Saturday, January 18, 2020

AMA results!

I hesitate to say answers, because, well, my long time readers know how that goes. Thank you to everyone who voluntarily played along.

So first up, Heather! I know her through photography.
Are Curtis and Celina related? Have they always enjoyed each other's company? Have you always had cats or are C and C the first lucky ones to own you? :)

We do not believe they are related. Then again, in the world of cats, who knows?

We got them the same day from Meow Foundation. A buddy of mine volunteered there, and snuck us in for a tour. The idea was for them to meet there to see if they would get along, but what with a complication along the way, it didn't happen. Celina was quarantined while her stitches healed. The idea was, believe it or not, for her to be released back to the outside world. We never understood why. When we first saw them, her fur was plushy and perfect; you'd think she had just come from a pampering session. Curtis was in tougher shape, with some matted fur and cuts and scrapes.

Our last adventure with bringing a cat home ended badly. I suppose I should begin at the beginning. Our first cat was Sebastian, a huge orange guy that was the terror of the cat neighbourhood. He regularly beat up other cats and chased dogs. We got him even before we moved into this house. Thorin lived with us for a while, but hated being kept in while Sebastian went out. He escaped one day and never came back. Nefertiti joined us. She was a tiny little scrap, utterly dominant. She regularly tried to take on Sebastian, but that just amused him. They got along quite well.

Eventually Sebastian died of kidney failure. We thought Nefertiti was lonely so we brought home Amelia. She was a medium sized tuxedo cat, and I don't think she ever got over being abandoned by her former owners. They got along ok, but weren't particularly buddies. Nefertiti died of old age, essentially.

Our big mistake was thinking Amelia was lonely. We brought home Bernard, a fairly big orange guy. They barely got along at first, and it went downhill from there. He started beating her up and we had to keep them separated. Poor Amelia. Eventually we encouraged Bernard to interview for head cat at a buddy's house, and he moved. What pissed me off was that he got along just fine with another cat there.

Amelia was an odd cat. We had to board her a while while we were doing major house renovations. I'm pretty sure she thought she had been abandoned again, and that we were new people in a new house when we picked her up. She never settled in, and was always a very twitchy nervous cat. If a car door would slam because someone was visiting a neighbour, she would be out of our laps ready to run for her life. The doorbell would have her spasming downstairs to hide in the basement. We usually opened the garage door, and came in that way, and every time, she was halfway to the back out the house, ready to run for it if it turned out not to be us. She eventually died of cat dementia.

We went without cats for a little while, then decided we wanted some fur balls around. You can catch up with the beginning of the story here. They were about a  year old when we got them, and as regular readers know, they are buddies and often curl up and sleep together. Every now and then they scrap a bit.

Someone comes to the door and they are right there. I'm sure they'd like us to believe that they are being sociable and greeting our guests, but we are pretty sure they are checking them out so as to convince the other humans to take them home. I suspect that some of our friends drop by just to see the cats.

Here they are again, for those who haven't met them.

Second is Michelle. I know her through running. And swimming. And biking. And many other activities.
What makes you truly happy and has that evolved over time?

This is probably the most difficult question in all the AMA to date. I've got solid draft responses to the other ones, but this is making me think. About all I can say is that it depends. It changes from time to time. Sometimes the best thing is to cuddle a cat and relax in the sunshine. Sooner or later, though, biological imperatives kick in and the cat must be disturbed.

Walking around carrying a camera has been a source of great happiness over the last few years. Time in the pool having a good swim or relaxing in the hot tub after is often right up there on the happiness scale. I never had the mythical "runner's high", but some of my runs were amazing, along the rivers, up on bluffs. Part of that was the company, of course.

Speaking of company, we just passed our 35th anniversary, and that makes me happy. We've had our issues, of course, but all in all it's been a great ride. We're looking forward to many more years.

Lots of New Zealand was serenely happy. Hope it's still that way when we get back there.

Third is Sophia. I met her doing ballroom dancing.
What was your childhood dream? And what is your favourite photo so far?

My dad was a pilot, and for a time I thought I wanted to be one as well. That ended when we discovered how bad my eyes were. From my brother's adventures along the way, I'm glad I didn't become one. The profession went from being one of the most glamorous in the world, to being a glorified bus driver.

