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Toxoplasma

September 9, 2011 Leave a comment

http://www.scientificamerican.com/podcast/episode.cfm?id=toxoplasma-infected-rats-love-their-11-08-17

The article literally takes less than a minute and a half to read I listened to it, and it goes into better detail than I will here. Rats that touch cat poop containing the Toxoplasma brain parasite “has increased activity in brain regions associated with sexual attraction” when they smell cat urine. So the Toxo-infected rats “actually follow cat odors, often presumably to their doom, red in tooth and claw.” I found this creepy, in an inspiring way, and wanted to construct a narrative around this idea. Here it is, the first part takes place in the seweres:

It’s not true.

I’m telling you it’s true. My cousin saw it.

You have so many cousins, one of them is bound to be crazy.

Well-

And poop? Poop? we pass poo so often here it’s part of the scenery.

The two rats scurried through the drain pipe drawn by the smell of food, pausing occasionally, noses up to get their bearing.

You with the ghost rats, the vampire rats, the Frankenstein rats with random human parts growing from them. Now you’re telling me about poop that turns rats into horny sex zombies.

But-

Not just sex zombies, sex zombies who get turned on by the smell of cats

Well, yeah-

But think they’re smelling horny female rats.

Huh, did I ever tell you, you’re a great listener?

As they rounded a corner, they found the source of the smell, a discarded pizza crust with bits of old cheese stuck to the paper plate it was folded into.

What is it? Can I just smell crazy better than you can?

He said it happened to a good friend. Got a crazy look in his eye, a huge woody, and kept carrying on about a hot girl he smelled. My cousin couldn’t smell it, wasn’t horny, so he just didn’t keep up the pace.

Ha-ha, wow, convenient.

Well it was! If he had kept up, that cat might’ve killed him instead.

Well no, according to your zombie theory. Your cousin’s buddy would have just been looking all over that cat trying to find the imaginary rat the poop made him smell. How does poop even factor into this story?

Finished with the pizza crust, they ran out into the open air in search of more food.

Well, they’d been hanging out the day earlier and when they slipped and fell down a chute, some of his front paws hit some poop at the bottom but my cousin missed it completely.

Okay, this whole thing sounds like one of those complicated lies you tell to get out of something.

That story about the human wearing a meat dress was true! http://images.huffingtonpost.com/2010-09-13-ladygagameatdress.jpg

Second, making rats terrified of poo is cruel. We got enough to be scared of without your crazy cousin spreading rumors.

Ask anyone, he’s still depressed and refuses to go anywhere near poop.

I never said he was lying. I said he was crazy. Poop is literally everywhere. I smell food. I smell girls. I barely notice poop until it’s right in front of me. What the-

In front of them, the ground was littered with rat corpses. all of it seemed to be the work of cats.

“You didn’t smell this, Mr. I Smell Everything.”

“Shut up, let’s get out of here.”

A large shadow moved in their periphery.

“RUN!”

And they ran, well aware only one of them could make it out alive. They moved in and out of broken containers, under tables, through bushes. Unfortunately, their instincts led them to the same dead end, shaking terrified as their pursuer stared at them inquisitively.

Ah see, that’s what I miss. The chase, the hunt. Thought the killing was my favorite part but after killing the 10th one that ran up to get a good smell of me ran, I just wanted a way to do it without touching you.

Screw you, Lady! Still shaking, Gene was in awe of his friend. The cat continued undeterred.

No, the first few were fun but-

Seriously, if you’re gonna eat us quit playing with us and do it.

Did you just wet yourself? Gene asked.

N-no, yes, who cares?! It’s about to murder us. Is this a bad time for you?

You could die with some-

Are you two done?

By now, they were as irritated with each other as they were scared of the cat. Ultimately, they were a captive audience albeit poorly behaved. They listened as the cat told them of how horny rats had been finding her in the area and how as a domesticated cat she actually had little to no appetite for rat meat but hunting was still her favorite past time. She wanted to know the reason foe this phenomenon. After some more arguing, Gene convinced Syd to tell his cousin’s story.

“Now you’re messing with me.”

She sauntered off.

“You don’t remember killing him?”

She paused without turning around.

