisive and pompous, insisting not only that this was impossible, but stupid to even contemplate, because no one would ever, EVER set code up that way, that it would be like advertising one kind of car but having a totally different kind actually on your lot... you see where THIS one is going too, right, lol?

Determined to have Karma Kitty on my desktop, I ignored my husband's comments and went to Bunnyhero Labs.com, went to the page that has the tiger on it, brought up the source code, and started reading. When I encountered a mention of Flash (specifically, the code to give an error message if your browser isn't using the latest version), he assured me that that only meant that something on the page was using Flash, NOT that the tiger was Flash; not buying a word of it, I did what I should have done right away... I searched for "swf" (the file extension for Flash files), and there it was:

http://petimage.bunnyherolabs.com/adopt/tiger.swf

Just as predicted; the FLASH file for the tiger. I howled in triumph, and started hammering my husband about his dead-wrong analysis of the situation, and the snippy, condescending way he'd insisted to me that my perfectly reasonable, not to mention CORRECT, analysis had been foolish. He said, "I'm never going to live this down, am I?" and I replied gleefully, "Not a chance-and I'll be blogging about it tonight, BWAHAHAHAHA!!"

So, as promised, here's the story of how instinct won out over supposed technical superiority. My husband downloaded the Flash file (which contains the UN-customized version of the tiger code), and then, eager to re-assert his geekness, claimed that if he digs up an old browser he can probably load my blog on it and then download my blue-purple version of the tiger from the cache... I'd sure like to have my personalized Karma Kitty, so my fingers are crossed.

But nothing will prevent me from reminding him at every opportunity that *I* was right and he was WRONG about something he could and should have easily sorted out himself, of course. :-)


Monday, October 10, 2005

The commenting conundrum 


How do you prevent trolls and comment spam without putting off, or driving away, some of the legitimate potential commenters?

You can't.

Therefore, although I absolutely understand the desire to avoid trolls and spam, and fully support the decisions of bloggers who've had real problems with these things to do whatever they can think of to fend them off, I'd like to suggest that owners of less-besieged blogs re-think how elaborately they need to design their commenting areas:

First, the requirement to enter an email addy in order to post a comment; granted that a troll is usually dumber than dirt, but do you really think they can't figure out to use a fake one so that you can't hold them accountable for their behavior? Valid commenters get stuck typing in their email addies over and over and over, and those of us who don't want to reveal them to strangers have to enter FAKE ones over and over, which is a pain and a waste of our time... and before you say it, I'm NOT the only person who doesn't want to give out my email addy, because all those promises that they'll be seen only by the blog owners and kept secret CAN'T have been written just to reassure ME. Demanding email addies does NOT fight trolls, and at least on most systems it doesn't fight spam either, so what's the point of inconveniencing everyone by asking us for them?

Then, there's the suddenly omnipresent boxes in which codes of various types have to be entered in order for posts to be made; these are for spam control, and as far as I know they work really well for that... but the ones with the convoluted letters that we're supposed to analyze and duplicate can be a nightmare for people trying to post, because too many letters look alike in that format, and even a careful analysis can lead to a wrong guess and having to start all over with a new code. I can't tell you how many times I've spent a minute typing a post, and 5 minutes trying to figure out the code, or several codes until I get one without ambiguous characters; as a consequence, if I see a code box, I have to ponder how badly I want to post, and as often as not decide it's not worth the struggle... and I can't be the only one who feels that way, so on blogs that don't actually HAVE a spam problem, or only have a minor one, and whose owners want more comments, they might want to question the wisdom of having that barrier to posting.

The BIG barrier is of course registration, whether with a central site like TypePad or with the blogs themselves; although in the case of some political blogs the primary purpose of this is to keep people with opposing views from posting, no matter how politely, in general it's used to stop spam and at least mostly eliminate trolling... with the down side of course being that it also eliminates people who aren't willing to go through a registration process to contribute to someone else's blog. What could you possibly want to post that you'd be willing to go to that trouble, and then wait around, to be able to say, after all? Sure, if you're fairly certain that you'll want to participate again on that blog, you might not be too put out, but think for a minute how high of a % of comments are from people who were jut passing through... is it really worth losing out on all of that just to not have to delete spam or ban trolls? There are some awfully quiet blogs that require registration to comment, which makes me think that perhaps their owners got sucked into the idea of how wonderful having that slick tech-y system on their sites would be without realizing how much reader participation they'd be losing out on; after all, isn't the entire point of having comments enabled to hear from people about your posts?

I guess that's really my message to EVERYONE that has something set up that makes commenting on their blog a hassle; are you REALLY saving yourself enough time and aggravation in dealing with whatever level of spam and trolls you'd otherwise have to make it worthwhile to be losing out on comments, which means losing out on READERS? If you set your blog up to have commenting, that means you want to hear from people, people for whom thousands of blogs similar to yours are just a click away; if you've had real troll and/or spam problems, you've gotta do whatever it takes to handle it, but if not, why make people jump through hoops to post so much as a single line, making them more likely to surf on to the next blog without getting involved with yours?





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