I’ve never been one to write in a diary or to journal, even though this is supposed to be a good way to better understand where you are and where you want to go in life. I see the beautiful, blank-page books and think, “I’d like to own that.” In fact, I do own a couple of these books. But they are empty. I display them as objets d’art on shelves. They are empty in part because I like them pristine, but I also don’t want to commit my thoughts to those pages because I am sure I would want to make changes, erasures, etc. The pages would be messy and, given my handwriting, unreadable. The book would no longer be lovely.
Blogging is a better form of journaling since I can easily edit the ‘pages’. However, since I publish these pages, I don’t wish to make the blog posts too personal. But I would like to have a record of life events and, on occasion, my thoughts on those events.
My solution to this issue is to use Google Calendar as a sort of diary/journal. I record events (an old man drove his car into my tree!), which I can later find (when did that happen?) by using key word search. This is much better than a traditional diary or journal. Another benefit is that I won’t lose this ‘diary’ since it exists in the ‘cloud.’
I also use the calendar for its intended purpose which is to schedule activities. Beyond that, I use the calendar as my To Do list: I schedule blocks of time for each thing I need to do. I’ve found I tend not to look at To Do lists after I write them. But if I give the item a block of time on a particular day, it is more likely to be accomplished since I receive automatic reminders that also show up in my Gmail account. This type of ‘list’ is also flexible. If I find that I really cannot do that item at that time, it is easy to move it to a different day or time. I am much more productive and organized when I schedule everything.
Different types of items/events can be color coded, which can be useful to highlight when an activity is repeated over the course of the week or month. For instance, I block out all the class periods I teach in one color, with the time I need to leave to make the drive to the college in another color. I schedule those blocks at the beginning of the semester so that I will not accidentally plan a competing event. As another example, when I realize I need to do laundry, I put it on the calendar. I do the same with grocery shopping. Everything is put on the calendar. If I want to make sure I get a book read for book club, I schedule time for it on the calendar.
Some of you probably think I am over-scheduling, but I find that it actually simplifies my life. Once it is on the calendar, I don’t have to worry that I will forget to do it. My stress level is reduced.
When I work on something that was not originally on the calendar, I put it on the calendar so that I have a record of doing that particular job. This is especially important if you do freelance work. You can also make notes in the job block about the task. You can add hot links to the calendar block to provide further information on an event. For instance, if you have a meeting with a new client, you can add the URL of their website to that time slot to provide a reminder to refresh your memory about that client.
This is obviously a personal calendar not meant to be shared. Many of you will have a shared work calendar. However, I know it is possible with Google Calendar to determine whether an item is public or private, so you should be able to use one calendar for both work and personal activities.
I have the calendar pin-tabbed in my browser so that it opens and stays open when I open the browser. This makes it easy to add notes and new events. The calendar is also synced with my phone and Nook so that I can stay on track.
As an organization tool and life record, Google Calendar really does make life run more smoothly and productively while reducing stress. There is no need for a diary, a journal, or to do lists in addition to a calendar. Everything can be done on one screen that is easily modified and won’t be lost. Organize your life with Google Calendar. Give it a try.
Note: Outlook’s Calendar probably can be used in a similar way. I just prefer Google.
The United States is in the midst of a widespread flu epidemic. Every year, thousands die from the flu and flu-related complications, not to mention the millions of hours of lost productivity resulting from those who are ill from the flu.
Having lived through the Flu Pandemic of 1968-1969 (it knocked me out of school for two weeks and took many more weeks for me to fully recover; around 34,000 died in the US), I cannot understand why anyone would not get vaccinated against the flu. Yes, it is not foolproof, but the probability is much higher that you will be able to avoid the flu if you are vaccinated than if you are not.
Last year, the CDC Report stated that “90 percent of children who died from flu this season  [were] not vaccinated.” The CDC reported that , as of January 18, 2014, 20 children had died of the flu, at least two of whom had not been vaccinated. It is probable that the other children were not vaccinated, but that the parents were reluctant to admit that.
