Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Monday, Monday

Neeeeed Cofffeeeeee!Image © The Indestructible Production Company; from 'Gerry Anderson's New Captain Scarlet'

Even though this was the weekend to "Fall Back," when Monday rolled around I was feeling like a total Zombie…again. This got me wondering: how could I tell that I wasn't dead already; how did I know that I wasn't really a zombie?

Thus disturbed, I resolved to test my theory on a suitable subject…

(The Critic): What are you supposed to be, a zombie? (Me, lurching up to the Critic with arms outstretched) That's what I'm trying to find out. (C): You're definitely weird. (M, exhales deeply in The Critic's face) (C): OMFG! Blech! Gag! (Turns green and starts coughing) (M): See? I must really be dead! I mean else how do you explain your reaction? (C): (cough, wheeze) Wait just a few (choke, cough, cough) minutes (deep breath) and you'll see the difference. (M): Opps! Look at the time, must be going! (Lurches off at a fast but dignified pace).

The good news is that I may not have to deal with Mondays any more…

Tags: zombie, monday, The Critic, violence

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Who Can Take Our Freedom?

The sad answer is only us.

Some of the hard-won freedoms that used to be taken for granted in this country include the following from the US constitution:

Amendment VI.

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.

Amendment VIII.

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Recently, the Military Commissions Act was signed into law. The practical effects of this law are to suspend amendments 5 and 8. While it is tempting to blame President Bush, or the Congress or the Senate or Osama Bin Laden for this, the sad fact of the matter is that we the people are to blame.

The fact of the matter is that, in a representative democracy, our representatives execute the will of the people. If the people disagree with how the representatives are doing their job, they are replaced in the next election. For the last 5 years, while divided, the people have basically been saying "you are doing what we want."

The really sad part about this is that, taking our freedom away is exactly the sort of goal that Al Qaeda would want, but it is also one of the things that they can never achieve. Blowing up buildings and killing people will not make us less free. It will not take away our freedom of speech, etc.

To take away our freedoms, we have to give them up. And that is exactly what we are doing.

Tags: Constitution, Military Commissions Act, Freedom, Habeas Corpus

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Too Weird to be Fake

(Image from the BBC site) Okay, so the King of Spain decides to hunt a bear. But not just any bear, one that has been raised in captivity. To even up the odds, the bear is fed vodka mixed with honey (they must have given that bear a lot of honey) until it was drunk and then they shoved it into a field where it was promptly shot by the King of Spain.

This is the sort of thing would be too strange to believe, except that you have things like "catch wild trout" in what amounts to a cement pond and "game hunts" where you go to a farm to blast some animal. Couldn't you just dress up funny and then "stalk" your prey in the super market? It would probably taste better.

Apparently, at some of these outfits, they will drive up in a truck to dress your kill, mount the head on something, etc. All they need now is golf carts and sports commentators!

(Bob, the commentator): As you can see, John is approaching the deer in his cart down wind so as not to spook it. (Fred, the other commentator): That's right Bob, and this is an obviously skilled hunter since he hasn't hit anything on the approach as…

(Golf cart smacks into a tree)

(F): Well up until now… (B): Has this spooked the deer? (F): A tense moment folks…

(The deer looks up from some grass or whatever it was eating and stares at the hunter with torpid disinterest for a few moments and then goes back to eating).

(B): Well it looks like our contestants hunting skills…

(Just then the contestant catches sight of the deer and lets out a loud "whoohooo!" The deer looks at him blankly.)

(F): Ah, ya see folks, he's giving the deer fair warning that he's coming so as to make the hunt more interesting. (B): A real sportsman. (F): But the deer is standing his ground… (B): That and the chain around his neck… (F): And he's getting ready to fire… (B): Nope, dropped his gun. (F): The deer could charge him, if it weren't for the leash at any rate. (B): Looks like he's having trouble reaching his gun…gotta ease up on those buffets mister! (F): But he's got it now, he's sighting…


(B): Missed! Hit the ground a good yard from the deer! (F): Yeah, without that camouflage outfit he'd be dead meat. It's also important never to hunt drunk… (H): Whooooohoooooo! (B): Like our contestant here… (F): Well it looks like he's ready to fire again. The deer, a crafty fellow, is laid down perhaps to try and make our contestant think he's already dead…



