Mountain Lions need Christmas too…

A while back I read a sad story about a lonely Mountain Lion:

 A relaxing soak in a hot tub came to an abrupt end when Marlene Todd came eye to eye with a mountain lion in her backyard.

See, Mountain Lions are loners mostly. I’ve known a few mountain lion types. Not the social type, but fairly cool cats. But every now and then they like a little companionship. I’m sure that’s all it wanted. And it came to this lady’s hot tub looking for a little friendship, maybe a quick soak in the warm tub.

 “It just took a leap. It jumped on the side of the hot tub,” Todd said of the Thursday morning encounter. “We locked eyes, and it kicked off of the hot tub and ran away. When it jumped, it flipped my robe into the hot tub.” – [Yahoo/AP]

You see what happened here? This heartless woman gave that poor Mountain Lion the evil eye. Scared it half to death. I guess not entirely, because it still kicked the ladies robe into the tub out of spite, but still, why everyone gotta be so hostile to Mountain Lions? They like Christmas hot tubbing too!

Humans are such selfish creatures. I’m sure if the situation would have been reversed,
the Mountain Lion would totally have invited the lady into the hot tub. No questions asked. We could learn a lot from Mountain Lions. People, if a Mountain Lion comes to your home, please leave the shotgun or rifle in the gun cabinet. Nobody likes being shot at, especially Mountain Lions.

How about we all try a different approach. Invite it in. Offer it some ham, maybe some turkey. Ask it to join you in a game of Twister. I think you’ll all be surprised how friendly a Mountain Lion can be…

Cougar nearly joins SD woman in hot tub – [Yahoo/AP]

The Southwest Airlines morality police…

You know it never ceases to amaze me how seem to think that immorality can be controlled by censorship. Censorship breeds ignorance. Nothing more. And if one day those who have been shielded from the  vices of life should come face to face with it,  do you think that their ignorance will provide them with the mental tools to deal with it correctly? I If were to hazard a guess, I’d say… no.

Americans are really quick to claim to our “individual freedoms”. However too often it seems like everybody thinks that the term “Individual Freedoms” extend no further than their own person. On an almost daily basis I see people trying to enforce their view of morality upon others, and in the process,  trample underfoot the very values they claim to hold dear, restricting what others can and cannot say, write or, for that matter, wear:

 23-year-old woman who boarded a Southwest Airlines plane in a short skirt for a flight to Arizona says she was led off the plane for wearing an outfit that was considered too skimpy.

“You’re dressed inappropriately. This is a family airline. You’re too provocative to fly on this plane,” she quoted the employee as saying.

The employee felt the outfit “revealed too much” but was placated after Ebbert made adjustments that included covering her stomach, Mainz said. – [Yahoo/AP]

Now this raises so many issues in my head that it’s almost mind boggling.  Like who determines what is considered too revealing? Too revealing for who? Is there wording in the airline contract that prohibits skimpy clothing? Did this employee have any legal right to even say anything to a passenger about this? Was this employee speaking for the company or was the employee using the airline to back up their own individual moral code?

Now these are all very important moral and legal questions. But what is not so obvious are the underlying assumptions that go into a statement like “This is a family airline. You’re too provocative to fly on this plane.” Are we to assume that family values prohibits the exposure of ones midriff on a plane? And whose values might those be?

And more importantly, shouldn’t the parents of said hypothetical “family” be able to explain to the youth of that family the right and wrong with any given attire? What I am asking, in a kind of round about way, is this: Why do people feel the need to shift the responsibility of parenting to everyone else but the parents? Why did this lady have to endure the humiliation she did?

Notwithstanding that fact that a persons dress code is not an accurate indicator of their morals, I believe that any responsible parent should have taught thier children what is considered appropriate clothing in that particular household, and so this should not have been an issue.

And I mean no offense, but it is only those parents who have not taught their kids what is right and wrong, and how to tell the difference, or who are afraid to openly discuss these topics when they come up (say, while buckling in for a short plane ride) that will have problems with this. And that will be because they are not parenting properly, not because of how someone is or isn’t dressed.

Others should not have to bear the burden of parents who don’t really understand what being a parent means. It is not easy. Not by any stretch of the imagination. But no parent should have the right to impinge on anothers’ freedoms just to make the job easier. The end result will be ignorant children, living in a confusing world, without the tools to make the right decisions when faced with crises.

Airline tells woman her outfit won’t fly – [Yahoo/AP]

Here Come the Fashion Police. Literally.

