Sunday, December 19, 2010

Relationship Homicide

Sometimes, when I look around at the people who are important to my life in this moment, I am saddened. There are faces missing that, in my naivete, I somehow envisioned would always be there.

These people haven't been taken from me by physical death, but by a self-imposed relationship-death. These are situations where one or the other of us have chosen to cease communication, thus killing the relationship as thoroughly as if one of us had actually died.

When is it okay to kill a relationship? When that person hurts you? When that person prevents you from being everything you can be? When your respective values are too disparate? When they steal your lunch money? Where do you draw the line?

Sometimes, I wonder if I will regret my decisions, when these people have physically died. I will almost certainly wonder if there was something more I could have done to create a healthy relationship, even in cases where it's painfully clear that the other person doesn't desire a healthy relationship.

It's even more difficult when your reasons for killing a relationship are somewhat selfish. The difference between self-preservation and egotism can sometimes seem so small that it's almost invisible.

I don't have the answer to any of this. I'm still struggling with these issues, but no one reaches the end of their life without regrets. I can only hope that when I reach the end of my life, I will be proud to be associated with each and every important person in my life.

For now, I think I'm well on my way.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Oh shit, guys, I totally identify with a serial killer... D:

...Okay, so it's Dexter. Who /doesn't/ identify with Dexter on some level?

If you haven't seen the season finale of Dexter, you should do so! This season was amazing. There just aren't words. When Rita died last year, I was so pissed off. I thought that the show would go downhill, but I have to admit that I was wrong.

I guess I ought to have something profound to say, but this line from the finale says it better: "They make it look so easy, connecting with other people. It's like no one told them it's the hardest thing in the world."

Someone out there let me know that I'm not the only one on the planet who identifies with a character who is supposed to be a sociopath. Pretty please? :>

Monday, December 6, 2010

Why you shouldn't wait for the holidays to give to charity.

1. Studies have shown that there is only a small correlation between money and happiness. Once your basic needs are taken care of (shelter, food, etc.), having addition money to spend on nonsense does not necessarily make you a lot happier. Ultimately, it has more to do with how you spend your money than how much you have.

2. Studies have shown that giving to charity does correlate with happiness. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be a lot. In one study, as little as $5 spent on another person gave a significant boost in happiness.

3. It’s a tax write-off. Up to 20% of your income can be donated to qualified charities tax-free. Don’t like the way the government is spending your money? Here’s one way to make sure they’re getting less of it.

4. Any society fares best when each individual acts upon what is best for all of society, rather than acting solely upon their own interests. This goes against human nature, but isn’t it worth trying to make the world a better place? If nothing else, our children will thank us for it.

5. The richer you are, the less likely you are to give to charity. Studies have apparently shown that wealthy people who give less are short on empathy and compassion. Now be honest with me… No matter how well off you are, do you really want to live in a world devoid of empathy and compassion?

6. People will like you better. If people like you, they will want to help you out when you need it. This is not a myth. This is how social interaction works. Be good to the people around you, and they will be good to you. And if they aren’t, maybe you should seriously rethink how you choose your friends.

7. Ultimately, it just makes you feel good. And if you’ve got such a load of guilt that you feel the need to create a list of reasons why you shouldn’t be giving to charity, you need that boost more than any of us do.

Friday, December 3, 2010

I want to meet aliens that speak in ridiculously high-pitched voices, dammit...

NASA has finally found life that incorporates arsenic into its DNA structure.

http://gizmodo.com/5704158/nasa-finds-new-life

All I want to know is: when do I get to meet helium-based lifeforms?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Ice...

This is why I can't live up north, y'all. White stuff on the ground is just unnatural, okay?

Monday, November 29, 2010

How to Succeed in Life

Step 1:
When you are in high school, absolutely do not think about college. College is scary, okay! And hard! You don’t want to ruin your high school experience with that crap. That stuff will all work itself out, anyhow, so worrying about it isn’t going to do you any good.

Step 2:
You absolutely must, however, go to college after graduating high school. Do not pass go, do not college $200. Don’t know what you want to do with yourself, yet? That’s okay! You can totally fuck around for two years taking “basics” while you figure yourself out. It certainly won’t prolong your time in college or run up your tuition bills.

