Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Work, life

I've had a surprising array of jobs, none of which I would characterize as good in the sense of having high long term prospects, and most of which I didn't relish all that much. I never even got paid for the hardest work I ever did...for my parents, and my body bears the memories and pains of that work to this day. I've always tried to work hard, though...not because I was afraid not to, but because I needed to work hard in order to feel that I was earning my pay, for my own self esteem, and because I've had it with men telling me I couldn't work hard by virtue of my sex. Especially because of that, I frequently worked harder. And no matter how dirty the work was, how low paying, how bad the work conditions or the coworkers, I've always felt that dignity isn't defined by one's circumstances, you have to draw it from within, not depend upon other people to dictate your value to you. No.

Some people don't like that. They want a person to grovel, to act stupid even if they're not, to grin idiotically and enthusiastically when told the toilets need to be cleaned, even if they ultimately don't clean the toilet. I was the type to take the toilet cleaning orders stoically and then go do it, and do it well, but because I didn't grin all over myself in the process, the happy faced do-nothings tended to get preference. It's always been this way. It doesn't surprise me anymore, but it still makes me angry at times, the injustice of it. It isn't about work, it's about the person in authority wanting gratuitous ego stroking, needing to know that nothing is too much to ask, you'll do it gladly.... My loyalty is never of that sort. When I love someone, something, someplace (and places frequently rate high on my list of loves- I get very attached to place), I'm like a stone. If it rains on me, I'm wet. Snow, I'm covered and cold. Ice, sheeted and dripping with it. Sun, hot and dry. I might bitch and whine, but I'm *there* in my heart. It takes an awful lot of upheaval to change that, and once changed, I tend to stay changed, too. Can you see what I mean; the surface may change from day to day but the essence remains the same and fairly constant.

There was the chicken factory. Egads, what an awful job. The place reeked so badly that it could be smelled from a mile or two away. Most of the workers didn't speak English. Most of them got carpal tunnel eventually, it was just a matter of time, and they knew it. They knew, too, that they'd be fired if they got injured or if they so much as hinted at symptoms of carpal tunnel, so they had to keep quiet about it. All I did, for 8 hours a day straight, was to turn boneless, skinless chicken breasts over, shiny side up in little trays passing me on a conveyor belt. Any with bloody bruises or bad spots larger than a quarter had to be pulled. I was already a vegetarian, but that job caused me to lose my appetite for chicken for years.

The Southern Steel factory, home to the job I hated most. First they had me trim the ragged edges off of steel racks for freezers and refrigerators. That was OK and they were impressed with my productivity. I liked it. Then they had me lift much larger racks off hooks, after being galvanized, in groups, and pack them into huge crates. I was strong, and I tried my absolute best, but just was not physically large enough, didn't have the brawn, to do the task well. Next, the worst: standing next to a conveyor chain of enameled racks on their way to some other destination. My only duty, for 8 hours per day, was to ensure that all the racks were hanging correctly on the chain. 98% of them were. There were two people on this task, and we sometimes had to wait 15 or 20 minutes for a crooked hanging rack. We'd race to it, all excited over finally having something to *do*. I thought I would die of boredom or become hypnotized by the sight of endless racks going by....

Housekeeper and maid to wealthy, eldery cattle ranchers in west Texas who owned tens of thousands of acres. I lived in a little trailer near their house, cooked their breakfast, made their beds, cleaned their house, made their lunch and dinner, did the dishes, dusted and polished their furniture. I didn't mind the meniality of the work, or the low pay ($400.00 per month), but I did mind, quietly, privately, their bigotry and old fashioned ideas of what I should like or not like, do or not do, believe, eat, act, and so on. They found my vegetarianism very offensive. They knew when they hired me that I observed a 7th day sabbath, but then expected me to work on Saturday beyond cooking and serving their meals, which I considered necessary. They agreed, when they hired me, to allow me to keep a single goat in a pen on their vast acreage, but once I was hired, changed their minds, said that "Goats aren't worth two hoots in glory!", and so even as I helped care for their livestock, their pets, I couldn't have a single animal of my own. My husband was supposed to milk the cows, but he didn't know how, had no farm sense. I did, but they wouldn't let me at first, said women shouldn't milk animals. Their grandson persuaded them otherwise, said he preferred the fresh milk to storebought, so they decided to let me milk long enough to teach my husband (a truly unteachable man) how to milk the cows. Eventually they fired me, saying that we were "too different".

Then there was the job as a CSS, Community Support Specialist. This was a fancy name for a job working with developmentally disabled children and adults. I viewed them as my clients. We were told to refer to them as "consumers", a term which some of the clients found very offensive. One teen with cerebral palsy told me that it made him feel as though he were regarded as a parasite on society, consuming. I avoided the term whenever possible, but quickly found that the other workers spent most of their time babysitting the clients rather than trying to help them achieve the goals which had been set in the plans, which were enclosed in notebooks. The intelligent clients asked to read their notebook after each worker was finished with it for the day. This was wise, for the comments were frequently condescending and belittling, much like the worker's attitude toward the clients. I got into trouble for not adopting this attitude, for viewing all the clients, even the most disabled, as my equals. When I disclosed my diagnosis of Asperger's syndrome, they gave my clients with autism spectrum disorders to other workers, and gave me the clients I was afraid of. These were probably harmless, but they were grown men and I was to sit alone with them in their apartments for an hour or two at a time, a situation I felt distinctly uncomfortable with. My hours were cut to a negligible amount. The message was clear; I quit.

I won't reiterate my gripes with my current job because you can read them in detail from the time I got hired. I've given up complaining about it. We're disposable, there's no reason to treat us well or even to follow the law in regard to employee rights, because there is always an endless supply of people desperate for a job, particularly in today's economy. Injustice is everywhere, but I never seem to reach a place where I can accept it. I'm not sure if that's a failing on my part or not.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

A thought has occurred to me. My youngest child prefers toys that are black and white, or which have high color contrast. He also likes yellow. Several of my other kids have gone through a red phase, where they really liked red toys, but not Charlie. He occasionally likes other toys that have a very light colored background (such as white) with other darker colors as the pattern. Again, this could be more about light-dark contrast than the colors.

