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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in Jen's LiveJournal:

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    Wednesday, April 2nd, 2008
    12:44 pm
    I've observed in the past that one of the major draws of religion is that it makes you feel like you're doing something good and important. Who can resist being told that they need only follow this straightforward procedure, and they will bring great pleasure to somebody who richly deserves to be pleased, and who will reward them amply, sooner or later. Most of the time, ethically valuable acts take time and effort, yet reflecting on your love and gratitude for God is a simple enough matter that can often be attended to in odd moments. Most religions go on to paint nonbelievers as people who are too lazy, selfish, ignorant, or just plain sinful to engage in this valuable behavior. This gives them the bonus of feeling morally superior anytime they take a moment out of their day to think pious thoughts. Of course, not everybody gets off on moral superiority, and many religious people just honestly want to do what's right. But even the best of us like to do what's right because it makes us feel good about our choices.

    I've noticed that motherhood offers certain benefits similar to religion. By attending to my son's needs and interests, I always feel like I am doing something important and morally right. Just a simple matter of handing him a toy makes me feel like I'm both bringing him joy and helping his brain develop. Of course motherhood requires a commitment more like that of a monk than of a lay religious person, but that commitment just adds to the sense of importance.

    Now, I know that some people feel that having a child at all in this day and age is selfish and irresponsible. There was a time when I worried that this might be true, but I came to the conclusion a while ago that having one child is most likely to make the world a better place in the scheme of things. I understand that some limitation on breeding is good for the world, so that probably squelches any opportunities for feeling morally superior to my childless fellows, but then I've never been one to get off on moral superiority. However, I am as susceptible as the next person to the rush of being good and doing something valuable.

    Of course, the greatest thing about being a parent is having this new little person in my life that I'm totally in love with; the feelings of self-importance would not be nearly so fulfilling if the love wasn't so powerful. People talk about mothers being selfless, but it feels to me more like my selfishness now extends to encompass the well-being of another person. My desire to see him happy is as instinctive as the desire to be happy myself. If I believed in God and felt this way about Him, I'd surely be as obsessed with religion as I am currently obsessed with being a good mom.
    Sunday, March 9th, 2008
    10:35 am
    Migraine Relief
    For years I've been suffering from migraines a few times a month. I was worried about getting pregnant, because I wouldn't be able to take any medication for them, but fortunately, I only got a few when I was pregnant, which was one of the few real upsides to being pregnant, physically. Now I seem to be free of them altogether, despite the fact that I haven't had a good night's sleep since Q was born three months ago. I've even been eating avocados, which has historically been one of the worst triggers (to my dismay). I sure hope this lasts.

    Curiously, I have been periodically getting migraine auras. These are visual disturbances in which part of my field of vision seems to be replaced by images of little, jagged, multicolor lines. For most migraine sufferers, such auras are precursors to a headache, but the headache part never appears for me. I never used to get the auras before the migraines, and now I only get the auras. Needless to say, this is a huge improvement.

    Let's hear it for the joys of a hard reset on the hormones. No more headaches! (At least for now.)
    Saturday, February 23rd, 2008
    4:54 pm
    Personal Neurology
    Every now and then in my life, my brain chemistry seems to change so dramatically that I find myself behaving in a completely unfamiliar way. I'm not talking about mood swings, but long-term personality shifts. For example, when I was younger I was a hopeless procrastinator. I'd like to claim that I learned the value of planning ahead, but the truth is, I somehow stopped being able to enjoy myself fully with a big task looming over my head. At the same time, I found a new satisfaction in knowing that some dreaded task was behind me. It was never a matter of learning better habits, but a fairly sudden shift in what sorts of behaviors stimulate the reward centers in my brain.

