Friday, August 31, 2007

this is not intended to be a political statement, but...

I think it's interesting.

A comparison of two houses...

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Wherein I criticize grief-stricken people

I don’t have time to be blogging right now, but…

A recent article about the Virginia Tech shootings mentions that some parents want the president fired, etc.

"As you read the report, it's clear that so many of the mistakes that were made result from a failure of leadership at the very top levels of the university," said Cathy Read, stepmother of slain freshman Mary Karen Read.
Celeste Peterson, whose freshman daughter Erin was killed, said the governor should act forcefully and fire Steger and campus police Chief Wendell Flinchum.
"I love Virginia Tech, too. My daughter loved Virginia Tech," the grieving mother said, but "we have to separate Virginia Tech brick and mortar from the administration, which is inept."
William O'Neil, father of slain graduate student Daniel O'Neil, called it outrageous that no one had been held accountable. "With the exception, of course, of Cho, no one from the university is held accountable," he said.

It’s sad and frustrating that these parents don’t realize how predictable and irrational they’re being.

The fact is that we are vulnerable to this type of attack – and a hundred other ways to die – every day. But since that’s too scary to contemplate, and because we don’t want to accept that our child’s death was random, we search for a focus for our anger, a *reason*, a way to pretend that
a) someone is responsible, and
b) simple and dramatic action will prevent this happening again.

AFAIK, no one had ever shot a couple of people, then taken a break, then come back and shot 31 more. There was no precedent, no way for school officials to guess that the event wasn’t over. Their guess that the original two shootings were a domestic dispute seems reasonable to me.

Right now on college campuses across the country there are dozens of disturbed kids just like Cho, who are giving all the same signals Cho gave. Hopefully none of them will do what he did, but some of them might. And there’s not much we can do about it.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

More Spanish stuff

Mexicans typically call all east asians “Chinos”. Occasionally you’ll hear koreano or japonés, but the generic, most widely-used term seems to be chino.

Which isn’t that interesting, except that it reminds me about nicknames – Mexicans are enthusiastic and utterly un-PC in assigning nicknames. The following are (off the top of my head) examples I have heard in real life:

Chino - Chinaman
Chango – Monkey
Güero - Whitey
Negro - Blackie
Gordo/gordito – Fatty
Chancho - Piggy
Flaco - Skinny
Pelón - Baldy
Burro - Donkey
Tuerto - One-eye/lazy-eye/cross-eye
Chaparro - Shorty
Chula - Cutey

Whenever I’m with Spanish speakers, I’m always Güero (pronounced roughly “weddo”). It’s natural and expected. If I had three eyes or an extra large head, you can be confident I’d be called “Eyes” or “Big Head.”

Another thing, your nickname from childhood may stick with you even if circumstances change – I’ve met more than one chubby “Flaco”.

On the subject of Hispanic nicknames, from here:
… Anglo culture sees nicknames that address physical and racial characteristics as derogatory. The Hispanics, however, see the use of these nicknames as a way of placing affection on a person regardless of the circumstances. “This simple cultural observation may lead one to conclude that in fact, the Mexicans [and Hispanics in general] tend to be much more accepting of the uniqueness of the individual that we are likely to see north of the Rio Grande”…

Friday, August 17, 2007

Speaking of gender

A public service announcement in several parts. (You may disagree, but you'd be wrong.):

1) Gender is about more than plumbing. Chromosome patterns, brain structure & development, body chemistry, unspecified personality traits, other stuff: there’s a lot that plays a part.

2) The idea that humans come in just two flavors is firmly entrenched in our society. 99% of the personal information forms we fill out ask us to specify a sex, even when it’s completely irrelevant. This preoccupation with classifying people by gender isn’t always useful or practicable.

3) There are a lot more of us (humans) than you might think whose gender (physical or emotional) isn’t necessarily firmly settled. Read up or check out some of the TV programs of the last few years on people whose internal/external systems aren’t necessarily in synch*.
General Link1
General Link2
Ambiguos Genitalia
Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia
Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome
*Note that even when I try not to, I still describe these situations in a way that could be interpreted as something less, something negative. As if unusual always = bad. I'm not saying I'm not glad I have conventional plumbing, etc -- I am -- I'm just saying in situations where no one is being hurt, and judgment serves no purpose anyway, it would be great if we could learn to accept things as they are. It is what it is...

4) Be nice, eh? It seems like some people who are otherwise kind feel it’s okay to voice strong opinions about situations they know little or nothing about, and which seem (to me) would be exceptionally challenging to navigate. My personal theory is that trans-gender or ambiguous-gender situations make some people uncomfortable, so they get cranky or critical, but I could be wrong about that...

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Wherein the divorced male explains what women want…

Thinking about example #2 in the earlier post about power, and the quote from Marlene Dietrich: Most women set out to try to change a man, and when they have changed him they don't like him.

I actually think that most women want a man who is “in charge”. Not “in charge” as in telling her what to do and how to think – but in charge of his life, his opinions, himself. Some people look for a partner who is spontaneous, uninhibited, and quirky, but I think the majority of women – especially those who want to have kids – want someone with discipline, with direction, who knows who he is, what he wants, who has a plan for his career, for dates, for the lawn.

