Life transitions

Renee posted a blog entry on Transitions earlier today which was pretty thought-provoking for me. I made a lengthly comment on it and thought I’d massage my thoughts into a full blog entry. The gist of her post was about how many of her friends are encountering frustrating and/or confusing transitions in their lives right now. Take a moment to go read it first (but skip the last paragraph, she starts rambling then ;)

One sentence in her post summed up my own thoughts on the matter, emphasis mine:

Could it be that in the past the rapid occurrence of transition[s] made us feel somewhat in control of them simply because we expected them and expected not to be in control of them?

I suspect part of the confusion with transitions starting when your 30 is that when we’re young we have these expected transitions, or sign posts, to look forward to: each year we’re in a different grade then we’re graduating high school, then we go to college, then we get a job, along the way we hopefully find that special someone, we get married and start a family (be it with children, pets, or just the two of us). I think for a lot of people turning 30 is one of those transitions, based on how many people get wigged out by it. But for those of us who hit 30 after the other “expected” transitions, what’s next? Turning 40? There’s no set plan handed to us past 30 — we’re on our own to make it up as we go.

I predict that Benjamin and I will have one of those big transition moments when he graduates in 8(!) months. While I expect the transition will be fairly easy for B as it’ll be the planned “graduate and start a job” transition, I think it will be a really hard transition for me because that’s the end of the existing plan: I graduated, met/fell in love/married someone, put them through school, turned 30 along the way… what’s next after that? All kinds of stuff I’m sure, I just don’t know what it is!! :)

I joked with my Dad last year before my birthday that I was going to have a third-life crisis when I turned 30. He very seriously told me that 30 and even 40 isn’t a big deal but that 50 was the big one ’cause you realize that the odds are good your life is half over. I’m not sure what to make of that per se, but maybe that’s the reason that turning 30 didn’t seem like a big deal to me. Ask me again how I feel about it when I turn 50!

Tolerance of screaming children

Note that this entry isn’t about screaming children per se, but about learned tolerance of a specific irritant. After having lunch at a very packed, and child-heavy, Noddles & Co earlier today screaming children just happens to be on my mind.

I believe that humans are born with a sensitivity to loud noises. Just watch what happens when an unexpected loud noise happens in a quiet room — everyone is startled. Extended exposure to the same loud noises can result in an attenuation in the attention-drawing power of them, either due to a physical reaction of becoming deaf to that range of noise (like an airplane engine) or to a psychological reaction of just ‘tuning it out’ (like living near train tracks and never hearing the train after a few weeks).

It seems clear that a tolerance for screaming children fits pretty well into that thought framework too. Screaming is suppose to get your attention, otherwise what’s the point? Parents are exposed to their children’s loud noises and become, to a degree, desensitized to the sound. I do question if it happens more on the physical side of things or the psychological side of things. I’m leaning more to the psychological side of it as I’ve known people who seemed to tolerate their own children’s noises fine but many years later had to readjust to their grandchildren.

Either way, parents have a leg up on tolerating screaming children than us non-parents do. Those of us without kids are often not exposed to children on a regular basis and thus have no opportunity to build up a tolerance. Thus when we’re in a public area, or an enclosed airplane, and a child begins to scream, we’re put on edge.

The parents I’ve talked to have expressed frustration at both the situation, ie: when your child’s screaming there’s only so much you can do about it in an enclosed space you can’t escape from, and reaction of other people. I can sympathize with their frustration about the situation. But just as they can’t stop their child from screaming on demand, we can’t control our lack of tolerance for said screaming.

One thing is for certain: when a child starts screaming on an airplane, everyone will be frustrated at the situation, be it the parent of the child or the poor sod sitting next to them. At least everyone is equally miserable.

And if any airline executive out there is reading this entry: You keep looking for ways to bring in more money. I am willing to pay a 10-25% premium on the price of my airline ticket for flying on a child-free (say all passengers must be 12-years or older) flight.

Mystery of the locked garage

Last night I got back from Austin late and after arriving home went straight to bed. Today I ventured out into the back yard for the first time since we departed last week and noticed two very strange things:

  1. Two of our patio chairs were stacked atop each other immediately in front of our padlocked gate as if someone had used it to hop the fence.
  2. The door to the garage was locked but not the way I had left it. I had left it with the deadbolt locked and the handle unlocked but it was currently the other way around.

