AotM #7

  1. As dogs have known for millennia, people’s natural body odors are as unique as a fingerprint. It’s nice to know that science eventually catches up with obviousness.
  2. Women are more likely to experience sexual harassment in gender-balanced groups than as the lone woman in a group of men, contrary to “common sense.” Another reason why trying to force the makeup of various groups does far more harm than good. Let groups and communities come to their own natural balances.
  3. Always keep learning, people! Further links between education and protection from Alzheimers.

AotM #6

  1. Idealistic female sexual & physical representations are unhealthy for both women AND men. Enjoy being You, right here right now, and don’t try to be anyone else!
  2. There is but one correct way to hang a roll of toilet paper. End of story. It still boggles my mind that anyone (aside from rambunctious cat owners) would ever even consider hanging toilet paper any other way. Please spread the word!
  3. A new “deep field” image was released, this one in ultraviolet light, from the Southern hemisphere. Almost every point of light in the image is a galaxy, not a star. It’s breathtaking how much there is to our Universe!

AotM #3

  1. Enjoy these breathtaking photos of our sun. They may serve to remind you of just how awe-some and beautiful that gigantic ball of life-giving, furiously boiling nuclear plasma in the sky is.
  2. Who’d a thunk it?? A walk through a quiet park is better than meds at increasing concentration for kids with ADHD. ADHD is far more of a societal illness than a individual “condition.” It’s a reminder that we all need to get back to nature, get outside, get away from screens and papers, and use our bodies as well as our minds.
  3. An amazing story of an eyeless cat chasing off a home invader. As a cat person, it’s nice to read about a cat behaving responsibly. But also, it’s another reminder that animals are far more sensitive and intelligent in some ways than most people give them credit for.

AotM #2

  1. Pectin, found in all fruits and vegetables, can go a long way toward preventing cancer.
  2. The “college rankings” in many popular magazines are basically arbitrary, and can change quite drastically depending on which particular factor is most important to you. The “best” schools are only best because people think they’re best. A self-fulfilling prophecy.
  3. Our own culture is to blame for our country’s falling behind in math, and especially for the gender gap in maths and sciences. Get rid of stigmas!

Iranian Pride in our Perfect Constitution

I just had a fascinatingly enlightening conversation with a 30-something Iranian physician on a residency program here in Philly. A disarming and engaging fellow, with a strong Persian accent but impeccable English pronunciation, my friend surprised me again and again with his insight into US society and even moreso with his views on American policy. Here are some quick highlights, since I’m too exhausted to bother coming up with expository verbiage. Also note: all quotations are paraphrases to convey his gist.


“Everyone here in America is so optimistic.”

I’ve heard something like this before, from a Dutch girl when I was in Poland in 2000, while discussing some of the general differences in attitudes between Americans and Europeans…And I am inclined to agree. We are in general more the big-dreaming pie-in-the-sky type than most of the other, more grounded citizens of the world.

In this case, however, my Iranian friend continued by saying that this optimism is due to being too comfortable, and not knowing true suffering, sacrifice, and hard work. He wasn’t accusatory, just stating things as he sees them. I think I agree with him, but I would add that I don’t believe our optimism is at all bad, despite its origins. After all, it has taken us this far. (Note: at a different point in the conversation, my friend observed that many Americans are very hard working, so take this all how you will).

“One Iranian can do the work of a hundred men, but a hundred Iranians can only do the work of one man.”

This anecdote was shared during a discussion about differences in governmental effectiveness. My friend told me of his pleasant shock when, during the State of the Union address, Dubya said something like “the talented people of Iran are being held back by oppression.” My friend readily agreed, and shared that the above saying tells how individually, Iranians are incredibly hard working and capable, but when they get together, they can never agree and therefore stall each other. I personally think this adage can apply to many different peoples and societies around the world, including our own—consensus and fair governance is supremely difficult to achieve.

“I am very embarrassed and ashamed, but Iran’s government is like European governments of the Medieval times—under theocratic rule.”

