Saturday, February 28, 2009

Male Violence

There's a glaring ill in our society, that costs our government untold millions of dollars per year. Lives are torn apart, families decimated, and thousand of innocents suffer yearly (and I'm just referring to the U.S.). There is probably no other problem throughout all of human history that has cost more lives, through murder, assaults, war, and torture. I'm talking about 'human violence', of course, though it is rarely called by its true name: male violence. If you type this phrase "male pattern violence' into Google you'll get only one article cited in a fairly radical feminist publication, "Off Our Backs." Seems a little skimpy for such a gargantuan human problem.

We discuss violence constantly, but oddly enough violence is almost always gender neutralized: Violence in Youth, Violence Against Women, Gang Warfare, Human Aggression, The Reasons for War, etc. Hardly ever it is pointed out that 90% or more of any of these violent acts are perpetuated by men and boys. Even if you visit the Bureau of Justice Statistics website, you'll be hard pressed to find statistics identifying the gender of the offender of violent crimes (aggravated assault, rape, murder). Other sources cite 85% or more of murders are committed by men, and almost all sexual assaults (whether the victim is male, female, or child) are committed by men. Of course the stats for aggravated assault are similar.

Why this deep seated reluctance to point out the gigantic, bloody elephant in the room? If you mention male violence in a discussion with a group of folks, often you'll get heated comments such as this: "Well, more inner city girls are becoming violent." "Most boys do not grow up to be violent." "There have been female serial killers too." While all these facts are true, they portray a skewed view of the big picture. Girls and women, though occasionally violent (5% to 13% of crimes), are hardly reeking havoc on society. The fact is that males are more violent, have been throughout history, and account for an overwhelming percentage (80-99.99%) of violent crime.

Studies will often examine other reasons for violence, such as cultural, societal, or environmental, rather than gender. No doubt environment and culture play a role in increasing the likelihood of violence. This accounts for the differences among countries on violent stats. The U.S., for example, compared to other similar nations, has a notoriously high murder rate. Likely, it is because of the gun availability, racial tension in large cities, poverty, ideas of masculinity in our society, and even Hollywood. But still, no matter what society, country, or historical era, males are still responsible for the vast majority of violent acts (including 'sanctioned' violence, such as war) worldwide.

'Male pattern violence' is a term to describe the unique reasons why men commit crimes, in comparison to women. Males commit crimes because of motivations of aggression, revenge due to humiliation, competition for dominance, competition with other males, and for feelings of ownership and entitlement towards females. Females (in most cases) end up in jail because of committing violent crimes in self-defense, or in concert with a male companion. Of course, this is not to say that no female has ever killed for revenge, or that any male has ever killed in self-defense. That's preposterous. This is just the preponderance of reasons why men or women are violent.

To further illustrate this point, think of almost any war that's ever been perpetuated in history. Almost all wars have occurred because of male pattern violence--- aggression, revenge, competition for dominance over land and resources, and competition with other males. Think of the Vikings, (the icon of male brutality) plundering Ireland and England to capture resources, land, and women. In World Word II, Hitler’s aggression towards other countries was largely motivated by revenge, because of the humiliation Germany suffered after W.W.I. Think of the Vietnam War, mostly occurring as a result of competition with Communism. Think of Troy, a war launched because of competition for a female-- the face of Helen, the woman who launched a thousand ships. The list can go on.

For varied reasons, we seem very fearful and reluctant to 'blame the offender.' This may be because we still live in a male-dominated society, and criticizing maleness in any way is taboo. Blaming the offender, in many minds, is blaming all men. Men are defensive because in their hearts I think all men do think and fantasize more about violence than women do. Men also enjoy watching violence and acting out violence more than women do. This brings us to our fear, that biology is destiny. If males are more violent because of gender, then this trend is inherited. Can we do anything about it?

