Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Socially Awkward

Right now the House and Senate are looking to combine their versions of the Health Care Bill. These are scary times. I've been keeping a close eye on the debate since the summer. First off, let's look at what the bill does.

The only popular feature of the bill is that it makes it so insurance companies can no longer deny people for pre-existing conditions. This really made the insurance companies mad, and rightfully so. Imagine what that would mean if everyone could drop their insurance, wait til they got sick and then get insurance, rack up huge amounts of medical bills until they got better, then drop their insurance again, leaving insurance companies with the bill. So the insurance company fought back, threatening to cut campaign contributions to Democrats(who get huge amounts of money from them). The Dems panicked and rethought things. The insurance companies fund Republicans too, to keep them in check as well. Think about that for a second. Insurance companies give contributions to both Democrats and Republicans. They play both sides to guide law how they want it.

Anyways, so the Dems said ok, we'll keep the "no denying people based on pre-existing conditions" thing, but we'll make a law saying everyone has to have health care insurance or they pay a big fine. If they can't pay the fine, they go to jail. They give low income people lots of breaks and lots of loop holes to get out of having to pay the fines, but the fact remains that now all Americans are forced to buy a product from a company.

This is especially frightening considering that many states have only one or two insurance companies(monopolies are generally illegal, but by law, Health Insurance companies are exempt). Imagine if Coke, Pepsi, Snapple, etc, all merged into one company. They now own a monopoly on soft drinks and can charge as much as they want. Maybe most people will still pay $5 bucks for a soda, but if it went to $50 bucks, people would start drinking tea or water. Now imagine if the government forced you to buy soft drinks or you went to jail. I think people would spend $50 bucks for a soda to stay out of jail. Meanwhile, the hypothetical Cepsipple Soft Drink company gets filthy rich!

At this point in the bill insurance companies can massively raise their prices because people have to buy their product. They absolutely love the Democrats. The Dems are going to make health insurance companies rich!

The Republicans have a pretty brain numbingly simple fix for this. They want to make it so that health insurance companies can now compete against each other across state lines. After all, car insurance companies can. This would create a massive amount of competition. There's hundreds of health care insurance companies. Forcing them to all compete with each other, would drive down prices considerably. Not to mention the entertaining commercials. Can you imagine the next tv lizzard tell you that 15 minutes could save you 15% on your health care insurance? Or health care insurance is so easy, a cave man could do it! How about Flo, the Progressive insurance lady that has prescription drug coverage on isle three?

I used to own a couple websites. At first, there were only a couple providers and website domain names cost a hundred bucks or so. Webhosting was another $50 bucks a month or more. Then a bunch of other companies started doing it. Now you can get a domain name for $9 bucks, and hosting for a buck a month. Imagine how cheap health care insurance would be if the number of competing companies went from a couple to hundreds. Imagine the extra services they'd start to offer. After all, they have to make you happy or you can easily go to another company.

Why aren't the Democrats interested in that? Indeed, they won't even talk about it. Such a simple solution to their problem, but they avoid the subject like the plague. why? I even heard one congress woman dodge the question by making the ridiculous claim that competition would lead to rationing. Really? In what world does someone live on where they think companies skimp on services while trying to lure customers away from other companies?

Instead, to provide competition with insurance companies, they want to create a public option. This means the government creates it's own health care insurance company to compete with private insurance companies. History has shown that anything the government tries to run efficiently is a huge and costly disaster. Think of the three major postal service companies. Business is booming for the two privately run companies, but the government run post office is bankrupt. Why? You might say well, that's because people are emailing now instead of sending letters. Sure. But a privately run company would adapt to the times--only pick up/deliver mail twice a week, require people to come to their office, etc. There's certainly lots of ways a nimble private company could adapt and cut overhead. But consider that our government has been working on health care reform for 30 years and they're still not done--and what is done so far is overwhelmingly unpopular, I think that's pretty telling about to government's ability to do anything effectively.

So the public option is a really bad idea. It's clunky and clumsy. How could it adapt to fair market values in different regions in changing environments without being massively expensive? It really doesn't make sense that the Democrats would pick it over and obviously superior method such as what the Republicans are proposing. Not to mention, the public overwhelmingly supports bipartisanship with health care reform. The Democrat approval rating(along with Obama's) is slipping pretty fast. Obama's approval rating as dropped so much, so fast, that he is now the third fastest president in the history of our country to hit below 50% approval in less than one year in office. And he was massively popular when he was elected. This is the perfect opportunity for him and the other Dems to say, "We've considered the Republican proposal to allow insurance companies to compete across statelines, and it's a good idea. See America, we're coming together to make this a better country!" Cue patriotic theme music, American flags waving, and fireworks in the background for the finishing touch.

So it begs the question, why are Democrats simply not interested in that? Instead, they call the Republicans the party of no, blame them for being obstructionists despite the Dems having complete control over the government allowing them to do what ever they want. So why?

Ok, I'll tell you why. The reason is because the Democrats in Congress and the White House never cared about giving all Americans health care insurance in the first place. They don't care about bringing down costs. This has never been about helping people. Liberals are not interested in that. I know this is what they claim, but that's not what they want. They want socialized medicine, aka, a single payer system where everyone pays the government money and the government provides all health care insurance. They can't do that until they put all the privately run insurance companies out of business.

Now, if someone told me that, I'd think they're nuts. I mean, I know our government is shady at times, but I don't fall for conspiracy theories. But Obama has been clear on this. Consider his speech from 2003, before he was president...

Heh, ok, I got a little distracted looking up youtube videos. This is a good video though. It shows "The Plan," tricking the American people into accepting a "public option" long enough for the system to mortally wound private insurance companies so the government can take over health care.

Now, you might be thinking, "So what? Universal Healthcare isn't all that bad. How can you be against helping people and providing insurance for all." Or a better argument from socialized medicine, "We pay for it anyways. When people can't pay for hospital stays, the hospitals just pass the costs on to the rest of us anyways, so why not have a single payer system?"

I don't agree with that argument though it's certainly logically sound and one that should at least be considered. But in either case, shouldn't something so fundamentally massive as socialize medicine be talked about openly and honestly rather than like this? Personally, I think Obama and friends would have had much more success had they focused instead on cutting taxes on small businesses, let the bad banks fail so the good banks could take their place(which would have hurt a lot more in the short run, but been better in the long run once it was sorted out), and once the economy was stabilized, made a slow, steady case for Socialized Medicine and started a public debate. I don't agree with Socialism on any level, but there's certainly some positives in there. The fact that he had to be sneaky about it and lie to people, I think, says a lot.

In either case, I certainly haven't been happy with Republicans either lately. Republicans controlled both houses and the White house from 2000-2006 and despite having some pretty good ideas(school vouchers), did pretty much nothing useful. It would be nice to have some middle ground--free market solutions mixed with real reform. We need someone like Teddy Roosevelt--a Republican Progressionist that can get stuff done that people actually want done. So far, I haven't seen anyone running for 2012 yet that seems to fit that bill.

I'm not alone. In fact, less than 20% of Americans now consider themselves Republicans. This is why the Dems in Congress are pushing their unpopular healthcare bill. They don't think the Republicans have enough support to stop them. I guess time will tell.

Thursday, December 24, 2009


This is the first Christmas I can think of where we had carolers. This year, our drunken neighbor who yells obscenities at 3am, blessed us with his take on an old Christmas classic. I awoke to "Jingle bell, jingle bell, jingle bell cock," being screamed from next door. This went on for a good 3 mins or so. The best part was the 6 or 7 second pause towards the end where he stopped to think of a rhyme for "ball sack."

