Why Women are Better than Men or Dogs

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Remember Pavlov, the scientist who taught us about conditioned response? He rang a bell and a few moments later he’d drop a little kibble in front of his canine subject. The animal became so accustomed to the tinkling sound that it would salivate anytime Pavlov jingled his brass bell. Pavlov dubbed this effect ‘conditioned response’ and taught us that we can use associations to modify behavior.

To his dogs, Pavlov was just a butler who annoyed them by occasionally forgetting the food. Conditioned response works best when the mind is not cluttered by conflict and angst. If Pavlov experimented with Jasminelive women instead of dogs he would have abandoned his theory. We women are not fond of stimulus/response. We have a disproportionate serving of conflict and angst. This means the same stimulus can elicit a blistering array of responses. If Pavlov rang his bell around women and rewarded us with food, we might complain about the bell or the food, or just pretend that we’re listening when we’re really thinking about what we need to accomplish this weekend.

The weekend bell rings and males have a conditioned response that has something to do with a couch, a few beers and a remote control devicefor Livejasmin.cc website. Women hear the bell and think it’s a starting salvo for a frantic 48-hour race. Sure, if you ring a bell on Friday afternoon, I’ll salivate. By Sunday I’m exhausted and still looking for the bowl. I am un-trainable. I still look forward to weekends. I count the days, then the hours until Friday afternoon. Women hear the bell just like men and dogs. Women just postpone the reward indefinitely, weekend-in, weekend-out.

Up early on Saturday, hit the gym, grab coffee on the way home, do seven loads of laundry, clean the refrigerator, plan the meals, make the grocery list and check jasminlive e-mail. Clean the bathrooms, update office inventories, go shopping, iron clothes, make dinner. Revise plans to rebuild the deck while on hold with an airline, try to read two chapters of a decent book, collapse. Jumble and repeat.

Is it any wonder that by Sunday evening I am ready to bite someone? I’ll show you a friggin’ conditioned response. I have just ruined another weekend by jamming it full, and I resent my behavior so much that I ruin many Sundays doing extra work in the hope that doing MORE this weekend will make next weekend a breeze. If you are a woman you understand this. If you are a man, please stop laughing. It just pisses us off.

If Pavlov had been right I’d hate weekends by now. Are women missing the neurons for conditioned response? I can only come to the conclusion that women are less trainable than men OR dogs, which makes my gender superior to both.

It’s Sunday night and I am hopelessly wagging my tail: one weekend is almost over, another only five days away. Let’s see how much I can accomplish in the next three hours, so maybe next weekend I can just “Sit, Bitch. Sit.”

Virgo’s Milk

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He was eight when I told him that every bubble in a glass of milk turns into a burp when it’s swallowed. For months he speared the edges of his tumbler with a toothpick. On occasion I’d tell him he swallowed one—I saw it!—he would open his little mouth wide to force it out. If I put on a pouty face and said, “Too late,” he’d produce a pitifully entertaining wail.

“Stop that, Roger.” Our mom was too busy with her streamate job and a passel of other fellows to ask Roger why he poured so slowly and why, at every meal, he rolled his milk around the inside rim to pop every last opaque dome with a small wooden stick. He looked so pathetically intent and I felt so powerful. I was ten.

Roger, the youngest of five, was neat and quiet and still somewhat gullible in the year after Dad died. I was next-to-last, an ‘also ran’ in the family race, noisy and messy and as selfish then as I am to this day. The first three fellows, Win, Place and Show, had ribbons in their stalls. I was left to run wild and Roger brought up the rear. I had to get back at Roger. He was cute. He was deviously well behaved. He was a Virgo.

He parted his hair on the left, tucked in his plaid cotton shirts, folded his Cub Scout uniform and never got in trouble. He actually filed his Halloween candy in a locked chest in his bedroom closet, and he had the discipline to eat two nasty cheap candies between each really tasty treat. In this way, he made his booty last until Christmas and my rancor last for decades.

I’d eat all the good stuff in the first two days, and regret throwing away Jolly Ranchers and Pez, especially when I wound up watching Roger relish a fun size Butterfinger after Thanksgiving (amazingly, without making a mess). I used to ruin Roger’s entire day by moving the orange Wheaties box from the cabinet to the left below the sink to the cabinet on the right above the refrigerator. When he got married I shared this trick with his new bride: every new wife deserves a small arsenal of ways to make her man suffer.

Roger is a Virgo, born in the second week of September. As a grown up physician whose most mystical reading is a PDR, he looks at me, shrugs, and carefully backs away. I am a Cancer: I remember taking a PDR to step aerobics class, then going home and opening it randomly to see if there was anything in the three inch medical volume that might offer me some relief. Sooner or later, if I come up with the cure for what ails me, I’ll call my brother and ask for a prescription. Perhaps there’s something in there for Roger, too.