Perhaps many of those who do not get vaccinated are relying (consciously or not) on herd/community immunity: they hope that enough other people get vaccinated to reduce flu transmission so that they won’t get the flu. However, herd/community immunity only works if most of the population is vaccinated. Freeloading may get you ill or dead. Freeloading may also mean that you cause illness (or even death) in individuals who cannot be vaccinated due to underlying health issues. I suggest you view getting vaccinated as something you can do to help your community. Vaccination saves lives. You will be a quiet hero.
The other day in my Physical Anthropology class, I was showing a video on genetics that I’d shown in prior semesters, but this time one portion of it struck me in a new way. I believe I have figured out some of the ‘reasoning’ used by those legislators who are pushing personhood bills which declare the zygote (fertilized egg) to be a person who is entitled to all the rights of an actual person.
In Medieval Christian Europe, there was little understanding of biological processes and even less effort made to rectify the situation. The views of the ancient Greeks, especially Aristotle, were taken as the ‘gospel truth’. Unfortunately, Aristotle and other Greeks, such as the physician Galen, did not understand the mechanisms of sexual reproduction in humans.
The ancient Greeks and, therefore, the Medieval Christians, believed that the man provided everything that was needed for a new human, except for a place to grow that new human. The woman was essentially just an incubator. Furthermore, they believed that a tiny person, the homunculus, lived in the head of the sperm. They knew nothing about the ovum/egg.
The man ejaculated this tiny person into the woman and about nine months later, the ‘incubator’ produced a baby. Other than providing a womb for growth, the baby did not belong to the woman. The baby was solely generated, and therefore owned, by the man. Of course, women were also owned (chattel) by men, further diminishing the female contribution to the baby.
As we have seen from the comments made by many of the personhood legislators, their understanding of biology and human reproduction has not progressed beyond that of the Medieval Christians. A belief in the homunculus, whether or not it is articulated, clearly underlies the concept of giving personhood to a zygote and the subsequent ball of cells. Anyone who believes in the homunculus must view a zygote as a miniature person. Following from this, their ‘logic’ leads them to wish to protect this miniature person.
Awarding full personhood rights to a zygote while ignoring the rights of the woman in whom the zygote exists also follows from the Medieval Christian view that women are just incubators who contribute nothing to the embryo/fetus. Since a pregnant woman is an incubator, she has no rights to do anything to the zygote/embryo/fetus. Only men can decide this for her since only men truly ‘generate’ offspring.
These same legislators want contraception/birth control outlawed because it prevents a man from generating more offspring. In their Medieval Christian view, any sperm that is prevented from implanting in the womb results in killing a person since the head of the sperm contains the homunculus. Life doesn’t begin at conception. Life begins in the sperm. Every sperm is a potential life because every sperm has a miniscule person residing in it. This would also explain why masturbation is a sin. Think of all the ‘lives’ that are being wasted/lost!
Since, in this Medieval Christian view, the man is the sole generator of life, and the woman merely an incubator, even rapists deserve to have rights to any resulting offspring. If a woman becomes pregnant despite being raped, then that embryo/fetus is meant to be born. Women (or even young girls impregnated by their fathers) must carry to term all results of sexual activity whether consensual or not. After the birth, the woman has fewer rights over the offspring than does the genitor (man), even if that individual is a rapist. After all, the offspring is more truly his than it is hers since her major role is as an incubator while he was the genitor.
The anti-contraception, anti-abortion, pro-personhood legislation now coursing through state legislatures can be understood if we realize that those pushing this legislation are operating under the Medieval Christian and Aristotlean view of human reproduction: the male is the genitor while the woman is the incubator. Their ‘knowledge’ is stuck in the 11th century. It is little wonder that those of us who live in the 21st century are shocked, amazed, and horrified by these legislators who have no understanding of human reproduction, but who are trying to control women and their reproduction.
On October 11, 2012, we will celebrate the 1st International Day of the Girl. This past week (10/1/12 and 10/2/12), PBS aired a two-night, four-hour documentary entitled “Half the Sky” which highlighted the work being done to help girls in several different countries. This help includes escaping sex slavery, dealing with rape, obtaining an education, and improving healthcare. As stated on the Half the Sky Movement website, their goal is “Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide.” If you missed “Half the Sky” on PBS, you can view it online until October 8 (Part 1) and October 9 (Part 2).