I know I just started writing again, but I took a break already. Not because I'm tired of it, but because I wanted to make some headway on learning to program. I started using a rendering engine called Irrlicht. I like it so far. To make games for a big company one day, I'm still going to have to learn how to load up models into an engine using OpenGL and DirectX, but for now, Irrlicht is a crutch that does that stuff for me so I can focus on easier things.

But first, I needed something to render. I'm not much of a modeler. Most models I have are high polygon stuff--great for web animations(or movies, if I ever got into that). But terrible for games were rendering and motion have to happen in real time. I thought an obvious choice would be to extract World of Warcraft models and use them. Turns out, this is pretty easy to do, only, Blizzard uses a custom file format and the animation and rigging for their models are harder to get at. I tried a bunch of different plugins and exporters I found through Googling, but only found a bunch of outdated and bug infested code. So I've taught myself how to rig and animate WoW models in 3ds Max. It's fairly time consuming, especially when I'm not that interested in doing game art--I want to be a programmer!

One thing that's a little satisfying is I can remodel WoW figures to look more proportioned how I'd rather see them. Like less freakishly huge muscles on the males, no slopping foreheads and brow ridges on females, etc. I'm thinking about re-proportioning the dwarves to make them look like humans just to see how that would look. I'm not an experienced programmer yet, though I'm driven. It would be nice to meet up with a modeler and animation artist that would collaborate with me on making games for the learning experience of it all. I have no illusions that I'm going to be making great games... yet. Though I certainly have a wealth of ideas.

I guess everyone has ideas. Ideas are the easy part. It's having the skill to make ideas happen that's the trick. Anyways, back to work.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Reason for the Season

I watch the Discovery channel a lot--if I watch tv at all. About a month or so ago they had a program on about the historical basis of the book Angels and Demons. The premise for the book is that old rivalry between religion and science. According to the book, Galileo, tired of the persecution of scientists, founds the Illuminati, a group of scientists who decide to spend the next couple centuries devising a plan to blow up the Vatican with science. Pretty silly, but it got me thinking about the rivalry.

Galileo didn't, in fact, discover that the Sun--not the Earth--was the center of the solar system. Others discovered this before him. He was just the first person to write his findings down in a way that non scientists could read and understand it. Think of him as the Carl Sagan of his day. Of course, no where in the Bible does it say that the Earth is the center of the universe, but the church did. And that was enough to get him in a lot of trouble. Although the truth eventually got out and is now widely accepted, the church certainly slowed it down.

And it's far from the only time. It still happens today. Of course I have a different perspective on evolution having a BA in Anthropology. The thought that there are still people today that reject evolution is... well, just plain mind boggling. Of course, it's no coincidence that the people that do, are overwhelmingly deeply religious and completely ignorant of even the most basic concepts about evolution. In fact, the Pope(the last one) came out and said the evidence for evolution is overwhelming and that it does not contradict the Bible but rather was a long process guided by God. Genesis took place over millions of human years, but only 7 of God's days. So in this case, it's not the church suppressing knowledge, but rather a bunch of close minded Christians. Unfortunately, these close minded Christians can vote. About 10 years ago, the teaching of evolution was banned in the state of Kansas. It was only banned for less than 2 years, but the implications were certainly terrifying.

No one really believes we have separation between church and state in this country. We are certainly closer to it that most countries in the world, but it's far from absolute. I don't really care what people believe, but when people can use the law to impose their religion on the rest of us, then I have to say that's not only wrong, but it's un-American.

And again, it's not only that, but the issue of gay marriage. I cannot, for the life of me, understand how two gay people getting married can possibly harm anything. The only argument I've heard with any validity is that a gay couple can sue churches that refuse to marry them. Well, a lot of people didn't believe in interracial couples being allowed to get married. I don't know how many interracial couples sued churches that refused to marry them, but we got through that ok once it was legalized. Like the evolution issue, ask people that want to "protect marriage," and overwhelmingly they're religious. In this case, I can't say "Christian," because all the major religions but Buddhism have a problem with homosexuality. India recently decriminalized homosexuality. I'm not really sure, however, what Christians in our country hope to accomplish by banning gay marriage. Even put aside the fact that using the law to impose your religious beliefs on others to deny them some fairly basic civil rights, which quite honestly, is pretty darn messed up, but what do Christians really think will happen? If you ban gay marriage long enough, gay people will go away? No, seriously. What does banning gay marriage accomplish? And since when do we vote on civil rights? Since we out number gay people, can we vote that they can't have pudding, so we get all their pudding too? I mean really, since we out number them, we get to push them around and decide what civil rights they can have and what we'd rather they not have because their life style offends our religion. It's embarrassing to be a Californian knowing that Prop 8 passed. But hey, I voted against it. I did my part.

First off, I don't understand homosexuality myself. It makes no sense from an evolutionary stand point--which is strange since just about every part of the human experience can be explained through evolution. And homosexuality has been around for a pretty long time. I recently finally got around to watching 300. I love history, but I heard it had a lot of historical inaccuracies, so I had a feeling I wouldn't like it. I was right. I had to laugh when the Spartan King guy referred to the Athenians as "boy lovers." The Spartans were a lot more well known for being homosexuals than the Athenians were. the Spartans encouraged all their soldiers to be romantically involved with each other. After all, if a woman I loved was in danger on the battle field, I would certainly fight a lot harder to keep her alive.

I'm reluctant to talk about another "religion" that actively suppresses a field of science due to conflicts. Ironically, it's the one that has "Science" right in its name. I'm partially reluctant to mention it, for one, I know that people that bash it on the internet get hopelessly and obsessively harassed by its members(so I'm going to avoid using goggle search words here). I never back down from fights, which is a big reason why I try less and less to pick them. But this is not a religion. It's a giant pyramid scam that bilks people out of their life savings and destroys families. They're glorified snake oil salesmen that offer to use super natural powers to remove the spirits of dead aliens stuck in your body that make you sick. Their biggest competition? Real doctors.

You've probably heard about Tom Cruise and how he knows the terrible secret of the Psychology field and how it's a big scam. They're barbaric, he says, and still give people electroshock therapy, subscribe a near unlimited supply of drugs to kids in the ADHD epidemic scare, and prosaic to millions that only get worse. Well, if you look at the history of medicine in general, it's pretty frightening. Up until about a hundred years ago, doctors still believed in the theory of the 4 humors. These were the fluids of the body--one of which was blood. They believed that sickness was generally caused by an imbalance. Generally, this imbalance was too much of one of the humors--blood. Ironically, sick patients that would have eventually recovered on their own, were often killed by otherwise well meaning doctors trying to save them by draining out their blood. A big reason why Christian doctors knew so little about human anatomy during this period of time is because the church decreed it was immoral to cut cadavers up and study them. Really, how advance a people would we be today without religion hampering science?

If you keep in perspective the scary history of medicine in Christian culture, electroshock therapy doesn't look so bad. Psychologists are also doctors, only understanding the human brain is a lot more difficult. There's nothing to cut up and see. In time, the field of Psychology will get better. It has a lot of catching up to do. Another interesting thing about this "religion" is that it denies that medication actually helps people with mental issues. When their founder Ron H. died he had a sedative type prescription medication in his blood stream. How can you not laugh at that? A science fiction author invents a religion where, if you're sick, instead of taking medication, you give him lots of money so he can wave a magic stick over you to remove spirit aliens from your body, and he, himself is taking medication for his own anxiety issues. That's hysterical.

