Monday, September 29, 2014

FAVORTISM, NEPOTISM is GOOD? "Against Fairness", Book musings


“The Utilitarian approach—the greatest good for the greatest number—can be pushed to its logical conclusion. The hardcore version asserts that it is more ethical to deny your elderly father expensive healthcare if that same money could be used to save ten starving African strangers.”
Stephen T. Asma "Against Fairness" 2013

“For Confucian thinkers, integrity is not synonymous with fairness or equality. Rather familial love and devotion trump all other duties and obligations. There is a natural hierarchy of values with one’s kin on top and Confucian culture enshrines, rather than denies, that hierarchy.”
Stephen T. Asma, "Against Fairness" 2013

"When a patient's vmpc (ventralmedial prefrontal cortex) is normal (healthy) they almost always answer the ethical dilemmas in favor of their favorites, not in favor of the majority. But if the emotional vmpc is damaged, the subject becomes extremely utilitarian (hyper-rational) in their responses."
Stephen T. Asma, "Against Fairness" 2013


When someone has the ability to change my mind about an idea that I have maintained a fairly rigid acceptance of, I get very excited! I am enthralled, even provoked with mental stimulation and the endorphin rush that comes with a challenging, thought-provoking argument. I love to read books by current authors who happen to be leading thinkers in the modern world. These are individuals who propose ideas that often counter the generally agreed upon systems of thought or “boxes of thought” as I like to call them

I am currently reading the 2013 book “Against Fairness” written by Stephen T. Asma. Asma is a truly brilliant thinker who challenges the reader to reconsider the idea of fairness. He suggests that we often like to pride ourselves as fair beings—individuals who not only espouse the doctrine of fairness but also like to think that we comport our lives in a manner of consistent fairness. In this book he attacks the idea that fairness is the most moral strategy for human beings and he seems to think that there are good things—virtues—that come from partiality and nepotism.

While we often attack government policies that do not execute themselves fairly, we rarely do this with the nepotism and partiality that is woven throughout Hollywood. Many famous people are only famous (and have high-paying jobs in the entertainment industry) simply due to the favoritism and nepotism that is major theme in this industry.  Many people have acting or modeling jobs simply because they know the right people—they have family in the industry. By its very nature, this automatically disadvantages those actors/actresses seeking employment who do not possess ties to this industry. Despite these facts, very few people protest and refuse to watch these movies when we know that partiality, nepotism and unfairness were part of the strategy that brought certain actors and actresses to the top. For this industry (hollywood) we are willing to throw out our devotion to egalitarianism—even when lots of money is involved (and many others are being disadvantaged).

We endorse systems of government and policy that attempt to work towards fairness—but in our day to day lives—we do no such thing. We definitely have our favorites!

Asma takes the side of favoritism over egalitarianism and offers cogent, extensively thought-out arguments in its favor. He also delves into neurobiology.  From the moment we (and other mammals) are born we have a disposition to favoritism. This starts with the very important human activities like bonding and imprinting. We are humans that bond with our mothers.  The bonding hormone “oxytocin” is released during lactation and plays a role in the infant bonding to the mother and vice versa. Bonding is the first element of attachment to a certain person (rather than another). This bonding tendency which is a major part of our early development is then extended out to our larger family (father, siblings) and then further out to our relatives etc. It is from this early nucleus of attachment where we get nuclear families, clans, tribes etc. In other words, favoritism and tribal tendencies tend to be a part of a healthy neurobiology.

Studies show that bonding with our mothers after birth is very important to being able to form bonded, attached relationships later in life.

Asma suggests that some of the good things that come with favoritism include: allegiance, devotion, attachment and loyalty.

While I am just midway through the book, I highly, highly recommend it! If you want a thought gripping read, choose “Against Fairness” by Stephen T. Asma. This is a short book but time consuming to read as it is dense with difficult ideas and pithy sentences.

Other quotes from the book:

“Unfortunately, children who are neglected in orphanages for more than this time frame (birth and 18 months) seem to arrive in their new families with the chemical bonding windows closed. It appears that these children will always have more difficulty forming strong attachments. Children’s brains are changed by the early presence of their parents.” and vice versa. Families literally prepare the pumps of emotional chemistry and smooth the pathway to later social connection.”

“Many kids suffer from attachment disorder, failing to seek comfort in others, even their own families.”



