Sunday, December 13, 2009

Science is a Whore

If you're like me, this is just an obvious statement. However, everywhere in the media, science is portrayed as this community of dedicated professionals seeking the truth about the universe. People who question anything portrayed as scientific are labelled wackos, heretics or even worse Naturopaths.
Don't think an H1N1 shot is necessary? You're ignorant of science.
Don't believe that Global Warming is the harbinger of Armageddon? You're a right-wing stooge for big business.
In reality, there is no community voice from science. In order to make money, scientists must find a company willing to pay them for data manipulation or a university willing to fund their research. The justification for any scientific work is always money or politics. Pure science is simply a tool for selling a product or an idea.
Want to prove that your party's position is justified? You simply pay for a scientific poll. But how scientific can an opinion be? Doesn't matter as long as the sample size is big enough to make the results accurate to within +-2% 19 times out of 2o.

Just listen to this science fiction writer's account of trying to make a living as a marine biologist.
He spent ten years getting a bunch of degrees in the ecophysiology of marine mammals (how's that for unbridled optimism), and another ten trying make a living on those qualifications without becoming a whore for special-interest groups. This proved somewhat tougher that it looked; throughout the nineties he was paid by the animal welfare movement to defend marine mammals; by the US fishing industry to sell them out; and by the Canadian government to ignore them. He eventually decided that since he was fictionalising science anyway, he might as well add some characters and plot and try selling to a wider market than the Journal of Theoretical Biology.

There is much more but I'm neither a writer nor a scientist for a living. I can only squeeze blog entries between coaching soccer practice and carting kids to friends for play dates. This idea will be explored further but for now I'm off to change a rear-facing car seat to front-facing for my growing boy.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Cul-De-Sac's Arch Nemesis

The Cul-De-Sac hero has been noticing a draining affect on his powers of late. His force field has not been as powerful and his boundless strength has been waning when he needs it most. Maybe it was the late night crying of his children who can't seem to have simultaneous nights of complete sleep. However, it is looking more and more like a malicious force has been reaching out from the depths of the city core to undermine the real estate values and political power of the suburban empire.
I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I was unaware of the menace before, but it's just hard to get through the important pages of a newspaper on a 40 minute train ride to get to the pages where the menace thrives. The "Life" and "Arts" sections where diatribes of this phantom have been flourishing.
Of course, now that I've been alerted to his presence by one of my favourite author/bloggers, other superheroes have already started the fight. Unfortunately, I've been focusing on my day-time persona a little too much to really be much of a force in the fight to save the land of cul-de-sacs. I'll just have to add my two cents and leave it at that.
The menace has a name, Richard Florida. He has a purpose: to collect large salaries and consultants fees for waxing ideologically in print media, government reports and classroom settings. What ideology? The ideology of "The Creative Class" or the "Creative Age". As if the other ages were the result of people who couldn't tap into their creativity. I wouldn't dare call inventors of steam engines, phonograph records and cotton gins creative, would I? Didn't they simply apply basic science in novel (gasp... creative) ways to solve problems and enhance life as we know it? Wow, what a disaster. Now look at the mess we're in - all these tools, houses and infrastructure.
The whole point of this movement, is that the economy is transforming into one based on creativity rather than the laborious industrialized economy that we're stuck with right now. You know, the one with carpenters, welders and factory workers that build us those things we barely use anymore like um.... houses, bridges, trains and cars. So, all of those people are supposed to drop their um hammery-weldy thingys and pick up one of those cool new laptops - the Mac ones, not PC's - and become a copy writer or graphics designer or something "creative" to use their full "creative capital".
The principle on which Florida bases his new ideology is that every human being is creative and has the right, and thereby, duty to use his "full talents and creative abilities." I have met a lot of people and while some are definitely creative, I'm sure that not everyone wants to stand up and present the outcome of their full creativity to their company's board of directors. If any company allowed all of their employees to simply be creative, there would not be much real capital to share with investors. The sad truth is that not all people should be allowed to be completely creative. Most people, I find, are happy being given a task and a time frame. Be the time frame a 60 second assembly line window or a 6 month IT project, people like guidelines.
I was once an energetic, idealistic, young recruit full of ideas that would revolutionize the industry until a few rude awakenings taught me that things are done a certain way for a reason. Not all creative capital is good at creating real capital.
The corporate structure isn't perfect, but it does help to filter out some of those cockamamie ideas brought up by young foolish kids fresh out of school. Some cockamamie ideas from the experienced staff still get pushed through, of course, but we're all human.
Maybe my creative capital was not developed enough which is why I'm now a jaded mid-level office worker with a blog-writing super-hero alter-ego. Maybe, if I hadn't been stifled, I would already be an highly paid executive consultant, marketing my creative problem solving skills and living the neo-bohemian, bourgeois lifestyle, raising a family from a two-bedroom, plus den condo in the core. Or maybe I would have just bought a bigger house in the suburbs. See, the problem with all these creative beatniks and gays that Florida thinks are the measuring stick of a city's health is that they don't breed. Well, some do breed but they immediately start to transform themselves into crossover-driving soccer moms and dads and look for a house with room to grow. They might even use some of their precious creative capital to decorate it.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Proof I am a Free Range Parent or, more acurately, Proof My Child is Free Range