    Lately, I've had another dramatic shift, and I'm still working on finding my inner balance with this new neural chemistry. This shift came on the heels of my becoming a mother, so one could argue that I'm simply reacting to a new environment, but again I think it's more chemical than that. I find that I'm unable to indulge in idle fantasies about various impossible turns my life might take. This might seem like a small matter, but only if you don't realize just how much of my day used to be spent in such speculation. Showering in the morning, driving to work, listening to music, lying in bed before falling asleep, these were all occasions when I would find myself imagining what I would do if I . . . developed superpowers, found a time machine, switched bodies with someone, met some fictional character, or whatever the fantasy of the hour was.

    In the last several months, however, I find that I've been completely unable to enjoy these daydreams. I cannot blame insufficient time, because breastfeeding a baby requires regular stretches of just sitting still and letting myself relax. My mind will still wander on such occasions, and not always to practical issues, but it never takes me along those old paths to my impossible future. Nor do I dream about my son's future, since it remains to be seen what he will want his future to be, and I don't want to get any ideas in my head that will inadvertently stifle his choices. Now that my most common outlet for imagination is gone, I find myself imagining game scenarios or plots and characters for stories when I need to indulge in fantasy.

    I can't even say that I miss my old daydreams. I understand that when somebody suffers brain damage to their visual cortex, they won't even realize they're blind, because they have no sense that they're missing something. They've forgotten what sight is. My recent transformation is not so dramatic as that, but if there was a unique pleasure I received from these idle moments, I cannot recall it now.
    Friday, January 18th, 2008
    7:44 pm
    Coyote Blue
    According to Christopher Moore, when everything is going right in your life and you're totally stressed out because you're afraid you might lose it, that means you're Coyote Blue. That seems to be my state these days. I've got a beautiful, healthy, happy, alert baby, and I'm constantly paranoid that something is going to go wrong. It's as if I've got no business being this lucky when there are so many horrible diseases, syndromes, and conditions out there. Admittedly, he did get RSV, so his health hasn't been perfect, but he's recovering beautifully, and all does seem to be well. When will I stop staying awake at night listening to his breathing, thinking that with all the good fortune in our lives, surely SIDS or some such is lurking around the corner waiting to even the score. I know probability doesn't work that way, but I can't help worrying. Maybe this is just what it's like being a parent.
    Monday, December 3rd, 2007
    8:16 pm
    So it's time again for my yearly LiveJournal post. I can't claim that I have nothing to post about, given that my eleven-day-old son is currently resting on my lap. I could muse for hours on all the new experiences of motherhood, though I suppose that would get monotonous for anyone bothering to read this. Anyway, I've got another reason that I want to post today. I'm told that women forget about labor over time, and they start to think they want to do it all again. This is not to suggest that it isn't worth doing; on the contrary, it's a small price to pay for the lifelong benefits. I just don't like the idea of entering into any situation from a position of ignorance. Therefore, lest I ever forget, I'm going to write up a few non-graphic comments about the experience of giving birth.

    All about laborCollapse )

    Current Mood: exhausted
    Wednesday, November 8th, 2006
    11:54 am
    Imagination and Politics
    I read somewhere that to understand something it is necessary to believe it. I wouldn't go that far for myself, but I think that in order to understand something I have to at least imagine that it's true. I do this (temporarily) when I study religions, philosophies, conspiracy theories, new age practices, etc. It's only after I feel I've got some understanding that I start to question whether or not it's true. Yet I find that I'm no longer able to stretch my imagination far enough to understand Bush's speeches. My first thought is never, What if it's true? My first thought is always, What is his angle for saying that? Isn't it odd that I can bend my imagination to temporarily believe in Xenu's Galactic Confederacy, but I can't bring myself to entertain the possibility that Bush is willing to work with the Democrats in good faith?

    Current Mood: cynical
    Saturday, October 7th, 2006
    11:53 am
    I was babysitting Samantha yesterday (she's 5), and I discovered something interesting about kids stories these days. We read a book together, and watched a movie plus a preview for another movie. In all three cases, the story was about the weather going awry, and the heroes had to fix it. If that's a typical sample and not just a fluke, I'm guessing that the coming generation will be a lot more eager to tackle the global warming problem.