I think there is a chance he could be colorblind, not in the sense of seeing the world in shades of gray (achromatopsia) which is very rare, but the much more common red-green color blindness. Red-green color blindness runs in my family- my dad has it. I always wondered why he wore such awful clothing combinations and why he didn't appreciate my art, and why he had us tell him when the traffic lights turned green. As an adult, it makes a lot more sense.

Suggested informal tests for color blindness in small children include presenting the child (usually a boy, since it is much more common in boys) with a collection of red or green objects, for example, a bucket of red crayons with only one or two green ones, and see if he will pick out the different colored one.

Anyway, people who are colorblind can typically see yellow, orange, black, white, and pale blue normally. This would explain why he likes black/white objects (such as his penguin and orca whales) and yellow toys (ducks) and also why, at the swimming pool, he always picks up the yellow duck first even though there's also a blue one. He likes Elmo (red), but Elmo talks, and he tends to prefer any toy which talks or makes music. Hmm.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Woot! Got an A in psychology. OK, so I shouldn't be surprised. I liked psychology and in my life experience, I've had plenty of case studies to observe (not excluding, of course, myself). Heh. So, on to new conquests: more Algebra, English, and either Biology or Chemistry. The latter will both require labs, which means I probably can't do them wholly online. I also wanted Ethics, but after seeing just how accelerated those summer courses really are, I'll save it for then. I think I had probably better start getting the science and math prerequisites out of the way.

The 5 year old is finally able to walk again. He can't run yet, but since he's such a little hellion, I don't especially mind. I'll be chasing him down within a week...

Picked 2-3 eggplants and a few ripe tomatoes. I really need to start applying my attentions to the problem of what I intend to do with the tomatoes. Forty plant's worth of fruit is not going to fit in the freezer.

I've been building a rock wall across the front yard. Paul brings home rocks every so often and I use them up. Wish I were better at it (dry stone masonry is an art form) but some things just aren't perfect the first go around. I can't say exactly what the purpose of the wall is. It isn't going to be high enough to function as a privacy screen. It probably won't keep Charlie in the yard, he'll just run through the opening where a gate should be (have no idea how to affix a gate to a stone wall). I think the idea is to provide a visual boundary that is reasonably aesthetic. There are a lot of gaps (I don't cut or shape the rocks) in the wall, and the plan is to fill these with sedums, phlox, and various xeric rock loving species.

Lastly, between now and the onset of the fall quarter, I intend (note the lack of commitment there) to work ahead in the algebra book so as to have a head start.

Another thing: no matter how well I do (any given task or goal), I always have this nagging sensation that I should be doing better. People always think I'm such a bitch...I don't think this is true, it's just that I take things so *seriously* and especially when I feel passionately about something. Or, it's like, instead of an angel or devil perched on my shoulder (flashback to kiddie cartoons), I've got this awful nitpicky critical thing hounding me, reminding me of all my failings and of every embarrassing thing I've said or done. And yet, the alternative would be mediocrity, so...

Monday, July 21, 2008

I am so disillusioned and depressed with the community I live in. These people are, to put it crudely, a bunch of dumbfucks. They have very little concept of human rights, moral behavior, basic biology or health...I could rant for a long time. The educational system sucks, particularly for older children (the elementary grades are actually OK, no real complaints there). The laws in this state regarding the human value of its taxpayers are atrocious. The land is high priced, and for what? To live in an area full of ignorant, inbred yokels and barely make ends meet because decent jobs can't be found?

I've raised my kids hoping that they'd be open minded and accepting of other's differences. I've tried to expose them to experiences I thought were worthwhile. What does this community give me in return? My kids come home with words like "fag" and "nigger" and the idea that interesting activities are "gay" as are decent clothing (which I buy for them, but they will not wear, because they want to look like dumb rednecks, their peers), and obsessions with video games instead of their former interests in birds, cooking, and nature. They still like to fish, because fishing is socially acceptable. I don't want to waste my life raising dummies who go out and get drunk every night and knock up crackhead bimbos who smoke and continue to get wasted even after they're preggers. This community is toxic, and it's making my children sick.

I want them to have some kind of a chance at life, not a lifelong struggle with half a pickled brain....or a job in a lumber mill...or even settling down to be a respectable citizen of this trashy area. I simply cannot give them what they need here.
Well, we went to Manito Park in Spokane a few days ago. I learned quite a bit about which plants I do not want to grow, others that I wouldn't have considered before but am now interested in, and new applications for plants I've had all along. Lots of fuel for ideas there. The kids loved it and were reluctant to go. It's funny how most garden catalogs provide insufficient information about the plants they offer. For example, they'll show you the bloom, but not the leaves or the entire plant, so you've got no idea what shape the plant will be except for the written description, what the leaves will look like when the plant's not in bloom, and other fairly necessary info. Leaves are very important, because you have to live with them through the entire growing season. Winter interest is another neglected area, but I suppose people don't care about their gardens in the winter?

Monday, July 14, 2008

I just watched a really good movie- Love in the Time of Cholera. I don't care as much about the real life identity of actors as I do about their actual performance in a given film, so I'm not going to look them up. Anyway, even more than Perfume, this is precisely my sort of movie. I strongly related to it. Aside from my subjective feelings about the film, one thing I really noticed and appreciated was the extremely skilled transition in age of the two main characters. I still am not quite sure if the same two actors were used throughout. I think there were two actors for each role, but I'm not 100% sure, and like I said, the transition was done so well that I'd have to watch it a couple more times to figure out where they switched. One of the things that the film brought out, and which I'd like to emphasize, is this: love is not a moral issue.

This brings me to a question: is it ever possible for a feeling to be a moral issue? I'm not sure of the answer yet. I think that some feelings are definitely unhelpful or inappropriate to the situation or dangerous or debilitating, but I can't think of an instance in which it would be immoral to feel a particular way. If you can, then let me know.

