I went to buy window cleaner today, and it turned out to be a more complicated decision than I had anticipated. And there were only two options to choose from! The choice I had to make was between the hippie “save the world” biodegradable option, or the conservatively blue “we mean business” name brand option. There were a lot of factors to consider:
- The biodegradability of each product, because obviously I don’t want to be responsible for nasty chemicals persisting in the environment any longer than necessary.
- Whether the process for making “biodegradable” chemicals was actually worse for the environment than the other chemicals.
- Whether there really was any difference between them, or whether it was just marketing mumbo-jumbo.
- The toxicity of the products. I don’t want to subject myself to any unnecessary risk if I can help it.
- The fact that the “green” version listed itself as vegan whereas the other one remained strangely silent on the matter. As an opponent of cruelty to animals I support making cruelty free choices where one can.
- On the other hand, what the hell is “vegan” about window cleaner anyway? It’t not like they squeeze duckling juice into it, it’s basically just water, alcohol, and a bit of fragrance.
- And of course, which one will be the most effective? There’s no point having something environmentally friendly if it doesn’t work. And if the name-brand one is more effective, am I willing to shoulder the responsibility of any environmental damage I do for such a minor thing as slightly cleaner windows?
After standing there for some time, a bottle in each hand, carefully pondering all these factors in what I hoped was a rational and scientific fashion, I came to a decision.
I bought the cheapest one.
The world is abuzz with mystery and solutions for the age-old question: Is this dress white and gold or blue and black?
Spoiler alert: The correct answer is that it is neither.
The question is a psychological trick, mixed with a dash of optical illusion. You are asked to select between two options:
- White and gold; or
- Blue and black.
Clearly the darker bits are not black, but they do look kind of like poorly lit gold. And clearly the lighter bits are not white, but they do look blueish. So what is happening? It is a three step process:
- Our brains are hard-wired to find patterns, so the first thing we notice out of either answer is the parts that are correct.
- The second step in the process is to fall victim to power of suggestion to convince ourselves that the incorrect part of each answer is also correct, because after all, those are the only options presented to us. There is a dash of the Checker Shadow Illusion at play here too.
- The third step in the process is that everybody forms an opinion about their interpretation and argues about it.
Come to think of it, this is almost exactly how religion works.
Islam is a hot topic right now, and with the rise of extremists and islamophobes who claim that the religion is all about violence (and for practically the same reasons), I decided to do a little bit of research and find out the answer for myself.
So, is Islam violent or peaceful? I picked out in a selection of three verses from the Qur’an which appear to support violence:
- Surah 2, verse 191: “And slay them wherever ye catch them, and turn them out from where they have Turned you out; for tumult and oppression are worse than slaughter; but fight them not at the Sacred Mosque, unless they (first) fight you there; but if they fight you, slay them. Such is the reward of those who suppress faith.”
- Surah 4, verse 74: “Therefore let those fight in the way of Allah, who sell this world’s life for the hereafter; and whoever fights in the way of Allah, then be he slain or be he victorious, We shall grant him a mighty reward.”
- Surah 61, verse 4: “Truly Allah loves those who fight in His Cause in battle array, as if they were a solid cemented structure.”
Some pretty solid stuff there. But it isn’t fair and balanced reporting if I don’t also mention three verses that refer to Islam as a religion of peace:
- Surah 2, verse 256: “Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error: whoever rejects evil and believes in Allah hath grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold, that never breaks. And Allah heareth and knoweth all things.”
- Surah 9, verse 6: “And if anyone of the idolaters seeketh thy protection (O Muhammad), then protect him so that he may hear the Word of Allah, and afterward convey him to his place of safety. That is because they are a folk who know not.”
- Surah 41, verse 33: “The good deed and the evil deed are not alike. Repel the evil deed with one which is better, then lo! he, between whom and thee there was enmity (will become) as though he was a bosom friend”
There’s probably a whole lot more, but I decided to limit my search to three of each because I’m not a religious scholar and I write this blog in my spare time. This was enough to prove that this approach will not provide a definitive answer, especially since the verses were all cherry-picked and taken completely out of context.
This got me thinking that maybe Islam is not a religion that promotes violence or peace. Maybe, just like other 1,000+ year old religions based on a text filled with archaic and often contradictory verses, it is just a religion followed by a large number of people and open to their individual interpretations. Some of those people want to kill every non-Muslim and put the world to fire and sword, and some of those people want to live in peace and harmony with all mankind, and probably most fit somewhere in the middle.
And so it comes to pass that the people who want to kill every non-Muslim and put the world to fire and sword read the Qur’an and look for the verses that can be interpreted as saying “kill every non-Muslim and put the world to fire and sword”. And the people who want to live in peace and harmony with all mankind read the Qur’an and look for verses that can be interpreted as saying “live in peace and harmony with all mankind”. And each do their thing while claiming the Qur’an as their authority to do so.
I guess the real message here is that we shouldn’t lump all Muslims together as a homogenous group (i.e., the basic definition of bigotry), the same way we don’t lump all Christians together as a homogenous group.
Might I suggest that you forgo just *one* of the twelve different types of AA battery (or at least limit each kind to just one slot) and throw in a few of the other commonly used battery types?
Luckily, Chemist Warehouse was able to give me some CR2032 batteries, which I use to power 4 things in my home. Sure, they had to limit themselves to only eleven kinds of AA battery, but look how many kinds of button cell (I count at least 16) they were able to cram in to about the same amount of space as Coles:
Have you ever wondered why staff on a long-haul flight always say that the plane is “pressurised for your comfort”?
The cruising altitude of a plane is typically between 7,500 and 12,000 metres.
The air pressure at 10,000 metres is only 80% of the air pressure at the top of Mount Everest. According to a bunch of folks who did oxygen tests on some Everest climbers in 2009 (and wrote a paper about it for the New England Journal of Medicine) a person not acclimatised to the altitude of Mount Everest will die within 2-3 minutes [PDF].
Oh, and it’s also about -50°C (-58° F), so you would probably need an extra blanket.
So as long as your definition of comfort is “not suffocating or freezing to death” then yes, one could say that the plane is pressurised for your comfort.