Monday, 12 September 2011

In a Perfect World...

Let's imagine that the world is "perfect". Or in this case as perfect as possible.

No war, no hunger, no poverty, no disease. No major interpersonal problems either. Basically for this thought experiment people's lives are generally easy and contented. Kind of like a 50s sitcom, but less cheesy. There is still freedom of thought, expression and pleasure.

In a world devoid of major problems, would the minor problems instead take on the magnitude the serious problems once held? Could a burnt slice of toast cause open bile spewing rage?  A torn shirt cause a spiral into inescapable depression? Paralyzing anxiety caused by the inability to choose desserts?

Are we capable of seeing ourselves in the larger perspective of what constitutes "real problems"? If there is such a thing... Would we be okay at first, only to take it all for granted and turn the minor problems into major problems, or would we be able to live contentedly within such a world?

What I'm asking is... does our world make us unhappy? Or do we make ourselves unhappy in our world?

Monday, 29 August 2011

Things I Tell People When I’m Drunk – Volume 1: Music Snob Theories

I have a theory in life that there is a simple balance of factors that differentiate good music from great music.
Great music comes from a balance of three factors:
  1. An Intellectual Quotient: Something smart, or original, new or different. A use of the mind;
  2. An Emotional Quotient: The passion or feeling in a song. This can create power; and
  3. A Melodic Quotient: The tune, melody, general sound or invoked atmosphere.
These three factors do not have to be represented equally. Sometimes a deficiency in one can be compensated for by strengthening the others, but they must all be present. That’s what creates truly great music that will stand the test of time.

If a factor is lacking or even completely missing, you can still get okay music, or even pretty good, something is missing. It’s like snack foods. It was good, but not necessarily satisfying and not very memorable.

A lot of modern pop and techno music is like this. Catchy tune, but it lacks both the mental and emotional quotients. But everyone needs a guilty pleasure every now and then. Like a chocolate bar. Just makes sure to have something else with it. By itself it’s not very good for you. :)

I am Big Oil's Bitch

I, like most people in the city I live, in make my living by working with oil companies. I tell the same joke to everyone I meet that is thinking of making a move to this city.

“Moving here huh? Well it’s a nice enough place, but there’s an 85% certainty that you will become Big Oil’s bitch. Just so you know.”

But there’s a huge stigma with that kind of job. There have been times where I’ve been speaking with people and brought up that I work in the oil industry and I’ve received that look. That look of disgust like I told them I molest cattle for a living, or make art out of my own feces. And this is usually the conversation that follows:

“Excuse me, do you own a car?”
“Then you can keep your self-righteous disdain to yourself.”

Everyone LOVES to jump on the anti-oil bandwagon. Why not? It makes us feel good, like we’re fighting evil or something; fighting the good fight. And we all agree oil is bad right? Right? Well… there’s more to it than that.

I remember when a project I was working on had an incident, and a large number of birds (1600 approx) drowned in one of our tailings ponds. It actually wasn’t a huge deal around the office as I recall. I first heard about it on the news, before I ever heard about it at work. And the news CRUCIFIED us. Now, I’m the first to admit we screwed up, and we did install preventative measures to prevent similar mishaps in the future. However, do you know how many birds get killed by wind turbines every year? I’ve read several statistics, and none were below 75,000 a year. Most were a lot higher. But that doesn’t make the news. It’s okay when green power kills birds, just not when oil does. Because oil is bad.

Here’s the thing about oil. We’ll use my city as an example, but this applies to most major cities. Look around. There is nothing, NOTHING that you can point to that has not been tainted by oil in some fashion. There’s the obvious, things like cars and anything that requires machines to build. The obvious when you think about it, such as things that require oil for their production, i.e. plastic. And the things you wouldn’t expect. Take the green spaces, and parks. Most of those plants were grown in a greenhouse, then driven to said green space. Not to mention all the travel and material from the people paid to maintain these parks.

And that’s the problem. I’m all for energy reform, I truly am, but the major problem here is not lack of public awareness, or lack of environmental concern. It’s that oil is still too lucrative a business. A better solution to spray-painting my building (I wonder if they bothered to make sure their spray paint was water based instead of oil based), or hanging giant signs up at the Oil Sands Site (which you have to drive to, as it is a good 45 minutes outside of the closest city centre) is too encourage support and funding for alternative sources. Spread the word, educate, gather funding. The sad truth is that money drives development in this system. Not morality. Make clean energy the better business.

Now my problem is not with the activists themselves. They mean well and I support what they are TRYING to do. But they haven’t done their research.  Yes, fossil fuels need replacing, but it’s not as simple as that. Just as A BASE, this is what a successful alternative(s) must consider in order to even have the remotest possibility of success:
  1. Cost: Must be as cheap to produce if not cheaper than conventional fossil fuels
  2. Efficiency: Must work as well if not better than conventional fossil fuels
  3. Environmental Impact: Must cause less damage/risk both in production and use
  4. Production: Must work as manufacturing alternatives for all products with oil as a component (such as plastic. Good luck with that one.)
  5. Marketability and Profit: Let’s face it, in this current system, it’s all about money.
Humans are incredibly short-sighted creatures. We all know it, I don’t have to spell it out for you. But it’s possible to be short-sighted even when supporting a good cause.  So educate yourself on the issues. Don't just latch on to the first piece of feel-good-dogma you hear. If you really know what's going on, you can better fight the problem. And we’ve got a lot of problems that need fighting.

The Corporate Whore/Office Rat/Big Oil’s Bitch

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Philosopher is not a Job

The following was a series of texts sent one weekday afternoon:

Me: "So a friend of mine was telling me of their latest life crisis (I don't know why people continually ask my advice since they never take it) and I started thinking about problem solving. Specifically problem solving where the path forward is obvious, however rarely taken because it is emotionally difficult. Imagine how easy those problems would be to solve if we lived in a world without empathy, sympathy or pity. Stripped of these emotional bindings, a lot of interpersonal problems become issues of simple common sense. Although, a world like that would come with its own problems. I could envision that world as run by a form of social darwinism."
NM: "Um... Aren't you supposed to be working?"

Me: "I am... I'm just doing some really tedious paper-pushing right now, so my brain is elsewhere. That happens to me a lot with this job."

NM: "*chuckle* Paying opportunities for opinion forming world observer are scare I suppose."

Me: "Yeah, unfortunately for me philosopher hasn’t really been a viable job for a good few centuries. Unless one also happens to be a writer. Too bad I'm not one of those either."

NM: "Well there's always blogging."

Me: "Now there's an idea... At the very least it'll help me sort out this swirling mess of random thoughts circling through my head. Maybe..."

And now we find out what actually lives in my head.