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Stunted By Reality Just another know-it-all talking about life, business, technology, sports and music.

15Apr/14Off

How the horse-meat scandal could have brought the world down

It's been just over a year since the horse-meat scandal and I'm reminded of how close we came to upsetting the natural order of things for all eternity.

It might have escaped a few people at the time because I didn't blog about it, but animals have only one way to avoid being eaten and that is to somehow convince a human being to give them a name.

Most often, this happens by either being good at licking human faces or by being excellent at running and jumping for the benefit of human entertainment. If an animal does not manage to tick one of those boxes it risks ending up on someone's plate.

horse-meatThe horse-meat scandal was much more of a crisis than people realised because as the 'big brother' in the human/animal relationship we reneged on that unwritten rule. We  risked bringing down the motivation for horses to do stuff for us simply because a few horse owners felt they should make more money by selling their horses for meat rather than glue (which would have been acceptable). Can you imagine what would happen if a horse knew that whether or not it was good at jumping it would end up as meat? Or if a cat was not motivated to lick it's owner's face for fear of ending up in a kebab? Well I don't know what would have happened and will leave you to speculate, but it can't have been anything good that's for sure.

Personally I'm glad it all blew over because horses could have ended up being as useless as chicken. We all know that chickens are good for nothing except eating. It's no doubt because they can't lick your face or run and jump for our entertainment (unless you're a sadistic gambler and are into cock-fighting).

Needless to say one year on it's cause for celebration that the natural order of things is still firmly in place. Horse racing is once again in full swing and dogs are still oblivious to the fact that they could have been licking people's faces for nothing. Lick, run, jump, get a name. It's motivation for them and it's companionship and entertainment for us. It's simple but it works. Let's keep it that way.

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20May/13Off

Porn will be a bigger issue in 3D printing than guns

I'm not too sure why everyone is getting worked up trying to explain to right-wing libertarians hell-bent on defending our 'freedoms' that 3D printing guns is a bad idea. I think all we need to do is point out to them that porn is responsible for popularising most major developments in technology and that 3D printing won't be any different. The only technology that was failed by the porn industry was the fax machine, but that's because faxes were notoriously slow at coming!

If conservative men's past form on attitudes towards sexual matters is anything to go by then their reaction to 3D printed porn would be fun to watch. I'm no expert but judging by the equal number of affairs and hypocrisy across the political spectrum, then even conservative women need gratification too; and too much time spent shooting guns and patrolling borders for defenceless Mexican economic migrants whilst the women are at home could really have nasty side (front, back and other) effects. The 50 Shades of Grey phenomenon has shown us many things about women that Mills & Boon only ever hinted at. And I'm betting that that demography includes a lot of conservative wives and their daughters. I can foresee a scenario where Daddy's plastic always runs out just when he needs new bullets and right around the same time a young lady gets a new blow-up boyfriend! That's before we even talk about men and what our collective penchant for vivid porn would do for 3D printing. Doubtless 3D printing is a cool idea, but restraint is due from everyone, whether they're in it for sexual freedom or the freedom to maim and kill. Let's stick to screw and nuts printing please. Hold the porn and easy on the guns.

3dPrintedSteakCartoon

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2May/13Off

Irony

I've just bought three different tools to help me fix a rattle in my car. After fiddling around for 10 minutes it was clear that none of the new tools was going to get the job done. So I reached out for an old wrench I had and used it to just wangle the pesky sheet of metal out without any mind to the screws meant to be holding it down.

It then occurred to me that this was an example of what the grammatically challenged Alanis Morissette called irony. A mildly unfortunate incident. It's a good thing I'm not a musician otherwise this might have made it onto an album of some sort. But as this is the information age it will merely be an inane rambling that allows me to maintain my online existence. Ironic or not, content is king dear readers. If one has an album or a blog to fill, the bottom of the barrel will occasionally be scraped.

2Apr/12Off

No beer belly goes away once it’s been stroked.

I'm going to cut straight to the chase and say to all men out there, if you have a pot belly, are starting to get a one or think you're a prime candidate for a beer belly some day; my advice to you is to never ever stroke it.

I'm going to loosen the belt soon so you can breathe. Just one more sip

In the interests of research I've observed that guys who stroke their beer bellies have a look of contentedness and acceptance which pretty much says that this belly isn't going anywhere. Your lady might have just fed you the most delicious meal and dessert is around the corner but please avoid caressing your belly as if it was your premature daughter. Dude, you've just had a meal in which your belly did nothing but store the hard work your woman's done. Any caressing should be for her, not the belly.  The same applies if man is in a heavy drinking session and somehow feels the need to show how gentle their hands can be. I believe that all Bellymen must stroke the shoulder of the person who bought them the beer or if they bought it themselves then the barman will have to do. It might look a bit gay now but once it's accepted practise it will be infinitely better for a man's health if their belly never felt loved enough to stick around for life.

