Thursday, December 10, 2009

Secular Polyamory

I've got at least three ideas why secularists should embrace polyamory. They're in no particular order of importance or seriousness. Feel free to add suggestions. Any document about polyamoroy should be a WIKI anyway, lest it be antithetical to it's own subject. Or, if you prefer, this idea has room for more love.

First and foremost there is the divorce rate amongst monogamous heterosexuals. Standard married people are dropping like flies, matrimonially speaking. Here in the US the divorce rate is close to half. Half of all marriages end in a discussion over who gets the house and the kids and who gets stuck with the broken down, mismatched bedroom furniture. Divorce takes down a larger percentage of married couples than the Black Plague folks.

So here's the thing: Polyamory makes you communicate. You think it's hard reading your spouses mind now? Try having two! Polyamory just doesn't happen without communication. Some churches make you take a little compatibility quiz before you can reserve the chapel for the big day. But when a polyamorist asks you on a date, it usually comes along with a handful of links to websites with dozens of ways to skin one under-fed cat named "Communication." The strong silent types will never make it in this game. These people may talk too damn much, but most relationship experts agree that communication is the best way to avoid having to decide who gets car, and who gets the cat. That's right buddy. Put on the kettle, give that poor cat some friskies, and let's talk.

Secondly there's the concept of economic velocity, something I first learned here. Now this is a concept that can work even for traditional families if you understand it, but it really takes off when there are more pay-checks under one roof. Put simply for the purposes of polyamory, when more people share expenses and family responsibilities, you get ahead. My own take on this idea is all about leftovers. I throw away a lot of leftovers. Oh, I mean well, and I do eat some of them. But inevitably, there comes a day when opening the refrigerator is accomanied by the Indian Jones theme song, and I have to go in with a pistol and bull whip to clean house. And here's the thing: I paid for that stuff that once was food. I also paid for that dish I just dropped because it seemed to contain a victim of one Kali's worshipers.

So if there are more people hanging around to pay for the food and eat the leftovers, we're all getting more out of our money. More people to help pay the mortgage; more people at home to eliminate day-care costs; more people at the dining room table means you buy in bulk and take better advantage of sales and so on. Since financial woes are also known to be a leading cause of divorce, this also ties back into our first item.

Lastly, there is strength in numbers my friends. Sure, multiple partners might seem like a wacky idea on the surface, but let's take a look at another wacky idea that took advantage of this principle and see where it got them. Yep, that's right, I'm talking about the Mormons. Don't get me wrong, I'm not knockin' 'em as a people. After all, they gave us Donnie, Marie, and Orgazmo, right? But Mormonism does contain some rather wacky ideas. Principally, the founding of the religion is based on a claim that one John Smith was shown some golden tablets by an angel named Moroni and used a couple of stones called the Urim and the Thummim to translate the Book of Mormon from said tablets, which only Smith's close friends and family ever saw.


Personally, I think Smith found a pair smooth river-bed stones that reminded him of his wife's ass, and she caught him having a religious moment which he explained away by calling it just that.* I suspect many religions have similar roots, but this is the only one I have a working theory for. So Smith goes about founding a religion and while he was at it, he decided to secure the opportunity to have the ass of that pretty young thing down the way by giving the green light to polygamy for his flock. (We've already established that he was a randy guy.) Then, after being chased out of two states ahead of angry mobs with guns, they ended up in Utah, and they now run the place. That's reproductive power that can't be denied people. Now I know many of you reading this will point to global populations and say we shouldn't be having so many babies, but I hasten to point out that those with much less ecological conscience than we happy few are out-breeding us like lemmings who can't wait to get to the cliff. Trouble is, they're going to take us over the edge with them!

Of course, all of these very well thought out arguments don't even scratch the surface of spicing up your sex life. Hey, Smith isn't the only randy guy with whacky ideas out there. So let's all pony up to the couples bars and get it together! Because together, we'll be unstoppable!

* Now before you insist I'm going out on a limb here, let's remember that internet porn wasn't widely available in Smith's time, and even now that it is, some folks are STILL fornicating with their livestock.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Monday, October 26, 2009

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Music and More for a Geek Nation

The album Flood by They Might Be Giants has long been one of my favourites. I'm happy to say that now, with Here Comes Science, my kids are fast becoming fans of TMBG as well. I've got Meet the Elements stuck in my head, and my daughter loves I am a Paleontologist. Like TMBGs "friend Danny," she thinks she is one, and might very well be one day.

