Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The Eyes Have it

Do you ever think about your eyes?
To truly appreciate your eyes, the functioning of your eyes, you have to realize that your normal, healthy eyes are automatically triangulating your spacial relation continuously. That, in addition to detecting detail in even extremely low levels of light, distinguishing over ten million distinct colors, observing the smallest discrete motion, adapting to changes in visible light through changes in the pupil, automatic adaptation to light quality, focusing during movement from close objects to distant objects, continual focus with both rapid and slow object movement, observing three dimensions, and recognizing subtle patterns.

Our eyes are exquisitely amazing and complicated organs. *

The evolution of sight is also truly amazing.

Our complex eyes began long ago with a few cells that were capable of sensing light. These specialized cells detected light and that light was then detected by the brain. Most resources that I found date early sight and early photoreceptive cells at about 700 million years ago. Followed by greater and greater organ development: lenses, fluid-filled sac, optic nerve, etc. 

Following that, the fossil record begins to show all kind of differences in specialization of species. Those with exceedingly excellent night vision or distance vision, light waves that are completely invisible to human beings, under water sight, heck, even under water and above water vision at the same time. Some creatures with one eye and some with more than two eyes.  Some creatures still have incredibly simple optical systems while many creatures have exquisitely complex systems for detecting the visible.

And all of this got me to thinking about something.

About how the evolution of sight went on to create further evolution of species. With sight comes the need to hide better, to hunt better, to breed better, to feed better, placement of the eyes. As the various species develop, so does their need to camouflage or stand out: all bits of evolution spurred by the development of sight. 

Also, I'm wondering just how many times those initial photosensitive cells had to happen before something really took off and started a species or two to create more and more complex photoreceptivity. How many times did the process have to start over again as one species faded out, taking the advanced sight cells with them. These processes over millions of years just boggles my brain.

Did you know that there are existing organisms today with only the basic photoreceptor cells? The euglena has a photoreceptive spot that allows it to locate light. That's all it does and the spot allows the euglena to move towards light for better opportunities for photosynthesis.

In fact, the entire range of complexity of sight is traceable in organisms on the planet today, from the simplest of photoreceptive spots all of the way up to the most complex eyes in any organism, the mantis shrimp. Dude, there is so much to learn about sight.

I visited my father-in-law the other day for an eye exam because, yes, he's an eye doctor. 😊  I'm very fortunate because with all of my many questions about eyes he had all of the answers and, furthermore, is even more of a nerd than I am. So we had a fabulous talk as he checked out my vision.

 * The internet has many great websites that look at the process of the evolution of sight. 
      Please look at several sights for greater appreciation!

iscovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes. Marcel Proust
Read more at:
The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes. Marcel Proust
Read more at:

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Parents' Weekend

This past weekend I was driving home from across the state. I stopped in Rolla MO in the early afternoon for lunch at Panera. Rolla is a university town, a technology university. Maybe it was Parents' Weekend; maybe most weekends bring the parents, longing for their children because every table in the restaurant was filled with families. A parent or two beaming at a young student or two as the students told their stories. 

The fathers, huge smiles, from ear-to-ear even, fully enjoying the humor of their growing sons. (Most of the students at this school are male.) The fathers' shining eyes watched their boys laughing over the soup and sandwiches.

The mothers? Longing. Wanting to touch. Wanting to sit closer, be nearer. I could feel it in every mother I saw, the longing. Quieter smiles, hands fluttering toward the part in her son's hair, his collar, his shoulder... A short break from her son's empty room, well-made bed, the full refrigerator back home. If only for an afternoon, until it's time to step at a time, walking back home...without him.

All of the rest of my drive home I thought that soon, one day soon, John will be far away and I will make that drive ...just to touch his hair.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

How Many People are Atheists?

Do you ever feel inundated with religiosity in the world? I do. So I got to wondering how many people on the planet are nonbelievers...I founds tons of websites with information on the matter. This website offered these statistics that comforted me a bit...thought I'd share it. I chose this website only for it's ease of readability.

