Sunday, October 28, 2012

Whirled Peas

As your humble dilettante blogwriter, the next issue I'll hold forth on is the Israel/Palestine conflict.  I read a book, so now I have Opinions. (I actually read 1.25 books, but the first one felt way too biased, so I stopped and found a more balanced treatment.) 

The more I learn about the Israelis and Palestinians*, the more I hate both sides.  Seriously, there are no good guys in this story.

*Note: I use the words Israelis and Palestinians a lot in this post, even though I realize that neither group is a monolithic entity.  There are plenty of Israelis who oppose their government/military's actions, and plenty of Palestinians who want peace.  But unfortunately, those are not the ones who are making the overall decisions.  

Every time I try to sympathize with one side, to see the situation through their eyes, something jerks me back into feeling for the other side.  It's a strange case of sympathy vertigo.  I can't tell up from down, good from bad, right from wrong.  I can never tell who's the protagonist and who's the enemy.  It's like reading a book where the point of view keeps changing, but you can't identify with any of the narrators.

Obviously, it was wrong for the Israelis to forcibly remove thousands of Palestinians from their homes in 1948.  It was wrong of them to ignore the U.N. recommendations for borders, and then to assassinate the Swedish mediator assigned to broker a peace agreement. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

It's also patently wrong and unfair that the Palestinians have been living under a foreign occupation for 60+ years.  They are a people without a country, without rights or self-governance.  That is so obviously wrong it's ludicrous. And I can't understand how Israelis could be so oppressive toward a minority under their jurisdiction.  You would think Jews, of all people, would have more empathy for that kind of thing.

To be fair, not only did the Jews have to deal with persecution, pogroms, and the Holocaust, but Israel is surrounded by countries and people who want to kill them, who think they don't have a right to exist.  One can see how they might make them a little skittish.

The Palestinians, for their part, seem to be doing everything they can to make their situation worse.  Every time they attack Israeli soldiers or citizens, they're being, at the very least, stupid.  And at their worst they're being just as big as dickbags as the Israelis.  It's like having two children in the back seat of you car.  The big one is being mean and punching the little one, but the little one won't stop taunting him, inviting more of it.  The Palestinian terrorist attacks not only invite Israel to retaliate (often disproportionately), but it also allows Israel to justify its aggression.  It's just bad PR and hurts the Palestinian cause.  You don't win sympathy,  peace, or justice by blowing up people. When you blow up a bus full of civilians, you just look like an asshole who deserves whatever punishment you get.   

What the Palestinians need is their own Gandhi, Martin Luther King, or dare I say, Jesus.  (This coming from an atheistic agnostic.)  Someone who can show them that peaceful protest is the way to get the rest of the world on your side.  I truly believe that if the Palestinians just laid off the bombs, guns, and rock-throwing, the Western world would have much more sympathy for them and be more inclined to come to their aid.  But they have no patience and no faith.  They don't believe anyone would be on their side.  Maybe that lack of faith is justified.  But let me pose this question: How is the current strategy of blowing shit up working for you?

Where are all your hippies, Palestinians?

The argument I don't buy from either side is that they absolutely must have THIS PIECE OF LAND.  This is where the conflict becomes sectarian and I see no point to it.  Jews argue that they've been yearning to live in the holy land for 2,000 years.  I'm sorry, but your statute of limitations is up.  You can't stake a claim on land from a hundred generations ago.  I fully support the idea of a Jewish state, but I don't buy the argument that this state must be in one specific location. (I once heard a comedian joke that the Jewish homeland should have been taken from Germany after the Holocaust.  Bavaria would be a nice chunk of real estate for the new Jewish homeland. It was a joke, but really, wouldn't that have been more fair than displacing all those Palestinians?) 

The Palestinians' claim to the land is more recent, but still, it's been 60 years.  Israel is established now.  It's not going away, so Palestinians need to learn accept that and move on.  Their uncompromising insistence on "right of return" is not only unrealistic at this point, but counterproductive.

The solution to the problem is obvious: we need two separate, autonomous countries, Israel and Palestine.  It was obvious from the beginning.  The problem is getting there.  

This whole situation reminds me of the old adage about interpersonal conflict: some people would rather be right than happy.  So many of the players in this drama are so focused on the past-- at claims to land and wrongs done to them-- that they are unable to look to the future, to a possible resolution and a peaceful co-existence.  Many of the Palestinians I read about in my book were so intent on going back to the land that was taken from them that they refuse to see any resolution without it.   If you were to offer them a happy, comfortable, and prosperous life where they are, they would not take it.  It must be a return or nothing else.  

