Why does Cosmo, a magazine aimed at women, have its' cover stories all about how to please a man in bed, and positions men enjoy, instead of sex tips aimed at well, women, the nominal audience of the magazine?

And why didn't I think of this until somebody else mentioned it? Because that's what patriarchy is, it's not just a matter of evil stomping boots, it's making things invisible too.
So I was reading one of the many many books about "The Very Bestest Secret Natural Cures Possible Really that Are Suppressed!"

Okay, so it wasn't quite as bad as those ones the felon ex-used car salesman guy sells. But it had somebody proudly proclaiming their PhD, and their chops as a nutritionist, and their general expertise. Okay, fine then. But then as I was flipping through it, I kept finding places where they talked dismissively about "things that work even though nobody's done double-blind experiments" and other general science and expertise bashing.

And I thought, instead of bitching about how science doesn't recognize your favorite thing's true miracle powers to cure gout, heart disease, athlete's foot, acne, and flatulence, why not just do the experiments yourself? Set up an experiment, give X people your miracle food, give Y people a regular diet, and see if the incidences of gout, heart disease, athlete's foot, acne, and flatulence are statistically different between the two groups. And do it more than once, with a pretty good sized value for X and Y.

But I guess it's more work and isn't as easy as trying to sell books by convincing people you have SEKRIT KNOWLEDGE that the Food/Medical/Scientific/Shoe establishment wants to keep from you. But it'd do you and humanity a lot more good.
I really don't get the whole Tea Party thing. Two exceedingly expensive wars, torture, holding people, including American citizens without trial, not a peep.

Then, President Obama keeps the big banks from suffering from their own mistakes without punishing the CEOs or managers who still rake in huge salaries, rescues American car companies from decades of their own mistakes, and enacts a health care reform plan nearly identical to the one proposed by the Republicans in 1993, and enacted by Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Rommney in Mass. and suddenly SOCIALISM!

Seriously? Socialism? You're freaked out now because the government is trying to ensure people can afford health insurance, and isn't even nationalizing anything, and this is scary scary socialism? Not upset because we're still holding people without trials or evidence, not upset because the government is claiming the right to assassinate Americans who happen to be where a missile falls on people that might be terrorists, not upset because the guys who bet more money than exists in the world that house prices would never go down are still in charge. No, they're upset because of SOCIALISM.

I'm willing to bet these people have never met an actual socialist in their entire lives.

The government subsidizing poorish people buying insurance from private companies is socialism and scary and bad, but wars, torture, thousands of dead civilians, drug warriors killing pets on midnight raids on innocent people, and on and on and on is okey dokey.

... What the fuck happened to my country? Like Bruce says, "It's gonna be a long walk home."
The world and the universe are both vast and awesome in size and variety. Leaving aside all of the weird stuff that's implied by extrapolating the laws of physics, and even the weird stuff we've seen and confirmed, hell, leaving aside everything beyond the bounds of the solar system, the world is full of all sorts of interesting and strange things. Just the Earth alone is mind-bogglingly huge (humans seriously suck at comprehending numbers outside what can easily be visualized, that's why we love metaphor so much) there's an amazing variety of ways which people have created to deal with the many and varied repeated tropes of human existence, including all sorts of ways to make really big numbers into something comprehensible.

That's awesome. In the literal sense, inspiring awe. The thing about awe, it can turn into wonder, or fear. Which makes sense, as big awe-inspiring things like avalanches, giant water features, sabertooth tigers, or mammoths used to also be deadly. And still can be, if you're not careful. So I suppose bit of fear is a healthy thing our genes are happy we have.

What I really don't understand are the people who look at this kind of awesome variety and endless possibility, and then pretend it doesn't exist. People who (sometimes more, sometimes less) metaphorically stick their fingers in their ears and shout "LA LA LA LA LA!" Not just like the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal, which thinks if you can't see it, it can't see you, they think if they don't acknowledge the world, it doesn't exist. Or, at least, it's Somebody Else's Problem Though in many ways, this seems to be a fairly common human trait, it's applicability to aliens is based on extrapolating from a sample of one.

But I guess, what I really don't get is the why. Why someone would chose to treat the awesome wonders of the world as if they didn't exist. Why someone would choose a life that was deliberately smaller, that was deliberately less interesting, that was deliberately full of less possibilities. Maybe fear of the unknown is that strong. Maybe it's the comfort of familiarity. Maybe it's fear of feeling small and tiny and insignificant. I don't know, like I said, I don't get it. I can sort of get my brain to that place, but not really get it.

I am only human, after all, and I can only be shaped by what I know and what I've done. And growing up, the unknown wasn't ever presented as something terrifying and scary. The giant emptiness of space, or the variety of the world wasn't something to fear, it was something to explore.