Sadly the US does not rank high in nonbelievers.

Various selected countries, according to the Oxford Handbook, with the highest percentages of non-believers, include:

Czech Republic – 55% atheist/agnostic (actual number: 4,649,620)
France – 41%  (19,965,630)
Sweden – 39%  (2,800,152)
Germany – 36%  (24,564,226)
Netherlands – 34%  (4,303,110)
Belgium – 34%  (2,857,053)
Denmark – 32%  (1,369,512)
Norway – 32%  (1.146,464)
United Kingdom – 30%  (14,579,992)
South Korea – 28%  (10,419,885)
New Zealand – 28%  (866,000)
Finland – 28%  (1,172,404)
Japan – 28%  (29,766,356)
Hungary – 27%  (2,254,556)
Australia – 26%  (5,058,772)
Spain – 21%  (7,633,561)
China – 17.9%  (234,595,000)

COME ON USA, geez. Why are there not more?

Making Mountains of Molehills: A Hideous Parenting Moment

I'm posting this post again. I first wrote it in 2014.
 I recently had a conversation with a dear, dear friend of mine 
and our conversation brought the idea of this post to mine.
I hope you enjoy it.

I remember a hideous day from years ago when Elizabeth was just a few years old. It was while we were potty-training (Oh geez, she is going to hate it that I posted anything about this time!) and I was just beside myself with wondering what to do. I had no idea what I was doing and I was concerned that I was totally messing things up. She was about four years old, maybe. I know that I had a newborn at the time and he was born when she was three and a half, so yeah, about four years old. 

She just didn't want to stop wearing a the darn disposable. And when I asked her why she told me very simply and practically that she didn't want to stop playing to take the time she needed. It seems like such a small deal now but then I was just a mess about it for some reason.

I have to admit that I owe some of my anxiety from this time to a woman that I was hanging out with, I'll call her Betty. She and I had known each other a bit before having children and our daughters were the same age. I often talked with Betty about what I might do to encourage my daughter know...

WHY I asked Betty for guidance I have no idea. She is one of the most truly neurotic people that I have ever had as a friend. She was a mess.
I wish I hadn't listened to her.

Betty's advice to me was that, each time Elizabeth would not go potty in the potty, she was to get a bath because it was dirty to go potty in her pants. UGH, I cringe just thinking about it.

Well, I only did it one time. There she was, my very beloved daughter, standing in the cold bathtub and I was shaming her with my words for not sitting on the potty; she cried.

Elizabeth doesn't remember it at all while I can't forget it!

While I have generally forgiven myself for what I did, what I still struggle with sometimes is making a mountain out of a mole hill. What things that we are struggling with today will become the mole hills of tomorrow? That's what I want to know. 

I realize now that another other thing that contributed to my behavior then was that I was concerned how my daughter's diaper usage somehow reflected on me and probably how these friends of mine would view me. I can say that now. I wanted to be a Good Mom and I didn't think that a Good Mom would have a daughter that age still in diapers.
So, yes, I did have alot to learn.

Today I know that a Good Mom does not need to explain herself to friends around her, doesn't compare her children with any others, and most importantly, a Good Mom is comfortable with her children as they are, not as someone thinks they should be. She also finds friends who share in her way of thinking rather than wallowing in self-doubt and confusion. 

It was a tough lesson. But I think I learned it.
And it didn't hurt to break up with that shaming friend of mine!!!


So let's say that your children aren't on time with tasks and skills. Unless a professional tells you different, here is what you need to do:  RELAX.

Few teenagers walk around wearing diapers. Few teenagers still suck their thumbs. Most teenagers can walk, read, talk to people, eat their veggies, tie their shoes, say their Rs right, kick a ball, and all of the many things that you, that WE, worry about. 

RELAX. It isn't a race. 

RELAX. The only thing that truly reflects on you is your happy child, sitting or standing, pierced or not, speaking in public or not, listening to inappropriate music or not, wearing inappropriate clothing or not, getting great grades or not, sexually active or not, giving into peer pressure or not, making immature choices or not.

