Monday, April 28, 2008

More kittens! And a question.

When you're really tired, do you ever decide to dress loudly, in an attempt to wake yourself up?

Do you sometimes then decide that that's a bad idea, because, if you're dressed particularly brightly, someone might mention it and you'll have to interact with another human being--something you're too tired for?

The kittens spent the night nesting in my hair. Or attacking one another from the narrow space between Chris and I. Or with Arthur deciding he should lie on my head and hold my nose in his paws.

It was very sweet.

I have not really slept.

In four weeks.

But I am, and I cannot stress this enough, very, very, VERY happy. (Just also cranky.)


That, ladies and gentlemen, is video of my kittens, from a couple of days ago (Chris's guitar playing and my knees are included, free of charge). Please forgive my excessively gooey talk. (And "King of the Cuties" is a nickname Arthur's gotten because the box he's jumping on, there--that he always jumps on with so much authority--says "California Cuties" on it, and he is.)

And this one is from a few weeks ago, when they were littler, and had just figured out the stairs.

And now I just... become utterly useless and fawn.

My life is kittens. It's all one big ball of kittens.

(Check out Chris's blog for far better, more thorough, coverage.)

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Pardon whiplash; wrote the first part earlier, the rest just now.

(From earlier:)
I feel like I'm walking over graves.

I was just trying to clean out our database, and make sure everyone's grouped by country--which means having to find which country some of them are in. One of the people I was looking for turns out to be deceased, now.

When a few weeks ago I was researching potential donors? One of them had died, too, only a few weeks earlier.

It's strange. I don't know them, they're probably acquaintances of acquaintances at most, but there's something macabre about googling, expecting to find where they're living, and finding out that they aren't.

And then I have to email someone and tell them.

I'm not sure whether I'm disturbing things that ought not be, or whether I'm doing a good thing by them, by sharing their deaths.

(Also: just after I finished writing that, I came up with a third.)

(And now:)
...I really need to do a gratuitous kitten post. Something light.

Updates, though: Arthur had to go BACK to the vet, but I got to sit and cuddle him for at least the first chunk of it. And he's going to be fine, just a little antibiotic fun. :\ (Because, in addition to the rest, he really DID have a UTI.) The nurses were all in love with him, and apparently spoiled him appropriately while we were away, and all came to kiss or pet him good-bye when we left. :) My little pretend-fraidy-cat flirt. <3

Oh, but then, after that, we had an eviction scare, because apparently the person who used to own the complex (i.e. not the current owner at all) likes to harass the new owners, and sent out notices to all of the current tenants of every property the new owners work with about how our tenancy is being terminated, on just parts of the property--leaving us afraid that the notice for the actual apartment was coming, just late.

Isn't that nice?

It took us two days to get ahold of someone to clear it up. So we thought we had 30 days to find a new place. In this market.

But now we know. They're working on the restraining order. The kittens are healthy, happy, and insane. So everything's going to be fine. It's just been a little stressful. Kind of like the rest of the year.

But I planted basil? (The snails/slugs ate my sprouting lettuce, peas, cucumbers, and jasmine, though, so I get to start again.) I've got tomatoes to plant, and a red pepper plant. Everything else seems to be thriving. And I've hunted down most of the snails and sequestered them. We'll be taking a trip to the part to see if the ducks will finish completing the food chain, when we find a little time. (For now, they've got food and a nice dark place to hide, so they're okay.)

And the kittens are playing tag.

Friday, April 18, 2008


Right now, Chris is taking Arthur to the vet on his way to school. It seems like he might have a urinary tract infection (he's been having lots of trouble with learning about the litter box, but now it seems like he's having deeper problems than that), but the vet is booked solid, and we can't just make an appointment--not today, not tomorrow, not Sunday--and they said we probably didn't want to wait 'til Monday if it's a urinary problem. So they told us to bring him in and just drop him off and leave him until they can squeeze him in and find out what's wrong.

We asked, will it be a few hours?

They didn't know.

Will it be overnight?

Didn't know. No idea. No guess.

So I'm now a complete fucking mess. I haven't been away from him for more than three and a half hours at a time (and that long only twice, when Chris was with them the entire time). They spend all day with me while Chris is at school, they sleep with us at night. He's never been alone. He's never more than twenty feet from us. And now he's going to be stuck--for an hour? Several? All day and all night?--in a cage at the vet's. And it's a really nice vet, really, the nicest I've ever been to, but it's a vet, so there are barking dogs, and there's no one to sleep on, and his brother's not there (he always sleeps on Alex, Chris, or I, or very very near us), and there's no one to play with, and it's scary and strange, and he's shy and easily frightened to begin with.

