What Guys Like

What Guys Like

Wow, isn’t it cool how this meme manages to insult both guys and girls at the same time?

Stick with me on this one: if it’s bad to make women feel horrible because they’re not rail thin, what makes it acceptable to do the same thing because they’re not curvy? I’ll tell you: nothing makes it okay. Let’s just stop this. Ladies, no matter what body shape you have, if you’re interested in being in a relationship with a man, there’s a man out there who’ll be interested in you. I promise. We’re not the single-minded cretins that memes like this make us out to be.

For example, I take umbrage at the notion that I, as a man, am supposed to decide who I like based on her body shape. There are so many considerations that go into choosing an ideal companion: What are her hopes? Her ambitions? Her favorite movies? Does she like dirty limericks? Does she hold any advanced degrees? What are her political opinions? Is she religious? Does she like yoga? Does she listen to Weird Al Yankovic? Did she go to school with anybody famous, and if so, what juicy gossip does she know about that person from when they were younger? Can she speak Pig Latin? Does she prefer Lost or Breaking Bad? Pepsi or Coke? Does she have an opinion on the Designated Hitter Rule, and if so, can she explain it to me?

If I were in the market for female companionship, the answers to these and many other questions could be critical in determining our future happiness together. Unfortunately, I can’t determine the answers to any of these questions from a photograph of a woman in a bikini. So please, Mr Meme Maker, don’t presume to tell me what I like. And do not presume to dismiss the attractiveness of any person if they don’t fit into the mold that you find most pleasing.

Eminem: A study in opposites

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I am inclined to agree with Mr Mathers in one regard: a person’s ethnicity, sexual orientation, body shape, or socioeconomic status should not affect how you treat them. It’s always a good idea to be nice to those who have been nice to you, but it also wouldn’t hurt to break some ground by being nice to somebody who hasn’t necessarily been nice to you. That’s how you build relationships and establish community…if that’s the kind of thing you’re into.

Of course, Eminem’s lyrics and public comments indicate that he is definitely not into community-building. The rapper is notorious for homophobic, misogynistic, violent lyrics. In interviews he shrugs it off, essentially saying that although some of his songs are a constant stream of vile anti-social sentiment, he’s really a nice guy who doesn’t mean anything he says and people should stop taking him so seriously.

Sorry, Eminem, but you don’t get to dictate how other people respond to your lyrics. In the song “Rap God”, Eminem says he’ll be able to break a “table over the back of a couple of faggots and crack it in half”. When confronted by his critics, Eminem’s response is that the word “faggot” doesn’t specifically refer to a homosexual, but to anybody who is…well, let’s just say annoying and leave it at that.

But don’t you see, Eminem, that word has specifically applied to effeminate male homosexuals, and when you use it you degrade them, whether you mean to or not. You use the word as an insult.

It’s impossible to explain to people like Eminem why using terms like “faggot” or “gay” as insults is a bad thing, because they have never been part of an oppressed minority. Don’t bother telling me about Mathers’ rough childhood in a poor neighborhood; at the end of the day he’s still a white straight male with all the attendant privileges. And now he’s a rich white straight male, which is even a greater reason why he shouldn’t be using language that demeans minority groups. Whether he likes it or not, he has a responsibility to make sure that he doesn’t repeat the mistakes of his forebears, mistakes that include using language that a reasonable person would know is insulting.

In defense of his homophobic lyrics, Eminem says:

I think people know my personal stance on things and the personas that I create in my music. And if someone doesn’t understand that by now, I don’t think there’s anything I can do to change their mind about it.

Actually, there is. You can take some responsibility for what you put out and stop pretending that it’s everybody else’s fault for being offended. And if you won’t do that, then you can stop claiming that you’re nice to anybody.


Begin shameless plug: I’m writing another blog called Nerdy Jokes, in which I try to make sense of some of my favorite math and science related jokes. Check it out. End shameless plug.

Cannabis the Wonder Weed

Cannabis the Wonder Weed

I’ve said before that it wouldn’t bother me if cannabis were legalized. I’m not a user, but I can’t think of any good reasons not to legalize the wacky weed, within reasonable limits. But as a service to cannabis proponents, may I offer this bit of advice: it does you no good to make spurious or doubtful claims in support of your cause.

Let’s investigate some of these claims and see if they hold water.

  • Cannabis stops cancer growth.

