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Recent Thoughts

Posted by Keen Observer on August 5, 2015

I haven’t written much in the past year for various reasons, some good, some probably not good.  Excluding my recent poem and post on Friendship, my last two posts were in February and December on fairly diametrically-opposed subjects.  One was filled with thoughts of love and amazement and hope, and the other was filled with the pain of the end of a friendship I had thought unshakeable.  The two posts were not related.  The main reason I have been focused in other directions is fairly reasonably laid out in my December post.  But recent events have finally convinced me that the love I was chasing—and offering—will be neither achieved nor accepted.  I’m still grappling with the pain of it.  And a large part of that is due to the nature of how this realisation was given to me:  the uncovering of her lies and her speaking “unforgivable” words.

For most of the past year, I have been blessed with feelings of love I have never before experienced (see Timing).  It changed me as a person, and I am at this point a better man than I was last year at this time.  For that reason (among others) I can feel no true regrets for the events of the past year, though I can certainly regret the outcome.  The time and experiences have taught me a lot about myself that I didn’t expect to learn—certainly not in this fashion.  I learned to let go of certain bits of hatred and bitterness towards my ex and my ex-boss, because in being filled with love, I had no room for hate.  It was a startling revelation, as I hadn’t realised I still hated my ex until I no longer did, and I figured I would always hate my ex-boss (he’s a narcissistic asshole–I seem to run into a lot of them in positions of power).

Only love can defeat hate

Only love can defeat hate

I learned about acceptance and selflessness.  I learned about forgiveness.  I learned about inspiration.  I learned about so much, and all from interactions with a single person, a person I had come to know as “perfect”, though I knew she was not:  though she was flawed, she was just perfect for me.  That I also think she’s stunningly gorgeous didn’t hurt, either.  She made me feel alive and happy and young and hopeful and appreciated in ways I don’t remember ever feeling before, to the point that my omnipresent depression was mostly just an annoying buzz that could be ignored at will.

But a few months ago, April, she told me that she had been lying to me (and pretty much everyone she knows) and using me for months, and the nature of that lie and revelation could have been devastating to me.  I’m still confused as to how it wasn’t.  She said she had been doing it to protect my feelings, because she had figured out that I was madly in love with her, but that became hard to believe later on. But we talked it out, and she assured me the cause was no longer required and she agreed for the sake of our friendship not to lie to me or hide such things from me again.  A smarter man might have walked away from her then for the betrayal, but there were defensible reasons not to, including some sunk costs, and the fact that I loved her so deeply and completely that it still sometimes scares me.  Our friendship recovered…or seemed to, at least…and we spent a lot of time together in various ways, and I revealed the full depth of my feelings for her, partially through poetry I hadn’t yet given to her and some new stuff I now did, plus additional writing besides.  And I tried to live my love for her through my actions.  I also learned more details of her lies after the fact and learned some other things that I did not make her aware that I knew, as there seemed to be little point:  the past was the past.

But some weeks ago, the “unforgivable” words were uttered, shaming words that compared me directly to a past abuser of hers.  I was shocked and hurt and confused, because I had never tried to be anything but a source of love and support for her.  But my love was not something that fit into her life’s plan, and so a distance grew between us that I would rather have never happened.  It was during this period of silence where I was giving her space she indicated that she needed that I was confronted with evidence that she hadn’t changed, that she still was lying to me and would continue to do so, that the reason for the lies still existed, and that she was still going to hide things from me.  The lies and betrayal resurfaced, much to my shock.

I’ve never been so shocked as when that evidence slapped me in the face, as though she had done it in reality.  Because of the nature of the space I was giving her, she was supposed to write me something in response to my defence of the actions she compared to her abuser, so I didn’t want to confront her before I saw that, to give her the possible chance to come clean and volunteer her story.  So I tried to wait for an uncertain, unspecified delivery date.  Two days later, the building pressure from that pushed me past a breaking point I hadn’t realised existed, and I…ran away.  With no notice, I asked my boss for the week off and went home to visit my family and my new niece.  I tried to run from her to deal with my pain, and just as though the universe was twisting the knife, she was the last person I saw leaving work that day.  Yes, she’s a co-worker, but we don’t work directly together. (To add insult to injury, the next day, I broke a tooth that’s going to cost me thousands to fix.)

The visit home was good, and I was gradually able to recentre myself.  Most of my anger went away, and my love for her kept trying to overwhelm and suppress my other feelings.  She texted me one evening that week and suggested we talk when I get back (I surprised her by disappearing unannounced), as she felt her writing skills were not up to the task of writing an actual response to my letter.  I agreed, not without trepidation.  We had that conversation almost a month ago, and it was both much less and much more than I feared. (Understand that there are a lot of details missing from here, which is contributing to some of my stilted syntax.)

She lied to my face, directly and very specifically, when she didn’t have to.  The lie was entirely unnecessary in the context, and the conversation could have been completed “satisfactorily” without that information.  Because that information was directly contradicted by the evidence mentioned earlier: photographs from a wedding and the knowledge I have that she doesn’t know I have.  But the photographs were visible to her friends on Facebook for a short time, and they’re pretty damning even without my knowledge, so one wonders why she would take that risk.  I think in part she’s just gotten so used to lying about this to everyone that she can’t help herself.  Despite the fact that the pictures were posed for, taken by someone else, and taken in public.  I guess she’s neither as honest nor as smart as I had given her credit for.  And then earlier this week, additional, more-innocent visual evidence surfaced that makes the case against her lies and deception yet more damning and longer-running, and she remains silent.  And she seems to be carrying a lot of cognitive dissonance in her head to be able to say and do the things she does that seem entirely contradictory to one another, and so I start to wonder if some of the unflattering things that she told me others have called might not actually be true.  Which is a horrible thing for me to even think.

