Saturday, March 31, 2007

Odd critter behavior 

We have several skunks that visit our patio to eat astonishing amounts of kibble every night. A couple of months ago, I put out the bones left over from our ribs dinner so that they could, in theory, gnaw the scraps off of them; although they'd sadly shown no shred of interest in the rats and mice that swarm our yard, in the wild they DO hunt various little vermins and so might be expected to enjoy some meat. When the 1st skunk started eagerly tearing meat off a rib, we beamed happily; things turned unexpectedly exciting when the usually mannerly little mammal shook the bone, pounced on it, and began dragging it vigorously around... some of those bones got hauled 20 feet, completely out of the yard!! It turned out that ALL the skunks did that with the bones, which was interesting because it's not like they often pull down a COW in the wild and so would have an instinctive way of handling its parts. It's hilarious to see the normally placid animals baring their fangs and being so fierce; we'll egg them on with "Get that bone!! Teach it a lesson!! Come on, subdue that ferocious bone!!".

We used to have just skunkie girls, but a male started coming a while back, which made us hopeful about the eventual appearance of babies (we've been fooled as to gender before with our wild visitors, but skunks will stand around with their tails up right next to the sliding glass door, and, er, 2 innies means a girl and 1 means a boy). This particular male is either very inexperienced or a complete idiot, though; the one time he was here with a female, he kept harassing her, despite our best attempts to distract him, until either she sprayed him or fended him off so vehemently that she scared HIM into spraying... we couldn't see what exactly happened, but the SMELL was clear enough-my eyes watered for the next half hour. They ran out of the patio area, and he chased her around on the street; I heard several outraged shrieks, and someone sprayed again, although luckily not right up against the house. I understand that dominance of females by males is part of the process from which baby skunks result, but I wasn't happy with all that fuss, and I suspect that there's a level of ineptitude beyond which the females will refuse to play along; hopefully, the male, who's still coming but not when a female is here, will sort himself out and be able to do his duty sometime soon.

NB: This was the 1st and only time a skunk sprayed on our property; my husband surprised one on the patio recently, and she didn't so much as point her bottom at him, she just trundled away as quickly as her short legs could carry her... they're not inclined to spray unless REALLY provoked.

Even odder behavior is coming from our avian visitors: We have what appears to be a male and a female of some species of VERY small bird that looks like a wren but doesn't match any pictures we've been able to find; we call them "the tiny tweets." They have long, thin, curved beaks, and like all little birds thus equipped are insectivorous; they dart around fastfastfast and snatch up little bugs on our patio. Imagine my bewilderment when I saw them hopping around the quadruped feeding area, picking up fragments of kibble and eating them; how could they know that was food, when they have no sense of smell (the warnings to not handle baby birds because their mothers can smell you on them is nonsense) to tell them that what looks like bits of dirt is edible? And; their few taste buds wouldn't tell them that kibble was similar to bugs, so why would they keep eating it once they tried it? Even weirder, the male spent about 20 minutes plucking meat off a chicken bone, with such force that he was yanking it around although it probably outweighed him; ignoring the semi-cannibalism aspect to it, why would an insectivore eat off a bone... is he part VULTURE? Weirdest of all, the little female extracted a WALNUT from the feeding area, and comes several times a day to eat from it, chasing after it when her pecking makes it slide around and ignoring the other walnuts to focus on that one; I've been able to find references to some sorts of wrens sometimes eating berries or seeds (the tiny tweets totally ignore the birdseed, just FYI), but what attracts this one to eat a NUT that's nearly a third her size is beyond me.

