Rants

26
Apr

Snus – Another alternative to Smoking

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In my last post I gave a brief introduction to the wonderful world of e-smoking, the claytons cigarette of the smoking world. “The cigarette you smoke when not having a smoke”. Whatever did happen to Claytons anyway? I remember the ads on TV and in magazines along with of all things, Horlicks – a malted drink and nothing to do with fake alcoholic beverages (note: I saw Horlicks in the supermarket recently. It’s somehow comforting to know that it is sill available, although I’m not exactly sure why). Not that electronic cigarettes have the same message as Claytons because electronic cigarettes are predominately used to provide the substance that smokers crave – nicotine, where as Claytons did not contain any of  that other societal evil; alcohol. Why Claytons and Horlicks have an association in my mind, as if they belong together is a mystery. Another mystery is why I have these memories at all and why they’re firmly implanted in my brain. It sure goes to show how heavily imprinted we become by media campaigns.

And so it is with tobacco, that evilest of all weeds. Millions of dollars has been invested to train us with the belief that everything associated with tobacco is extremely bad and something to avoid at all costs. We’re also told with authority that if you happen to be addicted to the stuff and smoke, then it is in your best interest to quit – “Every cigarette is doing you damage” as the commercial drums into our skulls with a repetitive snaring of our subconscious rhythm and every cigarette is doing us damage. It may even possibly kill us. Statistics demand that we heed the message, because 50 percent of smokers will die from the damage of cigarette smoke. Of course along with the quit message we are re-assured that there is help. Big Pharma have just the product up there sleeves – we can quit with the aid of NRT (Nicotine Replacement Therapy)  or we’re encouraged to visit our GP who can then prescribe the correct medication if need be, which presumably equates to finding ourselves at the corner Chemist filling out a script for Champix/Chantix. But what the QUIT campaigns neglect to inform us of is that NRT is not a therapy at all but just a substitute addiction, a grab for cash from addicted smokers. Have you ever noticed that NRT is at price point similar to that of tobacco? Why is that? If Big Pharma and Government were so interested in our health then it stands to reason that nicotine replacement therapy ought to be significantly cheaper than cigarettes but they are not. It’s akin to pricing Methadone at price point just a little less than that of Heroin – it sounds ridiculous but that is what smokers are asked to participate in .

What Big Pharma also neglects to mention is the fact that for the most part, NRT is an ineffective treatment for addiction. At best it is the equivalent of a methadone program for nicotine addicts and at worst, it is taking smokers for ride while they entertain the notion of quitting. Quitting any addiction is about abstaining from the substance one is addicted to and not replacing the witch for the bitch. If you are serious about quitting as espoused by the QUIT campaign, it is purely a matter of stopping and then sticking to that decision no matter what. I’m not trying to trivialise the struggle by saying that it is simply a fly-by process that is easily attained, because it is not an easy decision to make and stick to. But if the goal is to quit smoking and nicotine, the most effective way is to just to stop and white knuckle it through the turmoil which may be for an extended period or may be short lived. For some it is easy but for others it’ll be a daily struggle for an X amount of time. I myself have never ever gone past the contemplative stage and is easy for me to lambast NRT and Big Pharma over quitting with a piece of Snus (rhymes with goose) stuffed in my upper lip but the truth is, NRT or other so called smoking addiction treatments are a sham.

It is somewhat ambiguous and disingenuous when our minds are infected with the notion that addiction is a medical problem which ought to be treated with medicine and in the case of nicotine addiction, the medicine to treat the addiction is very same substance of addiction -  nicotine. It’s a strange irony that nicotine products manufactured by Big Pharma are deemed tolerable and acceptable, however any nicotine product from Big Tobacco is automatically considered evil when the truth is that Big Tobacco is in a better position to actually develop a product that smokers would want to use and if they were smart they could develop a safer alternative. In fact the product is already available but it wasn’t developed by the Philip Morris’s or British American Tobacco’s of the world but by a company called Ruyan and if it could be evolved to it’s full potential, it will certainly provide a product that could easily be adopted by even the most hardcore or diehard smoker . The opposition inherent to the Tobacco industry makes any technological advancement in nicotine delivery prohibitive when the idea that nicotine addiction is in itself evil. Big Tobacco would most certainly have their bottom lines first and foremost in their minds so any product they’d wish to market would be highly addictive and thus something outrageous to the Anti lobby. But lets not hastily throw the baby out with the bath water when it is worth considering that the leading cause of preventable disease and death is caused by smoking and not nicotine itself. With the abysmal failure of NRT as a successful treatment of nicotine addiction, looking further afield from the offerings of Big Pharma begins to look attractive.

If there are doubts about the ineffectiveness of people quitting smoking using NRT, one need look no further than the self evident. If NRT were an effective treatment would we still see people smoking? If they were an effective replacement then it is a reasonable supposition to see far greater numbers of smokers jumping ship and using patches, gum or lozenges rather than sucking on cigarettes – because they’d be a far better nicotine delivery system than cigarette smoke . But that is not what we see and apart from those who are thinking about quitting who then use these products to reduce withdrawal symptoms while they ponder the cost benefit analysis of quitting or those that use NRT when it is prohibitive to smoke, they fail to deliver. They ought to be marketed as a harm minimisation tool rather than a quitting aid because lets face it, they don’t work! They may reduce the amount of cigarettes one smokes but as a replacement they fall way short in doing what the label proclaims it to be and as for a therapy we can most assuredly dismiss such outrageous propaganda as merely a softening ploy to ease the ridiculous cost we’re dishing out to Big Pharma to use the drug we’re addicted to.

Besides we are assuming that nicotine is the only thing that the cigarette smoker is addicted to, when there are thousands of other chemicals in cigarette smoke that could be equally addicting or a multitude of chemicals acting together that has the right combination to satisfy. If it were just nicotine then we’d expect to see a lot of smokers who use NRT to least switch addictions to just nicotine after adjusting to the slower delivery but either the NRT products themselves are too stingy with nicotine or cigarette smoke has other compounds that make it a far superior product to satisfy the craving the smoker seeks. The problem is that nicotine itself has been demonised when it is safer in magnitudes of order to cigarette smoke, which makes it difficult to introduce a product with at least a comparable nicotine delivery system to cigarettes to adequately gauge if a faster and higher nicotine product would be effective in reducing cigarette smoking. Possibly clinical trials have occurred where this indeed the case although I know of none, it has been the demonization of nicotine that has thwarted any advancement in harm reduction as a viable alternative when the philosophy from the Anti-Tobacco lobby is Quit or Die. I really don’t understand this message at all when cigarettes are still sold, why is too much to allow a product that is safer although just as addicting when the real killer is still on retailers shelves? It makes absolutely no sense.