I love her still, and I like her personally.  I like talking to her and spending time with her.  I value her friendship.  But now I question if we can actually stay friends, because she’s lost my trust and my respect.  But we still have more talking to do, and for the first time in my life, I’m going to be picking a fight with someone.  Not just “someone”, but a woman I love and care deeply about…despite everything.  Because I need to see her reaction and response.  Then, and only then, I might be able to figure out what to do, because right now, I’m more than a little lost and confused.

POSTSCRIPT (some time after writing the above and sitting on it prior to publication):  We were supposed to meet and talk more about this, wherein I would confront her, this week, but she had to cancel.  I had given her exactly one mental reason where such a cancellation would not result in the instant end to our friendship, and she managed to hit it on the nose.  So, we’re going to meet next week instead, and she promises that she will fully block off that evening for me.  She seems truly remorseful, but I still have trust issues, despite my soul crying out to be with her.  But at least she had the courage to tell me to my face (we went for coffee), and the conversation that didn’t revolve around that future talk was otherwise pleasant, as our conversations almost always are.  She seems genuinely concerned about our friendship, which makes this even harder on me.  But we’ll see.

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Posted in life, love, personal, stupidity | Comments Off on Recent Thoughts

Heartbreak 3

Posted by Keen Observer on July 23, 2015

I haven’t written much in the past months, mostly for good reasons, some for laziness and a lack of motivation.  I might or might not be starting up again.  This poem is a glimpse into the emotional turmoil I’ve been experiencing since April, and more strongly in the past month.


Fighting with Myself

I do not know
What I am
What I feel
Inside
I am both
Full and empty
Paired feelings
Happy and sad
Still and shaken
Calm and afraid
Focused and scattered
Whole and broken
Supported and alone
Love and pain
Appreciated and betrayed
Certain and not
I do not know
How to reconcile
So many dichotomies—
Just that they must be
Or I will never again
Be whole or happy
To love once more
Freely and completely
How I once loved you

Posted in life, love, personal, poetry, stupidity | Comments Off on Heartbreak 3

Remembrance of Things Past…

Posted by Keen Observer on November 11, 2013

Nothing to do with anything in this post but the title, but I remember reading some of the above bit of painful prose in the original French. I don’t remember much about it, but I remember reading it, and only vaguely how some things can spawn an “involuntary memory”. The original title is more along the lines of “In Search of Lost Time”, but English editors of French works can be a little pompous and can feel the need to change authorial intent. I was never a fan of Proust, but that little kernel of truth is quite profound, as it relates strongly to interconnectedness.

That aside…

Today was Remembrance Day in Canada and the Commonwealth, and marked in different ways in other countries. Canada uses the day–though not a national, public holiday–to honour its fallen heroes, its war dead, a tradition dating back to the end of World War I. The poppies come out about two weeks before the day. Generally, at no other time during the year is there any mention of such things in the “popular” press, and come the 12th, the poppies disappear from the talking heads on television, and also the public consciousness.

There has been some talk in recent years of a so-called “white” poppy, that’s intended to represent peace, as though the red poppies (there are other colours?) are meant to honour war and killing. People who would believe this tripe are ignorant, stupid, or misled. Or all three. People who think that another type of poppy is needed have no idea what a “Remembrance” poppy represents, and they probably don’t care to learn, either.

War is hell. Period. Some have said it’s the failure of diplomacy, which is probably true enough, but diplomacy is often used just as another military manoeuvre, and is often the opening salvo in the war, or the base causus belli. And sometimes, diplomacy is just another way of saying, “Please turn around, so I can stab you in the back.” Friends close, enemies closer. There are people/entities/national actors in the world with whom diplomacy is impossible, because they are not rational actors. With groups like those, war of some type is inevitable, and it’s harder to fight off, both because they are not rational actors, and because we often give them the means to destroy us.

War is hell. It has a huge cost, beyond military budgets and economic/environmental damage. War kills generations, whether the war is “won” or not. War is a horrible, horrible thing and should be avoided–unless it can’t be. And if it can’t be, that war should be prosecuted to the fullest extent possible, to ensure that your side doesn’t bear the cost of it any more than it has to. It should be as nasty, brutish, and short as possible, and preferably destroy your enemy’s ability to make war again for a very long time. People who have studied war’s history, and the history of wars, understand this, more so if they have military experience. Politicians, as a rule, do not, and they are often eager to increase the cost of a war that they do not personally have to pay.

War veterans understand the hellish nature of war at a bone-deep level we “normal” people can’t possibly understand, and for this we should be grateful, because it means that we have not experienced it. And we “normals” have trouble understanding why anyone would volunteer to go out and kill or die to serve a political or necessary end for people they know nothing about. But they do, and they die. It is this that the poppies represent: their sacrifice, not for a glorification of war. The poem “In Flanders Fields” encapsulated this fairly well, which is why it has stood the test of time. They died, that others might live. They died, that those who started unnecessary wars might be defeated in their goals. They died, that evil might be fought to a standstill and destroyed. They died, that people might say egregiously-stupid things about poppies without being imprisoned. They died, and we live. They died, and we wear poppies once a year.

There is a problem, though, in that as we get further away from the global wars of the past, the memories around them fade. And schools slowly stop teaching about the true causes and costs of war. And the sacrifices of the honoured fallen are gradually pushed to the side, so that generations of people grow up not understanding what happened in the past. Memories fade, and people stop seeing the warning signs of oncoming global conflict, leaving us unprepared in the face of existential threats. Memories fade, and people stop appreciating the freedoms they take for granted every single day, freedoms bought with the blood of young generations, something that today’s young generations don’t want to confront. And they fail to see that the price of those freedoms is eternal vigilance, because there is always someone out there who wants to restrict your freedoms, to control your lives and thoughts. Honouring and supporting a military that is the only bulwark against external threats of that type is about the least you can do. And the simplest way to do that is to wear a red poppy on the left side of your chest for a couple weeks around Hallowe’en. If you feel particularly punchy, you can go for a yellow ribbon as a year-round display. But we must not forget. Or there might come a time when we need the help of the warriors to protect us, but they are not there, and this time, it is we who will die, but there will be no one to remember us.

