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Dinosaurs > Alligators > Chickens?

A few months ago, I was on a date with my (now ex-)boyfriend in Cambridge. We were at a Southern style restaurant that served fried alligator. I’ve had gator before in the South, when I lived there, and I remembered it tasting somewhat like chicken. During dinner, I commented that chickens were related to gators. I also commented that chickens were also essentially new-age dinosaurs. My (ex)bf laughed at me so hard and said that I was completely wrong and asked, somewhat condescendingly, if I had learned that in kindergarten as an urban legend.

chicken-dinosaur_2

Completely shocked, I was embarrassed that I had been called out like that for thinking of such a false familial connection and tucked my tail. I said that I thought that I had learned it SOMEWHERE and thought that it had a ring of truth, if only a little. Then, I went home afterwards and regaled the story to my roommates who both looked at me, again somewhat condescendingly, saying that chickens are not related to alligators nor are they dinosaurs, or something to that effect. They’re in different geneses or similar but definitely not related. “That’s what an Arkansas education will get you,” they all said, somewhat jokingly.

Completely defeated by now, I realized that I had been false in thinking an apparently “obvious” truth for so long. I hate feeling like someone is speaking condescendingly to me as if I am the silliest person to have such thoughts. BUT, I refused to give up 100% because somewhere inside my brain, I had read that chickens were related to dinosaurs!

I KNEW that I wasn’t fully crazy when I thought that chickens somehow were related to alligators and dinosaurs when I recently did some more research and read up on some more science. The Harvard Gazette reported that:

Alligators and birds are part of the same larger group, called archosaurs, which has existed for 250 million years and which has given rise not only to birds and crocodilians, but also to dinosaurs. Though dinosaurs are now extinct, the crocodilians, such as alligators, crocodiles, and narrow-jawed gharials live on, and scientists see in them many characteristics of the primitive archosaurs.
(…)
Millions of years ago, archosaurs diverged into several groups, scientists say. One became modern crocodilians, and another dinosaurs. The dinosaurs evolved many forms, including the smaller and feathered kind, like the archaeopteryx, which is considered ancestral to modern birds.
Then I dug a little deeper and found that the University of Kent had reported on this avian > dinosaur connection:
Professor (Darren) Griffin explained that bird genomes are distinctive in that they have more tiny microchromosomes than any other vertebrate group. These small packages of gene-rich material are thought to have been present in their dinosaur ancestors. The team found that the chicken has the most similar overall chromosome pattern to its avian dinosaur ancestor.
OK, so it’s possible that the current form of chicken that we know was once part of the dinosaur population and had to adapt to battle extinction. So what about alligators? Where do they fit in? Are chickens and alligators related? The short answer, is yes, in a way. Many, many years ago they came from the same group: the Archosaurs.
I found this little helpful article on Discovery Kids that gave me a little bit more on the dinosaur-esque alligator:
Danger and scariness aside, alligators are amazing animals. They’ve been around for millions of years, and they’re about as close as we’ll probably ever get to seeing a living dinosaur.
IN CONCLUSION, I realized that while I was mostly right about chickens being related to gators and to dinosaurs, there is a more nuanced distinction between crocodiles/alligators and chicken in the present day. They all are, however, descended from the same ancestors, essentially, countless years ago. So I don’t feel like such a dummy!

dinsoaurs ruled the mind

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Trauma.Terror.Fear.