(B): We lose more contestants that way… (F): But his carcass will be dressed and our team of crack taxidermists…

Me, I'll stick with the supermarket…much safter

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Fan Service

I want to thank Alex at "Non Compos Mentis" for putting a link to this site. I also want apologize for not quite understanding what he asked for in his initial request. But as the saying goes: "Better Nate than lever!" No, that's not how the saying goes, but at least it's better than "semper ubi sub ubi." At any rate, for those of you who, like me, barely managed a passing grade in their Latin classes, the phrase non compos mentis means "not having a sound mind; not sane." It is frequently used in criminal proceedings where a lawyer will say something like:

(Lawyer): As is evident from my client's web site, he was clearly non compos mentis at the time he solicited photos from Mr. Whatever. (Me): I told him it was no trouble; I just wanted the creepy emails to stop. (Alex): (breathing heavily) oh yea! (Lawyer): Objection! It has not been established that my client originated those emails! (Judge): Sustained! (M): But he just said that his client asked me for pictures! (J): Hmmm...good point. Overruled! Mr…what's your name again? (M): Whatever. (J): Don't show contempt for the court! (M): My name is "Whatever." Besides, what about him? (Points at A, who is now fondling certain body parts and drooling). (J): Another good point... (L): Objection! (J): Oh shut up. (A): Oh yeah!

Now I want to make it clear that I am not trying to imply that whatever agency is behind NCM is responsible for the recent spate of strange emails that I have been receiving. I'm just saying that some one or some thing has been sending me emails that contain heavy breathing or pictures of certain…fluids. Furthermore these emails are a) disquieting and b) quickly filling up my account.

Said emails have been cajoling me for shots of a more personal nature of dwarves so I figured that the fastest way to get whoever is behind this off my back was to simply placate them. Also I look kinda cute if I do say so myself.

And Alex does mention "…pictures of Dwarf body parts…" in his latest post. But I'm sure it's just a coincidence…

Tags: dwarves, non compos mentis, lawyers, heavy breathing

Saturday, October 21, 2006

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night

In my struggle for sanity, the darkness often gets the upper hand and I wind up with days like this. Google has removed me from their cache…again, I was insulted by a more successful blogger, I thought about how if I didn't create an article I would be "letting my readers down," but then I realized that I don't have any. Just shoot me now.

Then I recall my article about how that, if I didn't have any readers, I could write anything I want. So, sitting down at the keyboard I vomited up this piece.


Comedy central had a piece on how the winds are blowing against the Republicans in the upcoming election. The Democrats are a sad bunch, but they are the only practical alternative to the crass, self-serving pure evil that is the Republican party. But the worst part for me is the voters themselves.

For example, this story from "Poll: Half of Americans think Congress is corrupt." And yet we've sat on our respective rumps as the FCC allows more news services to be merged so we get fewer points of view. We accept a president who authorizes wire tapping by the NSA.

Another example, people decry the 9/11 tragedy and yet, when Dick Clark mentions that he wasn't allowed to talk to the president for months and months about terrorism, no one raises an eyebrow.

My point is that we da people can and should hold our elected officials to a higher standard. We have the means and the power to do so; and yet we do not. To make matters worse, these things are relatively easy to accomplish and the only way we can get into the current situation is apathy.

Gay Marriage

There has been talk for quite some time now about how a constitutional amendment should be created to ban gay marriages. The idea, as I understand it, is to defend the institution of marriage.

Given the state of some marriages that I've seen, I don't exactly understand the objective: are we trying to defend marriage from gay people or are we trying to defend gay people from marriage? I mean, I can understand the idea of some wild-eyed individual bursting into a room where a same-sexed couple is tying the knot and screaming "Stop! You don't know what you're in for!" but I don't see how this is going to cause hetero couples to stop getting married.

In any case, the institution of marriage isn't something that the government should take a stand on in any case: separation of church and state. People who feel that religion should be running the show should take a good hard look at the wonderful examples of theocracy that we've seen in places like Iran and Pakistan.

