Good and Evil

Recently, my friend*, MidLifeTraveller, wrote an interesting post on good and evil and free will. Please take a minute and read it.  It’s very interesting and well thought out. It has been rolling around my brain for a few days and I felt I wanted to write about this.

I respect MLT very much. However, I disagree with her.

First, I find evil to be real.

Webster’s defines evil as:
Main Entry: evil
Function: adjective
Inflected Form(s): evil·er or evil·ler; evil·est or evil·lest
Etymology: Middle English, from Old English yfel; akin to Old High German ubil evil
1 a : morally reprehensible : SINFUL, WICKED <an evil impulse>
  b : arising from actual or imputed bad character or conduct <a person of evil reputation>
2 a archaic : INFERIOR
  b : causing discomfort or repulsion : OFFENSIVE <an evil odor>
  c  : DISAGREEABLE <woke late and in an evil temper>
3 a : causing harm : PERNICIOUS <the evil institution of slavery>
  b : marked by misfortune : UNLUCKY

Let’s go with definition 1a. Hitler. Was Hitler evil?
In my mind, yes. He was "morally reprehensible". I personally believe that he was not a deranged person, but someone who’s thirst for power over took any morals he had. He was willing to sacrifice lives, and to think of other humans as lower life forms to get the power he needed.

While evil fits Hitler, this does not dispose his good nature. He could easily love others. He could be kind to some. Good and evil are not an all or nothing concept to me.

This leads right into her next point, are certain acts by people "good" and "evil"? Good question. I do my best to not label my kids as "good girl" or "bad girl" based on actions. I DO describe the actions as good or bad. It is BAD to hit another person. Why? It doesn’t respect them as a person or their space. It is BAD to bite another person.  It is GOOD to share food with your sister. It is GOOD to use words to describe your feelings.

MLT said

"Our whole justice system is predicated on a system of Punishment. This presupposes that we all have Free Will, and that every time a criminal commits a crime he performed a risk-benefit analysis first and decided that the consequences of being caught were outweighed by the perceived benefits of committing said crime."

I tend to agree that often there is a risk-benefit analysis. You don’t decide to rob a store without thinking of not getting caught. Similarly with speeding. How many of us drive over 55 (65) MPH? Yes, me too. We are aware that we could get a ticket, but we decide that going with the flow of traffic, or getting to where we are going at a certain time outweighs the risk. We may not do this in such a cut and dry thought process, but yes, we do a risk-benefit analysis.

The ideal justice system would be that people don’t do things because it is the WRONG thing to do. Not to be driven by fear of punishment,  but because we know it is the WRONG thing. Unfortunately, we do all think and have our own systems of morals, and we are expected to follow SOCIETY’S rules of what is right and wrong, not our own. And, as Dr. Jay likes to tell Soleil, sometimes the rules are there just so we can all get along, not because it is the "right" thing to do.

As we have created our society over time, we have always had socially and "morally" acceptable behaviors. And we have consequences or punishments for violating these. If we disagree with these rules, we should make an honest effort to change them. And we have with changes to laws, Amendments to the (American) Constitution, etc.

MLT also stated:

"Now we do allude to "crimes of passion", suggesting that in certain moments of extreme emotion, a person will do something that he would not normally do. I say bullshit again. How can human nature be considered outside of so-called "premeditated" crimes? Crimes are part of human nature, premeditated or not."

I have to disagree here. I would expect most people find me a calm and collected person. I am not one who would hurt my children. However, in times of extreme emotion, I found myself in a situation where I was thinking of doing just that, hurting my child. Yes, I suffer from depression and a chemical imbalance. Does that excuse my violent thoughts at these times? No, but it is not in my personal nature to hurt a child. Is it human nature to want to kill another human? Or is it simply that because we are human and have the ability to do this that makes it part of human nature?

I don’t accept biology as an excuse for criminal behavior. I will agree that certain people are biologically tuned towards violent behavior. I remember learning in a bio class that XYY men (a trisomy involving an extra Y chromosome) are representing in prison as a higher percentage than in the free society. And yes, take a person whose behavior is altered by biology (which is all of us) and put him/her in a situation where we are not nurtured, but put down and abused and treated so negatively that he/she fails to accept the social constructs even for ourselves, he/she may fail to meet the needs of society.

