The Stubborn Roots of God-ism

OK. This is a rant. Not about religious fanatics or extremists. It’s about reasonably intelligent and educated people who don’t take the time or make the effort to examine and understand the difference between freedom to practice a religion (or not) and the separation of church and state.

It’s all there, folks, in the Bill of Rights and Constitution. There’s no mention of god. There is only the First Amendment, which prohibits the establishment of a national religion.

How much more clear can that be.

But there’s something about people who are devoted to their religion and their version of god that makes them want to insist that it’s a universal truth. It seems to have something to do with the brain and the stubborn roots of god-ism.

Our research team at the University of Pennsylvania has consistently demonstrated that God is part of our consciousness and that the more you think about God, the more you will alter the neural circuitry in specific parts of your brain.

But that’s a rant for another time.

Even those many who believe in the freedom to practice the religion of your choice only seem to go along with that as long as that all-powerful god is part of the equation.

As a secular humanist, all of that is irrelevant to me until they insist that, somehow, America belongs to that god, that in god we must trust, that god blesses America.

I don’t know how to educate such folks. I think the roots of god-ism that religions infuse into the brains of thinking people take such a strong hold in the temporal lobe that it can’t be budged by logic or facts.

The wonderful thing about the internet, and the dangerous thing about the internet, is that once you have put something out there, it pretty much stays there (unless, of course, you cite some researched document that gets eventually pulled from its server.)

A FaceBook discourse that I have been having with my religious family members is out there but is not being accessed in my timeline. From their end, there is a lot of “one nation, under God,” and “In God We Trust”, and offers to send me reading material. They obviously don’t read what I have written in my comments. (“Don’t confuse me with facts; I know what I believe.”)

From my end is what, I think, are cogent explanations the position of our Constitution and Bill of Rights, along with links to more highly developed sources than I.

Since they are not being shared on FaceBook, I am sharing them here. Because I can. Because this is a crucial educational discussion. Because I’m scared to death that such well-meaning (but un-informed) folks will rise to the majority and destroy the foundations of My Blue America.

So, I am herewith repeating my comments to their god-ist urgings. Because I can and because I don’t want to lose my links and arguments. You can tell from my responses what they must have commented. These are my responses to a jpg of “One Nation Under God”:

– We need to go BACK to being one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all, regardless of religious or secular beliefs. What matters is The Golden Rule.

– No, if I meant the commandments, I would have said so. The “under god” was inserted into the pledge in 1954 during the Cold War with Russia by a Congress afraid of “godless” communism. This country was founded on a separation of church and state by the wise men who thought it all out originally. I documented it all here, in a history lesson worth knowing about:

– Hey, whatever works for you, I get inspiration from my hummingbirds. But that has nothing to do with the way this country functions; it’s totally an individual thing, and American history informs how that is supposed to work. If you google “The Golden Rule” you will find that just about all religions have that as a basis, as does secular humanism. That gives us a common ground that does not require a belief in god to be good. And I respect your PERSONAL beliefs and lifestyle, but I think you do need a lesson in American history so that you don’t try to impose your version on the rest of this country — which pretty much is the definition of the kind of Sharia Law practiced in some Islamic countries.

– Absolutely. Informed discourse is crucial to the maintenance of a democracy. The problem arises, however, when an “opinion” gets legislated by those who have the power to impose that “opinion” on others who do not share that “opinion.”

– Christine, read my historical documentation. Religion/God and our government were separated right from the beginning. They were never meant to be combined, as they are in Muslim countries. It’s a historical FACT. And it is documented over and over again in what our founding fathers wrote and signed. The Pilgrims did not create the documents that are the laws of our land. And the Pilgrims are hardly good examples living by the Golden Rule. Again, read my researched piece — even though some of the links are so old that they have disappeared, but googling will unearth similar factual documentation.

The Mayflower Compact was a PRECURSOR to what became our Constitution. Because it stressed the “civic values of justice, equality, and responsibility,” the founding fathers built on those values BUT also recognized that the religious part of the document was not a good thing to impose. So they purposely did not include any of that in our Constitution of Bill of Rights. Nowhere in those documents is god mentioned, and I will link to that info in the next comment.

