Friday, November 30, 2007

Correlations with self-reported mental health

Gallup has just released results of a new poll on mental health. Being a Republican correlates with better self-reported mental health; as does having a higher household income. Men's is higher than women's; whites' higher than blacks'; the more you go to church, the better for reported mental health; these aren't too terribly surprising.

This surprises me:

Percentage reporting excellent mental health:

Married: 51
Living with partner:41
Divorced: 32
Widowed: 36
Never Married: 47

I am used to hearing that married people are happier. What I've never heard is that the never married are right on their heels, and crushing three other categories! I mean, does anybody ever say anything postive about the never married? Hooray for us!!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

What do you look for in a presidential candidate?

It crossed my mind during the Republican YouTube debate last night to wonder what I am even looking for in a presidential candidate. I am a terrible judge of presidents: I've already mentioned that I voted for Gary Hart, but also, even though I voted for Gore, I took George W. Bush at face value on compassionate conservatism. So I suppose I should take comfort in the fact that my one vote won't amount to anything.

In addition to just being a poor presidential picker, I also have mixed feelings about many or most political issues.

Nevertheless, I feel compelled to try to pick one. So I've been doing some introspection on what I am even looking for, and here's what I've come up with:

1. I like a president who makes wise financial decisions. This would include not promoting bills that were big wastes of money, and vetoing bills that were huge wastes of money. The Clinton era was a good era for this: I say the Clinton era, because I believe he had a lot of help from a Republican congress in keeping spending low. I enjoyed about the Republican YouTube debate the amount of lip service given to fiscal conservatism, but as we know from the current era, that may be all it is.
2. I would like to see a president who does not feel so entitled as regards our role in other people's countries. I am a Noam Chomsky reader, and I know that prior to the Bush era, the U.S. government was extremely involved in other countries (ex. Chile 1973, East Timor 1975), but at least they pretended otherwise. Now it seems way more overt. Seems dangerous to be so hated. I agreed with Paul on this one.
3. I don't want a president who seems mean or who engages in lots of black and white thinking. A president should be able to project strength and thoughtfulness at the same time.
4. I know from experience that there are a lot of people out there who seem nice, and hard-working, and trustworthy and sincere, then the veil slips and out comes the irrationality and narcissistic rage. I have had some bad experiences with these people in leadership roles, and it's a risk you take when giving someone a leadership role. I want someone who can take on a leadership role without morphing into a monster. And I think sincerity is part of this, so I look at them to try to figure out who is sincere, and yet, I am not necessarily so great at being able to tell. I don't consider George W. Bush narcissistic, exactly, though he's an Enneagram 7, and he certainly falls short where the first three criteria are concerned. I don't consider Bill Clinton narcissistic, exactly, though he's an Enneagram 3. It's because I haven't seen their hateful side. Actually, I have seen GWBush's hateful side, but only a lack of thoughtfulness and the certainty that he is right, not the actual rage.

What do you consider when choosing a president?

Cindi and Mary Beth's Holistic Enneagram Agency

The Half-Assed Game's been going for a week and a half now, so the time has come for a spin-off.

Cindi and Mary Beth's Holistic Enneagram Agency... or is it Mary Beth and Cindi's Holistic Enneagram Agency?... we keep going back and forth on who should be first, Chip and Dale fashion (i.e. "after you, no, after you"), because each of us thinks we've hitched our wagon to a star!

Please visit it! It only has one article so far.

Also, you can get to it by clicking on "My Profile."

This is why we HAVE judgment

Fascinating internet love mystery.

Beth's website and dream journal

My friend Beth Terrell-Hicks has posted a link to her website in my comments section under one of my dreams posts. (By the way, the comments in The Half-Assed Game are usually the best part, because most of my friends have ideas as interesting as mine but are better writers than I am.) Beth's an author, and her website is devoted primarily to writing.

Beth is an unusual dreamer: she almost always dreams in the third person and watches the stories unfold. Beth's dreams, and writing, and waking life all deal with good conquering evil. Read about some of them here.

Pandora is coming to Nashville

Pandora is a free music service with a unique focus, the Music Genome Project. Since 2000, the company has been analyzing music into "genes," such as major or minor key tonality, gangsta rap attitude, avante-garde leanings, ambient soundscapes, a vocal-centric aesthetic, and my favorite, excessive vamping. Here is Wikipedia's list of Music Genome Project's genes. Go in, type in a song or a band you like, and Pandora will play other songs with a similar musical genotype. Then if you register, you can create a number of personal "channels."

