Thursday, July 28, 2011

Farewell to an old friend

During my trip up north Jasper (my parent's dog) died.  It some ways it is hard to have an emotional, trying time occur during our vacation but in other ways I think the timing was good.  Elli has never had someone close to her die up till this point and she was confused and upset by Jasper dying and being buried in the field nearby.  I think it was good for her to be able to see it happen and ask questions though since she is old enough now to get a sense of what death means and how people deal with their grief.  I think this was better than her just being told that Jasper had died and having to deal with it from a distance.  I normally find it very interesting to try to answer the hard questions that come up when Elli becomes curious about love, death, betrayal, sex, and religion but it is very hard to answer questions properly and tell her what she needs to know when I am wiping away tears of my own and trying to keep my voice from breaking and failing me entirely.

All the sign says is Jasper  1998 - 2011.  That is what a memorial normally says but there is so much more to remember and I wanted Elli to understand what happens after death.  I want her to know that although the body falls apart and the sense of self is gone that memories of the person that has died can continue for a very long time and that a part of Jasper will remain as long as we continue to remember who and how she was.  We need to remember the twitching tail and frantic bark as she begged for a ball to be thrown and Jasper smacking sticks into our legs as she ran around with a gigantic chunk of tree between her jaws.

I had to explain to Elli exactly why we were going to take Jasper to the vet to be euthanized and what happens to bodies after they die.  She asked the next day if Jasper was in little pieces yet and I talked to her about how fast bodies decay in the ground.  She wanted to know why we put Jasper's toys in the grave with her and what Jasper would do with them.  I wanted to allow myself to cry and let her see me cry because it is important that she understands that grief is natural and nothing to be ashamed of but I needed to be in control to help her when she needed guidance or a shoulder to cry on herself.  I hope she has taken away from this that we grieve for the dead but what we must do is remember the best parts of their lives and then go on to enjoy the time we have.  The most important thing about a person or a dog is not if, how or when they died but how they lived and Jasper had a good, long life that brought joy to many and that is worthy of celebration.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The farm girl and the city boy

Today I went to visit Hobby Farmer to see her pigs and chickens.  Elli came along and was full of wonder and delight as she got to pet chickens, see them run free around the yard pecking at bugs and watch pigs being fed.  We strolled around the property and heard Hobby Farmer's plans to acquire sheep and horses along with her smaller animals and got to see her passion as she talked about her dreams for her chunk of land out in the country.

It is such a remarkable contrast compared to how I live.  I love the idea of free range chickens, pigs fed all natural feed and growing food without reliance on huge monocultures... but I don't have any interest in doing it myself!  I am quite willing to pay more for food grown without the use of hormones and lifelong prisons but the idea of having to collect the eggs, feed the pigs, deal with the poop and be harnessed to the needs of the animals is just not appealing.  I love the idea of the farm but not the reality.

I suppose I am not unusual in this.  People often wax romantic about the wonders of raising your own food and being connected to the land and to the web of life but very few are really interested in the day to day details of doing so.  Farming, for most, is a grind and they are ever too eager to head to the city and never deal with animals again except pampered pets and cuts of meat in the grocery store.  That isn't bad except that it leads to our current disaster of food that really isn't food at all and food that is incredibly bad for us despite being called the same name as food that once was healthy.

Before we went to the farm I bet Elli that the pigs would have wings and she bet that they would not.  I am not sure whether or not she really bought into my game but I think I saw flickerings of doubt on her face ... she wasn't *completely* sure that I was kidding until she saw that the pigs in fact had no wings.  I lost the bet but I think I won the game.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Happy weddings

I am up north in Thunder Bay for a week to attend my brother's wedding.  It isn't by any means a big, traditional wedding as we are going to have a party for 100 people outdoors and people are invited to show up in casual clothes.  Even then there are signs of wear and tear from those organizing the big day.  Both the bride and groom as well as my parents (who are hosting the bash) are clearly experiencing the stress and pinch of dealing with the event and although they are all happy it is happening they certainly cannot claim it has been all smiles and balloons.  I tell you, everybody should listen to me.

1 month engagement period.  (Very little time to be stressed.)
Small number of invitations.  (Fewer people = less planning.)
Simple preparations.  (Less stress and minimal cost.)

