December 29, 2009

I’m fine

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 10:13 am

I have lost all capacity to categorize my life. As a result of my new philosophical perspective, the sort of good day/bad day summaries that I applied in the past fall drastically short. The best illustration I have for this effect springs from a two minute period of time a few weeks ago.

I was waiting for Dandellion to be dropped off from school by her bus. The bus was late, which was unpleasant, but it gave me time to meditate, contemplate and practice being patient, which was pleasant. As I was waiting for her, I noticed a commotion among some of the workers at the service entrance at one of my favorite restaurants. One of the worker was sweeping with great gusto. With one particularly forceful stroke, I saw the body of some kind of rodent go flying through the air. The rodent was too diseased to identify if it was a mouse or a rat (but I suspect it was a small rat). This upset me, which was unpleasant, but illustrated areas where I can increase my inner calm, which was useful, and therefore pleasant.

He swept it across the street to a construction zone in a fairly brutal manner, which was definitely unpleasant. He clearly didn’t care about the suffering of the creature, which was unpleasant, but this gave me insight into him and his perspectives, which was pleasant. After recovering from my surprise a bit, I walked over to the animal. It was very emaciated, and nearly hairless. I stood about two feet away from it and observed for a few seconds.

This creature was clearly dying. It was not enjoying the process. While I am aware this happens about a billion times a day, I don’t generally get the chance to observe it so closely. I found myself stuck, as I generally hold with the principle that killing is not a good thing (I recognize that my diet is paradoxical on this point). I’m not very experienced in killing things effectively with my own hands, making the likely conclusion of a mercy killing a bit difficult. I chalk this up to being generally unpleasant, but useful and there fore ultimately pleasant.

I had a few seconds to contemplate that this creature was going to die soon, so I had the opportunity to save it some measure of suffering. This is an interesting case study in the general purposes of ending the suffering of all beings. Ultimately, I decided it would be best for me to kill it. Because each moment that went by made it rather more likely that Dandellion would arrive to watch me killing it, I decided haste was probably better. This might have been the wrong decision as it would have potentially been a valuable experience for her. I can not tell if this would have been pleasant or unpleasant.

I decided it would probably not be good for me to kill a diseased rodent with my bare hands, and so search for a rock of large and useful shape. I found one fairly quickly, which was pleasant. I turned back to the rodent and saw that it had begun its final gasps and reflexive twitching. Observing that was unpleasant, and my reaction should have been neutral, which may qualify as suffering of the suffering, but was definitely unpleasant. It died within five seconds of me being ready to kill it.
This post is rather long, and illustrates my perhaps unnecessary contemplations, but it took place in less than 2 minutes of actual time. I had missed an opportunity to save the creature up to two minutes of suffering, which may or may not have been the right thing to do.

I fear I may have missed my goal of eliminating suffering. However, from the perspective of the rat, this might not have been a bad thing. Through this experience, I learned many useful things that I would not otherwise have experienced. If I had been the rat, I would certainly have been willing to pay the price of 2 minutes of suffering at what was certainly the unavoidable end of my life, in order to teach someone else valuable lessons. In that sense, perhaps the ultimately outcome was a net add, and therefore pleasant….

I really don’t know. Trying to distill an analysis of this experience into a set of axiomatic truths is an approach typically used by post-enlightenment thinkers, but not shared by other epistemological approaches. It might not be necessary for me to ultimately decide what I should have done. The repercussions of that experience are likely to be so complex that it will take significant amounts of time to determine whether they are “good” as defined by Kant, Hume, or the religious perspectives of many readers of this blog.

That went well…

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 7:13 am

Christmas went off fairly well at our house.  The kids were pleased, and that is the main deliverable.  Maybe next year we will have a tree 😉

I participated in a secret santa program at my workplace and received a glass chess set, which I am quite happy with.  Hooray for pleasent surprises.

In other news, there was recently a bit of unpleasentness between two friends of mine that did not resolve as I would have liked.  Perhaps next time I can figure out a way to handle it such that everyone comes out better in the end.  Still, it is at least a learning experience, and therefore potentially useful.

December 23, 2009

Wonder no more

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 1:41 pm

The last two days have been quite an adventure. On the positive side, Mary Ann’s work got done, the Christmas box arrived, and we finally got our id cards. Getting these things done was a bit challenging, but we handled it. The logistical complexities are such that you should always have three backup plans in motion, with the hope that one of them will be successful. Generally, things work out in the end. In an amusing side-note, Dandellion’s ID card ended up being issued with the wrong gender and title. Even though the application included this picture:

Her card was printed using a title reserved for a well-respected, adult man. Hopefully, it wasn’t a swticharoo, and someone is wandering around out there with the ID card of a four year old girl.

