Category Archives: Rants

Well that didn’t last long

One more annoyance about being a cyclist in Montreal is having your bike stolen on its first day out of the basement.

To the thieves: Thanks for carefully removing both my locks, relocking them and leaving them on the ground for me to find when I got out of work. Wankers.

Bush and Nero

bush and his guitarSeeing Bush playing guitar while New Orleans was sinking reminded me and others of Nero fiddling (well ok, playing his lyre) while Rome burned. The comparison can be extended by the fact that Nero was reportedly vacationing in his native Anzio when the fire started, just as Bush was vacationing on his Texas ranch.

The comparison ends there though, because Nero rushed to return to Rome and played his lyre while fully aware of the devastation happening in front of him. Bush was playing his guitar many miles away at a fundraising party, apparently completely oblivious to the devastation occuring in the neighbouring state, and didn’t cut short his vacation until two days later.

Nero is also said to have opened his palaces to provide shelter for the homeless and arranged for food supplies to be delivered in order to prevent starvation among the survivors. Bush and his administration were denying aid from many sources and struggling to offer much of their own.

Nero was finally deposed. Let’s hope that’s another comparison we can make.

I’m confused

In Canada you can choose to marry whoever you want.

In Canada it is ok to use marijuana to ease your pain and suffering.

In Canada contraception is ok, whatever form it takes.

In Canada you can burn the flag if you want.

In Canada it is understood that sometimes abortion is necessary.

In Canada torture is a violation of human rights. Always. The end does not justify the means.

In Canada you can be an atheist and still be considered a citizen.

In Canada law is secular and religious freedom is guaranteed within that law.

In Canada you can’t have your home taken away for a shopping mall.

In Canada you can take books from the library without fear of persecution.

In Canada the authorities need to have probable cause and a warrant before searching your home.

So I’m confused; which country is the Land Of The Free again?

Alcohol and Me

Summer sunshine brings with it a craving for cold beer straight from the bottle. Any meal is enhanced by a glass of good red wine (well ok, except breakfast). A night out at one of Montreal’s Irish pubs isn’t complete without a pint of Guinness or oatmeal stout. There’s something incredibly satisfying about ending the day with a glass of single malt whiskey if I’m feeling flush, or shine if I’m feeling poor.

Yes, I enjoy alcohol. I’m also happy to say I’ve never had a problem with it. I drank a lot in my late teens and early twenties, but thats just what boys living in Essex do. Nowadays I drink in moderation. I can’t remember the last time I was drunk. I never drink and drive. Drinking doesn’t make me abusive or obnoxious. I don’t “need” alcohol, I just like it.

Drinking in moderation has been shown to lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, be good for the heart and reduce the risk of stroke, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, kidney stones, gallstones, arthritis, stress and depression.

On the other hand, alcohol abuse kills thousands of people every year and causes problems for millions more. Long term abuse increases the chances of getting breast, mouth or throat cancer as well as destroying your liver.

I wondered if there was a proper definition of “drinking in moderation”. The generally accepted opinion seems to be two drinks a day for men, or one drink a day for women. A drink being 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of spirits. I fall well below that level as I don’t drink at all on most days and rarely have more than two when I do. Oh and not drinking for 10 days then having 20 beers in one night is not good. It doesn’t quite work like that.

All this typing has made me thirsty…

Where’s the Equality?

Whether you think Belinda Stronach was right or wrong to defect from the Conservative party to the Liberals, surely she deserves the same amount of respect as any male politician?

With her ex-fellow conservatives calling her an attractive dipstick, a whore and a prostitute and the National Post referring to her decision as a Blonde Bombshell I start to wonder if it’s possible for women to be taken seriously in Canadian politics.

Take the blood

Skeptics CircleThis article reports on a 14 year old BC girl who was refusing blood transfusions on religious grounds. She’s a Jehovah’s Witness. Two judges have ruled that she is too young to make that decision so she must have the transfusions.

I’m in two minds about the decision. I’m a firm believer in individual rights and individual choice. If she really doesn’t want transfusions then she should be able to choose that option. It has to be an educated choice though, so I hope that someone other than her fellow JWs has sat her down and explained everything to her. Sadly, JWs aren’t allowed to associate with non-JWs, so even talking to a doctor about her options is against the rules and could have her disfellowed.