Tim Westergren, Pandora's founder, is coming to speak in Nashville next Thursday night. It's at Bongo Java After Hours. It's free and open to the public, but you need to RSVP at Most likely that same email address would be where you'd write if you're wondering whether Tim will also be coming to your city.

I've known about Pandora for a year, and honestly haven't done much listening to it, but I'm going to commit to it from now til next Thursday so that I can get the most possible out of the event. I am finding so far that the best strategy is to find a number of channels you like, then hit "Quick mix" so the player can mix it up -- otherwise it gets pretty repetitive. Biggest musical surprise of the morning: a Radiohead song came up for me! And I actually liked it!

This blog isn't about my dreams... honest!

But, I did dream about worms again this morning: My mom and dad and I were in a house, and there were worms and I had to get rid of them, and I had to do it, not somebody else, and I was grossed out by them, and they carried lots of germs, and I had to get rid of 'em by catching them and cooking them in the oven. I wondered why I couldn't just flush them, but the answer was they might get out into the environment.

Consciously, I love earthworms, but subconsciously, I hate them. I've been dreaming about them for years.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Report on Republican YouTube Debate

Since I'm (tentatively) planning to vote in Tennessee's Republican primary this year, I figured I should watch the debate and see who I might like to vote for. [I've recently discovered that if I register as an independent voter, I will be able to choose to vote in whichever of the primaries I like. And since all voting in the Democratic primaries has ever gotten me is the chance to vote for some pretty boy nobody ends up liking (ex. Gary Hart), I might as well try something new.] And I've never seen a field of Republicans without a clear front runner. My dad and I agree that whichever candidate wins, it'll be somebody weird.

I watched the debate, and was surprised at my opinions.

Going from left to right (the tv viewer's left):
Tancredo: Too Republican.
Huckabee: Likeable. Seemed sincere. His 30-minute spot WAY too Christian. I agree with him when he says Americans are looking not for someone they agree with on every issue but for someone who sticks by what he believes. (Except I suppose that'd describe GWB so in that case, no.) But how can a SALES tax replacing the income tax be a fair tax? That sounds a little nutty.
Romney: Hated him. Seemed insincere. He reminds me of the Democrats every four years who feel uncomfortable saying what they really believe. That's not where you want to be. I also thought he came across as something of a black and white thinker. My read on this is that it is a defensive reaction against being branded a flip-flopper. Was Anderson Cooper harder on him than he was on the other candidates, or was that my imagination?
Giuliani: Likeable. Didn't mention 9-11 for at least the first half of the debate (though it seemed calculated.) Sharp. Gave specific answers. Not afraid to say no. There didn't seem to be a disconnect between what he said and what he really thought. But far too war-like!
Thompson: Likeable. Funny. Poised. Seemed very sincere. Gave smart answers. Too war-like!
McCain: Liked him well enough. Liked how he lit into Romney about the Geneva Convention. But he said "my friends" a little too often.
Paul: Mentioning the Trilateral Commission in a national debate always a mistake, especially as your first comment. He may as well have segued right into why Building 7 fell just to get that out on the table. By the way, why did Building 7 fall? I liked a lot of what he had to say, though.
Hunter: Never heard of him. Have now watched entire debate and still not heard of him. ZZZZ

I liked the African-American man whose question was "Why don't we vote for you?" Ha!

Several of these men, if not all but Ron Paul, feel threatened by Islamic terrorists. Do you?

Why you should never tell anyone your dreams; and, one damned thing right after another

Once while reading a book about dreams I came across the theory that you should NEVER tell anyone your dreams. Why? Because by doing so you were giving them power, because they could see what your unconscious mind was thinking, or if not, their unconscious could, or if not, it thought it could. And since you didn't understand your own dream content, you didn't know what you were telling them.

I shared this theory with my mom, who said, "No, you shouldn't share your dreams because it's boring."

You've been warned.

I am going to recount a part of last night's dream as an example of what I mean about one damned thing right after another. And problem solving. Some of the problems are italicized:

