Tuesday, October 3, 2017

On Betsy DeVos in Ontario

Betsy DeVos is coming to talk to the Minister of Education, apparently to learn about our schools. Let's hope the meeting just goes in that direction.

When she was first appointed by Trump, OSSTF warned,
DeVos has been a strong advocate for the creation of more charter schools in her home state of Michigan, as well as expansion of school choice and the voucher system in education. She has also been a strong advocate for right-to-work legislation and has contributed millions of dollars to the Republican Party in Michigan. The expansion of charter schools in Michigan has led to about half of all students in the city of Detroit attending one of these schools. While most charter schools in the United States are “not-for-profit,” Michigan’s charter school law allows for-profit charters to be established. What has resulted in Detroit is intense competition for students between public and charter schools. Thanks to DeVos’s efforts to promote choice and charter schools, a multitude of new schools were established in Detroit, even though overall enrollment was in decline. As a result, schools have engaged in “bidding wars” to draw kids, and the money that they bring with them, into their buildings These campaigns have included the offer of incentives to students, such as iPads, gift cards and bicycles.
Yesterday, Harvey Bischof, President of OSSTF said,
Ms. DeVos is a vocal proponent of programs that divert government funding away from public education and into private hands, to pay for tuition at private and religious schools. [...It's] alarming, and frankly an affront to our members, that Ontario would allow someone who openly promotes a corporate assault on public education to visit schools in our province. The Ministry of Education should reconsider this visit and send a strong, clear message to Ms. DeVos and other proponents of privatization that public education in Ontario is not for sale.
I fear that we're already headed for privatization, and she's just here to show us all the way down the rabbit's hole. All the celebration over e-learning and the virtual high school is the first step in ditching real live teachers for automation and outsourcing. There's a huge downside to tech that we ignore at our peril when we get too excited about the next new thing.

We need educated professionals in classrooms, face-to-face with a limited number of kids, to most effectively impart an education. Only an in-person educator can connect with students and guide them through critical thinking problems with a real time back and forth of ideas. Only when we're there can we gauge the faces of students for confusion or enlightenment. Yup, there's some boredom mixed in there too sometimes, and it's important to see it and be able to switch gears enough to keep them on track.

And education must be fully public and accessible by everyone everywhere. We've seen the mess Charter schools can make. Ontario all too quickly follows on in the path of each new American plan just as the U.S. starts to realize their plan isn't working. Remember whole language?? I really hope we're strong enough and smart enough to listen politely to DeVos and then do our own research before making another inane decision. This one could devastate our education system, not just for one generation of kids, but for many who follow.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Action is the One Miracle-Working Faculty of Man

This piece by Wen Stephenson is a beautifully written comparison between Hannah Arendt's Nazi analysis and the pivotal issues of our time. I'm also afraid, not so much about what will happen to our species in a century from now, but about what will happen to us in the next few decades. Abridged with some of the best bits here:

What I fear most is what we’re capable of doing to each other, and of not doing for each other, when, as Hannah Arendt would say, the chips are down — when it’s dark outside, and we let the darkness in. Because, let there be no doubt, it’s getting very dark....What was once unthinkable destruction is now all but guaranteed, first and foremost among the world’s poorest people, the majority of the human population....With the victory of the carbon-industrial machine, it is now clear, we confront corporate and political forces not only racist in ideology but totalitarian in mindset and ambition, if not as yet in methods. Unless, as to methods, it can be argued that to ensure the suffering and death of countless innocent millions, by means of lies and the obstruction of urgent life-saving measures, marks some kind of epochal advance in the art of administrative mass murder....

The opening lines of Hannah Arendt’s short, bracing preface to the first edition of The Origins of Totalitarianism, published in 1951, capture a moment and the mood of a generation that had lived through two cataclysmic World Wars, experienced economic collapse, revolutions, and “homelessness on an unprecedented scale,” and now faced the prospect of an all-destroying third world war. The mood is one of exhaustion, uncertainty, a dull and ever-present fear. “This moment of anticipation,” she writes, is like the calm that settles after all hopes have died. […] Never has our future been more unpredictable, never have we depended so much on political forces that cannot be trusted to follow the rules of common sense and self-interest — forces that look like sheer insanity, if judged by the standards of other centuries....

