Best way to get revelation.

As I grew up, my impression was always that this reflected the general attitude of the Church towards science:

Every discovery in science and art, that is really true and useful to mankind, has been given by direct revelation from God, though but few acknowledge it. It has been given with a view to prepare the way for the ultimate triumph of truth, and the redemption of the earth from the power of sin and Satan. We should take advantage of all these great discoveries, the accumulated wisdom of ages, and give to our children the benefit of every branch of useful knowledge, to prepare them to step forward and efficiently do their part in the great work. [Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, vol. 9, pg. 369, 31Aug 1862].

I'm not sure if I ever heard this particular quote, but I often heard the sentiment.

If scientific discovery is revelation, it is interesting then to note that since Joseph Smith's time the overwhelming majority of revelation has come through scientists rather than prophets, since very little actual revelations have happened since that time but an enormous amount of scientific discovery has.

The irony is, about 60% of scientists are atheist or agnostic. But not all scientists are created equal. Most scientific breakthroughs come from the relatively few great scientists at the top of their feild. The National Academy of Sciences (Nas) represents the cream of the crop. About ten percent of their members have earned a nobel prize and there are few greater honors a scientist can receive than to be elected to the Academy. So these are the people who, according the views expressed in the quote above, are most in tune to with inspiration, more than anyone else they recieve 'direct revelation from God'. So the irony is increased when considering that, among members of the NAS only 7% actually believe in God. A few more are agnostic, about 20% and the rest disbelieve entirely. Does that mean according to Lds standards that believing in God is actually a hindrance to revelation? At the very least, not believing in God doesn't stop one from revelation and even revieving more than Church leadership itself.


Why are women more easily grossed out?

I think a fair generalization to make is that women tend to be grossed out easier than men. (one exception to this is Marissa. Sometimes she makes jokes that gross even me out and I think I have a pretty high gross tolerance.) There is a reason why 'guy' movies tend to include gross stuff and chick flicks rarely do. Like anything related to humans, there are many who deviate from this, but it doesn't it is not generally accurate.

I was trying to think of why this might be so and while I have no idea if my idea is true or not, I think it seems plausible.

Historically, duties that were normally filled by men, such as hunter or warrior, involve a lot of gross stuff and a person who is easily grossed out would be at a disadvantage and and less likely to reproduce, either because they would be more likely to die or lower status as a failure would allow for less mating opportunities.

On the other hand, responsibilities that usually fell on women, such as cooking and child rearing, benefit from a sensitivity to grossness. Typically things are gross because they are bad for us and can make us sick, Repulsion is our bodies evolved method of making sure we steer clear of things like poo poo (poop) and throw-up without having to understand germ theory or even causality. To be sure, culture can influence what in particular is seen as gross, but the underlying mechanism is biological and certain things are more or less universally gross (feces, rotten meat, incest etc.). Probably the most important area to avoid grossness is anything related to our food and second, keeping gross stuff from anywhere near children, since they get sick more easily and their disgust system has not yet been developed and learned. Considering this, it would be no wonder women tend to be more sensitive to gross things. It is a big advantage in two crucial areas.


Sleep positions

One thing I envy about 4 legged-animals (aside from how walking on four legs instead of two seems overall much more comfortable. No back strain. Walking upright evolved fairly recently and our backs still haven't totally adapted.) is the variety of positions they can comfortably sleep in. I can pretty much sleep comfortably on my side or to a lesser degree on my back. But my cat and dog on the other hand! They sleep on their backs and stomachs and every variation of laying on one's side and curled up in a ball and stretched out long and in a weird u-shape, with their heads up or down or to the side, with their legs under them or beside them and every possible variation of these positions. The one I most envy is being curled up in a ball. Or in other terms, the cat croissant. It seems very comfortable.

Favorite thing, self sufficiency and interdependence.

One of my favorite things is when a simple comment or question totally changes my perspective, because it challenges or questions something I hadn't even considered could be challenged or questioned. Like when I hold a belief that strikes me as so obviously correct that I never even considered the opposing view because it hadn't occurred to me there even WAS an opposing view. Just realizing that there is something else to consider is a paradigm shift.

For example, because of the culture and religion I was raised in, (plus my having read several Ayn Rand and Henry David Thoreau books as a teenager), I believed self-sufficiency to be of great value in and of itself. I saw being entirely self-sufficient an ultimate goal.
I think I was 21 when I was made a comment about living in the woods, growing my own food, having a windmill and how it would be cool being entirely self-sufficient, when I friend responded with something like 'What's so great about being self-sufficient?'

That comment was a revelation to me. Up until that point self-sufficiency had seemed like such an obvious good, on par with the golden rule or not crapping in someone's mouth while they sleep, that I had honestly never considered: A) why was it a value in and of itself? and B) that there was an opposing side to the issue.