No all you rats look the same to me and I’m not the only rat killer in this area. Anyway, I stuck around longer because of my curiosity. I’m going to hunt elsewhere. Maybe find some smarter rats…no offense.

Their hearts finally began to slow down after she had been out of their view for a few minutes.

Did we just survive…talk to a cat?

Yeah, she was hot though, right?

Syd, I can smell your crazy.

I mean, I’m just saying I wouldn’t mind being a cat.

You know what? Me neither. You hungry?

They hurried off to find food unaware of the danger approaching because of their conversation with the cat. She had gone to find a new hunting ground as she said but on her way she picked up two of the most freshly killed rats she could find. She liked to hunt but she didn’t like competing with street cats for territory or fighting off their advances. Using the rats as evidence of plenty, she convinced the alley cats that hunting in the area she just came from left her too stuffed to have another bite. The alley cats were always looking for an easy meal and set off to find the willing prey she had described.

In a few hours there were so many cats in the area Gene and Syd and the rest of the rats could hear them in all directions. Panicked rats provided cats with more proof of how easily they could find sustenance.

That cat screwed us.

What? The same cat you wanted to mount a few hours ago.

So it’s just coincidence that we talk to a cat-

Keep your voice down! You want everyone knowing this is our fault.

Our fault, you’re the one who told me to tell her about the poo.

Gene’s face lit up.

You’re right.

I am?

It’s not our fault. It’s the poop’s fault.

Gene darted off. Syd raced to catch him. Gene slowed down near Syd’s cousin’s nest.

You have to get him to tell us where the poop is.

What? Why? It’s what started all this trouble in the first place.

We have to think like cats to get out of here. Cats want easy kills. At least, at first. All we gotta do is convince everybody else to roll in the poop and use them to get out of here.

What? No!

Yeah, and when they ask why we’re not covered in poop, we just tell them that we would look like crazy rats covered in poo trying to get others to join us.

No, I mean we shouldn’t. They want to eat without putting much work into it. There’s no guarantee we don’t trip and end up bowels deep in a cat. Hiding’s smarter. Most of them will get bored and go back where they came from, but-

How do you-

But if we make it easy for them, it’ll just attract more cats.

Gene regained his composure.

This is a nightmare.

Yup.

And zombie sex rats barely have anything to do with it.

Syd sighed, “I know. Let’s find somewhere to ride this out. Who knows? Maybe we’ll see an opening.”

Sadness – Don’t read this if you’re not in a bad mood and are susceptible to bad moods. If you are in a bad mood try reading it like you’re a drill instructor shouting at a new recruit.

It’s like when you’re a kid and you have your birthday at one of those pizza place/indoor amusement park places. Since it’s your birthday, you get to go in that miniature wind tunnel that has all of those tickets that you would normally have to play games to win, and you want those tickets so that you can trade them for one of those sweet, sweet prizes they have in displayed in the glass cases nearby.  However, when you step in somebody throws a bucket of warm sticky wax at you, and at first you’re upset but then you’re thinking, “Oh, this will help me win more prizes.” The wind starts moving through the contraption, and you’re excited at first until you realize it’s not tickets being blown at you. It’s sadness. Piles and piles of sadness sticking to you, and you’re powerless. Any attempt you make to flail opens up your body so the sadness can stick to you in new ways. It finally stops, but any attempt made to remove the sadness from your body causes you too much pain so you end up looking like Steve Carell in 40 year old virgin with patches here and there but mostly covered with sadness. That’s h.g.u.n.g. sadness. PEACE.

Categories: Uncategorized

Symmetry of John 3 and the Mortal Soul

September 8, 2011 Leave a comment

Got mad insomnia, yo. So after lapping up podcasts like warm milk as is my custom, I turned to the Bible in the hopes it would serve as a better sleep aid. It led me to John 3, and I tried to focus on memorizing the verses that seemed the most abstract to me, verses 8, 11, and 12.

Verse 8 says, “The wind[e] blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” It suggests being born of the spirit is something recognizable, but it isn’t something that you can fully grasp. Then in verses 11 and 12, Jesus says, “We speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things.” I began to wonder if Jesus was just messing with Nicodemus because at first his wind metaphor suggests that what he’s saying isn’t an easy concept to grasp. Additionally, it seems that in both Aramaic and Greek, they used the same word for wind as they did for spirit.  Then he behaves as if Nicodemus should already grasp what he’s saying. Ultimately, what made it easier for me to memorize these verses helped me to understand these verses better.