No man's hand possesses a midas-like ability to generate life-long affection through touch; otherwise grown men would be queuing up at film premiers just so they could touch the hand of the latest hot thing knowing that the rudeness would be forgiven once she's fallen for him. The problem is in the familiarity that comes with the stroking action and the comfort it generates. I'm guessing that one can be so familiar with their beer belly that in one stroke they could tell if it doesn't feel quite as tightly stretched as it normally does. The temptation then would probably be to feed it some more or to think that there's obviously still room for more and.... feed it. Something like a real world simultaneous equation. The variables are plenty but they all lead to the same thing.

Don't get me wrong, I think beer bellies are amazing, but not the kind of amazing that deserves a loving stroke as if it will show its approval by secreting a love hormone that will make you irresistible to the fairer sex. Bellies are amazing in the way that rat population statistics are amazing. The beer belly's ability to stretch is in my view bigger than that of a woman's hips during child birth. And child birth is meant to be up there. This is just one more thing that shows it isn't but I'll stick to the matter at hand. Bellies also have an amazing relationship with energy. The organs in them are meant to be a main component in the body's processing of food into energy, yet they sometimes end up not releasing it in any efficient manner which means bellies end up storing it about themselves, thus making them bigger and in turn meaning the body requires even more energy just to carry them around. It's amazing; almost like a self inflicted parasite.

That's before we even talk about the skin, where does all that skin come from? And even as the pot belly grows at no point is there not enough skin to cover it. Okay maybe I should rant at the skin here because apparently it is its own organ. Complete with amazing statistics and all (it weighs up to 20 pounds making it the bodies largest and heaviest organ!) I'll still take it all out on the pot belly though because lets face it whenever you think of a belly you don't think of one with no skin. It's all belly to me. The navel, the hair, the skin; all belly and all one needlessly-big thing stopping you from hugging people comfortably but still getting gentle strokes from some men for doing what it should do..... badly.

I'm obviously not speaking from personal experience and my facts are merely of the observational scientist variety, but don't say I didn't warn you. No beer belly goes away once it's been stroked.

12Jan/12Off

Musicians need to be like bloggers and stop whingeing

I've often thought that literature and music share a lot and by that I don't mean the historical links of cheap arty neighbourhoods populated by musicians, artists, poets, actors and writers all scrounging around trying to find themselves.

Just like music, writing has now evolved so much that some old timers would rather terms like literature and chord were not applied to blogging and grime music respectively. And just like it would be churlish to deny that instant noodles are not noodles, it is improper to deny those two their place in their respective cultures.

And so it is that like music, writing is an art form. However apart from a deluded minority you don't get us bloggers thinking that we MUST live off the pen keyboard.

Musicians need to get over that aspect of their art and realise that there are thousands of them out there and that just because they have spent some money on their craft, doesn't mean that the world owes them a living. In the music and bloggers analogy writers who can string two sentences together would try to go professional; and as soon as they try to live off of writing they would start to complain about every aspect of the industry. Spouting on about anything from the 'dinosaurs' who don't get the change that's happening right down to the new school digital gatekeepers who are screwing them on behalf of the dinosaurs (who want to hold onto inflated profits from times gone by).

"To save money we will be replacing our reporters with bloggers, who will work for free."

You only have to look at the blogging world to realise that we too spend money on our craft hoping that one day we'll make it. However making it for most of us just means getting a back-link and getting 100 hits in a day. There are millions of websites out there competing for eyeballs and whilst it would be great for me to be paid to write, I seriously don't lose any sleep over it. I will continue to fork out money to Godaddy (and their girls), theme designers, app makers and anyone else who promises to make my blog look cool or easy to put together. I am prepared to do all this in order to fool a few readers a day into clicking the subscribe button. One day my kids may be mad at me because they missed out on playing time whilst I wrote about my sadness at the death of a dictator but you know what? I don't mind. I blog for the love of it and though my time is worth a lot to me and my family, the fact that I'm doing it for me means that I'm content with not charging you to read it. Link away dear friend. Unless I suddenly become popular and am the subject of a mega-bucks Rupert Murdoch takeover, this website will always be freely available. Though lets face it, everyone has their price so you never know what could tempt me to put up a paywall.