I guess I'm not the one to ask about morality anyway, because my standards on this aren't based on religion or a books or laws, etc etc. To my way of thinking, the standard of appropriate individual and social behavior is based upon its sustainability. If an action is truly sustainable over the long term, chances are that's it's a safe bet. If not, better rethink things. I really hate the way that people just obediently follow along and mindlessly let other people tell them what is or isn't right or wrong, but honestly, I think that for some, this is necessary. Some people really *need* the consolation and security or having a lifelong authority figure, such a deity, to tell them what to do in every facet of their lives.

Mmmmm. I am munching on a cinnamon stick as I write this, and I like the color of it. Someday I still want to build a paper or straw bale house and plaster it so it has an adobe type appearance. The color of this cinnamon stick would be really nice for such a house.

Also, I'm thinking of gardens. Specifically, I want to make a perennial bed where something will be in bloom from earliest spring until the fall, preferably with winter interest as well. Actually, it doesn't have to be in bloom all the time, but should have something interesting at every time in the year. So far, I have the following succession penciled in (this is the sort of thing I think about and visualize when they think I'm zoned out and brain dead at work):

scilla or snowdrops or anemone blanda...or all three
species tulips, crocuses, and tiny early species daffodils
hyacinth, tulips (Darwin), possibly more daffodils
Thalia narcissus, late tulips (such as parrot types)?
peonies (to hide the bulb's foliage as it dies back), maybe hosta
daylilies, eremurus?
oriental lilies

and that's as far as I've gotten.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Oh, please. I am 35+ years old; way too old to be letting petty stuff like a coworker get to me. This crap is for teeny boppers and drama queens. I need to grow up and just start ignoring it or make it into a joke or something. Life's too damned short for this.

On the flip side, the sad reality is that we're not *allowed* to have problems at work. We're just expected to suck it up and pretend life's OK even if a co worker is making us absolutely miserable. The sad part of that is that most of these problems, if dealt with early on, wouldn't balloon out of control, but left unattended like that, they fester. And then of course, both parties get into trouble, regardless of who the aggressor was, except if the aggressor was a manager. If that's the case, you're really and truly screwed and nothing can save you, because managers can do no wrong when it comes to employee interrelations.

Monday, July 07, 2008

I am so incredibly tired. Work has been chaotic, unrelenting, and very demanding both in pace and volume of business. It seems to me that there are never enough box boys to go around, and that they don't respond quickly enough or at all, but I suppose that it's been hard on them, too. Getting anything at all to eat in time to eat it on one's break is next to impossible. The lines...the the time you get to buy the item, there's no break left to eat it in, so why bother? I'm not going to bother griping about it, too damned tired.

Oh- my White's boots are done. I am SO happy to have them back! I notice however, that wearing them causes a different walking style, imposed by the stiffness of the boot around the very supportive ankle. At any rate, my hips won't be hurting me so badly after work. Now it's my shoulder, from hefting people's poison (huge cases of beer and pop) all day long. Ah well. Life gets us one way or another. I am so happy to get the boots back; I could almost send them a thank you card. At some point, I think I should get a second pair in case something like this happens again. I don't want to be without them again.

My five year old hurt his foot. He still isn't putting any weight on it. The X rays show no broken bones though, so I suppose we'll give it another day or two. Apparently he was climbing an extension ladder at his dad's house and the upper part of the ladder slid down, crushing his foot between two rungs. Thankfully he was only about three feet off the ground when it happened. It's seems really strange for him to be so well behaved for a change. Of course, it is only because he is immobilized... ;-)

What else. Ah. The baby (age 2.5) said "helmet". We were concerned about his vocabulary??? I'm not worried any longer. He's obviously bright and going to catch up in his speech quite quickly.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

As you can see, I've been having trouble with a co-worker. All I really want is for her to leave me alone, not to talk right in my ear (her voice is high pitched, sharp, and irritating) because it's painful, and most emphatically *not* to ever, ever touch me (because if she does, I'll want to take 2 or 3 showers right away), and not to boss me around, because she has no right to, I have quite a bit more seniority than she does. I know it's not healthy to hate someone, but I do (at least for the time being- my form of hatred never lasts very long). I suppose I hate her precisely because she embodies the type of women I've always felt compared to and belittled by, the type of women I've always loathed and wanted desperately not to be like, because they seem like Stepford wives to me.

It doesn't help that she looks, sounds, and acts almost exactly like my ex's ex wife, the one he constantly compared me to and wished would take him back, instead of me. The primary difference if that this one isn't intelligent at all, she's just manipulative and mean under a saccharine mask.

Anyway, it seemed that she was immune to the rules everyone else had to follow, everybody else is also having problems with her, and she still just does whatever the hell she wants to. The managers haven't been able to get results either, so they just tell me to ignore her, except for the other sycophant, who repeatedly, monotonously, and faux-innocently proclaims that the boss *likes* her, which frankly, turned up the volume on my irritation right into the rage zone. Every single complaint or query about this problem (including the rumor that she might make manager!!!!) brought the harmless sounding reply "The boss likes her!” until I thought I would just scream.

Well, now I've been called to the office and given a talking to. I am the fourth person to be given a conference of talking to about this woman and yet it seems the problem is mostly mine. Hmmm. So, I admitted that yes of course I'm not perfect and will not speak of her at all anymore in the store and I will simply not interact with her at all, which basically is what I wanted except that I haven't been circumspect in not talking about her, because one has to vent somehow, somewhere. And that where, dear reader, is now going to have to be here. Sorry.

Monday, June 30, 2008

PMS is a bitch. I never used to get it. Apparently it's one of the joys of getting older, ugh!

Anyway, I'm going to take out my angst on the house.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

I don't know of any more direct route to hatred and resentment than favoritism. I've had to deal with the butt end of favoritism my entire life, and I just can't cope with it anymore.