Jesus’ logic is tight. Verses 11 was common sense. Speak of what you know and bear witness to what you see. Verse 12 had its own balance. I teach earthly things, you don’t believe. How can you believe when I teach heavenly things? Verse 8 was more abstract, but, if it was in Aramaic or Greek, the symmetry would have been clear sooner. The general concept of what he’s trying to teach is apparent to us, but only in the way that increasing the minimum wage being good for the economy is clear to us (this isn’t really the case). I’m not implying it’s false. I’m implying that we accept it as true and apparent only because we’ve heard it so many times in so many different ways, but this is Jesus trying to break things down as simply as possible in order to impart a deeper truth.

This whole conversation is about how to gain admittance into the kingdom of heaven. Jesus begins with the answer by saying, “Unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God (see my comment about the Greek below).” Then he starts with his repetition and explanation of how flesh gives birth to flesh and spirit gives birth to spirit. Nicodemus seems to have a reaction to this because in verse 7, he basically tells him to calm down, and in verse 8, he explains about the wind. I think he chose the wind as an example to help enlighten Nic. He was presenting Nicodemus with another example of something else that gave birth to something like it. It might be similar to trying to explain radiation to a child by comparing it to the heat that comes from your own body.

Nicodemus is still having trouble with it which I can’t blame it for. This quote from Cracked.com’s article “5 Mind Blowing Ways Your Memory Plays Tricks on You” explains both Nicodemus’ response and the method Jesus employs to try and get through to him.

” …research shows that once we’ve seized on an incorrect piece of information, exposure to the facts either doesn’t change what we think, or makes us even more likely to hold onto the false information. You can guess why this is: our self-image triumphs over all. It’s more important that we continue to think of ourselves as infallible than admit we’re wrong.”

So when Nicodemus responds almost incredulously, Jesus actually appeals to Nic’s self image by saying, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things?” Then Jesus’ line about earthly things and heavenly things makes more sense because of the two earthly examples he used to help Nicodemus understand. Jesus continues his explanation by saying that the Son of Man had to descend from heaven in order to impart to us the ability to ascend with him and have eternal life because being born of flesh we lack the ability to do either on our own.

Looking at how Jesus used the serpent in the wilderness reference, I feel like John 3:16-22 was someone’s attempt at explaining Jesus use of such a potentially scary metaphor. Looking at the story he’s referring to could lead one to logically form the opinion shared in John 16-22 on their own. In Numbers 21, it says that God actually sent the fiery serpents among the people. This implies that they came from God and weren’t just some repurposed reptiles. This scenario is a good metaphor for humanity’s antagonistic relationship with the things of God. Eventually, God allows Moses to create a serpent with the express purpose of saving people from their snake bites. Jesus used this snake as an image of how he would save people from their own antagonistic relationships with God. Jesus goes further than the snake by saving people from their own mortality.

John 3:1-15 provides evidence that the idea of an immortal soul is not Biblical. Like gives birth to like. Jesus states this several times in several different ways, and he clearly states that, without him, flesh can only give birth to flesh. According to this passage whatever any of us have that we had before being reborn is flesh. So if we have a soul that is part of us from birth, it’s still a part of our flesh, and nowhere does the Bible state that any part of the flesh can last forever. The only way we gain any type of access to eternal life is by being born again of the Spirit. The idea of an immortal soul is a ubiquitous part of Western culture that dates back to the ancient Greeks, but it’s not Biblical.

The only pseudo-Biblical idea that suggests that we have an immortal soul is the idea that we burn forever in hell. Looking at the verse that supports that view point, the case can easily be made that the fire is what lasts, not what’s being thrown in the fire. The Bible is highlighting the potency of the fire and not the immortality of any part of a human being.

What follows is the scenario. A fire somehow exists in a place where fire is all there is. Something gets thrown into that fire and locked in with it. It gets burnt up, but it’s still trapped inside with the fire. That thing remains in the fire not because the thing is immortal or everlasting but because it literally has nowhere to go.