If we look at our closest cousins, the apes and gorillas, we see similar patterns of male and female behaviors. Male chimpanzees are highly competitive with other males, over resources, territory, and ownership of females. We may laugh about it, but our apish friends are eerily similar to us, and this is after 5 million years of genetic separation. Given these observations, in my opinion there is very likely a biological component to male aggression. In terms of our evolution, it makes sense. For millenniums this trait has served our species well. Males kill, but they also protect the tribe, secure territory, and obtain resources. Females, with infants at their side, are unable to protect themselves.

Some people get very upset and defensive to suggest that males are biologically aggressive. Are we saying that all males are flawed and our society is doomed? I don't think so. In fact I consider this recognition and acceptance of male violence as critical to solving the problem. The fact remains that 85% of males never commit any violent acts. Though boys do seem more aggressive and active from birth, we see that this aggression in males can be channeled into appropriates venues like sports and games. What we have to do is recognize ‘male pattern violence’ and attack this as the problem.

Over the past several thousand years human brains have already evolved, due to the change in our environment and living conditions. In comparison to ancient times, many humans live in a far less violent world. Life was brutal, nasty and short during prehistoric times. The difficulty is that our civilization has advanced in the last 4,000 years so rapidly that our biology has yet to catch up. Yet I believe it will, and our survival as a species depends on our recognition of the ‘beast’ within. Since it more than likely will be a male launching that nuclear bomb to destroy the planet, or a male driving the bulldozer taking down the last tree, we best open our eyes to male violence.

Are Ashkenazim Jews Smarter?

Despite the controversy around this topic, Ashkenazim Jews are smarter than other European ethnic groups. We have the numbers. The average IQ of Ashkenazim Jews is 115, compared to 100 for other European groups. Given the normal distribution of the bell curve, this means that there are 23 in 1000 Ashkenazim Jews with IQs over 140, as compared to 4 in 1000 Europeans with IQs over 140 in a given population. We also have countless examples of high achieving Jewish scientists and scholars, including Einstein. Proportionally, Ashkenazim Jews account for a vastly higher number of doctors, Nobel prize winners, chess champions, or creative geniuses than their small population (.25 of the world's population) would predict.

Some theorists have offered explanations for higher Jewish intelligence. First of all, this intellectual trend is found in Ashkenazim Jews, not Jews worldwide. Who are the Ashkenazim Jews? Ashkenazim Jews refer to groups that migrated to Northern France and the Rhineland in Germany, and Central and Northern Europe in general from the year 800 AD to the Middle Ages. Over the centuries the Jews experienced varied levels of religious prosecution and cultural restrictions. In general, Jews were not allowed to join the guilds in Germany and France, nor were they allowed to own land. Other than mastering a trade, or farming, there were few other ways to make a living. Hence the Jews primarily became the money lenders during the Middle Ages, and were restricted to this occupation for 900 years.

Given these historical factors, some theorists postulate that higher cognitive skills such as numeracy, literacy, and critical reasoning became highly selective for Jewish survival. And because of low intermarriage with other groups for centuries, due to religious and ethnic differences, these cognitive skills were passed on through generations. Another interesting fact is that Ashkenazim Jews suffer a high incidence of metabolic and sphingolipid diseases such as Tay-Sachs and Gaucher's Disease. Apparently, these diseases have as a side effect a likelihood of higher intelligence, because they are related to chemicals affecting neuron growth. Is it possible these diseases (despite their clear negative effects) have persisted in the Ashkenazim population because higher cognitive abilities proved to be highly selective for survival?

There are debates as to whether intelligence is even an inheritable trait. Is intelligence largely genetics, or established by environmental factors? In my opinion, it's likely a combination of both, with genetics playing more of a role than we would like to accept. It seems reasonable that the trend of higher intelligence in Ashkenazim Jews is due to a combination of strong cultural factors, as well as genetics.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Norway Diary Part 2

Sunday 8/19/01 Real nice day today. Saw a lot of interesting places. I really am enjoying the tour. We're having fun & can't wait to get to Bergen. I just feel it's closer to my father's home. We might not get to see what we wanted to re/my father, but that's ok. I feel good just being here. I'd like to come back with John someday. Judy

