Wednesday, December 26, 2012

People and Guns

I have been reading a lot about guns.  After the tragedy, this is unavoidable.  I have read many arguments for and against gun control, and I firmly side with control.  If you're against gun control, there is probably nothing I am going to do to change your mind, but I have to do something.

I really only want to tackle one argument that I keep hearing.  Guns don't kill people, people kill people.  I have read that in many forms throughout this debate.  Most recently someone said, guns aren't the problem, people are the problem.  Guns are no more to blame than car accidents.


If we believe that argument (which I don't) we place all the blame at the feet of people.  So how do we solve that problem?  Do we put every person in jail?  Do we do a psychological profile on every person in the country?  Do we step on every liberty they have, to save one?  If people are the problem, maybe not allowing them access to guns, ammunition, and training is the answer.  By the above argument, we need to stop people from getting guns....... so wouldn't banning guns be the answer?

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Spirit of Christmas

There does seem to be a kindness in the air.  Though I, and some of you out there, might whine and moan about Christmas and commercialization, and the fact that Christmas displays start way too early, there is something to be said for the spirit of Christmas.

While watching YouTube today, several people (mostly Canadians working in Asia) noted that while the decorations in Asia were good in the stores, they felt an absence of the build up to Christmas.  They mentioned an absence of that Christmas feeling.  It made me think.

While shopping today (not for Christmas things--surprisingly I am done shopping for everyone and everything except for the present I am going to give myself.  That I will leave to boxing day or beyond) I noted many random acts of kindness followed by a "Merry Christmas".  Several people have also commented that complete strangers have paid for their meals at the drive through.

Huge, magnanimous gestures are always good, but I do find that small, personal gestures seem better. Thank you Christmas.  Thank you for rising above the commercialism and bringing out the best in people.

Merry Christmas everyone.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Psy Versus Justin Bieber

I heard that there was a huge competition this week between fans of Psy and Justin Bieber to see whose fans could get the number YouTube views over one billion.  Fans of either of these two performers would log onto YouTube and view the video, thus increasing the number of views.  According to the media, Psy was the first to reach one billion.  Psy was the winner.  I wonder, maybe it is YouTube and its advertisers that were the winners.

I am in favour of competition, and am not bothered by this.  It may not be the most productive use of one's time, but I can hardly condemn it.  I spend my time writing blogs that only a small number of people read (for the time being I hope...) so I can't complain.  Certainly, it is interesting to see how far social media has grown, and how much it can do.

I have enjoyed other campaigns. The one that pushed Betty White back into the spotlight was especially good.  She is a hard working actress and deserved to rewarded for her years of hard work.  Besides, she is actually funny.

I wish I could redirect more of this social revolution to solve the bigger and smaller problems in our world.  I wish we could get more people behind gun control, more people to exercise their right to vote, more people to clean up their neighbourhoods, more people to spread good will, more people to realize that they can make a difference.  I guess I am motivated by Christmas and the positive (though sometimes overly commercial) message it brings.

Funny how this blog entry worked out.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Careful Planning or Last Minute Panic?


What's better:  Planning your Christmas shopping and getting it done calmly and efficiently in the months, possibly several, leading up to Christmas or leaving it to the last minute and finishing the shopping in an adrenaline fuelled last minute scramble ending just as the store is closing?

Let us analyze.  Planning your shopping and executing it makes for a worry free Christmas.  It also probably means that you were able to stick to your budget and even if you didn't, you won't be facing a huge post Christmas credit card bill (like most of us).  You'll miss the crowded stores, the panic buying and dealing with salesclerks who've heard the same Christmas carol CD 20 times a day for more than 15 days in a row.  You will also have the ability to gloat whenever your friends, family and colleagues speak of their future shopping trips.  Of course, you don't have to gloat.  You could just smirk inwardly.

If you choose the last minute option you will have compacted the time you spent in the mall to a bare minimum amount.  You will have saved a lot of time to use for other activities (like procrastination) and used a lot of effort over a short time rather than a small effort over a larger period of time.  You will also have received the aforementioned adrenaline rush.  One other thing that must not be overlooked is that you will have spent the Christmas season in a place that was decorated for Christmas, full of people doing stuff with Christmas in mind, and lots of music to remind you that its Christmas.  Outside of church, where else could you find that?

I guess I would really like to be the first person, but am more like the second person.  I know it is more effective to decide what to get each person, then leave the house and go get it.  In a perfect world...... (hopefully you can finish this sentence)

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Wrapping Conundrum

Unwrapping is more fun than wrapping.  Okay.  No surprise there.  I am basically stating the obvious that people have known from time immemorial.  I just had to get it off my chest.  I also needed some way to start this blog entry.

It is the Christmas season, and with it comes presents.  This year I was tasked to buy a lot of stocking stuffers.  That was the easy part (I mean, can anyone say dollar store--though, there seem to be fewer and fewer things there that are still one dollar).  I had no problem amassing all the required items, and, if I do say so myself, managed to avoid anything too crappy or too tacky.  The only problem was what to do with the stuff--to wrap, or not to wrap.  Since the actual gift exchange was going to work somewhat differently, I decided to wrap.  I guess I feel that unwrapping is a fundamental part of Christmas.

When I lived in Japan, whenever I bought somebody a gift, I always asked the store to wrap it up.  This was great and it was free.  They did it easily, and it always looked great.  The best part was that it only took one piece of tape (usually a store sticker) to wrap it up.  One piece of tape.  Amazing.

If only I could do that.  Usually I have to fumble around, hoping that I have cut off the correct amount of paper, though I have either cut too much, or too little, or the angle is so askew that nothing will line up.  I usually have presents that look like they were wrapped by a guy wearing oven mitts and dark glasses in a dark room.

