Archive for September, 2010

Morons with Signs

18 September 2010

Morons with Signs

Enjoy hour freedim of speach and spilling!



Global Warming and Gender

18 September 2010

To tweak an old Rodney Dangerfield line, Women don’t get no respect–from men or from themselves. Here’s an article illustrating what I mean: “Women More Likely Than Men to Accept Global Warming.”

Now to stop male deniers from nod their heads too smugly, here’s the gist of this article by Ariel Goldring:

A new study by Michigan State University sociologists finds that “women tend to believe the scientific consensus on global warming more than men.”

“Men still claim they have a better understanding of global warming than women, even though women’s beliefs align much more closely with the scientific consensus,” said McCright, an associate professor with appointments in MSU’s Department of Sociology, Lyman Briggs College and Environmental Science and Policy Program.

I like the word “claim” here because I’ve seen this gender issue in action. From experience, both in and out of the college classroom, I know that men claim a lot of things, even when they shouldn’t.

One of the last exercises I gave in my college research-comp classes was on logic. I handed out an in-class exercise, a page of paragraphs, each illustrating a fallacious argument. I asked the students to read them, decide on the nature of the thinking error, put a name to it, and then confer with the students around them. Usually, classes broke up into groups of five or so. I then asked them to delegate a spokesperson to speak for the group and explain their choice of fallacy.

While the students were conferring, I lurked. On an extraordinary number of occasions over the years, I listened to female students carefully argue and explain the problems accurately, only to be shut down male students who were completely off course. Almost every time, that male student became the spokesperson for his group. This happened in a high percentage of the ten or more semesters I used this exercise. I have no documentation on this, but my memory is strong enough to say it was way more than just a couple of times out of somewhere between fifty and a hundred groups. It could be more, semesters and classes flow together after a few years.

I am NOT male bashing here. Overall, both male and female students performed dismally on this logic exercise. After my first graded use where students averaged something like 30 percent after having a weekend to ponder the problems, I shifted to this non-graded, in-class exercise. I wanted to see if group discussion would help students sort through the issues.

In many ways, it did. Overall, conferring helped. Their answers went up ranging from a still dismal fifty to seventy percent overall. I know because while they were conferring, I lurked and listened. My handout sheet began with a straightforward either-or argument that well over a quarter of the students still missed. After that, the arguments were more subtle and hence the failure rate for ALL students went even higher. What I noticed immediately though were the incidences where female students with the right answer deferred to male students with the wrong one. I have no idea why they did this, but they did. It was, however, quite interesting to watch the expressions on the faces of both male and female students in these groups when the correct answers came out.

Another totally anecdotal observation from me–while the female students almost always listened to everyone, only the brightest, most confident male students were likely to listen to the others in the group, both male and female. On several occasions, I heard my best students–male and female–offer up an incorrect answer in their groups, but when another student explained his or her reasoning for the correct answer, all but a couple of times, these bright students changed their minds. Many even thanked the person with the stronger reasoning.



Riding the Wave? Riding the Wake?

14 September 2010

The first line of Chris Hedges’ “Do Not Pity the Democrats” states,

There are no longer any major institutions in American society, including the press, the educational system, the financial sector, labor unions, the arts, religious institutions and our dysfunctional political parties, which can be considered democratic. The intent, design and function of these institutions, controlled by corporate money, are to bolster the hierarchical and anti-democratic power of the corporate state.

I read that and thought, hey, I’ve heard that somewhere. Oh yes, I’ve heard myself saying it. I’ve been reading it too in works like Charles Hugh Smith’s Survivial +: Structuring Prosperity for Yourself and the Nation. (His blog, the source of the ideas in his book, is worth checking out too.)

The evangelical tone of Hedges’ essay suggests this chorus is rising. Other informed voices, like Smith, Archdruid Greer, Sharon Astyk, and many others, echo themes much like what Hedges advocates. It’s time to opt out, to become as independent as possible, and not just politically. We need to become what Smith calls The Remnant, what Greer calls Green Wizards. We need to do something concrete, something to keep our own little lifeboats afloat as the titanic USA sinks.