I’m going to do my own variation on what Jesus did Nicodemus. If you call yourself a Bible believing person, look at how many times the Bible clearly refers to humans as finite and temporal. Then find any place where it clearly states that any part of a human being, aside from God, is immortal. From there, the truth of what the Bible has to say about the mortality of humans should be clear to you.

Categories: Uncategorized

Spectrum Exhaust or AT&T and the Unions

September 4, 2011 Leave a comment

I can’t fault AT&T for trying to buy or T-mobile for wanting to sell because by now we have to know that big business only aim to make money for themselves. Unless coerced by regulators or by profit, big businesses don’t make moves to benefit consumers or improve the economy.

I spent a little more time browsing the article a link had taken me to. While skimming it, I read part of an AT&T press release that said they hope the merger will help fix the nation’s “spectrum exhaust” problem. Our what now? Google “spectrum exhaust” and see if you can find anything that has to with telecommunications that isn’t quoting AT&T’s press release. I got all the way to the bottom and found the dreaded comments section. I asked myself whether or not I wanted to see some Tea Party troll rail against the government’s decision with the kind of passion only a black President can inspire. I did and was happy to see that 10 out of 11 of the responses to her post were negative, but one of the comments led me to type the words “unions” and “AT&T” into my google search engine. I thought that unions would oppose this merger based on the rhetoric of  Tea Party members. I thought wrong.  Googling those two words makes it clear that the unions  favor this merger heavily for a variety of reasons, none of which have to do with creating more jobs for everybody or protecting any jobs other than their own. Union employee receive better compensation for the same work done by non-union workers meaning that if T-mobile becomes unionized they will have to hire less people because of the higher salaries and benefits.

Seeing the union response to the block of this merger, the tea party response to the block of this merger, and the AT&T response to the block of this merger made it clear to me that, wow, if not for the federal government blocking this merger. I would have never known or cared about how messed up this merger is. With those three powers on the same side of this, I can’t begin to imagine how heavy the lobbying will be in favor of this merger, but, as always, I can appreciate how little say I will have in whether or not this merger occurs. I think a mistake people make is assuming that businesses and corporations alone drive a healthy economy. If that were true, trickle down economics would have worked. Consumers with purchasing power and choices are integral to a healthy economy. Businesses and corporations can be an important part of that, but consumers suffer most in poor economic climates while bigger business are forgiven for trespasses and subsidized for their troubles. Businesses and corporations only need stability in order to find ways to make a profit, but without eager (drawn to buy by the quality and the variety of options), employed consumers, economies slow down and stagnate.

In response to a person posting that the federal government intended to protect consumers by blocking this, one of the tea party people commented that people didn’t need the federal government treating them like children in need of protection. I don’t like to be patronized either but the only other words that can better describe how I feel as corporations. regulators, and lobbyists clash overhead on yon Capitol Hill shouldn’t be uttered in polite company.

Using a chess analogy to describe my status in this fight, I’m not a pawn. I am brushstroke on a tile on which pawns move. Keep in mind this is a game we actually get a glimpse of. If the federal government never blocked this, we wouldn’t get to see any of this game play out. It would have just happened. I remember that headline, “AT&T acquries T-mobile”. That could have been it. Consumers need the government to protect them. I feel historical evidence supports that as much as it reveals government’s inability to consistently and competently do that. There’s a chance we can be protected from this, but it’s certain how we feel about it only matters in theory. This era* has been a bit discouraging. I think it’s reasonable to feel powerless, but part of me thinks it’s not okay to stay that way.

*By era, I mean the war, what the war gave us, what the war revealed about us, the collapse, what the collapse brought us, what the collapse revealed about us. We got some people trying to create a consumer protection agency and struggling to do so, we got some people  trying to improve our school systems resigning due to opposition, and some of the most passionate of us are some of the most misinformed.

THE SECOND COMING by William Butler Yeats

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.

The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

The Second Coming was written in 1919 in the aftermath of the first World War.

