Weird keeps us together

The boyfriend and I have some pretty weird (or at least random) conversations, as evidenced by “What’s Your Slug Doing?” In fact, something weird slipping into almost every conversation is the norm for us.

Take, for example, the mantis shrimp. It’s a pretty awesome critter, and, if The Oatmeal is to be believed, pretty terrifying. I want one. The boyfriend knows this, and yet, for some reason, he insists that this is not a good idea; something about how it can (among other things) break aquarium glass. I told him I’d be careful with it—I’d wrap its scary bits in, like, diamond or something and feed it by hand. He said that it wasn’t me he was worried about. Which is probably true, though I can be a bit of a klutz, myself. So maybe I can get a mantis shrimp plush or something—maybe a little glass figure. I’m sure such things exist.

There was a detour somewhere in there about how I would present the mantis shrimp much in the same way as those “It’s dangerous to go alone; take this!” moments, which led to Link (yes, of Legend of Zelda fame) smashing his way through everything with a mantis shrimp because they are just that badass. Despite all my tearful (My eyes were watering for some unrelated reason. They do that on occasion.) pleas, and all my awesome ideas, though, the answer still remains a very firm “no”. (Thankfully, my other pet requests trend towards normal: a corgi, a Maine coon cat, and a lionhead bunny. Bunnybunnybunny…)

On occasion, these pleas devolve entirely into some other nonsensical argument that eventually leads to utter ridiculousness. I think one of my favorite non-sequitur comebacks at the moment is “I EAT YOUR FACE!” I’ll leave it to your imagination just how that goes down.

Another slightly more playful one is “husky kisses”. If you’ve ever seen pictures of husky puppies, or seen them in action, you know that they love to nip each other’s muzzles. (Even if you have seen it, you should look at those pictures. SO CUTE.) If I recall correctly, this is actually a holdover behavior from wolves. I certainly don’t see this happen nearly as often with dogs that are less closely related to wolves, anyway. However, since humans don’t have the same sort of structure, the next best thing is clearly a nip on the nose, somewhere between a little peck of a kiss and “I EAT YOUR NOSE”.

After one of those happened, we somehow made the jump to the “insane sadistic psycho surgeon” from the boyfriend’s information ethics class. It was a pretty messed-up example taken to extremes, but it’s clear what the point was: pure hedonism is bad. (Because apparently, this is not entirely self-evident…)

So yeah, we’re weird, the boyfriend and I. It’s part of the attraction. It’s one of those things that makes our relationship (and, to be honest, most of my friendships) work. Being accepted for (or despite) all one’s flaws is astoundingly freeing. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t work on them, but it does mean that we can have a lot of fun along the way.

Instant gratification is not a right

My cousin and his wife just welcomed their first child into the world today. Or maybe late last night–I don’t know for sure.

I know this only because I saw my cousin’s sister (also my cousin, but I figured I’d clarify) posted on Facebook about meeting the little one for the first time and never having seen a baby under a day old.

2 of the 3 comments that quickly followed demanded pictures. Like, now.

I, too, am curious to see what this little bundle of joy looks like. But really, I don’t expect pictures first thing. First thing is making sure mom and baby (and dad and possibly siblings) are doing okay. Second thing is saying congrats. (Okay, those first two are more or less interchangeable if one is posting on social media.) Third is understanding that new parents, especially first-time ones, might not be having an easy time.

As of posting, the baby is less than 48 hours old. My cousin and his wife are still probably tired and trying to adjust to there suddenly being three where there was once two. Maybe something minor has happened. (I doubt my cousin’s sister would have posted if something majorly bad had gone down.) Maybe they forgot their camera. Maybe their phones died (or don’t take pictures–such phones still do exist). Maybe they just, oh, I dunno… WANT SOME BLESSED PRIVACY.

Whatever their reasons, I am fully willing to be patient. I’m just happy the baby is out and about in this big, crazy world. I don’t expect pictures first thing, and I more or less grew up in an age where “pix now!” (with some sort of “please” tacked on if you’re lucky) has become the norm. And honestly, I’ve seen pictures of very newborn babies. In my opinion, they’re generally not all that cute; not in a typical way, at least. It’s more the miracle of the thing, I guess, that makes me want to see. (That, and, in this case, I don’t see these cousins all that often.)