This article spurred me into examining some of the JW beliefs. They may seem harmless enough, but they are actually quite an insidious organisation. They control their members through guilt and fear. Members are actively encouraged to turn each other in for rule violations. Violations can be anything from smoking to reading religious material not published by JW. An unrepentant follower can be shunned and disowned by his fellow JWs.

That kind of environment can only result in massive indoctrination for anyone growing up in it. That 14 year old girl, and others like her, have effectively been completely brainwashed. They are under complete control by their cult and that control must be incredibly difficult to break.

So what about the blood thing? The JWs most controversial rule is based on a few lines from the bible which state that we should not eat blood. Back in the ’60s the JW ruling based on these scriptural references was that blood transfusions, organ transplants and vaccinations were not allowed. Since then the rule has been relaxed to the point now where everything up to partial plasma blood transfusions is allowed. Nobody has managed to explain why it’s ok to receive partial plasma but it’s not ok to receive full plasma.

Science tells us that a blood transfusion provides no nourishment. The blood is not digested by the body. So how does a blood transfusion break the scriptural rule that we may not eat blood? That’s another question the governing body of JW has failed to answer. This site has all the information you need on the blood transfusion controversy.

Featured on the cover of an Awake! magazine from 1994 are the photos of 26 children, ages varying up to 17 years, with the caption: “Youths Who Put God First.” Inside the magazine proclaims: “In former times thousands of youths died for putting God first. They are still doing it, only today the drama is played out in hospitals and courtrooms, with blood transfusions the issue.”. The main article, ‘Youths Who Have “Power Beyond What Is Normal”‘ tells the stories of three of these children who died after refusing blood treatment. This to me is a callous disregard for human life. The magazine is treating these children as martyrs when in fact they are innocent victims of a cult of guilt and fear.

Should religious freedom stretch this far? Should an organised religion be allowed to endanger the lives of it’s followers? Barbaric practices like the hindu sutee (widows being burned alive on their husband’s funeral pyre) have been outlawed for many years, so banning a dangerous religious practice would not be setting any precedents. Telling people to refuse blood transfusions is life threatening. It should not be allowed.

How did we survive?

We grew up in a minefield of potential injury and death. We rode bikes without helmets. We skated without knee pads. Our rooms were painted with lead paint. Nothing in our houses was child-proofed. We rode in the back seat of cars with no seatbelts. We drank water from streams. We ate mud and worms. We went places on our own. We played out after dark. We walked to school. We did not have cellphones. We climbed trees and sometimes fell out of them. We played with matches. When we got hurt it was our fault, there was nobody to sue.

We drank sugar filled drinks and ate copious amounts of candy, but we didnt get fat because we were out playing. All the time. We played bulldog and runouts. We made up games and new things to do. Most of them dangerous in some way. We had fights. We shared the same glass and did not die.

We had challenges at school; it felt good to move up to a top class, it felt bad to be put down to a lower class; we learned to deal with it. Some of us sucked at sport. We learned to deal with that too. We had toys that required some imagination. Lego did not have a predefined end-result. We read books. Some things on TV were educational. We had opinions and individuality.

If we did something wrong, our parents punished us. We respected that. If we broke the law we were terrified. We did not have ADD, we were just hyperactive kids. There was nobody and nothing to blame for our mistakes except ourselves.

Will our children grow up to be as innovative and creative as our generation was? Will they be independant, critical thinkers? Will they know how to fix stuff when it breaks? Will they know how to take risks and solve problems? Will they feel responsible for their actions? Will they stand up and fight when it’s necessary?

Who knew?

Apparently, not one single astrologer saw devastation, death and destruction in the stars and planets before December 26th. One guy had the gall after the earthquake to say something like “oh yeah, now I look back at it, I see Jupiter colliding with Pluto which predicts the earthquake, I wonder why nobody noticed”; but beforehand? Nothing. No psychics, mediums or clairvoyants had premonitions of 150,000 people dying. Nobody saw it in the tea leaves. Nobody was told by their god to leave Indonesia because he/she/it planned on smiting the place in the next couple of days.

