Tuesday, July 30, 2002

In a nice bookend to the discussion with Dawn on men and violence, I just killed a mouse. Whacked the cute little bastard with a shoe. I'm deeply ambivalent about the whole thing. I don't want them eating my food or shitting on my countertops, but I don't really want to kill them either. I just want them to go away. And I've tried to make them go away. No dice. On the flip side, I know I could kill a mouse a day for the rest of my life and not even make a dent in the local population, let alone the world population.

On the bright side, it does somewhat balance out the previous most significant animal encounter of my weekend. Kaiser the Black was up visiting this weekend, with Theron, and was in the backyard on his reel leash. He wrapped the cord around my legs and took off running. I was wearing shorts. If you want to see what that does to skin, you can look here, but I really don't recommend it.
Nice Article on One of My Favorite Words - Actually, it's kind of dull, and doesn't delve into etymology as much as I would have, but I did learn something new. I have honestly never heard "Ugandan affairs" given as a synonym for "fuck." Maybe it's an Australian thing.

Wednesday, July 24, 2002

Liar, Liar, Pantsuit on Fire! - The Daily Howler on Ann Coulter. I would have so much more respect for conservatives if they would choose spokespeople that actually told the truth. Then again, we liberals have Ralph Nader, Michael Moore, et al., so I guess we're all screwed.

Monday, July 22, 2002

More on Rhodes and Crime - Go here and scroll down a couple of lines for a brief intro to the 4-stages of violentization straight from the horse's mouth.
James Alan Fox cuts through the Bullshit - His Boston Globe editorial looks at all the sound and fury of the Samantha Runnion kidnapping. Yes, it was a horrible crime, and if they've got the right man, he's a sick son of a bitch. But there is no trend here, and the odds of this actually happening to a child you know are astronomical.

Please don't misunderstand me. Anyone who loves a child feels an ineffable pang of terror at the thought of losing them, particularly to a monster like this. But I have always believed that, once you've taken appropriate precautions, then the best thing you can do for yourself is to refuse to live in fear. Statistically, a lost child is safer running up to a complete stranger and asking for help than waiting for an adult to approach them and ask, "Are you okay, honey?" When we take the time to understand the world we live in, then our false fears (someone's going to break into my house and kill me while I sleep) calm down enough that we can hear the warnings that real fear can give (this parking lot is too dark, and there's cigarette smoke coming from behind that dumpster).

Read some Gavin De Becker. He's a security consultant, and he's a big fan of fear, but only if it's the kind of fear that helps you live your life, not the kind that prevents you from living it.

If you're interested in the topic, you might also look into Richard Rhodes' Why They Kill. He describes a four-stage process of "violentization" wherein people (usually children) are first on the receiving end of violence and are coached in the use of violence, then resolves to use violence as a problem-solving strategy, performs violent acts successfully, and then receive respect and deference as a result of these violent acts. The criminologist who came up with this theory, by the way, was Lonnie Athens, himself the product of a violent home, as were Rhodes and de Becker.

Friday, July 19, 2002

Oh, Dawn, look what you started - So Dawn writes one little post of the arrogance of atheism, and the blogosphere erupts with philosophy and stuff. Okay, erupts is an exaggeration. But give it time, Dawn, give it time. Within a week, we'll have Welch back at his keyboard debating the merits of the ontological argument. Maybe.

So, what the hell, I guess I'll weigh in. You've heard of Occam's Razor, right? It's the principle that, if more than one explanation adequately explains the given circumstances, the simplest one should be chosen. A lot of atheists use that as their rationale for their non-belief, and I can't blame them for it. But you are indeed choosing what to believe. It's still a belief, not truth, and therefore is as vulnerable to attack or worthy of defense as anyone else's beliefs on the question. Personally, I think that valuing simplicity before everything else is arbitrary, if not a bit lazy. So, when I am given more than one explanation that adequately explains the given circumstances, I choose the one which leads to the greatest personal happiness.

I have had certain experiences in my life which, to me, indicate the presence and/or influence of the supernatural, and I've heard from people I love and trust about other experiences. Now there is not a single one of those experiences that could not be explained in some other way. The Amazing Randi could probably reproduce anything I might describe. But I've tried believing in a strictly material universe, and I've tried believing in one in which multiple layers of reality interact with one another in ways that we cannot necessarily perceive, but may be able to glimpse. And the second set of beliefs leads to a fuller, richer, and happier life, so that's what I'm sticking with.
Molly Ivins on Enron & the 'Culture of Permissibility' - Whether it's Blame Clinton or Blame the Investors, she calls this theory exactly what it is: bullshit. Here's a taste: "According to this theory, you, me and Joe Doaks made Ken Lay do it. Came as a surprise to me, too. Naturally, as a liberal, I just love guilt, so I was ready to sign right up for this one, but try as I may, I can't get it to make a lick of sense."