Bizarrest of all is the behavior of Psycho Hummie, a little male hummingbird that appears to be literally out of his mind. These exquisite birds need to eat almost constantly to support their super-fast metabolisms, but this one will ignore the feeder and do repeated, in-depth examinations of each wind chime and the seed and suet feeding stations (hummingbirds don't eat either thing), dart back and forth across the patio a bunch of times for no reason we can determine, and then hover right outside the window and/or glass door for 10-15 minutes, MINUTES, at a time, just WATCHING me... and if I call to him when he's farther away, he'll sometimes zip over to check me out, which is heartwarming but probably not indicative of sanity either. I saw him drink from the feeder ONCE, for about 3 seconds, so he knows it's there, but maybe he hears voices from it or something and so avoids it; I'd sure like to know what he IS eating, especially this early in the season, that's kept him plump and energetic enough to do all this exploring and Peeping Tom-ing. We hit the jackpot when we installed a hanging plant that was covered with tiny flowers; Psycho Hummie went right to it and drank from every single flower, and now does so on most visits. Elated, we got more of the same plant and will hang them with the other one this weekend; we have great affection for this bonkers bird, and are happy to be able to provide him with something he likes.

I'll close with my annual plea for the hummingbirds: These precious creatures are having to undergo their lengthy annual migration with less and less food available due to our destruction of the flowering plants they depend on, and too many of them don't make it; if you're lucky enough to get hummies where you live, PLEASE consider spending a few dollars and putting up a feeder for them... being able to watch them up close will more than compensate you for your trouble.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

What makes us search for meaning? 

Quick note: After 3 years of having the Babel Fish translator on my site, I've switched to a new one; it's that big purple thing in the sidebar. I chose it because it has 10 languages instead of 8, allows you to select format and color, and has a more compact design; if you want it, and you really SHOULD have a translator to assist foreign visitors, you can get it here:


Scott Adams made an intriguing point on his blog:

"When you serve a purpose larger than yourself, you experience the sensation of having meaning. There are plenty of larger purposes from which to choose: You can save the whales, feed the poor, shelter the homeless, march for peace, serve your notion of God, whatever. The details don't matter.

If your reaction to my explanation of larger purposes was 'none of that sounds interesting to me,' then you haven't finished fixing yourself. When you do, you will automatically look outward. It's how humans are wired. We survive because, on average, the people who manage to satisfy their personal needs are changed by it. They become seekers of meaning. They ask, 'What's next?'"


When I read that, I saw that it'd explain how so many famous people end up following gurus, studying Kabbalah, or joining fashionable (and usually wacko) New Age "religions," and how cults that committed group suicide because they thought Jesus was coming to get them in a spaceship always had members with successful careers; I hadn't been able to see the psychological pathway which would lead to people who had everything and could do as they liked seeking these sorts of things out, not to mention sticking with them after the leaders made outrageous demands or generally demonstrated that they're out of their minds, so I was glad to have this idea to get me thinking.

The 1st point that needs to be made is that there are plenty of folks who've "got it all" who're perfectly satisfied to care for their families, work in their gardens, play video games, etc, and never yearn for "more"; I'm sure that SOME of them might secretly need "fixing," eg be depressed or have other emotional issues that don't show, but we can't insist that they ALL must be that way without proof.

The next point is; why would ANYONE have the urge to "look outward"? What survival value did it have to our primitive ancestors that made it part of our programming? What could a caveperson have even DONE to create "greater meaning," and why would they have expended precious energy to achieve it? The only thing I can think of is spirituality/religion; every human culture has come up with the concept of beings or forces greater than themselves that run things, and that's GOT to be significant... but whether it indicates that many of us are actually perceiving beings/forces or that we're just used to attributing the unexplained to "something invisible and powerful" is open to debate. And how would any of that lead to a non-religious person whose body, mind and bank account were all healthy wanting to save the whales? Is it an innate urge as Adams suggests, or an extension of embryonic spiritual feelings that make us want to reach out and embrace SOMETHING... or, is it the result of societal programming to "give back" and "get involved," or simply that it feels good to DO good and/or to be seen by others as a do-gooder... OR, as is often the case, can there be a variety of causes?

I'll be making a conscious effort from now on to notice if people who haven't "looked outwards" even though they seem to have it all turn out to have problems that weren't immediately obvious; wouldn't it be slick if that ended up being a useful way to detect folks with "issues"?