I went into the garage and confirmed that nothing was missing — both bikes were there along with all the other stuff we have in our garage. This puzzled me greatly. Why would a burglar climb over the fence, pick a deadbolt on the door, not steal anything, lock it back, and use the chairs to climb over the fence? Nope, that’s just crazy. Well, perhaps they came in through the garage, not stole anything, unlocked the deadbolt, locked the handle, and climbed over the fence. No, that’s just crazy too. This oddity has been bothering me all afternoon and I was very apprehensive about leaving (yet again) for work travel tomorrow.

This afternoon I went next door to let our neighbor Liz know that due to this unexpected work travel I wasn’t going to be able to watch her dog as planned this week. As soon as she saw me, she said “have I got a story for you!”. The story being…

Self-responsibility, government intervention, and nanny states

I’ve long been an advocate of self-responsibility. Everyone should be held accountable and responsible for their actions and inactions. It is not up to some entity (church, government) to protect you from yourself. For example, I think non-driving adult vehicle passengers should not be required to wear their seatbelt. Drivers would still be required to wear their seatbelts to increase the odds that they are able to maintain control of the vehicle to protect passengers in other vehicles should an accident occur. Similarly I think motorcycle drivers should not be required to wear helmets. It is commonly known that both seatbelts and motorcycle helmets help prevent injury in the case of accidents. If you’re not smart enough to heed that advice, you’re better off being removed from the gene pool before you reproduce — ala the Darwin Awards.

But what happens if they’ve already reproduced and have young children? Or what happens if they are seriously injured but not killed? Then instead of removing themselves from the gene pool and saving humanity from their stupidity, we may end up providing for them or the rest of their family at the taxpayer’s expense. So instead lets say that only those people without dependents are able to go seatbeltless as non-drivers and helmetless as motorcycle drivers. That solves that problem at the expense of another: enforceability.

Laws need to be enforceable to aid both the police doing the enforcement and the judicial system. How are police suppose to know which helmetless motorcycle drivers have dependents in order to pull someone over and/or give them a ticket?

Thus despite my shoot-from-the-hip desire to give stupid people the liberty of killing themselves, I acknowledge that it is better for the government to require all drivers to wear a seatbelt and all motorcycle riders to wear a helmet with the intent of reducing the financial liability of me, a taxpayer.

Consider another nanny-state law being considered here in Colorado: Carbon monoxide detectors. The law would require carbon monoxide detectors to be installed in new, sold, or rented private residences. The impetus for the bill is, I assume, the rash of recent carbon monoxide deaths in the state. Unlike the seatbelt issue, in this case I fully support the nanny-state law. The reason is that I believe the bill will better protect renters of older homes and apartments. While even new furnaces and stoves can malfunction and emit lethal amounts of carbon monoxide, furnaces in older homes are much more likely to do so.

The next logical question is, why don’t I view this as a “survival of the smartest” issue like I did the seatbelts? Unlike seatbelts that are provided with every vehicle, carbon monoxide detectors don’t come bundled with your house — yet. Obtaining one requires 1) knowing that you need one and 2) the finances to obtain one. Ill-educated families may be ignorant of the need for these detectors as might the elderly who may be unaware due to failing mental facilities. Lower-income families and seniors who are renting and know they need one may be ill-prepared to pay for a detector, particularly in this economic environment. The law would require apartment complexes and landlords of other properties install CO detectors prior to renting the property to a new tenant. The cost of the detectors are minimal and because they need only be installed at the start of a new lease, the landlord could incorporate the cost of the detector in the lease if necessary. Heck, the expense might even be tax deductible!

Even getting off the high road of requiring that help be provided to those who can’t help themselves (or don’t know that they should be helping themselves), we have the issue that while CO exposure can be lethal, it can also be non-lethal but debilitating and the taxpayer may end up footing the medical bills.

All that said, I think this would be an excellent opportunity for churches to pitch in and ensure that their members have ready access to a CO detector and provide one either free or at a discount if they fall into the group most likely to be unable to help themselves (low-income families and the elderly). This holds true if CO House Bill 1091 ends up becoming law or not.

The sound of silence

I admit to being an odd bird (you can stop nodding your heads now) but I’m still amazed at how few people can tolerate silence. Benjamin, for example, always has music playing either via his iPod or computer be it in the house, in the car, while working out, etc. He doesn’t like silence.

I on the other hand very seldom play music except while in the car (which is seldom in itself these days). I’m perfectly happy running, working out, cooking, working, and doing virtually everything without music. To take it a step further, often I prefer silence.