Nobody is really sure. According to Kat Arney, writing in the Cancer Research UK Science Blog, there has been plenty of research conducted on cancer cells in laboratories and on animals, but precious few clinical trials involving people. Nobody knows exactly how cannabinoid compounds, like tetrahydrocannibinol (THC), will work in an actual living patient. Only one clinical trial has been published, involving nine patients with an aggressive form of brain cancer. Although eight of the nine patients’ tumors seemed to respond to the cannabinoid treatment, none of them were cured by it; in fact, all nine patients had passed away within a year of the study. Furthermore, there was no control group for this study, so the evidence in favor of cannabis as a cancer treatment is inconclusive at best.

As always, I’d like to remind anybody who plans to tell me about how their mother’s uncle’s cousin was cured of cancer by smoking pot: anecdotes do not amount to evidence. So far the scientific community is ambiguous at best about the effectiveness of cannabis as a cancer treatment. I’m not saying that cannabis has absolutely no effect on cancer; I’m just saying that it’s not a slam dunk for the pot-proponents just yet. Better wait until the research matures before placing this as a point in your column.

  • Cannabis reduces neurological impairment.
  • Cannabis relaxes muscles / is an antispasmodic

The first statement is so broad that it’s virtually impossible to evaluate its accuracy. There are lots of “neurological impairments” and they display a wide array of symptoms. Some of the symptoms may be relieved by cannabis use, but again, there doesn’t seem to be much research showing that cannabis has any curative properties in patients with neurological impairments. Consider multiple sclerosis. According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, clinical trials involving cannabis and cannabinoids have failed to demonstrate that they halt the progression of the disease. Furthermore, MS patients who use “street” cannabis are more likely to be described as “cognitively impaired” after the initial effects of the cannabis have worn off. Finally, a recent study of the effectiveness of cannabis on spasticity in multiple sclerosis patients showed something of a discrepancy between clinical and subjective results; in other words, their spasticity did not improve in any clinically-measureable way, but the patients themselves sure did report feeling better.

Now I will admit that I did not investigate every neurological impairment to determine if Mary Jane would help, but the author of this meme provided almost no information to work with. I submit that unless the pro-pot crowd is prepared to be a lot more specific, this “just trust me” statement isn’t going to fly with those who oppose legalization.

  • Cannabis prevents migraines.

Again, the research is lacking or inconclusive. ProCon.org holds that most evidence for the effectiveness of cannabis as an anti-migraine treatment is anecdotal. Dr. John Krusz implies a small possibility that cannabis may actually worsen headaches under certain conditions. On the other hand, Dr. Gary Wenk says in Psychology Today that cannabis has pain-blocking properties and that people who have stopped using cannabis have suddenly developed severe migraines. Whether the cannabis was preventing the person from experiencing the full brunt of their migraines, or whether the migraines started suddenly for unrelated reasons, is difficult to determine. We must be careful to avoid confusing correlation (two events happening near the same time) with causation (one event causing the other).

  • Cannabis treats glaucoma.

Cannabis does help lower the intra-ocular pressure (IOP, the fluid pressure inside the eyeballs) of glaucoma patients – with this much the medical community agrees – but some experts still argue that the effect is short-lived and that prescription drugs do a better job. According to Dr Henry Jampel from the Glaucoma Research Foundation, you’d have to toke up six to eight times a day to get round-the-clock relief from high eye pressure. That’s beyond the range of even the most dedicated weed-worshipper.

  • Cannabis treats ADD/ADHD.

Here is another area where the research is in its infancy. TruthOnPot.com says that despite truckloads of anecdotal evidence, the scientific community has barely scratched the surface of the connection between cannabis and ADD/ADHD. Bear in mind that TruthOnPot is an unabashedly pro-pot website, so perhaps their lukewarm enthusiasm about the benefits of pot as an ADD/ADHD treatment speaks volumes.

  • Cannabis treats IBS and/or Crohn’s Disease.
  • Cannabis cures epilepsy.
  • Cannabis prevents Alzheimer’s

Peter Lipson, writing in Science Based Medicine, says that these claims are implausible at best. He goes on to say that cannabis use may actually be detrimental in people that already have Alzheimer’s. There appears to be no good evidence to support the validity of any of this meme’s claims.

  • Cannabis treats PMS.

Supposedly, Queen Victoria herself used cannabis to alleviate her menstrual cramps and labor pain. Did cannabis really help, or did she merely experience a placebo effect? I hate to sound like a broken record, but the research just isn’t there, according to Green Cross Patient Centers. Remember, there’s a wide gulf between clinical measurements of pain and patients’ subjective reports. Clearly there’s much research to be done.

  • Cannabis is an anti-psychotic.