Women and girls form 50% of the world’s population. Ignoring their needs imperils the future of us all. One of the biggest issues for girls is being forced into marriage when they are still children. This ends their education, increases the probability that they and their children will be and will remain in poverty, and also exacerbates healthcare issues. President Bill Clinton has called child marriage a form of slavery. Another website that gets to the heart of the issue on why education for girls matters is The Girl Effect.
I hope that you will celebrate the International Day of the Girl by making sure that the girls in your lives have the full range of education and opportunities that they need to become successful women.
While reading The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean, the author discussed the concept of ‘pathological science.’ ’Pathological science’ results from scientists who cling to their ideas even when there is plenty of evidence against them. For instance, Kean discusses the idea that megalodon sharks might still be circling the deep oceans even though there is no evidence for this, while there is evidence that those sharks died out at least one million years ago. Yet, some scientists are pathologically attached to the idea that the megalodon lives.
I realized that ‘pathological science’ was the perfect term to describe what happened over the past 25 years with the rise of mtEve and the demotion of Neanderthals to non-H. sapiens status. There was/is little evidence to support mtEve as a concept, but it so excited many otherwise respectable scientists, not to mention the media and the general public, that mtEve swept away anyone who disagreed that she was the mother of all modern humans. This was a pathological science creation event par excellence. If this non-existent entity had been named mtMable, the rush to embrace her probably would not have occurred.
The name ‘mtEve’ fed into the creation stories many scientists were raised with; even if they no longer believed the stories, the concepts still manifested at an unconscious level. For the media and the general public who did/do still believe these creation stories, mtEve provided immediate validation that humans were special. Humans were not just another animal; not just another result of evolution. Pathological scientists also want ‘modern’ humans to be viewed as special, distinct, better than any preceding humans who were ‘archaic’ and different, more like an animal, less intelligent. Given the location of mtEve (Africa) and the poorly-derived date of mtEve (it varies a great deal, but many use 250,000 years ago), Neanderthals were relegated to the ‘archaic’ heap.
I have spent the past two-plus decades fighting against this pathological science, only to see it become accepted dogma even in textbooks. This is disturbing. If scientists can be so swept away by their emotions that they totally ignore evidence, is it any wonder that respect for science is softening? Fortunately, science is eventually self-correcting. It’s taken too long, but it is finally becoming clear that Neanderthals were no less ‘modern’ than so-called ‘moderns.’ There was no creation event 250,000 years ago in which mtEve popped into being and begat the first modern human. For 25 years, I asked for evidence of how speciation occurred between ‘archaics’ and ‘moderns’ and was shown no evidence. I was not surprised since there was and is no such evidence: mtEve was a creation of pathological science.
Robert G. Bednarik’s chapter, “The Expulsion of Eve” in his book The Human Condition, is a precise and detailed refutation of mtEve and the concept of ‘modern’ and ‘archaic’ humans. He slices and dices the ‘evidence’ (morphological, genetic, lithic, and cultural) until there is nothing left but hot air. While Bednarik does not use the term ‘pathological science’, it is clear from his analysis that mtEve proponents were and are acting pathologically. ”…the Eve supporters have led the study of hominin origins on a monumental wild-goose chase.”
In Part 1, I concluded that the relationship of >power = >possessions =>intelligence = >human leads many of those with numerous possessions and great power to view those with neither as somehow sub-human. This attitude applies not only to the present, but to the past.
Archaeology is the study of the material culture (possessions) of past peoples. While many archaeologists are primarily interested in finding out how the average person lived, others are more concerned with the elites. This is to be expected when one considers what the general public prefers to view in museums. Commonly, one does not wait long hours in line to see how the workers who built Tut’s tomb lived, but rather the material possessions of Tut. One does not brave crowds to look at the few possessions of the sailors who crewed a ship that sank, but rather the cargo of that ship. How many tourists travel to France to tour 17th century slums rather than Versailles? In our view of the past, the wealthy are more real, more intelligent, more human because they are the ones with the most material culture to be found by archaeologists.