From a purely taxation without representation standpoint, I also think gay couples have a valid point: if the government refuses to grant them the legal rights that hetro couples have, why should gay couples have to pay taxes? That is, if the government is going to discriminate against them, why should they have to support the government?

Stripped of the moral and religious arguments, the debate on same-sexed marriage remains the disturbing thing that it has always been: persecuting a minority. One of the things that groups of people like to do is persecute other, smaller groups of people. You see it with sports fans, religions, science-fiction fans, etc. why wouldn't we expect to see it with homosexuals?


Well, here I am at the end of another post that stinks. If you have suffered through this, all I can say is thank you. Hopefully, the simple exercising of writing will keep me coming back so I will eventually write something good.

But don't hold your breath.

Technorati: blather, rant, crap, a dark and stormy night.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


I’m often surprised when people remark that they are not part of the community, or that by doing what they do, i.e. their job doesn't help anyone. I think the problem is that our society makes it difficult to see how what we do has a positive impact; and that the reason for this, in turn is that people have become more specialized in what they do.

Consider taxes. Nobody really likes them, but take a look at what they do:

A whopping 80% of taxes go directly towards helping people – social security, etc. or towards national defense.

Suppose you give 10% of your income to taxes. This is like spending 4 hours a week performing community service – helping elderly people with medical conditions, teaching children, defending the nation, etc.

The thing is, it's a lot more efficient to have one person concentrate on teaching kids all the time than to have 10 people who only teach for 4 hours a week. Hence teachers. It makes much more sense to have one person learn about caring for sick people than to have 10 people doing it part time. Hence doctors.

People in our society become ever more efficient and good at what they do: a high-school teacher vs. a college professor. They both have the same basic job, but they specialize on different aspects student ages and topics.

For this to work, however, everyone else has to become more specialized as well. People don't just answer phones; there are the ones who deal with car insurance vs. support for computers. You have people who specialize in building engines for cars vs. engines for bulldozers.

At each level of efficiency comes more specialization. At each level of specialization, comes more isolation. The world of the person that answers phones is far different from the person that grows food. The person that teaches kindergarten is very different from the person that designs computers. There is less common ground.

Because there is very fast transportation, more time is spent at the job or getting to and from the job, then interacting with each other. 8 hours on the job plus 1 or more hours getting to and from, plus 1-2 hours spent eating meals, preparing for work or winding down afterwards. 30 to 60 minutes exercising (if you have an iron will). This leaves about 5 hours a day to socialize with those around us.

But efficiency steals some of that too. When we go to get food, you don't always see the same people, because it's better to make large distribution centers than small ones – supermarkets. You are in a car isolated from others getting there and back. Same thing for getting clothes, etc.

While isolation can be a problem, its solution can be a goal to strive for. Should we abandon fast transportation, or perhaps try creating more "after work" opportunities? Is the best approach to spend more time talking with our neighbors, or are online chat rooms the way to go?

I don't know what the solution to this problem is, but one thing I do know is that, given the abilities and resources we have, if it can be solved, our community is the one that can solve it.

Tags: community, society, isolation.

Authors note: this was my third attempt at this article, and every time I tried to simply edit what I had already written, I got a different result. In the face of continuing frustration, and that I hadn't posted anything in a couple of days, I decided that posting something was preferable to nothing.


Sunday, October 15, 2006

And They Say I'm the One Who's Nuts!

As is the case with most people I think I'm perfectly sane. That many readers disagree is their problem not mine.

Never the less, at the strident urging of some people who will remain nameless (mostly the Critic and the Fiend), I went to see a professional in these matters. The results were not quite what I had hoped for.

First impressions are always the most important. The first thing I noticed about this potential counselor was that he was asleep. I cleared my throat. He snored. I prodded him a bit, he finally woke up.

"Who the hell are you?" "Whatever." "Eh?" "My name is 'Whatever'." "If this is about my car, it's completely paid for." "I'm your 4:30 appointment." "Oh…that's not until 4:30, get lost." "It's 4:35."