Nevertheless, I am truly content with knowing that the millions of rubbish websites and blogs out there make it much less likely that mine will be found by any significant number of people. Not through a lack of presence of course, but apathy from readers who are tired of being trapped into reading ugly blogs full of unoriginal content churned out by machines. And that's just if you're lucky, because on a bad day surfing the web can result in your computer catching a virus or you visiting a site for paid local (same) sex services which would be impossible to explain if your boss or wife looked at your browser history.

In the end it's clear to me that the internet is full of junk. Millions of rubbish websites with trash-type content strung together by biased writers who stopped learning grammar soon as they finished learning their ABCs and all available through one of the greatest ever innovations in history. The weird thing is that some of that junk is actually really popular and a huge number of other well written and presented content will never be exposed to much more than the writer who wrote it and their long lost ex who is trying to track them down. I'm conceited enough to think that my blog is one of the better ones, but I'm not up-myself enough to think that internet surfers owe me a living.

Despite all this I'm not deterred in my quest to write compelling posts and it's probable that my anti-Apple zeal could have been cured if Steve Jobs had ever said that the Macbook was so magical it could make me write like a latter-day Thomas Hardy. The Macbook is one of the few things that separates me from my very musical younger brother. The fact that he has invested much more in his equipment than I in blogging aids. This could quite easily have been the reverse had I been born in the days of the type-writer, however in terms of time spent I believe I would have no problem matching him or any other arty type. Nonetheless I won't single him out because he has never expressed a sense of entitlement about his standing in the music business. My ire is directed at his up-and-coming peers in general who complain about the state of an industry which they have chosen in all consciousness to be a part of.

As the proprietor of a music related business, I'm not anti-musician nor do I foresee doom and gloom on either side of the music business artist or establishment. I simply believe that people have choices. To work in the industry or not. To view it as a hobby or not. To use certain services or not. To always complain about the state of things and the problems they encounter or to try and effect change and solutions. But most pertinently musicians also have the choice to live in the real world and look around...... or not. Either way I wish they'd stop whingeing about the business!

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25Nov/11Off

I’m tired of explaining Facebook and the internet to people

Technology is here, get used to it

Maybe it shouldn't amaze me because the world is full of dumb people and it should be expected that now and again I'll run into the misguided opinions of some of them. But it's amazing that in this day and age some people still don't get that Facebook is just another communication tool. Same as text, MMS, letter, postcard, fax, phone, email, smoke signals or Morse code.

Facebook and the internet enable communication in general and are not specifically for narcissists and voyeurs. The dumb people who don't get this irritate me by trying to put across to me that they are somehow holier than I because they don't use Facebook to share their 'pregnancy news'. To say that a communication tool is sad and pathetic doesn't make sense to me. A tool is only as sad and pathetic as the information going through it. In other words if you think Facebook is sad and pathetic maybe you need to look at your 'friends' first. A communication tool can only be labelled useful, useless or other such adjectives. This doesn't apply to Twitter which as an open publishing platform that is actively trying to take on the soul of it's content. Go ahead and call Twitter sad if you like.

What people should realise is that you can have 3 connections or even less on Facebook and exclude your cousins or whoever because of that long running feud your Mom hold's against her sister for not letting her borrow her mascara when they were teens. If you were going to send photos of your newborn to your 3 siblings, Facebook is just as good a tool as any to send those pictures with. You don't even have to accept one more friendship request or make yourself discoverable to that crush from Year 6 who thinks you're the one that got away simply because one curious day you decided to give him a quick peck on the lips.

It's true that voyeurs and narcissists do have it slightly easier on Facebook but only in broadcasting to other voyeurs and narcissists. There are plenty of people who very privately share information and pictures with only the people they care about. The internet can be a lot like real life in that sense. Most of the people saying dirty jokes online would likely have been saying them offline.

Anyway, let me stop this rant before I point out about the absolute contradiction of someone actively publicising the fact that they don't publicise something! LMAO!! (as the Facebook generation would say).

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9Nov/11Off

The problem with health and living longer

Ok, so maybe you will get your body fitter and live longer?

But that can be very dangerous.

You could end up causing your body to outlive your brain! Think about it, when you are very old, with a brain befuddled and incoherent, nature is telling you it's time to die. But your body is lagging behind several years and keeping you alive much longer than nature intended!

You are risking maybe 20 years in a geriatric ward at the mercy of the NHS. That's my excuse not to start running!

Reading a comment on a Charlie Brooker article on the  Guardian website today I was reminded about the old Philip Morris research that people who smoke are a net benefit to society because they pay more taxes and die sooner. No doubt that research was politically incorrect because of the inherent bias of a cigarette maker actually publishing research to support an activity which without doubt will end up severely affecting your health. However the central premise is true. If in fact I want to enjoy my life now and am not bothered by the mere statistic of living longer than the average person, then modern society no longer seems to accommodate my wish.

