10 September 2013

35 hour work week petititon

I tried this once before, but wasn't able to build enough momentum in time.

Different platform this time.

Click, sign it, make the world a better place:


Read more about why this is a fantastic idea on my post about the first attempt:

09 September 2013

Some Thoughts on Partnership and Extra-Marital Sex; Monogamy VS Sexual Exclusivity

First of all, I need to clarify a very important point, that many people seem to get wrong more often than not.

The suffix "-gamy" means "marriage".
It does NOT refer to sex.  It refers to romantic commitment - and more specifically, a religious and/or government sanctioned commitment (because two people can be entirely committed to each other without ever getting married).
The alternatives to monogamy are being single, or being polygamous, which means being married to more than one person.

The term for not having sex with anyone other than your spouse (or other committed romantic partner) is sexual exclusivity.

This is not just semantics.  It is in fact a crucial distinction, and without proper and consistent terminology, it is completely impossible to talk about the topic in any meaningful way.
So, for example, in a culture where polygamy is legal and culturally accepted, a man could have two or three wives.  If he never has sex with anyone other than those several wives, he is maintaining sexual exclusivity, even though he is not monogamous.  On the other hand, a married couple who are into swinging are monogamous, even though they are not practicing sexual exclusivity.
And both of them are practicing sexual fidelity - the word fidelity means "faithful" or "loyal", and none of the people in these examples are cheating.  It is only cheating if it is against the rules, and everyone involved in both the polygamous relationship and the swinger's relationship is agreeing to the same set of rules.
When people talk about "open" relationships, or polyamory, they can mean either having multiple committed romantic relationships (which might not, but probably will, involve sex), or they can be talking about having only one committed romantic relationship, but one or more other non-romantic sexual partners.

I am only going to be talking about the second option.

30 August 2013

Refuting the "Big Car = Safe" Myth

It is a universally known "fact" that the bigger the vehicle you drive, the safer you are.
Even those who buy small vehicles know this, they just feel that the increase in risk is small, and the benefits to parking, mileage, and cost are worth it.
Like many other universally known things, it just happens to be wrong.
This is extremely easy to prove:  just look at the actual crash statistics, compiled by vehicle weight:

Inline image 1

28 August 2013

Refuting the theory that physiologically facilitating rape is "self-protective"

I've been surprised to come across more and more references lately to a relatively new theory among some sex researchers that the reason women reflexively lubricate to certain stimuli which they don't self-report as being arousing is that it evolved as the body's way of protecting itself in the case of sexual assault.
Here is an example:

Genital response to sexual stimuli may be an evolved self-protection mechanism. Female genital response is an automatic reflex that is elicited by sexual stimuli and produces vaginal lubrication, even if the woman does not subjectively feel sexually aroused...Female genital response entails increased genital vasocongestion, necessary for the production of vaginal lubrication, and can, in turn, reduce discomfort and the possibility of injury during vaginal penetration. Ancestral women who did not show an automatic vaginal response to sexual cues may have been more likely to experience injuries that resulted in illness, infertility, or even death subsequent to unexpected or unwanted vaginal penetration, and thus would be less likely to have passed on this trait to their offspring....Reports of women's genital response and orgasm during sexual assaults suggests that genital responses do occur in women under conditions of sexual threat.

The first time I saw it it immediately struck me as suspect and I questioned it in the comments of the webpage that quoted it, and went on to forget it.  But since then I've seen several more allusions to the same theory by different researchers in different contexts, and its really starting to bug me.
As I talked about in great length in my previous post, there is a nearly universal - albeit frequently subconscious - assumption in human society that women are inherently prone to being victims.  This (largely baseless) assumption is just as strong among feminists as it is among traditionalists and patriarchs, although it takes different forms.

04 August 2013

"Culture" and "Race" are not interchangeable

Take a look at the following 10 people, one at a time

Think about who they are.
What do they likely do for work?  How much do they make?  What do they enjoy doing on their off time?  What would you guess their religion is, what kind of food do they eat, where did they grow up, and how do they vote?  Who do they socialize with, and what inspires their morality?

