Friday, December 08, 2006

Victoria's Secret

After feeling the pressure from a high profile protest, Victoria's Secret has decided to remedy its reputation. It was feeling guilty for publishing over a quarter of a billion catalogues per year. Well perhaps it wasn't feeling guilty but a few high profile news stories helped it to feign responsibility.
And so, it decided not to reduce its catalogue output, but rather to cancel it's paper supplier's contract. Coincidentally, and my connection to this story is that the paper comes from Alberta, and said trees are replaced by yours truly. In a news conference, Victoria's secret claimed that they were opposed to the demise of Alberta's woodland caribou due to forestry practices by their supplier. A little investigation led me to discover a few pertinent facts.
1) Woodland caribou populations in Alberta have only been studied since 1994
2) In 1995, the boreal forest experienced its most devastating fire season in centuries
3) Uncoincidentally, caribou population declined in the same year and are still recovering.
4) As yet, no statistically relevant data exists on the meta population in Alberta, only heard characteristics.
5) When the data showed that herds were declining (after the 1995 fire) the woodland caribou was placed on the endangered species list in Canada despite no total population data.
6) Scientifically inert city folk with a messiah complex and little understanding of forest mechanics suddenly equate some declining heard populations (many herds were either stable or increasing in Alberta) with forest practices. This transitivity permeates the activist community and voila: Victoria's Secret is now looking for a new paper supplier. Presumably one that doesn't use trees?

Extra Reading
As is often the case with activist notions, there are small kernels of truth that were trampled over in their desperate bid to feel important. There is a study that recently used gps radio collars to track caribou (Dyer et al 2001.)
This study though, is an exercise in problematic research methodology. What the researchers did was to lay out hypothetical roads and seismic lines on a map to see if the tagged caribou crossed actual roads and seismic lines less frequently. In the abstract it seems reasonable, however I could fairly accurately predict the results. The 43,000 data points they collected showed that there was no negative preference for actual seismic lines but by a factor of six, the caribou crossed the imaginary roads over real roads. What's wrong with this data? Nothing. The Conclusion is suspect though for the following reasons:
1) seismic lines are in fact random. They follow straight lines regardless of terrain. Roads on the other hand are not random. They follow high ground since low marshes are expensive to build on. They avoid watercourses, streams, marshes and bogs. Seismic lines are cut and used only in the winter and therefore excused from the constraints of roads.
2) caribou routes like roads but unlike seismic cuts, are not random either. Caribou prefer watercourses, bogs, drainage draws and ephemeral streams. The exact opposite of preferred roadways.
3) since the only random data point is the seismic line, and since a road data point is less likely to be a caribou data point by its very nature, it should come as no surprise that the data shows that caribou do not avoid seismic lines but do avoid roads.
4) This study, often quoted in many other studies, was used to demonstrate that any man-made disturbance impacted caribou. This by extension after several retelling translates into declining populations. All of this in spite of the fact that in 1995 mother nature reeked more temporary havoc than man ever could. Incidentally, 3 years later, I was evacuated from a fire in northern Alberta in 1998 that consumed more timber than had been logged in all of Alberta for the last 7 years.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

A Hexette of Notions

Some thoughts this week:
1) Chocolate milk Must be properly shaken before serving
2) If you took Kurt Russell and left him in a moldy garage over a winter, you'd have Patrick Swayze.
3) Here's a great idea! A heartwarming christmas movie featuring recognizable stars!
4) All the christian right in Alberta will have to pray 23% harder next time they want to elect Ted Morton as the new Premier. Ha!
5) As a testament to my idleness, I now am ranked 112,322th out of 1,400,000 players in the world in my current vice:Unreal Tournament.
6) While the theistic mainstream likes to hold its snout high in the air in contrast to its extremist brethren, I fear tis no better. One can hardly stand on intellectually or morally high ground when one of the primary byproducts of religion is the constriction of thought. Religion shrinks the domain of reasonable explanation down to pert one liners that serve to comfort but also to occlude. A veil is placed over reason, replacing it with promises and fantasy. Apparently this is acceptable provided one is law abiding, but when this same gag placed over reason is used to justify violence, we turn on it and call it extremism of various hyphenated varieties. I mourn for reason. Reason that has been shackled to lies and fantasies in the name of religion. Indeed I draw not the same line of mainstream or extremism. Rather I see a single monolithic impediment to sanity and hope for mankind. Religion is the gateway drug of those who have stopped thinking, or refuse to think. And on that path leads sheep to the slaughterhouse. When we teach our children to believe in fantasies, we are preparing them for a world of horrible ideas leering at them from dark alleys. The great 'isms', like pedophiles preying on societies that have ill prepared themselves to choose ideas with discretion. Religion has a simple relationship with reason: it cuts it in half with a machete and then gives it a band-aid.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Egos, Quebec Nationalism and Birth Control

Kudos to Michael Chong, Canada's intergovernmental affairs minister for resigning his post. The "Quebec as a nation" retread bill before the house is Canada's answer to the tired sitcom plots imported from America. Its not very funny and is as predictable as it is tiresome. I also applaud Mr. Kennedy, Liberal leadership hopeful for having the stones to oppose such a sour frosting to an otherwise bland unity cake. Of course, Kennedy has the luxy of speaking from the political wilderness which seems to offer its denizens the ability to speak with unfettered conditions. In case you missed it, here's the federal problem in Canada, and it has little to do with Quebec nationalism.

Having lived and worked from one end of this country to the other, I feel as though I can speak with some authority on the Canadian experience. And I have uncovered the following: Every part of Canada has distinct needs and solutions to their own problems. These problems can be generalized as the following: increased ability to innovate or in other words, decentralized federal power. Whether its fishing on the east coast, oil wealth in Alberta, agriculture in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, manufacturing in southern Ontario, or the inferiority complex that is the province of Quebec, EVERY part of Canada feels hard done by the federal bargain. The difference in Quebec is that this discontent has been harnessed and the language of that disconnect has been altered and turned into a nationalist discontent and agenda. In fact, its the same discontent that's to be found Everywhere. Quebec has been hoodwinked into thinking that there is something unique about their discontent.
This is why the Quebec problem gets so little sympathy in the rest of Canada. Because no-one understands how Quebec is more different than anywhere else! After all, how can a pear be more different from an apple than an orange is! Its an absurd comparison without logic or resonance. Of course the argument is presented this way in Quebec because it elevates those who expound it and strokes the egos of Quebecers that support it. Thankfully the whiners in the rest of Canada lack the creativity to present this gripe in the same regional terms.