They get so little respect now, they have to go through the security screening in the airports, just like the rest of us. Why are they being checked for weapons, when they're the ones flying the plane? The closest I got to the industry was flunking out of air traffic control school, and that was probably a good thing as well.

I remember chatting with an older cousin (Which is pretty select company, I have only 3 cousins older than me.) the summer before going into grade 6. She had had to write an essay about what she wanted to be when she grew up, and told me I'd probably have to do the same soon, and thinking about it in advance would make it easier. It didn't.

Holy doodle. At that point I didn't have a clue. I did have to write the essay, but I can't remember what I said. It was probably like almost every other test I ever wrote in school, I made it up as I went along. That's pretty well been the story of my life so far, making it up as I go along. I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up.

The big question I have from childhood, is wondering what became of a particular friend. We shared the same birthday, but lost touch with each other about grade 8 or so. Every time I hear the Moody Blues song "Your Wildest Dreams" I think of her.

Favourite photo (of mine) so far. That is a tough one. It varies with my moods. My Image of the Month tab in my photoblog has many of my favourites.

Fourth is Janice.
What's your best guess at long we have on this planet until everything goes to hell in a hand basket?

According to some, it's been going that way since antiquity. Two quotes.
Horace, 1st Century BC,

“Our sires’ age was worse than our grandsires’. We, their sons, are more worthless than they; so in our turn we shall give the world a progeny yet more corrupt.”

and Socrates,

"The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers."

If you are a pessimist, it's easy to think that now is the worst it's ever been. Trump, climate change, drug resistant diseases, rapacious corporations, overpopulation, it goes on and on, the 24 hour news cycle reveling in every catastrophe in lurid detail.

This betrays a lack of historical sense. During the Black Death during the 1300s about half the population of Europe died. HALF!! Some entire villages and towns died. People could be forgiven for thinking the world was ending. But people lived through it, and it was one of the causes of the end of feudalism.

Now think of the Spanish Flu in 1918, a horrific event just past living memory. More died from it than from the fighting in WWI. It infected nearly a third of the world's population, and it's estimated that between 20 and 50 million people died out of a worldwide population of about 1.6 billion. That's a lot of people. Yet more lived, and carried on.

Even within my own lifetime, air pollution and acid rain was such a threat it was beginning to affect crops and water quality. We fixed it. Damage to the ozone layer from chloro-flurocarbons was slowed by product bans and we don't hear much about it any more. Nuclear war was a real threat in the 50's and 60's. We were smart enough, or lucky enough to get through it. Admittedly, seeing nuclear weapons in the hands of Trump or religious fanatics makes me nervous. Anybody that knows about the real potential for bio-weapons isn't talking about it much but probably has nightmares.

While I have faith that the right wing whackadoodles will do nearly anything to cling desperately to power, their voter base is dying off. Some of us boomers are seeing the light and doing what we can to help speed the change. Right now the pendulum is swinging in what seems to be the wrong direction, particularly in the USA. But it will swing back.

I tell myself that of all the smartest people that have ever lived, half are alive right now.  Is it going to be all rainbows and unicorn poop? Certainly not. We're already at the point where no matter what we do, the climate is going to keep getting more extreme, and lots more species are going to die off. Not the human species, though, pending something really extreme happening. Really extreme like a big asteroid strike, or the Wyoming super volcano erupting.

The superhero solution isn't going to happen, that is, some leader taking charge and pushing a set of solutions. I think it's going to be ordinary people changing their own lives, and pushing corporations and politicians to embrace the changes. Some of this will happen second hand. We've already talked to our financial advisor about investments in green funds, and pulling out of carbon intensive investments. There's a balance there, though. It's warm and fuzzy to be green, but until the alternatives are financially viable, the fund managers are going to be reluctant to invest. Push them, create the demand, and it will start going around. It's already beginning.

So that's it for the supplied questions. I've been thinking about what questions I could attribute to someone who would appreciate the wit (or the half of it) but admit nothing much has come to mind.

So a generic question. How would you make the world a better place?

