February 28, 2007

The Taste of Stupid In The Morning

I'm flicking channels this morning, catching up on all the hockey trade deadline moves (more on them later), and I get distracted by The View (I know, shut up). One of the ladies there (a younger blonde one) quotes from "a report" out that states the shocking discovery that uber-enviro Al Gore uses 20 times the electricity that is the national United States average.

So I decided this afternoon to take a look: and what do you know? It's true!

That information comes from these folks, who, while claiming to be a "non-partisan group", are funded by the American Enterprise Institute, who are frantically trying to get people to stop thinking of global warming using the same methods that Phillip Morris and other tobacco companies tried to stop people from thinking about the health effects of smoking.

In any case, the story in bullet form:

1) Gore's home used 220,000 kWh, while the average American house used 10,600 or so;

2) His consumption increased by2,000 kWh/month after the movie An Inconvenient Truth was released;

3) Add the natural gas bill, and Gore spent more than $30,000 last year on power to his home;

4) Gore BAD.

5) Repeat point 4 as necessary.

Looking at this, you'd think that "Hmm... This doesn't look good at all, at all. Hypocracy at it's greatest!" And as long as you didn't look too closely, you'd have a point. Sort of.

Here's an open challenge to the folks quoting this revelation: think about it.

No, I'm serious. Give it a try. Really. Okay, I'll help:

Why does Al Gore use 20 times the energy in his house than the average American? Come on, you can do it! Don't be afraid of thought!

Still nothing? Well, at least you tried. Here's the answer, and you're not going to like it much because it's more than one sound bite long. Follow along as best you can.

First is that the man lives in a mansion that has a freaking guest house. Now, how does this make his house different than your house and my house? For starters, my house is 600 square feet, and my "guest house" is an 8'x10' tool shed. This means that it not only doesn't take much power to light it, but it doesn't take much to heat, either. There is no sane reason to compare the amount of power used by my my little home and a property that is 10,000 square feet plus a guest house.

See how that works?

Second is the amount of use the house(s) get. There are two office spaces in the home, meaning that both Al and Tippy *shudder* work from home. Why don't you ask your employer how much energy they use while you're working? Consider it a school project.

Third is the laughable "revelation" that the amount of energy used went up after the release of An Inconvenient Truth. Shall we simply file this under "No Shit" and leave it at that? No?


Okay, here's what happens in the real world: when someone is involved in movies or in politics, one result is an awful lot of meetings and parties and interviews. Now, since Mr. Gore has positioned himself as a primary spokesman for enviromental causes, that is going to involve a lot of politics; and since he has also created a documentary that achieved widespread release, creating a lot of "buzz" (or attention) from both media outlets and government sources, that's going to involve a lot of meetings. Notice anything there?

Another hint: meetings, parties & interviews + meetings, parties & interviews = ?

The fourth point (and I know all this is interconnected but I'm breaking it down for you) is that I use a computer, and I'm guessing you do, too. How you manage it, I'm not sure, but congratulations on that. This means that neither you nor I are Luddites, that we neither fear nor hate technology. That's a good thing: technology provides tools for us to use. Thing is, Al Gore is no Luddite, either; which means he uses technology, which uses energy. Do you have a television? I do. That uses energy, too. So does my microwave, my printer, the lights... Which frankly, I need. What do you think Mr. Gore needs for his lifestyle?

Point five: Now, I don't personally like the idea of having a 10,000 square foot home, and wouldn't be comfortable in one; and I'm not a big fan of lawns. That's not how I live, because I don't need anything like it. But I still use energy. I can't afford solar panels just yet, but they are being saved for, and our dream house (1200 square feet!) also has plans for a micro-hydro generator. But until that time, I'm drawing from BC Hydro, which takes advantage of (as you could guess from the name) the rivers and mountains here in the province to supply hydroelectric power to most of the population.

Tennessee, on the other hand, doesn't have that option. The power plants there mostly draw on coal burning plants. Which would look even worse for someone using that much power, if it weren't for the fact that he paid over $400 per month as a premium to use specifically green power, coming from wind and solar generators and available as an option from the Nashville Electric Service.

That's right: he's spending $430 each month above his standard electrical costs for the privilege of using renewable resources. Add that to the $1,000/month in natural gas use, and you have a rather annoyed oil company spokesman. And a much more reasonable-sounding (for that size of house) $1,000 a month in electricity costs.

*crunch crunch*

What do you know? Stupid tastes like candy!


posted by Thursday at 6:30 pm 4 comments

February 25, 2007

Poe's Law Personified

I have seen the very temporary future; it involves a lot of laughter and an attempt by the astoundingly odd to create their own version of Wikipedia.

They call it the Conservapedia, described as this:

Conservapedia is an online resource and meeting place where we favor Christianity and America. Conservapedia has easy-to-use indexes to facilitate review of topics. You will much prefer using Conservapedia compared to Wikipedia if you want concise answers free of "political correctness".

It has consise entries indeed, including this on Canada, complete and unedited:

"Canada is the second largest country in the world for it's considerable amount of land. It was named Canada because when an explorer came to a Canadian Indian village he asked what this place was called, and they told him "Kanada", which means village in their Indian language. It borders the United States, and most of it's population is in The more southern provinces of Canada."