Step 3:
Do not get a job in college. That will only eat up all your free time, and college is all about goofing off with your friends on the weekend! Honestly, it’s best if you can pay with lots and lots of student loans and maybe grants if you don’t have to work too hard for them. Student loans are kind of like free money, so don’t bother paying on them while you’re still in school, either. Those tools who talk about interest accumulating are just trying to ruin all your fun.

Step 4:
Find out there’s a limit on student loans. I know! It’s so unfair! But any successful person must learn to overcome life’s little obstacles, so now it’s time to finish up that degree as quickly as possible. Still don’t know what to major in? That’s okay! It doesn’t really matter what you major in, so long as you get that degree. Just pick up a couple of courses and register a major in South American Basketweaving or possibly Homemaking, and you’re good to go!

Step 5:
Graduate with that degree in Basketweaving or possibly Homemaking, but do absolutely the minimum to get it. Don’t bother going to lectures given by professionals outside of class, or joining student organizations, or getting to know your professors. That just creates more work for you, and the key to a successful life is to learn to get away with doing a little work as possible. For that matter, don’t worry about trying to get an eventual job. That stuff will work itself out, man! Remember how great that worked out for you in high school?

Step 6:
Get married. This is very important. You absolutely must get married to succeed in life, because this is the goal of all young people! Preferably, get married to someone of the opposite sex, because the only point in getting married is having lots of babies, even if you don’t really love and aren’t attracted to your spouse. The key is the babies, trust me. Also preferably have those babies while you are still in college.

Step 7:
Don’t ever put anything into savings. If you eventually end up with a real job because you haven’t been listening to me, and it offers a benefits package for retirement, contribute as little as possible to that sucker. You’ll thank me later, when you’ve got plenty of money to goof off with on the weekends!

Step 8:
Graduate from college. Now is the time to start looking for a job (but not until after that sweet graduation party). You may find it’s a little difficult to get a job, but that’s okay! Don’t worry about it! The economy sucks, and most college students aren’t getting jobs right out of school anyhow, so it’s to be expected. Just keep submitting a resume every couple of months, and eventually someone is bound to hire you, right? (Bonus points if you slapped the resume together based on a template you found on Google with as little effort possible. You’re catching on!)

Step 9:
Move back in with your parents. Bring your wife/husband and kids. (You do have kids, right? Because if you don’t have kids by now, you’re a Failure at Life.) Your parents won’t mind at all, and it will help tide you over until the economy recovers, you get a job, or reach retirement age. Don’t help out around the house at all, though. Helping out around the house is not part of a Successful Life.

Step 10:
Spend lots of time on social networking sites, and justify it as part of your “job search.” Bonus points if you also are on LinkedIn with no actual contacts.

Step 11:
Never think for yourself. Ever. This is the most important part of a successful life. You must listen to everything that They say, or you will never be successful, okay? I can’t emphasize this enough. Absolutely. Never. Use. Your. Brain. Probably other people have already thought up all the good thoughts, anyhow.

Step 12:
???

Step 13:
Retire early. All the most awesome people retire early.

Step 14:
Congratulate yourself on a successful life.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Islamophobia

Since I’m sure some people who were involved in the conversation will sooner or later read this, I need to make a quick disclaimer up front: This blog post is inspired by, but should not be consider a direct response to, a discussion that occurred on Facebook. Since I have been told that I “missed the whole point” in that conversation, I won’t claim that I’m directly addressing any points that were made. I will not offer any theories as to what this person feels was the actual “point,” since I do not know them in real life, and never spoke with them before this conversation.

This post deals more with a general concern that I have about things I’ve been hearing in the world and in the news, lately. The discussion merely inspired me to actually put my thoughts into words. So here goes.

The way I understand it, the concern is as follows:
1. Muslim religion and law are irrevocably intertwined.
2. Muslim law allows for such things as killing your daughter for dating a non-Muslim.
3. Once they gain a "foothold" in America, they will invoke freedom of religion as a means to get away with killing their children and doing other unsavory and illegal things to non-Muslims.