When it comes down to it, I'm an optimist. Partially by temperament, and partly by choice. I have faith in humanity as a whole, for all the ways we such and fail, we're persistent and bloody clever and can be our better selves. We're not perfect, and probably will be, but we are better than we once were, and we can be better still. We can be smarter, we can be more compassionate, we can be stronger, we can be more just, we can be better. Yes, our monkey brains evolved to throw sticks and stones may eventually be able to comprehend the workings of the universe, or at least come up with better and better models, there's always a twist. So all the weirdness and distance and STUFF out there is something to figure out, something to appreciate, something to discover.

And I guess that's why I don't get the people who want a little universe, with them at the center. I just don't see the point, when there's so much more out there. Imagine if there really where dragons in all those "here"s.

Huh?

Jun. 9th, 2008 11:30 am
Ayn Rand's novels are supposed to idealize the individualist who can accomplish all these great things without the interference of the Ebil State!

And so to illustrate this, she chooses professions like architect, and railroad magnate, which require the concerted labor of hundreds, thousands of other people to accomplish anything. These are supposed to be the people who are better than society? They can't do anything without society! None of their accomplishments could happen without the work of many other people, and the regulations involved in a society.

So I'm confused what the point's supposed to be.

Seriously

May. 30th, 2008 01:21 pm
What IS so funny about peace, love, and understanding?

Lattes

May. 8th, 2008 01:29 pm
How did drinking lattes become this sign of elite out-of-touch-ness? Seriously. Starbucks are EVERYWHERE. All sorts of people to to Starbucks. It's the freaking McDonald's of coffee. So how's drinking coffee in milk make somebody an elitist? I don't get it.
So today there was a song with part of the chorus, "someday we'll find out why the sky is blue."

Totally threw me off. Because, dude, seriously? We KNOW why the sky is blue. We've known for years. It's one of the basic facts explained in kids encyclopedias. So why's it still getting thrown around like that?

Irony

Mar. 28th, 2008 10:06 am
Why does the Science Channel have so many commercials full of dubious science like "detoxifying" footpads?
One of the things I don't get about people like John McCain's new buddy John Hagee, (besides the anti-Catholic bigotry, the anti-Muslim bigotry, and blaming Hurricane Katrina on "God's wrath") has to do with their whole obsession with prophecy and the end of the world. Specifically, their "support" of Israel. Which is to say they want the state of Israel to exist, and all the Jews to go there, because that will bring about an invasion by Russia and the Arab states which will be destroyed by God and signal the beginning of the end of the world (no, really).

Besides the obvious contradictions of "supporting" a country to hope it's destroyed, what that means for their conception of God is confusing. (And not just because if they're right, their God is a petty, nasty, insecure little jerk) They want to "support" Israel to bring the end of the world quicker. So they want to force God's hand. Isn't God supposed to be all-powerful (and all-knowing, which would seemingly make their plotting pointless), so why would God HAVE to do something just because these people met certain conditions? Wouldn't all-powerful include the power not to do something? Or for God to decide "Nah, I don't wanna do it that way after all." Why would an all-powerful God need a megachurch pastor to help bring about the end of the world, anyway?

And y'know, maybe I just read too many comics and played too many RPGs, but the easiest shorthand I know to tell the good guys from the bad are the good guys are the ones trying to prevent the end of the world.
So the FDA is testing all sorts of food we get from China to make sure it wasn't shipped over in bags that used to hold pesticides and that sort of thing now, after the pet food and reports from South Africa and so on.

The question is though, why are we importing so much food from China? Especially things like wheat, which grows perfectly fine in the US. I can see importing foods that grow better elsewhere, but why stuff like wheat and corn where we grow so much the government pays farmers to throw it out?
The thing I don't understand about Bush is this. What is it about him that makes so many people so willing to sacrifice their careers, integrity, honor, and even country to protect him? Either he has blackmail material on a lot of people (possible, especially with all the illegal stuff his administration's done) or he's got the charisma of a cult leader. I just don't get it.
I don't get racism. I really don't. Oh, I understand the whole scapegoat ohnoes different! part, but I don't get it. I know that sounds all sorts of self-gratifying, like I'm "Ha, I'm so good I don't even understand your concept of racism!" but that's not what I'm trying for. Honestly, I figure the reason I don't get it at all is just luck of where I was born. I grew up in Reston, a part of Northern Virginia, with all sorts of people. In my neighborhood until we moved when I was ten, our group of kids was me and my little brother, our next door neighbors who were some variety of Hispanic, a black chick and her little brother from across the street, the other white kid whose parents didn't celebrate Halloween, and my then-best friend, who'd been born in Hong Kong, his sister had been born in China, and his little brother had been born in the US.