The trauma from the night before
Flashes before my eyes.
I see the bloodshot eyes, they bulge,
They utterly terrify.
The blood splatter on my arms,
It stains me.
The phantom bruises on my shoulders,
They pain me.
The dead was waking right before me
He lunged in anger to attack me.
What started out as a tragedy
Quickly turned to onslaught.
The Good Samaritan in the beginning
Turned victim of assault.
The thump of a body smashes the window.
The body rolls before us.
The car, it brakes, yet others don’t.
More important obligations await them.
The body bleeds, blood thinned from alcohol.
The pavement turns bright red, too cold to absorb it.
The body breathes raggedly,
Like a zombie lying before me.
Then slowly he begins to wake,
The anger quickly boiling.
He rolls around and groans in pain.
(I’m sure his arm is broken.)
What look like an extended arm
Soon turns into a bludgeon.
My instinct to help begins to assist,
But quickly the fear within surfaces.
This body is not aware,
But it is out for blood.
Upon his feet he stumbles and falls
Into the bushes he tumbles.
The internal tug-of-war beckons,
Do I help or do I let him fumble?
At once he turns to me and grabs,
Trying to choke or perhaps turn me.
The kindness in me refrains from resistance,
Until I fear for my life’s ending.
I tuck and duck and push him away
His death grip on my arm not lessening.
I pull away while a neighbor assists.
As I escape the dead turns to the driver.
In a falling tackle, he takes her down
Her screams of apologies echoing out.
We cry out for salvation and frustration.
We pry his body off of her.
It takes four of us to separate the tussle.
Blood-speckled and hearts racing,
The emergency responders arrive,
Their haste quite unapparent.
What could have turned to further danger,
Was halted, the Hulk was now restrained.
The walk to the ambulance was brief.
The battle inside ongoing.
In one, now two, now four, now six
Large men against a zombie
The battle raged, the roars inside  chilling.
A shirt torn off,
Straps now engaged,
Subduing what was happening.
Quite shaken and afraid,
My heart starts to beat much slower.
I look down to my foot; it’s cold.
There’s a boot no longer there.
The zombie scuffle divorced me of material things.
What’s more important, a soul or a sole?

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Slow Down, Right Now

I’ve had an epiphany. I’ve realized that I’ve been speeding along in life for the past three-four years, and I haven’t even stopped to reflect or to catch my breath. I spend my time just filling my time, and the thought of having idle time sounds like torture to me. Though I’ve stayed extremely busy and have done thousands of things, I still feel unfulfilled. None of my jobs make me happy for long. I get bored. I need to move on. My relationships don’t last. I get tired or I feel inadequate. My self-esteem fluctuates between pride and self-hatred. I’m addicted to affection and attention. I try to control and perfect all the situations around me at all times.

I just read this blog post: Nine Lessons from Breakups and it was a slap in the face but also enlightening. It helped me recognize a pattern that has been ruling my life, and it helped me realize an even greater cause of my unhappiness. I’ve been rushing through life without looking before I leap and dealing with the consequences afterwards. I’ve been reckless in many ways, and I have felt like I am indestructible. I haven’t trusted or confided in God. I haven’t looked inside myself with a critical, Godly lens. I have been out there living on my own with no support. I’ve rejected God for the past few years, and have wondered why I’m unhappy. HELLO, wake up call, Katherine, you’re forgetting the most important part of happiness – a life in God and dedicated to Him. Derp de derp.

How do I get back? I’m not sure. But, I’m sure that I need to slow down. I need to reassess my life.

This song by Paolo Nutini is a good song that reminds me to slow down and to reflect, but the context of the song is more sexual than I’m reading it. Listening to this as if it were God telling me to slow down:

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The Tipping Point – Can We Change Stigmas?

I’m halfway done reading Malcolm Gladwell’s book The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, and it is blowing my mind. I just read Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Gladwell the other day, which in itself is a mind blower. These books are just making me think so much!

For those of you have read this, I’ll briefly recap some of what Gladwell talks about. For those of you who haven’t read it, you definitely need to read it! Tipping Point is all about how there are certain small things that happen that “tip” a whole bunch of things over the edge, resulting in some mass action. He talks about Paul Revere’s midnight ride and how successful it was because of Revere’s power as a Maven of information as well as a Connector because of his personality. This means that Revere was more successful than someone else in that position because he had what it took to take a lot of small noises and movements and transform it into a movement.

