Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Raising Gable Ends Alone

It's more physically demanding than raising kids alone, yet no less fraught with peril.

I'm just documenting my morning of partial success on my studio construction.  I was ecstatic to figure out all the angles for the gable end.  And it all fit perfectly - more or less.  But then how to get it up there on my own?  What if it falls on my head?  It's not that heavy, but it's awkward.  I took pictures to document it in case I died in the process!

Monday, July 29, 2013

On Liberty and Death

Does it have to be both?

One of the reasons I advocate for restrictions on personal freedom as a means to save our species from extinction is that I need my own behaviours to be externally regulated!  Intellectually, I can assess what I need from what I want - I think better than most even.  I'm usually at the tail-end of buying anything new - like a computer, which I got after many years of teaching and typing assignments on a typewriter.  I finally succumbed to the pressure to get a cellphone just three months ago.  The final blow was realizing that monthly costs for a cellphone are cheaper than for a landline.  Similarly with my car-avoidance - they're such a money-pit!  It's quite possible I'm more financially motivated than environmentally.   Even my solar panels are making me money.

And then there's this:

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Too Stupid to Live - Literally

Mound of Sound has a post at Disaffected Lib about the likelihood of doubling GHG by 2100.  If we don't do something very quickly and very intentionally, then, based on temperature projections from the 1970s on, we won't be able to live in this part of the world sixty years from now.  Most of Canada and the U.S. will be basically uninhabitable - not to mention most of the world.

I commented there:
We're no longer at a point where we need contests or incentives to get people to recycle more. We need concrete restrictions - corporate and individual. I'm all for personal freedom, but not if it's costing us our lives. For instance, we could save millions of trees from being cut down each year if we just made disposable cups illegal, forcing people to remember their travel mug or go home un-caffinated. Fuck roll-up-the-rim! And that doesn't have to be a slippery slope to totalitarianism, like I'm sure some will suggest. It'll be a difficult road for politicians to face, but it'll be far worse for us all if they wimp out.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

On Chomsky

I think everyone should read Chomsky. He’s brilliant, yet far less dense and inaccessible as some people think. He’s a different person than you or me – well, than me for sure. He has a wealth of knowledge and an astute analysis of events pretty much from the beginning of time to now all in his head and instantaneously available to him. I have to look up the word “hegemony” every time someone uses it. But he’s also very down to earth, which makes him all the easier to follow. Most importantly, he gives us a framework of the world necessary to understand in order to help us fight the good fight.

He’s written many books, and many others were compiled from his speeches. Below are ten common threads in his work taken from Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky. (Page numbers are from the 2002 paperback edition.) The ideas here are abridged without all the evidence – you have to read the full 400-paged book for that and/or the footnotes.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

On Smoking and the Illusion of Concern

I took the kids to the beach on Sunday, and there's new signage everywhere about the problems with using the sand as an ashtray.  In hopes for a "butt-free beach," they included information on wildlife concerns, toxins, costs to taxpayers, and the level of pollution:  cigarette butts are the most common type of litter found on beaches.  But the signs didn't seem to affect anybody's behaviour because they didn't come with people actually patrolling the beach to offer friendly reminders much less tickets or anything more punitive.  Nor did they offer other options - like empty cups from the garbage half-full of sand for people use as ashtrays, then throw back in the garbage.  Nothing.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Can Animals Provoke Action?

Whenever I talk about atrocities around the world in class - slavery, oil spills, and the like, and I get the class to talk about what bothers them most or what most influences them to change, or get them to do a project on it, a good 70% of the class will focus on animals.  That could be in part to distance themselves from the effect all this has on people, but I think it's more likely that it because we actually care more about animals than people.   Animals are innocent, and people often suck.

via Forbes
In one class I showed real film footage of a 12-year-old girl being saved from almost being manipulated into prostitution slavery in the Ivory Coast, and footage of young girls working 16-hour days in factories in China.  How do we help kids like this?  Do boycotts work?  Does letter-writing work?  And the student response in that particular class was, more or less, "It's their own fault for being taken in by scams.  We shouldn't do anything to help them."  The class wasn't malicious, just so immersed in information about scams they can't imagine otherwise, and they're self-protecting by victim blaming.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Faith that the End is Near

In today's G&M, Jared Bland writes from a perspective I've been taking lately as well.
"Despite seeming reasonable in other areas of my life, I believe that we are quite likely living in or near the fabled end times....[I]t's becoming easier and easier to feel that the shadow hanging over us isn't just another massive rain cloud.  That it's something bigger, something worse.  And that it's moving in awfully quickly.....I'm convinced that things would be a lot better, were we to start to expect the end.  We fear it, we suspect it, but we need to embrace it....What if, instead of responding to disaster with kindness and support, we were just kind and supportive?   What if this were how we lived?.... [Living as if the end is nigh] allows us to think and feel and act in ways we otherwise might deny ourselves.  It encourages us to be more direct, more honest, more loving.  It says, in fact, that we must."

On Worry

There were many terrible things in my life and most of them never happened.” ―  Montaigne

At first I was worried about normal things.  Plane crashes.  Theft.   Okay, maybe kidnapping and prostitution rings entered my mind a little, but I get carried away sometimes.  It’s not that I don’t trust the people of Thailand and Cambodia.  I don’t trust anyone around a young woman in an unfamiliar country.  And I never trust airplanes. 

I dropped her at the airport in the wee hours, and we cried a bit.  That was unexpected.  Neither one of us is the emotional type.  But we were both tired and run-down from the prep work of travel.  It was enough to break our resolve.          

“You can have a few drinks on the plane now!”
“Nope.  Drinking age is 21 in the states and 20 in Thailand.”
“Well, have a quick one before you leave Canada then.”
“Before breakfast?”

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Educating the Differently-Abled

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid." - widely attributed to  Albert Einstein but likely in error

I love writing essays.  Sometimes organizing my thoughts on paper is the only way I can actually figure out what I really think.  I've had many jobs in my life, but, unfortunately, none that required writing.  There are some jobs that necessitate advanced writing skills but precious few.  So I'm wondering why our education system is still so heavily geared towards essay-writing.  We use it as a marker of academic excellence, but perhaps that needs to change.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Blogger Rights and Responsibilities

I think of myself as a C-list blogger.  Sometimes I wander into B-list territory, but I'm largely unseen by the masses.  If I make it into the double digits on a post, it's pretty exciting.  I have two posts that made it into triple digits here - largely, I think, because they've caused disagreement and outrage.  One's about why I'm not fond of Eckhart Tolle - some commenters insist I'm just jealous of his success.   And the other is on why I don't like Regulation 274 and the way it was just added to the Education Act without discussion.  There, commenters are on both sides which makes for a better dialogue.  The rest of my posts have a limited audience.  

So I was floored when a company called to ask me to take down a blog post that's critical of them because it's adversely affecting their business.  I took it down and won't name them here just so they stop calling me to complain about my complaining!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

On Monbiot's Manifesto

A just world is one in which the labour forces of all nations recognize that they can no longer evade their own problems by demanding the exploitation of other people.  (Manifesto, p. 245)

To be truly free...we must be prepared to contemplate revolution.  (Manifesto, p. 253)

Via The Guardian
It's been interesting to see the path Monbiot's taken to offer grand solutions to the problem of climate change - well, the problems inherent to human nature, really.  He offers a means to overthrow the current world-wide governmental system, then a means for an overseeing organization to dramatically reduce GHG production, then he goes off to the woods to explore the other side of the story.  I'm invigorated by his passion, but I'm dubious that any of it can possibly come to pass.