What is “Animal” anyway?

via Discover Challenge: Animal

Some draw a clear demarcation between “animal” and “human.”  Knowing that humans are in fact animals and there’s no getting around that, I usually draw my line between sapience and non sapience – the ability to think, and not.

Even that is a sliding scale.  Emotion is experienced by most mammals and even some reptiles.  I read an article that used sensitive microphones to listen to lab rats while they were being tickled, and it caught a laughing sound and reflex.  Elephants communicate over long distance using subsonics.  Female cougars sometimes bequeath areas of land to their female cubs when they get old enough to need a territory but can’t find their own.  Tigers have been found to engage in long disstance communication.  Certain prides of lions in Africa have learned to hunt cooperatively with the local tribesmen.  I’ve known cats who are self aware.  I’ve seen parrots who speak cognitively and some can even read and spell simple phrases.  Chimps and gorillas can learn sign language.  Dolphins and bonobo apes have sex for fun.

With all these things that are true and verifiable (the cat facts especially in a wonderful book called “The Tribe of Tiger,” by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, then is there even a dividing line?  I think it’s all a sliding scale of different levels of ability.  My cat, for instance, has an amazing social intelligence, and good hunting ability.  She can understand language, she obeys customs taught to her by another cat that are different than feline norm, prefers Japanese to English, and tells me when to go to bed and when to get up each day.  Yet, her planning ability still isn’t the best.  She’s definitely intelligent, but in a different way than I am.

Sometimes the line of demarcation between human and animal, or sapient and non sapient, is merely how much we see and notice.

The true cost of cable

When I asked my friends how much cable costs, I was shocked!. One told me she pays $275 a month for TV and internet, and she’s thinking of cutting out the movie channels so she can save $30 or $40 per month. That’s it? That would still leave her about a $235 bill!

It seems to me that cable is not much more than a vacuum cleaner attached to your wallet.

How many DVDs can a person buy with $200 a month? I deduct $75 because that’s the price for cable internet, in my area at least. That’s all I pay, and I get all the entertainment I can handle.

An Amazon Prime subscription only costs $100 a year. You get unlimited 2 day free shipping plus a huge selection of movies and TV shows.

A Netflix membership doesn’t cost much more.

The library is free, and so is Youtube.

Now, let’s consider the time expense of cable. I used to be completely addicted to it, and watched TV all the time. My grades suffered, I didn’t work on my homework, I learned less. Ultimately, I wasn’t qualified to get as good a job because of this behavior.

I don’t blame cable for this. I did it to myself. I ask this question now: would it have been a good idea for me to pay for the privilege of having poorer earning power?

Yet, isn’t that what we do? We pay a company a lot of money (often thousands a year) for content we can buy for far less elsewhere! Learning is free. Entertainment is free. Even so, the addiction of passive entertainment can be really hard to shake. We don’t think logically when it comes to TV. We think emotionally.

If you are thinking of kicking the cable habit, consider how much more time you’d have if you didn’t watch as much TV. Consider the benefits to your eyesight. Also, tor your waistline. Think about how much you could get done if you freed up three or four hours every day. You could start a side business, read great books, exercise, spend more time with your kids.

Are you too tired at the end of the day to do anything else? Think about that, too. Is that really true, or could it change? Watching TV always made me feel more tired and lethargic, while doing things always made me feel better right away. This blog is about making your life more awesome. It’s hard to be awesome just watching TV all day. It saps your creativity and your energy.

There’s one final benefit to getting rid of cable. You will be exposed to less slick advertising and therefore you won’t feel like you need as much. This can lead to you spending less and being less of a slave to consumer culture.

With all the benefits of getting rid of cable, why keep it? The reason I keep hearing is that somebody else in the house wants it, so it can’t be gotten rid of. I’d say that some persuasiveness is in order here, if you do want to unplug the cable and plug into more money every month.

I’m not telling you to get rid of cable. I’m just asking you if the cost is worth it.

Everything you eat is full of chemicals…

I fell off my chair laughing when I heard a friend talking about chemicals being in their food.

I have some breaking news for them! EVERYTHING is full of chemicals. Chemicals make up everything in the world. Chemistry is the study of how atoms build up into molecules, and how molecules interact. I know when people say “chemicals” they are usually thinking about artificially synthesized or manufactured substances.

That’s why it’s so funny when people say “I don’t want to eat something that’s full of chemicals.”

Here’s another phrase that makes me laugh.

“It’s all natural.”

I certainly agree that foods and products that are closer to their original source are better, and highly processed food is usually terrible for your body. “All natural” is usually just a marketing gimmick and doesn’t necessarily mean that a product is good for you! As most of you have seen, I am interested in health and medicine. And I see the push toward natural medicine all the time.

Natural medicine can be very helpful. That is, if you look at it with a clear mind and ignore the marketing. It just takes a little thought.

Natural herbs can be poisonous. Aminita mushrooms, cyanide, nightshade berries, botulism, scorpion venom are all natural. Conversely, synthesized medicine can save lives. We can take poisons and make wholesome remedies out of them. Like digitalis from foxglove for example. One concentration makes it a poison, but in a lesser amount it can help the heart.