When I was a teenager, I worked in the woods all day long, keeping up with grown men. After the wood was brought to the house and while the men sat down for their coffee break, I split the wood and stacked it. I worked like that until dark, and then my mom, seeing me exhausted, would say I was lazy because I hadn't done any housework. Lazy! Lazy! Lazy! The word still cuts into my heart. I may have been a lot of things, but lazy wasn't one of them. Meanwhile, my goody two shoes sisters, having stayed home baking cookies, folding laundry, and dusting furniture while I worked in freezing rain with soggy cloth gloves, were held up to me as examples of industry that I should strive to emulate.

They were cheerful! They had clean dresses on while my work jeans were shredded and damp and frankly filthy! Their hands were clean and soft while mine were calloused and ingrained with soil and sap stains! They had neatly styled hair while mine had twigs and pine needles and bark tangled in it! They did dishes and housework! Their shoes weren't dirty! They were ladylike!

And they would stand there, perky, prim and proper, with white tennis shoes and pretty skirts, while I sagged with fatigue in my work boots, jeans, and flannel shirt, all thoroughly soiled with various elements of forest.

I hate it. I hate it, I tell you. I hate the goody two shoes and I hate favoritism and this is why I don't like working with other women. All they have to do to earn favor is to act all feminine and fakey-smiley-cheerful and clean-happy and they can get away with just about anything. I hate it. I can't understand why people in charge (parents, bosses, whoever) can't see through this shit. It hurts me.

Monday, June 23, 2008

I don't really see any point in posting more homework...the truth is I am tired of seeing the stuff! The course is fairy demanding...two chapters, 1-2 essays, 10+ comments on other student's essays, 6 quizzes, and 2 exams per week. I have discovered that summer courses are always compressed and accelerated like this. I am soooo glad that I didn't choose intermediate algebra for the summer course!

I'm finally starting to make a few friends, but there's not much time to cultivate friendships. Heh. I think it might be work that's doing me in...The fourth of July is coming up and business is booming. I must have done about 6K today. I am so tired. One of the other gals said her arms ached (she did almost 7K in business that day), and I can definitely relate to that. My White's boot are being rebuilt (yeah, I wore the heels out already), and I can hardly wait to get them back.

My daughter's maturing into a really interesting person. We got her a tuberous begonia, the kind that trails, and today she asked to see a book or magazine about begonias! I am slightly stumped because I've never grown begonias before. I suppose we'll have to track something down at the library. The baby likes orca whales. I think it may have a little to do with the high contrast black/white pattern, because he likes penguins, too, but not as much as orcas. I have this urge to get him an orca whale poster for his room, maybe a T shirt, blanket, etc etc....and this is crazy because he will probably lose interest in them the moment I do. Children are so funny. Why do they hone in on one thing that way? The baby's had lots of toys and stuffed animals, including a beluga whale, but he likes the orca the best. My daughter has had exposure to all sorts of plants, and could have picked any plant in the huge greenhouse we went to, but she wanted the dried up unpromising looking tuber that would become a begonia. I'll have to see if I can track down a company specializing in begonias and get her a catalog...

Monday, June 16, 2008

I should clarify that the three posts below are homework from my psychology course. There are only 2-3 questions to choose from and the specifications are fairly narrow. I don't know if I will continue to post my homework heRe or not, but the course gives me a lot to think about.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Video Games as a Mind-Altering Substance

The text Psychology Core Concepts Zimbardo, (2008) states that addiction is said to occur when a person is experiencing adverse effects (which could be physical, social, job-related, etc) but continues to use it anyway. Furthermore, they are unable to stop the activity, whether it is gambling, drinking alcohol, or using meth, despite repeated attempts to cease.

The question posed to us is whether television and other electronic media have mind altering influences, and how they affect children. Television inhibits creativity, physical activity, critical thought, and consumes vast stretches of time when the child could be learning, experiencing life, or developing positive social skills with peers (Mander). However, it has been largely superseded by video games in today’s youth, and the effects of electronic games are even more deleterious than those of television.

Drugs affect the brain by blocking or stimulating neural signals,
directly affecting and interfering with its communication
(Zimbardo, 2008). The chemicals in the drugs are what affect the
brain; however, we have already seen that altered states of
consciousness can result without chemicals, for example hypnosis,
meditation and the stages of sleep. Researchers found that playing
video games also alter the brain chemistry. Green and Bavelier
stated: “most drugs of addiction produce pleasure by increasing the amount of dopamine in the brain. Using a form of brain imaging (PET) the researchers were able to determine whether playing a video game increased the amount of dopamine released by the brain. A massive increase in the amount of dopamine released in the brain was indeed observed during video game play, in particular in areas thought to control reward and learning. The level of increase was remarkable, being comparable to that observed when amphetamines are injected intravenously. “

Drug abuse typically entails physical side effects such as reduced
or enhanced appetite, impaired motor function, organ damage, and
the possibility of convulsions or death over the long term.
Video games have their own array of physical symptoms as well. An AMA report details incidence of light induced epileptic seizures and musculoskeletal disorders of the upper extremities. A study by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia revealed a higher incidence of childhood obesity in kids who play electronic games, sometimes twice as high in comparison to youth who did not use video games.

Perhaps the most alarming finding regarding video games is that long term gaming is associated with neurological differences in the brains of frequent players. Rene’ Weber, assistant professor at MSU, conducted a study on violent video games and found that playing the games resulted in brain activity typical of aggressive cognitions, behavior, and affects (Science Daily, Oct. 12, 2005). Other studies have found that exposure to violence in video games was associated with reduced activity in the frontal lobes, stimulation of the amygdala, and activation of the posterior cingulate, a finding usually seen in rape victims and people with PTSD (Shari Rudavsky, 2004). A study by The University of Michigan found a higher correlation between media violence and aggression than secondhand smoke and lung cancer (Swanbrow).