I do agree with MLT on this point: Our societies fail these people that we call criminals, when we lock them into a jail and fail to give them the tools they need to turn around their lives. When teachers tell kids they are losers, we fail them. When we release a convict who has served their time and let them loose without anyone willing to hire them, we have failed them.

When we fail as a society to recognize those citizens in danger of criminal intent and fail to help them, then we are all to blame.

* When I say friend, I mean it. We met on a webboard. She moved to my area and we met and became friends. We have similar, yet different parenting philosophies, but we respect each other and that is one of the things that makes our friendship great!


I realize that I have been trying to stay away from depression lately, but I should probably give an update.

I saw my doc on Thursday. We decided that there was an improvement and that I should increase the dose to 60mg of cymbalta. So that is where I am at. So far, except for two major instances of nausea, I am doing well. I have a few cases of "racing heart", but I suspect that will slow down. I have NOT had the desire to murder anyone lately. That is a good sign. I also am actually feeling "good". Note the quotes. I am very cautious about this. I am almost afraid that I will feel good for only a short time and then crash.

Why does my body have to function like this?

It just isn’t fair.*

* and yes, I know life isn’t fair, but that doesn’t mean I am not allowed to bitch about it!

Whistle while you work!

Hey there!

A simple digression, Dr. Jay and I disagree on the Pluto thing. He doesn’t buy the "clearing out the orbit bit". Then again, he was told of one proposal and then left the IAU to come home and they voted on something else, so I think he is a wee bit bitter. He does agree that a new definition is needed.

I am swamped at work this week (and why am I posting?). We are doing a ton of stuff for the new observation cycle, which is starting soon, a software change, and I am going to two meetings in the next two months.
One will be easy to do the poster, the other involves some serious data reduction and analysis, which my head just hasn’t been in place for.

If you haven’t heard(your head is stuck in the sand), Mary-Mia and Rod got their referral for twin girls, soon to be named Rose and Marie. Go on, go congratulate them.

A funny this morning… a fellow blogger was touring my daycare today. I knew she would be since her husband works near the daycare and I have sung the praises of this place. I actually got to see her as I dropped off Luna! Yippie! So good to see people! I need to drag her out for a cuppa!

Ok, back to documenting up the wazoo! I have to train people on how to deal with our changes to software…Oh, and test a new database, and write the observers letter, and….
Oh, fuck a duck sideways, I just have a lot to do!

The correct answer is: Toothpaste!

Ok, this isn’t rocket science, but damn funny

Jay noticed Luna’s clothes were ready to be washed. Being the domestic god that he is, he tossed them in (he usually does the laundry)
Then in the dryer!

Then notice RED CRAYON had made it into the dryer. ALL OVER THE INSIDE OF THE DRYER, ALL OVER THE CLOTHES.

After calling his mommy and trying hot water, I did an internet search. The thing that worked was toothpaste! Yes, toothpaste on a cloth rubbed the wax right off. Now what to do about the part of wax that is stuck under the dryer blade?
And the clothes. Yeah, I am so not going to scrub toothpaste into each outfit. I think hot water and baking soda are required here.

So for future reference: Toothpaste gets crayon out of your dryer!

Pluto…my thoughts

So, it has been asked, here and other places, how do I feel about the Pluto thing?

Here’s the actual text of the resolutions:

IAU Resolution:  Definition of a Planet in the Solar System
Contemporary observations are changing our understanding of planetary
systems, and it is important that our nomenclature for objects reflect
our current understanding. This applies, in particular, to the
designation ‘planets’. The word ‘planet’ originally described
‘wanderers’ that were known only as moving lights in the sky. Recent
discoveries lead us to create a new definition, which we can make using
currently available scientific information.

The IAU therefore resolves that "planets" and other bodies in our Solar
System be defined into three distinct categories in the following way:

(1) A "planet"1 is a celestial body that (a) is in
orbit around the Sun, (b) has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to
overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium
(nearly round) shape, and (c) has cleared the neighbourhood around its

(2) A "dwarf planet" is a celestial body that (a) is in orbit around
the Sun, (b) has sufficient mass for its
self-gravity to overcome rigid
body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round)
shape2 , (c) has not cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit, and (d) is not a satellite.

