Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

For thousands of years people were taught to respect and fear an omnipotent, omnipresent, invisible presence monitoring their movements, actions and thoughts. People paid the representatives of this mighty power monthly for the services they believed they could not live without. Communication beyond the immediate community passed through those paid to maintain the connection; translation, conciliation and billing were in their domain. Those who couldn’t pay, didn’t have to pay. Their provider was politically powerful.

The payments weren’t just for protection money and membership fees, people received far greater benefits. Their belief and support built awe-inspiring buildings with towering steeples functioning like lighthouses beckoning believers to a sense of safety. The organizations supported the most magnificent music, inspired people to be great examples for others, and were the principle force behind the evolution of communities. The collective experience gave people a sense of belonging.

Today we need reach no further than our pockets or night tables to confirm an omnipotent, omnipresent, invisible presence monitoring our movements, actions and thoughts. We pay the representatives of this mighty power monthly for the services we believe we could not live without. Communication within and beyond the immediate community passes through those paid to maintain the connection, arbitration is in their domain. Those who can’t pay, don’t get service and are subject to harsh judgment. Their provider is powerful.

Today we are able to construct communities with people we have never met and know no better than incidental characters in romance novels. If we are challenged or bored we can quit anytime with no sense of commitment; like putting down a book. Our avatars and personas, managed with loving care, perform across the globe as we remain home directing them – the painting in the attic as it were. The images we create can go decades with no signs of aging or advancement of any kind. We have unbridled access to a free universe of alphanumeric-graphical information laying out an imaginary stage and delivered to us in little packages as digestible as chunks of chapter and verse. We are able to source our political, financial and other difficult decisions in the safety of those we believe to be equally educated participants. We can submit our selected opinions at our peck and call with the comfort of knowing our persona can disappear instantly at the threat of change. As with dinner, we no longer concern ourselves with decisions, we just have them delivered. A box of prepared dinner costs so much more than the ingredients, professionally assembled opinions are free. Obviously gifts from the professionally thoughtful.

Beliefs have been replaced by facts, debate by argument. We quickly build our arguments with facts we select as if we are imagining members of an all-star sports team. We congregate with like-minded people to confirm our convictions and groom our wonderful, irrefutable facts. Life, it appears, is based on a single linear truth. A perfect oneness beyond the reaches of reality is at the core of our existential being. To be valid, facts – true facts, science-based facts – must be delivered in packets of information, bit by speeding bit. They must be the product of those widely ‘known of’ but seldom known; those who touch perfection but avoid the compulsory flaws of social existence. Other individuals have no direct access to wisdom or knowledge, they must be educated using the respected facts and issued certification by those issued certification earlier. Those who aren’t educated by the proper authorities are subject to the vagaries of personal observation, research, abstractions, experience and prone to develop an uninformed belief system veering away from the singular truth. Independent thinking is simply unprofessional and a burden on society.

Maybe the spirit within holds the reassuring wisdom we seek from those we have come to trust without knowing.

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If I like poutine and plonk served at the Velvet Painting Restaurant and Art Emporium, that’s my choice and my business. Food is complex. Taste is complex. People are complex. Let’s not let the professionals ruin those unique relationships for profit. I don’t need a high priest of the mass-marketed brush and stroke foundation detailing the brilliant painted rendition of the natural symmetry of one hand clapping. Art shouldn’t require an explanation, it should be one. Applying the finest products oil companies can squeeze into tubes to a factory-stretched material with an industrial brush does nothing to bring out the inspiration trapped inside yet more abandon, rusty machinery. At least not in my opinion, regardless of what professional art critics tell me.

The next time a painter, writer, sculptor or musician calls themselves an artist, ask for a second opinion. As love and humour, art happens between people; not in them or to them. It’s each individual’s opinion and can’t be decreed by anyone. If a self-absorbed socialite told you she-he-it is a great lover would you buy it? Your choice is your choice, no explanation required.

