April 21, 2010

In pursuit of silence.

I work at a computer all day, quietly, not saying a word. Yet, I tell my partner, once I'm done with work I crave stillness.

Not talking does not mean there is no noise. While we're at work a million things go through our minds, dozens of "non-verbal" conversations take place (Twitter, Facebook, SMS, MSN, e-mail, etc), ideas come and go.

Every e-mail & every article I read is part of the daily conversation that goes on in my seemingly quiet world. Once I'm off the grid, I don't want to have to think about these things. I also don't want to engage in small talk about my day or what I had for lunch with my partner, at least not within the first hour of finishing work. My favourite thing to do is head straight for the pool, where the water envelops me and I can't hear a thing.

Although, you could call this a form of escapism masquerading as "exercise".

In Pursuit of Silence: Listening for Meaning in a World of Noise, a book by George Prochnik, helped me rethink my definitions of silence and noise.

Right on the outset it says "More than money, power, and even happiness, silence has become the most precious—and dwindling—commodity of our modern world."
In order to understand the pursuit of silence, it would be necessary, also, to track the pursuit of noise. The two were bound together -- each, in its own way, was reactive. It's a torrid, choppy affair that we are often in denial about, or tend to laugh off as a bass-heavy, summer's night fling. But it seems to have a surprisingly tenacious hold on us, and if we are ever going to being making a serious investment in the cultivation of silence, we have to understand how we became so entangled with noise. 
Instead of being against noise, I think we need to begin making a case for silence. This means getting imaginative about expanding our understanding of silence in ways that develop associations between silence and a vibrant, fulfilling life. Anti-noise activists often compare noise pollution to air pollution. But unlike smoke, lots of noises are good, at least some of the time. Instead, we might frame noise as a dietary problem. Most of us absorb far too much sonic junk. We need to develop a more balanced sound diet in which silence, and sounds we associate with quiet states of mind, become part of our daily regimen. 
Prochnik concurrently maintains a blog of silence as well.

April 19, 2010

Avert your eyes ↵

"If you are walking by a pond and you see a child drowning, do you save her? What if it means ruining a very fancy pair of Italian shoes?" 
Okay, if we assume the answer is yes, then why not spend the cost of those shoes to save 20 kids who are starving to death across town or the world? There's really no difference. Or by, extension, invest in research or development that solves a problem forever... The issues are proximity and attention.

My take is that most people would instantly save the kid, but given the choice, probably wouldn't take the road by the pond again any time soon. We like to avoid these situations, because these situations make us uncomfortable

April 16, 2010

Paedophilia not linked to celibacy; it is linked to homosexuality

The Vatican's Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, also known as 'Deputy Pope', told a news conference in Santiago:
"Many psychologists and psychiatrists have shown that there is no link between celibacy and pedophilia but many others have shown, I have recently been told, that there is a relationship between homosexuality and pedophilia.."
It would be interesting to see where the Deputy Pope obtains this steaming pile of excrement from.

Meanwhile in England, Richard Dawkins (atheist campaigner) and Christopher Hitchens (atheist author) are planning a legal ambush on the Pope:
Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, the atheist author, have asked human rights lawyers to produce a case for charging Pope Benedict XVI over his alleged cover-up of sexual abuse in the Catholic church.
Everything about Catholicism is dated - the rituals, the frocks, the cover-ups.
“This man is not above or outside the law. The institutionalised concealment of child rape is a crime under any law and demands not private ceremonies of repentance or church-funded payoffs, but justice and punishment."
This old boy's club mentality has gone on long enough.

Alien Baby: Genetics, Adoption, and how I became myself ↵

When I think about the differences [between me and my adoptive parents], I wonder if they're personality traits I cultivated on my own or if they belong to someone else who passed them onto me. Things like a preference for morning or evening hours can often be genetic, and this is part of what I hope the DNA test will tell me.

April 14, 2010

Isn't Sinead O'Connor overdue a massive, grovelling apology from absolutely everybody? ↵

In 1992, Sinead O’Connor ripped up a photograph of Pope John Paul II on Saturday Night Live as a protest against paedophilia in the Catholic Church and the complicity of the church hierarchy. It was viewed as an act of career suicide. The following day, steamrollers crushed hundreds of her CDs outside Rockefeller Center to huge cheers from protesters. On the next SNL, presenter Joe Pesci quipped that “if it had been my show, I would have gave her such a smack.”
I remember her doing this back then, but I was in my early teens & didn't quite know it was about paedophilia.
..even the most outlandish allegations O’Connor made against the Catholic Church eighteen years ago seem pretty tame in comparison to what we now know to have occurred. And in the wake of the most recent wave of revelations, which have implicated the current Pope, the US media seems belatedly to have acknowledged as much.
Only in adulthood did I finally understand why my father (an atheist) never allowed my brother to serve as an altar boy (we were raised Catholic. Long story.)

The comments are an interesting read. This one stood out:
"Sinead is definitely due an apology. 38 years ago my father warned me never to be alone with a priest or take a lift from one. This was before I went to Irish College which was run by the priests. He told me that they lived very unnatural lives and that some of them preyed on children and did bad things to them. I took his advise. Lots of people knew what was going on even then."


Trash-collecting entrepreneur squashed in San Francisco ↵

A guy named Joe got fed up of being charged $37/week for garbage disposal. So he decided to take things into his own hands. Eventually it turned into a small but profitable business. He worked from 5am to 8am everyday, and hired a few neighbourhood kids to help out.

All was going well for Little Joe until the Big Guys found out:
When the local garbage company and its union found out about "Joe" they complained to the city. Within a year a law was passed stating that garbage service was now mandatory for all residents at the price the city's monopoly charged, which was shortly raised. And Joe? For a while he still took our recyclables until he was fined $4000, even though he had our permission. It appears our household recyclables are owned by the Garbage company, not us, as it subsidizes our low cost of garbage service!

It is clear that monopolies are bad in business or unions and monopoly unions exist to enrich a class of privileged workers at the expense of ordinary workers.

April 13, 2010

North Korea operates several restaurants outside of the country? ↵

Aptly named Pyongyang, they operate in Cambodia, Thailand, China & several other Asian countries.
The restaurants are used to earn additional money for the government in Pyongyang—at the same time as they were suspected of laundering proceeds from North Korea's more unsavory commercial activities...
Visitors to the restaurant are ushered into an air-conditioned, flood-lit hall filled with dozens of glass-topped tables. Unlike North Korea proper, which is wracked by economic sanctions and constant famines, the food here is fresh and abundant.

April 12, 2010

The best things in life aren't things ↵

Derek Sivers (founder of CD Baby), on why he gave away his company to charity:
I live simply. I hate waste and excess. I have a good apartment, a good laptop, and a few other basics. But the less I own, the happier I am. The lack of possessions gives me the priceless freedom to live anywhere anytime.

April 08, 2010

Women's natural scent more seductive than perfume ↵

Study has found that men detect a woman’s natural scent at an unconscious level. In the tests testosterone levels were higher in men who smelled an ovulating woman’s T-Shirt.

If you want more incentive to just let your natural odour come through you should know that showering is probably contaminating the drinking water supply.

April 07, 2010

What teachers make

"Taylor Mali speaks of the world of the teacher with power and grace. His voice is our voice." -- Michele Forman, 2001 National Teacher of the Year

You can also buy his book, What Learning Leaves.

April 02, 2010

The Rage Is Not About Health Care ↵

The Tea Party movement is virtually all white. The Republicans haven’t had a single African-American in the Senate or the House since 2003 and have had only three in total since 1935. Their anxieties about a rapidly changing America are well-grounded.