It’ll be a far better use of resources to hammer us with the message that quitting is easy and you can do it cold turkey than it is offering some panacea to tobacco addiction through NRT when clearly it is not or by extolling the Quit or Die message as the be all and end all of harm reduction and well being. Smokers want a way to stop smoking in the most painless way possible and if quitting is entirely the goal in mind then it should be encouraged but if there is resistance to quitting then at present we are left with the message of Quit or Die! So if we fail to quit we are resigned to die with our cigarettes in hand. It’s a strategy that is far from effective because it is a dichotomy that is counter to what quitting is about – the health and well being of the individual smoker. It seems that whole basis of this message is to drum it into the psyche of smokers in the hope that eventually it’ll sway the judgement of the smoker in favour of quitting. If addiction were such a simple process as bashing people like the god-botherers neighbourhood door knocking campaigns then we’d see far less smokers and we’d also see churches filled to the brim, but we see neither. The QUIT of Die message is perhaps more effective in brainwashing people from actually picking up cigarette smoking than it is in persuading smokers to quit. Fear campaigns aren’t really going to be an effective intervention in reforming existing smokers. Although media campaigns and mind manipulation are standard fare in every day life, when it comes to persuading addiction to leave its host it is perhaps not as easy a task as normal mind control because addiction works on far baser level than that of the higher cognition centres of emotion that seem to be the play ground of advertisers. Quit or Die! If you can’t or won’t quit then you die. How marvellous, but is it the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?

Are there really only two options smokers have – Quit or Die? Therein lies the problem with the Quit or Die message – there is no middle ground when the option of harm minimisation is effectively taken away from the discussion, it has conveniently placed aside in favour of politicking. What of those smokers who realise that smoking is harmful but have no motivation to quit or who have tried but remain unsuccessful? What if those smokers would happily switch from smoking if a satisfying replacement, which was less harmful than cigarette smoking was available? Perhaps these people are a minority but shouldn’t they at least be offered a substitute with minimal intervention from the Anti camp?

With the introduction of electronic cigarettes into the market we have at least one other option to curtail the inhalation of cigarette smoke even though quitting nicotine is perhaps not on the agenda. Certainly “no nic” juice is readily available for those that wish to be free from addiction, but  electronic cigarettes can also be used as a replacement to smoking tobacco by inhaling nicotine in a glycerine vapour. A health risk is still present, however the risks remain unknown but it is reasonable to assume from preliminary studies that electronic cigarettes are safer than cigarette smoking by orders of magnitude. Shouldn’t this product then be embraced rather than shunned?

Not according to The Therapeutic Goods Administration – they in their infinite wisdom have deemed the electronic cigarette as a therapeutic good. According to this bureaucracy, e-cigs are not dissimilar to NRT – a medical device no less. Absolute baloney! The whole argument rests upon some website that dared suggest that one could stop smoking using electronic cigarettes. Notwithstanding anecdotal evidence that people have quit smoking and then progressed to zero nicotine vapour using electronic cigarettes, it is still a device that is used by many if not the majority as an alternative to smoking – more akin to smoking a cigarette than it is a patch. It looks like a cigarette and produces vapour like a cigarette and feels like a cigarette when inhaling but it is not a cigarette. How can it be even entertained as a therapeutic good? It delivers a recreational drug and not medicine for crying out loud! Big Pharma believes nicotine is a medicinal drug to treat nicotine addiction and if that were really the case then cigarettes themselves are medicine. Preposterous!

Given that the efficacy and safety of electronic cigarettes is yet to be fully determined with scientific testing, they do seem to at least be seen favourably by a few researchers and academics, while others in academia suggest electronic cigarettes are little more than placebos. However, studies have been conducted on the safety and efficacy of another smoking alternative, although little is known about this product outside of Scandinavia – that product is Snus.

 

snus

Swedish Snus has been used for 2 or 3 centuries in Sweden and to a lesser extent in Norway. What is Snus? Snus is a moist oral tobacco that has been milled into a fine powder and then pasteurised by either a fermentation or steaming process to eliminate micro organisms. Salt and flavours are added, traditionally with bergamot which gives a citrus taste and newer flavours such as mint, berry, cinnamon and many others to inspire the taste buds of tobacco lovers of all persuasions. Some Swedish recipes are as old as snus has been consumed. Ettan being a registered trademark since 1822 and probably the oldest commercially available snus brand today.

The process of steam pasteurisation is considered to produce a product that is between 90 to 99% safer than cigarette smoking, primarily due to the fact that nothing is inhaled, thus having no impact on the respiratory system and also because of the low count of tobacco specific nitrosamines (TSNA) present, which are the main carcinogenic compounds found in tobacco. The fermentation process does not produce the same low TSNA count due to micro organisms not entirely killed in the process, which then begin producing nitrosamines as a by product as the tobacco ages. The shelf life is considerably less because of this, although it is most certainly a better proposition to that of smoking tobacco, which has the highest TSNA count by far. Swedish Snus is the product to purchase if one’s goal is harm minimisation while enjoying tobacco relatively guilt free. It is not without risk but is substantially less harmful than smoking. Snus does elevate the risk of pancreatic cancer, it doubles the risk from of those that do not use snus but it is half the risk of those that smoke. Nicotine is a drug and as such it poses health risks but if one is already addicted to tobacco smoking and who is unwilling to quit, then snus may offer a safer and satisfying way to deliver nicotine and tobacco alkaloids without the dangers of inhaling tobacco particulates.

Snus can either be purchased as loose or in portions. Portions are packaged in tea bag type pouches which are placed between the lip and gum, usually under the upper lip. Loose is not pre packaged in pouches and is moulded into a cylinder with either a pris tool or by hand, also placed in the same area of the mouth. Both are a spit less moist oral tobacco, although if using loose there is the possibility that it may become dislodged and make a mess in your mouth, so is probably not the type a novice should choose to use. Unlike chewing tobacco, which does require constant spitting, Snus produces little saliva because of its placement in the upper lip, near the front of the mouth making tobacco juices less likely to run, which may be a little nasty tasting. Because the upper front has less saliva ducts it generally eliminates the need to spit out the tobacco juice which is an irritant to the stomach and digestive system if swallowed.

Because smokeless tobacco was harshly treated in the 1990s, it was taken off the Australian and European markets. Quite wrongly, it was considered a health risk and carcinogenic due to studies done on Indian oral tobacco products, which do cause cancer and are entirely a different kettle of fish than that of Swedish Snus.

Unfortunately we in Australia are at the mercy of the federal government who in their infinite wisdom have laid a taxation regime on par with regular tobacco which wouldn’t be so bad if snus wasn’t 50% water. Because it is a moist tobacco we are being taxed $160 AU for water. Our taxation system is disproportionate to the harmfulness scale and for that reason alone, snus which is considerably less harmful than tobacco cigarettes, ought to be taxed at a far less rate than cigarette tobacco. Our taxes make it a prohibitive product to most smokers in Australia and it is an outrage and shame given that the leading cause of preventable death is tobacco smoke. However there is a fair chance that if one orders small amounts, in the range of 5 cans or less then they can get through customs without having to pay duties which offers a very cheap alternative to smoking with the health benefits to boot.

