Monthly Archives: February 2016

Seeing and not seeing.

Here I was, walking in the botanical garden. It was late morning and I had been exploring the area trying to take pictures of something worthy of. In winter this is not easy. Sure, there were birds at the bird feeding stations but they were the usual birds that I have photographed often such as cardinals and juncos.

I was walking the ski trail and trying hard not to walk on the ski tracks but beside them. No need to arouse the ire of skiers I thought. I try hard not to antagonize people unnecessarily. I was walking towards an area of the garden where one can find tall conifers as well as several sculptures that are made of metal. Ugly objects in my view as rust was attacking them. It was cold, but the sky was blue and the sun was shining. I was a hunter on the prowl, but no animals would be harmed today by me.

I turned a corner and I could see on my left some conifers bathed by the morning sun. As I approached a tall conifer my heart raced when I saw a bird on a branch, a hawk called a Cooper’s hawk. It was only a few feet away from me and I was lucky that it had not been startled by my sudden arrival. Coming upon a hawk on a branch was a stroke of luck for me as these birds are notoriously difficult to see and especially to photograph. At least for me.

The bird was somewhat hidden on one side so I purposely walked sideways more to the left of it as I wanted to get a good shot. Finally, after a few careful steps I was exactly at the spot that I wanted. The bird cooperated with me and I took several pictures, and then not content with what I had I approached the bird even more. Again I took several more shots. At one point the bird lunged in front of it, or so it seemed to me. I was focused on the bird but I did notice that it had released itself. I had seen nothing else. For me there was nothing else to see.

Soon after a skier arrived and as it passed by the conifer the hawk flew away. I could not find it afterwards even if I did try. I left the area shortly after and reviewed my pictures. They were nice and I was happy with them. A day later, as I reviewed again my pictures I noticed something red lying on the branch where the hawk was. I increased the magnification and to my surprise saw that it was some sort of prey that the bird had caught. It had chosen this branch on that conifer to eat its prey. Despite the fact that the scene was in front of me I had seen nothing!

Truly we are blind. We see what we want to see and nothing more and it is probable that all our senses are affected in this way. Our eyes do not see and our ears do not ear. It is the brain that interprets reality. I was wondering, what else escapes me during my walks in the garden, and of course, in my everyday life? Are we all sleepwalking through life?


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The end of work?

It seems that more and more people are predicting the end of work as we have known it for the past 100 years. In a recently article in the New York Times experts were warning about the impact of robots are having on the middle-class. In the beginning robots were replacing humans in jobs that were boring and repetitive. Things have changed now as robots become more sophisticated.

Robots are now replacing humans in every industry, and now seem to be eying jobs that once were thought to be beyond their abilities. One should not be surprised. Robotic cars will soon be all the rage. The battle that is occurring between Uber and the taxi industry is simply pointless as robotic cars will replace all of them. In general, those who earn a living behind a wheel will be replaced, according to most experts. It is only a question of time.

Experts predict that jobs such as lawyers or doctors will remain in the domain of humans but that remains to be seen. Perhaps only really creative jobs such as artist who are painters and sculptures will remain. No one is foreseeing robots who paint or sculpt. Too artistic and not very productive.

The real thing that is happening is that for the past 25 years, productivity has increased but jobs have not increased at the same level. Some experts now warn that the old idea that people will find jobs in robotics at the same level that jobs are destroyed by robots is seriously in question. We may have reached the point where the creation of jobs will only decrease in the future, perhaps at a rate unseen in the past. Mcjobs anyone?

Now seems to be the time that we must think about what people will do with all the available free time they will have if robots do all the work. And how will people earn money? Perhaps the old idea of a guaranteed minimum income is an idea whose time has come to consider seriously, or accept that the robot revolution will decrease the purchasing power of consumers to such a degree that the economy will always be in a contracting phase. Not a pleasant perspective for the business industry, nor for governments.

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The immorality of the draft.

I read an interesting article in the New York Times last weekend about the draft in the United States. It was abolished years ago but I did not know that there was a requirement that males of 18 of age had to register. For those who do not know, a draft ordered by the government is when the government forces you to enlist in the armed forces. Basically you become a legalized slave. If you refuse, you must justify yourself or go to jail. Draft dodgers coming from the United States in the 60’s were numerous as they simply went to Canada and never returned.

The article mainly was an argument that women too should be included in this register but more importantly, the article did not talk about the immorality of the draft, only its economic consequences as if the only thing that mattered was the cost of it.

It quoted several economists about why the draft had been abolished but not one talked about how immoral it was to forcibly enlist someone against their will. And it is after all the main reason why the draft is immoral, because you do not owe your life to the government. Not one person in the article talked about the morality of the draft.

At any time that a government is going to war it has to justify it to its citizens. Only a free army is justifiable. As well, it is well known that free armies are better armies than armies composed of soldiers that were drafted. In any case, when the cause is just a country never fails to see its citizens rise up and take up arms to defend it. But for that you need a good reason. Sadly, for a country to have a draft implies that it cannot logically explain why its citizens should put their life on the line, and this is precisely why a draft is immoral. Even putting one’s name on a register is wrong as this is the first step to a draft. It is an admission that the government may have the right in the future to your life, that it basically owns you. Does it?

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I was returning home fresh from doing some photography at the botanical garden when I spotted him. As I turned to look discreetly I recognized him instantly. He would often rest on one of those benches that line the entrance to the garden.

He looked like Santa to me from afar, wearing a red kangaroo with another sweater over him. He was laboring to bring all his stuff as he had one large bag and two smaller ones. He was probably in his sixties as his beard was more white than grey.

Immediately I saw that he was walking towards the bus stop where I was waiting. I was surprised when I saw him pull out his bus pass and right away I was faced with a dilemma; to take the bus with him or to walk.

I admit that my reaction was irrational. He did not appear to be a threat despite the fact that I could hear him mumble under his breath, never a good sign. And I knew that people living on the streets often suffered from mental disorders and could sometimes turn violent.

I reflected that he had been young once too, with parents that must have cared for him. He must have had dreams for the future and I am sure that they did not include living on the streets. Was it perhaps drugs or alcohol that drove him to that life? Perhaps it was gambling.

In the end I did the only rational thing, I let him enter the bus first and stayed near the entrance to exit the bus two stops later as planned. He continued on his way.

We were like two ships in the night, passing each other and only briefly seeing each other and then going our separate ways. For some reason I still felt uneasy about our encounter once I was alone at my other bus stop, as if I had escaped something dreadful.

I am not proud of how I felt nor cannot explain it. It was more instinctive than anything else. And it is precisely that instinct that has to be fought. Once we start thinking and not just reacting, we become what we should be, human beings and not merely animals.

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