Indeed. Can you just feel the depth of research that went into that entry.

Then there's the mentioning that faith is "a uniquely Christian concept".

The not satirical at all Jon Swift has noted it's existence, as have all the commenters at Making Light.

For some strange reason, they aren't allowing any more new accounts. So much for open source editing, then.


posted by Thursday at 10:06 am 2 comments

February 24, 2007

Last Chance Saloon

With the Significant Other in Seattle for a bondage workshop, it’s left to me to sit around in my underwear watching sports all weekend.

So the only real difference is the underwear.

Most teams have a single game left before the trade deadline to decide to buy or sell. Who's likely to do what? My guesses:

In the East:


Got It: Three players doing all the scoring – again.
Need It: A bit of balance would be nice. Points from the blue line would help, too.
Buy, Sell or Rent: Buy if they can. It looks like newly acquired centre Belanger is getting the huge chance to line up with the big guns, but he’s more a temporary replacement for Rucchin.
Second Season: They’ve slipped in recent games, and panic could set in, losing them their place.
Upcoming: Unafraid to trade within their division, obviously, but they’ve got to find someone willing to trade them a scoring centre. They’ve got a fingernail grip on their first playoff spot ever, and DON’T want to lose it.


Got It: A saviour in Brandon Bochenski? They’re 7-2 since they got him, and he’s contributed 11 points, so…
Need It: A goalie to back up (or take over for) Thomas.
Buy, Sell or Rent: Tough call – their recent streak has them thinking playoffs. Most likely they’re done dealing, unless they can rent a goalie. They’ll be adding another forward when Kobasew comes back from injury.
Second Season: Unlikely, with too many teams in the way, but their recent trades are a good setup for the future.
Upcoming: Mara has been a bust here, but had good numbers with Phoenix last season. He’d be a good fit for a team that needs a point man, and Boston needs a couple months help in goal.


Got It: The top record in the league, and for good reason.
Need It: A coach who doesn’t complain every time a player of his gets hit. Ruff’s a good coach, but he’s got to figure out what a clean hit is.
Buy, Sell or Rent: Unlikely to change much, but the recent brawl against Ottawa may have the team thinking of another enforcer.
Second Season: Cruising.
Upcoming: Unlikely to make much of a move, except perhaps to add some size.


Got It: Two rock-solid scoring lines… When Cole and Stillman return from injury.
Need It: Cole and Stillman to return from injury.
Buy, Sell or Rent: Rent. They needed size, so they got 6’5” Vasicek back, forgetting that he doesn’t actually use that size very much. So they also picked up Anson Carter, hoping his tendency for tough goals will be a better fit here than in Columbus. It will.
Second Season: A tight fit. Unless these moves work better than expected, they could easily lose their 8th place position.
Upcoming: It’s going to come down to getting injured forwards back, and just hanging on until then.


Got It: A dedicated captain and some great trade bait.
Need It: A trading partner and the will to rebuild.
Buy, Sell or Rent: Sell. The players say they want to stay, but that’s not the best option for the team.
Second Season: Not this year.
Upcoming: Trades. Lots of them, if the Panthers know what’s good for them. There are younger goalies than Belfour available (if someone wants to take his baggage), and veteran forwards are always in demand this time of year (Gelinas, Roberts, Stumpel, Gratton…)


Got It: Perhaps the best “young player” coach in the league in Nolan.
Need It: An arena not falling around their ears. An appearance in the playoffs would help, too.
Buy, Sell or Rent: All of the above. DiPietro wants to play every game remaining; Dunham is NOT going to like that, as he’s good enough to start for many teams.
Second Season: Making a push for the final spot even as we speak.
Upcoming: This is now a hard working, versatile team. It’s unlikely that a major shift will happen, but if Dunham gets moved, they’d like another finisher up front.


Got It: A tiring goalie in Henrik Lundqvist.
Need It: A reliable backup, and where’d the team unity so evident last year go?
Buy, Sell or Rent: Sell. They have the most mentally fragile captain in the league, so they don’t want to admit it, but…
Second Season: Only five points out, but nothing in their recent play show that they can close that gap.
Upcoming: They should be trading for the future, with some fine young forward on the team now and depth at other positions in the system. But the pressure is there to keep Jagr happy, and to use the aging Shanahan while he’s there. They should trade unrestricted free agent Shanahan, but whether they have the courage to is another matter.


Got It: A surprising amount of goaltending, even with Huet out.
Need It: Depth up front. With two injuries, the scoring vanishes – and everyone holds their breath whenever Koivu gets hit.
Buy, Sell or Rent: Rent.
Second Season: On the edge again, they need to put some wins together to keep their tenuous hold on a playoff spot.
Upcoming: They’ll try to get a player in exchange for draft picks (unless they can get someone to take Samsonov), but they don’t have a lot of money for a top-line guy.


Got It: Brodeur. A career high tying 11 shutouts so far this season.
Need It: Scoring depth up front, a top four defenseman.
Buy, Sell or Rent: Rent. Still no cap space available for a purchase.
Second Season: Easy. Brodeur still wants to play every game, though.
Upcoming: Lamoriello will do whatever he thinks is needed to improve his team, and is one of the most dangerous GM out there.