It isn't that my mind was suddenly changed by that comment, I think it took a few years of gradual progression in my thought process, but I can definitely look back to that moment as the seed to my believing their is greater value in community and interdependence than self-sufficiency.
If someone takes satisfaction from doing everything by themselves, that is fine, I have no problem with it. But I don't believe it need be something people in genreal need to work towards. How impoverished would we be if all we had was ourselves or even just our families? All my ideas and values and thoughts are ultimately the product of my interactions with other people. And of course all my possessions, even the things I have made myself. And far from being a bad thing, I think this is great and beautiful. If I only had myself to rely on it would be an incredible disadvantage. We are all hopelessly intertwined and dependent upon one another and by and large I think we are better because of it. (not to mention all of us being entirely dependent upon God or Nature for our very being and survival).

(The first part of this post is what I intended to write about. Although it ended up being a set-up into me talking about inter-dependence, the last paragraph is just an expanded footnote of the example I used for the point I initially set out to make)



I wonder if Einstein is really the super genius we have made him out to be, or just a regular genius who came around at the right time, with an interest in the right subject. Because surely if he had died young, his theories would have been figured out eventually and it probably wouldn't have been much later. His work built directly on his predecessors and might even be seen as the logical next step to the existing theories. By no means was he operating in a vacuum. So I guess the question would be, would one individual have discovered all the stuff Einstein did, or would it have been a bunch people, like quantum mechanics?

Writing versus art.

One thing I realized lately that has allowed me to feel more content with my decision to pursue a career in art is that even though I would rather be a successful writer than a successful artist, I would much rather be an 'unsuccessful' artist than an 'unsuccessful' writer. And by unsuccessful I mean, not able to make a career from only writing or only art making, so having to supplement it through teaching. Basically, I would rather teach ceramics at a college or University than teach something like writing or english.
Since I will most likely not be a successful writer or successful artist, I figure I should base my plans on what I would rather be unsuccessful at.

In a sense, I am planning my life based on assumed 'failure'. (Which seems kind of funny that art is my safe plan, when art is normally people's idealistic dream and something like graphic design or business would be the safe plan.) But through pursuing art educationally, I don't feel as if I am closing any doors on writing. I will continue writing, working on my book (which I recently re-started and I feel much more confident about it) and trying my half-hearted best to find somewhere willing to publish something I write. And if that never pans out, which it probably won't, then I will still get to be an art professor, which seems like a dream job.

Plus, for whatever reason, I do not enjoy studying writing. Not at all. I very much look forward to the next two years studying ceramics at Saic, but imaging if instead it were in a writing program fills me with the opposite of excitement.

And even if I did somehow become a professional writer, I think I would still like to be an art professor. That may just be my romantic notion of how it will be and after I actually teaching for awhile I could feel differently, but for now I think that is true.

Also, if anyone reading is a publisher or editor of some sort, will you publish my writing please?

More blogging

One thing that keeps me from blogging much: I tend to feel a need to address every possible angle I can think of whenever I write about something. Usually this leads to posts that may be too long, but more importantly it often leads to no posts at all. Lately I often don't have the time or motivation to write a post that addresses everything I can think of about a subject, so I instead just post something brief on facebook. But I want to blog more, so I plan to make more of the short, not-thorough posts like I have done recently, with a few long, thorough posts in between.

Institutions as a step to freedom or bondage.

I think the reason I generally prefer Eastern religion to Western religion is summarized in this quote "The role of a guru is to wean you from them, so that you can develop confidence in your own true nature." ~ Pema Chodrin
The sentiment of that quote seems typical of Eastern religion and something I can't imagine hearing from the Pope or the Prophet or a Mullah. Don't get me wrong, I have my qualms with Eastern religion too, but Western religion generally seems more spritually limiting for the individual. Like the ultimate goal of this life is for the the individual to be inexorably tied to the institution, rather than the institution being a mere stepping stone on a path that would, ideally, be transcended.

Interestingly, the infamous and controversial 1984 talk by Elder Poelman originally made several points similar the quote mentioned above, for example, "Institutional discipline is replaced by self discipline. Supervision is replaced by righteous initiative and a sense of divine accountability." while the edits required by the institution basically made the exact opposite point. That same line was changed to "We will exercise self discipline and righteous initiative guided by Church leaders and a sense of divine accountability." (here is a link to all the changes )


I noticed there was a recall of a drug called 'Risperdal'. The recall is because of a strange odor. What makes this interesting is that Risperdal is a drug used to treat schizophrenia. This seems like the worst type of drug to be recalled, for any reason but especially because of something like a funny odor. Imagine all those poor schizophrenics, many of them already reluctant to take their medicine, for a variety of reasons, sometimes because of worry that the government or God or aliens are out to get them and now they discover their medicine has a funny odor and the government is recalling it. I would imagine this sends their delusions into overdrive and reinforces their fears that some malevolent force is trying to destroy them.

Speaking of schizophrenic delusions. One night I a guy in my neighborhood seemed super panicked and informed me heaven was about to be destroyed and he was the only person who could stop it.

Schizophrenia seems to me like the most difficult and cruel disease. For that guy, things wouldn't be any worse if heaven actually was about to be destroyed and he was the only one who could stop it. Whatever terrible scenario the mind could imagine, that a person's delusions make them think is actually happening, isn't made any better for that person because it is merely a delusion. If anything, it is made worse because they aren't able to have the support of a community to share their burden and worry.


