Thursday, January 31, 2008

Random Stuff

I'm not entirely back yet, but I wanted to share.

This is brilliant. There are companies that basically clean up a person's online reputation for them. I mean, I doubt they could do it for someone who was truly everywhere online, like a public figure. But in an age where an ex, a disgruntled friend, or a drunken night out can destroy your reputation, the idea of having a company that can clear the internet for you, or at least get the worst of it, is very appealing. I applaud him, he'll get rich very quickly.


Also: Sperm cells have been created out of the stem cells of a woman. In other words, they've figured out a way for lesbian women to have biological children someday (and they're working on the male equivalent).

I have totally been predicting that this technology is inevitable for years. While I'd rather people adopt than go through a complicated and expensive process to have biological children (also applies to in vitro fertilization, not a comment about sexuality), I do think that if lesbians had their own biological children and the kids grew up fine it might help their case. Also, from a science/biology perspective, FASCINATING. Making a sperm cell out of stem cells is an incredible idea. If I didn't think it would end with a religious nut fire-bombing my laboratory I think it would be fun to go into a career as a stem cell researcher.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

I am working through some personal problems right now and will not be online for a while until I sort them out. Internet use seems to be contributing to them, so I'm on hiatus for a while.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Of course, it could mean more fat people...

So recently the FDA approved cloned meat, and there has been talk of growing meat in labs for years. This has got me thinking about the future of human food production.

I think that we are very close to mass-produced meats that were never attached to animals. And I think that's a good thing for us. Yeah, I'm mostly vegetarian so I think there's a lot of value in meats that did not involve an animal dying, but more than that. Think about it. Factory farming is very cruel but it's currently the only way to efficiently produce food for a large population. Yet with every generation there are more people that object to it and more laws regulating how animals can be treated. Eventually the restrictions will make factory farming nonviable and meat prices will skyrocket to the point where we will be paying $25 for a single chicken breast. That will mean the lower class will not have protein. Lab meat would solve that problem, because it would not have such animal welfare restrictions.

Then there is the sheer burden of all farming. Livestock eat TONS of food. That's land that could be used for growing crops for human consumption, or that could be used for development; or maybe just turned into a nature reserve. Plus they produce methane gas (not the primary cause of global warming but still significant) and tons of waste, only some of which can be recycled as fertilizer. You stop farming livestock for food on the current scale and the environment will be much better off. Plus this could be used for fish as well, helping alleviate the terrible impact fishing has on the oceans.

Our population is still growing; lab-grown meat could be produced on a scale large enough to feed the masses. Plus vegans would stop protesting at KFC, and everyone wants that.

Of course, there will always be traditional animal farming. In areas where there is still subsistence-farming, for example. Or in Europe, where they are rabidly against using science on their food for some unfathomable reason. Animal farming will become a niche outside Europe, though, sort of like organic farming is now. Much smaller scale, much more expensive. Much easier on the environment (and the meat would be safer too, less illness).

But for the most part people will eat safer, cheaper, better-tasting meats (and cheeses and milks, though maybe not eggs, dunno how that would work) made in a lab. That's one future prediction I don't think is unrealistic or naive to make.

And yes, I would eat a hamburger made in a laboratory. I might even add laboratory bacon.

Saturday, January 12, 2008


There was a discussion on Feministing that moved from talking about why men can't cry to a discussion with a single poster about how he, personally, cannot feel emotion and thinks that the human race would be better off without it because they would not feel suffering.

Here's the thing. I believe that there is a powerful value to emotional suffering. We may not realize it at the time, but emotional suffering can give us strength and make moments when we do not feel it all the more powerful. If you never suffer, you never really fully live.

What's more, there is a lot more to emotion than pain. Most emotions are not painful. The poster I was discussing it with says he does not need love, though it's not really a question of needing. When you feel love, anything is more bearable. Starving? That's okay. Poor? You can bear it. Ostracized from society? Sucks, but you can pull through. The emotion doesn't just tie you to a person, it makes all the negative aspects of your life no longer seem as bad while still making you want to eliminate those aspects-- not for your own sake, but for the other person's. And yeah, love can end in pain. But unless it was an unusual amount of pain-- like you break up and they burn down your house and kill your brother, which is why I don't recommend dating people who are batshit insane-- in the end, the remembered emotion and the drive to find it again, to make the parts of your life that you can't control better, makes the pain worth it.

