Archive for September 2006
Link: a segment from the Jon Stewart Daily Show, in which Islam and Christianity are given the “straight” treatment. This serves only to highlight the idiocy of both, such as the way both claim infallibilty and superiority over the other. This culminates in a “pray-off”, in which each asks to their respective deities to smite the other.
Both remain unsmitten, of course, and end up agreeing that they don’t like Jon Stewart, who is Jewish. “Hey, we have something in common!”
Much as I enjoy and appreciate Anousheh Ansari’s groundbreaking (?) blog from the International Space Station the title of one entry distracted a little from the contents: Thank God for Velcro. Velcro®, after all is purely man-made, with nothing religious about it. Sure, it was inspired by nature, but nature is hardly a spiritual place, except when viewed from perspectives particular to some members of the human race. Of course I know what she meant, but it’s a little odd.
It’s only a tiny distraction; Ms. Ansari’s writing gives me that “wish you were here” feeling, and I really wish I was, despite some of the privations she describes. I would be tempted to spend hours staring out the window at the Earth turning beneath me. I had imagined it would be “all go” up there, with the cosmonauts taking as little sleep as they could get away with, but that’s not sustainable over an extended stay up there, so it makes sense for them to pace themselves.
Sadly, my eyesight alone will ensure that I never see space in this lifetime. Even if I have laser surgery to correct my vision, the shape of my eyes means that I will remain vulnerable to a detached retina if I am ever subjected to high G-forces. Never mind: I can live vicariously through blogs such as Ms. Ansari’s.
What is “morality” but a set of behavioural codes handed down by “authority”? Since people throughout history have shown themselves incapable of making reasoned judgements for themselves, I don’t dispute the need for religion in the past. “Don’t Eat Pork” was the classic example – there were no “public health” regulations, so all the tribal leaders could do was invoke divine law to avoid the health risks that existed before we learned how to handle Pork safely.
But now, and in the future? Is there a model for acceptable behaviour that can break the old model, with its guilt and threats of divine retribution? I would look to an Ethics-based model, where you agree to follow standards set by your peers, as part of the bargain for belonging to a society. For example, the medical profession is pretty much self-regulating, except in extreme cases – because it offers benefits to its members, starting with the pride you get from doing good work. This “Enlightenment” model can extend to society as a whole, if you are prepared to work at it, and not take the easy dogma-based way out. Blind faith saves you from thinking for yourself.
If you’ve been brought up in a strong religion, it’s hard to understand that it IS possible to live and be good without it, just by using your brain. Start with Confucius, 500BC: “Do not do to others that which you would not want done to yourself”. (Jesus got it back-to-front, 500 years later!)
It’s over! Finally!
For the last couple of months, Ireland has been in the grip of the kind of sports-related madness that doesn’t happen here too often. Every second commercial on TV has had a golfing-related theme, most commonly when the product in question has had little or nothing to do with golf. I’m referring, of course, to the Ryder Cup, which just finished with a victory for Europe.
I’ve been fortunate enough to avoid most of the consequences, such as the rise in costs of many services for visitors. There was talk of people renting out their normal houses at €10,000 for a week, hotel rooms oversubscribed, and exorbitant prices for everything from golf balls to Guinness. Dublin’s taxi drivers threatened to go on strike, because the government brought in regulations to cut back on their exorbitant charges, though they unsurprisingly decided to deal with the additional money brought in by the tourists.
As for me, the “phony war” is still going great guns. Nothing medical to report, no news on the job front, not even any confirmation that I’m needed to go to India to deliver training, never mind a timeline for “workforce reduction” (WFR) or how I might be affected by it.
Never mind. I have patience.
In the absence of any real incident, how about a little “traditional blogging”; what I did on my Saturday:
- Woke up, fell out of bed, dragged a comb across my head… nah. My hair’s too short to need a comb;
- Hung around the flat all morning; I have the place to myself for about two weeks, my flatmate having departed for British Columbia early this morning;
- Wrote a bit about Rush for MuseWiki, to replace the one-liner. Black Holes and Revelations is still sounding great.
- Headed in to Dublin city centre: first stop the opticians, to pick up my new specs. They’re a more conventional shape than I’m used to, since the optician advised me to go for smaller lenses. Having such bad eyes means that I’ve never been able to take advantage of any special offers, because of high refractive index lenses, never mind the light-sensitive and anti-reflective coatings. There is some good news: my suspicions were correct, and my eyes have improved since the last test, my left eye by a whole diopter.
- Bought more cheap trousers, but left shoes for another day. I walk 32 kilometres (20 miles) in an average week, not including weekends, and it takes its toll on clothes. Thank goodness for outlet stores.
- Tonight I’m watching a “greatest movies” countdown on Channel 4, noting that I have yet to see most of them; the VCR will be recording one that should be on the list but probably isn’t: Being There.
One nice feature of WordPress.com is that they encourage you to open up multiple logs, all manageable under a single account. This is a general blog, so I talk about anything and everything here, but I’ve also opened up two additional blogs recently on more specific topics:
- music slaves: in which I will highlight old and new cases of people in the music industry who have been exploited under harsh contracts;
- found poetry: something I’ve long been a fan of, because it’s fun to “frame” something that takes on whole new meanings when pulled out of context and given the label “art”.
In other news: my first eBay sale has gone very well so far: the auction closed earlier this evening with a sale price better than I was hoping for. If I do a rough exchange rate calculation, I just sold a compressor/limiter for around the same price I paid for it – which is right, because it’s in a brand-new condition.
Lastly, negotiations have started with the aim of getting me to visit Bangalore later this year, to deliver a couple of training courses. As I kept telling my boss: I’m not terribly enthusiastic about the idea, but it’s not an unreasonable request, especially on an all-expenses-paid basis. Half of the people I work with locally have been already.
The folks I’ll be training will be doing the same job as me – and skills transfer is part of the reason for me to go – but the situation is no longer as clearcut as it was a while ago, when it looked like we’d be training people to replace us. The reality of the Indian job market is making its presence felt: despite the burgeoning numbers of people entering IT over there, it’s hard to find people with the levels of knowledge and troubleshooting skills we need, and just as hard to keep them from being poached by other companies after we spend money on training them further. Hey. the way salaries are rising over there, I suppose I’m not looking as expensive as I’m led to believe.
Finally: some scientists are looking beyond ways of slowing down or stopping global warming, and are starting to address the questions of how humanity will cope. I’ve asked, in these pages, why people continue to build their homes in low-lying areas that are subject to flooding, when a little geographic knowledge will let them understand just how dangerous it is.
In most cases, of course, people do not have much of a choice: they need to be somewhere, within the borders of their country, and when their country is e.g. Bangladesh – most of the country less than 10 metres above sea level – they can assume they will be affected by floods even before global warming kicks in. A sea level rise of just one metre will submerge an estimated 10% of Bangladesh – already one of the most densely-populated countries in the world.
Once again, we come back to the question of population: people producing more children than their country can support. It doesn’t make sense even at this time, far less if you are to look at the known problems facing any particular country in the future. Once again I find myself saying: if people don’t take care of themselves and their futures, by planning their families, Mother Nature will take care of them.