I examined my own process of "looking outward"; it's probably not a coincidence that it began after I left my mother's home, married, and found myself in control of my life for the 1st time. The change didn't come right away; it took a while to adjust to home ownership, husband ownership (lol), being responsible for everything and having total freedom of action. Then, when someone I was close to betrayed me in a particularly ugly way, in response to my soul-deep scream of "WHY?!!" came answers... and not just the ones I was asking for. It was at that time that the word "karma" started coming out of my mouth; I hadn't consciously thought about it, I could just suddenly see the basics of how it worked... and thus my spirituality was born.

Has this given my life meaning? I don't know; I've never understood what having meaning, or not having it, is supposed to feel like. It's certainly given me whole new levels of understanding, though, and ideas to share with you; that's more than enough.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Evil vs crazy 

There's a series on the Discovery Times channel (I don't know what that name means either) called "Most Evil"


Last night, I stumbled across an episode of the series called "Psychotic Killers," and learned of the horrific actions of some of our nation's most revolting murderers; I also learned that even indulging in the most nauseating behaviors imaginable did NOT guarantee that they'd be labeled insane. The most disturbing example was the case of Gary M. Heidnik, who kidnapped a half dozen women and held them prisoner in his basement; in addition to the standard physical and sexual abuse that a violent criminal would be expected to inflict upon captives, Heidnik added some sick twists... such as putting the flesh of one of the women who died under his abuse through a blender, mixing it with dog food and making the other women eat it. Is this something that a sane mind could even come up with, much less DO? Not in MY book, but, because Heidnik carried out his crimes in a systematic way over a long time, and was able to do things like make some $ in the stock market, he was judged to be SANE; this made me realize that, where grossly "anti-social" behavior is concerned, the psychiatric community is a little out to sea... their definition of insanity doesn't make sense, and they seem to not have ANY clear definition of, or even understanding about, what evil is.

It's easy to label someone insane if they're raving in a straitjacket or have lost all touch with reality, but what about everyone else whose behavior is demented? The program showed tests the experts have devised to determine if a person understands cause and effect and the consequences of actions, which are used as indicators of sanity or lack thereof; I'm sure they're valuable tools for proving the existence of mental problems, but where's the proof that everyone who passes those tests is SANE? On the other hand, if all that's necessary to pronounce one of these monsters "sane" is evidence of rational thought, wouldn't that make them ALL sane, since a totally irrational person couldn't carry off a crime like that?

You hear about murders that included deranged elements (torture, cannibalism, etc) all the time; how often were those crimes committed out in public? NEVER. The killers do their deeds in secret and hide the evidence. Doesn't that show that they KNOW they're doing things that aren't acceptable, that would get them in trouble if discovered? That sure sounds like awareness of right and wrong, cause and effect, consequences of actions, the whole 9 yards, doesn't it? These turds purchase or construct weapons/tools to use for torture, killing and body disposal, they take their victims places where they won't be seen, they make sure that their screams of agony won't be heard by soundproofing the room, gagging them or (Heidnik's trick) by playing loud music as camouflage, and they carefully choose and arrange "souvenirs" from the killings; compared to that, picking a few stocks is nothing. That's why it's problematic when the shrinks are asked if these "extreme murderers" are sane, eg normal people who just decided to do bad things, or crazy, as if those are the only 2 options; it's like examining a bird and trying to "calculate" whether it's a fish or a cat... evil is a whole separate entity.

Evildoers, and our fear of them, exert a huge amount of influence on the human race, so we're long overdue to understand these people whose brains cause them to imagine, and then DO, unspeakable acts; clearly, the brain of every such person is radically abnormal in some way(s), and we need to know exactly HOW, so that they can be identified, treated if possible, and removed from society when necessary. We need the answer to the question "What is evil?".

Is evil a form of insanity? Some crazy people mumble constantly, some smear feces on their walls, some harm themselves, and some do multiple "crazy" things; could evil be just another path that insanity takes, and when someone's evil and, say, believes that the trash can's talking to them, might that be conceptually no different than a crazy person who does both mumbling and feces-smearing?

OR, is evil a type of mental illness unrelated to insanity, and is just sometimes combined with insanity the way an insane person might also suffer from depression? (If evil turned out to be caused by an imbalance of neurotransmitters like depression is, that'd mean it could almost certainly be treated, maybe even cured; can you imagine?) Many evil types suffered crushing abuse as kids, and there's ample proof that the creation of a serious mental illness can result from that.

