Background Noise

Where I try to transform my thoughts from fuzzy static into clarity

Writer's Block: Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known
Who would you appoint as Earth's ambassador to alien races, and why?

Well it would depend on the intellectual ability of the alien races, what they were interested in and what their culture was like. Answers to this question could range anywhere from Stephen Hawking to Tom Green to an ant or a mushroom. More information needed.

Writer's Block: A real eye opener
Which one book should everyone read, and why?

I'm sure there's a better answer to this, but the first one that pops into mind as an answer to the writers block question is "Man's Search for Meaning" by Viktor Frankl. It was certainly thought provoking, and after my dad died was probably the most helpful book for helping me sort out my thoughts, though not earth shattering in its revelations.

But to expand...

For pure fun, I think one of the most under-appreciated books ever is Stephen R. Donaldson's Mordant's Need story with "The Mirror of Her Dreams" and "A Man Rides Through." An epic and memorable and really fun to read story. I'm surprised it's never been made into a movie.

I love the Harry Potter books. I detest the movies, which lacked ALL of the charm of the books and which I abandoned even bothering to watch after the third.

For just general enlightenment and appreciation of everyday wonders, I'm kind of a fan of Robert Fulghum.

Of classics, Les Miserables was a neat story. Naturally the Lord of the Rings books also. 

When I was a kid, I loved a book called "The Fledgling" that I have since forgotten the name of the author to although it's probably as easy as googling. And a series of horse-related books written by someone whose first name was Margaret. And "The Lorax," which made a rather big impression on me when I was about 7.

Writer's Block: When push comes to shove
What can be done to promote tolerance and stop bullying in schools?

Increase the ratio of adults to children in the classroom, perhaps no fewer than one adult per seven to ten children. Rests and recesses should be held on a rotating basis with small groups of kids at a time rather than hundreds converging on a play area, perhaps 20 children at a time with two to three adults whose job it is to monitor and constructively occupy the children, suggesting activities to those that are hanging around looking bored and promoting teamwork in the play that does occur.

This will, of course, never happen because it would cost a lot of money. However, I think it needs to be recognized that part of being a child is lack of maturity, and with lack of maturity comes lack of understanding of others' perspectives and a tendency toward Lord of the Flies mentality. Some children are naturally empathetic and compassionate and need less supervision, but it needs to be accepted by adults that no matter how much wishy washy thinking we might have about it, not all children will be nice to each other without being specifically instructed over time in empathy and kindness (with policing to ensure compliance in those resistant to learning it). Similarly, targets of bullying need to be instructed over timein self-help skills and not left to figure out how to deal with bullies on their own.

Writer's Block: Hey, big spender
Should there be limits on how much money a political candidate can spend on an election campaign, and why?

Maybe there shouldn't be any campaigning of the sort that goes on today. It's a massive waste of money in any case for what doesn't really amount to actual information but more who has the best PR manager with an ear for soundbites. Candidates are groomed to the point that they come across as no more than talking heads trying to create soundbites more than policy.

Plus, you can't restrict campaign financing in a meaningful manner. If you restrict donations TOO much, you make it such that only independently extremely wealthy individuals have a shot at running for office. If you don't restrict donations, you make it so that people or groups are able to buy politicians or have undue influence over them. If campaigns are publicly funded, taxpayer money is wasted on the damned soundbites instead of private money.

Instead, perhaps voting day should be turned into a national holiday where no businesses are open and no one is expected to work. Then, voting should be turned into a 2-3 hour activity wherein the person goes to the polls and watches a videotaped presentation (or reads a booklet) summarizing all the issues and the individual candidates' stance on them, and then makes a decision based entirely on the information presented. Campaigning outside of these mission statements could be banned entirely and deemed an attempt to unduly influence public opinion. Thus, gazillions of dollars would be saved and people would be more likely to make truly informed decisions. People would, of course, be free to do their own research on politicians' records and follow the news as an aid in decision-making but outright campaigning could be banned.

Just an idea. I have only put 2 minutes of thought into it, so I'm sure there's some reason why it would be a bad idea that I'm not thinking of.

Writer's Block: How old is too old?
Are you ever too old to go trick-or-treating? Is candy for everyone?

I do think you can be too old for trick-or-treating. I'm pretty sure I stopped around age 12. I would find it kind of icky if there were 20 and 30-year-olds or older on my porch saying "trick or treat." Kids are cute all dressed up in halloween costumes though.

Candy's another story than trick-or-treating though. No age limits there. I'm not a fan of eating massive amounts of sugar but I like me a few chocolate squares now and then. Especially dark with low added sugar, because then I can rationalize it as being mildly healthy. :)

Writer's Block: Smells like teen spirit
Are there any scents that invoke childhood memories?

Roast beef freshly cooked in onions and potatoes.

My mom used to make this every Christmas.

I am actually a vegetarian but I love the smell of roast beef for this reason. This Christmas she's coming to visit. I'm going to have her teach me how to make it. I have no intention of eating it, but The Husband and The Kids are not vegetarians and thus I can indulge in the smell while hopefully passing on the memory to future generations.

I expect it may make me teary eyed though. I'm still not used to Dad not being around during the holidays. Any childhood memories I have are now bittersweet by him not being here anymore.

Writer's Block: Above and beyond
What do you think happens after you die?