It didn't matter, though. We were all into the same 80s kids junk, from Battle Beasts to the Fat Boys to "Jam shorts". And skateboarding. All we really noticed was each others houses smelled funny, because of the kinds of things that our families usually cooked. Sure, some of this might have changed once we hit middle and high school, and puberty, but we moved before then. Which is one of the things, in retrospect, I'm maddest at my parents for. We moved out to this development in the middle of rural Pennsylvania, about fifteen minutes or so from a town with a train station so my dad could get into Philadelphia to work. It was a nearly completely whitewashed subdivision. Not that it didn't have good parts, like the forests and streams and the hills for sledding and stuff, but it was so homogeneous. And then we moved back down to rural Virginia, where I've been pretty much stuck in different places for way too long. And I hadn't really noticed quite how much I'd missed the whole sense of mixed cultures and people from all over until I'd started going back to community college classes. Some of which took place out in Northern VA, not all that far from where I used to live. And then when I was on my trip to New York last summer, and people from literally everywhere, all walking down the streets or on the subways or things, and that was just such a contrast. I think that's part of why I felt so at home in New York. That and having half a dozen to a dozen other people all there for the con to just meet up with and do awesome things with all day.

Somewhere back there, I'd had a point, before I started getting into my life story. I think the point was that the biggest thing that probably works to get rid of things like racism is just dealing with all sorts of other people and living alongside them and then you realize that yes, they're people too. I don't expect that's always enough, especially if things get bad or if people are deliberately trying to stir things up, but it's definitely one of the keys. And it's why open racism usually lurks in isolated places where reality doesn't intrude on whatever caricatures of "the other" that get painted.
Republicans in specific and conservatives as a whole seem to believe two things that sure seem to me like they contradict.

First, that government is inherently inefficient and corrupt and unable to handle even the distribution of well, anything, well. And is always attempting to expand its power for nefarious ends, at the expense of you and me.

And secondly, that we should all shut up and trust the government to know best in anything relating to war, crime, security, foreign affairs, or anything related to the above.

I really just don't see how those two mesh.
Okay, so last year I talked about part of how I don't get monotheism. Though in retrospect, I'm not sure saying "I don't get it" is quite the right way to put it, but it's the easiest and closest thing I can think of. Maybe it just doesn't work for me.

Polytheism doesn't work for me. Yeah, it addresses the problems about all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good, since the gods usually are none of the above. So when bad things happen? Well, it's because Loki's a dick. Or because Zeus was busy chasing ladies and not paying attention to who was driving the chariot of the sun. Or something along those lines. There's no Problem of Evil, because well, there's evil gods and good gods and mostly gods in between.

There's a couple problems with it still, for me. Firstly, that well, most of the gods are dicks. That's not really a glowing recommendations. And yeah, some of them could be not dicks, but they'd still be gods. They (in theory) have all this power, power we don't have. It's nearly impossible to have any kind of meaningful relationship with that kind of power differential. Hell, most people just tell their boss at work what they think the boss wants to hear, and a boss doesn't have anywhere near the power a god theoretically would. I think Cohen the Barbarian said it best, in The Last Hero, to paraphrase "Temples and such are just people trying to make friends with the biggest bullies on the playground." Those kinds of gods aren't worth worship, of any kind. And if you try too hard, you just end up with Stockholm Syndrome. That just doesn't work for me. I guess it's slightly ironic that I first learned about how communication is nearly impossible between people in different positions of power through Discordianism, which is nominally a religion. But not very many Discordians are all that reverent to Eris, and I don't think she cares.

But there's another major reason I can't really make polytheism work for me either. It just seems like it makes the world more complicated. Simple isn't always the best or right answer, it's true, but there's no reason to add things that don't need to be there if a simpler explanation works, either. Why add a god in charge of making sure it rains, for example, when rain can be explained just as well through the interaction of things that are already there? Wind, sun, air, water, and thence rain. It doesn't really need an anthropomorphic representation to make it work. So really, I don't care if there is a god of rain or not.

I can see using gods or demons or angels or whatever as metaphors for parts of personalities and stuff, and not literal, that I can see. I'm in no position to say anything bad about that, what with my own little supernatural cast of figments hanging around LJ. But I'm not really sure if that'd count as religion.

I know there's factions that'd take offense at the first point I made way up there. After all, I'm daring to judge gods, and project my own limited human understanding onto them, when their ways are mysterious and beyond our ken. My reaction to that is pretty much just "Yeah, so?" The only understanding I have is my limited human one, so that's the one I have to use. The only other alternative is to not even try and understand or think, and that's not faith, that's just stupid.