Got It: The toughest goalie in the league.
Need It: A much higher salary cap in coming years…
Buy, Sell or Rent: None of the above. They’re healthy, points are coming, and the goaltending is solid.
Second Season: Recovered nicely from a shaky start, picking up 17 wins since the Christmas break. They are only six points up from 9th place, but there’s way too much talent here not to be in the dance.
Upcoming: They’re trying to hang on to talent in the new capped league, so bringing in players is unlikely. As per usual, everything in Ottawa hinges on playoff performance.


Got It: Trouble. Plus a good shot at the #1 draft pick.
Need It: A full-fledged youth movement.
Buy, Sell or Rent: Sell.
Second Season: Heh. Uh, no. As a hint, they’ve used 40 players so far this season – never a good sign.
Upcoming: Former GM Bobby Clarke is only gone in name; he’s still a highly-regarded advisor for the management. This is a mistake. Clean out his desk, and clear away his team to make way for a new on built around Gagne, Richards, Carter and Upshall.


Got It: The future in their hands.
Need It: To move to Quebec City. Or Manitoba. Either one.
Buy, Sell or Rent: Buy if they can. They want to toughen up, but they don’t want to lose their skill to do it, and they have cap space, too. Laraque is the most obvious target, but they should ask if Shanahan is available, too.
Second Season: Should make it, as they’re the hottest team in the league right now.
Upcoming: With the team’s future in doubt, it’s a tough time to make any long-term plans. But if they can get through a couple rounds of playoffs, the odds of staying in Pittsburgh increase.


Got It: Bored doctors. With youth comes health, I guess.
Need It: Slightly stronger goaltending, and some secondary scoring would be nice.
Buy, Sell or Rent: Rent. Saddling Richards with Craig and Alexeev and calling it a second line hasn’t really worked.
Second Season: They’ve charged up the standings to make the Atlantic division lead a dogfight with faltering Atlanta and an average Carolina.
Upcoming: They know they have one line, and so does everyone else. No one’s been able to stop it, though, so whether they decide to add scoring depth or try three “shut down” lines waits to be seen.


Got It: A bit of scoring from a bunch of people.
Need It: Health. No more major injuries, please.
Buy, Sell or Rent: Wellwood and Tucker should be coming back soon. Whether the team decides that the returnees fill out the front lines or add to the trade bait is debatable.
Second Season: It being Toronto, fans refuse to believe that they won’t make the playoffs; management may disagree. They have two games to decide.
Upcoming: The game against Montreal the day before the trade deadline rules all the thinking right now: they win, the team looks to buy. A loss and several veterans could go, including Tucker, McCabe, O’Neill, Battaglia, Raycroft and even Sundin.


Got It: Signs of improvement.
Need It: A little more time, and a little more talent.
Buy, Sell or Rent: Sell. The scorers are probably untouchable, as is Kolzig (of course), but there are several reasonably priced depth players that could be useful parts for other teams.
Second Season: Uh, no.
Upcoming: The rebuilding process continues. There isn’t a lot coming from the minors for Washington, so draft picks and “not-there-yet” skaters should be welcomed.

Right – now I’ve got to go catch the Sabres-Senators game on CBC. Wonder if Buffalo will trade for Cloutier to play against Emery…? Apparently, Emery liked dropping the gloves so much in junior, he was told to cool it by the Senators management. And THAT’S why none of his team mates went to his aid when Buffalo’s tough guy fought with him: Emery’s was a better fighter than any of the Sens skaters on the ice at the time.


posted by Thursday at 1:03 pm 0 comments

February 23, 2007

The End is February 27th!

Enough of politics, science or religious insanity! Time for the important stuff: hockey.

In the West:


Got It: First in the Pacific Division… for now.
Need It: Better tending from Bryzgalov.
Buy, Sell or Rent: The Ducks GM is Brian Burke; he’s always a buyer. He’s not likely to trade for the sake of shaking them out of their recent slump, but anyone can get moved if he thinks it’s worth it.
Second Season: They’re in. They may not have as high a place as previously hoped, but they’d have to drop 16 points in 20 games not to make the playoffs.
Upcoming: They tried for Forsberg and missed; that’s the level of player they want up front. Wouldn’t mind another 5/6 defenseman, either.


Got It: Rediscovery of how to score.
Need It: A renewed commitment to defense. Yes, Kiprusoff’s back there, but losing Ference may have hurt more than they thought.
Buy, Sell or Rent: Rent. I’m not sure why they thought they needed Stuart, as they have enough offensive defensemen with Giordano showing his skills. Maybe they’ll unload the disappointing Amonte or the total bust Friesen on someone for conditionals/cap room.
Second Season: With seven points dividing eighth (Calgary) and ninth (Edmonton), the Flames playoff space looks good. BUT… with the worst road record in the league, they could lose that spot with alarming ease.
Upcoming: Not much to do, really. They’ve got Conroy back; there’s scoring depth; the defense is as solid as any in the league. And anyone that has Kiprusoff can win any night.


