Archive for the ‘iTeechezJoo’ Category

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Fun with Bicycles (or, How Not To Ride One)

July 23, 2009

I’m going to make a confession now that is actually less embarassing than one might expect: I never learned to ride a bicycle.

(Gasp!  Shock.  Really?  Yes.)  Why?  Numerous reasons:

One, I was a coward as a kid.  I’ll be the first to admit it.  I also didn’t learn to swim or climb trees, for exactly the same reason.

Two, the bicycle is an insidious device.  With only two wheels and (in my case) a seat designed to give you crotch bruises, these suckers are anything but fun for the novice.

Combine that with certain feelings of inadequacy (having an older sister and cousin who could already ride perfectly and certainly weren’t patient enough to help me learn), frustration with relatives (PLEASE, Dad, do NOT walk up to me after I’ve killed my ass and ask me in the perkiest tone you can muster if I’ve been “practicing riding my bike”), and an uncontrollable feeling of terror whenever the thing goes too fast and you have a recipe for disaster.

Fortunately, I learned a few helpful things today that should help to minimize discomfort, panic, and injury for anyone who’s just starting out on a bike, but especially me.

Lesson One: How Not To Ride A Bike

1. My sister’s method: Start at the top of a shallow hill and coast down, keeping your feet a short distance from the ground.  Repeat until you stop going into panic attacks.

Why?  Because this happens: The bike starts going too fast.  You try in vain to brake, by touching the ground with your feet, but by this time it’s already too late.  You have two choices: fall over or stand up, hold on, and skid along the ground while the bike humps you from below until it finally stops.  Then, if you have something else in common with me, you hyperventilate for the next few seconds.

2. Mother’s advice: Disregard sister’s advice.  Get on the bike, push off, and start pedaling.

And be ready for Panic Attack #2, because – again, only if you’re like me – as soon as the bike starts to pick up speed, you freak out.  Assuming the bike ever picks up speed in the first place.  The alternative: you try to pedal, the bike tips over.  You try to correct the problem.  It fails and you have another panic attack.

(Although this might seem a bit self-serving, I do not consider “having a panic attack when I lose control of the bike” to be the same as “being a coward”.  I am fairly sure that a coward wouldn’t have gotten on the stupid bike to begin with.)

Anyway, this is the method I found that actually works:

How To Actually Ride A Bike

First of all, you know all those seasoned bike-riders you see out there with their feet on the pedals?  They’re not you.  Unlike you, they’re actually comfortable with what they’re doing.  You are not – or so I assume, because if you were I expect you would know how to ride the thing.

So here’s what you do: Keep your feet on the ground.  Lower the seat until you can get a good grip on it.  Start at the top of a slope (a gentle slope), sit on the bike, and walk your way down.  Yes, walk.  While you’re on the bike.  When you’re a bit more comfortable, you can even start to pick up some speed.  Run a little.  Walk it back up the slope and go down again.  Whee.

All right, so it’s a little childish.  But let’s be serious here: would we rather look a little childish, or kill our elbows, knees, shins, ankles, and nervous systems trying to ride the thing some other way?

(Oh, and here’s a fun tidbit for future adult bikers: a podcast about adults learning to ride for the first time. We’re not alone out there.)

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Fun Facts About Bisexuality

May 30, 2009

There seem to be a lot of mistruths going around about bisexuals lately.  Stuff like “they’re just confused”, “they’re doing it for the attention”, “they’re so starved for sex that they’ll do it with anyone”.  Complete mistruths.  So I thought I’d take a few moments to clear up some of these myths.

Myth: There is no such thing as a bisexual; people are either gay or straight/Bisexuals are just gay or straight people who haven’t figured it out.

Or: Bisexuals are always equally attracted to both sexes.

Truth: Although it was once thought that a person’s sexual orientation could only be one thing (straight) or two (gay or straight), this has since been proven faulty.  In fact, sexual orientation is a relatively flexible thing, and can fall into any of the following five positions:

  1. Attracted only to opposite sex (straight).
  2. Attracted to both sexes, but more attracted to opposite sex (straight-inclined bisexual).
  3. Equally attracted to both sexes(bisexual.)
  4. Attracted to both sexes, but more attracted to same sex (gay-inclined bisexual).
  5. Attracted only to same sex (gay).

1 is believed to be the most prevalant position, but sexual orientation can – and does – range widely between individuals.

Myth: Bisexuals are sex maniacs.  They are so starved for intimacy that they will date/screw anyone.

Truth: Just like straight and gay people, bisexuals have standards, and they are not afraid to use them.  We will date/screw based on a wide range of factors, such as physical attractiveness, personality, and relationship status.  Some of us have even decided, all on our own, to remain virgins until we are married.