A story that probably did not escape Calgary this week involved a Calgary doctor that refused to give a prescription for birth control pills on the grounds that she was opposed to birth control! This doctor's governing body when questioned said that it was her right to do so! Im only assuming that the doctor is Catholic mostly on the grounds that few other institutions have been a greater impediment to rational thought and human dignity. But she may not be catholic. Its possible. Unquestionably, the patient has been betrayed here by a nation that cannot enforce its values. Birth control is legal. Last time I checked. This legality was a decision by the state. This crusading, shitforbrains doctor apparently has elevated herself to the highest law in the land and defied that legality. And I am forced to say things like religion is essentially a socially respectable form of self aggrandizing egomania. Its a sobering ponderance when I wonder what other lapses in judgment this doctor is capable of making. It only goes to show that being a dunce is no obstacle to obtaining a degree that is generally respected by society. It also makes me wonder why buildings don't crumble, bridges collapse and planes don't plummet to the ground more often than they do.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

your tax dollars at work

I enjoyed fifteen minutes of fame today as I was in a CBC documentary about treeplanting that aired today on Country Canada. The film crew followed around some of my rookies all season so it was all about them but I did get a few speaky bits. I wore a wireless mike around which is a little surreal in the middle of nowhere. Anyway, here's a couple stills from their doc.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

The Phenomenology of Republicans

It might seem like the master's got it made: the slave does all his or her work, and recognizes the master's power. The problem is, this isn't the kind of recognition that the master wanted. The master wanted to be recognized by somebody that he or she respects as an equal, as a peer. Instead, the master gets recognition only from a slave, and the master knows that the slave doesn't really respect him or her, but resents and hates the master.

For some reason, elections often remind me of Hegel. And while its often said that nobody ever lost money underestimating the American public, it seems that last Tuesdays election has become the exception that proves the rule. In any case, a hearty "Hazaa!" to those that voted. Its comforting to to know that after years of cowing to the politics of fear and the bizarre false dichotomies presented by Carl Rove and the Republican machine, Americans got a chance to show their metal.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Sir, Your Civilization has entered a Golden Age!

On a scale from 1 to 10, computer technology is finally non-zero! Witness the arrival of the Pentop Computer. There are a few digital pens on the market that optically record your penstrokes but a new product from Leapfrog has made an important leap. It has software in the pen that tutors math, spelling etc. Yes this is cool but here's the best part: You can draw a 'lil calculator on the page and then press the buttons of your drawn calculator to perform arithmetic. Sure, it doesn't really do anything that a 5 dollar calculator cant do- except I can draw it anywhere! Admit it, thats better than alot of technology on board the starship enterprise. Tools that create tools, however rudimentry, is my threshold for the stone age of computing. In terms of the evolution of computers, they've finally crawled from the primal soup. Indeed waiter, there's a Fly in my soup.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

quantum jackets

I realized today that my outerwear is not continuous- it is in fact packets of quantum outerwear. My fleece, which is good to about o Celsius can only be replaced by my fall leather coat good to about -5. The next jump is my winter coat which is too warm at -10. I seem to be living at a scale of the universe which approximates the Plank Outerwear Length. At this scale I can experience the discomfort that exists between my discrete jacket packets- or shells. In addition, the uncertainty principle does not interfere with my observations. Except when its about -7 in which case the uncertainty principle seems to vex all experimental decisions. While many theorize that at very high jacket energies, strings will be shown to hold the jackets together, but in my privileged scale, I can confirm that there are no strings but rather an elastisized waistband. At lower jacket energies, these are replaced by buttons. Early experiments have shown that at a distance, the force holding the buttons together is in fact, very weak. As the sidewalks become more icy, hopes are high that the many collision experiments will solve several mysteries.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Egypt, Greece, New Jersey

Went to the Ancient Egypt,Greece and Rome exhibit at the Glenbow Museum on Friday afternoon. It was very good although I was a little miffed reading a museum display promising that Greece was replaced by an "even greater" empire: Rome. Im not sure exactly how to measure an empire but I'd put Greece up against Rome by virtually every measure that is virtuous. Of note to House of Leaves mavens was some wonderful Minoan bowls with the labyrinth pattern proudly embossed. Its very spellbinding to be in the presence of things that are made by human hands nearly 4 thousand years ago.

And speaking of, there was a case of burial statues called shabti. These were carvings of workers you would need to help you in the afterlife. It was very sophisticated and it seemed as though every aspect of organizational behavior was thought of as there were even shabti to organize shabti. Presumably so they don't goof off in your afterlife. As I peered through the glass thinking about how I would pull off a spectacular cat burglary of the place to a Chemical Brothers soundtrack when it struck me how similar this was to Second Life.

Indeed, everyone on secondlife is creating avatars (not unlike the mummy masks) creating imaginary jobs and goals and entire virtual lives. It seems that the Egyptians were doing the same thing by burying with them the same undigital trappings of the secondlife community. Though the tools have changed, little else has changed in the hearts of men for thousands of years.