I keep thinking there were a couple other points I wanted to make, but this one's been half-written in my head for a month now, so if I remember it later, I'll update this or make another post. This one's waited long enough. Wonder how many people this'll get mad at me.
There's a lot of things I know I don't understand. Especially lately, I've become more aware of the limitations of my own understanding. None of that "Things Man Was Not Meant to Know" nonsense, but more Things I Don't Get. I mean, there's some things we probably can't know, at least not yet. Either because we don't have enough information, or it's something our brains never had to evolve to wrap around back when we were hunting mammoths on the African plains. Like six dimensional geometry and stuff. Which isn't to say we'll never be able to understand them.

But that's not the kind of not understanding I'm talking about. The stuff I'm talking about is more mundane. The kinds of stuff I don't understand because of how I've lived so I never learned it early enough. Or the kind of stuff that's opposite a lot of the things I care about. Or the kind of stuff I just haven't put the time and/or effort into learning about it and understanding. And there's probably some things I'm unconsciously blocking myself from understanding. And there's some things where I can practically FEEL there's something important and meaningful there, I can feel the shape and edges of it, I know it's there, but I just can't quite grasp it.

For example, Religion. This isn't really an anti-religion rant, this is a "I don't understand this" post, but might still offend some people. I'm still curious though. )
Alright, so Republican Congresscritter Mark Foley had been sexually harassing male pages working on the Capitol for years by all evidence. And it's pretty clear that at least some of the Republican leadership has been covering for him.

And the Republican's counter-spin strategy for this is..."unique", if by "unique" you understand I mean "stupid and bigoted and nearly incomprehensible." One of the talking points I've already heard was yesterday on NPR, when they were interviewing Paul M. Weyrich, from the "Free Congress Foundation". He said "Homosexuals preoccupied with sex," and was trying to use that to imply it wasn't that Foley is a pervert, but all gay people are pedophiles, I guess? The hostess called him on it, sort of, she said "Some people would disagree with your assertion" and he stammered a bit and then finally just said "Well, it's a fact", and then she sorta let it slide since I guess she figured she's a reporter, not there to argue with him (not always true).

And I've heard that bit of nonsense trotted out before when bigots are gay-bashing. The idea that gay people are "obsessed" with sex, completely unlike straight people. Right. Sure. Beer commercials, anyone? And the implication that gay people are pedophiles, I have no idea where that comes from, other than it making a handy smear. A gay gym teacher is no more likely to be checking out the male kids in gym class than a straight gym teacher is to be checking out the female kids. So where the hell did the whole thing come from?

Of course, back on the Foley thing, most of the "kids" involved were 16-17, and I don't think any actual sex was involved. 16 is the age of consent in DC, but thanks to a law that Foley helped champion, "explicit communications" over the Internet to people under 18 are a crime. The real thing, though, is that he was a) the head of the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children, and b) the pages, even if of legal age, were still teenagers and working for him and his friends, which is pretty clear-cut abuse of power and sexual harassment, and c) the Republican leadership seems to have helped cover this up for most likely years.
So, the British have charged fifteen of the guys they arrested in the wake of the "airline plot". Four have been released, and five are being held awaiting charges, which the British government has to do within seven days or release them.

An Article from the LA Times

And yet...so?

First of all, the hype around the arrests? Ten planes, "unimaginable destruction"? No. It's perfectly imaginable. Ten planes fall out of the sky, somewhere probably between 1,000 and 2,000 people total on board.

Except... "British and European counter-terrorism officials said they now believe the suspects planned to down about six jets, perhaps fewer."

And "Dozens of searches turned up six videos in which suspects described their reasons for participating in a plot to smuggle aboard materials to make liquid explosives while in flight, British and European officials said."

Okay. So, these guys didn't have passports, but they were busy screwing around and making "martyrdom videos" with a camcorder and webcams. With "bombs" that would take a lot of time and care to make in an airport bathroom. Which would be interrupted by the line of angry people waiting to go to the bathroom. Seriously, this is the kind of plot we're supposed to wet ourselves and run from? These guys who were approaching it like a bunch of fratboys psyching themselves up by taping each other? THIS is the great existential threat to our nation?

Sweet fucking Christmas. I can't take a bottle of hand lotion on a plane because of these yahoos? I dread to think of how our governments would react to a terrorist threat that wasn't run by complete morons.
Okay, so. Riddle me this, Batman. Recycled paper used a lot less raw materials, energy, water, and pretty much every other resource that goes into paper making.

So why are notebooks from recycled paper usually more expensive than notebooks made from new paper? Is it just the companies figure the only people who are going to care are middle class or better and willing to pay a "conscience tax" or something? Instead of just making plain old bog standard notebooks that happen to be made from less stuff, so they're cheaper to make?

So...

Aug. 6th, 2006 11:21 pm
Why are lots of men apparently intimidated by smart women? I don't get it. Or maybe I'm just confused because pretty much all of the women I've been friends with have been at least as smart as me, if not smarter, in one way or another. Or lots.

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