We need to flee USA Inc.

Hedges’ plea is succinct:

Investing emotional and intellectual energy in electoral politics is a waste of time. Resistance means a radical break with the formal structures of American society. We must cut as many ties with consumer society and corporations as possible. We must build a new political and economic consciousness centered on the tangible issues of sustainable agriculture, self-sufficiency and radical environmental reform.

Things are not looking good, folks. Yet when I start talking about the enormity of our problems, the perfect storm or debt, political corruption and/or gridlock, population, resource depletion, and so on, I often get reactions ranging from blank stares to surprise or even anger. When someone asks me who I’d be voting for, I now shrug my shoulders and say, “Does it matter?” If people give me a minute or so to begin to explain the concentrated effort it’d take to change anything and the virtual impossibility of concentrating American focus, people usually prove my point by losing focus and wandering back to their business as usual (BAU)lives.

Meanwhile, people like Smith call out to The Remnant. Greer calls for Green Wizards. Help yourself. Learn practical skills. Prepare for the current cultural, social, political, economic scene to get worse.

Now I’m going back to harvesting my garden, tending to my ducks, and then sitting with my books and my favorite non-commercial media sites to ponder what may be coming next. Whatever it is may come slower than I expect or in a different form, but I fear something big and dark and scary is indeed coming. I’m afraid Chris Hedges’ tone is appropriate.


The American Religion

8 September 2010

In light of the plans of the miniscule Dove World Outreach Center to burn Qur’ans on this September 11, now might be a good time to read or reread Harold Bloom’s 1992 book The American Religion: The Emergence of the Post-Christian Nation, because Bloom recognized back then symptoms that are now hard to ignore.

As of today, the pastor of this evangelical church in Florida is waving off pleas from the many and the mighty and is still holding to his plan: “Fla. pastor: Buring [sic] Quran Is ‘Direction God Wants Us to Go'”

In The American Religion Bloom, a self-described gnostic Jew, says this:

Something of the rocky strength of Southern Baptist Fundamentalism is interestingly similar to Islamic Fundamentalism. “Inerrancy” for both movements is an unconscious metaphor for the repression of all individuality. (221)

Uh huh. I could go on about the psychological aspects of projection and such, but I’m sure others are better qualified. I’ll just add something that I do know about: reading skills.

Bloom also noted that for American fundamentalists actually READING their sacred text was secondary at best:

What Fundamentalists cannot understand is that their attempted literalization of Scripture is itself a giant metaphor: a conversion of the Bible into a statue or an icon. It is in itself a restrictive interpretation, with not the slightest relation to the Bible’s actual text.” (221)

That is, actually studying and contemplating their own sacred text or anyone else’s isn’t close to as important as waving theirs and burning someone else’s.

That they haven’t carefully read, contemplated, or researched either sacred text should be apparent from reading the Dove Outreach blog. For example, there’s “Ten Reasons to Burn a Koran.”

The errors here are so glaring that I’d like to use this as a final exam for a college level intermediate comp class. Grammar, punctuation, factual errors, logic fallacies, anachronisms–it’s got it all.

On the other hand, my copy of the Qur’an, translated by M. H. Shakir, does contain some mighty strange tales. For example, there’s the story of the birth of the second greatest prophet in Islam. In Surah XIX, a messenger of the Lord tells a virgin she will have a pure boy. In response, Marium says, “When shall I have a boy and no mortal has yet touched me, nor have I been unchaste?” (20). The messenger says, “Even so, your Lord says, It is easy to Me; and it is a matter which has been decreed” (21). So Mary–excuse me, Marium–conceived and gave birth to Isa. Not only does a virgin give birth, but the infant talks from the cradle, telling her that when Allah “has decreed a matter He only says to it ‘Be,” and it is (35). And surely Allah is my Lord and your Lord, therefore serve Him; this is the right path (36).”

Ah, yes, I can see that the “right path” means “Burn, baby, burn.”


