Sunday, January 22, 2017

Implanted devices


In A New Premise I explored a cashless society and the ramifications.  Here's the blurb:

In the near future a crisis erupts when terrorists change their target from buildings and people to the world money supply. They discover a way to duplicate all paper currency as well as credit and debit cards in a way that renders detection impossible. The markets are flooded with phoney products and chaos ensues. A new government emerges in the U.S. with tight control of economic markets, prices and wages. It introduce a new financial system using an implanted microchip. But is the 'grain', as the microchip is called, merely an implanted debit card or are there more sinister and hidden functions?
A New Premise follows five different people coping in a dysfunctional new world that seems to only work for the few elite.

It appears others are thinking along the same lines.   There's a type of tattoo that can tell you, for example, if you've had too much to drink.  It may be possible soon to share a remote control kiss by means of a special pad attached to your smartphone.

Implanted medical devices, like pacemakers, have been around for quite a while but nowadays Implanted devices can be connected to the internet to monitor and adjust pain relief for chronic sufferers.    It has been postulated that the smartphone of the future will be implanted in your head.   2023 is predicted as the year of commercial availability.

Do we scoff at these predictions?   Probably not.   Technological change has been so rapid and so all-encompassing that we are prepared to believe anything is possible.   

Is it desirable?   Will it be mis-used for purposes not intended?   Will our thoughts still be private?   I worry about the law of unintended consequences.   You could start researching that possibility here.  Cane toads were introduced to Australia to control destructive beetles in Queensland sugar cane fields but became more of a problem themselves.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Misery Porn, a controversial genre


Do you like to read Misery porn?   Or watch it in movies or on television?  Wikipedia's definition states:   

a genre of supposedly biographical literature mostly concerned with the protagonist's triumph over personal trauma or abuse, often during childhood. It is also sometimes called "pathography."   

The term has a definite negative connotation to it.  This approach seems to generate strong opinions and can provide strong sales for writers of the genre.  Sometimes written in first person memoir format and other times third person literary fiction the focus is one or more characters' miserable, painful and tragic life stories.  Child abuse, physical and sexual, is a frequent topic as is living with addicted parents, surviving terrible conditions in war, being forced into prostitution, suffering under extreme disability, poverty or misfortune.    

This article expands on this topic and includes references to many works, literary and TV and movie productions, that compete in the most miserable life contest.  Some claim to be true, some based on the truth with fictional elements and others are completely fictional.

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara has a cover photograph of a young man looking to be experiencing great pain and misery and can fairly be called a warning for potential readers (according to reviews) but is actually one of a series of photographs of orgasm.  

The New York Review of Books describes plot development wherein "The sufferings recalled in the flashbacks are echoed in the endless array of humiliations the character is forced to endure in the present-day narrative: the accounts of these form the backbone of the novel."  Read further here.

Reviews on Goodreads here give mixed opinions.  Some cried as they were reading it, cried themselves to sleep after.     How do you feel about this genre?   Do you feel sympathy/empathy for the character(s)?   Do you feel relief/guilt that your life has been so much better?  Do you feel compelled to action to prevent future misery?  Does a dark cloud follow you for weeks as you contemplate man's inhumanity?

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Skinny children, skinny dogs

Seeing skinny disheveled children and skinny dogs seems to be part of visiting developing countries. Unless, as many tourists do,  you end up in gated resorts benefitting from the climate and the amenities money can buy.     Going outside can be the difficult part.    Children are often selling something during hours when they should be in school.   Where does the money go?  No doubt they are told to try to sell things to foreign tourists, the ones with the money, by the people who feed them, hopefully regularly.   Surely, the country (and the people) benefit from tourism, we confirm to each other.  We don't like to feel sad or guilty while we're on vacation.

I once bought a bag of dog food in the town of Volcan Arenal, Costa Rica to feed to the group of dogs that frequented the town square.   They actually looked in good shape as they played on the grass.   I noticed later that each dog seemed to have claimed the sidewalk in front of a different restaurant.   They kept a certain space from the front door and disturbed no one.   I persuaded myself that they were fed the meat scraps at the end of the day.   I didn't see any sad looking children there though so perhaps this was a more prosperous area.