One commonality between the studies quoted is that when age is included as a factor, children fare worse; i.e. they are more likely to show brain changes. There is quite a bit of debate over how lasting the effects are. Based on my personal experience with video game enthusiasts, most of them started playing before their teens and many are still playing well into their thirties and forties. It seems that sustained playing of that nature could impact the brain in very negative ways, particularly if the games are blood and gore types. Considering the nature of the risk in comparison to the biological, physical, emotional, and financial investment incurred in raising children (not to mention time!), it is probably prudent to disallow children exposure to video games, or at least to allow only very limited time on non-violent games, alternated with plenty of physical activity and creative endeavors.


The cognitive neuroscience of video games
C. Shawn Green and Daphne Bavelier, 2004.

Mander, Jerry, Four arguments for the Elimination of Television (1977).

AMA, "Emotional and Behavioral Effects of Video Games and Internet Overuse" (2007).
AMA article

Childrens Hospital Of Philadelphia. "Electronic Game Use Is Associated With Childhood Obesity." Science Daily 1 July 2004. Science Daily

Michigan State University. "Violent Video Games Lead To Brain Activity Characteristic Of Aggression." Science Daily 12 October 2005. Science Daily

Rudavsky, Shari. “Video game violence and the brain”
November 14, 2004
Temple edu

Swanbrow, Diane. “Reel Violence. U-M research seeks the seeds of violence” University of Michigan Research News.
U Mich News

Zimbardo, Philip. Psychology Core Concepts, 2008.

The Neurological Basis of Mental Pathology: Why It Matters

In the past, the concept of an interrelated whole, whether in terms of the ecosystem, individual organisms, or the human mind, was poorly understood. Thus, people killed off entire species with impunity, racing to slaughter the last Carolina parakeet or dodo bird or quagga. Babies underwent major surgery without anesthesia, receiving only sedation, as recently as 1986 (David B. Chamberlain, Ph.D.). Victorian women diagnosed with epilepsy, catalepsy and hysteria were subjected to clitoridectomies (Robert Darby, PhD). Dr. Walter Freeman performed frontal lobotomies on patients, pioneering a method of doing so without anesthesia. John F. Kennedy’s sister, Rosemary Kennedy, was among Dr Wheeler’s patients (or victims, depending upon your outlook). Society operates upon the same principles of any other interrelated system: what affects one part affects the whole. In the context of neurology, psychology, and any other science even distantly related to the human mind, this rule clarifies why an understanding of mental pathology can be beneficial in the absence of a cure.

Research: understanding the basis of mental illness aids in our comprehension of how the mind functions in the neurotypical population. As noted in the text, Psychology Core Concepts (Zimbardo,2008), the mind is a virtual galaxy of neurons. In spite of the Human Genome Project and the various methods of brain scanning and measuring tools, the brain of Homo sapiens remains very much a mystery and a puzzle. Every particle of information gathered towards that mystery, even the most obscure puzzle piece, aids in grasping the bigger picture, forges connections we may not have made before, and builds bridges across gaps of knowledge. People with mental illnesses, injuries, and developmental disorders have served both as guinea pigs and pioneers in the field of neurology. Phineas Gage (Zimbardo, 2008), Helen Keller, and Temple Grandin are but three examples of individuals with neurological and or sensory variances who were not cured but made enormous contributions to the understanding of the human brain and behavior. It could be easily argued that they made more of an impact than they would have if they had been normal.

Secondly, many illnesses are incurable. A brief perusal of these includes AIDS, asthma, cystic fibrosis, ADD, multiple sclerosis, chronic fatigue syndrome, several types of leukemia, emphysema, fetal alcohol syndrome, herpes, cerebral palsy and Alzheimer’s (CDC, 2008). Although classified as incurable, research has made significant strides in the treatment of symptoms, management of the disease process, and in some cases, prevention or at least minimization of the damage of the condition. Early diagnosis often affects the long term prognosis, making research into testing and early detection key. In the course of studying these diseases, insights are made which benefit not only the sufferers and their families but also society at large. Even if cures are never found, we still enrich ourselves to learn as much as we possibly can about the cause, process, and effects of mental illnesses.

Lastly, supportive therapy can be implemented more effectively if the cause of the illness is known. A parallel can again be drawn between mental and physical disability: a blind child might never be able to see, but what a difference if he or she can learn Braille, get a Seeing Eye dog, and learn basic life skills! Similarly, with scientific evidence of a neurological basis for the disease, the patient is likely to fare better than if he or she were characterized as being “crazy”, “possessed”, or “looking for attention”. Comprehension of the origin of the illness helps to remove some of the stigma towards it. The human world is ruthless, and the individual with mental illness is poorly equipped to defend themselves against it. The popular misconception that people “choose to be ill” or should “pull themselves up by their bootstraps” or “snap out of it” persists, and will only be combated effectively through consistent education of the general public. When people realize that the “crazy cat lady down the street” is just as much a person as themselves, that her mental illness has physical, neurological origins, prejudice will begin to erode, and people will be able to seek help without fear of being permanently labeled as a “nut case”. This again, would benefit society at large. Just as it is impossible to wound a part without injuring the whole in some way, it is inevitable that the gains made in helping the mentally ill will aid us all.


Excerpts from "Babies Don't Feel Pain: A Century of Denial in Medicine"
by David B. Chamberlain, Ph.D.
Robbie Davis-Floyd & Joseph Dumit (Eds.) (1998), Cyborg Babies: From Techno-Sex to Techno-Tots. New York and London: Routledge.

The Benefits of Psychological Surgery: John Scoffern's Satire on Isaac Baker Brown
Med Hist. 2007 October 1; 51(4): 527–544.


John F Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum
Rosemary Kennedy

Zimbardo, 2008. Psychology Core Concepts, 2008. Page 64, 77.

The Obstacle of Bias

Because humans are individuals with separate identities and consciousness, it is inevitable that each of us must begin our exploration of the world from a subjective viewpoint. The real struggle is to continually push past our own perspectives and to challenge them. In interactions with other people, the ability to see things from their point of view is called theory of mind. Autistic people are said to be deficient or completely lacking in theory of mind (Zimbardo 2008).

