Friday, June 26, 2009

Homebirth 101

Northern bro checking in: Well, if all goes according to schedule, a rarity in Linda’s family where babies tend to come about 2 weeks late, then our newest arrival will make an appearance within the next month. Yikes!! Its strange – we feel both much more prepared for this arrival than the last and at the same time much less prepared. On the one hand we have a much better idea as to what to expect and what we will need. On the other hand, before Evelyn came along we could devote all our time to getting ready for the baby; we painted her room, assembled the crib, bought washed and folded onesies, diapers, etc. We were ready. This time, with a 3 year old to watch and experience under our belt we realize that folded diapers don’t stay that way, and a diaper straight from the clothesline is as good as a folded one anyway.

Of course, the fact that we have chosen homebirth complicates things a bit. Linda was keener on the idea than I. While nothing went terribly wrong with Evelyn’s birth, it was evident throughout the process that our preferences for the birthing process – and Linda had some very strong preferences – took a back seat to hospital regulations and the comfort of the hospital staff for as long as labor lasted. The bed they had Linda on for the final stages of delivery was so uncomfortable (no back support) that she still says that the periods between pushes were more painful than pushing. Not a good sign. So Linda was inclined to try homebirth from the beginning. Then, not to long after moving to our new home a year and a half ago she struck up a friendship with a woman who is… a naturopath and a midwife. Then we toured the local hospitals and saw our choices. That is where I came on board. The closest hospital was the one in which I was born all those years ago, and I swear they haven’t done anything to improve it in the intervening years.

So homebirth it is, and we are getting ready. We have had the orientation from the midwife. Our birth kit has arrived. A month ago I didn’t know what a birth kit was but – get this – you can place an on line order and viola, a few days later a box shows up that has all the antiseptics, latex gloves and other items I won’t mention needed to facilitate a home birth. We have the receiving blankets ready. The midwife is ready, complete with monitors, oxygen and who knows what else. We are in the process of turning the living room into a delivery room. We have the plastic sheets for the futon/bed that Linda will use when not in the birthing tub. Did I mention that we borrowed a birthing tub from another friend? Now all we have to do is figure out how to set it up….

I think if the baby were to arrive today we would be all set, even if a little startled by the early arrival. As Linda is fond of saying, pregnancy/birth is not a disease; there is not need to go to the place sick people go to when it is time to give birth. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the hospital is less than 5 minutes away just in case.

Talk about an adventure.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


ERUCTILE DYSFUNCTION  -noun  An inability to burp
What a difference a letter makes.


Thursday, June 11, 2009


While I'm on an "as heard on All Things Considered" kick (look back a few posts), several weeks ago they ran a series on the science of spirituality, and one of the segments was about an area in the brain that seems to be active when people experience visions or other spiritual revelations. It turns out that this area is stimulated by some mental illneases and produces symptoms such as seeing visions and hearing voices. One scientist has even invented a "God Helmet" that stimulates this area magnetically to create artificial visions. The speculation is that when ordinary people (meaning those without mental illness) have spiritual revelations, it's due to activity in this part of the brain, which has been nicknamed the Godspot.

One question that the ATC segment asked is whether this discovery calls into question the credibility of spiritual revelations -- whether or not revelations are merely expressions of mental disturbance in the Godspot. One scientist stated flatly that the Godspot "proves there is no God" (or words to that effect).


If you've been reading this blog for a while, you know I'm an atheist, so I don't have an axe to grind here, but at the same time I have trouble abiding stupidity and illogic. If I were a theist (which I'm not), the discovery of the Godspot wouldn't shake my faith in God. Rather the opposite: If no Godspot had been discovered, I would have considered that a challenge to belief in God's existence. The Godspot strengthens the argument for God's existence.