Why scenic views are beautiful.

Whenever the wind blows while Margaret (the dog) is sitting on the roof outside our window (which she does often), she puts her nose in the air, closes her eyes and sniffs deeply, looking very satisfied. Smelling the wind is apparently gratifying for her.

Watching this made me realize that if your primary sense is smell, than the wind must be a huge helper. It would be like the smell equivalent of looking in a telescope, letting you smell things which are far away. Utilizing the wind to smell things at a distance would have a clear evolutionary advantages, like to find hidden prey downwind. That is probably why smelling the wind is so enjoyable to her because beings evolve to find evolutionary advantageous behavior pleasurable.

I tried to think of a better human equivalent than a telescope, since those are obviously too recent an invention for humans to have evolved a desire for, and it struck me, viewing things from high in the air! Everyone I know finds the view from tall buildings or mountainsides beautiful. Houses which are on hills or on mountainsides, or offices on a hugh floor tend to be much more expensive because the panoramic view is pleasurable to look at. And no wonder: their are clear evolutionary advantages of being able to see for miles around you: Spotting approaching predators or enemies, scoping out prey.

So no wonder we find nice views beautiful. I wonder if dogs feel a similar sense of awe and wonder at a particularly strong and fragrant wind.


Another dog post

Our dog is incredibly extroverted, both with people and other dogs. Whenever a stranger makes eye contact with her, she makes as much effort as she can to say 'hi' to them. And when she is able to meet someone new, she goes wild with excitement.

She gets excited when we come home or for whatever reason haven't seen her in a while, but not nearly as excited as when she gets to meet new people.
I've met a few other female pit mixes and they seemed to act the same way, so perhaps it has something to do with her breeding.

Walking a dog every day in a neighborhood with a fair amount of foot traffic, and many dog lovers,, I meet tons of people. All sorts of people approach us to pet Margaret. Most are nice about it and it is a pleasant experience, but some people can be too forward, pushy or somehow off-putting.
When people I initially like or who look sad meet Margaret, I explain her over-the-top enthusiasm with the true, but somewhat misleading statement: "I guess she really likes you".
When it is someone I find off-putting i give them the more accurate: 'She really loves meeting new people.'

Gratitude Journaling

Recently I have become a big advocate of Gratitude Journaling. Basically make a list of good things in your life. I know this sounds very cheesy and like something from sunday school, but I have found it to be effective.
I read about some studies on the subject and thought I would try it out.
At the end of just three weeks, the participants who received the “gratitude intervention” were measurably happier. They exercised thirty percent more. They slept better and felt more helpful and connected to other people.
From this article.
I recommend it to everyone.
It helps me appreciate the positive aspects of my life and puts into perspective the negative aspects that can occasionally seem to be of bigger significance than they really are.
It should be no surprise that such a thing works. We know that emotions behave like muscles, the more we express certain emotions the easier and more inclined we are to feel them in the future and the feeling of gratitude is basically feeling good about stuff that happens.
I find that making a list of positive things in my life provides an immediate pick me up. Other people may not have as quick of results, but I suspect their results will be similar in effect even if it takes a few more days.


Marissa and I have found the perfect place in Chicago. It has two bedrooms a large attic space and even a yard, which is, perhaps, my top priority because it will make dog owning so much easier. All that and it is only 750$/month! But looking up the neighborhood online I noticed there were 3 shootings just this month! Gulp gulp gulp! We are still going to have a friend check it out for us. It seems like a great place, as long as it doesn't mean we are going to get shot every day as we walk out the front door.


It seems that your average Lds person spends more time talking, thinking and lamenting about the suffering experienced by Mormon pioneers well over a century ago than the (sometimes greater) suffering being experienced today in places like Africa or even South America.


Political correctness and David Foster Wallace.

While I am by no means on a path towards conservatism, I do find that as I get older and my thinking is less governed by emotions and hopefully more objective and hopefully I'm more able and willing to consider all sides of an issue, I have come to agree more with conservatives in a handful of areas. But make no mistake, when viewed on whole, I find myself becoming increasingly progressive.

Now that 'my side' (I use quotes because I didn't vote for Obama. But I am happy he is president and I still support him because I understand that being President necessarily involves a lot of difficult compromise because he is not a dictator) is in power, the areas where me and my fellow partisans diverge tend to become more apparent.

There have been several on my mind lately, so maybe these next few entries will be devoted to areas where I agree with conservatives. Or maybe not, I guess we will see.

But the topic which motivated me to write today (and it fortunately does not involve dogs or graduate school) is Political Correctness. Like so many other things like it, it comes from good intentions and what it replaced, rampant, institutional racism/sexism/whateverism is much worse.

But like so many swinging pendulums, before it arrives somewhere in an agreeable middle, it goes all the way to one extreme. I don't think we are that extreme point today, that probably occurred around the late nineties early two thousands, it seems we have begun the slow swing back towards the middle, but we are early in the process and still lean far towards the side of dogmatism.