And passion, which is literally the driving force behind science, medicine, and art. Why study ecology, for example, especially if you're not doing it for money like most early ecologists? Because you have a passion for nature. You are passionate about what you are learning. Why travel the world and learn about other cultures? Because you care about the people, because you feel awe at the natural and man-made wonders. Most early scientists made no money except what they got from patrons, but they loved what they did, they wanted the prestige of discovery (pride) and they were passionate about their work. Otherwise everyone in Ancient Greece would have been landowners or farming serfs, and there would have been no interest in the arts or science, thus eliminating our basis for modern scientific method. Most of our inventions in daily life are born of necessity, not passion, but they could not have been made without practical application of theoretical ideas that gave no material benefit to the scientist who came up with them-- only the thrill of discovery. And even if you say "They do it because they will get more support from benefactors" keep in mind, what gain are benefactors getting, besides learning more about that which they are passionate about?

To an outside observer, suffering seems to be the most common emotion. And I guess if you're a starving orphan with AIDS in Africa maybe it is. But suffering's not the most common emotion, just the most visible. I feel very powerful love every single day for my family and my boyfriend. That doesn't mean I'm always singing it's praises or doodling hearts in my notebook. I feel passion every time I write or read something I'm interested in that makes me want to read on, but that doesn't mean I'm telling everyone about it. Suffering is lessened when there is emotional support from others, so we complain about it so that others will sympathize. So I guess to one who feels no emotions, it would appear to be the most prevalent simply by virtue of the fact that that's the one we seek support for. That's the one we talk about.

A person who feels no emotions is only living in the biological sense. If you can't see natural beauty, if you can't wonder at the cosmos or feel passion about your work or get angry with a friend about the idiocy of some politician; if you can't lessen the pain you can't fix through love or experience joy when something wonderful happens to you, you're not really living your life. You're just... living.

Monday, January 7, 2008

If you think this sounds socialist, decent sex ed would cut back on the problem all together...

I was reading an article today about teen mothers in Denver, Colorado who are fighting for the right to have excused absences after they give birth to bond with their children and recover.

I don't think high school girls who get pregnant should ever keep their children. Either abort, or if you aren't comfortable with that, arrange for an adoption. Keeping a child at that young an age is selfish and foolish and I intend to teach my daughters that they are NOT going to be ready to care for a child until they are financially independent and gainfully employed. It has nothing to do with age or marital status, it has to do with financial ability to care for a child independently without being a drain on society.

That said... If a girl DOES keep her child, we have to do something for her. Otherwise she'll just drop out of school, and thus, not be able to properly care for her child. Maternity leave is important for their health and the health of the child-- I would say two months after discharge from the hospital, with work packets to keep up with the course load; one month if she gives the kid up for adoption, to heal. Maybe get volunteer tutors to help, or something (And if they don't come back after that, treat it the same way you would treat a normal teenager who skipped school-- go after the parents). Then, have a childcare facility attached to the school, but, have the caretakers of the children in the daycare be a few supervisory staff members/teachers and then students, who are taking a class in parenting skills and childcare. A teaching daycare, basically. Provide a free service to the teen moms (and teachers) in exchange for a unique opportunity to teach students what it is like to care for children, under the supervision and guidance of professionals. That way, kids who take the class won't want to have kids for a LONG time and mothers can come visit their kids, breastfeed them, etc, during study hall and lunch (they could eat lunch with the kids). Teen dads could even come visit their kids and play with them.

And yeah, wealthier families would put the kids into professional daycares rather than have high schoolers care for them, but the point would be that there would be a chance for girls (or teachers) who can't afford regular childcare to have care for their kids. You could even have slots for children whose mothers are working adults in other jobs, but can't afford normal daycare, for a fee that is greatly reduced from the normal cost of childcare. Basically have the same idea as a teaching hospital, just have it be for childcare.

What do you think?

Friday, January 4, 2008

The best isn't great and the worst is downright dangerous.

I am writing something new, a short story about sexual education. It's not going to be published-- it's just to get out my frustration. Because I am frustrated. About the school system in this country, and how they teach lies and blatant falsehoods.

I get the urge to not teach children about sex in public schools. I get it. There's something to be said for parents teaching that sort of thing themselves, making sure that the kids know everything and are prepared. There's something to wanting to protect them from sexual relationships until they are older, even.

But lying? There is no excuse for a teacher to flat-out lie to a student about the subject matter they are teaching. I mean, a math teacher doesn't sit there and say "2+2=17 because I say so, and if anyone tells you otherwise they're lying." An English teacher doesn't say "Verbs go before the subject." Why can a health teacher say that condoms cause cancer?