Duck SuperMax Prison and Spa–The Details

7 September 2010

Our duck enclosure is attached to the south side of a storage shed that sits just to the southwest of the main entry to our house. The placement allows the ducks to act as an additional early alert system should our Australian Cattle Dog be dozing in the back bedroom. Typically though, both alarms go off simultaneously. They quack; he barks; we always know when we have visitors.

The duck enclosure, built to fit the name Duck SuperMax Prison and Spa, has a metal roof and hardware cloth sides, doubled and dug in on the bottom. I also laid sandstone patio slabs around the edges of the enclosure since we have many predators, including coyotes, foxes, raccoons, hawks, eagles, owls, and the usual dogs and cats.

Right now, the duck yard is temporarily fenced with portable, electric poultry fence. Within the next month or so, I hope to put up the permanent fencing. Right now, I plan on regular field fence, wire left over from fencing the horse pastures. The lower couple feet will be hardware cloth to prevent duck heads from temptingly poking through the field fence. We’ll top out this fence with wooden rails so that it matches the horse fencing. I am however thinking of swagging the top rail with a few strings of little white Christmas/party lights in keeping with my theme of Prison and Spa.

The two pools, one a sheep water tank and the other a preformed decorative pond, are the main features of the Spa right now. I’m planning on building some other features for duck sunning and shading later on. I have quite a supply of old wooden posts since this summer we’ve replaced dozens of pasture posts that were broken at ground level but still five feet high. I’m sure I can design a duck cabana or two using them.

Inside the enclosure sits the duck house itself. It’s visible, but not prominent. I wanted it to be unobtrusive and plain in keeping with the prison aspect of my top security duck enclosure. Maybe stark and grim are a better descriptors. The design is based on the lovely Winston duck house found here. I wouldn’t call our version lovely. It’s built from rough exterior particle board smoothed only by many coats of paint.

The house is three feet wide, eight feet long, and not quite four feet high. With the two doors, cleaning is relatively easy. Right now, I have a large hay tarp folded and squished into the bottom. I had hoped for a better fit. It’s OK, but less than ideal since the edges of the tarp flop over, covering up part of the softwood shavings that serve as bedding. If I get a bit of free time (ha!) I hope to tailor and stitch up the ends to form something like a tray. Then, by adding a couple of handles, I could drag out the tray containing soiled shavings fairly easily. At least that’s the plan at present. Right now, the shavings are holding up well with a stir each morning.

Upon first seeing these duck facilities, our neighbor, long a major breeder of gamebirds, mostly mallards, walked into the duck enclosure and blinked. He pointed to the duck house and said, “What’s that?” I said, “The duck house.” He pointed to the roof and sides of the enclosure and said, “So what’s this?” I said, “The duck enclosure.” He waved a hand toward the roof and sides of the enclosure, then pointed back to the house and said, “That’s overkill!”

He’s a like that–a nice guy who stresses the practical. His ducks are safe indeed, but I hear them quacking frantically as coyotes drool and prowl around his pens. Our ducks huddle quietly inside their house when they feel threatened. Plus, they can not only avoid the high winds so common on the Colorado Plains, but the east and west ends of the house provide exterior shade or concentrated sun, whichever they want or need.

Before he left, our neighbor turned to my husband and said, “When’s she putting in the air conditioning?” I actually quite like this neighbor. He’s gruff, but when he first heard we had received the shipment of ducklings, he was over in an instant, bearing a large container of his specially mixed duck feed. He definitely feared we wouldn’t do well by our ducklings. Now retired, he hatched only a thousand ducklings this spring. When he was “active,” he hatched out something like twenty thousand.

I gather he’s still telling people about our ducks’ need for air conditioning.


Lomborg’s Shift of Emphasis

1 September 2010

For those who don’t already know, Lomborg didn’t deny climate change; his position, as I understand it, was simply that it wasn’t worth the money it’d take to address the problems. Apparently, he now thinks throwing a bit of money at the problem might be advisable.

“Bjorn Lomborg, Climate Change Skeptic, Now Believes Global Warming Is an International Threat.”

After reading this, I visited for the current CO2 level. I hadn’t checked the CO2 level for several months. Last time I looked, it was 387. The new number is higher. Oh well.