The “good ol’ days” really sucked

Every once in a while, someone complains about modern life and speaks wistfully about the “good old days.”

I’m so over the “good old days” – because they really weren’t good at all.  In fact, they were, for the most part, pretty sickening.

Don’t take my word for it.  Consider the current refugee crisis in Europe; thousands of refugees are trying to enter Europe because their lives are absolutely miserable in their countries of origin.  But this isn’t the first time this sort of thing has happened.  There was the case of the Vietnamese “boat people” back in the 1970s and 1980s.

Listen to this archival radio program from CBC.  It’s only about an hour long, but if you are really pressed for time, then skip to minute 31.

If you’re a decent human being, you will be red-faced with shame by minute 35.  The appalling ignorance, isolationism, and sanctimony of some of the speakers should be enough to turn your stomach.

Please note that this radio broadcast is from 1979, two years after the first Star Wars movie came out, 10 years after Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon, and 18 years after I myself was born.  When I think that I lived in a time of such disgusting inequality and racism, I thank my lucky stars that I no longer live in the “good old days.”

And so should you.

Are young people really that bad?

Are the young really that bad? No, they’re not. Everyone else is.

As I enter serious middle age, and I retain memories of youth while gaining a certain wisdom of age (and still have the energy to care), I find myself wondering about some of the canards I have heard for decades.  One of them is that the younger generations are always somehow worse than they were “once upon a time.”  I really think that’s not true, and here’s an argument to support this claim. Continue reading “Are young people really that bad?”

Sexism and shirts

The infamous shirt.
The infamous shirt.

I’ve waited a while before posting this because I didn’t want to be caught up in the unholy craziness that surrounded “ShirtGate” when it first happened.

Genital mutilation.
Rape culture.
Religious misogyny.
Unnecessary, invasive, medical procedures.
Wage disparity.
Women treated like chattel.
Irrational body image expectations.
Whole industries devoted to telling women what to be and how to be it….

…and Matt Taylor’s shirt.

One of these things is not like the others.

Continue reading “Sexism and shirts”

A bad feedback loop

True story: thirty-something years ago, at institution X – a very large institution with tens of thousands of employees – there was a particular institution-wide department in charge of providing all computing services to all other departments, even though the computing needs and expertise of each department varied very, very widely.  Some departments could pretty much take care of their own computing needs – esoteric as some of them were – whereas other departments lacked the local skills to manage word processing software on desktop computers of the day.
Continue reading “A bad feedback loop”

An oversupply of PhDs? Is that even possible?

I recently came across an article in Globe & Mail from 2013, titled “Who will hire all the PhDs? Not Canada’s Universities.”  While not especially deep, the article does raise some interesting questions that got me thinking about how the state of satisfaction of PhD-holders is a reflection on the society that contains them.  Or maybe, vice versa.

Update, 5 July 2014. I came across an article in The Economist (Dec 2010), that peddles the same tired and narrow arguments as the Globe & Mail piece.

Continue reading “An oversupply of PhDs? Is that even possible?”

A note on dying with dignity

DonaldLow[NOTE: I wish I could properly cite the interview on which I am basing this post, but I just can’t find it.  If anyone can provide me with a link to the actual story, please let me know.]

On 25 September, around 7:00 pm, I listened to an interview on CBC Radio 1 (Toronto) of a professor of Disability Studies from Ryerson University.  The interview was essentially a commentary of a powerful video by Dr. Donald Low, the exceptional microbiologist who steered Toronto through the 2003 SARS crisis. In that video, Dr. Low called for new standards to provide dying with dignity to everyone.  The commentary by the Ryerson professor, herself disabled, raised warning flags about Dr. Low’s call.

She talked – very eloquently – about all the different ways that one can define “dignity” as a social norm, and that any such norm would lead to a slippery slope that would end up with the disabled being euthanized without their consent because society had decided they lacked “dignity” in their lives.  Essentially, she argued that every life has some kind of inherent dignity that must be respected – even if that means denying them dignity in death.

Continue reading “A note on dying with dignity”

Courting disaster: treating children like adults

Maura E. Charette.  Photographed by her father.
Maura E. Charette. Photographed by her father, who wrote an equally questionable article in the same issue of IEEE Spectrum, on the “myth” of a STEM “crisis.”

August must have been a slow news month at IEEE, because they’ve published a staggeringly bad article, Is a Career in STEM Really for Me? The piece is so shallow and naive, I felt compelled to write about it.

Maura E. Charette wrote the piece. She has just started Grade 8.

(I’ll give you a moment to let that sink in.)

Continue reading “Courting disaster: treating children like adults”

Holy taboo, Batman!

Image courtesy Wikipedia.
Image courtesy Wikipedia.

I shall read:
Melissa Mohr. 2013. Holy Sh*t: A Brief History of Swearing (available both on Google Play and Amazon).

I’m adding this book to my goram reading list, based on an interview that Dr. Mohr gave Q The Summer (CBC Radio 1, 15 August 2013).

Here’s some of the points from the interview that make me want to read the book.

Swearing comes from the limbic system, not from the usual language centres of the brain. This explains why some brain injuries impede regular speech but not swearing. It can also be beneficial; for instance, swearing seems to actually increase our tolerance for pain.
How swearing has changed over the years is an indication of what that culture thinks is taboo. Ancient Romans – being “manly men” – often used words indicative of being sexual “receivers” as swear words. During the Medieval period, swear words typically involved religion. In Victorian times, swearing was all about sex – to the point that even “leg” was considered a taboo (and hence a swear) word. (If you wanted to refer to the leg of a table, one would use “limb” or “lower extremity” or some such.) By the middle of the last century, Victorian goofiness had given way to the usual swear words we know today, which remain sexual and scatological in nature.

Continue reading “Holy taboo, Batman!”

Some thoughts on gun control

Warning: this is a long one; and I’m very much in favour of gun control.

There’s plenty wrong with Canada, but one thing we’ve got right (in principle at least) is a strong gun control.  Given the recent spate of shootings, both in Canada and the US, there has been a lot of discussion about gun control.  I’d tried to argue for strict gun control on Google+, but the arguments became scattered over several discussions and so may have lost some of their effectiveness.  So I’m going to try and put them all in one place here, in the hope that my position will make more sense.

Continue reading “Some thoughts on gun control”