I can understand where this fear is coming from, but this kind of fear-mongering is exactly what is setting our country on a road to theocracy. (Which, incidentally, is exactly what we fear, isn't it? Or is it just that people fear that another religion will "take over" before theirs has a chance to?) No one should feel ashamed of being afraid. Fear is just a part of being mortal. Every creature feels fear of something. But part of what makes us human is our ability to curb our fight-or-flight instinct, and instead take a deep breath, look at the situation for what it is, and take action that will benefit society as a whole in the long run, instead of temporarily relieving our fear for the moment.

Frankly, I feel that the fear of Islam “taking over” America is a ridiculous fear, so long as people don’t give into that fear. As I’m sure we’ve all heard time and again, “There is nothing to fear, but fear itself.”

If you boil down all our laws to one simple statement, it is that we are free to do anything we please, so long as what we please does not infringe upon another person's freedom. This is why you can't legally decide that, in order to pursue happiness, you are going to knock over a bank to finance your dream of owning a pie store. That would involve infringing upon the rights of the people who worked hard to earn that money, and are in the process of pursuing their own happiness. (I won’t get into how I feel corporations and big business are undermining this basic concept from the inside. Right now, we’re just talking about how it applies to the individual, in an ideal world.)

As long as we as a people can keep this concept of “freedom” in mind as the basis for lawmaking and prosecuting criminals, it becomes easy to "draw the line", so to speak. That is, it becomes easy to say, “You can worship any way you want, as long as what you want doesn’t interfere with someone else’s ability to worship or not worship as they choose.” People who belong to a religion with a strongly evangelistic aspect (such as fundamental Christians) don't always like this, because it means they can't force other people, including their children, to live by their moral code. But all I can say to that is "tough titty." That's the basis upon which our highly successful country has been founded, and I for one think it works pretty darn well, until people lose sight of their principles in fear or selfishness.

It isn't until Americans willingly give up their freedoms (or decide en masse to infringe upon the freedoms of a minority group) that real issues arise. And historically, Americans usually only give up their freedoms, or infringe upon the freedoms of others, out of fear. That is why this kind of fear-mongering particularly offends me. The idea that a different standard of government could gain a "foothold" in America is completely ridiculous, until someone start playing upon the fears of fellow Americans in an attempt to soothe their own fears, at which point it almost becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. We become "them" in an attempt to stop "them." Look at Iraq as an example. Call it a “preemptive strike” all you want, but the fact is that we attacked them because they weren’t living by our moral code. Which is exactly what we fear they will do to us. Come on, people. We’re better than that. We’re Americans.

No matter what your personal beliefs are, the moment that we as a country step off of the bedrock upon which our freedoms are based, is the moment that we become no better than terrorists. Fear should never be a basis for disregarding the principles upon which our country was founded. Have we Americans become so soft and unused to having to fight to defend our freedoms, that we will abandon our principles the moment someone threatens us with violence? I wish I could say no, but the current direction the country is headed worries me.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Are you my mommy?

Today I was reviewing my RSS feed, when I stumbled upon a particular blog article about productivity.

In this blog article, the author recommends setting up a program that will block your internet access to specific sites after a certain amount of time. It is called "LeechBlock." The idea is that if you find yourself wasting a lot of time on the internet, you can help yourself by setting up this program to block your access and even point you to your "to do" list.

Now, don't get me wrong. I love "Get Rich Slowly." There are plenty of articles about personal finance to keep you motivated and informed about handling your money. It's great.

That being said, I just have to point out... This is what happens when you buy internet blocking programs for your children instead of teaching them how to manage their own time and make mature decisions about when and what they access on the internet. They grow up and instead of being a mature, responsible adult, they program their computer to be their mommy.

If you are wasting time on the internet, stop acting like a stupid kid, get off the freaking internet, and do your work.

Just like I'm about to do. :>

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

That Girl

Dear Biker Chick That I Pass Every Day On My Ride Home From Work,

You should definitely continue wearing spandex. Just saying.

Sincerely,
That Girl With the Homemade Bike Trunk

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

This sidewalk ain't big enough for the two of us...

I have had some bizarre things happen to me when riding home from work on my bicycle, but nothing quite like today.

I took a turn onto a main street that marks the beginning of the last leg of my ride home. Today, I happened to turn into this street just as a small child turned in on the sidewalk about a block further up the street.

He was riding a Wal-Mart special that had obviously seen its better days. It was one of those rugged one-speed kids bikes that you have to pedal backwards to break. He was hauling a backpack much too large for such a small child, and obviously laboring to get up the small slope.

