June 26, 2005

Other: Away again

Week two of Catering For Knitters begins today, so I'll be gone until Canada Day.

Hopefully when I get back, I'll have a few images of this lovely person in the mail for me. All told, it's been quite a month for purchases in our house:

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (FINALLY out on DVD);
The Cmplte Wrks f Wllm Shkpsr (abrgd) (a reason for the Fringe to exist);
A scroll of The Vinegar Tasters (the wife's a sort-of Taoist, and who would you rather follow?);
Lots and lots of rope from this guy;
And a copy of Night in the Lonesome October by Roger Zelazny. Illustrated by Gahan Wilson, one of my favorite books ever.

Hi ho.

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posted by Thursday at 3:09 pm 0 comments

Other: We're Doomed.

If this means what I think it means, then there are never, ever going to be any more engineers, and in our industry-heavy society, that means we're hooped.
posted by Thursday at 1:21 pm 1 comments

Politics: Blow My Whistle

Maybe you've heard of Gordon McAdams, or maybe not. Whichever is the case, he deserves to be known. In short:

A developer bought a piece of land across from Grohman Narrows Provincial Park several years ago, and wanted his property to become a rest/repair stop for transport trucks moving through BC.

A fine use for the property, and a useful thing to have.

According to the local laws here, if you put in a road off of a highway, it must be across from pre-existing roads to make an intersection that is as safe as possible. The problem for the developer was that the road would have cost $250,000, so he did what any reasonable businessman would do - he asked the minister of the idiotically named Water, Land, and Air Protection Minisrty (now once again called the Ministry of Enviroment) to move the driveway to the park.

This would cost taxpayers $100,000 and had the side benifit of destroying several painted turtle nests, giving visitors to the park one less thing to worry about seeing. The minister, Bill Barisoff, agreed, changing the ministrys mind from its 2002 and 2004 decisions on the same issue. He also claimed in a local paper that the road would be good for the turtles.

Gord McAdams, an ecologist who has been in government for 34 years and is currently a Nelson city councillor, discovered that the government was breaking the law. Criminal charges could have been brought against Mr. Barisoff if construction of the road went through, but the habitat still would have been destroyed. To prevent this, Mr. McAdams photocopied two confidential doccuments and included them in a signed affidavit he filed with the BC Supreme court. The court agreed that Barisoff was violating the Park Act.

Four days after he filed, and four hours before he was due to retire, Mr. McAdams was called into the ministers office and fired. That timing cost him about $25,000 in sick time, retirement leave and vacation. He's filed a grievance, and Barisoff is no longer a minister.

Okay, old news. Why mention this now? Because I've just had this little gem pointed out to me: it's called the

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION AND PROTECTION OF PRIVACY AMENDMENT ACT, 2004

Or Bill 73 for short.

This was during the Patriot Act kerfuffle when many people were concerned (and rightly so) about "foreign powers" (read: the States) accessing private information of Canadian citizens. In it, all public employees anf service providers must report any such requests, so there is a special section devoted specifically to whistleblower protection. It's section 30.3, and states outright that the whistleblower can do what they feel is neseccary without fear of recrimination, specifically:

30.3 An employer, whether or not a public body, must not dismiss, suspend, demote, discipline, harass or otherwise disadvantage an employee of the employer, or deny that employee a benefit [...]

If they have acted in good faith. Neat, huh? And Mr. McAdams didn't go to the press, or to the opposition party during the election campaign - he went to the Supreme Court. It only made news when he got fired by the simpletons he was working for. And this information was most certainly in the public interest, as section 25 says, is a reasonable justification for violating confidentiality agreements.

One spokesman said he couldn't talk about the matter because of employee privacy reasons; Gord McAdams has no such difficulty, and has been on the front page of more than one newspaper since being dismissed.

So suck it, Ministry of Enviroment douchebags. Do your jobs or get the hell out of the trough.

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posted by Thursday at 11:00 am 0 comments

June 24, 2005

Other: What Belongs?