Guatemala is a place that is more impoverished than Costa Rica which has attracted more tourists and expats over the years due to its peaceful history and higher standard of living.  Guatemala has a history full of conflict and exploitation.  Guatemala City is home to the giant forty acre garbage dump where thousands people try to both live and eke out a living by sorting through the trash.  The Paper House is a middle grade book but readable by all ages and tells the story of a young girl who lives there.   As it is a children's book, it has a happy ending.  Probably not realistic.   This article gives more realistic detail.

I've written before about my doubts that monetary donations end up benefitting who the donor thinks they will.  I recently read a blog post by a well travelled blogger who buys/offers food to child vendors.   Perhaps that is a partial solution.  I support this organization, Knit a Square  which provides blankets, mittens and knitted toys to orphanages in South Africa.   We are asked to put $0 or $1 as the value on the package, not to humble us, but to keep down customs valuations.     

Sunday, January 1, 2017



Sufficient money to fund a small kingdom is invested in advertising by all and any means.   Advertising is omnipresent and unless you head off to the deep woods you are surrounded by it at every turn.  No space can remain blank when it could be used to promote the sale of some product or service.  Changing styles and venues there may be but the goal is the same:   to persuade the consumer to try or at least consider the purchase.

There's no doubt some ads are clever, amusing even.   I've laughed at some . . . the first time through. After thirty or forty viewings the humorous becomes annoying.   With some advertisements it seems obvious how they are trying to pull at our heartstrings, associating small children and puppies with their product.   I suppose it is an improvement from the past when curvaceous women in bikinis were draped across the latest model car.   If you want a look at offensive advertising from the past just google offensive advertising from the past.

There appears to be little if any connection between the department/company that prepares and executes the advertising campaign that the company that provides the product/service.   Promises are not fulfilled, misrepresentations are rife.   Particularly when a large one-time purchase is involved or a contract is being signed that will commit you to ongoing payments with no relief.    I have formed the impression that considerable more effort is put into cajoling the customer the first time around than is ever expended keeping the one who is already in thrall.    Car purchases, time shares, mortgages and  packaged vacations come to mind as items that can leave you stuck when all is not as promised.  

On-line reviews are a small prevention/recourse for consumers.   They are susceptible to fake reviews from competitors or trolls in general but when dozens of reviews repeat similar complaints I take heed.   I don't think I would stay in a hotel or make a large purchase without diligently checking reviews.   I do find often that you get what you pay for.   We're all looking for the deal;  champagne on a beer budget.   It happens just often enough for us to keep trying. 

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Be Careful What You Wish For

The British Broadcasting Corporation let loose with a bit of wisdom and advised that It's not unusual to get your dream job and then hate it.    Loving animals and wanting to work with them may, after an expensive and exhausting education, turn out to involve a lot of  outside work in bad conditions wherein the animals often die or in a veterinarian's office where too many decisions are made based upon money.  A dedicated archaeologist does not unearth this century's Tutankhamen but rather endures a lot of time hunched over, again in poor weather, using a small brush on large areas of dust and soil.   Don't forget, someone else will get the credit, whatever you find.

I wish job shadowing was a more established thing.   I know that a day in the school year is designated for parents to take their Grade 5 student to work with them.  I guess it's a start.   Some programs do require a certain amount of volunteer experience in the field as part of a university admission package.   Those programs probably have an excess of applications as they will lose three quarters of potential applicants after a few weeks at the job site.   One problem is that many volunteers have to pay for the privilege and young people are notoriously short of funds.   Another issue arises is that you have to know someone.  Not everyone does.  


But let's assume that you were admitted into the program, slogged your way through it and  graduated.    Hooray!!  You got a job in the field.   Double Hooray!!   You've grabbed the brass ring, as they used to say.  Ten years on the job and you have seniority and have reached the top pay category.   (and the lifestyle to go with it).  Now is not the time to realize that you never liked  _____.   (fill in the blank).   Or you liked it a little initially but now you truly loathe the work.   

There's no escape now.

(Well there is but it wouldn't be easy.)

