Friday, September 28, 2012

Drones, Privacy, and Space

I value my privacy. When Google made it possible to type in my address in their search box, click enter, then be able to view my house from my street, I felt a bit uneasy. I didn't give them permission to put my house out there like that. I immediately thought of people who don't want certain other people to find them for safety reasons.  Here's another weird thing about those maps. There are never any people in the pictures.  Never.

A couple of colleagues who also work for the State of Michigan told me yesterday they had recently seen a drone flying in Lansing. One was spotted on Grand Avenue last week. A second sighting occurred at the Blues Festival in Old Town, where a drone was observed hovering over the crowd. Upon looking at several pictures online, I deduced that these were either news drones or police drones, based on the descriptions given to me by these two folks.

I don't know about you, but I really don't want these flying spies hovering around my town. I have nothing to hide. But to me, this is an Orwellian invasion of privacy that crosses my limits of comfort.

The limits of what tactics can be employed in the name of security are set by what society will allow. This, of course, assumes society knows what tactics are being employed, but that is another discussion for another time.  The limits are set by how much privacy and personal freedoms we are willing to give up. The greater the security, the higher the loss. The point at which we become uncomfortable with the invasion of our privacy and loss of personal freedoms is highly individual.

How do we deal with this issue as a society?

There are now drone clubs. What is to stop the average Joe from attaching a camera to his drone to spy on his ex-wife or that cute woman he followed home from the diner? What is to stop private companies from selling their services to Corporations for the purpose of spying on employees or the competition? Or high tech criminals, scouting out a potential target?

How about hunting? Who says no one will arm a drone for remote hunting? Or remote killing of another person. That is already done in war. What about our police departments? Will they eventually use drones as assault weapons on unruly crowds or criminals. Do you see where I am going with this?

I would have no qualms about shooting a drone out of the sky if I saw it in my neighborhood. But I don't have a gun. Maybe my hose would bring it down? Or a slingshot? Maybe a Super Soaker? Paintball on the camera lens? How about a stone from Lake Michigan? Do you think that would work? I used to be pretty good at throwing a softball...

We seem to be driven to occupy every bit of space on this planet. I don't know about you, but I want SPACE. To breathe, to swim, to walk, space for my Relations that also call this planet home. I don't want signs of humanity everywhere.

When I was growing up there were no ATVs or jet skis. Four-wheel drive vehicles had not come into fashion. One could go in the woods on State or Federal lands and enjoy nature, the peace and quiet, the solitude. You could take a rowboat out on a lake to go fishing with maybe a small Johnson or an Evinrude motor mounted on the back. You'd drop your anchor, put on the bait, and sit back for relaxing sunny morning of fishing in Michigan.

Then came the powerboats and jet skis. And the ATVs and the four-wheel drive trucks with the giant tires that go mud running through our bogs and wetlands. We want to occupy every possible space on this planet as loudly and destructively as possible. At least some do, without thought or concern for something we seem to have forgotten nowadays. Peace and tranquility. Sometimes I just want to take a hike in the woods and be with nature, away from technology and the modern world. But we find new ways all the time to travel into the wild places without using our legs. It is harder and harder to find quiet in the wilderness. To me, that is a form of invasion of privacy. Mine and all the other Beings that call the woods home.

Drones are just another extension of the human occupation of all available space. I say leave the air to the birds, bats, and insects. Leave it to the wind and the rain.  If you want to play with drones, do it at an airfield. I don't want drones flying around my city, especially those with cameras and weapons. And I don't know what to do to stop them.

God I am sounding old. And I like it.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Naturally Fresh Deodorant Crystal

The unique odor that our underarms emit is caused by bacteria, and that unpleasant scent we smell is gas, a byproduct of that bacteria. Something like swamp gas on a tiny scale. At least that is what I read somewhere once upon a time. In the U.S., body odor is considered  disgusting and we take great pains to hide it.

I used to love the James Cagney commercial, you remember it? I practiced and practiced imitating him in the bathroom mirror..

"Dry up shweetheart wit dis. New Right Guard in dah silver can. Stops odors. Keeps you dry. Knows more about your problem den you do."

When I moved back to Lansing in 2006 one of my first stops was the East Lansing Food Coop, to stock up on supplies. Instead of deodorant (which I don't really need as I rarely perspire, I just want to feel grown up), I prefer using a salt rock. It creates a saline environment that the bacteria can't live in. And it has no scent, nor does it contain aluminum, which has been linked to breast cancer by some reports.

I paid $7 for my Naturally Fresh Deodorant Crystal. Right on the label it says it lasts up to one year.  Mine is still 3/4 of the size it was when I bought it. It has been six years. I believe it has at least 12 years to go. That would make me, oh, 66 years old. Maybe even retired. It likely will outlast my dog Tiny.

I don't have exceptionally small armpits, either.

So I guess this is a testimonial for a healthy product that lasts much longer than the average dog's life. And it works well, too. Check it out.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Patches and Badges

I was once a Brownie and then a Junior in the Girl Scouts of America. One of my favorite things about being a Girl Scout, next to camping, was earning patches. Forever in need of approval, these small round embroidered symbols of "I did good" decorated my Troop 837 sash. I couldn't wait for the ceremony where I was awarded my next hard earned patch.

Each patch represented a piece of who I was. A camper. Safety conscious. A helper. I was proud when I wore my green uniform to school on our meeting days, flashing that sash to anyone who glanced my way. "See who I am!", that sash would exclaim.

My next identity patch was a high school varsity letter covered with little gold pins representing each year I was on the varsity basketball, volleyball, and softball teams. Pins for Captain of the team. Pins for All-Conference. A medal for being an honors student. I wore that varsity letter jacket all the time.  "See who I am!", that jacket would exclaim.

Today I wear a plastic identification badge around my neck all day, proving I am a State Employee.  Wherever I go people know I am a government employee. "See who I am!", that identification badge exclaims.

But the most important of these are the ones we place on ourselves. They don't come as a pin or a badge or a patch, but as behaviors we exhibit based on what we believe about ourselves. These define how we move through the world, the choices we make, the work we do, our relationships.

If we proudly display the patch of honor and self-confidence, we walk a path of integrity and purpose. If our badge is that of a gardener, we probably find ourselves gleefully playing in the dirt on our days off, planting and weeding and tending.

If we define ourselves as caretakers, we cannot find satisfaction in equality but only in neediness.

If we believe we are victims, we see ourselves as helpless and create our own personal prison, keeping others out and us in. We do not see our personal power, something I believe we are all born with.

If we believe we can make change, we reach out to others and create community and movements. We organize and rally. We energize.

If we believe we are vulnerable, we try to control. We don't feel safe.

These badges are as obvious as the ones on my Girl Scout sash. The are embroidered in our words and actions. The beautiful thing is we can earn whatever badge we want to by living with intention. We can visualize our lives to be whatever we want them to be and that is what they will become.

Our lives today are what we visualized yesterday. Are you satisfied?

Wanna earn a new badge? Believe you are what you want to be. Because, really you ARE that person. You just don't believed it yet. But if you can dream it, it is already there.

So what are you waiting for? DREAM! BELIEVE! I'll give you a ceremony for that new badge.