Good idea

Social media doesn’t have to be destructive and horrible.

It’s not social media’s fault that it’s destructive and horrible, though.
It’s the people on social media that are the problem.

I think that’s why most everyone on Twitter decided to share this thought from Roger Cooper. Very much the written version of this infamous comic that I’ve upset several (or more) people on Facebook with.

And yes, he spelled ‘Avocado’ incorrectly, and messed up the past participle of ‘to manage’, but if you were one of the thousands of people who messaged him to point that out, you’re part of the problem.

Change of season

We’ve dealt with the folly of “Spring Day” in South Africa before. The vernal equinox in the Southern Hemisphere is the 23rd September, and not a moment (or 22 days) before.

But despite the fact that it’s definitely not Spring, it is just around the corner. The mornings are getting lighter, the evenings too, and stuff in the garden is beginning to bud and flower.

And so, also coming soon is the biannual Cape Town whinge switch. That moment of the year when the complaining about the cold changes to moaning about the wind. And thus, I was reminded of this piece from last year, which is amongst the most overly dramatic things I’ve ever read about the infamous “Cape Doctor”. Or anything else, actually.

A pal was visiting from New York when Cape Town was at Peak Wind, and one day she came into my flat from out of The Wind, looking all startled and like she had just been in a war, and said “I don’t know how you live like this.” Me neither, friend. I wake up sometimes at night and think, “This cannot go on.” I wake up and think “This is too loud for nature.”

“Peak Wind” is not a phrase any local person would use. This is the language of someone trying to make a hurricane out of a simple evening gale.
“Like she had just been in a war”. Wow. Was she dead or missing a limb or something?

No.

Yes, I’ve lived in Vredehoek. Yes, I’ve witnessed garden furniture flying off the deck, but no, I’ve never thought:

 I bet you the wind kills people every day.

Or:

The wind robs us of our life force, so that all we can do is be angry and text each other about how much we hate it. The wind, the wind, the wind.

Honestly, love. Get a grip.

It’s been a chilly couple of weeks, and it’s been discussed widely on social media. That’s winter in Cape Town. A succession of cold fronts that (usually, anyway) bring wind and rain. Now, as we approach spring, we’re allowed to complain about the wind. It is sometimes annoying.

But should you be tempted to:

…send each other texts that say things like “This wind is destroying my quality of life” and “I can’t handle the wind” and “Let me tell you the wind.”

(That last one doesn’t even make sense.)

Or if you ask questions about the wind like:

Why it makes us all want to just pitch ourselves off the roof?

or:

Why it makes us lose our entire personalities?

Then you’re overstating its effects rather too much.

I don’t know if the author is still in Cape Town, but having gone through another summer complete with the South Easter blowing, I’m guessing that she’s either jumped off a roof or lost her personality.

That latter one would probably only have taken a gentle breeze, to be honest.

6 months in a leaky boat

With apologies to Tim Finn and Split Enz for borrowing stealing their title.

The ISS (you may remember it from posts infinatum on here) has sprung a leak.

[brief pause while I spill coffee all over my laptop]
[that wasn’t a good idea]

Look. We all have problems and they affect us all in different ways. There are levels here. My laptop may have just taken a hit of Nespresso to its power switch, but all the oxygen that I rely on for breathing isn’t disappearing into space.

Which is nice.

Apparently, the leak was likely caused by a MicroMeteoroid and Orbital Debris (MMOD) strike to one of the windows. A MicroMeteoroid is exactly what it sounds like: a very, very small meteoroid, but it was the Orbital Debris bit that got me interested.

Orbital Debris is also exactly what it sounds like. Debris in orbit around Earth. But what I didn’t realise was that it is often man-made. Yep. We’ve dumped shedloads 0f litter in space too. Great. Is there actually anywhere that we have f**ked up yet?

And MMOD strikes aren’t even unusual:

Although spacecraft are designed with a level of protection from such impacts, MMOD was the third biggest threat to losing an orbiter during her mission – second only to launch and re-entry.

During the Space Shuttle era, all of the orbiters would receive flesh wounds from MMOD strikes.

And because things in space generally go much faster than on earth, the damage is… well… here’s an example of what those MMOD strikes look like:

Eina.

But it was this line that amazed me:

Atlantis and Endeavour both suffered “bullet hole” impacts to their radiators, with Atlantis’ damage was sustained when she was hit by a tiny piece of circuit board on orbit – likely from a destroyed satellite. The damage held no mission impact and was only noticed once she had returned home and was in post flight processing inside her Orbiter Processing Facility (OPF).