All you can do is give them the tools to build their own mountains and, in the end, they usually do that:  build their own unique mountains.

Can You Relate?

I know you get it that this post does not speak to serious or dangerous practices.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Female and Atheist

When I was active in my belief and in my religion and in my church I often wondered why there were no women in places of authority in the church. Masses never included females in any role, from the officiant to the servers to the readers. The Catholic church is extremely male-dominated, while my experience with truly good believers was that the most amazing humans who I ever came across were female. Nearly every single person in my religious circles whose goodness and leadership blew me away were women doing their part for the religion, maybe even more for the humans in the religion.

When I look back on my days in the religion several women immediately come to mind. And no men, actually. It seems that the women that were active leaders in the church were more focused on the humans in the church while the men were more active in the power and control part of the religion. Hmmm. I just realized that. Anywho...several women immediately come to mind, women whose overall personas were far more religious, spiritual?, better people than most of the males I was in regular contact with...except for maybe one guy, Mike.

These musings come on the end of some reading that I was doing tonight. In the September 2016 edition of The Atlantic is an article by Leigh Eric Schmidt, Edward C. Mallinckrodt Distinguished University Professor at the John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics at Washington University in St. Louis; the article is  Women Atheists Are Genuinely Considered Monsters. Really, that's the fricking title.

It's not bad enough that the majority of this stupid country actually says that they wouldn't vote for an atheist candidate. That's not enough. No, FEMALE atheists are genuinely considered monsters.

This is the country I am living in and you want me to love my country or not be able to consider myself an American. Well Screw you, Anyone Who Believes That Crap.

I get it. 
Women are supposed to be pious, loving, homemakers, virtuous.

I'm here to say that I am a PROUD, loving, caring, thinking, benevolent, good-natured, friendly, gentle person who is a completely OPEN and OUT ATHEIST.

And YOU, who would shout from the rooftops that believers are superior are wrong, You Monster! **

* Sorry for being so bitchy but I'm kind of feeling it lately and I'm calling it.
**  I'll be my normal self again sometime soon.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

My Unpopular Opinions

My opinions are generally quite liberal.
I definitely have opinions that are unpopular and I don't mind if other people don't agree with me or share my opinions. It's nice that way.

For example, I don't have a problem with the font Comic Sans... I think it’s OK.

I think anyone who wants to get married should have that right. Any colors, genders, races, WHATEVER. As long as a person is an adult, their life, their decision. Consenting adults.

Marijuana should be legal. Stupid murderous alcohol is legal. Ridiculously poisonous cigarettes are legal. Marijuana isn't even close to being as toxic as those two substances.

Feminism. I don't think most people understand what it is. It's not freaking hatred of men. It's about equality, period.

David Bowie. Yuk. Not a fan. I don't like his voice, his persona, or his music. His schtick.

I have no problem with suicide. If, at some point, you think your life is ready to end, it should be entirely within your right to end it. I especially am OK with PAS, physician-assisted suicide. I do NOT want every teen to run out and kill themselves; I'm only in favor of adults making that decision. I perfectly understand it if adults with mental illness or difficult circumstances make the decision to end their lives. I'm sure this is offensive as hell to some people and I'm sorry for that but I have strong reasons why I feel this way and I've given it alot of thought.

Virginity. It is stupidly a thing. Listen, I don't want my children out screwing indiscriminately, but I don't value virginity as a thing of value or anything. Intact hymen doesn't suggest character, goodness, or anything of value. I consider virginity expectations a total shame game we play with females to control them.

Cloche hats. I SO wish they were still a thing. They are fricking darling and adorable and go with everything. Mostly.

I'm absolutely OK with disco. Not a fan of 80s music. At all.

Not a fan of Disney in any way. Tangled, Frozen, Whatever.

Sports. I simply don't care. But more than that, millions and millions of dollars are made and spent over games. Players are payed ridiculously overpriced salaries. Owners of teams pass so much cash around it's irresponsible. What a stupid thing to spend money on. What a time waste. What is with the hype? I was raised in a sports household; I know what I'm talking about.

