Tuesday, December 26, 2006

It's over...

Boy, the Christmas (secular holiday celebrating the ability of business to sell us tons of shit we don't need) season has ended. I must admit, it was a good one! The Wife and I did not exchange gifts. The kids, however, pretty much wiped out amazon and e-bay. The wife went a little bat-shit crazy on spending, but it was enjoyable. My daughter received a sewing machine. She has put a stitch into every single piece of material we couldn't hide from her. She is NOTHING like her mother. MY great wife wouldn't be caught dead sewing. MY son received a Zune. I spent much of my day downloading a DVD-to-Zune ripper program, and then ripping his favorite movies and transferring them to his Zune. I must admit, its pretty cool. They received many more gifts, but these are the ones they focused on.

As for me... my mother had a medical emergency last week. She recently had a radical hysterectomy. She was in the first week of recovery and began to have significant chest pain. She headed to the hospital (St. Mark's of SLC... Very good staff). They diagnosed her with a pulmonary embolism. Life threatening stuff. My sister called me at work and gave me the news. She was a mess. I was doing a training, and initially, gave it little thought or emotion. As the day progressed, and I had a chance to ponder what was happening, I became more and more useless at work. Eventually my wife granted me permission to leave work, and drive to SLC to see her. I didn't need her permission, just her push.

When I arrived at the hospital, she was surrounded by my siblings. She looked awful. I have never really pondered what my response would be to my parents deaths. Turns out... I am rather okay with it. I don't want them to rush to it, but death doesn't scare/frighten/bother me much (this includes my own death). She was released just 4 days later (earlier than expected). She is now home and doing well.

It is now easy to realize the life, at times, hands us what it hands us. Some things it is just more helpful to accept, than to fight with irrational wishes. My sister, knowing that I am an Atheist, asked me to "pray" for my mother. My brain stopped dead in its tracks. I was frozen on the phone. After a pregnant pause (one in which I began to weigh giving her a verbal barrage of personal insults, or hanging up as possible responses) I said that I would send her my most fervent positive wishes. Instead of wishing I did a more healthy thing, and just accepted that whatever was going to happen was well out of my control.

Is prayer (if no God exists) just self-soothing behavior? In a behavioral model it would seem that prayer is superstitious behavior maintained by an adventitious schedule of intermittent reinforcement. It pays off speciously every now and then, and people fallaciously attribute the hits and forget the misses of prayer. In my world it is people talking to themselves. I am always interested in what people say in prayers. It awe's me at times that people are not embarrassed by this behavior.

Speaking of superstition... my nephew (wife's brothers son) got some pretty cool toys at G-pa's and G-Ma's on Christmas eve. One toy was a hobby-horse-turned-Bull. He said, "Jesus gave the bull his horns." We all chuckled at his innocent remark. He then attributed another feature/toy to Santa's handiwork. I hope that relationship continues. If he sees Santa and Jesus as two -of-a-kind, then once he figures out the myth of one, perhaps, he will begin to think of Jesus in that same light. There is hope, albeit scant hope (his parents are blindly faithful and conditioning him hard). So much for free-agency eh? Control the variables of upbringing and you control the child's behavior. Contradictions abound with religious beliefs. Its too bad that religion is really a matter of where you happened to be born. In Utah you are likely LDS. In India... Hindu... In Asia... Muslim or Buddhist. Thank heavens I wasn't born in the south.

Have a happy New Year! 2007... Could be a good one.


Monday, December 18, 2006

A lot of heavy mental lifting

My colleague, a real genius, sent me a short treatise on emotion. She explained that emotions are by-products (collateral) of contingencies of punishment and reinforcement. She and I are both classical Skinnerian's. But she exceeded the boundaries of research and delved into the philosophy of behaviorism. She was extending it into our (educational peripheral professionals) relationships with educators (read teachers).

Her brilliant insights made it clear that we are behaving organisms too. How often we refuse to analyze the functions of our own patterns of behavior. What is it that I do that tells me what my motivations are in this life? Can I trace my actions to their source consequences and see if my reported motives are consistent with my real motives??

Now, there are a lot of mentalists (cognitivists) out there that report that Behaviorism is too shallow. It stops at the level of the body's contact with the world, and does not delve into the processes that physiology goes through to transform the outer world into and interpreted set of data which processes, and then acts upon, the stimuli. I do not deny the existence of a world hidden inside the skin, but I refuse to think that because it is out of view, that it is of a different nature from the world outside. I don't think Cognitivists have anything useful to offer. I think that neurologists and Physiologists will fill in the few blanks left by behavior analysis.