Central to Arendt’s analysis is her acute observation that totalitarian movements, and later fully realized regimes, require the construction of a “fictitious world,” as seen in their “conspicuous disdain of the whole texture of reality.”...With nothing to fall back on, no recognizable standards by which to comprehend and judge, anything can happen, anything might be justified, in the future. All bets are off. What comprehensible motive could there be for poisoning the well from which one’s own children must drink, much less the atmosphere itself? What kind of mindset makes one’s own children and grandchildren, and everyone else’s, indeed all future generations, superfluous?

The world finds nothing sacred in the mere existence of a Syrian refugee washed up on a beach; in the prayerful faces and freezing bodies at Standing Rock; in the undocumented persons, “illegals,” mothers and fathers and children, jailed and deported....The question: What kind of resistance is possible against a world without mercy? And even as I form those words, the familiar voice in my head: Who am I to judge? Who the hell do I think I am? Am I not complicit — aren’t we all — even sitting in jail?

“There exists in our society a widespread fear of judging that has nothing whatever to do with the biblical ‘Judge not, that ye be not judged,’” Arendt writes in the manuscript of a 1964 address. Rather, she notes there, “behind the unwillingness to judge lurks the suspicion that no one is a free agent, and hence the doubt that anyone is responsible or could be expected to answer for what he has done.” As soon as anyone raises moral issues, she observes sharply, the one who raises them is met “with a kind of mock-modesty that in saying, Who am I to judge? actually means We’re all alike, equally bad, and those who try, or pretend that they try, to remain halfway decent are either saints or hypocrites, and in either case should leave us alone.”...

In the closing pages of Eichmann in Jerusalem (1963), where she addresses him posthumously, she writes, “[You said] that almost anybody could have taken your place, so that potentially almost all Germans are equally guilty. What you meant to say was that where all, or almost all, are guilty, nobody is.” Or as she puts it in that 1968 lecture, in the case of postwar Germans who indulged in what she called the “phony sentimentality” of collective guilt, “the cry ‘We are all guilty’ is actually a declaration of solidarity with the wrongdoers.”... If Arendt is right — and if her words have any applicability beyond the specific historical context in which she wrote — then my own jail-cell guilt trip was another form of phony sentimentality, in which I sought cover and refuge, some sort of perverse comfort, in a collective guilt spread so thin that it evaporates into air and disappears; an escape, in which I sought to be unburdened of the responsibility to judge, and of the responsibility such judgment would place on me....And yet the question remains why this matters to us now — whether the satisfactions of judging, smug or otherwise, sitting in a jail cell or in an armchair, are all we have left at this late hour.

Or as she puts it in a 1971 lecture: “The sad truth of the matter is that most evil is done by people who never made up their mind to be either bad or good.” The kind of thinking, of making up one’s mind, that Arendt is talking about here, the internal dialogue with oneself that allows for questioning and judging, is a capacity shared by all, she goes on to suggest, not only an elite (who fail to exercise it as often as anyone, perhaps more). Nevertheless, such thinking “remains a marginal affair for society at large except in emergencies.” At moments of crisis, she writes, “those who think are drawn out of hiding because their refusal to join is conspicuous and thereby becomes a kind of action.”...Indeed action, Arendt writes, is “the one miracle-working faculty of man.”

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Out of the Wreckage Teaser

Monbiot's new book looks to be most similar to his Manifesto, which came out just over a decade ago. I love when he gets all revolutionary and inspirational. Here's an excerpt of his excerpt:
"Is it reasonable to hope for a better world? Study the cruelty and indifference of governments, the disarray of opposition parties, the apparently inexorable slide towards climate breakdown, the renewed threat of nuclear war, and the answer appears to be no....[But] political failure is, in essence, a failure of imagination....Those who tell the stories run the world....Although the stories told by social democracy and neoliberalism are starkly opposed to each other, they have the same narrative structure. We could call it the Restoration Story....the reason why, despite its multiple and manifest failures, we appear to be stuck with neoliberalism is that we have failed to produce a new narrative with which to replace it....[Humans] possess an unparalleled sensitivity to the needs of others....We have been induced by politicians, economists and journalists to accept a vicious ideology of extreme competition and individualism that pits us against each other, encourages us to fear and mistrust each other and weakens the social bonds that make our lives worth living....Where we find ourselves crushed between market and state, we will develop a new economics that treats both people and planet with respect. We will build it around a great, neglected economic sphere: the commons....We know that if we can mobilise such silent majorities, there is nothing this small minority can do to stop us. But because we have failed to understand what is possible, and above all failed to replace our tired political stories with a compelling narrative of transformation and restoration, we have failed to realise this potential. As we rekindle our imagination, we discover our power to act. And that is the point at which we become unstoppable."