Although my culture, age, and gender undoubtedly do color my perception of the world around me, I believe that these pale beside the potential for bias provided by AS (Asperger’s Syndrome). For years, I did not know that I had AS. I thought everyone else was strange and lacking in color. They didn’t seem to appreciate the things that so enthralled me, such as the intricate patterns of warm air meeting cold, or incense smoke curling into the air, or the perfection in the smallest part of plant life. They also seemed anosmic unless smells were virtually shouting to them, which meant of course that when someone wore a scent they could smell, it was shouting at me. They seemed to think little and to speak much, and to get angry if I couldn’t immediately process their words into a visual picture, formulate a reply, and verbalize it within seconds. By the time I spoke to them, the subject would have changed or they would be walking away. Along with being touched unexpectedly, the eye contact they were so insistent upon was excruciating. It felt like having my soul invaded and raped.

I perceived the world as being inundated with incredibly annoying people with nothing interesting to say (my own interests were rather narrow and intense). At other times I was dismayed to feel disliked and couldn’t understand why, but I enjoyed my solitude anyway. People often said that I was weird, lazy, off in my own little world, and that with effort I could be like them. Naturally, I was not thrilled by that thought! It wasn’t until I met another person on the autism spectrum and observed behavior similar to my own through outside eyes that I realized how I must look to others. I began quizzing the neurotypical people I met, to compare notes on our mental processes. I was shocked to discover that they tended not to think in pictures (or not complicated pictures anyway), that they did not have to turn words into pictures to comprehend the verbal sounds, that they did not associate people with colors or numbers, never experienced dissociation, and were unbothered by sensory stimuli which were unbearable for me. Finally, they could no more imagine the world from my point of view than I could from theirs.

So while theory of mind may be a particular obstacle to autistics, I think that on a wider scale, everyone experiences it to some degree, and in most cases, are unaware of it. This can be a contributing factor to prejudice and bias.

For example, consider the opinion that autism “sufferers” (this word alone denotes bias, as it would if applied to homosexuals or minorities) who do not speak cannot have advanced verbal abilities (Zimbardo, 2008). While facilitated communication was obviously a misbegotten fiasco, there are many non-verbal autistics who communicate extremely well through writing. Amanda Baggs communicates more articulately through writing than speaking people do even though she is a non-verbal autistic (Baggs). The spoken language is so important to humans that it is common to assume retardation when a person is difficult to understand (ask anyone who has cerebral palsy). Deaf people were assumed to lack cognition by Aristotle, a mentality that is still echoed today in the term “deaf and dumb” (NAD). These are all examples of representativeness bias (Zimbardo, 2008).

Bias as a starting point may be natural and automatic, but it can be overcome through the same methods used elsewhere in science; skepticism (challenging one’s own views), case studies (meeting and getting to know people that you would usually be biased against), careful observation, and review and questioning of factual data (Zimbardo, 2008).


Baggs, Amanda. ballastexistenz

National Association of the Deaf

Zimbardo, Philip G. Psychology Core Concepts, 2008. Page 5, 29, 30, 152, 317, 511.

Sunday, June 08, 2008


These are the tomatoes we currently have:

Brown Berry
Silvery Fir Tree
Djena Lee
Green Zebra
Black Plum
Sungold (the only hybrid)
New Rainbow
Yellow Pear
Principe Borghese
Kellogg's Breakfast
Caro Rich
Golden Queen
Ropreco Paste
Mr. Stripey
Gold Nugget
Rose Quartz

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

I want to clarify that I'm not advocating eugenics, or suggesting we should heartlessly let people die, or that China's one child policy is a good one, or that only perfect people should have kids. The reality of it is, I don't like perfect people. I don't. I don't like them. These perfect people who have to have new clothes and take 2-3 showers a day and wear scads of perfume, and drive nice cars, and throw more trash away for a couple than our entire family does....these perfect people who call dogs and cats their "kids" and care nothing at all about the scrawny ragamuffin child with ratty matted hair and a dirty face in the next checkout line, while they're buying steak for the dog (oh, excuse me, their "kid").....I don't like these people. I think they need to go away or get some self control or a reality check or something....something. More autistic people in the world could be that something.
What about....

Rather than viewing autism (and its attendant autism spectrum disorders) as a defect which needs to be cured, perhaps there should be more insight into why autism appears to be (I say "appear" because the evidence for the so-called "epidemic" isn't ironclad, but subjective) sharply on the rise? While perseverating on the causation of autism, perhaps they're missing the boat. Assuming that autism is genetic (and there is ample scientific evidence to back this), could it be that autism is not a scourge of society, but rather, a reaction to the toxicity of the world we've created, and even an antidote to it?

  • The planet we live on is overpopulated. Natural disaster, disease, and everyday mortality have taken their toll as usual, but not so much as in the past. We find ways to outfox the boundaries imposed upon every other species; we manage to impregnate and perpetuate people who are naturally infertile, to allow those with serious or terminal genetic diseases to survive to reproductive age, to control the natural disasters as much as we can, to stem disease even though disease plays a valuable role in strengthening other species, and we tortuously prolong deaths that would have taken hours or days into months and years, as much out of obligation as of actual affection.
  • Our social structure tends to be intense, but toxic. This isn't a new phenomena (see the bible, Greek mythology, and Shakespeare), but it is exacerbated by the sheer numbers we've accumulated. Contrary to what we would like to believe, humans are not benevolent, or cooperative, except for when it benefits us in some way. The more crowded the place gets, the less benefit there is from other people, and the more cost, hence less incentive to play nicely.
  • With the advent of computer technology, strong in-the-flesh interpersonal bonds aren't as necessary as they were a hundred or even fifty years ago. This is an extremely dramatic change for such a short time. Neighbors used to help us build barns or bring in the hay or sew quilts, now we often don't even know their names.
  • The rising tide of violence, crime, drug abuse and what I would categorize as "toxic behavior" causes many people to attempt to move away from others. However, this doesn't work either, because the natural resources are limited, and if we exterminate many more species, the results are likely to be disastrous for the planet as a whole. So, escapism is not the answer either. Besides, most socially oriented people want their friends and families to escape with them, so pretty soon, they have a new pocket of human growth, bringing with it the same old problems in due time.
  • People who have a family incidence of autism or eccentricity, or what we would term "geekiness", tend to have autistic children at a higher rate than those who do not.
  • Autistic people of all ranges tend to: dislike eye contact, physical touch (especially by strangers), prefer one on one interaction with known people to meeting groups of new people, be sensitive to allergens, strong artificial scents, and other extreme sensory input, mate or marry at a much lower rate than non-autistics, and to focus deeply on subjects which interest them. External rewards such as social approval, material possessions, and status often mean little to them.