Normally, nobody complains, and the unwrapping takes mere seconds so any evidence is long gone.

On an environmental note, one person wrapped their gifts using recycled newspaper.  They looked better than mine, and saved money.  Kind of wish I had thought of that.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Stupidity Abounds

So someone decided to become famous by plotting to kill Justin Bieber...?  Really?  Has the world really sunk that low?  Have we reached rock bottom even before the end of the world the Mayans predicted?  What kind of rocket scientist came up with that idea?  Just when I think I have seen or heard the stupidest thing ever, the world shows me that it can find an even lower place, and even greater absurdity.

First and foremost, you don't become famous for killing someone famous.  You become infamous, and that isn't the same thing at all.  Infamous people end up in jail, on death row, or camping out in the woods plotting the destruction of the world on a manual IBM Selectric.  Infamous people are not famous, despite the similarity in spelling.

I have seen and heard drunken morons and completely high idiots plotting bizarre fantasies not unlike these.... but they tend to leave those with the drunk or the stoned nature from the night before and not cart them out into the sane bright light of morning.  The idea couldn't have sounded good when they were drunk (not really) but how could it gained any kind of approval when the people were sober.  This leads me to conclude that they were either never sober or that their IQ's total a single digit number.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Whatever Happened to Courtesy

Whatever happened to subway courtesy?  As we are completely insulated from human reaction with our smart phones and ipods, does that mean we no longer part of the human race?  Does that mean we no longer have to do what's right?  If I were to ask some of my fellow transit passengers, they would probably say yes to that.

The two things which illustrate this breakdown quite succinctly are that people don't let passengers get off the subway before they try to enter (I have straight-armed two people to prevent this from happening in the past 12 months) and that some people don't follow the stand right, walk left rule any more.

There used to be announcements reminding people of their duties in these two areas.  I remember that preachy loudspeaker reminding people to allow people to disembark before boarding the train.  In those days the speakers usually turned peoples voices into background noise--at least that is what seemed to happen when any important information was broadcast.  However, that message seemed quite clear.

As for the escalators, there used to be good signs that explained the two sides of the escalator.  Those signs are gone now.  I heard that they had to get rid of them because someone might get hurt, and sue the transit company.  This seems ridiculous.  Why should the transit company care for you if you have never learned to walk up a bunch of stairs.

It would be nice if someone would reinstate these traditions.  I would welcome them, and I am sure I am not alone.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Star Trek Beat Us To It

Tablet computers and mini tablet computers are all the rage this year.  That is, of course, if you believe the advertisements from the big department stores and electronic megastores.  Those coveted front pages are jammed with the latest must have devices.  Seeing this, all I could think about was how Star Trek beat us to it.

This is not a new thing.  I am sure William Shatner did a television show about this (It couldn't have been a movie).  Science fiction has usually predicted things long before they came about.  In fact, I would argue that science fiction shaped the way things turned out.  We all watched them use hand held computers on that TV show, so that's what they built.  If not for the incredible works of William Gibson, the internet might be a bland, monochromatic land of information (as opposed to the multi-coloured, multi-formatted, multi-everything you want and don't want kind of place it is now--I am trying not to focus on the huge pile of useless crap it contains)

So, Star Trek beat us to it.  For non fans, or Star Wars fans, this might anger you.  That probably doesn't stop you from using these devices, so stop your bellyaching.  The technology exists, and there is no way that genie is getting back in the bottle.

I have always loved science fiction, or speculative fiction as Harlan Ellison would rather have it called.  I have enjoyed tales of intergalactic empires, interstellar travel and battles, and of course interspecies love and trouble.  I have let my imagination wander those stellar pathways.  Now, I just wonder when we are going to get the other stuff that science fiction has promised.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Are Scholarships Wasted on the Young?

Every day I am surrounded by people who are studying English on scholarships from their governments.  Don't get me wrong.  I am not unhappy for them.  I am, in fact, jealous.  I want a scholarship to go to a foreign country and study.

Some, not all, of my students get to study English in Canada because of these scholarships. Hopefully, they will go back home and utilize their English in their careers.  Those who aren't on scholarships, but are studying nonetheless, can hopefully do the same thing.

I said that I am jealous.  That is true.  I really wish there were scholarships for people in their early forties who want to go to Japan and study Japanese for a year.  The program could contain studying both language and culture.  That would be awesome.

These kinds of things are mostly given to young people, but wouldn't older, more mature (most of the time) people get even more benefit from them?  It is great that young people are given such experience, but we need to consider a few other things.  With age comes wisdom, or so the saying goes.  An older person would have the ability to see things more clearly, judge more accurately, and experience things more fully.  And then, wouldn't an older person be better able to articulate the things that were seen and learned?

Everybody is told to keep upgrading their skills.  Most workplaces want people to keep increasing their qualifications, or at least maintain contemporary skills.  Shouldn't this be the same for experiences as well?  It is certainly something to consider.


Saturday, December 1, 2012

A Movember to Remember

November is over, ad so to is Movember.  The moustache came off this morning, and for a brief few moments, really a brief few, I missed it.  I spent a month growing, perhaps cultivating would sound more sophisticated, that soup strainer.  I spent a month watching it change my face little by little with each passing day.

I think back on my daily commutes, seeing the successful and not so successful moustaches on the faces in the crowd.  I am not sure how tough it was for some of you out there, but for some of us it was hard.  I can't say for certain whether it was physically, emotionally, or psychologically hard, but undoubtedly it was.

Thankfully it is over.

Congratulations out there to all my known and unknown (celebrated and uncelebrated) Mo-bros.  You did it, and you did it for a good cause.  Hopefully, with efforts like these cancer will be beaten in our lifetime.

Good work Mo-bros.....until next Movember. (Maybe)