Random (but not really)

Thursday, October 10, 2019

That’s Not… I Mean… Have You Ever Even SEEN a Woman?

I’m creating a class on Facebook, and am looking for pictures to go with the various scandals and problems I’m discussing. So I thought I’d look for some of the artwork that FB had banned because it showed breasts.

What I discovered is that there were a LOT of painters who had apparently never seen a naked woman.

Or even paid any attention to the female form.

Written by Michelle at 5:47 pm      Comments (1)  Permalink
Categories: Non-Sequiturs,Politics,Religion & Philosophy  

Monday, August 20, 2018

House Size Vs Household Size in the US

I came across an article on how the size of houses has changed over time in the United States. I found it interesting how there was a slow decline until WWII, then the square footage drops for the only time, after which house size skyrockets.

Now this is interesting in and of itself, but I know that my great-grandmother had (IIRC) ten kids, most of whom survived to adulthood (many of whom lived to 90, but that’s another tale), so I was curious as to whether the household size briefly increased once modern medical techniques came to the fore before decreasing.

Interestingly, the data I found didn’t show a bump in the 1900s, just a steady decline. (You can also check the census data.)

So of course, being me, I wanted to see how this data looked.

It turned out to be far more linear than I was expecting, although it did make a nice X.

Now to be clear, we’re looking at household size here, not total population, so that number should include not just children, but parents or grandparents or other extended family members. Which is why I found the steady decline so interesting.

But even more fascinating–and horrifying–is that as households got smaller, the size of the house in which those smaller families live has gotten steadily larger.

Don’t get me wrong–I live in a very small house and there have been many occasions where I desperately wished my kitchen was bigger, or that I had a separate dining room, or that I had another bedroom, or that I had more storage space. But for the most part I like living in a small house.

Which is why I find the increase is house size so bizarre. What on earth do people PUT in these houses? Do people in houses three times as large as my house even see each other over the course of a day?

So that’s one of the things that has been on my mind recently, and now I’ve nattered on about it I can close a bunch of browser tabs.

ADDENDUM the FIRST: The reason there was no household data in 1920 was because apparently the census takers didn’t count large households the same as was done in other years.

Written by Michelle at 8:50 pm      Comments (2)  Permalink
Categories: History,Non-Sequiturs,Religion & Philosophy  

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Thoughts on Social Responsibility

I’ve been thinking recently about social responsibility and the social contract.

It’s that time of year, so there are lots of people complaining about paying taxes, and bragging about how they manipulate things so they pay a minimum tax bill.

There are also a lot of people who insist on buying only things that are cheap: never pay full price, never buy quality goods.

Why do I think this is an issue? Because that is socially irresponsible and it breaks the social contract.

First, let’s clarify what I’m talking about.

Social contract:
1. the voluntary agreement among individuals by which, according to any of various theories, as of Hobbes, Locke, or Rousseau, organized society is brought into being and invested with the right to secure mutual protection and welfare or to regulate the relations among its members.
2. an agreement for mutual benefit between an individual or group and the government or community as a whole.

When we are part of society, we have implicitly agreed to follow certain rules and regulations that allow large groups of people to function without descending into chaos. We don’t steal, we don’t murder, and we treat fairly with each other.

But the social contract is more than that. In a moral and ethical society, it means we care for those who cannot care for themselves. For example, it’s why we have special legal protections for children.

It also means there are some things that are better managed by the government than by individuals and private companies: law enforcement, roads, and public safety come immediately to mind.

Taxes are the way we pay for these societal needs. If you don’t pay taxes, or attempt to shirk this duty, then you are taking advantage of your fellow citizens.

Let me be clear: I don’t mind paying a little extra to make up for the elderly widow who has minimal income. I don’t mind paying a little extra to cover the single parent trying to make ends meet. These are the things we do in a moral society.

What I do mind is people who can pay their way refusing to do so.

When people scheme to get out of paying their way in society, they are refusing to pay for the roads they drive on, the police that protect them, and the schools that educate future generations.

When people who have the ability to do otherwise choose to spend their money on the cheapest things available, they are making things worse for everyone else.

When people who have the ability to do otherwise buy the cheapest items available, it means they are driving down wages for those who make those goods.

They are supporting sweatshops.
They are forcing farmers to hire illegal immigrants.
They are requiring a minimum wage that is not a living wage.
They are forcing those at the bottom to struggle to pay their rent and put food on the table.
They are forcing those at the bottom to live in substandard and even dangerous housing.
They are encouraging a disposable society, where things are used briefly and discarded.

To make things worse, many of the people who purchase goods at prices lower than the cost of US production are the same people who are against providing any benefits whatsoever to the working poor.

They fail to understand the basics of TANSTAAFL.

We can’t have roads without taxes.
We can’t have schools without taxes.
We can’t have clean water without taxes.
We can’t have safe food without taxes.
We can’t have public health without taxes.