Posted in general, life, opinion, personal, poetry, politics, stupidity, Writing | Comments Off on Remembrance of Things Past…

Sex Workers’ Rights Day (Friday the 13th)

Posted by Keen Observer on September 16, 2013

Sex work is work, as they say, and sex worker rights are human rights. Per the link below, I’m one who comes at this from the libertarian side, the equal-treatment-under-the-law side, the women-have-the-right-to-choose-how-their-bodies-are-used side, the not-seeing-sex-work-as-immoral side, and the not-treating-working-girls-like-pieces-of-shit side. For the record, I’ve never patronised a sex worker (heh…did you see what I did there?), but trying to make/keep this consensual activity criminal is beyond stupid.

http://maggiemcneill.wordpress.com/2013/09/13/friday-the-13th-again/
(Her blog is not for the faint of heart or the easily offended, and some is NSFW.)

Read her stuff. Maggie McNeill–a retired escort–articulates things I could never find the words for and describes things far outside of my experience. But society treating sex workers as pariahs is why Robert Pickton got away with murdering women–people who were wives, sisters, daughters–for as long as he did, and why other murderers, abusers, and rapists continue to do. And this is in Canada, a country where prostitution is itself not illegal. I mean, listen to the news: recently, two women were killed in Vancouver almost next door to each other. “High-risk lifestyle” is media/police code for “she’s just a whore”, where missing or murdered women are concerned. More often than not, it even means “drug-addled whore.” That they were connected to sex work should never have made it into the news reports, because at this point in time, it’s fucking irrelevant–and perhaps never relevant. Treat murdered/missing women as murdered/missing women, in the press and elsewhere, and maybe violence against women will decrease. That they were escorts may be a relevant line of investigation, but why publicise it or change how you approach the case?

If you haven’t thought about things like this before, read her well-written blog (she is intelligent, articulate, and thoughtful, though I don’t always agree with her), and you will. However, you might end up feeling a bit gob-smacked from time to time at the things you’ll learn, especially about how whores in America are treated, and how they’re trying to export their misguided morality and control-freak tendencies worldwide, where it’s just not wanted. And you wouldn’t believe some of the stuff that goes on around the world.

I stole someone's picture.

“Nice pussy you have. Shame if something happened to it.”

You may be shocked at how most feminist groups, who should be staunch allies of fully-sexually-actualised, independent businesswomen, routinely fight against efforts to humanise (read, decriminalise) sex work/workers: a woman is allowed to choose, as long as it’s not choosing to take money for sex. Slut it up and fuck whomever you want, just don’t take cash money for it.

So, though this post is now going up a few days late, I don’t think it hurts to remind people that sex workers are people too. Porn stars have sex with multiple partners for money, and they don’t face nearly the same stigmatisation as someone doing a straight-up financial transaction for sex. They also don’t get arrested for their activities; some are lauded and some run for political office. And as Maggie has pointed out a time or two, cops aren’t smart enough to differentiate between hookers and non-hooker females. In some places just having more than a few condoms in your purse is enough to get you nicked, and that’s utterly ridiculous. Other stories are more harrowing, and all are because of demonisation of sex workers and the illegality of sex work in many jurisdictions. Strangely, however, most people can’t tell sex workers apart from “regular” women: they look just like everyone else. And they are just like everyone else: trying to make a living with their native skills.

Posted in American, Canadian, general, life, news & journalism, opinion, politics, religion, stupidity, Uncategorized, World | 1 Comment »

Wha?

Posted by Keen Observer on June 13, 2013

OK, so I’m confused: several of my posts say that the comments are disabled when viewing them, but in edit mode, the Allow Comments check-box is on. What the hell is up with that? I’ve done a quick search online, but I can’t seem to find anything that specifically addresses the issue. I’ve tried toggling the comments off and on again and updating the posts thusly each time, but there’s no change. How does this happen, and how do I fix it? Stupid WordPress.

Posted in general, stupidity, technology | 1 Comment »

Guns are tools

Posted by Keen Observer on January 13, 2013

Sandy Hook was a horrible, horrible thing. No child or its parents should have to suffer through what those people did. At least one teacher died a hero, not knowing if her efforts to protect her charges would be successful. People the world over could stand to emulate her behaviour.

Utoya was a horrible, horrible thing. No child or parent should have to suffer through what those people did. Premeditated murder of dozens of people not known to the shooter, while security forces were mobilised over a devastating bomb used as a mere distraction, is nothing more than psychopathy.

Both of these horrific crimes were perpetrated on innocent children for the most part. Both were perpetrated in so-called “gun free” zones, either by designation or de facto. The body count was much higher in Utoya, at least in part because the shooter wanted to kill as many people as possible In Sandy Hook, I’m not sure that was his goal. What was semi-ironic in this to me is that Utoya is in Norway, a country that has gun-control restrictions at least as severe as in Canada, and perhaps more so. Yet the shooter still managed to end up quite well-armed.

One thing that immediately leaps to my attention in both cases is how within hours, and wholly expectedly, the cries began to be raised before the bodies were even cold (or counted): Ban guns; Restrict Guns; Register Guns. In Norway, not much can be done, given the state if its laws. In the US, the semi-regular cries to make responsible firearms owners into criminals have taken on a fever pitch. Echoes of it appear in Canada, especially with the federal government recently striking down the legal requirement to register long guns that have been legally purchased.

