Anger & Acceptance

June 24, 2010 at 2:07 am (Fróðleikr) (, , , , )

My better half can be extremely stubborn. Whatever the consequences for him, and however I grieve for the opportunities he has missed, I am grateful.

He has taught me to be less controlling.

I’m not, by-and-large, controlling. I like to look after people, if I can, and I often let that overwhelming desire to please and support get the best of me, especially when the attention is not wanted, nor needed.

I think it’s genetic. My mother is the same.

I have found new peace. My life is my life, and your life is your life, and even though we’re linked inextricably, I will not live my life through you, nor will you live yours through me. We are separate people, and we thrive that way.

I love you, sweetheart.

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Mina May and frYars

April 8, 2010 at 12:57 am (Fróðleikr) (, , , , , )

I am once again cooler than you. However, they’re both French and obscure, which quite possibly makes them too cool for me.

Heavenly Priorities – Mina May
Plump juicy electronic rock.

Emaciated electronic new wave indie.

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The Beginning of Everything

April 3, 2010 at 5:55 pm (Fróðleikr, Skrifa) (, , , , , , , )

A treatise on the topic of the beginning of the universe: why time and matter exist.

In this paper I do not assume my interpretation of Kantian epistemology: i.e. that three dimensions and Euclidian geometry are a conceptual necessity of our minds and therefore a perceptual belief that entails non-Euclidian geometry or dimensional values greater than three is unsupportable.

However, this omission primarily affects a footnote on page 8, and is therefore not of paramount importance to the thesis of the paper.

I am entirely indebted to a certain professor of metaphysics and of Wittgenstein for the sprouts that grew into this paper.

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Anorexic at a Burger Store

April 3, 2010 at 2:40 am (Fróðleikr) (, , , , , , )

A girl sitting at a table on the patio exhibited some telltale signs of anorexia I recognised in my own past behaviour.

I record them here to help out those who may not know what it is like to be anorexic. If a good friend exhibits these signs, it could be a cause for concern:

1. Everyone else at the table is eating. This may seem like an obvious point, but when someone exhibits such obviously anorexic behaviour around friends and family, they are either stupid or escalating.
2. She glances at everyone else’s food in the same way a single at a bar might glance at a person she finds attractive: barely noticeably, without consciously doing so, over and over again.
3. Every time she stops looking at food or a person eating, she smiles uneasily. She is sure to look at the person talking before she finishes her smile. She’s feeling temptation, and then congratulating herself for not giving in, over and over again. She then masks her feelings by acting as though her smile is in response to the conversation and not her internal monologue.
4. At a place where there are free refills, she orders a large soda. It is guaranteed to be diet. What she’s doing here is giving herself the option to fill her stomach with something sweet and empty so her temptation to run up to the counter and order food is not so strong. The largeness of the soda cup is a visual cue. She’s attempting to satisfy her craving for substance. “You are allowed to have all of this,” it says.
5. She drinks at most a third of the soda, and throws it away immediately upon her party’s exit from the restaurant. Hurdle successfully overcome, she disposes of the tools she used to conquer it. It is a symbolic gesture. Throwing the soda away also solves her temptation to stretch out her stomach by filling it.

A person may act like this without suffering from anorexia nervosa, if they are on a strict diet. However, these signs will predict, with complete reliability, the anorexias of self-control, including those induced by strict dieting in an individual without anorexia nervosa, and including those brief periods of anorexia displayed by bulimia nervosa sufferers.

Anorexias due to nervous disorders such as food phobias and anorexias due to physiological causes will of course not manifest in this way.

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The Apple iPad

April 1, 2010 at 2:33 am (Fróðleikr) (, , , , )

My better half is a techno-god: he’s well-known in the tech community; when he works I feel existential insecurity due to the orders of magnitude of abstraction that lie between me and comprehension of what is flashing by on his screen; he has not one, but two multimedia phones in constant use; I once asked him to name the number of languages he could program in and he didn’t even know; he learnt Python in two days to debug coursework I did for an elective in college; he modded a tape recorder when he was ten years old to make a backup of his floppies.

Understand, then, that when he says the iPad is “fucking stupid” and “an iPhone for shortsighted people without a phone”, I listen to his objections very carefully. Through some sort of “relationship osmosis” I have soaked up a great deal of knowledge about computing – hardware and software.

New York Times reviews of iPad – One for techs, One for norms

So I guess I end up with the tech camp, here.