There are lots of things that I do that I think everybody should do but usually people disagree with me.  They want to own cars, wear shoes, own stuff and put on pants.  When I describe my version of the perfect wedding though they all agree with me and then they go ahead and do something else anyway.  You may look at me and think "get a job and put on some clothes ya hippie!" but you just gotta believe me on weddings... 25 people, no notice, backyard setting and minimal preparation makes for happy.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The political spectrum and tribes

I have been doing some reading about the Oslo bomber/shooter Anders Brievik and one thing that jumped out at me is the way that people react to the terms 'left wing' or 'right wing'.  Brievik is obviously a deranged sociopath, nobody is arguing that, but he has been regularly termed a right wing extremist in news articles and I found an interesting debate about that terminology.  As usual the debate is cluttered with reams of name calling and hyperbole but some powerful points emerged from the noise:  Firstly, people really view left wing and right wing in tribal terms and have very little understanding of the functional differences between various governments and groups.  Many of the posts in that link were arguing about whether or not the Nazis were left wing or right wing extremists as each side tried to make the other responsible for evil behaviour in the past.  Second, people seem desperate to characterize the other team as being evil rather than having different priorities.  All these lunatics seem desperate to convince themselves that their viewpoint is rational and everybody else is a self serving jackass whose ill conceived political notions are responsible for every extremist government and violent episode in all history.

Brievik's actions in Norway are evil.  Preventing these sorts of episodes in future is definitely a priority but figuring out which of the two political tribes is responsible for his actions is ridiculous and unhelpful.  Pinning blame on one side or the other will accomplish nothing at all; we need to focus on how we can usefully prevent people like him from managing to be so incredibly destructive next time.  Certainly anybody who decides to kill a bunch of people can do so as there is no realistic way of keeping homemade explosives and hunting rifles out of the hands of the populace.  We can however to make sure we find these lunatics before they actually do much damage and attempt to prevent them being as 'successful' as Brievik was.

There is no such thing as a political line that accurately represents everything from Socialism to Communism to Fascism.  Looking at failed governments and trying to place the guilt for them on other groups is pointless and inaccurate.  Communism was a government type that is laughable in theory and in practice is a failed version of totalitarianism. It is not extreme Socialism.  The same argument is true for Fascism and Libertarian philosophy. What we can and must do if we want to have useful debate on political topics and develop good policies is to focus on facts rather than blame and avoid oversimplified models that aren't useful for anything.   What is true is that there are laws that make things better for the people and ones that don't, expenditures that are worth it and ones that are not and policies that do what they are supposed to and ones that do not.  When we focus on the details and the facts rather than the tribal bickering we will be on our way to building a better society for all.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

I need a metaphor

I desperately need a metaphor for my enslavement to this tome but I am too enraptured by Martin's prose to think of one that works.  First I considered comparing the book to a drowning man who has only seawater to drink; he drinks more and more but his thirst can never be slaked.  That works to explain the intense need to keep reading, to see more, that no amount is enough, but the book is awesome and drinking seawater is awful so the metaphor fails.

I then thought to compare the need to read the book to the lust of a 18 year old virgin - impossible to contain, impossible to deny, and even once the act is done the 18 year old is ready for more almost immediately.  Unfortunately the 18 year old is normally is desperately worried that they will do something wrong and thinks that if they don't do it *right now* the chance will never come again and that isn't true here.  I can't do anything wrong and I know the book will wait.

Perhaps I could compare my addiction to this work to being addicted to crack?  The unrelenting desire for that next hit, the joy of submission to the desire, the warm glow of knowing that for right now the cravings are gone and all I can see is beauty?  Maybe, but I don't get the sense of guilt that comes along with crack, nor is there a harsh down at the end.  (Not that I have tried crack, mind you, but one hears of these things.)

The only thing that really comes close is the flow that comes with a brand new video game.  I remember playing Civ 1 back in high school and looking up at the clock thinking I would go to bed early at 10:30 and seeing 1:15... and then after playing 'just 1 more turn' finally getting into bed at 4:00.  I am lost in a world of dragons and warlocks, knights and royalty, swords and sorcery.  I have been reading for 6+ hours a day and it just isn't enough.