"So there I was, returning from my trip across the south that entirely avoided Kentucky. And had to buy a dress for a fancy occasion. Anxiety! Will I find a good one and can I afford it? I selected several to try on. I started looking through Sarah Jessica Parker's closet but knew I couldn't just take one of hers, because she'd miss it (which would be shameful) and plus, it'd be too high-fashion and wouldn't look right on my body type. So there I was, starting college. I had already missed several of the first few classes. I was trying to go to the classes and figure out how to make up the work. I was standing in line to talk to one of the teachers. I overheard in line that in the English class, our assignment was to write about Why we like the home football team (presumably it was the Titans, but I don't actually remember the team's name.) I thought "Whoa, they're really trying to make this easy for MBTI S's, aren't they?" I wondered whether it'd be ok if I wrote about why I DIDN'T like football, since I don't, or whether I had to learn to like football over the weekend so I could write the essay. I figured I'd better ask. I got in a different line to ask that teacher. When I got to the front, I needed a form which I didn't have, and had to search in my purse and show them my driver's license. I asked her and the actual topic was not football: it was to write a paragraph, in the form of a non-rhyming poem, about why I like hanging around with introverts. Easy! I do like hanging around with introverts. But a paragraph? This class is too easy. I should be in a much harder class. Wait a minute! I already have a bachelor's degree. Why do I have to take freshman English again? I'd better tell them so they can put me in a more advanced class."

I have failed to completely capture the confusion and the sense of continual shifting of problems. But other than that, this is pretty typical. I woke up this morning thinking "That was a good one." But then realized that nothing really good happened except that I'd enjoyed the trip across the south and I was kind of looking forward to some of the classes. And of course, I enjoy problem solving.

So I am going to create a poll. Think about your own dreams and whether they are usually a constant stream of problems with you trying to solve them and/or making logical sense out of them, or whether they are some other way.
The picture is the winning design of last week's episode of Project Runway. Sarah Jessica Parker was the guest judge and chose this design to be mass produced as part of her line of clothing.

The "Blog" of "Unnecessary" Quotation Marks is "Funny"

Read it "here."

HT: Stay Free! Daily.

Free Bluebell Ice Cream

Bluebell ice cream is so good that in Texas, if officials see you standing in a checkout line holding a different ice cream, they make you sign a waiver stating that you willingly and knowingly intend to buy that other ice cream. If you sign up here, the Bluebell ice cream people WILL send you a coupon for a free half gallon of their ice cream. It happened to me, and the retail price of the free ice cream was $6.09. One ice cream eater said "It tastes like money." I still had to pay sales tax, though.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

New Theory of Dreams

I've always considered myself pretty lucky in the dream department, because I have them and can remember them most every night. But recently I've noticed that yes, I have them, and remember them, and enjoy them, but objectively, they're all pretty bad. Occasionally something fun and elaborate will happen, and then there are the funny set pieces like the time Beavis and Butthead and I were riding that roller coaster singing "If you believed in miracles, baby, so would I," but typically it's more like this: something's gone wrong at work that I have to fix, or I am a dj and can't cue up my record in time, or I can't park my car, or I have to eat worms. It's just one damn thing after another -- like life, only much moreso.

Antti Revonsuo, a researcher at the University of Turku, in Finland, has a new theory that the purpose of dreams is to allow us (and animals) to practice facing threats. They are "a dojo for perfecting waking activities." Read about it here.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Is Science Based on Faith?, Part 2; and, Writing a Blog

So I've been writing a blog for a week now. Tonight I found Technorati, which is a search engine for blog posts that grants your blog authority based on how many blogs link to yours (and how important those blogs are.) I am starting another blog on the Enneagram in two days, and that one can link to this one and then maybe I can get an authority rating of 1 (my current rating is 0.)

While on Technorati, I discovered that the blogosphere is all abuzz with how the Paul Davies article on Science and Faith is a load of BS. I'm glad it wasn't just me. Here is my favorite, entitled Turtles Much of the Way Down.


Next question: Why do earthworms come out in the rain? Any ideas?

Answer to the Tortoise Question

The poll has closed; 3 voted yes and 2 voted no on the question of whether tortoises swim.

The correct answer, Joseph's answer, is 'no.' So the "crowd" was wrong on this one (although it was essentially a tie.)

Joseph told me that tortoises do not swim, and that people find box turtles and throw them into Lake Hickory to save them and they sink like rocks and drown. Too heavy. Also, turtles have flipperlike feet and tortoises have dry, stumpier feet.

To confuse matters, some tortoises are able to swim -- but not most. Most drown.

Is Science Based on Faith?

I've heard the assertion that humanism is just another religion, only one that's allowed to be taught in the public school, and as a humanist myself, I wonder whether that's true: I'm still considering it and on the lookout for articles both pro and con. So I was very interested to read this article, an op-ed by Paul Davis that's the New York Times' most emailed article for yesterday (and number two so far for today.) It's called Taking Science on Faith, and is about how science is as much based on faith as is religion. The article ends with the statement: "But until science comes up with a testable theory of the laws of the universe, its claim to be free of faith is manifestly bogus."

However, open as I think I am to considering this idea, his article fails to convince, and, in fact, doesn't even make much sense.

