First Names

Quite literally.  FIRST names.  Not just your name that comes first on a traffic ticket, or what you call yourself online.

No, this is about your very first name.

I dreamt I was zoning out at this Beverly Hills party when a popular actress came up and asked what I was doing.  She was worried I was either a bit too “happy” to drive, although she thought I might be meditating.

I was in baddha konasana, and I had my mind and breath exactly where I wanted them, so she was mostly right.

Anyway, she wasn’t bothering me.  She’d seen me someplace and knew my name.  I didn’t know hers and asked.  She gave me her famous name, and I asked her for her REAL first name, the one that she was born with.

Why? she asked.

Give me your hand, I said, holding my own out palm up.  She rested her hand on top of mine.  I didn’t move a muscle, but looked into her eyes.

This is your hand, but it’s not yours.  It was given to you by your parents, their parents, and unknown numbers of other living things long forgotten.  You have had this ever since the universe created you, and it will remain in your possession for a short time.  This is a gift, and you take care of it precisely because it is a great gift.  A gift of love from all those before you.  When you are done with it, it returns to the universe to become a gift to someone else.

I put my hand in my lap and she took hers back, looking at it, then looking back at me.

Your name, your first name, the one that was given to you by your parents, tells me something about you that can’t be told any other way.  That name was created by your parents and bestowed upon you as a brand new life within the universe.  That name holds their hopes, and their fears.  It tells a story about them, as individuals, and a couple.  It may also hold clues to your own history, ancestors who struggled so that you would be here, now.  That name is important not because you were born with it, but because it contains your history.  When you are done, that name remains as part of your family’s memory.

Your Hollywood name, like my stage name, is for publicity.  They want something to remember us by, but you well know that what they know of you is artificial, created on the screen.  The real you is inside, just the same as your real name still resides, here.  I pointed to her heart.

Her friends came up to us at that point and wanted to know what we were talking about.  I smiled and told them I was going back to sleep.  Being an old man lets me get away with stuff like that.

Tusok

 

Just Desserts

There are some French shows where dessert is the only thing on the menu.  These shows are at a higher level than what we’re used to seeing from other countries, because, well, IT’S FRANCE!

More to the point, little morsels of gastronomic delight can teach us more than making our saliva glands go into overdrive.

Here’s the short form:

  • Quality ingredients,
  • High standards in all areas,
  • Mastery of technique in everything,
  • Pride in one’s profession, knowing how to work as a team member, knowing how to be a leader, knowing how to handle stress, and always being supportive of others whether they are your competitor or teammate,
  • Either having the best tool for the job, or knowing how to compensate
  • Paying attention to all the senses, in visual aesthetics, variety of textures, the impact of flavors upon the tongue and the nose, and perhaps the most important,
  • Knowing how to savor all this work in small amounts.

 

How can all of this come about from one small tasty morsel?

Strangely enough, it does.  It’s all a matter of looking deep into the eyes of your culinary delight, understanding everything that goes into it, closing your eyes, and…

… letting your palate do the rest.

Bon Appétit

 

Evolution Devolution

155,615 words in something called Origin of Species.

Of those words, “evolve” is mentioned only once.  You heard it right.

As for “evolution” or “evolving” or some other variant, zip.  Nada.  Nothing.

Isn’t that funny?

Now, the word “variation” comes up 188 times.

And the word “selection” comes up 414 times.

Here’s the reason why.

As a methodical man, Charles Robert Darwin was most interested in convincing lots of good, smart people, in this radical idea that the thing we call “species” was changing over time.

CRD also knew that a lot of those same people were big on the Big Guy, the big light in the sky, the ultimate authority, GOD.

CRD had no interest in taking on religion, that wasn’t his aim.  His only goal was to show people that species weren’t sitting still.  Some species had walked the Earth long ago and disappeared.  That implied that new species were being created.  CRD had to figure out how to show people what he’d learned.

Law of Nature Number One: Each one of your children is different.  And attached to this law is another: Each of your children is different from all other children.  It’s another way of saying all of us are unique.  Even identical twins stop being identical the moment they are born.

Any problems with this?  Do you disagree?  Then check out a worm, and another worm.  If you look long enough you will see differences.  That’s a Law of Nature.