Monday about Sunday Yesterday was great. We went to the open-air museum, which is basically (from what I gathered) the brain child of some crazy dentist who exchanged services for period houses. There are 187 houses stretching back to the 1700's. Maybe before. It was interesting to see where Papa's ancestors lived. We also saw some exhibits in the building about different trades-- and took a scenario-based walk through Norwegian history (we went backwards- very H.G. Wellsian). Then we went up a ski lift where the ski jumps were held in the 94 Olympics. There was this old wizened jumper who was strutting his stuff for the tourists. They have this green stretch down in place of snow. Never saw a jump like that. We went into the bobsled simulator-- cool. Then we headed back to our hotel in Lillehammer and had to go listen to our legend-in-her-own-mind Vegas entertainer tour guide drone on about various ways they sugar-coat the leeching of the tourists with 'optional' excursions. We're going to the Viking museum. Carolyn will proably go insane with delight and try to commandeer the ships, horned helmet in place. Anyway, today to the fjords. It's rainy but it lends a sort of gothic appeal, I think. Jen

Monday 8/20 We are on the bus traveling away from Lillehammer through hills and valleys! Unfortunately it's raining. Rather than clearing up it's raining more now. I'm disappointed, as we are going to see fjords. Hopefully we'll see fjords on other days too.
Yesterday we spent the day in Lillehammer. The highlight of the day was a museum called Maihaugen. There were original farm buildings and furniture from Norway of years ago. This was especially exciting, because I could match a setting to all the names of ancestors I've been researching. I can now picture what their farms looked like. What shall we see today?

(cont) Well today turned out to be quite a thrill. The weather improved as we made our way through mountainous areas, dotted with small towns. We stopped in Lom for lunch, a town which we all liked. It had a stave church and many dark wooden buildings that reminded me of ski resorts. Most modern buildings in Norway are quite ugly to us (concrete, steel, glass) though the Norwegians seem to like them.

The smaller farming communities we traveled through today had the old sod roofs. We saw some farms which were 400 to 600 years old!
(con't) Soon enough we arrived at Geiranger fjord. We saw glaciers along the peaks of the mountains. I say peaks because this part of Norway is amazing. Mountains from every view with water and small, quaint towns. We took a thrilling bus ride (1,500m/ 5000ft) up to the top of the peak, which offered us an amazing view of the fjord. The ride up there on the bus left you on the edge of your seat (literally). It seemed we just made the corners, and were hanging over the cliffs. The fjord was breathtaking. Luckily it was clear enough so we could see. What I also am pleased about on this trip is the immersion into Norwegian culture. I really enjoy learning about the history and customs. It's like it's filling a gap for me which has long been empty. I bought a gorgeous Norwegian sweater today! Carolyn

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Less-ons of the Female Persuasion

LEss-ons of the Female Persuasion
1. Ribless................................2. Limbless

3. Sockless............................4. Spineless

5. Earthless..............................6. Peerless

7. Seamless

8. Grammarless...........................9. Ball-less

by the Baron 2006

Friday, February 20, 2009

Barrister's Bookcase

Yesterday I bought an antique 'lawyer's' bookcase. It's not the greatest quality, but it was only 250.00, and I've always wanted one of these bookcases. The Weis Manufacturing Company made these bookcases from 1910 to the late 1930's. Apparently my bookcase was made circa the 1920's. These bookcases were very nifty and practical. They are stackable, and come apart. You can have up to five stacks. Also, the glass lifts and slides back into the shelf. I may try to get some new knobs.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Yoga For Kids

Here's my friend Christy leading a group of kids in a yoga class she teaches. Very fun. Go Christy!

No Hanky-Panky?

My sister referenced an article on the BBC website, detailing the latest news in the mapping of the Neanderthal DNA sequence. Scientists are about 60% complete in mapping the Neanderthal genome, and so far have found 'no evidence' of interbreeding with modern humans. This does not mean that hanky-panky did not happen (just think of the way modern men act, then cast your mind back to 50,000 years ago), it just means that any gene exchange had an negligible effect on the modern human DNA sequence. There is still controversy on this point.