You know what’s so difficult about writing about pot? Trying to find unbiased articles regarding its efficacy as a medical treatment. Just try it. Fire up your favorite search engine and type in “cannabis anti-psychotic”. You’ll get plenty of hits, but almost every one of them will have some sort of agenda. Half of them will be pro-pot pages whose sentiments reflect the ones expressed in this meme, and the other half will be rabid conservative “family values” pages that seek to portray cannabis as Satan incarnate. It’s incredibly tedious sorting through a heap of websites that are trying to push one way or the other.

Even Science-Based Medicine has precious little on the medical benefits and pitfalls of ganja, other than the article to which I previously linked. The most objective piece I could find was an article in Time, written by Maia Szalavitz. Szalavitz writes about a clinical study suggesting that cannabidiol (CBD), a compound found in pot, may be effective as a treatment for schizophrenia, and with fewer side-effects than other commonly-prescribed anti-psychotics. That’s the first article I’ve found that partially substantiates any of the claims made in this meme.

I say partially because…the study was on CBD specifically, not cannabis as a whole. There’s no evidence, therefore, that cannabis is an effective anti-psychotic. The interactions between CBD and the other ingredients in cannabis may render its anti-psychotic properties null. In other words, just because one component of cannabis has potential as a medical treatment doesn’t mean you’ll be able to buy pot at your local CVS anytime soon.

  • Cannabis can be used to manufacture pretty much every product under the Sun.

While technically true, this series of arguments ignores one important detail: namely, the entrenched infrastructure that uses lots of materials other than hemp for construction, lubrication, clothing, etc. Here’s an example: the author insists that hemp can be used to make plastics, solvents, fuels, and lubricants – all things that are typically made from petroleum. Does the author really believe that hemp, even if it were legal worldwide, would be in a position to replace petroleum, which is (at the moment) relatively cheap and easy to obtain? Also, processing plants around the world are equipped to handle petroleum; simply switching to hemp is not an easy or attractive option. Perhaps when the oil wells finally run dry and oil shoots past a thousand bucks a barrel, hemp will become a viable alternative. But like I said before, even if the United States government decided overnight to repurpose all of its oil-processing plants for hemp processing, that still doesn’t mean that recreational marijuana would be legal. In my opinion, pot-supporters are barking up the wrong tree by singing the virtues of hemp.

  • Cannabis can be grown almost anywhere.

Hey, so can kudzu. What’s your point?

I’ve spent the better part of this entry dispelling some of the quasi-scientific medical claims made about cannabis, so the reader may be excused for being skeptical regarding my claims of pot neutrality. To reiterate what I said at the beginning: I actually support the legalization of pot; or at least I don’t oppose it. I just don’t think it’s wise for cannabis supporters to hitch their wagons to spurious medical claims. If you want to legalize pot, that’s fine: argue about how it’s not that dangerous and it would be a source of tax revenue. Argue about how it would save money in law enforcement and reduce the prison population. Just stick to reality and you might eventually prevail.

Of Knives and Sandwiches

Knives and Sandwiches

If a woman pulls a knife on you, you may conclude that:

  1. she is mentally unhinged and bent on doing you harm, or
  2. she is so threatened by your presence that she feels she needs a knife for self-defense.

In either case, belittling her distress and demeaning her womanhood is probably not the healthiest decision you can make in that situation.

Even if you’re not being threatened by a woman with a knife, passing this meme along is not a good idea. I hate to sound like a broken record, but you’re really just trying to bolster outdated ideas about a woman’s role in a relationship. I don’t know if any of you read the news, but some women are expanding their influence beyond the kitchen. They’re doctors, lawyers, architects, researchers, scientists, politicians. If you open your eyes, you’d just be amazed at all the cool things women are doing. These “womanly instincts” to which you refer, Mr Meme Maker, are really ambitions to succeed and to be a valuable member of society, and those instincts are just as powerful as any man’s.

To be sure, there are women who choose to be homemakers, and it’s perfectly okay for them to choose that path. But regardless of what position a woman has chosen for herself, whether she’s holding a knife on you or not, your first and last thought had better be respect. That means no more stupid misogynistic memes.

The Bed By The Window

The Man By The Window

You’ll probably accuse me of being overly picky if I break down this meme and the accompanying text, especially since there’s nothing controversial about either one. It’s just a simple story of hope and happiness, and what could be wrong with that, huh? Well, I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t nitpick, so let’s see.

It will take just 60 seconds to read this and change your thinking..

You don’t know me. You don’t know how long it takes me to read a story.

