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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Good news regarding my daughter

I wanted to share two bits of good news about my daughter.

First, she hit a personal care milestone.  I do not want to go into what it is, to save her future embarrassment, but I was a proud parent, and my fiancee was excited and proud, as well.  It was something that either she learned on her own, or her occupational therapy led to it. 

The second bit of news can be more public.  Until recently, my daughter had three speaking volumes: shouting, talking loudly, and whispering.  I tried telling her, "lower your voice", and she did!  I asked her if somebody taught her that, and she said, "Mrs. Doyle."  That's her speech therapist at school.

These two milestones came at a time when I've been a bit down about not being able to reason with my child the way other parents can.  And before anyone chimes in with, "I can't reason with my neurotypical child," yes, you can--they at least understand you, even if they don't accept your logic, advice, or simple word.  

She did hit a milestone last week that I did not mention: she started using people's names in response to "hello" or "hi".  So instead of answering, "Hi, Caitlin!" when people greet her, she now answers with, for example, "Hi Daddy!"  This milestone gives me hope for a meaningful conversation with more time and therapy. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

I just want to have a conversation with my kid

To the parent whose kid asked, "Why?" to the point where you finally said, "Because!  Enough!  Shut up, already!": I just want to have a conversation with my kid.

To the parent whose child wanted to talk in the morning, who responded, "Not now, I'm busy,": I just want to have a conversation with my kid.

To the parent who had to deal with the tantrum, and complained to anyone who would listen: I just want to have a conversation with my kid.

If my kid asked me, "Why?" and she just kept asking, I'd answer until I ran out of reasons, then I'd go to Google for more.  If I ran out then, I would just give the honest answer, "I don't know."  If she asked "Why?" again, I'd just continue on with it.  Get silly.  Make her giggle.  If only I could have that conversation with my child.

If my child wanted to have a conversation with me at any time, I'd make time, not just because she's important to me, but because that would be the most important thing in the world at that moment...because I can't have a conversation with my child.

Your kid has tantrums?  Mine does, too, but sometimes she has meltdowns.  Sensory overload.  But that's not the point.  Even during your child's tantrum, you were talking with that child, reasoning with him or her, and I can't, because I can't have a conversation with my child.

She can communicate her needs, and we can make plans in our own simple way.  We sing songs, play silly games, and go places together (usually the store), but I cannot have a two-way, meaningful conversation with my kid.  I can't find out what's on her mind, what she wants to be when she grows up, what she thinks about art, what her thoughts are on abstract subjects.

It's heartbreaking when I think about how I could speak with all three nieces and my nephew at much earlier ages, and I still can't have a conversation with my ten-year-old.

I'm not asking for advice, for sympathy, or anything else.  I am just expressing my frustration and painting a picture for parents out there who don't understand what it's like.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Thoughts on Lies and Freedom of Speech

Today, out of frustration with lies that get spread all the time by people like Alex Jones, the conspiracy nut who brought you Infowars and Prison Planet, I said, "I think that if what you say is demonstrably false, you should not have the freedom to get on any broadcast medium and say it."

But there's danger in that thinking.  It seems like a good standard, not to have fraudulent speech out there, but the problem with having that standard is policing it.  The enforcement of the standard runs the danger of becoming political, and nobody should have the power to simply label something "false" and get rid of it.  There are people--politicians among them--who believe evolution is false, who deny that human beings contribute to climate change, who think that the idea that the universe is 13.7 billion years old is fantasy.  Do we want them in charge of policing what's true and what's false?

So...what's the answer?  Ignorance and lack of intellectual curiosity keep people like Alex Jones, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and the people at Fox News in business.  The only way to combat this problem is through education and passionate defense of the truth.  I named conservatives, and I'm not going to fall into the trap of false equivalency, because there are no examples of people on the left who have the propensity to lie who also have the financial backing and broadcast reach of the people I've named.  I don't want anyone spreading falsehoods, especially people who agree with me on most issues--and conservatives should feel the same way.  Why do you want people on your side of politics spreading lies?