Everything has its good sides and it’s bad. That’s why it’s great that we can take in information, see both sides of everything, take a deep breath, and choose the middle path.

In the meantime, drink your dihydrogen monoxide!

Transgender Truth

Trans folk may not be what, or who, you think they are.

If you have a trans friend, I commend you. If you have a trans family member, I commiserate with you. If you, yourself, are trans, I support you.

However, many people may never have met anyone who is transgendered. There are so many misconceptions out there, so much fear, and so many lies.

For instance, so many many people I know think being transgendered is a lifestyle choice or something you do on a whim.

Did you know it’s actually a medical condition?  Researchers are beginning to see evidence that it is indeed possible to have a brain with the structure of one sex, in the body with the structure of the other sex. Because of biology and hormone balance, it is more common for male babies to be born with a female brain than vice versa. The cause seems to be hormone fluctuations that can sometimes happen during pregnancy.

The result then, is someone who feels, deep inside themselves, that they are one gender – because their brain is built that way – while their body is shaped another way. Some people who are transgendered are also intersex, where their body has both male and female sexual characteristics, but their inner sense of themselves differs from the arbitrary decision their doctor or their parents made at birth.

Bottom line: in many cases, a transgendered person has a valid and measurable medical reason behind their decision to take on a role as the opposite sex. It is a decision that only comes after much soul searching, it is not a whim or a snap decision, it is not a fetish, and it is not a lifestyle choice.

 

Transsexuals versus crossdressers

A crossdresser is someone who dresses as the opposite sex, for enjoyment or for many other reasons, but who still identifies as their birth sex. A transsexual is someone who was born as one sex but is changing to another. They may or may not have had surgery.

 

Sex versus Gender

Sex is what your body is shaped like. Gender is how you feel inside.

 

Problems with restroom access

Something that most people don’t know is that people who are going through gender transition are often required to be on hormones and live exclusively as their desired gender for at least a year before getting surgery.

If we think about this, it’s easy to see that forcing someone to use the bathroom of their birth sex could be quite problematic. This would require someone who is dressed as a woman, is passing quite well, and is doing everything like a woman, to use the men’s room anyway. This is a recipe for beatings and even murders. Meanwhile, if she had quietly used the women’s room, sat in the stall as she always did, By the way, she might have been doing that for months or years – without causing alarm or trouble. She doesn’t want trouble, she just wants to use the bathroom, like any woman.

Surgery is difficult, painful and expensive. Hormones are expensive and can be dangerous if mishandled. Doctors sometimes refuse to treat trans patients. So for those who say “why don’t they just get it over with and finish the process?” please consider that the person in question may want, very badly, to finish – but be unable to. It’s harder to get a job when you are trans, after all, and there are a lot of social roadblocks. Jokes about trans folk are common, there are few legal protections, and people die every day for being trans.

Because of the way she’s routinely treated, I know a trans woman who often says “we are the last niggers in America.”

 

Are transgendered people dangerous?

No. Nothing about having gender dysphoria makes you any more unstable than any other person. Statistically speaking, heterosexual-identified males are the most likely to predators, whether of children or otherwise. People who are trans may actually have more compassion than others because they are so frequently mistreated.

 

Can gender dysphoria be cured another way, such as through prayer?

No. It can’t. Gender dysphoria can be suppressed for a period of time as a person denies it and tries to meet societal expectations of who they should be. Many people try to be ultra masculine or ultra feminine in an effort to “be who they should be” before realizing that they truly are the other gender inside, and it’s not just a phase. Methods of treatment that don’t involve a transition usually result in depression at the best, suicide at the worst.
What trans people want

It’s a large subject and impossible to speak for everyone, but in general, trans folk just want the same rights everyone else has. They don’t want special rights, they just want to live normal lives. The goal of most trans women, for example, is to simply be a woman – not to be specially privileged, but deserving of the same respect everyone else gets.

 

What trans people are not

Trans people are NOT interested in “converting” your kids, and being trans is not contagious. They aren’t dangerous or unstable and many have incredible amounts of self knowledge. In general, they are not perverts. They are also not necessarily gay. They usually aren’t “confused” either.

 

How to refer to transgendered people

Individual tastes differ. You can say “a transgendered person” or “transgendered,” but never “a transgender.” Similarly, “a transie” can sometimes be an affectionate descriptor, but never “a tranny.” A tranny is a part off a car, not a person, and it’s usually very offensive. “Transsexual” is also usually appropriate.

 

Ways to support a trans person

First, treat them as the gender they present as. If you are confused about pronouns, just ask. Avoid asking a bunch of intrusive questions unless they have showed they are comfortable about it. Other than that, just talk – enjoy their company, treat them as a person. Most trans folk don’t want to center their life around their transition, they have other interests, skills, loves, dreams. Above all, just treat a trans person like… a person.