It was vindicating to get first hand validation of my beliefs, as it’s seemed obvious from my outside perspective that this was the case. I posit that all religions, if they survive infancy and begin to explode in growth, then go through a set series of stages of development. It’s easy for most Christians (especially Catholics), as well as Buddhists, to sit back and ask “why the heck do the Muslims have such a stick up their collective ass?” This is because Buddhism is (on average) in the “easygoing grandparent” stage, and Christianity is in the “experienced adult” stage of life. Islam, however, having only been founded in the 7th century, is still in its late “teenage crisis” and early “idealistic twentysomething” stage(s) of life. We all go through these stages—it’s nothing to be ashamed about. Christianity had its crusades (11th through 13th centuries) and inquisitions (13th through 19th centuries), and before that the Buddhists were part of numerous uprisings, rebellions, crackdowns, massacres, and holy wars throughout Asia for centuries. Basically, this all means that Islam is 500 to 800 years behind Christianity in terms of religious maturity. We can probably expect another few hundred years of asinine, violent, and overtly irrational behavior from some elements of the Islamic world before things begin to settle down.

On a more practical note, (regarding Iran’s current system of government), Iranians are very politically active, with, according to my friend, over 10,000 people running for parliamentary positions recently, and who anybody can vote for. Unfortunately, there is a committee of 12 ayatollahs who interview and judge all of those candidates, and who can reject out of hand anyone who isn’t faithful enough, or Muslim enough. This reduces the number to about 3,000. So basically, even if the hardline and conservative Muslims are only a minority in Iran, the ayatollahs can virtually guarantee them government positions.

“Democracy can work in Iran, but clearly not Iraq or Afghanistan…”

I had been about to object to this, but my friend had a very valid point for this—that Iraq and Afghanistan are nations of tribes, whereas Iran (formerly Persia; formerly the center of a long series of large and established empires), although having some tribes, is much more intrinsically unified. Tribal societies by their very nature don’t work with other tribes, thereby precluding from the start any sort of cooperative government based on Western legalistic abstractions. This relatively simple explanation goes a long way in explaining the difficulties much of Africa have always had in establishing “democracy” too (especially since African borders were simply drawn in with crayons by European colonizers). Just because it works for us doesn’t mean it’s the best form of government for everyone.

“You must be so proud of your Founding Fathers, since they really did build this nation on the most perfect foundation possible…”

My friend went on to explain that after reading our Constitution 10 times, as well as perusing the Iranian version, the German one, and more, he concluded that ours is not only short and concise, but it broadly and unambiguously grants strong freedoms without religious interference. He then added that our nation is so powerful because it has such a stout foundation that can survive temporary problems and absorb incoming ideologies whole. Iran does indeed have a problem exporting terrorism and extremism, he affirmed, because it lacks such a foundation, which allows other ideologies to infiltrate and insert themselves into Iranian government and society.

I tried to object by saying that many American grow tired of the legalistic oversaturation of our society and that we want less rigidity. My friend caused me to instead be more appreciative of our strongly legalistic culture, since that very backbone is what allows us to take in people from so many different backgrounds and integrate them into a relatively cohesive whole—the US of A—thereby enabling our collective success. In effect, Law is our ideology or Tradition, and that is something to be proud of.

All in all, it was a fascinating exchange of ideas between East and West. I hope there will be more to come!

The New Polytheism

In this day and age when so many Things can so easily be Capitalized—by which I mean they can be given lives of their own, anthropomorphized and imbued with meaning beyond their dictionary definition—then those very Things become forces unto themselves, to which we surrender our own Thought, Will, and Responsibility…Those Things become gods. Of course I’m talking about the good old fashioned type of gods, as in pre-Israelite monotheism, or like the gods of the Greeks, Babylonians, or Ugarites. Or maybe even like the ancient Chinese pantheon, or Japanese kami, etc.