The primary difference between gun-control arguments waged in the US and gun-control arguments waged pretty much anywhere else is this simple little sentence attached to their constitution via the amendment process:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

That’s it. The sum total of Amendment II to the US constitution, and it’s been argued over since it was written down. To me it looks pretty clear: “…shall not be infringed.” People mostly seem to argue over the inclusion of the Militia into this clause, but to me, based on the structure, it’s only there as a preamble and justification for allowing unrestricted access of the people to arms. Any kind of arms, since there is literally no restriction to this element. Though a howitzer would probably be pretty awkward to carry around with you. In fact, my reading posits that the only constitutionally-valid option available to the Americans is registration and licensing. That’s it. And Amendment X already has allowed that in place on a state-by-state basis, if so desired. And just as a reference, the state of Vermont has the fewest gun laws of any state in the Union (including Texas), and it also has the third-lowest total crime rate. The only law they seem to have is a “must-issue” law, in that if someone asks to be issued a permit for ownership or carrying, one must be issued to them.

Now, it is possible that Americans would genuinely want to restrict this stuff constitutionally. That’s fine. There is a process in place since the country’s founding to amend the constitution. Knock yourself out. But until then, it seems to me that the hue and cry being raised is all about increasing political capital and/or statist control, and not about safety or the children. Because you see, there is little to correlate increased gun ownership with increased violence, and almost nothing to correlate it to mass shootings on any sort of realistic basis (I wish I could remember where, but I saw one statistic that showed Canada had a higher rate of school shootings than the US on a per-capita basis). I’ve seen a couple of recent suggestions, in fact, that gun violence correlates pretty well to drug trafficking more than anything else, and can be inversely correlated to the removal of lead from paint and gasoline. A different study correlates an inverse relationship between increasing gun ownership and decreasing murder rates in the US, using the FBI’s own statistics.

But among all the various studies, what it comes down to–in my not-so-humble opinion–is people. People will kill. People will kill (if they’re of a mind to) using whatever tools are available to them. Guns are handy, but so are chemical explosives or cars or propane tanks or edged weapons. Japan or China has had about eighteen separate mass killings with edged weapons in the last five or ten years (don’t remember that source today, either). The worst was about eight people killed with a meat cleaver. The truth of the matter is, you can’t prevent psychotics or sociopaths from killing…at least, not until they expose themselves, and then dang it if you don’t wish you were carrying that day.

There were about a dozen mass killings in the US last year. Twelve people showed how fucked-up nuts they were. Out of a population of some 350 million. To my recollection, only Sandy Hook got this kind of coverage or reaction. And there were about 9000 non-justified gun homicides in 2011 (based on FBI stats and rounded off). So, because of these people, there is wailing and gnashing of teeth to abrogate the constitutional rights of the other 349,990,988 people (roughly), or else “you just don’t care about the children, you monster!”

In Canada, some firearms laws have been on the books since about 1935, because we have no such constitutional protections. A recent study by an ER doctor, Cailin Langmann, showed an actual inverse correlation between the enacting of the three main stages of Canadian fireamrs laws and crime rates. The more restrictions put in place, the worse crime gets. Anecdotal evidence from other places shows similar results, in that crime almost disappeared in a Georgia town after a law was passed to require gun ownership by the head of household. The states in the US with the most restrictions–Illinois and California–are also the most violent states. But you won’t generally hear this sort of thing in the “popular” news media, because it doesn’t fit the narrative: “Gun Ownership is Evil!” In fact the news article I read about this in the National Post ridiculed the results as being suspect, because Dr Langmann is a known supporter of gun ownership…without noticing the irony that they said nothing about the contrary position being held by an organisation dedicated to ending personal gun ownership.

I wish that I owned a few weapons some days, but I’m not going to, not in this climate. Even though the long-gun registry has been destroyed (fuck you, Quebec), just applying for and getting a Possession and Acquisition Certificate (PAC) surrenders rights to the state that ought not to be surrenderable. Even if I didn’t buy a weapon after acquiring the PAC, the state now has the right to enter my home for any or no reason at all and search the fuck out of it…just in case I store a bullet next to a gun, or some bullshit. The laws are incredibly restrictive and do nothing for anyone. And I don’t want to deal with that. And then I’d always have to worry about using such a weapon to defend myself in my home against an intruder. There have been too many cases of people doing that and getting arrested for it, which is absurdly wrong. If I don’t have the right to defend myself by whatever means necessary, then I have no rights at all. And as some others have pointed out, that right was enshrined in the Diefenbaker Bill of Rights (passed in the early 1960s), and it has never been contradicted in law. However, it seems that the courts need a specific law to hold their hands and explain things to them, so the sooner a Castle Doctrine is enshrined in law, the happier I’ll be. But the registry itself should be a warning to Americans: it just won’t work. Registered firearms kill people all the time. But most handgun murders in Canada aren’t with registered weapons, because, you know, criminals don’t register their fucking guns! And though it’s easy to be accused of Godwinism in any argument, the comparison with Nazi Germany is valid in this case, because they instituted gun-ownership restrictions on the Jewish population. See how that worked out?

Beyond the hysteria of the gun-control crowd, it boils down to this: firearms are tools, nothing more. A weapon is inert and useless, until it is wielded, and it must be wielded by conscious act. It doesn’t matter if it’s a gun or a knife or a bomb or a fucking baseball bat or a garden trowel. It just lies there until someone picks it up and uses it. Guns are especially inert, because not only does the weapon have to be acquired, it has to be loaded with ammunition that also has to be acquired, aimed, and a trigger pulled. And you have to hit what you’re aiming at, which may be dozens of feet away. To me, the only sane response to crazy people on a rampage is not to be helpless before them, not to be out-gunned by them, and not to let the state make us all into victims by preventing that and preventing preservational self-defence. Because a gun in your hand can be an amazing equaliser, and for an assailant not to know who is armed and who is not makes them less likely to attack randomly. Psychopaths will still be psychopaths, but a rampage is a lot easier to stop when someone besides the shooter is armed. And that’s another key point to remember: “When seconds count, the police are just minutes away.” Police aren’t a preventative measure. They are there to clean up afterwards, and in some cases cause the problems (but that’s a different rant).