A couple of other interesting facts about the Neanderthal genome have surfaced. One, our burly friends probably possessed the ability for speech and language, a marvel which we have only credited to Cro-Magnons. Neanderthals have the FOXP2 gene, which is associated with speech and language in modern humans. Chimpanzees do not have this gene. Scientists point out though that other genes are associated with the complex ability for speech and language. The Neanderthals may not have had those genes, so the 'quality' of their speech is unknown. Were there no future Shakespeares among them, as there were in the Cro-Magnon?

We know the Neanderthals shared 99.5 to 99.9% of our gene sequence. Therefore it is important to examine how our gene sequence is different from Neanderthals as well as how it is the same. If not the ability for language, is there any other quality that made this relatively small group of Cro-Magnons migrating from Northern Africa 100,000 years ago destined to rule the planet? Was it just plain luck, or is the answer in our genes?

One gene causing much controversy is the Microcephalin gene, a gene related to brain size and development. This gene is very pronounced in modern humans now (70%). Controversy has ensued because the gene variant is more common among European and Asian populations than Africans. People are disturbed by erroneous assumptions that may be drawn by this information, as studies have included only small samples of modern humans.

In more archaic human populations, the modern form of the gene emerged in Eurasians and not Sub-Saharan African populations. Some have raised the possibly that the gene resulted from an admixture between Neanderthals (or other primitive Homo-Erectus humans in Asia) and modern humans. What's also interesting about this gene is it emerged around 37,000 years ago, right around the time of Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon co-existence. The rapid raise of the gene's distribution suggests a sudden introduction of an element (mutation, environmental factor, other human population) that was not present earlier.

However, the Neanderthals currently being studied and mapped
do not show the presence of the modern Microcephalin gene, but the more primitive form of the Microcephalin gene (shared by Sub-Saharan Africans) . Thus the admixture theory so far does not hold water.

The other possibly is that the gene was established in the modern human population prior to exiting Africa, and this is the 'special quality' that allowed our dominance and eventual replacement of all other humans. Or, the gene evolved in modern humans during the time of interaction with Neanderthals, but was not contributed by them.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

What You Do Learn in School

Contrary to popular belief, kids do learn some facts in school. Every once in awhile, apart from my usual subject study, some world knowledge fact comes up in class and is verified. Today, a boy asked, 'what is the biggest animal that's ever lived?'

I knew the blue whale was the largest animal
now living. But I didn't know that the blue whale is also the largest creature that's EVER inhabited earth! (*no dinosaur fossil has yet reached the size of the blue whale) How amazing that we now share the earth with the largest living creature ever!

Blue whales can grow to be up to 110 feet in length! And they mostly diet on krill--- tons and tons of it. Recently the blue whale population has made a modest comeback (4,500 globe-wide). In the 19th and 20th centuries, 99% of the blue whale population was killed during whaling. Originally there were thought to be 200,000 blue whales on earth. We still have to continue to protect this gorgeous creature!

Listen to the blue whale song!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Language Tree

I came across this on the net. It's a tree (click on to see more clearly) and chart outlining the Indo-European languages. In terms of human evolution, what does this chart tell us about the origins of the Europeans? More than likely Europeans evolved from Cro Magnon people migrating out of the Middle East and India, as the oldest and only languages pointing to a different geographical region are Iranian, Indic, and Anatolian.

I'm wondering about all the African languages, and the Asian languages. Did the Asian languages come from a separately evolving Homo-Erectus group? Are the languages of Southern Africa unrelated to the Indo-European languages because the people stayed put and did not migrate like the Northern Africans and Middle Easterners?

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Wanting Stuff

We all want/ need stuff, usually. Sometimes I feel guilty that I WANT so many things. I'm sure many of these things I do not REALLY need.

Still, we
all have our lists of desired items.