    I'm becoming more and more convinced that we learn our morals from stories and other art, and that we only learn morals from religion insofar as they are couched in art. I know it's true for me, but I'd be curious to hear perspectives from people who were raised religious. What little I ever saw of Sunday school seemed to be stories about Jesus, plus perhaps a little talk about why we should take these stories more seriously than other stories.
    Wednesday, July 26th, 2006
    10:18 am
    My apologies to California
    I'm sitting alone in an office building large enough to accommodate 20-30 people. The place is freezing, and I don't know how to turn down the air-conditioning. I keep drinking hot tea just so I can wrap my fingers around the cup to keep them from stiffening with the cold. I know there's a heat wave and an energy crisis out there, but what is a lowly temp to do?
    Friday, July 7th, 2006
    5:51 pm
    Television ethics
    I've decided from now on I'm going to base my ethical code on TV. After all, it seems more in keeping with my moral compass than the Bible, for example. The Bible tells me that I should kill people for working on the wrong day of the week (Numbers 15:32-35), for wearing clothes with blended fabrics (Leviticus 19:19), or just for being part of the wrong tribe. Buffy the Vampire Slayer tells me that killing people also destroys a part of the killer, even if the rare case where the killing might seem truly justified. The Bible tells me that I should abandon my family in order to become a good Christian and avoid burning in hell (Matthew 19:29). Battlestar Galactica tells me that even when a family member is on the opposite side of a life and death situation, you never stop loving that person. Maybe that love can even build a bridge between the opposing sides. The Bible tells me to blindly obey authority, no matter how cruel and pointless the command, even if you're told to murder your own children. (Genesis 22:2-10). Babylon 5 tells me that sometimes authority becomes corrupted, and no matter how much you respect the idea of a chain of command, you might be called upon to question your orders for the sake of a higher good.

    Having been raised by atheists, I never developed the sense that religion was the proper place to get my moral code. However, the stories that I used to read as a child had a profound effect on me. When I rescue a ladybug from the swimming pool, I often find myself remembering the tale of the lion with a thorn in its paw. I still remember the shock I received from reading "All of Summer in a Day," and resolved there and then in second grade never to be so thoughtless. It seems to me that moral teaching is probably the primary purpose of art, whereas social control is the primary purpose of organized religion. Admittedly, the two goals have some overlap, but in my opinion this world is more badly lacking in morality than social control.

    Of course, I'll still pick and choose my ethics, just like the Christians do. For example, I don't think that every couple who approaches sex with a lighthearted attitude should be murdered by serial killers or boiled alive in a lake of molten lava. But at least art has the advantage over religion in that the stories can change and develop over time, allowing us to adjust to changing times and more enlightened attitudes.
    Sunday, June 25th, 2006
    6:06 pm
    iTunes Meme
    I can't help it, I like the memes.

    MemeCollapse )
    Saturday, June 24th, 2006
    6:51 pm
    Early 4th of July rant
    It's time for my bi-annual post. I've been seeing Fourth of July decorations around and it's got me thinking. I've historically been cynical about patriotism, and have never really thought about the Fourth of July as anything more than an excuse for fireworks. Yet this year I find myself reacting differently. Have you ever had a relative or acquaintance die, and only afterward come to realize how much they meant to you? Maybe I should have been more appreciative about living in a free country back before it was taken away. Now I don't know if the American flag stands for the liberty our founding fathers worked so hard to bestow on us, or the pro-torture, pro-bigotry, big brother state that Bush and his cronies have turned it into. I guess that's the trouble with patriotism. What does it mean to give your loyalty to a country, if that country can completely change everything it stands for?

    It also makes me wonder about when people say they're proud to be an American. Now, I've sometimes felt lucky to be an American, but I don't know how to feel pride for something I didn't work to accomplish. I guess by the same logic that I don't have to feel ashamed to be an American now, though it's weird to think that people around the world are judging me for atrocities that Americans are committing.