Speaking of change, I've been enjoying the New Jersey court defense of gay marriage. Of course it has social conservatives explaining the ills of "activist judges." Even the president has used this favorite catch phrase of the right. Lets us forget for a moment that this is really just a synonym for "I disagree with" Part of the rhetoric is that judges are appointed and therefore essentially undemocratic. I guess this doesn't apply to Donald Rumsfeld, Rice, et al? Rumsfeld's acerbic disdain for nearly everyone would assure him of never reaching office if he had to secure the will of voters. Why do we not hear of "activist defense secretaries?" Many Canadians envy the Americans ability to actually vote for their leader (presumably they envy the few who bother turning out to vote for the president) but at least every one in the Canadian cabinet had to face the fickle mob of at least a constituency.
But back to my point, its curious that in all the whoopla of how great American Democracy is( I learned that on CNN,) everyone on the social right doesn't question the content of the decision- they question the institution of the supreme court itself. The American social conservatives share this skepticism of its institutions with the least stable of democracies in the world. When democracy and democratic institutions are not yet habitual in emerging or crumbling democracies, people don't question policy or decisions but the very institutions themselves. Witness common reactions around the world that chose to throw out elected regimes because they don't like them. In stable democracies, people at least separate unpopular policy from the institutions. Its true, stable countries like Canada have been tinkering with our institutions but not because of unpopular decisions, rather to make the country more equitable. Questioning the independence of the courts (perhaps one of the most important metrics in the assessment of a healthy democracy) is just another in a series of disturbing trends in America in the Bush era.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Islam is the new Christianity; Pink is the new Red

"Short is the way, little the labor, which, nevertheless, will repay you with the crown that fadeth not away. Accordingly, we speak with the authority of the prophet: 'Gird thy sword upon thy thigh O mighty one.' Gird yourselves, everyone of you, I say, and be valiant sons; for it is better for you to die in battle than to behold, the sorrows of your race and of your holy places. Let neither property nor the alluring charms of your wives entice you from going; nor let the trials that are to be borne so deter you that you remain here "
-speech by Pope Urban II

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Only Revolutions:part 1

Today, I got "Only Revolutions" I started reading Hailey until page 48 then began Sam up to same point. Will put it down till tomorrow and perhaps I will read smaller chunks before switching narratives (if thats what I'm doing?)

So far: It is difficult, cloudy impressions are beginning to form, halfway through my read I began to read it faster and found it more somethingorother.

I suspect some have read it at least once by now though Im not sure Im ready to hear anyone's thoughts just yet. Even though I am.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Only Revolutions

MPAA winning the hearts & minds of youth

Well, my sworn enemy for 2006, the Motion Picture Association of America, provides me with yet more fodder. I wish I could be making this up but no, they have helped the boy scouts concoct a "respect for copyright" merit badge! I stole a page from their press release which contains the usual selfless sob story about how copyright violators are stealing jobs from set electricians making double what they'd make in the private sector. Its hard to be sympathetic. Paying lead actors tens of millions of dollars is hardly an economical business model. While its always been a core value that everyone is entitled to get what they can for their services, its hard to believe that anyone pays this. It seems that declining ticket sales is a sign that star salaries are overdue for a correction. But instead, the MPAA continues with its campaign against copyright infringement to stem the tide of market dissatisfaction, rather than change their product or business model. I wouldn't need to be so cynical if they didn't centre their campaign away from their own declining profits and on to the sob story behind the scenes joe lighting guy. I think I'll order one of the merit badges so if I ever happen to swallow some liquid plumber, I can induce vomiting.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Nobel Prize Grameen Bank

I rather liked the 2006 Nobel Prize selection, Mohammad Yunus. His Grameen Bank micro-loan project seems to be a ringing success. I did find it interesting in last weekends Globe and Mail that the econ PHDs they talked with admitted that it was only a limited benefit since the average standard of living increase for participants was only 5 percent. Surely these guys must understand that five percent higher than just barely getting by is a pretty big difference in quality of life? Another economist warned that since all of these micro-loans were secured without credit, there is a risk that they wouldn't be paid back. In fact, the Grameen bank has a 98.8% repayment ration. Pretty good for a system that runs in complete opposition to the industrial worlds banking!

I also thought that the Nobel committee's' politics (there's always politics) were curiously in line with Bill Clinton's current philosophical drive. He's been criss-crossing the lecture circuit reminding people that security is best achieved buy buying someone a sewing machine and increasing their standard of living rather than waiting till a society has broken down and then spending a thousand times more with military pressure. To me it seems no accident that Yunus was given the Peace Prize rather than the Economics Prize. It is a pretty big advertisement for the Clinton school of security.

For the other 2006 Nobel winners, go here.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Ironic signposts, the pope: bedfellows

The Holy See screwed up my change of address form I sent so Im responding rather late to the pope's latest offering to his children. The meat or actually, the gristle of the speech was that faith must be tempered by reason. Without reason, faith turns to fundamentalism. Pretty enough words I suppose for the leader of an organization that once burned the Library of Alexandria to ashes. But I suppose I can hardly disagree that its better to be a little bit irrational than completely irrational. Which leads me to the Christian right in America.

Once upon a time third year stats students could predict republican/democrat voter tendencies by education/income data. Now, the best indicator of whether one voted republican is the frequency of church attendance. And so I wonder if the republican party needs to heed the words of the pope and inject some reason to its faith. I ask this in the context of recent events in North Korea. Forgetting the potential threat that a nuclear Korea presents, its a curious embarrassment to US foreign policy. Lets remember that the US went to war in Iraq ostensibly to secure the US (and the world) from WDMs. As Americans apathetically digest the fact that there weren't any, Korea goes nuclear. Indeed, the pope couldn't find a better time to urge that faith be tempered with reason.

As far as the war in Iraq goes, despite the fact that I consume news fairly voraciously, I did not notice anyone noticing an ironic signpost pointing to the preposterosity that is US policy: Sometime in the last month, more Americans have been killed in Iraq than were killed in 9/11. The Afghan mission was apparently about justice while the Iraq mission was about saving American lives from danger. While 2700 Americans were killed in 9/11 (plus others non-Americans who inccidently are become a fast growing nation. All non-Americans need is a catchy tune and some postage stamps to be the largest nation on Earth!) where was I? Right 2700 killed in 9//11 and now 2756 (as of Oct 11 2006) Americans have been killed. All I can say to this curious milestone is to quote David Byrne and the Talking Heads: "Letting the days go by, water flowing under ground, letting the days go by, same as it ever was, same as it ever was..."

For the stat curious, the US casualties in Iraq are officially listed at 20, 468 while Iraqi civilian losses are pegged at between 400, 000 and 600, 000 depending on what data you believe. Staggering folly on par with some other numbers I dug up for contrast.

In the five years since 9/11, there have been approximately 150,000 gun deaths in America. Wow. Half of those are suicides leaving 75,000 gun deaths costing the health care system 4 billion dollars a year. That's ten 9/11s every single God Bless America's War On Terror Years!!!

