Wednesday, December 19, 2012

#5. Spitting

The sound of someone clearing their nose and throat or mucus or phlegm and then spitting it out is one of the most disgusting sounds around. 

There are different levels of offensiveness to spitting.  The spectrum spreads from spitting wine out at a wine tasting right through to hoyking up a booger and spitting it out.  Some would argue that spitting at someone is the worst level but I would put that on a whole different spectrum.  When people spit at someone it is intended to be disgusting and to cause offence.  To me, this is evidence that it is innately offensive.   Despite this, some groups and cultures find it perfectly acceptable.  We need to make them aware that it is offensive to most people.  Fight the good fight people - one good thing about all the political correctness out there these days is that saying something "is offensive in my culture" carries a lot more weight than it used too - milk this for all it's worth.  Tell people it is not acceptable to spit.

Spitting in public is not a necessary human function and it seems to be becoming less and less accepted.  Even on the sports field where fines are beginning to be imposed. I understand the Chinese Government is against spitting, even though cold season in Shanghai has traditionally been a time to share the inner workings of your sinuses with everyone. 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

#4. Babies on planes

It's not just inconsiderate, it is also quite cruel. 

Babies get 5 to 10 colds per year.  So the odds are pretty good that when you are taking your baby on a flight, they will have a cold.  If you have ever flown with a cold, you know this can be incredibly painful.  During a flight, the air pressure in the sinuses and middle ear must equilibrate with the cabin pressure inside the airplane, which changes during ascent and descent. Colds, allergies and other conditions can cause blockage in the Eutachin tube (which connects the middle ear to the back of the nose and maintains equal air pressure on both sides of the eardrum).  This means the pressure in the sinuses cannot equilibrate.   In severe cases the middle ear can fill with fluid, resulting in an ear infection. Or the eardrum can even burst.  The pain can be intense.  I have had it as an adult and the best way I can describe it is if you imagine someone is trying to push your eyeball out of your head with a knife point from the inside if your head.  That is what it feels like.  I have sat next to adults in tears due to the pain. Is it any wonder that babies cry on planes? 

It is not the child's fault; they shouldn't be in the plane in the first place.  It is never the child's decision to fly, it is always an adult that makes that call and you can bet that it is done for selfish reasons.  Babies should not be taken on planes.  Not because they may inconvenience other passengers, but because there is a good chance it will be very painful for the child.  What kind of parent willingly puts their child through that?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

#3. Cruelty to animals

If you have men who will exclude any of God's creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men.  ~St. Francis of Assisi

Cruelty to animals is just as bad as cruelty to children - any abuse of the helpless is repulsive. The evil required to take innocence and destroy it for your own ends should be met with the strongest punishment society can muster. If you live in a society that allows the death penalty or flogging etc. these should be put to use.  My ideal punishment would have two aspects to it - justice and prevention. 

The justice aspect would involve inflicting whatever harm had been inflicted on the animal (or child) on the guilty party.  If they had put firecrackers up a cats bum, they should have proportionately sized firecrackers put up their bums.  If they had allowed farm animals to starve, they should be starved. 

If they survive the justice part of the punishment, then they should be locked up for as long as they are capable of still inflicting similar harm.  This prevention aspect would also stop them from breeding or parenting which can only be a good thing.  I realize this would create a lot more prisoners but if we stopped locking up people who were involved in victimless crimes we could free up a few places.  Why put somebody in jail for 5 years for selling pot when that same resource could be used to keep the scum in the video below out of society for 5 years.

Warning: Don't watch this video if you want to maintain faith in humanity.

I am ready for the trolls to start telling me I am niave to care about farm animals when they are bred to be our hamburger patties in the first place, but I am betting that the people who make that argument have spent very little time on farms.  I have lived on a farm and killed animals for eating.  There is a humane way to treat animals, and a dignity in even the thickest animals (I'm talking about you Sheep) that requires respect even when taking their life. If you cannot see that in the animals it is unlikely you have it within yourself.