(3) All other objects3  except satellites orbiting the Sun shall be referred to collectively as "Small Solar-System Bodies".

1The eight planets are: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune.

2An IAU process will be established to assign borderline objects into either dwarf planet and other categories.
3These currently include most of the Solar System asteroids, most Trans-Neptunian Objects (TNOs), comets, and other small bodies.

IAU Resolution:  Pluto

The IAU further resolves:

Pluto is a "dwarf planet" by the above definition and is recognized as
the prototype of a new category of trans-Neptunian objects.

I think this is the correct thing to do. Why? Well, planets have "always" been there, right? Well, no. The ancients knew of Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. You needed telescopes to find Uranus and Neptune and Pluto was calculated to exist by many astronomers based on the movements of the larger planets. It was later found with a telescope and photographic plates by Clyde Tombaugh

So for years, we have been taught, these are the planets…Okay, so why change it now?

Pluto has NEVER fit in as a planet. It’s small. It’s orbit crosses Neptune’s. It’s a rocky planet where the other outer planets are gaseous. Why? Because fundamentally, it is a different type of object.

If you accept, scientifically, Pluto as a planet (as in one of the 8), then any object LARGER than Pluto would fit too, right? That’s why the papers were reporting a 12 planet solar system last week.
Science is a system of classification, study, experiment. I would have loved to keep Pluto as a planet, but it isn’t really. To be scientific, and the IAU is a scientific body, you have to let go of sentiment and go with the science.

So now we have a few dwarf planets. Not a big deal. A rose by any other name is still a rose, right? We haven’t diminished the fact that the telescope and photography, two wonderful inventions, allowed the discovery of this dwarf planet. And others have been found as the detection methods have gotten more sensitive over the years.

If I was an IAU member, I would have voted for this resolution. Let the planets be based on science, not emotions.

For the record, Dr. Jay was home at this point and did NOT cast a vote.

A friday afternoon blog

This will be a minor update on many facets of my life, so bear with me here:

  • We increased my dose of cymbalta this morning. My doc thinks that we might be okay to stop here, but I have another appointment in 1 month to discuss this.
  • Jay and I had a pre-K meeting for Soleil today. My baby goes to pre-kindergarten on Sept 19!
  • I got approval to go to a High Energy Astrophysics meeting in San Francisco. In October. ALONE. No Jay, no kids. I plan to meet Mary-Mia. Anyone else game? I’ll work it in between the meeting!
  • work has suddenly gotten insane. What am I saying? We are permenately understaffed. Four people doing the work of six.
  • I have a meeting at 3pm today. It involves some important words about 7 years of Chandra flight and lots of yummy ice cream
  • Luna told me "No mommy, don’t love me" when I whispered "I love you" in her ear last night… I think she is trying to tell me something!

Mrs Figby tagged everyone on six random things about you so….

  1. I know the words to the Candian National Anthem
  2. I have a huge phobia of spiders
  3. I have an unhealthy respect for rules. I must have too much German blood in me
  4. My materal grandfather was a bastard. Litterally. He never knew who his father was, except that it wasn’t the nice man listed on his birth certificate. His mother chose that guy because he was nice, not that she slept with him.
  5. I hate shoe shopping
  6. I swear there is a ghost in the Minute Man National Park that haunts me. Same place on the road the car gets frigid. I have seen things there too. Creepy? You betcha


I started the day exhausted after switch shifts with Jay when Luna decided to be Damien’s love child and scream for 2 hours last night. Soleil had nightmares about T-Rex (dino week at school) even though she agrees that we need a brain to move muscles and dino skeletons have neither.

My Shrink appointment was early, so I grabbed the T to get there. I ended up getting thick black grease on my calf and my skirt from the train. How? I have no clue. They are switching the token system out to something called "the Charlie Card", but the station I was starting from only took the Charlie Card and the station I was going to enter later only took tokens. Grrr.

I have three packages to mail today including my BRAND NEW GPS unit. The battery worked for 1 charge and now it charges,  but doesn’t work.

And I think of all of this and say "how lucky I am!"

Because yesterday I read a story in the NY Times about children as young as 5 and 6 working in the sex trade for money in sub-Saharan Africa.Children who need to smash rocks to dust and sell the dust to make cement for the wealthy who want pools and new houses in their country. Children whose parents are dead from AIDS and HIV and who fight daily to just live.