01 August 2013

7% of communication is words (not really though)

Just discovered what the ridiculous claim about non-verbal communication probably comes from - you know, where some corporate or academic class on effective communication claims that only 7% of a message is transmitted by the actual words (and the rest by tone and body language)?

This is of course just obviously false on the face of it: if it were true, we could communicate more effectively with someone who spoke a different language but was face-to-face with us than we could with someone who spoke the same language, but via chat (or a blog post).

But those numbers are very specific to just have been randomly made up...
Here's where they come from:

According to pychcology professor Albert Mehrabian:

When you first meet new people, their initial impression of you will be based 55% on your appearance and body-language, 38% on your style of speaking and only 7% on what you actually say.
Now that actually makes sense! Not message. Not communication. Impression.

Furthermore, he was speaking specifically about communication about feelings, and the degree to which a person's non-verbal communication matched the verbal - as in, if a person says "I'm fine, really", but they look and sound upset, you are likely to not believe them.

In his own words, regarding this common misinterpretation of his work:
""Total Liking = 7% Verbal Liking + 38% Vocal Liking + 55% Facial Liking. Please note that this and other equations regarding relative importance of verbal and nonverbal messages were derived from experiments dealing with communications of feelings and attitudes (i.e., like–dislike). Unless a communicator is talking about their feelings or attitudes, these equations are not applicable."

17 July 2013

Cops Shooting Unarmed Black Men

Do you remember the very large, loud, and extended public outcry over the deaths of Jason Kemp, Jordon Hatcher, Ibragim Todashev, David Silva, John Torretti, Daniel Sanez, Roy Jacobs Jr., Thomas Schroeder, Jacob Grassley, Zachary Premo, John Schaefer, and Jerry Waller?

All of these men were killed by the police, all of them just in the past 7 months (2013).  In almost every case, they were unarmed.

Schaefer and Waller were both armed... they were both 70+ year old men, on their own property, with legally owned handguns, which they had out for self defense - one had a pitbull in his yard and had called the cops himself, the other was responding to the same burglar alarm that attracted police attention.Premo also had a handgun  - one which he was carrying legally - though from the police report, he apparently did not touch or reach for it before being shot. 
Hatcher was unarmed, but apparently resisted arrest.
Grassley's cellphone was assumed to be a gun, and he was shot while fleeing police. 
Sanez was in handcuffs at the time he was shot.
Torretti  was hit repeatedly with a baton by officers while pinned to the ground by other officers, unable to move.
Silva was so intoxicated he could barely stand up.  Between 3 and 7 deputies beat him with batons until he dies.  Officers then attempt to collect cellphones from witnesses that may have video on them.
Kemp was unarmed, and not fighting, when he was shot at point-blank range in his home, when he refused to let the police in without a warrant.
Jacobs had called the cops himself, to turn himself in when he found out he had a minor warrant, and the cops shot him in front of his family the moment they walked through the door.

You can be forgiven for not remembering the public uproar, the protests and articles, the petitions and signs, because there wasn't any.  In fact, unless you happen to live in the city in which these men were killed, and follow the local news closely, you most likely have never heard of any of them.

06 July 2013

If I Were Elected King of the Country

My new friend asked me a few weeks ago, "what would you change about the world, if you had the power to?"
She said she tried to ask all new people she met that question.
She said it was surprising how many people didn't have an answer because they had never thought about it.
I couldn't answer, but for a very different reason.
I just couldn't sum up, couldn't choose from the list what to say first.
I've been thinking about it ever since then, and I still can't find any way to tie all the various things together, so, instead of going into the detail about how and why for each one, I think I'll just list as many as I can think of.
(and if anyone wants elaboration on any in particular, ask me as a comment, and maybe I'll make that one its own post)

These are in no particular order:

02 July 2013

Fushi and Saiba

I first met Fushi and Saiba in January of 2004.

They were only about a month or two old at the time.

