John Smith and his Biochem Cubes

Suppose John Smith makes biochem cubes – biological-chemical cubes about one metre by one metre with an input for resources required for sustenance and an output for unusable processed resources. Why does John Smith make biochem cubes? Good question. Truth be told, they’re unlikely to make the world a better place. And he doesn’t sell them.

Should we make allowances for John Smith with regard to money (salary, income tax, subsidies, etc.)? After all, he has, let’s say, ten biochem cubes to support. If they are to stay alive, he needs to provide sustenance. He needs a bigger house. More electricity. More food.

Should we encourage his ‘hobby’? Perhaps consider it respectable, or a rite of passage to maturity?

Or should we censure it? Because once his biochem cubes become ambulatory, the rest of us have to go around them in one way or another. And when we’re both dead, his ecological footprint will have been at least ten times mine. (More, if the biochem cubes he made go out and make other biochem cubes.)

Why isn’t being a soldier more like being a mother?

Motherhood is unfair to women in a way fatherhood most definitely is not. Not only are there the physical risks (pregnancy and childbirth puts a woman at risk for nausea, fatigue, backaches, headaches, skin rashes, changes in her sense of smell and taste, chemical imbalances, high blood pressure, diabetes, anemia, embolism, changes in vision, stroke, circulatory collapse, cardiopulmonary arrest, convulsions, and coma), there’s the permanent damage to one’s career: if she stays at home, the loss of at least six years’ experience and/or seniority; if she doesn’t, the loss of a significant portion of her income, that required to pay for full-time childcare. (And even if she can swing holding a full-time job and paying for full-time childcare, she probably won’t get promoted because she typically uses all ‘her’ sick days, she’s reluctant to stay past 5:00 or to come in before 9:00 or on weekends, and she occasionally has to leave in the middle of the day, perhaps even in the middle of an important meeting. In short, she can’t be counted on. Such a lack of commitment.)

Either way, Read the rest of this entry »

What’s Wrong with Selling your Organs?

It seems to be morally acceptable to sell one’s blood, sperm, eggs, and hair. So what’s so unacceptable about selling one’s kidney, for example?

And in case people think the forementioned sales are unacceptable, let me make another analogy: it’s okay to get paid to play football — why is using your body as a linebacker in order to earn an income acceptable, but using it as an organ store is not?

Is it because Read the rest of this entry »

Kept Women (and Men)

There is something objectionable about a perfectly-capable-of-working adult being ‘kept’ by another adult. It seems to me the epitome of laziness and immaturity to be supported by someone else, to have someone else pay your way through life.

But, I suppose, if someone wants to pay someone else’s way, if a man wants to ‘keep’ a woman (or vice versa), and that woman (or man) wants to be ‘kept’, I suppose that’s no business of mine.

But then why should I subsidize their keep? What has your wife (or husband) ever done for me? And yet I must subsidize her discounted income tax. Her discounted car insurance. Her discounted health insurance. Her discounted life insurance. Her discounted university tuition. Her discounted club membership. Hell, even her discounted airline ticket.

If he wants to pay her way, fine, but her way should cost the same as mine. Why is her way discounted just because she’s not paying it herself? Why do we roll out the red carpet for kept women?

Even if she is paying her own way, why should she have to pay less than me just because she’s married? Why should spouses get a discounted rate on all those things?

In particular, access to company benefits irks me: you don’t even work here, why should you be covered?

Two married adults should pay the same as two single adults. End of story.

Vested Interests and Cancers

Vested interest.  It sounds so solid.  So respectable.  So endowed with authority.  Like a three-piece suit with a watch on a chain.  But what does ‘vested interest’ mean?  It means ‘self-interest’. A vested interest is nothing less than a self-interest.  And nothing more.

But say ‘vested interest’ and, well, say no more.  Literally.  If I object to a zoning bylaw change that will probably lead to more traffic and tourists because that will destroy the silence and solitude of where I live, well, I’m just expressing my own personal interests.  But if the guy who runs the gas station says the change should be approved because it will be good for business, well, that’s different.  He has a business – he has a vested interest in the zoning bylaws.  So suddenly his opinion, his desires, count more.  It’s magic.  It certainly isn’t rational. Read the rest of this entry »

We Pay People who Pretend to be Doctors …

So the other day I caught a glimpse, by accident, of one of those entertainment shows, on which someone talks about and to actors, rock stars, and so on, and it hit me: we pay people who pretend to be doctors more than we pay people who actually are doctors.


Cultural Anarchy

Why is it that so many people claim, usually with considerable passion, “I’m an American!” or “I’m Canadian” or what have you?

To identify yourself by country is to accept the territorial divisions made by people with economic power eager to retain that power.  So why the passion?  Read the rest of this entry »

Basketball, Gymnastics, Hopscotch, and Double Dutch

The neat thing about television coverage of the Olympics is that women’s events are shown a lot. Often within close temporal proximity to men’s events. Comparison is inevitable. And interesting.

Consider basketball. Men’s basketball isn’t even a sport anymore. The guys are simply too big. Give me a ball small enough to hold upside-down with one hand, and I’ll be doing some pretty fancy dribbling too. Give me a net so low to the ground I can just reach up and touch it, and I’ll slam dunk every time. And give me a court I can cover in five strides, hell, I’ll play a whole game without even breaking into a sweat.

And yet Read the rest of this entry »

Digital Thought

On/off, yes/no, either/or, in/out, for/against, male/female, win/lose, true/false, right/wrong, black/white, all/nothing, 0/1.

Preachers do it. Lawyers do it.

Why have we become so enamoured with digital thought? What’s the attraction?

It’s precise. Precision is good.

It’s fast. We like that.

It’s easy. We like that even more.

But any educator will tell you that T/F tests are the sparrows of measurement. They can handle knowledge, and maybe comprehension. (Multiple choice tests, the robins, are just one step better. Except for the LSAT, the smartass bluejay, which is designed by demented geniuses who have made a science of turning a curve ball into a triple helix and figured out how to get paid for doing it.)

So digital thought is perfect for this so-called information age. (And surprise, computers do it.) But knowledge and comprehension are the lowest levels on Bloom’s taxonomy of cognitive skills. What about application? Analysis? Synthesis? Evaluation? What, no time for critical thought? Too busy surfing the net to notice you’re in an ocean of shit?

Thing is, digital thought is, well, limited. Most of life isn’t subject to such precision, isn’t true or false, black or white. Ever hear of the false dichotomy? It’s an error in reasoning, it’s when you assume, erroneously, that there are only two possibilities. So it leaves out a lot. (For example, subtlety.)

It encourages extremism. It ignores the richness of a continuum, a spectrum. Between all and nothing is something. Lots of somethings.

And it sets up competition. It has no room for compromise, for combination.

In short, it’s two dimensional. Frogs do it: if it moves, it’s food; if it doesn’t, don’t bother. Are we frogs? Yes/No.

The Freedom to Shop

In a not so recent, but largely unnoticed decision (Daishowa Inc. v. Friends of Lubicon), the Ontario Divisional Court said that boycotts are illegal when specifically intended to cause economic damage to the boycott target. Isn’t that generally the point? Boycotts allow us to put our money where our mouths are; they allow us to hit a company where it hurts, so it smartens up and changes.

I often choose brands according to Read the rest of this entry »