Askers, Guessers and Context

In 2007 Andrea Dondori posted a reply to a Meta Filter post outlining the two types of people that we can be classed into when dealing with social etiquette. Before we go any further we should note that either the English language allows for, or western culture encourages categorisations of people into predefined groups. The problem with this being that most of these categorisations don’t account for outliers and any theory that has cracks from which people fall is not a very a good theory (Thanks Gertrude Anscombe).

Regardless Dondori gave us askers, who have learnt that asking any sort of question or request is ok as long as being told ‘no’ doesn’t cause you any form of discomfort. Someone who commonly asks requests from you is probably an asker and capable of handling a firm ‘no’. On the other hand we have Guessers, who generally only ask requests from people that they are sure they are going to get a yes from, generally as a form of politeness.

This information can be reassuring to people who hate to tell people no. Flip the old trope ‘there is no harm In asking’ around to ‘There is no harm in saying no’. Great news, but why are you telling me this? Great question!

After a long enough stay in a any region with a foreign language you begin to realise something. That the people you are meeting from that country are predominately approaching you. If you wear obvious enough hats and don’t roll your ‘r’s then well done, you’re an approachable tourist. In a place like Latin America it’s very easy to say ‘no’ do the cool hand slap and walk away feeling fine and like you turned lost sale into a happy moment.

This also gives the impression that everyone you meet is incredibly nice and kind. But perhaps, particular people pick particular jobs and that means that on the streets you are mostly meeting askers. A forward group of people who seem overly confident and immune to rejection. Because askers share common traits that guessers don’t have. This also means that you are only interacting with one class of residents when you hit the next tourist destination. This isn’t bad or good, it just opens up the possibility of generalisations about a country of people, once again these generalisations are neither bad nor good, they just are.

It also means something else. Spend long enough travelling overseas and you are probably going to come back with asker traits. Nothing like prolonged travel allows you to try on the different outfits that are available to you as a human being. Context determines much more than we give it credit for. Think back to another troublesome but easy categorisation of human beings, introverts and extroverts. The first time you hear about this categorisation you quickly put yourself into one of those classes. But something happens as time goes on (If you don’t forget about it all together). That is that at times you find yourself highly introverted and at other you find yourself quite extroverted. Context tends to determine this change in character, more so than the catagorical words that were only created recently in human history. In the end we find out that extroversion and introversion exist on a spectrum that can flow back and forth.

The context of ‘travel’ puts you in situations where it is almost impossible to stay the same as you were in your regular life. You might find that you are more confident walking to a stranger on the street to ask a question. Or that meeting people all of a sudden comes naturally to you. The main reason being that travellers all share a common goal (brought on by context) and a common goal is pretty much all it takes for humans to like one another. 

Where does this lead us? Well for one, if you don’t like someone, chances are its because you don’t see yourselves as sharing a common goal. To take from Yuval Noah Harrari’s Sapiens, think about the real purpose of ideologies and countries. They have less to do with controlling us and more to do with helping us cooperate. In this sense religion is no different from liberalism which is no different from liking people because they work at the same company as you. We connect ourselves over similarities in beliefs and purpose. (Unfortunately sharing humanity together isn’t always enough, that’s an essay for another time).

Finally, context. Modernity has given us a lot of free time to think about what sort of people we are. Literature has become filled with theories on personality. However, if you find yourself being someone you don’t like, a change of context might help. Being in nature, working out, changing jobs, moving suburb, going for a run, or travelling can make the entire difference. Unless you have the highest degree of personal sovereignty and are the same in every situation, you might not actually be the person you think you are. Maybe you are just a person like the rest of us, who needs the right context to really shine through.

 

Jurassic World II – A Review

Executive producer Steven Spielberg has labelled this movie as ‘something like you have never seen before’. No this doesn’t mean a portrayal of dinosaurs with feathers, instead it means things that we have most definitely seen before.

The movie starts with a call to action, except Chris Pratt is not very excited but after hearing a few sentences changes his mind also there is a little girl snooping on her foster dad. Everyone goes to jurassic world Ezekial from the get down is there too, even the military general who’s seems fine but has a lot of guns is there.

