Schrödinger’s Rapist- excellent point!

If you’ve never heard of Schrödinger’s Cat, it’s a thought experiment worth a read. Understanding that will make this entry a bit

Is it or isn't it?

more clear. In a nutshell, it’s a paradox devised by Erwin Schrödinger in 1935. Picture this: there’s a cat in a box. It might or might not be dead. You won’t know until you open then box. (I know, it’s sick, but roll with me…I’m going somewhere important with this analogy, especially if you are or know a woman.) Schrödinger came up with this experiment in response to an interpretation of quantum mechanics, like you do, and the point was to theorize that the cat may or may not be considered to be alive unless and until an observer confirms it.

I know, I just got a nosebleed too…

Basically, until you confirm it, you have no way of knowing for sure if your theory is correct. That is the key point that us non-quantum-physicists need to remember for this post.

Moving on.

A FB friend who always has interesting stuff on her wall had a link to this article:

Schrödinger’s Rapist: or a guy’s guide to approaching strange women without being maced

Sounded intriguing. So I read the article, and there are some amazing points in it that I think don’t get considered enough, especially by men.  First, she states that, basically, to a woman, if you approach her in public (with even the most romantic and benign intentions for lifelong companionship…or you think she’s pretty and want her number), she must, by virtue of the society we live in and by virtue of taking responsibility for her own safety, assume that you are Schrödinger’s Rapist.

In other words:

“When you approach me in public, you are Schrödinger’s Rapist. You may or may not be a man who would commit rape. I won’t know for sure unless you start sexually assaulting me. I can’t see inside your head, and I don’t know your intentions. If you expect me to trust you—to accept you at face value as a nice sort of guy—you are not only failing to respect my reasonable caution, you are being cavalier about my personal safety.”

I think she puts it pretty clearly.  You (gentleman or lady who is making the approach) know that all you want a phone number; but she doesn’t know whether or not you are the type to take no for an answer. So she has to move forward with her safety in mind. Depending on how you react, she reads your signals as either someone who respects her boundaries, or someone who is going to ignore her signals and boundaries to get what you want. We women are always on the lookout for these signals. Always.

A few fantastic points that she makes in the post:

1) “You must accept that I set my own risk tolerance.”

2) “You must be aware of what signals you are sending by your appearance and the environment.” (Translation: If you approach me in a dark alley, I’m going to run.)

3) “Women are communicating all the time. Learn to understand and respect women’s communication to you.”

4) “If you fail to respect what women say, you label yourself a problem.”

The author goes on to point out, quite rightly, that

“...if you speak to a woman who is otherwise occupied, you’re sending a subtle message. It is that your desire to interact trumps her right to be left alone. If you pursue a conversation when she’s tried to cut it off, you send a message. It is that your desire to speak trumps her right to be left alone. And each of those messages indicates that you believe your desires are a legitimate reason to override her rights.

I just can’t say it any better than that.

The reason I think this is important to pass on is that women are constantly told that our safety is our responsibility- but that we shouldn’t be impolite- unless we’re being chased down the street by a knife-wielding maniac. And then it might be okay to be less than lady-like.  Mixed signals galore. But I think men aren’t often taught points #3 and #4 (listed above), and aren’t told that they are responsible for their signals. Many men (and I’m speaking from personal experience now) expect that I’ll just know that they are interested in me. And that I should be flattered. And that I should stop what I’m doing to play the game. Only I often don’t want to play the game. Most of the time, I can tell in 2 seconds whether or not I want to talk to you.  I am reading your signals. And I’m watching out for my safety.

These points need to be taught- in middle school at the latest– to boys and girls, so that they have a better understanding (and, yes, I think it is a quantifiably better/superior/more complete understanding) of who is responsible for what in the dating game. Too many women are stuck with unfair and unsustainable responsibility in the public sphere to both protect themselves and not damage male egos.  Not many women are taught that their boundaries are worth protecting, but they are told quite clearly that they will get blamed if they don’t walk a fine line perfectly.

Anyway, the post caught my eye, taught me something about quantum physics, and helped me to articulate some ideas that have been rolling around in my head for a long time about how to handle certain public situations. It also made me wonder about the idle thoughts of scientists. A cat in a box? Seriously?


Taking stock at 14 weeks of pregnancy

I had a lot of preconceptions about pregnancy.

1) Morning sickness was a given.