I had lived with their mother, Midnight - a tiny all black cat who liked to hide under places so she could attack my ankles when I walked by - throughout the previous summer, at a traveling carnival in the midwest.
She was the only cat in the household, and was indoors only.  She got out just once, for just a few hours, but then, that's all it takes.

My aunt Joy, who was Midnight's human, came to New York (where I worked at the time) to visit, since the carnival is closed during the winter.  When we met, she asked if we might want a kitten.  Since me and Aileen (my wife at the time) both worked full time, I said we should get two, so they would have someone to keep them company during the day.
We got one boy and one girl, both with gray and black tiger stripes, and white "socks" on some feet.

They were so tiny I could literally hold them both in the palm of one hand.  We brought them home (to our RV in NJ) in a backpack.  The boy curled up in a tiny ball at the bottom, while the girl stood on top of him so she could reach her head out the top and look around.
That pretty well summed up their personalities for the rest of their lives.

01 July 2013

Cats Were Not Very Well Designed

Whoever built cats, be it God or evolution, some sort of super intelligent space aliens or the ancient Egyptians, they made a pretty serious and, frankly, stupid, design flaw.

If for whatever reason a cat goes just a few days without eating, like all animals, they begin to metabolize their fat reserves for energy.  Like all animals, this fat metabolization (along with many other tasks) is the job of the liver.

But, unlike every single other animal, a cat's liver is actually damaged by the process of metabolizing more than a tiny amount of fat at a time.

And just what symptoms does that type of liver damage cause?  Why nausea, of course!  Which in turn leads to anorexia.  Which in turn leads to not eating.  Which in turn leads to the body needing to burn more fat.  Which in turn damages the liver further.  Which in turn leads to more severe anorexia...

So, even if the original cause of the problem is no longer an issue, this cycle leads to death.

Its called Hepatic Lipidosis, and it can be triggered in as little as 3 DAYS without food.

Often times it is triggered by some other disease or medical condition, but it can also be triggered by stress, (from a move, or a new cat roommate, for example), or by a new brand of food.  If they are wild, perhaps there just aren't any mice or birds around to catch for a few days in a row.

The treatment is regular food.  But since they have no appetite, a cat's human has to manually feed them.
And so the little Chairman gets a syringe-full or two of watered down canned food squirted into his mouth every hour or so, for at least the next couple weeks, or until whenever he decides to start eating again on his own.

29 June 2013

Your Actions are (part of) Causing that Traffic Jam You're Stuck in*

*In the morning and evening of most large American cities (especially those surrounded by plenty of suburb), when everyone is driving their cars to their 9-5 jobs, there are simply too many vehicles on the highway for the lane capacity.  You get on the highway at the nearest entrance, and proceed to average 15mph the entire distance from your suburban home to the downtown city center where you work, frequently coming to a complete stop, never going more than 25mph at the most.

In that situation, traffic is going to go slow, no matter what.
That isn't the type of traffic jam I'm talking about.
There is also another type of traffic back up.  The kind that happens in moderate traffic.  Everyone slows down, sometimes even to a complete stop, and then a few hundred feet later, you are moving again at 50, 60, 70mph, as if nothing happened.
Sometimes this happens because there is the aftermath of a crash in the shoulder, or even across the divider on the opposite shoulder of the oncoming lane, and all the drivers feel it is very important for them to take a good look at it, because humans are just like that.  Other times its because someone is getting a traffic ticket, and, even though the cop is clearly busy at the moment, people imagine they are more likely to be caught speeding if the can see a police car.
But most often, these slow downs happen for no apparent reason at all.  You get to the front of it, and cars are accelerating just as suddenly as they slowed down.
Sometimes traffic pulses like this, fast - slow - fast - slow - fast - slow for miles.  In some places, not quite as dense as in the first example above, the daily commute does this pulse jam every single day.

