Friday, September 21, 2007

Fury over Nazi Fashion Bags

The Spanish clothing chain Zara recently pulled a whole line of handbags that were embroidered with little swastikas. My first reaction is "what the hell were they thinking to sell bags that have swastikas on them" - in Europe no less. The hubbub over the bags started in Britain when a woman returned a bag to the store after discovered the swastikas.

On second glance however, the mistake is easier to understand. The handbags were made in India. In India, the swastika is an ancient sign symbolizing the sun, strength, and good luck, much as it is an ancient symbol for fertility in other cultures. The designers in India were using that connotation to the symbol, rather than any anti-semitic meaning it could have imparted. Apparently, the buyers at Zara approved a mock-up without any swastikas (though you'd think someone would check before they actually went on the shelves).

Now, it's unfortunate that the Nazis appropriated a symbol which used to be so positive and turned it into something evil. It's unfortunate that Zara didn't realize its mistake. And it's unfortunate that people bought handbags that had symbols with such negative connotations and that have such a history (especially in Europe). But I highly doubt that it was an attempt on the part of Zara to legitimize fascism.

Term Limits for Marriages?

A Bavarian politician has come up with the intriguing idea of putting a 7-year expiration date on marriages.

Now, on the one hand, my thinking is that if it ain't broke, don't go breaking it. It's true some people (as she says) stay in marriages just because it's safe, or just because of the kids, or they're just afraid of the unknown. But if they're relatively content, that's their prerogative to forgo passion. It would just create an unnecessary amount of paperwork to make people file to renew their marriages every 7 years.

However, on the other hand, I can see some benefits to this - some people are just in bad marriages, but divorce is an expensive process. This might also force people to come up with pre-nuptial agreements (since the marriage would just expire, I'd imagine there wouldn't be the bickering as to who gets what, so you'd have to say in advance how you'd split it should you decide not to renew the marriage). But more importantly, it's a good way to check in with your spouse, it would serve as a starting point to discuss some of the issues in the marriage and make sure it's working for both people. Sometimes people go for years without ever talking about what's not working. If they were given the option to get out without the hassle of divorce lawyers, it might actually help to solidify marriages that are working because each person would have to think about what they wanted and communicate it to the other. But hey, perfect world, right?

I don't think this is the threat to marriage that the Christian right is necessarily painted it. Sure, there would be people who would decide to let the marriage expire, but those are probably the people who shouldn't be married anyway, and are providing an unhealthy view of marriage to their kids. It could help to bolster communication. But it could also just create headaches for everyone involved - the need to file paperwork just keep the status quo, the extra tax dollars needed to fund the department which processes the paperwork (or would there be an extra renewal charge, or just a "let it expire" charge?), then there would be the almost inevitable battles over property, especially if one person wants to renew and the other doesn't.

I'm on the fence, but tipping into the "if it ain't broke don't fix it" camp. What do you think?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Your Real Age

Take this Real Age Test. I have no idea what their credentials are, but I'm none too sure of their accuracy. Because, get this, while I may be 28 chronologically, apparently I'm 12.6 in my real age. Yes, you read right, I'm really an 8th grader. I find this vaguely disturbing. But the upside? It says I'll live til almost 90. I'll hold it to that, yes sirree I will!

What's your real age?

Monday, September 10, 2007

One Laptop per Child

I was watching 60 Minutes the other day and they had a segment about the One Laptop Per Child program, spearheaded by faculty members at the MIT lab. What they've done is to work with technology companies to create a cheap ($100) laptop that is virtually indestructible - there are no ports or holes in the plastic, so you can literally pour a glass of water over it and not harm it. There are little ear-like antennae sticking off the top, which just about triples the strength of the WiFi. The battery life in somewhere in the range of 10-12 hours, and then they have hand wound battery rechargers that can be used when the kids have no electricity at home (as most of them don't in the targeted areas).

In some countries where they've started this program, school attendance has shot up to 50% as the word of mouth gets around among the kids to tell them about the fun computers they get by going to school. The kids can then take the computers home with them and teach their whole families how to use them.

One of the controversial aspects of this program is that the program backers contend that the computers can be used in place of education (if they are not able to attend school themselves). And computers are definitely better than nothing. But what the critics have said is that, while the kids may learn to use the basic functions, they won't learn the savvy and depth they could get in school.

But my take on it is that in many of these 3rd World countries where education is hard to come by, self-taught education by computer will vastly expand the horizons of these kids beyond anything they could have achieved on their own.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Pee-Powered Batteries

Yes, there really are urine-powered batteries out there. But let me ask you something - since these batteries also run on water, what in god's name would bring someone to actually use urine to power these things? I mean, unless you're stuck in the desert, or on a life raft (I'm thinking salt water might be somehow corrosive to the batteries), and you have a desperate need to use something battery-powered (like a flashlight, what were you thinking?), why the hell wouldn't you just use water to recharge?