Sunday, April 25

After the dead horses — John Quiggin

John Quiggin, perhaps my favorite economist (okay - he is my favorite, but only because I can't think of another one that I'd say I like) makes an interesting case on Crooked Timber regarding the need to continue an open dialog on what to do in the void created by Rightest hegemony and agnotology (yes, I learned a new word today).

Monday, April 19

E-readers vs. books

Interesting article at The Grist under the Ask Umbra banner. Of most interest to me was the bottom entry on the sustainability metrics of e-readers. Short story even shorter? E-readers are a break-even measure once you've read around 100 books... Big reader? Then it's a good idea.

Unless you're like me and will use the e-reader (that I don't have yet) to read everything and then also buy the hardcover or TPV of the ones you REALLY, REALLY HAVE TO HAVE FOR THE LIBRARY WALL!!!

When I get one, I figure my break-even will be around 125-150...

The other good news is that paper books, hard or soft cover, are actually not so bad for the environment, even trees, as you might think, although the industry is still actively evolving (perhaps not as quickly as we'd like) to address it. Book (paper and digital) = good (but can be better!).

Friday, April 16

File under good examples...

The AP is reporting today that Tibetan Monks have walked to the earthquake zone in Gyegu in Yushu County, Qinghai province, China to assist rescue efforts by using their bodies in place of heavy equipment. Video shows them tying themselves in a chain to rubble to move it out of the way.

That's right, Tibetan monks - they whose country is occupied, people repressed, beliefs suppressed, rights utterly ignored - those Tibetans. They walked to help. A CBC Radio report quoted a monk as saying that politics were irrelevant. That "this is about life".

I can't think of a more poignant example of what to do. The circumstances only make it more so.

And in spite of the purity of the gesture, I can't help but wonder if the act will make any impact at all on the Chines government that has oppressed the Tibetan people and occupied their country for the last sixty years.

‘I wanna hang a map of the world in my house. Then I'm gonna put pins into all the locations that I've traveled to. But first, I'm gonna have to travel to the top two corners of the map so it won't fall down.’ Mitch Hedberg

I’m leaving on a trip in a few days to the UK with a five day stopover in Vancouver on the way. I’ll apologize now to the 1.3 people that may or may not have fallen asleep at the computer when I wrote about it before, because I’m going to write about it again.

When I started my life inversion process a little over a year ago travelling was one of the things that I really wanted to include in the new life. I wasn’t sure exactly how that was going to dovetail into the minimalist schtick that I wanted to imbue the new version of me with, but I knew that I wanted to see a bit more of the world, see a few new things, maybe learn a new language or two. I wanted to rediscover the vagabond in me.

Still didn’t know what that was going to look like though…

Last June, when I went to my Grandmother’s 90th birthday party/family reunion, I was talking to my Dad who happens to live in the UK. I’d never visited him there even though he’s been across the pond for around twenty-five years now.

For the previous ten years I’d used the “I don’t have any time” excuse fairly effectively, but part of the inversion included not making any more excuses. That resolution, combined with the flexible schedule of trying to be a writer, pretty much fucked up the “no time” doctrine. The other natural concern in regards to long trips would naturally be money, and the inversion, including it’s divestment of material goods and accompanying embrace of minimalist sentimentality, also naturally includes a lower revenue stream.

So I could have claimed poorness, but that would still be an excuse.

What to do? I cashed in some RSP’s. Yes, I know… sooo irresponsible! Not to me though. Not anymore. I cashed in the RSP’s, freed up a bit of cash and made plans, for real.

My decision was validated (if you believe in that sort of thing) this spring when my Dad had a coronary arrhythmia. Nothing serious, but enough to prevent him from flying in May when he and his wife were suppoed to go to Africa together. (It's a big visit to one of her sons and couldn’t be canceled altogether, so she planned to go and he planned to stay back). My timing fit perfectly into their schedule allowing her to go and him to not be alone. That’s either a grand coincidence or serendipity – and I don’t really care which one it is.

The trip also works on a more selfish level: I get a nice base from which to start an exploration of Europe and the UK. The itinerary is humble this time: England, Scotland, a bit of France and Belgium. Hopefully, after I sell the novel and actually consider myself as employed as I ever wish to be again, I can go back and do some more hopping. I’m looking forward to Scotland more than I allow myself to admit most days.

In the crossing of the Rubicon of Hadrian’s Wall there is, for me, a romantic sense of going home.

But no expectations… really.

The trip is about exploration of a primarily internal landscape, my emotional topography, as I see places that have only existed in pictures and my imagination, and as I seek to complete repairs to a relationship that has been in a certain state of disrepair and renovation for a very long time. So much to do.

And, yeah, I still have to finish editing the manuscript so I can have something worth talking about in a query letter. Which reminds me…

Wednesday, April 14

Still no news on the AHF front...

It's been two weeks since funding for the Aboriginal Healing Foundation was cut off. The last real news was that reaction to the news had inspired a last minute debate and subsequent talks.

