Thursday, November 30, 2006

My other blog is your mom

New post over at The Scenic Route. Hope you enjoy. I like to think that it's a bit more of a thinky piece than my last one.

Childcare intuition (and the fact that I don't have much)

Something that has always bothered me when babysitting (read: getting stuck watching my cousins at Christmas/reunions/random family gatherings) is my inability to communicate with very small children. This bugs me because I like to think of myself as a language person, but if you put me in a situation where a barely verbal two-year-old is trying to tell me something, generally all I can make out is that he either wants a cookie or Timmy's fallen down the well again. (You know, you'd think that after the second or third time he had to be rescued, they'd either put a lid on the well or a tether on the kid. Me, I'd use the dog as my ticket to fame and fortune. But I digress.) What makes this all the more galling is that when I watch someone else interact with a child of that age, I can almost always tell you exactly what the kid is trying to say and what he/she/it wants. But when I'm the one being tugged on, it's like a switch gets flipped and all my intuition shuts down. Of course, (say it with me!) I'm only 23 and I don't know jack about anything, but you'd think that after at least ten years of this I'd have a little bit better time with it.

Well, it seems that I'm not alone. There's a woman in Australia who says she has decoded what babies up to three months old are saying. Well, crying, anyway. If you've ever heard a crying newborn, you may have noticed a certain "La . . . la" pattern (as opposed to the indiscriminate wailing of older babies and toddlers). Well, this woman says that there are actually five distinct syllables that babies cry, and each one indicates a different need. It's an interesting article about a fascinating concept, but unfortunately they only give two of the five sounds in the article. To learn the other three you have to watch some video, which (as a single childless college student) is just more work than I'm willing to go to.

Honestly, though, the findings listed in the article don't really surprise me. My dad (who got an officially impossible perfect score on the audio portion of an IQ test, incidentally) has always been able to tell what a baby of any age needs based solely on its cry. When we're out in public and we see a mother (or other caregiver) trying unsuccessfully to console her child, my dad will comment that of course the baby's crying, it doesn't want a bottle, it wants a nap (or someother doesn't want/want combination). As far as I've seen, he's always been 100 percent accurate. I have noticed that I've inherited a bit of his sensitive ear, but as I said before, it only seems to apply to children I am not directly responsible for.

You know, that could actually come in handy. My therapist keeps joking that I should go into psychology, so maybe I could do that and bill myself as the "Baby Whisperer." Or I could use it as a party trick, or I could be a sort of superhero who quiets crying babies in supermarkets and cinemas and other public areas. I'd do it for free, of course, and then I'd ride out on the shoulders of the grateful shoppers. I'll be famous!

Or I could stay home and just wait to have my own kids. I'm guessing if that intuition does arrive, it'll get there in the same shipment as the eyes in the back of my head. Those things are deadly.


Hokay. So.

I know I've been ignoring this blog for at least a couple weeks, but there is a very good reason. You see, I've been trying to write 50,000 words during the month of November.

Well: my profile page.


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

"Rules? In a knife fight?! No rules!"

Luckily, there are rules for gun fighting. You can read the marine and navy versions here. I especially like No. 1: "Bring a gun. Preferably, bring two guns. Bring all your friends who have guns." Sound advice, that. The list does seem to be missing one of my favorites, though: "Don't worry about the bullet with your name on it. Worry about the shrapnel addressed to "Occupant."

FWIW, I sent these to my sister, who's enrolled in the NROTC program (nurse option) at her university. She loved it.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

A thought

I just had a rather startling thought about stem cell research. Under the current situation, federal money cannot be used for research that destroys embryos. Some embryos have already been destroyed, so research with those stem cells is (as far as I know) eligible for federal funding. Also, research with adult stem cells is eligible for government money. Furthermore, the research that is not eligible is perfectly within its rights to seek out funding from other sources. Government money just brings lots of red tape and extra paperwork. If I had to choose between private investment and government funding, I'd choose private investment every time. The only downside is that private investors tend to want better, quicker returns for their money.

Hmmmm . . .

Maybe the scientists want government money because there's less accountability there. Maybe they can't get private investors. Adult stem cell research doesn't seem to have problems finding investors, but then, it's produced effective cures and treatments (links will be provided on demand). Embryonic stem cell research, on the other hand, apparently needs a shot in the arm of federal capital before it can make any meaningful advances.