OR, is evil the result of a brain that functions in an unusual way but isn't "sick," in the way a retarded person's brain functions differently but they're not mentally ill?

OR, could an evil person's brain be physically different? They've found that pathological liars have more white matter in their brains than regular folks (see my post of 10-16-05), so it's not so far-fetched; also, from my spiritual perspective an evil person's soullessness would almost certainly require an abnormality in the part(s) of the brain responsible for soul generation... if we find a physical abnormality in the brains of evil people, will we have found the creation point for the soul?

OR, can evil come from more than one source, the way that more than one physical problem can make you cough... or does it REQUIRE more than one source to elevate it above regular badness?

We need to know what evil IS, how, or IF, it can be treated, or if we just need to lock evildoers up forever and throw away the key... and we need to scream in protest when well-meaning but misguided shrinks who can't see the forest for the trees try to make distinctions for which they don't have the knowledge instead of focusing on the main point; "This person committed horrific crimes, is a danger to society and always will be, and must never be permitted to breathe free air again."

Monday, March 19, 2007

Does intelligence work against happiness? 

Thanks to my friend Peety, whose highly entertaining blog is here


I found a fascinating article by sociologist Bill Allin called "Why Intelligent People Tend To Be Unhappy," which begins with a thought-provoking quote:

"Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know."
- Ernest Hemingway, author and journalist, Nobel laureate (1899-1961)

If you're puzzled as to how this could be, you haven't been paying attention; despite the lip service we give to how swell intelligence is, intelligent people are generally disliked and distrusted in our culture, and it's perfectly logical that they'd be less happy than average as a result. We hold intelligence in such contempt that even in the job world, where it should be eagerly embraced for its potential to make $, bright folks are often screwed:

"Western society is not set up to nurture intelligent children and adults, the way it dotes over athletes and sports figures, especially the outstanding ones. While we have the odd notable personality such as Albert Einstein, we also have many extremely intelligent people working in occupations that are considered among the lowliest, as may be attested by a review of the membership lists of Mensa (the club for the top two percent on intelligence scales)."

Or, as Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams put it:

"It turns out that the people who join Mensa and attend meetings are, on average, not successful titans of industry. They are instead - and I say this with great affection - huge losers. I was making $735 per month and I was like frickin' Goldfinger in this crowd."


Even more important to happiness than job success is the ability to be a fully accepted member of the human race; we're social animals, and, while there ARE people who're content to be alone, nearly everyone wants friends and a romantic partner, and in general to fit in and be liked in whatever groups they find themselves in. It's no secret that many of the sharpest folks do NOT fit in; how do they get to be so socially clueless? It starts early:

"Education systems in countries whose primary interest is in wealth accumulation encourage heroes in movies, war and sports, but not in intellectual development."

That doesn't make SENSE; why encourage everything BUT intellectual development if your main goal is to accumulate wealth? Whatever the reason, that IS how it works in America, sadly.

"In classrooms, the smartest kids tend to be left out of more activities by other children than they are included in. They are 'odd,' they are the geeks, they are social outsiders. In other words, they do not develop socially as well as they may develop intellectually"

"Their emotional development, characterized by their ability to cope with risky or stressful situations, especially over long periods of time, also lags behind that of the average person."

This creates a vicious cycle, because the more a kid lags socially and emotionally the more they'll be excluded, and even mistreated, which makes them fall even further behind. Worse, unlike with most childhood problems, the adults in their lives aren't inclined to try to fix it:

"Adults tend to believe that intelligent kids can deal with anything because they are intellectually superior. This inevitably includes situations where the intelligent kids have neither knowledge nor skills to support their experience. They go through the tough times alone. Adults don't understand that they need help"

Even if parents and teachers DO see that a bright child is NOT handling things well, that they're friendless and solemn, they won't take action because that's what they're USED to seeing with bright kids; they accept it as somehow normal and ok rather than realizing that it's proof that the child has become a pariah and/or emotionally crushed and needs adult intervention.