The funny part is, there are just as many objects and gadgets that I DON'T WANT. I thought of this one day around Christmastime when I got a flier in the mail with automotive stuff on sale. I thought: "I hope no one in my family buys me any of this stuff." It further amazed me that ANYONE would want these items, since
I found them so unappealing.

Below are some things I definitely want/ need, and would be delighted to acquire. Also included are some items, that, even if I won them in a contest, and they were worth money, I still would not want! What a relief!
As they say, "One person's junk is another person's treasure."

Civil war reenactor pants -------------book about the caucasian mummies found in China
purple bike helmet, obviously desirable


a rachet set. not even sure what it's for.------beer-making kit. no thanks
okay, wouldn't get caught dead in this.....

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Norway Diary Part 1

Jen & Judy

In August 2001 my sister Jen, my mom, and I went on a bus tour in Norway. It was a dream come true, and I am so glad my mom decided to go. Her Dad was born in Norway, and none of the family (except me) had ever traveled back to the 'homeland'. By 2001, most of our immediate relatives had passed on, except for my mom's cousin Kjell. It turned out we didn't get to meet him though.

During the trip we kept a daily diary. Each of us would write an entry, then pass it on with a paper clip hiding all previous entries. Hence we never read the entire diary or others' observations until we got home. It is striking to see the different perspectives. We all had a fantastic time.

Aug. 18, 2001 Sat. Nite
I can't believe I'm in Norway! My Dad's homeland. So far everything's great... I love being here with my girls. Miss John. Hopefully John and I can come again. Anxious to see the rest of the tour. Oslo is nice, but a big CITY. I want to see the country! Judy

Aug. 19 Sunday
So here we are! We are just getting on the bus. I'm looking forward to seeing some natural wonders of Norway. Oslo is very similar to many cities. It's very modern looking though Jen was talking to a man who said there is an old medieval section. I'd like to see that when we come back next Sat. Also, I saw many bookstores. I'd like to get a copy of Kristen Larvansdatter in Norwegian just for the novelty of it! But more importantly one bookstore had bygdebokers. We'll see if I can find the one on Haus.
Yesterday we walked around a bit in Oslo. I saw some beautiful sweaters. I'm determined that will be my big purchase. I'd love to buy Zach a sweater. They're cute--- but he'd outgrow it so quickly.
Our hotel room was very comfortable with beautiful wooden floors.
We had a fantastic breakfast. I sampled some salmon caviar, which was delicious. The cocoa was also fantastic.
The beer here so far is not so good-- also the coffee. But so far we've had a good time. It's fun to be here. I think Jen likes it so far. Yesterday when we were landing in Oslo the sights of the fjords were amazing. Mom got a little emotional when she first set sight of Norway. Carolyn

Jen & Carolyn
August 2001 Norway Trip 17th, 18th-- morning of 19th.
We left Boston after a block of torture tan van traffic time. Check-in and flight were fine, though leg cramps and no window seat! Cool little individual seat screens and games. "Will and Grace" at 600+ mph ground speed-- Yah! Got to Zurich-- airports are airports--waited for second flight to Oslo. Seats were bigger (smaller plane). No SLEEP YET! Uneasy landing in Oslo. Met our queen of the tour after waltzing through customs. Ma wants to ditch her gaudy pillow but she was afraid they would think it was a bomb. No one wants a complimentary body cavity search on holiday!
We got to Oslo and checked in to our roomy hotel room. We were very tired-- this was Saturday afternoon. We walked around Oslo a bit-- went into a church. I'm church jaded after Germany though. Oslo is rather ugly, actually, aside from a few old buildings. The newer architecture is like a bad version of 70's American chic. Oslo is like a poser European city.
Carolyn did a mad search for a Norwegian sweater (I wouldn't be caught buried in a swamp in one of those!) No. They are attractive, but not my way of stylin. We ate at the hotel-- T.G.I.F. and slept for ten hours. Nice biodegradable soapy shower and off on the bus with the oldsters. Note about that later! Jen