Alex is already crying and searching for him.

What if Arthur's completely upset? He cries if he gets stuck in the bathroom for a few minutes, what's a cage--without us, without attention--going to do to him? What if this is scarring? He's so, so young.. What if it's all day and all night and we can't rescue him until tomorrow? Will he trust us after this? Will he really remember us?

And what if it's a bad infection?

And then, what if it's not an infection? What's wrong?

And what if, rather than tomorrow, they call while Chris is at school today? Will I be able to get a cab over there? How much longer will he have to wait for Mama than necessary? What if they're done this evening, but it's after closing--will they call us to come get him, or just make him wait overnight?

He slept under the covers, curled up against me, last night. And purred, and purred.

Arthur is my baby. Alex is a little more Chris's, but Arthur's more a mama's boy.


This is a pretty useless entry, but I'm so upset I can't believe it. I'm sorry. Think good thoughts for my baby, okay? Hope this'll be really quick and easy. I'll update as soon as I know anything else. I feel so guilty and scared, right now. I hate it. I can't stand it.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Biblical defense of same-sex love.

Okay, I know I've done a comparative lot of this lately, but since I just basically wrote another essay in someone's journal comments, it's apparently another thing I'm worked up about. Well, truth be told, I've meant to write this up for a long time, but it came together cleaner than usual in this attempt, so I'm basically going to use it here, with some edits.

To preface this, I spent kind of a lot of time and energy in junior high and high school studying up and trying to reconcile being bisexual with being into the Bible. Eventually religion and I parted ways, anyway, but it wasn't about that, and I like to think it was a fairly amicable divorce ("Ooh, you know I was trying/ to give you the best of my-y love"). That said, I still think there's plenty of room to have faith and belief, as a GLBTQIA, if you want it.

Considering that, and alternately considering hostile parties willing to use the Bible against you regardless of whether or not you feel any affinity with it, I thought it would be useful to have the case for "alternative lifestyles" being acceptable even in the Christian Bible (especially if someone's not beholden to the "Living Bible" and its highly clunky translations).

So here goes nothing.

A case for acceptability of same-sex relationships and/or leanings with regards to the Christian Bible:

In older translations of the Bible, the only thing explicitly put on the no-no list about same-sex love is "[a man] shall not lie with mankind as with womankind" (right next to where it says not to sleep with menstruating women). The idea that the Bible says "homosexuality is a sin" there
(as purported by those handy "Living Bibles") is a modern invention, and I think oversimplifies what's actually going on there.

That passage is in the Old Testament in Leviticus, which is where all of the codes for clean, kosher living are--the rest of that book has been generally discarded by Christians as rules for the Jewish that they no longer had to follow (in part to help convert Pagans to Christianity, because adding all the extra work load to conversion was a bit of a turn-off). So even most devout Christians don't tend to avoid cutting their hair, or piercing their ears. They eat pork and have milk with meat and don't pay much heed to kosher preparation of food. And hardly anyone of any religion tries to stone people for working on Sundays, now, or considers it sinful to wear clothing that's made of a blend of fibers (cotton-poly blends, what?). And it's not even generally considered a killing offense to sleep with a woman who is on her period, these days. So choosing to retain only tiny pieces of that book seems strangely selective.

But even if someone wants to just keep that part, the only thing that's really expressly forbidden in that passage is male-male anal sex (that's the only literal, direct way I can interpret 'lying with a man as with a woman'). It doesn't address love between people of the same sex at all (and in fact there are love stories concerning male Christian martyrs and saints in pre-modern Europe), it doesn't address women together at all. It doesn't even necessarily address other forms of sex between men. So you could make an argument that even that passage allows for lesbians, bisexuals, and celibate or oral-only gay men.

And because it's in the book for living well and cleanly, I really think there's a good case to be made that the reasons for it being included at all were sanitary ones. At that point in time, with opportunities for hygiene and protection as limited as they were, mixing foods, slaughtering near other food supplies, having sex where blood was involved, and even anal sex could be dangerous for your health. It's more likely to spread disease or draw bacteria etc, if you haven't got ready access to good soap, latex, disinfectants. And so, if we've generally decided as a society that we can now do all the other things in Leviticus without it being a health hazard anymore, I don't see why even male-male sex shouldn't be on the pardoned list, too.