Today makes the second time in a week that I've been jumped on for voicing or claiming my religious and/or political beliefs. It doesn't feel good. It's tempting to whine that because I try not to do that to other people, they shouldn't do it to me, but I know life isn't fair so I'm not going to waste words on it. I just wish people wouldn't assume when they hear "Religious Right-Winger" that I'm a Bible-thumper who just mindlessly swallows everything my leaders tell me. I like to think I'm a little more thoughtful than that.

A Short Story

Lester calls his psychotic ex-girlfriend: an analogy.

Lester called Martha late Monday afternoon and said, "Martha, I want you to quit harrassing me. Stop sending me flowers, stop mailing me candy, stop sending me singing telegrams and stop leaving vaguely threatening messages on my answering machine. I dumped you three months ago and I don't want anything more to do with you. Ever."

"Fine," Martha said as she wrapped another box of chocolates, "but I hope you realize this means we can't see each other any more."

The End.

The above was an analogue to this headline: "Hamas chief: Truce with Israel is over."

"Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal says that a truce with Israel is finished and is appealing to all Palestinian factions to resume attacks. Israeli tank shells ripped through a residential neighborhood in the northern Gaza Strip early Wednesday, killing at least 18 members of an extended family, including eight children, and wounding dozens of others, Palestinian health officials said.

"There must be a roaring reaction so that we avenge all those vicitms," Mashaal said.

The military wing of the Palestinians' ruling group called on Muslims around the world to attack U.S. targets, a call disavowed by the Hamas-led Palestinian government.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert expressed regret over the deaths and, along with Defense Minister Amir Peretz, offered "urgent humanitarian aid" to the Palestinian Authority and immediate medical treatment to the wounded.

Israel halted artillery attacks in Gaza while it investigated the incident, but said it would press forward with operations meant to halt Palestinian rocket fire on Israeli communities." [Emphasis added. - Ed.]
Okay, see, funny thing about this is that a) the Israelis were acting to stop ongoing Palestinian actions, b) there can't be a truce if you're still firing, and c) I don't think there's been a "truce" of any kind since Gilad Shalit went "missing" back in July. They've been holding him for months and they still talk about a "truce"? What kind of truce involves kidnapping enemy soldiers? That's like calling time-out in tag so you can give your friend an indian burn.

Another interesting point is the Israeli reaction to the rocket incident. Olmert and others immediately offered to help those affected. We can reasonably extrapolate from past events that if an Israeli family had been killed by a Palistinian rocket, Gaza's reaction would have been quite different than Jerusalem's.

The Election, part 3

I know I said I was going to wait until morning to post again, but it's twenty 'til one and I'm stuck at work and I'll probably be here for at least another forty minutes, so I might as well blog.

I know it's an overreaction, but I seriously don't know what to do right now. One of the main underlying assumptions of my world just shifted, and I'm having to adjust to it. This adjustment is not pleasant. I'm having to talk myself out of thinking that the next big attack is right around the corner, but it's not an outrageous scenario. We're in the clutch of a culture war that went global years ago, and our opponent is a tribal, medieval mentality that screams for attention and thrives on being ignored. Islamism, Islamofacism, Islamic terrorism - call it what you will, we dismiss it at our peril. To back down now would be disastrous. If you're being bullied, the worst thing you can do is run away.

Actually, scratch that. The worst thing you can do is slap at the bully and say "Stop it!" in a sissy voice before you run away. Which, God help us, is probably what's going to happen in the next year or so.

When we left Vietnam, we created a vacuum in the region. The North Vietnamese immediately flooded in and took over the South, and regimes like the Khmer Rouge were allowed to flourish in neighboring countries. If we leave Iraq now - if we leave without crushing the thrice-damned "insurgency" and making sure the Iraqis are able to stand on their own two feet, we won't just lose face. We'll doom that country and the entire region to a new period of poverty, depravity and cruelty - and nukes.

The next Presidential election is going to be interesting.

The Election, part 2

I'm watching the Democrats slowly take over and I'm deliberately withholding judgement on the situation until tomorrow morning. Everything looks better in the morning. But I really hope this doesn't lead to us running from Iraq like a whipped dog. This is the first time I've cared about an election where my party lost.