 

How you can help

I know this post has been long, and the people who need to read it probably won’t. Even if you never donate to a trans friendly charity or help a trans person directly, though, you can be educated about the subject and gently correct wrong assumptions and incorrect facts along the way. Also, parents, please teach your children that staring and making inappropriate comments is not polite and can hurt people.

I would truly appreciate it if anyone chooses to share or forward this blog entry, it may be copied and duplicated in excerpt or in part by anyone as long as the original intent of support is maintained. Thank you for caring enough to read this!

Flood Aftermath: She started!

Or, “How to Fix a water flooded engine with paper towels and elbow grease.”

If you’ll recall my post yesterday about being flooded out and having my car stall, and having to be rescued by firefighters and police, I was left in doubt that my poor little car, who has been through so much, would ever start again.

This morning we started trying to get the water out of the cylinders. We did this by taking out all four spark plugs, then using a socket wrench and cheater bar to turn the flywheel. We got a couple big squirts out of the first cylinder and found that luckily the others were dry.  Apparently, a safety feature stopped the engine before water could get into all cylinders.  And the water had gotten in, most likely, from an improperly secured air filter cover.

The holes into the engine block were so deep we were at a loss as to how to get the rest of the water out. There was about a soda can’s worth in there. I recalled what I’d read yesterday on the internet, and said “we can use paper towels, roll them up and stick them down in there to wick the moisture out.”

We did that for a good while and got a bunch of water out. Then we went back to the auto parts store to turn in my old battery for the core credit, and at the same time I picked up new platinum plugs – the old ones were from the factory and going strong at 160,000 miles but I figured I should put new ones in anyway since we had it open. (You read that right, Hyundai builds quality.) We got back and shone a light in and found more water.

Then I said “Maybe if we shove the towel in with a thin stick…” so we did that, and stuck and pulled wet paper towels for what seemed like forever.  A metal shish kebab skewer worked great.  Finally we had everything out. Then we tried her. The starter was strong, and so was the battery, and she tried to crank.  The whole engine shook as the car tried to start.

Out comes the partner with a suggestion of starter fluid. My neighbor rummaged around and found a can – a few more tries with that and she started! Things were rough at first but she settled down after that and now sounds better than she did before the flood, because of the new plugs. I drove her around the block to make sure nothing was fouled. Tried the brakes, lights, signals, radio, everything works. So now, I have wheels again!

This faithful little Hyundai is a little more scratched and dented, but she runs, and I’m so unbelievably happy right now. What strikes me about this whole experience is that between myself, my neighbor, and my partner, each of us had a critical part to play – with one of us missing, this whole thing wouldn’t have worked. I researched and figured out what the problem probably was and how to fix it, my neighbor Charlie provided the tools and some of the know-how, and my partner provided support, some truly excellent suggestions, and more know-how. Oh, and I also handed over many power towels to my hard working neighbor.

***

I was prompted to write this post because the symptoms I had were more those of a seized engine or a broken starter than anything.  The first time we tried to crank the engine with a fully charged battery, the engine made a big lurch and we heard a loud clunk.  So it sounded like something was fatally wrong with the engine.  Meanwhile all that was required was removal of the spark plugs, much careful hand cranking of the engine, many, many, many power towels rolled up to fit in the cylinder and a light to look for water, and eventually a can of starter fluid.

The Sneakernet of Things

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You’ve probably heard of the Internet of Things.  Refrigerators that detect when you are out of groceries and order more.  Remotely operated home security systems, thermostats, nanny cams.  Home appliances that communicate with each other.

Amazon has a service called Amazon Dash.  You attach an electronic tag to your items that you buy frequently, like dish soap, zip-lock bags, moisturizer, etc.  You push the button when you run low, and it sends a signal to an app on your phone that orders the item.  This seems a little excessive to me.

Recently I developed a new, fresh, cutting edge way to handle my errands and household chores.  I call it “The Sneakernet of Things.”

It’s revolutionary.  Here’s how the system works for getting groceries, for example.  At the beginning of the week, I lay out a unit of this flattened, dried wood pulp product I have a large stock of.  I like to call it a “sheet of paper.”  As I use up each food item during the week, I enter the data using a tubular, refillable item called a PEN.  At the end of the week, when I go out of my house, I take along this very sheet of paper (foldable for easy storage) and I use it at the grocery store to make sure I get all my items.  It’s instant access, no shipping charges, no waiting time.  See?  Told you it was amazing.

I also do something called “airgapping my appliances.”  None of my household appliances talk to each other or have a data connection.  My house is completely proof against hacking, in fact.  The microwave won’t talk to the fridge, the thermostat doesn’t try to call my phone, my can opener has no cache files about what cans I’ve opened, and nobody on the internet knows exactly how bananas I eat.

The benefits of this Sneakernet of Things extends even to my vehicle.  It has no GPS, no hands free phone system, no ONSTAR, no tracking device, and no internet access of any kind.  It’s also a manual so I even shift my gears myself.  It won’t brake unless I press the pedal, it won’t accelerate unless I tell it to.  It won’t auto start either.  It won’t beep in my ear when I change lanes.  It can’t be hacked unless you plug something into the OBD port.  I use it to bring my groceries home.