One of the most common arguements I have is of the "Who would you do?" variety:

Who do you trust more: business or government?

I've almost always come down on the side of government, and this frequently gets people tied in knots where they start babbling about "lost freedoms" and "Big Brother" and "cops". Sometimes it takes a little longer for the last one to come out, but it usually does. I also qualify my response by making sure we're only talking democracies, here. I'm not going to say I'd rather live in Nicaragua than have a WalMart in my town!

(On a side note: I took a bus up to Nelson, B.C. a few years back, and it was gorgeous. But after riding 14 hours through some of the most amazing views in the world, the bus stops outside of...)

What's more interesting than the knee-jerk reaction to the word "government" that some of my erstwhile opponents have is their image of what a "business" is: there is a prevalent belief that it's all mom-and-pop run corner stores, where if you have a problem you can talk to Phil at the counter and he'll fix you right up. Likewise, all they can see in government is this shadowy, nebulous mass of tentacles dancing bureaucratic automotons who enact unreasonable laws for unknowable reasons.

Which bugs me.

For a few reasons, but the most important one is this: living in a society, any society, is about striking balances, and there are a lot of them around. There is no such thing as a completely stable society (despite Confucius' best wishes), only one that is balanced. All politics is a social experiment, because the society we live in now is mid-change, and laws that may have seemed reasonable at one time are now looked on as outdated, overly restrictive, or even criminal. The society (that's us) changes, and with that change comes the change in laws.

Eventually.

People can be (and do get) voted in or out of political office as the tenor of the times change. Laws that are enacted by one government can be changed or superseded by another. Obviously, some governments are a vast amount better than others at reacting to their citizens demands, much like some companies are much better to their employees and those that live around them than others. On the other hand, companies that are big enough can demand certain things from those governments that they deal with, like: reduced (or eliminated) municipal corporate taxes; cash packages; 99-year leases of land for $1/year; and oh yes...

Having the government seize private land for their gain.

There is a problem when the balance only has weight one side.

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posted by Thursday at 1:09 pm 4 comments

June 18, 2005

Other: How's That?

City TV just ran a commercial for their news program, promising:

"News, weather, sports, and information."

Granted, I don't hold much hope for the news, but surely the sports scores already qualify as information...?

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posted by Thursday at 3:49 pm 3 comments

June 17, 2005

Politics: The Man Who Would Not Be King

So Spooky has decided not to become leader of his own country, eh? And now the Parti Quebecois is trying not to vote for a girl because, well, they're icky or something. (Actually, it's brcause she's not hard-line enough for some tastes. Bienvenue a Canada.) There's even talk of re-enlisting Bernard Landry, in a move reminiscent of the NDP begging after Ed Broadbent when he left the leadership a couple decades back. Not the most impressive sight.

(Potential Emperor Update: 3 declared, no favorites yet)

Duceppe says he believes he can do more for the cause of seperation in he stays in the Federal government; this, in combination with a minority government, has led to some very interesting manouvers over the past few months, though not as strange as when the Bloc Quebecois formed the Official Opposition. The full title is Her Majestys Loyal Opposition, and don't you think that stuck in more than a few craws on the way out...

The end result is that the perpetually embattled Qubec Liberal Party has gained a little breathing room, which Jean Charest (the man who would be Saviour) could turn into another government, which could be good for Canada.

Could?

Canada's a better place with Quebec than without. So why the lukewarm emotion for a federalist win in a potentially seperatist province?

Because, while the federal Liberals are as close to the Quebec Liberals as they are to the British Columbian Liberals, or the Ontario ones (ie. each regards the other with suspicion at best), is a staggering federalist party really the best option? If they cock up this time around, the next general election could not only blow away the feds, but hand the provincial keys to the seperatists as well.

Which had me pondering what good Quebec is to the rest of Canada. It is an added dose of lifeblood to a fairly staid nation, certainly - culturally, it's a phenominal boon. Internationally, it brings us into closer contact with about a quarter of the world. Politically, it's one of the most liberal/socialist states in the world.