Category : Rants | Blog
8
Feb

Success

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Pot of Gold by tao_zhyn

What makes someone successful? I’ve often thought about this very question and on its surface the question appears to be a relative one. If the term successful is loosely associated with fortune, mass appeal or desirability, as it is commonly thought of, then what is it that brings about this success? I don’t know any "successful" people if the term “success” is defined by wealth or fame or any other criteria vested in the same vein, but I’m curious if there is a common thread that ties this notion of success with the personality, which possesses it. As far as I can tell the successful type has some attraction that enables success in the first instance, however I’m not at all sure if it is somehow inherited or more like a skill acquired through practice? Or is it merely a chance occurrence – something you either have or you don’t, like winning a lottery ticket?

Ostensibly, being successful has a certain desirability or even lofty feel about it and has the connotation of it enabling one to do something meaningful rather than wading through mediocrity and living as a cog in the machine. Perhaps I am idealising success and I am to some degree, because in essence, success is also something much deeper than adoration or idolatry from afar. It can transcend external riches and outside influence by transforming the inner world with a meaningfulness that removes itself from external influence, into an actualised self. However, the success of the type that is metamorphosed into external reality is something that is worshipped and the tangibility of it is much sought after. We needn’t look any further than glamour magazines or to the Hollywood Hills or the current flavour of Rock/Pop Star. We idolise the success of these media machines because they depict the sensuality of success and we can almost taste the fruits of their success, which is more than just wealth, simply by following the latest gossip magazine or headline splashed across the press or nightly news.

So is it something one can achieve with diligent work and persistence or does one by default, gain success because of a favourable genotype? Or is it just plain good luck? If it isn’t just luck, then how much talent and how much personality is weighted in the equation? What is a successful personality? And what does personality have to do with anything? Is it self evident that an optimistic person is more inclined to draw success than a pessimist? Perhaps it isn’t always the case that success favours the optimist, but as a general rule, being optimistic is going to cater to a broader base of would be enablers. Because let’s face it, the in your face success that we so admire from afar, needs other people to validate and endorse the ‘successee’,  to make the success a reality! As far as I can tell, the universe isn’t going to care one way or another if some lone individual is elevated to god status when in the grand scheme of things, a human lifetime is merely a speck on the face of time and less than a speck in the infinite space between nano-seconds. However, in a human perspective, god status is something that certain individuals aspire to, if not the majority, at least in secret. However, on second thought, maybe the Universe does care about that lone individual who becomes the admiration of many and thus a leader in the community. Like a beacon for others to follow in pursuit – a pursuit of the pot of gold that is success and the jackpot on which nature has itself stumbled upon who then wants to replicate the winning formula by passing on the genes that somehow created it. Perhaps it is more than just admiration and envy driving our obsession over magazines, TV, movies and celebrity in general – perhaps it is because we want to study that winning formula and emulate it.

And why wouldn’t we aspire for success when it draws such admiration from lower beings. Who wouldn’t say yes to more money, sex and power? Isn’t that the appeal of celebrity? Isn’t power and influence what appeals to aspiring economic and political  leaders? Isn’t natures pay off for wielding this power and admiration, ultimately the promise of more sex, or at the very least, an elevated attractiveness and sense of worth – an ego boost? However, not everyone can get to such dizzying heights to affect such a status of influence – Why? What set of ingredients allows the blossoming of a success? Are we not created equal? Shouldn’t we be consoled by mediocrity when it has been said that it will be "easier for a camel to pass through the eye of needle than it is for a rich man to enter…" heaven? Although we can just as easily aspire to this type of success, by exercising spiritual pursuits rather than material and whose success offers the reward of being happy and content with who we are and what we have achieved. Moreover, it is by far a much more achievable goal than the majority of us will ever hope in reaching demigod status and having the material success that comes with it. It seems that only a select  few will ever enjoy such abundance as flaunted by the A-listers and elite. However, the offer of fulfilment, life enrichment and success within the spiritual realm does nothing to dissuade us from our idolatry with material success. In a cynical view it could argued that displays of meekness and consolatory tales of the rich being a less fortunate in spiritual matters is merely a ploy to inspire a mindset of submission more than a tale to lift the spirit of the dejected. Perhaps there is some need within us that propels and gravitates us to outward displays of success  It’s not without reason that we should pine with envious eyes at the latest celebrity picture or hang onto the words of some powerful leader or sit in awe by the sermon being delivered at the pulpit of some Mega Church. Yes even the spiritual have been corrupted by the allure of power and success. It is clearly apparent that nature whole heartedly favours social status, which is the domain of the successful.

The natural order favours success with hormonal shifts that heighten sensory pleasure and what is life without pleasure? We’re geared and fine tuned to receive pleasure, our whole being revels in it. It is what drives us. I’ve read somewhere that testosterone levels rise in the successful which may contribute to the sexuality or moreover the desirability of the person with high T. I’m specifically making inference to males and probably being rather sexist by ignoring our female counterparts who are no less worthy of adoration, although it should be noted that another marker for natures favouritism also is a neurotransmitter boost, particularly serotonin, which elevates mood and thus confidence and that is perhaps the more appealing asset in both sexes. But it seems that successful females don’t necessarily have the same appeal that elite alpha males possess. Well in my mind they don’t but I guess that is just the disease of being male – our single-mindedness or is that simple-mindedness? Maybe it isn’t so narrow minded to think that it is usually the male sex that is ultimately competing for the prize of sex and hence why I am biased towards success in the masculine sense, since I am male and have what it is that makes males always in pursuit of sexual gratification. Although I have a bias in my thinking it is probably more to do with the fact  that I am unable to empathise fully with my female brethren no matter how in tune I am to the feminine side of my DNA . However it is worth noting that the same envy that a great many males have, either overtly or in secret to the Alpha male type who seemingly gets a great many more sexual conquests under their belts is not significantly any different to the bitchy envy that many women possess towards their own kind, presumably for the same reasons.

If it seems a little far fetched and making sweeping generalisations then I’d ask any male out there if they didn’t have at least a fleeting thought of admiration in the back of their brains when the whole Tiger Woods scandal broke – “Lucky Bastard” Not in the sense that he got busted but because he can dip his wand in the pool purely on a whim. That there isn’t any shortage of women who’d drop their pants if he’d ask. Morally we may be outraged but on a more primal level we might even be glad that he racked one more up for us mere males. Consider this, after the whole scandal broke it wasn’t too long before emails did their rounds and this is certainly telling of the mindset between the sexes. One email I received from a male was one which depicted a naked model to the left and Tiger Woods on the right with the caption “Just do it” and under the Nike logo, “I did”, and another email I received from a female work colleague was entitled Tiger Shark showing two bikini clad women with Tiger Woods in the background and his head coming out of the water. Doesn’t this suggest that males perceive Tiger Woods as a success while women perceive him as loser. However, I do wonder if women are merely outraged because some of there own just cut someone else’s grass or because they genuinely believe that the whole blame rests entirely on the shoulders of Tiger Woods for succumbing to temptation and straying. I’ll probably never know but from my perspective it is not at all surprising and if I was in the same position I couldn’t say with any certainty that I would’ve acted any differently. Even when considering that to begin with, I wouldn’t have a chance in hell of pulling someone as attractive as his wife. Although I probably wouldn’t have done such a decrepit deed, there is the possibility that I’d fall to a similar base level given the same set of circumstances and having such enormous power at ones disposal would surely play tricks in the mind.