Randall Bramblett is my new best friend! - That's not, strictly speaking, true. But his new album, No More Mr. Lucky is absolutely amazing. Deeply American music, with flavors of funk, pop, rock and country, great lyrics and solid musicianship, it's been a fixture in my CD player for the last month. It's one of those rare albums that seems to get a little better with each listen.

Wednesday, July 17, 2002

Cary Tennis on Getting Over Stuff - Basically, he says it takes longer than you think it's going to take, and that the hardest part, in a way, is the part that comes after you think you should be over it. At first, no matter how bad you feel, you think "it's okay" because you've had this horrible thing happen to you, and you're supposed to be screwed up for a while. But then a while comes and goes, and even if you're not feeling nearly as bad as you were, you still feel pretty bad, and then you think, "What the fuck? I thought I was done with this!" All I can say is, "Yep, that's what it's like."

Tuesday, July 16, 2002

This link leads to a real document in circulation at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in D.C. called BIOLOGICAL WARFARE AND THE 'BUFFY PARADIGM'. Ladies and gentlemen, it is official, the geeks have now inherited the earth.

Here's a taste:

Any structured intellectual approach to describing this situation – and planning for it -- is so uncertain that a valid structure can only be developed as an exercise in complexity or "chaos" theory. I, however, would like you to think about the biological threat in more mundane terms. I am going to suggest that you think about biological warfare in terms of a TV show called "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," that you think about the world of biological weapons in terms of the "Buffy Paradigm," and that you think about many of the problems in the proposed solutions as part of the "Buffy Syndrome."
Dawn Makes Nice With the Neighbors - Real neighbors, real world. You remember the real world, right? Anyway, Dawn's been having frustrations with her neighbors for months now, but now, magically, the spark has jumped the gap and everybody's playing nice. It may not be a huge story on a global scale, but it's little bits of redemption like this that make me feel like the larger scale stuff can get better, too.

I can't help but think, though, that if Arafat and Sharon lived next door to one another, they'd have burned each other's house down by now. So, Dawn, thanks from the world for looking past the past in order to make new friends. If more people did that, well, then maybe my neighbors wouldn't drive like crazed rednecks. Hey, does your neighbor have a cousin in Missouri, maybe?
According to this site, these are my top ten potential matches for my religious beliefs.

1. Liberal Quakers (100%)
2. Mahayana Buddhism (97%)
3. Neo-Pagan (97%)
4. New Age (97%)
5. Taoism (93%)
6. Unitarian Universalism (88%)
7. Theravada Buddhism (84%)
8. Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestants (77%)
9. New Thought (71%)
10. Reform Judaism (71%)

It's interesting. I've done the New Thought thing, the Pagan thing, and I'm currently semi-involved with a meditation group that has its roots in Theravada Buddhism. It brings up an interesting set of questions. What's the key in finding a "faith"? Combatibility of beliefs? The people? The politics? I consider my spiritual beliefs to be very important to me, but it's been so long since I've really felt completely comfortable in an organized religious setting that I finally just quit looking. Right now I meditate because it works; it helps me deal with the vagaries of my own mind, and I need that right now. But I don't necessarily buy into the metaphysics all the way (in fact, I'd say that 84% is about right).

I wonder if I'll ever start looking again.
Typical Libertarian Silliness - Wendy McElroy wants to privatize the marriage contract. At first, she seems to be almost making sense. Fewer people are getting married, divorce is up, and marriage is something of an archaic institution. Maybe she's right, maybe a "one size fits all" marriage contract just doesn't work anymore. But then she keeps talking, and it all falls apart.

She's suggesting a system where every couple that gets married has to negotiate the terms of their divorce before they've even spoken their vows. A lot of couples can barely make it past cummerbunds vs. vests, and she wants to throw a contract negotiation in the mix. Here's another thought that might not have occurred to Ms. McElroy: if fear of divorce is a major reason for the decline of marriage, forcing every engaged couple to confront the legalistic reality of divorce before they can even get married is not going to help. Reason three: Lawyers. It took quite a bit of shopping around to find a divorce lawyer who would draw up the necessary papers for less than $1,000. I can only imagine what would happen if every single couple had to negotiate a contract before they could go to the altar.

On a purely practical note, if you think not enough people are doing X, then creating a system that makes it more difficult and more expensive to do X is not likely to fix the problem.

On a psychological note, McElroy, along with most of the other folks I've read on the topic, seems to think that the decision to wed is a rational one. It's not. The decision to jump out of an airplane is, by comparison, much more rational. After all, you've read articles, seen the statistics, and you know that your parachute will catch you and that you'll reach the ground safely. It's just that your gut tells you that jumping out of a plane is crazy. In marriage, it's the other way around, your gut (or other body part, sometimes) dragging you into something your brain tells you has, at best, a 50/50 shot of succeeding.