A Tale of Two Highlines

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Twenty-two hundred miles from the Bears Paw Mountains, in the shadow of New York City’s wild Westside, a raised urban walkway meanders from the Meatpacking District through Chelsea–it’s called the High Line. It’s a top jasmin live attraction, packed with all kinds of strollers. Like the highline that stretches from Shelby through Sweetgrass, New York’s revitalized raised rail spur provides open air, natural vistas, spiritual nourishment and a few colorful watering holes. It’s fun for this Great Falls girl to wander past daisies, wild grasses and coneflowers so far from home–there’s even a seasonal irrigation ditch where people take off their shoes and socks to cool tired city feet.

So, what does this have to do with Havre? Both highlines witness the change of seasons without closure or apology; both are evidence of the enduring effort of intrepid, hardscrabble Souls–and both the the citified namesake and its Western cousin remind us that wild life and wildlife are better off when conflicting visions are managed in advance. Real estate developers in the Big Apple didn’t take long to see potential high profits from theirHigh Line. At least NYC boasts adequate water, sewer, roads, and other infrastructure–the straining city services around the North Dakota oilfields are a cautionary tale for what could be headed to Montana’s highline. To twist the one-liner from Field of Dreams,“If they come, we will have to build it.”

When New York City’s High Line was turned into a walking park, the neighborhood rejoiced at improved property values. A half-dozen new buildings went up, lickety-split, and four imposing structures are on the way–along with the Bakken oil field-sized Hudson Railyards, sort of a city within a city, going up on the north end. Growth is often healthier on a trellis than when it’s allowed to sprawl: even if the shale oil fields don’t expand westward, Montana’s highline is already the railcar version of New York City’s High Line: Signature Montana readers know that grain farmers have been hootin’ and hollerin’ about untenable rail delays, and anyone who’s planning on riding Amtrak’s Empire Builder should pack a passel of patience: delays in Shelby have pushed eight hours. It doesn’t matter which Highline you’re on: tread softly, and cock an ear to anyone who carries a big schtick.

Fareed Zakaria: Going Belly to Belly with Number One

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Being Number One? It’s too much work.

In a Time magazine article this week and a CNN special tonight, Fareed Zakaria tells us what we already know: our great nation is lagging behind in the race for global excellence. In some arenas, the U.S. still competes for a respectable position. In others, we are many laps behind…and we are winded.

Zakaria claims U.S. policies of the mid-20th century led to the prosperity, leadership and infrastructure that put us at the apex of western civilization. Over the years, poor policies and political sleight-of-hand have distracted us from painful solutions to long-term problems.

Zakaria quotes Harvard Historian Niall Ferguson, author of Civilization: The West and the Rest, who examines our rusty toolbox of “killer apps, the qualities that kept U.S. ahead of the pack: competition, modern science, the rule of law and private property rights, modern medicine, the consumer society and the work ethic. Those six things,” according to Ferguson, “are the secret sauce of Western civilization.”

U.S. 15-year olds rank 17th in the world in science and 25th in math. We’ve slid from first place to twelfth in college graduation rates. According to Zakaria’s figures, we are 27th in life expectancy and 18th in diabetes. The only place we excel is obesity. Let’s cheer: We’re number one! We might be surprised at the economic impact of global sloth and its effluent, disease.

Remember Nassim Taleb, the fellow who wrote The Black Swan? His three rules for a Black Swan event: surprise, major impact and clarity in hindsight. There’s a flock of Black Swans swimming in fatty sauce, ready to clog the arteries of the developing world. My own theory of Asian arterial disaster is echoed by Zakaria’s reference to economist Mancur Olson’s book, The Rise and Decline of Nations. Olson thought it paradoxical that after WWII, Germany strengthened while Britain declined.

Meager peasant fare and hard work were healthier than postwar Brit food. Of course the Germans lot in life improved after WWII. The vanquished have nowhere to go but up. Although I haven’t seen double-blind studies, I suspect a veil of fat impacts our minds as well as our bodies. I have a mental image of viscous synapses inside the average American. It ain’t pretty. Things slip away. Important things (but not the remote).

All we have to do is continue exporting fast food joints. We’ll have Asia right where we want ‘em, waddling around the widening economic middle, sooner than either of us think. We’ve all heard the phrase “Lean and mean.” Humans are built to learn from failure, and meant to thrive on less than we desire. Once we acclimate ourselves to success and ingest more than we deserve, we are destined to decline.

Media Spins Libya out of Camera Range

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“At worst, the nuclear meltdown in Japan is localized. There will be little to no consequences for anyone who doesn’t step inside the plant itself.” So said an Iowa-based nuclear industry expert on CNN this morning. ”In a few weeks the world will be lauding the entire nuclear power industry for its foresight, genius and selfless effort.”

Moments later on the same network, another expert drew an official Diagram to Disaster on a whiteboard. This frantic fellow looked as though his own rods were about to melt through his suit, right there on camera. I live in Montana, and I closed the windows on the west side of the house just in case.

…The lure of news coverage, the barrage of ‘experts’, the agony of defeat in the face of forces beyond our control… My tummy turns when I hear Japanese Disaster Music, played over slick, awful slides at the beginning and end of each news segment on MSNBC. Cue up Arial Boldface Black on a banner of Pantone Red 032. Yeah, that’s it. Perfect. I resent the committees that put together banner headlines, trying to find just the right phrases and colors.