In other words, if the whole world were autistic, the population would drop, and you would have small communities of people intensely interested in subjects (probably one or two interests per community), with a total disregard for materialism and acquisition for its own sake, and the people would tend to be avoidant.

In light of the current state of things, I'm not sure this would be negative. It could even be what we need.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

I finally found a valerian plant and a packet of Lemon Gem marigolds. We have enough tomato plants already, having grown them from seed since February (probably 25 plants comprising over 15 varieties) but I couldn't resist buying one anyway since I've never seen or heard of it before: Brown Berry. Doesn't that sound perfectly awful? It's supposed to be small fruited, very sweet, and...brown. I saw a corylus contorta, which I'd wanted, but passed on it, I couldn't justify it at $40, especially with no place to put it.

Also we went to an arboretum today with the baby. I've already deduced that he isn't all that crazy about flowers. He did like the arboretum though; was amused by pocket gophers running around and seemed to like the various trees, even the flowering ones. There were several very large trees with branches touching or almost touching the ground. When I was a kid, trees like that we common. Now it's an experience for the poor kid to be awed and enthralled by as most of them have been logged. I also got to see my friend, the stewartia pseudocamellia and the lovely ginkgos. There are no other stewartias in the park so that tree will probably never make seed- they aren't very common.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Spring...sweet spring

We've been out and about a lot looking at plant life (stores, woods, other people's gardens, etc). The fritillaries are really drawing me in this year. We saw, oh...must have been about a hundred of them...Frittilaria pudica on a sunny, rocky hillside near HWY 2, F melagris here in our own garden (e also have F. Persica, but it isn't in bloom this year, and possibly F raddeana if it lived, which I doubt), F. Imperialis and F. michailovskyi (I think) at the Healing Garden in Sandpoint. These are really enchanting little plants. I am thinking I'd like to have a small bed specifically for fritillaries and to try to collect as many as we can find. Since they only bloom in spring, I suppose we'd ether have to plant other bulbs or perennials, or perhaps a loose groundcover such as Vinca that they could push up through easily. Some that I haven't seen in person yet include F. pallidiflora, uva vulpis, acmopetala,and F verticillata (which strike me as especially interesting because it is a climbing fritillary with curling tendrils! How cool is that?)

Looking at other people's gardens on a regular basis (i.e., while driving or walking by) is useful because it gives one food for thought, a chance to see what you do and don't like. It is much better to observe results in someone else's yard if you can, than to unwittingly create another catastrophe or what I would call a "white bread" garden. I've decided I don't like the following :
  • Single plant width rows of any bulb, especially tulips
  • Plants massed right at the edge of the property in a meager little 12" wide bed.
  • Anything planted in single width rows, with the exception of espaliered fruit trees and trees planted as an allee`. Smaller things just look pathetic and pitiful in sparse, skimpy rows. Lilacs might work though, because they're full and billowing.
  • Roses spaced exactly so apart, more so if it is also a grid. If they're all the same height (24" -36") it becomes even more disgusting. Group them! Plant other things with them!
  • Most hanging baskets dripping with petunias. I sometimes do see one that I like. Red, white and blue color scheme hanging baskets are particularly nasty.
  • Prostrate or low growing evergreens planted at the edge of a lawn or corner, all by themselves, or right next to a building. They look shitty by themselves. They need the contrast of another shape nearby to give them character. This could be a columnar evergreen, a boulder, or another shrub or tree carefully selected. If they just perch there like that, all alone, they look like old scruffy doormats..even worse if some careless person has whacked them with the lawnmower or if grass has grown up through it.
  • Concrete landscaping blocks, statues, etc...except when such has been aged with mosses, weathering, etc. Colored concrete is, IMO, as trashy as you can get without succumbing to baling twine or old tires or plastic lawn ornaments.

Plants I am stilling looking for:
  • valerian
  • Lemon Gem type marigolds- the edible signet marigolds.
  • Corkscrew Corylus
  • Species clematis
  • comfrey (yes, comfrey)

Monday, May 12, 2008

Back again.

Ok folks. I've opened it back up again now that the custody case has been resolved (for the time being, anyway). As you can see, I haven't been terribly busy here in the interim; along with the court case, there was a college class, all sorts of medical appointments for six kids, 40 hours of work a week, a little bit of gardening, and more assorted obligations and tasks than I want to think about right now.

However, my next class is Psychology 101 (I think) which should be fairly easy, so things should pick up here in a week or so....assuming I don't get caught up in a last minute planting frenzy (food's getting more expensive all the time). I've gotten to appreciate algebra somewhat, but it just hasn't been my favorite subject.....

Saturday, May 03, 2008

I think you might be surprised, dear reader, to learn that I'm now friendly to the woman I was so annoyed by at the library. She's actually become one of my favorite customers. I'm like that a lot. I frequently develop hasty, poorly thought out aversions to people for petty reasons, and then recant at a later date. It makes me ashamed of myself at times.

What else?