– Excellent piece by PBS:
God In America – People – God and the Constitution

– Ladies, it’s never to late to learn the truth: Quote from the above piece: With Madison’s guidance, the First Congress approved the First Amendment to the Constitution that begins: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The amendment applied only to the federal government, not to the states. Some states, including Massachusetts and Connecticut, continued to use taxpayer money to support established churches. In 1833, Massachusetts became the last state to end such support. [I guess, according to the law, maybe you could establish your own state and have your own state religion. And I guess that would apply to Buddhists, Muslims, etc. But then, that's not what America is about, is it?]

– Well, then, you you really don’t understand what this country is about. And let me clarify my position on religion, in general. If it works for you to help you be a good person, fine. It doesn’t work for everyone. Some of us can be good without god. That’s a different issue from separation of church and state in America. America is not a country founded on “god” or his/her laws. It’s a country founded on secular human values (which, in truth, are shared by all religions). So, Trust in God all you want if that helps get you through the day. But that trust and belief is irrelevant to the laws of our land, despite what you would like to believe.

I am frustrated by the refusal of smart people to accept that they might be wrong about separation of church and state in America. It has to be the result of those stubborn roots of god-ism and the way the brain works. Science will tell.

Winter is for Knitting #2

mesidetoside1I found a cap-sleeve cropped sweater pattern that was knit from side to side and so I decided to follow the pattern, since it was exactly what I wanted. I made a swatch to check the gauge. I followed the directions.

It came out much larger than it was supposed to, and I had to fudge to make it fit. It’s certainly wearable, but not really what I wanted. I just don’t do well following a pattern; I do much better if I figure it out as I go along and then it fits the way I want it to. I’m going to try the side-to-side idea again, but this time I’ll do it my way.

my raging PMS poem

One of the advantages of being post menopausal is that I no longer get the raging PMS that — in retrospect — I think was responsible for messing up my various relationships, including that with my parents.

Back in the 50s and 60s and 70s, PMS was considered a fabricated rationale for plain ol’ female bitchiness. Now, we know better, and I know that what I (and my friends and family) had to suffer through was actually my PMDD.

It’s hard to describe what it felt like to go through those terrible fits of insanity to those who have never experienced it. So, at the time, I wrote this poem — which, I think, pretty much says it all.

Tooth Mother

A sliver of moon
like a sharpened claw
slits the underside of April,
sending clouds as heaving as stones
onto the roiling rim of earth.

It is time for the Tooth Mother’s coming.
She tears through my skin,
talons sharp as the moon,
eyes that slice, breasts like scythes
along my hungry tongue.
She breathes into my mouth
the bold remains of winter,
turning my cries to ice,
my thoughts to stones
that roll like clouds
along my ragged edge of mind.

chatting with China

[NOTE: If you have landed here before reading the previous post, please go and read it first.]

This post tells the end of the story I began in the previous post. It is a story with an ending that I didn’t expect, a story with an opportunity for learning on all kinds of fronts. I begin this post by saying that I cancelled the PayPal claim. But that’s not the end of it all.

There are three participants in this chat — me (the American consumer), staff of UPlay (the manufacturer of the unique phone/tab I bought), and staff of JSXL Technology (the online distributor from whom I bought the device). Two of us, I think, came away from this “chatty” business deal a little wiser about how to communicate with others and how to do business in a way that satisfies both consumer and product provider/s.

The communication issue here was not triggered by national culture or language. It was about attitude and trust. It was about civility. It was about respectfully listening and responding. It was a lot about good business practices and how to build and keep a customer base through good customer service (or the opposite). It also was about how to behave as a decisive consumer who doesn’t always know the right questions to ask when it comes to technology.

I am not a distributor or a marketer, but I am a thoughtful (if somewhat impatient) consumer. In many ways, I am a good example of today’s global consumer: I have a good idea about the product I want; I know how to use the internet to research my options; I expect complete and accurate product and ordering information on e-commerce websites; I order online from a global market. And, like the usual “shop-from-store-to-store-and-deal-with-store-clerks shopper, I expect my product questions to be answered thoughtfully and politely.

