Sooooooo this is awkward.

It has been months since I have posted this blog for several reasons.  One reason is that I now blog at my day job and it has stolen away some of the magic.  But the good news for you is that I’ll now be blogging for my night job too!

Over the past few months I have been writing, arranging, and rehearsing with the very talented Dan Howler in Kitchener, Ontario.  On November 30th we head into the Sound Distillery studios for six weeks of recording sessions.  Me and my partners on this project will be writing on the Dan Howler Blog all about the good times and the bad as we record Dan’s Debut album.  Want to see what I’ve been up to?  Follow me at:

http://www.danhowlermusic.wordpress.com

Dan Howler band

Most people go through the same considerations when thinking about baby names.  I like this, I don’t like that, this name is pretty, that name is ugly, another is wimpy or slutty, or stupid.  When you consider naming for one moment, it’s an embarrassment.

My own given name was chosen for a few reasons.  Firstly, it, like me, is scottish and scottish names seem to sound right together.  Secondly, my parents thought that it couldn’t be abbreviated, which has largely been successful.  Finally, they liked how it sounded.  I’m not sure how aware they were, but my name translates in Hebrew to “God’s Gift” or “Gift from God” which is at least misguided and at most hilariously ironic.  They also chose a name whose popularity is almost uniquely stable over the decades.  There are two major criteria that people consider when choosing names for their children and neither names sense.

1.  I want my kids to have a unique name.

You look around and see the homogenous mass of Bobs, Joes and Sams and you think, nay you know, that your offspring will be better than all that.  Your child deserves a unique name, if only so they don’t have to be one of two or three in their class in primary school.  That said, you don’t want to choose a name that’s so obscure that it makes your child the target for bullying or mockery.  You want to strike a balance.

The problem is, you’re not as special as you think you are and and people all choose names that are in the same range of slight obscurity.  All the Angelas, Tracys, Karens, and Susans born in the 60s and 70s thought that Sarah, Katie, Laura, Leah, and Lindsey were adequately unique choices.  In my 12 years in public school I never had an Angela, Tracy, Karen or Susan in my class but almost every year I had at least one  Sarah, Katie, Leah  and Lindsey.  Because name popularity moves in waves and you probably aren’t creative enough to break out of the culture you inhabit, the only way to ensure that your kids won’t be one of three in their class is to name them something that is common among your peers, or better yet, your parents peers.  It’s always noteworthy when I meet a twenty something named Fred, Albert, or Melvin.

2. I don’t like that name!

Every name you hear stirs up emotions.  You knew a girl named stacy at university and she was a slut.  You dated a girl named Erica and she broke your heart.  A guy in your kindergarten class named Dan used to eat applesauce every day with his mouth open.  All those names are out.  I knew a really nice girl named Evora so that’s in.

What’s wrong with this?  Well firstly, why do you think that the most important feature of another person’s name is that you like it?  Shouldn’t you be choosing a name that they will like?  Or a name that their peers will like?  To assume that your preference is a factor at all in the choice of your child’s name is incredibly arrogant.  Furthermore, people tend to just trust their preferences without knowing where they come from.  For example, I associate the name Kim with Kim Kardashian and Li’l Kim and Kim Jung Un.  It’s not that I am not acquainted with some lovely Kims, it’s just that your brain builds associations based on how much of an impression someone makes and how recently they made it.  Trish might be a perfectly fine name but you wouldn’t name your daughter Trish the day after your neighbour Trish runs over your dog.  But as soon as your child has a name, the impact they have, and therefore the association in your mind, will be a positive one.  Your child will not be awful because of a negative association.  So the sane choice is to erase a negative association by choosing a name that you hate.

Perhaps more importantly, a name is a title and a title, however obscure or meaningful, becomes meaningless once it’s familiar to you.  In time it’s meaning disappears and it’s just the word for the thing it’s attached to.  If you have always known the band Led Zeppelin you may have never considered that it’s an interesting oxymoron.  So your child’s name will not have the nice connotations that it had during your initial baby-naming conversation for more than a few short moments.  However it will have connotations for every person that your child meets for their entire life.  That’s thousands or tens of thousands of people who will each take away an impression as impactful, or more impactful than yours.  You ought to choose a name likely to have no connotations for the thousands of people your child is likely to meet. Your likes and dislikes ought not come into it.

So in summary, when you name your child, you should choose a name that is common in your age group, choose a name that you hate, and choose a name with no positive or negative connotations among the public.  Don’t be selfish.

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So there has been a hubbub, a brouhaha, a kafuffle in the news lately about facebook privacy.  It seems that until recently, those between 13 and 17 were forced to keep their facebook profiles private, or visible only to friend and friends of friends.  This was to protect the identities of minors.  But now the people at facebook are allowing teenagers to post pictures on the internet that just anyone can see.  Concerned parents groups and PTA moms all over the world are speaking out.

Here’s the thing.  Internet privacy is not a thing.  It never existed.  The very term is an oxymoron.  I personally have had my facebook account hacked twice, that I know about.  Worse yet, facebook, along with almost all the big networks, sells your personal information to third party organizations.  If that weren’t bad enough, the NSA has a file on you with copies of the emails you send and records of the sites you visit.  Internet privacy?  Puh-lease!  You never had it.  The only crime was that anyone told a teenager that there was such a thing in the first place.