1919 between the 1st world and the Great Depression. I think it’s too bold of me to say that I feel any sort of kinship with Yeats, but this is the first moment in my life where I think, if he walked past me while I was reading this poem and noticed, I wouldn’t make light of him being such a downer. Foul stuff has been happening in the world before literacy even became a thing, but I feel least hopeful now than I have ever felt in my lifetime about America’s ability to do anything about it because of how terrible we are at helping ourselves. I think Obama’s missteps have hurt us, but I’m going to bristle even more the next time I hear about how history will vindicate Bush. The seeds of this malaise were sown during his time in office, but, although I say that, I can’t even give him 30% of the blame for those seeds being sown because I know the Executive Branch isn’t that powerful or even capable of having the foresight or flexibility to battle that. I can say the same thing about the Obama administration. If he ever thought he could be any type of savior, that’s a misconception both he and his supporters share. He’s been misguided in some of the things he has chosen to throw his weight behind in a time when mistakes are even more costly.

About that poem, I’m starting to think about that anarchy line in the context of the whole poem. I think anarchy is a transient state because eventually the most passionate and the most powerful will figure a way to gain control. I think in the poem it’s just a transitional thing that’s not descriptive of the entire setting.

Last thing. I know it’s a simple obvious thing to say, and people who I strongly disagree with would say the same thing. Nevertheless, I think the best government isn’t the government that governs least, but the government that does its best to equally empower the people it’s serving. A consumer protection agency would be nice. Bolstering our educational system would be nice. However, legally treating corporations as people and making it harder to hold powerful people accountable when they make mistakes http://www.slate.com/id/2290036/are not the way. I find that since I stopped watching the Daily Show, I have plenty of things to irritate me without Jon Stewart telling me what stupid thing some pundit or guest on Fox News said.

Everything that follows this is a lot of me playing pong in my head with different stuff. I’m not really trying to make a well-formed coherent argument about anything from here.

On a happier note, check out Rachel Held Evans blog. I want someone to give her her own show. I’m thinking O’ Reilly Factor format and just let her tell what’s up. Also about that Yeats poem, I read that poem years ago and I kind of understood it, but it didn’t resonate with me in anyway that I could use. I find that that’s the case with a lot of literature for me, and it just makes me question how we teach literature. I don’t think during the time I was in high school, I was mentally developed enough to make a lot of the connections that I make now on my own. I don’t have any ideas on how I would teach it better because I don’t think it’s a matter of teaching. I think on some level you have to be open to it, and being open to it is like gene expression. Like you can be predisposed to this or that, but unless you have the right environmental exposure the gene may never manifest.  This can be good things or bad things manifesting. During 9-12, I think you just might be too insulated to pick up on a lot of stuff. I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad or intentional insulation, it’s just maybe you’re dealing with being a high school student too much to really let anything sink in. I don’t know. Like now I listen to podcasts all the time, and a lot of them have depth to them. I think high school me could have benefited a lot from these podcasts, but I wonder if high school me would have even been capable of appreciating them. Not to say high school me didn’t have things going on for him, just this me is evolved in different ways that high school me wasn’t, this me is also deficient in ways high school me wasn’t, I’m working on it.

Categories: Life, Politics, Uncategorized

Spy Kid

August 22, 2011 Leave a comment

An over-sized t-shirt with colors faded. Baggy, scuffed up jeans with holes in the wrong places. Shoes with parts literally hanging off. Plus he had a cold. First day of school waiting for the bus to arrive, Eric was doing a terrible job of projecting any sort of strength. “You should have stayed home today,” said Samantha as she handed Eric some paper napkins. Eric blew his nose then put all of the napkin into the pocket he knew didn’t have holes in it, “Thanks, Sam.”

The bus doors opened and Eric quickly found an open seat. Samantha and Eric were actually moving at the same pace, but Elliot, being younger and shorter, looked more hurried in his movements. Put succinctly, she walked, he shuffled. Before the bus began moving, Eric already had his gaze fixed outside his window, not really focused on anything. It was his standby mode, the way he got when he waiting for the next thing to do.

“Hey!”
-_
“Hey!”

An open milk carton whipped across the aisle and hit Eric in the head knocking him out of his tranquil state. It only had a little bit of milk, and just a few drops landed on his shirt. The laughter coming from the other side of the bus caught his attention. He made eye contact with one of the giggling boys who gave Eric the finger in response. Eric took note and refocused his gaze outside of his window. “Sam,” Eric whispered, “Stop looking sorry for me.” Samantha went back to staring at her nails.