These reviews are fairly comprehensive; however, every single iPad review is missing one very key element about the iPad that nobody seems to be registering. Please look at these pictures of an iPad from Apple’s website very carefully:

iPad side view

Do you see it?

The bottom of the iPad is curved.

Now, think about it for a second. You’re trying to use your iPad – typing, navigating, whatever – and your arm is getting tired from using the patented “Jobs cradle”. So you put it on a table.

Hmm. It seems to be quite unstable. Well, very unstable. Actually, every time you touch the damned thing, it tips a little to one or the other side, so that whenever you move your finger or stop putting any pressure on the screen, the iPad wobbles on multiple axes.

Crafting a message becomes a jittery and awkward task as your brain tries to instruct your fingers about the vagaries of typing on a see-saw; your ears are assaulted with the loud and jarring noise of the delicate piece of equipment you just purchased repeatedly rolling on and perhaps even smacking against a hard surface.

The only thing for it is to hold the iPad while composing text. This becomes wearisome, especially as you are reduced to typing at 10 wpm or less because you never learnt to touch type with one hand.

Keyboard designed for touch typing on a device that discourages it.

How do I use this?

Instead of building up specifically iPad-assigned muscles, you choose to bring it with you less and less, instead preferring your iPhone or Nexus, which, ironically, can be used on a flat surface without fuss.

Your iPad sits, gathering dust, charging just in case you need it, until it is upcycled by your partner as a picture frame. C’est la vie, iPad.

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March 31, 2010 at 5:33 am (Fróðleikr) (, , , , , , , , )

I will be posting about subjects other than religion beginning tomorrow; I apologize for the mire my blog has seemingly come to rest in.

Euthyphro Dilemma
Assuming the existence of an omnipotent, moral God, then either:
1. What is moral is commanded by God because it is moral.
2. A thing is moral because it is commanded by God.

If the second option were true, then what we consider immoral could become moral if God were to command it. Perhaps if God were to command it, then we could automatically consider anything moral.

The standard rebuttal of this hypothesis is to declare that there are things, such as child molestation, rape, and murder that we cannot conceive of as moral. However, just because we cannot conceive it, does not make it impossible. God could re-make the fabric of things, under this scenario, such that these things were moral, or even required for morality, and simply change the way our brains function such that we instinctively view these things as moral.

The above (absolutely beautiful and moving) video takes the argument further, saying that if this were the case, then the concept of “good” would have no meaning, and morality would become God’s subjective moral code, rather than an objective truth.

However, this argument does not satisfy me. Devout Christians can and have easily declared that the very definition of “objective” is “subjective for God”. Bishop Berkeley went so far as to interpret the entirety of objective reality as God’s dream. Kirkegaard’s entire moral philosophy was based on the observation that Abraham, in unquestioningly obeying God’s commandment to murder Aaron, was the supreme example of religious morality.

My answer to the problem is a strictly deductive one. Consider: if morality were solely based on the word of God, then a thinking being that is not God could not reason his way to a moral decision; he could only unthinkingly obey what God declares morality to be, and thus no logical argument can have moral significance. Consequently, the Dilemma itself, being an attempt to reason towards what is moral, could have no moral significance. If the Dilemma has no moral significance, then it is not morally significant whether argument #1 is true or argument #2 is true.

However, scenarios #1 and 2 lead to different real ethical consequences, and thus it must be the case that the Dilemma is morally significant, and therefore scenario #2 is false.

In examining scenario #1, several conclusions can be drawn:
1. Morality is not God’s subjective morals.
2. Morality therefore exists apart from God.
3. God has given us the capability and the desire to reason towards what is moral.

A moral Christian who believes in Heaven and Hell has three options:
1. Act morally because morality is Godly. This option has been rejected with the rejection of scenario #2.
2. Act morally for the sake of morality in and of itself.
3. Act morally so that God will reward him with eternity in Heaven.

Here is where I depart from pure logic into the realm of persuasion. I won’t lay out the arguments against objective, self-centred moral systems here; it would require hours of time I simply do not have tonight. (I may return and complete this post at a later date.)

However, I will make an appeal to common sense. If morality is totally apart from God, and the only relationship between the two is that God is perfectly moral, then is it moral of God to reward a believer with Heaven if that believer does not wish to actually be moral, and rather, only wishes to be in Heaven? I think most of us, and especially most Christians, will be repelled by the idea that a moral God would define both “purely” moral believers and believers who are just “keeping up appearances” as “moral”.