In my experience financial advisors follow the market to clean up after the bull. The winners are in front of it watching people and developments, not numbers. Personal trainers direct individuals who mow their lawns with yard tractors on creative ways to get more exercise. Here’s some free advice, get a mechanic push mower. They provide meaningful exercise, are great for the environment, save lots of money and allow the neighbours to enjoy their gardens in peace. If you need the roar, get a CD and headset. If the lawn is too big; plant trees, bushes, anything but grass. Birds will love it, the air will improve and it could result in mindless mowing being replaced by rewarding outdoor hobbies, such as gardening.

From frozen baked potatoes (just put them in the oven at 450°F) to fresh garden salads packed in plastic in factories far, far away prepared foods have to be the most innovative products on the planet. The inspiration isn’t in the product, it’s in the marketing. From Betty Crocker to Snap, Crackle and Pop we have too long been taking nutritional advice from creations of advertising agencies. We don’t seek the advice of elves when buying a house, why food? Meanwhile our increasing cancer rates are enough to scare a person to death. To reduce relentless roadkill and pollution; buy locally produced food – fresh or frozen – grown in real soil. Maybe in your yard. By your family. No professional advice required.

Life coaches, wellness coaches, fashion coaches; is there any space left for individuals struggling to just be themselves and maybe make a little dinner? Reducing stress or recognizing your dreams takes time, personal time. Planning starts with a hypothesis, assumptions about the future. Do we ever question where that hypothesis originates, how it found us or why it is so popular with so many others at the same time? To answer that question I turned to my life coaches. They never say a word, they don’t have to, they say so much without them. Boon, being a cat, takes the night shift while Scallywag, being a dog, takes the day shift. They never actually give me answers to that or many other questions but they make them appear so trivial, so distant. Our future now unfolds into the present naturally and the past becomes an album we create for ourselves.

Life isn’t a professional competition, it’s a cooperative of amateurs. Relax and enjoy it.

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Mapping for Peace

Stories are maps for the mind, each laying out a path for a different journey and destination from which we will set off again. They allow us to share a mind with people we will never meet while not necessarily understanding those we encounter every day. Sharing a mind provides an ideal, share our lives provides challenges to those ideals. By choosing our stories carefully we can gain more control over our own lives.

The most influential stories in the western world – regardless of our beliefs or a belief we don’t have any – are from the bible. From Genesis to Harry Potter the stories are always in play in one form or another. The original protagonist is a jealous, vengeful, authoritarian male figure1 demanding obedience. The antagonist, frequently displaying the physical characteristics of some of our fellow species, relies on reason and human weakness (often expressed as trickery) rather than threats of eternal damnation for not doing as told. Are there signs of such behaviour in society today? Has the Middle East, where the three principle variations of the Abrahamic texts evolved, been able to use them to build more just societies? That’s a story for others to consider.

The Greek gods have vibrant attributes. They are…well, gods; but there are a couple of thousand of them and they have ungodly failings. That gives them complexity; much for mortal minds to munch on. We can relate to their conundrums. We can identify. They want to do the right thing but life gets in the way. They struggle between their responsibilities and earthly desires thereby representing the infinite interplay of emotions traveling with us on our journey through life’s storms and sunny skies. Could they present a better story for our development?

Christianity has benefited from negotiating for place with Pagans, Druids, Indigenous Americans and others who see humans as part of nature rather than fitting ourselves and others up as masters of it. Shakespeare captured a great thought with “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players”. He implies a playwright but leaves the independent imaginations of the audience to create their own version in a delightfully democratic scratch of the pen.

How can the long recognized failings of hubris, vanity, and greed be publicly celebrated and rewarded in the select few as intelligence and success? From the divine right of kings through the divine right of corporate emperors we have accepted the dichotomy as perfectly reasonable. Such is the power of marketing – storytelling for the lesser good – from town criers to Internet evangelists the messages work because they fit with the stories we know to be gospel. A jealous god tells us jealousy is bad and we say ‘okay’. We dislike the ridiculously rich but continue to buy their paltry products and make them richer because their marketing fits the narrative we have been taught from birth.