My bigegst problem with political correctness is that it is too black and white, too moralistic and too extreme. Once a person cries 'racist' or 'sexist' or whatever, the discussion is over. That label, fair or not, becomes the sum total of a person's argument and all nuance, discussion and debate is lost.

Like other things which can lead to black and white thinking such as religion or political activism, political correctness can also lead to (what I believe are) arbitrary moral distinctions. Such as the word 'African American' being the morally superior label despite, as David Cross wisely observed it being "a ridiculous and ill-applied label that was accepted with a thoughtless rush just to make white people feel at ease and slightly noble"

However, I do tend to avoid using certain terms or expressing certain ideas when I can. My distaste for political correctness is not strong enough to outweigh the thorniness certain expressions can induce. So, although I disagree with much of political correctness, I don't feel strongly enough about it that it seems worth getting people worked up. (There are a handful of exceptions to this)

Then their are people like Doctor Laura or other Am Talk Radio hosts who, in their extreme dislike of political correctness, go out of their way to say words they know people find offensive and seem to relish using such words. Even though I mostly agree with whatever reasons they give for using such words (making words taboo gives them words too much power, it is inconsistent for one group to be allowed a word while another cannot, regardless of context. Not that I am aching to use racial slurs or anything, but surely some grey area exists in regard to this word. ) So even though I agree with their reasoning, I still find what they are doing to be distasteful, but I could never quite put my finger on why. Was this just my partisanship showing? Is it simply because I dislike and disagree with people like Dr Laura that I dislike her use of racial slurs? I would like to think I am more fair minded than that, but I had no alternative explanation.

Until yesterday! While reading an article by David Foster Wallace ('article' feels a little misleading. It did originally appear in a magazine, but it takes up over 60 pages in the book I read it in) about Am talk radio in general, through examining one host in particular, a guy named John Zeigler. (who I had never heard of, but I guess he was pretty big in Southern California). Previous to the position he held at the time of the article, Zeigler had been fired from a couple places for using the 'N-Word'. In discussing this, Wallace writes:

"Even though there is plenty of stuff for reasonable people to dislike about Political correctness as dogma, there is also something creepy about the brutal, self-righteous glee with which [Zeigler] and other conservative hosts defy all PC conventions. If it causes you real pain to hear or see something and I make it a point to inflict that thing on you merely because I object to your reasons for finding it painful, then there's something wrong with my sense of proportion or my recognition of your basic humanity or both."

Reading that was one of those rare, but powerful and satisfying moments when you hear someone articulate an idea you hadn't even fully thought. Wallace accurately described why, despite my objections to political correctness, I dislike when people fragrantly defy it.

P.s. I had never read anything by David Foster Wallace before this article, (which by the way is called Host, which can be found here and if you do end up reading it, I strongly suggest clicking on the colored boxes. The commentary, though it interrupts the flow, is much of what makes the article great) and for some reason I thought I wouldn't like his writing, largely because I don't relate to how he styled himself, but I was so wrong! I am now a big fan and am eager to read more by him. I know, I am very late to this game, and my reason for thinking I wouldn't like him is stupid, but come on, doesn't he look like a guy who would not be a great writer?


Two unusual experiences.

Yesterday I yelled at someone for the first time in my life aside from an instance in 2006 which I don't entirely count because of how unusual my circumstance was at the time, but if you want to count it then last night I yelled at someone for the second time (that I can remember).

Here is the story of my yelling at someone: (which is the first unusual experience and it will eventually tie into the second)
(this story involves 8 (F-2, S-2, A-3, B-1) swear words. If reading swear words is offensive to you, this is your warning to stop here, so you only have yourself to blame if you continue and are offended)

Last night, sometime after the sun had set, I took Margaret Melon(my dog) outside with this plan in my mind: She would go to the bathroom and I would walk her a few blocks to get any last energy out, I would then drop her off at home, walk to Safeway to buy groceries for dinner, since Marissa was getting off work shortly and I like to have dinner waiting for her.

Marissa and I live directly above a venue that people rent out for things like weddings and parties. (But mostly weddings.) Last night, according to the signage out front, a school had rented the venue. Since it is graduation time, I figured it was a high school graduation party.

When I came back from walking Margaret, I encountered a group of middle-aged folk crowded around the venue door, and since our door is only 2 inches way, it meant they were also crowded around the door which leads upstairs to our apartment.

(I was surprised to see middle aged people instead of High School kids and eventually realized these were the teacher/adult chaperones and the kids, who I would see later, were inside.)

Since there are often events held below us, crowds of drunk people around our door is common. They can often be loud and unpleasant but it usually isn't a big deal. Since Margaret tends to be excited by people with lots of energy and drunks really love dogs, this is usually fun for her. As we made our way through the people to our door, Margaret did something she often does in that situation, which is to sit down a couple feet from the door and wait for one of the drunks to pet or play with her, which usually happens.

Since these chaperones were probably not drunk and apparently not dog lovers, no one was paying attention to her and I was trying to coax her into standing up and coming in the door. At this point some guy walks up to, it seemed, re-join the group and the open spot where he had apparently been standing was now occupied by Margaret sitting down, waiting for the stranger's attention.