"Western society provides the ideal incubator for social misfits and those with emotional coping problems. When it comes to happiness, people who are socially inept and who have trouble coping emotionally with the exigencies of life would not be among those you should expect to be happy."


I really enjoyed this article-it filled in some major gaps for me. Thank you, Bill Allin and Peety. :-)

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Should we bring back the draft? 

If you watched "60 Minutes" on Sunday, you heard Andy Rooney say something that's undoubtedly brought him a ton of abuse; that, although he never thought he'd be saying it, since in order to fill our quotas for new troops we're having to "lower the bar" and accept those with criminal records or without high school degrees, we should bring back the draft in order to have a higher quality of soldier. He based this opinion on his own military service, and his bad memories of men of these "lower types" who served with him; he considered them to be poor soldiers, and even poorer examples of Americans for foreigners to base their ideas of what we're like on.

Should American military personnel provide a positive example of what Americans are like? Ideally, yes, absolutely, and many of them DO, but that's not part of their job description; their job is to kill people and destroy things, not to be masters of etiquette. It's a moot point, though, because every country has already formed an opinion of us from American tourists, who are legendary for being loud, rude, pushy, badly dressed, and disrespectful of locals and their customs; imagine what lengths a soldier would have to go to to make a WORSE impression... and the average tourist tends to be educated, as those are the folks who can afford to travel abroad, which disproves the idea that an educated person is a superior representative of America.

Plus, call me crazy, but I'd RATHER have the less educated, less productive members of society being used as cannon fodder... especially since they're OFFERING to do it. And what other choices do these folks have? What kinds of jobs will they have to work for their entire lives without high school diplomas? Why should they be denied the opportunity to, not only serve their country, which should be EVERY able-bodied person's right if they so choose, but to do more with their lives than wash dishes or push a broom? They can get free education and training, and they and their families can receive all sorts of benefits, if they join up, and that may well be the only way they can find a better life for themselves and their kids; if they're willing to go into a war zone to earn those things, why should we refuse them?

I'm of a similar mind where those with criminal records are concerned, assuming we can trust that serial killers and child molesters aren't being allowed to enlist; if they've got the patriotic urge to serve their country rather than continue being scumbags, shouldn't we ENCOURAGE that? Same thing goes for if they're trying to rejoin decent society, have discovered that no one will hire them, and go to the military recruitment office as their only chance to make a living honestly; should we tell them to go back to the streets and sell some more drugs or rob some more liquor stores rather than cheering their willingness to risk DEATH in order to live honorable lives and provide for their families? I'm not suggesting that they let anyone DANGEROUS join up, for the obvious reasons, but it's not like they think that their criminal careers will be enhanced if they enlist, so unless they're raving lunatics their intentions are likely to be as good as anyone else's... and I'd sure rather THEY were cannon fodder than draftees.

Besides, didn't they at least USED to give people convicted of certain sorts of offenses the choice between prison and the army in some states? Wasn't the idea that military service would square them away, build character, and make them into good citizens... and that boot camp is so rough that it's punishment enough? It seems like you could make a case for, not just LETTING people with certain sorts of criminal records into the military, but adopting a nationwide policy of offering the army as an alternative to prison for a wide range of offenses; it'd probably be cheaper for the taxpayer (it's expensive to keep someone locked up), we'd be GETTING something for our $, prison crowding would be reduced, and the erstwhile criminals would be getting straightened out rather than meeting up with worse criminals in jail and becoming more hardened and anti-social.

Would you get a better quality of soldier with the draft than by letting those from the "lower echelons" enlist? Of course. Is that the highest goal, the best choice for America? No... and to my mind, that's gotta be the deciding factor. With all due respect to Andy Rooney, I think we should give those at the bottom of the heap a chance to improve themselves (or die with honor) before we yank productive citizens from their lives and force them to go to war.

I'll leave you with a little humor: 1st, there's a crazy calf in India that's been killing and eating chickens, possibly to alleviate a mineral deficiency:


2nd, here's one you'll have to see to believe; a dog who masturbates like a man, standing on 2 legs and pulling his erection with his paws... and he's ignoring the little female he was supposed to be mating with to do it!! I don't know if this counts as pornographic, or if it's safe for work, but it's a jaw-dropper:


Sunday, March 11, 2007

What do we mean when we say someone's "nice"? 