Got It: Trade bait.
Need It: Time.
Buy, Sell or Rent: Sell. With Lalime playing well in the minors and for a few games in the bigs, Khabibulin and his $6.75 million contract could be waved under the noses of insecure GMs… Lalime or Boucher could also be traded to a team looking for insurance (in declining order). Aucoin has been rumored to leave for the entire season, but with his contract and injury trouble, not much will come back.
Second Season: No chance. The future is visible, though, with some solid youth and a whole lot better luck with injuries.
Upcoming: Age, rather than contracts, could decide who stays and who goes. Veterans are always popular with buyers, so Aucoin, Smolinski, Cullimore and Lapointe are tempting targets. Havlat isn’t budging, though!


Got It: Lots and lots of unrestricted free agents (12).
Need It: Someone to take the albatross known as Theodore and his $5.5 million contract.
Buy, Sell or Rent: With two less important games left (Anaheim and LA), neither wins nor losses will change management’s mind – but what does management think? I’m guessing that they will be sellers, and the youth movement will pull into high gear in the next week.
Second Season: If the kids can get them there, great; but some veterans are getting moved.
Upcoming: Building around Stasny, Wolski, Liles, Svatos and Budaj. And Sakic, but did that really need to be said?


Got It: Again, loads of young potential, perhaps in the NHL too soon in some cases; solid coaching; good goaltending.
Need It: Better health and young players living up to their press clippings. This is a recording.
Buy, Sell or Rent: Sell. Carter’s already gone, and Modin is most likely to follow.
Second Season: Not this year, despite my pre-season prediction. Wow, did I blow this call. See also: Vancouver.
Upcoming: I expected a veteran goaltender to be brought in for Leclaire to work with, but I didn’t think it would be a veteran from the Swedish Elite league… Any more trades happening here should get signed veterans back, or these guys will have to go free-agent hunting in a big way in the off season.


Got It: Excellent goaltending, strong defense, and scoring anorexia.
Need It: Someone who would have 20 goals by now. Nagy is an okay scorer, but a much better passer. And Shane Endicott won’t be the answer.
Buy, Sell or Rent: Rent if they can; buy if they must. Goalies can’t actually win games, they can only tie them.
Second Season: Fairly safe bet to make it. As with Vancouver, will only go as far as the goaltending will take them.
Upcoming: The opposite of last year, when the Stars were looking to pick up youth. They are in desperate need of a game breaker.


Got It: A reborn scoring touch, a brilliant-if-fragile starting goalie, and a cup-winning backup.
Need It: Toughness. Now.
Buy, Sell or Rent: Buy or rent. Too many players are too easily intimidated by rough play, and that’s what’s coming.
Second Season: The only questions are who they’re going to play.
Upcoming: Detroit prefers to promote from within, but they may want to look at some muscle from elsewhere around the league. See what Laraque would cost from Phoenix, perhaps?


Got It: Youth, speed, and the best ice in the league.
Need It: Last year’s adrenaline.
Buy, Sell or Rent: Sell. They deny it, but when you trade your highest scoring (by far) defenseman for a younger player you don’t use in the next three games, that says you’re looking to the future.
Second Season: Slipping out of sight.
Upcoming: They were hoping that the playoff run from last year meant the future had arrived, but it’s not yet. Another year.


Got It: Some solid, young forwards; a nice goaltending tandem in Garon and LaBarbera.
Need It: A defense that looks “experienced”, rather than “just old”.
Buy, Sell or Rent: Sell. Visnovsky is untouchable.
Second Season: No chance.
Upcoming: No illusions here: they’ve been selling since January. It’s time to pick one of Sopel (my choice), Blake, or Norstrom and rebuild a youthful defense around him and Visnovsky.


Got It: Offense. No, really. Stop laughing, I’m serious!
Need It: Same as last year, a defenseman who can find the net.
Buy, Sell or Rent: They may try to rent a quarterback this year.
Second Season: They should be in, but there are five games with Edmonton yet…
Upcoming: Not a lot of movement – teams just inside the top eight tend to be very conservative about changing chemistry.


Got It: Yes, yes they do.
Need It: Fans. Support for the team has been dropping as steadily as the team’s improvement over the years. Plus, player have to stop watching Forsberg and remember to play.
Buy, Sell or Rent: After you pick up Forsberg, anything else seems… I dunno… bland?
Second Season: Dead cert. Just a matter of if they can win their division over the increasingly confident Red Wings.
Upcoming: Two rock solid goaltenders with 9 shutouts between them; scoring from multiple sources, including some of their youngest players; immensely creative, fast forwards. Plus, they’ve just thrown the dice on someone who, when healthy, is the best player in the league. I don’t see a whole lot more movement going on here.


Got It: Um… Veteran experience?
Need It: Top-to-bottom rebuild.
Buy, Sell or Rent: Sell. There are few players who aren’t available, and several that are playoff veterans. Doan’s not going anywhere, though. (See also: last year at this time.)
Second Season: Not this year, and not next, either.
Upcoming: Trades for draft picks and youth. Having two streaky goaltenders may not be the best option to mentor LeNeveu…


Got It: Recovering nicely from the nightmare of 2005-2006.
Need It: Patience (still).
Buy, Sell or Rent: Sell. I know, I know: they’re a much improved team over the last X months, they still might make the playoffs this year, etc. That is the thinking that got them into this mess. Stop it.
Second Season: I said STOP IT! There has to be a plan that reaches farther than “make the playoffs”.
Upcoming: Loads of phone calls to St. Louis, and loads of phone calls from St. Louis, too. Tkachuk, Guerin, Brewer and Legace are all unrestricted free agents, and all are being hunted by at least four teams each. Any or all of them might get moved, with Guerin being a certain sale.