Another way to look at why that would be included has to do with the evolution of religions. How can a religion grow efficiently without all members actively engaged in reproduction (and, often, evangelism)? Or conquering and converting? And this, too, is no longer a problem; there is no longer a physical barrier from people of the same sex raising a child of their own blood, if they so choose.

Because there are milennia of fear and interpretation laid on all of this, mounds of cultural meaning, this all probably isn't going to cut through for most people. But I think it's a fair interpretation, and a fair way to deal with it. If someone was committed to the Book before the Church--or if they could be persuaded to consider what's written in what they consider an infallible book over what mortal men say about it--it might have some hope. Most people tend to be more committed to whatever their religious leader has said about what's in their holy book(s) than what's actually written there, though, so maybe I'm preaching to the choir.

...Haha, see, that was an humorous play on words.

End-note: this tends to be, in my head, just one section of the argument for allowing same-sex marriage, in the "that bible doesn't actually cover the 'sanctity of marriage' as one-man-one-woman" section of the treatise. I'll probably fail to contain myself and eventually post all the other parts. But we'll see if I can manage to at least not do it soon. I've got work to do, after all.

Monday, April 14, 2008

I'm no fun, anymore: Intelligent Design

(For more fun, please address Chris's journal for pictures, video, and general love about our KITTENS.)

Now I don't think that "things get sick and die" or "creature x is stupid/dysfunctional/etc" are good arguments against 'intelligent design.' Kind of like "bad things happen, so there can't be a loving God" won't really hold up.

At least, not any better than "it's too complicated to be random, so it has to have been intelligently designed."

I admit it: I do like to point out the vertebrate plight of having our esophagus and trachea cross to get to the stomach and lungs, providing an opportunity for choking we don't really need. It's not how I'd have designed it, frankly, since the tubes could be put in in straight lines, without crossing (and thus, without death by sandwich). But I suppose someone could argue the watchmaker wanted people to choke, sometimes, and get liquid 'down the wrong pipe.' If they liked. There's no disproving that, so it's not worth debating.

But there are far, far deeper flaws with this idea of Intelligent Design (which isn't actually a theory) than that.

Why isn't it a theory?

A theory has to be arrived at after taking a hypothesis as far as you can; it has to be rigorously tested-it has to be testable, or observable. And it furthermore has to have a way to be disproven--otherwise, it isn't science. That's just how the rules work.

Evolution has gained the status of theory because, over the centuries, we've watched it happen, we've bred animals (and people) in so many different combinations, and seen the changes that have occurred. We've established a fossil record, which, while it has gaps, does tend to follow well, from one thing to the next. Humans alone are a foot taller, and with shorter pinky fingers, than we were just a few hundred years ago.

All evolution really insists is that things change, over time. They breed selectively, some genes beat out other genes, some animals out-compete other animals, and so things change. New traits come up, others die out. We've seen it. We've experimented with it. It's a good theory. Like the theory of gravity. It's possible that someday something could jump up very high, and forget to fall, and then we'd have potentially partially disproven it. And it's possible that someday something could leap fully formed out of the mud, or that something could cease absolutely to change. But until then, these are our theories, and they're good theories, and they've stood up for hundreds of years to rigorous abuse.

Being "just a theory" is being pretty damn strong.

Now what about intelligent design?

Well, how can you test whether something in nature had a divine creator? How do you disprove a metaphysical intervention?

There's no proof it didn't happen. I'd never say that--there just couldn't be that proof. But that's the point: if there's no experimenting or proving it one way or another, it's not science. Metaphysics, maybe, philosophy or theology, maybe, but not science. So it doesn't belong with science.

ID has its roots way back, in philosophers in the 1700's(-ish). 'I look at a watch and I know by looking that there was a watchmaker.' The idea there was that something so complex could not just happen, and that it's simply intuitive that something greater than us made us. And while it's a nice little metaphor, I find that glass and metal being tempered in that way are the real clues to a watchmaker; observation has suggested that thinly pounded metal and gears and glass only happen when humans intervene with heat and hammers and screws. One pithy saying does not science make.

ID really runs in a circle, this way. "There are things here that are too complicated to have been made without an intelligent maker, so there must be an intelligent maker." But how can we say whether it's too complicated to make by chance? Well, by asserting that only an intelligent maker could make something so complicated as this. But you just can't prove something with itself.