I have ripped through all 4 of the earlier books and am halfway through A Dance With Dragons.  Please Martin, write faster.  I need MORE!  I can't even find a simple metaphor for my addiction, my brain can only think of running back into the other room, cracking open the book and

Ahhhhh yeah.  Just like that.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Playing Chicken

When the big kids on the block decide to play chicken it is dangerous to all the little kids too.  Every time I read or hear about the US debt situation it makes me cringe inside.  I have constant pings in the back of my mind that tell me to get out of the stock market completely and take what I have and slam it into GICs or some other 100% guaranteed haven while the Democrats and Republicans have fun driving cars towards a cliff at breakneck speed.  They know that both the US and the world economies will go into a tailspin if they fail to reach a deal and that the economic consequences of their choices are dire and yet they posture and shout and pretend like they could simply default and it wouldn't be that bad.  The thing that makes me most crazy is you can see how the latest polls in the US answering the question "If the talks fail which party do you think is responsible for the ensuing chaos?" so massively influence policy.  As those polls have shifted towards the Republicans their stance has become decidedly more conciliatory and their willingness to compromise has increased; not that the Democrats would do differently in their shoes, mind you.

If you hunt around you can find statements made by people in power that suggest that any increase in taxation to fix the US deficit is worse than defaulting - even if those increases are limited to removing loopholes and tax exemptions only for the super rich.  Somehow the Tea Party extremists have fooled their constituents into thinking that it is better to be unable to pay Social Security benefits and have the US plunge deep into recession than to tax the top 1% of the nation to the same extent they tax the middle 1%.  The mindless, all consuming fear of taxes that many people have utterly baffles me.  It isn't just a desire for the stuff that could be bought with more money, but rather something primal like the natural disgust we have for feces, cannibalism or incest.  Taxes have become something so dirty and awful that even when they are applied to those who would only have to give up their Sunday Porsche they are simply unconscionable.

It is clear that many of the governments of the world have fundamental issues with deficits.  Canada is certainly in a better state than the US given its lower debt load and lack of a banking meltdown but nonetheless we in the north are still racking up huge debt and lacking any sort of plan to get rid of it all someday.  The Republicans are trying to push through a plan that would make having a budget deficit simply illegal and I have heard that this is a pipe dream and is not really workable... and yet I find myself thinking that this is the only possible way to avoid this ridiculous situation.  Politicians elected every 4 years who are allowed to spend beyond their means to buy votes will *always* do so.  They won't spend 50% beyond their means because the public would go bonkers but people will continue to vote them in as long as they run just a few % more than they should.  What we all need is to find a way to prevent politicians from ever running deficits.  Sure, there is a theory that in good times they will pay it back but we all know that is about as likely as them paying it back by finding a leprechaun's gold.

We have to trust our leaders to declare wars, not to enact stupid laws and to shape our economy but we must not trust them to run a balanced budget.  They have all proven time and again that they are just not up to the task.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Jack and the Tomato Plant

A little while ago I got a tiny tomato plant from a store.  I figured that it would be fun for Elli to watch it grow and maybe we would even get a tiny tomato or two.  I like very much having lots of green around the place regardless, so even if no tomatoes were forthcoming I wouldn't have been displeased.  What I got though was something else entirely.

Tomato plants, as far as I can recall from my parents' garden, that is, aren't all that big.  I remember putting out the round wire tomato plant thingies for them to grow up on but I certainly don't recall them ever becoming behemoths that would tower over me... but this one certainly did.  First I put a small metal post in the pot, about 2 feet high.  This was never going to be enough if the plant grew decently but I figured it would serve for awhile.  Trouble is the plant kept growing, so we moved the light near it and figured it could climb up that.

To keep it from just falling over I used masking tape.  Initially just a little masking tape on the metal pole, then a piece on the lamp, then more pieces on the lamp.  Eventually I had the very top of the tomato plant taped to the rim of the lamp in some desperate attempt to let it continue growing ever upward.  Finally the plant ripped the tape off of the light and the stalk fell over, snapping nearly in two.