More than just music, and a really fun DVD, this album underscores one of the best things going on these days: the blossoming of Geek Culture. On the one hand, this movement makes being a geek a lot more fun, but I suspect there may be more to it than that.

My mother doesn't really get it. But then, she's not a geek. My mother was mortified when my daughter proudly proclaimed, "I'm a geek!" She gave me that look, "Did you teach her to say that? That's a terrible thing to teach her! You shouldn't tell your kids that they're geeks." She simply doesn't understand what it means to live in the post Revenge of the Nerds world.

It's more than living in a world were people hang on the word of guys like Steve Jobs, or where Bill Gates is rich and powerful enough to be both revered and hated. It's also a world where geeks make up a big enough a socioeconomic group to justify things like Giant Microbe Plushies, and get a Holywood movie made with grass roots support.

In and of themselves, these things are no more important than the Bohemian Revolution of more than a century ago. It will certainly produce some lasting art and a fat stripe of material culture, mostly plastic and battery powered. But the question remains, will Geek Culture make a lasting impression on human culture as a whole?

If Geek Culture teaches us nothing else, it teaches us that we certainly can have an impact, if we play our cards right. The Geek love of role play is a perfect example. We've built whole cultures out of fandom for everything from Science Fiction to the Middle Ages. Simple customs sprout like weeds in these groups. Geeks make fertile ground for cultural change.

Now some will point to things like the internet, and insist that geeks are already changing the world. To some degree that's true, but let's face it, the changes fomented by the internet have more to do with economy at present than they do with any decided intent to change the way people live. That being said, Geek Culture is still relatively young. It's not too late to wonder, what would a world shaped by Geeks look like?

It's a question worth asking. It's a question we may yet answer with action, rather than just the fleeting words of the electronic ether. And that's what makes this such a great time to be a Geek. Link

Monday, May 11, 2009

Multipurpose Drool

As any mortified parent who didn't vacuum yesterday can tell you, a drooling baby picks up dust-bunnies like nobodys business. Having had one to many occasions to contemplate this phenomenon, I've concluded that there's an evolutionary adaptation at work here.

First of all, there's camouflage. On a forest floor, that untended baby would be picking up leaves and small twigs, disguising it from predators whilst mommy and daddy are hunting, or gathering or making more siblings or what have you. Pretty hand really.

Next, when mommy and daddy catch their breath and notice the baby is beyond dirty, they are inspired to clean it. This is good for the baby. I'm sure there were parents who weren't moved to clean baby under those circumstances. Those babies probably didn't grow up to make more babies. You see how this evolution thing is working.

Finally, the mortification of the aforementioned parents at finding baby plastered with dirt inspires a few gray hairs, and shaves a few days off the lifespan, thus shortening the amount of time mom and dad will be around to hog up all the good food. This last element is a process that escalates as a child grows older, culminating in some cases in outright parricide. For examples, see the histories of pretty much any royal family, or spend a few minutes trying to talk to a teenager. Be careful, I'm told they bite.

(Neither the author of this blog nor any of his subsidiary contributors bears any responsibility for injuries sustained while trying to discuss the intricacies of baby drool and food supplies with teenagers.)

Something Old, Something New

A few days ago, I took out a really old piece of family furniture to clean it up and see if I could give it a new life. It's a long low cabinet with an odd history. My great grandfather worked as a delivery man for a dry-goods warehouse back around the turn of the century. The turn of the twentieth century that is. He drove a wagon drawn by a team of horses.

The cabinet originally came out of the warehouse where he worked. It stayed in his basement for untold decades, a home for tools, half used cans of paint, and other odds and ends. After that, it made it's way to my dad's garage where it stayed for another few decades. I can distinctly recall the handful of tools, fishing tackle, paint, lawn jarts, car parts and motor oil living there when I was a kid. When my parents sold their old home, it ended up in a storage unit for years, and was nearly let go, but for my saying I wanted it.

When I set it down in my driveway to clean it up, it looked used up. Used hard. One end was stained where a pan of motor oil had spilled over the top of it. The doors were stuck closed or broken. Spray paint marred some of them. Another had a few slugs from a long forgotten pellet gun. The dark reddish-brown finish was covered in a century of grime and dust.