Coffee is truly disgusting. It smells good, I'll grant you that. But it's nightmarish on the stomach. And spending five bucks on a cup of coffee at Starbucks? It's unfathomable. Spending that kind of money on something that destroys your stomach.

Columbus Day is embarrassing and ethically wrong.

Nationalism makes absolutely no sense.

Human life here on Earth...not impressed overall.
I often think that our species, as many good qualities as we have, could disappear and the planet would be all the better for it. The other life here on the planet would benefit from our absence. Secondarily, a world-wide decimation of 80% of humans would be OK with me.

I simply do not understand the value of diamonds and gold. So much money, so much violence. Just wear other gemstones. Bling away.

Am I simply spewing negativity with this post?
Well, maybe.
But I think the comic sans thing had it coming...


Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Karen Armstrong

I have a serious question for all readers of this post and I hope you leave a thoughtful comment below in the space for thoughtful comments:

What is the single most influential book you have ever read? 

If you are a reader like I am, that question is probably super difficult. I can think of at least a dozen books that have moved me and that have meant something to me...the kind of book that gets me reading more, researching, wanting...needing more. I have several books that have served as tremendously meaningful turning points for me. 

There is one book that was hugely significant for me and very influential in my transition from believer to nonbeliever. It was about the year 1997; I was working part time at this place where I had some time to read/reflect/write a bit. That's significant because I had a newborn at the time and reading/reflecting/writing aren't typically possible in the life of a new mother. 

My sister was living in Dallas at the time and she and I were writing to each other daily (We had no email or any social media at the time so think snail mail.  😊 ), mostly about whatever we were reading at the time. She was reading a book by Karen Armstrong, a British author and commentator of Irish Catholic descent known for her books on comparative religion. The book was a 1993 title A History of God: The 4,000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The book details the history of the three major monotheistic traditions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, along with some Buddhism and Hinduism. The evolution of the idea of God is traced from its ancient roots in the Middle East up to the present day.

Armstrong's highly intellectual and authoritative work was exactly what I needed at that point, a book that took me on a detailed and illuminating journey to the roots of modern day religion. I'd already read several other books that endeavored to take me there, including Elaine Pagels' Gnostic Bible, but none of the other books was as instantly compelling as History of God  for me. As a history buff, I was looking for solid bedrock. I found it in this book.

History of the monotheistic beliefs, but more, history of the rise of religion as an institution. At the time I was still struggling with doubt and questions; my religion was still important in my life but I knew that there were problems that I could not ignore. I had been reading and talking with people for months when I got my hands on this book. I started reading it with a highlighter in one hand and a notebook in the other. Long, long letters snail mailed their way back and forth between my sister and I, both of us coming to similar conclusions about our "beloved" religion.

Some of what she says
is utter CRAP.

I can't say that this book was the end of my, that honor goes to the Holy Bible, King James version. But History of God was the beginning of some of the most erudite reading I was able to find on comparative religion, and Karen Armstrong's other titles were a large part of that year's reading...the year where I tossed man made religion into the rubbish. Her writing was so accessible, so scholarly, so polished. She plainly put into words many of my doubts and questions and put all of in into a context that really meant something to me; 
I felt incredibly comforted, moved, and informed by her book.

I can't say that Armstrong doesn't have her detractors, she does. Nor can I say that she and I are both atheists, she is not. Nor can I say that I agree with all of her views, for I surely do not. But I can say that her scholarship is impressive as hell and I can highly recommend her books to others who are interested in a study of comparative religion.

 A God who kept tinkering with the universe was absurd; a God who interfered with human freedom and creativity was a tyrant. If God is seen as a self in a world of his own, an ego that relates to a thought, a cause separate from its effect, he becomes a being, not Being itself. An omnipotent, all‐knowing tyrant is not so different from earthly dictators who make everything and everybody mere cogs in the machine which they controlled. An atheism that rejects such a God is amply justified.  ~Karen Armstrong