2) Other than morning sickness, you felt constant joy at the life you were creating.

3) You start to ‘show’ a lot sooner than you (apparently) do.

4) You eat like a horse and nest like a falcon.

So far, only that last one has proven true.

Not really a 'bump'...more of a pooch.

I’m checking in today at 14 weeks pregnant to take stock of 3.5 months of changes. I’ve grown less than I thought I would; I’m

not really ‘showing’ yet. I don’t eat quite as much as I thought I would, but I still eat more than I have before. I’m a few weeks away from leaving my pre-preg jeans behind, but maxi dresses are soon to be my new best friend. I sleep a lot and nest a lot. I’m trying (and mostly succeeding) in enjoying this time were I can still bend over, see my toes, ties my own shoes, and twist at the waist.

But I can’t WAIT until I can feel my baby move. I also can’t wait to know if it’s a boy or a girl. Baby Changing Fruit (so named because every week, the pregnancy guides describe it by it’s relative size) did not cooperate for a recent ultrasound test to check for fetal abnormalities. We needed a side view, and BCF just lay there, staring at the screen, not turning. I find myself really hoping that when the time comes, we’ll be able to tell the gender to some degree of certainty.  S/he will have to cooperate for that.

I feel sort of like I blinked and went from 4 weeks to 14. Every day has been both excruciatingly slow and fast, and suddenly I find myself here, within planning distance of the half-way mark. Um…wow. How did that happen? (Note: it is also surreal to find myself in 2012, but I think that would have been the case either way.)

Other changes: While the hormones can be intense, they push me to confront issues sooner. If I don’t, then I just explode in a fit of crying, which accomplishes about as much as you would expect it to. My center of gravity hasn’t shifted yet, so I can still dance, which is wonderful.  I crave healthy foods- mostly. There’s been the random chocolate craving, but mostly it’s been veggies, salads, lean meats, water, and fruits. Pineapple, specifically.

Perhaps most significantly for me, my earlier anxieties about the baby have faded (Will it be healthy? Normal?), just like an experienced friend said they would. Whether I just wore out on worry after a month or so or it was just a phase, I don’t know. But they just…faded. Now I’m focused on other things, like nesting and finding a doula and nutrition.

Now, every time I see a baby, my heart turns over in my chest, but for a different reason than before. It used to be just because babies are cute. Now it’s because I’m going to have one. It’s an intense feeling to create a human and not yet know what that human is going to be like. I feel a bit like I’m cooking a blind date…that I’ll have to raise. It’s surreal.

That’s all for now. More pics and updates as they become available.

Define “socialized…”

Sometimes I get in arguments with Facebook. At least, it feels like an argument with Facebook, and not the people on it. I’m arguing with a computer screen. On a public wall. I’m starting to think of it as a more passive form of trolling (which I hate with a burning passion).

But some things you just can’t let roll by. Sometimes, people are just wrong on the internet. You can’t let that slide.

Case in point:

Someone posts this video by Milton Friedman about Socialized Medicine. And basically begs his ‘liberal friends’ to respond.

Challenge taken.

If you don’t want to watch the video (which is from a talk made in 1978), here are the key points:

1) There is a trend towards ‘ever-greater government involvement’ over medical fees.

2) “The spending for the provision of medical care inevitably leads to control over the fees that are charged for medical care.”

3) “Control over fees inevitably leads to control over the practices that are followed.”

4) “[The trends mentioned in points 1 through 3] inevitably lead to socialized medicine.”

5) “The ultimate result of a government take over is less resources [for the public]. (Note from Lisa- I don’t disagree with this point, but here he’s just talking about a total takeover of the healthcare system, which is a non sequitur from the previous point and the modern argument as a whole.)


I have several issues with this video- okay, I have a lot of issues with it. For the sake of brevity, I’ll limit myself. Here are some of the major issues:

1) The video is from 1978, references old studies and vague ‘stories,’ and Milton’s opinion about what will ‘inevitably’ happen. Few things are ‘inevitable.’ Gravity is not even inevitable.

2) Milton seems to like using the term ‘government’ involvement as though it’s just a blanket pejorative term. But he doesn’t outline what he means by the term. He just uses it to suggest something total and scary.