And while Americans are dying by the thousands in Iraq in the name of American security, and by the tens of thousands at home in the name of the 2nd amendment, Korea apparently casually builds nuclear weapons. Indeed, will the republicans please add some reason to their faith.

You'll never hear me say it again:" Will they please listen to the pope!"

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Petty Irritants

And now the airing of petty irritants:

1) Its curious that the current Foley scandal is really going to hurt the republicans in the upcoming midterm US elections. Its a picture perfect encapsulation of the bizarre tango with Americas number one dance duo: Sex and Violence. The war in Iraq hardly dampens the spirits of American voters as much as a sex scandal. A nod to America's lingering Puritanical roots and violent origins. CNN enjoys a feeding frenzy over this issue while the War in Iraq was initiated under false pretense and has cost the US over 300 billion dollars (see ticker under the archives) Add this scandal to the 20 billion dollars of missing reconstruction contract money that barely makes the papers. Add this scandal to virtually all American intelligence reports explaining how the current foreign policy has made the US less safe while the administration claims the exact opposite. Add this scandal to the colossal ineptness dealing with hurricane Katrina. Add this to the unconscionable practice of characterizing all objections to public policy as being a boon to terrorism or soft on terror and the like. This is a grotesque insult to dialogue and certainly a slap in the face of the very freedom that so far 2700 Americans have gave their lives supposedly defending. And Yet: It will likely be a bland sexual advance that will tip the scales at the polls this November. Yes, it is tempting to connect the Republican's twisted, repressed sexuality in all this, their medieval attitude towards gays and lesbians and their unwavering, self-imposed responsibility of being America's moral compass. But alas, young boys have their admirers going all the way back to the toga-clad Academy and so I can only blame the Republicans for their cowardly cover up.
Among many other sins.

2) The guy who does the voice over work for CTV. I really loathe affectation. There's also something rather distasteful about using the same faux drama affectation for doing a plot summary of Grey's Anatomy and then using the same voice for the news lead in. Its as though CTV has just given up trying to pretend they separate entertainment from news. On second thought, maybe I prefer that kind of honesty.

3) 20% of drivers on 11th and 12th Aves SW in Calgary. They're both 2-lane and every time I want to cross (its always very busy) some chowderhead who clearly never walks anywhere, slows down and stops then looks at me with consternation wondering why I don't cross blindly into the next lane only to be struck by the other lane of traffic that hasn't stopped. For the love of god, just drive past, I may be crippled but I'm not retarded!

4) And speaking of cars, the Harper government is contemplating the very strict California emissions for Canadian cars which I naturally applaud. Buzz Hargrove (isn't he dead yet) was seen in many a media scrum this week in tears crying that the industry couldn't possibly meet this new demand. So did I just dream that in the mid seventies there was a realization the oil was a scarces resource and that pollution was choking our cities? It must have been a dream since that would mean the auto industry would have had 30 years to realize that the way they make cars was as dead as the V8. Surely that last 10 years of talking about Kyoto wasn't translated into the language of slumbering oligiopic-ese.

5) The Liberal party of Canada. What are you guys thinking anyway. Lets be honest, the only thing that is of concern in the next election is ensuring that that Liberal party at least appears to be moving slightly to the right so that it can steal votes away from the conservatives. Clearly Bob Rae doesn't fit the bill for this reason. I may like him more but lets not be trapped by the personality myth here. It is rare leaders that swing voters to them. Rather you must place yourself where the voters are. Mike Ignatief is better ideologically placed.
I guess though at the end of the day I couldn't really care who they pick because it makes no difference anyway. Frankly unless I read the paper, I can't tell by any of my five senses who runs this country.

I can assure you that my petty irritants are a resource, that while governed by thermodynamics, are nearly inexhaustible. If anyone can figure out how to harness this energy, I will gladly sell it back to the grid and split the profits. Unfortunately the same cannot be said of patience, and so I shall close.

Friday, September 29, 2006

The Trouble with Physics

I've been reading Lee Smolin's The Trouble with Physics this week.So far it has borne much fruit. His background is in quantum gravity so Van Flandern fans will find his thoughts illuminating. In addition, his disection of the many iterations of string theory is very reassuring to those who find string theory as ridiculous as it is elegant.

Been out to the mountains a few times for distracting walks. Last Sunday we went out

to Yoho at the height of the autumn colors. We were transfixed at Takakaw falls watching several climbers scale the cliff face beside the waterfall.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Daviditron: Apply directly to the forehead

As Thanksgiving approaches, I find myself getting in the spirit by awaiting a similar carving. The results of my tests revealed a myriad of undisplaced tears and a paralabral cyst encrusting the shoulder joint. So like many Tom turkeys I will be sitting on a white table while a man holds a sharp knife with a serious look on his face.

Speaking of bone cracking and carving, went to The Protector this eve, a pretty fun Thai martial arts explosion. Some nice camerawork and over the top choreography with complimentary ludacris dialogue

A movie really worth talking about is Brick. Essential a Dasheill Hammet script manifesting itself in teen suburbia. The dialogue is hyper-fast with an amusing mixture of noir 40's slang and teen pop-unacular. And while Im making up words, Im excising the word "business" and replacing it with the more apt "busy". So now more descriptively, I live a ten minute walk from the busy-district. I read the busy-news and don't own a very nice looking busy-suit.

Speaking of life in the busy district, Calgary certainly isn't living up to my prejudices. Upon retuning here last week, I thought I would count the number of strangers that said "hello" to me. From Monday to Friday I got exactly 5 hellos which is pretty good considering I was only mixing in the public realm for the 8 blocks to the coffeeshop and newsstand and back home. That's pretty good for soul-less ol Busytown. Its true, there are heaps of people busy making money and perhaps less interested in the good. But as a borderline misanthrope, I'm indifferent to most everyone anyway. The small percentile of people I resonate with remains the same wherever I am so the mode personality type isn't something that really affects me.