I also think that both genders have a hard time understanding why the other cares about – or doesn’t care about – certain things.
Example: husband honestly doesn’t care what color the living room is. He sees it as irrelevant to the Purpose of Life, which is
a) taking care of the family’s most basic needs, and
b) having fun (ie, sex & sports).

Wife may see husband’s Not Caring About Things She Cares About as a lack of caring about her, or not being engaged in stuff important to the family.
Note: she may think his opinion lame, and have no intention of ever accepting his ideas (eg, painting dartboards on the wall), but she may still want him to *have* one.

So when the husband abdicates his duty of caring about the walls, it creates an “in-charge vacuum”. This ought to be cared about, this should be directed and managed. Since the husband isn’t doing it, the wife does. Which is fine.

But if it happens over and over (drapes, bedding, clothes, lamps, the yard, etc, etc), the wife may begin to see the husband as uncaring, wishy-washy, or lacking in direction or “in-chargeness.”

She may begin to assume that he doesn’t care about much of anything, and that he needs to be directed all the time (how to drive, where to park, when to put on a sweater, what to say to his boss, whatever.) She doesn’t understand why he’s irritated at being directed about (what is to her) tiny thing X when he left her completely in charge of (what is to her) great big things Y, Z, and W.

From the husband’s POV, it’s just not worth debating about something he doesn’t care that much about. Plus he wants her in a good mood so the chance of marital relations is as high as possible. So even if he *does* care a little, he doesn’t bother to say anything about it.

But anyway: I believe (this 10 minutes) that a spouses who never campaign for their own wants, who give in to their partners' every whim & mood, who worry overly about contradicting him/her, paint themselves into a corner. If you’re a guy, pretty soon your wife thinks you’re a pussy.

I’ve concluded that as long as you’re not overbearing, condescending, controlling, etc – it’s far better to be authentic, and to stand up for yourself. If you defend your opinions, if you call your partner on it when they’re being a twit (without being angry, without condemnation, and without holding a grudge), they will respect you and desire you more, not less. Women get worked up about stuff, and then they get over it. And if you quitted yourself like a man (ie, “Sweetie, you’re acting nuts, I think you’re totally wrong, but I still love you dearly”), you come out far better.

Maybe this is kindergarten-level stuff, but I’m embarrassed how far into my life I had to get to decide this was true.

Bonus section: You Make The Call

You pick up your wife/girlfriend/SO at her job at the mall. She’s been on her feet all day, and on the way out, she sits down to rest for 5 minutes. You see a T-shirt stand that interests you, and begin to walk toward it, but your SO says “Where are you going? Don’t leave me here alone…”

What do you do? She doesn’t want to talk about anything specific, she just feels like having you there. If you go, she feels you don’t care about her.
So short-term, she’ll be happier if you ditch your plans and simply sit by her side like an accessory.
But long-term, where does that end? If it happens all the time, won't you eventually be a whipped puppy who has to ask to go to the bathroom? (And when you do, she makes you sit down.)

I realize it’s stupid to make every miniscule experience into some watershed sexual politics event. And a lot of it has to do with how *often* your partner directs you, and how they ask – we all have the right to feel needy on occasion.

But just out of curiosity, what do the men or women in this space think? Does that resonate with you at all?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

For Blogball

For Spanish-speakers, the word for "touch" (tocar) is the same word as "play" as in "play a song" or "play the guitar".

Also, the word vieja can mean "old" or "old lady" (in both of the senses we use it: older lady, or "my old lady").

So if you tell the mariachi to "Tocame una vieja", you could be saying "Play me an oldie" or you could be saying "Touch an [old lady]" (Snicker, snicker)...

Power to the People

I think most people (of any of the genders) will tend to take and wield power when the opportunity is there, including in marriage. And in some cases they may not really be trying to accumulate "power" -- it just sort of works out that way...

Example 1: Husband likes to be the in-charge guy, likes to be thought of as knowledgeable. Wife doesn’t really care about that. Gradually, husband will assume the role of the authority/expert on everything. More and more conversations will take the form of husband educating the wife. He will direct the family’s activities more and more, will offer stronger and more frequent opinions about the wife’s activities. Wife will gradually make fewer decisions on her own, will second-guess herself more, will stand up for herself less.
Conversations where husband is *not* the authority – or situations where he turns out to be wrong – will come to seem unfamiliar and wrong and might make him feel cranky.

Example 2: Husband values peace and harmony over power; wife (consciously or not) operates differently. When deciding where to eat, what color to paint the dining room, etc, husband says “I don’t care, whatever you want” a lot. Eventually, wife will begin direct the majority of family activities. She will begin to have strong opinions about – or even actually direct – activities that would ordinarily be the husband’s responsibility to decide for himself (clothing, grooming, diet, exercise, leisure activities, etc.)
The husband, operating under the “Happy wife, happy life” theory, will contradict her less and less, which in turn will make him seem even weaker and in more need of direction.