I was never a smoker but I was totally opposed to the smoking ban when it came in. I feel the same about health. I only advocate a healthy lifestyle in the sense that it should make you feel good enough to do what you want and allow you to contribute to society TODAY, not some ideal about how people should live longer. Let's face it the odds of living to 90 whilst at the same time enjoying a fruitful life are not very good, even if they are improving. I'm amazed by what science continues to achieve and supportive of all efforts to improve peoples lives even by stem-cell treatments, however I am also aware of why nature intended everyone's life to come to an end.

A long and unfulfilling old age in which I have no comprehension or memory of one day from another is one of the worst things I can think of. Unfortunately upon one's death it's their recent being that people also tend to remember.

Tom and Jerry

 

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30Sep/11Off

Davina Green: bringing something to the party Everytime

I was sent a link on Twitter to a new Zimbabwean artist called Davina Green by @Eski_Mo. I'm glad I clicked on the link, because the song is great!


ComScore

The record is called Everytime and it's a no-frills RnB song, with a  great beat and great lyrics and the two are well matched throughout to make an up-tempo love song. Ms Green has what I would call a 'thin' voice even by most women's standards however she's well in control of it and even manages to do some vocal gymnastics with it. I loved the song and would have bought it had she not had it available as a free download. Honestly!

Regular visitors would know that I occasionally blog about music, however on listening to the song, it got me thinking about a topic that has regularly been discussed in Zimbabwean circles. In fact I've ranted about this on Facebook before and I can't resist another rant now that I'm blogging about it!

Basically, a lot of new Zimbabwean artists are singing RnB, Hip-hop and Dancehall tunes in Shona (one of our local languages) and mostly these songs are labelled as a new genre called 'Urban Grooves'. I don't buy into Urban Grooves. I think it's a way of peddling sub-standard music that wouldn't make it as RnB, Hip-hop or Dancehall by just singing it in a different language. From that we constantly hear calls of 'supporting your own' and 'play local artists more'. To be honest the whole debate is ridiculous in my eyes.

Most of the Urban Grooves songs have no real differentiation from their Western counterparts apart from the fact that they are sang in Shona. A lot of the beats are stuck in the '80s and they seem to be caricatures of whatever genre they are meant to derive from. Think of it this way; in Urban Grooves I've heard beats that share more with Chaka Demus and Pliers or Keith Sweat than with the music of today.  That's not to say that those two artists were bad, just that they are now being badly copied by young Zimbabwean artists. Artists bring no real variation within their songs and never mind the albums. I like what the youngsters in South Africa and Ghana did in coming up with Kwaito and Hiplife. Their music is clearly influenced by Hip-hop and dance music but the musical structure is totally different. I believe that they can make the rules now and say what's good and what isn't, because it's different enough to be called  'their' music.

Basically I think our Zimbabwean kids have not brought anything to RnB, Hip-hop or Dancehall to warrant any of it being called a new genre. In saying that, I wouldn't stop anyone putting out music if they feel like it, however what I will do is judge them by the standards of the genre they took from. By those standards most of 'Urban Grooves' is rubbish. There are some Zim guys putting out good RnB or Hip-hop songs in Shona and you have to say even by Western standards, the beats are tight, the flow is good and the lyrics are on point. Way back when, A Peace of Ebony and Zimbabwe Legit were two groups that had lyrics in the vernacular, but even at that time their records could stand up against their American peers. I think members of those two groups would probably agree that they were original in their own way, but not original enough to call their music a new genre. It was still Hip-hop.

I believe that musicians must bring something to the party all the time, whether it's originality or talent. As a music fan I don't care whether you've worked your butt off for the last ten years if you're only going to be putting out wack stuff. I'll care even less if the only thing a musician brings is a different language. By all means a musician can sing in Shona or Klingon if it pleases them, but if it the result isn't good I won't hesitate to call BS.

On Everytime, Davina Green has not done something truly original but she has certainly brought something to the party, and that is her talent. Her song will stand comparison with anything out there. I played it on loop whilst writing this post and I'm still not sick of it. Ms Green has the tools to make a name for herself in the industry and I'll do my bit to spread the word. What's more I certainly won't be feeling linguistically blackmailed Everytime I listen to her song!

 

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22Apr/11Off

What came first, the gender or the stereotype

Have a look at the following images of what the most common words in toy adverts are, when split by gender.