28 June 2013

Trespassing in the Commune

I'm not much of one for ideology or party lines.
If I see an error in someone's thinking, I'm just as likely to mention it if I agree with their overall point as if I don't.  Trying to get people to see all sides of things tends to put me in the roll of Devil's Advocate, and so I have been accused of being a capitalist by communists, a communist by capitalists, a fan of Ayn Rand (HA!) by anarchists.

A few years ago I wrote some about illegal immigration:




You just might get the idea from those that I have some particular opinion on the issue.
But really, I was trying to point out what one side of the debate prefers to ignore.
That doesn't mean the issue is one-sided or simple.
The other side does just as good a job ignoring what it doesn't want to see.
Just like with the abortion debate, I mostly agree with the progressive side in practice, but I recognize that they are right for the wrong reasons, while in principal the conservative side at least gets the question right, even if they are mistaken about the answer.


Imagine a hippy commune, out in the country side.  A few hundred people live there together, they come up with house rules, they all do chores, everyone contributes to the property taxes and insurance costs of the land and building and to a communal maintenance and repair fund.  Lets say this particular commune works really well, they come up with a system to manage internal conflicts, they are reasonably self-sufficient, but everyone also has real jobs so they have cash for trading with the outside world.
Sooner or later people are going to have children, and a new generation will be raised there. 
Now and then some people will want to leave, and that's just fine.

17 June 2013

The Common Thread

I was at a party yesterday, and I was talking about who knows what, and, I guess maybe because I have an "educated" accent, or whatever, I really have no idea why, she commented that she was surprised I hadn't gone into some field of science.

And I mentioned that I had been expecting to in high school, I had interned in  microbiology and biotech labs, focused mainly on science classes in high school and college, got associate degrees in biology and earth science - but then, by random acts of fate, I had ended up doing semi-skilled manual labor which afforded me not only decent money, but an extremely flexible schedule and the ability to be my own boss. 
I said I still satiated that side of my mind with plenty of reading, and occasional writing.

She asked where I wrote, whether it was just for myself - basically just this blog, and given the size of it's readership, yeah, pretty much just for myself.
and what topics I wrote about, and I tried to think of all the various things I've covered.

She asked what they all have in common.

Nothing really, other than I find them interesting.  And I find of lot of things interesting.  The world is a vast and complicated place.  reality is fascinating.  I really can not comprehend how so many people can willingly specialize, focus on just one area of human knowledge, when there is just so much else out there.  I'm much more interested in understanding a little about everything than everything about a little.

So, yeah, my blog has no theme.
Probably why I will never be able to generate any significant readership.  People subscribe to stuff that focuses on what interests them, and mine doesn't focus on anything.

She insisted that there must be some angle where a common theme could be found.  She said that in what she did, there were always commonalities emerging, even when they weren't obvious at first.

We kept talking more, I elaborated slightly on a few posts, she suggested that maybe challenging preconceptions might  be a consistent thing, and then I realized, duh! it's right there in the header of the blog.

21 March 2013

Obama = Bush Jr??? (hint: the answer is no)

Almost exactly 4 years after I wrote the last article I reposted, on Obama targeting off-shore tax-shelters, I over heard a couple people I'm close to agreeing that, while he gives good speeches, "Obama is really not that different from Bush in policy, and in some ways he's worse", which of course I've heard plenty of times before, generally from folk on the far liberal / leftist / socialist leaning side of politics (which, given where I live, is a lot of folk).

That's not really the sort of comment that will lead to a productive debate in real time, even if I did have a plethora of facts to drop off the top of my head, so I just held my tongue for the moment.

Here on my blog I have time to think through my response, and an easy way to cite references, so here goes...

