A three-week long (friendly) argument with a friend on circumcision just ended last night as I was thinking over her arguments. Previously, I had a neutral position on the matter - mixing some mildly convincing arguments towards health benefits for circumcision with a mild distaste for modily mutilation left me with very little preference for or against the procedure - I understand that in the United States at present, it's done by default shortly after birth unless requested otherwise, while in Europe it is typically not done. I was simply inclined to go with whatever my partner (should that situation ever arise) wanted with no further words. For the curious, I was circumcised not long after birth. After going back and forth over the reported health benefits with little progress (and very little data brought up - I can't remember the studies on the matter I would've cited), she made an argument by analogy that even if there were slight health benefits, we might realise the same if we were to remove the mucous membrane in the nose by similar surgery. Some further discussion on this followed, where I hadn't really considered before because I was unaware of some details of the natural form of the penis. I think this pushes me to be moderately anti-circumcision - I would still yield if I ended up with a Jewish gal and it were important for cultural reasons to circumcise (if the parallel religious reasons were a big negotiating issue, I would probably not be with them in the first place), but by default I can probably say I wouldn't be keen on circumcising any children I might have.
I haven't had significant amounts of time to blog or do anything at home recently because of very frequent migraines. This is really frustrating (and kind of embarassing). Last night I think I went to bed at 18:30. In about two weeks, I have a doctor's appointment scheduled - any appointments until then are tenative on my not having a migraine. Ugh.
I've been thinking a bit about cultural identities, particularly self-constructed ones recently. I've been inspired to do this by people complaining when, in the past, I haven't taken part in prayers over food or otherwise done things (or not done things) that (respectfully) make it clear that I have an atheist identity. I can understand that for some people, being atheist is a simple matter of fact, and they might still join others in the physical parts of prayer, get married in a church, say grace (IIRC, that's the christian food prayer thing?), etc. Taking on an atheist identity goes a bit beyond simply being atheist - it's not a very defining identity in itself, but it means being ok with being publically known as atheist and demanding a certain respect for who one is. Not pushing Haram food on a muslim or meat to a vegetarian is not so much a matter of respect for vegetarianism or Islam so much as respecting the person and the lifestyle/identity they choose to make. Assuming an atheist identity is the same kind of thing - if I feel that it would comprimise who I have chosen to be to join others in prayer, people should not assume that being an Atheist makes me unprincipled so I have nothing to lose in participating in ritual. The interpretation I make on such things as they extend to culture is a decision for me to make - if I chose to interpret the Seder as being more religious, I would probably have not accepted invitations to them over the years. I think that never choosing to misrepresent myself, either in part of ritual or when socially convenient, is something important, and is not something I should ever be expected to give up by virtue of the positions I have chosen. There may be rare circumstances where I might choose to do so (situations of necessity, or other rare circumstances), but at most that's an option.
My friend Dmitriy is starting a web-design company, and recently gave all of us who are interested in possibly taking on work to help out profiles in Russian and English (having asked us in person what they should say). The picture he has for me was when I was much more bearded than I am. Whoa. On the topic of hair, about a week ago I ran into Dr Kats, the really cool russian professor, and he said that my hair makes me look like Russian nobility. I must admit to liking the way european nobles of the past looked better than the short-haired look people adopt today. If I had a bit more chutzpah, I might adopt the costume as well (although there's always the risk of looking like a Ren-Festie).