This man, rather than waiting for her to stand up, which she was clearly about to do, used his foot to shove her several times. I'm sure that even if you've never owned a dog you can imagine and appreciate the many reasons why repeatedly shoving someone's dog with your foot is a bad idea.

It was the sort of thing that was so....unexpected and rude that I was kind of stunned didn't know how to respond. I just watched it happen then went inside with Margaret.

As I walked up the stairs to our apartment, it dawned on me more what that guy did and I started to feel upset towards him and I wished I had something, but it was too late.

So I took Margaret inside and got my stuff to go to Safeway, still thinking about how I wish I had said something to the foot shover, when it occurred to me that my opportunity wasn't lost. Presumably he would still be there as I went back out the door on my way to Safeway.

Since regretting not having said something at the appropriate time can be very frustrating, I was pretty excited that I would have the chance for a do-over. I collected my thoughts and tried hard to be calm. Although I was upset at the guy, I also wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he probably just didn't realize what he was doing or was totally oblivious to human/dog etiquette. By no means was my plan to 'chew him out'. I just wanted to let him know that I wasn't okay with what he did, in as non-aggressive a way as possible.

I got downstairs, my adrenaline surging, tapped him on the shoulder and said 'It wasn't cool when you shoved my dog with your foot'.
While I'm obviously not the most objective source for this, I think I did a good job saying it in a non-threatening way. As some evidence of that and also of what sort of person this guy is, (uncommonly self-absorbed) he somehow thought I was congratulating him. He responded with his smirky laugh and said something like 'oh you enjoyed that huh?'. I made another unsuccessful attempt to get my point across, but It was only when the woman he was standing with told him what I was trying to say, that it sunk in.
Because I was trying to give him the benefit of the doubt and that by default I assume people are at least somewhat decent human beings, I expected him to say something like 'Sorry, I wasn't thinking'.
Maybe because he was still having a difficult time processing the fact that I was not congratulating him, he didn't really say anything. At that point, I didn't know what to do, plus it was fairly of uncomfortable for me, so I began my 1.5 block walk towards Safeway. After I took maybe 2 or 3 steps, he apparently decided to make it absolutely clear to everyone around that he is terrible human being by saying to me, 'Well tough shit!'.

There are several things I could have done at this point. I could have kept walking and said nothing. I could have walked back and got in his face. I guess you could say I pulled a Buddha and took the middle path between those two extremes. I turned around and shouted: 'DON'T KICK MY DOG YOU FUCKING ASSHOLE!'.
It felt really good. It was exactly what I wanted to say and I didn't hold back. Though in retrospect, I wish I had walked back to him, not necessarily to get in his face, but just to confront him directly and ask why he was being such an ass-hole. Which had I done it right could have eventually led to a positive resolution.
As I was walking away I heard him mutter 'I didn't kick his dog'. Which is true, but yelling 'Don't use your foot to repeatedly shove my dog you fucking asshole!', doesn't have the same flow and potency. I heard someone else say 'Next time you shouldn't say 'tough shit''.

It was hard to tell what his colleagues thought of the encounter. It seems unlikely that an otherwise nice guy would have suddenly turned into a huge jerk in that situation(particularly since both times he was the provocateur), so most likely his colleagues also think he is a bastard and (although it may just be wishful thinking on my part) they appreciated seeing someone tell him off in a way their circumstance would not allow.

I went to Safeway, bought groceries and although I was a bit nervous he would still be in front of my door, by the time I returned I only saw High Schoolers and was relieved.

Fast Forward your imagination to this morning. I'm walking Margaret in this huge, beautiful, forested park not far from my house. It is the sort of park I've only ever seen here in Washington where the trees and flora are so dense that although you are in a big city, you feel like you are deep in a forest.

I tend to repeatedly think over conversations I've had. Not necessarily wishing I had said something different (though I sometimes do that too), but just replaying the conversation in my mind. And it is not only significant conversations, but mundane ones too. Sometimes I will be mentally replaying a conversation when I realize that I've been unconsciously moving my lips and quietly vocalizing the words I've been thinking, so if I had an observer, they would see me quietly acting out two sides of a conversation. (like a few nights ago when I was in a grocery check-out line and realized I was doing it after the checker looked at me wide-eyed)

So I was walking Margaret on this several mile trail that felt like it was deep in a forest but actually in Seattle, thinking over my encounter from the night before and probably moving my lips and quietly saying both sides of the conversation when I suddenly get hit in the side of the head. In the quick instant between getting hit and turning around, I realize that the asshole from last night was in the park too, saw me, maybe even heard me repeating our interaction, and decided to hit me in the head!

But when I turned around I did not see the guy at all (surprise! I misled you for dramatic effect! But I really had been thinking about him and in that split second, expected to see him), but a squirrel running away and a tree branch above my head bouncing up and down. A SQUIRREL HAD FALLEN ON MY HEAD! How often do squirrells fall from trees? (I don't know) and how often does it happen somewhere a human can see it (I don't know, but probably not often because I've never seen it or heard anyone mention it) and then for a squirrel to fall from a tree right on my head! It was really unusual!


