Thursday, January 02, 2014

When is Poop no longer Poop?

I was washing mushrooms for making cream of mushroom soup, when it occurred to me that many mushrooms grow in rotting carcases, dying tree trunks, and poop. I made sure to wash more carefully while pondering aloud if my mushrooms were indeed grown in poop.

To this my roommate reminded me that most industries would use fertilized wood shavings, or just straight up fertilizer. To which I then remarked that a lot of fertilizers were in fact, cow manure- poop.

But of course, roommate states that after a lot of time, we don't really consider manure poop any more- because it's more like soil. But I'm sure I know many people who think that manure is indeed poop. But then, in nature, a lot of soil used to be poop, and certainly are not poop now.

So if I take a piece of poop, and leave it to the forces of nature for however long- will it one day no longer be considered poop? If it's still there in a block I'd still look at it and call it poop.

Is it the odour of poop that gives it the poopiness? Odours are actually remnants of the stomach bacterial action, creating disgusting sulphur-containing compounds, famous example being hydrogen sulphide. Of course, over time, these compounds are broken down by non-gut-out-of-body-in-nature bacteria or dissolved into the surrounding environment. At some point, the stench will be gone, take for example, dried poop- it has no stink! But alas, I still think it is poop.

So perhaps poop should be better defined by having come out of the intestinal tract of some animal? And since single cellular organisms don't have intestines, we can certainly say that alcohol is not yeast poop!

But then, if we really think about it, SOIL HAS A LOT OF POOP. After all,  a good deal of it it either came from an animal taking a squat or from a dead plant that was eaten by a worm or insect and released after passing through a smaller, but equally real, intestinal tract. But is soil really made of poop? I can't be the only one who finds this thought disturbing. There are young curious children who eat dirt after all.

Human beings can be pretty interesting about this, our own disgust at poop seems to be a species subjective trait. Many animals, like most pet hamsters, are perfectly ok eating their own poop. Worms eat other animals' poop. Hell, plants get so many nutrients from all sorts of poop.

So perhaps soil really a bunch of poop and other things and we're all just too squeamish to acknowledge this.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Plead for respect

I thought I had a fear of disagreements. I suppose by nature I am a very agreeable person, and I absolutely despise insults (giving and receiving). So for the longest time, I assumed that the fear I have of engaging in a debate with people, or even stating my somewhat controversial opinion, stemmed from my fear of disagreements.

But recently, it's come to light that it's not the disagreement I fear. It's two separate fears in one.

First is the fear of miscommunication- I am terrified of being misunderstood. I worry that my thoughts won't flow well enough and will confuse others. I flush at the thought that I accidentally misuse a word, or that the way I'm defining a term is different from others. I also worry that I approach many topics and situations differently from others, and as a result everything I have to say will be completely foreign to them. And I realize that many times it's not just my own inadequate communication, but that some people will simply have a harder time seeing things through my lens. But I end up feeling responsible, because the only thing within my control in such a situation is the way I phrase my words.

And combined with that fear is the fear of misinterpreting what someone else says. We're all different people and certain to mean things differently after all. While I fear confusing people, I also fear being confused by other- except I end up seeing this as my own lack of comprehension rather than their lack of fluency.

Second comes the fear of competition. My opinions are always my own, I will try to convince people that they have merits though. However, when talking about a controversial topic, my ideal conversation would not be two people's competing opinions at war with each other. I always enter these conversations with the hopes that, perhaps, it'll turn into a group effort whereby we can reach a conclusion that is somewhat satisfactory to all and allows everyone to rethink their own opinions. It's a journey where all sorts of interesting thoughts are put out there without fear of ridicule, no matter how extreme or unsound the thought might be. In fact, half the time I think we should explore opinions that we absolutely disagree with just for the sake of approaching topics from another viewpoint.

Some key people I'd love to have these conversations with:

  • An orthodox religious person
  • A mormon
  • A creationist 
  • A terrorist
  • A radical liberal/conservative
Sadly, a real life conversation with any of these people is likely to fail my standards of a good conversation. But one can always hope. 

Friday, December 13, 2013

Being Pretty

Standards of beauty and what not. Do I agree with them? I haven't decided. But do they exist? Definitely.

In a tutorial some weeks ago objections were raised on a feminist idea- mainly to do with the fact that women and men are treated differently in society and that may have adverse effects on who seeks euthanasia. Someone was confused about why gender would be a concern- because gender differences shouldn't exist.

But they do. And I take a risk in saying that some of them can't be changed (though quite a lot of them can). I mean, aside from the pregnancy and the erection locations and the menstruation cycles (that men possibly have [citation needed]). If there were no gender differences then our species would have only one gender.

I've been raised in a liberal family, in a liberal environment, and I'm in one of the most liberal cities in North America. I don't consider myself a feminist for fear of being categorized with the extreme feminists, but I do believe that women deserve respect and should learn to be confident in themselves. 

Some months ago I read a dreadful blog where a man openly expressed his desire that women have no self-esteem. This to me is silly- sounds like a desperate and clingy girlfriend in the making. Sounds like a girl who won't know how to handle difficult situation. Sounds like a girl who won't know how to raise children, if she goes down that path. Sounds like a girl who'll end up in a relationship for her own need of some approval rather than for love. 

My idea of a confident woman is one who is comfortable with herself, knows her own flaws and either is able to look past them to love herself or is actively aiming to better herself to achieve her own ideal. 

Where am I going with this? I feel like I've started to ramble. Ah yes, being pretty. Do we really have to?

Well yes, there's lots of benefits to be had in maintaining oneself (for both genders I mean). Statistics tell me that looking good means people often trust you more, think you are smarter, more likely to hire you for a job, more likely to date you, more likely to look at you. But the real dichotomy here is that females get more of a pressure to look good than males. I don't want to focus on the morals here, but biologically and evolutionarily speaking, we can understand why. That whole hip-to-waist ratio and such. Making babies- it's always to do with babies. 

But really, how important is the make-up and the hair-do and the looking perfectly flawless? Especially when we talk about relationships. I mean, love is all about personality compatibilities right? Oh but yes, the looks are the first thing. And physical attraction does have some role to play I should think. Personally, I think taking the time to look awesome is important. (I also know that when I see a well groomed young man I take my time checking them out) Best part is, it's really easy for us to control how well we present ourselves to the world. But something that might be more important than beauty is time.

I know friends who do their make-up every morning, that's a lot of time in their lives. And the hair, I'd have to pick that over breakfast if I really wanted to do it up every morning. There must be a trade-off here in terms of time spent looking awesome and time spent gaining awesome traits and awesome skills. I really hope I reach a good equilibrium here such that the amount of awesome I can look naturally portrays the amount of awesome I really am. And I'll gussy up on occasion to give the added guise of even more hidden awesomeness. 

So standards of beauty- I don't feel like whether I agree with them or not really will effect how I act. Because I like to be pragmatic, and in this society, it can be an advantage to look attractive. But I'm also not keen enough to trade off equally valuable time for it if I don't have to (or if I don't feel like it). No, I don't think women are obligated to focus on their looks in this society, but there are quite a lot more perks if we do.