Sam recalled Eric’s words the weekend before, “If I get picked on, I get picked on, but you don’t need to get picked on sticking up for me. Just makes things harder for both of us. When we’re at school, I’m just another kid, okay?”

The 10-minute bell rang, as they got off the bus and began finding their way towards homeroom. “Hey!” It was the same voice as before. Eric didn’t stop to find the source. He didn’t speed up either. “Hey!” The voice grew closer. “Hey!” Then a shove. Eric lost his balance and fell onto the asphalt covered in loose, almost sand-like gravel. “What kind of black kid wears a NASCAR t-shirt?”

Those were the kind of questions Eric’s dad used to ask. The kind that serves as a set up for an insult. “Leave me alone.” Eric was upright now, but still on the ground. He knew he had an advantage there. The kid mimicked Eric mockingly and laughed at himself. A crowd of kids had began to form. “If you’re going to hit me, hit me.” Eric said.

Samantha winced when she noticed Eric’s hands on the ground curl into fists full of loose sand.

Feeling the crowd gather around him, his friends, and Eric, the kid smiled. “Well since you’re asking for it.” He took two quick steps towards Eric and punched. Eric tilted his head letting the punch hit him in the forehead and fell backwards. As the kid began to kneel down and raise his fist up to strike again, Eric tossed the gravel he had collected into the kid’s face then, using the kid’s shirt collar to pull, Eric drove his forehead into the kid’s mouth.

The kid yowled and would have spun off cursing if Eric didn’t roll him over onto his back and began punching. The fight was over as soon as the headbutt landed, and Eric knew it. A bloody mouth and sand in the eyes is usually enough to debilitate most men, but Eric knew neither the guy on the ground nor the kids watching fully understood that.

In order to get peace for the school year, Eric knew he needed to send a clear message. So he punched, and he punched, and he punched. He punched in spite of his runny nose dripping onto his former bully, he punched in spite of his hands throbbing more with each blow, he punched until the sounds of excitement coming from the crowd of kids turned into quiet, scared concern.

It had been less than a minute since the first punch thrown by the child now lying on the asphalt. Eric was on his feet now, backpack back on, notebook and pencils secured inside. He took a breath which reminded him of his runny nose. Standing not more than three feet from the mess he made, he carefully took out the napkin he had used before and began to blow his nose.

The first teacher on the scene, seeing Eric standing there with a bloody forehead blowing his nose, was relieved to see the scrawny kid with the over-sized shirt relatively unhurt, but nearly cursed when he saw the battered child on the floor behind him.

The teacher had been told by the student who fetched him that Dustin was beating someone up again. The student, more uncomfortable with violence than most of her peers, didn’t stand around long enough to see the scuffle unfold so she was as shocked as the teacher who was now crouched next to Dustin .

Another teacher arrived before an ambulance was called. A third began herding the children towards class. A fourth escorted Eric to wait outside the principal’s office. Eric held off on telling them his name and home telephone number until about 10 in spite of assurances he would not be punished because it was his mother’s day off. Depriving her of the opportunity to sleep-in would have made him feel bad.

His mom arrived with a worried look on her face. Upon seeing Eric, she smiled and kissed the bandage on his forehead before entering the principal’s office to discuss Eric’s behavior. She lied a bit by telling the principal that Eric didn’t get into fights often.

He fought regularly until the 6th grade where he learned his first lessons in non-verbal communication. Only one fight similarly ending with an assailant in need of bed rest. He got all A’s that year, the 2nd year since the family had gotten away from Eric’s father, the man responsible for Eric’s proficiency at the martial arts. He was a violent alcoholic and a generally unpleasant person whose name they never uttered.

Eric’s mom and the principal shook hands and finished up their conversation right outside the door next to Eric.

“Eric,” the principal began, “I’m sorry all that happened out there today. There should have been someone watching you kids. I’d hate for you to feel unsafe here. Like we said before, from everything we could tell, it was self defense.You’re not in trouble, but we think it’ll be less distracting for everybody if you just take the day off today.” Eric nodded.