Tuesday, August 26, 2014

My ADVENTURE in the ARCTIC (NORWAY)


Our trip to Norway was eventful and full of delicious surprises. This was my first ever venture to a Scandinavian country and I must say has been an enlivening and truly different European experience. Scandinavia has a flair that rivals the traditions and feelings evoked by mainland Europe.

My husband is a trip planner from heaven. He has cultivated a unique skill-set for finding out-of-the-ordinary excursions and manages to fill every moment of the day with wine festivals, art museum visits, chamber music concerts, jaunts to historic districts, hiking expeditions or a trip to the local aquarium. Thanks to his extensive knowledge of art, history, culture and tradition, he can always think of several meaningful sites to include on any vacation we go on. He outlined a glorious vacation for us during our week-long honeymoon in Norway.

Our first 2 ½ days we stayed in the city of Bergen—the 2nd most populous city in Norway. Bergen lies in the southwestern part of Norway and sits right on the North Sea. With high wooded hills that surround the city and an inner harbor that abuts the central district, Bergen is an unusually picturesque city. Large, brightly colored houses dapple the surrounding hills and city. Along the waterfront are bustling fish markets and also a covered area with many kiosks offering freshly grilled seafood platters to tourists or locals who wander the grounds. Everything is expensive in Norway. Seafood is plentiful here but it isn't cheap. A plate of grilled shrimp will cost you around $35. Without much consolation, a Big Mac at the local McDonald’s will cost you $17.  


Bergen Norway, the famous "Bryggen District" near the Hanseatic Museum we also went to.


On our first day in Bergen we went to a nearby art museum which included a free guided tour featuring notable Norwegian artists. A sizeable collection of Edvard Munch’s paintings were present. Our museum tour guide was superb. Not only did the paintings seem to grip her emotionally but she had a knack for uncovering many of Munch’s hidden devices used in his paintings. Many of Munch’s paintings were entrenched with elements of symbolism. Anxiety, depression and also an obsession with the FEMME FATALE seemed to be themes in his own life that were interwoven into the brush strokes of his paintings. Unfortunately, "The Scream" is not located in Bergen but in Oslo. :( 
We did get to see one of my favorites though, "Evening of Karl Johann Street".

The first evening in Bergen we attended a chamber concert in an old, stately Lutheran church. The musicians raptured the audience with the sounds of Camille Saint Saens and Edvard Grieg.  The cellist—a rotund, flamboyant German—seemed to emote and throb in synchrony as he played his musical piece to perfection. I highly recommend ending a vacation day in Norway with a classical music concert like this; it is a feast to the ears!

Our hotel in Bergen was lovely. It was probably the most affordable hotel and conveniently located in the heart of the city. My favorite part was the free Norwegian buffet breakfast that lasted until noon. The breakfast buffet showcased a variety of hearty, freshly baked breads, yogurt, cold cuts, cheeses and smoked salmon. Large plates of sliced bell peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers seemed to be a Norwegian breakfast staple. I always loved getting the crepes and smothering them with homemade strawberry preserves (grown fresh from the agricultural village of Valdal) and butter.

Our 2nd day in Bergen was full of new and exciting treats including a visit to the Edvard Grieg museum. We also attended a piano music recital here. The young pianist played the music of Grieg. We learned that some of Grieg’s compositions were inspired by baroque music. Indeed, some of his work seemed to have a baroque style to it.



Our 3rd day we were ready for the Hurtigruten cruise. Our cruise came packed with added adventure options. We chose two excursions on our four night cruise. Our first excursion was a bus trip that took us up the zigzaged treacherous Trollstigen road all the way to the top of the mountain where we had spectacular views of the most famous fjord—the Geiranger.  This area of Norway was also famous for its troll sightings. To my dismay, I learned that only children are able to see trolls (or act like them).





Our bus tour drove us all over the mountains and the countryside that the surrounded the Geiranger Fjord. The landscape was some of the most dramatic I have ever seen. Tall, 1,500 meter mountains jutted out of rocky outcroppings and formed craggy, rugged mountain tops. Pastures of the brightest green sprinkled the land to the ecstasy of grass munching sheep, cows and goats. Rivers from melting glaciers weaved their way through the enigmatic terrain. Every once in a while a stone bridge made of neatly placed cobbles could be seen arching over a river or stream. I thought of these as little troll bridges. Other interesting sightings included many houses with grassy roof tops. There were also classic red barns in the sparse countryside. (I learned that only 3% of Norway’s land is available for agricultural use).