So let’s do away with the hand-wringing and pearl clutching and the “won’t someone think about the children”-ing. I used to hate the phrase when I was younger, but you really can’t argue with it: guns don’t kill people; people kill people. But you just can’t seem to argue that proposition with the gun-control crowd. Because, “you’re an evil child-killer, you monster!” You can’t reason with the unreasonable, and you can’t argue someone out of a position they weren’t argued into in the first place. But hysteria serves no one, and I really wish it would stop.

Posted in American, Canadian, news & journalism, opinion, politics, stupidity | Comments Off on Guns are tools

Memory

Posted by Keen Observer on November 12, 2012

Memory:  personal memory, institutional memory, corporate memory, cultural memory, tribal memory.  These are the types of memories that living beings tend to be aware of, even if perhaps not all the time or in a consistent way.  But they are there.  I hope I don’t need to go into details on them, so I won’t.

Most of these—if not all—were consistently shared between individuals and generations in a largely oral tradition in times earlier than this.  Histories and fables, facts and survival/prosperity tips, and other such similar things were handed down to the general knowledge base or to specific, “worthy”, recipients.  Because of the way memory works, sometimes knowledge was lost, and sometimes less-valuable knowledge was discarded if favour of something better or more important.  This is evolution of a sort.

However, the advent of modern technology changed that somewhat.  It started gradually, but it eventually became the way that technology displaced the mostly-oral tradition, and it was thought to be progress or “better”.  One could argue that this change started with writing and tablets, before moving on to scrolls, but even in those cultures where these things arose, there would have been a significant majority of any population for whom this technology was out of reach, and thus would have had to rely on continuing the oral tradition.  These simple forms of technology were all there were for centuries, although as time went on, larger (though still very minor) percentages of the various populations would have acquired the use of these technologies.  It could even be argued that in some societies, the populace were deliberately kept ignorant to keep them under the control of their overlords.  I’m looking largely at feudal Europe, here, especially the iron control of the Church.  Countries like China and India and Japan had better literacy rates at the same time, I believe, even if there were entrenched class systems.

A seriously-significant piece of technology changed Europe (and the world) permanently in the middle of the last millennium:  movable type and the Gutenberg press.  In addition to aiding in the relatively rapid dissemination of knowledge to all and sundry, it had an additional effect on the human use of memory.  It started to become less necessary for people to remember things themselves, or similarly for the various groups of people outlined above to retain and pass along acquired or historical knowledge.

Jump ahead a couple hundred years to the present day, and that trend has almost reached its conclusion:  few  people or organisations remember any more than they absolutely have to to get by in life or business/whatever.  The word “memory” is not used as it was in the past, except in rare instances.  In fact, it is almost ubiquitous in its usage as a technological construct in the form of computer memory (RAM) or less correctly as storage (hard drives, thumb drives, optical media, and the like).  If you asked a random person on the street, “How’s your memory?”, you’re about as likely to get the answer in gigabytes as you are to hear that he’s been having a harder time remembering names lately.  We rely insanely heavily on other things to do our remembering for us:  books, journals, computers, disks, libraries, corporate manuals, legal codes, and so on.  And because other things do the heavy lifting for us, we no longer have to do it ourselves.  It’s almost become that a person with a good memory is considered freakish, it’s so bad.

Our memory “muscles” atrophy from disuse, and it becomes harder and harder to remember things.  When I  was younger, I prided myself on my memory.   It wasn’t eidetic (to my chagrin), but it was pretty good.  There were times when I felt I was just a hair’s breadth away from being able to visualise perfectly a page which I had read, to be able to pull out of that page the specific phrase I was attempting to recall.  Frustrating.  But since I started to rely on other things to remember that which I needed to remember, the less my memory itself was used, a gradual trend over the past couple of decades.  And on top of that, the older I get, the harder I have to work to remember things I should still know, and it becomes harder to retain new information that I am learning or need to know.   And this annoys the crap out of me at many levels.

I see this trend away from using one’s own memory as something occurring society-wide, on a fundamental basis, and I don’t think this is a good thing.  I also think I see that the pace of it is increasing, with increasing amounts of technology being used in the classroom as though it’s a good thing.  Children are being encouraged and taught to rely on machines to remember stuff for them.  Smartphones (e.g., with their memo and calendar functions) and thumb drives are ubiquitous.  Even diaries have a state of impermanence, being stored on media that can easily be destroyed in ways that written hardcopy cannot.  I think—and this is just my opinion—that continuing on this path is not only detrimental to people and society, but it is actively contributing to society’s downfall.  People that don’t remember things on their own will not be able to react to problems quickly; they will not be able to adapt and overcome, if they must continually stop to check something on their phones or look something up on the Internet.  This is a sort of recipe for disaster, if you’ll pardon the hyperbole, because we must as a society be smarter than those who would wish to destroy us, if we wish to survive.  It also has the effect of reducing the candidate pool for highly-technical (or other) jobs that require that sort of mental flexibility and awareness.  This does not leave me exactly hopeful for the continued survival of our society.

Just some thoughts about memory.  And right on a thousand words, too.

Posted in computers, general, life, opinion, science, stupidity, technology | Comments Off on Memory

Wow…just…wow

Posted by Keen Observer on March 17, 2012

This post (follow the links) scares the crap out of me for some reason:

http://www.smalldeadanimals.com/archives/019619.html

I believe that in a free society, no single person should be able to wield unrestricted power.  Based on my reading of the article at the examiner.com link (trying to read the full text of the EO made my eyes swim), there are absolutely NO CONTROLS on presidential power, should this Executive Order be invoked.  I find that very, very scary.