Thursday, August 31, 2017

On Antifa Methods

It's not just Tina Fey who's getting lambasted for promoting this position,
"I really want to say, to encourage all good sane Americans, to treat these rallies this weekend like the opening of a thoughtful movie with two female leads: Don't show up. Let these morons scream into the empty air."
Now it's Chomsky and Hedges as well. We can pretty quickly write-off a comedian's suggestion, but it should give one pause when bigger thinkers repeat the idea. It should, I think. It's not for some, though, who insist Chomsky and Hedges are no longer on the left or are no longer liberal or are finally showing their true liberalism, and they toss them aside in favour of more agreeable opinions on the matter. I'm so confused about what 'left' and 'liberal' mean these days that I'm just going to leave that bit alone to look at their arguments.

Matt Sedillo argues,
"The threat is real, so must the resistance be. If we are to transform society more work than this need be done. If we are to prevent self deputizing death squads from roaming the street they must fear public gathering. There is no way around this and there is no reason to think of this work as mutually exclusive. Liberalism by definition is counterrevolutionary. In times of crisis it calls for the pacification of struggle and the return to normalcy. It posits that both right wing calls for ethnic cleansing and the resistance to that as equally menacing to the liberal order of society....Chris Hedges gave “many sides, many sides” presentation of much of the 20th century in order to attack the idea of revolution from below....False equivalencies spread confusion. Confusion strengthens the fascists. Liberalism is a death cult. Chris Hedges is a public menace."

On Memes and Theft

The Guardian has an article about memes, this one in particular, and I love their choice of cover photo:



Because it's not remotely important relative to everything else going on, yet it's still in the mix - one more thing to consider.

Belam writes,
"Guillem has a warning for people liberally spreading the picture across the net to put their copy of Photoshop down: “It’s not allowed to use any image without purchasing the proper licence in any possible way, so each one of the people that use the images without the licence are doing it illegally. What really worries us and we are not going to allow it, taking the appropriate legal measures, is the use of the images in a pejorative, offensive or any way that can harm the models or me." 

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

On Freud and Einstein's Correspondence

Lately people have been talking more of the rise and fall of Freud's psychotherapy and his philosophies. Some write him off completely because many of his psychoanalytical claims have been discounted through a more rigorous scientific method than Freud employed, but it's not good philosophy to discount an entire person for some incorrect claims. If we did that, we'd lose many of the old guys to misogyny or worse. We have to consider the merits of each idea. It doesn't matter if Freud is a genius or a hack; it matters if there's a seed of an interesting concept in anything he wrote. Others claim that he shouldn't be considered because he wasn't the first to write about many of the ideas he discusses, but if that's our criterion for our reading list, shouldn't we toss all those "footnotes to Plato"?



Friday, August 18, 2017

On the Absurdist Victory: All is Well

A while back I wrote about a video comparing Stoicism and Existentialism. The video also touched on different psychology principles developed from each philosophy. Stoicism is easily seen in CBT and REBT, which all start with the premise that when we're upset it's because of our perception of things, not the things in themselves, and we often have an irrational view. Through reality testing and viewing the situation in a detached way we can be less emotionally affected by anxiety around events. It's been very effective in reducing anxiety levels in a good 70-80% of patients.