Well, let's look at an example vision. It doesn't matter which one -- let's take the angel's appearance to Mary to announce she would become pregnant with Jesus. Any vision will do, but we'll use this one:

Looking at this revelation from a theistic point of view, the angel is a supernatural manifestation. The angel exists in the supernatural world. However, when it's all over, Mary's experience of the angel resides in her memory -- a biological and chemical state in her brain which is natural, not supernatural. So what's happened is that the experience of the angel has bridged over from the supernatural world -- a world that Mary can't access under normal, every-day circumstances -- to the natural world -- the chemistry in Mary's mind. Since Mary herself is not a supernatural being and does not have supernatural senses, there has to be some mechanism that allows the supernatural manifestation to translate into a natural manifestation. Call this the "Natural/Supernatural Interface," or, since I'm a geek, the NSI.

Now, if you aren't thinking this completely through, you might say that there's no need for an NSI -- that God just "communicates." But that's simplistic. The end result of the communication is a chemical state in Mary's brain, and somehow that had to be brought about. That "somehow" is the NSI.

So, what is the nature of the NSI? Well, the simplest NSI that I can imagine is that the supernatural angel emits natural light and sound which is perceived by Mary's eyes and ears. So Mary sees and hears the angel the way she would a natural person. But there's a couple of reasons why God would consider this NSI to be subpar. First, we are very limited in the depth of experience that we can perceive through only sight and sound, and I assume that the supernatural world is even richer and more intense than our natural one, so relying only on sight and sound would require a big dumbing down of the supernatural experience. Also, we know from studies where groups of people are exposed to the same event and then asked what they saw that the experience of sight and sound is pretty unreliable; different people perceive the same scene differently, which hardly makes it a great choice for receiving God's communications.

Another possible NSI is that the supernatural being simply made the chemical changes necessary in Mary's brain so that she "remembered" experiencing the angel. But this seems awkward to me, especially for real-time communication, as Mary would have to first recall each step of the experience in order to form a response.

No, it seems to me that the most effective way for God to ensure that He and His supernatural agents could communicate with natural beings would be to provide a Godspot -- an area of the brain where the supernatural could "draw" the experience directly into the brain of the natural being, as on a slate or blackboard, but affecting many senses and on many levels. That God would create in us a Godspot makes perfect sense.

Well, you might say, if the Godspot is a Divine creation, then how does it become diseased (in people with delusional mental disorders)? Wouldn't God make it immune from disease and reserve it solely for his use?

Um... no. The Godspot is, after all, on the "natural side" of the Natural/Supernatural Interface, and so, like all natural things, it must be subject to disease. If it weren't, it would be, well... unnatural. It also makes perfect sense that the Godspot, being part of the natural brain, would be subject to artificial stimulation that would create false revelations.

So I would find vindication of my faith in the discovery of the Godspot. If I were a theist.

But I'm not.

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Sunday, June 07, 2009

Evelyn Update +

There can be no denying that I have neglected posting notes of Evelyn’s development on this blog, and for that there are many excuses, and maybe even a reason or two. Suffice it to say that when Evelyn became mobile about 2 years ago we realized that the golden days when it was easy to keep track of her were all but gone. She is now a wonderful 3 year old who continues to brighten our lives, except now she is more akin to a firefly who flits from place to place than a candle providing light from a single location. Finding time to write is not as easy as it used to be.

Independence looms. We still, of course, accompany her to the neighborhood park, but this year she is just as likely to find some playmates to go down the slide with as she is to ask us to follow her from one device to the next. Every time I begin to tire of pushing her on the swing I remember that next year she probably won’t want Dad to push her on the swing anymore, and that will be not be good.

Of course, the big news is that in approximately 6 weeks she will become a big sister. (We are planning a homebirth, so I'll probably write about that soon). All is going well on that front, both Mom and the baby are doing well. Evelyn is also doing well. We are about 4 months in to reading her the ‘I’m about to become a big sister’ books that we collected a while back. We have been describing the joys of big sisterhood to her, and for the most part she is looking forward to it. About once a week she tells us that a ‘little tiny baby’ is coming to live with us while holding her thumb and forefinger about half an inch apart. We tell her the baby won’t be quite that little. It is so interesting to see her regress a bit, which we hear is very common. She occasionally sticks a pacifier in her mouth (something she NEVER did as a baby), taking it out to tell us “I’m a little baby”. It is very cute.