Teaching a child not to step on a caterpillar is as valuable to the child as it is to the caterpillar.  ~Bradley Millar

Monday, December 10, 2012

#2. Cars

In 30 years time, people will look back on the fact that high schoolers used to drive themselves to school, in wonderment.  They will marvel at the wastefulness of our transport system.  When you take into consideration that the internal combustion engine is about 30% efficient, the fact that the car is tonnes heavier than it needs to be, that cars sit in traffic not moving, and that most journeys are done alone, the car becomes a very inefficient way of getting from point A to point B - 2.1% efficient in fact.

We all sit in these metal boxes, disconnected from others around us, complaining about the traffic.  I would like to live in a world where we walk or ride our bike to school or the shops.  This could help us become better connected to our communities - an important part of making us happy.  And the bizarre thing is that we say we love driving. In actual fact we hate it. If you ask any group of people what really annoys them in life, it will not be long before somebody mentions something other drivers do. Driving tends to bring out the worst in us - road rage is a perfect example.

Advertisers understand this.  That is why you will never see another car on the road in a car advertisement.  In fact car advertisements have about as much in common with reality as James Bond's life has with my life - S.F.A.  You will never see people commuting to work in a car advert.  No; they are off mountain biking, or coming back from golf to go out to some party.  Sure you may think you will do that when you buy a car, but in actual fact you will spend most of your time commuting.  You should think about that when you are looking for a car, not about that mountain biking trip that you will probably never take.

You're not sitting in traffic. You are traffic.

Not only are cars inefficient and frustrating; they are also killing us. Emissions and crashes are the obvious way in which they cull the heard, but they are also making us fat. That may seem obvious, that doing more driving makes you fatter, but somebody has gone and quatified it.  If you want to lose some weight, get out of your big fat car!

If someone were to design a system for getting people and things around today we'd never come up with this madness. Imagine going to a town planning meeting and proposing a system that involves 2 ton pieces of steel, controlled by the general public, that hoon around at 60 mph and at 2.1% efficiency, moving people where they want to go.  You'd be mocked.  Then when you explained the cost of the cars and the roading infrastructure you would be quietly sat down and told to shut up.  If you persisted and detailed the social and environmental costs of the system, you'd be committed to the mad house. 
However, dispite the dominance of car culture in most developed countries, I am hopeful of a shift back towards sainity.  In fact I have heard of young people calling driving in the new smoking.  When driving makes you as much as a social pariah as smoking, then we will be back on the right track. I hope I live to see that day.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

#1. Art being valued more than science

"After a certain high level of technical skill is achieved, science and art tend to coalesce in esthetics, plasticity, and form. The greatest scientists are always artists as well." - Albert Einstein

This Grolsch billboard makes me angry. At my most charitable I could see how this could evoke a romantic image of an old artisan tenderly crafting a product.  I am sure this was what the advertisers were trying to convey, but not only is it misleading, it is insulting to the people who make the product as it is implying that the old craftsman is better at making his product than a food technologist.

Art and Science used to be part of the same adventure - that is, to better understand the universe.  Artists were considered scientists and vice- versa.  At some point they diverged and Artistry dissappeared up its own arts hole. Good Art was science and good science was an art.  Di Vinci was an artist and a scientist.  They used to be one-in-the-same but that changed during the scientific renaissance when the scientific method was adopted.  

Now new art is seen as having merit if it is "challenging".  Well I've got news for artists who want to be "challanging"; ever since Jackson Pollock, once the art world has accepted that paint splattered on a canvas can be art, it is not a challege to accept that a shark in fomelderhide is art.  There is very little coming out of the art world that really is challenging.  Sure, art is a great form of expession, but since its diversion from science, art's contribution to society is dwarfed by science's - and it should be treated as such.

The good news is that you can punish the visionless companies that buy the crap that spills forth from the advertising agencies.  Make every dollar you spend count.  Grolsch is actually quite a nice beer.  When I see it on special, I am tempted to buy it.  But then I remember the billboard they funded that celebrated art over science and I buy something else. It's time to boycott the products that celebrate this falsehood.  Don't buy the beer that denys the scientific processes it uses.