Thus, we are left with option number 2, that a Christian must be moral for morality’s sake in and of itself.

Now, imagine that a Christian is asked to choose one of the following:
1. Live an immoral life, and subsequently go to Heaven.
2. Live a moral life, and subsequently go to Hell.

Which of these should he choose to remain moral? As a consequence, which of these is sanctioned most by a moral God?

The final, and most important question, is therefore:
Would it not be logical for God to test our moral resolve by threatening to send us to Hell for both moral and immoral actions?

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March 30, 2010 at 4:04 am (Fróðleikr) (, , , , , , )

Atheist: A person who does not believe in the existence of a deity or deities.

Agnostic: A person who does not claim to know whether or not at least one deity exists.

I am, by this definition, an agnostic atheist, if we take the sceptical definition of the word “to know”. To my mind, there is a higher probability of the existence of Russell’s teapot than, for example, the Christian God. However, I cannot declare that probability to be exactly zero.

Let’s make up a new word:

Desiderodeist: One who wishes for the existence of a deity or deities.

By these definitions, I am an agnostic atheist and desiderodeist. I think it would be a beautiful thing if the world were governed by a pantheon of gods. If I were offered evidence of such a thing I would be delighted. However, there is nothing I can force myself to believe in, and therefore an atheist I shall remain.

Atheists are much maligned, in my opinion, by the idea that anyone who does not believe in a deity is also by definition not an agnostic.

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Feminism vs. Satire

September 27, 2009 at 8:55 pm (Fróðleikr)

The VC of Buckingham University, along with a few other academics that nobody seems to care about, has written an article for the Times Higher Education website about one of the seven deadly sins of academy, Lust:

Clark Kerr, the president of the University of California from 1958 to 1967, used to describe his job as providing sex for the students, car parking for the faculty and football for the alumni. But what happens when the natural order is disrupted by faculty members who, on parking their cars, head for the students’ bedrooms?

The great academic novel of the 19th century was George Eliot’s Middlemarch. The great academic novel of the 20th century was Malcolm Bradbury’s The History Man. Both books chronicle lust between male scholars and female acolytes, and I expect that the great academic novel of the 21st century will describe more of the same. So, why do universities pullulate with transgressive intercourse?

When Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed banks, he is famously said to have replied, “because that’s where the money is”. Equally, the universities are where the male scholars and the female acolytes are. Separate the acolytes from the scholars by prohibiting intimacy between staff and students (thus confirming that sex between them is indeed transgressive – the best sex being transgressive, as any married person will soulfully confirm) and the consequences are inevitable.

The fault lies with the females. The myth is that an affair between a student and her academic lover represents an abuse of his power. What power? Thanks to the accountability imposed by the Quality Assurance Agency and other intrusive bodies, the days are gone when a scholar could trade sex for upgrades. I know of two girls who, in 1982, got firsts in biochemistry from a south-coast university in exchange for favours to a professor, but I know of no later scandals.

But girls fantasise. This was encapsulated by Beverly in Tom Wolfe’s novel I Am Charlotte Simmons, who forces herself on to JoJo, the campus sports star, with the explanation that “all girls want sex with heroes”. On an English campus, academics can be heroes.

Normal girls – more interested in abs than in labs, more interested in pecs than specs, more interested in triceps than tripos – will abjure their lecturers for the company of their peers, but nonetheless, most male lecturers know that, most years, there will be a girl in class who flashes her admiration and who asks for advice on her essays. What to do?

Enjoy her! She’s a perk. She doesn’t yet know that you are only Casaubon to her Dorothea, Howard Kirk to her Felicity Phee, and she will flaunt you her curves. Which you should admire daily to spice up your sex, nightly, with the wife.

Yup, I’m afraid so. As in Stringfellows, you should look but not touch. Be warned by the fates of too many of the protagonists in Middlemarch, The History Man and I Am Charlotte Simmons. And in any case, you should have learnt by now that all cats are grey in the dark.

So, sow your oats while you are young but enjoy the views – and only the views – when you are older.

  • Terence Kealey is vice-chancellor, University of Buckingham, and the author of Sex, Science and Profits (2008).