Anyways, I wanted to talk about more than just about science vs religion. Franz Boas established that the purpose of culture is to solve social problems that are unique to a people's environment. This perspective is incredibly useful in the understanding of culture, especially if you lump religion in with it. Religions always reflect the people and environments that create them. Like culture, religions change with environments and people, as their social needs change.

Consider Babylon. The most famous religious figure from the very ancient world from the oldest known writing ever produced by man--Gilgamesh. I think most of us read the Epic of Gilgamesh in high school. If high school was a long time for you, or you weren't so lucky to read it, the story is about a king that seeks immortality. In his search, he finds a couple that was granted immortality by the Gods because they built a giant Arc and put two of every animal inside to protect them against a giant flood. And Christians thought Noah was original? Anyway, the reason why Gilgamesh sought immortality is because the after life was a miserable existence. As I remember from my high school days, you sat around in dark caves eating clay as your bread. Why create such a dreary religion? You see, ancient Babylon(modern day Iraq) has two really big rivers flowing through it. Big rivers means water, and large amounts of water is something that was hard for large ancient armies to carry. What I'm getting at is that Babylon had a very long history of being invaded over and over.

Religious leaders wanted to create a religion where the after life was dismal, because they needed their people focused on the hard realities of this life. They needed people that would train to fight and survive against tough realities. They needed defensive walls built, vigilant citizens, etc. What they didn't want is people spending a lot of time praying instead of working or neglecting their responsibilities in this life.

Take an extreme opposite--Egypt. Egypt has certainly been conquered a few times, but they also had unusually long stretches of peace--highly unusual for the ancient world. A lot of this was due to buffer zones they had. In other words, if you want to attack ancient Egypt, you had to invade through other countries first. Egypt also had a really predictable and stable source of food. The Nile always flooded at the same time, the same way, with minerally rich and fertile silt and farmers spent thousands of years learning how to maximize food production. Even when Egypt was conquered by the Hixos, the Macedonians, Nubians, etc, their occupiers generally let the Egyptians continue on as is. Such a peaceful place(in context) had a massive fixation with a long and elaborate after life. Where Gilgamesh didn't want to die, the leaders of Egypt spent more time preparing to die than they did preparing to live.

Similar to the dreary religion of the Babylonians is that of the Jews. The Jews have had a tough history. I don't believe it's historically accurate to say the Jews were slaves in Egypt exactly(not all of them). It's probably more accurate to describe them as mercenaries for the Egyptian army. All was good and well until they decided to leave. Moses knew the landscape really well having lived in the area for years in exile. He knew which time of the year and day the tide of the Reed Sea went out enough so that he could pass a large group of his fellow Jews through, allowing them to escape. Hours later, the tide comes in, and by the time the Egyptian army catches up, the Jews are on the other side and the Sea of Reeds is too deep to cross. I know that silly Charlton Heston movie has Moses parting the Red Sea, but this is not the correct translation from the Bible. And yeah, I'm still amazed at how little Christians know about their own religion. Anyways, so the Jews spend 40 years in the desert training new recruits to conquer the lands of Kaanan to found Israel. Think of a homeless tribe of people, raising an army for 40 years. Of course, we don't really know if it's really 40 years. I forget why scholars assume that's the time, but the Bible isn't clear on that point. I would put it at a much shorter time span before I believed that Moses lived for over a hundred years.

Anyways, so Moses has got a problem. Thousands of homeless people in a desert, training for a long time to conquer what is now modern day Israel. How do you keep the people from revolting? Well, the Bible says at least once he caught some of the followers worshiping a golden calf. Moses ordered them killed as well as everyone in their family killed as an example. He creates the ten commandments. Four of the ten are all about not to doubt his religion or even consider "false gods." Clearly the "thou shalt not kill" is a throw away commandment that isn't really important. After all, he's raising an army to go kill the Kaananites and take their land. What part of "Thou shalt not kill," says "unless it's a bunch of people you don't know who you want to kill and take land from." The real meat of the ten commandments are the "you must obey me and not question me," parts.

He tells them about God being a hateful, vengeful God that hates humans for being imperfect. He implores them to be obedient and fearful and to constantly strive for perfection so that God might forgive them and allow them an after life of eternal bliss. He scares them with the idea of hell and eternal damnation.

In a twist of irony, the many years pass, the army is ready, and Moses reaches a mountain top where he can see the lands of Kaanan, the future Israel, but God does not permit him to set foot upon it. If I remember correctly, Moses offended God by striking a stone with his staff in anger. So Moses dies and David takes his place. I think it's more likely David was sick of Moses' crap, had him assassinated. The Jews had to be on the verge of revolt. That's a long time to listen to Moses about the promise land while they're sitting around in a desert training. If David did indeed assassinate Moses and tell the Jews that they were leaving the desert to go attack, he would have been massively popular. But in either case, the addition of "See? Even Moses messed up and offended God. You don't want to do the same, so you'd better obey," makes a nice touch.

Let's fast forward to about a hundred or two years after Jesus. Marcus Aurelius dies. He was the last of the great Roman Kings. He tried to make Russel Crow the next king right before he died, but Russel Crow became a Gladiator instead... ok, just seeing if anyone's still paying attention. Anyway, this was a confusing time for the Roman empire, especially for religion. Picture it. A crumbling empire. Nothing but bad leaders for the next couple centuries. Constant attacks by Germans from the north, the Huns from the east, and eventually by the Persians from the south east. The Romans were starting to lose faith in the classic Gods like Mars and Venus. They had a lot of religions to choose from. There were dozens of popular mystery cults. There was this one guy in particular. His followers believed he rose form the dead. He could turn water into wine. Of course I'm talking about Apollonius. Yeah, I know, there were a bunch of prophets at the time all claiming to be the son of God and performing miracles. Jesus certainly wasn't the first or last person whose followers believed performed the same miracles.

But the official religion of the time was for the god Sol Invictus. Sol Invictus was born on December 25th. Like Mithras, a similar God Romans believed in at the time, Sol Invictus was the god of brotherhood. I've heard a lot of conflicting information about if Mithras was also born on Dec 25th. But I think it's very interesting to know how extremely close we came to having to say "Merry Mithrasmas," every year. Try saying that out loud. It doesn't sound good at all.

A small group of Jews calling themselves Christians decided to work towards making their religion the official religion of Rome. They did two things right. One, they went to the German barbarians to the north who were constantly attacking Rome, and converted them(well, it took a long time). They also had an incredibly ingenious idea for converting the Romans. Now, clearly the Bible never mentions anywhere of any exact date that Jesus was born. In fact, most scholars point towards the Spring as the most likely general time. But the Christians decided to start telling the Romans that their God Jesus was also born on December 25th. Now why would they do that? Simple. They managed to convince followers of Sol Invictus that he and Jesus Christ were, in fact, the same person. Christianity eventually moved from being illegal, to legal, to the official religion of Rome. And to think, if Apollonius' followers had come up with the idea of claiming he was born on Dec 25th, I'd be yelling out "Apollonius, that hurt!" when I stub my toe.

The founders of Christianity did make one really big mistake. They used Judaism as not only an influence of Christianity, but as it's foundation. They really didn't have to do that. They could have easily said that Christianity was a fresh religion, with a clean slate. That Jesus was the first and only prophet of the one true God and avoided a lot of head ache. They didn't do that. I would say that the Old Testament is the number one reason that hurts the credibility of Christianity to this day.

Instead, they create a religion where God is a loving God. He accepts people for their imperfections as long as they believe in him and confess any wrong doings. Jesus is famously forgiving. At one point during Jesus' crucifixion, a criminal beside him who was a murderer and a thief confessed to Jesus right before dying and was absolved of all sin and went to heaven.