Since then? Nada from Ottawa.

The story isn't dead yet though. The Winnipeg Free Press ran this story last week. Today B.C.'s Houston Today ran this follow up.

Mr. Harper, I don't think we're going to forget about this, or the Afghan Detainee issue, any time soon.

How about you just give in and do the right thing?

Monday, April 12

‘Every quality, taken to extremes, becomes a weakness.’ Paulo Coelho

I’ve spent a good portion of the last week reading blogs, news and alternative news sources. It’s triggered a bit of introspection along the lines of Mr. Coelho’s quote above, and from that introspection I felt the need to try to clarify a couple thoughts.

The Easter post, part satire and part anti-religion rant, raised more ire than I usually manage to provoke (or at least that I’m aware of). Most of it arrived via my FB link or by private message/email than here in the comments, but I was ready for it. There’s no way I wrote that without an intention to provoke.

But I’m also not one that relishes contention most of the time. I have to feel pretty strongly about something to not look for a win/win solution that’s inclusive. I do recognize, however, that I, like everyone else, have the ability and propensity to become too enamored of an idea, an ideology, a quality in ourselves that we consider one of our strengths, a political position, a religious doctrine, a scientific or academic school of thought, etcetera, etcetera. It is not an affliction that is unique to any one demographic or another. Even those who cherish science, objectivity and reason above all (while pointing at emotion, empathy and metaphysics as foolish self-delusions) things can become entrenched in those concepts to a degree that excludes other valid possibilities. We are all susceptible to the dynamic.

I think we find it attractive because sometimes the journey gets tiring and we just want desperately to believe that we can find that one internal or external position that will allow us to stop exploring. That place where we can say, “I’m finally here”, and that, in that place, we’ll find some rest. But that concept is, I think, mostly an illusion - a mirage.

For sure, there will be, and should be, times when we rest for awhile, but the journey never really ends. We may find refuges and oases at times, and we probably need them when we get there, but the real challenge is knowing to move on after we’ve had that rest instead of trying to settle in as if we’d ‘arrived’.

That was one of my thoughts. The other involves the concept of synthesis as opposed to extremism.

In my first year of under-grad studies, while I was taking all of those ubiquitous survey courses, I was struck by the trend in each discipline for schools of thought to develop around specific approaches, discoveries or styles. Each new paradigm would be based on the ground gained by the one before it, and yet the new paradigm ended up being branded as contrary to the one prior, and a mutually-exclusive dynamic would rear its ugly head resulting in temporary stagnation. This process would continue, spawning school of though after school of thought, until some bright person would come along and try to form a synthesis of all the best aspects of these “disparate” schools of thought.

I always gravitated towards the synthesis concept more than any other one school because, well, it just made more sense. Concepts of amalgamation tend to be more open and dynamic. Constructed on the assumption that ideas that have come before have something to contribute, and that a combination of ideas can be more complete than any separate component can be, the synthesis perspective tends to be (in theory) perpetually inclusive in design, always looking for the next bit of discovery or revelation that will help fill in a bit more of the picture.

I hold pretty strong ideas regarding the nature of institutions whether they are religious, social, bureaucratic, educational or political. I doubt that this disclosure comes as a surprise if you’ve read anything here or know me. I liken any institution to trying to make one specific wave permanent…

That said I also realize that my position on institutions is hardly ultimate or inviolate. We need institutions like laws and courts and representational democracy in a pluralistic society with high population density. I recognize that multiple perspectives are required in a system so that debate can occur; that the progress of ideas occurs through the process of exploration, disagreement and discourse; that diversity is a good thing. I like those ideas. I just don’t like the manifestations of those ideas that we are currently working with and under. If we’re open enough, I think that we’ll be able to evolve past them, but we have to be open to the evolution and not fight it so much.

I wish, sometimes, that it was easier for us as a species to remember and practice that cooperative approach of synthesis. I wish we’d save “you’re wrong” for really special occasions and look for what’s right more often, even if we can only see a little piece in the larger whole. I wish we’d look for a middle path of symbiosis instead of investing so much energy in trying to steer left or right. I wish we’d include instead of exclude. I wish we didn’t need a “them” in order to simply be “us”.

And I hope that I’ll never forget that in front of my own mirror is the best place to renew this wish.

As a side note, I like the idea of this:

Friday, April 9

Obama: Drilling, nuclear and what might actually help.

I have little doubt who is benefitting from Obama’s plans to expand drilling in NA waters and start building nuclear plants. Could somebody get the prez a pair of knee pads?

With all of this supposed commitment to greening the American power grid, why turn to more oil and start up the nuclear crap again when there’s so much potential available power from geothermal with no GH emissions post-construction? Make the NA auto industry retool with all that bailout money and start putting out electric cars using an infrastructure like Mr. Agassi’s (see below).

Think of all of the R&D and infrastructure development involved with this. Think of all the jobs it would create. Think of all those battery patents the big three have been buying up for the last three decades! They could finally put them to use!