I took the doors off and set them aside. Then, with a bucket of soapy water and brush, I started scrubbing, inside and out. A few hours later, the rich grain of oak peered out from beneath the grime. The golden color of the wood looked happy to see the sun. The few stains and scars that remain are only smile lines.

A little polish and repair work took only a short time more. Now the open shelves are home to a colorful collection of children's toys and books. The television and a couple of houseplants sit on top. Sometimes recycling is a feel good exercise.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Will legalizing pot help the economy?

Well duh.

It's remarkable that it's taken a recession of this magnitude to bring marijuana back to the table, but the Governator is finally talking about it. Beyond the legalization, regulation and taxation of the drug itself, there are the numerous applications for the plant fiber. The industry as a whole will more than offset any job-losses in the drug enforcement field. The fiber from the plant will be an ecologically sound boon to paper, clothing and other industries, which will give something of a loss of profit for the cotton industry, which may be the only reason we're having this discussion now, rather than 20 or 30 years ago.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Really Old Fashioned Values.

I'd like to make a call for a return to some old traditional values. Really old. Two items from Reuter's last month have stuck in my mind, so now I'm sticking them in yours.

First is a report about research at the Max Planck Institute. In short, they've figured out that Bonobos will trade sex for tasty food. In fact, the bulk of research shows that for Bonobos, sex will lubricate just about any transaction.* All humorous analogies about male expectations regarding the value of dinner and movie aside, it's interesting to note this behaviour in our closest biological cousins.

Especially in light of a story that showed up two days later. It seems that a group representing prostitutes in Nevada, where prostitution is legal, suggested that a tax on their services might help the state with budget shortfalls. But a slim majority of state lawmakers turned them down for fear of further lagitamizing an industry they'd rather do away with.

For a group that tout's itself as favoring "traditional" values, their behaviour looks a lot more like self denial to me. The oldest profession in the world is not about to go away, just because we want to pretend that our fully opposable thumbs and penchant for hair loss somehow absolves us of our own biology. If the bonobos cared to give humanity a mesage at all, I think it would be a rather simple one. Make love, not war.

*If anyone would like to throw some rotting vegatables for that comment, I'll gladdly exchange an equal amount fresh fruit for any amount of affection that might be legal in this state or yours.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Darwin's 200th Birthday Dinner: Transitional Species a la carte!

I usually try to steer clear of the Evolution vs. Creation debate. OK, I try to stay out of it on this blog. But the 200th Birthday of Charles Darwin seems to have generated at lease as much creationish flak as evolutionist jubilation. One argument that truly baffles me is the assertion that no transitional species are in evidence to support the idea of evolution.

I'm not sure what rock one would have to live under to suffer that affliction, er idea, but no matter. The power of Google shall set you free! Would you like those transitional species fossilized, or served live?

For species of the fossilized kind, we'll start with whales. There are a number of very good fossils representing a transition from land to sea for this magnificent mammal. Ranging from kutchicetus and ambulocetus to the more whale-like dorudon. Actually, there are a number of extinct species in the cetacean family that represent significant transition as you can see in this illustration by Carl Zimmer.

There are some wonderful articles available online about cetacean evolution at Wikipedia and Darwinia. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. A great deal of doubt about evolution centers on human evolution and the supposed lack of fossils. Again, I'm flummoxed. Ahem. And also, cough. Lots of fossils.

Anyway, I could go on, but maybe you like your transitional species alive and kicking. Or swimming, as the case may be. Now for me personally, lobe-finned-fishes are enough, and lung-fish plenty more.

But you may want some more visually persuasive examples. Consider for a moment the playful otter. Moreover, consider the otter together with the seal, the sea-lion, and the walrus, coo coo c'choo. Lets not forget those magnificent manatees, or hip hippos. Remember our friends the whales? Evolution isn't just a thing of the past. It's a thing of right now.

Just like the biosphere itself, evolutionary science is changing all the time. With each new fossil find, or scientific discovery we learn more, and the edges of the map recede. New ideas like punctuated equilibrium shed light on some of the puzzles left in the fossil record. But at this stage in the game, the fossil record looks a lot like the Colosseum. Bits of it may be missing, but it's form and purpose are easy to discern.