Silly Grins

Friday, January 4, 2013

New Year's Chill

He paid us a visit. 

Think-tank bright brother-in-law, science-smart and rugby tough. 

He's put in plenty of lab time and he still plays. He was actually worthy of a year’s scholarship to do research on the east coast of the US, somewhere in Massachusetts. Rucking is just his hobby, a way to letting off a little steam. 

Now brother-in-law does stuff for 'important' people. Kind of stuff that takes him around to neighboring countries that haven’t made it to the industrialized phase of development. Which isn’t a bad thing. No, not at all.

We had a chance to catch up a little over New Year. And we had one of our first pretty decent discussions at the dinner table while Johnny was distracting the rest of the family. Mainly we talked about kids.

When I was a kid, the future was a place where we would all boldly go instead of something we needed to be able to escape to before time runs out. 

 From Them

We talked about kids because the world is fucked up in a bad way that’s really hard to ignore at the moment.

When ADHD was maybe six, his mom explained to him why we need to learn about the world around us. A lot of things we take for granted won’t always be here in such abundance

Ozone might have been the topic that day. Either way, it ended with our non-medicated offspring running to the toilet where he proceeded to vomit. He’s sensitive about these things. Just a little.

When Uncle Think-tank  heard this story about his nephew being able to comprehend this kind of stuff, he was surprised. When kids ask, “Why is the sky blue?” answering the question is kind of tough.

You see, nephew had asked the sky question. 

I explained that with the technology that’s readily available these days, we’re only a few clicks away from connecting a lot of dots. Even if it looks like a mess, a decent framework lets us put things together. Mix and match if you will. Take your pick

Two examples were used to illustrate my point. The first was visual.

Example #1


Don't read the next line if you haven't seen the movie Johnny English Reborn.
While we were looking at the TV, Mr. English was riding a gondola. Then he blew it up. 

Okay, moving along. 
Press PLAY, then immediately press PAUSE. 

How long is it? 

I wanted to show Think-tank that using this technology stuff is now as easy as one-two-three
So picked up the smarter phone and flicked on YouTube to a trailer from The Soldier. 
And stopped it at 1:23. 
Try it if you like. 


Uncle Rugby was impressed. 
Two gondolas. Two spy movies. Two explosions.  Plenty of snow. 

(Or maybe he was just being polite. Either way...)

Example #2

Then we talked a little bit about the blue sky question, how it was the same. The same in that while I cannot give a simple answer that ADHD offspring can truly understand, I can at least give him an answer that includes that basic framework that incorporates ideas about light, waves, the visible spectrum, atmosphere, particles, etc. He already understands a little about planets.

It might be a mess, but the material is all there. If you can synthesize it through all of the chaos. 

Then it was time for Uncle Think-tank. 

He gave a specific example that clearly illustrates the kind of problems that he encounters (see labels).

His job puts him in a gofer position for the government, backed by business of course, to come up with one perfect explanation to give to the country he is put in contact with. That’s what stresses him out. One shot. Answering the demand to come up with the one perfect explanation.  He explained it as a cultural thing, this kind of [misguided] quest for perfection.

Government and Business. Puh-lease!

Governments are all about politics. And Business… shell game anyone?

So, I asked him if either the government or Business (call it Industry if you want)… I asked him if either have anyone living in any of those places who understands what’s going on from a local perspective. And not just at the top level, but on the street or in the fields. Someone who shares the values, knows what it’s like to live in a place with very little, if any kind of infrastructure.

He said no.

They've got no one on the inside. That's not the way they think. That's not the way they've been trained to think.

We... no... I  talked about planting seeds, tending gardens… using these and other metaphors to get the point across.  You got to make it worth a person’s efforts to abandon the sustainable life to pursue something more competitive so they can get their hands on the latest gadgets and whatnot. 

Or at least get them hooked on something. 

Though I do enjoy certain things about wealth, there’s also a lot of shit that I don’t like. One of the side-effects is environmental degradation. The very thought of Mother Earth's slow and steady execution is the kind of stuff that made Think-tank’s nephew lose his lunch. 

He actually said our conversation was helpful. How, he didn't elaborate. But I felt he 'got' me.  And her turned me on to the idea that the quest for that one and only perfect explanation is what misguides so much of this country, as a nation. 

Regarding people, it's a whole 'nuther story. 


 (unedited: clean up later)


  1. First explanations are lasting...

    Once as a tot I was given 'Why Is The Sky Blue? A Just Ask Book'. Any time I think of the sky or hear 'why is the sky blue?' my immediate thoughts go to what I read about in that book. Mostly it's all jumbled muck in the recesses of my forgetful mind but I distinctly recall atmosphere mentioned.

    I was a big reader as a child and I think I owned most of the Just Ask books because I wanted to learn about stuff not read books about Barbie or the Boxcar Children... Do kids still read as a hobby?

    1. Wow, those Just Ask books look pretty neat. We've got an old-school hardback bilingual visual encyclopedia that totally blows my mind.

      Over here, the kids check books out from their school library on a weekly basis. My kids read in Japanese, yet getting them to do so at the same level in English isn't happening. Still, I do require them to read every chance I get.

      Boxcar Children? Just googled them. Useful information is a highly valued resource. Totally appreciate this comment (as well as others).

      Thank you!