Category Archives: Rant

Risk Obtuse and Danger Perception

If you’re reading this, you’re in danger.

Look out!  Caution!  Beware!  DANGER! OMG YOU’RE GOING TO DIE!

Overwhelming, isn’t it.   Our minds and our bodies are great at filtering risk and processing danger — if we let it.  Most people raised in a modern urban environment have very little experience  with actual, immediate, personal danger.  They just don’t grok it.

David Ropeik in his HOW RISKY IS IT REALLY? book talks about a ‘Perception Gap’ to try to balance actual risk with what people are afraid of and tries to get to the underlying causes of those fears.  Maybe what is dangerous for you, isn’t dangerous for me and vice versa?

Jeffrey Rosenthal in STRUCK BY LIGHTENING: The Curious World of Probabilities tries to help people get a better grasp on statistics and appeals to the math behind actual risk to see if that will make sense to people.  If you run the numbers, how bad is it really?  Do you know you’re most likely putting yourself in danger daily which far far exceeds any perceived threat you’re worried about?

Richard Louv in LAST CHILD IN THE WOODS: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder devotes Part III of the book to “The Best of Intentions: Why Kids don’t play outside anymore” and gives many examples and descriptions of how parents have meant well, and inadvertently have done much more harm to their children.

Don’t be risk obtuse.  My advice?   Do something you feel is dangerous.  I didn’t say life-threatening, I don’t mean be careless, I want you to think about something you feel is dangerous, think about how you can mitigate the risk, and try it.  ‘Baby steps’ at first, but do some research and try to wrap re-define your baseline for danger.

There is a scene in the 2009 Australian film The Boys are Back that I often use as an example for people.  The movie stars Clive Owen as a widowed father trying to find his way raising his kids.  The scene in particular is when he hosts a kid’s birthday party and installs a high zipline for the kids to swing on and the mothers attending the party are agog.  “But what if he let go?!” one mum exclaims.  “That is why he is holding on so tight” replies Owen’s character.

“Better a broken bone, than a broken spirit” I’ve been fond of saying of late.

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New Arguments

Please take a few minutes to read this observation from J. Michael Straczynski.

“If I might be permitted an observation.

You, reading this on your monitor, or your smart phone or your tablet, you who have the latest iOS or Windows or Linux, you who track the latest apps and sites and watch with rapt attention as the Higgs Particle surrenders its secrets…you, who believes you are living in the twenty-first century.

You are wrong. We are not living in the twenty-first century.

We are living in the 1960s. We’ve been living there for the last fifty years. I don’t care what the calendar tells you, you’re wrong.

How do I know this?

Because right now, at this very second, we’re having the very same arguments, over the very same things, that we argued about in the 1960s, and the 70s, and the 80s, and the 90s, and the Oughts. And nothing’s been done, nothing’s been decided.

It’s just the same old arguments, over and over, for FIFTY YEARS.

We’re still arguing about equal pay for women.

Still arguing about environmental issues versus corporate laissez faire.

About whether or not some sexual practices should be allowed.

About excessive government secrecy and spying.

About voting rights and citizenship for minorities.

About bomb blasts and body counts.

About casual cruelty masquerading as policy.

Arguing about the rights of gays.

About a trigger-happy military.

About who is the latest suspected socialist.

About the media as source of all social ills.

About the war on drugs.

About health care.

About social security.

About birth control.

About evolution.

About nuclear power.

About abortion.

About guns.

And I’m tired of it.

I’m not saying these discussions aren’t important. Obviously they are.

But can we get on with it? Can we actually decide some of the things on the list given above and move on to NEW questions?

Can we move out of the 1960s?

Can we have some new arguments?

I would love to see new arguments.

I would love to see Congress wrestling with whether or not to declare our Mars colony the 51st state.

Would love to see filibusters and debates over whether someone who has received 51% of his body mass from artificial sources still constitutes a human being.

Arguments over whether the new mega-high-speed rail that puts the ones in Japan and China to shame should go from LA to New York or Miami.

About voting rights for synthetic people.

About the FDA’s analysis of mindbridge implants that let two people stay mentally joined forever.

About new safety standards for air-cars.

About deployment of the 45th Robotic Division past their warranties.

Those would be wonderful arguments to have. New, fresh, inspiring arguments.

We’ve been arguing about the same things, over and over, for fifty years. The same drumbeat, the same talking points, the same positions and policies and nothing ever gets done because it’s in no one’s INTERESTS to get anything DONE, because for as long as those same arguments continue, those with a visceral stake in the outcome of those arguments will continue to come out to the polls to vote in those whose viscera says the same thing about the same issues.

And so we roll on, decade after slow decade, with neither side resolving anything even when they run the table, with influence over all three branches of government.

Fifty years. Arguing over the same things for fifty years is like eating the same meal for breakfast, lunch and dinner for five decades. Soon the taste buds diminish and fail and you don’t even realize what you’re eating anymore.