    I know I shouldn't be posting rants like this, since they'll still be on record when free speech is officially outlawed. It's a good thing I'm marrying a Canadian.
    Sunday, October 30th, 2005
    8:56 am
    Two posts in a year!
    I want a wife. Long work days wouldn't be so bad if I had a wife to greet me at the door with a drink, cook me dinner, clean my house, raise the kids, etc. I can see why the right-wing men want to go back to the fifties when most men had someone to wait on them hand and foot. I could use that too. Unfortunately, when housework is the issue, most people would rather be the master than the servant. There's also the problem of expense. I don't have the income of the standard right-wing man. Perhaps if Snakefeathers and I pooled our resources, we could get ourselves a wife. I wouldn't mind sharing.
    Thursday, October 27th, 2005
    7:58 pm
    Okay, it's been almost a year since my last post, so I guess it's time. First my excuse was that nothing was happening to post about, and then my excuse was that I'm too busy. Lately, my excuse has been that it's been so long, I'd have to post about something momentous to justify breaking the silence. I was too slow to be the one to announce that I'm engaged to snakefeathers</>. I could post about my new job, but it's just a temp job, and I have mixed feelings about being fully employed anyway. So really, this is just the "let's see if I can get back in the habit" post. Hopefully the next one will be more interesting, and soonish. But no promises.
    Tuesday, December 28th, 2004
    4:50 pm
    Embracing the Paranoia
    I'd like to announce my decision to join the ranks of the conspiracy theorists. However, I won't be posting long-winded diatribes about voting fraud, right-wing controlled media, or Bush's secret plan to bring about Armageddon, because sooner or later they're going to retroactively outlaw free speech, and I'd like to make it a little harder for them to arrest me. But maybe I should get a button made that says, "Ask me about my whacked-out, subversive conspiracy theories."

    Current Mood: paranoid
    Monday, December 13th, 2004
    8:42 pm
    It's been so long since I've updated my journal that they've changed the Update page. But I've finished my finals and have a bit of time, so I just had to post the coolest quiz result ever. What do you think, is it me?

    You're Alice's Adventures in Wonderland!

    by Lewis Carroll

    After stumbling down the wrong turn in life, you've had your mind
    opened to a number of strange and curious things. As life grows curiouser and curiouser,
    you have to ask yourself what's real and what's the picture of illusion. Little is coming
    to your aid in discerning fantasy from fact, but the line between them is so blurry that
    it's starting not to matter. Be careful around rabbit holes and those who smile to much,
    and just avoid hat shops altogether.

    Take the Book Quiz
    at the Blue Pyramid.

    Current Mood: curiouser
    Wednesday, September 15th, 2004
    8:07 pm
    Chemistry and the Soul
    What do people mean when they talk about the soul? We throw the word around as if everybody understands what it means, but I at least don't get it. I confess, there is an intuitive notion that the soul is the fundamental personality, the conscience, the sense of self, and the source of free will, but where does that leave us as scientists discover that genetics and brain chemistry can account for more and more of these core aspects of self? Is the soul simply a partly-inherited pattern of neurons firing in the brain? I don't think most people would agree, since the soul is generally defined as immortal.

    Why isn't it this issue, rather than discoveries about evolution or the big bang, that have religious people declaring war on science? Why are people so much more worried about where they came from than where they're going? It never disturbed me, even a little, to learn that we're descended from apes, or that our solar system formed by chance, but it does make me sad to realize that the things I treasure most about myself are going to rot with my gray matter. My memories, my love for friends and family, my desire for self-improvement, all will cease to exist as soon as the blood stops flowing to my brain.

    Current Mood: melancholy
    Tuesday, September 14th, 2004
    3:53 pm
    Rhetorical Political Question
    Why does our country try to fight enemies by becoming them? In the McCarthy era, when the enemy was communism, we combated that oppressive government that punished anyone with differing political opinions by starting a witch hunt in our own country to root out anyone that might have differing political opinions. Now that we're fighting radical religious fundamentalists who hate us for our freedom, we're turning into a country of radical religious fundamentalists who are destroying our own freedoms from within. What's the logic here? Do we think if we become the enemy they won't want to hurt us anymore?