The key to making almost anything happen is money, and ox-goring realization. Let me explain that. During one of my jobs I ended up doing the behind the scenes customization for some moderately complicated software. Let's just say the admin interface was a bit of a kludge and leave it there. The assumption would be that anyone using it would be trained, almost certainly by me, since I understood it best. (One of my readers knows where this is going.) I had suggested that since we could assign people the rights to do this for their own company, we ought to clean up the interface. That would make the training easier and reduce the impact of mistakes. Since that would take resources that could make changes to the interface users could see, the suggestion was refused.

We didn't think about the one exception to our assumption, the guy paying the bills. He insisted on having all the admin rights, mainly so he could play in a demo environment for sales purposes. He thought he understood it, until one day he meddled in the prod environment and did it wrong. That change locked him out so he couldn't fix it, and had to come to me. His major complaint was that the interface didn't tell him he was about to do something wrong, and it shouldn't have allowed him to do it. I nodded wisely as I fixed his goof, explained what he had done wrong, and reminded him of the email suggesting changes. That lead to some minor improvements being made. It didn't matter till it affected him.

People will not give up their cars easily. Nor will they easily accept what is perceived as an inferior substitute, such as an electric car with shorter range, even if they don't need the longer range. Nor will they willingly pay increased taxes based on their bad habits. Except some of those things are going to happen. 

They will respond somewhat to incentives. Many people replaced their furnaces, doors, and windows during some Alberta incentives. Some of the changes can be driven by incentives. Some places have provided incentive for electric cars, but I think that whole world still needs some development.

I mentioned money earlier. Pushing your financial advisors to invest away from fossil fuels, or at least invest in renewables is a start. Pushing government to do the same has a huge multiplier effect. What motivates government? You either motivate the person at the top of the pyramid (Prime Minister or Premier) or you push the next layer down, the cabinet. 

Individual vote threatening won't work. But massive threats to vote for someone else has an impact. Those politicians want to stay on the gravy train more than they want anything else, otherwise they'd have to get a real job. They try to convince you that they are one of them. But they aren't. Most of them have never held a real job in their lives. Much as they complain about people on welfare, taking up tax dollars, that's what they've done, only working for elected politicians, or becoming one.

Find out who is currently bribing the government, (It's a long list.) and start shaming them. Don't buy their products, and write to them to say why. Encourage others to do the same. Corporations are much more vulnerable to these publicity campaigns than a government because they operate on a quarter by quarter basis. Use social media. All those other 'bigs' (oil, Pharma, farm, and everything else under the sun.) are already pulling every lever they have to influence government in their favour. Which only means more profit for them, and more costs for us.

There's a rule on social media, don't feed the troll. But social media is one of the ways how the trolls breed. Push Facebook, Instagram, and particularly Twitter to change their policies to repress the trolls. Remember, to those companies, you are the product. They don't care about any one person leaving. But when it starts turning into a wave of people leaving, they will change. You have to gore their ox, which is a tough thing, but it's the only way.

Dictators know the rule, when your army refuses to shoot protesters, your reign is over. We haven't got there yet, not here. But Trump is a beacon, and acolytes named Harper, Kenney, and Ford (at the least) are following in that path. It's an anti-democratic path, one good only for the people who are extremely wealthy. I mean extremely wealthy, net worth $10 million and way up. What's weird is that people who are nearly broke think they are more like the multi-millionaires, than immigrants, or Muslims, or the homeless, or, or, or, and vote for policies that are bad for them personally as long as they are worse for that 'other'.

Which reminds me of the joke I've told several times. Three guys meet, an investment banker, a trade union worker, and a white collar worker. While the other two of them are introducing themselves and figuring out how to gang up on the banker, the banker takes 11 of the dozen doughnuts provided for the meeting and eats most of them. He stuffs the rest in his pockets, then swills most of the coffee. When they sit down, the banker tells the white collar guy, "watch out for that trade union guy, he's going to steal your doughnut." Too often the white collar guy buys it, thinking he's more like the banker than the trade union guy. As if. To play you out with a laugh, the other joke is told by the immortal George Carlin. It's a big club and you ain't in it. That is the raw truth. Think about it. 

It seems only appropriate to include a Deadwood of the Day.

1 comment:

  1. Enjoyed reading this very much, Keith, especially your response to my question. Thanks for taking to share your thoughts!


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