Existential psychoanalysis took a different path:
"The basic thrust of existential psychoanalysis, if it aspires to be at all existential, must in turn be rooted in the sensibilities of existential philosophy. That sensibility may be characterized by two principal themes: a) all human knowledge is rooted in personal experience; b) the weight of experience is so exasperating that we seek to escape it through self-deception....Every one of us employs deceptions for the same reason. Whenever we're thwarted in our endeavors we feel disappointment and frustration. We may fear that we won't get our way by being honest and resort to guile and manipulation - the principal source of neurotic guilt....On a deeper level it entails the patient's willingness to plumb the depths of experience while accepting responsibility for whatever comes to light, for better or worse."
Instead of our view of externals provoking upset, tumults are from the struggle for people to accept the truth about themselves and recognize their various attempts to escape it. Instead of looking at individual daily triggers, existentialists look at that big one: We search for meaning and purpose in life, but the reality has to be faced - that there simply isn't any. We've been thrown here randomly, and it's up to each of us to make the best of things. The "curative power lay in the patient's capacity for honesty." Upsetting experiences are useful for taking us outside ourselves and possibly provoking a transformation of consciousness that leads to maturation. No pain, no gain. Suppression of experiences is the problem: not an inaccurate assessment, but a refusal to actually see what's there. We need to give voice to our darkest truths, no matter how ugly. From an early age, we devise pleasant fantasies to override potential traumas as slight as disappointment, and then we become anxious that there's something deep within that we don't really want to know. Self-deception and deception by others (as they might help us remain in denial) are part of every issue. We're all inherently devious and deceive one another as a matter of course. The solution is acknowledging our radical freedom, digging past the deceptions to find our authentic selves, and recognizing the absurdity of it all.

On Fascist Movements and Free Speech

Some people are upset because Ryerson cancelled a panel discussion featuring Faith Goldy, of Rebel Media, who openly expresses the belief that Muslims are a problem in our country. A Ryerson spokesperson said,
"After a thorough security review, the University has concluded that Ryerson is not equipped to provide the necessary level of public safety for the event to go forward. In light of recent events, Ryerson University is prioritizing campus safety."
I don't blame them. I wouldn't give her the platform to speak in the first place. I think free speech is important, but it's particularly important because we need the right to criticize people in positions of power and to question legislation. It's not important that everyone can say everything they think to as many people as possible. Her right to free speech isn't eroded since she's still free to talk on the internet and in her own media venues. [ETA - Even Rebel Media doesn't want her anymore.] She just wasn't given the right to speak at that one location.

I'm a fan of our anti-hate speech here in Canada. I don't believe in free speech at any cost when we see how many people can be influenced by a charismatic speaker with a warped agenda. Intelligent debate is the ideal, of course, but the reality is that some of these speakers can make the worst atrocities sound necessary. Get enough people worried about the economy, and it's too easy to pick a group of people to blame and then run them out of town - or worse. (I say way more about free speech here.)

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Inconceivable! His Dinner with Chomsky

Wallace Shawn sat down for a chat with Noam Chomsky (video link here), and here's what they talked about - slightly abridged and loosely quoted (for clarification purposes) with links. It's a great recharge for activists!


Shawn - Many people are shocked to see the president is now a cruel, brutal, greedy type of a man, and this is now the face of America, but I'm not shocked because this has been the face of the United States for decades. What do you think is not new, and what do you think actually IS new?  [For more on this, check out Cenk Uygur's interview with John Cusack. It's pre-election, and the president he's criticizing at the beginning is Obama.]

Chomsky - My wife is from Brazil, and she predicted the Trump win before the primaries. From the outside, there's much that is not new. Recently the U.S. demanded that Cambodia pay back a debt incurred when the U.S. was destroying their country. There was secret bombing. It seems probably hundreds of thousands were killed. The Khmer Rouge was a small group, but ended up become a mass army of peasants starving and driven off the land by American bombing. The U.S. offered aid to get them to purchase American agricultural produce, and now they want payback. The American ambassador to Cambodia couldn't understand why Cambodians often make anti-American comments, but that's the America plenty of people see all over the world.