It is intriguing that both male and female elite instil an awe within the general population and we are certainly influenced by their very actions and policies whether it be high fashion, geo politicking or in the high flying corporate world. I think it is fairly commonly understood that high rollers get the babes. Not sure what their female kin gain but with the rise of the Cougar phenomena, I don’t think it unreasonable to suggest something similar – they get the boys?

So if we do indeed adore success because it gives us a higher field in which to play it isn’t surprising that we’ll try and emulate the formula of success, hoping that it is like a virus that will be spread if we subject ourselves to the same rituals or expose ourselves to the same memes. Who doesn’t know someone who doesn’t try and fake it, by buying the right brand of clothing with accessories to match? Yet without the backing of bottomless pockets to woo prospective mates with, then it perhaps all comes to nought, yet people still persist in acquiring the latest consumable that symbolises a level of status that may or may not be founded in reality. And maybe this faking does fool the less savvy or discernable among us from time to time. Perhaps I’m overly simplistic when looking at success and why we appear to be totally engrossed and fascinated by it, which on the face of it, is because it gives us more sex. Although it may be reassuring to believe that we aren’t so superficial it is hardly convincing to suggest that success is somehow a virtuous endeavour and something to achieve merely for the sake of it. It is appealing for some reason other than just the ego boost it provides. Surely it is because it improves our chances to recreate it with our offspring just as nature designed. Our culture is based on symbolism and status. A consumerist society that capitalism revels in and from the get go we are drenched in an environment of fear – the fear of being socially isolated and the ultimate commodity for sale, is that which is guaranteed to produce a  high social standing – success!

Advertisements usurp our consciousness from the minute we are unleashed into this world and they all provoke a sense of wanting based on fear. The vast bulk of advertising jerks at our appetite for sex and all too often, fills our vision with that something which we identify as a symbol of success and in doing so, defining who we want to be and the image we wish to portray. Complete with a promise of fulfilling our natural tendency to be desirable and have attention drawn in our direction. But as it turns out, it is never fulfilled because whilst whispering sweet nothings in our ears it at the same time suggests we aren’t all we can be and ultimately the object we thought would fill us with joy and happiness is merely a temporal snapshot. We then move onto the next object to project our moulded self image – perpetually caught in the seduction but never able to achieve what it is we want. This happens from minute to minute, day by day and hour to hour, as long as we are within easy reach of the puppet masters strings. Yet we buy the deception whole heartedly even though deep down we know we are merely distracting ourselves from who we really are. It seems futile yet there is a method to this madness, because what we are truly doing, is trying to position ourselves in the pecking order, which is in direct opposition to the higher ideals we may hold, that man is created equal. We are lead to believe that we all share the same humanity but this is not really what we feel inside. We are a competitive species and part and parcel of competition is that there will be both winners and losers and if you’re on the winning team then you reap the glory while the loser wallows in misery.

Perhaps it is precisely this part of nature that compels us to succeed because if we don’t then we may very well wither and die. Everything we do and everywhere we go, we will always be a part of the strategy nature has woven for us. We may very well just be strands in the threads of her design but we do all play a part in it all sticking together and that is perhaps the measure of our success, if we can just hold on before the thread frays and even if a loose end snaps off, it’ll at least be comforting to know that for a time it was a part of something far bigger.

Category : Rants | Blog
11
Jan

Global Warming – The Heat is Rising

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Is all the fan fare surrounding the global warming/climate change debate really just a way for more politicking? For politicians to engage in vigorous circular discussions so that they can appear to be doing something about the issue? There seems to be endless to-ing and fro-ing from both sides of the political divide, which merely amounts to the fact that absolutely no action is being taken; to either offer a solution and by doing so, admit that human beings are responsible for climatic change or take the opposite stance and deny humanity of any wrong doing. Each and every day we pay lip service to the environment we add another X amount of carbon into the air and whilst it may serve us well in the short term to negate any effect this may contribute to Earths Eco System we still have the possibility that we are indeed having a catastrophic affect even if we choose to ignore it.

So either we throw caution to the wind and do as we please and let the next generation(s) to clean up the mess we’ve made, to leave them with the consequences of our denial or we just go about the business of fixing things, believing whole heartedly as if the world depended on it. After all, why do things in half measures? It’s really a simple yes or no answer to the question. What precisely do we have to lose by exerting our creative prowess towards the endeavour of finding a more eco friendly world in which we live?

Right now we are essentially just trying to find a system of generating revenue in the form of taxes from this new green paradigm and using it as some sort of leverage in reducing carbon emissions, which is all fine and dandy, but lets not fool ourselves here. It is going to take more than a bribe to dissuade the environment from turning the heat up on us.

With such high stakes on the table, all we seem to be hearing are arguments about the validity of global warming science and how the economy is going to be impacted by cap and trade agreements, but isn’t this all just smoke and mirrors when the real issue is not the economy but ecology? I think we’d all be a little more persuaded and a little more eager to accept the carbon trading scheme if we had 100 percent assurance that the tax dollars reaped from carbon taxes will be put into resourcing the complete moving away from our dependence on fossil fuels. If we are going down the road towards acceptance of climate change science and that dire consequences await humanity if we don’t do our damnedest  to end our infatuation with oil, gas and coal, then weening ourselves off of fossilised sunlight, is without a doubt, our first and foremost priority. Forget trying to suck every last penny out of fossilised sunlight – we had our day and it’s time to move on. We don’t have to extract every last ounce of that ancient sunlight out of the ground. Or do we?

It’s one thing to expostulate fossil fuel consumption but it is something else when it comes to letting go of such use and formulating a plan B. Our whole industrialised world seems to depend upon cheap and readily available energy and there is nothing comparable to that sweet black gold that our fair old Mother Earth has so generously provided in the form of crude oil. However, millions of years have been invested in generating this nectar of energy, that we then expend profusely, with not one iota of thought to how it has come into our hands. It is a tragic tale and one that seems to be unique to the human condition, or rather, to the modern human condition.

The trouble is I thought we’d live forever
The truth is we were dead before we were born

Mourning Beloveth  – A Murderous Circus – ….Yet Everything

We were onto a good thing and being the optimistic animal that we are, we thought it would last forever. But alas, all good things come to an end and so it is with our addiction to fossil fuels. It is now coming to an end and the tragedy or perhaps irony is that we are all so hopelessly addicted to the stuff that we are in complete denial to the truth, that we have hit the peak and from now on in it is all about chasing that first high. As with all addictive behaviour it is not without consequence and this time it is not just ourselves and immediate family that will face the direct spoils of our addiction but the whole planet.