    I really have to stop reading the news.

    Current Mood: cynical
    Tuesday, July 6th, 2004
    9:09 pm
    An Unlikely Result
    So I tried that quiz that's been going around, and got the strangest answer...

    "You are an SRCL--Sober Rational Constructive Leader. This makes you an Ayn Rand ideal. Taggart? Roark? Galt? You are all of these. You were born to lead. You may not be particularly exciting, but you have a strange charisma--born of intellect and personal drive--that people begin to notice when they have been around you a while. You don't like to compromise, but you recognize when you have to.

    You care absolutely nothing what other people think, and this somehow attracts people to you. Treat them well, use them wisely, and ascend to your rightful rank. "

    Who, me?

    I guess I have a higher opinion of Ayn Rand than most of my friends, but not because I'm living up to her ideal. I fact, I was born to privilege, and have spent much of my adult life descending to my rightful rank. I think I was no more born to lead than I was born to shoot lightning bolts out of my eyes.

    I have issues with personality quizzes that tell me I'm 70% X and 30% Y. Why do I have to be either rational or emotional, but not both? Why can't I be 95% rational and 92% emotional? It seems totally arbitrary to me that reason and emotion are considered opposites. And then there's the Leader/Follower dichotomy. I'm exceptionally bad at both. I'm nearly as bad at giving orders as I am at following them. Can I be 8% leader and 5% follower?

    So here's the premise for my new quiz. Are you the sort of person who prefers chocolate pastries or pirate movies? Are you more likely to exceed the speed limit or pick things up with your toes? Would you rather wear purple or go for a hike in the hills? Pick one of each, because it can't be both.

    On a positive note, the muppet phenotypes on that site are brilliant. <>

    Current Mood: amused
    Wednesday, May 12th, 2004
    2:46 pm
    Divided Loyalties
    I keep running into a dilemma with my garden. From time to time I find snails on my plants. I know the snails aren't good for them, but I can't bring myself to destroy the poor mollusks. They're so cute with their spiral shells and slimy antennae. Sometimes I put them in the iceplant out by the sidewalk, but I don't know if they can eat iceplant, and if they can there must be a pretty crowded community of them living in that little patch by now. I confess I'm not dedicated enough to release them back into the wild.

    How does one choose sides with nature? Should I root for the adorable sparrow or the masterful peregrine falcon? I have an instinctive inclination to take the side of the underdog, but that's not very Darwinian of me. And besides, who's the underdog between the snail and the gardenias? Or for that matter between the sparrow and the peregrine? Sure, the sparrow's getting eaten, but sparrows in general are coping a lot better than peregrines with pollution and other environmental changes.

    Current Mood: ambivilant
    Tuesday, May 4th, 2004
    8:42 pm
    Because I said I'd post this meme...
    1. Who are you?
    2. Are we friends?
    3. When and how did we meet?
    4. How have I affected you?
    5. What do you think of me?
    6. What's the fondest memory you have of me?
    7. How long do you think we will be friends?
    8. Do you love me?
    9. Do you have a crush on me?
    10. Would you kiss me?
    11. Would you hug me?
    12. Physically, what stands out?
    13. Emotionally, what stands out?
    14. Do you wish I was cooler?
    15. On a scale of 1-10, how hot am I?
    16. Give me a nickname and explain why you picked it.
    17. Am I lovable?
    18. How long have you known me?
    19. Describe me in one word.
    20. What was your first impression?
    21. Do you still think that way about me now?
    22. What do you think my weakness is?
    23. Do you think I'll get married?
    24. What makes me happy?
    25. What makes me sad?
    26. What reminds you of me?
    27. If you could give me anything what would it be?
    29. How well do you know me?
    29. When's the last time you saw me?
    30. Ever wanted to tell me something but couldn't?
    31. Do you think I could kill someone?
    32. Are you going to put this on your LiveJournal and see what I say about you?
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