What is new, and dramatically new, is the U.S. withdrawal from the rest of the world on the issue of greatest significance for the prospect of human survival: climate change. The Washington Post had images of receding glaciers that will raise sea levels by many feet and pretty much drive tens of millions off land. A good part of organized life in coastal cities will be devastated. Every country in the world with the exception of the United States is committed to at least some actions on this issue. The US alone is not only refusing to participate, but is actually moving in a dedicated fashion in the opposite direction: trying to maximize the damage.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

On Slippery Arguments and Equity at Google

You can read most of the infamous Google memo here, and for the record, I don't think opening up this discussion should be a fireable offence, but I'm just concerned with this one piece of the puzzle right now:
"the distribution of preferences and abilities of men and women differ in part due to biological causes and these differences may explain why we don't see equal representation of women in tech and leadership."
David Brooks calls this "championing scientific research."

But consider this analogy. Walk into an art gallery full of art by Picasso, Monet, Dali, Van Gogh...  It is the case that men and women have some inherent differences on average; that claim has some validity. There are certainly more differences among the groups that between them, but there's still a difference however slight. BUT it doesn't follow that that's why we don't see equal representation in an art gallery. It's clearly not the case that women inherently, evolutionarily, don't prefer the arts and don't have any artistic talent. We can see that so clearly and easily because we are well aware that over the past centuries few women were allowed near a book much less a paintbrush.

We're far enough away from that museum scenario to really shake our head at the blatant injustices that produced such disparate results. However, as a society, we're apparently not quite able to step back and recognize the profound level of inequity that has created current gender distribution in the world of high tech.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

On Community, Again

I just read local author Paul Born’s Deepening Community. In places, it’s very close to what I’ve written about in terms of ensuring that we’re kind to one another at the very end. He doesn’t skirt around the issue that we’re in dire straights and that we can choose how to behave when push comes to shove. (But I think he should have called the book, The Born Community.)













I've written about community before, and I'm going to say much of the same thing here but in many, many more words!  There are pictures and video clips to break it up. (I included headings for clarity and page numbers throughout - where I remembered.)   I aim to critique Born's book while trying to get to the bottom of what can be done to foster a cohesive sense of belonging and caring spanning the globe.  I'm using Born's book as as starting point, but I don't have all the solutions.  I'm ever in the process of seeking.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Prevention as an Ounce of Cure

Here's an update on what I've learned about lymphedema after an ALND. It's way less scary now that I know how to manage it, but it's still a drag. It takes about an hour away from me every day. I'm just in the earliest stages, and it possible to stay here forever, but not without a bit of effort - something breast cancer surgeons should make sure patients understand. It's all about retraining the lymph flow to take a different path through the body. Lymph nodes collect and clean out toxins (infection, etc.) from segments of the body. The body's divided into 'watersheds' which all get sucked to the closest lymph nodes, but, with some missing, some areas have to be redirected. Here's what's working for me right now, and what I wished I had known straight out of the hospital - just ten things!:

Thursday, August 10, 2017

On Having the Lowest Graduation Rates

This recent article in my local paper tells us that our region is lowest in the province for graduation rates.



ON FIFTH YEAR RATES

They worry that "Students who did graduate also took longer to do so than almost anywhere else." The graphic shows 68% finish after 4 years, and 81% after a fifth year (so, 13% stay for a victory lap). I share their concern that almost 20% aren't graduating, but not their concern about taking a fifth year. I commented there that I don't support that particular focus:
"I encouraged all my kids to do a fifth year of school - it's the last chance for a free education, and it gives them more time to take electives. I've always seen the drive to have kids finish in four years as just a cost-savings method at the expense of a well-rounded education. What's the educational benefit of pushing kids to finish faster?"
They claim,
"The board is reluctant to more strongly dissuade Grade 9 students from choosing academic studies over applied studies, even as students who start high school with unrealistic expectations fail to keep up and must later switch streams." 
They say that like it's a bad thing. Sure, it can be a challenge to work with students on material far outside their capabilities, but a public education is there for everyone to find, not just their talents, but also their limitations. Every student should have a right to try to stretch themselves to do work that's difficult because some actually make it after a few attempts at the higher levels. Nothing should dissuade them from trying all their options at this point in life.

