Friday, December 9, 2011

Email Formatting

Sorry about the crummy formatting on the last email alert, y'all. I'm still getting used to this new Blogger interface.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

How long should we be tolerant of "cultural" activities that are inherently destructive to our Ecosystem?

I originally posted this to my Facebook wall, but it was too long so got cut off. I've recreated it and expanded it from my original post. 
Should Shark Fin Soup Be Outlawed? 
The other night while having Chinese at Silver Pond with a friend, we debated about ordering the shark fin soup. "If you were in the ocean, the shark wouldn't think twice about eating you," my friend rationalized. He was hell bent on ordering a bowl. His response didn't move me. Is shark fin soup really still legal?
This is a very interesting question. I'm inclined to say "yes" it should be banned just so we can protect the sharks. They are an integral part of the oceanic ecosystems and if we lose them we have no idea what will happen. 

This also reminds me of something similar that happened to me a few years ago in Oslo, Norway. I was on a business trip and the folks at the office had all gone out to dinner. While we were all sitting around enjoying our mulled wine (it was January, I think. At any rate it was winter, and cold) and reading the menus one of my co-workers leaned over and asked me if I had any ethical issues with eating whale. 

I was a bit surprised by this question, since never having had the opportunity to order whale in a restaurant I had never thought about the personal ethical implications. So I did think about it, briefly, and told my co-worker that, yes, I did have moral qualms about it and would not be ordering that item off the menu. When he offered me a taste of his I politely declined. 

Whaling, like shark fin soup, is an inherently destructive practice which is having effects on the ocean ecosystem that we can only guess at. They are also, in my opinion, "cultural" activities that we as a species can no longer allow if we expect to survive. We are killing whales, sharks and even dolphins at such a rate that if something isn't done immediately we will lose them from our oceans within 50 years. Think about that. Add to that the fact that these are the tops of their respective food chains and if they are allowed to die out we have no idea what effect that will have on the oceanic ecosystem. I know I'm repeating myself here, but this bears repeating over and over and over. We have no idea what will happen to the oceans. If the oceans die, because of our actions, we die. 

It was recently reported that Japan took money that had been donated to aid organizations to help victims of the earthquakes and tsunamis earlier this year and used some of it to finance their whaling fleets. This is so absolutely reprehensible on the part of the Japanese government that I'm almost speechless. Japan's whaling is nothing more than wanton, destructive killing for killing's sake. There is absolutely no good reason why we need to keep killing whales. Everything they once provided for us, back when Herman Melville wrote Moby Dick, can now be manufactured synthetically. The continuance of a whaling "tradition" by some nations is, in my opinion, nothing more than an exercise in wanton cruelty. 

When San Francisco recently acted to ban the sale of shark fin soup in restaurants one of our local Chinese-American politicians actually called it an attack on Chinese traditions. Well... so what? Do we really need to be tolerant of a "tradition" that kills over 73 million sharks a year? These animals aren't cows. "Finning" a shark is a cruel and inhumane thing. The sharks are caught, and while still alive their fins are sliced off then the bodies are thrown back in the ocean to drown. All so some nouveau riche Chinese businessman can have a bowl of soup to show everyone how refined and upper-class he is? Well, screw that. Buy a Rolex like everyone else, chucklehead. 

We have to wake up and find a way to exist with the natural world that does not destroy it or we won't last as a species. At some point, the time will come, that we have so damaged the ecosystem of our planet that we, Homo Sapiens, will no longer be able to live here. What will we do? We'll die, is what we will do, and Mother Earth will go on; she will heal herself from our toxic presence and in about 10,000 years there will be no trace of us left on the face of the plant. If any other species ever does happen to visit our pale blue dot, there will be nothing left to tell them we existed. 

At that point nature will be free to start over again. This will be our fate if we continue to allow the wanton slaughter of these animals year after year after year. Is this really what we want to leave our children? 

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Protecting your Gadgets in Daily Life

As a sort-of hobby I spend a fair bit of time reading Apple's Support Community to see what problems folks might be coming up against using the gadgets, and occasionally I'm able to provide some help. One trend I've been seeing a lot of lately is people posting about how to get a lost or stolen iDevice or laptop back. What amazes me the most about all of these posts, is the fact that none of these people have enabled any of the security settings on any of these Apple devices, nor do they apparently have any insurance.

Apple does provide ways to recover misplaced or lost gear. Exhibit 1 is this great over-view of the new FileVault in OS X 10.7.2. But all the security features in the work are worthless if you, the end-user, don't use them to protect yourself. Honestly, I only have one response when I read that plaintive whine of "how do I get my stuff back!"

Your stuff is gone. Get over it. File an insurance claim and replace it. Move on.