I often forget that emotions are often a clue as to what type of consequence I am delivering to teachers, parents, or any I professionally consult with. Tears, throat-clears, red-faces, etc., all tell me that I am introducing punishment of one type or another. Smiles, tears of pride, lighted eyes, etc. tell me that I am providing reinforcement. This type of thinking, on my part (yes thinking is behavior, it is just hard to observe unless I talk out-loud), has been beneficial just today. Circumstances during a meeting became heated with a defensive parent. I began to deliver hard facts followed by compliments and praise (sincere praise). The parents behavior began to change quickly and we ended the meeting on a very positive note.

Does it sound like I was manipulative? Well.. I was. You can't have a world in which you are not controlled by conditions. All one can do is change the controlling conditions. This leads me to "morality." There has been great debate about primary morality. Are there innate sets of behaviors which are "right" or "wrong?" As a behaviorist I have concluded that moral qualities are secondary. Actions & choices are not right or wrong, they are what they are. We attribute rightness or wrongness to conditions secondarily. The reason we all differ in what we call moral is that we make those attributions through a different set of fundamental rules (e.,g., God, mom & dad, experience, Flying Spaghetti Monster, Scripture, etc.). I propose an axiomatic set of rules by which all morality could be rationally judged. Here they are

1. If it helps self and harms other--- Refrain
2. If it harms self and helps other --- refrain
3. If it helps self and helps other --- do it
4. If it harms self and harms other ---- do its opposite

Now, I need to define harm and help, but that is going to take some more tweaking in my head. But if we could, as rule-seeking beings, adopt these fundamental rules I think it could make a solid foundation for a universal moral code. Is it humanism? Thank Baal that the holidays are coming. I need more time to ponder, and edit these thoughts.


Thursday, November 30, 2006

A time of Thanksgiving

I know it has been a while. Came down with some nasty sinus/meningitis thing. Was a horrible month-plus. Glad its over.

The family and I had a very nice Thanksgiving. We were originally slated to spend the day with my mother and step-father. They are terribly nice people, who also happen to be delightful company. However, they invited some extended family (uncle, cousins, etc.). Normally this would be a "more-the-merrier" kind of scenario. But, as is usually the case with my family, things were morally complicated. You see, my uncle had an illegal relationship with his step-daughter when she was just 13 or so. He spent his time in jail for his pedophilia. Yet, the story takes a very weird turn. You see, he is now living with this same step-daughter since divorcing her mother. You can almost hear the banjo music in the background can't ya??

Needless to say this left my good wife and I in a moral pickle. We can not allow our children to be exposed to such dysfunction. Yet, we didn't want to hurt my good mother's feelings by refusing to go. I did what I thought any thoughtful and loving son would do. I was honest with her. We ended up going down to visit the Sunday before Thanksgiving. They seemed genuinly delighted to have the time with us. They were very understanding.

So, we spent Thanksgiving with my wife's family. I really like my wife's family. They don't complicate anything. The only times that are somewhat uncomfortable is when my father-in-law jabs a "tease" at me. I know its his way of letting me know he cares, but I just feel like a deer caught in the headlights. Do I poke fun back? Do I run the risk of saying something incredibly stupid to someone who will never let me live it down? Well... yes. I usually say something like, "blubbbaa bulbaa quack squawk." Everyone in hearing distance generally looks puzzled, and I generally sneak away to find my corner. See, great fun.

Thank heavens my wife's brother is there. He and I are liberal kindred spirits. He and I can discuss, argue, intellectualize, and pop open a bottle of wine 'round the LDS family members. I am often unbundled by how much at-ease I am in his presence. It makes it difficult to see him leave for his home in Colorado.

Work has been rather unique of late. It seems that in most years my therapy skills are used with one type of pathology invading the students at my schools. This year however has brought me a highly varied group of mental health issues. It is nice to be challenged, but enough is enough. Its often difficult to leave it at work, and I find myself pondering the therapy sessions over and over in my head.

I am delighted that the Democrats took the house and senate. Not that I much like democrats. I just know that I tend to win when the government is fighting itself. I could expound highly on the Iraq debacle but its just too damned exhausting. Too damned embarrassing.

Happy Holidays, Merry x-mas, A peaceful Solstice, Happy Kwanzaa, and a Wonderful Hanukkah.


Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Oh joy!

Well, I drove up the driveway after a long day at work. Lo and behold... My house had grass. I left this morning and had trees, shrubs, and curbing, but lots of empty dirt. I damn near teared up. Instead I jumped out of my car and approached my landscaper with a non-chalantness that would give GW (king of stupid swagger) a woody.

I told him it looked great and was pleased with his work. He was doing a few final things with the sprinkling systems and hung around for about 15 more minutes. As he drove away I rushed out the back door and danced a silly jig on my newly sodded backyard. The new house is done. I will post some pix later (must share joy).