But it's more than that. I think the major flaw with ID is that it disregards trial and error. By saying, "Look, how perfect! How circular! How well it fits together, and how well it is balanced!" it ignores all of the rocks in space, all of the species, all of the ecosystems, that fail and die out, that are not so perfect. Of course the planets move in roughly circular patterns, and don't crash into one another--any planet that was in a place where it would have been crashed into has been crashed into, and taken out of play. Of course our organs work (relatively) well; vertebrates whose organs didn't work as well died out. Every day, there are imperfect births, there are poorly formed fetuses that don't get born at all, there are eggs that never become implanted, and there are creatures that die, because they weren't viable, and they didn't survive.

How can something so perfect as life have just happened? Well, lightning might have struck the mud one billion times before a cell that sparked in it actually survived. Of trillions of bacteria, maybe only a few were perfect--perfect enough to live on.

The first creature in the phylum chordata--our phylum, most ancient ancestor in this run--was the lancet, and it is a sack that filters water through itself, to take little particles from it, and then it lets the waste out the same way it came in. It sticks to a rock in the ocean, and that is its life. I find it perfectly reasonable that out of a million different sacks that might have tried it out in the big ocean, most would have been too porous, not porous enough, unable to stick to the rock, unable to digest particles, etc. And if one did, then, that is not a sign of a perfect design. If a hundred seeds scatter on the ground from a tree above, and they result in six plants, that doesn't mean that the tree dropped six seeds in the six places they would survive; it means that the ones that scattered into the dark, into sand, into the paths of snails or birds, and the ones that weren't as strong to begin with, didn't ever grow for us to observe.

There is endless imperfection. There are so many systems that don't work, that can't work. But they generally don't stick around very long, for that very reason.

That doesn't mean that only perfect systems have existed, or tried to exist. That doesn't mean proof of a plan.

Now, why am I on about this?

I really have no qualms with people believing in ID--it's very appealing, it's technically possible, there's no problem with that at all--but the push into science is very troubling. Some of the institutes and think tanks that have been working on it admitted at their inception that they were going to make concerted attacks on science in general, by trying to break down what is or is not considered science. All the advances in science that have served us well--the things that have helped us build machines, study the paths of the planets for coordination, do medicine--were only possible by adhering to these rules of not accepting something as fact or theory that you couldn't potentially prove, that you couldn't experiment on. If sheer force of belief is granted the same kind of validity as something actually tested, imagine the state we would be in--that we had been in, in the past, in fact:

During the time of the plague, ghettos where Jews were segregated were generally hit much less hard, because of Levitical rules for cleanliness of living. Waste that would attract rats was not left around. Mouseholes were plugged, so rats weren't inside, so they couldn't carry the disease inside. Now, there could have been rational experiment and observation done; comparing lifestyle to prevalence of disease, seeing if Christians would get the plague less if they followed some basic hygiene principals, and then making judgments on the cause of the plague hitting someone based on that.

Instead, Jews were lynched, because they were believed to be practicing witchcraft and in league with the devil, because no one could have survived the plague in any other way. Belief trumped anything that looked like logic or real science, and contributed to the plague spreading unchecked.

Obviously ID isn't as damaging as a witch-hunt, but it needs the kind of atmosphere that allows those kinds of things.

This push for getting ID into the classroom is very similar to the political atmosphere, now; something being asserted, repeated over and over without evidence, or without being subject to proper scrutiny, is getting the same air time and the same consideration as viewpoints based in study, in logic, in picking through arguments. We're becoming dangerously relativist. If one person says, "the economic situation has further disadvantaged people who were already in an untenable position" and comes with figures to show it, and another says, "God wants them to be in that position, or they do" where is there possibly room for rational debate, there? Or even for being rational at all? Where is reality in that? God wanting or not wanting something can't enter into it; it may or may not be the case, but it isn't relevant to debate.

So it goes with ID.

Why am I on about this now?

I just saw the commercials for Ben Stein's intelligent design flick. I'd seen ads for it before, when LiveJournal decided that my being interested in science meant that the ad on my journal should be for "what big science doesn't want you to hear." And I've kind of heard enough from Stein, lately, in general. Like when he left messages on our phone at the last election about how we should vote to restrict abortion rights. (/ad hominem)

And it's frankly just starting to piss me off. :( So. There we are.