Yes, I consider that a good thing - don't get fresh.

Which brings to mind to the constant rhythm pounded out whenever the seperatists come anywhere near power in Quebec: "Only the Liberals can save Canada!" Which is not just irresponsible fearmongering, but also wrong. The Conservatives have been in power there before. (Okay, the last time was in 1891, but that counts, right?) More to the point, the Conservatives have been trying to gain ground there for a generation now (think Meech Lake) and may well have a breakthrough in the next federal election.

Interesting bit of paradox, that: the most liberal region may vote in Canadas most conservative party. The tom tom of Federalism ("The country is falling! The country is falling!") is still going to be hammeredout to the crowd, so the voters who are opposed to seperation will vote whoever they believe will defeat the Parti Quebecois; so far, that's been the Liberals. If the Tories can convince voters there that the Liberals need a solid thrashing for the current scandal, then the Conservatives will become the Only Party That Can Save Canada (tm), and those votes swing to that party. Talk about a province that needs PMS!

(Side note: I'm of the opinion that blaming PM Dithers for the sponsorship scandal is a bit like blaming Kennedys chauffeur for his assassination: sure, he was there, but...)

Of course, it's not like the Conservatives are entirely free of scandal in Quebec. Which tells me why the NDP, who you'd think would be a natural for the area, can't make headway: they're too bloody honest.

Wait. That can't be right.

But that's really the ony reason I can think of: they don't play hard enough to buy the support needed to win in Quebec. Their platform is one that allies itself to the political left, much like the BQ: in fact, Spooky recently said he couldn't support the NDP-revised budget because it gave tax breaks to auto manufacturers. The PQ and BQ have the left side sewn up, leaving the federalist parties to fight for the "right" votes, but since there aren't enough of these to make a government, they also resort to scare tactics. But if the NDP could stop the fear that the Liberals and Conservatives are selling, putting a rational face on federalism, then they might pull some votes from those folks who approve of a leftist stance, but only have the Bloc or Parti to choose in a federal of provincial election.

And that would be a good thing.

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posted by Thursday at 5:45 pm 2 comments

June 13, 2005

Other: I'm Off

...for a few days - a catering job has come up at a knitting retreat on Salt Spring Island (speaking of legalised pot...). Laugh if you want, catering this is going to take us to Scotland for a month next year.

Yes, really.

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posted by Thursday at 12:30 am 0 comments

June 12, 2005

Politics: Half-Baked Half Measures

Vancouver Mayor Larry Campbell (no relation to Criminal Gord) has mentioned his approval for the legalisation of marijuana in a press conference that got itself quite a bit of attention - "Hey, it's those whacked out hippies from BC!" - and brickbats. It's not like he hasn't had experience with drug enforcement: he was a member of the RCMP Drug Enforcement Unit and BC Coroner. Vancouver has always had problems with drugs, and some very dramatic drug policies have been developed there, so whoever the mayor is at the time, you know they've got something to say about drugs.

He makes primarily two points:

1) If it's legal, it can not only be controlled better, it can also be discussed more openly than before;
2) The half measure of "decriminalization" isn't helping.

I'm not too sure about improving the ability to discuss pot - it's pretty much in the open, don't you think? This biggest risk is disinformation, of course, but any parent or teacher who tells their kids that smoking a joint will turn you into a crack whore trainee (rated the #1 worst job by Norm MacDonald!) deserves the kids they end up with. But the control... Ah, the control!

You want BCs economy to really boom? Legalise pot, then sit back and just watch the money flow into the province! I know one person who already has his brand name picked out - and no, I'm not allowed to tell - and investment would be a snap. Me? I'd invest in snack vending machines.

But what's wrong with the decriminalisation of small amounts of weed? Sure, you can get a ticket if you smoke in public (anyone who thinks second-hand smoke doesn't affect you should walk into a room full of this), and it's still illegal if you try to drive while impaired; but carrying personal amounts no longer gets you thrown in jail, so it's not a bad comprimise...