I resent all the news commentators who elbow their microphones amid the debris, having flown from afar. It’s embarrassing. No matter how honest their emotions, it’s hard to watch broadcasters swoop down, get good footage and leave. The earthquake, the tsunami, these are made-for-TV disasters. The cleanup, the long-term suffering, not so much. Don’t fret. We’ll have plenty of fresh tragedy to exploit. It’s been a veritable souk of suffering out there.

There was a perfect escalation from Tunisia (a barely heard of, vaguely exotic repressed state with successful rebellion that began as a food fight) bustin’ through Yemen, and then Egypt (Boo! Hiss! We knew this despot and his Suez Canal, where foreign funds are thicker than Semitic family feuds).

Then–it was just perfect–right at the height of TV sweeps-Libya! A bona fide crazy ass despot, Act III. Like many third acts, it was starting to sag a little. Obama had given an ultimatum to Ghadaffi that he had to leave, then sent the message that if he had the audacity to do so, Ghadaffi would face prosecution for crimes against humanity. The suspense! It was like Shakespeare with prayer rugs and automatic weapons (mostly on Ghadaffi’s side). The ill-equipped, hard-scrabble Libyan rebels have lost our eyes and our hearts to walls of water and broken H-O scale train sets of Japanese villages.

The Japanese tragedy is huge and far away. No despot, just victims. Hey, that last show, it was dragging anyway. The Libyans, without our momentum and goodwill, have lost precious ground. The Libyan Revolution has gone into syndication, which is a bloody shame. No one likes stale TV. They should have known better. They should have completed their revolution during Sweeps month. Japan? Who knows how long you will have our eye.

The Psychology of Friendship

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Great Falls, Montana, birthplace of Linda Ann Hopkins and Sheila Young. If those names aren’t familiar, maybe you’ve heard of Tera Patrick or Victoria Paris? These two women are near the top of the charts when you search online for famous people from Great Falls.

Great Falls, home of premier western artist Charlie Russell, refuge for authors A.B. Guthrie, Dan Cushman, Jamie Ford, Pete Fromm and Wallace Stegner, training ground for Olympic skaters John Misha Petkevich and Scott Davis, waystation for Lewis and Clark–and our most famous natives are a couple of porn stars?

Our Chamber of Commerce is not doing enough to promote our erotic heritage. I’ve been here all my life and I had no idea. Imagine how this discovery could swell our tourism base. Finally, Great Falls could give Mitchell, South Dakota’s Corn Palace some stiff competition. While Aunt Betty visits the C.M. Russell Museum, Paris Gibson Square and the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, Uncle Phil could while away the hours at Great Falls’ newest tourist attraction, the Porn Palace.

Perhaps we could make up for ignoring Tera Patrick and Victoria Paris by erecting a statue at the Tourist Information Center. The dedication ceremony, with bands from both high schools and a nighttime fireworks display would jam traffic all the way past Dick’s RV Park. If celebrating our erotic heritage is not to your liking, we could try to displace our tassel-enhanced natives from the top of online search engines by launching a clicking campaign for other famous Electric City natives.

How about googling Gerald Molen? This Hollywood producer won an Academy Award for Schindler’s List, as well as producing Rain Man, Days of Thunder, and Minority Report. If his face is familiar, it’s because he appears in cameo roles in the movies he’s produced. Respected stuntman Buddy Sosthand was also born in the Electric City. He’s worked on many A-List movies, including Pirates of the Caribbean, 21 Jump Street and theSorcerer’s Apprentice. Just a ways north of town, up in Conrad, we have Wylie Gustafson, energetic country crooner and composer.

Click hard on those famous names and we’ll topple those porn stars off Google’s pedestal. If we can’t out-click the more lurid among us, perhaps it’s time to round up investors to approach Mr. Molen, give some vitamins to that stuntman and get our world-famous country yodeler to lay down a vocal track. I have an idea…

Opaque Desperation

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It’s not exactly obvious.

I’ve been nurturing a psychic hairball for years. It rolls around my gut telling me that time is running out, and it may be too late to pursue my dreams. Instead of actually hucking up curdled delusions, I pass my tongue over old wounds and pull at my cuticles when I think no one is looking. Customers don’t seem to pick up on it. My kids are fairly oblivious. My husband, though, sees the raw patches on my underbelly, and he catches me licking them. He knows better than to say much about it.

I lash out at him because he is close, and his well meaning comments raise static electricity, making me wild eyed. When I am miserable, he is miserable: I prefer it that way. I am convinced he prefers it, too. Just look at the poor bastard, cowering in the corner, chewing the flan I just made.

When I am distracted, I knead my claws into him and little tears form at the corners of his eyes. This, for me, passes for contentment. There are moments though, that he opens the back door and looks at me ominously…hopefully. I sniff at adventure from inside the threshold, then I proudly turn tail and curl up with my laptop in a warm spot. After a nap, I’ll be ready to make us both slightly miserable again.