If material possessions carry great weight in our view of the past, then it is no surprise that the further back in time we go and the less material culture we find, the less intelligent we think our ancestors were. Of course, this ignores the fact that much of material culture decays. Therefore, the further back into the past we delve, the less material culture there is that would be, could be, preserved. Somehow, we manage to ignore this and assume that what we find is all our ancestors had. When we travel back to the ‘dawn’ of material culture around 2.5 mya we find only stone tools and a few fossilized bones with signs of cut marks. We think: ‘They had so little, they clearly weren’t very intelligent. They probably couldn’t even speak.’ This ignores the fact that by this point our ancestors had been bipeds for over 2 million years and that bipedality is related to language ability.
This also ignores the fact that much of culture is immaterial, intangible. As I said in Part 1, the focus on possessions has led many to assume and treat modern foragers who necessarily, due to their lifestyle, have few possessions, as sub-human, even as animals that can be killed with impunity. If modern foragers are viewed this way, how much less human must our ancient ancestors be?
It seems to be a given by the general public, and even by many anthropologists, that ‘modern’ humans came into existence around 100,000 years ago. That is, there was a speciation event. However, I have yet to read anywhere what caused this speciation event. There is no real evidence. It makes no sense. And yet, it is believed to be true. The date of 100,000 ya appears to have been chosen because the site of Klasies River Mouth in South Africa dates to about 100,000 ya and has a few skeletal pieces that some paleoanthropologists believe look ‘modern.’ By ‘modern’ they mean more gracile. Also, the Klasies people ate a lot of shellfish, which is considered a more modern behavior. However, the earliest bipeds have been found in what would have been a marshy environment, so it is probable that our ancestors have been eating shellfish for millions of years. The earliest non-lithic material culture is also found in sub-Saharan Africa and dates to about 80,000 ya. This is viewed as more evidence of modernity. Add in other gracile skeletal material of about the right age and voila! Modern humans popped into existence. The idea that no one used bones and shells for tools and decoration until around 80,000 ya is ludicrous. These materials will decay rapidly in most environments, so it is not surprising that they do not show up until later in human ancestry.
Now, why is the date of 100,000 years so important? Because if ‘modern’ humans did pop into existence around that date, that would mean that Neanderthals were not human. For some reason, it is critically important to a lot of people, many anthropologists included, that Neanderthals not be ‘us.’ They would rather make the unsupported claim that a speciation event occurred and that Neanderthals are a different species than to accept the more logical deduction that there was no speciation event and that Neanderthals are simply a population of modern humans.
Years of effort and reams of paper have been devoted to ‘proving’ that Neanderthals were subhuman. One of the methods used was to point out that Neanderthals had a very limited material culture compared to so-called ‘modern’ humans. But, surprise! More and more research is showing that Neanderthal material culture and ‘modern’ material culture were very similar. In fact, it may turn out that Neanderthals were the first European artists, not the ‘moderns.’
Will we finally admit that Neanderthals were fully as modern as any other group alive at that time? Does it take clear evidence of plenty of material culture to admit a population to full humanity? Or could we at last realize that material culture is only one limited aspect of being human, and one that is easily lost to time. Having more possessions does not make a person more intelligent or more human.
After I published Part 1 of this essay, I heard from a friend who thought I was being too harsh in my treatment of the wealthy. She also stated that the best way for those in poverty to have a chance to demonstrate their abilities and intelligence, and to achieve monetary success, was for them to obtain a quality education. While this was not the point of Part 1, I do agree with her that a quality education is a key to ending poverty. Since the poor are unable to provide themselves with a quality education, the funds to provide this education must come from elsewhere. I see two options: philanthropy and/or taxes. Both options rely on the wealthy (or at least those who have incomes well above poverty levels). Therefore, if the relationship [>power = >possessions = >intelligence = >human] I describe is invalid, all of those with the most power and possessions would not consider the poor to be less worthy, less human, than themselves and would willingly provide the funds, whether via philanthropy or taxes, so that the poor could obtain the quality education they need to achieve monetary success.
As with every relationship, there are exceptions. As I mentioned to my friend, Sir Richard Branson, the billionaire founder of the Virgin Group, does invest his money to improve the lives of the poor. In addition, Branson is working to ensure that his businesses operate in a sustainable manner in order to lessen the burden to Earth’s biosphere. If all of those with great power and possessions/money would follow Branson’s lead, the relationship I describe would be invalid. But I suspect I will be waiting a long time.
PS. Happy Birthday Sir Richard and President Mandela! (July 18, 2012)