Geirangerfjord, along the Trollstigen road

                                                    
Several of the planned stops along our bus trip were at restaurants and gift shops. This seemed almost clandestine—as if to urge us tourists to spend our money there. At one stop, we entered a lodge-style restaurant nestled in the core of the mountains. It was cold and wet outside and the Norwegian afternoon snack of warm baked waffles with cream and local strawberry preserves hit the spot! I must say I grew quite fond of the Norwegian snack of waffles and strawberries during our trip.

The following day the cruise ship plowed its way through the Arctic Ocean and upwards, through the Arctic Circle.  Large, granite rock cliffs jumped out of the land and formed much of Norway’s mountainous coastline. Small patches of farmland with green pastures and even some yellow grain fields could be seen scattered among the low-lying areas of coastline.



Some light reading while on the ship. 


When the light hit the ocean water a nearly translucent cerulean blue emanated forth. Even from our seat on the cruise ship, we could observe waves crashing against the rocky cliffs that formed Norway’s coastline.


Ornes, Norway





Breakfast on the cruise ship was a chance to indulge in some of life’s most glorious fare. Not only was the variety of food overwhelming, the setting was unmatched. During breakfast you could look out the window and witness the changing scenery of the Arctic and Norway’s radical coastline while sipping coffee or plunging your teeth into toast coated with Nutella. If that wasn’t enough, you could serve yourself heapings of fruit, vegetables, fish, crepes with strawberries and all the other typical breakfast food imaginable. The only problem with a cruise ship breakfast is that you are allowed to keep going back and serve yourself infinite amounts of food.

I had never been inside the Arctic Circle before, or even a cruise ship, but I felt this adventure yielded the intensity and surprise that could not be achieved in other locations.

 Visiting the Lofoten Islands in the Arctic Circle was definitely one of the highlights of our trip. While on this island we went to an ancient Viking longhouse where we partook in a traditional Viking feast with Vikings, dressed in typical Viking garb. This made the event very fun and seemingly realistic.

The Viking feast was rustic but very tasty. We were given plates of savory herbed lamb meat paired with a cloudberry preserve. Chalices full of Mead were offered, one after the other! Root vegetables and something that appeared to be barley-style gruel were added as tempting side dishes. After the filling meal there was group dancing, singing, laughter and happiness.

ANCIENT VIKING LONGHOUSE


LOFOTEN ISLANDS, countryside


Inside the Longhouse



MEAD with a Viking feast :)  SKAL!!!!

A viking leads us in prayer to the Norse gods Thor and Odin before we eat our food. 


                                               video
VIDEO of VIKING praying  to the gods :)


When our Viking field trip was over, we headed back to our bus. We were given an extra tour of the Lofoten Islands. We even got to see a wild moose chomping on arctic tundra.  By 10pm we were back at the cruise ship which was anchored at the Island’s harbor in the city of Svolvaer.

At 11:30pm that night our ship brought us into the famous Troll Fjord. It was cold outside, not crisp, it was cold.  The Troll Fjord was unduly narrow with high walls of rock that appeared to dive straight into the frigid Arctic Ocean. At this point the Captain of the ship advised everyone to purchase a “Troll Toddy”. This is a hot tea spiked with Rum—a concoction that trolls apparently drink. Since we were headed through the Troll Fjord, “It might be nice to have a troll toddy to go along with the ride” he gushed. Like tourists being suckered, we succumbed to the suggestion and bought troll toddies to drink while going through the Fjord.

If I haven’t mentioned it yet, I always enjoyed dining on the cruise ship. While I was entertained by the changing arctic scenery I found it most pleasurable to sit by a loquacious geriatric couple from Canada and another couple from Australia.  Dining with well-traveled tourists and exchanging discussion while one-upping each other on countries visited is always a mature way to handle any civilized discourse over brunch.

We spent our final night in Tromso, gateway to the North Pole. We were finished with our cruise and would spend a day and night here. Tromso is one of Norway’s northern-most cities and resides at 70 degrees latitude.  This city features the famous “Arctic Cathedral”, the northern-most brewery in the world and also Polaria, the northern-most aquarium.

Polaria was awesome. We got to see bearded seals being trained and all sorts of starfish. We also learned a lot about the Svalbard archipelago.  The brewery turned out to be very fun. The bartender was a Tromso native—born and raised—and was quite amiable. He pulled up a chair and told us all about city of Tromso and about the famous Tromso polar bear hunter from the 1930’s who killed more than 700 polar bears and would frequent this very bar. He told us all about Norway and was excited that we chose Tromso as one of our honeymoon destinations. We asked him how much bartenders make in Norway. He told us that if he was to covert the amount he made in NOK to dollars per hour, it would be about $30 an hour (tips are not expected in Europe as they are in the states, so this is without tips).