Gladwell also talks about the power of Sesame Street and Blue’s Clues in creating “sticky” information for children who learn from these programs in different ways because of their ability to create an educational virus. Meaning that they were extremely successful programs because of how they approached the material and how they communicated it.

Finally, Gladwell talks about the power of context. This is the section that spoke to me the most because of my interest in taking down stigmas against aging, especially in the U.S.

Once you understand that context matters, however, that specific and relatively small elements in the environment can serve as Tipping Points, that defeatism is turned upside down.

Gladwell is talking about the importance of environmental contexts in shaping how we interact with each other and how our personality/character changes according to our environment. This got me to thinking about how do we translate this to a world focused on providing better services for older adults? What is that environmental context?

I get the sense that the context that non-older people interact with older people is a huge determinant in how we feel about said older people. Generally, we see old people as people in nursing homes or in wheelchairs. We see them as frail, unable to perform simple tasks, outdated, out of touch, foreign, etc. This list goes on and on. When we see people this way, in a negative environment, we then have a negative impression of them.

So, to change how we see the people, we have to change how we see the environment. Or we have to change the environment itself. This means that we have to make areas surrounding older adults attractive and pleasant. I think this would help everyone have better thoughts of older adults, including those older adults themselves.

Where do we begin? Media? Marketing? There are attractive retirement communities and exciting looking housing units. We have to make these people seem accessible and relatable. How do we change perspectives, and where do we begin?

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The American Way of Life – People on Public Assistance/Welfare/Benefits

The following blog post is more of stream-of-consciousness blathering, but I’d like to think that some of what I say is probably the truth. After all, this is all from my life experience, and I think that counts for something!

I get tired of seeing all of these stupid e-cards on Facebook and around that say stupid stuff:

Then there are the ones that counter this:

My conservative friends think that it is O.K. to assume that everyone who is a minority or who is a single mother shopping at Walmart is on welfare. They also assume that it’s O.K. to talk negatively about these women because they just sit around all day in their pajamas, popping out babies, hanging out on their iPhones and wasting taxpayer money.

I find a lot of things wrong with this. Some things that contribute to this misunderstanding: classism, racism, sexism, ignorance, soapboxing, misunderstandings of true welfare, financial instability, corporatism, mainstream media and much more.

My rant

First of all, how many of you have actually sat down and had a conversation with a woman on welfare? I can say that living in the South, 99% of the white people or middle to upper class people around me had never had a conversation with  women on welfare, or oftentimes people of color. You maybe talked “at” someone, but did you ever sit down and have a conversation with them as an equal? Most definitely not. So, first things first, you don’t know what you’re talking about. You don’t know these women’s lives. You don’t understand what has happened to them to make them be in this position.

Yes, maybe they are on welfare, with children, walking around in pajamas, with a cell phone and not working. Did you ever think of how that person got there? Maybe when she was 16 years old she got raped by her uncle or by a friend of her brother who didn’t bother to use a condom. She didn’t have health insurance and her family was religious, so she couldn’t abort the baby. She had to take care of the baby. Then it happened again.

OR maybe a young girl who was discriminated against in a mostly-white high school dropped out to have a child. And because she was uneducated (because no one ever gave her a chance), she ended up having to work low-wage jobs at $4-7 and hour. Unable to afford to take care of herself or her newborn on that money, she sought out public assistance. All of her friends in similar situations told her that she should have more children so she could get more money to pay for her kids, so she could live. Maybe she lives in a place where white people won’t hire people of color.

If you’re being discriminated against and it’s near impossible to get a job but you have to support your children, then what other option do you have to provide for your family? Other than prostitution or illegal activities, which some people resort to doing.

You blame these women for being on welfare and not wanting to get off of it, but think about their lives. Would YOU hire a black woman over a white woman? Are you inherently racist? Are you conditioned to thinking that black people are lazy so you’ll never hire them? Are you just ignorant of the institutionalized racism these people have faced since slavery and before?