I gave up on the ridiculous idea of the lamp and now the tomato plant is growing all over our clothes drying rack.  Stood up straight it is now over 7 feet tall, dwarfing me handily.  I sure didn't expect that when I planted a little tomato plant that I would end up with a gigantic tomato plant that fills the room and precisely zero tomatoes.  Aside from the obvious travesty of holding the bloody thing up in the air, what have I done wrong to create this monster?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Honour and Nobility

I have been plowing through A Song of Ice and Fire series by George RR Martin in preparation for reading the latest installment.  I had forgotten how bloody *enormous* it is!  900+ pages for every book and they just seem to get bigger and bigger as the story progresses.  I had also forgotten just how much Martin manages to avoid having Good and Evil people in his story.  While there are certainly people who are jerks it reads a lot more like read life than fantasy:  People have real reasons for doing things and those that inflict the most hideous cruelties are often nice in other situations and those that seem so honourable and good end up being responsible for tidal waves of blood.

*Warning:  Spoiler alert!*

Take Eddard Stark.  A stern but just ruler, a man who strives to be honourable in all things.  His death near the end of the first book came as a shock to many since he was the central character for Team Good for the story up to that point.  But how good was he really?

He warned Cersei Lannister of his intentions, paving the way for Robert's murder.  He refused to seize power multiple times when the opportunity presented itself and instead walked into a betrayal that plunged the world into war.  Eddard had ample opportunities to leave the realm in peace but he did not do so for one reason:  His honour.  He weighed the possibility of war and the accompanying deaths of tens of thousands against 'I would feel bad' and chose the former.  He decided that it was more important for him to 'do the honourable thing' than it was for him to prevent the realm being plunged into war.  This action can't even be justified be looking at his immediate family since they ultimately were nearly wiped out (along with gazillions of their followers) in the ensuing chaos.

Eddard is by no means the only one.  All kinds of high lords are happy to cause untold carnage to increase their own power, get revenge for friends or family members that have died or just for the glory of it all.  Looked at through a modern lens where the lives of a peasant and a powerful lord are equal their behaviour is universally evil; even the best of the lords places far more import on the life and comfort of someone nobly born.  This is obviously pretty accurate as that was the way things were in feudal society, and in fact in pretty much any society until our modern one.  Even if the mayor of Toronto could in fact order the people of the city to attack Vancouver he would find absolutely nobody who thought that rescuing his son would be an appropriate excuse for such an action.

The more I read this series the more I appreciate how well it is written... but the more I also appreciate how capable people are of being evil while believing themselves to be utterly righteous.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

More on Privacy

Some people believe in bringing it on, posting their innermost feelings and secrets on the internet.  Some people go the opposite way and refuse to attach anything on the internet to their real name in the hopes that nothing personal can be linked to them.  I very much fit into the first category since I use my real name on the blog and openly publish where I live and all kinds of really intimate details.  Lots of my friends and family post under pseudonyms that are readily identifiable to each other but pretty much impossible for the internet to sort out but one in particular refuses to post at all, even under a pseudonym.  This one I shall dub Kilan, and Kilan is relatively unique in that Kilan thinks about my posts and has comments but they are reserved for emails or in person questions.  (I attempted to link the word Kilan with the person in question via google and other internet resources and got precisely nowhere, so it seems safe!)

I have the advantageous position of being a homemaker so there is no threat to my career if I link my name up with all kinds of strongly worded opinions on the internet.  Even if I went back to sales I doubt very much that it could ever matter - salespeople are hired on the basis of numbers, not opinions.  Hell, the ability to express controversial opinions on the internet in an effective fashion might well be considered an asset.  Kilan, like many others, is instead in a position where any prospective employer will google them and would take any random internet comments very much into consideration.  They might well find any controversial comments distasteful whether or not they agree with them.  Given this realistic concern, there are good reasons to simply not post what you think on the internet under a real name, or in fact to post at all.  The trouble with careful, thoughtful people refusing to post though is that their voices don't get heard.  You don't change the world by sitting in a corner waiting for things to get better, you change it by stepping out and doing and saying things.

To be fair changing the world is something lots of people aren't especially interested in.  They want to enjoy their lives and make good choices themselves but don't see that they should be tasked with changing the world - or perhaps they doubt that writing posts on the internet actually *does* change anything (which is an argument I find hard to refute).  One thing I think is true is that posting anonymously on the internet has limited effectiveness.  For one, when you do so everyone knows you aren't willing to stamp your name on your beliefs and stand by them in any circumstance.  For two there is the issue that you might well be a bot, a person spamming over and over on different names or just trolling.  There is also the abundantly true and hilarious Greater Internet F***wad Theory to explain why people arguing on the internet under pseudonyms create such incredibly useless threads.