And I look at my house, my stuff, my greasy leg and say, "damn, I am lucky to live in a First World economy. I am lucky to raise my children where they can get an education despite the shape of their genitals, where they will have every chance to live to adulthood while living a childhood."

Yes, I am lucky today.
Damn lucky

I’ll trade you one mom for a cat!

On the car ride to daycare this morning, we had the following conversation:

Soleil: Mommy, when are you going so we can borrow a cat?

me: What?

Jay: oh, yeah forgot to tell you about this…

Soleil: When are you leaving so we can borrow a cat?

me: Why would I leave?

Soleil: Because I want to borrow a cat and take care of it and you are allergic.

me: So, the idea is I leave and you get a cat?

Jay (laughing silently)

Soleil: Yes!

Me: Won’t you guys miss me?

Soleil: Well, Luna will be okay because daddy will be here and she doesn’t miss you

Jay (laughs out loud, get slapped in the thigh)

Me: Would you miss me?

Soleil: Well….just a little, but I would have a cat and that would make me happy!

Me: Where would I go?

Soleil: It doesn’t matter. Just anywhere so I could play with a cat!

Lovely, I am being traded for a cat….And yes, I am terribly allergic to cats.


10 points to the person who can correctly pronounce the title, 5 bonus points if you can name the exact location!

We spent the weekend on Long Island. Some people know, others don’t, that Jay and I lived on Long Island for 7 years. For the first 3 years, we didn’t even know each other. I was a bright eyed, bushy tailed undergrad and he was starting his PhD work after taking a year in Israel. We both bemoaned the fact that Long Island was so hard to get off of. You are surrounded by ocean on 3 sides and Manhattan on the other!

Jay’s brother, Lee*, has a house in Southampton. Lee is a real estate broker in Manhattan. In truth, he owns a real estate agency with his partner. They have purchased various rental properties across the US east and this house in the Hamptons was the first. They just finished the renovations. Have you ever looked in the Potter Barn Catalog? Or Restoration Hardware? Yes, that is what their place looks like. Amazing.

The third brother in the family, Keith, lives in Seattle. He is the least understood, in my opinion. I don’t understand him at all. Keith and family (2 boys, 12 and 7) came out for a vacation. Since Jay was coming back from Europe, he arranged to fly into JFK, so we could visit Keith and the cousins while they are on the East Coast. At first, Keith didn’t want us there. Go figure. We are FAMILY and we only see them once every year if even and I would like the kids to KNOW each other…UGH. He thought we would be in the way. ass.

So, on Saturday morning, I gathered the girls, turned on the DVD player and we drove down to New London Ct where we (barely) caught the Ferry to Orient Point, Long Island. The girls did great on the boat and seeing the ocean again did wonders for me. You see, my soul is somehow attached to the ocean. Not lakes, not water, but OCEANS. I don’t claim to understand it, but there is something that says my soul is right when I get a chance to see the waves, to smell the salt, to BE with the ocean.

A quick drive around to the South Fork and we were there! We later met Jay at the hotel (further west) and had a great get together there. We spent time swimming and beaching and family stuff. The younger cousins got along great while the oldest was a pre-teen.

It was nice to be back on Long Island. The family stuff was stressful, mostly because of Keith and his wife. They are very narrow in their thinking and then get upset when people don’t want to be near them. Go figure. I laughed passing the great names of places… Yaphank (yap-ank), Patachogue (Patch-chog)
Stony Brook (stony brook),
There was a time I didn’t know how to pronounce them, but now they are second nature. Even all of the landscape was comforting to me, even though we have lived in Boston longer than we ever lived on Long Island.

I think it was a great break from life here. I enjoyed it and I think it was quite calming to be there.
Sometimes, we all need to go back somewhere just to enjoy what we missed when we wanted to leave there.

Bonus photo: Soleil and I at the Long Island Duck…Duck

Doing better….

I am doing better today. Don’t worry if you don’t see a post for a day or two..

BTW- Had lunch with Sparky. It is funny how you can sometime just feel very comfortable talking with someone you only "know" from selected, and censored, writings…..
She is a great woman!

Have a great weekend. Jay lands in the US tomorrow!