That being said, you definitely know your in Busytown (if you feel like punishing yourself) if you read the editorial page. Free enterprise and individual rights trump every consideration. They are the twin pillars that prevent serious consideration of all ideas. There are few nuanced versions of the good when monolithic principles dominate discourse as it does here. Luckily, ideas hardly matter anymore as pundits and scholars fight battles that take up less room in the collective unconscious as a headache commercial.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Paris Hilton

So Im listening to CBC the other day and they were sending up Paris Hilton's new CD. They all put their not so talented claws into her though, for myself, I found it no worse than anything else on the pop charts. I would normally find Hilton-Hate'n incredibly boring and tune out, but on this day I began to postulate: just why does everyone love to pick on her?
Is it because the media is abominably lazy and can't find some other rich, young, weathy people with little or no talent? Im sure there are dozens of richer, younger, less deserving people out there that are ripe for holier than thou treatment by smug and smarmy media commentarians. But then I remembered my Nietche.
Paris is the end of Modernity. There are no ethics for Paris to violate. No systems of rules or conventions for her to follow or not follow at her peril. Paris just does whatever she wants. Paris represents not just the death of God, but the death of the Protestant Work Ethic, the death of Meritocracy, the death of Consequences. Curiously, I think people people recognize this in her and resent the fact that they themselves are still (philosophically) Nietche's antiquaited whipping boy. They see themselves clinging to Modernity's dried teat and resent her for it. For better or for worse, Paris Hilton is the only true Post Modern woman.

Post Script: Couldn't people lay off Britney as well!?

capsulitis kickmyassis

my apologies to those I did not see in Saskatoon during my brief stay. After getting my arthrogram/mri , I returned to saskatoon for a wedding and then up to the lake and then Suzanne packed my things and brought them to Calgary where I am writing from now.
It seems from the results now that I have adhesive capsulitis in the shoulder joint which is basically extraneous tissue growing around the ball and socket causing imobility. Im just waiting now for a specialist to determine whether the joint needs to be surgically reorganized and mod'ed

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Profiteering off necessities

The apartment in Calgary Im staying in has issued notice to renters that the rent will be increased by $200/month. There are 30 units which adds up to $6000/mth or $72,000/year. Considering that the apartments expenses haven't gone up (no mill rate hike) and natural gas prices are actually falling, one is left understanding that the increase is a function of demand. They get $72,000 extra a year because there's no other place to stay, so people will be forced to pay.
While I'm generally a supporter as well as a beneficiary of our supply and demand system, our society has deemed that certain goods and services be tempered from raw market forces. Education, health etc. are subsidized because we believe it is in the public good for them to be affordable. In a solemn moment of reflection, it seems really absurd how acceptable and commonplace it is too make whatever profit one can from other people's necessity to have a roof over their head. Its true, owning an apartment over the long term has risks of vacancy and risk should be rewarded, but I really resent such grotesque gauging on such a basic need. Calgary is suffering for skilled labour because there is no place to live and hence people can't move here or afford to move here causing cyclical dilemmas.
I hope these landlords die early and in painful ways. Its a fate better than they deserve.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

world trade center barf-o-rama

Its a big enough world that I'm sure many others share my constant desire to kick nick cage in the teeth. I take solace in this. So when the inevitable cultural hedge fund that is hollywood finally got around to 9/11, they really stuck it to me by placing mr Cage at the helm. A Hedge on wall street usually involves ""selling short" in stock that is a competitor to one you already own. This means that when the stock goes down, you still make money. Its sort of like betting on both teams in the Stanley Cup. I'm sure we can look forward to Cage et al converting sensless and meaningless death into the exact opposite. As Humphrey Bogart said "They got lucky, yesterday they were just two German clerks. Today, they're the honoured dead." Indeed, the Hollywood hedge fund will always salvage cultural profit, even in a bear market.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

the power of nightmares

just watched the first part of the 3-part bbc documentary "the power of nightmares" described as:

"This film explores the origins in the 1940s and 50s of Islamic Fundamentalism in the Middle East, and Neoconservatism in America, parallels between these movements, and their effect on the world today.

From the introduction to Part 1 (Baby It's Cold Outside): "Both [the Islamists and Neoconservatives] were idealists who were born out of the failure of the liberal dream to build a better world. And both had a very similar explanation for what caused that failure. These two groups have changed the world, but not in the way that either intended. Together, they created today's nightmare vision of a secret organized evil that threatens the world, a fantasy that politicians then found restored their power and authority in a disillusioned age. And those with the darkest fears became the most powerful."

This doc so far has been an excellant investigation into the morphing ideologies that have shaped much of the current geopolitics. To my reckoning it is devoid of emotional appeals and conspiracy theory- esque speculation. I saw it on cbc newsworld but also found a downloadable copy online. Anyone with 3 hours and an interest will certainly be rewarded with fresh insights and knowledge.

Friday, April 28, 2006

the acute stage

bust -v.- perform, do. (EX: "Bust a rhyme" = "Rapping a rhyme", while "Bust a move" = "Make a move/perform a move")
busted -adj.- ugly, caught doing a crime. {EX: "Yo' girl is BUSTED!")
cap - n.- bullet (EX: "I'ma bust a cap in yo' ass." = "I will shoot you.")
capped -v.- shot.

Thursday, April 20, 2006


I did some touring around on google maps looking for shots of where I'll be this summer. If you're looking for me, I'll be somewhere in this patchwork of clearcuts. On the extreme right edge in the center is an elongated patch of light green where the river valley widens. My tent will be there.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

A lovely day for topography

Calgary and back (Now with 80% less Mind & Spirit!)

Went to Calgary to help Suzanne find an apartment in the tightest rental market in Canada. Most every viewing we went to was peopled with other stressed out potential renters. Though I must admit, much like how bears co-operate when feeding on salmon, it was fairly civilized when it could have been much more cut-throat.

This is a bookstore in Calgary, I know it looks like some weird advertisement for ING Direct.