How can you blame someone for something that they can’t control? How can you blame them for seeking out the only viable option to survive and to provide for their children? If you had a chance to take your tax money and put it towards helping other people, would you consider putting it towards an educational fund? No, probably not. If you had a choice, your racist self wouldn’t be interested in that. Taxes are the only way some people would ever give to another ethnic group. This would never be a conscious decision.

NEXT – while you’re busy watching Fox News spout lies about our black president Obama (THANKS OBAMA), you begin to internalize all of the half-facts that permeate the airwaves. You see your friends and others on social media complaining about welfare and the cost it has on our lives. You complain that public assistance is bloated and so wasteful. But, then you don’t realize that the media is promulgating half-truths and no one is able to counter them as widely and loudly. Six companies own nearly all of the media enterprises in our country. Six companies run by rich white dudes who have an interest in keeping people of color down. Do you think they get upset when lies are promoted on their media? Probably not. This goes back to the missing link between knowing and talking to a welfare recipient and just regurgitating bullshit that you see on Facebook and hear from uneducated, racist people in your life.

If you have never talked to someone on welfare without having a stick up your ass, then you haven’t seen the full picture and therefore your opinion is unbacked.

Do the research yourself. A 2013 study reported that:

Data from the U.S. Census Bureau and public benefit programs show 52 percent of fast-food cooks, cashiers and other “front-line” staff had relied on at least one form of public assistance, such as Medicaid, food stamps and the Earned Income Tax Credit program, between 2007 and 2011, researchers at the University of California-Berkeley and the University of Illinois said.

With minimum wage really low, considering the massive inflated costs of things nowadays, even people with jobs still have to get onto public assistance because it is impossible to live on $7.15/hr with no medical benefits. People work two jobs and have no time for their families. They can’t afford trips to the doctors, so they wait until the last minute and go to the ER. They face problems all of the time in being discriminated against.

You act like people on welfare want to be at the bottom of the food chain; like they want to be hated. Do you think that it is human nature to not want to provide for yourself? We still all believe in the American Dream, of making our lives better and reaching some goal. But when some of us have literal walls blocking our ways to even get started on that, sometimes we can’t manage and just give up. We become part of the system because we have to eat, as do our children.

End of rant

I know that this is going to be considered an angry, progressive, unfounded rant. I get that. I didn’t do all sorts of research on this. I am just going off of what I know about people on welfare and people who talk shit about others on welfare. If you want to complain about your taxes, complain about the fact that megabillion dollar corporations operate with massive amount of risk and have no sense of patriotism to the country that has allowed them to thrive. Think of the wasteful amount of money spent on the wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan. The Defense budget that builds planes that cost millions of dollars to make that they don’t even end up using because drones do a better job. We are not really that vulnerable as a country in terms of defense. We ARE vulnerable in our culture though. When a majority of the wealth is held by 5% of the population, and people are constantly struggling to make ends meet, then is our sovereignty as a country threatened. We’re threatened by ourselves. We are the ones who are allowing this to happen, and the more we put people in cages and ridicule them for not being able to Houdini their ways out of there, the more we are destroying what it means to be American.

People on welfare are not the problem here. The problem is that we are not unified as a country, and we are allowing the capitalist ideology take over our sense of community and human identity. We are putting people aside in search of the bottom line, and we are failing miserably to pull ourselves out of debt as a country.

I digress. But another point is that there are more white people on welfare than there are black people, so don’t just stereotype everyone on welfare. #TheMoreYouKnow.

Conclusion

I guess the point of this ranting blog post is to encourage us to think about the cause of our problems and not the people are are affected by the problem. Picking on people who are on welfare is not going to change the structure of welfare.