Blog hiatus until the New Year!

Sunday, December 11, 2016



What is it with swearing?   I've written about this topic before, mostly with regard to verbal swearing by individuals in public place.     The internet has its own rules (or lack of them--incidently what happened to netiquette?) and this has spilled over into print journalism)  Perhaps it annoys me because I can recall a time when published swearing in magazines, journals and newspapers did not exist.   I don't think it was that long ago, either.    In the past few years it is as if a magic fairy waved a wand and pronounced, "Go to it!"   The New Yorker magazine to name one of many publications has apparently made an editorial decision that expletives make fine copy.  Today, I've been reading blog posts by an intelligent, educated woman with strong opinions on many subjects.   I just wish she could stop dropping F bombs in most posts.    

After a while, it is easy to think, 'It must be me.   Nobody else seems bothered.'   I try to reason my annoyance out and  consider whether in was the eleventh grade English teacher who opined that people who swear a lot are deficient in vocabulary skills (who wants to be like that?) or whether it was articles in women's magazines of the past that declared that swearing was 'unladylike'.  I'm a product of another generation.  But after all, what's in a word?

Swearing used to be something that was done for effect.   You really meant it if you added an expletive.   It was saved for heinous crimes not hangnails.  Surely, swearing must be losing its effect as shock value;  new words will have to be invented.

Sunday, December 4, 2016


Many years ago while visiting Scotland, an older relative by marriage, Fran,  related a situation that had become family lore.  She wanted to share it with me.    It seemed that Uncle Cy, God rest his soul, had lived a happy and carefree life.   He had been a pleasant fellow, well-liked, a raconteur at gatherings and a generous friend at the local pub.   A bit of a ladies' man, as they called it in those days, he was chivalrous despite a fondness for practical jokes. He remained a bachelor all his life and enjoyed annual sojourns to Spain during Scotland's brutal winters.    Towards the end of his life, some health issues forced him into a seniors' care home.   There he continued to charm the ladies, the staff as well as visitors for a further seven years until his peaceful end.   "We should all be so fortunate," was how the situation was summed up.

Then, there was Aunt Mabel.  She was cut from a different cloth.   Somewhat shy, a bit of an introvert;  life had made her fearful somehow, but she faced it with quiet determination.  Always expecting the worst, she starting saving for a rainy day long before her age-mates would give the future much thought.   She was careful with money, was how the relative described her, and, of course, she was Scotch so that came naturally.   She always paid her bills on time and no one could accuse her of not paying her share on the rare occasions when she attended a social function.   Her small house was well polished and Aunt Mabel was always pleased to provide a home for cast-off furniture from more well off relations.    She worked all her life except for the decade when she was married.   'At least she had that', was how it was described.   Her husband died of natural causes and Mabel had been alone again.  No children.  She knew Uncle Cy, of course, but except for semi-annual family gatherings, they moved in different circles.

Now,  Fran's voice rose a tone.   It seems Aunt Mabel, in due course, and it being a small town, ended up in the same senior's care home as Uncle Cy.    I had listened patiently to the story, interested to hear some details of how life had been during and after the War.   Scotland had been so affected by it, the River Clyde bombed incessantly.     But Fran's rising indignation concerned other matters.   It had somehow been discovered by the family that Uncle Cy had entered the government established and funded home with not much more than a smile and the clothes on his back.   Aunt Mabel, penny pincher that she was, had amassed a considerable amount, closer to a million pounds than a half million, was how it was described. The relations were all agog.  Both enjoyed equally the care, medical, social and emotional, that the home provided.   Uncle Cy was entirely funded by the state and Aunt Mabel paid the full monthly amount prescribed, for those with personal means.     Fran was pleased to tell me that Aunt Mabel could have, had her health allowed, gone on a never-ending cruise for the same price.

Aunt Mabel outlived Uncle Cy by nearly a decade, making it to ninety-eight.   What remained of her carefully scraped together fortune paid for a nice funeral.

"What do you think of that?" my husband's aunt enquired.   She didn't wait for an answer, me being a foreigner, but gave her own response.   "We've all learned from that, let me tell you."   She didn't elaborate.