And yet parents and the people informing them are teaching their kids to use facebook privacy settings to stay safe because the parents don’t understand it either.  The only sane way to look at the internet is essentially the same way we look at everything else.  Consider dressing.  When you are at home you can wear whatever you want.  When you go out, anyone can see you because you’re in a public space.  You might run into your boss or your ex or a celebrity but you have no control over who will see you.  The internet is a public space.  All of it.  It’s what the internet is: your files stored on other people’s computers.  When you store your files on your computer it’s just called a computer.

And so as usual the your salvation lies not behind the paper thin security systems of facebook, hotmail, or twitter, but with education: with understanding that every single piece of information you post is stored on someone else’s computer.  The only security afforded to you by the world wide web is security in numbers, the anonymity of the crowd.  It’s hard to target individuals when there are billions of them.  That’s why there are more spammers than hackers.  Don’t put your faith in security settings and don’t teach your kids to either.  Assume that every bit is broadcast to the whole world, and hope Obama never comes looking for you.

Facebook-Privacy-Guide

 

Grammar nazism is a populist movement.  Why?  Because all you need is a single factoid and you can spend weeks acting high and mighty.  All you’ve really done is identify a point of difference between your community and another community in linguistic evolution.  That’s not to say that one of you isn’t wrong in the academic sense.  But the wrongness of someone’s grammar or speech is contingent on them caring about being right in the academic sense.

Well for all of you who really do want to be right, here are a hefty handful of expressions that people constantly get wrong.  If the first and second and even third bother you too, just wait.  You’ll be embarrassed before long.

WRONG: I could care less
RIGHT: I couldn’t care less

If you could care less that means you are above a zero on the scale of caring.  It does not denote an upper limit, simply that your level of care is between infinite and the smallest measure of care.

WRONG: For all intensive purposes
RIGHT: For all intents and purposes

The intensiveness of the purposes is not in question, so why would you bring it up?  And what kind of thing is acceptable for intensive purposes and not for everyday purposes?  Carpet shampoo?  Dump trucks perhaps?

WRONG: Hone in
RIGHT: Home in

I think you all know what it means to hone something and it would be too condescending to explain.

WRONG: Each one worse than the next
RIGHT: Each one worse than the last

If each one were worse than the next, then things would be constantly improving.  Of course there is a temporal paradox contained in this statement, but regardless, it’s nonsense.

WRONG: Dumb as a doorknob
RIGHT: Dumb as a doornail

A doorknob is a perfectly useful object which, as far as I can see, should be no dumber than any other inanimate object.  On the contrary, a doornail is designed expressly to be beaten on the head by a steel pin for its whole life.  That’s why it’s dumb.

God it feels good to get that off my chest.  I could go on, but I’d rather save some for later.

I do feel somehow that this kind of post trespasses on the good will of my readers, and so I submit myself to any criticism.  Please find a mistake in one of my posts and ruthlessly shame me for my stupidity.

It has become a cliche to say that self-centered people spend their time googling themselves.  There are a few reasons this doesn’t make sense.

Many people who use the internet are not self-promoting, they are not trying to craft an image for themselves or drive traffic to their content.  Indeed many internet users have no content.  If you are in that category then googling yourself should yield no results.  Another option is that you are so popular in the wider world that people create content about you – you’re a celebrity – and your narcissistic behavior is most likely justified.

The third option is that you are like me and you are building a public image and a skill set based around the inner workings of search engines and other internet tools.  In that case, googling yourself is a purely intellectual endeavor.  You could even call it professional development.

Well I partook in some professional development last night and I was a little disturbed at what I found.  The first results google turns up are my linkedin profile, posts from this blog, my twitter feed, my youtube channel, posts from futureofnuclear.com (another blog I write), and other things I’ve created that have my name stamped on them.  But interspersed with these links are links like this one and many more like it.  Next I went over to the images section and when I google my name I get this:Picture 2My apologies friends, dad, and Patrick Watson for dragging you into my social media vortex!  I seem to have so over-saturated the internet with content that one persona alone cannot contain it.

I don’t know what to make of all this.  Have I over-marketed myself?  If an employer were to google me would they see how aptly I have manipulated the google crawlers, or would they see only a picture of me with a foo-manchu?  It’s difficult to say.  I’ll have to ponder it further, and maybe rethink my personal marketing strategy.  At least I can breathe knowing that, if you leave out my middle name, you just get pictures of a certain elderly gay wizard whose name I don’t share.  Luckily people misspell his name a lot more than I write mine.

Balance restored.

Often history is depressing and forces us to be realists.  Often it’s only the ironies that we can enjoy.  But sometimes we see a tiny glimpse of cosmic justice (a glimpse tiny enough to demonstrate the utter lack of cosmic justice) and we can revel in the satisfaction of our fairy tale expectations.  This is one such story:

For many decades, whalers would bring the whales they had caught to the Falkland Islands to process their catch.  This meant burning the whale to melt the blubber and produce whale oil.  But the Falkland Islands have no trees to burn so the whalers had to make use of whatever tinder was at hand.  As it happens, penguins were both plentiful and covered in a healthy layer of flammable oil.

So the whalers would build a great pyre of burning penguins to roast their whales.  After a while the populations of the four penguin species were dangerously small.

But salvation was at hand!  Argentina wanted to reclaim the islands from Britain and the Falklands war ensued.  By the end of the war, 20 000 land mines were laid on the island making it extremely dangerous for whalers to do their business there.  But penguins are rather light, so light that their tiny bodies can’t trigger the land mines.  The whaling and the penguin burning has stopped, and the penguin population has recovered.

I think the moral of this story is: don’t be so quick to condemn land mines?

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Forest conservation: you’re doing it wrong.IMG_8398 IMG_8399

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