Friday, 31 July 2015

Internet Outrage

Inspired by and shared from science-fiction author David Gerrold.

Some people are shaking their heads at the mob mentality of all those who are expressing their outrage at the murder of Cecil the Lion.

Internet outrage is a spotlight.  It put the spotlight on Bill Cosby, on the Duggars, on the Palins, and most important, on all those cops who think they can get away with killing black people.  It forces attention onto things that should not be swept under the carpet; a way that ordinary people can raise their voices in a demand for change.

Yes, if you're the target of an internet pile-on, it's not fun being in the bulls-eye.  For many, the first reaction is to play the victim and whine about being hounded, which is easier than accepting responsibility.  It's certainly easier than saying that they messed up.

People don't apologize, and many people just don't know how.  Most are so self-righteous that they try to explain, they try to justify, or worse, they counter-attack.  Accepting responsibility seems to be impossible.  Being able to do that is the mark of a mature and responsible human being, and I suspect it's one of the hardest-to-reach rungs on the ladder.

None of us are perfect, but we tend to forget that.  So we mess up and the people around us get angry about it.  But instead of saying, "Let's fix it so we can stay friends," we make it worse.

This is why internet outrage is a good thing: the internet won't let it slide.  Consider the internet as an organism.  Hostility/stupidity/ugly behavior of any kind is an infection.  And the internet outrage of a million human beings is like a million white blood cells responding to the infection.

No, I don't feel sorry for that dentist and his self-serving posturing that he has a right to kill things for fun.  I think the internet outrage focused on the whole idea of sport-hunting endangered species is one of the most valuable demonstrations of the power of the web that we've seen in a long time.  It might result in prosecution.  Even more so, it might create a worldwide movement to end the killing of wildlife.

Internet outrage is a good thing.  It's a million voices crying out at once.  And it's hard to ignore.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Taming the Monster

Our eight-year-old daughter to whom I refer as "Missy" is what the newer books now call behaviorally challenged.  All the adults in her life have noted that she has difficulty focusing on tasks and sometimes explodes when something unexpected happens outside of her "bubble".  An evaluation by her school suggested that she's somewhere on the ADHD/Autism spectrum.

Over the last six months we've noticed that her difficult behaviour has been getting progressively worse and it has me questioning our parenting.  Are we feeding her a proper diet?  Might she be eating something that is causing her to react unpredictably?  Are we being consistent enough with enforcing limits?  Do we indulge her too much?  Is she seeing too much violence on TV?  There are so many uncertainties.

We were able to make a series of appointments over the summer with a professional child psychologist "Dr. Z" and as of today we've seen her twice.  So far she has been giving Missy the standard tests: solving puzzles, arranging coloured blocks in a particular pattern, stuff like that.  (I remember going through the same type of testing when I was in grade school.)  Dr. Z. has promised that she'll help us figure Missy out and point us to better resources.

Sad to say, today has been a hard day and I might not have the patience to wait for a proper diagnosis and treatment.  This afternoon Missy had a volcanic blowup that began with a simple request for her to stop standing so close to the television, and ended with her screaming at the top of her lungs and hitting me hard enough to leave bruises.

At this point I am terrified that during one of her episodes she might decide to grab a kitchen knife.  I don't know if I can continue living with a child who would sooner freak out than allow someone to try talking to her.  It's little wonder that her "friends" never return our calls.

Monday, 20 July 2015

Turn Down the Cold!

Summer is in full swing and memories of winter's chill are far off.  But why do so many businesses crank up their air conditioning to the point of freezing customers?

On those hot muggy days that many places tend to get in the middle of the summer, a retreat into an air-conditioned shop or restaurant is often welcome.  But then, after spending just a few minutes in the establishment, you feel the cold gradually creeping into your skin and setting off chills.  When you glance around you notice that the employees are all wearing sweaters.  Not wanting to become hypothermic, you make your excuses and head back outside into the heat.

In smaller or older buildings the employees might not be able to control the temperature, so they often attempt to alleviate the problem by opening the doors to the outside, blasting people on the sidewalk with cold air as they walk by.  Unfortunately this only causes the system to work harder and elevates electricity bills.

In one office where I worked there was a free-for-all around the thermostat for a while.  The temperature was not evenly distributed by the system and so some office spaces froze while others were too hot; some employees took to regularly adjusting the thermostat to suit themselves and causing others to be uncomfortable.  Finally the boss had a box installed around the unit, to which only he and the senior supervisor had a key.  I started to keep a sweater in my desk.

What we need are smarter ventilation systems that can balance the temperature throughout a building and adjust as required.

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Outdoor Fun

Yesterday I attended a Geo-Lunch hosted by a gentleman who goes by the name of LeGodFather.  This might sound like something out of a spy movie but in fact it was a lunch-hour meeting of a group of folks who call themselves Geocachers.

Geocaching is an outdoor game in which you use a GPS to locate the coordinates of hidden containers known as caches.  Depending on where the cache is, it might require some stealth to retrieve it without attracting the attention of people who don't play the game.  Inside a typical cache is a notebook and a few small trinkets.  The main rule is that if you find it, sign the notebook and exchange a trinket, and then put it back the way you found it.

The web site is devoted to the game and its players, and everyone is encouraged to leave a note of their adventures on the cache pages.

Once in a while Geocachers get together to talk about their adventures, and exchange special items called Geocoins and Travel Bugs.  These items are intended to move from cache to cache and collect their own stories along the way.

Best of all, the game is (mostly) free.  All that's needed is a GPS unit or GPS-enabled mobile phone, and a membership to the Geocaching web site.  You can find as few or as many caches as you have time for, and take part in a close-knit community.

There are over 1600 Geocaches within 10 km of Montreal, just to start.