I could have been better at my consumer chatting; UPlay staff could have started off better; JSXL Technology has a big #FAIL, right up to the very end when I was still figuring out if and how I should return the phonepad I ordered from them. Bad attitude and bad customer service does not build a business or consumer trust.

JSXL Technology is a brand new e-commerce site, less than a year old. (My bad for not noticing this right away, but they were the site that offered the UPlay phonepad I wanted. The UPlay site itself did as well, but I gave up trying to figure out how to order from them.)

While JSXL might have a good website and know technology, they are worse than worst at knowing how to run a consumer-dependent business. They have a lot to learn and obviously (as demonstrated through their email conversations with me, their consumer) know less than nothing about how to deal with their customer’s questions. My advice is to not buy from them until they have more experience as an e-commerce business; they are hell to deal with.

That leads us to the other chatters and what we might have learned.

I have learned that I have to be more patient and accurate about explaining what it is I am asking about. Part of the problem is that you don’t know what you don’t know. And phrasing a question about a technology problem in a way that will get you the answer you need is severely hampered when you don’t know what you don’t know. (You know?) I don’t know what I can do about that, but I think I might want to get into my more patient “educator” mode when dealing with unhelpful, arrogant, (supposedly) consumer support staff. This time I lost patience, stopped trusting, and entered my warrior mode.

Lastly, UPlay staff, who resolved the whole issue by finding a way to return the phonepad for a reasonable postage cost.

And so here is the unexpected end to the story:

I have decided to keep the phone/pad — despite a really wonky boot-up process and the problems with time-outs when trying to download anything. I still don’t understand why the “Android drivers” come up as downloaded but uninstalled (Code 28) and don’t know if the mobile phone component will work when I eventually get to T-Mobile and get a SIM card and a plan. I’m hoping that the UPlay staff will explain what I still don’t understand and will answer future questions should they come up.

Meanwhile, I have successfully installed an SD card and used the camera; the GPS works; I have downloaded Words With Friends, OverDrive Media Console, Kindle for Android, and a few other apps I use. All of that is working. I am trusting that it will continue to function as I need it to. And I am trusting that UPlay consumer support staff will give me some advice if I run into function issues.

It’s a very cool little device, a whole lot cheaper than the ones I read about that soon will be reaching the American market.

I have not yet tried to download into the phonepad what I need to blog through WordPress. While I’m writing this on my HP Pavilion Notebook with a 17 inch screen, who knows that but soon I will be blogging from my 7 inch UPlay phonepad gen 3. (But first I will have to buy a keyboard case to make it easier; I found one, online, of course.)

I’m the kind of consumer you want to be nice to, young JSLX Technology. I hope that this all has been a valuable learning experience for you.

It has for me.

[UPDATE: Countless email back and forth with uPlay did not provide any solution to the problem of why, even sitting right by the wifi router, connecting to websites and downloading continued to frequently fail. They didn't know why; I should send it back and they would check it out. Instead, I decided to do a "restore to factor settings."

And that solved the problem.

It makes me wonder if the folks at the seller's site put in a setting or something that wound up causing a problem. So, the uPlay phonetab is in play. I haven't yet activated the mobile phone part of it or purchased a smartphone data plan. I'm still experimenting with all the features of the tablet component, which are impressive.]

patience, persistence, PayPal and the Yellow Brick Road

Let me begin by saying, upfront, that this is all about the unlocked Uplay phone/tablet that I bought online from JSLX Technology. It is a global market, after all, and, while I usually buy from American companies, this device was just what I was looking for at a price I could afford.

This story has a beginning and a middle; it does not yet have an end, and I’m hoping that posting this on my blog might help to end this frustrating saga in a just and fair way. Any advice from techies or others, after reading through this whole post, will be greatly appreciated.

I have spent the past two weeks attempting to, and finally actually, contacting both the seller and the manufacturer because the damned thing has a variety of issues, mostly, I believe (and so does the computer repair place I brought it to) because the drivers, while downloaded, are not installed and the tablet offers no way to install them.