They would rather be right than happy.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Gross Day

Incident #1:  The first thing I noticed when I went into the bathroom stall at work were nail clippings on the floor.  I studied them for a moment, and then a wave of horrible realizations washed down upon me.  These clippings are evidence that, 1.) someone was clipping his fingernails on the toilet, 2.) in a public restroom, 3.) onto the floor, 4.) leaving it for others to see/clean up.  Serioulsy, WTF is wrong with some people?   

Welcome to the bathroom!

At first I thought they were toenails, because some of them were really big.  But then I realized (hoped!) they must have just come from someone with really big thumbs.  Because if those were toenail clippings, it adds a whole new level of creepiness.  Aside from the horrible image of someone sitting on a public toilet and clipping toenails, it also means the person was barefoot.  In a men's room stall. If you've ever seen a public restroom men's stall, you know the last thing you want to be in there is barefoot. 


Incident #2: I dropped a library book into a public toilet.

There was a good reason why I had the book with me, and it was not, as one would assume, to read it.  (I don't deny that I read on the toilet, but not usually in a public bathroom.)  You see, I was at our satellite campus giving a library presentation, and I had my portfolio with handouts and notes in it, and a library book to read during the dinner break between classes.  After my classes, I had to go to the bathroom before my long drive home.  I stepped into the stall and tried to figure out where to put my portfolio and book.  (This is one of my biggest complaints about public bathroom stalls-- there is never a good place to put my stuff.  It's even worse when there's no hook on the door to hang up my coat. Then I usually have to place it in the corner on the floor. Ugh.)

Where do I put my stuff?

So I placed the portfolio on top of the toilet paper dispenser, and it was held up against the wall by the handicap rail.  (Yes, I was using the handicap stall.  No one else was in there.)   

Like this, only imagine the toilet paper in a metal box dispenser. 

There was no good place for the book, though, so I tried to rest it on top of the rail, up against the portfolio.  Bad idea.  The book was too thick for the rail and tumbled down, and to my horror it fell into the open toilet.

I acted fast, quickly fishing the book out.  Luckily, the toilet water was "clean"-- it hadn't been used yet. Only the top edge of the book was submerged for a few scant seconds.  If the Five Second Rule applied to books falling in toilets, then I would have been safe.  A kitten bookmark I'd been using fell back into the toilet, and I let it go, figuring it was beyond saving.  Collateral damage.  I used toilet paper to wipe off the book.  The glossy cover dried pretty easily, but the top 2-3 inches of the pages were varying degrees of wet.

I washed my hands and then held the book under the air dryer, fanning the pages under it to get them dry.

A sanitary way to dry your hands, or a book you just dropped into the toilet


The book has dried, and it really doesn't seem to be in that bad of shape.  Some of the pages are a little crinkly on top, the way they get when there's slight water damage.  But other than that, it's a perfectly serviceable book.

Not my library book


It fell into the toilet.  I'm perfectly willing to pay for it and tell the library I damaged it, but what I'm reluctant to do is tell them how I damaged it.  "Um, sorry, but I dropped this into the toilet."  Can't I just tell them it fell into some water?  That's not a lie.  Because if you look at it, it looks fine.  I've seen much worse. But they probably have a right to know what kind of wet it got.

The other issue: I usually read my library books when I'm eating.  During breakfast and lunch I will read.  That means that the book I dropped into the toilet is near my food.  On the table.  This should gross me out, but here's the thing. I guarantee that you've touched, eaten, and somehow come into contact with much less  
sanitary things than my library book.  It reminds me of a study I once heard about.  A student had tested the bacteria levels in a fast-food bathroom and compared to the levels in the drink dispenser.  There were more germs in the drink dispenser.  You see, a bathroom gets cleaned regularly.  Other things don't. (I wasn't able to find the original study, but I found another one that said fecal material was found on drink dispensers:

I don't point all this out to gross you out.  Just to say that, where germs are concerned, our fears are often misplaced.


Incident #3: When I came home from a long day of toilet mayhem, I went into my bedroom to change out of my work clothes. I saw that one of my cats had puked on my Nikes in the closet.  Lovely.  I often come home to cat puke, but it's usually on the carpet.  Puking into my shoes is a new one.

Fur and puke corridor: The usual place where cats leave their "surprises"

Thanks, kitties.  That's the cherry on top of my shit sundae.  

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Online Creeps

I have a new online addiction: laughing at creeps on the intarwebz.

The A(n)nals of Online Dating not only has a fun juvenile title (heh, heh, you said "a(n)nal!"), but it's a fascinating study in online behavior, mating rituals, and hilarious taunting-- all with a point system!