POLARIA: aquarium in Tromso, Norway


Arctic Cathedral in Tromso

The northern-most bar on planet earth. 70 degrees latitude.
Tromso



 Fun facts I learned about Norway:

  1. Norway is NOT part of the European Union.
  2. Norway is part of NATO
  3. After the discovery of petroleum in 1969 Norway has become one of the richest countries in the world.
  4. Before 1969, Norway was a very poor country with over 42% unemployment. It was during that time that many Norwegians moved to the US.
  5. Norway is a leading producer of oil.
  6. Just 3% of Norway’s land is used for agriculture
  7.   Prices in Norway are high—McDonald’s Big Mac is about $17 a small container of yogurt at the convenience store is $6.
  8. One of Norway’s exports is Frozen Pizza.
  9. The AVERAGE SALARY per month in Norway is $5000 EURO. (when NOK is converted to Euro)



Sunday, August 24, 2014

Pastor Mark Driscoll's "ANTI-FEMINIST/PUSSYFIED NATION RANT" LINK BELOW


Mark Driscoll New cult leader of Evangelical Christianity??

I've been following pastor MARK DRISCOLL for a long time...LOOONG TIME. I knew who he was before he became big...famous...celebrity pastor.  I remember when I was a Christian living in Seattle, I attended a little church in the Ballard area--about 150 members--and Mark Driscoll was the pastor there. At the time (year 2000-2002ish), my friend Elizabeth was going to this little church regularly and she said, "Renee, you have to come to this church with me, the pastor is really different. I like him a lot." And, like a sheep who doesn't think, I started going to it with her. After church services there would usually be coffee and cookies in the church basement, something that kept me coming. Also, I remember Mark Driscoll's plans to a build a mega church...and even more. He would sometimes detail his grandiose visions for church planting during his sermons. Although the man clearly had some passion and intriguing oratory skill, I found myself wondering, "Is this guy crazy? Does he think  he can actually obtain hundreds of thousands....millions of dollars like that?" It was all very shocking to me back then. Little did I know he would be one of the most sought after pastors...speakers in all of modern Evangelical Christiandome.

Now, pastor Mark Driscoll is a mega pastor but it looks like he might be losing some of his momentum. A lot of his former church members and leaders are coming against him. From my perspective as an Atheist, his position of celebrity pastor has made him into an autocratic cult leader. Christians are even starting to see him as he really is. He is very anti-women, anti-feminism, anti-gay, anti-single mother, a plagiarist and maybe even a little narcissistic. You can read his PUSSIFIED NATION RANT below where he (not so) cleverly poses as the user of WILLIAM WALLACE II. He even admits to it now (yeah, it is old, but it is interesting to see how he thinks (thought?).

http://matthewpaulturner.com/2014/07/29/mark-driscolls-pussified-nation/


http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/22/mark-driscoll-charges-abuse_n_5701296.html?utm_hp_ref=mostpopular

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Rhine River Adventure!



Rhine River Bus Tour and Cruise


Our journey started early. We arrived at our bus stop at 6:00AM and the bus left promptly at 6:30. We were on our way towards the Rhine River. Our travel bus brought us through landscape that suddenly began to burst with many cornfields, wheat fields and Riesling Grape vineyards. The countryside was lush and verdant. Interspersed through the open landscape were compact villages with red and gray roofed houses and always a church with a tall steeple.







The tour bus dropped us off in the village of St. Goar which sat right along the Rhine. From there we entered various little shops where we sampled delicious desert wines including a $495 bottle of Eiswein (Ice wine). We also tried a peach brandy that made you feel like you were lying in a peach orchard, eating peaches on a warm summer day.

Next, we trekked our way through the village square and encountered little shops selling notoriously unfashionable Cuckoo Clocks and other wooden toys—endearing as they were—but  screaming with bright, obnoxiously fun colors.  Window boxes hung from nearly each and every window sill and were overflowing with red and pink geraniums. We discovered quaint eateries and cozy little cafes offering apple Streusel and coffee with freshly churned cream. I noticed many of the locals were sitting outside, under umbrella covers and exchanging lively conversations.



After our village adventures, we embarked upon a Rhine River cruise ship which forged its way up the Rhine river. Many villages were situated along the Rhine and some had castles peering over the river from high up in the hills.