The man, one Dr. Sai Cho, which according to him is Chinese, despite the fact that the guy didn't look Asian, grumbled a bit but eventually got down to business.

"Right, now where to start…"

After 40 minutes of ranting and raving the conversation wound down.

"And I don't see why, even if I am living in my mother's basement, we can't watch 'Voyager' instead of 'Enterprise!' I mean, it was my turn!"

I looked at my watch.

"This is all well and good, but what about my problems?" "Oh shut up you whiner."

I scratched my head.

"Yeah, well, does this mean I don't need to see a shrink?" "Hell no, you're nutty as they come." "How can you tell when you've barely even let me talk?!" "We doctors have ways of knowing these things." "Are you sure you're a doctor?"

Dr. Cho looked nervous.

"I have a diploma and everything." "Let me see it." "You are obviously entering the stage where you resist treatment. Now get the hell out of here!"

I found myself stumbling off, rather poorer in wisdom and wealth from when I started. I was held up by a few scruffy looking gentlemen who were towing away a car.

Arriving back at the dump that I call home, I called up the person who recommended this crackpot to me in the first place: the Fiend.

"Thanks a lot for telling me about this guy." "You're welcome." "I was being sarcastic." "So was I." "What makes you think he would be a good doctor?" "I never said that he was any good." "Then why did you tell me to see him?" "You're obviously experiencing natural patient resistance to treatment." "That's what he said." "Ha! So I'm right!" "Now wait a minute…" "No, sorry, the girlfriend is calling." "You don't have a girlfriend!"

But he had already hung up.

And here I thought that they were called "shrinks" because they made your problems go away…

Tags: Shrink, crazy, doctor, fiend

Friday, October 13, 2006

The Seven Symptoms of Highly Dsyfunctional People

In a previous life, I was required to sit through of Stephen Covey’s magnum opus: “The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People.” I actually think that many of them make a lot of sense, the powers that be decided that it would be a good idea if people spent three days going over the damn things, which is a bit much.

As is the case when you put a bunch of highly creative, cynical people into a room and bore them to death, we made fun of the subject matter. The idea was to turn each of the seven habits on its head – we called them the seven symptoms of highly dysfunctional people.

One of the things that the 7 habits videos depicted was what was referred to as “a paradigm shift.” This is basically a sudden realization like “oh my gawd! I’m fucked!” Or “doh!”

Then we had one of our own.

We realized that, rather than demonstrating the seven habits, the company seemed to operate on the seven symptoms. While this was a source of horror and despair for most of the others, I realized that I could make a bundle by going around and “teaching” these “virtues” and then showing how companies had “learned” them.

This didn’t go over quite as well as I might have hoped. While I may be a complete failure, it doesn’t mean that you can’t screw up as well…er…at any rate, here they are: The Seven Symptoms of Highly Dysfunctional People!

Symptom 1: Be Reactive

Or, wait until it’s too late, then panic.

You’d point out a serious issue. You would tell people about the ramifications. They ignored you. Time passed. You’d warn them again. They’d ignore you again. The event would come to pass. They’d go through a time honored process:

  1. Search for the guilty.
  2. Blame the innocent.
  3. Promote the uninvolved.
  4. Learn nothing.

Symptom 2: End with the Start in Mind

Or, whine pathetically about how rosy things looked when you started out.

This went hand-in-hand with the first symptom. Once the doom came about, the second most common activity (after witch hunts) was to talk about how easy things should have been or appeared to be. Not only was the grass greener on the other side of the fence, the grass was betterer in my day, youngin!

Symptom 3: There is no Symptom 3!!

Symptom 4: Think “Lose-lose” or “No Deal!”

Or, “I’m goin down…and I’m taking you with me!”

This was a bizarrely common occurrence, where different departments in the company would essentially screw each other up. The philosophy seemed to be that, “if we do our job, you can’t do yours!” Then the offending department would make sure that they screw theirs up too. I guess the idea was that, if everyone else around them was incompetent, then they didn’t stand out as much.

Symptom 5: Seek First to be Understood, then Forget the Other Person

Or sit down and shut up!

The idea seems to be that, if you keep babbling, no one else will talk. Eventually they will lose interest entirely and start drooling. After a time, they will agree to just about anything in order to get you to shut up.