It's not even about politics, though, not exclusively.  It's also about superstition, about pseudoscience, about stories made up to generate false sympathy.  People neglect to check facts, so they spread the lies made up to stir emotion and increase ratings or, in the case of the internet and social media, traffic to pages.  Religious organizations often make up stories about atheists trying to "censor" religious speech, when they are really fighting for separation of state and church.  Whether or not atheists are actually doing something (usually it has to do with an alleged war memorial), these organizations know that the stories will whip people into a frenzy fed by religion and patriotism, and will therefore generate revenue and public outcry.

One problem we face in an attempt to get rid of the lies spread on the Internet and broadcast media is the lack of will to have civil discourse.  When people have their worldviews challenged, they get upset, shut down, and tend to stop talking with people who challenge them.  I don't mind talking with people who disagree with me; I've done it quite a bit in my life, but when people start making personal attacks or demonize my positions, I will block them...and that's a problem, because discourse is now closed, and neither of us will have the opportunity to educate the other.  My only defense is stress reduction; I don't need the negativity in my life.  I won't just block someone because they disagree with me; they have to be real jerks about it, but it's unfortunate that we can't keep the dialogue open and be civil.  I will also block people when they spread misinformation, have me demonstrate to them that their information is false, and double down on that misinformation.  It just doesn't seem worthwhile to argue with the willfully ignorant...but again, they never have the opportunity to be educated when they're isolated into an echo chamber.

Government regulation certainly isn't the answer, due to the danger of politicizing information, but what about the market?  The only way the market can regulate speech in a way that falsehoods aren't spread is if the demand is reduced, and the only way to reduce that demand is through education...but that's another problem.  Education itself is politicized information.  Education standards aren't made by objective bodies; they're made by politicians.  Critical thinking is not a priority in education.  Science and reasoning aren't stressed enough by education standards in all places.  Students aren't taught to think for themselves; they learn to memorize facts and do busy work.  It's not conducive to combating ignorance.  When people are taught to absorb and accept as truth the information they're fed, they are prime customers for people in the business of spreading misinformation.

Nobody said the preservation of freedom of speech (and other protections guaranteed by the Constitution) would be easy.  It would be nice to live in a world where lies weren't broadcast far and wide, and someone was able to regulate the lies properly, but there's too much danger of censorship of reality when we put the regulation in the hands of the wrong people...and yet, the education that we must provide to people in order for them to have the tools to combat misinformation must either come from a source that is not politicized, or the politicians we elect must be as objective as possible when making the education standards.  The latter simply doesn't seem possible with today's toxic political division.

I welcome any thoughts on this issue.

Friday, April 18, 2014

A refutation of claims made about open and closed relationships

In a Facebook group recently, I became involved in a thread where someone made several claims about open and closed relationships, and, being in a closed (monogamous) relationship, I felt the need to address them, because the claims contained several unfounded characterizations of monogamy that do not apply to my relationship, or that of any healthy monogamous relationship I know.  I am just going to go through these claims one by one, and I'll address them directly.

In the 21st century, all relationships should be open.
This claim assumes that monogamy is obsolete.  This assumption ignores the implications of open relationships, and how monogamy reduces some of the risks involved.  While I am not saying the open relationships should not exist, anyone engaging in one should understand that having an open relationship with a partner opens one up to the following:

  • Sexually transmitted diseases (risks reduced through use of condoms and careful screening of partners).  This is true of cheating, though, too, so you run the risk in your monogamous relationship.  The key here is to be honest and responsible. 
  • Unwanted pregnancy with a person with whom you are not in a committed relationship, which opens up all kinds of legal and financial trouble (reduced by the use of contraception, tubal ligation, or vasectomy, but only the latter two are guaranteed).
  • Jealousy (we will get to that in a moment, because there is a claim about jealousy later)
  • Awkward living arrangements, if the relationship dynamic changes to a new partner getting more attention
On to the next claim:

The idea that you own the body of your mate is outdated.