Of course, NASA did a whole risk-analysis, debriefing, scientific investigation technical report paper on the whole thing. During the investigation, they tried to recreate the incident (in a lab on earth) by firing a bit of circuit board at a space shuttle panel at 4.14km/sec (that’s about 15,000kph). The entry hole on the original space shuttle panel was 2.74mm in size. The fragment of circuit board was only 0.4mm long, but when it’s going that fast, even little stuff is going to hurt.

There’s no evidence that the ISS window strike was from a man-made object, but it’s a proven fact that we’re literally putting astronauts in danger by putting them in the firing line of plastic rubbish that we’ve put into space and which is now hitting the ISS and other spacecraft.

Bonkers.

Instagram breaks flower farm

Humans are weird things. We get carried away in the weirdest way about the weirdest things. Canadian sunflower farms, for example.

The Canadian sunflower farm in question belongs to Marlene Bogle and her family. They open up their farm to the public for a few days every now and again. This year, things went bad.

It started mildly enough. The Bogles opened up their farm to photographers on July 20, charging $7.50 an adult. They had done the same thing three years ago, with a few hundred visitors providing a modest boost to their main business of farming sunflower, corn, millet, oats and barley, as well as selling various kinds of birdseed from their big red barn, which remains open for business.

I’ve never been to the Bogle’s sunflower farm, but I’m finding it easy to imagine the scene: Peaceful, tranquil, sunlight filtering through the trees, the gentle sound of children’s laughter echoing across fields of beautiful sunflowers.

“Everyone was laughing and having fun,” says Barry Bogle, of that first week. “Then all of Toronto showed up.”

Oops.

The apocalypse arrived on Saturday, the 28th. A few pictures of people posing among the roughly 1.4 million sunflowers had gone viral on Instagram. Cars began rolling up the driveway at 5:45 a.m. “We knew then something was up,” says Barry, who called Hamilton police for help.

I can’t do justice to the carnage that followed, save by copying and pasting the Globe and Mail’s description from the link above (oh, ok… or here, if you can’t be arsed to scroll back up) which I’m not going to do.

The sunflower is a notoriously fragile crop. If the lower leaves are damaged, the plant becomes far less resistant to drought and disease. The Bogles won’t know the extent of the damage until they harvest the plants in late September or early October.

“I used to love these flowers,” says Marlene, waving a Tesla away from the driveway. “Now I can’t stand ’em.”

Our (their?) obsession with Instagram has broken a sunflower farm. It’s ruined a good, healthy, educational family day out simply because we are narcissists and are desperate for instant gratification, more LIKES than the next person and some sort of transient security through affirmation of our petty content.

Humans are weird things. Really weird.

Traps I Don’t Fall Into

I learned about the Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect yesterday. At least, I knew about it before, I just didn’t know that it had a name.

Of course, it makes sense that it has a name, because now I can refer to it by that name, instead of having to explain exactly what I mean all the time.

In fact, I don’t have to explain what I mean at all, because Michael Crichton (yes, that one) has done it for me in this handy quote (Murray, by the way, is physicist Murray Gell-Mann):

I don’t believe anything I read in the media any more. I don’t believe the stuff that I’m told not to believe, and I don’t believe the people who are telling me not to believe that stuff. An example using popular partisan newsrooms: for me, CNN are not “the good guys”, they’re just “the other guys”; and just because FOX News is spewing out nonsense doesn’t mean that what CNN is telling us is the gospel truth.

I’ve noted and overcome the Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect with a million different publications which have shared articles on microbiology. And I’ve done it on here with the… ugh… Daily Mail.
And apparently also with Infowars dot com. I don’t really remember writing that post, but it does describe the Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect quite nicely:

…when I find that their version of the stuff I know is incorrect, then why should I believe any of the other articles on the site? For all I know, there are knowledgeable people out there ridiculing infowars’ take on 9/11 or the worldwide economic slowdown.

It’s horrible and it’s time-consuming to have to be so cynical, but it’s also sensible given the amount of information (and misinformation) that we are provided with each and every day. I’m lucky, in that researching stuff is in my nature. I really don’t mind following up on stories I read before I choose whether or not to believe them and I’ve done that for years and years now, before I even knew that it was an actual semi-official thing.

I’m now left wondering which of my other traits and practices have names in the field of theoretical psychology.

Sadly, I’d guess that it’s most of them.