3) He also keeps mentioning the government just wholesale ‘taking over the healthcare industry,’ instead of going into competition with private industry- which is what is actually being proposed these days. Obama’s Healthcare Act proposed a government alternative to the private sector, not a takeover of the private sector. That’s sort of an ENORMOUSLY crucial difference.

4) Milton seems to imply that government regulation and government takeover are synonymous. They are not. Regulating the food industry so that it doesn’t poison us faster than it already does is not the same thing as taking it over. Regulation is not inherently a bad thing, yet Milton seems to imply that it is…at least, the tone of his argument reads that way. According to Milton, government regulation=total takeover=socialized medicine.


I think that since 1978, history and the American temperament has shown that a total government takeover of anything is unlikely. As Americans, we pride ourselves too much on this whole ‘free market’ smokescreen. History has also shown that the big business refrain of ‘lower taxes on business = more jobs’ is a very large pile of outsourced bullshit. Wages have been largely stagnant for over the decades…unless you’re a CEO.

Handsome Man

“If we raise taxes on corporations, what incentive will they have to make money other than the fact that it’s the sole reason they exist.”    – Stephen Colbert

But I’d like to try to take the conversation out of absolutes. Away from dogma, partisan politics, talking points, and tradition. Let’s look at society as a whole. We have set up a system where certain things are done on a profit based motive. Time has now proven that certain things do not work well for society as a whole when left solely to the mercy of free markets. Sans regulations, we would have a huge mess in the food, toy, auto, drug, and home industry- because companies whose ONLY goal is to maximize profits are not always going to be concerned about safety. The humans who run them might be, but relying on the goodness of human nature doesn’t seem to be a core philosophy of any political party…ever.

There are certain things that, without regulation or oversight, get polluted with money by people who just want to make a buck. Try to tell me that the oil industry, big pharma and agri-business don’t have Congress by the short and curlies, and I’m likely going to laugh in your face. Try telling me that lobbyists don’t have an outsized influence in Washington, and I’m likely going to laugh in your face. Try telling me that regulations to protect the environment where we have to live are anti-business (cause, you know, taking care of the planet is a stupid, hippie things to do, and that makes it bad, cause it’s hippie), and I’ll likely punch you in the face. What can I say, I’m passionate.

We recognize as a society that there are certain things we agree are more important than profit (a social contract, if you will). We agree that it’s more important that our kids not play with lead-covered toys than that companies be able to profit off of cheaply, poorly made toys from China. We draw a line there. We agreed several decades ago that once you reach a certain age and had contributed to the building of our society with raising a family and working in its structures that you should- to a certain degree- be taken care of. Hence our closest encounter with socialized medicine, Medicare and Medicaid. Try taking THAT away from Americans. We agree that certain things are more important than money. There is a middle ground.

Which is why, at this point in the post, I’m going to circle around to a core issue- what does the term socialized mean? Not as a pejorative term- just as a descriptor. It’s relevant to the analysis of this video that we come from a common understanding of what we’re talking about. And I don’t have a lot of faith that many people know what it means. They keep thinking of it just as a scary word, instead of actually knowing the definition.

Socialized– (verb) To place under government or group ownership or control.

Socialized medicine– (noun) The provision of medical and hospital care for all by means of public funds.

Now, initially, I’d intended to get into the major provisions of Obama’s healthcare bill in connection with this Milton video, but that will have to end up being an entirely different post. I don’t have all day. So I’ll confine the rest of my comments to this topic- Milton’s video and his erroneous conclusions.

Milton’s conclusions in the video don’t really hold, and certainly don’t apply to what is going on now. He forgot to factor in both the American character and loads of money in politics. He also assumes a slew of things about how government involvement would go, and then bases his conclusions off of the expectation that, since it was ‘inevitable’ that things would only progress in one way, he was forecasting the only possible outcome of a certitude. (i.e. Socialized medicine is bad, and that is the only place we could possibly be headed with ‘government intervention’.)

Without getting into the specifics of Obama’s healthcare bill (in this post), I can say that there is a huge difference between regulating the healthcare industry and ‘socializing’ it. Insisting that insurance companies not engage in ruthless practices like dropping people when they get too expensive (damned cancer patients) is not the same as taking over wholesale. Suggesting that it is the same thing means that you are either 1) a Republican who is trying to get elected by scaring people, or 2) ignorant of the situation as a whole.  We can argue the degree to which government should be involved, but if you confine the argument to absolutes (“Government should totally stay out of healthcare- they have no business in the private sector”), then you’ve over-simplified an enormously complex argument.  You’ve got to be willing to look at the system as a whole, not just talking points.