Like many of the Symptoms, it appears absurd on the surface, but is oddly effective in practice.

Symptom 6: Desynergize

Or, if anyone dares disagree, kill them.

The espoused idea was that, different points of view are valuable. The reality was that when “the boss” or whatever came up with some whacky idea, you’d better get behind it in a hurry or you’d be street pizza.

Scott Adams, the guy who created the “Dilbert” comic strip, posted a story about how he pasted a mustache on his upper lip and fooled a room full of senior managers as a “consultant” with ideas like putting a mission statement to music in order to make it more effective. The reason why these people went along with it (they made a video and you can see the people getting visibly more and more incredulous) was that the CEO seemed to buy into it (he was in cahoots with Adams).

Symptom 7: Take Time Out to Dull the Saw

Or, “If it ain’t broke, fix it till it is!”

At one point, the manager of the department I was in made a fatal mistake: he demonstrated competence.

Faster than you could say “sensitivity training” our department was systematically “enhanced” so that, in any area where the merest possibility of competence had existed, now there was only a smoldering crater.

In retrospect, this was entirely consistent and predictable, it just wasn’t the sort of thing that you would expect. Talking with friends who’ve worked at large companies, this is actually pretty common.

Technorati: Seven, habits, symptoms, effective, dysfunctional, people.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Losers Never Win, Quitters Never Lose

OK, maybe that’s wrong, but it could be right. Actually that’s not true, but if I were a certain public figure, I’d claim that, for example when I’m off by a factor of 10 or more regarding losses I would claim that I’m right. Eventually, people would believe it.

I’m hoping that this theory holds true, because if it is, then I can use this principal to gain more readers. By simply blathering, persistently and at great length, that many people read this site, magically, people will start reading it. And if it doesn’t, then I’m no worse off.

Except that people like the Critic will remind me about this crazy idea.

On the other hand, if I’m right then I can lord it over her. Perhaps even use the idea to convince her to read this flippin thing on a regular basis. I can see it now:

(Me): You will read my site. (The Critic): Only when I need something to laugh at. (M): You think it’s funny? (C): No, but when I’m down, I can look at your site and say to myself: “At least I’m better than that.” (M): So you say now, but after my brain washing, you will read it and like it! (C): You’re getting your brain washed? (M): No, no, no! I’m going to brainwash you! (C): Like I said, seeing how pathetic you are always makes me feel better… (M): You will read my site! (C): That’s your idea of brainwashing people? (M): You will read my site! (C): Uh huh…

(After 20 minutes of this)

(M): You will read my site! (C): Yeah right. (M): Maybe I’m not going about this correctly…

I resolved to use subliminal suggestions…

(C): Is this yours? (Holds up a large sign that reads: “You will visit blather-n-rants.blogspot.com”) (M): What makes you say that? (C): Is this your idea of subliminal advertising? (M): Hmmm…

Perhaps I should be more subtle….

(C): Where’s my TV? (M): What? (C): Someone took my TV and put a sign that says “You will visit blather-n-rants.blogspot.com” (M): Well did you? (C): No.

I tried disguises…

(C): Why are you wearing one of those nose-and-eyeglass combinations? (M): Whatever are you talking about? (C): You – you’re wearing a fake glasses-and-mustache thingie. (M): You must have me confused with someone else. Have you ever thought of reading blather-n-rants.blogspot.com? (C): Sigh…

However, it was when I tried threats that I hit paydirt!

(M): I’m warning you, if you don’t patronize my site, things will go badly for you… (C): Is that a threat? (M): Sort of. (C): How will things go badly for me? (M): I will use another one of my hexes on you! (C): (Sigh) that means you will hang around here, doesn’t it? (M): Yes, and I’ll… (C): Fine, I’ll read the stupid site. NOW GO AWAY! (M): Regularly? (I’ll check you know). (C): I will regularly beat you up if you don’t get lost…

And this was how I doubled my readership!

Technorati: The Critic, whitty repartee, readership, jedi, mind trick

Monday, October 09, 2006

Off-Shoring - the Final Fronter

In the quest to cut cost and become more competitive, companies have taken a bold new step that promises to significantly improve the bottom line: out-sourcing senior management.