Got It: Rock solid goaltending (with a caveat).
Need It: More scoring on the wings.
Buy, Sell or Rent: Buy.
Second Season: Should be in, but there’s been some shaky play of late.
Upcoming: They may look for a buyer for Nabokov, as he’ll have to go sometime, with Schaeffer pushing from the minors. His numbers could get San Jose a fine winger in return, and open a little cap space, or give them the ability to pick up some extra salary of an overpriced average player.*

(*Funny story: To get New Jersey under the salary cap at the beginning of the year, San Jose traded winger Alexander Korolyuk (who was playing in Russia) and 7th defenseman Jim Fahey to the Devils for injured/retired defenseman Vladimir Malakhov. What they actually got was a first round pick and added payroll from Malakhov’s guaranteed contract.

Anyhow, to rectify their unbalanced scoring, the Sharks just tried to reacquire Korolyuk. He’s decided not to like how he’s been treated, though, and has refused to leave Russia, rendering the trade void.

As ye sow, so shall ye reap. End of story.)


Got It: Goaltending in spades.
Need It: A scorer up front, and another 5/6 defenseman.
Buy, Sell or Rent: Rent. The disappointments of earlier in the season (every forward but the Sedins) have started coming around in the second half.
Second Season: A 19-3-3 run has the team optimistic, and Luongo is hell bent for leather to get in for the first time in his career. They should be in.
Upcoming: GM Nonis wants to make a splash with a big catch, but doesn’t have a lot of cap room to do so. This means any player coming in is going to have to move people the other way.

Eastern Conference next!


posted by Thursday at 10:21 pm 0 comments

February 22, 2007

No, It's SIX Bananas!

Quite a while back, I decided to do something about my habit of waking up in the middle of the night with a brilliant idea only (you knew this was coming) to forget it by morning: I started keeping a notebook and pen beside the bed, available for immediate use In Case of Genius.

Sure enough, my subconsious brilliance flared again that night, but this time I was quick enough to capture lightning in its bottle. And what lightning it was! I have no qualms about telling you: it was The Cure.

No, not them (though that would be pretty cool). It was the cure, the solution to all problems plaguing mankind! War. Famine. Disease. this, I was sure, was the Grand Unified Theory of anthropology.

I wrote down this ultimate pancea, certain in the knowledge that my place in history as the saviour of mankind was now assured, if only I could get enough people to realize it. The next morning, I reviewed what would be the most complicated demands ever made upon society. It read:

Eat six bananas!

Clearly, some steps were missing; but I've never been able to decide what they were, and so we struggle on to this day.

I still keep the notebok beside my bed, but my hubris has been reduced a few notches.

And yet, and yet...

In January, President Yahya Jammeh of Gambia declared that he could cure AIDS. How, exactly? Like this:

"From the pockets of his billowing white robe, Gambia's president pulls out a plastic container, closes his eyes in prayer and rubs a green herbal paste into the ribcage of his patient. He then orders the thin man to swallow a bitter yellow drink, followed by two bananas."

There was a time when kings were thought to have healing powers (specifically of scrofula), as they were the chosen by God (natch'). The attention was on the king himself, leaving those who flocked to him to be anonymous when they arrive, and anonymous when they leave. Whether the supplicants were actually cured or not is utterly uninteresting; the story is in the attempt.

The practice continues, of course, among several well known scam artists around the world. But this is one of the few times an actual king has made the claim in recent years for a recent disease. Since it is a member of royalty making the claim, and the insistence that prayer be part of it, defenders of his claim are going to be easy to find.

This is the genius of Magical Thinking. His claim of using seven plants ("three of which don't come from Gambia") and the Koran to cure AIDS is bad enough; but who in a desperate time is going to criticise him? If you doubt the veracity of the cure, then you either doubt the Royal Blood (bad), the "natural wisdom" of plants (bad BAD), or the power of God to heal (potentially fatal)!

AIDS affects more than one percent of the tiny nation's population, and the World Health Organisation observers are growing alarmed at his statements, especially that the "patients" have to stop taking any other medications. When South African Minister of Health (Manto Tshabalala-Msimang) made the claim that garlic, beet root and lemon juice was more effective than drugs, she was widely ridiculed for it (of course, she also thinks that AIDS was introduced to Africa by the Illuminati, so...). But she was only a minister in a democracy (even if she is married to the treasurer of the ANC); again, who is going to dare to criticise a sovereign using prayer?

When people ask "what harm is there in someone believing in the supernatural", I can only point to what can only be considered an unholy combination of ignorance, desperation, and wish fulfillment and ask in turn if the anonymous deaths piling up is sufficient harm.

If anyone thinks that this "remedy" is going to cure anything, they're dreaming.


posted by Thursday at 7:16 pm 0 comments

Oh, Yeah... That.