So, I am now on that interwebs Yellow Brick Road, slogging through e-mailing territories lined with various conversational pitfalls, detours, dead ends, and side paths that are designed to wear me down. BUT, as that Lilith logo in my right sidebar proclaims: “She is that which will not surrender.”
Lilitu

Yes, I could send the device back to China, but, according to DHL and UPS, it would cost me $180 to do so — more than I paid for the damned thing. And that’s how the company asks you to send a return. So, that’s not an option.

Yes, the manufacturer and seller could possibly send me a driver installation disk or some instructions on how to install the drivers, but they are refusing to do so. I don’t know why, except that they keep insisting that there is nothing wrong with the device and there are drivers downloaded in it. (As you will see from the screen images posted below, the drivers are there but they are not installed and the device offers no way to install them, making the device function like something out of the very early ages of this technology.) Even with an excellent wifi signal, trying to download anything via the browser takes so long that the servers time out. Navigating anywhere in the device is worse than trying to get to the Land of Oz. That’s certainly not what their website PR indicates. This is a young company, and it surely needs more work before it can compete in the global marketplace.

I started a PayPal dispute and got nowhere, so I escalated to a claim, which is under review. One reason for this post is so that I can send PayPal the URL and give them all of the details that way.

The devil is, indeed, in the details, and the details are in the screens that come up when I connect the UPlay phonepad with my HP Pavilion Notebook PC so that I can see what’s in the tablet’s folders. These are details that can’t be argued. (What can be argued, and are being argued, are my experiences not being able to download stuff like the Kindle Android app, and of other downloading efforts timing out even though the wifi signal is excellent. Maybe it’s that driver problem; maybe the device is simply a LEMON.)

So, what I am doing is documenting, via screen images, attempts to prove to the seller and manufacturer that the Android drivers that are supposed to be installed are NOT INSTALLED.

Any techies (American,Chinese, Indian…whoever…) reading the following — please tell me if I am wrong and, if so, what I might be able to to do get this problem fixed.

The first thing I do is go into Control Panel, and then Devices. This is what the UPlay phonepad appears as. There is a yellow exclamation point by the device, which comes up as an MP3 player. (My iPhone comes up as a camera, so I understand how that works.) I’m assuming that the yellow exclamation point means “Whoa! There’s some problem here! Check it out!)
1device

So, then I click on the device and see that there is no general information for it. Well, OK. I go on from there.
2devicegeneral

Next is device functions. There’s a whole list of Android drivers listed ALL WITH YELLOW EXCLAMATION POINTS. There are also other functions without the exclamation points. Obviously, there has to be some reason why the Android drivers are highlighted as problematic, right?
3devicefuntions

AHA! Click on an Android and you get a CODE 28 MESSAGE THAT THERE IS NO DRIVER INSTALLED!!!
4driversCode28
Here is information about the Code 28 message, which includes:

Code 28 is a device manager error indicating that the drivers for a given hardware device are not installed. This error means that a previous attempt to update the driver failed or a driver was uninstalled for a given device but was not replaced/updated. This error prompts you to reevaluate your driver installation and reinstall the driver if necessary. In most cases, reinstalling the driver will fix the problem

OK. So, let’s try a fix.
6apply_fix

UH OH. NO STRAIGHFORWARD FIX. Windows can’t find a way to install, and the internet can’t find a way to install.

Well, maybe there’s a file somewhere in the device that’s an installer.
7browsefiles

Hmm. There are two drivers listed.
8android_install

OK. Let’s click on Android Driver. Well,that’s all well and good, but where do I go from there to install.
9install_android_driver

This is where my expertise wanes. I don’t know what these files are, but I click on one that looks promising, anyway.
11cant_open_file

Hmm. Let’s try this.
12free_file_opener

No, I don’t think I want to take a chance and go this route. Here’s where my knowledge of this stuff stops. So now what?

It is the responsibility of the seller or manufacturer to provide me with the capacity to install the drivers. Otherwise, the device is defective and they are the liable parties. IF they do that and the drivers are installed and the device still doesn’t work, then it is a LEMON. Do I have to suck up the cost as a bad purchase, or are they still liable?