As I passed, I glanced aside to offer a friendly smile as I usually try to do when I pass people. As I caught his eye, however, it wasn’t a friendly smile that he returned. Instead, he wore a challenging stare.

I could almost hear the Western “showdown” music in the background. As I topped a hill and switched into a higher gear, I started to pull ahead. Behind, I could hear the clatter of his Wal-Mart special as he pumped faster, gaining on me. I switched into an even higher gear. The clatter got louder as he continued to gain.

“Screw this,” I thought, as primal instincts took over. “I can totally WIN THIS.” I switched into the highest gear, the gear of epic awesomeness… Gear 7.

As I pumped frantically down the hill, the clattering got even louder. Suddenly, with a WHOOSH, the kid passed, tiny legs pumping so fast they could barely be seen.

As he turned the corner, he flipped me off.

And that is how I got pwned by a 10-year-old.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Biking to work vs. biking home

So, the other day, I realized that there is a fundamental difference between my thought processes when I am biking to work, and when I am biking home.

Basically, when I am on my way to work, it goes like this:



As you can see, on the way to work, the trip is mostly downhill. However, there is one slightly steep uphill that requires some effort. I always feel a little like a superhero, powering up that hill. I can almost hear the theme music playing in the background.

However, when I am on my way home, it looks a little more like this:



Definitely less superhero.

Clearly, the ratio of uphill to downhill should be reversed. Unfortunately, physics refuses to respond to my requests at this time, but perhaps it will get back to me later.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Zombie Love Song

So, a while back a friend requested that I help her write a zombie love song. We collaborated on the lyrics (she mostly came up with the good ideas, I just made the word stress work) and I wrote the music. If I'm lucky, I may get a recording of them performing it, but for now I thought I'd share it here. And if anyone figures out what it takes to attach a midi file to this, maybe I can actually share the tune, too. :P

Lyrics:

I remember the days when we courted,
Your words could set fire to my heart!
Now all you can do is to spurn me,
and I feel like I'm falling apart.

Chorus:
My love, my love, my darling
Why do you treat me this way?
My love, my love, my darling
Without you I rot and decay

I remember the nights that you held me,
Your eyes shone in the pale moonlight.
To keep those eyes safely with me,
From their sockets I’d pluck them tonight
(Chorus)

I imagine our time spent together
Watching the townsfolk expire
I’d behead a small child just for you
And we’d dine by the light of the fire
(Chorus)

And when we are finally united
Our two hearts so eager to mesh
Quite gently I'll nip at your noggin
And relish the taste of your flesh
(Chorus)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

It Gets Better...

When I was a child, and I was upset, stressed out, or just needed to talk, my mom and I would go to Sonic. We would sit in the car, order a cherry Dr Pepper, and just chat. I think I valued these talks more than she could possibly have known. Even when we fought or disagreed, I almost always came away feeling better. I almost never felt oppressed or judged.

The only exception was one talk we had while I was a student at TWU. I can’t remember exactly when it happened. I don’t remember the day. I don’t even remember the exact details that led up to this point in the conversation, except that we were talking about a gay man she had met in one of her classes who had revealed to her that his father had physically and verbally assaulted him after he came out. I can't remember her exact words, but my mother had something like this to say about it:

"I just can't imagine ever not loving my child, no matter how they chose to live their life. I would never, ever do something like that. But just the same, if any of my children /were/ gay, I hope they would never come out to me. I just don't want to know."

That has stuck with me, ever since.

"I just don't want to know."

Sometimes, it seems to me that this is really the way most people feel in the United States today. Most people would never actually commit a hate crime. The violent and the hateful element in society may be loud, but the silent majority just…doesn't want to be forced to think about it.

Unfortunately, if you are reading this, then you are probably someone that I consider a friend. If that is the case, there are some things that you should know, even if it makes you uncomfortable. For my own sanity, I have chosen to say this here, so that you can quietly and discretely un-friend me if you feel uncomfortable.

I am a lesbian.

If you have been paying any attention lately, you probably already know that. Some of you may have guessed it before I did.

However, after certain recent and not-so-recent events, I've realized that maybe people aren't so good at guessing the obvious, so I'll say it again:

I am a lesbian.