Law of Nature Number Two: Some differences help you have more babies.  Do you know any couples who have trouble making kids?  What about race horses?  The owners of famous stallions who win big races make lots of money selling that horses baby-making bits.  As long as horse racing is a big sport, there’s a good chance lots of fast-horse babies are going to be born.

Any problems with number two?  If not, we’re ready for the big finale.

Putting both of these Laws of Nature together creates a process of change.  Every individual is unique.  Every individual has a different number of babies.  And so on.

Biologists thought they were doing everyone a favor long ago when they applied the term “evolution” to the process.  It seems harmless enough.  What they didn’t realize was that they were making it harder for us non-biologists to follow along.  Bad marketing.

As a result, we have arguments with GOD over whether or not evolution exists.  Here’s the funny thing.  Evolution doesn’t exist, just like “falling” doesn’t exist.  Falling is a process of being up, and then suddenly being down.  We don’t have schools teaching “falling” as a subject.  Instead we have physics and gymnastics.

Similarly, we shouldn’t be teaching evolution in school.  We must stick to the laws of nature: we’re all unique, and we’re all going to have different numbers of children.

That’s a horse you shouldn’t bet against.

 

 

Squeezing Boobies

Our male-biased cultures have many issues, like dealing with feminine beauty.

Our culture turns each woman into a canvas.  From an early age she’s trained to decorate, disguise, even disfigure herself into something other than what she was born with.

With all due respect, other women are at least as culpable as men for perpetuating this cycle.  How many little girls have been given earrings, nail polish, or pretty clothes by their grandmothers?

Which brings us to today’s titillating title.  Why do men focus on a woman’s breasts?  And when given the chance, why do they insist on squeezing them like a water balloon they are trying to burst?

I’ve linked the results of a quick internet search, leaving only the “best” sort of internet knowledge to be offered.

However, as students of behavior, we should have a good “feel” for the answer.

First we can look to Mother Nature, and assume that she has inserted a “breast seeking gene” into a man’s heart so that he wants to pursue women.  Let’s face it, if men didn’t seek women in general, there wouldn’t be many of either.

On the other hand, this may not be as big a factor as some claim, including me.  I firmly believe that female breast sizes were much smaller and had much less variation a hundred thousand years ago.  That’s more than enough time for women to evolve highly variable breasts that they use as a source of decoration, but not enough time for men to evolve a phenotype-specific attractor.

Second, we can look to our culture.  Our young minds are taught from a very young age to consider the viewing of a feminine breast as sacrilege.  Pre-pubescent girls wear tops that cover their chest, even on the hottest days.  The only possible reason is that we’re teaching everyone that a woman’s breasts are erotic.

Given their erotic standing, what can we deduce?  We can figure that breasts will be envied by other women for use as decorative objects.  They will seek to increase them by any means possible, which they do.  They will use them as decorations when necessary, like when they wear low-cut dresses or with a push-up bra.

There is a third, natural, force at work that drives men to want your breasts, and that has to do with psychology.  Men feel pleasure during sex.  Mother Nature has programmed that into male genes at the deepest levels, going back hundreds of millions of years, maybe even more.

As a female, the pleasure part is dubious.  When the sex is forced, pleasure is no longer the issue.  For a normal man to inflict pain on someone he cares about, even if for the moment, sets off a psychological condition of conflict, dissonance.  How can I feel both pleasure and good about myself if I do something painful to you?

I can’t.  For that reason, I want to do other things to you that bring pleasure.  And if society teaches that your “on” buttons bring you pleasure, then I’m happy to oblige.

Do you women want this to continue?  If yes, then do nothing differently.

If no, then do something about it.  Stop objectifying and training little girls.  Stop using your own breasts as decorations.  Stop envying larger breasts.  If they get sick, lop them off.  And if you don’t want someone to squeeze or suck on them, let them know.  They exist for a specific purpose; enjoy them with someone who can really use them.

You are not your breasts.  You are inside, and are going to be exactly the same person no matter what they look like, and no matter who wants to squeeze them.

The next time someone wants to squeeze your boobs, squeeze that boob right back and teach him how to really please you.  Your chest will thank you.

So will I.

 

Religion. Defined.

Fasten your seat belt, this is going to be a fun one.

It wouldn’t be necessary except for two things.

