Friday, April 27, 2007

The Pope and global warming

The Guardian has an article telling of the Pope's message that failing to protect the world's ecosystem and halt global warming goes against God's will. This is interesting. Growing up, I was told again and again that we are all called to be stewards of God's creation. The emphasis was not on subduing but rather more on fostering and protecting. It's all a matter of hermeneutics, of interpretation. To a certain extent, we carry with us our desires and values when we evaluate what we should do or where we fit within creation or God's plan, or a god-free world, or whatever. I tend to try to take a pragmatic approach going in, looking at the fact that humans are spreading over the face of the earth, burning, paving, cutting, slaughtering, and generally acting as one big Freudian Id, avarice without bounds. With these observations I cannot support a belief that we are to be dominators, beings driven to "prosper". My observations tend to push me towards profound agreement with those who don't believe in God but do believe that the world is a beautiful and compelling place, needful of protection, at least from the blunderings of people.

Coming into the open

Emissions

The Conservatives have come out with a new plan for emissions that have to do with pollution and global warming. It's not agressive, but it's more than the Liberals were doing. The fact that they're doing something will get the Conservatives points. I think, though, that the public wants more than the Conservatives realize. St├ęphane Dion, if he wants to be credible, needs to come up with a very very clear plan with real numbers. This is, of course, all posturing. As we all bicker and position ourselves in our minds the world outside our minds, the very real world, goes on. In this real world looms the seemingly very real threat that if we don't do anything significant, crops will fail, glaciers providing drinking water for hundreds of millions of people will be gone, coastal regions will flood, coral reefs ecosystems will die off, crustaceans will have more difficulty making shells, and who knows what else. If even some of this comes to pass, near-term job loss concerns will seem stunningly trivial and stupid to our kids and grand-kids.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Waterboarding

Heather Mallik, usually an interesting read and contrast with the normal slant of the CBC, hits it right on the head when she deals with the topic of waterboarding and the general inhumanity that humans are capable of. Her example of waterboarding is of someone who suffered it under the Japanese in WWII, but she gives examples of lots of others who carried out this loathsome act. Waterboarding is not "dunking" as Dick Cheney said. What is worse, I think, is what this belittlement of torture says about the speaker's worldview and his perceived place in this world. We're all capable of horrible things and it's so important to remember this most of all. Here's a link to a short summary of the UK man's journey from torture to forgiveness.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Evolutin vs. Creation but not

The Royal Society has a podcast on the topic of why Creationism is wrong and Evolutionism is right. An interesting topic, but Steve Jones of University College London who gives the talk engages in rather irritating devices in his talk. He starts off by pretty much dismissing creation myths by belittling them in a straw-man sort of way. This wastes the opportunity to actually engage in any kind of reasonable comparison leading to a proposed conclusion. Additionally, Jones says at the beginning of this talk that one must embrace doubt and uncertainty but seems in his whole talk to do the opposite. Another irritating thing Mr. Jones does is engage in class-based derogatory remarks about the accent used by Prince William. He suggests jokingly that it's hard to understand and that perhaps in a few generations the whole royal family may descend even further in their pronunciation. I had no difficulty in understanding the prince in the clip provided and can't for the life of me grasp what makes his pronunciation any worse than any other accent.

To sum up, what bugged me as I listened to this talk was the use of elitist, exclusionary, and derogatory talk by someone presented as a researcher and thinker of some note. Mr. Jones should have stuck to his main topic of interest. Those bits were interesting.

The Royal Society makes the lecture available as a podcast one but only apparently compatible with Itunes. This fits in well with my sense of them (confirms my prejudice) that they are rather used to keeping and dishing out information in as exclusive a way as possible rather than disseminating it for the good of humanity ASAP. They go back a long time. VanLeeuwenhoek was a member (after waiting a rather long time for membership if I recall). They have apparently made their archives available free but only as a sort of marketing move that will end in less than two months from now. As far as I can tell you can't actually search their archives from the free interface. You have to rely on their glowing writeup which acts as mothering docent to the archives, never letting you just roam and read. May exclusive clubs like this change or wither and die (that's my freedom of information flow curse). In the morning, as they surfed along, they saw the Royal Society archive website had withered from the roots. Apologies to Mark.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Truth and lie together again

Maher Arar, wrongly sent to Syria and tortured by the US after the Mounties fed US intelligence fairy stories about nonexistent ties to Al Qaeda, was not tortured, as far as the US attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, knows. That was most likely a lie, but Mr. Gonzales showed a trait evident in the current US administration and with good liars everywhere, denied an over-precise fact. Mr. Gonzales said that "we were not responsible" for sending Mr. Arar to Syria. Technically, the US dept. of justice does not handle such things, now. It did back then, ruining the lie and causing a technical re-statement by one of Mr. Gonzales' underlings.