Every time I see a law that is centered around the way a person dresses, I cringe. I cringe because, almost every law that gets passed in relation to clothing seems to be based on someones personal conviction of what they believe to be “decent”. Here’s a typical example:

Baggy trousers that hang way below the belt and expose what the wearer has on underneath could soon be banned in the southern US city of Atlanta, a city council spokesman said Friday.

“Many youngsters are walking around with their pants way, way below their waists, and you can see everything. Some people call it a fad or a fashion statement but it is simple indecency,” Dexter Chambers, the communications director at Atlanta City Council, told AFP by phone.

And by everything, you mean what exactly?

The trend of wearing oversized trousers that fall down and expose one’s smalls derives from the US prison system.

“It started in prison, where, as I understand it, belts are taken away from inmates. But it evolved into a situation where it was used by prisoners to let others know they were ‘available,’ and it still has that sexual connotation,” Chambers said. – [Yahoo/AFP]

And this is the basis of your objections? Why do people like to look at things and then infer a meaning from it without any logical frame of reference to do so? Even if wearing your pants low around your hips in prison might mean you are sexually available, that does not mean it means the same thing out here. How can you make that kind of leap?

Is he trying to say that all of the youth running around with low slung pants are basically advertising thier sexual availability? I’m no expert, but I seriously doubt that. Why does the idea of it being a fashion fad seem so unreasonable? They are quick to deny that any similar laws are aimed at exposed bra straps and athletic bras, but what exactly is the difference? They might as well.

Who decides what the dress code of the street is supposed to be? Why is it that you can have women walking around in thong bikinis, and men in naught but a pair of speedos, and that is considered “decent” but a fully clothed man whose only fashion faux pas is that his pants are so low that his underwear is showing is an abomination?

These things make no sense. The law should not be used to enforce any indidivuals personal moral code. If the teachers don’t like it, then the schools needs to implement and enforce a dress code. The law should be used to enforce serious public safety issues. Not social dress code.

US city planning ban on low-slung baggy pants – [Yahoo/AFP]

A nation of finger pointers…

In writing this blog, I learn things about people and life in general that I might not have had I sat blissfully ensconced in my own world behind this monitor. I find I think about things a lot more if I have to write about them.

Some of the conclusions I end up with sometimes catch me off guard. Like I realized today that we are, by and large, a nation of hypocritical finger pointers. Conflicted blame shifters. Flip-flopping fault finders. Myself included. Well I’m a conflicted finger pointer, dunno about the rest ;)

Let me explain. I came across an article today about Americas opinions about texting and driving:

Ninety-one percent of Americans believe sending text messages while driving is as dangerous as driving after having a couple of drinks, but 57 percent admit to doing it, a poll released Tuesday said. – [Reuters]

Now my math is not exactly known for it’s infallibility, but by my calculations, that would mean that at least 48 percent of the population are texting while driving, all the while advocating that it should be banned. 48 percent. Forty-Eight.

Now doesn’t that seem strange to you? That almost half the population of the United States of America is engaged in a practice they believe should be illegal? And this occurs while completely sober? Here’s another example. I recently came across a message board where some unfortunate sap got caught for speeding in the wee hours of the morning on an open stretch of deserted road.

He came to the board asking for legal advice. He got his advice, but not before enduring some scathing remarks about breaking the law by a few other folks on the board and, apparently, an active law enforcement officer. To his credit, he tried to explain that he attempted to pick the safest optimal conditions for his “speed run” however one particularly vigorous poster immediately flamed him to death for “breaking the law”.

Now I ask you: how many of those people do you think have never broken a law before? How many have gone just that little bit over the speed limit because they were late? Hogged the passing lane doing 5mph under the speed limit, while a line of increasingly irate drivers grew behind them? Had a cellphone conversation while driving? Took a pen home from work? Put on makeup/did their hair on the road? Ate lunch on the road? With a burger in one hand, a shake in the other, and a knee on the steering wheel?

I could go on, but I think you get the point. Nobody is perfect, but everyone insists they are better than everyone else. Everyone likes to be able to point a finger at another and say “He/She broke the law! That Idiot! That imbecile!”. The guy who decided to speed in the safest environment he could think of, (and actually consciously thought about it before doing so) gets flamed, while people are talking on cellphones and texting in the middle of traffic on a busy highway (without a second thought for safety) is somehow culturally more acceptable?