So the province of British Columbia had both a Throne Speech and a new budget foisted upon them in the past few days. You'll notice the difference in headlines, what with one being a somewhat different colour than the other.

But not to fear! The main budgeting for all the enviromental promises made in the throne speech will be showing up next fiscal year, after the Liberals have had a chance for their "climate action team" to study how to actually do things like cutting greenhouse emissions by 30%... You know, a promise first, plan later sort of thing.

The hope is that with the two very different statements made this close together, in the near future they will be conflated in people's minds, turning into one and the same thing: "Didn't he promise to fund that?"

But Friends! Pay those Nervous Nellies never no mind! We have the solution, and it looks an awful lot like past solutions:

Increase taxes.

It's not called that, of course: it's a "surcharge" for those folks who use hydro or natural gas... which is pretty much everyone in B.C. Again, this falls into the province's habit of placing bad news early in the news cycle (50% increase in Medical Services Premiums, anyone?) in the hopes that everyone would forget about them by the time an election comes around. Post-secondary tuition hasn't come down at all, after increasing from $452 million in 2002 to almost $1 billion this year. Anyone notice?

But there's still the issure of whether the fee/tax/surcharge will go through: the B.C. Utilities Commission still has to approve of it first. So as it stands, we've got another year to wait before any serious enviromental funding makes an appearance at all.

Maybe they should have given it more than a week to figure it out.

P.S.: Maybe they could pay for it with a bit of loose change lying around!


posted by Thursday at 6:36 pm 2 comments

February 18, 2007

Evangelicals Are On The March!

Several years ago, science fiction writer Cyril M. Kornbluth wrote a story about a real estate agent from 1988 who was suddenly placed in suspended animation and revived in the year 7-B-936. The world he wakes to is run by 3 million "elites", who are for the most part normal, but talented, people. The problem?

The other five billion.

The "elites" were those folks smart enough (and wealthy enough) to limit their own population. Unfortunately, the folks who didn't limit their population growth were those of... limited mental capacity. Stupid people hook up with other stupid people ("Condoms? Condoms are icky!") and end up populating the world.

In any case, what brings this particular story to memory are the protests happening in Kenya, led by Bishop Boniface Adoyo:

"He's calling on his flock to boycott the exhibition and has demanded the museum relegate the fossil collection to a back room[...]"

The exhibition is, of course, Turkana Boy being put on display along with 160,000 other fossils this July which will present the single most complete view of the human evolutionary record ever in one place. Obviously, this doesn't do much for the Genesis version of mankind's creation, and that's brought out the evangelicals in force.

But Thursday (you may say), that was news days ago, and thousands of kilometers away! Why should this interest you now?

Because of something else that happened days ago, somewhat closer to home: the revelation that evolution is all part of a Kabbalah Plot, and as such should be banned from schools on religious grounds.

This is supported by the diligent researchers at Fixed Earth, and revealed to the members of the U.S. House of Representatives by Texas State Representative Warren Chisum.

Bearing in mind said diligent researchers insist that the conspiracy of evolution (Darwin's, of course - 1859) was started by Copernicus' (died in 1543) declaration that the Earth revolved around the sun (Aristarchus be damned), and you'll get some appreciation of their hard work!

I do believe we've found a whole new Time Cube, folks! Our thanks to the good people at Fixed Earth, and to Representative Warren Chisum for showing us all what's important to him!

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posted by Thursday at 6:40 pm 0 comments

February 15, 2007

It Was A Dark And Foggy Circle...

Fog. Trenchcoats. Cigarettes.

These are the things a Circle is made of...


posted by Thursday at 4:27 pm 0 comments

February 14, 2007

Romance and Big Sticks

Just in case people coming by here think I'm only opposed to Christian silliness:

Over the past few years there have been protests over Valentine's Day in India by Muslim hardliners. The public excuse has been "protesting western influence" - including invented holidays, exchanging cards, and lots and lots of chocolate. The protets have taken the form of burning romantic cards on the streets, patrolling all public areas in search of young lovers, and (of course) beating anyone "displaying affection" where the protesters can see them.

Once again, intimacy, love, and sex terrifies the religious fanatics.

But this year, there are counter protesters, acting as self-appointed guardians of people canoodling away, drawing attention of the police to any violence, or

"[...]take[ing] the law into their own hands if the police fail to act."

Ah, romance!


posted by Thursday at 5:11 pm 0 comments

February 09, 2007

The New Scarlet "A"

I don't normally watch Paula Zahn (or many other talking head shows), so end up at the mercy of friends sending me interesting bits. Sometimes, they don't get to me until quite late, like this wonderous transaction:

Panel discussion on atheism where no atheists are included

Oh, good.

Now, I don't actually live in a country where this is a problem, but the country that this happened in is a big cultural influence. This sort of thing is a bit frightening to see, frankly, but I suppose it's necessary.

The funniest aspect of this "discussion" is that earlier in the evening, there was an argument on whether affirmative action was necessary in the NFL coaching ranks. Some came down for, some against (sheck out the transcripts).

But when it came to atheists? No challenge, no contest. The story itself is about a familt of atheists being hounded out of their hometown for their beliefs, after they complained that some of the public school time their children attended was devoted to prayer and bible study.