Chris goes to the forest with Claire and the gang, Claire is wearing real shoes this time and spends the movie looking like she is about to open a present. Chris sees a nice dinosaur but the military man shoots it and is not nice after all. Chris is left in the jungle by himself because no wants to carry him out of there but Zia can come because she is light and can fix dinosaurs.

A dinosaur finds Ezekiel and Claire in the super secret dinosaur proof hiding hut, it wants to eat them so bad that it refuses to stop trying to get through the super hot lava that is now because erupting from the volcano because the movie is already 25 minutes in and it is time for some fireworks to justify the 3D glasses. 

Everyone finds each other and start to run away, but a dinosaur that is on the brink of extinction due to pyroclastic volcano ash decides now is a good time to eat some people. But luckily another dinosaur who is on the brink of extinction due to pyroclastic volcano ash wants the humans to live so it stops the first dinosaur. The humans do live but not before using a gun underwater to break a dinosaur proof, bullet proof, crack proof pod that was jimmied off with a knife that Chris swam away to find.

Now the island is almost gone our friends need to get on the boat that is leaving. There is a truck that everyone forgot to put on the boat that the captain also forgot to close the back of. The military men have loaded the boat with expensive dinosaurs and are on high alert. Claire, Chris and Ezekiel jump the military truck from the dock to the moving boat and park it in the middle of the soldiers. Claire puts a green cap on to let everyone know that this is business as usual and that they can carry on. 

Blue, everyones favourite dinosaur needs blood, luckily a very different dinosaur nearby has plenty of blood because it is a Tyrannosaurus rex. This is the most dangerous dinosaur on a boat full of dinosaurs who all seem to have the same blood type so Claire and Chris go to get some. Chris wants Claire to stab the Tyrannosaurus for the blood so they argue and then she does. Luckily all the military people have gone to bed so no one hears when the Rex wakes up. One person does hear, but their job is done after closing the door to the cage, that person goes back to bed right away and doesn’t catch Claire and Chris when they jump out of the cage.

It’s time to load the dinosaurs into the super secret mansion where an old dinosaur enthusiast lives with the little girl and a young business man. The little girl catches the business man being sneaky in the super secret lab 3 floors underground that is protected by a four digit access code just like an iPhone 6. They are busy thinking about business and don’t see her feet as she crawls past them. She goes to tell the nice old man about the secret and wrong meeting but he wants to sleep so he sends her away. She gets caught being sneaky and is sent to her room on the very top floor of the mansion.

The dinosaurs are being taken into the mansion now because it is very very big. Chris and Claire drive past a guard but he thinks that their military truck looks more suspicious than all the other military trucks so he calls the general. The general catches them and puts them in a cell near the dinosaurs but not with the dinosaurs but right next to them. Then the business man who’s is called Mills and Toby Jones greet all the guests who are probably coming to the mansion to see some dinosaurs. Because they are such experienced greeters no one sees the little girl who is called Maisee climbing out of her window in her bright red jumper as she goes to find a way out of her room. 

All of a sudden it is time for eat he guests to bid on the auction that Toby is helping with. All the guests have forgotten that the earth already has Crocodiles that are pretty much dinosaurs but don’t cost $10 Million.  Eventually the Genetically modified and very angry Indoraptor is shown and everyone wants a piece. The Indoraptor is mad and just like a cat, hates red laser dots. However, during the auction Chris got a Stygimoloch to help him out of his cell because he did some whistling. The Stygimoloch didn’t have feathers either but did have a hard head that it really likes to use to run into people. Chris put it in an elevator and sent it to the auction floor and it started head butting people and then Chris starts fighting highly trained mercenaries who have weapons used to subdue dinosaurs and he beats them and every one runs away. 

The general whom likes to collect dinosaur teeth wants the tooth of the indoraptor. So he shoots it with tranquilliser twice but as long has not liking red dots it also has a sense of humour and just pretends to be asleep. The dinosaurs tricked the general and bites his arm off but there is no blood because this is a family movie that every can watch. Then he eats the rest of the general but only in out of focus shots because of the kids. Now the dinosaur is free and wants to eat everyone. Unfortunately only Chris, Ezekiel, Claire, Maisee and Zia along with some mercenaries. 