Update:
Ed Morrissey at Hot Air tries to calm people down, claiming this is just a terminology update:

http://hotair.com/archives/2012/03/18/national-defense-resources-preparedness-executive-order-power-grab-or-update/

Even with his analysis, I’m not convinced there’s nothing to worry about, and I’m not even American. That previous presidents signed similar EOs is not a justification in centralising that much power, or keeping it there. Especially when the current office-holder bemoaned not having the same freedom to act as a Chinese dictator.

But there’s nothing to worry about.

Posted in American, opinion, politics, stupidity | Comments Off on Wow…just…wow

Still More PC Fascism

Posted by Keen Observer on August 23, 2009

Sigh.

How many ways to excoriate the stupidity inherent in the original subject matter, to which Jammie-Wearing Fool points (thanks to HotAir for the link information)?  Far too many.  I’ll point out two:

The term “right-hand man” is also considered taboo by the gallery, with “second in command” being deemed more suitable.

Not necessarily stupid, I suppose, but a right-hand man is not necessarily (or even usually) the 2IC.  For the world in which I live, a right-hand man, or a man Friday, is taken to mean one’s closest assistant for getting stuff done.  YMMV, though, and the implicitness of the command structure may be present.

Secondly:

The commission even urges employees to be mindful of the term “ethnic minority” because it can imply “something smaller and less important”.

Umm, isn’t that what “minority” means?  Smaller?  Not the majority?  It’s a descriptor that intrinsically discriminates, when coupled with “ethnic”, too, by those lights.  I mean, how else is one supposed to say that there is less of this ethnicity than of the numerically-dominant one for a given geographical or political area?

Another one I like:

The National Gallery in London believes that the phrase “gentleman’s agreement” is potentially offensive to women….

Okay, sure.  But could you maybe cite some proof?  I believe the people wasting time on this are morons.  Let me know when you open the box and Schrödinger’s Cat is offended.  Otherwise, piss off.  That these people “believe” in the “potential” offense offends me to a deep, deep level.  Where’s my redress?

I’m going to call all this revisionist language correction for what it is:  complete and utter bullshit.  A small, loud, reactionary group (it seems to me) is attempting to distort language for some undisclosed purpose, and this is another cobble in the road being built to language and thought control.  These terms are slang.  They will follow one of two paths, as the language evolves (languages do that, you know; they’re not created out of whole cloth):  they will either disappear from usage on their own (something that tends to take centuries to accomplish), or the meaning will evolve to something different and most likely harmless (also a long process).

English (and other languages) has evolved quite nicely on its own since the 600s or so, without any PC language police out there making sure no one’s ego or feelings were hurt by the nasty wordses.  If they just STFU and let the language do what it will do on its own, the problem will ultimately take care of itself.  As opposed to making people feel bad by exposing them to such hurtful phrases in the public media.

This PC language crap has been going on for over twenty years.  It’s long past time for this sort of thing to disappear.  It was stupid when I was in high school, and it’s stupider today.  Let’s call a spade a spade:  I’m sure if we all pull together, we can come to a gentleman’s agreement to master a method lift black marks from certain social groupings…like the ones that live and breathe true sexist and racist behaviour.  And they’re not the ones against whom this new British government policy is directed.

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Olympics: Game Over

Posted by Keen Observer on August 15, 2009

I had the idea when starting this blog that I might spend a lot of time commenting on the stupidity inherent in modern politics, largely in the US and Canada.  I’ve since realised that there are far too many people out there doing largely the same thing.  And they probably do it better than I can, since I don’t really have the time to devote to it to do it properly.  And from what I see, it takes a lot of time to do it right.  With a fairly new job and other concerns to occupy my time, it just wouldn’t be right to do the job half-assed.

That said, there are many other subjects that could draw my attention, and I might still now and again make a political statement.  It’s been a long time since I wrote a post, because I’ve been busy, and other sites have been making my points at least as well as I could.  But this news item, courtesy of my default Firefox RSS News bookmarks two days ago, just made me sit up and go, “Wha?”  (Just in case it’s not obvious, the supposed need to add professional golfers to the rolls of Olympic athletes is what pushed me over the edge.)

Two things became instantly clear to me:

  1. The modern Olympics movement has outlived itself.
  2. Jacques Rogge must go, followed shortly thereafter by the rest of the IOC.  Possibly thereafter by the various international sport-regulatory bodies.

The original modern Olympics, as visualised by Coubertin, were to be a showcase and supporting mechanism for amateur, youth, sport.  And it mostly was.  I would say, though, that the last pure Olympics were in 1976, although even by then things were slipping.  Through a slow erosion subsequent to those Games (Winter and Summer), the movement and the Games have deteriorated into greed, corporatism, stupidity, and irrelevance.  I would blame this largely on two people, supported by a wide cast of characters:  Juan Antonio Samaranch and Jacques Rogge.

The slow death of the Games (and by extension, the movement) began with allowing professional athletes to compete for amateur awards.  It was accelerated by sponsorships and broadcasting-rights competitions.  In all of these the spirit of cooperative competition inherent to the Olympic movement of Coubertin vanished in a cloud of money.  It has changed the movement to such a point that the word “amateur” doesn’t even appear in the current Olympic Charter, and the charter itself states that there are no age restrictions for competition, beyond those imposed by the international sporting federations.  Most of the charter seems to be about rights and ownership, rather than promoting and supporting young athletes.  It has become a corporate, self-serving sinecure, aided and abetted by governments the world over.  Recent bribery scandals only enhance this perception, and certain judging scandals didn’t help either.