This concept appears to be foreign to many people these days. Take for example the gym I attend. The facility is very small (a joint collaboration between the Raddisson hotel and the next door office building) and has a single TV in the room. If the TV is on a specific channel and someone wants to change the channel they usually ask those already in the room if anyone is watching it — the implication being that if no one is watching the currently-playing channel the asker will change it to something else. Several times I’ve been the only person in the room and turned the TV off prior to starting my workout. When the next person walks in they don’t bother asking if I wanted the TV off but instead just turn it on to whatever channel they desired.

On a similar front if I do have music playing in the house Benjamin will ask before changing it to something else but never thinks about playing music when there is none currently playing.

Has this uncomfortableness with silence always been there and personal music players (eg: iPods) have allowed folks to counteract it or is the dependence upon sound a recent development due to the accessibility of personal music players?

Gay marriage is legal in California!

I’m sure you already heard, but good news from CA today! Gay marriage is legal in California!

“In contrast to earlier times, our state now recognizes that an individual’s capacity to establish a loving and long-term committed relationship with another person and responsibly to care for and raise children does not depend upon the individual’s sexual orientation,” the court said in the 120-page ruling, “and, more generally, that an individual’s sexual orientation — like a person’s race or gender — does not constitute a legitimate basis upon which to deny or withhold legal rights.

“We therefore conclude that in view of the substance and significance of the fundamental constitutional right to form a family relationship, the California Constitution properly must be interpreted to guarantee this basic civil right to all Californians, whether gay or heterosexual, and to same-sex couples as well as to opposite-sex couples.”

Now there’s two states that B and I can move to after he graduates from college!

Ranting about today’s news

Warning: This post contains nothing worth reading, your time would be better spent taking a nice walk outside.

What the hell is wrong with the world recently? Am I the only one that thinks the headlines today are over the top? The following are actual news headlines and my rant about the topic.

Pope raps China over bishops
Folks in China appoint two new bishops. Pope Benedict is pissed that he didn’t have a say in the matter. Can you say classic catholicism at its worst? The notion that “the Pope has God’s ear and everyone else is wrong” just blows my mind. Protestant theology holds that God is an equal opportunity employer, yes anyone can talk to him. Not sure why the Pope (or the Catholic church in general) think they have a monopoly on the red hone to God.

US asks Mexico to reconsider ‘stupid’ drug law
So Mexico wants to pass a law that allows people to legally possess a limited amount of currently-illegal drugs. The US government is going ballistic because, well, no one’s sure exactly. The US has claimed that it would encourage “drug tourism” in Mexico – no shit, much like underage youth go across the border to drink. Amsterdam seems to be doing OK. One article has Judith Bryan, the US embassy spokesperson, as saying that they are encouraging Mexico to re-examine the law “to ensure that all persons found in possession of any quantity of illegal drugs be prosecuted or be sent into mandatory drug treatment programmes”. Lets think about that, if Mexico passes the law then they wouldn’t be illegal in small quantities so how exactly are they suppose to prosecute people who are acting within the law? I love how the US will gladly ignore the international community when we go to war with Iraq, an action affecting another country, and yet we have no qualms with telling Mexico what to do about laws that effect its own citizens and Mexico complies. The US is the worst kind of playground bully.

Side rant: America has somehow made a mental connection that “illegal drugs” are drugs that are bad for you, when in reality they are drugs that are illegal to possess. Sure they may also be bad for you for various meanings of the word ‘bad’, but bad != illegal. Someone needs to think up a new term. On the same thought, there’s currently a radio ad here in Austin about some news station doing a story over “Drugs that your students can buy on the streets … legally”. Right, like advil or Pepsid AC ’cause you know those are drugs that students can buy legally now. I’m sure they’re actually talking about some hallucinogenic/mind-altering substance but they have decided to use “drugs” instead. Arg!

Sugary sodas to be pulled from US schools
Thank you Mr. Clinton and the rest of society from protecting America from itself and becoming the parents of our youth. Lets not tackle the harder health problems like why parents can’t send their kids to school with nutritious lunches instead of money for the vending machines, or teach them the value of eating healthy food — no, lets just make it so that they don’t have access to sodas in their schools ’cause that’ll solve the problem. Good thing all of those convenience stores down the streets from those schools aren’t selling those sodas either, oh wait.

Mutant Mice May Hold Clues To Athiesm
Well, actually it was “Hold Clues to Autism” but that’s what I get for reading it too fast.