One: There is a lot of religion-tossing going on with our politicians, as they use it to get elected, and also use it to justify their ongoing war with “terrorism” and religious zealots.

Two: We don’t agree on what religion is.  This wouldn’t be a problem if every culture on Earth would simply sacrifice a bowl of leaves (in season, sprinkled with olive oil and salt) on the altar of the Earth Mother.  Preferably only upon the rising of the full moon.

So, because of number one, and because we DON’T do number two, we have to do number three.

Three: Religion is.

It’s a start, isn’t it?  You see, that’s the problem.  There is no good definition of religion.  I’m going to give one before the end, but it won’t create universal agreement, let alone happiness.  But it’ll work for our purposes.

As a young human, chances are you were exposed to some kind of religion.  Do this on a certain day.  Dress up.  Act nice.  Say these words.  Meet with all these strangers and chant.  Sacrifice this goat.

Well, maybe not that last item.  Animal sacrifice went out of fashion some time ago.  Mostly.

However, that’s the point.  Our practical application of “religion” has changed, because we as a species have changed.

A good definition isn’t going to change.  We invented religion, and it has stayed with us for a long time.  Therefore it must be good for something.  Perhaps if we ponder its positives, we can define it more easily.

Religion is good for:

  • managing and leading groups of people, even very large groups;
  • helping “young” minds comprehend their place in the kosmos;
  • maintaining behaviors (a culture) ensuring group survival.

That should be enough for our purposes.  You’ll find that when you add more, it really becomes part of one of these big three benefits.

So, what’s the definition?

Religion is:

The explicit expression of a set of behaviors that keep an individual as part of a group.

Now for some explaining.  Notice there is nothing in the definition about one or more deities, a higher power, an afterlife, a pre-life, or anything about buildings or prophets.  Nothing.  That’s because some religions don’t have these things.  Yet people belong and worship and propagate their set of behaviors.  They have religion.  It just doesn’t look like yours, or mine.

There is nothing about managing the group, or leading it using priests, mullahs, or rabbis.  Because not all religions have these administrative components.  There’s a good chance that any priesthood, by any name, arose out of necessity.  Like symbiotic parasites, they continue to infect any major religion with the few benefits they provide.  Let’s face it, they can also be the cause of many of the abuses we currently see.

Finally, nothing in my definition says anything about long term survival.  It doesn’t have to, the religion takes care of that for me.  If the set of behaviors don’t account for current selective forces, then that religion won’t be along very long.  It’s okay, this happens.  Today’s current count of judeo-christian religions is somewhere in the thousands.  This includes all the variants of islam, for you islamaphobes out there.  Yes, it’s a modern religion based on the same precepts as Christianity.  Get over it.

And out of the many thousands of religions practiced today, I’m confident that many more have come and already gone through the ages.  It’s how we as people handle things in the natural world.

So there you have it.  Religion is expressed behaviors keeping YOU (or any individual) part of a group.

This means that your social club is a kind of religion.  This means your academic department or university class is a kind of religion.

It also means that sacrificing that bowl of leaves to the tree goddess is also a religion; as long as you aren’t doing it all by yourself.

That would be weird.

Comments?

 

Facts is Facts

Somebody once said, “Facts is Facts” way back in the mists of time.

This is a terrible definition, because it points to itself as the definition, making this a terrible definition, because it points to itself… oops.  Caught in my own loop.

This whole “what is a fact?” broohaha came about most recently because our current leaders love to debate at the level of a 5 year old.  Was to! Was not! Was to! Was not!

In the shortest form possible, a fact is simply a statement we agree with.  If you and I are talking, and the sun is out, and you say “beautiful sunny day” it is well within my scientific right to say “that’s a fact!”  And I would.

Many great definitions can be found online.  Facts are scientifically proven.  Facts can be verified.  Facts have overwhelming supporting evidence.  Here’s the problem.  Each of these deeper, better, definitions require more work.  And we don’t like to work.

Not only do we not like working, but as of today, we don’t have a system for cataloging statements on any kind of “fact” scale.  Oh, some brilliant minds may be working on it, but they aren’t telling the politicians.  I can’t blame them.

However, we need to have this building block in place if we are to truly make progress in understanding behavior, especially behavior.  It’s easy to believe that a boulder is harder than a politician’s head.  If someone doesn’t accept this as a fact, we have two options.