Each and every one of us will face the consequences of what now can be described as comfortable denial and although in the past we may even have been forgiven for our neglect of the environment, it is not so now. It beggars belief that a large and vocal portion of the population seems to believe that our actions have no untoward impact upon the environment. Although nothing is certain and no guarantees can be made, it is prudent to at least make some effort in curbing the possible and probable negative impact we are having on the environment. Perhaps unleashing the carbon in the form of carbon dioxide buried safely within the earth will have no undesirable outcomes for life on this place we call home but really, can anyone say without doubt, that pumping such large quantities of the stuff into the air will have zero chance of causing climate change? If we are to do nothing, are we prepared to offload our responsibilities to those who haven’t even been born yet and who will surely suffer the most for the denial we wish to cling to?

Why cling to the idea that we do no harm to our environment by burning fossil fuels? What conceivable benefit is there? For what? For growth! For our insatiable appetite to expand our colony. But are we morally reprehensible for this appetite or is it just what we have been programmed for? Surely nature is to blame for our hunger, for our greed and ambition? Can we stop ourselves even if we know for certain that what we are doing will inevitably destroy us? Perhaps that is why we still persist with denial and create opposing stories to what on the face of it makes a lot of sense, because if we truly accept that we are contributing to the devastating affects that a rise in temperature will have, we surely must also see that to actually curb further development of greenhouse emissions means that we must halt our growth.

Isn’t growth the obsession we all share? We can’t stop progression any more than we could stop the Earth spinning and as we expand and grow we also consume. To service all this growth we need energy. Energy, the thing that drives momentum and progression and vice versa, momentum and progression drives the demand for energy. The energy which humanity demands is first and foremost that which comes from food. We need to feed the population and as the population grows exponentially  so does the need for energy or food. Industrialised and mechanised living has made it possible for such massive growth and this in turn needs energy because momentum by definition needs energy. To fuel the machine we were incredibly fortunate to have this untapped energy that was conveniently buried not too far beneath the earth – OIL. Coupled with the internal combustion engine we were ready to take on the world – shape it as we saw fit and that is exactly what we’ve done. That blessed carbon atom bundled within the hydro-carbon molecule has produced the world we see today.

Humanity has blossomed and the population has quadrupled since 1900 and one can’t help but imagine that the introduction of oil as the staple energy source hasn’t been instrumental in achieving  this accelerated growth.  We’ve become saturated in the stuff. There is nothing in western culture and perhaps the greater part of the world that isn’t shrouded in a film of oil. It is estimated that for every calorie of food we ingest there has been 10 calories of fossil fuel energy used to create it. Clearly such figures are unsustainable. But on the same note it appears that we have little choice if we maintain our position as consumers. It really is a hard bullet to bite – either we reduce our consumption drastically or replace the energy that fuels our appetite with something sustainable. Hence the green paradigm of renewable energy but do we have resources at hand to stamp out our fossil fuel addiction, once and for all? That is the question that needs answering and it is a pivotal point that either hinges or unhinges a commitment to go green.

Realistically without an alternative way to meet our energy demands there is no way that we as a species is going to let go of the lifestyle we’ve become accustomed to and programmed to accept as our inherent right. The consumerist ideal that has been sold to us as the epitome of life and happiness needs some readjusting before we can even attempt a reversal of our gluttonous and wasteful ways. But is it too late? It’s been a long time since the beast was let out of its cage and a whole psychological phenotype has been set in motion with what the beast has so seductively lured us into believing. The proposition that unending growth is in the first instance possible and in the second, our purpose is absurd, yet we believe it. Plainly, it is illogical and irrational to believe that we can continue to grow infinitely on a finite set of resources but that is what economics tells us is possible. Yet economics cannot defeat reality even when it promises a world of what dreams are made of. So can we put a stop to this beast of unending dreams and face reality square in its face and say we are done?

Perhaps Copenhagen answers that question -  that dreams are still the only thing we care for; because reality is still far too bleak a proposition to face. We’d rather pine for that next consumer upgrade than admit that what we really want is community and a bit of love that no amount of money will ever be able to  buy. In the meantime we’ll procrastinate about what we’re doing to our home and regress into denial where dreams bling with a sense of our importance.

Category : Rants | Blog
10
Nov

Goldman Sachs and the Circus fiasco!

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I thought I’d heard it all but it seems I wasn’t quite prepared for two of the funniest things I’d ever hope to hear.

First was a report entitled, Bank boss says ‘we do God’s work’, posted on ABC News. It appears that we may have misjudged the powers that be by incorrectly believing that these elite players were merely in it for themselves, caring only about the tidy little nest eggs that the banking profession bestows. However, according to the CEO of Goldman Sachs they are indeed doing the will of God, while being compensated quite handsomely for the privilege. How could we the public have gotten it so wrong, thinking that these bankers were blood sucking scum, albeit, dressed in finery, were really angels in disguise? Yeah right! The hide of this asshole. The absolute arrogance and malice. Did he even stop to question the absurdity of such a remark before he put his foot in it. There are people who have lost homes, jobs and suffered a tremendous amount of anxiety, all because of the greed of a few. The very bankers who this arsehole is extolling as God’s very own are the same lot who caused the absolute mess the world wound up in with the Global Financial Crisis.

To then have some high flying banking executive rub salt in the wounds by declaring the nobility of raking in millions upon millions in bonuses, while the rest of us work the no less harder for what amounts to lunch money, compared to said bonuses, is appalling and telling of the mindset that is at the top of pyramid. It’s this sort of arrogance that does nothing but invoke further levels of suspicion and anger towards the capitalist system that promises everything yet delivers nothing. If we weren’t cynical enough already, then surely having the CEO of Goldman Sach – Lloyd Blankfein gloating about what an important social role he and his ilk play in the world, while filling his purse with excess amounts of money, ought to certainly raise an eyebrow while our narrow little eyes look to the banking sector with growing concern.

Perhaps I’m a little hasty in condemning Lloyd, because in all honesty, I’m basing my criticism upon a short article and have not seen the offending interview in London’s Sunday Times, but it’s hard to imagine when one uses the term “God’s work” in a sentence that it can be taken out of context. However, maybe it is. Because at the end of the day it is fairly meaningless statement, precisely because we all do God’s work if we’re to believe in such a deity but when it is coming from the mouth of someone who lives in an entirely different class, who does not experience the same struggle as someone at the lower end of the stick, it becomes rather offensive and arrogant. After all, Jesus did mention something about the rich and camels going through the eye of a needle and how it relates to doing “God’s work”!