Except you have to buy it from somewhere, unless you grow a few plants yourself. And even those few plants will have enough leaf on them to put you over the "okay, we won't arrest you" line.

Which means that SOMEone has to have a large amount on their person or home to distribute, which will still get you canned, which means there is going to be a black market to provide a supply for the demand. So... you can smoke it, you just can't grow or buy it?

Hm.

Granted, anywhere there's a farm for it, there's going to be greater security concerns unless you grow in a mine shaft. But at least those folks who would be growing it legitimately can get help from the police. If we could get prostitution legalised too, there would be no lack of volunteers to the vice squads, I guarantee.

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posted by Thursday at 10:49 pm 0 comments

June 11, 2005

Other: Hitch Your Wagon

General Motors has announced that is is going to be firing 25,000 of its workers in the United States by 2008.

Charlie Wilson has a lot to answer for.

Funnily enough, the head of Toyota has recently said that he was considering raising the price of their cars in America to head off a protectionist backlash that the American Auto Industry has been trying to foist on the government there, and wants other Japanese manufacturers to do the same. One reason, says GM, is that medical coverage costs for its employees is about $1500 per car. The number of active workers to retirees drawing a pension is at 2:5, too.

Make note: there are no layoffs announced for the Canadian plants. Wonder why? Here's two reasons to ponder:

1) The pension rate is reduced for Canadian employees, with the CPP easing GMs burden there;
2) The medical costs in Canada is about $500 per car, with the universal health plan making it much cheaper for GM as well.

Automotive subsidies, which Ontario reluctantly gave to several different manufacturers in 2004, and that Ottawa has seen fit to contribute to as well, have been one form of incentive. These aren't just giveaways, fortunately, as they do come with hooks. For instance, Ford has to maintain the amount of investment promised, or their sibsidy gets reduced. Likewise, they have to spend a certain amount on energy efficiency, enviromental technology and research and development.

Gee, how terribly touchy-feely, right? Wrong. The practical side is that hybrid cars are becoming more popular than ever, and alternative fuels are being considered around the world. If we can establish the knowledge in our work force now, not to mention $800 million manufacturing plants, we can encourage manufacturers to leave the investment (and jobs) here.

Two down sides: grants don't always work (see also: Hyundai, Quebec). For another, are we so sure we want to have even closer ties to American companies?

Norman Spinrad worte science fiction stories of a much diminished America, with a surging Africa dominating the world political and economic scene. Change that dominance to China and India, and the "fiction" fades a little. Don't get me wrong: I'm not some freakish reactionary crying "death to America" or any such silliness, and I don't weak black and forsee the coming of the end as we swirl into a marvellously bleak distopia. The United States has phenominal resources and a strong, educated population base.

But.

The current government seems to have an active duty to weaken itself as much as possible, especially when its major corporations have interests that conflict with certain laws. The latest Estate Tax laws, the new Bankruptcy laws, the "Clean Skies" law, the proposed changes to social security and the slashing of the EPA and public health funding are all clear examples of this. In case it's not obvious, a government is the only tool available to the population that can counteract a corporation or business that is corrupt, negligent or deceptive. Corporations are not beholden to nations, nor do they have employees or consumers as a top priority. The only reason that corporations exist is to make money: if they didn't, they wouldn't exist, QED. They spot a better deal, they'll run, and that makes for a weaker country as resources are pulled out.

No need to mention the incredible debt they are racking up, almost half of which (43%) is being underwritten by the Bank of China. That's right: they're borrowing to pay off the interest on their debt. Anyone else see the problem with this? When the whirlpool goes faster, it gets deeper, too, and the shores of China, India and even the European Union are looking better all the time.

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posted by Thursday at 10:35 pm 0 comments

Politics: Can You Be Arrested For Floorwalking?

Q: Why did Belinda cross the floor?
A: To serve hot dogs, apparently.

Of course, cutting out on $379,000 worth of debt one day before it was due plus a highly visible cabinet post is always nice, too. The NDP support just wasn't quite enough, though that cost Martin a pretty penny - but only if there is a surplus +$2 billion debt payment.