First option: get a boulder, grab a politician (you have to grab because they never volunteer for anything) and run the test.  Record the results, and discuss.

The second way is to extend other facts to this new fact.  Other facts include:

  • Boulders are rocks
  • Rocks are harder than bone
  • test on large bones (from animals that aren’t currently using them) shows that the rock can break the bone.

From the above, “basic” or “direct” facts, we can extend our knowledge to a “higher” or “derived” fact.  A boulder will crush a politician’s skull.  I still prefer the first method; only because it will give us a direct fact.

So, this holiday season, when you’re sitting around with friends and relatives you only see once a year, and you’re discussing some heated topic, ponder the lowly facts that you will be bandying about so easily.  It’s likely that much of your energy is really being spent on facts that really aren’t.

Of course, getting Uncle Bob to stop rattling on about Creationism in the face of dinosaurs and continental drift isn’t going to work.  So I prefer to have more pie.

After all, pie is pie.  And that’s a fact!

 

How Much Does a Harem Cost

The wonders of technology FINALLY include an upswelling of women speaking out against sexual predators.  From movie moguls to MPs these disgusting men are being ferreted out, and it’s about time.

My personal thanks goes out to those women of #MeToo who are taking that very courageous step of standing up for yourself, for others, and for all of our daughters,

THANK YOU thank you thank you.

That said, even these disgusting events can teach us something.

First, as dispassionate observers of behavior, let’s appreciate how far most men have come.

We used to live in caves.  Like today, many wives were met at clubs.  Literal clubs.  Lack of hygiene and clothes required that most men use a club to knock their wives unconscious.  In all fairness, a few husbands may have been acquired this way.

Through the eons men have learned some manners, from those very same wives no doubt.  The Etruscan society may have been the first to practice sexual parity, but the Romans stamped that out.  None the less, concepts like the sanctity of marriage and monogamy became official, if not popular.

Not to say that there wasn’t some fraying around the edges.  We have lots of stories of people fighting the whole monogamy “fad.”  The funniest parts of the Canterbury Tales have to do with wives and husbands rethinking their relationships.

Today, the vast majority of men appear to respect the humanity of a woman.  On average, giving her room to move and grow; giving her respect to explore and create.

Second, part of us is primal.  All of us.  For men, that means they want women, all the time.

Sad to say, the largest industry on the internet is very likely pornography.  The vast majority of that is satisfying the appetite of “normal” men.  I try not to judge, but I wish it wasn’t.  Get a hobby!

This primal urge usually gets satisfied without anyone getting hurt, directly.  There are a few men who can’t handle the virtual world.  So they do nasty things and reveal themselves as monsters.

Those monsters without resources do things that we hear with horror: abductions, murders, mutilations.

Those monsters with resources are the ones we are starting to hear about today.  And here is where the harem comes in.

Third, being primal bears a cost.  For those without resources, this cost is being born by society.  We spend money and time and emotional turmoil in order to root out these monsters.

For those with resources, the cost is being delayed, or can be found in their payments to those women they have harmed.  The payment could be made immediately, in cash or in the form of a job or promotion.  The payment could come later, also cash, or abortion, or child care, or as a court case.  In the case of the movie mogul, his costs also include the loss of his career, and a number of legal cases being pressed against him.

Those with resources include the late Hugh Hefner, the man who helped define the modern version of popular pornography in his magazine and on his estate.  It appears that he actually maintained his own harem on his estate, sharing those assets with male guests.  Was that harem a cost center?  Of course!  Was it on his financial statements?  Very likely.

Finally, consider the harems of history.  One Pharaoh sired a century of sons.  We should assume there were an equal number of daughters.  Scheherazade saved many of her sisters by entertaining the Shah with a thousand stories.  As a member of the harem, she knew that he was killing one of them each day, yet still had a ready supply.  Lastly, the Emperor of China may have set the record.  The Forbidden City concubines were organized into levels and platoons.  There’s a good chance they had their own HR department with formal training programs.  Seriously.

Conclusion.  Whether they are a Saudi Prince, North Korean Dictator, or modern real estate president, the point is that men with resources will expend resources to have many women.  How much they are willing to spend is a real question that we should be asking ourselves.

How much women as a class, especially poor women, and society in general, are willing to put up with this, is a whole separate topic.