Enjoyed some fine sushi at the Sumo Lounge, watched the excitement level build on the so called "red mile" for the Flames game that evening, and even found some time to do some breakdancing in the country as the picture will attest to.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

ski trip

Just returned from a week of skiing in the Kootenays. The snow was quite relentless and the terrain was unbelievable! Red Mountain has very few actual runs, instead, the trees have been thinned a little allowing one to ski pretty much anywhere. Having some local guides was quite crucial as rockfaces abound. Without judicious route planing one can easily find themselves peering over the edge of 20-foot cliffs or 70 degree slope faces! The lack of resort facilities and extremely difficult terrain has nearly eliminated tourists which allows one fresh powder almost constantly, truly the shangri-la of skiing! Went to Nelson and managed with some local connections to get tickets to the long sold out Kid Koala concert! This Nija Tunes artist put on a turntable clinic and left all exhausted and utterly satiated. A few more days of skiing and some high-stress table hockey at night capped off a trip that my legs will be sore over for another week at least! I'm hobbling around like a ninety-year old arthritis victim!

Thursday, March 23, 2006

QE 16

Tom: There's talk goin round town that you quit your blog
Dave: Is that the hot tip that brought you boys up here at this ungodly hour?
Tom: If you say it aint so then you're a liar and I'm callin you one
Dave: You aint tryin to strong-arm me are ya Tom?
Tom: Don't be a sap Dave, make an entry. Play ball or shine my shoes. If you're in, then you're in, if you're out, you're all the way out. Hey McGrady, see that no unfortunate accident befalls our dear friend here.

QE 16
It was an enjoyable QNY though perhaps a little muted this year I thought. Upon digging into the archives though, I discovered that back on QNY 2 we chose a common enemy. I rather fancied this notion even if I don't recall that outcome. In the sprit of this I decided that for this year I would chose an enemy and an ally. Without thinking about it too much, I chose as an ally Perserverence. The benefits of this are many, but not the least is that I no longer must parcel out a finite reserve of perserverence, but instead, because it is my Ally, I can rely upon it as I would an undefeatable associate. As far as my enemy for the year, after reading Captain Orange's pick Free Culture, I have chosen the RIAA and the MPAA. Their sins are ruthlessness and greed beyond the pale of acceptable conduct even by the low standard of business ethics. It will be a while I'm sure before they realize that they have aquired a new enemy, so I must use this time wisely.

Monday, February 13, 2006

happy birthday Jerry Springer

Its funny, Jerry and I don't often get together for our birthdays anymore, but I thought I'd surprise him with a phonecall and gift basket today. It really seemed to touch him so I think perhaps he was feeling a little lonely today. Anyway it was good to touch base and have a few laughs and if anyone has a bit of time today, I think he'd really appreciate a call. For your edification, some interesting events and other notable birthdays from this day in history:

1542 - Catherine Howard, the fifth wife of Henry VIII of England, is executed for adultery.
1633 - Galileo Galilei arrives in Rome for his trial before the Inquisition.
1935 - A jury in Flemington, New Jersey finds Bruno Hauptmann guilty of the 1932 kidnapping and murder of the Lindbergh baby, the son of Charles Lindbergh.
1955 - Israel obtains 4 of the 7 Dead Sea scrolls.
1960 - Nuclear testing: France tests its first atomic bomb.

1944 - Jerry Springer, American television host
1950 - Peter Gabriel, English musician
1961 - Henry Rollins, American musician
1974 - Gus Hansen, Danish professional poker player

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

lady luck smiles on retail

So the other night I'm satiating the part of my toungue that detects the presence of salt by making a trip to sev for a bag of chips. The bill came to $3.41 which as I began to dole out some loose change I realize consists of a toonie, loonie, quarter, dime, nickle and penny. Indeed, $3.41 is the "royal flush" of all retail transactions.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Strange Notions of Representation

"The chief victims of the January 23 federal election were:
Western Liberals: In the prairie provinces, Conservatives got three times as many votes as Liberals did, but won nearly ten times as many seats. In Alberta, the Conservative Party won 100% of the seats with 65% of the votes. The 500,000 Albertans who voted otherwise elected no one.

Urban Conservatives: The 400,000-plus Conservative voters in Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver should have been able to elect about nine MPs, but instead elected no one. The three cities together will not have a single MP in the governing caucus, let alone the cabinet.

New Democrats: The NDP attracted a million more votes than the Bloc, but the voting system gave the Bloc 51 seats, the NDP 29. Nearly 18% of Canadians voted NDP, but the party won less than 10% of the seats and does not hold the balance of power, unlike the Liberals and the Bloc.

Green Party: More than 650,000 Green Party voters across the country elected no one, while 475,000 Liberal voters in Atlantic Canada elected 20 MPs. "

-taken from Fair Vote Canada

"Don't these people ever give up?" -Colonel Kilgore from Apocalypse Now

Boy, I'm apparently not so sick of this argument as to prevent me from discussing it. Lets start at the beginning. Since we are picking a government, at some scale, a majority is desired otherwise no bill would pass in the house. It becomes a question of scale then where this majority should be located. Across the country? Just in Parliament? As an aggregate of ridings? Obviously, the current system is one where the base unit is the riding and the party with the most base units forms government. This 'first past the post' system does create some mathematical curiosities as noted by the authors above. They present several of these but for example I will talk about the 1/2 million Green party votes but no Green party seats example. The authors interpret this discrepancy as an absence of representation, but there is a slight of hand here when dealing with Green Party votes in the aggregate. In any given riding, it does not follow that the hundreds of people who voted for the Green party are not represented. By the same logic, if you don't vote for the winner, you are not represented. As a matter of fact, you are represented by the winner whether you voted for them or not. In fact even if you didn't vote at all you are still represented by them! The slight of hand in their argument is really ridiculous: "Urban Conservatives should have been able to elect..." They speak of this group as though it were a riding, as though by virtue of being able to speak of them as an aggregate it ought to have a representative. But the aggregate boundaries have been already established. Urban Conservatives come and go but Calgary Centre is a real thing with a real representative who was most people from Calgary Centre first choice!
By inspection, the fact that a single issue (and frankly utterly myopic to the complexities of real governance) party does not easily win seats tells me that the system works quite well! It would be stereotypically Canadian somehow to actually have a party holding seats in parliament that was virtually every riding's last choice!
The current system picks people to represent small groups of people. The authors above want the system to pick small groups of ideas. This is supposed to be miraculously better. Accountability is hard enough in an apathetic culture, but at least a person from the community is accountable to their community and is seen as the best candidate by the most people possible in that community. A system that picks ideas and platforms and then somehow attaches a person to it (the proportional representation advocated by the authors) seems like one that is not in our best interest.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Fun Quiz!! What's wrong with this?