When I first heard this, I thought it was a bit of folly: there's no way she was getting a piece of power from the Liberals as a new arrival. The waiting list to the top spot is too long, and you've got to go through the Finance Ministry to get there...

Oh.

That's when second thoughts kicked in. Human Resources is, as I said, a very visible position, which is why Martin gave her the post - she is one of the most recognisable poeple in Canadian politics right now, and she's bringing a lot of women voters with her, hitting the Conservatives in what has always been a sore point for them. (It's the same reason Grewal was approached, though obviously a different minority was in mind - the frantic foot-shooting is just a nice bonus.)

In any case, Finance isn't really a stretch for Stronach given her background. She's still new to the Liberals, so she is going to have to wait a while before angling upwards, though she may well run for leadership to maintain her visibility in the next few campaigns. As long as she doesn't do too well there, the machine that churns through the Liberal Party won't catch her in its gears.

But let there be no coubt: if she doesn't have sixteen or twenty years of patience stored up for the wait and makes a serious push for the PM post early, she's going to get eaten alive, nibbled to death by ducks in the back halls of Ottawa. It won't be a public execution (like being named Fisheries Minister) because of her fathers connections to the party, but it will happen.

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posted by Thursday at 7:29 pm 2 comments

Politics: Safe Streets and Expensive Lawsuits

So the worm is turning in the Big Apple:

Thirteen years ago, the loitering law in New York was struck down by federal courts. The loitering law from 1788 targeted any person who

"... loiters, remains or wanders about in a public place for the purpose of begging."

The city police have been ignoring this ruling since it was declared, and now 140 poeple had been charged with loitering are taking the city to court. The lawyer leading this suit is the same guy who forced the city to pay restitution for some 70,000 strip searches police conducted over two years for minor offences.

Which brings us to the latest Liberal in BC, Lorne Mayencourt. After two reverses, he's been declared the winner of the Vancouver-Burrard riding. He's the putz who put through the Safe Streets Act - you know, the one that rescues normal people from those "others" that we don't like to mention.

He's been complaining that the gays in the community have abandoned him. He doesn't bother considering why they may have done so, just that they have. I've got news for you, mate: gays are like real people. Sometimes they don't vote for someone just because he's gay, too; they vote for them because of what he can do for their neighbourbood, or because of their party leader, or because they flipped a coin. There has been a single major piece of legeslation sponsored by you that everyone knows, and your party leader has a bit of a popularity problem among the poor (who make up about half your constituents in your schizophrenic riding). Think those may have had somethin to do with nearly losing your seat, bub?

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posted by Thursday at 7:04 pm 0 comments

June 10, 2005

Politics: Playing Catch-Up

Someone who knows me in the Real World(tm) has asked where all my political posts have gone. It's true that things have been rather... active of late, what with the Provincial election, the Federal Survivor Series (featuring BELINDA!) , Gay Marriage (yet again) and religious nutbags on both sides of the border. So where the H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks have I been?

Short answer: it's Spring.

I'm allergic to my cat, my dog, other peoples cats and dogs, being indoors, being outdoors (and both - sudden temperature change makes me sneeze). I even become photosensetive in Spring, meaning in morning sun my eyes and nose run at about the same pace.

Fucking Spring.

What it boils down to is that my brain turns to cabbage for several hours every day, ever since high school. If I'm going to be writing something down and posting it for the permanent record, I should at least make a pretense of skill and accuracy.

So I've tried to avoid playing with concrete stuff until my synapses start firing in the right order again. I'm going to do a little reading and see what catches my eye from the past month or so.

Did I miss anything?

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posted by Thursday at 1:53 pm 0 comments

June 09, 2005

Motorcycles: Stupidity Is Bad For You

Q: "Why do you ride that thing?"
A: "Because Porsches attract nice girls."

A flip answer, sure, but truer than you may think. The most important part of motorcycling is the visceral response people have to it: just ask any smoking executive.