I think opinions and ideas are important and that the things we say and don't say matter.  I also think that the best way to achieve thoughtful debate on important topics is to have open discussions that are moderated when necessary and which are conducted using real names and identities.  I don't insist on commenters using real names and I don't use real names for most of the people in my life though because I know lots of people have good things to say but don't entirely agree with me about the benefits of real identities or feel that preserving their anonymity is sufficiently important to them to want to post under a pseudonym.  I suspect that many of my commenters, including Kilan, would post anonymously even if there was no threat to their careers whatsoever.

It is my firm conviction that much of the bigotry and hatred in our society is supported by secrecy, privacy and silence.  Forcing people to own up to their beliefs and openly acknowledge their biases is, in my view, a good step towards stamping out much of the grief we shovel onto one another.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Studies show

Studies show that Russian Girls Are Very Attracted To Western Men.  Man, I love how Studies Show is used by absolutely everybody to try to lend some shred of credence to their claims.  The best part is that anybody can say any ridiculous thing they want and call it a study, so even if you have a bit of notation like Roy et. al. in 2011 it means absolutely nothing.

These folks making this ad though don't even bother with notation... presumably they are targetting Western Men who are so mad with lust that they can't even read, much less think.

Studies Show that everybody should come to my place and drop off a briefcase filled with cash.  Can't argue with that!

Tweet this

Twitter is ridiculously powerful.  There was a time when politicians flirting with women who are not their wives would have simply denied the charge if confronted or when game companies who threatened anyone who gave their games a bad review could have hidden behind 'he said, she said' games.  No more.  Now those politicians send their messages to the world via Twitter and get themselves removed from Congress instead.  These days companies that make threats to game reviewers do it publicly and on record and get taken to task by both other companies that deal with them and the people who in theory are going to buy (or not) their games.  What boggles me more than anything here is that these people are not idiots.  Teenagers sexting each other can land themselves in all kinds of trouble but they at least have the excuse that initially they were nobody important and that they are young and foolish - what excuse do executives and Congressmen have for hitting Send on things that could easily lose them their jobs, companies, friends and livelihoods?

Bill Clinton really made a mistake when he had sex with Monica Lewinsky and it cost him.  However, it took a damn long time to prove and even after he was accused of the act he very nearly got away with it because there wasn't an obvious record of the event.  This has always been true; whether you look at accusations of infidelity or  murder trials it has been extremely difficult to prove convincingly what happened since eye witnesses are so incredibly unreliable.  These days so much of what we do is recorded and stored somewhere it is much easier for people to prove objectively and without a doubt what exactly happened and it catches all kinds of people by surprise.  Why don't we figure this out?  Why can't people wait to tweet their frustration until they have calmed down, cooled off and thought about the ramifications?  I think it is simply that we are all programmed both from life experience and evolution to not base our behaviour around the idea that everything we do will be recorded.  You can always lie, cheat, obfuscate or play around with the truth, except when you can't, which is really only true today and has not been true before.

I figure that people have always made these sorts of inflammatory comments and gotten involved in ill advised flirtations and always will.  We as a species don't have the will to resist the urge to talk even when we are doing so on the record and only now it is true that denial simply fails much of the time to irrefutable evidence.

One truly disturbing footnote to this is that teenagers are being arrested and convicted of child pornography charges in the US because they took pictures of themselves and sent them to classmates!  Both the people receiving the pictures and the ones taking them are potentially breaking extremely serious laws that were never intended to be used against them.  Clearly child pornography is evil - but kidnapping children and forcing them to work in sex videos is child pornography and teenagers taking nudes photos of themselves and sending them to classmates is most certainly not.  Any laws that don't make that distinction need to be changed, and soon.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Home is a who

I was born, grew up, went to school and left for university all without ever moving.  There was only ever one home for me, my parents' house in O'Connor township.  A few years after I moved away they moved to a new house and I went to visit them there for Christmas.  I wondered before I went if the new place would feel like home or if I would find it strange and unwelcoming.  What I found is that the building itself meant nothing.  Being with my parents was the same as always and the venue just didn't matter.  Even when I wandered by the old house a few years later the sense of home was completely absent; the place was suffused with memories and history but it was just a place I had lived, nothing more.