This is a very, very different God from the hateful, vengeful God of the Jews. Moses' ten commandments and The Torah / Old Testament was made for a very different time and environment. It should not have been used as the foundation of Christianity. The Old Testament and New are completely incompatible. This is a pretty serious hurdle that Christians today struggle with as they try and reconcile this impossible combination.

In either case, the Germans, now Christians, of course conquer the Roman Empire in 476 thus beginning the Dark Ages(this date is my personal opinion on what started this period)--the darkest time in European history as well as the height of Christian power. Literacy is nearly wiped out. Europeans forget their poems, stories, music, and history. Amazingly, this is also the start of the Persian Renaissance where Muslims learn European poems, stories, music, and history. Ironically, a thousand years later when the Dark Ages end and Europeans are reading and writing again, many would have to learn their own culture back from the Muslims.

It's also interesting to think about the iconic image of Jesus we see today. There's a reason why he's a pale skinned, straight haired, blued eyed German. The Germans controlled the birth place of Christianity, and spread their re-interpretation of Christianity throughout the rest of Europe.

Hmm, now that I think about it, it would be really interesting to know what other religions Europeans were practicing before they were conquered by the Germans and converted to Christianity. Possibly future research project? After all, we could have very well been doing a vast array of other possible things on Dec 25th instead had any number of events in history been slightly different. The act of putting dead trees in our home or painting eggs are, in fact, remains of other old, non Christian religions celebrating the Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox.

Anyways, what exactly is the Reason for the Season? I have no idea. I do really like pie and Egg Nog though.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Poisoning Truth

Not all Native American shamans used their powers for good. In fact, some shamans in California tribes used their connections with the spirits to kill people. They were called Poisoners in their own languages. And although they didn't actually put poison in people's food, they asked the spirits to make their enemies sick. Now you would think that such a horrible person would be killed by a united tribe. A Poisoner is pure evil. Who would possibly want such a person around?

The chief would. You see, the chief would use his power and influence to keep the rest of the tribe from killing the Poisoner. And in exchange, the Poisoner would threaten to use his powers to kill the enemies of the chief. As long as the powerful Poisoner lived, no one dared oppose the chief. As long as the chief lived, the Poisoner was safe.

Whether you believe in shamanism, witchcraft, or magic in general is irrelevant. The partnership between magic / religion / science and the state is lethal. Think about science this way... new discoveries are rarely practical. Ardi has been in the news a lot lately(well, if you follow anthropology news), but other than being perhaps the greatest discovery in archaeology of this century, what does it actually do for anyone? Well, nothing. Ardi proves that humans didn't evolve from monkeys--something anthropologists have known for decades anyways--but do any of us feel different now?

My point is that science in general doesn't put food on the table. Just a tiny fraction of discoveries have actual practical applications. Certainly you might have put money down to help invent the television, radio, or telephone. But what about millions for the human genome project? It might be one of the most important feat in the world of genetics that we did it, but we might be long dead before any serious medical breakthroughs come from it. But since science generally is so unprofitable, the bulk of money that funds it comes from governments. But is that a conflict of interest?

One example is from Nazi Germany. Us Americans and our Eugenics Movement are partially to blame for for the rise of the Nazi party. We gave them legitimacy for genocide, even if we never took Eugenics past forced sterilizations. But Hitler eventually needed evidence closer to home. He either believed or pretended to believe that white Germans were racially superior people. Therefore anyone else that mixed with a German weakened the race. He needed the backing of the German scientific community for legitimacy. Well, who's going to pay for scientific research in the middle of a war? Hitler did. And scientists given grants by Hitler's government offered scientific "evidence" "proving" that Hitler was right and that non white, christian, germans were in fact inferior and should be removed from Germany, or risk mixing, and thus weakening the German race. How can you argue with that? The government is telling you it. The scientific community is telling you it. If you don't believe it, you're a fool. Right? Germans of pure blood could justify genocide was a matter of self defense.

We're not any better. Long before our Eugenics Movement, our government needed justification for slavery. It was immoral to enslave someone that was fully human, so if a black person was, we were in trouble. Who do you think funded the scientific community in this country to come to the rescue? With government grant money, American scientists fudged result in order to "prove" that black people had smaller brains than whites.

Today, we know there's no significant difference between people of different races on a genetic level. Skin color and nose shapes are close to meaningless compared to the vast amount of information required to make a human. In fact, there's more differences among people of the same race than of those outside it. Meaning, I could easily be more genetically similar to a black, asian, or hispanic person than I was to another white person. So from a "scientific" stand point, the word "race" is meaningless. It's important in understanding culture and social attitudes towards each other, sure, but that's it.

And although science is more ethical these days, it's still far from objective. Scientists are still given grant money by people expecting specific results. Let's look at Liberalism for a moment. Capitalism is the bane of Liberalism. Ever since the fall of feudalism and the rise of the bourgeoisie, corporations have grown to wield enormous power. Think of Walmart. Yeah, Walmart has happy, friendly commercials, but it wields more power than some small countries. The influence and financial might is staggering, and most people don't even realize it. These large corporations cripple the Liberals' agenda of big government controlling our lives. For years, Liberals have plotted ways to break up corporations and weaken capitalism in general.

I'm certainly not arguing that corporations are good. Why does our government spend money trying to educate the public not to smoke tobacco at the same time our government spends money subsidizing it? That's like running a heater and an AC at the same time and letting them fight it out. Meanwhile, we tax payers pay for all of it. And why? Because politicians get campaign money from tobacco industries. Worse still, Obama spent about a billion dollars in his bid to become President--a job that will pay him less than a 1/20th of that. Why would anyone be dumb enough to do that? Well, it wasn't his own money. He got donations. In fact, most of our politicians are only able to run with donations from corporations. Corporations have huge influence over policy in this country. And a lot of Liberals would love to see that end.

In the 70, scientists like John Holdren with liberal agendas argued that pollution from massive manufacturing plants were causing Global Cooling. The science is simple. Pollution blocks out sun light. Less sun light reaches earth, the colder we get. There was archaeological evidence too. After all, the vikings settled Greenland(back when it was green), hundreds of years before Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492. But those viking settlements are currently under blankets of snow and ice. This proves that the earth was much warmer than it is now almost a thousand years ago. Could industrialization and pollution be the cause of Global Cooling?

For years, the scientific community fought for pollution control arguing that if we didn't stop polluting, the earth would freeze up into a block of ice. If you didn't take the threats of Global Cooling seriously, you were an uneducated fool. Why, you must also believe the earth was flat. That's how dumb you are.

As the 70s turned into the 80s, Ronald Reagan was elected--a filthy republican--and the threat of Global Cooling was never taken seriously by the government enough to warrant change. That didn't stop the Liberals, of course. They've pushed for tax increases on the wealthy. They've pushed for reparations. They've pushed for grant money to other developing countries. But Republican Presidents have mostly told them no(though some Republicans have done this too). We had a Democrat President for 8 years named Bill Clinton, but he was a Moderate, and congress was overwhelmingly controlled by Republicans at the time. And Bill pretty much had to go along with what the Republicans wanted to do.