Two men, both seriously ill, occupied the same hospital room. One man was allowed to sit up in his bed for an hour each afternoon to help drain the fluid from his lungs.

I’m no doctor, so can somebody please explain to me how sitting up helps to drain fluid from one’s lungs? My (rather limited) understanding of human chest anatomy indicates that the lungs’ major openings all face upward, which would make draining fluid especially difficult if the patient was in an upright position. Again, I’m not a doctor. I could be wrong.

His bed was next to the room’s only window. The other man had to spend all his time flat on his back.

That is clearly not a window; it is a painting. Notice how the horizon is parallel to the top and bottom of the painting’s frame. If that were a real window, looking out on a real landscape, (1) we should not be able to see the horizon from this angle, and (2) even if we could see it, the horizon would be, well, horizontal. I realize this is a problem with the image and not the text, but I still call BS.

The men talked for hours on end. They spoke of their wives and families, their homes, their jobs, their involvement in the military service, where they had been on vacation. Every afternoon, when the man in the bed by the window could sit up, he would pass the time by describing to his roommate all the things he could see outside the window.

Based on the picture, the other man could easily see the painting…ahem…”window“. I wouldn’t nitpick about this detail, but it becomes an absolutely critical plot point at the end of the story. So yes, let’s establish this right now: based on the patients’ positions as depicted in the image above, both patients could easily see through the window, even while lying down.

The man in the other bed began to live for those one hour periods where his world would be broadened and enlivened by all the activity and color of the world outside. The window overlooked a park with a lovely lake. Ducks and swans played on the water while children sailed their model boats. Young lovers walked arm in arm amidst flowers of every color and a fine view of the city skyline could be seen in the distance.

Then why can’t we see the city skyline? I mean, we can see the horizon (although we shouldn’t be able to). Come on…did the person who drew the picture even read the story?

As the man by the window described all this in exquisite details, the man on the other side of the room would close his eyes and imagine this picturesque scene.

You don’t even have to do that, dude! Just open your eyes and roll your head slightly to the right. The “window” is right there! Also, if these men are both ill to the extent that they can’t even get out of bed, where the heck are all the tubes, bags, and monitoring equipment? What kind of hospital is this, anyway?

One warm afternoon, the man by the window described a parade passing by. Although the other man could not hear the band -he could see it in his mind’s eye as the gentleman by the window portrayed it with descriptive words.

He couldn’t hear the parade? See, this should have been a major clue that something wasn’t quite right. There is nothing quiet about a parade. I used to live about five blocks from a town’s parade route, and I could hear every single one of them. If somebody told me there was a parade and I couldn’t hear it, I’d have said they were a lying liar who lies.

Days, weeks and months passed. One morning, the day nurse arrived to bring water for their baths only to find the lifeless body of the man by the window, who had died peacefully in his sleep. She was saddened and called the hospital attendants to take the body away.

As soon as it seemed appropriate, the other man asked if he could be moved next to the window. The nurse was happy to make the switch, and after making sure he was comfortable, she left him alone. Slowly, painfully, he propped himself up on one elbow to take his first look at the real world outside. He strained to slowly turn to look out the window besides the bed.

It faced a blank wall.

Dun dun duuuuunnnnnnnn! I read a much more sinister version of this story in More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (1984) by Alvin Schwartz. The general plotline was old even then. According to Snopes, the story was first conceived by Allan Seager in 1934, and by 1946 it had been passed around so much that it appeared in a volume called 101 Plots Used and Abused. I wonder how Seager would feel to know that now, eighty years later, his creation is still being trotted out in electronic form.

One more thing: if only the hospital had used – I don’t know – some kind of monitoring equipment they would have known exactly when he died, instead of discovering his body in the morning.

The man asked the nurse what could have compelled his deceased roommate who had described such wonderful things outside this
window. The nurse responded that the man was blind and could not even see the wall. She said, ‘Perhaps he just wanted to encourage you.’

Okay, no. Uh-uh. Not buying it. How did the surviving patient not know that his roommate was blind? Granted, he probably never saw his roommate walking around with a cane, but it seems that in the months they spent together, something would have tipped him off. Surely the doctors and nurses that visited on a regular basis would have done or said something to indicate that the other fellow couldn’t see.

Also, how did the blind patient even know there was a painting…sorry…”window” beside him in the first place. And how did the sighted patient, who could clearly see the “window”, not notice that there was a blank wall right outside it?

