Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Nomenclature of sexuality

    It really perplexes me as to why we use the words "gay" and "straight," or any synonyms there-of.  Why do we classify sexuality into categories of "like the same sex" or "likes the opposite sex"?  These seem unnecessarily convoluted and weird.  We use the same words to describe a man who likes men, as we do for a woman who likes women.  We call both these kinds of people "gay," yet they seem like the complete opposite in their preference. 
    A few years ago, I decided to stop, or at least limit, using reflexive terms for sexuality (previous post aside).  It just makes so much more sense to me to describe someone as "liking women" or "liking men" rather than "liking their own sex" or "liking the opposite sex."  After all, you're supposed to be describing what kind of person someone is attracted to; you shouldn't muddle it up by using phrases that are based off of what kind of person they are.
    It's like, if you decide to have dinner with a friend and you ask them what kind of food they're in the mood for, and then they answer, "the same kind of food I had last night."  When you ask someone a direct question, ideally they should give a direct answer, not one relative to some other bit of information.  "Mexican food," is a better answer than, "the same kind I had last night."  In the same way, "I like women," is a better answer than, "I like people of my own sex."
    Unfortunately, I'm still definitely a minority in using this system.  There aren't any convenient, monosyllabic words that I can use to describe someone as liking men or liking women.  I could make some up, but people would have no idea what I'm talking about, and if they asked I'd basically have to explain my who position on reflexive language to describe sexuality.  And I'm not very fond of using made-up words to shoe-horn my opinions and rants into conversations.  I guess the words "virisexual" and "gynosexual" are accurate, but they're way too long for everyday use, and still have the same probably of people having no idea what I'm talking about. 
    Maybe I'm being overly-logical about this whole thing, but there are other reasons that it would be nice if people adopted non-reflexive language about sexuality.  For instance, if use the same word to describe a man liking men as we use for a woman liking men, then it might help us to see (at least subconsciously) that these attractions are not so different. Non-reflexive language would better highlight the inherent sexism in saying that it's okay for women to like men, but not okay for men to like men, or visa versa.  I wont go as far as to say that our system of language is what allowed homophobia to take root in society, but I certainly think it made it easier.

   I’m not saying that we should totally throw out the words “gay” and “straight”; they are still useful when speaking in a broader sense, and you’re using the word to describe both lesbians and gays, or both straight women and men.    However, when you’re talking about a specific person’s sexual preference, it just makes so much more sense to me to use non-reflexive terms for sexuality.  

   Of course, this whole rant doesn't really apply to the phrase "bisexual" (or "pansexual"), because it already describes a person’s sexual preference, without relation to their own sex.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

I don’t get homophobia.

    I never really get homophobia.  Like, I don't get what would instill in people this desire to rally against homosexuality.  I know a lot of it can be attributed to religious fundamentalism and the notion that it's immoral.  Still, there are plenty of things that are generally considered immoral and the bible forbids (e.g. lying) but you don't see widespread political movements against them.  Some of it may be the result of some kind disgust at the thought of two men (or women) having sex, but most people aren't that in a moral outrage knowing that our parents have had sex (how else would we be here), or that people who they find ugly have sex; we just choose not to think about it.  I don't really know why people feel the way they do; like I said, I don't get homophobia.
    One thing I do notice about homophobia, though, is that the majority of it seems to come from straight men, and be directed towards gay men.  This doesn't make any sense to me.  It seems that gay guys make your life better in pretty much every way, if you're a straight guy.  If you're a straight guy reading this now, you're probably thinking I'm full of crap.  Hear me out:

   Dude, imagine for a second that you're going on a camping trip with two other guys and two girls.  Those odds kind of suck for you.  If everyone is single, and looking to hook up on this trip, then one of the guys is going to get left out, and it could be you.  Lord knows the other guys are going to try their hardest to make sure it's not them.  And even when you do are hitting it off with on of the girls, you have to worry about the other two guys trying to swoop in and kill your game.  Bottom line, it's going to suck.  Now, imagine the same situation, but both the other guys are gay. Suddenly, you don't have any competition.  If both the other guys sneak off to do your own thing, that leaves you alone with the two girls.  Suddenly, this situation is looking a lot better, right?


   Basically, the thing that makes gay guys great for you is that they're not straight guys. You can still hang

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out with gay guys and be their friends; despite what you see on TV, there are gay guys who like watching football, or playing Halo, or whatever typically manly activity you might be into.  The main difference, though, is you don't ever have to worry about your girlfriend cheating on you with them, or leaving you for one of them, or about them horning in on your action when you're flirting with some girls at the mall.  See what I mean?  Better.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Tomatoes are vegetables

Tomatoes are Vegetables.

Now, I know what you're thinking. You heard from your textbook/biology teacher/girlfriend/dad/wherever that tomatoes are fruits because they have seeds. I'm going to get to that in a moment. First, I need to talk about the fact that the great Tomato Debate is, at it's core, a linguistic one. That is to say, the argument really boils down to definitions; in this case, the definition for "fruit" and the definition for "vegetable" (I think we can all agree on what we would define as a tomato).

Now, about tomatoes being fruits because they are seed-bearing ovum. If you were thinking this when you started reading this article, you were right. Tomatoes are fruits, because a fruit is "the developed ovary of a seed plant with its contents and accessory parts..."1. You'll find a pretty similar definition in most dictionaries. So, by the dictionary definition, tomatoes are fruits.