Myth: You have to be careful when dating a bisexual.  You never know when he/she will cheat on you with the other sex/Bisexuals require sexual stimulation from both sexes, simultaneously or in turn.

Truth: Bisexuals are no more likely to cheat on you than a gay or straight person.  Some of us are rampaging chauvanists, but many of us are not.  And while we may date people of both sexes, we are fully capable of committing to someone of either.

Myth: Bisexuals are trying to reduce your dating pool.

Truth: Bisexuals have just as much right to date members of your sexual orientation as you do, assuming that they choose to do so.  Not all of them will; some bisexuals are quite contented dating members of only one sex, and even if they aren’t, they are no likelier to rob you of your soul mate than your straight or gay competitors.  In fact, bisexuals actually serve to widen the dating pool – both straight and gay.

Myth: Bisexuality (or homosexuality) is only about sex – there is no emotional attraction.

Truth: Every human is capable of forming strong emotional bonds with either sex, regardless of orientation.  The only thing that determines who you learn to love is whether the two of you are emotionally compatible.  Aside from availability issues, it is no more difficult for a gay, lesbian, or bisexual to fall in love – with a person of either sex – than it is for a straight person.

Myth: Bisexuals are perverts/hedonistic/just plain loose.

Truth: Only in the movies.

Now for some Q&A.

Q: How do you know you’re bisexual?

A: I’ll admit, it isn’t quite as simple as knowing that you’re gay or straight.  Most people assume that they are one or another, but come to realize that they are attracted to people who fit outside their scope.  For me, it was when my list of “the only women I am attracted to” rose above three.

Q: Do you like the same things in men and women?

A: Not necessarily.  For instance, I like guys with beards, but I think they’d look silly on women.  Red hair, on the other hand, looks best on a female.  In general, men can be a lot more masculine before they cease to be attractive to me.

Q: What’s the difference between bisexuality and pansexuality?

A: Bisexuality is a term meaning that you are attracted to both sexes – meaning that you note a difference between them, but find them both stimulating.  Pansexuality is a state in which you are attracted to people in general, whether they be male, female, transgender, androgynous, or somewhere in between; you may or may not identify people as belonging certain genders.  Defined in such a manner, many people who identify themselves as bisexual would likely qualify as pansexual – going by this definition, I would end up calling myself straight-bisexual with pansexual leanings.  The lesson: Don’t get bogged down with terminology, just use whatever sounds right for you.

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Food for Thought…

April 30, 2009

Which food fits all of the following descriptors?

  1. Humans’ closest relatives, chimpanzees and gorillas, never eat it.
  2. It cannot be eaten in its natural form – it must be processed first.
  3. Unless it is cooked, it is toxic to the human body.

Ready for the answer?

Here goes:

Wheat.

If you thought the answer was “meat”, you’ve been reading the wrong materials.  Not only is meat perfectly safe to eat raw (assuming it has not been contaminated), it is found in the diets of both gorillas and chimpanzees.

Wheat – and its high-carb vegan cousins, beans and potatoes – not only taste disgusting when eaten raw, but contain a variety of interesting toxins (whose names I forget).  While not deadly, they will make an individual very ill.  (Cooking causes these toxins to break down, rendering wheat and beans reasonably safe.  Potatoes, not so much.)

Not like I needed another reason not to eat this stuff.  Bread gives me horrible dandruff and potatoes are disgusting.  (Beans I like, but I may have to rethink my policy after this.  At any rate I won’t be eating a lot of them.)

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Things that are Not Fair.

December 25, 2008

So, ol’ Mum and I were having a discussion about things that are Not Fair.  We noted that a lot of kids – even teenagers who should really be too old for this kind of thing – tend to claim that a lot of only mildly irritating incidents are Not Fair.  So, in the interest of education (which I love), I’ve decided to draw up a list of things that are and are not Not Fair.

Things that are Not Fair:

  • Having a severe mental illness and going undiagnosed for more than forty years of your life.
  • Because of said illness, your entire family hates you and won’t have anything to do with you.
  • Being the child of said person with the mental illness, and listening to people badmouth your beloved mother whenever you’re around them.
  • Having to spend the first thirteen years of your life living with someone who doesn’t care about your health – letting you blimp to nearly 300 pounds without doing a single thing to try and stop it – and whose only interest in you is to feel good about herself for “having a child”.
  • After being found in her house in a diabetic coma, severely dehydrated and otherwise quite ill, your mother spends about a week in a hospital that won’t tell you anything about her condition.
  • You finally find out how she’s doing.  She’s fine, and she gets to come home.  A few hours later, it’s revealed that she’s stark raving mad…
  • …on Christmas Eve.
  • Your parents (completely different individuals) divorce when you’re four years old, and spend the next ten years arguing over who gets to keep you.