Dog Owning

One thing that sometimes weighs on me as I walk Margaret or take her to the dog park, is the notion that if we hadn't brought her into our home to raise her (and I mean 'we' in the broadest way, as in human beings) far from being miserable and unable to meet her needs like a human baby would be if it weren't being cared for by adult humans, she would probably be very happy.

The two biggest treats we can give her is to take her for an unleashed walk in the woods or allow her to play with other dogs. Basically, to do things she would do if humans had never intervened in her life. (to be sure, cuddling with humans is also one of her favorite things, but she seems to enjoy cuddling with other dogs equally as much. Also, it is true some dogs don't like other dogs, but that is because they weren't probably socialized when young. Virtually all dogs who are properly socialized while young love other dogs)

To be sure, if humans hadn't intervened, she wouldn't exist. As we know, humans, either deliberately or not, played an integral role in selectively breeding wolves to become dogs. So it is true that she owes her existence to us humans, and will probably have a longer and healthier life than if humans had never intervened.

However, bringing something into exists does NOT give an individual the right to treat it however they want. In fact, I think bringing something into existence obliges you to give it the best life possible. It seems unlikely that Margaret (whatever hypothetical version of her might somehow exist had humans not intervened) would be unhappy without humans. As I mentioned earlier, her favorite things are whatever is closest to her natural state. And even the toys and bones and other dog products we give her, which she loves, are based on imitating what she would be doing in the wild. As much as she likes them, she prefers whatever they are trying to imitate or replace.

This is why I feel obliged to allow Margaret a certain level of freedom. Some dog owners feel comfortable disciplining their dogs for any behavior they dislike, such as barking while playing with other dogs or playing roughly (which looks painful for the humans watching, but is lots of fun for dogs). I can't help but feel that for those who are uncomfortable with these and similar behaviors, the best solution would be to not own a dog, rather than modify healthy behavior to suit their personal taste.

We have brought dogs into our world and unfairly expect them to understand and obey all our weird complicated rules and then discipline them if they don't.

Of course, like a human child, because she has an inadequate understanding of the world, there are things Margaret wants to do which would ultimately harm her, like run into the road or eat toxic things. Obviously I don't feel a need to allow her those freedoms.

Marissa works in a restaurant about 100 feet from where we live. Several of her co-workers are dog lovers, so I occasionally will stop by Marissa's work so they pet and play with Margaret for a bit. One day they wanted me to bring her over, but she clearly wasn't in the mood, running into the closet when I brought out her harness, so I didn't take her. One co-worker expressed disapproval that I wasn't being the one in charge. But since I ( meaning we, meaning us humans) have brought this creature into an environment that is less desirable than her natural one, simply for my own pleasure and companionship, I feel a certain amount of indebtedness to her. If there is something she really doesn't like doing, and it doesn't harm anyone or her to not do it, I don't believe it is my place to make her. Many dog owners disagree. They believe dogs should be dominated and conform to whatever standards their human owner expects of them. This is the message of Caesar Milan. ( I have a strong dislike of his methods which place enormous emphasize on disciplining and dominating dogs.) To those people I say: You should not own pets. Like you and I these creatures have a full range of emotions and do not exist for the purpose to serve you or make you happy. They exist for their own sake and should be allowed that dignity. If you have brought them into your life, you should do what you can to make it safe and enjoyable for them and consider their wants and desires to have as much value and merit as your own. If their desires conflict with your so much where only one or the other could be happy, don't own a pet.

I often imagine if a species far advanced from humans adopted us as pets. Their society would be advanced to the point we couldn't comprehend many of their rules and actions, but they would give us everything we wanted and let us sleep in their beds and gave us lots of affection. It might be nice, but I would miss my freedom and getting to live in human society. I try to imagine how I would want those hypothetical aliens to treat me and treat Margaret the same.



I've started a new project, inspired by the Family Circus re-writes, where I'm gradually re-writing one day of the 'Seattle Times' comics page. Check it out! I hope this counts as 'fair-use' and I don't get sued.

Follow this link to see it.



Is it just me or is British journalism (other than the BBC) kind of trashy and tabloidy? It seems like whenever Google News leads me to a non-bbc british news site it has an unusually, sensationalist, low brow feeling about it.

Romancing the past

I think most people tend to have a romantic view of the past, I know I do. I like to imagine having to go to the market each day. I like thinking about no one having cars so everything would be closer together, there would be more quite and more people walking around.
I think no category of people romanticizes the past more than conservatives. That is almost the definition of being conservative. In wanting to conserve the past and follow traditions it is implied that the best is better than today.
I've written several times about how strongly I disagree with the notion that we are less moral or ethical today than we were in the past (slavery, racism and sexism alone make me feel this way), but I think another area where conservatives tend to romanticize the past is in terms of freedom. There seems to be a sense that we are less free than we have ever been. I myself once held this view. It seemed that in the past people were much more free to do as they pleased without government interference. However, the more I learn about history, even recent history, I've come to feel the opposite.
I've recently begun making a list of crazy things from the past that I encounter. So far the list is short, but here it is:

~In the United States, during the First World War a person could be imprisoned for expressing disapproval of the war.