Then 2000 came along. 8 years of a fairly unpopular war time, Republican President lead to a Democrat controlled Congress in 2006 and a Liberal President in 2008. This is the first time this has happened in a very long time. Remember the Global Cooling alarmists from the 70s? Well, they've been waiting a long time for this. They've scrapped the Global Cooling idea and now it's Global Warming. And John Holdren who once argued the case of Global Cooling? He's now Obama's Science Czar arguing for Global Warming. That's right, the Liberal controlled state has joined with Liberal backed Environmentalist groups to fund scientists to "prove" Global Warming is a real threat. The science is simple. Sun light sneaks past the heavy pollution in the air, gets to the earth, and warms it up. Then when the heat wants to dissipate off into the atmosphere, the heavy pollution traps it so it can't leave. It's not crazy. This is exactly how an actual green house works to keep plants warm. Thus if this is how a simple greenhouse works, it makes sense that it must be how the vastly complicated planet Earth must also work. Therefore, we must hurt / weaken those terrible manufacturing plants spewing out pollution because they are going to melt the ice caps and flood the planet. If you don't take the threats of Global Warming seriously, you are an uneducated fool. Why, you must also believe the earth was flat. That's how dumb you are. Hmm, that sounds familiar...

But there's a few problems with this latest theory. One, there's definitely not a consensus among the scientific community that this is true. In fact, even people on the "Global Warming side" admit that there's really no evidence that it's true but that we should "do it anyways, just in case." Worst still, since none of this can be tested in a lab because not all the variables are understood, even the alarmist scientists have to admit that they don't fully understand how it all works. All they have are untested theories. And two, scientists on all sides of this debate acknowledge that 80% or more of the earth's greenhouse gases(the nasty culprit) come from the over 500 volcanoes that surround the Ring of Fire of the pacific ocean's edges. Another over 15% come from other sources of nature--wildfires, rotting vegetation, people and animals exhaling, cow farts, etc. This means that human pollution accounts for less than 4% of all greenhouse gases at the most. Some scientists have published papers claiming that human produced greenhouse gases make up less than a tenth of a percent of the annual greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, no scientist can prove that if humans never existed, the earth wouldn't heat up and cool down exactly how it's doing now.

Of course, with "Climategate" recently coming out, this makes it more shakey for Liberals. I mean, here you have leaked emails of some scientists panicked that the data doesn't show that Global Warming is happening and that they've been faking or hiding contradictory evidence. Just when you thought we had learned our lesson about faking science for political agendas. In fact, most of the earth has been in a cooling trend for the last several years. Hell, this weekend, it snowed here... here, in the Sacramento valley. You know how rare that is? We're barely much above sea level, and it snowed here. But as it turns out, we're still back with the Chief and the Poisoner. The Chief wants to break Capitalism so that the government, not corporations, has more control over our lives, and the Poisoner will talk to the right spirits to make it happen. The only thing getting sick in this case, is the truth.

Now, the earth certainly does heat up and cool down. It's such a complicated system that of course it fluctuates pretty wildly. Consider a few thousand years ago, nearly all of Canada was a giant ice cube. A rash of volcano activity might have been what helped thaw it out. We also know that there's archaeological sites of Native Americans off the coast of California. No doubt they were flooded out when the ice caps melted and the ocean rose. But sorry, that didn't happen because of man made pollution. It's actually a big balancing act. As the earth gets warmer, there's more water on the surface. As water warms, there's more kelp and algae. As there's more kelp and algae, there's more oxygen being produced and more greenhouse gases getting eaten up which makes it colder. As it gets colder, the water cools, there's less kelp and algae meaning the earth starts to get warmer. This process has gone on for a billion years. We're pretty arrogant if we think a couple aerosol cans is going to change that.

The real thing to be scared about, is not what humans can do to the earth, but what the earth can do to us.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Autistic License

I've had more than one person determined that I'm autistic. People that are autistic are socially awkward and unable to relate to others or have empathy. Autistic people often seek repetitive tactile sensations and become insatiably curious about a narrow focus of topics. A third common symptom is extreme sensitivity to sensory input--loud sounds, pungent smells, bright lights, etc.

I used to have a really twisted idea of how people thought. For instance, I used to think that if people offered you food, that they didn't really want you to take their food. Why would you *want* someone to take things from you? I mean, I was a kid at the time and I used to think a lot of weird things. But even into my teen years, I was so incredibly out of touch with what people thought, that I became obsessed with trying to figure it out. I used to go to the public library to read psychology books. Unfortunately, I studied B. F. Skinner too much not knowing at the time how wildly disproved he was. The Brits figured psychology out while us dumb Americans had our hands tied with backwards Lamarkian thinking from otherwise smart people like Franz Boas. More anti-Darwin, religious, rejectionist thinking that wrapped up American psychology into punishment and reward learning rather than through environmental coping. To put simply, how do you learn how to speak a language using only reward and punishment? That was thing big point Noam Chomsky used to break down the entire American psychology paradigm in the early 1900s. But that started my curiosity in people.

By the time I was out of high school, I used music to communicate and express myself. I avoided talking to people if I could. I still do that, and I don't really understand why I do. But it was worse in my 20s. I had a learning disability that made it difficult for me to decipher human speech. But I eventually over came that around my early 20s and now I do fine. Am I still afraid people will talk to me and I won't understand them? I don't think that's it. For some reason, it just really bothers me thinking that people will talk to me. I'm ok talking to people if there's a function to it. But "How are you? Good to see you," conversations, I really try and avoid even to the point of hiding from people in hallways that I think might spark up such a conversation. I like chatting on the internet though, since I don't have to use my ears.

I've heard that some think Albert Einstein couldn't have been autistic because he was noted as having a great sense of humor. But was that natural or learned? I'm pretty good at making people laugh. In fact, I actually love giving class presentations or teaching in general. When I taught computers at Twin Oaks elementary school to 4-6th graders, one of the other teachers told me she could always tell when I was teaching because the kids laughed a lot. I used to go out to dance clubs a lot with friends, and I would do really silly dances not at all afraid to embarrass myself for a laugh from my friends. But I'd avoid talking whenever I could. It was so relaxing for me, not to have to concentrate hard enough to be able to understand people. People around me used to act like I was deaf and ask my friends about me as if I couldn't hear them. That's pretty weird to think about that. For my foreign language requirements in college, of course I took American Sign Language and enjoyed it.

Whatever social skills I have, isn't natural for me, but are a result of a lot of study and effort. I think about this sometimes as I watch The Big Bang Theory. It's the funniest sit com I've ever seen. The command Jim Parsons has over his facial expressions, timing, and control is amazing. His character, Sheldon, really doesn't seem strange to me. I identify with that character a lot.

As for repetitive motions, I'm not going to admit to what it is exactly I do, other than I've poured over tons of abnormal psychology journals and texts, and never found any other example of it. It's probably just a strange OCD thing I have. No one has ever caught me doing it, so it's obviously pretty slight. It makes no sense to me, but does make me feel better to keep doing it. It's not really a routine exactly, more of a reaction. I do have routines, but probably nothing more unusual than what most people have. Everyone has something weird that they do. The only really common one I have is hand washing, though it's not obsessive. When I used to be a brick layer, I used to keep a bucket of water by me so I could wash mortar off my hands about every 20 seconds, but that's an extreme example. Otherwise, I only wash my hands if there's dirt on them or I'm about to eat--probably only 10 times a day on average.

Sensitivity to sensations is a big thing for me. Even if I have my windows rolled up in my car, I just about always have to cover my ears if an emergency vehicle passes baring a siren. If someone close to me yells unexpectedly, it can hurt my ears. Certain frequencies of power tools bother me. When I worked construction, I refused to use a skillsaw. I'd either cut steel rebar with a hacksaw or ask someone else to do it. And if someone else used a skillsaw to do it, I'd cover my ears and move away. I still really hate that sound. When I go to the dentist, I had to ask the dentist to stop using a certain drill attachment because the sound frequency of it drove me crazy.