The Indoraptor wants to eat everyone but wants to eat Maisee the most. The lights go out and the Indorapter discovers that it has the same senses as a human being and can’t see in the dark. Maisee runs away and luckily is better at running up the stairs with her 9 year old legs than the dinosaur killing machine. She finds a safe space in the dumbwaiter that is in every room of the mansion except her top floor penthouse room that she was locked in earlier. There is some more running and then Maissee decides she is safer in her bed covers than when she was inside of the walls where the dinosaur can’t get her. Now the indorapter that could not run up stairs earlier has figured out that it can use a door handle and finds it’s way into her room. But it is ok because Chris Pratt knows just where to find them and has brought a dinosaur killing gun with two bullets. Two bullets are not enough though and soon they need a miracle to save them but instead they get everyones favourite dinosaur blue who is not a miracle because it was made by humans and humans can’t do miracles. 

Now everyone is running on the roof and it looks bad but Claire who had a stabbed leg earlier has found a gun and decided she would find everyone on the roof and she was right. Claire decides she doesn’t want to shoot the dinosaur though and instead everyone agrees it is a much better plan to aim the red laser pointer at Chris’s chest so the dinosaur can charge him and he can slide underneath it and it can fall through the glass before reaching Maisee who is on the edge of the building and now without anyone to protect her. The plan doesn’t work because the dinosaur can climb up steel beams, just not stairs. But everyones favourite dinosaur Blue pushes him down the hole because Claire still didn’t want to use the gun. There is no dinosaur blood because kids can see a dinosaur get stabbed by a brontosaurus’s skull but not the blood that would result from it. 

Jeff Goldblum appears in front of court and says some things about dinosaurs being extinct. Blue appears on a mountain over looking a town in Colorado. Blue probably solves the towns coyote problem and becomes an American hero in the next movie.

Zona 4 Guat City

From what we have heard other people tell us, Guatemala City is a get in and get the hell out sort of place. When a city decides to number the suburbs rather than name them, that tends to happen. Everytime you enter a new ‘Zona’ you’re always a little unsure if its the one that gave Guatemala City the title of ‘3rd highest murder rate in a capital city’. Really, how hard would it be to name your suburbs something a little nicer? I’m sure people would be more willing to visit Del Amino than a place called Zona 18.

Thats why until the volcano Feugo erupted we weren’t even thinking about staying here. The advice we had from other people seemed to be the sort of advice you give purely cause that’s what they did. One person told us to go to ‘Zona 1’ but to stay inside at night. Another told us that ‘9’ was the safest place due to the international hotels next door in ’10’. This is the sort of thing that people tell you to do because that’s what they did. For a place like Guatemala City this means that no real useful information is passed on about where to go or what to do. Just anecdotes about what people did (Generally involving staying indoors at night). For this reason i recommend taking advice from travellers you’ve met on the road with a pinch of salt (at least for Guatemala City). Accept for our advice, our advice is real good. 

That’s because we fell into the same trap, but luckily, that landed us in the funky ‘Zona 4’. So let us tell you all about it. For you Australians this is like the Brunswick of Guatemala City. For Americans this is like Seattle, for everyone else, its just a cool street art filled, coffee sipping, Fancy restaurant area. The roads, buildings and artwork are all well developed. The coffee culture is made obvious by the strips of cafe’s that are found on pedestrian only arcades. Construction crews are busy building more apartments that are probably part of some sort of gentrification program. Internet works and for the first time arriving in Guatemala office buildings prove that this is just a place where people go to work and live regular lives. 

In 2006 the City of Cape Town began implementing a program they called ‘Violence Prevention Through Urban Upgrading Programme’ (VPUU). The primary success of the program was the reduction in crime through infrastructure design. This involved increasing surveillance with neighbourhood watch patrols, 24 hour watch towers, defining property boundaries, safer pedestrian walkways, prettier buildings to discourage vandalism, higher property boundaries and well kept buildings designed to foster a respect for property with residents. In Cape Town at least, this reduced the homicide rate by 1 third.

I can’t tell you that this specific form of macro city planning has been used in Zone 4 of Guatemala City. I can tell you that this is certainly NOT the murder zone of Guatemala City. Walls are high, street art hasn’t been disrespected with randoms tags, residents are abound, security guards with high powered shotguns (Some held together with duct tape) are on every corner and privately owned thoughtful restaurants are all around. In fact I would go as far as to say that Guatemala City has a real ‘foodie’ aspect about it.