It might be difficult to drum up a good collection of Druids and Pagans (other than instant experts between gigs) but there is an excellent supply of knowledgeable, intelligent people from cultures scattered all over the Americas who have been telling inspirational stories here for centuries. All inclusive stories. Stories we can all live with comfortably in solidarity with nature. Isn’t it time we stopped rallying and feuding over meaningless DNA differences and started celebrating the spirit we all share with all of life in all its beauty and variations?

1. The Lord is a jealous and avenging God;
the Lord takes vengeance and is filled with wrath.
The Lord takes vengeance on his foes
and vents his wrath against his enemies:
Nahum 1:2

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A non-profit organization promoting a network of local community owned and operated social sites dedicated to ethics and service rather than profit seems timely. It would be an opportunity for people to engage in face-to-face socializing while connecting with other communities around the world. A global network of cooperatives working together internationally and locally independent to engage people of all ages in a celebration of their interests and concerns would be nice. It could serve people rather than serving up consumer’s private lives to corporate interests. No advertising, no tracking – just an exchange for those who long for an imaginative life rather than an imaginary one. A network of few rules governing local matters would be helpful … but enough rules to have the ability to quickly disassociate with any ‘community’ using the technology poorly or strictly for self-interest.
Modified browsers could be designed to maximize the ease and benefits of such a network as the designers would be leaders in the system rather than trying to follow it and protect people from it. A modifiable community package could be freely distributed to ensure everyone gets off to a common start. In my mind’s eye I see something along the lines of community organizations more prevalent in the past (scouts, 4H, Lions Clubs International) working for the common good. I would hope funding could be along the lines of PBS rather than too much influence from corporate sponsors. Such things as direct trade (coffee beans, bananas, cacao) and local farming cooperatives may be able to emulate the model separately as it develops. Good things but not the right place…

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Second Opinion

The media has overwhelmed us with the sound of one hand clapping.

Here’s a couple of helping hands to balance it up a bit:



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Virtual Design

The relationship between form and function has been severed by the relentless substitution of information for experience and focusing on desirability over reliability. Refrigerators designed by people who have obviously never cleaned one and may never have one long enough to bother; cars designed for southern driving sold as viable transportation in northern conditions come to mind. Products are designed for sale; not for use. Function in a world of virtual design and marketing madness ends at the checkout – which of course moves the money but leaves the demand, ideal for corporate bottom lines.

Fuel efficiency is measured on highways; not in snowdrifts beside the road where all vehicles become equal. Maybe to truly improve vehicle efficiency we need to keep them on their path…maybe linked together running on tracks, powered by electricity, driven by experienced professionals…maybe throw in a bar car and smart phone cubicles where people could be safely and comfortably impaired and distracted. It could be called high-speed rail. Unfortunately that doesn’t address the marketing aspect very well and does nothing to transfer money to banks by way of interest on car loans. It simply doesn’t meet the standards set for consumer subservience.

Cars are a great example of design for market share rather than solution but the model is all the rage. Pharmaceutical empires put their design talents in marketing and legal fees, not the product. Packaged food, covered with empty promises and filled with empty calories, has replaced nutritious food. When we stopped knowing where our food came from we should have realized we would soon not recognize it at all. Good food isn’t designed – it is grown, cooked and eaten. Food, like so much in life, doesn’t improve with unnatural processes or involve lengthy explanations. If it takes more than a couple of seconds to read a package and understand it, don’t eat the contents.

The next time you are purchasing a tool for the kitchen or the workshop try the one that doesn’t come in a box that looks just too special for the job and one that doesn’t speak more languages than you require. You might even explore the possibility of a handsaw or mixing bowl as the best solution.

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A quarter of a century in information technology has taught me:

Information is more dependable than reality.

Whacky ideas become facts through consensus.

Completely incorrect data can be extremely accurate.

Reading an account of experience is more valuable than actual experience.

When statistical probability is calculated really quickly it is called artificial intelligence.

The value of information is inversely proportional to the cost of storing it.

Guessing becomes science three points after the decimal.

Data models follow the example of fashion models.

Compelling graphs celebrate the mundane well.

Research and plagiarism are synonymous.

Ideas are commodities.

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