The Cul-de-sac’s docile and relaxed appearance belies the busy lifestyle of its inhabitants. In actuality, I have very little time for enjoyment of my pleasant abode and its surroundings. Enjoyment is exactly the reason we have long weekends. However, those in the cul-de-sac, who own their castles, must attend to the often-neglected tasks: both the obvious, like cutting the grass and pulling weeds, and the not-so-obvious but essential tasks, like re-grouting the shower tiles. Priorities often conflict with outward appearances so I hurriedly finished my hidden task so that I could at least enjoy a little holiday sunshine – especially to get away from the fumes of the caulk.
Truth be told, I love cutting the grass and pulling weeds. I don’t like green socks and shoes, but it’s satisfying to see a lush (in places) uniformly green pasture. At least it’s uniform length in the places that it is growing. The problem is that a 3, going on 4, year old companion also desperately needs some fresh air. He can help, or pretend to help pull the “flowers” that Daddy calls dandelions, but cutting the grass is another matter. Whirring blades, even from my push-reel mower, and weed-whackers are not the safest things to be playing near. Of course, a responsible almost-four-year-old can understand the danger or at least listen to Daddy’s warnings to stay away. The question: how to occupy a child while I’m busy spinning dangerous blades at a safe distance. Then of course, I have to go do the back yard. Not undoable, but I must use my cunning to do it safely without resorting to sending the child inside.
Thankfully, two answers arrived home in the form of neighbour’s children, one, an eleven-year-old star soccer player, the other, only about a year older than mine. Suddenly, chalk is marking the sidewalk and soccer balls are being bounced between pairs of feet.
In no time, my obvious task is complete, and I’m ready to complete the backyard. A quick check with the older child and a word or two with my own and I am ready to venture out of sight. Worried? Slightly. Thankfully, Lenore Skenazy has been coaching me in raising Free Range Kids. I’ve yet to buy her book, but the next time I have the luxury of going to the bookstore, it is mine. I was sure that my son and I were both ready to take our first step toward becoming Free Range. Much preparation has taken place. However, this was still a little nerve wracking.
So, I went back to the yard work. I set a new fastest time in cutting and trimming the back – even though the grass looked like a hayfield, in the places that it was growing, and my check-ups on the kid’s chalk drawings. It barely even caused a stir in my heart when I came back to the front to find all three of our yards empty. The logical explanation was the right one. No abductions, no runaways. Just an invitation to a sandbox filled with toys where parents were filling boxes with flowers. Another clue as to how similar we are to our neighbours.
I am sure that my son is free-range. He simply is too curious not to be. I can’t make that decision for him. I can help him prepare for the challenges that life will present when his curiosity overcomes whatever fears I might instill in him, intentionally or otherwise.
My suburb is actually not too bad. I see pre-teen and pre-pre-teen children roaming or playing under what some would say are lax supervision all the time. I don’t think that the horror-stories mentioned in Lenore’s blog are too common here. Still, helicopter parents and minivan-cloistering is becoming more and more common. I just hope it doesn’t become more common than the sense, my parents tried to instill in their children.