To consider: How does healthcare factor into our society as a whole? Is it suitable to the needs of human beings that healthcare be strictly a for-profit industry? Has that really helped us as society in recent decades? I would say that our current situation is NOT due to too much government regulation. The people telling us that it is are untrustworthy. They stand to profit by less regulation, but so far my experience has been that when healthcare is left to the free market, it doesn’t work in the consumer’s favor. It works in the insurance company’s favor. We can argue these particular points, but not as black and white issues. I can’t really thinks of too many things that are black and white issues. I can’t think of a single black and white issue that involves money. So a more nuanced conversation is in order. One that does not diminish the argument into overly-simplistic terms.

If you have an economic point to make about anything I’ve said, I’m all ears. But do your homework first.

The Hippification of a Southern Belle

A funny thing happens when you start to focus your attention on specific things. You develop different habits. You change your way of being in the world.

I recently came across an old journal entry from about 11 years ago, and realized how much I’ve changed in that time. Not just in life experience or fashion (although there is that, thank all the gods ever- I was pretty damn naive), but also in what I notice and prioritize.

In the past decade, I’ve slowly shifted away from my deep-fried Southern roots to a more…holistic approach to life. Some would call it “going hippy.” Some schools of thought call it “mindful living.” I’ve become attuned to: additives in my food, where my clothes are made, the labor practices of the stores where I shop, chemicals in products I use- basically, I have tried to train my eyes (and my pocketbook) to see the web that inextricably binds everything together in society, and how to choose more healthy options for myself.  Once you start to notice what your time and money go to support, it’s hard to switch that off.

But let me back up a bit further. There’s a story from my younger years that sets this up nicely. When I was about 14, we learned in history class about how the women (and men) at the French royal court of Versailles wore a white paste on their faces to lighten their skin. Uber white skin was the height of fashion apparently. So the courtiers would apply this white paste to their exposed faces and hands daily, just to appear fashionably pale. Just one problem with the paste that was not discovered until hundreds of years later- it contained deadly amounts of poisonous lead. The lead ate away the skin on the face and caused mental insanity. It slowly killed everyone who used it- horribly. That story stuck with me; I thought this was the stupidest thing I’d ever heard of. Who on earth would so prize their looks that they’d destroy their life? I remember vowing that I would never be so stupid as to use a product that would kill me. This was, coincidentally, the same year I swore off shoulder pads as the stupidest fashion trend ever. It turns out they weren’t, but to this day, I will not wear them. I’ve recently discovered that I wasn’t so faithful on that other vow.

It turns out that most of my shampoos, body washes, toothpastes, lotions, and face creams contain a proven skin irritant that is composed of (among other things) a known carcinogen.

The culprits?  Sodium Laurel Sulfate & Sodium Laureth Sulfate.

Remember those names. They have been linked to cancer and are used around the world in chemical trials to CAUSE skin irritation.

I know, I know- there are so many things in life that can kill you that you would need to live in a bubble to avoid then all. True enough. But there are certain things that are worth trying to avoid, especially when they have been proven to not be good for humans. If you look at the back of a shampoo bottle, the sheer number of chemicals should alarm you. If they don’t, think of it as a food. Would you eat or drink that stuff, knowing as little as you do about how it is made?

You use shampoo, lotions and toothpaste on a regular basis  (one would hope). This means the chemicals in these products build up in your body over time. We’ve seen skyrocketing rates of all types of cancers in recent decades. From what I’ve read, there is more than a slight causal link between the cancer rate and the chemicals we live with in our homes. That was enough to make me dig deeper.

Back to Sodium Laurel Sulfate and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLS and SLES). A few years ago, I began to notice certain products that advertised themselves as ‘paraben-free’ and ‘sulfate-free.’ Which made me wonder- why was that important? What don’t I know about these parabens and sulfates? So I started doing research. It was easy to find stuff on parabens at first- they disrupt hormones and have been directly linked to breast cancer and heart problems. Mostly , they are used as a preservative. Well, that sounds nasty. I began to specifically look for products without parabens, and threw out what I had at home that contained them. Plenty of products that are paraben free are available now, thanks to increased awareness. I felt better about my health after that. But I didn’t really take a closer look at the sulfate family until recently. The readings on that shit will keep you up at night.

