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January 22, 2010
Is It Sad To Have A Brain? (don't read this)

So, I'm chatting online with a recently retired friend about how it took her a year or more after retirement to really get her brain around accomplishing anything--to get herself organized so she could start doing all the things she wanted to do.

It was the lack of forced scheduling that tripped her up. I pointed out that most our lives are run by imposed schedules--we have school and then work (not to mention parental schedules), so for our entire lives we're accustomed to thinking of "time" as something that's cut into small slices, only a few of which are ours to do with as we please.*

Those with iron self-discipline might carve out an hour or so a day to spend writing or drawing or knitting or on decorative carpentry or playing in an imaginary sports league (the term for which I've temporarily misplaced) or playing a real sport or experimenting with new recipes, or even donating some time to a worth charity. (Those with iron self-discipline and no small children in the house, I mean.)

But it's an hour. Not exactly a wealth of leisure. Basically, in our society, people have to wait until they retire to figure out what matters to them--to figure out how they actually want to spend their time, because before you're retired, you really don't have enough time to worry about spending it.

In today's world, you have to be 65 (or older) before you have the time to figure out what you want to do with your life!

Put that way, she thought it was bizarre. Me, I think it's an interesting development. Like any species, we evolved with just a few basic needs--food, shelter from extreme weather or predators, and reproduction. Like any species, most of our biology and our instinctive urges are geared toward reproduction--survival of the species.

Because intelligence--self-awareness--turned out to be useful for survival, it's a biological trait that has continued to evolve. In my opinion, the continuing development of "civilization" has as much or more to do with the human brain's need to use that biological trait as with anything else.

Our societies are full of artificial complexities.

As I ponder that idea, from the perspective of my pre-lunch blood-sugar depression, I decide that our societies are also increasingly full of people (young and old) incapable of dealing with these complexities.

It's not so difficult (moving now into the realm of science fiction) to imagine an intellectual fork in the road or that eventually we could develop an intellectual elite--a subset of the population whose brains were supple enough to deal with change and growth.

And the rest, of course, would form a sort of proletariat (no day is entirely wasted if you're given the opportunity to introduce the proletariat into a conversation) that, rightwingnut paranoia aside, would never be allowed enough power to form any kind of Marxist dictatorship. (Marx lived too soon--if he'd lived long enough to see the stultifying effect a new season of American Idol or Survivor has on the bulk of the population, he would have been hard-pressed to think of a way to transition society from capitalism to his ideal communism.)

I can't remember where I was going.

Just think. If Republicans only married Republicans and Democrats only married Democrats, well, then, maybe eventually we'd have a Democratic party too smart to be manipulated by Republican scare tactics and stupidity-mongoring. (I love making up words.)

That isn't where I was originally going, but I've lost the thread. When in doubt, just blame Republicans and move on….

Anyhow. I went to surf some news sites and found that others are pondering the gap between our institutions and our intelligence. Or simply publishing articles illustrating that there's a gap between what we know and what we think we know.

bombs

'bots

babies

banks

bullying

broadcasting (Seriously. There's a reason this only word with a rightwingnut audience. Liberals don't need talk radio to tell them how to think.)

For instance, I didn't need this to convince me that there's a difference between looting and survival. I've long suspected that dramatic television visuals of a guy staggering under the weight of a stolen big-screen television were masking the hundreds of potential photos of a man or a woman scavenging for food or water in the aftermath of a monumental disaster (hello Hurricane Katrina) and in the face of governmental incompetence and indifference (hello Bonehead Bush).


___________________

* It's disingenuous to say that these impositions are only a fraction of our days.

I would guesstimate that the "average" commute for a full-time worker is 45 minutes, each way, for an average of 1 hour and thirty minutes spent commuting five days a week.

Many of us have lunch "hours" in offices too-far afield from our home communities to allow us to do any more than work through lunch at our desks (this includes practically everyone I know), or sit in drably beige lunch rooms with other dispirited co-workers. (Okay--maybe it's not that bad. I'm in sort of a mood.) With the work day, that's another nine hours a day gone.

Most of us probably do sleep close to eight hours a night. We waste morning time in such frivolous pursuits as eating breakfast and showering, grooming, and dressing. We'll call that another hour a day and now we're up to nineteen and a half hours. Four and a half hours left.

Well, there's dinner, followed by clean-up. Magnanimously assuming you don't eat take-out every night, I'm going to clock that process in at an average 45 minutes a day. Three hours and forty-five minutes left.

Those of us (arguably) lucky enough not to have offspring or even pets to be fed and walked are now free. All we have to do is change into comfy clothes, empty today's lunch bag into the dishwasher, pick and pack tomorrow's lunch, check the snailmail for bills, check our email for more interesting communications, and collapse gratefully into a chair for the remaining hour or two of the day.

Those of you who have kids, two-legged or four-legged can write the time off--the four-legged ones don't need help with their homework but the two-legged ones don't have to be taken outside and introduced to a suitable piece of grassland to do their business on. Both kinds need a bit of TLC at the end of a long day.

Weekends? Don't make me laugh. Grocery shopping, laundry, house cleaning, taking the car in for service, hair appointments, dental appointments, doctor's appointments, and you-name-it. Some weeks it's a relief to go back to work on Monday, so we can rest.

How do I get side-tracked onto these ridiculous and inane pathways?

Right now I'm tempted to explain to y'all how leaving the television off for an entire evening frees both your time and your brain for other, more interesting and productive pursuits, but I'm uncomfortably aware that this footnote is almost longer than the blog entry, the theme of which I've entirely forgotten by now.

Posted by AnneZook at 02:19 PM | Comments (2)
January 18, 2010
Shoulda' Guessed

So, I'm reading along in this article about Google, China, and the mushrooming cyberwars, and I run across this bit:

In conventional and even nuclear warfare, your assets are relatively easy to measure against those of your opponent. You have 75 tanks and your opponent has 125, but yours are fitted with better weapons systems – roughly even.

And I'm thinking, well, no, not necessarily. But I'm willing to accept it--provisionally--until I see whatever point you're about to make.

Then the article then goes on to say:

Cyberwarfare is not like that. Your assets consist of your opponents' vulnerabilities and your ability to exploit them. This means that to defend yourself, you have to breach your opponent's defences: implicit in any cyberdefence strategy is the development of a comprehensive offensive capability.

And by now the hair is standing up on the back of my neck and I'm muttering, "No, no, no, that's just not true.

I was not, then, surprised to see the next sentence:

This was the thinking behind the Bush administration's Total Information Office....

Any time someone says something that's demonstrably insane, the next sentence seems to attribute the idea to the recent Bonehead/Crookface debacle.

(Unless it's a discussion on the history of something demonstrably insane--in those circumstances, it's invariably traced back to Wretched Reganism.)

P.S. The article goes on to say that while the psychosis of Total Information Assimilation has been abandoned, the most neurotic offshoots live on, under other bureaucratic umbrellas.

P.P.S. Yes, I know that the whole Big Brotherhood of Homeland Security was shoved down Bonehead & Crookface's protesting throats.

Posted by AnneZook at 01:48 PM | Comments (2)