Who said that monogamy is about ownership of your mate's body?  This claim is a caricature of modern monogamous relationships.  People choose to be together and choose to eschew other suitors.  Many factors contribute to this choice.  In the case of me and my fiancee, it's about finding everything we wanted in each other, and finding what was missing from other relationships.  It's not about jealously protecting my prize; it's about both of us wanting to be together, exclusively with each other, because it makes sense in light of where we are in our lives and how out treatment of and feelings for each other compare to our interactions with past partners.

The concept that you are too jealous to handle the pressure of another human being giving some affection to your beloved is also detrimental to relationships.

Again, we have a caricature of monogamous relationships, this time involving jealousy.  We don't want other people trying to give affection that we can adequately provide for each other.  There's no reason to involve other people, because we fulfill each other's needs more than adequately, and advances from people who think we should be open to them only serve to annoy us both.

The jealousy claim was followed by an assumption that everyone in the thread had at least one relationship destroyed by jealousy.  That's a huge assumption, and it serves only to demonize monogamy as something in which only jealous, possessive people engage.  My parents were monogamous, as were several of my relatives.  Not everyone had a perfect relationship, but I can point to a few where there was never even a consideration of stepping outside of the relationship, not because of jealousy, not because of possessiveness, but because they loved each other and had no desire to be with anyone else.  They were compliments to each other.   In the case of my parents, they were together for fifty-three years, until my dad died.  I don't remember them arguing once in my forty years of life, and nobody else can, either.  I know that's one anecdotal example, but it demonstrates that the possibility of monogamy without jealousy or possessiveness exists, even if it's only in one couple.  Couples have problems.  That's why over 50% of marriages end in divorce.  But to say monogamy never works is to ignore the percentage of marriages that do not end in divorce, even if one does not take my word on the relationship of my parents.

Jealousy is lack of confidence in yourself.

I'm not so sure.  Jealousy can arise from insecurity, certainly, but could it not also be a natural reaction?  An evolutionary adaptation that made it more likely that other potential mates were scared off?  I'm not condoning jealousy and possessiveness, but it seems to me that it could be primal and instinctive to be jealous, at least initially.

Closed relationships are like religion: both are philosophies based on a faulty premise and unsound logic.

Religion is based on faith, which is intangible and arbitrary.  Monogamy is based on tangible emotion and, in the case of me and my fiancee, myriad reasons that are quite logical.  The chemistry (release of oxytocin) needs to be there, I'm certain, but if we didn't laugh easily together, weren't sexually compatible, weren't affectionate, didn't have so many things in common, didn't have shared experiences with parenting kids on the autism spectrum, didn't have common goals and dreams, we wouldn't be together.  We can name so many reasons and side benefits to us being together, it's insulting for someone to come along and compare the reasons we're together and exclude others as potential partners to something faith-based.  This judgment is condescending and wildly inaccurate.

 You love a person so much you demand they never love anyone else. 

We love each other so much that we don't need anyone else, and other people trying to nudge their way in annoys us to no end.

Closed relationships actually come from religious traditions.

If this claim were true, then no primates would engage in monogamy.  The truth is that our primate cousins engage in monogamy 20%-30% of the time, compared to 3% in other species.  If the claim were true, monogamy would not appear in every culture throughout history, at least to some degree (the ancient Greeks were a notable exception).  If the claim were true, more people would engage in polyamory among nonreligious people, and there are no numbers to substantiate that claim.

Claim: Open relationships/polyamory make you feel uncomfortable because you know that I am right and it makes you feel emasculated.  The same way religious people react when you demand proof of god. I demand proof that holding back your partner emotionally and sexually is good or healthy for the relationship and the people in it. 

The person making the case for polyamory, who claims that monogamy is like religion, uses a tactic here that religious people use: instead of making the case for his way of thinking, he places the burden of proof on the people he condemns.  If he were arguing logically and making a good case, he would demonstrate how people who engage in polyamory and open relationships live healthier, happier lives.  Also, it's common for religious apologists to argue that deep down, you know they're right; deep down, you really believe in their god--you're just afraid or embarrassed to admit it.

I don't believe he is correct, so it doesn't do a thing to my masculinity.  I know monogamy works for me and my fiancee, and I don't want anyone else.  Neither does she.  Also, I'm not holding my partner back; I'm loving her, being happy with her, making her feel good, treating her right, and giving her the best sex of her life.  She doesn't want to go to anyone else; I'm giving her everything she wants and needs.