I read articles like this and this, and promptly cleaned out my bathroom of any product containing a sulfate. Sound extreme? I’m okay with that. I blame the pregnancy hormones for pushing me to clear out anything that causes me to doubt it’s health-full-ness. My body is a temple, after all. And stuff that messes with my chemical levels makes me nervous. Nor do I trust that most mass-production companies do tons of research on the long-term effects of their products…beyond assuring themselves and the FDA that their stuff won’t kill people quickly. Nope, I think most big companies are in it for the money and will sell me anything they think they can convince me that I need. So I prefer to pay a bit more for something natural than slowly poison myself with something cheaper.

So, over roughly the last decade, I’ve switched to almond milk, started recycling, cut back on eating meat, purchased a hybrid car, migrated to Buddhism, begun shopping at organic food stores, and now use only skincare products that I know are as natural as can be. I don’t fit all the hippy stereotypes (for the record, I’d be fine if I did; hippies get a bad rap from people who are afraid of change or of looking too closely at things), but I’m getting there. I like being healthy. I like knowing that I’m making conscious choices and not having choices made for me. I like mindful living.

As I’ve slowly been hippified, I’ve become healthier. Win for me. Win for my baby. Win for my life. I’m at peace with my hippification. While we can’t protect ourselves from everything, that’s not a reason to give up trying to protect ourselves from certain things. Just because you can buy it in a store doesn’t mean it won’t kill you…it just make take a while. Remember, they used to sell cocaine as an over-the-counter headache remedy in drugstores. Think about that the next time you smear something onto your body to be absorbed.

2012 changes everything- some happy news from the (expanding) Howells

So, I’ve got some news. Or, should I say, we have some news.

Sosh and I, having decided that we’d like to start growing our own roommates, find ourselves in the happy situation of expecting our first child.

We’ve discovered that there are several attendant (automatic?) questions that follow this announcement. I’ll make them easier here.

Yes, we’re excited.





July 19th.

Don’t know yet.

…. that should cover most of the normal questions.

As for our upcoming addition to the human race, we figure that between the two of us, any offspring we have will most certainly be a perfect hybrid of all of our best traits. We are eagerly expecting to welcome our genius/cooperative child into the world sometime this summer, and have the little Nobel-prize-winner-to-be potty trained (and reading) by mid-winter. It’s going to be great.

In short, we are in completely new territory here and would welcome advice. Any advice. Just be aware that we anticipate receiving so much advice (more than we can actually handle and some that will scare the bejezsus out of us), that at some point our eyes might glaze over. It’s a mental survival thing. If this happens while we are with you, please wait while we reload and try again later. We might be more receptive to advice on days when neither of us has been physically ill or looking at articles about college tuition rates. Also, please try not to scare us any more than you have to…sometimes ignorance is bliss.

There will also be a point where we honestly won’t remember whether we’ve told you or not. It’s just a bit difficult to keep track of who gets told when and who left the room at just the wrong (right?) point to miss our elated announcement. So, if we tell you a second time, please smile, nod and humor us. We’ll need it.

Also, if you have baby stuff you’d like to unload, we’re looking to shop second and third hand on everything but the car seat.

We’re excited, of course, and trying to adjust what we need to adjust as it comes. I’m developing a new appreciation for how much work humans take to create. I also appreciate more how completely cool it is that my body can grow a human. Makes me feel sort of superhuman and magical. It also makes me really, really conscious of what I eat. And breathe.

For a brief period of time, this blog now becomes a pregnancy blog. Because that is where I am in this life. That is my experience, and my stage, and I’m determined to learn how to honor it. However uncomfortable it may be at times. This time will not come again, this first pregnancy. It’s magic, in its own way.

So while I will NOT be regaling you with every single intimate detail (there are other blogs for that) of my pregnancy, this will be a good place to find out what is going on generally with Baby Howell (nickname suggestions for the Peanut are cheerfully accepted via this blog) and the more surprising/interesting aspects of pregnancy. Hopefully, it will be intriguing. It already is for me, and I’m eager to share the journey…to a point.

So from an expanding, hormonal, hungry mom-to-be, I’m happy to welcome in 2012 and announce the shift of focus for this blog to my (our?) new project- Baby (Changing Fruit) Howell.