Things that aren’t quite Not Fair, but really, really suck:

  • Your mother (a different individual again) believes that she has a terminal illness… and waits to tell you until the two of you are in the middle of a huge fight.
  • You, as a child, get sick right around Christmastime and as  a consequence are unable to attend the family Christmas party.
  • You finally get that one thing that you really, really wanted for Christmas… but it’s just the box, and it’s full of underwear.
  • Getting absolutely nothing that you asked for for Christmas (especially if you asked for a decent variety or for a few inexpensive things).

Things that are not Not Fair:

  • Not getting everything you wanted for Christmas.
  • Buying a video game and then finding out that it has some features you don’t like.
  • The fact that there are people out there who don’t like your taste in books, movies, or music.
  • Receiving constructive criticism when you put your work (art/story) on the Internet and ask for reviews.
  • Your favorite video game publisher releasing a game or expansion pack that you personally don’t like.
  • Someone else eats the last piece of gum.
  • Your sister’s iPod is a newer model than yours/toy is prettier than yours/your sister got one more Christmas present than you/etc.

May add moar later.

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PETA, The Environment, and You: The Ugly Truth.

December 16, 2008

Turns out I’m not quite done with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (a.k.a. People for the Molly-Coddling of Cute and Fuzzy Bunnies).  The entry I wrote earlier got my blood pumping, and I decided to do a follow-up: an uncovering of some of the ugly truths about PETA.

The problem with PETA is that they are very bad arguers.  Rather than try to discuss their ideas with the opposition in the hopes of reaching a conclusion (or perhaps a compromise), they choose to insist that the opponent MUST be wrong, and will not back down until the opponent “comes to their senses.”  If their initial attack doesn’t work, they will pull out a billion other reasons why you should be thinking the way they do in the hopes that one of them appeals.  Their method works as follows: name a problem that you should be concerned about, name how animal consumption contributes to that problem, and then convince you that by switching to a vegan lifestyle you can make it all better.  To the untrained eye, this looks like they care about a wide variety of issues and simply see veganism and animal liberation as the best remedy.  Under scrutiny, however, it turns out to be a desperate bid to gain new converts.

Here are some of their favorite arguments.

Argument #1: Using animal products is bad for the environment (so if you care about the environment, you won’t use animal products).  Raising enough cattle to feed everyone increases the quantity of greenhouse gases, raising any kind of animals generates tons of garbage, etc.

The Ugly Truth: PETA doesn’t care one whit about the environment.  Here’s why: Rather than eating meat and using animal-based oils, they suggest that we level rainforest (and other natural ecosystems) to make room for soy, wheat, and palm oil farms, driving thousands of animals out of their native habitat to do so.  Instead of using leather and fur, they say we should wear synthetics, made from plastic — which takes years to break down, releases harmful chemicals into the environment as it does so, and is non-renewable (once we use it up, it’s gone).

Argument #3: There is tons of scientific evidence to support a vegan lifestyle (if you take science seriously, you’ll convert).

True, PETA does provide a lot of evidence that seems to support veganism as a healthy way of life.  However, that is the only science that they will give any credence to, and they continually tout it as unimpeachable FACT.

The Ugly Truth: Science means basically nothing to PETA, unless it can help them gain new followers.  Their “facts” on their site are frequently either outdated, based on sketchy evidence or exaggerated from their original form.  Additionally, any evidence presented that threatens to contradict their “facts” is quickly written off as inconclusive, insufficiently researched, or just plain propaganda.

For fun, some facts that PETA has ignored:

Soy, their greatest ally in the meat-and-dairy substitute industry, will not cure libido problems as they claim — in fact, it has been used for centuries in Asia to achieve the opposite effect.

Chimpanzees, the closest relative of humans and the figure they often point to as banana-munching proof that humans should be vegan, consume animal flesh as a regular part of their diet.

Several primitive cultures, such as Native Americans, have been eating significant portions of meat for centuries, yet until very recently had no problems with heart disease, cancer, or premature aging (other than the sun’s natural weathering effects on the skin).

Under the conditions portrayed by PETA’s videos and literature as typical of egg-production farms, chickens would not produce eggs at all — stress would end their ovular cycles in short order.

Argument #3: A vegan lifestyle will improve your health.