In an unrelated matter, I thought MA’s picture turned out rather well, so I’m including it (because I can):

December 21, 2009

Wondering about Christmas

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 7:57 am

Instead of just giving up on international shipping this Christmas, we tried getting the things we wanted sent to someone in the US and then relayed on to us.  Supposedly this was to take 6-10 days.  That was 15 days ago.  Since a tracking number has not been forthcoming, it is impossible to tell where the items actually are.  This is causing quite of bit of consternation around these parts.

We have decided that Wednesday will be our decision gateway.  If they haven’t shown up by then, we will either:

  • Go out and put together a last-minute Christmas with available options
  • Pretend Christmas is actually about a week later, and just not tell the kids (relying on their bad sense of time flow).
  • Have some token Christmas thing and roll their gifts over to Chinese New Year

The last one might be tough because Chinese New Year will be in February this time around.  On the plus side, that is plenty of extra time to try and get things sorted out. On the minus side, I don’t know if I can keep them strung out this long.

It is a bit vexing, since I had all the shopping done in November.

December 17, 2009

Christmas wonder

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 12:53 pm

Scene:  Family walking on the lovely Lebanese Corniche.

Star:  I think Santa is Jesus’s father. 

Me:  Really?  Why is that?

Star:  They are always together at Christmas and Santa is older than Jesus.

Me:  That is certainly a logical extrapolation.


In other news, one of our close friends in Lebanon is a very talented artist.  Fortunately for us, she was available to create likenesses of Star and Dandellion in their favorite regalia.  We are very pleased with how they turned out:



December 16, 2009


Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 11:16 am


December 11, 2009


Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 1:04 pm

Today, I have come across fairly robust data contradicting two of my previously held ideas.  First, lack of effectiveness in microcredit financing schemes to create long-term increases in quality of life for the poor…  As this was one of my favorite development tools, I am disappointed.  Second, what happened to proof reading?  The role of mobile telecom as an instigator of development has long been a favorite theme.  While I know it is tough to get reliable data out of developing countries, how is it that the Economist (of all publications), can publish two articles which quote the exact same metric, with different data?

At issue is the notion that increases in mobile telephone penetration causes a given economic stimulus effect.  By increasing the rate by 10%, should cause x% GDP growth.  In the first article that amount is .8%, the second, .6%.  Not a big difference in absolute terms but relatively speaking there is a 25% difference in result.  What other economic transaction would be accepted with a 25% variance?  How about your paycheck?  Any takers? =)

It’s ok though, Deloite has come along with a study claiming the number is actually 1.2% (double the lower estimate in the Economist).   Here and here and here.  Sheesh.

In any case, I note that none of these researchers is brazen enough to claim the relationship is actually linear.  Even if I get 1.2% boost from that 10% of customers, how much do I get from the next 10%?  Typically, these segments are not going to be equivalently productive as a measure of resource input.  Giving cell phones to people who can use them productively is one thing.  Raw adoption rates is another.  Oh, wait, that’s right, we are assuming the markets are rationally distributing resources to the areas of greatest utility.  Hmmm, how is that working out for us?

Quick google check for rational market theory….  Oh, right, not so hot 😉

If we are possibly going to convince developing countries to liberalize their markets, we have got to do a better job of making the case than this.

In other news, I was chatting with MA the other day about a certain philosophical theory, and her response was:

MA:  If you do that, I will give you so little rope that it can’t be represented in three dimensional space.

Me:  That’s hilarious.  I’m going to blog that.

MA:  You often say that, but you rarely do.

Me:  True….

December 4, 2009

Sidon, redux

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 11:54 am

Those of you who have had the misfortunte to be inflicted with out family videos know well that we have been to Sidon many times.  Nevertheless, it is a new experience for the girls (with flashes of memory).  On our trip last weekend, we started by exploring the sea castle.  At this particular stage, Star is explaining to me what this room might have looked like in it’s prime.  Some of the details included golden mosaic on the ceiling with jewels in the walls and thrones in the back.


December 3, 2009

Capturing the spirit

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 1:42 pm

Take enough pictures, and you can capture some beautiful moments.


December 1, 2009

Loads of easy posts

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 7:11 am

We had such a good time this last week.  Fortunately, MA was on scene with her camera, so we have boodels of great pictures.  It is so odd how she is immensely better at still photography than I am, but I am better at video than she is.  Makes for a good combo.  In any case, we now have a nice stack of pictures wherewith I can easy illustrate blog posts.  Side-benefits include the fact that you can now skim these posts and just look at the pictures, while still retaining enough conversation topics that I will never know!

I will therefore chose some of the worst pictures for the next salvo.  I could have cropped and played with these, but I particualrly enjoy their ad hoc nature.  MA was setting up the camera for a time-delay family picture.  Hence there are fractional portions of MA around the edges, and the lighting isn’t quite right.  Still, they do a great job capturing the fun of a bit of firebending vs. earthbending.



Powered by WordPress