I'm waiting 'til morning.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The Election, part 1

My wonderful friend (I'll call her J) let me use her car this morning, so I was able to drive home and vote. I had to get up early on my sleep-in day and I was a full 45 minutes late to my history class, but I did my civic duty so it's worth it. On the other hand, none of the races I voted in were all that important, so I feel sort of ambivelant about the whole fuss. I'm much more concerned with what's going on in other areas of the country and who's going to get control of the House and Senate.

The instinctive reactionn is to root for my party to take the whole thing, which would mean dominance in all three branches of government. But I recently read a rather compelling argument claiming the government works better when power is split between the parties. This is probably true under most circumstances, but considering how the Democratic leadership (and base, for that matter) seems to feel about our current president and his policies, it could mean very bad things for the country. I don't mean that our civilization as we know it will crumble; I mean that we could get bogged down in pointless squabbling and vengeance while the world falls apart around our ears.

Neither do I think "values" are the biggest issue here. If the wrong people win tonight, it won't matter what you stand for because you don't subscribe to a certain medieval religion that still believes in beheading as a reasonable punishment. To put it more bluntly: You may side with the Islamists because they're against Amerikkka, but that doesn't mean they're going to side with you.

I can't believe I misspelled "ambivalent."

Monday, November 06, 2006

A life lesson, and it's one I'm still learning

Over the past few weeks, I've had kind of a rough time of it. Anxiety attacks are not my friends. But now that I'm back to a faily normal state of being, I've come to a rather interesting conclusion:

It's easier to be good in a crisis.

Now, I don't mean that crises necessarily bring out the best in people; in fact, I know the opposite is often the case. But for someone who is attempting to be a better person, there's nothing like a little personal discomfort to make the choice between good and evil stand out in stark relief. It's C.S. Lewis said in The Screwtape Letters (the following is a paraphrase): There's nothing like five minutes of genuine toothache to bring a man's life into perspective -- or, in my case, a solid month of stress-induced stomach upset.

I take no credit for my recovery; it was the grace of God that got me through, and nothing else. My own attempts failed miserably. But now that I'm back eating normally and back among the land of the living, it's disturbingly easy to forget everything I just learned and go back to my lazy, token-prayers-and-bible-reading-before-I-go-to-bed-so-I-can-say-I-talked-to-God-today ways. I know that a healthy spiritual journey contains ups and downs, but for Pete's sake! It says something about me that I could go back so quickly to the behaviors that got me in trouble in the first place. I was tempted to skip class today (twice, do you hear me, twice!) and I slept through church yesterday and turned off my alarm clock in this morning instead of getting up on time like a responsible human being. Of course, the old me at the bottom of the curve would've just rolled over with an apathetic groan and skipped class, so it's a good sign that I didn't, but getting to class was still more of a struggle than I would have liked.

I guess I'm just disappointed with myself that when the physical impetus to be responsible, to be "good," was removed, I slid so fast back toward my old habits. I am not pleased by this. I need to change this about myself. I need to put those introspective tendencies to good use and effect some useful growth. And yes, I know all about my emotions being affected by outside stimuli, so a good chunk of this behavior can be attributed to the simple fact that I feel better. But the rest of it can't. That's what I need to fix.

On the upside, "It's easier to be good in a crisis" would make a really good title for my NaNo novel.

My other blog is Your Mom

It's a few days late, but my column is up at The Scenic Route. Enjoy.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

I'm a horrible citizen - or at least, I feel like one.

Remember a couple weeks ago when I made the pronouncement that yes, I was going to vote in the upcoming election?

Let me put it bluntly: Unless I can get a ride to my home county on Tuesday, I can't vote. I didn't get my application for an absentee ballot in on time.

In my defense, I was going to do it over the weekend but the weekend was really hairy and lots of stuff didn't get done that should have. I'll do it later this week, I though. But it turns out the application has to be received no fewer than eight days before the election. In other words, I'm screwed.

I'm not a bad American, but, as the title says, it's really really tempting to feel like one. This is the first election (barring Prezapalooza 2004) where I understand the consequences of my vote (or the lack thereof). I'm going to see if I can get a ride or borrow a car or something on Tuesday because I don't have class until the afternoon, and if all else fails I guess I could take the bus. Or something. I'll pay for gas! I can find a way home on Tuesday, I'm sure of it. It's just going to take a lot of work. I didn't pay this much attention to the candidates to let my chance to vote for them slip away without a fight.

Just spilling my guts like this has made me feel better, actually. I've got something I can do now instead of wallowing in my self-pity and complaining about my situation. Yay self-made pep talks! Hooray initiative!