Category Archives: Uncategorized

How Self-Driving Cars Will Change the World

(Source: Wikimedia)

This is you ten years from now. (Source: Wikimedia)

I hope you like to read about self driving cars, because I like to write about them. Hopefully I’ll get to do that for a few years before they learn how to write about themselves. Self-driving cars are going to change everything, with effects far beyond just the experience for the driver; they’re going to change it soon, and here’s how. Continue reading

Why You Shouldn’t Lie About Santa

Why not just say this guy delivers the presents? Look, kids: the real Santa. (Source: Flickr)

Why not just say this guy delivers the presents? Look, kids: the real Santa. (Source: Flickr)

Santa might seem like harmless fun (he’s certainly jolly), but I think he’s actually bad. Bad for your, bad for your kids, bad for the parent-child relationship.

Lying to children is bad. That seems like something we can all agree on. Perhaps a case can be made for some protective lies, like saying “He died in his sleep” about the child’s pet dog, when really you know what happened is that it was hit by a car and dragged its intestines for a hundred yards before collapsing in a pool of its own blood. But for some reason, when it comes to Santa, we’re fine with the lies. We expect our children to trust us, but how can you really trust someone who has lied to you for years? As children get older, they listen to their parents less and less, and we assume that’s just natural, but perhaps it’s simply the obvious result of years of lies about the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, and Santa.

In nearly all other cases, we tell our kids the truth. We don’t tell them that the Sun goes around the Earth, even though it would certainly be more special if we were the center of the universe. If you really wanted it to be special, you could tell the child the Sun went around them, and them alone, so that it’s lucky for the rest of us they happen to live on Earth so we get it going around us too and powering our entire planet. No, we tell them the plain facts and abandon the magic: Earth goes around the Sun.
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Review: Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight

Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight
Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight by Linda Bacon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A powerfully eye-opening refutation of our culture’s hatred of fat. Instead of a review, I’ve just included some quotes from the book because they say it very clearly:

“The vast majority of people who try to lose weight regain it, regardless of whether they maintain their diet or exercise program.”

“…people in the overweight or moderately obese categories live at least as long – or longer – than people in the normal weight category.”

“No one has ever shown that losing weight prolongs life. Some studies actually indicate that intentional weight loss increases the risk of dying early from certain diseases.”

“Large people eat no more than lean people, despite a popular misconception that large people consistently overeat.”

“Obesity and overweight are only associated with 26,000 annual deaths, far fewer than guns, alcohol, or car crashes.”

“If we simply redefine obesity using the criterion we assign to other disease – defining it instead at the point at which it promotes disease – the [obesity] epidemic would vanish.”

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Review: Enemy Combatant

Enemy Combatant
Enemy Combatant by Moazzam Begg
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It makes my heart ache to read this book. How can my country – or any country – hold someone without charge for years? There can be no justification for it, and the only explanation is that the American government, at the highest levels, does not care about our values of freedom or justice.

Moazzam quotes from Malcolm X in this book, and I’ve included the quote here:

“I’m not anti-America, and I didn’t come here to condemn America – I want to make that very clear! I came here to tell the truth – and if the truth condemns American, then she stands condemned.”

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BO? BS.

(Source: Tiffany Terry - https://www.flickr.com/photos/35168673@N03/)

(Source: Tiffany Terry)

Humans are social creatures – we cannot survive except in groups. Anybody with excellent outdoor survival skills who thinks they can do it alone should ask if they learned those skills from another human. Since we are social creatures, it wouldn’t make any sense for our bodies to naturally produce odors that repelled other humans. Based on just that simple argument, it seems clear that the concept of offensive body odor is bullshit. Continue reading

Nudity and The Human Condition

(Public Domain)

(Public Domain)

Recently, a woman at Claridge’s, a luxury hotel in London, was asked to cover up while breastfeeding her baby. If you’re in England and have any media exposure you’ve probably heard about it, if you haven’t here’s a link. There are some absolutely uninteresting debates going on about that (in the sense that I can’t believe we haven’t moved past it as a society), but it got me thinking about something else when someone on the radio was quoted as saying “It’s one of the most natural things there is.” I agree with that, certainly. Being naked is also one of the most natural things there is. Simply having exposed breasts, nevermind feeding a baby with them, is perfectly natural. Continue reading

Requiem for a Hamster

Missy's runway (1)

Missy in better days, with her cheek pouches crammed full of food and ready for a day of adventuring.

In October of 2012, a hamster entered our lives. She got the name ‘Missy’, which I thought of as a ridiculous name for a hamster, but she became Missy, and I loved her.

She was a cautious hamster, and gentle. She explored slowly. When we played with her, she walked with the air of someone who is expecting at any moment to be eaten by a predator. Over time, she became more comfortable with our house and would zoom from room to room. Hearing her little feet pattering as she runs under my chair at the computer is all it takes to make me smile. After a few months she would sometimes escape her cage to roam around the house at night, and it was enjoyable to think of the adventures she may have had while we were all asleep. She improved her skills until eventually she escaped her cage every night, sometimes within seconds of being put back in. She would stuff her face full of food for later, then climb out. A few times she got behind the cupboards for days at a time. Finally we had to put locks on the cage doors so she wouldn’t accidentally leave our house and die outside. Continue reading

Homework: A Failure of Society

(Artist: Pawel Kuczynski)

(Artist: Pawel Kuczynski)

I have some pretty non-traditional views of schooling. From the time I was 5 to the time I was 14, I went to a school where the pupils sat at desks attached to and facing the wall with large dividers between us. Quiet ruled the air, and distractions did not exist. Our work was largely self-directed – we chose what we wanted to work on each hour and each day as long as we kept a consistent pace among all subjects over time. If we finished a certain amount of work before the school day was finished, then the rest of the day was yours. We even checked and graded our own work day-to-day. That school closed down when I was 14, and I was homeschooled until 18. There was no formal curriculum in my homeschooling (some might know this as “unschooling”), and my learning was then entirely self-directed.

During the nine years I went to that formal school, I can recall having homework perhaps ten times, or just about once per year. Now my children get homework that many times in a fortnight. Some schools are giving their students as much as three hours of homework a day. Even my six year old nephew gets homework daily. Immediately as a child starts formal education, does the school intend to own that child’s evenings forever?

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When Minimalism is Too Minimal

This room is missing something. (source: wisley)

This room is missing something.
(source: wisley)

Minimalism, or Simple Living, can mean a lot of things. For many people, it means minimizing your possessions. If you don’t have a lot of furniture, you don’t need to dust it – simple. If you only have one slow cooker instead of three, you don’t have to decide which to use – simple.

I used to live the opposite of minimalism. I had years of magazines from multiple subscriptions piled up under my desk. I bought a new shirt every few weeks, and stuffed them into my closet. Some things I had just for the sake of having them.

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Review: We Need to Talk About Kevin

We Need to Talk About Kevin
We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Topics from parenthood to politics get an honest treatment from several sides in this book about an unwanted child who commits terrible acts as a teenager. If you have any opinion about what parenting should be like or why children grow up the way they do, I believe you’ll find something in here.

Kevin was creepy and almost frightening. All of the characters were hard to like, but I felt like they were real – many real people can be hard to like, if only they’d write down their thoughts on paper. The book could probably have been about 1/3 shorter if the author had left out a few thousand needless adjectives, that’s why it lost a star. Otherwise it was an interesting, engrossing read.

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