The premise is simple: they take online dating profiles and messages sent by real people (mostly men) and make fun of them.  Point out all the mistakes they make, then add up the points.  For example:

why can’t I find a good looking woman with her life in order to DATE and be in a RELATIONSHIP with??? Am I too ugly? I would have thought having a stable job, place of my own, car, Harley, dog and no kids would be a good thing??? but it seems that those things don’t matter. I think I am a decent looking guy. I’m not sure what I have to do to attract the right woman. I’m not picky, but yet I don’t want someone that weighs more than i do. As long as you are pretty in your own way.. have all your teeth and they are not yellow… Is it too much to ask for a pretty woman that I am proud to be with and have a little arm candy??
I don’t know what I am doing wrong, but being single sux a$$ and I wanna change that! I don’t wanna get married right away, need to find the right one first. I’m just stressed and glad I don’t own a gun… I might get depressed and do something stupid with it………

+10 for whoaaaaa suicidal! You want to know what you are doing wrong? That is what you are doing wrong.
+6 for you know what else you are doing wrong? Not caring at all about women as actual people. I mean, I can’t fault you for having impossible standards (although the “no fatties” thing is kind of… come on). But maybe be more picky? Have some sense of what you want a partner to be like outside of physical appearance? Because “Sweet Jesus, ANYONE WILL DO AT THIS POINT” has gotten surprisingly few people laid.
+4 because the “right woman” is the same thing as “arm candy.” LOL women. My friend said that maybe I should treat them like they’re “people” and not decorative accessories. Can you believe that guy? Hilarious.

It's amazing to think there are so many clueless people out there.  I'm sure some of the entries can be explained by bad jokes, childish pranks, drugs, or some weird cultural differences. (Sometimes it's obvious the writer is not a native speaker of English.)

But based on my own experience with online dating, I have to believe that many of these entries are actual real people who sincerely want to find a mate.  And that is just sad, so very sad. How can so many men be so clueless about how these things work?

I say "men" because, although there is the occasional female profile featured on this site, for the most part it's guys who are offensive idiots.  And now I truly understand why so many women have to be so cautious when they date.  I'm terrified for them.  Because there are some disturbing fucking nutjobs out there.  

Here's another sample:

If you are not a woman of my race, I’m not sexually attracted to black woman it’s my choice and I don’t have to explain to anyone why I choose this, so all other woman fell free to write me back if your educated and you don’t have a house full of children cause I don’t have any of my own!!
+6 for putting it right out there with the racism.
+4 for “it’s my choice and I don’t have to explain to anyone why I choose this.” I think we all know why? And hopefully no one has to explain to you why you are still single.
+10 for “fell free to write me back if your educated.”
+5 for being willing to date ALL OTHER WOMEN. As long as they’re (or is it “their”?) educated. And not black. And not any other race except his. And don’t have kids. But anyone else, totally, date this guy. Until he has his own kids. Then it’s ok if you have kids too. 


I could post 50 more, but I need to break this addiction.

Monday, October 1, 2012


At the public library the other day I picked up three nonfiction books.  The books were located in three completely different subject areas: from the Dewey 100's to the 500's to the 900's.

I love learning stuff.

Science isn't my only passion.  I really should have been a writer/architect/tennis pro/evolutionary biologist/astronomer/cult leader. Oh, and I forgot linguist.

The latest thing to capture my attention has been The Universe.  The planets, the solar system, our galaxy, other galaxies, time, expansion, the Big Bang, the nature of everything-- where it comes from and where it's going to.  Huge doesn't even begin to describe our universe, and when I consider all the mysteries it contains it makes me a little dizzy.

It may look like a collection of penises, but these enormous "Pillars of Creation" are in the process of creating new stars.  Our entire solar system would fit into that tiny finger-like object on the left one.  That is a huge erection!

When I consider all these mysteries, it's easy to dismiss any of the petty problems in my life, or in the lives of the people around me, or of humanity itself, or of our planet.  We are smaller than tiny.  Things I fret about, like a tennis match or an election or saving the environment-- they mean nothing.  We may destroy our environment and that of many organisms on our planet, but the planet itself, we can't touch it. 

The Earth has survived much worse than a case of the humans.  We're like a small rash on a world that's been around long before us and will go on long after us.  And that world itself is just one tiny insignificant dot among of trillions and trillions of things spinning around in space.

Perhaps it's escapist, but I love that I have the luxury of considering the universe, of thinking about what's really going on in all those places we can't see, hear, or touch (or haven't seen, heard, or touched yet.)  It is almost like a drug the way it takes hold of my mind.

Maybe this is what God does for religious people-- makes them feel like they are one tiny part of something much greater and more mysterious.  For me, I'll take science and astronomy and science fiction-- stories and fantasies and possibilities based on what we already know about the laws of the universe-- and escape into that.