Guest Post: Overcoming Our Animal Nature

“Everyone,” as Mike Tyson famously said, “has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” It’s a good quote, but I think it vastly overestimates the majority of the human race. In my experience, most people don’t have a plan. In fact, punch in the mouth or not, most of us don’t even have a consistent direction. No, I’m afraid, the truth is that most of us are winging it all the time.

Planning is a uniquely human skill set and the ability reliably do so was so important to our ancestors that they devoted an immense amount of labor constructing sites like Stonehenge in order to predict the best days for planting or harvesting crops. Their efforts helped humanity to achieve dominance over nature and while it can be argued that animals like wolves can cooperate to spring cunning traps, that certain birds and chimpanzees can make and use primitive tools, and that beavers can work to shape the natural environment, no other animal can plan for the future with the thoroughness of mankind. Why then, do so few of us do it? Continue Reading →

Guest Post: Granny Get Your Gun

Photo courtesy of Japan Today

Over the last few months, there has been a rash of age-related car accidents in Japan.  Just yesterday, a 9 year old girl was killed and four other children injured when 70 year old driver rear ended another car and sent it spinning into a group of students walking home from school.  Last week, an 85 year old driver who had been warned by his family not to get behind the wheel, veered onto a sidewalk after striking another car and ran down two high school girls on bicycles before flipping his car onto its side.  In November, an elderly woman suddenly accelerated through a lowered parking lot gate and shot across the street where she killed two pedestrians.  A month before that, seven people, including a two year old boy, were injured when an elderly driver hit the wrong pedal while exiting a parking lot and barreled across crowded sidewalk near a major department store and, earlier in the year, a 76 year old killed one person and injured five more when she lost control of her car in a parking lot.

According to the Japanese police, drivers 65 and older were responsible for 965 fatal accidents in 2016.  That’s more than 25% of fatal car accidents nationwide and, because Japan is an aging society, there is a great deal of fear that the number will to grow in the coming years.  To help mitigate that growth, in early 2017 a cognitive assessment was added to the existing mandate that all drivers be retested at 70 years of age and, rather than face the possibility of being found unworthy, more than 106,000 people voluntarily surrendered their licenses in the months prior to the new rules going live.  While it’s certain that many older people were opposed to the new rules, there was little public outcry.

Of course, it will take time for the rules to take effect.  An entire generation of drivers were retested at 70 before the cognitive assessment was added to the regime and they continue to be out on the road.  But overall, the new rules are a genteel solution to a serious problem from a civilized society and it says a lot about the Japanese.  Of course, I do not believe for on minute that we could do anything like it in the United States without a good old knock-down drag-out fight.  We’re just not wired the same way. Continue Reading →

Guest Post: For Old Time’s Sake

Over the last couple of weeks, I have written two articles about my evolving relationship with technology.  In the first, I discussed the reasons for my reluctance to purchase a cellular telephone for my middle-school aged son while, in the second, I talked about why I am opting to use what many people have told me is a substandard workaround to play digital audio through the factory stereo in my new-to-me Nissan Hardbody.  Although both essays were intended to be short and simple, I found them difficult to write.  The second piece was especially so as, to get at the truth, I had to acknowledge the fact that I have a history of making poor choices and that I have, over the years, been incredibly wasteful.

But even though I struggled to write that second piece, I understand that many people my age are in the same boat.  To paraphrase one commenter, the entirety of Generation X came of age during a period when, thanks to the pace of technological advance, our music collections became obsolete again and again.  He’s not wrong.  Virtually every machine I included as proof of my poor decision making abilities was superseded by improved technology and, because I am not an early adopter, that happened only when the machines were so outdated that it became difficult to find new releases on the old media.  It turns out, then, I had hung onto things!  But that led me to another question: Which of my possessions is the oldest? Continue Reading →

Guest Post: Consumerism Gone Cold

This Christmas, my sister sent my kids $25 Amazon gift cards.  Given the absolute bounty my children received, I promptly set these cards aside and, I am ashamed to admit, forgot about them until late last week when I finally thought to mention them.  The results were entirely predictable.  My son, who has a surprising amount of money in his piggy bank, calculated the amount as a part of his overall tally and, after considering his options, decided that the satisfaction of having so much cash outweighed the pleasure of anything that he might actually purchase.  My middle child, meanwhile, demanded that I immediately log into Amazon so that she could spend every last cent as quickly as possible while my youngest, still unclear on the concept of money, was just happy to sit beside her sister and examine the various toys that popped up.  In the end, however, no money was spent as I decided to use the opportunity for what I like to call, “a teachable moment.”

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Guest Post: Confessions of a Modern Luddite

Now that my son is in middle school, it’s getting close to the point where he will need his own cellular phone.  Unlike his younger sisters, he has yet to ask for one but there have been some times when having his own phone would have been handy.  Thus far, when he has had to stay after school for extracurricular activities, he has been able to call us from the office or by borrowing a friend’s phone, but I don’t believe that is a good long-term solution.  Clearly, it’s time he had one but I just can’t force myself to go out and get it.

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Guest Post: A Time For Us and Ours


shelby charger

I’ve been watching with great interest as the photos from Jalopnik’s recent ‘Radwood” ‘80s and ‘90s car show come trickling out over the internet.  I’m happy to see that, after years of being overshadowed by the cars of the earlier decades, cars of this era are finally getting some love.  As a member of Generation X, I feel a special kinship with these cars and it’s not just because they were the cars I drove and/or lusted after back in the day.  No, it’s because I have, over the years, come to realize that when I look at these cars I am looking into a mirror.

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