It's not just sounds. Bright lights bother me. I hate going outside during the day. If I wasn't part native american, I'd probably be really pale. Sunlight rarely touches my skin, and if it does, it doesn't for long.

Some smells really bother me. I don't mean because they smell bad. But I'm really sensitive to some perfumes or scented candles. Flowery smells can make me feel like my air pipe is swelling up and I can't breathe.

Put these things together, and I do fit the category of a high functioning autistic. But there's a few reasons why I believe I'm not one. For one, autistics are very detail oriented and have trouble seeing the big picture. I'm the opposite there. I'm really good at figuring out how large groups of systems fit together for an over arching concept, but I can easily get lost in details. Also, I sometimes have difficulty focusing on things unless I'm really interested in them. Although not all autistics show signs at childhood. I certainly didn't. But when they do, they're generally difficult for parents to deal with. I heard a story of one parent that used to threaten to sing to her autistic child unless he started behaving. For the child, the sound of women singing was deeply upsetting, so it was a threat that worked. I didn't have any kind of symptom like that as a child. I was the exact opposite. According to my mom, she forgot about me a lot because I always played with blocks and cars without making a sound. In fact, even to this day, I can sit in complete silence for hours at a time. That's pretty creepy, actually. Solitary confinement probably wouldn't bother me at all. In fact, if I was ever falsely convicted of something horrible and went to jail, I'd keep breaking rules so I could go there instead of a cell with others.

But if I was autistic, it might explain why everyone in the world seems so weird to me. And why I so very, very rarely find people I can remotely relate to. When I was really young, my father taught me the principles of Buddhism. Concepts like honor, honesty, justice... they made a lot of sense to me. These are not buddhist concepts exactly, but they work nicely with it. They seemed like universal truths to me, and I had a deep sense of the world, thinking that everyone must feel the same because it was manifest. As I got older, and better able to understand others around me, I grew horrified when I'd see people lie or cheat. It still really bothers me. And my father who taught me these values? Turns out they're not any more important to him than most people. Growing up, he used to tell me to lie for him and I refused to. This might seem silly, but I dated this woman, and it really bothered me that she cheated on her taxes. I didn't say anything to her about it, but it really did.

I make mistakes. I believe in honesty, but sometimes I slip up and say things that aren't true. I sometimes do it when I feel insecure and exaggerate something about me to try and make people like me. It's futile. I mean, if I say something superficial in hopes of getting someone to like me for a superficial reason, then they don't really like me for me, and thus, it brings me no comfort.

Ok, enough stalling. I'm still on Chap 1 of my novel. Getting the setting right is hard. Once I have that, the rest should go fast.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Writing with mana

Writing's going slow. I love doing character background sketches, figuring out the world the story takes place in, the cultures and religions, etc. But when it comes to actually sitting down and wordsmithing it from the movie clips in my mind to print on a page, there's all these rules I have to wade through. Keep it in third person limited. Show, don't tell. Is this line clear enough? Does this scene happen too soon or does there need to be more set up? I'm really happy with my creative abilities. Just not happy with my writing ability. I don't just mean the tons of weird typos I make all the time(the ones spell check doesn't catch). I'm sure this blog is litered with them. But I mean, I never feel like my words really capture exactly what I mean, at least not without a lot of work.

I don't need a company. I need minions. Minions that will take my storyboard ideas and turn them into novels, animated movies, and computer games. See? I'm not unsuccessful. I'm just under staffed!

I found a new writers group. This is good because even the most famous writers in the world usually still have people critique their work before they publish it. My last group fell apart after ten years. Seemed like everyone kind of disappeared at the same time. The one other sword and sorcery fantasy writer seemed to have a nervous break down and snapped. I talked to her years, and she's fine now. Another got married. Another was asked to leave because he kept submitting work but never spent much time reviewing ours. Our leader, I think, kept getting pressure from her husband to get a real job and help out, so she stopped. And lastly, one member stopped coming after he told me he was undergoing gender reassignment.

Awesome group, just disintegrated over 2007. That last guy, I don't know if he wanted to quit or if he thought things would be too weird. To be honest, I don't understand transgendered people. To me, if you have a Y chromosome, you're a dude. The end. I can understand people feeling like they're more comfortable with ideas from one gender or another, but these ideas aren't all genetic. Clothing, hair styles, make up, diction, labor roles... these are all cultural distinctions. None of that is biological, nor is it universal. When women pull the "I don't have to be responsible, I'm a girl," crap on me, I don't put up with it. I take that as a person saying, "I'm not responsible. You can't count on me." I'd act accordingly no matter the gender of the person saying that.

As for biological... isn't that kind of arbitrary? I mean, if you have an innie or an outie(technical terms, heh) it's just a biological structure made to accomplish a goal. Does that really dictate who you are? I will say, the whole being able to stand while I pee thing is pretty useful--especially while camping / hiking.

But, despite me doubting this, I have to accept that trans people generally go through a lot of crap. They lose friends, family, sometimes their jobs, and face a lot of discrimination for the rest of their lives. If gender was arbitrary, no one would go through the hell of changing it, if it wasn't really that important. So, as strange as I think it is, I have to simply respect it, even if I don't understand it.

When that guy told me, I emailed him back a few questions... mostly out of respect. He was a really cool guy. I hung out with him at his place a few times. At one point, I sat on his bed in the dark watching a movie on his computer. I was in complete shock when he told me. Seriously, I never saw it coming. I thought, "Wow, he seemed so normal." I guess that sounds a little homophobic on my part. But I also think that it sucks I don't still hang out with him. He was a pretty cool guy. I think if I ever saw him dressed as a woman, I'd get over the shock of it and be fine.

Why would I be shocked if it's all arbitrary to me? Well, the voice of society imprinted on my brain is hard to ignore. The Hawaiians used to believe that we had more than one soul. The Hawaiian religion is actually pretty fascinating, and too bulky to cover in this entry. But one aspect of it, they believed in the lono and the ku. There were more parts of the soul than that, but just to focus on the parts of the mind... the lono is the part of your soul that is the thinker. This is not your common sense, exactly, but more the means to coming up with new ideas. The ku is your gut reaction. Society teaches us things. The ku has no filter and accepts all information as true. All gut, primal reactions from the ku are based on good and bad information. The lono can filter this information, but isn't the part best used for making decisions. I mean, if you rely on the lono all the time, you sit around philosophizing about everything without ever doing anything. If you rely on the ku all the time, you live on common sense and gut reactions even if it means living in ignorance. I mean, after all, common sense tells you that the world is flat. Education tells you it's round.

My point, is that society tells us what to like, love, hate, and fear. If you live by the ku, you become a product of it. If you live by the lono, you become an outcast of it. Somewhere there's a happy medium. Heh, ok, enough stalling. Back to my book. I'm still finishing the prologue. It's a lot of weird concepts at once. This is going to be hard trying to ease them in without being too jarring.

Monday, November 16, 2009


Is it for entertainment? Sometimes I check out the personals on Craigslist. I've written a few women and traded some emails back and forth. Though none of it's gone very far. I used to meet people off the internet on a regular basis, but it's been a long time since then. To be honest, most of the posts I see in the personals section horrify me deeply.

How many posts from barely literate, horny, meth addicted women can you go through before becoming a monk starts sounding like a good idea? Some of my favorite lines are "must have a sense of humor lol." What this means is "must laugh at the same stupid things I laugh at." I've never met anyone that didn't have a sense of humor. I don't think it's possible, really. I know most people reading that might think, "Well, you haven't met my ex's parents..." or something. But really, what you're saying is that the person never laughs at anything... ever. Does anyone really know someone that's never laughed?