  • Fighting racism and classism is a first step. These are humans who are trying to survive. They are not some subspecies of human, although some extreme racists may see it that way.
  • Instead of looking at the person on welfare, look at the policy that makes public assistance happen.
  • Talk to someone on welfare, understand their needs and wants. There is a human behind that stereotype.
  • Blame the system and not the people affected by an unfair system.
  • If no of this is appealing, then keep it to yourself. Or admit you don’t know it all. There’s no need to feel threatened. If you don’t like where your taxes are going, stop paying them. Protest. Or lobby to have tax reform. Don’t just complain about something that you know very little about. That just shows ignorance and hatred.

Further Resources:

Legacy, the documentary.

“Who benefits from the safety net?” NYTimes.com

 

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I guess I am a runner…perhaps a crazy one

yacht club runningPeople have always thought that I was weird for running when I’m drunk or have been drinking. I used to run in D.C. all of the time. I would be in the U Street area and my other friends would be in Dupont Circle. I could A) take the Metro and spend 35-60 minutes waiting. I could B) take two buses to get down to Dupont plus walking. I could C) take an expensive taxi or Uber ride. Or D) I could walk/run there.

I usually chose to run because it was, to me, the most efficient way to get there. It may not be the most normal way to do it (it most certainly isn’t, actually), but for me it was fun. I was totally fine running barefoot, in flats or in heeled boots (sometimes) to my destination, oftentimes with a nice buzz aiding my efforts. I did this all throughout D.C. (mostly in the “safe,” well-populated areas), and I have done it a couple of times here in Cambridge/Boston.

One of my favorite times to run is in the morning or the evening in the dark. I feel like I’m all alone and running in the stars to some faraway galaxy. I don’t have to worry too much about what other people think of me when I run by them because they don’t always see me.

Of course this isn’t the safest thing to do in the city. Obviously I know that. But, I like to take risks and figured if I was running most people would have to stop and think about messing with me, and by then, I would have already flown by them. The most interesting thing about my night runs were the odd stares I get from people while I’m flying by, grinning like a fool. The wind blows through my hair as I run, and I feel alive as the alcohol-buzzed blood flows through my veins.

With drunk running, I get to my destination in no time. I get some exercise to burn off those beers I just drank. And, I get to do what I love – running at night. Seems like a win-win to me. As I mentioned, this isn’t the safest thing to do. But, if we spend our time just worrying about safety all of the time, we forget that we can enjoy ourselves living somewhat on the edge.

I just finished reading ultramarathon guru and legend Scott Jurek’s book called Eat and Run which is about his life as an ultrarunner and a vegan/vegetarian/raw foodie. He talks about runs being for people to escape worries and thoughts for the alternative of being present in their lives and in existence. One with the body and the mind with not a care in the world other than the basic essentials.

I love this philosophy of running and it makes sense. Coming off of my first marathon, I still have that runner’s high and that sense of tranquility of the long run in my mind. People think I’m crazy to have done 26.2 miles, just as people thought that I was crazy that I used to run randomly at night. People say “I would never do that. I could NEVER do that” about running in general, let alone night running.

But, as Jurek points out in his book, running, especially ultras (think 100+ mile runs), makes people realize something about life – it is all about the way you do something not the end result. For me, running is a means and an end but it is mostly about a journey. It’s the sense of being a basic part of nature and doing something that your body loves to do.

It’s amazing. I really have become a running convert. I used to run many years ago when I was a child, but then I broke my leg and had various surgeries and problems with my legs and was afraid to run. Coming back into it the past year and a half has reawakened a sense of longing and joy in me that I have only found recently in Bikram yoga.

So, for all of you people out there who think runners are crazy, you’re right. We are crazy. But you wanna know what else? We’re crazy happy most of the time and we get that way by putting ourselves on our feet and going. Life IS about the journey and we should spend our time enjoying and doing rather than worrying and thinking too hard.

Go for a run and just keep going. Don’t stop after one attempt. When did anyone get good at something after one shot? Open your mind and enjoy.

Maybe you’ll catch me night running sometime when you’re out on a weekend.