And then, if they are honest and simply do not tell students the whole truth (ie don't lie, but don't tell them anything besides "it's best to wait"), it doesn't work and the teen birth rate is increasing. "But that means that we need to increase abstinence-only education! It's a failure of the comprehensive sex ed programs!" the abstinence proponents cry. If that's the case, why did teen birth rates drop steadily after the 90's when there was a massive campaign to teach children about sex, birth control and their own bodies, and the rise only happened after Bush implemented the abstinence-only education requirements to schools that wanted federal funding?

So if they teach abstinence, why aren't kids listening? These educators need to turn on the TV. When every channel and every song and every movie and every one of their peers presents sex as the best thing in the world, and their own hormones are telling them to do it as well, it's natural that they should give in. Abstinence-only educators tell kids not to have sex but they don't teach them HOW to not have sex.

Yeah, I know, that seems pretty obvious, right? You just don't have sex. But you'd be stunned how many kids think that anal sex isn't sex (when it has a higher rate of spreading STDs than vaginal sex) and withdrawal isn't sex (when it has a phenomenally high failure rate and there is a chance of getting pregnant even from pre-ejaculate) and that even if they do have sex, nothing can go wrong if their partner is "clean" and they use some ridiculous form of supposed birth control like douching afterwards (which pushes the sperm further into the vagina, thus increasing chance of pregnancy).

And parents don't teach their kids. Some do, sure, but most don't. They wait for the wedding day to tell their daughters to "just bear it" or slip their sons a dirty magazine and hope they figure it out. As a result, many women AND men think that women pee out of their vagina. I'm sorry, but there is no excuse for that kind of ignorance about human anatomy after a kid goes through twelve years of school. Not to mention how few people can find the clitoris, even their OWN clitoris.

So clearly we need comprehensive sex ed. Including, naturally, abstinence. BUT failure rates of abstinence should be quoted (while the perfect-use pregnancy rate of abstinence is 0%, the actual-use pregnancy rate-- the rate at which women get pregnant when they claim they have been abstinent or when they have taken an abstinence pledge-- is more like 54%), and even more importantly, kids should be taught that masturbation, athletics, yoga, etc can help alleviate desire to have sex and help maintain sexual abstinence. Part of that should be explaining how masturbation works, because while you would think it's a no-brainer, you'd be surprised.

We also need to teach kids about pornography, since they already have access to it. Kids need to understand pornography they might see and be taught to separate the realistic, good stuff-- usually amateurs-- from the fake, degrading, horrible porn one can find on the internet.

What else should all kids know, HAVE to know, about sex before graduation?

-Their own biology and the biology of the opposite sex, structure, terminology, function, and how to locate every single sexual part that is on the outside. This should include erogenous zones, etc.

-How attraction works and sexual orientation as understood by science.

-What, exactly, sex is; the advantages and disadvantages of having sex at various points in one's life, the different kinds of sexual intercourse, sexual outercourse,and foreplay.

-What consent is, what rape is, what gray area scenarios are and how to avoid them, what drug-induced rape is, what statutory rape is (including local laws), what intimate partner rape is, why rapes happen, laws about rape, and what someone should do if they are raped.

-What STDs are, how they are transmitted, symptoms, treatments, cures, and prevention with focus on abstinence and condom use, testing, and abolishing common myths

-What pregnancy is and how, biologically, a person can become pregnant; what sexual activities can result in pregnancy; why it's a good idea to wait to become pregnant until you are financially secure and independent; what are the best ways to prevent pregnancy (birth control); what are the worst ways to prevent pregnancy (myths); how to take a pregnancy test, what to do if you are pregnant (discussion of giving a kid up for adoption, abortion, or raising a kid on one's own with a LOT of help from the community and family).

-What to do if they want to become sexually active and how to know when they are ready.

-What to discuss with any and every sexual partner, like consent, age, contact information in case of a problem, STDs testing history, birth control discussion, and a discussion of limits (ie "I don't do anal").

-All about relationships, including what happens and what they should do if a relationship has problems or becomes abusive

When a sex ed class has all of that before a kid graduates or is able to drop out of school, I will consider it to be comprehensive. And I guarantee we would see immediate positive results-- fewer STDs, fewer date rapes, fewer teen pregnancies, maybe even fewer divorces and more tolerance over all-- if such a program could be reliably implemented with good teachers.