It's the same egocentric thinking as when people talk about music and say, "Oh, I like all kinds," or worse, "If it's good, I probably like it." Good music. One woman told me she liked all kinds of music and I said, "So that means you like Death Metal, Break Beat, Street Punk, Baroque, Progressive Jazz, Dark Wave, and Carnatic?" Of course, she didn't know what most of what that meant. She then went on to tell me about 'all the different kinds of music' she liked by naming 7 different types of Techno. Wow. That's diversity right there :/ What she's really saying is "All people think like I do, so if I say 'all kinds of music' you know that I meant all kinds of techno." It really bothers me that I meet so many people incapable of understanding how this is faulty thinking.

Another favorite Craigslist line is women looking for "a REAL man." What the hell does that mean? As far as I know, that means they have a Y chromosome. Really, what the hell is a real man? Again, this means, "Someone who can read my mind through the internet and accept my definition of what makes a man." I guess this is the kind of statement that comes from a woman that's frustrated by the relationships she continues to find herself in and can't seem to understand how to get what she wants, or to even be able to understand in her own mind what that is. In one add, I saw a woman looking for a REAL man saying something like, "if you hit me, you better have flowers the next day." That really breaks my heart to hear a woman say stuff like that.

It makes me think about a bigger problem in American society(well, world society, but one culture at a time). Women are an oppressed majority in our culture. This might make me sound like a male feminist, but it's true. It's not just men that oppress women. Think about how many powerful women are in our society that we allow to be considered an expert on something that don't face backlash for it? Oprah, obviously a powerful, influential woman, but she's an exception for two reasons. One, although she's skilled at what she does, she's not generally seen that way. Most people think running a business or being a talk show host doesn't take skill, so she's basically just a celebrity. And two, she's very humble and non threatening. I mean, she's powerful and influential, but people don't really see her as pushing an agenda. So we're ok with her.

Sarah Palin, not so much. A strong gun toting woman that can kill and skin a moose? People are itching to see her fail. Any little mistake she makes and people celebrate it. News media knows the more they can bash her, the higher their ratings. Of course, no one cared about Joe Biddon even if he made racist jokes about arabs working at Seven11s, but making fun of Palin was media gold. The feminist generally won't protect her because she's in the 'wrong political party.'

Martha Stewart. I remember seeing an entire magazine devoted to spoofing her. "Is Martha Stewart Living," was the name. No one really understands why she went to jail, but I remember camera crews going around showing people laughing and cheering at the news anyways. Who the hell would be against Martha Stewart? But there really are a lot of people who are. The worst thing about Martha Stewart, not only is she talented at something--home making, but she makes cooking, sewing, cleaning, etc, look like actual skills. This implies that women that do these things should be respected. We don't like that at all. We like thinking that these are 'natural skills,' whatever the hell that means, and that women just do them and don't need to be considered experts in them. It's as if we say, "Crafting takes no skill. The only reason men can't do it as well is cause it's just a natural thing women are born with." Now, if someone's *really* good at cooking, if it's a man, we're ok with that. You're not going to see many websites devoted to hating male chefs. But you'll find plenty anti Rachael Ray sites.

Hillary Clinton... I was actually kind of surprised to hear all the democrats say they wouldn't vote for her. As unpopular as McCain is with conservatives, I think Hillary would have lost to him had she won the primary. Obviously Republicans tend to not like her either. I saw a poll from a couple years ago that listed her as the most hated person by Republicans. Hillary is very assertive and decisive. She's the kind of person that doesn't put up with crap... well, unless she's married to it.

Nancy Pelosi. I read somewhere that she averages around 70-80% of votes each election. This might make her one of the most popular Congresswomen among her constituents(of San Fran). However, she's certainly not well liked among the rest of California. I read a recent poll that puts her approval at around 30% among Californians... who I would guess up until a year ago, never even heard of her. In either case, why the sudden hate? I know it's over the health care bill, but she didn't write any of the versions of it. Harry Reid and that other guy I can't think of right now, has done most of that. Other than fighting for the Public Option, she didn't set the terms on what the bill had to include. Obama did. Pelosi is really just a cheerleader for the liberals and a behind the scenes arm twister. Opponents of the current plan call it Pelosicare. Why single her out? Do women make easier targets of hate?

Ann Coulter is probably the most reviled of all. Yeah, she says a lot of things that really upset people, and with good reason. If I took her seriously, I'd be offended too. But coming from someone that's said things like women shouldn't be allowed to vote, when she's a woman, you have to realize a lot of what she says is for shock value and meant to be funny. You might think that other conservative spokes people like Limbaugh or Beck get crap too, sure, but hate for Ann is legendary. And why? It's not like she runs anything or has her own show. But I notice that feminist groups that would be defending her for being attacked because she's a woman, won't defend her because she's 'in the wrong party.' You might think, "Well, I wouldn't defend her either. Have you heard some of the things she's said?" Yeah, I have, and they're some pretty awful things. But remember in the news a few years back when a couple guys ran up to her on stage when she was giving a speech trying to physically assault her? She was able to get away, but instead of hearing outrage from feminists that two men would try and assault a woman even while cameras were rolling, I heard too many liberals sad that the men failed to reach her. So you're for women's rights... but only if those are women who agree with your views? That's pretty hypocritical.

I think one of the biggest examples of how us Americans feel about women comes down to the issue of abortion. I'm pretty open minded about how people feel about things. I can see the good and bad in every position. But abortion seems pretty clear cut to me.

First off, no one is *pro abortion*. I was in a fairly long term relationship with this one woman who told me if I ever got her pregnant, she would have an abortion. It hurt me to hear that. A part of me thought, "What? You don't have the right to kill my child!" Some weird potential super Dad protector instincts came out of no where and I was ready to fight for my hypothetical child. I was genuinely upset she said that to me. But I thought about it. It's not my body. It's her body. If she doesn't want something growing in it, it's her choice. It's not a baby. It can't survive on its own. I don't like it. In fact, I hate it. I really hate the idea of abortion. But I really hate the idea of thinking a bunch of politicians I'm never going to meet can tell me what I have to allow to grow in my body. No way in hell would I put up with that.

Now, I look at the pro life movement. Life. I can get behind that. Who the hell isn't for life? Then I think about it. Most pro lifers are for the death penalty. Hmm. Well ok. Wouldn't you rather see a baby live over a murderer? Ok, so they're for the death penalty. ...and... some of them are killing doctors. Ok, that's a small percentage of Pro Lifers that kill doctors, but still... huh? Ok, obviously Pro Lifers would be vegetarians since the meat industry is cruel to animals. Actually, I think vegetarian Pro Lifers are really rare. I'm beginning to think 'Pro Life' really doesn't have anything to do with life at all.

Let's assume it's us men who get pregnant. How do we feel about abortion now? Better? Well, we trust men. I mean, we're men. We make decisions about sending people into war. We run companies. We make trucks and drive around in mud. We catch farm animals with rope and wrestle them to the ground. We're men. Society trusts men to be able to make decisions about our own bodies. I think that if men got pregnant, there would be no such thing as a Pro Life movement. Really, you're going to tell a man what he can't do? Um, no.

If you study Anthropology, you'll see a long, consistent line of men asserting their control over the labor and reproductive rights of women. When women get too powerful, we cut them down. When women take control over their bodies away from us, we call them baby killers, sinners, whores, and worse. We men control women. And as we see women try and be equal to us, we don't like it. But we're not alone. Women push other women down in Neo colonialist fashion. This is supposed to be the modern era, but us men are still in control, still dictating what values society passes on to the next generation... still propagating our control.

