F*&king stupidity!

For any of you who haven’t been following the shutdown in the US, I’ll give you a quick update. Obamacare is a law that was passed to ensure that everyone in the US could have affordable healthcare. They do have a Medicare-kind of system over there but it is very limited, apparently, so you really need to have private healthcare. And even if you can afford private healthcare, the providers are very good at denying claims…in fact they train their people to always so ‘no’ first time around. For a good analysis of the US system, watch Michael Moore’s documentary, Sicko.

Anyway, I digress. So, the law was passed and was due to come into effect on the 1st of October 2013. The Republicans think that this bill is the worst thing to ever happen in the US…apparently worse than slavery, the Great Depression or the Twin Tower’s attack…so they decided that they would block government funding, by not passing the Budget, unless the Democrat agreed to postpone the implementation date. The Democrats said ‘go to hell in a hand-basket’, and so funding was blocked and the government doesn’t have the money to pay for lots of it’s staff. This means that 1000’s and 1000’s of US public servants have been sent home on leave without pay.

The Republicans are accusing the Democrats of not being willing to negotiate, while the Democrats are saying that the law has been passed democratically by congress, that it has survived around 40 attempts by the Republican to overturn it, that Barack Obama won a second term as president, with a bigger percentage of the vote, after the law was passed and that the law has been confirmed by the US Supreme Court as being constitutional, so it has had plenty of negotiation. And I think they probably have a point. πŸ™‚

I think the stupidity of the Republican’s position is exemplified by this interview exchange between a TV host and a Republican strategist…

TV Host (TVH) – Why are you so against Obamacare?

Republican Strategist (RS) – Because it is one of the worst things to happen in American history. And it is unconstitutional.

TVH – But the US Supreme Court ruled that it was constitutional.

RS (Looking totally stunned, with a ‘how dare you ask me a sensible question like that’ kind of look) – Um, yes, but it had to go all the way to the US Supreme Court for that to be decided.

I had a big WTF planned but I’ll leave it to you to determine the stupidity of this statement. Just to help you though, the Republicans were the one who took the law to the Supreme Court…and the Supreme Court is the only body who can rule on Constitutional matters. πŸ™‚

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Good on you, Maryland!

A while ago I wrote to the Governor of Maryland, in the US, congratulating him on repealing the death penalty in that state. I received a reply from him the other day and this was the central paragraph of it…

“In 2008, the Maryland Commission on Capital Punishment, led by former United States Attorney General Benjamin Civiletti, found that the administration of the death penalty clearly showed racial bias and that no administrative fixes could end the racial disparities.Β  In addition, it reported that the cost to taxpayers of pursuing a capital case is three times as much as the costs of pursuing a non-death penalty homicide conviction.Β  Lastly, the Commission determined that the risk of executing an innocent person was extremely high and that the statistics did not prove that the death penalty was a deterrent.Β  The death penalty did not make us stronger or more secure as a people. Nor did the death penalty make our laws more effective or more just. Capital punishment was expensive, and it did not work.”

Every time you think that the US has gone mad, they do something like this, which, to me, is amazing. And I’m not talking so much about the decision as the rationale behind it. Looking at it from a purely technical perspective, it is a really well thought out argument that covers bases for just about any stakeholder. It doesn’t make you safer, it’s not fair, it’s expensive, it’s not guaranteed to get the right person and it can’t be fixed…there is something in this for everyone, just about.

I know you may think I’ve gone crazy bothering to blog about something like this, but, in a world where sound debate and argument is sadly lacking, you need to appreciate the good ones when they come along. πŸ™‚

A message to all the young folk out there.

I was chatting to a friend of mine recently who lamented the fact that I hadn’t posted a blog for a while…which was really surprising because I didn’t think that anyone actually read it. πŸ™‚ So I Β thought that I’d start again. And as it turns out, I’m reading a perfect book, chock full of blogging material. It’s called The Owners Manual for the Brain, and what it does is give you the latest neuroscience on a range of a topics and then gives you practical applications for it. For example there are sections on how sleep affects the brain, how our brain develops as we age, what we know about how the brain repairs itself, how we learn etc. etc. I think you get the picture.

The section on the teenage / early adult brain is fascinating. First of all, there is lots of evidence that suggests that the brain doesn’t stop developing until we are 25-ish, not around 18 as I think most of us would have thought. During the period from early teens to 25 we learn faster and easier than at any other time of our life. Our brain prepares itself for all the learning we are going to do (potentially) by being the biggest it is going to be at around age 13. Combined with all this neural capacity is a massive influx of hormones and dopamine, which all leads to a desire to learn by experimentation…the riskier the better. Sounds like fun hey!Β The bad news is that between 13 and 25 our brain sheds lots of this grey matter, in effect the excess is pruned, if we don’t use it by learning stuff. The good news is that, at the same time it is laying down more white matter, which increases the permanence and speed of access of what we have learned.

The problem is that nature is a contrary Miss. At the same time that you youngsters are all ready to go out and experiment, the part of your brain that gives you judgment, the pre-frontal cortex, is TINY! So you have all this capacity and desire to learn…and no idea about what and how to learn. You also have incredibly poor judgement and assessment of risk at this time as well. In short, you are a disaster waiting to happen.:-)

So this has all been a long, rambling way of saying two things. First of all, don’t waste this period of your life, learn as much as you possibly can. And secondly, listen to us old bastards…we know what we are talking about, and you don’t! Ta ta for now. πŸ™‚

What the hell!!!