~While not officially sanctioned by the Government, tacit approval was given by not interfering or punishing those responsible: During the WWI, some people were dragged by horses down streets for not supporting the war, or being an Anarchist or Socialist.

~ During the early 1900's those who refused vaccines had police break down their doors and physically restrain them while vaccines were administered.

~During the Second World War, the tax rate for the highest income bracket was 90%.

(Plus all the things most educated folks are familiar with, like eugenics and women not being allowed to initiate a divorce etc.)

As crazy as some of these things may be, they aren't even from the ancient past, but the past 100 yrs, here in the USA.
Despite how short my list is, I think it illustrates a lot about that time period. If only one of these things happened today it would create outrage across the country. The fact that these things happened and were apparently not a big deal indicates that these type of events weren't uncommon in that era.

It seems that a lot of people, especially Americans tend to view all of the past as being just like the 'Wild West', with few laws and people. But in reality, most everyone has lived in close proximity to others and been restricted by laws and punishments since human beings first evolved. Humans are incredibly dependent on each other for survival and certain anti-social behavior has always been detrimental to the group's survival, requiring means to limit individual freedoms for the common good.

P.s. If anyone has anything else to add to my list, I'd be happy to hear it.


Grad School P.S.

One other thing about grad school.
I've had to exchange a few emails with the school and even received a phone call today informing me of a reception being held for incoming students and every single exchange I've had with anyone from the school since receiving my acceptance letter begins with "Congratulations!", which is pretty funny to me. But it also feels really nice. Because I realize that as excited as I am about it and as supportive and excited for me that other people are, they have their own lives to live so their enthusiasm can only go so far. Even Marissa has grown a bit weary of my constant talk of new reasons I've thought of for why I'm excited to have been accepted at Saic. But the one group of people who keeps the enthusiasm alive is the school itself, with their constant congratulations they make me feel as if I've won an Oscar. So Saic, if you ever come across this somehow, I want you to know that your constant congrats are both humorous and well received.

Blogging and puppies.

I'm happy to be blogging again. It feels good to have this outlet.
I don't have anything in particular to say right now except that I think the primary reason I haven't written in here is because of having a puppy. People who know me mostly online may not realize that I'm fairly slow at many things. Not slow as in retarded, but I tend to take a long time doing tasks. It usually takes me at least an hour and sometimes two to do the dishes.
How this relates to my blogging and my puppy is that because of my slowness I tend to require a lot of sustained concentration to write. Owning a puppy makes it near impossible to have long periods of sustained concentration, except when she takes naps and during those times I usually have other things I need to take care of.
As she (Margaret the puppy) get's older she is far more independent and has lower energy levels, allowing me the quiet and calm needed for me to think and write.
This is one reason I chose to pursue a career in art making rather than writing. Although the first couple months having a puppy I made no art at all, once she got to the point where she didn't try to attack and eat anything she saw, I was able to start painting again. While her distractions can make it more difficult to paint, they don't make it impossible like with writing. Since I need fairly particular conditions that can't always be met to write, I feel that it might be bad news if my livelihood depended on writing.

Overall having a puppy has been nice. I walk her about 4 miles a day, which has been great for me in terms of getting exercise and having something physically difficult I have to do each day. I've been listening to podcasts and books on tape while we walk and I often meet other dog owners who tend to be friendly but are occasionally very mean (one particularly mean guy actually grabbed Margaret by her harness, lifted her about 5 feet into the air and threw her onto the ground! This was at a dog park, not while walking. Marget was scaring his dog by chasing it (which is how dogs play) but she never even touched his dog. I still feel mad when I think about him)


Welcome back blogger and Graduate School.

As you already know I haven't written in here for a while. I'm not going to apologize about it. It always seems kind of funny when people don't write in their blogs for a while and make a big apology, as if everyone is so eager to read their words or that regularly writing in one's blog is something we are ethically obliged to do, making an apology is necessary.

I've had countless(not literally. I'm sure it could easily be counted. Probably under 100) ideas I've wanted to write about and have them written on various scraps of paper or notebooks, but for whatever reason I haven't had the motivation to write.
Also, since I hadn't written in a while, a part of me felt I should come back with something big, instead of just saying something like 'wouldn't it be funny if Steven Spielberg or James Cameron directed a re-make of Napoleon Dynamite next year?'

I do have big news, though I'm sure most people who read this blog are familiar with it. As you likely know, I've been in the process of applying to Grad Schools since late last year.
It has been a nerve racking experience. For reasons I later regretted, I only applied at top 10 schools. After i sent out my applications I became very nervous I wouldn't get accepted anywhere. I wasn't sure what I would do if that happened. I likely would have seriously considered giving up art as a career, taking the Gre and applying to grad schools for philosophy or writing and eventually getting my Phd after the 25 years or so it would probably take me.
It would be at least another year before I could even apply and in that mean time I don't know what I would do.