I don't have a fixed opinion about this. I can see the case for that death is the end of it all, but I am a kind of "I Want to Believe" type and have also considered various mechanisms for survival of consciousness. I would love to come across some sort of evidence to convince me that there really is more. It wouldn't need to be incontrovertible, just enough to convince me. I think finding such evidence would give me a great deal of peace.

I imagine that it depends on whether souls exist, and if they do, what they're composed of. I've wondered if there's some sort of energy that steers living things that hasn't yet been discovered or proven by science. The chemical soup explanation doesn't totally sit right for me. There is something in our brains that is self aware and is able to consider options, weigh evidence, make moral judgments and other decisions even if they're not logical or instinctive, and so on. I don't see that all being random or the work of chemical synapses that aren't controlled by something that is quite simply More. Plus, there's the anecdotal evidence presented by mediums and people with near-death experiences and so on. Although I will agree with skeptics that such evidence is hardly conclusive proof, I don't think it all can be waved away and written off without serious consideration.

If there is an afterlife, I doubt it exists in a form that can be described by our psychological schemas. This is one reason why I doubt some of the anecdotes I've read as being more than dreams or other constructions of a very human and organic brain. I can't see a sensible reason why souls would continue to look like human body figures, for example, in the absence of a physical body or why there would still be visual sight as we typically perceive through our eyes or similar. But this also is one reason why I would think about taking more seriously the stories of mediums who are able to perceive experiences without being able to give detailed visual descriptions, because if there is a way for a soul to leave the body or a consciousness, I would think it would not retain vision as we know it but would perceive more along the lines of emotions or non-sensory experiences.

On religion, I could see there being a greater being or beings. For the reasons outlined above I don't really buy the typical religions but I could see them being symbolic representations and archetypes to understand what really is out there.

The one thing I do know is I want to see my dad again when I die. Even if it's just a final figment of my imagination.

Anyway, my kids are finishing their dinner so signing off.

Writer's Block: Family planning
If you wanted to have children and had trouble conceiving, would you be more likely to consider IVF, surrogacy, or adoption, and why?

I'd do IVF first if the primary issue were trouble conceiving. It costs about the same as adoption and there's no risk that a court is later going to order you to give your baby back to the birth parents.

That being said, I do hope to adopt a child in need of parents someday if I can get The Husband on the same page.

It is a pet peeve of mine that some people want to put the responsibility to adopt all the world's orphans into the hands of the infertile, however. It's not as if there are orphanages out there full of Annies awaiting the perfect mommy to come along and take them home. The massive quantities of kids out there who need adopting are older children in foster care. Almost all of them are by definition going to have severe medical and psychological issues by mere virtue of the situation that caused them to be in need of being adopted. Such as being taken away from abusive meth addicted mothers who used drugs during pregnancy and left the kid with severe learning disabilities and the like. Many such kids have a rather nasty condition called "reactive attachment disorder" that is not exactly peanuts to deal with. Wanting to become a parent is one thing, but adopting these kids requires someone who wants to be a parent and a lot more above and beyond that. 

I think people who get self righteous and judgmental about others wanting to use IVF rather than adopt these kids as a default response to infertility should put their money where their mouth is and adopt one of these kids themselves instead of trying to get pregnant. You are equally capable of pursuing adoption rather than pregnancy regardless of your ability to conceive.

That being said, I have the deepest respect for those out there willing to become a parent to an older child who has had a difficult start in life. I want to do it myself someday when my biological kids are older and I'm done with medical school. But I certainly understand why someone would try to have a baby where they can raise a kid with a clean slate from the beginning rather than going straight from being an inexperienced childless parent to attempting to raise a child with significant special needs.

Writer's Block: One door closes, another one opens
Have you ever closed the door on an opportunity or a relationship in order to open another door, only to realize you made the wrong choice?

Well sure. Probably everyone has done this. At least once they're older than 12.

The example that comes to mind for me is that when I was 18 and setting out to get my first job shortly after having married The Husband, I thought I wanted to be a writer. I'm now in the process of trying to rectify that mistake, of course, but back to the point. I got a call for an interview at a magazine that I forget the title of that was something having to do with the nursing profession. It was just for an administrative assistant position, and I ended up taking a different job and ultimately ending up in technology journalism.

I wonder often if I took that first job at the nursing magazine if I would have realized sooner that I really wanted to work in the healthcare profession rather than in media.

After I took the job that led me to tech journalism, it took a number of years before I ended up getting into health journalism, which led me to realize I was really supposed to be working in healthcare. That call for that interview 12 years ago probably was a missed opportunity to waste less of my youth on a dead-end track.

Writer's Block: Fly me to the moon
Do you think space exploration is important? Is it worth the billions our governments spend?

I can see both sides. Space exploration IS important in terms of scientific understanding. I do think it is probably beneficial to the human race to gain the understanding that can be acquired through space exploration. In a perfect world this would probably function through a multinational cooperative effort rather than being done through individual countries.

But despite the understanding that can be gained, it's hard to justify the cost. Tax dollars are money out of the taxpayers' pockets, not just free money to be spent at will for whatever potentially justifiable reason (though people sometimes act like that's all taxes are), and it seems that there should be more pressing priorities for these tax dollars that lead to more immediate benefit.


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