John might be a liar, always keep people waiting, tell ugly racial jokes, cheat on his girlfriends, and shoplift the occasional candy bar, but if you ask anyone who knows him, and knows he does those things, what he's like, they'll say, "He's nice." Heck, John could be a serial killer, and when they interviewed the people in his life after his arrest, and asked them what sort of person he was, they'd STILL say "He was nice"; haven't you seen folks do just that a hundred times?

We call virtually everyone who doesn't perform anti-social acts on US, or on others right in front of us, "nice"; what does calling someone "nice" MEAN, then? We pretend that it means what it's SUPPOSED TO, that the person thus labeled is almost always kind, considerate, etc, but what it ACTUALLY means in most cases is:

1) I love/like them (and if you think that everyone YOU care about is nice, you're either applying unusually stringent guidelines to who you allow in your life or fooling yourself).

2) I've known them a long time... and the longer I've known them, the worse they're allowed to behave and still be called "nice."

3) I'm attracted to them... and either am too blinded by hormones to gauge their niceness or realize they're sorta scummy but don't want my friends to know I'm offering my body to someone like that.

4) I'm NOT attracted to them, but want to say something positive about them so I don't feel like a mean, shallow person for declining to date them.

5) They're a doormat who doesn't argue, stand up for themselves or get in anyone's way.

6) They're shy or quiet.

7) They're charming (charm is meant to manipulate you into liking a person more than they've earned, and manipulation is the opposite of niceness).

8) They're polite (every evil type who isn't a raving lunatic can be as polite as the next person when it suits them).

9) I met them once, and the 2 lines they said to me were polite.

10) They're an acquaintance that hasn't murdered anyone in front of me yet.

I know those last 2 sound facetious, but they're accurate; no one's willing to say "I don't know that person well enough to be sure what they're like." Are we so insecure that we have to pretend that we know everyone well, or that our judgment's so magnificent that we can get accurate readings on people instantly, or maybe that we're so holy that everyone acts like saints around us?

And what about those we see as NOT nice? How often is that based on patterns of bad behavior from them, and how often does it just mean that we don't LIKE them... with that dislike based on pitiful things like their not loving the same sports team or music as we do, or their being fat, unusually dressed or a little too "loud"? And here's a quote from the March 2007 issue of Vogue that stopped me in my tracks:

"I wouldn't call him nice, exactly-he was far too clever for that."

WHAAAAAAAAAAAT?!! In what way could intelligence prevent or counteract niceness? Lemme guess; unlike with every other talent, if you're smart you're supposed to tone it down so that others don't feel inadequate, and if you don't that's insensitive and therefore not nice? Besides; aren't the smart kids always disliked no matter how utterly innocuous they are? Why should ADULTS be any more rational and fair in their judgments than kids? {sigh}

So; what can we do about all this? The sooner we stop calling everyone who isn't running around covered in blood with a victim's severed head in their hands "nice" the better off we'll all be, so we should resolve to use "nice" only for those people who objectively deserve it, which can be determined via a simple analysis; if someone's nice, you'll be able to come up with a bunch of things they've done that indicate that they're sweet and warm-hearted, with few or no bad behaviors to cancel them out... and if they're NOT nice, the opposite will be true. Once you figure that out, you'll want to adjust your relationships to correspond to how nice each person is, shunning the un-nice even if they're entertaining, and making every effort to get closer to the nice even if there are things about them that put you off... right?