Conditional probabilities
To illustrate, suppose there are two bowls full of cookies. Bowl #1 has 10 chocolate chip cookies and 30 plain cookies, while bowl #2 has 20 of each. Our friend Fred picks a bowl at random, and then picks a cookie at random. We may assume there is no reason to believe Fred treats one bowl differently from another, likewise for the cookies. The cookie turns out to be a plain one. How probable is it that Fred picked it out of bowl #1?

Intuitively, it seems clear that the answer should be more than a half, since there are more plain cookies in bowl #1. The precise answer is given by Bayes' theorem. But first, we can clarify the situation by rephrasing the question to "what’s the probability that Fred picked bowl #1, given that he has a plain cookie?” Thus, to relate to our previous explanation, the event A is that Fred picked bowl #1, and the event B is that Fred picked a plain cookie. To compute Pr(A|B), we first need to know:

Pr(A), or the probability that Fred picked bowl #1 regardless of any other information. Since Fred is treating both bowls equally, it is 0.5.

Pr(B), or the probability of getting a plain cookie regardless of any information on the bowls. In other words, this is the probability of getting a plain cookie from each of the bowls. It is computed as the sum of the probability of getting a plain cookie from a bowl multiplied by the probability of selecting this bowl. We know from the problem statement that the probability of getting a plain cookie from bowl #1 is 0.75, and the probability of getting one from bowl #2 is 0.5, and since Fred is treating both bowls equally the probability of selecting any one of them is 0.5. Thus, the probability of getting a plain cookie overall is 0.75×0.5 + 0.5×0.5 = 0.625.

Pr(B|A), or the probability of getting a plain cookie given that Fred has selected bowl #1. From the problem statement, we know this is 0.75, since 30 out of 40 cookies in bowl #1 are plain.

Given all this information, we can compute the probability of Fred having selected bowl #1 given that he got a plain cookie, as such: (see calculation above)

As we expected, it is more than half.

This type of calculation is routinely employed in statistical evaluation of data particularly in the medical field. To win the Big Prize, explain if you think it is valid or invalid.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

some punk wrote this on my van

...the Sartrian existentialist, for whom the discovery of no ultimate intrinsic purpose makes the universe "absurd." The absurdist interpretation mistakes the absence of meaning for meaninglessness, failing to see that the universe necessarily transcends the meaningful/meaningless distinction. (This is why Stephen Weinberg was mistaken to say "The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it seems pointless.") Instead of sliding into existential angst or ennui, we can savor the surprise and excitement of participating in an unscripted drama, one in which meaning is created locally against an inscrutable cosmic backdrop. This, I submit, is a far more interesting fate than the boring security of being a bit player in an end game scripted by God. (Some might say all too interesting, as in that understated Chinese curse, "May you have an interesting life".)

taken from with thanks to rainswept

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Artificial Intelligence: the great leap backwards

I've been inspired by Darwin's Dangerous Idea (Dennett) this week. It occurs to me that there will eventually exist a division in the history of man's technology. The first (which we are still in) is one characterized by intentionally designed technologies. Within this category, there is still room for accident and mistake and the hazy intentionality of inspiration, but essentially there is intention at the various stages of design. Reason and its constituent helpers are guiding the process of problem solving. The next phase of design is one of detached intentionality. Let me explain. The most breathtaking and elegant designs on earth are all natural products of evolution. The designs are so perfect, efficient and elegant that we have difficulty in understanding how they work let alone replicate them. These designs were not intentionally created, but rather were algorithmically produced by a wonderful system of constraints, mutations and inheritance. It seems plausible that when we learn to harness this kind of computational power, our problem solving ability will grow exponentially. I can envision some kind of computer simulation that produces outcomes that transcend intention and hence avoid the natural impedance of typical design thinking. Much like observing many biological entities, the design path will be obscure but the design process will be understood, at least abstractly. Curiously, tools of this sort will actually be (philosophically) Darwinian inversions since nature has no real goals whereas man certainly does. Nature doesn't desire to have a pretty flying thing and the butterfly is the design result. An evolutionary computer would be doing just that. Our current design constraints dictate certain kinds of results that are difficult to undo or even unthink when attempting to take greater leaps in design efficiency or simplicity or utility. Its a great disservice to call this kind of computing artificial intelligence when non-artificial intelligence seems like such a dullard when compared with the brilliance of nature's unintentional algorithms.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Panglossian Lament

I slogged my way through a newspaper today, though not much gets past my filter. I find by ignoring everything that's not actually news (crime, calamity and anything else whose template doesn't change-just names and places) I can read the paper in about two and a half minutes.
I did notice that it seems like we're headed for a conservative majority. While I'm slightly concerned about re-opening many debates that I'd prefer to lay rest, I'm confident that the courts will keep a firm stranglehold of the status quo. If I look ahead with Panglossian glasses to see a bright side of this, I wonder if we won't see a more muted regional 'alienation.' I use quotations because I am of the opinion that regional gripes are really just national gripes that have been harnessed by political opportunists. Its easier to mobilize people by awakening their latent clan based thinking by telling them that Their problems are unique. I think there are certainly urban and rural needs within confederation but these really don't change from one end of the country to the other. I wonder if a conservative majority won't evaporate some of this rural angst by at least creating the illusion of representation in the minds of rural conservative voters.
I know its an infrequent forrray into politics for me these days but I'm going to vote in the advanced poll tomorrow. Let me do this thing while the fit is on me!

ps with apologies to Leibniz but imitation is the highest form of flattery.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

all over the web

Tokyo (AP) Inter-tron CEO, Tekada Komayashi, confirmed what New Yorker 'around the web" columnist Gilbert Weinstein called "the webs most persistent rumor." Chat rooms were abuzz today over the announcement, though many internet snobs (snobbits as coined by Rutgers University English Department grad student Maria Fung) insisted that as chatroom moderator Chass "bigbyte" Weston posted, "we knew it was true all along." Said Komayashi, "Based on a regressive evaluation of previous simulation models, combined with some peer-moderated synthesis and extrapolation, Intertron (Pte.) confirms that Quest Tuesday not only already occurred, but was enjoyed by all in attendance." Early trading this morning on the Nikkei and NYSE indicated not only investor relief, but even showed signs that investor capital was rather bullish on the news, lifting Intertron's market capitalization up significantly. When asked for comment at a campaign stop, Finance Minisier Ralph Goodale seemed unprepared for the news but offered his opinion that news demonstrated "the strength of Canadian economy and its ability to compete on the world stage."