I haven’t posted for a while but I had to do this one. What the hell is happening with all these sinkholes???? I had it as a category for a joke but I could have based my whole blog around them apparently! And this one is bloody tragic.

Ginger Alert : A public warning. :-)

I don’t do this very often but I thought this was so scary that I really did need to put out a broadcast to you all, warning you of the very real danger that lurks among us. And to re-assure you that I’m not just spamming you all, I have checked Hoax Slayer, Snopes, and a couple of the other sites you can visit to check email and blog hoaxes. This one didn’t appear on any of them as a hoax. So, you have been warned, this can really happen! πŸ™‚ By the way, can I say sorry upfront to all of my beautiful red-headed friends for using an old stereotype just to get a few cheap laughs…forgive me, I am weak. πŸ™‚

Changing the subject totally, I was at a Medieval Carnivale a few weekends ago in a sleepy little town in the south west of W.A., called Balingup. In case you have never been to one of these things, they are great fun. At this one there were lots of little stalls selling a range of interesting hand-made products, lots of great food (the Bratwurst hotdogs were ‘ken amazing! πŸ™‚ ) and lots of displays, like swordfighting, falconry and black-smithing. They even had a burning of the dragon. And the atmosphere was great; people were obviously there just to have a good time. The only downside was all the losers in medieval costume, like this sad git.

Oh, just to update my previous post, I’ve worked out the problem. It came to me last week when I paid attention to the facial expressions of the people who didn’t reply to my greetings; a mixture of surprise and contempt. It is apparent to me now that I have mis-judged these people completely, because the whole issue is simply one of mis-communication. We are obviously speaking different languages. I think I’m saying ‘hiya’ or ‘good morning’ but, because of language differences, they are hearing ‘f*&k off and die’, or words to that effect. I haven’t quite worked out what the exact translation is, but you get the giste. But, now that I think about it, it is actually much worse that I thought, because it’s more than just another langauge, the issue is obviously that I’m trying to communicate witth another species. Yes folks, I am talking alien invasion. I think I can safely say that there aren’t too many human cultures where a smile, a head nod and something uttered, be it in another language, wouldn’t be interpreted as ‘hello’, so to suggest that the people I pass are aliens, new to the Earth and not fully aware of our customs, is the only logical conclusion a sane person could come to; or have I taken that too far? πŸ™‚

Update : I rode today and every single ‘person’ I passed nodded, smiled or said hello. So either these aliens are catching on fast, or the rumours of the death of human decency are greatly exaggerated, mainly by me as it turns out. πŸ™‚

Just f*&king nod!

I’ve been meaning to write this particular entry for ages but I always seem to get distracted; or have something happen that renews my faith in human nature. But now I’ve finally had enough! You see, as you may or may not know, I spend a lot of time either walking or riding around Mandurah. Whenever I have something to do in town I just stroll in. And I ride at least three times a week on the bike paths that run along the beach south of my house. And in the course of this walking and riding, I pass a lot of people. People out walking their dogs, riding their bike or just getting to somewhere else like I am. And, me being the friendly, cheerful chap that I am, I acknowledge them all in some small way. Runners I’ll just nod my head to cos I know they don’t want to have to reply to me. People walking I’ll say hi to, or thank them for moving over on the path so I can get past. But, as much as possible, I’ll recognise them in same way or other.

So this morning’s ride was going to plan. Lots of people out walking, riding etc., so lots of head nodding and ‘morning’ or ‘thank you’ going on. And then I hit a patch, which sadly is not that unusual, where about 5 people in a row just rubbered me. Didn’t even look my way as I rode toward them. Or even worse, looked me in the eye without a hint that I even existed. The thing is that this is not an usual situation. On my walks into town I can be walking toward someone and the two of us can be the only people in view for a kilometre either way and they’ll walk past like I was a ghost. Some will avert their gaze so that we don’t make eye contact but others will just pretend that I don’t exist. IΒ  mean, I know I’m no oil painting but surely I deserve some indication that they have recognised the presence of another human being! I can understand that walking down Hay Street in the middle of Perth you don’t want to acknowledge every person you pass but seriously, have we got to the point where we are so absorbed in ourselves that we can’t even acknowledge another human being when we are the only two people within cooee?

I’m not asking for a lengthy conversation, in fact I’d be the first to say no to this, but surely a f*&king nod of your head isn’t too much to ask! πŸ™‚

The good, the bad and Mandurah! :-)

First up, an apology. Over two months without a post is borderline cruelty, knowing as I do how you all hang on my every word! πŸ™‚ Aaahhh, I crack myself up, which is probably just as well, seeing as I don’t often see much evidence that I crack anyone else up. Aaaaaaawwwww, I hear none of you say. πŸ™‚ But enough of this self-something-ing, my profuse apologies and I will endeavour to make sure that it never happens again. Now, on to the post.

I saw something in a localΒ  newspaper today that I just had to write about. Apparently a guy was found with a tomahawk, a knife and an iron bar in his car. He was charged with intent to cause fear and his defense was, get this, that he lived in Mandurah and needed protection. πŸ™‚ I bet the local tourist board can’t wait to get hold of that. I can just imagine the tag line for the ads. “Are you carrying deadly weapons? Then why not take the chance to come to Mandurah?” πŸ™‚

But to be fair, I probably should give a little bit of balance. This is a picture, taken by a good friend of mine, of me out riding on a winters day in Mandurah. I’m the dot on the far hill you can see if you look very closely. Not bad really, when you think that it was taken 7 seconds after I passed her. πŸ™‚Β  A pretty idyllic scene hey? Of course, I was suitably tooled up. πŸ™‚