The inevitable protest is the perceived danger involved, which will get you a shrug. Yes, I've dropped my bike a couple of times, and I've had acquaintances have horrible accidents (inluding a death) while riding, but how many people are still driving right now? With motorcycles, there is no pretense about safety: it's a risk to ride, and no one is going to tell you you're safer than you actually are (unlike, say, SUVs). Yes, they are far more manoeuvrable than any car on the road, but they're also hard to see, have no roll cage, and most drivers have a very difficult time determining what speed bikes are going, meaning we get pulled out in front of a lot.

Your only defence is what the schools yammer about in Drivers Ed: awareness. Knowing what's around you (and who's around you) and playing a bit of "Worst Case What If..." with yourself. Thanks to repeated exposure and pattern recognition, you get better at spotting a dangerous situation with experience. Riding isn't about avoiding risks; it's about minimising them. Your first assumption is that the driver of any other vehicle cannot see you. (Some people say to pretend that they are all out to get you, but that's stupid: millions of them, tens of thousands of us, who do you think would win?)

There was an accident in Victoria Tuesday, involving a cement truck and a motorcycle: no need to tell you which vehicle had the fatality. When police covered the victims body, they draped the tarp over the back of the truck.

Here's what happened:

The truck was stopped at a red light, a little ways back from the pedestrian crosswalk. The rider, a younger man, decided to zip in front of the truck, as any bike is going to accelerate away from a stop faster than 95% of the other vehicles on the road. This isn't like lane splitting, which is legal in most of the civilised world, but rather lane jumping, where the rider has to be in the lane instead of beside it. (I wouldn't try lane splitting here - drivers freak out because they are not used to seeing it, and when a driver freaks at a rider, bad things happen.) So he pulled in front of the truck.

This is a stupid manoeuver for two reasons:

1) the driver of a big truck probably can't see you if you're too close to his nose;
2) the driver of a big truck probably can't see you.

The motorcycle broke down - by eyewitness reports, he couldn't engage the engine when the light turned green. So he was still trying to put it in first when the cement truck rolled forward and over the bike, and the noise of the engine drowned out any unusual sounds the driver may have heard.

I'm never going to say motorcycling is without risks; but it doesn't have to be dangerous. Even if the rider had never had clutch problems before this last ride, it was a stupid thing to do. My wife was taking a riding course when her clutch cable snapped, and if she had pulled the same stunt this guy did, it would have been the same result.

Right now, my sympathy goes to the survivor of the accident.

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posted by Thursday at 7:55 pm 0 comments

June 07, 2005

Other: Curse the Scientists!

I’m really getting to hate scientists. Well, more science writers, actually.

The problem is this:

Say there are concepts you like to think about – a lot – and perhaps you’ve been thinking about them (on and off) since high school. All about perception affecting behaviour and cultural norms dictating perspective and how the expectations of those around you and the archetypes of character in your society apply a subconscious pressure to the decisions you make.

That kind of stuff.

Let’s say you’ve got a brother, a few years older than you, who you watched precede you through the society you were about to enter, and say peoples reactions to him and compared them to the reactions you encountered, and thought about the pressures he faced and if/how they varied from your own. On the down side (for me) is he’s a fantastically charismatic person – charming as all hell – where I’m not. On the up side (for me): he went first. Don’t think I don’t appreciate that!

So this is percolating happily in your brain like a tun of wine that you taste from time to time to see what age has done to it, and if it needs a bit of seasoning in a different cask. Then you encounter blink by Malcolm Gladwell, and in one of the chapters he mentions the Implicit Association Test (go there now – that’s an order), which not only articulates what you’ve been thinking, but shows experiments that have been carried out in them and what they mean.

Bastards.

blink, which is about gut feelings, first impressions, and unconscious snap judgements, is essential reading for anyone curious at all about how their own mind works, where ESP comes from, or what on Earth people were thinking when they elected Warren Harding president.

Oh, and put Gladwell.com in your favorites.

That alone own wouldn’t make me feel miserable; in fact, it would be considered a bit of a find if it weren’t for my reading Michael Shermers Science Friction at the same time.