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Harry Potter's penis and other odd bits 

While surfing blogs last week, I came across a photo of a cute naked guy leaning up against a horse; you see porn pics all the time online, and normally I ignore them, but my attention was caught because the central element of the pic was uncircumcised, which as an American woman I'm not used to. My "What the heck is THAT? Oh, yeah, right" reaction gave me time to see the accompanying text... claiming that the photo was of Daniel Radcliffe, the actor who plays Harry Potter. He looks so different with his hair shorter and bangs-free that I hadn't recognized him, but a closer look verified that the face WAS his... what about the body, though? The post said that he's currently starring in the play "Equus" in London, and that, as required by the role, he appears nude in one scene; a little research verified that this was indeed the case (not having been born yesterday, I don't automatically believe what I read on blogs), and turned up many reproductions of a group of promotional photos he'd done for the play, including the one I'd seen... but always cropped short of revealing anything, er, reproductive. Further research revealed that speculation's rampant as to whether the X-rated part of the photo is faked, so I asked my husband, who's a skilled retoucher, to look at it; he said that, while an expert with sufficient time and determination might be able to do almost anything, it'd be awfully unlikely that the trickster would've bothered to add a shadowy outline of the horse's foreleg (behind Radcliffe's legs) which is only visible if you put the pic in Photoshop and "crank up the gamma," so... either one of those guys you hear about who specializes in doing this sort of thing (normally with female celebs) did a surreally perfect job, or it's real. Time will tell.

Wondering why I haven't given you the URL to the photo, so you can judge for yourself? If it's real, it's child pornography under American law, as Radcliffe is 17, and even if it's fake I don't want to potentially help pedophiles find a pic they'll THINK is of an underage boy. And where does UK law stand in all this? The age of consent in the UK is 16, but, if Wikipedia is correct, the Sexual Offences Act 2003 included images of 16-17 year olds in the legal definition of child pornography; clearly, public nudity in a theater doesn't count as pornographic, since he's doing it, but how does the law apply to images promoting plays? I hope some British blogger will post about this, because I've got no idea how to find out; either way, Radcliffe is to be congratulated for being willing to bare all on stage to prove conclusively that there's more to him than just everyone's favorite wizard.

Scott Adams has made another brilliant point about the behavior of the turds of the world, in the Dilbert comic of 3-1-07... and since he revealed in a recent post on his blog that he uses some Google service that sends him an email every time a new post is made about him so that he can check it out, let me say; Hi Scott, nice to see you, I post on your blog as "Omni" and am such a big fan that I got my husband Dilbert boxers. Anyways, the comic is here


In it, Dilbert asks what I assume is someone from marketing, "Do your estimates include tax and shipping?" and she replies "Relax, relax, calm down. There's no need to go all nuts about the tax and shipping. It's under control. Take a deep breath." It's right out of the manipulator's handbook; if you want to stop a conversation from going along its current lines, usually because it's an argument and you're losing but it can be anything you're uncomfortable with, throw a comment at the other person that'll make them react defensively, so that the topic becomes about THEM rather than whatever you didn't like. Accusing them of being upset is the standard ploy, because not only is it difficult to disprove it but the longer they try to the more likely it becomes that they'll GET upset and make it look like you were right... and the less likely that they'll ever go back to the topic that dismayed you.

I saw a hilarious movie that I'd never heard of before, a mockumentary called "Farce of the Penguins"


It's full of sexual and bodily-function humor, provided by some of the funniest people in the world, to go with what's supposed to just be stock footage of penguins; that doesn't make it sound anywhere near as great as it is, so just trust me and watch this wickedly funny story of a shy penguin trying to get some "penguin booty."

And lastly: A few nights ago, my husband and I were having one of those nonsensical conversations that're common with long-time marrieds, and as all too often happens he produced some protracted flatulence; when I yelped "Do you know how disgusting you are?!!" he replied by holding up 8 fingers... and then rotating his hands sideways. When I exclaimed in astonishment at his cleverness (an 8 on its side is the symbol for infinity), he expressed pleasure that I'd gotten it instantly; when I smugly asked if he was aware of how amazing his wife is... he did the 8-finger thing again.

That almost made up for when we were at our friends' house the previous weekend, and he went into the room adjoining the one we were all in, without even a door between them, and farted loudly, much to their horror and my mortification; like a 3 year old, he somehow thought that if we couldn't see him we couldn't HEAR him. Marriage, as I always say, is GROSS... but it also has its moments.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

How to never be wrong 

I learned this skill the hard way; I came from an abusive family where wrongness was seen as incontrovertible proof of moral failing and absolute worthlessness, so I figured out at an early age how to stop being wrong in self-defense. Don't worry, it's easier than it looks; heck, 95% of wrongness can be eliminated by just following the 1st rule:

1) If you don't know anything about a topic, DON'T SAY ANYTHING ABOUT IT.