Thanks for reading.

 

Canary in a Coal Mine 4

This series was about a little bird that saved coal miners from dying, saved people from being watched by authorities, and someday might save women from predators.

Yesterday I thanked all the women who have recently come forward about powerful men that have taken advantage of them.

Those who have the strength and resources to fight these monsters, I salute you.

For those who are truly weak, truly at risk, and without any resources at all, I wish to suggest a bit of technology that *might* help.  This is where our knowledge of behavior comes in handy.  We can learn from the canary that died in the mine and the canary that watches for government warrants.

We also see the number of women who have come forward against monsters in their midst, and knowing human nature, understand that these are but a small fraction of the total number of women those monsters preyed upon.

Consider this.  Give each young woman a canary as a gift.  She carries it on her phone.  If she’s too young or poor for a phone, let the canary live in a protected place that someone else cares for, on another phone for example, or a school computer.

Let that young woman (for she will surely be young) feed that canary regularly.  She will feed it with her love, her trust, and with assurances that she has not met any monsters.

Should she not feed that canary, it will die.  And those of us who care about her will notice.

We are not asking her for any details that will put her at risk.  Those are unimportant.  What is critical is that we know.  Once we know, we can start the process of hunting out that monster.  If we can do it without her involvement, so much the better.  If it requires her help, we can help her be strong.

But all of this must start somewhere.  Those women who have come out against today’s monsters have taken the next step.

I humbly suggest that this new “Confidence Canary” be another step.  Let every young woman be so equipped.  Let her know that she is never alone.

Thank you for reading.

 

Canary in a Coal Mine 3

This series is about how a little bird has saved lots of coal miners from a lack of air, and can even save people from being watched by a government that wants to know everything.

Today’s post is also going to be about a canary, but first it’s necessary to salute all the women who have recently come forward about powerful men that have taken advantage of them.

As a man, I salute all of you for standing up to these scum.

A long time ago women were stolen as prizes, sold to the highest bidder and treated like slaves.  In fact, it’s been so long that doing any of those things today are crimes.

If you are a woman who has had such a crime committed against you, I urge you to say something, do something, even hit something if necessary.  Letting these creeps go free and unscathed only means that they will do it again.  I don’t care if he’s a film mogul.  I don’t care if he’s an orange president.

Take them down.  You are woman.  I don’t know a tougher adjective than that.

You want backup?  There’s lots of guys like me waiting in the wings.  Trust me, I know.  Guys talk guy talk.  I’ve seen the guys who think they are above the moral code, and I stay away from them.  I also know the guys who would go to bat for a woman who wants extra muscle.

So, again, to all of you who have stood your ground and suffer the public attention such admissions attract, thank you.  Thank you for your courage, your work to make this a better world, your work to take down a scum bag, and your work to make this a better place for our daughters.

For my part, I would like to contribute some small idea that may help more women tomorrow.  Literally, tomorrow.  Stay tuned.

 

Canary in a Coal Mine 2

Yesterday, a little bird told me about how a little bird saved lots of coal miners from a lack of air.

Today, I’d like to thank a little virtual canary that saves concerned citizens from a lack of liberty.  These canaries are endangered, but only because bureaucrats like to eat them.  The canaries only eat virtual bird-seed, which is cheep and plentiful.

These endangered canaries live inside internet services that have records of our comings and goings on the internet.  If you don’t mind the government knowing where you like to spend your time, then you won’t care about the canary.  But if you would rather the government did not watch your internet use, then you will like to keep the canary alive.

The canary is a delicate creature.  And what happens is that the canary will die if the government tells your internet provider that it has to start telling them about your internet use.  By law, the provider isn’t allowed to tell you directly.  The idea is that the government doesn’t want you to know that you are being watched.  This makes sense.

But if you are a cautious sort, you do want to know if you are being watched.  So you keep an eye on this special canary.  It’s called a warrant canary.  If your provider has one, they will tell you where it lives.  You should check on it and make sure it’s alive and singing.

If you check on it one day and that canary is not singing, then you know you are officially being watched.  That’s all.  It’s a great device that not many of you may know about.  But it’s there, and it’s worth keeping alive.

More importantly for us students of behavior, we can learn from this old fashioned idea that has been incorporated into modern technology.  What can we learn?  Stay tuned!