Obviously Mr Lloyd Blankfein has taken from the prosperity church gospel and equated wealth as the direct measure of one’s worth in the eyes of the Lord. But I guess Mr Blankfein forgot about one of the pillars of Christian faith – Charity! It’s one thing to justify the obscene wealth lining one’s pockets with imagining the great social services one’s work creates, while revelling in the self serving importance of leading and paving the way, so that other’s may pick the fruits in a similar fashion; if only we tried that little bit harder. But it is all together a different story to then suggest that by doing one’s job somehow correlates with being in on God’s divine plan. It just reeks of narcissism and everyone knows it. Except maybe Lloyd. But that’s one of the symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder, now isn’t it.

It’s little wonder then, that Lloyd rather sadly states, “I know I could slit my wrists and people would cheer,” probably thinking it’s because of envy or some other such nonsense when in truth, it is because, You Sir, are a tool! A little humility and a little more compassion would probably endear him more favourably right about now, but once one has likened himself as one doing “God’s work” there isn’t a great deal you can do to redeem yourself, other than doing a complete 180 degree turn and really doing something akin to God’s work. There’s probably a couple of billion people who could do with a little charity and since it’s coming up to Christmas, why not start by donating that tidy little bonus to a good cause? “What!” “No!” Yeah I didn’t think so!

Anyway I did mention two the funniest things I’ve ever heard, happened this week. The other, is our blessed little brat. Good old Britney Spears resurfaced in the media. She apparently was ever so distraught, amid allegations that fans left her Circus show because of her lip syncing. Ha! Ha!Ha! What the fuck! Lip syncing at a Britney Spears concert. Who’d have ever thought! Such sacrilege! But it’s pretty funny that fans would leave the concert three songs into the Perth gig. After paying 200 dollars you’d expect to at least stick it out and watch the circus unfold. It must have been pretty bad. Then again, you’d have to pay me 200 dollars to go and even then I couldn’t guarantee I’d last more than one song, before I went completely insane. But heres a tip and its free Britney. Just fucking sing. Keep those tweens happy even if we Gen Xer’s all know you suck!

Category : Rants | Blog
3
Nov

Karmic Koala vs The 7th Window of the World!

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It’s pretty funny that I paid good money to install Windows 7 and indeed paid far too much for the privilege, if one could even call it a privilege, to then not experiment or play with my new toy, apart from the odd looky here and there. It’s essentially collecting dust on my laptop. The problem is that it’s installed on a laptop that I don’t even need and only really use when I’m away from home visiting the folks down south. If I’d installed it on my desktop, it would then get a daily workout but I couldn’t be fucked upgrading my desktop rig because of the huge investment in time required, frigging around backing up files and reinstalling drivers and software, when I reinstalled Vista only a few months back.

The irony is that Ubuntu just released an updated OS called Karmic Koala which I didn’t hesitate in downloading and installing on my main rig, with minimum fussing about, backing up shit, because Linux has the ability to install the home folder on a different partition, which contains all the documents, music and video files, and comes with all the basic computing packages, so formatting and installing a new version is a breeze compared with Windows. Ironic because it’s free and because I’ve spent the last three days playing around with it rather than it laying dormant. To be fair, I’ve had to reinstall software but it’s all located pretty much in the one place, so I didn’t really have to go to too much trouble finding it. There are some things that aren’t working but that’s the fun with Linux, trying to find solutions. Although after a little while it does start to become a little tiresome and frustrating and I end up going back to familiar Windows. I’d like to be able to utilise Linux as my operating system of choice at home, but I always seem to get stuck with my limited knowledge and the limitations of the software, which is more than capable for a good portion of things but for me, Windows still has the edge in usability and functionality.

Because Windows is the more familiar I find it easier to operate and because it has the advantage of being the most used operating system it thus has the greatest hardware support, making it just that much more less frustrating getting things to work. Like right now Karmic Koala is still giving me grief in video playback due to my choice in graphics cards, video tearing using ATI hardware and installing the drivers guarantees that video playback will flicker with horizontal lines. I have no idea if it it can be fixed and it’s a problem I’ve had over numerous releases. Another problem is that because I’ve wanted to be legal with my codecs and purchased the Fluendo codec pack some wmv files won’t play and although a solution is to install the gstreamer-bad codecs it is disappointing that the legal way doesn’t work. I’d log a support ticket but because the files are videos I purchased there is no samples I could provide rto them if requested.

A part of the reason why I’ve purchased software for my Linux install is that I like spending money (read wasting money – as witnessed with my Win 7 purchase) and because I kind of hope that if enough people buy software, then major developers might become more interested in developing software that is easy to use and familiar and that it may pave the way for hardware developers to be more inclined to develop drivers and stuff as well. I’m probably dreaming but it would be kind of nice to switch operating systems without drama and for both user experiences to be as enjoyable and painless as each other.

So right now I’m not going to ditch Windows but maybe sometime in the future it may very well be a possibilty. Anway this post was posted using BloGTK 1.1 instead of the usual Windows Live Writer. So one small step for progression 🙂

Category : Rants | Blog
29
Oct

The Wow – Is it starting now?

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I couldn’t resist all the fanfare and went ahead and bought Windows 7 at the exorbitant price we Australians seem to be gouged with. I have a moderate case of buyers remorse now and I’m not exactly sure why I felt the inexplicable need to purchase a copy. Maybe it was a momentary lapse in reason or maybe my mind snapped under the “gotta have it now” syndrome, a syndrome which seems pandemic in the cultural environment we call western society. Maybe it was because I just could?

Well what’s done is done! Because I can’t wind the clock back, there is no use wishing I exercised some thrift on this occasion. But on the bright side, my laptop has the latest and greatest operating system in the world. Well that is what Microsoft would have us believe, however,  the truth is that I didn’t need it to run my laptop. I have a perfectly good Linux operating system installed on it and I truly didn’t need to update the OS on it, so I’m left pondering if I’ve just completely gone mad. I’d been trawling the forums over the last few days before I got the “fuckits” and impulsively made my purchase, reading about people’s experiences with the new fan dangled offering from Microsoft, I just couldn’t resist all the hype any longer. As always, resisting temptation once an obsession kicks in is an exercise in futility.

Let’s face it! I wanted it, but why do I feel so dirty and disgusted with myself because of experiencing such a desire? It’s hardly anything to feel guilty or ashamed over – even if, only moments before, I was vainly trying to dissuade myself from such a extravagant and senseless purchase, however there is this nagging feeling that I’ve somehow let myself down by supporting a company that has no qualms over ripping consumers off, based purely on nothing more than some sort of regional elitism. Although Microsoft claims it doesn’t set the prices, blaming the retailers for the pinch in our hip pockets, i find it rather weak when they purposely region lock sales based upon region. It’s not like I can go to the MS US store to make my purchase.