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Don’t be nervous, have a hipster coffee

At the heart of all this urban planning is something we seem to be longing for in western politics, that is, a focus on community development. Context goes a long way in shaping peoples behaviour, putting people on street corners with shotguns obviously deters a lot of crime. However, for a city that only ended a 36 year civil war in 1996 brought on by a US backed coup that led to a series of military dictators and genocides against local Mayan residents, more than guns is required. The context of unfair harsh politics and international meddling obviously shaped the behaviour of government opposition up to 1996. To recover from that (At least partially) to get to where parts of the city finds itself today takes a community focus. 

We have heard that crime still happens here, I’m not trying to paint Zone 4 as some sort of safe haven within the city. However, if you find yourself in Guatemala City and need more than a couple of anecdotes about where to stay, we hope this helps.

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How bad can a place with a dentist shop like this be?
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Still with that city goat Guatemalan charm

What chaos can show us about ourselves

Recent Eruptions in Central Americas most active volcano ‘Fuego’ have so far created a death toll of 69, injury of hundreds and evacuation of thousands. The volcano created a pyroclastic flow which tends to look like a giant ash cloud but Is really filled with gases and rocks that can move at about 80 Kilometres an hour and reach up to 760 degrees Celsius. This is the same type of eruption that engulfed the city of Pompeii. The fast moving ash can create major respiratory problems which may be the reason experts warn that the worst is yet to come.

The volcano is a tourist attraction for the region, purely because it is constantly erupting, this means it’s unlikely any relocation will occur to better protect people as taking away economic activity is hard to sell as ‘protection’. Perhaps that’s because this isn’t a rare occurrence. 2010 Saw the Volcano Paccaya cover the city in ash and shut down the airport for 5 days. 1976, earthquakes devastated the entire region, I met one resident who remembers the road moving like water. 1917 Earthquakes created similar devastation and left over 200,000 people homeless. The recent eruption took people by surprise due to what volcanologist Janine Kippner described as ‘a larger than average eruption’.

This seems to be a problem. If a larger than average eruption is all it takes to surprise experts and locals we can expect to constantly find ourselves surprised at natural disasters. By all definitions, larger than average disasters will always occur, thats how you get averages. Around the world we have seen similar disasters destroy regions. Hawaii is going through emergency evacuations as the Kilauea volcano has began erupting, hundreds of earthquakes have hit the region and fissures have opened up. All things considered, active volcanic regions aren’t the best places to build cities. Neither for that matter are cities built along major fault lines like the San Andreas, or cities built in Cyclone prone areas like Florida, Darwin, Townsville, Southern China.

There’s not a lot that we can do about any of this. Ancient and modern history will tell us that we will continue living in our danger zones until we physically can’t anymore. This is worrying when put in the global warming context as it means we might never do what is required to ensure that coastal cities don’t flood, small islands don’t sink and ozone depletion doesn’t fully occur. Even if we consider the few remarkable members of our 7.6 billion strong species who are dedicating their lives to solving these problems. We can only expect the numbers to get worse, mostly due to increases in our world wide population resulting in denser concentrations of people in disaster prone areas.

The 1976 earthquake saw the USA work at rebuilding most of the roads in industrialised areas. Canada and Belgian worked together to rebuild villages, Mexico helped house those that were left homeless and within a week of the Guatemalan governments appeal to the international community an estimate of over 4,200 tons of supplies had landed from 31 different countries. This included aid from various Christian organisations, Israel, Pakistan, Yugoslavia and Haiti to name a few.

So whats the point in this then? First would be a humbling of our assuredness that what is here will always be here. Also a humbling of our own greatness. The most intelligent species on the planet still builds in terrible places and takes a short term view of our world. Second would be that even if we do somehow achieve equilibrium between us and nature we will always be at the mercy of natures destructive forces. Third and most importantly is that when these disasters do occur, we tend to feel a certain compassion for those affected and that all of a sudden the differences we define ourselves by break down in an instant as we work together help those that need it.

Sources:

Akpan, N 2018, ‘What made Guatemala’s Fuego Volcano eruption so deadly’, PBS, June 4, viewed 5 June 2018
<https://www.pbs.org/newshour/science/what-made-guatemalas-fuego-volcano-eruption-so-deadly&gt;.
‘Hawaii’s Kilauea Volcano: Why, When and What’s next’, Aljazeera, 23 May, viewed on 5 June 2018
<https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/05/hawaii-kilauea-volcano-180507103426548.html&gt;.
Report of the Comptroller General of the United States 1976, Observations on the Guatemalan Earthquake Relief Effort.