If you’d said to me as a kid in the 1960s that we’d still be arguing over these things in 2013 I’d have laughed in your face. Impossible. We’ll resolve at least some of these things by then. Has to happen. Got to. The alternative is ludicrous.

Do you…you the person who has read this far without going off to tweet or instagram or download, you the person who actually believes you are living in the twenty-first century…want to be having these same arguments fifty years from now? Do you want to still be living in the 1960s in 2063?

Do you want a hundred years of arguing without resolution?

Do you think we can do better?

We have to do better. This can’t be it. This can’t be the end of the American experiment, sucked down into a century of social quicksand.

We have to be better than that.

We have to be.

New arguments.

New arguments.

God of microscope and test tube, god of provender and starlight, stern god who maketh quantum quandaries as much as the architecture of butterfly wings, let us have some new arguments.

I realize it is much to ask.

But it is long past time to ask.”

 — JMS

What is your issue re: wearing shoes?

A facebook thread discussing this quotation “Shoes do no more for the foot than a hat does for the brain.” (which I read here) prompted this earnest question: “What is your issue re: wearing shoes?”  Here is my reply.

Hi Jen, thanks for the inquiry.  I had prepared a new reply to use: “why don’t you wear a corset”, but I’ll go easy on you 😉

Most importantly, it feels right.  Shoes have never felt right.  Have you ever experienced that pleasure of being barefoot — be it in the grass, or after a long day on your feet and you’re stretching out your toes, or having a foot rub?  Why is it people continually make themselves uncomfortable?

I have a philosophy called the escalation of convenience: if you do something because it’s convenient, you’ll soon do something else and then something else and then something else and after a while you won’t know where or why you did it in the first place.  My explorations with shoes have fallen into this model.  Most people in our culture never question the fashion that tells them to be shod, and as a result they suffer for it (see my succinct comment about corsets above).  Greatly.  Ever had sore knees, or a bad back?  A foot infection, or an ingrown toe nail, twisted an ankle?  Why?

Like bottled water, shoes have a ‘manufactured demand‘ — the producers of them want you to wear them, and wear them out.  In general, they are a fashion accessory that is unhealthy for you.

I find the information presented by Dr. Daniel Howell helpful to those curious about it  (start on that page, and other pages on his ‘resources’ tab).  Check out his The Barefoot Book if you’re keen.

As you might have noticed in the past though, whenever the topic comes up on here there is a lot of unfounded, strongly held opinions against such a simple expression of non-conformity so I can’t say it is something for everyone to try in public, for now.  Give it another few years and some of the ignorance and resistance might lessen.

It is hard for those of us in our culture to go against something we learned so young.  Your mother told you you had to wear shoes from the time you could walk.  Who am I to question that?

Town of High River is failing

The Town of High River Alberta was hit with a disaster last week when the rains of southern Alberta initiated massive flooding throughout the area.  Ever since the state of emergency was declared, they have been failing to handle the situation.

Instead of working together with the community, instead of fostering goodwill towards each other, they are abusing their new found fiefdom and threatening others who challenge their dominion.   The town is rotting away, both physically and emotionally.  Over 10,000 people are displaced from their homes for more than a week now, while their homes are invaded and their possessions robbed by the very people claiming to have their ‘best interests in mind’, the very people who are ‘keeping them safe’.

Rulers of High River, please see through your concerns for liability, your concerns for job descriptions, your concerns about making mistakes and let the people of the town join together and restore their neighbourhoods, restore their community and restore their sense of security.

Today’s Toronto Public Library Catalogue failures

I’m tempted to start a series of posts on this topic: Toronto Public Library Catalogue failures.  What errors in cataloguing do I discover when using the library today?

Today I wanted to put a hold on one of our favourite books, LIBRARY LION by Michelle Knudsen.  The library’s system appeared to no longer carry the title (only an audio book version, and a reference copy).  We managed to find it during our visit though, checked it out and from my lists of checked out materials it gives me the link to the holding.  The link points to an event for Chinese Folk Dance happening in May.  Fail.

We also read a great children’s book by Neil Gaiman today and I wanted to find it again so I looked through all Neil Gaiman’s children’s books and it wasn’t in the list.  Odd.  I managed to remember part of the name, and found the book with a different search: BLUEBERRY GIRL.  I wonder why it’s not listed as a children’s book, and if he has done other children’s books that I won’t be able to discover too?

To round things out, earlier in the week I had read the amazing SUMMIT OF THE GODS Volume 1 and wanted to get the next volume.  I was on the record for the book already so I clicked through to the author, Baku, Yumemakura., but this was the only book they had.  I figured the subsequent volume wasn’t out yet, or hadn’t been acquired and was going to end my journey there when I had a feeling to try something else.  I went through via the illustrator instead and there it was, Volume 2!  With a duplicate entry for the author (one with birth year, one without).  A fault of the MARC record, or lazy cataloguers?