We've planted all the large trees- apples (which will be espaliered here as well, no room for them otherwise), cherry, magnolia stellata, Japanese maple, chokecherry, apple seedlings, and hazelnut. I've also replanted most of the bulbs. Still forlornly awaiting reunion with their mother earth: the roses, daylilies, herbs (primarily lemon balm, marjoram, and peppermint) and various perennials. I got a few things planted this morning, but I haven't been feeling that well, so....all in good time.

I find myself pining for goats and sheep. I could do more with the sheep as I love to spin, dye, knit, crochet, and weave the finished yarn, but the goats are my true love....even though I can't drink the milk. Yes, I do realize I could raise Angoras or Cashmeres. For me it really isn't about the product, it's the animal. I don't feel like myself without them. At any rate, it's a wound which is unlikely to heal quickly, as land here is still outrageously priced and the zoning regs illogically allow predatory animals which attack people, pets, and wildlife and make lots of noise at night and whose poop you can't use for gardens, but prohibit any species which has even remote practical uses, such as rabbits.

Math is going badly even though I got the Midterm worked out. I cannot wrap my brain around the concept of factoring trinomials or quadratic equations. I have read the math book over and over.....and it just is not making sense to me. The finals are in less than a week....eeek. If I really want to be a botanist, I have got to nail this.

Also, I haven't painted or even drawn anything in months. At this point I'm beginning to wonder if I ever will again, or will it be like the goat, an essential part of me amputated and left to die alongside the rat race highway.

And I think that if I can just get a spinning wheel and buy or barter for some wool, I'll salvage something of what I'm missing. I'll at least have the scent of the animal......

This is all sounding so morose, and I don't mean for it to. I just really need to find a different line of work, and my body is so shot that it can't be the outdoorsy grunt work which I'd otherwise be perfectly happy to do. Yeah, I think I need to get out tomorrow morning and garden...otherwise I'm going to get depressed if I continue thinking about these things.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

I got moved out. Tim had left a lot (a LOT!) of junk, including toxic waste, behind, and I just wasn't able to dispose of it all, so I do feel bad about that. Moreover, he made a big deal over wanting his stuff back, but conveniently left behind most of his stuff, and merely high-graded it. Why, WHY, was it my responsibility to get rid of the stuff he didn't want? It wasn't. The snow didn't help (large snowdrift obstructing doorways and access to the place) and neither did the huge ponderosa pine which was felled and then just left there, blocking half the driveway. I had to climb over its limbs, which were treacherously covered with mounds of snow, in order to get the stuff out of the shed. Alright, so I'm sounding defensive....because I do feel guilty. :sigh:

School...some mistake, mine, the software's, or the teacher's, has been made. The software shows my grades as being 91%, the teacher says I have a D. I've been working really hard, I don't comprehend how I could have a D. I emailed the instructor. I am so upset over this.

The tomato seedlings are pressed eagerly against the grow lights. We also have some which are still germinating. The largest plants have flowerbuds already, and outside....snow. Egad. Perhaps I'll have to plant them in large pots or buckets.

The custody battle: another thing which is tying my stomach in knots. I have no illusions about my being the world's most perfect parent. Unlike the child's father, at least I'm honest on this point, but on the other hand, I don't have a history of nearly killing the poor kid, either. I also have a spotlessly clean criminal record and no history of drug or alcohol abuse, or even cigarettes. I love my child and have taken pains to get him the medical treatment, diagnosis, and therapy he needs, as well as making an ongoing effort to strive for improvement and continually look for ways in which we can help him realize his full potential (he has Asperger's too). That doesn't seem to be enough...or maybe I'm feeling defensive...again.

You can't win by playing the defensive position, yet that's how I go through life, always scared, always on the defense, constantly apprehensive over one thing or the other. I know better than this from playing chess, from showing goats, from everything I've done well in, actually. Yet, isn't the fear what drives me? Every failure or shortcoming I've ever made replays itself over and over again in my mind, perpetually. It's why I feel anxious, it's why I try so hard, it's why I feel defensive, and it's why very few people can harm me with criticism- their wounds are never as deep as the ones I inflict every day upon myself, so quietly, so privately. They think I'm oblivious, dreamy, content....they don't know....that behind that mask there's a very active and continual refining process at work. The question is never one of not knowing my faults; it's of where to begin today, which part of the puzzle to solve first.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Well, I haven't written here in months, and there's a reason: I'm in the midst of a custody battle over the baby. I could waste time making a lot of nasty comments about his alcoholic father, but I'm not going to bother. I don't even care...I just want my kid to be OK and happy.

Also, I have until the 15th of the month to finish moving out of my old place and I have no idea how I'll do that. The manager that hates me (I've decided that he does, after all) refuses to give me even one extra day off between now and the 15th. I didn't ask for a paid day off, sick leave, or any such thing...only to work for 3 or 4 days instead of 5. He mor eor less told me to deal with it, period. Making life even more difficult is the fact that I have a dental appt scheduled for the day I wanted/needed off...and it's slated for 10:40 while he has me scheduled to work at noon. He will probably fire me if I'm not there on time, the appointment will probably take much longer than an hour, I scheduled it some 2 months ago, would have to wait another 2 months if I reschedule it, and my teeth are already hurting me and are in serious disrepair. I cannot wait two months for another appointment, and even if I did, who's to say he'll give me that day off? I don't think I'm asking for a miracle here.

As for moving...I suppose I will have to do it before and after work and he had better not bitch if I'm half asleep, tired, worn out, in pain (hips) or less than perfectly groomed. I've got hundreds of dollars in plant meterial to move and I'll be damned if I'm just going to let it sit there and die of neglect due to his control trips. God, I hate him. I don't care any more if he hates me or not and why (I've never done a thing to him)... I hate him for his petty favoritism and unfairness, for allowing his pet to do her homework on the bosses computer on their dime, but chewing me out for reading a book for 5 minutes late at night discreetly at my register when there were no customers....for giving the people he likes every accomodation imaginable and then pulling stuff like this on me...for discriminating against me....I hate him, I hate him. I wish he would go on vacation for a week or two.