08 March 2013

summer project

I did everything from drawing the blueprints to pouring the concrete footings. The door initially opened directly on to the staircase, which I simply removed, and then reattached after the deck was finished. Took about 2 weeks (half of which was shopping time, and waiting for the concrete to dry), and cost just under $2000 (not including materials)


13 February 2013

Workouts for the Brain

Just like with fitness / health / strength, a lot of intelligence is genetic, and there is nothing you can do about that part. But, like with fitness, even more of it is environment/experiences, and we have 100% control of that.
All of these things will literally stimulate the creation of new neural connections, and (to a smaller extent) even brand new brain cells.  This has been definitively confirmed by plenty of independent tests (which is where the idea of "brain games" came from - although that is as yet unproven to be effective)
Plus, when you start to understand the underlying reasons for how things work, everything starts to make sense.  Once you learn the fundamentals of physics, mechanics, and chemistry, all mechanical things make sense, and you can reverse engineer anything, figure out how it works, and repair it.  Once you learn the fundamentals of human psychology and sociology, all human behavior makes sense, and you can avoid conflict and get people on your side, or at least their respect, no matter how different their life outlook may be.

29 January 2013

What to Read?

I have been writing since 2006, and if my blogs were a MS Word document (as they are, as a backup), they would take up about 350 pages.
And a whole lot of that is just little random tidbits from my life that I found interesting the day I was writing.
Mixed in among those there are a number of in-depth essays on a wide variety of topics.  There has been no way to easily sift through all the random crap to find the good stuff.

Until now!
Wondering what to read next?
Of 200+ posts, these are (in my personal opinion) the top ~50 most interesting or useful

22 January 2013

What does our gut reaction to the word "rape" say about our subconscious beliefs about women's agency?

[NOTE: This article is longer than the typical blog post.  As an MS Word document it comes to about 30 pages.  Much shorter than a book, but longer than a magazine article.  Its probably better to think of it as an internet based paper, and not expect to read the entire thing straight through in one sitting.  I have broke it into 5 parts to facilitate that.
Also, if it isn't obvious enough from the title, its a very sensitive subject.  I am definitely not trying to offend or upset, but I am deliberately trying to be real, which means not being "politically correct" or sensitive for the sake of sensitivity.]

A friend of mine sent me a link to an internet blog article recently:


I read it, it was interesting and insightful and honest and unfortunately rare in its open-mindedness and candor.  I didn’t know when I read it,  but apparently it was read by a great many people, many of whom did not share that opinion of it. 
It was reasonably infamous among feminist bloggers, and induced quite a number of responses - none of which I’ve read. 
I did, however, take several days to go back and read the comment thread in its entirety.  The comment thread was surprisingly thoughtful for an internet discussion on a topic that causes intense negative gut reactions and has generated plenty of controversy, one which people are passionate and angry about. 
So much of the discussion was so good already that I had nothing to add.  
The first three pages are almost entirely filled with reasonable, open-minded people having a back and forth conversation on really difficult topics.  From all appearances these are regulars to the site, readers and contributors.  On page three the sort of knee-jerk responses that you would expect for the topic finally begin appearing, and it appears as though few of the new commenters took the time to read the existing comments before adding their own.  Not to say that intelligent conversation does not continue, it does all the way to the end, only that the ‘TL;DR – still have an opinion’ comments start becoming more common, - no doubt as the article began to be read and popularized more and more.
If you are interested in the topic, and have a few hours to kill, I recommend reading all of the comments from the beginning.

Though much of what I would have said was addressed, some very important things weren’t, and that’s what inspired this essay that you are reading right now.

21 January 2013

The Oldest Profession

First of all, let’s make one thing clear.  A prostitute does not sell their body.  The only circumstance in which any person actually sells a body part is when someone sells a kidney.  When you sell something, the buyer takes permanent possession of it, and the seller can not get it back.  The new owner can do anything they want with their purchase, because it is now their property.  This does not describe the prostitute / client transaction at all.  Even when people accepted indentured servitude arrangements they were only offering themselves on a long-term lease, not actually selling themselves.  A prostitute normally only allows her (or his) clients limited use of a portion of their body for a short, usually designated time period, an hour perhaps, maybe a few. 
This is not just semantics.  It’s a very important distinction.   

Really, what the transaction consists of is a person agreeing to engage in a specific activity for a specified time period which they otherwise might not do, to the benefit of another person who offers compensation for the time and labor involved.
Which, if you think about it, kind of describes every job.

Why is sex a special case?