ADDENDUM: After another unhelpful response from the seller, I will explore some cheaper cost of returning the device. They do have a return policy: will pay between $9 and $25 toward the return shipping cost. I believe that should get the $25, but their decision will be based on whether they think anything is wrong with the device or if I am returning it “just because I didn’t like it.” By now, I don’t trust them to care at all about fairness or truth.

I waged my battle as though with the wind. There’s no getting any satisfactory fix from them.

And the truth is that this is a device that looks good on their website but is a real lemon. And their customer service sucks as well. AFLE for me.

[NOTE: Go to the next post to read the end of the story.]

where did my neck go

I know that I used to have one, although it certainly was no rival to Audrey Hepburn’s. But I do remember, as a 50s teenager, knotting a small scarf around my neck, western-style, as was the fashion in those days. The fashion these days is those long, wide scarves, wrapped twice around the neck. I love the look, but you need a neck to make it work. On me, that kind of scarf covers me from clavicle to mouth. Maybe OK for chill winter weather, but as a fashion statement? Uh uh.

And whatever happened to my chin? Where did all that extra skin come from?

Getting old is neither for sissies nor the vain.

I’m joining the Snatchel Project

What’s a “snatchel”?

Before I get to that, let me just explain that I have in my life marched in protests carrying banners with symbols proclaiming my positions on critical issues. During the wartime 70s, I sewed a gigantic “Peace” banner and hung it from a tree limb that hung over our driveway. I believe in the power of symbols. I believe that sometimes you have to get in the faces of those who refuse to hear what you’re saying.

So, I’m joining the Snatchel Project.

First, go here to find out about the project, supported by a group that proclaims:

– We are women, we are strong, we are smart. And we have a sense of humor.
– We do not need government interference with our doctors or our healthcare.
– We do not need government probing our vaginas to help us make decisions about abortion.
– We do not need government to give us guidance about whether or not to take birth control.


So, here’s my original knitted interpretation, my contribution. I am thinking that I might just make a bunch of them and send them to the group to distribute appropriately. I will make a little card that says:

Get your pre-historic laws out of my personal private parts.

The Snatchel Project already has received considerable media coverage, as listed here.

I realize that there are lots of people who think sending uterine and yonic representations to legislators who are trying to drag us back into the Dark Ages is a waste of time.

Well, maybe it is. But for us pissed off feminist knitters, it’s a hoot.

And hey, you never know. At least it will get their uncomfortable attention. Works for me.

My testosterone theory on “House”

I have always had a theory about testosterone levels and aggressiveness, and this last episode of “House” pretty much makes my point. In this episode, a man chooses to let his testosterone level stay low because it keeps him being a better person. (That’s a paraphrase, but it’s also the gist of it.)

With men in power ganging up on us women to limit our control of our own bodies, maybe we women need to suggest some limiting that men should do.

Googling around for some supportive information, I found the following, here, after scrolling down a bit:

An excellent book on testosterone and behavior is James McBride Dabbs “Heroes, Rogues, and Lovers: Testosterone and Behavior” ( McGraw Hill, 2000).

In modern advanced cultures, somewhat lower testosterone appear to be of great benefit…. For our ancestors 20,000 years ago, individual strength and aggression were critical to survival. But obtaining rewards in modern cultures usually require patience, cunning, and interpersonal skills.

The use of anti-androgens and DHT blockers may improve male health. Testosterone has often been suspected as a cause of the increased heart disease in men. Studies of men who were castrated in the 1920′s in the USA found that they lived an average of 13.6 years longer than comparable men. In contrast, smoking one pack of cigarettes daily reduces one’s life span by an average of 4.9 years. (Hamilton & Mesler 1969)

Now, the issue (for me and many other women, as well as many pacifist-minded males) is not how to deplete men’s testosterone so that they lose their masculinity; rather it is how to enable men to maintain a level androgenic hormones that keeps their aggressiveness in a manageable range.

Apparently, testosterone is only one of the adrogen-related male hormones. The other two are dihydrotestosterone (DHT) and androstenedione.

