Archive for August, 2008

The philosophy of death

Saturday, August 30th, 2008

This article raised an interesting philosophical dilemma for me. Which species can we willingly exterminate?

In relation to the guinea worm, most people would have no trouble at all in condemning it to extinction – it’s the stuff of nightmares, but what about other parasites?

Malaria kills approximately one million children every year, surely it would be good and right to eradicate this disease. But what do you eradicate? If the only way to get rid of the malarial parasite is to get rid of the mosquito carrying it then is that still okay?

They obviously thought it was in the near past when they tried to get rid of the disease with DTD. However, the mosquito is as much a victim of the parasite as we are, it’s an innocent bystander caught in the crossfire. But the mosquito is still a parasite which sucks our blood so does that make it fair game?

To complicate matters, the number of species that depend on mosquitoes for their existence must be huge. Do we take into account the effect that destroying their food source has or is the inadvertent extinction of co-dependent species acceptable collateral damage?

If we so readily destroy parasites, why stop there? Surely if we are looking at this problem from a human perspective then we can think of many creatures that make life hazardous and unpleasant for humans beings. Do we get rid of them as well? What about poisonous snakes, spiders, jellyfish, ants? What about plants?

Are we not all, in some way, parasites? Do we not all have to live off other species?

It has been suggested that parasites are a way of keeping the balance in nature; if one species becomes too dominant then parasites will take advantage of that imbalance through host specific infestations. So what about the plague of humans that is devouring the planet? Are AIDS and bird flu the new parasites to keep our numbers in check?

Is it okay to view the world from an anthropomorphic perspective? Is it just about us or is it about life in total?

Do we have the moral right to decide what lives and what dies? It is so easy to rationalise the answer in respect of the guinea worm but it is equally easy to go on and extrapolate the answer into genocide.

Less is more

Saturday, August 23rd, 2008

Let’s think about this. How can less be more?

I used to go skiing. I loved the huge mountains gleaming in the brilliant sunshine and the sense of freedom as I hurtled down them. So then I thought, ‘if I took my Walkman I could listen to my favourite music at the same time as I skied down the mountain – the experience would be twice as good!’

But of course it wasn’t. It was half as good. I couldn’t concentrate on the music because I had to concentrate on the skiing and visa versa.

The first time I went into the recording studio with a band I was reminded of this paradox. To make a piece of music sound more powerful, we thought, you simply keep adding more sound.

But if you didn’t know what you were doing, adding more sound didn’t make the music sound more powerful, it made it muddier. That’s because frequencies interfere with each other and if you’re not familiar with how frequencies operate and some of the illusions that they can create, you are left disappointed and confused with your attempts to make something ‘good’.

Then I tried my hand at creative writing. The more words the better, right?

Wrong.

Isn’t life like that. You imagine by adding more and more things to your life you are going to make it ‘good’. On a purely materialistic level (which, let’s face it, most of the world operates on) the concept of adding to your material wealth is doomed from the outset but we keep doing it. We never seem to learn this fundamental truth. More material goods simply devalues the sum total of the goods in your possession.

If you don’t have an ultimate purpose for these material goods, what value are they? An example is an art gallery; more paintings can lead to a greater appreciation of art and the human condition. The art raises consciousness. Material goods for their own sake does nothing for you except to distract you for a while before you need to relieve the boredom with yet more stuff.

How many times are we told this and how many times do we fail to grasp the profundity of this wisdom?

Don’t let them get away with it

Wednesday, August 13th, 2008

It’s astonishing how some companies treat their customers and continue to survive. They must achieve a critical mass which inures them from customer attrition for a certain amount of time.

I have another small but important website which suddenly went down this morning. I immediately rang the service provider and spoke to their customer services. When he checked my account he said that their invoice for this year had been paid recently, however, that amount had been used to pay off last years invoice which had been outstanding for a year.

It took me a while to take this in as it was so ludicrous. I got out my bank statement and told him that his company had taken money from me for last years invoice. He then proceeded to tell me to start sending copies of my bank statement to them to prove that this had happened along with a covering letter.

After this other shock I started to get my senses back so I asked the customer services advisor how many reminders they send out before they take the drastic step of suspending someone’s website. He did not have an answer for this (I had received none by the way for this supposed outstanding amount). I then asked him if that was his companies policy – to send out one invoice, wait one year without any reminding notices then suspend the site as a reminder. He did not have an answer.

I was then made to pay by credit card the ‘outstanding’ amount just so I could get my site back on line as soon as possible. He then told me which hoops I would have to jump through to get a refund.

So, for their obvious error, they want me to do their work for them and overpay them for the privilege as well.
Needless to say, as soon as I get the refund I will be saying good-bye to these cowboys.

As a footnote, my initial research in moving this site has revealed I am paying way over the odds anyway with these people, so at least there is some saving to be made from this outrage.

Who’s the editor?

Tuesday, August 5th, 2008

I’ve been banging on about the role of the editor for years now. Initially it was just an intellectual exercise for myself to discover how it worked and who was really pulling the levers. My discoveries made me more and more suspicious of mainstream media.

But now, a story which reveals the true extent of the abuse of this power and the terrible consequences of it’s duplicity.

You probably won’t have even heard much of this story because the media don’t want you to.

Read it, get angry and question everything that comes out of the media – always ask, “In who’s interest is this?”

How creativity works

Friday, August 1st, 2008

On a ‘how do they make that’ television programme an item about the manufacture of golf balls was shown. Inevitably they came to the dimples on the ball and it was explained that these dimples make the ball fly twice as far as smooth balls that do not have them.

My wife then said something which demonstrated the creative process perfectly.

“Why don’t cars have dimples then?” she asked.

She had taken one idea and applied it to another idea in an unrelated area (the car). She had done that by observing a pattern and filling in the blanks. ‘Filling in the blanks’ are the new ideas, the new connections. This is how creativity works.

To answer her question, the dimples do not reduce drag, they affect the laminar flow of air which keeps the ball aloft for longer. As cars do not fly, this phenomenon is not applicable. And aircraft don’t use it either because the dimples would significantly weaken the structure of the wing.

But hey, nice idea.