I noticed the same thing yesterday.  While I was away on my trip I greatly enjoyed myself and got to hang around with Hobo and play games, chat and reminisce but it always felt like there was a crack in the world... something was fundamentally wrong in a small way and I could not entirely be at ease.  When I walked in the door and saw Wendy there smiling at me that feeling simply melted away.  I like my condo, I like to have my own computer, to know that all my stuff is where I remember putting it and that I am master of my domain but those are just conveniences - in every way that matters Wendy is my home.  Home for me is not a where or a what but in fact a who.

It is good to be home.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A game of thrones

Today the fifth book in the series A Song of Ice and Fire arrived at my doorstep.  I am just home from my vacation to the east coast but I did not get to read the previous 4 books during my vacation and I planned very badly ahead of time so now I have a terrible decision to make; read the fifth book now and not have a full grasp of the story or desperately tear through the earlier books to get to the shiny new thing.  This series is the best fantasy series ever written and me being an unabashed geek it seems almost criminal to not sink into it right away. I wrote so many crappy fantasy stories in my youth sitting in friend's basements throwing dice and slaying monsters that I *must* devote myself body and soul to the greatest example of the craft.

If you have not seen the HBO tv series of the first book you simply must do so - it is a great retelling of the story and lacks only a $100,000,000 budget for each episode like a big movie might have.  When they were recruiting actresses for this show they must have had a poster like this:

Looking for actresses.

Must be young.  (Story consistency.)
Must be pretty.  (There are plenty of ugly people in the story but they don't get the headline roles or the nude scenes... surprise!)
Must be unknown.  (So the actress will stay around for later seasons.)
Must be willing to be naked constantly.  (The book has plenty of sex... much like real life... and HBO takes great pleasure in keeping true to that part of the book.)

I can't argue with the best story being retold well in a tv format, especially with the above notes.  Sue me, I'm a man.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Digging a hole

Today Hobo and I visited the beach.  Much like all other beaches in the world this one was in dire need of a hole.  The hole that the beach needed was a gigantic one, surrounded by earthworks, walls, towers and other defenses against the coming onslaught from the dire enemy Tide.  Tide is relentless, ruthless and has never been defeated and yet is utterly predictable with no variation in strategy.  Tide relies on brute strength and endless patience.  Though it has never been defeated it is a certainty that man must create bastions to battle against the Tide despite the outcome never being in question.

When constructing a fortress for this purpose one must dig a hole, choosing a spot that Tide will assault soon but not immediately - time is needed to prepare for the onslaught.  The hole first must go straight down with the dirt being placed carefully between the hole and the water.  Eventually the digger will find that the bottom of the hole is damp and then that it begins to fill with water.  Despair not mighty builder! The water in the bottom of the hole will allow one to perform the mighty feat of hollowing out the ground underneath one's own feet with remarkable ease.  Continue to excavate the mud and watch as the bottom of the hole grows larger and larger.

Disaster strikes!  One side of the hole has collapsed, taking the ground on which the fortifications were being constructed into the ever widening maw of the hole.  The builder must redouble their efforts, dragging the fallen earth out of the hole and continuing to excavate.  Further down the builder must go, and no matter how much earth and mud must be moved one must never falter.

Of course eventually the waves crash over the mighty defenses created to defend the hole from the implacable Tide and the water will wash into the hole, filling the once magnificent structure with mud and utterly destroying any sign of the builder's work.