A few of the more egregious moments (with replies):

Stephen A. Smith (sports columnist)
Karen Hunter (Pulitzer Prize journalist)
Debbie Schlussel (attorney)

Hunter: What does an atheist believe? Nothing.

*Sigh* As compared to worshipping Space Ghost, Karen? There's a hell of a lot I believe - one of them doesn't happen to be a god.

Hunter: When does it end? We took prayer out of schools. What more do they want?

They were chased out because they complained of the public shcool their kids were attending set class time aside for prayer and bible study. Maybe you missed that bit.

Schlussel: I think that the real discrimination is atheists against Americans who are religious.

Gosh, of course it is! That must be why we're all for the conversion of churches into abortion clinics! Yep, forbidding religion, that's us.

Schlussel: [...]freedom of religion doesn't mean freedom from religion.

Wow. The utter cluelessness of that statement doesn't even register with anyone there. That is, in fact, exactly what it means.

Hunter: If they had hallmark cards, maybe they wouldn't feel so left out.

Awwww... She cares! She really cares!

Hunter: I think they need to shut up and let people do what they do.

Like force them to pray to a god they don't believe in. Just smell that freedom!

Hunter: I personally think that they should never have taken prayer out of schools. I would rather there be some morality in schools.

Because as we all know, religion = morality. Right? Right? Right? Hmm... I think I'll take ethics over morality every time.

Schussel: And what about this obnoxious Michael Newdow, who went all the way to the Supreme Court for his child, the child doesn't know what's going on, to try and get under God taken out of the pledge of allegiance. They are on the attack. It's obnoxious and they do need to shut up.

First, it's only been in your pledge for 53 years, added at the hight of the McCarthy era, because of paranoia that someone, somewhere, might not believe in God enough. Second, if you're excuse for opposing him is that his kid "doesn't know what's going on", then there goes prayer in schools.

Smith: I'm not even willing to believe that [reports that atheists are the most hated of minorities]. That's news to me. I heard that, I read that, I just don't believe it.

And you'll take beliefs over facts any time, eh? Gotta follow that pattern, Stephen; to thine own self be true!

Hunter: Don't impose upon my right to want to have prayer in schools.

So, don't impose on your right to impose on people...? Care to try that sentence again?

Schlussel: Look where there are more atheists and where they've lost God, where the church is not that strong. Europe is becoming Islamist. It's fast falling and intolerance is increasing.

Can you prove any of this, or is it just some more paranoid bafflegab you've been suckered into repeating because it fits with your preconcieved notions of Europe?

Bizzare. Not only are there no atheists on this panel, but none of them know what atheism is, or even admit to knowing an atheist. Why again are they having this "discussion"? Apparently, it's the family's fault for getting chased out of town. One can only hope they find their own strength from the experience.


posted by Thursday at 4:55 pm 2 comments

February 06, 2007

The Art of Non-Compromise

The universe is getting bigger.

The galaxies are all flying further and further away from each other; eventually, the stars that we see will simply fade away, leaving our Milky Way alone among the vastness.

And it's speeding up even as we watch, the space between filling with something we can't see and don't yet even know how to detect: dark matter and dark energy.

The universe will eventually come to an end, finally, when all the energies that were unleashed at the cataclysmic origin use up their fuels and die out: entropy, the ultimate balancing act, will prevail. There will be no movement of any kind, not even molecular; no surviving life because there will be no change, an essential ingredient.

So, what's that to me? Fair enough question. The answer is: not much.

Now, don't get me wrong: I find the size of the universe astounding, and the visions from it even more so (what can I say? I picked up Discover's "The Universe" special); but in the running of my life, there's just not much there that's going to be influencing what I do here for my tiny little span of breath.

If I, and by extention my species, get tremendously lucky, focused, and talented, then there could be probes landing on one of Saturn's oddly Earth-like moons; or samples being bored from Neptune's ice. Maybe, just maybe, there could be people rotating to and from the Moon.

I may not even see this little modicum of progress in my lifetime: it could be that we take an entirely new direction, exploring unvisited depths of land and sea in an effort to further understand the world that spawned us. Maybe physical exploration will be relegated to secondary status while genetics stays to the fore.

I don't know.

Trying to predict the future, any future, is a mug's game, to misquote Douglas Adams slightly. Unless you put it far enough into the future: I know that sooner or later, my species isn't going to be here any longer. We'll either have killed each other; killed ourselves; something else will have done the job for us; or we'll be far beyond anything that would be considered Homo Sapiens, but we, humans, will be gone.

Dinosaurs are all from the Mesozoic Age, which lasted about 175 million years. I'd be amazed if we make it to 1 million. I'd be even more amazed if I were still around to blow out the candles.

Because I don't think I will be.

I don't believe in an after life. No Heaven, no Hell, no Valhalla. No cheating with reincarnation, either. The reason I don't beleve is that, well, I don't feel like I could know what's there, so I'm not inclined to make something up I don't call "fiction". For all I know, it's genetic: I've never felt religious at any point in my life, despite the Lord's Prayer still being dully chanted by hundreds of us little drones every school assembly (I stopped reciting it when I was seven). My family's pretty much a pack of atheists as well, so there could be something in that... In any case, if there is an afterlife, arguing about it before dying is like having an opinion on Degas when you've never heard of art.