Our tour bus dropped us off at Reichenstein, a notable castle that was up for public tours—provided that you purchase apple cake and coffee upon your departure. We were given a walk-through tour of the castle. Afterwards we enjoyed the apple cake and coffee in the castle courtyard. From the vantage point of the highly positioned castle one could see the murky, olive green Rhine carving through the valley below. All along the sides of the river were patches of land comprised of Riesling vineyards. Many of these were on steeply slanted terrain that almost seemed to descend into the river. The German’s seemed to be adept at using every spare piece of land in a productive way.





We went into the town of Rudesheim to have a late lunch. Our lunch which was included in our tour package, consisted of jagerschnitzel with a richly delicious mushroom gravy and also French fries and salad.

I’ve noticed that restaurants in Europe typically do not serve water with the meal. In fact, you have to specifically order water and when you do, it costs money, usually between 2-3 Euros. In the U.S., I’ve taken it for granted that a glass of water is something you automatically get with your meal. Another thing that I’ve noticed about eating in German restaurants is that the portion size is not suitable for the average American glutton. For instance, a small coke is really just a small coke. I measured a scanty 6oz in my glass; it did come with a lemon slice floating on top, perhaps to compensate for its’ paucity in size.

After our meal in the little German restaurant, we ended our day by trying the famous Rudesheimer Kaffee. It is a specially made coffee made of brandy, sugar and whipped cream. They actually make it right at your table!





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Monday, August 11, 2014

SATIRE: How AMERICANS Lose WEIGHT



MY WEIGHT LOSS JOURNAL


I recently made a decision to exercise vigorously (running or jogging) for at least 17 minutes each day.  I have never been much of a disciplined health fanatic but I figured it was about time that I start.  I’ve started to realize that health maintenance is a significant component in living well and having a happy life in general. Additionally, as I realize that there is likely no after-life and that this is the only life chance I will ever get, it behooves me to value my health even more.

My health journey these past few days has been an exercise in shrewd decision making with an emphasis on eating healthily and squeezing in nightly trips to the convenience store—err, gym.


Day 1

I arose bright and early the first day of my diet bound and determined to find health. You can imagine how surprised I was when I discovered that my feet had brought me into a local Cinnabon.  I suspected that the 2 inches of gooey frosting dredging the bun would surely be offset by the prodigious health benefits offered by the splattering of cinnamon. Cinnamon is a spice that is known to help ward off Type 2 diabetes.

For lunch I marched straight for McDonalds’. I was sure to be conscientious about how much I consumed and refrained from supersizing every single of the 6 items that I purchased. I even avoided the allure of French fries drizzled in oil and salt (which I congratulated myself for later). While I was aware that sodium was a valuable electrolyte, too much of it could result in interstitial edema.

Later that day, I decided that little health decisions added up. I heard that looping around the parking lot 7 times in your car to find a parking space right next to the entrance was not only a waste of gas and time, but a waste of potential exercise. Thankfully, someone who had parked at the entrance of the store was pulling out just in time for me to park there; sure I did need the extra exercise but I figured there would be plenty more times over the course of my life where I would be able to walk or go to the gym.

Day 2

I have decided that attempting to lose weight and exercise vigorously is not what it’s cracked up to be. I may think about doing it again, maybe in the next 10 years when I have more time. Can someone hand me the remote control?

My video "SELF ESTEEM Thoughts"



Here is a video I made a while ago on SELF ESTEEM. I'm posting it here since I do not post to my other youtube channel anymore.


video

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

NOAH's ARK SATIRE



THE FUN BOAT RIDE
 (a little excerpt I wrote in 2007)

The world was clearly a wonderful place, completely covered in water.  The commotion of torrential rain pouring outside the boat rivaled the chaotic zoo that prevailed inside the boat.  Zagorba, Ham’s wife, was annoyed, once again.  God had designated her with the responsibility of housing for the future generations of civilization a special type of tapeworm.  Sure, she didn’t have the disgusting viral infection with lots of  pus and sores nor the wicked bacterial concoction that Japeth, her brother had to carry throughout the duration of the boat ride, but tapeworms were not really that pleasant either.  After all, how could civilization survive without the glorious tapeworm inside her loins, the gazillions of pesky flies or all the various infections being carefully housed by those on board, graciously spared of God’s wrath? God had planned to lovingly endow future generations with ticks (lyme disease), Anopheles mosquitos (excellent vectors for malaria),  tapeworms (starvation)—all of the treats of existence we simply couldn't live without. 

Life was clearly a beautiful experience.  

By Renee