If you don't know what I am talking about and you don't have the insatiable desire to dig such a hole every time you go to the beach then you have my condolences.  There is little better advice that I can give on life than to go to the beach and dig yourself a gigantic damn hole.  It is a wonderful thing indeed, though you must be willing to endure the withering glances of those who have grown up too much, too fast.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Flying is the worst

Yesterday I successfully transitioned from home to the not-so-far East.  I bloody hate flying as it keeps me up tossing and turning and unable to sleep the night before.  It isn't the flight itself, which I find pretty boring, but rather the fear of missing the flight.  I tried to sleep until 1am and then got up to watch some videos on the internet, finally getting down to sleep at nearly 4am.  I have always been this way and I can't fathom why... I am taking an afternoon flight so there isn't even any possibility of oversleeping or anything.  Some people are terrified of their plane crashing into a mountain in a pile of flaming wreckage and I am left sleepless by the chance that I will somehow get completely borked by traffic or mishap and be late.  Hell, I even missed a flight completely once and the airline just put me on the next plane at no cost so I *know* that missing a flight isn't even much of a problem.  So why am I awake at 3:30am twitching and thrashing every damn time?  The only thing it gets me is an irritable wife and getting to travel with the slightly sick and grainy eyed feeling of sleep deprivation.

Of course once I arrive at the airport the bloody security guards discovered a bottle in my carryon that had a capacity of 177ml and which was 10% full.  100ml is the max you see, if they let me on the plane with a larger container than that I would surely blow it up.  The hilarious trick is that they aren't even confiscating *liquids*.  I can bring a boatload of containers full of liquid if I want to as long as each is 99ml or less.  But we are all safe because they are busy confiscating containers of any sort, empty or full, with a capacity larger than 100ml.  Can anyone explain why over the years security has seen fit to take away two pairs of nail trimmers, one shaving razor and two mostly empty bottles of liquid over 100ml in capacity?  Somehow somebody making the decisions has concluded that being annoying and wasteful is the same as being safe.

I must say though that the joys of flying are infinitely greater when flying alone.  Not having to cram myself and a small person into a airplane bathroom that isn't big enough for just me is the best.  No throwing up, no fights over "Yes, you HAVE to take a pee before we get on the plane!", just me reading my book.  It is a wondrous fair thing indeed.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Labelling myself

I just found a useful piece of information in Matt Ridley's latest blog post.  It turns out I am a lukewarmer, that being someone who believes that the earth is warming and that carbon has a warming effect but who doubts much of the hype about AGW and is suspicious of many of the proposed solutions.  How convenient!  Now I can go about the internet and just post

"Insert lukewarmer manifesto here with an additional helping of suspicion towards big corporate and a tendency towards overconfidence."

instead of making actual points and everyone can just google "lukewarmer" and know what I would have said.  Of course once I have labelled myself in this fashion I am compelled to wander the blogosphere looking for people arguing and spew irrational vitriol at anyone who isn't 'on my team'.

Now if only I knew the appropriate moniker for my particular combination of political views I could really save myself some typing time.

Hooray for labels?

Monday, July 4, 2011

On going to the Pride parade

This past weekend was the Pride parade in Toronto.  It is one of the largest celebrations of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people and communities in the world and by all accounts is quite the spectacle.  I didn't attend the parade and neither did Mayor Rob Ford.

There is, of course, a pretty big difference between me and Ford.  I didn't attend even though I wholeheartedly support equal rights for people regardless of sexual identity or preference.  I also support the tearing down of our society's desperate fear of genitals and as you can see above the Pride parade they surely push that agenda. However, I hate gigantic crowds of people standing at fences to watch a spectacle and have absolutely no interest in being there.  The fact that 1 million people did show up means that my absence won't exactly be conspicuous but Ford doesn't have that luxury since he is the mayor.  The fact that he refused to answer the question "Are you a homophobe?" from a reporter and refused to attend any Pride events has him being lambasted for homophobia across the nation and certainly has brought out the gay bashers and religious nuts to support him (read the comments).  He might well not like the sights and sounds of the parade itself but he could trivially have attended the flag raising event right beside his office and given a 30 second speech on acceptance and diversity and been pretty much off the hook.

The other side of the coin is that if Ford had attended he would almost certainly have been booed and mocked.  The LGBT community doesn't much like Ford because he *is* a homophobe and wouldn't have treated him well if he had appeared.  Given that it isn't a shock at all that he didn't want to attend... he was in a lose/lose situation.  He could have avoided that situation by, say, not being homophobic and racist in the first place, but given that he is there isn't a good way out of this situation for him.  The trick here is that whether or not it is right and whether or not Ford likes it the position of mayor carries with it tremendous responsibility as a role model.  People outside Toronto base much of their understanding of the city on the behaviour of its leaders and people inside Toronto take behavioural cues from the Mayor.  Ford has tremendous power to influence the way the city behaves and as such he has a responsibility to use that power appropriately - by supporting everyone in the city regardless of his personal feelings.