Browse through any magazine from the shelves in Barnes & Noble, flip through network news, go to a club, or even listen to our politicians, and you’ll soon encounter a plethora of Powers that seem to saturate our society’s daily existence. Sexual Expression flirts with younger and younger generations of children, all the while courting Media and Entertainment at the same time (the slut). Freedom of Speech (Freedom‘s foul-mouthed but truthful grandchild) meanwhile continues his schizophrenic rampage, sometimes slapping Sexual Expression’s wrist and belting out prayers in schools, and sometimes yelling “Fuck” in playgrounds and posting bomb-making instructions on his blog. Privacy mostly keeps to himself, but the big bully Political Correctness, along with pals Bureaucracy and ever-rigid Law, beat the crap out of Personal Responsibility while (ironically) shouting verbal abuse at the sickly Freedom, and of course Sloth and Entitlement cheer from the sidelines. Money is friends with everybody, but his extravagant lifestyle has left him feeling a bit insubstantial, and Greed has taken to dressing up like Capitalism, (or maybe it’s vice versa)—it’s hard to tell since Idealism and Realism are always blocking our view with their squabbles. And of course War is actually stronger, though also leaner, than ever before, even after working hard for the past 10,000 years straight (if not longer).

None of this is “bad,” per se—it’s simply how things are—but it would help us all a lot if we start to recognize these Powers, these gods for what they are. By acting as though these eternal forces play no part in our lives, we give them free reign to wreak havoc on us, all the while letting our own internal powers grow soft. If we but light a stick of incense to Reason and Awareness and take greater care in choosing which powers we pray to, we might actually benefit from this arrangement, as the Greeks and then Romans did when their consciousness of such gods allowed them to reach great heights of philosophical and scientific understanding.

By accepting this new pantheon as part of our society, we can achieve even greater heights than any previous civilization has, while simultaneously growing to know ourselves better than ever too.


Post Script:

This admittedly unstudied and elementary idea sprung into my head as I read a text for one of my classes: Michael Cook’s A Brief History of the Human Race, which gives an insightful though (necessarily) superficial look at all of human history.

The Paradox of the Burqa

When I first decided to repost a number of my old Blogspot posts on this newer blog, I passed this one over, since I was frankly embarrassed by how I opened it, and concerned how people might take some of my statements. I’ve grown more than I thought I had since originally writing this post, and my current views are much more inclusive, more nuanced, and less…hormonal…than depicted here. But after much thought, I opted to nevertheless port this post here (with minor style edits), since I still largely agree with my own older conclusions. ~2014-11-06


I am not a Muslim. I have never read the Koran [I since have]. I have never been to an Islamic nation. So feel free to take what follows with as much salt as you desire.

However, I feel quite strongly that what I have to say has a fair amount of validity.

So I was doing my usual daily checking of news outlets, and on the BBC News front page, a small photo from this article caught my eye. My first thought was “Wow, the amazingly attractive woman in this mini profile portrait looks like Angelina Jolie.” Then I read the caption, “Iran’s best woman racing driver hailed as new ‘Schumacher'” and was immediately intrigued, thinking “But how often does one get to see pictures of any Iranian women?”

Despite the apparent (“apparent” only because the picture is really small) stunning beauty of this woman drawing my eye enough to click on a link, I was about to pass over the article and move on with my life, until I read that she was Iranian.

Herein lies the problem: Humans shall ever want what they cannot have. I’ll expand on that….

Well, the article was actually pretty interesting, [here’s a more recent one] and it even included another small profile image of the woman in question, name of Laleh Seddigh, but it soon got me thinking about the whole issue of the burqa, and from there it was only a hop, skip, and jump to ponderances on fundamentalism, beauty, sexism, sexuality, hormones, religion, freedom, oppression, and more (you get the drift—I’m in college, after all, and supposed to be thinking deep thoughts).

Based on my own immediate personal reaction to the minute image of the face of Laleh Seddigh, Iranian Racecar Driver, I must say that the basic idea behind the burqa is sound—males and their pesky hormones and evolved mammalian behaviors are easily affected by the aesthetically pleasing and generally beautiful female face and form. By removing the female face and form from view, as the burqa is intended to do, the idea is that males will be less inclined to covet their neighbors’ wives and females would be protected from males’ aggressive advances. This does make sense, on some level.