First, the boys’ list, available in full size at Wordle:

Common words in ads for boys toys

Now the girls’ list, also available in full size at Wordle:

Common words in ads for girls toys

The result is not really surprising but it really does hit hard and get you thinking.

Does the toy industry reinforce gender stereotypes in their attempts to sell toys?

Is stereotyping pervasive and do parents even recognise how it is ingrained in society? Do parents perpetuate these stereotypes?

Or as one commenter says; What's... "sad about this, is the fact that it is somehow seen to be better playing with fighting toys than with ‘girly’ toys."

Personally I'm going to put my hands up and say YES I play to my* kids gender, by reinforcing all that I know about perceived gender roles. As the father of a young boy and girl I have twice the work in trying to indoctrinate them! I don't see it as a bad thing, because there is a bigger problem out there than whether or not my daughter is a girly girl and the boy is a little rascal.

That problem lies in the way society picks out people who are different. In society anything out of the ordinary is seized upon by kids and like-wise by adults. Some of the time society will put on a pedestal people who are different, but most of the time anyone who is anything but normal will be sought out and laughed at. Being different is a much too arbitrary quality and the treatment that people who are different gets almost never depends on the individual.

Let's face it if they happen to be different and if my son played with girls' toys he would not change society into accepting blurred gender roles. In addition as found by one study, it turns out that even male monkeys prefer boys toys anyway. It could after all be that the Ad-men do all that stereotyping simply because children LIKE that sort of thing and that is the best way to get through to them.

It is for that reason that I pray for my kids to be normal in their infant years, because anything other than that is a risk in terms of will they be admired or (most probably) laughed at. I always try to teach them that there's nothing wrong in being different, but that's only because at their age it's just too hard to explain all the different kinds of different! There's Different DIFFERENT. Different good. Then there's so different you're not one of us and so on. In time they'll get to know all this but preferably not as a result of being laughed at.

In the mean time I'm happy to let the Ad-men play on whatever stereotypes I'm forcing my kids into. I'll also celebrate how ordinary they are, and am even secretly pleased with each one of their very ordinary achievements and milestones. When they are fully grown the only way I want them to differentiate themselves is by having the ability to do something normal much better than anyone.

 

* 'Er Indoors doesn't read this blog, but she'd kill me if she did for making out as if the kids don't have a mother. She'd probably want me to call them 'our' kids. Women eh?!!

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9Apr/11Off

If your kid looks up to Wayne Rooney, you’re to blame

You've got no respect for things son! You know I had to get the bus into town just to nick that aeroplane!

One week after swearing into a live TV camera during a mid-day match, every man and his dog is having his say on Wayne Rooney. The media has been criticizing Rooney for being angry at all the criticism and abuse he gets. They've since been asking everyone their opinion and criticizing them if they didn't give the 'right' answer. It's now turned into a band-wagon and this blog loves to jump on them; so I think we should ride it.

The biggest thing that everyone has been raving about is as usual, 'think of the children..........he's a role model, and that's no way to behave'. I really don't buy into that stuff because as parents we have much more control over what our children take in and what they'll turn out to be than a celebrity they'll never meet. That is still true even in this crazy world of 24 hour kids TV where every inane idea for a show seems to get picked up. I'm looking at you Sponge Bob!

In no way do I want to excuse what Mr Rooney did, because I think it's in-defensible. Understandable maybe, but still not right. However I really want to discredit the notion that kids will look up to someone regardless of what we as parents want them to.

The main problem I think, comes about because as parents we don't teach kids that in life you have to look to lots of different people for inspiration. Just because a kid loves Wayne Rooney doesn't mean he should be taking lessons in TV etiquette from him. And if your kid doesn't know that, then it's your fault. Neither Rooney nor the government should have to tell your kid that Wayne is all about football. It is of course a slightly different story for Wayne's own kids....., but then I don't know anything about how he's bringing them up.

Personally, I apply the same thing even in friendship. It sounds so obvious but you'd be surprised how many people are disappointed in their friend X who they know has always had a habit of doing a particular thing. I'm only ever disappointed in my friends when they do something I wouldn't expect them too. Yes that's right, I have 'allowances' for all my friends. Just like the banks have different over-draft limits for us all I took that and applied it to my life!

Anyway, there should be plenty of good people in everyone's life and we would all do well to highlight the good things they do to our little ones who are just starting out. A child should have as many role models as he needs. Each one for a specific thing. If one of those role models fails at something he never did well that should never influence the growth of a child.

Whilst we're at it, the media needs to stop feeding the myth of the celebrity role model. It doesn't exist. The only thing we should learn from famous people is how to get famous.