Why Gordan Ramsay couldn’t fix a kitchen in Cuba

If he tried I have little confidence in Señor Ramsay’s ability to do anything about a kitchen in Cuba. First of all I can’t for the life of me see any one who can be rightly considered a boss. Sure there might be a guy doing a little bit less than everyone else in a nicer shirt, but when you’re the only 4 patrons in a restaurant with 5 chefs who need to make a Hawaiian pizza and two chicken salads and 40 minutes later you’re told that it’ll be another 10 minutes (No problem, live music, great coffee and a holiday nonchalance makes the wait seem like nothing) you really have to wonder what the correct level of screaming is required to create a sense of urgency.

When finally the pizza does reach the pass, the final inspection of the base is approved with a shrug of the shoulders. It’s pretty clear pretty quickly that ‘Cuban time’ doesn’t cease to exist when you enter the world of work. Shouting at staff would probably just be received with blank stares, maybe you’d even get kicked out, the patrons would definitely tell you to be quiet so that they can focus on the funky band. 

Trying to ‘fix’ a kitchen here would be difficult for just that word alone. ‘Fix’, that would be the major challenge, explaining to someone that there is a problem with the way the kitchen operates in the first place. To do that you would need to explain that there is something wrong with the way Cuba operates and to do that you would have to explain that there is something wrong with the way Cuban people operate. Aaaand that’s when you’ve lost cocinero Gordan. More than likely you’ll be met with sassy dismissal before the tables are turned and it’s made blatantly obvious that your expectations and criticisms are really your problem and not someone else’s.  Quality control on vegetables? That’s what they look like Ramsay Puta del blanco. Time’s taking to long? That’s why we smoke cigars instead of cigarettes? What are those 3 spare chefs doing? Watching someone who is watching some else cook… Obviously.  

 

There are two types of turtles in this world

There are two types of turtles in this world.

Mossy boys & Shelly boys.

Shelly boys swim, hide, play, hunt, eat, dive walk and generally move enough keep a nice clean spotless shell. Looking healthy, stronger and more fertile these turtles really got it going on. While making for harder photo opportunities these bubba’s make swimming in the Mexican Cenote’s a real treat.

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Look at that sweet thing

Mossy boys lounge around all day, sit on their tree trunks above the water and float through life without a problem. Moving so little that their shells grow moss, helping them blend in to the surrounding moss patches on the water. A helpful survival technique but thats all their life is, survival. Sitting their compiling moss while their brothers and sisters face life and death. Not giving a thought about their tortuga family who get plucked from the water by bearded vultures, dropped from the air till their shells crack and then eaten from the belly in. Sitting on their log contently watching life go by as members of their species are hunted, farmed, boiled, turned into soup and called delicacies.

Mossy boys relax, conserve energy, only to get to the end of their long lives to realise that they never really lived. That a lifetime of energy conservation only ended in never putting to use that which they spent a life saving. Turning their backs on Shelly boys without the consideration that in numbers they have the power to flourish. Without ever choosing to act, to cooperate, to be brave enough to fail. Stuck in their ways and their moss with no more to hope for than feeding pond flies and insects.

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3 Little bastards

You could try and find beauty somewhere in the story of the mossy boys, but you’d be lying to yourself. There is no beauty here, just moss… Lots of moss.

Hey here’s an idea

Hey America.

Here’s an idea, if you don’t want people from all over the world, particularly the Middle East, entering your country maybe stop making it seem like such a utopia. You know what I mean. Those immigration question got me like

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Aaaaah

Perhaps, and only perhaps. But maybe, if you didn’t make your international airport seem like the utopia of entry ports into your country, people would stop trying so hard. Maybe relocate your airport into the South side of Chicago. instead of walking off the plane into the weird lalaland of Los Angeles they can get off into the war zone that is Chicago’s south.

You want immigration to stop? A realistic entry point to your grand meca of a country might help. Oh whats that? South Side Chicago to dangerous? Chuck the airport in Iowa, that’ll do.