Unfortunately, it’s also a crock of shit based on fundamentalist religiosity and wishful thinking. Fact is, males [and actually people in general] are gonna have their hormones raging in any case, the face or body in view or not, and in fact, sexual aggression and repression would be even worse for all parties due to the clearly unnatural and confining arrangement that the whole burqa idea creates. If anything, the suggestivity of the burqa, by hiding simple and not-necessarily-at-all-sexual natural beauty from view, allows imaginations to roam free, and hormones could be ratcheted up even further. This is what unconsciously and immediately happened to me with Ms. Seddigh’s picture, and for that matter what the entire luxury lingerie industry is based on—the suggestion of something can be more powerful than the thing itself.

I don’t know how many of you have ever been to a nude beach or nudist resort, but I have to say, it’s remotely as sexual and suggestive as people imagine. Modesty is a good virtue and trait, but one can be modest whether in a burqa or a thong—it’s the intent behind the clothing along with the behavior of the wearer that are more important than the outfit itself (usually, that is—assless chaps and inflatable bras are another ball game). However shocking and, sadly enough, repulsive the nude human form may be to some people, we are born that way, and how are we to return to the Garden of Eden if we don’t make the conscious effort to evolve ourselves beyond the fleeting conventions we have created for ourselves; to come full circle to our pre-Knowledge-of-Good-&-Evil innocence while maintaining the wisdom humanity has gained while traveling the circle.

People always (should) have the right to wear whatever they wish to, but however you look at it—burqas could be seen as protection from the outside world as much as protection from one’s own urges and thoughts—hiding from our fears allows our fears to continue unabated. Burqas could be seen as covering up a temptation—but covering something up and confining it is smothering, and again, when we don’t face our fears, we inevitably augment them.

I am personally on the more progressive end of this particular debate, and I will gladly support the right of people to cover themselves completely as much as I’ll support groups like RAWA. Ultimately, general human rights and freedoms are the most important, overarching issues at stake.

What Bouncers Tell Us About IDs

So, last night I accompanied some good old friends into Old City Philly for some 21st birthday celebration, which was a most interesting experience…But none of that matters, since the only thing that I feel like writing about today is the ginormous (I mean this guy was a BIG dude) bouncer at Café Spice, where a few of us ended up later on in the evening. Long story short, the guy almost didn’t let me in since he thought my ID was a fake—he only let me in on the word of another member of our party who knew him. I thought the bouncer was giving our party trouble due to the several members of our party who actually were using invalid IDs (chicks, of course), but I was informed later that it was I who was the troublemaker.

This was severely vexing for me, for several reasons. First of all, I was in reality the eldest person in our group, by several years. That in itself was enough to piss me off a bit. But secondly, this situation brought the whole ID and age-limit issue home for me.

I have a brand new Connecticut-issued Driver’s License. They have all the latest security features, holograms, thick plastic and good lamination, newfangled barcodes, etc. And in my particular case, my picture is actually quite accurate (for the time being—I happened to get my license photo taken during a shaved head period, and I’m in a shaved head period now as well). I mean, WTF? This episode is basically an admission that bouncers and security personnel and package-store counterladies everywhere are flying by the seats of their pants. This is absurd.

What needs to happen is…Well, a lot of things need to happen, of course. The drinking age should be lowered nationally back to 18, obviously, as the very first necessary and obvious step. Next, we must implement nationwide ID or license standardization. I’m NOT saying that ID’s should be mandatory or even always carried, but that better and more universal personal identification must be developed and distributed.

This goes far beyond buying alcohol or getting into bars. The whole identification infrastructure of the internet, building access, government service access, and numerous other ID-relevant sectors in our IT-driven world today must be rethought.

I will end this semi-coherent rant by comparing the ID infrastructure problem to the electrical infrastructure here in the States. As with any bureaucratically managed system, it took the 2003 NE US blackout to draw attention to the outdated and overused electrical networks in place. Will it take widespread identity theft (already occurring), security breaches, and other daily absurdities like my encounter last night before real action takes place?