And people who avoid marriage out of fear of divorce are probably not scared for their pocketbook, as McElroy suggests. The best, most friendly and compassionate divorce still sucks because you're losing your spouse and you're breaking a vow, which means you're also having to come up with a new concept of who you yourself are. When I told people I was getting divorced, not a single person said, "Wow, I bet that's going to be expensive." Anyone who would say something like that is not the kind of person I have as a friend. Is McElroy that kind of person? I hope not, but if I had to judge merely from this article, I'd guess yes. On the other hand, she might be perfect for this guy.

Sunday, July 14, 2002

Certain moments stand outside of time. Some do because of what they mean to us: first kiss, first clumsy dance, first road trip, etc. Others, because there's no language that can really describe them, so they just are. There is a little film in my head, a slow-motion instant replay of my nephew, taking three long steps off the mound and, in mid-air, reaching up with his glove to arrest the perfect flight (except for that first bounce) of what would have been a long line drive to right-center field. Before he lands, the ball has moved from his left hand to his right and is on its way home. It lands in the catcher's mitt that is already moving down for the tag. The ball meets the glove, then the glove meets the runner, and the runner meets the plate. Or was it the other way around? The call was "safe", but in my mind, it hangs in the moment before, indeterminate, when I hoped this moment of beauty could also be a moment of triumph.

It wasn't, unfortunately, and so there's no tick on the scorekeepers card to mark the catch, but it was beautiful nonetheless, and that's enough. Even my nephew seemed to think so, though he, like the rest of us, would have preferred the damn ump to have seen it the way the rest of us did.

Have I mentioned that the first nail in the coffin of my respect for authority was driven in by an umpire who called me out on two strikes? I recognize the necessity of keeping control of a game, and the sacred inviobility of the umpire's word, but, in my book, authority that cannot admit when it's made a mistake is unworthy of command.
I tried to update a link on my template (Shell's got a new home), and it died on me. It's my first trouble with Blogger, but with everyone else leaving it for other tools, I sort of feel like the last rat on a sinking ship. I hope I'm wrong. Cuz change is bad.

Update - Obviously, I was able to fix it. It's not exactly open source software, but at least they freely admit their errors and let their users support one another by honestly talking about them. Unlike some companies I could name.

Friday, July 12, 2002

Sorry about the slow week. My brain is still on vacation, and it's taking all my energy to catch up with work and life. But it seems like the whole world is on vacation right now, so I expect you'll forgive me.

Tuesday, July 09, 2002

Obligatory Stats Post - Apparently, the number on search phrase used to find my blog was "email contacts of all the divorced women of 55 years old as from june 2002 in canada", coming in at a whopping 37.51%. Obviously, this sort of thing only happens when you have very, very few hits.
What I Read On My Summer Vacation - Holes, by Louis Sachar, The Hollowing by Robert Holdstock, and Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates by Tom Robbins. From a kids book where things happen for a reason and justice is a palpable, if slow, force, to dark fantasy where myth and magic are very real, to acid-washed weirdness where curses, prophecies step up on the podium next to Truth and Beauty to tread "the Hallways of Always." By the time I finished Fierce Invalids, I couldn't walk down the boardwalk without expecting something to jump out of the woods to quote Ginsberg at me. I kind of liked that feeling, so I decided not to read anything else for the rest of the trip so I could hold on to it.

The word for the week is: Pronoia.

Monday, July 08, 2002

Okay, I'm back, but I haven't really had a chance to surf, read, or do anything else other than catching up with my life. Carrie picked up some furniture and sundries while I was gone, so I'm having to adapt the living room. And I had about 250 pics from Michigan to get online for them of you what care about such things. Luckily, Carrie also took the TV (gift from her mom), so I've had plenty of time to get stuff done. And now it's close to midnight, and I'm just now starting to feel tired. Man, vacations are a lot of work.

But this one performed it's desired function. Not only did I get to spend a week slacking off (and reading) in the company of people I love, but that special vacation magic happened: I walked in the door, sunburnt, unshaven, and ripe from the road, to a house in chaos, but I can't help smiling because it feels so good to be back and setting about the work of building my life as artfully as possible.

Of course, then I got to work and my computer had died while I was gone, leaving me to twiddle my thumbs, clean my desk, and actually use the phone to communicate. The phone! Can you imagine? I'm thinking of calling OSHA. This is unacceptable.

Wednesday, July 03, 2002

I'm off on my annual media fast. Beach, s'mores, hundred year old cottage with no TV, with the cell phone turned off and left in the luggage. Just in case you were wondering about the dearth of posts. We now return you to your regularly scheduled program.