One of my favourite lies is when George Bush said that he did not "have a plan for the invasion of Iraq on my desk right now". Not on his desk.

Of course, Mr. Arar would not have gone to Syria without the incompetence and sycophance of the RCMP and Canadian politicians eager to "help" in the "war on terror". Following Mr. Arar's deportation lies were spread about his character and actions. More were sprinkled about after his release. The Mounties also obstructed the inquest into Mr. Arar's deportation and torture. The full report has been censored for "national security" reasons. And they call it democracy.

Woodworking

I've been to Lee Valley Tools a few times this week. They opened a store four blocks from my work this past April. They obviously place great stock in carrying only products they believe to be of good quality and value and go out of their way to ensure that you know what you're buying and why they think it's a good product. When you visit some product pages on their website you get a message that the product is no longer available as they are not able to offer it at a competitive price. Nice and straightforward. Anyway, I've purchased drill bits and accessories for countersinking screws and making plugs (my brother the cabinetmaker recommended doing screw and plug joinery because it doesn't require clamping), a stud finder, on-sale German wire working pliers, a set of four Czech-made chisels, a flush cut saw (for cutting off the bits of plugs that stick out), a small tool holding roll, very nice German deck screws that you can screw into wood with no predrilling (it's amazing, they go in like butter), some "Gorilla" glue that works amazingly to glue metal to metal, metal to wood, plastic to wood, etc., and quite a few small rare earth magnets.

I've used the glue and some magnets to make 'fridge magnets and glued some more magnets to the wall in the basement to stick my new chisels to. I've used the chisels to hollow out a spot in our front door frame where Lewis had ripped the screen door pneumatic door stopper screws out by repeatedly opening the door beyond its normal maximum In the hollowed out spot I've glued and screwed a new bit of wood. I also purchased a two dollar wire coffee filter holder that I put on a cupboard door.

This all may seem a bit quotidien, but I've been waiting years to have the tools to fix things up around the house. I'm having a lot of fun. My first larger project will be to make a bench with integrated shelving in the kids room.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

To the Person Sitting in Darkness

Mark Twain, speaking of the actions of the US in the Philippines, suggests this honest explanation to those who might have expected more from their saviours:
"They look doubtful, but in reality they are not. There have been lies; yes, but they were told in a good cause. We have been treacherous; but that was only in order that real good might come out of apparent evil. True, we have crushed a deceived and confiding people; we have turned against the weak and the friendless who trusted us; we have stamped out a just and intelligent and well-ordered republic; we have stabbed an ally in the back and slapped the face of a guest; we have bought a Shadow from an enemy that hadn't it to sell; we have robbed a trusting friend of his land and his liberty; we have invited our clean young men to shoulder a discredited musket and do bandit's work under a flag which bandits have been accustomed to fear, not to follow; we have debauched America's honor and blackened her face before the world; but each detail was for the best. We know this. The Head of every State and Sovereignty in Christendom and ninety per cent. of every legislative body in Christendom, including our Congress and our fifty State Legislatures, are members not only of the church, but also of the Blessings-of-Civilization Trust. This world-girdling accumulation of trained morals, high principles, and justice, cannot do an unright thing, an unfair thing, an ungenerous thing, an unclean thing. It knows what it is about. Give yourself no uneasiness; it is all right."

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

New shoes

Went to MEC yesterday and got a new pair of light hiking shoes. I tend to wear one and only one pair of shoes, so they get a lot of wear and tear. My old ones had very very worn soles and the toe on the left shoe was blown out. Putting on a new pair of shoes was a great experience and made me realize how much I had needed them. Got a set of insoles that you heat in the oven to let them soften so they mold to your feet. It's amazing how comfortable feet make such a large difference in how one feels.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Anton Praetorius

Wikipedia has an interesting aritcl on Anton Praetorius, a German Calvinist pastor who advocated against torture, including the torture of witches. Little forward leaps of thought like this are necessary, for those whose thought is new in some ways hew close to tradition in others. This was the case with Calvin, who despite having been able to veer away from prevailing religious theology in many ways, was a fan of central control, torture, and in particular the torture of witches who he seems to have considered a seditious and insidious form of religious threat to the new one true way. On the other hand, Calvin seems to have punished men equally with women for adultery and been dead set against spousal abuse.