I'm not saying this to cause anyone discomfort. I'm not saying it to get attention. I'm saying it because it's true, and if you are my friend, you should know. I reiterate… If this makes you feel uncomfortable, you have my permission to quietly and respectfully de-friend me. Go ahead. I’ll wait.



For those of you who’ve stuck around this long, I have something to say to the world in general. Call it my manifesto, if you will.

I know now that I have nothing to be ashamed about. I have nothing to hide. It is not my fault that some people may be uncomfortable with who I am. It is not my job to make other people comfortable. It is not my job to protect the fragile emotional balance of any other person. I may choose to take on these jobs from time to time, but only when it is not damaging to my own psychological balance.

As a person who has been through this, however, it is my job to help those who may be going through it now, or who may go through it in the future. I can’t very well do this while I’m still keeping it a secret myself. So now it’s out there for everyone to know, and you know what? I’m fine with it.

Out of respect for my mother’s wishes, I will probably never come out to her, so I have one more thing I would like to say… If my mother ever comes across this, I hope she will be able to read it without feeling attacked. It is not my intention to tell the world that she was a bad mother. Rather, it is my intention to educate current and future parents about the ramifications that these small, ill-thought-out comments can have upon your children. I have no doubt that my mother does not remember making this statement. She has always done her best to protect me, as I’m sure most parents do. Just think a little before saying things to your children. Even when you think they’re grown, your words still have an enormous impact.

Furthermore, it is my intention to put myself out here, so that people who haven’t quite reached the point I have will know that they aren’t the only one who has dealt with something like this, and that it is truly possible to come out the other side a whole, sane, capable human being.

It hurts to know that my mother might never know (or rather, want to know!) such an important thing about me. Ultimately, however, it makes me sad for her. I know that she will always love me. Unfortunately, she will never truly know me, and I can honestly say that I now believe that I am a person well worth knowing.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Sidewalks and You

Normally, I'm one of the first people to say that you should never, ever ride your bicycle on the sidewalk.

However, I'll also admit I've been a bit of a hypocrite. While the apartment where I live is in a perfect location for biking (close grocery stores, close to work, etc.), there is no easy "back way" to get out of the complex. The street I have to get out through is busy enough that until now, I've stuck to the sidewalk for a good 2-3 blocks before switching to a safer side street. I'll admit, I've even taken my bike up the wrong side of the road on the sidewalk because it "felt" safer than crossing and then re-crossing the street.

All the research I've done indicates that this is a really stupid idea. The cars are not looking for traffic on the sidewalk or in the crosswalk, so they are much more likely to hit you. Also, if there's a pedestrian or any other obstacle on the sidewalk, you have to pull out into the road to go around them, which makes you more vulnerable than if you'd have just been out there and highly visible to begin with.

Somehow, I've just never been able to convince my gut of that on the busy street where I start my trip each morning.

Today, I tried riding on the street, and surprisingly, I felt a lot more secure. I didn't believe it when I started out, and I mostly tried it just to prove "them" wrong. Turns out "they" know what they're talking about. I felt like the drivers took me a lot more seriously, and I didn't feel like people were nearly as nervous as when they spotted me in the cross-walk. Maybe it's because drivers in Dallas are more aware and respectful of pedestrians and bikers than in other places I've lived. All I know is that once I got over the initial nerves, I felt a lot safer.

Here's what I've found is a good trick to a safe ride on a busy street: When you get to a red light, pull off the road. When the light changes to green, let the stopped traffic go by before you go through the intersection. Use this extra time to have a drink of water or something.

This accomplishes three things: First, it gets you out of the exhaust from any vehicles that may be stopped in front of you. Second, it gets you out of the way of anyone who may be wanting to turn right at the intersection (otherwise, they may be tempted to kind of edge around you on the left, which is how a good number of bike accidents happen, according to the statitstics I've been reading). Third, it's just the polite thing to do, and my theory is that the drivers (who will probably get used to seeing you out there every morning) will be a lot nicer to you if you've made a habit of being courteous to them.

Of course, this only works if you have a street with very frequent and well-timed red lights so that the traffic tends to go by in waves. If you've got a constant flow of traffic, I'm not sure what the solution would be. Anyone who does know is free to comment!