For years now, US companies have been looking overseas for cheap labor. During the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, high tech companies have set up large scale software development, as well as contracting for skilled jobs such as healthcare functions like radiology.

Now companies have taken the next logical step and out-sourced their senior management overseas as well. “At first we were not sure.” says Rob “gimme-bucks” Smith, who serves on the board for American Nincompoop, a fortune 500 company. “But then we realized a $100 million dollar savings just by replacing the CEO! Once we were done with the senior management team, we had cut costs by nearly $200 million.”

One concern that companies have when eyeing out-sourcing is that they can get the same level of quality management that they enjoy in the United States when using over-seas workers. “That was a real concern for us.” says Gloria Seinfeld, part of the “blood-letting” team that helped turn the airline giant “United Crash” around and out of bankruptcy. “Then we realized that it would be difficult to find people that could make worse decisions than what we already had. The over-seas clowns would have a very high bar to reach if they ever wanted to be as stupid as we are in the US!”

One unforeseen consequence of out-sourcing management has been a dramatic improvement in the quality of the decisions coming from upper management. While management both at home and overseas is incompetent, out-sourced managers know it and are willing to listen to their people. “It was shocking” says Ken Utah, senior director for Internal Bullocks Machines. “I made a recommendation and Rajeev [Indian manager who replaced the CEO] actually followed it.”

Out-sourcing companies have a real threat to hold over the heads of their managers. “Before, all you could do is threaten to dismiss them. But now when we use the phrase ‘heads will roll,’ we mean it!” Karen LePoosh, member of the Ballmart board of directors relates. Indeed, over the last 3 years, 5 CEOs and 17 senior managers have been executed as a result of foolish mistakes, something that would be much harder to do with local talent. “I told the last local CEO that we were going to cut some of his compensation package and he laughed in my face. With our new, out-sourced talent, I’ve personally killed 6 people. It’s a surprisingly satisfying experience.”

While the board may be happy with the new, out-sourced management team, what do the rank and file workers think of this development? A recent Pee-Yew poll of Foullon, the energy giant, revealed that most employees either didn’t care or looked on these changes as favorable. “They’re both clueless” says Jake Blather, refinery worker in Newark, NJ. “I can’t tell the difference.” Other workers are more favorable such as Norman Bates, who works at a chemical plant in Wisconsin. “Last year when the HR director tried to pocket $3.2 million and they executed him, I thought to myself ‘Now there’s accountability!’”

Resident managers at US companies are less enthusiastic about these developments, however. A recent interview with Bill Whaleson, CEO of Kegel, the supermarket powerhouse, yielded the following: “I like pie.” Other executives stress that home-grown stupidity will always be superior to out-sourced idiocy. “They can try, but they’ll always come up short.” Ken Screw, CEO of Trip Communications. “I mean, how can you cause a huge lawsuit to be leveled at your company when you don’t understand the local situation? Take the recent multi-billion dollar anti-discrimination case being brought against us: now that’s the kind of foolishness that can only be found with good old American know-not!”

Indeed, many present and former executives point to huge lawsuits, massive market share loss and other mistakes with pride. Speaking from his jail cell in Canyon City, Colorado, Louis Cypher, architect of the 1995 collapse of the energy giant, Benron, had this to say: “There’s just no way that an overseas clown and achieve my kind of failure. It takes near-psychotic detachment from reality, coupled with mind-boggling arrogance to do what I’ve done [referring to the multi-billion dollar collapse of Benron]. That’s the kind of colossal mistake I just don’t see these out-of-towners making.”

Technorati: off-shoring, management, clueless, stupid, out-sourcing

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Suicide and Compassion in the West

This image was shamelessly stolen from Canuckistani’s article: http://mondo-canuckistani.blogspot.com/2006/09/suicide.html. I was going to post some comments on her site when I noticed that my response was long enough to be an article all by itself.

