R’s Interview with Big Brother

Big Bro:  On Facebook, you posted a note entitled 17 Books in 17 Minutes.  I find it curious that you only managed to list 6 American titles.

  1. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – Twain
  2. Kim – Kipling
  3. Heart of Darkness – Conrad
  4. Bird of Life, Bird of Death: A Political Ornithology of Guatemala – Maslow
  5. The Magic Mountain – Mann
  6. Native Son – Wright
  7. Pather Panchali – Bandopadhyay
  8. Pedagogy of the Oppressed – Freire
  9. One Hundred Years of Solitude – Garcia Marquez
  10. The House of the Spirits – Allende
  11. Hopscotch – Cortazar
  12. Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter – Vargas Llosa
  13. To Kill a Mockingbird – Lee
  14. A Confederacy of Dunces – Kennedy Toole
  15. Germinal – Zola
  16. An American Tragedy – Dreiser
  17. Crime and Punishment – Dostoevsky

R:  Well, I was an English major.

Big Bro: How is that relevant?  There are no Englishmen on the list.

R:  English majors don’t just read books by the English…but you are wrong: Kipling was an Englishman and Conrad, a British citizen.

Big Bro:  Your choice of books makes me question your loyalty to this country?

R:  Can’t I have a world view?

Big Bro:  (Pause)….I’ll have to check the regulations, but your books are radical.

R:  I don’t know about radical, but they are books of substance to be sure and touch on topics of universal interest – the death penalty, civil rights, capitalism, racism, workers rights, class struggle, imperialism, political repression, magical realism and the like.

Big Bro:  You posted this on your twitter account : 8 Feb “reports of a flying garbage barrel had commuters terrified this morning in Boston.”
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Privacy – What Privacy?

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I’m not much of a libertarian really, or librarian for that matter.  I believe in freedom though – the freedom to assemble (although I don’t like crowds), to read what I want, speak my mind, blog, twitter, facebook, instagram and all that.  And with freedom, comes responsibility – some people forget about that part and make mistakes, which are sometimes costly.   And though our freedoms are many, we are a nation of laws and as much as I believe that some laws are stupid and even bad in some cases, I still follow them, and always have, for the most part.  You could say that I am a law abiding citizen, although I confess to speeding on occasion which is actually quite hard to do in my Honda Fit Sport equipped with paddle shifters that don’t boost performance.  I wear my seat belt and order my passengers to buckle up, not because of the law, but that it is the sensible thing to do in a small car that is no match for all the aggressive, gas guzzling SUV’s out there.

And you know something, I don’t mind if the government monitors our activity, and in fact I would hope continue to – it’s in our best interests.  Cops watch for reckless drivers who are a public menace on the roads, the IRS looks for tax cheats, the TSA screens for dangerous items at airports, Air Traffic Controllers have passenger jets on the radar and flight attendants watch over us; the wait staff keep an eye on customers, as do bouncers at clubs and bars.  Security guards keep a constant.  Once thing is sure, we live in a country with very little privacy.  The government knows everything about us.  Birth Certificates, Death Certificates, Social Security, Tax Filings, Driver’s License, Plate Numbers, Visas, Passports, Transcripts.  And not just the government, but corporate America too.  How many times have you given out your social security number, address, zip code, account number or cell phone number to someone you don’t know?  And how many times have you failed to set up a password on your computer or phone because you can’t be bothered – or halfheartedly set one that a 1st grader could guess.  And it’s not just written information – cameras are everywhere.  You can’t go out in public without being videotaped by some security camera.  There are a lot of big brothers out there.

Look, I like my “privacy” as much as the next person, but I don’t mind being searched at the airport, or going through a “meddle” detector.  I have nothing to hide.  If someone at the NSA were to eavesdrop on my phone conversations, I think they’d be so bored that they might quit their job.  Probably the most interesting phone call I’ve made recently was to my car dealer asking why an 18 minute software upgrade to address a safety recall would take half a day to complete.  I suspect the word dealer in this blog post will get me on some sort of MUST READ list.  To be safe, we have to give up a little freedom.  The Patriot Act that I am not too wild about was adopted by Congress after 9/11 and it gave the government broad powers to wire tap and collect data that was supposed to be used to thwart terrorist plots or other criminal activity.  If data is being collected and monitored for any other reason, that would be a serious violation and I would have a problem with that.  I have no problem with big brother keeping us safe.  And so what if the FBI knows I like M*A*S*H or if the NSA knows that one of the books I am reading now is The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration?  What value to anyone would my tweet be that read:  “Chained-CPI sounds like an alternative rock band.”

For all of the folks yelling about privacy and the slippery slope, I have some suggestions for you:  just stay at home under the bed or move to Montana and live off the grid.  For those who demand complete privacy, who hate the government, are outraged to have to pay taxes and want nothing to do with society, folks who are self-absorbed and detest the idea of a social contract should do this:  FORM A NEW COUNTRY and call it Frackland or something.  Frackland would have a constitution with just one amendment (the second) and a set a principles based on one word:  NO – no government, no taxes, no regulations, no insurance of any kind (because that smacks of socialism), no immigrants, no non-christians, no liberals, no reproductive rights, no gays, no unions (because that smacks of Marxism), no organic farming, no clean energy or fuel efficient cars, no yoga, no reading (except the bible), no hippies (because they’re all “commies”), no diplomacy, and no services – unless you pay a fee.

Something Fishy About GM Salmon

English: Illustration of various salmon

English: Illustration of various salmon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you’ve been dreaming of eating fresh, GM certified salmon, your wish may soon come true?  Bred in tanks and substantially meatier, genetically engineered salmon could be the next culinary fad.   One fish to feed a family of six or ten.  Don’t like the taste of salmon, or the spelling of the word, no problem, scientists can engineer out the salmon flavor and the l and make it taste like catfish.  Made to order.  “I’ll have the samon fish sticks please”.

The thing is, as safe as scientists say this grand experiment is, they do admit the potential for ecological problems.  First, GM bred salmon can breed with brown trout and produce a hybrid that carries the genetically modified genes.  So what, you may ask?  Here’s the deal, those offspring  grow quickly and out-compete other fish for limited resources.  Carry this out to the extreme and we’re talking an eventual battle between jumping carp, jelly fish and GM salmon for complete aquatic domination.  Now if scientists could figure out a way to create a jelly bean flavored jelly fish that can be frozen and made into raspberry jello or gelato…