As readers may have noticed, I have a bit of a fetish for communication, human interaction, and the translation of concepts into images. It’s one reason why I love discussing politics, religion, and sex: what could be more practical and intimate at the same time?

So in having a little discussion about what may be the nature of God, if there is such a thing (a God or the nature of one), I state my personal belief in the inherent limitations of communication between people and the risk of degeneracy of ideas, especially over time and between linguistic translations:

In any communication, there are at least four layers of filters between two people:
1) the mind forming the thoughts;
2) the ability to express those thoughts (method and skill;
3) the ability to receive the experssion;
4) the mind interpreting those expressions.

(Okay, okay: my typing wasn’t exactly up to snuff. Mea culpa. Now shut up about it.)

Here I am thinking I’m being terribly clever and all that, when I come across this in Shermers introduction:

“…He [Bacon] understood that there are significant psychological barriers that interfere with our understanding of the natural world, of which he identified four types, which he called idols: idols of the cave (peculiarities of thought unique to the individual that distort how facts are processed in a single mind), idols of the marketplace (the limits of language and how confusion arises when we talk to one another to express our thoughts about the facts of the world), idols of the theatre (pre-existing beliefs, like theatre plays, that may be partially or entirely fictional, and influence how we process and remember facts), and idols of the tribe (the inherited foibles of human thought endemic to all of us – the tribe – that places limits on knowledge)…

“… [Bacon continued] Idols … [do not] deceive in particulars … but form a corrupt and crookedly-set predisposition of the mind; which doth, as it were, wrest and infect all the anticipations of the understanding.”

Bloody hell.

See what you miss when you end up dropping out of school? I could have saved years of thinking about this if I had found Bacon sooner. His Novum Organum was written 375 years ago, for crying out loud; McLuhan just modernised it. How depressing. Well, at least it’s easier to read that than the purple prose of the 19th Century stuff.

I take some solace in the knowledge that Bacon admitted to taking bribes while hearing cases as Lord Chancellor (he defended himself by explaining that the presents never influenced his decision). Is it petty and vindictive of me to feel this way? Sure: minor victories against the dead are the easiest kind. Besides, my feeling will pass; the man was a great mind, but he’s dead, so what am I going to feel jealous about?

BTW: those folks who are obsessed with the thought that he wrote Shakespeare can go piss up a rope.

Back to Science Friction. While the subject, how science actually deals with heretical or unorthodox ideas, is fascinating to anyone who has had frustrated dealings with believers of either mythologies (like UFOs, or, uh, what ever this is) or the supernatural (like, well, lots and lots of stuff), Shermer himself occasionally goes dry. It’s a shame, because I want to like his writing, I want to reward him for starting The Skeptical Inquirer; but I end up feeling like I’m reading Something Important, So I Had Better Pay Attention instead of reading something that’s interesting.

The ideas are essential, and they make the book a good read, but the presentation needs work.

Now I'm off to watch Rough Cuts.

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posted by Thursday at 11:26 pm 0 comments

June 03, 2005

Religion: TV, Religion, Me - A Perfect Match!

So Vision TV is doing a reality show called Seekers, sending a few people to "spirtiual hotspots" around North America to enable them to find more meaning in their lives. I decided to enter, confessing up fron my Athiesm - which, thinking about it, is more opposition to theisms (religions) than to denial of any god or gods.

Previous posts notwithstanding.

Into things I'm far more likely to do, I just recieved an email from the good folks at the 3-day Novel contest. Yes, it's exactly what it sounds like - you write a novel in three days - and it is completely mind blowing. I reccommend this to anyone who doesn't like actual contact with people over the Labour Day Weekend (Sept. 3 - 5). This will be my fourth entry, and no, none of them won; but all of them have been a blast. Last year, I tried using an old laptop, and in an effort to save the first 24 hours on my normal computer, it got lost in transfer. It went from being a 72-hour contest to 48.

A slightly stressful time.