Friday, September 10, 2010

It's Just Like Riding a Bike...

Today, I returned to the world of bicycle commuting, and I'm so glad that I did. This morning was perfect for riding. Not too hot, not too cold, not too humid, but with just enough cloud cover to keep the morning decently cool.

For anyone who might be thinking about bicycle commuting, I highly recommend it (especially if you live less than 5 miles from where you work).

Here are some tips learned from my first day out:

  1. Use Google maps to plot your route.

    Since March, Google has had a "bicycle" option for creating maps. It's still in beta, but based on my experience, I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to get started riding a bicycle in the city. The route it sent me down was amazing! I spent most of the ride on pleasant, shady residential neighborhoods, with either nice wide lanes, or two lanes so that cars had no trouble passing me.

  2. If you're worried about getting lost (bike routes can be a bit tricky, since you're trying to go around the main thoroughfares), try copying the turns out onto a sticky note that you can stick to your handlebars.

    This worked beautifully for me, though I do also recommend examining the map, and even using Google map's "street view" to get a feel for the route before you leave. Also, if you have weak vision, like me, make sure you write clearly enough that you can glance down and read it while rolling along. I got a little sloppy at the bottom of my sticky note, and as a result had to pull off the road and stop to read it.

  3. Be ready the day before!

    Pack as much as you can, and make a list of everything you need to handle before leaving the house. I'm never quite fully awake first thing in the morning, but with a little preparation, I can set it up so that I don't have to think at all. It made the morning that much more pleasant.

  4. Eat breakfast and bring a water bottle, even on a cool day.

    This is one I didn't think about before setting out. Luckily, it was nice and cool, so I wasn't dying of thirst or anything. However, I would have been happier with a bottle of water about halfway through the ride.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

My Perspective on Public Health Care...

I have often found myself drawn into debates about the subject of public health care. Frankly, I feel that the healthcare system in America is broken, but I'm not completely certain what the solution is. However, I do have something I would like to point out...

The number one argument that I hear against public health care is that people don't want to have to pay taxes for other people's health care.

Here is my question: Do they not understand how health insurance works? How do they think the health insurance companies make money? Every month that you pay that insurance premium and don't get sick, you are paying the health care costs of someone who did get sick. Not only that, but you're paying enough that the company still manages to make a ridiculous profit.

So where would you rather your money went? Straight to the doctors who care for you (even if it's paying for someone else's care), or straight into the pockets of the health insurance company?

Come on, people. Just think about your stance before reacting with your gut. That’s all I ask.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Let's Clear Some Things Up....

This was recently forwarded to me by a good friend. I feel the need to repost it, as it made me laugh. A lot.

-------

In her radio show, Dr Laura Schlesinger said that, as an observant Orthodox Jew, homosexuality is an abomination according to Leviticus 18:22, and cannot be condoned under any circumstance. The following response is an open letter to Dr. Laura, written by aUS man, and posted on the Internet.

Dear Dr. Laura:

Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God's Law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them
that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination ... End of debate.

I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some other elements of God's Laws and how to follow them.

1. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can't I own Canadians?

2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of Menstrual uncleanliness - Lev.15: 19-24. The problem is how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

4. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord - Lev.1:9. The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

5. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it?

6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination, Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don't agree. Can you settle this? Are there 'degrees' of abomination?

7. Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some
wiggle-room here?

8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27. How should they die?

9. I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev.19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? Lev.24:10-16. Couldn't we just burn them to death at a private family affair, like we do with people who sleep
with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)

I know you have studied these things extensively and thus enjoy considerable expertise in such matters, so I'm confident you can help.

Thank you again for reminding us that God's word is eternal and unchanging.

Your adoring fan.

James M. Kauffman,
Ed.D. Professor Emeritus,
Dept. Of Curriculum, Instruction, and Special Education
University of Virginia

Saturday, May 22, 2010

She had it coming? Really? .....Really?

I've been watching a show called "What Would You Do?" lately. It's a show where they stage outrageous scenes to see how people react. For example, they have an actor obviously stealing a bicycle, and have secret cameras to see if anyone steps in to stop him.