We have such an intense desire to be seen as one of the group that when the conversation switches to something we know nothing about we have the overwhelming urge to keep babbling; this goes x10 if someone asks us directly about it and suddenly we're in the spotlight. If you try to say something that sounds like what the others have said, or that you THINK is somehow related to the topic, you've got a reasonable chance of getting away with it, which is why everyone does it... but every time you do it you take a major risk of being wrong.

2) Remember that knowing a little about a topic is NOT the same as knowing ALL about it.

It's SO tempting to extrapolate from what you DO know and try to make it seem like your expertise is far greater than it actually is; the payoff is being admired for being so knowledgeable... but the downside is that anyone who knows more than you do can slam you for being wrong.

3) Refrain from arguing an issue with someone who knows more about it than you, OR is quoting someone who does.

If you disagree with someone who knows more, it's almost certain that you're wrong, no matter how POSITIVE you are of your rightness. If you can't bear leaving their assertions unchallenged, say something like "Ok, I'm confused now-let's look it up"; that way, if the other person's right, you won't be wrong because you never SAID anything to the contrary.

And; the wisdom of those who know more than you stays the same when they're being quoted. It shouldn't even be necessary to say that, but all too often someone will argue vehemently against the words of experts because the person they're arguing with is NOT an expert, which they believe in some misty way cancels out the experts' authority.

4) Understand that using "I feel" does NOT shield you from being wrong.

Some folks think that, since "feelings are never wrong," if they preface their comments with "I feel" they won't be disputed... but it just ain't so. First of all, if you follow "I feel" with anything other than an EMOTION you're automatically wrong; secondly, "I feel" doesn't magically prevent people from seeing and calling you on your wrongness.

5) Understand that phrasing something as an opinion doesn't shield you either.

As with "I feel," some folks think that stating something as an opinion means they can't be contradicted; in reality, if there are facts about an issue, and you speak contrary to them, it changes nothing if your statement was framed as an opinion... you're still wrong, no matter how long you've held the opinion or how strongly you feel about it.

6) If you're not sure you got your info from an expert, quote your source rather than using that info as facts.

You hear about something on a blog, in a magazine, from your brother, etc, and later on when someone brings up that topic you repeat whatever you heard as if it were a fact... but if it's NOT, you're now wrong. Instead of passing on such info as if you were relaying facts, say "Some blogger/a magazine/my brother SAID..."; the blogger, magazine or brother may be shown to be wrong, but YOU are NOT wrong... all you did was quote someone.

7) Be honest with yourself about the quality of your memory.

Do an objective analysis as to how good your memory is, both long and short term, in general and about specific things like names and dates, and use that analysis to judge the likelihood that what you're about to give as factual info might be misremembered; if you're not 100% sure your memory can be trusted for that fact, say that, while you think it MIGHT be X, it also might NOT be X so you need to double-check... and whatever the true answer is, you never made a claim so you're not wrong.

8) Remember that some facts change over time.

For things like the current scientific dogma or the "news" about if celebrity X is pregnant or just gaining weight (if you read science magazines you know that the former changes even more than the latter), say "The last thing I heard/read about that was..."; that way, if the facts are different now, you're not wrong... you just told what you heard or read.

9) Don't label differing opinions as "wrong."

A real opinion, in other words on a topic where there's no factually-provable right answer, CAN'T be wrong... and if you say it is, YOU are wrong. No matter how strongly you feel about YOUR opinion, just say you disagree, and that's it.

10) Think twice before attempting to prove someone wrong.

If you get to this point, you've challenged the other person's assertion and they've held firm, which suggests that they think they've got facts to back it up; assuming they're not an idiot, you likely have a 50% chance of being wrong... why take the risk?

Anyone can do this stuff, but virtually no one does, so if YOU adopt these strategies you'll have an edge when trying to impress people... and in marriage, hehehehehe.

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