Despite the fact that these charlatans never manage to get it right, people continue to believe and continue to pay them large amounts of money for the right to be scammed.

The only thing that could have predicted the events of 26th December would have been a seismic early warning system built on scientific foundations. Sadly people will pay to have their birth chart done but they’ll be up in arms if they find out their taxes are being used to pay for some “pointless earthquake measuring thingy”.

Fahrenheit 451?

This quote in relation to banning books with gay characters from libraries made me want to laugh and cry:

“I’ve not read his proposal, and I’m not familiar with him [Gerald Allen], but I do think there are a lot of things allowed in the library that don’t necessarily need to be here, that don’t meet decent moral standards, so I don’t have a problem with some of the material being removed,” says Huntsville’s Kelly Watts.

Don’t meet decent moral standards? Leaving aside the fact that the bible is full of immorality, how many books would be gone with this kind of attitude? Murder mysteries? All gone. Shakespeare? Not much left. Encyclopedias? Full of immorality, burn ’em all.

That covers fundamental morality; you know, the kind that even atheists and progressive liberals have. If we now include fundamental Christian morality, we start running out of books. Science texts? Gone. Anything mentioning sex outside marriage, or abortion, or birth control, or divorce? gone. Anything discussing alternative religions or witchcraft or the occult or the paranormal? Burn ’em, burn ’em all.

Go to your Alabama library today, get your copy of Run Spot Run. It’s all that’s left.

Creationists at it again

Bill Buckingham, a devout Christian who rejected a biology text because it was “laced with darwinism” has succeeded in getting creationism onto the school biology curriculum in Dover, Pennsylvania. This sickens me.

Bill wants to “give the balanced view of intelligent design and Darwin’s theory”. Intelligent design is just a fancy name for creationism, a faith based concept with absolutely no scientific grounding. Darwinism, or natural selection is a scientifically proven theory that has survived and grown for 145 years.

If Bill really wants to provide his students with a balanced view, then he also needs to consider the myriad of other creation myths that exist in the world. Of course this material is more suitable for a comparative religion course, but Bill seems to think it’s biology.

To get a clearer picture of Mr Buckingham, here’s what he had to say about the idea of removing ‘under god’ from the pledge:

“America was founded as a Christian country. While we welcome people from other countries, that doesn’t give them the right to change things. If they don’t want to say it our way, they can go back to the country they came from.”

How enlightened.

People and Computers

There are two types of people, those who understand computers and those who don’t.

There are professional computer programmers who fall into the second category, and taxi drivers who fall into the first.

Given a new piece of software, or an upgrade to an old piece of software, or a new website, someone who can understand computers will be able to figure out how to use it quickly and independantly. Someone who doesn’t understand computers will either need to be shown how it works, or spend a long time figuring it out.

Presented with a new problem or task, someone who understands computers will be able to choose the best software for the job and the most efficient way to solve the problem. Someone who doesn’t understand computers will try to use what they know best even if it’s like hammering a square peg into a round hole.

A programmer who understands computers can pick up a new computer language and start using it, at least experimentally, almost immediately. A programmer who does not understand computers will need training or a big book.

So what is it that puts someone into the understanding computers category?

Is it experience? Well yes, experience is a big factor. The more time we spend around computers, the more familiar we become. Familiarity gives us confidence and reduces fear. I’ve been using computers since I was nine, and that experience has definitely been important.

Is it genetic? I think there is a genetic factor which can make us more able to understand logic and be more intuitive about certain things. I have no idea what, if any, scientific evidence there is for this. As mentioned above I got my first computer at nine. I was writing usable programs within six months, so I think I had some kind of predisposition to that kind of learning.

Is it knowledge? We need a certain amount of knowledge to get going, but I don’t think it’s very much. I don’t “know” half the stuff I do. I don’t remember everything about every language or software I’ve ever used. What’s important is that I know where to look and what to look for when I need to know something. The capacity to learn quickly, efficiently and independantly is more important than the knowledge itself.

I understand computers. I only wish I could be that intuitive when it comes to things like cooking, gardening, art and relationships!