Whose actions are more irresponsible? Do you think the law adequately addresses the more dangerous action? My opinion: (like I have to actually say it) No! The law isn’t perfect. You should see some of the silly laws that have passed (some are still on the books!). And more to the point, people aren’t perfect. The fact that I can effortlessly find enough ludicrous stuff to talk about here, on a daily basis, is testament to that.

We all want compassion, mercy, and tolerance and yet we are so reluctant to show anyone else the same. We blame everything for our problems, TV, video games, guns, sex, drugs, rock ‘n roll, frequently each other. But never ourselves. We are so quick to point a finger at everything/everyone else. But we always ignore the three pointing back at us. We suck. Big time. Epic Fail. I wish there was a reset button on this game…

Nine in 10 Americans say ban texting while driving – [Reuters]

The Fermi Paradox rears it’s ugly head…

The Fermi Paradox refers to the apparent lack of evidence of the existence of extraterrestrial life, when all other probabilistic scientific determinations would indicate that the alternative should be true, and there should be intelligent life out there.

In other words, if we assume that the way life developed on earth is stereotypical of the development of life in general, and that given the same conditions, life should developed again in the same way, then given the high probability of similar conditions existing on other planets in the universe, having existed far longer than the earth has, why have we not seen any evidence this extraterrestrial life?

At first people thought that we simply lacked the technology to detect the signs of this life, but recent scientific advancements have suggested that this may not be the case. It is an interesting dilemma. What I find equally interesting is that in spite of this paradox, the possibility that we were created, as opposed to simply springing out of some prehistoric primordial soup does not seem to have been honestly considered.

I’ve always thought this argument an interesting one, and being that I consider myself both a theist (of sorts) as well as a firm believer in science, I would offer this thought. Maybe we are still not advanced enough to detect extra terrestrial life. Or maybe theists are right, and we were all created. The absence of evidence can never be the evidence of absence, so as a scientist, in my own humble opinion, all I can honestly say is that we simply do not have enough data to rule anything out. Nor should we assume that the two are mutually exclusive…

Just a thought…

The Fermi Paradox is Back – [Slashdot]

The Fermi Paradox: Back with a vengeance – [Sentient Developments]

Is the battle of the sexes over? Ummm, I think not…

A recent study suggests that, contrary to traditional beliefs, both men and women enjoy sex for primarily the same reason:

After exhaustively compiling a list of the 237 reasons why people have sex, researchers found that young men and women get intimate for mostly the same motivations. It’s more about lust in the body than a love connection in the heart.

College-aged men and women agree on their top reasons for having sex – they were attracted to the person, they wanted to experience physical pleasure and “it feels good,” according to a peer-reviewed study in the August edition of Archives of Sexual Behavior. Twenty of the top 25 reasons given for having sex were the same for men and women.

Expressing love and showing affection were in the top 10 for both men and women, but they did take a back seat to the clear No. 1: “I was attracted to the person.”

“It’s refuted a lot of gender stereotypes … that men only want sex for the physical pleasure and women want love,” said University of Texas clinical psychology professor Cindy Meston, the study’s co-author. “That’s not what I came up with in my findings.”

Forget thinking that men are from Mars and women from Venus, “the more we look, the more we find similarity,” said Dr. Irwin Goldstein, director of sexual medicine at Alvarado Hospital in San Diego. Goldstein, who wasn’t part of Meston’s study, said the Texas research made a lot of sense and adds to growing evidence that the vaunted differences in the genders may only be among people with sexual problems. – [AP]

Well, as usual (I guess) somehow I didn’t find this study to be that helpful. It could just be me, but the results seemed to be a little obvious. Not to mention that the study seemed to cripple itself in the universality department.

The first issue I saw in the study was stated in the article. They were essentially studying college kids. And the vast majority of college age kids, both male and female, spend a great deal of time thinking about sex. Their primary motivation is fun, not marriage or settling down, etc. So of course, their reasons are going to primarily be lust driven. Strike one.

Next, even within the more sexually balanced middle-aged group, the claim to gender stereotypes may not particularly be culturally valid anymore.  I happen to have known several men who were really pushovers, and women who were much, much worse than men in terms of sexual predation. (Think “Sex in the city.”) Strike two.

And last, but not least, even within the hormonally boosted college demographic you could still see gender differences in the attitudes towards sex, with men tending towards being more opportunistic, and women apparently doing so to please their partner. That kinda hints that the men/Mars women/Venus thing still isn’t entirely as baseless as they suggest. Strike 3. Out!