I grew up thinking the Olympics were a magical thing.  Olympic athletes were to be honoured and imitated.  I’m just old enough to remember Nadia Comaneci obliterating her competition.  I’m definitely old enough to remember the boycotting trend that started in 1980, and I remember being disgusted then that it had come to that.  I wasn’t quite old enough to understand the geo-political environment behind that, but that year didn’t feel quite the same without the Olympics.  Hearing the reports of the Games but knowing Canada’s athletes weren’t there to compete somehow cheapened the experience.  I remember feeling deeply offended that the US-led boycott had opened the field for the Eastern Bloc countries to run amok on the medal counts.  Surrendering the field like that left me feeling stung and betrayed.  The feeling was oddly reversed, as the Soviets returned the favour four years later.  How could Canada trumpet its successes (highest medal count ever), when it was competing against a crippled field?  Older as I was at the time, it still made no sense.  The one good thing for me about those 1984 Games was that the opening ceremonies introduced me to George & Ira Gershwin.  Rhapsody in Blue is an amazing piece of music, and being played by all those pianos in synch was impressive to watch.  That, Beijing, is how you impress people…not with CG and lip-synching trickery.  (Beijing could take a lesson from Barcelona, also:  I have yet to see something top that arrow lighting the main Olympic flame.)

I think what kept me from turning against the Olympics this completely before now was probably some residual after-effects from the’84 Games in Los Angeles, at least in part.  I spent a long, hot summer as a young teenager watching most of those games, and it was very interesting to me then.  What really affected me–other than the pianos–was the conclusion to the women’s marathon.  Gabriela Andersen-Schiess (sorry…this was the best video of it I could find) became for me the embodiment of Olympic competitive spirit, despite not being by any stretch a youth.  I was deeply moved watching her hobble around the track for her final lap, almost totally seized up, looking crippled but determined to finish her race.  She knew the race was over–ultimately, she would place 37th(!) out of 44 finishers–but she would not let her Olympic experience end with a DQ by accepting medical help.  It still moves me today (surprised myself, I did) thinking of it, and it sure moved the X thousand spectators in the Rose Bowl watching her that day who stayed on their feet applauding more than for the American Benoit.  That was Olympic spirit, and it’s really hard to find anywhere else any more.

Two more recent incidents come to mind, and that’s about it:  in 2006 in Turin when a Norwegian skiing coach Bjørnar Håkensmoen handed Canadian Sara Renner a new ski pole after hers was broken by a competitor, so she could finish her cross-country ski race, an act which may have cost Norway a medal; the 1992 Barcelona Games saw Canadian rower Silken Laumann, a favourite for gold, injured severely two months or so before the Games, and rather than pull out of the Games, she underwent intensive repair and rehabilitation efforts and participated in the Games on schedule, winning a bronze medal.  I remember the Laumann story fairly well, as I was in a car accident about that time, so the events are sort of linked in my mind.  At any rate I’ve always seen Laumann’s efforts as another example of the competitive spirit engendered by the Olympics, a gold-medal performance despite receiving “only” the bronze, and the selfless behaviour of the Norwegian coach as a hallmark of the sportsmanship the Games are supposed to espouse.

I don’t really see examples of this with any sort of regularity any more.  Doping scandals abound; there are pushes for more sports that shouldn’t be included, and worthy ones are removed or ignored.  It’s a numbers game, and the IOC rules by fiat and caprice, answerable to none.  National Olympic committees and organising committees aren’t much better.  Just Google “VANOC news” to see where some britches are just too darn small for some people.

The simplest and correct solution to this morass of crap would be to shit-can the Games for at least a generation…maybe more.  By then maybe another Coubertin would raise again the torch of the true Olympic spirt.  I doubt that it would happen, as there’s too much money and phony “prestige” at stake.  But I henceforth boycott the Olympics.  I refuse to be drawn into the hype; I refuse to give my hard-earned money to support them in any way, shape, or form; I refuse to watch them.  I will mentally cheer on the athletes who work hard to get there (not the pros), and I’ll probably be happy when Canada wins medals, but that’s where my future support ends.  Inviting more pro athletes to participate was the last straw.  Since total cancellation is unlikely, I will maintain this position until something like what follows happens.

I’ll be honest, in that I don’t really have much of a problem with the age thing in the Games.  I do think, though, that the competitive age limit should be set at either 30 or 35 at the top end and 15 at the low end.  I’d honestly like to see the lower end raised a bit, simply because of the bodily damage that can be done to adolescents training to compete at that elite a level.  I don’t know where a fair boundary would be, though.  There could be a Senior Games, I suppose, for the older competitors, but I have a feeling that wouldn’t work out too well.

Doping is  a contentious issue, to say the least.  There needs to be some sanity dropped into this discourse.  One suggestion, following a fairly lame “Saturday Night Live” sketch some decades back, would be to have a Steroids Games, where doping restrictions are lifted.  As my Classics prof once told me, the original Olympic athletes would’ve been all over performance-enhancing drugs.  For them, it wasn’t about sportsmanship, but about winning and glory (and oiled, naked bodies prancing about and rubbing against each other).  I say that if such a thing were allowed, these kind of “cheaters” would stop sullying the “good” name of the Olympics, and honest competitors could face off against each other.  But for this, there is a lot of stupidity in the WADA protocols.  Pot is not performance enhancing, I would think; more performance-reducing.  It slows you down (from what I understand).  Cold and allergy medications are not performance enhancing.  For me, even the non-drowsy ones can make me logy all day and reduce my cognitive and physical abilities.  And why should athletes have to suffer through a cold for fear of testing positive?  And the surprise doping tests are a joke.  They seem to test people who have no record or history of doping or suspicion of doping, it seems.  Is this to prove the system works?  Puts me in mind of gun-registration stupidity.  And showing up at 3am is just rude and moronic, and then saying they failed the test b/c they didn’t have to pee just then is far more than one step beyond.  In any segment of the population other than elite athletes, this type of action likely would be challenged in courts of law.  There’s one quick way to solve doping at the Olympics, though:  ban the country.  If one competitor tests positive during the games, the whole country gets punted and forfeits all medals won.  You want to see countries self-police?  That’ll do it.  If the countries won’t, the athletes themselves will.  No one can afford to ignore the problem, then, to say, “This doesn’t affect me.”  But there has to be latitude for documented colds/medicines etc.  Focus on the hard-core shit, not the stuff that might help an athlete.