When people insist that the cost of goods remain low, the price still must be paid, but it is paid by those who manufacture and harvest and serve.

The mutilations and deaths of those in the meatpacking industries.
The injuries and deaths of farm workers.
The spread of food-borne illnesses.
Child labor.
A culture and conditions where poor working women are at constant risk for rape and sexual assault.

But what really makes me angry is when those who refuse to pay their taxes, and refuse to support businesses that pay a living wage, profess piety and claim the mantle of Christianity to hide their immoral and unethical behaviors.

Here’s the thing: I was forced to take six years of religion classes in school, and have had more than a passing interest in comparative theology as an adult, so I have more than a basic familiarity with the bible and the tenets of Christianity.

The bible speaks of caring for the poor and the sick. Of helping those in need and forgiving your enemies.

Nowhere does it claim that the poor need to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. Nowhere does it say that caring for your neighbors is the responsibility of someone else.

Nowhere does it say that we should care for only the people like ourselves, and let the rest of the world sort itself out.

In fact, the bible speaks quite clearly on the subject of paying the taxes.

Matthew 22:17-21 (KJV)
17 Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?
18 But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites?
19 Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny.
20 And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription?
21 They say unto him, Caesar’s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.

If you choose to weasel out of the social contract, that’s fine. We have free will and are allowed to make our own decisions. But don’t expect me to respect you.

And don’t claim to be a Christian.

Written by Michelle at 6:44 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Politics,Religion & Philosophy  

Thursday, August 25, 2016

On Swimwear and Modesty

I’ve been super confused by the recent news stories about bans in France on a certain kind of swimwear.

France’s highest administrative court is being asked to overturn beach bans imposed by 26 towns on women in full-body swimsuits known as “burkinis”.

Women are being fined for wearing modest swimwear.

Think about that for a few moments.

If you have any passing knowledge of history, you’ll be vaguely aware that less than 100 years ago, women were arrested or fined or removed from the beach for their swimsuits.

Because those suits didn’t cover enough of their skin.

Now we’re being arrested for covering too much of our skin?

Of course not. Not ALL women are being arrested, fined, or shamed for their swimwear!

Here’s a company that seems to be doing a good business selling modest swimwear to WASP women.

HydroChic’s core mission is to provide a stylish line of modest women’s swimsuits that at once combines the desire for chic expression on the beach and the consumer’s wish for modest swimwear coverage.

Here’s an article in the Wall Street Journal on the business of modest swimwear.

For years, Ms. Bolin, who is in her early 50s, searched for adequate bathing suits. Finally, she ventured out to her favorite Texas water park in a HydroChic outfit: Bermuda-length swim shorts and a three-quarter sleeve top.

Ms. Bolin said she still remembers admiring comments from lifeguards who loved her surfer look: “They thought I was the coolest.” She has never looked back

And that’s how it should be–a woman should be allowed to dress in a manner in which she is comfortable.

But yet women in France are being told that their manner of dress is not acceptable. That they don’t know their own minds and therefore cannot possibly have chosen to dress in such a manner, so therefore, they should not be allowed to dress in such a manner.

It’s 2016; how have we not reached the point where women can wear whatever the hell they want without some government stepping in to tell us they know what is best for us? That what we wear affects people OTHER than ourselves therefore we must toe the government line for how we clothe ourselves?

Why are more women around the world not ENRAGED by this?

Of course, some women are unhappy with these laws. Here’s a lovely image from France, of women who are standing up for their rights of their sisters to dress as they please:


Note that none of the women are the least bit upset by how the other women around them are dressed. In fact, they seem to be enjoying the company.

Because that’s the point. We should support the rights of others to dress as they please.

Mind you, I don’t particularly want to see half-nekkid people, and the thought of sitting in a chair after someone wearing short-shorts squicks me out a bit but that’s my problem to deal with (which is why all my shorts come down almost to my knees). It doesn’t give me the right to order other people to dress in a manner that makes me happy and comfortable.

To close, here is a picture of my in MY swimsuit (no one mocked me or tried to fine or arrest me for my clothes).


I don’t dress modestly because of some government or religious edict (in fact, I’m close to agnostic). I dress modestly because that is how I am comfortable dressing.

And that is and should remain MY choice and MY decision.


For the curious or interested, my top is a rash guard from Coolibar, which makes UPF 50 clothing and swimwear.

This does not mean I won’t mock creepy men who wear speedos and act like god’s gift to women. Because there’s dressing as you like, and then there’s being an asshole. The latter is always deserving of mockery.

Written by Michelle at 8:42 pm      Comments (3)  Permalink
Categories: Non-Sequiturs,Politics,Religion & Philosophy  

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Ethics Question

The recent anniversary of the Rwandan genocide reminded me of a discussion from years ago.

Sometimes I desperately miss those discussions, because it seems to me that if I don’t try to see why others believe the way they do, then my mind becomes stagnant, and I end up possibly holding wrong beliefs, because I can’t be bothered to stretch my brain.