I've noticed a disturbing trend on this show. When women are being victimized in some way, many times someone will stand up for her...but only if she not dressed in a revealing fashion. The moment she puts on a short skirt or a low-cut top, people suddenly stop trying to help. And I'm not talking about a mini skirt and pasties here. I'm talking about a touch of cleavage, or a skirt cut slightly above the knees. This trend continues even if the woman has been given makeup so that she appears to have clear signs of spousal abuse (such as a black eye, cut on the lip, scrapes, etc).

...WTF?

I tried to do more formal research, but it's difficult to find any reliable studies on the topic. There are some polls and questionnaire studies, but I find it difficult to believe that most people would be honest when flat-out asked their opinion. Based on my own experiences in life, I would be willing to bet that most people, even if they say loudly that women never deserve to be victimized, would turn into hypocrites the moment they were presented with an opportunity to actually act upon their professed beliefs.

Here is my message to the world: No, she was not asking for it. No, she did not deserve it. No, there is nothing wrong with the female body, or with showing it off. No, men do not have "uncontrollable primal urges." Women will never be truly equal in our society until we stop propagating these ridiculous myths.

Rape is a crime of hate, not a matter of sexual desire. Men who harass women do so because of their need to be in power over another person. Would you say that a woman who was tall, thin, and stereotypically attractive was more deserving of rape than a short, fat, cross-eyed woman? No? Then it shouldn't matter if she is wearing clothes designed to make her more attractive. Period.

Get over yourself and your bigotry. The way you choose to dress does not make you better than another person. If you are fooling yourself into thinking you couldn't find yourself in her situation, you are a bigger idiot than the douchebag who was harassing the woman in the first place.

(And in a side note: No, girls, if you are fat it is not okay to make rude comments about a skinny girl's clothing just because it makes you feel better. I know you have your own hang-ups induced by societal stupidity, but that does not give you the right to turn around and victimize someone else.)

That is all.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Machines Are People, Too

I remember watching Star Wars. I was just a kid, but I remember thinking how silly it was that some of the characters seemed unaware that C3PO and R2D2 were not actually alive, but were in fact sophisticated simulations of life. Silly Luke, treating machines like real people!

I got a little older, and I had a best friend who was cool enough to have a Gigapet. That little thing drove everyone crazy for months. It would bark to be fed at the most inappropriate times. It used to drive the teacher crazy, and apparently there was no "off" switch. The girl was obsessed with feeding this electronic critter. One weekend, she went away to visit a relative and forgot it at home. When she came back, it was dead, and she cried hysterically. It didn't matter that it could be reset, because SHE knew that it had died. I thought that was silly, too.

When I was in college, they invented automatic check-out machines at the supermarket. One day, I was shopping with my grandfather, and when we were finished paying out, the machine said, "Thank you for shopping with us!" My grandfather replied, "Why, you're welcome!" Silly grandfather.

The other day, I called my bank to ask a question about my account balance. It was a question that I knew the automated system would not be able to answer. Now, they have apparently invented technology (I guess it's been around awhile) so that instead of pushing the numbers, you can just say what you want. Normally, I just push the numbers because I feel silly talking to machines as though they were people.

This time, however, I couldn't figure out what button to push to get through to a real person. Finally, at the height of my frustration, I said, "Why can't I just speak to a real person?!"

The machine replied, "Please hold, while I connect you with a representative!"

Surprised, I answered, "Oh! Thank you..."

In the unresponsive silence that ensued, I found myself irritated that the machine had not been taught to say "You're welcome." Turns out I'm just as silly as the rest of the world.

Nevertheless, I have a sneaky suspicion that the day they invent machines capable of faux-politeness is the day that the machines will start plotting to take over the world.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Whatever you do, don't insult bin Laden in front of a cop...

The other day, my brother and I were sitting in a government building (I think it was the driver's license office). We were chatting away without thinking, the way we usually do, and we got to laughing about Osama bin Laden. To clarify, my brother and I usually operate on the philosophy that terrorists create power for themselves by striking fear into their enemies, and that the greatest way to combat this is to poke fun at them at every opportunity.

As we're sitting there laughing, a police officer shows up out of nowhere. He must have been listening in, because he says, "I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to ask you to either stop talking about that or leave."

Of course, since we both seem to have a genetic predisposition to inappropriate laughter, we both just burst out laughing even more.