PETA is constantly touting the health benefits of a vegan lifestyle.  They claim that omitting meat from your diet entirely will reduce your risks of heart disease, cancer, and virtually every other disease known to man.  Animal testing, they say, is unnecessary; the only way to health is to give up animals entirely.

The Ugly Truth: PETA doesn’t care about your health, either.  Firstly, their claim that the Vegan Lifestyle is the ONLY way to good health is a huge contradiction of scientific evidence, which they conveniently ignore.  Secondly, their “healthy lifestyle” isn’t nearly as natural as they claim — omitting animal products merely forces the individual to substitute chemical-based products, which are frequently more harmful than their natural counterparts.  Any medicine that is derived from animals is likewise forbidden, so anyone who relies on such a thing to survive is SOL (unless the wondrous Vegan Lifestyle can cure them).

Which leads me directly into Argument #4: If everyone were vegan, there would be enough food to go around (if you convert, you can help end world hunger!)

It really is a lovely thought: that if we all converted to a veggie lifestyle, the resulting surplus of food would feed the entire population of Earth.  Unfortunately, it is at best a hypothesis — a suggestion of a result that might occur, once again distorted by PETA into Fact.  True, preliminary studies of consumption indicate that it might be so, but it cannot be proven without large-scale testing.

The Ugly Truth behind it?

PETA doesn’t give a rat’s patootie about humanity.  They haven’t even bothered to hide it, either.  They see humanity as the Eternal Enemy of animals; it’s Us vs. Them, and if We don’t go then They’re all going to suffer.  Several members of PETA have expressed the opinion that the best way to ensure the freedom of animals would be to exterminate all humans on Earth, allowing the other lifeforms to reclaim what is “rightfully theirs”.  The concept of humans as a part of the environment – and the realization that we are animals too – goes right over their heads;  their idea of a human-friendly solution is to set up a series of laws that would give humans fewer rights than any other species.  (Well, except the orangutans, who will be extinct thanks to the palm-oil farms.)

The final argument: Using animal products is cruel to animals (if you care about animals, you’ll convert).

This is, actually, the first thing they bring up, and it is sometimes a valid point.  Much of the meat and dairy that we eat is produced in a less-than-humane manner — easily evidenced by the poor quality and low price.  What PETA fails to understand, however, is that if we hold ourselves to the same standards as we do animals (which we would, if we were “equals” as they insist to newcomers), then the simple act of eating an animal would not be considered cruel.  Just as it is not cruel for a tiger to eat a rabbit or a polar bear to eat a seal, it should not be cruel for a human to eat part of a cow; like the tiger and polar bear, we do it to survive.

The bottom line, however, is much, much worse.

The Ugly Truth: PETA does not care about animals.

Mayhaps they did once.  Mayhaps some of them still do, somewhere in there.  But in their enormous wad of Animal Liberation and the Vegan Lifestyle and miscellaneous misanthropy, somehow they managed to twist their original purpose into something much worse.  They no longer care about the welfare of an individual animal; the only thing they care about is that every animal is either running free in the wild or dead (“free” from the “evil clutches of humanity”).  If an animal cannot survive without humans – such as is the case with many pets – then they believe that the only solution is to kill the animal, to free it from its hideous slavery.  That’s the solution they apply to every animal that they have problems with.  Rather than taking the time and effort to find a habitat suitable for the animal, they just kill it off and go back to picketing fur-coat manufacturers.

Yep, PETA you sure are a kind, loving and intelligent bunch of people.

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Green Meat (or, Eco-Friendly Non-Vegetarianism.)

December 16, 2008

Last night, I dreamt that I was talking to a budding PETA advocate.  She was very passionate about her arguments, endeavoring to convince me that it was wrong to eat meat – not only wrong, but unhealthy.  She threw all the standard PETA claims at me, most of which I refuted in standard meat-eater style.

Later, I was talking with my sister, and we decided to stage a mock argument.  She played the PETA advocate, and I played myself.  While she failed to convince me that there was sufficient evidence to convert to vegetarianism (and mind you, she is a very good arguer and almost always knows what she’s talking about), she did succeed in raising some points.

See, I disagree with PETA’s claim that meat is bad for humans.  Not because they don’t have backup evidence — they do, or at least they have a few scientific studies that support their claims.  But because there is still loads of evidence to prove – or at least suggest – otherwise.

However, one thing that they are correct on is that much of the meat we eat is raised in a non-humane manner.  And that means cramped, smelly and otherwise miserable.  No, they don’t cut the beaks off chickens and cram them into tiny cages – chickens under that level of stress wouldn’t grow no matter what you pumped into them.  But imagine my surprise when I learned that, indeed, animals ARE pumped full of antibiotics to promote unnatural growth!

