2007-04-26

Random Thoughts on the Passing Scene

Ok, so I stole the title from a subseries of columns written by Thomas Sowell

Sowell became a hero of mine shortly after I read one of his columns back in 2002. In some ways he exemplifies how I believe people should think: rationally, patiently, thoughtfully, and plainly. However, his conservatism also spans to the negative meaning of the word, and for this reason Sowell has since fallen slightly out of my favor. While I have not yet found another writer who can provide truly insightful comments on such a wide variety of topics, I find myself disagreeing with him on many occasions despite seeing his intention.

Below is the quote that placed Sowell on a pedestal:

There have always been ignorant people, but they haven't always had college degrees to make them unaware of their ignorance. Some people imagine that they are well informed because they have memorized a whole galaxy of trendy dogmas and fashionable attitudes.
-Thomas Sowell, 26.4.2002

When I read that, I suddenly felt relieved, as if I had been to confession (a big IF!) and the Father had told me what I had confessed was not a sin at all.

The quote that knocked Sowell off the pedestal:

As someone who gets a headache from being around people who are smoking, I still do not see the banning of smoking on California beaches as anything more than the totalitarian mindset of the left.
-Thomas Sowell, 15.4.2004

I have always wanted to write my own, and so now I am giving it a try despite a lack of good material. I hope I'll remember more of my random thoughts for future editions.


Random Thoughts on the Passing Scene
By Brian Godsey

Here in Vienna, I know lots of people trying to learn German. Almost all of them focus mostly on the grammatical rules of the language, when they learned to speak the language they know best (English, Spanish, Italian, Turkish, Bosnian, Chinese, Nepalese, etc.) without seeing a grammar book for years.

People are clearly more fit here in Vienna than in America, but somehow no more attractive.

Some people go outside to "get some fresh air" and then smoke.

There are no normal walkers in Vienna. If not running, wearing a backpack, carrying a briefcase, riding a bike, or walking a dog, those along the paths of Vienna are carrying ski-pole like sticks and claim to be doing a sport called "Nordic Walking" that also works the arms. Even if they are simply carrying both sticks in one hand.

People in the U.S. complain about high or rising gas prices, when at the most expensive in history, $3.08 per gallon in September 2005, gas prices in Canada were 28% higher, and gas prices for most people in Europe are regularly well over $5.00 per gallon.

So many regions of the Internet were designed to make friends (Friendster, MySpace, Facebook, etc.) when the biggest effect of these sites is keeping their users at the computer and away from other people.

The internet was built to facilitate exchange of information between people, not substitute for it.

Public transportation systems in larger cities are all-or-nothing. If the system caters to only some of the neighborhoods, people cannot get everywhere they would like using trains, subways, and buses, and most people will buy cars. If I have a car, why not drive it?

The above includes offering some empty routes. The system needs to offer non-profitable (of its own right) public transportation routes in order to keep customers. If a night line is cancelled, and I can't get home from the soccer game without calling a friend with a car, maybe I'll buy a car and stop taking buses altogether.

Vienna has good public transportation. Baltimore does not. Washington, New York, and Chicago are doing reasonably well. Could I live anywhere else in America without a car?

Churches in Austria (mostly Catholic) charge you per year to be a member. They still pass around the plate, but a good chunk of tithing (or whatever you want to call it) comes straight out of your bank account. Only then can you marry, participate in ceremonies, and be memorialized in a church. My girlfriend's dad haggled with the minister of his church over the price before finding a better deal on salvation elsewhere, Armenian Orthodox I believe. One can save money by outsourcing even religious work.

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