The only way any of this works is if there were a barrier between the patients, so that the sighted man couldn’t see his roommate or the window, and if the attending physicians and nurses never said a single word to indicate the window-side patient’s blindness. Of course, there is no divide mentioned in the story, nor is one depicted in the image; therefore, we can only conclude that the sighted patient was willfully ignorant of his roommate’s condition. In the back of his mind, he must have known that his roommate was making everything up, and he decided to play along. But in that case, he would have known there was no point in asking for the bed by the window, unless he had started to consciously believe the lies.

One more thing: how does this count as “encouragement”? The blind man knowingly constructed a fantasy world, and he knew his roommate could not personally “experience” it until he died or was discharged. Furthermore, he had no way of knowing whether his roommate would be thrilled or sorely disappointed when he finally got the window-side bed. The blind patient was writing checks he had no intention of cashing, and for what purpose? To delude his poor roommate into believing something that might or might not be true (and probably wasn’t). That’s not encouragement…that’s cruelty.

Epilogue:
There is tremendous happiness in making others happy, despite our own situations. Shared grief is half the sorrow, but happiness when shared, is doubled. If you want to feel rich, just count all the things you have that money can’t buy. ‘Today is a gift, that is why it is called The Present .’

Oh barf. You promised me at the outset that my thinking would change. It hasn’t. I’m still just as snarky and cynical as I was a few minutes ago. Blogger: 1. Meme: 0.

In Which I Wax Poetic

Guns and Bibles

In honor of National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo, to those in the know) which starts today, April 1, 2014, I would like to respond to this meme in verse. Now my poetic stylings are certainly not on par with literary giants like Shakespeare, Longfellow, or Seuss, but I hope you like it nonetheless.


Come now, brother pacifists, pick up your arms and shed your vows
Of peaceful co-existence,
He who made this meme has said that shunning guns is not allowed.
Americans must learn to
Shoot a gun and if they don’t then shame! Oh, shame! upon our schools
For leaving us defenseless.
Homes and lives will soon fall prey to outlaws vile and villains rough
Who plan to leave no witness.

Come now, Muslims, atheists, and Jewish folk, the man says we
Need Biblical salvation.
Schools be damned for failing daily to enforce the Holy Laws
(As he comprehends them).
He who made this meme no doubt has hope that ev’ry school becomes
A holy roller nation,
Let no girl or boy begin a day of learning without saying
Proper supplication.

The man who made this meme (or woman, boy, or girl, it matters not)
Has made this very clear:
You must, you MUST think, love, pray, shoot exactly as he does or else
You are no patriot.
The schools which fail to train young minds with harsh guidelines to which they must
Definitely adhere,
Are damning us, consigning us as children of a nation all
To live in mortal fear.

And yet I do not live in fear (what shock!) nor do I own a gun
Or read the Holy Word.
Somehow I’ve been American without the grace of God or gat
And with help from my school.
So when conservatives are wont to rant and rave and make their claims
Which are all quite absurd,
I chuckle softly to myself and blog about it, saying how
This meme sure is a turd.

Your Fault For Being Offended

Your Fault If You're Offended

Wow, I am really confused about what’s going on in this pile-up of emoticons. Only one-third of them seem to be enjoying it. Five of them look genuinely uncomfortable, and one is apparently trying to find his calm place. Whatever’s going on in this party, it probably needs to stop. But enough about the bizarre and possibly illegal emoticon orgy. Let’s talk about the heart of this meme: people who deny their responsibility to not be jerks.

I’ve seen several variations of this meme during my travels through this vast Internet. Though the wording varies, the message is always the same: it’s your issue if you’re offended by something I’ve said, written, or done. In other words: I’m blameless. In other other words: I’m too self-centered to care about anybody’s emotional well-being besides my own.

I wish that people who post memes like this, or who express agreement with the sentiments therein, would recite a simple daily affirmation:

I accept that some people are going to be offended by the things I do. I may not agree with the reason they are offended, but I will respect their right to be offended without trying to make it all about them. I will apologize even if I don’t really understand why, because I know that social cohesion is based on people playing nice even when they don’t feel like it. Also, I understand that my refusal to apologize for having unintentionally offended someone constitutes obnoxiousness in the first degree – that is, pre-meditated obnoxiousness. I accept and understand that the penalty for first-degree obnoxiousness is loss of esteem among my peers and a growing consensus that I’m sort of a jerk.

Surely everybody would be better off.

By the way…if anything in this post offended you, feel free to leave me a scathing comment. I won’t refer to you as “butt-hurt” or anything like that, and I might even apologize! I’m just cool like that.