I do tend to break to watch some CFL, and I notice the Magical Flying Gliebermans are back in the league - in Ottawa, no less. This is the same city they they gave up on after two years with the last Canadian CFL team they owned (they owned Shreveport when the CFL tried the bizarre Southern Expansion a decade back). Whatever happened to my favorite slogan of theirs? "Our Balls Are Bigger" was fantastic. Alas, the CFL now uses the same ball the NFL does, as part of the agreement between the two leagues (the NFL can scoop players more easily now). Warren Moon didn't seem to mind; likewise Jeff Garcia or Doug Flutie. Well, marketing has never been the CFL strongest suit...

Well, that was a random post. One topic next time.

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posted by Thursday at 12:05 pm 1 comments

June 01, 2005

Sex: Taking Respnsibility

A guy from Vancouver, Donald Bakker, has pled guilty to several charges of sexual assault, and I am glad for it.

Why mention this?

Because it's the first case against a Canadian brought by Canadian courts for assaults that happened in another country. This is a loophole sexual predators have been leaping through for as long as there has been tourism: sex with kids isn't reported in many poorer countries, and sexual assaults are likewise prone to go unnoticed if a bit of cash is left on the dresser afterwards. I'm not saying it's anywhere close to perfect here, but it's a damn sight better than many parts of the world.

Here's hoping the loophole becomes a noose.

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posted by Thursday at 10:15 pm 0 comments

Sex: How Vanilla Are You...

...If you know what "vanilla" means?

-Dan Savage

I spent this weekend helping a friend of ours move. Jumping from island to island; plotting out overnights; squeezing work in as necessary... down time was fairly limited. During one of the breaks when she stayed overnight at our home, she found our copy of The Ethical Slut, got 63 pages in before falling asleep, and demanded a copy of her own the next morning. You see, before she moved to a small town, settled down and got married, she was a very successful touring stripper (her legs are still something incredible), and it seems she misses that aspect of her life. It's not why she got divorced, but now that she is, she's going to enjoy her freedom. During this, my wife was down in Victoria at an S&M play party.

She is not going to have to wait until divorce before she can enjoy her own freedom. Which, I've always thought, is the point of loving someone: a stability-plus deal, where sexual and emotional exploration is an inclusive option rather than an exclusive one. Not everyone agrees, and that's fine by me - the number of people I'd like to have sex with is rather limited anyways...

But I do get the occasional question about what exactly the nature of our relationship is. I am personally very confident in the stability of my marriage, and have no fear of it breaking up, or that I'm missing some part of life that is passing me by. Unlike our friend, there isn't some part of me that I'm being forced to subvert in exchange for my relationship. There have been changes, certainly: if you've ever had a roommate you know some of those changes! Demands on money; space; attention; time. But none of them have been forced upon me. My wife put it this way: when you love someone, they are worth every sacrifice that they won't ask you to make.

The best part of our relationship, I suppose, is our ability to communicate. We've known each other for about twenty years at this point, and we've got highly attuned bullshit detectors, so it's not like we could get away with anything anyways. She does occasionally accuse me of being Zen and I tell her to piss off, but other than that, the honesty has come very easily for us. So maybe I'll go with that for now: love is honesty.

"But, dammit man," you say (or would say if you were Bones McCoy), "where's the Romance? The Poetry?"

Well then.

In honour of such, I will now present what is perhaps the worst poem in history, as written by my esteemed wife and her brother many, many years ago (1991):

The Worst Poem Ever

Come back to me, and bring shampoo
Bring toothpaste, and bring razors too
On these things I am running ... leeeew

Bring underarm deodourant
So as to not malodours grant
One hundred thousand voices chant
"Bring soap!" Without it, wash I can't

And while you're at it, bring some bread
Some butter, and some sandwich spread
Without these, how will I be fed?
Through my sweet pleas runs a lone thread:

Come back to me, I'll give you head

Come back to me, I beg of you
Come back to me, and bring shampoo.

And let that be a lesson to you, next time you think Romantic thoughts here.

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posted by Thursday at 8:02 pm 0 comments