Now, why should I bother you with this little personal disclosure of simple pleasure? Here is why... I love nature. I did not have this love and curiosity as a religious person. It seemed that, for me at least, religion dulled my senses and stole my joi de vivre. AS my moniker suggests, I am very much a heretic. I have no respect for authority of any kind. My motto is put up or shut up. If your point of view has merit, it will support itself with reason.

I grew up on the LDS faith. I was taught, from birth, that once the bishop, stake president, seventy, general authority, or Prophet spoke the thinking was done. For the damage that this one insidious and disease-ridden idea has wrought, I will, forever, detest that ridiculous cult. IT is a virus that poisons the mind and saps the soul of the joy of existence and curiosity. Repugnant.

Now, don't let it be said that I discriminate against only the LDS faith. All religions are just poorly articulated pyramid schemes. All faiths sell you the invisible/non-existent fear of judgment, hell and damnation. Then, they sell you the cure for the disease which they heaped upon you, faith in god. Both are anathema to humanity and truth.

So, how does one reconcile that family and others close adhere to this system of destruction? Simple, life allows us choices. One can courageously ask the questions, or fearfully accept the bullshit shoveled into our empty heads by others. I don't have to like the BS itself to respect one's right to choose that path. It is only the children who are victims. A child's tabula rasa (blank mind) has not developed the tools required to reason, think, and doubt. Therefore everything religious poured into their minds is disgusting to me. I will challenge the brainwashing of a child at every opportunity. It is understood, in the end, that all the efforts on my part may have no lasting effect, but it is the right thing to do. Something of a Sisyphean task I am finding out.

In the meantime I will sit amid the wondrous smells, sights, sounds, and textures of nature around me and thank those who took time to give me the gift of doubt, question, and reason.


Friday, August 18, 2006

Stress... Effectively gone.

Alas, for me the stress of Summer is over. I know how caddy that may sound, but it is true... For me. The house sold... Closing completed... Moving taken place... And our new "digs"... BEAUTIFUL!

The kids and wife have adapted very nicely. I admit that I was worried that there would be weeping and gnashing as we moved, but my fears were in vain. The kids could not be more happy. The wife could not be more complacent. And I, well I could not be more content with the outcome.

I am typing on a "high-speed" connection right now. I must admit... DIAL-UP SUCKED!!!

I listen to Pandora as I type. It highly recommend it.

My first full day back at work was productive and delightful. I find myself fearing that I will enjoy my work too much. I admit, that I tend to get a lot of positive feedback at work. At home, it tends to be rarer, but more qualitatively satisfying.

The poor approval ratings of "W" continue to fill me with pleasure. The despair of paying such high prices at the pump are abating now that my driving needs have been lessened by 3/4. I see the glimmer of hope, politically, as the race in Connecticut twists and turns.

Best wishes to you and yours,


Thursday, May 18, 2006

Long days and showing patience...

So, the house has been on the market for a while now. Plenty of interest, until they ask for the price. Then, the enthusiasm seems to wane. I have been looking at other homes for sale in the valley, and we are priced a little lower than we ought to be, but we are certainly competative with the best of them.

When we sold the first house, it was under contract in 5 days. Granted, it was much lower priced, but sheesh! I hate waiting.

I am still agog at Stephen Colbert's Whitehouse Press Club gala performance. Wow, did that guy show some courage and patriotism or what??! He stood right there and looked at the President while hammering him over the head with his own ineptitude and incompetence. Such a thing of beauty. It hasn't been well recieved. I think it may be because he hammered on the media folks about as hard. Ahh.... the smell of america waking up (see those polls lately folks??).

The school year is winding down, and so is the work that needs to be done. I have a great number of meetings coming up, but the psycho-educational assessment portion is wrapped up. Just a little therapy here and there.

I just can't seem to get my mind of moving. Our new home will be completely paid for. I will be, for the first time in years, debt free. The thought gives me goosebumps. I am of the opinion that debt = slavery. Now, shane don't get too giddy. I am not ready to abandon civilization, and free-markets yet. I have made far too much money in the stock market. I have tasted capitalism and the taste is sweet. The after-taste... not so good. But I can live with it. ;)

The wife and kids are doing great. No great thoughts of import. Just humming to get through the next few weeks.


Sunday, January 29, 2006

Amazing people

I have had the good fortune of crossing the paths of many amazing people in my life. Intellectual giants like Dr. Carl Cheney (USU- Behavioral Toxicologist, and mentor without peer), Ken Merrill (also PhD, though at U of Iowa), and Robert Morgan (USU- Dept. of Special Ed.).