I understand this gear is expensive. I've plunked down thousands of dollars over the years for both Apple and photography and scuba gear. This is why I have insurance. To protect my investments. I know the police are not going to do anything to help me recover a lost iPhone or laptop. It is my responsibility to protect my stuff. And that means enabling the password protection, and remote wipe features on my iPhone and iPad. So if I lose one of those items someone can't easily get into it and get any information. The devices will wipe themselves after 10 unsuccessful attempts to enter a password. It's a good feature... use it.

And after reading that Macworld article I'm going to enable FileVault, full-disk encryption sooner than I had planned to.

This will also be a prime concern where ever I get stationed by the Peace Corps. I'm not really all that concerned about the hardware, since I will have insurance to cover it all. But I am more concerned about the security of my data. I don't want a nefarious person to get access to any of my data, nor do I want to lose any of it. Data security is what FileVault is all about; backups will make sure I can recover everything in a timely manner.

So the long and short of this post is: take responsibility for your expensive gear and data and make use of the tools already at your disposal. You'll cause yourself less stress in the long run and be happier. And don't get so attached to physical things. It's not healthy.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Peace Corps Update: Next stage reached

As many of you many have seen from my post on Facebook last week I got my nomination to the Peace Corps. Very exciting. I had to wait to get the letter in the mail to see more about the project, though and I got it yesterday.

I've been nominated to teach English somewhere in Asia. For now that's all I know. The letter tells me that if I get past the next round of paperwork and interviews then I'll get invited to serve in a specific country. So, now I get to wait some more, but hopefully not as long. But I also have to return a bunch of medical paperwork as fast as possible. Thank goodness I can go to the VA for my medical care and not have to run up a bunch of bills. Even though PC will reimburse me for these things I'd still rather not spend money that I don't have.

So what countries in Asia might I go to? I could be sent to any one of Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Mongolia, Philippines or Thailand. Any one of them will be very cool since I haven't been to Asia, but some of those countries have great scuba diving available. Hint, hint Peace Corps.

Something I didn't expect is that I will get a special Peace Corps passport.

So that's what I know so far. I'm looking for the new packet of paperwork in the mail over the next few days and will be setting up doctor appointments so I can get the paperwork back as fast as possible, since they do look a how fast that happens as well. In the meantime I'll be perusing the Peace Corps Wiki site to try to get an idea of what I might expect in those Asian countries.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Peace Corps Recruiting

Wow. I logged into my Blogger account to write up a new, short post and.... they changed everything!

Anyway, I got a call today from my new PC recruiter, which I didn't expect, because, Travis, my original recruiter is moving on. Jennifer and I chatted for a few minutes; she wanted me to revise one of my essays because it wasn't quite long enough. No problem.

She gave me some encouraging news that new projects that are projected to leave in July, August or September of '12 will be coming open at the end of Summer. So she will start looking for a position in Business Development for me, which is what I really think I'm qualified for. I do still need to keep getting ESL teaching experience though.

We briefly talked about my photography as well, and she said something interesting. When she was a volunteer one of her fellow volunteers has a side project teaching photography in his community. That would be awesome (as my friend Dan is fond of saying)!

So, still nothing really new, but I wanted to impart that little conversation.

(BTW, this new Blogger is really going to take some getting used to.)

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Casey Anthony Trial

As many of you know by now Casey Anthony was found not guilty of killing her daughter, in Florida. What I find interesting is the reactions of folks on the social networks. The L.A. Times even wrote a story about it:
Casey Anthony was found not guilty Tuesday of murdering her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee, by a jury in Florida. The court of public opinion, however, thought the young mother was more than guilty, and moments after the verdict was read, social networks including Twitter and Facebook exploded with references to O.J. Simpson, Johnnie Cochran, and how upset CNN's Nancy Grace was going to be.
Reading a lot of these tweets really shows me that most people really don't know what goes on in a court room. Plus I think they are being very unfair to the members of the jury. They found Ms. Anthony "not guilty" because the prosecution failed to make their case.

This is the problem with the so-called court of public opinion: the public reads all about these high-profile cases and forms an opinion (Duh!) not taking into account that now the person has to be tried in court, and the prosecution has to convince a pool of jurors, who already are working under the assumption that the accused is innocent, that the person is guilty. It's not the other way around, folks. It is not up to the defense to prove the defendants innocence.

I recently was recently called for jury duty in San Francisco and ended up getting as far as an alternate juror on a criminal case and the judge spent a lot of time talking about the presumption of innocence and how the defense actually didn't have to present a case at all, since the defendant is presumed to be innocent.

I think this kind of public reaction to the Anthony verdict is very much the fault of twisted people like Nancy Grace and all those stupid "people's court" type shows, which are not about justice and the law, but are about spectacle and ratings. I think more folks should spend time sitting in an actual court room to learn a bit more about how our legal system really works.

I don't know if Ms. Anthony is really guilty of killing her daughter or not, but the state of Florida obviously did not convince them beyond a reasonable doubt so she goes free. That's how it works.