So, every now and again, I get the strange question from True Believers:

"Why don't you just kill yourself? I mean, your life has no purpose, right?"

Or better still:

"You must be terribly unhappy. I feel so sorry for you. :("

Or funner than that, rather Glauconic statements like this:

"The main reason that so many atheists are criminals is that they reject the presence of a higher power that is a source of absolute morality. They do not believe that there will be any final consequences for their actions. After all, when they die, they die. End of story. So why not shoplift, and use drugs, and go on a killing spree, and read Harry Potter books, and rape as many people (of arbitrary gender and age) as possible? After all, in the end, it isn't going to matter, is it? This sick worldview is one of the biggest problems with society today."

Granted, these sorts of ststements tend to end up in places like this one, and few folks who have thought about their faith instead of following it blindly have actually bothered to ask these obviously stupid questions. But these opinions have an odd habit of returning, like the watchmaker argument, to amuse and annoy me.

So I think I'll answer.

To begin, understand that there is no such thing as eternal. There is no infinity that you can point to, no limitless, endless, or countless. (There is, to be sure, an inability to count, but that is not the same thing. End of aside.) Think the grains of sand on a beach are uncountable? What if I worked out the volume of the beach and gave you a quick estimate? We could get the same volume delivered right to your door. Count away at your leisure.

"Infinity" is a concept, only a concept, for an excellent reason. You know the example of ten typewriters and ten monkeys creating the complete works of Shakespeare? Well, they'd also create, word for word, the complete works of Hunter S. Thompson (Where'd Fridays go, Gaz?), Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and all the love poetry written by 15 year old Bobbi Jo Kopechnik ("i"s dotted with little hearts) of Tulsa, Alabama.

"Infinity" doesn't mean "for a long time". It means "until everything, and we mean EVERYTHING, happens".

So why is the allure of an unending life so strong? The varieties that appear all resound with a distinct lack of planning for the future. How to get there is made startlingly clear; what happens then is... uh...

"You're happy and stuff" seems to me to be the most pointless existence one could ever dream up. Think of the folks around you: how many of them seem to know what they're doing with their lives? What do you think they're going to do with an eternal one?

And more pertinent to my point, what would it matter?

Seeing people deprive themselves of joys in this world for ones they desperately want to have happen in the next simply breaks my heart. It strikes me as a willful insanity to not learn how to ride a motorcycle if that's what you really want to do when your reasoning is "there will be time enough when I'm dead".

What else are you going to do? Write the most beautiful sonnets in the world? Compose the first perfect haiku? Build your dream house? See if you can ride a single sustained orgasm's peak for a year or two?

Okay... Then what? Then you find out the monkeys beat you to it in all four cases, perhaps (who gave them hammers, anyways?). But even if not, then what? It's eternity: you'll do whatever you do, and it will be exactly what you intended, or not; it'll be perfect, or not; but you'll be happy with it. But... Then what?

"Eternity" doesn't mean "for a long time".

Some of us humans are known beyond our life spans: some far beyond them. But it wasn't for the eternal that these people became memorable. It wasn't because they were desperate to leave some kind of impression on the universe that they are known. It may be that the only immortality we have lies in the memories of our people, but it's not to the distant future that the few, tiny slivers of humanity were aiming.

No: these few, these giants whose works we can still see and still feel resonating within us through the span of aeons changed first the lives of those around them. It may be something as small as a town's local hero, or someone who felt the need to fight for his people or her nation, or someone who changed the very way the humanity thought about itself.

They're heroes, or villians, or often both; but they are made of the same stuff as you and me and the people surrounding them. And it's for those people, those they saw and heard and felt every day, that they went and acted. Those people, whose lives they touched, elevated them first; then future generations rose and fell, and picked their heroes from the past, and decided who should be immortal even as we are deciding now.

We're picking and choosing, on whim and judgement, who is worth keeping in our collective memory and who will be cast aside. And maybe someone from now will be remembered, and maybe not, and maybe so for only another generation before they fade.

Of all the meanings of "generation", it mostly signifies a cycling, a creation, a change; change is essential for life; and life, eventually, ends. This cannot be considered a tragedy!

Eternity is utterly trivial; immortality means nothing. What matters, in any way you wish to look, is the world around you now. These people, alive now, are the only ones who matter, just like every generation before it, and just like every generation to follow.

What's more important to you: eventually dying and being granted an inert, unchanging afterworld; or being remembered lovingly by one person, here and now?

Eternity? It can wait.


posted by Thursday at 11:44 pm 1 comments

February 04, 2007

Enough Circles Makes a Target

A couple days late, I'm afraid, but the Skeptics' Circle is up once again! This time, some of us (myself included) were unable to resist the big, fat target of Sylvia Browne after she really, really blew it, telling the parents of a missing child that he was dead, only to have him show up (and hold a press conference) four years later...

But! There is much more than that to choose from over here.

Note: been a little tardy as I've been through a bout of the flu. Ever have one of those days where it feels like your brain is tearing off chunks of your skull and eating them? Well, either my brain's full, or I'm getting better.


posted by Thursday at 12:52 am 0 comments