Davis states "Therefore, to be a scientist, you had to have faith that the universe is governed by dependable, immutable, absolute, universal, mathematical laws of an unspecified origin. You've got to believe that these laws won't fail, that we won't wake up tomorrow to find heat flowing from cold to hot, or the speed of light changing by the hour." Well, no. If we woke up tomorrow and these things were different, there would be obvious signs, things would most likely be flying all apart and I'm sure scientists would be on it trying to figure out what was happening. If what he is saying that possibly these things are happening all the time, then cold-to-hot would be showing up in experiments and studied. If these sorts of things are changing all the time, experimental results won't be replicable.

Davis then goes on to explain that scientists need to be able to explain what caused the laws of science, or what is out there beyond the laws of science, or WHY these laws exist. Scientists he asks say "that's not a scientific question" or "nobody knows" or "There is no reason they are what they are -- they just are." He doesn't find these answers satisfying. And yet, to me these answers show just the opposite of the point he's trying to make: that science is NOT based on faith. If his point was why he didn't find it satisfying and why you shouldn't either, and that science doesn't really explain very much, then, ok. But he overplays his hand by a lot.

The strongest part of his argument is where he states: "All science proceeds on the assumption that nature is ordered in a rational and intelligent way. You couldn't be a scientist if you thought the universe was a meaningless jumble of odds and ends haphazardly juxtaposed." I might admit to some faith here. I certainly don't walk around thinking the universe is a meaningless jumble of odds and ends haphazardly juxtaposed and that would indeed be a very different mindset. Although not that different, because my dreams are often that way, so I've experienced it plenty of times. Do any of you know anyone, or of any cultures past or present, or of any mental illnesses that answer to this description (other than dreams)? I don't think this is admitting to much faith.

Do you find his article convincing? Am I missing something?

Friday, November 23, 2007

Two Momommies

When I was a little girl, my mom tried to explain my relation to my grandmother by saying "This is my mommy." I thought that was her name, and it stuck. So my brother and I have always called her Momommy. I've never met another Momommy until yesterday. Yesterday our family celebrated Thanksgiving with Momommy and her nursing home roommate and one of her family members. Now I have finally met another Momommy... and it's my grandmother's roommate! And she got her name in the same way. Anyone else ever heard of a momommy?

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Homeopathy, Scientific Trials, and the Placebo Effect

Article on homeopathy includes discussions of: how scientific trials should and should not be conducted, the mystery of the placebo effect, and the good side of homeopathy (along with, of course, the bad.)

Despite what the author says, he looks all of 33, not 12. He is very cute and more importantly, a very clear writer willing to give the other side its due. Here is his blog, which I will be reading.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

What is the best enneagram type for me to date?

I try to introduce the enneagram to new people often, and one of the most commonly asked questions is whether the enneagram tells us which other type we should date or marry. Riso and Hudson's answer is "a healthy type." The conventional wisdom is that while there are predictable patterns to relationships between two types, only you can decide which constellation of joys and problems you'd rather take on. However, today at the Hickory Public Library, I came across an enneagram author who has gone out on a limb and given a list of best and worst matches. The book is The Ultimate Personality Guide by Jennifer Freed, M.A.. M.F.T. and Debra Birnbaum. The chapter headings are: 1. Western Astrology 2. Birth Order 3. Myers-Briggs-Inspired Typology 4. The Enneagram 5. Ayurveda 6. Chinese Astrology 7. Numerology and 8. All the Rest, so you can see that Freed is not an enneagram writer, per se. She is founder of Astrological Counseling Seminars, an institute for astrological psychology.

Here is Freed's list of Best and Worst matches:

Best Match: Seven
Worst Match: Four, Eight

Best Match: Four
Worst Match: Eight

Best Match: Six
Worst Match: Nine

Best Match: One
Worst Match: Two, Five

Best Match: Eight
Worst Match: Seven

Best Match: Nine
Worst Match: Three

Best Match: Five
Worst Match: One

Best Match: Two
Worst Match: Five

Best Match: Three
Worst Match: Six

I am a 6, and when I first looked at this chart in the library I only looked at what she said about 6 -- Best Match 9, Worst Match 3. I have trouble with 3s, and who doesn't like 9s? So I thought maybe there was something to this.

The discerning enneagram student, though, will have already caught on to the pattern that the best match for each type is that type's security point and the worst is the stress type. (With two exceptions, the addition of type 8 as a bad match for the 1 and type 5 as a bad match for the 4.)