The gist of Canuckistani’s post was that we Westerners decry some people’s apparent lack of respect for human life and yet demonstrate a lack of respect ourselves. In particular, the example was suicide bombers, in the case of Islamic fundamentalists, and the callous attitude that many people take towards those that attempt or succeed in suicide.

I agree with Canuckistani’s basic idea – the perception of suicide is that it is a choice or an option – but I think this is a changing perception. In 2002, for example, about 10% of the US population was using Prozac or similar drugs[1] – it's awfully hard to trivialize depression when the use of anti-depressants is so widespread.

That drugs like Prozac have been developed at all indicates that our society takes depression and suicide pretty seriously. The anti-depressants available before Prozac were about as effective, but much harder on the person taking the drug. If we don’t care about suicides and depressed people, why develop drugs whose only real improvement is the reduction of side-effects?

Compare this to the reaction of Egypt over the crash of Egypt Air flight 990: the Egyptian government refused to admit the possibility that one of the pilots could have been committing suicide despite the results of the investigation[2]. It is much harder to make progress against suicide and depression if you refuse to admit that these conditions even exist in your country.

While Western countries may have made progress with regards to how suicide and depression are viewed, there is still a lot of room for improvement. I think the attitude that they are somehow choices is prevalent in the US and elsewhere, as is demonstrated by some of the responses to Canuckistani’s post.

If suicide and depression is relatively inexpensive to treat, why are so many people dying from it? For example: about 3,000 people died in 2001 due to the terrorist attacks of 9/11, but more than 10 times that died in the same year because of suicide[3].

Examining the larger picture, however, I definitely agree with Canuckistani’s idea. I previously posted some articles on how people protest abortion in the US, but don’t seem to care that the United States has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the developed world. If we value life so highly, why don’t we do a better job of taking care of newborns, for crying out loud?

So while I agree with the basic ideas of Canuckistani’s post, I don’t think her particular choice (depression and suicide) are quite as apt. In particular the advances made in the West, and the tendency in Islamic countries to refuse that suicide and depression even exist make that argument a tough sell.

Technorati: Suicide, Depression, West, Prozac, SSRI


I was originally going to post that I completely agreed with Canuckistani’s take when I did a bit of research into the topic and discovered that the West has actually been making substantial progress towards the treatment of depression and suicide. Here are some of the references that I used in this article:

[1] Estimated US population for 2002 was about 280 million by the US Census Bureau, http://www.census.gov/prod/2002pubs/01statab/pop.pdf. Roughly 33 million prescriptions for Prozac or similar drugs in 2002 according to Milane et. al. Thus more than 10% of the population was using such drugs during 2002.

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EgyptAir_Flight_990. OK, so wikipedia is not exactly an authoritative source, but you can find other links on the net that say essentially the same thing if you look for “Egypt Air 990,” and wikipedia summed it up nicely.

[3] According to the CDC (http://www.cdc.gov/ncipc/factsheets/suifacts.htm), 30,622 people died from suicide in 2001.

[4] The following studies indicate a statically significant link between the rate of SSRI prescriptions and suicide rates, but a causal relationship has not been firmly established. Never the less, it seems reasonable enough to draw that conclusion.

"The relationship between antidepressant medication use and rate of suicide."; Gibbons RD, Hur K, Bhaumik DK, Mann JJ.; Archives of general psychiatry; 2005 February

"Modeling of the temporal patterns of fluoxetine prescriptions and suicide rates in the United States."; Milane MS, Suchard MA, Wong ML, Licinio J.; PLoS medicine, 2006 Jun

"Association between mortality from suicide in England and antidepressant prescribing: an ecological study."; Morgan OW, Griffiths C, Majeed A.; BMC public health [electronic resource]; 2004 Dec

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Spirituality and the Sexaul Self

Sexuality and Spirituality: What’s the Connection? The connection is everything.

Sexuality is a very basic part of the human condition. Therefore, if the sexual self is rejected, then the spiritual self suffers as well.

One basic message that we are given during life is that sexuality is somehow bad or wrong. For example:

  • Masturbation is bad.
  • Viewing pornography is “dirty.”
  • Finding a friend attractive can “ruin the friendship.”
  • You are not supposed to find people of the same gender attractive.
  • You are not supposed to find people below a certain age attractive.
  • Violating sexual norms can have catastrophic repercussions including losing one’s job, being sent to prison, public disgrace, etc.