Mr. Kealey could not have forseen the sheer volume of rubbish that would pile up over his really quite innocuous piece of satire.  Ms. Olivia Bailey, NUS Women’s Officer, is quite upset:

I am appalled that a university vice-chancellor should display such an astounding lack of respect for women. Regardless of whether this was an attempt at humour, it is completely unacceptable for someone in Terence Kealey’s position to compare a lecture theatre to a lap dancing club, and I expect that many women studying at Buckingham University will be feeling extremely angry and insulted at these comments.

This shocking “scandal” has been further hyped up by the lovely Graeme Paton at The Telegraph:

The academic, who studied at Oxford and has lectured at Cambridge, has helped turn Buckingham into one of the most popular universities in the country. It is consistently rated the best campus university in the annual National Student Survey, run by the Government.

He could not be contacted on Tuesday despite repeated attempts. But his comments have already sparked a debate among academics on the Times Higher Education website.

One contributor said: “It’s a light-hearted piece. Take the article as it was written.” But another said: “In the pursuit of humour he does a disservice not only to the many female scholars who have struggled to get a foothold in academia, but also the many bright female students who have got their good grades through nothing more exciting than hard work.”

I submit, for your approval, my responses to both Ms. Bailey and Mr. Paton:

Dear Ms. Bailey,
Having read your courageous and eloquent exposure of the VC of Buckingham University, as disgusting a man as ever ogled a lady, I have been closely reminded of a scandal which took place in the UK in 1729, when an Irish journalist of very good standing proposed the consumption of children in A Modest Proposal: For Preventing the Children of Poor People in Ireland from Being a Burden to Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Public.

This shocking publication was seen as satire at the time, ignoring the obvious danger to the public that such a suggestion posed – why, Irish people might have taken the article seriously! We might now have “Infant and Guinness Pie” on the menu at the local Swan and Crown!

Fortunately, we live in modern times, in which the general public is open to the suggestions of such enlightened persons as yourself and the agency you represent, and will not stand for even the slightest possibility that the unthinking masses might interpret such thoughtless public discourse as literal.

We cannot let claims of humour give cause to speak freely! As a great man once said: “As blushing will sometimes make a whore pass for a virtuous woman, so modesty may make a fool seem a man of sense.”

Yours in sisterhood,

Dear Mr. Paton,
Having read your very silly article in the Telegraph which seeks to make the very silly article written by the VC of Buckingham into a scandal, I’m certain that you’ve been emailed before about the importance of satire in the public discourse and all that other lovely stuff you probably ignore on a daily basis.

What you should not ignore, however, is objective fact, viz., “But his comments have already sparked a debate among academics on the Times Higher Education website.”

Have you actually attempted to comment on this website, Mr. Paton? Because I have, and I have succeeded. I am not, however, an academic. How do you know for certain, Mr. Paton, that these people you quote in your article are established in academia?

You cannot. Furthermore, you know that they are not – you plucked, from a sea of ungrammaticalities and typographical errors, a few “clean” sentences, to make your hype easier to believe.

The long and short of it is that there is no debate among the academic elite about the nature of the VC’s article, and you know it. You also know, as any thinking person would, that the picture of the VC you so thoughtfully provided with your article is not intended to show him in a serious light. I am of the opinion that in your attempt to paint him as a crazed, out-of-control member of this “intelligent elite” everyone seems so frightened of these days, you fail, because the picture is so blatantly taken in jest, but that is neither here nor there.

The Telegraph is not well known for its journalistic integrity, but I thought I’d at least attempt to engender a spark of guilt in that money-addled brain of yours.


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Guest Stories (written by my better half)

December 9, 2008 at 10:32 pm (Fróðleikr, Skrifa)

I look at the beans. I woke up like every day, full of intent. Full of dreams about change. Ready to take a new direction, fulfill my dreams. It’s night already, like every day, and nothing has changed today.
I look at the beans. The beans look back at me.

I said it depressed me, so he wrote another one:

I look at the beans. I have finished my work for today, so I wait for her to arrive, share some time together. Have dinner. The rest of the day is but a preface to that perfect, peaceful moment.
I smile at the beans. The beans smile back at me.

Beany and cheesy.

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I am on the thin side: fat women and food – Part Two

December 8, 2008 at 6:23 pm (Fróðleikr, Ríta) (, , , , )

The title of this series is from a song by the Dresden Dolls. The song has really nothing to do with the topic of these posts at all, but it does serve as insight into a certain type of crazy that’s been eating my brain for years. In other words, I am approaching the issue of Fat Acceptance from a place where “thin” is a word that could be directed at a woman who weighs 100 pounds from a woman who weighs ten pounds more. A facile point, I suppose, but one that I think needed explaining.