Speaking of cute, occasionally I still have to sing her to sleep and recently I have been singing songs to her that she doesn’t know to minimize the chance that she will sing along, and thus stay awake longer. The result, or course, is that she has now learned most of the words to both “American Pie” and “City of New Orleans”. So this evening we came back from a drive and I was carrying her across the driveway to the front door when she belts out at the top of her lungs “…and the good old boys are drinking whiskey and rye, singing this’ll be the day that I die”. As Linda says, we will have a lot of explaining to do next time we bring her to a sing-a-long at the city library.


Monday, June 01, 2009

Underdogishere's Fourth Annual Welcome to Hurricane Season

Those of you that have been reading this blog for a while (I think there's one of you) may remember that I have an annual tradition called the Renaming of the Storms. It started in 2006, when I realized that the official system of naming hurricanes is boring and just plain lacking in imagination. Since then I've been proposing alternative names, each sharing a common theme. We've had the Season of Cheeses (2006), the Season of Greek Gods (2007), and the Season of Flowers (2008). (Click here to see my previous hurricane-related posts.) My names are designed to be not only interesting, but educational. And this year's group promises to be the most educational and thought-provoking yet:

Ladies and gentlemen, on this, the first day of the 2009 Hurricane Season, I bring you...

...The Season of Mayan Gods.

The Mayans had a really startling pantheon -- startling at least to those of us reared on tamer European gods. But the Mayan gods are an especially appropriate choice, because the word hurricane is derived from the name of their god of gale force winds, Huracan, who also represents H on this year's list.

I've included what these were gods (or goddesses) of, and many make great hurricane names -- check out Muan, "messenger bearing unwelcome tidings," for example. And after the hurricane is past, you can always de-stress with Ekchauh, god of chocolate.

Here we go:
Acan (wine and intoxicating beverages), Bacabs (four giant brothers who hold up the four corners of the sky), Chiccan (four rain serpents -- Gods of Rain), Dubdo (corn), Ekchuah (chocolate), Frog-God (frogs?), Gucumatz (agriculture), Huracan (gale force winds, root of our word hurricane), Ixpiyacoc (creator), Jurupari (a god from the Tupi people of the Amazon: tried and failed to create a totally male-dominated world), Kawil (lightning and fire), Lahunpel (sacrifices), Muan (messenger bearing unwelcome tidings), Ndoyet (death and sacred objects), Oxlahuntiku (thirteen-gods-in-one of the Upper World), Pichana-Gobeche (healing), Quiabelagayo (pleasure and pain), Ramac (an Inca god: "He who speaks"), Sotz (bats), Tohil (fire), Uayeb (five unlucky days), Votan (warfare and death), Wonomi (from the Maidu people of California: creator), Xquic ("Miss Blood"), Yaluk (lightning), Zipacna (Earth's crust)

I wasn't happy with F (Frog-God -- apparently the Mayan name for him is unknown), but that was the only F I had. Also, I had to raid other Native American cultures for J (Tupis), I (Incas), and W (Maidus), because the Mayans didn't have any good candidates of their own. But aside from that, how great is Uayeb -- god of five unlucky days? I've been through hurricanes like that. And isn't it interesting that the same god, Quiabelagayo, is the god of both pleasure and pain? I can see lots of interesting discussions in classrooms all along the Florida penninsular and the Gulf Coast. Also interesting pronounciations -- exactly how do you say Xquic anyway?

Many thanks to the awesome Web site God Checker, which documents thousands of gods, goddesses, and god-lets from scores of religions and cultures. Check them out while you wait for Hurricane Acan, and, oh, by the way, be sure to stock up on hurricane supplies like wine and intoxicating spirits!


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