The point is, this is about the newly-expanded family, and what they’re happy and comfortable with; not about pictures. Those pictures, if and when they come, are a privilege, not a right. But, like a lot of privileges technology presents us with, it is taken for granted as a right, and I’m not okay with that. (I also protest some… AT&T commercial, I think, that has the narrator say “I have the need–no, I have the right to be unlimited.” My response to both cases? No you bloody well do not. Learn to get by the way your cave-dwelling ancestors did for a bit and go learn to fish or something.)

Whatever the reason that pictures haven’t been posted yet, this new family, just like everyone else, deserves my respect for their privacy and their shifting responsibilities. And their sleep and sanity. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but my family’s well-being is worth more to me than a thousand pictures.

What’s It All About?

There has been a recent bit of uproar over the arrest of Kaitlyn Hunt, an 18-year-old high school senior charged with various crimes because she has had sexual contact with a 14-year-old freshman from her high school.

The 14-year-old in question is female, and that’s where things get really hairy.

Statutory rape laws make it clear: this is not okay in the eyes of the law, whether we’re talking about a heterosexual couple or a homosexual couple. At 18, though still very much dependent on her parents for support, Kaitlyn is being prosecuted as an adult, and it doesn’t seem there is a Romeo and Juliet law to save her from serving time.

Kaitlyn and her parents argue that the motivations of the younger girl’s parents are rooted in their alleged belief that Kaitlyn “turned” their daughter gay. However, no proof of this seems to have surfaced (as of yet, anyway), but I can’t help but wonder: what sort of precedent will this case set?

Certainly, as I said, laws were broken. If you look strictly at the age, this is no different to the law than an 18-year-old male having sexual relations with his 14-year-old female girlfriend, nor is it different than the case of Mary Kay Letourneau. But would the parents be pressing charges if Kaitlyn was male? If their daughter was their son? If Kaitlyn was of a different race than their daughter? And what part would the media play in all of this if things were different?

These are really uncomfortable questions, but I think that they are necessary. While we can’t prove the younger girl’s parents’ motivations, knowing them would change so much about this case. Or maybe it wouldn’t, if they would choose to press charges against a male of the same age. (Their lawyer has made statements that seem to indicate this is the case, but we really can’t know. Maybe they are savvy parents just putting out there what they know popular opinion wants to here.)

The younger girl seems to be indicating that their relationship was entirely consensual, and I can believe that. It wasn’t too long ago that I was in high school, and while I saw my share of dysfunctional senior-freshman relationships, there were a few that worked out just fine, too. At fourteen, some kids think they’re ready. Their bodies, if they are going through or done with puberty are certainly telling them that they are. I can’t be the judge of who is and is not ready, though. What I can say is that, under the eyes of the law, at least in the U.S., if you are under the age of consent, whether you are consenting doesn’t matter. The law assumes you don’t know better, or that you may feel threatened, or any number of other things that would make your consent void even if you were over the age of consent. Honestly, I’d rather have the law assume that, though, because there are a lot of coercive or forced relationships concerning kids who don’t think that they can escape, and that’s definitely not okay.

But, at the same time, I’d hardly consider Kaitlyn an adult. She is still very much dependent on her family for all support, and society doesn’t really expect her to be otherwise. I know I didn’t feel much like an adult at 18. No magical transformation happens overnight and suddenly WHAM! You can walk the walk and talk the talk and automatically lose all interest in anyone who isn’t an adult, so I doubt Hunt is a predator. I doubt she gave more than a passing thought to the “I’m over 18 and she’s not” factor because this is a high school relationship.

At this point, it seems like Hunt has given up. She’s not giving slimy-sounding protestations of how her girlfriend wanted it and acting smooth. She is acting traumatized, and I don’t think this is a façade. I thinks she is terrified, both for her own future and for the precedent that this might set if the younger girl’s parents’ motivation is homophobia: what sort of standard could that set for future cases concerning homosexual couples in high school?

However, I don’t know Hunt personally, and it seems like the media is polarized between keeping this case hush-hush (for whatever reason) and giving it all the attention it can get. It seems to be kept relatively quiet where I am, and so I haven’t seen or heard much in the way of testimony from the girls’ friends and teachers, which would probably shed more light on the situation.

The law is very cut-and-dry, very one-size-fits-all. It has to be, because there are a lot of cases that really are as simple as they seem. But we also need to examine individual cases. While none of us is free of personal bias (I’d bet that someone somewhere thinks Kaitlyn turned the girl gay, even if the girl’s parents don’t, and that saddens me.), it is worth making sure that things are the way they appear, no matter who’s involved.