Perhaps we shouldn’t simply abandon the idea of men being from Mars and women being from Venus. Maybe we all just ought to remember that both Mars and Venus still occupy the same solar system…

Why People Have Sex: It Feels Good – [AP]

Lawsuits: Gang violence deterrents? Or Prejudice?

I just read a troubling article regarding cities using lawsuits to pro-actively disrupt gang activity:

Fort Worth and San Francisco are among the latest to file lawsuits against gang members, asking courts for injunctions barring them from hanging out together on street corners, in cars or anywhere else in certain areas.

The injunctions are aimed at disrupting gang activity before it can escalate. They also give police legal reasons to stop and question gang members, who often are found with drugs or weapons, authorities said. In some cases, they don’t allow gang members to even talk to people passing in cars or to carry spray paint.

“It is another tool,” said Kevin Rousseau, a Tarrant County assistant prosecutor in Fort Worth, which recently filed its first civil injunction against a gang. “This is more of a proactive approach.”

But critics say such lawsuits go too far, limiting otherwise lawful activities and unfairly targeting minority youth.

“If you’re barring people from talking in the streets, it’s difficult to tell if they’re gang members or if they’re people discussing issues,” said Peter Bibring, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California. “And it’s all the more troubling because it doesn’t seem to be effective.” – [Yahoo/AP]

I find this turn of events troubling for a number of reasons. First it is a very dangerous thing for anyone to implement any kind of enforcement that violates an individuals rights, especially when they have yet to actually commit a crime. And re-purposing laws so that actions that are legal for the average citizen become illegal for a specific demographic is simply unethical.

These cities have, in effect, sued a demographic, without regard for either the innocence or guilt of any of the individual members of that demographic. They have surreptitiously made gangs illegal. And in doing so, they done little more than legitimize prejudice.

The ability to stop, search and detain a person without probable cause, and for no other reason than their age, race, or the color of their clothes, is unconstitutional. Plain and simple. The increasing willingness of American police forces and lawmakers to violate an individuals rights in the name of keeping the peace is becoming a common and disturbing trend nowadays, especially in The Peoples Republic of Kalifornia. The end does not justify the means.

It is wrong to apply laws differently depending on such things as race, stereotypes, clothes, age, etc. Creating second class citizens does not solve problems, only exacerbate them. History has taught us that any demographic unfairly treated, will bear no concern for the fair treatment of others. It simply creates a vicious cycle. It may appear to be a a good solution in the short term. But unfairly treated people have long memories, and as a long term strategy, it is a no-win.

Be very careful America. I see a very ugly pattern developing. At the rate we are going, we will soon all be prisoners, held captive by the illusion of freedom…

Cities sue gangs in bid to stop violence – [Yahoo/AP]

Obesity: The Black Plague of America!!

Ok, I just read an article whose hypothetical conclusions make me seriously question the value of this kind of science:

People who notice their friend packing on pounds might want to steer clear if they value their sleek physiques.

A new study finds that when the scale reads “obese” for one individual, the odds that their friends will become obese increase by more than 50 percent.

The study, published in the July 26 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, suggests that obesity is “socially contagious,” as it can spread among individuals in close social circles. The likely explanation: A person’s idea of what is an appropriate body size is affected by the size of his or her friends.

Conversely, the researchers found that thinness is also contagious.

“Social effects, I think, are much stronger than people before realized,” said co-author James Fowler, a social-networks expert at the University of California-San Diego. “There’s been an intensive effort to find genes that are responsible for obesity and physical processes that are responsible for obesity, and what our paper suggests is that you really should spend time looking at the social side of life as well.”

Now is it just me, or does all of this seem to be extremely, even painfully obvious? Did none of these folks take any social science courses in college? How many times have we heard about social norms being one of the primary predictor of a persons acceptable body image/size? I didn’t see a single conclusion from this research that said anything that hasn’t already been demonstrated a gazillion times. But here’s the kicker:

Other studies have suggested that obesity might be physically contagious, possibly passing from one person to another by virus. But that idea has not been firmly supported. The new study doesn’t address this possibility but instead looked at mindsets and attitudes as the controlling factors. – [Yahoo/AP]

I’d really like to know who came up with the “fat virus” idea. After all of the years and years of reasearch, studies, tests, surveys, psychological profiling, trillions spent in research into the causes of obesity, etc., someone actually comes up with “There must be a “fat virus””. And let me guess: with the right diet and exercise, this virus will die of it’s own accord. Must not be a particularly hardy virus. Especially if it is susceptible to broccoli.