Far from finding ourselves in an egalitarian society, we are somehow lead to believe in free trade and globalisation as the way to promote, at the very least, an equality in trade between nations, which presupposes, probably rather naively, that there ought to be a fairness somehow bundled along with the ideology being sold. However, it is becoming more and more apparent that fairness and free trade is a juxtaposition that are on opposing poles rather than items that can be readily bought as two parts of a whole. Globalisation has merely opened markets to exploitation.

Case in point is Windows 7. Why is it that the market price for a downloadable version of Home Premium Upgrade in Australia is $199 AUD and the exact same version in the US is $119.99 USD, which equates to approximately $130 AUD at current conversion rates. A $70 AUD price difference for the exact same thing. So Australians are ostensibly being overcharged and moreover, the US is offered a 3 user Home Premium family pack for $149 USD, which is less than a third of the cost of what we Australians would have to pay. We aren’t even offered a family pack so 3 licenses at $199 a pop, would represent a weeks pay for the average Australian. Does this represent fairness or is it just another way to shaft the consumer?

Hence my buyers remorse at having essentially vetoed my opposition to this lack of reasonableness and fairness. Not that my purchase or for that matter, if even ten others, disillusioned at being price gouged, were to withhold their purchases would even cause the slightest dint in the consciousness of Microsoft. Because we pay the asking price, nothing is going to change and it would probably take the whole of Australia to boycott sales to even raise an eyebrow in MS HQ. In a way Microsoft can charge what they like and for the most part, end users will be held to ransom because Microsoft has such a ubiquitous presence in the computing world. The majority of people have the choice between Apple and Microsoft as the two alternatives available to them and because familiarity is endearing to humans, the choice is ostensibly just one.

Although the majority of consumers aren’t going to upgrade their operating systems until they are ready to purchase a new PC and as such won’t even have an inkling as to the price they are paying for the software to run it, as it’ll be included in the cost of their new purchase, it leaves little hope that Microsoft is going to change their pricing structure and region locking anytime soon.

It is more than a little curious as to why people like me, who are aware at the rip off we are subjected to and who have more than the choice between Apple and MS, yet who are still willing to abide and support the system laid in front of us. To be sure I do try and get away with the path of least damage. By buying OEM or upgrades and using those licenses against the EULA, rather than buying full retail versions I do get a small discount but it is still not a price I think is reasonable. But unfortunately if I want to use Microsoft Windows I am left at the mercy of what the they want to charge. It’ll be interesting when more competition becomes available. Google’s plans to develop an Operating System may offer hope in breaking the Microsoft monopoly.

The problem is that we consumers are more than happy to just bend over and take it up the ass. On the one hand we have the message “You wouldn’t steal a car…..blah…blah..blah..” and on the other, we have corporations, which have no objection in placing restrictions like region locking to maximise profits and to basically rip consumers off. Hence why we would in fact steal a car if we could download the fucking thing. Especially when I could buy the same car overseas for a substantial saving and especially so when bypassing import restrictions is as easy as the simple action of clicking a button on a mouse. Then, Yes, I would steal a copy of that car.

Category : Rants | Blog
21
Oct

Meh – Windows 7!

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Once again it’s time for another Microsoft Windows release and the technology sections of media are doing their rounds in hyping up, what essentially is a non event in the minds of non-techies and layman alike. Although I consider myself to be somewhat of a technology buff and would like another OS to play with, to be sure – to fill in time perhaps or perhaps, to avert an episode of navel gazing, but when it gets released tomorrow I can’t see myself rushing out to get it. In fact, select stores offering it for purchase at the unholy hour of midnight tonight, for the die hard fan-boys to lay there hands on a copy – hot off the press.

However, when all is said and done, it is not that much different to Vista. Some would argue that it is merely Vista SP3 and yes; I’ve downloaded the release candidate and have experimented with it on my laptop to to some degree, but it really hasn’t anything compelling to offer other than a few tweaks and performance gains. Not worth shelling out two to four hundred dollars to have the privilege of adding to the Microsoft coffers.

But there are those people that seem genuinely excited by a new operating system release and it makes me wonder why people get attached to things like Operating Systems, which merely allow a user to operate their computer? I can sort of understand but not quite get why such things instil a sort of passion in people. Computers can be quite personal things, whole experiential episodes of ones existence can be stored on them, in digital photos, documents and in social networking and the like, so there is a vested interest in how it all operates but becoming impassioned by a tweaked set of code is bordering on infatuation like a love affair or something. It just doesn’t seem right.

Placing the personal in personal computers aside, is this loyalty or infatuation to Microsoft Windows just branding and marketing genius? Has our continual use of Windows, at work and at play clouded our sensibilities and invoked a part of us which is usually reserved to bonding with our own kind and extended it to some malformed and abnormal partnership with a piece of software?

Maybe. However, thankfully not all of us are blinded by what we see on our screen and not able to see the forest for the tress but certainly if you are lining up at midnight to purchase an operating system, whether it’s OSX or Windows 7 you’d do yourself a small favour by taking a little time out to do some navel gazing before heading out that door.

Category : Rants | Blog
29
Sep

US Navy bows before Commie overlords!

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It seems that China has been secretly developing a ship killer to take out aircraft carriers over distances of 2000km. A ballistic missile equipped with the accuracy of a cruise missile – a combination which is making the US Navy somewhat nervous. Nervous that their multi billion dollar mobile war factories will likely be made obsolete. I came across this piece of trivia in a Sydney Morning Herald article, US panic at China’s new ship killer by Peter Hartcher.

It’s kind of sad that Human Beings have been unable to free itself from the primal urges that seem to govern our behaviour. For millennia, we’ve perfected the art of war, from the humble beginnings of sticks and stones to the more sophisticated use of sticks fashioned into spears and probably later as a bow and arrow. To progress into the iron age where we discovered that a sword could enable us to slay our prey and neighbour as we saw fit. To then evolve metals into ever more gruesome weapons to appease our blood lust and to then discover that sweet synergy of metal and gun powder – we were finally on course with a fascination with ballistic weaponry. Why get blood on our hands when it is far easier to sit back and let the fingers do the killing. No messy blood and guts to clean off our military attire when you can fire a gun at a distance.

With each passing technological breakthrough, humanity has devised at pains on how best to incorporate it as the most efficient way to kill one’s brother. To think that billions of years have passed to evolve life and its beautiful diversity to have a creature that has barely scratched the surface of time, who has the ability to erode and destroy in a heart beat what nature has so delicately woven in its majesty over 100’s upon 100’s of  million years of wisdom. Where did mother nature go wrong?

Now China have set itself apart from the pack by developing this ship killer. War strategy 101 amendment 2009a is now in the pipeline. Imagine the disdain on the faces of US admirals who now are looking at joining the dole queues because those damn pesky commies have gained the upper hand and made their jobs obsolete. Sure they could go under water and captain Submarines but then they’d not have all the air power they once prized aboard their fleet. And besides going underwater would somehow be beneath them don’t you think?