The Plight of the Millennials

Further explanation here. 
First, a bit about statistical norms and the normal distribution. In social sciences, for something to be considered a statistically significant characteristic of a group, it just needs to be present in about 68% of the population, or one standard deviation from the norm. There's tons of variation in the other 32%, so all the generalizations below might not apply to the people in your life. But, according to researchers, they apply to most people in each group, so we can still look at trends. I remember studies in my day showing a clear correlation between violent movie viewing and violent teens, yet I loved slasher flicks and still lean towards more gruesome films despite the stats. And, more to the point, nobody stopped making those movies. This recent article is unlikely to change a thing, but we're still wise to consider it.

The article in question is The Atlantic article, "Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?" which adds to a running list of problems with kids today caused by technology. It hits home from some of the trends I've noticed anecdotally in my classroom over the past 26 years: that phones are distracting, lead to unrealistic idealization and familial alienation, and affect sleep habits. But the writer misses any discussion that phones also drive constant change, consumerism, and cognizance of tragedies, and the significance of other factors affecting trends in this demographic. Here's a chart I sometimes use in class for an overview of demographics by year of birth. We've moved way beyond the boom, bust, and echo labels.

Friday, August 4, 2017

On Comparing Existentialism and Stoicism

This summer, I went on one camping trip with a book on Stoicism, then another camping trip with a book on Existentialism, and I was intrigued by the many similarities. Then I came across this video that has some overlap with what I had noticed. As they say in the video, Massimo Pigliucci (MP) on Stoicism and Skye Cleary (SC) on Existentialism, both are philosophies that offer a way to live instead of just a way to think about the world. I'm putting it all together here with quotes (names linked to sources) to sort it out for myself. I'm just thinking out loud here. This is too long for any normal person to want to read.

These are both philosophies that allow surveyors to pick and choose from variations on a theme as neither has one authoritative dude overriding all others, and, it would appear, few of the big guns cared to adopt either label anyway. For the Stoics, defining yourself as one is avoided because it's pretentious. In The Role Ethics of Epictetus, it's clarified that we are simultaneously different things, and how we play each role is more important than what our roles are. The roles are often not our choice, but how we do them are, i.e. whether or not we're a virtuous son, mother, teacher, or waiter (MP). For Existentialists, we can't be defined by the roles we take on because we're more than the mere facts about ourselves (SC), so labels become meaningless.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Arendt on Revolution and the Necessity of Eradicating Poverty

Hannah Arendt's essay, "Thoughts on Poverty, Misery, and the Great Revolutions of History," written in the 1960s, was apparently just recently published for the first time. It continues to be relevant in our increasingly weird times with a tyrant who would rather dominate than excel in case after case:
"For the will to power as such, regardless of any passion for distinction (in which power is not a means but an end), is characteristic of the tyrant and is no longer even a political vice. It is rather the quality that tends to destroy all political life, its vices no less than its virtues. It is precisely because the tyrant has no desire to excel and lacks all passion for distinction that he finds it so pleasant to dominate, thereby excluding himself from the company of others; conversely, it is the desire to excel which makes men love the company of their peers and spurs them on into the public realm." 
She explains that the goal of revolution from a tyrant isn't just that people are treated well, which any benevolent dictator would do, but that people have access to the decision-making process that determines how they will be treated:

Chest Tattoo with a Side of Lymphedema

As a means of healing and prettying up my mastectomy scars, I looked forward to a chest tattoo. I envisioned never wearing a bathing suit top again! After my mastectomy, I asked my surgeon about it. His only concern was that it wouldn't look good when I finally gave in and got reconstruction. But, if I'm absolutely sure I don't want recon work done, then I could get the tattoo as early as six weeks after surgery. That would have been done in December, but we were just about to go to Costa Rica, so I postponed it for after the trip. And then I found out I needed more surgery, so I postponed again. I asked the second surgeon if he had any concerns about a chest tattoo, and he said the same thing, just to wait six weeks post-op. He didn't even have concerns about me tattooing my arm if I were so inclined. He said women regularly get nipple tattoos after surgery, which are perfectly safe.