The problem is that sexuality is one of the most basic aspects of being a human being. After basic safety and food, sexuality is often times the next most driving issue for a person. Just taking a look at the checkout isle at a supermarket the message is look younger, be slim and attractive, whose dating who, how to please your mate, etc.

Sexual feelings and expression is caused by hormones, organs, the nervous system and the brain. Such things cannot be stopped without physical changes. They are going to be there whether we want them or not.

On the one hand we are told that we must control and suppress our sexual natures: something that we cannot do. On the other hand, our sexual selves are expected to measure up to a standard that no one can consistently meet. Thus it is not surprising that someone might me suffering from some conflicting and harmful beliefs when approaching sexuality.

Approaching the spiritual self when one believes that the sexual self is bad or wrong cannot help but affect one’s perceptions and beliefs. If this is how we treat ourselves, having a callus attitude towards the conditions of others is a logical result. Who gives a damn about truth, beauty, right and wrong when you are walking around in a living hell day after day?

Now consider the same person coming from the belief that their sexual nature is OK. They think that they are attractive enough, that their feelings are normal and that they can express their sexuality without the world coming to an end. This starting point cannot help but change the perception of the spiritual world.

The world still may be a harsh place, but at least the perception is that it is the world and not the person that is at fault. Change the conditions and the world is downright pleasant. There is hope, the chance for justice, etc.

Thus sexuality and spirituality are connected at a very basic level. Change the sexual perception, and the spiritual one can be radically altered. Change the beliefs and expectations placed on the sexual self by the spiritual self, and the person’s sexuality changes.

The title of this article is a variation on Reverend Haffner’s excellent site: “Sexuality and Religion: what’s the Connection?” I tend to look at what I consider the larger world of the spiritual self rather than the significant but smaller portion pertaining to religion.

Never the less, the effects of religion and religious beliefs have a profound effect on a person’s spiritual and the sexual identities. Religion can be an accepting; affirming place for our spiritual and sexual natures, or it can be an endless source of problems. From my standpoint, depending on the significance that religion plays in society and with the individual as a whole the connection is extremely important.

Technorati: Sexuality, spirituality, religion, human condition

Monday, October 02, 2006


I knew something was weird when I saw the same girl twice. Normally this sort of thing is barely worthy of note, what with my incredible sexual appeal. If I didn’t wear dark glasses and trench coats I’d be constantly mobbed by 16 year old cheerleader squads. There are some, like The Critic who doubt this and just point out “Yeah right!” but I digress.

She was the same girl I had seen at the EverQuest booth at one of those video gaming conferences earlier in the year and now here she was at a beer festival. Coincidence? I think not.

She had the same bottle blonde hair. The same ridiculously thin body with the disproportionately huge boobs. The same vacant, disinterested look. And at appropriate moments, she would sport the same utterly fake smile. And she was chewing the same gum with the same bored motions making her look like a cow that had wandered by.

When most people see this sort of thing, they might think “Hey, both these conventions hire the same entertainers for their shows,” or perhaps “Hmmmm, maybe I can get her phone number.” A reasonable deduction, but not the brave, new-thinking, out-of-the-box style epiphany that my friends tell me only I am capable of.

You see, I believe this shows that all conventions are linked together into a sort of alternate dimension. I call this collective the C-SPAN.

I know there are some doubters amongst you so consider this additional evidence:

  • All conventions have loud, annoying people.
  • All conventions have people giving away small, useless pieces of junk.
  • All conventions have posters.
  • And then, of course, there are the weird, beautiful women.

There is one final, clinching piece of evidence that I lack. I am going to go to a very special convention. If I see the same people, hear the same “wooohoooo!” cheers, and am offered the same crap, then I will know that I’m right. Or rather, I will be able to prove that I am right to doubters like The Critic. I already know I’m right – there is no way that this one girl can be at all these conventions…

…unless you believe in androids or something. But I’ll leave that to another posting.

Technorati: Alternate dimesions, CSPAN, androids, alien women