When they got home, his mom gave him some cold medicine and he slept away most of the day until Samantha came back with his homework and told him about her day. She had a made a friend who said she’d save Samantha a seat on the bus tomorrow. Overall, a good day.

Categories: Uncategorized

Transfer Payments

August 19, 2011 Leave a comment

http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2011/aug/12/mitt-romney/romney-says-government-has-grown-27-percent-37-per/

Not much to say.  Government expenditures have grown mostly in the areas of social security and medicare since 1965.  The majority of the people receiving those payments pay little to no taxes because of how low their income is.  So one fair way to look at it is saying that government is taking from the rich and giving to the poor.  You might believe that is unfair because that group of people, poor people paying little to no taxes receiving the benefits of social security and medicare, literally have more money to spend than they earn.  That’s about 50% of Americans, 1 out of every 2. Ignore the fact that they tend to spend that money rather than horde it, effectively putting it back into the economy.  Ignore that. They are getting money they haven’t earned to buy stuff. Some of it to buy stuff they need, and some of it for stuff they don’t need but might give them pleasure or make their lives easier. Simple question. That I think Americans who hate this idea should ask themselves.  How much poorer and unhappier are you willing to let 50% of the population become? How much higher will the rates of crime and homelessness and general disease climb if we collectively decided to stop giving them that money? How much harder do you think a life of poverty in America should be? A cell phone less? Okay? A microwave less? Fine? A refrigerator less? A few hours of sleep because they have to work more to earn money less? Hmm. A meal less? Rough. A place to live less?

Now I know this is somewhat of a slippery slope argument, but you can’t dispute the fact that a large number of that 50% rely on that money for daily necessities. To me it’s kind of obvious by saying that you want that part of government expenditures cut that you’re willing to let those among us that struggle most, struggle more, and you’re not worried about how that might have some repercussions for public health and safety and contentment.  Right now taxing the rich higher in any way has you worried that the rich might leave, but the rich wouldn’t mind having more tired, hungry, homeless, depressed, sick, resentful poor people around.  Now I’m not criticizing the rich.  I’m criticizing the perception of them.

Can we be honest? Most people paying taxes who have no use for social security and medicare won’t all just start supporting their fellow man if you made it so they didn’t have to pay the taxes that support that program.  That’s just not realistic.  Job “creators” won’t just start hiring like crazy because they don’t have to pay those taxes partially because it’s human nature but economically because there will be much fewer people spending money on those services that the job creators make money providing. Instead of thinking that cutting taxes and expenditures are the solution to what’s ailing America we should realize that those expenditures are part of America’s attempt to aid people who are ailing in America.

Picture this. Two guys do manual labor for a living. The labor requires two people, but one is simply better at it than the other and is compensated better because of it. One day the weaker of the two starts having back aches, and knowing neither can get the job done on his own, they go to a doctor together. The doctor prescribes pain medication too costly for the weaker one to afford so, knowing that he still needs him to do the job, the stronger one pays for the pain medication. This works well for a while, but one day the strong man becomes fed up with having to pay for the weaker one’s pain medication. It’s his money and he has the right to use it how he sees fit. Instead of identifying the source of the back pain and having the doctor fix it, the stronger man just refuses to pay leaving the weaker man in more pain and less able to function ultimately making the job harder and less fruitful for the strong man.

To me the only solution that I know of to alleviate poverty long term is education.  Even if we could wake up tomorrow and have a perfect education system, it would still take decades before we saw any progress because it takes time to learn the skills that people would pay you to have.  I think it would take decades of treating school like hallowed ground and teachers like professionals.  What I mean by treating teachers like professionals is to give them the proper tools to do their job, develop an environment that allows them to do their job well, compensate them well when they do it well, and fire them when they don’t.

It’s not a quick solution because poverty is a pervasive problem, and it will take focus and passion and resolve to address it.  Throwing money at it doesn’t fix it, but spending money to aid people isn’t just a nice thing that we should do because I feel guilty about poor people. In my opinion, it’s necessary to keep things from getting worse.  I’m not saying that we should raise or lower taxes during a recession, but I believe that a lot of the money given to people too poor to pay taxes needs to go to them.  We need to stop thinking that the only way America can be great again is by measuring up to some false, glorified memory we have it from before the growth of social security and medicare began in 1965.  Does anybody remember that the government only passed a Civil Rights Act the year before that? We need to realize that American excellence doesn’t lie in the past, and the only way that we can have it is by investing in the future and taking care of our present.