If [polyamory] is natural, it should probably be more common and accepted by society at large.

The argument from nature is a logical fallacy.  Many things occur in nature; that doesn't necessarily mean they're better for a species.  Psychosis, sociopathy, mental disorders, birth defects, genetic disorders and a great many other things occur in nature; it doesn't mean they're common or that they ought to be more widespread.  I'm not trying to make polyamory or open relationships out to be inherently bad, but I think the judgment that they are inherently good, logical, and should be more widespread and accepted is something one cannot base on the fact that it occurs naturally.  People aren't going to adopt a new relationship dynamic because of what's right for 5%-6% of the population.

I think I made a pretty decent case for exactly why closed relationships are emotionally traumatic and just the result of needy people clinging to each other's neediness.

Actually, no; he made a case (and poorly, at that) for monogamy being based on jealousy and possessiveness, not on neediness.  This claim is new.  The idea that closed relationships are emotionally traumatic is just a claim; there are no numbers or even anecdotes to back it up, and the neediness argument is just an example of him demonizing what he thinks isn't natural or moral.  I often say to my fiancee: I would not die without you, but with you, I live better.  I would still smile and laugh a bit without you, but with you, I laugh harder and more often.  I would not be depressed without you, but with you, I am truly happy.  I could go on with example after example of how she makes my life better.  I don't need her to live, but she makes life so much better, I want very badly to have her in mine.

I don't hate closed relationships.  I made it very clear I see them as based on a faulty premise and based on emotional desires instead of logic.

He doesn't hate closed relationships, but he demonizes them at will and insults people who engage in them as illogical, jealous, possessive, needy, and just like religious people.  What this statement sounds like to me is:

  • I'm not racist, but...
  • I'm not homophobic, but...
  • I don't hate women, but...
You get the picture.  I'm not saying he's a racist, homophobe, or misogynist, but he certainly does look down his nose at monogamy.

I don't hate closed relationships emotionally.  You guys hate me emotionally because I scare you.  Inside, deep down, you know I am right.

I pointed out already that the "deep down, you know I am right" claim is not at all different from the religious apologist claiming, "Deep down, you really believe in my god."   I've also heard the argument that I'm scared to believe in whatever god the apologist is trying to sell (usually the Christian version).  I don't hate people with difference of opinion.  I don't demonize or condemn polyamory or open relationships.  They are just nor my thing.  Having my choice demonized and condemned in a condescending way is unwelcome and unappreciated.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Monetizing my site: Amazon Instant Video

In an attempt to support my blogging habit and make it profitable to write, I have added a few ads to my sites.  I have found that several online stores have affiliate programs that allow you to place advertisements on your site, and if your readers use the ads you've posted, you get commission from the sale, or a flat rate for certain promotions.

I won't put ads from just anyone on my site, which is why I'm considering dropping the AdSense ads.  In any case, I became an affiliate of today, and used their Instant Video banner.  I use this product myself, and I have found that they have most videos either available for free streaming or rental, whether it's a movie or a television show.  They seem to have more variety than other streaming sites I've tried, so I dropped others and paid for the Amazon Prime membership.

I strongly recommend their service if you really love watching movies or catching up on seasons of television shows you enjoy.

I guess I won't be eating Jelly Belly jelly beans great loss

I'll admit it: I love Jelly Belly jelly beans.  However, since the chairman, Herman G. Rowland, Sr., seems to think that not everyone deserves equal rights, I will no longer consume them.  They're really empty calories anyway, and it's a sugary snack that is only bad for me--and everyone else.

What I don't understand is why people give time and energy to depriving people of rights and making life harder for people who are doing nothing to hurt them.  I don't care what your idea of "sin" might be; that's your belief, your matter of private conscience, and you are malicious for enforcing your beliefs on the rest of society.  Your legislation of sin does nothing to improve the quality of life for anyone, include you.  You're only doing it to harm other people.  Oh, you think you're saving them from a life of sin and eternal damnation, but the only life we know we have is the one you're making miserable for other people, and all over a faith-based belief in what you think a mythical deity wants from you.