No disrespect to the researchers and stuff, but could you please stop with the kangaroo research and find a cure for AIDS, or cancer or something? I’m overweight, and I already know exactly why. My genes suck, I don’t eat right, and I really don’t feel like getting up off my big old bahookey and going to the gym every day. Not to mention that it’s acceptable to be overweight in my social sphere, so why expend the energy? (BTW, I think that one paragraph sums up all of this weighty research quite succinctly.)

When I’m ready to lose weight I’ll head on over to the gym or start running or something. Move on scientists. Please…!

Study: Obesity is Socially Contagious – [Yahoo/Live Science]

Creative rehabilitative incarceration strategies…

Prison authorities in southern India are planning to introduce inmates to poetry, literature and music as part of a novel reform plan, a minister said Tuesday. Poets, playwrights, authors and musicians will participate in readings and live performances, as well as share their experiences with inmates, said Kerala state home minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan.”Jails should not be used as torture grounds. They might have committed crimes but we should help them to reform themselves,” Balakrishnan told AFP.
[Yahoo/AFP]

Now this is what I call a creative prison system. Now I believe that, barring the actions of hard, cynical, and even unethical prison guards, administrators and staff, prisons are in general, a hell (or “torture grounds”, if you will) of the inmates own making. I believe it is the cruelty and violence of the inmates themselves that makes prison so undesirable, not so much any external factors.

However in many cases some inmates would actually benefit from being exposed to some positive influences. Not every inmate is a hardened, cold blooded, dyed-in-the-wool criminal. Some of them were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, had the wrong friends, or grew up in the wrong environment. These kinds of people could be rehabilitated, if given the right conditions. Heck, you might even end up doing something cool, like these inmates at the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center in Cebu City, Philipines.

Now I’m not naive enough to believe that there will be wholesale reform as a result, I think I understand the reasons why crime exists, and I believe it should be obvious to anyone that rehabilitation is much too complex an issue to be solved by implementing any one solution. But if even one inmate learns to better themselves as a result, it will still all be worth it.

07/29/2007 – UPDATE!:

Apparently the dancing inmates of the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center have gained fame on YouTube! The link also provides some background information about how the program started and the intent behind it.

Video – Inmates in CPDRC, Philipines do “Radio Ga Ga” – [YouTube.com]
Video – Inmates in CPDRC, Philipines do “Sister Act” – [YouTube.com]
Video – Inmates in CPDRC, Philipines do “Thriller” – [MySpace.com]

Indian state mulls a dose of culture to reform prisoners – [Yahoo/AFP]
Dancing jailbirds in Philippines become YouTube hit – [Yahoo/AFP]

Hey it’s a Bank Robber! BOMB THE BANK!!!

Our esteemed President has taken up the bull horn, yet again, to warn us of the dangers that Iraq poses to the security of the mighty U.S. of A.:

“The merger between al-Qaida and its Iraqi affiliate is an alliance of killers and that is why the finest military in the world is on their trail,” Bush said. …

… “That’s like watching a man walk into a bank with a mask and a gun and saying, ‘He’s probably just there to cash a check,’” Bush told troops at Charleston Air Force Base. – [Yahoo/AP]

Even if we were in the position of seeing “a man walk into a bank with a mask and a gun” which I still have am not convinced were were, I would point out that our current actions are more akin to blowing up the bank in an attempt to thwart a possible robbery. It’s a no win. At the very least, I can take some small solace in the fact that a good many rational American people have realized the illogical nature of our current predicament. Might does not make right.

That is not to say that we should be doormats. I am by no means a pacifist. Strength and power is a tool, much like any other. And I mean no disrespect or slight to those who have suffered as a result of terrorist attacks, but I believe strength should be used to defend innocence. Not as a tool of retribution, or even control.

Contrary to what many seem to believe, terrorists do not spawn in a vacuum. Nor are they simple lunatics. They are generally themselves recipients of terrorist acts, that have learned to respond in kind. But responding in anger only fuels more anger, and violence only breeds more violence. And right now we are wreaking untold levels of violence upon both the innocent as well as the guilty, and breeding anger like freakin’ rabbits, where there was none.

We are performing the mythological equivalent of attacking a hydra by cutting off each of it’s heads, one by one. And as each head falls, two more grow in it’s place. And even if we eventually kill the beast, and eliminate all of the true terrorists, the survivors of the innocents shall remain, bearing us so much hatred that, much like Heracles, if we don’t wise up, the blood of the hydra will eventually poison us to death…

Bush warns anew of al-Qaida threat – [Yahoo/AP]