AHF Update - No news is bad news as the PMO stalls and hopes we all forget.

Still almost nothing new on the AHF front other than continuing calls for renewing the funding by the likes of Murray Sinclair, a Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench justice, Charlene Belleau, manager of the Assembly of First Nations and Robert Gruben, chair of Tuktoyaktuk's Community Corporation. As mentioned in a couple of the links above, Federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq is stating that programs still exist under the purview of the federal government, but community leaders and critics point out that these aren’t community based programs. The AHF was lauded, even by Harper’s ministers, as being both efficacious and efficient, and the community-based approach helped create a level of accessibility and trust that programs run under the auspice of the Federal Government will never be able to achieve.

I’m left wondering which of Harper’s favorite health care private contractors are benefitting from this…

Wednesday, April 7

Obama talks to American Indians while we wait for word on the PMO's response to the AHF funding issue

It's still a politician talking, don't forget, but it will be interesting to compare the tone of Obama's remarks to what the PMO comes out with this week in regards to the AHF funding issue.

Sunday, April 4

‘But He loves you. He loves you, and He needs money! He always needs money! He's all-powerful, all-perfect, all-knowing, and all-wise, somehow just can't handle money! Religion takes in billions of dollars, they pay no taxes, and they always need a little more.’ George Carlin

Easter is magic to me, simply magic.

And not in that wonderful, let’s-all-celebrate-family-and-the-death-and-resurrection-of-Jesus kind of way. I mean, really real magic in a Las Vegas kind of way. We’ve all seen magicians pull a rabbit out of a hat, but pulling a painted egg out of a rabbit’s ass in plain site of a guy hanging on a cross is a pretty cool trick, you gotta admit.

And that whole Jesus thing, that’s a David Copperfield-quality bit of misdirection in and of itself, if ya ask me. The ability of the church to turn a pagan holiday into a Christian one always astounds, doesn’t it? Always brings down the house. I can almost hear the fourth century Bishops puzzling it out:

Scene I, Act 1
Date: 325 AD
Setting: The Council of Nicaea

Christian Sect Leader One (CSL1): Okay, that’s the Winter equinox covered, and we can do that reverse-psychology thing with the fall solstice…

Christian Sect Leader Two (CSL2): …I love that Halloween thing – the irony kills me…

CSL1: …and the crucifixion/passover timing is a natural. But how are we going to tie it in with fertility rights so the pagans buy in?

CSL2: Hmm… Eggs?

CSL1: Say wha…?

CSL2: Eggs, I said eggs. They represent fertility and reproduction and profligation.

CSL1: Profligation?

CSL2: Sure! “…All your eggs in one basket”, and “ You can’t make an omelet without…” Eggs will sub-consciously encourage more extravagant offerings. We’ll give them eggs, which we can leverage for next to nothing, and they’ll feel obligated to give back.

CSL1: Brilliant.

CSL2: (Beaming) Thanks!

CSL1: I think we still need a spokes-model though. Eggs are decidedly un-sexy by themselves and, well, the dead and bloody Christ-on-a-stick thing may work for guilty manipulation, but we need something to keep people from slitting their wrists.

CSL2: Hmmm, good point.


Constantine: I like bunnies. They’re fuzzy and soft and taste great with eggs. And they fuck a lot, which kinda ties in with the fertility thing.

CSL1 and CSL2: (in unison) Bunnies it is.

This level of sophisticated illusion has always awed me. We celebrate this holiest of Christian pagan-holiday-conversions with a holiday on the day Jesus died, a big meal on the day that the Saviour would have been in hell, the disciples all mopey and trying to figure out what to do next (at least the entrepreneurial ones would have been), and then head back to work to celebrate his resurrection which made so much profit possible! *sniff* Heart-warming!

Here’s to bunnies and eggs, religious manipulation and all things commercial and profitable! Happy Easter!

Friday, April 2

Trying to follow the AHF story in the impenetrable cone of silence and a tidbit on the Conservative committment to transparent government

First, this is the closest thing to new news I could find this morning on the AHF issue. Call me cynical, but I sense a stall tactic from the Tories…

On the subject of stall tactics, I ran across this very tangential article on Brian Leiter’s, ‘Leiter Reports: A Philosophy Blog’ that happened to mention Conservative legal counsel and former Canadian Supreme Court Justice Frank Iacobucci in a less than flattering light for his apparent role in curtailing free speech at York University in Toronto. Followers of the Afghanistan Detainee Documents issue here in Canada will recognize Mr. Iacobucci’s name – he’s the ‘independent counsel’ that Harper mandated to vet documents for the Conservative administration and decide what could be released without compromising 'national security'. All of this charade in contravention of Canadian Parliamentary law. One might infer by Mr. Iacobucci’s employment affiliation, not to mention his involvement with this York U freedom of speech issue, that expectations regarding the level of transparency he will bring to the detainee issue might be compromised.

I promise to get back to quotes soon…