Anyway this just ups the stakes a little. Gotta keep the US military-industrial complex on its toes. In the end China is doing them a favour by developing this ship killer weapon. Now there is no excuses not the expend a few more trillion into military  R&D. Generals and Admirals alike will be rejoicing at the windfall that is sure to arrive in next years budget. A couple of trillion dollars to develop the ship killer – killer isn’t out of the question is it? This time a New Pearl harbour isn’t even required; our esteemed media has done all the hard work for us. Why lets instigate some fear around that old chestnut – OMG the Reds are coming!

McCarthy eat ya heart out – we’s gots ourselves a ship killer to deals with!

Category : Rants | Blog
23
Sep

Done and Dusted

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Well Sydney woke up to an interesting day. The sky was red and the end times were surely upon us. Well that was the first thing I thought of when my alarm rudely woke me from a deep sleep and as I rolled over to snooze the damn thing, Triple J’s breakfast team were talking about what you would do with half an hour left to live, I noticed  through my dark blue curtains that something was just not right outside.

I launched myself out of bed in a panic, something I only do when I’m running late after sleeping through my alarm. I pulled back my curtains and the world had developed a very red hue and it certainly looked apocalyptic in nature. Automatically my mind shifted into this doomsday scenario as if the book of revelations wasn’t the piece of fiction I thought it was. Because there in front my eyes the world looked like some aftermath of nuclear war. It was red. Everything was red! I should’ve taken a photo but I was not thinking rationally. Maybe it was because I just woke up and I was still dreaming, but the fucking world was red. Red! Red! Red!

The sky is turning red
Return to power draws near
Fall into me, the skys crimson tears
Abolish the rules made of stone

Raining Blood – Slayer

So I rushed out into the living room and had look online and sure enough I wasn’t the only one seeing red. The whole of Sydney was caked in red dust. But still my pulse was racing, surely this was the end of time and biblical prophecy had awakened from its slumber. So I flicked the tele on to channel Seven’s Sunrise and they also confirmed the dust storm theory.

230909 Red Storm Rising Sydney Dust Storm by Nico Nelson

230909 Red Storm Rising Sydney Dust Storm by Nico Nelson

Although for a brief moment I wanted to believe that this was the end so that at least I’d have definite proof that religion was indeed true, I still looked for answers from a legitimate scientific perspective. This time it was a dust storm but tomorrow some other extraordinary event may deceive me into  jumping automatically to supernatural phenomena to explain the ordinary world. I guess it goes to show how we confabulate stories to explain the mystery that surrounds us. However there always seems to be a  more reasonable explanation just around the corner. One need only exercise patience and the truth will reveal itself. Having said that, the apocalypse still appeals to me more than just some freak dust storm. Maybe its my pessimism holding me in this strange land of impending doom. Now alls I need is some proof to confirm my suspicion that the end is nigh.

Category : Rants | Blog
23
Sep

Baroness Susan Greenfield – Luddite or Seer?

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Is technology bad for us? Baroness Susan Greenfield’s theory seems to suggest that we are all doomed from over-stimulation generated by these machines we appear to be glued to in every facet of our 21st century existence. She reckons the structure of our brains is a changing, due to our addiction to virtual worlds, in much the same way as a meth addict changes their brain function to become a receptacle of dopamine flooding goodness. Is such changes in brain chemistry really that bad? Is it even a moral question to begin with? Should we be asking whether it is good or bad when in truth it is neither?  In the past we weren’t so absorbed or consumed by technology but now that we are embedded into living within a 24 hour/7 days a week – switched on and online society, the threat that our cerebral cortex is turning into some monstrous and base machine, fined tuned to sensory overload – unable to relate in an empathic or meaningful way, is fast approaching. The beast has been let loose and it wants our souls no less. Are we in effect dumbing ourselves down with a constant influx of adrenal fluid and sensation. Turning ourselves into caricature of our reptilian brain ancestry?

A de-evolution of brain mass that is certain to leave us grunting and growling as we lose our ability to communicate with each other in a physical sense, our minds losing the functionality of being able to tap into the social queues that face to face social interaction imbue.  Well that seems to be how Baroness Greenfield would like us to perceive technology. With advent and evolution of social interaction through social networking sites and the such, we will invariably become inept at deciphering the 3D world in which we live. But how different are video games and the internet really? Compared to the introduction of the television sets in living rooms around the globe? Isn’t that where our losing touch and de-evolution began?

Sure gaming and the like is far more sensory and absorbing, filled to the brim with exponential ultra-violence, but I’d suggest it is merely another form of art mimicking reality. It may not provoke the same set of intuitive vision as what say a great novel performs but it does tell a story that could be viewed as a piece of social commentary. Extreme levels of violence depicted in shooters may seem excessive and instil a rather  blasé view of violence but does it not just imitate what we see beamed into our lounge rooms nightly, via the 6 o’clock news? The level of acceptable violence tolerated on prime time TV is none the less extreme. Does having such exposure make us less sensitive and empathetic to blood and gore? Perhaps.

But is this really what concerns Baroness Greenfield – that violence in video games is fuelling a far more sinister blood lust which is becoming insatiable?  That somehow the virtual world will creep into reality and that we will Descend into Depravity  like the new Dying Fetus album depicts so well? Or that we are becoming far more reckless by being exposed to the high risk – risk free environment that gaming bestows? Maybe these things truly are happening, like some kind of metamorphosis in a nightmare lifted out of a Kafka novel. However, is raising awareness going to shift public opinion on the matter? Will the gaming industry curb its multi billion dollar turnover to appease some intellectual? I think not and there appears to be more to Baroness Greenfield’s theory than just a passing concern for the welfare of society.

Isn’t Baroness Greenfield just trying to gain more exposure to herself and thus gain greater chances of securing research funding for her pet project? Moreover isn’t it a little rich for a highly esteemed intellectual like Baroness Greenfield to praise the virtues of intelligentsia while condemning the mindless pass times of layman who will never hope to possess the intellectual prowess which she enjoys. I think she like to express a quote (I don’t know who) that goes something like this “an unexamined life isn’t worth living”. But for the great many people out there, there really isn’t that much to examine. They go to work, come home, sleep. And for the most part their work entails repetitive tasks that leave little to the imagination. Sure they could get all scholarly and look at the nuance that such a life has on the metaphysics of the universe, but really, is there that much more that can be said of mediocrity that hasn’t already been said a trillion times before? So can one blame the poor sap who comes home and joins a virtual world to blast away the enemy and forget the plight that the morrow will bring?

On a final note, there is the suggestion put by Baroness Greenfield that the global financial crisis is somehow to blame on the massive multiplayer  online role playing game, World of Warcraft. Isn’t that just a tad far fetched? Is it reasonable to believe that some hot shit Wall St guru spent too many hours on WOW and somehow the role playing converged into real life, affecting his judgement in  assessing stock and trades. Come on! I’ve heard of video killing the radio star but MMORPG killing the wall street star just doesn’t have the same catchy meme. 

Category : Rants | Blog