However, tomatoes are also vegetables. Look up "vegetable" in most dictionaries, and you'll find a definition along the lines of any plant or part of a plant which is harvested for food by humans. Random House defines it as " any plant whose fruit, seeds, roots, tubers, bulbs, stems, leaves, or flower parts are used as food..."2 So, according to the dictionary definition, Tomatoes are vegetables along with all other edible fruits and things like rice, peanuts, sugar, and soy. Not mushrooms, though.

So, tomatoes are both fruits and vegetables, right? Well, kind of. You see, both the definitions I gave you just now are sort of general definitions for "fruit" and "vegetable." Words can, however, have a general definition but also a completely different definition, for use in special situations. For instance, the word "virus" refers to (in general) a type of non-living microbe which uses the cells of living things to reproduce. However, in the area of computer science, "virus" takes on a completely different definition, and no longer refers to a microbe or a physical thing at all, but rather digital information which is designed to make a computer run instructions that would cause unwanted damage. This is a special-case definition of "virus."

And, I propose that when someone asks "are tomatoes a fruit or vegetable?," they're asking for a special-case definition of both those words. First, because the question implies that a tomato is one or the other, general definitions which overlap as much as "fruit" and "vegetable" do probably aren't the right choice. Second, because the categories of "fruit" and "vegetable" conjure up images of the classic Food Pyramid, and the boxes which appear on them. Often, when someone asks about tomatoes being a fruit or a vegetable, they're asking which Food Group it belongs in. And the Food Groups "fruit" and "vegetable" have different criteria than the general definitions of "fruit and vegetable." If they didn't, then every food we ate that comes from a plant would be in the Vegetable Group, and (needless to say) that is not how the Food Pyramid works.

So, which Food Group do tomatoes fit into? Well, they are savory and not sweet, they contain low amounts of fructose, and they are usually eaten as part of dinner rather than desert. For these reasons, I would argue that they are in the Vegetable Group. Furthermore, the USDA (the department responsible for creating the Food Pyramid) list tomatoes on their Vegetable page but not on their Fruit page. I'm having trouble finding an official list of foods that belong in each group for the "classic" Food Pyramid (the one without stairs running up the side), but a picture of said pyramid on the USDA's website contains something that looks distinctly like a tomato in the vegetable section.

So, for these reasons, I believe that the tomato falls squarely in the Vegetable Group of the Food Pyramid, and not the Fruit Group. If you choose to accept Food Groups as the appropriate method for which to determine if a tomato is a fruit or a vegetable (which is the method I would prescribe), then it's a vegetable and not a fruit. If you choose to use the general definitions to decide, then it is both a fruit and a vegetable. QED: tomatoes are vegetables, no matter how you look at them. They are, however, only sometimes fruits. Here's a little chart to summarize things:

1: fruit. Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. (accessed: January 21, 2009).

2: vegetable. Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. (accessed: January 21, 2009).

About beliefs and loyalties

This blog will talk a lot about politics and opinions and you may find that my opinions are the same as your own sometimes, but don't expect to find a mirror of your own beliefs here. I notice that many people, when they read political blogs, usually look for ones that simply repeat their own opinions back to them. I probably wont be doing that. I might, but it's unlikely. My own views don't mesh exactly with the platform of either major party in America. If I were a self-aggrandizing pundit, I would probably describe myself as a Rebel, a Maverick, or some kind of bastion of independent thought. I'm not, though, so I'm just going to say that I'm a moderate, albeit a left-leaning one.

Things I say that don't coincide with your own views; I hope that, while you question them, they cause you to think about things in a different angle than they have previously. And things that I say that you do agree with; well, I hope that you question those as well. People really do have a nasty habit of letting ideas and supposed facts that support their beliefs into their head unchecked and unquestioned, while putting up a nearly impenetrable barrier for any idea that might disprove one of their core beliefs. The same is true for people's political affiliations, and saying anything wrong about those.

Don't believe me? Try this: go up to someone you know is a republican, and start talking to them about a made-up probe being conducted on a Republican representative about something illegal but not indicative of corruption (like illegal gambling, or possession if marijuana). Chances are, they'll defend this representative to you, perhaps saying that the probe is unjustified and an invasion of privacy. If you try the same thing with a democrat about a democratic representative, they will do the same thing. If you try talking to someone about a probe against a member of the party they don't affiliate with, they will have the opposite response, admonishing the representative and probably saying the probe is necessary, etc., etc.

The thing is, people have this mental filter. If they hear something that doesn't correspond with their own beliefs or loyalties, they will mentally meet everything they hear with an argument against it. If they hear something that supports their own platform of beliefs, though, they will accept it almost unquestioningly.

There-in lies the problem. You should never let any idea into your head unquestioningly; you should always critically examine what you are told. Even if it supports what you already believe, don't just accept it as face value. Look that gift-horse in the mouth.

It is with this in mind that I ask you to ready my blog. If I say something that makes you nod and say "that's right" to yourself, then stop. Go back, and read it again, asking yourself how my biases (and yours) may be tainting our view of things, and pushing us away from reality. Ask how what I'm trying to prove to you and how I'm trying to prove it, and ask whether my proof really supports my conclusion and whether my conclusion is really true. Don't let your filter down for me (or anyone), even if I'm echoing your own opinions.
On the other hand, if you find me writing something you completely disagree with, I hope you'll consider it and evaluate it fairly.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Hello World

I cannot think of a more auspicious day to begin my blog.