P.S.

Looking at when spending for social security and medicare took off, I think there’s a strong racial correlation that needs to be explored.  I know correlation doesn’t always equal causation, but it’s interesting to note that. From the article “First, we should note that Medicare didn’t exist until 1965, so a big share of the increase Romney pointed to stems from this single program.” With Civil Rights Act of 1964 the government starts the process of treating people of all color the same. Maybe they noticed that a lot of those people that they weren’t treating well before weren’t doing so well, but now had a louder voice in government so Medicare is enacted in 1965, but the education system still hasn’t done enough to fix the root of the problem or hasn’t been given the right tools to fix the problem.

P.S. 2

I love how we refer to America as a Christian nation when we’re deciding who the government should grant marriage licenses to, who we should wage war against, whether we should teach evolution in classrooms, and who we should support militarily, but when someone suggests that it should be U.S. domestic policy to take from people who have plenty and give it to people who don’t have enough then it’s class warfare.

Categories: Uncategorized

Contrarian Gem

June 5, 2010 Leave a comment

I frequent the website IGN regularly, and the contrarian corner articles have become one of my favorite features.  In them, the author offers an antagonistic perspective on whatever video game is hottest at the time.  The author doesn’t simply nitpick like a photographer critiquing a top model contestant or a pick-up artist chastising his protege for not negotiating a threesome properly.  The writer challenges the consumer’s idea of excellence similar to how Socrates forced his fellow Greek citizens to examine their own culture and reevaluate their definition of good.  The writer regularly uses evidence from culture, history, and life experience to reach his conclusions, and when he does, his points often have applications that transcend the video game world introducing fresh, valuable perspectives on the basic concepts to anyone willing to notice.

In the following excerpt, he compares playing the newest iteration of Final Fantasy to his experience building a wooden fence around a small garden in Madagascar.  It’s unsurprising that he finds physical labor more difficult than playing a video game, but the way that he frames his argument enhances the juxtaposition in provocative way.

Begin Excerpt

[early on he is referring to Final Fantasy combat.  It’s a game where you play a character who uses spells, weapons, and armor to take down imposing mythological beasts.]

The most literal purpose of this system is to apply human logic to an array of barbaric spells and attacks with the sole purpose of subduing every living creature that surrounds your party. It’s a contradiction in terms, perverting a quality of thought and careful planning for a purpose that should only be tenable in the absence of human logic. It’s a fantasy in which your body can do the extravagantly impossible if you just logically plan for it ahead of time.  It’s a relief from the real world constraints where the gap between even the simplest ideas and their physical execution is the widest.

It took me three days to build my fence in Madagascar, digging in the hot sun, winding metal twine around sticks that were three inches in diameter. I felt a great and manly pride when it was finally done, looking at it in the evening air after the last day’s work. I pushed against it, feeling how tightly set in the ground the sticks were. I tried to wedge my fingers between the cracks, but there was no give. That’s a great fence, I thought to myself. All the math about how much wood, twine, and time would be necessary to cover the garden had been right on. I had bloody blisters on my hand, sandy red dirt all over my body, and my muscles ached from the continual exertion in the sun. But I had won.

A week later, I woke up and found three baby pigs eating my tomato plants. I couldn’t change into any other paradigm or hit the “retry” button. I ran outside and chased the pigs away and stared at the narrow gap in the corner that they’d come through. I could have wished for a menu command to let me “close hole,” but XIII’s the kind of game where the only option would have been “burn pig.” And in the pulsing blue menus, either choice would have been equally arbitrary and without meaning.

End Excerpt from http://xbox360.ign.com/articles/107/1079860p2.html

So in this game, you use all these make believe weapons and armor and spells to take down monsters, and you do it successfully by solving relatively simple math problems, observing and reacting to simple patterns, and using your common sense.  In the real world, you build a a small fence of wood and wire to the best of your ability, and you fail to keep baby pigs out.  Compared to his paragraphs, my two-sentence summary doesn’t really do it justice.