I am reminded of a cartoon I once saw with a gay girl chasing a straight girl who was chasing a gay man who was chasing a straight man who was chasing the original gay girl, thus forming a circle. I picture the 1 chasing the 7 chasing the 5 chasing the 8 chasing the 2... well, you get the picture. Seriously, though, a world in which you are always the worst type for the best type for you is the world she is positing.

For more articles on the Enneagram, please visit my other blog: Cindi and Mary Beth's Holistic Enneagram Agency. The only Enneagram website of its kind on the web; fresh content posted (almost) daily!

Positive aspects of denial

Article on positive aspects of denial in today's New York Times.

Here's a quote: "The ability to look the other way, while potentially destructive, is also critically important to forming and nourishing close relationships."

One of my unmarried friends has observed that everyone she knows who is married is putting up with something she wouldn't or couldn't.

A tank full of friendly turtles

Today my Mom, Dad and I visited the Catawba Science Center's aquarium. They had a large display of North Carolina turtles. All the turtles had been donated and were former pets, and they were very friendly and we were encouraged to touch them. Joseph, the aquarium employee, showed us that the males had long fingers and fingernails and the females' fingers were short. He said he regretted that there were only two females in the tank and lots of males, because the females got too much attention.

I was able to ask him two turtle questions I'd been wondering about.

1) Are turtles' shells sensitive or not? I recently watched the movie About a Son, essentially a glorified interview with Kurt Cobain. Cobain (enneagram 5w4) said that people thought that turtles' shells were numb but actually they were sensitive. I asked Joseph, who told me that they are numb. (I mention Cobain's enneagram type because his was a very 5w4 comment.)

2) Can tortoises swim?

Here is your chance to vote. Don't look it up. Just guess. When five people have voted I will reveal Joseph's answer.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Speaking of correlations with the political spectrum...

... I have received this comment in email:

Don't tell me you're moderating comments! I thought only
conservatives did that.

and immediately ceased moderating comments. Is there any truth to the claim?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

I have won a contest

I have won a contest and as usual, it is lip gloss. I have won lip gloss four times in the past year. Some of these women's magazines pay for themselves, mainly Allure. This time, I won this from Lucky.

My Musical Taste is HORRIBLE!

One's own taste is, by definition, self-evidently good. People will tell you they are bad people, or ugly, or stupid, or a bad parent, but rarely, if ever, will anyone perceive themselves as having poor taste in music, or colors, or people, or clothes, etc.

I was recently accused of having bad taste in music, and not for the first time, either. Here's the situation: I spent the day with someone, and in the morning we listened to some of my selections on the Hype Machine, which he was apparently fine with. And then in the evening, we again listened to more selections, which he again seemed to think was perfectly ok. Until... he reached his breaking point and told me my music was Horrible! Horrible! Just Horrible! Not at all Melodic! I was unsurprised by the horrible part (like I said, I've heard this one before) but non-melodic was a real surprise, because I consider these pop songs. This was not Schoenberg; this was not Black Flag. Too simple, I could understand; too upbeat and poppy, likewise; too obscure, certainly; but non-melodic?

In a week or two I will begin posting songs for your consideration. I view this as a combination apologia/educational outreach/general forum for the discussion of music in general and musical taste in particular. Please feel free to comment and for now, I recommend the Farmer John versions posted below.

Meanwhile, findings from a Zogby poll about correlations between taste in media and self-reported place on the political spectrum here (HT: Freakonomics Blog) and a psychological test about musical taste here.

Farmer John

Check out these four versions of Farmer John at the blog Mainstream Isn't So Bad... Is It?

No Country For Old Men is not the feel-good movie of the year

As of this writing, No Country for Old Men is sitting at 96% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes and 8.9 on IMDB. It is both well-made and memorable, but is not exactly enjoyable to watch. I had to sit separately from my friend Mrs. S (it was a free screening) and I kept wondering whether she liked the movie. In her words: "I feel like I've been pummeled."

The movie is so well-edited that I was able to follow it despite its having very little dialogue. Also, you won't see a more compelling bad guy than Chigurh, who looked like a combination of Jake Gyllenhaal and Angus Scrimm. Mrs. S guessed that had Chigurh not been evil and not had that creepy haircut he might have been cute, and sure enough, IMDB reveals that Javier Bardem has had to work at not being typecast as a hunk.

The reviews are right: it is a good, maybe great movie, but the 96% fresh rating does not tell the whole story, which is that a great number of people will not like it. You've been warned.

Another complaint: the phlegmy older gentleman to my left with the nubby sweater wouldn't keep his arm out of my area! So I shot him in the forehead with a cattle slaughter gun.