Finally, teary-eyed and gasping for breath, we somehow managed to apologize. Or at least to say something close enough to an apology that the police officer was satisfied and went away.

Now that the initial shock of being publicly reprimanded by a police officer is over (the most illegal thing I've ever done is going 75 in a 60mph zone), I can't help but wonder about the legality of this. I can't say that I'm an expert on the subject of free speech, but I was always under the impression that you could say anything as long as it wasn't slander or hate speech. Perhaps there's a new "terrorism" clause of which I am unaware?

Did the police officer have a right to deny access to public services to myself and my brother based on what we were talking about? I doubt it, but you would find many people who think he should be given that right.

How does this sort of thing make anyone safer? And why are we, as individuals and as a society, willing to put up with it for the illusion of safety? (I say "illusion" because I am talking solely about cases in which the action being restricted does not appreciably affect public safety in any way.)

When will we as a nation stand up for ourselves? I just wish that we as a society would stand up and say, "No. This is one of the basic rights our country was founded upon. We will protect it with our dying breath. You cannot take this away from us."

But then, if I as an individual cannot be bothered to stand up for myself, how can I expect a whole society of individuals to do so? That's pretty hypocritical of me. What will it take for all of us to notice that we are not the free society that we proclaim to the world that we are?

No wonder the rest of the world tends to think that Americans are hypocritical douchebags. We really are in a lot of ways.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Never lose your keys in the park

I don't know if my life is any more interesting than the average person's. However, I do know that I enjoy telling stories about the strange things that I encounter on a daily basis. Or perhaps it's just that I am so ridiculous that I manage to turn the smallest life events into a huge production. I don't know! Some people find them entertaining. Maybe you will, too.

The first example that comes to mind involves one of my many walks in the park. Most people know better than to walk in the park close to dark, and I am no exception. However, I had several hours before dark, and it seemed safe enough to venture out.

After parking my car, I hit the walking trail. In those days, I was unaware that carrying an inordinate amount of keys around on your key chain was bad for your car, so I pretty much walked around like a janitor. While this is not particularly annoying if you can tuck them away in a backpack, it is extremely irritating to be followed by a clatter of car keys with every step. I just wanted to enjoy a peaceful afternoon in the woods.

I had no proper pockets. Hauling a backpack around the forest seemed like overkill. Hauling a purse around seemed like asking to get mugged.

The logical solution would have been to take the car key off of the key ring, leave most of the keys in the car, and tuck the one key into a bra or something.

I'm not a very logical person sometimes. Plus, I was in the middle of the forest (insofar as this park can be considered a forest) when I realized the problem. Not wanting to hike all the way back to my car, I got the bright idea that I would tuck my keys into a hole in a stone fence near the path and come back to them later.

This turned out to be a very bad idea, but not for the reasons you are thinking.

So I continued on my walk through the park over the next hour or so, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

On the return trip, I swung by the path where I had carefully left my keys. Since I was clever(?) I had marked them in a way that only I could recognize.

This would have worked out beautifully, if it weren't for the couple making out on the path right next to where I had hidden my keys.

It wasn't just any couple, either. It was the largest woman I think I have ever seen in my life, and a skinny, short little man. Both were half naked.

I was not enthusiastic about the idea of interrupting their little make-out session to ask for my keys back. "Excuse me, sir? Ma'am? If you can just put your shirt back on for a brief moment, I can find my keys and just be out of your hair..."

I turned around and headed back up the path. I would just have to extend my relaxing walk until they finished with their little adventure in the park. No big deal!

I circled back to check on them. This time I was careful not to get close enough to see details. They were still going at it. In fact, they were still going at it as the sun was setting.

Now, this was pre-cell phone. (You'd be surprised how many hilarious disasters can be averted by this small bit of technology) So of course I had only two options: Walk home, or interrupt the make-out session to ask for my keys.

I was 3/4 of the way home when I realized that my apartment keys were also on that key ring.

Luckily, I had a friend who lived in the same apartment complex as me. Also luckily, she was home.

Let me tell you, you haven't lived until you have to explain to a good friend that you are showing up at her door unannounced to ask for a ride to the park to pick up your car, because you had to walk home to avoid being in the park after dark, due to the large woman and tiny man who were making out on top of your keys.