One thing is clear to me: Kaitlyn and the younger girl screwed up. (Pun not intended.) They engaged in a relationship widely known to be illegal because it was sexual in nature, but it doesn’t seem that any harm was intended by it. Because of that, I’m not sure that the severity of the current penalties Kaitlyn faces is entirely warranted, and I’d be just as unsure if Kaitlyn was male. In my opinion, discounting any speculation about homosexuality, this case boils down to parents not liking the fact that there are teens out there who are having sex, whether they’re ready for it or not. That’s totally understandable. But I think we may need to start re-thinking consent laws around relationships that occur while both parties are in high school.

I’m not saying that we should just abandon all hope and flat-out encourage high schoolers to have sex; I’d say that a lot of them really aren’t ready in one way or another, and given the consequences sex can have (no matter the genders of the people engaging in it), kids really do need to be educated, and, in a lot of cases, strongly encouraged to hold off. And definitely told what’s what about coercion and consent. But that’s exactly the tricky crux of this case: How do we prove that this younger girl was or was not ready? How can we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that she’s telling the truth when she says she wasn’t coerced? If we could know these things with absolutely no doubt, that would set this case to rest, in my opinion, but we can’t, and so we need to figure out what the next best thing is. I’ll be honest: I don’t know what that would be, but I’m all for looking at options so that cases can be handled properly.

It could be worse

We all know the old saying about how misery loves company. We all know that things like being sad or feeling pain or getting rejected suck. Being mad is better. (Not by much, though.)

But you know what makes everything worse?

Being told that your pain doesn’t matter because somebody else is feeling pain right now.

Sorry, but other people’s problems don’t solve mine or yours or anyone else’s. It just doesn’t work that way. They also don’t negate them.

Well, unless it’s a “first world problem” like “My jeans didn’t come artfully ripped in just the way I wanted when I paid like 500 dollars for them!” or “My parents bought me a 2009 Jetta instead of a 2010 Jetta!” (Subtext: even though I don’t have a job and don’t appreciate anything else they do for me.) Then, I really have no sympathy for you.

But really, I’ve been told to not ever worry if my boyfriend does something that upsets me because at least he’s not abusive/dead, like I don’t have a right to feel upset unless someone’s life is in danger. I’ve been told not to be sad if I fail a class because at least I have an education. I’ve been told that I shouldn’t be upset if someone makes a sexual move on me that I don’t want because at least I’m getting the damn attention. My apartment can’t stay warm? At least I have a place to live. I have the flu? At least I’m not in the hospital.

Things could be worse; it’s so very true, but that does not negate what’s going on here and now. Things could be worse, but they aren’t, and so I want to make them better. But maybe I need to mourn. Maybe I need to get things off my chest. Maybe I feel like I’ve been beaten with a tire iron by the stupid flu and I don’t want to move.

My feelings are my own. Your feelings are yours. We all feel, and, a lot of the time, we feel differently than others. Our own feelings are, by and large, more important to us than the feelings of others, but that does not make the feelings of others any less legitimate.

Who am I to preach? Am I perfect? Hell no. I, too, have a hard time not telling someone to just get over something I have a different experience (or none at all) with. Well, I mean, unless it’s something I know is bad. I’d never dream of telling a victim of a disaster or a crime to just get over it. It takes time to move past (or at least through) these things, just as it does for anything. I just don’t see the point in hanging onto some things, but I try not to get in fights over it. I try to do my best to listen, and I say when I can’t anymore. I try not to say “It could be worse”, even when it could be.

It could be better, too, and I think I’d prefer it that way.

Computers Confound Me

I’m a computer scientist.

I will be a certified (well, Bachelor of Science’d) computer scientist in 3.5 weeks, God willing and the creek don’t rise (or rather, my grades don’t fall…).

As such, you’d think I’d be… oh, what’s the phrase… computer savvy?

I am, to an extent. I mean, I can do your basic install/uninstall, run most programs, and, well, program. I don’t really do hardware; it confuses me. I get how it works on a high level, but there’s something about circuits that just doesn’t work for me. I’m savvy enough, anyway.

Until I got the new laptop; the learning curve shot way the heck up there.

Whereas my old laptop had me press the function key in order to use the f1-12 buttons as they were intended, this new laptop (rightly, I think) has me press the function key in order to do the other functions those keys provide. This is supposed to make things a lot easier. Usually, it does. The only thing that’s difficult is hitting f11 and f12 with one hand.