Example 3 (sort of related): Husband grew up in an environment where the conflict/stress was higher than in the wife’s home, which was more peaceful. As a child, he develops a much higher “strife tolerance” than the wife does. Husband may actually feel comfortable with conflict, or he may just not know any other way to get what he needs/wants. From the wife’s POV, there is a high price to be paid for disagreeing with the husband, so she will do it less and less. Disagreements are not negotiated, but rather take the form of husband getting annoyed and wife trying to placate him. He may make the wife feel the anger is her fault (“see how you make me feel/what you make me do”), and/or she may buy into that view on her own. Eventually he becomes a serious ***hole and she becomes co-dependent and verbally abused (or worse).

Disclaimer: a lot of male-female stuff I’ve thought/written about is really just “people stuff” -- it’s really about differences in personalities. It’s just that some behaviors do tend to shake out along gender lines even if they’re not tied unvaryingly to a particular sex. And I write from a guy’s POV.
But anyway, my point is:

1) I know we (or you) are not ALL like that, all the time,
2) I know my writing is guy-centric;
3) Not everything I write about is about me or my marriage.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

I think this is funny

Sunday, August 12, 2007

This is not that important, I guess.

You've probably seen lizards doing pushups. (If not, here are some google links.)
But did you know that when you do pushups in Spanish, you're doing "lizards"?
Just wanted everyone* to know that.
Thank you, and have a nice day.

*The four people who read this blog regularly.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Wouldn’t it be nice if everything was simple?

What do you think of this?

CANBERRA, Australia - The Australian government Tuesday introduced bills in Parliament to fight child sex abuse among Aborigines, in a plan condemned by critics as discriminatory and an attack on indigenous culture.

In introducing almost 500 pages of legislation, Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough described Outback Aboriginal communities as "a failed society where law and order and behavior have broken down and where women and children are unsafe."

…Under the plan, alcohol and hardcore pornography will be banned from Aboriginal communities and Aborigines will be forced to spend a portion of their welfare checks on essentials such as food.

Child abuse on Aboriginal-owned land in the Northern Territory, covering an area the size of Texas but populated by only 30,000 people, is fueled by alcohol abuse, unemployment, poverty and other factors leading to a breakdown in society, the report found.

Former Federal Court Judge Murray Wilcox said the government has acknowledged the plan is racially discriminatory …

Full article here.

I’m not sure how accurate the “report” mentioned above would be. Certainly indigenous cultures have suffered as a result of European colonization. It seems clear that introducing alcohol, destroying a way of life, and decades of racial discrimination tend to grow social pathologies in conquered peoples.

So let’s say the rate of child molestation IS really higher in a particular community or subculture. At what point would one be justified in legislating intervention on this scale?

A broader question would be: If I have experience, education, or some other advantage that enables me to know what is better for another person, what is my right or responsibility to encroach on the freedom of that person (or his/her neighbors & family) to “save” them?

I imagine we all agree it’s not okay to force your neighbor to change his tie because it clashes with his shirt.

How about drug abuse? We do interventions, but we don’t (can’t) force a person into recovery unless they commit a crime.

In the case of threat of suicide, we intervene 99.9% of the time.

For general mental health issues or dementia, we sometimes intervene and sometimes let the person crash & burn.

When the behavior is potentially harmful to others, we intervene before it even happens (eg, a drunk sleeping it off in the front seat of his car can be arrested for drunk driving).

And we typically grant ourselves much more authority when it comes to protecting children.

In the Australian case, it seems like a really slippery slope. The spectre of the Stolen Generation looms gigantic whenever White Australia attempts to do something for the "good" of the indigenous peoples there.

Your thoughts invited.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Conversation with Sam and cetera

Bryan (points with toe to ice cube on the floor): We'll need to pick up that one...

Sam: Okay. (Picks up ice cube.) You know, if you just kick them under the counter, they melt and then evaporate.

Bryan: Well, that's not what we want to do.

Sam: It's just that you're old and conservative and set in your ways. You should be more open to new experiences and ideas.


You may wish to know how my last hockey game went. Or perhaps not, but I'm telling you anyway:
I got called for hooking in the first period, which was baloney. Interference, maybe, but not hooking. I indicated to the official that I did not feel guilty of the infraction as called. He was unmoved.
Then the ref made (what appeared to be a deliberate) non-call when I got taken out in their end. That happens sometimes when you whine too much -- all of a sudden you can't get a call from the men in the stripes -- it's actually a fairly effective refereeing practice...
So to the point: we're tied 2-2 in the last period. I get knocked down in the slot* just as my teammate passes the puck into the middle. From my knees I snap a desperation shot at the goal, which finds its way thru traffic and into the back of the net for the game-winner with 6 seconds on the clock.
Great was our jubilation. And there was much rejoicing. Also, everybody cheered.
With the win, we locked up 4th place. Or possibly 5th, we're not sure. But not 6th. Which is nice, as there are only 6 teams in our division...

*that means in the area in front of the net

These ads are kind of interesting.