From what I’ve begun to read, it’s the levels of DHT (Dihydrotestosterone) that can easily be reduced, and that reduction can have an aggression-lessening effect.

So, I’m suggesting that scientists start doing studies that track how the quality of men’s lives (and especially their relationships with women) improve by blocking some of their DHT.

In the meanwhile, how about putting some DHT blockers in Congressional water supplies?? I read here that spearmint tea has some anti-androgenic properties. How about we send Congress cartons and cartons of spearmint tea and spearmint gum?

Lego, Stereotyping, and
Miss Representation

The ol’ boys at Lego need to see this movie, get educated, get up to speed, get bombarded with complaints about their new “girly” line of Logo sets.

Instead of drawing in girl Lego players by targeting them in their general advertising, they are putting out a line of “pink” and “curvy” Lego sets that they believe will attract girls. The message is “you are too dumb to know how to play with real Lego components; you don’t want to build anything unique, you just want to play house, right?” Bad message, Lego. You are perpetuating the misrepresentation of girls and women as “less than men” in intelligence, creativity, and problem solving. You are perpetuating the stupid stereotype.

The movie, MissRepresentation

…uncovers a glaring reality we live with every day but fail to see…

In a society where media is the most persuasive force shaping cultural norms, the collective message that our young women and men overwhelmingly receive is that a woman’s value and power lie in her youth, beauty, and sexuality, and not in her capacity as a leader. While women have made great strides in leadership over the past few decades, the United States is still 90th in the world for women in national legislatures, women hold only 3% of clout positions in mainstream media, and 65% of women and girls have disordered eating behaviors.

It starts with girls — young, impressionable girls — who are bombarded by the media (and now, Lego) with the message that how they look is much more important than how they think.

Lego has always been a “thinking” toy, stimulating the brain to conceptualize in three dimensions with unique creativity. My 9 year grandson is obsessed with Lego — builds the most amazing vehicles and structures, takes them apart, and then builds other ones all of his own design. He creates scenarios where male and female figures participate equally (of course, I had to purchase female figures for him separately since few come as cops, firefighters, or construction workers). He also creates family groups and structures. If I had a granddaughter, I would hope that she would play with Lego the same way.

Lego!! Can you hear me now! Girls don’t need another misrepresentation, another wrong message. Ditch the girly Lego, add more female figures in professional roles, and market the good ol’ Lego product line with an egalitarian approach.

STOP THE STEREOTYPING!

Lego needs a smack on its corporate head

They are making Lego for Girls!! BAD IDEA,LEGO! You are perpetuating the “pink” stereotype that women are trying so hard to eliminate. Don’t they pay attention to what’s going on in the the rest of the world?

What they need to do, instead of making and marketing what basically is a line of “Lego Barbies,” is to add a lot of female figures into their existing lines and market regular Lego to girls — as they did in their more enlightened era, back in 1981.

Don’t Lego idea people ever see any news items? They are 50 years behind the times. I have heard that even the business cards Lego provides to its employees (which always feature an image of a Lego figure of the employee’s choice) offer many different male figures for male employees; the females are supposed to choose between a nurse or a cheerleader.

Elsewhere in the interwebz — if those ill-informed decision makers would just look and follow links –there is a whole generation of females who are vocally and assertively trying to affect the stereotypical ways that females and female superheroes are portrayed by the comic book and fantasy game industries. Lego’s “girly” line is going against the kinds of enlightened attitudes that intelligent informed people want for their kids. (The kind of people who spend a lot of money on Lego products.)

Lego building blocks are the staple of my 9 year old grandson’s play and learning time. He and his female playmates all use the same Lego pieces (although I have had to buy extra female figures because so few come with the sets). In their play, females are cops, firefighters, construction workers, doctors, and moms; males are cops, firefighters, construction works, doctors, and dads.

Girlie Lego figures and sets are not the answer. Lego. The answer is to spend your money NOT making PINK Legos, but rather put your money into including more female figures who are professionals and then including girls in your advertising on an equal basis with boys.

Go here and email Lego a complaint about this issue.