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

C8H11NO2: another mystery solved?

Upon discovering the other day that I was discussing both religion and politics, and realizing how I'd rather not, I found myself being challenged to explain the difference. Upon reflection though, I found it more interesting to think about their similarities- that being that most participants are engaged in each with little or no examination. Its true that most participants would disagree with that statement but from a phenomenological perspective, the mere observation of the state of each reveals my statement to be true. Each manifests itself as a series of assumptions that inform a specific set of prescriptive behaviors, but its the unexamined participation that is most curious to me. It reminded me of a previous conversation in which someone was recounting how they had no evidence for a specific belief- they just wanted to believe it. How nice I thought to myself. If only intention and belief were so fluidly connected I would have fewer mental dilemmas! And yet, despite the fact that 3 out of every four earthlings have learned to read and write, I feel generally to be in the smallest minority of people who require reasons for believing things. Its true, I'm usually harping on distinguishing between the set of things that has no justification from things that require justification. But now I really challenge myself to answer a very simple question: Why must my knowledge set be entirely coherent? Of course I can set aside some obvious things like a coherent knowledge set makes good predictions such that I don't walk into moving propellers or fall into deep wells like an Edward Gorey unfortunate. But from an epistemological rather than evolutionary perspective does it really matter if I believe in unicorns for example? Why is it apparently important for me to not believe in unicorns because there is no evidence for their existence? Suggesting that I prefer truth to false seems not only glib but really just shunts the problem to a different set of terms without actually explaining anything. But perhaps it is that simple. Maybe being right about something triggers a tiny dopamine release in my brain. Perhaps I've quietly adapted to this Pavlovian, neurochemical epistemology. Truth is not philosophical but chemical. Leaving out some beliefs because they are unsupported allows one to be not wrong which is slightly different from being right about something, but at least the dopamine feedback loop is preserved even if the set of possible beliefs is smaller. And so while I still feel like a reef in a sea of unsubstantiated believers, I should try to enjoy my diet of dopamine in return for my troubles. Its exhausting being a reef, incidentally, being ever crashed upon by the ship of fools. Don't forget to vote.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

touring through the commonweath of letters

picked out some christmas books for myself today. Now all I need is a week of minus thirty to enjoy reading them.

Friday, January 06, 2006

What the bleep do we know: the fallacy of exclusive premises

For my sins, I watched "What the -bleep- do we know?" It really was the most reeking piece of drek I've seen in quite some time. It fails for so many reasons however I will somehow excise this garbage from my thoughts by explaining a couple powerful errors.
1) As an introduction to thinking about things that one might have previously ignored, it fails since the movie is a relentless string of sciencey sound bites. Its a litany of conclusions without exposition, a run-on of unsupported statements that don't invite the audience to think but rather to accept. It forms a kind of faith-based science lingo that is really no different from any other kind of belief without contemplation. Whatever work they may have accomplished will be undone by some other idea that comes along in the viewers mind later on because the movie gives no credence to Why any of these ideas should be considered. In this sense they perpetuate a faulty way of thinking. The movie mistakes content of thought for mechanism of thought. Until the later is addressed, the content is irrelevant.
2)The Content or A Wizard ought to know better. It has ceased to amaze me the liberties that people take with the world of physics. The necessity for quantum physics is that the rules that govern the Newtonian realm break down at the quantum level. And yet how quickly people want to take behaviors at the quantum level and apply them to the classical realm. There is a tiresome transference going on here that I forgive from laypeople but when it comes from PHDs, I cannot forgive. Their rational is so transparent as to be almost unworthy of comment but today I will bother. The physicists being interviewed clearly have preferences regarding how they prefer to behave and how they prefer the world to behave. They have preferences of what "the good" is. Unfortunately, as specialists conditioned to rationalize and justify belief, they are blindsided into rationalizing a domain of thinking that contains no rational justification. But lo and behold, here are all sorts of metaphorical niceties at the quantum level. The oft misunderstood Uncertainty Principle, the ephemeral nature of existence, wave-particle duality and the rest of the quantum dramatis personae make easy metaphors for social preferences. This appeal to the objectivity of science serves to both impress and make truths out preferences. Most often the audience has no idea that these appeals are committing the fallacy of exclusive premises. The mathematical relationships at the quantum level Do Not Say Anything about human interaction! It is a set of relationships that apply at its own scale, just as the Newtonian relationships are only valid at the classical scale ( I am of course excluded unified field theory which is a childish fantasy that I cannot deal with here as my "Fermatian margin" is too small!) Its unfortunate how conceivable it is to me that all the academics that lined up for this movie forget this salient feature. Indeed, specialization seems to be the death of critical thinking and academic credentials become its epitaph.

To quote Shakespeare: "It may not be true, but its what we wish were true" I just wish we'd understand the difference and not influence people with jargon, influence them with credentials, and sway them with emotion. If you want to learn to think read DeBono instead, if you want an escapist kind of awe, watch Baraca.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

life goes on

Yes friends, life goes ever on and on, down from the door where it began, and I must follow if I can, pursuing it with eager feet, where many paths and errands meet, until it joins some larger way, and whither then I cannot say...

Perspective is a sweetening thing even if it cannot last. One can revel in the tiniest of pleasures and shirk the meddlesome irritants of the day. The trivial becomes profound, and things that seemed so important melt like an autumn frost in morning sunshine. And yet I will complain again, perhaps even today as perspective slowly is worn away by the violence of dying memory and the abrasiveness of adaptaion. Life goes on and we must make of it what we can.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

in loving memory of my dearest fiona

through some of the best and worst of times, you got me through with a smile and a laugh and showed me what triumphs the human spirit is capable of.