So Rob Ford, you may not want to attend Pride and you may not want to see the spectacle of the parade.  However, it is part of the Mayor's job to show up to major events and to show support for everyone in their constituency.  If you didn't want that responsibility then you shouldn't have taken the damn job.  It isn't fair that I can skip Pride without consequence and you get mocked for doing the same thing, but it also isn't fair that you get to be a hugely influential role model for society and I don't.  Suck it up and do the right thing.

There is a really good and much longer post about this Here that you might want to read if you are still interested.

Time to hit the big red button

Half a year ago I split my blog into two parts, a gaming blog and a 'everything else including the kitchen sink' blog.  I am relatively pleased with the transition because I feel like I can write hardcore gamer posts on the other blog and not cause the eyes of my family and other non gamer readers to glaze over while they slowly gasp for air and slide off their chairs.  On the other hand I think that I have been missing out on what a really great blog can be by limiting myself to 3 big essay type posts a week here.  Primarily by reading a bunch of posts at Whatever and Penelope Trunk I noticed that really successful bloggers are a lot more freeform than I have been.  I enjoy writing my essays but I feel like if I want to crank it up a notch I need to post more and I need to limit myself less; sometimes a particular topic really only deserves a few lines and a picture.  As such I am going to hit the giant red button right now and put Brightcape into overdrive.

What this means is that you can expect a lot more posts from me.  I will still be doing my normal essay type posts but I intend on mixing in lots more interesting links, short anecdotes and pictures.  I intend on writing with much more passion, verve and moxie too but you know what they say about good intentions.

This new, improved posting schedule will not necessarily take effect right away.  I am going on vacation for a week to visit Hobo in the not-so-far East and I honestly have no idea how often I will be able to post while there.  I will blast out a few things before I go and get back on track mid next week.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Lookin' Ugly

Recently I decided to grow a beard.  The initial plan was to just grow my goatee out and let the sides fill in as time went by.  I was looking forward to having a ZZ top style beard that would be enormously long and luxuriant but I have given up on that... I was just too ugly.

Whether or not you think the rest of me is attractive or not it is hard to deny that the scraggly, long beard looks bloody awful especially with the sides being short.  I am not the sort to be desperately worried about how I look to the rest of the world (in fact I find it greatly amusing to be bizarre in ways that are pretty much the opposite of 'hip') but I ended up deciding that I should stop looking like a frothing, ranting hobo for Wendy's sake if nothing else.  The undeniable truth is that I like it when she looks hot.  I think high heels are bloody ridiculous and I have no attachment to makeup so I am not exactly the most demanding sort of person in this regard... but I am exceptionally fond of tight and revealing clothing, as nearly all men are, and if she decided to wear an Amish style dress all the time I would be disappointed.  I figure I should do my part and at the very least try not to be actively embarassing.

I am a little torn on this issue though.  For one, it seems like your mate should be someone around whom you can simply be yourself and which does not require high maintenance and carefully chosen facades.  On the other hand if you are going to try to look good for someone why wouldn't you do so for the most important person in your life?  Maybe the best strategy is to generally try to look good but every so often do something silly to look awful to remind them how much worse things could be.  :)

I did get the beard long enough that Wendy was able to braid it though so I figure my mission is accomplished.  Time to do the unthinkable and let her demolish it with a trimmer.

And there is the after photo, 20 minutes later.  I was slightly nervous as I don't even let barbers touch my beard... it has always been something I want to do myself.  Nonetheless I have cleaned myself up to something resembling respectability and hopefully I will be thoroughly rewarded for my herculean efforts.  Unfortunately now I lack a beard that is suitable for thoughtful beard strokery while doing other things so I will have to go get a bunch of pens to put on my desk so I will have something to fidget with while I think or read.  I don't know why some people can sit calmly and others must relentlessly twitch and fiddle with nearby objects but I am undoubtedly in the second group; every girlfriend I have ever had has been driven mad by my relentless leg bouncing if nothing else.