It makes me sad to see Pro Life women. It really does. I mean, it would be one thing if I was Pro Life, which I'm obviously not. But men are stupid. We're allowed. But women should know better. Social hegemony is strong. People become what society programs them to be. Are people really incapable of breaking out of this chain, of thinking for themselves? Or do we have to keep on with the slow revolution of gradualism?

eh, what the hell was I talking about? Oh right. I was talking about barely literate women who post on Craigslist. Sometimes I look through posts thinking it's funny. Other times, it's just so depressing. Like the low self esteem posts. Women that are like "yeah, I'm fat, but I put out." Or the disturbing, "wednesday afternoons only, must be discreet," posts. I've been in some terrible relationships. And I was dumb enough to stay with women that treated me horribly for too long, but never in my life have I ever considered cheating instead of having the guts to leave first. People that cheat on their partners are scum, and sadly, I know that includes a lot of people--including many of those women I dated.

Holy crap, this is getting long. Well, even if no one reads this, it's nice to finally get this stuff off my chest. More very long and boring rants coming soon.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Beginning

Years ago, I used to keep an online diary through my band's website. A lot of it was sharing the ups and downs of trying to herd cats, aka, keep a band together. What was interesting about it is it allowed fans of our band to keep in touch with what we(ok, mostly I) was doing. People I didn't know would walk up to me in clubs saying things like, "You ran out of gas on the freeway coming home from band practice? What did you do?" It was unsettling at first to have perfect strangers know so much about me. But in time, I got used to it, and even comforted by the notion.

Well, my band never really got far in the grand scheme of things, and I've since given up on it. I have several interests other than music, but all those interests center around the same thing--creating. Not to get too spiritual here, but I believe all of us should be driven to make a positive impact on the world.

I got my BA in Anthropology this year. For a while, I pictured myself living in some far away civilization, studying a relatively unknown, distant people, and bringing their stories to the world. Of course, Anthropology also includes Archaeology. How amazing would it be to uncover a lost civilization or a distant relative in the chain of human evolution? But as I got closer to graduating, I realized there were no relatively unknown, distant people. Even the most elusive of people have been studied by generations of anthropologists. What new discoveries could I possibly make?

Archaeology is even more disparaging. I overheard two of my fellow students talking about a dig they went on over the summer. One of them was going on about coprolite, and how it proved bats were in the area 200 years before previous data indicated. He, and the team he interned for, had been able to alter previously understood information about a thousand years ago somewhere in a Southern Western desert. He was giddy as he told the story.

Do you know what a coprolite is? It's a fossilized turd. Right then, I decided if I ever got that excited about a turd, I hope someone shoots me. The truth is, Archaeology isn't like Indiana Jones movies. People find a site that they hope has something significant, then they bank the next 30 years of their life digging, hoping they find something. And how do they pay for it? By begging for grant money from corporations and other organizations. And what company wouldn't want to say they contributed to the dig that found Luci or Ardi, that fundamentally, and radically shifted our understanding of human evolution? But for every Luci, Ardi, Turkana boy, and Kennewick Man, there are thousands more archaeologists and interns that find only Diddly and Squat. I figured out that if I wanted to spend the next 30 years sitting in dirt begging for money with nothing to show for it, I could be homeless.

So now what? Well, I did learn an amazing amount of information from the experience. It's been a long time coming too. I mean, I spent 9 years going to American River College, which is a two year, community college. I started off taking music classes, but discovered how much I loved the social sciences. I took nearly every Psychology and Anthropology class ARC offered--lots of Sociology, religious Philosophy, Humanities, and History classes as well. I got my AA degree in Social Science, but I have enough units to get it 3 times over, so it was over kill. Despite having a 2 year head start on a 4 year degree, I spent 4 years at Sac State University, taking more classes than I needed. Although I became disillusioned with the field of Anthropology, I never got tired of studying it. And as I learned more and more about how political, religious, cultural, and environmental forces move and shape a people, I started to see things very differently around me. I know I only have a BA. And really, who cares about a BA? Anyone can get one. But I really feel like I've been changed by my very long educational journey. Of course, that journey will never end. I will always be a student, class room or not.

Ok, I'll give you an example of change. Maybe you've heard the 90% of all people become the same religion of their parents. Now, that's a great statistic to use to convince people of other faiths that they're brain washed, and they should really come over and believe what you believe in. But I think about that. My religious beliefs are similar to my parents too. Am I brain washed? I don't feel like I am. But then again, no one does. Christianity is the most popular religion in the world, but only less than 20% of the world's population believes in it. Some might say, well, religions are all different ways of worshiping the same God. That sounds great if you don't know how radically different religions are from each other. First off, half a billion people are Buddhists; a religion that doesn't even have a God. Another billion are Hindus and have hundreds of Gods. Hinduism has been "christianized" by western influences in modern times to try and push Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva into different faces of one monotheistic God or to claim they're the holy trinity... um, yeah, no. Is Shiva the Destroyer the Holy Ghost in that case?

But think about it, assume that Christianity is the "correct" religion. Also, assume that Mormonism, Catholicism, Protestantism, etc, all fall under the same category, and all of it somehow fits together into one religion that's "right." If Christianity is the right religion, that means that over 80% of the world is wrong. How do we sit, believing so strongly in our religious beliefs "knowing" that we're the right ones and that all those other people are wrong, knowing that they think the exact same thing about us? How can you not question it all?

There's a great line from the Watchman. Rorschach says something like, "We're all puppets. The difference is I can see the strings." I would argue though that there isn't some sinister puppet master out there controlling everything. That puppet master is us. Our lives are not our own because we never make it so. We all drift through life, a product of our upbringing, sort of like self replicating machines. If you're an American, you might be worried about that kind of idea. Us Americans fiercely believe we have free will and individuality. This is part of why no nation in the history of the world admonishes governments that threaten individual choice quite like we do. Remember, our country was founded by slave owners that wanted to find a new place so they could have the freedom to practice a far more restrictive form of religion in peace. Try and wade through all the contradictions in that statement, and you'll begin to understand why America is such a weird place.

The more I started to understand our own culture, the more I started to understand why the rest of the world looks at us so curiously. Now, look at the opposite extreme. The Chinese value harmony more than individuality. Communism, if it could exist positively at all, suits that type of culture the best. China has problems like all countries do, and you could easily make the case that they're communists in name only. They've had a very gradual capitalist revolution. But I sometimes wonder is valuing harmony over individuality such a bad thing? I question everything.

This is essentially my first blog / journal / whateverthehellitscallednow entry in several years. And it's way too philosophical for a first entry. But I've been questioning a lot these last couple years. I think that's part of being a social scientist.

On a less heavy note, other than music, I've had two other big interests in my life. One is computer games and I'm currently working towards a second BA degree in Computer Science in hopes of making games one day. And I'm also I'm writing again. I wrote my first novel when I was 14. It was terrible, but over the years, I've gotten fairly decent at it. There's this fictional world that I've been working on for about a decade now. I finished a novel about it years ago, but I was never really that happy about it. First off, it was sort of like a campy, almost comic book feeling version of a Lord of the Rings kind of story. It didn't have the gritty details of the kind of story that really came alive and really drew in the readers to care about the characters and the world. Since "finishing" it, my break from writing to go to Sac State has done a lot for me to understand my fictional world and the elements of it. I'm really excited about this renewed project.

I'm not entirely sure of what to accomplish with this blog here. Maybe no one will ever read it or maybe this novel becomes a success and this is a chronicle of my journey through it. Time will tell.