LGBT people being who they are and loving whom they love does nothing to harm anyone.  What happens between consenting adults in relationships or in the bedroom is neither your business, nor should you be spending energy and money on this sort of cause.  You could feeding starving people.  You could be investing in the economy.  You could be doing something positive with that money, but you choose to be a malicious jerk.

Transgender people have it hard enough.  They have to struggle and come to terms with their gender identity in a society that largely does not accept them for who they are.  Acting to make it more difficult makes you a bully and a coward, because you are pushing people to conform to your idea of what is "normal", while trying to keep things you fear and don't understand out of your view.

Face your fears.  Stop pushing people around.  Use your money to achieve positive goals.  Do things that actually help.  Make the world a better place.  Stop picking on people who aren't causing you any harm and wish you no ill will.

Selfishness should not be government policy

A disturbing trend seems to be pervasive in the United States.  Local government after local government falls prey to the economic religion of the unregulated market.  This philosophy, without evidence or working model, asserts that the market always displays more efficiency than the government.  The truth behind the privatization of government services ultimately manifests as selfishness, not efficiency.  The replacements for the government services do not represent the best services the free market can offer; it's not even representative of free market capitalism.  The private entities represent selfish capitalists parasitically draining funds from communities to serve themselves.  The citizens of the Unites States must stop this trend for three important reasons.

First, low-paid workers with no benefits replace workers earning a living wage, making the savings to the communities null and void. I've written about school transportation and private prisons in the past, but the same principle rings true for all services.  Waste management companies have largely taken over in every community.  Most utilities belong to private entities.  Some communities have even privatized fire departments.  In all cases, workers who were solidly in the middle class were either fired, then rehired with less income and no benefits, or were replaced completely by new workers, who were willing to take the jobs at the lower wage.  People who could afford to both live and work in the communities suddenly had no income or less disposable income.  Either way, they could do less to support local businesses, such as convenience stores, restaurants, grocery stores, and various specialty shops.  They could afford to do fewer recreational activities.  In short, money that the community paid for services that used to come back in the form of local consumer spending now goes out of the community, which brings me to my next point.

Shareholders and executives not living in the communities receive the greatest share of taxpayer money for the services. Where the workers, who are more numerous, and therefore more able to support local businesses out of sheer quantity of goods and services they require and desire, were receiving the majority of the taxpayer dollars paid for services, people who have no interest in the communities where they are making their money now receive the largest portion of the money taxpayers pay for the private contracts.  Communities are shooting themselves in the foot with these contracts, because they are creating a parasitic drain on taxpayer dollars, rather than recovering some of the money through local consumer spending.  People collecting dividend checks and executive salaries in other states--or, as the case may be, other countries--will be spending the communities' tax money elsewhere, and since there are fewer of these people than there are workers, the economy overall suffers, because the disposable income is in the hands of fewer individuals.

Finally, government should act selflessly for the people, not as a conduit for selfish people to set themselves up as community parasites.  What these privatization policies have done is effectively create a welfare system for the wealthy, or at least the well-to-do.  It's not the average consumer who has a stock portfolio, unless it's part of a retirement fund they can't touch without penalties or severe restrictions until they retire.  Local governments should, in the interest of their local economies, employ as many workers at a living wage as they can with the money they've budgeted for services they need anyway.  The only time a private entity should ever be employed by a community should be to offer a temporary service.  Communities always need utilities, police, fire departments, waste management, schools, school transportation, and water treatment, to list a few, and these services should employ living-wage workers who are likely to live and spend in the community, supporting local businesses, and therefore receiving back in property tax at least some of the money they've spent on the services in the first place.

Citizens of the United States must become actively involved in the future of their local communities, putting a stop to this trend of parasitic selfishness.  It extends into higher levels of government, but all politics begin locally.  Politicians begin their careers in local government, and we citizens should only elect people who care about the citizens, not about supplying a stable income for wealthy friends or campaign supporters.  I encourage people who care about the futures of their communities to run for local office and help reverse this trend, or support people who are willing to represent us in this fight.