So I had an artist friend draw up this amazing sketch for me based on a pile of random ideas I threw at her:


Friday, July 28, 2017

On Regret

I've taken many questionable risks in my life. I lean toward leading a life that's lived fully over a safe and secure existence. Most I bounced back from easily from typical childhood falling from trees when I've climbed too high to dropping out of high school and somehow ending up with a Masters. Sometimes it's gone extraordinarily well for me. When an elderly woman next door to me died, I went deep into debt to buy and flip her crumbling house only to find it packed with cash. People thought I was crazy for my efforts to save my school from the chopping block until it all worked, and I'm still there. People were adamant that I can't possibly hold my head high as a teacher and unwed mother back a few decades when premarital sex was shameful, but I ignored them all with the most delightful results. And when my third pregnancy was fraught with complications, and doctors strongly advised me to terminate because of a high risk of Edwards syndrome, I, still single, took a chance and have another healthy daughter to show for it. I've been very very lucky over the years.


But then there are the times that didn't go as well. That time I was convinced I was overinsured and cancelled the insurance on a property, then it promptly went up in flames. That time I got scared of my debt load and hastily sold the slightly charred land - 24 acres with 2000' of waterfront, then soon realized there's nothing else like it out there in my price range. And that time I was convinced by a couple doctors, in opposition to others doctors, equally educated, to get an auxiliary lymph node dissection (ALND), and only afterwards found out about, and succumbed to, the risks of lymphedema.

Like most people, I imagine, I have an easy time ignoring my luck and a really hard time coping when my decisions don't pan out as well. Regret is a bugger.

So I wrote to Stoic advice columnist, Massimo Pigliucci, explaining my surgery situation in very general terms so it could be applied to and/or understood by more people, and I made it sound worse than it is to get a response to the worst case scenario. In general I asked "How were the Stoics so able to get on top of these types of thoughts so well?"

On Wasting Time

I had a brief Facebook conversation with Massimo Pigliucci about my decision to fritter away a morning watching the rain and petting my cat. He said, "It's up to you to determine whether your morning was wasted or not. But from a Stoic perspective the good use of time comes when one is doing something virtuous." And I started wondering further about what specifically counts as wasted time. So I turned to a thorough re-reading of Seneca's On the Shortness of Life. Here are the bits that stood out to me with chapters noted after each quotation:

Seneca points out that people complain about the cruelty of nature because life is short, even Aristotle did, but it's not short, it's just that we waste much of it (1). Then he lists many examples of what a waste of time looks like:
"soft and careless living...no worthwhile pursuit....held in the grip of voracious avarice....diligence that busies itself with pointless enterprises....sodden with wine....slack with idleness....tired out by political ambition, which always hangs on the judgment of others....desire for trading...in hope of profit....passion for soldiering....striving after other people's wealth....thrown...by a fickleness that is shifting" (2).

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Paradigm Shift in Climate Change Policy

In the news, Caroline Lucas, in The Guardian says one good policy isn't enough; we need a paradigm shift:
"Rather than simply looking for one headline-grabbing policy, the government should be embarking on a paradigm shift when it comes to how we get about in this country. ...Ultimately we need a green transport revolution, not another tinker with a transport system that’s creaking. Let’s aim for towns and cities that are easily navigable by foot and bike, a fully electric and publicly owned train system that covers the country, and local public transport that’s a joy to use – rather than the overpriced, unreliable service that’s currently on offer in so many places."
And Brad Plumer, in the NYTimes, says California is making that shift:
"The state plans to rethink every corner of its economy, from urban planning to dairy farms....If California prevails, it could provide a model for other policy makers, even as President Trump scales back the federal government’s efforts on climate change. The state may also develop new technologies that the rest of the world can use to cut emissions....The state’s emissions are nearly back to 1990 levels... and it has installed as many solar panels as the rest of the country combined....The board envisioned the number of electric cars and other zero-emissions vehicles on California’s roads rising to 4.2 million by 2030 from 250,000 today. Freight trucks would have to become more efficient or electrified, while cities would need to adopt far-reaching strategies to promote mass transit, biking and walking."
I love that they both mention cycling. I'm not convinced cap and trade will save us, as Plumer suggests, but it's all a start. We're not at that paradigm moment yet, but at least our heads are turned in the right direction:
"There may well be an art whose aim would be to effect this very thing, the conversion of the soul, in the readiest way; not to put the power of sight into the soul's eye, which already has it, but to ensure that, instead of looking in the wrong direction, it is turned the way it ought to be." - Plato's Republic, book 7