It’s a truism that technology improves.  As technology improves, the lives and skills of people tend to improve also.  But as we have seen with the speed swimsuit issue, “technological doping” continues to be a focus of research and development money for elite athlete equipment providers (and nations).  FINA has finally decided to ban these suits, but not immediately, which would’ve been the right, logical thing to do.  Instead, they’re waiting a year or so.  If they wanted to send the right message, not only would they have banned them immediately, they would’ve invalidated any records set by swimmers wearing them.  The only equipment that should be allowed in any sport’s competitions are that which are necessary to either play the sport or to protect the participants.  A downhill skier needs to wear full-length clothing; a swimmer does not.  And all competitors in a sport should be equipped approximately equally.  Not too egalitarian otherwise, which means it should be the minimum equipment necessary.  In swimming, that means Speedo-sized trunks for men, and one-pieces for women (only because bikinis would result in wardrobe malfunctions and give an advantage to the smaller-chested among the competitors).  Then you have a contest between swimmers, not swimsuits.  There are other issues for equipment, but this one is the most visible just now.

Elimination of judged sports would go a long way to re-establishing credibility of the Games also.  Judging introduced a human element that can be influenced by outside sources.   Cases in point would be figure-skating judges and boxing judges (I’m looking at you, Seoul).  I tend to lean toward sports of this nature being removed from Olympic competition entirely (like figure skating and gymnastics, especially rhythmic gymnastics), since there’s so much room for error and controversy.  For things like boxing or other combat sports, judging would have to be limited to rule infractions (illegal hits, for example); the fights themselves should go until one fighter wins either by knock-out or best-of-X falls.  Wrestling would still have to be by pin.  And in situations like what arose in Seoul in 1988 at the boxing venue, well, that would have to result in the home team being disqualified (or pulled out willingly) to reward such egregiously-bad behaviour.  But it boils down to:  you remove judging, you remove controversy.  It can’t help but improve the Games, especially when the competitors know they only have to defeat their opponents.

Broadcasting rights.  There’s another contentions issue, along with corporate sponsorships.  If it weren’t an apparent huge kick-back operation, I’d be less troubled by it.  Amateur sport always needs funding.  What goes on with the Olympics is naught but crass commercialism.  Host broadcasters are one thing, as foreign broadcasters need to piggyback into existing infrastructure.  But that sort of thing is getting out of hand, and the IOC is encouraging it to fill their coffers.  If it’s about egalitarianism for sport and athletes, open up the broadcast rights and let whoever wants to pay a modest licensing fee.  Sponsorships are a different animal, but with the same coloration.  It shouldn’t be a bidding war; that’s stupid.  Why shouldn’t both Coke and Pepsi (to use an example) be able to sponsor the Games?  Why is Visa the only “official” card of the Games?  What happens if Mastercard is a sponsor of an athlete, and the sponsorship agreement requires their symbol to be present on the athlete during competition?  Does the IOC wish to put the athlete in breach of contract?  Stupidity, stupidity, and more stupidity.

Finally (finally), no professionals.  Period.  All that allowing professionals to compete has done is increase already-inflated wanker egos and the costs associated with the Games, whoever puts them on.  I suppose there might’ve been some increased visibility for the Games, but in this day and age, that isn’t necessary.  Once they were established, it never really was.  But the quicker we get high-paid egotists out of the Olympics (and stop inviting more in), the better the Games themselves will be.  As a side benefit, the commercialism of them will probably also diminish significantly.

What’s a professional, you ask?  A professional is an athlete whose primary source of income or means of support comes from their sporting activities.  This may include the so-called “shamateur” types, as may have been typical of the old Soviet Union.  The list below is probably not exhaustive, but you should get the idea:

  • NHL players, or comparative leagues elsewhere
  • major-junior hockey leagues
  • PGA golfers or their equivalents
  • NBA players or their equivalents
  • Premier League footballers, or their equivalents, including the next two steps down from there (FA?)
  • WTA/ATP tennis players
  • Rugby union professionals
  • MLB or AAA ball players (or equivalents…maybe also one further step below)
  • professional boxers/other fighters
  • I’m sure I’ve missed a bunch

Now the distinction:  I’m not talking about banning young people that need financial support to be able to train properly.  Obviously, their incomes are not coming from their activities.  It’s hard to earn a good living as a pole vaulter, last I checked.  There isn’t a professional pole-vaulters’ league.  Pierre Lueders isn’t raking in the dough pushing and steering a bobsleigh down the track.  Just so we’re clear.  Endorsements are fine, as long as the sporting associations return to that whole “in trust” thing that figure skaters used to be limited to to be considered amateurs.

And that’s the long of it.  And it annoys me that both Samaranch and Rogge have done nothing to stop the downward spiral of the Games, presiding over them as they crater into the ground.  In fact they seem to be cheering on the destruction, oblivious as they race to irrelevancy and open their wallets to corporate largesse.  I just can’t handle it any more.

And that’s why I call bullshit on this one.

And I still say Dick Pound sounds like a p0rn name.

Posted in general, sports, stupidity, World | Comments Off on Olympics: Game Over