My wife's family: Shane (you may read his musings here... pretty impressive eh?), Ron (blog here... "holy cow batman" that guy can communicate), My FIL (no blog, just a guy who seems to have mastered life), my MIL (the person most likely to be immediatly taken to heaven... if such a place exists), and Shane's, and my, new developing little neice/nephew (Tyson and Jackie are gonna be great parents!). I have much to be joyful for.

And Finally, my wife. Words simply do not exist to articulate her humble majesty. I know of no one as dedicated to improving mankinds condition (one person at a time) than she. Her incredible love as a mother is reflected in the kindness and intelligence of our children. Her professional peers, across the state, seek out her input and expertise. She simply gives me hope that our species may have some hint of altruism.

I don't mean to wax overly rhapsodic here. I stay around to balance out the equation for all. I am not too bright ( I can dumnb-down a conversation faster than GW Bush can, "is our children learning?"), spoil my children (reinforce some of my children's less-desirable behavior with candy), a-social (people.. fah... give me a freindly tree and warm Autumn day... musch better company), and, at times, very pissy ("You lookin' at me?!... You lookin' at me?!... bite me!").

My wife was a bit miffed at me yesterday ( that's two times this month.. hmmm?). I can't, yet, discuss what happened (the details are the problem), but let's just say I jumped the gun on something (nothing sexual here... pervert) and she was not happy about it. I smoothed the feathers a bit by begging and a massage, footrub, head, and pleading. She's a good wife.

Well, here she is and I must go. Have a great week. Oh yea... BUSH SUCKS. Please Impeach now.


Thursday, January 12, 2006

Thursday.. the what????

The school year is flying by and it seems that time is an elusive foe. It seems that I leave my office for a meeting, and return just an hour, or so, later and VOILA... a new, and improved, pile of work sits atop my desk. I don't know who the bastard is that is so stealthy and aware of my movements, but I would really like to kick him in the groin region. NOthing personal mind you, just a little roundhouse to the nads for a retributions sake.

Well I sold my shares of SPIL. I missed the peak by a day. But, I am still nicely ahead. I bought two more interests and will wait to see what emerges. I am done giving stock tips. If anyone keeps the data they could really laugh thier butts off at the "debit" marks... Damned "invisible hand"... Damned Adam Smith.

My BIL wrote something humourous. He asked if a Liberal would post stock tips just to pander to the conservative crowd. My answer.... sure. What the hell. I am a person with a Liberals heart and a Conservatives greed. I admit it. I had a rather schizophrenic relationship with President Clinton. I wish that we would fund Social Security... I just don't want to pay for it. See my problem?? :P

Many people seem rather worked up about Sam Alito. Frankly, it bores the hell out of me. Given precident, I can't see anyone other than an alien overturning Roe-v-Wade. Too much new law is based on it. As far as presidential power goes... geesh... I wonder if Bush really even gives a shit what the Supreme Court has to say on the subject. I guess he can tap thier phones and find out.

The wife and I had a bit of a tiff a few days back. I think she and I just needed to be angry at each other for a minute. We VERY rarely argue, fight, hell talk for that matter. It really is a good marriage. She does waht she likes and I get the good fortune of paying for it. See... it works. Just joshin' hon... really. I'll go back to my room now.

WE are having the carpets cleaned Saturday, and then the house goes up For Sale. Should be a weird time. Interesting to see how long it will take to sell. It is a nice, large, place. Too big in fact. Our new home will be smaller. I can't wait to mow a lawn in less than 2 hours. Sad, I know.

Well... off the races. No ranting about religion... No ranting about politics... Just a mental coma setting in. SHould be nice. =)


Friday, January 06, 2006

Hmmm... a new year.

I have always been skeptical of good starts. It seems to me that this, inevitably, leads to a poor finish. My holdings in SPIL have made a 10% move to the upside since Tuesday. Kind of scares me. I sold UARM for a handsome 40 % profit. I gave up on Ford too quickly it seems. i sold it at 8.13 (my buy-in price). Damn!

Things in the political arena have taken some unique twists and turns lately. The Abramoff scandal is going to take a few corrupt people down. It may take some heat off of the President. However, it seems that more congressional scandal is in action here. Oh... and did you hear? Bush needs to admit defeat in iraq. Good ole al-qaida (video link). I tend to agree more with this guy.

Here is my BIL's blog (just returning the favor).

This looks about right. It always was just for entertainment purposes anyway.
I love it when someone credible takes god to task. If this is the best god can do, I am not impressed. I am impressed with Dennett however. ;) Also, this is a spokesperson for god? God needs to screen his employees a bit better. What a dick!

Well here is something fun err... tittallating is more like it.

Gotta hug my kids now.