Further Note: I have actually developed this post into a paper for a philosophy course I am taking.

Update: The paper was very well received (an A) and I was encouraged to re-work it so that I might submit it as part of a writing sample for graduate school.

Never ready-to-hand

Never ready-to-hand

I have always disliked Heidegger, for his self-made language. It has none of the poesy of Dodgson, none of the smooth usefulness we take from Shakespeare. It is a mess of self-declaration and self-definition and circumlocution. A “word salad”, as a professor of mine once remarked, not in reference to Heidegger, but about the extremes of post-modernist academia.

I am grown to appreciate him. It is impossible for Heidegger to hold his views and to speak in useful language. I, on the other hand, not quite convinced that language as a universal tool is completely exhausted, can summarize him to make my point.

Historically the self is an object. For Heidegger, this idea is fundamentally incomplete. It does not take into account that we are submerged in the world at all times. Whilst we are successful at thinking objectively, this conceptualization rests on the assumption that we can view the world from an objective viewpoint, and that viewpoint is necessarily outside the world.

The mistake is in thinking that this “view from nowhere” is the most fundamental conception of reality. We do not project ourselves outside of the world, but rather, are forced to conceptualize, are thrown outside of the world into that viewpoint, when something in the world is not as we expect.

To wit: the hub of Heidegger’s philosophy of the self is usefulness. A thing that does not work the way we unconsciously assume forces us to see that thing not as a part of the world, but as a thing-in-itself, something we can consider conceptually. When that thing can be made ready-to-hand, unconsciously useful, it can be re-integrated back into the world.

We form this web of unconscious assumptions about the world, and so we form our world as our world forms our selves. And so for Heidegger, the self is not a noun but a verb: the manner by which we form and are formed by our world. (“Being,” in Heidegger’s parlance.)

Problems that are not yet solved are not re-integrated, thus spring philosophy and science. Problems that cannot be solved cannot be re-integrated, thus obsession and madness.

Anorexia, for a Heideggerian, is the inability to make a certain aspect of the self unconsciously assumed. It is a thing of hyper-objectification, of hyper-consciousness.

For how could the self be something we are comfortable with? How could Being be objectified? It is in the nature of Being that it can’t be an object.

You can take it further and project anorexia into the philosophy of Sartre, whose opinion was that the self can never be declared, not because it can’t be objectified, but because the self is a nothing, that we can’t declare who we are, but only what we are not. It is only because he cannot declare, “I am thin,” that an anorexic can only declare, “I cannot be fat.” If an anorexic only wished to be thin, he would not have to carry on through simply thin into dangerously thin.

It is not fat but the declarations made about what fat is that an anorexic wishes to avoid. An anorexic is screaming, “I am not fat!” into the ether, meaning all sorts of “I am not”s, such as “I am not lazy,” or “I am not ugly,” or “I am not self-indulgent.”

But it is the inability of the anorexic to make this nothing comfortable that leads me to believe that Sartre did not understand the fundamental unhealthiness in his philosophy. It is his very ability to deny what he is that makes the anorexic ill. It is the very inability of the anorexic to declare, “I am thin,” to himself, despite the fear and worry of those who surround him, that makes him push the nothingness that is his self outwards, that makes him say, “Look, I am not fat!”

If Sartre is correct, it is useless to tell the anorexic what he is, for he will never internalize it: there is nothing there, and so nothing to be characterized and nothing to recognize a statement about itself. It is also useless to tell the anorexic what he is not, because what he is not is not enough for him; he desires to be thin, the anti-fat, but cannot declare himself so, because there is nothing there to be spoken about.

Heidegger also seems to be of little use, at first glance. There is something that cannot become unconscious to the anorexic; how are we to help him? It is his very problem that he cannot give up objectification of himself, that he is too conscious of some aspect of his relationship with his own body. Examining the problem will only make him more conscious of it.

The solution seems to present itself: distract the anorexic. Place him in an environment in which the only problems with which he must concern himself are not related to food, or exercise, or body. Surround him with, not pedagogues who point out his behaviour to him – behaviour of which he is already too conscious, pointed towards objects already too clearly presented to him – but with people who do not worry about the objects of his worry. Give him no choices. If Heidegger is correct, he will cease eventually to conceptualize eating or exercise. They will become ready-to-hand.

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