While it is common for our lives to hinge on one moment or event, it is rare that we can see this ahead of time. Usually it is in retrospect that we see our lives would be significantly different if only one thing were changed. But in this situation, I could see ahead of me the possibility that my life was going to go one way or the other. And one of the ways seemed very discouraging and boring.

It was while in the depths of my anxiety over not getting accepted anywhere that I received a letter informing me I had been selected for an interview at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (Saic) through the painting program. I was VERY excited about this. Out of 500 applicants only 80 are interviewed. A few days later I bought a plane ticket to Chicago and later that very day I was surprised to received a second from Saic informing me I had been accepted into the Ceramics program. I had previously been interested in the school, but very disinterested about the idea of living in Chicago, but I went to my interview, it went great and I loved the school and liked Chicago. (That was in february. A few days ago I officially accepted my acceptance) Ceramics is fairly technical and I don't know a lot about glazes and kilns etc, but I would love to master it. Plus, I would really like to teach ceramics at a University, while the idea of teaching painting or drawing doesn't appeal to me as much.(not from any philosophical disagreement, I just enjoy the technical process of ceramics much more than that of painting or drawing) Plus, ceramics has changed a lot over the past decade in ways I love. It has become very experimental in terms of media used and not limited to clay and glazes, which is similar to how I currently work.

I am very very excited about this. If you aren't familiar with the School of The Art Institute of Chicago, it is ranked #3 by UsNews and World Report for Fine Art Mfa programs and was voted the most influential art school in the country by a survey of art critics. (since much of the value in art is how others perceive it, it seems the Usnews, which are based on peer rankings, carry more weight for art schools than other types)

Since art is so subjective I'm constantly unsure about the quality of my work. I know that I like it and I know I tend to get positive feedback, but I'm sure there are many terrible artists who have supportive friends that feel the same.

It feels nice to finally not be an underachiever in the school/work aspect of life. It isn't as if this was something that had bothered me before and I don't know if I'm any happier because of it and I was surprised myself how nice it felt, but it does feel good. It feels good to realize that the rest of my life (in that regard) will be a bit easier than it might have otherwise. I'm sure it will still be difficult, there are so many artists out there it can be hard to make a name for oneself, but having this sort of stamp of approval will hopefully open doors for me and make finding jobs and getting shows a less of an uphill battle.

Also, since I make art that isn't too realistic or appears to not be difficult, despite my spending enormous amounts of time on it, I feel that some people who aren't as familiar with art may have seen me as somewhat deluded in thinking I could be a professional artist and that having been accepted into such a good school helps them see that even if they don't appreciate my work, I'm not just making crap that everyone but me thinks is crap.

I'm still very conflicted about art making and my notebooks are filled with lists of the pros and cons of being an artist and my con list is always much longer, but I'm now feel fully committed to seeking a career as an artist and art professor and am very excited. I've been more interested in the lives of artists than I have ever been before.


King of the Christophers.

One unexpected result of having a website is learning that people google my name a few times each week.
Since my website's stat counter shows what people searched for if they came into my site from a search engine, I'm able to see that more than I would have imagined people google my name.

Although I've kept some sort of blog for over the past 10 years and nearly all of those had a stat counter on them, I very rarely received hits from people having searched my name. Probably because my blogs didn't have my name in the Url or mention my name within posts. But now that I have a website with my name as the URL, it is the first result when searching my name.

Of course, most of these searches for my name are probably not for ME. As I have learned from Google, but particularly facebook,there are many Christopher Allman's in the world. One has written a book, one make Christian music, and there are a few lawyers and businessmen. I'm sure that most of them, like everyone else, has friends, admirers, co-workers, bosses and potential bosses and their own selves etc. who occasionally do a Google for their name and would probably click on the the site named after the person they are searching for.
Out of all the hits to my site that come from searches for my name, I would guess that a small minority of them are people actually searching for me. This took me a little while to realize though. Initially I was amazed and excited that people from all over the country and England were regularly searching my name. I was kind of disappointed once it dawned on me that that probably wasn't the case. I would be fascinated to find out which ones really are searching for me and who they are and what their motives were. Occasionally an additional word or phrase is added to the search like 'Seattle' or 'Paintings' that make me think it likely was referring to me. Those really pique my interest and I will search my facebook for everyone I know in the city where the search originated. Rarely will I have even a guess who made the search. I wonder if many other people with self titled blogs and websites do similar things. My guess would be that this type of curiosity is fairly common. If the popularity of those fake 'find out who searched your name' facebook applications are any indication, it seems like many of us are interested in learning what people have the, usually, very mild interest required to seek out and look at our internet presence. But that is just speculation. I wouldn't be surprised if it were not so.

I would imagine that as time goes on most of these Christopher Allman's will again Google their names and come across my website, assuming another Christopher Allman doesn't achieve even a small level of fame and push my site from the top results. Even then, several might try entering my URL just to see if there is a site using their name.

I like to think of myself as a legend among other people named Christopher Allman. If we were all to get together somehow, I would be the one many would recognize as being the first search result for our common name. And since I am a legend among them, they would be raising me into the air on their shoulders and trying to touch the hem of my clothes to be healed, which of course I would let them do and would totally cure all their ailments.

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