(Ordinarily, antibiotics are used to treat infections, which is fine.  What is NOT fine is that farmers, noticing that antibiotics caused increased weight gain in their animals, started administering them all the time to promote faster growth.)

According to PETA (and many other organizations, for that matter) the best way to combat this is just to stop eating meat entirely (not a problem for them, since they claim we don’t need it).  And again I find myself disagreeing.  Yes, we do need to boycott the companies that abuse their animals, that pump them full of chemicals (which AREN’T good for humans, no matter who you ask), or that pour massive quantities of poop into rivers, promoting the growth of algae which choke out other life forms.  This is definitely bad.

But boycotting all meat is not the way to do it.  Why should responsible meat growers be punished for the crimes of the irresponsible?  No, what we need to be doing is refusing to eat meat grown by these people.  Instead, buy it from those who treat their animals well, feed them good food and allow them the space they need.  Show meat growers that there is a tangible reward – and as such, an incentive – to responsible care of their animals.

Unfortunately, there are very few ways to determine whether the meat you’re eating was grown responsibly or not.  Meat producers aren’t likely to come out and tell you that they’re pouring cow dung into local ponds; store employees aren’t likely to know.

Fortunately, the USDA does.

Whether organic food is or isn’t full of all the magical health benefits that some claim, one can be guaranteed that it isn’t laden with the sort of chemicals that are going to make our daughters sexually mature at age twelve or kill us of horrible diseases.  Furthermore, if a company is raising organic meat, they’ve already taken the first steps toward responsible raising of their product – and therefore are likely to take other steps to ensure the health and subsequent quality of their animals.  What about the toxic runoff?  That’s covered under the basic “USDA-certified organic” plan — growers must have a safe and sustainable way to dispose of the waste from their operations.

But, says PETA, there’s still the sheer amount of space needed to grow these beasties.  Take the farmland used to raise cows and start using it to raise humans, they argue, and you’ll get a much better return on your investment.

Maybe this would be true, if all cows were raised on farmland.  But many cows aren’t.  BLM land – land in its natural state that isn’t good for growing much more than weeds, scrubs and occasional grass – makes wonderful grazing for cattle.  Sure, eventually they’re going to exhaust it and have to move on, but this is land that could not be used to feed humans without drastically altering the environment in the area.  If PETA is half as eco-friendly as they claim to be, they will be happy to tell you that mucking with the environment is bad.  Tends to mess up climate, destroy the habitats of cute little bunny rabbits, etc.  I’m sure you can see the problem.

But, they argue, there’s still the greenhouse gas effect.  The amount of cattle it takes to feed everyone causes huge amounts of methane, which is bad for the environment.

I’m not gonna disagree here; this is a legitimate concern — especially if we try to feed everyone in the States on meat-intensive diets.  However, what I am proposing here is not a meat-intensive diet, but a diet that includes both meat and healthy quantities of vegetables.  I realize that it may seem otherwise, but only because I failed to bring up the issue of vegetables (on account of that being one of the few things that PETA and I can agree on).

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Loovar: The Not-So-Elusive Fish?

November 11, 2008

As you know, I’ve recently come down with a horrible cold.  When I first had it two days ago, I thought to myself, it wasn’t a big deal; I updated my blog, worked on my novel and played Phantom Hourglass.

Well, by that night I was completely shot (and by shot, I mean “having problems standing up straight”).  So rather than trying to do anything serious yesterday, I grapped the ol’ DS and did some more farting around on PH.  I’ve decided that rather than just breezing through it like I do most Zelda games, I’m going to take my time: collect every heart container, pick up every Wisdom Gem, and do all of the (fun) sidequests.

My gear of choice last night was fishing.  Now, since I prefer to play games intuitively before I check for guides, I didn’t read anything about it beforehand, so I had no idea about the rarity of Loovar.  Consequentially, it did not occur to me that it might be strange to have two of them before I ever managed to catch a Toona.

The reason I might find this strange is because after I did catch a Toona and round out my common-fish collection, I decided to look online and see if there was a guide that could help me with Neptoona.  Well, they couldn’t, but what I did learn is that Loovar is apparently a super-rare fish, and that you’re liable to have upward of thirty fish before you ever catch one.

My game does not seem to understand this.  For the lulz, here are my fishing stats so far:

Skippyjack: 15

Toona: 5

Loovar: 6

Rusty Swordfish: 4

Stowfish: 1

Total: 31 Fish

So, my total Loovar count is approximately one-fifth of my entire fish caught.  Not so rare, akshuly.