The fact that I can actually hit through f10 should have clued me in, though. The sensitivity of the touchpad and keyboard on this thing is kind of insane. I’ve unintentionally hit keys that have resulted in all kinds of funny behavior, but never until today, did it result in the disappearance of my cursor, or rather, the functionality of my touchpad in general.

I gather that the f9 key’s special function is meant to turn off the touchpad now, but at 2:30 today, that was not the case.

I was in class, trying to take notes, and I knew I’d hit a jumble of keys. But suddenly, my cursor froze and then disappeared. This was not good. I tried frantically to make it reappear by tapping and clicking my touchpad, but no such luck. Since my computer had just started up after an update, I wondered if one had screwed things up. (Wouldn’t be the first time…) After several restarts and a lot of mental swearing, I started looking up why my touchpad was nonresponsive. (I somehow managed to figure out how to navigate through everything without my cursor.) One site suggested that I hit f9.

I looked at the key, and a very, very profane thought went through my head. The little icon with a slash through it was the (censored) touchpad! I must have hit it along with the function key and there it went.

Times like these, I’m really not sure how I made it through the last 4 years. Really. But I guess we all do stupid things, and it’s what, if anything, we learn from them that matters.

I learned what the f9 key does today. What about you?

The Case for Etymology

The other day, in my Classics class, we were talking about why etymology is (or isn’t) important and/or useful.

We had been assigned to read one of Plato’s dialogues between Sophocles and Cratylus about why we name things what we name them and is all of that really useful if it isn’t accurate? (Considering that the Greeks thought the womb moved around the body and that was what caused hysteria, I find this more than a little ironic.)

I do think etymology is important. It tells us our history, if nothing else. The two are, to me, inextricably intertwined. You can’t not know the history of some things once you start exploring their etymology, because, sometimes, knowing just what the constituents of a word mean does not make sense. “Apologize”, rather literally translated, means “to speak away from”. It kind of makes sense—you could say you’re speaking away from a wrong you’ve committed, but that sounds awkward in English. And then there’s “hysteria”, which I’ve already explained.

A lot of language, or at least a lot of the words we use today, are at least a little descriptive. Take the word “descriptive”, itself: it’s the adjectival form of “the act of writing down”. Maybe we don’t write down all descriptions, but we do note things in our descriptions. Sometimes, our words are more figurative than literal, but a lot of it is pretty obvious in the end of it. I think we can all agree that when we coin new words, we generally do it based on what we know about the thing we’re naming—what we can use our five senses to find out about it. A lot of scientific terminology basically holds this system as a sort of supreme force because it is so very accurate. When you’re working in a field where accuracy is important, it’s good to have an accurate word-creating system.

We also get words from the noises that things make. “Buzz”, “boom”, “meow”, “woof”, and other such onomatopoeia tend to have similar words across language. The words for the noises that cats and dogs make are just as recognizable in Japanese as they are in English, and the two languages can hardly be considered related. (One theory of language speculates that the first words originated out of the imitation of animal noises, so claims a Discover! Kids magazine I had as a little one.)

At the same time, the foundations of a lot of our language is a bit arbitrary. There was a recent study that provided some evidence that there may be some sort of proto-Indo-European language, from whence at least some of the words many different languages used today may descend. A lot of these “proto words” are concepts that do go back at least as long as spoken language, and many, beyond that. “Mother” or “Mom” is, for example, one of these words. I’ve heard it postulated that this derives from the way babies move their lips in order to nurse. Not really having seen much of this, myself, I couldn’t really say one way or the other. Aside from concepts that have existed since (or before) humans were around, though, there are a lot of words that different civilizations had different words for. I mean, “love” sounds really different from language to language. Languages that are closely related within language families often have similar-sounding words for similar concepts, but if you look even within Indo-European languages, the phrase “I love you” sounds incredibly different. Even writing systems aren’t portable within language families. Then, there are languages that have heavily imported words from other languages (English is one such language), and it’s often clear that these words sound out of place, or at least make the language confusing to understand. (Spelling variance, anyone?) But it is sort of interesting to see where those words come from, too; again, it tells us about history—who came together and went their separate ways when.

We dismiss a lot of things by saying that they’re “just words”, but they’re so much more: they’re pieces of history. They tell us what we knew and when, and maybe, as we watch the coining of new words, they might give us hints as to where we’re going.