The question that came to mind was:

Should we, as a society, use medical discoveries made during genocide & atrocities, ie, discoveries made by Mengele and others like him?

My opinion? I definitely fall into the Kantian category, but I’m perpetually curious about what other people think, and why, and of course I always like arguments that support my own belief.

Written by Michelle at 8:00 am      Comments (14)  Permalink
Categories: Religion & Philosophy  

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Denial and the Human Psyche

The article on ScienceBlogs, Sharyn Ainscough dies tragically because she followed the example of her daughter, The Wellness Warrior is a fascinating and well-written read. I recommend you wander over and read it yourself.

But I was struck particularly by the closing paragraph, and what it means in a much broader context.

You might think that, seeing her mother die might have been a wake-up call that leads her to change the course she’s on, but I know human nature. She won’t. After all, if she admits that Gerson therapy is useless, even harmful, quackery that failed to save her mother, then she would be forced to acknowledge her role in the death of her mother. She would also be forced to accept that Gerson therapy can’t save her, either. These are both conclusions that Ainscough would likely find too painful to accept.

Those seem like conclusions that almost anyone would find too painful to accept.

How much tragedy and horror in the world are due simply to our inability as individuals to look at our past actions and see wrongdoing because that would be to recognize the cost of our mistakes?

The southerner who flies the confederate flag and claims the Civil War was only over states rights.

The spouse who claims their partner “didn’t really meant it”.

The parent who claims, “it didn’t hurt me any when I was growing up.”

It’s a defense mechanism. A defense mechanism that I truly understand. Admitting that you are wrong, especially if that caused another harm, is a very hard and very painful thing to do. It’s far easier to bend and twist facts to fit your belief system than it is to take a step back and truly consider the facts. To consider what it means if your beliefs and actions caused damage. Caused harm. Caused death.

No one wants that kind of pain, and I think our brains do everything they can to keep us from it. How many people are truly capable of honestly owning up to their mistakes, and the harm they caused?

How often do you hear someone say, “I was wrong” and truly mean it? Not very damned often.

Maybe Jack Nicholson had it right. Maybe we really can’t handle the truth–at least the truth we hide from ourselves.

When was the last time you changed your mind about an important subject? Really considered both sides of the topic? When was the last time you truly considered a view opposite of your own?

I sometimes think about Truth and Reconciliation Commissions, and I believe they have the right of it. The barriers to admitting the truth are high–higher than most people can reach. It seems to me that only by setting aside the fear of retribution can we truly do the work required to come to terms with our actions.

And only by coming to terms with our actions and stripping away our justifications can we begin to heal ourselves and those around us, and keep others from coming to harm in the future.

(NOTE: Believe it or not, this has absolutely nothing to do with the current political situation. It’s just something that I’ve been mulling over.)

Written by Michelle at 6:37 pm      Comments (1)  Permalink
Categories: Religion & Philosophy,Science, Health & Nature  

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Something Missing…

I’ve often said that when it comes to faith and religion, I sometimes feel like I’m broken, or missing some essential part that others have.

One side of my family has a very strong sense of faith and devotion, and that has helped them through difficult times, as well as being part of general celebrations. (Perhaps to clarify, God isn’t just someone you turn to when you need help, but also someone you remember when things are going well.) Her faith was the most important thing in my grandmother’s life, along with her family.

The other side of my family, well, it’s never been discussed, but to the best of my knowledge, there wasn’t much in the way of church going. (I don’t ever remember my other grandparents going to church, or talking about god and faith.)

And then there’s me.

I was raised Catholic, went to CCD classes, went to mass every week and all the holidays, was in the choir, and got all the sacraments the way a Catholic girls is supposed to.

But at my Freshman year in college (at a Catholic university) I realized there was something missing from me. I didn’t seem to feel what others felt. Going to church was a boring chore I did because it was expected of me, not because I felt anything while there.

After college, before I got married, I tried to go back for awhile, but instead of feeling peace and calm and faith, I’d instead see people I knew to have done Bad Things, standing up and acting like role models. Instead of being inspired, I’d feel a sick anger, and think, “you harmed a child–what right do you have to stand there and act as an example to anyone?”

I’d end up leaving feeling worse than when I went.

Don’t get me wrong, there are many wonderful and amazing and inspiring people who went to my church–but they didn’t offset the emptiness I felt when everyone else seemed to be filled with the holy spirit and love and everything else.

So I stopped going.

I’d go with my grandmother, solely to make her happy, but I still didn’t feel anything, so at this point, the only times I go to church are for weddings and funerals.

This is why I read with fascination, a study about twins and faith:
What Twins Reveal About The Science Of Faith.

It’s not just me. Maybe there is something missing from my genetic make-up that makes me this way.

Funny thing is, I don’t know if this makes me feel better, or worse.

Written by Michelle at 5:35 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Religion & Philosophy  
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